London Loves

London has been in the news way too much recently, for all the wrong reasons. So I wanted to make a space where we celebrate the London we know- not the one that’s full of tragedy and police tape. Every … Continue reading

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Oh Yes You Are, Captain

You probably don’t need me to tell you that Christopher Plummer, who played Captain Von Trapp, has died at the age of 91. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you probably don’t need me to tell you what an obsessive Sound of Music fan I am. I know he played other parts. In fact, we watched “Knives Out” just after Christmas. But for us obsessives, there is only one defining role.

And that’s why I’m choosing to celebrate his long life with ten moments from just one film. Captain Von Trapp, here are your best bits:

1. Dressed Up Putdowns

I mean, here is a man who looks doch schön in a dress uniform and has the medals to show off with. And although I love his “rather warm” Laendler with Maria in this outfit, my absolute favourite bit of this scene has to be the stinging putdown he delivers to Herr Zeller, soon to be the Gauleiter of the geAnschlusst Österreich:

Herr Zeller: Perhaps those who would warn you that the Anschluss is coming – and it is coming, Captain – perhaps they would get further with you by setting their words to music.

Captain von Trapp: If the Nazis take over Austria, I have no doubt, Herr Zeller, that you will be the entire trumpet section.

Herr Zeller: You flatter me, Captain.

Captain von Trapp: Oh, how clumsy of me – I meant to accuse you.

How clumsy indeed…!

2. Oh Yes You Are, Captain

I nearly used this whole quote as my blog post header but thought anyone who didn’t know the script off by heart might consider it ridiculously insensitive. Still, here’s the context – Georg and Maria are having a blazing row about the children running around Salzburg in their playclothes. And Georg momentarily loses his cool:

Captain von Trapp: I don’t care to hear anything further from you about my children.

Maria: I am not finished yet, Captain!

Captain von Trapp: Oh, yes, you are, Captain!

[pauses, then corrects himself]

Captain von Trapp: Fraulein!

 

3. A Deplorable Lack of Curiousity

Whereas in this scene, he retains his cool throughout…even in the face of mortal danger and the malice of Herr Zeller, who is definitely up for Round Zwei of that trumpet section argument.

Herr Zeller: I’ve not asked you where you and your family are going. Nor have you asked me why I am here.

Captain von Trapp: Well, apparently, we’re both suffering from a deplorable lack of curiosity.

You’d be surprised how often I use the phrase “deplorable lack of curiosity”. Actually, you won’t be.

 

4. Boots and Guitars – My Favourite Things

Now, if you know me even a little you might know that boots and guitars are indeed among my favourite things. And here is CvT modelling both in one scene! Why don’t men wear riding boots any more? I mean, I’m sure Nathan would if they were readily available. He very nearly bought a Captain Von Trapp style jacket when we were in Salzburg. And talking of that trip to Salzburg, I am so pleased that I got to sing Edelweiss..not on the same stage as Georg did but on the stage next door. I don’t know if we’ll ever leave the country/city/borough/house again but, if we do, Salzburg is on our list of places to go back to.

I also love the look on Georg’s face through the whole festival sequence. He wasn’t meant to be part of the singing group, he didn’t attend rehearsals…and you can really tell. Unlike Maria who, naturally, pulls off a festival-winning performance with no warning at all.

5. I Fell in Love With You the First Time You Blew That Silly Whistle

The first scene between the Captain and Maria is just jam-packed with great lines, from the moment he catches her curtsying to herself to the moment he blows that silly whistle for the first time. Most of the zingers in it belong to Maria (“The poor didn’t want this one”) but this whole exchange is just classic:

Captain von Trapp: Now, when I want you, this is what you will hear.

[blows whistle]

Maria: Oh, no, sir. I’m sorry, sir. I could never answer to a whistle. Whistles are for dogs and cats and other animals, but not for children and definitely not for me. It would be too… humiliating.

Captain von Trapp: Fraulein, were you this much trouble at the Abbey?

Maria: Oh, much more, sir.

Captain von Trapp: Hmm.

[starts walking away. Maria blows her whistle & he turns around]

Maria: Excuse me, sir. I don’t know your signal

Captain von Trapp:  You may call me Captain.

6. Who Should We Hear From Next?

So yeah, Christopher Plummer didn’t record his own vocals. So yeah, Christopher Plummer fancied the pants off the person playing his daughter. Neither of these things detract from the magic of this scene. Only one thing could have truly ruined this song and that would be if the Baroness had indeed brought along her harmonica.

7. You’re Just a Boy, Rolf

 

Nothing emphasises what a man CvT is more than the contrast with Rolf who is, as we all know, just a boy. He steps in front of the gun, allowing his wife and children to run to safety and disarms his with a set of skills that Liam Neeson would be proud of. If only he hadn’t pushed it that tiny bit too far…

 

8. To Join Them, Unthinkable

Why was he standing in front of that gun? Because he was an anti-Nazi. Not just a get-along-with-everybody Uncle Max type but a proper 30s antifa. And while it should go without saying that most people are naturally anti-Nazi…well, after all the far-right antics of the last few years, it’s not so much of a given any more. But CvT rips up a Swastika flag. there is no ambiguity about the politics of this guy.

 

9. Dinner Time is Not to Be Disturbed

Now that he’s retired from Sea Captaincy, I have no idea what Georg gets up to all day in that big house. No wonder he needs Max to move in and entertain him. And equally little wonder that  dinnertime is so important to him. It isn’t like there’s much else in the Von Trapp Schedule. Dinner gets two prime CvT moments, which showcase both sides of his parenting style. The “wonderful new world of… indigestion” scene near the beginning is the more Trad Trapp, trying to reign in the madness Maria has brought to his well ordered table. But by the time the second scene comes round, he’s relaxed a bit. He’s got a plan to offload all these kids onto their new mother and she’s got a plan to offload them all onto boarding school. So he figures it’s time to mess with them a bit. Like any parent, he can instantly see through all that Stiershizz they’re giving him about blueberries and he lets them spin themselves into a merry web before instructing Cook to cancel their dinner. And then walks off, smirking to himself.

So relatable

10. You Brought Music Back Into the House

Oh gosh, I’m not sure I can even write about this bit. I have a rule that when emotionally stunted men get emotional, so do I. Giles, Toby Ziegler, Dr Cox…and, of course, Captain Von Trapp. I cry every single time I watch this. I’m crying just looking at that photo. Don’t get hung up on the logistics of quite how a 5-year-old can get changed that quickly and just enjoy the sight of a man’s cold heart visibly melting. Waaaahhhhh

 

Thank you Christopher Plummer for one iconic performance. I know you hated it at the time and drank your way through it but even you softened to it in your later years.

So long, farewell, goodbye, Auf Wiedersehen. I’ll like to stay and taste my first champagne. Yes?

 

…..yes?

 

 

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The Creativity Curve

In August last year, I made a spreadsheet and it produced the graph you see before you. I was trying to express in some kind of numerical way how my creativity had slumped during the long months of Spring 2020. I don’t remember the logic I used to arrive at the numbers or even what I was trying to say through this graph. One thing is for sure though – August 2020 Kate had nothing to complain about. Sure, I was tired and the kids had been off school for ages but the infection rates were super low and the option of a couple of days at the seaside or a trip to Legoland were within our grasp.

January 2021 Kate has plenty to complain about…and among those complaints would be a continued downward curve on that creativity graph. Like many people, I had a spurt of creative energy in March 2020 – moving choir and worship online required a bit of creative thinking and that in turn inspired other projects. In Lockdown#1, I was posting a parody song on YouTube every week right up to the 100 day point, when I filmed an epic song and dance routine and then got thrown off course when someone said something mean about it on social media.

Whether that was the trigger for the creative plunge in June, I’m not quite sure. But lockdown lethargy set in and, over the summer, my creative brain shut up shop. I’m not convinced it’s ever woken up again. Lockdown#3 certainly hasn’t seen us recreating entire Perform shows in our lounge or throwing elaborate Dr Who parties for the four of us. There’s been a lot of TV watching, eating and bickering. The kids and I baked this afternoon but that’s the first mildly wholesome thing we’ve done in weeks.

So, what to do about this creative slump? I’ve cut down on my committments this terms and reminded a few people of my limitations, exacerbated by the current lack of mental energy. If you’re feeling similar, I’d recommend doing the same – hunkering down and managing your own expectations of what you can achieve in times like this. Spring is coming and the sunshine may well help us all to find a little bit of inspiration again after such a long and dreary winter. Although vaccinations are being rolled out, this is still a long haul and we need to pace ourselves. We can’t keep up a constant flow of Insta-friendly family pictures for a year without the normal mood boosters of company and activity. If your surroundings aren’t inspiring you, it’s OK to not be inspired for a while.

Or you can be like Nathan and master a whole new hobby this month, leading to an outstandingly prolific level of output. But let’s not compare…

 

 

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Why the Masked Singer is the Best Thing You can Watch Right Now

Still January you say? And a particularly cold and rainy Saturday in Lockdown #3000? Lucky we have something to look forward to tonight. Yes, the LWAT Family have fallen hard for the Masked Singer, with the possible exception of the moody preteen who considers himself above all this ridiculousness. Because it is ridiculous. But that’s what makes it great.

I’ve always found it hard to get into TV singing shows because they’re mainly quite dull – once the no-hopers are eliminated early doors, it’s just week after week of earnest young things finding extra notes to put into songs you don’t really care about. And they’re also savage – as the actual singing is so dull, the entertainment comes from how mean the judges can be and how they can destroy someone’s dreams with a carefully-placed “meh”. It’s a bit close to home and deeply uncomfortable to watch.

Whereas, the Masked Singer has no malice in it whatsoever. There is a variety of competence levels on show – tho this season, the vast majority seem to be pretty good at the singing bit – but the judges lavish out praise and hold back on the abuse. The singing competition is a mere sideline in the whole glorious guessing game. And the contestants are already successful in their careers, so the stakes are anything but high.

Instead, the heated competition is betwen the four judges on one side and us at home on the other. Can we figure out who that giant purple blob is before they do? What did those words on the school desk mean? Why does Viking pronounce his name with the emphasis on the last syllable? What does any of it mean?

***From hereoin, spoilers for Season 1 are contained. I assume this won’t affect your life in any significant way***

To start with, I was sceptical about the whole show because I assumed it would be the usual tedious reality TV stars that always turn up on these things – your Big Brother and Gogglebox wannabes who are so desperate to keep their faces on TV that they’ll put a giant duck suit right over those faces. But then I saw on Facebook that Justin Hawkins of Darkness had been unveiled as Chameleon and suddenly my interest was caught. It would turn out that three of the singers would be from the indie/alternative world. That giant duck? Skin from Skunk Anansie. Skin! The angriest woman of the 90s! (And that’s a tough title, given how many angry women there were in the 90s) The angriest woman of the 90s singing opera in the giant duck suit! How is that not first class telly?

And the rest of the ‘slebs were no mere wannabes either. My kids hadn’t heard of most of them but they knew Ce Lo Green alright from Teen Titans Go! and they were suitably impressed that he would take time out of his schedule to bumble around in a monster costume for a few weeks.

Which is why we got straight into the second series. It gives me and Eva something to talk about in a month that is depressingly free of any kind of excitement. We can research together and rewatch the clues videos and scour the internet for fan theories.

Yes, I know it’s all a load of superficial pap but so is Bridgerton and I’m enjoying that too (NOT with Eva tho!) A bit of escapism is exactly what we need in this grey, cold month when the world outside is a dangerous and scary place. If you can overcome your scepticism and give it a go, you might just find yourself agreeing with me…

Disclaimer: Not a sponsored post. We’re just fans 😉

 

 

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Let’s Be a Bit More Careful With Other People’s Mental Health

Happy New Year readers! And welcome to the January to end all Januaries. It’s largely cold and dark and we’re all stuck inside once again because of the plague. Truly it’s the most Januaryish month in history.

I’m not a fan of lockdown, as I probably expressed a lot last year…I understand why we’re being locked down again, I support it as an action that needs to be taken but you’ll never see my clicking my heels in delight at the prospect. I am simply not built for isolation.

But one of the worst aspects of lockdown last time was not my own situation but the conflicts on social media when everyone chose to work out their anxieties by criticising other people. It was totally understandable that it all happened that way – it was an extreme time and none of us had ever experienced anything similar. So we had a mass freak out and everyone’s freak outs exacerbated everyone else’s freak outs.

This time, it’s a little different. We should have more of a handle on how this work. So, in my mind, it’s slightly less excusable to attack others on social media just because of your own anxiety. Yet, it still happens. The guidelines allow for exercise with one other person once a day, which for many is a mental health lifesaver. I only manage it more like once a week because of work but still, a takeaway coffee and a stroll through the park with a friend at a safe distance has made this lockdown more bearable than the first. And this lockdown has, in effect, has been in place since November, in spite of the technical tier changes that went on during Advent.

The risk posed by two people from two households, both alike in dignity, taking a walk hasn’t been formally measured but given the mitigations – open air, distance, limited numbers – it seems fairly small. But the benefits can be huge. So it’s frustrating when I yet again see people on social media forbidding others to take that walk because the guidelines tell you to Stay At Home. Firstly, it’s not accurate because the activity is well within guidelines. Secondly, it’s treating other people’s mental health very carelessly. It’s giving others commands that may well plunge them into despair if their only chance of fresh air and company is snatched away. The prospect of endless weeks of confinement will causing lasting damage to some people. When I read my posts back from last Spring, I can feel the despair in them. Hardly surprising when I was grieving the loss of all my hopes and plans, as well as grieving a friend. So I’m taking steps to ensure I don’t get back into that state of mind.

Our words carry immense power and you can say or write them without ever knowing the full extent of their power. Someone could carry those words with them indefinitely while the originator could throw them out into the universe and move on. A political scuffle on a local, group recently led to several private messages to individuals that carried with them threats of legal action. I largely shrugged mine off but what if it had been sent to someone vulnerable? Someone who was already struggling to cope? It could have been disastrous. Our words matter and we need to be careful with them.

I wrote, almost a year ago, about the #bekind hashtag, which I thought was shallow and ineffective. I was right – as soon as the pandemic hit, people forgot all about #beingkind and starting attacking one another. I said at the time we need to underpin #kindness with proper understanding but here’s the thing – we didn’t. The crisis pushed us past that moment and our attention turned to other things. Maybe it’s time to revisit the idea of properly understanding other people’s situations. And if we don’t understand, hold back. Don’t jump in with both feet just to have Our Voice Heard. Consider what someone might be feeling, what the repercussions are. Treat other people’s mental health as if it was as important as their physical health.

Or maybe that’s too much to ask?

 

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2020 in Review

Oh my, this year has been absolute pants hasn’t it? I couldn’t really think of a way to sum it all up without being horribly depressing so I’ve decided to go right back to the birth of social media and resurrect the end-of-year questionnaire….last completed in 2008 when the toddler was a mere foetus and not the strapping tween he is now. Back then, my life was about going out and doing things and – latterly  – a lot of throwing up (Thanks Roo!) This year…welll it’s been….I think the answers speak for themselves…!

1.What did you do in 2020 that you’d never done before?
Lived through a pandemic

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
No, and I’m starting to think that’s where this all went wrong….

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes…we have a new choir baby and also there was a new baby that shares my name, who I’d hoped to meet over the summer. That plan got scuppered…

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes

5. What countries did you visit?
London Borough of Islington a handful of times and Harwich. Do they count? Oh and Hampshire before lockdown#1 happened but I can barely remember those days

6. What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?
A life

7. What dates from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
13th March – the day we went home from work and never came back

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Not strangling myself or anyone else

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not getting round to refunding my season ticket

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, not really….remarkable under the circumstances.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My feather fan

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Well, the kids did remarkable well, considering

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Let’s not get political…

14. Where did most of your money go?
Groceries. We have bought pretty much nothing else this year.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Pretty much nothing. Some occasional puppy encounters.

16. What song will always remind you of 2020?
The sound of slightly out of sync worship videos will always be my 2020 jam

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Sadder
b) thinner or fatter? Fatter
c) richer or poorer? Richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Seen more friends (answer taken straight out of 2008!)

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Staying at home

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Surprisingly enough, at home

21. What was your favourite month of 2020?
August – infection rates were low and we were even allowed to sing for half of it

22. Did you fall in love in 2020?
No

23.This question doesn’t exist.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
We have watched SO MUCH TV it’s hard to say. Currently rewatching the West Wing…I did enjoy Staged, tho it wasn’t DT’s strongest look.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No

26. What was the best book you read?
How have I not managed to read any books this year?? What else have I had to do??

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
How to play an alto part with one hand and scroll through a shared screen with another while singing the soprano part.

28. What did you want and get?
Wensleydale. Today.

29. What did you want and not get?
So many things it would be depressing to list them all out.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
I did go to the cinema in January before all *this* happened! So Little Women

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
This was before lockdown too! So I went out dancing in Winchester, saw lots of friends the day after and then had a nice lunch at Auntie Sabbage’s house on the day itself. Jeepers, won’t see the likes of those-a-days again! Oh, and 39.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Some manner of normality

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?
Elasticated

34. What kept you sane?
How are we defining “sane”?

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
This was the year that put me off David Tennant. I mean, it’s been a disaster (but then so was his unwashed hoodie in Staged)

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Got quite into the US election (another answer straight outta 2008!)

37. Who did you miss?
Everyone

38. Who was the best new person you met?
No-one

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020.
Never just assume you’ll be able to buy toilet roll

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Never thought I’d need so many people….

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It’s a Long, Long Time from March to November Part 2

I enjoyed doing my last set of March-November photos so I thought I’d finish off the months. We left Nathan and I  enjoying lunch on the edge of lockdown 1. It gets worse before it gets better…

Thursday 19th

In March – an emotional week has resulted in the first almighty migraine of lockdown. I think I took this photo to try and convince Nathan to come home from the office and pick Eva up.

In November – Eva has taken to sleeping on the floor. I think I took this photo cause she’s cute when she’s asleep.

Friday 20th

 

In March – Nathan is home from the office but keeping up his Friday Tieday tradition

In November – this pretty much sums up the state of affairs in America by this point

 

Saturday 21st

In March – one of many, many games of Heroquest between Nathan and Reuben over lockdown

In November – one of many, many koala hugs between Nathan and Eva

 

Sunday 22nd

 

In March – our first ever post-church Zoom

In November – I’m watching myself leading worship at church on my home telly but am wearing the same grey dress in both. You can’t tell from the photo but I’m actually wearing the same grey dress in the March picture as well.

 

Monday 23rd

In March – On the first official day of homeschooling, the children erect an elaborate tent in the back garden

In November – Covid has stopped children from changing into their PE kit at school. We’re not sure why, but it means Eva has to be sports-ready every Monday morning

 

Tuesday 24th

In March – Eva has painted a tiny teacup to look like Harry Potter

In November – Eva made a cheese scone at school and is posing with it by the sunset window

 

Wednesday 25th

In March – Reuben has taken to making Harry Potter characters on the wii and making them duel

In November – Reuben has stuck a puppy inside an infinity gauntlet. Standard.

 

Thursday 26th

In March – Eva is by that same window as she was a few days ago in November. There’s a sunset

In November – hey look, another sunset…

 

Friday 27th

In March – Eva is bored enough to start sweeping crumbs out from the inside of the sofa

In November – Every day that I get to drop her off at school, I am truly thankful

 

Saturday 28th

In March – trying to fight the boredom of a lockdown Saturday with an app that makes pandas appear in your lounge

In November – trying to fight the boredom of a lockdown Saturday by dressing as characters from “Gravity Falls”

 

Sunday 29th

In March – a brief spurt of creativity sees us decorating the front yard with pastel chalks

In November – a brief spurt of productivity sees us collecting six new dining chairs. Gauntlet still atop dining table.

 

Monday 30th

In March – a choir rehearsal on Facebook Live

In November  – a choir rehearsal on Zoom. Oh, how things have changed.

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It’s a Long, Long Time from March to November

 

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Wandering Around Walthamstow

I did a couple of posts called “Walthamstow Wanders” around 2015ish. Back then, we were still new to the area and were wandering around because we were discovering things and places and it was all very exciting. Nowadays, the discovery phase is very much over and we’re wandering around the North of Walthamstow because there’s a pandemic and it’s somewhere we can get to on foot.

Dour times.

Still, there is some fun to be had in the North of Walthamstow. I only realised a few days ago that the Feel Good Centre had reopened its Extreme Park so we booked in there, after quite some grappling with the infamous Better app. The Ninja Run and Clip n Climb still aren’t open but the soft play is and so are the trampolines. Which was quite a novelty for both kids, given we hadn’t been there since March. Frankly, even the bike/scooter ride there in the rain is a novelty when they haven’t left the house in days (well, Eva at least).

It wasn’t the ideal day but it was the only day I had off work so I was determined to make the kids have some kind of wholesome fun that didn’t involve killing people on Fortnite. And I think they did have fun.

The Extreme Park was weirdly crowded, given it’s Covid Times and Roo complained a few times that littlekids were getting under his feet. It was also the usual drag of having to wear a mask for an hour while they played, and so not even being able to get a coffee. But for all that, it was Better fun than sitting around watching Mummy take conference calls all day.

And on the way back, they enjoyed this selection of horrifying Halloween masks in the party shop near the Billet:

 

And I enjoyed spotting a rare twin variety of Walthamstow’s most famous native species – the dumped mattress:

While this looks slightly miserable, I should point out that Roo and I also headed that way a few Saturdays ago and that day it was glorious weather:

We had a spontaneous meetup with C’sMum in Lloyd Park and got a bonus cuddle with C’Mum’sBrother’sDog, thanks to C’sMum’sBrother. So that was a much more serotonin-filled trip, with the sunshine and the puppy. But today was pretty good too. One day we’ll leave Waltham Forest for something other than church but until then…..Walthamstow Wanders for the Win.

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Yes, There’s a Stigma. There Shouldn’t Be But There Is

 

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and for reasons best known to myself I’m writing about Facebook comments on a BBC News article. I know, I should not react. But the reaction to an article about miscarriage stigma utterly baffled me. It was an overwhelming “What stigma?”

 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there should be any stigma around miscarriage. It should be something that every family should be able to talk about. But the work is dismantle that stigma is not yet done and just claiming ignorance of it ever being there isn’t a helpful attitude to take. It’s like people who claim that racism isn’t a problem because “I don’t see colour”. You don’t solve a problem by refusing to acknowledge it was ever there.

I should also say I’ve never had a miscarriage. I’ve had two pregnancies and I have two children. I’m one of the lucky ones because so, so many women that I know have been through it. And yes, there is a stigma.

It’s stigma that stops families announcing pregnancies in the first trimester because they don’t want to also have to announce a miscarriage. It’s employers expecting women to be back at work straight after it happens. It’s the expectation that women will stop being sad about it a month or a year or ten years later. Or the expectation that they’ll stop being sad about it when they get pregnant again. And then there’s the lack of understanding around pregnancy after loss  – the constant paranoia about every twinge and every moment of stillness in the later trimesters. We all need to understand that subsequent pregnancies will never be as anxiety-free as that first one. Until this is all acknowledged and widely talked about, the stigma will never quite go away.

It is great that so many women who commented on the BBC article had experienced positive and sympathetic reactions to their miscarriages. But we all need to understand that every family’s experience is different and sadly, not every family has that positive experience. Others who commented that miscarriage was a “private family affair” also missed the point – telling women to stay silent about their trauma only exacerbates that trauma. How do we not know this by now?

I don’t know how best to go about dismantling the stigma that we still see around pregnancy and infant loss. I’d hope that my friends know that they can talk to me about their losses, even if they were a long time ago. But I do know that calling it a “non-issue” is insulting to so many who have been through it and feel like they can’t talk about it.

I hear you. I see your pain. It is genuine. Let’s hope we can get to a place one day where everyone feels that their pain is equally heard and seen.

Be kind to yourselves today, parents of lost ones. And be kind to yourself tomorrow and the next day too.

 

 

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A Shout Out to the Worship Leaders

 

It occurs to me that I’ve written about my life as a lockdown choir leader – oh, and THAT made cheery reading – but I haven’t written about one of my other roles  – that of a lockdown worship leader. Oh don’t worry, I’m not here to convert you. I doubt this post will convince anyone that the churchgoing life is an easy one right now. I mean, you don’t even get a free cup of tea any more. It’s rubbish.

But I wanted not just to write about myself but to give a shout out to anyone else who has been leading worship through this strange old time. It’s been hardgoing, hasn’t it? Everything you love about worship – leading a group of people through the medium of music – has been largely absent and that warm feedback you get from the congregation replaced by the unforgiving glare of a camera phone lens. I have sung more to the internet these last six months than I have my entire life I think and it hasn’t always been easy or gratifying. Every little glitch is repeated for all to see and the things you never needed to worry about IRL suddenly become all too apparent. Not just your voice and playing but your face, your clothes, the state of your house….it’s a magnifying glass for your every insecurity.

I know, we’re not supposed to be self-conscious. We’re supposed to understand that this is all for the glorification of God, not of ourselves. We do understand that on a head level. But also, we’re human. I think.

It’s also been a time of real distinction between the wealthy and high-tech churches and…well, the rest of us. When you’re already feeling insecure, it doesn’t always do your soul good to see the amazingly slick offerings of the megachurches. It’s been great for humility but not so great for motivation when you’re sitting in your garden shed in the rain clutching a guitar and hoping the shed roof doesn’t collapse before you finish recording verse 3. That said, we’re blessed to have some youthful people in the church who have mastered video editing and live-streaming (and clearly, at nearly 40 I am not counting myself as one of the youth). I know that not all churches have found it easy to adapt to this new tech-dependency.

Life on the screen was weird enough but worship leading has not got less weird since returning to in-person church. It’s still captured on the internet – live-streamed onto YouTube in our case – but there’s only one take and that take is done in front of a sparse and silent congregation who are all wearing masks. Don’t get me wrong, the congregation do a lot of encouraging eyebrow- and forehead-work while I’m singing at them but it’s a very different experience to the usual feeling of leading people in song.

So all of you fellow worship leaders who have been ploughing on through videos and in-person weirdness, consider this a socially distanced pat on the back. It’s been tough and strange and it’s not going to be over for a long, long time. But keep on keeping on. And just remember why this we’re doing this. Also, remember that it’s a great opportunity to roll out obscure 90s songs that the congregation would probably hate because they’re masked and distant so, even if they complain, you can’t hear them. Hallelujah!

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