Archive for June, 2009

Gone is still here every morning, not gone. He’s taken to arriving very early and singing under the Queen’s window. Polly is on the floor above and she heard him at 5am the other day. The Vicar has put a note on the doorbell to remind him not to ring until after we are up. He has now retrieved his NI number somehow (he wasn’t around to call the helpline with me). He still veers between sad and apologetic and agitated and abusive.

Not a single one in sight!

Not a single one in sight!

We went to dinner at the Bishop’s on Friday night. The Vicar lost his bet with me about being the only vicar there without a dog collar. There must have been about ten vicars, and the bishop and there wasn’t a collar or a clerical shirt in sight. I very much enjoyed meeting some other local vicar’s wives (including the Rector’s Wife) and hope to be able to share some of their stories here.

One chap there recommended Betel as a possible place for Gone to find more long term help. The Vicar has arranged for Gone to have a telephone interview with them this afternoon. To be honest, I’m not all that hopeful that Gone will want to go and give up the booze. But I’m praying he will.

Heartbreak has been here on and off this week. She’s a troubled teen who’s living in a hostel because relationships at home have broken down. She has a college interview this week, though, and seems to be getting her life back on track. She seemed to enjoy church on Sunday, but had never seen communion before.

This week we’ve heard tales of one chap’s stint in a young offender institution and had our woodpile chopped by a man who wants to retrieve his life after spending nearly half of it in jail and on heroin.

We’ve also had the Sunday lunch I’ve been imagining since we knew the Vicar was going to be a vicar. A dozen of us around the table out in the garden. A mix of ages and races. A massive roast chicken and three puddings. Much laughter and a few tears (from a rather over-emotional Engineer). Warm chat about Jesus and about our neighbourhood. And identification of more mysterious (to me) Vicarage garden plants. Perfect.

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News travels fast when everyone knows each other

News travels fast when everyone knows each other

My Vicar’s Wife friend Snap is beginning to get into the swing of village life. Recently she dropped her boys off at school and then wandered on to the bakers. Outside the shop the lollipop lady, the shop assistant and a customer were all standing around looking up the hill towards a row of houses. There was a debate going on: beside one of the houses a police car and large van had pulled up. What could be happening up there?

Snap told them the van was an undertaker’s vehicle but she wasn’t sure why the police were in attendance. They then started talking about old Mr C who did a lot for the village but was very old. But what were the police doing there? And had he died or was it his wife? There is much to be discussed on such occasions.

Snap then walked up past the house (trying not to look), on to the newsagents where the same conersation was being repeated, but inside this time, between three customers and the proprietor.

When she got home she mentioned to Rev Snap what she’d just seen and heard and told him to expect a phone call from the local undertaker. At that moment the phone went. Caller display indicated it was the undertakers so Snap answered the phone and told them she was expecting their call and that she knew who the deceased was.

News travels very fast in a small community. Snap is slightly reeling from realising how well people know each other in her village. Snap and I are meeting up at a clergy wives conference next month. I look forward to comparing more vicar’s wives’ tales there.

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A handy tool for Vicarage life

A handy tool for Vicarage life

You need to have a mobile phone if you live in the Vicarage. Polly has used it three times recently to call the house:

  1. When our doorbell was broken and she was outside the front door without a key and I was in the kitchen listening to music with the dishwasher and microwave going.
  2. Yesterday evening when she was at the front gate, which had jammed shut.
  3. Also yesterday evening, when she’d been up in her attic room putting her baby to bed and the Joker had locked the door leading up there.

Mobile phones are so useful.

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crazy dodey frog

Saturday frog

The Joker wrote a poem on Saturday. After a busy morning at the Church Working party, polishing pillars and clearing tree trimmings, we’d returned to the Vicarage. The Engineer and the Joker were showing an inclination to spend the entire afternoon slouched in front of the box. I declared the next few hours to be telly free and the Joker elected to do some colouring-in.

But I’d spotted a homework sheet that seemed to have been lurking in his bag for a while. It was about frogs. But filling in the sheet didn’t seem to appeal. ‘Write a poem about a frog then’ I suggested. And this is what we got:

A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon

A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon

Grandpa, who is a fine composer of doggerel verse, needs to watch his back.

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Gone was on our doorstep at 6.30am today (Polly heard him, thankfully the Vicar and I were still asleep). He rang the doorbell on and off from 6.55am, but was gone by the time we were all downstairs from breakfast at around 8 o’clock. The Queen’s bedroom is just above the front door and she told me that he was singing loudly about chocolate. There were two bottles of Frosty Jack on the drive.

Yesterday we tried to help him get sorted out with the benefits system. He said that noone was able to help him.

If you dont know it, youre in a fix

If you don't know it, you're in a fix

Gone has forgotten his National Insurance number because he’s suffering from alcoholic dementia. He has no identification documents because he’s lost them all, so is struggling to prove his identity. Without an NI number he can’t claim benefits and therefore can’t even get a place in a homeless hostel. He’s frightened, ill and frustrated. And I don’t blame him.

The Vicar let Gone use the phone to speak to the Job Centre that he’s always dealt with, but because he can’t remember his NI number, they were unable to help. You need two forms of identification – you know, utility bills, passport – and he doesn’t have them.

Later, after Gone had left, I spoke to our local Job Centre Plus, the West Midlands Probation Service (Gone is less than a month out of prison but is without a probation officer), Walsall Probation office, Sandwell Adult Social Services, Aquarius (the Sandwell alcohol service), a Sally Army hostel, the Birmingham homelessness team, the local housing office and the local emergency homelessness team. Everyone I spoke to was sympathetic and helpful, but were stumped about how to help.

The emergency homeless team said they might be able to do a bit more with some more input from him, so next time he’s here in office hours I shall call them so I can mediate for him. In the meantime I’m going to call the central National Insurance office and the mental health services to see if there is any more advice available.

At the moment he seems to falling through a hole in a system designed to stop identity theft. He’s not trying to steal an identity. He’s just forgetting his own.

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More blooms are appearing in the Vicarage Garden. Since this blog got tweeted yesterday, lots of new people have been visiting the Vicarage and I’m hoping that some of them are gardeners.

So, after success with the last identify-a-flower game, here are some more mysterious plants that I’d love to know the names of. Once they have a name I think they are less intimidating. Though I still only really get gardening when there are so many kids in the garden that I think there’ll be an accident unless I supervise.

Yesterday I failed to go out and my kids had a major blow out with each other cos the trampoline was full and the Queen wouldn’t let her brothers on. And there were only seven children in the garden – this is a low number for our garden. Ten is my must-supervise number.

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I don’t know if it’s been five or six days now that Gone has been on our doorstep every morning. This morning I took the kids out to school through the back door, so we didn’t have to stop and have a long chat at that frantic time.

When I returned (also through the back), the Vicar was flustering in the kitchen. Gone had rung the doorbell four times, each time in a more aggressive way. The Vicar had gone out to chat to him and he asked for a packet of crisps. The Vicar offered him some bread and asked him what he’d like on top. He was fine with butter.

But when the Vicar brought out crisps, toast and butter Gone shouted that he’d expected beans on toast. He threw the bread into the flower border and swore and cursed. Then he apologised and prayed with the Vicar.

The cheese was a bit skimpy but definitely there

The cheese was a bit skimpy but definitely there

The Vicar began again in the kitchen, this time having said he’d make cheese on toast, and that’s when I came home. I took over the sandwich production and took it to the door.

A minute later the bell rang. ‘There’s no cheese on this,’ Gone shouted as he threw his food in the flower bed and stormed off.

I shut the door. What to do?

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A few weeks ago I posted up the kinetic typography YouTube clip of Psalm 55v22 from Seeds Family Worship.

A couple of nights ago I came across another one they’ve done, of Philippians 4v6-7. ‘Do not be anxious…’ A good verse to hold onto, especially when feeling rather overwhelmed by the pace of Vicarage life…

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Vicar’s wives hear many heart rending stories – on the doorstep, at the kitchen table, round and about the parish. The sorry alcoholic, the grief stricken mother, the wife whose world has fallen apart.

Molly Piper lost her baby nearly two years ago. This is a song she recommends for those who grieve, and their friends.

The Tie That Binds by Sandra McCracken

The song was written for a friend whose daughter, Amelia, had battled multiple infections of her brain after she was diagnosed with leukemia. The infections caused devastating amounts of tissue death and she’ll never fully recover. This all occurred before her 1st birthday.

The sorrow of a friend
From a long way we stand
Grief is second hand
But I’ll send my tears in a locket

Amelia smiles under lights & wires
Thorns for every flower
We number every hour
And live the days we are given

Oh, the pain
It makes you feel alive
Oh, the broken heart is the tie that binds
And I pray to God, these things will be made right

When the morning shines
On tear stained eyes
Oh we shall overcome
The Father gave the Son
To break the curse we are under

Oh the pain that no man can escape
Oh the sting of death, the empty grave,
And I pray to God where comfort has no place

When our tired eyes look through the veil
The colors are so pale but we raise high the sail
And call the winds to carry us home
Call the winds to carry us home.

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Buy it round the corner, not at the supermarket

Buy it round the corner, not at the supermarket

Jessica Hagy has lots of clever graphs at her Indexed site. She posted this one today, but it’s not accurate for our parish.

Our milk costs between 99p and £1.20 for 4 pints at local shops. It’s £1.53 at Tesco’s. We use a lot of milk in our house.

I love living here.

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