Wednesday, 28 August 2013


I may be mistaken, but I think in England we are on the brink of doing something really bad, from which there will be no way back.

If you live in England you will probably know that fracking sites are proposed for well over half the country.  The first one, at Balcombe in West Sussex, should be starting drilling soon.  This is at present being delayed by staunch and substantial anti-fracking protest at Balcombe; it reminds me strongly of the protest at Greenham Common.

Fracking, whether for gas or oil, is short for 'fracturing'.  There's a good explanation of it here.

The basic deal is that, to release the gas or oil deposits, chemicalised water is forced into places deep in the earth.  This involves poisoning the waters in the aquifers, which means water we could have accessed for drinking will become poisonous.

When I wrote to members of our Hastings council about this matter, I was assured that no fracking sites have been identified for 'our area'.  But when it comes to the aquifers, the air, the rivers, Balcombe in West Sussex is our area.  Airborne gas respects no county or borough boundaries.  Even so, if this is the only means of communicating to the UK civic authorities that we care about this, adding our voices to the protest here is the least we can do.

Here in the South East of England we have just received a leaflet from our water authority, explaining that we are still in serious water shortage - semi-drought - conditions.  All of us soon will be having metered water to encourage us to use less, and the leaflet reminds us of a number of ways we can all use water responsibly, to make it go further and alleviate drought.

Fracking is a very thirsty process.  Not only does it necessitate poisoning (not for a brief temporary period but long-term) water we could have accessed for drinking, but it also requires millions of gallons of water to run the heavy machinery.

They have a fracking plant in Texas, in an area already challenged by extremely arid conditions.  Here's  the result.

Of course fracking, whether for oil or gas, and also oil extracted from tar sands and piped away, will affect the air and the land as well as the water.  Read here about some of the implications for rural America.    You'll notice that ExxonMobil is one of the firms behind fracking in America. Exxon have been extracting oil from tar sands too.  Read about the effects of their work here.

Of course, at least initially fracking will be done in the countryside.  There would be too much of an outcry if towns and roads were spoiled to dig up the area and drill for gas.  So there will be a need to cut down more woodland.  And of course, one of the many benefits of trees is that they slow down the movement of water through the landscape, protecting us against both drought and floods.

Fracking is what's called a 'dirty technology'.  The benefits are not great and the pollution and damage is massive.  The cost in terms of the wellbeing of the Earth is huge for the commodity we produce.

It shouldn't need much explaining for it to be clear to you that the consequences of all this are sombre indeed.  But the urgency and importance of it is made clear in this article about Earth Overshoot Day.

Our life is good.  Our family runs a car, we have a gas boiler for the winter months (our summertime water is heated by solar tubes on the roof).   But I would be more than willing to have our government insist we stop using gas and oil forever and just do without it, rather than seek fresh supplies this way.  I look at the people walking around our neighbourhood, ordinary people, parents with little kids in tow, old folks struggling along slowly with walking frames, many immigrants, many who are very poor.  And I try to imagine what will happen if, just as the government is cutting assistance to people living with disability, fracking in West Sussex gives us here in East Sussex breathing difficulties nausea, asthma.  I try to imagine us turning on the tap to find the water is gone, ordered to let our gardens die because the fracking machinery needs the water, watching our dairy cattle and sheep in the meadows sicken and die because the rivers are poisoned, seeing our orchards perish because the land had been sucked dry and a secret cocktail of lethal chemicals blasted into the deep earth.

Our Prime Minister, David Cameron, is firmly in favour of fracking, saying it will make only a tiny difference to the English countryside.   He says "We must make the case that fracking is safe. International evidence shows there is no evidence why fracking should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated."  Hmm.

Once this Pandora's Box has been opened, there will be no stuffing back inside what we have unleashed.   In my soul, to the very depths, is such a dread of the future we are creating, such a grieving for the Earth, for the rivers, the hills, the wild creatures, the trees.   This is not the road of blessing.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Three Wise Things

In our house, one of us is called Hebe, and she is very wise.

At first I had only Two Wise Things to tell you about today (Beauty Cream and the Frankincense Tree), but two always wants to be three in lore and storytelling, so I am going to add a third one and tell you Three Wise Things about Hebe.

First Wise Thing:

Hebe is a Maker, and she has many magical and intriguing things in her room.
When I went in there looking for the First Wise Thing to photograph it, I couldn’t find it at all.  With Hebe, sometimes things are Apparent and Sometimes they are Hidden, because she is a friend of Mystery and can’t help picking up enigmatic ways.  Now you see it, now you don’t; that’s how it is with Hebe.  But while I was searching vainly for the First Wise Thing, I did see some other Things, and I photographed them with my camera Lumix, so you would not be disappointed by having no picture to see when I tell you about the First Wise Thing.

So, here you are.  Look – this is the corner of Hebe’s shelf.  The baton that holds it up is made of a small branch that fell from the ash tree at the bottom of our garden.  That makes me happy.

And these are some of the Magical Things I saw while I was in her room; the tiniest giraffe possible, two handmade wooden spoons, and a strange bottle obviously for some Magical and Mysterious Use.

That’s how it is in Hebe’s room.  But the Thing I searched for and couldn’t find is a button badge she wears sometimes, that says:
“It’s always the quiet ones”
 This small and modest statement contains an inherent wisdom that unfolds like a flower as you hold it in mind.  “It’s always the quiet ones”.  It is too.  So that was the First Wise Thing.

The Second Wise Thing came about for two reasons (two to keep it company in its second place on the list, you see); because Hebe loves Healing Herbs and Wildflowers, and because she is an Explorer and Finder.  She moves at the speed of love around the garden.  The speed of love, unlike the speed of light, is very, very slow.  Nobody knows the speed of love; sometimes it is quite still.  Another Wise Person I know, Martin Baddeley who was once my Teacher, said: “Jesus walked, and He stopped.  What is the speed of love?”  This has only ever been a question; never an answer – it has this in common with many Life’s in-sights.  While Hebe is in the garden she is Looking.  Not looking, you see; Looking.  Insects, flowers, toadstools, raindrops, spider webs, bark, pebbles, toads, ferns, moss; she really Looks, so she really sees.   This is how she puts her Quietness to good use.

A plant she didn’t find in our garden but often includes in the Healing Salves she makes for us, is Frankincense.  Sometimes, quietly, like a Sniffing Animal, Hebe takes her time poking and rootling in the moonlight on the World Wide Web, balancing precariously along its many strands until she finds out things and can weave them into her own Wisdom, much as she includes herbs in her Healing Salves.  On the World Wide Web one dark night, Hebe discovered that the Frankincense Trees of the Earth (and as far as we know there are none anywhere else) are In Danger.  Human Beings in their Ignorance and Sin have been greedy and impatient with the precious resin of the Frankincense Trees, and taken too much.  

The Frankincense Trees did what they could, climbing to the Rocky Outcrops of High Mountains and standing there on tiptoe clinging on by the Barest Root in the hope they could never be reached, but even there Human Beings came with their cutting knives for the healing sap of the tree that has the fragrance of all beauty and can make people well again.

So the Frankincense Trees upped the ante and decided to have no more children.

When Frankincense Merchants in Wales heard of this pass, they decided to Do What They Could.  It takes patience to germinate a Frankincense Tree.  Only three in every hundred seeds germinate at all.  And Frankincense Trees grow at the speed of love.  But the Frankincense Merchants in Wales persevered.  A year ago Hebe added her name to the Waiting List and at last the tiny trees the Merchants had been able to germinate were ready to go out (at considerable expense, mark you) to their new homes.

When the Quiet Ones advise, you listen; so when Hebe suggested we incorporate into our household a Frankincense Tree,  we said "Yes; of course," because that was the Right Answer.  

The postman brought it here from Wales.   Royal Mail!  Very fitting.

First it must live in the bathroom, where it will like (we hope) the diffused light and the cool mountain air with its mists and fogs.  

Here it is.  God bless you, little tree of hope and promise.  May you grow and prosper!  May you rise from strength to strength!

So the Second Wise Thing concerned the finding, considering, advising and acquiring of a Frankincense Tree – a privilege and a responsibility.

Then the Third Wise Thing, Hebe gave to me on my birthday this year, when she made especially for me a pot of wonderfully fragrant Beauty Cream.  It came with a Sheet of Advice:

And if that’s not Wisdom, I don’t know what is.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Hysterical delight

Oh, man, I am SO PLEASED with myself!!!

I've spent HOURS today patiently learning how to do stuff on a Mac, and figuring out how to make montages and graphic layouts in the absence of Microsoft Paint.

I wanted to be able to upload things to our church Facebook page, to make it a) relevant and b) pretty.

And FINALLY I managed to make this:

Hooray!  I am just so pleased that I did that  :0D

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Habitat. Home.

This week my heart is heavy to hear of two homes lost under the soul-less administration of UK government.

One is Oaken Wood near Maidstone in Kent.

Despite lobbying by local people who love the woodland, and the best efforts of the Woodland Trust, permission has been given to cut down the trees to quarry for stone.

Here is Oaken Wood photographed for the Daily Telegraph newspaper:

It will soon look like this:

That’s Kent.  Meanwhile, in Pembrokeshire (Wales), the owners of an earth-friendly turf-roofed straw and wood round house who failed to seek planning permission to build their home, have been told to tear it down on the basis that it harms the character and appearance of the countryside.

Charlie Hague and Megan Williams built their little house for £15,000 on William’s parents’ land, in time for the birth of their first child. 

This is the house:

I feel heartsick when I read about these things.

I have done what I can.
I signed the petition to save Meg and Charlie’s home – there is no reason why Pembrokeshire County Council cannot grant them retrospective planning permission.  Perhaps you might like to sign it, too?

And I sent some money to the Woodland Trust towards their campaign to buy Fingle Wood in England’s West Country.  Only 2% of England’s ancient woodland remains, now.  98% gone.   

This is Fingle Wood:

The trees are our guardians against drought and flood, for they slow down the movement of water through the landscape.  They purify the air and stabilise the land.  They shade us against fierce heat in summer and temper the winter winds.  They are home and shelter to countless species.  They are the lungs of the earth.

Do what you can to speak up for the trees, for your life is in their hands just as their life is in yours.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

My favourite picture.

I want to show you my favourite picture ever.  

I have stacks of images saved on memory sticks – of nature, the countryside, people, sunsets, waterfalls, flowers, inspirational quotes, cats, elephants, rabbits for Julie – but this is my very favourite picture of all time.

There’s a page I go to on Facebook, Advocates For Spalding Dogs – where you can donate to pay release fees for lost dogs in the pound at Spalding County.

Sometimes they have a rescue opportunity – if not, or if no-one pays their release fees, their lives are brought to an abrupt halt with a lethal injection.  So the people who are the Advocates For Spalding Dogs work tirelessly to find the opportunities and finance that will save their lives and find them forever homes.

If you have the emotional stamina for it, you can watch while donations gradually come in for dogs sometimes overdue for euthanasia.

Once there was a little dog who – if my memory of this is correct – had no donations.  Time was running out.  The lethal injection was the next stop.

And then, this photo:

. . . the little dog as the sole passenger in a private jet, winging away to a most luxurious forever home.

I’m a preacher.  I could think of all kinds of things to say about the Saviour who lifted me from hopelessness, the good Shepherd who found me and took me home when I was lost, the Lord who supplies my every need and by whose grace I am sustained.

But for now just let me say – that photo of a little dog being airlifted out of the pound is, in my opinion, the best pic ever.