Despite my desire to become Alys Fowler (including the Pre-Raphaelite hair), things in the Vicarage garden didn’t go brilliantly last summer. I planted out, but didn’t really give things the attention they needed. I was too busy fire-fighting the clutter in the house.
But this year I’m hoping for more success. I now have a cleaner, who comes every couple of weeks to help me to conquer the house. I have a schedule, which means I am strangely (to me) doing a little more housework than I used to. So there may now be some time to water and weed.
And to start us off, last week we had the gardening team from Betel in to clear the beds and get us on the road to a manageable and (hopefully) edible garden this year. The team comprised four men – one was Gav Burnage, Associate minister from Aldridge Parish Church, who is living and working full time at Betel. The other guys were members of the Betel community in Birmingham, learning to live and work free from substance abuse.
God was kind to us, and the sun shone. The Vicar and Rocky joined the Betel team. I skived off the digging, but supplied regular tea and cake. They sorted out our main beds, nuked some brambles and the evil blue weeds and left everything looking tidy and ready for planting. Now we just have to keep up the weed-free look with regular forays in our wellies. The money we paid for the work helps to pay for Betel’s accommodation and keeps this amazing organisation going. If you live in the Birmingham area and need a garden blitz, why not see if they can help you out?
The Vicar with the Betel team. Note the tidy flower bed (and still-absent coping stones).
So it seems we all love our mince pies and some of us really go to town and drink champers at our festive services. If we’ve not had to cancel them because of all the snow and ice. Sigh. Actually, we’ve had a very encouraging time here with our festive services. And are hoping that the most recent dump of snow followed by freezing conditions won’t dampen the enthusiasm of parishioners for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.
I hope this shows the main results okay for you – I’m trying a new way of displaying them which involves far less typing. As always, the ‘other’ category gave some fun and interesting answers. I think some of these answers locate the church – I’m guessing that the samosas aren’t on offer in a rural parish…
Sloe gin, apple juice, nuts, crisps etc
Fresh baked cookies
Yule log – we’re BIG fans!!
A single sad ‘other’ answer was that no refreshments were being served. I just hope that this was only because the respondent was thinking about the Midnight Communion service. Christmas is such a great time for God’s people to show expansive hospitality that I shudder when I think of churches who might not be taking up that opportunity.
This Thursday evening we are hosting the staff and governors of our church school here at the Vicarage for ‘mulled wine and mince pies’. That’s what our invite said, anyway. But as many of the staff have to drive home, we will also be serving a wonderful non-alcoholic alternative, given to me by another Vicar’s-wife-in-training, when the Vicar was at theological college. Her original name for it was spiced cider, but that is not very helpful, as it really is non-alcoholic, so I’ve renamed it Spiced Cranapple. It is mulled winey in flavour and not too sweet, as some non-alcoholic punches can be. Serve it at your carol service or at the Vicarage and enjoy!
Enjoy the warmth
1l cranberry juice
1l apple juice
250ml (1 cup) orange juice
3-4 cinnamon sticks
2 tbspns sugar
1 orange, halved and sliced into rounds
Combine all the ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow spices to infuse. Can also bring to boil and transfer straight to thermos pots and leave to infuse that way for church events (and keep leftovers warm for Vicarage use the rest of the week…mmmmm).
Anyway. Best get on with the pastry now. Not sure how many mince pies I’ll need for Thursday but I definitely need to start making them today.
It’s been another busy week at the Vicarage. Not only do we have Polly and the baby still in residence, but we’ve had Voice staying as well. Voice loves to lead singing in church and is on a week’s work experience with another local church. We are just providing accommodation for Voice as she’s spending most of her time with the other church, singing in services and meetings and helping out with their activities.
Voice is only fifteen, so it’s been interesting having her stay. We’ve been trying to get her to give us the inside track on being a teenager so we are better prepared to handle our gang when they hit those challenging years. Her capacity for sleep is enormous, even to the extent of being completely comotose through our jet-engine sounding shower pump going.
Gone has called at our front door three times in the last week, drunk, homeless and very sad. This morning I gave him a cup of coffee and a sandwich as he sat on the front step, waiting to speak to the Vicar. As he added more Frosty Jack to his coffee, he became more restless and abusive.
I was trying to find out about local hostels for him when he finally left. He couldn’t wait for the Vicar. The booze had made him too jittery. One minute he was weeping and admitting the mess he’s in, the next he was swearing and threatening to throw lighted paraffin over the front door.
I didn’t feel in any danger, though. As spoke to him softly, I could see the self-loathing in his eyes. And the Vicar and his elders were meeting in the study.
He probably won’t find a hostel place, though, cos he’s on the booze. He told me that he’s thinking about doing something to get himself locked up. At least in prison you are fed and given a warm bed. He’s 51, and has been told that he’ll die soon, given the state of his liver. He keeps warm by begging for a day saver ticket and then spending all day on the bus. That way he can cope with being out all night.
He needs too much help to stay with us. I can only pray and feed him sandwiches and gentle answers.
I love the strong, sweet and spiced Indian drink known as masala chai – spiced tea. Usually I go round to my friend Starstudent’s. She makes great masala chai. I normally visit her and have two mugfuls of the delicious drink. I always visit in the morning.
Delicious but not for insomniacs
You make masala chai by boiling your water in a pan with the teabags and some spices – cardamom, cinnamon and others according to your family tradition eg fennel, ginger, cloves. You boil it for a good while and then add a good helping of milk, sugar to taste and boil for a little longer. Then you strain and serve.
When we visited our friends the Kanns last night I drank two mugfuls, just as usual. Very tasty. But also very high in caffeine (because the teabags are so well boiled I guess).
So I was watching the ceiling at 2.30am. Grrr.
What was really annoying was that I’d done this before. When we lived in Singapore, the church we attended was a Tamil congregation and they served masala chai after the evening service. I had to limit myself to a single cup and couldn’t drink the coffee at all, or I couldn’t sleep. Wish I’d remembered that before I tanked myself up on the caffeine last night.