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Sabbatical, Day 49: Rebekah’s Party

I didn’t think I’d keep up my record of daily sabbatical blogs today. By tea-time, I was in bed, exhausted and with a dreadful headache. Several bad nights’ sleep had taken their toll, and adrenaline had kept me going until finally I kept dropping off on the sofa to the embarrassment of the family.

Tomorrow is Rebekah’s sixth birthday, and today was her party. She had chosen a pottery party with ten friends at local studion The Glazed Look. That was going to make for a quiet celebration, rather than exuberant running around and noisy games. When Debbie booked his for her at her request, we didn’t know how significant that was going to be.

Because, just after 6 am, Debbie woke me to say Rebekah had been awake three times in the night with ear pain. (I may be having trouble getting to sleep at present, but once I do, there’s little that would wake me.) She also had a discharge from her right ear. By 6:30, I was on the phone to the out of hours doctors’ service, getting an appointment at their clinic for 8:10 am. Just as I had taken Mark there a couple of weeks ag on a Saturday night, now I was taxi for my daughter.

With nobody in the queue, she was seen on time by a lovely, gentle Indian doctor, and out came the usual prescription for amoxicillin – just what we expected. The nearest pharmacy open at that time on a Saturday was at Tesco, so we drove there. Knowing Rebekah doesn’t like the usual banana flavour of amoxicillin, he prepared an orange version. However, that didn’t make any difference to her dislike. But with alternating doses of calpol and calprofen, at least she got through her party and crashed out a little bit this afternoon. How devastated she and we would have been, had she not been able to. So it’s a big thank you today to the NHS staff who coped so kindly and efficiently with a little girl’s distress.

And with that I’m going to sign off, finishing some supper and watching Tottenham’s glorious victory over Chelsea today on Match of the Day.

Sabbatical, Day 29: From Mountain To Valley With A Bump

So we roused Mark at 9 pm yesterday. Despite the pain in his ear, he protested that he wanted to go back to sleep rather than see a doctor. Eventually, half way to the hospital (where the out of hours GP service is located), he began to be half-awake enough to view the trip as an adventure. 

Arriving in the car park, we were still stung at that time to the tune of £3.50 for the privilege of leaving the car in a mostly empty facility. Thanks, Broomfield Hospital. You’re so kind.

Entering the waiting room at 9:20 with an appointment time of 9:40, I let Mark snuggle up to me as I noticed more than twenty minutes go by before anyone else was called into a consulting room. I calculated that with the number of people in front of us, we would probably only get to see a medic around 10:20 – 10:30. For me, the time was passing almost as slowly as it would for a child, and I invoked my interest in Maths to occupy my brain, just as I sometimes stimulate myself on a long car journey by periodically calculating my average speed to two or three decimal points. Did someone say ‘Sad’?

I gathered only one doctor was on duty, but while we were there one more began a shift, as did an advanced nurse practitioner. The pace thus sped up, and just after 10 Mark was called in. We trotted into see the nurse practitioner, along with his Favourite Bear. (He gives his cuddly toys descriptions rather than names.)

Sure enough, it was a routine ear infection and so out came another bottle of amoxicillin, or ‘banana medicine’ as Mark calls it. I wonder whether you can guess the flavour. 🙂

On the way home, he was chatty if still tired, but was very taken by the experience. He said that in future when he was ill he wanted to alternate between seeing ‘Chelmsford doctors’ (by which he meant our GP surgery) and ‘hospital doctors’.

Of course, he didn’t realise that he had seen ‘hospital doctors’ when he was a baby – not only when he was born, but when the root cause of his permanently screaming the manse down was discovered. No, not the shock of having me for a father: he had been born with an inguinal hernia. Diagnosis only happened at seven weeks, after several incidents when Debbie had taken refuge with large glasses of sherry on nights when I was out at church meetings. He had surgery at ten weeks. 

This morning, Debbie took Rebekah to church while I stayed home with Mark. He has picked up considerably, but he has a week of banana medicine ahead of him and although he has been quite bouncy today, we’re keeping him off school tomorrow. 

If I’ve done any thinking about the sabbatical today, it’s just been a temporary musing of the problem of re-entry that awaits me in two months’ time. I’ve had two mountain-top experiences already, and while the church usually aims to ease ministers back in post-sabbatical, it didn’t happen to me last time and I don’t suppose it will this time.

Last time, the circumstances were exceptional: the circuit treasurer had failed to apply for the release of some funds. Realising his mistake, he had put thousands of his own money into the circuit accounts, leaving us the recipients of an unauthorised loan. He was one of my church members, and a decent guy in many ways.

But what exercises me this time is the adjustment to ‘normal church life’. I think it was A W Tozer who once observed that the spiritual temperature in many churches is so low that when someone turns up with a normal, New Testament ‘temperature’, they treat that person as if they have a fever.

Now let me quickly qualify that. I’m again aware how easy it is at a point like this to slip into a judgmental attitude. I can only assure you I don’t mean that, just as I also don’t mean anyone reading this to assume I’m painting myself as the one with the normal spiritual temperature. I’m struggling for language to express the dilemma, and I expect and hope you know what I’m driving at. In a desire to be accepting, inclusive and indeed avoid judgmentalism we have tolerated a low temperature in our churches. There have been many times over the years when I have felt that slowly suck the life out of me. In such circumstances, regular outside support is vital. Sometimes it’s easy to come by, but not always. Even when it is available, it emphasises the disconnect painfully, and has to be channelled into a passion for change.

In other news: I’ve been wading through the five hundred emails that were in the inbox when I returned. Among the gems was yet another article from the wonderful Ruth Haley Barton. I realise this one on Ash Wednesday is now four days late, but you might still gain something from her reflections, or at very least note it for next year. 

And on that positive note, it’s goodnight from me.

Sabbatical, Day 19: Skate Parks, Writing Styles And … Oh Yuck

I’m going to kick off with one or two links I found today. First of all, Malmesbury Abbey has been turned into a skate park. The BBC reports it as a novelty; clearly they haven’t heard of Legacy XS.

I took a ‘What kind of writer are you?’ test and got a bizarre result:


You Should Be a Science Fiction Writer


Your ideas are very strange, and people often wonder what planet you’re from.        

And while you may have some problems being “normal,” you’ll have no problems writing sci-fi.

Whether it’s epic films, important novels, or vivid comics…

Your own little universe could leave an important mark on the world! 

Mind you, Debbie often wonders what planet I’m on. 🙂

Like I said, I thought it was a bizarre result. I see myself rather more journalistic.

Having said that, Mark’s illness has again meant little or no chance for proper sabbatical study today. The vomiting returned when he woke up, and we took him back to the doctor, also reporting sore throat, ear and stomach, plus a rash on his thigh and other stuff. The GP was now pretty sure he had tonsillitis and so out came the prescription for the much-unloved banana medicine (a.k.a. amoxicillin). He advised us to alternate Calpol and Calprofen to keep the pain down.

Well, the Calprofen had an immediate effect, at least until about half an hour before another dose was due each time, and this afternoon he picked up considerably while his sister, Mum and ‘Aunt Pat’ were out ten pin bowling. He even wanted something to eat at dinnertime. Knowing that big sister was getting macaroni cheese, he said he fancied some pasta. Off he went to find the tins of pasta shapes, and came back with what he wanted: Heinz Disney Princess pasta shapes in tomato sauce. Which he demolished. And they stayed down.

Until after his bath, anyway, when he gagged on amoxicillin. That, Calprofen and pasta shapes ended up sprayed on towels and elsewhere. However, we’re quietly confident he’s turned the corner. We’ll see how he gets on tomorrow.