Saturday, 25 June 2011

The End

Last week The Curate came across an incident on the moor where the emergency services were doing everything they could to save the life of a fit looking man, who was of similar age to The Curate. The Curate's role was to turn the traffic back down the road until the ambulance left. He didn't know the man's name but he knew that whoever he was, it was unlikely that he had survived. A shocking start to the day.

The following day, the pieces of the story began to unfold as a work colleague of mine talked of a good friend dying very suddenly. The Curate was contacted to arrange the funeral and over the last week he got to know the family - with two sons only slightly younger than ours. And yesterday, nearly 300 people met to remember a much loved husband, father, inspiring teacher and sports coach.

Over the week, I have watched from the sidelines as The Curate visited the family, helping them to shape the sort of farewell they wanted to give this man. As a trainee verger, yesterday I welcomed people into the church, many already in tears and others unable to hold tears back when they saw the photos on the order of service. There were so many young people - from the school where he worked, his sons' friends and  his relatives. I watched them being allowed to remember with tributes from a colleague, his sons and his wife, bible verses and hymns - and being allowed to grieve. I watched The Curate stand by one son and encouraging him to finish by reading with him. I listened as The Curate read out memories for some who felt they couldn't do it. And I watched the slow process of healing beginning. 

As they filed from the church - there were red eyes and smiles, chatter and sharing of recollections as well as the playing of a lively song which caused people to smile as they recalled its relevance in this man's life. It was clear that this service of remembrance had served its purpose. And I realised that this is part of what The Curate feels called to do. He would never have been able to describe the event to me had I not been there. And I now know, with certainty, that I want to be beside him.
For some time I have begun to feel quite differently about the life changes he made to become ordained. I have felt a huge cloud lifting since the travelling has stopped. - I don't think I realised quite how tired I really was most of the time. I sometimes stop and wonder what the strange feeling is that I am feeling more and more.- I think it is contentment! So, having toyed with the idea of removing 'reluctant' from the name of this blog, I have now decided to end this blog..........and start again with a new blog that will record the second half of being the 'Curate's wife'. 
Thank you for staying with me and for all the encouraging comments as I tried to make sense of where life was taking me. Do join me for 'The Other Half '. I'd love to see you there.


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Contrasting churches

On Sunday The Curate took two very different services for the first time, in two of the churches in the area where we are now living. It reminded us both of how broad the Church of England has to be. In the morning The Curate led a family service with a worship group, overhead projectors, an elaborate sound system and not a traditional hymn sung. In the afternoon we travelled a few miles for The Curate to take a traditional service in a very small moorland church with wonderful organ playing. This was combined with the local Methodist church.

The first church is well organised and everyone seems to have their role - although they were asking for helpers in the young people's church. It was an enthusiastic lively service. When it came to coffee afterwards, people gathered in their groups and it was quite difficult to know how to fit in or who to talk to. Yet again, I felt like a bit of a spare part and wondered whether I should just walk home rather than wait for The Curate. Don't misunderstand me, I am quite able to start a conversation if people don't have their backs to me. But I will persevere.

We took the dogs with us to walk up another tor before the moorland service. It was such an exhilarating experience. Afterwards,The Curate went to the church and I walked the dogs around the village until I left them in the car and joined him there. It was easy for me to slide into this service - it all seemed so like the services of my childhood. In this setting, I loved it.

There were the same number of children as the morning service and they all sat together giggling and helping each other to follow the service book - no word searches here. One girl read the bible reading by standing up and turning to face the small congregation. No microphones here. It felt as if the church had seen generations of people meeting to praise God together.

During the communion, The Curate crouched down to bless the smallest boy there and was asked, " Will you play hide and seek with me?". The Curate replied he was a little busy at the moment and both mother and grandmother found this highly amusing. 

Tea was served at the back of the church in china cups with saucers and homemade biscuits. I was quickly scooped up into conversation and got to know many people. Some walkers dropped by to see the church and were invited to have a cup pf tea with us all. When the sun came out, I collected the dogs and they joined us in the churchyard. Several of us took turns to play hide and seek with the young chap. This involved being told where to hide by him, then he would count to three and come and find us. It didn't take long and we had the time.

It all felt so 'English' - to be sipping tea from china cups, in the sunshine, in view of the sheep on the Tor and children playing in amongst all the people. It's hard not to romanticise it all. Perhaps you might think that it's stuck in a time warp. But it appeared to work very well that afternoon.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Friday, 17 June 2011

Approachable but not available.

Should clergy identify themselves by wearing a dog collar as they go about their daily routines?
I know some clergy prefer not to wear a clerical collar during the day. When he first was ordained, The Curate had thought he would be one of these clergy. He found that there seemed to be a congregational expectation that the curate should put his neck on the line and be identifiable.

The Curate and I have settled into the new parish and, for the first few weeks The Curate was on holiday so obviously he did not wear a collar. We walked the streets regularly with our dogs and people smiled and said hello to us. We knew we had arrived in a very friendly parish. 
Once The Curate was back at work, the collar went on and he stepped out of our drive with our dogs and immediately he was engaged in conversation by a neighbour.The day continued in a similar way, with many engrossing conversations - the dog collar had identified him as connected to the church. The difference between when he is or isn't wearing a collar is quite marked. The Curate said it seemed as if it said he was 'available'!. I have told him quite categorically that he is not 'available' but he might be 'approachable'!

Friday, 10 June 2011

After the rain - Dartmoor on our doorstep and so much to learn.

Dartmoor is such a wild, open space - once you get away from the car parks. I am having to learn how to capture the magnificence and grandeur of the Tors on camera and trying to learn their names at the same time. We have the largest map of Dartmoor wallpapering our cloakroom so that we can sit and ponder the area we have to discover.
I am surprised by how much more difficult it is to capture the 'feel' of Dartmoor compared to photographing the sea and coast. I have had several attempts with different cameras and I am not satisfied yet. I think the secret is to look for days with big skies or interesting light. It will be an interesting project (if only the ponies and sheep would stand still).

Do you know this bird?

I am certainly counting my blessings - all of this is just up the road from our house.
(click on the photos to experience some of the vastness of Dartmoor)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


One of each of the roses that we have left behind in our South Coast garden (including a 'rambling rector' rose).
In February  I decided that  it was about time I did a little more reading on church traditions and I started by reading The Accidental Anglican By Todd D Hunter. This was a good place to start as it clearly explained liturgy, sacraments and traditions that, as a regular church goer, I am suppose to know about. So if you have theological training or have been well educated in why the Anglican Church does what it does, this is possibly not the book for you.  But for me, struggling to work out where I felt comfortable in church, this was a very helpful book. I  found the chapter 'The Anglican Treasure Chest' particularly helpful. I have moved from Anglican tradition to Methodist and back again and more. I have had to find the common ground in the services so I could worship in whatever church I found myself. Each time I find myself somewhere new, I am stretched and usually reshaped a little more. It's not always easy and sometimes I long for a familiar and comfortable church.

 This blog is suppose to record the highs and the lows of becoming a curate's wife and being caught up in the rhythms of the church. And this last Sunday was a challenge - not a low but a challenge. After the house move and the encouraging licensing service for The curate, we fell into a bit of a lull. Everywhere we looked in the house there was a job to be done and my half term break passed in a flash. The Curate had two weeks off but was keen to get started in the new parish despite the fact that everyone had been told he was not starting yet. He decided to start meeting people and accepting invitations to events. We did manage to go to church together and I was glad to be alongside him.

I had to search for the familiar. I wanted to hear the familiar words, sing familiar songs and see familiar faces to exchange the peace with.  I stood in centre of the church as everyone left their pews to shake hands and greet one another, for what seemed like ages. Strangers shook my hand, they knew my name and, even if they told me theirs, I didn't register it. Preparing to take communion was challenging because I had to work out in what order people went up to the altar rail and ... to which altar rail (as there are two). And afterwards, The Curate was much in demand and I wondered what to do with myself - because I wanted to run home ......but to which home?.

Friday, 3 June 2011

The solution for the shady garden

Shirley (- my first choice of name was vetoed by The Curate)
Meeting the rest of the family
Inspecting the quality of the grass
Not much work for The Collie here.
Close relatives?
Happily settled at the bottom of our garden.

Monday, 30 May 2011

First Impressions

It sure does rain on the moor and in our garden!

Thank goodness for webcams - otherwise I would begin to believe we are in the wettest place in Devon. But with the push of a button I can see that it is raining just as hard at both the north and south coast. It is wonderful for the plants that moved home with us and have, until now, been struggling to settle in. I wonder about the grass as this is gradually turning blacker and blacker as a result of a lawn treatment two weeks ago. Perhaps there wasn't any lawn to feed and it was all weed! We will just have to wait and see.

We are recovering from a busy weekend which started with the licensing service for The Curate with the New Bishop on Friday night. I was fortunate to have the company of two old friends who now live close by and youngest son and his girlfriend because The Curate was rather occupied during the service. I haven't quite got to grips with the feeling of being a spare part now that The Curate is a curate and walking into this new church for the first time, nobody recognised me. We attempted to slide into a pew halfway down the church but The Curate caught us and ushered us to the front pew. This is the worst seat in the house because you are supposed to know what you are doing -like when to stand up and when to sit down. You have to pay attention and it is definitely not the place for making any observational comments about the proceedings as you are in full view of everyone. Even in the front pew no one came to say hello until the New Bishop recognised me and came over to have a light hearted chat. Perhaps that then identified me as 'The Curate's wife' and one or two others from our new church came to say hello.

Quite what the new church thought about the bus load of people from our old church filling a large part of the building, I can't say. But we thought it was brilliant - to be surrounded by so many familiar well wishers made for an excellent atmosphere and the singing was tremendous. They were impressed with the modern technology and the use of the space in this old moorland church and many commented on how they would like overhead screens in their church. Maybe this trip has sown a few seeds.

We shared refreshments afterwards where we were able to chat and say good bye again and issue lots of invitations to come and visit - after all we are only just over an hour down the road. The Curate eventually caught up with us at home where we had a very convivial evening round the kitchen table late into the night. It was a memorable start to living here. The New Bishop had given a wonderfully encouraging talk and said that The Curate must be looked after as he was 'a gift'. I am still pondering on this!

The Curate has been busy introducing himself to people around us and finding out about our neighbours. He is extremely pleased to find that one neighbour arranges the Steam Fair and has a keen interest in traction engines and another has a large motor bike and boat sitting on his drive. When talking to this latter chap, The Curate suggested that they should go out on a ride together as he also had an interest in bikes. The neighbour supposed that The Curate had something like a Honda 125 and was a little taken aback when The Curate said (just as he was leaving) that his bike was actually a 1340 Harley Davidson. 

Church on Sunday was another chance to meet people and they were very welcoming. It will take a while to find my feet and my role in all of this. I can't use the excuse of working away to avoid things now. So maybe I'll have to get rid of any reluctance and role up my sleeves! We still have a few things to sort out in the house. We have the best furnished garage in town. The garden is over shadowed by tall trees that have protected status because they are a 'public amenity' and must be kept at a height for the public to see! Somehow we have to manage the hedges. It does rain a lot.....but now The Curate and I can live together.  There is no leaving on Monday morning and that is worth a thousand sunny days.

Friday, 27 May 2011

A wonderful send off

Farewell flowers for The Curate and I
We returned to the North coast last Sunday for a lovely sending off service and superb lunch afterwards in the village hall. Everyone has been so kind - and we really enjoyed our day.

Today The Curate has his licensing service in our new church ... and there will be a coach load of familiar faces there from the North Coast. We look forward to seeing everyone again!!!
Could this be a beach hut?

Our daily walk with a view

Our new neighbours

You didn't get these on the beach!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Way - to avoid unpacking.

We have moved into our new home and The Curate and I are slowly surfacing above the sea of boxes and bags left by the removers in every corner and on every surface they could find. This house is smaller than our last house and it is worrying the amount of belongings we have managed to accumulate in our two years on the north coast. Where did all this bedding come from? A smaller house was one of the compromises we had to make if we wanted to move. It was so much harder for The Curate because the north coast was his proper home for the last two years. He is the one having to start work in a new parish in a couple of weeks.

A French colleague said to me some time ago that if you can't give something away -  you are owned by it. This really made me think as I have always been a hoarder and love to be surrounded by things I have collected or have been given. Am I owned by them? I found it very difficult to leave our family house of over twenty years, to live on the North coast. Perhaps this held me back from settling.
But back to the move, The Curate didn't seem to know where to start with the chaos that surrounded us on the first day. I started unpacking kitchen boxes - while The Curate decided that it was necessary to have a bonfire and burn all the packing paper. He then spent a long, long time trying to clear a space for his motorbike in the garage. As the garage seems to have the majority of our belongings in it, making a space caused The Curate some stress. Does he own his motorbike - or does the bike own him?

By the second day - we had had enough and I suddenly realised that it was the last screening of The Way which is a film I really wanted to see. So often I miss seeing films because the ones I want to see, do not seem to stay in our area for more than a week (- I must have an odd taste in films). An exhausted Curate and myself downed tools and went to the afternoon showing of this film. As there were only seven other people watching the film, The Curate had the luxury of trying out five different seats before settling down to watch - much to my embarressment.
All I can say is -you must see this film! - If you love Spain and huge landscapes, love travelling, want to cry and laugh, be moved and inspired, then this is the film for you. The Curate and I found that it touched both of us  - in different ways. But we both identified with the role of the parent. We have two sons who like to go off travelling and we know how much they gain from this - but as parents, we are always concerned about them. As we drove away from the cinema The Curate's phone rang and it was our oldest son ringing from Dubai where he lives and works as a diver. He just wanted to see how we were and catch up on any news. The world can seem a very small place these days

Monday, 16 May 2011

Leaving the sea for moor.

Our bags are packed and the removers arrive tomorrow
This week we are finally moving to the new parish near the moor.This is an opportunity for me to say how much I appreciate The Curate moving, when he is halfway through a successful curacy, so that we can be together and I can continue to work. The Curate has his working agreement meeting with his new Bishop today, I have returned to work on the south coast, the removers pack the house tomorrow and we move in on Wednesday. We will return to the North for The Curate's leaving service next Sunday, which will be a sad occasion for us, as he has been made so welcome. The Curate and I and our dogs, will be leaving this area with happy memories.

The Collie loves the beach and has learned new tricks.
He would prefer not to be leaving.
But it's time to follow the next path - together.
We have all loved our time on the North Coast.
The spectacular beaches seem to stretch for miles.

We have discovered a lovely area which we are sorry to leave

and we look forward to returning - when the time is right.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Beside You

The Curate and I like to buy pieces of artwork by local artists and the rule usually is that we both have to react in some way to what we are going to buy. If it doesn't 'speak' to one of us - then we don't buy it! This was the first painting that I have bought without consulting The Curate. I bought it when our move to the North coast was confirmed and The Curate had just resigned his full time job, having completed his training for ministry. I think I was reacting to his resignation. I was alarmed by the bland house we were expected to move to, the unknown area we were expected to move to and the prospect of  being tied to The Church. We usually buy artwork together but I found this painting just spoke to me - it offered the combination of pure joy and chaos. It lifted my spirits out of the chaos I was feeling at the time. It made me smile and I knew it had to come with us to the North Coast and be part of our new life. 

After I said I was going to buy it, I found out that the painting was entitled ' Beside You'. This just confirmed that this painting was meant for The Curate and I. I knew exactly where it was going to hang in our new house and I have loved watching how people respond to it. This photo doesn't do it justice because it is in oil and has glitter and metallic paints in it. It looks different depending on the light. Some people politely ask if I painted it (I wish I had!). It has such a feeling of pure joy and spontaneity. The paint is flicked and splattered, the colours and shapes are bold and confusing..... but it makes me smile. Children immediately identify with it and love it. Love it or hate it - my painting gets a reaction out of most people!

A while ago, we visited Yvonne Coomber in her studio, during Devon open studios where we were made so welcome and it is lovely knowing where our painting came from. She says this about her work:-
'I am fascinated by chaos and order existing simultaneously and the easy harmony that occurs in the natural world between these two forces. Also the relationship between fragility and strength. My canvas becomes a visual response to these elemental energies and polarities discovered within the environment and myself.

My work is a celebration of the joy and ultimate purity of the human spirit and embraces all that is magical: the unseen is as relevant as the seen in the finished piece.' Yvonne Coomber

'Beside You' will come to the next house, which is very different to the house we are in now, and there will be a place to hang it.  Life is not so chaotic,  I am more certain about the path The Curate has chosen to take and I want to be beside him.  And I am certain we are not alone on our journey.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Clean it up!

I have not written many posts from the North Coast recently as I have been spending time at our home in the South. It's been a way of detaching and preparing for the next stage. The Curate and I are about to leave the North Coast to live near the moor and nearer my work. We have enjoyed the beautiful coastline and living right on the beach. Our dogs love their daily walks on the wide open sands and meeting all the other dogs.These are very sociable occasions as, during the week, the regulars brave all kinds of weather to exercise their dogs on the sands. 
But how do I know it is the weekend or the holidays when I am up at the North Coast? It is the increased amount of doggy bags left at the entrance to the beach, in the car park or half buried in the sand dunes. I mean doggy bags full of doggy c***. These plastic bags are left for all other beach users to stumble upon. The Curate regularly picks up bags left at the beach entrances by owners who are not prepared to carry the bags to the dog bins provided.

Other ways of not being seen with a bag full of poo - is to throw the full plastic bag into the hedges around the footpaths. This is more noticeable in winter when bare trees are often decorated with a bag (which comes in a variety of colours) that has got caught on a branch.
The cheap bags are not biodegradable and so the trees can be festooned for weeks until the wind shreds the plastic and deposits the contents below. In summer they are more quickly concealed by the brambles and leaves.  Spot the doggy bag in this picture .
The plastic is a risk to other wild life and very unsightly.

It is at the weekend and the holidays when things get really bad. Some people, visiting by car, don' t want to put these bags into their cars and the dog bins are a few hundred metres away on the roadside.Neither will they walk the extra distance. They leave the bags lying in the car park or tucked away somewhere. Some people do try to remember and I have seen cars driving away with little full plastic bags hanging from their tow bars or windscreen wipers.

Our beaches are for everyone. The wide open sands, which are washed clean by the tides and cleaned by our local tractor driver on a daily basis, are a wonderful natural playground. With limited access to recreational areas, it is fantastic to be allowed to exercise our dogs on the beach. On sunny days,I see children digging in the dry sand and sliding down the sand dunes. They  are having a wonderful time.  But I also see this ........

      and this.......                   
and this......
 (these pictures were all taken on 
yesterday's walk)

Respect our beaches - so that everyone can enjoy them,