Not Blackpool

There’s a famous seaside place called Blackpool,
That’s noted for fresh-air and fun,
And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Went there with young Albert their son.

They didn’t think much to the ocean
The waves, they was fiddlin’ and small
There was no wrecks… nobody drownded
‘Fact, nothing to laugh at, at all.

Daddy had a sermon to write, so today was designated special “mummy and Joni time” (read “remove that kid out of my hair”), and all year we’ve been driving past this road sign to “Playa Grande” and I’ve been thinking a village called “Large Beach” is definitely worth a visit.  So we packed up a picnic and to "Large Beach” Playa Grande we went. 

google map showing playa grande

A green road sign turns you off the main ruta 17, and onto a dusty mud-track too insignificant to feature on a map.  You bump along for some 12 kms or so heading north towards the Mar Chiquita (“little sea”; really an enormous salt lake), until the track comes to an abrupt halt right here;

Beach at playa grande

The “Playa Grande” is just that; one large beach, deserted but for the birdlife, adorned with dead trees like a dinosaur graveyard;

Joni looking at dead tree

If there ever used to be a village here, it is no longer; our car was the only sign of life on the shore-line all day…

Deserted shore line

With no cafe, ice-cream, or tacky souvenir outlets, Blackpool it certainly aint.  In fact it reminded me of the sort of places where my parents used to take us on holiday as kids… We made our own fun in them days.  (And I’ve still never been to Blackpool, how deprived am I?)  

While I congratulated myself on being organised enough to bring a picnic for once, Joni got straight to work extracting the full sensory benefits from the sand, mud and water, where he spent the entire day

Joni jumping on the sand

blissfully happy

Joni in the water

as a hippo

Joni digging

in a

Joni in water hole

mud hole.

Mummy enjoyed some relaxing time musing on the antics of the abundant oyster catchers, lapwings, and cormorants, with the squawking of the parakeets in the palm trees, and the passing groups of flamingos serving as reminders that we really weren’t on the east coast of Scotland;

flying flamingos  flamingos wading

(aside from the fact that the water was probably about ten degrees warmer than the north sea, and it wasn’t blowing a gale). 

I had thought we might string this out a couple of hours, and then maybe head on to one of the other local settlements, where the lights are neon and ice-cream is served.  In the end, we were still playing on the “Playa Grande” as darkness approached; and by the time I was pulling the car off the dirt-track and back onto tarmac, Joni was fast asleep in his car-seat.  The best sort of fun is still of the home-made variety. 

Good Surprise

I’d just arrived at church a couple of weeks ago, when I was approached by a lady who I don’t know too well.  “I need to speak with you afterwards” she said, completely poker faced.  I spent the whole service wracking my brains to try to imagine what sort of trouble I might be in; like who I’d managed to offend and how.  Guilty conscience?  Quite probably, except that I don’t actually have very much contact with church folk outside the meetings, and even someone of my fine talent usually needs at least some sort of open communication channel in order to cause offence. 

The service finished and my judgement beckoned.  “The ladies of the church have decided that we’d like to hold a baby shower for you, and we’re going to have it in your house.  Is that alright?”  More than alright, I’d be delighted. 

baby shower invite0001

Sure enough, on Sunday afternoon they all descended, bearing gifts, balloons and cake.  Martin stuck his head round the door and muttered something about “too many women” before locking himself into the office, so Joni was the sole male representative.  Happily someone had even brought a present for him (Scooby Doo T-shirt) which more than made up for the slight anti-climax of discovering that the other parcels were full of nappies and baby-clothes.  It was a really nice event, I wouldn’t want my house like Piccadilly Circus the whole time, but I do enjoy filling it with people once in a while, especially for something fun, and even more especially when someone else has done most of the hard work.  I was really touched that the good ladies had hatched their plot; my perception is that we’re off the radar of most people most of the time, particularly since the projects and work we are involved in tends to be more community than church-based.  This is all fine, we’ve set our priorities according to what we think is important, and we’re here to serve rather than be served; but at the same time, it is kind of gratifying to realise that folk have not only noticed us, but also appreciate our presence in some way. 

So now we have a fridge full of left-over cake (vying for space with the watermelon), and just about everything we need for B2F’s arrival.  Still required will be a little mountaineering expedition to rescue the dusty cot from the top of our wardrobe and put it together, and to take a cold look at the old pushchair to decide whether it is fixable, and who we might call upon to fix it. 

The good, the bad, and the ugly

San Francisco is currently doing that thing where the temperature drops from 30 degrees to twelve with barely a pause for breath in the middle.  That blink was autumn.  Oh sorry, you missed it.  There’ll be another one going the other way in six months time; we’ll call that one spring. 

So what’s news around here?

The Good

While it would be difficult to justify calling Scouts a significant part of my “ministry” (whatever one of those is), it is probably the area of life where the most identifiable progress is actually happening.  On a personal note, I have sat through enough training days to gain my “wood badge”, meaning that I am now officially a Scouter.  This is good for insurance purposes, and also for my self-esteem; I have a recognisable qualification, therefore I am.  I suspect related to this, the grizzly old Scouter who had thus far failed to meet my eye, much less speak to me, and whose comments have suggested he struggles with both women and foreigners, greeted me like a long-lost relative the other day, and even gave me a lift in his truck.  I don’t know why it matters that he accepts me, but somehow it does. 

Away from the personal, our group meets in an old railway shed, just a few metres along from a couple of other old railway sheds, which house a whole community of otherwise homeless families.  As in the UK, Scouts in Argentina have traditionally performed a baby-sitting service for the middle classes, but our Scout group here for the last ten years has been trying to make inroads into the railway community, and this year some of their kids have finally joined us.  This brings its own challenges almost too many to list, but these are the guys who could really benefit from what Scouting has to offer, and if we can both keep hold of our existing members and integrate the new arrivals, the cross-fertilization process could yield manifold riches all round. 

The Bad

Our missing mother mentioned a few entries ago was located safe and well and working as a farm-hand about a hundred kms away from here, but has since apparently disappeared again.  As yet unconfirmed rumours suggest that she may now be in a different province a thousand kms north, and more worryingly, that she may not have gone entirely voluntarily.  What is certain is that she is vulnerable and therefore this is going to need checking out just as soon as anyone figures out how.  Finding one person in a rural area of a country eleven times the size of the UK brings a unique set of challenges, the first of which is to persuade anyone in authority to give a damn about a dark-skinned and uneducated female whose family aren’t articulate enough to fight her corner.  

The Ugly

Wrestling with a broken umbrella in the rain is worse than merely being rained on.  At that point the very existence of the umbrella ironically becomes the red herring, as we have to work through the whole frustration of “this is an umbrella, I chose it for a specific function, it ought to be performing that function, maybe I could get it to work if only I just try…” until eventually wetter, later, and crosser than if we’d ditched the thing and walked home in the first place, we are forced to concede that the effort has been wasted.  In the case of a shoddy local product, or an even shoddier Chinese import, the sensible solution would be to cut ones losses and buy a better one.  However, with this umbrella, we have the equivalent of shares in the company, an on-going relationship with the directors, and we also pay an annual “hire charge” for the privilege of using the umbrella.  On paper, this could mean we have a positive influence over umbrella design, and on a personal level to ensure that our model performs the function for which it was made.  Unfortunately in practise, the response of the management has been to assert that we were wrong in expecting the umbrella to keep the rain off and not to turn inside out in the wind.  The silence thus far from anyone else in the board room suggests tacit agreement with this position, lack of interest, or possibly just the hope that we might go away.  As a champion of “make do and mend” (I’d have been a poster girl for “dig for victory”) my house is full of stuff I’ve grown, sewn, fixed; and full of other stuff waiting for me to figure out how to fix it or make it into something else.  But there comes a point where even I have to concede that darning the previously darned is counter-productive and re-heating the previously re-heated is downright dangerous, so we have to ask how much longer it is possible, sensible, or realistic to keep going with our broken umbrella.  If you’re finding this all too cryptic, I apologise.  I’m trying to juggle wanting to write about what’s really going on in our lives, combined with not wanting to damage anyone else on route, combined with feeling nervous that pointing out that the emperor has no clothes on might result in the boy being put into the stocks rather than the scoundrel tailors.  “Complicated” might be a better word than “ugly”, but ugly fitted the cliché! 

Watermelon of doom


This whopper has been christened “The Watermelon of Doom” after one of Joni’s favourite stories from 64 Zoo Lane 

64 Zoo Lane

It’s nearly as big as Joni, weighs at least as much as he does, probably the only way it’s going to fit into the fridge is if we take the rest of the contents and all the shelves out first, and we’re going to be eating it for some considerable time to come.  Martin reckons we should hire an industrial fridge, I’m thinking it might just be more practical to chop it up and share with a few friends.  

The value of knowing

Sometimes I love the things my kid knows… 

Walking the dogs in the early morning sunshine; “Look mummy, an hornero nest”.  An hornero is a little brown bird, quite common round here, which builds a distinctive mud-oven nest, often found on top of telegraph poles:

horneros on nest

I love that he knows the names of the different species rather than contenting himself with the generic “birdie”, and I also love that he’s enthusiastic about spotting them when we’re out. 

This afternoon, when I came in having left Daddy in charge; “Turtles swim in the sea, but tortoises don’t swim”  (Daddy; “sorry, we didn’t get the washing up done, but we had some important research to do on the internet…”  I love the fact that he loves finding things out, and that he wants to share the fruits of his new-found knowledge. 

This evening, while we were building with the ubiquitous Lego; “My birthday’s in September.  I’m three, but I’ve got to be four”.  That’s right babe, and you know a lot of stuff for someone who’s three.  

Sometimes I also love the things that he doesn’t know… Reading one of his favourite books:

dinosaur holding remote control (picture from Dinosaurs’ Day Out; Nick Sharratt)

  • “Mummy, what’s that”
  • “It’s a remote control”
  • “What does it do?”
  • “It’s for changing channels on the television”
  • “Oh…” (Not entirely convinced) 

I love the fact that he doesn’t know what a remote control even is, let alone how to operate one.   We’ve never deliberately set out to ensure that he doesn’t know this, nor would we necessarily seek to prevent him from finding out, but I love the fact that he knows where horneros and turtles live before he knows how to flick through the channels.  Is some knowledge worth more than others?  I think so.  Am I an intellectual snob?  Probably.  Is this always a bad thing?  That’s what I’m trying to figure out.  Answers on a postcard. 

Sermon coming soon

Hopefully tomorrow my latest sermon on John 13 "Jesus washes his disciples’ feet" will be available under the sermons tab at the top of the page.  It should be up by now, but for the spurious error message informing me that my file size is 375 kb which exceeds the maximum size allowed of 1 mb… which clearly it doesn’t.  My being married to the technical guru is frequently all that stands between my computer and defenestration. 

So, for those who read Spanish or like to look at the pictures, come back tomorrow and hopefully it’ll all be there for you.  Beamer technology hasn’t quite made it to the whole of San Francisco yet, so for this sermon I dug out the trusty poster-paper and paints, crayons and marker pens to make my visual aids the old fashioned way, and added photos of same to the pdf document prior to failing to up-load it here. 

It’s hard to tell how my sermon was received, I suspect it was probably too content-rich for the audience and that I probably lost most of them at an early stage… certainly the guy who spoke at the end gave every indication of not having had the foggiest clue(!) and his feedback afterwards is that the congregation "aren’t used to anything didactic, but it does us good to have something different for a change"…. damned with faint praise?  Still, lots of people said thank you anyway, and Martin now has an invitation for Easter Sunday which is quite an honour so maybe it wasn’t as bad as all that. 

Totally changing the subject, this yummy juicy melon


is the latest offering harvested from our patio the other day.  It is now no more, but there are still another couple ripening out there if I can manage to stop them from being eaten by the platoons of bugs first. 

Slow news week

It appears to have been a slow news week in the global village.  The Independent Newspaper (UK) managed an article on “The ten best dressing tables” and another headed “A Day that shook the world”, whose first sentence read “On 2 April 2005, the third-longest serving Pope in history died at the age of 84”.  I might be missing something, but I imagine that even most of the folk currently calling for the guy’s beatification probably weren’t completely astonished six years ago when he popped his clogs at a frail 84.  It’s tempting to conclude that isn’t a lot going on in the world, but I suspect this has more to do with our miniscule attention spans… once the wars, natural events and humanitarian disasters have been going on more than a week, we’ve run out of things to say that would hold our readers’ interest so it’s easier to fill the inches advertising dressing tables or eulogising dead pensioners (dressing tables?? do people still buy those?)

Our local paper  "La Voz" (The voice) ran a back-page spread on the introduction of road-side breath testing in San Francisco.  Apparently drink-drive laws have actually been in existence here since 1996 (the “apparently” says it all) so it is probably a fitting birthday celebration of its 15 years on the statute book that we are finally resourcing its enforcement.  Anyway, the news is that road-side breath-testing is regularly confiscating between fifteen and twenty vehicles a night at weekends, which is pretty impressive given that the check-points are always in the same place; you’d have to be drunk to forget to avoid them.  And the police are becoming accustomed to receiving death-threats by irate punters who consider it a violation of their human rights not to be allowed to drive their vehicles in whatever condition they see fit…. anyone who ever labelled individualism as a northern hemisphere characteristic might want to try living here for a year or two. 

Meanwhile, we might not own a dressing table (or ever had to provide a road-side breath specimen) but life in the Frost household was quite busy last week between driving around the countryside trying to fix one set of problems for eight hours on Monday and a different set of problems for twelve hours on Thursday in between writing a sermon for Sunday, all on top of our normal weekly work-loads.  This afternoon we had our seven-month antenatal check-up which we both passed with flying colours, so I can only conclude that B2F thrives on frenetic activity (like his brother), although I am personally looking forward to a slower routine this week.  This evening Joni asked me what the baby in my tummy’s name was, so I asked him what he thought his brother should be called… “Toby… Thomas…. Henry…”  We probably should think about finalising this decision before his list of suggestions expands to include Cranky the Crane or the Fat Controller.