Saturday, 30 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 26 - 'Zoom!'

Last year's Z was 'Zoo.' I guess Zebra would have made a good post, except that my stock of images, (mostly drawn from our wanderings in Scotland five years ago) doesn't stretch to zebras, given that we didn't encounter any on our travels. We were at very close quarters to a herd of hairy Highland Cattle during the last leg of the journey, I remember. Shame we didn't stop to take a quick snap. Though if you've met Highland Cattle, you'll understand why we weren't keen on being too friendly with them. As it was, fear at the thought of having to plough our way through them was greatly  lessened by the thought of our destination being (almost) in sight. The thought of dry clothes, hot drinks, a good meal and a warm bed is a wonderful motivator!

So, as the end of another journey, the A-Z heaves in sight, and I'm also celebrating the safe return of my laptop, let's wander back down the years and do, what I'm hoping said laptop will do from now on ; let's  'Zoom!'

Friday, 29 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 25 - Y

I think I peaked culturally this time last year when I pointed my poor readers (if there were any left by that time), towards Bananas in Pyjamas and ' The Bannana Splits.' It's a hard act to follow. Luckily, Mr GP has come to my rescue and suggested I take yet another trip down Memory Lane to age seventeen and The Real Thing's 'You to Me are Everything.'  Aahhh! They don't write them like that nowadays. Excuse me while I wallow in nostalgia for an hour or three...

A-Z Challenge Day 24 - X

Extra? Extraordinary? Extreme? Extra effort needed now that the finishing line is in sight? I'm still waiting the return of GP laptop from the laptop hospital, so I'll be brief. Green X Above Left: No nothing to do with the colour of my blog, though I'll admit to having attempted the truly eXtraordinary lately by having a go at sketching. Not something that comes to me naturally; I generally go for the abstract, all-forgiving mixed media stuff. No, I've stumbled across another A-Z via the Tate Modern. We do have a reproduction Klee at home, but I've not seen this one before. Not sure what to make of it, to be honest. What's your take?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 23- Wet, Wet, Wet... a soaked Mr GP will certify; he's upstairs soaking in a hot bath, after being rained on during a cycle ride. I don't know what's up with our weather; this week we've had several seasons in one day, be it rain, sunshine, hail or snow. Which gives me the perfect excuse to go back down Memory Lane yet again and list songs for a rainy day. No links this time,  too fiddly. I'll start- do help me out and add to the list if you want.

1. Love is All Around Us - Wet Wet Wet (Yes, it's cheating, but it gives me a perfect excuse to dream of Hugh Grant!)
2. Singing in the Rain
3. It's Raining Men- The Weathergirls

Over to you.


A-Z Day 22- Vegetables

Another excuse to go back down Memory Lane, to the Land of Do As You're Told. 'Stoppit and Tidyup' were favourites of the junior Greenpatches many years ago. This episode is 'Eat Your Greens.' I can't say it had the desired effect on their eating habits. I seem to remember the Great Broccoli Revolt somewhere along the way!

Monday, 25 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 21- U is for...

Umbrella! Apologies for the lack of images. I've managed to download a rather snazzy pic, but can't for the life of me work out how to extract it from the bowels of my device without a whole load of technical twiddling and fiddling. You'll just have to imagine the brolly of your choice.

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust hath the just' umbrella.
( author unknown)

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 20 - Transmission, Technology and Time

Technology is both a boon and a bugbear in my opinion. This is by way of warning you that the remainder of my A-Z is likely to be sporadic, brief and sadly lacking in images and formatting. (Oh what a shame!) My poor, ailing laptop has been sent off to the laptop hospital; return unlikely to be until after the end of the challenge. There may be Breaks in Transmission.

On the other hand- this could add a new and original flavour to my posts (or my piste- thank you auto Speller!) as I'm driven to find topics that fit in with my capabilities re the device I'm using in the meantime (or Mrstime).

Time will tell.

Friday, 22 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 19-Sustainability

the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.
Environmental Science. the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance:
The committee is developing sustainability standards for products that use energy.
S is for Sustainability. Sustainability is very much part of the ethos of Greenbelt,  the festival of  arts, music and social justice, that takes place each August Bank Holiday weekend in the grounds of Boughton House near Kettering, Northants, in the UK. So it's a good time to point you towards their latest blog entry, with its details of their Green Cup recycling scheme. Rather than end the festival with tons of used plastic glasses and cups thrown into landfill, festival-goers are being encouraged to pay a £1 deposit on their own cup at the start of the weekend, which they can keep and reuse. They then have the choice to either return it and have their deposit refunded, or keep it as a souvenir. 

I'll be interested to see how it works out.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 18 - Rambling

On to day 18,  brought to you by the Letter R, which gives me a perfect excuse to go rambling on about nothing in particular. Our Greenpatch rambling has taken a back seat these last few years. My intention was to link back to accounts of some of the more epic journeys we've made in our time, however, my labeling system obviously isn't up to scratch; searches for 'rambling,' and 'backpacking,' didn't yield anything, and walking references seem largely to be dealing with walking of a more spiritual variety - labyrinths and the like. Worth a peep though. The photo is from those taken during our Durham-Oban/Iona walking pilgrimage in 2011.

Then again, today's letter gives me yet another reason, given yesterday's news, to point towards another great sketch from the late Victoria Wood - Val De Ree. Camping...rambling...they're both linked, aren't they and it never fails to make me smile.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 17 - Queen

On day 17 of last year's challenge I posted about (amongst others), 'Queen,' of the Freddie Mercury variety. This year? Well, as it's Her Majesty the Queen's 90th birthday tomorrow, it's only fair that one Elizabeth II has her turn. I can't say I'm exactly a fervent monarchist, neither am I a republican, certainly not!  Also, I seem to have missed out on many of the 'milestone,' celebrations these past few years; partly from oversight, partly from lack of enthusiasm. Though I have dim memories of the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977: (my mother made me a sundress bedecked with tiny, discreet, red, white and blue patterns) and I can remember standing up on Cathedral hill looking out over the countryside to see the lighting of our town's beacon. ( In the event, rumour has it that there was a breakdown in communications and that our one was ignited before the one in Windsor! I never found out the truth in that one.) No street parties- at least not in our neighbourhood. Cynical teenager that I was, I reckoned it was because people were too stuck-up thereabouts.

So, celebrations will be muted chez Maison Greenpatch. Though I have come up with a germ of an idea. Inspired by a suggestion on the BBC website, I've come up with a scheme for creating my own modest tribute: Last year we finally finished doing up the back garden decking (once Mstr GP's old skateboard ramp). It needs some flowers to jazz it up; what could be better than a host of red, white and blue flowers. Plug plants are the answer, apparently, and according to Good old Auntie Beeb, if I plant them now, there should be a magnificent display come June, just in time for Her Majesty's official celebrations. Watch this space.

Before I sign off, I can't post without giving a mention to another news item that was trending just as I got home this afternoon and which pushed HM's headlines right down the front page - the sad news of the death of Queen of comedy - Victoria Wood, at the far too early  age of 62. I remember posting a link here a few years back to her wonderful Menopause and Health Food Shops monologue. As a young married, I giggled at her 'Family Planning Sketch,' her 'Bunbury Homes,' (too much like our housekeeping - or lack of it), the 'Continuity Announcer,' later - Acorn Antiques. Thanks to her - I still have problems keeping a straight face in Italian Restaurants, and who could every forget the 'Ballad of Barry and Freda!' Plus many more. Christmas before last, saw the TV adaptation of her wonderful musical 'That Day We Sang.' The secret of her success, I'm sure, was her incredible gift of observation: of  the minutiae  and daftness of everyday life , whatever one's age - from the angst of  lumpy adolescence through mid-life crisis to the loneliness of old age, and her ability  to laugh at (yes, and reflect) about it all. Many's the time, I watched something of hers and felt cheered by the realisation  that a feeling or and experience, or just an annoying little habit that  I'd thought was 'just me,' was in fact, something that so many of us share.  R.I.P, Victoria.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 16 - Prayer

Due to time constraints and the vagaries of the 'O' that got away from Monday's post - a certain new Operating System, I'm cheating today and pointing readers to a pot-pourri of my past ramblings on prayer. I hope you enjoy them. Actually, some of the credit must go to Dormouse for her encouraging comment on yesterday's post. It inspired me to look back into the Greenpatch archives and I was quite cheered up by what I found. Slow is good. It gives me time to notice those little gleams of light, of God's presence in the everyday that I'd otherwise be in too much of a hurry to notice. Have a good day, all of you.

Monday, 18 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 15- Orange is the colour

Of pumpkin lanterns
 Of Tiger Cat

Of a North Wales sunset

What else?

 - Of lurid, flower-bedecked 1970's wallpaper
 - Of black-eyed Susans
- Of grated carrot
- marmalade in a dish

Any others for the list?


Saturday, 16 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 14 - Nativity

Nativity, St Beunos, January 2015
I've mentioned our weird and wonderful  Creche figures many times on the blog. So for a change, here's a glimpse of a more classical Nativity scene. This was an unexpected surprise and joy for me, for all kinds of reasons; not least because that somehow, I'd completely lost track of time and hadn't fully realised that we were in Epiphany. Sadly, Mr GP's mother had died the previous autumn. I'd been due to go away , but of course, cancelled. To my joy, there was a place left in a retreat in the New Year, so off I went.

Somehow, maybe partly due to the place where I was spiritually and emotionally , maybe because of  the different season; that time apart took on a special, never -to- be forgotten quality. On autumn retreats, I'm accustomed to spend time peering anxiously into the empty tomb. (the '30 Dayers' are often into the Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises about then). For me,  the familiar Nativity figures took on a new significance, speaking into my struggles and longings in a new way. The year just finished hadn't been easy and, however hard I tried to leave my 'baggage' behind at home, some of it was bound to come into the retreat time. During that eight days away, I  learned  a lot about waiting, and self-acceptance. In many ways I identified with the woman lurking about on the outskirts of the scene;  like me, looking and longing  ...for what? Who was she? I never worked that one out. Yet there was something that impelled me to be with her, to be her and to travel alongside her as she made her journey to the centre of the scene. (in reality, she didn't, but in my prayer and imagination,  she - and I - were drawn further and further towards the Christ child). 

I can still remember panicking one day when I thought that the latter had vanished, only to realise that he was there, on the ground hidden under the straw. I still, too, remember the sense of joy when I later discovered him in Mary's arms. A miracle? It seemed that way to me at first, although to find out that in fact my retreat guide had been responsible didn't diminish the sense of wonder and awe. Well, God does need a helping hand sometimes!

Friday, 15 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 13- Monty Python

'Monty' or should that be 'Monica' Python
We've almost caught up with ourselves now. With luck,  also, a certain upgraded operating system might just have condescended to quit sulking and co-operate instead of presenting me with the eternal bouncing beachball every time I ask it to do something.

Meet 'Monty' Ms GP's python. Monty spent a few years as unofficial flatmate Number Two whilst she was living in London. Can't say he was exactly my cup of tea; (after having to feed crickets  to Mstr  GP's Bearded Dragon), I've had enough of things that spend their days lurking behind logs, but then, I didn't have to live with him. Ms GP eventually passed Mr Python on to another living home, and it was only then that she discovered, that like Beardie 'Ridge,' who turned out to be 'Ridgette,' 'Monty,' was really 'Monica.' Oops! Never mind; we're in good company. Remember the 'Blue Peter' (for non-UK readers, a popular and long-running BBC TV children's programme) 'Fred,' who was really 'Freda' Or was it the other way round?

Of course, all of this preamble is merely an excuse for me to link to the real Monty Python. The clip you'll see is from their 'Holy Grail,' the scene with the uppity French guard.  It brings back happy memories of Ms GP playing the very part in a school house evening when she was about 12 years old. We always reckoned that the sheer vehemence with which she threw herself into the role wasn't entirely unconnected with the fact that she's bilingual (from years spent at school in France). It was a big change moving back to the UK, and it took her some time to get settled. Perhaps the chance to get her own back at some of her new schoolmates, was too good to resist. As for the cow...never to be forgotten! It still has pride of place; dangling from the ceiling in her old bedroom.

A-Z Challenge Day 12 - Laughter and Lamp Posts

Firstly- apologies,I know this is Day 13; life and travel has intervened and I'm playing catchup (ketchup?) Last year I blogged about Laughter and the Laughing Policeman. This year- tech willing, we're into Lamposts. Though not in the way that GP dogs are, thank goodness.

So here we go: more laughter, and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain's Cossack version of Leaning on a Lampost.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 11- Kneeling

Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great role. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.
R. S. Thomas

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 10 - Journal 52

Journal 52 2016 Week 12 - 'Emulate'

Just a quick post today. I've been taking part in the Journal 52 weekly art journaling project again this year. Root around in the bowels of Greenpatches if you're feeling brave, and you'll find some other examples from previous years. I've never yet managed to complete the weekly prompts for the entire year, but who knows, maybe 2016 will be the exception to the rule.

A few weeks ago,  we were asked to attempt a journal piece in the style of an artist of our choice. I went for Rothko. Great fun, although I didn't emulate his way of working exactly; a huge canvas spread out over the kitchen floor would have delighted the dogs, mind you. I stuck to A4 on the counter.  You should have seen the state of the walls once I'd finished the piece! Rothko meets Laura Ashley with the remains of Mr GP's last fry-up thrown in.

I can't resist sneaking in an extra J - 'Junk!' It partly accounts for the shortness of this post. 'Never work with animals, children,' and, I'd add: 'Never upgrade your operating system just because you're prompted to. Talk about sllooowwww!

Monday, 11 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 9 - Ignatian Spiritual Exercises

 Within the Exercises, daily instructions include various meditations and contemplations on the nature of the world, of human psychology as Ignatius understood it, and of man's relationship to God through Jesus Christ. The Exercises are divided into four "weeks" of varying lengths with four major themes: sin, the life of Jesus, the Passion of Jesus, and the Resurrection of Jesus. the "weeks" represent stages in a process of wholehearted commitment to the service of God. During each day of the Exercises, a typical retreatant prays with a particular exercise, as assigned by the director, reviews each prayer, and, following four or five periods of prayer, reports back to the spiritual director of the retreat who helps them to understand what these experiences of prayer might mean to the retreatant. The goal of the Exercises is to reflect upon their experiences and to understand how these same experiences might apply to the retreatant's life. - Wikipedia

I mentioned on Day One of the Challenge that I'd spent more than a month away on retreat last autumn, at St Buenos Jesuit Retreat Centre in North Wales, making the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, that set of prayers and meditations set out by St Ignatius of Loyola as a means of helping you live and reassess your relationship with Christ and your calling to follow him in the world.  At risk of sounding like something out of Sesame Street, today's blog entry is brought to you by the letter I. In the past few years, two of the most formative experiences on my journey have begun with the same letter: I've written elsewhere on various blogs about Mr GP and my trip to Iona, and here I was, less than five years later, living, or attempting to live what if you'd suggested it to me  even then, I'd have never imagined myself doing in a thousand years, at least not in its full form, (I blame an extended mid-life crisis!) Or maybe, more positively, it really has been a case of When I'm calling youuuuuu!!!! I remember some of my early vocational meanderings, and, looking back now, even I can see that I've moved on since the days of my Vocational Self-Assembly Pack.

Since I got back, I've been unpacking, or trying to unpack, what was going on for me. I'm well used to silent retreats, but even so, this had such  a different dynamic to it from anything I've experienced previously.  I've noticed since that although on the web there's a proliferation of material on the Exercises, very few people appear to have written about their journey . Which in some ways, is quite right. It's an intensely personal  experience in many ways. Wittgenstein's "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."comes to mind. (Though probably not with the philosopher's intended meaning!)  So often on retreat,   I really have to restrain my urge to define, analyze and summarise my spiritual journey into neat soundbites, thus killing it stone dead in the attempt.  My inner 'Martha,' if you like, my urge to 'doing' at the expense of my 'doing.' Not to mention my  ability to focus on  the  moment; I'm an expert on the 'if onlys' and the 'what ifs?' at the expense of   the present.

People decide they wish to make  the Exercises, as to other retreats for many and differing reasons: it could be a time of intense change, of vocational exploration, an important decision that needs to be made. When it came to the point, I'd  already made mine prior to going into the retreat: that, sadly, my time as a Franciscan tertiary had run its course. The time apart simply affirmed this. Not that all was plain sailing - we'd  been warned beforehand of how tiring - physically, spiritually and psychologically the best part of five weeks intense prayer  can be, and that was no exaggeration. I struggled with much, learned much about myself, good and not so good, but I can say I came out knowing myself....just a little better. Everybody's experience  is different, as I said. I'll continue to reflect and pray out of my memory of those days for years to come  As far as I was concerned, there were no fireworks (well, relatively few!), no messages from the Almighty written large in the sky, (although my most memorable moments were spent sitting looking out over  the valley at sunrises and sunsets). The messages I received were gentler, quieter, simple affirmation of the rightness of me, as myself and of the place where I am  and what I'm doing. That'll do me for now.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 8 - Hills, Humour

Nearly missed the boat this time round! Yesterday was Mr GP's birthday, Mstr GP is with us this weekend and this morning we went for a long and muddy walk with GP dogs I and II, so I'm rather behind on the blogging front. So, how does humour come into all this, I hear you ask? Well, it's a tenuous link (humour did not enter into it  when I was struggling my way up and down a hill with little GP dog (above) pulling me here, there and everywhere.) Our older dog loves mud, puddles, unmentionable 'presents' left by passing cattle and wildlife; imagine the canine equivalent of Chanel No 5!  Water - preferably of the  muddy coffee variety with  a hint  of Parfum de Crotte de Renard   is for charging straight through. It goes with the territory. His breed are still used as hunters in some places.

GP Dog II on the other hand, is a dainty little lady, who likes  to think that she has an allergy to mud. She's also  sufficiently small that in an emergency, she could be picked up and carried. Not that I've given in so far. So what with her titupping all over the place trying to find dry land, and me, attached to her, trying to find a decent foothold, it was  an interesting experience. As we finally found our way back down to the road and were walking  back to the car, the heavens opened and blasted  us with an icy shower.  Never mind, we got home safely, the leads and harnesses are in the wash and  GP Dog II has been popped into a hot bath and sponged down with baby powder-scented doggy shampoo. Mmm, glorious!

 GP Dog I doesn't 'do' baths; wrestling with close on 15Kg of a wriggly Fido isn't a back-friendly activity. After the time he wriggled out of my grasp, leapt out of the bath and charged down the stairs, scattering soap-suds as he went and crashed through the stairgate, hurting his leg in the process, we've left his spa treatment to the experts. He reminds me of Spotty Dog of The Woodentops fame, a BBC children's programme  from way way back.  Oh dear, I really am  showing my age here. Like GP Dog I, Spotty dog was a dab hand at recognising certain words:  'bone,' 'biscuit,' and the dreaded 'bath.' To that I'd add C-A-T. Mstr GP was remarking only today that dogs are like children; sometimes you have to spell words out because they understand so much! Have a listen - Spotty makes an appearance about 6 1/2 minutes into the clip.

Friday, 8 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 7 - Green Blogs

Ladies and gentlemen, for Day 7 of the A-Z Challenge, we're going green. When I first begun Growing Greenpatches and its predecessor, I had great fun googling to see what other blogs of greenish hue were out there. That's how I managed to stumble across one of my blogroll's longer-serving members, the talented, creative Crafty Green Poet, currently writing her way through 30 days of poetry with Napowrimo. I'm ashamed to say that I've been neglecting my roll this last year or so, but for gentle inspiration and a glimpse  into the beauties of Scotland, she's well worth a visit.

Another, Green-Patch  I found today, not only has  a blog, but also its own online community and Facebook group. Graziella writes at Green-patches blog, and, as she says, the blog started when as a complete novice to gardening she needed a means of keeping track of her plants. My goodness, they've sprouted and grown since then. I'm impressed, not to say green with envy.

In case you're wondering what on earth the photo has to do with today's blog, suffice it to say, it's a reminder of an occasion of 'Going Green' that I definitely don't wish to repeat, that of our infamous trip to Staffa, five years ago. Read all about it on my old Green Patches. I feel queasy just looking at those waves.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 6 - F

F is for...Fairies, Fantasy, and Flitting and - guess what - The Mighty F. Yes, there really is (or rather, was, as it  finished a couple of years ago) a blog entirely devoted to discussions of all things beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet. More here:

The Mighty F is the universally recognized leader in all news and things (that start with the letter F).
In this comprehensive repository of f-words, you’ll find discussions about faith, foreign policy, Finland, feuds, fjords and whatever else we can come up with that starts with f.
Why? Because of one unfortunate four-letter word, the letter f has been unfairly sullied and stigmatized like no other letter in history. No more will we stand idly by while this noble letter is brought down by those who seek to destroy it.
Join us on our journey, from our meteoric rise, to our future spectacular implosion as we crumble under the weight of increased expectations and/or run out of things that start with f.
The in-between will be fun. I expect it’ll be like a really long episode of Sesame Street, but with more flam

Shame, they'd have been a natural for the A-Z. I wonder if they imploded or crumbled in the end?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 5 - Elephants

E? Let's see....Eczema? Elgar? Let's go for elephants. Interesting fact of the day: Did you know that classic children's song Nellie the Elephant is used to teach the correct rhythm of CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)? I certainly didn't.

An especial  favourite when our children were little was Mrs Large and her gang of mini pachyderms. Jill Murphy's Five Minute's Peace has been gracing nursery bookshelves for 30 years now and I'm glad to see that it's still being reprinted. It's a tale that will resonate with stressed-out parents everywhere as much as with their offspring.  Amidst the chaos of a typical busy breakfast time, poor Mrs Large makes valiant attempts to creep  off for 'five minutes peace,' with a cuppa and a decadently steamy and perfumed bubble bath.  Does she succeed in her mission? No prizes for guessing! What I remember from that stage was that the loo was the only place where you could get away for even a few minutes, and even then you'd do what you had to do to the accompaniment of plaintive wails and sometimes even to the sight of little fingers trying to sneak under the door. When Ms GP was really tiny and I needed a bath, I used to buy time by installing her in her padded baby rocking chair on the bathroom floor and then sing Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo from Disney's  Cinderella on permanent loop. What I wouldn't have given for Spotify back then!

Thirty years later, Ms GP prefers showers, I've gone up two dress sizes, and love baths so much that I've wrinkles to rival those of poor Mrs L.  The Large family have taken off in a big way (pardon the pun) and have even had their own TV series. I still think the first story was the best. So for stressed parents everywhere, here it is.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 4 - Dog Rescues

Day 4 already. Here are our two resident hairy horrors, Greenpatch Dogs 1 and 2.  We got GPD1, our hairy French Basset, as a pup. GPD2, an equally hairy, if rather more dainty little lady, is a rescue dog. I'll admit, I didn't know much about animal rescues until a couple of years ago, and learning about the terrible lives led by so many dogs, the way that they're so often treated like breeding machines, solely to make money for the owners, kept in squalor, with little food, water or stimulation; then once their 'working' life is over being abandoned, passed over to a rescue organisation (if they're lucky enough) or otherwise 'disposed of,' was a real eye-opener. Such a contrast to when we chose our first dog: we researched breeders carefully, visited, were given the nth degree by the breeder to make sure we were a suitable family for one of their precious pups. If they'd thought we weren't, no way would they have let us have one, however much money we offered them. Their dogs, though some used for show, were primarily bred to go to good, loving families as pets.

So to our little rescue Bichon.  There are umpteen Dog rescue organisations in the UK, where we live. One of the best known is the Dogs Trust, with a branch in or near most major towns and cities.  I'm sure most people have heard of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, now even more in the public eye thanks to the recent Paul O'Grady TV documentary. There also dozens of smaller places, specific breed rescues, all kinds; some good, some maybe not so good. Opinions vary wildly.

Our experience so far has been entirely positive.  Little one came from Many Tears  in Wales. When you hear some of the stories behind the many many dogs that pass through their doors each year, you'll appreciate why it's called by that name. It's heartbreaking. Unlike, I would guess, those back street breeders and puppy farmers without whose trade such organisations wouldn't have to exist, the rescue is definitely not ''raking it in." Instead, they, like so many other  animal welfare organisations, are working flat out many hours a day, seven days a week on a shoestring. Often with animals that because of their backgrounds aren't 'ready-made' pets, which is something would-be adopters have to take into account. However, thanks to a wonderful team at the centre, volunteers and a nationwide network of foster families, they work wonders. We were so  lucky with our little one. She was an ex-breeder, came to us quite shut-down, though her foster families had done so much already to help her gain confidence. She'll never be a show dog (thank goodness), but she suits us just fine. Thank you, Many Tears. This from the woman whose DH swore he would never have a little fluffy dog! Yes, you have indeed worked miracles!

And no, I don't work for them, in case you wondered.

Monday, 4 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 3 - C is for Contemplation and Creativity

Cats - Tiger cat in contemplative mood


I've written plenty about creativity on this blog. Whether improvising a raincoat out of carrier bags for a much-loved teddy in the wilds of the Western Highlands, Praying in Colour, taking part in Journal 52 for the umpteenth time, (I will complete the challenge this year, I promise!), searching out weird epitaphs,  composing found poetry out of The National Trust magazine, The Big Issue and assorted mailshots, or whiling away the hours in the art room on retreat, the older I get, the more it becomes a source of sustenance. Plus it's fun...most of the time. This from somebody who couldn't 'do' art at school. I still can't 'do' it, but that doesn't stop me!

Not everything that I 'create' gets put online, in fact most of it stays hidden within the covers of my journal, only to be shared with a select few, often in the context of working through personal issues. I'm very good at self-censoring what I write. This isn't nearly as easy to do when you're working with colour, images and the imagination. Your inner self will out.  Or, to misquote a certain advert of yesteryear, " Creativity refreshes the parts that other contemplative activities cannot reach!"

Saturday, 2 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 2 - Benedictus, Beauty

On to Day 2 - Beauty - Dictionary  definitions:A combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sightcombination of qualities that pleases theintellect

Only skin deep? In the eye of the beholder? The older I get, the more words just don't do it for me. Maybe simply feeling without wasting precious time trying to encapsulate  is enough. Encountering beauty through nature; the photo above is from our epic trip through the Highlands five years ago, am apt example. I'll leave the capturing to those more articulate and able than myself.

One such  is the late John O'Donohue, poet, artist and philosopher, heard here in one of his last interviews before his sudden and premature death in 2008, talking with Krista Tippett on The Inner Landscape of Beauty. I especially love his definition of spirituality as the art of homecoming.

I always associate him with Greenbelt, though, sadly, I was never to  hear him talk, as I didn't begin to attend the  festival until summer of 2008. I do though treasure a copy  what I think may have been one of his last works: the anthology of blessings: Benedictus, and we also had a poem from his Conamara Blues, read out at my mother-in law's - Mr GP's mother's funeral.

To me, John had the ability to hold the tension between both the beauty and the dark side of our natures and of the world, yet at the same time open our  minds to new landscapes, the which we could hardly have imagined were possible. I encountered his works for the first time when I was transitioning between churches and traditions. To discover such a resource then, an antidote to some of the dogmatic certainties which I so struggled with, was indeed a blessing.

Friday, 1 April 2016

A-Z Challenge Day 1 - Anima Christi

We're off. Welcome to the first  of my personal A-Z Challenge posts  for 2016. What have we in our lucky dip today? Art journaling perhaps? anteater? anthropomorphism? Alice in Wonderland? 

Hard choice. Still, given that  those of us who are of a Christian persuasion are  currently in Holy Week, I plumped on the Anima Christi, (Soul of Christ), one of the key prayers used in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. The which is in part an explanation for my long long absence from the blogosphere. I made the full 'Exercises' in their residential form back last autumn at St Beunos Jesuit spirituality centre in North Wales, UK, and have been processing and unpacking my time there  ever since. It's a once in a lifetime experience for most of us; unless you happen to be a Jesuit, which I'm not! 

So to the Anima Christi. The version I've posted here is David Fleming SJ's popular paraphrase of the original ;  one  which I found spoke to me most. Our little group were each given a copy of Hearts on Fire and of all the prayers there, this one stood out and became a mainstay for me during my time in retreat. It is, after all, one that's often recommended you pray before a time of prayer, it's introduced early on during the First Week . It's a very trinitarian,  exemplifiying  the whole ethos and key movement of the exercises: to help the retreatant journey towards a  freedom of complete dependence and self-giving to Christ and to become His ambassador in the world. I'd love to say that by the time I returned home after more than a month of intense prayer and mediation that I was permanently in that place! But I'd be lying. And I'm sure that family, friends and everyone who has to deal with me on a day to day basis would agree!  Here it is, anyway.

Jesus, may all that is in you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death be my strength and life.
Jesus, with you by my side enough has been given.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.
Let me not run from the love which you offer.
But hold me safe from the forces of evil.
On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.
Keep calling to me until that day comes.
When with our saints, I may praise you forever.

David Fleming, S.J.
Soul of Christ Prayer
Source:  Hearts on Fire: Praying With the Jesuits (pp. 3-4)