Muriel’s retirement

Muriel and Robin
Muriel and Robin

Another member of Church House’s “Carnmoney mafia” has gone into retirement. My good friend, and committed member of Carnmoney Presbyterian Church, Muriel Manson, has retired from her position in the Mission Overseas office of Church House. Muriel is one of a number of members of the Carnmoney congregation who worked in Church House. Clare and Kathy still remain, but now Muriel joins Jean and Ellen in retirement.

Everyone who spoke at her retirement party acknowledged Muriel’s enthusiasm and commitment to her job. She will chiefly be remembered for her smile and her pleasant, positive approach. Thank you, Muriel, for all that you have done in serving our church.

She promises that she and her husband, Robin, will make full use of their free travel passes, and that swimming and rambling will be part of her new schedule. It sounds as if Muriel will be as active in retirement as she ever was. Go for it, girl!

The complexity of being compassionate

As we sat in the airport lounge in Heathrow waiting for our connecting flight back to Belfast from Addis Ababa, Patricia was flicking through the current edition (September 2009) of House and Garden. She pointed out a new labour-saving feature in a modern kitchen-a pot-filler tap over the hob so that saucepans and pots can be filled with water without being carried to the sink. It comes in polished chrome or matt platinum and retails at a mere 1,o35 pounds.

A few hours previously we had stood among a crowd of people who had traveled several hours with their jerry cans to a tap beside a road, and who faced a long wait before their cans could be filled with water. Then they had the long walk home again with their water. Given that context, it seemed decadent, if not immoral, that modern gadgets in the West mean that one does not have to take even two or three steps between hob and sink in order to fill a pot.

While we see the discrepancy and the injustice so clearly, we have also come to see that the task of bringing food to the hungry and water to the thirsty is not an easy one. For one thing, it is incredibly hard to decide who gets the food and water, and to manage its distribution in a fair and just way. It requires careful assessment of needs and intelligent management of the resources. But in all the projects we visited, we were encouraged to see that these issues were being addressed by capable and intelligent people, and were being carefully monitored. Continue reading “The complexity of being compassionate”

Father’s Day cupcakes

img_0110My thoughtful and creative eldest daughter gave me a different kind of Father’s Day present…cupcakes with a golf theme! It’s not that I am much of a golfer, but I appreciated the work she put into them and how well they looked. The most important thing is that the buns tasted wonderful and my enthusiastic indulgence will require a few minutes extra exercise this week.

Regular visitors to New York City will know that cupcakes are have been very popular and fashionable for some time now. No visit to Greenwich Village is complete without picking up a cupcake from Magnolia Bakery on the corner of Bleecker Street, although I must say that what my daughter produces is preferable in terms of overall taste and texture. But the variety and creativity of the cupcake bakers is remarkable.

All this got me thinking that this could be a new business opportunity for some energetic and gifted person. With Irish golfers, cricketers, and rugby players making the sporting headlines in recent days, what if some enterprising bakery could produce cupcakes that reflected the success of local sportsmen? In which case, we might have to hold fire on “A Lion’s Lunch” (an over-sized cupcake with red icing) or “Rory’s Hole in One” (a bite-sized cupcake that can be made to disappear in one mouthful) or even “McCallan’s Googly” (a cupcake full of surprising hot spices from the sub-continent). “Big Davy’s Delight” (a big calorie cupcake with unmistakable royal blue icing) could be a great favourite in all the Lisburn Road coffee shops around five o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. Although I have to admit it’s hard to imagine a middle-aged Blue man saying to his mate after a hard-earned draw against Cliftonville, “Are ye going to Roast for a cupcake?”

After this weekend’s display in Durban, I would be delighted if I could consume a dozen “Tommy’s Touchdowns” (sticky enough not to fall from your hands before being properly “grounded” in your mouth) before this Lions’ tour is over.


Bobby blowing the bagpipes
Bobby and his bagpipes

It was my birthday yesterday, and as a total surprise, my wife not only invited a few friends for supper, but got our friend Bobby to come with his pipes and to play, among other things, “Happy Birthday”.

Some time ago I had said, rather lighheartedly, that I would like a piper at my funeral. Patricia’s response was, “Why wait till you’re dead?” So you can imagine my surprise when, as we sat with our friends in the back garden last night (about the only night this year that one could sit outside comfortably) Bobby appeared in full regalia playing his pipes. It was wonderful! “Highland Cathedral”, “Scotland the Brave”, and a few favourite hymn tunes echoed around the neighbourhood. I have no idea how our neighbours reacted, but I hope it made them smile. It really was a lovely relaxing evening with our friends, a suitable time of refreshment ahead of what may be a very challenging week chairing the meetings of the General Assembly. Thank you, Bobby, and thank you, Patricia. It was a great birthday.


4I couldn’t help sharing this one! This is a real photo taken outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. The workmen are just clearing up after erecting some bollards to prevent people parking their cars too close to the building. One wonders how they are going to feel when they jump into their van to go home.

Any advice for them?