Tuesday, 30 April 2013

What's That, God?

I think you'll have to shout a bit louder.

A really really sensational series of books that hit the US best-seller lists a while ago, were Donald Walsch's. 'Conversations With God'. I read all three.

I read them with interest and a great deal of enjoyment, because this chatty God, who answered all Donald's questions with commendable frankness, was a very likeable Divine Presence.

I read them with a great deal of scepticism because this new revelation of All-Holiness said some pretty radical things.

At the end, it all came down to: Love the things you desire, and they will be drawn to you. That's it - You have created who you are, and you go on doing just that, so create something you REALLY want to be.

Lots of people will attest to having pulled the Universe into their hand, and become richer, better-loved, more beautiful, more gainfully employed and with better health... And good luck to them.

I never tried it, not once. Maybe I Am who I really want to be?

Or lazy. Yes, lazy. Think about it: if I had more money, I'd be obliged to find ways of spending it, if I ruled the world, I'd need to find things for people to do, if I were young and beautiful, I'd be beating suitors off with a stick... All too much trouble, I'm afraid.

Somewhere deep though, something stuck. This must have been the beginning of my belief that you can believe what you like and get away with it. Ultimately, the realisation that God as Revelation, is Open To Negotiation.

I watch my lovely fundamentalist friends having not too much fun at all, tying themselves into knots trying to reconcile into one indivisible truth, the revelation of God as a vindictive old tyrant, and a universally loving Spirit.

Either? Neither? Or Both?

It's entirely up to you.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Alongside reading the New Scientist on the nature of consciousness. I'd love to watch my own neurons fire, I think that would be pretty amazing, but what I observe from looking at pictures of other people's, is, that the subconscious sorts everything out, then the conscious bit ( let's call it 'you') just does as it's told. I tell you it's pretty scary stuff. The subconscious self makes quite a lot of it up as it goes along, so the reality you think you're experiencing, isn't really real at all. And, furthermore, holds together what you think of as 'you' for about three seconds.

THREE SECONDS. We are all about three seconds long, which is no time at all if you ask me.

I have about 2.5 seconds to let my subconscious inform me as to where we're going with this. Ah yes, Talking to God.

You want to capture a few Hittites and batter their brains out? In about three seconds time, God will tell you to do it. You want to love your neighbour as yourself? Ditto.

God! I hope I'm wrong!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Born To This

It's Sunday, and I'm catching up on my emails. Thankfully, I am no longer being offered enhancements to a member I do not possess, or low-cost pharmaceuticals that I do not need, and it's even been a while since an over-familiar Nigerian has attempted to make me a wealthy woman.

I say, 'thankfully', but on the quiet I am a little disappointed, because much of the colour and interest has gone from my epostal existence.

I am left to muse over the offerings I have freely signed up for, and am thinking I could, if I totally lost my senses, sign up for a few more... But, there's fun to be had with what I have:

"Have you ever felt like the world simply isn't ready for the work you were meant to do? Like the role you were born to fill simply isn't considered possible by society?"

Oh YES!! I am pretty certain the world isn't ready for the work I was meant to do. There is one, no, there are two, good reasons why the world isn't ready.

One, I no longer wish to do any work at all, and two... Heck, I've already forgotten what 'two' is, I'll get back to you on that one.

But what a lovely thought! I could, at the click of a mouse and a complete rethink of my philosophy, become so utterly egocentric as to believe that the world gives a green fig about what my life's purpose is!

That this rethink in my philosophy is to be nurtured by bunging $300 in the direction of th e sponsoring organisation is neither here nor there, as I do not splash out on enlightenment. I am as enlightened as I can handle at the moment, and I'm profligate with it, and all for free!

I am intrigued though. WHAT role could there possibly be that, 'Isn't considered possible by society.'?My mind boggles. I am racking my brains... I have to assume that this reputable group isn't tempting me to anything deadly or illegal, so what's left?

I did, for a brief spell last Tuesday, consider getting the gear out and dancing in the streets to test that Iranian cleric's assertion that under-dressed and over-stimulating women cause earthquakes. Frankly, it was too cold, and I have my chest to think about.

I waited in all morning on Thursday to invite the Jehovah's Witness in for a chat, but none turned up. On Friday, I walked round Gloucester Park looking for the oak tree planted by Queen Mary in 1902 ( I WILL find it!) On Saturday, I planned to walk with the National Trust on May Hill to listen to the dawn chorus, but dropped out on the grounds of a hangover...

'What conclusions,' I muse, 'Am I to draw from the random aimlessness, and haphazard failure, of my enterprises this week?'

None. None whatever. I may very well have found the role I was born to fill in society. That of just being, just doing, and then sitting down on Sunday and having a good laugh about the beautiful pointlessness and glorious absurdity of it all.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

"Love Is ...

What Makes A Suburu A Suburu"

What??? I think this is the most outrageous and stupid advertising slogan I have ever heard. Admittedly , I don't hear many, and the ones I do hear, home in from Seattle, but nevertheless, I am incensed, exercised and otherwise miffed.

Suburu, I am never going to buy you, I don't care how much love...

But wait...

Are you offering me a mild sort of affection that will have us just holding hands? Or, rather, hand and door opening appendage? Perhaps a rather more intimate expression that might require you to be left in 'Park' and me hyped up to 'Drive'?

Maybe you are showing me respect, and are willing to wait until we're married? Well, I might be persuaded, but owing to my age, it will have to be a short engagement. And you will have to stump up for my divorce.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Green Lane

I walked slowly home from babysitting Abigail this morning.

When the weather's good, and the ground underfoot, dry, I walk the green lane. It is an extension, in it's way, of Bury Barr Lane out of Newent. It was, a century or so ago, I suspect, the cattle-rutted Drovers' Road to Gloucester. It's now beleaguered and set about on all sides by the new housing developments, whose faux-rural names I have mercifully forgotten.

Rubbish is frequently tipped over into this cool green tunnel - garden waste, knackered lawn mowers and non-functioning kitchen appliances - by the sort of people who would do that sort of thing. All of which is regularly 'disappeared' by the sort of people who wouldn't.

Yes, a cool, green, tunnel. A hundred yards of retreat. A multi-sensory experience of the wildwood fringe, that would be difficult to recreate today.

The sun is finally warm. I think of my hat, hanging, forlorn, in the cupboard under the stairs, and wish it wasn't. I stop to chat to a twittering grey squirrel and again, to let the birds have their say too. I note where the bluebells will burst open next week, and admire the golden riot of lesser celandine, reflecting,in their blowsy way, the glory of the sun-shining . (Even when it's not.) By mid-May, St. Anne's lace will be waste high and peppering the air with a pale cream scent from it's flamboyant parasols.

I'm savouring this. I let all that I see, and hear, and smell and feel, coalesce into a memory of a beautiful morning, in late Spring. One that I will recall over and over again when memory is all I have left.

I don't walk alone.

Flash died today. I wrote of Flash last year ('Bumping Into Flash'). That guy could spin a yarn so incredible that you might think that no-one could believe it but me. His scrapes with the law, which he held in contempt, featured the longest chases, the most spectacular escapes, the most unlikely outcomes... . No one DID believe them but me.

Dirty heroin? Vodka and pills? The streets are rife with rumour. It hardly matters. He was careless, and now he's dead.

I walked the green lane with Flash this morning. A hundred yards of retreat.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

My New Best Friend

I did a rare and beautiful thing today - I went SHOPPING FOR CLOTHES! Real, 'pick-up-a-handful-and-try-them-on-in-the-changing rooms' shopping, at one of those retail outlets that purports to sell branded goods at a discount.

This SHOULD be easy for me. My daughters kindly subbed me for colour and style makeovers, and I have my swatches and my style sheets, which I, unusually, remembered to take with me.

Easy? It wasn't. There were THOUSANDS of individual items from dozens of different retailers. I was overwhelmed and bewildered. I wandered around, dazed, for about forty minutes, rejecting as, too large, too small, too tight, too loose, too long, too short, or just plain too dreadful, to wear.

Eventually, I pulled myself together and went for tops. Three serviceable, one stylish and one fancy. Then I went to pay for them.

This is when I met my new best friend.

This was the fun part. I make a point of being friendly in queues. I look upon it as redeeming what is otherwise totally wasted time.

He was about my age, portlier, I think it fair to say: grasping three pullovers.

' I had to get my wife to choose these, ' as if to explain away their ghastliness, ' I left my glasses at home.'

'Where's home?' I asked, politely.

'St Braivel's'

So we swapped information like homing pigeons, and moved on to the length of the queue.

' I used to work in retail.' MNBF said. 'We'd leap on every customer as they came in the shop: there'd never be a wait like this... '

'But look what we've got to keep us occupied!'

We wended our way to the tills past shelves of sweets, local honeys, Three Choirs wines, Herefordshire ciders and Shropshire beers, posh biscuits, more sweets, and a complete range of 'make yourself beautiful with lavender' products.

Neither of us fell for it.

He recounted highlights of his career in retail. (Ten minutes, dead) I told him about when I did jury service and achieved, practically single-handed, a not-guilty verdict for a lady accused of shop-lifting before leaving the store, ( Twelve minutes fifteen seconds, including asides. ).

'See that couple over there?' I ventured... 'They met, married and gave birth to that baby in this queue!'

We giggled.

The universe harmonised, two more checkouts opened, and we parted for ever.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Dancing Across The Cosmos

Have you ever made a grand plan that started out as a good idea, and that's pretty well where it ended up?

I have. I write poetry as a means of keeping my haphazard and over-heated imagination in some semblance of disorder. Whether you think it good or bad depends on whether you're the victim of my muse-ings, I guess - and besides, that's not the point.

I often have to rely on my subconscious to bail me out of a sticky situation, and such was the case when my creative writing teacher invited me to let him in on what my project would be for my final assessment. Until the words came spilling out of my mouth, I hadn't the faintest idea,

'I am going to combine my interest in quantum physics with my penchant for Arabian Dance, and I'm going to write 80 lines, and I'm going to call the piece 'Dancing Across The Cosmos.'

No sooner said than undone. I cursed myself for a fool. 'Quantum Physics'???? 'Arabian Dance??? ' 'Both???' I wish I had been drinking and could have used inebriation as an excuse, but no. My subconscious had dropped me in it, and was laughing its head off. 'Take that!' It whispered, as if getting its own back for some deep, and as yet unresolved, conflict of interest.

My tutor was quite excited. We stopped talking final assessments, whilst I explained that I was very interested in the fact that most of the universe appears to be missing, and I would rather like to go and find it. After all, I explained, I had read, and find it to be true enough, that physicists resort to metaphor to explain themselves, and I reckon if they have the temerity to stray onto my territory, then I am in my rights to push back.

'Dancing Across The Cosmos' remains a castle in the air. My Apprentice Piece was 100 lines ranging over Love Lost, Love Found, Spring, and Growing Old, just like everybody else's. I raised my mark for originality to 4/5 by including a poem called, 'Death and Emily Dickinson'. I reckon it was Emily that did it for me, though, not Death. We poets have to stick together.

Death And Emily Dickinson

Pale, this lover climbs the stairs.
Cold, -expectant, –
She pulls back the coverlet,-
And turns her face
To a chill embrace.
Death covers her moans with a kiss, – to the lips, –
From icy fingertips.
Suddenly ,– as he comes, –
She goes.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

What Do I Think About Margaret?

When Reagan died, there was an outbreak of collective amnesia in the US about how divisive he was ...

Reagan rolled back the State, took on the Unions and acted on some foolish assumptions about the universal good of the free market, just like Margaret did, but he did it all with a genial smile on his face. Margaret hectored, badgered and bullied her way through the same agenda. In doing so, she brought about her own downfall. An event I watched with sorrow, Did she really deserve such self-serving betrayal?

I am not a Thatcherite, by any means, but I abhor the outbreak of hatred at her death. She did what was right in her own eyes, and that is the best that can be expected of anyone.

I regret that she personified the triumph of idealism over pragmatism. I am sad that she appeared to be a friend of Pinochet and an enemy to Mandela. I fear that, in overseeing the destruction of British manufacturing, she brought about the end of any real possibility of a recovery from the current recession that will restore any pretence of an economically equitable society. I suspect that her manner of working politics accelerated the break-up of the Kingdom... .

But I also wonder where our Kingdom would be, if Margaret hadn't faced down and castrated the power of the unions, or sent the armed forces to rescue the Faulkland Islanders?

More than a necessary evil though - she was a remarkable and principled woman who should be given her semi-state funeral with a good heart. She deserves it.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Asking The Universe

I HAVEN'T got twenty-three unread mails in my Inbox! I don't know why this piece of wizardry insists I have. I had ONE from Evolving Wisdom that is offering me a FREE seminar on 'Finding My True Purpose in Life.'

It's impressive. I have read the paeans of praise and the testimonials of the Universe's satisfied customers. Let me see if I can remember the gifts the Cosmos has showered upon its admirers:

Built a little house
Flown to Holland
Talked to husband ( a personal favourite)
Run a road race
Got a new job

Frankly, I am underwhelmed. I blame neither The Universe, nor the Evolving Wisdom team, and it seems somewhat cruel to pour scorn, however kindly, on the supplicants... But??? 'Talked to my husband'??? I ask you.

I am laughing. Tears are streaming down my face. Even my husband (Especially, my husband.) would find it amusing.

Now I'm feeling mean. Quodlibet's 'True Purpose In Life' is to be vaguely compassionate and specifically kind, and I appear to have mislaid it.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

If you want REALLY good pie...

Try The Weighbridge, Michinhampton, near Stroud in Gloucestershire. I thought the Beef and Guiness Pie at The Black Horse in Cranham was GOOD ... But .... Not this good.

The 2in1 pie doesn't come cheap, Carol recommended the smaller version at £11.45 as being more than sufficient - and it was. And believe me, it's worth every penny.

The pie is eloquently described on the pub's website. I have checked, and I couldn't do better justice to it: I had the Beef Bourgignon/Cauliflower Cheese version, and it was OUT OF THIS WORLD.


However, I wasn't intending to do the work of a pie publicity agent - I just couldn't help myself. My intention is to recount my one and only foray onto a river in a punt.

Teaching at Coney Hill Infants School was a tough call. I so wearied of shouting at Secretaries of State for Education, 'Go THERE, you IDIOT, then come back and tell me how to do my job...' that I stopped listening to British radio and began tuning into Seattle. THAT tough.

Anyway, one summer, the entire staff, bar the imbecilic Head Teacher, took off for a weekend at The Randolph Hotel in Oxford. Emma's mother worked for the hotel chain and got us a discount.

We ate and drank, shared our amazing stories of life amongst the underclass, visited the
Ashmolean Museum and the Botonical Gardens, took the bus tour, and punted on the Isis.

('Do you remember when we went to David K's Spanish Class?' Carol nodded. ''Well,' I said, '
I switched the commentary on the bus to Spanish, and although the only words I recognised were a la derecha and a la izquierda -'right' and 'left'-everyone thought I was fluent because I turned my head in the right direction!'. Carol rolled her eyes. She's known me a long time.)

I rowed for Gloucester. I have written earlier of my exploits on the Gloucester to Sharpness Canal, and won't repeat them here. Why I should believe that rowing prepared me in any way to volunteer to punt, I will never know. But I did, and my colleagues, foolish and trusting, clambered in the strangely appointed vessel.

I won't say it's HARD to punt, exactly, it's not. It's just impossible to steer.

To the amusement of a collection of sightseers in the Botanical Gardens, I pushed the flat bottomed boat, at speed, from one side of the river to the other in an erratic zig-zag.

I don't know if you have ever punted: it's important for the punch line of this story to know that passengers have their backs to the front, and consequently can't see where we're headed. Which happened to be straight into the verdant tangle of a clump of waterside hawthorns.

The punch line? Duck! SERIOUSLY... Duck!!!!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Mission Impossible?

I'm not sure about prayer. My dear friend Caroline, is making a steady recovery from an aggressive cancer, and we prayed, so it could have made the difference,  but I rather wish she hadn't got sick in the first place so I prayed, 'Holy One, let no-one ever get cancer again...'  Takes a LOT of faith that one, and I'm not up to it, I guess.

Something got to me yesterday.  A light-headed joy that enthused the whole of my day.

I wondered whether I really wanted to get up and go to work at the Mission. Since the bust-up over John - he was deprived of his internship because, among other things, he didn't tow the line on hell, and he doesn't hold with Hebrews-having -been- written-by-Paul (Or-should-that-be-Peter?). I agree with him on both points, but have had the sense to keep quiet. You don't rattle fundamentalists and get away with it.

I don't want to give the wrong impression. The Missioners are very dear people, who have at least found a God that gets them off their pewsides and out onto the streets feeding people who probably will never give two hoots about who wrote the letter to the Hebrews.

Anyway, I went because I love the work.

It's the school hols.: we were short-handed, so I was glad I went. We pray like Protestants. More like telling God a story. Preamble, filling him in on the reasons why we're bothering him. Ramble - lengthy and heartfelt pleading for this and that. ├┤Gamble - kind of 'let's put it out there and see what happens'. I write this with affection. It's hard to convey tone, I don't think God minds. He has more patience than me.

Phil, the one who thinks Catholics are the spawn of the devil, was really friendly. I looked into his eyes and they met mine (always a good sign) he volunteered a hug, and he even told me a couple of jokes. Gosh, I'm thinking, (having got The Legion of Mary to pray for him) SOMETHING MAJOR has shifted here.

('What do you call a deer with no eyes?' 'No idea'. 'What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?' 'Still no idea.' I didn't say they were GOOD jokes.)

I volunteered to take a trolley full of food, with Tony,  to the Vaughn Centre: the day centre for the street people and addicts.

Eliza's waiting to go into rehab. She found an American cent on the street this morning. 'Look!' Sure enough, 'Liberty' on one side, and ' In God we Trust ' on the other. It's a sign, she's sure of it, and I hug her so tightly. She will die if she doesn't get off the stuff. For you, Liza, in God I will trust too.

Martha, the Slovakian is with a new, new man. Vlad, the old one, who beat her, fell into the canal and drowned last year. Zenco looks much kinder. I can but hope.

John lay sprawled across three chairs. He used to sit outside with the drinkers, but alcohol is now banned from the premises. John doesn't want any food, but summons up the energy for a brief chat.  He"s off the drink, but not the heroin. He's going to collect his prescription today and shut himself away and stay there until he doesn't need the drug any more. 'It's going to hurt like hell,' he says.  'I'll pray for you John,' I say, and God, I mean it.

There are Christians among them. Stan who's life I wouldn't want to live, and yet who's shining face and gentle smile speaks of serenity amidst this chaos. Robin, who belongs to a youthful and vibrant church shyly speaks of a  'gig' at The Guildhall on Saturday. I wish, right there and then, that my church had gigs. He's jubilant because after two years on the streets, he's finally been housed.

Pies, soup, fruit, chocolate, all dispensed, indiscriminately. Laughter and thanks, this week. I am uncomfortable with the gratitude, I really am.

Tony and I wheel our ridiculous little trolley back through the streets. The Mission Room is still open. Andrew and George are leaving. 'Come here my favourite men!' Something indescribable is bubbling up inside me. I think it's love. I manage to give them both a hug at the same time.

'You're such a tart' Andrew laughs. 'How right you are, ' I laugh right back, and kiss them both. It IS love.

Sandy is still sitting over her coffee. She's trans-gender and of all of our street people, she is the one that suffers the most, I think. She's beaming. The last time I saw her she was deeply depressed. 'You prayed for me!' I did. And I thanked God that I hadn't forgotten. Both times. Once for the visit to the psychologist that was the wrong date, and once on the right one... . SOMETHING'S CHANGED!

'You just have to tell them, Sandy, that this is who you ARE, not who you're trying to be.'

Mind you, I thought it politic NOT to ask The Legion of Mary to pray for a man to get the operation to make him a woman. I handled that one all on my own.

Time for Sandy to leave. I ask if I might give her a blessing. She accedes:

' May The  LORD bless you and keep you. May He  make His face to shine upon you and grant you His  peace.'

ALL of you.