A Lenten Regime

February fill-dyke – only the rains came at the end of January. I’d alleviated the bleakmidwinter bluesby daring to live well, as the Revd Sydney Smith advocated. I’d made just a few resolutions – only those that I knew I would and could keep, that energized me. No strict regimes, no dieting or giving up alcohol – I needed every small help in January (see January archives for the complete miniseries!) But I DID resolve that, come February, there would be a month of being careful, of abstinence in some areas, of learning a new normality. It’s a short month, after all!

Only 28 days -  a mere 28 days to go without alcohol, take care with the diet, up the daily steps to a minimum of 12,000.

And then I realized three things.

-       we complete on buying and selling 2 properties on February 14.

A day for great celebration and love; a day for my favourite tipple - a glass or two of glorious champagne.

-       Lent starts on February 13th this year. And that’s 6 weeks of giving up as a penitential, sacrificial reminder of all that Christ has done for me. Usually I give up reading novels and fiction and magazines. But I haven’t taken up reading again properly yet after PTSS, so it’s hardly worth giving up. And maybe the food and/or drink would be a more meaningful way for Lent this year.

-       I am an abstainer, not a moderator. All or nothing – in just about every area of my life. No good thinking I’ll just have a small piece of chocolate or simply one biscuit, or only one glass of champagne.  I can’t stick to ‘only one.’ But I can turn my back and say ‘absolutely nothing.’

A long time ago, when I was young and enthusiastic, I discovered that I could easily maintain a healthy weight by eating carefully and extremely moderately Monday to Friday and then enjoying the weekends with whatever I wanted, no holding back on food or drink. (I hasten to add that I don’t ever drink more than a couple of glasses of wine anyway, which is why I’m always the designated driver when we are out for dinner!)  Now I read that the new diet regime is a variation of that, a 5:2 timetable of 5 days eating moderately and 2 days of fasting.

In Times2 today there is an article comparing the Alkaline Diet with the 5:2 diet; and Vanora Bennett writes about her version of the latter, when she discovered the mediaeval menus of the Bergundian Cluny Abbey and its 13th Century monks. They believed that fasting brought serenity of mind, that balance in all things was the centre of all things. The monks were served just one meal a day in the winter months, with two on feast days; and two meals a day in summer (when they were out working in the fields and so burning more energy) but only one on fast days.

Vanora modelled her diet on the monks’ winter menu, but added diet snacks, coffee instead of wine (the monks were wary of water but could enjoy wine even for breakfast after early prayers) and hot tea after dark.

So that’s what I am going to do. She quotes Adalbert de Vogue, the French monk, who wrote:

“My mind is at its most lucid, my body vigorous, and well disposed, my heart light and full of joy after experiencing a day of self-denial.”

OH YES to that! Isn't that how we all long to be?

I will start on February 15th. I dare not start on 13th and promise just 1 glass of champers on the 14!

Let’s be real and honest and set the standard in reality. 

And best of all, the time NOT spent in shopping, cooking, preparing, consuming, the normal vast quantities of stuff demanded by our western diets, is then available to be spent in relationship. With God, with my husband, with ….. oh, I forgot.

Husband needs to eat. Can I persuade him to follow this diet with me too?

Check back to see what happens – with my diet, my husband’s, and my time in relationship with God, my husband and others!


What are you doing in Lent this year? How do you find it easiest to give up things? What advice do you have for me and for others?

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I am writing a daily blog (Monday to Friday)  on preparing spiritually and physically

to lead a Pilgrimage of 100 miles in September.

for details of the Pilgrimage, click on the dropdown Cotwold Pilgrimage bar at the top of this page 




It’s difficult to do something without a focus, a goal, an end-in-sight.

Or it is if you are me.

Walking miles for no reason with no companions and nowhere in particular to aim for is not something I enjoy.

And attempting the goal is easier the nearer it becomes – there’s still eleven weeks until the Pilgrimage: plenty of time, I tell myself!

So I was looking forward to the 60th birthday celebration for my brother-in-law on June 16:  an 8 mile circular walk in north Devon, with a pub lunch half way. Only my husband’s indefatigable brother could have persuaded family and friends to join him on such an expedition – even with the promise of a champagne tea at the end.

Alas, it was not to be part of our Saturday.

My husband has pleurisy and is confined to total rest.

As it was cold, wet and windy in Devon, his brother - who is a doctor - told him in no uncertain terms not to go. So we didn’t. I offered to go alone but the long long drive there and back by myself in foul motorway conditions did not bode well – and my husband did not need a long day alone either.

But I really did want to walk.  Our local weather was not too bad. And an hour or two of walking each side of lunch would be great practice for the Pilgrimage.

I needed a goal, a focus.

I found it in the aforesaid pub lunch – only at a different pub. An hour and a half to walk across the fields to a local  favourite pub, and an hour and a half back.


Especially when the husband said he felt he could drive the 15 minutes it takes by car – we could meet for a date!

And so I had not one but two purposes: a good walk to get to lunch -and a date with my beloved.

With such purposes, I found myself striding out, walking fast, aiming for the goal.

It worked: I was there early. Plenty of time for a glass of wine, petting all the resident dogs including the new 12 week old spaniel puppy (envy envy) and reading the paper.

Unhurried lunch, time to talk, to BE, to be together.

And then a brisk walk back – uphill most of the way but inspired this time by the thought of tea and finishing the excellent book I was reading.


A purpose or two, a goal, an end-in-sight.

That inspires me to do what otherwise I might not attempt.

And inevitably it reminds me of my ultimate goal, which I find so easy to forget is ahead of me:

Running toward the Goal

12 I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. 13 My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. 14 I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. 15 All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you. 16 But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed.

Philippians 3 Contemporary English Version (CEV)


What do YOU need a goal for? Where are you headed? What helps to focus on it?



The insidious creepingness of all faiths and none

I am writing a daily blog (Monday to Friday)  on preparing spiritually and physically

to lead a Pilgrimage of 100 miles in September.

for details of the Pilgrimage, click on the dropdown Cotwold Pilgrimage bar at the top of this page 


Elation and excitement.

Arriving at Highgrove, home of HRH The Prince of Wales.

Being waved through the gate, shown where to park.

And Leave your cameras and mobile phones in your car. No photos. None whatsoever

Welcomed and led into the Gardens.

Our Guide, she was all pink and purple, with a peep of bright green wellies..

-Now, d’you see? she says, pointing out this plant and that.

- And His Royal Highness has such good sense of humour: d’you see? and she waves at the duck egg blue board which proclaimed: Entering an old fashioned establishment. GMO free.

- He is such a fun gracious man, she enthuses. He plans it all, chooses the plants.

He wants a garden which delights the eye, warms the heart, feeds the soul.

- D’you see that little statue? A thank you from the Welsh children’s charity.  He has them here for a Christmas party every year.

- Oh and when he takes us round each year and points out all the new things, it’s such an honour.  D’you see?

We did see – and there’s the boss!

That IS him, isn’t it, my boss, the Bishop of London.  Beheaded and on top of the wall.

- Are you a Vicar then, she enquires wide eyed? Yes, that’s the Bishop of London. And the other heads too: all people that the Prince admires. Dr Kathleen Raine, the poet and scholar; Sir John Taverner, the composer; Dr Vandana Shiva, the environmental campaigner. D’you see?

The rain is obliging and holds off. It’s damp and windy but dry.

And there we are, standing at the front door of the house.

Right at the front door. Did you ever think you would get this close, she asks? He wants you to see it all.

We do, we are -  in awe and wonder.

Is that his bedroom window, opened a crack, curtains parted? Does he sit hereon this garden bench? And here? He must be glad when we all are gone.

- And one last thing, she promises, d’you see? D’you see this plain wall and these simple wood doors?

She throws them open. The Carpet Garden. Based on the design of a Turkish carpet in the house.

It’s so beautiful, calm, tranquil. D’you see?

Nature to heal and restore the soul.

Healing plants.

Life giving water properties.

All the best of the Islamic faith, nurturing and healing and life restoring. Not what you read of when the extremists get hold of the faith; but Islam at its best, its basis. A place for nurturing and restoration.  D’you see?


And I want to cry out, to intervene.

We are being fed snippets of positive Islamic faith.  Were I to do the same with my Christian faith, I would be hounded down.

But it’s there in our culture each day.

The insidious, creeping takeover – whether it’s gay lifestyle, civil marriages, all faiths and none:

just as long as it isn’t Christian.

You can do what you like, say what you like, believe what you like – as long as it’s not Christian.

I gaze up at the The Crescent which dominates this beautiful garden.

And I don’t say a word.

My silence is my acquiessence.

What might Ann have said? http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/06/what-in-the-world-should-christians-wear/

Why in the world don’t I say these words aloud to strangers more often? Why don’t I live them more clearly? I am ashamed of how many times, unlike the apostle Paul, I have been ashamed of the gospel, the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)

And what are we really here to do but to live the Great Commission — not the Great Optional? 




Or even thought?

Our Guide smiles.

- Your Champagne tea awaits. She points to the tea room.

And I gratefully flee.