An Extract from Out by Ten


I want to share with you an extract from my new novel: Out by Ten by Anne E. Thompson

As I explained yesterday, it’s listed at the reduced price of £6.99 for just this week so that my friends and neighbours can buy a copy. I will put the Amazon link at the end (it’s available as both Kindle and paperback books).


I shared the bus ride back to Blakeney with a gaggle of teenaged girls, who looked as if they might be bunking off school. As I sat, staring at their snagged tights and improbable shoes, I heard their intense voices, and I remembered being that age, and the glorious excitement of new situations. It was only a few short years ago – and a whole lifetime. I immersed my thoughts in the sound of their whispers, looked at their carefully arranged hair, their casual closeness as they touched an arm, a knee rested against a thigh, feet slid near each other. They didn’t bother with personal space, the flicked hair of one girl brushed the cheek of another, their perfume spilled towards me with their whispered giggles. I remembered the intoxication of friendships, the undiluted energy; I remembered when I first saw Timothy. . .

***

I am sixteen, my school bag is bouncing on my shoulder, I glide into the classroom and slump into the chair next to Carol. I am looking for Nigel, searching the room for his blond hair whilst pretending to look for my homework book. Perhaps I should be worrying about my father, and his recently diagnosed cancer, but I’m not, I am absorbed by Nigel, hunting for his gangly legs stretching out from his desk, and the slant of his shoulder when he reaches for his bag. Carol digs me in the ribs and jerks her head forwards. I look up. I see Timothy.

He is standing at the front, his stance casual, his eyes watchful. I notice his eyes first, set below straight brows, that dark brown that seems to glow; even from my seat at the back I can tell he is noticing, watching us, in control. He wears a faded jacket, with patches on the elbows, and a white shirt, with the tie knotted to a perfect neat nobble, giving his appearance a tidy, meticulous look. His hair is brown. He has good hair, thick and wavy, cut to just above his ears but not so short that he looks like my dad. He doesn’t look like anyone’s dad, though I suppose, given his age, he might be. He smiles, I forget all about Nigel, forget he exists, forget that he has until now been the focus of every maths lesson I have attended this year.

Timothy is speaking. I notice his voice is deep, and posh, and it makes my stomach tingle. He is telling us his name is Timothy Oakfield and I want to write it in my book, and scribble variations of it. Mr. Oakfield. I realise that maths lessons will never be dull again. He is telling us that he’s our new teacher, that he’s pleased to meet us, let’s begin with an evaluation of what we have studied so far with Mr. Corbin. Mr. Corbin has had to leave, we don’t need to know why; I don’t want to know why, I don’t care. All is absorbed by the deep, posh, voice, and the brown, almost black eyes, and the apparent youth of our new mathematics teacher. He is asking for someone to raise their hand, someone who can give him a quick synopsis of work already covered by the unfortunate Mr. Corbin. Not me, I can’t breathe, let alone speak. I feel Carol stir beside me, she is raising her hand, introducing herself, telling him, Mr. Timothy Oakfield, that we have covered up to page 52 in the text book, and we all completed the questions at the back for homework. He smiles at her. I hate her.

He speaks, telling us about simplified equations, and exponential data, and I am barely listening. His words wash over me as I feel the tingle his voice stimulates, and I imagine how he would look in casual clothes, and wonder if he is married. He issues instructions, and everyone turns to a page in their text books, and I have to stop hating Carol long enough to ask her what the page number is. She slides a piece of paper towards me:

“Dreamy, huh?”

Dreamy is not a word I have ever used before, but it fits, I nod. I glance up.

Mr. Timothy Oakfield is walking round the classroom, peering at books. He pauses by John Simpkins and points at something. John Simpkins looks up, his face is very red, he hunches his shoulders and begins to frantically rub at his exercise book with an eraser. I wonder what he has written.

I glance across to my friend Charlie, she is frowning. I’m not sure if this is because she always finds maths difficult, or because her hair has recently been plaited again and I know that it pulls at her scalp and hurts. Her hair is a constant source of trouble for her, teachers repeatedly tell her it’s untidy and she should cut it. But it grows fast and surrounds her face with frizz, and there is nothing she can do but endure small tight plaits that hurt. Her mother shaves her head and wears a wig, I wonder if Charlie will when she’s older, if she will hide her hair in shame and try to look more ‘white.’ I hope not, I think her hair suits her face, and should be allowed to grow naturally. I wonder if my father will wear a wig too, when he loses more of his hair to the poison of chemotherapy, but this is too horrible to think about, so I spin my thoughts back to Charlie, and I wish she would look up so I can grimace to her in sympathy.

Mr. Timothy Oakfield is on the prowl again, I stare down at my book. We are all quiet, I don’t think this class has ever been silent before, there is something about him, an irresistible authority that has cast a spell on us. I try to see if he is wearing a wedding ring. He sees me raise my head, and approaches. I can feel my heart pounding behind my worn-out-doesn’t-fit-properly bra, the blood has rushed to flood my face and neck, so not-cool. I feel him approach. I have written nothing. I glance sideways, Carol’s book is neatly numbered 1 to 12, I begin to write the numbers in a long line down the margin, as if preparing my page for the answers that will surely follow; I haven’t even read the questions yet. He is here, I have only written up to number 7, and there are no words. He is leaning down, I can smell aftershave, he places a hand on my desk, it is his left hand, it is naked. I glance up, and drown in brown eyes.

“Are you okay? Do you understand what you need to do?”

I nod, my face a furnace. I do not have the first idea what I am supposed to be writing. He moves away. I breathe again, force myself to read the questions. They make no sense, words bouncing on a white page. I sneak a look at Carol’s book. I hate her, but I need her. I begin to copy her answers.

***

Thanks for reading.


Out by Ten by Anne E. Thompson

Available from an Amazon near you.

UK link here:

US link here:

Amazon India link here:

Amazon Australia link here:

Simply a Good Story.


I’m very excited to introduce you to my latest book: Out by Ten.

Out by Ten

I have written several other novels but this is the one I like best.

While writing the book, I was rereading my favourite book of all time, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens—which has to be the most romantic book ever. As I read, I thought it would be rather fun to mingle what I was reading with what I was writing—my main character began to read the story, and the plot mirrors the same themes of imprisonment and escape, people living under false names, and individuals being caught up by national events (and of course, a dollop of romance).

I actually started to write Out by Ten in April 2019, when I was staying in a holiday home in Norfolk. It struck me that holiday homes often hide the key in the same place each year, and that if you needed to disappear, they would be good places to hide (plus I thought it would be really fun to secretly live in someone else’s house!) I began to write a story about a young woman who was escaping.

It takes a long time to write a novel. I was still writing in 2020, so when Covid-19 arrived, I realised that my ‘contemporary fiction’ would not be very ‘contemporary’ unless I included references to the virus. I therefore rewrote the novel, setting it in the surreal world that we lived in during lockdown. As I felt bewildered by empty supermarket shelves, and insecure as I changed every event in my diary, I transferred those feelings to my main character. Bizarrely, world events, with the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter protests, beautifully mirrored the start of the French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities, and I found my story flowed naturally in line with what was happening.

One of my friends is autistic. We worked together at lunch club, and when lockdown began we spoke on the phone. I realised how different things appear through her eyes, and I wanted to show some of the challenges involved for a family when one person is on the autistic spectrum. I therefore made one of the main characters autistic—though a child, so very different to my friend. As I wrote, I heard my friend’s voice bemoaning the silly fuss of coronavirus and I tried to imagine how a child might cope (or not cope) with different situations and the stress this would add to family dynamics.

When I thought the book was finished, I gave it to my beta readers, who informed me it was too religious. I didn’t really want to write ‘a religious book’ and decided to remove all references to my faith. This is simply a good story, with no agenda other than to entertain.

Writing this book was tremendous fun, so I hope you will enjoy reading it. As all my book-signings and fairs are currently in lockdown, a proper ‘launch’ of my book won’t be possible, but I wanted to tell you—my extended friends and neighbours—about it. To be honest, I always feel rather awkward about ‘selling’ to friends anyway but it’s a necessary evil to cover my costs. I have therefore decided to list the paperback on Amazon at the reduced price of just £6.99, for this week only. Next week it will raise to £8.99 (to start paying some costs) so please buy a copy quickly, and settle down for a good story.

Thanks for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne x

The Amazon link is here:

A Greek Temple

The Greek Exam


Greek update

So, a few weeks ago I took my Greek exam. This was very scary, and the source of many sleepless nights. I knew that there would be two passages to translate: one would be from the book of John, and one would be from a random non-Bible-but-same-time-period extract.

During one of our lessons in the autumn, our tutor had casually mentioned he was planning the exam, and there was a certain word, which means pathway, that he was thinking of including. It’s an interesting word because Greek words have a gender (like French words: masculine, feminine, or neuter) however this word is feminine but has a masculine ending (a sort of non-binary word). I took note of this information.

Now, the book of John does not have many places where the word ‘pathway/way’ is used. The most obvious one is the famous passage in John 14, when Jesus declares, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” I decided that this must be the passage that would appear in the exam, and I focussed my revision accordingly. I learnt that passage, and all the Greek words used in it thoroughly. I could parse (take apart and explain each bit) every word, I knew the different forms of the verbs, I could recite it in my sleep.

The morning of the exam arrived. I had not slept the night before, which was partly nerves, and partly due to some particularly noisy roadworks that had started on the road near us and involved noisily scrapping off the road surface all night, for many nights (they are in fact still doing it). I got up feeling sleepy but full of adrenaline and I reminded myself of all the things I used to tell my daughter when she walked into exams exhausted from not sleeping. I had done the work, put in the hours, a cup of coffee and a wallop of adrenaline would compensate for any lack of sleep. At least, I hoped so.

I did my usual coffee and Bible routine—and here we have bit of a miracle. I decided, bizarrely, that instead of reading my Bible at the place I was up to, I would open it randomly and read that passage instead. No idea why I did that. It was a strange passage, about Jesus arguing with the Pharisees about the law and needing two witnesses.

When it was time, I went to my computer for the exam. It was an ‘open book’ exam due to the Covid restrictions (in other words, they realised we couldn’t all assemble in an exam hall, so the exam was written assuming we would use our Greek Bible with lexicon attached). The exam paper appeared at the set time, and I began to read.

The exam lasted for 2 hours, so I had prepared a glass of water and a cold coffee (to top-up the caffeine when necessary). I didn’t touch them. I don’t think I actually took a breath the whole two hours. Or blinked.

At the bottom of each page was a button saying ‘next page.’ On the last page was a button which said ‘ready to end the exam?’ (or something similar). Did that mean when I clicked it, the exam would be whisked away, or that the final few questions were on the next/last page? I was too scared to click it, in case it was the ‘whisked away’ option, so I will never know.

The unseen translation was fairly impossible, and I guessed some of it, trying to use words that I knew were similar to the ones written. At one point I wrote something about, “Why has your face collapsed?” which I knew wasn’t right, but something definitely collapsed and the word looked very similar to ‘face’. I decided I would return to it at the end.

When I clicked onto the translation from John, it was not from Chapter 14 at all. It was however, the passage that I had randomly read that morning. Wow! I felt it was a miracle, and that God was saying “Don’t worry Anne, we’re in this together – you did the preliminary work, I’ll help with the exam.” It was quite a moment.

 I worked my way through the translation, using the Greek I knew, and although I could have done okay anyway, having read it so recently certainly helped. I then returned to the random passage, and was tackling something which I could see I had translated wrongly, when without warning, the paper was whisked away and the two hours had ended.

I took a big breath (two hours is a long time to not breathe for) and drank some cold coffee. Felt like I’d been through a mangle, and did very little for the rest of the day.

One of my fellow students managed to find the unseen passage online, and there was a section about ‘his countenance fell’ which I guess is the part I translated as his face collapsing. Not sure if my tutor laughed or despaired when he read my answers.

You might think I would sleep better after the exam, but I didn’t. The roadworks continued, and I kept thinking of all the mistakes that I realised I had made, all the transliterations where I wrote a ‘v’ instead of an ‘n’ and all the words which I had learnt but simply couldn’t remember. I also, in one terrible moment, realised that at no point had I actually written my name or student number. Could that information have been on the last page which I never dared to look at? Would my efforts be invalidated due to being unidentifiable?

But no, all was fine. A very nice administrator sent through my mark, and I had done better than I had hoped, and am all set for Greek 2. I will hopefully have recovered from the exam in time to take the next one.

Thanks for reading. Hope things go well for you this week too.

Love, Anne

Anne E. Thompson
Thank you for reading anneethompson.com Why not sign up to follow my blog?

A Quick News Update


Hello and how was last week? I am beginning to feel very fed up with lockdown, this one seems much harder than the previous ones. I don’t know why, but it makes it much harder to cope with disappointments. Mostly my disappointments are small, but I’m not reacting overly well. I had planned to introduce my new book, but I’m not managing to upload a perfect manuscript yet, so that will have to wait. (I made an annoying mistake and excitedly ordered a few copies, and then found several typos. Next time I will wait to check the physical proof copy before I rush to buy copies–but it is so exciting when a book finally appears in print, it’s hard to be sensible!)

The weather has been a mixed blessing. I look out of the window and the view is beautiful, as England is enjoying a rare long spell of snow and ice. I am extremely thankful that I’m not having to do a school-run every day, which was always a nightmare when it snowed. But the chickens are grumpy and mostly refusing to lay, and I have to keep lugging water up to them because everything is frozen. Water is surprisingly heavy. One of the outside cats has decided she’s going to live inside instead, and is now usually to be found asleep on the boiler.

As you read this, I will be starting my first Hebrew lecture. This is very exciting, and I’m interested to know where we’ll start and how fast we’ll go. The Greek lectures seemed to fly at a pace that was sometimes hard to keep up with — but my exam mark was surprisingly good, so perhaps I managed to learn more than I thought I did. Hebrew will be different as the alphabet looks nothing like our letters, and the words are read from right to left. I have bought some modern Hebrew language Cds, and told my Mum she can learn too. We had a very funny morning trying to copy the words and accents on the Cd. I have also started to watch a series on Netflix in Hebrew, and I can understand the odd word (thank you, hello — things like that). I love how the brain gradually assimilates language. When I first started to listen to Hebrew, I couldn’t even hear the difference between sounds. Then I began to notice certain sounds, and then words. I can now match some of the things I am hearing to the written words. Of course, as I am learning Biblical Hebrew, some of the words (computer, phone, duck) will be pretty useless unless I plan a trip to Israel. But it’s still fun. Not sure how similar modern Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew are. I will let you know. Yiddish sounds just like German, so that is probably easier.

Did you do anything special for Valentine’s Day? Or Chinese New Year? It is very strange not being able to go to restaurants to mark occasions. As my lectures stopped for a while after the exams, every day is the same. Except for Sundays. Sundays are a special day in the house. When I was growing up, I pretty much hated Sundays because we weren’t allowed to do anything fun (like watch television or play with friends) and instead we went to church and church groups (which were mostly boring). I fear I may have inflicted the same restrictions on my own children. But since lockdown, we have tried to make Sunday a special day. So I make pancakes — big fat American ones, stuffed with banana slices and walnuts, drizzled with maple syrup. I set the table for brunch, with pretty glasses of juice, and we have pots of coffee, and eat pancakes. Then we watch a sermon (usually one from our church when we lived in America). I try not to do any jobs, and I don’t revise/study. Dinner is something easy (frozen pizza or something). It makes the day different, if nothing else.

Hope you have a nice day too.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

What If You Were Prime Minister?


What would you do if you were in charge of the country? Hind sight is a wonderful thing, and 2020 was a year that none of us saw coming, but if you had—if somehow you had known about the pandemic—what would you have done?

This is not a political post (I regularly whack you over the head with my faith, so my politics I try to keep private) but in an unreal scenario, what would you do? What laws would you have put in place?

It’s not an easy role, because there are so many things to balance. The media is no help at all, because anyone can find an ‘expert’ to quote shocking headlines. For example, any health minister is going to focus on that aspect (because that’s what they’re paid to do) but often it’s not balanced by an economist’s view, or an education minister’s view.

How to solve the problem of Covid?

For example, in 2019 (before Covid was a thing) we could have seen a headline shouting (correctly) something like:

“15,000 people will die of flu unless we have a whole-country lockdown.”

Now, 15,000 people dying of flu is horrible, and happens fairly regularly, but we don’t generally lockdown the country because that fact needs to be balanced with children being educated and the economy. We could equally have a headline:

“Over 100 young people will die in motorcycle accidents this year unless we stop them driving.”

So, what would you do? I recently heard a report about a country that was choosing to vaccinate all the young people first, hence enabling them to continue with their education and social lives. The logic was that they were most likely to break the lockdown rules and thus spread the virus, so if they were vaccinated, the vulnerable would continue to shelter and the young wouldn’t be spreading the disease in the wider community. It also means that their country will not have lost a year of education, students will not have missed out on the experience of university, children will have the stability of school and clubs. Tough on the older people—but is it a good idea?

One fact worth considering as you make your decision is that we currently have about 8 million people aged 15-24 years. As the country pays for people on furlough, and extra aid for those who need help, we are building up a debt. At some point, that debt will have to be paid (because we have never paid off our deficit, let alone saved money for a pandemic). Who will pay? Those young people. We are borrowing from their future. My understanding is that from this age group of 8 million young people, there have been 56 deaths from Covid. Only 56. Compare that to the 100 deaths due to motorcycle accidents over the same period, and consider what you would do.

Before you make your decision, consider the hospitals. You can ignore all the people shouting that hospitals are empty—I know several people who work in hospitals, and they are not lying when they talk about being stretched to capacity and the stress of watching people suffer and die, not enough staff, services diverted from other health areas. There are buildings available, but not enough staff. So, while you make your decision, consider how you are going to stop the hospitals being over-whelmed—because do you want to live in a country where there is no medical care when you need it? Is there a way other than lockdown to ensure that hospitals cope? Looking forward, will you attract more people into the health service with higher salaries? Ah, but how will you pay for that?

Now consider the economy. There is not a magic pot of money that the government can draw from in times of national debt. Money that is given out to save businesses and to provide Covid tests and to buy vaccines, all has to be paid back. We are the ones who will be paying it back (and our children and grandchildren). If the country is in lockdown, then small businesses will be bankrupt. Even large businesses can only survive for so long, especially if they were already struggling (like some of the aviation companies). Would you give more money so they can survive the crisis (and increase the debt, which might mean higher taxes later thereby simply delaying the inevitable) or hope they can modify and find news forms of revenue? What will it do to the unemployment numbers? How long would you suspend the economy for the sake of the health service?

There are of course, many other issues, but I think it’s hard enough if we simply balance health, education, economy. At the moment, the world seems to be focussed on health. I am waiting for the headlines to switch to:

“Leading economist warns of huge recession in the wake of lockdown.”

I haven’t mentioned issues beyond individual countries. But if you’re going to be in charge, you need to also consider global policies. If you vaccinate your own citizens, then the virus will mutate in poorer countries and become vaccine-resistant which puts us all back to the start. Plus we rely on the global economy, so we cannot afford to let another country crash because it will impact us. So, would you vaccinate all your own country first, or would you ensure a vaccine was rolled out globally?

What, I wonder, would you do? I’m sure that we can all think of things we would have changed about the past—but the solution is not obvious. I for one have no intention of standing for office at the next election.

Hope you make good decisions in your own life this week.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
Thank you for reading anneethompson.com Why not sign up to follow my blog?

What do you tell a child who is dying?


How do you reassure them without lying?

Is it even possible to prepare a child for death?

I had to prepare for my own imminent death when I had a brain tumour (which came with the lovely added feature of causing ‘sudden instant death.’) But I am an adult. I joined Facebook forums so I could chat to other people coping with the same situation, and several of them were parents, coping with the potentially imminent death of a child. What should they say to help prepare them?

Some of the people on the forums were teenagers—little more than children themselves. They talked about losing all their school friends because they were often in hospital, and making friends with the other teenagers in hospital—who then died. They were lonely, and frightened, and a bit lost. What can you say to someone in that position? As they lose their friends, and their hair, as they watch their body morph into something they see as unattractive because medication adds weight they don’t want, and their teeth go bad, and they are tired—so tired—all the time. What can you say to them?

I have never, thankfully, had to cope with anything as difficult as preparing a child who has a terminal illness. The closest I have been was several years ago when I was teaching infants. One of the mothers suffered from a mental disease and she killed her little son and daughter. Robert, aged 5, should have been in my class, but instead we bought a weathervane in his memory and tried to comfort his friends. As teachers we were confronted by both our own grief, and trying to make sense of it when the children asked us questions. I learnt two things:

1. Do not be tempted to tell a child more than they have asked. If they ask about what happens physically, or for facts about procedures, then answer them honestly and concisely. But when you are half-way through a lengthy explanation about death certificates and your child turns back to their story-book, stop. There is no need to give more information than has been asked for, and children rarely ask about things they cannot cope with knowing.

2. Don’t lie. Children are very good monitors of when an adult is lying, and although they might not say anything, they will detect that you are not being honest, and that breeds insecurity. It is okay for them to know that you are sad. It’s okay for you to not have all the answers. They need to know they are loved, and that they can trust you. Whatever the situation.

What can you say to a child or teenager who is potentially facing imminent death? Should we ignore the possibility and only speak in positive terms, clinging on to the chance that the medics will manage to find a cure, and that one day this will all be a bad memory? Obviously being positive is sensible, and medics can cure all kinds of horrible illnesses. But when you are past that, when you know that they can only make your child comfortable, what then?

Personally, when I was facing a dangerous operation, I found it very odd that only the medics ever mentioned death. The doctors talked about it frequently, telling me with every permission form I signed that the risk of death was high, and the risk of permanent irreversible brain damage was higher. It was simply something I needed to prepare for—yet no one else ever mentioned it. Even church friends and leaders—no one ever talked about dying or how to prepare for it. In the event, God himself prepared me for dying, and then allowed me to live. But it has left me with a burden—people should be helped when they are dying. It’s not something we should shy away from, especially with young people.

Preparing for death is not gloomy. When I knew that I might die tomorrow, I lived today really well. Being ready to die means we live better. In fact, I would even go as far as to suggest that until we are prepared for death, we are perhaps not properly prepared for life. Perhaps we need to understand a little about death in order to properly understand the point of life–and to live it fully and enthusiastically.

For people who don’t believe in God, I cannot help. I would suggest that it might be worth putting your own beliefs on hold, because I cannot see how it would be helpful to tell a child that death is the end of everything about them. Perhaps now is the time to test your unbelief.

If you believe in God, then you believe in someone who is bigger than us, someone who we can trust. I cannot tell you why children die, or what God’s plan is, but I do know that he loves your child even more than you do. Dying is about moving from the physical to the spiritual. It is not a mistake, we were created with a use-by date, when we were born there was already a time of death planned.

So, let your child know this. Help them to understand that God has it all in hand, it was part of the plan, and he will be there when your child needs him. I don’t believe that God prepares us for death until we need to be ready, and I have many times told adults who are dying that if they are frightened about dying, then they are probably not going to die today. When it is time to die, I believe that God will come, and take us in his arms, and there will be no fear. Going home is not scary.

But explaining to a child the difference between physical life and spiritual life is hard. Many are struggling with bodies that don’t work properly, they cannot achieve the things they want to do, they can feel like failures. Anyone with a long-term disease fights to not be defined by the disease. When you have a brain tumour, you are not a brain-tumour-patient, you are you and the tumour is something annoying that’s added on. Children too are not simply patients. They each have their unique personality; they have something to offer.

I wrote a story in an attempt to explain some of these ideas in a form that a young child will understand. It seeks to show that who we are is not the physical body that we are wrapped in. There is more to us than can be seen. There is more to life than can be seen, and there is more to death than we realise.

I will post the story on my blog, a chapter at a time over the next few days. I hope it will be helpful. Please share it with anyone who might find it helpful (at some point I will turn it into a little book on Amazon, but I have a Greek exam to revise for at the moment!)

Thank you for reading.

Take care. Love, Anne x

The first chapter is here: https://anneethompson.com/2021/01/25/chapter-one/ I will post a new chapter every day on my blog, under ‘story’ (written in red!) Please share.

Anne E. Thompson
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Look on your device for this icon (it’s probably right at the bottom of the screen if you scroll down). Follow the link to follow my blog!

*****

Learning Greek

Revision is Boring


As I write this, it is one more week until my Greek exam, and to be honest, I am fed-up with revision. My sons inform me that I started too early, and that the night before the exam is the optimum time to start revision. I fear they may have inherited my work ethic.

As a teenager, I never revised for exams (which is probably why I never scored very highly). For my O’level exams (GCSEs if you’re young) the school said we could choose to either revise at home or in school during the weeks of study leave. I saw this as the perfect opportunity, and told my parents I would study in school, and told the school I would study at home. No one checked. (Sorry Mum, you might not know about this.) I spent the days having fun (I remember a day trip to Cambridge). My exam results were nothing to be proud of.

I seem to remember that I did study a little better for A levels and my degree, but in a rather half-hearted unfocussed way. I am therefore determined that this time, with what might be my last attempt at academia, I am going to do it properly. But Oh! it is very boring.

There is nothing at all interesting about looking up things that I sort-of-mostly-know, and writing lists and reading pages (that I have already read) so that I know it properly. It is also not at all what we do in real life. I sort of remember lots of recipes, but when I bake something I tend to look up the finer points (like the quantities of ingredients). I never spend a week writing lists and committing the quantities to memory so that I can dispense with the cookery books, even though it might save time in the long run. People don’t do things like that. We don’t memorise our mobile phone number, or the names of all the roads to the seaside, or how many grams of flour go into the cake. We understand how things work and look up the finer details when we need them. Which makes me feel that exams are more tests of memory than ability. But perhaps that’s because I have never been very good at them.

In order to give myself some light relief, I have started to dip into the Hebrew course. I don’t actually start Hebrew until February, but the course book appeared online, so I bought a copy. It begins with the alphabet, so in-between revising Greek, I am learning the Hebrew alphabet. Learning is so much more interesting than revision. My main trouble at the moment is that I have thoroughly learnt that a ‘v’ sounds like an ‘n’ (in Greek) and I now need to unlearn this so I pronounce one of the Hebrew letters correctly (it sounds like ‘vahv’ but I keep saying ‘nahn’!)

I have also bought an English grammar book. It was recommended by Robert Plummer, who wrote one of the Greek books that I have found useful, and it explains all the English grammar that I failed to learn at school (possibly because I had skived off for the day to Cambridge) like what an indirect object is and what ‘pluperfect’ means. It arrived today, and is smaller than expected. This often happens with books—they are recommended, and look interesting, so you pay more than usual—but then what arrives is little more than a pamphlet in a glossy cover. I am hoping the value of the content makes up for the lack of pages, but I might have been scammed. I also bought a children’s book: First Hundred Words in Hebrew. It has pictures. I shall leave it in the loo and glance at it whenever I am in there, hoping to absorb the occasional word.

Hebrew books as a reward for revising.

Another book that I started to read (you can see just how badly the revision is going—my house is very clean too!) is called: The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays. It was a Christmas gift, and I haven’t read much, but it’s very interesting so far. It starts with the letters by Paul, because they were written before the Gospels (the books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). I have never thought about that before—when Paul wrote his letters, the church didn’t have any of what is now the New Testament. He possibly didn’t even know some of the stories that we know today. Hays also makes the point that when Paul wrote his letters, the people were expecting that at any minute, Jesus would return and the world would end. They really were not expecting that 2,000 years later we would still be here, reading his letters and trying to figure out how to live. Paul wrote things that were imminently important rather than long-term ethics/rules to live by. I have never considered that before.

It’s always fun when a new idea is proposed and you can think about it and decide whether or not to agree. Much more interesting than revision anyway.

Hope you have an interesting week.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

Wondering if Husband is getting fed up with only being able to talk to me during lockdown. He certainly chooses some weird places for me to pose for photos…
Anne E. Thompson
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Greek Bible showing apparatus.

Understanding the Apparatus of the Greek New Testament


An interesting fact: When there were printing presses in the past, the printers used to keep capital letters separately to cursive letters, in cases. The capital letters were usually stored in a case above the cursive letters, and hence they became known as ‘upper case letters.’ Did you know that? I didn’t! It is one of the interesting (but irrelevant) snippets I discovered whilst trying to unravel the apparatus part of my Greek New Testament. (An apparatus is like the key on a map, it gives extra information.)

As part of my course, I was given a copy of the Greek New Testament. It has—as you would expect—the words of the New Testament books written in Greek. It also has, on each page, some tiny writing and symbols in the apparatus. To be honest, I have pretty much tried to ignore this (don’t tell anyone) but as my exam is looming, I realised that I needed to tackle it. What do all those symbols mean, and why do I need to look at them? As a way to help me learn them, I will explain what I have learnt so far.

As I think I told you previously, there is no existing copy of the original New Testament books. What we have are various manuscripts that have been found and translated, and put together to form what we think of as the New Testament. These manuscripts and documents make up the evidence for what was originally written, but they are not identical because they were written at a time when copying was all done by hand. Sometimes the scribes copying the manuscripts corrected the grammar, or added notes in the margin that were later copied as part of the main body of writing. Sometimes they made mistakes, or changed things to suit their own theology. Translators must make decisions, based on these pieces of evidence, as to what should be included.

The copy I have been given allows me to make some choices myself. It has not included every piece of evidence that was ever found, because that would make the book run to many volumes and I would never manage to wade through it all. It has therefore referenced the most important documents, and noted which are the more reliable ones. I can therefore look at the differences (which tend to be very minor, such as whether it should read: ‘he did this sign’ or ‘Jesus did this sign’ or ‘this sign was done.’) My NT has helpful symbols, and tells me what most scholars conclude. An ‘A’ in brackets means they are virtually certain that this is close to the original text, and a ‘D’ means they couldn’t agree. It is of course relative to the documents that have been found at this point (because they might find something older/more reliable) and I have no idea whether ‘A’ means most scholars agree, or whether the most qualified ones agree. (No reason to trust something simply because someone—who you don’t know—tells you it’s correct.) It reminds me of when a pupil at school did something bad, and we were trying to discover who the culprit was– did we trust the majority of the boys, who all said it was X, or did we trust the most reliable boy because he tended to be truthful, or did we listen to the small group who claimed to be eye-witnesses?

In about the 4th century, a version of the NT was produced that took the majority of the documents that were the same. This is known as the ‘Majority Text’ or the ‘Byzantine Text.’ It contains the majority of Greek texts that were available (hence the name majority text). It was the basis for the King James Version of the Bible.

However, since then, more and more manuscripts have been found, many of them much older than the Byzantine texts. Large codices were found, like Codex Sinaiticus. (‘Codex’ is just a fancy name for a collection of manuscripts that hasn’t been bound.) They sometimes differed from the majority texts, and so new translations began to appear. The potentially less reliable texts were moved down into the footnotes, so people could read and compare them. The manuscripts were given names, and these names were then represented by symbols (to take up less space in the apparatus).

Papyrus fragments are denoted by a curly P and a number. Papyri 45, 46, 66, 72 and 75 are the most important.

For example, P45 is from the 3rd century (probably written in about 250 AD, in Egypt so I think is one of our oldest manuscripts) and contains more than one New Testament text (which is unusual for 3rd century manuscripts). It is very concise, as the scribe took out lots of the adjectives, adverbs, pronouns and participles, but he didn’t add anything. It is a manuscript with no ‘fluff’ (which makes me wonder if the scribe was a bit grumpy and austere). However, writing equipment was expensive, and a scribe was paid per line of writing, so maybe he was trying to include as much as possible within a certain price. (I enjoy guessing these things, but I think I am supposed to stick to the facts in an exam.)

Papyrus 45 is badly damaged, and has lots of gaps (called ‘lacunae’).

Papyrus 45, kept mostly in Dublin with a small part in Vienna

The Codex Sinaiticus was shown by an aleph (The Hebrew letter ‘a’) which looks like a curly N.  Important manuscripts include: Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and until Sinaiticus was found, Vaticanus was thought to be most important. They were written in upright block letters on parchment (these documents are called majuscules). They appear in the apparatus as capital letters, or numbers beginning with 0.

There are also manuscripts written in miniscule. This simply means lower-case, or cursive, letters. The miniscule manuscripts were written later than the majuscule (capital letters) documents and were gathered together into families of similar texts. They are shown in the apparatus byƒ and a number.

Next are listed the lectionaries, shown by an ‘l.’ These are the lessons read in churches, and hence the name as they would be rested on the reading desk, or ‘lectern.’ Old manuscripts written in Latin are identified by ‘it’ which stands for Itala (they spoke Latin in Italy, so that’s easy to remember!)

The church fathers also left documents that are used to verify the texts. People like Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret (those names create wonderful images of stooped men in robes writing with a quill).

If documents have been corrected, the uncorrected document is marked with a * and the corrected copy appears with a tiny number next to the letter. If you look at the photo, you can see this with C* and D*. There will be a corresponding letter with a tiny number (the corrected version) and it took me longer than you might think to realise that these might be on the next page!

Greek Bible showing apparatus.
Greek New Testament with apparatus.

In fact, lots about understanding the apparatus has taken me longer than you might think. I feel that I am beginning to understand the bare minimum, but it feels like a physics lesson in my teenage years, when I sort of understood some of it but I hoped and prayed the teacher would never ask me to explain how I had reached my conclusions! Hoping to learn a little more by the end of the month (otherwise I shall have to wing it, which never worked out too well in the past).

Thanks for reading (and if you know more than me, do send help quickly).

Take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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Coniston Water

Happy 2021.


I think I might be slightly autistic—which I believe is a sign that I’m not—but I do have vast understanding for people who don’t like change. I don’t mind some change, but I struggle with mess, and ‘Christmas and visitors’ does result in a lot of mess, doesn’t it? The Christmas tree is beautiful, but after a while you stop being able to ignore the pine needles on the floor, and the cardboard box stuffed behind the sofa, and the chair that’s dumped on the landing because there’s no space for both it and a guest in the guestroom, and the gifts that never made it beyond the kitchen table, and the cards that drop glitter on the hall table, and so on. Therefore, as I write this, a few days after New Year’s Day, I am in my happy place. All the upheaval has finished, and although I delight in my family and love spending time with them, there is something wonderfully satisfying about putting everything back into place.

Tomorrow, the college semester recommences, and my schedule returns to the pattern of lectures and learning, intermingled with raising animals and cleaning the house, and secretly—just between you and me—I am really looking forward to it. I have an exam at the end of January, and I am even weirdly looking forward to that. I like structure and routine. Maybe it’s an age thing.

How did you find the weird story that I told you last week? I was messaged with various suggestions as to where it came from, some people thought it was a Chinese fable, others from Japan, some from the book of Genesis. It actually came from the book of Judges. I think it was about people being satisfied with the job they have been given, and that we should be wary of those who want to have power. But I’m not entirely sure. There is a lot in those Old Testament books that are weird and confusing and don’t have an obvious meaning.

I read another story this week (another one that my Sunday School teachers forgot to mention!) You might recognise the beginning: A man is travelling and stops overnight in a foreign city. A man of the city says he shouldn’t sleep in the town square because it’s not safe, and he welcomes him into his home. During the night, the men of the town bang on the door, demanding the visitor should come outside so they can gang-rape him. The owner of the house refuses, saying that they will send outside the women instead. (You might be thinking this is the story of Sodom, because it’s similar, but you would be wrong!)

The end is rather gruesome. They put the women outside, and they are abused all night and when the visitor opens the door in the morning, there is his wife, dead on the doorstep. So (brace yourself, this is horrible) he chops her into pieces and sends bits of her to all the tribes of Israel. They are astounded by this, they meet, they destroy the evil city.

It is a very similar story to the one about Sodom, though I have never heard it linked to the debate around whether homosexuality is wrong (which the Sodom story often is). Perhaps it’s because the women were also abused, and no one wants to suggest that it shows being heterosexual is wrong!

I have no idea why this story is in the Bible, or what we should learn about it. Some parts of the Bible are like that, if you read beyond what you were taught as a child, some bits are simply weird. Sometimes we have to accept that we don’t understand them. Personally, I wish that more people would admit that they don’t understand things; I think that being too certain that our theology or politics or lifestyle is right can be dangerous. It closes our ears to things that might teach us something. Not having everything in a neat tidy package—whether it’s our home or our theology—is probably good for us.

Hope you have a good week.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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A Story of Trees


It’s nearly 2021—will you be making a new year’s resolution? Is there something that you would like to change about yourself, and how will you plan for a new improved self? I guess we all have dreams and aspirations, and some of them we pursue until we reach them, and others dwindle away into nothing. To be honest, I’m quite glad that some of my dreams evaporated into nothing—especially the ones I had as a teenager—otherwise I’d be in a right mess now!

The trouble with looking ahead and wishing for things that we don’t have, is that sometimes we stop appreciating what we have right now. Maybe, instead of planning to improve things we should sometimes stop and look around at what we already have, and be grateful.

I recently found a story, which sort of links with this idea. I have never noticed it before—add a comment if you recognise where it came from. Or simply sit back with some of your Christmas chocolate, and enjoy a story. . .

Once upon a time the trees got together to choose a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, “Be our king.”

The olive tree answered, “In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my oil, which is used to honour gods and human beings.”

Then the trees said to the fig tree, “You come and be our king.”

But the fig tree answered, “In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my good sweet fruit.”

So the trees then said to the grapevine, “You come and be our king.”

But the vine answered, “In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my wine, and that makes gods and humans happy.”

So then all the trees said to the thorn bush, “You come and be our king.”

The thorn bush answered, “If you really want to make me your king, then come and take shelter in my shade. If you don’t, fire will blaze out of my thorny branches and burn up the cedars of Lebanon.”


Bit of a bizarre story, but I rather like bizarre. Not sure why I have never noticed it before—do you know where it came from?

If you make a resolution for the new year, choose carefully.

Thanks for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne x