Holding the baby

Two photographs of Gareth (that\'s whose blog this is) holding his nephew Owen -- a baby.
Self-portrait of Gareth with Owen. Twice.

Yesterday I travelled down to Selkirk for my Mum’s cousin Jasmine’s 75th birthday. It was a great family event, attended by a great family. I do love our family get-togethers: there is usually a lot of laughter.

As a surprise my brother Eddie and his wife Rebecca and son Owen came down just in time for birthday cake! It was lovely (that they came down, I mean, although the cake was okay too) as it was the first time that most of the family had seen Owen. Which is fair enough, as he was only two weeks old yesterday. Wow! a fourteen day old human being!

After the party, back at Mum’s, I “got a hold” which is where I took the self-portrait photos above — since no one else was taking a photo of us!

And then I managed to send him to sleep (below) singing made-up-lyrics to a tune from the film Shrek:

Baby Owen asleep in Gareth\'s arms.
Look how tiny his hands look compared with mine. (Photo by my sister Jenni.)

It was a game that we’d come up with on Thursday night when Jane and I visited Eddie and Rebecca, and where Jane cooked them dinner. As soon as I had finished dessert Eddie handed me Owen so that he could tuck in with more than just one hand.

Standing in the middle of the kitchen, gently bouncing Owen and trying to keep him amused, Eddie suddenly leapt at me with the challenge, “Sing him the first song that comes into your head NOW!”

Have any of you heard the lullaby version of Angel of Death by American thrash band Slayer? Just goes to show, it’s not what you sing, it’s how you sing it! (Incidentally, Tori Amos‘s version of Slayer’s Reign In Blood is quite, quite special. If you’re into dirge-like piano pieces overlaid with haunting female vocals. Hunt it out on iTunes.)

I also discovered that the opening lyrics for Queen‘s Bohemian Rhapsody take on a totally different feel when you’re singing it gently as a lullaby to a baby. Especially these lines:

Mama, life had just begun,
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away,
Mama ooooooh,
Didn’t mean to make you cry,
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters,

Too late, my time has come,
Sends shivers down my spine,
Body’s aching all the time,
Goodbye everybody I’ve got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth,
Mama Ooooooh
I don’t want to die,
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all…

It was at that point I went back to nonsense lyrics to a tune from Shrek. I’ll have to see if I can still find my comedy Shrek ears, I can see that this is going to be a regular gig.

A day in the life

Bath taps

Who says that clergy don’t have interesting and varied days? Not me, for one.

Mine began, as usual, waking up to the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4. When I got up, boy was I sore from weights and cycling the last two days. Having read something the other night in a small Men’s Health booklet I rediscovered that long, deep, white bucket in the bathroom and soaked myself for 20 minutes while reading the latest edition of Private Eye that Mr Postman had kindly delivered. What a decent fellow he is.

Just as I was about to go out to see my Spiritual Director the telephone rang. It was a retired medical doctor ringing to get help with his Psion Series 7 and copy of PsiWin (the software that allows you to connect a Psion to a PC).

That sorted and the promise of a follow-up email about connecting a Psion Series 7 to the internet I headed out for my six weekly appointment with my Spiritual Director. The theologian Kenneth Leech prefers the term “Soul Friend” but the idea is the same. As Leech says

“The spiritual life is the life of the whole person directed towards God”
(Soul Friend, p.30)

During these sessions I speak about what is important in my life, what is happening on all levels, not just my prayer life but everything. My Spiritual Director listens and asks questions; usually the right questions.

Today we focused a lot on what I’ll do once my current post ends at the end of April. My Spiritual Director helped me to look beyond my immediate feelings of guilt about leaving a full-time stipendiary ministry post to explore the next stage in my personal development and journey. What I do next — whatever it is — is not about me giving up my ministry or my priesthood. Rather, it is a continuation of it, and further use of the gifts that God has given me, some of which I’m not able to use fully in my current role.

This afternoon after lunch — which had to be quickly replanned after I discovered that the low-fat mayonnaise I’d just dolloped onto my can of tuna was seven months out of date — I prepared for a meeting with my colleague Nicola this evening, where I would begin to hand over information about St Salvador’s, as she will be heading-up the St Salvador’s end of things at the end of this month. Our official handing-over service will be on Sunday 29 January; the Sunday after next.

During the afternoon I followed up an email from my cousin Zack in the US who is currently working on a screenplay. I ended up phoning South Eastern Trains to ask them what they announce aboard trains as they are about to enter terminal stations. Never a dull moment my life, I tell you!

This evening, having returned from the handover meeting, and having discovered how much the church would like from us in rent should we stay on in this house after April, I helped the Americans overthrow a Chinese military coup. Like you do.

Oh, in Battlefield 2, I meant to say. And now Jane has returned from her two-and-a-half day work-related jaunt in Highland, Caithness and Moray.

Still no word from Eddie and Rebecca about how Owen is. He got out of SCBU yesterday and was back on the ward. They were due to get home today.

What did you do today?

A man in a sack troubles no owl

Benjamin pointing to a sign that reads: Baby Special Care Unit
Benjamin standing outside the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at St John’s hospital, Livingston. Sadly, because of regulations Benjamin wasn’t allowed in to meet his only cousin.

We’re just back home after having driven a little over 200 miles today: Edinburgh to Selkirk to Edinburgh to Livingston to Edinburgh to Selkirk to Edinburgh. I’ve had déjà vu on more than one occasion today — I’m sure I’ve said that before.

Driving back along the M8 towards Edinburgh, Jane was talking about how she has to be in Wick, Caithness, in the far north of Scotland on Tuesday morning to be involved in a number of interviews for a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award-related post.

“Did you know,” said I, “that Wick is that place that all the male owls in Scotland fly-to to chat-up the female owls?”
“Really?!” exclaimed my sister Jenni, sounding quite excited by that idea.
“Yeah,” I replied, “all the owls go to Wick to woo.”

It took me about 10 miles to stop laughing at my own joke. And that was only because we’d stopped at a chip shop in Edinburgh and I was too busy stuffing my face with chips to laugh!

Just as we were arriving in Selkirk Jane got this SMS text message from my brother Eddie:

Owen is still in special care unit, but is feeding for ages and seems fine. He is out of incubator and hopefully will be back on ward pretty soon. E x

which is great news. So thanks for all the prayers so far, saints. Time for bed now. But before I go, just to explain: this post’s title comes from a competition that one of the London broadsheets ran in 1996 to come up with pithy sayings. Others included “You can take a horse to Wembley but you’d be in the wrong place” and “Fingers for hands, toes for feet!” I feel that the world is a more beautiful place now because of these. Bed, I think…

Baby Owen update

Baby Owen in an incubator
Baby Owen in an incubator earlier this evening.

Thanks for your prayers so far. We were able to visit Rebecca this evening — the whole family gathered around her bed like the Boswells in a scene from the 80s TV show Bread.

At some point during the visit a nurse came in to say that we could visit Owen in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) — the delay had been due to a desperately ill baby being attended to in the same room as Owen — so we headed along there and visited young Owen in a manner that Noah would have been proud: two by two.

I’m so pleased that Mum got to see her grandson for the first time; there was a chance at a couple of points during the evening that no-one would get in to see him, but the prayers of the saints came through and he was ready for visitors shortly before visiting time ended, which was perfect.

Owen still has some way to go, and Mum will be pleased to get him into her arms to make sure for herself that he’s okay, and get the Official Retired Midwife Seal of Approval™.

Still more praying to be done.

Please pray

Owen with Gareth and Edmund
Photograph taken yesterday in hospital, Uncle Gareth holding Owen, with Owen’s father (Gareth’s brother) Edmund.

This is a call for all the saints (that’s you, by the way) to please pray for our new nephew Owen. We’ve heard that baby Owen had to be taken to the baby special unit within the last 24 hours, having had a little shaking episode and losing colour. We’re not entirely sure what’s going on, but our trust is in God to bring Owen, and Bec and Eddie through this.

Jane and I are off to Selkirk soon to pick up Grannie (my Mum, the ex-Midwife) and take her to Livingston to see baby and new parents for the first time. I mean, Mum’s seen Eddie and Rebecca before — obviously! — but not as parents. You know what I mean!

I’ll give an update when we get back later this evening.