Friday, 23 March 2018


There's a particular shade of Indian pink I absolutely love. I have a soft kantha scarf in this colour — entirely beautiful. I bought it from an eBay seller called Pradeep Choudhary. It came all the way from Jodhpur in Rajasthan. It smells of India, incense and spice.

I find this colour very hard to describe to other people, though I certainly know it when I see it. Then this morning early I had an epiphany about it, realising that this is the colour of pomegranates.

I love pomegranates. They are very expensive, but at the moment I get through about half a dozen every week.

Pomegranates featured infrequently but significantly in my childhood. My mother was born in early October, when (I believe) pomegranates are in season. When she was a child, she would be given a pomegranate on her birthday — so, only once a year; I expect they were expensive then, too, as well as somewhat exotic on a farm in a Yorkshire village.

She would eat them, she said, with a pin. Seed by seed. Neatly. Daintily. Carefully. Herself eating them with consummate delicacy was as much part of the legend as the actual pomegranate.

Now, when I eat pomegranates, things are not the same. I have to eat mine in the bath, and even then the tiled walls can look unnervingly reminiscent of a crime scene when I'm done. I sit in the bath like a temple baboon, capturing dropped seeds warmed by the water from the bath floor, biting off regiments of jewel seeds exposes in glowing ranks. I cannot tell you how much I love them and what a wonderful playtime it makes of my bath hour. 

I got the idea of eating messy things in the bath when I was little. My mother used to feed me a teaspoon of cod liver oil in the bath, and a good thing that was too, because I spilt it often as not. So I eat nectarines in the bath too, and peaches.

And, just at the moment, several times a week, feeding my body and soul and spirit and generating cheerfulness; pomegranates. One of the beautiful colours of India.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Hold fast

I had a dream last night. In our family, that always makes us smile because of the hilarious poem Grace wrote, "Oh, please don't tell us your dream . . ." (it's here).

But I did have a dream and I thought it was interesting so I do want to tell you about it. You need a bit of background first.

In England, we have what are called "recreation grounds" — public spaces for people to play. There's usually a big open green space for ball games, and often some structures like swings and a slide and a climbing frame for children. These spaces become what are known as "third places" for teenagers. A "third place" is not my place, not your place, but a neutral space where we can meet up. For grow-ups with money, a pub or a cafĂ© usually, but teenagers don't have money, so the recreation ground is good. The name of it is generally abbreviated, so it's known as "the Rec". It will be immediately obvious to you that for the subconscious mind — the aspect of our mind from which dreams arise — this is a double entendre (as in, "the wreck").

That's the first thing.

The second bit of background is about Hollington Chapel. 

Hollington was a Sussex village that got swallowed up by the urban sprawling of Hastings and St Leonards. I'm not sure when the Hollington estate came to be — perhaps 1950s or 1960s? — but it was built for overspill of people from London with the closures of housing deemed inadequate for habitation at the time. The housing estate spread over a little area of countryside between Church in the Wood and Hollington Methodist Chapel.

The Methodist chapel was a Victorian building, and at the time I moved to Hastings, in 1979, it was one of those congregations for which the backbone was a local family — in this case the Miller-Wallis-Novis-Page clan. These people were (still are) the salt of the Earth, their lives shaped by their faith. Shining souls, of steady goodness. Kind, honest, true — just the best people you could ever meet.

The years went by, and church attendance dwindled. A few years back (not long ago, only two or three years) the decision was eventually made to close Hollington Chapel. The members were old and the community struggling to keep going. This decision brought deep sadness. Brenda Wallis had been attending church there for 90 years when the decision was made to close. 90 years. Such a wrench.

So the chapel was closed and the people joined forces with Park Road Methodist Chapel a mile up the hill, making what is now called St Leonards On Sea Methodist Chapel. A bit of a mouthful. In my diary it's Slosmic. Or Slosmc if you want to be pedantic.

You don't need to know anything more about present times for our Methodist Circuit, I'll just move on now and tell you about my dream. You have enough background.

I dreamt that I was walking up by the Rec. This was no place that exists in this area in real life, only in the dream. We do have such places, but not right here.

So I was walking in the Rec (make of that what you will), across an tarmac-ed patch of ground with some shrubs still dead from winter, wet and brown in the miserable weather. There was rubbish dropped around. The Rec. Deadness. Used and discarded bits and pieces. 

The place was empty and deserted. At the edge of the area of tarmac, in the corner by the shrubs, stood a Port-a-cabin, and the door was open.

I should tell you that back in the days of the Ashburnham Stable Family, a powerhouse of praise and prayer in East Sussex, in the corner of the stable yard at Ashburnham, as close as possible to the place where the meeting room for prayer was planned to be, a Port-a-cabin stood. We called it "the prayer cabin", because that's what it was for. There was a diary in it where you entered when you could come there to pray, and the idea was that, 24/7, there'd be a member of the Stable Family there praying for the church in East Sussex.

In my dream a similar Port-a-cabin stood there at the corner on the rubbish-strewn tarmac at the edge of the Rec, and through the open door I could hear and see the women from Hollington Chapel. Brenda Wallis was there, and Sylvia Miller, Dawn and Pearl and Shirley and all of them. They were having a prayer meeting, which was just coming to a close, and they were singing.

At the end of the meeting, they came out, still singing.

The song (this is not a song that already exists, it was just in my dream) went like this:

Hold fast!
Stand firm!
Praise God!
Believe the Gospel!
Strength for living is just for this day!

Now, when I say they were singing it, they were — but the "Hold fast! Stand firm!" bits were more a sort of shout, accompanied by fist pumps. It was a very powerful song. And they were coming out into the grotty old Rec on this wintry day, singing. 

I made sure not to forget the song when I woke up.

I wanted to sing it for you — I'm afraid I have a very elderly-lady voice these days, so you won't really get the power and confidence of it, you'll just have to imagine that; but at least it'll give you the tune.