T is for…

Taizé. For me, one of the most beautiful and sacred places I have ever been.

Although an ecumenical community, Taizé seems to be best know within the Roman Catholic church. I suppose because its founder, Brother Roger was Catholic.

It would be very difficult for me to explain the experience that Taizé offers without sounding a little strange, so I am hesitant to even attempt to articulate a post about it. However, taking the risk, I’m going to use a combination of pictures and words to describe this awesome place.

First and foremost, Taizé is a monastic community nestled in the beautiful hills of Burgundy, France. Just as the second world war was breaking out, a 25 year old man from Switzerland crossed the border and bought a house in the hills. Feeling the call to set up a community, he bought a small house in the area, which also happened to be quite close to the demarcation line dividing France in two: it was well situated for sheltering refugees fleeing the war. Friends from Lyon started giving the address of Taizé to people in need of a place of safety.

After the war, a young lawyer set up an association to look after children whose parents were killed in the war. Joined by a number of other ‘brothers’ and sisters, the community began to care for these children and also German prisoners of war.

And so a religious community began… More and more young men heard about this place and came along to test their vocation and begin a lifelong commitment to serving Christ.

Today, over a hundred brothers from 30 different nations, both Catholic and Protestant make up the community, founded by the late, humble and beautifully gentle ‘Frere Roger’ and now led by his successor, Brother Alois .

Taize has become a place where thousands of young people come on a weeks retreat, following the monastic rhythm of the day and seeking God through prayer, meditation, song and fellowship. It is the one place where I have found true peace and indescribable friendships, laughter and fun!

taize2

Never, in all my life, could I imagine a church, with over 6,000 young people, in total silence for ten whole minutes everyday. Never could I imagine a place where, three times a day, young people from ALL over the world, sing in one language, together, regardless of their native tongue.

Taize_Candele_6k

The songs are simple ‘chants’ and are written in almost every language imaginable! For one minute you may be singing in English, the next in Czech, followed by a Spanish one. It is beautiful and prayerful in the deepest sense I know.

Taize cleaning

A group of young people assigned a cleaning task for the week!

Taize serving meal

How they manage it I don’t know, but with the aid of each young visitor, thousands are fed and watered three times a day, and then two snack times, every day of every week.An amazing feat of organisation!

taize-bells

Young people sit around after lunch.

I would recommend this place to anybody who is seeking peace; anyone who wants to find a sense of meaning; anyone who wants a break from the rat race; anyone who feels trapped in the crazy material, consumer society.

Go and experience something different!

http://www.taize.fr/en

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Q is for …

There’s a more than a little irony in the immediate cacophony of internal noise that is triggered by the word ‘quiet’. I hear my dad’s ‘story voice’ reciting Merton’s When we Two Partedpeace-quiet-exit-sign-sm‘ against a background hum of ‘Silence is Golden’. A memory of a most beautiful place stirs sleepily and I feel the haze of Burgundy sunshine, lagoon like pools and the muffled sounds of people’s reflection at The Source.

Quiet. A concept known to all. Heralded as a panacea, a state of the soul, a level of consciousness, a discipline, a practice, a revealer, a healer, a sedative.

Yet. Quiet. Used as a weapon, a punishment, a cop out, an ally, an accomplice, a collusion.

Quiet. The absence of noise, yet, the stillness within sounds.

On which note, I’ll quietly leave .

H is for… (clue: they’ll rot your teeth)

… HARIBO!haribo_starmix_160g

Despite German company, Haribo making their first gummy bear in 1922, they didn’t hit the US market until the 80s.  I assume that it must have been even later getting to the UK, which explains why I don’t recall them being here when I was growing up.

When I was young, I thought that it was only kids that ate sweets. Adults were WAAAAAY beyond all those sugary jellies. Chocolate; sure, chocolate was different because there were obvious degrees of something like choco-sophicstication… Which explained how it was that whilst we kids dribbled and drooled over Milky Bars and Animal Bars, the grown ups could nibble sensuously on a Cadbury’s Flake and eat things like After Eights in a bubble bath.

So it is, that nearing 40, I am still waiting for that crucial, transitional moment, when I can look at a strawberry shoelace, or a bag of Tangfastics, with a sense of disgust.

Deep down, I just want to be a grown up with a penchant for 80% cocoa, fairtrade, dark chocolate made from hand selected beans grown in sustainable developments in deepest darkest Ecuador. Instead, I go mad for a jelly fried egg, and sometimes crave a cola bottle.

Now. apologies for ending a lighthearted post on a downer, but in keeping with the confessional nature of my H post, I must admit that I can rarely allow myself the delights of any of it, as my choices nowadays are generally (and spitefully) governed by Anorexia Nervosa.  Bastard illness. haribo bears

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Gloves!

New gloves! Just in time for the cold snap!

There’s something about a pair of woolly gloves that reminds me of being a child.

Lucky enough to have an anxious mother (flip side reserved for another post!) I braved the cold winter looking like the sporn of Jo Brand and the Michelin Man. I remember shifting around like a gated racehourse as the wool and the thermals and the scarves and the hat were draped around me. Tugged at, squashed down and spun around; my body temperature would reflect a spring holiday on Kefalonia by the time I opened the front door!

Suffice to say, my new gloves remind me of those I’d wear as a kid in the 70s / early 80s.

Slightly retro colours, slightly itchy, and not lined, so that when you try to pull them on, your fingers get tangled on the skeins inside, and your thumb seems to head in the wrong direction, or your little finger gets confused and forgets it has a cover all to itself.  Not to be donned in a hurry, my irritation is tempered by an odd feeling of nostalgia.

One difference, these gloves have 3 fingertips with handy touchscreen technology. (Handy. See what I did there? Ho ho.)

Now, if that ‘s not a sign of the times, I don’t know what is!