Sweet Sweet Music…

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There’s just nothing else like music when it comes to bringing people together.
A quick trip to Cheltenham today happily coincided with a ukulele ‘meet’ / festival and it was, quite honestly, a bit of a heartwarmer. I’m well aware that can sound a little schmaltzy, but I mean it in the sincerest way.
All around me, people stopped to listen. More, encouraged by a charismatic front man, people actually joined in with the singing, even shuffling their feet! For one moment, there was a sense of something like harmony (unintended pun). Shoppers, Lunch breakers, stressed office workers, young mothers, ladies who lunch… just for a moment, stopped and smiled and sang.
In the wake of such tragedy; the brutal murder of the UK MP Jo Cox; and in
the midst of pre referendum bitching, there was a beautiful reminder that humanity can be bound and held by a simple and natural art.
Music has a power that transcends our differences, that bypasses our intellect and that touches our innocence. 
Thank God for music.

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

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?

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

D is for Dreams

I’m not talking about the type that you have at night… although I sometimes dream so vividly that they will cast shadows across the consciousness long into the day… No. I mean the dreams that I might have stuffed into a tiny corner of my mind many years ago.

Even before Anorexia poisoned the greater part of my mind, I think I’d stopped dreaming properly. I was a ruthless gardener, pruning without sentiment, uprooting indiscriminately. No sooner than the fresh stem appears, I cut it off. tiny-seed

For the purpose of this post, I’m laying my secateurs down. Curiously, I have to really squint to see the tiny beginnings of dreams. Some so small I can’t even identify them.

One is to travel. Preferably across the US… in a truck… with a camera and a guitar.

Another is to live abroad for a year

One is to recover from this illness and then serve others who are plagued by it.

And I’d really like to have a craft business, or a coffee shop.

Oh… and I want to write a book… or two…

Then there’s one I can barely see, is a dream I fear to admit. The dream of all dreams. The dream that almost everybody has. I screw up my eyes and exhale as I blow away the seeds… If I admit it, it might not come true…

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This Short Life

wpid-imag1676_1.jpgA poet like Dickinson has the enviable ability to load a verse with meaning so deep and so heavy you wonder how such simple words can bear the weight.. Her gatherings of commonplace words so often made to shine by their careful ordering, carry a grief so weighty you wonder the words don’t crumble beneath the despair.

This simple little verse almost sags in the middle with the enormity of her existential reflection!

I wanted to put it out there because I think it’s something that every one of needs to have asked and explored. Not in a naval gazing way, more in a back-of-the-mind type of way.

Because I think it’s sometimes good to widen my frame of reference. To briefly place my life on the time / space continuum. It’s sometimes good to feel humbled by the stars. To put my pain and suffering in the context of world history.

And sometimes, it’s good to rethink the areas of my life I can control; and the areas that I can’t. Personally I find it useful to remember that life is short, and wanting control over something doesn’t grant me the right to it. More than that, I know that there are things WITHIN my power, that I need to take control of, rather than deny or disown.

THAT is the hard thing. That’s where Dickinson’s innocent thought is a smack in the face!

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