Thursday, 29 October 2009


I'm still deciding whether I have successfully juggled my time over this half term. The guilt of the full time working mother has kicked in this morning as I have risen at 5am in order to work so that I can have time with M and Andy and then with my mother who arrives later today.
I didn't want to take any time off this week during half term when both the Bean and Andy are at home, as I'd like to have a couple of days leave later in November for Christmas and M's 3rd birthday preparations on 14th December. I also want to take a full 2 weeks off over Christmas and New Year as we do so much travelling. 
So, these last few days I've tried to juggle work at times when I would normally be sleeping or watching telly so I can have time with Andy and M and the fun things they have been doing.
So, 5am start this morning...6 am yesterday, managing 5/6 hours work before midday. Last night I babysat for some friends in our babysitting circle and I worked for 3 of the 4 hours I was there.
I'm tired...and I was ill on Tuesday too with a sicky bug or something, so time is even more stretched. But through it all, I'm looking forward to all aspects of my life, generally! The Labyrinth we are doing in St Albans Diocese on Friday is exciting and creative and stretching in terms of theology as well as good youth work. The time we've had with M this week and with each other, particularly because we have all been ill and run down at various times has also been precious - quiet, relaxed, homey.
I can't imagine having to work full time and not love my job - but equally I wish sometimes that I could have more days without feeling that something else is tugging at my sense of responsibility - M and Andy and home life when I'm working, work and deadlines and ideas for development when I'm at home being mummy....

Jenny Baker over at Sophia blogged on some stuff around this issue yesterday and I know she has commented on my previous post about us getting a cleaner and how I felt about that with all it's mixed emotions. I think these times are helpful reflections for me and perhaps you, my friends, will help me be real about my drivers to do what I do and why I work like I do - hard!

Here is some text from Jenny's post:

"There's no doubt that the demands of work on both men and women have a big impact on family life and social relationships, particularly the culture of working long hours that seems as endemic in the church and in Christian organisations as in business. That doesn't just apply to couples; people who are single can have as much expectation or pressure to work long hours.  Helen Jarvis from Newcastle University has identified eight 'drivers' for working long hours:
  • tight deadlines due to working in competitive or under-resourced fields
  • demand-led services - a few workers have to put in long hours to meet a seasonal demand
  • portfolio worker survival - people on insecure or short-term contracts put in long hours to show their commitment or to update their skills
  • enthusiasm for the work and a 'can-do' culture
  • presenteeism where people feel they have to be seen at their desk or in the workplace to show their commitment
  • moral obligation due to loyalty to colleagues or to the cause you're working for
  • financial incentives - working overtime or more hours when self-employed means you have more to spend
  • 'macho' goal-oriented motives - the lunch is for wimps mentality
I'm self-employed and I know how easy it is for work to expand to fill every available moment. So join me in a moment of reflection - do the hours you put in at work have a detrimental effect on your relationships with friends and family? Which of these drivers is behind the long hours that you work and do you need to resist them? Are you making enough space for rest and restoration?"

I'm really looking forward to going on Youthwork the Conference this year and also taking in the Retreat for the 24 hours before - although it will mean me being away from home for 3 nights which I have only done once before, I am sure it will be a great opportunity and an enforced one too!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

wonderful weekend, wacky week

hey all, we've had an eventful few days in Smithville. 
We visited friends for curry (thanks Paul and Heather) on Friday night to talk about Anglican things as part of Andy's discernment journey in the ordination process. Paul and Heather have 5 children - the last 2 added in February as their beautiful twins arrived on the scene. M got stuck right in, introducing herself as 'Tilda' and enjoying watching a video of Morph and having stories read to her by T who is 4 and just at school, very impressive. 
Andy came away with a hoard of books to add to the huge pile by his side of the bed and lots of other stuff to think about!
Saturday was chilled day at home - I was writing a sermon on Phillipians 2 for Sunday morning at CGC and Andy and M pottered about, doing some gardening stuff, cooking and visiting the garden centre. A bunch of us went out on Saturday night to Imli Lounge for a curry of dreams! 

Sunday included church, my sermon (which was pretty well received, especially the buzz groups and the quiz part way through!), a fabulous Greek Lamb stew for lunch, disgustingly unhealthy puddings for afters and a tendency for about 4pm we decided we needed fresh air before the kids went into meltdown. We headed for the Tesco park in Maldon (not sure that's its real name but that's what we call it!) and had an hour of crazy fun...

In our time at the Park it got darker and darker, so that eventually it was pretty dark and we had the park to ourselves....

This made for some cool photos when we put out camera onto 'twilight portrait' setting...

Not sure if the kids or the adults had the most fun!!
Unfortunately Sunday night seemed to be the point where we all went downhill a bit :-( M was sick just before she went to bed - we put it down to her having a cold and not being able to breathe properly and getting a bit over excited, but kept a close eye on her through the night. All seemed fine and she slept well. Monday morning, she got up as usual, had her milk and cereal but when she has taken a small sip of her medicine we could see she was about to throw up...and throw up she did! Everywhere.... I won't add any more details!
She seemed much better after that little episode and a 2.5 hour nap also helped! As the day went on however, both Andy and I started to have patches of nausea, culminating in me going to bed at 8.30pm with a bucket. Today, as I write this, I haven't been sick, but I also don't feel 100% - very weak, hot and cold at intervals and I would actually love to be sick. Better, but not completely.
It's such a horrible feeling, being completely helpless while your child is ill. M is so rarely properly under the weather and she was so distressed at being sick on the sofa and making a mess. She has a way of just curling up and staying really still...and I know it makes her feel better but we keep trying to prod her to make sure she's OK! Am sure she must wish we'd leave her alone!!
So it's been another chilled day at home for all of us today - and tomorrow we're still hoping to see Jenny R for the day...
The rest of the week for me will be work, preparation for the Labyrinth on Saturday, a weekend of family time and an appointment for M's eyes at the hospital so please pray for that.

Monday, 26 October 2009

We had a great time on Sunday at the 'Tesco park' as M calls it in Maldon...this photo was taken with the twilight portrait setting...looks like they are swinging in the middle of a load of fireworks!
Great fun had by all - especially the adults!
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Friday, 23 October 2009

half term beckons

Half term started a bit early for us today, as Andy was working at home during an Inset day at school. He understands now how difficult it is to combine concentration with the myriad of jobs, clutter and chores you notice when working from home!!

Usually our half term breaks are filled with visits to us, or us visiting other people. This time we've elected to stick at home. It's been a busy and emotional half term since early September - and with the knowledge that we'll now be in Maldon and in our current jobs for a while yet, it's good to take the opportunity to chill out and just 'be' in one place. We're often tempted to go off and see people, cos that's where we get our energy from, but we know we need this upcoming week as a time to sleep in, eat together, watch movies, walk a bit, sleep a bit more and generally enjoy each other's company.

We were due to have the RB's come down but JRB is now on a training course so that's been postponed. JennyR (M's godmother) might come for a night or two, but it's just like family to have her around and she doesn't need entertaining!! Andy is going to have breakfast with the men from church tomorrow morning and also with our friend AlexR at Heybridge Basin.

I'll be catching up with KarenC for lunch too - so hopefully a good mix of time all  3 of us together and some other folk stirred in!

As well as that, we'll try to include some working in the garden, going to Mersea for the day or part of, doing some 'make ahead' Christmas cooking and perhaps doing some shopping at Lakeside or Bluewater....maybe it is all looking a bit busy? 

I'll be working around all that, probably most of Monday and Wednesday - combining some big project work and some funding applications with fun family time.

At the end of the week (Thursday) the Hodson parents are arriving for a few days, to visit and also to have M for us while Andy and I go over to St Alban's Abbey to set up and lead a Labyrinth as part of a Lock In event that the Diocesan Youth Officer, Dave Green is running there. I ran a similar resource/event at the Solid ReMix event in January in Chelmsford Cathedral so it'll be good to develop those ideas in a bigger space and with only 1 responsibility! Some other youth workers from the Area are joining us and we will be offering a self guided journey through the Labyrinth path on the theme of darkness into light. Much of my week of work will be on fine tuning the elements of this event and I'm really looking forward to it. It'll be a night of little sleep tho as we run from 8pm through til 8am!
Finally, we'll be having a bonfire and some small fireworks in our garden at the end of the half term week and I'll be 'releasing' some young people from a Big Brother fundraiser event in Chelmsford...which should be good fun!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Christmas Cards 2009

Just so you all know THIS is what we will be doing this year - saving paper, time, unnecessary waste and putting some money in a more productive direction.

Doesn't mean we don't love you...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A thigh slapping night in the URC...

Ok, I've been persuaded (some would say nagged) to try blogging. As with those annual news letters you get sent at Christmas, I wonder if telling everyone what you are up to on a regular basis is a touch arrogant.

You know the kind I mean, "things have been good in the Jones household this year - our wonderful son Tristan has overcome dyslexia to achieve a First in Classics from Oxford. He did this while circumnavigating the globe on an old moped to raise money for AIDS orphans...blah blah blah...

So I will endure to not brag about M and the fact that she can now wipe her own bottom and manage to flush the upstairs loo on her own. It would be too big headed...

Our good friends Jack and Emily have convinced me that this blogging business is a good thing. I haven't actually consulted them on the subject of blogging but I do follow their progress through their wonderful blog, "Red Bay Days." So I suppose if I find the idea of having a nosey into the lives of my friends OK, then I it might be safe to assume that they quite enjoy doing the same to us.

So where to start...

For those of you who don't know, I have finally answered what I think God has been calling me to for a while now. That is to say that I have started to explore the vocation of ordained ministry in the Anglican Church. A vicar if you will...

I have had an informal chat with the Diocesan Director of Ordinands who has given me some advice on the way to go. So I have ordered a couple of books: "The Cost of Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and "The Christian Priest Today" by Michael Ramsey. I will no doubt be obliged to review them on this forum for you at a later date. Hurrah...

Alice and I had a proper date night last Thursday (15th Oct). Not only is this rare, we managed to go and do something that we both were properly 100% excited about. There was no discussion about the right sort of restaurant, who would be the driver and what the budget was. That's because there was no food or drink involved. We managed to catch Show of Hands on the Chelmsford leg of their "County Towns" tour. Show of Hands are on of Britain's leading folk acts and are from Devon. They are made up of singer songwriter Steve Knightley and Phil Beer who can play pretty much any stringed instrument you dare to imagine. They are joined on stage by double bass playing Miranda Sykes for their live sets.

We first came across Steve Knightley at a gig he did with Martin Joseph at the South Shields Customs House in 2005 (I think). Anyway, I got a chance to chat with Steve during the intermission. It was very refreshing to be able to chat with the artist during a show, especially at the bar. I asked him a number of questions about the instruments he was playing. His main instrument, I found out, is a Mandocello - which is essentially a guitar sized mandolin. I was sad enough to take a photo of it the other night for your viewing pleasure. It's the one on the left...

The other thing that caught our attention that night was his voice. It is such a unique and powerful tool - deep and bassy but piercing at the same time. A really awesome sound.

The gig itself was excellent. The show was opened by the brilliantly eccentric Flossie Malavialle, a French singer/guitarist based in Darlington (!?!). She has a wonderful French accent, with Geordie overtones and is quite mental I'm sure. She talked (a lot) about the English language and its oddities - and for the most part was charming and funny. Flossie likes a good oxymoron (now then) and boy can she sing. She managed 5 songs in 40 mins and sang in French, Spanish and English. Her voice is incredibly powerful but remains sweet throughout. She finished with the epic "Amsterdam" by Belgian singer/songwriter Jacques Brel - her tribute to a man who has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide. Very nice...

Show of Hands finally took to the stage after 9pm and opened with a song called "Tall Ships" - a nod to Phil Beer's involvement in the actual Tall Ships race this summer. The set continued for a few songs and if I'm honest, it was a bit slow. But then the smoke machine went mental and filled All Saints URC with a thick mist. Fantastic. At one point I lost sight of the band! Despite the crazy haze, the band relaxed and started to joke around. Steve started to quote from This is Spinal Tap and played the beginning of "Stone Henge", "no one knew what they were doing or what it was for.."

After that, the evening was filled with leg smacking fiddle solos, punchy folk tunes and some new material. The new song Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed from the new album of the same name pointed to insurance company AIG talking government money to pay massive bonuses to their staff earlier in the year.

After thanking Iron Maiden for the special effects, the boys finished with an unplugged duet, off stage at the front. Good stuff, a great date night for us old marrieds.

Friday, 16 October 2009

I'm not allowed to blog today on our Show of Hands gig last night, as Andy is taking on that review...once he gets his arse in gear!

Today is Friday, I love Fridays! It's my day off and my full day each week, just me and my daughter. Usually, it involves me and the Bean having a lazy morning, maybe playing, reading, watching TV or baking, then her having a nap. Usually we end up doing something out in the afternoon or getting the paints/playdough/bike out til Andy gets home.

Today however, we got up early to take Andy to school as he is still being careful with his back. We had a lazy breakfast, enjoying the lemon curd that Susie made for us.

M has been really enjoying the sandpit at nursery, so much so that she has a thick layer of sand all over her scalp. So we ran the bath and washed, conditioned and scraped her scalp clean of grit! She was pretty patient considering!
She's now napping, I have had a shower, made the beds, sorted out the airing cupboard and am going to head off down stairs shortly to do some other chores.
It's is so great having our cleaner - I just love the freedom it brings of not looking at the state of the house every Friday and thinking - pants, scrap the fun got cleaning to do!! Now, I can just put a wash load on or maybe unstack the dishwasher, but the rest of my time can be chilling out, with my daughter and enjoying some space for what days off are really about. 6 days work makes Alice grumpy on Fridays...but not anymore!!

Andy needs a hair cut - so we'll be meeting him in town later, probably stopping by at the Deli and having a cuppa and a cake before heading home for the evening. They do similar ones to the cupcakes pictured above, which are a particular M favourite!

Really hope your Friday is panning out well - what have you been up to??

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Properganda Blog

The Properganda Blog

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Show of Hands

We're very excited to be seeing Show of Hands tonight at the URC In Chelmsford.
We first saw Steve Knightley perform with Martyn Joseph in South Shields back in 2004 when they had just released their Bridgerow Sessions album.
Andy was captivated by the mandocello that Steve was playing and so many of Martyn's songs that we knew well were beautifully enhanced by Steve's instrumentation and fabulous voice.
Since then we have gathered Show of Hands material and enjoyed expanding our knowledge and love of folk music, especially from the South West and being introduced to Seth Lakeman and others through this genre.
So tonight, we get to see Steve and Phil Beer play together as they usually do - and we can't wait!!
Songs we're hoping for? Roots, Cousin Jack, Columbus didn't find America, Santiago, Are we alright...but we'll honestly be happy with anything!!
Gig review to follow!

Monday, 12 October 2009

the wedding of the year!

My wonderful friend Christine got married on Saturday - we've waited a long time for this wonderful day and it was well worth it!
What a wonderful weekend - and what a tiring one too!
Our journey up to Knaresborough on Friday was pretty uneventful with a sleeping Bean and me and Andy enjoying some toons on the Iphone...! We arrived at Christine's parents house in time for a cuppa before the rehearsel - which went well and made me start blubbing already!
After the rehearsel was over, M was presented with a beautiful Swarovski (sp?) crystal necklace in the shape of a star which she was very pleased with!

Our room at the Chevin Hotel which was the reception venue was excellent - spacious, cosy and well stocked with the usual toiletries and refreshments! We had a delicious meal in the hotel lounge bar, who provided a children's menu too and then opted for an early night with the big day ahead!

An early breakfast was followed by me going to have my hair done - and I had struggled to find anywhere nearby that had time for an 'up do' on a Saturday morning. So I was planning to just have it straightened and then fiddle about with the front so it was out of the way in a delicate style! However, when my hairdresser looked at my hair she said she easily had time for a pleat since my hair was 'so thick and luscious'! So I came out much happier with my finished 'do' than I would have been had I done it myself!

A quick whizz back to the hotel, via a florist to get the baby's breath wired up and the charity shop to buy the black handbag I'd forgotten and I was all set for the final preening!! I also had to buy the 'finest' cookies required for Andy's sermon visual aid!
I got dressed in pretty record time - in and out, make up done and child in tow in 35 minutes...considering how much 'pull it in' underwear I was wearing, that was impressive!
The wedding was wonderful - the service was so simple and yet so unique to Christine and Stephen. Matilda behaved brilliantly, walking down the aisle nice and slowly and dancing at the front during the first hymn.
They had great hymn choices - Be Thou My Vision, Lord for the Years and In Christ Alone. Christine looked beautiful.Her dress was so simple and yet it suited her shape and made her look just wonderful. My friend Christine is not a dress person usually so it was especially special to see her looking so - well - girly!
We enjoyed great conversation with friends we hadn't seen for a while, revelled in the spectacular autumn scenery at the Chevin with the trees turning lovely shades of red and gold. The canapes which came round were scrummy and we got to coo over some babies who weren't ours - cos our little baby had been whisked off my her grandparents so we could party the night away!
And that we did!!

Great food, lovely wine, funny company (long story!!) and a bunch of short, sweet and funny speeches.
The disco was proper old school - I haven't been to a disco for a while where I have had to request 'Reach for the Stars' by Steps!! It was a great mix of Motown classics and 70's disco with some other gems like Dolly Parton's 9-5 mixed in. I enjoyed myself immensely, with my pretty permanent dance partner Emilia (the middle sized bridesmaid!) at my side a lot of the time.
Andy put the world to rights over some beer with our friend Ben and then joined me for the bacon sandwiches!

After the 'get away', we retired to our suite, tired and happy and full - and enjoyed a fun day in York on Sunday, reminiscing over our dating days and feeling a bit flat but happy to have some chill out time together.
After meeting up with Andy's parents in Northallerton, having a meal and packing the Bean back into our car, we headed off on the drive home. It felt like a long journey, but the journey's home always are aren't they??
Today we've enjoyed looking over our photos and everyone else's that have appeared on Facebook and are all feeling pretty tired. But it was a fantastic weekend of wonderful memories which we hope and pray will continue to bless Christine and Stephen in their new life as Mr and Mrs Cahoon!

Christine and Stephen's wedding...

Matilda was a bridesmaid on Saturday - and she was such a good girl!

This is her with her fellow bridesmaid Emilia, just before we left for the church.

More pictures and an update on the whole weekend to follow - when we've recovered!
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Friday, 9 October 2009

Christine and Stephen's wedding

We're off to Knaresborough, North Yorkshire today for the wedding of our wonderful friend Christine to Stephen tomorrow. The Bean is a Bridesmaid (one of 3), Andy is preaching at the wedding service and I am praying grace before the meal - so lots of involvement which is a great privilege.

Christine is one of our 'joint' friends - we all met at the same time when I moved to Scarborough in 2000 and Andy returned to the church and our history from then on has been shared. So it has been a journey over the last few years of keeping our special friendship going whilst firstly living in the same house, then 4 doors apart and then being much further apart in terms of miles when we moved to Newcastle and Christine moved to Wakefield. Christine has been a faithful intercessor in our lives - standing with us when our house flooded and when a baby seemed an impossibility. She is a friend who always enables us to think better of ourselves and makes us think about what God would want us to do. She also has an unhealthy obsession with Michael Ball and F1 racing, but we'lll forgive her that!

Now she has met Stephen who is from Northern Ireland and so has moved over there to beautiful Carrickfergus and tomorrow they will become Mr and Mrs Cahoon!

We are so excited - it's a wedding we have waited a long time for and no doubt a wedding that will hold a lot of special memories. We'll blog about it next week with pictures too, but please pray for Christine and Stephen now as they make final preparations for their marriage.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Hello dear friends and visitors!
Thanks for stopping by...

We've started this blog for a few reasons:
1. Alice isn't the only one who can write in this household!
2. The original 'funky doo' blog was getting a bit crowded with stuff from work, life, church, theology, youthwork etc all mulched together and we like to have a bit of order round here!
3. To keep you updated on our 'journey' - it's all about the journey don't ya know!!

There's lots of things in the pipeline for us at the mo and we both (Alice and Andy, although the Bean will I'm sure contribute soon enough!) find strength and enjoyment in different ways of processing...

This is the latest update on things...taken from Alice's worky blog

Check back for more of our family happenings...