God and ASDA

Stories and thoughts: past, present and future


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New Year

“Well,” as my Mum used to say on 2nd January each year, “it’s all over for another year”

I’ve never given much thought to her remark until this morning, when I realised I’d been saying the same thing myself for years!!!

It’s odd, don’t you think, that from September onwards every year Christmas and New Year are everywhere: in the shops, on the radio and T.V., in the newspapers. If some cataclysmic event happens somewhere in the world we tend to say, “What a shame it’s happened at Christmas”, but the tragic event would be just as dreadful were it to happen on 12th June, or 31st October.

Christmas, as most of us know, is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, albeit probably not on the precise date. But do we put as much effort into celebrating that wonderful event as we do with the shopping and gift wrapping that means Christmas to so many?

When I was a child I rarely went to church. I remember attending Sunday School but (dare I say) only to collect the picture stickers that would eventually add up to receiving a book, the value of which would reflect how many stickers I’d collected over the year. What’s more I would be eligible to go on the Sunday School outing, the details of which I have no recollection – it must have been somewhat low-key, I fear!

I can’t remember, either, whether or not we had a Nativity Play, but I’m sure there would have been one. I don’t recall ever taking part.

So from this you can see that the religious side of Christmas meant very little to me.

We always had presents and extra food, Santa always came and left us a pillow-case with fruit and sweets in. I know for sure he came because Dad always left him a mince pie and a glass of beer. Next morning they had gone but Santa had left us a note saying, “Thank you” – and Rudolf thanked us for the carrot – magical times!!

New Year was celebrated with a party for Mum and Dad’s friends and we had to go to bed as usual at 7 o’clock. However, at 11.45 Dad would come and wake us up to see the New Year in with them. We’d all stand round the radio waiting for Big Ben to strike twelve and on the final “bong” everyone would cheer and toast the New Year. We kids had to be satisfied with a glass of lemonade, then, back to bed we’d go. I wasn’t sure what it was all about but everyone else seemed to know what was going on!!

Almost Midnight

This year, my husband and I were in bed by 10 p.m. and were undisturbed all night. If there were any fireworks we didn’t hear them – it all passed us by. Perhaps I’m getting too old for strenuous celebrations.

So, may I wish you all a very happy New Year and may 2014 bring you all you desire.

Happy New Year 2014


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Winter 1947

It’s January 1947 and I’m 4½ years old. During the winter of 1946–47 the UK experienced several cold spells, beginning on 21 January 1947, bringing the severest snowfalls for 150 years to the country. Roads were closed and railways became blocked. Coal supplies, already low following the Second World War, struggled to get through to power stations and many were forced to shut down due to lack of fuel. The government introduced several measures to cut power consumption, including restricting domestic electricity to 19 hours per day and cutting industrial supplies completely. Radio broadcasts were limited, and some magazines were ordered to stop being published; newspapers were cut in size. Public morale was very low due to these measures and the Minister of Fuel and Power received death threats and had to be placed under police guard. Towards the end of February there were also fears of a food shortage as supplies were cut off and vegetables frozen into the ground.

Imagine frost on the inside of the bedroom windows! We had no central heating, just one coal fire in the front room. At night Mum would find as many blankets as she could, after which it was coats to keep us warm. The bedroom floor was covered in linoleum, not carpet, so our feet felt as if they would stick to the cold floor when we walked. I recall going with Mum to the coal merchant and pretending that I was someone else’s little girl so that Mum could get an extra bag of fuel. So two bags of coal were loaded into the baby’s pram (he wasn’t in it at the time!)

It was grim! It has gone down in history as one of the severest winters in living memory. However, as I was such a small child it hardly seemed to affect me. I don’t remember going without food, but it must have been very hard for my parents.


One thing I do remember with vivid clarity was the time I was stuck in a snow drift up to my armpits. Now, you might think that’s hilariously funny (I do, now!) but for a 4½ year old it was terrifying. I’d been sent out to play so that Mum could “get on with things” (probably connected to my seven-month old brother). So, off I went on my adventure. I have no idea what I was thinking about but I can remember a sudden “sinking” feeling. Apparently I’d stepped where there was a snow-covered ditch and down I went. When I think now of what might have happened I am horrified but I must have shouted or cried so loudly that someone came along and pulled me out.

I’m not sure to this day whether I received loving cuddles or not when I arrived home soaking wet, frozen cold and a very unhappy bunny.

I love reminiscing about my childhood as it makes me reaslie just how fortunate we are these days.

We’ve been warned that this winter may well be as bad as 1947, but, even if that transpires to be true, we will have a better time of it than we did 67 years ago.

How our lives have changed since then. And most of us, including myself, take so much of it for granted. Heating, lighting, carpets, well-stocked shops and supermarkets. We really have it all.

So, please, if you’re reading this and you are living where there is plenty, spare a thought for those people, even in Europe and America, who have little or nothing to look forward to this Christmas because of poverty.

And thank God for what you have!!


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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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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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The First Day

All of us have experienced a “first day” in something or other, whether it’s the first day at school, the first day at work or the first day of a holiday – there are always “first days” in all of our lives.

I can’t remember the very first day I started school because I was only three years old. At that time (1945) there was a scheme in place for working mothers, especially those engaged in war work, to be able to send their very young children to school before the age of five years. It was, I suppose, something like the modern play school or activity group, but at that time it was ground-breaking.

The men were, mostly, in the armed forces serving their country and the women, mostly, stayed at home. However, in 1941 women were called to do war work. Mum worked in a munitions factory, filling bomb cases with phosphorous – a most unpleasant task, you will agree. But it was a necessary job and someone had to do it. Because of the dangerous nature of working with ammunition, nobody was allowed to take anything into the workshops that could cause an explosion. This meant no matches, coins, hairpins, rings or anything metallic. They were searched as they entered the factory. She often told us that at night her fingers would glow from the phosphorus that remained under her nails. Needless to say, I don’t remember any of that.

And the same goes for my first day at Junior School. All I can remember is the playground and it seemed massively large to me. We could run around, skip, chase each other but when the whistle was blown by the teacher we would all form a line and march back into the classroom. I must have eaten school dinner that day, but have no memory of it whatsoever.

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog (Big School) my first day at Grammar School, which I remember with vivid clarity. Whenever I think about it I can still feel the excitement combined with trepidation.

My first day at work was in 1957 when I was 15 years old. I had left school with no qualifications and had always dreamed of being an air hostess. The idea of travelling to places I’d only read about in books appealed to me, but there was not much chance of that job with my school reports telling how I must try harder! So, for me, the next best thing was to work in a shop. Something of a step down from my dreams into reality, but I thought it would be fun. My shop was a sweet shop.

I’d often played shops when I was much younger and it seemed to be quite good fun. Mum or Dad must have seen an advertisement relating to the job because there I was, on the bus, going to the next town to start work. My pay was to be £2.5.0d (£2.25p) a week from 8.45 a.m. until 6 p.m. six days a week. I was so excited and for the short time I was there I really enjoyed it. The owner taught me how to wrap a box of chocolates that was to be given as a gift and how to speak to customers and recommend “just that little bit extra” to buy. I do remember three ladies who came into the shop every Friday evening at 5 o’clock to buy their sweets for the coming week. They always had the same order and I was soon able to remember how much each one cost and what the total would be. (They thought my addition skills were superb!). Sadly, after six months, I left as we moved house to another town.

Again, in a previous blog (18 to 20) you can read of my first day in the W.R.A.F., travelling up to Grantham for the basic training and how I was admonished by the corporal before I’d even set foot on the training camp!!

Since then I’ve had many first days. First day as a Mum, first day in an airplane, first day as a grandma, my first day as a Christian and so it goes on.

But have you ever thought about the very First Day?

Imagine, if you will, nothing. Absolutely nothing. That’s not easy to do because we’ve always been surrounded by “something”. But try to imagine NOTHING. Close your eyes. What can you see? Nothing. But you know when you open them again you will see something.

The very first chapter of the Bible tells us of there being Nothing.

Read the following slowly and imagine each thing mentioned happening.

We’ll begin at Verse 2 of Genesis chapter 1:

2. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
4. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
5. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

The earth was formless – no shape – nothing.
Darkness was over the surface of the deep – there was nothing.
And God said: “Let there be light” – suddenly there was something.
God saw that the light was good and He separated the light from the darkness – day and night.
And there was evening, and there was morning – The First Day.

Everything has to start somewhere. Only God can make Something from Nothing.

If you haven’t thought much about this before, read those four verses again, slowly. Take it all in. God is our Creator. He made everything.

And, what’s more, He sent His Son to die for us so that our wrongdoings can be forgiven.

Check it out. It’s worth it. He’s worth it!


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Parcels From Canada

When I was a child in the 1940s, there were no such things as beefburgers, pizzas, chicken nuggets and no-one owned a home freezer, so shopping had to be done regularly. During the Second World War food was severely rationed in the U.K. and many families often had to go without some of the most basic provisions – things that we take for granted in these affluent days of the 21st century. Ration books were issued and families had to register in order to have one, and the coupons were handed over to the butcher or grocer in order to ensure that no-one was hoarding food.

At this time, there were organisations that arranged food parcels from abroad, and people in Canada and America could be linked with a British family and send the occasional parcel of items which were not available in England. Recipient families had to qualify to receive such parcels and my family was one of those that did. It was probably because my Dad had served in the Auxiliary Fire Service during the Blitz. I think that maybe he was classed as being unfit for military service. I’m sure there was some kind of means test involved, too. But I have no idea how the system worked, or how it was set up. All I remember is the excitement in the house the day a parcel arrived.

We would all gather around the table as Dad opened the box and we looked inside to see what had been included. The box contained dreamed-of luxuries like tea, sugar and coffee packed in little wooden containers, tins of jam and a selection of tinned fruits and sweets. I think the thing Mum liked most of all, though, was the nylon stockings which were always included. That was her treat and no-one else’s. It was a really exciting time and, for a few days following the arrival of the parcel, we had tinned fruit for tea perhaps twice a week instead of only on Sundays.

The donor family lived in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, and they kept in touch with my parents after the war. When they visited England in the early 1950s they called round to the house to look us up. Unfortunately there was no-one home but me and I was forbidden from opening the door to anyone, so they left a note to say they’d called. How sad that we weren’t able to meet them after all their kindness over the years.

These parcels were a free gift from one kind and loving family to people they didn’t even know, and eventually never got to meet.

There is another sort of love available, free, to all. God’s love, which is unconditional. He loves you and me even though He knows all about us and sees all the things we do and hears all the things we say. We might think we’re the bees knees because we don’t commit murders, or steal, or damage people’s property. But we ALL do bad things, called sin, and God still loves us. In fact, He loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to live amongst us and teach us the right way to live.

Jesus died on the Cross at Calvary for each and every one of us. That was the price God paid for us to be saved from an eternity of darkness. We who are believers know that we will one day be with Him in Heaven. And Jesus is coming back soon. If you leave it any longer to get to know Him and accept Him as your Lord and Saviour, it may be too late. The Bible tells us quite clearly what will happen when He comes back. Check it out. NOW!

    Brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (Thessalonians 5 verses 1-3)

And we’re told how much God loves us:

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3 verse 16)

    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3 verse 23)

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14 verse 6)

    (All scriptures taken from the New International Version 1980)