Friday, 17 November 2017

George Orwell and Us

Its now Friday and I am trying to think what I have been doing... the answer is probably Not A Lot.  Made another fruit cake for the AGM.  And Jean and I were out on the preaching work on Tuesday. We had a very good morning out - nearly two hours, amazing for us. It was sad too though, as one of Jean's regular calls is in such distress. She desperately needs proper medical attendance for her husband at home, but is not being given it (for "health and safety" reasons). Suddenly, in retirement, their lives have become full of pain, and almost impossibly difficult.
Yesterday I was out with one of the young pioneers - young compared to me that is (though who isn't these days?) - yet she too was talking about the difficulties of ageing!

And for some reason it made me think of A Clergyman's Daughter by George Orwell.  He writes very movingly about the loss of faith of his central character.

And given only faith, how can anything else matter?  How can anything dismay you if only there is some purpose in the world which you can serve, and which, while serving it, you can understand?  Your whole life is illuminated by that sense of purpose.  There is no weariness in your heart, no doubts, no feeling of futility, no Baudelairean ennui waiting for unguarded hours.  Every act is significant, every moment sanctified, woven by faith as into a pattern, a fabric of never-ending joy.

She began to meditate on the nature of life. You emerged from the womb, you lived sixty or seventy years, and then you died and rotted.  And in every detail of your life, if no ultimate purpose redeemed it, there was a quality of greyness, of desolation, that could never be described,but which you would feel like a physical pang at your heart.  Life, if the grave really ends it, is monstrous and dreadful.  No use trying to argue it away. Think of life as it really is, think of the details of life; and then think that there is no meaning in it, no purpose, no goal except the grave. Surely only fools or self-deceivers, or those whose lives are exceptionally fortunate can fact that thought without flinching?

So I think we both wondered just how those who do not know the truth cope with the ageing process.  Its not easy, even when you do know there is a meaning, and a purpose, and a rescue on the way.

Re faith, George Orwell says this:  "It is a mysterious thing, the loss of faith - as mysterious as faith itself. Like faith, it is ultimately not rooted in logic, it is a change in the climate of the mind."

And there is the problem.  Because for faith to be real living and enduring, it must be rooted in logic, in reason.  Jehovah asks us to love him with our whole mind, as well as our whole heart and soul.

We need that connection to our Creator to give meaning and hope to our lives. It won't be completely restored till the end of the Thousand Years, but just to be heading back there makes all the difference.   At the end of the Thousand Years, which will be wonderful in themselves, our real lives will begin. There will be so much to know, so much to do. So much happiness.  And everything will be full of meaning.  Nothing will be futile.

This morning it was shopping - the big Marks and Sparks - with Captain B.   It was a lovely Autumn day - low sunlight, shining Autumn colours.   A day to tell those who will look and listen of its Grand Creator, Jehovah of armies.

Monday, 13 November 2017

"Islander" - Patrick Barkham at the Sussex Wildlife Trust AGM

We - Captain and Mrs Butterfly - went to the AGM of the Sussex Wildlife Trust on Saturday morning.   The guest speaker was Patrick Barkham, talking about his latest book Islander, A Journey Around our Archipelago.

Col has met him in the Butterfly world and he remembered Col and remembered his name...  left me awe-struck as it keeps my two remaining brain cells at full stretch remembering my own name these days.      We have heard Patrick speak before in the year of his launch of The Butterfly Isles.  He is s very good speaker.  We now have a signed copy of Islander - and a rare edition at that, as the first run was printed with The Isle of Man upside down on the cover.

It was a very well organised AGM. The boring business bit went like clockwork, the Chairperson's speech about the year's achievements was impressive and interesting. Patrick's talk was excellent, funny and informative.  And it included islands I have never even heard of, for all that the UK is so small.  I am looking forward to reading the book now.

Then we had an excellent buffet lunch, and a drive home through the loveliness of Autumn Sussex.

Jacks came for supper - I did cook, rather than Cooks, this time.  A beef curry a la Delia (Captain B just found me a new Delia at a Charity bookshop), a trusty old Madhur Jaffrey carrot and cabbage stir fry I used to make a lot on Planet Expat,  And a dahl courtesy of the Waitrose chill cabinet.  There was at time when I would have made it all and more.  The usual ice-creams to follow.

Yesterday was the meeting at the Hall, The teaching seems to get better and better all the time. What will it be like a thousand years from now?  What wonderful things will we be learning then?

I hope we will all be there to find out.

I did three calls in the afternoon - one to a young girl I called on weeks ago, but have never found home again. I think I will have to leave it now as that map will be being worked again soon.  But I also called on two elderly ladies, leaving both a little card asking if all is well with them.  I have been faithfully delivering the magazines every month but have not seen them for ages. And one of my sisters at the Hall usually sees one of these ladies on the bus.  But she hasn't seen her either. So we were a bit worried.

At one door, I found that the bells had been dismantled and there is one of those keyholder boxes outside.  So I did not knock, just left card and magazine, and hope that someone will contact me.

But my other lady - the lady of the bus - rang me in the evening to assure me she was fine.  Apparently her door bell is not working!  It lights up as it if is, but it isn't.  She seemed touched we were worried about her.

I was trying to think what on earth I did on Friday, but realised it was a shopping and cooking day.  We shopped and I made the spicy beef casserole in the morning, and a big carrot cake in the afternoon. Captain B and Butterfly Mark are now going out into the field again - mushroom season - and I need a freezer full of cake for the packed lunches.

Talked to Bea of the North yesterday. Apparently I either haven't sent her a copy of my book - or it never arrived... and she wants to read it.  I was sure I had sent to both aunts, but maybe I didn't. Anyway, as soon as the next batch arrive from the US of A, I will send.  Jean wants me to send one to her daughter in Oz - she insists on paying for both book and postage.    So that hopefully will be 2 I have sold!  The dizzy heights of bestsellerdom beckon.  But not in my direction. 

Still, I just want people to enjoy reading it. Hopefully it might make them think a bit. And I would love to make a bit of money for my young publisher...

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Yawning and Spinning

I was driving poor Captain Butterfly mad yesterday by yawning all the time... he even started to spin round in his chair saying "I divorce you, I divorce you..."   But I reminded him it was too late - we are no longer in Saudi.

"Not fair" he sulked
"Life isn't fair" was my cruel but accurate response.

Though, to be fair, I had had quite a busy day for me.  Hospital in the morning - sleep clinic - for my sleep problems - then to Maggie in the afternoon - a bit harrowing as she was having a difficult time.   She startled me as I was leaving by saying something new.  She has been consistently losing words and phrases and is now down to very few. But she suddenly said "Thanks for putting up with me."

She has never said that before.

I had to go back and reassure her that I wasn't putting up with her. That I wanted to come and see her. She and Don were very good to me always.  But I don't know how much of what I said she understood. Nothing, I guess, but you have to try.

And I also did some calls on the way to Maggie and on the way back.  Mostly they were not at home, but I did find two in. And one I can call on again.

They are stressing return visits in the meeting tomorrow. But it is not easy.

The Captain had a good day as he and Butterfly Mark went off adventuring.  And he also sorted out his pictures for the 2018 Calendar.    But where did 2017 go to?   People sometimes ask me if I am bored in retirement, and I have to assure them that I haven't had time to find out yet.

Great telly.  Masterchef - the Professionals; followed by The Apprentice; followed by the new series of Detectorists.   My head was spinning by the time I went to bed.  I wonder what all this constant input is doing to our brains?

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Saving Elephants

We went to a talk by Saba Douglas Hamilton on Saturday night.  Wonderful, and tragic.  But it is amazing what one person, one family can do.

Very well worth going.  The hall in Haywards Heath was packed and it went on quite late, but we were enthralled.  Interesting, funny, sad. The Kenyan government seems to be making a valiant effort to protect its precious elephants, but they are up against the destructive currents of the world.

And the tenderness and bravery of elephants in the face of all this is heartrending.

Saba is realistic about what she is up against, but is achieving some great things.   I hope she will talk to the next Jehovah's Witnesses who call on her, because we want to tell her of the promised rescue for all the earthly creation.

Yesterday morning got off to a dramatic start. One of our neighbours, not young, had a bad fall and so we took him to the A & E, and did our shopping there, instead of locally.

On the doubleplusgood side, a lovely bunch of flowers arrived, beautifully packaged, roses and flocks in creams and lilacs. They are from cousin Linda, Catherine and Jessica who came over to see us on Saturday.   Jessica is a darling little girl of nearly two, with a real Hay look to her when she laughs.

It was a busy weekend for us - for us these days.  Wine and cheese at Micah's on Friday night, which was great. And Captain B really enjoyed it.  We chauffered Jean.   She and I had intended to go out on the work on Saturday, but it poured with rain all morning so we had to cancel. Then Linda and family came - then we went to Saba - then it was the meeting in the morning for me - Detectoring for Captain Butterfly - and - A LANDMARK MOMENT - to supper at Jackie's!  It has been nearly 6 months but maybe we are back to normal - or as normal as we can get these elderly days.

Aunt Jo rang and we managed a talk  we are both a bit deaf now. She is 93, but still valiantly living on her own and coping.   Not easy though.  We talked about my  mother, and what a lovely person she was.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Herding Elephants

African Bush Elephants, Loxodonta africana
I am just re-reading Ffyona Campbell's wonderful "On Foot Through Africa" and among its many gems came across this:

Speaking of her father, a man of very strong character, and his visit to her walk, Ffyona says:  "As I tried to direct him into a tent I was reminded of an old Zairois proverb: "He who wishes to herd the elephant must first take into account which way the elephants are already heading."


The photo is from Captain Butterfly's recent safari.

I have read my copy to death and will now have to get another one.  It is very well written and gives such an interesting view of the continent, as she walks through its various countries.

She even meets one Jehovah's Witness as she walks along - a local guy - and has a brief chat with him. 

Once again, I am reminded of the importance of the Kingdom preaching work.  Which we were out on yesterday. We had some very interesting calls, including one to a young journalist who was on the phone to Joan Bakewell (!), and one to a lady who was working in her garden as we passed by en route from the journalist. She took some literature from us, assured us she has a Bible, and said we can go back.  And Jean and I were out on return visits on Tuesday.  We hope to get back to the first call work on Saturday, but only for an hour as a busy weekend is coming up, starting with visitors for lunch tomorrow.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Ear Ear

Littlehampton bonfire night 28th October, 2017
Started on a new course of treatment for my ears yesterday - a nose spray that will help to clear a possible blockage in the right ear.  Dr. M did a test in the morning and I can hardly hear anything in that ear.  I knew it was the bad one, as it was that ear that provided the strange auditory illusion, when it sang "If I loved you" in Nathan Granner's voice to me.

Keith and Janet stayed the night on Saturday, and we swapped books.  I gave them "Waiting for Gordo" and Janet gave me:
York Literary Review Spring 2017
The Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry
to both of which she has contributed some excellent poems.

She is in prestigious company in the Anthology, which includes Carol Ann Duffy, Ian Duhig, and Clare Pollard.  All favourites of mine. And I love Janet (Dean)'s poetry too.

Didn't get to the meeting on Sunday as we had visitors. We sat over a long breakfast and then they headed North via a lunch with friends en route.  It was good to catch up, and I do wish we lived nearer to family.

Jean and I drove to Angmering on Saturday morning - and got some calls done.  We turned in and out of cul-de-sacs, here, there and everywhere, only got ourselves a bit lost once, and had some good calls.   The Fairground was set up on the Green, and Jacks joined us for supper, bonfire and fireworks.  I made us some chicken and mushroom, and we had ice-cream afterwards.

The bonfire was splendid, but Jacks and I felt that the fireworks were not quite as spectacular as usual.   They were still spectacular though.
Littlehampton fireworks 28th October, 2017

Friday, 27 October 2017

The Decisive White Bar

Decisive White Bar, Eustrotia decissima
This Decisive fellow is from the Captain's (b)Log - from his recent Africa trip.  What wonderful names moths have.  And why is it Decisive?  Did its Discoverer and Namer see that it was very brisk and definite about its choice of flower to nectar from?  Or about its choice of mate?

It has got me thinking of a name for me if I were a moth.  The Indecisive Susan might do, I guess, as my Discoverer, which would have to be Captain Butterfly, observed me hovering and havering over flowers, worrying about choosing the wrong one.

Still I did make a good choice of mate.  And I listened to the Jehovah's Witnesses who called at my door all those years ago - and have clung to them ever since.

Had my ears syringed yesterday.  Never had it done before.  I hope it will restore my hearing... if not, it will be the hearing aid route.

The nurse and I managed a running joke all the way through the process, because I had told her about my strange experience of finding a little radio inside my right ear that played a perfect rendition of Nathan Granner, (of the American Tenors) singing "If I loved you" in rehearsal.

It played and played in my ear.  It was both scary and a definite improvement on the tinnitus, as it is a song I love, and Nathan has a wonderful voice.

Apparently these auditory hallucinations are a known. but rare (or rarely reported?), side-effect of tinnitus...  and as I said, it did give us a running joke through the syringeing process. We ended with a rousing chorus of: "She's washed that man right out of my ear".

Jean and I did calls on Tuesday.  But its so hard to find people at home.  And I am still behind.  Today the Captain and I will shop together - and I will cook something for tomorrow night, so I can get out on the doors tomorrow and hopefully continue to catch up.