Review, Reflections and Resolutions

Well 2016 has begun, already we are on day 4 and I already have a few plans, but first a summary and  reflection on 2015.

A year of firsts

In April  and May I had 3 firsts, my first visit to Scotland not cold weather at the time either, I attended my first political hustlings which apparently was the most lively one in my area and I started my work at the hospital. June I baked banana bread for the first time and August baked Chocolate Caramel shortbread with two of the Bubble family whilst they visited me

A year of outings and events

Three visits to Middlesbrough, one to Manchester and a trip to Blackpool, and visits from my friends in Middlesbrough, a friend form Yorkshire, and a  visit from my friend in Scotland.  A trip to the theatre with my friends Mr and Mrs Bubble, several trips to cafe’s, restaurants and pubs with friends.  I didn’t have 4 weddings and a funeral rather it was one of each, both were impacting for different reasons.

Old and new

Bumping into friends I hadn’t seen for years and meeting new people, also creating a couple of groups one that had been in the planning for a long time, another almost done on the fly.

That was my review of 2015 now my reflections, in particular what I’ve learnt.

1  A year of firsts

A realisation that I still enjoy learning new things and experiencing new places and meeting new people. Scotland wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be and letting the Scots know I’m not anti Scottish.  I can still try new things when baking even if it doesn’t taste quite as nice as you think.  Some of the people I have met have been lovely.

2 It’s still ok to be vulnerable

When I was ill I lay thinking that I felt vulnerable but I also knew that it’s ok to feel that way.  I will write a post on vulnerability in the future. The fact is vulnerability isn’t something to be feared rather it is something to be embraced.

3 Surprised by reacquainting with others

Surprised because Two people I hadn’t seen for a while had been through some bad times which was saddening to see and hear about, one other person I hadn’t seen for years I hardly new and was pleased to find that although when I first knew them I didn’t think I  had much in common with I found they had more in common with me than I originally thought at the time, they also were informative and fascinating.

4 I can enjoy weddings or rather the receptions

I learnt at weddings or wedding receptions Joy has a way of spreading, people meeting in happy circumstances can create a great atmosphere and openness with others, it’s a bit like those who get drunk their inhibitions come down and they become more extrovert or feel relaxed and happy, that’s what an atmosphere at a wedding can do.

5 Getting more comfortable being myself

Embracing more and more of who I am, still more work there but I’m making progress. Celebrating my overall introverted nature but at the same time knowing that at times I do have an outgoing streak which I’m comfortable with too.  Knowing I’m a  peacemaker and the one that keeps going when things are tough.

6 Losing and finding your way and letting go

It’s ok to lose your way and you can find your way back whatever situation you maybe in from losing my way in Manchester to losing a sense of direction in my work situation. Letting go of not knowing, and to some degree of control again of outcomes.

Now to the resolutions.  Well I’m no fan of those, instead I have a few aims.

1 Walk more

I started walking yesterday so I aim to walk everyday, weather and whereabouts permitting.

2 Hone in on my communication skills and seek to widen their sphere of influence.

I want to write more expand on what I’m doing, my dream is to expand in the oral side of communication too not just the written, but it’s finding the vehicle to hone those skills  is the difficult one.

3 My relationships

I hope to see more of my friends this year and allow those relationships to grow or diminish just let go of what’s not important to be able to hold on to what is.  I hope some reading this will stay in touch.  I saw a good quote stop thinking more about personal ends rather than personal friends. I hope to see more of my family too.

4 Still visit more places

I want to visit more places both old and new, I hope if I get work to go on a proper holiday.

5 Try and get work.

I got something rolling towards the end of last year but with my health hiccup it has got put back lets hope that isn’t stalled for long.

6 Continue to be grateful for what I do have in life.

The gratitude project was a good plan but I didn’t keep it up as I’d wanted to much more important is to have a grateful heart and when the chips are down  to focus on what is good.

Well we’ll see how that goes in the meantime Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A day to remember

A few months ago I was invited to a wedding reception by a couple of friends from my school days who were getting married, it was totally unexpected but rather nice.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to go or not, due to a number of reasons but particularly down to concerns regarding my recent health issues.  Nearing the time of the wedding reception although I was feeling better, I wasn’t sure about going as I was concerned about travelling alone.  Amazingly one of my friends was coming to my area on some business and said they would come with me all the way there and some of the way back on Sunday, so I accepted.  He got a good deal on a hotel too.

The day before we travelled to Blackpool I met my friend with mutual friends and their daughter in a local café where we put all our plans together, the couple offered to give me a lift to the station which was great too.  That evening I booked my assistance they said they couldn’t guarantee the help as it wasn’t 24 hours in advance which rattled me a bit as it’s not always possible to book ahead, plus I had done some last minute Christmas shopping which delayed my call.  The people I ring up at Journey care are fantastic though.

Our lift got us to the train on time and the assistance turned up, so that was a relief.  Although our train was on time it didn’t arrive on time at our change over stop which meant we missed the train we were to catch but fortunately there were more trains to Blackpool from that stop than I originally thought, so we hopped on the train and arrived in time to do a quick call in at our hotel to drop our things off and head straight to the wedding reception.

My friends daughter spotted me if I remember rightly and found a table with my friend Mrs Bubbles and her husband Benedict Bubbles, we were all rather hungry, I hadn’t eaten till early that morning, fortunately I had a few flapjacks with me which I had baked a couple of days earlier! I managed to go and see the bride who looked lovely in purple and white.

I looked around and spotted a woman from my school year and her husband who I spoke to for a while, when I was at school we had little to do with each other really, however,  we then had a great conversation, which is probably the first proper conversation I ever remember us having. Eventually they came over to join us.

Mrs Bubble, Una Stubbs  (the one I had a great convo with) and I ended up having a picture taken when Mrs Bubble suggested we all said pooh and wee. Mr Benn the groom came over to chat as well later.  Mr DJ came over to get messages to record for Mr and Mrs Benn which I thought was a lovely idea.

At around 5 we ate buffet food we all managed quite well considering there were many people who were visually impaired and some of them had guide dogs, as far as I know there were no crashes and bangs oh  sorrys said which can happen in those sort of situations.  I stayed with a friend sometime ago, who had other friends staying too, we all kept saying sorry to each other because of bumps and crashes, they named it the sorry house. Anyway there was a meat feast and some pizzas and quiche and desert to fill our bellys, I personally found the sweets a bit too rich for me but the rest of the food was great.

There was much laughter, people buying one another drinks (I don’t think I got opportunity to buy drinks) and  discussions varying from books to school and music.  The in house entertainment was a woman who could play various instruments  and sing which was quite good, I wasn’t sure whether it was all completely live or not but I certainly saw the instruments but it was very loud.  I think it was around 8 we had a meal I had lasagne, which was tasty.

The disco got going just towards the end, there was what I call a group karaoke going on, first with Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, earlier on we had Oliver’s army by Elvis Costello. I joined in with the singing but not the dancing till the last track came on.  Apart from being grabbed by one person to dance with me, which I found rather uncomfortable, it was enjoyable both the singing and the dancing.  After saying goodbye to those I could Father Ted and I returned to our hotel.

I surprisingly slept quite well but it took a while to get comfortable as the duvet didn’t quite reach my shoulders.  The bizarre thing about my hotel room was that there was no window. There was also a lot of banging, however I have the beauty of lying on my hearing ear to block out the noise.

The following morning Father Ted and I had a delicious breakfast which was well worth the money, ahhs and oos could be heard when we had entered the restaurant because of Father Ted’s dog who is a gorgeous black Labrador who is a force to be reckoned with. After breakfast  we  headed straight off to the station to catch the train home.  At the station we met up with several of the guests at the previous nights do, and travelled home with one of them, who I will call Dougal, I don’t know why that name, a nice man who had few words but gentle ones.  Father Ted and I went our separate ways and I caught the last leg of the journey home, I was pleased to find I didn’t have to wait long for the bus either.

I want to thank Mr and Mrs Benn for inviting me and everyone who I spent time with over that period of time, it was fun and a privilege to be with such lovely people and certainly a day to remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not just an ordinary day

Last Wednesday, I had made plans, voluntary work in the morning, an interview with an employment advisor in the afternoon and a relaxing evening as it had been a busy week after the funeral I went to on the Monday and a friend coming round with a new TV on the Tuesday.  However my relaxing evening didn’t transpire.

As usual I went to the hospital to carry out my voluntary work, had a mixed morning, then had to navigate travelling from the hospital to our city centre by 2:30 in the afternoon I left a little earlier to compensate for the time as I finish by one normally, if I remember rightly I didn’t have to wait long.  I arrived at my appointment early got served my coffee and got on with the conversation, took my bus home about 3:45ish but it was late, and I think  I was in a traffic jam.

By the time I got home I was ready for a relaxing evening but it wasn’t meant to be, something wasn’t right. It all started on the Sunday, unusual aches in the far right of my body, I thought it was a bit of trapped wind to be honest or constipation, it would come and go, sometimes I get constipation before my cycle, everyday I was getting some discomfort then it would wear off until Wednesday.

By 5pm I was experiencing unusual pain ordinary pain, followed by fiery tearing shafts of pain, long and short of it I ended up in our local A&E (Accident and Emergency) for non UK people.  I was there from 7pm until about 2am before I got seen too, the first set of nurses weren’t that great.  Also in the meantime I’d been physically sick, and there had been one rather aggressive drunk woman, shouting her head off.  At the same time a woman next to me who worked in a care home passed me some tissues.

At 2am another waiting room greeted me and eventually a lovely nurse dealt with me, I had trouble understanding her, but she really went to the ends of the earth to help me. I found it difficult to talk the pain I was in.  She gave me morphine that did nothing, but eventually gave me liquid paraceatamol that did the trick.  I think before she did that I had a CT scan as they thought it might be a kidney stone, I then got seen by a lovely doctor who asked me a lot of questions its horrendous business being asked a lot of questions when your dealing with a lot of pain at the same time.  It turned out I had something on my ovary which is what the CT scan had picked up, so I would need an ultrasound to show more details.  Still in A&E I was put in a side room overnight, with a drip hanging out my arm, because the drip stand wasn’t great I had to have my arm at an awkward angle on a narrow bed, so I barely slept.

Thursday morning I hadn’t been given enough water for my scan so I had to drink more to get a proper one, much better.  oh yes, blood tests too. The day staff weren’t as nice and helpful, I had to drag my drip stand into the bathroom with me for the loo, the night staff made sure I had the stand right next to me before they shut the door on me, but the day staff just got me inside and slammed the door behind me.  I was concerned I would pull the drip out.

I then got moved to the surgical assessment unit, where again mixed experience, one ward assistant training to take bloods was great at getting the needle in without really hurting me, someone else staff trained was very rough the night before.  I was finally allowed to eat, earlier in the day, another examination and questions from a female doctor who was lovely.  I had difficulty getting comfortable to go to sleep although my main pain had decreased considerably I was left with bad constipation and stomach spasms, my best position was on my back with my head turned slightly to the right, well on the Thursday night at 1:30am I had just got into a comfortable position to be told I was going to be moved again.  This time I was moved to a plastics ward, which at least was more modern.

The consultant came to see me to say I was going home that day, and they would operate, that I would have another appointment and once I moved my bowels I could go home, and then disappeared, which hardly gave me any time to ask questions.  I didn’t go home till the following day, I saw  a much kinder consultant, who answered questions, who didn’t think what I had was ominous, but they do have to do further tests to make sure.

Now I’m at home recuperating from my ordeal, the strange thing is at no time was I frightened, in fact I was very peaceful, even though my BP at one point had been at a staggering 157, I don’t know what the bottom line had been.  I’ve always been used to what my former GP described as a disgustingly normal BP.  I still have to take meds and more tests to follow.

Upon reflection I’m glad I came through it, I have a deeper appreciation of what being in hospital is like as the last time I had been in I was only 10.  I can take what I’ve learnt and hopefully make patients that I see in hospital have a better and more comfortable experience than I did. For now I’m putting my feet up before I face that particular world again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A life to be thankful for

Today I attended a funeral of a couple who are friends of mine who’s 43 old son died last week, leaving a wife and four children.

I was more than happy to go as the mother of the son who had died had unexpectedly attended my mother’s funeral just a few years ago, and It had meant a lot to me that she had been, and she and her husband had been such a support to me since that time.  I generally prefer funerals to weddings, not because I like people dying but because your presence alone means a great deal to those suffering around you, whereas at a wedding I’ve often felt just a casual observer.

I was rather surprised to be affected by this funeral, as I’ve attended quite a few this has been one that affected me the most apart from family members of course.  I didn’t know this couple’s son very well, but I couldn’t help being moved by first looking at the order of service and seeing the man who I will call John looking radiantly happy with his wife, that happiness cut short, and then the picture at the back of the four children left behind, also seeing John’s father walk in with his arm protectively around his wife following his sons coffin beautifully decorated with photographs, which must have been an ordeal for them followed by the large family impacted by John’s death. I couldn’t help the large amount of tears in my eyes.

At the same time there were some moments which were funny, with my kind of humour I couldn’t help noticing someone nearly trip over part of the pew that’s used to kneel on, later on navigating a song that either didn’t have the correct words printed  or the organist got the wrong music, whichever thankfully  there were quite a number of voices got round that particular mistake well.  It’s usually me who gives people laughs at funerals, at my nan’s funeral I was sharing a car with my cousin and it was thundering and lightening, I said to my cousins, well at least she went off with a bang, which made them both laugh. my eldest cousin said “only you could get away with saying that”.  At my mums internment it had been snowing heavily getting round the tombstones was rather difficult I climbed over a large mound of snow only to discover I was clambering over a tombstone which made my nieces laugh.

Towards the end of the funeral the father gave an overview of his son’s life.  I sat there thinking about the fact John was only a year younger than me he had a wife and children I hadn’t and he was more worthy of living than I was, but after hearing his euology, about his love of sport, that he travelled extensively, studied at university, travelled again, and settled down with is wife and became provider of his four children, I got the impression he loved life and lived it to the full.  I came to the conclusion that although his life was short he had achieved a great deal most importantly loving his family. Although this is a deep loss to his family and friends no one can say he hadn’t lived his life to the full, and after all isn’t that the purpose of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

War and Peace

Like most people I was shocked at the events in Paris recently and some of the response from around the world.  After various conversations and reading it got me thinking about our notion of war and our notion of peace.

What is peace? Is peace always the absence of war?  What is the purpose of war? If people describe themselves involved in a faith as peaceful what does that mean?

Peace as a noun can mean freedom from disturbance: tranquillity

War as a noun is defined as a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country.

Those are what I call strict definitions.  But there larger uses to these words, peaceful resolution, war on want, warlike, peacemaker amongst many other uses.

I think most people want and believe in peace, but how do we get it and maintain it.  For those who believe in peace, is there a possibility of having peace without conflict or any kind of disturbance to it? Can we really have peace without experiencing war in order to appreciate peace?

After considering pacifism I have problems with the notion of it.  One of which is that we can have peace without conflict, another is that communication and negotiation prevent war, hmm well I disagree for various reasons.

1 Peace without conflict

How realistic is this notion, in everyday life we can find ourselves in a form of conflict or disagreement, whether it’s ideas, beliefs, opinions and that’s just in human conversation.  How can we avoid conflict, the fact is we simply can’t.  Interestingly marriages that never have conflict tend to break down more than those that do.  They bury their issues and they fester.  I can think of a country that’s a bit like that apparently there is peace, but more like an uneasy or fragile one where there’s been a huge compromises so that certain groups don’t pick up arms again, suspicion still reigns and the power is really in the hands of people who may well have bloody hands and never been brought to justice.  To me that’s not peace that’s intimidation and manipulation how is that peace.

I’m the kind of person that hates conflicts and arguments, and I would avoid it as much as possible even though I could have an argumentative mind and could argue.  Many years ago I remember confronting someone over an issue something that they had done behind my back, this person received what I had to say with good grace and it really improved the relationship, I learnt a valuable lesson, a relationship without conflict or confrontation is not a secure relationship, but one where there is that level of honesty is secure, I gained respect as a result of that confrontation.  Over the years I had many conflicts with that person to this day although I have no contact with them anymore (not for any bad reason) there’s still respect and ultimately trust.

2  Communication and negotiation prevent war

If pacifists believe this notion then why are some of them the most difficult to have dialogue with, they don’t practice what they preach with words.  I have found they tend to win an argument rather than a relationship.  If they really believe in pacifism they would handle discussions, debates differently, they may not use guns or believe in the use of them but their mouths are pretty good ammo.  Death and life are in the power of the tongue.  Much destruction and pain can be caused by words.

Does this mean I’m a proponent of war? , yes but only in some conditions.  First I will address some causes of war.

I get irritated that people will say religion causes wars, well yes some, but many are caused by other things, land, tribal issues, greed, resources.  The Falkland islands was over territory, something like 98% of them wanted to remain in the UK.  The conga, conflict there was over gold, Rwanda, tribal issues.

These are the conditions to go to war, defence of territory from an invasion, protecting people around you from threat of attack from outside territory which should be proven obviously, defending those who can’t defend themselves.

Does this mean I’m a war monger, far from it, there are stupid reasons for war, some based on ridiculous ideologies, some based on, the idea we bomb the hell out of a place then rebuild it, no they are not good reasons.  There has to be a valid reason for war but also an objective once war is over. I do believe in peace as far as possible, yes I believe in negotiation, but remember even saying the wrong thing could create conflict anyway, I believe war should be a last resort when other options have been exhausted.  As I write this discussion about bombing Syria is being discussed, I don’t like the idea of bombing the place, I think it plays into the wrong hands at the same time there are know threats to this countries security, does that mean we sit back and do nothing and have another July 7th? Well I’ll leave that with you to make up your own mind. In the meantime I purse peace not war. Peace everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing my way

I haven’t written a blog for a while here’s why, I feel lost, well more accurately I’ve lost my way.

I had one of those weeks last week where I felt let down and blocked at any progress I was trying to make.  So I come to a full stop.  How do I proceed and where the hell am I going?

As a child I would get lost, who wouldn’t, my solution find an adult or more accurately I would have lost an adult and try to proceed finding them, it would result of tapping someone on the shoulder or shouting Dad or mum at somebody only discover it was someone else, embarrassing.  Sometimes I’d be looking for a vehicle only to get into the wrong car that would look very similar, that’s happened to me about three times.  I’ve lost my reading glasses a million times or more I’m sure.

In times past I felt I’d lost my faith born out of dryness, disappointment or doubt, the truth there is God knew about the feeling of being lost when he shared the parable about the woman who had lost the coin, the interesting thing about the other two parables and that one is that the people had lost something that belonged to them, something that was already in their possession I’ll let folks think about that one.

The thing is I’ve lost my way, my direction in life, but I’ve not only lost my way or direction, I’ve lost my destination, what is my destination? Is it true that having lost my way I’ve lost my destination?

Destination determines something way off in the future, as human beings we are programmed to think ahead, destination determines outcome or achievement.  That notion of achievement is thought provoking,  should achievement be the end game of everything we do?

My problem has always been I may have a destination but my strategy in getting there is poor, I’m not really a strategist, it’s not really my strong point.  In some situations your destination can seem like an agenda and not a good one.  How many of us for instance in order to arrive at our destination we try and manipulate people or circumstances in order to arrive at the most beneficial outcome to us?   We may not be the only ones on that particular course of direction or destination.  Athletes compete in a race for the prize  they are heading the same way, their approach and strategy determines who wins, but it also determines who loses.  Is life about winning and losing, or rather should life be about winning or losing?

Believe me I’ve thought a lot about some of the things I’ve wanted to do, my motives for doing them are they pure, justifiable.  My search for work is difficult because I’m not the only one wanting work, so do many others, Is it arrogant to think I could be better than someone else to do a job?  To be fair having a dual disability means I’m further down the food chain of desirables from an employers perspective as being the best choice.

For all the advice people give me in my life, there are no simple answers.  and my problems can’t just be fixed.  There’s nothing worse coming away from a conversation feeling as though that person has it all worked out and you feeling as though you don’t measure up to those standards they are inadvertently setting.  To be fair I’ve done it too , come up with solutions for people when it’s not what they need at that time, when they have lost their way, or they don’t know what to do, in those circumstances all people need is empathy,  a listening ear and most of all encouragement, not solutions, pat answers or questioning.

In the meantime what do I do?  Well the only answer I have right now is rest, I don’t mean do nothing but not strive for answers, let go of trying to come up with solutions that are depressing which a lot of them are.  Just let go of trying  to work it all out.

I have to trust that somehow, somewhere or someone, will bring some light into my pathway, so I can move forward.  In the meantime I stay lost.

The Audience

During the time I’ve been writing my blog, I’ve realised it’s not been entirely easy.  Coming up with ideas is one thing but when to post them and how to write them is another.  Throughout my blog posts one thing that is continuously at the back of my mind which is actually quite crucial is my audience or readership.  Part of my audience who read my blog posts are people that I know including some family members and a few of my friends.  I am conscious of the fact I don’t want to write anything that would cause offence to them particularly if a post may contain stuff with any of them involved or in mind,  it might just be an event which I relate which involves someone who reads my posts, if I relate it incorrectly or inaccurately, it could be deemed inappropriate and I might unwittingly cause offence which could even be due to misinterpretation.

I also have a wider audience of people I don’t know, I don’t know their backgrounds outlooks on life their beliefs or persuasions.  Can I write with them in mind?

Another area where audience is something that rumbles on in the background is in the realm of social media,  in some groups I’m in you don’t know your audience or you may know some, I find that it can be easy to forget that it isn’t just you and a few of your mates reading your posts it’s people from all walks of life, cultures and systems.  With that in mind you find you have to think carefully before you post or comment on a post  because you really don’t know your audience.  Sometimes you see people come out with statements which are purely black and white without any thought to the people reading them.  A thought is stated without much filter.  People feel they can get away with saying what they want  because they don’t see or know their audience, I mean it doesn’t matter, I mean the audience and the person messaging or posting may never meet.  That appears to be the mentality from some I’ve seen.  I’m not saying that anyone who posts comments things in this way are deliberately setting out to upset people or shock people, but maybe a small proportion need the attention of an unfiltered remark to get the acceptance or attention they need.

I’ve also seen this where public speaking is taking place, the person speaking has no thought about how to address their audience, who they are speaking too, for instance I know there have been several occasions where a speaker has made unkind comments about people who live in a particular area of the country and it wasn’t in jest either, fine if that is a comedy event that sets out its about knocking the area your living in, but not in general meetings or conferences.  I sometimes wonder if people who are involved in public speaking in any way are trained to think about their audience.

Filtering is normally necessary in social media, blogging or public speaking or in most forms of communication because by its very nature it’s public.  In private you have the freedom to say what you want, in public that’s a different matter.  Does that mean that we have to censor everything we say, no of course not, it’s purely about thinking about how those who do these things deliver what they are going to say to the audience or readers they are dealing with at the time.  I’m not suggesting here you always have to  walk on eggshells all the time,  but you have to test the temperature of  the people your addressing,before running headlong into saying or writing something that hits between the eyes or ears.  Believe me when I say at times I wish I had applied wisdom to something I’ve either said or written  and thought I wish I hadn’t of said or wrote that.  So first consider whether they would be ready to read or hear that or not, as the old saying goes there’s a time to speak and a time not too.  Remember though that no matter how much thought you put in what you are going to say or write you can’t guarantee that you won’t offend or hurt someone sometimes.  Well with all that in mind and so much to ponder I think it’s time for me to sign off before I write anything that might offend anybody 😀

Three words

There’s a statement I’ve been thinking about that contains three words that I don’t think we use enough, it’s not the phrase that most people think of, I bet your thinking it’s that phrase I love you.  No it’s not that one.  Speaking of that phrase I’ve noticed that most people will say love you and miss out the I, is that because they don’t really love the person they are speaking too or is it just laziness, it’s more likely the latter rather than the former in my view  and it depends on context I suppose.  Anyway those three little words aren’t the words I’m thinking of.

I’m thinking of a statement or phrase I should use more than I do, and I know why I don’t.  Anyway , here’s  examples of where it might be used, or more likely when I should use it. You ask yourself what your response would be to these questions.

Do you think the Conservatives will get in again at the next General Election?

What do you think of penal substitution?

Should milk or water be put in a cup of tea first when making it?

What most of us tend to do when answering a question is come up with a positive or negative opinion on these kind of questions, but there is a third option that many of us rarely use because we are expected to have an opinion on anything and everything yes you’ve guessed it I’m sure, the phrase I was referring to earlier was I DON’T KNOW.

How many times people have asked you something expecting an answer of some description from you and rather than saying I don’t know you come back with a yes or no, or some convoluted answer that’s meant to sound intelligent when in reality you simply have no answer, you  haven’t thought about the question long enough, not had the experience or never really thought the questions was necessary.  I certainly have been in that position.

We as human beings thirst for knowledge, knowledge means power and to a large extent gives us a sense of security.  None of us want to look stupid in front of our friends or family when we simply don’t have an answer or an opinion to something.  Our problem with our thirst for knowledge though is that it can lead to pride.  Ever come across someone who seems to have an opinion about everything, do they get on your nerves, it’s happened to me, mind you when I was in my early 20’s I could be just as bad.  I’m more careful now not to get into arguments where the need to be right all the time is the goal.  Because at the end of the day none of us know everything.  It’s freeing to sometimes say I don’t know, yes it’s disconcerting to others, leaves you with a sense of uncertainty but that’s ok.

Over the last few years I’ve learnt that it’s ok to not know everything, I’ve found it very liberating personally.  Does it really matter that I don’t have the answers or that people don’t look to me for an answer or be the answer.  The truth is that sometimes there is no right or wrong answer there is the unknown, we can’t possibly know everything about anything or anyone for that matter. So don’t be afraid of using that phrase no matter what others might think.

Regarding the questions I listed above the first question is speculative, the second question involves some theological knowledge and the third question I ask is it really that important whether the milk is put in before the water for a cuppa?

OK I suppose you want to know what my answer would be to the three questions I listed above.

Well, the answer to all 3 is I just don’t know.

My intrest in politics

I’ve posted in the about me section of my blog of my interest in politics but only completed one post on the subject.  So I thought it would be a good idea to elaborate on the subject of my interest in politics and that of my approach to it, where it came from.

As a child my Dad and I would watch news and current affairs programmes on the tv and talk about what was being shown,  he wouldn’t sit there and start  educating as such it would go something like this some news item would come up and then he would just respond to something that was being reported and get irate with what he saw and I think I would then ask why, he would then inform me about his opinion related to the topic.  I also remember journeys out when I was older in the car going somewhere or other or when he took me on the seemingly long journey back to school conversations around current affairs, politics, history or religion would come up, as a teenager and adult these would become heated.  But I don’t want to go marching ahead here.

At both my primary and the first secondary school I attended we listened to a programme called in the news which explained news items in a way which children would understand and promote discussion.  I thought this was a great way to introduce children to politics, I used to watch Newsround as well with the other children but it wasn’t as good as in the news or watching programmes with my Dad.

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s both extremes of the loss Labour 70’s and the super rich 80’s depending on your view of the situation.  I remember particularly the power cuts in the 70’s and  early 80’s of the Thatcher years, the strikes, the Falklands war, newsreaders who were rather serious and the interest in nuclear disarmament.  I didn’t have a particular view on these things at the time,  but knew of them.  The one thing I do remember during that particular period is my dad saying that under the torys the rich get richer and the poorer get poorer.  For some odd reason I always thought he was a tory, strange I would think that as that would not be the kind of comment a tory voter would make.  Maybe it was because we were the sort of family they would want to get their vote my Dad was the sort who believed in aspiration, he worked hard and climbed the career ladder, plus things  he said that led me think he was a tory.  However my mum and nan would talk about the politicians rather than the policies.

As I got into my teens I would still watch the news with the Berlin wall and communism apparently falling, during that time I started hearing people talking about the more left wing side of politics and that continued into my college years.  This was my favourite period.  When I was at college at the beginning of the 90’s I found myself with a group of friends who like my Dad were interested in the kind of things I was, we would sit at lunch times discussing American and European politics and some sharp disagreements would follow, however we were still great friends underneath the debates we were all feeling our way not just in our lives but in our concept of the world and the complex political arenas we were trying to navigate.  I found these conversations stimulating and at times memorable and they were happy memories.

I had various small stints in the public sector completing work experience or short term temporary contracts which gave me a small window of the work of local councils.  As a teenager I took GCSE Economics and both my BTECS were in Business and Finance, in these I came to understand  the government’s influence over the economy.  Interestingly having a faith impacted my political feelings, I would hear discussions that the torys would be the government Christians should want to have in power I suppose because of the security aspect and probably upholding Christian values at the time, equally I heard from the labour Christian left of upholding social justice and the poor etc.  Over the years I would meet spatterings of Lib Dem supporters or equivalent, which I learnt to understand more many years later.

During the mid  to late 90’s It was new labour and I was unemployed. I got involved with a local access group for disabled people which I thoroughly enjoyed.

In 2000, I got a job working for a media business during the years I worked at that company with people having strong political views,  my job involved research I got to find out what kind of things our Government at that time was spending its money on, I was always having to read politically related documents, publications and media, we were supposed to be apolitical which I believe we were, but we did have some trouble getting hold of various government departments to write for us some of it I believe was politically motivated unfortunately.  For instance we often had trouble getting hold of edit from Scotland, so the company had to open an office there, to raise our profile and credibility amongst certain Scottish Ministers.

Just before the torys came back into office the recession hit, which once the conservatives got in, started to have impact on the company I worked for.  Due to public sector cuts, private companies were concerned work would dry up for the them as a result.  The strange thing is much as both sides of the Government argue over spending both sides of the Government HAVE to spend money on public services, so there is always work for private companies.  Now you may think that I’m blaming the Conservatives for the eventual collapse of the company I worked for, but I found the joint impact of a decision by the government and the media to report it had a negative impact on the business I worked for, I think there had been some cuts just before the conservatives came into office, but more pronounced when the torys got back in again if I remember correctly .

So I ended up out of work again my own frustration of having a dual disability and being unemployed and listening to the radio got me interested in politics again, hence I set up a group for visually impaired people to have a voice politically, but it’s not a political organisation rather it’s just a network for information and support for that particular endeavour.

Throughout my life I’ve seen the way politics has weaved in and out of my life in various ways and means.  Although my Dad was the first to get me interested in politics the way he influenced me was more on my approach to politics rather than what he believed.  One thing he said that was helpful and I’ve always took it on board is look at both sides and you will get the truth somewhere in the middle, the more I’ve looked at politics and the things I hear the more that seems true, the extremes concern me, when I look at the extremes of politics its  either full of emotionalism or people who have irrational views that don’t have much grounding and don’t want to hear anything that’s not their point of view.  As one friend said recently the funny thing about extremes is that they change over time.  At one time one view was acceptable now would be considered extreme or vice versa.  My other approach is just to listen and seek to understand where someone comes from, even if their view is vastly different to mine .  To me different political parties have their strengths and weaknesses, this is where for example my contrary nature comes in, who do I really want in power, a government that wants to promote a strong economy where jobs are a plenty and a better standard of living or another that promises to take care of you when you are ill, or another which seeks a more consensual form of democracy.  Ultimately I’ve struggled to vote before because what I may want locally may not be what I want nationally or vice versa.

Ultimately I get tired of politics when words are often the measure of a politicians worth, not their actions, unfortunately that’s what they have to do to get the vote talk their way into a job, I suppose that’s a cynical view but there’s truth there, how can we really judge a politicians worth really, by their words or by their actions, as words can be deceptive but so can actions be misconstrued.  All I know is that I still enjoy listening to the debates on how to deal with difficult issues and vote on who will represent the things I care about the most locally, to watch how politicians respond to unexpected crisis.   To me a leader is only as good as their backbenchers as they have the word on the ground and have the best influence to make change.

To end my rather long post a quote that is valuable about any leader is this by John Maxwell

“People don’t want to know how much you know until they know how much you care”

I think that about sums up my politics.

Christianity and Disability

For some time now I’ve been thinking a great deal about this topic.  Just from different things that have happened.  I’ve wondered what is the best approach to talk about this subject or rather write about it.  I’ve come to the conclusion the best way to address it using the passage about Bartimaeus.

1 He cried out

Bartimaeus was on the side begging, but he heard a commotion, he asked what the noise was about and he was told it was Jesus, obviously knowing about who Jesus was, he cried out to him,  he cried out because he knew Jesus could help him.  The words he used was Son of David, have mercy on me.  Yes he was shouting to get Jesus attention because he wouldn’t have been able to find him easily.  But he could have cried out those words for another reason.  Particularly his reference to David.  Was he thinking about the story of Mephibosheth of which  he may have heard in the synagogue, this is recorded in 2 Samuel Ch 9.  David showed kindness to Mephibosheth even though it was his dead rivals sons relative.  Bartimaeus probably didn’t feel that he earned the right to sit at the masters table but asked for mercy anyway. Because he knew that David had shown kindness to someone with a disability.  David had shown kindness on the previous king’s relative by asking him to come to his palace and providing him a place to live and be seated at his table as if he was one of his own.  Mephibosheth was also given servants.  For this Mipobosheth had done nothing to deserve this kindness.  So Bartimaeus was appealing to the son of David’s kindness in the form of Jesus.

2 The people were stern with Bartimaeus

The people’s response to Bartimeaus cries were hostile and harsh telling him to shut up.  Why tell someone in need to shut up, why tell someone whose lived with debilitating condition for many years to shut up.  What is our response when disabled people complain or cry for help?  In fact thankfully in spite of the harshness of the people surrounding him he didn’t give up, he was single minded in his pursuit of Jesus, and had the courage to speak out all the more, telling someone to shut up can often lead to the opposite affect, nothing was going to deter Bartimaeus from receiving his sight not even the fear of man or peoples prejudice.

Before I go any further in this post with the different points of the story I need to say that from this point in the story by the two different accounts recorded in the Bible they diverge.  One accounts Bartimaeus throws off his cloak and  is called over by Jesus, in the other account, he tells those around him to bring Bartimaeus to him.  I’ve decided to go with the account recorded in Luke as I believe it better reflects Jesus character and actions and although I’m sure Bartimaeus threw away his cloak and , therefore throwing away his identity as a disabled person, I don’t believe because of his blindness he would have been able to make his way through a crowd of people to Jesus on his own, therefore I believe Luke’s account is more accurate.  Now I will proceed.

3  Jesus  stopped and commanded “Bring him to me”

Jesus stopped, why because he heard someone cry out to him.  Not just anyone, Jesus didn’t just ignore this man or his disability, in fact he stopped and listened, not only did he stop and listen he also responded. In fact he commanded those around him to bring Bartimaeus to him, he didn’t expect Bartimaeus to try and navigate to him on his own in the huge crowd pressing on him.  He honoured him, he knew his limitations and gave him dignity.

4 Jesus  asked him what he wanted

It may seem strange and it may seem obvious that this man wanted his sight back, but no.  Many disabled people sit in churches and the people assume if they need prayer its because they want prayer for the healing of their particular disability , or that’s the only prayer they need.  NO NO NO.  People with disabilities have the same needs as everyone else, provision, relationships, and emotional health.  so don’t assume when a disabled people come up for prayer its physical healing they want.  Jesus was showing the man respect, he may have already have known Bartimaeus needed physical healing but he needed to ascertain what he wanted at that particular time.  Jesus asked him in order to demonstrate the principle of not assuming you know what someone needs just because it’s obvious.  Also there is more to a disabled person than their disability and this I’m sure he wanted to demonstrate in his actions to the people around him these points that I’ve written here.

5 He responded to his request

Jesus did heal Bartimaeus.  But I want to point something out that may not be obvious. When did Bartimaeus get healed.  You might think it was when Jesus laid hands on him.  I believe it was far sooner than that.  I believe it started at the point where Jesus commanded those around him to bring him to him.  Once those people around Bartiemaeus responded to his command and  brought him to Jesus that’s the point where I believe healing began, because it was a demonstration of love, which I believe is a prerequisite for healing or at least the start.  As soon as Bartimaeus saw Jesus loving response and the immediate kindness from those around him he was able to throw away his identity as a disabled person and become someone with a disability.  Once he reached Jesus then Jesus did the rest.  Bartimaeus became a man who was blind but now could see.

So what does this passage teach us about disability and those of us who are Christians?

1 Listen to people with disabilities  when they cry out for help.

2 Don’t rebuke a disabled person asking for help.

3 Seek to understand what they want and not dismiss their issues and concerns as mere complaining.

4 Ask others to come and assist that individual but be willing to be the one to ultimately help that person if necessary.  Much of the time a disabled person just needs to be heard and understood and ultimately loved the same way as any able bodied person would.

5 Pray for them but ask what they want prayer for.

I may write more on this issue, because I know there are issues that have not yet been addressed. So don’t be surprised if I do another part to this in the future.  Please feel free to ask questions or comment. Thanks 🙂