Yule greetings

My dears, the season of mid-winter is upon us (in the Northern hemisphere at least) and so my heart turns to blessings and for the new year. You may celebrate it on 1st January or on 22 December, whichever you prefer. You can go the full Wicca if you like, and remind me that new year was on 1st November. It takes all sorts, and thank goodness for it.

This year Sigoth and I will be celebrating more pagan roots by burning a traditional yule log at mid-winter before welcoming the Offspringses back for Christmas festivities. We’ll have any celebration going at the dark of the year.

So it’s time for the Wassail Cup, my dears. The traditional Wassail is derived from the Old English phrase “wes hal” meaning “be you hale/well.” It’s like “farewell”; they tended to say it as a goodbye.

With that in mind I wondered if you might care for a little traditional reading, taken from the Anglo-Saxon Bible? It turns out that Luke vs 1-20, the traditional Christmas story, sounds rather lovely in the old tongue, and I discovered I could mangle it onto a recording for sharing with you.

I apologise now to scholars for my terrible pronunciation. Let’s call it dialect, shall we? Yes, let’s.

So now for a little journey back in time to a 10th century church in the English countryside, and a well-known story.

Happy New Year  to you all. Peace on earth and goodwill to all beings.

Namaste

Cold Logic in the Cold War

It felt like it was time to write a post about peace, there being so little of that precious commodity available, and it being such a Good Thing generally. Sometimes it feels like Peace is the Giant Panda of Life, vanishingly rare, arguably impractical, but nevertheless illogically desirable to keep around.

What particularly sparked me off though was a reminder that it has been a while since the Cold War fizzled out, and that being so, the paranoia and constant gnawing worry of living under the shadow of the Bomb is now a fading memory. Perhaps, I mused, it is something we should remind ourselves about once in a while and try to explain to the young folk who have not experienced it. This is based on the premise that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, so bear with me and prepare to be reminded or educated.

Growing up in the Sixties and Seventies had its perks, certainly. The music was exciting, there were real astronauts walking on the Moon, and a sense of excitement in the air. There were downsides too, and the testosterone-fuelled face-off across the Iron Curtain was a major issue. This was not because I was incredibly politically aware; I was a child, and my parents were not interested in politics themselves, so I only learned about such things through watching the Man from Uncle on television and seeing posters for the latest James Bond film in the cinema.

It wasn’t something you talked about particularly. It was just there, all the time, at the back of your mind, like what to get for tea, or how long it was until the weekend. It wasn’t even a thing, any more than air or water or the bus being late.

As the Seventies drew to a close and I inched towards the precipice of adulthood it became obvious that things were awry and the world seemed to be edging towards its own brink. This post is about how much it preyed on our teenage minds. This is how it felt.

We had been told that the other side of the Iron Curtain was full of bad guys. People got shot trying to escape, and their deaths peppered the news every now and then as a kind of constant background noise. Just about the time I read 1984 and started to be a little more independent of the official line, the Ayatollah Khomeini lead the overthrow of the Shah of Persia, and took control of Iran. I didn’t understand the background and had barely heard of Iran before then – O-Level geography tended to focus on learning which country exported the most timber and how ox-bow lakes were formed. After that I gave geography up as a bad job and still struggle to work out the difference between the Solway Firth and the Solent.

However, his installation seemed to cause a hysterical fluster in the media and political circles and it looked like the Nuclear Option was suddenly on the table. For real.

We had read about Armageddon and we didn’t fancy it but we were powerless to stop the button being pushed. However, we were not deterred. We were resourceful and modern young people. A few of us had recently passed driving tests and a couple of us even had access to dodgy old cars. So we laid our plans.

This is where the age gap may show. Those of you in my generation will probably nod at what we intended and understand our reasoning, even if you don’t agree with it. My children and younger folks tend to just look bemused or even slightly appalled when I talk about it.

We set up routes and a telephone tree. We agreed pick up points. Cars were to be kept fuelled up for a drive of about 20-25 miles. When the four minute warning was given, we would rendezvous at the agreed locations and drive like hell into the centre of London.

We weren’t going to sign up for a cause.

We weren’t going to protest.

We were aiming to be at the centre of the bomb fallout, because none of us wanted to survive a nuclear war. We hadn’t seen The War Game because the BBC banned it (despite having commissioned it in the first place) until 1985. Nevertheless we had read about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and seen pictures.

We intended to die as quickly as possible.

And that, my dears, is what at least one group of teenagers in the late 1970s planned to do in the event of the button being pressed.

War and the means for war mess with your brain. Let’s call it out, shall we?

Namaste.

 

B4Peace: A Tiger And His Boy Teach Empathy

This month’s Bloggers for Peace challenge is to work on empathy.

For this month’s challenge, I would like to work on empathy. Empathy is being able to step into the shoes of another and see things from their point of view. I challenge you to empathize with other bloggers this month

Are you kidding me? EBL is hardly the Empathy Bag Lady. How much do I have to suffer here? EBL and Empathy are rarely associated within the same continent, let alone blog. It’s like matter and anti-matter.

With that in mind I want to write about comics.

Say what now?

Well, it just so happens that I recently acquired a couple of treasures in a local charity shop. I love charity shops. I browse them whenever and wherever I can. There’s the little frisson of excitement when you go in, wondering what indescribable find you are about to make, the sense of being on the hunt, prowling like a mighty predator along the (slightly musty) shelves and bookcases. If I don’t find anything I learn patience, like the lioness. If I do find something I pounce like the cheetah, clutching my prize at the till where the kindly volunteer tries to work out how to count my change. Often I take back items bought a few months before and obtain a vicarious sense of achievement by de-cluttering and donating to a good cause. There simply is no down-side.

The treasures in question were a couple of collections of Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, detailing the escapades of an imaginative but somewhat lonely boy and his stuffed tiger. Eldest Offspring has pretty much the complete set of books ever published but the wee scamp took them with him when he moved out and I really miss reading them. Admittedly this was about 10 years ago, Eldest Offspring being almost at retirement age already, but the pain has never entirely faded. Then I saw a couple of tattered copies casually chucked onto a shelf in the local Hospital League of Friends shop, and was transported, my dears, simply transported, back to a wonderful world.

Alright, EBL, you like comic strips. So what? How does this contribute meaningfully to a Bloggers for Peace post?

I am assuming anyone asking that question at this point has simply never read one of these jewels. In which case you need to be very ashamed and rectify your lack by going to the relevant website immediately.

http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes

See what I mean?

There are so many reasons I love these comics, but for the theme of empathy I suppose I would pick especially those wordless cartoons expressing a small child’s sense of wonder and excitement at being alive.

 

 

 

If we could all recapture that feeling of being in the moment, which characterises those long, sunny days of summer spent outside, doing crazy stuff just because, then the world would in fact be a better place.

While I was away recently, and after I drafted this post, I found out that Bad Things happened to Rarasaur. The bad things involve her being sent to prison unjustly, which you can read about in this post and the ones following it. It turns out I may have some empathy after all because I am still somewhat in shock having just caught up with events.

So I want to spread some #rawrlove through this month’s post about peace, being as Rara is one the best bloggers for peace (or of any kind of blogger in fact), being as she loves comics too, and being as her family need what support we can all give. A good way of doing that is taking a look at Dave’s Redbubble storefront, for example, and perhaps make a purchase.

Love knows no boundaries, it is all around us. Some days it may be harder to discern it, but have faith it is there.

Namaste.

 

B4Peace: Ideal self

It just so happens, my dears, that EBL’s birthday is in April. Some years ago I received a gift of a necklace with a rune on it for “hawthorn”, which is supposedly the April plant (despite being called “May” or “Mayflower” in modern English). I have no idea what the source of this claim might be and I don’t really care. I was dead chuffed, as we old folks say, with the hawthorn connection because I had also in my youth read Robert Graves and learned that the hawthorn is the symbol of the Goddess representing at various times of the year her different faces of maiden (pure white flowers), mother (luscious red berries) and crone (gnarled black branches during winter).

triple_goddess_symbol

We have a hawthorn in our garden and it is a joy to live with. The flowers are gorgeous, the berries attract hordes of greedy birds and the branches clutch the winter skies with thorny fingers demanding that Spring return and refusing to take No for an answer, refusing to give in to winter’s icy brutality.

What if my inner goddess was like that, pure, nourishing and unyielding? What if I was able to be like the hawthorn?

In this month’s Bloggers for Peace post Kozo asked that we imagine our ideal self and how we could make peace happen in the world.

This is the point where I should do a polite thing and mention triggers because this post is not about to be joyful. The more I thought about this prompt the more I struggled to find my ideal self. The more I thought, the more I realised that no matter what I do or how hard I try to be the positive me, the goddess, it will not work and underneath I am still the old, twisted, damaged and depressed self, and there is no end to it. So if reading about someone’s struggle with depression is difficult for you, please take this opportunity to find something more nourishing for your soul and shake the dust of this post from your virtual feet.

I’m not sure how moaning on about my depression will promote world peace except that through understanding someone’s experience, one among far too many, we might all learn to live together more healthily.

I’m not sure it will work, but I promised I would post for peace each month so here we go.

To meet this month’s challenge I tried to find ways in which there was some kind of inner goddess inside this rather pointless person. To retain the vestiges of convention I started with maiden. What kind of a girl was I and how could I bring her best qualities into my life? As a child I wanted to be good, and make my family happy. I suppose children do usually want that, at least initially. I was loved, there is no doubt, by my father and grandmother and various relations, although I was a huge disappointment to my mother and we never were really close. Yes, this is the mother who lives with me now, brain eaten by dementia. I have been caring for her and disappointing her for as long as I can remember and nothing changes. I no longer expect it to, of course, but sometimes I think it would have been nice to have had a good relationship. However, we did not connect for whatever reason. Overall, it leaves me painfully aware that I failed as a child.

Well, perhaps there is more luck to be had as Mother. After all I have four Offspring, so perhaps I did something right. I always wanted a large family and a country home with chickens, home-baked bread and possibly a vegetable plot. That was based on Enid Blyton stories and daydreams of roses over the door and being able to climb the Magic Faraway Tree during holidays.

Except I was a terrible mother. I had no role model to use except the unrealistic ones in books, magazines and films. I had post-natal depression very severely for several years and I went out to work while Sigoth stayed home and parented. He is great with children. It turns out I am not. We lived in an Edwardian terrace near London so I could get work. I worked ridiculous hours to earn enough to support the family, at one point holding down three jobs at once. I was exhausted and depressed and terrible with the children, and never had the time or energy to pay them attention. It’s a miracle they stlll talk to me, but then I expect they want to be good children too.

OK, EBL, some of us are late developers. Perhaps you will make a wonderful Crone. You are enjoying getting older after all.

It is true, this is the most positive period in my life, and I want to celebrate the accumulated wisdom and experience of my first half century. But when I look at what I can contribute I honestly see nothing. The best thing I can do is to go away and die so I am no longer harming anyone. That way I can decompose and give back some useful nutrients to the soil. Sorry if it sounds melodramatic; it is, of course. That does not make it invalid.

This is the sum of my wisdom. The ideal me is a dead me. The best I can do is no hurt. The best I can give my children are no demands.

To be clear, I don’t hate my life. I have a job I enjoy, a partner who is practically perfect, children I adore, friends, a social life, a supportive community, enough income for my needs, a home I love. I am very fortunate. There is the odd event which causes distress, as in everyone’s life, but nothing unusual. I don’t want to change anything. I just don’t want to live. I feel no serious connection with the world and so no attachment to it (not in a good Buddhist sense though). I simply don’t have anything to live for. I have felt this way since childhood.

People think depression is caused by a thing, an event or a circumstance. It may be so for some people. Not for me. This is simply the way I am and there is no discernible reason. I am just a defective human.

I believe in good things like love and peace and happiness, but they are not for me. I cannot describe the best thing that happened to me today or this week or in my life, because none did. Or rather, they did happen but I don’t remember, like a dream that fades as your eyelids creak open in the morning.

I thought I was getting past this, but apparently not quite. I am not so distressed or perturbed as I used to be, but nothing has filled the gap left by those destructive feelings. There is just a big hollow. It’s not actually unpleasant but it isn’t as if it has been replaced by unicorns and rainbows. Looks like I missed the boat on those. It is an improvement I suppose. I won’t be distressing Sigoth or frightening the children by sitting in my chair crying and rocking for hours on end any more. That’s good. Perhaps that is the best I can be, and if so, then I shall hope it continues until I attain perfection in the way that is inevitable, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Elsewhere shining lights burn more brightly than mine. Other bloggers for peace include:

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/03/31/monthly-peace-challenge-woman-in-the-mirror/

http://sarahneeve.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/april-b4peace-post-my-portrait/

http://klamiot.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/woman-in-the-mirror-i-wish/

This post also contributes to the Mental Health Awareness Blogging Project.

Namaste.

 

B4Peace: Once upon a time in TV land

Welcome once more to the Chronicles of the Young EBL. Today I am responding to the monthly Bloggers for Peace prompt set by Kozo over at everydaygurus.com. Kozo has asked me, personally, to explain what influenced me as a child to become the kind of person who posts for Peace. Feel free to join in. It doesn’t cost anything and contributes to the greater sum of human happiness.

Let’s focus on children. How can we teach children to prioritize peace? How did you experience peace as a child? What in your upbringing made you a Blogger for Peace?

Well, my dears, I have been thinking and thinking about that last sentence for a few days, and now I have thunk I am here to share it with you. Come with me back to the wondrous world of the 1960s.

I was not a particularly pacific child. I got into fights and scrapes more often than a Sixties girl was supposed to; we were all sugar and spice back then, and that meant fighting was for boys. Boys were slugs and snails and puppy dog tails.

I had some friends who were boys, because I am subversive like that. The twins down the road, a son of my mother’s friend, a couple of boys from school who were not too fussy about gender if you genuinely liked Dr Who, and so on. Often we ran about the parks in packs and I had no idea who half the children were. It didn’t matter. We were a gang for the day, catching stickleback in the stream or throwing sticks into the chestnut trees to get the conkers down.

Idyllic, eh? Well, it was pretty sweet. I didn’t have a traumatic childhood apart form minor hurts and crises, and I am thankful for it.

So when a boy did try picking on me in the playground I felt quite entitled to punch him hard and then tell teacher. As I said, not very pacific.

My Dad had served in the army towards the end of the Second World War and in Germany in 1946. He had lots of happy memories of friends and people he met. He even wanted to marry a German girl but that was never going to be allowed. Otherwise I would now be something like Die Elektronischetaschefrau. Actually that sounds quite good…

Leider habe ich zu viel vergessen, auf Deutsch zu schreiben.

Now then, get back to the purpose of this post, EBL. Keep on track!

While I was living the dream paddling in the stony waters of the park, or picking leeches off my legs when I ventured into the mud, or skinning knees and elbows climbing the trees, or breaking my ankle trying to roller skate; while all this was going on other influences were at work for the very possession of my heart and soul. How very sinister that sounds! In fact, it was no more than normal socialisation.

My parents were prone to the casual prejudices of white English people, but also were fair and helpful and kind to individuals they met without being particularity interested in how those other people looked or acted. So I played with the children avoided by others, such as Elizabeth, who was black, or Cindy who had Downs Syndrome, or Nick, who was a very bright boy my age in a baby-sized body, or Lee, who had cerebral palsy. There were quite a few children about who were the survivors of thalidomide, but I didn’t know any personally. So I just thought everyone was a real person.

Then there was Sunday School. Initially my mother sent me to the local High Anglican church where I coloured in and recited the Ten Commandments. At that stage I took things literally, so “thou shalt not kill” meant just that, at least for humans. After I was too old for colouring in, I found the big church too scary on my own, with the high roof and smelly incense and lots of adults I didn’t know. My family didn’t go to church; my mother sent me on my own because she thought it would be good for me.

After I refused to go any more, my friend’s mother took me to their church, a fundamentalist Baptist congregation with a sliding floor over the pool for full immersion baptism. I thought that was very exciting, but eventually was thrown out of that Sunday School because I asked too many questions about science and cosmology. Still, I did learn that God was Love, even if some adults weren’t.

Those early explorations into religion would not be the main foundation for a later commitment to pacifism though, only an initial blueprint. No, the final keystone of the whole edifice came through the miracle of television.

The daily routine in our house was for me to watch children’s television until the Magic Roundabout had finished, and Zebedee had boinged the youngest children off to bed, and then for my parents and grandmother to settle down in front of the evening news. The television was left on for this while we ate tea, so as I chomped my way through cheese sandwiches and a slice of cake, and slurped down a cup of tea, I watched what was happening in the world. Mostly it was boring and incomprehensible. There were men talking in long words, and sometimes shouting, and occasionally there seemed to be a lot of concern about long haired people who liked grass. It was quite confusing.

my_lai_massacre

http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2013/06/when-the-war-criminal-is-one-of-us/
I don’t think it was My Lai that I saw, but it was similar

One day there were bodies.

I’m sure there were bodies other days, but this must have been a particularly traumatic massacre. My mother turned the television off in a hurry but not before I saw rows of people lying in the dirt street somewhere foreign. My grandmother was crying a bit, and my parents were very hushed.

I knew, with a real sense of freezing clarity, that those people were real-dead, not pretend-dead like Cowboys and Indians, or Daleks. They weren’t going to get up and walk away once the cameras stopped. They were never going to get up and walk away. Never. Some other men had come with helicopters or tanks or jeeps, and killed them. They were just people, children like me, old ladies like grandma. Dead.

It was wrong.

And that was it. A moment in time when I simply knew it was wrong to kill people. A black and white, no nonsense, don’t even try to argue moment.

Nowadays I might think about justification for conscientious objection because apparently some people do not see this obvious truth. For me, there is no need for argument. It’s not about who has the best words or most unassailable logic. It’s about not killing people, because there is no way back from that, and dead is dead without distinction of good or bad. You don’t get different kinds of dead. There are no more chances, or room for error, or time to say sorry, or hope for a better tomorrow. One day we will all be dead. There’s no need to rush. I knew it then, in the way a young child can be certain and an adult can’t. I know it now, in the same way.

I don’t even know who those people were, or where, or when, least of all why. It would have been late Sixties, but probably not early Seventies, because I was quite small. I suspect it was Vietnam but can’t be sure.

In my cynical teenage phase I watched M*A*S*H and cemented my resolve. Killing people is wrong.

I conclude, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that television can be the conscience of us all, and now perhaps Face-twit and Tweet-book as well. Even, dare we hope it, blogging. You know what, if we all blogged about why killing people is wrong we could start some kind of Online Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement…..

Why Kozo – you clever, clever man!

Other bloggers who have cottoned on to this idea include:

http://sarahneeve.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/march-b4peace-post-a-peaceful-resolution/

http://peacegarret.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/a-peace-lesson-for-children-from-a-nazi

http://klamiot.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/peacemusic

http://janetkwest.com/2014/03/05/dad-the-faithful

and of course, Kozo’s original post

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/03/03/monthly-peace-challenge-peace-child/

Namaste

B4Peace: Family

I am continuing to participate in the monthly Bloggers for Peace series which is the brain child of the the lovely Kozo. I say “lovely”, but he’s pushing his luck this month, because Kozo has asked for posts about family. To be precise, making peace with family. You know, the people who messed you up, broke your heart or mind or body, who know the buttons to press or the words to use.

This month, I want you to focus on your family. Is there anyone you don’t fully embrace in your family? Do you feel resentment, shame, or anger towards someone blood-related?

Yep, I went there. Let’s deal with it. This months challenge is to make peace in yourself with someone close to you.

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/02/03/monthly-peace-challenge-we-are-family/

Well now.

I have been thinking about this and struggling to know what to say.

My family is not particularly traumatic. I am blessed. I had a reasonably happy childhood. If anything, my family is in fact more notable by its lacks. It is not large. In general it is not fond or close or very emotional. (To be clear, when I say “family” here in this post I am referring to my ancestry, as it were, and not to Sigoth or the Offspringses.)

I am an only child. My mother was an only child. My father had brothers (living) and a sister (died as a child). I grew up knowing I was loved in general. We didn’t see many relatives except aunt, uncle and cousin (also an only child). Half the family was abroad so we hardly ever saw them at all. I was the only girl and younger than my English cousin by more than 12 years. We had nothing in common.

We never talked about family. I was intrigued to know more about the shadowy relations occasionally mentioned, but then hidden again. Pretty much anything I heard was about family arguments and disagreements. Generally speaking my family has a poor track record at living peacefully. Perhaps it’s not surprising that they didn’t keep in touch with one another. They were too tired and worn and poor.

I remember very clearly, when I complained about having to visit my aunt and uncle, what dad told me: that it didn’t matter if you liked your family or not. You had to do your duty.

My mother’s view was different and more unsettling to my child self. She always said that because her parents had argued so much she would never inflict that on me. If she and dad didn’t get along, she would leave. She didn’t believe in staying together for the sake of the children.

It’s not a loving environment, is it? We didn’t have rows or thrown china or slammed doors. That was too dangerous. We just had duty and the possibility of leaving or being left.

Once I was older I had a chance to start doing family tree research. My own family wouldn’t tell me much about the photos we did have, but the documents have told some tales and sometimes I have teased out more from my mother in years gone by, none of it reliable but sometimes indicative.

My maternal grandfather lost his mother when he was a toddler; she died giving birth to a brother who also died. Granddad was sent away to live with his maternal grandfather until he was about five. He wasn’t wanted there. His grandfather wouldn’t speak to him; I’m assuming the reminder of his dead daughter was unwelcome. When he came home there was a stepmother and things didn’t go well. On censuses he is variously with his grandfather, his aunt and then on his own. He left home when he was seventeen and went to London. His own marriage, as my mother explained, was disastrous. My mother not only had to survive the Blitz in the East End but then had her parents break up and live separately until her mother died in her arms a few days before her 15th birthday. She moved back with her father and again a disastrous stepmother was introduced. She left home when she met my father and my grandmother found her a place to live with a neighbour.

My father had a better time of it, but his own father was brought up by aunts because his mother had apparently died in childbirth too and his own father was unable to cope with caring for a child. However, it turns out he was actually illegitimate, and this was just the kind cover story he was told. His mother moved away from the area and later did marry but died in her 40s from cancer. It is not clear whether she kept in touch with her sisters and son, but possibly she was disowned. His father was seemingly unaware of his son and is known to have lived a life regretting that he had no children (he later married but the couple remained childless).

My grandmother had a large family, being one of 12 children, but was scarred by the loss of brothers in Somme trenches and later her little girl.

These are common tragedies to family historians, but it seems to me that they reflect down the generations. The thoughtlessness and hardness of lives lived in poverty and grief affect the fortunes of unborn children. Looking at my grandparents, only one of them had anything like a reasonable family life and that was one of constant struggle, fear of bailiffs and desperate projects to earn enough to feed the children. My grandmother made jam and sold it to earn a little extra money because her husband’s wage was low. She told me when I was little and had to stand on a chair to help stir the fruit as it bubbled on the cooker, that she used to sell her jam. I was very proud to think she made such good jam. Now I am proud that she was so resourceful.

The other day I found some new Poor Law Removal records for a previous generation and it turns out that ancestor Daniel abandoned his wife Charlotte and their surviving children in the 1850s. They were back together for the 1861 census, but under what duress I dread to think. In 1855 when Charlotte was forced to apply for parish relief at the workhouse she was living in Digby Walk, as described below in a report from 1848:

 DIGBY WALK, GLOBE ROAD, 19.- In fit character with the distressing and degrading scene last visited, is this alley, which is in a state of the most beastly dirt. More than half of this horrid alley is covered with a stagnant pool of most offensive and filthy slime, and mud, in some places, to the depth of a foot. Some of the houses, which abut on it, are unfinished, but the yards of the older houses present a character little dissimilar to the stagnant gutter, or ditch itself. The refuse from a pig-stye drains into this gutter, and adds pungency to its offensiveness. This place is private property, and the landlord of the new houses has built a cesspool, into which to drain his houses, but he will not permit the other houses in the alley to drain into this cesspool, unless the parish pay to him 1l., a sum which it will not pay. Verily, one case of typhus would cost much more than the small sum asked to keep this place clean.

http://www.victorianlondon.org/publications/sanitary-1.htm

I don’t know why they ended up in this situation. Daniel had a good trade so perhaps he was going through a rough patch, or else he was a gambler or drunkard or promiscuous or violent. Perhaps she left him or maybe they agreed mutually it was for the best. Maybe they thought they were doing the right thing for their fragile family. Nevertheless, such experiences would have been traumatic for the children, one of whom was my great-great-grandmother. She also married a bit of a waster, and her own daughter, my great-grandmother was orphaned and in a workhouse at the age of 11.

How can families live joyful, loving, peace-fulfilling lives with these scars and tragedies? We are losing the generation that was broken by the trenches of France, and whose silence about those experiences is understandable but also permits the perpetuation of the old lie, as Wilfred Owen calls it, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

My father was in Germany in 1945 and 1946 but didn’t talk much about it either except for brief glimpses of camaraderie in the face of despair, and the discovery that some Germans at least were good people who were betrayed. This was not a popular opinion to hold at that time but he was a kind man and only judged people by their actions. He fell in love with a German girl but had to leave her because his mother would not accept her (not surprising but a little disappointing, I’ll admit). He did his duty then and continued for the rest of his life to do so.

What I have found is that for every generation where I uncover some sad or disagreeable story, there is inevitably a reason (although rarely an excuse) to explain the behaviour. This is how we perpetrate the errors of our forebears and continue to suffer.

Despite all this I have some hope. Darkness cannot abide with light; truth told leaves nowhere for lies to hide. With honesty comes the possibility of forgiveness and a fresh start.

I wish I had recognised this sooner, and avoided mistakes in my own parenting; but I did recognise some patterns that I did not want to repeat and I hope I managed to avoid them or at least reduce the strength of them. Worrying about money is one feature of my family. The only time my dad lost his temper with me was when I dropped a bottle of milk. “Do you how much milk costs?” he shouted. So although I worry about money and although we had to be frugal when the Offsrpingses were smaller, I don’t think I have ever shouted at them for such childish mistakes. I have shouted. Just not for that.

Let’s sit down with Philip Larkin for a moment, because that’s a very good place to sit. His conclusion is not for me but he sums up the tragedy of inherited scars.

This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178055

Very few people are actually evil although they may choose to commit evil acts. Something has shaped them. Be glad, and even humbled, if it has not shaped you too. We can make peace if we want to. Recognising the roots of fear and sadness and pain is the first step to moving past those things to a better place. It is not easy. It is merely possible.

May you rise above your suffering and choose peace and love. I will do my best to keep up with you and we will try to make a better, more peaceful, world, here and now and every day.

The light in me salutes the light in you

Namaste

Other posts this month include:

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/02/03/monthly-peace-challenge-we-are-family/

http://appletonavenue.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/bad-dreams/

http://brainsweets1.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/dearest-daughter/

B4Peace: Keep saying it and it will come true

Last year Kozo, over at Everydaygurus.com set a challenge to write a blog about peace at least once a month. He provided prompts to get us thinking and so a movement was born. This year we carry on, spreading the love across yon t’Interweb; for January Kozo has proposed we write about a thought we will keep in mind for the year to try and bring about peace. The premise is based both on Buddhist tradition and modern neuroscience which jointly conclude that we are what we think. So let us think, and be, Peace.

Kozo’s mantra is “Abide as the stream of love”, and those of you who have been with me a while may recall that there is a poem I particularly adore which seems to reflect this thought. I will do no more here than point you once more to “Valedictory Sonnet to the River Duddon” by Wordsworth, which includes the immortal line

“Still glides the stream and shall forever glide”.

Wordsworth wrote this when he was moving from his home of many years (I think it was from Dove Cottage to Grasmere, but it isn’t important as such) and was concerned at leaving his favourite walks and places for creative exercise. He wondered if, in leaving his genius loci he might also leave behind his Muse. Thus he was drawn into contemplating his mortality and chances of immortality, either through a religious lens or a legacy of poetry. Wordsworth was not very humble from what I can see, and expected his poetry to live on.

Watching the river he understood that life went on, with or without him. I talked about my own views on life after death recently in my first post for the Quaker Alphabet project, so won’t bore you again. In fact, this rambling introduction has done no more than set the scene for the mantra that I use when practising any form of mindfulness or meditative activity. You may or may not be relieved to hear it isn’t Wordsworth.

When I first started trying to incorporate regular meditation/mindfulness into my routine I used various recordings from the Internet to help me learn to focus. I live in a rural area and although there is in fact a meditation group in a nearby town, run by the Buddhist Centre at Pocklington, nevertheless I have never managed to attend because I am usually away for work during the week. So I make do and mend by using that ever reliable and trustworthy resource known as YouTube.

One of the files I found (and I can’t remember which it was so can’t include a link) talked about a loving universe surrounding and upholding you. I find this concept comforting, and try to think about it as I settle into any period of meditation. To help me do so I tend to use a certain phrase – breathe in the love.

breatheinloveThis helps me to focus on my breathing and to calm myself down so that I can sit quietly. Iy also allows me to recognise that I can find support and help if needed, and that I am not as useless as I tend to assume. I have been known to sub-vocalise this phrase when facing something particularly irritating during the daily grind. On one or two occasions it has helped but usually I admit I leave it too late and the lava is already erupting before I try and shut it down, by which time mantras just don’t cut it at all.

So why am I suggesting it might be useful for me to carry on doing this? Well, I suppose I’m not saying that exactly – although I will carry on. What I am trying to say is that I believe that if more people practised meditation or mindfulness, with or without spiritual overtones as they see fit, the more peaceful the world would be. If more of us tried to do this, and kept trying to remember our mantras sooner than later, then we might have fewer angry words and sulks and hurt.

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” Dalai Lama

And he should know.

Now if you don’t fancy meditation, and lots of people don’t, that’s OK too, because that is why poetry was invented. Perhaps you can use a simple mantra just on its own. One that helps you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you. One that reminds you that you, too, are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. One that encourages you to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone. In short, one that holds you close, like a bridge over troubled water, when life is getting too difficult and people are doing your head in and all you want to do is channel your inner toddler, lie on the floor and have a massive tantrum. We’ve all been there. Don’t pretend you haven’t had days like that. It’s OK. All I’m saying here is, a mantra can help, sometimes.

Other Bloggers for Peace can be read here; read and enjoy and find inspiration for your daily heroics.

You are amazing.

Namaste.

 

Christmas Story

Well my dears, Christmas looms upon us and I wish you the merriest of times. Father Christmas is already underway to the East, wise man that he is, and children off all ages are waiting with bated breath to find out if they have been judged naughty or good this year.

I wanted to share the Christmas story with you in a new format (or rather, in an old one!). I am not a Christian myself but I do like the story as a reminder of our need to give thanks for the world we live in and for the love we all receive daily, be it from family, friends or the universe herself.

Back in the period colloquially, and wrongly, known as the Dark Ages, the people living in southern Britain were converted to Christianity, and their leaders temporal and spiritual were keen to share the teachings of the Bible with them in their own language. King Alfred the Great was called Great for many reasons. He was a great warrior, who defeated the Viking invaders when all seemed lost. Never mind Leonidas and his Spartans; Alfred’s victory from the marshes of Somerset was pivotal to the evolution of our nation. But here at EBL Towers we purse our lips at stories of military derring-do and prefer to focus on other aspects of Alfred’s greatness. If you are interested and want to know more about him and his amazing daughter and grandson I can do no more than recommend Michael Wood’s recent three part series, of which at least two episodes are available on YouTube.

Episode 1 is here: http://youtu.be/0L2fYvguLL0

Episode 2 is here: http://youtu.be/huRPB10ghd8

For Alfred was also a great scholar and translated many key texts from classical authors, including parts of the Bible. I don’t think he worked on the gospels of the New Testament himself, preferring to keep to the Pentateuch and Psalms, but nevertheless others did. What I want to share with you today is the Christmas Story from Luke ch 2 v1-20 as read in many a church at this time of year. It was also read to the faithful in those days and in these words, and that very thought gives me the shivers. I can connect much more closely with Old English texts from 1000 years ago than with those from classical antiquity. The language is the root of my daily speech and it feels like home.

So here is the story, with the King James version underneath to aid reading. If I had had time I would have read it aloud for you but sadly I ran out of days.

Lucas II

Þis sceal on mydde-wintres mæsse-niht, to þære forman mæssan

To be read as the lesson on mid-winter’s night mass

1 Soþlice on þam dagum waes geworden gebod fram þam Casere Augusto, þæt eall ymb-hwyrft wære tomearcod

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2 Ðeos tomearcodnys waes aerest geworden fram þam deman Syrige Cirino.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And ealle hig eodon and syndrie ferdon on heora ceastre.

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 Ða ferde losep fram Galilea of þære ceastre Nazareth, on ludeisce ceastre Dauides, seo ys genemned Bethleem ; forþam  þe he wæs of Dauides huse and hirede

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 Þaet he ferde mid Marian þe him beweddod wæs, and wæs geeacnod.

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 Soþlice wæs geworden, pa hig þær wæron, hyre dagas wæron gefyllede þæt heo cende.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And heo cende hyre frumcennedan sunu, and hyne mid cild-claþum bewand, and hyne on binne alede ; forþam þe hig næfdon rum on cumena-huse.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And hyrdas wæron on þam ylcan rice waciende, and niht-wæccan healdende ofer heora heorda.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 Ða stod Dryhtnes engel wið hig, and Godes beorhtnes hym ymbe scan : and hig him myclum ege ondredon.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And se engel him to cwæþ : Nelle ge eow ondrædan : Soþlice nu ic eow bodie mycelne gefean, se biþ eallum folce.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 Forþam todæg eow ys Hælend acenned, se ys Dryhten Crist, on Dauides ceastre.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And þis tacen eow byþ; Ge gemetaþ an cild hræglum bewunden, and on binne aled.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger

13 And þa wæs færinga geworden mid þam engle mycelnes heofenlices weredes, God heriendra, and þus cweþendra :

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Gode sy wuldor on heahnysse, and on eorþan sybb, mannum godes willan.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And hit wæs geworden, þa þa englas to heofene ferdon, þa hyrdas him betwynan spræcon, and cwædon : Uton faran to Bethleem, and geseon þæt word þe geworden ys, þæt Dryhten us ætywde.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And hig efstende comon, and gemetton Marian, and losep, and þæt cild on binne aled.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 Ða hig þæt gesawon, þa oncneowon hig be þam worde þe him gesæd wæs be þam cilde.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And ealle þa þe gehyrdon, wundredon be þam þe him þa hyrdas sædon.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 Maria geheold ealle þas word on hyre heortan smeagende.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 Ða gewendon ham þa hyrdas, God wuldriende and heriende, on eallum þam þe hig gehyrdon and gesawon, swa to him gecweden wses.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Soþlice.

Amen

So now I wish to you – Glad Geol and Gesælig Niw Gear

B4Peace: All together now!

‘Tis the season to be jolly and here I am stuck with some damn fool piece of nonsense about organising a party. I’m the Electronic Bag Lady for God’s sake. Do I look like someone who organises parties? Exactly.

But Kozo asks, so Kozo gets. This month for Bloggers for Peace challenge is:

to plan a party that will ripple peace to the world.

“How very dare you!” I mutter rebelliously. “EBL doesn’t do parties. And I’m pretty sure peace is a serious business. I mean, you can’t save the world by having fun! Can you?”

If I did organise a party, though, and I’m not saying I will, I’d do it like Kermit, because nothing says “party” like a bunch of crazed puppets and people in furry costumes delivering sparkling repartee and singing. And no one can go all fighty in seriousness when the Muppets are in town. Miss Piggy won’t stand for it.

It’s time to play the music…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, let’s get this party started with music that everyone can enjoy. That means either I have to sort out Glastonbury-cum-Proms (Promontory?) or we keep it simple and give everyone a choice between playing a vuvuzela or a triangle. If it’s simple enough for football fans or five year olds, I reckon we can pretty much all participate. Let’s make our own music, yay. Just not karaoke because that makes my ears bleed.

It’s time to light the lights…

Fireworks. Every good party has fireworks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or a light show. You know, when they project stuff on public buildings that don’t serve any other useful purpose, like York Minster or Buckingham Palace. We could give everyone sparklers and light sabres to wave around and join in so long as they didn’t run with them and cause accidents. What could possible go wrong?

It’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously it would be an honour…

It’s time to put on make-up…

david_bowie_aladdin_sane_1973_0If that’s your thing, wear make-up. Personally I have not worn make-up since I was 14, but in those days I was fond of glitter stars on my face. In my defence it was the Seventies and we were all trying to look like David bowie but limited to what Boots on Staines had to offer. I particularly treasured the look of horror on Aunty Betty’s face when she saw the glitter stars on mine. I would still wear glitter stars on my face any day of the week in a good cause, and this is a good cause.

I suppose Kozo would now gently remind me I need to include Aunty Betty on the guest list too, so if like her you are not fond of glitter stars, there is a marquee over there where you can sit with the other star-challenged people and enjoy yourself. Including Aunty Betty, who can tell you everything you ever want to know about Siamese cats.

It’s time to dress up right…

nottinghillES_468x520The dress code is relaxed. Come as you are. Wear something you can have fun in, like feathers or a string vest or a kilt, potentially all three. I believe there may be web sites for that kind of thing but you should definitely be over 18 to look at them.

If you want to wear fancy dress, feel free. But it is not a requirement as not all of us are good at fancy dress or comfortable with it. Wearing clothes that are socially acceptable is difficult enough for some of us.

Wear pyjamas if you like. I don’t care so long as you have a good time and keep your opinions about what I am wearing to yourself.

It’s time to raise the curtain…

Some people enjoy live performances of various arts and skills – singing, dancing, juggling, poetry, fashion, finger painting, knitting…Either way if you want to watch or you want to perform, there is another marquee over there for the Talent Show. If you have skills to share, off you go and good luck! Break a leg. However, see previous rules regarding karaoke.

 

 

On the Muppet Show tonight!

 

Oh yes, if you do participate in the Talent Show, please be aware the judges are Messrs Waldorf and Statler. They can be a little picky. Just remember, it’s all for a good cause.

 

 

 

It’s time to get things started…

Right I think that’s everything. The catering is being picked up by the International Committee of the Red Croissant so I am sure we will all be looking forward to the buffet later. We will be catering for the full range of dietary restrictions, so if you can’t spot something you can eat please speak to one of the catering staff.

The main restaurant area will of course be managed by Alice; because you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant. You all remember Alice.

The catering staff are all on short shifts so they can join in too. You may be asked to fill a slot. You will agree. It’s only fair we all take turns; in fact that is a key element of this party.

It’s going to be the most sensational inspirational celebrational muppetational event – this is what we’ll call the “Let’s Make World Peace” Show!

I thank you very much. I’m here all week.

Oh, and one last thing – you can sing along here. You know you want to. Cue VT.

And if you fancy a different sort of party for peace, then you might try these ideas here:

Namaste.