V is for…

… I guess he’s an obvious choice but I haven’t yet written anything which relates to my huge passion for art and so… to stumble down a road much travelled, I introduce Mr Vincent Van Gogh. Given that the road is now more a five lane motorway, most people know a rough outline of this incredible guy’s life so I’m not going to attempt to educate the teachers. I will however, take you (briefly) down the hard shoulder and onto a side road as I explain some of the things I love about Van Gogh.

dd5b6bb9b9f3a3ab29a32b9d148cfb01A picture of Starry Night may be one of the most common images known to man, yet, whilst alive, Van Gogh only sold ONE painting. ONE! His famous impressionist style makes his work easy to recognise and yet, Van Gogh struggled to make any impact on the public at the time…  and this, I think, was what he desired more than anything: to be able to have some impact on mankind; in his case, to be a Christ like figure in the lives of those who suffered.

It’s here that I feel so connected to Van Gogh. It’s within this shell of his essence that I see a kernel of goodness that I believe is an innate part of humanity. It might be warped in some of us, driven out of others,  or just never nurtured. But generally, I see a desire to better the lives of others, in many of the people I talk to. It’s not all completely altruistic… It’s a part of that desire to make an impact. An impact on everyone, or someone or ANYone. It gives us meaning.

Van Gogh’s real passion was his desire to serve the world, to show kindness and compassion to those who suffered. When the church threw him out (when he worked as a missionary in Belgium and gave away all his possessions to the poor!) he decided to impact us by showing us beauty through his art. His passion was wild and consuming, his torment, indescribable.. But he ate, drank and breathed his art. All with a desire to make an impact.

And so he did.

And so he has.

 

O is for…

… Olivesolives

I was going to go for something more profound but really, an olive IS a pretty important thing. As I have a particular adoration for them, I did a little research.

The following fascinating facts I’m about to share will undoubtedly convince you of the Importance of Being an Olive.

Firstly, I’m willing to bet that you had no idea that the edible olive seems to have coexisted with humans since the Bronze Age. That’s around 5 to 6 thousand years. We should know each other pretty well.

Second, we’re not exactly forward in appreciating the health properties of the olive. The ancient Greeks used to smear olive oil on their bodies and hair as a matter of grooming and good health. Greasy Greeks are in good nick.

The oil of the olive (considered a fruit btw) also has a long established reputation of being sacred. Used to anoint kings in ancient times (and athletes, oddly) it was also used to burn in temples and fuelled the original Olympic torch, the ‘eternal flame’ (not the one that The Bangles referred to).

Lastly, the sanctity of the olive and its role in religious traditions is something appreciated in both Christianity and Islam, featuring 7 times in the Qur’an and countless times in The Bible. If only we could all focus on the humble olive.

I didn’t imagine I’d ever find myself writing about olives but now I’ve dipped into it, I could well go on to become the world’s leading expert, and write prolifically about this remarkable little fruit. Olives, it turns out, are a rather understated part of world history and civilisation as we know it.

A bit tongue in cheek… but really..! Who knew?!

A2Z-BADGE-2016

 

 

M is for…

…Mentoring.A2Z-BADGE-2016

It’s what I’m good at, and you honestly won’t hear me use that phrase very often.

As the official leader of The Society of Burnt Out Teachers, I nowadays realise that although my passion for teaching English and English Literature will never waver, the transference of my enthusiasm doesn’t have to be within a classroom. No. In some ways, it’s easier to deliver it within a mentoring relationship. Because, as most good teachers will agree, at a certain age, its RELATIONSHIP which is the single most important factor in the delivery of successful teaching.

Mentoring allows a relationship to flourish (hopefully) and then, once established, it’s an open landscape on which, as a trusted mentor, you can help to build whatever scene and whichever structure, will most benefit and satisfy the mentee.

I’ve mentored a lot of your people, before and during my teaching career. Nothing sparks me like being able to nurture an ambition in someone. I love to help breathe hope into other people’s hearts. Nothing gives me a renewed sense of purpose like showing someone else their purpose.

Anybody else get this?

L is for…

… Love

Here are some things I love that begin with L

Lighting. – I did a little post mentioning my love of the softer season’s evening lighting but I’m also mad about LAMPS! I have a growing collection of the weird, the wonderful and the beautiful!

Longfellow – The beauty of his words very often nearly drives me over the edge!

Lakes – Particularly the deep blue pools in the Pyrenees

Licorice-I’m quite mad for the stuff!  It has to be hard – tear – with- your- teeth licorice. The sort that you can buy in little bags… cuttings…

Learning- I’m fascinated by the world and it’s people!  Sometimes I wonder why we/I bother to research something,my tendency towards nihilism creeps in. Then I realise that I have a genuine love of knowledge and of learning.  And sometimes it’s okay to do something for its own sake.

Lemon – Generally love lemons!

Literature- I couldn’t live without it. Oh… and Languages… I love to learn new words in any language. I’d like to be fluent in all the European languages,ancient Greek, Arabic and Latin!

Hmmm… Overall, L is looking kinda like a lame excuse for a post.

Apologies to any who visit!

 

 

J and K…

Bear with me o

kay?

(I know it’s cheating but sometimes you just have to take a shortcut.)

Here’s mine…

J is for Jesus. Mostly, if you reaA2Z-BADGE [2016]d the gospels, a very likeable chap. Mystical, yes. Unpredictable, very. Would you have hung out with him? And if you would… for what reason? Because no doubt about it, he was pretty rebellious…and exciting… Would you have enjoyed the drama? Would you have liked it that he caused a stir? Would you have been attracted by the cool magic stuff? Would you have been drawn to his intense love and his wisdom?

C.S Lewis had a lot to say about the matter and I leave his famous quote about Jesus here. It’s a good one to ponder…

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

G is for Guns…

n’ Roses…

Yep. Little old me. Who’d have thunk?

In my mid teens I discovered rock. And unfortunately for my parents, it wasn’t of the geological variety.

I literally fell in love with Guns n’ Roses.

There were others of course. I had flings with Aerosmith and Def Leppard, flirted heavily with AC/DC and Nirvana and occasionally eyed up Motorhead; but in truth, the sound of Slash’s searing guitar riffs, the crazy versitility of Axl’s FIVE OCTAVE vocal range, stole my heart.

In the years between then and now, I’ve played the field more times than Man U. I’ve been seduced by Opera, persuaded by Pop,  lured by Classical, grabbed by Grunge and utterly captivated by my eventual partner, Country.

There are moments though, when a certain smell, a kind of summer car heat, a particular road, when I think of them. Like the memory of a first love, I am filled again with a hunger for that tender, youthful craving for some wordless void that only music can begin to voice.

 

E is for Evening Sunlight…

That fleeting time when the wordless glory of the evening sun dashes against the bricks and the hedges, the streets and the people; firing the land with its last red breaths and, for one trembling moment, the humdrum earth of … Continue reading

Most Memorable Settings

The challenge has been set at http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

I’m not sure how it all works, this tagging posts and linking up thing, but I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try on this, my not-used-very-much-at-all blog. I think I did set this one up as a writing blog. Not that my other ‘usual’ space isn’t, but the other is a bit more specific, more personal.

Asked to quote a passage that I will always associate with a beautifully crafted setting, I have to refer to American writer, John Steinbeck.

The opening paragraphs of Of Mice and Men read like poetry:

A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlightbefore reaching the narrow pool. On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees- willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool. On the sandy bank under the trees the leaves lie deep and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among them. Rabbits come out of the brush to sit on the sand in the evening, and the damp flats are covered with the night tracks of ‘coons, and with the spread pads of dogs from the ranches, and with the split-wedge tracks of deer that come to drink in the dark.

The graceful stillness of this place is almost tangible. It makes me desperate to feel the warmth of the water, the dry heat of the dirt tracks and the cool of the Sycamore shade.

When a writer has described the natural world this tenderly, this delicately, it stirs up a sort of ache in me that I find very difficult to explain or understand. The closest I get is to compare this ache to a feeling of homesickness. The tug of something tinged with desperation and shades of sadness. Something in descriptions of the natural world makes me long to return somewhere I often haven’t been.

There are so many other examples I could give… Hemmingway creates settings to die for, and Khaled Hosseni whose ‘Then The Mountains Echoed’ I’m reading at the moment, is an incredible writer who can conjure up scenes so palpably that I can imagine the sights and smells of Afghanistan as though they are part of a memory.

Shhhhhhhhhhhh..!

ListenCame across this today and thought it was worth sharing. I honestly think that people don’t get properly listened to.

So many problems go unheard, so many issues misunderstood.Two ears, one mouth, yet our listening rarely reflects that ratio. The antithesis of this little saying is of course, the better known concept of giving somebody “a good talking to”. And really, how often is THAT effective in solving a problem?

Perhaps we can make more of a conscious effort to listen a little more carefully to those around us today. Maybe just being in less of a rush to respond with an opinion, or trying to quietly understand more.

Go on! It might make a real difference to somebody.

All Aflutter

RSCN0069Gentle storm of flurried pink,

South West winds

scatter Spring confetti

fragile as moth wings

carried on musical score

to settle on new

green

ground