Thursday, 29 August 2019

Brexit and the North Sea

There is a man in the village here on the edge of the North Sea who hasn't been to the next door village for 4 years!  This is his home and you will know now what he feels about Brexit.  Here, we cosmopolitan philosophers types have reeled in different directions at the news of Parliament's  suspension.  We were about to meditate but decided to meet up in the back bedroom and all have our two pennorth of opinion and contrasting emotional responses;  did we get anywhere? NO we didn't but clearly meditation was going to be too much of a struggle as the conversation would be difficult to dismiss from our fevered brains.   So we go down to the sea, scene of the previous wild swimming.  (I should put you right about the naked swimmers, two of the swimmers remained on the beach in clothes  whilst I was the only one to cast myself on the waters in my altogether.  But they did drink the wine and they did giggle like teenagers!)  
That sea knows how to set you straight, to soothe the sensibilities and remind us of how much we all love each other, never mind the different opinions we might have.  It was as still as still, as warm as it could be and empty except for us and one other.  The painter got into her own painting, there she is in the photograph, the horizon empty and huge and no sign of any other country on the other side!  That is what the Suffolk boy thinks, leave those other countries on the other side of the sea.  Me, I'm just interested to see what will happen and of course I do wonder what Jacob Rees Mogg was offered for tea at Balmoral, don't you? 

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Casting off!

We have, between the three of us, 223 years of existence, two aged 76 and me, the junior coming in at 71 years old.  We are serious philosophical people.  We decide to go to the beach for what may well be the end of the record breaking warm August Bank Holiday.  We have spent so many summers here together with children and grandchildren and we love it.  The bank holiday ended yesterday but as we are retired our holiday continued and we decided to make the most of it.  We had already had wine for lunch and slept it off in the afternoon while the summer sun continued to shine.  Then, when it began to cool, we rose up, packed our barbecue bits, our aged bathing costumes, towels and a bar of chocolate and went down to the Shingle beach we love so much.  Everyone else was leaving as the sun went down but we lit our barbecue and chatted over a bottle of wine as the sea crept up towards us.  The barbecue took ages to get going but suddenly, with extra effort from us, it glowed red.  We cooked our sausages, ate them in buns with mustard and tomato ketchup washed down with more wine and then, as everyone had left the beach, we cast caution to the winds and staggered naked into the sea which didn't make the slightest complaint about our age or our size or our state of inebriation.  The sea just lapped up to the Shingle and we floated under the misty sky giggling like teenagers, then clambered up the shingle bank, gathered our belongings and came home to the 10.00 clock news and our grown up selves.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

The monk and the spaceship baby meet up soon!

Father Laurence and Father Justin meeting at St Catherine's`
In exactly a week's time, Father Justin, a Texan born Greek Orthodox Monk from Sinai will be getting off a train at St Neots station where we will meet him.  I have never had a Greek Orthodox Monk to stay before and at the same time, the baby who once slept in a space ship incubator and was so tiny, she could fit in your pocket, will be staying here.  What will she make of a tall, thin saintly man with twinkling eyes, all dressed in black with a long long beard and his long hair tied in a pony tail and what will he, fresh from Sinai, what will he be thinking of us!  I look round the kitchen all full of photographs, pots of spoons and jars of marmalade.  There are books and felt tip pens waiting for that small child to draw her circles and lines making  birds and fishes, giving them eyes and naming them, bird and fish and then handing us the pen to do the same.  Will he join in that game?  He can't be used to small children curious about everything and she won't have seen anyone looking like him.  I know why he's here, he is coming to give two talks in London and to have a day in Cambridge with us beforehand but she will just see a new person in Granny's kitchen.   She won't be interested in his spiritual message, just whether he can draw a bird.
Will she ask him to follow her into the garden?
And what will he make of us, of the countryside, wintery now and so English, different to Sinai where the desert yields a little green in the garden of the Monastery and deep water has made an oasis with peach and almond trees, dates and a few vegetables.  Will he borrow some wellington boots and stride alongside us walking the dogs round the fields?  Will he be happy here?  You can come and meet him too.   If you live in London you can listen to him talk on November 28th at St Martin-in-the-Fields at 10.00 am.  He will be part of a programme where he and a Benedictine Monk, Father Laurence Freeman tell us about the mystical tradition of both Eastern and Western Christianity.  This event is free and open to all but if you live in another country you can hear Father Justin speaking the same evening via live stream.  If you register for this by clicking on this link, I will send you the access information  a few days beforehand. And I will tell you after all the talks are over and Father Justin has gone back to his desert Monastery, how he and baby Bea and the dogs got on in the kitchen of our house! And there may even be a photo of them all together.
St Catherine's Monastery right under the God trodden Mount Sinai 

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Finding space to meet the other whoever he or she or it is

Revd Archbishop Rowan Williams
By chance and good fortune, I happened upon this talk by Rowan Williams and Ben Quash which happened just recently at St Martin-in-the-Fields.  It couldn't have been by chance actually because it was so much the message which resonates in my own heart but which I couldn't have found the words to formulate in the way that Archbishop Rowan and Revd Professor Ben Quash did and which that Church of the ever open door allows.  It is about how we should encounter that which we think is other than ourselves, other races, other sexes, other colours and of course, other religions without relinquishing our own identity.  Such a great question and they answer so well.  Perhaps this was the answer to my prayer to the Absolute, it expresses a way to find the space which is without colour, race or religion, without prejudice or partiality, outside our everyday world and to find the way to ease the constrictions which can be felt when differences bind and don't celebrate otherness. 
If the stone placed on Peggy's gravestone worked, this was pointing the way to the answer

Saturday, 27 October 2018

offering it through Aunt Peggy, a good woman

There is a story of an orphan in India who desperately wanted to go to School but he had no money to pay.  He asked a wise man what he should do and the answer the wise man gave was this; write your request in a letter and put it in an envelope addressed to God, the Absolute, the all knowing.  The boy did this, he followed the suggestion and then he waited.  That letter went to the sorting office and the sorters were uncertain what to do so they gave it to the postmaster (a most important position then when there was no internet)!  The postmaster asked if they could find the boy and bring him to his office.  They found him, the postmaster adopted him and sent him to the best school. That boy became a judge.  The person who told me this was actually told the story by the judge!
Shingle Street, white shells and stones amongst the others

Now the person who told ME, suggested that when you had a problem you just couldn't see your way to solving, that you offer it to God, to the Absolute, to the all knowing.  I have a problem, one that can't seem to be resolved so I took a beautiful white stone collected from the beach at Shingle Street and I wrote on it.  I wrote my prayer asking that there could be resolution to the problem and then I wondered what to do with it.  Just over the wall from my house, there is a beloved Aunt's gravestone. She was a devout Roman Catholic who, as a young woman had faced incredible obstacles, helped Allied servicemen escape from Belgium, been interrogated by the Gestapo, escaped herself over the mountains and come to England, married an English escapee and lived her life in Suffolk, much loved by family and friends.  Her gravestone has an inscription which is the motto of the Comet Line, the line which took servicemen and helped them escape.  Its meaning is Fight without Blows.

So, I am fighting my problem which is a little war of truth and untruth with a prayer which I hope that Aunt Peggy will find and present the message on the stone to the nearest angel to take straight up to the highest Authority for help.  Go, Angel Go!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Seeing through her eyes

Getting used to being a Grandparent who plays cards!
I watched as the car drove away.  The two of them, two grandparents like us had been staying here for a week with their large family joining them for different days and nights.  They came from Cornwall and it was a big effort to drive all that way to Cambridgeshire and back and they weren't young.  They were the same age as us and we had so much in common.  Numbers of children and grandchildren, similar family holidays involving sea and sand and walking and swimming and climbing.  She, the grandmother was the one who caught my eye as the car drove away; it was the look in her eye, a yearning it seemed for the times when they were all around her and she was mother.  Her look caught my eye because I recognised so clearly some of what she was perhaps feeling.  Time passing and everything changing, babies becoming toddlers, toddlers to children, children to teenagers, teenagers to students, to careers and partners and their own babies coming and becoming the toddling ones.  I had watched the grandmother as she played with the small children, watched her shepherding them up the ladder to the wendy house, watched as she pushed them on the swing, watched as she sat with them inside playing games and colouring pictures of cows and goats and gruffalos!  She loved having them here and it was clearly a wrench to go.  I watched as the Grandpa rather tenderly opened the car door and in she got, he driving, she looking out and perhaps both of them remembering how they had packed all those children when they were small into the back of the car and taken them on holiday, taken them to school, and then maybe to university and then watched as they graduated, cheered as they got their first jobs, invited the girlfriends and boyfriends to join them for lunch and then hoped that they would be happy if they married, would be able to withstand all the pushes and pulls of life and the ups and downs of their families.  Hoped for the best for all of them, loving being with them, sad to leave, sad to go home to the house and garden in Cornwall and there to wait for the next chance of seeing them all together again.  A mixed feeling but maybe now they are settling down to Sunday television, they are over the sadness and have spoken to all of the now grown up children and heard they are all alright.  They have slotted back into their lives again.  That's the way it goes but we, the grandparents didn't think it would ever happen to us, we thought we would be ever young.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Brian Hodgkinson's heroic history of the way civilisations come and go and give us our heroes

Agamemnon walked home through this gate! True!
Brian Hodgkinson
I have a friend who looks just like an ordinary person, walks and talks like everyone else, drinks tea and coffee, smiles and moves around just like everyone else but HE IS SO CLEVER!  He would probably say that he just reads a lot but then so do I but I don't retain the information.  He does, his brain must have so many places full of interesting and accurate facts that when he sits down at his desk and concentrates on what he wants to know, he can bring a decade, a whole century or even a millenium to mind and have it in an order which he can then explain in such a way that someone like me, a person of very moderate understanding, can feel the texture of history in my own bones.  He has written both poetry and history and his name is Brian Hodgkinson.  I have been reading his extraordinary new three volume book which is so beautifully written and crafted it could be called poetry.  The three volumes cover The Advancement  of Civilisation in the Western World, and that is just what it is, a great panorama of millenia which makes sense of who we are now and what we might have been and what we could be.  Hodgkinson weaves myth and legend into factual evidence so that Homeric heroes have their feet in facts and turn out to have their descendants in every heroic action performed by every person we recognise today as heroic.  His starting point for the beginning is way back in the foundation of time, farther back than the written word, back into the mystery touched on in Scriptures which try to describe how something comes into being from consciousness alone and takes form through words.  This may sound fanciful but when we begin to see that all our understanding of anything from the most sublime to the most prosaic is expressed in words in our minds, this capacity words have to create makes sense of In the beginning was the Word....
Now, this great work from Brian Hodgkinson, my friend who I am glad to introduce to you is available to pre-order from Shepheard Walwyn publishers at £65 for all three.  

I have been zooming through the first book because it has pace, isn't dry and dusty and have just ordered one copy for myself and one other.  It might be for YOU!!!

Copies should arrive in October and great Autumn reading ahead.