Sunday, 29 December 2013

The dresses' tale

As I've mentioned before, I've been participating in Dressember, and I have worn a dress every day of this month in order to raise awareness (and money) for IJM, who work to release people from human slavery.

I've actually rather enjoyed the excuse to wear a dress every day, and I think from now on I probably will do so more - especially now that I've been given some new tights and leggings for Christmas to replace my very-worn, holey ones!

One reason why I've liked wearing my dresses is that a lot of them have a story behind them...


The bright blue one
Bought: Oxford (i think), 2007
First worn: Pacha, Ibiza... to dance the night away to on my first visit to that crazy-beautiful island, with some amazing people.  I spent most of the night in the RnB room of one of the most famous clubs in the world ( don't hate me - I was still getting my head around house music at the time!), grooving away to Trevor Nelson's tunes.
The photo isn't actually from Ibiza but from the Bridge club, Oxford... not quite as classy but still good for a boogie!



The green and brown one
Bought: Barcelona, while visiting my friend Annah, 2008
First worn: Esther and Rob's wedding, Devon.  The majority of the dresses I've bought were for weddings.  I've been to a whole lot of weddings, I'm telling you.  This one was for a friend I've known since I was 5 and a lovely summery one in a beautiful countryside setting. This dress was definitely my favourite for a long while, although it has now - after a lot of use (including a very hot dancey day at Nottinghill Carnival) and a lot of fading - been 'demoted' to beach wear :-)


The short patterned red one
Bought: The North Lanes, Brighton, 2009
First worn:  Adele and Larry's wedding, Somerset... I was one of six bridesmaids all wearing red dresses of our own choice, adorned with henna'd hands, golden scarves and glass bangles.  A Trinidadian/Jamaican/English wedding with an Indian influence, it was one of the most fun and most colourful I've been to.  It was also amazing because I'd recently graduated and all my best uni friends were there.


The black and white checked one
Bought: well - given by a friend of a friend who was getting rid of some clothes at a dinner party with friends from sixth form, Oxford, 2010
First worn: Another wedding, in York this time, of Jess and Gareth.  I've known Jess since primary school so it was extra special to celebrate their marriage.  Recently they announced they have a baby on the way, another reason to celebrate!



So yes in one way, they are just dresses - pieces of cloth.  None of them cost a lot of money.  They're all a little worn now, and all a few years old.  But they've all travelled, they've added my own splash of colour to many a wedding and party and gathering of friends.  They've danced, been dressed up and down, and each one holds a whole lot of memories which connect me to a whole lot of people and places.

So wearing them all during this Dressember month has been extra special, even if I am the only one who knows all their stories.

If you want to sponsor me - to donate to IJM, who work to release people from slavery and trafficking, you can go to this link.  I think the one I put up before went to their American page, but this one goes to the sponsorship page of some friends in Derby who are also participating (all goes to the same place).

Thanks :-)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

This home, this Christmas

What makes this house, this time, home?

Having only spent a sprinkling of nights here in the past year and a bit.

No knowledge of the surrounding area, miles and miles away from anything familiar.

Of course, it is the faces I've known my whole life, the laps I will curl up in, the hands that will rest on my head.

It is sisters sitting around the table after dinner, telling stories and making mum laugh.

It's Dad talking to the dog, walking the dog, shouting at the dog

The dog collecting everyone's slippers and hiding them in her bed

It's sisters going off for runs, reading books, making plans

It's mum singing carols at the top of her lungs whilst baking

It is cups of tea, and coffee, and sherry, and wine...

Dad offering everyone the tea, the coffee, the sherry, the wine...

And mince pies, and cake, and soup, and cheese, and bread, and 'lemon freeze', and apple crumble, and food and food and food.

And in this home, more than any others, it's the things that fill the place, that have filled many different houses before:

The wooden hippo by the fireplace
The mug with pig on that's mine and the mug with the cow on that's my twin's but that Dad always thinks is mine
African wall-hangings and woven wastepaper bins
Furniture that belonged to grandparents
Framed photos of little girls becoming bigger girls, becoming students and graduates and wives

Walls full of memories, books full of shelves, sofas full of family.

Family. We make each other laugh, sigh, cry.  Astounded by the way we are all so similar and all so different at the same time.

And I'm thankful for them. And for this slice of home.

Just an excuse for a pic of the dog putting her cute face on!

Happy Christmas Eve, one and all :-)  I hope you are 'at home', wherever you are.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Birmingham at Christmas

Yesterday we left Cornwall for the first time in several months.  We've been looking forward to our Christmas break since well, the summer!  Living even further from family than we did in Brighton has been quite hard, especially whilst trying to settle into a new place.  So we're very happy to have a whole week up in Birmingham and Shropshire with sisters, parents and the bro-in-law.

My twin sister has lived in Birmingham for seven years and told me about the German Christmas market every year of those seven.  Finally I got to sample it yesterday, as well as having a tour of the new library which is one of the coolest buildings I've ever been in!  I was pretty excited to be in a city, and to be around lots of people - I just stood in the crazy crowds in the market with a big silly grin on my face.  I have missed this.

So hooray for libraries with amazing city views and German sausages and beer, and meeting my sister's friends, and gingerbread lattes with girls and a baby, and Christmas :-)

The new library is the big building with all the circles on
view from one of the library balconies

lots of people, lots of beer

twinny and bro-in-law
 
nom nom

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Advent: God-child

This is part of a poem by Alberto Caeiro that I read at the Advent event in the House of Prayer this evening.  We were talking about the craziness and wonder of God coming to earth in the form of a child...

In heaven everything was false, and in conflict
With flowers, trees and stones.
In heaven one must always be serious.
...He fled to the sun
And climbed down the first ray he caught.
Now he lives with me, in my village.
A child with a beautiful smile, and natural...

He taught me everything.
He taught me how to look at things.
He points out to me all one can find in flowers.
He shows me how funny stones are
When we hold them in our hand
And slowly look at them...

The New Child who lives where I live
Stretches out one hand to me
And the other to all that exists,
And thus the three of us follow whatever road is there,
Jumping, singing and laughing,
Enjoying in our common secret,
The knowledge that there is no mystery
Anywhere in the world
And that everything is worthwhile

Monday, 16 December 2013

O Christmas Tree O Christmas Tree



Finally feel like there's a bit of time and space to start getting Christmassy, having got through a week of being ill followed by a week of catching-up-on-all-the-work-i-missed while being ill!  So far getting Christmassy has actually just meant tidying and cleaning the house and wrapping presents - which might not sound like much to you, but as neither of them are my strong points, I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself!  We've also bought a Christmas tree. It's the first one that I've ever bought for myself (ourselves), having always lived in other people's houses.  And - as I nearly always spend Christmas with parents and sisters, I've always relied on them for the tree and decorations part.  We are going away for a week over Christmas, but have some family coming down for New Year, and... needed somewhere to put the presents... so we bought a tiny one.  And I love it!  It's funny isn't it, how a little tree and some fairy lights can bring so much joy.

It's easy to get cynical about Christmas.  I do think it's way over-commercialized and becomes very materialistic.  Lots of people get into debt unnecessarily.  Waaaay too many supermarket adverts on TV.  But you know what, it's also good to celebrate.  All cultures have their festivals, because I think we all need a break from the norm from time to time.  We need things to look forwards to and a reason to gather, to rest and to appreciate.  A lot of traditions seem a bit random and silly - like mince pies, carol singing, and bringing live, pine-shedding trees into our houses.  So we could just discard them all.  But they also bring us together.  They bind us and remind us.  And they declare something.

Yesterday at the church we went to, the pastor talked about the history of Christmas, and how it became 'blended' with older festivals that celebrated nature, fertility and life.  And as someone who believes in a God that created the earth and joined us on the earth in human form to show us LIFE to the full, I'd say YES!  Let's join in those ancient traditions and celebrate those things.

It might seem really obvious to everyone else, but I'd never thought of the reason for having a tree as being to celebrate LIFE.  And the fairies LIGHT up the room.  And mulled wine smells of MYSTERY.  And (some) decorations spell BEAUTY.

This year has not been easy.  I'm not going to lie.  But it doesn't mean it has to finish on a low note.  There is still so much to be thankful for.  There is an awful lot of good around us. So today I make the decision to lift my head and to live, to really live.  Even as I am still figuring out what that means.  Even as the path ahead doesn't seem to clear right now.  Today I will live, not just survive.  And tomorrow I hope to do the same.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Life to the Full

I have come that they may have life, 
and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

light and colour in the House of Prayer

Yesterday at the 'Advent Event' we focused on The Life.  I enjoyed draping the House of Prayer with colourful Saris and I also brought in flowers, photos, candles and bread and wine.

It was good to take a moment out of what was, to be honest, a pretty stressful day. I was crying when hubby left for work and crying when he returned (poor guy!).  Don't worry - I didn't spend the whole day crying, but had just had enough of items being undelivered, frustrating customer service phone calls, and additional unexpected 'money worries'. SIGH.

So I needed to be reminded that life is about more than work and deadlines and benefits and bills.  Needed to be reminded that 'life to the full' isn't necessarily about having fun and being happy all the time.  That this LIFE is about something deeper, about not being defined by circumstances, or emotions.  That this Life is a gift in the first place..

It's way too easy to get caught up in what the TV/adverts/corporations/internet/culture says about our purpose and meaning - which is generally about having more and achieving more... leaving me, for one, often feeling discontent with what I have and who I am right now.  I'd like to step aside from all that and be. Be thankful. Be hopeful. And recognise that I AM full of life, and let it flow over...  This is something to ponder more on over Christmas, for sure.

Apologies that this is a bit fragmented - just mirroring the current state of my brain!

Thoughts of life led on to thoughts of joy, and I read this last night too:

"With God there is joy, and from him it comes down and seizes spirit, soul and body. And where this joy has seized a person, it reaches around itself, it pulls others along, it bursts through closed doors. There is a kind of joy that knows nothing at all of the pain, distress, and anxiety of the heart. But it cannot last; it can only numb for a time. The joy of God has gone through the poverty of the manger and the distress of the cross; therefore it is invincible and irrefutable" - Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Monday, 9 December 2013

Sunrise

Sunrise this morning from my living room!


Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
    God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
    those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
    down the path of peace

Luke 1:79 (The Message)

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Advent, Quakers and World-Changers

"Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openess to the Holy Spirit?  All of us need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength.  Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life.  Do you encourage in yourself and others a habit of dependence on God's guidance for each day?  Hold yourself and others in the Light, knowing that all are cherished by God".

(Advices and Queries #3)

This morning I returned to the Quaker meeting in Penzance, to carry on with the whole 'stillness' thing.  I knew a little bit more what to expect after my last visit.  There were less people there and the room was freezing but everyone was very friendly and welcoming.

I spent the time reading some of the Advices and Queries (as above) and also the beginning of Luke.  I love reading about John the Baptist, and Advent is about the coming of Jesus into the world, but today I was more struck by the stories of those that ushered in those two amazing men: John's parent's - Elizabeth and Zechariah, and Mary and Joseph.  It's so easy to skim over texts so familiar and often read.  Today I tried to imagine just how it must have been... especially for Elizabeth and Mary.  Two normal, good-hearted women, going about life, unlikely to be expecting anything out of the ordinary.  And then, in an instant, the visit of an angel, and everything changed.  Two miraculous pregnancies shook their world and their sons changed it.  It's pretty hard to imagine, really, but I reckon I'll be pondering on it more.

Not many people spoke during the one hour of quiet, but what was said focused on the death of Nelson Mandela this week, and stories were shared of joining in anti-apartheid protests, visits to South Africa, and of the minute's applause at the Penzance rugby ground on Friday night.  Here was another man who had a tremendous impact on countless individuals around the world, and on the destiny of an entire nation. It's incredible, really. I know he was not perfect, but none of us are, and he never pretended to be.  Which makes me respect him more.

May we not forget the lessons learned.  May we learn something from these faithful men and women who lived both ordinary and extraordinary lives.  Who spoke up for the oppressed and called for change.

Hold yourself and others in the Light, knowing that all are cherished by God

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Slowing down (in a snotty kind of way)

On Sunday I talked about slowing down.  And then that night I got sick, and am still recovering. 

Ironic?

 I've hardly been able to do any of the work I planned to do this week and instead have spent a lot of time under blankets watching the screen with snotty tissues scattered around.  Pretty frustrating -  but I have learned that 'Bridesmaids' wasn't as funny as I thought it would be, 'Kings of Summer' is a lovely film, and that being ill destroyed my intentions of stopping watching 'Made in Chelsea'. Doh. 

I'm also learning that sometimes you have to tell people you can't do something, and that it usually isn't the end of the world, and that most things can wait.

Anywaaays, hubby has been wonderful as ever (he even wiped my brow with a warm flannel, which I don't remember anyone doing before!! i'm sure my mum did once upon a time...).  He's been poorly too though, so we've mainly been giving each other weak pats on the head, making a lot of lemsip/supermarketcheapbrandofsimilarproduct and taking turns sleeping in the living room to give the other person a good sleep. Fun times in our house, as you can imagine... feel sorry for bro-in-law, who's so far managed to avoid the lurgy!

Despite feeling rather sh*tty, I HAVE worn a dress everyday, even if just for a few hours between the baggy t-shirts and tracksuit bottoms.  And I'm quite enjoying getting out the pretty flowery ones I usually reserve for weddings and wearing them under my work shirt to waitress in!  (this photo is before I got ill, and left my makeup bag at a friend's... after that I didn't include my face in the photos!) 


I also did manage to put on the Advent Event I'd planned last night and I really enjoyed it.  A few people came and we spent a quiet hour in the House of Prayer with candles, silence, John chapter 1, Gungor, and prayers.  

This is one of the ones I used, from Ray Simpson's book of Celtic Prayers:

We wait in the darkness, expectantly, longingly.
Come, O God Most High
In the darkness we can see the splendour of the universe – blankets of stars,
The solitary glowing of the planets.
Come O God Most High
In the darkness of the womb mortals are nurtured
And the Christ-child was made ready for the journey into light
Come O God Most High
In the darkness the wise three found the star
That led them to you
Come, O God Most High
In the darkness of dreams you spoke to Joseph and the wise ones and you speak still to us
Come, O God Most High
In the darkness of despair and distress we watch for a sign of hope from the Light of Lights.

Come, O God Most High

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Hello December... and Dressember!

Hello December.

November has been super hectic, and hopefully I will actually follow through on intentions to slow down a little a reflect upon Advent this month.

I fear that worries about money, and being 'useful', and of dark thoughts that might creep in should I be still for too long, have kept me rushing about in recent weeks. Hence no blog posts, barely any journal writing, no new poems, and a fair bit of stress.

At the same time, I am enjoying the jobs I have at the moment, which is a privilege, and a lot of the things I've been busy doing have been worthwhile. I think. It's about balance again, isn't it? And our motivation behind it all.  About finding peace in the midst of movement.  I think perhaps that's been the problem... losing my grip on peace. And forgetting that it's not all about me and what I achieve, or believe that I achieve.

With three weeks until we head north for Christmas with the family (I CAN'T WAIT!!!!!), and rather a lot to 'get done' before then, I don't know how still I'm going to manage to be, but here's to trying.  I am putting on three reflective evenings at the House of Prayer and I'm looking forward to them.  Even if no one else comes, I know it's important for me to start following through more on ideas that I have.

On that note, here's another idea that I'm following through on:


DRESSEMBER

What's that? I hear you ask... Well you've all heard of Movember, and seen the varied hairy experiments on many a man's face, and should know that its aim is to raise awareness of prostate cancer...

Well, Dressember follows a similar idea.  Women all over the world are committing to wearing a dress everyday of December in order to celebrate beauty and femininity (before you cringe too much, these are ideals that I often struggle with, so sure there'll be some ponderings on their meanings coming up soon!) and to raise support for International Justice Mission (IJM).  IJM is a human rights organisation that rescues victims of slavery, sexual violence and other forms of oppression.

So, thanks to the encouragement of a friend, I've decided to sign up and commit to wear only dresses this month.  If you know me, you'll know i'm not a particularly dress-y person, although I do like them.  So this will be an interesting challenge.


What would be amazing is if you sponsored me, which means donating to IJM.  I will be taking a photo each day to prove I'm following through on my commitment, and probably posting them up here every few days.

(The photo above is actually from last night, before a 3 Daft Monkeys gig, but that's another story!)

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Exploring Cornwall: Ludgvan to Trencrom (and back!)

Well after yesterday's reflections I got myself out of bed early (ish!) while the sun was shining (ish!) and went off for a loooong walk.  I'd seen signs for the St Michael's Way so decided so walk part of that, starting from Ludgvan, a village near to where we live.  I had a vague route in mind but wasn't sure how long it would take, but I did end up reaching the point I'd wanted to, which is Trencrom Hill - an ancient hill fort with views of both the north and south coast.

Here's some photos and ponderings from along the way...


Until I saw this little sign I didn't realise that St Michael's Way is one of pilgrim routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  There are pilgrim paths all over Europe that are part of this network, so although I didn't pass any people this morning, I enjoyed wondering about who else had trodden the same paths.  Centuries ago, Celtic missionaries who sailed over from Island would have cut across from Lelant/Hayle to Marazion on foot to avoid sailing round Land's End.  Many places in the area are named after these 'saints' who brought Christianity to the land.




The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.


Berries: a dash of vibrancy amongst the browns and greens, a sign of hope, tinged with pain


See how the wild flowers grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

View of St Michael's mount from the top of Trencrom Hill
The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it...
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart...

Sometimes it takes a while to find the right path, and there are dead-ends, and turning back, and even fallen trees blocking the way, but keep searching and you'll get there eventually!

                                       ***

I'll be honest, I was quite tired and hungry by the time I reached the top of Trencrom, and then I still had to get back to the car again.  I could see Ludgvan church far off in the distance and wanted to take a different route as where I walked had been quite up and down and very muddy.  I stuck mainly to tiny back roads, going past big houses hidden away and abandoned farms.  I had to walk very close to a huge herd of cows who mooed very angrily at me (thank God for the electric bit of string that separated us!) and before long my feet were properly squelching in my hole-y trainers.  In typical Katrina fasion I also fell over, which didn't really hurt but kind of jarred my leg and back.

So what I'm trying to say is by the time I was walking up the road back to Ludgvan, after 3.5 hours walking, I was more than a little keen to get home.  And then I thought about people who don't have a home to go back to, like refugees fleeing war or natural disasters.  I thought about people who have to walk for miles each day with no meal to look forward to at the end of it.  I thought about the pilgrim missionaries from hundreds of years ago who were probably also often tired and hungry and wet and cold whilst on their journeys and yet they pressed on.

Although I may be struggling with feeling at home down here in the South West, I am so grateful that I have a house to live in.  Grateful for leftover stew from last night and grateful for a husband welcoming me back. Grateful for hot water for a shower.  Grateful that I have more than one pair of shoes.  Grateful to have the freedom and time to get out and walk the land and take photos and enjoy a peaceful Sunday morning exploring a beautiful little corner of the world.

And just to finish on a light note, I also saw and chatted to some pretty comedy animals on the way.  Like these guys... :-)




Saturday, 9 November 2013

Winter coming and nature speaking

hey.

I haven't been writing as much as I would like to, partly due to a dodgy internet connection which means we have to take turns in our house using it - if it's working. AND somehow I am back to having three-and-a-bit jobs.  Part of the reason for taking on a new job (note-taking for people in higher education with disabilities) is because the hours of cleaning and waitress-ing have reduced significantly due to the change of season.


We are entering our first winter in the South West, and already see that Cornwall is a very different place out of the summer months.  I can't say I'm looking forward to winter.  I never do.  I'm not one of those people who enjoy the cold, and getting all wrapped up.  I'd rather it was sunny and warm all year round.  I would not go so far as to say that I suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), but I can't deny the negative effect that the darkening evenings and drop in temperature and general greyness has on me.

As with quite a few things in life at the moment that have the potential to get me down in the dumps, I am trying to see winter from another perspective.  This week I've been thinking a lot about how nature speaks to us about God, and I don't mean just the obvious things like sunsets and stars.  I recently listened to a Nomad Podcast in which they interviewed a man called Bruce Stanley about 'Forest Church'.  The first time I heard of 'forest church' was at Greenbelt in the summer, but I must admit I dismissed it as toooo far out there and didn't go to any of their activities or 'rituals'.  But actually, I was judging something without learning about it and I really enjoyed listening to the interview in which Bruce talks about connecting with God through nature.  But more than that he reminded the listeners how Jesus so often referred to the natural world around him in his teaching and parables ... "look at the birds of the air... the wild flowers... the sparrows... the farmer sowing seed..." etc.  Clearly there's lessons to be learned if we just pay a bit more attention.

The day after listening to the podcast I happened to read chapter from my new book of thoughts from Rubem Alves*, which is right along the same lines:

"Have you ever seen any kind of anxiety walking through the countryside?  Or any wrath sailing side by side with the clouds?  Or any fear chirping like the birds? Never. These things do not exist in the countryside. They only exist in one's head. Thus, if my thoughts were identical to what I see, hear, smell and feel, walking through the countryside, my inner world would be like the outer world, and my mind would have the quiet simplicity of nature" (p.91)

I do love walking and find being out on my own by the sea or on a hill often far easier places to talk to God than in a church building.  But I think there's still a lot more to take in than I realise and I am challenged to take my time while outdoors to notice things, and perhaps to go with others to share the experience.


I'll be honest though, it is easier said than done.  I went for a walk the other evening mainly to clear my head after being on the computer all day.  Although we live in the middle of the countryside, going for walks from the house is actually quite difficult as there aren't many footpaths nearby due to a big quarry behind the house.  So really the choices are which narrow, winding country road to walk down - with no pavements and the risk of being run over by speeding cars!  The only view I had for most of the way was grey road, grey cloudy sky with the threat of rain, and high hedges that began to look menacing as daylight faded.  Not exactly inspiring.  More than anything it heightened the sense of loneliness that has been hovering over our house lately.  I talked to God as I walked but I can't say I felt very 'connected' to anything.  At the same time it was kind of refreshing not caring about getting wet as the rain started, and the wind did blow away a few cobwebs.

Then the flowers of the grass spoke up: The winter comes and with it the cold and the drought. It will look as if I am dead. But my seeds will have already been scattered. The spring will return, and with it the joy of children and games... (Rubem Alves/Alberto Caeiro)

"unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24)

Winter and death and the ends of things are necessary for new life to grow.  The changing of seasons is not something to be feared.  There is beauty if we look hard enough. And when spring comes, we'll appreciate it all the more!

one thing i do love about autumn,,, fireworks night!

*Transparencies of Eternity, 2010. Convivium Press

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Sparrow song


His eye is on the sparrow
does that mean that no sparrows will fall?
I don't think so
winter whispers violently through crisping leaves
branches break
black hunters threaten
times to hide
times to take cover

But
His eye is on the sparrow, little one
And your song is in his ears
He sends the morning sun to caress your feathered head
and grows shining berries for your delight
Like the keenest of birdwatchers
He can tell you apart from your sisters and brothers
recognises your call without hesitation

His eye is upon you, little one
His eyes
He watches you
Watches over you
His hands are safer than the trees
He won't trap you
or stop you from flying
He will help you be strong
So don't let the winter
silence your song

for Phoebe, from Katrina, November 2013

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Quakers and Surfing

Today I went to a Quaker Meeting for the first time.  I've often thought about going to one and never quite got round to it.  I was saying to hubby last night how I wanted to go to something quiet and reflective on a Sunday, and he reminded me to see if there was a Quaker meeting close by.  Turns out there is - in Marazion and Penzance.  I went to Penzance, mainly because I know where to park.

It was pretty much as you might expect if you've heard anything about Quakerism - people sat in a circle in silence for an hour with occasional interjections/reflections shared by some there.  Apart from worrying I'd fall asleep and fall off my chair (which apparently has happened!), I appreciated the time of stillness.  After that there was more talking and sharing and coffee and general welcoming.

I don't know much about Quakers, but I know they are big into Peace and serving others.  So that makes them worth checking out in my book.  I like the fact that they strip everything back and keep it simple.  This is a section from their 'Advices and Queries' book:

Worship is our response to an awareness of God.  We can worship alone, but when we join with others in expectant waiting we may discover a deeper sense of God's presence.  We seek a gathered stillness in our meetings for worship so that all may feel the power of God's love drawing us together and leading us. (point 8)

I'm not great at sitting still and my mind wonders like a crazy thing, but I would like to learn to be better at silence, at meditating and at focusing.  My main thoughts that had any sense of direction happened to be about surfing - which I spent 3 hours attempting to do yesterday.  It was a lot of fun and a beautiful day, but I was quite frustrated as I kept seeming to nose dive.  I was wondering today if perhaps that was because I was always looking down rather than ahead.  So my body followed my eyes.  I thought if I had held my head up instead and focused on where I wanted to get to, that I might have balanced better...

...which made me think about life, and how I often end up looking down at my feet, and then I sink.  Like Peter walking on water - when he took his eyes of Jesus and looked at the waves around him, he lost faith and sank.  Yes maybe this is all a bit cliche but it's where I'm at.  I've been looking at the negatives, stopped being thankful for things, felt myself sinking, wanted to give up.  I want to look up, look ahead.  It's scarier, it feels safer to look down to be honest.  But perhaps I need to trust myself a little more and trust God a lot more.  Perhaps then, I'll surf to the shore.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Guantanamo Bay: The Hunger Strikes - a response

Today I watched an animation produced by the Guardian based on testimonies of hunger strikers at Guantanamo.  This afternoon I went to a writing group and learned about a Malaysian poem structure called The Pantoum.  There is a particular pattern of repetition.  We were asked to write about something that had impacted us in the last couple of days.  So this is what I wrote:

Photo credit: http://www.freedompress.org.uk/news/wp-content/uploads/Freedom-Guantanamo-Bay.jpg
source: muftah.org
H Strikes G

Razor wire coils endlessly
A black mark upon the Caribbean sea
Orange mocks the theft of dignity
Ahmed chokes

A black mark upon the Caribbean sea
Rubber snake forced down tender tubes
Ahmed chokes
Fuel injected into resisting guts

Rubber snake forced down tender tubes
Razor teeth drip with canine slobber
Fuel injected into resisting guts
Strain at chains; strain at collar

Razor teeth drip with canine slobber
The dogs are treated better
Strain at chains; strain at collar
Samir only wants to see his family again

The dogs are treated better
Last shred of memory ripped from the wall
Samir only wants to see his family again
Cleared for release; they remain detained

Last shreds of memory ripped from the wall
Orange mocks the theft of dignity
Cleared for release; they remain detained
Razor wire coils endlessly

Sunday, 13 October 2013

God and beauty

I've just bought a new book... "Transparencies of Eternity" which is a collection of reflections by the Brazilian author/philosopher/poet/professor Rubem Alves.  I've read some of his stuff before and really enjoyed it so I'm pretty excited about this book.  I think it'll be one to consume in small bite-size pieces to chew on and mull over.

Here's some tasty morsels from the chapter, "Does God exist?"

Beauty is a volatile entity - it touches the skin and quickly vanishes.
What we refer to with the name of God is like that: a great, huge Emptiness that encompasses the whole beauty of the universe.  If the glass were not empty, we wouldn't drink water from it.  If the mouth were not empty, we wouldn't eat fruit with it.  If the womb were not empty, life wouldn't grow in it. If the sky were not empty, birds, clouds and kites wouldn't fly in it.

...There is too much beauty in the universe, and beauty cannot be lost.  God is a bottomless Emptiness, an infinite wooden trough, who wonders through the universe picking and gathering up all the beauties and guaranteeing that none will be lost, and saying that all that was loved and lost will return, and be repeated.  (p.24)

I don't feel like I've got much to add to that, just that he's beautifully put into words what my heart attempts to articulate.

Some beauty from my weekend, Gwythian Bay, Cornwall

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Enjoying Cornwall: poetry, music and dancing of late

So since my post on finding things pretty hard down here, we've been getting out and about a bit more and trying to make the most of what we do have and who we know.  And it's been good, and made a difference.

On my birthday after attempting some surfing and enjoying fish and chips with friends in Sennen, we went down to the Studio Bar in Penzance for their weekly open mic night.  My brother-in-law who is currently living with us loves to sing and hubby plays guitar so we practiced a couple of songs and gave our debut performance.  I was backing singer...oooo yehhhhh... (Just watched Dreamgirls this week and even more would love to be a soul backing singer with a glittery dress!) and then did a couple of poems which was cool as I haven't been performing much recently.  It was a bit nerve-racking - and then fun once I relaxed - to be on stage together doing something new.  Hopefully we'll be back with more songs soon!


The cool thing about doing the poems was that a lady then invited me to a mini music and words festival in Marazion this week, which I would never have heard about otherwise.  It was a lovely evening and I got to perform more poems, met creative people and was generally inspired to keep on getting out and about more.  You can listen to a couple of my recent poems here.

Other good things have been getting out dancing twice last weekend; on Friday at an opening night of an art exhibition at The Exchange Gallery in Penzance (sadly the exhibition was already closed as we went down after work but the DJ played awesome tunes!) and on Saturday at the main night club in Penzance (a secondary birthday celebration!).  I've really missed going out dancing, so it was good to get a little groove on.  

We've also had quite a few people round for food and hanging out in our home, which we love, and it makes life feel more 'normal' and more friend-filled.  Hooray hooray.

So there we go, a fair few moments to be thankful for! :-)

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Exploring Cornwall: Gurnard's Head

There's a small road that cuts across the narrow strip of land upon which we live.  Winds you along tiny lanes and across open heathland from Badger's Cross to Zennor.  Ahhh, don't you just love the names of places here?

Last Sunday we'd spent all day in the living room.  Feeling a bit sad to be honest.  So by evening time was bit desperate to get out, and perhaps chase the sunset.  So we headed west(ish) to Gurnard's Head, another place I'd seen on the map but not been to.

The boys [men] said hi to the cows and then opted for some local cider in the Gurnard's Head pub.  I walked on with my camera to explore a little more.  You've got to see what's around the next corner, no?!

I'm glad I kept on walking.  After walking through the cow fields I turned left onto the cost path.  On the other side of a rocky ridge I was treated to this view - all the way to Land's End.  Isn't it gorgeous?!  


The rocky outcrop you can see below is Gurnard's Head.  A gurnard is a fish - one time when searching for fish and chips in Marazion a pub chef suggested we try gurnard and it was reeeally tasty.  I guess this is where they catch them...?


So obviously I had to climb it... it's actually bigger than it looks, it's hard to capture the height in photos when I was the only person around.  I like exploring by myself, although I did think if I fell it would be a while before the boys found me.  Anyways.... any requests to join me and be a fellow-photo-chasing-rock-scrambler gladly accepted!  


I hung out on the rock until the sun went down.  As we live on the 'south side', we don't see many sunsets.  And I guess it's important to make time to watch one now and then, don't you?


x x x

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Falling Upward (or life isn't always as it seems)



What follows is a meditation from Friar Richard Rohr.  It speaks to me pretty directly.  It's easy to portray a misrepresentation of our lives on things like facebook.  Lots of people have said to me recently something along the lines of, "glad to see you're having an amazing time in Cornwall".  What they see is the photos I put up of beautiful places on sunshiney days.  Of which there have been plenty and for which I am so grateful.  I will continue to celebrate and capture the wonder-full moments.

But what they don't see is the mist that often rests on our hilltop and prevents us from seeing that beautiful view.  The damp and the insects and the cold that have crept into the house as summer draws to an end.  The days we don't leave the living room because we can't face making conversation with people we still don't know very well.  The sadness that arises from having more time to think and feel.  The heaviness we can't explain.  The questions hovering that make us uncomfortable and unsure of where to turn.

I'm not saying this to get your sympathy.  I don't want pats on the back or concerned looks.  I'm just trying to say it how it is.  We are past the honeymoon period and being in a new and different place that we don't yet understand is hard.  Missing friends is hard.  Not knowing quite where we're headed is hard.  Struggling with things that we used to accept and are expected to find easy, is hard.

I hope I'm not complaining.  It's not bad.  We don't regret moving.  We don't want to go back.  We are not starving, we have always had enough, we have jobs, we have met some brilliant people, we are not alone.  There is much to be thankful for.

I'm just saying that despite this, there's been a lot of tears lately.  There's been mask-wearing and attempts to remove the half-hearted facade.  That's the truth.  That's how life is sometimes.  Sometimes hope-full, sometimes desperate, sometimes funny, sometimes peaceful, sometimes stormy, sometimes lonely, sometimes surrounded, sometimes all of that and more at the same time.  Like today I could just as well have written about St Ives, or my birthday, or more coastal explorations, or open-mic-ing in Penzance.  But I didn't.  Maybe I will tomorrow.

And although it may not 'feel' like it, with all these ups and downs and golden and blues and greys, we do have choices in how we respond...

[so God help us]

***

"How does one transition from the survival dance to the sacred dance? Let me tell you how it starts. Did you know the first half of life has to fail you? In fact, if you do not recognize an eventual and necessary dissatisfaction (in the form of sadness, restlessness, emptiness, intellectual conflict, spiritual boredom, or even loss of faith, etc.), you will not move on to maturity. You see, faith really is about moving outside your comfort zone, trusting God’s lead, instead of just forever shoring up home base. Too often, early religious conditioning largely substitutes for any real faith.

Usually, without growth being forced on us, few of us go willingly on the spiritual journey. Why would we? The rug has to be pulled out from beneath our game, so we redefine what balance really is. More than anything else, this falling/rising cycle is what moves us into the second half of our own lives. There is a necessary suffering to human life, and if we avoid its cycles we remain immature forever. It can take the form of failed relationships, facing our own shadow self, conflicts and contradictions, disappointments, moral lapses, or depression in any number of forms.

All of these have the potential to either edge us forward in life or to dig in our heels even deeper, producing narcissistic and adolescent responses that everybody can see except ourselves. We either “fall upward,” or we just keep falling"
~ Richard Rohr

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Keena & Gabriel

I can't believe the wedding was two weeks ago now!  It was the reason I went to Brighton for a week: the wedding of Keena and Gabriel.  I met Keena 5 years ago while at University.  Keena met Gabriel whilst teaching English in Chile after graduating.  And now he's here in England, and they are husband and wife!!

I was a bridesmaid, which was a privilege, and hard work i'll be honest.  But mainly fun because I got to spend plenty of time with Keena, and other Brighton friends.  There were some firsts for me, like flower arranging and painting the bride's nails, which for anyone who knows me will raise their eyebrows sky high at!  And the results weren't tooo bad, if I don't say so myself. Haha!  

I also took photos for them of the parts of the day where I wasn't required as a bridesmaid.  Which was great because as you can see from the pics they are both good-lookers and were up for creative and fun poses.  In fact as we headed off to the park for some photos they both sprinted over the fields so fast I couldn't catch up!


It was kind of strange and kind of nice being back in the same place that I got married two years ago.  Back in The Meeting House on Sussex University Campus.  [Except I felt more like a student again rather than a wife as hubby wasn't with me and I spent most of the week with University friends, sleeping on floors, getting home late... :-)]


Preparing the wedding had been quite full on for a lot of people as the engagement only took place 2 months ago or so.  But, thanks to a whole load of people, we pulled it off.  And it was a wonderful day.  As Gabriel said in his speech, the wedding was a perfect example of Love in Action.  Friends of Gabriel and Keena, mainly from City Gate Church which I also used to be a part of, made amazing food, decorated the venue beautifully, sang, moved chairs, organised, supported and prayed.  It was a definite team effort, which made being part of it really special.  And as someone who has been to more weddings than I can count on my fingers and toes, it was one of the funnest, tastiest and colourful that I've attended.

Highlights were...

Jeannine's tomato salsa, based on a Chilean recipe. SO GOOD. Actually all the food.  Everyone went for seconds I think

Pippa (fellow bridesmaid)'s speech

The champagne - nicest I've ever tasted!

Posing with random hats and wigs

The mix of English and French and Chilean influences

Dancing dancing dancing... most especially at the end to Mumford and Son's 'I Will Wait' (which we'd also sung in the service) when everybody literally danced their hearts out, arms flung upwards, singing for hope and in prayer and with joy


So here's to you:  Keena, one of the sweetest, most genuine, stunning and wonderful friends I know and long time dancing partner.  Gabriel, another potential dance partner if your moves on the dance floor are anything to go by (!), generous, honest, kind and funny and someone I'm looking forward to getting to know better.  To you both, you inspired a fabulous day.  And I'm sure you are going to inspire a whole lot more. Love!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Exploring Cornwall - Baker's Pit

I spent all day in front of the computer doing work-type stuff.  Which was fine.  But by the time hubby got home I was kind of grumpy and restless.  So I decided to go out on the moped and check out some of the little places that I see signposted and wonder about... like Georgia, Embla, Almaveor.  Don't those names just cry out to be explored?!  I'm so glad I decided to go out, I forget how much I love to discover new places, and chat to God as I walk, and pretend for a moment that it's just me and the flowers and the birds.  I also love the moped on those tiny roads, easy to manoeuver and like cycling except without the effort. Ha ha!  

Outside Georgia I stumbled upon a walk around 'Baker's Pit Nature Reserve' and was treated to all sorts of delights, less than 10 minutes drive from where we live... like an old clay pit, now filled with water, lots of ruins, little farms, plenty of yellow gorse and purple heather.  I didn't pass anyone except for two people on horses and I stopped to chat to some beautiful brown cows for a bit.  There were views of the sea on both the north and south coast.  All in all pretty lovely and just what I needed.

So, I encourage you, get out and explore, you never know what you might find!





Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Two Years

Today is our second anniversary.  It sounds so little.  I suppose it is really.  But a lot has happened in two years...

We've lived in three different homes, and shared two of them - one with a friend, and now with hubby's brother.  We've moved from one end of the south coast to the other.  Between us we've had about nine jobs and both spent time being unemployed too.  We've covered a lot of miles, on buses, trains, bicycles, foot and more recently by car and moped.  We've had long hair and short hair, been tattooed, worn holes in our clothes and our shoes.

We've cried (well, I have) A LOT.  We've faced depression and death, more than once.  We've had to say goodbye to best friends but we've made new friends too.  We've swam in the sea, attempted to surf, stood on cliff tops, danced stupidly, gone to weddings, met friends' babies, barbequed, cooked countless good meals for ourselves and others, drunk quite a bit of beer, watched a lot of films and all of The Wire and New Girl and Master Chef (!).  We've put on weight and then tried to lose it again.  We've upset each other and misunderstood each other.  We've gotten angry.  We've wondered why. But more often than that we've hugged and we've learned and we've stepped a bit closer, and we've prayed and we(i)'ve cried some more, and we've laughed and we've kissed and we've held each other.

And we've held each other.

These are our cards to each other, perhaps they say it all better than words can


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Return to B-town, 5 months on.

It's been a while again.  I went to Brighton last week for a friend's wedding.  I went for almost a week as a) I was a bridesmaid b) the engagement only took place a little while ago - so there was a fair bit to do c) I wanted to have time to catch up with friends in Brighton d) that train journey from Penzance to Brighton is looooong so wanted to make it worth it!

I had a really great time.  It was the first time I'd been back in 5 months (yep, that's how long we've been in Cornwall now, can you believe it?!).  I hit the trail end of some hot weather which was a treat.  Right from getting off the train to boarding it again a week later my time was full of hanging out with brilliant friends that I've missed a-plenty in homes and cafes and pubs.  What a joy to spend time with people who really know you, who allow you to speak honestly and openly right from the get-go, who encourage and laugh and pray with you.  I feel very blessed.  It made coming back to Cornwall hard, but that's a story for another day.  Not that I wish I still lived in B-town, because I know my week did not reflect 'real life' - it was a bunch of highlights condensed into a short time without the going-to-work and the food-shopping and responsibility and etc etc part of it.


It was good to say hi to the beach again - a place so full of 8 years of memories.  And I appreciated not driving and being able to walk everywhere.  [OK for the first day or two I appreciated it and then my legs reminded me that I have not missed the late night weary hill-climbs that much].  I enjoyed observing the colour and variety of people, and felt even more out-of-fashion than usual!  I visited my old places of work - Brighthelm Community Centre and The Duke of Wellington Pub and was happy to see they are doing well.  I was not so happy about another hike in the bus prices.  More shops and buildings have closed, others have opened.  The old Co-op building on London Road is no more.  Iydea and Food Iylic have reproduced.  The life of a city, coming and going.  Beginnings and endings.

I had coffee in Starbucks in Brighton for the first time ever.  I try to avoid the mainstream coffee shops as there's so much choice in the city, I see no reason to support their world domination!  But the friends sat upstairs won over my convictions that afternoon.  People generally win for me, over the task, over the rules, over my attempted ethics...


...Like buying dinner at Asda at the Marina, (another company with too-much-power) and sitting on the beach with fellow bridesmaid and bride-to-be and eating roast chicken and having a moment of peace and calm in the midst of wedding preparation busy-ness.  Almost 8 years ago exactly, I did the same thing with my family on my 19th birthday on the day that I moved to Brighton to start my studies at Sussex University.  Except with a birthday cake instead of chicken.

I had dinner with friends I met soon after the birthday cake on the beach in 2005.  Eight years on and we have learned to cook a little better, seen relationships come and go, danced together at the Breakdancing society, at house parties and in clubs.  We've journeyed with God and church and housemates, asked lots of questions, agreed and disagreed.  Drank red wine.  Laughed, cried, hugged.  Eaten together, drank more red wine.  Prayed, teased each other, laughed.  Here's to you, Jonathan and Chris.

I could write a post for each of the people I saw.  Not today, maybe another time.  I have a lot of heroes.  Like Shonagh and Becky, to name two more, who never hesitate to offer a bed for me, and in a thousand unseen ways love people around them sacrificially and unselfishly.  Thank you Brighton, for giving me them.  The tears and the standing on the beach shouting into the waves, and the hundreds of times of wanting to escape, and the grey days and the questions, and the heavy heart days.  They all seem worth it, when I think of the people you gave me.

This has got long, next post will be about the wedding! (But couldn't wait to share some photos, you can see them in my new 'photo' bit.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Greenbelt 2013

Last weekend hubby and I went to a festival.  Not Shambala, Creamfields, Leeds or anything quite so huge or crazy.  We went to Greenbelt, which wasn't tiny (about 20,000 people I heard) and was slightly crazy, but not for the reasons you'd think.  I didn't see any drugs, only a handful or drunk people and the main age groups seemed to be under 10's and over 50's!  I went last year and I enjoyed the combination of music, colour, poetry, art and talks about all sorts of things.  It's sortof a Christian based festival and another great thing is the wide range of expressions of faith, from Goth Eucharist to Taize to 'messy church' to meditation to drumming and dancing and more!  So when I somehow ended up being asked if I'd like to help arrange the 'Photo Swap' (which encourages festival goers to bring photos that are displayed over the weekend and then swapped), I thought why not?

I persuaded hubby to come too, my Great Aunt gave us a tent, so we were all set.

I think with things like festivals you go with big expectations, hoping for non-stop fun and entertainment.  I should know by now not to have such expectations about things and just to take them as they come.  Because it wasn't AMAZING.  We kind of wished we had gone with more people, just to have a 'crew' or 'community' to hang out with.  There wasn't a lot of music that excited us and to be honest we're a bit tired of God-talks and stuff like that.  [Not that I'm bored of God or claim to know it all or anything, just that at the moment my thinking is that we just need to get on with loving God and loving people, rather than debate over things that people will never agree on]

However.  On reflection, there were actually a whole bunch of good things from the 4 days away.  So I am glad we went.  And I am very thankful.

Top Moments


  • Seeing my old friend Abbie and her husband and new baby.  Ahhh... something about those people who know you, and remind you of the good things, and get excited for you when you don't feel able to.

  • The Boxettes.  We kind of stumbled upon them and for me it was the best performance of the weekend. They only use their voices to make all of the sounds.  When they dropped in Destiny's Child's 'Jumpin jumpin' into this Rudimental cover (video below) I got so excited!  But I think that my friend and I were the only people in the Performance cafe who appreciated it quite so much...
  • Silent disco in the Big Top.... although again most people there seemed too young to appreciate the Drum and Bass (picture me and hubby jumping around mentally at the back while everyone else looks a bit awkward)



  • The Randomness...
(like Penguins....)

         
  • The great range of photos that people submitted for the Flash swap exhibition.
  • The handful of people that we did know there (some expected, some a total surprise) and the conversations and dances and takeaway food we shared with them. That means you -Louise, Lorianne, Adam, Abbie, Tom, Barney, if you're reading this!

  • Dancing and singing along to Lemar (who woulda thought it could be so good! haha!) with Lorianne, a girl i met on a writing project earlier in the year.  Also seeing performances by Amadou & Mariam, Harry Baker and Inua Ellams.

  • And finally, some time to hang out and chill with Mr Q.  It's been quite a hectic month and feels like we haven't seen each other much properly. So getting away together was rather nice :-)