MARRYING JAMES McCOY

MARRYING JAMES McCOY

I’ve been experiencing difficulties with my sewing machine (Janome Decor, bought no more than three years ago. Its needle kept falling out in mid seam, and in addition I found it very difficult and time consuming to rethread. I had it serviced at a cost of £50 and for a time it had worked, but now it was back to its old tricks.

I explained the problem to John who responded, Let’s go this morning to John Lewis and buy another one. (This is one of the reasons I married him. He’s generous and decisive.. He doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet. He was just as positive and decisive about me; asked me to marry him on our first date. We were married on the 8th day after he was granted his divorce; you had to wait a statutory 7 days. I told this story to my children and said I had never regretted it, but I could not really recommend it as a course of action!)

Anyway, while I was getting ready he did a bit of research and we decided that we’d probably get a Brother, a Japanese model. I had had a knitting machine of this make which had been entirely satisfactory. A saleslady approached us to offer help whenever we began looking at the machines. I explained about my difficulties and she produced a model that the manufacturer recommended for persons with limited manual dexterity, that was suitable for children over 8 years old, and that was very easy to thread. The lady had said that she herself owned this machine and so I asked her, Was this true? Oh yes, she answered confidently enough, though adding after a short pause – a trifle ominously I thought, – ‘Once you get the hang of it’.

We took it home and John set it up for me. I sat down with the manual – a vast tome. I filled the bobbin and fitted the bobbin thread with ease. You just appear to plop it into the space for it and abandon it. Somehow it manages to link up with the top thread all by itself. I then proceeded to attempt the top threading but here I drew a blank. However I fiddled with it, it didn’t work. I spent two hours painstakingly reading and re-reading the instructions but no joy. I could of course have abandoned the attempt and threaded the needle manually but I resisted this. I was on the point of ringing my friend Alison (she can fix anything) and begging for her help, when I idly turned the page and found the headline saying ‘For Machines which Do Not have the Threading Adaption.’ The diagram at last made sense, and I had the machine threaded in about half a minute. Although I would have bought the ‘adaption’ had I been offered it, the machine does seem to be very quick and easy to thread even without it.

So I started sewing. So far I have made a decidedly hodge-podge affair of pieces of random fabric sewn together and backed and edged with black cotton to make a blackout blind for the young children’s bedroom; a pair of double thickness aprons with their initials for Elisabeth’s boys; part of a pyjama set for Elisabeth, with lace; a patchwork cushion-cover for Elisabeth in colours that she likes. In the pipeline ready to be completed, is a cream cotton dress made from a duvet cover, with dark red butterflies which just happens to go with a jacket I have; a dressing-gown and pyjamas made in white cotton lawn with added white embroidery from an old tablecloth; an alteration to a pair of pyjamas I have already made where the top is too long and the pants too narrow (who ate all the pies?) I also intend to make a Harris tweed waistcoat for John to wear with his kilt, and some loose comfortable trousers and tops in cotton prints for myself for summer.

My previous machine, complete with all its tools and its instruction book is boxed up for Glasgow where I hope in a house with three daughters, at least one of them might be interested to learn to sew.

My mother used to sing a song about a young woman who sewed all day, the chorus of which went, If I didn’t have my sewing machine, I’d have married James McCoy. No chance of that in my case: John was too quick for him!

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IS IT TREASON?

The case against Gavin Williamson, is interesting. It is alleged that he leaked information on the subjects discussed at a meeting of the National Security Council to a Telegraph journalist; and as a result Theresa May has sacked him. I am reminded of the Cat’s speech in Tale of a Mouse in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:

“I’ll be Judge, I’ll be Jury.”

Said cunning old Fury.

“I’ll try the whole lot,

and condemn them

to Death!”

Gavin Williamson swore, on the lives of his children, that he was innocent of the charges. He did admit (there was a record of his call so he could scarcely deny it) that he had spoken to the journalist immediately after the break up of the meeting. It is possible that he did not leak, but a man of any sense would not have taken the call. Clearly, Williamson is not at core a sensible man I had at first some sympathy for him, stripped of his robes of office, his enhanced income, his power – all in a single afternoon, with no reference to supportive evidence that might endorse his protests; but his face, in my opinion, is a witness for the prosecution and in no sense supports the case for the defence.

Labour’s Tom Watson, an opponent both devious and dangerous urges a police enquiry, but this is fraught with danger for Williamson. If the result went against him, he could face criminal charges, possibly including treason, a crime which the populace despises especially when it is against the country itself.

I was appalled to hear him swear his innocence ‘on the lives of his children’. (Though I did hear some cynic wondering if he had any). We tend sometimes to assume that the swearing of an oath is a trivial matter, but it is not. When I served on a jury, I secretly objected to being made to take an oath, for since I had every intention of behaving with integrity as best I was able it seemed to me to cast aspersions on my honesty. I chose to swear ‘by Almighty God’ and I have to say it made me think carefully before I applied my persuasions to my fellow jurors. To swear an oath on the lives of your children is a terrible oath and one wonders what his children felt about this, or their mother. He has sustained great losses already, but there may be longer term damage yet to come.

I recall feeling much the same chill when I heard the distasteful Jonathan Aitken saying he was taking up the sword of truth to fight injustice and one knew that he was lying. He had also induced his daughter to commit perjury on his behalf. I remember thinking, this will end badly for you, and indeed it did. Anyone taking up ‘the sword of truth’ should be sure he is fit to wield it, otherwise it will turn on him and destroy him.

Did Williamson simply choose a headline grabbing phrase because he doesn’t believe a word about the binding nature of an oath? Is he desperate to realise his ambitions while he thinks he can? Even if he were innocent of the charge, it would be almost impossible to prove, so does he think the extreme nature of his protestations will make them more believable?

Which would one rather be mistaken for – a traitor, a fool or a liar?

Meanwhile, we should perhaps add Gavin Williamson’s children to the body of people we all pray for. I am sure they will be fine. God is not partial.

COFFEE COMPANIONS

COFFEE COMPANIONS

I’ve been reflecting recently on the kindness of my friends.

John had expressed anxiety about the length of time I sometimes spent alone when he was playing golf and was beginning to doubt whether he should go. I was quite horrified about this. I think it is very important that he continues to go. He really enjoys golf. It’s good exercise. He gets to stride out and not toddle along at my snail’s pace! He enjoys the masculine company (and occasionally some ladies.) He gets to spend time in a circle that is exclusively his own and nothing to do with me.

I manage quite well on these days. Usually my children telephone me for a chat. I have an emergency button should I require it. I have plenty of things I like doing. But I suggested to John that I set up an arrangement among my girlfriends that someone will come and have a coffee wIth me on these days. He agreed he would feel more comfortable if I had some company.

So now we have a group of 30 ladies who come and have coffee with me. I was gratified by the prompt and positive response to my request. Only two ladies declined and both had good reason and hope to join us later.

I send out a list of dates and people ‘offer’ for them as suits them. Often the dates are quite far in advance but if they find nearer the time that they have other demands on their time it is quite simple to find someone else who is available. I find it really enjoyable to see my friends one-to-one (although sometimes they elect to come in pairs and that is fun too.) It is good to have a quiet uninterrupted conversation, catch up with their news, enjoy their company. It keeps me in touch with everybody and I really enjoy seeing them all. I appreciate people’s generosity in giving up their time; in their encouragement of me; how they ask if they can do any small thing while with me; how they make me laugh and support me.

Surrounded as we are by the horrors of terrorism and cruelty, we have to make an effort to hold on to the fact that although there are dreadful things happening in the world, by far the majority of people are kind at heart and wish to do good things. Unfortunately, acts of kindness and generosity do not make very interesting headlines!

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

I’ve been reading a book called Parting Shots, edited by Matthew Parris, which is a collection of valedictory reports by ambassadors leaving their final posting and therefore approaching the end of their careers and free to say whatever they liked – which they certainly did. These reports were meant to be of very restricted distribution; but they were wormed out of the shadowy system by a cunning and knowledgeable journalist under the Freedom of Information rules. The government has had the last laugh however; it has since banned the writing of these reports.

They are often very stylishly written and well constructed. Some are amusing; some are insightful, and some are horrifying in their prejudices.

I’ve always regarded the Foreign Office with deep suspicion, wondering if it pursues its own direction ignoring the government (which from its point of view must just be a temporary inconvenience) and questioning if it represents modern Britain at all.

We went to dinner once with a Foreign Office couple on their ‘at home’ assignment. Their children, aged 11 and 13, were made to sit on the stairs and come in when our hostess rang a bell and clear the table (in correct formal mode). We were not at all comfortable with this arrangement and helped the children by stacking the dishes, and talked to them about their holidays. Their parents were quite resentful of this demonstration of disapproval, and asked us to desist, saying it was part of their education. (We did not desist).

I do however recommend the book!

THE TIMES WE LIVE IN

THE TIMES WE LIVE IN

I haven’t written much about Brexit recently. There’s a limit to how often you can say something is a shambolic mess and it still remain interesting. It is one thing to suggest that our political system is in urgent need of drastic overhaul. It’s quite another to watch in embarrassed shame as our differences are played out before all the world in a display of bad behaviour and selfish indifference to the interests of the citizens of the British Isles that quite takes your breath away.

It is as if parliament was in a boat sailing down a great, uncharted river. The roar of an enormous waterfall can be heard coming ominously closer. But the sailors are paying no attention. They are too busy arguing about who should sit where in the boat.

And it’s not as if you can identify even one party as having behaved acceptably. The Tories treatment of Theresa May has been disgraceful, but she has been arrogant in her assumption that her way was best, and she has not shared her thoughts with her colleagues (or with us for that matter.) I’ve been a great advocate of the adage, Cometh the hour, cometh the man. But the hour is definitely upon us and the man has not appeared. The very fact that the Tories allow Michael Gove’s name to appear on the list of likely candidates for being the next Prime Minister shows the poverty of leaders in their ranks.

Labour refuses to cooperate over anything in the hope that it can bring about a general election from which it appears to think it might emerge victorious. I am not so sure. We are not as stupid as they seem to think.

There’s no health in the smaller parties either. Even I become irritated with the SNP who seem to forget that they are a British party as well as a Scottish one.

As for the DUP, I’d better not start on them. They are never going to agree on anything. I amuse myself by imagining that we offer Ulster back to Ireland as a present. I’m sure the Irish would be very cooperative with us thereafter.

We’re going to have to march. I don’t see that anything will ever be resolved otherwise. And Parliament had better start paying attention, for that’s the road to revolution.

SURVIVING THE WINTER

On 20th March, just before dawn, (sometime between 5 am and 5.30 am,) I heard the first tentative call of what in a few weeks will become the dawn chorus. I did not recognise the bird. It was only a few phrases, repeated two or three times. No-one else joined in and he lapsed again into silence.

It reminded me of being in New Zealand with John and Rory. We were in North Island on our way to Russell where we were going to stay in a hotel for a few days (we were 5 weeks touring New Zealand and I felt the need of a bath and comfort; the boys were willing enough because it gave them TV access for some critical world cup football games). So we were making our way up the coast and we stopped in rather a disorganised camp site and parked our camper van under a tree. It turned out that this tree was used every morning by the resident tuey, a bird slightly bigger than a blackbird and with a white bib under his chin, who has the most magnificent voice, rather like a clarinet. He would arrive each morning and begin his musical exercises by clearing his throat and then he would begin to go through his notes, slowly and methodically for all the world like an opera singer. After a few minutes of single notes, he would begin to string them together, repeating each phrase several times. Eventually he would feel his performance to be sufficiently good to launch into his full song, which was truly wonderful. We have nothing to compare with it here.

Our local bird’s tentative beginnings in no way compare to the impressive aria delivered by the tuey, but it is a beginning and it filled me with joy. Spring is coming. Have you seen the magnificence of the magnolias this year? And so as my mother used to say (which I thought very amusing at the time but now I understand exactly what she meant): We have survived the winter!

INSOMNIACS ARE US

INSOMNIACS ARE US

One of the suggestions to insomniacs is that they have a mantra which they repeat to themselves to help fall asleep. It’s basically intended to prevent you dwelling on those anxieties which seem like certain fish that rise to the surface of the ocean at night to feed, and circle the poor would be sleeper like sharks, before when the dawn comes, sinking back into the murky deep.

I tried counting backwards from 100 but found this much too boring.

So I thought I would try with a well known text, and I chose The Lord’s Prayer. It’s short, and the wonderful phrases have not been mangled by a translation into modern English (not in the version I‘m going to use anyway.) I breathe slowly in and out with each word.

However I find I have a tendency to lapse into seditious heretical thoughts while pursuing the policy. Let me show you.

OUR FATHER. Odd that God should be described as being exclusively pariarchal, since he representing all, must clearly have encompassed the feminine as well.

WHICH ART IN HEAVEN I’m always keen on a little excursion into grammar. Should this not say, WHO IS in heaven? If God says it, does that make it necessarily into correct grammar​​?

HALLOWED BE THY NAME. I am reminded of the no doubt apocryphal story of the little girl who asked her mother whether God’s name was Jack or Harold? When her mother looked puzzled, the child quoted, Our Father is Jack in heaven; Harold be thy name.

THY KINGDOM COME. THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. It must be slightly tedious being always right and knowing what will happen. On reflection, perhaps Our Father is the best title for God.

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD. Amen to that for myself and everybody.

FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS. This could be a problem for me as I could spend quite a lot of time remembering grievances I may have had about someone from decades back. But in accepting that I am not perfect either and hope to be forgiven, I generally manage to remember some good things about my opponent and wish them well. For a few people however, and despite one’s best efforts, I cannot find a single redeeming feature.

LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION. DELIVER US FROM EVIL. I am sure that God does not do this. I am beginning to wonder if rather than God making man in his image, it is not instead the case that the ancient patriarchs could not compete with the m

I begin to wonder what form The Temptation would take when Big Sister, bossy boots that she is, always knows the answer and annoyingly nearly always does, suddenly wakes up and begins to berate me for my insidious, vengeful heresy. I don’t waste time arguing with her (nobody can withstand her deadly logic) and sadly agree that she might well be right.

Next time, I think, I’ll choose a song. I wonder idly, would I Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog, do​​​?