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I have been ill for a frustrating amount of lockdown – Covid (mild, self diagnosed, with the Engineer developing an alarming but confirming case of Covid Toe), toothache (still waiting for the dental hospital extraction referral appointment) and then a gastric bug. It’s been boring for us all, and the Vicarage kitchen has rather suffered from a lack of creative input.

But as I started to recover a couple of weeks ago I happily remembered a recipe that I used to use frequently when we lived in South East Asia, but had almost forgotten. It’s essentially a South Indian rice recipe, and I remember being provided with it on field trips when I worked in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, when I was involved in a feasibility study for some enormous water pumping stations to supply the city.

Lemon rice is a gorgeous accompaniment to any Indian dish, but particularly anything barbecued, like tandoori chicken. It’s actually a pretty filling dish on its own, and because this version has peanuts, it’s a complete meal and so suits any family that has acquired a vegan *mother of teenagers face*.

I have made this using basmati rice and with Thai fragrant jasmine, but any type of rice would be fine. After our time in Malaysia and Singapore, our go-to rice is Thai fragrant jasmine. The Queen had not realised this, and had been buying standard long grain at university. Unfortunately, she had also realised that rice at home tastes much better and was distressed to find that we have basically spoiled her for cheap rice.

Ingredients

  • Cooked rice – I use 450ml of rice (3 rice measuring cups) for our family of 5 to ensure leftovers
  • Oil
  • 1 tspn mustard seeds
  • pinch of asofoetida powder
  • a handful of dried curry leaves, unless you can find fresh ones
  • 1/2 tspn grated ginger
  • 1/2 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tspn chilli flakes, or a couple of whole dried chillis broken into 2cm sections (adapt to your chilli capacity)
  • a handful of cashews – raw or roasted and salted are fine
  • a couple of handfuls of red skinned peanuts
  • 1 tspn turmeric
  • Good slosh of lemon juice – 3-4 tbspns I guess

All you have to do is heat the oil, and then add the rest of the ingredients together, apart from the lemon juice, and gently fry until the nuts are toasted and the mustard seeds begin to pop. Then add the oil and fried nuts and spices to the rice, with the lemon juice, and mix until you have a beautiful fragrant yellow rice dish. Try not to eat it all at once.

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My last post was titled ‘Waiting‘, and was posted just over a month ago, on Easter Eve. When I wrote it, we were waiting for Easter Day. I thought I would perhaps have a few days off the discipline of writing six days out of seven, and then return with gusto. Or at least with a few things to say.

I had not factored in toothache in a pandemic.

By the end of Easter weekend I was talking to the emergency dentist and taking ibuprofen and paracetamol every two hours, then I was taking antibiotics. And then it was two trips to the PPE bedecked dentist, and now I am half a molar and a couple of nerves down, and still on a smidge of ibuprofen. And it’ll be a trip to the dental hospital after lockdown. Joy.

Other than toothache we have been managing pretty well the last month. Online services have continued with increasing technical sophistication – homemade music videos – multiple people reciting consecutive verse of a psalm. DVDs have been delivered to the internetless, telephone and Zoom counselling has taken place. The Archdeacon has phoned. The kids have done at least a few minutes of school and uni work. A small amount of gardening has been achieved. And the dust reached such a depth that I even resorted to breaking out a can of furniture polish.

And I celebrated our silver wedding anniversary by having a nerve removed from my tooth. For richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in lockdown, in sickness, with toothache and in health, I’m still glad to be the Vicar’s Wife.

 

 

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On Easter Eve, Christians wait. The Lord has died. And we wait. We wait for the bright dawn of the resurrection. But we know it is coming. We live the right side of the resurrection.

And this Easter Eve there is so much waiting. The whole country is staying at home and waiting. A dear friend from church texts me almost every other day to check how long I think it will be until restrictions are lifted. She is finding the waiting very hard indeed. And waiting without knowing how long it will be is difficult, not knowing how long our lives will be restricted and different.

The first disciples were waiting. Their Lord had been crucified. They had no idea what would happen. Our waiting now gives us a taste of what they experienced. As Gretchen Ronnevik said today:

[Text on grey/orange sunrise] Maybe huddling together as a small group of disciples in a home, wondering what God is doing, and what will happen next, and where do we go from here... is the most Easter-y of all Easter things to do - Gretchen Ronnevik

And so we wait tonight for the resurrection dawn. Not in a small room with the doors locked. We are waiting here, in the Vicarage. We’re waiting in the living room and the kitchen and in the garden, looking over to the church and its clock, running late and still on Greenwich Mean Time. We wait. But we know it is coming. Jesus has risen, as he said.

IMG_20200411_122056178_HDR

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Today we baked. I made sourdough and hot cross buns – two lots because I accidentally made the first batch not vegan. A cross on the bread and crosses on the buns. Crosses for this most holy of days.

As the buns cooled, we held an online Zoom meeting with our dear brothers and sisters from church, meditating together on Jesus’ way to the cross and on his death, led gently by a few different church members. After the quiet of that time together, I went into the garden with my Bible and reread John’s account of the passion.

 

Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’

John 18v37

As this Easter passes, I want to hold onto that challenge from the Lord Jesus – to listen to his voice, to be of the truth, to hold onto the cross.

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Tonight we made a rainbow for our rainbow shaped window. This Holy Week is the week we especially remember the hope that we have. We are joining with EasterMeansHope.com to share the hope of Christ with our neighbours.

Paper rainbow and 'EasterMeansHope.com' in arched window

We had the window ready for this evening’s #ClapforOurCarers, and the Joker joined in with extra noise tonight – a rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow on his trombone.

The Joker, wearing black t-shirt and beige shorts, flipflops, plays his trombone outside the Vicarage, using a black music stand.

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I’ve seen a few people online commenting that this strange season is subjecting us all to culture shock. So much has changed for everyone – we are all living very different lives to what has been normal for us. Things are so changed for us all. And it reminded me of a post I wrote about moving here to the parish – and some things the Vicar and I learnt when we moved to Kuala Lumpur many years ago.

twintowers

The culture shock I’ve experienced before – moving to different countries and to different cities – has taken much longer to kick in. But I think that being in the same place and yet nothing being the same has compressed the experience. A couple of weeks into lockdown and it no longer feels like a slightly odd holiday. The boys are now fed up of not going to school. And the steep tech learning curve is exhausting, and trying to find new ways of connecting with people isn’t a fun alternative any more, but frustrating and awkward.

So, as in my original reflection on culture shock, I’m reminded that this world is not my home; here I’m a ‘foreigner and exile’ (1 Peter 2:11). Suffering culture shock should make me look to my heavenly home, and focus on the place I really belong. This week we remember those days when the Lord Jesus gave himself for us. He gave up his true home to tread the path to the cross – and on to glory. And so I can stumble along in this strange new world, remembering that whether things are strange or even just ‘normal’ I’m here in exile. My home is now with Christ, because of the cross and the glory he won there for his people.

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I didn’t manage to finish a blog last night – the first #lentowrimo post I’ve missed. My brain just wasn’t functioning – the third week of lockdown has felt exhausting and overwhelming. We were meant to be on holiday this week – at Word Alive with thousands of other believers. But here we are, still in the Vicarage and not in glamorous Prestatyn, hearing helpful Bible talks and meeting up with dear friends.

We’re here serving the parish online and over the phone, helping at the foodbank and wrangling Zoom with people who struggle with technology. We’re here following the way of Christ. We’re here, looking to our Lord, who trod the way of the cross, exhausted and overwhelmed. So this Holy Week, I’m hobbling along, aware of my fragility, like the daisies which have bloomed in the Secret Field this week. But the blessing of Holy Week is that it goes through the cross to the resurrection. The perishable becomes imperishable. The grass withers and the flowers fall but the Word of the Lord endures forever.

[Text on yellow disc over picture of white/yellow daisies on green grass] For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures for ever.’

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We are approaching a strange and hard Easter. A strange and hard Holy Week. This collect from the Book of Common Prayer is preparing me for that – reminding me of the Father’s tender love, helping me to recall the great humility of the Lord Jesus and challenging me to be patient. These are what I need to meditate on this week. I need to meditate with gratitude on love, humility and patience.

[Black text on yellow starburst, photo of blackthorn blossom behind] ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Everyone’s worlds have shrunk in the last few weeks as we try to stay home as much as possible. But even in this small world we are finding new things. And enjoying old things in new ways. Finding new rhythms to life.

The arrival of Spring helps, I guess, seeing changes in the buds each day down at the park in our new rhythm of afternoon Vicarage Hound frisbee sessions in the Secret Field. There is new growth to spot each day on the ash buds and the brambles are sprouting fresh leaves.

And in a small world, new things give more pleasure than they used to – the delivery of an online shop with new food to eat, the newly tidy back yard, a new opportunity to have a (properly socially distanced, of course) word in passing with neighbours or other dog walkers, the impending arrival of the Queen back from her student accommodation tomorrow – we couldn’t go before as we were in self isolation. So the Vicarage is going to be rather fuller and our new rhythms (and diet, with a Vegan in the house) will be changing again.

And, of course, when I think about new things, I remember that God’s mercy is new every morning, even in our small world here in the Vicarage. The best new thing.

[Text on picture of blue sky, trees, green grass, dog] The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

 

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Today we had our second meeting of Cake and Chat over Zoom, the app of the moment. No cake is provided, although a few of us made breakfast as we chatted. It’s still a great joy to see one another and catch up with everyone’s locked down weeks. Meeting remotely loses much – it’s not true Cake and Chat when we are physically apart. We miss the break out conversations and more in depth chats.

Being together bodily makes it a true meeting, shared cake eaten together makes it a true meeting. The physicality of being in the same building makes our meeting a true meeting. So this Zoom Cake and Chat will do for now. But it won’t do properly. And that’s a little like Holy Communion not being possible when a church is unable to meet. We look forward to the time when we can truly taste and see that the Lord is good, when we are back together for Cake and Chat and for our communion services.

Loaf cake & biscuits just out of the oven

Our usual Thursday morning feast

Cake online is not truly cake. But noise outside is real noise. And tonight we joined neighbours outside in the 8pm #ClapforCarers #ClapforKeyWorkers. The Joker decided to up the noise quotient by bringing out my frying pan and a wooden spoon, and I’m sure that some of our neighbours only remembered because of the enthusiastic vigour that he used. There was some enthusiasm on the street for more pans and spoons next week.

Perhaps the Joker will bring his trombone out, following the example of my excellent nephews who live out in the countryside. They made sure that their #ClapforCarers was heard by playing their bagpipes.

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