Ann Widdecombe has written a new book. Most know Ann as a contender in the 'Strictly Come Dancing' Series on BBC1. To be invited to dance on this show, Ann must have gained some amount of fame and respect, to be interesting and likeable enough for viewers' votes to keep her on the show. Ann, of course, is not a comedienne, nor actress, nor even a sportswoman; Ann is a former British Conservative Party politician and current novelist.
Now, after courting the celebrity world, after reflecting and digesting what she experienced, Ann has written a new book - "Sackcloth and Ashes - penance and penitence in a self centred world." It deals with what is our modern take on penance - is it punishment or closeness to God? Sounds like heavy stuff!
What is Means to Me
Reading about the release of this book, made me reflect on my own own childhood religious and consumer memories. For me it started with 'Duw Cariad Iw' or God is Love. These words are etched in my being as I hear them spoken by my 4 year old brother Huw in a Sunday Service in a small village in Pembrokeshire Wales, so long ago. Oh! what a peaceful time that was!
At that time, consumerism (if there was such a word) meant work first, save then and if it's safe, spend. Food and a roof over our head was priority and hand me downs a way of life. Nobody went on holiday in my village unless it was to stay with relatives. Fanny Craddock was the pretentious food celebrity. We used to watch for entertainment purposes, rarely did we allow her to influence what we actually cooked at home. Instead it was the WI (Women's Institute, because it meant mums could get out for a few hours each week), the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book and the cookery skills which were passed down the generations with little tweaks here and there. In time, Mary Berry and Delia Smith both became celebrity cooks that did influence what we ate, but only because they cared what we ate.
Taking Time Out for Me
However, it wasn't until I was in my 20s and had started teaching, that I came to understand the importance of taking time out to reflect. As a trainee teacher I had been instructed in college to always reflect at the end of each lesson. I did this for years and years asking myself: Did that class go well? Could it have been better? Did I upset anyone? Do I need to follow up with anyone? Did anyone upset me? What can I do about it? As family life got busier, I had less time to reflect after each class, with the result that I sometimes felt empty especially when a class didn't go as well as I wished.
A New Kind of Idol
Many years later, I have entered a new world - the world of food. Not only has the world of consumerism reached new highs, but the time for reflection seems to have gone out the window.
In this industry, they worship their own idols. When a gushing celebrity chef blends in cholesterol laden fat into equal quantities of sugar and then into over processed flour, to make a calorific, heart pounding breakfast loaf, we don't question whether this is good or bad. There is no time. Surely, they have our best interests at heart??!!
The thing is, they don't because like everything modern, its instant gratification and in this case, its all about the taste. So what I am going to take away from Ann's shot at celebrity fame and subsequent book is that every now and again we need to fight through the madness and take some time for reflection. In my world, it's taking time to think about the food we are cooking. Is it the healthiest? Is it the best for our children? And how does it fit in the bigger picture of the world? Who was involved in the production of my food? Am I wasting food? What can been done to use the leftovers?
There's no need to reflect on the question 'What's for Dinner'? Sure that was decided at the weekend when I did my meal planning. Can you say the same? I challenge you to take some time out of your hectic life to ponder these issues.