Thoughts from the Manse 4th August

The weather has been so mixed recently it can be a struggle to know what to wear.  One minute we are seeking minimum layers and the shade and the next it seems we are looking out winter woollies and contemplating putting the heating on.  We have our heating set on a constant low temperature and in June there were a few mornings when we found the radiator in the bathroom was on, and I have to admit there were a couple of days when, sat in my study, I was longing for the heat of the radiator, but instead I added another layer of clothing and even a blanket across my knees one day.  We all know it is climate change which is messing with the normality of our seasons and the scientists have reiterated that this is not only a future event, but a here and now occurrence.  We only have to watch the news to see the effects around the world.  We really do need to make changes.

Fortunately, the garden is coping better than we are, with care and nurture from Norman.  We have already had a good crop of courgettes, the spherical variety this year, a good crop of cucumbers, and even the yellow raspberries are fruiting, although the red ones should have come first.

The beetroot and the beans are also bearing fruit. This year we have managed to get some flowers in the flower beds and so we can sit and gaze at their colourful heads nodding in the breeze.  Last year I bought two hydrangea plants, which are in pots, and both have flowered, and our Heucheras are also flowering.

I love sitting and watching the bees visiting the flowers, they have loved the lavender and the sage, and now our cornflowers and antirrhinums are offering food also.  We all know we need to care for the insect life in our gardens so ensure the balance of the ecosystem is maintained, and it is an added bonus when we get to share the beauty of flowers and fruits.  Norman is busy trying to create a space for wildflowers next year, but it is heavy going with the clay soil and of course the hidden rocks, but progress is being made.  Meanwhile I get to take my camera out and create photographic memories for the colder days.

Read more Thoughts from the Manse on the archive page

Summer adventures without leaving home.

Missing your road trips?  Not sure about going away this summer.  Why not make some virtual road trips.  There are lots of things you can visit around the world, from the comfort of your armchair.

Perhaps you could explore the cuisine of the place you visit by trying out some recipes, there are thousands online.  Be creative and make you own postcard from where you visit, or start a scrapbook of places you visit this summer, with pictures, recipes and thoughts about what you see.  You could even visit with friends by all exploring the same place and then meeting up, either on zoom or in a garden and sharing notes, and maybe food.

Not being able to safely travel does not mean you cannot explore new places.

Why not visit the Road Trip from Home website for some interesting ideas?

Thoughts from the Manse 3rd June

Life has been quite hectic recently and I am looking forward to a break next week when we will visit family in Scotland.  Going away for a few days is wonderful as you can leave behind the pressures, although getting ready to go is a pressure in itself. 

There are so many to do lists, getting everything prepared workwise, which usually means having prepared worship in advance for when I return, deciding what clothes to take, which means covering all bases when you are heading to Scotland, and then there are the decisions over which leisure activities to take. I always end up taking too much, and usually too many clothes, and my other half is so used to this that he has stopped commenting. 

My camera must go, so too some relaxing books to read, at least three just in case the weather is really bad.  My crochet bag goes as well with at least one, and often two, projects lined up, maybe a DVD or two that I have not yet got around to watching, there are plenty on the shelf from which to choose, and then there are the puzzles. 

I relax doing Japanese logic puzzles of many different kinds.  Years ago, logic puzzles came in one variety, the clues and grid form where you cross referenced clues and hints to solve the mystery, you can still buy books of these puzzles, but the advent of Sudoku changed the landscape.  I can remember the excitement with which a friend introduced me to Sudoku, a simple puzzle based on logic using the number 1-9 in a way that avoided repeating a number in any column, row, or cluster of nine squares. 

Now I love numbers, I think I blame my dad who used to try and teach me Calculus, and succeeded in teaching me to draw three dimensional shapes.  I still occasionally draw a cube with a crossed v cut through to check I can still do it.  At school my favourite subject was Maths, although calculus was still a mystery, so it was not only Dad that struggled to open my eyes to its mysteries.  Years later when I studied Maths with the Open University the light bulb came on and calculus was so easy I wondered why I had not understood it before.  I have always loved quadratic equations and I remember once using them to work out how many adult and child tickets we had sold for out Youth Fellowship panto!


Anyway, having been introduced to Sudoku, I was hooked and since then many new forms of number and logic-based puzzles have arrived.  I log in to a website dedicated to Japanese logic puzzles - where you can find eighteen different forms of puzzles.  Every week there is one from each form available to play free, I go through my favourites in a more or less regular order, and as they are timed I also aim to do them as fast as possible. 

Whilst the pure number puzzles are good, my favourites are the ones which build a picture by using numbers in a certain way, some come as a grid with numbers inside and use symmetry or rules to connect the numbers, whilst others come as a grid with numbers beside rows and at the top of columns that indicate how many squares within the row/column are to be filled, according to the rules of the specific puzzle. So, puzzles are an almost daily exercise and I will take some paper copies with me as well as the means to access the website.

I do like some days out, but I have discovered that planning every day as a day out is not relaxing for me, so these are activities fill the gaps, and those days when the weather is encouraging a day at base.   

I wonder what you take away with you and how you decide.  Perhaps you like beach holidays so plenty of books may be essential, or maybe you are a visiting places person and so a camera and guidebook are your essentials.  Maybe like me you like a combination of days out and days in, and maybe your bag is as full as mine.  I like to think I will do some art whilst I am away, but rarely does it happen and so I have decided to lighten the load by not packing my paintbox and pad these days. 

That is a big step for me, and I have no doubt I will be encouraged to make more such decisions but one step at time is enough.  Holidays, whether home or away, are about relaxing and I need the things that help me relax.

Read more Thoughts from the Manse on the archive page

Helping ourselves during the pandemic

The current pandemic is a trauma to communities, the nation, the world. It’s not a shock-event like a fire or a terrorist attack, but slowly there has built, and is still worsening, a crisis that shatters people’s assumptions that the world is generally safe and reliable, and that all that we have worked for in businesses, churches and communities will be fruitful.

The loss of those assumptions, the breaking of connections between people, and the overwhelming of people’s ordinary resources – all of these are characteristic of trauma.

During trauma we feel all sorts of emotions and strange symptoms as our bodies react to the fact that they are not safe.  Our emotions will be all over the place in surprising ways. Concentration may be difficult, it is normal to be up, down, energetic, exhausted, afraid. Don’t worry about it try and maintain a positive approach that will help reassure yourself and those around you.

Practise a mindset shift, looking at things differently will make you feel better.

Mindset table


Need help in Luton – useful numbers

helpful numbers in Luton

Pandemic a different view

for a different take on self isolation read Lynn Ungar's poem Pandemic

read here

meeting of bugs

Golden rules for caring and sharing

In this time of crisis and uncertainty Bishop Alan of St Albans offers some timely reflection in the form of four golden rules.

Golden Rule One. Each one of us can think about how we can protect and support our neighbours. So much of the public rhetoric is sowing fear about the danger of other people. So, taking all the  official precautions,  offer help and reassurance to others – and don’t demonise anyone or any group.

Golden Rule Two: Think about who may be suffering more than me. For those of us who are healthy there is much less to worry about but the elderly, the housebound and those with chronic health conditions may be very anxious. How about each church undertaking an audit of all the vulnerable people they know and sharing out the responsibility to phone them each day. There’s nothing like a friendly voice to offer solace when someone is worried. A smile can bring cheer, even on the phone. If you visit, follow all the official precautions or don’t go.

Golder Rule Three. Don’t give into panic and start hoarding food. There is plenty to go around, so practise the Christian discipline of sharing. Ask your neighbours what they need and do you best to help them get it. If you are self-isolating you will of course need some supplies.

Golden Rule Four. Live today to the full. None of us ever know what the future holds. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6. 25 – 34), Jesus challenged his followers to live each day fully and not be afraid. Every time we are tempted to give in to fear we need to make a conscious choice to respond in trust and openness.

And, along with just over half the adults in the UK, don’t forget to pray. Here’s a suggestion from the Revd Louise Collins, a Team Vicar in Borehamwood, Herts:

Dear God our Shield and our Defender, guide and protect my neighbour in this time of health emergency; deliver them from all harm and may your love and care ever grow in this place. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.

Covid 19

Due to the current situation the churches within the Luton and Dunstable Cluster of the United Reformed Church have suspended Sunday worshipping together and all activities. Edward Street URC and St Katherine of Genoa URC/Anglican in Dunstable will be open for private prayer on Sunday morning for one hour at the moment. Edward Street 10.30 -11.30am and St Katherine 10.45 - 11.45am.

Although we are not meeting to worship together we are still praying together and continue to support one another through other forms of communication. We are very conscious of the many within our communities who are very worried about illness, security of employment and the isolation from other people, our prayers are with you all. We will be posting a worship service, prayers and other resources to help those with concerns to share with God, the source of all being.