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30th December 2015

This is the last post for “Sundry Times”. Writing and posting something at least once a week for five years has been an interesting challenge. Having the possibility of sharing on this blog, I have learnt to look through a camera differently; no longer just taking snapshots and landscapes but also looking for curious shapes and patterns.

I have dared to share some of my poetry – I don’t claim any particular merit but I have taken a bit more care over them, sharpening phrases, typesetting lines etc with the thought that someone just might want to read them out loud. And I have mixed all this up with prayers, politics and jokes in the believe that “It is all of a piece”: we have one life with many accents and colours but not separate holy, secular, spiritual, natural, work and home lives.

I hope that you have found something of value here, some gold among the grit.

The main reason for “Sundry Times Too” is that I have more or less used up all the memory here so I need some space for more photos. The other reason is that I started this blog as a way out of a nervous breakdown. I still have my “unexpected lows” but I am in a much better place than I was in 2010 but I want to mark my moving on by moving on to another, though similar blog.

God bless

kangerew

Happy Christmas Everyone

I do hope that you are otherwise occupied and really do not have the time to read this post. Whether you are with family, eating a special meal, enjoying entertainment, going for a walk, visiting church etc, I hope that you have some joy today.

But I do realise that, for some of us, today is a difficult day. When we are supposed or expected to be “merry” but most definitely are not feeling that way. Perhaps there is someone who is not here today whom you really miss. Or perhaps you are not well; or maybe you are not in a place you would like to be.

When we are on our own – or perhaps surrounded by other people – our loneliness, sadness, disappointment or frustration stands out all the more in contrast to the lights, laughter, excitement and music which are associated with today. There are all kinds of reasons for feeling low today. Maybe that is you.

That is OK. Believe it or not, today will not last forever.

I don’t know whether you will decide to hide away somewhere, or go away for a few days or simply put on a brave face for the sake of others. That is up to you. I would like to remind you that you are not the only one and that you have not been forgotten.

And if you are having a happy Christmas, please do enjoy it. Please, also, spare a thought and a prayer for those, for whatever reason, who are not.

May I wish you a “Happy Christmas” and may God bless you.

A white rabbit walks into a library…

I had a couple of hours to spare so I popped into the British Library between Euston and St Pancras stations. After one of the worst coffees in London, I strolled round the bijou, free exhibition celebrating 150 years since the first publication of Lewis Carol’s “Alice in Wonderland”. It continues until next January and you can see more details here.

You may find it fascinating to discover how different publishers and artists have presented how they have imagined the characters of Wonderland or the Looking-glass. After a while, however, I found them beginning to blur into each other and would rather have had a cup of tea with a Mad Hatter and a dormouse  with a copy of Lewis Carol’s books.

It is worth paying a visit if you happen to be passing. Three stars or 6 out of 10

A Christmas Poem

Courtesy of the Bible Society, here is a neat, child-friendly, summary of the meaning of Christmas:

Enjoy!

An Advent hymn

Help, I’ve already had two Christmas lunches and a carol service and Christmas is still three weeks away. I suppose it doesn’t matter that much – not one has died as a result of not keeping Advent. However, it was suggested that perhaps we get so caught up with Christmas and the celebration of Jesus’ first coming, that we lose sight of the other meaning of Advent. As well as looking forward to Christmas there is looking forward to Jesus’ return, his second coming, just as he promised. I sense (and this includes me) that many Christians may well nod in agreement with the idea of Jesus’ return and yet. And yet, while we may still be waiting, we have given up expecting him.

So as a reminder to myself I re-read this old Advent hymn. It was written around 500 years ago by John Milton. As with all poetry, it is better read (or sung) out loud.

The Lord will come and not be slow,
his footsteps cannot err;
before him righteousness shall go,
his royal harbinger.

Truth from the earth, like to a flower,
shall bud and blossom then;
and justice, from her heavenly bower,
look down on mortal men.

Rise, God, judge thou the earth in might,
this wicked earth redress;
for thou art he who shalt by right
the nations all possess.

The nations all whom thou hast made
shall come, and all shall frame
to bow them low before thee, Lord,
and glorify thy name.

For great thou art, and wonders great
by thy strong hand are done:
thou in thy everlasting seat
remainest God alone.

John Milton, the elder (c.1563–1647) based on verses from Psalms 82, 85, 86
from “Ancient & Modern”, no. 51

Elizabeth and Zechariah

I was going to call this poem a “sonnette” because my original intention was to write a sonnet. However, I was too impatient to shape my ideas into a sonnet form yet I did want it to resemble one. “A little sonnet” or a “sonnette” seem a bit too pretentious for what is really just a run-of-the-mill poem made from lines thrown together in the midst of some Bible study. It is a snap-shot of my thinking process: half-baked, you might say, but then again, some people enjoy the sauce that comes with the not-quite-baked sponge pudding.

The occasion is when Elizabeth and Zechariah, who are both too old to have any children, are both told that they will have a son – the person we have come to know as John the Baptist. He was born some six months before Jesus; Elizabeth was Mary’s sister, thus making Jesus and John cousins. The miracle of John’s conception forms part of the overall story of God coming to us as a human being, the incarnation, which we celebrate at Christmas.

Elizabeth and Zechariah

Two loyal servants of God, long in years
who wrestle with blessing and prophecy
in the house of the divine and in the prose of humanity;
Hidden in her womb, a miracle, a blessing;
knowledge of another soon to follow
He serves faithfully yet doubts the angel’s message
a word that leaves him dumbfounded
– astonishment will evolve into confidence and joy
for now makes him speechless
There is wonder-ing and then there is questioning
There is keeping one’s counsel and there is being lost for words.

There are Zechariah and Elizabeth – good and faithful
There is what they believe: Zechariah doubts; Elizabeth trusts
There is what they are told about their son:
There is what will happen next:

Faithfulness will be vindicated in the end

Galileo, Gordon and Pedro

The biting wind took the edge off the morning but otherwise we really enjoyed the couple of hours at Icarus Falconry. Here are Pedro(Burrowing Owl), Gordon (Harris Hawk) and Galileo (Great Grey Owl).

My companions gave the two-hour experience top marks. I give a lower rating to take into account the weather (not under the organisers control) and a couple of missing information boards. Having said that, the talk by our guide, a falconer, was informative and she did not invent facts if she happened not to be sure of them. I also liked the fact that, when flying the birds of prey, she took us to woodland, field, or walled-garden, according to which most suited the original habitat of each bird.

Hot drinks (tea, coffee, hot chocolate) were offered and were welcome against cold.

Overall four stars or 7 out of 10. Worth a visit but put your thermals on if you happen to go in late Autumn/Winter.

Exhibition Road

Natural History Museum, London

Natural History Museum, London

We knew it would be busy at the museum with it being half term but we were not expecting the crowds to be quite as big as they were. The queue was so long that they took us on a tour of the grounds including garden areas we did not even know existed let alone seen before. Most of the queues was for the dinosaur exhibition which we have visited a couple of times before but this time it was not on our itinerary.

Our destination was the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which features its winners and finalists. Naturally we were not permitted to take any photos so you will have to take our word for it when we tell you that some of the pictures were truly stunning. I can see why the overall winner got first prize but, for myself, I did not enjoy the sight of one fox carrying the bloodied corpse of another. True to life, “nature red in tooth and claw” and all that, but not pretty.

After lunch we wandered down Exhibition Road. This street made the news recently as an experiment in pedestrian/traffic management. There are no kerbs and all travellers are supposed to share the same space. Think of a pedestrianised street down which everyday traffic is allowed to travel: bicycles could and did go anywhere, for instance. It sort of worked in that it slowed everyone down. Meanwhile we came across this sculpture…

"When Soak Becomes Spill" by Subodh Gupta

“When Soak Becomes Spill” by Subodh Gupta

It is supposed to show a drink poured out and over flowing (think of a fizzy drink being poured into a glass, bubbling up and over). It was made from various steel buckets, pots and pans.

close up of "When Soak Becomes Spill"

close up of “When Soak Becomes Spill”

You can see it on the corner between the Victoria and Albert and Natural History museums. The sculpture was said to represent a comment on the wastefulness of consumer society. I thought that there was a resemblance of the ancient notion of a cornucopia: a horn of plenty. That represented good harvests, more than enough for everyone, a generous blessing. How did we get from generosity to wastefulness? Perhaps the difference is whether we use left overs on another day or simply throw them away; whether we use the generous blessings we receive for ourselves alone or to help others as well.

I offer you a rough and ready poem:

What ails the wind

What ails the wind thrums my soul, my ears buffeted red and raw
I regret not checking the roof when the sky was calm and dare not venture out now
Lest a tile or tree come crashing down to test my mortality
The howl and hum and whoosh and groan are artefacts of house and wall and wire and ground
The racing heart, the running step, the watering eyes and dribbling nose testify to the gale’s power
Now the breeze rises and falls while painting the house with rain and jabbing every crack in the walls with a gust that mocks the mortar
And all this sitting in the warm, glad to be indoors, contemplating a cup of tea
Imagining, not experiencing; remembering more than knowing.
I am not at sea bouncing on waves indifferent to my fate;
I do not trudge across civilised plains hoping for a welcome or at least a crumb of comfort
It is not my job to sweep up the leaves even to keep the trains running on time.
Is it enough just to spare a thought for those caught out in the wind and rain
or should we do something for them as well?

french flag Unfortunately the murders in Paris yesterday are neither the first and unlikely to be the last of their kind but fact does not make them any less personal or painful. This week’s collect (special prayer in Church) seems apposite:

Almighty Father, your will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the king of all. Govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, and bring the families of the nations, divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin, to be subject to his just and gentle rule. Amen.

“It is not the refugees who create terrorism but terrorism that causes refugees.” (anon on the internet)

Peace be with you.

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