This year the Belfast Twelfth passed off without the violence and disrespect of recent years. A pleasantly warm and dry day made for comfortable watching of "the bands" ... and what a mixture they were!
Some clearly practice hard both in playing and in marching ... one particularly good one (and I may have a small bias!) was the Mourne Young Defenders from Kilkeel. Every single member was in step, the tunes they played were recognisable and the big drum was used appropriately. You couldn't say that for every band and some of the big drums were more like weapons of ear destruction!
It was a good day for photographs ... but I'll not put all six hundred up here!
I like to capture the "unusual" or "amusing" moments ... and did manage to find a few "interesting" shots.
One of the features of The Twelfth is the array of large banners ... too many in the Belfast parade to show them all ...
Maybe it's the warmer weather ... but there seems to be a serious lack of patience around ... particularly on the roads!
White van drivers have a reputation ... and some of them earn it! The motorway is notorious ... white van weaving in and out to gain a car length or two ... and then to discover that someone he passed illegally is now in front of him again!
The Lisburn Road is a "death trap". Pedestrian crossings (with lights) can be ignored by driver after driver. It is amazing that so few people are knocked down because the opportunities are certainly multiplying.
I was waiting to take a right turn yesterday ... aware of oncoming traffic ... the driver in the white van behind me wasn't so patient ... a long blast on the car horn almost persuaded me to get out and go to his window to ask what was the matter! The fact that I was in clerical black suddenly dawned on him ... but why should that make a difference. Bad manners and impatience are just plain wrong whether it is against woman or man, cleric or lay.
Perhaps this is city life ... everything must be at an ever faster pace ... a good walk on the beach with a contented dog may be the answer.
It might even cool down some of the hot heads who claim to be the leaders of this province. Do they ever stop to take a look at themselves and their behaviour. What we don't tolerate in a three year old we seem destined to have to put up with in the politicians.
Drink water ... with a dash of lime and go for a walk ... with a dog if you have one!
There is no shortage of turtles at the rectory ... in every material you can imagine and in sizes from a few millimetres to big ... big soft toys!
The latest is just a centimetre or so across and firmly stuck in the middle of a sun! The interesting thing about it is the place of origin ... Antalya in Turkey.
It makes me smile ... and now it hangs in the breakfast room beside one made from cloves and another carved from wood ...
The Princess and the Pea is the classic illustration of the way the smallest things can influence how we feel. That poor child had the amazing ability to sense a single pea through ten mattresses ... I think that I could sleep on a bed of peas and not notice that the surface was even slightly rough.
It reminds me of an awful punishment (that I read about yesterday) used in some schools where children have to kneel on frozen peas.
My "little thing" yesterday was the new gear knob in the car ...
In terms of the final bill ... this item was free ... It is a pleasure to use and a big improvement from the scratched and broken one that came with the vehicle.
Gardens are full of the "little things" too ... the splash of colour from a single flower, the detail of an exotic bloom ... the tiny heads of blue and purple that make a pleasing carpet ...
But, of course, in the middle of it all is Eliot ... not such a "little thing" ...
Today, I'm going to look out for the "little things" ...
The day before!
The day of using up all the rich food ...
The trouble is ... in our affluent society there's rather too much to consume in one day!
However ... the pancakes have been made ... and many of them eaten!
The electric frying pan works a treat for cooking them ... modern cooker hobs are not designed for the traditional griddle!
The smell of cooking pancakes is such a comforting memory ... we enjoyed them all round the year ... if visitors arrived unexpectedly ... the griddle was warmed and fresh pancakes appeared as if by magic! The standard baking ingredients of flour, sugar and raising agents as well as eggs were always available, even if bread and sandwich fillings weren't. For me, pancakes are more a symbol of hospitality than a preparation for Lent ... but I guess they work at both levels.
May you have a good Shrove Tuesday and a profitable Lent.
... a writer's block?
If it exists ... then I have symptoms.
How hard can it be to put together two and a half minutes of a talk ... just a thought for the day ... but the deadline draws ever closer and only the most random ideas have hit the page!
So, to let the mind relax here are some shots from today ...
A flood in the boiler house ... I helped by taking pictures of the poor men who did all the work!
The trouble is, we don't know where it's coming from ... so the system has had to be closed down until the plumber can have a look.
There seemed to be an awful lot of water ...
Then I had a while in the church ... having brought "Brasso" with me I spent a happy while putting a bit of a shine on the ewer and alms dishes ... that was in-between talking to eleven visitors! One of the parishioners devised a new way to display our "Open Church" advertising poster ... and it seems to be working very well! Ballymena - Galway - Germany ... and some who live more locally all enjoyed the beauty of the sacred space today.
Polished brass has such a warm glow ... and it is a very satisfying job to do ... especially when it was as tarnished as these items were. You can certainly see the difference!
You'd never get tired of taking pictures ... the windows have such magnificent colours and designs and every time you look there's some new feature to consider. Here, in the Light of the World window, I noticed the crown of thorns for the first time! What a beautiful symbol in the juxtaposition of the kingly crown and the thorns!
So ... writer's block or not ... it is time to return to the task for this evening ... Thought for the Day ... because Ash Wednesday is coming very close!