Monday, 31 January 2011

New Year's Intentions Re-visited

As January ends and it seems as is 2011 is rushing passed and life is just the same, I have looked back at my intentions for this year.
My first, to run the same four races, is off to as good a start as it can be with both the Bookham 10k and the Hastings Half-Marathon entered. The 10k is next Sunday and the chest infection and anti-biotic related stomach upset have meant that I haven't trained much in the last week, but I reckon I'll get round. As I can't find any record of last year's time, I have no bench-mark to worry about.
Secondly, plans to walk the North Downs Way are still in place, slightly altered, and by early June we should have reached Canterbury, with only one 18.5 mile leg of the journey to do.
I have clocked up another couple of parkruns and gave my husband something I'd painted as a birthday card. I have chosen two March birthdays to paint cards for and I may have another go at painting the cat if I invest in my own fan brush. I also want some indigo paint, so I could paint a storm scene. Maybe the cat in the rain?
We celebrated Epiphany and have a Candlemass all lined up. March brings the start of Lent (pancakes!) and April, Easter.
Intention number 6 has stumped me. I said that I had six relatives and friends in mind to visit, but I cannot remember who they are! It's not that I can't think of six people I'd like to catch up with, but I don't know which six in particular I selected. Perhaps this should tell me that I'm not that bothered? I still have the pile of newsy Christmas cards waiting to be replied to so I shall look to that for inspiration and see whose names induce that, "I'd love to meet up with them"- feeling! This time I'll make a note.
I had lunch with a girl-friend last week, and today, and another lined up on Thursday. Again, I would find it helpful to make a note of those relationships I wish to invest in and make a point of at least monthly contact. It's not everyone's way of doing friendship, to be so deliberately organized and unspontaneous but it helps me to not let things slide, to act on what I value, and hopefully to have more contact with people who bless my life.

Friday, 28 January 2011

What to do in an Avalanche

I have a very dear friend who loves me enough not to tell me to chill out, but instead sends me what I need to know:

Try to jump up the slope - it's more than likely that you started the avalanche so you may be very near the top.
Try to move to the side - you may have enough time to get off the slope.
Stay on your feet as long as possible.

Try to grab hold of a sturdy boulder or tree.
Swim WITH it and you may be able to stay near the surface.
Make breathing space - cup your hands in front of your face to create an air pocket. Breathe in and hold which will give enough space for your chest to expand once the snow settles. The small air pocket will last about 30 minutes which may be enough time for rescue.
Stay still and calm which will reduce your oxygen consumption.


It occured to me this morning that my life is full of everyday avalanches: those moment when everything which is so precariously balanced collapses and comes thundering toward me in a crushing slide of overwhelming emotion. Perhaps next time, if I think fast, I will be able to jump up or sideways, quickly change what's happening, crack a joke, offer a hug or ditch a job and avoid the whole thing. Maybe I can stay on my feet and keeping thinking clearly. Maybe I can find something to hang on to, to remember what's going well, to turn my heart to Jesus in prayer, to remind myself that surges of wild emotion pass. Maybe I just need to go with it, to scream or cry or stomp down the road, to stop resisting the surge and just go with it. Maybe I don't need as much as I think, a cup of tea, one Psalm or poem, five minutes in the locked bathroom or a hurried text, might be enough to help me breathe. And maybe I just need to stay still and calm. Even avalanches don't last forever.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Doctors

I went to the doctor's this morning. It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing, like many in my life, suddenly springing from a fermenting idea. On Saturday, my husband suggested I should have visited the doctor with my persistent cough; and on Monday, my best friend did her best to send me. I was having none of it. I was fine, I spluttered, I had a nasty, but short, brush with a bad cold (perhaps a touch of flu?) over the Christmas break and just had a nagging tickle left over. I also had another infection which had not shifted in the past week.
So yesterday evening I decided that I would pay the GP a visit. I had mixed emotions, half of me wanting to be proved right and to be sent away with a clean record, the other half hoping for some magic pills that might make me feel better. The doctor was brisk, matter-of-fact and even a little cold. I realized how much I had been hoping for some sympathy when I got none at all. She listened to me breathing and announced that I had a chest infection. One quick prescription later, broad spectrum antibiotics, and I was out of the door.
Perhaps I have been gradually feeling worse or perhaps it is the permission to be ill, but I have felt rough today, fragile and headachey. I decided to give myself the day off and to miss our social group tomorrow to catch up. My son trekked to the bakers for buns and made me camomile tea and I took myself to the sofa with a DVD.
I have tried to treat myself the way a good mother would treat her child, with compassion and sympathy, but I don't like the anxious feelings which come with being unproductive. And I can tell that my anxiety levels are high when, chatting with the children about mud-slides and avalanches, I worry that I have forgotten the way to act if caught in a avalanche, something I read in a Joe Simpson book a while ago and thought would be useful to know. How can I protect my children if I don't know what to do? I have reassured myself that I am safe in South West London and given them the best advice a mother can: if you are going to some snowy mountains, ever, make sure you find out what to do first! I think it may be time for another cup of tea!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Stop

Sometimes, I am head down, getting on with life, pushing through. Sometimes, I notice. Sometimes I remember to stop. And see something unexpectedly beautiful.
Fallen branch in Richmond Park

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Freewrite on the dog

We have started to freewrite again, and now that my little girl is able to write a bit more herself, I am taking the opportunity to do some myself. My son says my work is 'very freewrite-ish.' I find it a helpful way of thinking, getting it all down and not worrying about how it sounds. I often find that answers are there, if I take the time to pin down the worries and stop them fluttering around my head. It's not necessarily good writing, it's not clean and polished, and it can sound something like this:

I am not sure what to write about. How do I feel about Coco? At the moment I am finding her quite difficult. She seems particularly 'mischievous' and 'into things' a the moment and it feels as if she is 'naughty'. She keeps taking stuff off the table and peeing on the carpet and I worry that she needs more exercise and she is bored. I really want her to get her Bronze award because I want her to be obedient and to run safely with me. OK, so what is it I want? What do I want her to do? I want her to obey commands like 'leave' so I feel in control of her and around people and things, that she is safe and comfortable to have around people and things, and homes and stuff, I want her to be safe in the park, to behave nicely around other people and dogs and to come back when she is called. I want her to walk and run nicely by my side so she can run safely with me and get enough exercise. I like the ideas of an award but I more want help and advice on how to train her better and I don't feel that I am getting that at puppy class. What advice/help did I get this week: shorter lead, consistent walks, less is more? Questions: how do I motivate her without treats? How do I deal with undesirable behaviour? How do I judge too much and too little exercise? I am worried about her being bored and therefore unhappy and difficult.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Surprise Weekend

In honour of my husband's 40th birthday, I whisked him away for a surprise weekend in Arundel. I had been a long time hatching this plot and had booked the hotel before Christmas. I arranged for the children to stay with their grandad and the dog with a friend. I cleared his church commitments and made sure his boss knew not to arrange the upcoming social this weekend. I nearly came unstuck when I realised that his only smart shoes were at school with him, but a quick e-mail requesting them as a prop for the children's film club sorted that. He had not guessed at all and was still debating whether to get a take-away curry or a fancy supermarket meal for dinner when I 'missed' the turn-off home and pulled onto the motorway.

We had a delightful weekend in a fabulous hotel and the food in the restaurant was top-class. Even my breakfast apple was a work of art! Arundel is a pretty town, full of characterful cafes and antiques shops but not somewhere to go if you want anything else. I enjoyed the names of some of the establishments and photographed this one thinking it would make a good name for a character in one of my son's stories.
We were not in need of antiques but we did get lunch out in a tea-shop, and that was all we ventured out for. It was just wonderful to spend the day with the papers, a puzzle book and a cheesy Saturday afternoon film. I often take time out for activities, but seldom for inactivity and it was good to do nothing! We talked and laughed and hugged and held hands. We reflected on a relationship that had started on his birthday 21 years before and which we had promised to make forever on his birthday 19 years before and it was as much a celebration of our marriage as of his birthday.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Words

Following our trip to the O2 Exhibition, we are spending some time reading and writing about the Titanic. The wreck was discovered by sonar equipment and I was trying to explain the difference between sonar and echolocation - is there one? Out came out our trusty Oxford Dictionary, leading me on a pleasant rabbit trail:

"Sonar: a system of detecting objects underwater by reflected or emitted sounds."
(Aha! no swimming bats!)

"Echolocation: the location of objects by means of the echo reflected from them by a sound-signal."

In the next column was,
"Edam: a spherical Dutch cheese, usually pale yellow in colour with a red rind."
I don't know why, but this struck me as a soothing and strangely poetic collection of words. I repeated it a few times for effect.

Back across the page to "Eclair: a finger-shaped cake of choux pastry filled with cream and iced." Succinct and elegant, everything I love about dictionary entries.

My son suggested I look it up in the red (Chambers) dictionary, so "Eclair: a cake, long in shape but short in duration, with cream filling and chocolate icing." A joke! In a dictionary! What a lovely, hidden surprise.

And underneath, "Eclaircissement: the act of clearing up a midunderstanding; explanation."

Eclair, eclairissement: cake and understanding - essential to life.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

40

My husband turned 40 today.
Our first date was on the eve of his 19th birthday. We went to see a late showing of 'Pet Sematary' and I sang, very quietly, 'Happy Birthday' to him at midnight. A year later, I took him on a surprise trip from University to London. This is him, twenty years ago to the day, in St James Park:
Just one year later, on his 21st, we got engaged:
(Sometimes people ask me where my little girl gets her blonde curls from. 'Her dad,' I say, pointing, but I have this picture in my mind and the years show most in his hair!)
I can remember very clearly, the summer after we first got together, saying, on the spur of the moment, 'Why don't we get engaged?' I think he thought, to begin with, that I was joking, but I knew then which way we were headed and it seemed like a fun idea to surprise peoplebefore they expected it. Surprisingly, he didn't run away screaming, and 18 months later, he proposed. In looking at these photos this morning, I was suddenly struck by the fact that we got engaged just two years after first getting together and I was only twenty. It seems so quick, so young. And yet, on his fortieth birthday we are still together, with a beautiful family, so I guess is was ok!
I have grown up with this man. We have changed from naive teenagers to mature (well, sometimes!) adults with three young lives to be responsible for. I hope that we will grow old together and have many more adventures along the way.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Grace looks like a Dyson helpline

My Dyson vacuum cleaner has been poorly for a little while, losing suction in the extendable wand: the bit for the stairs, the smoke alarms (yes, you really should vacuum them, the fire brigade told me!) and in those tricky corners. It's not been doing a great job just cleaning the floor either, come to think of it. It made some funny noises this weekend and then just refused to switch on. In a house with building work being done, a muddy dog and three beloved gerbils who regularly are lifted out for a cuddle (bringing plenty of bedding and poop with them), the vacuum cleaner is not a luxury.
Dyson's are amazing, but expensive; I have a careful budget at the moment and it does not include repairs, let alone a new model, so it was with some anxiety that I rang the Dyson helpline on Monday morning.
I spoke to a friendly and clear man named Guy. He was able to find the record of my cleaner from the last time I rang and straightaway asked if I had cleaned the filter. Ah. That'll be the filter which is supposed to be cleaned every three months? The one that was so blocked up last time I hadn't cleaned it that I had to call the Dyson helpline because my vacuum cleaner wasn't working? No. I hadn't cleaned it. With clear instructions from Guy, I located said filter and the white screen. That took a bit of identifying. It wasn't really white, but I could imagine that it had been, once. I removed them and put them to one side for washing.
However, this did not sort out the wand. Patiently Guy led me through some diagnostic tests. Dyson's are impressively well-designed and all sorts of bits click on and off for easy checking. There is a U-bend underneath which came off nicely and this is what I found:
Yes, it's a pen! This U-bend isn't very big:
(The spoon is for size reference, it wasn't stuck in there as well!) That's a lot of dirt (not to mention the pen) to be stuck; well, more like jammed-in! And now it's not in there any more, not surprisingly, the wand is restored to full suction!
I was very pleased to be saved any kind of bill and to have my vacuuming power renewed. More than that, though, I was touched by this illustration of grace. Did Guy tell me I was an idiot for trying to hoover up a pen? Did he tell me that I could easily have checked this U-bend myself. Did he tell me that I should have listened last time I was told to regularly clean my filter? Did he berate me for having such a filthy vacuum cleaner and for not looking after my possessions carefully? No, he just calmly sorted me out and thanked me for calling! Grace: undeserved mercy.
When I told my husband all this on his return from work he confessed that he remembered the pen disappearing up the wand, that it was all his fault. Now, what did I just learn about grace ...

Monday, 17 January 2011

Peak

I have had one of the craziest and most fun weekends ever! My best friend will be qualifying as a Mountain Leader soon and is topping up her log book of 'Quality Mountain Days'. As she will be a leader, it helps her if she has people to practice leading, preferably inexperienced people. This is where I came in. So on Friday night, the moment my husband came in the door, I headed out to the Tube station and travelled up to the Midlands for two days walking in the Peak District, excited that I am 'allowed' to do this, that my children don't need me so much and my other half is capable and happy looking after them.
Conditions were awful, great practice for navigation and decision-making skills, and we soon realised that our 15km plan was over-ambitious as the strong winds were almost blowing us over with our heavy rucksacks.We trekked through the peat bogs to a more sheltered spot and a little stream and set up camp before it got dark. Tucked up in our sleeping bags we were cozy and happy, eating hot food and chocolate and catching up on conversation. Soon after nine o'clock we decided that we had better get some sleep. About ten minutes later, like a pair of Brownies on camp, we had started chatting and giggling again. More tea, more chocolate and eventually we fell asleep around midnight. So much tea may not have been such a great idea as we had to get up, wriggle out of our sleeping bags, put on walking boots and trudge across the tussocks of grass in the howling gale to pee! At least we were sure we were well hydrated.
Sunday morning saw us up, drinking more tea and enjoying luxurious chocolate porridge (I am noticing a theme here!) before breaking camp and heading for Kinder Scout. The fog came in, the rain fell and the wind blew. I had opted for glasses rather than contact lenses for simplicity's sake, but soon found I could barely see, so I was assigned the job of counting footsteps while my friend led with the compass. It wasn't easy. We had a good idea of where we were, but didn't have a precise location. Eventually we were met by some super-hardy fell runners and asked them if we were on the path to Kinder Scout. 'This is Kinder Scout' we were told, so, good enough for us, we headed back.
By now, I was tired. And hungry. And thirsty. The simplest of questions made my want to kill my much loved friend and I suddenly realized that it wasn't her, it was me. I wasn't doing so well. Water, chocolate and cuppa-soup heated on the amazing jet-boil soon revived me and I was back in the fun zone.
It wasn't long before we were back at the car and eating ginger cake from the tea shop. It was a blast from start to finish and I can't wait 'til our next trip, in February, to the Lake District.

I learned some important lessons though:

When you want to kill someone, have a drink of water and eat some chocolate, it may help.
You can still be 9 when you are nearly 40.
Pretty close is good enough.
Stay in the fun zone, and if you slip out of it, notice and do something to get back there.
Cuppa soup is made in heaven.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Growl

There are days when it feels as if my emotional skin is inflamed and scratchy, when those around me can do nothing right. I am fine alone but the moment I have to interact with anyone it is almost too much to bear. I am not sure what causes this: lack of sleep, fluctuating hormone or sugar levels, repressed emotion, and early morning run? Or perhaps it is just that everyone else really is that irritating? The dog has decided to dig holes in my lawn. (My garden is no carefully tended Eden and does sometimes look as if no-one lives here, but I find it extremely frustrating that anyone should make it worse.) My son decided to play with his football today and kicked it over the fence twice within five minutes and then came to the park in trousers at least four inches too long so they are now muddy and torn around the ankles. In the space of forty minutes, the forty-five minutes I had put aside for our chapter book, the door-bell rang twice and the phone once. The dog ran away in the park and then ran around me in excited circles, as if to make the point. The bath panel in the new bathroom is the wrong type, there is no toilet seat with the new toilet and I still don't have all the parts for the shower. I was mortified this morning when the door to the computer room creaked open one more time while I was on the phone, the children having just run screaming through, and I yelled, without looking, "What do you want now?" only to turn and see the shocked face of one of the workmen! I am truly ashamed of my own irritability but, without the option of crawling back under the duvet abd thus saving the world from my bad mood, I have yet to figure out a solution. Hazard lights perhaps?

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Decisions

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me.I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
(Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude)

Sometimes big decisions need to be made. It is important to follow God's will but I beginning to suspect that it is not so complicated as I have made out. If I honestly bring to him my desires (and that includes my desire to do what he wants and my desire to do things my way,) can I trust him to keep me safe and to work in my choices? While there is certainly a stance of refusal to hear, a kind of spiritual fingers-in-ears and loud singing which God will respect, I think he is more than capable of working in my honest but confused openness.
His gifts are always good. Coco was a gift from my heavenly father and her warm and comforting presence has allowed me to experience something that my intellect has never grasped before. I find it easy to focus on his discipline, on growth and progress, on training and self-sacrifice, but I have begun to feel the goodness of his gifts and let myself simply be loved and to know that that is the heart of his will for me.

Monday, 10 January 2011

5 minutes

Five minutes is a long time if you are waiting in the rain. It is a long time if you are late leaving the house and a child is visiting the toilet, finding a jumper and tying shoe-laces. It is a long time if you are waiting for a much missed friend to call. It is a long time to stare at a breath-taking sunset or hold a crying child.
It is not very long if that is all the time you have for a cup of tea or to clean the bathroom. It is not very long if you want to start the next activity in five minutes but have not cleared this one up yet or you just have that long to chat.
There are countless little house-hold jobs that might only take five minutes: a phone call, a quick dust, polishing the dining table or folding the towels, but there are not enough five minutes to get all those jobs done and so life is littered with messiness that would only take five minutes to sort out and the demon voices berate that it really can't be that hard to get it all done.
Five minutes is all it would take to look at a book with a child whose reading is blossoming or to listen to an enthusiastic pre-teen explain his love of Dickens. And sometimes five minutes peace and quiet seems like an impossible hope.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Suburban?

I like to think that underneath the suburban housewife, is a woman of adventure. But today I recieved the eight - yes, eight - matching tea-towels I ordered:
I have washed and ironed them, and imagine my delight when I discovered a handy little cross piece,

to hang them! I really was quite excited!

Maybe I am more of a housewife than I like to think!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Epiphany

In keeping with my New Year's Intentions, I marked Epiphany today. This is the traditional Twelfth Night celebration at the end of the Christmas Festivities, the day when the Three Wise Men arrrived to worship Jesus, the revelation of the Messiah to the gentiles.I baked a simple Galette des Rois with my eldest son. He doesn't often join in cooking now - he can make coffee, tea and muffins - what else is there to learn? - so it was a pleasant surprise when he decided to put on his apron. The cake called for three stiffly beaten egg whites and six yolks, so I took the opportunity to teach him about whisking egg white and he made meringues with the extras. We ate the cake at dinner time and read the biblical account of the arrival of the Magi and T.S. Eliot's beautiful poem. My middle son was in charge of the wise men themselves and fashioned their hats from blue tack and his collection of semi-precious stones.
It has been one of those days when I have felt that I have neglected the children. I told a friend that we had done nothing educational today, but as I told my husband what we had been up to and reflected on our day, I could see that passing on cookery skills and celebrating in small way a Christian Festival, as well as the free-write we did make time for, plus chess-and-sewing session with the neighbours, a library visit and Brownies adds up to quite an educational day.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

New Year Intentions

Handmade Homeschool, is a Canadian home-schooling blog I like to read. It's also a bit of a knitting blog, which I like to admire. (Perhaps it's a knitting blog, with a bit of home-schooling?) One comment really struck me this week, on the review of all the socks (I would love to be able to knit socks! I would love a pair of hand-knitted socks!). The focus of the socks was not just socks, but on "being kind to myself by not setting punishing goals or over-committing."
I love New Year's resolutions, and although I have set fewer and fewer in recent years, the urge is always there. I particularly like round numbers: 10 aims; or 12 goals, one for each month; and I have been gathering a few floating thoughts to formulate into 'official' resolutions. The Handmade Homeschool phrase caused me to go back and think about them in terms of over-committing, aiming too high and making failure a painful possibility. It is only a small step for a good intention to become all about the numbers. I would like to give myself some kind goals, aims to encourage me to be intentional about good things, but not sticks to beat myself with. By putting them here, I am aware that I run the risk of having to complete them because I said I would, so I will couch them in different terms.
In 2011, I would like to
1) Run the same 4 races as I did in 2010. ( I wanted to add the aim to improve my time in all of them, but have reconsidered this in the light of being kind to myself ...)
2) Walk the North Downs Way. This is already in the diary and I can't wait. Not sure that we've not set ourselves a punishing schedule but it will be great fun.
3) Complete my 100th parkrun. I have completed 64 so that makes 36 in 52 weeks.
4) Hand-paint one card per month. I had a dabble at a few Christmas and Thank You cards and they were well-received. They make a small and therefore quick painting project which is ideal for me I love feeling I have created something with a purpose.
5) To celebrate one festival per month with the children. I have the book Festivals, Family and Food and have bought the ingredients for a special Epiphany cake for tomorrow. Perhaps I'll even read 'A Cold Coming'?
6) Visit a few relatives and old friends: I have six mind in particular. This is a tricky one. Every Christmas I think, 'I must try to see so-and-so next year,' and never do. Why is this? Perhaps I don't really want to, but I would like to strengthen my links with my wider roots and to spend time with some people who meant a lot to me. I just need to get my diary out and get e-mailing ...
7) Invest in some of my girl-friends. There are a number of special women in my life; time, distance and children make it hard to spend time with them. I would like to be intentional about strengthening those bonds, an e-mail here, a text there, finding the time to drive and hour to have a coffee.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

What a mess!

I think I think things through, but I don't. I hear myself say, 'It'll be fine,' and 'I'll squeeze it in,' and I know that I often approach life the way I approach an early morning training session: don't think about it and once I'm in it, I'll just have to get on with it.
So, somehow it made sense, or seemed to make sense, to go away for 10 days, return on New Year's Eve, have old and long-not-seen friends for the day, celebrate my son's 10th birthday in London (again, a bank holiday, though not in his honour) and then have my bathroom to be ripped out. I have coped with the mess and muddle of the weekend by holding on to the thought of these few days before I begin term 'officially' next Monday. I had planned to use this week to give my house a thorough tidy; clear out some cupboards, while unpacking and washing the holiday clothes; plan the term for the children and prepare some exciting science activities; write some meaningful New Year's resolutions and get myself mentally and environmentally ready for the coming months. Instead my house has reverberated to the two workmen singing along to the radio as they bang and crash, the entire contents of my bathroom has been spread over the upstairs rooms and the carpets desperately in need of an extensive vacuum are covered in dustsheets. I cannot move upstairs, let alone tidy and organize. Of course I can't, why did I ever think I would be able to?
I have managed to clean my kitchen windows and scrub the sink. The lounge is tidy and the children have been told in no uncertain terms that if they move so much as a speck of dust they need to put it back where they found it. I can cope, I think, if I have somewhere that is tidy, somewhere that feels ordered. Everywhere I look I can see something that needs doing: DVDs that need sorting, junk drawers that need culling, recipe books that need pruning, but I am proud of my growing ability to turn my back on it, to tolerate the mess, to trust that there will be time to do it if it needs doing or that it won't seem so important later on.
It has been suggested that my need to tidy up is an outworking of my internal messiness and it is certainly true that by ordering the world around me I can soothe my tension. I have quite a lot of messy feelings right now and feel unsettled and uncertain in many places. But I am trying to deal head on with these issues, to think and to talk and to pray and to separate the internal work from the housework.

Monday, 3 January 2011

10 Years Old

It is good to share special moments with people you love:

We went to the Titanic Exhibition at the O2 Dome today, the Titanic being a much loved topic for my newly 10-year-old. It was a thought-provoking and poignant display of artefacts brought up from the debris between the two halves of the sunken ship, entwined with a retelling of the events of the night of 14 April 1912 and the personal stories of the passengers. It was an emotional visit for me: I feel a deep sense of frustration at the careless errors and frightening arrogance which led to this loss of life; I was moved to tears by the pencil stubb once held by a third-class German passenger on his way to a new world and a new life, eager to improve his English, and the top hat, water-stained from seventy years lying on the bed of the Atlantic Ocean; I wonder with my son whether I would be the type of woman who would rally the others in my lifeboat, organizing them to row and cheering them with stories and song or if I would panic and fight my fellow passengers for a place on the boat, or whether I would play music to offer comfort to the doomed or simply stand alone and wait for the end.
One anecdote that struck me was of the mail clerks, frantically moving the sacks of post up to the top decks of the ship. Despite being told that it was futile they continued and were not seen again. How noble and brave they were to stand by their duties, to guard and protect the precious mail, but how pointless a gesture when the whole lot was going down. Beneath the busyness and celebration of today, I can feel the germinating question: what do I hold onto, work hard at or seek to preserve in my life that might seem so important but is ultimately moving things around on a sinking ship? What is worth persevering with, what needs leaving behind? At this change of year, perhaps that is a better question than still trying to work out some good resolutions!