Life off grid.

A friend has just had her fb account hacked. I think that means that everyone who was on her account as a friend is now also hacked so I checked my account and I have 17 people asking to be friends with me. This is bonkers. Some of them I don’t know, some I do know but really don’t have anything in common with, and some – I suppose – will be hackers, ie not the people they are pretending to be. That’s crazy. So I’m coming off Facebook.

I’m toying with the idea of ditching my mobile phone completely. Would that be mad? Would that simplify or complicate life? Answers on a postcard…. has anyone done this? Ditched the mobile?

If we look back to pre-mobile times, there are things that just couldn’t have happened if we had possessed the instant communication we have now. It’s certainly mucked up contemporary drama, where everything is solved by tracking mobiles or downloading phone records, (or that other drama squib, DNA). I suppose that period dramas will soon be more attractive to thriller writers, where detection can depend on dogged sleuthing and the gradual unrolling of a plot, rather than a single phone call to an IT expert.

Nowadays, because of mobiles, we can never be sure who we’re speaking to but, paradoxically, neither can we ever escape each other. Weird. If you have a phone, you can be found, you can always know where your partner is, they can always know where you are. If you’re not sure which flour you’re supposed to buy in Tescos, you don’t have to think about it – just press a single button and you can say “Was it plain or self-raising?’ and you don’t even have to say who you are because your picture has popped up on the screen of the person you’re calling. It’s all very strange.

I type something about a carpet, and an ad for floor coverings pops up.

There used to be an ad for cigarettes ‘You’re never alone with a Marlboro’. Well, you really are never alone with a mobile phone. Amazon and Google and goodness knows who else is following you. And yet, somehow, it’s so impersonal that it makes us more alone than we ever were.

George used to joke that we should never get a sheepdog because you should never have a dog that’s more intelligent than its owner. That’s a bit like how I feel about my iPhone ; I get into my car and there’s suddenly a voice echoing the words of Jesus. Am I having a stroke? No, the phone in my pocket has paired with my car and it’s David Suchet reading the New Testament, the last thing I listened to as I went to sleep last night. I didn’t even turn it on. I certainly didn’t pair it with the car. It just blinkin’ decided to do it.

Thinking about the changes mobile phones have brought reminded me of a family I knew back in the ‘good old days’ (the family of my first husband, Rob) who were so chaotic and so impulsive that every thing they turned to became a funny or frustrating or frankly disastrous adventure. Rob was driven to distraction by their miscommunications and misunderstandings. Just like modern dramas, their lives would have been very different if they had been able to text ….. and that made me think of the Woolwich Ferry day. 

It was someone’s birthday, Rob’s mum’s I think, in the late 1960’s and the whole family was going to celebrate together. There was a bit of humming and hawing about where we should meet but eventually, after a few mild arguments and slammed doors, accusations of utter selfishness and that sort of thing, it was agreed that the Essex crew would come down from Chelmsford, we would travel up from Kent collecting Mum and Pop from Kingston on the way and Rob’s sister and family would make their own way from Ealing (with the inevitable few dogs) and we would all meet up in Woolwich. At the ferry.

The plan was to meet at the ferry terminal at 11am, and from there walk to the Common, to picnic, fly a kite, play football and do all the usual family-outing things. Although everyone would be on foot, Woolwich Ferry had become a roll-on/roll-off service, and Pop hankered to see how it worked (he was an ex merchantman after all) so we arrived early so that Pop could have a ‘go’ on the very unromantic lump of metal he insisted on calling a boat…. and we happily went across and back and across and back to please him (it was just a ten minute, two boat service- maybe it still is). At eleven o clock, we looked around but no one else had turned up.

After waiting for a couple more ferry landings, Pop decided, unfettered by logic, that the arrangements had been misunderstood and that everyone else was waiting on the other side of the crossing. So we stepped back on the ferry and headed north again. It must have been about then – when we were on the water – that the Ealing contingent arrived at the south ferry terminal, a good half an hour late. Seeing no one else there they decided that we all must have already headed off for the park – so that’s what they did. Unfortunately as they set off for the park, we were heading to the north end of the crossing while the Chelmsford branch of that chaotic family were heading towards the south. At some point, the two boats crossed and we saw each other and waved frantically, gesticulating across the noise of the engines and the wind. Each of us was pointing to ourselves and to the bank we would meet on, shouting (probably) the same thing, ie ‘You stay there and we’ll find you’ Of course, none of us could hear each other and while we waited on one side, they waited on the other.

It was then decided that Mum and Pop would take the next ferry, with me and Rob staying on the north side, so that we could relay the correct information if the Essex crew came back. Afterwards Pop always maintained that there were another two crossings before we all arrived on the same bank, but I don’t think it was quite that bad… or maybe it was. Anyway, we finally managed landfall on the same side, at the same time, and there we waited for the Ealing contingent, growing ever more annoyed, finding a phone box and ringing their home number in case they’d forgotten. The phone of course rang out with no answer, and we must have waited for another hour or so before giving up and walking to the park.

According to family legend it was 2pm by the time we all met, and by then Pop was dizzy with hunger and Mum claimed to be seasick. I don’t remember flying the kite or playing football, but I do remember that there was a whole lot of teasing, that the dogs were completely manic, that Pop’s shoulders shook with laughter all day long, and his false teeth slipped, that the sandwiches were left in a rubbish bin and we all had fish and chips to warm up.

That was a day out with the Elliotts.  Nowadays, there is no confusion in my life, but I could do with a bit. I could do with a few slammed doors and heated discussions about whose fault it was, and who said what, and I could do with a bit of laughter and some fish and chips (in newspaper please!) and I’d quite like someone like dear old Pop in my life. There’s a lot to be said for a bit of chaos.

Yes. Maybe I’ll ditch the mobile.

But then there’s the texts and photos I get from the grandchildren… and messages from Lynn….. and my youngest granddaughter and I do Wordle together every day (she quite often beats me) and Sandra has started doing it too…. and I like to listen to Lectio 365 on the beach every morning… and… and…. David Suchet is such a wonderful reader. I would really miss all that.

The spirit is willing but the flesh is exceedingly weak. And then there’s the iPhone camera…..

Hmmm…. I think I better think it out again!

Crash landing!

I may have told you that I wouldn’t be posting any more of my next book, but you’ve all persuaded me, just one more mini chapter. Then no more. Absolutely.

I don’t have many memories of life when my mother was alive. She died when I was 7 and the only mental pictures I have of her are stolen from black and white photos, not real memories at all. But while I don’t remember her, I do remember some moments, some places and incidents from those years. My first memory, in 1952/3,  is dramatic.

We had been airborne only an hour or so, as far as I remember. It was an Army transport plane, no frills, a big payload space below us somewhere but, in the cabin, seats and a basic crew who served only sandwiches and tea.

I was with the other small children at the front of the cabin, in a space that had been cleared for us, seats removed, sitting on the floor, surrounded by crayons and colouring books. The older ones, my brothers included, were reading comics, or talking, or bickering, playing hangman, already bored. The mums were at the back of the plane, probably (I think now) worn out by the early start, leaving our married quarters, piling onto the buses, rounding up tired children whenever we had stopped for toilet breaks, waiting for what seemed like hours at the airport, before boarding – at last – the plane that was taking us to the regiment’s next posting in Cyprus. I can imagine now that this was a lull in the mothers’ horribly busy day, a time for just sitting, or chatting, or grabbing a doze. 

I don’t know who saw it first. It was certainly one of the older children, and it may even have been Martin, my brother. At 14, along with the other teenagers, he had the job of baby-sitting the rest of us. I was just four, so I don’t remember feeling any alarm at all, just interest, as if this, too, along with the colouring books, had been arranged to keep us occupied. 

An engine on our four prop plane was on fire. 

The news was shared first by the teens, in a sort of muted awe. We clambered on seats to look out of the window. Because of the shape of the plane, we couldn’t see the engine, but we could see the wing and the smoke, and the blur of part of a propeller that seemed to cut through the guttering flames. It was nowhere near as exciting as the teenagers were making out. Their voices were shrill and loud. One of them went to the adults to tell them, but his mother simply nodded, barely breaking from her conversation. The news bringer was insistent. He was pointing back down the plane, to the right wing, his eyes huge and his mouth open… still no one took any notice. Now we were all looking, not at the fire, but at the mothers, and some had gone back to poke their own Mums, to relay the news. One woman put her arm out, pulling her daughter towards her, comfortingly, but still listening to some anecdote, still deaf to our growing excitement. The flames were a bit more impressive now, and there was a trail of thick smoke whipping away into the sky.  The women remained blind and deaf to the urgency and the gradually mounting sense of fear. 

And then a member of the crew came into the cabin, a strong male voice above the hum of the engines, the laughter and chat, and at last heads were turned. An engine was on fire. The extinguisher had failed, but there was nothing to worry about. We had three other engines. One of the younger mums, holding her baby, said ‘But if you can’t put it out and it spreads?” The answer was controlling, managing, “We’ll land at Orly airport in about ten minutes. There’s no need for any concern.”

As we returned to our seats and were strapped in, as the crew instructed us to tuck our heads into our chests when the order came, as everything that was loose was stowed away, the fire spread to the other engine on that wing. Martin, tall enough to see what was going on, kept us fully informed, describing the flames and smoke growing thicker, fiercer, and now there didn’t seem to be any movement from either prop….maybe the engines had dropped off… maybe the wing was going to drop off… finally someone told him, quite forcibly, to give the running commentary a rest. 

The plane was full of children and mothers, but we were Army brats and Army wives and there was no panic. Concern, and a resigned rueful sense of ‘More bloody queueing up then, more waiting around. I hope there’s a cup of tea at the end of it.’ 

The crash landing was impressive. As the plane made its approach, the order came to brace ourselves, so we didn’t see the runway coming up to meet us, but as soon as we’d felt the crash,  jolt and bounce of the landing, every head was raised and Martin shouted excitedly to look, and so we did, those of us who could crane high enough to see….  As our plane sped down the runway, on one side of us (my side) there was a convoy of fire engines, racing alongside us, not keeping up with us, but there, in attendance, impressive. On the other side, I learned later, the side where we would be evacuating there was a similar convoy of ambulances. 

I would love to tell you what it was like, evacuating that plane. I would love to tell you how mothers gathered children, and grabbed their belongings, how cabin crew carried babies, how we escaped through hastily opened doors, tumbling onto canvas chutes…. But I can’t remember that bit. 

Memories that are 68 years old have blurred edges, but the central image, the event, is crystal clear. Frozen in time. I just wish with all my heart that I could remember my mother, she’s there, at the edge, almost real, almost Mary Gannon.

A quiet Welsh night

Tonight is a vigil. Tonight, on the eve of Easter Sunday, I’m taking all the thoughts and cares I have and placing them before the God of everything. A night of prayer. There is no limit, no prescription and no proscription for prayer. Prayer is life, submission. A breath can be a prayer, a life lived for God is prayer. My whole life is very obviously not solid wall-to-wall prayer – you know me, I stumble and fumble along – but tonight, tonight is a prayer. From beginning to end. Or as long as I can stay awake (the heart is willing but the body is weak). This blog? A prayer. This breath? A prayer. This clumsy finger plonking on the key board? A prayer.

Prayer can be a decision.

Staying awake, under a wide deep black Welsh sky is prayer, if we stay awake with God.

He is in my thoughts and in my heart, he is in all my experience so I don’t have to recite a list of all my wants, dutifully working through the friends who are at this moment in desperate need of his comfort. He knows. Just as I am aware of those I love, and of the terrible chaos of the world, of those who are grieving and those who are dying, and those who keep watch over them, he knows my heart. I don’t need to find the right words.

My prayer is that those who are in need will love him more and more, know him better, hold him closer, be conscious of his presence and his peace, that they will glorify him whatever they’re going through right now, buoyed up by him, and that their devotion will grow. I don’t take this to God in words because we don’t need words to pray. Prayer is above and beyond words. You need words – you’re reading a blog after all. And I need words, here they are… so many words…. going on and on…. but God needs no words. He knows.

He is the God who created the immeasurable Cosmos, who made the Sun so large that over a million planet Earths could fit inside it, who made the Moon to bring us gravity and tides, who hurtles our little planet through space at 1000 miles an hour. He’s the God who brought me into the world, and you, and who will take us from it one day. He knows the synapses and the neurones and the neutron transmitters of every wonderful, mysterious human brain. He hears the cacophony of a billion voices raised in prayer. Do I really believe that the Creator hears one piping voice in a million billion, clamouring over all the centuries?

I do. So there.

I believe he hears my unspoken thoughts, my unworded longings. My silent voice. And even more than this, I believe that prayer is powerful. Not because of those who pray, but because of the one who listens.

Tonight friends are holding their own vigil, as a dearly loved wife and mother gradually slips away into another life, into death. Their night vigil may take days or even weeks, and so they’re uppermost in my thoughts. Good thoughts though, completely trusting thoughts, I have no fear on their behalf, knowing he has them safe…. they love God, and where there is love there is no fear. ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Romans 8:38/39

But the end of life can be distressing and painful, so it’s a hard hard time for these friends, just as it’s a hard time for Ukraine, for all the frightened and grieving people over there. Just as it’s a hard time for all those in sickness and mourning the world over. In this life we will have trouble. What was the next phrase? Ah yes, “But take heart, for I have overcome the world.”

Tonight, because I am old and have no call on my time, this is a vigil. We don’t all have the privilege and luxury of night-long prayer, indeed I may find in a few hours that the brain has ground to a halt and my eyes are closing. I make no promises! But these retirement years are a good time for prayer and meditation, for timelessness. Every life and season in life is different. In the daily round children need to be fed, work needs to be done, sleep needs to be slept and even silly jokes need to be joked. But we can do all these things as prayers. That may all sound more diluted than a silent vigil in an Easter night, but they’re just the same to God. He knows our hearts, he knows our longings, and he honours them.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:16/17

Our God, our wonderful God.

God stretches out heaven over empty space and hangs the earth upon nothing. He wraps the rain in his thick clouds, and the clouds are not split by the weight.  He shrouds his throne with his clouds. He sets a boundary for the ocean, yes, and a boundary for the day and for the night. The pillars of heaven tremble at his rebuke. And by his power the sea grows calm; he is skilled at crushing its pride! The heavens are made beautiful by his Spirit; he pierces the swiftly gliding serpent. These are some of the minor things he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who then can withstand his thunder?
Job 26:7-14

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. The day we remember the resurrection of Christ, our image of eternal life, the life he has given to everyone who turns to him. The life he gives us even as we are dying, the life he gives us even as we are grieving. The life he is holding out to all of us.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
John 10:28

Beachy Head 1973

The next (and last) snippet from my next book, again taken from my first marriage:

We had our adventures. At the time they didn’t seem like adventures but looking back, comparing my life then to my life now… they were adventures and I’m glad for them. There was the time when Rob decided, with no warning and no reason, that we would camp out on Beachy Head on Christmas Eve. Great idea! To hell with convention, with the boring traditions of family and food and endless telly. We would break free and do our own thing.

We packed up our brand new Reliant Robin (three wheel van, fibreglass, needing only a motorbike’s road tax) with sleeping bags, an old but much loved tent, camping stove, grub, wine and other essentials (chocolates, crisps, camera) in the back and set off.

She was just like this and we loved her!

When we left the Miss Behave the weather was fair to middling; it wasn’t raining, it wasn’t too cold and it wasn’t too windy.  By the time we arrived at Beachy Head, ricocheting down the country lanes (the Reliant Robin could be shifted sideways by the lightest breeze) the weather had progressed from middling to a bit threatening. With an eye on the glowering horizon, and remembering how many Robins were blown over in every storm, Rob turned off the road onto a track, and after about a quarter of a mile he parked the van in the corner of a field, in the lea of a hill and we lugged all our kit up the last stretch of hillside. That stretch of hillside was a lot longer than we had expected, and it took us the best part of an hour. I was beginning to think we’d overshot Birling Gap and were going to find ourselves  in Eastbourne when at last we were there. Fabulous Beachy Head. 160 yards above sea level, and even in the gloom we could see the chalk cliff face shining brilliant white, a beacon of hope for so many. 

The tent was a two man bivouac thing. You know, a serious camping tent for serious campers, but it was old and a few guy ropes were missing and it looked a lot cosier from the outside than it felt on the inside.  The weather was pretty wretched by now, but Rob was a past master at denying the bleedin’ obvious and I was his cheerleader, so we congratulated ourselves on knowing better than all those stay-at-home telly watching idiots, clinked our plastic wine glasses under the billowing canvas, and shouted above the wind, ‘Here’s to a fabulous Christmas!”  

Christmas on Beachy Head is not amazingly balmy. The rain there is particularly wet and the wind is a million violins tuning up in an echo chamber. At about 3am Rob admitted defeat and we flailed around in the dark, gathering up the now soaking and not – after all – waterproof canvas, scrambling to shove food and kit into flapping plastic bags,  tripping over the trailing guy ropes as we stumbled blindly down the hillside to the comparative comfort of the little Robin. Maybe we didn’t take the shortest route because it seemed to take half the night to reach it, but what a great relief to reach shelter, slamming the doors on the raging storm, hearing its fury now muffled and ‘out there’. We slept in the seats, because the back was full of our soaking gear, and every now and again Rob would turn the engine on to give us a blast of something akin to warm air. We fell asleep at about five. 

At seven we were awake. Christmas Day!  I got the camp stove going, a celebration breakfast of bacon and eggs, and it seemed at last that this was a great way to celebrate. It was a lovely morning, cold and windy but bright, with scudding clouds in a brilliant sky. Even Rob didn’t want to walk all the way back up to the cliff edge to see the sea, so we agreed to head off into Brighton, for a more sedate walk along the promenade. Breakfast done, coffee drunk, feeling returning to feet and fingers, we packed the van again, sorting out the worst of the mess in the back, and clambered aboard. There were two problems. One was that the battery was now flat and the engine wouldn’t start. Rob said “No worries, we’ll push her onto the road and get her going downhill.” That, of course, is one of the great advantages of a fibreglass vehicle, it’s very light. Our second problem however was that we, and all our camping gear, were not light at all, and we’d been in the van all night, as the rain steadily softened the earth below our three wheels. Now the decision to park at the bottom of a rising field, behind a hedge, where all the run-off would gather, didn’t seem so great. We were stuck, well and truly. The single wheel at the front was deep in mud, and the more we pushed the deeper she sank, wedge-like. Bum. We unloaded everything from the van to lighten it, but still no luck, the more we pushed, the worse it was.

This was 1973, before mobile phones, but we were only a couple of miles from the nearest village, East Dean, so it wasn’t too terrible. It was just a shame we weren’t absolutely sure which direction to take down the winding lanes. And was the AA recovery service even working on Christmas Day? We could only hope so. Rob set off to find a phone box, it started raining again, and I tried to cover all our belongings, lying in the open now, with the useless tent. 

Unfortunately, Rob had forgotten to take the Ordnance Survey map with him and I knew he wouldn’t remember our (rough, very rough) grid reference, so I set off after him, map in hand. When I came to the end of the muddy track I realised that I had no idea which way he would have gone, left or right, so I returned, swearing quite loudly, to the van. 

Rob came back, alone, at about 11. The AA were coming! Hurrah! After an hour or so, help arrived. Nearly. We watched from our damp field as the little yellow van came into sight, drew quite near and then went past, to vanish over the horizon. It came back, drove past us again, and vanished between the high hedges in the other direction. By this time we were monosyllabic, barely grunting and Neanderthal. I walked along the track to the road to flag the AA man down the next time he came along. He didn’t come along. For ages he didn’t come along. And when he did (well past Christmas Dinner Time) he didn’t resemble the friendly, smiling, saluting AA man of the TV adverts in any way at all. He didn’t quite call us bloody idiots but the sense of it hung in the air around him.

We arrived home in the early evening and went to bed. That was Christmas 1973. 

Parlo Italiano?

About 4 years ago I wrote 5 x 15 minute monologues for BBC Radio, which were transmitted, one each day of Holy Week (Monday to Friday) on Radio 4, then repeated in the evenings. They were an exploration of the role Judas Iscariot played in the death of Jesus Christ, told from his perspective, in his voice. And of course it was all just my imaginings of what Judas might have gone through at that terrible time.

Tonight, in a beautiful, lofty church in Rome a group of enthusiastic young and not so young adults are presenting ‘Judas’… or, as they have it, ‘La Passione di Giuda: la voce dei protagonisti’

The piece has been given a new lease of life, in Rome, in or near the Vatican, translated by Fr Salvatore Sessa (that’s him, above), and I am so tickled to think that will be heard in another language , in another country. It reminds me of my last blog – God is not limited by time or distance… and obviously not by language either!

A very grainy photo of the video on my Mac.

So, if you speak Italian, and want to meet this cheerful gang (and see a beautiful Italian church) head to

https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dpz0hfhb9MSc%26feature%3Dyoutu.be&data=04%7C01%7C%7C122aab47c1c64ca79d5508da1ae4c235%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637851867057689493%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000&sdata=KnxeLVgPw48Qfh0BpBt%2Bn6y%2BQ4nx9IGHTnyK7rpYalM%3D&reserved=0

And a few more stills, stolen from my Mac

The sound desk

Fr Salvatore Sessa
Setting up

Mind blowing!

This isn’t instagram but sometimes I want to show you this beautiful world and my words can’t paint the picture. I can’t link arms with you to walk along the beach, or stroll beside the river, or up on the Preseli Hills, or through the bluebell woods, but I do have my trusty little camera phone thingy…. so here I go… can I talk as we wander?

For all the war and suffering and starvation, for all the cruelty and the loss, this world, given to us in love, is beautiful.

This morning

This is where I was this morning. It’s where I am every morning but of course each day and sky is different, from fog and rain, to raging storm, or gusting wind, sometimes rolling sea mist, and sometimes the sand seems to take on an energy of its own, rising up, skimming past, blinding and stinging.

This was yesterday, bitingly cold, silver, entirely different.

Yesterday. No filter! This is the day that the Lord has made. I will shiver and be glad in it. A bit.

Which one gets my vote? The blue one, of course! Yes, I love the cold days and even the wet days, but I do love them a bit less.

This morning was amazing. Why? Because, because, because… it just was. Come, walk with me.

A prayer request pinged in late last night, from friends halfway across the world, and as I lay in bed I was thinking of these friends, who were driving quite a few miles from home to be with a very ill parent. The thought came to me that even as I snuggled under my duvet, praying from a great distance, they were at the sharp end – the painful end. In a way they were driving towards bad weather, towards an emotional storm, and wow! that realisation grabbed me. It hurt. I felt helpless, knowing that no one could get in there with them to ease their pain. I remembered a book I used to read to my grandchildren, ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ by Michael Rosen

Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go around it,
Got to go through it!

Sometimes we just have to go through it. We have to go through what we cannot mend. It really hurt to think of these kind people facing such a hard time. That’s what prayer does sometimes – it hurts. Prayer isn’t words or wisdom or knowledge, it’s caring, and caring comes at a cost. Prayer isn’t easy, it isn’t liturgy, or shopping lists, it’s painful – it’s important – it matters! It matters and it costs. Then – somehow apart from me – as I prayed or maybe just cared, there came a really solid understanding that they were driving towards this hard time already sheltered, already safe, fully equipped. It was more than a comforting thought, it was the realisation that love will hold them secure, whatever the weather around them. However the earth trembles below their feet, they will be held steady. They know God deep in their bones, and they are steadfast and obedient, and he will not let them go. I sleepily tried to work out what time it was for them, mid afternoon, I think, and then I slept.

As I walked towards the rocks this morning, I realised that the tables were turned and it was now the middle of the night for them. That bloomin’ time difference! Keeps catching me out. I looked at the Sun in our bluest of blue skies and thought about its journey Westwards, about the Moon and the rotation of the Earth, about the greatness of our God. We are so tiny, specks of dust on a speck of dust. How is it that we are loved and how is that we know that we are loved and can even feel that love? How is it that we can think of the people we love, in all the hardship they’re going through, and say to God “I trust you. Here they are. ” Only by the grace of God. Our miracle. There are so many prayer needs, the thousands in Kyiv, the thousands in Mariupol, the millions seeking refuge from war, the friend in the village whose husband died suddenly and with absolutely no warning last week, the friend who is poorly, the friend who is bereaved… is it overwhelming? Sometimes. Yes, sometimes it is. But sometimes we know exactly who we must pray for at that moment. Sometimes we have a certainty. A sort of discipline, from outside of ourselves.

I prayed that at that moment, thousands of miles away, my friends were tucked up and dreaming in a velvet night, that the sick parent was painfree and unafraid, that the hospital was peaceful, that while I paddled in the glistening waves, their night was restful, to strengthen them for the days ahead.

And then it hit me – as the world revolves and we pray for each other, we truly are in eternity. Already. Time and distance? Bah, humbug! Nothing to God. His love binds us all, in completeness, nothing left unfinished. Yesterday I was talking to Sandra (you don’t know Sandra but you would like her) and we were exploring the idea of eternity and the eternal life that Jesus gives, but of course eternity is wider and greater than even that. Even than that! Even than that! The birth and death of a sinless God was a moment in history that, as the hymn says ‘split history in two’, but Jesus was in the beginning, before the beginning, beyond time. He knows no distance or time. Love knows no separation, no pause. Love binds all things together. That’s what ‘In Him all things hold together’ means. All things. Not most things. In Jesus, in God, we are all held together, past and present, fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled, near and far.

This is a chunky bit from The Message version of Colossians 1, the passage that talks about ‘all things holding together’:

For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organises and holds it together, like a head does a body.

 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so expansive, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

How wonderful. How absolutely mind blowingly wonderful. The love of Jesus transcends continents and oceans and time, from beginning to end, so that prayer knows no distance, is not a slave to the ticking of the clock, nor even to the rising and the setting of the Sun! Prayer. Mighty prayer.

After a while, my mind can go no further. It’s as if I have to shelve those thoughts for a ten minute break, to return to them later, maybe here at the keyboard. So I splashed and plodded and sat on a rock for a while, thinking of friends here and gone, alive and dead, near and far. And then I came home for coffee and waffles.

Time and distance. They are nothing in God’s Kingdom.

The Three Musketeers

The Next Instalment

This is for those who asked for more of the book. It’s a series of short stories so you may get little snippets of narrative twice, and I haven’t yet decided whether they will be told chronologically or thematically. It’s a work in progress:

The Elliotts

Rob Elliott was a porter at Kingston Upon Thames Hospital, where I was a student nurse. He was broad shouldered, narrow hipped, blond, laconic, and everyone, but everyone, fancied him. It amazed me that out of all the nurses and care assistants and kitchen staff, hundreds of young women, he chose me. The thought that anyone wanted me was intoxicating. That’s what it is to be 19.

His family and his life were totally new to me; I had known only cold and unloving parents, and the Army. For ten years I had lived in a strictly controlled house where I wasn’t welcome and barely tolerated, so my life seemed stultifyingly respectable, boring and repressed, compared to Rob’s.  Just nine years older than me, he had been in 3 Paras, had served in Aden, was already competent and confident, a man of the world. I was over-awed. There was a para’s beret by his bed, pieces of Army uniform, a belt here and a shirt there, scattered around. He had left the military but it seemed that the military hadn’t left him. As an Army brat myself, I completely understood his feelings – and it was just another reason to fall in love with him.   I liked soldiers.

As if to underline the difference between us, and to entice me into his world, while my step-mother and dad lived in a neat pebble-dash semi, all net curtain and mowed lawns, Pop and Mum Elliott lived on a converted lifeboat on the Thames, in the shadow of a railway bridge. Pop was an ex merchant seaman, many years into retirement, happily pottering about on his mouldering but much loved boat.  They were messy, lovable, contented, full of laughter, and I was enchanted by them just as much as I was besotted with their son. After my rigidly correct family, their lifestyle, their casual approach to respectability, and their obvious affection for each other, was a magnet to me. 

Rob’s sister, Pat, lived with her husband, Roy, in North London in a house that should have been gracious, and comfortable, but instead was shabby and cluttered, reeking of dogs. It wasn’t quite filthy but it was certainly getting on that way. Pat, ten years older than Rob, bred Standard Poodles, lots of them, and these great big lolloping farting things lived in the kitchen, the living room and the tiny back yard. Roy was something to do with TV transmission, but he was no more than a silent shadow at the back of every family scene, his clothes crumpled and his thick glasses smeared, a shambling apologetic figure. I could never quite imagine him at his job, whatever that might involve, but it was part of the family narrative that he was a technical genius and that his work was far too complicated for any of us to understand.  When I visited them at home the first time I was shocked and wrong-footed by the clutter, the stench and confusion of that house. I didn’t know where to look, how to ignore that there was a huge dog turd in the middle of the kitchen floor – had anyone else seen it? Surely they must have?  Pat was tall and brisk, wearing clothes that wouldn’t have been out of place at Badminton Horse Trials, and although they were well worn and not quite clean they had obviously been, some time back, expensive. I couldn’t make sense of this well spoken woman, with her anomaly of a husband, and the house full of untrained dogs, the floor covered in newspapers, the work tops given over to dog grooming stands and driers, the walls peppered with fading rosettes and certificates, dusty trophies scattered around. Musty chaos. They had a son, Nigel, 5 years old, and he was the spitting image of his uncle, Rob. None of his classmates ever visited, and Pat was always too chaotically busy to take him anywhere, so his playmates were dogs, his toys were dogs, and that meant that he didn’t have to bother too much with speech. And nobody had to bother too much with him. When the dogs were fed, so was he (not, thankfully, the same food), he was bathed and cared for as if he was a puppy, with the same casual affection, the same lack of conversation. Every weekend, it seemed, there was  a dog show to attend in the Lake District or Wales, or a stud dog to collect from Birmingham, or a litter being born in the tiny dining room. 

Mum and Pop viewed Pat with the kindly acceptance that they bestowed on the rest of the world. Pat was just Pat. There was no changing her. In time I began to question their unthinking acceptance of everything – was it A Good Thing, or just feckless? Had they found a level of Zenlike peace, or was it simply that they couldn’t they be arsed to care about anything much? But these questions didn’t occur to me until much later on, when things were beginning to unravel.

There was another Elliott son,  Charles, who lived in Essex. Charles, twelve years older than Rob, was the white sheep of the family – he lived in a normal and peaceful house, had a normal job as a telecom engineer, a child who had friends, and a wife who didn’t spend half her life shampooing dogs or casually scooping up their droppings. We saw very little of Charles and I was barely aware of him until I had been married to Rob for some months. 

Mum and Pop were a delight. I loved them almost as much as I loved their son. Life on their boat was muddled and messy but always quietly happy, and even now if I catch a whiff of paraffin I am transported to 1968 and a cosy little cabin, lit by Tilley lamps, rocking gently as larger boats passed by. Pop wore two hearing aids but the batteries were often flat, and just as often the aids would scream so loudly that we would cover our own ears and Mum would wave her hands at him, or hit him with whatever came to hand, until he turned them off and the screaming stopped. He laughed a lot, did Pop, and then his false teeth would slip and he’d clamp his hand to his mouth, like a naughty little lad, his shoulders shaking. He loved rituals, familiar jokes, repeated one liners. Every time the biscuit tin came out he would tell his wife that it was a waste of money to buy biscuits as she did – “Go to Woolworths, to the broken biscuits bin. Half the price. Nothing wrong with a broken biscuit.” This became such a routine statement that one day Mum could bear it no more and she snatched the tin back from him, put the lid on, and threw it on the floor with some force. Pop stared. “There” she said, picking it up “There’s your bloody broken biscuits. Now will you give it a rest?” 

The hearing aids could make life interesting; Pop was a sociable man, friends with everyone who lived on or near the river, always ready for a chat. One morning he was on the deck, and we were in the galley, when another elderly man, Malcolm, passed by and the conversation that followed had us crying with laughter, enjoying the absurdity and too gleeful to hurry up on deck to explain the misunderstanding. Malcolm remarked that the police were dragging a dead body from the river. Pop said sagely “You’d think they had better things to do.” A bit perplexed, Malcolm said well, someone had to do it. “Can’t see why,” said Pop “They rot away eventually.” “They what?” said Malcolm. Pop said “Rot. Rot. They fall apart given a bit of weather.” Malcolm said “But you can’t just let them rot!” and Pop replied with an airy “Why not? There’s so many of them – they don’t let you pull ‘em out and and burn them any more. Bloody bylaws about bonfires I suppose.” We realised that Pop had misheard ‘dead body’ for ‘dead tree’ but Malcolm struggled on, appalled “But.. so many of them? Really?” and Pop said “Dozens! They fall in, upstream. Or some bugger tips them in. Always bumping up against the hull.” There was a silent second, or maybe two before Malcolm gathered his breath again “My God, that’s terrible!” and Pop, by now gathering that something was a bit askew with his old friend, said soothingly “It’s not a big deal, Malc. I just get the boat hook and shove ‘em off. Send them on their way to the sea. Best thing.”  By now we were on deck to explain the dead body versus dead tree thing, Pop was a bit miffed “You want to speak clearer, Malc. That’s the trouble with people these days. Always mumbling.”

Yes, I loved Pop. 

In the way that only young people do, Rob and I fell into marriage. I left my nurse training (Why? Why? I ask my younger self) and we blew all my savings and forty pounds from my dad, plus a boat loan,  on a ropey old, damp old, mouldering old, converted old police launch. (Why? Why? Why? I ask my younger self). Her name was The Miss Behave. Suitably rakish. This was to be our adventure. We were going to refurbish her, turn her into the sleek varnished head-turner that she once was. We couldn’t afford the moorings on the Thames and so we motored down to the Medway and found a farmer who would let us moor up on the edge of a cow meadow. Rob’s dream was to be a fireman and everything was falling into place, almost effortlessly, when he was accepted on a training course to start in a few months but with no other income and that loan to pay off I found a job in a paper factory, in the offices. And there we were, less than a year after we’d met, blundering along from pay day to pay day, unsure of everything, lost babes in the wood. We had few posessions but we didn’t need many, we had our dogs and our cat, a portable record player, a tiny black and white TV that worked when the wind was in the right direction, and Rob had his Army souvenirs, his Para beret. That’s all we needed. 

We did make some improvements, that first Summer on the river, with long warm days spent on the deck, sanding and caulking and varnishing the teak planks until the whole deck glowed a deep rich chestnut. We were so proud of that deck. Other boat owners would pause to admire it, and Rob’s chest would swell with pride as he told them about the engine overhaul we were going to do, the dry dock we were going to enter, the keel work that was planned for the next year. And while we spoke of the next phase in our grand plans, the rest of the boat silently continued to crumble and rot. 

The next Spring, after a winter of rain and wind and leaks, we sold up and moved out to a Fire Brigade house. Rob was sad. Me? Not so much.

In the cool of the day

There are some phrases that come to mean a great deal to us, often because they are simple and honest. ‘In the cool of the day’, a perfectly simple and everyday phrase, translated in some versions as ‘in the evening’ has taken me on such a good journey of discovery;

Sometimes walking alone turns into walking with God. (and yes, those are my footprints on Poppit)

As a young Catholic I learned a whole load of Catechism verses but not many have stayed with me. One of them (which probably stuck in my mind because I have a little argument with it) was the answer to the question “Why did God make you?” and I would dutifully trot out the response “God made me to love him, know him and serve him in this world and to be happy with him, forever, in the next.” My argument with that statement is a quibble, a sort of ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?’ argument so I won’t waste your time with it, but surely the question posed is one we often ask ourselves?

Why did God make me? Why did he make anyone? Or anything? As he’s all knowing, all powerful, all complete, why did he make anything beyond his own divine nature? Here’s the big thing that life has taught me; To be complete we need to love. It’s common place to say that a child needs to be loved, but we don’t often turn that around to say that a child needs to love. To be complete there must be both, the loving and the loved, in any one consciousness. If we are loved but do not learn to love, there is something seriously wrong, damaged and damaging. If we love but are not loved , we are lost and sad, broken. To be complete there must be love and loving.

Growing up I didn’t learn to love. Attending 10 schools (that I can remember) and moving house 12 times by the age of 12, I learned how to leave people, how to pack up and move on, never looking back but I was neither loved nor loving. There! Confession time, eh? Loving is still something I need to learn, better, more fully, more experientially… how to love.

A little while ago one of my teenage granddaughters said that a hurdle between her and God is that he demands to be worshipped. I understand her problem. We had a good discussion about worship, and then about ..oh, all sorts. And in the course of that conversation we started talking about religion. Of course we did! My granddaughter wanted to explore the difference between knowing God and having religion, and I remembered Isaiah 1:11-15

The multitude of your sacrifices—
    what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
    of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
    in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
 When you come to appear before me,
    who has asked this of you,
    this trampling of my courts?
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
    Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
    I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
    I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.

That, I told her, is the perfect picture of religion. God is not interested. Doesn’t want it. In the words of the Beatles, all you need is love. If you know God, really know him, you cannot help but love him. and that is true worship. Forget the words and flummery, the incense and the blood of bulls, the hurdles we have to clear….

I was reading Genesis 3 this week, and the words ‘in the cool of the day’ hit me with such force. I don’t know how you regard the first few chapters of Genesis, whether you think of them as a history or a metaphor, and I don’t really have any opinion about your opinion (!). Either view may be entirely correct, or entirely wrong, and the truth may lie somewhere in-between. The important thing is that there is truth in the Genesis story, it’s a theologically rich picture of God and a devastatingly honest picture of man. Here we have a man who had walked with God, and lived at peace with God, but now this man is ashamed, deceitful and afraid. In the cool of the evening he’s hiding from Love itself. He’s hiding from forgiveness and unending kindness, just as every human being has ever since. This has crippled every man and woman since the world began.

What’s so great about the cool of the evening? The person who wrote Genesis was writing in the Middle East, to his own people. I lived in Egypt as a child and I remember so clearly that on a really hot, unforgiving day, we longed for the evening. That’s when the chairs were taken outside, families sat around, men drank their beers and smoked and talked, women caught up with neighbours, children played. The mornings were cool too, but the dew was heavy and even the corn in the field around our home would be bowed down by the weight of it. The sandy track leading to the front door would be deep red with morning dew, step into the house and red footprints followed you. Mornings were good but evenings were the time for company and walking together, wandering along the banks of the canal, strolling through the corn fields.

God came to man in the best part of the day, to walk with him, to be with him, to love him. And God doesn’t change. His intentions don’t switch and waver. He created us because he is love, to be loved by him and to love him, and to enjoy the best of the very best, not just in the great bye and bye, but now. Today. 15.02 on Tuesday 5th April. When we walk with God we experience the very best that every day can give.

God is complete. He is complete love. Why did God make me? Nothing to do with me, mate. He didn’t need me. Absolutely nothing to do with me. He has never needed anyone, and will never need anyone. Why did God make me? Because he is love.

That’s a huge truth to get our heads around. My head is jangling with it. God is love personified. Solid, unbreakable, unbreachable love. And it’s there, for anyone, for everyone, now. I mean, seriously, NOW.

This morning a friend told me that she has prayed for the first time, ever. And immediately she felt peace and freedom from the worry that’s been plaguing her. She was amazed. Really amazed. She didn’t know the verse “Come to me, all you who are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” but she didn’t need to know it… she just needed to turn to God. When I told her that those were the words of Jesus she was delighted.

So, in conclusion, my answer to that Catechism question?

“Why did God make you?”

“God made me to be loved by him and to love him, and to be happy with him, now and always.”

It’s not pie in the sky bye and bye. It was never that.

It’s our reality, now.

There’s no reasoning…..

This is not my usual blog. I’m shamelessly using you, as a sounding board. I’m writing my third book and it’s very different from my second which was a practical guide, and from my first which was written in the voice of a child. I don’t know if it’s any good… you are my tasters, don’t be shy, let me know what you think:

In my first marriage, to the fantasising Rob, we lived on a boat, moored on the banks of a small river in Kent. To reach home after a day’s work I had to catch a bus, walk a mile, climb a stile, trudge across a cow meadow, clamber down a bank and, if a cow hadn’t knocked it into the river, teeter across a dodgy gangplank to an always-cluttered deck. Sometimes the gangplank was in the river and – on bad days –  so was the generator. Once not only were the gangplank and the generator in the river but a large cow was standing, bewildered and stranded, on the deck. It was before we all had mobile phones so I had to trudge back across the field, over the stile, walk a mile into the village, to the phone box. Rob was at work so, when he had finished for the day, he and a mate turned up to rescue the wonky wood and the drowned machine and the cow. Until then I just had to sit on the riverbank, talking to the cow, plotting a divorce. 

The Miss Behave was a converted police launch, a narrow gutted, steep sided wooden vessel, with a smallish cabin and a two bloody great ferocious Perkins diesel engines under the floor of the cabin. When she went full throttle everything shook and thrummed and roared and fell out of the cupboards, and smashed to pieces.  Even when she was just gently moving through the water anything breakable had to be stowed away, and you really didn’t want to stay too long below decks, what with the noise and the diesel fumes and the shaking. But Rob loved her, and I loved him, and there’s no reasoning with a young woman’s foolish heart…..

I worked in a paper factory in Maidstone, in the offices, and one of the drawbacks to boat living is that while your colleagues may be delicately scented with Eau de Parfume, you will, however hard you try, carry with you a faint miasma of mould and engine oil. Rob could never see the problem with that, manly smells for a manly man who deliberately echoed John Wayne, but a bit of a problem for a clerk/receptionist in a busy office.  At weekends I would take two large bags on the bus to the laundrette, and read a book for a couple of hours, before lugging it all back, clean and fresh, to fold it neatly and put it away in the rot infested drawers and cupboards. It was a year of battling with smells, cows, weather, rats and cold. But Rob loved boat living and I loved him and there’s no reasoning with a young woman’s foolish heart….

We had a cat, Muffin, a lovely tortoiseshell, and that Summer Rob turned up with a scruffy dog. We called him Kipper. I don’t remember now how Rob ended up with this little mutt, but I have no difficulty remembering how much Kipper and Muffin hated each other. That’s quite a problem on a 32ft boat. And then Rob’s sister, who bred Standard Poodles, gave us a puppy (by then Rob had lost his job so he could look after them all while I was at work) and we called the poodle Sidcup. It’s traditional, or was then, to go on a laying-up cruise before the winter sets in, a sort of farewell to the warm days. We set off, down the Medway, on a really lovely September day, intending to get as far as Sheerness, moor up or lay anchor for a picnic, and then return, a nice simple round trip of about 30 miles. As we were approaching Sheerness Rob said we’d find a shallows and moor up, so that we didn’t stray into the busy commercial waters leading to the Thames and the oil refinery. I went below to sort out the picnic in the tiny space we called the galley. The engines were thrumming but only gently so although the crockery and pans were dancing, they were staying in place. And then the engines stopped. It seemed a little strange when there had been no manoeuvring, no call to me to come up and throw a mooring rope or drop the anchor. The door to the cabin flew open and Rob leapt in, down the steps, looking around wildly, shouting “Quick, quick, give me something.” Something? What did he mean, ‘something’? He grabbed at a knife, a bread knife and shouted “a cloth, a cloth” but before I could catch up with him he grabbed a tea towel and he was up and out again, the door swinging behind him. Now I saw the problem, a great gushing torrent was tumbling down the steps from the cockpit. I splashed through it, to find him on his hands and knees, frantically wrapping the towel around the handle of the knife. Water was gushing up through the wooden deck with such force that it was spouting. He wrenched up a deck hatch, and then a plank, and plunged his arm in, his head half submerged. It took some minutes, he came up for air, frantic, and plunged back under…. I could just see the hole in the hull, through water made thick with bilge rubbish and grease. As he rammed the make-shift bung into the hole, the flow almost stopped, just seeping now, no longer a small river.  He sat up, drenched, dirty, gasping for air. We had lost the propeller and its shaft.

With no engine power, we were sitting in the middle of the estuary, heading towards a busy sea lane, and night was falling. Two adults, two dogs , a cat and a tiny dinghy with the smallest Seagull outboard known to man. We still had electrics so we got the bilge pump working, while we looked at the chart and tried to work out where the tide was taking us, while simultaneously trying to plan how we could abandon ship, if it became necessary, and get us all ashore safely. By a stroke of almost- good fortune, the tide was taking us towards a sandbank, and Rob decided to steer towards it (in as much as we could steer) and hope to run aground. We decided that if the worst came to the worst and we had to abandon the boat, I would take the dinghy, with Sidcup and Kipper (it was like that Chinese puzzle, the fox, the cabbage and the hare) then I’d return and take the cat and Rob. If we could use the outboard we would, if not we would row. The running aground bit worked perfectly, we could hear the bottom scraping gently on the soft bed, the movement slowed on the boat and then stopped, and we were stationary. Sadly we were quite a way from land and by this time we weren’t sure how close we would be to the navigation channel when the tide returned. Rob threw out the anchor, which suddenly seemed like a tiny safety pin holding a rhinoceros in place, and we sat there, helpless, hoping for a passing boat, for one of the distant ferries to see us, but no boats came, no one saw us. As the tide rose, our batteries ran down, the bilge pump stopped, and the port and starboard lights went out. Now it was dark and we were sitting ducks. We could hear the anchor scraping. How far were we drifting? Where were we? As one of us operated the pump, the other kept watch for oil tankers. We simply had no idea if we had strayed into the main shipping channel.

Do we row ashore or stay put? We had to work the bilge pump by hand, a slog, a relentless slog, taking it in turns, but barely able to keep up with the water seeping in. We knew the estuary quite well, a wide, treacherous area of quicksand and mud flats, impossible to navigate safely, and so we agreed that we’d leave The Miss Behave only if she was going under. Our hope was that with the morning we would be seen and rescued.

As dawn broke we were huddled in the cockpit, exhausted from all the hours of pumping, and once again the tide had gone out. I made tea on the gas stove and we warmed our frozen hands, glumly facing the idea of losing not just our home but all our belongings. And we were still paying off the boat loan. ‘Would insurance cover us?’ I asked, and Rob shrugged. We had the cheapest policy going, the barest cover to satisfy the loan company, so probably not. And then I saw something glistening, maybe 400 yards away. I have great long distance vision and I knew, somehow I just knew, by the shape or the shadows or by serendipity, what it was. Our propeller and shaft. 

Rob was derisive. There was no way that a heavy metal shaft would have followed us down river. We must have drifted a mile or more. It was a piece of rubbish, an old metal strut or a lobster pot or something. But I knew what it was. I was absolutely convinced. So, complaining, Rob sloshed over the side into the thick mud and pushed the dinghy out until it floated, and clambered in, swearing. I watched him rowing, slowly at first, an exhausted very fed-up man, and then I realised that his strokes were getting faster. As he neared the shining object he just about fell out of the dinghy in his excitement, and I could hear his shouts across the shining mud “It is! It is! You beauty!” 

It took some time to get it on board the dinghy, and by the time he returned he was black from head to toe and completely exhausted, but triumphant. As the tide came in he detached the propeller and somehow, between the two of us, we managed to fit the shaft back into its housing in the hull. We still had no power, the engine still couldn’t engage with the shaft, and the prop was lying useless on the deck, but we were more or less water tight. By nine o clock we had been spotted and were given a tow back to the boatyard. 

The dogs exploded with joy to be back on dry land, the cat was allowed out of her carry cage (where she had been in case we had to row for shore at short notice) and we had a huge fry up. 

We found the insurance documents. We weren’t covered, at all. They were out of date. The repair and the recovery would come out of my wages. When I heard Rob recounting the ‘adventure’ with himself as hero and me as compliant side-kick, I really could have smacked him, quite hard. But I loved him and there’s no reasoning with a young woman’s foolish heart….

And now it starts….

I was dreading today. I didn’t know which ‘today’ it would be, but I knew this day would come.

Ukraine is the victim of an unwarranted and brutal invasion. Ukraine’s President has shown courage and devotion. In the face of terrible odds his people have been resisting, and in some places rebuffing, the Soviet military. Sadly, this means that the free press of the World and some social media has begun to paint Ukraine and its President as ‘good’ people. They are not bad people. But they are somewhere in-between. Human beings like you and me, but tested to the extremes of endurance and courage. And because they are like you and me they are not pure and untainted and perfect and always compassionate; when they are cornered they will fight with whatever savagery they need in order to escape, when their old people and their children and their comrades are being slaughtered some of them, at the end of their emotions, will react with anger, rage, red raw revenge, some will be just as brutal and just as cruel as the worst of the Russians. They are desperate people, driven to a desperate end.

And now the press of the West is ready to pounce. Maybe they’ll hold off until the dust settles, but they will pounce on Zelensky and his Army, they will paint them with the same brush as the Russians, and having held them up to an impossible standard the hypocritical press will cheer when they fall short. Today there are as yet unsubstantiated reports of Ukraine troops knee-capping Russian prisoners. Today is the day we begin to see that there are no heroes in war.

I saw a terrible fb posting a while ago, claiming Zelensky as a man of God. Don’t. Really, don’t. Have pity on him, admire him, support him, most of all pray for him, but don’t give him a halo. If any man wears one of those, it will burn him.