We’re later than we intended to be, but we’re still early. It’s our turn to help set up. The children take chairs from me as I bring out the stacks, then there’s the projector and the microphone, plus I need to run through the music with the others. We won’t have much time, but we never do, and we always manage to pull it off. We joke that if our band had a name, it would be A Wing And A Prayer.
Only a few minutes before we start, and familiar faces are smiling their greetings from across the room. As the hum of conversation grows, I see my children playing with their friends in the aisles between the chairs—are they being too loud? I see a few people slip into a side room to pray before we start. Through another door, I catch the movement of busy preparations in the kitchen, teas and coffees don’t make themselves, and they’ll be needed straightaway after the service.
Continue reading I Feel It On Sundays The Most
You wouldn’t notice it, if you walked by. It’s just a tree, next to an old house on a university campus. There’s a nice view from the hill, so you’d look at that, not a random tree. But I go there for the tree. To me, that tree, with the ground under it, is sacred.
Twice, I sat at a table under this tree. Twice, I set the table up and decorated it and prepared it for a surprise and a question. Twice, I worked up my courage to ask a question at the table under the tree, and both times I heard the same answer, the answer that changed my life:
Continue reading Yes
In the weeks we’ve lived in lockdown, we’ve discovered that Parcheesi is a fun game, car parks make good bicycle playgrounds when there aren’t cars in them, and there are paths to walk on near us that we never knew about. Having a 2km travel limit for weeks on end has forced us to be creative, and to look more closely at the familiar things in front of us.
Normally, if we want to see flowers in the Spring, we go to the old mansion house a few minutes away, where the formal walled gardens are open to the public and kept blooming with exotic beauty from around the world. Ever since we moved here, we’ve felt lucky to live near such a place. Now that place is closed. Instead, we walk in the industrial estate.
Continue reading 33 Wildflowers
From the sandy beach in Youghal, Ireland, you can see Capel Island just off the coast, with half a lighthouse. The unfinished tower now serves as a shelter for wild goats, who are the island’s only inhabitants, aside from the birds. But there’s more mystery in the history of Capel Island than abandoned construction projects and goats—legend has it that an infamous pirate buried treasure there in the 1620’s. We know the pirate was real, and we know his name: Nutt. We also know that he was betrayed and nearly hanged in England, but managed to avoid the noose thanks to his friendship with the Secretary of State.
After our family heard about Nutt, the infamous Captain began making appearances on family camping trips, telling tall tales of his fantastic adventures. In every story he nearly died, yet somehow managed to escape at the last minute. I wrote down some of these tales, intending to give them to my children as a Christmas gift (that was nearly three years ago… better late than never, right?). Now, in order to give them a physical copy that looks and feels like the real thing, I’ve self-published the book through Amazon. I’ve got their copies ordered, but in light of the current situation I thought I’d share the stories with you as well, in case you or your children would also like to hear the tall tales of the Captain willing to travel beyond the Edges of Doom in his hunt for the legendary Dessert Island, where the lollipoppies grow behind brown sugar beaches.
I want this to be my gift to you, so I’ve made the Kindle version free until Friday, the 1st of May (as long as Amazon will let me):
Continue reading The Notorious Adventures Of Nutt The Nefarious
The door was stuck.
My two sons (3 and 1 at the time) had locked themselves inside the bathroom, and the stakes were high: the younger one had an ongoing problem where he would hold his breath and pass out if he got too upset. He got upset a lot, but one of us had always been there to bring him back around. What would happen if he passed out inside the locked bathroom..?
“Don’t worry, boys, we’re right here”
I used my happy voice, and tried to explain to the older one how to put the key in the door and turn it. It didn’t work. A few more tries, knowing that there was only one other option.
Continue reading Kicking In Doors Is Harder Than It Looks In The Movies
While adding a slew of new things to worry about, this long lockdown also removes some normal kinds of pressure. There are things I don’t have to worry about right now, like how I’m coming across in a social setting, or if I’m being too loud or too direct or too effusive or too whatever with people around me. They aren’t around, so it’s not an issue. I don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules of social engagement and politeness. I don’t have to check the temperature of the mood in the room and adjust my body and language accordingly. These days, I can slip comfortably into whatever unusual habits I prefer, and no one will give me a funny look to let me know I’ve missed a standard social cue. I can do things my way, and no one will see if my way is weird. I’m living in safety, inside the walls of my own comfort zone.
Continue reading Is Lockdown Going To Make Me Weird?
This is the most unusual Easter weekend any of us have ever seen, and hopefully ever will. The sun is blazing where I live, but we can’t go out and we can’t even have church services to mark the most important day in the Christian calendar. This Easter Sunday will be different, to say the least. But I can’t stop thinking about Easter Saturday.
It’s the day we normally set aside for egg hunts and preparation for Sunday’s celebrations. It’s the day that even the gospels skim over, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The day between death and resurrection. The day when Jesus’ disciples were heartbroken and hopeless, even though they were only one day away from seeing the greatest victory the world has ever known.
Continue reading Don’t Skip Easter Saturday
The world is a mess right now, but I have a feeling a lot of houses and gardens have never been cleaner. Projects that were living on the “when we have time” list are getting done, now that our calendars are cleared. Gardens are being planted, storage is being organised, and fresh paint is going up on walls. It’s happening at our house, too, which is why I’ve broken out the work clothes. You know, the ones with the paint on them and the holes in the knees, the ones I don’t care what happens to them because they’re already a mess.
Continue reading Cleaning Is Messy Work
There’s another kind of sickness growing in the shadow of the pandemic. It feeds on isolation and loneliness, and our quarantines and lockdowns have created the ideal breeding ground for its growth, which is already being documented. Unlike the virus it’s nothing new, and I’ve seen the destruction it can leave behind.
I remember the eyes of my friend – I saw it there. More precisely, I saw nothing. His eyes were empty, and I found it unnerving to see them looking around with no life in them. I’d seen plenty of tired eyes, sad eyes, and eyes filled with fear – but I’d never seen eyes so full of emptiness. No spark. No motivation. No concern. Nothing. Except for one thing: pornography. And that one thing had driven out all the others. He lived for it, and died a little more each day for it. I saw it happening, and I hated it.
Continue reading The Other Pandemic
My son had worked for an hour, building a sandcastle on a stone in the middle of a tide pool, complete with a bridge and a small village on the shore. He even gave it a tourist attraction, “The Giant’s Footprint”, which made the village famous, prosperous, and secure.
…but not very.
The tide was rising. We could see it closing in, but we thought we still had time before it got to the village. Irish beaches can be surprising, though – the sand can look level as it stretches on and on, but when the water comes up it follows subtle hills and valleys that the eyes hadn’t recognised. One of these small rises had been protecting my son’s tide pool kingdom without us realising it. When the water came over, it came fast.
Continue reading The Tide Came In Faster Than We Expected