Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

#Panoply

When you only know a word from a single context, it is harder to figure out what it means. “Panoply” is a word that I only knew in one context: the hymn, “Soldiers of Christ Arise”. Here’s the second stanza where the word appears:

Stand then in His great might, with all His strength endued,
But take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God;
That, having all things done, and all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o’ercome through Christ alone and stand entire at last.

This is based on this passage from Ephesians:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (…) Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 

The “panoply of God” therefore is the “full armour of God”, which Paul goes on to list:  the belt of truth; with the breastplate of righteousness;  your feet fitted with ‘readiness’; the shield of faith; the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. 

I could analyse the imagery here all day long, but what I find most interesting is that the  wearer of the panoply is simply aiming to stand their ground and “after you have done everything, to stand”.

It can seem like a bit of a sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut, wearing the panoply of God to  end up at square one, at a familiar stand-still.

But perhaps it takes a sledgehammer to crack the nut of maintaining one’s steadfastness.

Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 

 

 

What I talk about when I talk about running: not really a book review #Murakami

Over the weekend I read “What I talk about when I talk about running” by Haruki Murakami and wondered why I had never read it before. Murakami, in this series of essays, is a bit like what I think I would be like in a parallel universe where I actually got around to writing a novel and could actually run. It was a quick read, with reflections and thoughts that rang true, as he pounded various pavements across the globe.

Today I went running. Not a solo reverse marathon from Athens to Marathon – just a 5k to a coffee shop and the same 5k in reverse, with a coffee and a chunk of millionaire’s shortbread in between. (Should that be millionaires’ shortbread? How many millionaires are there in the context of shortbread?)

So, in response to reading Murakami, I too shall “talk about running”:

It was cold and it was icy. After a slippery walk to school first thing, I did query the wisdom of running on the pavements, but decided to go anyway, disappearing into the freezing mist with my ears kept safe in my Deerstalker completion buff.

I had 30 minutes to run the 5k, despite the fact that I run at about 7 minutes a kilometre or thereabouts on a good day. But it was downhill all the way there, so I thought I might have a hope. On the downside there were random patches of ice, so the time added for taking more care than usual would perhaps cancel out the downhill advantage.

But is it an advantage? On the initial downhill section I always find it a bit “bangy”, and my legs go a bit shin-splinty and I start my internal monologue loop of regret over my purchase of my very beautiful but thoroughly annoying Ravenna 7s.

They are, without doubt, the worst trainers I have ever bought. They are probably excellent shoes for most other people, but we have not had a happy partnership. It’s doubly disappointing as I usually fall a little in love with my running shoes. I still have fond memories of my first ever pair of trail shoes, my Kanadias. I love my North Face trail shoes and their immediate predecessors, my other North Face trail shoes. So many happy happy miles of mud, air and adventure. Great grips allowing me to put my best foot into any amount of mud with confidence.

But these? Pah. Road running shoes. They had such promise! I even went to the running shoe shop and went on their gait analysis treadmill – which totally worked. I could see these trainers straighten out my ankle wobbles. But then in real life…

They seemed comfy enough at first, but then my feet started to ache across the top. The thing is, you have to have them on as loosely as possible, without them falling off. So, instead of running along thinking about whatever one thinks about when running, I am in a state of irritation with the lacing of my shoes and the fact that they cost a fortune and don’t make me happy. And might come off. Then I think to myself that I have had them long enough that I could justify buying new running shoes  – but then, I would have to sacrifice a running window to go running shoe shopping – and how would that help my step count?

I approach my usual 2.5k turning point and power through towards my destination. I notice a dead mouse – and felt I should mention it here, as Murakami lists animal corpses in his book.

I hit 30 minutes of running and am not really going to make it to the cafe on time. But the time I would lose getting my phone out and texting my friend would only make me even later. I swing into the cafe a full nine minutes late.

Phew. She is even later than me.

It seems even colder on the way home. The cold spurs me into action and off I go for my 5k of uphill running.

This run seems to go in more quickly than the first leg. Maybe because my shin-splints have got over themselves and I found my running groove more quickly. Maybe it’s because I am not under time pressure.

As I run, two songs circulate unbidden in my head. One is “Oceans” and the other is ”Hear the call of the kingdom”. I assume these songs have got themselves out of my subconscious filing system because they both have the word “call” in them.

Last night my house group were discussing God’s call and man’s responses to it, figuring whether a person can seek after God or find God in a proactive way – or whether  one’s response to God is only ever reactive.

So, “Oceans” opens with the line “You call me out upon the waters…” and in the chorus there’s the response of “And I will call upon Your name” with the conclusion “For I am yours, and you are mine.” And the other song contains the invitation to “Hear the call of the kingdom” and the chorus has the response “King of Heaven we will answer the call” – the point being that both responses are responses to a call from God – not instigated by man.

So I then started thinking about James Hogg’s “Memoirs and Confession of a Justified Sinner” and the issues thrown up there like free will and predestination and thought that I should probably re-read it, but there’s more Murakami to read.

I enjoyed running along. I enjoyed the fact that I could run along without wishing it was over. I was feeling fine and in a rhythm. I enjoyed the fact that one’s body can cope with the cold as long as you keep going.

So, that was today’s run. And that’s “What I talk about when I talk about running”.

 

 

Five reasons to love #moneyfornothing @SMvintage

It’s my new favourite show.

Here is the basic plot: Sarah stops people throwing stuff in the tip, upcycles it, tries to sell it and give any profit to the person throwing it away.

Here are five reasons I enjoy the show:

  1. It is so polite! Sarah rounds off many an interaction with a happy-go-EnidBlytonesque-lucky “Thanks ever so much!” I wish I was the kind of person that lived my life saying, “Thanks ever so much!” intermittently.
  2. Lovely skilled craftspeople: When Sarah has selected her objects for upcycle, she takes them off to various young bearded craftsmen, like the woodcutters out of fairytales. They have cool workshops where they work their magic. As well as the young bearded craftsmen, there are others, including the most cheerful man in the world – Guy, who makes lamps out of literally everything. And Bex the blacksmith. And Norman  – who Arthur-the-voiceover-man gives a hard time to. These people can do amazing things – and I can’t. As a child I was famous for being unable to make crafts. As a teenager I remember getting “poor” for woodwork. As an adult I persist in having no time and no taste and residual carpal tunnel syndrome – all of which mean I will never be able to have a cool workshop with tools and random offcuts of characterful wood. Sigh.
  3. Redemption and Rescue:  Okay, so it’s not as “pure” a show, generally, as Salvage Hunters, (where Drew Pritchard is 100% faithful to the originality of each piece). To turn a profit, Sarah and her craftspeople generally have to reimagine and update the tip-salvage pieces. I really enjoy seeing dead chairs being resuscitated with striking reupholstery. Who doesn’t get a kick out of seeing wood being cleaned and waxed, bringing out the long lost (and almost lost for absolute ever) grain? There is joy there – in things being brought back from the brink.
  4. The Winning Formula: The show is extremely formulaic, with the three items being upcycled being spread throughout the show, so that one is hooked for the duration. There are the scenes at the tip where Sarah politely asks people if she can look through their rubbish (and they wish they had known they were going to be on the telly, or they perhaps wouldn’t have been looking quite so much as if they were going to the tip). There are the trips to Walthamstow and Surrey and wherever, to the workshops – and there are the return trips to the homes of the people whose possessions she saved from the tip. Whether the profit goes to charity, on a meal out,  towards a project – there’s always a happy ending. Even when things don’t sell, one imagines that once the show has aired, someone watching will snap it up! And throughout, there is the wry punning of Arthur Smith.
  5. Editorial quirks: The show isn’t supposed to be binge-watched… but… were that to ever happen to you…ahem …  there are things that you start to wonder about the cutting room floor. That bobble scarf of Sarah’s – just how many episodes does it appear in? That man who was clearing his attic out for his grandchildren to play it – how many was he in? And the guy that says in the title sequence “That’s amazing!” – was he not facing the other way in the real show? (As was the artist lady with white chairs)… I have to say, the decision to keep in Sarah’s near-stumble in the yard certainly added a surprise element to that episode. Phew, that was close.

I must have watched pretty much all the episodes now. I haven’t the talent, taste or time to get creative like that. But I enjoy watching it.

Sarah, thanks ever so much.

Fennel Flannel #leanin15

I read the red “Lean in 15” from cover to cover and figured that the upshot was this: one has to earn one’s carbs. (On a day one exercises, one can eat normally-ish; on a day one does not exercise, one has to substitute the carbs with some kind of greenery.)

This is all fine and dandy if you are a live-alone youngster (especially if you stroll home from work past a well stocked greengrocer and have an overpriced tub of coconut oil in your hipster pantry.)

But what if you are a middle-aged mum, cooking for four other people, all of whom exercise on a combination of different days? Eh? This could be a pasta disasta.

It turns out that ratatouille is the way forward.

The principle of ratatouille was also evident in a recipe that took me down a very unfamiliar vegetable road. It involved buying fennel (Fennel?) that I had never seen before and only heard of in the context of Hipp Organic Baby Food thirteen years ago. It’s a weird vegetable. Smells like aniseed and looks like a bulbous onionesque leek. And then there was celery, that I hadn’t handled since I was about ten, during our short lived feed-the-guinea-pig phase.

But, when I boiled the fennel, celery and various random other vegetables in some chicken stock, it was really pretty palatable – with that same half-way-to-being-soup vibe that you get off of ratatouille. (The palatability may have been helped by the multitude of sausages throughout).

One of the first recipes I tried was a Thai Beef Salad.

It had way too much sharpness and kick for me, so the next time I just had steak and salad and that was great. Steak, salt, pepper: Tssssssssssss…. ready! Salad with an avocado and some feta cheese through it for deliciousness. Quite calorific and red-meaty for a “healthy” dinner – but it is certainly easy and certainly delicious.

The chorizo, chicken and spinach recipe is very delicious also.

It is amazing how much spinach shrinks. I kept shoogling the bag of spinach into the frying pan and it kept disappearing into wee dark green wisps.

So, all this carb-avoidance was getting a bit tricky. Frying up steak and garnishing everything with an avocado and a block of cheese wasn’t too convincing on the healthiness front.

So, I figured the trick is to have more exercise days, therefore earning carbs. Which is fine, as I am master of the FitBit.

I have enjoyed cooking random vegetables, but my kids are less convinced. The “weird” and “random” recipes in “Lean In 15”  aren’t really family teatime winners. “It has weird food,” apparently.

*goes running*

How to avoid #procrastination

Thanks to my prompter for “Procrastination” as a prompt. I shall post on it forthwith. Wouldn’t want to let that one fester away in the “to-do” corner.

As with many things, the trick to avoiding procrastination is to wake up to the fact that time elapses. (Perhaps I have ranted about this before. It’s one of my facebook-gripes: “I can’t believe it is six years since….” Eh, why not? Time elapses. “The sun will continue to rise and set whether I pass in geometry or not”, as Anne of Green Gables put it, roughly.)

Yes, time marches on. Or it gets in its winged chariot. Either way, it’s a dimension on the move from beginning to end or from everlasting to everlasting, or somewhere in-between.

I don’t know when I realised this about time. I think it’s when you figure out that Christmas takes ages to come… until sufficient time passes… and it’s you that is primarily buying the presents rather than receiving the presents. Then it whips round on its annual cog, smacking you in the face with its relentless regularity. (In a fun and festive way!)

This is all to do with fractions.

When you are two, a year is half of your life. When you are 90, a year is a 90th of your life. So, for a two year old, it feels as if Christmas takes 45 years to come around. For a 90 year old, there are hardly any shopping days to Christmas. It’s basically just Christmas.

Ho Ho Ho.

So, time elapses. And I know this, in a kind of cognitive behavioural kind of way. This means that I generated my anti-procrastination strategy called: “Tasks and Timeslots”.

This means that you have a diary – a physical diary with physical pages – and you allocate tasks to timeslots.

The trick is actually doing the tasks in the allocated time slots. Then they get done.

Another important strategy is not planning to do things that you can’t actually fit into the time that you have. Don’t agree to things you are definitely going to fail to do. That’s just depressing for you, not-so-good for your boss and a let down to your friends.

And if you ever do procrastinate and end up in a sticky wicket, there are always the six-eight hours overnight that can be called upon in an emergency. But I don’t recommend that.

Best just put that iPhone down, turn that TV off and get on with your tasks.

Or, admit defeat and go to bed.

(Don’t start cleaning out a cupboard or trying to upcycle a pile of junk).

My “Messages” poem for #nationalpoetryday #messages

Messages

I
I wish I had

a chunky rustic basket
of thick twisted wicker,
with a string of pink pork links
like a kite’s tail
bouncing along
teasing the butcher’s dog.

I want to buy

my milk and papers,
some fresh soft rolls
and some bacon.
Some chocolate

will go nicely with a cup of tea.

II
The messages have to be walked for.
If you drive, it’s Gro-shree shopping:

Trolleys and crinkles and beeps and muzak and avoiding people you know and cranky toddlers and questionable parenting and vouchers you’ll never redeem and impulse purchases and plain packaged own brands that make you feel uneasy and like some kind of a food snob and multipacks and BOGOFs and bad lighting and dizzying totals when it comes to the checkout when you find you’ve forgotten your bags.

III
I’m away to the shops for my messages.

I’ve remembered my bag.
It is scrunched in my pocket.
My wallet is filled with coins.
I don’t take a basket.
I pick up the things that I want.
There’s no queue.
I pay and I leave.

IV
The medium is the message.
If messages are a medium
The message from the messages
Is that

Gro-shree shopping
is a
mess
and takes
ages.

You’d better get your messages.

The first shall be last and the impossible possible in a rich man’s world #camelthroughtheeyeofaneedle

Having written about my race and entitling it “and the first shall be last”, I enjoyed the fact that I stumbled across that quote in its original context the very next day. Here is how:

If you look at “If I were a rich man deedle eedle eedle…” and “Money Money Money”, the lyrics give us some suggestions as to how a rich person’s life would be. The common line between the songs is “I wouldn’t have to work hard” and “I wouldn’t have to work at all” respectively.

Perhaps one of these people who “wouldn’t have to work at all” was a rich man  who appears in a bible story where he asks Jesus a question. The story includes the famous simile about the camel and the needle.

The man comes to Jesus and asks “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus’ responses in the rest of the passage unpick some assumptions inherent in the question and perhaps give an insight into what wealth can do to our worldview and attitude.

“…what good thing must I do…?”

The rich young man thinks that it’s down to him. He has probably worked hard. He is successful. He has managed to get rich. He has seen action and reaction and knows that there are ways to get what you want.

In this context, what he wants is eternal life and he is looking for answers – probably hoping to discover that he is already on track.

And indeed, he is doing … well…? He hasn’t killed anyone (phew!) He hasn’t run off with anyone else’s wife (I should hope not!) He hasn’t stolen anything (what a guy!) and doesn’t lie (whoop!). He also loves his neighbour as himself. (Nice.)

He is, therefore, in fact, living a life of basic decency – the kind of life that we would all hope is a bottom line of morality of some sort. (Of course, it is possible to argue that no human being makes it through adult life without falling short in some way on these basics of human decency.)  But you can perhaps see why the rich young man figured that this kind of upright existence wasn’t somehow “enough” to “get eternal life”. So he asks:

“… what do I still lack…?”

Jesus says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Then the man goes away sad “because he had great wealth”.

The point is made that the man himself couldn’t “get eternal life”. He couldn’t do it. (Not that it couldn’t be done.)

We have this famous image then, when Jesus says:

“…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”

For sure, it would be easier to get a needle through a camel than a camel through a needle.

But the point, I think, is this:

The rich man can’t enter the kingdom of heaven. He does not have it within himself to “be perfect”. That isn’t how it is done. (That’s not to say it can’t be done.)

As Jesus goes on to say: “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”

The rich man can’t enter the kingdom of heaven, but God can reach out and bring him there. A camel can’t go through the eye of a needle – but God could bring a camel through the eye of a needle – “with God, all things are possible” – which is a tautology – if God is God, then all things are possible for him, of course.

What does this tell us about the rich man, or indeed wealthy people?

The rich man thinks that he is in charge of his own destiny. The rich man thinks that he does not have to depend on God. The rich man thinks he is an upright human being and that that counts for something. The rich man is pleased with his own independence, his own prowess, his own success.

The passage concludes with Jesus declaring that “But many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first”. The way things look isn’t the way things are. Success and failure, those two “imposters”,  “Triumph” and “Disaster” are only the way we see things from our perspectives.

The rich man, perhaps, instead of leaving in sadness, should have taken heart from the fact that there was nothing he could do in terms of effort or work or giving or trying to get eternal life or peace about his future.

I am reminded of these word from a hymn:

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

The rich man “wouldn’t have to work at all”, in terms of his search for eternal life. He could have had all his “strivings cease”. But, there are many things in life that are outwith our control, and for a rich man, that can be hard to take.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

And the first shall be last #tweedtunneltrailrace

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What a great 24 hours!

We carbed, rendezvoused and set off. The SatNav could’t cope with that cone infested interchange at Strathclyde park, so we ended up winding and winding our way through deepest darkest Lanarkshire towards Peebles and the ideal Park Hotel.

Dense fog was waiting for us in the morning as was a buffet breakfast. We chittered our way to registration and had a go on the podia (to practise, just in case).

Fog lifting, we set off of on the trail, looking the business. Not only did I have my invincibility gloves and my water gadget with jelly babies stuffed in the lining, it was also the inaugural outing of my footless compression socks. A great look.
Being overkeen, we ended up being pretty much near the front, but I was soon overtaken by some even keener gazelle type people who looked even more the business than I did. The kilometres soon started to flash past. The fog burned off and it went all sunny and glorious.

Lots of different terrain (always good).

By about 5k, the whole field had passed me and I had my “last man” feeling. Then two gazelle men came past. They must have been late for the race.

Personal triumph was making it all the way up a road called “The Sware” which I did by running all the way. The treat at the top was not only a great view but some oatcakes and a water.

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Then came the really tough section of rabbity woody paths and a grassy sound-of-music hill section with a ridiculous hill and then some more hills and other hills. And an incline.

We wove our way through a wee wood down to the Tweed Tunnel which was dark and  – what do you call it when it’s scree but it’s flat? Screey?  – stony with coloured lights which was cool in a way but a bit of a worry when you are trying not to get a migraine – to be plunged out of the bright sunshine into the dark with bright lights.

img_2861By the end of the tunnel section I was really beginning to feel it, which is fair enough as I had run about 11 miles or something.

Pure gubbed so I was.

Am.

Anyway, I embraced my finish line moment.

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I think I was last. (36th out of 36 women over 40) But I am very happy. I think the people in my state of fitness and ability were pretty much doing the 10k, but I am glad it takes 20k to finish me off.

Then the rain came on. (Just a little).

Peebles was looking lovely with cute shops  – but we were in no state to go in. Some sandwiches and a coffee and we were on our way.

I had a lovely time with great company and a friendly hotel. The race was marshalled by very friendly people and the route was fun and varied. Good preparation for Deerstalker 2017, I think.

 

Trying to get miles into reluctant legs

After hiking up and down various sheer drops in America, I have turned my attention to running up and down various inclines and declines in Scotland.

This Saturday I am doing the Tweed Tunnel 20k race which is further than I ever intended to ever go again, after I decreed that the Glasgow Half Marathon was unnecessarily far for anyone to ever require to go under their own steam.

The Tweed Tunnel thing looks fun though, and is very appropriate mid-year training for the Deerstalker, that I have penciled in as a potential highlight of 2017.

If my legs are up to it.

I only really ever run for an hour. Or half an hour – so I was keen to ‘up my distance’.

The first chance was eight miles on the West Highland Way. Plenty of ascents and descents and tracks and paths and puddles. All good – apart from a bit of a dodgy ankle that filed a bit of a formal complaint the next day.

I took it kind of easy until my next ‘up-the-distance’ event, when we did the Oor Wullie Bucket Trail in Dundee. I think we ‘ran’ for 12 miles or so, but we took about four hours because we stopped for 40 selfies.

And my ankle was a bit… meh…

The next outing was a 17k scurry about Glasgow, with the highlight being a run through the Clyde Tunnel. We crossed the Clyde a good few times on a variety of bridges.

That was when my ankle said, “Eh, haud on.”

Tendonitis apparently. No long runs.

So a while later I did a short run around Paisley, doing the “Pride of Paisley” trail which was a lot of fun.

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And now, this is it. The start line is only a couple of days away. I need to lay out my kit with my water thing and my jelly babies good to go. I just need to look after my ankle and pack my chicken sandwich and my chocolate milk for afterwards.

I will be slow. It will be far. The weather is apparently going to be a bit rubbish. It should be good.

I can’t wait to have around (I hope) three hours of random terrain and weather in my face.

I hope my legs have 20k in them.

We shall see.

 

Heat #roadtrip

We are not all that accustomed to heat, coming from the West of Scotland. Summer for us is “hoodies on, hoodies off” depending on whether or not the sun is between or behind the clouds.

We were therefore a little anxious about the 45 degrees (113 degrees Fahrenheit) heat that awaited us in Las Vegas.

True enough, we got off the plane and fell into a different medium of existence, like stepping bodily into a vat of hot soup.

Waiting for the Uber in the shade of a concrete carpark, the air blew through in a hot breeze. It was like standing in the full blast of a hairdryer on at full bung.

The hotel’s AirCon was great. So we put it up full bung and crashed out. Then we woke up shivering and got into bed.

Walking for any distance, and I mean any distance, took some consideration. The thought of going from the hotel room to the foyer through the grounds was a bit of a thought. Going to the (Hard Rock) café across the street was a major expedition. We could see the appeal of driving even such a microscopic distance, had we had a car.

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The hottest half hour of the whole trip was at Horseshoe Bend. It was a mile/mile and a half walk to a spectacular view. I don’t know how hot it was, but it was hot.

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I felt like a scuba diver – with my hydration hose in my face, sooking in the water instead of air, swimming through the heat haze. A park ranger was on duty to give first aid to people who took ill on the trail, spraying them with water and advising them to pour water over their heads and giving them shade and a seat.

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In Scotland, breaking sweat generally takes some effort.

After the Horseshoe Bend walk, we all got in the van and our bodies went into sweat overdrive. I have never seen anything like it, sweatwise. All the water we had taken in, while out frying in the desert, came pouring from pores. Splish splash drip drop.

The human body is amazing.

The temperatures we experienced are probably at the edge of what humans can take, for any length of time. Las Vegas, and the other hot places felt kind of unsustainable – that city certainly could not function without the robust air con that it has. A major and sustained power cut would finish the place off.

Water in the desert takes on so much more significance than water in Glasgow.

I feel a post about the Samaritan woman at the well coming on, perhaps another day…

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4 vs 13,14.

 

 

 

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