Short story: an amateur detective investigates a horse dealer.

Does my amateur detective ride a horse?

Not usually, but my hero, Frank Hill, is an accountant who finds himself investigating a murder. He can’t think of a better way to getting to meet a horse-dealer than looking at a horse he has for sale. This short story is an extract from Accounting for Murder, Book II, Old Money, which is not quite ready for publication. I am publishing this on the blog as I think it gives some insights into Frank’s character, as well as being a story in itself.

A horseshoe. Did this horse bring Frank any luck? Wait for the book!
A horseshoe. Did this horse bring Frank any luck? Wait for the book!

TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY A HORSE?

We told Davy and Angie how my wife, Sian, and I had got on with visiting some of their unfriendly neighbours. Angie asked, “How about Colonel Arrowsmith? He was one who didn’t like new money.”

I said, “Sorry. We haven’t found a way to get near him. “

Sian said, “My sister Cathy’s a riding instructor and knows him a bit through the horsey fraternity. She said she was going to help with that. I’ll give her a nudge.”

“That’s gentle of you.”

When she did so, Cathy replied, “He’s got a few horses for sale. I could take one of you to see him as a potential buyer.”

I agreed and Cathy contacted the colonel, arranging to take me on the Monday to look at a horse he was hoping to sell. I wondered whether I would like to own a horse. The idea appealed to me, but the cost and commitment did not. When Cathy came to collect me, I said, “I won’t have to buy the animal, will I?”

“No. You can always find fault somehow.  I know it’s advertised as suitable for a novice or an experienced rider but they almost never are.  It’ll soon twig that you’re not very experienced and will take advantage.  Oh, don’t look so worried!  I can ride him a bit first, to make sure he’s not that dangerous.  You’ll be OK.  It says he’s a palomino.”

“I thought he was a hunter?”

“Well, a palomino’s a colour.  Supposedly the colour of a gold coin, if you’ve ever seen one.  And a hunter’s a type, suitable for hunting.  I suppose you could have a palomino hunter.  I’ve never seen one before but there’s always a first time.”

“Would that be good?”

“I’m suspicious.  I expect they’ve tried to breed a horse that looks good and will probably turn out to be a poor specimen from the practical point of view.  It should be easy to find fault.”

I had done quite a bit of riding but was out of practice and was relieved when Cathy gave me a lesson on one of the riding school’s horses.  It went well and I felt quite confident as we drove out to Colonel Arrowsmith’s farm, just beyond Castell Coch.

The farmhouse and outbuildings were old but well maintained.  Most of the walls were white, having apparently been rendered fairly recently.  The exception was a line of new brick-built stables.

The colonel was slim and of average height.  He was in his fifties and wore jodhpurs and an old bodywarmer that had probably been of good quality once.  He had a friendly but businesslike manner.  After Cathy introduced me, he said, “So you want a hunter?  Is this to be your first horse?”

“Yes.  I like riding but keep putting off getting my own horse.  I’ve made my mind up now, because I want to go hunting.  A few of my clients do and I can see it wouldn’t hurt my business to move in their circles.”

“You’re probably right but a horse is a responsibility as well as a wonderful asset.  You can’t just forget about it when you’ve got other pressing matters to deal with.”

“I know.  Cathy’s put me straight about that.  Luckily, she’ll be around to keep an eye on me and give me advice.  I’ll be keeping the horse at the riding school where she works.  It’s not far from my home.”

“Good.  I know she knows what’s what.  You are indeed lucky.  Well, no use standing here talking all day.  Time to meet Blackie.”

I said, “Hang on!  I thought we were going to look at a Palomino.”

“And you are.  A very good one.  He’s called Blackie because his official name is Blackwood Golden Treasure, bred at the Blackwood Stud.  His dam was a palomino Welsh cob and his sire was a grey thoroughbred.  He’s not got his father’s speed but plenty of staying power and he’s a good jumper.  Sure-footed too.”

He took us along the line of stables and brought out a palomino gelding.  He was a beauty.  Cathy studied him closely and said, “He’s got a sloping shoulder and long pasterns like a racehorse, but curved hocks for power, like a typical cob.  I can see what the colonel means.  Should be a good hunter.”

After he had let us have a good look at him, the colonel’s groom tacked him up and led him to the schooling arena for me to try him.  Cathy tried him first and said he seemed like a safe horse for a relatively inexperienced rider.

I rode him in a few circles and tried a few changes of pace.   He was responsive and well schooled.  Then I took him twice around the edge of the arena, finally letting him canter quite fast.   He was lively but well behaved.  When I pulled him up to a halt, the colonel said, “So far so good, eh?”

Cathy asked, “What’s he like in traffic?”

“Why not let’s all go for a little hack?”  With that, he called to the groom, who brought two more horses from the stables.  The colonel and Cathy mounted and we all rode out onto a busy main road.  The colonel led the way, followed by me with Cathy in the rear.  After a while we changed the order.  And again.  The hunter was as happy to go first or last.  Traffic was no problem.  The colonel said, “How about opening them up?  There’s a track we can go on where we can gallop.”

We turned off the road onto a track through a small wood.  After a few minutes there was a long straight uphill stretch.  The colonel said, “Who wants to go first?”  We elected him.  He set off at a gallop.  Blackie raced Cathy’s horse until hers got in front.  Then he eased up to keep about a length or two behind.  Something darted out from the trees.  I felt my heart miss a beat.  The hunter checked his pace, let the sheep cross to the other side and put on a spurt to catch up with the others.

Back at the yard, the colonel said, ““How about trying him at a couple of jumps?”

I could not see any so I asked, “Where?”

“I mean, what about going down the track and through one of the fields?  There’s a couple of jumps you can take him over if you like.”

I felt nervous but could see no way of seeming like a potential buyer of a hunter unless I tried him at speed over jumps and he had been perfectly behaved up to then.  “All right.  Where do I go?”

He pointed to a muddy lane leading out of the yard and said, “Just trot him down there.  When you get to the bottom there’s a gate that’ll be open.  Go through it and canter along the bottom of the field.  Then let him open up along the long side.  There’s a couple of little jumps about halfway.  He knows them.  Just let him take them in his stride.  After that bring him down again slowly to a walk.  We’ll be watching from this end.”

I had to work hard to get him to trot down the track.  He seemed reluctant to leave the yard.  Persistence paid and he gradually built up to a steady rhythmic pace. He stopped at the end without needing to be told and walked through the open gate.  As soon as we got into the field, he came alive and I had a job keeping to a steady canter along the track worn in the grass along the bottom of the field.  Once we turned the corner, he took off at a gallop along the track beside the perimeter hedge, which was punctuated by a series of trees.  He ignored everything I did.  I remembered Cathy’s advice on the way.  She had told me to concentrate on sitting securely and in balance, to trust him to know how to look after himself and therefore me.

The first jump came up sooner than I expected.  It looked big.  It was a brush jump.  That is a lot of leafy twigs held at the bottom in a wooden frame.  He slowed the pace just before take-off and aimed at the lowest part which he cleared easily.  The next jump was a nice distance beyond the first, giving horse and rider time to recover and maintain the rhythm.  It was a pile of horizontal poles.  We went over that in a similar style but had to stretch more, which was no problem.  I was beginning to feel confident as I eyed the third jump, a pole with a ditch under it.

Suddenly I noticed something worrying.  In the shade of one of the trees, an apparently solid object lay across the track.  It would not have been visible from the top end and the colonel was unlikely to have been aware of it.   A section of fence, previously filling a gap in the hedge, had fallen at an awkward angle onto the track.  The horse was not expecting it any more than I was.  He slowed and lowered his head to look.  It was unjumpable but I hoped he was not going to try to stop, as he would almost certainly have stumbled over it.  He did not.  He swerved around it and back onto the track.  This caused him to change his stride, losing the rhythm and caused me to tip, almost falling over his right shoulder.

The next jump was getting very close and I was afraid we were not ready for it.  I was amazed and relieved, when he put in an extra short stride and jumped at an angle, making it a much bigger and sharper jump than it should have been.  I nearly lost my seat again.  I was saved because he kept going and got back into his stride.  If he had slowed down, I would not have.   When we reached the colonel and Cathy, the horse stopped fairly abruptly but I had recovered my balance by then and was not troubled.

The colonel said, “You came up this end of the hill faster than I expected and you made hard work of the last.”  I explained why.  Cathy said, “You did well to cope with all that.”

“Thanks.  I’m glad he’s such a good horse.  He certainly knew what he was doing and reacted well to the unexpected hazard.”  The hunter snorted and snatched at the bit, trying to get his head down to eat grass.  I managed to restrain him.

The colonel said, “Well, that’s what you want from a hunter.  Just the thing.”    I knew he was right.  I loved the animal.  I almost wanted to take up hunting, as he had given me such confidence.  I dismounted and led him back to the stables.  “Well, what do you think?  Is he good enough for you?”  I could hardly have imagined a better horse for me if I had actually wanted one. Would I always regret missing this opportunity? I had no idea how far-reaching my next decision was to be.

“Can you give me a minute to consult with Cathy?”

“Of course.  I’ll be putting him away.”  He untacked the horse and led him away.

I told Cathy, “I can’t see any valid reason not to buy him but I know timewasters are not popular in the horse world. We need to think of your reputation.”

“Thanks, but what do you intend to do?”

“I could buy him. I wouldn’t have to keep him for long. He should be easy to sell.”

“Can you afford it?”

“Yes. I got paid plenty for finding Ray’s hidden fortune. I’ve not spent it yet.”

“Of course, we still need to get him vetted.  Do you know a good vet?”

“I won’t tell Sian you asked that.”

I liked the idea of becoming a horseowner, if only temporarily.  We all went into the house to go over the formalities.  Cathy tried to get the price down a little and succeeded.  The colonel made a pot of tea and brought out some biscuits.  A decent selection.

Cathy said, “I think this horse is just the thing to get someone like Frank started in hunting.  Don’t worry, Colonel, I’ll help him find his feet.  The rider, not the horse.”

The colonel said, “Yes, quite.  I’ve always loved hunting.  Of course, it’s not what it was.  Can’t chase a fox now, only run around after a false scent.  Still, it’s fun and teaches you a lot.  A lot about yourself as well as about riding.”          I worried as I wondered what I was going to discover about myself.

I asked, “Have you had this place long?”

“Bought it when I came out of the Army. Was in Iraq for the invasion.  Then stayed while we tried to sort out the mess we’d made. Well, not us. The damned politicians. No planning for after we got to Baghdad.  Imbeciles!  Came home nearly ten years ago. Wanted something to do. Always loved horses. This was an ideal place at the right time. Love it.”

Cathy said, “Why did you not go into something with horses before, instead of the Army?”

“Never gave a thought to anything else when I was young.  Old military family as far back as you can go.  One of my ancestors fought at Agincourt, another at Waterloo, to say nothing of two World Wars.  I just followed in their footsteps.  It was what was expected.  Noblesse oblige.”

I thought someone called Arrowsmith was likely to have had ancestors making the arrows for the archers at Agincourt, not up the front with the nobility.  However, I saw no point in raising it.  I raised something more important. “Do you know the people who live in Castell Coch?”  I waved a hand as if indicating its direction.  It was a superfluous gesture.

“No!  Don’t want to.  Don’t need their sort round here.  Fellow goes off to America as if Britain’s not big enough for him. Then, once he’s made his pile, comes back to lord it over us. Should see the way he swans around in that big car of his, as if he was someone.”  I didn’t know whether the colonel disliked the size of the car or the way it was driven.  I did know that Davy was someone.  A successful actor and producer.  Now hoping to be a successful film company owner.  Sian would have been proud of me for exercising such restraint and diplomacy.

I asked, “Did you ever hear that that castle was haunted?”

“What utter bollocks.”  He looked at Cathy and said, “Excuse my French.  Utter nonsense.  Probably something made up by some estate agent chappie trying to sell the place to some gullible Yanks.”

“I suppose you don’t believe there’s buried treasure there either.”  He laughed and sent a spray of tea in front of him.  He wiped his mouth and the tabletop before speaking again. “Someone really has been pulling your leg! If there’d ever been anything there, someone would’ve found it by now. Long before now. If they did, do you think they’d announce it?  Not in the past. Nowadays everyone has to be open and ‘out there’ about everything. Especially Yanks.  Even their clangers, they have to put out on the internet, instead of keeping mum.  Bloody fools.”

 

As we walked to the car, I saw Cathy texting.  I assumed she was confirming to the riding school that we would be needing the stable she had provisionally booked.  When we got home, I realised the truth.  Sian and Jane found it hilarious that I had bought a horse, apparently by accident. I tried unsuccessfully to explain my reasoning.  Ian asked, “What’s so wrong with being a timewaster?”

Jane said, “You wouldn’t know. You do nothing but waste time all the time.” When she had stopped laughing at me and teasing her brother, she asked, “Did you find out anything about the colonel?  Do you think he’s behind this haunting thing?”

“I don’t know.  He seems what you’d expect.  An army type.  And horsey.  Bit of a snob.  He doesn’t like Davy and Angie, although he doesn’t know them.  I can’t see him being so obsessed as to go to all that trouble.  I don’t think he’d be capable of it either.  You’d have to be very technical.”

She said, “Are you saying you’d rule him out?”

“I don’t think so.  Not quite.”

“So you’ve bought a horse as a way to find out nothing you didn’t know before?”

“I wouldn’t put it like that.”

Jane said, “I would.”

To read more about Frank Hill and his family, have a look at Book I in this series, Double Entry.

When and how did I know my faith was real?

Do you wonder if your faith is real?

I have written about my decision to become a Christian and about the beginnings of my journey to a real faith. Like many people, I was soon to question the validity of my decision. For many months after my conversion, I did  little to implement any change, except that I joined a weekly Bible study, where I began to learn a lot.

Who asked if it was real?

It was about a year after the mission, when I went to a weekend houseparty at Weston-super-mare. We had times of worship and a visiting vicar gave some Bible-teaching, but students ran most of the meetings. Some people talked about the spiritual progress they had made in the year. They mainly talked about the way God had become more real to them. Some asked us all to ask ourselves if our faith was merely superficial.

Was my faith real?

I began to doubt. I didn’t really doubt God as much as I doubted myself. Was I a phoney? I spent many hours asking  everyone what I could do to be sure. We went round in circles. By the Saturday night, I was very worried. I had a bad night, dreading the next day. We all planned to go church in the morning, mostly choosing one different from whatever we were used to, and then to hear a final talk from the visiting vicar after lunch, before we went back to Bristol.

Could I find real faith on the sea front?

On the Sunday morning, I got up early to get some time by myself with God. (Don’t say you don’t believe in miracles). I went to the front and saw the sun shining on the mud. I was alone, until a man appeared: the Reverend Lawrence Denny, our visiting speaker. As he was probably hoping to be alone with God too, I tried not to bother him, but he asked how I was. I was evasive, but he was good at his job and got it all out of me.

I got some real help.

The vicar reminded me of some of his talks. He quoted Jesus, “You are Simon, you will be Peter”, meaning God has plans for you that mean changes, but let them be the ones God wants. Don’t try to be like someone else. Jesus didn’t say, “You are Andrew (or whoever) you will be Peter,” as his plans for Andrew were different. My mistake was that I was worrying that I wasn’t like some of the other Christians who had been talking about their experiences.

Doubt and faith are often linked
Doubt and faith are often linked
What was the real issue?

Another quote was, “You did not choose me, I chose you.” Rev Denny asked if I thought God had chosen me, adding that this ‘chance’ encounter was a clue to the answer. Strangely enough, he managed to make me laugh. He was just the right person to get through to me right then. If I didn’t know God very well, he knew me!  Finally, I understood that what mattered wasn’t my feelings, but my response to God. I should trust and obey him as far as I could,  and let him worry about things I couldn’t control. Those words have come back to me often over the decades.

Did people in Church find God was real?

After my talk with the vicar, and after breakfast, I went to a Brethren church. A lot of people talked about the reality of God in their lives. These were not students who had been Christians for a year or so longer than I had. These were old men who had found God real through two World Wars and a lot of hardship in between. It put things in perspective. By then, I had already made another big decision. It was to do as the vicar had said.

Did God become real to me then?

The service ended with Holy Communion, or the Breaking of Bread, as they called it. After I had received the bread and wine, I felt a real peace and a confidence that I was a Christian and my life was in God’d hands. I have had my ups and downs since, but I have never really worried that my faith was phoney.

Is Scotland real?

When I ask myself if God is real, I often remember a story a friend told me. She once went to Northern Ireland, to a beauty spot on the very North East. The guide promised you could see Scotland from there. However, it wasn’t a clear day and she couldn’t see it. The guide was most apologetic and said, “I assure you, it really is there.” My friend didn’t doubt that Scotland really was there, even on a hazy day. In the same way, God is there, whether he feels real to you or not.

 

 

 

 

What was the beginning of my journey of faith?

Was my decision to become a Christian not the beginning?

I have written about my decision to become a Christian in my first year at university. I used to think that was the beginning. Nowadays, I look further back in my life. This does not reduce the importance of that decision or take anything away from those who influenced me at the time, and since. It just puts it all in context.

Was there a beginning during the year before my decision?

Just before I went to university, I saw the musical Fiddler on the Roof. I was impressed by the way the main character (a Jew – not  a Christian) spoke to God casually, honestly and often irreverently, like an old friend. His religion was an important part of his life, but it wasn’t just the official side, it was a relationship. I also remember seeing a debate on TV where someone said people always believe what they want to believe: what makes them feel comfortable. In reply, an elderly clergyman said there were times in his life when he had wished God didn’t exist. He had been tempted to give up, but he didn’t because he knew God was real. That stuck in my mind.

Did school help or hinder the beginning of faith?

When I first became a Christian, I began  to learn about the faith and I realised how little I had learnt in RI or RE and through assemblies. I had taken History as one of my A-levels, and during one term we had specialised in the Reformation. We so concentrated on the economic and political factors that little of the religious aspect came through. In the long run, that was useful, as it helped me put things in context, but it played no part in moving me along the road to faith.

Did my faith not have a beginning at home?

My parents were not atheists, but we went to church only occasionally. They didn’t talk about it much. However, an old lady who was a close friend of my parents, was a Methodist, and did talk about it sometimes. I don’t remember much detail, but know it meant something to her.

When was the beginning, out of all these moments, and what came next?

I don’t know, but I suspect they all had a cumulative influence on me. Of course, my decision to follow Christ was in itself a beginning rather than an end. I will write about the next milestones on my journey in a future blog.

Doubt and Faith: wherever your beginning is, your journey will usually take you through both.
Doubt and Faith: wherever your beginning is, your journey will usually take you through both.

One way to avoid depression: no negativity!

What is negativity?

Negativity is a state of mind, which includes pessimism and blame, low expectations, beating yourself up and passing the buck. You can easily fall into it, but people find they can’t climb out of it so easily.

What has negativity got to do with depression?

As I have said before, you can talk yourself into being depressed, if you see only the worst in situations, in other people and in yourself. It generates anxiety and stress, making you feel worse. You can suffer at least some of the pain for something that hasn’t happened yet and might not, because you convince yourself it will. Perhaps you fail to see the upside of failures, mistakes and setbacks, and, rather than learning from them, you wallow in them.

Where does negativity come from?

There are three main sources:

  1. your personality
  2. your experiences
  3. and your environment
Happy and sad masks. Is happiness a mask or is negativity?
Happy and sad masks. Is happiness a mask or is negativity?
What can you do about negativity?
  1. You might think your personality is fixed, but you can change if you want  to, if you are aware. Decide to reject negativity and look for the upside. Forgive others, forgive yourself, learn your lessons, move on.
  2. Re-evaluate bad experiences and learn from them. Don’t accept that the past controls the future, but think how you could act or react differently next time.
  3. Try to avoid negative people. That’s not always easy, if you’ve got a lot of negative colleagues, relatives or friends, but try to mix with a few more positive types when you can. Also, try to take negative comments with a pinch of salt, whether they are about you, about others or about life.
  4. I have become more positive since I left work in a corporate environment, where most of us didn’t make important decisions. Since then, I have got involved with self-employed people, who accept responsibility for whatever happens and see opportunities rather than problems everywhere.
  5. When you feel yourself getting depressed, make an effort to think more positively. General Bill Slim led the British Army in Burma in World War II. He always said things weren’t as bad as they looked, although they looked pretty bad, most of the time. Slim kept up his own spirits and those of others. Looking back, we can see that he was right. Things were not quite as bad as they looked. They seldom are.

How, when and where did I find faith?

I often write about faith.

Faith is the subject of a number of my blogs and is one element in my book, How to Cope with the Church, but I don’t say much about my own journey. That is because I think the important thing isn’t myself, but the things I believe. Anyway, your journey will be different from mine, because you aren’t me. God knows that. However, I am not hiding it, and if you want to know, here it is.

I found faith in Bristol.

I was a student at Bristol University. In my first year, I was surprised to find that many students went to church, voluntarily, even getting up early on Sundays and/or having an early tea to get to evening services. Right from the start, some tried to invite me to things, including Bible studies and chaplaincy groups. I ignored them, or thought I did.

There was a mission to encourage faith, and a conspiracy.

It lasted a week, but there was a lot of publicity beforehand, leading to a good deal of discussion all over the university for a long time. You could hardly ignore it. I kept finding people who I didn’t know were Christians talking about their faith. I felt I was the subject of a conspiracy. The strange thing was that a lot of these conspirators didn’t know each other, and most of them couldn’t conspire to catch a bus. There must have been some superior intelligence behind it.

Did I find faith at the mission?

Yes and no. Mainly yes. The No is because I didn’t make a decision then and there. However, during that week, I had lots of conversations and gradually wrote off several other options. It was like painting yourself into a corner. For me, the big question became, ‘Is Jesus the Son of God or what?’

The ‘what’ comprised:

  • He never existed
  • Deluded
  • Phoney

I steadily  demolished all the arguments around each of these three options. This left me with an awkward choice: to ignore it all or to act on it.

My faith waited while I sat on the fence.

After the mission, I sat on the fence for a few weeks. I was aware that it could all be illusions, and I could waste my life believing in something that wasn’t true. How could I be sure? At this point, one of the conspirators, one of the quietest of them, learnt how I was feeling and handed me a magazine that had reprinted two letters from several years before. They hit the nail on the head.

From fence to faith.

One was from a student who expressed the same misgivings I was having. The other was from C.S.Lewis, whose main point was that you couldn’t prove God without taking a chance, just as you can’t swim without getting into the water to see how you float. He also said that to turn away was to risk the equal and opposite fate of living as if God didn’t exist, when he actually did. You have to take a chance. There was a third letter, from the student, to say he had jumped into the dark and landed in the light. So did I.

Was that the end of my journey of faith?

No. It was the beginning. Or so I often thought. Now I see other steps on that journey, starting long before. There were many more ahead.

 List
How to cope with Church by [Murray, John]

 

 

Is Christmas an unhappy time for you?

This should not be a time to be unhappy but it can be.

There are many reasons to be unhappy at Christmas.

  • It can bring back bad memories.
  • Even good memories can make you sad if you think those days won’t return.
  • Perhaps the pressure gets to you.
  • You might find relatives hard to get on with.
  • Some people don’t cope well with any break in the usual routine, even if they want a rest from work or whatever.
Are you unhappy because you try too hard?

I went through a time when I thought I ought to enjoy Christmas more than I did. This was partly because I was not a natural party animal but thought I ought to be. You might be surprised to learn that I often got less benefit from Christmas services in church than from a normal Sunday. The long build-up and excessive hype around all aspects of Christmas tend to make it almost impossible for the reality to match the expectation.

The trouble was that I was setting my own expectations too high and trying to be someone I wasn’t.

Happy and unhappy masks. Are you being yourself at Christmas?
Happy and unhappy masks. Are you being yourself at Christmas?
Why am I not unhappy at Christmas nowadays?

I recognised the problem and began to laugh at myself. Now I just accept everything for what it is and decide to enjoy whatever events, religious or social, I go to, and to equally enjoy my time at at home. This lets me reject the pressure. Above all, I don’t beat myself up for not being as happy as I should be. I also try to remind myself of why I should be happy: Jesus’s birth.

So don’t be unhappy.

You might like to remind yourself of things I have written about happiness and to watch out for more on the subject in the New Year.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

 

 

An invitation to some Christmas events in Penketh

Is this invitation too early or too late?

When do you think an invitation to Christmas events should go out? Early enough for people to include it in their plans, but not so early they will have forgotten it by the time of the event? Some people don’t like the way Christmas seems to start earlier every year. After all, the traditional twelve days of Christmas begin on 25th December and end at Epiphany, 6th January. Others like to enjoy the build-up and want it over in time for the January sales. (They’re getting earlier too, I notice).

What does this invitation cover?

Here’s a list of all the Christmas events at St Paul’s Church, Penketh, Warrington, most of which I’ll be attending. I don’t suppose many people will come to all of them, but you are warmly and sincerely invited, whether you live in Penketh or wherever and whether or not you usually include Church things in your Christmas schedule.

Sunday 16th December,  Carol Service, 7.00 p.m.

Sunday 23rd December, Holy Communion,  9.00 a.m.

Monday 24th December, Christmas Eve, Crib Service, 6.00 p.m.

Christmas Day, Family Service, 10.30 a.m.

Where?  The Oaks Centre, Stocks Lane, Penketh, Warrington, WA5 2QS

This is a personal invitation from me.

If you are coming to any of these events, let me know and I’ll meet and greet you. Of course, you can just turn up – no tickets required. If you can’t get there or can’t find it, ask me and I’ll sort it out. Contact me on the Comments Section of this blog, the Contact Form on my website, by e-mail john@johnharveymurray.co.uk or phone 01925 445215 or 07726 490639.

For more about St Paul’s Penketh, follow this link.

 

Depression? Join me as I’m revisiting my series on happiness.

This is the time of year for depression.

If you’re prone to depression, now’s the time you’ll feel it. Apart from the weather, the dark days and long nights can get you down.  Summer’s long gone and it feels like Spring’s far off. I’m not usually miserable, but this is the time when I find it hardest to keep cheerful.

Happy and sad masks. Is one hiding depression?
Happy and sad masks. Is one hiding depression?

Did my series on happiness help fight depression?

Try re-reading some of my posts about happiness, preferably before you get too depressed. But I’ve been thinking about it too, and I’m going to write another series, because I know I left a lot of useful stuff out, and I’ve come across a few tips I hadn’t thought of before. If you’ve any comments, they’ll be welcome. Let’s help each other.

Why does depression affect young people so much?

Research shows teenagers and twentysomethings suffer from depressive illnesses, even to the point of suicide more than the rest of us. It seems odd, when they should have more to look forward to. I don’t think anyone knows for sure, but here’s a thought. When I’m feeling low, I remember that I’ve been through this before and came out the other side. That itself is a help. Perhaps you just need to hang in there? Winston Churchill said, and I think he was quoting someone, “when you’re going through hell: keep going!” 

Good advice. And keep reading this blog! 

 

 

How I experienced the Centenary of the Armistice

What did I do on 11 November 2018?

Here is an item I wrote about a Remembrance Day event I went to. I have submitted this to the Warrington Guardian, but I am putting it on my blog as not everyone reads that paper.

Penketh and Great Sankey Remember

On Sunday the 11th November at 11 a.m. hundreds of men women and children of all ages stood in silence in St Mary’s cemetery to remember and to mark the centenary of the Armistice which ended the First World War. Some had come direct to the cemetery, but others had gathered first in Honiton Square, Penketh and had formed a procession led by a marching band. After the silence,there was a service led by West Warrington Team Rector, Jeremy Tear, assisted by Team Vicar, Sarah Peppiatt. There were prayers for peace and reconciliation as well as for the victims of conflicts past and present. There were also readings from the Bible, from the (national) Guardian of 12 November 1918 and from the poet William J Bailey.

The names of the forty men of Penketh and Great Sankey who died in the First World War, the thirty-three in the Second World War and two in recent conflicts were read out, and wreaths were laid by representatives of numerous organisations,including the Scouts, Emergency Services and local schools.

One of those attending, John Murray, said, “Seeing the number of organisations taking part, and the number of ordinary people of all kinds, made me think how war affects the whole community, not just soldiers. The lists of names brought home to me the impact war has had right here in a way the big national events can’t.”

Jeremy Tear, the Team Rector, said, “It was fitting and appropriate that on this significant anniversary we gathered to pay tribute to those who had died in the First World War and in other conflicts. It was also important to remember in the words of our bible reading that, ‘neither death nor life…will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’. I would like to thank the Royal British Legion who made the service possible and all those who attended”.

Here’s why Danny Dyer’s royal ancestry is no surprise to me

Why is Danny’s ancestry in the news?

The BBC have chosen Danny Dyer of Eastenders to present a history programme for children. He has looked up his ancestry and found several famous people, including William the Conqueror. I assume something connects these two facts.

Why would I be surprised at his royal ancestry?

This is certainly not in any way a comment on Danny. What surprises me is that he has managed to trace his ancestry as far back as he has. Most people hit the buffers after a few generations. How diligently did your ancestors keep and hand on relevant records?

A cartoon man looks at a computer screen with a magnifying glass. Looking up his ancestry?
A cartoon man looks at a computer screen with a magnifying glass. Looking up his ancestry?
Why am I not surprised at his royal ancestry?

I wrote an article some time ago which shows how closely most of us are related. All of us in Britain, excluding recent immigrants, go back to the island’s original few inhabitants. Well, not original. Originally nobody lived here. Just when a few people had settled here, they all left because a lot of ice arrived. All our ancestors came here after the Ice Age. However, the population shrank a lot in the fourteenth century due to bad winters and the plague. The survivors became our ancestors. Since the population is much bigger now than it was then, the same people must occur on most of our family trees many times over, whether or not we know who they are.

Are you proud of your ancestry?

As we all have two parents, we must all have four grandparents, eight great-grandparents and so on. The number must double each generation and, however far back you go, famous people, nobility and even royalty will all have the same number of ancestors as common people, and many of those ancestors will be the same.  Of course, if you could get the full picture, you would almost certainly find a fair number of rogues, vagabonds, ne’er-do-wells and lunatics as well as the great and the good, on your family tree.

This means that nobody has any right to be too proud of their illustrious ancestors or too ashamed of their notorious ones. We’re all in this together, Danny.