Friday, 25 May 2012

Cornwall



I wrote a post recently about living a good story.  So what that looks for us now is... going to Cornwall!  Ever since we went on our honeymoon, we've wanted to get back down to that end of the country.  But we're not just going on holiday... when we were down there we heard about a House of Prayer that had been recently built.  And when we looked into it more, we saw that they were looking for volunteers to help out, welcome people, etc, as it's open to anyone to come to.  So, that's what we're gonna do!  And somewhere in the mix I think we're going to be helping out with Jubilee barbeques and doing creative workshops and who knows what else!  Hopefully we'll get some surfing in too... :-) 

Can't wait to be staying in a caravan again, and be away from everything, and near sandy beaches, and QUIET... looking forward to being still.  I think that's what we need right now.

Hooray.


Monday, 21 May 2012

Shutterland



Last Thursday I went to see a performance by Rhum & Clay Theatre Company.  As I've said before, it's currently Brighton Festival AND Brighton Fringe so there's literally hundreds of events going on.  It's pretty hard to decide what to hit, so I took the easy option and chose 'Shutterland' because I knew one of the four guys in it.  I studied Theatre Studies A-level with Julian, and was keen to see what he'd been up to over the past few years as I knew he'd done plenty of drama training.  I also decided to see it because it was physical theatre, which we focussed a lot on at A-level, and I really enjoyed using my body as much as my voice to convey a message.

I loved doing drama, and we saw some amazing shows over the two years, but I have to admit I've hardly been to the theatre since then.  Don't really have a good excuse, and then gradually you forget you enjoy something.  So seeing Shutterland was such a treat, and it didn't disappoint.  I think I grinned throughout the whole hour, just taking everything in... delighting in their creativity and innovative use of props, lighting, sound, voice, bodies... everything had clearly been carefully dreamed up and woven together to convey a powerful message.  The message of being watched, of surveillance, and fighting 'the system', was serious yet communicated with humour, surrealism and powerful visual moments.

So thank you, Rhum and Clay, for your creativity and passion, and for inspiring me, and reminding me of something I love.  Go check them out if you get the chance!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Think she might have a point...

"It's almost like we've gone back to the Fifties.  Women are allowed to have a career and children, but they're also expected to balance the two while looking sexy and perfect.  I have a theory that 9/11 changed things dramatically.  We've gone back to a petrified, war-time mentality.  I think that's why music, in particular, has started to reflect this very all-singing, all-dancing, Broadway-like entertainment that we see in the charts at the moment.  Because it's a distraction and nobody - when they're scared - wants to exercise feelings of negativity".

Shirley Manson of Garbage in an interview with Stylist Magazine, May 16th 2012, p.60

Monday, 14 May 2012

Hooray for Friends!

Yesterday, Adele (plus lovely hubby and gorgeous daughter!) and Paula came round.  We sat in my sunny living room and ate cake and drank tea and talked and relaxed and it made me say to myself...

Hooray for Friends!  I've said it before and I know I'll say it again.  Especially in a season when a lot of things feel like an 'effort', like an uphill struggle - including socialising, and trying to build new relationships.  I've already mentioned that a lot of University friends have moved away from Brighton, or just got busy with life and getting through the week.  Example: Adele lives in Bristol and has a daughter, and Paula is training to become a social worker.  Not easy times!! Studentdom is definitely over, and no, it wasn't 'real' life, but hell yeh do I miss it - not for the studies so much but for the fact that days were planned around PEOPLE, around cups of tea, and coffee and cake dates, and the MEETING house, and dinner together and sitting on the bed catching up, and beach walks, and dancing, and turning up at someone's house at midnight, and exploring and conversing and questionning and laughing and debating and crying and COMMUNITY.

 
And what does that leave us with?  Friends.  Friends with whom I've already walked through struggles and come out the other side, the ones who already know I'm weird and emotional and have not run away, the ones I've laughed and cried with, the ones with whom I never have to pretend, the ones with whom I can talk about everything and nothing, the ones where it doesn't matter how long since I last saw them, the ones where it doesn't really matter what order the words come out in, the ones where we know there will be a next time...  They are a breath of fresh air, a comfort, and a joy.

We were spoilt.  Privileged to have found each other, like sifting through the soil to find the treasure (not that I'm saying other people are dirt... but you know what I mean!).  Not everyone gets the opportunity to meet such a broad range of people as you do at University.  And even there many people do not find others that they truly connect with.  I suppose for some people, the friends they already had - from home/school/gap year were enough - which brings me to my next point:

We're spoiled in more ways than one.  Because after sharing all these experiences with some brilliant people, now it feels hard to believe that any comparable friendships could be formed out of life as it looks now.  Where time is based around other things, and limited, and responsibilities have increased, (and money-for-a-pint-or-two decreased! - how does that work??!!).  And maybe that's OK, because I know I haven't lost my friends, even if I don't see them as much.  Yet we do need people around us in the day-to-day.  We need face-to-face conversations and a good laugh or a good cry.  We need to be able to be ourselves and not self-consciously measuring each word we say.

I don't know what the answer is.  I'm just pondering aloud, as I do.  I don't want to become someone who just can't be bothered to meet new people, because who am I to write anyone off?  There's treasure in every person, something to be learned, a new perspective to look at life from.  I no longer try to be best friends with everyone as I have done in the past.  I know I don't have the capacity.  But I hope I can stay open to new friendships, and not give up too easily.

And in the meantime, I'll say hooray again for those people who have set the standard so high!

AFTERTHOUGHT:  I could have said the same positive things about many other groups of friends: from Basingstoke, Oxford, Zambia and Spain (what with 5 schools and 2 universities, I have made a lot of friends in my life, and I've always made quite an effort...) I guess it's just that University is the most recent experience in terms of making a lot of very close friends, and since then I've felt like I've run out of steam a little!) - hmm there're more to say on this whole friends thing, but must eat my baked potato and get on out or I'll be late, as usual!!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Festival Brighton

Brighton is busy busy busy today, with the Festival and Fringe festival in full swing.  In fact the Laines seemed more packed than ever.  Sunny weekends plus festival equals streets bursting with colour and creativity - musicians playing on every corner; piercings, tattoos, and crazy hairstyles on show; the fashionable and experimental; the weird and wacky; dogs, children, tourists, shoppers, photographers, and hundreds of people giving out leaflets for festival shows.  A bit overwhelming but also inspiring.  I always feel pretty plain and boring after taking a wander along Kensington Gardens!  Perhaps I should dye my hair pink next, learn the ukelele, or grow a moustache... haha OK not the last one.

We wandered through the market stands...
Check out the purple beard!

A whole lot of shades!

Mini sewing machines

Watched some of the live performances...


see... moustache!
 And tried Bubble Tea... (Japanese milky iced tea with tapioca balls in it).   Sounds weird, and it is.  Especially sucking up slimy balls through a fat straw!  I had vanilla flavour and Llewellyn had mango.  It wasn't bad... definitely worth trying.  Quite filling though!  I couldn't finish mine, which doesn't often happen!

It's good to be out and about and be inspired by people's creativity and originality. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Skipton




For the bank holiday weekend we went up to North Yorkshire for my mum's Godmother's 80th birthday celebrations.  I was born in Halifax in Yorkshire and my mum grew up nearby, but I've actually hardly spent any time in those parts (and my mum was never 'allowed' to have a northern accent by her non-northern parents!).  So I can't say it's home.  But it is really beautiful.  Amazingly the sun shone as we drove over green hills dotted with sheep and along dry stone walls.  After an evening full of good food and wine, I frustratingly found I couldn't sleep in our little travelodge in Skipton.  So I ended getting up earlier than I would normally (!) - especially on a bank holiday weekend - and exploring the little town on the edge of which we stayed.

And the walk pretty made up for lack of sleep because the morning sun was beautiful.  I found a park, a canal full of Jubilee-dressed boats, and some woods with a river running through.  There was also a lot of blossom about which made it even better.  So hooray for exploring new places, with a camera in hand of course.

Rock Out!



I especially love the first poem, listen carefully, there's so much in there to make you smile :-)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Living a Good Story

"...nobody really remembers easy stories.  Characters have to face their greatest fears with courage.  That's what makes a story good.  If you think about the stories you like most, they probably have lots of conflict.  There is probably death at stake, inner death or actual death, you know.  These polar charges, these happy and sad things in life, are like colors God uses to draw the world" (p.31).

***

"If I have a hope, it's that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story, and put us in with the sunshine and rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story.  The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you.

I've wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don't want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgement.  We don't want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage.  And if life isn't remarkable, then we don't have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants" (p.59) 

***

Both of the above quotes are from Donald Miller's book, 'A Million Miles in a Thousand Years' (2009, Thomas Nelson).  I've read it before and I'm now dipping into it now and again.  Partly because, I think some of the reason that I've been feeling frustrated recently is that I'm not so sure that we're 'living a good story'Life is short, it rushes right on by, and I don't want to reach the end of it wishing I'd risked more, loved more, dared more, laughed more, changed more...

I'm inspired, and challenged, and perhaps envious of, friends who are making decisions to live a better story.  Ordinary people who run marathons to fundraise for charities they care about, cycle from John O' Groats to Lands End to raise money to build a school in Nicaragua (see Darren's blog HERE) , live below the Poverty Line for a Week (learn more about what my cousin, and many others are doing HERE), move to one of the biggest slums in Kenya (read Pippa's blog about that HERE) or move from the suburbs into inner-city Bristol to connect with and show love to those who live there (my Aunty has just started to share some of her wise reflections HERE).

It's great to be motivated by other people's stories, but I also know simply comparing myself to others just leaves me feeling disappointed and guilty.  I cannot live someone else's story, and they cannot live mine.  I know that we are made for more than watching TV, eating too much, being tired, stressed and just working to get money to get by.  At the same time, for various reasons - as much as we might like to - we cannot just up and leave the country to have adventures elsewhere.  The challenge is how to live a good story here and now in the mundane and the everyday.  How do we spend/save that extra fiver, who do we invite into our home and cook a meal for, where do we buy our clothes from, how do I engage with people at work even when it's the last place I want to be, what do we do with that free evening...?  These are all areas we frequently fall into the trap of the easiest/laziest/cheapest way.  And I want to become someone who makes GOOD choices - good for me, for others, and good in the long-term not just the here and now. 

I realise I'm mixing up 'I' and 'we' but I suppose now my story is also my husband's, which makes it harder, and more exciting all at the same time.  And ultimately it's all part of God's story, the one we're following/walking with.  So I'm glad it's not just about us.  But may that not become an excuse to live less than we were made too.

I'm also encouraged by Donald Miller's words about facing fears with courage, about conflict, about happy and sad.  Because our story so far this year hasn't been full of ecstatic moments, of adventures, of sunset romance and warm fuzzy feelings and victorious achievements and cliff top-exhilaration.  To the outsider, we've probably come across distant, and a little sad.  But these months have been about us persevering in the face of death, depression, frustration.  Of learning to love one another and trust God when it hurts, when we don't understand, when the darkness feels overwhelming.  Sometimes getting out of bed and going to work is about the biggest challenge we could face.  Or answering the phone.  Or choosing to forgive, to hold our tongue, or to say our thoughts out loud.  These 'little' things can sometimes take a whole load of courage.  And I'm sure we're not alone in facing them.  And we have not given up.  And we have held each other.  And yes there have been plenty of tears, but there's also been some dancing.  And lots of kisses.  So perhaps this isn't the most glamorous or exciting chapter.  But perhaps it's rather important too.