Thursday, 5 February 2015


Recently I've had a couple of people ask me whether or not I watch Game of Thrones. When I replied that I don't, they both responded with absolute astonishment. "But Bekah, you're into fantasy and all that stuff. You'd love it! Why on earth haven't you been watching it?"

I'm not sure that cow horns qualify as 'fantasy' fancy dress but maybe when worn with this expression whilst looking at a toy plane.... Incidentally, it was the Chinese New Year of the Bull. Not just a random night out. In case you're wondering.

Now whilst it's true that I am a HUGE Terry Pratchett fan (Tom found this out after we were married. It was fine: his vow to love me 'for better or worse' kicked in and we worked through it), I have no plans to watch Games of Thrones anytime soon.

When pressed by both people as to why I wasn't going to I replied:

'So as I understand it Game of Thrones has lots fighting and then lots of sex. And then more fighting. And then more sex. So basically it's soft porn. Would that be a fair summary of it?'

Both paused then nodded. 'Yep, that about sums it up. And it's brilliant!'

And clearly they're not the only ones to think so. Games of Thrones has been credited with taking the fantasy genre mainstream and making it cool and, well, sexy.

I've always been a sucker for a good new TV series - particularly since my children arrived and I now rarely see the outside world after 7pm.

So why my hesitation?

Well, put simply, I'm not sure that I need to see that much sex.

I'm not the prude I once was (when my mother advised against a career in midwifery because I couldn't even cope with the word 'naked' let alone the reality of it).

I think sex is great and a very, VERY good thing.

But I don't need to see other people engaging in it, even if they're just actors.

Why?  Fake sex is just that: it's fake.

It aint real people. And just like how spending too much time comparing yourself to Hello! magazine beauties can make you feel a bit rubbish about your own body/life/house (see my blog post here for more), so too can spending too much time watching fake sex scenes.

Real life sex is much messier, funnier and complicated than TV script writers make out. AND THAT'S OKAY! But it can be hard to remember that when you see actors writhing around in ecstasy apparently unconcerned about their wobbly bits or whether the children are going to wake up next door...

And for those who argue, 'Bekah, lighten up. It's just a bit of harmless escapism', can I suggest that maybe sex is an area that we shouldn't try to mentally escape from?

Great sex requires work and commitment. It requires us to give of ourselves. To become vulnerable with each other. To be present in all senses of the word

The costs of 'real' sex are great. But then, so are the rewards.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


For those regular readers of my blog (hello mum) you'll recall that I've had a few problems with my ear recently (I believe that's known as an understatement).

My amazing GP had me referred to a specialist ear clinic at Addenbrookes and on my first visit I was told that a) I have pretty darn good hearing (it was like a warm hug - affirmations of any kind are rare when you're a mother...); and b) I had had an infection which had caused fluid to build up. In short: you're fine, stop wasting our time. However my doctor took his job very seriously and scheduled me in for a follow up appointment just to check that the fluid was draining away.

Two weeks later the great day dawned and so the Saga of the Trip to Addenbrookes began.

My appointment was scheduled for 3.45pm and they asked me to get there half an hour early for another hearing test (and there was no way I was missing out on yet more exclamations of amazement as I passed with flying colours...) so I got Toby up early from his quiet time and we headed for the bus.

Taking a toddler on a bus is a really good way to get rid of any social inhibitions you may have.

Toby likes to ask questions. A lot. About everything. And often just a fraction louder than anyone else's conversations. So we got to talk about why 'is that man in that [wheel] chair?', and 'who that [frankly terrifying-looking] woman is' and why mummy doesn't know her name. We also discussed the relative merits of various diggers and cranes and rubbish trucks and dogs.

Half way through the journey a student got on the bus crying and gripping her stomach in obvious pain. As you can imagine, Toby was fascinated by this and watched her intently. He, most understandably, wanted to know why she was sad. But kept checking that my answer of 'she's poorly' remained unchanged every five minutes.

I think we were all relieved when we arrived at the hospital.

We escorted the poor student to A&E and then trotted off to clinic ten.

Like any wise parent of a toddler I had Come Prepared. We sat down to eat our snacks and watch some previously downloaded Bing! on the iPad. Within five minutes of arriving we were summoned for my hearing test.

This went well although I fear that my marks weren't as quite high as they could have been because Toby wanted to press the button indicating that I could hear a bleep. Even when I couldn't.

We headed back to the waiting area for more Bing!. 

Two hours and 15 minutes later we still hadn't been seen for our appointment.

Everyone else - including the receptionists - had left the clinic and the cleaner had arrived.

Somewhat miraculously I had brought a picnic supper for Toby thinking that if we were really late home we could eat it on the bus.

Imogen, a people person if ever there was one, was getting seriously disgruntled by the lack of people  to grin at.

And I was just very, very tired.

Finally a nurse came in to apologise that the clinic was 'running a bit late' (she and I both glanced around the deserted waiting area at this point) but assured me that the doctor would see me 'soon'. And, with a hollow laugh, she shuffled off [okay, so I may have added the last bit for dramatic effect, but still].

By 6pm (which, incidentally is my children's bath time) I was finally summoned into the doctor's room. She was deeply apologetic and leapt up with a torch to check my ear. Then as Imogen whimpered from exhaustion and Toby sat on a chair with a glazed expression she announced, 'Yep, that all looks good. I'm happy to discharge you. If it's still sore just chew some chewing gum.' And 30 seconds after we walked into the room, we walked out.

We struggled into our winter coats and dashed out for the bus. The terminal sign indicated that our bus was due in 15 minutes so I balanced Toby on the bench and whipped out bottle to feed Imogen. 15 minutes later our bus arrived, but we were told that it actually wasn't going where we wanted it to. Back at the terminal the sign indicated that another bus would be along in 20 minutes.

It started to rain.

After 10 minutes Toby announced, to a now full waiting area, that he needed a poo.

People began to edge away.

'What... now?' I asked weakly, fully aware that my son was newly potty-trained and when he said 'now' he very much meant 'in the next 10 seconds otherwise there will be Consequences'.

I plonked a half-fed Imogen back into her buggy, grabbed Toby's hand and, glancing at the sign which said that I had 10 minutes before my bus arrived, ran back into the hospital.

Eventually we found some toilets that weren't locked and we scurried inside.

Now before my son 'performs' he likes to feel entirely comfortable in his surroundings. And for Toby that means understanding what each and every thing inside the cubicle is. So our conversation went as follows:

'Mummy, what's that?'

'That's the emergency cord darling.'

'We must never, never pull that right?' 

'Right. Because remember that time when you did pull the cord and how the alarm went off? So we never, never pull the cord.'

'Mummy, why two toilet rolls?'

'Because... some people need a lot of loo roll.'

'Mummy, what's that?'

'That is a bin. For.... stuff. Which women use. Now are we going to concentrate and do a poo?'

[pause whilst we all concentrate and I begin to relax thinking that we will surely make the bus. Then footsteps and someone else enters the toilets...]

'Mummy, who's that?'


Eventually Toby finished and we ran back to the bus terminal and discovered that we'd missed our bus. At this point I seriously began to contemplate phoning my mum who lives 30 minutes away and asking her to come and collect us.

Then the bus arrived and I nearly wept with joy. We clambered on board and sat down with some other weary looking mums and their buggies. Toby sat in silence and Imogen snored. And I just started to relax when both the other mums begin talking on their phones loudly, 'Yep no we're just on our way back from the hospital. He's got whooping cough basically...' Ah good. That highly contagious disease that I think my 4 month old baby has been vaccinated from, but am not entirely sure.

4 hours and 15 minutes after we left home, we arrived back.

Weary, possibly contagious and a WHOLE LOT grateful that a) my ear is fixed and b) I don't have to spend that amount of time in Addenbrookes on a regular basis. Which many, many parents do.

Enough said.

Happy Christmas y'all.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Looking good...

I am a total sucker for Hello! magazine. Give me a latte, packet of peanut M&Ms and copy of this week's Hello! and you've pretty nearly provided me with paradise. What can I say? I'm a cheap date.

The other week I was reading about Tamara Ecclestone who, for those of you with better things to do than read about the lives of other people, is the daughter of the billionaire Bernie Ecclestone. Tamara has recently had a baby girl and so the 14 page photo shoot was full of delightful  shots of Tamara and her daughter dressed in 'casual' cashmere and lounging around at their £60 million London town house (yes, £60million).

As much as I love Hello! you do have to be a teensy bit careful as you read it, especially if you're sleep-deprived, not back to your pre-baby weight and have just noticed a Weetabix stain on the sleeve of your favourite jumper...

In short, looking at photos of an exceptionally glamorous woman holding her baby and dropping such gems as '"People think I have everyone doing everything for me. I don't. We don't have a cook, I cook. We don't have a nanny, we have me. I do absolutely everything with Sophia." isn't always wise.

So for those of you who, like me, find it a tad dispiriting when you hear celebrities croon that it's 'simply breastfeeding' which accounts for their phenomenal and near-instantaeous pregnancy weight loss whilst frolicking along a beach dressed in the merest hint of a bikini two weeks after giving birth, I thought I'd provide a nice reality check.

Here is a picture of me taken five years ago when I was living in China:

No, I hadn't fallen asleep. I was apparently looking 'mysterious'. Don't ask.

And here is me attempting to recreate said photo this afternoon:

Okay, so in this one I may actually have fallen asleep, albeit briefly...

It's the same subject matter, so why the huge difference in photos? Here's a couple of reasons:

1. I do not have a professional photographer, lighting technician, studio, make-up artist and wardrobe mistress following me around in normal life. I do everything by myself (including take selfies which feature my shower curtain in the background).

2. I am no longer 25. I have't had an uninterrupted nights sleep in approximately three years. I regularly forget when I last brushed (let alone washed) my hair. If I wear mascara I feel like I've made an effort.  And I simply don't have six hours of my life in which to spend striking an alarming number of poses in order to find my 'best side' (this photo shoot took about five seconds).

Hello! is fun only as long as I view it as escapism. I am not looking at real people. I am looking at people who have an entire team employed to make them look good

And that's fine. But how good we do (or don't) look is only part of the story. Our appearance doesn't explain what's going on below the surface. It may hint at it (or, in the case of my under-eye bags, scream at it) but our appearance isn't the total sum of who we are. Thank goodness.

There's a rather fabulous verse which comes in the Old Testament. God sends the prophet Samuel to anoint a new king and the moment Samuel sees the eldest son of the family he thinks, 'That's him. That's our guy. Strong. Sexy. Self-assured. Everything about him screams 'Follow me!' '. But God said, 'Nope. That's not the guy.' 

So then the next son turns up. And Samuel thinks, 'Okay. Less braun but clearly more brains. He's wearing glasses so must be clever. Smart tailoring, clearly successful in business. A self-made man. This is our next king.' But again God says nope.

Finally after viewing seven sons, the youngest is brought before Samuel. His father had nearly forgotten about him. But the moment Samuel sees him God says, 'That's him. That's my guy.' 

And God's reason for choosing this chap (David of in case you're wondering) is this, 
'The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.' 

So when others see a tired mother in slightly shapeless clothes (or casual cashmere - I don't want to assume...), God sees your passions, talents, secret desires and so much more. God sees the real you. And whilst others will undoubtedly be making judgements based on your appearance, can I suggest that the only judgement worth caring anything about is God's. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014


It is 1.38am and I am awake. There's not anything too unusual about this - I am, after all, the mother of a baby.

What is unusual about this morning is that she is happily snoring next door.

I am awake because I have acute earache. And by acute, I mean toe-curling, pillow-pounding, silent tears streaming earache. And I've now had this pain for over a week. Despite being prescribed a selection of antibiotics and taking a cocktail of painkillers, nothing seems to be able to stop the relentless pounding in my inner left ear.

As a generally well person I've never really had much cause to think about illness or pain. Whenever the odd cold or strained shoulder has entered my life I've gobbled a couple of paracetamol and happily trotted on with my life.

Now I don't profess that my current week-long, non life threatening earache in any way compares to the millions of people currently suffering serious illnesses, but it has given me cause to pause and reflect on their lot. Here are some of my thoughts:

- illness is a lonely thing. Not only can others simply not understand the pain that you're feeling, but, very often, they don't really want to. No matter how well meaning, when someone asks 'How are you?' they don't want a graphic description of the agony that you currently feel. It puts them in an awkward situation: what do they say? What should they say? And so you start minimising what you're feeling saying things like, 'Oh I'm okay. Bit sore. But mustn't grumble.' All of which builds barriers between you and them.

- illness strips you of hope. In my rational, pain-free moments I know that earache is a generally fixable problem. It really won't last forever. But at 3am when the pain overwhelms, dark thoughts so easily creep in. 'What if this is it? What if I never get better? What if the doctor's can't fix it?' And you begin to resent those who apparently have pain-free lives.

- illness really ruins good theology. The moment I'm in pain I start to question whether God really loves me. 'Why would he let this happen? Aren't I a good person? Is he punishing me? Why doesn't he cure me?'. I no longer want to debate the now and not yet of the Kingdom, I just want to get better.  End of.

- it's hard to be a nice person when you're ill. I have lost my temper so often in the past week simply because I am in so much pain. Grappling to put on my toddler's shoes isn't just irritating, it's agony. And so I snap and verbally lash out and then feel overwhelmed by guilt.

Which is all well and... depressing, frankly. So what now?

To be honest I'm not in the mood to 'learn' anything from my earache. Ending with a cheery, 'And so the lesson of this story is...' would be far too false and take too much effort.

But deep down (in those moments when my pain killers are taking the edge off the throbbing) my hope is that this experience would soften me. Make me more compassionate to those that are ill. I hope that in time I would insist on an honest response to my question of 'How are you?' and then not shy away from the answer.

Essentially I hope that I will learn to 'weep with those who weep' and, in doing so, become in some small way more like the One who is with me in the early hours and who weeps with me.

Friday, 31 October 2014

No big thing...

If you are a parent of a pre-schooler you will, in all likelihood, recognise this chap:

His name is Flop and he is the companion of a young bunny named Bing. This TV show revolves around everyday occurrences such as going to the park or baking cakes and is absolutely adored by my two year old. [Actually my three month old finds it pretty riveting too, but I suspect that's more for the colours than the plot...]

Anyway I find watching each episode both relaxing and troubling in equal measure. It's relaxing because, for five minutes, I can switch off and outsource the job of parenting to the TV. [Less of the judgment people, I've yet to meet a parent who doesn't do this...]

The troubling element comes from watching Flop at work. This is a man/sack thing who never, ever looses his temper. It doesn't matter what Bing does, Flop remains calmly in control.

So far I've seen Bing break several of his favourite toys, cause the bath to overflow, have a toilet-related accident and offend at least two of his friends. And yet throughout it all Flop keeps his calm. He never raises his voice. Never snaps. Never even grumbles. Instead he offers wisdom such as , 'Don't worry Bing, it's no big thing...'  [To which my sarcastic inner dialogue responses, 'Really Flop? REALLY? Is causing a bath to overflow really no big thing? Clearly you don't pay the bills...']

Suffice to say that I've come to the only logical conclusion: the show's creator obviously intended Flop to be a Christ-like figure. Either that or an alien. He is clearly not human.

I'm lucky if I make it to breakfast without loosing my temper. And a whole day? Nope. And I defy anyone with a toddler to say otherwise.

A large part of the problem comes because I so often feel unappreciated. I suspect that I'd be a lot less inclined to snap if I had people - including my children - saying to me on a regular basis, 'Thank you for all you do as a stay at home mother. You are amazing.' And a salary probably wouldn't hurt either.

But then two days ago I read this:

'If I'm willing to do something in church as 'my ministry', but won't do it at home, then I have to question myself and find out what is making the difference. Many times at church someone is usually kind enough to tell me how wonderful I was for what I did... How much quicker are we to do something if there's a little something in it for us -  a little recognition, a little bit of money, a little bit of a promotion... If you want to measure your love life [and by this she means how good you are at showing love to others] watch and see how you treat people that can do you no earthly good [i.e. who can't say thank you].'


My job is to show as much love as I possibly can to my children. And often that love will be expressed through serving them, dealing with the mess they create and yes, sometimes saying (like Flop), 'Don't worry darling, it's no big thing'. Even when it really, really is.

Thursday, 23 October 2014


Oh my, it's good to be back.

I see that my last post was in August last year. 

This picture explains two of the reasons why I've been away:

Time flies when you're renovating a house (I left the practical stuff to professionals), having your second baby (unfortunately I had to do that one by myself) and generally just doing life with a toddler, commuting husband and new bairn (that's Scottish for baby. I'm trying to include some Scots in my everyday vocabulary now as it seems that she has inherited my Scottish ancestors' fiery locks. We love her nonetheless...).

So why the reason for my re-entry into the world of blogs?

Holy reason: I found a cool verse I'd like to share.

Unholy reason: I miss sharing my opinions about life and watching how many people read my blog. Did you know that every time some unsuspecting person stumbles across my musings I can see them? Not literally. Just, you know, as a number on a chart. But still. It's pretty exciting. And a welcome distraction from Everyday Life.

So. This verse. You ready?

'Even those who lived among the sheepfolds found treasures - doves with wings of silver and feathers of gold.' Psalm 68:13

Yes, yes I know it's not quite got the same lyrical quality as Psalm 23 but I do think it offers a rather lovely bit of encouragement to People Like Me.

In the previous verses David (of Psalm 23 fame) describes a great victory won by the Israelite army. As was the nature of these events, the winning army got to plunder the losers. All fairly standard. But what wasn't standard was that even those who weren't on the front line got treasures too. 

Being a shepherd was a menial, thankless, lonely, dangerous and often boring job. Yes it was essential - people need sheep (who doesn't love a nice bit of roast lamb?) - but no-one actually wanted the job of looking after the sheep. There ain't no glamour to be had at 3am sitting on a hillside listening to the snores of your flock as you keep a look out for wild animals...

Let's just say that I can relate to shepherds.

Raising children is hard work. I know I've said it before, but it really, really is. Really. [watch this video if you don't believe me. Or even if you do.]

Yesterday I got hit in the face, puked on, screamed at and sat there throughout feeling guilty. And this was all before 9am.

Having children and caring for them full time is an amazing privilege, but there are times when you wonder if the world's passing you by and all the treasure is being taken by those on 'the front line'.

This verse reminds me that in God's kingdom there's treasures to be found by everyone - even those doing the unseen and unglamorous jobs away from the action.

This verse was my treasure for today. As was my son declaring that 'maybe next time you should draw a cat and not a mouse mummy'. This from the boy who said about five words six months ago.

There's masses of treasure out there. The challenge for all, irrespective of circumstance, is to look for it.

Friday, 16 August 2013


Following the carnage of breakfast this morning I settled down on the floor with a book as my son engaged in his usual 'Independent Learning' slot.  He's at the exploratory age.  So far this week I've fished farm animals out of the bin, nappies out of the shower, swiftly rescued a glass mixing bowl from being thrown across the room [mental note: keep breakables in a higher cupboard] and watched my mother run round after him in the garden frantically repeating, 'Darling they're bees.  They don't like being picked up.  Let's just put them back on the flower.'

Anyway, today's activity was 'remove all the books from the bookshelf, carry them across the room and give them to mummy'.  But after a while my son grew bored of this, so settled himself on the floor next to me, picked up the nearest book and started to 'read'.

I'm a firm believer in gender-neutral clothes - besides, the bottoms aren't pink.  They're salmon.

Engrossed in my book I didn't really think too much about this and murmured, 'Good reading poppet.  Well done'. But eventually it dawned on me: he was simply copying me.  He didn't really know why he was doing it or to what purpose, and I doubt whether he really enjoyed it - after all N T Wright is fairly readable, but there's a surprising absence of pictures... But he saw me reading and thought, 'Hmmm.  Maybe I'll give this a try'.

That's how a lot of learning is done (so I'm told).  Simply seeing other people do things and copying them.  We're not born instinctively knowing how to read or walk or tell a joke.  We need to learn.

The same is true when we become Christians.  The moment we embrace Jesus and all that he's done for us we become new people - but we still have the same personalities and life challenges.  We need to learn how to become more like Jesus.  And each new stage in life requires new skills to be learnt.  I got pretty good at living a Christian life as a young singleton, but now that I'm a mother I've suddenly got a whole new heap of challenges: how do I do this with a young person attached to me 24-7?  What does  grace look like in the face of a bedtime tantrum? How can I have time alone with God when my son needs constant entertaining?

Much of what I've learnt about how to be a Christian has come from watching other Christians who've been doing this a lot longer than me.  Here's a few examples:

- I used to work as an assistant to a vicar.  One of the things that stuck out most from my time working with him was his asking me to cancel his Saturday newspaper subscription because he felt he was wasting too much time at the weekend reading it.  He wasn't saying that all weekend papers are bad, rather demonstrating that he was prepared to take drastic steps - no matter how counter-cultural - in order to totally pursue all that God wanted for him.

- as a teenager I got to know a young family at my church.  Her parents weren't Christians and so whenever the boys went on sleepovers to Grandma's house they would take with them a teddy that said prayers to play before they went to sleep.  This couple managed to navigate the tricky path of not asking her parents to do something they weren't comfortable with, alongside their desire to raise their children knowing and loving Jesus.  They kept their integrity.

And the lessons I've learnt have not always been from Christians alive today.  I love the story of Susanna Wesley.  She had 19 children (including John and Charles who went on to found the Methodist movement) and had a rule that if she sat down with her apron over her head it meant that she was praying and didn't want to be disturbed, thus proving that time with God can be made no matter how many children you have!

We wouldn't expect our children to learn everything without help, nor should we expect ourselves to get everything right the first time.  We need to watch how others do it.  As the Apostle Paul said, 'Follow me as I follow the example of Christ' 1 Corinthians 11:1  He wasn't saying that he'd got it all sorted, but simply that he'd be doing this stuff longer and therefore the Christians in the church at Corinth could learn stuff from watching his example.

We don't need to have all the solutions.  We can copy others.