Monday, 31 December 2012


Happy New Year, friends.

In 2013 I’d like to focus on three things:

To go for a walk every day.

To spend time by the sea at least once a week.

To learn what I can from Eckhart Tolle and put into practise the wisdom he teaches.  It is different vocabulary from the idiom developed in the church, but he’s pointing along the same path as Jesus and St Paul.

That’s all – not sure that was worth your reading, but I wanted to make a note of it for future reference.

May 2013 bring you peace and contentment, inspiration, exhilaration, understanding, equilibrium and real happiness.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The things that mattered

My friend Michelle (Everett Wilbert) on Facebook publishes many posts that inspire me and get me thinking.  Today she posted a quotation and comment that addressed exactly something that’s been in my mind.

The quotation (thought to be from Jonathan Lockwood Huie) said:

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness but because you deserve peace.

Michelle herself said this:
As the New Year beckons, let's start thinking seriously of cleaning up anything in our lives that has left hurt, pain, sorrow and lack of peace for self and others in its wake. The next few days can then be a launching pad for a truly New Year that doesn't start with the regret of important things, loving things, left unsaid. Time erodes our best intentions, it passes too swiftly and what we leave undone remains an open wound or, at best, a scar.  Everyone has someone they want to be made right with – most us have more than one :) Let's make those calls, send those notes or emails or FB messages and go into New Year's Eve with a clean slate and a good humor! 

Wise words.

Earlier today, in church, some old stuff had come to mind.  My history with that chapel goes back a long way and covers many sequences of memories.

I won’t go into it all here, but there has been a lot of painful and difficult ground covered: problems to solve, setbacks to overcome, and much to be forgiven – not only the big things to forgive, but the minor associated lingering bits of shrapnel that hang around in the soft tissues of the soul and move about unbidden at times, sources of sadness and regret.

And in thinking about forgiveness, my experience of it, and the difference it’s made in my life, I came across an odd thing.  The boundary between forgiveness and indifference is slight.

Some of the forgivings I’ve had to do have covered comprehensive areas.  As time has moved on, I’ve gone on turning away and turning away from things that hurt and damaged and disappointed – turning away from blame and bitterness, turning away from any thought of vengeance or resentment, turning away from remembering, reliving or dwelling on things that belong to the past.  Understanding that people didn’t mean what they did to hurt so much, weren’t really thinking about me at all, or simply couldn’t help or didn’t realise what they did, I just kept on turning away, turning away, choosing not to go there.

The thing that’s odd is that because – through an odd series of events and freaky coincidental things that happened – this turning away has covered big chunks of family contexts, church contexts and professional contexts, I have ended up with areas the size of Alaska that I keep resolutely turning away from in my life – both in my past and persisting into current reality. 

All the while I couldn’t forgive completely, that was in a sense not so much of a problem – it just meant I lived in an emotional minefield, never knowing from day to day when the feets of my soul (as opposed to the soles of my feet) would detonate some new livid thing that I’d have to pick up from and hold still, still, while it all calmed down and I could get it together again.

But now, though I still remember, I’ve got kinda used to turning away.  And the unnerving result is that it’s left big whited-out patches in my psyche – large blank areas.  In turning away I have become indifferent, so that I no longer care.

I’m sorry if this sounds utterly bewildering – I could explain it very easily by giving you examples of what I mean, but not without making reference to people and circumstances; and to do that would hardly be consistent with forgiving, since they are all alive and well!!

So the forgiving seems to have gone reasonably well, but it’s turned me into a bit of a zombie: my primary goal in life these days is to be left in peace.  I go to church and I listen to the hymns and prayers and sermons, and I make mental corrections to the grammar, the theological points and the accuracy of the singing but, though I believe the basic content, none of it moves me any more.  The scar tissue is too thick. 

Where once there was sorrow, there are now only spaces of neutral colourless odourless nothing.  I can’t be bothered.  I no longer wish to engage.  I slip out the back door.

This year I offered myself to preach the gospel again.  They may or may not take up my offer.  I am occasionally urged to check, to enquire; but I won’t.  Because whether I do it or not no longer moves me.  I am willing.  I can.  I feel called.  But whether I do or not – so what?  It’s in the hands of God.  Whether I live or die – so what?  That too is in the hands of God.

Forgiving is not impossible, but for me personally, in erasing all blame for what has been done, I have found most of myself erased as well.  Events, relationships – they are bonded to one’s very self, and in expunging them one expunges one’s own reality.

None of this troubles me.  Who, after all, really needs a personal history, or a self?  They are just part of the baggage we leave behind.  I practise turning away, and breathing and smiling.  I practise looking at the blue, at steam, at leaves and water, at flame and skin and fabric.  I practise just being, and this serves me very well.  But I have to say, it’s not how I imagined life would be.

Forgiveness is more easily encompassed when one must forgive things that don’t awfully matter.  When forgiving must be done concerning the things that matter – root things, things of the core – well then the cancelling out that must be done is a death, even while one still lives.

I must emphasise, this is not a sad experience; provided I am left in peace, all is well with my soul; but it has too many large blank areas in it to be of much service in the world – and though I could have imagined this might be true of me at ninety if I lost my memory or something, I hadn’t imagined it would occur in my mid-fifties through indifference cause by repeatedly turning away from my own history and the failure or destruction of things that really mattered to me.


The end of the  365 366 chuckout
 (As in, this)

So that’s it chaps.  I have a bit of adjustment to do because towards the end of the year I got some pretty china and some new clothes, and so I still have to ditch some more bits and pieces to get to where I said I’d be – ie two things chucked out for every one thing brought in.  But even with those new things I got, I think overall it still worked out okay.

365 366 Day 366 – Monday Dec 31st  

A Christmassy bag I meant to give the Wretched Wretch for his prezzies at home (cos we don’t do prezzies in our house) this year – annoyingly I forgot, so it’ll have to wait until next year I expect – but I’ll keep it in the to-go box until then.

365 366 Day 365 – Sunday Dec 30th

A very small wooden spoon.

365 366 Day 364 – Saturday Dec 29th

Timer sockets for electrical appliances for when the house is empty if we go away.  Putting two households into one meant that a) we had two lots of these and  b) the chances of all of us being away at once are almost zilch.

365 366 Day 363 – Friday Dec 28th

More hilariously unfortunate sports commentaries.

365 366 Day 362 – Thursday Dec 27th

Bathsalts.  Pretty ones.  Gift.

365 366 Day 361 – Wednesday Dec 26th

This was a . . . er . . . thing in its own nylon carry-bag.  Maybe a mac?

365 366 Day 360 – Tuesday Dec 25th

This is one of those cloths for polishing specs.  I don’t know how I did this, but I seem to have accumulated quite a number of these.  They are wasted on me because I always polish my specs on the hem of my T-shirts.

365 366 Day 359 – Monday Dec 24th

Oh – these photos I kept.  They were just to remind me what was in the parcel.  I had an album of photos put together by Bernard (my previous husband) of the wonderful sculptures he made.  Because it was all in his handwriting and everything, I kept it this long time since he died.  But I’d felt all along this really belonged to his son.  So I sent it this year.

365 366 Day 358 – Sunday Dec 23rd  

A leather belt.  What more can I say?

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Happy Christmas!

A joyous and blessed Christmas to you my darlings.

May 2013 be a good one.

Stay close to the source (or 'sty close to the source' as I originally wrote - yes, that'll do).

Walk in the light.

May the Force be with you.

Reach out for the hand of Jesus every now and then.  He's right there.  Hold tight.  Keep to the Way and try for what he would be proud of.

God bless you.

xxx e

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Silent Night

I finished up the set of daily Bible reading notes I’d promised the Bible Reading Fellowship, took some days to write Christmas cards – ooh, and incidentally if you haven’t had one from me and think you should have,  blame the Badger!  I never knew a man with so many friends!  I had to re-order cards twice, and we still ran out – er what was I saying?  Oh yes – I went to lots of Adventy churchy thingummies, and then back to work, this time editing someone else’s book rather than writing my own.

Now the thing is with writing – even editing, but truest of writing fiction – you do need Total Concentration.   And of course you work from home.

People are helpful with advice about boundaries – saying no to those who get in touch asking ‘Can you just . . .’ – but you still get the Person from Porlock effect; even the Sounds Off, of daily life in this shared house, are all it takes to shatter concentration.  You know? The cat miaowing – what’s the matter with him?  What does he want?  Is he shut in?  Is he hungry?  The organic food box delivery – everything has to be shelved, the old things taken out first so the new can go to the bottom of the pile, the boxes folded and stowed.  Then the postie calls – they’re out next door, I wondered if you’d mind taking in this . . .  Then a courier – same request.  Then you hear the washing machine spinning – darn – meant to put my washing on too – it’s such a lovely day but it starts to get dark by 3.30, if I don’t get it out on the line in the next hour there’ll be no chance of it drying.  Then my beautiful mama rings – ‘Are you busy?’

And if you work from home, I bet you can corroborate this – everyone you know thinks you are two separate people; the one who effortlessly produces a novel every few months like a cat having a fresh litter of kittens, and that other person who has bugger all to do and is available whenever required.

There are ways and means – of course there are.  We are hatching a plot to make Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays absolute Fortress Days for writing and composing and recording.  Silent Days.   We ignore the phone mostly, once we start work – by ‘we’, I mean me (writing), Fi (composing music, writing lyrics and recording), Hebe and Alice (writing, designing, painting, book-binding etc).  The Badger is a somewhat different kettle of fish – his Impervious Walls of Concentration are impenetrable!  He’s noisy though.  By ’eck, is he noisy!!!  From the moment he ricochets out of bed, stubs his toe on the beam up there in his garret, canters downstairs to bang a few cupboards and starts trumpeting into his hanky, we surely know when he’s home.  Bless him

Anyway in the meanwhile, I have reverted to a pretty much bomb-proof plan: I write in the dead of night.  This works because in middle age I find I need more rest and less sleep.  By the time evening comes, the idea of going out to a meeting/church service/performance/social event feels exhausting to contemplate; I just want to be at home.  But my mind is still going tick tick tick.  So I often write from early evening until about 3 in the morning – or else flake out early and then start work about 3 in the morning and write through until the household regains consciousness and starts lurching forth from its various burrows – either works just as well.  So far it seems quite effective.  I’m not such a springing whizzy during the daytime of course, but hey; after all, you don’t really need a fresh mind to hang out the washing or answer the door to the postman.

Gosh, I’m so sorry, is this terribly boring?  Well, never mind, that was it . . .


365 366 Day 357 – Saturday Dec 22nd 
(As in, this)

Useful Cath Kidston nylon shopper that folds up small to tuck away in your handbag.

365 366 Day 356 – Friday Dec 21st  

Dear little fragrant bath things masquerading as cakes.

365 366 Day 355 – Thursday Dec 20th

Orange plastic sundae dishes.  Not heart-rending to say goodbye.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Cosmic shift

So much is being said about the 21st of December this year.

December 21st is always the winter solstice, the darkest longest night of the year.  The ancient Celts, observing the turning of the light through the agricultural year in these northern climes, called it ‘Yul’ – meaning ‘the turn’. 

I expect you are familiar with the symbol of Yin and Yang, that depicts how everything contains the seed of its opposite, and thus is the rhythm perpetuated that maintains the balance of life. 

So it is with Yul: that deepest darkest night bears the seed of light – the infant light which grows and strengthens through the coming months until midsummer.

The Christian missionaries who brought the gospel to the Celtic peoples of the British Isles, wisely forbore from confronting and destroying the old religion.  They worked with it, seeking parallels and comparisons, and placed the feast of Christ's Incarnation at Yul – the celebration of the infant light born into the deepest darkness of a world lost in darkness; the light that shines in the midst of darkness but cannot be engulfed or overwhelmed by it.

Therefore in the Celtic calendar both before and since the coming of Christ, December 21st has always marked new beginning.  The old year died at Samhain, the Day of the Dead (in the agricultural year this was the time of slaughter), in the Christian calendar All Hallows (it’s All Hallows Eve of course – Hallowe’en – but for the Ancient Celts the day began at sunset not sunrise).  There then followed No-Time, when all lay dormant, in the place of waiting between the dying of the old at Samhain and the birth of the new at Yul.  The Christian missionaries consecrated this time into Advent – the waiting time, thinking of both the coming birth of Christ and the end of all things in the coming again of Christ – both Alpha and Omega (0-mega, the Big Zero, death) are held together in the blended themes of Advent, No-Time, the waiting time.

This year is different.  It is the year when the Mayan Long Count of days comes to the end of the 14th b’ak’tun, and ushers in a new age.   This is a threshold of similar importance to our new Millennium; it is a doorway, it marks a shift.

Just as in the symbol of Yin and Yang the seed of the new is seen embedded in the old, and in the ending of the old year the infant Light is born in the darkness at Yul, so now a shift is occurring – for those who speak in this language, you might say “Aslan is on the move”.

Not grasping the implications of the time, many are laughing at it, mocking the ‘end-time’ fearfulness that abounds, making jests and boasts about how they will prove it all to be so much rubbish when they wake up still alive on December 22nd.  They have not understood.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, who knew?  A small group of shepherds came to find him in the stable, that’s all.  You might say, it was all something and nothing, an anti-climax, a non-event; and how misjudged such an assessment would be.  The great unfolding of salvation had begun, the reconciliation of heaven and earth; Aslan was on the move.  It just didn't show up at first.

When we crossed the threshold of the new millennium, many clergy I knew at the time belittled it as nothing but one more day in the calendar, and I wondered as I listened to them where had they been?  I never saw such a shaking of the tree as there was in those days.  My own life fell apart as comprehensively as it could without actually ending.  This was also true of others I knew.  It was indeed a time of cataclysmic change, and a seedbed for further changes we have seen since; economically and politically, for instance, the 21st century balance is unfolding as very different from the century before.  Same with the previous millennium threshold, when Europe began to emerge from the Dark Ages into the flowering of Christendom.

I do not know what this new shift is, exactly, or what it will begin.  I suspect that partly depends on us.  But I think it will bring a winnowing.  I think our chaff will fly.  And I think it will be wise to understand that because we will still wake up on December 22nd, it doesn’t follow that nothing is any different, that no change has occurred.


365 366 Day 354 – Wednesday Dec 19th

One of several pairs of scissors.  We had enough, and then were sent several pairs free with the sewing machine we bought a while back.  So the scissor collection needed pruning.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

(no) MOAR

Help.  I think I’ve overdosed on church.  There’s a lot on offer during Advent.

My family are artists and musicians, mostly, so this is a busy time of year.  Buzzfloyd had a concert with her friend and sisters in it (I didn’t go to that one, but everyone said it went well).  Then as the weeks of Advent rolled by we had a procession of enormous figures from a church nativity set coming through the house because their faces needed re-painting and their robes touching up – urgently in some cases; you should have seen Jesus!  Bright orange shiny limbs and his eyes rolled up into his head.  He looked more like a voodoo doll than the infant Christ.  And the harmonies for O Holy Night and all the other choir numbers have been in rehearsal – it’s a very beautiful environment to be in, feeds the soul.  Last Saturday we took my beautiful mama to the brass band Christmas carol concert – our Rosie on the trombone and her partner Jon conducting (naturally; it’s his band - here are some of them playing a fanfare outside the abbey). 

I went to an Advent quiet day at Pett chapel out in the country, led by their pastor, and also to one of his Advent Bible studies, all about Joseph.   I’ve been there most Sundays recently, but also (when I can juggle timing and energy levels) to the Methodist chapel just across the valley – we can see the spire from our kitchen – and to the glorious Anglican church full of incense and kindness where the Badger is a Lay Reader.  He was preaching last Sunday, which means a double – 8am mass then 10.30 – so I went with him to the 8am, then scooted up to Pett where a dear friend from way back, Derek Brice, was preaching.

Meanwhile, the last couple of weeks I’ve been out to the healing service and Eucharist at Crowhurst – centre for the Church of England healing ministry.  It’s a wonderful, Spirit-filled experience, but has a certain . . . er . . . full-on quality to it.  A while back the Badger and I were chatting about doing and being, and established that while he is into doing in a big way – a Grand Doer – I am somewhat fainter and flimsier, and mostly incapable of anything other than simply being – so, more of a Small Beer really.  And to us Small Beers, the undiluted Spirit of a Crowhurst healing service is best kept to the ‘occasional’ category.  But a friend of mine has been gravely ill, and we made a tryst to meet up there each week, since I am also incapable of socialising.    

I went to the Bruderhof  big carol sing which was moving and amazing as always.

Finally, having chickened out of last week’s Bible study, and almost walked out of the most recent Crowhurst eucharist through sheer overwhelm, we reached the weekend.  I’d said I wouldn’t make it to the evening carol service, but I so wanted to hear the choir sing O Holy Night after listening to Hebe and Alice singing it round the house through the last weeks, and I wanted to hear our Rosie playing her harp in accompaniment to Silent Night.  I changed my mind and went.

The reason I hadn’t wanted to go is that the church that carol service happens in is an Evangelical congregation of serious and determined persuasion – a bit like the Puritans, maybe.  It is a church of sermons, but I hoped we’d be let off light as it was a carol service and lots of the people there are not church-goers most of the time.  But no.

I’m not sure how long the sermon lasted (I don’t wear – or even own – a watch), but in terms of feeling-time it was about four hours long.  So, twenty minutes maybe?  The preacher made an interesting mistake right at the beginning of the sermon, where he said he wanted to talk ‘for a few weeks’ about the Christmas story.  He laughingly corrected himself, but it would have been fine to have just left it like that.  He talked rapidly for a long time – about . . . well . . . television programmes and the Magi and Christianity and school sports days and supermarket checkout queues.  I was a bit restless and looked at the bricks in the wall and the candle flames, the arches going up high into the shadows, the polished wood of the pew.  I wished I’d brought a book to read, or at least something to draw on.

Then as he came into the last chapters, he began to talk about MOAR.  ‘More’, of course, but he said it ‘MOAR’, like the lol-cats.  He said we could learn MOAR by coming to the course the church would be running in the New Year and find out MOAR from the special leaflets they would be pleased to give us completely free as a Christmas gift and discover MOAR about Jesus and the faith.

Well now, I love Jesus.  I recognise in Him my heart’s desire.  But at that moment he was receding rapidly into a plaster figure viewed through the wrong end of the binoculars and MOAR was what I definitely didn’t need.  But at last it was over, and time for Silent Night, which was so beautiful – the choir singing softly, and Rosie playing her harp in the candle-light and the shadows.

Then it was time for a blessing, and after that we got a re-run and reminder of all the MOAR things that were available for us – then applause and a reprise of Torches Torches, and I scuttled past the mince pies and out into the night.  I hope you would have been proud of me, though: in an early part of the service where the preacher asked us to put our hands up if we couldn’t stand mince-pies, despite my besetting literal-mindedness I managed to spot that we weren’t actually supposed to, because it was just a preliminary to letting us know there’d be some on offer afterwards along with tea and leaflets as part of the MOAR.

It is a source of frustration to me that participation in gatherings feels like a ride on a ghost rain or getting lost in a hall of mirrors with a crowd of Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions.   

I know how disappointing I can be.  A friend commented recently, on hearing with surprise of my being received into membership at Pett chapel, “It just seems like in-and-out, in-and-out to me.”  I guess she’s right.  The difficulty I have is that the faith community always wants MOAR.

In the church of my dreams, there would be nothing but a small stone chapel in a grassy field, with a mug of flowers from someone’s garden on the altar, low benches to sit on, candles in simple holders of wood or stone, a woodstove, and sunlight through the windows.  Nothing precious that anyone would want to steal, requiring the doors to be locked.  Nothing complicated requiring constant fundraising.   Simple.  Plain.  No hot drinks at the end or greeters on the door, no leaflets or posters or banners or flyers.  The people would enter in silence and wait in peace for worship to commence.  They would leave quietly, with no kissing and no frightening laughter with wet open mouths.  Their faces wouldn’t be forbidding or grim, just soft and gentle. Their eyes would be kind.  Not beady.  There would be no microphones or electronic paraphernalia, the singing would be accompanied by musicians like the old parish bands – a cello, a trombone, a viola, a flute, a guitar, a folk harp, a bodhran – portable and simple, coming and going with the musicians, and leaving behind nothing but the echoes of joy.  The children would sit with their parents to hear the Gospel story and bring to God the heartaches of the world – or else play out in the churchyard if the sitting felt too long.  No committees, no incessant asking for money, no social occasions, no lunches.  Just the holy Gospel story and the prayer, the music and the people and the place.  And on Christmas morning the same, but with frost.  Everything just . . . unobtrusive . . . simple.  Enough of itself.

But only in my dreams is it like this.  I go to this church and that church, or I meet with a friend, and for a while everything is fine.  And then they want MOAR.  Already this Christmas, like a great rumbling tummy, like the troll at King Henry’s table that ate all his food and then his sheep and then his pet greyhounds, the word goes out for MOAR.   Are you having Christmas with your family only?  What about the lonely neighbour, the homeless vagrant?  Have you bought gifts for your grandchildren only?  What about the world’s poor?  Bring socks!  Christmas is for sharing!  What do you know about the faith?  Come to the Alpha Course and learn MOAR!  Have you only been to the carol service and the Advent studies and the concert?  Could you not make time, at this special season, to go and sing some carols at the nursing homes?   Might you consider volunteering at Surviving Christmas or the Snowflake Project or the Debt Counselling service . . . or . . . 

The Lord is asking you to get out of the boat, to step out in faith!  He wants to stretch you, to challenge you, to move you on!  The Lord never stands still!  What words are the sure signs of a dying church? ‘We always do it like this’!  No!  The Lord wants something different, something MOAR!

The calendar bristles with events, and the people try to make a point of attending, but the organisers are disillusioned and disappointed because the people showed up to the event but didn’t come to help set out chairs and tables and wash up afterwards.  The attenders felt they’d done their bit showing up to yet another event, but the organisers felt let down – they wanted MOAR.  Women’s meetings, men’s breakfasts, toddler parties, messy church, living cribs, healing ministries, executive meetings, property meetings, finance meetings, meetings to plan ahead for the meetings, prayer before and coffee after, mid-week fellowships . . . glory . . .

I feel inadequate, and unfriendly, mean-spirited and uncomfortably like Scrooge.  But I can never cope with MOAR-church for very long.  

No MOAR, in 2013.   Less-church.   Nothing MOAR.

“It is desirable that a man live in all respects so simply and preparedly that if an enemy take the town... he can walk out the gate empty-handed and without anxiety.”                         ~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden


365 366 Day 353 – Tuesday Dec 18th
(As in, this)

Surplus Christmas decorations.  We do put up some tinsel here and there, and cards sent by dear friends.  We have a holly wreath on the front door, and we have a tree; and that’s enough.

365 366 Day 352 – Monday Dec 17th

I am an absolute demon for hoarding packaging that will come in useful some day.  This year I’ve tried to find that useful place and occasion and send the packaging to it – or throw it away.

365 366 Day 351 – Sunday Dec 16th

Felt pens.  I think these went in one of the craft kits I made to give away on Freecycle.

365 366 Day 350 – Saturday Dec 15th

Bits for a textile craft kit to give away.

365 366 Day 349 – Friday Dec 14th

Yet another plaid skirt.

365 366 Day 348 – Thursday Dec 13th

Nice skirt, but at the time I was too thin for it.  I wouldn’t be now – hah!  Oh, but hey - who cares?

365 366 Day 347 – Wednesday Dec 12th

Waste paper bin.

365 366 Day 346 – Tuesday Dec 11th

Surplus saucepan.  Went to homeless man who'd got a place of his own.

365 366 Day 345 – Monday Dec 10th

Surplus plastic containers.

365 366 Day 344 – Sunday Dec 9th


365 366 Day 343 – Saturday Dec 8th

Oh dear, I felt guilty parting with this.  It was painted by Bernard’s first wife Anne.  He loved her so much, and treasured her paintings.  This was one he gave to me.  As they have both been dead quite a long while now, I made an executive decision to donate this to raise funds for the hospice that cared so well for both Anne and Bernard in the last difficult stretch of life.

365 366 Day 342 – Friday Dec 7th

More acrylic display stands.

365 366 Day 341 – Thursday Dec 6th

I had a few of these given to me because I wrote some of the stories on them.  One went winging its way across to Julie Faraway for her grandkids to enjoy.  One is for the Wretched Wretch.  Simply can’t remember whatever I did with the other one.