I first read this somewhere more than twenty years ago (you can tell it's old as nowadays it would be an email or text, not a letter) and I've kept it ever since. Some might think it's embarrassingly cheesy or soppy but I think it's rather lovely.
Letter from a Friend.
I just had to write to tell you how much I love you and care for you. Yesterday, I saw you walking and laughing with your friends; I hoped that soon you'd want me to walk along with you, too. So, I painted you a sunset to close your day and whispered a cool breeze to refresh you.
I waited - you never called - I just kept on loving you.
As I watched you fall asleep last night, I wanted so much to touch you. I spilled moonlight onto your face - trickling down your face as so many tears have. You didn't even think of Me; I wanted so much to comfort you.
The next day I exploded a brilliant sunrise into glorious morning for you. But you woke up late and rushed off to work - you didn't even notice. My sky became cloudy and My tears were the rain.
I love you. Oh, if you'd only listen. I really love you. I try to say it in the quiet of the green meadow and in the blue sky. The wind whispers My love throughout the treetops and spills into the vibrant colours of all the flowers. I shout it to you in the thunder of the great waterfalls and compose love songs for birds to sing for you. I warm you with the clothing of my sunshine and perfume the air with nature's sweet scent. My love for you is deeper than any ocean and greater than any need in your heart.
If you'd only realise how I care.
My Father sends His love. I want you to meet Him - He cares too. Fathers are just that way. So, please call on me soon. No matter how long it takes. I'll wait - because I love you.
I have observed that: 1) Prison would be great if it weren't for the prisoners. 2) Schools would be great if it weren't for the pupils. 3) The health service would be great if it weren't for sick people. 4) Churches would be great if it weren't for the churchgoers. 5) Public transport would be great if it weren't for the public. 6) Police work would be great if it weren't for the MOPs (Members of the Public). 7) Family life would be great if it weren't for the kids. NO cancel that. Too far, anyway they might read this one day.
Shiny new institutions are set up, or old institutions get new direction and purpose, and everything starts out great. All those working in them are signed up to the vision and really believe they can make a difference. The training helps them to feel equipped and ready to serve. There is a great sense that the world can be a better place.
And then along come the "service users" and reality kicks them in the butt, hard. The service users are not overcome with gratitude. The service users are not playing by the rules and following the path it was envisaged they would follow. The service users are, goodness me, critical. They moan and whine and complain, so far from the expected gratitude are they.
And the service deliverers?
Do they/we rise above it? Do they/we turn the other cheek? Do they/we hang onto the vision of what we're about, through thick and thin? Do they/we resist bitterness and cynicism, knowing that all that that will achieve is an exacerbation of the problem? Do they/we encourage each other to keep our chin up and our head down (however those things are simultaneously achieved!)? Do they/we resist the urge to start squabbling amongst ourselves, department against department within the institution? I know the answer to those questions that should be, is, a lot of the time, not the answer that is. I know that prisoners, pupils, patients, church members, the public, may manipulate us and try our patience to its limit, but... BUT, if we can keep our head when all about are losing theirs, and keep the faith, and keep the vision, and aim high (even when all evidence points to the contrary and people laugh at our naivete) I think we'll be prouder looking back on our "careers" than if we give up and just endure the working day for the sake of the pay and the pension.
IF you can keep your head, when all about you are losing theirs - and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself, when all men doubt you, but make allowances for their doubting too;
If you can wait, and not be tired by waiting, or being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or being hated, don't give way to hating, and yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise.
If you can dream, and not make dreams your master; if you can think, and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken, twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build them up with worn-out tools.
If you can make one heap of all your winnings, and risk it all in one turn of pitch and toss - and lose, and start again, at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss.
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew, to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you, except the will which says to them - "Hold On".
If you can do all this and more - you'll be a man, by son, you'll be a man.
Today two representatives of The Gideons International came along to one of the jails I work in to give out free New Testaments to any prisoners who wanted one. It was interesting to be a fly on the wall as the offer was made. Some prisoners said "no" straight out. Some said "yes". Some took one thinking it was a free diary and hurriedly gave it back when they discovered it wasn't. Some took one automatically because prisoners (like most of us) like free stuff and then, on seeing what it was, acted as though they'd been handed a red hot coal and couldn't get it out of their hands quickly enough. Some who said "no" will probably sidle up to me in the next week or two and ask for one and admit they didn't want their pals to see them take one. Some of those who took one may use the pages as skins for their roll-up cigarettes (apparently this happens though they've had the grace not to do it before my eyes thus far). Hopefully some may have a wee look at their copy.
Chuck Colson, erstwhile prisoner following Watergate but subsequently a committed Christian said this: "The Bible - banned, burned, beloved. More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history. Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it; dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it. Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it more powerful than their weapons. Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints. Pieced together scraps of Scripture have converted whole villages of pagan Indians".
I am not fond of "Bible bashers" (God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts). I have made a particular point of never being a "Bible basher". But in my enthusiasm for avoiding being seen as such I probably go too far the other way and, far from wearing my heart on my sleeve, have it hidden away in an underground bunker. So just for today I would like to put on record that I ACTUALLY really really like The Bible.
I've been tagged. Thanks, Noddy. So I've to give you seven fascinating facts about moi, (mmmmm), but then I get to tag seven of you (woo hoo!)
Here are the rules if you decide to play along: 1) Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog. 2) Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. 3) Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. 4) Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
1) I've flown a helicopter (briefly, during a lesson I was given for my nth birthday). I felt nauseous for an hour afterwards but it was one of the most exhilirating experiences I've had.
2) I used to be a turkey plucker. I've also been a hospital cleaner (domestic assistant), a delivery driver for a Chinese takeaway, a care assistant in a Night Shelter/Day Centre for single homeless men, a sales assistant in a jewellers, and various other random things.
3) When I was a wee girl, after the Morris Minor and the Vauxhall Viva, we got my grandpa's old Riley, registration number 491 EVD. Then we had a dark turquoise Triumph 2000 followed by a yellow Triumph 2000. I can remember their registration numbers too but I can't retain my current car's.
4) One of the reasons I became a minister is that I was working in the Department of Social Security and one day had to interview a woman who, I discovered during the interview, didn't usually leave her home following being gang raped about five years before. She wanted to talk. My boss was in a hurry and was waiting outside the booth, wanting to sit in on my next interview. Was I going to say, "Ah never mind that. About your benefit..." to people for the next 36 years till I retired?
5) I used to drink gallons of tea and if I drank coffee at all took lots of milk and three (!) spoonfuls of sugar in it. Now I don't like tea and drink (too much) black coffee. This was one of the lasting effects of my first pregnancy (as was my eldest daughter).
6) I love caravanning and the Scottish countryside, especially in the sunshine. I fully appreciate that if it didn't rain so much it wouldn't be so beautiful and green so it's a price worth paying.
7) Today the chaplain of Manchester United is coming to speak at our church and then coming to our house for lunch. I wonder if he's heard of my fave team, Airdrie United?
Now I'm going to pick (on) seven of you at random. As I'm normally the end of chain emails etc, and this may be the first time I've not been, I can hardly be offended if you don't take me up on this...
Last night I took Firstborn, who is nearly 13, to her first Teen-style party in a local nightclub. This was a traumatic experience - for me. She's into hockey - think Sporty Spice with the tracksuits - and I had to talk her into glamming up a WEE bit. However, when I dropped her off I felt (to be quite honest) a leaden feeling in my stomach at the sight of some of these 12/13 year old girls with the make up trowelled on and outfits that a prostitute would draw the line at. (Not all of them, but some of them). I understand that they are innocent and don't realise why it makes some of us adults feel uncomfortable.
And I know she's past the soft play area stage and the princess party dresses. I'm not naive. But I'm scared for them all.
Kids are sexualised so young nowadays - look at their tv choices, their clothes choices in the shops, the celebrity culture obsession with image and the associated eating disorder problems. I just want to stand up and say it's wrong. I need to stand up anyway - I'm off to the cinema to see Horton Hears a Who with the younger contingent of the Droid family. One of the characters in it has 96 daughters and 1 son, so his worries are definitely greater than mine!
We like to encourage the prisoners to set realistic goals and work towards them. Very sensible. Do I do that? No, not really. I bumble along happily, one day at a time, and am pleased if at the end of the week I have coped with another seven days of family plus full-time work. And my goal? My ambition? Totally UN-realistic! I would love to cross America coast to coast on a Harley-Davidson. Today I modified that and thought I fancied a trike rather than a bike, for some reason. This is NOT a realistic goal for my life. I've never even been on a (moving) motorbike. In the nearly fifteen years of my married life I haven't needed a passport as we've not had the money to go abroad. And just where on my motorbike would I stow my four kids and husband? But perhaps along with our sensible and realistic goals we also need a dream or two to while away boring moments.
This caught my eye this week. You can be cremated or buried, or perhaps you can now go for promession in a prometorium and be frozen and then the resulting dust buried. Mmmm. My gut reaction was, "Oh no. I hate being cold". And yes, I did immediately think how ridiculous. To my knowledge I don't like being set on fire or buried six feet underground either. So, yes, my reaction was silly. I suppose it doesn't matter which option is picked since I won't know anything about it.
On the subject of death, it amuses me, though I do it myself sometimes, that folk say, "If something happens to me..." meaning "When I die". IF? IF?!
Statistics of Death by Adrian Plass
Here’s a cheery thought. Only one thing in life is absolutely guaranteed. We are all going to die. I think you’ll find the statistics are very clear on this point.
You are more likely to die travelling by train than by plane More likely to die in the winter than in the spring More likely to die in a car-crash than from cancer More lilkely to die watching Eastenders than The Weakest Link More likely to be murdered than to win the lottery More likely to die in China than in Spain
You are more likely to die if you starve than if you eat More likely to die at Old Trafford than in an ice-cream parlour More likely to die in the morning than in the afternoon More likely to die in Luton than in Milton Keynes More likely to die in a Polish sentry-box than a Morris 1000 Traveller More likely to die of cold than of heat
You are more likely to die in blue than in green More likely to die in bed than in Birmingham More likely to die intestate than on a tandem More likely to die in company than alone More likely to die on a Monday than on a Friday More likely to die where you are than where you have been
You are more likely to die if you are tall than if you are short More likely to die of hate than of love More likely to die choking on a marble than to spontaneously combust More likely to die facing south than facing east More likely to die on land than on sea More likely to die from leisure than from sport
You are more likely to die doing the twist than the jive More likely to die at home than in any other place More likely to die with friends than with strangers More likely to die with an apology than with a blessing More likely to die with a question than an answer You are most likely to die if you are alive
WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL WEAR PURPLE With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me. And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter. I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells And run my stick along the public railings And make up for the sobriety of my youth. I shall go out in my slippers in the rain And pick the flowers in other people's gardens And learn to spit
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat And eat three pounds of sausages at a go Or only bread and pickle for a week And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry And pay our rent and not swear in the street And set a good example for the children. We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
That's a very well known poem, and it's a good 'un. It just summarises so beautifully the lovely "don't care any more" thing that we start to enjoy as we get older. Now I'm in my forties (I know it's hard to believe from my Shy-Anne picture) I am already finding I don't care a tenth as much as I used to what people think of me, though I still care. The growing confidence, which I suppose is what it is, is such a liberation.
Yesterday I watched the prisoners being "libbed" (liberated) and embracing their waiting relatives (please God help them stay on the straight and narrow and not be back) and it is a moving sight, actually. Liberation, of any kind, is amazing. The liberation that a hip replacement or other operation can bring, the liberation of escape from a violent relationship, the liberation of leaving a job you hate, the liberation from worrying about what other people think, and - one of my interests as a Christian - the liberation from guilt. Jesus said he came to set people free and that if he sets us free we'll be free indeed. It's so sad that people don't seek freedom when they can. Freedom is surely worth the seeking. (Unless you're a prisoner, in which case absconding or escaping's not such a good idea as waiting till your're libbed legally!)
William Wallace: Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you'll live... at least for a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM! [crowd cheers]
This picture is Elizabeth Fry visiting a woman prisoner.
Now here's an interesting quote: "The system is gendered - far too few women are held accountable and the proportion of female to male prisoners is too low. From general social attitudes, to police, to COPFS, to judges, women are infantalised and pathologised but not held criminally accountable. Think of the children who really should be protected!" So says the first comment here.
This really has made me think. I have always bought into the widespread belief that too many of the women sent to jail are poor souls who shouldn't be there, victims themselves really, and so on. This is the first time I've thought about the possibility that perhaps as this commenter says, "women are infantalised and pathologised but not held criminally accountable". Mmmmm. I'm going to think more about this. I have visited a women's prison in the past but today I was visiting a men's jail which has about 1,500 prisoners in it (more than it is designed for). The chaplain there led me through the area where the families who were in for the visiting time were congregating. He was saying that quite often the women cause fights and arguments and are difficult for the staff to deal with. I've often heard officers say that working at the female prison is harder in many ways than working with male prisoners. I guess ladettes who want, for example, to drink like lads at weekends and get into brawls in the street need to be treated fairly. And fairly works two ways...
But aren't chaplains supposed to be nice? Not seeking to get more folk locked up! Well chaplains are supposed to speak up for what seems to them morally right as best they can. Our governors usually tell us they want us to be knocking on their door if we see unjust or unethical practices in their jails. If I do, on reflection, conclude that what this commenter said is true, then maybe I'll end up with the view that more rather than fewer women should be locked up, but that'll be ethical and moral if it's because I'm standing against infantalising and pathologising women.
We had a judge for lunch yesterday. Not literally. Probably literally having a judge for lunch would still warrant the death penalty under some little known law. We had a judge in our house yesterday to whom we gave lunch. This is not something that has happened before and I had been wondering earlier in the week what to feed him. At the end of last week our prisoners produced a jail magazine and it had a recipe page in it. Ah ha!
So, we fed the judge, who is very nice and was not wearing his regalia or his wig (to the kids' disappointment) a meal cooked from the jail magazine recipe! Seemed beautifully appropriate and/or ironic. We didn't tell him till afterwards where the recipe had come from but he took it well. He is doubtless responsible for a number of our jail's inmates being in prison (well, no he's not - he didn't commit the crimes, but you know what I mean). The recipe was for chicken marinaded in a concoction including 7 Up (believe it or not) and was actually delicious. It was submitted to the magazine by one of our Education Unit staff. I shudder to think what recipe the prisoners might have come up with had they known it was for a judge.
In a former life (no, I don't mean I believe in reincarnation - I just mean it feels like it was in a former life) I travelled into and out of Glasgow by train, for school, work, uni, off and on (no pun intended) for various periods between 1974 and 1990. From time to time (!) over these years there were delays and boring, cold waits at train stations. The station in the picture is one of the ones I waited at, though it had the benefit of a bus stop outside to which I could bail out and try my luck at. It was during this time that I found this poem and think it is just fab. Enjoy. Can those in other countries relate to it too, I wonder?
British Rail Regrets, by Steve Turner
British Rail regrets having to regret. British Rail regrets it cannot spell. British Rail regrets the chalk ran out. British Rail regrets that due to a staff shortage there will be no-one to offer regrets. British Rail regrets, but will not be sending flowers or tributes. British Rail regrets the early arrival of your train. This was due to industrious action. British Rail regrets that because of a work-to-rule by our tape machine this is a real person. British Rail regrets the cheese shortage in your sandwich. This is due to a points failure. The steward got three out of ten. British Rail regrets. Tears flow from beneath the locked doors of staff rooms. Red-eyed ticket collectors offer comfort to stranded passengers. Angry drivers threaten to come out in sympathy with the public. British Rail regrets. That's why its members are permanently dressed in black. That's why porters stand around as if in a state of shock. That's why Passenger Information is off the hook.
British Rail regrets that due to the shortage of regrets there will be a train.
As well as thinking about the lost sheep, or more particularly the partying on high, at the jail service this afternoon we also looked at the small print, in a way. It's another of the surprising and interesting things Jesus said, and I was particularly interested in the reaction.
In Matthew 13 we're told a story (I love stories): "A man sowed good seed in his field. One night, when everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. When the plants grew and the ears of corn began to form, then the weeds showed up. The man's servants came to him and said, "Sir, it was good seed you sowed in your field; where did the weeds come from?" "It was some enemy who did this," he answered. "Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?" they asked him. "No," he answered, "because as you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them. Let the wheat and the weeds both grow together until harvest. Then I will tell the harvest workers to pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them, and then to gather in the wheat and put it in my barn".
The wheat and the weeds story's about church, mainly. If you go to a church, any church, the people in it, while possibly being either cat people or dog people, are definitely either wheat people or weed people (not weedy people, that's a different thing). We can't always decide whether people are wheat people or weed people, and most of the time it's unhealthy for us to be trying to - that's judgementalism. But it's as well to remember that's the scenario. I explained that to the guys. I paused half way to check how much they grasped it. Some of them said they had no idea what it meant at all. Others said it was obvious and self-explanatory. Point proved I guess! Incidentally Jesus explained it better than me.
Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and doesn't know where to find them. Unlike this cartoon what the rhyme says is "Leave them alone and they'll come home bringing their tails behind them" (I nearly put "tales" there instead of "tails" - how much more interesting that would be!)
The phrase "lost sheep" has entered our language. I like to think this comes not from Little Bo Peep but from the illustration Jesus used: "Suppose one of you has 100 sheep and loses one of them - what does he do? He leaves the other 99 in the pasture and goes looking for the one that got lost until he finds it."... and then he goes on to say that once found, there would be a real celebration. But the most surprising bit is the punchline. (Jesus said some very surprising things). "In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 respectable people who do not need to repent).
In other words if, just for example, a chav (or ned as they're known in Scotland) as depicted in the Chavopoly board of a recent post below (13 April 08), were to repent (genuinely) there would be a party in heaven such as would not happen for the good guy who's always been a good guy.
Just astonishing. No wonder those on the outside find what we Christians believe totally offensive.
Incidentally, we looked at this at the service in the jail this afternoon, with the aid of a box of Celebrations to reinforce the point. I gave the (very) few leftovers to a couple of officers afterwards. I did not mention Little Bo Peep this afternoon btw - not really the thing to do in a macho environment.
I wrote this for work purposes but thought it might be worth sharing here. The main resources I used are credited in the last paragraph.
Bitter people often: - have an amazing memory for the tiniest detail - wallow in self-pity and resentment - catalogue every offence and are always ready to talk about how much they've been hurt - seem calm on the outside but inside are about to burst with pent-up feelings - defend their grudges constantly - feel they've been hurt so deeply or so often they are exempt from the need to forgive sometimes have hearts so full of bitterness they're no longer able to love at all
Bitterness is more than just a negative outlook on life. It's a very destructive and self-destructive power. It's just like a dangerous, poisonous mould or spore because it thrives in the dark recesses of the heart and feeds on every new thought of spite or hatred that comes our way. Or it's like an ulcer which is aggravated by worry or like a heart condition that's made worse by stress. It can affect you physically and certainly it affects you emotionally. It also affects those around you.
On the other hand, forgiveness is a door to peace and happiness. It is a small, narrow, hard-to-find door, and can't be entered without stooping humbly. But no matter how long the search, it can be found and it has the potential to lead to the most amazing freedom.
Forgiving has absolutely nothing to do with human fairness which demands an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and it doesn't mean excusing and brushing things aside. When we forgive someone we still recognise the hurt for what it is, but instead of lashing out or biting back, we try to see beyond it and to view the person with good will rather than ill will, whether they deserve it or not, because forgiving them makes us better.
Forgiveness maybe won't take away all our pain, but the letting go will help. It might not even be acknowledged or accepted - but forgiving will stop us being sucked into the downward spiral of resentment and it can guard us against the temptation of taking out our anger or hurt on someone else.
Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting or condoning a wrong. It doesn't depend on a face-to-face meeting with the person responsible for it, which might not even be advisable. But it does mean making a conscious decision to stop hating, because hating can never help. Sometimes, even when we recognise the need to forgive, we're tempted to claim that we can't. It's too hard, too difficult - something for saints, maybe, but not for me. But it IS possible, and it IS worth it. For further reading, you could try Jesus' thoughts on the subject - look in the Bible for Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, or if you are anti-Bible for some reason, I also recommend "Why Forgive?" by Johann Christoph Arnold, which has powerful and painfully moving and heroic stories of forgiveness in the most extreme circumstances.
One of the tools of the trade of a prison chaplain is a box of tissues. When the said prison chaplain also has a cold she's had so long she's forgotten when it started, the need is all the greater, to have a box handy.
On my way to work this morning I called in at the village shop near the jail where I spotted five boxes of a well known brand of man-size tissues (wouldn't they be huge if they really were man-sized? And which size of man would they be the size of?) The boxes were identical, and had the price already printed on them by the manufacturer. Four of them said "99p". The other, exactly the same in other respects, said "Special Price. £1.69". Isn't "special price" supposed to imply a discount not a Whatever-It-Is-Per-Cent increase (please someone work that out for me as I'm not fond of arithmetic) of 70p"?
And talking of man-size, it was my privilege to facilitate the provision of a pair of overalls to a very tall prisoner today (not really part of my job description of course) who was unable to fit into any of the overalls provided by his Work Party. A local minister found me a pair in his garage. You know who you are, M. Thank you. He's terribly pleased.
While away on a short family holiday in Edinburgh this week I had the sad task of taking our old dog, who was suffering from cancer and other ailments, to the vet to be put to sleep. I volunteered because Him Indoors was much more attached to her than I was - or so I thought. However I found it very distressing anyway and all six of us cried a fair few tears that day. She was a great old thing and gave us 14 years' unconditional love.
Next morning? The kids were discussing getting a new dog, possibly two (the theory being they'd be company for each other) and most of the rest of the week was spent coming up with possible names for these Potential Puppies. This seemed very disrespectful to have moved on so quickly, but children are like that. However, before we left the caravan site we were staying at, the kids made what could only be described as a kind of shrine to poor old Chloe, which looked exactly like a grave and led to us then having to go and explain to the wardens before we left that the dog was in fact left at the vet for cremation and was not in fact buried, without permission, under the tree in their woodland!
Incidentally suggestions for the names for the Potential Puppies are welcome. We may get two black labrador bitches or one black and one brown. Current suggestions (not all serious) are: Treacle and Toffee, Jack and Vera, Bennett and Darcy, Cheese and Onion, Mrs Thompson and Mrs Wallace (the head and deputy head at the kids' school)...
My outlaws, sorry - that should read in-laws, last year celebrated their golden wedding. But before they met, as a young man Father-In-Law nearly emigrated to New Zealand. If he had, of course, their four sons would never have been born and neither would my four kids.
I find that sort of story interesting. I have lots of them, as no doubt you have too. Is it all just random? I tend to think not, of course, but lots of people would say yes.
I'm also interested in how couples met, as so often it seems they could just as easily not have done.
A few years ago I conducted two funerals, about a year apart, of an elderly married couple. I asked how they met and loved the story. He was a shepherd. She was a maid in The Big House. They were expected to get all spruced up (as you did in those days) and go to church on a Sunday. During the service, he bent down to pick up a dropped hymn book, and as he came up, banged his head off the book-rest shelf thing on the back of the pew in front. She, being only about eighteen, got a great fit of the giggles which carried on for ages, and led to them speaking after the service!
But for me personally here's a cracker of an "It could all have been so different" story: A long time ago, an ancestor of mine once emigrated to America. He bought a bit of farmland and worked it for a while but then decided he was homesick, so he sold it and came home. The bit of farmland was part of Manhattan Island!!
Today I took Penultimate and Youngest children for a bike ride. Well, they were riding the bikes Santa graciously brought them at Christmas but I was walking with Truffle, a chocolate (chocolate coloured not actual chocolate, sadly) labrador we are looking after for the week. About half way round, the chain came off Youngest Child's bike.
Did I even look to see if I could work out how to fix it? No (head hanging down in shame). I did not. I looked round to see if a man on a bike might come along who I could ask to fix it. This plan worked almost instantly and, ignoring all previous instructions not to talk to strangers, Youngest Child was asked, "What do you say to the kind man for fixing your bike?"
It is only now, hours and hours later that it hits me. What kind of 21st century woman am I? It's the fact I didn't even LOOK at the chain to see what to do... although when the gallant stranger fixed it in a nanosecond I did have the grace to be a WEE bit embarrassed.
The thing is, although I want equal pay and all that, I find it very delightful to leave all jobs I don't fancy (especially anything potentially involving getting dirty) to men. We caravan and I have never yet learned how to empty the loo, nor I have I the least intention of so doing. I have mysteriously forgotten how to cut the grass. And I'm not good with sick - dog sick or child sick.
I thought of telling you the truth - that it all started when I got a Christmas job in my last two years at school as a turkey plucker. You had to kill your own turkey. But I, and the only other female turkey plucker, let one of the men kill us one too. I thought of telling that story but in view of my post about the pheasant the other day it might be too much. I don't want folk thinking I'm anti-bird. So I won't mention it.
The only thing I have in my favour is that I ALWAYS vote, even when I've no idea who to vote for - my mum drummed it into me that women had fought so hard to get the vote I'd better appreciate it - and of course I do.
As I've said before, I enjoy reading the blogs of police, paramedics and teachers, as many of these people are feeling the same sort of bewilderment I am (and no doubt you are too) about the ills of society.
Here, however, are some quotes from the days when blogs were presumably kept on paper or even parchment rather than in cyberspace:
"In every department of our nation, industry, commerce and agriculture, there is no hope." Disraeli in 1852.
"The world is passing through troublesome times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they know everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness to them. As for the girls, they are immodest and unwomanly in speech, behaviour and dress." Peter the Monk in 1274.
"When I look at the younger generation, I despair of the future of civilisation." Aristotle, in the year 300BC.
A long time ago a very wise man, in his interesting wee book called Ecclesiastes (found in the Jewish and Christian Bibles) said this: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
C.S. Lewis is one of my favourite writers. Here's some quotes to illustrate why.
From his great autobiography, "Surprised by Joy" a fun one about a dog he used to have: "I think he had one friend of his own species, a neighbouring red setter; a very respectable, middle-aged dog. Perhaps a good influence; for poor Tim, though I loved him, was the most undisciplined, unaccomplished, and dissipated-looking creature that ever went on four legs. He never exactly obeyed you; he sometimes agreed with you."
Also from his autobiography, talking about his conversion, this one appeals to the Calvinist which lurks beneath the surface of me: "Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about 'man's search for God'. To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat."
There are loads more I could mention, and may do another day, but here's a great one from "The Lion, the Witch and the "Wardrobe": "'They say Aslan is on the move - perhaps has already landed.' And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don't understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning - either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer."