Friday, 31 July 2015

I See ...

I am the real thing behind these eyes

These bright blue eyes

Widening in delight at this stellar world

Made new right now, and now, and now.


I will not name you, or place you in a box,

I will watch you slip and slide through every moment

Making no sense, just falling apart,

Weak with laughter.


NOTHING lasts. Everything comes

And goes, like weather, or tides.

What is there to do, but

Realise my debt to life and

Trade sorrow for joy?

Enlightenment At Last!

When I preach the gospel to the crucified people I meet on the streets, I hold hands and say little beyond, "Know who you really are. Infinitely loved, infinitely precious." Nothing else matters, truth be told.

I used to believe that to be "Saved" was to hand yourself over into the care of a deity, who would then make sure everything worked out for you, especially after you died. I am so glad that I never, as far as I know, convinced anyone. It simple didn't occur to me to realise that a cosmos in which the vast majority of conscious beings ( a much more satisfactory term than 'human' beings) were condemned to hell fire, made absolutely no sense at all. In fact, at no time, ever, did I actually believe this, much less pass it on. The mystery I still call God, simply wouldn't do such a thing, and I know this, or I know nothing.

I used to joke about that: knowing nothing, I mean, though I didn't really believe it. I was proud of my achievements: overcoming a set of fairly minor obstacles to become a reasonably successful professional became my identity. My story.

One day, I was telling my story, when I woke up. It was that sudden. Somehow, possibly out of sheer boredom, that who I really am flooded into Being, and I stopped.

I don't tell the old stories any more. I am just here, experiencing a raw, splendid and joyous existence,, so vivid, so different from the pedestrian me tied to the past, trying to make a future ... The Kingdom of Heaven is how one teacher put it, is here, now and within.

Well, yes, I'm still grumpy, selfish and unreasonable, still capable of monumental foolishness. This too, is who I really am. Infinitely loved, infinitely precious. Not the stories I tell about myself. Just me.

This post was prompted by Dr David Parrish's book: "Enlightenment Made East: Discovering The Obvious" It's free with Kindle. Which makes it amazing value

You can't become what you already are. That's about it, really. You either get it, and stop telling a story, and start living a life, or you don't  Simples.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

I Wrote To My MP ...

Dear Mark Harper,

There follows a statement put out by War On Want that crystallises my

concerns about the TTIP trade agreement.


I have been following the debate in the U.S. for well over a year, so

was alerted to the secrecy surrounding the agreement, the lack of any

kind of public scrutiny, and the power TTIP gives to American

Corporations, which is particularly scary, as they have an appalling

record with regard to issues such as workers' rights, and the

protection of the environment. Bearing in mind that U.S. corporations

have the same rights under American law as individual citizens, I find

that giving them the right to sue the UK over any environmental, health

and safety , or employment legislation, enacted to protect UK citizens,

extremely worrying.


It does seem rather ironic that, when we are about to embark on a

referendum over sovereignty, that the loss of sovereignty that TTIP

will invoke is not under scrutiny. Frankly, if staying in the EU

involves signing up to this trade deal, I will vote for leaving, a

position I never thought to take.


What I am seeking reassurance about in particular is:Will the TTIP

agreement be able to be used by foreign nationals to challenge and

change operating practices within the UK, particularly those relating

to the NHS and workers' conditions of employment? Is the loss of 'one

million jobs' a possibility, however remote?

What is your take on the secrecy surrounding the TTIP negotiations? Do

you believe this secrecy works to the advantage or disadvantage of

democratic debate?


Will there be any opportunity at all for opposition to TTIP to be

effectively voiced and acted upon within and outside Parliament?

In conclusion, here's the piece put out by "War On Want" that alerted

me to the fact that the grave concerns of those of us working with

vulnerable communities, have crossed the Atlantic:


"When cancer patient Paul Giles heard that the EU-US trade deal known

as TTIP might affect health services in the UK, he travelled to

Brussels to find out more. But Paul’s questions were met with silence.

That’s because the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

(TTIP) is being negotiated behind closed doors. In fact, the EU has

confirmed that all key documents relating to the agreement will remain

closed to the public for 30 years. But why all the secrecy?

Governments and big business are relying on lack of public awareness in

order to rush through TTIP and seal the deal without too much

resistance. But what are they afraid of? They know there would be an

outcry if people knew what was in store.

If TTIP goes ahead it will cost at least one million jobs. It will pave

the way for the introduction of genetically modified food into Europe.

It will irreversibly extend the privatisation of key public services

such as the NHS. And it will give US corporations the power to sue the

UK and other states for loss of profits when these governments

introduce public policies designed to protect their citizens. "


Yours sincerely,


Mary Francis

#MicroblogMondays: Belly-Dancing And The Book of Exodus

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. 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 dancing! Better demonstrated than described, but not here, not now, I don't have my coin belt and veil on 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!

And ... A poem:

It is my fifty-first birthday. As I recall the magic of this day, I am reminded of my strength and my resilience and am full of laughter. I hope this comes through in the writing.

A Work of Heart

To write this poem, 

I planted my feet,

Strong, bare feet,

Firmly, in the sand.

I raised my arms, then, 

Dropped them, as I was taught,

To my shoulders.

Aligning my palms to the strengthening sun,

I waited,

Alert, for the words

To drift, or bounce or slide




          With the music.

I lifted my head and

Listened, listening,

For the deluge.

Quietly at first...

Trilling over my fingertips

Snaking down my arms

Shivering across my shoulders

Thrumming through my breast

Shimmying with my hips




Clapping with my hands

Stamping with my feet -

The poem came!


                    I DANCED.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

#MicroblogMondays:Normal Service Will Be Resumed ...


... When I'm back off my hols. I am vacationing in Switzerland: here is a photo! of St Moritz, to prove it. As nobody's holiday snaps are as interesting as we would like them to be, I'm going to spare you the mountains, forests, waterfalls and etc. I will let you know that we're having a heatwave, and the beer is good, but that's IT! I am going to tell you a story.

Actually, I'm cheating, this is a story that I posted a year ago. But I like it, a lot, so I'm popping it back up. Here you are. Enjoy!

The Slighted Wife

It's an  uncommon joy for a writer is to be handed a story on a plate. So, just as it enfolded, authentic in every detail, here it is:

Join me on the 678 bus from Gloucester to Newent, via Taynton. It's 1315, and the day threatens rain.

"He's fifty-one next month. I saw him at my father-in-law's funeral four months ago. I certainly wouldn't fancy him NOW."

This isn't the beginning of the story, of course it isn't, but it sets the scene, giving us a taste of what is to come, a detail, and an intimation that not all is well. Stories must have a touch of this. Too happy, and who cares? Other people's happiness is of little consequence, though we wish them well. Too sad - and we are left bereft. Come on people! Life can't be all bad!

Our chief protagonist holds centre-stage - the front left-hand seat on the Community Bus, that can take fourteen, according to the sign, but holds just eight of us, including me and Brian. (See'Life of Brian')

She is looking good for sixty- seven. "He was," She says, "Sixteen years younger than me." I did the maths. White hair neatly styled and shoulder length, casually but smartly dressed.

I am going to call him John, and that might even have been his name. His father owned the pub at Apperly where our lady, whose name I do not know, served behind the bar.

"He was twenty-one. I told him to get lost at first, but after a year we got together. He was drunk all the time. A right clown."

A divorcee with her own home and the attributes of a good barmaid. Not a total idiot then ...

Why, we wonder, not unreasonably, would she take up with a drunk? We get the feeling that our friend is not going to make good decisions. It turns out that we are right.

So they married, and he was good to her boys, and then one day he crashed the car drunk, and he never drank again. At this point we had high hopes of a swift and happy ending, but it was not to be.

"I left him, and it was MY house. Never got a penny, I was too upset to get a lawyer." The empathy-monitor is now in the red, and we all cluck in horror, except Brian. Who, has, I think, an entirely different take on the story. The bus driver concentrates on the winding road.

"How long were you married?" Asks Dot, anxious to get some closure before she has to alight  in Tibberton.

"Twenty-three years." We gasp. My calculating mind puts the hapless rogue in his forties and things begin to fall into place.

"His new wife is only twenty-three, the daughter of one of his father's customers. She's been after him since she was fourteen!"

We had all been fourteen once, and know the score.

"His sister won't have anything to do with him because of the way he treated me!" Justice, it seems, has been served.

"I had his youth though! And I wouldn't have him now. You should see how fat he is."

We won't, of course, but can imagine him. Balding, overweight, with builder's bum and shirt agape over a tight belly. We are all consoled by the fact that she had his youth, and sigh with relief.

Not the happiest of endings, perhaps, but it'll do.





Monday, 13 July 2015

#MicroblogMondays: I Am Thinking About ...

Soft toys!

I don't recall owning a soft toy as a small child. I guess there must have been one around somewhere in the mix, but it obviously wasn't that appreciated. A story that my parents told against me for EVER was that, when I was a tot, I swapped my brother's soft baby-blue teddy for a mankey old brown one ... I don't remember this at all, but really, I wouldn't put it past me, sibling rivalry being what it is.

I am (perpetually) clearing out the shed and the spare room, and still finding a variety of cuddly items left behind by my daughters. Some are gifts from discarded boyfriends, I suspect, though I'm too polite to enquire .... (They're off to the Charity Shop next week girls, so if you want them, come and get them!)

Actually I'm a bit of a softie myself, so I may very well NOT give them away, it seems a betrayal of trust, almost!

Have you come across the "Calvin and Hobbes" cartoons? Calvin is a very small boy, and Hobbes is his alter ego, coming to us in the form of a stuffed tiger. They are philosophers both, and the inspiration for this post. I follow them on Twitter, and I tell you, I could do worse.




Friday, 10 July 2015

I Can Think Of A Million Reasons

I can think of a million reasons to be sad,


And I honour them all:

The suffering of innocents

The agony of the guilty

The death throes of this poisoned world.

(Yes! You HAVE to face it!)


There doesn't seem a lot of point to it all, to be frank.


No. None.


I could stop. Right there, except ...

Something rises up in me

Something light, and infectious

Like laughter, only, without sound.

Like joy, but somehow deeper,

If you know what I mean.


I shall, therefore, gallop through this day

With a smile.

A pointless, foolish,



Wednesday, 8 July 2015

And The Hawk Tipped His Tail

I tell you, it was the swallow that set me off -

Swan-diving over the lane, air-fishing for bugs

Effortless, just beautiful!

After the hawk, tipping his tail, glided away to the right,

Mobbed by a frantic parent-bird,

Reckless in defence of her young.

"You see?" I said, as if

Talking to God, "This life

Is sweet, and dangerous -

And I love it! Every foolish, feckless,

Breath of it ..."


And I held my breath as if to test the length of it

And sighed, deeply, with something like




Monday, 6 July 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Summer Rain

Summer rain in thick, sharp bursts,
Punctuates an uneventful afternoon -
For me that is -
Because, as this world turns, the place where I was a moment ago
Is desert, and weeping.
Do not you think, that even on this ordinary day,
My heart forbears to swell with gratitude: You see,
I am content, and my life
Is a merry dance ...


Dan Brown And The Kingdom of Heaven

I thoroughly enjoyed The Da Vinci Code - book and film, not least because of it's capacity to force people who should, think again about their faith.

I am prompted to the Da Vinci Code comment because I am reading, "The Wisdom Jesus" by Cynthia Beaugealt, who draws on The Gospel of Mary Magdelene to make her point that Jesus was quite Zennish in his approach. CB prompted me to ask some pretty fundamental questions about the teachings of Jesus that had never occurred to me before. Why SHOULD he teach in parables, for example? Why not just come out and say stuff? Parables are inherently unsatisfying - especially the ones about people hiding treasures in fields, that sort of thing. They play on the mind. Well, there you have it! What the brain can't fully grasp, it never lets go of. I have noticed this - 'The Kingdom of Heaven is like a crossword clue that you can't get, but might ... " the old grey matter chews it over and over until a light goes on and "Eureka!" Is heard throughout the land. 

I love going to church, to hold in my hand and in my mouth the essence of God herself and KNOW beyond thinking, that We are becoming One. It's a deeply mystical encounter that takes me out of myself and into everybody else. Is this what the church teaches? Well, sort of. 

Frankly, you can keep much of the rest. Sorry, fellow believers, I can't be doing with male supremacy, dodgy saints, self-serving prayers and lives lived filled with guilt and emptied of compassion.

Uh-oh, the Bhuddist that sits on a cushion in the back of my head is whispering, "Judging mind!" And I have to sigh and respond with, "Too bloody right!" And Enlightenment eludes my grasp once again. 

I cling as precariously to my Catholic faith as ever I did, often wondering why. Then Pope Francis comes along and sticks his head out of a window in Rome and advises the church to get its hands dirty, 

I am quite looking forward to see how this translates into action. I hear he's getting a lot of stick. "The Red Pope!" Is being bandied about like it was an insult. 

Go for it Your Holiness. If Church doesn't serve the poor, it isn't serving its Founder. 

As for the Da Vinci Code, well: a great story. Mary of Magdala has been pretty much written out of official church history despite her impressive discipleship (SHE didn't leg it when things turned nasty ... ). She obviously loved her teacher with a tender passion that I really hope brought him joy. 


 PS: Enquiries into the catholic order "Opus Dei" went through the roof following the publication of The Book. I know this because I checked it out myself, and saw the hits. A tad too rigorous for my haphazard approach to sanctity, but this could be a good thing ...