Saturday, 20 November 2010

High expectations and grated fingers

There's an Angela Carter novel called Wise Children and all the way through her main characters say that they should "hope for the best and expect the worst." I am very good at hoping for the best, however I am also the kind f person that always expects the best also, much to my detriment. From grades to hairstyles, if things aren't the best that they can be it bothers me more than I care to admit.

So, last night I held my first ever grown-up dinner party. My grandma had sent me some money in the post in order to buy ingredients to cook my housemates and a few friends a nice meal. So I decided to host a fully-fledged, fifties-style, candlelit dinner party.

I started cooking at 11am and just kept going with the cooking, cleaning, and finishing touches until the guests arrived at 7. There were seven of us. I'd prepared carrot and coriander soup, followed by garlic chicken and roasted vegetables, then chocolate mousse served in teacups. I'd deliberately chosen food that would require very little attention once my guests had arrived so that I could do most of the cooking beforehand and enjoy the company of my friends in a relaxed environment.

I posted on a website I've recently discovered for Jane Austen addicts in order to glean some wisdom from those older and wiser than myself. The response was fantastic, really reassuring and encouraging. They all said, though, not to panic. That was the utmost piece of advice. I thought it a strange one. I'm a good cook, I love having my friends round, and I was very much looking forward to putting on a nice dress. Panic seemed like the last emotion that would be fluttering around me.

I had visions of a soiree that was the cross between a banquet at Pemberley and a home-cooked meal by a housewife wearing pearls in the 50's. (Think that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory cooks for Dean). With immense struggle and numerous complaints from (actually, very understanding) housemates we moved our dining table from the kitchen to the lounge, squeezed every chair in the house around it, held another cutlery amnesty, borrowed wine glasses from here there and everywhere, lit candles and fretted about not having a centrepiece. I put on perhaps my favourite dress (although it fitted much better last time I wore it!), and donned my finest hostess smile to await my guests.

I insisted on taking their coats and pouring their wine. I wouldn't let the men in the kitchen. And I played soothing, dinner party music. I was excited. I had fantasies of a handsome man sweeping me off my feet when I stepped into the kitchen, holding me close and telling me what a fantastic wife I would be one day. If only I had one of those frilly aprons you tie around your waist.

So, the starter went OK, except for my blender isn't that good, so it still had a few lumps of carrots in. I put the main course in just before my guests arrived so that it would be cooking while we sipped our soup ever so delicately and talked of peonies and Picasso. However, by the time we'd finished the starter the food was as far from cooked as the conversation was from Picasso. And I'd forgotten the garnish.

I think the oven can't cope with that amount of food in it, because it was cooking so slowly. To cut a long story short, the vegetables had to be cooked for two hours and we couldn't tell what was a potato and what was a lemon by the end of it. The chicken was more or less cremated, I'm pretty sure, and peas were flying everywhere. And my guests had started on the After Eights due to hunger shakes. They all made yummy noises, though, and were very appreciative. And seeing as I don't have a dog, I'm pretty sure they ate it all.

Now, after a near breakdown in the kitchen previous to this, I was starting to feel a lot calmer now that the main course was over. Nothing could go wrong with my dessert because I'd prepared it hours ago and it didn't require any other cooking. In fact, it didn't require any cooking at all, because it turns out that mousse is just chocolate whipped up with raw eggs, essentially. A very complicated chocolate whipped up with raw eggs, though. Anyway, I'd tasted some previously to make sure it was OK, and I new for a fact that it was delicious.

All that remained to do was to grate some chocolate to sprinkle delicately over it for that extra touch. Tip: always avoid extra touches. I was happily grating some chocolate, with considerable force, when -bam- in goes part of my finger. Well, not part of my finger. But I did grate it, and it did hurt quite a lot, and there was a considerable amount of blood. I'm not good with blood, so of course I overreacted, and presumed I was dying and made quite a fuss.

With some help from my friends the mousse got on the table, by which time everybody was playing poker for After Eights, and we finished off the dinner part of the evening. It was now pretty late.

After this, things got better. We started playing Articulate and I think I actually smiled.

Lessons I have learned from this:
1. Keep it simple. If you are good at cooking chilli con carne, just cook chilli con carne.
2. Don't try to live above your station. If you're a student, act like one.
3. Hope for the best. Expect the worst.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


"he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken." Isaiah 25:8, The Bible

I was reading this verse this morning, and a few things about it struck me, and I started making notes, and it kind of elongated and became this, and I wanted to share it with you all. In this verse we can see that not only is death gone, it is completely engulfed by God, who is the personification of all things good. Not only will we not cry any more, but God himself will wipe away the tears.

I remember, when I was till with my ex-boyfriend, I was really upset one time and he wiped the tears from my face with his hand. It was a really touching, intimate gesture, and it made me feel so much better, because he was getting involved with my pain, he was sympathising in the closest possible way. It was like a promise that he would make it all better.

Of course, he couldn't possibly make it all better, but God can. And he does. How much more of a blessing is it if the Lord of all creation gets involved in our pain this way? If our Creator God intimately cares for all of our personal sufferings? He cares for our pain, it hurts him too, to see us this way, but a hundred times more than a boyfriend, for he loves us a hundred times more, and perfectly.

Not only will he wipe away our tears, but he will remove our disgrace with them: we no longer have to be ashamed of anything at all. The fact that he wipes away our tears suggests more than involvement, though, it implies taking those tears onto his own hands: this is the key. It is sin in the world, our sin--all the things we do against God (from telling a so-called 'white lie' to theft, to murder) that causes pain, corruption, suffering in the world. Ever since Adam and Eve first sinned, the world has been corrupted, it isn't as it should be.

But God intervened. He came to earth himself, as Jesus, but man and God, and lived a perfect life: the only one to live without sin. Then when he willingly died on the cross a beautiful transaction took place; one that is too wonderful for me to comprehend. Jesus took all of our sins (past, present and future sins) and laid them on himself, and in return gave us his record, his spotless life.

So now, if we accept that Jesus has done this for us, when we die God is glad to look upon us and see not our lies, our impurity, our selfishness, which is going against God, and so is punishable by death, but instead he sees Jesus' sinlessness and welcomes us into his arms for eternal life and joy in heaven. This is how he can finally wipe away our tears. This is how he removes the disgrace of his people.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


I have a reading week starting Monday (tomorrow), so on Friday I came home to my 'home home'... i.e. to stay with my parents for a few days. I think I've mentioned before the 'home' confusion of being at uni... what is home? I generally refer to Norwich (uni) as 'home' and Hastings (where my family mostly are) as 'home home'. I have come to the realisation that, despite all this home confusion, or maybe because of it, I feel that Norwich is actually home.

They say that home is where the heart is... maybe that's true. In that case, is my heart in Norwich? Surely my heart is with my parents, the town I grew up in, where I went to school, where I walk my dog? And yet, I yearn for Norwich when I'm not there much more than I yearn for Hastings. Is it because, though I love people in Hastings, there are more people that I love in Norwich? Surely the extent to which I love them comes into consideration? I love my parents gazillions.

When I went to Turkey I was homesick for Hastings... but maybe it was just for my parents? When I've been away, and my parents pick me up from the train station I always feel warm fondness for the streets we drive through to get to our house. But when I've been there for a few days I quickly become disillusioned by all the seagulls and drunk teenagers and closing down shops. Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder?

Why are there so many clich├ęs to do with hearts and homes? It must be a massive subject, and one which everybody can relate to, in order for all of these to come about. What if our heart is spread out over numerous places? Can we have multiple homes? How to people with separated parents feel about this? What about travellers? Ex-patriots?

But what if one has an undivided heart? You must have noticed the title of my blog, and probably my tattoo. It's from Psalm 86 in the Bible (look it up, in its proper context it's so much more beautiful and meaningful) and I got it to remind me to love God, who saved me, with all of my heart, and not to let other things distract me from this. So, that said, my heart is undivided, and it belongs in heaven, yes? I once heard (or read) a speaker (or writer) say that we should be homesick for heaven... so that's what I want to be: I know that my ultimate destination, and where I belong, is heaven, and so I should be yearning for that above all else. As the apostle Paul would say, "I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

That said, here are a list of my favourite things about being at home:

1) my parents
2) my dog
3) my massive, amazingly comfortable bed
4) having food cooked for me
5) living in a house free of mould
6) being able to put my pyjamas on at 5:30pm without being judged
7) not having to think so much my brain hurts
8) having more than 4 and a half tv channels
9) not having to put a 'K' on all my food so I remember it's mine
10) most nerdily of all, my seven, alphabetised bookshelves