January 31, 2011
I have a new baby, well not me exactly, my daughter gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl two weeks ago. Her name is Layla Skye Antonia. Antonia after her Italian great grandmother, Skye after my daughter, her auntie who was stillborn and Layla is all her own.
Layla means 'dark haired beauty' which she most certainly is.
Layla is a child of the world, within her small body, runs the blood of the the English, Italian, African, Greek and Irish.
Over the last two weeks I have spent most of my time adoring her, once sitting for a solid three hours snuggling her in my arms while she slept.
When she is awake, she watches me so intently, her little mouth trying to copy the shapes my mouth makes when I talk to her.
I love everything about her, the way she stretches her long legs, she's definitely going to be tall she came in 3.5 cms longer than the average baby, the way she clenches and unclenches her little fists, she can already do the V for victory sign or she could be swearing, the peculiar little sounds she makes, I'm just in awe of everything she does.
The funny thing was, when my daughter told me she was pregnant, one of the things I worried about was being resentful of having a little baby in my house, and how much it would effect my life.
Well all that worry was for nothing, because now I wouldn't have it any other way.
January 27, 2011
Have you noticed a certain rhyme in the air this week?
Poetry has been in the news with various poets winning prizes, like Derek Walcott and Jo Shapcott.
And former poet Laureate Andrew Motion giving St George an interesting face lift, to wrestle him back from the Far-Right in England.
So here's a bit of poetry that faces me every time I sit at the computer, given to me by a wonderful journalist who taught me so much.
They are words from Emily Dickinson:
'Tell all the truth but tell it slant -
Success in circuit lies.
Too bright for our infiirm delight
The truth's superb surprise.
As lightning to the children eased with explanation kind
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.
January 23, 2011
it was the worst of times
A month later after my last blog, here I am, on the other side. What a strange time it has been, and the best way to describe it would be to quote almost directly from Dickens:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, I had everything before me, I had nothing before me, I was going directly to heaven, I was going directly the other way.."
My medical saga is going on: I still haven't found out what causes my symptoms, but the preliminary test results show that in most probability it is nothing deadly serious. This is nice to know.
In the process I discovered and learnt many things about myself and others - that I'm very attached to this life and all its pleasures, that to begin to contemplate loosing it is very hard indeed, the love and care of friends and family, the kindness of strangers.. It has been a time of turmoil, fear, despair, but also time of discovery, surprise and gratitude that I haven't lost the ability to take a total delight in another person.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
January 22, 2011
The gift of some shoes
I was touched by death last night; touched by a piece of writing by a man preparing to die.
He has had endless chemotherapy, but the cancer is still growing inside; and so the chemo has stopped and he's accepted that he has about six months to live. Life is different when you accept things...
So now its about saying goodbye, sorting out mortgage payments, evaluating his life, saying 'Sorry' to a few people, asking the forgiveness of God, planning his funeral and wondering what might lie ahead on the other side.
Talking about death is not the same as facing it. As a clergyman, he has spoken alot about it; but never faced it....until now.
I am struck by how significant everything is in his life. Every phone call, every trip to the newsagents, every relationship, every cup of tea. Now the grace of time is being withdrawn, wound up and packed away, each experience is an earthquake of meaning and a sunset of wonder.
I think of him now, and perhaps selfishly. After all, aren't I just learning for the time when his shoes become mine?
This is partially true, but not wholly true; he is much more present gift than future gift, as I remember a conversation from way back:
'It's important to live as though the day is your last.'
'But doesn't everyone know this?'
'Indeed. But not everyone feels it.'
My dying friend is gift because he reminds me his shoes are already mine.
January 18, 2011
I'm travelling alot on the London tubes at the moment, and at just the busiest of times.
People are herded,forced and squeezed into the tightest of spaces.
Better in the morning, of course, when people are fresh from their baths and body spray.
But I am impressed by the general civility; by the offering of seats and the refusal to be pushy.
If you make conditions hard enough, it seems to make us laugh inside and encourage a more generous humanity.
The war time spirit is much talked of, and must have been rather fine. But it didn't last. After the war, everyone in England quietly returned to their default position of dislike for most people.
But hear this! On the London tubes, where we are treated like cattle, we're creating that war time spirit again.
Today, I shall be civil in crisis; and kind in the squeeze.
January 12, 2011
Priorities of a 2 year old.
Today I introduced my Grandaughter to chocolate covered raisins. After her first taste I put a few into her hand, my daughter said to her 'What do you say to Nanny', she gave me a big smile and said 'Mmmm, yum, yum, yum'.
One to one
At my work, there are a variety of things that need to be done daily. I am not particularly fussy about what I do, as long as I am kept busy. If I am not, I look at the clock a lot and lose the energy to give a damn. For this reason, doing a one to one is my least favourite job. It currently involves sitting outside a bedroom, staring at a wall with a clock, for an hour. Sometimes it’s even longer if the person after you is resistant to coming and takes their time.
A one to one will be carried out if an individual is deemed too risky to be left alone. If they are sleeping (which they often are) you sit. If they are walking around, you walk with them. Keeping one eye on them, and one eye on others around. You cannot leave them and must stay until you are relieved.
Two days ago, I was on one to one. The person was asleep. As I sat there, I wanted to switch off and lose myself in my thoughts. I can not do this however as I need to remain alert for my person coming out or others on the floor who like to cause problems.
Looking down the corridor, I see one of the people coming my way. They like it when a member of staff has to stay where they are as they can talk to them and the staff member cannot end the conversation or walk away.
He is smiling, looks excited and shouts ‘Russell, Russell!’ Knowing his behaviour, I am guessing he has had an idea. He believes he has healing powers and has been preoccupied with my bad skin for a while. ‘I can heal your skin, see!’ Then, one of the most unpleasant things I have experienced at work happens. He blows into my face. This is a man who smokes about 30 a day and probably has not brushed his teeth in a while. I jump up and direct him to move away. Amused, he leaves and returns to his room.
Barely a minute goes by when another man comes arrives. He is quite young and looks bored. He has some photos of things in his hand. One of these is a photo of a chair. He looks at this and asks me if the chair got paid to be photographed.
I say I don’t know. He is angry at this and lectures me then on the importance of getting paid and that it is disgraceful that I have not paid the chair. He then walks off annoyed.
There is then 20 minutes where I am alone. During this time I listen to all the goings on. Someone has left a paper and although I want to read it, I know I won’t hear anything around me if I do. People come by and ask for a light. I repeatedly say I cannot leave my chair and no, I cannot just give them the lighter nor can I make tea at the moment.
Another young man comes by. He actually sits down on the floor opposite me and I wonder how long he is planning to stay. He isn’t looking for me to talk with him; he just wants to be heard. So I listen. One of the things he talks about which makes me smile (he was there for 7 minutes) is that he was in the Navy in his past life and so feels that he has done his duty for this country already and does not need to do anymore. Not that I think anyone will be asking him to.
A few more minutes alone and then…my hour is up. I get up from my chair so that my colleague can take my place (he has kindly come on time) and make my way to the kitchen to get dinner ready.
I'm currently working in Notting Hill, in London.
Obviously I spend most of my time cruising in and out of second hand bookshops, looking, hoping and wondering.
But have I seen Hugh Grant, and found myself caught up in some amusing dialogue of a self-deprecatory nature?
And have I bumped into Julia Roberts, and started a quirky yet profound relationship with her? Have I just!
I think that film was pure fiction...
January 07, 2011
On taking down the decorations
Are all your decorations down? Is the tree outside, the angels back in their box and the wreath from the door safely stored?
I hope so, because there are those who say it's 'Bad luck' all the way if they aren't. These are the same people who say that if you didn't have them down by Jan 6th, then you must keep them up! Yes, all of them! Keeping them up until next Christmas is the only way to avoid the bad luck you have incurred.
I find taking the decorations down harsh. But just as I enjoyed their presence, I also enjoy the fresh space of their absence. Obviously space is a relative term where I live, but there's nothing wrong with relatives. (And please, no post on that one. I'm aware you've seen alot of them recently, and still have the scars to show...)
Obviously you'll now want to know why its bad luck not to take down the holly etc, so here's the reason:
Way back in the mists of time, people believed that tree spirits lived on all greenery. And so when the holly and ivy was brought into the home, they came in as well.
The spirits enjoyed the warmth of the home for the Christmas period, (they clearly weren't at mine) but then with the festivities over, had to be released back into the countryside again. If they weren't there'd be no springtime growth, and no summer crops. Disaster!
And of course the tree spirits trapped in your home would cause no end of mischief there; which must have felt very much like 'bad luck'.
To be honest, I'm not totally convinced by my previous two paragraphs. Indeed, I was losing the will to live while writing them. Perhaps the most creative aspect of the superstition is that it nudges us into saying goodbye to Christmas, which some people still find hard..
A child-like wave, holding back the tears.
January 01, 2011
Greetings from the other side, and I hope the first day of 2011 is unfolding well.
As you know, I had the honour yesterday of conducting the wedding of my niece Emily and her fiancee Jake. It was a grand evening. The speeches were excellent, and the endless toasts required endless champagne. Bacon butties and fireworks at midnight, followed by Scottish dancing...of a sort. A coach was kindly provided to take people home, though how many remember the journey, I wouldn't like to say. No names, no pack drill...
During the service, on the cusp of both the new year and a new commitment, I spoke a few words about love and I pass them on now. Its a longer blog than usual. Proceed only if you feel you have the strength...and the will to live.
'The great thing about love is that no one knows what it means, but everyone knows when it finds them. No one knows what it means because it has the most enormous wardrobe, so many costumes and different guises; but we know when it greets us, because in the greeting we are changed.
So whether it's the love of a friend, the love of a kiss, the love of the snow fall or the love of the mist, we are changed for that moment. Here is new energy, a strange warming, a sense of belonging on the earth, a melting of something, a letting go, a one-ing, a becoming one with our surroundings. And when this happens, we well understand Julian of Norwich's words that 'all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.' That is exactly how love feels; wherever and however it finds us, love is a sweet coming home and outrageous hopefulness.
The great thing about love is that no one knows what it means but everyone is haunted by its calling, and for a reason: because love is what we are made of; love is our substance. The flame is made of fire and we are made of love.
We sometimes forget this of course, and behave most oddly. Perhaps we become fearful, or anxious, or judgemental, competitive or cold. This is what happens when we forget who we are, forget we are made of love in a world made of love. But just as a wave, however dangerous or wild, is always one with the sea, so we, whatever damage we inflict on our selves or the world, are one with love, and ever haunted by its calling, because it calls us back to ourselves.
So we keep our eyes and our hearts open for love. It might be a kindness, a chat in a bar, it could be a child, it could be a star. But however love comes, it's like the echo of a song we once knew, a reminder of a noble identity mislaid. Love, wherever and however it finds us, recalls us to our substance, to that of which we are made.
Emily and Jake knew love long before they knew each other, of course; because love has an enormous wardrobe, many costumes and guises and finds us in so many different ways. Then something happened between them and they thought 'Ah, love, it's you again, you old rascal. Didn't see you coming!' And so they decided to hold hands, push open the door and step into another one of love's many adventures, one we call 'marriage'. And we're here to support them in that adventure, celebrate that adventure and perhaps to be reminded of who we are. What's not to like?
The great thing about love is that no one knows what it means, but everyone knows when it finds them. There is the strange warming, the sense of belonging in the world, a melting, a letting go of the cold, the fear, the anxiety, the grasping and the judgement; instead, there is a one-ing, a becoming one with all things, as love must. The flame cannot disown the fire, nor the wave disown the sea. So in a world made of love, who can love disown? We are one.
And therefore in this wonderful moment in the year; this wonderful moment for Emily and Jake, full of ending and full of beginning, what can we say for them and what can we say for ourselves, other than this: that 'All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.'
It may not be easy; but it shall be well. That is love's promise.'