Saturday, 29 December 2012

Jingle all the way

Well, Christmas has come and while not yet gone (there are twelve days after all), the pot-lucks my waistline and I have been enjoying have drawn to a close for now. The last one was on Boxing Day with Greg’s family; they are all quiet adults and fortunately, as you will appreciate later in this ramble, I can tell them apart. Not only that but we enjoyed our wine, without anyone one accidentally dropping a bottle on the kitchen floor as happened in a previous year, even before we had imbibed.

However, blame it on the darkness of the season, but other things have been going a bit haywire around here. Accidents have abounded.
I may have mentioned our neighbour who is so closely in touch with nature that, in warmer weather, he walks au naturel  in his garden — like Adam in Eden and not nearly as pretty a sight, I venture to say, though I haven't seen Adam. Anyhow, his love of the feral extends to feeding the multitudes of stray cats and kittens in our neighbourhood.

Cute but doomed

He recently had the misfortune of being scratched by one of his protégés the second time he sprayed it with an antiseptic — in a vain attempt to cure its ear mites. His subsequent plea for better cat by-laws was written up in the paper just before Christmas and dismissed as impossible to enforce by the local authorities who noted that “people” should stop feeding the cats.

A couple of days later he himself contributed to cat control when, sad to say, he accidentally backed over the only cat I had named (it used to visit us at suppertime when we ate out on the deck). Our somewhat clueless ‘answer to Adam’ said wee Bollifer had been sleeping under his car and didn’t get out of the way in time. Nature red in tooth and pick-up truck, I guess.

On a happier note, the Hort’s Christmas potluck dinner was both well-attended and deliciously provisioned. However, the woman who guards the tea and coffee bailiwick at all our meetings had set everyone into tizzy earlier in the day when she fell over her own threshold and broke both arms.  She joined the ranks of the other fallen, including a choir member who slipped on grass and fractured her knee.  All these calamities and it was not even snowy yet (well, not on the night I began to write this!)

Greg, a volunteer hanging basket waterer, proved handy on two other accounts. He is a dab hand at making vast amounts of coffee to the correct strength and at “offering the blessing” before meals. He mentioned both the staggering amount of food and the incapacitated members in a prayer which was both heartfelt (he was hungry) and empathetic (he fell on ice two years ago and broke his shoulder).

And this is just the dessert table
Alas, our Prince Philip (you may remember him from our Diamond Jubilee celebrations in September) had suffered a stroke the day before and was recovering in hospital (but happily has since returned home).  Nevertheless at the time, his wife the erstwhile Queen was understandably distraught.

I am not by nature a very touchy-feely sort of person. It does not come naturally, and I have to think very carefully about what to say to those who have suffered a misfortune. I usually try to rehearse using myself as the recipient of my words. If I like them, then, chances are, others will. 

With this in mind, I approached our Queen Elizabeth after the meal to offer a few words of support, as I hadn’t had a chance to do this when she’d arrived.  I was a bit disconcerted when my words were not received as I expected.  In fact, I was subjected to a rather quizzical stare. Then she began to laugh.  Thanks goodness she has a sense of humour: I had fallen victim to another weakness of mine. I am absolutely unable to tell people from around here apart. I try hard and fail, fail, fail.  

Our Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth sisters

The woman I was being so solicitous towards was the sister of the afflicted woman, and worse, she has been widowed for many years.  Not only that but I have confused her with her sister before. Mortified, I tried to disappear into nearest door jamb.  

I must say that after those rather dubious beginnings, Christmas itself turned out just fine. We had our own Christmas dinner at home in Parkhill the weekend before with one of our sons. I remembered to thaw and serve the shrimp ring. Aside from agreeing that next year I will follow his suggestion and have carrots, not turnips, the vegetables were a success.

mmmm ... shrimps

We were well lashed with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mince pie by the time we set out for my mother’s retirement home in Toronto. We had to miss the Christmas dinner at Christie Gardens because they hold it at lunch and we couldn’t get there in time and still have Greg’s Christmas Day service. Mother scooted down for it, but at supper we enjoyed salmon. It took two days before turkey reappeared on the menu, this time as a sandwich.

The Toronto families came over on Boxing Day. When our five-year-old grandson opened his Star Wars Lego, he exclaimed in wonder, “Oh my goodness!” However, his reaction to his Star Wars calendar was, “I’ve got one of those” as he dropped it on the floor (I had been prepared for this by one of my Friends on Facebook who had it happen to her with a six-year-old nephew).

My two-year-old granddaughter was entranced with a giraffe puppet because “it has a mouth,” and the 10-month-old ignored her new toys and blissfully teethed on an old Tele-tubby from great-granny’s play basket.

Greg and I gave the adult children large jingle bells — Christmas decorations for the tree or so we thought, completely forgetting what it is like to have very small children. Truly, we did forget; this was an accident.  Immediately, the three little ones in the midst of a crescendo of Christmas bags, gifts, tissue paper, ribbons and cards, fell upon them and shook them to their heart’s content while we all joined in singing Jingle Bells.  No doubt, they will have many hours of fun doing this again later at their own homes.

In the meantime, home once more, I will write thank-you notes.  Greg will fire up the snowblower and add its roar to the charm of the season. It won’t be jingle bells, but the driveway will be passable. 

And the snow is blowing on our front lawn not the neighbours'

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Aging faster than I think

Here is an exchange of e-mails from earlier today between me and my old friend John:

> Subject: Many happy returns
> Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2012 13:51:06 -0500

> I thought you might be interested to know that on my Skype wall there appeared a notice that you, Lorna Harris, were born on 12/12/1912
> This would have made you 100 years old yesterday. I would have pegged you as younger but maybe it is the years of living in Parkhill that have aged you faster than one would suspect.
> Best wishes for another 100.
> J
On 2012-12-13, at 2:49 PM, lorna harris  wrote:
After the totally bizarre day I have been having, I'm not surprised to hear that I have aged!!

First was choir concert at the nursing home here in town - to make a long story short it reminded me of that IODE meeting in high school where we couldn't stop laughing after we had, among other things, marched the flag into a closet.

So this morning at the home, between someone sliding unexpectedly to the floor in a spell of some sort, some residents arriving late in wheelchairs and walkers and then getting tangled up, a visitor bringing her dog which also got tangled up, the choir director helping to untangle, other residents pedalling out in their wheelchairs for no particular reason, a sleepy guy snoring, a song we weren't planning on singing being announced (by Greg!), the recreation director thanking us before we had finished, and being requested to sing Silent Night after we had just sung it ... I just couldn't stop laughing.
I was wearing the only Santa hat, so I guess that was in keeping with jollity. As I said to the choir director afterwards, this was one concert where I didn't have to think about remembering to smile. Also, five people were sick or had fallen and weren't able to be in the choir so I had to sing the soprano part - much of it new to me. However, I did hit high D and E thereby proving that even though I am an alto I can try harder and be a soprano; the others were just ever so slightly under the pitch.

Then we had a really suboptimal turkey dinner en masse at one of the seven restaurants in town. If you ever come to Parkhill and we feel hungry, we won't eat there. They had tea which tasted of coffee, there was not enough silverware (I initially had to share my knife)  and the waiter retracted his offer of salad, as they didn’t have any. I won't bore you with the rest.

Shortly after we got home I got a call from someone who obviously knew me but whom I couldn't place at all. I was too embarrassed to admit to this. She was wondering if I'd like to go out for coffee. I put it off until next Friday so I could star 69 her number, then Google map her location and try to figure out who on earth she was so I would recognize her. I think I now know. She is a very nice alto, who lives on what looks like a completely desolate stretch of the Kerwood Rd. If I lived there, I'd be desperate to go to Tim Horton's too, though I am still not exactly sure why with me.

Again, thanks for the b-day greetings and hope you day is making more sense than mine is!!


Lorna (I think)

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Sometimes liturgical innovations can go up in flames

This posting is a bit out-of-date because I wanted to include a photo, which I  didn’t get a chance to take until a day or so ago. So here  is my account of what happened at church last week:

I came to last week's service at St. James feeling more exuberant than usual. Maybe because the previous night's snow added a bit of excitement to the air or maybe because, according to the old calendar this was Stir-Up Sunday, but the day seemed special.
I got to church early: not a good thing since being early makes me bored and being bored usually gets me into trouble. After I swept the snow off the church steps and put the broom away, I felt invigorated. Instead of  settling into prayer in the back pew, I cast my eyes on a candle holder, which for several months had been sitting on the window sill of the West (actually north) Window. Eastern orthodox in flavour, having multiple crosses and three candle holders, it had unaccountably never been lit, despite having been donated by a parishioner presumably for that purpose.  
The back of the church could use a bit of cheering up.  And finally,  before Greg retired at the end of December and the opportunity was lost, I had the opportunity and the means to do something about it.  So, as it turned out, we had a service with the unusual addition of “smells and bells,"  incense and bell ringing being associated with a much higher version of Anglicanism than is usually found here in rural Ontario.
Anyhow, there were already three tea candles in the glass holders.  I had to find something to light them with. Greg got me the  official box of matches  (kept in a  plastic margarine container in the credence table by the altar). The candles were hard to light, but I persevered until the smell of wax pervaded the church (that’s the "smells" part).

Bell, books and candles

As the liturgy unfolded, I eyed  them from time to time. When we got to the Creed, the flames in two of the candle holders were about three inches high. By the Prayers of the People, an alto in the choir was making subtle eyebrow raisings in my direction. By the Passing of the Peace, they seemed like a small bonfire. Taking advantage of being up and about, I looked at them closely; the wicks were nowhere to be seen, and the wax was totally engulfed.
A parishioner in the  pew second to the back thought they should be put out. She was worried lest the heat  break the stained glass window. During a hymn, a warden and I had discussed whether the glass  candle holders might also be at risk of shattering.

So we tried to blow the candles out — no luck . We just blew the flames apart. She thought snuffing them with the phone book of Christian businesses would do the trick, but I didn’t thinking using anything paper was a good idea at that point.
The wax showed no sign of running out; the conflagration was really beginning to worry me. Aside from not wanting, on its own merits, to burn down the church, I did not want my main claim to fame as a clergy wife to be responsible for doing so.  I looked around and saw a small brass school bell further along the window sill — a great candle snuffer were it not for the clapper.
Very carefully I placed it over the flames both to snuff them properly and to prevent the bell from sounding.  Greg was saying the prayer of consecration as I was doing this and behold — or alas — depending on how high on the Anglican scale you find yourself, a little bit of chiming occurred. This would be the "bells" part — for anyone who has persevered this far and needs waking up. The flames were no more, but the bell handle was warm to the touch when removed after communion.
All's well that ended well, but I’ll resume my practice of arriving in the nick of time. I’m also going to get some of those battery-operated candles, as I really was well and truly taken aback by the persistence of the flames!