Thursday, 27 December 2007

Post Christmas

Post Christmas or should that be Christmas post?

It is 9 days since my last post, I’m getting withdrawal symptoms!

The reason, I took on knitting a hat, scarf and mitten set for my dear Grandson.
The weather had suddenly turned cold and his Mum found it difficult to get something to fit well that was also warm. It seems there were plenty knitted ones for babies and then others for older toddlers but nothing suitable to fit Oliver
So Grandma stepped in to knit a good warm set

Even though I was not posting I did keep up with all my blogging friends
reading and commenting and enjoyed the decorations and good wishes

Now I am curious to know how other people spent the Christmas season

I felt that my Christmas began when I sat down in the evening, a few days before Christmas to watch a couple of my favourite Christmas D.V.D.’s
The Snowman and The Sound of Music

On Saturday we went out Carol Singing in our neighbourhood with a group from church
We got a very mixed reception
I remember in years gone by where almost everyone would come to their door
And ‘join the party’ as it were
However I believe it is still worth doing as a reminder of what Christmas is really about

Sunday we enjoyed a Carol Service and children’s Nativity play
followed by Mince Pies and Mulled Wine

Monday the usual enjoyable carols from Kings College, Cambridge
Christmas Day dawned with torrential rain that lasted
most of the day
and it was one of those days when it hardly gets properly light all day
I much prefer cold and crisp

Our son came over for the day
We have our present opening over morning coffee
Our Christmas dinner begins at 1.30pm
and we finish in time for the Queen’s Christmas broadcast on TV at 3.0pm
with our coffee and mints
(for anyone interested in other countries one can now watch the Queen’s speech on You Tube under “The Royal Channel”)

The rest of the afternoon was taken up watching
The Wizard of Oz on TV
and then a bracing walk after dark in order to have some appetite for evening tea

After tea my usual ritual of playing Scrabble with my son
We usually are a pretty good match for each other but this year he won by 80 points

Then on Boxing Day we did the whole thing again as Jane came over with her husband Chris and baby Oliver with our son joining us again
Our activities were slightly different though
with a 16 month old joining in

While Alan stayed behind in the afternoon and cleared the dishes and Jane went for a rest
I was to be found on the children’s swings in the park with my Grandson and son, and son-in-law and yes, I did go on the swings

Just one other thing happened in the run up to Christmas
Have you ever caught your ear in the car door?
Believe me it hurts indescribably
I need to slow down, I am known to slam the door shut before I have actually got into the car

So, this was pretty much Christmas in our household this year
Do tell me about yours

Oliver's Hat Scarf and Mittens
The reason I have not posted recently

Now I know that my Ralph Lauren plates do not go with my Christmas table cloth
but these are 12 inch plates
I just cannot fit Christmas
dinner onto my normal 10 inch dinner plates
The main course consists of Roast Turkey,
Sausage with Cranberry and Pork stuffing
wrapped in Bacon
Sage and Onion Stuffing
Bread Sauce
Honey Roast Parsnips and Carrots with Rosemary
Savoy Cabbage sauteed in butter with Cummin seeds
Roast potatoes with Rosemary and Lemon Zest
A brown pouring Gravy made with Turkey stock
A very light starter that does not fill one up
Pink Grapefruit grilled with wine, butter and brown sugar
For dessert, Christmas Pudding with Custard, Ice-cream and Brandy Butter
Mince Pies for those with room left
Coffee and Mints

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Where did 48 Years Go?

Today is our wedding anniversary

48 years

Where did the years go

We don't really celebrate

Restaurants are just full of office parties this time of year

Instead we enjoy a special meal at home

So tonight it is Roast Chicken Breast covered in a Smoked Bacon Lattice with

Pork and Sage & Onion Stuffing

Roast Parsnips, Roast Potatoes and Brussels sliced and sauteed in butter and garlic
For dessert

Lemon and Cream Souffle finished with Caramelised Orange Shreds

My card to Alan
The tags are embossed with "Thank You", "Happy Anniversary" and
"To a Special Peson"
The bell is for those church bells that rang out all those years ago

19th December 1959

Monday, 17 December 2007


Joycelyn if you come back to visit you can get my E-mail address from my Profile if you wish to get in touch.
I cannot contact you without a link. E-mailing me will not disclose your address on my blog.
Thank you for your comments.As you are not a blogger it is interesting to see how God led you to my site.
I am humbled to know that you have found my blog helpful and inspiring.
One never knows how many lives are being touched through this world of blogging.
I understand your struggles, I have been there myself.
However God is ever faithful and knows what He is doing
and He is in the business of changing us from one degree of Glory to the next.
It is when we come to the end of ourselves that God can move in and work His purposes out in our lives.
He is in the business of restoring us into His perfection and not our own.
His desire is to manifest Himself through us to the world.
So hang in there, God will never let you down although it might feel like it at times as we learn to grow in faith.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

It's Christmas

Today we put up our lights and decorated the tree
so it is beginning to feel like Christmas
When my children lived at home I used to put up lots of decorations
even had two trees
but for the last few years all I have done is string up lights in the front sitting room
and put a tree in the back sitting room
Obviously I decorate the Christmas table but even that has been simplified
Apart from candles and a centrepiece
I like to scatter gold wrapped chocolate coins on to a Christmas themed table cloth
They add a quick and easy decoration and then of course they can be eaten

A Christmas tea cosy

The cards are now finished but this was the start
I made 70 and topped up with some bought ones

Carol singing Penguin and Father Christmas with his sack of toys
All knitting done by yours truly some years ago

I was experimenting with different settings on the camera

Early morning frost outside gives a contrast

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

December Estuary

Yesterday the weather was cold, crisp and sunny so we decided to drop everything
and drive out to the estuary
I like to visit at all times of the year as estuary skies, light and atmosphere
differ by the season
My plan was to walk, watch the birds and take photographs
I took about 60 but there are just a few here
We took a picnic onto Two Tree Island in the Thames
and after our picnic dropped into the golf driving range
for a mug of hot tea
then returned to the island to continue
After the light had faded and I had my awesome sunset photos
we went into the town of Leigh-on-sea at the top of the cliffs
for afternoon tea
I had an enormous piece of Iced Lemon cake sandwiched together with lemon cream

There were so many wild Rosehips

I loved the isolation and silence
while the shops were bursting at the seems with Christmas shoppers

Where are the birds Did not see too many today but the Brent Geese are here on the edge of the marshes

The oil refinery across the creek on Canvey Island

The sun's reflection was so glaring it made this picture look like it was later than it actually was

The sun is going down in the West but reflecting to the East

Sunlight on water

It's now 3.40 pm and the sun is going down

It's now 4.30 pm, we have had our tea and we see only the lights of Canvey Island

Friday, 7 December 2007

MY STORY Chapter 12 - Climbing back up the Mountain

Names have been changed to protect privacy

The next significant chapter in my life was the birth of my children. The decision to start a family was initially put on hold through being at sea, and then living in limited rented accommodation. Then as the years of anxiety and depression took their toll, I didn’t feel that I could cope with pregnancy and Motherhood. However after 8 years of marriage I began to feel that I wanted children bad enough to go ahead in spite of all my fears. I didn’t feel that I would cope with pregnancy while working at a Geriatric Hospital so made the decision to retire from work first. This I did and became pregnant straight away.

After rededicating my life to Christ at the Billy Graham Crusade I was put in touch with a local church and we were beginning to make Christian friends. Two of the guys at church, Andrew and Tim had the vision to set up a Christian Rehabilitation Centre in the town, and immediately upon hearing that I had given up my job, asked me if I would get involved with them. They had to have a secretary before a charity could be formed. I initially offered them 6 months to get them started in view of the fact that I was pregnant. This 6 months stretched to over 6 years. I became the secretary, a founder member and voluntary worker.

Tim, who has long since died, was a volunteer with the Samaritans and he wanted to do much more for the clients than he was able to do through this very worthwhile charity. So with the help of Andrew and me, a new charity was formed. For 2 years the office for this Christian rehabilitation centre was run from my home and the clients in need of accommodation stayed at Tim’s home. It was during this time that my son and daughter were born.

As time went on and I was able to raise some funds, Tim sold his house and we bought a large house in the centre of the town where Tim and his wife became house parents. We took in people such as drug addicts, unmarried Mothers, ex-prisoners. The criteria for admission to the house, was that we would take in anyone with severe problems who wanted help but also had nowhere to live. Everyone who came knew that there would be a strong Christian influence on their lives. Some of the residents became Christians and others did not but all certainly left having seen the gospel in action. More helpers became involved with us and as funds came in we eventually also took over a small farm in the countryside where more long term residents were taken to stay.

However, in all of this, nobody knew of my inner turmoil, I was a professional at keeping things covered up and I was drugged up to the eye balls on prescribed medication. There were times at home when I was frightened to be left alone, frightened to go out, and on the very worst days Alan was afraid to leave the house. Years later he told me that after driving home he would sit in the car bracing himself for what he would find. I had a few mild accidental overdoses through mixing the wrong foods with my increasing reliance on medication.

Though all this time, Alan who did not profess to be a Christian, came with me to church and involved himself where he could with some of the residents in our centre. He gets on well with people, has a good sense of humour and people easily take to him. On the occasions when we did not have family stay with us at Christmas we would have a resident from the centre spend Christmas day with us.

However I knew that I was not experiencing the reality of what the Bible promised me and along with a friend we became very dissatisfied with what we were experiencing in our church. We began to seek out any meetings where there seemed to be much more life in the Spirit. One night when the family were asleep I began crying out to God and asking Him, “Where are you?” I immediately saw a vision/picture of Jesus dressed in white but He seemed to be hovering out of my reach. I called again and the vision/picture changed to Jesus on the cross with a crown of thorns around his head. Again I wasn’t satisfied and called out, “Where are you now?” I then felt a sudden impact like a physical thump on my chest and heard God reply, “I am right here inside of you”. It was some years before I understood the reality of this but the encounter did give me a renewed sense of peace. God was no longer someone out there and out of reach but a very real presence within me. I knew what I had experienced and nobody could take that away from me.

Another night while praying I found myself speaking in tongues and rejoicing like I never had before and knew that I had been baptized in the Spirit sitting in my own living room. I went back to bed excited and wondering what difference these experiences would make in my life. I was looking for reality and a gospel that would make a difference in people’s lives.

Shortly afterwards I began to realise how crazy and chaotic my life was becoming when I started to black out when I walked upstairs. This happened when I was in our rehabilitation centre one day and through this God started to show me how my life was really no different to the lives of the people I was trying to help. I knew this could not continue so with the renewed spiritual confidence that I was experiencing as a result of my recent encounter with God, I told a few close and trusted co-workers about the reality of my life. I had by now been taking several mind and mood altering medications for 10 years. I could not function without them, I was addicted. My first dose of Librium was taken before I could even get out of bed.

After much prayer together we decided that I would trust God in this and go cold turkey with the drugs. I had no idea what I was about to experience and although I was trusting God to see me through, I could never have managed without the help and support of those close friends that I had confided in. I went through 3 weeks of withdrawal hell. I could hardly get out of bed and would lie there sweating and shaking and trying to understand why my head appeared to be on the ceiling. The pain in my head was excruciating and I couldn’t eat or sleep. One friend came in during the day to look after my children while Alan was at work, another cooked and yet another would come and sit with me during the evenings. My children were used to being with me at the centre so they knew and were happy with those helping me. Eventually my symptoms lessened as my body adjusted.

Later when I visited my doctor he was horrified and told me that I could have died going cold turkey without medical supervision. He of course was not taking into account the part that God was playing in this. He did however insist that I take a reduced dose of Valium to give my body time to adjust. I initially took his advice but quickly realised, when side effects kicked in, that this was not helping me and for me the answer was to rely totally on God for the continued healing of my body and emotions.

Not too long after this we began to experience difficulties in our centre. We were becoming well known and more and more professionals were wanting to be involved with the work and local churches were supporting us financially. As nearly always happens in this kind of situation, 2 factions started to emerge. Those that wanted to take the more professional path and those of us who had begun this work as a pure faith venture. We had grown from a founding membership of 3 to a committee of over 30 people. So many changes followed and there were those that were happy to stay and those that felt it was time to move on.

It can be scary stepping out of the familiar but God has His seasons and can be totally trusted to take us on the next step of our journey. He replenishes with more abundance than we could ever ask for. He never lets us down as we trust our life to Him. So a new chapter and a new stage in the journey coming up.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Cotswolds Pt 14 - Stow-on-the-Wold

Stow-on-the-Wold means meeting place on the hill.

Stow-on-the-Wold is an ancient Cotswold Wool Town situated beside the Roman Fosseway and set on a rounded hill at the height of about 800feet above sea level. This elevated position and the effects of the elements have encouraged the creation of an enclosed town square. Iron Age people were the first to settle on the hill and there is evidence of earlier settlements in this part of the Cotswolds. Stone Age and Bronze Age burial mounds are common throughout the area.

The houses of Stow were built with the mellow Cotswold stone from local quarries. Some have massive internal oak beams from the days when Gloucestershire was covered in forest.

The Kings Arms is a good example of a coaching inn where the main entrance was through the arch leading to the stables. King Charles I stayed here at the time of the Battle of Naseby in 1645. On Digbeth Street stands the Royalist Hotel, said to be the oldest inn in England. An inn has stood on this site since 947 AD.

The King's Arms Coaching Inn

Monday, 3 December 2007

Today and all it's Diversity

I’ve been posting so much on the Cotswolds recently and also posting on my story that it felt like time to fit in a ‘today’ post.

I see so many beginning to post on Christmas so I decided today that I really should get on with the making of my Christmas cards. Alan also went up into the loft to bring down the decorations although it will be some weeks before I shall be putting any of them up.

I have just had my broadband connection upgraded to 4 mgs instead of 2 and I am finding it so much quicker for uploading photographs from my computer. Obviously it makes downloading from the net quicker too but that does depend also on how busy the server is as you know.

I want to recognise
Maddy all the way down there in Australia. She has been helping me with my family tree. A brother-in-law did a great family research on Alan’s family some years ago and presented my daughter with a copy when she was married 8 years ago. The idea was that I would continue by adding my side of the family. After quite some time I began getting things together and was greatly helped by a cousin who had already put together quite a bit of my Father’s family. However, I became very frustrated when trying to get anywhere with my Mother’s family. I just could not come up with anything for my maternal Grandfather so I decided to give up and just put together what I already had. Having commented to this effect on Maddy’s blog she so kindly said she would help if I gave her some information to work on.

From my Grandparents marriage certificate Maddy was able to trace back to the early 1800’s. I am so excited to be able to fill in some of the gaps. So thank you so much Maddy – you are an angel. One of the main problems of course in trying to trace a family tree at my age is that there is no-one left alive who can answer questions. I do have some very interesting information on other branches of the tree which I may share in a future posting.

So while Maddy has been researching I have been sleeping and while she has been sleeping I have been going through the family tree. While I have been out walking bracing myself against the very cold wind, Maddy has been trying to stay cool in their very hot weather. Isn’t it amazing to be connecting these two extremes on our blogs.

The weekend has been fun. We went to a 60th birthday party on Saturday and dinner with a group of friends on Sunday and friends over to us for dinner on Tuesday. Thursday we will be spending at Janie’s house with dear little Oliver so that’s another week gone by.

Before signing off I would just like to thank everyone who has been commenting and encouraging me to continue writing my story. Without you I may have given up a long time ago. I have always wanted to put my story into print but it is proving harder than I imagined.I don't find it easy making myself just take the time to sit down and write it. I am still only up to the mid-sixties so there is still a long way to go with many more twists and turns (to quote one of my comments). My whole aim is to be able to encourage others who may be struggling and going through similar trials and to show how God can transform a life. So hang in there, it’s a worth while read.

A few photos from this weekend to finish.

Colour from my garden today

The London Skyline from my neighbourhood
silloueted on the horizon

A nice reminder

Friday, 30 November 2007

MY STORY Chapter 11 Life Gets Messy

My young brother had returned to the North of England and I was trying so hard to live the prefect life. I became a perfectionist in everything I did, but also became depressed, agoraphobic and ridden with anxiety. I became afraid to eat and my weight plummeted to a little over 6 ½ stone (about 95 lbs), Anorexia before I even knew the word.

Here began a long road of addictive medication. On my first visit to my doctor, in my innocence I had thought that pills would make me better, so was only too happy to accept all that was offered, even hypnotherapy. The result was that over the next ten years I became addicted to a large number of prescription drugs until I was taking Anti-depressants 3 times a day, Librium 4 times a day and sleeping pills at night. This was in the early 60’s when the addictive quality of these pills was little known. They were the new wonder drugs. I also embarked on 5 years of Psychotherapy at the Tavistock Clinic, London’s leading psychiatric clinic at the time.

I tried to hold down my job and look as normal as possible on the outside whilst getting more desperate on the inside. A meal in a restaurant, a coffee in a coffee shop, a simple day out or a trip to the shops would all end prematurely as I would be overtaken with fear and panic. I suffered deep guilt and loss of self-esteem as I began to see myself as a failure and I could not understand my inability to cope with seemingly ordinary things. My Psychiatrist believed that a lot of my problem was suppressed anger and would do everything to try and get me to express this anger. The more he did, the more I clamped up. None of these treatments really helped me to overcome my current problems. I think the only benefit was that I developed more insight into situations.

During this time we had moved from our rented bed-sitting room to a rented one bedroom flat in Hampstead that was actually the converted top floor of a house, there being 2 flats beneath us. Two things happened while there that made us realise we needed to move on. After a change of tenants in the flat below we began to realise after a while that our telephone bills were higher than they should have been. Also on a couple of occasions I bumped into strange men on the stairs when I had got up during the night. It turned out that the girls in the flat below were running a ‘call girl’ set up and they had been coming into our flat during the day when we were at work to use our telephone.

So in 1965 we left London and bought a house in the north eastern suburbs. I was fortunate enough to be transferred from my position in a large London General Hospital to a local Geriatric Hospital where I worked as an assistant to the then Social Worker. Not too long after I started working there she moved on and after applying or her post and being successful, I became the Social Worker, taking care of the practical needs of 450 patients with the help of a secretary.

Unknown to anyone else I was becoming sicker and more reliant on medication to cope. I knew I needed help, that areas of my life were out of control, but how could I get back to that place where I knew that God was in control. I desperately wanted to hand my life back to Him. My answer came in the form of a Billy Graham Crusade in London, it was 1966. It wasn’t that I did not believe myself to be a Christian, just that I saw myself as a miserable failing one who just did not make the grade.

In desperation I persuaded my husband Alan, who was then not a Christian, to take me up to the Haringey Arena in west London. When we arrived the place was full to overflowing and we found a seat on the furthest away row, high up and at the back of the auditorium. When the appeal was given, in spite of the distance and the logistics of getting to the front, I was out of my seat like a shot. I ran for the nearest lift only to find it was being used by the St. John’s Ambulance for a medical emergency. To this day I do not clearly remember how I got to the front, but I did with tears pouring down my face, and I recommitted my life to Christ. Anyone at any time can get on their knees before God and re-commit or repent and ask Him into ones life, but for me at the time I needed to make this public declaration. I do not know how I managed to find Alan afterwards but I obviously did because he took me home.
Was this the end of my trials, definitely not, but it was the beginning of the next step of an incredible journey. God knows what He is doing as He takes us one step at a time, teaching us every step of the way through trials, suffering and joy. He perfects us through our experiences as we walk in the light trusting in Him. He finishes what He has begun and He changes us from one degree of Glory to the next. It may not feel like it at the time but He is a Gracious and Faithful God whose desire is to see us mature and find our completeness in Him. We will see how He does this in the years ahead as we travel through the continuing chapters
Our rented one bedroom flat in Hampstead
It was almost impossible to get two people in the kitchen at once
Very different to how young marrieds start out today
I have always loved reading

Changing hairstyles

This was a Vidal Sassoon

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Cotswolds Pt 13 - Hailes Abbey Ruins

Another of our visits while we were in the Cotswolds was to

Hailes Abbey Ruins

just a short drive from where we were staying.

It is the site of a 13th Century Cisterian abbey

Founded in 1256 and once a celebrated pilgrimage site, the abbey now lies in ruins.

Remains of the dramatic cloister arches survive and there is a small museum

I always find it interesting to walk around castle and abbey ruins

looking at the layouts and trying to imagine life in those times

The drain from the latrines

Pillar bases

The Monks Habit