I spent this afternoon at Costa Coffee inside the Odeon Cinema foyer at Silverlink Shopping Park waiting for my car to be serviced at a nearby Citroën dealership. Having bought coffee and cake, I told the staff to let me know if they needed the table, especially in the light of reduced capacity with all the coronavirus social distancing measures, as I had done in McDonald’s in the morning.
An elderly lady and her middle-aged daughter came and enjoyed some refreshments before going into the cinema. As they left, I was still in the same place doing personal business on my Chromebook. They came over and struck up conversation, quite concerned that I had nowhere to go.
They were genuinely relieved when I explained why I was 35 miles away from home and could only have my car serviced there because it came free as part of the original sales agreement. Oh, how we laughed. Life’s little interactions are important, always talk to people whenever you have the opportunity.
Today’s family afternoon excursion into beautiful nature wasn’t just daily exercise, but emergency treatment from the Natural Health Service.
We’re all in the same situation in the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, but everyone has their own personal challenges to face. For us, it’s having three young children, me trying to work from home, and preparing for my imminent retirement in July and moving house.
We’ve had a few bad days, and were both physically, mentally and emotionally drained. So, not only did the therapy walk do us the world of good, spending quality time with Naomi and our children really helped, but also observing and photographing nature.
Note: All the photos were taken with my smartphone, I just got in close, or low, or used unusual angles. See all the original here. Why not have a go for yourself?
My retirement was never going to be a normal one, the reason being that I have three young children under six, but that was before the coronavirus pandemic which has well and truly thrown all our plans into disarray.
The earliest I could have retired was February 2020 but, for a variety of reasons, I decided to work for another five months until the start of July 2020. So now I effectively retire at the end of May, as June is taken up with holiday entitlement.
We’re moving to a rented property in Norton, Stockton-on-Tees, on or soon after the beginning of July. Although this is in doubt because of government lockdown restrictions affecting property work and removal companies. We also have the problem of a house and garage which need sorting out, with charity shops and the local tip closed.
I have mixed feelings about retirement. It’s a huge change in our circumstances and we’ve all made many friends in Wallsend, not least our children. Also, most of our married life has been spent here.
Although I won’t have any work responsibilities in retirement, I’ll remain a Salvation Army Officer. I’m looking forward to Christian ministry in different circumstances, with possibly new areas to explore, and I already have some idea of what these might be and how they might be developed. One thing I won’t miss is administrative responsibilities.
Overall, I’m looking forward to retirement and the opportunities it’ll bring, I just wish the details weren’t so obscured by clouds of uncertainty.
Update 11/06/20: We had planned to move on the actual date of my retirement, but because of the coronavirus lockdown we’ve been forced to delay it a week until Wednesday 8 July 2020. You really don’t want to know the ongoing problems we’re having to face and deal with, but we’ll get through it one way or another.
Update 27/06/20: The struggle is very real at the moment, with all sorts of problems delaying our plans, as the deadline for moving fast approaches. Today we discovered rain getting into our new home just inside the main entrance where the roof of the extension is joined to the main building. Hopefully, this can be sorted out soon.
Photography (a smartphone is all you need by the way) and writing, whether personal or for work, are two of the things that are currently helping me maintain my mental health and sanity in the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
Partly by accident, but also by design, I’ve developed a way of posting them on social media and here. I take four square photos and then stitch them together with an Instagram app to make a four by four photo which I share then to Instagram (and automatically to Facebook and Twitter). I repeat this three more times, and then stitch the four stitched photos together into a four by sixteen photo. The above stitched photo is today’s offering from my afternoon walk in Richardson Dees Park in Wallsend.
I then add all the individual photos to a Google Photos album, and you can see the ones from today here. I’m particularly pleased how the dandelion shot turned out, I spotted it in a ray of sunshine that didn’t extend to the background, making it stand out dramatically.
I also took four photos of some fungi on a tree stump that I’ve stitched into a standalone four by four one. Again, you can see all the individual ones here.
Oh, and even though I concentrated on nature, I was with my family. Here’s the one shot I did take of them (Naomi was taking photos of the children), and I immediately loved it.
I don’t know about you, but (like many people in this coronavirus pandemic lockdown) my sleep pattern is all over the place. Last night I couldn’t get to sleep until the early hours and then I woke up early, and that was without the usual alarm clock of my bladder (it’s an age thing). When this happens, I sometimes feel like lying in bed, but at other times I just get up. This morning it was the latter, and I also decided to go for a walk.
The above are some of the photos I took with my smartphone. You can see all the individual photos here, and another set (not shown) here.
Just some Bible thoughts this Sunday, when we would have been uniting in worship at Wallsend with North Shields and Shiremoor Corps, rather than a full online meeting. This is neither an apology nor excuse, merely a reflection of the kind of week I’ve had in lockdown. I’m simply doing what I can and not what I can’t. My hope and prayer is that these thoughts will be an encouragement to you, as well as stimulating your own reflections and thoughts. God bless you, Major John Ager.
One of the corps I was appointed to in the past had the following mission statement, this was its raison d’être: To put Jesus first and grow as Christians, through Bible reading, prayer, worship and fellowship. To share God’s love and forgiveness, especially through loving service in the local community.
That was and (as far as I know) still their purpose as a church and community centre; the focus of that group of Christians, both individually and collectively. It’s important to have focus and purpose as a fellowship of God’s people. Yes, I know businesses have mission statements, and the church is not a business; but the principle still applies. Having a defined focus helps us to be better Christians.
The church is currently unable to meet because of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, and some of the things that are essential are not able to happen in the normal way. Having said that, the church is finding new ways of doing things, although nothing can fully replace the actual meeting of people in a place of worship. Collective worship and fellowship are a vital part of the Christian life. Whilst many people say you can be a Christian without going to church, I disagree.
Watch the beautiful (although actually sad) song I Am A Rock by Paul Simon and pay particular attention to the lyrics.
A winter’s day
In a deep and dark
I am alone
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island
I’ve built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock
I am an island
Don’t talk of love
But I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries
The words are very telling, we need each other. The lyrics of this wonderful song are actually the very antithesis of what it means to be a Christian. Yes, we can be hurt when we tear down the walls we build around ourselves, because we become vulnerable. But, as Christians, we follow one who became vulnerable for us, and when we open up to him we open ourselves to the love of God and others.
As we gather together again for worship and fellowship, at some yet unknown date in the future, we may have to reassess our overall vision.
As Salvationist poet Will J. Brand once wrote: …so much we deemed essential is forever left behind.
The Rising Sun Country Park is a wonderful place to visit, just two miles away from where we live in Wallsend. It’s somewhere we’ll miss when we move away from the area on my retirement in a few months time. It’s also the location for a parkrun.
In the current coronavirus pandemic the main facilities and car park are obviously closed, but it’s still open for exercise and there’s plenty of space for social distancing. We had a lovely walk round part of the country park yesterday. The above photos are some that I took while out with my family.
You can see all the photos taken on my smartphone by clicking here.
Fortunately, we can still walk in the park and enjoy its beauty, and that’s just what we did as a family on the afternoon of Easter Sunday 2020. The northern end of the park is very close to where we live. Naomi concentrated on photos of our children, I focussed on nature. The above picture is a composite of the eight photos I took on a cloudy day.
Note: Many thanks to my friend and fellow Salvation Army officer Mark Kent for processing the photos for me.
We discovered this adventure playground today through a friend, who we met there today with her children. Obviously, this is of interest only to those in and around North Tyneside, but it’s such a great place I thought it worth writing about.
Not only is it a great adventure playground with something for all ages, it’s FREE – let me repeat that, it’s FREE! Not only THAT, but the food in the cafe is very good value for money; I bought two cheese, ham & salad wraps and two hot dogs for £2.40 in total – let me repeat (no, I’ve just done that). The staff and volunteers (including children) are also very friendly. Apart from all the usual things you’d expect to find, there’s also chickens, pigs and rabbits.
Children need to be in the open air; enjoying themselves, mixing with others, developing mental and physical skills, and understanding risk-taking in a controlled environment. All in all, well worth a visit – and it won’t be long before we’re there again!
Information about the adventure playground can be found here.
This lovely cafe in Wallsend has become something of a second home for the Ager family recently. It’s a place for parents (or anyone caring for babies and toddlers) to relax and chat over a meal or simply have a tea or coffee. There’s a play area with plenty of toys (so the children can easily entertain themselves) and a baby changing room. The cafe is also breastfeeding friendly.
One of the things that makes Tots Tea Rooms special though is the variety of organised activities for the children, especially in school holidays. Our children have enjoyed sand art, messy play, rock pool fun (see photo below) and cookery – to name just a few of the activities on offer. They have also branched out into children’s parties and other events; for example, before Pollyanna was born we held our Baby Shower there. She now plays there, along with Matilda and (sometimes) Freddy.
Naomi is there more often than I am, but occasionally I take work with me or simply pop in and enjoy good coffee – yes, there’s a proper coffee machine before you ask. There is also free Wi-Fi for customers.
You don’t need to have a child with you, so why not drop in? It’s on the crossroads of High Street East and Park Road, not far from the town centre.
Note: Tots Tea Rooms is now under new management (15/08/18), and it is again under new management in September 2019 (revised 16/09/19).