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    Apr 26 2012

    Essential TV trash viewing for new parents

    There are lots of lists of things one needs when one has a baby, but as I mentioned in my last post on the topic, absolutely critical is having some good trash TV to watch.

    Here are my top tips.

    THE LAST THREE MONTHS OF PREGNANCY

    1. Upstairs Downstairs – the original series

    There are about 5 series, from memory, and they are really quite good. They have a goodly amount of British period piece cheese, as they were made back in the day, but they also address some rather shocking social issues of the times, from illegitimate pregnancies, aristocratic flings with the maids, the wars, the Titanic, the Great Depression, and so on. There was a recent follow-up of three episodes made, as a kind of sequel 50 years later, which was also a really nice bit of closure for the fans like me.

    2. The Tudors

    It’s all about the costumes and sets, this one. The heaving bosoms get monotonous, but the gold chalices don’t. I got as far as the fourth series before not caring any more about the next wife. And anyway, I knew what was going to happen.

    3. Mad Men

    Of course.

    THE FIRST THREE MONTHS after the baby arrives

    1. The Gilmore Girls.

    Nothing bad happens worse than {SPOILER} Rory dropping out of Yale for a semester. No one ever raises their voices for real. It’s perfect for the first three months of having a baby, when your nerves are shot and you can’t bear anything too deep, meaningful, gory or hard to follow, but you still want some snappiness to your dialogue and writing. There are also seven seasons, so you can keep watching it without having to resort to thinking about what else to watch.

    2. Scrubs, Flight of the Conchords, Arrested Development, or other sillinesses

    Some fun is a very, very good idea for these early months.

    3. Downton Abbey

    This is a very straightforward period drama. Good costumes and British accents are so soothing in challenging times. The old BBC Pride and Prejudice is also a good one for this reason.

    I tried re-watching Will and Grace and Frasier at this time, too, but found that Will and Grace was too shrill for me, and as I had already seen most of them and Frasier, they didn’t offer enough of a reward for my efforts.

    THE NEXT THREE MONTHS

    1. True Blood

    I tried to watch this when bubba was a month old, but it was too gory and scary for me. But now that I am getting sleep once more and bubba is older, True Blood offers the perfect mix of lameness and suspense, with a good dash of fantasy for me.

    2. Mad Men

    Of course.

    3. Modern Family

    This is such an easy to watch comedy about families, but I didn’t include it in the first three months because it might be just a little too close to home. Or not – I might be overthinking it. I have heard “Up all night” is also good fun for new parents.

    I also tried watching Boardwalk Empire (Martin Scorsese), and we got through it, but it wasn’t one I will hold my breath for until the next season comes out.

    Anyone else have some top TV tips for new parents?


    Apr 25 2012

    Losing weight continued

    20 days ago, I wrote the post “Losing weight.” Since then, I have been on the waggon, off the waggon and now in the last two days, back on again. It appears I have lost about 2 kilos so far. 15 to go.

    In that time, I fell off the waggon when I got tired. Getting up and going for a walk is just not the incentive it used to be ;-). I also fell off the waggon in terms of diet when I started mainlining chocolate last week as a work deadline loomed. I don’t drink tea or coffee, because it just makes me more distracted, so chocolate / sugar has always been my drug of choice.

    Basically what I have decided to do is to go on an actual diet. I have been decreasing my portion sizes over the last few weeks, trying to stick to an amount which sates me rather than over-fills me. It’s sort of like asking myself consciously: Are you actually hungry, or are you eating because you are cold, or bored, or tired, or because it tastes nice?

    But now I am going on a diet-diet. It has all going a bit too slowly for me. I know the research says that crash diets don’t have lasting impacts, and I don’t intend a crash diet. But I do want to lose weight at a slightly quicker pace.

    The last time I lost weight was when I was on an anti-candida diet, trying to work out what was wrong with me – it turned out I was gluten intolerant. So the anti-candida diet requires you to go off sugar and complex carbs almost completely, sticking to protein, low GI vegies and fruit. You also replace breakfast with a protein shake plus a mix of seeds and berries (that’s your fruit for the day). It’s kind of like those no carb diets, but a bit more hard core because you are also eliminating as much sugar as you can from your diet.

    I am not going to go all out hard core. I do need to concentrate, and take care of bubba. I don’t want to be cantankerous and weak for the next few months. But I am going to substitute my breakfast of GF muesli, which has always irritated me anyway as being high in sugar and low in sustenance, with the above protein and berry shake. And I am going to replace sugary snacks with almonds and fruit and low fat yoghurt. And keep an eye on portions.

    I don’t want to do all of this. Just writing about it makes me annoyed. But the way I am framing it is this: do I want diabetes when I am older? (No.) Do I want to be able to take bubba bushwalking? (Yes).

    I suppose this is the core of delayed gratification. You have to focus on the long-term benefits rather than the short-term irritation.

    At the same time, I am trying to turn down the volume on the voice in my head which keeps up its low self-esteem patter about being “fat” and so on. I don’t need to elaborate. You probably have all heard it at some point in your own heads. It’s unhelpful, it’s damaging, and it’s the worst motivator I have ever had when it comes to trying to be healthy. Instead, when those thoughts come up, I want to hug myself on the inside. I want to think: You’re beautiful. You’re seriously hot. You’re so good-looking right now. Check you out. You’re an attractive woman. You are doing this walking because you want to be fit and less stressed. And you are doing this diet because you want to take bubba along bush trails.

    I have a friend (Rachie) who always focuses on the positive in people. She’ll say something to them and you see their shoulders go back, their head straighten. You see them think, maybe I am OK. Maybe I can do this. Anyhow, not long after bubba came along and I was feeling a bit dumpy in the dumps, she told me that I had great calves. She took a photo to show me and prove it.

    Here I go, walking up my hill for the fifth time. Check me out. I have awesome calves.


    Apr 19 2012

    How to create a mini-me

    Sometimes I look at bubba and she looks just like I used to when I was a little kid, all cheeks and smile. It is easy to forget that she is actually not a mini-me.

    I am pretty much the exact opposite of my mum, possibly as a reaction, but also possibly because maybe personalities naturally develop to complement the other main people in your life? Along with genetics and nurture, could this also be a factor? For example, my mum is chaotic, impatient, likes lots of noise and has tvs and radio all going at once, she is extroverted, and is sociable. I am introverted, can read literally all day and night and into the next day, enjoy small, intimate gatherings and hate noise.

    Maybe this is largely because I followed in my dad’s footsteps and so was genetically programmed as the foil to my mother. So maybe there is not much I can do in the way of programming my bubba’s personality.

    Or maybe if I am really meta about it, I could be one way in order to get bubba to be the other. Like the Commonwealth Bank ad in the 80s, anyone remember it? Where the besuited young man comes home to his punk rocker parents, who are woefully disappointed in his success? Ahah! They could have said to themselves later. Gotcha!

    Upon reflection, this level of double triple thinking is even beyond my powers of planning. I will just have to wait and see what she is like. And crucially, see her differences not as a personal affront, but rather as her own, special evolution. Life before bubba was like a hothouse, such a controlled environment that I could plan my own surprises. And now this. I hope I can channel my own mother and rise to the challenge.


    Apr 19 2012

    Project managing parenting

    Is it wrong to apply the skills from work to your 7 month old baby?

    I just read this post on Mamamia from a mum who applies her skills as a lawyer to her children. She has spreadsheets and applies the SMART principles to parenting.

    This struck an OCD chord with me. I have thought on occasion that I could actually map out my goals for bubba. Not in terms of making sure she can play the Moonlight Sonata by age 3 (4 should suffice ;-)). But rather, in ways to make sure I am covering off things I wouldn’t naturally do, but probably should in order to give her own character the chance to develop along its own lines rather than mine.

    So in terms of things like, making sure she has a balance of adventures, time at home and things I don’t enjoy doing but if they are on a list, I might do them. Like going out more often – I am a couch potato so sometimes need to review whether I am doing this enough for bubba. Or water polo, or dolls, or playing with other kids. A sort of baby’s bucket list.

    Not that I think it is a good idea to get too OCD about it. I put enough pressure on myself to be a good enough mum, and a lot of confidence in mothering is really about thinking I as a person am pretty ok, and am probably setting a decent example of a human being for bub just as me.

    But lists. I do like lists.

    So maybe a short one? And one of things I might like to do with bubba:

    1. Blow bubbles. They are so fun and beautiful.
    2. Spend some time with flowers. So pretty!
    3. Now the days are shorter, go outside rugged up, and watch the sun dip through the leaves on the balcony
    4. Snuggle time, not just before sleep
    5. Airplay. Maybe we can do aeroplanes in the park, as well as the living room
    6. Upside down baby. I think I may be more into this than bubba.
    7. Food fun. Try new things, like roast chicken, and kiwi fruit.
    8. Sand. And dirt. And grass. Everywhere.
    9. Shopping. I don’t like malls, but I imagine they must be a welter of lights and sounds for small, wondering faces.
    10. Music and dancing. Bubba likes to sing, especially to cocktail music.

    I like this list. It does not make me feel anxious about getting things done, but like all reflective activities, it reminds me of the simple things I can do to enrich my day as well as hers. I like bubbles too.


    Apr 17 2012

    A confession

    I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I do not enjoy having a baby to look after.

    Of course I love her. Of course I would do anything, anything at all for her. If there was ever a danger I could protect her from with my own life, then I would do it.

    But there are times when it is not all that fun. There are times when I can think of a host of things I have done in the past which would be funner. Like, going shopping alone. Or, walking to a cafe alone. Or travelling overseas, to a beach, with a book, alone. Or with my husband. I am seeing a theme emerge here.

    When I was alone, or alone with my husband, I did make sure I relished my time. But you can’t really make the most of something unless you actually have tasted its absence. That is why the freaky Friday, body swap movies keep coming back, or the alternate life movies, from It’s a Wonderful Life all the way through to The Change Up. We are fascinated with the idea of what might be if….

    Most of the time I am profoundly grateful for her. But sometimes I think nostalgically about the days I absolutely had nothing I had to rush home for, and no reason to get up in the morning.

    And then I think about that. Nothing to rush home for. No reason to get up in the morning.

    Sometimes, having a baby is not fun. Or it is a downright chore. Sometimes, I catch myself dangerously close to thinking about life as a never changing thing, of never again being free of responsibility. Sometimes I forget that fun, or happiness, are not absolute concepts; I forget that they are not grapes hanging from a vine, simply waiting to be plucked.

    And then I remember that babies change, and grow, and leave. And when she is grown, my heart will ache to have her back in my arms, and I will sink dangerously close to thinking my life is empty without a child in my home. This is samsara; this is what I chose. Unlike Gautama Buddha, I am not going to walk away.


    Apr 14 2012

    Holy sh*#

    Anything could happen.

    I was walking to my Pilates class last night, after a good day with bubba. We had managed to convince her to sleep for two cycles per nap, so she was better rested in her awake time, and I had a chance to get some things done between play session. She had gone to bed for the night with little resistance, and I had made my exit in the knowledge that all was well on the home front.

    When it hit me: absolutely anything could happen. As bubba gets more mobile, the size of her world increases, and so does the number of possible outcomes I can now speculate on and worry about. Parental worry has a kind of photosynthetic relationship between the breadth of carpet she pinches, and the air I breathe.

    She could toddle off a ledge. She could jump from a high place. She could whisk herself in front of oncoming traffic. There is no end to the things she could do to herself, with a smile on her face.

    And that’s just the things I can try to guard against. What if she gets sick? Because that can happen. I saw a lot of that growing up with an ill sister – I saw a lot of how bad things can happen for no apparent reason to small children, and I don’t want to think like that, but it’s really possible. And what would I do then?

    In ‘Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant,’ Anne Tyler’s mother character had three children. She described the panic attached to just having one: the need to have back-ups. In the first ten days or so of total sleep deprivation-induced desperation after bubba was born, I absolutely did not want to contemplate another child. But a few months later, as I got my head above water, I did want another one, some time in the future. Now, I am so in love with bubba that again, I can’t contemplate another child, simply because I can’t bring myself to picture anyone taking away any attention from my little one. That might change again, of course; but then, as Anne Tyler’s character realised, I would just increase the amount I had to worry, by increasing the number of children I had to lose.

    I wish I could Time Machine my baby girl. I wish I could build her a bubble of fun and play that could encompass the world, but keep her safe. My arms are not quite big enough to prevent acts of God, and possibly even acts of bubba herself. In ‘Something Happened,’ by Joseph Heller, the father squeezes his son so tightly after a near-miss accident that his son actually asphyxiates.

    I think perhaps that there is no solution. There is just sheer, parental terror, kept at bay most of the time with a few laughs and jokes at our own expense; and the common sense to let go – not just of bubba, although of course that too, with the common sense I can display when not mentally hyperventilating; but of the fear that would otherwise keep her pinned to my chest, until I lost her in a way all of my own devising.


    Apr 13 2012

    Morning

    This morning started at 6.00. I heard my bubba rousing, and wished through the wall that she would drowse again. And she did – until 7.15 am! But I was up. I am like a superhero, with special hearing powers attuned to one station: the sound of my baby’s slightest sniffle will wake me from a deep slumber and then I am on alert, waiting.

    When she got up, I breastfed her. She likes to play games with me now as she feeds, watching me out of the corner of her eye and then springing her head backwards and smiling, as if saying, “Tah dah! Here I am!” Then she chortles and goes back to the boob. There are the inevitable, internal motions put into action by feeding, and so we, ehem, deal with that next. Then bubba is ready for fun. She can wriggle backwards these days, so I plant a trail of toys in a strategically wide circle, like the Howard government’s erstwhile Pacific arc of instability – both of us using our net to keep someone distracted from the main game.

    Now begins my dash in and out of her bedroom, running chores which I can’t do while she is asleep. I refill wipes, nappies, check sheets, sort clothes, change bin bags, and grab my own clothes to wear for the day from the bedroom cupboard. I sweep back through the living room, making eyes and smiles at bubba, thus making sure I have a bit more time. Then I get myself and bubba some breakfast, and settle down to read the news on the iPad and eat some muesli while bubba shifts her weight experimentally from side to side.

    At some point into my bowl of breakfast, I usually have to down tools and feed bubba her own oats and fruit. That is always a pretty hilarious business, especially now that she thinks the coolest sound in the world involves opening and shutting her mouth like a guppy, disregarding the food therein.

    By now my husband is up, and having his breakfast and offering me a cup of tea which I like the sound of in principle, although I have become accustomed to drinking it lukewarm. He cuddles bubba while I do something or other which involves coming in and out of the room again. I check my schedule for the day, noting my first tele-meeting. My husband is ready to take care of our little angel when that comes up, interrupting his own business day. We cover for each other in this way throughout the day, although I still like to think of myself as primary carer – and am definitely still primary masher of all things nutritious into orangey brown purees.

    When bubba complains, I put her into a sitting position for a bit of variety. We play like that for a while, and eventually she gets grumpy, and it is nearing nap time. We read Winnie the Pooh – the story of how he got stuck in Rabbit’s hole from eating too much honey. It is a touch and feel book which bubba now likes to turn the pages of before eating, which represents progress of the first order.

    Two hours after her waking time, she is back in bed, and it is now 9.20 am, and I am readying my notebook for my meeting. I have a breathing space of a few minutes, because my interviewee is not answering just yet, having been delayed. I think of checking the emails, or reading the paper some more. But I sit, staring at my hands, enjoying the silence. Knowing that in these short moments are my daily breaks, which turn the squirly, busy feeling in my insides into a calmer thing which will purr rather than snarl when in company once again. I like morning time. It’s always the start of something new.


    Apr 10 2012

    The new baby

    I have a new baby. She came into my life two days ago but is already just shy of seven months old. Se looks a lot like my old baby, except that her head is bigger.

    This baby can stay awake for two hours or more at a time. Like my old baby, she will only nap for a cycle at a time during the day, but unlike my old baby, she sleeps for maximum 2.5 or 3 hours a day. From about 2.30 pm she won’t sleep, and if we put her to bed, she will complain in the voice of an older baby, which is a voice you can practically hear the thoughts within. And they are not gentle thoughts like my old baby’s. Oh no. They are thoughts of wilful destruction, of havoc in the living room, of jumping and swiping and general mayhem.

    I am learning the tired signs and the hungry signs of this new baby, and I am a bit slow on the uptake, because I keep mistaking her for my old baby.

    This baby is a lot cheekier and it has to be said, more fun than the old baby. She likes hiding games, and surprises. She really looks at you, and touches your face with intent to know. Whilst she is more demanding than the old baby, wanting much more regular stimulation and rough and tumble games (this baby loves being held upside down and swung around, whereas the old baby would go so far as to let you bounce her in your lap), she is also sparking with smarts. The neural electrons are zipping around our apartment, zinging the air with the energy of the age of discovery, once considered in the distant human past, yet recreated every time my baby wakes up and says with her little, craning neck, “Go!”

    I love my new baby just as much as my old baby. She is definitely harder to handle, and I get more exasperated and exhausted than before, a taste of things to come when this baby is replaced with a new toddler, and so on as the cycle goes. But I am also in the slightest awe of her. Watching my new baby take the world and try to play with it, eat it, see it and understand it is like watching our ancestral arthropods clamber into the sun for the very first time.


    Apr 7 2012

    The importance of taking a day off together

    My husband was just reading on Business Spectator, about the anachronism of government regulated, public holidays. The author, Caleb Samson, makes the point that, workers can make the choice for themselves if they want to work on a public holiday like Good Friday, for example in return for more pay or an extra day of leave.

    This is a fair point. My husband and I work on public holidays regularly because we are self-employed, to the point where often we don’t even realise a public holiday is looming unless a client tells us that they can’t meet with us on such and such a day. But I still advocate public holidays, not for reasons of saving workers from meanie, profit-driven bosses (although there is probably still a place for this in some industries), but for social and communal reasons.

    I have always liked Good Friday and, in the past before shops were open, Boxing Day too, for the very reason that they are, as the term says, “public holidays.” I love that everyone downs tools (well, everyone except emergency workers) and as a community, is sharing the same experience of a day off. Good Friday is so much better than a weekend because even the shops are closed, so we, as a community, are forced to take a break even from consuming, buying and shopping. I love the way that on Holy Thursday people stock up for the next day, thinking ahead in a way we just don’t really need to do any more. There is something really basic and simple about it. It’s like driving an old VW Beetle and hearing the gears actually crunch and shift each time you pull the handle – you are reminded that this thing you are operating is a machine with moving parts, not just a smooth, computerised system which divorces you from the experience of being alive.

    I think it is good for us as a community to take a breath together. There is so little we have in common these days, and so much of what used to be locally driven, like support for new mothers, or helping old people with groceries, or aiding a disabled person, is now taken care of by state infrastructure. And that is good, and takes advantage of economies of scale, and guards against any one person’s lack of support. And it’s not that people don’t still help each other out – they do – but to me it feels like the glue that binds us together is just a little less sticky these days, as we go about our individual lives at times that suit us rather than times that suit the populus.

    Sometimes it is just nice to know that everyone out there, beyond the walls of your own apartment, is having the same experience as you are.

    It’s good to take time off, collectively. It’s good to be reminded that there are things to do with our spare time other than shop or eat out. It’s good that everyone is doing the same thing, maybe not together, but simultaneously and in a very physical, not just metaphysical sense – everyone is going to the park, or having a drink with friends, or cooking a pizza in the oven rather than over the phone. As we do these things on Good Friday, we know subconsciously that everyone else is too. That reinforces something that gave us humans the advantage over other species in the first place – that we are all members of a group.

    We may not need to share the same religion, or know all our neighbours, or watch the same movies. But public holidays, the Masterchef Finale, and voting day, are what we have left.


    Apr 6 2012

    Post-Catholic Easter

    Being post-Catholic at Easter, I think of the Jesus story with a wistful sort of yearning. Good Friday’s service, the Veneration of the Cross, was always my favourite service out of the entire Catholic calendar, even better than Christmas in my estimation.

    I explained the Easter sequence to my husband last night, and in so doing, realised how the Easter and Lenten gospel readings are really the best part of the church calendar, because they tell a consecutive narrative, building up to the Easter week, and the culmination of how Jesus came to his dark end.

    For those of you who might not know the detail the same way that a post-Catholic does (the only other story I know quite so well is Lord of the Rings), Lent starts with Jesus heading into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. He is soul searching. He is alone, trying to face his demons. In the story, Satan tempts Jesus with various visions of an easier road, but Jesus resists. And at the end of his 40 days, he knows what he has to do.

    Jesus was at the top of his game. He was gathering followers and momentum. People had started calling him the Messiah, the Son of God, and he picked up on the poetry of it, speaking of God as his father. He asked people to be their higher selves, suggesting that we turn the other cheek rather than strike back; that we focus on the delight in small things, rather than constantly wanting more. Jesus’ God was like a really great parent rather than a god; according to Jesus, God was loving and kind, rather than easily offended and vengeful.

    But the crows were gathering. The powers of the existing, dominant religion wanted him to stop firing up dissatisfaction with the politico-economic, temple machine. And so Jesus meditated on it in the desert. And he emerged resolute, like Aragorn after gazing into the Palantir, or like Harry Potter after he buries Dobby and knows what he has to do.

    Jesus went to Jerusalem, where he knew his life would be in danger, but where his own principles told him he had to go if he were to really change things. On Palm Sunday, the beginning of Easter’s Holy Week, Jesus entered the city on a donkey and people threw palms at his feet to pave his way. But despite all the adulation, he knew it would be short-lived, like all fame. On Holy Thursday, Jesus ate the Passover meal with his best friends. He already knew that Judas was scheming to betray him, but he had chosen the path of non-violence and he was going to see this thing through. He also knew that his best friends, full of wine-fuelled bravado and riding high on the attention, would not stand by him.

    Why couldn’t he have done a runner? Because that would have been cowardice; because that would have meant he did not believe what he preached, and Jesus was a man of his word.

    But he was only human, and he was sad, and no one wants to be alone. So he went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray on it and asked two of his best friends to stay with him and keep watch. Jesus begged his God to let things go some other way. When he came back to his friends, they had fallen asleep. They couldn’t even stay awake for a few hours for him. You can almost hear Jesus sigh down the years.

    Judas came with the guards, and kissed him on the cheek as the signal that that was the one to arrest. Jesus’ friends, who had so recently professed that they would stand by him no matter what, all went to Splitsville.

    The rest is pretty well known. The trumped up charge they got him on was calling himself the “King of the Jews,” although throughout his interrogation he refused to say it, and indeed, the gospels never have him saying it – it was a political twist on his words, “son of God,” so that he could be committed for a crime against Caesar. The Roman representative in Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate, could see that Jesus was a smart, good man. He put him up for release – it being Passover and a key Jewish holiday, the Romans let the Jews select a criminal to free. According to the story, Jesus’ enemies amongst the temple hierarchy paid off the crowd to vote for Barrabas, a nasty piece of work. Jesus was to be executed.

    Where were his best friends during all this? Peter, whom Jesus had told would betray him, did exactly that. He loitered outside the jail while Jesus was interrogated, and when some of the guards accused him of knowing Jesus, he denied it – three times, apparently. When he realised he had done exactly as Jesus had predicted, he ran off in shame. That shame would fuel Peter to set up an entire church around Jesus’ words. It’s a powerful, powerful emotion.

    But first, torture and humiliation. Jesus was whipped, and then dressed in a ludicrously lavish robe and a crown made of thorny branches, a joke on the “King of the Jews” allegation. He had to carry the cross they would execute him on through the streets of Jerusalem, and he kept falling under its weight, piling more shame on top of despair. The Romans got a stranger from the crowd, Simon, to help him carry it, and a kind woman wiped his face for him. His good friends were nowhere.

    Finally, he reached the execution ground. They nailed him up. On either side of him were other men being executed. One jeered at him whilst the other asked him to put in a good word for him when he got to heaven; although Jesus was dying, alone and far from the highs of the last few years, he spoke to the man with kindness.

    Jesus was a man abandoned. It was one thing to commit to seeing something through on principle; but for all he really knew, he was dying for nothing, as so many men and women have died for their principles in lonely corners of the world before and ever since. There is little poetry in death, and we none of us have control over our final thoughts, or words, or deeds before we die. At his feet, the guards gambled to see who would win his robe.

    Finally, his ageing mother and one of his best friends, John came to see him. I don’t know if his step-father, Joseph, was still alive or had simply refused to come and see him. At least he was not alone when he died, and that is something. He told them to take care of each other.

    “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” he cried. Poor Jesus. One of the guards, checking if he was dead yet, stuck a spear into his side, and thankfully cut deep enough to speed this torture to its conclusion. “It is finished,” the gospel has him saying. Not long after, he died. Because it was the weekend, Mary and John couldn’t bury him properly, so a rich man and quiet Jesus sympathiser, Joseph of Arimathaea, offered a nearby tomb. Again, Jesus cared for even in his death by strangers while his friends hid. The story of Jesus is the story of being alone.

    The resurrection never really rang true for me. I would love to think of Jesus getting up a few days later, all happy and glowing with an inner light. But I don’t believe it happened. Instead I think what really happened was this:

    After lying low, Jesus’ friends organised a clandestine meeting a few weeks after his death (on what is now Pentecost Sunday). His mother was there too. The group agreed that they had to do something. Peter was probably pivotal: never having a chance to tell someone you are sorry is an incredibly powerful motivator, and Peter never let it go. He used his grief and his remorse to power him outwards, tirelessly pressing on to spread Jesus’ teachings. In that way, they thought, Jesus was really alive again. At his own death by execution on a cross, Peter asked to be hung upside-down because he was not worthy to die in the same way as Jesus had. What a heavy burden to carry.

    As I said, Good Friday was always my favourite of the Easter services. The church stripped bare. The candlesticks, the colour, the music, gone. The crucifix behind the altar, draped in cloth. A plain wooden cross placed in front of the altar, for veneration. We hear the story of Jesus’ sadness; we remember that we all ultimately die alone. We know the truth of death as we know no other truth in our lives. For the hour of the service, we can put out of our minds the excuses, the games played on Easter Sunday to pretend that it was otherwise. It was not. Jesus died, tortured, humbled, shamed. By the time he died, the principles of his life had faded in the pain of his death; but we know he was still a man of his word by what he said to the strangers and his mother and friend as he died. Jesus was a good man to the very end, and for that we are grateful.

    For, even though we must die alone, and even though the world can be a harsh and unforgiving place where unfair things happen to good people; even though we can’t see the point in dying young for the sake of a few words; even though most of us, like Jesus’ friends, would rather stay hidden and accept a lesser sort of worldview than die ourselves; we are grateful for people like Jesus, who believe in something, even if they no longer believe in salvation. To me, that is an even greater demonstration of the principles Jesus lived by, than if he really did die, thinking all the while that he would come back to life.