Monthly Archives: May 2011

Red Shoes filled with Holy Popsocks…

Stuck at home over the past few days, or confined to barracks as my hubbie would say, due to damaged ligaments in my elbow, it has been a chance to catch up, to rest and to reflect over the past few months.  In June it will be six months since I started as Interim Priest-In-Charge at St Ninians and my life has changed dramatically.

One thing that has become apparent for me is the fact that I love not being your normal priest.  For a start I am not male.  I am also fairly young(ish) being only 40!  I do not have grey hair (due to copious amounts of blondish hair dye) and I do not spend my life covered head to toe in black.  However, I do have to wear my clerical collar most days due to the fact that people would not believe I am a priest without them.  And, please note, my dog collar shirts are ALWAYS black or navy.  I really can’t be doing with pastels.

What else?  Well I am sure that I upset a lot of people by always having my nails painted various shades of purple, red or pink – depending on the liturgical season naturally.  This also matches the corresponding liturgically correct coloured eye liner as well.  Of course, red lips are a must even if it does upset the Sacristan when she has to tackle stubborn long-lasting lipstick stains on the altar cloth and linen every week.

So I am not a normal stereotypical priest.  Red lips, reddish blonde long hair, red nails and, of course, the red shoes.  There is a story behind the fact that at most important liturgical events I am to be found wearing red shoes.  Hence also the reason for this blog being called Reverently Red.  I would also have loved a red dog collar shirt but felt that the Mrs Santa Claus look really wasn’t working for me.  So the story.

In my home church of St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, St Andrews, Fife, the stain glass window above the Lady Chapel’s Altar depicts a beautiful, serene and virginal Mary, mother of Jesus.  And she is wearing red shoes.  I spent many years, every Friday morning at the Eucharist looking at that window and looking at her shoes.  I am a woman, I always check out other women’s shoes and bags, sorry Guys it is a girl thing.  Anyway, when I knew I was to be ordained and was planning THE outfit what else could I consider but RED shoes?  If  it was good enough for the mother of our Lord, it was good enough for me. 

So that is where the red shoes came from.  However, for my Ordination I also had to consider the underwear for the most important day of my life (apart from my wedding day and the day I had Robina my daughter).  Whilst I won’t go into all the details, have to preserve a modicum of decorum after all,  (I will say that, being a well rounded lady, foundation garments were prevalent) I had to consider the  hosiery conundrum.  Well, what else could I choose but holy tights, fishnets to the uninitiated.  So fishnets have now become another calling card of mine.

From this post you can see that I take a great deal of care and attention to my appearance.  Some may call me vain and proud.  I call it breeding.  But there is another reason that lies behind this all.  If my holy order of priesthood and, by extension, the church is made accessible to one single person because they look at me, see my collar, see my nails, my lips and think to themselves, okay she may be a priest but isn’t scary, looks kind of approachable, someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously, perhaps I could talk to her, then it would have been worth it. 

Jesus wore the clothes of his people, mingled with them effortlessly, was humble and down to earth.  He related to them, came alongside them and walked with them which every way they were going – even if it was the wrong way.  By my amour of red and holy tights, I pray that I am able to emulate my saviour and be with the people who need to hear about His love the most. 

Even if it does look like I have dipped my fingers in the chalice…



Longing to belong…

Sam in her new charge (!) - The Little Chapel, Guernsey

I thought, stupidly, that my life could not get anymore complicated or busy.  Silly me.

St Andrew's Cathedral by night, St Andrews, FIFE, Scotland

I thought to myself  just the other day, wouldn’t it be nice to get away from everything for a break for a couple of days somewhere sunny and familiar?  Silly me.

What is the lesson I have learned this week, boys and girls?  To be oh so careful what you wish for. 

Very sadly, an old friend died last week.  Scoop, (Brian Wilson Chalker) was the father of one of my oldest and closest friends.  He was a husband, father, grandfather and brilliant friend.  He was one of the good guys and it is so sad that the world is a Superman down now. 

I was honoured to be asked to take the funeral.  This meant going back home to Guernsey, Channel Island where I grew up in the 1980’s and where  I went to school, The Ladies College, with my closest friends – Jo (Scoop’s daughter), and the third member of our troublesome trio – Jacky. 

The three of us may not speak for months, but the moment we do it is like we are 15 again.  Jacky lives in Guernsey, Jo in London and me in Aberdeen, but, as with all girlfriends, when one is in need the others are there.  And we were there this weekend for them.

So these last few days have been a whirlwind of travel, emotional highs and lows, nostalgia, longing and belonging.  From the two flights that it took getting to the island via Birmingham, to the glorious sunshine that greeted me, I guess I had my wish for travel, sunshine and home granted.  But it was not the way I wanted to come home.  Not at all.

My weekend was spent being with the family, writing the eulogy, liasing with the funeral directors, the church and so on.  And I now have a burial permit for the Island for the next 25 years, which is always handy as there seemed to be quite a bit of willing future trade at the Wake afterwards. 

I managed to get a couple of hours to do the obligatory nostalgic drive round the island, it’s only 21 square miles so didn’t take long.  Every corner, every view, every shop, there was my past.  More poignantly, there were memories of my parents (my mother died the year after we moved back to the mainland), and, more worryingly, memories of teenage angst and unrequited love.

I found myself spending most of the weekend feeling either bereft or determined.  Bereft – for Scoop’s family, and, for all that I had lost the minute my parents decided to leave Guernsey. Determined – to find a way to return home one day, and, to make damn sure I gave Scoop the best send off I could. 

But it was on the flight back to Aberdeen that it finally hit me how sad I was.  Not only was I grieving for a good friend, good man and for a family I love, but also for my own family, for the loss of home. 

Echos of the past and of loss hit again today as I went  back to my home church in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, to say sad farewells to another close friend’s parent.  I found myself surrounded today in that familliar church by the people who had nurtured and supported me and my family.  First, during my degree and then, during my ministry training. Yet again it felt as if I had come back to where I belonged. Yet again, I longed to go home.

My dilemna now is – which home does God want me to go back to?  For events of the past few days have shown me that this is a decision waiting for me in my future.  St Andrews or Guernsey,? Or can I be really greedy and ask for a return to both? 

I await, as ever, the Master’s reply.  I fear it may be radio silence for the next few years.  But if there is one thing I have finally learned, it is to be ready and open to be surprised by God. I have been overwhelmed by my longing to belong to somewhere familiar and its given me a problem I didn’t realise I had. My wish now, like ET, is simply to go home.  But you know what they say, be careful what you wish for…  


Heaven-bound Hedgehogs

Been a busy few days so I will take the opportunity to blog now before life overtakes me again.  Caught up with Vestry meetings, daughter of mine coming down with tonsillitis and possible glandular Fever when she was supposed to be going back to Boarding School, husband disappearing back to work and the needs of my little flock calling.

Not least it has been TV event-filled Bank Holiday weekend.  What with the glories of the Royal Wedding to the vainglory of Bin Laden’s execution and resulting tirades across the globe, it is difficult to draw one’s eyes away from BBC news in case the world changes in a heartbeat, yet again.  However, it was very thoughtful of the American President to let us recover from the wonderful Royal Wedding before giving permission for his storm troopers to do their worst.  Never let it be said that the American people are not a thoughtful and considerate nation. 

So on to today’s joy of elections, referendums and mayoral votes (in England).  Is there anyone out there remotely interested in any of  this at the moment?  We voted at the beginning of the month through postal votes.  I never know where I am going to be on voting day.  And, my hubby, being in Lossiemouth, didn’t want to miss an oppourtunity to exercise his democratic right to vote Tory in the most anti-conservative nation on this planet, Scotland.

Nothing to comment on the AV referendum.  However, I will be glad when all this silly nonsense about changing the system, that has worked for many years, is put to bed once and for all.

Okay enough with politics. 

Maybe some words of advice instead would be in order for our new Royal Bride and RAF wifeee?  As an RAF wifeee of nearly 18 years now I know a thing or two about the life.


1. HRH.  Don’t whine, as I see you are doing already by the headline in the Sun, when they have to go away on detachment.  You get the chance to go to bed when you like, watch Deadenders without the constant whine of ‘DO WE HAVE TO WATCH THIS NONSENSE?’ ringing in your ears.  You can eat chocolate in bed without having to share AND you can have a sneaky glass or two of wine with your mates.  Detachments are the reason that many Service family marriages last. Distance really does make the heart grow fonder and erases memories of annoying habbits.

2.  When he does on away on Detachment, make sure you have the plumber’s, the electrician’s and a handy manny’s number on speed dial.  The minute your Royal Prince steps off this country’s soil EVERYTHING in the house will blow up, stop or start smoking – guaranteed.

3.  Email him a Bluey everyday.  You may have a lot to occupy your mind but believe me they have nothing to think about but sexy underwear, the weather, their next meal and work.  So give their poor under-stretched brains some information from home to satisfy them.

4.  Do NOT attempt any kind of phone sex – the line to the Falklands is very shaky and you only have 30 mins every week to speak to him – so just don’t bother, not worth the effort or expense. (It is £1 a minute for the phone call and I know you are on a budget, shame about the Honeymoon).  However, SKYPE on the other hand…

5. Send him parcels of food and books and fun things.  BUT nothing electrical because this will end up being blown up at the bottom of the runway.  My hubby nearly got a Blues Brothers alarm clock for Christmas but is now in bits over Port Stanley.

6. Don’t get yourself a new haircut – he will hate it and the rows won’t be worth it on his return.  Been there, done that.

7. If a hedgehog strays into your garden at night while he is away and drives your dogs crazy, DO NOT CATAPULT THEM OVER NEXT DOORS FENCE WITH THE SNOW SHOVEL, especially if they have a greenhouse! Heaven-bound Hedgehogs are not a good idea for furthering neighbourly relations.   He will only have to rebuild said greenhouse for the manny next door on his return.

8. Live your life.  Laugh with all your heart when he is away but allow yourself to miss him.  Remember why you loved him in the first place.  But drinking two bottles of Asti on an empty stomach and getting out your wedding album (or DVD) and listening to ‘Everything I do I do it for you’ (or in your case ‘Your Song’) is NOT a good idea.  Not least because of the hangover and the amount of tissues/chocolate/ice cream you get through.

9. Treat yourself – new bag, new shoes, new wardrobe full of new clothes etc.  Why not?  He is away and won’t be checking the bank statements for a while – internet  connection is pants on the Falklands.

10.  And finally, pray.  Pray for his safe return.  Pray for yourself and pray for all whose partners find their way back home in a box draped in the flag of the country that you will one day, God willing, rule as Queen. But don’t greet him at the Airbase, when he flies home, wearing only one of your fancy Burberry macs and the fabulous skin God gave you.  The press are watching, sweetie.

Anything else?  Oh yes, don’t put a boot in your window – it is the old RAF signal for detachment rules (your bloke is away and you are available for male company). Again, the press and your new Grandmother-in-law etc…

And remember, it is only for 10 weeks.  Us mere mortals married to non-officers have to put up with 16 weeks and usually over Christmas.

Right, end of guide for the Princess and off to sort out my new website for the Church.  21st Century here we come.


(This blog is for Carol and Scoop, Jo and Dee – thinking of you all and hope  this makes you smile to lighten the darkness – God be with you.)

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