WEEKEND (Day 20 Write 31 Days)

The source of today’s prompt is: ‘Plan a weekend adventure to some place you’ve never been before’.

My weekend is already planned, I’m afraid – necessary admin for my Boys’ Brigade Company, taking my aunt to visit her brother in hospital, chauffeuring my husband to the airport for his latest work trip. But the prompt reminded me of this summer when half of our holiday was spent at home so we decided to treat our home and locality as if we were on holiday and go exploring. Husband and I went out for breakfast in a local garden centre, took long walks, and had leisurely pub lunches. But the most memorable exploring we did was a visit to the Sculpture Park, about a 45 minute drive away, near Churt in Surrey.  https://www.thesculpturepark.com/

It’s an amazing place. On the corner of a junction in the proverbial middle of nowhere, there’s a gate in an unremarkable fence. Almost immediately inside, you are confronted by the beautiful, the bizarre, and in some cases, the downright weird.


It’s a collection (all for sale) of modern sculpture: some abstract, some classical, made from a variety of materials, all challenging and prompting a reaction in some way. The collection is constantly changing but during our visit we found a dell with curved iron uprights like the bones of a galley, giant versions of those children’s dinosaur kits that slot together, an enormous hanging wind chime to play, and lifesize rutting stags made entirely from driftwood.

The skill in each piece was immense.

My favourites were probably the driftwood Wyvern on top of a stone temple and the skeletons, which were the first time sculptures have made me laugh.


One thing that was obvious was the care that had gone into placing the sculptures within the natural environment of this parkland. Sculptures hid in the trees waiting to be discovered, stood in the lake in their glory to be admired, followed the line of the stream, peeked from trunks on high – if you didn’t look carefully you’d miss them – and grew up from the ground itself. Art and nature enhanced each other.


The whole effect was stunning. After several hours walking and admiring in equal measure, we had to leave without seeing everything because our heads and eyes were so full.


Thinking about it, perhaps I will find somewhere to explore this weekend after dropping my husband off – maybe I’ll go back to find those sculptures I missed.

(A special thanks to my husband for providing the photos)



NOTICE (Day 19 Write 31 Days)

Working with people dying has sometimes made me question my place in life. Feeling stressed, I wrote this some years ago when a patient of similar age and circumstances to me died – it made me wonder at the time whether I made a difference being in the world and if anyone noticed. Thankfully, since then, time has brought me a confidence and sense of both purpose and perspective.




Hot stove hot words

Understanding extracted with the steam

Can’t you be on my side

See how fragile I’ve become

Would you miss me if I’m gone?


Would there be a bit more mess

Would you buy more ready meals

I wonder do I make a difference

Would you miss me if I’m gone?


Cold hands cold words

Vulnerability hides behind the ice

Can you see the real me

Love the whole of who I am

Would you miss me if I’m gone?


Would the laundry still get done

Who would empty all the bins

Is there more to me than this

Would you miss me if I’m gone?


Warm heart warm smiles

Hopefulness trembles behind my eyes

Perhaps life holds a unique hole

That only I can fill

And you might miss me if I’m gone.


NEIGHBOUR (Day 18 Write 31 Days)

It was my fellow 31 Dayer, E Adams Wright’s post https://asonebeingtaught.wordpress.com/ on the Good Samaritan that prompted my thoughts today.

It’s such a familiar Bible story that it’s easy to take it for granted and assume we know exactly what it means. I’ve heard sermons and read theological explanations on it. I’ve known so many versions of it written to make it more up to date – the Good Punk Rocker, the Good Scout, the Good Arsenal Fan, to name a few.

But today I was struck by the question that sparks the whole story.

An expert, wanting to test Jesus, asks him how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus turns him back to what he knows so well, the Law, to answer his own question. The expert summarises the whole Torah into two commands – love God with every part of you and love your neighbour as yourself. The way to eternal life is love. The answer is all about love.

So what does this man get picky about with the answer that Jesus has got him give to his own question? Does he ask for a definition of love? Does he ask what the difference is between loving with your heart and loving with your soul? Does he ask how much can I love my neighbour if I don’t love myself very much?

No, he picks on: ‘Who is my neighbour?’

Love simply doesn’t come into it.

Maybe this expert understands the Shema (the first part of his answer, the basics of Jewish belief) so well he needs no further explanation. Or perhaps he’s trying to avoid the whole issue of what loving God and your neighbour means altogether. Interestingly, Jesus’ reply (in the form of the parable) not only answers the question ‘Who is my neighbour?’ but it also answers the question not asked: ‘How do I love God and my neighbour?’ The answer to ‘Who is my neighbour?’ is ‘Who acts like a neighbour?’

I know how easy it is to become focussed on insignificant details and lose sight of the big picture. I can go on holiday and afterwards only tell you about the fight delay, go to church and only comment on the moment the organist got their timing wrong, or read an important email and see only the apostrophe out of place.

So I know that I need reminding not to ask ‘Who should I love?’ but just get on with loving all those people God sends into my life.

Day 17 Write 31 Days STUDY


I’ve just been watching University Challenge. Along with Only Connect, these quiz shows are a Monday night ritual in our house. The programme always starts with the contestants giving their name, place of origin, and subject they are studying (or reading if they are being formal).

So what are you studying?

My dictionary defines ‘to study’ as ‘to devote time and attention to gaining knowledge of a subject, especially by means of books’.

With this in mind, I am currently studying crime of the mid twentieth century, by means of the novels of P D James. Or to put it another way, I’m reading her Adam Dalgliesh stories in chronological order. I could also be said to be studying BBC News and Facebook. And sometimes, too often, I study Jungle Jewels.

Another definition of studying is ‘to look at closely in order to observe or read’.

With this meaning, I can say that I study my patients so that I can offer the best solutions to their problems. I study my family. I study the sky – constellations and cloud formations. I study plants. I study my own personal history and memories. I study words and language, meanings and patterns.

It’s impossible to attempt to write well without studying.

Paul wrote to the Philippians:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

So what are you devoting your time and attention to? What are you looking at and observing? What are you studying?


Day 16 Write 31 Days LITTLE

Have you ever felt little? Not been little, as in short or young, but felt little?

It’s a term we use in our family to describe when we feel a bit overwhelmed or out of our depth, lacking in confidence or strength, a bit poorly or down in the dumps or just in need of a hug. If one of us says we feel little, the other knows it’s not a crisis or a major issue but a moment to offer time and support, probably in a small way – a cup of tea, a simple ‘I love you’, a listening ear for a few minutes.

It’s a lot of meaning for one word, one small word, but it works for us. It works because it’s one of those family words that feels like it belongs only to us, an exclusive codeword that doesn’t need explanation.


We have a family phrase to use in response to someone not feeling so good that also works as a codeword with a depth of meaning. So when one of us says we feel ugly, useless, or little, the straightforward reply comes with the reassurance that we are still loved, still of value, and that there is a bigger perspective than the way we are currently feeling. It’s simply this:

‘But you’re lovely with it.’

Of course, the person who has the best perspective on us is God. He is the one we can always come to when we feel little and his immensity gives us a strong place to hide when we need it. ‘The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.’ (Deuteronomy 33.27).

And He always reminds us that we are so much more than how we feel in a given moment: ‘What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and have crowned him with glory and honour.’ (Psalm 8. 4-5).

So remember, next time you’re feeling little, that you’re lovely with it – God says so.

Day 15 Write 31 Days: MOVE or Brief Encounters (literally!)

This morning, I counted up how many times I have moved accommodation. Because I did a lot of placements as part of my professional training, I knew it would be a large number and, in fact, it was 36 times.

Yep, that’s right, 36 times I have packed and unpacked and packed again. I’ve filled cars with boxes and a bike, carried numerous cases on trains, and got away with being completely over the baggage allowance limit on a plane to Africa thanks to a very kind Frenchman on check in. I have a done a lot of packing. I’m good at it.

But I wasn’t so good at the beginning.

Before my first placement in Ipswich, I had to move out of my student halls of residence in York and return home to London for a weekend. So I had divided my packing into three: things to leave at home, things to take on placement, and things that needed washing first.

Everything went according to plan. My dad drove me and my luggage the two hundred miles home on the Friday. My mum did my laundry on Saturday. Then on Sunday my dad and I took the local train into central London for my connection to Suffolk.

As the train pulled away from the platform at Liverpool Street Station, like a scene from a film, I leaned out of the window waving goodbye to my dad. Until suddenly, a terrible thought hit me:

“Dad! Dad!” I yelled urgently, “I’ve got no knickers!”

I hadn’t packed my freshly washed underwear.

“Don’t worry,” called this middle aged London commuter as he ran to keep up, “I’ll get your mum to post them to you.”

There was nothing else we could do. I turned inside the carriage to find, to my puzzlement, that everyone there was staring at me. Then I realised exactly what I’d said and how everyone had heard it. So I duly announced, just to clarify matters:

“In. My. Suitcase.”

Sure enough, a few days later a brown paper package arrived full of underwear (and I was very grateful to the postman who left it on the doorstep rather than make me wait for the weekend and a trip into town to collect it). I coped in the interim using shower gel as washing powder and a heated towel rail as a dryer every night.

But it taught me to be more relaxed about packing and moving. If I could cope with forgetting underwear, anything else I might forget was minor.


But I can’t watch those old movies with their tearful farewells on a steam misted railway platform without waiting for a heroine, just once, to reply to her beloved’s romantic endearments with:

“But I’ve forgotten my knickers”!


Day 14 Write 31 Days/Five Minute Friday: MAIL

I fell in love with someone by post. Having met only few days before I returned to university 200 miles away and having no phone in my student house, letters were our only option. There was the excitement of hearing an envelope fall through the letterbox, the tingling anticipation to savour as I tried to delay opening it, and the perfect happiness of the first reading. But this was always followed by a disappointment of there not being more pages and a drop in spirits at the knowledge of a whole week to wait for the next, although the prospect of re-readings offered some comfort.

And his letters were lovely – a perfect combination of chatty news and romance. No wonder I fell in love.

At that time, I wrote and relied on letters a lot – mostly with my mum and my beloved Auntie Rene, who was somewhere between and something more than a best friend combined with a substitute grandmother. An occasional few lines from my dad were a treat. A friend at a different university and I used to commandeer friends to write groups letters to each other, even though no one but the two of us had ever met.

Over the years there have been notes left in children’s lunchboxes to boost their confidence, postcards sent to them at camp (always a competition for who received most in one week), and messages hidden in suitcases for when my man went away on business.

But I write few letters these days. With my own sons away, we rely on Facebook messages, mobile phones, and Skype to keep in touch. Once in a while I type them a long email, in an echo of the letters my mother wrote to me. But there can be similar precious moments of messages that can be re-read in a more modern form. Even this morning, I got a beautiful unexpected and long text from my eldest, thanking us for the support we’ve given him in finding a job. It’s the thought and the intention that matters, not the method of communication.

And as for the letter writer I fell in love with all those years, what happened to him? Well, dear Reader, I married him!


(Just a little bonus, which was serendipitously playing on the radio this morning as I drove to work)



AWARE (Day 13 Write 31 Days)

When we visited our younger son at university the other week for the first time, I saw a familiar sight: words on the back of his hand scrawled in biro. He’s used this method of reminding himself to do something all through senior school and 6th Form College.

The instruction from 40 Days of Tiny Adventures with God (https://charissasteyn.com/) for today – ‘write “Jesus” on your hand to help you be aware of His presence’ – brought my boy’s habit immediately to mind. But, contrary as I am, it also brought to mind Isaiah 49.16, where God says to Jerusalem:

‘See, I have written your name on the palms of My hands.’

I think this applies to us too.

But I think God has us written in something much more permanent than my son’s biro, that can be washed off once the homework is completed or the task done. Some translations use ‘inscribed’ or ‘engraved’; I suppose the modern equivalent would be tattooed.

After our cousin’s son died traumatically in his 20s, she had a tattoo of a heart with his name and dates of birth and death so that everyone would know that, although he was gone, he was still her son and always in her heart. What a thought, that God might have our names tattooed where He can always see them, a reminder (not that He needs it) that we are His beloved children and always in His heart!

So I might write ‘Jesus’ on my hand today to help me be more aware of Him (and see if I get any interesting questions about it) but I will also remember that my name is written on His and that he never forgets me.


THANKS (Day 11 Write 31 Days)

We had a family saying, a somewhat tart retort, if someone complained about pain in part of their body: ‘Well, be thankful you’ve got a [leg/stomach/etc.]!’

It wasn’t a very sympathetic response and, in it’s defence, it was usually made when patience with the patient was being stretched to its limit or if the complainee was felt to be ‘putting it on a bit’.

But as the prompt for Day 11 is ‘Thanks’ and I’m late posting this because of a threatened migraine last night, I’m going with that response: I’m thankful for my head (even it sent me to bed for the evening) and this morning I’m thankful for my throat, even though it’s sore. Perhaps it’s a hint to stop talking so much!

Sorry it’s such a short post but I’m determined to keep going with Write 31 Days challenge – normal service will be resumed when said head and throat are behaving themselves better.