Saturday, November 30, 2019

This Is Just To Say

I was trawling some of the books on creative writing the other day, looking to find a task to set for the Breathe Writers meeting today. The original poem the book used for the task was “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams - 1883-1963. I wrote my own short similar kind of poem:-

This is Just To Say

I have just noticed
the scribbles
on the pages of
your passport

you are probably
going to need to
travel to Peru next week

Alfie would apologise
but he hasn’t yet learned to speak
He loves
the colour red

The Task - Imagine you are the owner of the passport. Write a reply. You can write in the same form with the same number of syllables, the same number of lines and line breaks if you wish. Or you can write your reply as a paragraph of 50 words.

My husband has been coming along to the group. He doesn’t claim to be creative but says he comes to support me. He read his reply as a rap:-

I am the bear found on Paddington Station
On Tuesday I return to my Peruvian nation
Alas and alack my young friend Alfred
Decided to colour my passport dark red
It won’t rub off and it won’t erase
But I know Alfie is just going through a phase
I am sure the custom’s officer will be firm but fair
For the photo in the passport is clearly Paddington Bear

My own reply was is a little more predictable:-

My dearest Alfie
the scribbles
on the pages of
my passport

I cannot go
to darkest Peru
next week or anytime soon

I expect an apology
this time next year without fail
For now
please use a pencil

I don't have a copy of Cliff's reply. He decided that Alfie was a dog.

A great time was had by all.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Telling Ourselves Our Own Story

I confess to being suspicious of ladies’ meetings. It harks back to when I first became a member of a charismatic church. I wasn’t married. I didn’t have children. There were few ladies in the church at the time who were working. Stay-at-home-mums was the order of the day. If they had bible studies, they were in an afternoon while the children were at school or nursery. Working full-time I felt I was a different species. I also felt mildly that I was somehow letting the side down.

I moved to another town and to another church. Another ladies meeting and, again, this steering of women towards husbands, children and home making. Much was said about roles and functions of men and women. I still wasn’t married. I still didn’t have children. I seem to vaguely remember the study “Excelling as a Woman”. I think I chose to opt out.

When I had the invitation to join a group of ladies from the church to meet regularly and to share life and learning with them, I hesitated. I am a happy loner, girl with strong hermit genes, but I know that I have a reservoir of knowledge and experience that is not mine to hold on to.

The Diamond's Box is organised by Destiny Church. There’s a book to read, daily studies to do and other bits and pieces. There’s tea to be drunk, biscuits to eat and lots of chatting. The tea I can do, the biscuits I’m trying to leave alone, And the chat? I take a while to warm up.

We had just been given the books, so no one was expecting us to dive into them. We spent the time chatting about all sorts of things. It was all about bridge building. We were committing to building friendships and speaking truth to one another. You have to start somewhere.

Different ages, different personalities, different life experiences – we were a mixed bunch of ladies, who in all likelihood, in natural, might not strike up friendships.

We talked about miracles giving our own examples of the provision of God. I need more ammunition if that topic comes up again. There was provision for a family’s first Christmas in the UK, a house buying miracle, a daily provision for a lady who has nothing, an apparent step backwards that wasn’t really, an afternoon spent speaking in tongues leading to a deeper sense of God’s presence and so on.

What was so important about telling each other our stories was not actually about telling each other at all – it was about telling ourselves our own story. Stories that don’t get told get forgotten all together. As I shared how I was able to go to my sister’s wedding ad all the details of booking a flight when I had no money, trusting God would supply – I remembered. Something in me said, “Oh, yes. I remember now.” Faith was stirred.

We must speak our own story first to ourselves before we begin to speak to others. We need to remember and remind ourselves of how good God has been to us. Then we can tell others.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Legend of the Dragon

We were in Krakow last week staying in a hotel just a fifteen minute walk from Wawil Hill. There's a dragon sculpture at the bottom of the hill that breathes fire every so often. A while ago I wrote a poem based on the legend of the dragon of Wawil Hill:-

They used to say there was a dragon
That slept beneath a hill

Best not to wake it, the people said

So they tip-toed up and down

And they talked in low whispers

It was no way for anyone to live

A crown, a sceptre and the hand of a maid

Drew in brave knights and foolish knaves

Arrows shattered, shields melted

But the dragon prevailed

It’s always the humble that find the answer

Lambskin, sulphur, mustard seed

And a cobbler sews late into the night

A bomb laced snack for a greedy dragon


The town dances with joy

But there’s another dragon

Not beneath a hill

Not sleeping

But dormant in the hearts of men

Best not to wake it

But no one tip-toes by or

Talks in low whispers

Instead they whip up a jealous fury

Fingers pointed

Injustice perceived

Blame assigned to others for their own troubles

Covetous men who will not share

A bomb laced jacket

A white van

Yellow tape around a crime scene

And piles of flowers

And funerals

Where is the humble man and his answer?

(Inspired by The Legend of the Wawel Dragon}

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Lesson in a Chair

I had got it wrong. The plastic bottle with the green top that I assumed was long-life semi-skimmed milk turned out to be a yoghurt drink. I thought I had the morning cup of tea sorted. There would be no urgent trip to the shop around the corner on the morning after arriving home very late at night. The gloop of yogurt that sank into cup said otherwise.

It was on the journey home that I passed by the school field. It was play time. The supervisors cannot watch every corner and things happen in some corners that don’t get seen.

There were four or five girls in the corner of the field, next to the fence, and one boy, smaller by a year or two. One of the girls kicked the boy solidly in the ankle and he cried out.

I have been on the receiving end of bullying, enough to know how unpleasant it all is and how powerless it makes a person feel. It’s a lonely experience being the bullied. I remember days of simply skipping school because I couldn’t face the confrontation. I remember the casual clipping of my desk that tipped the pencil case on to the floor. It was not the sniggers of the bullies that bothered me, but the silence and the pretending they didn’t see of the non-bullies. No one should be treated that way. The strong should not bully the weak just because they can.

With this in mind I had strong words with the girl, Abbie. I called her out as a bully. Said it made me angry that she could treat someone like that. She was eight or nine years old – bullies start young in life. I made her apologise. I threatened to speak to the headteacher of the school about her behaviour. I looked into her eyes and wanted to see shame there.

In my mind’s eye I saw a chair. A dozen or more.

I’d just come home from a week in Krakow. The city was beautiful. It hadn’t gone through all the renovations that other German occupied cities went through after the war. The buildings didn’t have a look of age that was really a recent build. They were old. We were visiting the Jewish ghetto. A pharmacy on a corner had been a place of refuge and escape as the German discrimination against the Jews grew ever more horrific. The place was now a museum.
Outside, in the square, there were dozens of chairs, tall, metal, dotted around. There were other smaller chairs around the square.  When the Jews were first herded into the ghetto, which got progressively smaller as the Jewish population were transported to camps, they were not given time to take possessions. There were pictures of queues of children carrying chairs on their heads.

Inside the museum there were dozens and dozens of stories, on the walls, in drawers that you pulled out of cabinets, on screens that paired up with headphones. Sad tales. Silly tales. Anecdotes of off-the-cuff music nights and dancing in people’s homes. People trying to live a normal life as best they could, finding things to smile about when everything around them was tragic.

A note in one of the drawers was written by an eight-year-old girl, no older perhaps that Abbie, the boy kicker. I don’t know what consumes eight-year-old girls these days. Are they still into unicorns and Barbie dolls and horses? This little girl wanted to know why people were being moved again. The ghetto was being split into Ghetto A and Ghetto B, the workers in one place and the non-workers in the other. Friends and families were being pulled apart. Her father and her brothers worked. Other family members were too sick.

The chairs, the girl’s letter, Abbie kicking a boy – there was something about planets lining up.

I wanted to drag Abbie over to one of the chairs in the square. I wanted to read the girl’s note to her. When one person decides that another person has less value it opens the way up to bullying. When one person kicks another person, because they can – it’s like the Jewish Ghetto all over again.

I would really like to claim that I have never bullied anyone. Maybe I did with my words to Abbie this morning. There was a fence between us. It was the edge of the school field. Maybe all that saved Abbie from being kicked by me, and I was that cross, was the fence. But words – fences don’t stop words. My words were not gentle. Does that qualify as bullying? My own bullies never laid a hand on me. I was never kicked. But there were words. And the sound of the pencil case hitting the floor. And the feeling of isolation.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Lost, Found, Lost, Lost, Found

A favourite book of mine is “The Keeper of Lost Things” by Ruth Hogan. It begins with a man losing two precious things. The first is his fiancé to a road accident. The second is a gold medallion that his fiancé had given to him, that he promised always to keep, but it slipped out of his pocket.  For a while he hides beneath the bedclothes and won’t reconnect with life. Eventually he begins to collect lost items – a button, an umbrella and a jigsaw puzzle piece. He fills up the shelves and the drawers of his study with the things he finds making a careful note of when and where he found them. He intends to find the owners and reunite them with their last property.

The first “lost” in the title is a scarf. It was Saturday it was lost. It wasn’t really lost as I knew where is was. I’d left it hanging over a chair at The Alleycat. I could have retraced my steps. I’d barely got to the end of the alley when I realised I wasn’t wearing it but there was a bus to catch.

The first “found” is that same scarf. I was swapping busses. The 1B for the number 3. Monday is one of the days I need to be on campus and the number 3 gets me there. I took a turn down the alley to see if The Alleycat was open. The proprietors were just locking the door. It’s not a day when the café is open to customers. I asked them about the scarf. It was retrieved and returned.

The second “lost” is my umbrella. To be honest, it’s no great loss. What is interesting is the conversation I had at the bus stop. It was a wet day. It was also a windy day. The woman at the bus stop had decided not to take a brolly. Inevitably they blow inside out, or they broke. We reminisced about good brollies lost. The brolly I was holding was broken but functional. The first time I bought it, in a sale, the wind whipped it inside out and broke a spoke. I left the brolly on the number 3 bus.

The third “lost” is the scarf. Yes, the same scarf that I had collected from The Alleycat was left behind in a different café. The café was over the road from the bus stop. I wasn’t planning on going in, but I needed a bathroom. It was a good half hour before closing time and the two ladies were really busy wiping tables, mopping floors and putting cakes away. I’d put the scarf and the rucksack on a table, disappeared into the bathroom, emerging with the intention of buying a cup of tea. They looked like the last thing they wanted was to make me a cup of tea, so I left, leaving the scarf behind.

The final “found” is the scarf, yes, that same scarf I had left on the table. The café was closed. The door was locked. The chairs were turned upside down on the tables. The two ladies were putting on their own scarves. I knocked on the window. Very kindly, one of them unlocked the door and handed the scarf over.

You might like to know why I was happier to part with the brolly, but not the scarf. It’s not as if it’s the only scarf I possess. I bought one the other day – a cold day. I’d popped into a shop. There was a voice in my head that said, “You can knit a better scarf than this at a fraction of the price!” My answer was, “Yes, but not in the next five minutes I can’t, and I’m cold now.” The scarf could pass as a Hogwarts scarf.

The scarf lost and found, lost and found again, is soft purple with strands of silver thread knitted through. It has an emotional tag. When mum died and we began packing away her things, a friend told us to take something for ourselves, something to remember mum by. I took the scarf. It was her colour. It was a worn scarf, not a scarf hanging in a wardrobe. It is my worn scarf now. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t coordinate well with the things I’m wearing.

I am God’s lost and found child. There is no lost and found, lost and found again. God keeps what he finds in the palm of His hand.