Category Archives: Shopping

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…



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…


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…


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…


Holy reasons to be miserable, one, two, three…

I found myself undertaking a bizarre shopping experience during this Holy week.  Normally, not one to shy away from any type of shop, I am rather hesitant about entering our local B&Q.  Too many gardening and DIY implements for my liking that always leave me feeling profoundly inadequate and a little depressed.  Well known in my family for my ‘black fingers’, I have even finished off the odd plastic plant due to watering it by mistake and causing mould to grow.  So I do not choose to go into these places lightly.

However needs must.  To appease my ever creative urges I had decided in my infinite wisdom of being a Priest-in-Charge for a whole 5 months, that this Easter I would give my Church something special to remember and a little bit different from the normal liturgical practice. 

Never one to be found during Holy Week scrubbing the altar steps with vinegar and bitter herbs, or spending Good Friday prostrated in front of the altar while someone sets light to their handbag (that is burning holy incense to the secularly confused), finally I had the power to choose how to spend Holy Week.  I also have the luxury of serving a church that has had very little liturgical practice in recent years.  Basically, I had free reign to do what I liked this week without the constraints of fixed pews and  ‘well we usually have 25 services in Holy Week at least’…!

So it was with joy that I planned a Sedar meal for Maundy Thursdayevening after our stirring Chrism Mass in the Cathedral.  It was a shame that hardly any of the clergy turned up for the most moving and profound moment of fellowship in our liturgical year.  However, our Sedar meal that night was educational and satisfying, both theologically and bodily.  My husband can cook a mean 7 hour slow roast lamb.

My other plan was to do a labyrinth for Good Friday morning before the two-hour vigil at the University Chapel.  So we set up the Church on Maundy Thursday afternoon.  Laying out the labyrinth with masking tape took my poor long-suffering husband and daughter two hours.  Well, he was the one who came up with the design!   

Five stations, highlighting the most poignant parts of the Stations of the Cross with symbolic actions to do in each, marked the way of the journey.  From washing one’s hands like Pilate, to carrying a pebble to the centre (representing helping carrying Jesus’ cross) to make a Cairn of love in front of the Cross at the heart of the labyrinth, it was all good, holy and meditative stuff. 

My fourth station was to be the moment of the crucifixion.  So to get back to my shopping tale, I found myself in B&Q on Holy Wednesday in the scary and  intense ‘Nail’ aisle.  I spent ages weighing and feeling the size of the nails.  Long, short, thick, thin, pointed and so on.  Which would be most effective for the job, I wondered?  Then, as I was weighing two nails in my hands, I had one of those moments when you can see yourself from the outside.  And I stood there and started laughing.  For once, thank God, there was no helpful manny around to see if I needed any advice.  Can you just imagine the conversation? 

B&Q Manny:  ‘Do you need any help today madame?’

Me:  ‘Yes thank you kind sir/lady, I wish to purchase some nails.’

B&Q Manny: ‘What will you be using the nails for?’

Me: ‘Crucifying someone, which ones would you recommend?’

But, blessedly, I escaped that potentially tricky encounter, judged some huge and vicious looking nails to be the ones that would do the job  most efficiently, and went on my way to gather the rest of my props.

On Maundy Thursday, after the Sedar meal, the folks asked if they could walk the labyrinth as it was there and ready.  By their emotional reactions on leaving the labyrinth, they obviously found the process deeply moving.  Even if they were doing it a day early, it seemed a perfectly natural conclusion to the meal. 

Those who came on Good Friday morning, found the church bathed in sunshine while they walked a path of darkness and pain.  One lady said to me afterwards in tears, that it was nice to be able to have permission to be miserable for once. 

At Christmas, convention says that you have to be happy, whereas Easter is a more cathartic  time when all emotions are allowed to come to the surface – both happy and sad.  And, of course, the antidote to it all is chocolate, worship and resounding choral belting out of  that fabulous Easter hymn:  ‘Jesus Christ has Risen today’.

Today is Easter Saturday.  The world holds its breath in that in-between time of the now and the not yet.  Tomorrow, the sun will rise, the tomb stone will be rolled away and the emptiness found within will transform our lives.  Misery will be replaced with joy as those cruel nails no longer have any part to play in the greatest gesture of love the world has ever known.  

If you only have the time this year to go to one service in Church, make it tomorrow.  For what you will find there are the answers to why we do what we do and who we do it for. And, if you are very fortunate, there may be the odd chocolate egg or two to hunt down…

May you know and be blessed by the love of your Maker this Eastertide.

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