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Diary: Elizabeth Figg

14 January 2022


Fresh air

WE HAVE entered the fallow time that lies between the hectic busy-ness of Christmas and the contemplative soul-searching of Lent. As I write, my husband has yet to have his post-Christmas break, but we have much planned for his time off, including a trip “doon the watter” as my Glaswegian ancestors would have said — although this particular boat trip is not on the Clyde, but on wintry Windermere, and a gift from one of our sons. We are hoping for fair weather, but, since it is January and the Lake District, we are tempering our expectations and digging out the waterproofs and thermals.

Whatever the weather, it will be good to have a break; Christmas 2021 was a distinctly mixed bag for us, as I’m sure it was for many people. Government advice in the lead-up was a little contradictory: wear a mask indoors, but take it off to sing — presumably to allow us all to take in great lungfuls of air before projecting it back out at top volume.

We asked people to keep masks on in church, but even some regulars refused, pointing to government guidance. In the light of this, and given the likely numbers, the decision was taken to move our carol service outside; thankfully, this proved to be such a success that there are calls for a repeat this year. We’ll see. . .

Trip hazard

THE Figg family build-up also featured some confusing communications, not least over our Christmas tree. Normally, we go to a tree farm and dig one up, replanting it in the garden after festivities are over. Sadly, that wasn’t possible this time; so my husband and I found a rather lovely, freshly cut tree.

Having set it up ready for our boys to decorate when they arrived home on Christmas Eve, we posted pictures of it on our family WhatsApp group. Our sons were suitably impressed, and one asked if it was from the usual place. I replied that the tree farm had been shut; so we’d bought it from a garden centre. Much to my surprise, this triggered a flurry of messages along the lines of, “Strong language there, mother!”/“I’m sure it can’t have been that bad!”/“Well, really, Mum — would you let us say that?!”, all accompanied by laughing and shocked emojis.

I had no idea what they meant until I retrieved my glasses and realised that predictive text is not always the friend of the visually challenged. Just to be clear, the farm is excellent, but it was SHUT.

Souvenir trail

IT IS always a joy to have everyone together for Christmas, and one that I do not take for granted; we know how fortunate we are to have grown-up children who still want to share their precious time off with the oldies. They arrived on Christmas Eve like the incoming tide in Morecambe Bay near by, sweeping in and transforming the house with their infectious laughter and boisterous presence. All too soon, and with alarming speed, they swept back out into the world of work.

As we all know, however, the tide is prone to leaving treasures behind; it wasn’t long before the phone calls and texts began. “Can you check under the bed, please, Mum?” “I left it in the bathroom, I think — or the bedroom. Or maybe the kitchen. . . Could you have a look for it, please?”

I was able to track down most of the items that had been left behind (everything from jumpers to phone chargers), but some were more elusive, including a favourite pair of mountaineering socks. Not that we did any mountaineering over Christmas, but the socks are wonderfully cosy, and of great sentimental value: they had been to the top of both Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.

Having run out of sensible places to search, I moved on to the less likely; hunting through the recycling was not much fun. Meanwhile, the dog, usually a helpful and enthusiastic participant in such searching, was in a huff, having wagged goodbye to her favourite humans.

Like a Victorian lady, she took to her bed, dragging her blanket from the sitting room for extra comfort, and surrounding herself with her treasures — well-chewed bones, squeaky toys, and Hector, her teddy bear. Every so often she let out a melodramatic sigh, just to ensure we understood the depths of her despair.

It will probably come as little surprise that I eventually found the socks — and several other unwashed items of the boys’ clothing — in her bed. I miss the boys, too, but — so far, at least — I have resisted the urge to sniff their smelly socks.

Buried grain

EARLIER, I described this as “fallow time”. There is a reason that farmers leave their fields fallow for a while: after heavy cropping, the depleted soil needs time to rest and replenish levels of nutrients which will allow it to support the growth of healthy crops in the future.

As we move further into 2022, with many still drained and weary from 2021, my prayer is that we will permit ourselves to be “fallow” for a while; to allow ourselves a “holy pause” — even if it is only for an hour or so a day — and find that it is not time wasted. Like the exhausted soil, we, too, need to regain our strength if we are to nurture those entrusted to our care.

Elizabeth Figg is an ex-QARANC officer, nurse, and midwife, now working as a freelance writer. Her husband is a vicar in the diocese of Blackburn.


Thu 07 Jul @ 04:36
Last week, it was reported that three people had died from starvation in South Sudan after the World Food Programme… https://t.co/FxMjKF94gK

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