Adieu

Today has been hard. But I have found hope through words. The poems I have written reflecting on grief can be found at the end of this post.

As the school day drew to a close last night, the last rays of the sun burning a red hue onto a darkening sky, the school body was gathered together. We waited in silence, knowing that whatever was coming, it couldn’t be good. Unfortunately, the sickening foreboding was all too just. One of our young members of staff had suddenly died.

Grief takes many forms.

There’s the initial shock. That it can’t be true. There’s the pain. The tears. The realisation that you will never that face again. Or hear that laugh again. Or watch him gallop down the hallway with a hockey stick doing his best impression of a Jabberwocky. There’s the sharp stab of the understanding of mortality. There’s an appreciation for the frailty and fragility of life. There’s the mask you put on, saying I’m OK, when deep down there’s a storm of hurt brewing. There’s madness. Anger that the world is carrying on when life has been cut short. There’s irrational guilt. There’s silence. Nothingness. Emptiness.

Grief takes many forms.

Over the last 24 hours grief has swept a shroud over the school. It has felt subdued. Like the world is turning in grayscale. There has been a sense of unease to hear laughter, laughter that isn’t his. To see smiles in a sea of sorrow. But there has been a solidarity, compassion and selflessness that has helped to ease the news. I think grieving as community is easier than grieving alone. Everyone is sharing memories, smiling behind tears, and reaching out a hand. Everyone is understanding. Everyone stands together. And if we listen closely, we can just start to hear the soft tones of peace.

It is times like this where a community founded on faith finds its strength. Evensong last night was bittersweet. The music had been chosen a long time ago, but its words, known to all, were comforting, and the introit seemed a plea from the depths of our heart.

When I lie within my bed,

Sick in heart and sick in head…

When the house doth sigh and weep,

And the world is drowned in sleep,

Yet mine eyes the watch do keep.

Sweet spirit, comfort me. Comfort me.

Litany to the Holy Spirit, Herrick (1591-1674)

This morning, we gathered for a difficult service of reflection, exploring Christ’s sacrifice and pain in death. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me. We prayed. We sat in silence. We knew that we were not alone. And he was not alone. I have no doubt that, whilst elements of pain will last, over the rest of the week, the community will build itself back up, find peace, reconciliation with anger, stability, and renewed strength, in the knowledge of God’s presence amongst us, lifting the darkness of grief.

There was no better man than he. A friend, a tutor, a pastoral adviser, and an inspiring teacher. His wit, humour, confidence and energy were infectious. He never stopped giving of himself. And there is no greater testimony to that than the grief we are sharing today.

But one day grief will pass. We will find new life.

Yesterday afternoon, before I heard the news, my Director of Music came to me with a box, saying that he needed me, as Librarian to the Choirs, to help him and take care of a project. I was curious, the box stating on the side that it contained 36 x 50g worth of Digestive biscuits. I was all too keen to relieve him of it. Then he disappointed me by saying that it wasn’t biscuits. Perhaps, I thought, it was the Stanford in A I had been looking for earlier. No, it wasn’t that either. Sit down, he told me and open it carefully.

It was a blue tit, lethargically blinking at me, incredibly confused, cushioned in a whole load of clinical roll. What on earth was I meant to do with a half-dead blue tit? Well of course, he said, you have to nurse it back to life. His clearly competent veterinary experience had led him to the conclusion that it was concussed. Or maybe that was because it had just flown straight into his window. And somehow he thought I had the necessary credentials to make it fly.

So 15 minutes later, I was to feed milk to a blue tit with a pipette. I did not see this happening in my day. Nor, was it, to my belief, part of the job description. I spend most of the time photocopying or trolleying 60 choir folders around sight. But here I was, with a bird. And you bet I was going to see it fly again. And sure enough, with some TLC and warmth it flew away, after about half an hour tentatively pecking at the box.

I didn’t know it at that point, but I don’t think that little vulnerable bird came into my life incidentally. That bird was a little spirit that needed to be set free, a reflection of the soul of the departed. The moment he took flight kept coming back to me last night. I can’t help thinking that my little blue tit was God’s way of telling me that his spirit too had flown into a higher place.

We all cope with grief and sorrow in different ways, as an individual, or as a community. In community, I stand with my fellow pupils. As an individual, I channel my pained hope in composing words, like those below.

I am grateful to all who support and uplift me, and help me see the light in darkness. Today I take care to hold those I love a little deeper in my heart, to pray for God’s love to heal and comfort, and to give my prayers with all those who mourn. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace, and rise in glory.

If you grieve today, let me grieve with you. If you see hope today, may I see it too.


A SONNET FOR HIM 

Soft as the wind that dries a dewy grass,

Gentle as the sun that thaws an icy snow,

So shall your soul, smiling, pass,

And our eternal love shall you know.

Grief shall be but a transient state,

For us who know that your spirit is sure,

Safe in a paradise, through a golden gate,

Where your soul eternally shall endure.

So, as the stars shine, you among them bright,

So, as the shadow of choking darkness melts away,

Supplanted by a blinding holy light,

May we feel your present soul each and every day.

You, who shared the burden of our every pain,

May you help us to see there shall be hope again.


OH LITTLE BLUE TIT 

He’s dead, they say.

It can’t be true.

But he passed away.

And in you flew.

A fragile thing,

Yellow, green and blue.

Oh little tit,

How feeble your coo.

But oh little tit,

I’m so glad I found you,

Cradling you in my tired palms,

As you survey an unfamiliar view.

Can you fly, little tit?

Can you struggle through?

Are you the spirit

Of the man I knew?

Fly little tit, fly so high,

Fly free, oh spirit, as you used to.

Ah! So you’ve found your wings,

Now settling beneath the crooked yew.

Oh little tit, oh spirit of man,

Adieu, Adieu.

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Weaving together the threads of life

This may be just a little abstract! But stick with it… if you know, you know.

The way I see it, life is composed of different threads. The work thread. The school thread. The home thread. The family thread. The friends thread. The thread that no one else sees. The holy golden thread.

On our worst days, the threads fall apart. We might only be able handle one thread at a time. We hide the other threads, lose the other threads or forget they exist altogether. We can become so preoccupied with the thread in our hands at that moment that we cannot even contemplate dealing with the others.

On our best days, there does not seem to be different threads, but a kind of tapestry that is composed of all the threads in some glorious technicolor harmony, reflecting the composure of our being. We feel able to take a step back and wonder at how the individual threads complement each other, creating light and shade, height and depth, and a brightness that sings to create the depiction of the truth of the heart.

But most days, we see the threads of a tapestry that once was, or is to come. We are in a liminal phase of craftsmanship, where the edges are frayed, tired, or the individual threads are more visible in their uniqueness than in their complementation. We might want to tear the tapestry apart, destroy the picture and start again, or perhaps weave a new patch to replace an older, and we always await the coming of the golden thread that will tie the piece together and make the threads shine.

There is a risk, in seeing the world as composed of threads, that we will forever fail to see the picture that is being created before our eyes. There is a risk that we see all the threads coming together and are complacent, and do not add our own threads to the picture. But in a tapestry each individual thread is so important to the whole. We would be fools to jump in awe at the picture, without recognising the role of each thread. Each has its place. Each is important. We cannot regard the whole without acknowledging its constituent parts. And we must recognise that the tapestry will be forever incomplete, without the threads of our own life. So we must become our own weaver, preparing our thread for its place in the tapestry of life, restoring it, renewing it, finding new colours.

Each day, each week, each month, each year, we find our threads in new parts of the tapestry. Some days we might struggle to see where they surface, drowning in the pools of loose ends hidden behind the beautiful picture. But on one day, when we don’t expect it, the threads that define the constituent parts of our life will knit themselves together, and surface in the most beautiful stitch, forming a new part of a new picture. But we have to allow them the chance to do so. It is tempting to hold on to the end of a thread, too scared to let it go. It is tempting to say no, even when our heart compels us to say yes. But when we find the strength, the threads will find their place, find a rhythm and a voice.

I have felt my world changing during the past few months. The different threads have diverged so completely that I’ve not known where to turn to knit them back together. The threads have frayed, snapped or been soiled. The colours have faded. I was so scared to say yes to the faithful golden thread that heals, restores, and makes shine. The golden thread that knitted me together. So I hid the it in the corner of my picture, almost ashamed to let it shine for me. I didn’t know what to think of it, how to deal with it, how to weave it in. Because everyone notices the golden thread; it’s too transcendently beautiful, too indescribable, too unimaginably perfect to ignore. It was easier to pretend that the tapestry didn’t need it, because I couldn’t find the words to explain how that golden thread was inflaming me from the inside. I didn’t have the strength to weave it in. I didn’t know how to cope with saying yes.

But without it my colours felt grey. So I sat and closed my eyes and held all the threads that were drifting apart in the depths of my heart. And I took the golden thread in my hands and sat in the stillness for a while, waiting to hear what it felt like to say yes. And every night I would sit there with the golden thread, until it weaved its way into my heart. And slowly I found the strength to share the fire started by the golden thread. Now my picture will never seem complete without it.

Over the past few months, saying yes, I’ve see the different threads of my life coming together. I think I’ve reached the point I’ve been yearning for, for a long time. Parts of the future seems tangible. The threads are beginning converge and new colours emerge. It’s a turning point with my tapestry. Each day I find a new confidence, a new smile, a new friend, a new laughter, a new opportunity to let the light shine. Every night I sit with my threads and look back at the picture. I’m ready to let some threads go, to pick up some new ones, to let the tapestry flourish and grow. I know the picture is going to continue to change. In fact, there will never be a single completed picture. The weaver will need to carry on listening, carry on talking, carry on praying. But this little weaver is trusting in the golden thread, walking with the golden thread, and knows that the golden thread can never be hidden again. It has a place in her heart, in her soul. And she is ready to see how the golden thread will knit together all the other threads of her being, in the tapestry that she has come to accept and inhabit so fully, so readily, so passionately.

 

 

Don’t lose the words that make you sparkle

This post includes the writing I could decipher from pieces of screwed up paper which I chucked in the bin, and my Matron salvaged, and gave back to me with a post-it-note saying ‘you are gold dust, don’t lose the words that make you sparkle.’

I wouldn’t call them poems, because they are in a natural and unrefined form and don’t really even make sense. They were words that purely come into my head and get scribbled down incoherently (some at unseemly hours in the morning), but as such, on reading them back, they form an interesting picture of what I would call an iridescent November. But so that I might remember how I felt this November, and so that you might perhaps gain something from the plight of a Catherine this St Catherine’s Day, they are no longer pieces of paper, screwed up in the bin. 

1. The tree

 

I’m heading home. But I don’t know where home is.

All the footsteps blur in the mud.

O fire tree,

You stand on the hill, alone,

And the darkness is rolling in from the west,

Dashing pink and purple across the empyrean canvass.

The stars are veiled with the urban smut.

Your flames burst from your branches.

They burn with ignited passion.

They lick at your unyielding frame.

Will you be my guiding light?

Yesterday I trembled, seeking shelter

Under layers of thick protection.

But now you scorch my heart.

I take off my shoes and stand

And listen. Still. A small voice.

A voice of calm. Can I wait here

To hear what is you call me to do?

I don’t want to have to walk again

In the darkness.

2. The box

In a square box with four straight sides,

She is a circle that tries to break free.

She almost fills the space, pressing

On the midpoints of each line.

She is so close to being there;

She is so close to being them.

But there is still some space left in the

Corners. So she can breathe, some say.

But she cannot breathe. She has to

Fill those little spaces too. She has to

Let them know that she can do it.

She can be everything they want her to be.

And she hopes that they will believe

In her. But she knows they will not.

Because in a square box with four straight sides,

She is a circle that will never quite

Fit the mould.

3. The bird

Life gets better, he told her once.

She always has, she always will.

She turns her head. A shrill cry ex rostro.

The taste of freedom is so sweet that it

Clings to the air, leaving a tang of

Future pleasures under grey skies.

But there is still so much time before

It will be real. For now, she waits,

Has a taste, longs for more, doubles

Over with the pain of hunger.

When will the holy feast be spread

Again, regal, on that golden stuff?

She does not know. But she will

Keep her eye open. Searching.

Looking. Longing for freedom.

For she is a fledgling, and soon

She will fly.

4. The different girl

Do you know what it is like to be lonely?

To walk into a hall of people all alone,

To sit down all alone, to eat all alone.

Do you know what it is like to feel

Detatched from the world in which you live?

Isolated.

Laughter fills the air, and dances up to the rooftops,

But in her head all is silent,

Because she’s different.

The girl whose face is naked,

The girl who prays at night,

The girl who

They call the traitor, the betrayer.

She did something inconceivable to them,

Her own. Her own no longer.

For telling the truth, for being honest,

This is what she receives.

Perhaps all she wants is someone to laugh with,

Someone to share her stories with,

Someone to be with.

Perhaps she can find someone in her own

Imagination to talk to. Perhaps in her own stories

People would care.

5. The invitation to interview

I walked up the stairs that night

Not expecting to find anything at all

Out of the ordinary.

I’d left my room as I wanted to find it:

The files were all upright on the bookshelf

And the books were piled high, in

Alphabetical order within genre, naturally.

The bed was made, and my blanket,

The voice of home, was tucked under the

Statutory sanitary bed-sheets.

The sash window let in the wisps of the

Cold November air which the folded pieces

of paper were trying so desperately to keep out.

I pulled down the blind, to shut away outside,

But the moon reaching the window bars drew crosses

On the blind. I wasn’t ever alone here.

It lay buzzing, vibrating on the desk, as if someone

Was trying to call me. I picked it up.

The email. Invitation to interview.

 

It looks like I’ll see the Christmas market

In Oxford this year.

 

In the shadow of the Cathedra

As I’ve mentioned before, writing poetry is one way in which I cope with emotion and pain. I’ve found it especially helpful in the last year, during which time one important place in my life has undergone a significant amount of change.

I first wrote this poem around Easter, when I was struggling with faith and the future, and have since redrafted it several times, reflecting on how I’ve changed since that point. It focusses on the point after I stepped down from the lectern holding back tears. There are moments where I still feel like I am at the destructive part of the poem, seeing everything I knew tumble and burn, feeling lonely, far from God and incredibly vulnerable.

But more often than not, now I feel more able to take a step back and turn to God in my vulnerability and not simply close myself off, but work through that same pain and destruction in prayer. The feeling that everything is tumbling down doesn’t just go away, but I’ve learnt that it’s about how we react to it that is most important.

In faith, I think we must choose not what is often the easiest option, turning away, but instead choose to turn aside, to pray and seek with God how we can be beacons of light in surrounding darkness, and how we can rebuild in love.

On reading the poem, I feel like you can sense the original anger that flowed out onto the paper when I first wrote it. It feels disjointed and doesn’t quite fit. It is quite different to some of my more lyrical poetry. It is raw and brutal and full of hurt. At the same time, it is a poem in two halves: there is a point during the poem where I saw a different way of looking at change and pain, and I began to see a more hopeful way forward with God. Whenever I read it, I find myself thinking, how am I looking at things today? With anger or with faith? With pain, or with hope?

I struggled to name this poem, but settled on the place in the Cathedral where I felt most comforted as a little girl. I used to sit up between the Quire and Sanctuary at evensong, beside the Cathedra. There, with the sun casting rainbow reflections on the marble floor, I would feel most loved and as if I could do anything with God. It is still one of my favourite and most comforting places, though I little get the opportunity to sit there.

In the shadow of the Cathedra

The walls are weeping

With the sound of our tears.

The walls are shaking

With our bitterness.

 

Foundations tremble

With our stifled cries of anger.

Bricks like tears tumble,

Becoming rubble.

 

It is like watching a car

Crash in slow motion,

Each of us failing to

Push the brakes,

As we travel blind towards

Our time of death.

 

Is the moment of

Impact is passed?

Only our carcass remains.

We wait for the

Final bones to go up in

Flames.

 

It is hard to see when

The asphyxiating

Asbestos of our minds

Will ever be chipped away.

It has already

Killed my trusting heart.

 

Love can rebuild. But

Where can love be found?

A world devoid of love

Leaves my childhood home

Flat on sandy ground.

 

My house has many

Rooms, says the Lord, my

God. But standing here,

I see no room for

Me.

 

Yet I cannot close

My Heart to you. You

Weave yourself back in.

You hold me.

 

I know there’ll be

A day, when my heart

once more will weep with

salted tears.

 

I’ll look to you again:

The Lord on high, my

God. And, alone, I

know I’ll find you then.

 

May I be penitent,

Seek forgiveness,

Be slow to judge,

Be open to forgive.

 

May I find strength in You.

May I speak the truth.

May I heal the wounds

We made for ourselves.

 

On your rock may I

Rebuild my house,

My heart, my hope.

 

Cleanse our hearts, wipe from

Our eyes the tears. Show

Us the place where pain

Is no more.

And make us once more

One in you, O Lord.

An empty hospital bed

I am writing this as I travel home on the M6, stuck in the traffic jam outside Lower Peover (yes that is a place). The fog and frost are just starting to descend down, and the headlights make the drizzle sparkle before it hits the bumper of the car in front. The light is fading, but the moon is not yet visible in the sky. Perhaps it is covered by a cloud.

Unfortunately, our New Year did not start so well as I had hoped. On New Year’s Day, 1 week ago, we received the call that my Grandad had been rushed to hospital and was undergoing surgery to stop serious bleeding in his abdomen, and would be subject to further testing to work out why this had happened and then relapsed. It’s painful when you live far away from your family, that you cannot just be there instantaneously when they’re ill. You want to be at the hospital to hold their hand. But that’s how the world works. So the following week has been filled with telephone calls between my Mum, Uncle and Grandma, trying to keep up with what is happening. Grandad was hospitalised and put on several drips, having his blood tested every 2 hours to try and work out why this bleeding kept happening.

This weekend, my Mum and I travelled North to be with him in hospital and hopefully to take him home. Having packed my rucksack with chocolate digestives, double deckers, chocolate coins, half a toblerone, a colouring book, Guys and Dolls CD, and Greek and Latin vocab lists (all the essentials for 10 hours in the car), we left London at 8 o’clock on Saturday morning, stopping at Stafford for a sausage sandwich (much needed!).

I was half anxious and half excited to go. Anxious because my Grandad is very sick, in my mind during the week I kept catastrophizing what could happen to him and I’d heard stories about people catching all kinds of harmful diseases in hospitals like MRSA. However I was also excited. This excitement not only stemmed from seeing Grandad but the fact that I had never actually been to visit anyone in hospital before. My nose operations had been in our local private hospital, I had visited A&E when I fractured my wrist, and I may have visited my brother in hospital when he was born, but this I don’t remember! So I was semi excited to go to a hospital properly for the first time (and procrastinate doing prep because I wasn’t at home), but of course I just wish the circumstances had been different.

We were taught from a young age not to trust the food we were served by my Grandparents. I remember the time for example, we were served pastries which were burnt on top, but frozen underneath. I guess that’s what happens if you grill frozen croissants. Similar to the time when the sausages were black on the outside, and raw inside. So fuelled on a safe Staffordshire sausage sandwich and a couple of chocolate coins, we arrived at my Grandparents’ house, exhausted from a 4 hour journey (pretty good as this journey goes, but still exhausting). We were unexpectedly greeted with semi cooked salmon and watercress (is it just me who finds this a bit of an odd combination?) pie and chocolate log. Thankfully anything that has come straight from M&S and is put straight in the oven is usually safe. But somehow, given the reason for our visit, I didn’t really feel like eating.

We made it to the hospital for visiting hours. I experienced for the first time the conflicting atmosphere that lingers in a hospital that I’ve heard others talk about. There are whispers of pain, suffering and loss. There are glimpses of hope, the smiles of the discharged, and the balloons celebrating the birth of a new baby. But the discarded trolleys in the corridor, the scars, a distant scream, and the smell of hand sanitiser were just a few of the things that made me feel slightly uncomfortable. A reminder of the pain of human suffering. A corridor that seemed to go on forever, devoid of life and the vacant eyes of the nurses who walked past made me want to turn around and leave. I didn’t think a long wide yellow corridor could make you feel like that. But I had to get to ward 3D. And when I opened the door of Grandad’s room, I immediately saw an empty bed. And the catastrophized situations that had been plaguing my thoughts for the week resurfaced.

And then I looked up and saw him, round the corner, sitting in an armchair reading his kindle. He looked awfully frail, pale and hurt. But it was him, and he was there.

The remainder of my time in the North has been spent sitting in various very uncomfortable chairs, talking, playing Trivial Pursuit (I forgot that I had the travel version buried – beneath the food – in my rucksack) on hospital bed tables which wheel themselves away every time you place a card down, watching BBC news on repeat, marvelling at the menu (which I am reliably informed does not give a true representation of the food received), eating chocolate digestives and toblerone to make up for the poor menu, travelling between the hospital and my Grandparents’ house (with squeaky nylon blow up mattresses and nylon sleeping bags so that every time you turn over it either rustles or sparks) and working out where a prescription could be,  lost in a ‘pod’ system, when the ward say they’ve sent it, and the Pharmacy say they haven’t got it.

And now I’m back in the car travelling home with Grandma’s packed tea of turkey sandwiches (it’s not unlikely that the Turkey’s left from Christmas) and more chocolate log (also probably left from Christmas). I’m hoping we’ll stop soon to pick up a packet of crisps and make the essential ‘facilities’ break. It’s been a whirlwind trip, but one that I felt I had to make. My first trip to a hospital, but more importantly a chance to be there for my family. Life is fleeting. Our candle can blow out at any moment. The atmosphere I felt and the tears, pain and anguish, that struck me in the hospital reminded me all too well of that fact. It reminded me that it is important to go whatever distance, despite their Russian-roulette dinners and sparking beds, to be with your family and to share in the good times and the bad. Because family is something that at times we wish we could choose not to have, but the love of our family is also that which we cannot live without.

I am so grateful that this afternoon Grandad has been able to go home, to be in his own environment and have some peace. We don’t know what the future holds, but right now the candlelight seems a little brighter than it did a week ago, and that’s all we can ask for.

This poem just sort of came into my head when I was reflecting on what might have been, and the feelings that I went through on seeing that empty bed. I felt like I was too late, like I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. These were my honest feelings. And I’m sure they are feelings that many people go through on a daily basis. So here it is, a simple and honest poem dedicated to all those who feel lost in grief at the beginning of this New Year:

Where you lie no more

There is an empty hospital bed,

The covers thrown aside,

Still warm from where

You lay.

With silvered cheeks I wrap

Your coat around me,

Eyes fixed on where

You lay.

Sirens scream all around;

Too late to find the

Frail body where

You lay.

Whispers linger of your pain; my broken

Heart is pierced again. I breathe

My last of the air where

You lay.

There was an empty hospital bed,

The covers thrown aside,

Still warm from where

You lay.

For anyone studying English literature, this poem was designed to be shaped like a heartbeat, symbolising the poet’s liveliness contrasted with the death of the one she loved.

Making mistakes

If you did not read the poem I posted last week, you may not know that I have been struggling with mistakes that have been made by, or blamed on, leaders in my communities. I took comfort from writing the poem, but also from reading this psalm. Although I don’t view all mistakes as wickedness, because I believe they can be reversed, this psalm helped me this week.

After the psalm, I give some of my thoughts on the nature of mistakes, being a leader, what we do when we make a mistake, and what we should do when others make a mistake too.

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
    though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land
    and enjoy peace and prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
    and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
    for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword
    and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
    to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
    and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have
    than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
    but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,
    and their inheritance will endure forever.
19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
    in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish:
    Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
    they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
    but the righteous give generously;
22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land,
    but those he curses will be destroyed.

23 The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

25 I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
    their children will be a blessing.

27 Turn from evil and do good;
    then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the Lord loves the just
    and will not forsake his faithful ones.

Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed;
    the offspring of the wicked will perish.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
    and dwell in it forever.

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
    and their tongues speak what is just.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
    their feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
    intent on putting them to death;
33 but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked
    or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Hope in the Lord
    and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
    when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
    flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
36 but he soon passed away and was no more;
    though I looked for him, he could not be found.

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
    a future awaits those who seek peace.
38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
    there will be no future for the wicked.

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.     Psalm 37

We all make mistakes. Take a look at one of my French essays and it will be covered in a sea of illegible red scribble, all highlighting verbal, phrasal, idiomatical mistakes. I hate that teachers use red. Red implies irreversibility, that a mistake we made once will always be a mistake. Now, I’m not suggesting that all teachers mark in brown, like one of my old maths teachers did. But maybe not red. Because we all make mistakes. And mistakes can be reversed. If the person who makes the mistake wants to reverse it. And if they don’t then maybe it is up to us to forgive them.

Mistakes take different forms. We can make mistakes in what we say, how we say something, our actions or our deeds. Severity of mistakes vary from my grammar mistakes, to making a mistake that changes someone’s life for the worse. From forgetting to buy a birthday card or not turning up to steward a service to making a decision that isolates or contradicts a whole section of the community or your colleagues. Mistakes that are laughed about, or those that cause pain, anger and tears. Mistakes that fuel dissonance where there should only be consonant harmony. The mistakes that seem like deliberate wickedness. Admittedly, there are those mistakes which we make occasionally which turn out to have unexpected positive consequences for everybody involved. But these kind of ‘happy’ mistake are few and far between and unfortunately it is the negative mistake that I want to focus on.

Sometimes unjustly, sometimes justly, leaders tend to be blamed for many mistakes. Leader figures around me have recently, even if they had good intentions in mind, made decisions or acted in away that caused tears, anger and hurt among a community. And maybe they recognised openly what they did as a mistake, or maybe they didn’t and just deep down knew what they did wrong. Either way they knew that they made a mistake. Perhaps these leaders are being unjustly blamed for mistakes simply because they are the figurehead of an organisation . We’re all party to blame for mistakes we make as a collective body. Yet part of the role as a leader is to take on that responsibility of blame.  Did anyone else watch The Apprentice (awful programme – it was half term) this week? Project Manager JD was fired because he ‘held his hand up’ to all the mistakes his team made. Yet unlike Lord Sugar, I admired him. In that board room (though not in the rest of the task) he was a true leader. He bore the blame for mistakes both he and his team had made. Because he acknowledged honestly that as a leader it was his responsibility to have failed to prevent these mistakes from happening.

Even if we’re not JD, or a leader of a business or organisation, somewhere in our lives, we are all leaders. Perhaps you lead a club, a music group, a debate team, a board if directors, a specific department in a company or school. Maybe you don’t.  But we all take responsibility as leaders, even if we only identify as leaders if our own lives. And some leaders don’t just bear the blame, but are justly to blame for the hurt they cause. As a leader, all responsibility falls on you. The pressure makes it all too likely that we make mistakes in our lives. And sadly, it is all too easy as a leader to follow your own dreams, your own plans, and to leave those you work with behind. As a leader, it is all too easy to stop listening. This is, I believe, where leaders make their biggest mistakes. Because being able to listen, to grasp the opinions of a whole community and evaluate a decision is a great asset. And it is one leaders all too often ignore.  As a leader, it is our duty to act in the best interests of all, to reach a consensus, accept when we are wrong, and not just carry out something because it is our own personal wish. If we continue to act for our own personal gain, and not for the benefit, health and happiness of all those around us, that is when we make mistakes that become fractures in a community. Fractures that are very difficult to heal.

Most of the time we know we’ve made a mistake. But sometimes our mistake is hidden from us and we go on believing that we’re doing the right thing, because we don’t know any different. How often have I been called Charlotte and never corrected the person throughout the duration of the evening/day because we didn’t want to offend the person who made a mistake? And it depends what the circumstance is. Of course I don’t mind being called Charlotte for an evening. But when does it get too much? When do we need to step in and say something? Often people make mistakes that spiral out of control. Intended consequences are lost in a sea of unintentional pain. This is when we have to step in. We have to say something before it’s too late. When we see that a mistake is causing pain, we cannot stand by or walk past and say nothing. We cannot sit in a community that is falling apart and say nothing. Because we are then also making a mistake. Never be afraid to find your voice. Challenge anything that seem like a mistake, before it goes too far and causes too much pain.

But what should we when we make a mistake? We feel guilty, we know we’ve done something wrong. Sometimes we say something, and we immediately know that what we said was wrong. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, months to feel the pain that we have caused. We only notice because in effect we isolate ourselves when we make a mistake that hurts others. Over time the anger we have caused, either knowingly or unknowingly, causes us to lose our closest friends, our closest colleagues. Suddenly the whole world seems against us. And we know what we have to do. Deep down inside of us, that which has been drummed into us since childhood screams out “say sorry.” But saying sorry is something no one likes doing. We have to admit that we were wrong. It takes courage, but at the end of the day it may save a community, a relationship before it’s too late. If we cannot apologise to those we have wronged, even if the wronging was unintentional, then who does that make us? So however old we are, one word, a true ‘sorry’ to all those we’ve wronged can make all the difference. The wound might not heal for a long time but a heartfelt apology begins the healing process. Without an apology from those who have wronged us, it is likely the wound will continue to bleed.

Mistakes. We all make them, because as humans we’re not perfect. None of us are perfect. The sermon I heard preached this morning covered those we call saints, living, saints in our every day lives. Those we look up to, who inspire us, our role models, those who bring light in the middle of the winter’s darkness. There are so many people I can think of who daily inspire me to be the person I want to grow up to be, the person I can potentially be, who encourage me to challenge my boundaries and who make me see a future for myself. They are my living saints. And a lot of the time we see saints as perfect. But after all our living saints are humans too. They are not perfect. And so we see our saints making mistakes. And sometimes that pains us. Deeply. Perhaps it is another occasion where our flight instinct kicks in. Perhaps we just want to run away, crack open the gin (don’t worry, I don’t drink, I’m still 16) and pour out our hearts. But this is when we have to stay. This is when we cannot go. When our saints make mistakes, we have to forgive.

Forgiving is harder than it sounds. Forgive. Such a simple word. But an action bathed in pain. For me forgiveness is like a balloon. When I am angry because someone has made a mistake that has pained me, I am like a balloon with no air in it. But I can’t live like that. So I choose to forgive. I forgive the people who bullied me. I forgive the people who think I don’t have a voice. I forgive those that tear my world apart. And each time I forgive, I blow a little more air into my balloon. And when I let go, my balloon soars into the heavens, amongst the stars. And they are forgiven, and like a simple ‘sorry,’ my wound begins to heal.

I hope that gives you something to think about over the coming weeks. The 27th November is Advent Sunday. Advent Sunday is the beginning of a new church year. A new beginning. A time to let mistakes be healed, to release our balloons to flight. A time to say sorry, and to heal the fractures in our community. A time to listen, as leaders, to those around us. A time to wait, expectantly, once again. To wait and rediscover afresh the joy that Christ’s birth brings. 

 

 

Purgatory

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about places and things that are really important to me in life. If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll remember that I’ve talked about it a bit before. Places are full of sights, smells and sounds that enable us to replay key memories in our lives. I remember, for example hearing the crunch of the gravel when we used to run in our front driveway, falling over, the tears having to be patched up and kissed better. Then the gravel was replaced by stone. The smell of cinnamon always reminds me of our Christmases, I’m not really sure why. The wood next to our house, the earthy smell that no one can quite define, the elusive llama and trickle of the stream embodies our childhood, spent making dens, wading around in wellies, playing Pooh Sticks on the little bridge, the time we followed a GPS system, and walked in the river for about 15 minutes, until I discovered my boots had a hole in, and my feet were getting rather wet. Insignificant memories perhaps, but memories all the same.

And as such, the places that are key in our lives have tremendous impact and influence over our lives. It is often said that we have less than 5 places that are integral to our lives, and we spend our lives more or less rotating around these places. So it’s always hard to adapt when one of those ‘key places’ changes. Perhaps you move house, and are faced with unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells. Perhaps a place where you’ve always harboured good memories hits you with a series of bad ones. It’s unnerving, strange, something we want to escape. And it’s so easy to run away. We are stuck between the loyalty to the place we love, and our instinct to flee.

These past few months, places I thought I knew like the back of my hand, places where I felt secure, accepted and happy, have surprised me. Instead of all the good memories I can so easily recall there, my mind seems preoccupied with the recent bad memories. And the changes there are largely out of my control. I want to make a difference, but it’s not something I can do. There are several times where I’ve just wanted to leave it all behind. And I was stuck. I had the decision, I could have made the choice to go. But I decided to stay. Both times.

And even though I made that decision twice, I was still angry. I still am, somewhere, sometimes, angry. Upset. Disappointed.  Angry with the bystanders, that they recognise what they see and do nothing. Angry with those above me, who let me down. Angry with the perpetrators, that they continue to spread gossip or lies. Disappointed in what I believed to be a community purely good at heart. Upset that I can’t do anything, and just have to ride the storm.

And when I’m angry, I write. It helps. I don’t know why, because it means I replay things over in my head and I usually get more upset whilst I’m writing. But after I have, I feel better. I write letters, to the people I’m angry with. And when I read them over I laugh. I write poetry. And then I share it with you, in the hope that somewhere, for somebody, it might help. It might strike a chord to help them to see things more clearly. Help them to understand a part of the community they no longer see. Help them to see that they are not alone.

I was told recently that ‘You are a child. How can you understand?’  I know that. I don’t understand everything. I only see a fraction of what goes on. But children are perceptive. They can feel raw emotion. They touch the anger invisible to everyone else. They can form an opinion. And they can have a voice. So here is my voice. And I might get it wrong. And I might not understand. But just maybe, I might get it right.

I wrote this with one key place in mind. But as is the way with poetry, I realised that actually it applied to the other too. It is entitled Purgatory.

Do I leave you behind,

The place that I loved,

The place that I learnt,

The place I found my God?

 

Do I stay with you, my sanctity,

Shrouded with lies and deceit?

Two factions at brutal war.

Each day another forsaken seat.

 

They hide behind a veil,

Infernal anger, bitterness and fear.

Leadership they trusted,

Seems to have led them but to here.

 

The joy that I knew,

The laughter and the love,

Is gone.

 

But yet I do not blame you,

I know not where this began,

Perhaps our perfect snowball just spiralled

Out of control.

 

I want to stay, to see you through,

To bring back the life I once knew.

But the gossip and fractures,

Twisted truths and covered lies

 

I

can’t

heal.

 

Maybe you don’t see this,

Or maybe you don’t care,

Maybe I’m just growing up

And my world isn’t perfect

Anymore.

 

But this is not my community.

This is not my faith.

I renounce it.

But yet I cannot turn away.

 

Things I love: October

Now I have to say that I completely LOVE October. It is, by far, my favourite month. I am also partial to a good bit of December (who doesn’t love the mood at Christmas?) but October just pips it for me. So here are some of my reasons for loving October. Perhaps I will convince you to be an October-lover too..!

  1. Writing this now in my pyjamas (yes it is 10 o’clock) and my fluffy socks, I am all warm and cosy, snuggled up on the sofa. I take a bite of my toast and look out through the window next to me. The garden has a carpet of leaves. The trees above are a rainbow of colours, red, yellow, orange, brown, dabs of green. The scene makes me want to get up and run through the fallen leaves. I am lucky enough to live next to a wood, and at this time of year I love to take walks through the wood, running through the falling leaves, and trying to make the loudest crunch possible.
  2. October never signifies much work to me. The end of October is usually filled with a lovely two week long half term before another 7 weeks of work. So although the beginning of October can be a hard slog as your motivation dwindles after the initial start to the term, I always know that there are two weeks rest coming!
  3. As children we were always brought up with the firm rule that no matter how cold it gets before October, the central heating would only be turned on at October half term. We would pile on the jumpers and duvets and blankets and fluffy socks just waiting for half term. I always remember waking up at this time of year with the tip of my nose and toes feeling freezing cold, and the rest of my body really hot because I had gathered up all the spare duvets in the house and attached them together using the poppers on the corners to make a 19 tog duvet…! On Saturday we reached half term and as usual I was very excited to have central heating again. Well, fate decided it was not to be, as at some point between February and Saturday our boiler broke. We had no hot water. Yesterday, we had no water whatsoever. I await the arrival of the BT man this morning!
  4. October was always also associated with another strict rule in our house. Between the beginning of October and the 6th January, it is permissible to sing Christmas carols around the house, the reasoning being that when we were younger children after half term we always began practising Christmas carols for concerts and services at school. This rule developed into thinking about Christmas altogether, so October half term also marked the point where we could begin to think about what we would like for Christmas. So for us, the first few days of October half-term are usually filled with Christmas carols just to annoy our parents, even though now we are older we don’t start practising Christmas music until after Remembrance, and we really should be rehearsing Duruflé requiem…But who doesn’t love a bit of Christmas in October?
  5. As I mentioned above, I love walking in October. Wrapped up in a scarf and coat, crunching through the leaves, I could walk for hours. But the feeling I love is walking in the October sun. The air is crisp and bracing but the sun warms you right to the inside. On returning, your cheeks are tinged red from the wind and chill, but inside you are warm.
  6. It is totally OK to drink hot chocolate and make cookies. Nothing else to say! In addition, there are always deals on multipack chocolate for Halloween so we can stock up on treats 🙂
  7. House Singing always happens in October. At our school, House Singing is one of the major house competitions of the year, and the first in the calendar. Each House sings both a unison and a part song. This year our unison was Some Nights by Fun, and our part song was How Will I Know by Whitney Houston. Although incredibly stressful, what I love about this competition is the positivity and the incredible atmosphere in the Chapel. Everyone gets involved, no matter what ability they are, and has a good time. It was a bonus that this year our house came 3/9 in the unison, and 1st in the part song. It made the late night rehearsals and my terrible piano playing worth it..!
  8.  It is the perfect weather to curl up on the sofa with a book, blanket and mug of something, watch the rain racing down the windows, and read.

Those are the main things I love about October. There are probably more things I have forgotten! And the only negative thing about October? Getting ill… I know that for several days in October I will get ill. I always get ill during the holidays. It’s the season of colds and sore throats…But I don’t mind spending a few days in bed, as long as I can watch the leaves outside, sleep and read.

I have always been a fan of October, and up in the attic the other day, I found boxes of my old work. Here is a poem I wrote in year 8 which I found, that was inspired by October, and the falling leaves.

Metamorphosis       c. October 2012

In the end, we shall all die,

I am another. Gone.

My life flashes in front of me as I plunge downwards.

 

Emergence.

The snow melts into the rocky terrain.

Despair and emptiness linger in the morning mist.

Bare trees, row upon row upon row.

Yet I spring forth, a tiny bud; a tiny glimmer of hope.

Infancy.

A gentle sun beats down on my head.

Smiles and laughter ring and echo in my ears.

Surrounded by elders towering above me,

I play, skipping and swaying, twisting and turning in the peaceful breeze.

Maturity.

The aging sun overwhelms me and I am still.

Thoughtfulness and wisdom engulf me

Watching the juvenile beneath me.

My tip turns brown; I lose my old ways.

I convince myself that deep down I am still me.

Senility.

Rain patters on my skull and I am degraded by the deluge.

My bones are brittle as glass and wrinkles cover my face.

Snap me and I shall break.

All brown. No green. All dark. No light.

 

Lying silently on the soft damp ground below,

My family whispering to me from above:

“Don’t go, don’t leave us, don’t go!”

But I am just another in this graveyard.

I am just another. Gone.

 

Metamorphosis complete.

Endings are difficult

Canon Thistlethwaite joined the Chapter on the 21st February 1999. The rest, they say, is history. I write this with my sincere gratitude for all you have done, and my best wishes for you and Tessa on your retirement. You will both continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.

Just as one chapter opens, another must close. It is true for our lives just as it is for books. Almost a week ago now, the Precentor I have known my whole life preached his last sermon at the Cathedral. Regal in his scarlet cassock, he graced us once more with his words of wisdom, before he processed out of the Cathedral to begin his retirement.

Here was a man who taught me sincerity, honesty, subtle wit and humour, an appreciation for music and poetry, liturgy, humility, leadership, piety and so much more. A man who had devoted over 17 years of his life to the service of God in our community. A man who is recognised by musicians across the world for his academic dedication to organs, but a man who never failed to be beside those who were right in front of him.

As he stood up in the pulpit, he told us the truth. Endings are difficult. Authors, playwrights, film makers all struggle with endings. Because there must be an ending. There is are endings every day in our lives. But what is important is not that there is an ending, that is inevitable. What matters is whether the ending is right. We have to find our ending, and make it right for us.

I have no doubt that Nicholas’ ending was right for him. A Cathedral hides many things: the whispers of long forgotten pleas; the tears shed; the laughter shared; the plots which there are set afoot.

And it was a plot that the Cathedral was hiding last weekend, a plot steeped in good will and gratitude for a man none of us will ever forget. Courtesy of the Cathedral’s music department, adept at organising under cover concerts at short notice, and with Nicholas totally unaware, the Secret Squirrel Sub-Dean Celebration Concert (code name: SSSDCC) plans began to take form. [If you are wondering where the squirrel comes in then you join me. As far as I can tell, Canon Thistlethwaite loves squirrels. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine..! ]

Combined with two more receptions, filled with crisps (no soggy disgusting canapés like last week) and fizz (only for toasts, of course…) and subtly supported with the (mostly) light humour and gossip of the lay clerks and various members of clergy, eyebrow raises, secretive nods, concealed guffaws of laughter when it clearly wasn’t appropriate (choristers provide this quite frequently, it has to be said) and an appearance from Dean Emeritus Victor Stock (a man who openly compares himself to Toad of Toad Hall), it was bound to be a fine weekend.

The SSSDCC was, needless to say an evening of pure joy and celebration. The face on Nicholas’ face when he turned the corner into the nave to see the choir and an audience of friends made the whole weekend worthwhile. The Cathedral was filled with William Harris, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Whitlock, Purcell and Samuel Sebastian Wesley. The music danced up to the ceilings, spun round the scaffolding and filled the ears and hearts of everyone listening. It was truly exquisite. I know how much of an effort the choristers and lay clerks must have put into the concert so early into the term. It is a testament to the glorious legacy of the strong music department Nicholas has guided and now leaves behind, safe in the hands of an exceptionally strong team.

It is clear what a wonderful aid he was to the department, from the heartfelt tributes to him given by Stephen Farr, Paul Provost, and Katherine Dienes-Williams, that brought tears to the eyes of most of the audience present.

As written in the programme, ‘The Revd Canon Dr Nicholas Thistlethwaite has been an absolutely outstanding and inspirational Sub Dean, Precentor, and in his time, Acting Dean. He has led the Liturgy and Music Department with great intelligence, good humour and great strength and wisdom…This evening’s concert is a celebration of all that Nicholas has given to the Liturgy and Music Department, friends and congregation over the last 17 years.’

Personally, I could not echo these words more. To our family, Nicholas has always been supportive and encouraging. He cares so deeply about the choristers, and I know my brother will always appreciate that. He always takes time to ask after us, and what we are up to, what we are studying, and what our plans our for the future.

Nicholas encouraged me, aged just 8 to take to the lecturn and read for the very first time, the 6th lesson at the service of 9 Lessons and Carols in December 2008. He spent more than hour with me the day before, explaining what each sentence meant, how to phrase it and how to conquer my nerves. We read it together, I read it separately. He told me to slow down every time. Eventually, I did. For four years I read that lesson, and I can still recite it word for word (And it came to pass in those days, that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up…etc. I could go on!). I will always remember the now Bishop of Southampton winking at me as he walked down the aisle, and then walking straight back up again to give me hug. He told me that that was the best lesson he had ever heard read. I believed him then, and now I am grateful for his encouragement. Since then I have read regularly at Cathedral services. I always receive so many comments to thank me for reading with sincerity and truth. But it’s not me who should receive these compliments, but Nicholas. I will always be grateful for the time he spent with me, and the ways he taught me to conquer my nerves. They are things I use every day.

I have been at the Cathedral now for 9 years. Over those 9 years, every member of the Chapter has changed apart from Nicholas. He was a constant and much loved colleague and friend for many. His unwavering presence and leadership in and out of services, his depth of knowledge and his sense of humour are just a few out of many things that the Cathedral will lose. But his legacy in music and liturgy will remain, I’m sure. He knew that the ending would be hard, but he found his right ending. Now it’s up to us to find ours.

Nicholas, you have heard so many times that you will be sorely missed. I will never forget what you have meant to me and my family. I wish you all the best in your retirement.

Nicholas is a great fan of T.S.Elliot. When Dame Penelope Keith was asked to read a poem at the SSSDCC, she contemplated choosing Elliot. But she chose this instead. And it was perfect.

The Diary of A Church Mouse, John Betjeman

Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the Vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn’s Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle’s brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes…it’s rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher’s seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear the organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar’s sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn’t think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God’s own house,
But all the same it’s strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don’t see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.

 

A day at the beach poetry

What nicer way to spend a (rare) hot and sunny day in England than heading down to the beach? There was nowhere I would rather be.

According to my brother, you can’t live anywhere in Britain more than 100 miles from the sea. Seeing as we are a series of islands, he is probably right. So there is really no excuse for not going to the beach from time to time. We had been planning to go for a while, seeing as we’re stuck at home twiddling our thumbs waiting to go back to school. I mean there’s lots of work I could be doing…but that’s not the point of summer holidays, is it? We decided we simply had to go down to the beach at West Wittering, and take full advantage of the weather whilst it was still here.

We did all the traditional British beachy things.

We put up a windbreak (vital piece of equipment). We insisted on getting into and swimming in the sea (yes I mean the Channel – yes it was cold). We built a sandcastle (we are probably too old, but inside I believe no one is too old to build a sandcastle) and then destroyed it with buckets of water. We wore jumpers over our swimming costumes and shivered reading our books. We ate fish and chips and Flake 99s. Our bucket was stolen by the boys next to us who then proceeded to fill it with water and pour it over us from behind the windbreak. We complained about people smoking and littering. We were approached by the tide coming in, and had to move backwards a few inches, and then further backwards 10 minutes later. We played French cricket, rallied with our bats and balls, and chased each other down to the waves. We jumped the waves. As soon as we got home, we ran a hot bath, made hot chocolate and warmed up.

We were, my brother, my Dad and I, the three Musketeers.

The beach was heaving, full of tourists, enterprising grandparents, bored parents struggling to keep their children occupied and teenagers burning in order to perfect their tan. But earlier on in the day, around 8:00, when we first arrived at the beach, it was a far cry from the chaos that ensued later in the day. There were no shrieks from children who had dropped their ice cream. There were few people. There were no frantic parents worrying about their lost children (always position yourself somewhere identifiable when the beach gets busy e.g. in front of the beach hut with yellow doors). There were no announcements from lifeguards stating that one should not use inflatables considering strong offshore winds, or that the owner of a lurid green BMW Z4 had blocked everyone into the car park.

No. It was still. It was quiet. It was peaceful.

Here is a poem I wrote about today. I don’t usually tend to share my poems, as I get a bit self conscious and people think it’s weird to write poems. To be honest, even my parents think it’s weird that I write poems. But this blog is about my life, and I wrote this poem, so I am going to share it. If you think I’m weird, I’m sorry… but at least you’re not alone!

So, here goes:

Heaven’s Light – inspired by an early morning walk on West Wittering beach 16/08/2016

Heaven’s bright light strikes the water.

Rain ceases. Clouds disperse.

Water shimmers, sparkles, shines.

 

An embracing cloak of August heat wraps

Around a pale body, sending shivers of warmth

Down a chilled spine.

 

Warm golden sand stretches from end to end,

Glimmering, gleaming, glittering,

Forming oases in the distance.

 

The waves lick the shore.

The birds sing to dusty dunes.

The wind whispers as it whips across the bay.

Salt air lingers on the tip of the tongue.

The turn of the page, as a chapter draws to a close.

Transcendent.

Ephemeral.