Car buying blog

It had been going so well, I've been doing test drives, narrowing my choice of cars from the frankly sickeningly vast array of production motors. I was mostly down to two: the Ford Fiesta or the VW Polo. this weekend, after testing the Ford for a second time I had mostly come down on the side of the VW. Then it struck, this weekend as we drove along in our Enterprise Rent-a-car, do we actually need to buy car?

Fatherhood Without A Dad

And you though the last post was a weepy.
People have asked me how does it feel to be a dad and I sometimes reply, if I think they're really asking, that it's a little melancholic, just shy of depressing. Wonderful of course, that goes without saying, and I have to say that our little chap is just a total treasure and such a poppet - he's so good at sleeping that I'm sometimes tempted to wake him up just to say hello in the evening. However, there is a definite sadness that parenthood brings.
One aspect is the whole 'circle of life' completing the first turn of the wheel, about which I will save for another time. Another sadness is that I'm going through this without a Dad of my own. Ground truth here: I have a tremendous stepfather and have been loved and supported by many other men as I grew up. But none of these are my biological Dad as he sadly died when I was just 2.
I only have really one memory of my Dad which for a long time I had no idea was of him, as he was ill in hospital having undergone chemotherapy and I just had this memory of an old man throwing Malteasers out of an office block window. My am I thankful for that tiny glimpse of him now, but as I look at my little boy I realise that no matter how much love I give him now, if I were to die he'd simply not remember me at all and would similarly be cast into life with only half an explanation for why he is like he is. This is slightly more prevalent as last week I was sitting in the oncology unit at Addenbrooks waiting to see a specialist in lymphoma due to these ongoing night sweats. His opinion was that I've probably not got it owing to only this one apparent symptom, and there are other slightly less nasty nasties that can cause that (a range of virus / diseases), but if he was wrong then it didn't look promising.
So here I am, albeit not quite going through the exact same thing (yet?) as he must have gone though, but simulating things at least with the prospect of dying and leaving my son behind. Yes, those who know me might be shouting "oh no, not again, you've been banging on about dying your entire life", and yes, they're right, I have. But then there is that Spike Milligan headstone quote "I told you I was ill" which springs to mind.
It occurred to me that I'd never really considered what my dad would have thought about me as he was ill, would he have cuddled me and kissed me and told me he'd miss me? He must have. What was going through his mind, what sadness at the loss, not only of his own life but of seeing ours too? My God, the the thing that most puts me off death is not the dying but the missing out on life, and now I get to miss out on all his future days too. Bloody hell, that's an awful prospect. Meanwhile I was so young and so oblivious to life that I just got on with growing up in our special small family. Kids really are so adaptable. Noted the years of issues I've gone through probably as a direct result of the trauma at such an age and it goes without question to point out that my Mum did an amazing job with us, we had a wonderful childhood.
When we first discovered our bump was a boy, and not the girl I had hoped for, Su wisely noted that this would mean I could experience all those things that my dad would have had with me. What a precious gift, and how right she was. Now his gender is not even a thing, he is just my child, but he is my son and I am his dad. Lets assume/hope that I'm not dying and I'll get to see him grow up - I have a chance to teach him to be a boy and a man which is odd when I think of myself more as a mum. My loss has left me without a strong point of reference for how to be a man myself, so how do I teach him, or is it that we learn together?
At the weekend Su remarked at how different he is with me, perhaps because I give him a different type of interaction than she does. So perhaps it's natural and inbuilt. That was lovely to hear, and it was the first time I'd thought that perhaps I was a father. Gosh, when he first calls me dad (or daddy perhaps - mine was always daddy), that will be something. So to my daddy, whose birthday is today, thank you for starting me out in life and for those sadly unremembered years of love you gave me. I miss you but I find you in me more than ever as I look at my son, named after you.

Lime pickle without the lime (but with greengages)

I made a rather splendid Sunday dahl last night and wandered if I could use up some of the green gages that we've scrumped from the local neighbourhood. Apparently not a lot came up on a search, but then I wondered about making something like a lime pickle. Googling "instant lime pickle" showed up lots of recipes for lemon pickle instead, which was odd but handy seeing as I didn't have any limes but did have a lemon. I briefly mused as to whether my fridge had 'got smart' and was so intelligent it knew what fruit was sitting in the fruit bowl on top of it. But perhaps, this time, it was just a coincidence.
Zapping the lemon in the pressure cooker (which had been in action processing the sturdy yellow split peas) was quick. I'd added a couple of test greengages too, but they didn't survive. The lemon went soft and squishy and had leaked a glorious liquid. I chopped it up into eighths and then sprinkled over some salt, ground roasted methi seeds (just a little) and turmeric powder and chilli powder. Here I popped a few quartered greengages in to jazz it up. Then I heated some sesame oil in a pan, popped in a spoon of black poppy seeds, let them fizz then poured it over. A quick mix and that was it. Chilled it slightly then enjoyed it with home made wholemeal chapatis courtesy of Dr K.
Lemon and Greengage Pickle. © Nick Bailey
instant lemon and greengage "lime" pickle

Sunday Fellowship: Church without the church, but also mostly just church.

When we went down to Southampton a couple of weeks ago we joined our friends for the Monthly Quaker "youth" outing to the Southampton Sunday Assembly. For those of you who don't know, the Sunday Assembly was started in 2013 as an idea to take the best bits of church such as communal singing and gathering together, but without any of the crappy religious bits that obviously makes actual Church rubbish. Here are their four point summary (see, they even shirk the three point sermon):

  • We are a secular congregation that celebrates life.
  • We have an awesome motto: Live Better, Help Often and Wonder More.
  • A super mission: A Sunday Assembly in every town, city and village that wants one.
  • An awesome vision: To help everyone live life as fully as possible.

So we went along and it was just like church. Actually, it was closer to some of the funkier churches in Southampton such as New Life or Vineyard, perhaps even a little CU at a push. There were the funky folk, the quirky outsiders, the poets and the rebels. After an initial slightly awkward meet and greet time with coffee and tea the service got under way with some singing of traditional pop songs (Cold Play's "Fix You" was rather enjoyable) followed an excellent poem on apathy by an American member of the congregation. The main sermon was also good, by local poet come song writer Grant Sharkey about maintaining a line between love and anger (and included the term 'binge thinking' which I rather liked). This was followed by the short five minute talk (which went on for nearer 30) and tried to get us to share nice things that had happened in the past week. We then prayed together. No, I mean we thought together. There was even a collection!
It was good. Nice people and a friendly atmosphere, just like a good church should be and quite often are. It was markedly young, as seen by their twitter banner and I suspect most of my church would feed out of place and not as a result of the lack of God. Indeed I barely felt there was a lack of God, just that no one mentioned him or tried to avoid mentioning him (actually Grant accidentally did). This was simply church re-imagined by young people who failed to be taken along to a CU while at university. Or perhaps they were taken along to a CU, or similar funky modern church where they were prayed at or otherwise intimidated into being saved, resisted but secretly enjoyed the whole thing.
Perhaps I'm being a little facetious. I'm sure there are plenty of reasons why people were there, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if a number were ex-evangelicals, some of them had that look. Either way there is something other actual churches could learn: people like to sing together, and do pretty much everything else that Church does. It's not even the preaching that puts people off, though no doubt some of the older traditional stuff has. We just need to loosen up a little and funk it up. But at the same time I certainly don't want to loose all the lovely silver backs we have in my local Church - they bring such warmth, love, vision and stability that should be treasured. Also they are most certainly not all stuck-in-the-mud bores who don't want change. Lets all sit together and learn from each other. It is hard to be a cohesive living church of all ages, but God really can help, even if some have to pretend not to have heard about him.
PS. The idea of giving new people different coloured mugs so everyone knows who's new and who's not is a wizard idea.