Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Glorious Mud!

I've just come back from Greenbelt Festival. Every garment I've worn is splattered with mud, and you should see my wellies. (It is possible to do that now that I've chipped the last layer off them.) It was the wettest Greenbelt in at least fifteen years, we had thunderstorms and pouring rain, and if you want to look at the Greenbelt site you may find some pictures. Was it worth it?

Greenbelt is a festival about Christian faith, justice, music, arts and ecology. Since Friday I've been to some thoroughly stimulating and brilliant talks, especially by Prof Sir Diarmaid McCulloch (who was one of Tony's tutors at college, and has written the most thorough, enlightening and readable History of Christianity.) Diarmaid's talk was one of the highlights of my Greenbelt this year. So was a silversmithing workshop (I'm wearing the ring I made!) Tony singing in the choir, the Proclaimers on mainstage, the Taize service, a brilliantly funny, witty and thoughtful play called the God Particle, and meeting up with the godfamily. We danced, we sang, we prayed, we listened, we learned, we laughed, we were challenged. My wellies started letting in water.

The Golden Child was making new friends and having a wonderful time. Other small godchildren danced around the mud and fell in, and didn't mind a bit. By the time their big sister and I had sluiced them down and changed their clothes we had to unblock the sink.

Just when I thought all was drawing to an end I disovered that one of my author friends, the brilliant Meg Harper, was there, and we drank coffee and talked for over an hour while Bellowhead played the closing set and people danced in the lake that had formed in front of Mainstage.

Was it worth it?

Here's to Greenbelt 2013

Sunday, 19 August 2012


For them of you as 'asn't met me, I'm the stone gnome what lives in 'er garden. Strictly speaking it ain't 'er garden at all, it belongs to the church wot 'e works for, and I was 'ere riding me snail along the rockery for years before they turned up.

'Er asn't been round a lot this summer. The rain 'as been tipping down something shocking and 'er's always off places, visiting 'er folks, off to Anglesey, doing work stuff, blimey, some folk never stay in one place. With the weather being so rotten and nobody to talk to, me and me old snail have just dozed most of the summer. There weren't nothing worth waking up for.

Then all of a sudden this morning, there's a very small person running down the garden with a pot of bubbly stuff in her fist. Blimey, I thought, you don't get many humans that size. 'Er ladyship brought her along the rockery to be introduced to me, as is only right and proper, me being an ancient edifice around 'ere, and little Lucy was suitably impressed. She admired me snail, and another real live one what had crawled up his shell without me noticing. Even blew some bubbles for me. Sensible little girl, that Lucy, knows how to show respect to an old chap.

Then, because Lucy couldn't see me face very well (and I am a fellow worth looking at, though I say it meself), 'er ladyship picked me up to turn me round. 'I'd forgotten how heavy you were, Much,' says 'er. It's all right or 'er, she ain't made of granite. She tried again, still couldn't get me turned round. That's when she saw that we've been sat 'ere so long, there's a cotoneaster growing over me snail.

Better get down here with the clippers, missus, before I gets all overgrown like the Sleeping Blooming Beauty.

Friday, 17 August 2012


Sometimes it's all too much in one day.

After parting from our friends in York, Tony and I went to see the York Mystery Plays. In the Middle Ages the various town crafts and trades guilds performed the 'mysteries', which were episodes from the Bible performed on wagons. 'Mysteries' in this case refers, not to 'holy mysteries' but to the Guilds themselves, and different Guilds took responsibility for different Bible stories.

The Mysteries were revived in the twentieth century, and this year were performed in the ruins of St Mary's Abbey, using an adapted version of the medieval text. Production was done by the Theatre Royal and the extraodinary, exciting, inspiring Riding Lights Theatre Company. (We're very proud to be supporters of RLTC.) There was a cast of hundreds. Two of them were professional actors. The rest were all people from York taking part without pay, for the love of it.

The cast may not have been professional, but you wouldn't have known it. Brilliantly acted, staged, set, lit - the sound quality and all the organisation were spot on. A simple but towering set reached up to the heights of the abbey ruins. The seats are under a canopy, the stage isn't, and performances go on regardless.

One clever aspect of this was that the cast were all dressed in the style of the post-war years, a time of austerity and struggle. They had battered suitcases, hand-knitted cardigans, and ankle socks - all in contrast to the angels in the various colours of the rainbow. Adam and Eve in their innocence were portrayed by two children, and only appeared as adults when they'd eaten the apple. The Massacre of the Innocents and other scenes of oppression were terrifyingly modern. It was moving and inspiring, and visually glorious.

The children's afternoon yesterday was pretty glorious, too, largely because the weather was. Somebody lent us two paddling pools. Combined with warm water and washing up liquid, what more could anyone want? A lot of the water ended up outside of the pools instead of in, so we were using a white plastic bucket to top it up. At least, we were until somebody put a baby in the bucket. She LOVED it. And wonderful Jackie who runs the kitchen happily let us borrow whisks, bowls, a few teapots and anything else we wanted. She is a granny, and understands things like that.

Somewhere in all of this, with the sunshine, the happy mothers, and the children having the time of their lives, I think I head God splash.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Ten in August

A lot could have gone wrong.

Yesterday, ten of us were meeting in York. That's ten of us who used to go round together long long ago when hi-tech was a cassette player. Some of us were part of a theatre group that ran on a shoestring and made our stage lights out of coffee tins. Yesterday after some determined organisation (thanks, Ed,) we all got together for lunch at the Bar Convent, a river trip, and a coffee at the excellent Spurriergate centre. Oh, and we got wet. That wasn't the river, that was English summer rain.

And it worked, and didn't go wrong. All right, Tony was late because he had to fit in a meeeting first, but that's fine. I said I'd meet them in the Convent garden and Silke couldn't find it, but Judith knew where it was and came to find me. (That was in the sunny morning, not the wet afternoon.)

After our various struggles with work, relationships, health stuff, ups and downs, we seem to have come through all right. Some are on to second careers and loving it. And when we think about it, we didn't spend much time talking about old times. We talked about new times, because now is always new, and so much is going on.

Today some of us are back to work, one will be helping in a food bank, two or three will be preparing course work for next year's students, one or two will be doing various voluntary stuff. I'm writing, catching up on housework, and preparing a children's activity day for this afternoon. So, please excuse me.

Monday, 13 August 2012


S O S today is not a cry for help, it's a summary of an outstanding day.

Tony and I have just come back from two days on Anglesey, celebrating thirty-four years of putting up with each other without resorting to murder. We love the island for the coastline and the ancient Christian sites, and it's also one of the few places in the UK that still has red squirrels (though we'd never seen any there.)

Yesterday, after a delightfully quirky church service, we went on a wee boat around Puffin island. No puffins this time, but a few seals bobbed up or draped themselves over rocks for our entertainment. How anything can have that much body fat and still live defies all the rules of survival.

Then we fulfilled a little secret wish of mine. About two years ago one of the stones in my engagement ring dropped out, and its setting too, and we never found it, so I don't wear it any more. It looks like a mouth with a front tooth missing.

On Anglesey there is a Sea Zoo. On a place as beautiful as Anglesey you don't need Visitor Attractions unless it's teeming with rain, but I had my own reason for going there on a sunny day. By the way, it is the most brilliant sea life place I've ever been to (apart from the sea, of course), and I fell in love with a colony of tiny sea horses on the way round.

And at Anglesey Sea Zoo, they have a little tank of oysters. For £19.95, which I think is between thirty and forty dollars, you can choose any oyster and a member of staff will open it for you. They're all guaranteed to have a pearl inside.

I looked over the oysters and something inside me said 'that's the one'. The staff stopped what they were doing and gathered round to watch as a girl with plastic gloves and a sharp knife cut into the oyster for me, opened it out, and hunted inside it. At first I couldn't see a thing and thought it must be a very tiny one - then there it was. Everybody said 'ooh!'. It was a perfect sphere with a silvery pink gleam to it, about 3mm. Just the right size to have made into a ring, and the same shade as the pearls Tony brought me from Estonia some years ago. Oh, wow.

(It seems unworthy to mention that at a rule of thumb it's worth about three times what I paid. But I just thought I'd say, you know.)

Margaret means 'pearl'. And that's what I think I am - an irritating little grain of sand, but a grain of sand that has had infinite care and trouble taken over it.

Then we stopped at Plas Newydd for a walk in the gardens, and what should we see? Tony saw them first, when the branches rustled. Two little red squirrels chasing each other round a tree.

Seals. Oyster. Squirrels.

Surprise. Overwhelming. Sweet.

Friday, 10 August 2012


'Tiddly-pom' makes me think of Winnie-the Pooh, who used it in his Hums - 'Nobody knows, tiddly-pom, how cold my toes, tiddly-pom', and so forth. But a friend of ours sometimes referred to 'getting into a tiddly-pom' to mean 'being worked up, agitated, excited, anxious', that sort of thing.

You see, I just had to use six words to describe being in a 'tiddly-pom'. There isn't really a word for it, but there are lots of expressions meaning the same thing. 'In a spin' is probably the most usual one, but if something is literally spinning, and keeps spinning, its perfectly smooth and balanced, and not in a tiddly-pom at all.

The Scots talk about being in a 'stooshie'. I love that one. Then there's 'all of a doodah', which I often use when I'm all of a whatnot. 'Having a fit of the vapours' is good. I was having a wobble myself last night while we tried to work out how I can be in three places at once in a couple of weeks time. Oh, and there's Cockney rhyming slang. 'Two and eight' means two shillings and eight pence in old money, but it also means 'state'. So, if a Scot is in a stooshie, a Cockney is in a two and eight.

Any more? What do you say when you're all of a tiddly-pom?

Thursday, 9 August 2012

At last!

At last, I can speak! For the last week, the Blogger server, or something, has kept me out of my site. I couldn't get in to post, reply to comments, anything. Finally, Tony has spent half of a precious day's holiday chasing it round the internet and found a way in. Until now it had resisted all attempts, like the White Witch keeping summer out of Narnia.

But now we have sunshine on the valley and Margi in the blog. I don't know how long this will last, or even whether this will post, but we are still trying to persuade Blogland to get its ducks in a row. I haven't been able to tell you about our fantastic day out at Harlow Carr, or our evening with the Sunshines, or watching the Olympics on TV with LYS and The Lassie and cheering Andy Murray to the echo. So let's hope it all work now.

Normal Service, Tony says, will be resumed as soon as we can find the hammer.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


LYS is coming here tomorrow for a few days, and the Lassie will arrive on Friday. The beds are made up, and Hamilton and all the cuddlies are very excited. The Bushbaby is on the landing, waiting with wide eyes. In fact, the bushbaby alway has wide eyes.

If you look at a cuddly toy in a shop, be it new or a charity shop toy, you have to take care. You should pick it up casually, as if it were a commodity like a tin of beans, turn it over, look at the label, put it back. Because if you love it, if you talk to it or cuddle it, it will wake up and think of you as mummy or daddy, just like a duckling when it hatches. Then it's a relationship. It loves you, and you have to buy it.

I know this. All our family know this. But a few years ago on a London trip, I was in the Natural History Museum (can't remember why) and I thought it would be good to take home some little something for Tony and LYS, who was living at home at the time. Nothing much, you know, just some small thing. A little onyx dolphin for Tony. Perfect. And then I was caught out by something with big eyes looking at me, and instead of turning away at once I made a beeline for it, picked it up, and said something like 'Aah!' or 'hello!'.

I tried putting it back on the shelf, but I could feel those round, hopeful eyes on my back. I came home on the train with a bushbaby in my bag, and LYS, who understands these things, took it to his heart - but not to his university, so it's still here just now, waiting eagerly for him. As are we all.

I'm normally wary of hot spicy food, but for this evening we had arranged a little treat for the two sixth formers who helped with after school club this year. The said treat involved an Indian restaurant, which turned out to be a buffet of about twenty-five different dishes. Roughly half of them were suitable for vegetarians, which is extremely good news if, like me, you're a veggie. One of these days we'll have to take LYS and the Lassie there. (But not the bushbaby. Never give spicy food to an animal who already has eyes like saucers, even if it's only a toy.)

And for all those of you who are desperate for news of The Archers - Adam has fallen out big time with Brian and Ian isn't too impressed either. Phoebe is home, Vicky's expecting, Mike is surprised, and Jenny is all of a doodah.