Christmas in November

Yes, I know it’s too early. Christmas is 5 weeks today and we’ve still got the whole of Advent to get through but I’m in a mood to celebrate.

Many vicars dread the Christmas season and not without reason, it’s a full on period with lots of extra services. But compared to this time last year: this Christmas should be a doddle.

Last year I had started in my new post, my first incumbency (“vicar job”) lots of extra responsibility and no team of colleagues in the same church with me. The scaffold of all the mentors and trainers I could turn to in my curacy years suddenly felt very absent.  It was like being sent up a ladder with  a copy of the BIG YELLOW book (“Practical Church Management”) in one hand and the diocesan phone directory in the other. My only safety net a Facebook group called ‘Newbie Vicars’ where no question was too stupid and sympathy and encouragement was palpable.

On top of this we moved into the Vicarage on Dec 10th and moved my mother into her house on Dec 1st. All of November had been spent shuttling between old house, new house, mum’s house, trying to get to grips with the new job, seeing electricians, gas engineers and workmen in three different houses. It was nightmarish. I never ever want to go through such an experience again. (To all curates out there: never agree to be installed in post before moving into vicarage). The rest of December was a blur – we ‘did’ Christmas at church just the way it was always done (no bad thing for my first year there) mostly because I didn’t have a shred of creativity left in me.

So yes, this year feels a whole lot different and tomorrow November 21st we will have a family Christmas meal because Matt will not be with us at Christmas: he will hopefully be busy ‘pot-washing and night-portering’ in Courchevel (as well as fitting in as much snow-boarding as he can).

There are other reasons to celebrate too: Emma our daughter got engaged to Ben and it’s full steam ahead with wedding preparations for next June. Going to look at wedding venues in late October we felt offered us little hope of a 2015 wedding but as we all stood in the grounds of the most beautiful venue we went to, we held our breath when Emma was asked the question ‘when were you thinking about having your wedding?’

‘Err, well June 2015 ideally’ she said tentatively

‘Oh well then, that’s alright’ the lady said, ‘if you’d said June 2016 you’d have been disappointed but we have availability in June 2015!’

Then we found a caterer with only one date to spare in June: yes, the date was the date we wanted. There is a lovely sense of someone going ahead of us.

emma and ben engagement

Other huge reasons for celebrating are that I feel better than I’ve felt for most of the year. After a major crash in March and April, I have only climbed up very slowly out of a pit of exhaustion with all the accompanying loss of self-confidence that feeling constantly drained always brings.

On the Sunday of my first anniversary  in post, we welcomed two new recently confirmed members into church. There are other new regular members too, which is fab as well as new heating, new services and a new website. The ‘old’ (ie ‘pre me’) members are also fab, many very hard-working, in small churches everyone needs to do something!

We are also grateful that Matt got safely across Europe into Morocco and back again on a motorbike between August and November. He has had a great time stopping off at lots of animal sanctuaries and farms along the way. In Morocco he helped turn an animal sanctuary into a registered charity with it’s own Facebook page (look up Four Legged Animal Sanctuary) and he’s been invited back there next May to be their Sanctuary manager for six months. Having gained all his Vet qualifications and graduated in July, he’s having a lot of fun before ‘serious’ career effort kicks in.

matt goats

If you’d like to ride with him on his bike through Europe in under 3 minutes, go and look at  (if the link doesn’t work try searching ‘Big Europe Trip plus Morocco’)

So yes, lots of reasons to celebrate. We like living in the Vicarage particularly now that David has insulated every draught out of existence and Matt painted the front door and garage door a lovely and, oddly, Moroccan blue.  We’ve made friends with lovely neighbours and made lots of new connections in the community. My mum also has thoroughly settled in to her new environment.

On Facebook at the moment people are posting up photos that make them smile. Well, here are some more, also all from this year.

2014-07-28 13.55.54

David and I enjoying our first cycling holiday together. No bikes in sight and lots of ice-cream – that’s the way to do it.


Mum on her birthday in July.


The joy of getting to the end of five years hard work.

And finally, my four-legged faithful friend who endured much sofa time with me earlier in the year and not enough walks. Thanks to Jim who suggested a caption for this photo ” I hope you know the reverse spell to change David back the way he was’. 🙂

mum and bob

Christmas in November? Well as Christmas is literally a celebration of ‘God with us’ – I’m happy to celebrate the truth of God becoming part of the human race ANY month of the year.


Bags and girls, and then more bags and more girls…

The bags in the shed...

Our house is stuffed full of bags. We have bags on the landing, in the hall, the kitchen, in the lounge. The other day I found 3 more HUGE bags in the shed which apparently don’t even belong to us and was told we are just housing them for someone else! That’s nice, shame I’m not charging for floor space!

The bags began to arrive a couple of weeks ago: both kids came back from Uni. Emma has finished at Uni so ALL her worldly possessions have now been transferred to home, after all where else can you go between Uni and your first job? Thankfully, she does have that first job starting soon, but not yet a London base to live in.

Next Matt arrived back from Uni, he promises me he did leave some stuff stored in his new place for September but he still managed to bring home half a car full of stuff (well, it was a whole car, but only half full if you see what I mean). 

Anyway if I thought that was bad, the number of bags in this house is about to rise by a factor of  NINE. Today, NINE, yes, NINE of Emma’s girl friends come for the weekend to celebrate her birthday. That’s NINE full size grown up people, with NINE over night bags, NINE wash bags, NINE make-up bags. NINE girls to have showers and wash their hair for two mornings in a row!! How long is that going to take?!  NINE people eating and trying to find places to sleep in our very ordinary sized semi.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, aaaaaarrrgh!

Bags on the landing.... before 9 guests arrive!

Are you detecting a slight note of hysteria?  I’m not sure about the actual number, Emma just reeled off the names and I lost count after 7. Anyway whatever it is, you have to add 3 (for the rest of us who live here anyway) plus the dog (who is going to go berserk, SO many shoes to choose from, ‘which ones shall I chew first?’)

I can’t currently recall why I agreed to this so easily… perhaps I’d slipped into a parallel universe where anything seemed possible?

Anyway here’s the really fun bit: after two nights of this joyful mayhem, I’m preaching on Sunday morning. Not just any old sermon either. An assessed sermon which has to be filmed and taken back to college  so that the minutia of my content, delivery and mannerisms, not to mention my Biblical prowess can be all be given a mark.  This is the sort of thing they do to trainee vicars.

( Sorry I was momentarily distracted by the sound of hysterical laughter and then realised it was mine!)

Do you think anyone will notice the facial tick brought on by stress? The bags under the eyes from lack of sleep? The wild hair style due to not being able to get in my own shower?

Oh well, at least I can preach authentically. Chosen months in advance, my text for this sermon is ……..

‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things’….

Too right I am!

Brilliant Bath Graduation

Sunny day,

Early July,

Beautiful Location,

Family Celebration!

Thank you Bath for being the setting of yet another happy family moment. Sadly it was also a farewell event as the occasion was our daughter’s graduation. After four happy years, the wider world beckons…

The day had all the necessary elements of a Bridge Family occasion. Dad: route-planning, time-keeping and weather-checking. Brother does ‘sleeping in the car’ and looking cool (if slightlycrumpled). Mum takes photographs.

(Twas always thus, we play to our strengths).

The other compulsory ingredients for a lovely day were also amply provided:  strawberries and cream, marquee on the lawn, posh frocks, shoes that pinched, sunshine, great food, photographs, both official and informal,  lots of smiling faces, flowers, music and beautiful, beautiful Bath Abbey.

I had commented to Emma beforehand that it would feel very strange to be in a place of worship for a completely secular ceremony. But thank you, Bath Abbey for not forgetting who you are and for not being afraid to remind your guests. With probably over a thousand people settled in their seats the vicar pastor the Reverend Claire Robson welcomed us with some house-keeping notices but then invited us into a moment of silence and prayer, reminding us of the source of all excellence and the appropriate use of all our talents. The resounding ‘Non-Amen’ (ie silence) at the end of a confidently delivered prayer  revealed an audience either unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the concept. But full marks for her courage, there were at least two of us who joined her in the Amen! The rest of the ceremony followed on, completely secular as expected but, to my mind, so  much richer for that reminder that we were in a place of worship.

'She's out there somewhere'! Trying to find Emma in the crowd.
Found her!