Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Boss, boundaries and ‘ealth n safety’…

It is always interesting working for a boss who is silent, pretty much, all of the time.  It is frustrating, annoying, breathtakingly awesome and an unbelievable honour.  It is also an immense privilege being paid to pray, to visit, to drink tea, eat biscuits and to spend most of my waking day doing what I am passionate about –  talking about God. 

This role is a long way from my many previous forms of employment.  Those, as an administrator, mainly consisted of having my boobs stared at (a lot), making coffee (a lot), moving one bit of paper from one side of the desk to the other, organising my boss’s mistresses and collecting his dry cleaning.  I did have an interesting job once  as PA to the woman who manages ‘romantic introductions’ for our British and European aristocracy.  It seems even bluebloods need a hand when it comes to meeting the one and only…

After my recent ‘holiday’, this week it has been back to work as normal.  But, once again, I question what is normal.  I have discovered, as I enter the second half of my life –  the Boss willing –  that I actually work better without timetables, time frames, deadlines and routine.  Very far from working only one day a week, (Sundays) that people seem to assume us clergy peeps do, like most who work from home I seem to have fallen in to the trap of working 24/7.

However, for the first part of my working life I was mainly an office bod.  9am to 5pm with a couple of hours commuting either side, Monday to Friday, constituted my working day.  I knew where I had to be, when I had to be there, what I had to do whilst there and that, most importantly, when I left at the end of the day, that the job would stay behind in my neatly organised filing trays. 

 Very rarely did I bring work home.  Very rarely was I contacted about work at home (unless I was poorly, having a duvet day or sleeping off a hangover). Very rarely did I work at weekends, bank holidays, Christmas or Easter.  And, if I did, the financial benefits for doing so made it very, very worthwhile.

What I am describing here is the normal life that millions of us live every day.  The life of a clergy person is so different.  When I was first ordained I really didn’t quite ‘get’ the difference.  The difference between ‘being’ and ‘doing’.  After three years and a lot of heartache, I do now.

 As a clergy person, I work for a Boss who has no structured opening hours, no sense of personal boundaries, does not understand the concept of life/work balance and who, frankly, has never heard of Employee health and safety guidelines.  Actually, that reminds me of one or two of my previous bosses but the difference is that I didn’t vow to obey them in front of my family, friends and Bishop.

And so my week, ‘being back to normal’ has, as usual, consisted of me running round like a mad person trying to multi task, being in a thousand places at once and trying to keep the world happy.  Even now, whilst writing this blog, I am simultaneously finishing my sermon, tending to my sick daughter who is languishing on the couch with an upset tummy, separating my dogs who have decided that they really don’t love each other today, emptying the washing machine AND trying to explain on the phone to the Nigerian chap that he cannot use my church as a meeting point for a Spiritualist Centre.  At least I assume the Bishop would say ‘No’.  Must ask him next time…

So life returns to normal in all its glorious madness.  However, I am beginning to learn ‘boundaries’ after 3 years living within this maelstrom.  I am. Truly. I have to, otherwise I will have no husband, no relationship with my daughter and no fingernails left by the time I ditch my collar for my stairlift.  So far I have come up with not answering the telephone after 9pm, not answering the door unless it is the Next delivery lady, not checking my emails (or facebook) the moment I unglue my eyes in the morning and NOT to work more than two of the three sections in my day.  Oh yes, and to always, always take my day off…even if it means I spend it doing the housework or filing my bank statements. 

But do you know something dear reader?  Shall I share with you a little secret?  I am more alive now than I have ever been.  I am more aware of the glory and wonder of my Boss and His created world than I ever was when I was sitting at work at my lovely organised desk wondering what colour post-it-note next to use.  I am alive and I have the best job in the world.   

So what makes you get up in the morning? What makes you put one foot in front of the other and keep moving?  If it isn’t something that makes your heartbeat within your body, that makes your soul sing or simply makes you feel, then maybe it is time to look again at your life.  It is never too late to change.  It is never too late to become the person my Boss, and yours, made you to be. 

I am just sorry it took me 30 years to finally hear the call that my Boss had been trying to connect me to for all of my life.  Those were not wasted years, but I do regret all the times I was bored and frustrated.  As I have said before, Life is far to short.  As that famous prayer goes, if you can change it, The Boss grant you the courage to change it, if not, then ask for the serenity to bear it until you can. 

All things really do work together for the good of them who love God…which reminds me I really must get back to that sermon and really must colour coordinate my prayer post-it-notes…



Holidays, walking frames and God’s dogdy hearing aid…

So this is me back to it after two weeks of holiday.  But it was not really a holiday in the strictest sense and I firmly believe that the cosmos still owes me two weeks in the South of France.  I await in hope…

14 hours in a hot car with hot carsick child, hot and backpain stricken Hubbie, two panting hot carsick dogs and a cool box filled to the brim with enough boiled eggs and ham and cheese rolls to start our own Subway stall.  This was just the beginning of our two weeks of family ‘togetherness’ as we drove down to Kent to visit family and friends in order to check they were still breathing, and whether the wills have been written…

Well, we, and the struggling car, survived the journey and it was an interesting two weeks. ‘ Interesting’ is such an interesting word I always think.  It covers a multitude of meanings, but I tend to use it to describe something that I am usually not happy about or want to politely share my dislike of something.  So yes, our ‘holiday’  this year was interesting. 

Filled with visiting my sick grandmother in hospital, having the joy sucked out of us sitting in the dark, hot and stuffy mother-in-law’s hermetically sealed front room (she doesn’t believe in opening windows); wandering aimlessly round the massive Bluewater shopping centre with no money; eating lots of naughty things (mainly Krispy Kreme doughnuts which, quite frankly, are manna from heaven with chocolate sprinkles on top); drinking far too much to counteract the humidity and heat of the mid-Kent scorched landscape (in tiny glasses as my mother-in-law does not possess anything larger than a sherry glass); trying to prevent Mungo puppy from poohing and weeing all over my mother-in-law’s door mat or from jumping in her pond and scaring the fish (all unsuccessfully);  and generally catching up with family who probably rather wished we had not bothered.

In fact, the above list seems rather like the deadly sins all encapsulated within my one holiday of the year.  How depressing.  And depressed I was.  My hubbie and I NEVER argue.  I know this sounds impossible but we simply do not disagree verbally and loudly about much at all.  This has been the balanced state of our relationship for nearly 21 years.  But this trying ‘holiday’ bought out the worst in all of us and argue we did.  Bang goes our record.

There were, however, some highlights and gasps of life to sustain us.  Visiting the V&A museum and spending time with my friend at her bars – Dion’s – in London.  Going to see old friends from RAF Leuchars in Guilford and eating BBQ and drinking too much bubbly outside in the rain.  Celebrating an astonishing 18 years of married wedded bless with my Hubbie at Waggamamas and then sharing a roast beast  with the sister-in-law and their brood.  And, of course, not having to take my grandmother’s funeral…there were moments of joy and relief.

There were very few churchy moments.  Dog collar was not put on once.  The nearest I came to visiting a church was sitting next door to St Paul’s Cathedral, sipping Sangria, whilst the hubbie and daughter braved a few minutes of choral evensong. 

Prayer, however, was constant.  Mainly to get my Nan out of hospital before she learnt the personal geneologies of the poor sufferers in the entire ward.  But also in the form of prayer-arrows to God, trying to get Him to turn His hearing aid up, as I am sure He could not hear my pleas for the Eurolottery win and a helicopter to St Tropez…

And so we returned home.  A long, long journey back north praying the car would make it and, again, eating our body weight in ham rolls whilst listening to yet another Piers Anthony audiobook.  Combined with a quick stop on the way for lunch (not a ham roll) to check on my sister, her children and ailing father, who are all, I am glad to report, still breathing.

So now it is back to normality.  Whilst I have been away, one ex-member of the church died, one member has become a widow and one has left the church in a huff.  All normal and part of the course.  So normality, or whatever in my life passes as normal, resumes.  

My Nan is now home from hospital fighting off the carers with her brand spanking new shiny walking frame and will probably out live us all.  The great-grandchildren are queuing up to put go-faster stripes on it along with Disney Stickers (maybe that is my Aunty though) and taking turns on the stairlift.  She is, of course, charging them 2p a journey.  Pensions don’t go far these days it seems.

Off now to try to scale the ironing mountain, discover if I have a car back seat under the layers of dog fur, dust off the dog collar, crack open the prayer book and tackle the depressing pile of bills I have neatly stacked on my desk in alphabetical debt order.  The suntan lotion has been returned to the back of the medicine cupboard for another year, (as yet unopened), and the passports that were hopefully packed, ‘just in case’, will be returned to the safe. 

Where will we go next year?  Answers on a postcard please, as that is as near to the exotic as I seem to get these days…


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