Monday, 11 December 2017

Beginning to feel a lot like.....

The Albert

I am aware that this painting is one that has been seen more than once but it is the painting on the front of the Albert Christmas card so I felt that it was appropriate considering that I have reached the point where I have to admit that Christmas has most certainly arrived. Some of my neighbours have had decorations and trees up for almost two weeks now but for most, they are now beginning to appear. So in the next day or two, I will have to venture up into the loft and bring ours out and get them up.

It is not that I treat it all like Bah Humbug or that I am a misery. It is more that I was brought up in the traditional twelve days and very little happened prior to that.

We all have different ways of looking at this time of year. As a minister of the Church, it was a very busy time but it was also a time when I became very aware of the loneliness of others and I cannot remember a single Christmas as a minister that there was not a tragedy to be dealt with. I cannot remember a year that I had to leave the dinner table for a tragic death or another equally sad happening. The cost of caring. 

So it is nice to appreciate the time of year, but for me in the old ways. 

There were, of course, the real funny happenings and things that went wrong in Christmas services like the time during the midnight church service when the one thousand capacity church was filled beyond that. I was in full flight and when saying amen at the end of what I thought was a worthy prayer opened my eyes to be facing a blank wall with my back to the congregation.

But let me tell you about Martha. She had decided to move with the times and get involved in the delights of microwave cooking. She purchased a brand new microwave cooker.

She decided to use it for the Christmas pudding. All the ingredients were assembled and in the mixing bowl. She had still got the family involved as was a tradition in her home. Each had mixed in a little surprise. 

She looked at the microwave cookbook. She could not for the life of her belief that the cooking time was ten minutes, so she decided to go with the time she knew which was fifty minutes.

She started it as per manual instructions and went off to watch the television. Being in the living room she was not aware of all the spitting going on or the smell of burning sugar, or the mini explosions taking place in the high setting oven.

When she opened the door what she found was something that looked like a ball of tar. She could not even prod it with a fork, probably not even with a pneumatic drill. It took a big strong screwdriver to remove it from the base plate of the oven. 

In a fit of pique, Martha threw the shrivelled pudding out in the yard. After a few days and an enjoyable enough pudding from the local store, she was able to laugh. The upside was that even next Christmas eve rover was still having fun with the new ball he had got last Christmas. 

Yes it is beginning to feel a lot......... Have a marvellous time I better go and see if I can get myself up into that loft.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Missing Money.

They looked to the East for a sign.

YesterdayI was involved in getting the Christmas cards that we will send to friends and loved ones ready and addressed. It is a fairly emotional time and a task that is not always as simple as it seems.

The spreadsheet from last year is opened up and the list is checked as best as can be. So much happens in a year. Some very dear friends have to be removed from the list because they have dies in the past year. Some are no longer at home but confined to a retirement home and others confined to bed. The awareness of the ever-changing movement of life.

I have a nephew who works for the Royal Mail, and this is a very busy time for them. Thinking of this yesterday as I spoke with his parents about how his job was going, I remembered the time I worked in the post office sorting room for the weeks running up to Christmas. it was a job I got because I was at university and had some free time at this time of year. The job was not as easy as it sounded when offered to me. I started work at eight pm and worked through the night, standing before a rack of boxes and huge baskets of mail waiting to be sorted for individual postal addresses, even when there was no postal number of the envelope. 

The upside of the job was the sense of camaraderie among fellow workers and the many little laughs we got over some of the addresses on the front of cards.

Such as, Mrs Forsyth, a little old lady who lives somewhere in Rosyth. Amazingly it was so often the case that some postman would know the little old lady and she would receive her card. 

There is a lovely true tale that comes from just one such sorting office worthy of telling at this time. 

George worked in the sorting office and it fell to him to attempt to sort out the strange addressed mail. One day a letter arrived addressed simply to, "God." George opened it and read,

Dear God, 
I am a 93-year-old widow living on the State pension.  Yesterday someone stole my purse.  It had £100 in it, which was all the money I had in the world and no pension due until after Christmas.  Next week is Christmas and I had invited two of my friends over for Christmas lunch.  Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with.  I have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope.  God; can you please help me?
George was really touched, and being kind-hearted, he put a copy of the letter up on the staff notice board.  The letter touched the other postmen and they all dug into their pockets and had a whip round.  Between them they raised £95.  
Using an officially franked Post Office envelope, they sent the cash on to the old lady, and for the rest of the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of the nice thing they had done.
Christmas came and went.  A few days later, another letter simply addressed to 'God' landed in the Sorting Office.  Many of the postmen gathered around while George opened the letter.  It read, 
Dear God, 
How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your generosity, I was able to provide a lovely lunch for my friends.  We had a very nice day, and I told my friends of your wonderful gift - in fact, we haven't got over it and even Father John, our parish priest, is beside himself with joy.  
P.S. By the way, there was £5  missing.  I think it must have been those thieving fellows at the Post Office.
George could not help musing on Oscar Wilde's quote: "A good deed never goes unpunished'"
There is no doubt that this time of year can have its joys and its sorrows but one thing I have found to be true that at this time of year like no other the little acts of kindness that cost us little, often no more than time, can bring an excessive amount of joy to others. 

It is, let me assure you a very good time to give thought to how you can in tiny little ways make a difference to others. If you get a knockback on some occasions, so what, it is still worth the time. 
Have fun with the greeting cards and the "Little Moments of Joj," in your power to give.

Have a wonderful day.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

That little cockroach.

Falkland The Estate.

I walk every day and frequently in Falkland Estate, where I have a number of beautiful and inspiring routes that I enjoy. 

Nature I see there is inspiring and never lets me down, A great variety of birds and animals including deer. The changing seasons each bring a beauty of their own, from autumn colours to winter sun. I never leave disappointed other than by the sight of empty plastic bottles and cans, frequently empty from the owners having drunk the so-called energy drinks from them before discarding them. 

These energy drinks are obviously not all they are supposed to be, the owners have the strength to carry them to that point full but once consumed the energy not only drain from the can but from the drinker who now finds the can so heavy he/she can no longer carry it.

One other small thing that upsets me is the number of people who on seeing a small insect or animal that disturbs them tramp on it and kill it. At least my wife who seems to find such things frightening just jumps and lets out a whelp. She would never dream of tramping on them, just wants me to remove them from her path.

This reminds me of the incident in a restaurant. All was quiet and waiters and waitresses were going about their business serving food. All of a sudden there was an unearthly screaming of fear. A lady had a cockroach settled on her lap. With a panic-stricken look, she started jumping and with trembling hands tried to remove it from her dress. 

 Her reaction was contagious, as all the other ladies at that table began to panic as she was. The lady eventually managed to dislodge the offending bu only for it to land on one of her companions. Now it was her turn to continue the drama to the amusement of others.
A waiter rushed over to the table like a knight in shining armour coming to the rescue. In the midst of it all the cockroach somehow landed on him. he stood firm and determined and watched the bug move up the arm of his shirt. When confident he reached down and gently caught it in his hand and opened the window and threw it out.
It crossed my mind that I could not recall ever reading or hearing in the news about anybody being assaulted or harmed by a cockroach. Now was it the cockroach that was responsible for the histrionic behaviour?
If so, why was the waiter not equally disturbed? he seemed to handle the situation to near perfection, without any chaos.
The truth is that it was not the cockroach but the inability of the others to handle the situation and the disturbance that caused the problem.
It is not the criticism of others or the behaviour of others that disturbs me but my inability to handle the criticism or behaviour. It is not the traffic jams on the road that disturbs me, but my inability to handle the disturbance caused by traffic that disturbs me. 
More than the problem, it is my reaction to the problem that creates chaos in my life. Rather than look to others or elsewhere for the disturbances of my moments and life I need to look at myself to nurture a calmness that can quietly learn to cope with the turmoils of daily living. 
So step one, I am going to stop moaning about those energy cans and take a container with me and just quietly lift them and take them to where they should be.
Have a calm and wonderful stress-free day. 



Friday, 8 December 2017

Sad Days and bad Weather.

The weather as I walked yesterday was, to say the least very windy. It is supposed to be even worse today and some parts of Scotland are to be even worse and may well have been overnight. 

The weather forecasters really must live in a kind of dream world where they advise people to only travel if they have to. Some people have to go out and face the weather no matter how bad it is by the very nature of their work.

I was thinking of this as the sleet hit my face and the trees groaned above and around me. I thought of all the many days I had stood in graveyards in the freezing cold conducting a funeral. I often left feeling I should not bother because I was so cold I might be the next one to be in a grave. 

Now I do not want you, especially at the time of years to feel gloomy with me speaking of funerals when Christmas is fast approaching and all we want to do is laugh.

But let me say that even in the most terrible of situations if you do not laugh you are left to cry. I had some funerals I conducted where knowing the person and caring about them and wishing to give my best to their families and loved ones I still had to laugh.

I had one friend who had insisted that when he died I was to conduct his funeral. I jokingly said I hope you turn up on time. My good friend Jim was never ever on time for anything. Sure enough on the day of his funeral, we were all standing at the graveside in a biting wind waiting and waiting. The hearse had got caught up in an accident and Jim arrived late even for his own funeral.

Another time John a lovely person who had put his whole life and limb into supporting the church and its members had a fitting end. He was always a loyal supporter of children's concerts and no matter how bad the act he always loudly shouted encore, encore, during the clapping. 

On the day of his funeral, the snow was lying thick and heavy. When they tried to lower the coffin it would not fit. The gravediggers jumped in and widened the grave. Still, it would not fit. Another attempt and this time all went well. As we left the graveyard people were heard to say, "Ah well John got two encores."

Lastly, as a coffin was being carried from the church at the end of another funeral it bumped against the corner of the wall. A groan was heard from the coffin. On inspection, the poor lady was found to be still alive and taken to the hospital. She lived a further six years.

At her funeral, as she was being carried from the church the husband called out, "Watch the wall at the corner."

If life ever gets so bad that you cannot laugh, you are left with nothing but bad feelings and tears. 

Have a good day and a laugh. I will try to be even more cheerful tomorrow no matter the weather. 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Words , Words and more Words.

Above is a painting I did and later decided to paint over. I had tried to do two things, to create a picture and to share some thoughts using words. I did not think that I had accomplished either so I overpainted it. 

On reflection maybe I should have kept it a bit longer and considered it further. But who knows? 

We often do things or say things and later regret our actions or our words. And words are strange things. I spoke to a person the other day about prunes and pruning. It was a very amusing chat because one of us was thinking about eating prunes the other about snipping branches on a tree. Made me later think about how my mother got me to eat prunes by giving me a rhyme about the prune stones gathered around the side of my plate.

Some reading this will now be repeating the rhyme. 

On my last blog, I ended using a word that maybe was not the best word to use. It is amazing how so many things can hang in the balance and use of a word.

 The strength and power of words.

Words themselves have several meanings, and the order in which we use them serves to define the context of our lives of our lives.
For example, if you’re a person known to keep your promises you are known as one who keeps their word. Or if you are a person known for only speaking favourably of others, you are putting in a good word for them. On the other hand, if you find it difficult to express yourself you can be at a loss for words. 
I saw some words on a plaque outside a house I passed the other day there. They read, "Everybody who passes through this door brings happiness. Either by their coming in or by their leaving."
I hope that I am a person who uses words that would make me welcome on the other side of that door. 
Throughout history, our greatest leaders and thinkers have used the power of words to transform our emotions to enlist us in causes and to shape the course of destiny. Words cannot only create emotions, the create actions. From our actions flow the results of our lives.
We are all aware of the consequences of those who use words to manipulate, some even manage to start wars. 
Therefore we should think twice before we speak because our words can either plant the seed of success or failure in the mind of another.
It is, therefore, WISE to use words that are:
I hope that this day my words have not been boring and a little message of some words from me to you this day.

May your burdens be light and your blessings heavy!

Have a word filled day.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Game of life.

I had never seen such a thing before, well I probably had but had not taken full cognisance of what I was seeing. I was walking along a track at the side of a field. The field was enclosed by a high deer fence with a very large mesh. As I passed I large group of blackbirds that had been perched on a tree on the other side of the track took to flight. They flew toward the fence and without a moment's hesitation flew right through the mesh.

They had not slowed down, they had all flown through a sperate part of the mesh or had managed to arrive at the mesh seconds behind the bird before it and no collision occurred.

I was mesmerised by what I had just witnessed. I stood in awe and looked again at the mesh. Where the gap was there were nine sections across and nine sections down. So 81 holes through which the birds were able to make a clear passage.  There were a great many birds flying at speed and they had all managed to hit the right gap at the right time.

As I walked further thinking of what I had just witnessed I realised that the mesh was like a sudoku puzzle. Nine by Nine.

Of course, the rest of my walk was a flight of fancy, thinking about the birds and the mesh and what I had seen. Some further thought I had because for a time I did sudoku on a regular basis.

The puzzle (life itself) is a quest for the truth. If something is wrong in one area of your life, it makes it wrong in all areas. One thing should be painfully obvious about a wrong answer, it is far from the truth.  Truth, like Sudoku, never relies upon guesswork.

You begin Sudoku, as you do life, with many unanswered questions. Yet, the numbers do not fear the unknown or fear being exposed. Nor do they worry that the secret they hold will be discovered. Many humans do, but once the truth is revealed, they are relieved of these burdens.

The empty boxes are like future dates on the calendar. No one knows what they hold until they are filled in. The facts of life (the puzzle) may be a mystery, but with enough work, the truth will reveal itself… like the unfolding of a day, an answer coming into being and written into place.

You begin Sudoku, as you do life, with certain unchangeable elements already in place. These unchangeable elements are inviolable, sacrosanct, untouchable. These invisible laws of life require the same respect. They require us to learn to accept things as they are.
The numbers cannot argue about the position they are in. If they had a mind, they would accept the fact that their creator of the puzzle placed them there for a reason. We are not simply a number waiting to be discovered. But like a number in a Sudoku puzzle, each of us is in a unique position to be the answer that others are looking for.
There is only one you in this world, and in the grand scheme of things. There has never been, nor ever will be another you living at this particular intersection of time and place in world history. 
You and me we all have our part to play in the great scheme of life. 
And how much better it is when we help each other to pass through the snares of the day.
Have a marvellous day, and may it be puzzle free.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The scars of life.

I recently joined a Facebook group about the place I was born and brought up in. How strange it was to see some of the photographs from the times when I was at school. I even went as far as to get my hands on a picture of myself performing in the Boy Scout Gang Show. 

It is indeed strange to see those pictures and to remember the days depicted. The hopes we had, the dreams and the expectations of life to come. I many ways I was fairly fortunate in that I did not at that stage in life have very many hopes or aspirations. 

I found school days a difficult time and had little hope of ever being anything very much. 

A friend of mine was being visited by his grandson. His grandson sat looking at him and said to him. "Grandad you are the same as God."  My friend not being a religious man at all wondered where that thought had come from. "How do you think I am like God?" he was hoping he was going to be told he was kind and loving. "You are both old," said the young boy.

The older we get the more we become aware of the ageing process. The exuberance of life starts to diminish.  The young and youthful faces look nothing like the one we face in the morning mirror. Reluctantly we acknowledge the ageing mask. There is no escaping the marks of life.

Everything we do every experience we have had is registered upon as surely as if we had visited a tattoo artist, which more and more are now doing. 

To a large degree, the pattern of life and the picture that emerges is down to ourselves. If we did go to a tattoo artist it would be us that would select the image to emblazoned upon us. 

In life, it is we who select what we will become and how we will be seen by others by the choices we make and the actions we perform. There is no reason for us to go through life thoughtlessly, to let chance shape what we become. That would be like going to a blind tattoo artist.

Whether we emerge from the scrapes of life beautiful or ugly is our sole responsibility. 

A man on being told something similar began to feel guilty that he had been avoiding paying his due taxes. He wrote to the Inland Revenue enclosing a cheque and a note saying, "I cannot sleep at night knowing that I have been cheating on my taxes. Please find the enclosed cheque for £1000 if I still cannot sleep I will send you the rest."

At least there was one who was trying to make sure the end result and how people saw him would not all be bad. 

Have a good day and may today not leave to many scars. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Looking Back.

I walked for three hours yesterday a beautiful cold day with such wonderful light and colour. It was one of those days that brought out both walkers and runners.  I so love to see families out walking together it takes me back through the years to when on a Sunday I did the very same with my father. He instilled in me a love of nature and the joy of walking. Yesterday was just such a day. The mist clinging to the hills deer almost within touching distance.

So I was already looking back when the first runner passed me. Now when I see a runner words that cross my mind are always the same,  "How I wish."  How I wish I was still running and feeling the energy of pace, the lightness of foot and the chill on the face. I frequently try a bit of running but have to admit gone are the days.

I then moved on my way and there I saw a group of young lads sitting together chatting together. Planning the next ploy. Maybe the tree to be climbed, the gang hut to be built out of logs and branches. The exploits of youth. 

When we older look at younger ones we often think back over our own youth.

Would we go back if we could? "If I could go back to being young only knowing everything I know now it would be great."

But would it?  To go back in time, to have the vitality of youth and also the limitations of youth with the added pressure of knowing exactly what was happening to me, might not be worth it.

When we look at youth we see how far they have to go. Years of possibilities and excitement and new possibilities before them. But, they do not as yet have the scars of life. Yes, life is adventurous and joyous. But they do not have a clue what is before them or how far they have to go.

We older look at them and occasionally we have tender feelings for the hurts they have yet to face.

Unless you are 100 there are people older than us and people much younger. But we are all still on a journey. For every one of us what is yet to come is a mystery. Maybe that is the best it can be. We all, except the very youngest have greater wisdom than we did in younger years. We all have a blindness to the predicaments still to come on the journey of life. Maybe that ignorance is what keeps us sane?

In the end, the only regrets we should have are the chances we did not take. Make these a few as possible and enjoy the next ploy, the next escapade.

Have a marvellous day go on and grab the chance to do something new. 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

The Artisan.

I watched yesterday as two children tussled over what looked like identical pencils. I overheard the mother say to the one who seemed most upset," They are both exactly the same." "No, they are not," said the young lad. "That one is definitely mine it feels different."

Now, this is something I can appreciate. The question is, "Does a tool have a spirit of its own?"

When I worked as a butcher, all those years ago, at the end of each working day all the knives would be placed on a rack for safety. The next working day each of us selected our own. They might have looked the same but they were, in fact, all different to each person. We would never have lifted or thought of using the knife of another.

Strangely enough, this was the rules of the ancients that tools should be handled only by their owner. It was thought that each tool had its own spirit that worked in harmony with the owner.

For many years this was the way of the craftsperson. Some made elaborate boxes to keep their tools in almost like little shrines.

Then along came industrialisation. All tools became common use and were stored in a central place and nobody owned any tool. For the efficiency of mass production, the spirit of the tool was lost.

For many, the belief that a tool had a spirit was nothing but superstition. AN object is an object. My brushes that I use to create a painting not only have a spirit they each have a name. I am aware if I treat them with respect they will do what my heart desires. 

To know this and to adopt this attitude brings with it self-realisation. I too have an inward spirit and does everybody I meet in the course of the day. 

By respecting the spirit of the tool before me aids and helps my pursuit of perfection. To see in others this inward spirit allows us to gain true friendship. When we speak the name of another we do so with a deep regard for who they are. 

I spoke yesterday with a mother who had adopted a young lad with Autism. She spoke of him with love and admired what he brought to their relationship. She had found the art of seeing the inner spirit of all things. That young lad will flourish under her nurture as she strives for him, the very best.

The Buddha was once asked if friendship of another was half of the way to find enlightenment. The Buddha answered, "Friendship is the whole way to enlightenment."

Rejoice in your friends and have a marvellous day. 

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Words of Wisdom.

I overheard a conversation between an older gentleman, and I use the word gentleman in its sincerest form, because it seemed to me that was exactly what he was, and a younger man. The older man ended by saying a couple of lines from a poem.

As he walked away the younger man turned to his friend, “What does he know, the old coffin dodger?” Does he not know I have a degree, who does he think he is trying to tell me something? So it went on until I left the two standing waiting to pay for their alcohol carry out.

I had heard the poem many times and can remember when I had to learn it off by heart and be able to stand in front of all my classmates and repeat it.

Those were the days when we thought that if it was learned off by heart we had learned something. We learned math tables and all sorts of things. The government see to want to reintroduce method of learning to schools again.

The amount of information learned and stored is never a measure of the learning. It is possible to have a mind so full of information that we fail to sort and manage it. It is possible to have a mountain of information and no wisdom.

In the words, I heard in the conversation the older man was not just telling what he knew he was also sharing a wealth of experience that had made sense of what he had learned.

I came out of university with a head full of knowledge but very quickly realised that my father, who had never had such an experience had probably forgotten more than I had learned.

There are one or two things I have discovered about education learning and wisdom that are well worthy of a moments thought, I think.

Children do not care what you until they know that you care. A student or friend may not always remember what you told them but they will remember how you made them feel.

If after you have heard a poem and you then look at the world and for a moment it looks just like the poem you can be sure that the person sharing the poem had learned about wisdom and life. The same goes for a painting if the artist has made you see something different the artist has succeeded in sharing his knowledge.

Wisdom and learning is not simply a mental process but it is the all about sorting out what is important for yourself and those around you.

Politicians and educators can have all the words but if they do not have a real desire to understand the needs of others they would be best keeping their counsel.

Now, what was it I was going to say?  Have a good day.