Monday, 14 May 2012

Two songs, prudence and courage

 This morning while I was making my porridge, I also bustled around doing the washing, feeding the cats, tidying the kitchen, emptying the slops, and giving the sink drain a routine freshen up with borax, bicarb and vinegar.

So it came about that by the time I gave attention to the porridge, though it had not actually burnt it was starting to stick quite firmly to the bottom of the pan.  When this happens, if I take it off the hotplate and gently scrape away at the base of the pan with a wooden spatula (with the porridge still in there), it does gradually loosen so that it all comes out cleanly into the bowl.  Because the porridge is still in the pan in this process, it’s not possible to see if all the stuck bits have come off.  You have to feel it by the amount of resistance to the spatula working along the bottom of the pan.  I found I could do it best with my eyes closed – there is something akin to cranial osteopathy about this exercise!  It occurred to me as I gently scraped all the stuck porridge free with my eyes shut that this would be something a blind person would do spectacularly well.

This brought back to mind Etta James’ song of teenage memory, “I would rather be a blind girl, than to watch you walk away from me.” 

I turned this proposition over in my mind and concluded that I did not share it.  Offered the option of going blind or seeing my sweetie walk away from me, I’m sorry to say I’d keep the eyesight.  You do recover from heartbreak, and there are more ways to relate happily with a person than through marriage.  I am still good friends with my first husband, regard him as a loved family member, and am very happy with my present situation in life – though it did seem like a disaster of epic proportions at the time the first marriage collapsed. 

So I decided that the sentiment (“I would rather be a blind girl, than to watch you walk away from me”) is attractively extravagant but lacks prudence.  That led to pondering on prudence as a virtue, and reflecting that we don’t hear much about it at the present time.   In the days and circles when they gave girls names like Faith and Hope, Prudence was right up there with the most popular choices.  Not sure about the name – I think, because the sound of it is too similar to Prunes, and who would want to call their daughter Prunes? Only the type who would just as likely christen her Germoline or Baguette – but I esteem the virtue highly.  Prudence, in my view, is under-rated in the modern pop song.

By this time I had finished both my porridge and a large mug of nettle tea and progressed to hanging out the washing on this sunny and very windy morning – perfect drying weather.

Still thinking about Prudence, and how it might be related to caution, mindfulness and forethought, wisely provident in a world where there are few certainties except trouble, another song floated into my mind. 

For those of you who find detouring into links annoying, it’s by Irving Berlin, sung here by Fred Astaire and it goes like this:

There may be trouble ahead 
But while there’s music, and love and romance, 
Let’s face the music and dance!

And it seemed to me that this is not foolhardiness but the gaiety of courage, a virtue without which prudence can too easily become sour and fearful.  In your life, my life – anyone’s – there will be trouble ahead.  Prudence recognises this, pays off the mortgage, keeps up to date with the repairs and stocks up the larder, winning some space for courage to face the music and dance.  Prudence and courage make good dance partners, and they ought to stick together.

365 366 Day 135 – Monday May 14th 
 (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)

When The Hardest Thing To Do came out we had a groovy book launch.  My wonderful family and a handful of equally wonderful friends – Donna Mercer, Clare Cooper, Richard Eldridge, Rog & Carol Wilcock – gave the whole evening to working like hard-driven slaves to produce an absolute feast for a launch party in our church and clear it all up at the end, leaving everything spick and span.  They moved the (large, heavy) church furniture to make a story circle with a wonderful story throne surrounded by candles and covered in furs.  They set up a book table with a display draped in fairy lights. They brought musical instruments and played and sang medieval music.  Rosie brought her harp to the party and yes, we did ask her to play.   I had invited the whole church and every person I knew who lives in Sussex.  I invited one or two influential people – I don’t really know anyone influential – it was only another author and the local paper. And I invited the whole church.  About 75 invitations went out, fifty or so people replied to say they’d be coming, there’s about 15 of us family, and about 150 people worship in our church on a Sunday morning.  So I thought maybe we’d have 100-150 people, and catered accordingly.  I bought 50 copies of The Hardest Thing To Do, 30 copies of the one-volume trilogy of which it is the sequel, 15 copies of The Road of Blessing and In Celebration of Simplicity, and 7 copies of Learning to Let Go
35 people turned up and we sold 11 books total.  I've been giving them away even since. Even my mother didn’t buy one.  Of the expensive mistakes I have made in my life, this is well up the list.
It was a medieval-themed party (The Hardest Thing To Do is set in the fourteenth century) and everyone was to come in medieval costume.  The red thing is this photo, in fact an Islamic hijab, is the headdress I wore.

365 366 Day 134 – Sunday May 13th  

Ah.  Overdrive.  Momentum.  When I got into hats (last summer?) I thought how pretty a hat would look with blue and white flowers all clustering on it.  Nah-ah.  Shouldn’t-a done that.

365 366 Day 133 – Saturday May 12th  

I bought a straw hat with a big wide brim from an Etsy trader a while back.  It’s natural gold-coloured straw all tangled up with black straw and I like it a lot.  It has a hatband of gold and black ribbon, but the lady kindly put in this spare one in case I fancied a change.  I like the main one it has already, and I wear it only for weddings and on really bright sunny days anyway, so I thought I could dispense with the spare lace decoration thingy without breaking my heart (though I did keep it for a while because I could see where she was coming from).  I added it to one of the textile craft kits I made up for Freecycle.

365 366 Day 132 – Friday May 11th  

In case my camera burst into flame while I was pottering about the house with it in my pocket, the manufacturers thoughtfully provided me with this plastic container in which the battery must be carried at all times.  Yeah, right.  As if!  Because I am at heart a compliant and cautious individual I did keep the plastic container for a very long time.  I think I have had the camera about the same length of time as this blog has been running.  The Badger bought it for me to play with when I decided to start a blog.  I have seen the light now.  It has dawned on me – I don’t think I’m likely to use that plastic container.  Of such things as this, friends, is clutter created.    


Julie B. said...

I well related to the winding paths your pondering took you. It would be like me (and possibly like you?) to say something to someone, "Oh, speaking of those hollyhocks outside, did you remember to have the oil changed in the Highlander?" and wonder why I got a confused look. It makes total sense to me.

I also would choose sight, and I feel a little guilty for saying it. :(

You should have had your book launch party here. xxoo

Ember said...


Yes, I felt a bit guilty too! x

Pilgrim said...

My dad once preached at a town an hour south of here. We went to the church pastor's house for lunch. He had a daughter named Prudy, short for Prudence, I think. :-)

That's a good balance, courage and prudence.

Ember said...

:0) Hi Pilgrim! Waving!

kat said...

You do realise that now your camera will explode in a fit of pique!! I must show you my box labelled "various connecting devices"! xx
oh! and


Ember said...


The story about Prudence and the Beatles that comes with the YouTube video is v interesting too. x

Heather said...

I wish you would write a book about just how to combine prudence with courage!! I think I'm a bit over-the-top on the prudence side, but hopeless with the courage. Think it's a marvelous idea though.:-)

Ember said...

:0) Yes, the balance between them is interesting, isn't it!