December 28, 2007
Don't you just love children? I do, i mean it i do, as long as they are not my own and it helps if they are not teenagers too.
It's the Christmas holidays so i thought it would be nice to do somethimg together, suggested ice skating at The winter wonderland, everyone seemed happy, unfortunatly skating was booked up on day we planned, so we will just have to change the day, sometimes life doesn't give you what you want. But i forgot if you're 16 and disapointed you have to make everyone else suffer! The older one suggested going to the cinema as we were all looking forward to something, good idea? well i thought so, except 3 of us wanted to go and see The golden compass and the 16 year old wants to see some thing else. Take a deep breath, she's not just being awkward, is she?
" i'm not being funny mum and yes i am dissapointed about the skating but i don't want you to waste your money on a film i don't want to see"(wish she'd thought about my money when making her christmas pressie list!) roughly translates as " if i'm not getting exactly what i want, i'd rather be with me mates!" as i said before life doesn't always give you what you want, especially it seems if you have teenage children.
December 24, 2007
Space for 'God'
Recently i attended a Carole service, i walked into a beautiful old church lit by candles and sat down. i was anticipating being told the story of Christmas in words and song with space to sit and wonder.
The actual service was more like an assult on my senses, which left me feeling quite tramatised, but why?
The choir sang beautifully and the orchestra produced a wonderful sound, but they were up on a stage blocking my view,i felt hemmed in, contained. Then there was the professional light show, worthy of a west end musical and to top it all the big bold power point production telling us mere humans when to sit,stand and sometimes even sing!
I had come to hear the story of old, to wait eagerly for hope to be born into the world, i wanted to feel part of that story instead i felt like i was at a show and i had to stop myself automatically appluding each performance.
Unfortunatly worse was to come instead of the Christmas story i got 'How Jesus could save me' i was still waiting for him to be born!Then as the icing on the cake every body was invited to attend an Alpha course and would be given a special invitation before they left the building. Call me a rebel but i decided there was no way i was taking that invite, i even went as far as imagining exactly what i'ld like do with it! Wasn't quite the reflecting i thought i'ld be doing at the Carole service.
What really disturbed me was the lack of space for 'God' to surface.
I was treated like a child being told someone elses version of what God was saying and that made me fearful, the fear of the little girl being forced into a shape that the adults who held the power wanted her to be.
I left without a invite, feeling a sense of relief and space as i stepped out the door.
In contrast yesterday i walked with friends on a misty Hamstead Heath, as we walked i became aware that the mist was providing me with bite sized chunks of view in which everything appeared close and vivid, yet there was no sense of being blocked in. With every step the picture changed slightly and as i watched the changes i noticed things that on other days i would have missed bcause i would have been looking into more of a distance. I was aware of different surfaces underfoot, the minute dewdrops on silvery spider webs, the birds and squirrels that shared the space with me seemed almost tame, i was at one with the world and i felt my heart soar and my soul sing.
In church 'no room at the inn',on the misty heath 'a child is born'
December 22, 2007
Blogging and Christmas, what's it all about.
When a certain someone asked me if I would like to contribute to a blog, for some reason I said yes, despite having no real sense of what a blog really was, and I will warn you now that I really have no idea of what I am about to say (type) next so we are both experiencing these words for the first time. So you may want to stop reading, put the kettle on or take the dog for a drag round the block, alternatively......
Actually who are you anyway?
Yes you, Mr. or Mrs. Blog reader, why on earth are you reading this?
I presume it's to see if the rather imaginitively named blogger "Robert" has anything really interesting to say, well I honestly don't know since this is an unplanned outburst and, no doubt unusual but not unique in that respect.
Ive got to tell you this... my girlfriend and I, last night, invited two people to Christmas lunch. They are a father and daughter who would have had Christmas lunch together but otherwise alone in a large old victorian house in North London.
I don't think either would have been up to the "Full Christmas" with trimmings... but they were happy to accept an invitation to come to my, shall we say, compact residence.
I live in one room plus a bathroom, I have one sofa bed and one large leather chair, no table and certainly no dining area, and my kitchenettethingy got a guiness book of records tinyness award. Then to make matters even more extreme we said, "why don't you stay for the evening when my two kids come over", so there will be 6 of us in one 12 foot by 12 foot room, (that's "tiny" in metric).
Isn't that just brilliant though, no expectations of that strange myth of the "Perfect Christmas"....... snow laying crisply on holly bushes seen through a georgian bay window, and in the warmth, a giant overladen dining table festooned with decanters, candles and crackers and of course the ubiquitous happy family of Mum, Dad and 2.4 children.
I suspect most disatisfaction with Christmas gushes from the wounds of dashed expectations and of visions painted only on telly and christmas cards of that perfect myth.
We will be lucky that in our relatively humble and certainly undersized Christmas venue we cannot be disappointed because our only expectation is of each others mottley company.... Yes I now this is dangerous as I have almost raised an expectation by telling you about the event yet to come, but hopefully I can let you know how it all went in a few days time.... Happy Micro-Christmas One and All.
I am sure many of you will be celebrating the passing of the shortest day. Perhaps for different reasons. Those who suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) will rejoice that they are through the worst and are on the road to the longer days of Spring and Summer. The winter solstice will be celebrated by others. I was celebrating my wooden wedding anniversary (my 5th for those who don't know).
So why did we pick this day to get married? The vicar and church were free (after panto before the crib service), it was a memorable date (when we are old and forgetful we have a chance of remembering), a pallendromic date (21.12.2002), it would be dark (marriage by candlelight sounded romantic), and everyone would be in the party mood. In fact we did not put that much thought into the date. The decision that really mattered was to get married in the first place.
Most of us will have marked the coming of mid-winter. Houses adorned with lights and greenery in attempt to banish darkness and signs of death in nature. While some of the trees may be made of plastic or tinsel, the holly berries and mistletoe bought from the market rather than picked in the woods, and candles replaced by lights of the fairy variety, we still follow the rituals of our forefathers and mothers. To this I have added the ritual of marriage, so the shortest day will always be one to celebrate for me.
December 21, 2007
At the Andy Warhol exhibition in Edinburgh this summer thousands of visitors paid £8 each to contemplate images that deliberately - and very successfully, to judge by the visitors' faces - induced a profound boredom. (I was at least getting paid to be bored, as a warder.) However, one room that drew people like a magnet, partly because of the odd, violent-sounding noises emanating from it, had an atmosphere all of its own. It was occupied by one piece, an installation called 'Silver Clouds', which consisted of large, pillow-shaped, silver-foil balloons filled with a certain proportion of helium so that they floated at various heights, some clustered up at the ceiling like a kind of abstract heavenly host, others gracefully descending to the floor, unless intercepted by the visitors, who were invited by a notice at the entrance to the room to "interact gently with the exhibit". So the piece provided an interesting occasion for people-watching, specifically kid-watching, since the room seemed to transform all visitors into kids, whatever their actual age. The real kids had a great time playing volleypillow or pillowfights or, in the case of one four-year-old psychopath, systematically punching or kicking the living daylights out of every pillow within reach, while his dad stood by with some friends trying to conceal his embarrassment beneath a grin of arty sophistication. The pretend kids joined in a bit too and admired the general scene, no doubt murmuring to each other approvingly about the "paradoxical innocence of the slightly tacky transcendance evoked by the artist while surreptitiously conveying today's commercialisation of all values, of which Warhol of course was so hyper-aware", or words to that effect. At any rate the adults finally left the room, dragging their reluctant offspring after them, with the facial expression of apathy temporarily replaced by a knowing smile. Fun and boredom, after all, are two sides of the same coin.
But another vignette from that room that has stayed with me was simply of a one-year-old boy, sitting by himself in the middle of the floor, gazing utterly transfixed at the shininess wafting and bouncing around him, and his facial expression was one of the most unadulterated joy - he was beholding the glory, all right. Well, if an artist can create something that provides a one-year-old with an experience like that, they must be doing something right... However, I was the warder, I was on duty, so it wasn't appropriate for me to join in the fun - I stood at the entrance and watched.
'Christmas is for kids', they say - and consumerism doth make children of us all. Christmas, as a kind of heightened snapshot of society and its values, has been reminding me of that room of silver-foil clouds. It's a room we seem to have to visit once a year, in which a sort of collective dream is being played out. And of course the thing to do is to abandon the critical faculty and join in the game. Come on in! To be is to be involved! If you give the impression that you're not that keen on joining in because you're more interested in something else, you'll risk being called stuck-up or sad or mean, or just about any other social insult you could name, since perhaps the ultimate crime against society is 'not feeling like joining in.'
If Christmas is for kids, maybe I'd enjoy it more if only I could become like a little child and sit down in the middle of it and go 'Wow!' But what happens if what you really feel like doing is "putting away childish things" and thinking about what growing up might mean? Is that still allowed?
December 19, 2007
Mindful of the gap
In these days running up to Christmas I have been swinging between feeling that there is lots of time left and no time left to do all the things necessary. Necessary for what, I ask myself. To meet others' expectations? To meet my own expectations? There appears to be a gap between my idealised picture of Christmas - relaxed times with people, enjoyment of decorating my home, buying presents for friends and family, listening to and participating in lovely music, reflection on the meaning of incarnation - and what actually happens, which includes a mix of shopping stress, financial anxiety and impossible deadlines amongst all the good things. But maybe this is what incarnation is about - the messiness of a non-ideal life, and finding God somewhere in the middle of it all. It has been good to stop and think about that...
December 12, 2007
A basic rule of stand up comedy is to know your audience. A rule I forgot this Saturday whilst standing in the middle of Whitehall with the pouring rain being forced down my back by the freezing wind. My one liner of "I hope global warming comes soon because I'm freezing" crashed spectacularly. Mind you I was in the middle of an anti climate change march and my unintended audience were the Workers Revolutionary Party Against Climate Change, the shock troops of the movement. Whenever their part of the march passed the police lining the route or protecting possible targets they twitched visibly as if expecting something to happen.
At Trafalgar Square I discreetly left the march for a while and went off to Stanford's book shop near Covent Garden to plan a walking trip in Eastern Europe. Although the walking would leave a minimal carbon footprint the same could not be said for the flight there and back. I began to realise that for some reason my heart did not seem to be in it. By the time I rejoined the march in Grosvenor Square for the speeches and the hoped for attack on the American Embassy I realised I was not alone as a number of other protesters seemed to have melted away as well. Perhaps it was the weather or just the lack of any united international action from the world leaders but this seemed to be one of the least cohesive climate change marches I've been on. The agenda of the protesters seemed to be more individual political point scoring and less concern for what is happening to the planet.
(No McDs were hurt in the making of this demonstration).
December 10, 2007
How went the day?
How went the day?
I like the question, for each day is worth a million diamonds, cut and polished. So reflection and feeling is appropriate at its close.
But I like the question for another reason: for once spoken, the answer becomes wonderfully meaningless.
Was it a good day? A bad one? Such crucibles of feeling! Yet beyond these labels so keenly felt, is the space we call existence. And keeping that space clear is, for me, the genius behind the fake thrones of ecstasy and despair.
So how went the day for me? Every business plan fades to nothing, and pet projects wither in the bleak wind of indifference. Yet somehow there is blue in my sky this sunset. Big blue.
Good? Bad? We need words more subtle to describe our life and times.
Welcome to the adventure.
December 03, 2007
Hail in Wales
Enjoyed the full force of Welsh weather at the weekend. Winds were up to 60 mph and the rain really hurt as it lashed against our faces out on the Brecon Beacons. When it turned to hail we decided it was time to head home. Luckily the wind was at our backs. After fording swollen streams and traversing sticky bogs we made it to the road. Lo and behold the sun came out and the whole sky turned blue. The wind that had whipped up the storm also blew it away. Despite being thoroughly drenched and sporting squelchy feet we almost skipped the mile back along the lane to the cottage. Cocoa and Bara Brith were our reward.
Monday and all is clear
There was a rustle of serge through the congregation at Matins in Bracombe-by-Cranford this past Sunday. Heads turned as the Church door swung open. Was it the handsome young medical Doctor arriving late? Alas no, only the Advent gale and a local farmer bringing news of a fallen tree over the road. Methinks the young Doctor attended the 10am all singing and dancing service. Heads bowed once more over Revelation 21. This series of sermons hath much vexed some but the celestial city is now in sight.
December 02, 2007
reporting for duty
I have just come back from a week in Kampala where everyone is laughing almost constantly. This despite widespread poverty, an average life expectancy of around the same as a Nissan Sunny, civil war in the North, Ebola in the West and the beginning of a Presidential crackdown on dissent. The laughter is pure merriment, not crazed, sinister or fake. After football, stand up comedy seems to be the national craze. Does anyone have any idea why this is?
December 01, 2007
Why do we trust 'Mick on the M4'? He tells us there's a 5 mile queue near Swindon, and we believe him. But who is he? He's a bloke with a mobile ringing a traffic hotline. But from where does his authority come? Is he really trapped in traffic near Swindon? Or is he sitting at home with his hot chocolate, a little lonely tonight.
'I had my name on national radio,' he thinks to himself, as he turns out the light on a day spent exclusively in Kent.
Its called democracy. We believe people. We never learn.