Monday, 27 October 2014

#MicroblogMondays: "Hello From The Children Of Earth"

This message, engraved on a copper, disc, encased in gold, is one of many sent out in 1977, riveted to the probe Voyager, in the hope that an intelligent being will one day find, and hear it. The hope and optimism embodied in this amazing project is truly inspirational, especially when you realise that Voyager's next encounter with a star system is 40,000 years away ... 

Earth is now well into it's six, (or seventh, opinion is divided) mass extinction event. Don't take my word for it, check it out: 50% of species are being wiped out at you read this: - climate change, pollution, deforestation, it's happening, it's real, it's here, and pretending it isn't, no matter how forcefully, isn't going to change that. 

However, there is good news: it only takes a 7% of the population to wake up and work for change, to make it happen. Here's encouragement to do so from Professor Brian Cox, from "The Human Universe" (BBC2 Sunday 8pm):

"We are probably alone in the universe, and that makes us indescribably precious and valuable ... We are the only islands of meaning in an infinite sea of lonely stars ... We have the responsibility to work together as a civilisation to survive, and ultimately to explore those stars."

Let's go for it - for the sake of the children of Earth.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Reluctant Storyteller

 Admittedly, once the sun's gone down and you're all danced out, there isn't much to do in the desert ... 


I am 51 years old and aboard a Camel named Azell, at least by day, with eight members of Hazel Keyes Arabian Dance Class. Alright, we are belly dancers - having the time of our lives in the Sinai Desert. We have a support team that includes Giles the Oud player, Mohammed the drummer, and as many  male accomplices as could be persuaded to attend on us. Six, if my memory serves me right. Spouses and lovers of the dancers - men  who might be seen at every camp adorning the high places as if laying claim to all they surveyed. This may well  be what men need to do, I say, tentatively. We women were more interested in finding discreet places to pee. 


There are stories aplenty to be told: the horrendous  journey from Cairo to Sharm-el-Sheik in a minibus, being offered sex at the ghastly hotel there and quitting the scene at speed with my integrity intact, learning to ride and stay astride a camel ... Days of stark beauty nights under blazing stars ... 


And the dancingBetter demonstrated than described, but not here, not now, I don't have my coin belt and veil with me ... At sunrise, before breakfast,  the dancers, and accompaniment, would head off to a suitably stunning view above a patch of sand, lay down our mats, and practice whatever we were to perform after supper that evening back at the camp,which, by the way,  resembled Abraham's and was erected daily by members of Faranjela's clan. 


Fourth day in, Chris, our guide explained, as we scrambled down into Powder Canyon, and the sand underfoot WAS just like talcum powder - that this was part of the route the Israelites had taken out of Egypt into the Promised Land. 


To my utter amazement, none of the members of our party had any idea of what he was talking about, and Chris, unprepared for the level of interest, couldn't fill them in.


'Oh! I explained, You're talking about the Exodus!' And, encouraged to do so, I told the tale.' I can't believe you don't know this! I said, genuinely puzzled. "Why would we, we're from Stroud!" Was. Colena's response. (Colena who set fire to herself trying to smoke something she's picked in a very well-watered  plantation we found, and hastily left, in the middle of nowhere. We let her put herself out) 


For the rest of the holiday I was called upon every evening to tell a story. Fortunately, we arrived back at base camp during the Shipwreck of St Paul and I wasn't called upon to interpret the Book Of Revelation!

Monday, 20 October 2014

#MicroblogMondays:Ten Thousand Joys

Life, The Buddha taught is ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows.  Today, I am living with one of each. The wonderful celebration of my granddaughter's First Holy Communion and the confirmation of serious illness in someone close to my family. 

This is what life is, and many platititudes spring to mind in an attempt to ward off the blow that bad news deals to us. Tonight I am holding both events in my heart and remembering the wisdom of another great spiritual teacher: to weep with those who are weeping, and rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Doesn't seem like much, but sometimes  it's all we can do. 

Move towards those who are hurting, just be with them, when nothing can be said, just be. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

#MicroblogMondays: Windy Day

As the hedgerows were being tossed about, I paid attention to the colours: the pale yellows of the field maple and the vivid scarlet of the dogwood. Soon everrything will be bare and brown. But today the trees and bushes were gaudy and defuant, clinging to their finery for all they were worth.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Pink House

I have a special affinity for words that begin with "q" . "Quodlibet": light, frothy and insubstantial, usually, though  not always, of music. (It's of this blog, for starters.) Quidnunc: Gossip. Quotidian: Of the day. Routine. The purpose  of this blog is both to entertain myself - and anyone who drops by -   and to record for my family what it was like to be me. 

Here's the thing. We don't write letters or consign our thoughts longhand in spiral-bound journals anymore, or at least I don't,  and if my grandchildren are ever interested in what made me tick, they'd never know, and for reasons entirely to do with conceit, I want them to. Goodness knows how long I'll keep this nonsense up, but I've persevered for far longer than I anticipated, so the chances are I shall meander on for a while .

My daughter recently recorded her day on her blog, and I thought, "What an excellent idea" So I am about to do the same. I shall call it a "Wordshot" because a) I like ascribing new meanings to old words and q) it  sounds sexier than 'diary entry.' It will be a regular feature, unless I forget. So here goes:

WordShot Sunday 12th October 2014

8:00am Alarm

I lreally enjoy  those signs that say, "Warning This Door Is Alarmed", don't you? I love the thought of doors with feelings. I think there may have been a precedent with the lift in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' but I don't recall how that one felt, and am too idle to check it out. Anyway, I want to go up to the door and say, "I'm so sorry you're experiencing negative emotions associated with the anticipation of attack. Is there any thing I can do to make you feel better?" I don't of course, that would be silly. But I do carry stickers around with me that read, "This door is feeling a little under the weather." Keep your eyes peeled, you might spot one.

I time things to the minute. My friend Chris is picking me up today: at 8:45. So I'm in the bath, 8:40 and there's a knock at the door. Bugger. Chris later reports to Margareta, who was the other half of the lift to church, that the towel didn't cover all it should, but I think she was exaggerating for dramatic effect. "I will be ready at 8:45 Chris," I say, and to her amazement, I am.

Church is always uplifting. I have given up on the politics, and indeed, almost, on God, but nevertheless, this is my weekly dose of the numinous, which I think we should all have in our lives, and church is the least trouble (for me, anyway) and the cheapest source. I love doing the flowers, and singing the hymns. Father Tom from The Mission Field, an Irish ex-barman, gave the appeal on behalf of The Columbians, who are the sort of missionaries who build schools and tell people God loves them. I approve to the extent of slipping Fr Tom a fiver.

I enjoy time with Abigail who has to have a minder still, being only three. " I want to dance! "She shouts (Abs always shouts, it's her thing,) so her father plays another verse of the last hymn and she throws herself around with great enthusiasm, to the delight of those of us who haven't been able to do so for decades. 


Chris and I have a long chat in the car. We exclaim at the awful shade of pink my house has been painted by a well-meaning but possibly colourblind workman. "He was aiming for terracota" I say by way of an explanation. "Here's irony," I say, about to make reference to my work with street people, "There's a good chance I'm going to be homeless in the next few months!" I was being overly-dramatic , because it was my turn:  Ray and I have three homes we could land on if necessary. ( Seriously, kids!) We'd never have a problem getting another tenancy either, but this cottage has been my home for eighteen years now, and throwing away the stuff we'd have to grt rid of in order to move, would be a wrench. A remarkable thing happens. Chris immediately launches into the bare bones of a plan to buy a house for us to rent! I am amazed and deeply touched. 

11:00 - 1300

Cooking. Ray's been away a lot this week couriering ( if that's a word) for Skibbly, our son-in-law Darren's film production company. He has landed his dream job, travelling around Europe collecting the master-tapes for UEFA matches. Admittedly, he doesn't get ro see to much of Stockholm or Helsinki, but he does get to see the footie. The point of this aside, is to explain why all the vegetables have to be converted into dishes today, before they go off, Ray not having been around to eat them! Which reminds me, Oh My God, the mushroom casserole is still going in the slow- cooker! Back in a minute.

Phew! Ray turned it off before going to bed. It looks OK but smells like a fen. 

Afternoon Nap. An essential part of a sexagenarian regime.


The wanderer returns with tales of a 1-1draw. I learn what the Fins call themselves, and what the Greeks call them too. No translation, fortunately, especially of the latter

Dinner. Chicken roasted in the clay oven (fabulous!) and plates piled high with assorted vegetables. 

1700: Till Later

Playing solitaire on this iPad, counting my calories on MyFitnessPal, going on Edex to find out my score for Assignment Two for "The Art Of Poetry" Course  - 11/12 YES!!! 

I had to compare and contrast Emily Dickinson's " Because I could not stop for death.. " with another poem. I spent DAYS trying to find a second poem, then, in desperation, used one of my own. This is very naughty, but because I could do it without getting caught, I did. Well, I say, in an attempt  at a justification for my behaviour, there is no rule that says I COULDN'T. 

20:00 Bed. Body clock still scewed by early- morning wake-up calls for European flights. 

22:00 Wide awake. Dr Who in the bath (Bless you, ipad). Thinks: What can I do now, given that I'm not sleepy?

Blog. Goodnight. Pink House Follows. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

#MicroblogMondays: The Meaning of Vulnerable

I found this idea on my daughter's blog, and thought it a great one: to blog up to eight sentences on a Monday, just to keep going. Well that's one (and two) sorted.

I had a long chat with Gordon today at the Salvation Army Lunch for the homeless and vulnerable people on the streets of Gloucester. We talked about God and Brian - not that either of us have a very conventional view of the deity, just a feeling - Brian is our friend, who has been bullied out of the B&B he and Gordon shared, and I can't get hold of him to find out if he's OK. The word, 'vulnerable' suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. I hope by next Monday to have tracked him down. I'm about ready to bring him home.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Scouring The Universe

God within you wants to know Herself in you.

Sometimes whilst scourning the Universe looking for an answer to the unanswerable question,  "What Is the meaning of life? " I hear something that opens a window, and all sorts of things make sense. I'm not talking about TRUTH mind, as in something fixed, and eternal, no, just a glimpse of a something that makes sense for now. Tomorrow? Who knows? Tomorrow holds the promise of taking care of itself, which might necessarily mean bringing a different truth. There are, as you know as you get older, very few absolutes. 

There's the preamble. Here's the Amble:

I have just finished listening to a Dharma Talk (and I WILL write up my visit to Darlene's neighbours, the Buddhist Temple, soon, I promise... ) The  teacher today quoted my opening gambit, which bears repeating: God within you, wants to know Himself in you.

When I was in Sunday School way back in 1955, Miss Fleet ( Thin, old, bun, bicycle, lovely... ) told me that God is everywhere. A five year old just nods. Very little is known about the ever-widening world, everything makes complete and wonderful sense, and I just accepted it.  Of course I had no idea who God is, and that's perfectly OK, because I've hung around Her skirts for nearly sixty years now, and I still don't. I have learned that this is just fine with God, and also, to be a bit wary of people who tell me they do. 

At Baptism, I was taught,  God comes and lives in us. Don't know what for, exactly, though I have always hazarded a guess that  S/he popped in with the general aim of making me a better person, and good luck to  Him/Her: Frankly, I could use the help. However, I am struggling a bit to make sense of this, because if that were the reason, S/he doesn't aopear to be all that great at it. "God, "I might say, with real conviction, "You are pants at making us good." 

I am, as I have said before, a reluctant Theist. I believe in a Great Something Other, but have no idea what the GSO is. So, hearing that this pre-existing Entity IS indeed everywhere, but maybe not quite as I expected, is, well,  Quite Interesting. Getting to kmow Herself in me , eh? As if I were, as you are, and everything is, an expression of Her (Lord! Give English a gender-free pronoun!, PLEASE!) and He experiences who She is through every expression of Himself, which is the entire cosmos, of which I am grateful to be a teeny-weeny part.

As this is really too much for me to take in, I wrote a poem.

I invited God to tea. For If
(And I say IF) we are to become
We really ought to get to know one another better

It was a great success.

Though, unused to juggling a cup and a plate on 
His lap, God, 
Was a little awkward. Just at first - 
Shy, even.
But the cake went down well.
And for the rest?
He left me with a smile and a promise
Of great times ahead - 

And an invitation to tea,
For you.