Holy Week

When is it?

In 2018 it starts on Sunday 25th March and ends on Saturday 31st March. Sunday 1st April is Easter Sunday (and also April Fool’s Day in the UK – I can see some tricks being played!).

It is a holiday in the U.K. schools will close for (at least) two weeks over the Easter period. Businesses shut on Good Friday to Easter Monday. Retail outlets are closed on Easter Sunday, one of only two days in the year that they are required by law to be closed (the other being Christmas Day, the birth of Christ).

What is it?

Holy Week marks the betrayal, arrest, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It climaxes on Good Friday with Jesus’ crucifixion and ends with the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Palm Sunday 25th March 2018

The sixth Sunday in Lent is Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week; the final week of Lent immediately preceding Easter. On Palm Sunday we celebrate the Lord’s triumphant entrance and arrival into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, where He was welcomed by crowds worshiping Him and laying down palm leaves before Him. This was a customary sign of great respect and homage at the time. The arrival on a donkey is highly symbolic representing the humble arrival of someone in peace (rather than a horse in war).

Palm branches are widely recognized symbol of peace and victory, hence their preferred use on Palm Sunday.

Wednesday 28th March 2018

Wednesday of Holy Week commemorates Judas Iscariot’s bargain to betray Jesus. On Wednesday Jesus left for the Mount of Olives. Here He foretold the apostles the events of the next several days, including His impending death.

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Maundy Thursday 29th March 2018

Thursday of Holy Week is known as Maundy Thursday and is a day Christians commemorate the Last Supper shared by Christ with his disciples in Jerusalem. It was at the Last Supper, a Passover meal, that Jesus established the Holy Communion of breaking the bread and taking the wine and sharing it in remembrance of Him. During the meal Jesus predicts His betrayal and following the meal the disciples went with Jesus to the Mount of Olives where He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. The Temple Guards, guided by Jesus’ disciple Judas Iscariot, arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas received money (30 pieces of silver) (Matthew 26:14–16) for betraying Jesus and told the guards that whomever he kisses is the one they are to arrest. Following his arrest, Jesus was taken to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest, Caiaphas. There he was interrogated with little result and sent bound to Caiaphas the high priest where the Sanhedrin had assembled (John 18:1–24).

Conflicting testimony against Jesus was brought forth by many witnesses, to which Jesus answered nothing. Finally the high priest adjured Jesus to respond under solemn oath, saying “I adjure you, by the Living God, to tell us, are you the Anointed One, the Son of God?” Jesus testified ambiguously, “You have said it, and in time you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty, coming on the clouds of Heaven.” The high priest condemned Jesus for blasphemy, and the Sanhedrin concurred with a sentence of death (Matthew 26:57–66).

The Last Supper has been the subject of art for centuries, including the great masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci. The cup used by Jesus is known as the Holy Grail. It has been rumored to exist throughout history with films made based on the search for the Holy Grail. There is no reason to believe the cup would have been outstanding in any way, and was likely a typical drinking vessel, indistinguishable from many others. As a consequence it is unlikely to still be in existence today.

Good Friday 30th March 2018

The next day is Good Friday on which Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial. He was crucified at Calvary on Friday, outside the gates of Jerusalem. It is a public holiday in the UK – schools and businesses are closed. People toast and eat hot cross buns on this day. I really miss having hot cross buns – they’re delicious. I’ve ordered some this year – let’s hope they’re similar enough to the real thing. At £1.20 for 3 I am hoping not to be disappointed!

The Gospels account the final hours of Christ. In the morning following His arrest, the whole assembly brought Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate under charges of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and making himself a king (Luke 23:1–2). Pilate authorized the Jewish leaders to judge Jesus according to their own law and carry out sentencing. The Jewish leaders replied that they were not allowed, by the Romans, to carry out a sentence of death (John 18:31).

Pilate questioned Jesus and told the assembly that there was no basis for sentencing. On hearing that Jesus was from Galilee Pilate referred the case to King Herod (the ruler of Galilee) who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Herod questioned Jesus but received no answer so Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate told the assembly that neither he nor Herod found Jesus guilty of any charge. Nevertheless, to appease the crowd, Pilate resolved to have Jesus whipped and released (Luke 23:3–16). Under the guidance of the chief priests, the crowd asked for Barabbas, who had been imprisoned for committing murder during an insurrection. Pilate asked what they would have him do with Jesus, and they demanded, “Crucify him” (Mark 15:6–14). Pilate’s wife had seen Jesus in a dream earlier that day, and she forewarned Pilate to “have nothing to do with this righteous man” (Matthew 27:19). Pilate had Jesus flogged and then brought him out to the crowd to release him. The chief priests informed Pilate of a new charge, demanding Jesus be sentenced to death “because he claimed to be God’s son.” This possibility filled Pilate with fear and he brought Jesus back inside the palace and demanded to know where he came from (John 19:1–9).

Coming before the crowd one last time, Pilate declared Jesus innocent and washed his own hands in water to show he had no part in this condemnation. Nevertheless, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified in order to forestall a riot (Matthew 27:24–26) (and ultimately to keep his job).

The sentence written was “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” And nailed to the cross. Jesus carried His cross to the site of execution (assisted by Simon of Cyrene), called the “place of the Skull”, or “Golgotha” in Hebrew and in Latin “Calvary”. There he was crucified along with two criminals (John 19:17–22). Jesus agonized on the cross for six hours. During his last three hours on the cross, from noon to 3 pm, darkness fell over the whole land. Jesus spoke from the cross, saying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

With a loud cry, Jesus gave up his spirit. There was an earthquake, tombs broke open, and the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. This tear signified a removal of restriction from the Temple’s “Holiest of Holies, and that God’s people could now communicate directly with Jesus Christ rather than needing the Temple’s High Priest as an intercessor.The centurion on guard at the site of crucifixion declared, “Truly this was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:45–54).

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Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and secret follower of Jesus and who had not consented to his condemnation, went to Pilate to request the body of Jesus (Luke 23:50–52). Another secret follower of Jesus and member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus brought about a hundred-pound weight mixture of spices and helped wrap the body of Jesus (John 19:39–40). Pilate asked confirmation from the centurion of whether Jesus was dead (Mark 15:44). A soldier pierced the side of Jesus with a lance causing blood and water to flow out (John 19:34), and the centurion informed Pilate that Jesus was dead (Mark 15:45).

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Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body, wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and placed it in his own new tomb that had been carved in the rock (Matthew 27:59–60) in a garden near the site of crucifixion. Nicodemus (John 3:1)  brought myrrh and other spices and placed them in the linen with the body, in keeping with Jewish burial customs (John 19:39–40). They rolled a large rock over the entrance of the tomb (Matthew 27:60). Then they returned home and rested, because The Sabbath was starting (Luke 23:54–56).

Easter Sunday 1st April 2018

Matthew 28:1 “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb”. “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said……….”.(Matt. 28:6). On the third day, known as Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus arose three days after being crucified on the cross at Calvary defeating death and sin so that all who believe in Him may be forgiven and have everlasting life, a life eternal with Him. God so loved us, that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us, so that our sins maybe forgiven.

The belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to Christianity. It is the plan of salvation and redemption, the sacrifice was an atonement for sin. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”(1 John chapter 1 verse 9) “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John chapter 3 verse 16).

How is it celebrated?

In the UK church services are held at sunrise to mark when Jesus was discovered to have risen from the dead. Other church services are held in the morning. There is a celebratory atmosphere with joyful singing that the Son of God has risen from the dead so that we may be with Him in Paradise.

Families gather and have roast dinner together. Chocolate Easter Eggs are usually exchanged but especially for children.
Most shops in the UK are closed on Easter Sunday. Shops in the UK are only required to close on 2 days each year – Christmas Day, when Jesus was born, and Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead.

In India, All People’s Church have ‘Big Sunday’. A service specially tailored for people to invite their friends and family along. There are games and activities after the service and lunch is provided (usually biryani). The poster advertising the service this year is pretty awesome.

Easter Eggs

Easter eggs are specially decorated eggs or chocolate eggs given out to celebrate Easter festival. For Christians the Easter egg is a symbol of the empty tomb. The oldest tradition is to use dyed chicken eggs and paint them. Now the custom is to have chocolate eggs or plastic eggs filled with sweets such as jellybeans (especially if one lives in a hot country). The ‘Easter Bunny’ pays a visit in the early hours of the morning and leaves chocolate eggs lying around in the home or garden. Children excitedly hunt for them as soon as they wake up. Chocolate eggs for breakfast is common place on Easter Sunday!

As this year Easter Sunday also falls on April Fools Day in the UK, I suspect there will be a lot of tricks played on children with Easter Eggs!

Want to know more?

This is an incredibly important week for Christians. Our Saviour was crucified but rose from the dead 3 days later. There will be much joy and celebration on Sunday.

If you want to know more or, best of all welcome Jesus into your heart, take a look at http://www.crosscheck.org.uk for more information.

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Guy Fawkes Night

Our Guy Fawkes effigy

“Remember, Remember the 5th of November 

Gunpowder, Treason and plot”

What is Guy Fawkes Night?

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by blowing up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England’s Parliament on 5th November 1605 by a group of provincial English Catholics.
During a search of the House of Lords at about midnight on 5th November 1605, Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder—enough to reduce the House of Lords to rubble—and arrested.
The King’s Council allowed the public to celebrate the King’s survival with bonfires and Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act.

How is it celebrated?

Today it is celebrated with the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes on a Bonfire, setting off fireworks and families gathering at parties. Traditional food includes jacket potatoes and pea soup (to warm up people in the cold English climate) and sweets such as treacle toffee, toffee apples and Parkin cake.

Children play games such as Apple bobbing which requires the child to remove an apple from a bowl of water using only their mouth and teeth. It is great fun watching children trying to retrieve an apple whilst not getting too wet whilst others quite happily push their head to the bottom of the bowl to retrieve an apple.

Holidaying at Home – a trip back to the UK

We have just returned from a wonderful, busy, enjoyable three weeks in the UK. We have met family and friends, eaten lots of delicious food and drank lots of wine and Prosecco. We have also visited historic monuments, tourist attractions and traditional seaside activities such as the pier and arcades. The weather was traditionally British with glorious sunshine followed by torrential rain. We had a great time.

Instead of detailing everything we did, I thought I would post a some pictures as ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. The contrast between the UK and India is stark. The most noticeable to us was the pavements and general cleanliness as well as the great transport links. The parks and other open spaces was another contrast. Make up your own minds though and enjoy some holiday snaps.

The London Eye
The London Eye with the Palace of Westminster behind
The London Eye – Palace of Westminster and the River Thames
View across London from the London Eye with HMS Belfast on the Thames
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Zahra on the South Bank of the River Thames with the Houses of Parliament in the background
Art work benches on the South Bank
The Lego store – Lego tube train
Lego store – Lego postbox
Lego store – Lego Tower of Westminster
Lego store – Lego telephone box
Lego store – pick and mix
Traditional fish and chips outside the Tower of London
The Tower of London – Crown Jewels
The Tower of London
Beefeater at the Tower of London
The Tower of London Chapel
Tower of London
Tower Bridge
On Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge and the Tower of London
Shopping Arcade by the Thames
Shopping street in Southport – a seaside town
Clambering over the sand dunes towards the sea
A seagull tries to raid the litter bin
Seagulls successfully steal doughnuts on Southport Pier
Southport Pier train
Southport Bridge
Cambridge Arcade, Southport
Phone boxes and churches on Southport Lord Street
Marine Lake, Southport
Deer in Bushey Park
The deer in Bushey Park get a bit too close
Deer in Bushey Park
Deer in Bushey Park
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Inside Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Seeing Gangsta Granny at the theatre
Hyde Park with Grandad
Feeding Geese in Hyde Park
Feeding the birds in Hyde Park
Strolling in Hyde Park
The travelling fair comes to Shepherds Bush
Walking Betsy in Crystal Palace Park
The Shrek Adventure wasn’t that much of an adventure.
Farmor and Zahra in front of the Westminster Tower (Big Ben) in traditional English weather
Feeding the ducks in Crane Park
Adventure playground in Crane Park
Playing in Crane Park
Playing in Crane Park
London Eye capsule and the Thames

The UK General Election 2017


What is it?

The UK had a General Election on Thursday 8th June 2017. This is when we elect a representative, in our constituency area, for Parliament. It is supposed to happen once every 5 years but we have had three elections in 7 years now (2010, 2015 and 2017). The Prime Minister Theresa May called the Election when she was significantly ahead in the polls from her nearest rival, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Theresa May called the Election purely on political grounds for her party. She expected and wanted to win an increased majority to give her a mandate in the upcoming Brexit negotiations as the UK leaves the European Union(‘EU’). She also did not have a personal mandate as she became leader of the Conservative party after David Cameron resigned following the UK Referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU. As she was now leader she automatically became Prime Minister (‘PM’) but had not been elected by the UK electorate. 

What happened?

What actually happened was that Labour gained 30 seats and the Conservatives lost 13 seats. She made the campaign about “strong and stable” leadership. As a consequence this is a huge failure for her; the gamble did not pay off. 

Minority Government 

Theresa May now has to form a government with the support of the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (‘DUP’). This is hardly strong and stable – more like a weak and wobbly coalition. We shall see how the coalition pans out and what concessions have been made to the DUP to elicit their support.

The key moment will be the vote on the Queen’s speech. If Theresa May fails to get that passed in parliament then Jeremy Corbyn will be asked by the Queen to form a minority government. It could result in another general election before the year is out so that one party can take control.

It’s not a new thing though, the Scottish National Party ran a minority government in Scotland about 10 years ago and John Major survived without a majority in the dying days of his administration in the mid-1990s. Harold Wilson and James Callaghan governed with minorities for most of the 1970s (and probably the most memorable Labour administrations that everyone remembers for all the wrong reasons).

The Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party, have 10 MPs and if they vote with the Conservatives, the government will be able to get its business through Parliament. The easiest way for the government to ensure regular DUP support in Parliament would be to agree a “confidence and supply” arrangement. The DUP would promise to back the government in votes of no confidence and budget (supply) issues. In return, the government would support or fund some of the DUP’s policies. 

Facts and figures

Women 

There are now 208 women in the Commons, up from 191 in 2015. This takes female representation in the Commons to a new high of 32% of MPs. There are significant variations between parties:  Labour 45% of their MPs are women and 21% for the Conservatives. 

Lost deposits

To stand as a candidate in the General Election, you have to submit an application to your local returning officer with a £500 deposit.When a party gets less than 5% of the vote in a constituency, it loses the £500 deposit each candidate needs to put down to stand. 

The Prime Minister’s constiuency always attracts a large number of candidates due to the guaranteed publicity on election night. The media always report live the outcome of the PM’s constituency as well as the leader of the opposition (as well as numerous other key or important, newsworthy constituencies). Now the majority of those standing in the PM’s constituency only got a few votes each, meaning that they lost their deposits. They included the Green Party, UKIP, Animal Welfare Party, Lord Buckethead (yes, really), the Monster Raving Looney Party (‘Howling Laud Hope’), Christian Peoples Alliance, the Just Political Party and three brave Independents. Lord Buckethead has now developed a following on social media as a consequence of his appearance in the election.

The Lib Dems lost deposits in 375 seats(£187,500), UKIP lost 337 deposits (£168,500). The Green Party lost the most deposits with 455; That’s a whopping £227,500 down the drain.

Other facts

Jeremy Corbyn increased Labour’s share of the vote more than any other leader since Clement Attlee (who had a 10.4% swing in 1945). Nine Conservative ministers lost their seats including Ben Gummer who co-authored the Conservative manifesto. Rosie Duffield won Canterbury defeating former defence minister Sir Julian Brazier and taking the constituency Labour for the first time since its inception in 1918. The Conservatives secured 13 seats in Scotland, making it their best performance since 1983. Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister in the coalitions government, lost his Sheffield Hallam seat to Labour. A final punishment for his reversal on tuition fees and joining the Tories in coalition. 

The electorate was 46,843,896 and the turnout was 68.7% meaning that nearly a third of the electorate did not vote. There were 3,303 candidates contesting a total of 650 seats. This is down from the 3,971 candidates who stood in the 2015 General Election which in turn was 162 lower than the all-time high of 4,133 in 2010. 

The DUP

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the largest unionist political party in Northern Irelandand is far right on the political spectrum. It was founded by the late Rev Ian Paisley in 1971 (at the height of the troubles), breaking away from the Ulster Unionist Party (the ruling party in the country since its formation in 1922). Unionism in Ireland is a political ideology that favours the continuation of some form of political union between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain. Since the partition of Ireland, unionism in Ireland has focused on maintaining and preserving the place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. 

The Rev Ian Paisley led the party for 38 years. The current leader is Arlene Foster. It is the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the fifth-largest party in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. 

What next?

Theresa May will be forming her cabinet and changes will be necessary as she lost some ministers in the election. Jeremy Corbyn too will be forming a shadow cabinet. Then there is the Queen’s speech and the subsequent parliamentary vote, which will be the first test of the new coalition government. Theresa May is going to have to compromise on policy and legislation and carefully select that which she really want to get through Parliament as upsetting a few back benchers will mean a defeat. Watch out for MPs hanging aimlessly around parliament late at night waiting for a vote, as every vote really does count. It has been known in the past for MPs to be wheeled in from hospital to vote on crucial matters. 

Whatever happens it will certainly be interesting. Perhaps another General Election before the end of the year, who knows!

Being too Busy in Bangalore to Blog

I haven’t written a blogpost for a couple of weeks. I have come to really enjoy writing and I am missing my daily drafting of notes of things to write about and update you. What have I been doing then?

U.K. Visitor and School Inspection 

We had a visitor with us from the UK for a week. We took a day trip to Mysore (which will be the subject of a blogpost at some point) as well as a trip around Bangalore seeing a few things. I also took him to a friend’s place as she was hosting a talk on North East India. The beer and biryani was certainly an attraction but the talk was fascinating.

During the same week though there was a visiting group from the international Baccalaureate accreditation who were looking at the school. I was on a panel of parents who were asked a few very easy questions about the school and the environment. So that took up an afternoon. 

On the Friday Zahra was in the PYP music concert and then finished school at midday. She also had a friend over for the afternoon for a play date. We went to the pool for the afternoon. 

The week just flew by really.

PTA Charity Gala

Well, it’s all been about the Stonehill International School PTA Charity Gala for the last few months and very hectic over the last few weeks. 

I’ve been sourcing gifts for the raffle and silent auction as well as vouchers for all attendees. I was pleased with the results. Thank you to those wonderful people who did donate and those who bought tickets.

I have to say though that the experience was one that was certainly an education in cultural differences. I can say with confidence that it is a heck of a lot easier to source raffle prizes in the UK than it is in India. Most businesses simply refused. Others passed the request up the lines of management (for there are many) before refusing. Those who indicated they might be interested in sponsoring wanted to know immediately what they would get in return and presented a long list of requests. Suffice to say that European contacts and companies were a lot more forthcoming and didn’t make these demands.

The whole process was exhausting. I had so many phone calls, emails, Whatsapp messages to try and get some of the donators over the line. It was if I was asking some of them to sell their granny to me!

I won’t be quick in volunteering to do that again. I’d rather bake some cakes. Which leads me nicely onto the next event.

Swim Tournament at School 

There is an international swim tournament being held at school on Friday and Saturday. (Zahra has an ENT viral infection and can’t participate.) We are hosting two girls from the Dehli school who are from New Zealand and Japan. They arrive Thursday afternoon. I’ve been shopping for healthy snacks (not easy in Bangalore) as I am sure competitive swimmers will be hungry. We rearranged bedrooms and got spare beds ready, all whilst baking for the bake sale. 

I’ll be having a stall to sell cakes and (handmade) cards at the swim tournament. So I’ve been baking: Chocolate Brownies, cookies, red velvet tray bake, flapjack, chocolate fudge cake with mini eggs, coconut cake and chocolate coconut cake. So far. More to come.

Sofas

It’s fair to say that travelling thousands of miles in a shipping container and a move across campus took its toll on our sofas. I washed the removable covers, only for them to shrink. 

I’ve bought new fabric – which Zahra chose- and the tailors are currently sewing up a storm in the lounge. Bespoke re upholstery is cheaper than buying a new sofa in India.


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So imagine the scene, there are cakes and cookies chilling everywhere and I have tailors measuring and sewing on the floor. In addition I finally got round to having all our art work framed and that’s sat around the walls on the floor waiting to be hung. 

It’s chaos. 

Volunteering at a Slum Summer School

This week was also the start of the summer school in a slum. This will be two mornings a week for the next 8 weeks. The first one was on Tuesday and it was great fun for both the kids and the volunteers.

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So as you can see, I’ve been too busy to blog.

2016 – The Good Bits

2016 was a year full of upheaval and change. It saw the deaths of many celebrities. It was a dramatic year in politics with historical votes on  Brexit and Trump, as well as a political assassination in the U.K.; the Maldives quietly left the Commonwealth on 13th October.

Personally it was a difficult year with illness as well as the challenges of living daily life in Bangalore; a year which saw rioting on the streets, the burning of buses and general strikes amongst other things (such as having to quickly move house!). Access to the internet has been a continuing thorn in our side, and the start of 2017 saw us yet again without internet for weeks. (The service by the government provider, BSNL, is truly awful.)

Despite the gloom there were some good things that happened in 2016. Here are some of them.

Some good bits of 2016

The World we live in

On the 14th January the World Health Organisation declared an end to the Ebola outbreak.

22nd April saw 175 nations sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement at the United Nations.  On 3rd September the USA and China joined it too. India ratified the Agreement (signed on 22nd April) on 2nd October. On the 4th of November the Paris Agreement on climate change came into force. 

On the 4th September the Giant panda was removed from the endangered species list (to vulnerable) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. When I was a child there was a real risk that they would become extinct so this development gives me hope that sustained action by individuals can bring about the change we want to see in the world. Similarly, manatees were also removed from the endangered list earlier in the year on 7th January and in July scientists declared that the ozone layer had started to show signs of healing. (People boycotting products containing CFCs actually worked.)

Politics and Government and laws

The National League for Democracy in Myanmar take part in a historic parliamentary session for the first time on the 1st February. On 15th March Htin Kyaw, a close friend of Aung San Suu Kai, is elected the first civilian President of Myanmar. He was sworn in on 30th March and made Aung San Suu Kai his Minister for Foreign Affairs. The USA lifted economic sanctions on Myanmar on 7th October.

The Sri Lankan Parliament adopts a resolution to consider converting itself into a Constitutional Assembly on 9th March.

Sadiq Khan, a human rights lawyer of Pakistani descent, and famously, a son of a bus driver, is sworn in as Mayor of London on 7th May. He remained dignified during the awful campaign against him and beat Zac Goldsmith. Also a “hurrah” for Sarah Olney MP who beat Zac Goldsmith in the by election he triggered and gave us all a sliver of hope that nice people may triumph in the end.

On 7th July the German Parliament passes a landmark rape law stating “no means no” and broadened the definition of sex crimes. Thank you Germany. 

Pakistan’s National Assembly passes legislation against honour killings on 6th October.

Austria’s Alexander Van der Bellen (Green Party) was elected President on 4th December and gave hope that not all of Europe (or the rest of the world) is accepting fascist rhetoric.

Science, Space and similar



Sir Arthur Wiles, an Oxford University Professor, is awarded the Nobel prize on 15th March for proving the 300 year old mystery of Fermat’s last theorem.

British astronaut Tim Peake becomes the first man to complete a marathon in space on 24th April. (For those of us feeling like we’re under achievers in life now – it’s got to be ‘easier’ to do a marathon in space when there is no gravity – no weight to carry around. *snigger*)

NASA’s solar powered Juno spacecraft successfully enters Jupiter’s orbit on 5th July after a 5 year journey from Earth.

Three British born scientists, David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz, are awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for revealing unusual states of matter which potentially will help work on future quantum computers. (I have no idea what this means but it sounds good!).

UK Sport

I’m no football fan but even Leicester City winning the Premier League on 2nd May made the news in India. On the same day Mark Selby won the World snooker championship.

Andy Murray won his second Wimbledon title on 10th July. Quietly, without fanfare, he did his job and is world class. An example to other men in sport and a good role model for future generations.

Chris Froome won his third Tour de France title on 24th July. Third title!

The women’s hockey team take gold at the Olympics on 19th August for the first time ever and inspired a generation. They never lost a match and won the final on penalty shoot outs – keeping their nerve to the very end and teaching us all to never give up. Britain’s Alex Danson MBE was the top goal scorer for the entire Olympics. Yay! I can’t tell you how pleased I was that the ladies did this. I’ve played hockey for over 35 years and this was a huge highlight for me.

On 20th August Mo Farah became the second man ever to retain the 5,000m and 10,000m Olympic titles. He fell during one race and got up, carried on running and won. Another example of never giving up.

UK Paralympians secured second place on the medal table at Rio with 147 medals, 64 of them golds. The ladies led the medal charge with Dame Sarah Storey winning 3 golds in cycling, Hannah Cockcroft with gold in athletics, Sophie Christiansen and Natash Baker with golds in equestrian and Bethany First claimed 3 golds and two silvers in swimming. Kadeena Cox triumphed in two different sports and won golds in both athletics and cycling. Go Ladies!
Miscellaneous 

The world’s oldest serving royal and the longest reigning British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, turned 90 on 21st April (and she’s still with us thankfully).

The experienced skydiver Luke Aitkins jumps out of a plane without a parachute and lands in a net at the Big Sky movie ranch on the outskirts of Simi Valley, California on 30th July (phew!).

Bob Dylan is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on 13th October.

Mel and Sue and Mary Berry turned down the cash and remained loyal to the BBC on principle. A rare shining example in today’s world. 

India

In India, the Mental Health Care Bill 2013, which seeks to de-criminalise suicide, was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 8th August. 

In Tamil Nadu, maternity leave for government staff was increased to nine months on 1st September. 

On 3rd September India Post released a commerative postage stamp to celebrate the canonisation of Mother Theresa. 

On 14th December the Rajya Sabha passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014 with more benefits. It is passed by the Lok Sabha the following day.

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Keep smiling folks. Take one step at a time and each day at a time and we will get through 2017 and make the world a better place.  As Mahatma Gandhi said: “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Advent

What is it?

Advent is the start of the Christmas season in Christian homes and churches. It is the time of expectant excitement and waiting for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, at Christmas. 

The term advent is derived from the Latin word meaning “coming”.

When is it?

Advent is the beginning of the western liturgical (public worship, church) year and commences on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day (30 November). In 2016 advent starts on Sunday 27th November (the first Sunday in Advent) and ends on Saturday 24th December. Christmas Day is Sunday 25th December. The first Sunday of Advent is not a bank holiday in the United Kingdom. Churches (and shopping centers) may be busier than usual as people prepare for Christmas.

Advent calendars, in nearly every home in the U.K. At this time of year, start on the 1st December. Children and adults alike enjoy advent calendars.

Traditions
 

Some Christians attend special church services on the first Sunday in Advent. Some churches also hold a Christingle service for children and families. During a Christingle service, each child is presented with or carries a Christingle. The Christingle is an orange with a lighted candle with sweets. 

Christians collect money and donations of food, clothes and other supplies to help support families facing violence, neglect or poverty in their daily lives.

Many people put up Christmas decorations in their homes, schools and offices on or just after the first Sunday in Advent. Christmas cards are written and posted to family members and friends – even in this digital age. Everyone likes to receive the annual Christmas card- many now containing updates on family activities throughout the year. This is also the time to bake a Christmas cake and store it for Christmas Day and some more adventurous prepare the Christmas pudding.

The Christmas lights in town centers, shopping centers and lights on large Christmas trees in public places are also turned on in ceremonies in this week. The enormous Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square in London is an annual present from the Norwegians to express their gratitude for the UK’s support for their country during World War II.

Advent Calendars

LEGO City Advent Calendar

It flumoxed me a bit when I was met with blank faces when I asked where I could buy an Advent Calendar in Bangalore. They simply have never heard of it. Christmas is not a big event in a Hindu nation. I had not understood the full reality of that until I asked this question. 

An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count and celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. Advent calendars are a large rectangular piece of card incorporating 24 small numbered flaps or windows,one for each day of December leading up to and including Christmas Eve (December 24). A window is opened on each day of Advent. When I was a child it was a nativity scene and each window revealed a picture appropriate to the season, a poem, a portion of a Bible story (such as the story of the Nativity of Jesus). Today advent calendars contain a small gift, such as a toy or a chocolate item. They are rarely of the nativity and mainly branded commercial items. There are Advent calendars now specifically marketed for adults containing scented candles, make up, alcohol and many other items. They’re great – but I wish these could all be marketed along with the traditional Advent calendar…after all “Jesus is the reason for the season”!

Shopkins chocolate Advent Calendar

Advent wreaths 



The keeping of an advent wreath is also a common practice in homes or churches. These are groups of four candles with leaves and twigs from evergreen trees and plants. People light one candle on the first Sunday of Advent, two on the second Sunday, three on the third Sunday and all four on the fourth Sunday. Some people then continue to light all four candles during the Christmas period. It is now more popular to hang a Christmas wreath on the front door to a home; these wreaths do not have candles. 

In the Church Of England the readings for the first Sunday in Advent relate to the old testament patriarchs who were Christ’s ancestors, so some call the first advent candle that of hope. 

The readings for the second Sunday concern Christ’s birth in a manger and other prophecies, so the candle may be called of Bethlehem, the way or of the prophets. 

The third Sunday is celebrated with rose-colored vestments. The readings relate to St. John the Baptist and the rose candle may be called of joy or of the shepherds.

The readings for the fourth Sunday relate to the announcement of Christ’s birth, so the candle may be known as the Angel’s candle.

 Where an advent wreath includes a fifth candle, it is known as the Christ candle and lit during the Christmas Eve service.

Enjoy Advent

I wish everyone an enjoyable Advent. Enjoy the anticipation and excitement of the coming celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour for all mankind.