Wintry weather and safe footwear!

I want to be safe indoors, too, so I’ve just ordered some Rieker slippers in a sale. I need a good fit and soles with a good grip, and I know that I can rely on Rieker for both of these things.

I know too many people, including dear family members and good friends, who have had bad falls, and I have become increasingly wary about this, especially as I am now what is officially described as ‘elderly’ (though at times I still seem to have the heart of a youngster!)

My first scare in the bad weather was in the autumn when negotiating fallen leaves on a wet pavements  left me thinking that I had better stay at home or get some good all-weather boots with solid serrated soles – I got the boots (Rieker sale again!) and I love them. So now I’m all set for the ice and snow if we get it, which we probably will.

It seems that my interest in  safe footwear is not a bad thing at all –  I recently read an interesting, informative and reassuring passage on geriatric care* in ‘Being Mortal'(Atul Gawande). In this passage, Gawande, a surgeon, described how he called in  at the ‘Center for Older Health’ in the hospital where he worked and, with the permission of patients, sat in on some visits from the chief geriatrician. In this particular passage of the book Gawande describes the consultation with an elderly lady  who was ‘in good condition for her age’ but who ‘faced everything from advancing arthritis and incontinence to what might be metastatic colon cancer’ – yet the geriatrician spent most of the time looking at her feet! Here are some excerpts from the passage about the geriatrician’s interest in the lady’s feet:

” ‘Is that really necessary?’ she asked, when he instructed her to take off her shoes and socks.

‘Yes,’ he said. After she’d left, he told me, You must always examine the feet.’ ”


“The single most serious threat she faced was not the lung nodule or the back pain. It was falling.”


“The three primary risk factors for falling are poor balance, taking more than four prescription medications, and muscle weakness. Elderly people without these risk factors have a 12% chance of falling in a year. Those with all three risk factors have almost a 100% chance.”

The geriatrician suggested that the lady might make some changes in her lifestyle and, almost a year later, Gawande visited this lady, who by then was 86: “She still lived comfortably and independently in her own home. And she had not had a single fall.”

So far I have read the first 60 pages of this book, and I am looking forward to reading the entire book – 282 pages in all.

I still remember the years when I used to swan around wearing pretty shoes with stiletto heels. I am now looking forward to the delivery of my ‘sensible slippers’ and I am sure I’ll be as thrilled with them as I was with my stilettos of bygone years. Aging is another season in life, and I am finding it all rather interesting, despite my aches and pains and gradual decline in health and competencies. And I am finding Gawande’s book really helpful and encouraging, despite its rather sobering title – no wonder it is a bestseller!

  • I just thought I’d mention that I don’t really think of myself as ‘geriatric’. I actually think of myself as a ‘young’ Senior Citizen. This is probably because we have several delightful friends at church who are old enough to be my parents 🙂




Charitable giving – I wish I could give more…

… but I can’t, because I live on a low fixed income, and most of my charitable giving is already spoken for.

I admire the dedicated volunteers who knock on doors , but more often than not all I can offer them is my praise for their work. Most of them respond well to what I say, but a few have tried to pressure me into donating and remind me it’s a good cause. I don’t disagree with them about that, but what I can’t agree to is signing up for regular monthly donations, which is what many of them request.                                                                                                               Charity tins in supermarkets are a different matter. We can make a one-off donation of whatever amount of cash we feel able to give, which may not be much… but ‘every little helps’, as one well-known supermarket reminds us in a different context.

A few years ago I helped with collecting for a charity in a supermarket. I did not shake a tin at anyone, because I don’t like it when people shake tins at me! Several people donated. Interestingly, most donations were made by elderly people, disabled people, and parents who had been pulled towards our stand by children who wanted a badge or a sticker. Many people walked past us, eyes averted. At one point, I counted the number of people who walked past and worked out what we would have collected if each one had put just ten pence into our tins – quite a lot, actually. So now I am no longer embarrassed about putting as little as ten pence in most tins I see, because I know that such small donations soon mount up.

I don’t know whether I should be posting the ‘every little helps’ slogan here, but it really is true – no donation is too small (in my opinion, anyway 🙂 )


Terrorism – remembering the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings

Yes, it was terrifying. We were on edge and looking over our shoulders most of the time. I remember being wary of any carrier-bag in the hand of any person. Carrier-bags are such ordinary things, yet at that time they seemed  to be extra-ordinary, because they could be used to carry explosive materials, which was why we were searched and frisked every time we entered a public building. We were hushed and watchful, and it was tempting to look at other people as potential terrorists, rather than as the ordinary peace-loving people most of them actually were.

I cannot begin to imagine the agony of people who lost family members in the bombings – sisters, brothers, parents, daughters, sons. I cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those injured and maimed in the bombings.

Some of us thought we might have heard one of the explosions.I was teaching German to adults in Meriden at the time and our classroom was next to a pottery class. The pottery class was always noisy, and at first we thought that the bang had come from that room – someone in our group joked, ‘The pottery class is being extra-noisy tonight!’ It was only later that we learnt the terrible news via radio and TV. I heard it on my car radio as I drove home. At that time we had two young children, and although we lived nowhere near the sites of the bombings, I was especially thankful that night to return home and find my family safe and well.

The conviction of ‘The Birmingham Six’ turned out to be an appalling miscarriage of justice, and those wrongly convicted were also victims of terrorism. Terrorism really is terrible. I don’t envy our politicians the task of deciding how best to deal with it.

In 1974, there was also an attempt to blow up Coventry post office, but the bomber accidentally blew himself up instead. My brother-in-law was in the police force at that time, and he was called to investigate the gruesome scene. One of the good outcomes of that event was the way that some members of the public responded. The bomber’s confederate ran off, but he was chased and apprehended by a group of people who were in a local pub at the time of the explosion. They were guided by a passer-by who had witnessed the explosion and who also saw the confederate running from the scene towards the nearby car park.  Group rage can have its advantages!

One thing that really saddened me at that time was the fact that the Coventry bomber was Irish, and some lovely Irish people in Coventry were subjected to a nasty back-lash. Even some non-Irish people were subjected to a backlash, for instance a neighbour whose surname began with ‘O’ received hate mail and threats because some people thought she was Irish. She was actually Scottish (not that this made any difference, because she was not a terrorist anyway!) but she was so distressed by all the hate mail that she changed her surname to a name beginning with ‘Mac’.

Some ordinary, peace-loving Muslims started the Twitter hashtag #notinmyname and my heart goes out to them – Islam and ISIS are not synonyms.

May the God of all peace be with us all at this terrible and terrifying time.





Dandelions and forget-me-nots

  I took this photo last year because my young grandson loved these flowers so much. He enjoys helping to mow the grass, but he said he wanted these to be remain untouched because he thought they were so lovely. They are actually weeds, of course, but I do agree with my grandson , and I think that these uninvited guests in my garden did arrange themselves rather prettily.                                                                                                                                                                                   S5000494

The simple joy of polishing shoes

They are all lined up now – five pairs of newly-polished shoes, and one pair of newly-polished boots – and I still can’t quite believe the sense of contentment I feel when I look at result of my polishing efforts, and the enjoyment I felt when I was actually polishing them. I even looked forward to my polishing session with much the same anticipation as I looked forward to a visit to the beach when I was a child. A friend commented to me years ago that I seem to take delight in ‘little things’ – it seems that I still do!

Footwear has become increasingly important to me as I navigate the autumn of my life. I love fashionable footwear, but comfort and safety are more important, and I try to combine fashion comfort and safety. One of the most important things for me is a good fit. I take a half-size, which means that I usually buy Clark’s shoes, because they are one of the few manufacturers which produce half-sizes. Clark’s shoes are not cheap, but I rarely pay the full price, because I wait until they are ‘on offer’ in the sales. I also buy Rieker shoes, because , although they do not do half-sizes, their sizes are generous and I  can wear a size 5 comfortably. (I also buy them in the sales!)

I have become more conscious of the importance of safe footwear since the autumn leaves started falling and I have been carefully tip-toeing around wet leaves on rainy days. I know too many people who have had bad falls in bad weather, and I am wary, so some of my shoes and boots are ‘foul-weather’ footwear with strong, ridged soles. I have just ordered another pair of ‘foul-weather’ boots ( at sale price, of course!), and recycled a much-loved and well-worn pair of boots. One good thing about Clark’s and Rieker shoes and boots is that they last a long time, so I can comfortably budget for them. I have a friend who loves Hotter footwear as much as I love Clark’s and Rieker 🙂

I just had another glance at the line-up of my newly polished footwear, all clean and shiny  – how I enjoyed the cleaning and the polishing of them! Next on my list is polishing my handbags – I usually buy them in the sales, too 🙂

‘How Great Thou Art!’

The words of this wonderful hymn were my waking thoughts this morning and I remembered other occasions when these words came to mind, especially the occasion when we stood at the highest point in Berchtesgaden, Southern Germany, the location of the Hitler’s wartime hiding place, das Kehlsteinhaus ( ‘the Eagle’s Nest’). That exquisite land, temporarily hijacked by the Nazi dictator, and familiar to many of us who have seen films about the war, now belongs to a charitable trust. It is available for all to see, and is back where it belongs, God’s gift to all of us.

The beautiful Alpine view from that point extends for as far as the eye can see and I found it impossible to capture it on camera – as we stood there, we were in it, and we were part of it. It is no longer Hitler’s domain. I thought then ‘evil is finite – God is infinite.’ As we read harrowing accounts of wilful destruction in the news day  by day, it is hard to believe that evil is finite – it seems to rage on, and we feel powerless to stop it. Then I think of the words,’ Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away’ (Matthew 24:35). It is difficult for my finite mind to  encompass these words. I find it less difficult – and even comforting – to think of the finite nature of Hitler’s evil regime and the evil regimes of others,  but more difficult to think of myself, and more significantly of the whole world as we know it, being finite, yet the idea of God’s infinity brings me peace, comfort and joy.

‘Oh Lord my God! when I in awesome wonder

consider all the works thy hand has made,

I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder

thy power throughout the universe displayed…

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to thee,

How great thou art…’

[Stuart K. Hine]

Learning NT Greek…and realising that I knew a bit more than I thought I did!

I didn’t expect to be thinking about kleptomaniacs and cardiac arrest when I embarked on reading St.Matthew’s gospel in Greek, but think about them I did. I now find myself thinking increasingly about the extent to which Greek has been woven into the English language and I am enjoying the realisation that I actually know a bit more about Greek than I thought I did, and that I am not a complete novice after all.

I’m sure that many people already know that ‘kardia’ is the Greek word for ‘heart’ and that the ‘klepto-‘ in ‘kleptomania’ comes from the Greek root ‘kelptes’ (to steal)… but I didn’t know this, until recently. Another ‘aha’ moment  for me came when I was reading the passage about ‘treasures on earth’ (Matthew 6:19)  and I realised that ‘thesaurus’ comes from  the Greek word for ‘treasure, store’  (thesauros). After all those years as an owner of a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, how could I not know the etymology of the title of the book? My answer to that question is the same as my answer to many other similar questions – because I had other things on my mind, other things which took up my time and energy.

I’m really enjoying learning Greek. I made a slow start because it took me a while just to learn the alphabet. I was already, as no doubt many of us are, familiar with alpha, beta , gamma and delta (from grades at uni) and with pi ( from maths at school). I came unstuck at first with letters which I think of as ‘false friends’, for instance the ‘r’ that looks like a ‘p’, the ‘n’ that looks like a ‘v’ , and the ‘s’ which looks like an ‘o’ with a tiny flick at the top on the right-hand-side. I’m gradually becoming more familiar with it all.

The other NT Greek group members have considerable knowledge of Greek, and they have made we very welcome and I am learning a lot from them. I think that the fact that I grew up in a bilingual community ( in Wales) may also have stood me in good stead, because I was aware at a young age of people speaking a language I did not understand, but I was not daunted by it – I was just intrigued and wanted to know what they saying!

My own specialism was German, so I am not daunted by the intricacies of grammar, word order and so on, though I do need to brush up on some things, such as the passive subjunctive!

My next step its to try to work out how I can post words in Greek script on this blog – my laptop can do that, but unfortunately I can’t …yet.

So far, everyone I know who has studied Greek is very enthusiastic about it, and I have been given a lot of encouragement and help with my new venture.

My last word… well, for now… is that I think that the Greek script is very elegant. I really enjoy writing it and trying to make my handwritten version as lovely as the printed script in my Greek copy of the New Testament.