Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

The Shoes of Readiness

“Are you ready?” 


“Okay, let’s go.”

“Hold on. I just need to put my shoes on.”

“So, you weren’t ready?”

“Eh, no.”

Many such conversations happen, I find, as people get ready to go out and do things. When you get ready, putting on shoes is generally a pretty key part of that preparation. 

The apostle Paul wasn’t going anywhere. He was a prisoner “in chains”. Despite his imprisonment, he kept up his work of making known “the mystery of the Gospel” and encouraging the church through his letter writing. 

His letter to the Christians in Ephesus ends with an extended metaphor which was likely to have been inspired by the Roman soldiers he would have been with or have seen during his imprisonment. He uses a soldier’s armour as a metaphor for what a Christian requires when engaged in a spiritual battle. 

Despite the fact that Paul was imprisoned by the Romans – and that this is clearly a direct conflict with Paul on a personal level, Paul begins by separating the personal and the spiritual. 

“… our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

I think this is a really interesting starting point (well, when I say starting point – this was all part of his “And finally”… of his letter to the Ephesians) because it fits so well with Jesus’s idea about loving one’s enemies. Christians should never “have it in for” people in general or individuals in particular – “our struggle is not against flesh and blood”. Paul’s clarification here reinforces Jesus’ idea: it is evil itself that Christians have to oppose, not those who may promote or defend it. So – although Paul is imprisoned by Romans, he is not in a struggle against the Roman people, or the individual soldiers holding him; he is in a struggle against the system and the powers of evil that worked against him. 

He then begins the extended metaphor:

“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 whole thing – the whole armour – the panoply (sorry!) – is about readiness (not just the shoes that I haven’t got to yet!) The Ephesian Christians were being encouraged to get ready by putting on this metaphorical spiritual armour for battles yet to come. I think his explanation of the purpose of this is really interesting. 

Firstly, the purpose of wearing the armour is to be “able to stand your ground” and ultimately “to stand”. But in the middle there is the “after you have done everything” slipped in there. So – the Christian has to stand their ground and afterwards still be standing – which in a way sounds pretty easy (just don’t move!) but between those two points, they need to (perhaps) do “everything”. So, they needed, in fact, to be ready for anything and everything to happen. 

If you were told to be ready for anything – and you needed your shoes of readiness, which shoes would you select? Pink fluffy slippers? Birkenstocks? DMs? Winklepickers? High Heels? I think I would have either my hiking shoes or my trail running shoes. They are my shoes of readiness, no matter the terrain.

But for the “soldier of Christ” – what shoes of readiness do they require?

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

These first three elements of the Armour of God work together – so before I get to the shoes of readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, there is the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness to inspect.

Truth has always been under attack, even although philosophically that is nuts. From Pilate wondering what truth was and not waiting for an answer – to the 18th century Romantics giving subjectivity a wee boost – to poor old Winston Smith being presented with 2 plus 2 and having to agree with the Party that it might perhaps be 5, while a boot stamped on a human face forever… 

The truth that matters here, I would suppose, is the truth about God – for example, Jesus’s claim – “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The truth about God, the gospel – the good news. The truth about who Jesus is what holds everything together for the wearer of the Armour of God. 

More complex is the breastplate of righteousness. A first century equivalent of a bulletproof vest, the breastplate would protect the heart, lungs and abdomen.  To protect one’s metaphorical vital organs, Paul suggests covering them with righteousness: the quality of being morally right or justifiable. This is where it gets tricky. The soldier knows that he cannot sustain a morally right and justifiable life. If one dons a breastplate of one’s own righteousness, he may well find it full of holes. 

Elsewhere (Romans 3), Paul explains how this works:

“…the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…”

This breastplate of righteousness is not one that the soldier has forged for himself. It is the righteousness of Christ, received as a gift to the believer. The soldier can then go into battle confident that his breastplate will work and the fatal blow will not come – the righteousness of Christ actually is morally right and justifiable unlike the homemade efforts of the soldier. 

Back to the shoes. 

They are described variously in different versions/translations. For example:


and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.


For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.


and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.


And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

So, there are a few key elements for selecting your shoes. Grip? Watertightness? Comfort? No. 

Firstly, these spiritual, metaphorical shoes are all about readiness and preparedness. And it’s such an appropriate image as shoes are all about readiness. But where does this readiness come from? It comes from “the gospel of peace”, “the Good News”.

Here is where this half of the whole extended metaphor comes together: 

The gospel (concerning the shoes), the Good News is, in fact, the Truth. This links back to the belt of truth. The peace (concerning the shoes) is the peace that comes from believing – and to the believer is given the righteousness of Christ. This links back to the breastplate of righteousness. 

As one commentator put it: “We believe God’s truth. We are righteous in Christ. We are at peace with God.” 

This then means that we are ready. For “everything”. 

Because the soldier of Christ is at peace with God, they are then opposed to evil. This then brings about the struggle he mentioned initially – the struggle “not against flesh and blood”. 

Metaphors can be tricky. One can be accused of reading too much into metaphors. It could be argued that Paul was just rounding off his letter with a pithy, memorable visual for his readers. But the way that these first three items work together make me suspect that the rest of the armour will be woven thematically in with these so that we do, in fact, end up with the panoply – the “whole armour of God” – in that the whole thing needs to be in place (okay okay it’s a metaphor) for the soldier of Christ to be ready for everything. 

What is life like when you are not ready? When have you cried out, “I wasn’t ready!” – when the day or the weather or the circumstances have run ahead of you and you regret your lack of preparation. It is always frustrating to be stuck in a situation with the wrong shoes or the wrong jacket…

 This whole extended metaphor goes beyond general readiness for daily life. It prepares the soldier of Christ, the Christian, for the most difficult of days. 

I am not sure precisely what Paul meant when he referred to “when the day of evil comes” – whether he meant a specific day or whether he meant that each soldier of Christ may have individual attacks from Satan. But I think such a day can be identified when the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness are attacked: when the truth about God is under fire or the shame of one’s own sin is raised when it has been covered by Christ’s righteousness. But when these two are intact, the shoes of readiness are there – because the soldier is at peace with God and so, a little ironically, is ready for battle. 

“Are you ready?” 

Dons belt and breastplate.


“Okay, let’s go – although, will you not need to put your shoes on?”

“They’re on.”

… in which we go to Eigg…

It was all very Enid Blyton, in some respects. We weren’t escaping an evil uncle and aunt or anything, but we were taking all the essentials and making off in a small boat to an island with caves on it. 

Okay, so the small boat was not totally small; it was about the size of Quint’s “we need a bigger boat” boat – the Orca – from Jaws, and it soon filled up with tourists, ready for a day’s trip to Eigg. 

The weather was really low down. There was a large grey cloud and we were in it. Smirr and drizzle at very close quarters. We set off into the calm, grey damp, for an hour’s sail; we soon arrived at the pier on Eigg. 

We had planned to go to the café anyway, but we were doubly happy to go there as it was not only still very wet, but also very cold. We got in and got a seat in the busy café and ordered in a round of tea, hot chocolate, flapjacks and gingerbread.  There was a long, wet queue building, as everyone outside on the pier figured it was a good time to get inside. 

The café is part of a lovely new development with well-thought-through elements: lovely clean toilets; lovely grocery store; lovely gift shop. Lovely.

The café had a spectacular picture window looking out at what I imagine would have been a stunning view if you could have seen it. Clean white walls, wooden furniture and art for sale displayed. A background muzak of fast ceilidhish sounds, that probably would drive you back out into the rain if you had to listen to it for a prolonged time. Very inspirational for the planning of Sandra’s Café (just a fantasy project – not taking bookings…).

Objective number 1 was to scale the Sgurr of Eigg – the highest point of the ridge of (what I assume is) a volcanic stump that goes from one end of the island to the other. We hiked damply and at random, following our noses and various colours of waymarking arrows. The map I had taken a photo of was no use at all, and neither were our own instincts. We stoated about, wondering about routes and timings and found ourselves in a good spot for a picture of the Sgurr… but decided to save the actual ascent for a return visit. It was all very atmospheric and moody. 

We had our picnic lunch in the grounds of a grand old house that is now some kind of eco centre, then we reoriented ourselves at the pier after passing a shindig in progress at the community hall. A busy wee day on the Island. 

Objective number 2 was to reach “Massacre Cave”. We studied the map a bit harder this time and made our way to the relevant trail. The map notes stated: “In 1510 the Mcleods smothered the entire population of 395 people in the cave of Uamh Fhraing; now known as Massacre Cave.” Grim. 

The rain stopped, the clouds lifted and the sun came out as we hiked at pace to the cave, keeping one eye on the clock so that we didn’t have a ferry fail at the last minute. Once we got to the edge of the island there was a grand-canyonesque descent to sea level, then a clamber round until we arrived at the cave. I am not into dark tourism – but I suppose this was it.

Glad to have found, been into and got out of the cave, we headed back to the pier for the ferry back to the mainland. 

So, reflections. What did I learn? What did it make me think?

It turns out that my daughter’s hiking boots are sadly inadequate. She was minutes away from her feet disintegrating. We need to go to Tiso. 

A map would have been useful. 

Eigg is having its 25th anniversary of community ownership and I think the evidence of community cooperation at the development at the pier is a “good thing”.  

Having a car on that island would not be handy, in my opinion. But there were some cars. So I am probably wrong.

It was another example of all seasons in one day in Scotland. I had thought that I was going to be irritated by my decision to bring my warm down jacket and be carrying it around all day on a hot July day. It turns out, for most of the day I was freezing and glad of it. And yet, my sister was glad of her vest top as it was gloriously sunny for the last hour. So, as ever, one learns that you need to take everything with you in Scotland, and that if you take it with you, you will need it. 

The whole Eigg thing brought back a lot of memories of HC1 1988 when I went on a Scripture Union Hebridean Cruise and we went to Rum and Muck. So, going to Eigg felt like I was completing the set. 

It makes me think about what island life would be like and how much anxiety I would have about not being near the mainland. The towns and villages on the mainland near Eigg are also pretty remote. The Proclaimers’ “Lochaber no more” lyric rings in my head and I wonder about the long term sustainability issues of these places – in terms of population, services and employment etc – and then, from that, thinking about bigger towns and cities and thinking about what needs to be in place for society to function and for economies to exist to support communities. At least there were some Calmac ferries in evidence, keeping tourists and locals moving. Makes a change. 

Would I go back? Yes – but hopefully on a drier day, with a pre-studied map and a full range of layers for a variety of temperatures and a full set of waterproofs, just in case.

Learning to Lose

I should have listened to my nephew who once told me the secret of losing weight. He said, after successfully transforming himself, “I used to eat too much of the wrong food.” Wise man.

I had got myself into a weird loop. Despite the fact that “everybody knows” that “you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet” – I was determined to try. Running, boot camp, gym sessions – even blinking swimming…. I literally could not have exercised any more and still held down my part time job. I needed to break the cycle. Or stop eating scones and pancakes. 


Handily this crisis dovetailed with a “Biggest Loser” challenge at the bootcamp. So “numbers” were sprayed liberally around, the MyFitnessPal app was downloaded and the challenge began. 

Absolute comedy. In the early days I was sideswiped by a scone and betrayed by an omelette. When my brain finally got with the programme, I cut the fat and started chugging the protein – becoming one of those “I can’t eat enough protein” people that I always wondered about. 

“Lunch” 🙄

Pleasingly and unsurprisingly, when I stopped eating fat and started eating protein, the kilogrammes dutifully dropped off. Half a stone just gone. 

Today was the final weigh-in. In the last fortnight of the challenge I plateaued, then started losing again, then fell at the final hurdle and gained.  This did involve a full Scottish breakfast and quite a lot of cheese. So, it is no wonder. 

I am excited about the future now. There are dresses that have the hope of being worn again, and I am no longer mystified by my previous “inability” to lose weight. It turns out it isn’t rocket science, despite the fact that numbers are involved, which always put me off the counting thing. 

So, I am looking forward to a healthier balance between diet and exercise and I am also looking forward to summer snacks and treats, safe in the knowledge that they won’t take over as I can fend them off with a few strategic Ryvita crackers and a packet of prawns.

 I am hoping to have an ice cream tomorrow. I trust you are excited about that on my behalf. 

More calories than you’d think.

Helpful People

This is just narrative. Just saying. 

My drive home from ASDA did not go as planned. The clutch was being weird. Kind of stuck to the floor, a bit. Then it just stopped working. 

This was as I pulled up to a fairly popular T junction, at about quarter to 5… with the vain hope of going right. I couldn’t get into gear. Not a sausage. Sudden visions of traffic backing up from behind me, all the way back to ASDA; a memory triggered of a previous breakdown in an equally unhandy location, being told by a driver-by: “You can’t park here.” Eh, yuh.

Hazards on, I popped out on to a tiny island thing, abandoning ship. I whipped out my phone to inform the family that the ASDA snacks would be somewhat delayed. 

A split second later, a very helpful man offered to help me get it out of the way of the rush hour traffic, so I got back in, and steered as he pushed and I bumped it up on the pavement out of harm’s way and off he went. Thanks, Helpful Man!

Next on the to-do list was to call the AA. I rang them up and the automaton on the other end of the line suggested that the best thing to do was to request help online. I googled it, put in all my details, got to the SUBMIT page, and… nothing.

 So, I rang them up again and pressed 1 repeatedly until I got a human, who texted me a link… to the webpage with the broken SUBMIT button, so that was hopeless – but happily, the AA person was still on the line. He seemed surprised that I could know where I was without knowing the postcode. But I did, and he found me on the map. Happy days. 

The advice is not to sit in the car while you wait for the AA. Happily, I had a deck chair, a good book and a bootful of ASDA snacks to keep me going. So, I had a wee seat, a banana and a read at “The Pilgrim” in the sunshine. 

The AA man then phoned me up to say he would not be long. Seconds later, a friend happened upon me, wondering why I had decided to take a break at such a random location, then figured I must be in some kind of problematic situation. This was all very fortuitous. When she appeared, I had been on the phone, negotiating with my mother to come and rescue the ASDA shopping, so that I didn’t have to carry a whole load of shopping home from a hypothetical garage on a series of buses – but my friend then offered to ferry the groceries. Very kind. 

Within a few minutes, the AA man appeared. It was like I was in Mr Ben’s shop. “As if by magic…” and all cheerful and yellow was the van. So, he did his mechanic thing – intermittently muttering “hydraulics”, rummaging about and removing, then putting back lots of large bits of plastic – concurred that the clutch was indeed broken and a patch up job was not possible. He explained that since COVID, you were not allowed to just pitch up at a garage hopefully; he would have to tow me home, then we would have to book it in somewhere then call them out again to get it there. This would be less than ideal. 

This time Husband stepped in and found me a garage willing to accept me. So, my friend took off in her car, with my shopping, to rendezvous with us at the garage. The AA man hitched my car up to his van and gave me the necessary training to be towed, and off we went. It was something like a very, very dull rollercoaster ride. The garage accepted the car, and off I went, me and my ASDA shopping getting a lift all the way home.

As rescues go, this was a great one. Such a happy, sunshiny bubble of helpfulness in which to break down. Helped by Helpful Man, located by the call-centre man at the AA, encouraged by my mother, booked in by Husband, accepted by the garage, towed by the AA and delivered safely home by my friend. 


All this, of course, means that I am now reliant on the orange buses again. And, as we know, they are a rich seam of blogging material – staggeringly unreliable, gaily disregarding such details as routes and timetables. But I made it to work on time today, so that was good. And, eventually, I got home. 

That’s the narrative… I must justify the narrative with some kind of reflection… Here it is: people are great. People are helpful. No one wants anyone to bung up a key T-junction at 5pm. The AA membership was worth it. I am very thankful. 

Sweating In Kitchen Shops

We had a new hobby for 2022. Every Saturday we set out to go and sweat in a kitchen shop. Sometimes it was the price; sometimes it was the heat – but whichever it was, I miscalculated either my budget or my outfit and had a rivulet of sweat running between my shoulder blades by the end of the visit, either way.

 You’ll be glad to know we have settled on a kitchen design and supplier. My regular readers (which, were I to post actually regularly, could actually be that) will be delighted to hear that our kitchen design contains precisely zero corners, which is something of a miracle. But I am delighted. 

You would think that a kitchen shop would be a kitchen shop and that they would sell kitchens. But it’s weird. The three places we went were so, so different to one another. 

Our first port of call was a small but perfectly formed showroom full of lovely people and lovely kitchens. The design they came up with was pretty much how it looks now but with (much) more expensive cupboards. They had lovely brochures, their 3D renderings had our own art on the walls and our own view out of the windows. I just couldn’t get excited about the design though. And I certainly couldn’t get excited about the quote.

The second place we went to was like a kind of time warp/dystopia. There was literally no one there. There were bits missing from all the kitchens and drawers full of miscellaneous samples. Our physical visit was followed up by a zoom call with a man who presented as weary, unsupported and depressed. So, we moved on, trying to find people who wanted to sell us a kitchen. 

Our third place was this. They want to sell you a kitchen. They want to show you kitchens, let you stroke the surfaces, play with the cupboard interiors, sit on the bar stools. They also, as it turned out, wanted to have their heating up so high that it felt like Gran Canaria in mid July, except we were wearing clothes fit for Scotland in February. They wanted details, many many details to punch into their tablets, hung like messenger bags around their waists. This was a well oiled kitchen selling machine, and we could have felt like unsuspecting prey… but happily we wanted to buy a kitchen; they wanted to sell a kitchen. What a joy!

The stupid thing was that this was on the way home one Saturday from Kitchen Place number 1, and we thought we would pop in for a quick look round. But, there were still more and more questions for the tablet, while the temperature cranked up higher and higher. I started to shed layers. Did we want a sink the same material as the worktop or in a contrasting finish? Did we want a mixer tap, a quooker tap, a tap for carbonated water? Did we need a wine fridge, a warming drawer, an island? Colours, colours, colours… and we are like, eh, we are just having a look round but yes, admittedly we do, in fact want a kitchen.

Time passed. I wilted. The teenager we had in tow had also wilted. The boy with the tablet had not wilted and he had many, many more questions… I needed a seat (of which they had many), a coffee (and yes, they did offer, but at this stage in the day I just wanted to go home), and probably most importantly, a shower (not their remit)… It was weird that the kitchen boy was more interested in my new kitchen than I was.

For our return visit, I was better prepared, with more summery layers. The guy took us through his design which was a) revolutionary and b) exactly what I had asked for. He had listened about the no corners thing. He had listened about my wish to come in the back door and have a place to put things. He shuffled images about on his computer until I felt seasick looking at it and, boom. All good. Very exciting. 

And that’s what I was hoping for – to be excited about it. The first place was very lovely, but, with hindsight, a bit unimaginative. The second place, I just felt sorry for the man that worked there, but that’s not really reason enough to make a major purchase. So, with my free cool bag in my hand and a very, very, very detailed breakdown of hundreds of decisions that I hadn’t even known required to be made, we decided to go with the third place – on the grounds that they are really into selling kitchens and designed one I think will be good.

One of the major problems with the current kitchen is that it is ABSOLUTELY FREEZING for six months of the year, so, here’s hoping one day I can break sweat in a kitchen of my own. The dishwasher is still broken and washing dishes is now pretty much what I do in my spare time but we are hoping to get it fixed now that keeping it broken, as a strategy to motivate kitchen purchasing, has worked. 

Now that we have selected a kitchen it now means I have Saturday afternoons again. And one day soon I won’t have to spend those free afternoons doing the dishes.

The pictured kitchen isn’t the new kitchen, it’s just a shot from inside one of the kitchen shops. I just like teal. Generally.

Kitchen Clarity (… in which I consider what I love and hate about kitchens…)

We have cracked tiles, peeling plastic, an odd window ledge and a chronic issue with heating, so we are hopeful that 2022 will be a year to get our kitchen under control. It has done well, though: three children raised into three teenagers – suitably(ish) fed and watered and the laundry done. 

Brewing in the background is a debate about the merits of “clean lines and surfaces” versus “curated clutter on open shelving”, but we will leave that for the future. Today I want to think about great kitchens of the past and what drives me nuts about the kitchens I hate. 

Corner cupboards? I hate them. I especially hate them when they have oh-so-clever mechanisms that make them seem not really like a corner cupboard. I hate any kind of a whizzy wheel gadget or clunky basket contraption that supposedly brings all of your corner cupboard things out to be easily accessible. It is all a myth.

I have one corner cupboard that is like an honest corner cupboard, but I don’t even like it. I literally have to put on a head torch to get anything out of the further back half. And inside the cupboard, there is the opportunity for baking trays to fall down a hole into kitchen oblivion. The other corner cupboard is cursed with an over designed mechanism that just sticks, judders and generates rust, dust and still makes things nearly impossible to reach. Even with the items in view, the mechanism itself takes up so much space, I can’t hardly get anything out. So, no corner cupboards. 

What else do I hate? I hate “up” cuboards – at least the top shelf of them. I am short and cannae reach them. What is the point? They just get filled with things that are never used, so those things should be “gone through”, clearly. What is in my up cupboards? Excess snacks, plastic plates, water bottles that are no one’s favoured/used water bottles, nuts and dried fruit for baking I won’t get around to, calpol, random alcohol that we don’t drink, electrical gadgets that we don’t use, odd socks and impractical drinking vessels of every genre. Instead of wobbling about on a chair looking for birthday candles up a height, I would rather there was no ‘up a height’ to consider. 

This is all a bit negative. There are some things about kitchens that I love. The best kitchen I ever worked in was the camp kitchen in Ballater. It was all under canvas. The kitchen was a screened off corner of a massive marquee. The quartermaster’s store was adjacent to the kitchen. We had two big gas Dominator ovens, a water boiler, a Salamander grill, and every utensil you could ever want in full view on open shelves. Between the ovens and the shelves were four tables shoved together to make one massive table for prep. We had the purest of running water from a burn to a sink and a bucket under the plughole to catch the water. That was the dream. Had the design not been perfect, it could have been reconfigured – but every year, we set it up exactly the same way. It was weird, reaching for a ladle that you knew would be there, even although it had been in storage for the previous 48 weeks! The best feature of that kitchen was that, if it was too hot, you could take the walls down. No refrigeration was required; the butcher would deliver the meat as we needed it. Them were the days… (“Intents Catering: We’re in a field of our own”)

I think the trick to a great kitchen is the flow. You want the food to be in one place, then the prep to be in another, then the cooking, then the wash up, then the serving. So, I want to come in the back door with the shopping, then have the fridge and whatever storage immediately to hand, and so on.

Kitchens without that flow make me want to scream. I want an oven that is idiot proof, sharp knives, colour-coded chopping boards, a meat probe, useful things to hand and not banged up in the inaccessible reaches of corner cupboards. 

So that would be fine, if all a kitchen was was a kitchen. For us it is also a place for general kipplization. Shoes multiply. Bags, likewise. Jackets. Sport stuff. Jotters. Chargers. Bobbles. Masks. Bibles. Drying laundry. Baskets of clean laundry. The sweepy brush and mop. Bits of paper. Opened mail. Things that no one is claiming but no one feels like disposing of in case it is important. There is a whole transfer station zone that shouldn’t exist in an ideal world but kind of needs to exist for anyone to leave the house ready to go somewhere and do something. 

What are your biggest kitchen regrets? What was your best kitchen epiphany? When is a kitchen not a kitchen? Please share your ideas with me before I am in a space age corner-cupboard supposed utopia of clever storage solutions, wondering why I didn’t listen to myself.

Happy New Year! 2022

Much as the year feels like twenty twenty too, it has got off to a different start to twenty twenty one. Last year, we were in a winter wonderland icescape and went on a daft trip to the windfarm to slip about and freeze. This year is a ridiculous 13 degrees and the windfarm was just windy, as it should be. Here’s hoping 2022 feels similarly different, as years go. 

2021 was a year of two halves, I think. My diary is full of blank pages. The one thing that happened for me was an operation on my wrist which was a raging success, although has left me with a gammy hand in some respects – but it is undoubtedly better than before. (I can actually use my hand for things. I can stir things, hold things, grip things. Bonus.) Then the gammy hand recovery phase exacerbated an underlying gammy shoulder, so there was a weird phase in the second half of the year when, in response to the question, “Does anyone have any injuries?” I would respond with “Gammy hand; gammy shoulder”. It was good to have an answer to the question beyond my usual answer – “General decrepitude” – which doesn’t excuse one from any pressups. 

So, the first half of the year was kneejerk educational policy from the SNP resulting in a lot of stress and creativity, plus the gammy hand. The second half of the year was borderline normal, plus the covid. 

When we pared back everything in life in 2020, I was keen to learn from it and prioritise more effectively. In August 2021, I chose this as my verse for the academic year: “Seek first the kingdom of God” – in order to try and understand the concept and actually try to do it.  Then, of course, I was overexcited with the prospect of normal life that my diary became jammy packed with fun things to do again – and I had a lot of fun in 2021. 

Church has been great – and it is so much better “in person” than online – although when I was banged up with the Covid I was so appreciative of the online version. Trips to places beyond my local council area feel laughably exciting. Keeping up the exercise has been fun too – missing five weeks with the covid makes me glad I started to get fit when I did – it is so good to be back and feeling well enough to take part. 

We also made two fun purchases in 2021. In lieu of a lockdown dog and a lockdown caravan, we got a vintagey BMW Z3 (that I had my eye on in 1999) and a summerhouse (that I took down the shed to make way for in 2018). So I now have the opportunity to have the wind in my hair and a place to look at a view, read, snack or nap. All good. 

So, from where I am sitting (in the summerhouse), 2022 looks to be potentially pretty busy. I have an unrealistic pile of things to read, an infinite amount of housework to do, too many fitness goals, a fair few community commitments and all the things I know I won’t get around to – in terms of sewing, baking, writing and painting. In all of this is the advice from Jesus in the Sermon on the mount to “Seek first the Kingdom of God”. Here’s the verse in context. It’s all very good advice:

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Pancake Perseverance

Readers who have been with me since the beginning will be aware that pancakes have been a bit of an issue. It is well documented that I can’t make pancakes. This, however, is no longer true: I can now, in fact, make pancakes. If you want to see many examples of previous failed attempts, just put “pancakes” in my WeeScoops search box. Hours of fun. 

What caused my fortunes to flip? 

First of all, one of my children went off cereal. This left a breakfast vacuum. I am a big believer in breakfast, so we searched for a palatable solution. This turned out to be crepes from Asda – crepes that were pre-filled with chocolate spread – 30 seconds in the microwave and hey presto – breakfast.

The considerable downside of the crepes was the packaging. There were eight individually wrapped (in plastic) crepes and those eight crepes were also wrapped in plastic all together. So, it was a bit of a plastic-fest just to get some chocolate crepes. Surely there was a more sustainable and plastic-free way to have crepes and chocolate spread in the morning?

So, I googled how to make crepes and found a recipe and began the systematic re-creation of the crepes but without the plastic. After a few goes, it was going well. They were thin, they were “lacy”, they were being eaten. Boom.

 The key to success was threefold: not using too much/hardly anything to fry it in while not being anxious that it’s going to stick to the non-stick pan; keeping a hot but steady heat and letting it actually heat up and attain steadiness before beginning; using one’s apple watch to give each side precisely one minute and trying not to think “I know better”. Trust the timer. 

The buoyant crepe phase was going fine, so I began to revisit and experiment with discarded pancake recipes of the past. Transferring my skills into the world of pancakes, I began to have more and more consistent success. I have now settled on my favourite recipe (thanks, Jay!) and can now be found making pancakes ALL THE TIME to keep up with the breakfast demand. No plastic wrappers are involved. 

There are, still, many ways for pancakes to go wrong. One can easily miss out an ingredient. My recipe involves 2 tablespoons of oil. If you leave that out, they still look like pancakes but they are a bit weird. But the oil is less hassle than the melted butter in a lot of the other recipes. Forgetting to sieve things can end up with consistency issues. Using too much oil/fat rubbed on to the pan gives the pancakes an uneven appearance – so I have to eat those ones. And the first batch are always weird. Without exception. So, I have to eat those.

No matter how late at night or how early in the morning I make the pancakes, it is a calm time. I trust in my apple watch timer; I trust the recipe; I am happy that it’s a plastic-free solution to a plastic-tastic problem. 

If this raging success continues for much longer, I may even start making them for people beyond the confines of my own household. Maybe pancake pride comes before a pancake fall, though. Until then, I will continue to enjoy the fruit of my pancake perseverance. 

Covid Story

I was meant to be writing a poem in response to the prompt: “Forward” on the last day of the COP. But my eyes hurt and my head hurt and my face started to dissolve, then I started coughing. So, I didn’t go forward, I stopped. 

I did a lateral flow and watched it go positive as I figured it would. At least it wasn’t a pregnancy test. I took myself off on a sneezy adventure to the testing centre, came home and took to my bed. 

While being ill is never a bonus, there is relief in being officially ill and allowed, in fact compelled by the state, practically, to take to one’s bed and isolate for ten whole days. 

So the headache was like there were metal spades clamping my brain. My eyes were hot. Then sneezing and coughing and spluttering and sweating. Thankfully there was plenty of paracetamol to chug and my family all came back negative with their PCRs. 

This did mean that their Sundays were ruined – we were back to church on the YouTube, which isn’t quite the same. And all my generalised housewifery was suspended as a daughter implemented a covid-secure towel policy and the kitchen began its slow but steady descent. 

The illness felt like a childhood flu – with a temperature and sweating and keeping hydrated and paracetamolled up. So I slept a lot and food was delivered outside of my bedroom door. Everyone shunted round a bed so my splendid isolation was both isolation and splendid. The best thing was having a shower. A shower when you’re ill is so much better than a shower when you are well. 

Much as I wanted to read, I just couldn’t for the first while. I set about watching “Grey’s Anatomy”, which I began during the gammy hand phase in May. Then I had a phase of “Who Do You Think You Are?” working on my trivia on Boy George, Joe Lycett (grim Irish pasts) Judi Dench (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are indeed dead) and Craig Revel Horwood (clogging championships – great!). 

After 18 years of parenting, one does get utterly fed up of deciding what other people will eat all the time and then having to make it, store the leftovers and tidy up – so it was something of a novelty to have meals made at home by people other than me. But because of the covid, I couldn’t taste or smell the food. 

At sense-deprivation max, I remember a plate of pasta and pesto. I was totally bunged up, like being underwater. The weird thing was that I could tell that the pesto was the tasty bit – I could tell it had more flavour than the pasta – but I couldn’t taste either. Same with a chilli prawn stir fry that came later – I could feel the chilli but couldn’t taste the prawns. I could tell chocolate was sweet and that peanuts were salty, but zero flavour. Very odd. 

There’s a post I haven’t written yet, but intend to write (but maybe this’ll do) about how I have become victorious in the pancake making department and my children have pancakes every day for breakfast. So, there was a bit of a pancake panic but my mother came round with pancakes and a bonus chocolate cake so that was great. 

By this point I was out of bed and having a change of scenery in the summerhouse (there’s another blog post I haven’t written). I also began to be able to read in the mornings, before crashing out in the afternoons. During the course of the isolation I read two autobiographies: “In Order to Live” by Yeonmi Park about escaping North Korea and “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali about escaping an oppressive Islam/Somali culture and becoming a Dutch atheist living in America. Both of them were very, very interesting – and sobering to think that their lives were happening during my free little western life – and that similar oppression is still such a thing. Of course I know this on one level – but when reading it, it sounds so… historical – and then they hit out with what year it is and I could remember it. Most striking was when Ayaan Hirsi Ali started a new job on the very actual day I started my own current job, in early September in 2001 – and then the twin towers happened and she had her worldview finally shattered and she turned away from Islam. 

A package arrived in the post. I was excited. It was book shaped and I wondered if I had ordered a book and forgotten about it. Sadly, it was a blood test kit – but at least that gave me a focus for a morning. The last time I had to do an antibody test I had just completed a fitness class, been for a swim and the blood flowed effortlessly. This time, despite hydrating and doing some jumping jacks, I had to use all three lancets and barely managed to fill to the line. The most exciting thing about the antibody test was that you are allowed out of isolation to go and post it, so I got to leave the house and walk around the corner and post it in the priority post box. (When I got the result back they said that I had had antibodies before I contracted the covid. So that’s weird. My jags must have worked, but not totally.)

My last day of isolation was a Sunday. I watched the church on the YouTube again and then hung out in the summerhouse being unable to taste a chunk of Malteser cake and a coffee. It was a beautiful day anyway. 

So, that was iso; that was the covid narrative. Covid reflections to follow once the covid has actually lifted from my brain. 

Snooker Loopy

“And as young Kevin Moffat comes to the table, he needs only one meatball to clinch the world snooker title…”

Kevin Moffat? Pah! Back in the day, I was the King of Snooker. The Queen of Snooker. Whatever. (Anyone remember Kevin Moffat??)

Such a satisfying sport/not a sport. Whatever. 

Snooker’s heyday, from my perspective, was 1985. The final between Denis Taylor and Steve Davis was the most stressful and gripping sporting event I have ever watched. It was brilliant. 

Also brilliant were Denis Taylor’s glasses. They had the legs coming out from the bottom of the frames so that they looked upside down. I, in response, had similar. (As I write, I am hoping and dreading finding a photo of them in equal measure… probably I have them on in one of my “girl Harry Potter” school photos.)

Found one

My snooker table was smaller than a regular pool table, but it did the job – and handily fitted in my bedroom at the time, although you did sometimes have to hold the cue at a weird angle so as not to hit a corner of wall. 

The small table did mean that a disproportionate amount of breaks resulted in the white going straight in a pocket. At least, that was my excuse. 

However, there were a lot of things to enjoy about the snooker table. The lovely cubes of smooth blue chalk that you could prep your cue with. The setting up of the balls, which I could already do before Chas and Dave hit out with their very helpful lyrics in May 1986:

“Pot the reds and screw back

For the yellow green brown blue pink and black”

Very satisfying was also getting “a plant” where two touching balls handily lined up with a pocket. Then, it didn’t matter what angle you hit the nearest ball to you at – the one nearer the pocket would go it. Magic. 

Less great was the time I was lying on the floor looking at one of the snooker balls, enjoying its weight and shininess, then I dropped it on my face. Crack. Ouch. Not much you can do about gravity. 

Having a snooker table was a pretty sociable thing. Where now, teenagers have to be in separate houses with a large TV and a console to “play together”, we spent hours and hours and hours and hours playing snooker. 

This turned out to give me a handy transferrable skill as my gran’s neighbours had a pool table in their garage, so the holidays there were also spent setting up the balls, learning trick shots and trying to get better all the time. 

Another transferrable skill was mental arithmetic – working out what your break was and never managing to get anywhere near the magic 147. 

A full-size snooker table is a different thing though. Too big. Not a hope. 

In time, though, the skills of snooker, pool and mental arithmetic that were so much of my life in the mid-eighties have all atrophied and disappeared without trace during the intervening thirty-five years or so. I can still count up Scrabble and Yahtzee scores alright, but, meh, numbers… 

For my own children, the snooker table was brought out several times, over the years – taking over the living room for a few weeks at a time – but we didn’t use it during the whole pandemic so far, I don’t think – and I then figured we should probably move it on.

Hence the nostalgia. 

It is kind of encouraging to think that, while I was going out of my mind watching Denis Taylor, so was the rest of the snooker-watching world. It was genuinely a great (very long) moment. I was an 80s kid, having a very 80s kid experience. I am glad I didn’t miss it. 

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