Tag Archives | Hope

The Colours of Lockdown

In many cultures rainbows are a symbol of hope. They appear sometimes as perfect arcs, often during a rainstorm, when the sun shines onto water droplets, shattering its white light into an array of brilliant colours. Everyone loves a rainbow.  It produces that frisson of excitement and wonder which is not dissimilar to watching fireworks explode in the sky.  There are many superstitions connected with this phenomenon – the most common being that there is a pot of gold where the rainbow ends.  There have been popular songs such as:  “Somewhere over the rainbow” about the yearning for freedom such as that which bluebirds enjoy when they soar over the clouds.

The earliest story about a rainbow is the one in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 9: 13 – 17, when God, after causing a flood to wash away humanity’s corruption, put the rainbow in the sky  as the sign of his promise to Noah and his family with the animals in the ark that he would never again destroy the earth with flood. The rainbow became  a symbol of hope, a new day, and a divine promise. And so it has been viewed through the centuries.

However in the 20th century  the rainbow has been adopted by movements of social change. In the 1960s a rainbow flag was used at peace marches in Europe and also at demonstrations against nuclear weapons, symbolising a desire for peace. In the 1970s, Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag for the LGBT community, and the rainbow flag became a symbol of pride, with the different colours representing ‘diversity’ in the gay community. In the 1990s Archbishop Desmond Tutu coined the term ‘rainbow nation’ to describe South Africa, and this term was used by Nelson Mandela following the 1994 elections, when it became a symbol of reconciliation and unity.

Now in the 21st-century, with the world is living with the catastrophe and the suffering caused worldwide by coronavirus, in the UK we have reverted to using this age-old symbol once again.  Houses adorned with rainbows have become a common sight during lockdown, often in the form of children’s drawings put up in windows.  Rainbows have become a symbol of support for the NHS and public gratitude to all those who are working with the sick and the dying in our communities. It is aligned with the government exhortation to save the NHS.

During 2020 the rainbow with its arc of translucent colours has become once again a symbol of fervent hope that the pandemic will end. It won’t be tomorrow but it may be next year. It is almost inevitable that we will be entering another third lockdown in the new year. And no one knows how long it will last – but many of us suspect it will be some months before things improve with the rollout of the vaccine.

Our optimism is still in check. The future is uncertain. Let’s hope we can see the light and trust in the promise at the end of the rainbow, when the dark clouds finally disappear.

 

 

CoronaSpring

Spring 2020. We are living in strange times. Coronavirus, more deadly than any terrorist, has attacked our world and is undermining hope. People feel threatened, frightened, challenged. Our physical horizons are dwindling but our mental horizons are expanding – people are more aware of what is going on in the world in relation to Corvid -19 than they ever were about many other things. This is a result of collective realisation that disasters aren’t always uncomfortable, sad things happening elsewhere in far off places, but real life calamities which can attack us in our own homes in our own country.

This realisation is caused by a deluge of daily updates of the scope of this dreadful disease. (I love alliteration!)  Two prevalent attitudes of mind result and they are polar opposites.  The first is selfishness, which results in panic buying, hoarding food, complaints against the government, ignoring the advice about social distancing, utter disbelief that the NHS can cope – and no doubt this will lead to despair, anger or depression.  Incidents of physical abuse – from been cooped up at home – are rising.

The second attitude is one of compassion and selflessness, which has caused:-

  1. over half a million people including retired nurses and doctors to volunteer, after a call from the government, to help the NHS, and undertake food deliveries, manning telephones, etc
  2. communities coming together to set up volunteer groups (there is one in our village) to do shopping for the elderly and isolated, collect prescriptions, or phone isolated single people
  3. positive and encouraging initiatives such as online choirs, prayer groups and church services; advice forums, befriending by telephone, and posting gift parcels to others
  4. a more friendly attitude to everyone – and we chat loudly across the regulatory 2 – 3 metres to the postmen, the food delivery van men, those we meet walking or outside supermarkets

Boris delivered a distinctly Churchillian speech a while back (before he got ill) about being at war against this disease, pulling together as a nation, and obeying all the governments decrees which are for our own good. He has said quite openly that many people are going to lose loved ones. It is quite chilling. It is not going to get better any time soon and it could be many months. “The times change they are a’changin”- sang Dylan in the sixties, and by the end of this year many things will have changed.

I feel very sorry for people living in big cities, perhaps on their own in a small flat, feeling isolated and worried.  Almost worse is a large family, all trying to share facilities and a bathroom, and getting on each other’s nerves. It’s going to be tough for a lot of people.  We must be compassionate and sympathetic and do what we can. I’ve taken to telephoning a member of my family and a friend every day – and I’m beginning to learn more about them because I listen to them. We’re growing lots of vegetables with surplus to give away.  We still have a few winter leeks and parsnips, and some apples and onions left from the autumn.  Spring rhubarb is just coming up. Dig for Britain!

Coronavirus is sobering and levelling. The numbers of cases and deaths are frightening and we are all coming to terms with a truth that we often avoid – which is that we might die sooner that we expected. But there may be some good things that will come out of this worldwide pandemic.  Many of us in lockdown have idleness enforced upon us, and have begun to realise that we do need more rest and relaxation in our rushed and overworked lives. Nature too may experience some healing. Many industrialised places and cities that have been shrouded in smog with terrible air quality have begun to see blue sky and experience clear air to breathe. In the quietness, with the lack of traffic, we hear birdsong.

For myself, no social life means a better reading life.  Though a writer, I am often deprived of enough time to write, but now I have all the time in the world. I’m going to do more painting, even though the local art group has temporally disbanded. I am managing to get done a few of those jobs I have been putting off for years. And I might even start to feel guilty because I am enjoying the peace whilst others are suffering.  When I turn from listening to the bad news and go outside to get some fresh air, within minutes, with the warm spring sun on my skin, I feel uplifted and there’s a smile on my face. I can’t help it. Hope is irrepressible.

I am reminded of a short poem by one of my favourite poets, Emily Dickinson:

‘Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all.’

Slog through Snow, Blog into Spring.

This time last week it snowed.  Snow can be a big problem for elderly isolated people and stranded motorists but I defy anyone, when they open the curtains on the first morning after snow has fallen, not to gasp with wonder at the purity and beauty of the white blanket and the soft blotting out of normal sounds as if the volume of the world has been turned down. Magical!  Roald Dahl wrote in one of his final books, ‘The Minpins’, published posthumously : “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”  I celebrate other marvellous things in my life at this time – books, snowdrops, chocolate, poetry, wine and a loving man.

Whilst trawling back through my archives in this blog, I realise that my first post was in November 2008 – so I’ve been writing blogs about every other month for over ten years.  What was I up to at that time?  It seems that I was doing book signings for my collection of short stories called ‘Madness Lies and Other Stories’ which had been published in the summer. It was my first book and it took a couple of years to create the stories, so clearly I have been writing fiction for at least twelve years.  Though for much of my life I’ve been scribbling stories,  doing magazine articles, writing letters and keeping diaries.

So what am I doing now? My fourth book, ‘Dear Magpies’ is completely finished after many edits, which took over a year because I work in the property business. (I have to find time for creativity in between dealing with leaking roofs and blocked drains.) The novel, which is a story about a woman with a tragic past searching for her lost grandchildren, has been sent out to a number of publishers and agents, who take forever to respond – if at all. It is a waiting game, full of hope and disappointment, but I will get it published – because it’s good. Various editors and friends of mine have read it and tell me so.

Yesterday’s weather was dire – poor visibility, depressing rain and a chill wind.  But today the sun is shining – and my spirits lift. How simple and irrational humans are! With our elevated intellect that lifts us above instinctual animals and mere plants we wilt in the cold and dark but become optimistic and energised in the sunlight.  Creative talents, buried in the winter gloom, are beginning to stir and send up green shoots through the damp grass. Nature stirs. The urge to write is rising, inspiration lifts up her head, ideas sprout, words will uncurl. As Robert Frost says in his poem ‘Prayer in Spring’, we are “in the springing of the year.”


	

25 Years on Borrowed Time

index plant of hope

A quarter of a century has passed since my reprieve. I was lying on my back under a searingly bright light, alone. I had been dreaming of freedom and fervently hoping that I would outwit my enemy and come through unscathed. Doubt suddenly dispelled and I knew in that moment that my foe was dead.

That’s what radiation does to cancer cells  – it kills them. It can also damage healthy cells, but I was unaware of that at the time, and have had to live ever since with the side-effects. But I have lived!  Three months before this moment of revelation, I had been told I had the dreaded big C, and needed a major operation without delay, where various internal organs had been cut out, and this was followed swiftly afterwards by a course of daily radiotherapy and further treatment.

The physical assault on my body was nothing compared to the mental anguish. My moods swung between despair and hope, between anger and acceptance, but predominant was anxiety about how my husband would cope if I did not make it, and grief that I might not see my two children grow up; they were then aged 6 and 4.  I loved them all so much and dearly wanted to live.

When I finally managed to get my galloping fears under control, I decided to find out as much as possible as I could about my situation. I learned that I had a 50% chance of surviving for 5 years.  I am an optimist and promptly decided I would be in the better half of this statistic.  I also resolved to hit the enemy hard with all the ammunition I had and resort to every defensive tactic.  In addition to conventional treatment – surgery etc – I deployed all the alternative medical options: meditation, visualization, exercise, high doses of vitamin C, homeopathy, and a diet designed to boost my immune system, which had taken a hammering.

infinite-hope-martin-luther-king-quotesAnd I came through, and with every passing year and all the subsequent check-ups, I became more confident and more thankful.  I have now survived not just 5 years but 5 times this.  I’m still alive and well (often managing to ignore the peripheral neuropathy – pins and needles – in my feet 24/7, a legacy of having my sciatic nerve irradiated).   Twenty-five years on, my children have grown up and I have two small grandchildren.  At the onset I thought motherhood might be cut short and I never expected to be a grandmother –  and what a blessing it is!

All those years ago, when confronted with my own mortality at a comparatively young age, I didn’t know God.  But He knew me and saved me.  Fourteen years later I encountered Him, and repentance with faith has changed my life.  Now I know that life is a temporary assignment and our home is in heaven.  Now I journey with the Lord at my side and the fear of dying is gone.  I am so thankful for the extra time granted to me – the ‘borrowed’ years have been sweet. Though we all know that human life is finite, the young feel they’ll live forever. Then as age creeps insidiously up on us, we stop deluding ourselves. Some people worry about their end, but not believers. I have recently witnessed the early death from lung cancer of a dear Christian friend, and she was completely at peace about it. No one need die alone – Our Lord is always with us and He is the way, the truth and the life. Dispel the doubts and grab hold of hope. With Him and in His love,  we can look forward to eternity with confidence and joy.

 

 

Role Reversal

A year ago I retired from a long-term part-time job, which gave me plenty of time for writing. I intended to transform my life and re-brand myself as a full-time professional writer.  So why have I written so little and had no time to edit my fourth book, the first draft of which was completed over six months ago?  Much essential PEP (pruning, editing, polishing) is still to be done.  The reason for the delay is that during the summer there’s been a significant change in my role and occupation.

After a working life of several decades, and some years later than normal people, my DBH (dearly beloved husband) is to take AIR (active inspirational retirement).  The DBH has decided to ‘boot himself upstairs’ and become Non-Executive Chairman (NEC) of the family business, whilst I have been promoted to the position of New Executive Director (NED). Board meetings will no longer be held in our bathroom at 0630 every weekday morning, but will now happen on 29th February.  AGM’s will become DGM’s (Decadal General Meetings). Junior directors are invited to be present but discouraged from participation. The NED knows that discussions with the NEC about business will be limited to the hours of 1045-1115 and this only on the third Wednesday of each month.

This means that the POL (pattern of life) had changed here at home in Dorset.  We endeavour to be more organised and yet more relaxed.  To clarify how this is achieved, one asks:  what does the DBH mean by ‘active’ retirement?  This DOS (daily operational schedule) will give you some idea:

0630-0730 The NED gets up, does household tasks, eats breakfast and is at her desk by 0800.

0830-1000 The NEC wakes up, listens to Radio 4, drinks tea, reads, rises, showers, and descends.

1010 The NEC has his breakfast, reads the paper, and prepares for the day.  At 1120, he goes outside to the rear lawn to practice his putting with the aim of improving his handicap at clockwork golf. The cats, Oscar and Ella, (O&E) are banished from the rear garden at this time as they have a habit of racing after his golf ball and batting it away from the hole.  Family and friends (F&F) are allowed to observe but not permitted to make comments. (If weather is inclement, the DBH practices snooker in the games room, to improve his chance of winning against his son).

1130 NED has finished with responding to the day’s batch of emails and opens the post, including a letter from NAS (the Non-Abbreviation Society), which informs her that she and DBH have been expelled from membership. This causes her no regret and she moves on to deal with more significant matters.

1315 DBH prepares his own lunch, pours himself a single glass of wine and at 1330 commences eating.

1333 approx. NED dashes in from the office, throws some food on a plate, wolfs it down and returns to work at 1400.

1430-1530 The DBH has his PLD (post lunch doze) in situ (in his kitchen chair) or, if fine, outside on the swing chair, during which time birds are forbidden to cheep. Guests and Grandchildren (G&G) are requested to keep silent during PLD.

1545-1715 Three times a week, the NEC works out on the rower, jogger and bike at his Weight Reduction Programme (WRP). On other days he takes a hike round the land. The NED is exempted from this activity but any G&G are encouraged to accompany him. On Saturdays this is obligatory.

1845-1930 The NED metamorphoses into Loving & Sympathetic Spouse (LASS) and prepares dinner. 1900 The NEC now becomes Amazingly Genial Husband (AGH) and pours drinks for her and F&F.  Important: White wine must be no more than 12˚ in temperature and no less than 13% in alcoholic content.  LASS frantically tries to serve dinner on time.

1930-2130 Dinner.  Red wine, which was opened at 1800 to allow it to breathe, is served by AGH.

2140 AGH retires to sofa in Monks Room for PPN (post prandial nap) which may involve sleeping in front of the TV, when O&E are discouraged from jumping onto his lap and flexing their claws into his thigh.

2150-2230 LASS retires to bed, sliding swiftly into sleep.

Anytime from 23.10 until 0140 AGH wakes and goes into PAD mode (perambulation around drive) where, unobserved (except by nocturnal O&E), he muses on life, gazes at stars and hugs trees. Sometimes owls hoot. AGH then quietly locks house and goes upstairs to bed without disturbing sleeping LASS, G&G and F&F.

It is important to remember that timings are rigidly adhered to. The ROOL (rhythm of our life) must be carefully preserved. We have shared this schedule with F&F so that when they come and visit, they will be able to slot in snugly with the new arrangements. My plan to become a full-time DPW (dedicated professional writer) has been placed on hold.  But I live in hope.

 

Abbs and Acronyms

indexWe hear a lot about Apps and rather less about Abbs, unless you happen to be into bodybuilding. People who talk about their abbs are generally into flaunting their well-toned abdominal muscles. But an ABB could be an abbreviation of ‘Abbreviation’.

Some years ago, over a few glasses of wine, my husband and I decided to form the Non-Abbreviation Society. We deplored shortened names, such as Rodge for Roger, Bex for Rebecca, Seb for Sebastian, Sooze for Suzanne, Ant for Anthony, or Ginnie for Virginia. Such savagely pruned names were an abomination.  AGW (Another glass of wine?)  Gloriously beautiful names like Penelope, Leopold, Francesca, and Orlando should be allowed to roll off the tongue and not have their wings clipped. DMMD! (Don’t mix metaphors, darling!) I had a friend who was married to somebody called Martin, who was a delightful man, and she always referred to him, even to his face, as Mart the Fart – and I used to wince when I heard it. Even if she knew something about him that we didn’t, it was still horribly unkind.

MBH (my beloved husband) and I made a habit of creating silly societies. Some years back a Swedish acquaintance told us we were disgustingly politically incorrect, so we decided to invite selected friends to join the Politically Incorrect Peoples Society, or PIPS.  Clearly we had by this time blackballed ourselves from our own Non Abbreviation Society, which our son had always referred to as NAS. He was never allowed to join! PIPS proved to be a good dinner table entertainment, and we even got as far as designing a tie and scarf for it – a smart navy background with a neat scattering of lemon pips in pale yellow, though we never went into production. We doubted whether people would pay for the privilege of joining our society. They all thought it was a bit of a joke.

Perversely, witty and complex abbreviations soon became more fun than eliminating them, and when we came across small children, whether delightful or disgusting, angelic or awful,  we would refer to as an ALP or an OLO.  This was coded language for ʼappy little person or ʼorrible little object.   Our non-abbreviation society became NONABBSOC and we then decided that acronyms were more fun and, as MBH aptly put it, ARS – which means, of course, Acronyms Reign Supreme.

Our lives are full of acronyms.  We don’t think twice when we read ASAP and we don’t blink at FYI.  Most of us are familiar with TTFN – Ta Ta For Now;  KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid;  and NYOB – None of Your Business.  And there are a whole raft of new ones used in texting and messaging such as BBL – Be Back Later; KIT – Keep In Touch, NP – No Problem, and LOL – Laughing Out Loud.  This reminds me that, some years back, I used to refer to my brother’s girlfriend as his LIL (Live in Lover), and after he married her and later on divorced her, she became my SOL (Sister-Out-Law).

There are many groups and societies which use acronyms – such as AA , and I particularly  approve of MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  Whilst on the subject of mothers, I recall that my mine, when she was laughing elatedly or driving fast (she often did both), had a habit of using words with 00 in the middle and repeating them, such as ‘boom boom’. She used to use ‘zoom zoom’ when overtaking cars, but if she swung out and realised she didn’t have the time, which rarely happened, she would shriek ‘mooz, mooz’ – and dive back – ‘zoom zoom’ backwards – got it?

It’s useful to have coded messages that don’t offend others but which can be used in company to agree on a plan of action. So MBH and I concocted some useful acronym, such as LUGTHOOH (Let us get the hell out of here) and HICSHAM (Help! I can’t stand him/her another minute).  Inevitably the insults became more personal, and on occasions at a drinks party, when I was holding forth to a group of people with glazed eyes, MBH would sidle up to me and say in a stage whisper ‘YABOB’ (You are being obsessively boring), and I would hiss back: ‘YIKSO’ (Yes, I know. Sod off!). We have the odd DOOM (Difference of opinion moment), but we never resort to GBH.

MBH’s most recent society goes under the acronym, PHIB which he pronounces ‘fib’, and its stated aim is to Put Humour Into Business.  As he and I spend most of our personal life doubled up in laughter, it seems appropriate that this should spill over into working life too, and because it’s such fun we’ve decided to encourage others to follow suit.

Since I spend a lot of time in my study, writing, reading … dreaming, I have developed the habit of leaving notes to remind myself of things I must do when I have time (TIMDWIHT) – such as ‘Buy Cat Food’,  ‘Cut Toe Nails’ and ‘Send Thank-You Letter’. I have a sheet of address stickers which are perfect for the job, and these reminders get stuck on the lamp, the telephone, the computer, a framed photograph or a paperweight. Inevitably, to save time when trying to fit in all non-creative activities into an ever decreasing window of time as my deadline get shorter and the spaces in between writing sessions gets less, these notes get shortened to BCF, CTN, and STYL. I waste precious time concocting witty acronyms and outrageous abbreviations, and then spend hours later on trying to work out what they mean. After all SSS could have meant ‘Send son socks’ or ‘Stop seeing sense’ or what it really meant : ‘Sow spring seeds’

I spent 15 minutes last week trying to decipher  PRAY, which is clearly important as I had stuck it three different places,  until I finally worked out that for once I hadn’t used an acronym at all.  I was reminding myself of the need to pray ‘continually’ as St Paul says. I then found two stickers which said PFE, and it took a while to work out this was not a spiritual exhortation, but simply a reminder to do one’s pelvic floor exercises.Acca and Abbs

I’ve had huge fun wasting the morning by writing this blog, but I really must get back to WIP (work in progress) on my next book. To conclude,  I should like to wish you all PEACE & HOPE in 2017 – Pursue Excellence And Cherish Everyone  & Hang Onto Positive Expectations.

Isn’t life Gr8?

Sign Books – Send out Words

The wind is blowing today and swirling the leaves around, autumnal messages from the trees to the earth below, red songs, yellow secrets, laments in purple and whispers in brown.  Millions of millions of leaves, each one entirely unique, soon to die and rot.  And there are millions and millions of words, uttered and written, though many unspoken and unread.  Humbling!  Autumn does that to you.

I have had a number of book signings and given some talks this summer, following the publication of my book, ‘The Lost Journey Homeward’, in June.  It’s good to meet readers and sweet to the soul when they buy your book and take it away to read.  Occasionally I get feedback, which is so useful, but usually I hear nothing from those who buy and read my book. I often wonder if my words, my story and my message about the human heart really do ever make a difference and impel someone to think about life and vital aspects of it such as forgiveness and hope and love.Eve in Winstones

I am reminded of Shelley’s magnificent Ode to the West Wind, which I studied at school and university.   I do so love Shelley’s poems and in particular the final stanza of this one.  Many years have passed since I was first blown away by this poem and learned it by heart. Having become a writer, I now understand much better the urgency he expresses towards the end of this ode – his passionate desire that his verse and his thoughts be disseminated throughout the world.  His poetry is now known to hundreds of thousands of people. My prose, my words – probably only by a few hundred. But that does not mean I don’t have a message.

There is hope of a better world, and, as I believe, of eternity with the author of love.  As the trees head into the hibernation of winter, we can be sure of spring with buds, leaves and foliage. As the world appears to be going ‘Downward to darkness on extended wings’ (from ‘Sunday Morning’ by Wallace Stevens), I shall trust that the headlong rush into war and misery by the greedy, the cruel and the misguided will be slowed down and one day reversed by the patient, long-suffering and quiet majority of those living on this beautiful earth.  I shall try to be at peace with winter as I wait.

Eve below tree

 

From the final stanza from Ode to the West Wind by Shelley

“Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness.    …………….
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
……………………………………..        O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”