Ramadan Mubarak to all my Muslim friends, neighbours and blog readers!
Having taught in Peterborough for several years with a class of children who were all Muslim, I know it can be a real challenge at this time of year so prayers for a blessed and fruitful fast, that you discover what Rumi called the ‘hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness’.
Much as I admire people who take fasting very seriously, I struggle with it. Partly because of my diabetes and I’ve written and talked about that before (e.g. https://youtu.be/i7XSirBJFYo)
But I’m also something of a binger if I’m honest and not just when it comes to food. I think I have one of those personalities, like Toad in the Wind in the Willows. I get obsessed with something and then suddenly find I’m bored and want to move on to something else. I have tried to train myself out of it but I think it’s still my default position!
People I know who struggle with mental health issues have told me how the drugs they are given often take away their ability to feel at the extremes. They neither experience the depth of sorrows not the heights of joy. Instead life becomes somewhat grey. The trouble is we seem to crave for intense emotional experiences as human beings. And if we want to be able to experience intense joy we also open ourselves up to intense pain.
As I come to the end of the first three days of my journey, I am already aware it has been something of an emotional rollercoaster. And now my quiet solitude has been replaced by the joy and delight of having lots of my family join me.
The fast and the feast. But sometimes I think the feast can make us feel more intensely the pain of the fast. Seeing everyone gathered together I find can be something of a bittersweet experience as I can’t help noticing who is missing…
The big day has been and gone and it wasn’t so bad after all! Actually, I had a really nice 40th which began with taking a communion service followed by cake, then coffee with a friend and more cake, singing with my 8ctave friends and more cake, before going out with the family and yes, you’ve guessed it, more cake!
There are those who would say diabetics shouldn’t be eating cake but I say with Marie-Antoinette (or not depending on your sources!), ‘qu’ils mangent de la brioche!’ or rather ‘let them eat cake!’ The great thing about my pump is that it allows me the flexibility to treat myself to a bit of cake on special occasions (or more than that to be honest!)
I did have a few poignant moments in the course of the day, not so much because I mourn for my passing youth (I was once told I was 25 going on 55 anyway!), more because it’s days like this that you miss most those you would normally want to see when celebrating a special occasion.
Grief took me unawares again as I was preaching in the morning. I was talking about the unexpected martyrdom of Stephen and the seeds of new life hidden in the story of his brutal murder (Acts 7). I went on to reflect on the surprises of my own life, not all of them good, and at that point I’m afraid I cracked. I would not have expected to be where I am today, nor would I have expected to be without my brother and father on my 40th birthday.
But there are always seeds of new life and hope being planted, and what could be better than spending my big day with the friends and family I love, not to mention wonderful Italian food and lots of cake?
Andy loved his food. Here he is back in his twenties enjoying a barbecue in the back garden:
Andy liked all sorts of food and wasn’t afraid to try new things. He loved hot spicy curries and chilli as well as steaks and bacon sarnies. I don’t think he could ever have been a vegetarian!
I’m looking forward to walking from Evington to Mountsorrel next Saturday to enjoy a bacon sandwich and a piece of chocolate cake in his memory with his friends at Christ Church.
What I noticed about Andy’s love of food was that it wasn’t just about the eating. He really enjoyed the preparing and he was good at it, certainly better than me! I think if things had worked out differently he could have made a living out of it or even made it through to Masterchef.
Andy knew the satisfaction that came from a job well done and I think enjoyed his food all the more for having cooked it up himself. He found he could exercise his God-given creativity in cooking in a way I never have. (As a teenager I once fed my family French onion soup but forgot to adjust down the quantities of wine given in the recipe – I think they enjoyed it anyway!)
Now I have a love/hate relationship with food. Much as I love eating it, I hate having to try to count everything to calculate how much insulin to take. It means that packaged food is easier than cooking yourself or eating out. You can just read what it says on the label!
But I think Andy understood that food was about much more than calories or carbohydrates. It can involve great creativity and skill, as well as fun and fellowship. Maybe I need to put on my apron and get into the kitchen a bit more!
Trying to make the most of my week off.
Third day of walking today, this time with a bit of human company – my wife and youngest daughter.
Following a recommendation from a member of the congregation at St Denys, we decided to walk from Market Harborough along the old railway line towards Northampton. We couldn’t manage the whole 17 miles but I think we probably walked a good 6 or 7 and the feet are bearing up well!
It was especially good to come across the Waterloo Farm Leisure complex when it started raining. A lovely fried breakfast complete with black pudding certainly helped to keep me going!
The Oxendon Tunnel was fun to explore once I’d located the torch app on my phone! I love this picture of the light at the end of the tunnel with the water trickling through … I like that it’s egg-shaped too!