Monday, 14 March 2011

Travelling Companions.

On long train journeys, where I drink tea, read good books, watch the countryside fly by, I also talk to strangers.

On a train to London, I met another Rebecca, a nursing student from Dundee, confirming her shifts via text en route and visiting her older brother. I was visiting my brother in London too, and so we talked and exchanged mobile numbers. Same-name people who meet on a long journey.

A few months later, I met Lucy, a dentistry student studying in Sheffield and working as an events organiser, on this occasion at a stately home. Again, we laughed and talked- she was going to Paris- after finishing work that day. And so complete strangers, we exchanged numbers and she texted me when she made it to France. Later texts at Christmas went back and forth.

Yesterday I met Gordon. A man in his 70s who recently lost his wife to breast cancer. He said "life is hard".
"You work all your life and save up money but it does not mean anything."
So I asked questions and listened. He told me about his son, his career in the Nuclear Physics department at Oxford University. his too-big four bedroom house, how his wife did all the cooking and he did the cleaning, going on holiday on his own. But he had friends through church and good neighbours- but I will pray for him for he is right. Life is hard.

After Gordon, I met Izzy. Half Italian and from the Isle of White, and studying French and Spanish at Oxford. Capacious leather hand bag and obvious huge appetite to learn and study. Kindles. You can't turn pages. And Trinity College library probably has not digitalised all it's archives to fit on a kindle. Such encounters light up the sky.

I love train journeys.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

"He ate and drank the precious words..."

During this month,, a blog I read regularly, is doing a month of book reviews, and book-related posts.

In addition on the 5th March, World Book Night will take place, where thousands of free books will be handed out to encourage the non-reader to read. (

"One million books will be given away free in the UK and Ireland on 5 March for the inaugural World Book Night.
Some 20,000 volunteers will hand out 48 copies each of their favourite book from a 25-strong list. A further 40,000 will be distributed by organisers.
Would-be volunteers apply through the event's website, choosing a book from the list which features Alan Bennett, John Le Carre and Margaret Atwood."
Will Gompertz

I have always loved to read, and believe that books have enormous power to inform, inspire and give the reader tremendous pleasure. Benjamin Franklin said, "Give me 26 lead soldiers and I will conquer the world." The written word - books- have unlocked potential. I cannot go anywhere without a book to read, even if the opportunity of actually sitting down and reading is limited. Books can take the reader from the living room, the cafe, the train, from under the covers - to another place, another country, without moving a step.

"He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings."

Emily Dickinson, Poems, pg 47 (1948)

In keeping with YLCF's March of Books I will be writing as many book reviews as I can during the next month. I initially resolved to do one every day, but I fear the quality would inevitably decline as I tryed to churn them out, so instead I will write as many "good" reviews as I can.
And may the many recipients of all those books on the 5th March, become a whole nation of book worms.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

"I can face tomorrow....."

I read a great review of the last 10 years of a friend's life and decided to steal the idea. So here we go (thanks to Chantel Brankshire...).

15 years ago....
1. I was 15 years of age and in Standard 10 at Hebron School, Udagamandalam, (more commonly know as Ooty) Tamil Nadu, South India.
2. Standard 9 (the previous year) was my most favourite year of secondary school (no public exams), but had many interesting subjects and I loved being in the "senior" school. Standard 10 brought my first public exams, IGCSEs in Maths and RS.
3. My best friend Rachael Delano (nee Schwalbe) and I were as thick as thieves, and we talked up a perpetual storm and drank copious amounts of "proper" sweet chai. She taught me some American Sign Language so we could keep up the conversation in class. We also joined the Inter-school cross-country team together (Why? Why? Why?) and dodged cows, cow dung, more cows and Cheran (Indian public) Buses and got hot, sweaty and covered in mud in the process.
4. The best adventure Rachael and I had was running 22 km from Kalhatty (in the hills) to Quiet Corner (SU camp-site in the plains) through the wilderness. Most of which was in total darkness, as we only started our "incredible" journey at only 4 pm after school. And then when we arrived hot and covered in dust, just 5 minutes ahead of the school bus, we discovered there was no running water. Oh how I love the bucket bath. But we were both ridiculously pleased anyway. Then that night (I have to finish the story now) Rachael managed to explode a bag of crisps all over our room (which she cleaned up immediately) but we were attacked by ants in the middle of the night. They could smell the crisps. A good weekend all round.
5. I spent a holiday in Kerala, at the beach, January 1995 and nearly got swept out to sea by some big waves. That holiday I "re-discovered" my bible, and found really for the first time, God speaking to me personally.
6. My parents started taking care of the youngest dorm at Hebron School (Standard 3-5 boys and girls) and I put them to bed every Thursday night for the next 4 years.
7. Three days before my 15th birthday, I was baptised in my parent's home church in Nottingham.

10 years ago....
1. I was 20 years old and in my second year of medical school, at Aberdeen University.
2. I lived on Sunnyside Road in a room painted bright orange.
3. I was a bible-study group leader and then became book secretary (best best job) for the Christian Union.
4. I planned a summer, doing beach missions, holiday club on Skye and week of evangelism at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

5 years ago...
1. I was working as a junior doctor at the Gilbert Bain Hospital, Lerwick, Shetland (was that really 5 years ago?).
2. I bought my own flat (started paying a mortgage) that following summer and have lived there ever since.
3. I do not appreciate it's light, airiness, restfulness- and yes-this-is-all-mineness enough! I have 2 bedrooms, bathroom, hallway, living room and duck-egg kitchen. (Must say thank you to God for this more often.)
4. I was interviewed for and accepted on to the General Practice (Family practice) rotation for August 2006.
5. I slowely collected pieces of furniture from the Candle Close gallery, The Pier and British Heart Foundation Charity Shop and bought another book shelf, and another and another...There still is not enough.
6. I started making friends with my "up-stairs" neighbours, a Muslim family from Algeria and South Africa.

1 Year ago...

1. I was working as a part-time GP registrar at Great Western Medical Practice.
2. I learnt so much more about Conservative politics in the run-up to the General Election in May. I read biographies and commentaries. I even emailed David Cameron with a comment- and recieved a reply from his PA. And I cast my vote.
3. I had 2 American flat-mates briefly.
4. I went to Keswick, listened to Don Carson and celebrated my 30 birthday with a Barbeque.

1. I put my car in for it's MOT and it passed.
2. I did my first Research session at the Academic Department of Primary Care where I want to work next year.
3. The sun shone in the most warm way probably since last August!


1. I have washing, cleaning, and general tidying to do.
2. I will drink lots of tea.
3. I will relax and watch more Gilmore Girls on DVD.
4. I will read a book.
5. I will read my Bible.


1. I will go to church and enjoy the morning service as don't have to teach Sunday School.
2. I will buy a present for my sister-in-law.
3. I will do some e-portfolio upkeep for my job.

In 5 years...
"Because He lives I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives all fear is gone,
Because I know, I know, he holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives..."

1. I will be 35- quite a thought.
2. I would love to be married but Trusting God is the important thing with that one!
3. I want to be closer to, love and know Jesus Christ better.

Big lessons from the last 15 years...
1. God takes care of me. Writing all this down has reminded me of that.
2. I am loved, forgiven, held and He won't let me go. His grace is wider and deeper and higher than my greatest sin.
3. The hardest things to trust God with at my present stage of life (wanting to be married) are things that make me depend on him more.
4. I have much to be thankful for and I need to remember to say "thank- you" to God everyday.

Saturday, 5 February 2011


Come, rest awhile

Come, rest awhile, and let us idly stray
In glimmering valleys, cool and far away.

Come from the greedy mart, the troubled street,
And listen to the music, faint and sweet,

That echoes ever to a listening ear,
Unheard by those who will not pause to hear­

The wayward chimes of memory's pensive bells,
Wind-blown o'er misty hills and curtained dells.

One step aside and dewy buds unclose
The sweetness of the violet and the rose;

Song and romance still linger in the green,
Emblossomed ways by you so seldom seen,

And near at hand, would you but see them, lie
All lovely things beloved in days gone by.

You have forgotten what it is to smile
In your too busy life­come, rest awhile.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

My flat is quiet- not as tidy as it could be, laminated floors winter cold. I think about putting the heating on (off it's timer)- but go for the dressing gown over everything else.

I savour the peace, make tea, peanut butter and white bread.

Household tasks to be done, laundry, lounge to tidy- things to do later, but first I read Day 1 of Gentle Rain on Tender Grass (readings from the Pentatuech) by Sharon James. Genesis ch 1 verses 1-25.

"But ask the beasts and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who amoung all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing." Job 12:7-10

Writing in the new notebook (never did a girl have so many notebooks), diagrams to remember the days of creation, and a prayer.

I make some lunch, DVD playing and I start sorting out study materials for my exam. Reading to do later.

White curtains hang in the lounge, light filtering through, the winter sky faded from cool blue to cloudy white.

And so I rest and take stock and say thank you for the blessings.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

CS Lewis from "Learning In Wartime" in "The Weight of Glory".

"The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would have never begun. We are mistaken when we compare war to "normal life." Life has never been normal. Even those periods we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out on closer inspection, to be full of crises, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They propound theorems in beleagured cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss poetry while advancing on the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache; it is our nature."

"It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received."

"What does war do to death? It certainly does not make it more frequent: 100 percent of us die and the percentage cannot be increased. Yet war does do something to death. It forces us to remember it. The only reason that cancer at sixty or paralysis at 75 do not bother us is that we forget them.All schemes of happiness centered in this world were always doomed to final frustration. In ordinary times only a wise man can realize it. Now the stupidest of us knows it."

CS Lewis. The Weight of Glory.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The MRCGP week.

I am writing for the YLCF's peek into your week.

I have just sat my (part one) exam of my MRCGP, which is my post-graduate qualification in General Practice (Family Practice) with results due in 2 weeks time so I am in post-exam mode meaning that other things can become important again!

So my "schedule" has adjusted this week to account for this. I work part time on a General Practice training scheme, Tuesdays, Wednesday morning and Thursdays. So I will write about this past week because that is becoming the new normal.


I had a few appointments to keep but was up and reading my bible around nine am. I tend to take extended periods on my non working days to read my bible and pray. This is not due to some great amount of discipline on my part but because of my own need of it. At the moment I reading through Isaiah, Luke and 1 Samuel. Especially at the moment I am struck by passages in Isaiah that demonstrate God's sovereignty and control of our lives.
Mid-morning I drive to the doctor's surgery where I use to work and pick up a dictaphone ordered for me by the practice manager. I sit and chat with the doctors during their coffee break. Back home I quickly eat some lunch and walk into town for my hairdressing appointment. I managed to leave my purse at home so have to run home to pick it up, go back to the hairdresser to pay the bill. On the way home through the park, rain is sprinkling, scattered clouds against the cool blue and red and orange leaves falling from the trees.
I meet a lady from church going to pick up her grandson from school and we talk, wind tugging at the trees. I fly back into town pay my bill and meet with the Church minister for a coffee.
Back home I eat, my dinner and start thinking through work the next day.


I am doing the unscheduled care clinic in the morning, lots of variety and last-minuteness and then have an afternoon discussing different issues with the pharmacist. I need creams and gloves from Body Shop due to my hand ezcema flaring up so rush to the shops in the late afternoon for this.


I go to GP Registrar teaching, small groups of doctors meeting to discuss cases and different educational topics. In the afternoon, I need to do various jobs including going to the bank and decide to watch the Social Network at the cinema. After the film, I sit in the theatre cafe and start writing an article for the church magazine which I need to submit at the end of November. Then I go to the church bible study which is looking at King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20.


Today I am duty doctor so at work early, dealing with house calls in the morning, telephoning advice and last minute appointments in the afternoon. In the evening, I take things easy, unwinding from quite a stressful day.


Today I meet a friend who has finished night shift at the children's hospital for breakfast at a cafe- pancakes, bacon and maple syrup and tea or coffee and lots of conversation. Then I buy some mint tea bags from a special coffee shop that I want to give to a Lebanese friend as a gift and grab another quick cup of tea and finish my book in a different cafe. I text my Lebanese friend to arrange meeting up and my arabic lesson. This afternoon I have practiced the piano, and have various admin and computer work to do.

Saturday and Sunday

Neither of these days have arrived yet but I have a meal to look forward to at an Italian restaurant with a friend on Saturday night before the prayer meeting along with more computer work and housework. Sunday will be playing in the church music group, relaxing in the afternoon and then the evening service.

I have been challenged of late to regard my singleness as an opportunity to be flexible, to have a wide circle of friends and interests, to show hospitality and to read and the study the bible in a more focussed way. I have at times been full of self-pity and so wasted time that I could of used better and forming a more disciplined schedule for Monday and Friday especially is part of this. There are a few things I wish to focus on :-
  • Keeping "home" in my flat and so finding it easier to be generous with hospitality.
  • More focussed bible study
  • Giving a "whole heart and mind" at work and so being a good witness and showing care to those who need it.
  • Arabic language study

Those are my big projects and so I need to break down my days to see those through.

"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."
Ephesians ch 5 vs 16-17 (NIV)

Friday, 13 August 2010

What makes us write.

Writing is like an excitement and bubbling up of ideas that are crying out to be there on the page, where images spring to life in the reader's mind and descriptions and concepts make the mind soar.

Good writing feeds the mind, so that the heart is stirred.
Reading of books conversely fill us up with what can then be expressed well, so that the mind is strengthened and it's powers of articulation improved.

I have been reading in Sharon James' Gentle Rain on Tender Grass (readings through the Pentateuch) of God's creativety. We are made in his image so that his creativety is in us, and a meaningful expression of this is the written word.

I have such a mix and variety of thoughts as to how we are at one and the same time, enthused to seek truth and knowledge out (through reading of God's word and good books) but at the same time create our own stories and ink on the page.

Oh, that I might treasure what has been given me and seek it with all my heart.