Monday, 31 January 2011
Sunday, 30 January 2011
Saturday, 29 January 2011
Friday, 28 January 2011
Thursday, 27 January 2011
Bracken is such funny stuff
Have you ever tried to break a piece off while it's still green and full of life? It's nigh on impossible! It's not especially easy when its dead either.
Railways cuttings are often covered in bracken and brambles. My many train journeys this week have allowed me to 'examine' it at greater length.
It is now utterly dead. Brown, beaten down by snow, frost and ice. Withered through starvation. Drab and wet from the rain. Yet for all that it still had the look of something that possessed depth - though that's not exactly the word I'm searching for.
It brought to mind my childhood days when I consumed all the Enid Blyton adventure books I could lay my hands on. I have no idea how many times I read Secret Island, its sequels, the Circus series and the other fabulous, famous (five) series of children's (unlikely - but who cares) adventures.
The heroines and heroes were CONSTANTLY making snug warm beds for overnight stays outdoors using great billowing armfuls of dry bracken and heather.
Both of those plants have a springy-ness and scent that made me utterly envious. I could just imagine snuggling down into a mattress of bracken and heather, sleeping deeply and waking refreshed by their comfort and aroma. Gosh I'm turning into Bear Grylls!!
I love this bit of the seasonal cycle when everything is - on the surface at least - just dead. You see so much more. You see through woods to what lies beyond. There is a sense of space and distance that you don't get in summer.
Yet when I was looking more closely at the bare branches at the weekend life was plain to see! Buds were beginning to bulge and burst. Brown twigs had the faintest tinge of yellow-y green.
Beneath that dark brown bracken those tightly coiled lime green fronds are waiting to push their way through and uncurl in the warmth of the spring sun.
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
I was waiting on the platform for the right train to turn up just observing folk - its what I enjoy most. Lots of people get their energy from engaging with others- in groups or singly, some get it from solitude, I get it from observing the world around me. I know that sounds strange but it give me a real buzz...
My eye was drawn to a mother and child. The mother was the epitome of fashion, down to the sort of skyscraper high heels that make me feel weak at the knees to just look at them. Her hair was bottle blonde and immaculate, fashioned beautifully into a little backcombed mound. The buggy she was pushing was bright red and with all the gadgets. Her daughter was equally stylish.
I know a lot of the above sounds bitchy and unpleasant but there is no other way to describe them. I am so not like that!
We got on at the same door of the train and they sat on the opposite side of the carriage to me.
I was then completely blown away by their relationship!
The mother spent the whole journey playing with and talking to her daughter. First of all it was a sort of game of hide and seek with a brightly coloured rag doll. Her daughter's giggles were infectious. Then she realised it was hot in the train so they threw off the cover, and took off her coat. They laughed so much and the games continued. She also spoke to her constantly and not in a childish way but saying things like "we're going to see Grandad's new house, I wonder what it will look like". It was just a joy to see and a privilege to overhear.
I am ashamed to say that I was surprised but that is mostly because I've witnessed so much bad parenting that I expect the worst. This mother was a fantastic example and wonderful role-model.
Don't judge a book by its cover!
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
It's only 9am and yet I'm already in a state of sensory overload!
I'm travelling to Liverpool for work so it was an early start. But it was worth it!
When I came out the tube at Euston Square I was met by my first moment of pleasure. There is a fruit stall near the exit/entrance and they sell their own freshly squeezed range juice. I caught that aroma and was immediately transported to a little beach bar on a family holiday where we used to sit and sip freshly squeezed orange juice... Warm sun, happy days...
From the train, whilst reading my papers for the meetings, I caught a whole series of stunning snapshots that enhanced that warm feeling.
The Grand Union Canal full to the brim and looking serene. My romance with canals started only recently but they evoke memories of fun and friendship, tears and laughter and initial bewilderment at water with steps in! Where I come from it's all level!!
Then in rapid succession two elegant white swans grazing in a field of fresh, tasty winter wheat shoots.
A flock of sheep, heads down intent on eating - all white with one, proverbial, exception! I love black sheep!
A plethora of nests. Some solitary, a pile of twigs crafted into a safe haven among the branches. Others in close proximity to one another. Like us, some birds want a social life while others prefer solitude.
The last rays of sunlight as we raced into the gathering clouds on our journey north.
Little whiffs of smoke rising from narrow boats moored in tiny marinas.
Being transfixed by the horizontal path of rain drops on the window pane.
I could go on and on and on...
But all these things made me realise that it is the simple things in life that bring us so much pleasure...
Monday, 24 January 2011
Fear is such a puzzling emotion
I have to own up to two fears in my life. One reasonably rational and the other utterly bonkers!
My reasonably rational fear is I find enclosed spaces a challenge. Its a mild form of claustrophobia that isn't enough to stops me using lifts but is sufficient to make me avoid small, dark damps tunnels etc. The sort found when you decide to visit ancient buildings and do the full tour. I can even get a whiff of the musty smell as I write this.
The completely mad fear I have is of spiders! I'm a scientist by trade and know that here in the UK they pose no threat, quite the opposite they eat annoying insects like flies that transfer infections.
Yet, yesterday I had a "spider incident" that included a big - and I do mean big, my family will corroborate that - spider crawling all over me! My right ear was the first time I felt it but of course I couldn't see it. By the time I did 'clock it' it was on my right hand. My screams brought the family running to my rescue imagining near fatal injuries.
I survived - though wondered how I'd sleep, OK I'm glad to say. No nightmares. I really do not know why I'm so scared of them, its stupid. I seem unable to combat it. Spiders beware...!
However, I've just read an article that has put confronting fear into a whole new context. It was written by a priest exactly a year on from his first article when he revealed his cancer diagnosis and the impact that had had.
This one started from the point when his specialist told him there was nothing else they could do to counter the growth of his cancer.
It was a truly inspiring piece, open and honest, raw and real.
It confronted and conquered a fear so many of us avoid for far too long...
Sunday, 23 January 2011
Saturday, 22 January 2011
Friday, 21 January 2011
Like ripples from a pebble dropped into a pool of water - reflections eventually fade and take on the image of their surroundings
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Spring is just round the corner!
How do I know?
Well, it's because lurve is in the air
Along with quite a number of other people I was waiting for the tube this morning. The nearest station is above ground so there are lots of our feathered friends around. I've mentioned them before. On the canopy above the platform opposite were a pair of pigeons who were definitely indulging in a little bit of "billing and cooing" !
It was fabulous. We were all transfixed. I should make it clear that this display was strictly limited to courting, nothing more explicit!!
The male looked splendid with his iridescent plumage all puffed up as he really did "strut his stuff". He paced around his lady companion as she wandered nonchalantly back and forth, leading him a fine dance... His head bobbed up and down and he swayed from side to side. It was such a beautiful display. I don't know about the focus of his attention but those of us watching from the platform were impressed!
Nature is definitely starting to get frisky. I noticed that the catkins have also blossomed. They were rippling and waving as I drove along the road on Monday, shedding their pollen on the breeze like precious gold dust in search of their female counterparts.
It struck me afresh that all creation puts on its most gorgeous "clothes" when undertaking the deadly serious business of reproducing.
It made me smile!!
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Having only yesterday written about correspondence sent in haste and then regretted, I have to own up to correspondence sent with careful consideration and then regretted even more. In my haste to help I've made things worse... Have you ever done that?? It's horrible! Oh, to retract it all and start again!
Having now reviewed what I originally wrote I doubt I could have phrased it any differently but what I didn't take into account was how it would be received... When we communicate with one another so much relies on the non-verbal signs like body language... Then on top of that there is intonation. The written word is so bald, pared down to the minimum. Bereft of gentle tone or caring gesture... It's so easily open to misinterpretation.
We are all sensitive souls, even those who appear hard as nails. In fact they are often the ones who have the softest cores. Its amazing the armour we develop over our lives and how easily those little darts of words sneak in...
The old adage is very true - "If you can't say it to their face, don't say it at all!"
Fortunately, however, there is hope...
Words heal too!
In fact there are some very simple words that heal situations quicker than others... like saying "I'm sorry" - and really meaning it
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Emails... are like Marmite!
... you either love them or hate them!
They've revolutionised the way we communicate on a work and personal level.
Two things have sparked me pondering this... The first was a conversation yesterday with someone about the sheer volume of emails we received on a daily basis - it almost approached 'bragging rights' status. "I've had over 70 emails since we started this meeting 3 hours ago" "Really? I can't beat that!"
Then this morning my attention was drawn to one of the Poems on the Underground - have you ever noticed them whole travelling by Tube in London. I always look out for then as they invariably cause me to react. The one I saw this morning was called "Loving the rituals" a translation by Tony Harrison of a verse by Palladas, a 4th century Alexandrian schoolmaster;
Loving the rituals that keep men close,
Nature created means for friends apart:
pen and ink, the alphabet,
signs for the distant and disconsolate heart.
Isn't that delightful... I found myself overwhelmed by a little tsunami of nostalgia. I love getting letters and have generally found that other folk like receiving mine
Emails still utilise the alphabet and they are with you in the blink of an eye - more often than not! But how many times have you tapped out a rapid reply and pressed send only to regret it and wish it back... Somehow the process of composing a letter was - and is still - never quite so fraught with the potential to be misunderstood...
And don't even get me started on the "reply to all" button!! (That's for another day when I feel more "up to it"!)
There is something beautiful about receiving a handwritten letter, something that says you're being thought of... cherished...
Monday, 17 January 2011
Sunday, 16 January 2011
Saturday, 15 January 2011
The delights of complementarity...
Come rain, come shine
Friday, 14 January 2011
Hoodies - what do they bring to your mind?
They have a really negative connotation at the moment. Linked with people who want to remain anonymous at best, threatening at worst.
I've been pondering this all week because on Sunday I was delighted to see that one of the young choristers at church had a hoodie on! I knew because it was worn outside her traditional robes carefully draped and arranged on top! Fabulous!
Then it came back to the top of my musings yesterday evening as I walked through London to meet a friend and suffered what can only be described as "hoodie-envy"! The weather was sort of wet, one of those horrible drizzles, barely enough to warrant an umbrella but too much to ignore if you're out in it for a while. A hoodie would've been perfect.
Some times we're so swift to tar everything - or everyone - with the same brush. We see a symbol or a sign and immediately assume an allegiance or action.
One person's chronic shyness or desire to keep warm is another person's threat or intimidation.
Like relationships - great societies rely on our understanding and consideration of others...
Broken societies betray a lack of that: a pervading intolerance and a preference for "me" as opposed to "us"
At the end of the day hoodies are actually an ancient form of very practical attire that have been somewhat hijacked!
Thursday, 13 January 2011
I can't not say something about all the flooding that is happening across the world!
Queensland has been decimated. Media reports talk of flooding of "Biblical proportions". certainly the pictures and video footage that we see bear out the devastation that is occurring there. Then there have been yet more catastrophic floods and lethal mudslides in Brazil.
Hundreds have already lost their lives and many more are missing.
Natural disasters are what they say on the tin - natural and disastrous...
They frequently give little or no warning yet the havoc they cause lasts long, long after the journalists disappear - as witnessed by the return by many in the media to Haiti one year on.
I'm really not sure if climate change and humanity's influence on it are part or even all of the cause of some of these dreadful events. I'm a scientist and I can see the logic in a potential causal link. But that's not really the issue for me or at least its not the starting point!
We live on the most beautiful planet (I've said that before in an earlier post) and we should do our utmost to care for it
We shouldn't give in to the temptation to plunder it
We shouldn't give in to the fallacy that its resources are endless
We should cherish the delicate balance between eco-systems and mineral wealth, between the atmospheric cloak that protects us and the demands of modern life
We should be driven by a desire to pass on its beauty and resources to many, many future generations
And finally - we should never underestimate the power of nature to fight back...
Wednesday, 12 January 2011
As I went through the barriers with my swipecard and wandered in the direction of the lifts (I work on the 6th floor) I was struck by how great it is to be greeted by my name.
What a delight that is!
A personal good morning...
Tuesday evening's I gather with a group of friends - as often as I can - and we chew over all sorts of things about our faith in all sorts of diverse ways! Yesterday evening we reflected on last year's star events in our lives and speculated on this year's. What we'd really like to look back on in twelve months and say 'that was good'. It doesn't actually have to be faith related and I think many of us do it anyway, even subconsciously, around this time of the year.
We read one short passage from the Bible but one tiny section of it can crashing back into my thoughts as I walked to the lifts. The passage was chosen because it is referring to stars and the whole piece is fabulously inspirational, but the little bit that bobbed to the surface of my mind was...
He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name
The whole passage is Isaiah 40. 25-31 It's a beautiful piece and has a particularly precious place in my heart... if you want to check it out
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
As the alarm broke my sleep this morning I was aware of another noise - bird song...
That makes my heart soar...
It immediately lifts my mood!
Why? Well its invariably a sweet sound, a melody that immediately transports me to balmy spring days; warm summer evenings.
Of course there are bird songs that are anything but tuneful. The caw caw of crows is an ugly sound. The chatter of magpies - which has become much more common of late - always makes me searches the tree tops to find out where they are.
Back in Norwich we have a pair of wagtails that visit the garden to feed, their call is a fabulous conversation. The goldfinches have a more staccato cheep as the flit away. The robin just warbles its heart out. Blackbirds seem spend much of their time squabbling with one another.
Isn't it fascinating - I identify human emotions and actions with their songs.
The one that roused me this morning set my mood for the day.
Maybe it was just as well! I've been sitting waiting for a service engineer to come - all morning! Not his fault that someone has to be last but it did try my patience as I ran out of things to do!!
Then I had a mood boost. While waiting for the tube a pigeon swooped in, with a rather acrobatic manoeuvre on a gust of wind, landed neatly and started to coo coo softly...
Monday, 10 January 2011
I'm so lucky!!
There are days - usually those when I have time to sit and ponder it - when I realise how fortunate I am. When the little niggles that cause my brow to furrow are put firmly into perspective!
I treasure my two hour (sometimes longer) commute on a Monday morning because I have the luxury to watch the rhythms of life unfold in front of my eyes. And the gift of sight to enjoy it...
It is truly mid-winter that I see through the window. Every last leaf has been stripped from the deciduous trees by storm, frost, snow and ice. They look splendid and revel in their naked glory!
Nakedness is so revealing, it strips away pretence and deceit. It uncovers hidden tales - in trees it's often nests or a flourishing "community" of mistletoe. London plane trees show off their very seasonal 'baubles'. In people we see the pattern of lives revealed through the visible scars.
However, there is something more that catches my eye. Have you ever noticed how the thick trunks, sturdy branches and delicate twigs mirror the images of our own circulatory and lung systems?
Isn't nature amazing?!
The resonances and echoes that are repeated in all life systems is truly incredible. But undeniably logical - though logic is much less romantic! There is something deeply attractive about this very basic connection...
I'm so lucky to have the luxury of the time on a train journey to ponder all this...
Sunday, 9 January 2011
Saturday, 8 January 2011
Its amazing how ice crystals transform the most ordinary - even ugly - item into something of beauty. Snow is stunning but it doesn't have the delicacy that frost possesses.On a long train journey during the cold snap I saw a goods train whose wagons looked fabulous, as if they were draped in shimmering organza.
But now it has all gone. The snow has melted, the frost has disappeared and even the ice in the balancing pond near the house has dispersed. It's left quite a mess. Plants, damaged and burnt by the cold, look brown and soggy. Nature is definitely not at it's most attractive at the moment.
Somehow frost disguises the decay and death of winter
An external coating that beguiles and belies the truth that lies underneath
Equally the opposite is true!
We're often unimpressed by what we see on the surface and that applies not just by objects or nature but also to people. However, ultimately its the hidden beauty that lies beneath that is the real treasure.
Sometimes we struggle to get through the unappealing surface to discover the gem inside...
Friday, 7 January 2011
Time is so precious
The time we spend with people, either physically or virtually, can be so important. More than we sometimes realise... Yesterday's blog started me on a whole new sidetrack of thought!It is so easy to let folk slip off your personal radar - out of sight is (or can be) out of mind... Yet you never know how important your contact might be to them. A quick hello - by what ever means - can be invaluable...
And wider than that. More often than not I pause and say good morning to the staff at my local tube station, to the point that we now have a short conversation! I thank bus drivers as I get off. I chat to the checkout people in the supermarkets! I apologise to people if I bump into them - though that's often because someone else has bumped into me.
I leave what my mother would call "a little something" (usually a box of sweets) for the folk who remove my rubbish and deliver papers/post. OK it's their job and they get paid for it but I wouldn't want to do it and I'm really glad they do!
I just try to show my gratitude and it's not been dismissed yet. Neither have I been arrested for harassment!!
Yes, our time is precious...
... which makes the gift of it to someone else much, much more...
I won't make a habit of adding a postscript each day about the previous day but... I have to tell you that we were treated to the most beautiful sunset yesterday afternoon. Warm hues lit up the sky and lifted the hearts and spirits of those who saw it! (But we're back to grey and drab today!! Boo!)
Thursday, 6 January 2011
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
In fact it captivates me!!
Over the last 24 hours I've been even more aware of it than normal. The partial eclipse of the sun yesterday was what triggered my interest. As I sat on the train I made sure I had a window seat that could look at the eastern horizon and I waited as dawn started to unfold in all its glory.
First there were a myriad of pinks and reds that lit up the whole sky, so vivid that they reflected off the clouds in the west. And therein lies the problem! The clouds!! The eastern horizon had a few but as we travelled further south they thickened and all hope of even catching a glimpse disappeared. Though I would swear it did get darker for a while - or was that just my over-active imagination?!
This morning as I left home dawn was breaking once again but this time into a virtually clear sky. Just a few candy floss coloured vapour trails criss-crossed the sky. Why wasn't it like this yesterday...!!!
However, by the time I emerged from the underground and walked towards Westminster Abbey I was awe-struck by the clarity and sharpness of the light. The white stone of the Abbey was tinged burnished gold on the eastern facets and the vapour trail above shone like polished silver. The shadows were long and coal dark.
I love sunrise and sunset in the short days of winter...
Light is so precious, so vital, so dynamic...
It really makes me ponder the meaning of "I am the light of the world"
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
The compulsion to make New Year resolutions is fascinating. I decided to give myself a better chance of success and not start until today – when in my mind everything returns to normal… whatever “normal” is!
The decorations have been put away for another year. The last guest left with me for the train to London this morning. It’s back to work – so that provides an obvious chance to embed a new routine. Doesn't it...?!
But surely each new day provides that opportunity, not just the first day of the year...
Why should my resolve be greater today?
Why should I succeed this time?
I don’t know the answers to those questions but I shall try and resist the temptation to turn this into a version of Bridget Jones’ diary!
But temptation is what it’s all about and I’ve more often than not found that I can identify all too well with Oscar Wilde who wrote “I can resist anything except temptation”….