My parents were both keen gardeners, and would spend hours, days even, out in the garden, planting, weeding, pruning. The passion for gardening never rubbed off. But one thing I remember from my childhood is my Father out in the garden doing the constant pruning or cutting back of rosebushes, fruit trees, and other plants.
As every gardener knows, many plants can appear to be dying, overgrown, weak – no longer able to bear fruit or flowers.
But with careful pruning, cutting back in the right way, bushes and trees can produce spectacular flowers and fruit. The newly pruned plant is given strength as the weaker parts of the plant receive nourishment from the stronger central stem. Pruning can seem a very drastic thing to do, and the nervous gardener may not have the confidence to cut back as much as is needed. It’s hard to cut off all the old growth but it is essential to do so if the plant is to continue to be fruitful and beautiful.
Today Jesus speaks to us about plants and pruning. Today, in our gospel reading, we hear some of his final words to his disciples. Spoken after they had shared their last supper together, this part of Jesus’ last teaching before his arrest and his crucifixion.Continue reading
I sometimes feel, looking at the programme guide on our television, that for the British there is nothing more important than what we eat and drink, and where we and others live.
To test my theory I checked yesterday on the BBC website. Bear in mind that this is only the BBC – other channels are available of course – if you are into homes and gardens there are 49 different programmes or series that you can currently watch to indulge your interest.
If it’s food and drink you’re into, then you’ve an even bigger choice. 85 programmes in that category. Mary Berry isn’t in all of them, though she does seem to have cornered the market in food programmes for the great Christian Festivals. At the moment, you could be watching Mary Berry’s Easter Feast. Once Easter is over, you can start getting ready for Christmas with Mary Berry Saves Christmas. And just in case you’re not sure what to do for the rest of the year there’s Mary Berry Everyday!
Someone visiting us from another planet might well conclude that we are obsessed with what we eat and where we live.Continue reading
There’s nothing worse than being given a nickname you don’t like – especially if you really don’t deserve it.
So I’ve always felt rather sorry for poor old Thomas. Everyone has heard of ‘doubting Thomas’ – even people who have no idea who he was other than that he was a Thomas who doubted.
And there are two questions I’ve always had about Thomas.
Why on earth did poor Thomas get his nickname? Because it seems to me he doesn’t deserve it.
And who was his twin brother? Or sister?
Well, let’s deal with that first question – why on earth did poor Thomas get his nickname?Continue reading
I never thought I’d ever find myself saying this.
I think I want to go and live in Albert Square.
Albert Square is, of course, in the London Borough of Walford. And for those of you are still in the dark let me tell you – it’s where Eastenders is set. (Note: Eastenders is a famous soap opera broadcast by the BBC.)
But why do I think I might want to go and live there?
Well – the residents of Albert Square are coping with the Covid19 problem just like the rest of us. We know they are because every so often it gets a mention. But living there is so much better than living anywhere else. For a start, no one has been shielding or self-isolating. And no-one seems to possess a mask. Not only do you not see any of the local residents wearing masks in the street, they don’t wear them when they go into the local convenience store to do their shopping. Neither do they wear them when they go into the Queen Victoria public house. Yes! The pub is still open and has been all through lockdown! As is the local café. No ‘takeaways only’ in Albert Square!
People in Albert Square are in and out of each other’s houses all the time. I grant that it’s usually to argue with each other, but at least they can go visiting.Continue reading
Tomorrow is a big day. No – I’m not referring to holy week, but to the fact that from tomorrow we can gather in groups of 6 or two households outdoors. And just in time the weather is changing so we can actually see people outdoors without freezing! Some outdoor activities can begin to start. The Easter Monday bank holiday beckons – what will we do with it? Well, unfortunately the temperature drops again by the end of the week, and though it’s traditionally a day for trips out, there’s not a great deal we can do anyway. Perhaps a garden visit and a chilly barbecue with one other family.
And it’s going to be a while before we can start to think about the kind of lack of social distancing that the people who headed to Jerusalem for the Passover encountered.Continue reading
Life is never boring for research scientists – at least, given some of the things they research:
- Do woodpeckers get headaches? Apparently not.
- Which jump higher? Cat fleas or dog fleas? It’s dog fleas!
- Do cows with names produce more milk? Yes! Give your cow a name and its milk production goes up by about 3.5%!
One unusual piece of research carried out about twenty years ago in Edinburgh looked for the answer to the question: Are grumpy old men a real thing?
And – amazingly – it seems they are. There is a genuine medical reason why some men are grumpy – around 30% of all men, the majority aged between 35 and 54. And the researchers have called the phenomenon Irritable Male Syndrome! Grumpy old men, it seems, are a reality.Continue reading
Terms and conditions! Don’t you just love reading the terms and conditions?
As we all know a feature of Saturday night television is the reality competition. At the moment we have The Voice. And if you’re not into singing, there’s always Dancing on Ice – though how much longer that will last is anyone’s guess, as they keep losing contestants to injury and positive Covid tests – five celebrities have dropped out so far. No Britain’s Got Talent to look forward to this year, but as always we can look forward to Strictly in the autumn!
And a major part of such shows is the public getting the chance to phone in and vote for their favourite competitors. And those who watch such shows will know that along with the opportunity to phone in, you have to be made aware of the terms and conditions.Continue reading
There are three signs that you are getting old. One is memory loss. I can’t remember the other four.
What’s your memory like? When was the last time you put down your house keys, or your glasses, or your phone – and then couldn’t find them again?
I lost my house keys this week. But that’s not a problem. I have an electronic tag on my keys so that if I can’t find them, I just press a button in an app on my phone – it then shows me where my keys last were so I know whether they’re in the house somewhere, or if I’ve lost them outside. It makes the tag on the keys play a tune when the keys are nearby so I can hear the keys and locate them. At least – it does if you remembered to replace the battery when it ran out. It even makes it easy for you to remember, by telling you when the battery is low and needs replacing. But if you ignore the instructions, and forget to replace the battery, the system is useless. It won’t find your keys. So you end up searching all over the place – as I did – and panicking, until you finally find them. I’ve now put a battery in the tag!Continue reading
This Sunday as the last Sunday before Lent. Each year on this Sunday we hear the story of the transfiguration of Jesus, this year hearing the version from Saint Mark. Here’s what I said.
What do you see when you look at the clouds?
Like many, I love the Peanuts cartoon strips – and possibly my all-time favourite dates back to 1960. Charlie Brown and his friends Linus and Lucy are lying on a grassy mound looking up at the sky.
Lucy says: Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton wool. I could just lie here all day, and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations. What do you see Linus?
And Linus, being particularly imaginative, says: Well, those clouds up there look to me like the map of British Honduras on the Caribbean. That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the stoning of Stephen … I can see the apostle Paul standing there to one side.
Lucy replies: That’s very good … What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?
And poor Charlie Brown, having heard Linus’s response replies: Well, I was going to say a ducky and a horsy, but I changed my mind.
You can see the original strip by clicking here.Continue reading
When you’re packing for holidays – when we’re allowed them of course – what do you put in in addition to all the usual stuff like clothes and toiletries? A few books, perhaps, to read. Or an iPad? Maps and guidebooks.
One of the things I like to take is what is called a travelling icon. An icon is a particular kind of religious picture, portraying Jesus, or his mother Mary, or one of the saints of the church. And a travelling icon is two or three small icons attached to each other with hinges, so they can stood up, or be folded up so that it can be taken with you when you travel.
I have mine here with me this morning. It is a small, foldable, set of three icons showing Jesus in the centre, with his mother Mary on the left and John the Baptist on the right.Continue reading