I have been writing a little about concrete in my latest posts and that will continue in the next post at least. Since my retirement ten months ago I have kept to a routine and have kept myself busy doing things at home, projects and maintenance. It is good to keep one’s self occupied, especially when retired from full-time work. I set myself routines and kept to them for the most part, everything set in concrete but along the way I have learned it is best not to be too regimental with schedules. I found myself breaking my own rules, usually because I was tired or simply wanted a change. Working on my latest project made me realise that I have to take a break now and then. In fact I have been forced into doing so, that is my body tells me it wants to rest! This morning (I write this on Sat 10th) I slept in. I had a bit of a restless night again and found it difficult to get to sleep even though I was really tired after the day’s work. My thoughts were all over the place, an over-active brain has always been a problem for me. I simply cannot stop thinking about things when lying there in bed. My body says sleep but my mind won’t let me! It didn’t matter that I had a lie-in, I needed it. My project has kept me from a ritualistic exercising regime and it has proved to be of more benefit to me. I realise my schedules don’t have to be set in stone (concrete) for I can and do exercise at will more so now than I have ever done.
Yesterday after a hard day at the office so to speak I found myself taking exercise on the Elliptical trainer for a while. At the time it wasn’t a problem because I find that it is only when I stop working or exercising that I feel tired or feel the effects of the day’s workout. I suppose that is the same for everyone. In any case I should have fallen asleep within minutes but I didn’t. I guess I am more relaxed about flexible workouts than I am in thinking about them. Things play on my mind as if they are supposed to but they are not, especially when I am tired. So now my life is taking a turn or rather my habits are, work, play and exercise are now to be followed in a more relaxed way and concrete will be kept solely for the work department.
Throughout our lives we may find ourselves caught up in situations outside our control. Though we may struggle to see a way out or a solution to problems we are facing we often cling on to a hope that things will change for the better. We hang on for as long as we are able or until the situation is resolved. We may not be happy with the result but we’ve done our best. How often have we heard others lending their support in encouragement by saying hang on in there? The length of time we are able to resist giving in and throwing in the towel depends on our inner strength, our faith and our determination. Sometimes we are thrown off-course by things out of our control and simply have to accept it. Earlier in the year I noticed our apple trees did not produce the fruit we had expected, in fact one tree had no fruit whilst the other had produced only four apples…
A later photograph of the same tree…..
And later still this picture taken on 25 November…….
Still hanging on through thick and thin. At the time I wrote this post and took the picture I wanted to pluck them from the tree before they fell of their own accord or were blown off in a high wind but E insisted I leave them until December just to see if they would remain hanging on. Life is like that. Sometimes we just don’t know if we should remain hanging on or give in to the pressure to let go. As a Christian I am encouraged to hang on in faith in order to overcome those things which can threaten to bring me down or to simply wait for answered prayer. We should all be encouraged to hang on in there just like the four little apples on my tree.
There is no-one who does good in this world (Psalm 14:3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one). Oh there are those who some consider to be good because of what they have done but that compliment is based upon human views. Even the person whom we may consider being good falls short of the mark in the eyes of God. That aside I think we can safely say that there are quite a few bad people in this world. Maybe you have met with some of them in your corner of the world? Probably. Most people might be considered upright, honest and trustworthy and have good moral standing in our eyes but we all know there are some who are not. These will be deceitful, selfish, scheming and dishonest and I’ll wager many of us will know some like that closer to home. The good and the bad are usually easy to discern, eventually anyway but the ugly may not be.
When I say ugly I am not referring to someone who is not as good-looking as others or who has the misfortune not to appear physically attractive; no, I am referring to one who has personality problems. The ugly person is the one who speaks ill of others where there is no justification, the one who speaks in whispers to another about someone else. Perhaps they do it through jealousy or hatred or because the person holds a differing point of view. Perhaps it is racially motivated, perhaps it is homo-phobic or based upon fear. Perhaps they are simply bullies. Whatever the reason the ugly person is the nastiest of them all. Theirs is a life intent on making someone else’s life a misery. I have met a few ‘ugly’ people like this over the years and I’m certain I am not alone. The problem the ugly person thinks their target has is actually a problem they have themselves but they cannot see that. When we were young my siblings and I were always taught that it is rude to whisper (about someone else) but I know I have not always adhered to the teaching in the past. It isn’t nice to be obviously whispering about someone in their presence and it certainly isn’t nice to be on the receiving end of such behaviour is it? Jesus said ‘Love one another’ and to do that we must begin by looking inward to our own hearts. Treat others as you would like them to treat you, with respect. It doesn’t matter who or what they are, you don’t have to ‘like’ them…..just love them. Don’t be an ugly person for the chip on your shoulder will become a heavy burden and you will crumble beneath the weight.
No not the movie…..life! Do you ever feel you are on a treadmill going nowhere? Yes you do things, you have a routine, you change your routine as often as you feel but nothing really changes does it? Recently retired and when working having purpose really meant nothing either, it simply meant I had something to occupy my time. I still have things to occupy my time, it is simply a different routine. We set goals in life or just live for the moment or maybe we do both but in the end everything we do eventually leads us to the next for we are never satisfied. It is like food for our souls, it is our thoughts which spurs us on, they are what keep us moving forward and ever seeking something that in fact we seldom find if we are truthful. Life can be very satisfying and rewarding but none of it really lasts. We aim to satisfy our physical needs first and foremost and neglect our spiritual needs though the two are inseparable, at least whilst we live. We are driven by what we think but we can change what we think. If we are comfortable with the changes we continue in them or we can make an attempt to do so but in the end if we are not happy we revert. No matter what we do in life, what choices we make along the way can we really say that we’ve been happy one hundred percent of the time? Our thoughts might tell us otherwise and in reality we know we are never fully happy, never fully satisfied with our lot. So our lives are a never-ending struggle with ourselves and our situations. Some resign themselves to never achieving their hopes and dreams and others think they’ve hit the jackpot when they think they have. It is all an illusion, a passing fancy and we have to make the most of it until we die. How often have you heard the expression ‘Life is for living’? Did it have an effect on your choices thereafter? We can but do nothing else but live out our lives as best we can and be happy and contented. In this world there is nothing else.
Everything is meaningless
1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem:
2 ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’
3 What do people gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun? 4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains for ever. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. 8 All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. 9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. 11 No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.
I had the afternoon to do something I don’t usually do on Saturday or any day for that matter, I sat and watched television. It was the last day of September, cool with occasional rain, not an ideal day for being outdoors without purpose. There is work to do outdoors at home but on this day I just wanted to rest. I had been for a walk in the morning while E spent a couple of hours at the Southport Theatre and Conference Centre (Floral Hall) with a friend to see an exhibition being held there for the day.
I had actually walked past the venue on my way along the route I had chosen on the day but earlier and before it had opened. I was on my way northward along The Promenade and planned to return along the beach, well part-way along the beach. On the northern part of the sea front, that is north of the Pier, there isn’t really a beach at all, it is more a thin strip of sand between the sea wall and the mud and Marram grass stretching out to sea. In the Summer when it is dry it isn’t too bad but at other times it is almost impossible to walk on. South of the Pier is all sand but only for a short distance before there is more mud and grass. I wrote about this in a recent post. It is the reason I prefer to walk south from my access point to the shore, it is practically all sand. Anyway on my walks on the beach I have been collecting some pebbles and stones for use in the garden, only small amounts each time but they soon mount up. My walks are more for the pleasure of the exercise and surroundings, not for the collection of pebbles! As I reached the point where I wanted to get onto the beach I saw a police car reversed down the sloping concrete vehicle access path there. The path has not been used for years and sand now covered in grass has built up at the bottom. As I approached to pass by the driver opened his window as if to ask me if I wanted something. I told him I was just passing to get on to the beach. I asked if he was having his tea break and he replied that he was. Maybe he was. There are no places in the immediate area where it is safe to park or even allowed so I could see he had no choice but to park there whether he was having his break or not. I collected some pebbles but returned to the roadside path rather than slip and slide over the mud a short distance away. I rejoined the sandy part of the beach later. I like my beach walks, they give me a sense of freedom, an escape from the realities of life. Even so, I was looking forward to the week ahead and the prospect of doing things in the garden if the weather permitted. The new garage door installation had been set back to happen on Friday instead of the previously scheduled Thursday but it didn’t matter, nothing really does when you have been set free from the clock does it?
When asked by someone how we are most of the time we answer as above even if it isn’t true. Many ask but don’t really expect us to say anything different and if we do then the subject is swiftly changed. There is an element of insincerity in being asked how we are for if we want to reply honestly and truthfully we often don’t get the chance. Asking about our well-being has become more of a way of merely saying hello. How many folk do you know who actually want to know the details of your struggles in life? How many will actually take time out to listen? I am often asked how I am doing but can only answer that it isn’t so bad, and really, it isn’t. We might say that things could be better but could they really be better or are we simply wishing for things that in fact we already have? Are not all the best things in life free? We do well if we’ve food at our table, clothes upon our backs and a roof over our heads do we not? Anything over and above these basics is a bonus, like enjoying good health for instance. Not all of us can say we are completely free of one ailment or another, except perhaps when we are young. No-one is really exempt from falling ill or becoming tired and exhausted. Even the most healthy can fall sick sometimes. All we can do is take preventative measures and be cautious in what we do or what we eat and drink. Life can always be better I suppose, it all depends upon our attitude and how much we can remain contented with our lot. Striving after gain is stressful and can lead to ill-health. I remember the story, perhaps you do too, of an older guy who went fishing one day and sat at the side of a lake for hours with only a catch of one or two fish. Along came a well-dressed man who cheerfully said hello and broke into conversation with him. ‘Listen’ he said, ‘You could catch a lot more fish if you’d a mind to do so for there are plenty here in this lake. Just think, you could sell off what you don’t want and make a tidy profit. If you really had ambition you could save for a fishing boat and catch even more fish. You could then retire with all the cash you’d make and do whatever you wanted’. The fisherman thought for a minute then replied, ‘What do you think I’m doing now’? You see we often don’t see what we’ve already got right beneath our noses………It’s not so bad really.
In conversations with people I am asked why it is I do not go out of my way to fly off somewhere warm and sunny sometimes. Why is it that I actually like the climate where I live? Well it is alright flying off to exotic places and getting burned by the sun, bitten by the local insects or being uncomfortable with my clothes sticking to my body due to excessive perspiration but I have to return to a cooler climate later. It isn’t that I don’t like flying off somewhere or that I don’t wish to visit somewhere new, it is more that I just cannot be bothered with it all. I have done my share of flying to be sure but the novelty has worn off somewhat these last few years. Am I bothered, do I really care? The short answer is no. For some people their annual two weeks in the sunshine is a must and they spend thousands of pounds doing it. It is their prerogative, their money, their time but for me it matters not that I go or don’t go. I don’t feel I am missing out if I choose to stay at home. There are many folk who cannot afford the luxury of flying off to foreign parts but I am sure many would like to. Similarly many would not. Life isn’t about jetting off to sunny climes and in fact whenever I do go places these days, which is not often, I am usually going to meet people rather than to admire the scenery. In my mind one place is no different from another and the more important reason for travel is to meet people. I like scenery but it is soon forgotten. Some of it is pretty but inhospitable, nice to look at but not to live in. What is the point in admiring mountain ranges that are merely backdrops to civilization. No-one wants to live up a mountain and be uncomfortable doing so. Mountains and lakes, rivers and streams can only be seen when we take the time to do it. We live our lives among people and our daily lives and activities are centred around what we are doing, not the scenery surrounding us. How many times do we look at something before we hardly notice it is there and does it really matter what our surroundings to enjoy life? I prefer to surround myself with people rather than scenery which is but transitory.
……early to rise, makes a man (or woman) healthy, wealthy and wise. Do you remember this snippet of wisdom taught to you when you were young? I used to think it applied to others and not myself but then I got wise. Staying up till the late hours and then sleeping in the following day has never been a way of life for me ever since I began my working life. Of course there were days when I did stay up late and did sleep in the following morning but they have been few. Being as I am self-employed and that since 1997, the saying has more of a meaning than it once did. When working for someone else or an organisation the tendency is often to do only that asked of you and no more. That principle doesn’t apply to everyone for there are those who give their all irrespective of whether they are self-employed or not and that is a good thing, Speaking as a Christian it is right and proper to put 100% effort and interest in your work, especially if it is for and on behalf of your employer. Now if that employer happens to be yourself you can see the reason for this approach for if you are lazy you will be the one to suffer. Even before I became a Christian I applied this principle to my approach to work. I took pride in my work and was rewarded for it by way of promotion and better prospects. Since becoming self-employed, which incidentally was only eight years after I became a Christian, it was natural for me to continue to give my all. It is a biblical teaching too. So from the first tentative days of being self-employed to the present day I can say that I have become (more) healthy, wealthy and certainly more wise! I have been telling everyone that I am now working part-time, have become semi-retired but in reality I am finding my income remains almost as it was a few years ago and I am better off than ever. I try not to work too hard but occasionally I find myself putting in more hours than I had intended though nothing like I used to, after all I am approaching seventy years of age! I meet other people of a similar age and find that those who seem to be more agile and hard-working into their old age fare much better than those who don’t. They too retire early and rise early ready to catch the proverbial worm. Laziness is the seed which produces poverty and poor health.
I’ve had a partially busy week during my return to work which as it happens is the way I would wish it to continue. I seem to have reached that point again whereby I am dwelling upon the uselessness of it all. I can’t be bothered most of the time yet I find that when I make the effort my outlook changes. Perhaps it’s my age, no doubt it is. Do you ever feel that life and its problems get the better of you sometimes? Well I haven’t reached that stage but sometimes feel I am headed that way. I survive. Speaking of problems, I’ve had a few of those come my way of late. A couple of weeks ago I made a simple error in signing in to one of my online bank accounts but because I didn’t see my error until it was too late I was locked out of my account. An inconvenience to say the least but was is worse was the procedure I had to follow in order to get reconnected. A change of identity and a new password were sent to me through the post two weeks later and then a further letter containing a security code was sent a few days later. Having painstakingly submitting those details on the web site I found I was locked into a repetitive loop explaining that the details I had entered were incorrect! Resorting to the telephone I was connected to a representative of the bank who guided me through the process. I remained locked into the same loop! Now they are sending me new details in order to go through the whole process again. As yet the result is pending as at the time of writing those details have not yet arrived. I have no such difficulties with my other banks. This sort of thing really annoys me and is probably mostly unnecessary. We had a repeat visit from our utility provider, or rather their agent, or rather another agent carrying out exactly the same survey of our waste water pipe systems as the previous agent had done a few months ago. That’s what I call efficiency, no actually a waste of time and money! The results were exactly the same, everything is in order. What is wrong with this world? Don’t answer that question as it would take you all your life to answer it in detail. Save to say that we, as human beings have a habit of getting the simplest of things wrong at times. Common sense has flown out of our tool boxes it seems. These things are sent to try us they say, whoever ‘they’ are, probably those ‘experts’ we are so often presented with yet never actually see. Life has got to be better than these things and it is. I was reminded of all the good things in life which make all our little problems bearable. As I was writing this I glanced up and looked at the picture on the wall the one you see above. The good things in life far outweigh the trivia. The picture was taken about twenty-six years ago and shows my two young sons. I count my blessings and they are one of them.
Many a time I have been told that I am a cheerful soul despite some of the things that have turned my world upside down, especially in the last twenty years. I could attribute my cheerfulness to many things I suppose but the real reason is the in-dwelling of The Holy Spirit, the joy in the knowledge of my salvation in Jesus Christ. I am given to the disposition of cheerfulness because I know I cannot change things that cannot be changed but strive to change those which can be instead. On Thursday I made it my business to take the day off work despite the requests for my services. I was able to have extra time in bed, something foreign to my normal lifestyle. Being honest I have to confess that I was tired but even so five hours sleep is usually enough for me. I managed to stay asleep for six hours before the urgency to visit the toilet awakened me. However I returned to bed and put in another four hours before I finally stirred again. Whilst going about the business of getting ready for the day I received a call from an American guy asking if I would do some electrical work for him. He rejected the price I gave him for the proposed work as he said the job should be easy. Well of course the job should be easy but they seldom work out that way. No matter, he seemed to be the expert! I assumed he found someone to do it for next to nothing. A few minutes later I received another call from a local girl wanting my electrical services and that job I will be doing (as I write this) on Saturday morning and Monday afternoon (she is moving house). At least the calls came late in the morning so as not to disturb my sleep which is usually the case when I want a lie-in. I had a doctor‘s appointment at two-thirty to discuss the findings of an X-ray I’d had two weeks ago. I knew beforehand what the diagnosis would be and it was confirmed to me. Being as it was Thursday, E would be doing the weekly shop but this week she had to go alone as her mum has been in hospital for a couple of days because of a problem she was having with abdominal pain. It isn’t a life-threatening condition as far as we know and hopefully it isn’t but any medical problems at her age can be a cause for concern. So it is with us all and myself being as I am now sixty-nine I have to expect one problem or another occasionally. Anyway E drove me to the surgery before continuing on to do the shopping. When we are young we think we are invincible but as we grow older we realise that we are not. My newly acquired condition was, according to my doctor, probably brought about by my long life at work. I have the beginnings of osteoarthritis. It is the result of a wearing down of the cartilage between the joints in my fingers, more so in my right hand as I am right-handed. I know there is nothing that can be done to reverse the condition so I accept it. The doctor was surprised at my easy-going reaction. As I say, I can’t change things that cannot be changed so why worry about it? As long as I can play my guitar, and I am still able, I shall be content. I left the surgery soon afterwards and walked the short distance into the village to make a cash deposit at my bank. It is just as well I save when I can as my youngest son had asked me earlier in the day if I could lend him some money to help him with a cash-flow problem he was having. He is to repay me later. Where have I heard that one before? Leaving the bank I walked across the road to the chemists to collect the prescription my doctor had forwarded electronically to them. Paper prescriptions are becoming a thing of the past. I collected the gel the doctor had prescribed to reduce the swelling in my hand and started back home on foot. It was still wet, cold and windy on Thursday, bracing weather as they say. I was prevented from continuing my journey by the level-crossing barriers that had just closed off the road. I spoke with a lady who was visiting our town for the afternoon and she was telling me about the conditions near the Promenade which is exposed to the westerly winds. Well Southport is windy at the best of times as it sits right on the coast facing the Irish Sea. The train left the station, the barriers lifted and I continued home with the wind in my face. I was feeling very happy and contented, a cheerful soul indeed.