What came first- the chickens or the blog?

And then there were two

As 2014 draws to an end I am sorry to tell you that the short but happy life of Colonel Saunders, one of the here remaining Gillybirds has come to an end.
She was looking very low over Christmas, spending much of the day sleeping with her wee head tucked in, showing little interest in tasty Christmas leftovers whilst the other two were chortling and clucking in a very festive manner over the roast potatoes, sprouts and strawberry tops on offer.
A big appreciative thank you to Gillyboy number 1 who has had to deal with the consequences of a deceased hen as I have been away.
Colonel Saunders has always been the bottom of the pecking order, the outsider, the observer, yet the hen who would chat quietly to me while I would clean out the coop. She was always last out of the coop in the mornings, descending the coop ladder with cautious, tentative steps and not much grace and often a great flapping of wings to welcome a new dawn.
She has had her ups and down health wise over the two and a half years of her productive existence. She had a passion for yoghurt and raisins, but never had a taste for mealworms (the chocolate of the hen community)
I know she was only a brown hen, but she made a contribution to our family, she was our pet, our little feathered friend.
Colonel Saunders, we will miss your tiny comb, your quiet put puts in conversation and your watchful eyes.
Rest in peace.

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Lost and Found – Writing 101- Amazing Grace

“Amazing Grace” is a Christian hymn with words written by the English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807), published in 1779. With the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, “Amazing Grace” is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world. It is probably sung at least 10 million times annually.

Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction. Aged just 11 he joined his father in the Royal Navy, and after leaving the service, he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. However, he continued his slave trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology. Around the same time Newton joined forces with the abolitionist William Wilberforce and worked tirelessly for the abolition of slavery. Ordained in the Church of England in 1764, Newton became curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire, where he began to write hymns with poet William Cowper. “Amazing Grace” was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773.

Yesterday I attended the Thanksgiving Service for the life of a very young man and the many mourners joined in singing this hymn.
The words “I once was lost but now I’m found” from this hymn rang in my ears, as I thought about today’s Writing Challenge. Of all the life experiences that you might think this lovely boy had lost out on. But of all the joy those who knew and loved him had found by spending time with him.
A young man, born very prematurely 24 years ago, who climbed high ropes, canoed and rode horses despite being limited to a wheel chair.
Who had many friends who filled the small country church to bursting, though he spoke very few words.
Whose days revolved around therapies and medication, yet had the biggest brightest smile and sparkling eyes to win over everyone who met him.
Who was deeply loved, cherished, protected, adored by his mum, dad, sister, grandparents, church family and carers.
Always missed, never forgotten.


At the Crossroads

Yesterday it turns out, was a Crossroads day.
For around four years, Gillyboy number two has set his heart on leaving home to study at a well known university. He has worked really hard, kept focused on his goal, prepared for interviews, identified weaknesses and worked out solutions. Yesterday morning, after a restless night for all of us, the results were out, and with fluttering hearts and trembling fingers, his dream plan for the next three years was made reality. It is a new path for all of us; for him, leaving home, starting a whole new adventure in another place; for us, adapting to life without him during term time, missing his wonderful music practices that can often take your breath away, those half empty coffee cups lying around, and long games of Pokemon cards (still at 19, bless) with his mates and Gillyboy number 4.
It’s very exciting, and daunting and we look forward to seeing what adventures this new journey will bring.
For around four years, a lovely lady and her family in our church fellowship have been learning to live with a terminal diagnosis. Yesterday she quietly moved on to a new stage in her journey. She has gone home, leaving an amazing example of strength and courage whatever battles are to be faced. She was always very open about her illness and its treatment, she had a wonderful ministry to others going through similar experiences, she was the go-to girl for organising rotas and finding church keys at the last minute within our congregation. She lived Life To The Full spending quality time with family and many friends with meals, coffees, cycle rides and badminton games, celebrations and holidays. Never angry or bitter, always directly spoken, a woman of strong and living faith, she faced her inevitable future with confidence and assurance. She prepared those closest to her for this outcome in the same manner. She was so encouraging to her children as they changed from their teens into the confident vivacious young adults that they are today, as they mourn her loss and move on in their journey without her beside them.
On Monday we will stand by them, and their father, her loving and beloved husband, as they give thanks for a wonderful life, a peaceful end, as she walks a new path into the Kingdom of her Saviour.

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Cave Canem (beware of the dog)

If your life, family and home were under imminent threat of being extinguished by a dramatic volcanic eruption what would you take away with you as you tried (in vain) to escape? This is a question I asked myself this week.
We took a detour via London on our way home and made a planned visit to the Pompeii and Herculaneum – Life and Death exhibition at the British Museum.
In AD 79 Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed these two seaside towns with a couple of hours. This disaster preserved the towns until 1700 years later when archeologists began to uncover them. Most of the items on display were brought to London especially for this exhibition from Italy, making a journey identical to our own but without the tedium of going through passport control.

One of the first exhibits you see is the cast of a guard dog, still wearing his collar and chain, caught in the throes of what must have been a sudden but painful death, guarding his master’s home until his end.
As you pass by the many amazing exhibits- preserved food, household items, carbonised furniture, a little baby cradle, some spectacular wall frescoes, there is a mosaic from the doorway to a house of a black dog, wearing a red collar studded with stones representing jewels and the legend “cave canem” – beware of the dog. And wouldn’t you know, they tell us the the cast of the guard dog was found outside this very house. He must have been a well loved pet to have had his image produced in such detail by the tiny square tesserae that made up the mosaic, and to have proudly worm a jewelled collar. And also to have given a warning to would-be burglars.
It reminded me a little of the story of Greyfriar’s Bobby I blogged about back in June.
Some of the fleeing townspeople were instantly burned and were left as skeletons, still wearing jewellery, carrying purses, doctor’s tools, swords, keys to their property. Others were covered in heavy layers of volcanic dust which hardened around them, and that is how casts of their postures as they met their death were made. There is a family – mum still holding a small child in her lap, a man crouched against a wall, his hands covering his mouth and nose. The impact of a sudden and violent end to so many people (around 16,000) is still very evident and moving even now in 2013.
Certain things touched me more than others- the cradle, the dog, the freshly baked loaf still bearing the baker’s stamp, and a little gold ring with the image of a mother hen and three chicks engraved on it.
Ordinary lives snuffed out without warning.


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