Sunday, January 27, 2013

Big Garden Birdwatch 2013

This weekend (Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 January) thousands of people around the UK took part in the world's biggest wildlife survey - the Big Garden Birdwatch organised by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).
I have participated for the last three years or so and it is always great fun.
Our garden is suburban and small, but we are only a mile or two from open fields, so we sometimes get unusual visitors.

Apart from the usual suspects, the sparrows, the starlings, the jackdaws and the wood pigeons, this year our little flock of goldfinches had shrunk to only four. I only spotted one blue tit, but it was the first time I saw a great tit in our garden.
Last year we had no robin, but this year there were two (unusual, as they tend to be very territorial).
I also spotted a female chaffinch (see picture above), a song thrush, two blackbirds and a collared dove.
And - more unusually - a pair of black caps and four field fares. I expect they were drawn to our suburban garden by the harsh conditions and snow we have been having lately. They love the berries from our Cotoneaster bush.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Icy patches

Being a keen runner, running has always been a great analogy for my faith journey. It teaches so much about endurance and perseverance, about pushing on and not giving up.

The apostle Paul spoke about "running a good race" and "obtaining the prize", but I wonder how much he knew about running on snow and ice?

Today much of the snow had melted and frozen over again, making the paths and pavements treacherous in parts.
I decided to drive to the nearby woods in the hope that the paths may be less well trodden there. Much of the paths were compacted snow, which was fairly easy to run on. But then there were parts of deep snow, stretches of ice and the occasional patch of bare tarmac.

It took much care and concentration to run in those conditions. Depending on the condition of the ground I had to constantly adjust my speed and my stride.

It got me thinking that my faith journey is really like that. Just as I was able to adjust to the road conditions, I should be more sensitive and adjust to my home situation when it comes to moving on in my faith journey. Sometimes I can run steadily, sometimes even sprint at great speed. But at other times I have to slow right down, perhaps even stop or find a different route altogether. Sometimes I am at risk of slipping and falling.

So it seems not so much about winning the race, but to persevere in it; to reach the goal, no matter how hard it seems.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1) 

I don't know about winning the race, but I am hoping to finish it and obtain the prize. One day I want to be able to say "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
(2 Timothy 4:7)

So far I am slip-sliding along quite nicely ...

Keep calm

Try the keepcalm-o-matic yourself.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


One in eight people on our planet are malnourished. More than 2 million children die each year from chronic malnutrition. Yet we produce enough food to feed everyone. This just isn’t right.

This year, all eyes are on the UK to lead in the fight against extreme poverty. With world leaders meeting here in just a few months, we have an enormous opportunity to turn the tables on hunger, and help millions of people lift themselves out of poverty.


ONE has joined together with over 80 other organisations to launch ‘Enough Food For Everyone IF’ - the biggest campaign from NGOs, charities and others since 2005.

Sign the petition here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Running in the snow

After a rest from running I have recently managed to reach the 5K distance again. And even better - at a pace of around or above 10 kph.

So proud was I of my achievement, that in a moment of enthusiasm I put my name down for the Wrap Up and Run, a 10K charity run in aid of AgeUK  ... and I have 6 weeks to double my distance to get ready for it!

So, unperturbed by the recent snow and ice, I set off on Sunday morning for a 50 minute run. I worried that the ground was too icy, but luckily it started snowing again and the fresh snow covered any icy patches and made the ground perfect for running.

I covered 8.5K in 51 minutes, so the 10K seems suddenly attainable.
I also realised that as long as I have firm ground underfoot, I am quite good at keeping going. Tenacity is my middle name!

For anybody interested, Actionaid have some good advice on training for a race/run, including training schedules.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Robin's message

So you think winter is bleak
and void of colour?

Look again 
and find me.

Here I am!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Leaving home

She is sitting at the kitchen table, absent-mindedly stirring her coffee. It is still dark outside and the house is quiet – at least another hour before anybody else is going to stir.

Weekend. Today is the day she has been preparing for for so long – and yet she feels entirely unprepared. Unprepared and filled with a certain amount of dread.

Today her daughter will be leaving for university. Her baby!
Suddenly the last 18 years seem to have evaporated into nothing.

She remembers times when life seemed to drag on, when she felt overwhelmed with the amount of work and responsibility and stress of parenting. Times when she secretly hoped that this time might end, her children leave home and she “get her life back”.
How foolish of her! What life had she wanted back, exactly?
Suddenly she is flooded with the clarity and understanding that this has been her life. Her family, her husband, her children ARE her life!

She remembers the day her daughter was born. Holding her in her arms for the first time. The difficult and stressful period for both of them, trying to get the hang of this breast-feeding thing – and then never looking back and enjoying the closeness and the bond of the nursing for the next year.
She remembers leaving her at the school on her first school day, and crying when she got home. As if deep down she knew that this was the first glimpse of the pain a mother feels when she lets her children go …
She remembers picnics in the park and holidays at the seaside.
She remembers the first bicycle and the tears and bruised knees that came with it.
She remembers sleepless nights and caring for her sick child.
She remembers cuddles on the sofa and songs in the garden.
She remembers arguments over homework and household chores.

She remembers … and she realises that they have been on a journey all along, and that this is only another step on this journey.

She looks into the darkened sitting room and her eye catches the sight of the packed bags and filled boxes. Not long now …

She hopes that despite the distance and the new life her daughter will be making for herself, they will still be friends and continue to share their lives as they unfold.
She hopes and prays that they have taught their daughter well, and that their teaching and love and protection has prepared for the world out there.
She prays.

The she hears a sound. A door opening and soft footsteps across the upstairs landing.

She gets up from the kitchen table, wipes her eyes and turn to put the kettle on.
Today is the day she has been preparing for for so long ...