Thursday, 29 January 2009

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

I have not had a good 18 hours. The cat hadn't come home, long after it was dark and still raining and I was scared, again, that one day he just won't come home; and I was angry: with the cat, with the imaginary people offering him better food and a nicer home than mine! Add a little girl with a cold who just can't sleep and a boy home from cubs: in a new life stage, staying out later than bed-time. The cat came home, muddy and hungry, and three eager little people needed to relieve their anxiety by actually seeing him, stroking him even though it was half past nine.
And then, just when I thought all was quiet, and I could settle down for a precious hour of grown-up time, my husband out for the evening, the house to myself, the cub is sick, all over pyjamas, duvet and pillow! With a painfully thin frosting of grace covering over the welling tears, I change all the bed-clothes, pile up the washing for tomorrow, put the first load on.

Reviewing my plans for today, I accepted that my lack of energy will not make for a good swimming trip, although they have been asking every week, 'When are we going swimming again?' I decide to take them out to the tea-shop in the gardens: we will have cake with our chapter book. An acceptable alternative treat.

Duvet delivered at the laundrette, we have our cake and hot chocolate. Little girl orders for herself and well-meaning lady tells me how good I am to Home Educate, how patient I must be. My middle son congratulates the ladies in the kitchen on their muffins and they tell me that my children are a credit to me.
We go out to run about,but then they want to go in the woods, in the mud, in their shoes, through the low branches that I don't fit under. Feet are stamped at me, backs turned on me and I am called names. Then we discover the loss of the precious commerative 50p piece, left with me apparently, or on the table, or maybe taken out to play. Two children crying, no resources left and my best attempts to make the most of a rough morning feel like smoking ashes.
And I am the child, the victim, the offended. And I let rip with blame and accusation. 'I can't rescue this, ' I tell them, 'this was my rescue plan.' Tears flow, theirs and mine, and the weight of failure crashes heavy on my shoulders.

As we arrive home, my little girl whispers a 'sorry' and brings me my slippers. I tell her how sorry I am that I yelled. I search through my handbag in case the special coin is there. I sit with my crying boy on my lap and offer what comfort I can. How will I bear it, I wonder, when his heart is truly broken? And where could I get another coin?

Minutes later we are back in the car, to the bank. Casting aside my hatred of feeling foolish, I queue up to ask if they have a 50p coin of the particular type we have lost. Kindly, the assistant looks through a few piles, offers up any with a pattern, but none are celebrating 100 years of Scouting. So we try the shop next door and move on to the Post Office. Success at last and we return home triumphant.

Douglas Adams wrote a book, 'The Restaurant at the End of the Universe'. Every night, diners experience the ultimate entertainment of the cataclysmic last moments of the Cosmos, and then are hauled back before their own end by powerful time machines. Over and again, I feel that I tumble helplessly over the edge of parenting, unable to maintain even a facade of maturity and control, only to haul myself and my family back up again. And this is the week when I had resolved to change my outlook. To seek God's grace in every little thing. But still I fall back on my own limited and flawed strength. The children forgive me (although I worry that they will end up in therapy!) and God forgives me. I just find it so hard to forgive myself.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009


On Monday we abandoned Maths due to sickness, but I knew that we would have to resume our wrangle with equivalent fractions. All my scribbled diagrams and explanations involving cakes had not made the subject any clearer, but then I was struck by inspiration:

1/5, 2/10, 4/20 and 8/40 - all the same size!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009


Following an inspiring talk on Sunday night, I was encouraged to pray for healing for one of my children from a minor skin complaint that has been a bother for a few years. We prayed together about it and examined our faith level: did we really believe that God could, would, take away this problem? My child confessed to me 'half' a belief and I confessed my own meagre 'half' but, we hoped, God would count the two halves together! I also felt that I needed to talk about how God sometimes had a reason for not healing. Just like when we took our cat to the vet for his jabs which we knew was vital for him but he would never understand, sometimes there are things that we don't like but God knows are for the best.
I woke up yesterday curious and excited. I resisted the temptation to wake my child and waited until breakfast time to ask. No change. Nothing. I have to say I am puzzled but I am not rocked and I will be praying more over this. My child's reaction? "God must have a reason."

Later in the morning another child had a meltdown over fractions and, when nothing I could say or do could bring consolation or motivation, I realised that I had a squeaky-voiced, feverish, sick child on my hands. I administered a dose of Calpol, a cuddly rabbit and a CD book to listen to in bed and, again, I prayed for healing. An hour later my child was back downstairs, calm and happy and ready for life.

It was only this morning, as I reflected on this, that I realised that God had acted! Our prayer had been answered and the Kingdom of Heaven had broken through. My natural cynicism was quick to dispute this healing: colds come and go pretty fast. But my faith says: not in an hour!
I had already thought what I would do if the skin condition was healed: I would blog about it, I would e-mail friends, I would testify in church on Sunday ... And yet it took me nearly 24 hours to even notice that God had stepped in and answered a different prayer! I wonder how much else I have missed because I am expecting God to act a certain way, that being my way. I am excited by how he is opening my eyes!

Monday, 26 January 2009

A Mustard Seed

It's Monday morning and nothing has gone wrong so far this week: there have been no major arguments, I have calmly handled finding an ink-pad sized blue mark on my sons' carpet, negogiated the choppy waters of one child augmenting a reasonable request that a sibling leave the room with an inappropriate epithet and provided sellotape when this is my highly protected time alone!
I heard deeply challenging talk at church last night on the difference between having faith and living by faith. Do I really expect the Kingdom of Heaven to break into my daily life? Do I hope for divine intervention in the little hiccoughs of hour-by-hour living with three children?
God has been speaking to me about this in subtle ways for the last six months and last night's sermon felt like a conclusion, a coming together of all the lessons into a final challenge.
A song I have listened to frequently has the simple lyric: "Same power that conquered the grave lives in me, lives in me." What would my life look like if I believed this in my gut, not just my brain? My faith may be very tiny, perhaps only as big as a mustard seed, but Jesus said that was enough.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Government Review of Home Ed

"The Government has commissioned an independent review of home education to assess whether the current system of supporting and monitoring home education is the right one. "

I have spent 20 minutes this morning filling in the on-line questionnaire. It was pretty straightforward and there was a box to tick for 'members of the public' to contribute. This is an issue dear to my heart and I have no desire to be monitored, investigated or to have to prove that I am educating and I am not abusing my children. However, I know from many conversations that a lot of people, even those who love me and support what I do, feel that the system is lax. Now is our chance to let those in power know how we feel! The consultation closes on 20 February.

I did think that I felt calm and collected about this issue, but I have just read aloud my response to my husband and my voice and blood pressure have risen. I am insulted that Home Education is being linked with abuse and forced marriage or that there is doubt expressed as to whether my children can achieve the rather spurious "Every Child Matters" outcomes. If, as a reader of this blog, as a friend of mine and my family, you can spare twenty minutes, please have a look at the questionnaire and let the government know that Home Ed rocks!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Sometimes I am a good mum

It is sometimes painful to see myself reflected in my children. There are unkind words, tones of voice and sulky complaints of which I recognise myself the scriptwriter. And then there are the moments when an eight-year-old is looking over his younger sister's maths book and says, "You might want to look a that one again." This is something I always say; never, "You're wrong" or "You've made a silly mistake", but always a pointer to reconsider and to ask for help if it's needed. I was pleased and proud when I heard him say that; pleased with and proud of him for treating his sister with respect and gentleness, pleased and proud of myself for modelling it.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Taste and See

Kathy, over at 10 Minute Writer, has suggested another Freewrite. I like freewriting, it makes me think that at least I'm doing something as a writer, no matter how small, and I like the prompts that Kathy gives.
This prompt seems particularly timely for me. Yesterday, my vicar sent out his monthly update and in it was the reminder to "Stop focussing on what God is not doing but rejoice in what he is doing, not concentrating on who wasn’t there but on who was there."
This week, God has brought up for me again something he was bringing to mind in the Summer, that is, my tendency to sit, like the Prodigal Son, in the pig-sty instead of heading home to the feast table my Father has prepared for me. What keeps me here? Self-pity, self-image, attention-seeking, familiarity, fear.
In an appalling witness, I don't really like to talk to much about what God has done for me, it doesn't really fit in with my wallowing too well!
So here, in response to Kathy's prompt, and God's goodness, are some of the things He's done for me in 2008:
I have to start with the car. I was reminded this week how God has already been planning our replacement car before our first car broke down. He knew and He had it under control.My cat Barney. I love him in a quite over the top and silly way, and he was, unmistakeably a gift from God. I had a couple of particularly fab holidays in Wales, climbing mountains on one, a weekend away from my family,and a family camping trip on the coast with stunning weather and excellent ice-cream.We received some very generous financial gifts and in particular a friend is continuing to support me with an on-going financial commitment as well as paying for a replacement train ticket when I mistakenly threw the first one away! (Generosity and grace!)
Friends have come over and helped me in my wilderness of a garden, helping me to believe that it can be transformed.
God has met me over and again on short retreats and blessed me with six days with Him in October.
Just a few things (my ten minutes is up!) to remind me that I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Up a tree

In that narrow zone in between where mummy thinks it's safe and where an 8 year-old thinks he can reach!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Happy Birthday

Today is my husband's birthday. This is the 20th time we have shared his birthday and marks the beginning of the year in which we can say about everything that it's the 20th time we've done it together. On 19th January 1990, we went to see an 11pm showing of Pet Sematary and I sang Happy Birthday, very quietly, at midnight, heralding the first moments of his 19th birthday. The film was dreadful and we still laugh about it now. I don't think I've been to see a horror film since and nowadays I am wary of even a 15 certificate. Atlhough strictly speaking it wasn't a date as I already had a boyfriend. He was dispatched with soon after and we usually mark our anniversary in about a week. I bought him a card with a cuddly teddy bear on it, because it reminded me of him. He still looks quite a bit like a teddy bear.

The following year we caught the coach to London, drank cheap fizz in St James's Park and listened to Grieg's Piano concerto at the Barbican. On his 21st birthday, I cooked him a steak which he ate in my college house basement kitchen and he proposed!

We don't celebrate his birthday much and he was genuinely excited by my gift of socks. The children had each drawn him a card, my daughter made two which compensated for the fact that I forgot to write one. I did make a batch of cookies which he took to school to share with his friends. He will be tutoring tonight and we were supposed to be going out for a curry tomorrow night (a church social) but we can't get a baby sitter. So it looks like our celebration will be a nice home cooked meal on Saturday. But I'm out of inspiration for a choice of meal. I'm a veggie and he is usually happy to eat meat-free with me - any ideas anyone? (And if you're reading this darling, feel free to put in a request, and Happy Birthday!)

Monday, 19 January 2009

A life worth living

I have spend the weekend with my wider family. While staying at my mother's house, my mum showed me a huge family tree drawn up by a geneologist to allocate the inhertitance left by a relative. We also took the opportunity to begin to go through the huge drawer of photos, a bedlam of snapshots from the last century. This led on to mum digging out a list she has of my father's descendants, going back 16 generations before him to John Foys, born about 1435 in Horsham.
So many people to whom I am connected. Glimpses of lives led: Great-Great Aunt Annie who lost five children in infancy and a 15-year-old son in the flu epidemic of 1918 and Great-Great Aunt Edie who died in her thirties without husband or children, her page of the family tree showing her name alone.
There was a whole set of photos of my dad as an angelic toddler with his glamorous mother and an Airedale terried named Chuggy-Chew. A wedding photo showing the laughing newly-weds sharing a private joke, a gust of wind lifting the dress just enough to reveal daring heels on sparkling shoes. A three-year old boy building sandcastles, smiling at the camera. On the back of the photo is written his name and the inscription "Blackpool, a few days before he died."
All this is sitting deep inside me, an undigested weight. My life in the context of others. The faces of people who didn't know what the future, now the past, held for them. I am left wondering what their hopes and dreams and fears were and whether they felt their lives were of worth, whether they felt fulfilled. And wondering, where is my life going? What will I leave? What feelings will my face on a photo in forty or eighty years time invoke?

Friday, 16 January 2009

Construction has begun

The children spent couple of hours outside working on their 'fort' yesterday. They got very muddy:This is because of the construction method, which seems to involve lying the sticks on top of each other and using a mud and water mix to hold the structure together. I am not convinced of the longevity of this, but they are happy. I watched from the window as mud was dug from a hole, water collected from tap or the birdbath, and the resulting mixture poured all over their sticks. The supply of sticks is nearly exhausted so it has been requested that we return to the woods for more. That will be going into next week's plan.
Co-incidentally I was reading an article on Wednesday evening about the benefits of being outdoors.
The natural environment has a powerful effect on us to become less
stressed....Children become less hyperactive, can concentrate better and play
more independently with greater balance. They develop a lifelong ability to
connect with nature but only if they are allowed to play freely in streams and
woods before the age of 12.

This all sounds good and I have resolved, in a kind of loose New Year's Resolution, to get outdoors with them more, or at least send them out in the garden while I watch, coffee in hand, from the window!

Thursday, 15 January 2009


Yesterday I was tagged (thanks Fibrefairy!) This is a new thing to me and, as with all new things, I am a bit worried about doing it 'right'. Am I following 'netiquette'? With the god of blogging strike me down? But I'm having a go. Something with four, clearly written rules, surely can't be too hard?
These are the rules:

1. Take your fourth picture folder
2. Fourth picture–no exceptions!
3. Post it, and tell about it.
4. Tag four more people.

Here is the randomly generated photo:
It is my eldest son's 8th birthday. I don't think he's had his hair cut since so, as you will see in more recent photos, it's a lot longer. A lot longer. Last time I took them shoe shopping the assistant brought out girls' shoes for him. She was far more embarrassed than him as he is getting used to it. He doesn't like being mistaken for a girl but he does love his hair and that wins out. I think that shows depth of character and tenacity.

I guess from the look on his face that he has just walked into the room and is admiring the stash of birthday presents and the homemade birthday cake. We have a tradition of birthday cake for breakfast, which is great fun, and I always write the birthday child a long card recounting their victories and developments for the year as well as praising them for who they are. I hope that, in years to come, each of them will have a treasure trove of memories and blessing and reminders of how they were noticed and cherished. I was touched to hear my son tell a family friend about the cards they receive and how it is one of the best things about a birthday!

First three rules, checked off; this brings me to the last rule - to tag four more people. I'm not someone who copies on e-mails, the type that tell you to send it on to 10 of your closest friends, so, in the same vein, I'm not going to pass this on. (Sorry - but I just don't feel quite comfortable!) However, I would just love it if anyone who reads my blog and has a blog of their own would like to take up the tag. It was fun digging out a random photo and reminiscing over it. It was great inspiration for a blog post. So, if you fancy the challenge, find that fourth photo in your fourth folder and post about it. Let me know and I'll link from here.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Woodland Garden

We made it to the park. I took the children to a part of the Woodland Garden in Bushy Park.
They collected sticks for the fort which is to be built in our garden. This is a serious business.
But there was time for some fun ...
... and games.
It definitely brought a smile to our faces!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Great outdoors

It is damp and grey outside. I have to leave the house in less than half-an-hour for a routine blood appointment and I am trying to fit in all my usual computer based jobs before the day proper starts. The children, inspired by Horrid Henry, want to build a fort. In the garden. In principle I was excited, I was already beginning to think of who I know who might be able to help us, where we could get wood, what a great project this could be and what fun they would have in the Summer. But no, they want to build it now. And they need string, which requires me heading out to the shed to find some. They also need me to release the slide from where it is tied up, literally up, pointing to the sky, off the ground to let the grass seedlings grow, although they never did, so where the slide lands is just a patch of mud. So I've suggested later and now they are building pod-racers out of Lego.
But I wish I was a more out-doorsy sort of mum. In Yorkshire I met another mum who declared that her children were always out of doors. I know that Charlotte Mason praises the virtues of being outside as much as possible. In blogs of other Home Ed families I read of and see the great outdoor adventures they have.
But I hate mud and I don't like being cold. On a balmy Summer's day I love to take a picnic to the park and let the children climb on the fallen trees but I have never liked standing around in playgrounds or woods watching them run about. I would rather be indoors. There are whole days, yesterday being one of them, that we don't set foot outside the house. If I lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin in the depths of winter then I think this would be ok, but I don't, I live in suburban Outer London and I have playgrounds and parks within easy reach. I fear that I am letting them down, failing to provide something vital, some connection with nature, exercise, fresh air, sunlight.
Perhaps I'll take them to the park later!

Monday, 12 January 2009


We were joined in Swaledale by Kate's cousin and her two children, aged 5 and 3. As my youngest would be, the little boy of 5 is in his first 'proper' year of formal education. As five-year-olds do, they fell to chatting and naturally the topic of school came up. He was astounded to discover that my daughter does not go to school at all, that she is, in her own words, "educated". However, she explained to him that she, and her brothers, would have to go to school if they were badly behaved. He went to his mum and asked it he, too, could stay at home and only go to school if he was naughty!

Oh dear, I have some unpicking to do! Clearly, I have lost my temper too many times and threatened them with school. To me, this has never been about punishment but about the only alternative if what we are doing is not working ("If you're so miserable here with me, you might as well be at school!") but the subtlety of this argument does not seem to have penetrated! It's time to remind myself that I am privileged to Home Educate my children.

It also makes me wonder if my little girl thinks that every other child she knows is so naughty that they have to go to school every day!
Photo courtesty of Google Images

Friday, 9 January 2009

Double Dutch

While we were away we discovered the Disney DVD version of Trivial Pursuit. A fantastic game for our family, entertaining enough for me and my husband and yet accessible for my 5 year-old. (We have done a lot of Media Studies on cold and dreary afternoons so she is well versed in Disney films!)
On our return we received a cheque from the boys' godparents for a Christmas and birthday gift and they agreed that buying the game for our family was a good use of this money and I eagerly ordered it from Amazon. Much to my delight it arrived on Wednesdayand I mentally re-planned the day so we could fit in an afternoon game. However, on unwrapping it, I discovered that it was in Dutch! Amazon have been very efficient in sorting out a replacement and I am now anticipating the arrival of an English Language version, hopefully in time for a Sunday afternoon game.
There was one brief moment though, as I contemplated the hassle of re-wrapping the parcel and taking it to the Post Office, where I considered keeping it as a fun way to learn a new language. I think that would be Home Education going just a little too far!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Mission Accomplished

I did manage to get all my eight things done yesterday! What is more, I felt calm and relaxed at the end of the day and spent a few minutes with my boys poring over the Lego catalogue and helping them write a list of what they wanted to buy. This is in contrast to my usual, exhausted good night kiss and request not to hear from them until morning! So I am trying the same strategy today (although today's list has 16 things on it, writing my blog being number 3.)

I am feeling that persistent guilt that I am not doing enough with the children and I am trying to dampen it by telling myself that this is still our Christmas holiday. The truth is that I am just feeling very flat and unmotivated. I am trying to notice how I feel without forcing myself to change and I am hoping that by being a little more gentle on myself, by lowering my expectations, I will rest body and soul and feel re-energised to start next week.

In the meantime, I have followed this link from Here a the Bonny Glen, to a great site of read-aloud poetry. Here is 'Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth' read with a voice like warm chocolate. Maybe I can find some time to listen to more of this today ...

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Happy Birthday

While we were away in Yorkshire, my middle son celebrated his 8th Birthday! We had birthday cake for breakfast, a tradition in our family,and went to the Pantomime in the afternoon. I am a big fan of Panto and had a great time shouting and singing and trying to explain to my five year old that, yes, it is a man dressed as a woman, photo courtesy of Google Images

and no, it's not a real cow!
I think Panto is a peculiarly British thing. A few years ago my mother took my American sister-in-law, niece and nephew to see one when they were over for Christmas and I think they were somewhat bemused!

I am still feeling that I am running flat out just to stay still but yesterday I read this comment on Comfort Queen has made me rethink the rest of my week:

I will look at the list each day and do those 2 or 3 things that seem most
important that day and take the rest of the day off — whatever that means for
that day.
I am aware that I often sabotage my own efforts to rest and relax and that I allow my 'to-do' list to tyrannize my life. While the problems with my car and the time and effort that has caused, was out of my control, I know that I am guilty of letting myself get pushed along with a 'what can you do' attitude. So, in the spirit of the above quote I have ruthlessly cut back my expectations for today. This is what I am going to do:
  • Wednesday morning Communion at church.
  • Half-an-hour with my eldest son on the current Bravewriter course we are doing.
  • Poetry Tea Time with birthday cake (no baking cookies!)
  • Read my new writing magazine for at least 10 minutes/one article.
  • Read my book and eat my Christmas chocolates quietly upstairs without the children!
  • Host a church meeting this evening.
  • Attend my regular Wednesday appoinment.
  • Feed myself and the children!
Let's see how I get on!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

New Year's Day

I feel as if I have barely drawn breath for the last few weeks. Although I had a lovely time in Yorkshire, I do not feel mentally or spiritually rested. What with the car problems, the busyness of Christmas, trying to get the house straight after the massive influx of new toys, trying to make sense of our family budget following Christmas and buying a new car, having three children and not disciplining myself to take time out, I feel ragged, diffracted. One symptom of this is that I am not posting until nearly 5 in the afternoon. Another symptom is that I have no idea what I am going to do with the children for the rest of the week after my husband returns to school tomorrow. I could really do with a couple of days off to get my head sorted!

In the meantime, here are some pictures of our snowy and icy walk to East Gill Waterfall in Keld on New Year's Day.
The idea of a walk was greeted with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

(check out those ear-warmers!)
It was a very beautiful place.

And collecting icicles made the whole thing even more fun!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Great Dane

In the farmhouse where we were staying in Yorkshire, lived two Great Danes: Pippy and Barney. This Barney could have swallowed our cat Barney whole, had he felt so inclined! Sadly, Barney the Great Dane is getting old and his back legs are weak and as a result he is not able to go out on walks with his sister any more. So when Kate took my children and Pippy for a walk, I suggested that I could take Barney for a little stroll up the path and back, just so he didn't feel left out.
As they left, he whined and whimpered, running from one window to another to see them go. I got out his collar and lead and he was very excited. I was pleased with myself for bringing him so much pleasure and we set off to enjoy the crisp, fresh air. We walked a little way and, mindful of his infirmity, I decided that was enough and it was time to come home. I had not reckoned with Barney's opinion! On relfection, he was clearly believed that we were going to find Pippy and, as we had not found her, we were not going home. He became an immovable object and nothing I could do would persuade him to start going again.
We could hear the voices of a family out for a walk. I wondered if the voices belonged to my husband and daughter, perhaps they were coming back before the others. Barney, too, thought they might belong to someone we knew. So we waited. Eventually a man and his three young sons came around the corner. I explained that I was stuck. However Barney, although these were not his people, was content to head back towards home with them. So for a few minutes we all walked along together until we reached their holiday home and they went in. Barney stopped again. Even with my full weight leaning on his lead I could not shift him. I shouted, ordered, cajoled, threatened and persuaded, all to no effect. Nothing I could do would make him move. I had visions of remaining on this cold Yorkshire hill until the others returned from their walk and I could be rescued. Eventually something shifted in Barney's brain and he set off at a sedate pace. We were a matter of minutes away from the front door!

Although it is not a metaphor I would want to stretch too far, the experience made me think of my Home Education 'walk'. The children do not always understand my motivation, and I do not always understand theirs. It is ineffective to try to force anyone to do anything against their will. Company can make it all so much more pleasurable. When we all want the same thing, how easy it is!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Lost and Found

My emotions have been somewhat fraught this week. When we arrived in Swaledale, my friend Kate announced that she had found us a car. The perfect car, just what we needed, at a price we could afford and we could even have it the next day. However, as the week proceeded, first the current owner couldn't get hold of her new car and didn't want to let this one go until her replacement arrived, then she wanted cash, which was difficult to access at a moment's notice. Would we, wouldn't we? As the week went on I worried more and more, although I was aware what a waste this was! Although we had had no expectation of coming home with a new car, having had the possibility introduced, I was very disappointed that we might lose it. Eventually, on Thursday, the lady rang to say that we could take it and Kate is driving it home for us today.

As we approached home last night, the children were excitedly talking about who would get to hold Barney first. They raced in and searched the house for him, while my husband stood at the kitchen table reading the note from our neighbours saying that they hadn't seen any sign of the cat since Thursday morning. We were gutted! I was in tears, the children were in tears. I was convinced that he was dead. We sadly put the children to bed and sat glumly, trying to work out all the possibilities and the likelihood that we would see him again.

This morning, I returned the borrowed car and ran home; resiting the urge to come straight back fret I put in a few miles. All the time I was hoping my mobile would ring. At the vet's, I peered in, hoping to see a notice that a cat had been found and then I took the route round behind the house - calling his name. I studied my husband's face at the window as I came up the drive, but there was no big grin.

Looking into the garden from the lounge, there was Barney! He was ambling around without a care in the world. I rushed out to get him, scooped him up and brought him in. He looked at me as if to say, "Remind me again who you are?" There has been great rejoicing in our house and he has been well cuddled.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth

New Year's Day is a day for hope, for believing that things will be different, better, this year. I have always loved setting New Year's Resolutions, things that I will begin, do more of, do less of and do better. As the years have passed I have become less enthusiastic and have even felt, this year, that there was little point. As I become a more reflective person, I am constantly assessing where I am and what I am doing and so the turn of the year seems less significant. There is also the temptation to begin to believe that nothing will ever change.

Yesterday, while out running, I stopped to watch the sun rise above a bank of fog. We were up in the Yorkshire Dales, above a valley filled with cloud. The edge was tinged apricot and we waited and watched while the earth span just a little more and the sun was too bright to look at. As we turned to resume running, I was stunned by the colour of the hill behind me, glowing orange as it reflected the direct rays of the sun. I was reminded of a poem which my mum used to read me: 'Say not the struggle naught availeth' and its last line: 'In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly! But westward, look, the land is bright!'

In looking up the poem, oh, the marvels of the internet, I read again the first verse: 'Say not the struggle naught availeth ... and as things have been, they remain.' Although change may not be sudden or easy, it is a death to hope to believe that things remain as they always have been. I am looking forward to the growth that this year will bring!