Tuesday, 2 January 2018

2017: a brief round-up of our year...

On the move...and staying put.

Our year seems to have centred on the word HOME – in various guises. After settling on staying in Guernsey last year, we’ve been busy... settling in. Some decorating, some sorting, not enough decluttering, quite a lot of gardening; more DIY – mostly Richard; making Morningstar into our hereforeverhome.

And yet... ‘Home is where the heart is.’ Our hearts are not only in Guernsey but also very much with family and friends scattered around the world. We can’t be in two places at once, so we have relished opportunities to reconnect, whether locally with good friends, having friends and family to stay, or internationally: Skyping with Cat and Andy, Jonny and Adele and extended family, including Cat and Jonny’s ‘parents-in-law’;  visits from Tanzania, visits to Adele’s parents in Lincoln, dear friends in Shrewsbury and Lancashire...

School has also been an extension of home, though becoming, for Angie, less so: she continues to enjoy the children and their parents, but there have been many, many changes this year, not least the departure of a much-loved headteacher.

...and, of course, much time – three months total, in fact – has been spent in the motorhome visiting France: Brittany in February, the Loire valley at Easter, exploring the South of France in the summer. #justa2hourferryride.  The Dogkennel, as our vehicle is known because Pickle would spend all her time in there if she could, hosted quite a few friends: lunch picnics down at the beach over New Year; groups of family friends camping with us in France; a gathering of 9 of us for supper just before we all caught the ferry back home. It has been wonderful to have the flexibility and opportunity which the motorhome gives us to meet up with so many friends. While away, we have been able to have guests to stay in our house, through AirBnb. Preparing the house certainly ensures that it has an extremely thorough spring clean!

And I reflect: Jesus grew up in a home but, as an adult, had no home to call his own. When he was born, it was among strangers; his early years were spent as a refugee in Egypt. Cat and Andy are living their lives helping refugees and homeless people in Iraq, working with Medair. (Andy works to provide clean water and sanitation; Cat runs the logistics, finances and human resources for the medical teams. Their jobs are hugely demanding: we are in awe of the equanimity with which they face daily challenges.) Adele and Jonny are teaching in an independent school in Arusha, Tanzania: Jonny is loving being back in Africa, especially as they live near our long-time friends Byron and Lisa. In their free time, they volunteer to help train teachers in poorer schools, so that the poorest children can receive a better education. We are grateful for their work.

So, as we look back on this year, as I think about the children’s lives we have all, in our various ways, touched: I think of the future, and what 2018 might bring. What difference will we make this year? For all our efforts are nothing compared to the Gift of Jesus that we remember particularly at Christmas. Grateful for His gift, grateful for His grace.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Definitely December

The last month of the year. Long awaited, because it heralded Cat and Andy's visit for Christmas. They had sent us a brief video, purporting to be booking Airbnb for the Christmas period... which then turned out to be our house. They had booked their flights and were coming for Christmas!  (They had previously checked that we had decided to stay in Guernsey; had debated arriving on the doorstep, dressed in Christmas wrapping paper; but decided to let us know by video link...)

To say we were thrilled, delighted, ecstatic...is an understatement. Sometimes, words just don't cut it....

Before their arrival, of course, there were three weeks filled with carol services and the necessary rehearsals; Christmas decorating, Christmas lunches, Christmas shopping...  Advent.
Market square, St Peter Port

Advent. This year, a daily blog reflection; contributing to some 'reverse Advent calendars', both at home and at school; opportunities, while teaching RE, to reflect on the Christmas story and Jesus's coming, and what that means to us.

And some lovely little films, helping explore the meaning of Christmas:

And, of course, my all-time favourite: An Unexpected Christmas:

After school ended, we took a break to stay on Lihou with friends for the night, enjoying the feeling of being castaways once the tide had come in and covered the causeway. Talking, catching up, playing 'Empires'.

And then... They Were Here!  (I managed to continue with my daily reflection even after Cat and Andy had arrived, though it seemed as if all December waited for them to step off the Aurigny jet on to Guernsey airport tarmac.)

Such, such fun. We hugged and laughed and chatted; we walked the cliff paths, along beaches, around Lihou headland; cycled in wind, sunshine and rain showers through St Peters and round to Cobo; got up early to watch the sunrise from Vale Castle with Mags and Louis; CELEBRATED CHRISTMAS together, Skyping with Jonny and Adele.

Opening stockings, exchanging wonderful Turkish and Iraqi gifts (beautifully patterned in blue and white), eating with friends; completing a 998 piece 'Where's Wally' jigsaw puzzle (yes, 2 pieces missing from the 1000 piece puzzle), playing countless games of Monopoly Deal #nowofficiallyhooked  #suchfun

Richard wearing a traditional Kurdish scarf - a keffiyeh (cemedani in Kurdish)

Pickle: not quite sure what to do with a pig's ear.

no caption needed!

Too cute.

Lihou headland

Lihou in the background - cut off by the tide

The Cobo Boxing Day swim
After the swim: Andy, Mags and Louis went in.

Walking from Jerbourg to Fermain, spotting a seal on the way. Then a picnic at Fermain Bay, watching gannets diving for fish.

Vale Castle

Sunrise at Vale Castle - no. 29 for Cat #30before30


Looking south from the Vale

Watermill - Guernsey's only working mill.


Checking the surf at Vazon en route from Cobo tea rooms

Ronez quarry - nature walk around it

Le Trepied


From Le Trepied looking west towards Lihou

Windy walk at Port Grat

Ronez quarry

Nature walk around Ronez quarry

cuddle with Pickle

Little Chapel

Last day L'Ancresse walk

Monopoly deal... again!
The days seemed to stretch on endlessly... and then, suddenly, it was time for them to go. Not quite the 39 hour journey it took to get here, but, still, long. We wrote cards to tuck into their luggage and open at different stages along the way: prolonging the togetherness just a little bit....

And now: January, the 1st. A new year.
Separation is a sorrow, yet...
we resolutely choose joy and thankfulness for the year we have had and the times we have had together with those we love so much. We carry these words within us:

Mötas och skiljas är livets gång. Skiljas och mötas är hoppets sång. 
Nu skiljs våra vägar, nu säger vi farväl, men vi hoppas att vi ses igen.”
Loosely translated:
"Meeting and parting is the way life goes;
parting and meeting is the song of hope.
Now our ways separate; now we say goodbye
but our great hope is to meet again and say 'hi'."

This coming year will be 40 years since I first went to work in Sweden, and yet, the language is still deeply in my heart. Looking forward, looking back... what will January bring?
Looking forward to the future...

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Nice November

The month began with bright, clear, blustery weather - the kind of weather with increased ions in the atmosphere, an air of cheerfulness. The Nerines' bright pink scattered around the garden are now fading, but the bright red berries adorning the patio have remained for weeks, showing no signs, yet, of dropping.

Just what we need to cheer the colder, greyer days approaching.

Despite November's bad reputation, we seem to have cruised through it. The weather has, mostly been mild: I still managed to cycle to school every day, even when the wind was quite fierce. Although we are very near the sea, we can avoid the fiercest of the storm by going down the back lanes...
Not all is windy... many sunsets are beautifully calm.
School was overfull of events and reports and excited children... at home, we acquired a TV, for the first time in many years. Sad to see how much rubbish is broadcast, but it has been fun watching the All Blacks storm their way through some very exciting matches. And then discovering the joys of David Attenborough's Blue Planet - unbelievable photography.

Saturdays were busy: Healing Rooms: a breakfast for women friends from church, where we gather at my table to share life together; prayer times with Kareena... owner of Pickle's best friend, Howie.
Weeks full of parents' evenings - always a joy to meet parents and be encouraged as we discuss their children's progress; a ladies' evening, in support of MedAir; a gathering of friends and neighbours to supper....

Much laughter. Nice.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Joy, satisfaction and the link to living...

Interrupting my monthly updates with a teacherly reflection. Actually, it's more a reflection and a reminder on a few instances which have brought me joy this week. And they are both, unusually, from work. Teaching.

Teaching involves children. And so teaching involves stress and angst and hard work and trying to solve problems. Sometimes, it works.

The stress this week was trying to help a child do maths. His attitude was challenging: I counted myself fortunate that he hasn't actually written: "I hate maths." or "This lesson sucked." but it has been a close thing on a number of occasions. Matters came to a head earlier in the week when he just about refused to do any of the practice questions I had set the class. Tears - his AND mine - were incipient.

I took a deep breath and directed him to read and closely examine my Growth Mindset display at the back of the class. Fortunately, it was break at the end of the lesson so we both had time to recover. After the break, I asked him if anything had been helpful.  "Yes," he replied, "this." as he pointed to this image:
Image result for growth mindset steps to success "Oh, interesting," was my reply. "Where do you think you are on these steps?" He pointed to 'I can't do it.'
"I'm here," he said, confident that I would recognize the truth of the statement.
"Oh no, you aren't," I replied. He stiffened, ready to defend his position. "No, you're here." I pointed tot he bottom step "I won't do it". "You don't want to try maths at all. It's not about can't because I promise you, you can. And I know that is true, because, as you know, I am a Very Old Teacher and have taught hundreds of children. I know you can do maths If You Want To."
I carried on for a bit longer, going on about negative attitude, giving up before you're even started, blah blah blah.
Then we went back to my desk and I explained the maths issue again, using some very simple practical aids. After a few minutes of teaching, where my unwilling student had achieved 100% accuracy while I, metaphorically speaking, stood over him, we then stopped and I gave it no more thought....

...until a couple of days later, when I realised a) there had been no more negative comments written in the maths book b) no more negative attitudes in maths AT ALL  c)increased concentration and focus  and d)a much happier little boy.

I called him over and shared my observations. "Oh yes," he said, smiling. "I'm so much happier now. And I LIKE MATHS."
I congratulated him, low key. Well, I might have used words like thrilled, delighted, proud etc etc, but I didn't whoop for joy or high five him. Just found myself grinning broadly, at how just a few minutes of focused attention had made all the difference to this particular ten year old... Memo To Self: Pay Attention. It reaps dividends...

The other incident which gave me particularly warm and fuzzy feelings was, in brief, just reminding a troubled child of two key questions: What is the problem? What are you going to do about it?
A little reflection and he had a strategy. Result: a much happier, more in control child who, hopefully, has a strategy for the future now as well.

Teaching. Making a difference. And, really, Absolutely Nothing To Do At All With The Three Rs....

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Observations in October

October began in an oddly musical way...

The first Saturday was time for my monthly participation in the Healing Rooms - praying for folk to be healed. We always prepare by having a shortish - twenty minutes - session of worship music, remembering that healing is from God and getting ready to serve Him in obedience.

After that, I whizzed down the hill to the library. Down in town, the first thing I saw was a dance group  of willing volunteers, performing steps to rap music...while, round the corner, a girl started busking, singing a Simon and Garfunkel song as her opening number: beautiful voice. I headed for the quiet of the library, but there was a celebratory arts event on with all kinds of activities and a classical music group, dressed in appropriate historical costume, playing Regency era songs from the minstrels gallery while costumed dancers performed steps below.  Back outside, the dance group had turned its expert feet to Irish dancing: at least, two tiny girls were earnestly hopping around while the rest of the group looked on, bemused. 

The cycle home is usually a quiet oasis of calm lanes, but as I approached the Guernsey Horse Riding Club, I was serenaded by loud popular music. Odd - a heavy drizzle had set in: not impossible for a horse event, but there had been no publicity.As I drew nearer, I saw a lone horse rider circling the ring, practising dressage to the music blaring out of the loudspeakers.

Strange to have so much music in the course of the day, but I was reminded again when our dear friend Robin phoned later. Now aged nearly 97, he has been a family friend for nearly sixty years. His was a highly talented musical and artistic family (his brother, John Craxton, became an internationally renowned artist while his father, Harold Craxton, was a well-recognised pianist and composer.  Robin's wife herself had been a wonderful piano teacher and both were valued family friends. She had died in August, so Robin had been on my mind as I wondered how he was coping after a lifetime of devotion...

Ongoing in October has been the fall out from the referendum in Kurdistan, Iraq. It has made life and work even more difficult for aid workers there. Cat and Andy could not fly out of Erbil, the capital, for their planned R and R in Croatia, as Iraq has banned all flights except internal ones to Baghdad. Instead, they had to drive across the border to Turkey and fly from there. So not impossible, just tricky, time-consuming and awkwardly fraught with potential difficulties...We pray.

Highlight in October was, of course, Byron and Lisa’s visit. Dear friends for 32 years, they have continued to live and work in Africa – presently Tanzania – and are considered as family by Jonny. What a delight that Jonny and Adele are now teaching in the same area and get to see them frequently... and what a help Byron and Lisa have been to our ‘children’ as they settle into life in Arusha, accompanied by all the challenges and joys that characterise Life in Africa.

So we had three days of much laughing, reminiscing, talking heart to heart... Walks on the windy cliffs as Storm Brian raged through the British Isles; coffee overlooking the harbour; a birthday celebration for Lisa, eating dinner while a high tide crashed waves on to the windows of the restaurant; exploring World War 2 relics and remains.
Selfies at home...

Sue Wilson from the Tumaini Fund came to visit. Byron has just supplied them with a Basic Utility Vehicle which his project in Arusha is developing for small scale farmers. #joyinconnection

Lisa was pleased to discover Blue Bottle gin, made in Guernsey, after Jonny's recommendation!

Rather an appropriate advert #Africanvisitors

Storm Brian. #windy #blownoffourfeet

Dinner out

Waves lashed at the windows

We took the overnight ferry to Portsmouth together in the motorhome, journeying up to Surrey to explore Newlands Corner, which Lisa had visited when living there as a child. Beautiful. I had had no idea there was so much countryside so near London. There on the  North Downs Way we saw a flock of jays and a variety of tits, including coal tits, clustering tamely on the bird feeders at the Visitors’ Centre.

It was, indeed, sad when we left them in the tiny village where they had booked to stay with their Karly and Trevor, their second son. Trevor and Jonny were adventure buddies growing up, sharing our holidays in Portugal and then, later, the whole group of brothers and friends making an epic walking safari of 100 miles through northern Tanzania...  Bummed that we had time only for a quick hello and goodbye...

Yet sadness did not consume us. The gift of the visit was such an unexpected joy that we were able to accept the inevitability of parting... and we, too, were on our way to other encounters with other friends...

...with Pickle. Adventuring, again, in the motorhome to Pastures New – or rather, mostly, Pastures Old.

And then, we were back home, to Nearly November.