Saturday, 24 December 2016

Follow (Happy Christmas!)


I was asked to write a poem about "Following" for a Christmas Carol Service.

The reference to Philip and Nathanael is inspired by John 1:43 in the New Testament.

Happy Christmas one and all, may you know peace and joy. x


Follow

We’re all following something

The leader
The teacher
The dotted path on the map
The road sign
The sat nav
The feeling in our gut
The worndown path
The light through the trees
Our nose
Our heart
The weakness in our knees
The scent of success
The sound of a loved one calling
The Youtube tutorial
The sound of a baby bawling
The crowd
The recipe
Someone who’s been there before
The recommendation
The end of the tunnel
The open doors
The compass
The moon
The illusive dream
The holy book
The general expectation
The lighthouse beam

Friday, 2 December 2016

For Libby



They say you blossomed
And as is often the case with blossom It did not last for long enough We’re left Bare branches against a black November As Storm Angus mingles tears with our own Lamenting through the long nights We gather Waiting for the skies to clear Waiting for Advent Waiting for peace on earth We’ll wait for a long time And maybe not long at all

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Reconnecting with my body


Hello body,

It’s so good to be in touch again.

It’s certainly been a while. Thanks for hanging on in there while I neglected you this past year or two. Thanks for holding me together and upright even when I did not stretch you or relax you or move you in more than one walking-sitting-standing-sitting-sitting-standing-walking-running-for-a-train motion. Sorry for not dancing or swimming or filling you slowly with fresh sea air often enough. Sorry for never really being still. Somehow, even though you’ve gotten a little bashed by minor ailments, you kept going, you’re stronger than I think. I should give you more credit.

I hope I never ignore your needs for so long again. It’s easy to fool oneself into believing one can survive on the mind alone. But the mind requires a body to make its home in, requires blood and air to flow. Needs energy to fill all the the spaces. I forget it’s all connected.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Ten good things about being back in Brighton (so far!)

It's coming up to two months since leaving London. Not very long, still, in the grand scheme of things. Because life is life, there have of course been ups and downs, there always will be. It's the first time I've ever returned to a place and I'm finding the apparent sameness and the subtle changes both reassuring and alienating. I'm the same and different to who I was three and a half years ago. We've got to figure out this new relationship. But little by little the dust is settling, and I think I'm starting to feel like myself again. There's been moments when I wonder what the hell we've done, but there's also been more moments recently when I've thought YES, this is good, I'm glad to be here.

So in the spirit of keeping thankful, here's a few of the things that have made my heart happy and feel more at home.

1. Friends and fireworks


I spent fireworks night in London on a friend's amazing balcony, watching the tiny sparkles glimmer over the city. It was a pretty cool perspective with great company alongside. Those few days made me glad that I have gotten to know London a little, and I will still enjoy discovering more of it as I return regularly to visit friends and family. BUT nothing beats seeing fireworks up close, so the following weekend we trooped out in the mist and drizzle to see the local display on Shoreham Beach - where we're living at the moment. The smell, the smoke, the sound, the warmth of the huge bonfire didn't disappoint. And then our little Shoreham crew - hubby's brother and best friends who are pretty much all like family to us - stopped by for one drink at the local pub. Which turned into several more, and tunes on the jukebox and a little bit of mad dancing to the song we walked out of our wedding service to. And ended in ordering the worst kebab ever at 3am. A solid Saturday night. :-)

Friday, 18 November 2016

Life at 30: the kid question


I started writing this while at my sister's house, helping her out with her new baby as her husband returns to work. It seemed fitting. It's a post I've been meaning to write for a while, and may well echo many others out there, but I don't think you can talk about being 30 without covering this topic.

When people realise I'm not 19, and have actually been married for five years, they jump from thinking I'm a child to asking if I'm going to have any. When I tell people I'm a new auntie, several have responded by asking me about my family plans. As I mentioned before, any time I tell people I have news, their eyes immediately widen and look at my belly questioningly.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

30th birthday treat: my Arvon week of writing

On this wintery day that's feeling all too bleak for many, I'd like to tell you about the writing week I went on recently. Probably to cheer myself up more than anything else, but hey ho, that's the prerogative of a writer, right?

I want to tell you about it, because it was something I'd looked forward to for so long, a thirtieth birthday present from myself and many others. And if I'm not careful it'll fade too quickly from memory as my head gets crowded with yet another cold, worrying about how I'm going to start making a living, and possibly feeling a bit overwhelmed/shit-scared by this big leap we made recently.

So. Two weeks ago, I drove down to the middle of Devon, to a very very old white house in a phone-signal-less valley.


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

What's so bad about turning 30?

One of several birthday celebrations :-)

As you probably know, I turned 30 last month.

And I have really tried to celebrate it well. Nearly a month on and I think I've managed that with several different gatherings with different special people. Yep I've been a bit greedy and I'm glad :-) But although I've perhaps had more than my fair share of parties, I intend to continue celebrating and valuing this whole year.

Part of that celebrating is hopefully to write more. So I'll start by sharing some 30-related musings... starting with pondering a bit more on why turning 30 is often seen as a bad thing. These aren't academic essays, they are not fixed opinions, they really are just musings, from my point of view here and now.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

One week in: Expectation vs Reality


So a week in and life hasn't exactly looked like how I imagined.

What I expected/hoped for:

Me, becoming all-of-a-sudden highly disciplined and self-motivated: waking up early every day, writing for a couple of hours, maybe going to a walk or run by the sea, meeting up with someone for coffee, and cracking through that big pile of life admin. Cutting right back on watching TV and using social media. Eating well. Feeling rested and energised and READY to become a world famous writer and photographer.

Reality

Me, fighting colds and coughs in several strains that don't seem to go away, blowing my nose through numerous toilet rolls because I keep finishing up the tissues and the washing machine has broken so can't wash the handkerchiefs (yes, I use hankies, they make my oft-wiped nose happier) and generally feeling quite sorry for myself. Getting up late and going to bed early, except when I keep myself up watching Hunted/National Treasure/New Girl/The Apprentice/Gilmore Girls...

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Oh the places you'll go...


This post has been a long time coming. A whole summer coming, maybe more. The longer I don't post, the harder it is to start again. Which somehow adds some pressure, even though no one's making me write this!

A whole lot in our life has (once again) changed and is changing. And no, we're not pregnant (because that seems to be the only news you can have when you're 30...)

I've put some bits and pieces on social media, there's a few people who know the whole story and have been walking it with us. It's tempting to try to summarise and analyse life as you go, and there's definitely seasons right for that, but this time I felt it was more important to concentrate on being present with each day, and on focusing on ending things well before leaping too quickly into the NEXT THING.

But now the "next thing" is beginning and it feels like time to tell the tale. Or at least some of it. Like I said, you can't box up life into neat categories. I don't think I can say all the things in the way I'd like to say them.

Anyways, enough of being cryptic. Maybe I'll just start with where I am today, and where I've been.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

London life 1

We've been here for three weeks. It might end up sounding like we've done a ton of stuff; the reality is that most of it has been working, pretty early nights and trying to make plans with people but realising they all have established lives and we're going to need to get ourselves more organised than last minute BBQ invites!

BUT I have done a few London things, and those few things have made me happy and glad to be here:

Listening to music at Campbell's Canal Cafe

This was where I wrote most of the last post; where I took a Zambian friend earlier this year having not seen each other since we were 16, and weirdly enough where I sat with two dear Brighton/uni friends many moons ago on a daytrip to Camden - only to find us all living in London now. Anyways, I like it a lot. Hubby and I went for a stroll on Thursday because miracle of miracles I finished work at a pretty reasonable time. We looked in to see if there was any music going on and joyfully there was a pair playing guitar and singing Brazilian jazz.  Washed down with a gin cocktail. Lovely. I plan to check out their Wednesday open mic night soon.


Saturday, 9 July 2016

Next Chapter: London

So we have moved again.

I'm still pulling together the pieces of me that have felt both squeezed and scattered over the past few months, in the stress, pressure, uncertainty and tiredness of moving and a busy season at work and that commute and generally not feeling settled in the place we've been in since September.

So this is more of a selection of reflections that have stuttered out of me over the first two Saturdays in our new home, the first couple of day in ages when the clock and email and to-do list haven't ruled and my body and mind have had an opportunity to slow down.

I still feel a long way from myself, if that makes any sense. My thoughts come clumsy and half formed, eluding definition. But I'm trying to shape them into some form, trying to turn them into stepping stones out of one season and into the next, so that I don't get stuck in the middle for too long. So even though this post keeps subsiding into a shapeless jumble, I'll post it. Because marking the moments is important, isn't it?

There's photos too, because for the first time in ages last weekend I got to go out walking with my camera and no time limit. Last weekend, on the morning of a long long awaited opportunity for a lie in, I of course woke up at 3.30am (why???!!), couldn't get back to sleep and so after watching the remaining episodes of New Girl, I decided to get out in the early morning light and explore our new neighbourhood.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Hope is:

Last weekend we took part in an exhibition along with other artists from Hertfordshire. The theme was Hope and the artwork was displayed in a gorgeous chapel in Harpenden. On the Saturday there were workshops and in the evening there were performances. I shared some poems, including the one below which I wrote for the event. It was such a great day, so inspiring and encouraging to be around hard-working, talented artists. And another reminder of how happy it makes me to perform my poems :-)

Hope is

Hope is:
The smell before the smell of rain coming
One hundred poems before this one
The silence of the morning creeping through an open window
Before the day crowds in

Hope is:
Gritted teeth and binoculars
Checking your inbox at 1am
A pinky promise in the playground - moons ago
Newborn skin

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Letty



Letty is my sunshine friend
Shadows shift upon the sight of her
Scents of summer waft in
Her smile is light
Set in face round, bright
Warming the coldest day

And she is generous with it
Backpack on
She braves Bristol
Its hills, its tunes, its pints, its colour, its green
And all its crazy and broken and creative and beautiful people
Breathes it all in hard
Trailing light rivers from bicycle wheels
Changing the map

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Love letter to London

I wrote this last year, in the back of my journal, scribbled in green pen.

A friend happened to read it and said I should share it, so here it is. Not too polished, but it's honest.

I almost don't want to say this out loud. But London, I feel a little disappointed. In you? By you?

You and me, we've been ever so slowly moving towards each other all these years. An inevitable trajectory - we knew one day we'd be together.

In the meantime, it was all quick dates and brief flings. Exciting, exhilarating, a guilty pleasure. Rough around the edges you were - and that's what I loved. The mix of grime and colour. The unexpected cosy corner. Majesty, mystery, misery all rocking side by side.

You were fresh air in my lungs, a raw kick after the sleepiness of Oxford; energetic honesty after the surrealism of Brighton. You were ideas and positivity peeking up out of the grey. Basements and breakdancing, Brixton, Brick Lane, the last train back to Brighton all danced out and satisfied.

Monday, 2 May 2016

New York: the places we ate

So we did pretty well food-wise in New York, which is cool, because food is probably the quickest way to the hearts of Mr and Mrs Quinn.

Before we went Mr Q said his priorities were pizza and hot dogs.

We basically failed in that respect, I didn't even have a pretzel. BUT I think we more than made up for it with other delights.

So, here we go, our New York food diary:

TUESDAY

Hot dog: Hot dog stand outside Central Park
This was probably the most disappointing food purchase. Maybe I just chose the wrong stand, won over by its proclamations of selling hot dogs for 100 years (or something like that) – susceptible tourist that I was. But it filled a gap when I only had $4 dollars on me – although I could only afford saurkraut with it. Maybe that's what let it down? Not really sure what I was expecting though, how good can a frankfurter sausage be? Tell me if I'm missing something here!

Smoothie (kale, mango, peach, lemon & ginger): Jamba Juice
The unremarkable hot dog was made up for later that evening by a smoothie from Jamba Juice. I was drawn in by the stacks of fresh fruit and vegetables, and needed something to sustain me through a writing class. I definitely (accidentally) picked the right place: probably the best smoothie I've ever had, thick and cold and 'zinging'.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

New York: first impressions

Some of the things that struck me in my first few days in NYC:

1. (Since basically the first thing I did was go to the 'restroom'): The toilet bowls are a lot more full of water which vaguely worried me, like I might fall in, like ohhh this is why bullies in films always flushed people's heads in the toilet. Then they flush automatically which surprises me even more! The cubicles in public toilets also seem to have a lot more space around them – like it would be a lot easier to climb under/over them – kind of like you're more exposed but less likely to get trapped without anyone knowing. Maybe that's a weird thing to think about while sat weeing?

2. Williamsburg, the first place I stayed in New York, is supposedly the trendy bit. I don't think the part I was staying in was trendy though. The main feature seemed to a whole lot of Hassidic Jews, curly sideburns and all. And a lot of yellow school buses.

3. It's a good idea to have an umbrella. The weather is changeable in the way it is in Cornwall – something about being surrounded by water?

4. Lots of people really do buy 'kwoffee' on their way to work (and pastries and do-nuts and pretzels...)

Sunday, 17 April 2016

New York Notes: Arriving

Standing on the subway platform J at Sutphin Boulevard Station, just below Jamaica Station. Smelling of piss. I feel happy in a way I haven't felt for ages.

Why? Just to be somewhere new? The small triumphs of figuring out which train to get, a MetroCard given by a departing visitor, the sun shining over a new city, the whole world gathering.


It's been a smooth journey, luxurious it feels. No hassles, no problems, barely any turbulence. Wine and beer on the flight, and a pleasant neighbour, whose son happened to be in the year above my husband at Pretoria Boys High. Of all things.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Lots of London Lenten Thanks (part 2)

Some more thanks, to fight back against the gloom that settles too quickly on my shoulders at the moment, the anxiety that tightens my chest. The "God God God, help" I chant under my breath every morning.

It feels wrong to feel sad in the springtime.

But anyway.

In between all this there's been some moments of London joy. I've been trying to finish this off for over a week, and now it's gotten long and each thing probably could have done with its own post. But hey ho, it's done, it's still Lent, just about!! :-)

Pavrov Stelar @ Alexandra Palace

Why have I not been to "Ally Pally" before?!! What a fab venue, and a great view over London (that I couldn't see this time as it was dark, but will definitely be back!). There are food stalls, so everyone was eating, sitting on the fake grass and listening to some live music before the actual show. Felt like a festival. Pavrov Stelar (Austrian electro swing DJ plus live band) were awesome, especially the saxophone, trumpet and trombone players as well as the stage lighting. Did boogie a little, with my beautiful friend Shona, although wasn't quite the full on dance I hoped, partly because there were SO many people there and very little room! But a fab night, followed by a lazy morning lying in the sunshine coming through the living room window. Lovely.


Sunday, 13 March 2016

Secret places / Spring in the air

We spent Friday night and Saturday with some artist-y people in Harpenden. We roasted marshmallows around a big bonfire, drank lots of coffee, enjoyed some amazing paintings exhibited in a chapel, talked about how art and God and the world connect, about finding God in secret places, we shared stories, and had time to enjoy the peaceful surroundings in the creeping-in-spring-air.


Sunday, 6 March 2016

New mercies

Morning by morning new mercies I see:

First word on a new page
Last breath of a night sustained
Daily miracles – by the hour, minute, second
I'm still breathing

A soft pillow
Blankets cocoon
The wrinkles around your sleeping eyes
Hot rivers massage my shoulders
Oats bubbling
Coffee steam dancing in sun streams

Sometimes

BUT

Last Sunday's sermon

I wish I'd had my camera last Sunday morning. Like so many times. But if I'd had one I'd have wished to be able to take a photo invisibly, imperceptibly, so as not to jolt that holy moment.

I'll try and paint it with words then. Picture a bench on the side of a rough track, the kind of road only a few hardy farm vehicles will travel down. A bench dedicated to a loved one, maybe someone who liked to walk their dog along the quiet track, with only the birds for company. Who liked to stop a while and catch their breath and look out upon the English countryside. That typical kind of undramatic rolling hedge-lined country side, of muted greens and browns. Naked trees under white winter clouds.

Picture two friends sat upon the bench, in easy companionship forged over more than seven years, tracking from Brighton to North Wales to Cornwall to today and the counties north of London. We've wound our way back to each other.

Monday, 22 February 2016

What I remembered/learned, this weekend

Sometimes, after another one of THOSE weeks, (I think) you've got to say:

F*** the cough and the cold that have been clutching icy fingers around your chest
and F*** the late night tears when all the unanswered questions overwhelm
and F*** feeling lonely
and F*** the dark cloud overhead
and F*** not consuming dairy, caffeine or alcohol
and say 'Fuck' out loud

And get on a train
And have one more little cry
And then slap on some more foundation over the shadows under your eyes
And take a big gulp of the gin and tonic your sister-in-law hands you
And apply red lipstick generously
And wear ridiculously short shorts that show off the tattoo no one usually sees
And wobble downstairs in high heels
And throw your arms around people you love
And have some more gin and tonic
And dance
And dance
And dance

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

London Lenten thanks

It's Lent, and winter, and cold and dark, and life still feels pretty uncertain - definitely a season requiring some thanks to keep focussed on the light.

So here's some recent London discoveries I'm grateful for:

Ziferblat and sisters

That cafe where you pay per minute... My younger sister (who's spent the last few years in Preston/Manchester and hardly ever comes to London) came down and spent a Sunday with me and my other younger sister (who's currently living in London AND is working with me - hooray!). We did touristy stuff like wander down Brick Lane, bought Chinese from one of the food stalls, walked past the Tower of London, climbed the Monument (built in memory of the Great Fire) and ended the day at this lovely cafe. Great atmosphere, friendly staff, tons of board games. You pay for your time, not what you eat/drink. Can't say there was the most amazing selection of food and beverages BUT vibes more than made up for it. Also we arrived at the end of a rainy Sunday, so stocks might have been depleted by then!