Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Final Night with the Boys!

  By Belinda

Tim and John, our nephews came over to say goodbye tonight as we leave early in the morning.

Here Bruce was playing with Tim, a favourite game where he rolls a ball back and forth to whoever will play!

 Rob said that this angle made him look far bigger than he is.

So I tried another angle (below) :) There's just a lot of him to love. :)

 Paul helped Bruce find a kong that had disappeared behind the television set.

It has been so good to be here for these two weeks that have flown so fast. I am grateful for the many happy memories that will travel with me. 

The next time I post will be from home!

Big Excitement

Note from Belinda

The sadness at leaving Rob on our last day here is softened by excitement at another event that I am so thrilled to point readers to. 

My dear friend Dave, known to many readers here through his frequent comments and occasional guest posts, invited me to write an article with him for the August edition of a newsletter for direct care professionals: Service, Support and Success. 

The article is titled: Faith, Freedom and Fealty: Supporting People with Disabilities to Live Freely.  

Please see Dave's post: August Newsletter is Out for details on how to order a copy and subscribe to the newsletter, which comes out monthly. Just 

If you work supporting people, or know anyone who does, you will find the newsletter  excellent reading.

Working on this article with Dave was a highlight of my writing life so far, although rather than being the lead writer as Dave generously says on his blog, I had the supporting role!

I felt God's energy flowing through all of it and know that God used us to write something that will make a difference in the lives of those who need support and those who have the job of supporting.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Rest in Peace Uncle John

By Belinda

To give some context to our day today, I am adding a link to a previous post: Remembering Uncle John in memory of a dear member of our family who through his visits to us in Canada, became known and loved by many of our friends, and also by those who have read about him here on Whatever He Says.

When Paul and I were here in January I wrote about our hope to scatter his ashes; in Memories and Mortality; but it proved too difficult to get everyone together at that time.

But today six of us gathered high in the breathtakingly beautiful Malvern Hills, near the town that is Paul's birthplace, to scatter Uncle John's ashes in a place that was special to him. Paul and I were there with Stephen and Sam, Uncle John's sons--and Arthur and Liz, close friends of Uncle John's. 

We met at the place called Wyche Cutting, overlooking Herefordshire and Worcestershire. The photographs don't do justice to the panorama below us.

The rain that we could see rolling in across the fields below held off as Stephen scattered Uncle John's ashes. We had a few moments of prayer and God brought Psalm 121 to my mind. 
Psalm 121
King James Version (KJV)
121 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Just below the place we scattered the ashes was a big oak tree, which Sam noted as a way to remember the place.

As we climbed down the hill to the car park I noticed that the moisture in the air refracted the light into a veil of rainbow. It was beautiful--a sign of hope. 

Below us lay field upon field, dotted with sheep. Villages and farms nestled in the folds of the hills and train tracks and roads ran like stitches across a crazy quilt. No one could wish for a finer or more peaceful resting place.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


By Belinda

These are some photos from Thursday, when we had lunch with Paul's cousin (Uncle John's son) Stephen, and then drove to the nearby ancient town of Bromsgrove (click the link to read of the interesting history.) We enjoyed walking down the pedestrian High Street and looking in the many charity shops. I found a great book in one of them!

Later we stopped for coffee at Costa's Coffee and I could not resist a giant version of my favourite cookie--Custard Creams. I am apparently not alone in my passion. According to Wikipedia, in a 2007 survey of 7,000 British people, 9 out of 10 claimed it as their favourite "biscuit!"

Saturday, July 28, 2012


By Belinda

I wrote a couple of days ago about Rob speaking Bruce's thoughts out loud and thought, "How do I explain that to readers?" 

I thought I'd share a couple of examples from this morning! 

I had been to The Meadows and was telling Rob about six dogs of various breeds and sizes, who were there with their owners in a group, all of the dogs in high spirits and running around in circles, playing with one another. 

Rob went into Bruce-speak mode on behalf of Bruce, who was sitting close by, "I would love to join in," he said, "but my breeding comes out, I can't help it."

Later, as Bruce jumped to attention and full bark in response to the sound of another dog beyond the open window of the flat--as he does numerous times throughout the day and evening, Rob/Bruce said, "I've got to let them know there's a dog here, or they'll think they can come and get my people." :)

Hearing my tall brother with deep and booming voice, speaking for Bruce is funny. I told him that he could write scripts for Wallace and Gromit

On a different Bruce-note, yesterday morning we were walking through the church yard. Suddenly the church bells started pealing and rang for several minutes, stopping as suddenly, with two single, slow, "bohms." I wondered if it was a bell ringer catching up with some extra practice at first. I had checked my watch and it was just after 8.10 when they started. 

When I arrived at the flat, where the build up of the Olympics was playing on the TV, I realized that in synchronization, the bells across the country rang at exactly 8.12, as Big Ben chimed in the  2012 Olympics. How exciting that I was in the grounds of St. Laurence Church at that very moment!

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Meadows

By Belinda

The Meadows were a gift to generations of children in Alvechurch by a mother and father who had lost one of theirs.

A plaque on one of the brick gateposts bears testimony to the heartbreak that blossomed into joy for others over the years:

'These Playing Fields Were Given For the Use of the Children of Alvechurch by Walter William and Edith Wiggin of The Forehill House in Memory of Their Son, George Robert Wiggin Who was Killed in Action in Sinai, on April 23rd, 1916."

Imagine choosing to make such a gift rather than retreating into bitterness or resentment; choosing generosity and lavish love in memory of someone so precious, lost to them. 

Jack Holmes, another villager built on the foundation of kindness with gifts of imagination and ingenuity, creating playthings for children from scraps and leftovers: needle grinding stones; a lorry axle and a huge packing case. 

These were all still there when we were children. Of course they wouldn't meet the stringent safety standards of today and have since been replaced by shiny new, brightly painted equipment. I remember hanging on for dear life to a circular disk of stone about 6 feet across. It had handles spaced around the stone which were the only thing that kept us from being flung into the air as the disk was spun around at dizzy speed by one of our friends. I can feel the shiny metal of the slide that felt so high, its sides curving up to hold us semi-safe as we shot down feet first or on our stomachs.

And there was a big old tree that had been struck by lightening. We climbed and swung from its branches, imagining ourselves in great adventures.  

 The closest thing to a beach was this wading pool, which was much cleaner 50 years ago!

This is one of many benches throughout The Meadows, and donated in the memory of someone else who spent many happy hours in them.
 This oak tree is one of the oldest in the village at over 400 years old. Below and to the right is the avenue of lime trees that borders the far side of The Meadows.

The lions guarding the paddling pool came from the home of Sir Herbert Austin, founder of The Austin Motor Company.

I hope you enjoyed your trip to The Meadows and maybe one day will visit in person!

Morning Glory

By Belinda

I am first to wake in the mornings here; sometime between 6 and 6.30; and get up from the roll-out bed that Paul and I share in Rob's living room. 

Bruce is asleep either in the hallway on a quilt, or in his bed lined with cushions under the shelves in Rob's storage cupboard. He doesn't stir as I tiptoe past on my way to the bathroom, but is ready the moment I emerge,  getting to his feet with an ear flapping shake. He is still in his "pajamas." This is what Rob calls Bruce's attire when he takes off his collar at the end of each day. He always says that his pajamas look very much like his stripey day suit! :) Mum used to love that little joke, as well as when Rob would speak Bruce's thoughts out loud. She would say with a laugh, "I love it when you do that!"

I pick up Bruce's collar from its place by the kitchen door, and a lead from the hook at the top of the stairs, as Bruce rockets to the bottom and waits to be "dressed" in collar and lead.

We go out into the freshness of morning, the village wakening with us, most curtains still tightly shut, but workmen starting their day's work bustle about and behind the closed door of his shop the butcher is setting up for the day. 

By the time we get back from our walk about an hour later, the traffic is increasing and the village is humming with life and activity.

Bruce shoots up the stairs as fast as he had descended them earlier. Sometimes the flat is as quiet as I left it and Rob and Paul have not stirred yet. 

I reach for the small, aqua coloured cloth book bag, hanging from a hook in the storage room, and leave the flat again, this time on my own and headed for "The Meadows," and some quiet time on a park bench, alone with my Bible, other books, and in thought and prayer.

"The Meadows" evoke happy memories for anyone whose childhood days included time spent there. How simple a place it is in comparison to the the places of entertainment the children of today have to choose from--choices we would never have dreamed of! And yet it is a happy and blessed place with a poignant history.  More on that next...

Thursday, July 26, 2012


By Belinda

Help! I have some catching up to do in chronicling this vacation. :)

Our friends John and Margherita Wheeler invited Rob, Paul and I over for lunch on Tuesday. Although Margherita was born in England, her mother was Italian and she had created a four course Italian feast that did justice to her mothers' homeland!

We started off with traditional Italian antipasto, which Margherita explained means "before pasta." The antipasto was an assortment of cured meats, olives, goat cheese and artichokes. I learned how to pronounce prosciutto properly--"proshooto." 

Next came the most flavourful pasta I have ever tasted. The secret of the intense flavour in the tomato sauce? It had simmered for four hours the day before, and two hours the day it was served. 

All of this was accompanied by a white wine (Liebfraumilch) and red Chianti.

Next came the main course: escalope alla Milanese which was thinly sliced beef, marinaded overnight in beaten egg, dipped in home made breadcrumbs and fried in olive oil. It was served with a tossed salad.

Finally fresh raspberries and strawberries were served with thick Devon cream or the lighter creme fraiche, with crumbled merengue.

Never was there a more lovingly prepared meal!

After we pulled ourselves away from the table, barely able to move, we sat out in the sun and enjoyed a coffee, while John, Margherita and Paul reminisced about their days in the needle industry. John brought out of his shed one the stools that they sat on as apprentices. While Paul left for Canada and began a career working in social services, John continued in the trade they learned together over five years. It was so interesting to hear of the slow decline of the needle trade that had once been of such importance in Redditch, where they both grew up.

Another guest hovered in the background; Buddy, the cat that belongs to neighbours, but who spends most of his time at John and Margherita's as the neighbours both work and are away most of the time, while John and Margherita are retired. Margherita said that when they go away for vacations, they make sure that they tell the nieghbours, so that they know that they will have to look after their cat! :)

Good friends, good times, good memories.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Monday's Adventure

By Belinda 
It will seem that we have spent our time here eating. Well, it is true that a lot of our getting together with friends has been over food!

Last week, soon after arriving, we bumped into Paul's childhood neighbour, Paul Atkinson and his wife, Jean, with whom we have maintained contact over the years. They suggested that--yes of course--we get together for a meal. And we agreed to meet at the Red Lion where I had enjoyed a lovely meal with Susan on our last day here in March.
Andrew Atkinson, Paul's brother, joined us too, and we spent several hours enjoying good food and good company.

Paul and Andrew's father, died on April 28th (his son Paul's 70th birthday) at the age of 97, so we had common ground there. Mr. Atkinson senior was someone my Paul loved as a child. He used to call Paul, "Bobby" inexplicably (maybe to differentiate him from his son Paul) and Paul would accompany him to the market, pushing a wheelbarrow with gospel tracts and materials for sale (the Atkinson family belonged to a denomination called Gospel Hall.)

Here are Andrew and Jean.

And Paul A. and Paul B.

 Jean had Shepherd's Pie.

My choice was Chestnut, Mushroom and Leek Pie! The pastry was delicious--light and flaky; the filling though did not live up to my anticipation. I love mushrooms and all kinds of veggies--and I was looking forward to tasting the chestnuts. It was better in my imagination though. :)

Paul had steak with onion rings, fries and mixed vegetables (including broad beans,) all a special treat since he is trying hard to avoid carbs.

The choice of dessert (or pudding as dessert is called over here,) was tantalizing.
 Jean chose a lemon dessert with icecream and merengue.

 I had a delectable concoction called Eton Mess. If you love strawberries, cream, merengue and icecream, this dessert is heaven in a glass cup!

Andrew had a plate of giant profiteroles
Andrew's brother Paul had carrot cake with cream cheese frosting but the photo was fuzzy so you will have to use your imagination!

My own Paul declined dessert having splurged already on lunch. 

The Red Lion is definitely a place to put on your list of places to visit for lunch if in this area. Parts of the building date back to the 1700's and the pub has the ambiance of centuries of history. The staff are friendly and helpful and we had a  memorable lunch and conversation.