God and ASDA

Stories and thoughts: past, present and future


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My Life in the 1940s – 1950s

Growing up, as I did, in the industrial Midlands of England in the 1940s/1950s, we were surrounded by the filth of chimneys, belching out all manner of foul emissions. This often caused terrible smog, bringing cars and buses to a standstill as it was impossible to see further than a hand in front of you. Domestic fires added to this through the coal and coke that was burnt.

This atmosphere, of course, was the cause of many health problems for lots of families. I suffered terribly from bronchitis for most of the year and had to wear something called “Thermogene“. This came in a roll of pink material like cotton wool, which was pinned inside Liberty Bodices and vests, to keep my chest warm and help banish winter ailments. Research on the actual ingredients of the material have proved fruitless, but whatever it was, it worked!

We also had to have daily doses of Cod Liver Oil, provided free by the Health Department, as well as orange juice. The cod liver oil was ghastly and almost made me choke, but if I managed to keep it down I was rewarded with the orange juice!

Another therapy I had to undergo was sun ray treatment, which took place in a large room in a local clinic. In the centre of the room was a huge lamp and we had to stand facing the lamp, wearing just our knickers and a pair of goggles, for about fifteen minutes. I remember feeling very warm. This course of treatment lasted for no more than four sessions. At least it was one way of getting time off from school!!

It’s also a well-known fact that children in the 1950s were often under-nourished due to food shortages, rationing or just hardship. We always seemed to have plenty to eat and I looked forward to our Sunday roast. Having bought all the necessary ingredients the previous day whilst out shopping, Mum would set about roasting the beef joint in her tiny gas oven.

When it was finished she would drain off the juices and leave it to set; this made the most delicious dripping which we would spread on toast. (Oh, my mouth is watering at the very thought!!)

On the top of the cooker she had three gas jets and these would be used for the various saucepans of vegetables. I found a picture of one almost identical, except that this picture is of a doll’s cooker!!. At least it will give an idea of the kind of equipment housewives had at their disposal in the 1940s.

So, to continue – we always had a sweet (or pudding as we called it) and my favourite was bananas and custard. During the war bananas were unavailable and so, when they were finally to be had again, they were something new to us. It was a special treat to have a banana. How we take things for granted these days, with such wonderful fruits from all over the world available in the supermarkets all year round.

Sunday tea usually comprised fish paste sandwiches, a fruit cake or ring of buns and a dish of peaches in syrup. We weren’t allowed to have the fruit until we’d eaten at least one half slice of bread and butter. This was probably to make it go further, as one tin of peaches would have to suffice for the whole family of five.

Incidentally, Monday’s evening meal consisted of minced meat left over (or put aside specially) from the Sunday joint, made into a shepherd’s pie. Pastry left from making that would be used to make an apple pie for pudding, probably lasting two days at least. (No fridges then, either!!). Very little food was wasted in those days!!

But, throughout all those days of hardship and shortages, I know that my parents did their best for us kids, no matter what. We always had warm clothes and even treats of comics (albeit second-hand ones from the market) and oftentimes Mum would pass her dish over to one of us saying that she’d had enough to eat. We never realised that probably there wasn’t enough to go round, so Mum or Dad would forego their own food for us.

These days, 63 years on, I live in a comfortable, warm home and to do my weekly shopping I just jump into the car and drive (less than a mile!) into Asda’s car park. I haven’t yet succumbed to home deliveries though!!

In the 1950s shops were certainly not open as long then as they are now. Opening times were usually 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. five days a week and on one of those five days all the shops in the town closed for half a day. There were no businesses open on Sundays back then. I often wonder what my Dad would think of my life these days compared to what he knew just before he died in 1972. So much has changed in the past 41 years.

Sometimes I think it’s moving too quickly. One day a new gadget appears on the shelves and within days it’s superseded by something bigger or better. When I was young a tablet was something you took when you were ill, an eye pad was something you put over an injured eye and a mobile was something that was suspended over a baby’s cot. Times have certainly changed since then, but much as I remember being very happy when I was young, I certainly wouldn’t wish to go back and live like that again. I like my comforts too much!!

And yet, you know, whatever happens in our lives, whether it be good or bad, is part of God’s plan for us. If we choose to follow Jesus and give our lives to Him, then we shall understand why all these things happen to us. Sometimes we might think of going somewhere or doing something but for some reason it just doesn’t happen. That’s God working in our lives, probably because what we wanted to do wouldn’t be good for us.

Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Romans chapter 8 verse 28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”


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No Signal!

Returning from a holiday recently, I switched on the PC in order to catch up with our email messages that would have come in whilst we were away. Imagine my surprise when I tried to connect to the internet and the screen remained blank – nothing – no signal! It was as if I’d suddenly lost some important faculty – sight, feeling, mobility. For a few seconds I was completely stumped. “What’s happened,” I thought.

We set to and began checking all the connections, plugs, sockets – even the mains switch. But they were all securely plugged in or switched on. Then we looked at the hub. It was blank – dead! Whilst there should have been a series of four blue lights, each one telling us that a particular function was operating, there was, in fact, nothing! Now what? (And we hadn’t even unpacked the suitcases!!).

We tried to get online (just in case the hub was fibbing!), but all we got was a huge exclamation mark and a message telling us that it was not possible for us to be connected. I wanted to shout at the screen, “We know that already!” However, all was not lost as also in the screen was another message taking us step-by-step through an elimination process to discover the problem.

Eventually it transpired that there was a break in the connection between our house and the phone company’s box 50 metres away. The final message read: “Please contact your telephone company………” “We haven’t got a phone that works”, I shouted at the screen. But, of course, I do have a mobile phone, albeit a very ancient model, and this proved to be our final hope.

It took two days and three phone calls on my mobile (in an area that receives practically no signal at all), but we got it sorted and it was great to be back in touch with the world once more.

Hoorah!

And, once again, this set me thinking about how much we take things for granted.

Just stop for a moment and imagine living in a place where there is no electricity, running water or sanitation? There are no shops in this place (no, not even an Asda!). There are no roads to get from one place to another. And yet, there really are places like this in our world today. It’s hard for us to imagine if we’ve never been there, because we are surrounded by all these things. I’ve often wondered how people living in such places manage without all the mod cons that we take for granted, but they do because they’ve never had them.

I was born at a time when none of the modern household gadgets was available to us. We had no phone, no car, no washing machine, no fridge or freezer. In my early life we had no T.V. and, of course, no computers. The list of the things we didn’t have is endless, and yet, ask anyone who is my age what it was like, and they will probably say the same as me – “we got along O.K. without them”.

But there is one thing that I didn’t know about when I was little and that was just how much God loves me. Yes, I went to Sunday School and yes, I heard about Jesus but since I gave Him my life thirty years ago, I now know Him as my Lord and Saviour. Jesus died for me and He died for you, also.

In our mid-week Communion meeting at Church this week, our Pastor read the account of Jesus’ Last Supper, arrest and crucifixion. He didn’t just read it – he made us be there. We stood beside Jesus as He was mocked, beaten, whipped and insulted. We walked with Him up the hill to the place where He was crucified and we stood at the foot of the Cross and looked up at Him. It was so very moving and made me realise just what He went through for each and every one of us. Throughout it all He never once spoke ill of His accusers. He knew that that is what He’d come for – to take all our guilt and shame and to die for us.

Your guilt and shame is nailed to that Cross. Jesus did it for you.

May I suggest you read the following verses from Matthew’s Gospel?:

Chapter 26 verses 17-29; then verses 36-46;
Chapter 27 verses 27-50

It’s a lot to read I grant you, but it may be the best read you’ll ever have!


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Use Your Imagination

I was watching a T.V. programme recently about Australian Art. With all due respect I thought that this title was an oxymoron, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some really beautiful works of art by Australian artists from years ago. More modern stuff exhibited was, in my humble opinion, rubbish!! As I was muttering to myself about the exorbitant prices charged for paintings that an eight-year-old could do, I was reminded of my art lessons in school.

If you’ve been following my Blogs you will already know that I was not good at much at school and included in the list was art. I had no interest whatsoever; therefore, I made no effort – until one day when I had no option!

We arrived in the art room to find a large piece of drawing paper on each desk. We took our places and the art mistress came into the room. “Good morning, girls”, she said in an unusually bright and bouncy voice.

“Uh, uh, “, I thought, “what now?”

Another Masterpiece completed!

“This morning I want you all to use your imagination.” she said. “You can paint anything you like but it must be your own work and entirely original. I will give you no ideas, suggestions or assistance on what to do – in fact, I’m having the morning off!” And with that, she left the room. We sat for a while in stunned silence and then gradually, as we decided something had to be done, we set to work. That is, all except me! I had absolutely no idea at all what to do. I just sat there looking at this great expanse of paper waiting for me to fill it with some wonderful creation. “What can I do”, I thought.

Perhaps not! How about this one?

No, perhaps a bit too much like Van Gogh!

But, in the end, I knew I had to get something done, so I decided to do a beach scene, but my way. I divided the paper into three horizontal sections for the sky, sea and sand and set about daubing paint all over it. For the sea I used purple, then I made an orange, green and yellow sky and finally I added a bit of wish-washy brown for the sand. That was it! I had spent all my energy and imagination – it was all I could offer. It only took about fifteen minutes to do!

Imagine my surprise when I received a “Well done” from the art mistress the next time I saw her. “You really must have put a lot of thought into that painting.” she remarked. (I have never managed to work out whether she was being sarcastic or genuinely magnanimous !)

I had been given a blank canvas on which to create something which someone (apparently) thought was good.

So now it’s your turn. Close your eyes and imagine complete darkness – nothing. Absolutely nothing and nothing to go by. No-one to tell you what to put where, which colour to use, what compliments another thing. The blackness is everywhere and you are in charge of making something from nothing. You have to create the earth.

We can all imagine what we would do, because everything is already there, so we have images in our mind’s eye. But imagine how God created the heavens and the earth from nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The Bible tells us that God created all that in six days. Six Days!!.

Have you ever wondered how the planets, stars, sun and moon all spin in space without falling? How is the earth suspended? How was water made? I know that scientists give glib answers, but for me there is only one answer. God made all this Himself, without any help, plans or drawings. Don’t you think that’s just awesome?

How sad it is to think how much we are harming His beautiful Creation with our selfish ways. It won’t always be here, because when Jesus comes back it will all end. It is all vividly told in the last book of the Bible – Revelation. If you haven’t ever given much thought to the End of the World I urge you to read Revelation. There are modern translations of the Bible, so no-one can say that it’s all in archaic language.

Don’t get left behind on that Day. There won’t be a second chance.


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The X Factor

It’s quite possible that you’ve done a Google search for the “X Factor” talent show and come up with this, but please read on!

Almost five years ago I returned to U.K. after having lived in France for some years. Whilst we were there we became used to living without English language T.V., so you can imagine what delights awaited us on our return! Amongst many changes that had taken place in our absence was the arrival of “The X Factor” talent show. Thinking about this recently I began reflecting on earlier shows in the same genre, but 1970s style not 2010s. In those days we were less sophisticated than people are nowadays and these talent shows would send a modern audience to sleep in ten seconds flat! I was watching some of those old programmes whilst researching for this blog and, oh my!, they really were cringe-worthy! It merits a visit to You Tube to see them. Look for “New Faces” and “Opportunity Knocks”

Today’s X Factor (and Britain’s Got Talent) are so very different to the ones I’d remembered. Now there are huge audiences, star-studded judging panels, mentoring and heats taking place in exotic locations, but when it all boils down to the final analysis, nothing really changes. It’s all fake – the tears, the drama, the “tension” – and what is there afterwards for these people? Maybe a lucrative career, maybe not.

But, in actual fact, my blog has absolutely nothing at all to do with talent shows. It’s the title “X Factor” that’s important.

With Christmas fast approaching I’ve been noticing things in the stores that have changed from last year. We all know that for years that Christmas has become less to do with Jesus’ birth and more to do with retailing. This year I’ve noticed that cakes and mince pies are labelled “Seasonal Cakes” or “Festive Mince Pies”. No more Christmas cakes it seems! We’ve already had the Yule Log with us for years. However, the one thing that’s been around the longest and hurts me the most is the use of the word “Xmas“. Everywhere you look on packaging, signs, cards – almost everything is “Xmas” Why replace Christ with an “X”? Can people no longer say His name? And if they don’t believe in Jesus or have no time for Him, then why celebrate the time of His birth at all?

    The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas.
    Billy Graham

Yes, we all like to receive gifts at Christmas. Just remember, the greatest gift that was ever given was when God gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin, lived in obscurity until He was thirty, died on the Cross, rose again and is now seated at the right hand of God.

Make Him part of your Christmas this year.

Nativity Scene

(Luke chapter 2 verses 8 to 20 N.I.V.)

    “8. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
    13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
    14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
    15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
    16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”


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Supermarket Trolleys

You might think a blog post about supermarket trolleys is a little odd to say the least. Well, stick with it and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

When I was a child in the 1940s there were, obviously, no supermarkets in the U.K. and so we had no trolleys (makes sense!). Most women went to town on the ‘bus every Saturday, did their shopping, putting it into their basket or carrier bag (and I doubt much of it would have been packaged as we know it today).

In this modern world shopping is much easier. Jump into the car, park at the store, grab a trolley and off we go. We give little or no thought as to what happens to a trolley during its daily life; I know I never did. That is, until my husband started working for Asda and sometimes has the job of sorting the trolleys. And, you know, it’s quite interesting. You’ll be amazed where some of them end up!

    Or this one

    or this one

And we’ve all marvelled at some of the parking we see when we go to the supermarket – but this, surely, takes the prize.

This train of thought led me to thinking about how much we undervalue and take for granted the things around us just because they’re always there, handy to use, conveniently awaiting our purpose. We take so much for granted and very often don’t give a second thought to the very thing that’s so useful .

Just think about all the household gadgets you use every day – cooker, fridge, freezer, iron, vacuum cleaner – the list is endless. We don’t really value them once the novelty of newness has worn off. They’re just there. Am I right?

But the one thing that almost all of us will undervalue time and time again is God’s love for us. He’s there all day, every day (and night time, too!). If you just spend a minute or two thinking about what He’s done for you, you’ll be amazed. God made everything. Nothing was made except by Him. And He’s always there, caring for us, just as an earthly father would care for his children. He wants only the best for us and we shouldn’t take that wonderful Gift for granted.

Speak to Him every day; He loves to hear from us. Bring a smile to God’s face.

    Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
    I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvellously made!
    I worship in adoration -what a creation!
    You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
    You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
    Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
    The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.
    Your thoughts -how rare, how beautiful!
    God, I’ll never comprehend them!
    I couldn’t even begin to count them –
    any more than I could count the sand of the sea.

    Psalm 139 verses 13-18 (The Message)


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How Much?

This is going to be a short Blog, but a thought came into my head this morning and I just had to put it into print.

It’s not possible to show the emphasis I want in the title. I want it to read “HOW MUCH?” like you would say when you realise the total of your shopping bill, having expected it to come to, say, £50 and finding it actually amounts to £75. Now say it as you would in that situation. HOW MUCH?

Another instance of this same emphasis is when you ask your friend what they paid for their new six-bed roomed house with all mod cons in a very desirable location. They tell you they got it for £200,000. You would say, HOW MUCH? (That’s highly unlikely, by the way, but if you hear of such a property please let me know!).

Sometimes we are prepared to pay any price for what we want, no matter what the cost. In that situation we wouldn’t ask “how much?”, we’d just go out and get whatever it was. There might be an opportunity to bargain if you live in a society that does that, but generally we wouldn’t even bother.

Have you ever thought how much it cost God to redeem us (buy us back)? He paid the ultimate price, His only Son, Jesus. He didn’t try to bargain with us – He paid up the full asking price. For YOU and for me. We should be saying HOW MUCH?

I heard a story once that went:

A little girl asked Jesus how much he loved her. He just spread out His arms and said: “This much, my child.”

Jesus died for you. If you don ‘t understand what that means please ask someone who can explain it to you. He’s coming back and will take all believers with Him.
Matthew Chapter 24 verses 36-44 make it very clear what will happen. Don’t be left behind.

    (36) “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (37) As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (38) For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; (39) and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (40) Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. (41) Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (42) “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (43) But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. (44) So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.


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Ups and Downs

My husband and I love walking. By that I mean we enjoy packing a picnic, driving to some pretty location and walking through the countryside. We’ve amassed a large collection of books, brochures and maps relating to walking in the countryside over the years and always look forward to finding new areas to visit.

Last weekend I came across a magazine in which there were details of the kind of circular walk we enjoy and we hadn’t even heard of the place before, let alone been there! Five-and-a-half miles sounded like a pleasant walk which we estimated would take us about two hours, plus a lunch stop en route. The write-up promised a “lovely walk through the delightful patchwork of fields, enjoying some thirst-quenching views along the way”. We were told to look out for buzzards, bullfinches, swifts and swallows. So off we went.

We had only gone 100m when we came across the first problem – the gate through which we were supposed to go wouldn’t open – it was jammed and chained! After about five minutes of “gentle persuasion” the gate opened far enough for us to squeeze through (welcome all walkers!).

Rusty Gates

The path then became a mere track, wide enough only for one person at a time. This was extremely rocky and had potholes all along, not to mention large, fresh cow pats!!

When the instructions said “you now reach a field” (and this occurred very often as the walk progressed) we discovered that the fields were either ploughed right up to the fence, thus making it very difficult to negotiate our way, or else it was planted with crops. On one occasion we were actually walking between rows of sweet corn higher than both of us!! Not a pleasant walk at all.

So, back to the instructions. “Follow the path (aka narrow track!) uphill, enjoying breath-taking views should you need to catch your breath!!” But there was a reward at the end – downhill again – steeply.

Rocky Path, Maisonesse, France

It wasn’t all bad, though, as several of the gates and stiles, were, in fact, still in good condition and easy to negotiate.

Gateway at Meldon Reservoir, Devon

Remembering that a walk of this length usually takes us two hours, we were getting rather anxious when, after 2½ hours we were less than halfway round. As we still hadn’t seen a place to stop for lunch we decided to sit on a stile just off the main track and eat our lunch there. It was extremely uncomfortable and even worse when we discovered that we were right beside a wasps’ nest. Instant evacuation, lunch barely started!!

We were about two-thirds of the way round when I heard my husband say, “Oh, no! I wish we’d read this bit before.” On investigation, I discovered that he’d noticed a short paragraph as follows: “Follow this downhill path until you turn onto a narrow uphill path and climb to meet a crossing path” So far, so good. Then it continued in brackets: “(At the time of writing some fallen tress had blocked this path. The council has been alerted but if the blockage is still there……continue straight up the path etc etc). It was still blocked!!

Route barree

I think it was at this point that we began to despair of ever having taken this on! After hiking over such rough terrain it had been impossible to call it a “walk”; I would say it was even more than a hike. (I can now empathise with the soldiers on training exercises!!).

But, as with all things it came and to an end, and what was the best view we saw on the walk?

Our car

We arrived back at the car 4½ hours after starting – and enjoyed our picnic in comfort.

When I arrived home I began to realise just how much that walk was like our daily lives . We have ups and downs, too, even as Christians. We may wonder why this or that is happening, but if we hold firm to God’s Word then He will see us through these times of trial.

    “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”(Jeremiah 29 verse 11)

    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8 verse 28)

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
    (Proverbs 3 verses 5- 6)