Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The return of the crochet rug

I’m enjoying the time I’m having at home to recover I must say. At times I have felt like a sook for not being at work, but the reality is that while I can get out and about, and do some things within reason, an 8am to 6pm day at work without the capacity for a nap in the middle would wipe me out at this point, and I’m going to have to start trying to get up earlier if I am going to manage the return to work next week.

One thing I have done in my time off is finish a crochet rug that’s taken almost three years. I used to live in Sydney near King St Newtown, one of Sydney’s more famous streets, and on it was a Vinnies (St Vincent de Paul charity shop) and one day I went in and found two bags of a peppercorn-coloured Morris and Sons Woollahra yarn going for $15 total ($1 a ball) when it is normally $10.95 per ball. So of course I bought it. Then my lovely friend Cath and family gave me a voucher for the Morris and Sons shop (which was also on King St) for my birthday that year, with which I bought some extra balls and the Cranberry yarn to finish it off. So the idea was born for this, named the King St Rug (the irony is that it is not nearly eccentric enough for King St, being probably the most “conservative” rug I have made, where a true loud and clashing granny rug would be more in vogue). I think I started it while I still lived in Sydney, then moved interstate and got a new job and continued freelance work and then took up youth group and so on and so it has languished away. For all it is supposedly a luxury yarn (85% wool, 10% silk, 5% cashmere), I did not find it easy to work with – it sort of gripped the hook and the thickness was not even (it's not spun very much, if that makes sense) and it also breaks quite easily – and without any colour change milestones I ran out of momentum at times. But with this time off I decided to slog through the last seven or so balls of yarn to finish it. Then I had to grit my teeth and weave in all the ends, which is always a test of my capacity to finish what I started and execute my own ideas. But here, finally, it is.

I've been a bit flabbergasted with the Instagram and Facebook response given it's so simple, so I'll include that picture, plus the unfiltered versions.

A photo posted by Alison Payne (@thisfoggyday) on

Friday, August 19, 2016

John Cleese and the Sehnsucht in music and art

I do believe John Cleese has felt the Sehnsucht. When asked by Margaret Throsby of ABC Classic FM why Mascagni’s Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana made him cry he says “it’s almost as though there’s a promise of something better”. Then I love it when he says 'the definition of great art for me isn’t a verbal one, it’s does it really touch something in you that you can’t quite explain'. Yes. Boo to all the art bollocks.

Mascagni’s Easter Hymn doesn’t really do it for me, but the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana does – from 1.35 mins on in that youtube – le sigh. Or Rachmaninov’s Vespers, for something more similar to Easter Hymn.

I listened to the whole of the interview with John Cleese here and quite enjoyed it. He answers such questions as 'are you ever incandescently happy' (from 49.35 minutes on) which he answers along the lines of keeping your pleasures simple etc.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The oldest nephew

This poor child's life is never going to be the same again, after a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes, but the other afternoon he came over and played in my little courtyard with my pegs and old smurfs.

How I love this boy - he can be challenging at times, but he's right up under my skin. When he loves a thing, he really loves a thing.

I'm going to learn how to do the insulin calculations and injections as back-up - yikes!

Latest song/video obsession

For reasons I might struggle to articulate I keep wanting to listen to and watch this video clip from The Lumineers. It's no Bob Dylan, but some of the lyrics remind me of what (little) I know of him. I particularly like this bit: 'But I've read this script and the costume fits, so I'll play my part.'


Saturday, August 13, 2016

The nurturing way of life - Wendell Berry

The Gospel Coalition just happened to publish an article on Wendell Berry the other day. It's mainly directed at revitalising pastors, but there's something in it for all of us on this thing called the 'nurturing way of life', which includes memory, discipline, hope and affection. I like it. (Which doesn't mean I endorse every theological view of WB, or that anyone else has to either to appreciate the good things. I'd like to read some of his non-fiction - though I am also with Russell Moore that theologians need to read fiction.)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The course of an ordinary married life

I did also finish The Course of Love, by Alain de Botton recently. This is a story of ordinary married life. I didn’t read it because I specifically wanted to read a story of ordinary married life,  but rather because Alain de Botton is one of those authors, who, when he has a new book out, I will generally investigate. (Though if a Christian fellow ever were to take the initiative and ask me out, unlikely as I now perceive that to be, I’d need all the help I can get, because history would indicate that I am inept.) But I feel like it was a useful book to have read, and I’d actually recommend that everybody read it. The fact that it is written primarily from the male perspective on day-to-day relationships also made it interesting to me. It is a novel, containing the narrative of one married couple, but is also interspersed with italicised philosophical/psychological musings on what it means to be in relationships and raise children ...

I didn’t underline anything as I read, though much of it was thought-provoking, so now I am left flicking for a good bit, but here is something from the main characters middle-of-the-night ponderings (and there have been a lot of interviews with the author and articles online if anyone cares to look):
At this point, he is beyond self-pity, the shallow belief that what has happened to him is rare or undeserved. He has lost faith in his own innocence and uniqueness. This isn’t a midlife crisis; it’s more that he is finally, some thirty years too late, leaving adolescence behind.

He sees he is a man with an exaggerated longing for Romantic love who nevertheless understands little about kindness and even less about communication. He is someone afraid of openly striving for happiness who takes shelter in a stance of pre-emptive disappointment and cynicism.

So this is what it is to be a failure. The chief characteristic may be silence: the phone doesn’t ring, he isn’t asked out, nothing new happens. For most of his adult life he has conceived of failure in the form of a spectacular catastrophe, only to recognize, at last, that it has in fact crept up on him imperceptibly, through cowardly inaction.

Yet, surprisingly, it’s OK. One gets used to everything, even humiliation. The apparently unendurable has a habit of coming to seem, eventually, not so bad.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The chance you had - more from Wendell Berry

A photo posted by Alison Payne (@thisfoggyday) on

I am currently reading Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry, which is a beautiful novel. There is so much worthy material in it, but I liked this quote. I have to admit, that my recent surgery could lead me to ask all sorts of questions and take a good many looks sideways at my life in comparison to a large proportion of the women in my church (many of whom have recently been, or soon will go, to hospital and come home with a baby), but you can’t, not truly and not with any benefit, and I am very thankful for how the recent events turned out for me, given that they had to and did happen ... 'Those are the right instructions.'
... After they were gone, I was mourning over them to Nathan. I said, “I just wanted them to have a better chance than I had”.

Nathan said, “Don’t complain about the chance you had”, in the same way exactly that he used to tell the boys, “Don’t cuss the weather”. Sometimes you can say dreadful things without knowing it. Nathan understood this better than I did.

Like several of his one-sentence conversations, this one stuck in my mind and finally changed it. The change came to late, maybe, but it turned my mind inside out like a sock.

Was I sorry that I had known my parents and Grandmam and Ora Finley and the Catletts and the Feltners, and that I had married Virgil and come to live in Port William, and that I had lived on after Virgil’s death to marry Nathan and come to our place to raise our family and live among the Coulters and the rest of our membership?

Well, that was the chance I had.

And so Nathan required me to think a thought that has stayed with me a long time and has traveled a long way. It passed through everything I know and changed it all. The chance you had is the life you’ve got. You can make complaints about what people, including you, make of their lives after they have got them, and about what people make of other people’s lives, even about your children being gone, but you mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.” I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Charlotte Bronte's poem on idolatry

It struck me later that Friday's poem is not unlike the second poem I posted here, which was way back in 2007 so I'll post it again. Charlotte Brontë is more dramatic (hello Brontë sisters!), and the point of it is not so much that she had made an idol of her love (though the response for that was certainly the same), but that God will forgive that fault, which is also good.

(Now I am just going to lie on the couch after a weekend of family trauma and comings and goings.)

He Saw My Heart's Woe
Charlotte Brontë

He saw my heart's woe, discovered my soul's anguish,
How in fever, in thirst, in atrophy it pined;
Knew he could heal, yet looked and let it languish,
To it's moans spirit-deaf, to its pangs spirit-blind.

But once a year he heard a whisper low and dreary
Appealing for aid, entreating some reply;
Only when sick, soul-worn, and torture weary,
Breathed I that prayer, heaved I that sigh.

He was mute as is the grave, he stood stirless as a tower;
At last I looked up, and saw I prayed to stone:
I asked help of that which to help had no power,
I sought love where love was utterly unknown.

Idolater I kneeled to an idol cut in rock!
I might have slashed my flesh and drawn my heart's best blood:
The Granite God had felt no tenderness, no shock;
My Baal had not seen nor heard nor understood.

In dark remorse I rose; I rose in darker shame;
Self-condemned I withdrew to an exile from my kind;
A solitude I sought where mortal never came,
Hoping in its wilds forgetfulness to find.

Now, Heaven, heal the wound which I still deeply feel;
The glorious hosts look not in scorn on our poor race;
Thy King eternal doth no iron judgment deal
On suffering worms who seek forgiveness, comfort, grace.

He gave our hearts to love: He will not Love despise,
E'en if the gift be lost, as mine was long ago;
He will forgive the fault, will bid the offender rise,
Wash out with dews of bliss the fiery brand of woe;

And give a sheltered place beneath the unsullied throne,
Whence the soul redeemed may mark Time's fleeting course round earth;
And know its trials overpast, its sufferings gone,
And feel the peril past of Death's immortal birth.

Charlotte Brontë

Saturday, August 06, 2016

A new book of poetry, by Joy Davidman

I am back. I’m actually on the end of a stint in a hospital in Sydney last week, involving over four hours of surgery, and I now have another three weeks off work. I ask myself why I hesitate to share on that. I don’t mean to be in any way ungenerous in not sharing, with those of you dear readers that I know and who would only care and personally comment, I’m just reluctant to be an internet curiosity for those who might read and leave no indication of having read. It was all quite a sudden development and I am still coming to good terms with it, but am glad it is now over and very thankful to God that everything went very well (there was a vomiting incident in the night on Tuesday and ongoing nausea on Wednesday morning, but that soon passed). The surgeon and anaesthetist were exceptionally kind and competent, and I am so pleased to have found and been cared for by them. Unfortunately I came home from Sydney to another medical emergency, with my nephew currently in hospital, and last night I actually had my little nieces here, so it’s drama central, but all will settle down.

For now, I think it’s time for a poem. I also had a birthday recently and with a voucher to spend I stumbled upon this book of poetry by Joy Davidman, wife of CS Lewis, including sonnets she wrote to him. I thought this one was interesting. Obviously the problem of love as idolatry was a consideration long ago, as even Christina Rossetti would attest. There is a reference in Stanza 3 to 1 Kings 18:25-29. (I’ll find one that’s not about love soon! - I thought I would settle down on the couch to chill and read more of it last night and ended up playing Memory and feeding and distracting two small girls, while their brother had to be transferred from one hospital to another ...)


Why, you may call the thing idolatry
And tell no lie; for I have seen you shine
Brighter than any son of man should be;
And trembled, and half-dreamed you were divine,

And knelt in adoration; willfully
I bring my pleasant gifts to the wrong shrine,
And little joy there is of it for me;
You are not God, and neither are you mine.

The pagan priesthood, honouring their Baal,
Slashed themselves till they bled, and so have I,
Yet neither they nor I to much avail;
The fire was out, and vacant was the sky.

Sir, you may correct me with your rod.
I have loved you better than I loved my God.

Joy Davidman
February 14, 1953