Friday, March 26, 2010

Oranges and Lemons – A Slice of Life

by Marion Ueckermann

(Book giveaway – Thin Places by Mary DeMuth)

As a child one of my favorite games was Oranges and Lemons. Does anyone remember this game? Do children still play it, or am I revealing my age here?

Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clement's
You owe me five farthings, Say the bells of St. Martin's
When will you pay me? Say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich, Say the bells of Shoreditch.
When will that be? Say the bells of Stepney
I do not know, Says the great bell of Bow
Here comes a candle to light you to bed
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
(Chip chop, chip chop, the last man's dead)

According to Wikipedia, this is one of the common modern versions. My childhood one was slightly different with far less bells involved. As we filed through an arch made by two players facing each other with their arms raised in the air and hands clasped together, we chanted something like this . . . in singsong intonation:

 Oranges and lemons
The bells of St. Clemens
You owe me a farthing
When will you pay me?
Tomorrow or the next day
When I grow rich!
Here comes a candle to light you to bed
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head
Chip chop, chip chop, the last man's head is off!

On the last line, squealing players scurried through the arch, hoping not to lose our heads, praying we’d stay “alive” to run the gauntlet again in the next round.

With each round of the game, the arch became longer. Axed players would form successive arches, leaving the last player wondering if he’d ever see light at the end of the tunnel.

Talk about gruesome games for kids! I think The Guillotine Run would have been a more appropriate name than Oranges and Lemons.

Life’s a little like that game—a mixture of bittersweet happenings. Sometimes we’re thrown juicy, sweet oranges that manifest in magic moments. Other times life dishes out lemons—experiences so sour and bitter they’re hard to swallow.

 I recently had one of those “When life throws you lemons . . .” experiences when I fell and broke my wrist. The next day I was due to fly to America with fellow writer, Shirley Corder, to attend the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. Instead, I landed up in surgery with doctor’s orders of “No flying for two weeks!” As my wrist hit the floor that Saturday morning, I watched nine months of preparation, anticipation and excitement disappear in a single moment. If it hadn’t been for my faith, I would never have been able to say “I don’t understand, but God . . .”

Faith allows us to look at our lemon moments and decide to make cool, refreshing lemonade. It allows us to see Jesus, THE light, at the end of our tunnels because we know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28 – NIV]

When I wrote my Nano novel, The Red Floor (not published), in November last year, based on my mother’s childhood years in an orphanage, I came face to face with many of her lemon days. Oh, I had heard all her stories too many times to tell, but it wasn’t until I wrote her story—until I, the writer, became her—that I really understood the bitterness of her childhood. I felt what it was like to own only two pairs of shoes—one for school, one for church—spending most of the time barefoot, even during cold winter months. I tasted the crudest of sweets made from sugar and molasses that were enjoyed only on monthly pocket money days. But I also felt castor oil run down my throat, experiencing its purging effects as social workers tried to eradicate those brief, sweet moments. I watched as worms crawled through insipid, meager servings that couldn’t be stomached and tasted dirty, dry oranges found abandoned on dusty pavements in an attempt to keep hunger away. I watched with eight-year-old eyes as social workers snuggled under warm blankets not meant for them, and trembled with cold and fear on a train that chugged its way to an unknown future. I watched, I felt, I tasted, I experienced—and at the end I knew . . . my mother had made bucket loads of lemonade during her life.

Great stories abound from orange and lemon moments. Fiction and nonfiction author, Mary DeMuth, has published her lemon moments in a powerful and courageously honest memoir titled “Thin Places” released in January by Zondervan. Bitterness resulting from childhood sexual abuse, the death of her biological father, and years of parental neglect could have soured her life, but the sweet smell of orange blossoms clings to the pages of this book as Mary derives victory through her faith in the God who sees.

Mary will give away a signed copy of Thin Places and will post to a US address. A draw will be held within ten days from comment submissions. Should you wish to be entered in the draw and can supply an American postal address, please add an email address to your comment, replacing @ with (at). I will contact the winner to obtain a postal address.
 Visit Mary on or

"Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws."

MARION UECKERMANN’s writing passion was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then Marion has been honing her skills and has published some devotional articles in Winners at Work as well as inspirational poetry online and in a poetry journal. She has written her first Christian Women’s novel (unpublished) and is currently completing the sequel. Marion now lives in Pretoria East, South Africa with her husband, sons and a crazy black ‘Scottie’. A member and moderator of the South African Christian Writers Group, Marion can be contacted via email on marionu(at)telkomsa(dot)net or through her website


  1. So bad when life throws us Lemons, but you know you have taught me in life to always keep on going - through the Thorns on the Lemon tree or not.... keep going - do not look down and be discouraged... look up and see the Glory and Splendor of the One who Created you... and you are right my fav Auntie, only HE KNOWS... that is why WE CAN HAVE HOPE FOR 2MORROW!! LOVE YOU LOTS - FROM TASHA XXX

  2. My dearest little sister ... what a tremendous disappointment for you to have missed the conference! However, I watched you take the lemon that life had thrown you, wash it off, put it in a grinder and you made the most deliciously sweet lemonade! Your faith, and peace on this has been a testimony of your commitment to our Lord and Saviour to be thankful in all things! May He bless you, as you have blessed us all with your life! Love you lots xxxxx Lydia

  3. Dear Marion
    I'd love to be able to read your blog but the font size is tiny on my computer.Other blogs are okay so it's not my machine, it would seem. Thought I would let you know.


  4. Ann, try again. I've just fixed the font.

    Marion, it was such a bitter lemon you picked that day when you took your tumble. I landed up with a small wedge of it as well and yuck! It wasn't nice. But PTL, He's brought you through it with a smile on your face, a cast on your arm, and a huge jug of lemonade that I'm sure we'll all get to share in the future.

    I missed you SO MUCH on what was meant to be "our trip" but maybe another time, right?

    Love you lots

  5. Marion, I hope you have the opportunity to go to the Florida writing conference with Shirl next year, and have a wonderful time :-)

  6. We were all so disappointed for you, Marion, but you have made something beautiful of this. I was near tears thinking of how much better you must understand your mother after walking in her shoes in this way. I look forward to reading your Nano someday. In the meantime, enter me for Mary's book at leannehardy (at) gmail (dot) com.

  7. Thanks for fixing the font, Shirl and thanks Marion for a well-written meaningful blog. I was singing this very song to my husband not so long ago. I couldn't remember the end - I'd blanked out the head lopping! And hey, as I write this, church bells have started to go crazy outside, calling people to Mass.


  8. Thanks for highlighting Thin Places, but more than that, thank you for sharing your story. I'm so sorry about your wrist! Ouch!

  9. Ouch! Sorry to hear about your fall. I had to pull out of the Mount Hermon conference due to my hubby's health challenges so I can relate. I'm always blessed when I look beyond the situation and see where God was at work in it. He has so much to show us about ourselves and others--indeed, lemonade is sweet! I'd love to read Mary's book, enter me at ddnkd at yahoo dot com