Thursday, 22 March 2018

Odd things happening

Some very odd things have been happening lately in my life. I don't know about you ... how could I know about you? I have never met you. Some odd things may well have been happening to you too. Perhaps you would tell me about them and we'd compare notes. Maybe odd things are happening all over the world and we don't know about them because we don't share them.

Anyway ...

There are times in life when one thing leads to another and another and they all get entangled with each other and I seem to have no control of events. Does that ever happen to you?

Take the other day for instance. It was about two o'clock in the morning, or should I say at night, because it was dark out there.

I was peacefully rehearsing playing the bagpipes at home when suddenly there was loud banging at the door and continuous ringing of the door bell as if it was pandemonium out there. I stopped playing the bagpipes and rushed to open the door. I did not want to wake the family with all that noise going on.

I don't know why, instinct I suppose, but before I opened the door I got hold of a large butterfly net I keep by the door. It is always there in case I have to catch the wife escaping to the shops. She's always going to the shops. Women do that apparently; but let's not go there ... I mean the subject ... as well as the shops of course. We'll leave that discussion for another day. Unless you wish to comment about it of course. Who am I to argue? We'll discuss the shops if you wish ...

Anyway, butterfly net in hand, I opened the door. It was my neighbour still ringing the door bell angrily.

"What is all that noise in the middle of the night?" he asked threateningly.

"It is you banging at the door and ringing the door bell!" I replied, "you're making all the noise."

"Not that ..." he shouted, "all that bagpipe playing. What's all that about?"

"I was practising playing 'Scotland the Brave' ", I said.

"And why have you got a net?" he asked.

"Annette? I haven't got Annette here. Only my wife and the family. They are all asleep, unless you woke them up with all your banging at the door. Who is Annette anyway?" I asked him.

He pointed at the net I was holding. "Oh ..." I said, "I thought you were my wife going shopping! Would you like a drink? I have some whisky inside."

He came in for a drink and advised me that I was playing the bagpipes out of tune. He revealed his family was from Scotland and offered to show me how to play.

About half-an-hour later there was a lot of banging on the door once again and the door bell ringing furiously. I left my neighbour playing the bagpipes and rushed to open the door before my family woke up because of the noise.

It was the police. Two policemen stood there and said that the neighbours, presumably different to the neighbour I had with me right now, had phoned them to say I was playing out of tune. They said I was playing 'Scotland the Brave' all wrong, and if I wanted to they could show me how to do it correctly because they were both from Scotland. Who would have thought it? What a coincidence to have three people from Scotland in Glasgow. My neighbour and now these two policemen. What are the odds of this happening, I asked myself, and got no answer.

Anyway, they came in and as I had a set of drums too they joined in trying to get 'Scotland the Brave' played properly on the bagpipes and drums.

With three bagpipes and a set of drums we made quite a band playing a variety of Scottish songs and tunes. It was soon morning when I gave them haggis for breakfast and they left promising to return for another session soon.

The funny thing about all this, is that the family did not wake up throughout. I found out later that they were all out shopping at the "24 Hours" mall.

If you have never visited Scotland, I suggest you do. It is just beautiful up there.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Idiosyncrasies and me

I suspect we all have our idiosyncrasies, our particular quirks and foibles. The things that make us be us. Different from anyone else.

And I am no different in that respect.

My particular peculiarity is that whenever I have to go somewhere I have never been to before, I like to go there the day before to check how to get there, plan my route, and see where the place is.

The difficulty with this is that I have to attend many business meetings in far away towns and cities. Some requiring a long drive of up to twelve hours. So I set off early the day before my meeting, drive all the way there, and drive back home only to discover that now is the time to set off once again for my meeting the next day.

It's the same if my travels are by train. I go to the railway station the day before. Check the time the train is to leave the following day and from which platform it will leave. This is to ensure that the day in question I do not get on the wrong train and end up travelling South rather than my destination up North.

Once I asked the train driver whether he had been to that place before. His answer was somewhat unkind.

Some friends suggested that I join a self-help group in town who maybe can help me with this particular problem. I got on the internet and applied to join.

The day before the meeting of the self-help group, somewhere in town not so far away, I decided to go and find out where this place is. When I got there I found that a number of other people joining this group had also got there the day before to check where the place is.

I got talking to some of them and went for a coffee at a nearby shop.

When I got home that day, rather late past midnight, I had got an e-mail saying that the venue for the meeting the next day had been changed. So I got out again late at night and went to town to check where this new venue was. When I got there, some other members of the group were also there checking where the new venue was.

Eventually I got to the first meeting of the group. We all went to check where the gents and ladies toilets were before the meeting started.

One way of getting us to overcome our acquired habit is to blindfold the whole group, take us by bus to a secret place in town about a mile or two away, take off the blindfolds and get us to walk back to the meeting place.

It took me a week to make my way back to the meeting place. Because I first had to find my way there, then when I got there, I made my way back to the place the bus had dropped us, then I made my way to the meeting place properly.

So I gave up attending these self-help group meetings. Especially since the meetings were not always in the same room in that big building; thus necessitating extra walking backwards and forwards finding the new rooms.

I have still not got over the habit of going places the day before to check where a new place is.

In fact, my habit has got worse. I have had to write this post at least twice so far to make sure it is OK before I have to write it properly. I am not sure whether this is the last and proper version of this post or whether I have to re-visit it again. I am not even certain whether I have posted it here or not; and indeed whether once it is posted, you will have to read it more than once to ensure you read it properly when you have finally read it.

Can you help? And once you have helped, can you help again?

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Resurrection of Lazarus

 John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45

"So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was."

Note that Jesus does not go straight-away to heal Lazarus. He waits for two more days. He also says that this illness will not lead to death.

"When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days ... Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’"

Jesus arrives after Lazarus has been dead for four days. This is very significant. In those days some people believed that the soul does not leave the body until after three days. Jesus wanted to make sure that Lazarus was dead before performing His miracle. He did not want anyone to suggests that Lazarus was just sleeping or in a coma; as may well have happened in previous occasions when He raised someone from the dead. This time He wanted to make sure that the people understood that the power of God can raise people from the dead.

Notice also how Martha reprimands Jesus. "If you had been here, my brother would not have died."

Don't we too, kick back and blame God when something goes wrong in our lives? Note also the faith in that very sentence. She believes that Jesus could have saved Lazarus, had He been here. She reprimands Jesus. That in itself is an expression of faith. There is no point in reprimanding or getting angry with someone who can do nothing about it. But the very fact she reprimands Jesus shows that she knew He could do something about it had He been there.

When we are in great grief, or despair, we sometimes lash out at God. We blame Him for what has happened. This is only natural. It is our human nature speaking.

God knows that and He can take our anger. After all, He took all our anger and hatred when He hung there from the Cross.

Like in Martha's case, God forgives. We should in return hold on to our Faith and believe that everything is possible to God.

"Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’"

He re-iterates His message that He has the power to raise Lazarus. And Martha too, confirms that she believes Jesus is the Son of God.

"When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

This is also significant. Mary joins her sister to meet Jesus and she too says, "If you had been here Lazarus would not have died". The crowd murmur that Jesus healed many sick people why did He not come earlier to save Lazarus.

"Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’"

Let there be no doubt that Lazarus is dead.

"And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’"

Jesus re-affirms to His Father that this miracle is to make the people believe that He is the Son of God. This whole episode in Christ's life has one main purpose. To make the people believe.

Jesus deliberately arrived late to ensure that Lazarus was dead. Let there be no doubt about that. His sister and the crowd knew that. After four days, in the hot heat, the body would have decomposed and begin to smell.

In previous miracles, many sceptics and cynics would have said that the individual was probably not dead. He may have been in a deep sleep, or in a coma. Not much of a miracle.

This time Jesus waited for four days after death and burial to turn up and raise Lazarus. He wanted there to be no doubt that Lazarus is dead and that he has been raised back to life. No doubt that God's glory, through Him, will be seen by everyone.

Jesus says "unbind him, and let him go." Let that be a message to us when we are unbound from our sins and let go freely forgiven once again.

"Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him."

At last ... some ... of the Jews believed.

From the very beginning Jesus had said, "The final result of this illness will not be the death of Lazarus; this has happened in order to bring glory to God, and it will be the means by which the son of God will receive glory."

Our lesson is to learn that when things go wrong ... very ... very wrong; we need only believe that the end result will be that God is glorified, as is His will.

Friday, 16 March 2018

I lost my pants !!!

I needed some new clothes for work so I visited this large Department Store in town and started looking around. Pretty soon I found the perfect pair of trousers in varying colors. What would suit me best do you think? Dark blue? Black? Gray?

I took all three and proceeded to one of those cubicles where you can try your clothes on before you buy them.

The man in charge led me to a cubicle and asked me to press a little button if I needed any help.

I got in and tried the first pair of trousers … too tight. The second pair was too long in the legs. And the third was too tight and too short.

Why can’t they make trousers that fit exactly as the size it says on the label? Admittedly the three pairs of trousers were made by different manufacturers but the labels clearly said the same size on all three. And that is my size. The size I measured myself at home and the size of my current trousers which fit me perfectly well.

I proceeded to take off the last pair of trousers and pressed the little button as instructed.

Immediately, almost instantaneously, the male attendant turned up and I explained the situation to him. He took the items away and promised to get me bigger sizes.

I turned round to get dressed and … disaster!

The silly man had taken away the trousers I was wearing when I came into the shop as well as the other three.

So there I was. Trouser-less in a cubicle, and also minus my wallet and car keys which were in my trouser pockets.

I pressed the little button frantically again. Nothing happened. I pressed and pressed and still nothing happened.

Eventually the man returned empty handed.

“I’m sorry Sir; we don’t have any other sizes!”

I explained what had happened and he went away trying to retrieve my own trousers which he had put away with the other trousers to be sold in the store.

I waited for what must have been an eternity. Trapped in a store with no trousers to my name.

Eventually a female voice was heard to say, “Try these and we’ll see if they’re OK!” and a hand came in through the thick curtain and handed me two dresses. One pink and one light blue!

Almost instinctively, I don’t know why, I took the dresses and for a few seconds stared at them. It then occurred to me to look out of the cubicle and call the female attendant back.

Too late! She too had vanished in the store never to be seen again.

“Dear God … what do I do now?” I muttered under my breath.

Well, I suppose the Good Lord must have been listening because there, standing beside the socks rack, was our Parish priest.

In desperation, I tried to attract his attention without making a scene.

“Pssst … Pssst …” I uttered nervously as if calling a cat.

At this point I should tell you that Father Frederic is somewhat old and hard of hearing. He didn’t move one inch and continued looking at different pairs of socks.

“Psst … Psst …” I went again. No response.

“Father Frederic!!!” I said quietly yet forcefully enough that he might hear.

He stopped what he was doing. Looked around and saw no one calling him. Then he looked up to Heaven and made the Sign of the Cross.

“Over here … Father!” I said more forcefully.

He saw me hiding behind the curtain of my cubicle and approached me tentatively.

“I thought the Good Lord was calling me!” he exclaimed.

“No … it was me,” I replied still holding the two dresses, “I’m in an embarrassing situation Father!”

“Oh dear …” said my priest, “it is embarrassing. I didn’t know you liked to wear women’s clothes!”

“Hein? I DON’T!!!”

“No need to be shy about it my son. You really must resist the temptation … and you must come to Confession too.”

“Father … you don’t understand … These are not my clothes!”

“No of course not,” he interrupted, “they’re women’s clothes and you can rest assured that your secret is safe with me. It’s as if you told me about it in Confession. Come to think of it, this curtain is lovely and thick … we need to change the curtains in our confessionals!”

“Father let me explain … I need a pair of trousers!” I said as calmly yet as firmly as possible.

“What? You came here without trousers? You didn’t wear a dress in public did you? That’s rather foolhardy you know. What if a parishioner saw you … you’d bring the whole congregation into disrepute you know!”

At that point I think Saint Anthony must have stepped in and come to my rescue; even though I’d forgotten to pray to him.

The male attendant returned with my original pair of trousers, and my wallet, and car keys.

A week later at Confession Father Frederic whispered to me through the brand new confessional curtains “Are you sure you have nothing else to confess? Something pink and something blue … and worn by pretty ladies!”


Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Palm Trees Ahoy !!!

Very strange thing happened round our neighbourhood the other day. I was in the kitchen enjoying my breakfast of toast and ginger marmalade when there was a loud grinding type noise outside in the street. It sounded like heavy machinery. The sort of noise you hear big engines make.

I rushed to the front door and there outside our house was this huge truck, with an even more huge crane on the back, un-loading a truck full of fully grown palm trees ready planted in big concrete containers. I quickly asked my wife if she had ordered palm trees from the Internet and she denied it. I always start on neutral ground by blaming someone else first.

This truck was full of palm trees; about twenty at least, all swaying to and fro in the light breeze which was soon to rise to a full storm as my blood pressure increased. The driver was standing in the street and operating the crane which picked each tree by the base concrete container, lifted it off the truck, and gently lowered it onto the sidewalk. He carefully placed each tree side-by-side on the sidewalk regardless as to whether they blocked peoples' driveways entrance or not. He had already un-loaded four trees and blocked my driveway with my car trapped on my property.

I went to the driver in my pyjamas ... I'd better rephrase this ... the driver was not in my pyjamas. He was by the truck. I was in my pyjamas, and I was the only one in them to be precise.

As I was saying, before your thoughts interrupted me ... I went to the driver and shouted over the noise of the crane machinery to ask him what he was doing delivering all these trees and blocking peoples' driveways. By this time, I hasten to explain, he had un-loaded about seven trees and had blocked my neighbour's driveway too.

He switched off the crane and explained that he knew nothing about it. He was only the delivery man and had been told to un-load the trees side-by-side, as close to each other as possible, on both side walks on both sides of the road. He explained that there were another six or so other trucks on their way to unload their trees in our street.

The trees were heavy and in their concrete base it was impossible to move them once they were parked on the side walk.

I decided to go in and phone someone in authority, whilst a few other neighbours came out to complain and another two trucks arrived with their loads.

Who do I phone in such circumstances? I can hardly phone the police and say there are some palm trees causing a disturbance outside!

I decided to phone the mayor's office and, to cut a long story short, I was transferred from one department to another, each disclaiming responsibility for trees, road maintenance, potholes, noise disturbance, and everything else to do with everything else in this universe. Why do they employ so many people in so many departments if none of them deals with palm tree deliveries?

Eventually I was transferred to a surly sounding man appropriately named Mr Gardner, would you believe.

He asked abruptly, "Name?" I gave him my name.

"Not your name," he said, "what's the address?"

"It's a garment worn by women," I replied, "what's that got to do with the palm trees situation?"

After a few seconds' silence whilst he digested the information he asked again, "Where do you live?"

"In a detached house North of town not far from the park and golf club ..." I explained when he interrupted me.

"Look madam ..." he said, "I haven't got all day to deal with this. I also have fifty flamingos to despatcth today ..."

"How dare you call me madam" I exclaimed in as manly a voice as I could muster, "I am a HE!"

"A he what?" he asked.

"A he man," I said, "how dare you insinuate I am a woman just because I am wearing pink pyjamas!"

"I am sorry ... I have a cold ..." he apologised.

I felt sorry for him and tried to suggest a remedy. "What are the symptoms?" I asked.

"They are yellow cartoon characters on TV," he replied, "what has that to do with my cold and your palm trees?"

Anyway ... years later ... after a phone conversation which lasted a lifetime, it transpired that the trees were destined for the Avenue Park in the South of town and not Park Avenue where we happen to live.

He promised to have them re-directed, but in the meantime we had six trucks delivering about one hundred trees blocking all the driveways on both side walks all along our street for at least three days, before another load of trucks came to take them away.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Theodore Luxton-Joyce

Father Ignatius and Father Donald welcomed a visiting Franciscan priest, Father Randolph, to the Parish for the weekend to lead the Marriage Renewal Seminar.

The Seminar was held on the grounds of the Parish Gardens providing plenty of time for the participants to spend time together re-assessing their married life, in preparation for a Renewal of Vows Ceremony to be held after Mass on Saturday evening.

The two Parish priests were pleased that they managed to get twenty married couples to attend the weekend event and looked forward to a successful Seminar for all involved.

The same cannot be said however for Theodore Luxton-Joyce, the eccentric friend of Father Ignatius and very generous benefactor of St Vincent Church.

Theodore preferred to be well away from “organized love-ins”, as he called the Seminar and would not have attended for one moment had he the choice. But his lovely wife, Rose, convinced him otherwise and he, being an old romantic, albeit he hid it well, acquiesced to her request.

After lunch on Saturday the group met at the Church Hall and was addressed by Father Randolph.

He spoke about the necessity of working at a marriage to make it successful, and explained how very often couples tend to drift apart because of the pressures of modern living and having to work hard just to keep body and soul together. He went on to stress the importance of “being aware of the other person in your life”, the importance of “listening” to their feelings, and “showing love” by saying something nice every now and then, by holding hands, giving a hug every so often and not taking one’s spouse for granted.

“Love doesn’t end after the honeymoon” declared Father Randolph, “it’s a precious flower which needs nurturing and feeding every day if it is to flourish for a lifetime!”

At this point Father Randolph noted Theodore Luxton-Joyce raising his eyebrows and looking in the distance out of the window, no doubt wishing he was anywhere else but here.

“What do you think Theodore?” asked the visiting priest, “Do you think it’s important to tell your wife, Rose, that you love her?”

“Every day?” asked Theodore.

The Group laughed and Fathers Ignatius and Donald, sitting at the top table, looked at each other silently.

“Yes … every day … why not?” continued the Franciscan priest after the laughter died down.

“I don’t see the point …” replied Theodore, “Rose knows that I love her very much … (then looking at his wife) … you do know that don’t you?

“What’s the point of all this adolescent childish talk … it goes without saying that I love her … what?

“I wouldn’t have given up a weekend of good fishing and come here, if I didn’t love her … don’t you think old boy?”

The Group laughed again.

“Fifteen – love …” Father Donald whispered quietly to Father Ignatius.

But Father Randolph was not to be beaten so easily.

“No … it does not go without saying …” he responded quietly, “it is important to tell your wife, or husband, that you love them. That they are not taken for granted. It is important to say it … and say it often. It’s important to be nice and to compliment one’s spouse every now and then.

“Very often I’ve seen couples drift apart yet deep down they do really love each other. They just don’t bother, or don’t have time, to say it. With time, they forget what first attracted them to each other. And every time we forget … love dies a little!

“Let me challenge you Theodore if I may …”

“Fifteen all …” Father Donald whispered softly under his breath. “A good return from the visiting priest!” Father Ignatius sat quietly and said nothing.

“I want you to answer quickly without thinking,” Father Randolph challenged Theodore. “Are you ready? Without thinking … what first attracted you to your wife Rose?”

“She makes a decent steak and kidney pie … what?” declared Theodore.

The Group broke down into hysterics.

“Thirty – fifteen to your eccentric friend!” Father Donald said to his colleague Father Ignatius.

Father Randolph was astute enough to continue with his talk rather than get into a pointless debate with Theodore. Minutes later he asked the Group whether anyone had personal knowledge or experience of marriages breaking down after a long period together. He called them “mature divorces”.

Theodore raised his hand.

“I bet you regret inviting him …” Father Donald whispered to Father Ignatius.

“Years ago … when I was in the military, one of my people got divorced after twenty years of marriage …” said Theodore.

“I asked him why … and he said his wife was violent what? Apparently she threw things at him in an argument … Anything … Cups … saucers … cutlery … crockery … anything that came to hand.

“Turns out she threw things at him throughout the marriage … twenty years of it.

“I asked him why he took so long to decide to leave her.

“He said her aim was getting better … what?”

The Group burst into laughter to the embarrassment of Rose, whilst Father Randolph tactfully decided to call a short tea break.

“Game … set … and match!” declared Father Donald as he got up from his seat.

The rest of the weekend proceeded without further difficulties for Father Randolph, albeit Theodore was the most popular member of the Group.

As they drove back home he asked his wife, “You don’t think it necessary to say ‘I love you’ every day … do you?”

“It’s nice to hear it every now and then…” she said, “It’s reassuring you know. Women like reassurance!”

“Tell you what old girl …” he replied, “I’ll write it down big on a piece of paper. You can read it as often as you want when you need reassurance … what?” he chortled heartily.

She smiled; knowing full well that he was the world’s biggest romantic, yet his up-bringing did not allow him to show it.


Monday, 12 March 2018

Unhappy Feet

There I was the other day lying on my bed looking at my feet; when suddenly one of them started to talk.

At first, I was afraid ... I was petrified ... They started singing "I will survive."

I did not know what was happening. Then one of them spoke and said to me, "It is all right you lying there doing nothing. But it is us who do all the work for you. 

"From the moment you get up in the morning we have to carry your heavy weight. Going up and down the stairs, walking down the street, or running for the bus. It is us who do all that for you.

"Even when you are driving the car, it is us who have to push on all the pedals whilst you sit there doing nothing."

I could not believe my ears. My feet were talking to me and my ears were confusing my brain. 

Then the left foot continued, "You never think about us, do you? Spending all day in the dark not knowing what is happening out there. Held captive in your tight shoes until it hurts. And having to smell your smelly socks. Why don't you change them at least once a week?"

"Yes, that's what I hate the most," said the right foot, "being in the dark. I am claustrophobic you know! Have you ever thought of that? And what's worse is when you play football. The two of us are running faster and faster not knowing where we are going when suddenly, out of the blue, I get hit in the big toe by this hard football. See if you like it if they blindfold you and hit you on the head with a football!"

For a moment I sympathised with my feet. Then one of them said, "What I hate the most is the funny jokes you humans make about us feet. Like putting one's foot in one's mouth when one of you says something stupid."

"Yeh ... or put your best foot forward," said the other, "do you realise how divisive that statement is. Which foot is the best, I ask you? Do we not both serve you well?"

"And another one ..." interrupted the other foot, "I hate when you say someone has put his foot in it. What do you mean by that exactly? How about when you humans literally put your foot in a dog's doo doo? How are we to feel about that? And the smell we have to endure!"

"And there's more," piped in my left foot, "it's when you all talk fancy in French and use phrases like faux pas. What has the wrong father to do with us feet? Are you calling us illegitimate?"

"Or when you say pas de deux ... what has the father of twins to do with us?" cried out the right foot.

"And remember that day when you stupidly walked around the house in bare feet and you stepped on a Lego brick the children left in the playroom? Oh ... the pain from that Spanish Inquisition instrument of torture ..."

I suddenly relived that pain again as a shiver ran down my spine. I could not believe my feet were speaking to me. I vowed not to have cheese and port again before going to bed.

How about you? Do any of your body parts talk to you?
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