Sunday, 28 June 2015


My grandmother, for who I am named, is an amazing woman. She was born one of nine children a red headed force of nature. She grew up to be a talented linguist and passionate lover of God, venturing out to Kenya where she was married to my grandfather Peter, mothered four children and stayed for twenty years in the face of all sorts of trials and tribulations.

 In her book ‘Where Love Leads You’ a contemporary of my grandmother, Ruth Strannox Deeth recalls her as energetic woman with a pronounced lisp, she writes about my grandfather becoming suddenly sick whilst far away in the African bush and my grandmothers response…

‘Liza was unique –no panic – no tears, she cooked a meal for the four children, put them to bed and prepared for the next days trip. At midnight, after everyone had gone to bed, the bishop saw a hurricane lamp bobbing up and down in the garden. He went to investigate. It was Liza. “I’m just planting beans in case it rains while I’m away” she explained’ p45-46

This makes me laugh so much as it’s a perfect representation of her priorities, she adores her garden and as long as I’ve known her she has found it a source of sustenance and great joy. Often I would call her for a chat late at night as she never seemed to go to bed before midnight even as an elderly woman!

My grandparents moved to Leeds after coming back from their missionary time in Africa 30 years ago, they made a home and a community there. My beloved grandpa died in 1998 and granny has been living alone ever since. Though she was getting older, her garden was still in magnificent shape, and when I went up to visit as a student I would inevitably be sent out and directed to do the digging and planting despite my sad lack of green fingers!

Fiercely independent and in the possession of a wonderful church family she has managed amazingly living alone these last 17 years, actively involved in serving the community and teaching English to foreign students. But now increasing frailty in her body and the distance of family members has meant she’s become ready to relinquish the house and move down south with my wonderful aunt and uncle in Gerards cross.

We passed through Leeds last weekend and popped in to the empty house for Dad to begin some sorting out. Within about two minutes of being there I was in uncharacteristic floods of tears that wouldn’t seem to abate.

Granny has come to a point where she needs care and family close by, it’s the right thing that she is moving. Nevertheless I’ll miss seeing her in her own small kingdom dreadfully, miss watching her slowly but determinedly walk to the corner shop and greet the family running it that she’s known for years. Also being unable to leave without having about a ton of fruit generously pressed upon me, and of course the memorable experience of watching her cause havoc on an electric scooter in the local Tesco!

We’re all changing and getting older, it is an immutable fact, but I think that as a culture we don’t give enough thought to the end of life.

When I do think of it I think I want to do it like her. Surrounded by friends and an amazing church family, not wallowing in self-pity but accepting Gods plan and knowing that I am drawing closer to finally seeing him face to face as my years diminish.

The day ended well, with two of granny’s friends who had selflessly come by and worked on the garden for four hours of the sunny Saturday.

They saw my emotional state and thoughtfully packed me off to the front garden with a pair of secateurs to pick a flower posy.

This is the bunch that I picked, a testament on my kitchen table to my grandmother’s hard work and commitment, not just in the garden but to everything she has achieved so far in her wonderful life.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Oh the places you'll go

I have a fear,

Somewhat irrational and occasionally debilitating,

I am scared of driving.

As a child, I was in a car accident and though this didn't effect me particularly at the time, looking back it might be where my fear begins, as after the accident I frequently had dreams where I was driving an out of control car.

As a teenager I had lessons but found them mind numbingly scary, the five driving tests I took before I finally passed one were pretty horrific, I have a hazy memory of them at best, but a clear feeling of the sweat soaked trauma.

After taking so many tests my confidence took a nose dive from which it never really recovered.

Though I can and do drive and we were blessed to be given a car the year we got engaged, I really (really really) don't like it.

Though now I am happy making journeys I've done lots of times before, I tend to get thrown by anything new. As we think about moving to a new city with lots of new roads this is becoming more of a problem.

I don't think I am an easily scared person. In fact, I take quite a lot of pride in my general gutsyness,

but sometimes I think this one has got me beat.

Yesterday matt challenged me on the situation, out of love he said that he hates to see me held back by something like this and asked me to think about what we could invest in to help me with my fear.

I responded really well to this loving and gentle challenge - I definitely didn't scream and shout and stomp my feet and demand to be left exactly the way I am, I  certainly didn't say anything along the lines of 'thank you for your kind concern but I love the British railway network deeply and at least this way I won't die screaming in a flaming box of metal'

I was angry, because I was (and I am) terrified that I might have to face this fear. And ultimately Matt is right, I don't want to live in thrall to it. I could spend my life looking for ways around it but that doesn't seem to fit with my desire to embrace every part of life as fully as I can.

At nursery today a small girl brought me a Dr Seuss book to read to her, I felt it was apt for the situation...

This isn't all of the book but a few choice bits...

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.


You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.


And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
You're off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

Dr Seuss 'oh the places you'll go'

So there we go, I don't know what your mountain is, perhaps there are many or maybe just one or two but where they feel insurmountable perhaps we just have to start by moving a few pebbles.