Yes, Lady No!

Corollary to my last post

D has been at the top of my prayer list for some time now, especially during the past few months. There’s no way I can provide or organise help for her, so I put it all confidently into the hands of the Big Guy Upstairs. Of course, any Christian knows that God can use anyone and anything for his purposes – and non-Christians will maintain that things tend to work out anyway. I know where I stand on this. I’ve seen him work in VERY mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

However, I had to laugh out loud when D phoned me today to tell me that she had followed up on one of Lady No’s leaflets, a service offering help to elderly people stuck in their homes. And she was quite penitent about the threats she was breathing the other day, acknowledging that this was indeed a very good idea. As a result, she now has a friendly person who will do her weekly grocery shopping and might even do some light housework, which will be a great boon.

The range of services offered also includes “sitting having a chat with you over a cuppa” and “taking you to appointments or on short outings”. Now that is simply brilliant. Of course, it isn’t free, but for the first time in months I actually heard my friend sounding genuinely upbeat and cheerful. Lady No has, at last, done something right! God bless her!

And my word, does D appreciate the irony!

How is the Covid-19 Pandemic changing the way people relate?

A young Hong Kong Chinese friend of mine recently published this article on the Cross-Current website  

I find her insights interesting, and hope you will, too. 

Time and Space

In this time of global pandemic, time and space are being handled differently. Because there is no commuting, there is a sudden credit in our time deposit…but our space is also sharply constrained. On one hand, with the “extra time” we have been granted, most of us are spending more time (voluntarily and also involuntarily) with family  both near and far; family is essential to us. On the other hand, because our space is being limited, the intense shared space can cause conflicts.

The limitations on space have also confused the boundaries between work and leisure time, when everything happens in the same house. We commonly experience working even longer hours, when “home is at work” or “work is at home”. The borderline between home and work has become blurred.

In a conference scenario, the “same time, same place” changes in pandemic time from common time and place to one’s own same place and time…the only same thing we all share, is indeed the Zoom screen.

Technologies of Communication

Technology has jumped in as a “saviour” for everyone; without it, we would not know how to stay in contact with those who are not living with us, how to maintain community like church, or how to maintain work efficiency at home. Technologies give a glimpse of hope to those who live alone and those who have never used technology before to stay in touch with others. I truly admire the elderly in my church, who obviously have not used social technology before and do not feel comfortable using it, but still step out of their comfort zone to try the strange technology and remain in good contact with the church community virtually. The generation gap is suddenly pulled closer.

Technology also creates opportunities for those who normally cannot physically join the gathering, but can now join virtually from the other side of the globe.

Expression of Affections

The affection we used to show towards each other was mostly through touching – like a handshake, hugs, slapped shoulders and kisses. In pandemic time, we need to use our body differently to express affection in an alternative way, like waving a “hi”, blowing our kisses or showing a hug gesture from a distance…because we still want to show our affections towards those we love.

This pandemic time has suddenly taken away what we have taken for granted. We used to work in the same office, but because of our lack of willingness to perhaps talk to and care for others – though we were in the same space – we were all alone at our desks. When we are now forced to work separately at home, some of us have realised that cooperation and communication with others is essential and require everyone’s effort and willingness.

Shared Meal

No matter whether it’s in a business or casual context, previously we often shared meals together and considered this time one of fellowship with one another. This is strictly suspended in pandemic time. And we shall all reflect, why has sharing a meal always been such a core part of our social life? How does a shared meal open us up to each other?

Religious Rituals

Christians practise communion together to remember the sacrifice of Jesus and we sing worship songs together; these are our shared embodied experiences. In pandemic time, we do these rituals virtually together, though the communion is not served by others but by oneself; and we cannot hear the others’ singing. The feeling of togetherness is definitely missing. But our shared experiences remind us how it was, and while in the meantime we do it virtually together but alone at home, in our mind, we remember how it should be. Our shared memories bind us as a community and with a hope that we will resume that traditional practice again soon.

Collective Memories

Our collective memories as a nation are getting stronger as we all pay attention to the same news – COVID-19. The government also acts – at least in Western Europe – in a more integrated way. The feeling of unity is suddenly felt much more strongly, as we have a common problem to solve. Though some governments might fail to react to the crisis with integrity, people in our society are helping each other, finding resources and supporting one another to get through the crisis together. COVID-19 is a crisis one cannot solve or fight alone; it is a common battle for us humans to fight against.

By Shuk Ling Chan from the Cultural Influencers Group, May 2020

May 29, 2020



There is only one human race

No man is an island, entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main:
If a clod be washed away by the sea
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as any manor of thy friends,
or of thine own were;
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

John Donne, Meditation XViII 1624

John Donne

Quoted so often, people nod sagely and agree, then forget.

But right now, these words should be engraved on everyone’s brain, their sense and meaning hammered into us. They are as true, even truer in our globalising world, than they were 400 years ago when Donne wrote them on his sickbed.

Whether we are referring to Brexit or ISIS (remember those?), the Corona virus and various forms of lockdown, or the recent inexpressible events that have lit the powder keg of protests, violence and horror in the USA and Hong Kong, these words apply.

The funeral bell tolls. Every time a person dies, each one of us is something less than we were because we are all part of a whole. Selfishness, arrogance, hatred, violence can only lead to the destruction of us all, body, soul and spirit. The bell tolls. Heed it.

Tuesday 17th March — Sundry Times Too

“Isn’t it wonderful when brothers and sisters get along together in harmony. It’s like a great big chocolate fountain or a party with champagne for everyone!” Psalm 133. OK so that’s a paraphrase and I dare say that there are better ones out there. Yet listening to this Psalm this morning got me wondering. How […]

Tuesday 17th March — Sundry Times Too

I’m reblogging this from Kangerew2, whose insightful reflections have given me much comfort and inspiration over the last few months since I discovered his page.

The need to forgive

i mentiond in my last post that I had finished translating another book, so this is just to satisfy any curiosity which that may have aroused. If you have been following me for a long time, you may remember that back in 2013, 2015 and 2016 I reported on an African family separated by the war in Rwanda who were finally, after several years, reunited here in Switzerland.

The posts were Perseverance Rewarded, When life becomes a fairy tale, Book launch and Book launch: Postscript.

My friend Josêphine and her husband Désirė described their traumatic experiences and adventures in a book published first in German as Auf der Flucht getrennt which I translated into English under the rather lame title of On The Run (see my blog post Synopsis of On The Run in 2016 – ISBN 978-3-7407-1525-0, available as paperback or Kindle edition from

A few months ago, friends who had spent many years as missionaries in Africa asked me if I would be interested in tackling a book that had just come out in French, with another story from Rwanda. Once again, it’s a Christian testimony by an amazing woman. The title in French is Pourquoi je leur ai pardonnė, and is also available from Amazon (ISBN 978-2-8399-2477-6) for those of you who read French. The autthor, Apollne Dukuzemariya, has also given a TV interview that can be viewed here The English version will hopefully be published later this year. Here’s the synopsis:

Rwanda1994. Pastor’s wife Apolline Dukuzemariya is beaten andg butchered by militia who leave her for dead in front of her children. Physicians doubt she can survive with an open skull and without suitable treatment; her life hangs on a thread, while murderous raids contnue daily even inside the hospital. Despite all odds, she holds onto life.

Eventually, Apolline is able to get to Europe on humanitarian grounds thanks to the intervention of long-time mssionary friends. The long slow healng process allows her opportunity to reflect, read and pray. Today she is able to talk about the inner workings of her soul and spirit that led to this miraculous outcome.She also describes her childhood, her vocation to become a nun that turned out so differently, her marriage and the events that prepared her to face the indescribable. Far from being a chronicle of the genocide, this book is the story of a woman’s spectacular resilience and those who accompanied her on her journey, making her triumph possible. A first-class testimony to the power of forgiveness in a generation that, more than ever, needs reminding of what it means to forgive.


Merry Christmas!

According to my stats, I now have over 200 followers, a figure I find hard to believe since it’s always the same faithful few who deign to pass comment. Be that as it may, I can’t let the season pass without wishing everyone who looks in here – whether 1, 2 or 200 of you – a Merry Christmas, frohe Weihnachten, joyeux Noël, buon Natale, legreivlas fiastas da Nadal, feliz Navidad, god Jul ….

May you know the joy, peace and love that are celebrated at this time, and so urgently needed in today’s world.

Georg Friedrich Händel and Isaac Watts expressed it very well:


How many churches can boast that in their children’s nativity play they had a real live baby?

Our under-tens, transformed into angels, shepherds, kings and one sheep, formed a sweet choir around Mary and Joseph, played by the actual parents of the baby (no way was that seven-week-old darling going to be handed over to any other arms!) and belted out Joy to the World and God loves me with gusto. They were accompanied by guitars, violin and cajon. Baby slept peacefully through it all.

So what if Baby Jesus was played by a girl?

I think this is one nativity celebration that will stay in our memories.

The only one from my childhood that I recall with any clarity wasn’t in church or at Sunday school, but in our regular classroom at school. I was six. I wanted very much to be the Archangel Gabriel, but was told, in those non-PC days, that there was no way I could be an angel because I wasn’t blonde. Angels are blond. I couldn’t be a shepherd or a king, because shepherds and kings are boys. Innkeepers were boys, too. I was a girl. A girl with brown hair. Not even curly brown hair.

I wanted a speaking part, because those were the interesting ones, but it looked as if I was going to have to accept that the only sound I would be allowed to make was either baa! as a sheep, moo! as an ox or heehaw! as a donkey. But then the little boy who had been paying me a lot of attention in the previous weeks – pulling my hair, tripping me up, chasing me around the playground – and who had been cast as Joseph proved his worth by asking the teacher if I couldn’t be Mary.

“Look,” he said, pointing to the picture of the holy family on the classroom wall, “Mary has brown hair.”

Then he caught my eye, we both blushed and giggled. It was as good as a proposal of marriage.

And so I was Mary, the best part in the whole of the play. And Joseph was my first little boyfriend. It made no difference to his caveman behaviour towards me after the performance. He still pulled my hair, threw paper darts and snowballs at me, and chased me all the way from school to my front gate, but I understood this declaration of love.

I think that was the only time I ever took part in a nativity play.

And Botticelli saw brown-haired angels!

The Dragon in the Nativity

Maybe there is some hope for Christmas after all!

The following Christmas commercial has come to my attention, owing to the fact that the illustrator is a distant relative (my cousin’s son-in-law) and hence as a family as we are allowed to show our pride!

Yes, it’s a commercial, but it nails the message of Christmas right on the head. Do watch to the end. And thank you to John Lewis and Waitrose.

This has links to a series of videos entitled Meet the Nativity, also worth watching. Enjoy!

Here’s the link to the first episode, just in case!

‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly …

I draw the curtains and light two Advent candles, the first for Hope and the second for Peace, and settle myself down with a boy soprano singing Stille Nacht in the background. Outside, the clouds are low over the mountains and it’s drizzling as darkness descends. Inside it’s cosy and warm. What is this season of Advent? What’s it all about?

Countdown to Christmas is probably what most people would say, but of course that begs the question of what is Christmas?

For Christians, it’s fairly simple. Advent means “coming” or “arrival”, the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, so the four weeks preceding his nativity are regarded as a time of expectancy and preparation for that event. It’s also the anticipation of His second coming, bringing His light back into a world of darkness and sin. Some people fast, just as in Lent, because this is basically a time of mourning, where we reflect on the evil in a world that desperately needs redemption. It’s the dark night before daybreak, if you like. For Christians, Christmas symbolises that joyful moment when Christ is born, Jesus the Light of the world. If you are puzzled by this, read this explanation

Advent wreaths with their greenery and four candles, and Advent calendars with their twenty-four little doors opening onto spiritually inspiring pictures or texts, are intended to help us to meditate on these things during this dark season of the year. Thus, it’s a quiet, reflective time to repent and spiritually prepare.

In spiritual terms, the date when we celebrate His birth is irrelevant. It’s highly unlikely that He was born on 24/25 December, and much more likely that it was in springtime. I’ve heard excellent arguments in favour of the Messiah’s birth occurring around Palm Sunday, for example. But the early Church fathers decided that the winter solstice season was a good time to bring light into the darkness and so Christians celebrate Christmas in December.

However, for non-Christians, who seem to make up a very large proportion of people in the western world, this is just the holiday season. Xmas has nothing to do with Christ and December is party-time, “turkey and tinsel” in the UK. Advent calendars are filled with chocolates and presents rather than inspiring pictures, the theme of light is transferred to masses of expensive coloured, flashing decorations, fasting is replaced by parties where everyone eats to excess, gets drunk and kisses all and sundry under the mistletoe, and the coming they are looking forward to is that of Santa Claus and Rudolf, with even more food, drink, orgies and fun. The Romans called it Saturnalia (without Santa and Rudolf).

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a killjoy or spoilsport, trying to stop you from celebrating the month of December in whatever way you like, or from rushing round spending a fortune on buying other people presents that are rarely appreciated and often exchanged a couple of days later. After all, the economy needs that! If that’s what floats your boat, go ahead and ruin your health having fun! Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die.

I also like to see the pretty lights around town, and enjoy seeing the excitement of little children as they look forward to getting their presents.

That’s not the axe I’m grinding here.

What I find distasteful is calling this kind of pagan celebration Christmas. Calling it Advent and Christmas is misleading. I think it needs a different name.

I was startled last week to see a headline in a British tabloid proclaiming that “Percy Pig Advent Calendar” had disappointed shoppers by containing “the usual chocolates” and not the pink chewy Percy Pig sweets. Startled, saddened and to some extent shocked. I quote: “Percy Pig is a legend of his time, and like any legend it is only right he should have his own festive advent calendar.”  So, an advent calendar is a tribute to a legend?

I really don’t think that this should be misnamed an Advent calendar. It’s a countdown calendar to Santa Claus Day. But then – I’m just a grumpy old woman in league with the Grinch.