Sunday 20 May 2012

The New Regime

I woke up last Sunday morning, and before leaving to meet friends for breakfast wrote the following on the chalk board that hangs in our kitchen:

New Regime!

Thou Shalt: 
Go swimming x1+
Go running x1+

Thou Shalt Not:
Drink wine during the week
Eat more chocolate than is reasonable

I do not know quite why Sunday was the day to make these resolutions. It is not as if I have been wandering around for weeks thinking about it. It just happened. 

Of course, I am happy with these plans and am trying to keep them. I had fallen into some bad habits since starting my new job in September. I often leave the house very early and do not return until fairly late in the evening. This can leave me sleepy, which is fine, but more dangerously, it can leave me lazy. I am disinclined to get up and go and exercise and inclined to pour a large glass of wine and watch the telly. Over a long period of time, even in a job where I walk around all day, this has left me less fit and healthy than I should be.

One of the more diverse aspects of my job is to help pupils train to take the Duke of Edinburgh award. Often this means teaching them to read a map or put up a tent; I stand on hillsides in the rain and check them as they pass by, put the kettle on and arrange the campfire. In a few weeks, however, I have to go and do some training myself. I'll have to hike in the Peak District for three days, and make a timed expedition up Snowdon. It occurs to me that to do this I'll need to be quite fit. 


Of course, I am in good health and reasonably strong. I just haven't put it to the test lately. My new regime is going to help me do that, in a leisurely kind of way.

Today, after getting stuck in the most horrendous traffic jam and almost packing the whole idea in, I jumped into a beautiful outdoor pool near my home in Oxford. I was so glad I did. The water was warm, and as the rain began to fall (this is England in May), I luxuriated in swimming gently up and down, using my not so elegant, slightly improvised breast stroke.  It was bliss, the sun was shining and the rain was falling. The sky was blue....and there were ominous black clouds (again, this is England). I met people I haven't seen in a year. The pool only opens in May. We laughed and joked with each other, 'where have you been all winter?' All the stresses and strains of the day floated away. After half an hour I was done, and I felt totally chilled out. As I stood under a warm shower looking up at the blue black sky and shampooed my hair I reflected, 'I have been teaching students about the difference between real and apparent goods all this time and been duped myself!' My "I am too tired to go out' attitude to evenings has left me seeking the apparent good of the sofa and avoiding the real good of looking after body and soul by taking some exercise!

This summer most of my holiday plans involve doing free stuff outside so it would be good to keep up my new promises to self, gain more confidence in my body and feel healthy and happy. Wild swims, hikes, picnics, cycles, bonfires, camps in the woods and trampolines here I come!! :-)

Maybe you think this all has nothing to do with any of the things this blog is about, but well, looking after my body and soul is an important part of my faith. The least I can do to thank God for the life I have is love it a little :-) This week, on Thursday or Sunday the church will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension: the day on which Jesus rose body and soul into heaven, and queue for us as Christians to treat our own bodies, and those of others with gentleness and reverence.


Saturday 12 May 2012

St Pancras, a celebration of home

I am staying in this evening. For a Saturday that is fairly rare. I was at school today, celebrating the summer fete by checking my Year 7 form were having fun washing cars, and that they were doing a fairly reasonable job! I have some excellent pictures of them, but sadly it would not be wise for me to publish them here. They did a sterling job, and made a killing! My car looks shiny and new after their loving attention!

Still, all this staying in has left me with a few moments on my hands to think about a Roman Martyr whose feast it is today. St Pancras. Now is there a more appropriate saint to help you think about home? For those of us who live in the UK, St Pancras is the name of the beautifully built, wonderfully restored, hectic train station of central London. For me particularly, the words of Gemma as we emigrated from Ireland to England stick in my mind. We boarded a train towards a new home and she said to my Ma, 'I think we are on number one not budger.' It had been a very long day. Ever since, St. Pancras has been where you have to get to to get home. He is the start point and the end point of many adventures.

But who was St. Pancras, and before he was famous for looking after a railway station, what did he do? The answer is that little is known. He is buried on the Aurelian Way, just outside Rome. He died around 304AD. Some say that he was born in the East, orphaned, brought to Rome by an uncle, Dionysius, and martyred by the age of fourteen. He was a popular with the faithful from the 6th Century onwards, and the first Church St. Augustine of Canterbury established in England was dedicated to him. The church dedicated to him that has impressed me most is in Dartmoor, Widecombe-in-the-moor hosts the 'Cathedral of Dartmoor', dedicated to none other than St Pancras.

St Pancras is often invoked against false witness and perjury, headaches and cramp, he is the champion of oaths and is the patron saint of children. In art he is often shown with an inverted sword in one hand and palm branch in another. Look out for him in London next time your travel!

For me, with all his past actions, patronages and history, he is the saint of being at home, and so in his honour I cook a meal for 'staying in' suitable for everyone, especially the kids.

Sausage Plait

I'm tired and I cheated, so I bought puff pastry (mea culpa)

425g puff pastry sheets
500g good quality sausage meat (get it from your local butcher, tell him what it's for, take advice)
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp mixed herbs
1 tbl sp wholegrain mustard
1 egg whisked
a little milk

Preheat the over to 230C. Gently fry the onions in a little olive oil. Mix the sausage meat with the onions and mixed park. Place a rectangle of pastry on a greased, non stick, baking tray. Spread a thin layer of wholegrain mustard down the centre (you can leave this out, of course). Place the sausage mixture down the centre of the pastry, leaving a 5cm border down the side.

Working down each side, cut strips from the mixture to the edge of the pastry at a 45 degree angle at 2.5 centimetre angles. Carefully plait these strips across the sausage filling, working alternately left to right and then right to left. When the plaiting is complete brush the pastry with a mixture of beaten eegg and milk.

Bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Great hot or cold.

I am serving this with coleslaw, beetroot, salad and a warm potato salad, but it is equally good with beans and chips. It is all about being at home.

Tuesday 1 May 2012


If I had a square foot of ground, I'd do this..... and I don't know how much $50 is, but it's not a lot if you are going to grow your own food. Life skill.

Gardening Infographic