Thursday, March 28, 2013


While I was sleeping,
you cried.
While I shifted position to take more comfort
you threw yourself to the ground, shouting for mercy.
Even as I sank deeper into slumber
you dissolved,
Begging for some shred of humanity
from those who would see you tortured and maimed.
I covered my eyes,
lest the light should disturb; you walked
deeper into darkness, far from home;
far from rest.
I put my fingers in my ears, drowning the sound
that would drag me from repose; your sobbing
by my indifference.

So what would you have me do?
My role is little
A little power, a little wealth; but my desire for sleep
is overwhelming. See, here it comes again:
the lassitude,
that blankets any impulse to be of help.
I barely hear the screams, these days;
the growling stomachs, the whimpering children,
the muffled shrieks of outrage silenced
by brutal power.
My own unconsciousness
is all I crave; let me not know.
Let me sleep, now; my dreams lie

Monday, March 25, 2013

Palm Sunday

 This was written for our fortnightly 9am service yesterday. Sorry it's a bit late!

In the dewbright morning, we waited.
In the stillness of dawn, we paused
to catch our breath. The day began
in silence. Then came a rumbling,
A clattering, a movement
in the air; He was coming.

We stripped branches from the trees
Tore the clothes from our backs
Expressing both our penitance
And our praise. We inhaled the Spring air
Filling our lungs with its sweetness
Ready to shout; ready to sing.
The stones at our feet chittered, stirred
by the steps of so many.

And then he was amongst us; and we felt
the wonder, the wonder, the wonder. We cried out
‘Hosanna!’ and ‘Blessed!’ – our language inadequate
to welcome the Word made flesh. We sang
until our throats were raw – wanting more breath
to revel in He who breathed life into this poor dust.
We threw our coats before him, wanting somehow
To cocoon and swaddle him, embracing the man
Who came stripped of all dignity
Who journeyed inexorably towards his death.

And then He was gone; passed by
Whilst we stood there, waiting.
This moment had been but a pause before a storm
A moment of mayhem, that was somehow
a moment of calm. We had wanted a little longer
Time to come to terms; time to understand.
Time to align our desires and passions
With His. We are still waiting

TAW Easter 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wedding Speech

The kids cleared out the old videos yesterday, finding a few gems along the way including our wedding video.

Now in our defence, Your Honour, we got married at the end of the 80's. This was the decade of meringue dresses, peach bridesmaids, white stilettos and double-breasted suits (rarely together). So the emotion we felt watching this was more a collective sense of shame, rather than an individual culpability. We were all implicated. We had, however, also managed to tear down the Berlin Wall that year and were busy digging the Channel Tunnel (I'm talking collectively again; The Man and I had very little to do with either event, personally), so no wonder that our eye was off the style ball.

However, I must admit that there were other atrocities we inflicted upon our poor witless guests, and ultimately on each other. So in a spirit of contrition allow me to confess our Wedding Day Crimes.

1. Double-breasted suit: check. Peach bridesmaids: check. White stilettos: check - completely understandable for the bride, but did I have to wear them when leaving for honeymoon - and was it really necessary for the bridesmaids and the bride's mother to wear them, too? At least the dress was fairly un-meringuey.

2.  The length of the service. The thing was interminable. And there didn't seem to be any signs for the toilet.

3. The worship - which was a major cause of point 2, above. We started innocuously, luring people into a false sense of security with 'Crown Him with many Crowns'. Then we let rip. Song after song, each sung over and over until people were fainting in despair. The bride shuffled awkwardly; the groom did a half-leg stomp with hearty clapping; the best man went for the full Nazi salute; and the lead vocalist pogo-ed up and down the platform. People dressed in wedding finery should probably not do these things. Even funnier on fast forward, as the kids discovered yesterday.

4. The sermon - the second reason for point 2 - was given by a man in a leather jacket with a red tie. Nuff said.

5. My favourite bit was the two singers during the signing of the register. When, ironically, the bridal party was out of the room.

6. The photographs. Every conceivable angle of every contrivable grouping. The bride, looking up / down / sideways. The bride and groom, likeways plus kissing. The b&g plus bridesmaids. The b&g plus parents, hers then his then both, with and without bridesmaids. Looking at the ring. Looking at each other. Looking at  a small child holding (inexplicably) a doormat. The b&g plus wider families, church friends, other friends, everyone together...and so on and so on. And what did we do to keep the guests happy whilst this went on, and on, and on? Did we provide champagne? Beanbags? A travelling circus? Valium, to numb the pain? Oh, no...we served cake. And non alcoholic fizz. The colour of which was, of course, peach.

7. Talking of was a dry wedding. Which caused some members of the groom's family to make their own entertanment during the photographs by shuffling off to the pub next door. Fair enough.

8. The reception packed 120 guests back into the same room where the ceremony had taken place, now transformed into a catering venue ( that's why the photos had to take so long...). I make no apologies for that. But the seating plan was carefully engineered to place people with similar interests near each other. Needless to say everyone only talked about how long the blooming service was and had anybody found the toilets yet.

9. The speeches. The bride's father played the timeless role of embarrassing his daughter. The best man read out cards, a practice which must surely now give way to projecting text messages. And the groom delivered a nailbiting rollercoaster of a speech, that he had only just written during the meal on any paper he could find - actually the name cards on the table - during which he managed to suggest that he had lived with half the females in the room.

10. The lack of any chance to let one's hair down afterwards. No disco. No ceilidh. Instead, a string quartet played hits from the Baroque period.

As we approach our 25th anniversary, I would guess that anyone getting married at around the same time as us would find their videos a little embarrassing, though perhaps not for the same reasons. However, watching it again reminded me of a few things. The incredible effort made on our behalf at a time when we had no money but wanted to share our special day with as many as could come. So despite my whingeing for comedic purposes above, thanks are due to those who led the ceremony and the worship, who decorated the church, took the photos, served the drinks, cooked the food, made the Herculean effort to turn a church into a restaurant, and then waited at tables. To all those who took the trouble to travel often long distances to be there. To my parents, who masterminded so much of the behind the scenes stuff that seemed to go like clockwork but involved - I am sure - many sleepless nights, especially for my mother who was still pulling all the strings on the day but yet managing to look serene and beautiful.

Oh, and to Debbie: thanks for wearing the peach, even though every fibre of your being must have been screaming No. You wore it well.

Monday, March 04, 2013


Went to see the film Lore on Saturday, with daughter no 2 (who is enjoying being allowed to see age 15 films now). Philip French described it as 'not exactly profound', and I kind of know what he means - at times it feels as though it is grasping at something just underneath the waters, but not quite reaching it. But two days later I am still thinking and wondering. So it stays with you.

The film follows a teenage girl and her younger siblings as they attempt to walk to their grandmother's house near Hamburg, at the end of WW2. Their parents have fled, presumably imprisoned, for Nazi war crimes. Lore begins the film as an innocent; but events and her own piecing together of what she knows and what has been hidden gradually reveal to her the awful truth of Germany's recent past, and the part her parents played in that. Her own initial reactions to a young Jewish man they meet on the road betray her; she becomes complicit. Yet there is something of a child's sense of justice that also drives her, and her reactions become muddled, and difficult to predict.

The film has a langourous poetry about it. The cinematography is stunning, and takes its time. We are invited to suppose what is going on in Lore's mind as she contemplates the Jew; as she remembers her parents; as she gazes at images posted by the allies of concentration camp massacres. Saskia Rosendahl as Lore is believable and beautiful, emerging throughout the film from a cocooned child of the Third Reich to something altogether more complex and likeable. Her face carries the film, and it is her expression more than any other image that stayed with me. Interestingly she had no acting experience, but was a dancer; she brings this graceful quality, where each movement seems intentional.

Above all Lore takes its time. Not in an art-house, life-is-complicated, where-will-it-all-end kind of way; but in a manner that allows the watcher to worm their way into the thoughts and feelings of the characters, without ever totally betraying them. The scene where Lore looked and looked at the images posted by the allies, tracing her hands across them and eventually tearing one image down, switched to a close up of her fingertips - now tacky with the paste used to stick up the pictures. She plays with the glue, pulling the threads apart between thumb and forefinger; then tries to rid herself of the evidence, wiping her hands on her skirt fruitlessly. The childish fascination with all things icky and sticky gives way to a horror of all that has taken place, a horror in which her parents participated; and a desire to rid herself even of the memory , to distance herself from a stain that will not be easily wiped clean. This is the scene that replays in my mind.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Checking Out

This year is the fiftieth since the death of C S Lewis. His writing continues to fascinate, inspire and educate; the more I read, the more respect I have for a man who led a sheltered academic life yet managed to reach out to so many, adults and children alike. It seems a great pity to me that his death was overshadowed by other world events at the time.


So quietly you exited:

Slipping through the fingers of the world

as it looked in another direction. Winter encroaching

the Texan bluesky muted by the small black and white television

that chattered incessantly. The air was filled with facts and suppositions

as we learned new words: ‘motorcade’, ‘depository’, ‘knoll’, ‘gunman’.

You knew none of that; instead

Your dreams were filled once more with visions of the stars

Of melting snow, the ice of the ages dissolved into chattering streams.

As we stretched our minds wider to allow for a time where this was possible

you left,

your mind already expanded to allow for talking beasts and dancing trees.

The colour drained from the world’s eye, leaving only

a speck of vivid pink against the grey; whilst you

set out, umbrella in hand, to find

the golden brightness of a lion’s mane.

TAW 1.3.13