Monthly Archives: August 2011

Secrets and strangers…

It struck me the other day how complete strangers seem to know all about our hidden, deepest, darkest secrets.  It is quite scary how many people outside my immediate circle of family and friends know about my most intimate traits.  I realised this when, in between the usual churchy stuff one fills one’s day with, I did the following…

Went to my local pharmacy to collect the huge bag of drugs I seem to have to inhale into my body every day just to keep it upright and moving.  So now the lovely young lass behind the counter knows all about my body’s quirks and failings…I won’t bore you with those intimate details, but she knows…

Returned, under advisement, via 2nd Class Mail at my local Post Office, my QVC bought-whilst-merry (!) purchase, so now my charming Postie knows I like to waste my money on the ROYAL MAIL and shopping channels and how I spend my enforced single evenings whilst not at Vestry meetings or praying…

Went to Asdas and had an interesting chat with the checkout girl about the lack of my day off, what rubbish I was eating for my lonely- heat-it-up-in-the-microwave-meal-for-one tea, what brand of deodorant I use and my current craving for milkyways…she too was to work the weekend, although she would be paid well for it…

Went to Staples to photocopy the monthly Church newsletter and was asked all sort of intimate questions just to get a loyalty card…who knew that my maiden name would still have power and an airing 18 years on…

Answered my door to the Next Directory Lady who knows my latest fashion addiction to plimsols is not really under any kind of control…

Went to buy my lunch at Subway where the lovely student now knows how I like my meatball subs…extra cheese, hold the salad, why spoil a good thing?

Went to John Lewis to buy some wrinkle creme and had an interesting educational conversation about how my wrinkles were deepening (due to stress or lack of sleep or both) and how I could ‘change and adapt my lifestyle to improve my skin’s elasticity’ which sounded rather painful and tiresome.  The creme was way too expensive so I came away with tester to try (cheapskate, I know, but I am on a stipend!)… but we did also discuss why the churches were emptying whilst the shopping centres were filling up on Sundays…ah, yes the Gospel according to TK Maxx had yet another airing…

Went to the library to apologise, once again, for the returned books and their accompanying puppy teeth embossing.  Realised that yet another complete stranger now knows my hidden passion for stories about murders, sex, ghosts and religious conspiracies…(anything to take me away from the real world for an hour or two) and how, when borrowing them in a dog collar, this could look suspicious unless I claimed it was research…?

And that was my day, sharing my secrets with strangers whilst bringing God to the homebound, speaking about God to other God botherers and putting the world to rights by writing my sermon.  Strangers who now know more about me than I do about them.  

Surprisingly, I feel reassured by this in a weird way.  I don’t feels threatened or worried about the kind of power ‘knowing’ my inner secrets could potentially give people. They were, and will remain, strangers. For me it felt as if God was in all those people I met and that God was looking after me through them.  To them, I was probably a mere blink of black in their day.  But, hey, they now know far more about the human foibles of a priest that they ever probably needed or wanted to! 

Who now knows your hidden secrets?  Have a think over your day…



Dog is God spelt backwards…

(A shorter form of this article can be found in the Summer Edition of INSPIRES – the Scottish Episcopal Church’s magazine – please subscribe for this excellent publication here:


In this world, there are two types of people when it comes to pets.  You either love them or hate them.  I have found that there is little middle ground as the umbrella of Anglicanism is not prevalent in this forum.  And, within those who love pets, there are several variations.  Dog or cat, warm bloodied or cold bloodied, reptile or arachnid.  People’s preferences are bizarre and extreme.

I am a dog person.  I was a cat and dog person for the first 18 years of my life, but, after 18 years of wedded bliss to a man who is firmly in the dog arena; I am now a dog person.  My first dog, who owned me as an adult, was a West Highland white terrier called Perry.  He was a wedding present bought a mere two weeks after the marriage was consummated in law and in all other ways.  I was not prepared to live in my new married quarter without a pet.  However, Perry was the most difficult and challenging dog I have ever had the good fortune to encounter.  And I loved him with a passion that surprised my conservative, English, repressed soul. 

Our move to Aberdeen, where I was to be Curate, proved too much for the old boy and Perry passed away a week before Christmas, 2009, at the grand old age of 15 and a half.  Arthritic, incontinent (thank heavens for doggy nappies), grouchy and toothless, we loved him to the end.  And a hole in my heart, created on that snowy Thursday in December, has been waiting to be filled ever since. 

This year we decided, as a family, that it was finally time to fill the space that Perry left.  Something was missing and it wasn’t Perry anymore.  We have another dog, Mason, whose breed goes by the grand title of a ‘Dundonian Pound Dog’.  Loving but simple, Mason is, in many respects, ‘a bear of a very small brain’.  He is 10 years old this year and beginning to feel his age, although none of us would dare mention it aloud.  But the unspoken thought in all of our minds was what happens when Mason passes on to join Perry in the great Puppy Park in the sky?  Being left without the joy of a dog was not an option.My Boys!

And so we decided it would be either a holiday or a puppy this year.  The puppy idea won.  After saving up and being alerted by email of the single male Westie puppy born in Scotland this year, we prepared ourselves for the arrival of St Mungo of Glasgow.

The first moment I met Mungo when he was 5 weeks old is one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.  The breeder put him in to my arms sleeping.  Actually, he was snoring his little head off but that didn’t matter.  All of a sudden, he opened his tiny black eyes, looked right into my soul and my heart grew a little bit bigger.  I cried.  I remembered all the love I had felt for Perry and all the pain of his leaving us.  And the edges of that hole in my heart began to slowly knit together and heal. 

Of course, nothing can prepare you for the arrival of a tiny 8 week old bundle of white fur, no bigger than your slipper, who takes over your heart and your home.  Having a young puppy is similar to having a new baby in the house.  The great thing is that they grow up quicker and become house trained in a matter of weeks (God willing) rather than years.  The first two months of Mungo’s arrival are now a blessed blur of disturbed sleep, copious amounts of carpet cleaner, constant mud being hovered up and non-existent flower beds. 

Being a Priest, naturally, I try to reflect theologically in everything I do, think, feel or buy.  Having Mungo is no exception.  I have had many sleepless nights with this ‘precious’ being to think about what the spiritual lessons are to be learned from owning a puppy, or indeed any pet, that captures you body, mind and soul.  For me it begins simply with this.  Dog is God spelt backwards. 

It seems our furry friends can teach and show us all about our maker without saying a word.  The language of love does not need words, it needs action and trust.  So what exactly has my tiny white puppy taught me?  That life is far too short.  Especially the ones that have a maximum lifespan of 16 years.  If I am blessed by a long life, I expect I will be owned by about 4 or 5 dogs over that time.  That is a lot of expected heartache when it comes to saying goodbye, but the joy of saying hello for those few years are so worth it. 

For me, life is empty and meaningless without the wagging tails and overwhelming love shown by my dogs on my return from ‘the great outdoors’.  We have to learn to enjoy and love those who are precious to us in the moment of now, not in the moment of tomorrow or of yesterday. 

Of course, dogs love you no matter what you do to them.  Be it the dreaded bath, the wonderful walks, the tasty tummyclock time, the unavoidable trips to the vet or the abandonment of the kennels.  Dogs love you and forgive you unconditionally before, during and after all of these moments in their lives as well as all the mundane ordinary times in between.  You are theirs, they are yours.  Dog is God spelt backwards.

Owning a dog is good for body and mind as well as the soul.  Walking my dogs and seeing them run free with wild joyous abandon is one of the most important times in my day.  It keeps me fit, gets me outside and allows my mind to wander in prayer, praise and thanksgiving for our maker. 

Life is also about being naughty and, sometimes, getting away with it.  But every time Mungo rushes in from the garden covered from head to tail in mud with half my bulbs hanging from his mouth, he knows he will get a telling off.  He also knows that after a smacked nose, a bath and warm towel, I will forgive him and love him still.  God is dog spelt backwards. 

There is nothing on this earth that compares to the freely given unconditional love of my God and my dogs.  I know I am loved as I am.  To them, I don’t have to be important and I don’t have to be dressed in fine clothes for them to be with me.  It doesn’t matter what car I drive, what house I live in, how much money I have or what church I attend. 

My Dog, my God, loves me as I am without wanting anything in return but my love and my time.  To understand God’s overwhelming loving forgiveness in action, adopting a puppy is a great beginning.  You may just want to invest in shares in puppy pads and a puppy crate first though!

Wanted! Agents for the X Factor of Grace…

This month has been a busy one already.  From weddings to baptisms, it seems August is full of wonderful ministry opportunities and the chance for me to be dressed in glorious red. 

Every priest knows that we only get one chance to spread the word at these events.  Many of us use the mission opportunities that are opened up at funerals, weddings and baptisms to the full.  When else to you get a chance to remind peeps about God and JC?  These peeps are often only coming through our doors or into the Crem for one reason only – duty, to the one who died, is getting married or being baptised. 

Duty seems to be an old-fashioned word that has raised its head once again in our Nation’s psyche along with other ancient words such as trust, respect, responsibility and honour.  After the appalling behaviour of some members of our communities, it appears that people are suddenly asking what are the reasons behind this sudden appearance of anarchy in our normally sedate British existence.  But this is not sudden. 

The actions of a few represent the unspoken frustrations of the many.  I do not condone the violence, the criminality or the sheer mindlessness of these people.  I pray that they receive the penalties that are due the crimes they have committed.  But when we live in a secular world that awards self and self achievements over responsibility and altruism to others, what else can we expect?

I wonder where are all the church and faith leaders in this?  Why aren’t we hearing from them on our news reports and in our papers?  If this isn’t an opportunity for the faiths to claim back morality for our ‘broken and sick’ society, then I don’t know what we are preaching about week in week out. 

I work for a bloke who professes love in action.  This is tough love that requires committment and responsibility to all those around us.  We have been preaching in our emptying churches for hundreds of years about the effect that putting self above others can create.  We are witnessing this on our streets and in our local shops right now.  It has to stop.  It is time for us to take back control and provide guidence over what is right and what is wrong. And we are witnessing pockets of that through communities waking up, remembering what being a part of community means and getting out to heal their damaged streets together with brushes and bin.

So did I preach at my baptism on Sunday about right and wrong and how broken our society is?  No.  That is not the way to do it.  People do not want to be told what to think or feel or do anymore.  They have no reason to trust those in supposed authority above us or even give them air time.  So we have to start claiming back that integrity, we have to begin to earn our place to be trusted again. 

By the use of ‘we’ I mean the police, politicians, priests, press-people and bankers etc.  Those in our society who have perceived authority but are trusted the least.  What can we expect when their actions are revealed to a world that now revolves around 24 hours instant news.  There is no where to hide anymore. And rightly so.  From Looters to Parlimantary Profitiers, we have to come out from the shadows, apologise, pay the price and be humble by living the truth.  It is the hard way, but then JC never said it was going to be easy.

I talked on Sunday to my lovely family, who I hope to see in church again, one day, that we in the church are Agents of Grace, we are not Judges of it.  Too many of us judge before really looking at who and why we are judging.  I will never say no to anyone who wants baptism, marriage, holy communion etc.  I have no idea what impact my opening of God’s love to that person will take them in their lives and frankly, that is not something I should be concerning myself  with.  That is up to them and God.  It is none of my business.  I have my relationship with God and I am opening a door for them to begin theirs. 

So no preaching about sin, no damnation of those who have looted, raped, murdered and pillared in our society.  Each will account for his/her actions in this world to those who maintain law and order in our society, and each will also account to his/her Maker in the next.  This World is not broken, our attitude towards it is.  We have forgotten who matters and have placed ourselves upon the altar of worship.  It is time for those in the Church and other faiths to stand up and remind people that they are loved.  For it all is simply about love.  Love of others, love of self and love of God.

The world will go on, weddings, funerals and baptisms continue.  The daily life of worry and strife never ends.  But there is a better way to deal with all of this and we, epecially those of us in the church, have a duty to begin singing our song of love once again.

But only if it is on X Factor…


Ageing Tardis Tottie and teeth…

If this blessed rain wasn’t enough to make us all depressed, I am now officially 40 years and 6 months old.  The weather has been rubbish and the summer a complete wash out.  If I don’t get some sun soon, by January I will be counselling myself.

Thinking about birthdays today as it is my Sister’s 37th – Happy Birthday Charlotte – and it would have been my Mum’s 64th (!).  Now having made it half way to 41 years young,  I thought I would reflect on my four score years on this earth.  Someone, joyfully, recently reminded me that I was, in fact, actually now in my 5th Decade.  You will appreciate that they are banished from the Christmas email list, forever.

In an article in the Daily Mail the other day, (I know, I know, it is my dirty little secret like my voting Tory), I read about the 30 telltale signs that show you are getting really, really old. Again, depressingly, I seem to cover about 27 of them.  Here are just some of my favourites: 

Falling asleep in front of the telly (who doesn’t as it is so boring apart from Deadenders, Dr Who and Torchwood), developing a fondness for sherry (who can do any housework without a bottle or two?), forgetting names (compulsory in my job), choosing clothes and shoes for comfort not style (again, compulsory with my job), moving from Radio 1 to Radio 2 (…!), ears growing bigger and hair sprouting everywhere (thank God for the miracle of Waxing!).

The most depressing one on the list was joining the National Trust…which we recently did. These are all signs I am growing older and that I have to accept certain realities in my life like:

1.  I am never going to be Tardis Tottie (a Dr Who assistant).

2.  I am never going to sing lead in a West End musical.

3. I am never going to have a flat tummy, ever.

4. I am never going to be one of those women who go away for an impromptu romantic weekend with just my credit card in my back pocket.  I now need the kitchen and bathroom AND en suite sinks packed in my several overnight bags before I can even entertain the thought of leaving my home for any length of time.  I mean what if the Rapture happens whilst I am away?  I will sooo need my emergency set of small screwdrivers and novelty ice-cube trays then…

5. I am never going to be able to go out for a sherbet (or sherry) or two again or be able to laugh without my Tena Lady firmly applied…(that is a girl thing boys, although I am sure they do boy ones as well.)

Hmm this getting old lark really sucks. However, there ARE positive plus points:

1. I can now say with authority – I am 40 don’t you know!

2. I do not have to answer to anyone (apart from my Bishop) or explain or apologise about the colour of my hair, nails, lips or toes.

3.  I can buy booze legally in the supermarket, laugh out loud when the girl asks my age and can drink said booze without falling down within three minutes.

4.  I do not have to save anything ‘FOR BEST’.  At my age, why wait?  That includes best knickers, best bras, best handbags, best albs, best stoles etc

5. I can drive and be insured without the cost of it creating another national debt crisis.

6. I don’t have to explain to anyone why I like Wham.

7. I can sing and dance along to the music in the supermarket and not feel embarrassed, even if my daughter does disown me.

8. I am proud to have handbags that are older than my daughter and my marriage.

9. As I am getting older, I can blame the fact my body is constantly breaking down due to my age rather than the fact I am fat.

10.  Mostly, I can have fun and relax because I have seen it all at least once before and know that life will carry on, all will be well and there will always be another boy band to replace the last one that broke up.

So getting older isn’t all that bad, in fact 40 is now the new 30.  Roll on 50 I say. 

At least, I still have all my own teeth, for now…


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