Way back in the distant lands of 2008, I posted once about the marvels of my lovely friend Mandy. (You can read that post here).
Mandy and I first met in late 2004 at a prayer conference run by the Salvation Army, and its a weekend I remember distinctly. It was the first ‘prayer-ish’ event I’d ever been to as a team member, and it took place just a week after I’d moved to Wandsworth, so I was pretty bewildered. Just to add to my somewhat dazed state, that night me and my (beautiful, wonderful and sadly now-departed) roommate had been woken up on the hour, every hour, by a rather persistent alarm clock. Rather than taking it as a sign from the Lord, or merely unplugging it, we’d just ‘whacked’ it, every hour, and then dozed back off for another sixty minutes sleep… bright!
Anyway, all that aside, the lovely Mandy was there, and I remember a significant conversation, that I will not share with the cyber-world. It was a precious, symbolic and significant weekend, and my first opportunity to share the heart of someone who is like a sister to me, now.
Life seems pretty different, seven years on. Both of us have ‘party-ed’ and grown and struggled and enjoyed and loved and hurt and found and lost, since then. Both of us are in different places now, with different outlooks and experiences than we’d had then. I was sitting next to Mandy on a train, heading to the Millenium Wheel in London, when I heard about Jo’s death, and then in a car with her, driving to my birthday celebrations, when we heard the news of Stuart’s. Those were dark hours, and its good to have a friend beside you in them, in the silent angry moments as well as the moments when you just want to push back the heavy weight of grief for a while and have a laugh. Mandy is strong and dependable and wise, and I love her for that.
And my friendship with Mandy is so much more than the dark times we have walked through together, though it is deepened by them. Mandy gets me, which is a precious thing to find in a friend. She appreciates and celebrates and encourages my peculiarities, smiling wryly as her (probably bemused) postman delivers another quirkily addresses postcard (“Mandus Sharminator”, or “Mandimus of Glory” probably rate as my favourites). She picks awesome Christmas presents, she joins us in adventures here in the city, and she brings so much joy and fun to our lives (as well as bad Leonardo DiCaprio films ).
She’s a hopeful person, too, and she has really encouraged me this year in my searching for the new. Her tenacity and trust in God, and the way she has been open to the new things he is doing, have inspired me to keep open and keep searching too.
I was inspired to write this post because the lovely Mandy has just started blogging, at
I love her tagline – ‘The Next Chapter – Live, Laugh, Love’… those are some pretty awesome things to choose and strive for and hope for and define yourself by. I am really excited about what this new year, and new chapter have in store for her, and also for the many coffees we will drink whilst chatting these things through
EDIT: She also has a lovely Canterbury pic as her banner… I told you she was wise!!
This past week I had the amazing opportunity to go to Paris for a few days.
I love cities. I love the buzz and the vibrancy. I love winding alleys and old architecture and hidden-away boutiques. I love the mix of old and new, of ancient history and modern technology, I love the sense of movement and change that is so often tangible.
I’ve been to France a few times this year, but never to the capital before, and I think capitals are special. (It reminded me of everything I love about London, even though its a vastly different place). We stayed in a lovely flat, and met some beautiful and welcoming people, with such a similar heart to us. That’s one of the things I love about the travelling we do – I love meeting people who should be strangers but straight away there is that sense of feeling and connection. I love sharing stories and intermingling lives and growing together, I love the expanding, international family of people I hold dear – both in Europe and further afield. I always feel like I learn so much from spending time with them.
There are precious memories from these past few days that I don’t want to ever forget: the man with the ‘Bill and Ted anointing’, the strange rain inside the Eiffel tower that somehow only rained on us, the sweet old lady who stopped us on the Pont Des Arts and told us most of her life story, standing on the side of the bath to get a view of the Sacre Couer, and those are just the light-hearted things. There are many other things I could describe – thoughts, impressions, questions, lingering feelings for the place that followed us back across the channel. It was deeply impacting.
One of the other amazing things that I loved best about the city was the profusion of art throughout the city. We didn’t go into the Louvre to look at the paintings, but we did walk through the courtyard to see the glass pyramids outside. I liked better the vintage French art posters for sale at little stalls along the Seine, and I picked up five up at the Sacre Couer the first evening. So I wake up to views of Paris in 1889 now I also loved the street art that could be found on almost corner. Much of it seemed really prophetic, and I took about a million photos. Here is just one example that I loved:
I know that our relationship with Paris is one that will continue. A dear friend moves out to France next year, and even since returning there have been so many little reminders, little nudges to keep running with what was started there… who knows how that will turn out!
…When you dream,
what do you dream about?
When you dream,
what do you dream about?
Are they colour or black and white,
Yiddish or English
or languages not yet conceived?
Are they silent or boisterous?
Do you hear noises just
loud enough to be perceived?
Do you hear Del Shannon’s “Runaway” playing
on transistor radio waves?
With so little experience,
your mind not yet cognisant
Are you wise beyond your few days?
When you dream,
what do you dream about?
When you dream,
what do you dream about?
I love this picture… and its completely real. A bit of ’post-production’ colour enhancing, but that’s all!:
Christine and me 5th Sept 2010
The four of us on Dartmoor.
At our Boiler Room community get together tonight, we thought about how we’re called to love God, love each other and love the ‘other’. It made me think muchly, and though its late now, and I should be sleeping / preparing for work / packing / writing emails to prayer team members, I’m sat here musing.
We chatted a bit about how we, as community, could show that we loved each other. Its more than just saying hello and making the occasional cup of tea, its really knowing and journeying and ‘doing life’ with each other. But how do you do that with a disparate group of people? And maybe disparate is the wrong word, we’re all connected by a similar heart and passion for the community and the city, we’re all in a similar geographical location, we love eating and sharing together (tonight Sam made the yummiest curries ever)… we know a bit about each other, thanks to some imaginative ice breakers, but there’s got to be more than that.
I think some of it is about story. I was sitting there tonight thinking about all of us and wondering about all the collective experiences and journeys and paths that had brought us to that point. I thought about all the conversations and dreamings over coffees and hopes and visions that had gone into the mix, and I thought about the struggles and hard times that added to the picture too. I thought about what is to come, too. What will I say of, know of, think of these fellow-sojourners after a few years of travelling together? Where will our collective and individual dreams take us? And how will that impact the city as a whole? I came away thinking that I want to get to know these people more. I want to understand what makes them tick, how best they receive love, and where they struggle to do that. And I want to be honest too. I want to know and be known. I don’t want this to be another social club, or just a bunch of good ideas, a project that affirms us and makes us feel warm and glowy, I really want us to go deep and love where it really matters.
We talked about the Holy Spirit coming to communicate adoption, to put the orphans into families, to speak of sonship, of family and belonging. That inspires me and brings me much hope.
The last few days have gone by in a bit of a daze. I suppose its a grief reaction that everything feels strange, in stasis. You can be doing the most normal things in the world and then you realise you have forgotten why you are doing them, or you find yourself suddenly rendered unable to complete the task in hand. This morning, I sprayed deodorant on my hair instead of dry shampoo, and then I spilt coffee everywhere – the most simple things in the world feel either impossible or pointless.
And then, there’s the simmering resentment at everyone, at the people you pass who are seemingly just getting on with normal life. How can there be tourists slowly meandering, enjoying a city which my friend doesn’t get to enjoy any more. How can it be a normal summers day, when it feels like everything has changed.
And I kinda think it would be better if I could just get in touch with any of the feelings around these recent events, but all the emotion feels shut down, safely shelved out of reach where it can’t do any harm, so I’m in this weird limbo.
Its probably bad to admit, also, that I’m struggling with some of the ‘neat’ Christian responses to this stuff. Last year we prayed and prayed for Jo to get better, we did everything in the ‘book of how to make prayer work’, we practised what we’d been preaching and teaching for years and years: we fasted and did battle, we cut stuff off and spoke stuff over, we declared and released. We believed for answered prayer, and she did get better, and not just a little bit better, but better than they could have hoped or expected. We talked of miracles, and everything looked like it was going to be ok. I spent my birthday last year worried but at least thankful that she was on the mend, and then, well… a last minute cruel twist.
And then this time last week, there was the news that the cancer that Stuart had (not ‘his cancer’, you understand), had tipped over into that scary ‘untreatable’ category. And I was so confused. The last I’d heard he was hoping for news that he was in remission, and he nearly had been, last year. And somehow nearly in remission but not quite, and then it coming back with spiteful vengeance seems all the more wrong.
The (somewhat annoying but probably comforting) thing is, I can’t have a crisis of faith at this point. Oh, I’ll joke that God must be on sabbatical, I’ll rant and avoid leading prayer meetings, but there’s not a single bit of me that thinks this proves that God isn’t real or good. I know he is, I know he is the one thing in all this that does make sense and the one person who is stable and unchanging. But it doesn’t stop me wanting to give him a good shake.
And I keep thinking how it wasn’t meant to be like this. I was so scared that if I let myself get close to Jo she would somehow disappear, and then that seemingly came true. And I left London feeling jaded and broken about that, and feeling like I never wanted to go through that again. And it was like back then I needed here to be something different to that. I wanted here to be a safe place and a new start where people didn’t die and those I loved and cared about were consistent and safe. I know that’s unrealistic, but yeah…
Stuart was the most amazing person. He was funny and friendly and yet endearingly grumpy and ‘old-school’ too. Last year he bought me a tub of magnetic alphabet letters for my birthday. I loved that gift because it was so quirky and yet really ‘me’. It made me smile that thought about the gift, and that he had ventured into the Early Learning Centre and bought them, when he could have just picked me up a shower gel in Boots. He shared some of my really significant Canterbury moments too – the Sunday when I said ‘I wish we could all just bunk church and go to the beach’, and so we did. Stuart, and the community he is part of, felt like something strong and solid in the ‘I’ve just moved to a new city and don’t know many people’ melee. And, in all the years that this city was just a bolt hole I visited on the odd occasion, I looked forward to the little things – chinese takeaways and Doctor Who and amateur dramatics. I enjoyed watching both Stuart and David perform in the musical version of Titanic, I loved just hanging out in their ‘nearly falling down house’ and watch it gradually transform into a home. I loved hearing his tales of school (he was a teacher), and who could forget the Sheep rustling board game we played once, where you had to blow your whistle before each dice roll. Stuart repeatedly forgot to blow his whistle, and so we kept all stealing his sheep, something we found hilarious and he found more than a little annoying!
If there’s one issue I really struggle with, in the world, it is the issue of unfulfilment, like if someone has an opportunity robbed from them, or doesn’t get to do something that to everyone else is a given. It bothers me if someone has an ambition that they don’t get to fulfil, or a dream that they don’t get to see come to fruition. I guess there’s stuff in all of our lives where that is the case, and its just part of those everyday disappointments we all have to grapple with, but it makes me feel sad. I’m not saying Stuart was unfulfilled, not at all, but I know there was stuff he wanted to see and do and be that he never got the chance to. And it stirs me up, that does. I guess what makes me feel worse about it is that Hollywood ideal of getting the chance to right some of that before one dies. Like having a ‘bucket list’, and working through that item by item. When I heard that they couldn’t treat the cancer anymore, I was gutted, but I thought Stuart would at least have time to come back to Canterbury, spend time with his dear friends, have lunch in his favourite restaurants. It is nonsensical that not even two weeks after hearing that news he had died. How does anyone decline that quickly? And how do those of us who cared about him get our heads around that?
It feels like the most selfish thing in the world to reflect on, but I hate that it happened on my birthday too. How did death creep in and leave such a dent when we were so deliberately celebrating life? And my dear friends were so wonderful about still carrying on with our plans, but I hate it that June 12th has joined June 27th in being one of those dates that will stand out as marking a significant loss.
It being June again had highlighted for me how ‘not over’ Jo’s death I am. I haven’t repressed the grief or ran from it, and it is so much better than those dark days of last July, but I’ve been so aware of it, poignant and painful and raw. And I’ve been so thankful for all the stuff that God has said and done and brought about, but that doesn’t take away the sting of missing someone so much. And I feel a little overwhelmed for there to be this new, keen grief in the mix as well now. How do I know when I am grieving for Jo and when for Stuart, or when its just general grief for the other losses that I don’t often talk about? How do I trust when it feels like the people I care about will be taken away? How do I keep on living and talking about prayer and hope, when this feels like another blow to that? And how do I help my lovely friends who’ve lost their dear friend and housemate and co-community member? What does all this mean for them? So many questions and just no simple answers.
Sometimes life is wretchedly unfair. That’s an understatement, but its pretty much what I thought today, when I heard that my good friend Stuart had died.
I like this photo of him, I took it when we were on a walk in Whitstable, on one of the many times I visited here before moving down. It was such a lovely day – spontaneous and refreshing. In fact, Stuart was one of the first people I met here.
Last year, Stuart contracted Lymphoma on his lungs. He had a whole bunch of chemo, which was meant to wipe it out. Everyone was hopeful that it would/had.
Then just last week we got the news that it hadn’t, and that things were a whole lot worse. On Monday I heard that the doctors had said there was nothing more they could do.
To be honest, I can’t get my head round it that less than two weeks ago he was expecting news that he was in remission… and today… its awful.
Today was my birthday, and it was a lovely day, but it was so sad too, as we got the news.
Still reeling at the moment. It just feels so unbelievable and unfair.
Can’t really say any more than that at the mo.
I’m meant to be revising, but I felt like I wanted to write. There’s so much going round and round in my head, so much is good and hopeful, but I can’t help thinking about the events of a year ago. And then I think, how did a year go so fast? How many times these past 365 days have I looked back and thought “a year ago things were so different”, and “what would I have done differently If I’d have known what was just around the corner”?
I remember, back before the events of June 2nd last year, often wondering what it felt like to lose someone, I wondered what grief was like, grief that keeps you awake through the night and has you weeping at the most inane things, grief that creeps up on you, grief that takes away the certainties and confounds what you thought you knew, what you had only just dared to trust in anyway.
I’ll remember that night, always, as being a beautiful evening. And I’m so so thankful to God for its preciousness. I’ll remember sharing hopes and dreams as we prepared a meal. I remember hearing stories of her inspiring weekend and feeling encouraged and challenged. I’ll remember the thrill of looking forward to what was ahead, of big visions. I’ll remember that the blueberries were mouldy, and that the fruit salad I made was sadly devoid of them. I’ll remember meeting with others who dared to believe that a city could be changed, I’ll remember talking plans for websites and ‘fighting books’, and I remember a long hug, our last hug.
And I remember, later, the text message, saying Jo had collapsed and been taken to hospital. I felt so confused because just over an hour before she had been so full of life and vision. She couldn’t be ill, she’d been so alive. I remember feeling such a dread, sitting on my bed crying, even though it felt mad, because every rational process in my mind was telling me it was probably something minor. I couldn’t sleep, could barely pray, could only numbly text equally concerned friends and hope and wait for news.
And nothing was ever the same again, and a year on I’m not sure it ever will be. And we have all learnt, we’ve walked onwards through the grief, we’ve found relief from those first days when it felt like the rug had been pulled out from underneath us. We drew together as a community and weathered those weeks, we cried together, we shared memories and dared to believe for resurrection, we stared unanswered prayer – the loss and confusion and anger it brings – right in the face. Our hopes didn’t die with Jo, because they were fixed in something, in someone everlasting, and we kept going, kept on looking for the dawn after the darkest day.
And we’re not through yet, I’m not through yet. So many times a week I think of little things I want to share with her, most of all I miss those ‘dreaming big’ conversations we used to have, where we’d dream up harebrained plans to help others get through the darkest of stuff, where we’d share stuff God had said, where we’d stay up to midnight brainstorming about boiler rooms and space rockets and prayer teams among other things. I think of her when I see an Eddie Stobart lorry, or peruse Marks and Spencers for caramelised carrot and wenleysdale sandwiches. I think of her when I look at words she wrote and remember the passions she lived with. I miss her loads.
But if there’s one other thing that comes to mind when I think about Jo, it is the irrepressible hope she held onto at all times. And it makes me more determined to live to tell as many people as I can about that hope, to carry on the work she started, to live my life as a ‘herald of hope’. Last week, here within this new community I find myself, we talked about how our greatest losses and pains in life gave us an authority to believe for and pray into specific areas. And I truly know there are a lot of situations out there that look hopeless, a whole load of people who struggle with that sense of desolation and despair. And I want to see change in those people and places. Call me an idealist, but I believe that things can always change.
You don’t spend five years working closely with someone without picking up certain of their ways and mannerisms, and so often I find myself grinning inwardly thinking ‘that was such a Jo-ism’. However painful the last year has been at points, I wouldn’t have swapped the preceding five for all the world, and I am so so thankful for them, and all I learnt. I feel like I didn’t tell Jo enough times how much she meant to me, because I know that my life is so different and so much the better for our relationship, but I trust that somewhere in it all she knew, and, however tough these next few weeks are, there are many things that loss and pain simply cannot erase.
A few weeks after I’d moved here, a friend was raving over a new CD that she had procured. I half listened, and I have to be honest and say that my first thought was, ‘hmm, banjos?!’
I didn’t think anymore of it, until another good friend (with refined musical tastes, may I add), mentioned the band again. They were called Mumford & Sons, and apparently they were going to be huge. I was cynical, but promised to listen, and after a few car journeys with them pumping out on the ipod I have to say I really began to like their music.
The banjos still bemused me a little, but I loved the quirkiness of their sound and the lyrical intelligence of their songs. I was so happy the day I discovered that the words from one of their singles were taken from ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, which we are struggling through enjoying at uni.
My memories are often very positional, so I began to associate certain songs with certain bits of this lovely county we spend much time driving around, and I soon downloaded the songs for myself and set to learning some of the words.
Things got more intriguing when it turned out that a friend of a friend knew the lead singer of the band, and soon it transpired that they were playing a gig at Shepherds Bush Empire. We managed to wangle tickets, and a potential meeting with them beforehand.
So yesterday was the big day, and it was a lovely one for a trip to London. I was treated to a lovely meal, and then we hotfooted it up the Motorway towards the big smoke. There was a lot of hanging round in a pub, playing pool and randomly banging into people who knew people I knew in Wandsworth, then we headed to the venue for what was a rocking concert.
It was only the second gig I’ve been to, and very different from my boys Take That, but the six of us who travelled up from here had a really good time. I think it changes how you hear songs when you have heard them live, and so next time I listen to the Mumfords I’ll be dreaming of Shepherds Bush!!
Here is my friend’s son posing with Marcus, the lead singer of the band:
Tonight was the monthly gathering of praying folk from 4 of the local areas around here. I love the feeling of gathering with others and praying together and just having a laugh in the process. It’s always good to be able to build up a bit more of a picture of what is going on in the county too, as being a bit of a newbie I haven’t quite got my head around it all yet.
There weren’t many of us out tonight (I think the bitter weather put most people off), but even in a small group it was good to chat and pray and share what we think God is saying. The meeting is called Momentum, and there is always a real sense for me of that, when we gather together.
Its fab, starting a new year and thinking ahead to what might happen in it. I enjoyed the journey there and back with two lovely friends also. Now all we need is a few inches of snow and my week will be complete
I’ve been thinking a bit over the last couple of days about this. Apparently kids get taught it in schools these days. We never did, (which explains why, when the Queen expounded the glories of the Commonwealth on Christmas day, I had little idea what she was talking about).
Anyway, so being born a UK Citizen is a great and wondrous thing, you get, a whole bunch of rights that are marvellous and beneficial. These include stuff like legal, civil and human rights, protection, free speech and other gems. You also have responsibilities… stuff like respecting diversity and engaging in community and contributing to the economy. It strikes me that a lot of that stuff is inherent knowledge, I haven’t found myself walking to uni musing about Britain’s reliance on other nations, and lot of those rights are things we take for granted until they get removed or impinged upon.
On Saturday, a friend and I went to see the film Avatar, directed by James Cameron, which is probably one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I won’t spoil the plot or anything, but belonging is a strong theme throughout. The film raises a question about kin – when do you become part of a people rather than just someone who is temporarily passing through? What does it really mean to be loyal and true? And when does that belonging become incontrovertible or irreversible?
I love it that there is a process in our society that allows someone to pledge their allegiance and commitment to their community, and to receive the rights and benefits of that people. I love it that a feature of citizenship ceremonies is speeches of welcome from local dignitaries and gifts that reflect a local flavour. I know it often doesn’t work like this in practice (more’s the pity), but I love the sense of adoption and protection – the biblical thing about orphans and widows being taken in and looked after and cared for. I love it that we can gain from the wisdom and vibrancy that other cultures bring to our society.
It makes me think about church, and boiler room, and what it means to be adopted, to be citizens of God’s household. Its cool to think that we get a bundle of rights, and that he gives us some responsibilities too as part of that. I love the idea that, in community, we’re not just ‘doing’ stuff… putting on meetings or doing the odd mission trip or running a soup kitchen, we have the opportunity to belong, to be kin. It’s much deeper than just charitable activities. Or I guess thats how I think it should be.
And I don’t even just think its some weird churchy thing. I think I belong to this city – this place that I love, where I drink coffee and buy toothpaste and smile at bus drivers. I am a citizen here, I have rights and responsibilities and my being here adds something beautiful to the mix. And I benefit from the beautiful things those around me bring, too. I belong to my uni friends too, I love them, and the colour they bring to my life (and my facebook wall).
As part of the citizenship ceremony, you get to swear allegiance to God, pledge yourself to the community and celebrate the significance of being part of something bigger than yourself. I am committed to the former, excited about the middle, and increasingly discovering the life and colour of the third. Exciting times.
Hmmm, so the post I’ve spent most of the week trying to avoid writing, mentally beginning, scribbling out, tossing the metaphorical paper into a handy waste-paper basket and giving up.
But the past year is worth reflecting on. For all it’s ups and downs it’s been the end of a decade, the rounding up of ten years of change and growth. I am not ending it where I expected to, ten years or even ten months ago, but even after all, I feel this is a positive ledge to be perched on, swinging my feet over the edge and thinking back to the climb that brought me to this place.
Ten years ago, I sat up at midnight-ish and wrote a prayer. My life was about to change in ways I couldn’t have perceived and I wouldn’t have desired. But there was a 16 year old me who wanted to make my life count for something, and I knew that God had something to do with that. And then, at the same time, I was so sure he was mad with me… I was so worried that he would give up and walk away. I wish I could go back and reassure that younger me that everything was gonna be ok, that he had good plans, that there was going to be a life of such freedom and so many blessings ahead. I wish I could reassure her that he wasn’t angry at all… hmmm.
The past twelve months have had some real highlights. Work-wise I think of the Setting the Captives Free conference we held in Durham, and the Fullness Retreat. And who could forget my summer travels, over 200o miles as part of the ALOVE UK Road Trip. Those are some precious memories, times and events when I really felt connected in to something bigger than myself, times when I had the blessing of catching a glimpse of what God is up to. I loved those events, the people I met there, and the journeys. The season has changed now and I’m much more based in one place, but I remain so so thankful for five years when I did get to travel extensively, to see new things and meet new people.
And then there’s uni… I guess I’ll always be able to look back on ’09 as the year when I finally stopped procrastinating and actually took the plunge. I was worried that I’d do three weeks and realise that I hated it, that I’d made a huge mistake etc… but that really hasn’t happened. I love uni, I love the intellectual stimulation. I’d forgotten quite how much I love learning. I love lying in till ten and living on caffiene and working out the intricacies of the wonderful new ‘Learning Centre’… it really is all good. I even love essay writing, and got a ‘first’ for my first essay, which I’m really proud about.
I loved my five years based at Wandsworth… and it’s proudly my answer when people at uni ask where I’ve come from, but its been fab to find my way around a new place, a new home. I love the church I’m part of here, and am exciting to keep exploring with a new community. I remember saying to someone in my first week here, ‘I’d love a church community that just meet in the pub, that just hang out and do life together’… I can really see how God has answered that prayer, even though it looked impossible when I said it.
Those are all (or at least some) of the glorious moments… there were also birthdays, christmases, cake-baking sessions and cliff-climbing adventures. There were walks along the Thames and trips to the cinema and first gigs. There were unwrapping mac-book moments and fitting too much stuff in a car excitements. There were some real highlights this year. It has been a year of hope and discovery and connection, and I’m so thankful for that.
I can’t help feeling sad though, when I think about this year. Even when I think about those triumphs of work and relationship and community, I know I’ll always remember 2009 also as a year of significant and painful loss. The pain won’t always be quite as raw, I know, but it has shaped this year, since the difficult days of June, when Jo got ill. Grief is a bizarre thing, and there are still moments when I think to myself that all this is just some bad and elongated dream. I’ve missed Jo this Christmas, she was always so so fun at Christmas. And I’ve missed her wisdom and encouragement as I’ve started this new chapter of life. I’ve missed our appreciation of Eddie Stobart and Wendsleydale sandwiches, and I’ve missed the inspiration of her irrepressible hope in what God can do, and her vision and passion for change. I have no neat, nice Christian answers for why she died… it still seems so so unfair. so 2009 has also been a year of clinging on to God when nothing seems to make sense, when there are no easy answers. Jo was a Herald of Hope, and it has been a year of finding out that nothing, not even death and pain, can destroy or steal that hope. My life is blessed and enriched and so much the better for knowing her.
One of the most glorious features of the past two weeks has been the three visits from lovely, London-related friends. It was such a blessing that they would come, that they would choose to spend time here in this lovely but entirely unfamiliar city, and that they would feign interest in my dubious yet enthusiastic tourist guiding (“Look! Let’s stop and watch that bus trying to fit through those towers)…
This is a good place to visit. There are many lovely coffee shops, there is the beach, only a stones throw away, and many other delights. I have loved catching up with people I really care about, people I miss hugely – in this strange in-between season where I haven’t quite managed to convince myself that this is not a holiday, that I really can’t jump on a bus to their house for an spontaneous sausage sandwich… It was great to catch up.
This week, which heralds the celebration of a full four weeks here, has been great so far. Yesterday, I felt like a real student when we all got kicked out of our seminar for not having read the text (We’re all sure she didn’t tell us to). I spent some time hanging out with a good friend from my course, then we went back to my house and drank tea (surely doing much damage to the myth that I am engaging in any sort of student hedonism. It’s all tea and early nights here). Then my lovely house companions made yummy salmon, and we had rhubarb crumble (no supernoodles for me!!).
Today, I am in the library studying… studying not blogging… Must. Do. Work.
But I did want to tell two stories that impacted me from the weekend. On Saturday, myself and my two lovely friends caught a bus to the seaside. It’s only a short journey, probably fifteen minutes or so, and I just happened to sit on the outside, nearest to the other passengers. I got talking to a lovely lady called Ann (or maybe Anne… it makes me feel sad that I don’t know how it is spelt). Ann was telling me about her journey, about how she’d spent two hours on a bus to get to the seaside for a day, how it was the only outing she’d had for a while, and that she so missed being around people, so talking to me on the bus made her day. It was one of those conversations – we talked about the weather, the bus (which had just been involved in a minor collision), the election, the state of the nation, her family… I could tell that she was really lonely, and I really wanted to spend more time with her, to hear her story. It made me think about how I take contact and interaction for granted, I speak to people all the time, I have countless coffee meetings each week, and yet Ann had noone to talk to at all. It made me think about London, and how noone talks to anyone on buses there (except when it snows, or when there is a national emergency)… it made me want to keep my eyes open for more lonely people on buses who could just do with an inconsequential natter. It’s made me think twice about plugging my headphones in and withdrawing from the world around me this week for sure.
I hope Ann had a nice time at the beach. I hope she enjoyed her tuna sandwiches. I’m praying that she gets to enjoy the beauty of community back where she lives, that someone will draw alongside her and just listen. Bless her.
My other story involves scones, and was probably the funniest thing that happened to us on Saturday. We had decided that a perfect accoutrement to tea would be scones, with jam and cream (refer to my earlier point about the lack of hedonism), and so had proudly snaffled some before we left seaside-land. The purchase itself had been amusing, because my friends choose the wise option of a pack of scones reduced to 72p, while I viewed this with a certain suspicion. Anyway, we got home and decided to have a brief break. My friends went to have a snooze, while I went on a trip to the supermarket to procure some clotted cream.
I got back, to find a scene of carnage in the kitchen. Dogs are lovely, but they seem to have no food-related decorum (at least the dogs in question, anyhow). All that was left of the scones were some ripped up cellophane, and a smattering of crumbs strewn liberally around. I think they had enjoyed the feast (not minding that the scones were short-dated it seems). I stood there for a while, holding the now-redundant clotted-cream, wondering what to do.
This is where my friends husband saves the day. He decided to make us some new scones, and glorious they were. There were bacon and red onion scones, with special homemade maple chutney, and then normal scones, with fab raspberry jam. We feasted… and the dogs got none. We decided to take it as a spiritual lesson – that when stuff gets stolen, God always has better in store!
I think that’s all my stories for today… Back to Doctor Faustus then!
It’s been a busy few weeks. In fact I’m not really sure how it got to be August… strange that. And the weather has turned distinctly autumnal, so I’m beginning to think that summer has entirely passed me by this year…
I’ve been to some lovely places recently. I went on a three-day retreat down to Penhurst, which is near Battle, in Sussex. I so needed some time out to think and process, and the retreat was perfect for this. There was a little bit of led teaching, and then lots of space for reflection. To begin with, I was like ‘How on earth do I fill all this space?’ but by the last day I had chilled out and was feeling like I could have stayed for another three days at least!
The other women on the retreat were all from missionary contexts, so I loved hearing their stories (I now know more about Ameobic Dysentry than I ever thought possible). It was so good to share meals and to share life together, and we built up a real sense of cameraderie and community. The days started and ended with prayers in the little chapel, following celtic daily readings, which I found a real blessing.
Getting back to London was a real culture shock. It was all so noisy and crowded after the tranquility of the countryside. I really wanted to try and hold on to that peaceful space inside of me, even though everything seemed to crowd back around.
A few days later I was heading south again to visit a friend. I got to see the sea again, to feel the breeze on my face (and to eat the yummiest raspberry meringue pavlova in the world). I had a lovely day.
And then there was Stourbridge (which is in the West Midlands). I was there to do some summer school teaching, for the first stop of what will turn into a bit of a scenic UK tour. The next few weeks see me taking in Dorset, Chingford, Scarborough, Hastings, Belfast, Uppingham and Wokingham… it’s gonna be fun!
Apart from the travel, there is much else to keep me occupied. I have a couple of cleaning jobs now, so I can regularly be found decked out in attractive tracksuit bottoms and rubber gloves regularly… so much for glamour!
Church has shut down for the summer, so there’s just prayer meetings and Sunday services going on… it’s all very weird, tougher than I could have imagined. We’re all still reeling. I’m wondering when I’m going to stop being in denial. So much is changing.
Work is a bit mad, we’re having a big move-around on our floor, with people from another office coming to join us, so it’s meant lots of cupboard sorting, and lots of shredding! I’ve learned I am bad at filing, bored by mandane tasks, but excellent at throwing stuff away (especially if it’s stuff that needs keeping but I don’t know where to put it… whoops).
I’ve been reading a lot too – I enjoyed ‘A thousand Spendid Suns’, which is about two women and their lives growing up in Afghanistan. I’ve also been wading through ‘The Time Travellers Wife’, which I found a little confusing. Oh, and someone brought me back a copy of Rob Bell’s latest book ‘Drops Like Stars’, from the New Wine conference… it really is amazing, in fact I think I should post seperately about it. It’s a big, hardback book, with beautiful design work and engaging content, all about the link between creativity and suffering – a pertinent theme.
Apart from all the mad travelling, the next few weeks involve some more cleaning, some inspiring meetings and some visits from friends I haven’t seen in a while. At least life isn’t boring!
Today’s news is great, they are planning on letting Jo out of hospital next Tuesday (23rd June), after treating a minor infection she has.
Once she is home she’ll need time to rest and get her strength back and adjust to normal life again.
God has answered the prayers of his people again and again in this stuff. When we think about how things looked just two weeks ago it’s hardly seems possible that so much progress has been made. Back then, we hardly dared hope, and our prayers seemed weak faced with the medical facts. Sixteen days on from when it happened, I think we’ve all been encouraged and reminded again of God’s power to heal.
We’ve also felt overwhelmed and blessed by the responses of people across the Uk and the world, it’s been amazing that this has drawn so many people together. Unity and a passion for prayer are two of Jo’s greatest goals, and this is an example of God bringing something good and praiseworthy out of what has been a traumatic and testing time.
Prayer points for today:
- Please pray that the infection clears up well over the next few days.
- Please pray for Jo as she prepares to leave hospital next week.
- Please continue to pray for strength for the whole Norton family at this time.
Thanks lovely people!!
What a lot can happen in a week! We were musing last night that, just seven days ago, life looked very different. This morning I’m thinking that, last Wednesday, things just looked pretty dire and hopeless, but from here we have so much to be thankful for. God has answered our prayers beyond what we could have hoped, he has brought hope and healing, and he is even working through what look like complications and set-backs. We remain faithful.
Today’s news is positive, and a testimony to the many, many prayers that have been offered for Jo.
Yesterday they took Jo’s nose-tube (I’m sure that’s not the technical term for it…) out, which made her much more comfortable. They also moved her off ICU onto a high dependancy ward. This is great news. Originally they were talking about her having to stay in ICU for a whole week after surgery, so this is fantastic progress.
Her face has started to swell up, which is a normal result of the surgery she had, and she is very bruised and tired, but everything is on course and she is in good spirits.
Some prayer points for today:
- Please continue to pray that the muslin acting as a cap to the aneurysm bonds well, and that the whole area heals well and quickly.
- Please pray for energy and strength for Jo, and that she settles into the new ward well.
- Please pray for the Norton kids – Ben, Sam and Ruth. They’re doing well but it has been a lot of stress for them.
- Alan had his bike stolen yesterday, which is just rubbish and bad timing – he uses it a lot. Please pray for him, for strength and energy and that he will know God’s sustaining and provision through this time.
Thanks everyone for your support, comments, prayers and the unity of prayer and community we have experienced over the last seven days.
Thanks everyone for the faith filled prayers for Jo’s healing. Many people prayed and fasted yesterday, we’re grateful to you all.
The news post-op is that Jo has come out of the surgery well. She was chatting and moving all her limbs yesterday which is great and an answer to those prayers for safety etc.
She has a headache but is bright and hopeful.
The surgeons could not actually clip the aneurysm, as it was too close to certain other blood vessels and they would have risked inducing a stroke.
As plan B, they covered it in a mesh which should promote scar tissue to act as the cap.
We need to pray that this bonds it well and that natural healing processes take their course.
Please continue to pray for Jo – that the mesh bonds well, that there are no further complications and that she continues to improve.
Please also pray for strength for the whole Norton family at this time. Ruth has important exams next week, so please pray for her in those, especially.
Thanks for all your support, love and prayers. God is faithful.
Just a short post to thank everyone for your continued and faithful prayer support. We have been overwhelmed, encouraged and amazed as we have seen God answering our prayers, and those of people from across the UK and the world.
The latest news has been really positive. Jo was bright and chatty Friday and Saturday, even cracking some jokes, and yesterday she managed two meals. It’s also been a blessing to hear her testifying that God is bigger than this situation, and to see how her strong faith is carrying her through. I saw Jo briefly on Friday evening, and she looked remarkably well considering.
The doctors say that 50% of people who experience the same thing die instantly, and only 20% of the remainder reach the point she has, so it’s incredible how well she is.
The next time when prayer cover is especially needed is tomorrow morning, when Jo will have an operation to clamp the bleed. Please pray:
- That the anaesthetisation etc will go well and that Jo will feel peaceful about it.
- That the surgery will go as planned, that there will be no complications, and that they will be able to clamp the bleed.
- For strength and swift healing for Jo in the days following the op, she will likely be in intensive care for a couple of weeks following the surgery.
- For the whole Norton family – for peace, strength, and a real awareness of the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
We gathered as a church community this morning for worship as usual, and again noted the value and strength of community, of holding each other up, of praying in unity together. We thought about the ways God uses suffering for good, and considered how to have faith during the hard times, a pertinent message for us all. At the end of the service we sang the song ‘In Christ Alone’. I don’t think I’ve ever sang, or heard that song sung with such gusto. In Him our hope is found. In Him we find strength for tomorrow. In Him we believe for full healing for Jo.
On Saturday 2nd May, fresh from our Durham trip, we found ourselves in the creative quarter of Birmingham, setting up for the UK Territory’s first ‘Fullness Retreat’.
These retreats were first pioneered in the USA Eastern Territory, they basically involve a room, plenty of coffee, and a bunch of hungry people waiting to meet with God.
We set the room up with some prayer focuses, some art space and lots of comfy corners for people to do business with the good Lord.
At midday, people started arriving from far flung corners of the UK (like Bristol and Banbury). There were about sixty of us in total, as well as 50 others who couldn’t be there in person, but were kept in the loop with live text updates, and who prayed alongside and fed back prophetic words and pictures they received.
So what did we do? We fasted; we worshipped by singing, by praying loud, and by mumbling quiet praise. We listened to fab, inspired teaching about fasting and prayer, and then went off on our own for a bit to meet with God. We listened to him and shared what he spoke to us about the Salvation Army in the UK, and we chatted in groups about the exciting things God is doing around the country. We prayed for the new Directors of ALOVE (The SA’s Youthwork expression), and we doused each other in anointing oil (which was probably perfume). We painted on the walls, and danced about, and made things with clay. It was great.
And what did God do? Well, he showed up! It was so weird, in that the location was, to put it politely, intriguing. It had been a nightclub venue the night before, so it was all a little sticky, and on the Saturday night it morphed into a nightclub venue one more. We were praying alongside a sound check playing hardcore trance for a bit, and the whole place felt quite soulless and sad, but after a bit of praise and worship, our little area felt warm and transformed. The walls were made of cold white breezeblock, but soon heartfelt prayers and prophetic pictures danced across them, bringing a real life and vibrancy to the place.
The stories coming out of the weekend are exciting. People heard God speak about new directions for their lives. Others encountered the healing power of his Spirit. Some made new commitments and for many the passion for prayer was fuelled and revived. It felt like a line in the sand, one of those weekends you look back on and say ‘that was significant.’
The stuff God said was amazing too. I was awed that you could ask 60 people to listen to God and they would come out with pretty much consistent stuff. There were some common themes – the call to holiness, our mandate to partner God in
setting the captives free, the heart cry to see the Salvation Army become all that God intends, the need to make costly sacrifice, to lay down what is passable and strive for the best.
The bit that was most powerful for me happened on Sunday morning, when we split into two groups, and the ‘parent generations’ spoke words of blessing and affirmation over our generations. It was a powerful and releasing moment.
I loved the conversations over coffee, the undercurrent of excitement that came from giving 24 hours over to God like that, the sense of solidarity in knowing that we were ‘going without’ as a corporate body, in order to find a new place of intimacy with him. I loved the sense of corporate responsibility, the sense that sixty people gathering like that really could make a massive difference.
And the conversations since the weekend have been inspiring. It’s been fab to open my emails of a morning and read more stuff that God has been saying to people, new ideas for going deeper in prayer, and feedback from those who were challenged and inspired. It seems that this was not just another event, but something that was and will continue to be catalytic for prayer in the Salvation Army.
So it’s a watch this space thing I think!!
This weekend held all the glorious components that a weekend should, in my humble opinion. I have arrived at the end of it feeling like much was experienced and much was achieved and much fun was had in the process.
It started well on Friday, with an amusing train journey southwards. Then a jolly taxi driver took us to the glories of the second ‘tat for tat’ party. This time there were lots of people and much more tat. In fact it took about 3 hours to work through it all. My haul of tat (so much for spring cleaning and minimising) was as follows:
- 4 books
- A roman bath sponge
- 2 bags of mongolian wooden animals
- A purple and gold cushion
- a garland of paper flowers
- a wire photoframe
- a dangly 5 photo holder
- a pair of faith sandals
- Some posh cleanser and body lotion
- Some more body lotion
- 8 bags of small beads
- a little star ornament
- A mug with pink roses on
- Some purple hand and bath towels
So all that was very lovely and impressive. I learned some important things too, like (from a good friend) the dangers of drinking tequila before attending a tat party – “oooh yes I’d love that silver handbag” and (from a new acquaintance) the need to be selective about which tat to opt for – “I’m sure my dad would love a new corner shelf”… pure entertainment!
Saturday dawned bright and sunny and was welcomed in the only proper way – with breakfast in Starbucks. I had toasted fruit bread whilst my esteemed companion checked out the brand spanking new chocolate muffins and a strawberry yoghurt. We mused together, putting the world to rights and laughing about the joys and complexities of life. And then spent a while wandering the sunny streets, before we both decided that a sausage sandwich was necessary. The sandwich in question was everything a sausage sandwich should be – thick white bread, brown sauce, well-cooked sausages sliced lengthways… it was bliss.
The next phase of the day was spent walking to the house of some other good friends, who live in a small village. In fact that doesn’t do it justice… they live in the most beautiful village I have seen in a long old time, but I’ll return to that in a minute.
The walk there was lovely too – just over three miles, in blazing (but not burning) sunshine. Fields and sheep and bluebells and trees. I did however learn that three miles in London is nothing in terms of walking (I’ve done about 25 miles this past week), but three miles through the English countryside is a little more challenging. I realised I have become quite city-fied at the point where the pavement ran out after about a mile and there was just road. I stopped, momentarily flummoxed, but then I dredged up from somewhere in my mind that you were allowed to walk on the edge of roads in the countryside, and that the correct etiquette for doing so was to keep right and face the oncoming traffic. Anyway, I didn’t die, and it was lovely and scenic!
Once I had recovered from my orienteering, we drank tea and ate yummy homemade profiteroles. Then we chatted about multitudinous exciting future plans. After this, I was treated to a scenic tour of aforementioned gorgeous village. I saw the community orchard (where village residents are allowed to pick fruit in the autumn), an amazing water mill, some huge geese sitting in someones front garden (Guard-dogs are so last century…) and countless picturesque cottages. We wandered through some woods down to the clearest stream I’d seen for ages, (I so wanted to paddle) and then back (getting momentarily lost in a nettle field in the process which made it all the more fun!). Then we explored the tiny village church, having been let in by the sweetest, kindest (and probably oldest) church warden I’ve ever seen. Back out into the sunshine we peered through the bowed beams of a real live Tithe Barn with a thatched roof, I’d never seen one before. We both commented that it’d be an ace place for a reception. Then it was back, past more lovely flowers and herbs, with a quick peek into the quaint (but well stocked) village store, and a quick scan of the minutes of the last parish council meeting (where the ‘scourge of water voles’ was discussed at length). Genius.
After this, and another cuppa, we headed back and I found my way to a chugging train which brought me safely back to the buzzing metropolis. I unpacked and adored my tat acquisitions a little before heading to bed.
Today has held the usual mix of church, awesome roast dinner with friends, and then youth group. It’s been a nice day, and I’m looking forward to the week ahead
I feel a bit bad that most of these aren’t Holy Week related, they just happened to happen in Holy Week. Anyway….
I randomly banged into a friend… I happened to be at a Mainline London station at a loose end and she happened to be in a road about 100 metres away. Since we live 70 miles apart this was a feat. I went to meet her at this amazing knit shop, where they had this amazing knitting group, and lots of amazing yarn. I loved the different textures and colours and patterns, I loved meeting random people and talking about everything from Harry Potter socks to what you could knit with Possom wool. I will definitely go back (even if just to pick up Rainbow coloured Schoppel Wolle Zauberball for said friend ).
That leads me onto point 2:
Not real ones, sadly. Myself and aforementioned friend decided to make the most of the marvellous coincedence and partake of some tea. We wandered around looking for a suitable establishment, but were a little flummoxed. Then via the marvels of iphones (which cleverly tell you where all the nearest restaurants are), we found ourselves in one called Giraffe. I had an amazing Vietnamese chicken and prawn curry and my friend had a scrummy schitzel burger. There were so many lovely things on the menu we couldn’t decide and so will be returning to try out other things. It was lovely to sit and chat and eat and watch the sun go down on the river. A splendid evening all round.
For the last couple of days I have been staying with my lovely Aunt. It was nice to see her, to sample much home cooked food, to see people at church who remembered me from when I was five, to sleep in a luxurious and very pink bedroom, to go for a long walk in the sunshine (while it poured in Wandsworth. hehehe), to run screaming from huge spiders, to stroll in the grounds of the local castle, to go to various Good Friday-related services, to see my cousin again after about ten years, to put the world to rights and to plan future exploits. She also taught me to Purl… which I have yet to perfect (it makes more sense that plain stitch knitting, but it messes with my head and then makes me forget how to do plain… more practise is required I think), oh, and how to cast on… I will knit a tank top yet!
When I was in Latvia last I stocked up on some Watermelon flavoured Mentos. Like Mango, Watermelon is one of those things where I love the flavour but detest the actual fruit… so when my friends told me they’d got me a watermelon-related Easter present I was a little skeptical!! It turned out to be a quater of watermelon & apple fizzers, and a quarter of watermelon jellies. Top marks for nostalgia, for taste, for ingenuity, and for actual-watermelon-avoidance there!
That’s enough of the excitements for now I think. Will post more post-Easter!
I like to think I am blessed with some of the most lovely friends in the world.
In what I like to see as a nod towards my appreciation for order, two of them were considerate enough to be born on consecutive days, just at the end of the month of March. Last year, we inaugurated a tradition of celebration this, and (logically) nicknamed the day ‘Dual Birthday’.
Instead of packing the day with zany exploits this year, I decided to go with a more relaxed affair. So the day began with the instruction for my two lovely friends to meet for brunch at my house (an instruction they managed skillfully). I had spent the week cooking and baking (much to the consternation of the builders who have been amending our house this week… they were much saddened by the enticing aromas that they never got to taste!).
I made butternut squash soup, and potato and bacon salad, and apricot crumble cake, and chocolate tiffin. Then there was spinach and ricotta flamme, pigs in blankets, yoghurt & honey, pancakes & maple syrup, crisps and multitudinous other goodies.
My room was set up as Cafe Pterodactyl, with placemats which had a photo of each of our heads stuck onto a pterodactyl body. I liked that touch. There was also an ambient background of Take That playing, to drown out the intermittent African drumming from my neighbour!
I regaled my lovely friends with pressies, including teabags and star-shaped dangling decorations. We also had a mug each with some selected photos of us from the past year super-imposed on them, and a hoodie bearing the DB09 logo, and with each of our names on the back (you can see them in all their glory in the above photo). It was much fun wandering round London later, wearing these to boldly advertise the day.
After we had eaten, we spent some time engaging in some creative prayer excercises. I couldn’t have picked better people to share this with. Funniest moment of the afternoon had to be one of my lovely friends electrocuting herself on my slightly dodgy laptop wire – I know that it is near-fatal to touch to the two ends of the exposed wires together, unfortunately I didn’t manage to communicate this to said friend, and the resulting crackle, blue flash, and minor burn provided us all with merriment for the rest of the day. Second funniest moment had to be when she decided her life was more important than trying to extricate music from my lethal laptop, and ‘treated’ us to the music on her phone… I will be loyal and not share my opinion of said music!!
After we had set the world to rights some more, we headed out to the beauteous location of a local park, where Hugo ran wild, terrorising the residents, and we lay on the grass enjoying the sunshine. We ate chocolate birthday cake bedecked with raspberries, and yummy cupcakes too. Then we took a bundle of photos, my favourite being the one above, where we had to balance my camera on top of a precarious pile of bags and tupperware to create a tripod. (I may look like I’m smiling, but inside I’m like ‘Eeek, my camera is going to plumment to his death at any moment).
Posing done, we jumped aboard some of London’s finest public transport, and headed to a restaurant near my favourite station in the world. Bumbles, on Buckingham Palace Road, offered a fair selection for a bargainous price (Even if they did try to bump up said price with some intriguing supplements). I enjoyed Smoked chicken and pork salad, followed by fish and triple cooked chips, followed by lemon tart. Lovely friends enjoyed french onion soup, followed by Pork rib with caponata and chips (chips that initially didn’t appear and had to be wrangled for. I think our “It says it comes with chips on the menu” followed by their “It doesn’t come with chips tonight.” was another of those ‘quote of the day’ moments) followed by lemon tart and ice cream respectively.
After this grand fayre, we wandered lesuirely back to Victoria, where one lovely friend jumped on a train homewards. Then other lovely friend and I found a bus that took us back to my house, where we reminisced on the joys and celebrations of the day.
I love my friends, and I loved the chance to again be able to celebrate who they are and what they mean to me. I loved doing fun stuff, but I also loved it that this year we could mix that in with some more serious, meaningful stuff. I guess you know relationships are deep when there is no need to fill every minute with hilarity.
Roll on DB10 I say!!!
…is what I’ve had today. It was great and refreshing and celebratory and relaxing and funny and inspiring and brilliant!
It started early, we jumped on a bus at 8.30 and headed towards Westfield, which is this gargantuan shopping centre (nay village) that opened in Shepherds Bush just before Christmas. The bus driver was a speed demon and I’m sure we took some corners on two wheels, but we made it alive. Perfect!
Once within the gleaming Westfieldian walls, we headed to a comfy coffee area and drank latte and tea. Starting the day off with a caffiene fix is always a beautiful thing, and I laughed more than I have in a long time, as I relaxed in the company of one of my good friends from church, her older sister and two of her friends. The conversation covered everything, from new shoes to how to keep shower tiles gleaming. Sometimes one needs those conversations which just dance over the inanities of life. After this, the three keen shoppers departed on a quest for handbags, and my pal and I sat wiling time away and chatting some more. Perfect!
We laughed at the absurdity of sitting in a huuuuuge shopping centre with neither of us having the stamina nor the incentive to buy anything. We wandered to Paperchase, where I snaffled up the most lovely sheet of rainbow coloured paper, and my friend got a lovely purple diary, but that was as far as the purchasing went. My lovely companion brought a newspaper, we found some comfy chairs, and we sat down and chilled out some more as we waited for luncheonry. The centre was still quite quiet, and it was nice to read and write and rest. Perfect!
Lunch was awesome. We headed to a restaurant called Byron, which advertised itself as a real burger place. And it was incredible. We all had open ‘Byron burgers’, with no buns. We sampled the delights of battered courgette chips, we ate yummy coleslaw and onion rings, and the conversation flowed happily and hilariously. It was perfect!
Where else to go after lunch but to get a coffee before the hardcore afternoon shopping session began?!! We sat and watched people eat huge slices of cake around us, feeling very full after our burgers but very much enjoying our hot beverages. We talked about the wonder of swap parties, and I think I convinced them of the merits of such occasions. I loved the company of my four friends, and we laughed a whole lot more. Perfect!
They trundled off to hit more shops, and we headed to a (very swish looking) hair dressers for my friend to have a trim. I sat there, happy as larry reading ‘OK’ and ‘Hello’, while she was pampered and preened. She looked fab and I enjoyed the unusual reading material. Perfect!
Next, we all reunited at another coffee place (because apparently coffee and cake were only £2 after 2pm). They queued excitedly and I said goodbye to the merry band and headed my way Waterloowards. Even sitting on the tube singing along to Take That songs in my head cheered my soul. Perfect!
I leapt off the tube prematurely at Charing Cross, and mooched down towards the river. London was at its best I think, buzzing enough to be interesting, yet not annoyingly full of tourists. I loved walking across the Golden Jubilee bridge, listening to the rumble of trains behind me, smiling appreciatively at the lone steel drum player, pausing to enjoy the feeling of the spring sunshine on my face. On the other side I wandered around the sprawling second hand book stall, window shopped in Foyles (which is one my my fave bookshops in the world), and tried on plastic rings -with huge felt butterfles attached – in the Southbank shop. I loved just taking things at a slow pace, having time and space just to wander and think and enjoy the city. Perfect!
When I got to Waterloo, I met with another lovely friend and we spent an hour catching up on life, in all it’s glory and intricacy. We laughed a lot; and it was one of those conversations which reminded me of quite how many brilliant people God has brought into my life, how blessed I am to be able to grow and share and learn alongside them. I enjoyed the brilliance of (more) latte and splendid chocolate tiffin cake. It truly was a perfect conclusion to a day of glorious perfect things!!!
I hope there shall be many more such days!