Saturday, 1 November 2008
All bound up together like
Music and the journey of time
Only one of these hands
The other grapples the darkness
But suffering don't snuff out the light;
Sliding across circumstance
Towards a purpose
The fury of the clinch
Never outside the narrative
Monday, 6 October 2008
Learners from CALAT had been involved in a project on the theme of overcoming adveristy. The literacy groups had each read her book, 'Aim High', with each learner then doing a piece of biographical writing outlining a hardship that they had overcome in their lives. Next, the learners had their work published in a booklet which was given to Tanni on the day.
Brit School - A Script of Sorts
The event started off with an excellent performance by a group from the BRIT school who performed a piece called: 'Life: A Script of Sorts'. Combining music dance and personal writing, they were able to communicate as individuals their collective will to live and celebrate the experience at the same time. It was nice to see such a young group able to express a very positive sense of what life means to them, all the more poignant given their 'Script of Sorts' was developed in the context of working with children in a local hospice.
The Young Poets
Next a group of young poets took the stage by storm, using a variety of poetic forms inclusing the limmerick, diamante and shape poetry to express themselves on themes of achievement among others. As the Psalmist said (Pslam 8:2): 'from the lips of babes and infants you have established strength, because of your adversaries, that you might silence the enemy and the avenger'. Not normally one to misappropriate the Bible, I did feel that it was remarkable to see such young children writing and then reading poetry in front of such large crowds. Maybe the enemy and the avenger are illiteracy, ignorance and poverty which would seem automatically to occupy any space left by a lack of learning. So maybe education is a powerful weapon against such things; this is an argument that the children made for themselves as they demonstrated how rewarding it was for them to work with poetry and rhyme at a young age.
CALAT Literacy Learners
Our Literacy learners really did well, reading some very personal writing to a large assembled group of mostly strangers. Their work covered themes such as alcoholism, equal opportunities, the shame of illiteracy and memories from childhood. They stood up proud and we were proud of them. It was not difficult to see the value of their education as they delivered their work clearly and confidently one by one. One learner even said that the service had made a huge difference to her life. (Keep it coming!) Many other learners, although not present, had contributed to the booklet making for a real smorgasbord of a publication, with just enough of each story to leave you wishing to read more.
Lanfranc School Learners
The stories written by the Lanfranc learners were also a remarkable pointer to the value of investing in and supporting those in need who chose our country as a place of refuge. I know what we do is ultimately reckoned in terms of numbers and percentage; the value to the Lanfranc learners, though, of the input from their helpers and teachers did seem clearly to transcend such as a calculation.
Tanni Grey Thompson
Tanni then spoke for about half an hour talking about her early life, her athletics career and her life since retiring from the track. She is a very bright individual with a strong desire to succeed and seems never to have worn her impairment a reason to aim for anything other than the absolutely maximum she could achieve in her life. She won 16 Paralympic medals in her career including 11 golds. She deferred reitrement after Athens 2004 and only winning two Golds feeling that she still had unfinished business on the track. This is a philosophy that she seems still to be following today working as a mentor and coach to young athletes among other roles.
Read more about Tanni on Wikipedia
We All Have a Story
As her talk finished it was evident that we had not heard the whole story. Similarly, the learners were only able to read exerpts from their longer pieces. Collectively, there seemed to be a story rising up out of everyone, if only we'd had enough time to hear it all. I got the feeling that the total amount of narrative present in the audience had a greater mass than I had imagined. I even wanted to stand up and tell my story. In an atmosphere of trust, as the stories come out into the light, it does not seem at all unreasonable that the shadows of fear and laziness might gradually evaporate leaving clear a way ahead we thought we might never walk down.
Croydon Cultural Olympiad
Sunday, 21 September 2008
I remember the perspective of the table stretched out in front of me. A table lined with candle-lit food warmers like a road heading both ways out of the present into the past and future. You might remember a feeling that no matter where we came from, we have something in common.
Fear was not on the menu and didn't even get through the door: we had tempura, sushi, salmon, and some proper desserts. You might not have noticed the absence of the girl who taught us how to make tempura or the absence of committed drinking. I think I noticed the grace of the One who fills our lives with the potential and the reality of love and companionship. I think the Man who turned water into wine at Cana still likes parties.
Amos 9:14 4 'And I will bring back the exiles of My people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat the fruit of them.'
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Just got back from Orkney and a few other places in Scotland. I like being on tour. It was an excellent trip mostly spent with the family - both nuclear and extended plus a few days backpacking to boot.
I started in Edinburgh and spent some time with my Aunt and Uncle and my cousins. I saw a show at the Edinburgh festival which was a fairly mixed quality reviewed here in the Scotsman. It was great to see all the family here. Edinburgh is a lovely city but vastly overcrowded during festival time - my presence notwithstanding of course. Didn't really have enough time there but it was great to see everyone. Sadly, only one cousin shown here and she is not the guy with no hair.
On then to Aberdeen. A city I had wanted to see for some time and the only major city in Scotland I had not visited. I quite liked but I didn't really get on well at the hostel where I spent some time in fourteen-bed male dorm. Yes, it was noisy and smelly. How many times would you get up in the night multiplied by fourteen? I liked the museum and art gallery in Aberdeen though and was pleased to have seen the sparkling granite.
I then got the train up to Thurso which takes about seven hours from Aberdeen. The second part though, from Inverness, is a really nice trip along the coast. Sandra's backpackers in Thurso is a cool place. Sandra is a very nice lady and has made a nice space for travelers getting round Caithness or going off to Orkney as I was. You get a nice view of Hoy from the beach. The island sometimes appears in relief when the weather on Hoy is sunny and the weather in Thurso is cloudy. It gives an intriguing glimpse of what might lay in store over the water.
The ferry over to Orkney is great; you get to see the Old man of Hoy at no extra cost and trailed by a lot of seabirds during the crossing.
We were staying in Kirkwall which was a good location for seeing the mainland. The accommodation was above a shop on Albert St.
We drove down the causeways through the Southern Isles. The highlights were seeing the Italian church, the block ships and Churchill barriers. The village of St. Margaret's hope is a good place to have lunch if you can stand the midges.
We went up to Marwick head and saw the Kitchener memorial which stands in a great location full of wildlife. Here we saw Great Skuas gliding above the cliffs on thermals. Then, driving round the north of the Island, we passed through the village of Evie and visited the Broch of Gurness; a much preserved two-thousand year old village. Life eback then looked pretty cold with everyone also living at very close quarters.
Iain arrived and we went out to see some of the main sites of historical interest on the island. We started at Skara Brae which is an outstanding old village next to a really nice beach; Skail Bay. No wonder they decided to build their village there. After that we went on to Maeshowe which is thought to be some kind of burial chamber although when it was discovered there was nothing inside expect Viking graffiti saying something like 'we stole all the treasure'. The mainland also has some stone circles to visit with slabs of quite considerable size.
In the morning Iain and I looked round the cathedral and saw a scripture on a plack that he had told me about the previous day, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you." Ephesians 5:14. Then we walked round the Earl's and the Bishop's palaces. In the afternoon we went to Scapa Bay and saw Oyster Catchers in quite large numbers then went on to the pier arts centre in Stromness which has a great collection upstairs and is housed in a very contemporary building.
We went out to Birsay and checked out the ruins of another village. This one was rather modern though - only eight hundred years old. Then we walked round the mini-island there. In the cliffs we saw what we believe to be Guillemots nesting in the dramatic cliffs there. Also, there were some birds diving for fish that may have been 'divers' of one sort or another. It was pretty much a case of packing in the evening but we managed to get a nice Chinese meal in too.
Back to Inverness
We drove back to Inverness via Dunnet Head and John O'Groats. It was interesting to see the west coast and we stopped off for tea on the way. Inverness was quite busy compared to Kirkwall and it was a bit of a shock to the system checking into the Student Backpackers Hostel which was a metal-loving, hard-drinking joint whether you didgeridoo or you didgeridon't. It was nice to see the river and atmostphere on the weekends. The locals say that the town has changed a lot in the last ten years for the better. The castle there is used as a court now which creates a slightly uneasy mix of tourists and defendants hanging around the same space.
We had meal out a restaurant next to the river for Mum's birthday where they served a pretty decent steak I must say.
Nobody had done any major socio-cultural rennovations on South London since I had been away. Back in the news loop and getting fed lots of downbeat economics forecasts and trying to cut down on my sports news intake. Wondering if Orkney still exists or it disappears when you get back to London.
Saturday, 19 July 2008
The photos in this clip are principally from East Dorset, just east of Dorchester around the Jurassic coast between Weymouth and Bridport.
The youth hostel was in a little village called Lyton Cheney. I think all it had there was a pub, a phone box and a nice little stream. The nearest shop was about four miles away.
The sunset in West Bay was a fantastic colour and it was good to be there.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Sitting in the waiting room of the dentist’s up the road and feeling a bit edgy
I had plenty of time to consider whether it was a mistake on my part giving up being a veggie
As these and other subjects passed through my mind I thought I heard the sound of drilling
But it wasn’t a drill; it was a littlun’ jamming a handheld fan into carpet which he seemed to find quite thrilling
With my appointment time far in the distance I was ushered into the surgery
My admission to the dentist that I hadn’t been for four years was no act of purgery
Realising I might be a bit anxious he give me a good vibe
Which I hung onto for the next ten minutes praying that I would survive
In fact with no sign of decay all I needed was antibiotics for a gum infection
Surprise, surprise: my vision of rampant, irretrievable decay was just a projection.
Later on Dad came round and we worked together to put an iron gate back on its hinges
It looks better swinging there than it did under an overgrowth of Lilac on the front garden’s fringes
I got the chances to use a drill myself to make holes in the wall and did not baulk
Marking a guide hole, getting the bit to bite and giving it some torque
I felt pretty good about myself and even better that the holes were in the brick
A more appropriate substance for drilling in than my one of my back teeth, however sick.
That’s me on the phone and getting into a bit of a stinker
Trying to get Comet or Epson to do a warranty repair on my printer
I finally ascertained an engineer who would have a look locally
I checked the address and mumbled about my bad luck with printers vocally
The centre on
It was the sort of industrial unit you might expect to find in Waddon
The receptionist was polite and called down the engineer
Apparently casual dress is not an inhibiting factor in that career
We talked about the main issue which was that the paper was not grabbing
He went back up stairs got a pair of big pair of tweezers, a stip of cupboard and proceeded to shove that it
He looked like a surgeon fishing around for a bullet
Imagine my surprise when he located an old pencil jammed in the guts of the machine and out he did pull it
A moment of twinkle; a birthing; a miracle
But it was hard for the receptionist not to be cynical
‘That’ll do it everytime’ she quipped as the pencil hit the desktop
I thought about saying ‘Oh wow, I was looking for that!’ and then I thought, ‘no stop’.
It is better to say nothing and act like engineers pull pencils from the guts of printers every day maybe they should
And, well, if they talk about me when I am gone all well and good.
Saturday, 14 June 2008
You can get most of the way without going on the roads which is nice and some parts of the river and just spectacular. It is still a powerful river at points which has supported a lot of industry and many mills in its day. It felt good to be on the land as it is, as opposed to what we have put on it.
We passed through a number of points that held memories for me including Wilderness Island near Mill Lane, Beddington Park where we met Tom and Stacy. The park itself borders my old school. That river we were cycling on was the very same river I fell into on a regular basis after the hurricane in 1987. We used to walk from one side of the river to the other across fallen logs with varying degrees of success. How well I remember the smell of pond water emanating from my socks (if that is not too pleasant a concept to reflect upon).
Following the river was interesting in that I knew various points along its length quite well, but did not previously know the whole picture. It was fascinating to cycle through ancient looking riverside woods to pop up next to a road a have got the bus down a thousand times. Gradually an overall sense of its course, above and beyond its sections I have known formed in my imagination.
One way or another that river has wound itself through many times and seasons of my life and riding along it today reminded me of a lot of that. The more I think about it, the more it blows me away. Everything we need for life is in the river and its beautiful: the river is a journey; the river is a story; the river is wealth; the river is the economy; the river is the painting; the river, it doesn't stop.
"[Jesus] ...the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14 RSV)
Sunday, 1 June 2008
'Forty Years of Bliss'
It is an interesting irony that everyone seemed to able to share: that the day to day realities of a marriage are sometimes less than entirely blissful.
My mum and dad's friends had these T-shirts made up for their fortieth wedding anniversary. It was a joke that nobody failed to get. I don't think my generation is going to be able to laugh in the same way. To laugh at that means you are getting through the problems. To laugh means you do not think you will be beaten by the problems. To laugh means it has been worth it whatever the cost.
My people: I think a lot of them are going to give up. I don't think my generation is going into this thing with the same attitude. I don't want to be too hard on us; we have good qualities. We can be egalitarian, globally responsible, humane and considerate. But getting through forty years of marriage is not a calling as many of us are going to sign up for.
It was a lovely day with a real collection of family, family friends and absent friends. Adjacent to the day itself were memories shared of other, similar parties held in the garden at my parents' house. Like their twenty-fifth anniversary where some friends and I played some very rough rock covers in the back garden; the singers voice coming through a bass amp. As bad as it may have been as a performance it was much recalled today along with various synonyms for 'drunk' to describe the mental state of the musicians.
They often quote that African saying on World Service, 'it takes a village to raise a child', especially in debates about correcting the misdemeanors of wayward British youth. What struck me today was that, perhaps, it takes a lot of friends to make a marriage. There were about thirty-five people there and most of them I have known all my life. A great big crowd of moral support and affirmation; a crowd stood together like so many antarctic penguins keeping each other warm.
So, it can be hard work like a marriage, just doing the next right thing one day at a time and trusting God for the results. It helps me to remember the God's son knows a thing or two about suffering and endurance:
We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in Heaven, the one next to the throne of God.For just a moment today, when the sun came out and we made our toasts to mum and dad, and we all shared a sense of love, admiration and respect knowing that it couldn't have been easy, no one was thinking about the hard times really even though we laughed at the T-shirt, I thought well maybe Heaven is a bit like this. Because when it's over, it's over. You don't think about having had to wait for the kettle to boil when you are drinking your cup of tea. The house of cards falls neatly back into the pack. Wounds heal. Friends meet. You recognise the face of someone you deeply love and have always known. You put the bag down. Ronnie Barker takes off his awful shoes and everything's all right forever.
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Why does it always rain on me?
Getting back out there into the wilds of British weather one more time. Camping always seems to be such a mix of horror and joy; the horror of the physical adjustment to the real elements and relative discomfort compared urban apartment lifestyle.
It was lovely go away with a bunch of guys who knew each other pretty well on the whole. We had a little community there for a few days which functioned pretty well. Trying to organise nine people to leave at the same time to go on a walk is a bit of challenge; usually the only person I have to organise is myself. I liked the practice I had in putting common welfare before my own. Interestingly, this community exists anyway in the fellowship of sobriety operating remotely by means of technology; if it weren'tr operating in the background it would not be able to spring to life fully-functioning within a few hours of all the participants arriving.
Then coming back to the city is a bit of a shock for a number of reasons. Among them are going back to to a state of 'apartment' as opposed to sharing space as well as feeling the roots connecting me to the natural world retracting up into me like a snails antlers.
When the sun shines, camping is the inevitable and logical holiday choice and always will be. After three days of rain, it is another character building test putting the relative physical comfort into perspective. I am all for character building and just glad that holidaying in the UK offers such persistent opportunities for such growth
It was nice to see friends coming out of themselves too. Personalties and characters seemed softer and truer somehow framed against a backdrop of green and grey. I feel hope strengthened espeically by the prospect of getting back out there again ASAP.
It is a beautiful world in spite of the pain.
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
I got my usual weekly delivery from TESCO today. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had not charged me for a batch of grapefruit, listing them as out of stock, although they had in fact delivered them. On second thoughts, I tried to give them back to the driver but he wasn't having any of it. TESCO was, he assured me a multi-million pound company which would not miss a few grapefruit.
I recalled that the last time I had an over-delivery of grapefruit, about 25 fruits, I got through half of them before I was conscience stricken into a sour case of inaction; the remaining fruit condemned to a no-mans land area under sink until they went off.
I know myself too well these days and I try not to do things that would give my conscience cause to have a go at me. So I hit upon a strategy of emailing the company to let them know about the error in the delivery, telling them that the fruit had in fact arrived: ten grapefruit, five red and five yellow, only one of which appeared on the bill. I continued that I was planning to eat the fruit but that I was happy to pay for them and encouraged them to charge me.
TESCO's got back to me pretty promptly:
Re: Extra grapefruit delivery
Thank you for your email. I'm very sorry that we have delivered you itemsSusan was on a similar food plan to me. We take our food around in Tupperware boxes not being able to guarantee that the destination will be able to serve what we require to stay healthy.
that were not part of your order. I can advise that I am happy to let you
keep these items without charging you for them. Once again, please accept
my apologies for the inconvenience caused. Thank you for letting us know
Kind Regards etc.
There were lots of foods she needed to steer clear of but I am pretty sure she was OK with grapefruit. We lost her this week and I just thought, if she knew about the grapefruit, she would have laughed: double-portions of good healthy food arriving free of charge courtesy of a multi-national. Keep it coming.
Honest like a rock
The winds of grief slow
To a broken whisper
It tastes like the truth
Honest like a rock
And thoroughly true
God’s love pursues us all
This rock cannot be broken
Flint on the falsehood
Let’s get to the truth
A dark curtain blazing with light
Love bears all
The responsibility of grief
With love from Andrew (Tupperware Crew Member)
Monday, 14 April 2008
We are, though, about finish the season again without winning anything and whilst that does matter, it is not true that nobody remembers you unless you win. The dutch team of the seventies will always be remembered for playing total football although they lost 2-1 to Germany in the UEFA European Football Championship of 1978.
That's a bit of a consolation but our weaknesses too are evident: the lack two or three experienced players; the need for a galvanising captain; Wenger's unwillingness to buy established, mature names in the football world.
Whatever his shortcomings, however, the fact of his ability and craft as a manager is beyond doubt. How sad, then, to hear the treatment given to him by some Manchester United fans in the stands. Football songs can be intelligent, funny, topical and incisive. They can also be slanderous, negative, nasty and mean. Their songs about Wenger are unrepeatable and horrific. Another favourite was a song about Eduardo's injury suggesting that he will walk like Heather Mills as a result of his injury.
I guess I am asking myself: well, what did you expect? And the answer, I suppose, is that I don't see why fans cannot afford a degree of respect for one another and that the domain of humour should not include abusive personal slander and laughing at the tragic misfortune of others.
The thing about the Eduardo injury is that it really hurt Arsenal fans, myself included. It wasn't just the seriousness of the injury in terms of his career, how gruesome it appeared and obvious pain and discomfort it must have caused him though. Seeing the fragility of a talent just coming to terms with the premiership cut down by misfortune, our hopes for this year seemed to die that day. Maybe our hopes were too fragile.
It is enough to make you have a few days off football and just focus on something less emotive, like geo-politics. Only joking. I am going to lay down my burdens, down by the riverside.
I ain't gonna study war no more....
Saturday, 12 April 2008
Like millions of others each year, I visited Graceland and whilst not exactly going in as an Elvis fan I certainly left as one. It's not that I actually listen to a lot of the music but that if anyone has to be King of rock'n'roll then it is him. Seeing the passion and belief of elvis reflected throughout the accounts of his close friends and family was quite an eye-opener - his daughter imploring him before the concert to include 'How Great Thou Art' in the set list - Lisa again describing that you could feel his energy precede him as he commenced down the central stiarcase at Graceland, his hair and outfits prepared to perfection in anticaption of greeting his guests.
As much as some of the accounts of Elvis suggested a character a little larger than life, my conviction was that he was a believer; certainly a believer in his ability, art, voice, and music; surely a believer in his family; with a deep personal belief in God and commitment to gospel music.
I don't know much about Elvis' personal experience of his faith but I know what he sounds like when he sings the gospel and, guess what? He sounds like he believes it. According to all the abounts of his life and work in Memphis and Nashvile he simply didn't do things that he didn't believe in. I may not like everything he recorded or even half of it, but he scrutinized each and every new song he was offered before decidinng to recording.
That he was troubled and addicted to prescription drugs doesn't lead me to question his belief in God. I can hear him reaching up in the high notes and you know he wasn't singing about himself. If he anything, the stars who cut their teeth on gospel music before getting hooked up with their own stardom may even make the best job of singing it: I see Elvis searching himself in his performance for the simple knowledge of God beyond a time and place where the world and the flesh have any say of his thoughts and behavior. King of rock n roll is one thing- king of the universe that's something else.
Don't take my word for it- youtube me Elvis right now!!!
Thursday, 10 April 2008
What is going to happen next in my life? How quickly will my hair fall out? Are the people who are my friends today going to move to Switzerland never to be seen again? Will anyone in London say 'yes' to a social engagement being diarised (I know you love that word) less than two weeks in advance?
These are some of the questions my mind wanders to in idle moment, leading off with the most important about the hair. I know there are other concerns but not being a homeowner I am not that bothered by the drop in house prices. I don't fancy a global economic recession much though.
It is exciting to think that even my mistakes can be turned into something worthwhile in the hands of an infinitely wise and compassionate Creator. I learned this making a few real mingers and that He has been able to work out pretty well. It's not that I am planning any more exactly but today I feel a confidence that once the mess is in his hands, it can work out all right.
The people urging me to stay on the boat (Sensational Nightingales - Stay On The Boat CD) are making a powerful biblical story into a good gospel song but is that all? No, they are singing out of their experience that if you hang in there it will work itself out. Believing that in the middle of the chaos is a matter of faith but not blind faith. You wouldn't sing the song if it hadn't proved true for you and wouldn't try to communicate it if it wasn't something you thought others could rely on.
Is it so hard to believe that things will be OK in the end if I trust in God? After all, I didn't create myself, all I created was the mess. If I can get out of the way long enough the Choreogrpaher can get moving and starting putting it all back together. This believe is, in a sense, a call to live since both fear of making a mistake and a superstitious view of God's will are both counteracted by the sentiment of the principle. As a man said: Romans 8.28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Just came back from the USA where I felt right at home. A country in which 'the state' seemed largely in the background, in stark contrast to the constant interventions that take place over here in the UK. There had just been a storm in Atlanta which was being cleared up. I don't exactly know who was doing it but it didn't appear to involve a huge intervention by the state and an invasion of traffic cones. They were doing just fine too.
Over here the state seems to be absolutely everywhere. I am not much of a political thinker, but there has to be a way to provide decent social security without all the mind-boggling red tape and nonsense. I just know that I'd love to have the freedom felt by many Americans with cars and a bit of money while having some of the social security enjoyed in Europe. Quite useful if you are well; very useful if you are sick. Put your hand up if you are sick of control.
The UK gov. seems to want it both ways: free-markets which they control. E.g. In post-compulsory education, anyone can bid for contracts but if you actually get one, the only way your gonna keep it is by conforming absolutely to their aims, objectives and targets. Not all that free, really. It was quite funny hearing one or two gentlemen from the South describing the centre-left governments in Europe as communist as, to be honest, they must seem so to some republicans.
I know that America is called 'the land of the free.' I am also aware of the crimes that have been recently committed in the name of spreading democracy. The irony is, there is a lot of freedom over there - it's just that it is not easily exported. I loved the fact that the Americans I met were not buried under X layers of irony and self-evasion. Many just seemed to call it as they saw it. Why not? Why can't I say have a nice day and mean it. The cynicism in this country (especially in my head) just really gets in the way of living.
I think it is worse in London as well. We are all sort crammed into this little space with everyone competing for a little bit of space on the pavement (I really want to say sidewalk). People are rushed, stressed and aggressive. We get overloaded with work and weighed down by time-fascism. And what's the point? A better man than me said: 'the only thing counts is faith expressing itself in love.' (Gal 5.6) If you can come up with anything better that let me know.