I'm on holiday with my amazing family in beautiful Wales!
Happy New Year!
Christmas Eve. We are waiting in the Edward Jenner Clinic at 'The Royal', a hospital in Gloucester. Something a little unusual had turned up in a recent blood sample, and I'm here to 'rule out' cancer. "Bring a family member." The letter from the clinic had advised.
It's my back. Doctor Bray had said "Come and see me again if symptoms persist, "and they had, so I did, and here I am: most unexpectedly. Putting a very brave face on it.
"Does the micro-globulin go in a gold-top phial?" My phlebotomist asked her colleague. She searched for her little 'which top,do you use' book " Yes, it does, " she confirmed. My head's in a whirl. "Why micro-globulin?"
"Why doesn't she know?"
You read dreadful things about the National Health Service. But it was amazing over my back. Here I am, just a few days after the doctor ordered the tests, having waited only a few minutes, trying to work out the gold-topped phial thing.
The results would be available to the consultant in a less than an hour. Not too long to wait. "Go and have a coffee!"
Costa Coffee have the franchise, and it's as good as any. Five minutes after being served, the clinic Receptionist fetched me. "Mr Staid will see you now ... " ( Senior doctors in the UK are never called 'doctor'. Funny that.) "Take your coffee."
Mr Staid was relaxed and kind. He made eye contact and he smiled. I knew everything was going to be OK. "About 1 in 25 older people tested have this anomaly. It's slightly- raised immune activity, it's nothing serious. Let's have a closer look at your back."
My back responded magnificently. Just a twinge. No bumps or swelling in the lymph glands. No weight loss, no sleepless nights ... I'm beginning to feel a bit of a fraud.
"Are you claustrophobic?" I'm startled. Does that come with having a bad back? "No ... " (puzzled). "Good." Then I'll order you an MRI scan. It's thirty minutes in a tube."
Wow! I have watched every episode of House and always wanted an MRI Scan. The TVs ones don't seem to last 30 minutes, though. "We'll find out what's going on!"
Cancer, however, has been ruled out. I am enormously relieved. I didn't know how anxious I'd been until it lifted away. I wanted to sing and ... Back permitting ... Do a jig.
What a gift.
Doesn't seem like five minutes since our first storm with a name blew through. It was, I am convinced, named after my granddaughter, Abigail, who frankly, deserves to have a storm named after her, and this is a compliment, as a little further down the alphabet, Storm Mary will breeze in. Thank you, storm namers, I accept the accolade.
I shouldn't be taking this lightly. I doubt I would, had Desmond wreaked the havoc here in the South West, that it did in Cumbria.
Years ago I read reports that the reality of climate change would be extreme events at more frequent intervals. And here we are, Desmond not yet cleaned up after, and Eva whistling in the wings.
Estimates of anywhere between 60 and 200 million refugees from climate change - men women and children forced to leave their homes because of drought or deluge. Where will they go? Will you, or I be among them? It's not beyond the bounds of probability.
In 1988, in London, I was awakened by The Great Storm that flattened forests and raised roofs across much of southern England. I have some enduring memories of that night. Me, checking out the bible, Ray, my husband, eyeing up the insurance policy; the Anglia Windows promotional caravan tipped over onto a Porche; frightened dogs cowering under cars; extortionate prices charged by unscrupulous builders for emergency repairs. Above all, I remember the outbreak of neighbourliness as communities pulled together to help those who suffered most.
We're going to need a whole lot more of good- neighbourliness with that many people to take care of.
I have offended you. I'm sorry, but if you're willing to sit with it for a while, the stuff you disagree with, it's far more likely to teach you something than the stuff you don't. If you open yourself to it.
On contemplative prayer. It's my turn to lead at the next meeting of the group I belong to that meets monthly at Llansor Mill away over the border in South Wales. It's a bit scary, because at least two of the group, on any given day, are theologians, which I definitely am not. So, we're doing St Teresa of Avila, who lived a long time ago and set about reforming a church that had become worldly and corrupt.
I discovered I couldn't get my head round her, or her teaching, and was beginning to get a bit desperate, when I had an epiphany! It was my heart that needed to get round her, so I stopped trying to be clever, and wrote poems instead.
Here's my reflection for Day Seven of the collection of her sayings, "Let Nothing Disturb You":
Mantra: "Do not be bashful with God"
Summary: Would you refuse a gift if the queen offered it to you?
Reflection on the text: I had a conversation with God many years ago. I was trying to sort out some difficulty believing that God need not concern himself with it. I don't remember much of the detail, but that I was holding on to some misdemeanour, believing that it was unforgivable.
"Was not my Son's death price enough to pay?"
I realised then that it was not humility that led me to refuse God's gift of forgiveness, but the very worse kind of pride.
Ask with confidence. Don't be shy.
Is a powerful, enlightened soul,
She streams into my life with light
And joy of being. She makes me
Be better than I am,
And she is four years old.
She is as she is, because she never
Needed to fear me
Or please me
She needed, only, to know this:
I love her.
And so it is with God,
I sweep into his presence as if he belonged to me.
He taught me with his love.
Not to be shy.
Night Prayer: May I approach you every day Lord, with confidence and joy.