About Me

Sunday, 10 October 2021

Keeping on keeping on (again)

Not the most optimistic title for a blog entry and apologies to Alan Bennett who used the phrase ‘keeping on keeping on’ for the latest of his diary volumes – not that he’s likely to notice. Not that I’m down, just a bit muted, though the first few weeks of term were a nightmare. The impact of COVID on adult student numbers, mostly. Things seem to be coming together now but there are still gremlins in the works and those who enjoy casting shade. Enduring and pondering retirement, even though in many ways I still love my job. I doubt I would be able to keep up, given the work load, without the help and support of my retired husband keeping it all together on the domestic front and for which I am so very grateful.

I’ve been doodling little poems and lyrics and have also been listening to music a lot.  I recently bought the Specials’ latest, Protest Songs. I like it. It has a good range of ‘protest songs’ from the nursery rhyme like ‘I live in a city’, which conjures the incongruous image of Terry Hall singing at a Woodcraft Folk gathering, to another -  but this time deceptively - simplistic song, ‘I don’t mind failing in this world’, which packs a solid socialist message and makes me think what a coward I am when it comes to criticism.  Every time, I hear the lines ‘Somebody else's definition/Isn't going to measure my soul's condition/I don't mind failing in this world.’ I am reminded that teaching observations have been brought forward and walk throughs have been increased. I have been through this so many times but I can never quite shake off the feeling that one is viewed as only as good one’s last observation. It never gets any easier. Both these songs were written by political folk pioneer Malivina Reynolds of Little Boxes fame. There’s a wonderful version of Talking Head’s Listening Wind with guest singer Hannah Hoo,  and great renditions of Fuck All the Perfect People and Everybody Knows. Lynval Golding brings a lifetime’s understanding to Black, Brown and White and Get up, Stand Up.

Reading wise, our book group read The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. A brilliant study of male dominance and women’s witness to men’s sense of entitlement and obsession with power. Truly tragic and very moving. The sacrifice of Polyxena as seen through Briseis’s eyes will stay with me, as will the representation of Achilles as an emotionally retarded man child. Fortunately, men have improved a great deal; despite the recent spot light on male violence, there are many good men out there. Without mine, I would struggle on so many levels.

So far, so self-absorbed but life is pulling me back from my own narrow concerns in different ways. My uncle has just passed away, which means family coming north for the funeral; my mum has to have an investigation under anaesthetic, which is a worry. These things plus several social gatherings on the horizon should also to help counteract my currently inward gaze. 



Friday, 17 September 2021

Sealed in the Book of Life

 G’mar chatima tova” is the Hebrew greeting on Yom Kippur. It means “May you be sealed in the Book of Life.” (Source: Marriane Williams) 

What a blessing, what a hope to be sealed in the Book of Life. 

 I have always struggled with dualistic takes on spirituality, the goodies and the baddies version of spirituality. All those poor souls on the left hand path or languishing in hell; those poor goats sprily gamboling away from love, light and peace. No one is entirely beyond the pale, surely? 

The idea of the righteous and the unrighteousness seems too bound up with social control and religious power. Woman in pure white gown go straight to heaven, while woman struggling with ambiguity goes straight to purgatory. And as for the  big bad woman, she's already on her way to hell, right? No. That doesn't seem right to me, especially if such a philosophy/theology is wielded by those in authority. 

I  did a bit of lazy research on Wikipedia and discovered there is also a Book of the Dead in the  Jewish tradition and, once your name gets written in there, you're knackered, unlike those lucky souls who get written into the Book of Life and are  therefore guaranteed a passport to heaven. Surely it's not so simple? People are not wholely or good or wholely bad. (Not that I've ever had much truck with the self declared followers of darkness such as Satanists and Alister Crowleyites. Something lacking there, I think.) 

Despite  my issues with dualism, though, I would want my name to be sealed in the Book of Life, who wouldn't?  To be, metaphorically and spiritually, sealed into to growth, wisdom, love, forgiveness, compassion, to radiate the love of something greater and infinitely precious would be just grand.

For me, being 'included in the book' would not be about perfection or being some goody- two - shoes-holier-than-thou arse-hole but something far more human altogether. Being a good friend, a wise counsellor, to be kind and funny, to be less of dick when it comes to my relationship with other people. To be internally at peace with myself and the world around me, and being filled with the 'divine' spark of life. To be able to get out of bed in the morning with a bit of joy inside. 

That would be nice. That would feel really blessed. 

And because I want this for myself, I want it for all those with whom l share space, those with whom I interact and anyone who has taken the time to engage with my ramblings. 

So, several days after Yom Kippur, and within a wide and very secular context, please accept my blessing  that you 'be sealed within the book  of life.' 

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Late August, Early September

 The birds are putting on their winter coats.

Sparrows shedding feathers, 

starlings sporting brown backs and black 

speckled breasts, caught between seasons.

Young blue tits in smart yellow shirts have yet 

to find their thin black ties.

Flocking in my tree, 

busily attacking nuts and seeds,

preparing for the turning.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

One of million blogs today

11th of September 2001, twenty years since Dave the reprographics technician came out of his little cubby hole next to the photocopier at Clarence St Community Education Centre and said, ‘Something really bad has happened in New York.’  On the television screen, in his pokey little room, a tower was on fire. A plane had flown into it and the no one at the BBC seemed to know what was going on but they-  and we - were beginning to realise that, whatever it was, was unprecedented.  I went back to the staff room and brought my colleagues back to Dave’s little room, where we watched - almost in silence - as history unfolded before our eyes.

At home that evening, I checked into the Literazti Lobby, an American chat room set up by would be writers and lovers of reading, which I had come across earlier that year and had taken to visiting regularly.  Instead of the usual quick-fire repartee and occasional sharing of ideas, participants shared their shock at what had happened. Being English and not exactly a fan of American foreign policy or President Bush, I read the words and phrases as they unfolded on screen like a witness at some remove. It had been over 10 years since America had invaded Iran but it was clear to me that new wars loomed on the horizon. I particularly remember the shock of ‘DarcyBingley’ a young woman with a baby and a love of Jane Austen, to whom I had been chatting quite regularly. She lived in New York and her father had worked for the NYPD. In weeks to come Hap, a laconic Texan, who made tunes on a program that made music sound like  doorbells, declared himself a Hawk. I can still remember the email discussions we had in which I played the Dove.

The responses to the tragedy ranged from the burning of the American flag by groups of angry Islamists to the pacificist pleas of ‘Not In My Name’ demonstrators as the ‘Powers that Be’ invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite the pleas for sense from the UN, American and Britain forged ahead on dodgy intelligence.  People demonstrated in London, while Blair and Bush prayed together for victory in God’s name. Later down the line, America would shock the world with the  human rights abuses perpetrated at Guantanamo Bay.  

Now, America has left Afghanistan. Maybe there was a never a right time to withdraw, the occupation lasted twenty years but the world watches with bated breath now the Taliban are back in control. 

Today, from New York, the BBC reported:

‘As the first moment of silence began to mark the moment the first plane hit the North Tower, people gathered on Greenwich Street and looked directly up at One World Trade Center.

Many were New York firefighters.

A man quietly whispered to his young child.

An elderly man wiped a tear.

A few minutes later, a local New York reporter tells me that this was the moment, 20 years ago, that his network started rolling news, and didn’t run a single commercial for three weeks.’

It is to these people to whom, once again, my heart goes out. I still don’t feel comfortable with Dubya, though. Let's hope Biden proves to be a wiser leader in the years to come.