Ant has been so sick the last few days and so I have spent some of my time off looking after him. Poor man, he has been in such pain and is now off work for the third day.
I have also been studying for the Life in the UK test, which I will be taking on Monday. It is one of the requirements for my British citizenship, which I hope to acquire before the summer. I already have indefinite leave to remain, but gaining citizenship will allow me to leave the country for a longer period and return with all the same rights. Ant and I can already be approved for a mortgage but this will lower the risk to the bank still further. On Monday I was studying the ethnicities statistics. The test is multiple choice and quite detailed, it seems. I doubt that many Britons would be able to pass the test without studying as I am doing.
I have finally started reading The Idiot by Dostoevsky. I have been thinking about it since before Christmas. My interest started from reading the Philip Yancey book, Soul Survivor, which I bought and blogged about in December. Yancey write about how Tolstoy and Dostoevsky jointly helped him understand more about how the Christian life can work. Tolstoy devoted some of the best years of his life to an austere existence, freeing his serfs and living like a peasant in an effort to follow Jesus' teachings (Luke 18:22) to "give away everything and you will have treasure in heaven". Tolstoy was utterly disheartened by his inablilty to live up to Jesus' instructions, finding his shortcomings unbearable. Yancey found his ideals and his reverence for God inspiring.
Dostoevsky and Tolstoy lived at the same time and read each other's work. Dostoevsky was arrested for being part of a liberal group judged to be treasonous. He spent eight months in jail and then was dragged out to be executed in a public square. At the last minute the death orders were changed into time in a Siberian labour camp. Dostoevsky was hugely changed by the gift of continued life. He endured his years of hard labour and diligently read a New Testament he had been given. His later work is a surge of joy at life. I wanted to read some Dostoevsky because I heard that he explored goodness the way other novelists explore evil. Yancey says that he learned from Dostoevsky that the gospel of grace filters into the world through love. "To follow Jesus, I learned, does not mean to solve every human problem--Christ himself did not attempt that--but rather to respond as he did, against all reason to dispense grace and love to those who deserve it least." Tolstoy wrote about absolute ideals and Dostoevsky wrote about absolute grace. I'll let you know how I get on with The Idiot. I have read 60 pages of the 660 that comprise the book.
In other news, I have slowly been becoming a bit more green. I have been gradually replacing all the cleaning products in the flat with ecological ones; now our waste water is safer and cleaner. And I have made myself a pledge never to take another plastic bag at a shop again. I have bought a few canvas shopping bags and I have put one in each handbag. I made a resolution a few weeks ago that if I found myself at a shop without a way to carry my shopping home that I would buy a reusable bag. The last one I had to buy at Sainsburys cost me £5; this is a costly enough mistake that it motivates me not to make that error again. Today I had the first real troublesome incident and I realised it was time to make my pledge a reality. I was at the shop near the station picking up some supplies for Ant and I for tonight; I had no shopping bag in which to get it home. I declined a bag and the owner looked at me a bit funny. I ended up cramming two cartons of soup and a two litre jug of milk into my already bulging handbag and ended up carrying the two litre bottle of lemonade and the loaf of bread in my hands. This was not a huge issue in the end since I only had a few minutes to walk but I felt good that I had saved a plastic bag. Plastic bags are a becoming a more talked about issue in the UK lately, and around the world.