Monday, 26 December 2011

I cannot fall through you

This valley runs between wrists
That weighed a world and found it worth the cradling

Cushioning fingertips that meet in mercy
Touching wet cheeks that turn the other way

The trinity of joints that lift my sinking
Balancing grace like rain that falls to quench


Cherishing hands

Underpinning my downward spirals
Undergirding the flimsy in me
Stabilising with a parent's tender
Soothing the bruises
Handling hurts like gathering gossamer

Filbert nails point forward, onward, upward
No fluster or waggle
No matter how fragile
Patient palms
Nurturing, nestling
I cannot fall through you
My Lord, my All.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Card for all my friends and followers - hope this makes you smile!

Well, I've finally posted, tweeted, emailed, facebooked, delivered and dispatched my 200-odd (some VERY odd!) Christmas cards for this year.

I don't want my visitors here on my "Pinny" blog to miss out.

"So," in the words of Noddy Holder, "here it is, Merry Christmas!"

May the blessings of love, hope and the gentle trustworthy innocence of the Christ Child warm your heart and make your Christmas complete as you move through this special season. 

Don't let's look at all that's wrong in this world without pledging to try and be part of the solution. For myself, I can only do that in the light of all that Jesus continues to do with me, and through his grace. I'm not very promising material. None of us is, I guess we can agree. That's why I believe he came here. Why he was called by the name "Immanuel", "God with us". Because he doesn't give up on me or turn away, fed up at my mistakes and rubbish moments. He never stops loving me, or believing the best in me.

I don't know if you believe this too. I respect you anyway. But like my Lord, all I wish is what's right for you in the coming days, whatever is truly the best for you and yours.

Love and blessings, guys!

Click here for your Christmas Card

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Ball-pein hammers and scream alarms: the shadow of the Ripper

Guess you know by now I'm a mad keen genealogist and family historian. Well, a few days ago I was watching that new programme on UK Freeview channel "Yesterday" called "Find My Past". Using the genealogy site of the same name, the show traces back the ancestry of three people before bringing them together to show how their ancestors' lives dovetailed in some famous historical event, such as the Mutiny on the Bounty or the sinking of the Titanic.

In this week's episode, two of my interests came together: family history and real crime, as the events that brought the three subjects together were the murders attributed to Jack the Ripper. The three were descended from a journalist who wrote about the case in London in 1888, a policeman who was the last person, apart from the killer, to see fourth canonical victim Catherine Eddowes alive, and Catherine Eddowes herself.

Press image of what Jack the Ripper might look like from 1888

I watched with great interest learning more about these familiar topics. Much of the end of the programme was lost, however, when, with typical foot in mouth brain-foggery, I managed to comment to general hilarity:

"If that policeman hadn't let her out of the cells that night, she'd still be alive today!"


Another real crime programme on the Internet, about our own Yorkshire Ripper, took me back to the late 1970s and early 80s while Peter Sutcliffe was still very much at large. His crimes spanned the era of my teenage years and young adulthood. Towards the end of his criminal career, in 1980, I had just moved away from my South Yorkshire home to attend Leicester University.

It brought back to me the sense of unease we felt crossing nearby Victoria Park to get to campus from the halls of residence in Oadby. I went home to Yorkshire by train most weekends, as my father was ill. The grip of fear stretched much further than the North, as it was believed the Ripper might move about via the motorway network to commit murders further afield. As far afield, we believed, as the Midlands.

Victoria Park, Leicester

I was in the University Choral Society, so couldn't always abide by the commonsense advice never to walk alone there after dark. Rehearsals were on Monday evenings at 7.30pm if I remember rightly. There were shadowy trees and deserted walkways between darkened buildings after lecture hours to be hurried between on those long autumn and winter evenings. My 19th birthday fell in the first few weeks of the autumn term of 1980.  If a friend missed a practice, you were often on your own.

All this reminded me of two things above all that we young women learned about during the time before the Yorkshire Ripper was caught and convicted of 13 murders  in 1981. Two things we'd probably never had heard of if it hadn't been for the terror his crimes instilled into women all over the country.

First was the "Ball-Pein Hammer". I don't think I can ever think of that tool in any context but as a weapon of choice of the Ripper! Also apparently known as a "ball-peen hammer" - for peening, what else? A machinist's specialist hammer for metal working.  My dad had one in his toolbox, but it was just a common-or-garden hammer to us before the coverage of the Yorkshire Ripper's reign of terror!

Secondly, there was the "scream-alarm". Back in those days, this was a slim cylindrical tin of compressed gas, like an aerosol can. You pressed it to release a shrill, deafening screech, useful, I suppose, if you weren't in a position to scream yourself when under attack. They were made glamorous and sleek enough to fit in your handbag or pocket. Aka a "screech-alarm" or "purse alarm". They came with a warning not to discharge it close to your own or any other innocent person's ear, for fear of causing a burst eardrum!

Modern scream alarm - mine back then was metallic gold

I recall there was always a temptation to let out tiny almost imperceptible coughs from the device as you made your way along through the darkness of the night, just to make sure it would be fit for purpose if needed urgently. So after a few months, most of the internal gas had dispersed and you needed a replacement!

Oh the memories. Nothing for us to compare with the way the lives of his victims' families were torn apart forever. But I can still feel the countrywide sigh of relief when Peter Sutcliffe was finally arrested in my native Sheffield on 2nd of January 1981. Choir practices didn't seem such a risk, that Spring term! Though we kept the scream alarms about our persons for some time to come, and never quite looked at ball-pein hammers in the same way ever again!

Poster showing the handwriting and hoax  recording sent to police at the time of the Yorkshire Ripper murders

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Flag waving - confessions of an imaginative only child!

A lovely friend of mine brought this to my attention through Facebook today.

I've led worship in the past where children and young folks have danced like this with flags or even long strips of silky material to express their joy and praise and love of God in a different way. Expressing that thankfulness in a way that's filled with playfulness, colour, motion, texture and pattern. It needs no formal words. It takes no learning. The dancer just listens to their heart, moves and gives their whole self to God in the moment.

I was pleased to see people are still having fun, a laugh, a ball, expressing themselves in this simple way across all cultures, like whirling Dervishes, caught up in the moment, scribbling and painting in air with their own bodies, extended through the flags.

Whirling Dervishes

It also made me remember with a twinge of longing something I've not done since I was a little child.

When I was little, I used to love what my parents' used to call my "flag waving". I didn't learn it. It came from nowhere but my fertile imagination, love of storytelling, making up songs and worlds of my own. An only child, low maintenance as many Ennea 9-type introverts often are, I'd disappear into the fields that ran from our back garden to the railway line where my dad worked as a shunter. Every summer evening I'd be there, or up in my bedroom when the nights drew in again in autumn. Flag-waving.

It wasn't anything I could really describe to anybody else. It came as naturally to me as the synaesthesia that made burning leaves "taste" like caramel to my senses, or petrol "taste" like apricot when neither had been anywhere near my lips! I was an "imaginative" child, back in those days when we made our own entertainment (and I confess I preferred it that way most of the time!). Happy in my own company. Never bored.

This 'flag-waving' went on for years, before adulthood made it seem a bit embarrassing and best left in the nursery. I'd choose and strip the lower leaves from a slim stalk of rose-bay willow herb (known as fireweed, or, on railway properties like my home in a little valley in South Yorkshire, "railway weed") leaving only a few waggly leaves at the top to nod and twirl.

Then I would watch it, shaking and twirling it in front of me while I told stories, or made up elaborate narratives with imaginary places, people, animals all with wonderful names that tripped off my tongue. I'd make up songs and rhymes and nonsense that made my heart soar with wonder as I felt completely at one with the earth and my Maker. In that state of peace and exhilaration, you could really notice things.

The "flag" didn't have to be willow herb. It could be anything that shook and flowed and painted patterns and shapes at the end of a stalk or stick. It could become a dragon's tail, a flowing head of hair on the characters in my story, a horse's tail - anything! I had an old silk head scarf given as a present one Christmas. I fed the thin end of this scarf  through a slot in a toy golf stick with the mallet end removed, painted black, from some childhood game. Then I could hold the wand of the stick and make the scarf wave as I wove my wonders in words that became my passion as I grew older and could fashion them onto paper in some form. I kept that flag till the scarf part was worn and tattered.

Over the course of my childhood, I used stems of common wild plants, fallen twigs, old chiffon remnants, grasses, sparklers - you name it. I loved every minute. Some of my best ideas and plots were dreamed up that way with a "flag" in my hand in some private space where nobody would laugh or watch!

My "flags" were nowhere near as huge as these ones used in the video. Or in any pictures of "flag dancing" I can find on the net! I wasn't copying anybody else I'd ever seen. My movements weren't as expansive. My "flags" were often nothing more than switches of greenery or diaphanous swatches of scrap fabrics. The flag stayed in front of me, and my eyes never left it as I whispered the stories and words the sight inspired me to create. Every moment was joy, all stress relieved.

I miss the "flag-waving" hours of my youth! I've always been a private dancer. At the moment my health makes it so much harder to stand rapt for ages or dance even with nobody watching. But in my heart I thank God for making us each unique, for His lack of concern with formality and ritual. The freedom He inspires to whirl us up into private heavens, bringing joy to His heart, I pray, as He surely brings joy into mine!
Rose Bay Willow Herb or "Railway Weed" - my number one "flag" of choice as a child!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Ricky Gervais using Humpty Dumpty language?

  “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master      that’s all.”
    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!” * quote from Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass"

Just reading an article in today's online Guardian Culture Section Ricky Gervais: "Bring on the Haters"

How like Humpty Dumpty's stance on semantics Gervais' own perception of the controversy over his use of certain offensive words is.  

I'm not a "hater". I've probably cried with laughter at "The Office" as much as anyone. But I know the "in real life" derision and misperception fostered by his previous jokes about M.E. He joked at one stand-up show how he'd seen someone collecting for M.E.:

-M.E.? Not MS - not the crippling wasting disease. No, the thing that makes you say 'I don't wanna go to work today'.

There was a genuine M.E. sufferer in the room that day. She had to endure the humiliation of the whole room applauding and exploding with laughter at what was, whether Gervais would admit it or not, her expense and the expense of all M.E. sufferers who face the very ignorant attitudes being celebrated and reinforced in the said joke.

Then, recently, we have the outrage caused by the comedian's latest tweeting of an offensive word used to belittle people with Downs Syndrome. Gervais claims he has it on his own authority that the word has changed its meaning. 

Many have challenged him. Yet even in this latest article, all but the brave mum of two disabled children with whom he deigned to discuss the matter, are now labelled as his "haters". Again he paints himself as the hero and victim of the sphere where he dreams he has rewritten the rules of meaning. A tiny world focused away from empathy, compassion and any sense of connection with the lives of others more vulnerable than Mr Gervais.

As his new series' title says: "Life's Too Short".

Life's too short to forget your humanity and the responsibilities that go hand in glove with the rights of free speech. Otherwise, you're just like Humpty Dumpty in his sneering superiority that a word means what you "choose it to mean - neither more nor less". Life's too short to forget that words belong also to the hearer once they are spoken or written. Every mystified, indignant Alice can challenge you then. You can go on believing your own propaganda of course. But it doesn't save you from falling off the wall.


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Four cuddly excuses!

Often, my reason for a big gap between blog entries is the fact I'm too sick to sit up/think/type/make sense/edit/etc to manage it. My blogging is erratic at best!

This time that's still the main reason. But I have an equally true but four times more appealing excuse!

With suppport, I've been dogsitting my friend's four darling dogs! So I'll just let you enjoy their antics caught on camera!