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notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK
My wish list
Email me: john[at]johndavies.org
Join me on my
1 - On rogation beside the River Alt
2 - Bounded by green avenues
3 - Following mislaid tracks
4 - Bringing in the Bacon
5 - Tropical storms over Scarisbrick
6 - Leisure pursuits
7 - The shopping trolley trail
8 - Everyday English
9 - Dog & Gun rogation
10 - Boundary slippage
Talks and articles:
Iain Sinclair in Conversation with John Davies
(at Greenbelt 09: cd/mp3)
Walking with the Psychogeographers
(Greenbelt 2008 talk)
Walking with the Psychogeographers
(Greenbelt 08 talk: cd/mp3)
Heaven in Ordinary
(Greenbelt 2007 talk)
Heaven in Ordinary
(Greenbelt 07 talk: cd/mp3)
Heart of Cheltenham pilgrimage: notes
Heaven in Ordinary
(Greenbelt Leeds event talk)
Reading the Everyday
(Greenbelt 06 talk: cd/mp3)
Reading the Everyday
(Third Way article: pdf)
Reading the Everyday
(Greenbelt on Iona 2006)
Stars of Norris Green
Making of the
Towards an Urban
Theology of Land
Mapping an Urban Parish
the cost of my MPhil/PhD
gratefully received via
the Gulf War
A permanent record
of the fate of Iraq
Joe Moran's Blog
The Reluctant Ordained
Dave Walker's Cartoon Blog
Dot Gosling: Wildgoose
Walking Home to 50
The Manchester Zedders
A Mis-Guided Blog
Territories Reimagined: International Perspectives
Islingtongue / Leytonstongue
Remapping High Wycombe
Danger: Void Behind Door
Strange Attractor: Further
Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary
Unofficial Fall website
Bill Drummond: Penkiln Burn
Julian Cope: Head Heritage
Second Layer Records
News From Nowhere
Smoke: A London Peculiar
London Review of Books
provided by the
Church of England
Church of the
Tuesday, December 31, 2002Picture of the Month Picture of the Month of 2003. Happy New Year!
Monday, December 30, 2002Margaret and Eric
And so there we were today, Margaret and I, sitting together on the coach having completed a satisfying little walk on a surprisingly dry day, around some headland near Grange-over-Sands. As Margaret regained her breath we were making what I thought was small talk until she dropped something massive into it.
M: "I wouldn't say interesting ... more, er ..."
M: "Challenging. Yes. But following Jesus is challenging, isn't it?"
Margaret had been for many years, part of a great double act. Her husband, Eric, was a straightforward man, humble but gifted, self-taught, self-read in many subjects, whose greatest gift was of encouragement via letter-writing. Over our post-walk pub meal a few of us reminisced about the letters we'd received from Eric over the years. Often long and rambling but always packed full of words designed to infuse the recipient with good faith, self-worth, etc. I carry round with me a quote from one of Eric's letters. It originated from another, almost equally great man of letters, Plato: "Be neither an enemy of men, nor ideas". I cherish these people.
Sunday, December 29, 2002M.I.L.K. of human kindness Friendship, a book in the M.I.L.K. (Moments, Intimacy, Laughter, Kinship) series which Linda bought me for Christmas. It's a lovely selection of pictures from all around the world portraying many aspects of friendship; entertaining and enriching like the picture here, of two elderly friends protecting their noses from the sun on South Beach, Miami.
It's the sort of book to turn to when sated with words, worn out with activity, maybe disheartened by some human behaviour, for refreshment and renewal. Turned to it this evening after a week of activity and people work, and a day spent mostly in church ending with the delightful little Christingle service where children's faces light up the Georgian building by standing around the walls holding their tiny candles. Some good M.I.L.K.-like images to be seen there.
I wonder how Paul Cookson is doing with his Everton project. My favourite Everton-Greenbelt-poet friend was commissioned by a publisher to do a diary of the 2002/3 Everton season, ie, write a poem for every game. The one he did during Greenbelt weekend was less about the game (Spurs, 2-2), and more about the terrible events in Soham unravelling at that time - footy in proper perspective. He's got a real good subject to work with now - Rooooonaldo!!! - and I can't wait to see how the wit and enthusiasm Paul expresses with his pen, match the wit and enthusiasm the Everton wonderkid displays on the park. Poetry. Yeah.
Friday, December 27, 2002Desert Island Din Desert Island Discs which was repeated this morning, though I've taped it for future mellow in-car listening. And while I like so, so much of what the man has to say - it's shrewd, wise, insightful, spiritual - I suspect, however, our musical tastes diverge sharply.
Rowan's essential listening on his desert island would be Bach's Solo Cello Suite Number 1 in G Major performed by Yuli Turovsky. Last night I did the seasonal thing by putting a tape together of some of my fav. selections. As I list some of them here I'm picturing poor Rowan covering his ears....
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues
The Creatures - Take Mine
Led Zeppelin - Nobody's Fault But Mine
Captain Beefheart - Gimme Dat Harp Boy
Bob Mould - One Good Reason
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - 2 Kindsa Love
Royal Trux - Follow the Winner
The Smiths - What Difference Does it Make?
The Verve - Lucky Man
Mike Scott - Bring Them All In
White Stripes - Hello Operator
Elvis Costello - Tear Off Your Own head (It's a Doll Revolution)
Sonic Youth - Death Valley '69
Patti Smith - Spell (Alan Ginsberg's Prologue to Howl)
P.J. Harvey - This Mess We're In (featuring Thom Yorke)
Kristin Hersh - Me and My Charms
Wire - The Art of Stopping
Spiritualised - Come Together
Thursday, December 26, 2002Funny kind of Christmas
Wednesday, December 25, 2002Christmas Eve Midnight sermon angels after all. I went with the shepherds, basking in the reflected glory of God. Regular readers will notice some material from previous blogs in the end result. It seemed to hit the right spot. And that's nice, at one of the year's most challenging, interesting services, to a congregation of unknown or partially-remembered faces. That's bedtime for me now. Happy Christmas one and all.
Tuesday, December 24, 2002This forty-something world
Reverted back to age sixteen
Went down to the youth club
In a mirror looked and started to scream
A similar thing happened to me
When I was of the age thirteen
Reflection held a picture of
a man of two hundred and three
And it was ....
All in all .... safe and warm
safe and warm
The reflection held
I now looked a whole lot better
To keep crumbs off the floor
According to a recent article in The Independent, Smith is 44. And like him, boy, we've also grown up. While there was plenty of laughter and enjoyable trivia in last night's conversations there was also a lot of life - in all its (often painful) fullness. Breakups, bereavements, the particular struggles of parenthood, featured alongside discussions of second marriages, career turn-rounds, hopes and fears for uncertain futures, and for one guy, the astonishing intervention of a life-changing partnership at an age he'd become resigned to grey batchelorhood.
The youth club used to be safe and warm for us when we were aged sixteen. Life's been risky since, and still is. Good to share the changes and chances of this now-forty-something world, with these valued friends, even if only once a year.
Monday, December 23, 2002IS IT REALLY YOU WHO WALKS HERE?
Atom-deep and universe-wide
Spinner of planets
Wise wizard of the spectral sky
Is it really you who walks here?
Artist of the powerful hand
Painter of rainbows
True author of fantastic dawn
Is it really you who walks here?
Is it really you who walks here -
Fond brother of the broken-down
Champion of children
Tenacious teller of tumultuous
Is it really you who walks here -
Orchestrator of history
Our bloody hero
O grasper of the nettle of death
Our One God
Is it really you who walks here?
Sunday, December 22, 2002Punk nativity he very very nearly did)? On Stephen Gerrard (who ought to have been sent off for violent conduct)? On winning the lottery? Or, like Mary after she'd thought about the angel's words awhile, on Jesus?
To provide the congregation the opportunity to demonstrate that they had chosen to pin their hopes on Jesus, I sent out two baskets, lined with nappy linen and full of safety pins, inviting each person to take a pin if that was indeed their intention.
Ade, he of the spiked-up, bleached hair, who doesn't come to church that often, sat in the middle of the congregation thinking about this, and when the pins reached him he took one, and promptly pinned it THROUGH HIS EAR. Ladies around him had to be rescued from fainting. Tonight, I'm told by those close to him, he's still walking around proudly wearing it.
The really impressive thing about Ade's gesture was that he'd done some theology around it. He'd reasoned that as we're created flesh and blood in God's image and Jesus was flesh and blood it would be most appropriate to attach the pin through flesh rather than leave it loosely hanging from a lapel. He may only be an occasional churchgoer but he'd taken it seriously and worked damn hard at it today. Wonderful.
Saturday, December 21, 2002I'm loving angels instead
I'm onside with the shepherds and exploring the theme of listening to angels, provoked by a refrain in Cloth for the Cradle: WE SUSPECT ANGELS / AND DISBELIEVE GOOD NEWS. Do we?
So I've been on a journey of discovery, beginning with Antony Gormley's wonderful Angel of the North and the book (Making an Angel) which tells the story of its construction, with excellent meditations and observations by the likes of Iain Sinclair, Beatrice Campbell and Gormley himself. I then flew off into the angel-filled world of William Blake and somehow took in Robbie Williams en-route to a piece in this month's Planet in which photographer Bernard Mitchell goes in search of angels beginning, aptly, in the Angel pub, Llanidloes.
They're everywhere, angels. Just need to make sense of what they're on about.
Friday, December 20, 2002Le Monde diplomatique
The journalists weren't from a British broadsheet, nor from Radio Four or Channel Four, none of whom, to my knowledge at the time ventured into Liverpool 8. They were from Le Monde. Our liaisons with locals required a translator (fortunately a French-speaking friend was on hand for that), and the published article was, obviously, also in French. This impressed me - a foreign-language publication concerned to test the state of Britain's people not by focussing narrowly on 'marginal' (middle-English) seats as so many of our journalists did, but to hear the views of the truly 'marginalised'. A big difference in perspective. I'm a great believer that truth is best found on the edges, amongst those on the receiving end of policy. So Le Monde's methods get my vote.
Thus, today, my everlasting thirst for perspective and addiction to print journalism saw a new publication float gracefully from letterbox to doormat. The physically lightweight but in every other way, authoritative Le Monde diplomatique. It's Le Monde's monthly round-up of international affairs, in English. Tonight, the first free evening of the week I've spent with that journal.
What have I learned so far? That Afghanistan is still deeply unstable and full of largely impotent American troops, (this is really summarising) that Iran is likely to become the new Iraq in 2003 with its clear nuclear capacity, deep insight into the state of Iraq's Ba'ath party and plenty about how the US is manipulating the UN into positions that contradict its own mandate and flout all the rules of international law....
Interesting to compare and contrast these leftist / 'independent' views with the Economist's The World in 2003, where the analyses are often fairly similar but the conclusions are based less on global ethics and more on the requirements of military-industrial realpolitic. If I were to ask the guy on the street in L8 to comment on that, he'd probably say, "Well, what do you expect?" Which may have saved me a fiver (The Economist) or £36 (Le Monde sub), but would have undermined the quiet thrill of opening envelopes, mining for truth, diving for pearls.
Thursday, December 19, 2002Bowled over Hollywood Bowl. After a dismal first round I managed to get the ton up in the second. All that activity over now, only one thought remains; after seeing the way my bowling shoes got sprayed after use - tonight I really must change my socks...
Wednesday, December 18, 2002Time the trickster
This afternoon, a ceremony of tears and song, clergy-heavy and throbbing with people as a congregation stood still in shock together to remember Pam, who'd had ill-health all her brief-ish life but who went very unexpectedly last week. She and we all thought it was just a bad bout of flu. The service was a major moment, a celebration of a significant community figure. The church became an intense vessel containing the whole community's shock, sadness, fondness, love combined; rocking, unstable.
And throughout the day, the oddest time washed around by returning thoughts of Douglas and his family, who are my family too. My last remaining paternal uncle died today. We're a small family, just got smaller. Time collides with memories, hopes, regrets, all manner of emotions at news like that. In death, time becomes a trickster, stands still, speeds up, moves backwards, freeze-frames. Holds us.
Tuesday, December 17, 2002Pedestrian Culture
I'm not as much of a walker as 'Captain' Robert Barclay Allardic who in 1806 successfully betted that he could walk one mile in each of 1000 successive hours. The London public rewarded him with 16,000 guineas, 320 times the average annual wage (read about him here).
I'm not as deliberate a walker as Iain Sinclair (read about him here), who specialises in what Wilfried Hou Je Bek calls 'constrained walking'. I love the way he describes Sinclair's methods:
However, there is a tradition of radical walking which Benjamin and others like to affirm. And I do like to think that sometimes I'm a radical walker, akin to those described by Donna Landry in her interesting essay, erm, Radical Walking, those who over the years have trampled Britain's byways and highways on protest marches, or in search of poetic inspiration, risking association with vagrants and poachers - those who "together constitute a society based on the twin principles of freedom of movement and freedom of speech." She suggests, for example, that "Iain SinclairÕs walk round the M25 signifies, among other things, a radical pedestrianising of territory otherwise abandoned to motorised aggro."
Today, walking round the parish on a route which, plotted later on the map, is vaguely heart-shaped, these things happened to me:
I noted that the charity shop was holding a one-day-only half price clothes sale but declined to go in;
I relished the painful freedom in realising, passing outside Woolworths looking in at the tempting shelf of new cds, that I'd left my money at home.
I discovered that the parishioners I visited have painted their house in the deepest, bloodiest red imaginable. But failed to discover why;
I thought of various people who would otherwise not have been in mind, simply by passing by their streets;
I got invited into a party at the Blind Club and emerged with pockets full of tangerines.
Monday, December 16, 2002Get a life!
We hadn't spoken for over a year and the arrival of my Christmas card on her doormat today prompted a good catch-up phone call. Which put paid to the theologising I was about to do around the mental environment, having surfed around a bit with various web situationists and psychogeographers. Fiona's done it again. Broke through the ether. Prompted raw conversation in real-time. The blog can wait. I got a life.
Sunday, December 15, 2002Socket to me Yesterday it was young skateboarding evangelists (Anna Vines, Matt Edge and Jen Brewin, pictured here). Today it's Socket. Click on their link and you're transported into the world of a rookie rock band, five sixteen-year-olds, whose drummer is the youngest son of one of my Ridley Hall peers.
There's no audio on the Socket website but their influences reveal that this lot are probably very loud'n'proud. "This band is great fun! Gigs galore, thats what we're here for!" Tom writes on his personal page, and credits Mum, Dad, music teachers, girlfriend and God with thanks.
When I was sixteen nice Christian boys were told, for the sake of our souls, to avoid R'n'R at all costs. Unless it was Cliff singing 'Miss you nights'. Had it existed then, skateboarding would probably have had dire eternal consequences too. Hallelujah - (to quote the Happy Mondays) - we've progressed.
Saturday, December 14, 2002Cruel Comedy and the Mental Environment Swansea's surf evangelists who are getting a lot of media at the moment, and bless them. The mag carries lots of Jesus imagery but little depth. The one feature which drew me was titled 'Cruel Comedy'. Its thesis is that we have become sated by empty celebrity TV. The popularity of comedies such as The Office, Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights and I'm Alan Partridge is because, by contrast to, say, PopStars, they are about the struggles of everyday people we can relate to:
Friday, December 13, 2002A13 Trunk Road to the Sea Riff Raff, Billy's first, punk-inspired band.
Well, time marches on but timeless music doesn't. As proven by the continuing performance on his tour dates of the 1978 Bragg classic A13 (Trunk Road to the Sea). It's the Essex version of Route 66 and still the only acceptable end to any Bragg stage appearance.
Take the A road, the okay road that's the best
Go motorin' on the A13
If you're looking for a thrill that's new
Take in Fords, Dartford Tunnel and the river too
Go motorin' on the A13
It starts down in Wapping
There ain't no stopping
By-pass Barking and straight through Dagenham
Down to Grays Thurrock
And rather near Basildon
Pitsea, Thundersley, Hadleigh, Leigh-On-Sea,
Southend's the end
If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness
Take the A road, the okay road that's the best
Go motorin' on the A13
Thursday, December 12, 2002McChurch musings
And the subjects I raised segued well into conversations about the usual business of parish and diocesan life and again, there was some good theologising around issues such as the imposition of 'managerial modernity' on the church, subject of Religion, Theology and the Human Sciences by Richard H. Roberts, who lectured on it in Liverpool last week:
"The culture of managerial modernity has spread through education, health and social services and has been welcomed by the churches," Roberts says.
He sets out to show "why many people today feel themselves to be oppressed by systems of management that seem to leave them no option but to conform", and he seeks "to challenge and outflank such seamless, oppressive modernity, through reconfiguration of the religious and spiritual field."
My copy's in the post. Looking forward to grappling with that. Clergy 'chapters' may be where the Hells Angels got their idea from, they can be quite subversive gatherings ....
Wednesday, December 11, 2002It never stops
But - oh, no, the realisation that there's more cards to write. Someone mentioned a name this evening and I groaned, oh, no, there's another I'd forgotten. Thank God for Greenbelt: how often over the years have I had cause to say that - this year it's because my last-minute order of 30 of their Christmas cards arrived just in time to help me deal with these late additions to my list. And they're great cards too, I think. If I forget you, dear reader, then click here and meditate on what ought to have been....
Tuesday, December 10, 2002Think Bigger Think Bigger campaign, the one which turns the problem of homelessness on its head, saying (at length, but worth repeating in full):
The new Archbishop of Canterbury seems to want to get deep down and personal with these issues too: "What would you say if, in your parish, there was a large firm producing armaments, and they were threatened with closure unless they got a big foreign contract? How do you find your way through that one?" he asks rhetorically in the current Church Times: "You may well be someone with strong commitment about the arms trade [as I am]; but I'm also someone with strong commitments about unemployment." Thinking bigger ... can make life more interesting.
Monday, December 09, 2002About a Boy getting ordained was receiving unusual gifts from kind and thoughtful friends. What do you buy someone who previously showed many of the signs of being a normal balanced human being and friend on the occasion of their being incorporated into the oddest and most ancient of institutions, wrapped up willingly in very strange dress?
The answers were wonderful, a real range of things, from religious art to kitchenware, and one of my favourites was the book About a Boy, which Angela got me, if I remember rightly, simply because she'd found it a good read and thought I would too. It was the first of many books given me that day, which I read, and loved it.
Well, last night I finally got round to seeing the film, on video, and loved that too. It's wonderful watching Will making the journey from being a laddish 38-year-old with the philosophy, "Man is an island, and I am Ibiza", to a guy celebrating Christmas with a housefull of kids, friends, potential partner-for-life. It's a journey which he makes via a series of disasterous attempts to get off with single mothers by posing as a single father, under the influence of an odd but engrossing friendship with a 12-year-old son of one of those mums (one Will has no interest in at all).
Writer Nick Hornby can do no wrong for me. Not just because of the fantastic climax to the perfect footy book Fever Pitch which describes one of my favourite-ever football moments, Arsenal snatching the 1989 league championship from Liverpool with a last-minute goal at Anfield. But also because he seems to get it pretty much right about blokes, because without being 'new mannish' or sentimental about it, he delves pretty deep.
Funny, watching the film last night drew me back to the reflections I wrote on getting ordained, after that day at the Cathedral. And it seems I came to the same conclusion as Hornby - the 'island' thing is mistaken: individuals - even folk as individual as priests - are nevertheless in community, need to be, have to be, can't avoid it, must embrace it.
Sunday, December 08, 2002Self-platitude is the torment of a nefarious pariah
Saturday, December 07, 2002Sheer poetry Everton to equalise against Chelsea. Whether it was the task in hand, or the wonder of the Everton renaissance that inspired it, I don't know, but I felt moved to dust off something I wrote while at Ridley Hall: The Role of Poetry in Worship. It began as an idea in Janet Henderson's mind, and ended up as an article published in Anvil. I've put it on the website today as it's a bit of an inspiration. Especially when it's tempting, through tiredness, to get too prosaic.
(In passing, I also note with feigned horror and some satisfaction that the 'New Photographs" on Ridley Hall's website are actually ones all taken in our year, including two featuring yours truly, one in which we all seem to be rockin' in chapel. Look at Pete Sainsbury's hands working that keyboard...)
Friday, December 06, 2002Christmas Card reminiscing
Mmmm... I've got too used to stamps and envelopes being 'pre-stickied'. This year's Christmas Cards from Survival International come with old-style gummed envelopes. Remember them. Leave a taste in your mouth. Might gum your teeth together if you don't converse for a while. How primitive.... Ahem.
Spent the afternoon doing the annual deed. Nice to look at envelopes bearing names of folk once in everyday contact, now in obscure corners of the world like Kent. To think about them awhile. It's been a big year for many of my 'peers' as we all turned forty. Some of them are grown-up enough to be bringing their adolescent offspring to the match with them these days. Some of them are sad enough to have signed up to Friends Reunited (I know because I looked). And all of them have either less hair, or more in places previously uncharted. Starting to go a bit around the edges if you (rudely) look at them too closely. But they'll always be teenagers to me...
Thursday, December 05, 2002On Eno
a company director
a computer user
a 'drifting clarifier'
Late last night there was a good little documentary about Eno, which I've just watched. In it, others try to describe Eno: "One of the most important voices in Britain," says Bono, for example.
Stopping to think about just how influential Eno has been over the past twenty-five years or more, would be a whole evening's pursuit. He made Roxy Music something more than their 'ordinary' glam-rock peers: "My contribution was to do with threading in some of the stranger sonic and conceptual experiments that were going on in experimental music, trying to make those part of what could be done."
He collaborated with David Bowie, David Byrne, Robert Fripp, and classical and experimental composers. And most famously he dragged U2 away from a career recycling thumping stadium classics into unforseen arenas of sonic adventure.
The programme also underlined how massively influential Eno has been on the emerging ambient scene: after all, he was one of the 'inventors' of ambient and continues to inspire its practitioners today: "It's not just music," says Sally Rogers of Ibizan house celebrities A Man Called Adam, "it's - every sound is music". And Mixmaster Morris credits Eno with making it possible for the studio engineer to become the 'star', one of the first to pioneer putting them on stage, "the studio boffin in public". And he's done all this quite quietly, willing to be in the background. Rather like his music.
I know that my music collection would be pitiful without Eno's contributions. Which makes one thing surprising to me. All week I've been listening to the newly-released Adventures: The Wire 20 1982-2002. It's a 3-cd collection of some of the landmark 'experimental' music of the past twenty years. But I don't think Eno's featured at all. Perhaps that's because he's too mainstream for The Wire, whose David Toop said in the documentary, "Eno had a different idea about how to take this music to bigger audiences". Maybe they completely overlooked him by mistake, simply because he's so ubiquitous. Everywhere and nowhere. Seems to sum him up quite well.
Wednesday, December 04, 2002Gun lobby a shooting at The Thatched House, a pub just across the park from here. I'm astonished that I didn't know till hours later, amazed at how close it is possible to be to events yet remain in ignorance about them.
It's the third fatal shooting in the thirty months I've been here. Not a terrible total but not good either. Three too many. And besides the loss of a young man, 27, what haunts me about this parish episode is a thought re-surfacing from my time in Northern Ireland. In a survey, many of Belfast's working men felt that the Churches were responsible for the continuation of the strife in the province: "[Their] failure to dialogue with the paramilitaries was felt to have aggravated the violence in the past and caused further alienation" (from Belfast: Faith in the City )
I know it's impossible to be everywhere, know everyone and everything, even after thirty years in a parish. But there's something in this criticism. Who is the church for? Where does it choose to locate itself, culturally? Will it get involved in the struggles on the street? It's not really my idea of a pleasant night out, standing in the way of bullets in The Thatched House, but choosing to neglect the Raymond Cravens of our parishes won't help them any.
Tuesday, December 03, 2002Lord Alderdyce: Building Respect Roscoe Lecture this evening. Timely for me, as the speaker was John (Lord) Alderdice, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The only one of the Assembly members still in post while the suspension continues, Alderdice is planning for resumption, working away hopefully, while in Downing Street today many of the other Assembly leaders were in discussion about how that may happen.
A Speaker has, of course, to be neutral and especially on public speaking engagements. But his address wasn't bland: Building a Civil Society: Reflections from Northern Ireland. At its core was the assertion that while a strong civil society is essential, and Northern Ireland enjoys a wealth of civil involvement from its non-governmental organisations, it is also deeply important to encourage citizens to get involved in electoral politics, for more people of quality to move forward as representatives of the people. Even at a time where it seems that the 'power' which politicians hold is drifting away from them to the NGOs and the marketplace.
But the main thing I think I'll take from his talk was a phrase he repeated often - "Building Respect". Again, you'd expect a Speaker to affirm this value, but it's always welcome to hear it. He told an IRA man's story, of how as a sixteen year old he was a car enthusiast very keen on getting work as a mechanic, of how he went to a local garage and explained his enthusiasm to the owner, explained his willingness to work hard, to learn, to offer good faithful service. The owner's response chilled him and changed the direction of his life: "There's no way you will ever work here - because you're a Catholic." Lord Alderdice said that the humiliation and rejection that boy felt that day set him on the path towards terrorism, and he asked us to consider how different the outcome would have been if that garage owner had treated him with respect - how different for the boy, for the people who died as a result of his terrorist activity, for the owner's own humanity.
Host David Alton underlined the message afterwards - if we learn to respect others, even those to whom we are bitterly opposed, then we can begin to build the sort of dialogue which enables civil society to come.
Afterwards I spoke to Colin Parry, father of Tim, who died in the 1993 Warrington bombing. His project, Children For Peace, has recently opened a centre for peace education in Warrington. I'll be making a date to pop in there soon.
Monday, December 02, 2002What good poetry does
When the wind turns on the shore lies another day
I cannot ask for more
And when the timebell blows my heart
and I have scored another day
Well nobody made this war of mine
I spent the morning with other poetry. As a member of the Iona Community's Publications committee I had a stack of papers awaiting me on return from Ireland, and I waded through them after breakfast. Waded - well, it's only my opinion but some of them seemed to lead into quicksand, I had a sinking feeling reading them.
However, most of them offered journeys through clear, refreshing waters. Particularly those supplied by Jan Sutch Pickard who has published a number of titles of an inspirational nature (including one of Advent Readings, with Brian Woodcock), and who at Corrymeela for the Ecumenical Spirituality weekend rustled up a wonderful prayer-poem in a free hour in the Croi (Corrymeela's special underground space, meaning 'heart'). When Jan read it to us later, a small part of me envied her achievement. But much more of me was grateful for it. That's what good poetry does.
Sunday, December 01, 2002Gyda buddugoliaeth arall yn y bag
From the Irish to the Welsh for a change .. I had four email exchanges with entirely new people yesterday, which was nice. One was from Wyn ap Gwilym from Cowbois, a t-shirt company based in Bala who I've blogged about before. Which was how Wyn found me. He wanted to know how I'd found them. And in the exchange which followed we established that where I fancy myself as a bit of a celt on the quiet, he has a Liverpool background. Funny, that. Or perhaps not, considering Liverpool was the 'capital' of Wales, population-wise, in the nineteenth century till Cardiff started to grow.
Anyway, their latest t-shirts look great; designed in celebration of the Welsh footy team who are doing very well just now. As they put it, "Gyda buddugoliaeth arall yn y bag [jargon!] - mae Cowbois dros y lleuad ac newydd lansio cyfres o grysa newydd Ôi ddathlu perfformiadau diweddara ein t”m cenedlaethol", that is, "With another three points in the bag - Cowbois are over the moona and have launched a range of new shirts Ôas a tribute to recent performances by our national team!" Check 'em out.