Archive for July, 2008

On Wednesday, when we had an enforced day of holiday because of the public sector strike, Wonderfriend came round to play with the Queen. I was able to keep the two big girls and both my small boys occupied for a good part of the morning using a great present sent by Auntie Icklesis. I had to draw the figures but they did all the colouring.

From left to right, Wonderfriend, the Queen, the Joker, the Engineer

From left to right, Wonderfriend, the Queen, the Joker, the Engineer

So many thanks to Auntie I and to the inventors of Paint a Puzzle. Now we only have to do something similar on the other side!

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We’ve been hit by the public sector strike here in deepest Wolverhampton. Our bins weren’t collected yesterday and, more disruptively, school is closed because the kitchen staff and caretaker are members of Unison.

Do you know why the strike was on Wednesday and Thursday? Apparently they couldn’t hold it on Thursday and Friday because if school staff don’t work on the last day of term they’re not paid for the holidays. If they’d been striking at the end of the week term could have finished properly on Wednesday.

As it is, we are off today and yesterday but back tomorrow. And because of all that goes on at the end of term (sports days, plays, trips out) the end-of-term service where all the Year Six leavers are farewelled has had to be postponed to Friday afternoon. Sadly for the Year Sixes, and the two teachers who are retiring, many children won’t return to school for the last day of term. A 2pm finish to the day means that parents are reluctant to disrupt holiday mode simply for a day of packing up. So the service will be much less of a send-off than it normally is.

I wonder if the Unison and Unite bosses took into consideration this important stage of children’s school careers when they made their plans? The move from primary to secondary school is a significant one. I can’t believe that they wanted to cause this upset to children by the timing of their strike. But they did think about the paypackets of their workers. Money, not memories, has driven them.

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I’m just back from a Proclamation Trust‘s Clergy Wives Conference. This was my sixth year of attendance. A conference full of the wives of ministers seems a very peculiar thing, so I thought I’d list a few pros and cons of going away for four days with women whose husbands have similar jobs to mine.


  • Refreshing and challenging bible teaching (thanks to David Jackman and Giles Walter this year) – listening to six whole talks without kids interrupting or rota duties for Sunday school is brilliant
  • Wonderful opportunities to catch up with friends and hearing news of others
  • Great resourcing for ministry by nicking everyone else’s ideas
  • Food you don’t have to shop for or cook
  • Table-clearing and washing up done by others


  • Feeling very refreshed but also shattered by so much talking
  • The Queen getting hold of some scissors and chopping off her fringe in my absence ‘because my hair was in my face’. She has been telling people at school that she fell over and bumped her head and the hair rubbed off.

Have you been on anything like this? What are your pros and cons?

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Tea for a Tiger

My kids love Judith Kerr’s book ‘The Tiger who came to tea’. Last week the Joker’s class spent some time reading the book. They also drew a dinner plate full of food for the hungry tiger who ate all of the food in Sophie’s house.

The Joker tells me that the following foods are on the plate:

Fishfingers, broad beans, ice cream, a sweetie, a jelly baby, peas, a carrot, baked bean, broccoli, a packet of prawn cocktail crisps, a radish, ribena, pizza and chips.

Check out the great food selection
Can you spot them all?

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Modern reports

My kids had their school reports today.

One of the comments in the Queen’s one was

The Queen has good mouse control.

My rodent capabilities were never commented on when I was at school….

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Mourning in the parish

Two young men have died in road accidents near us in the last few weeks. The Curate officiated at one of the funerals. I was reminded of one lad who died today, when I realised that some silver graffiti on the road on the way to the junior school was a memorial to him. He was a popular lad and his friends were moved to write a song about him which was played at the funeral.

Last week, on the way to town, we passed this memorial to the other boy, who was just sixteen when he was in an accident, driving his new moped.

There were twice as many flowers there when I passed this yesterday

There were twice as many flowers here when I passed this spot yesterday

These expressions of grief are new, creative and increasingly popular amongst the young. But the comfort they bring can’t last. One of the great privileges in parish ministry is meeting people who are grieving and pointing them to the eternal comfort that God offers to human beings through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort.

2 Corinthians 1v3 (ESV)

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My granny was a fantastic knitter, but I only decided recently that I wanted to try my hand with needles and wool. My helpful mother-in-law gave me a knitting book for Christmas and this is one of the results – a gift for a friend’s 40th birthday.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while… I suspect most of my huge array of readers will have seen either the bag or the pictures before. But just in case you haven’t….

Thanks to Louisa Harding for the pattern from her accessories book.

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This morning I was running a bit late, so I heard ‘Thought for the Day’ on Radio 4. Dr Mona Siddiqui was talking about how the slowdown in the housing market makes people feel frustrated because

“We have taken the buying and selling of property as a costly but essential part of our lifestyle choices.”

This is one of the reasons for all the repossessions in our neighbourhood: people bought into the lie that everyone should own their own property and then just couldn’t afford it. Where families are still managing to pay their mortgage there are difficulties here that you don’t see in middle class neighbourhoods.

Our neighbours, the Jollies, very rarely spend their annual leave together, as they can maximise the free childcare by taking it in turns to take their holiday. I see Arthritic Granny, obviously in much pain, struggling with the pushchair to the school gate, as her son and daughter-in-law are out at work all day and she is left with three little ones to watch.

But mainly I don’t think it wouldn’t occur to most of the people in our parish that having a mortgage was ‘an essential part of our lifestyle choices’. People don’t have that choice in the inner city. But then, they don’t listen to Radio 4 either.

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The other week we had the bailiffs round. Not calling for us – the Church of England isn’t in such a bad state yet. Sadly asking about our next door neighbour who disappeared at the end of February after telling us he was going on holiday.

The following morning the bailiffs were here again, breaking in next door and going to repossess two doors down too. That makes the fourth house in our development of forty or so houses that have been claimed back by lenders.

Wolverhampton has one of the highest rates of subprime mortgages in the country. It’s been so sad to see what’s happened to our friends, who have been trapped by plummeting property prices so they can’t even sell up and go back to renting.

This week the repossessed house next door got its ‘For Sale’ sign. It joins around five or so in the close that are up for sale. If you’re looking for a bargain priced property near to a good bible-teaching church and an excellent church primary school, this is the place to look. A two bedroomed terraced house on the road up from ours sold for £60,000. Just don’t get a sub-prime mortgage…

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