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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, March 31, 2003
    Quote for today
      "Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
    - Hermann Goerring; from the Classic Quotes section of The Fire This Time website.
    Sunday, March 30, 2003
    He's no pin-up ...

    He's no pin-up ... but here (to keep Ben happy) is a pic of England's youngest and finest. First goal can't be far away.

    Friday, March 28, 2003
    Over the Wall
    Listening again to Heaven Up Here, I'm struck by the difference between the Bunnymen and U2, which always unsettled McCulloch himself: it's to do with their grasp of eternal mysteries, or in the Bunnymen's case, their failure to get hold of them, their failure to climb, as they put it, Over the Wall:
      The man at the back has a question
      His tongue's involved with solutions
      But the monkey on my back
      Won't stop laughing
        Over the wall
        Hand in hand
        Over the wall
        Watch us fall
      There's something to be said for you
      And your hopes of higher ruling
      But the slug on my neck
      Won't stop chewing
        Over the wall
        Hand in hand
        Over the wall
        Watch us fall
      I'm walking in the rain
      To end this misery
      I'm walking in the rain
      To celebrate this misery
      What's that you say?
      Speak up, I can't hear you
      What do you say?
      I couldn't hear you
        Over the wall
        Hand in hand
        Over the wall
        Watch us fall
    Mind, as time went on U2 learned to express similar honesty about their struggle to hold onto hopes of higher ruling - they're still interesting because they continue to ask such questions. We're the richer because both bands have publicised their spiritual struggles, and made such great art of them.
    Thursday, March 27, 2003
    Sound of the suburbs
    Yoko officially opened John's childhood home to the public today. The BBC's Interactive Tour of 'The Mendips', within a walrus's shout from here, reveals - nothing out of the ordinary at all. Just like so many other homes of friends and parishioners on and around Menlove Avenue.

    Part of me feels awkward about that because I fall prey to a lazy view of rock'n'roll, that the best music is produced by outsiders, people from awkward, peripheral places, and The Mendips couldn't be more cosily suburban. But Lennon was an undoubted edgy genius, and this affirms the thought that art comes from what's inside the artist - which may not be that dependent on surroundings as I'm sometimes tempted to assume.

    Paul DuNoyer's book shows that many other notable Scouse musical geniuses were raised in the leafy suburbs - McCartney, of course, also from round here, and the other one I'd always name as a true great (and so would he), Ian McCulloch, who comes from a house with a nice garden and named the Bunnymen's comeback album Evergreen.

    This is comforting. Because though my artistic reach is tiny compared to these gigantic geniuses, nevertheless I like to be creative, get inspired (on the minimum wage) by lines like Babette's: "An artist is never poor". Put it out in poems and blogs and sermons. And I'm from the suburbs too. The Bunnymen posed for their second album cover pic at the bottom of my road, on Crosby beach. The record (a classic) was called Heaven Up Here. Nice one.
    Wednesday, March 26, 2003
    Grace alive
    Just another manic Wednesday - but it couldn't have ended better: in a home group watching the last fifteen minutes of Babette's Feast
    and reflecting on the nature of grace....
      Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude.
    - said the General in the book from which the film derives. Still can't define what grace is, precisely, but having shared stories of where people have seen grace at work, heard about graceful real-life characters, struggled with the challenge to step outside the culture of "deserving / undeserving", tonight, grace feels closer than before.

    Tuesday, March 25, 2003
    A sort of reverence, a real looking
    What do you do when you hear your nephew, 250 miles away, has fractured his arm and is obviously suffering for it? Well, this says something about me, and him, perhaps, but what I've just done is sent him a Leunig.

    If you don't know what a Leunig is do look at Curly Flat, a Michael Leunig appreciation website. If an Emin is a mucky unmade bed full of self-revelation, a Leunig is a simple cartoon of a little man looking at a duck, pondering life deeply.

    In my search for the perfect on-line Leunig cartoon to post to my laid-up nephew, I happened across a fascinating transcript of Leunig in conversation with Rowan Williams in Melbourne last year. Williams, as we know, writes a lot about icons. Those who know Leunig may be sympathetic to my view that his little people, appearing regularly in the Melbourne Age, are also icons of a kind. Icons like us. Here's a bit of their conversation.....
      RW Earlier, I think you used the expression "expecting a certain patience from people". Most of our activities these days have in common a deep impatience. We need to be aware that some things cannot be done impatiently. There are certain aspects, even of the most apparently functional economic life, that you can't do without taking time. I mean the exercises of life together, the exercises of patience, the exercises of the time taken to listen to someone else's humanity, whether it's locally or globally.

      ML Yes, that is endangered perhaps, because it seems to me that speed is revered. And the problem is that certain human things cannot happen at speed. Can you love at speed, can love flourish at speed? That sounds glib, but the dreadful worry for me is that we tend to copy unconsciously our technologies. I think, for example, we imitate the way movies are edited. This cutting and close-up quick grab, this strange traumatic discontinuity, which we accept as normal, and we enjoy it because of its speed and its traumatising stimulus. And there we sit and expose our eyes, the windows of the soul, to this bizarre chopping up of reality. Now we say we can handle this, but I think one thing that's doing us great damage is this visual cacophony as a depiction of reality. The eye makes great meaning out of life, much more than we understand. It tracks this room as it looks around: as one point leads to the next point, there is sense being made all the time.

      RW Let me come out - [I'm] a closet monastic! I think that the recovery of what that is really about is imperative for Christianity. And it's very easy to trivialise all that and say well it's about denial, it's about withdrawal. But there is [...] in the monastic tradition, quite a lot about seeing, about how you see. The word "contemplation" is just a long way of saying "looking". Now if the monastic tradition is about contemplation, it is about ways of seeing, and part of the monastic experience in the early church speaks of the whole practice of that life as an education in seeing. There is the looking at your own reactions, your own emotional rhythms, and the careful, truthful monitoring of those responses. Then there is the looking at the structures of the universe as patiently and faithfully as you can, to see what the rhythms are there, and feel those rhythms. And then if you are learning all that, then maybe, by the grace and gift of God, you end up aligning yourself, not only to the rhythm and pattern of the created universe, but to the rhythm of God's breathing in and out.

      ML What you've said has made me think of reverence. It's about a way of looking. I notice children tend to have a natural reverence. It's what they like to do: to get down on their hands and knees and look very closely at things and be absorbed in them and that to me is a sort of reverence, it's a real looking.
    That's what Leunig's cartoons invoke in me, a sort of reverence, a real looking. I wish sometimes rather than preach at 300 youngsters on Wednesday mornings I could just hold up a Leunig for them to contemplate. It'd have to be a big 'un, though.

    Monday, March 24, 2003
    CAP Lent Challenge update
    It all went pear-shaped last week on the CAP Lent Challenge. I'd suspected it would from before the start of Lent. A week's holiday, planned well before taking up the Challenge, was always going to be tough, on the minimum wage. Well, it turned out to be impossible, actually.

    Not that I lacked restraint - I know that from four days in London I could have come back laden with many books, cds, other sorts of gifts for self and others; I could have spent far more on food and travel than I did. Nevertheless I reckon I spent approaching £200. Which is four times my weekly income on the minimum wage. To pay for it I've decided I have to 'loan' - meaning that for the next ten weeks I'll be reducing my income 'at source' by £20. So now, till the end of this Challenge I'm down to £30 a week.

    Well, perhaps I'll get by on that; use the car far less and the bike far more, keep learning economy shopping. But I'll have to stop doing what I just did today - wandering down Bold Street in and out of all my favourite shops. Way too tempting. I bet someone's written about the geography of poverty - how those excluded by low income from purchasing for 'leisure', walk different streets than those who think nothing of wandering down the shops, or driving to the Outlet Village, etc. Having spent an enjoyable week travelling the country, for the rest of Lent my geography will shrink....
    Sunday, March 23, 2003
    Sun Rings / Awe Struck
    Back home; very full after a good week of retreat and engagement, quietness and conversation with friends and family on my travels. Used today's Greenbelt blog* to celebrate last night's wonderful Barbican show:

    [*edit, Oct 2008 - Greenbelt blog text added below as it's no longer available elsewhere]

    Awe Struck

    Someone has stolen our awe away. It was the only word we had to describe the way we felt when we looked up at the sky and watched stars shimmer, glow, slide, collide. Those intent on filling the skies with weapons of mass destruction, have stolen the word 'awe' away this week. A holy, helpful word.

    I claim it back. I do so having been awestruck in the realms of the stars, whilst sat on a comfortable seat at The Barbican last night.

    This is why: a bloke in NASA has spent the last forty years using radio receivers to record the sounds which outer space makes, whistles, sirens and booms collected from hundreds of millions of miles away. Then, NASA commissioned Terry Riley and The Kronos Quartet to integrate these sounds with music of their invention. And lastly, the artists brought in celebrated ex-Greenbelt mainstage compere and top-notch live stage designer Willie Williams, to provide the visuals to complete a unique and strangely wonderful event.

    It's called Sun Rings and it helped the awe return last night. Not least because although Riley insisted that his work was apolitical, he found himself lulled by the sounds and sights of space, into a meditation about our place in the vast cosmic mystery:

    "Do the stars welcome us into their realms? I think so or we would not have made it this far. Do they wish us to come in Peace? I am sure of it. If only we will let the stars mirror back to us the big picture of the universe and the tiny precious speck of it we inhabit that we call Earth, maybe we will be given the humility and insight to love and appreciate all life and living forms wherever our journeys take us."

    Good to meet up with some much-loved Greenbelters at the show last night, including one or two who saw photos of themselves up on Willie's massive screen. Good to be at something which seemed to me to be Psalm 8 on a massive, ultra-modern scale. Awe inspiring.
    Saturday, March 22, 2003
    City life revisited
    Something I missed last night - the contrast between Davis's apocalyptic view of city futures, and Salgado's.Considering all he's seen in the poorest, most bombed-out cities of the world, Salgado's view of urban life is realistic, but positive. The difference is in perspective, for Salgado's is a view from the South whereas Davis sees with Western eyes.

    Salgado's photographs illumate his perception that the greatest growing cities are in Asia and the South, and demonstrate that while migration towards them causes many problems of overcrowding, infrastructure, etc, the new societies they host are marked by ingenuity, innovation, imaginative new ways to live urbanly. Taking David Dark's view of 'apocalyptic' (see blog March 12), Davis sees the boot stamping on the human face; Salgado hears that face speaking.

    Certainly some life in this city this morning, as the shoppers mill on Oxford Street and around the corner people are gathering for the noon protest start, and police lines have formed. I'm off out of this cyberhall in search of ingenuity, innovation, imagination - everyday apocalyptic - in this place.
    Friday, March 21, 2003
    At an urban hub considering the death of cities
    I'm living at a hub. A pivotal physical point in history. While bombs fall ruthlessly on Baghdad tonight, there's anticipation in the air that tomorrow's anti-war march here in London will be very large. And it's due to begin on Gower Street, just below me in my digs at the Quaker International Centre. I could wave the marchers off from my elevated third-floor position. But I think I'd rather be down on the ground sharing in the latest people's statement against this illegal and unjustifiable act of brutality.

    At a time of war, and at a hub of activity, what does one do? Well, this evening I've been to church. I've just emerged from the gorgeous, bright white meeting space of the Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church. Didn't share communal prayer, however, well, not so's you'd notice. It was a meeting organised by the Socialist Workers Party, with Lyndsey German of the Stop the War Coalition. The main speaker was Mike Davis, author of Dead Cities, his latest in-depth exploration of how politics impacts the social geography of places we live, especially (him being American) U.S. cities.

    I've read quite a bit of his stuff before, so wanted to hear what he had to say on his chosen topic The Empire of Fear: Bush's war at home. His thesis, in essence, is that U.S government policy committment to resource the 'war on terrorism' is causing "a meltdown of the urban public structures". As Washington diverts resources away from state budgets, so states begin to suffer and eventually local budgets diminish to the extent that infrastructures - physical and human - begin to crumble. In many places this is at an advanced stage.

    He demonstrated this by showing how education was struggling badly in many states while the USA spends as much on arms as the rest of the world put together. He told us about recent protests where young people have taken to the streets to oppose war and try to save their schools, and I was struck by this, in the light of the recent protests here by young people. While the tired old politico heads, like those in church tonight, chew over these trends, it's the mouths of children that are beginning to find a radical voice.

    The word 'awe' has sadly lost its holy beauty this week so I shall use the word 'amazement' to describe the impression made on me earlier in the day by Anish Kapoor's Marsyas. Amazement and a smile, at that massive blood-red membrane which literally fills the enormous inner space of the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. You walk round it, under it, you're engulfed by it, it takes a good ten minutes to walk from one end to the other of it, at least half an hour more to get from top to bottom via the lifts, escalators and stairs. The building was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who was also the architect of Liverpool's Anglican cathedral. And because he went for BIG STATEMENTS I'm sure he'd love Kapoor's monster creation which is flesh writ large: ‘I want to make body into sky', the artist said. He has.

    But I spent the bulk of my day at another exhibition: Sebastio Salgado's Exodus at The Barbican. I've featured Salgado in my Pic of the Month collection in the past, because his documentary photographs of the teeming masses of humanity on the move are profound and without any hint of sentiment, nevertheless deeply moving. The photographer spent most of the nineties on the move himself, capturing on film people in over forty countries forced to uproot themselves to escape poverty and / or war or other deprivations. His book Migrations holds most of the pictures I saw today. But it's sixty-five quid and I'm still meant to be on the minimum wage, so that's out.

    It may be out of your pocket too, but there's a very good taster on his website, where pictures are worth any words I could add to his great, and of course very timely work, as we hold in our minds eye all those Iraqis on the move today. Salgado, there with Rwandans on the run, on the road with Croatians and Serbs and Kurds at key moments in their recent histories: there's a man who knows what it means to live at a hub of history.

    Thursday, March 20, 2003
    The road goes on and circles a bit
    Two days in Snowdonia were just right. It was beautifully sunny, and on the way cross-country to Stuart and Michelle in Colchester I detoured via Pensarn Harbour, on the wonderful Cardigan Bay coast just south of Harlech. Twenty years ago I worked there, as a volunteer for an outdoor pursuits centre called The Ranch. Twenty-five years ago I made my first visits with the youth club who loved it so much we kept returning. Standing by the harbour's edge yesterday, it could have been yesterday.If you follow.

    Now I'm in Tottenham Court Road easyInternet Cafe after our Greenbelt Soul Space annual planning soiree this afternoon at Julian's place, a wonderful flat in a converted Stockwell church. Lovely to be with a lovely group of folk, these Spiritual Directors who are well at ease with listening to others, listening to God, and so at ease with themselves. So they're great fun too.

    So the odyssey of this week continues. This morning I went Colchester - Rayleigh by car (check it out on the map) and then Rayleigh - London by train. And it hasn't ended yet. Very soom I'll be off down the road to The Astoria to see Kirsten Hirsch's Throwing Muses in concert: probably fifteen years since the last time that happened (in a very sweaty side hall at Liverpool University Student's Union). Like Pensarn Harbour, though, I expect KH and co to have, if anything, got even better having travelled awhile inbetween.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2003
    Dolwyddelan Days (reprise)
    The day it stopped raining in Blaenau
    The slate roofs shone with glee
    And all the sheep that I know
    Sang this along with me:

    Praise the maker of these gleaming hills
    Praise the llyns, and bwlchs, and farms
    Praise the sound of that ever-flowing stream
    Praise the fire that calms;
    Praise the table where we eat
    Praise the conversation
    Praise, o praise, these Dolwyddelan days
    In this chapel-filled, praising nation

    penned 26th February 1996, and still in the visitors book today
    Sunday, March 16, 2003
    A little basket case
    The CAP Lent Challenge starts to kick in. My cupboards are as bare as they've been for a long time and I've been fighting myself about how, where and when to shop, perhaps putting off the inevitable, deep, deep challenge - to go out with just a few notes in my pocket rather than a more-than-adequate debit card.

    Many Min. Wagers advised me to get to Aldi - cheap and not nasty at all - but old habits die hard. I ended up doing what I always do - dropping by Tescos after church today. NB: a different Tescos, mainly because I was at All Saints Stoneycroft this morning and the brand-new Old Swan branch is just around the corner en-route. Possibly also because this shopping trip felt different, perhaps had to be different.

    A lower-wage route through the supermarket is a different route. It starts at the little basket stack rather than the trolley park, because I'm buying for just a few days ahead not weeks, buying enough to get by rather than chucking in anything which takes my fancy. And it avoids much that I normally hover over - the fancy pre-packaged meals (I'm no cook and I love their oven-ready stuff), the cd and magazine displays and the luxury yoghurts. Straight in and out sticking strictly to a precise mental list.

    This necessarily trim shopping session was helped by my being away next week. I came out with less than ten items. And some of these are probably too extravagant. Smoked Ham (why not just ham?), Mandarins, and - the greatest excess - Shreddies (where the Tesco equivalent ought to have 'done', but I forgot to look). Boy, I've a lot to learn. And not much to eat in the meantime. I'm afraid I'll have to fall back on the Dolwyddelan Spar tomorrow after all.

    Saturday, March 15, 2003
    Dolwyddelan days a-comin'
    This time tomorrow I'll be on my way to Dolwyddelan, to that old cottage by the stream that's been such a good retreat so many times. Min. Wage means good sense for once - rather than spend time and money mootching around Welsh-language bookshops in Llanwrst, Llandudno, Caernarfon, I'll be taking my reading with me and making do. More than making do, really, with some good muso biography and political polemic, as follows:
      The Billy Bragg biography Still Suitable For Miners "the story behind this one-off man, who has proven again and again that pop music is an art form which still has something to say about political causes, and, thank goodness, a sense of humour";

      Paul Du Noyer's Liverpool: Wondrous Place: Music from Cavern to Cream, in which Du Noyer "makes the connection between the decades, and traces the threads of artistic continuity, setting them in the context of Liverpool as a thriving metropolis Ð BritainÕs umbilical link with America and the countryÕs most notorious, controversial and inimitable city". I'm halfway through and loving it; and

      Tom Nairn's Pariah: Misfortunes of the British Kingdom, "a retrospect of Tony Blair's recent New Labour plebiscite", a "corrosive polemic" arguing for democratic reforms to halt the break-up of Britain.
    May do a bit of walking too. Nothing too strenuous, y'understand. It's a holiday after all.
    Friday, March 14, 2003

    Amazing how different perspectives can be. I talked about the Runcorn Bridge as the gateway to Liverpool, the place which always makes me feel, on passing across, that now I'm home. About the industrial beauty of Thomas Telford's majestic construction. He spoke of it as a great symbol of the Mersey, and we discussed the Mersey's significance, agreed about how good it feels to live in a city built on a great river, a city made great by a river.

    We shared friendly and at times deep conversation, beginning (as so many things do) at the Bridge. It was only later, through another friend, that I discovered that this man had another perspective on the Runcorn Bridge, as yet unspoken. Some years ago, his young wife and baby lost their lives there in a car crash. He still crosses it often, mortal between the great steel struts arcing overhead and the wash of the mighty tidal waters below.
    Thursday, March 13, 2003
    Eleventh hour is not too late
    Click here to endorse this plan to avoid war with Iraq. Tell President George Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that Saddam Hussein can be disarmed without war.

    (thanks Sojourners / Pete Sainsbury for the prompt)

    Wednesday, March 12, 2003
    Everyday Apocalypse
      If the powers that be are the boot which, to borrow Orwell's phrase, presses down upon the human face forever, apocalyptic is the speech of that human face. Apocalyptic denies, in spite of all the appearances to the contrary, the "forever" part. For both the very human wielder of the boot and the very human face beneath it, apocalyptic has a way of curing deafness and educating the mind.
    I think I've downloaded a treasure - the .pdf introduction to David Dark's book Everyday Apocalypse: the Sacred revealed in Radiohead, the Simpsons and other pop culture icons. Dark's got a cool name and in Sarah Masen a greatly-gifted wife and between them they produce some very thoughful reflections on art, faith, contemporary culture.

    The book's the product of much of this long-term work. Dark insists that 'apocalyptic' is less about mass destruction and more about "revelation". It's a more "watchful way of being" in the world. Dark sees apocalyptic insight in "the wisdom of popular culture", including The Simpsons, Beck, and Coen brothers' films, which, in their various ways, "expose the moral bankruptcy of our imaginations." Apocalypse is "an affirming yet honest estimation of ourselves and a call to other-centeredness in the here and now."

    I'm frustrated that on the Min. Wage I can't make my usual impulse-purchase; I'll have to wait till Easter to read the rest of it. But the intro's meaty enough to be going along with.
      It, now and forever, is bigger than we think. It is always more than what we have in mind ("Why do you call me good?"). I'm grateful for and in dire need of whatever art can keep me awake and alive to the mystery, whatever keeps me paying attention, whatever reminds me that none of us (and no ideology) are possessors of the final say. ... apocalyptic art unveils the fact of the matter: the kingdom of the world is becoming the kingdom of God and it doesn't depend upon our acknowledgement or faithfulness to it within our highly-charged present. It's coming anyway. It is and was and is to come.
    Tuesday, March 11, 2003
    Resolution 1441 ERROR
    If you are looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction please click here.

    Monday, March 10, 2003
    Barry Sheene - rest in speed
    Grinning jesting battler
    In Suzuki black and red
    Leather-clad adventurer
    Seven on his head

    Hero of my biking days
    Two wheels are all you need
    Sheene the inspiration
    For days of grit and speed

    Going down
    This is fascinating. Given various folks' suggestion that I ought to come up with a notional figure for rent and deduct it (Pete's being the most recent and most thorough) I had a go. It only serves to further illustrate the unreality of my situation, living rent-free in a house three bedrooms too big for me. Or, being kinder, working from home in a house with study room and two spare bedrooms. And as rent on such a property would be at least £450pcm in this area (probably more as most rented properties round here are student houses) that's at least half my income.

    I wrote yesterday that I realised my present lifestyle is unsustainable on mimimum wage. These latest calculations underline this starkly. No way I can lose half my income and survive, the way I live.

    Anyway, given this debate and in the spirit of wanting to have a reasonably realistic experience this Lent, I've decided to take a ball-park figure and drop my income to £50/week. That brings me into line with a few of last year's participants, haven't seen any diaries for this year yet.

    Saturday, March 08, 2003
    Lent Challenge - am I too well off on it?
    Phone call from Jim in Anfield, echoing Kathy BennettÕs call last Sunday that £80 is quite a lot to have in my pocket on a minimum wage. Some listeners to my Radio Merseyside interview when I revealed that figure would probably think that was no hardship at all. TheyÕd love to live on that much.

    I agreed, and explained to both that it reflects my somewhat privileged position of not having to pay rent - thus having far fewer deductions than most. Also underlines an observation I made when I looked at how much I currently spend in a week on bills, food, petrol, books, cds, leisure, etc - that my present lifestyle is unsustainable on mimimum wage. Take rent off £80 and IÕd be left with what - £20 maybe??

    Jim wanted me to consider two things - one, dropping rent out of my weekly sum, which I said would just be a false figure, rather IÕll just keep on saving half of it the way I have begun doing, with a view to possibly borrowing back if need be later on in the month.

    His second idea disarmed me - he offered to be my ÔservantÕ for the day, do housework etc, to illustrate conditions for low-waged workers. I couldnÕt have that, (a) because IÕd feel terrible having someone ÔdoingÕ for me in that way, and (b) because it seemed to reverse the challenge - IÕd be the ÔLord of the ManorÕ in that position. All food for thought, though, which is the idea really. Said IÕd contact Jim later on in the month to talk over how itÕs going.
    Kingdom's Thomas treat
    A Dylan Thomas day. Began at 6.40am with my Thought for the Day quoting And death shall have no dominion. And ended with an exceptional performance at The Playhouse of Bob Kingdom's Dylan Thomas: Return Journey.

    Kingdom might have been Thomas himself, he was that convincing. So much of what he said in the mode of Thomas on his fateful last lecture tour I knew already, from the recordings I filched from the English Department at Cardiff Uni while studying for my DT long essay, one of the most enjoyable and rewarding pieces of academic work IÕve ever done.

    The performance included And death shall have no dominion and other greats such as Fern Hill, Do not go gentle into that good night, and a wonderfully entertaining rendition of The Outing.

    What capped the evening was the twenty-minute post-performance ÔaudienceÕ with Bob Kingdom, to which half the (sizeable) audience stayed, and which was full of insights born of KingdomÕs seventeen years performing the play, honing it as heÕs gone, still seeing every performance as unique, still discovering new things about Thomas from the words and the audiences' stories as he goes.

    KingdomÕs fist words about Thomas were that heÕs a ÕspiritualÕ poet. By that he meant one who made deep, profound connections between mortal beings and nature. I felt that too, earlier in the evening, when he recited a classic, The force that through the green fuse drives the flower, so physical I could hear the blood in my veins responding:
      The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
      Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
      Is my destroyer.
      And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
      My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

      The force that drives the water through the rocks
      Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
      Turns mine to wax.
      And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
      How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

      The hand that whirls the water in the pool
      Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
      Hauls my shroud sail.
      And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
      How my clay is made the hangman's lime.

      The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
      Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
      Shall calm her sores.
      And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
      How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

      And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
      How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.
    Thursday, March 06, 2003
    Life on the Minimum Wage
    Gently breaking into my challenge for Lent - under the auspices of Church Action on Poverty I'm living off the equivalent of the Minimum Wage for the next six weeks. For me that works out at quite a liveable eighty quid; that's because I pay no rent - if I did, the story would be very different. Probably reveal that at present I'm living beyond my means.

    That's part of the challenge - just to make those sorts of observations and face the questions they raise. Already I've had conversations about the rights and wrongs of taking on such a project - and about how some folk would love to have eighty quid to play with at the start of each week. I think I'll probably survive ok; have to stop impulse buying, bypass book and record shops, keep off Amazon.com, etc. The biggest challenge for me will be the week I spend on holiday - in North Wales (renting my friends' cottage is fairly cheap, but food from Dolwddellan Spar ain't), and then roving around Essex and London.

    I've cheated a bit - ie, already booked accommodation down south - but even so I'm having, from day one of Lent, to save up for the holiday week. Otherwise my disposable will be disposed of very rapidly in the smoke. And it'll be interesting to see if I have to borrow (from the future, as it where) to make sure I get through. Debt's a massive effect of low income; I know that myself from times not too far past.

    It's a false economy, I've no illusions about that - today I'm still living off a fridgefull of food bought on higher income, running a car two-thirds full of petrol, etc - but it's definitely thought-provoking. And a sign of solidarity with people on lower incomes who face a struggle to make ends meet all year round. I've been glad to share it on Radio Merseyside twice this week; wonder what the listeners think who have to budget this way all the time.

    Wednesday, March 05, 2003
    Unpacking Eliot
    Short blogs this week reflect massively time-consuming work. Today's was to produce and then present an Ash Wednesday sermon. Wish I'd had more time to spend on the interesting challenge of unpacking T.S. Eliot for a congregation.
    Pic of the Month
    Midnight, and my Pic of the Month is finally up there for you to see. I must be quietly getting into holiday mood.
    Tuesday, March 04, 2003
    Sermons, etc
    Sermons page has become Sermons, etc, as I've now added to church sermons and school assemblies, my radio talks - which began yesterday and today's, on Monopoly's 70th anniversary, got a bit of chat going in the studio at 6.40am!! Link here.

    (I know I've not updated my Pic of the Month yet. Bear with me - it's coming soon!)
    Monday, March 03, 2003
    Brookie opening titles bring tears to my eye
    Sussed! Playing the BBC Liverpool How Scouse Are You? game I discover I'm, by their calculation, a professional scouser: "You may think that you live in the greatest city on the planet but why do you have to tell everyone?" Guilty (Not guilty).
    Sunday, March 02, 2003
    Praise the stuff of Wales
    Dewi (according to Gwenallt) "[went] from shire to shire like the Gypsy of God, with the gospel and the altar in his caravan", Williams (according to the Church Times) rolled up in the car to be welcomed as Archbishop of Canterbury. He offered equally deep, insightful, gentle challenges in his inaugural sermon. We heard some of them this morning.
      'What [do I] pray for for the Church? Confidence, courage, an imagination set on fire by the vision of God the Holy Trinity; thankfulness. The Church of the future, I believe, will do both its prophetic and its pastoral work effectively only if it is concerned first with gratitude and joy; orthodoxy flows from this, not the other way around, and we don't solve our deepest problems just by better discipline, but by better discipleship, a fuller entry into the intimate joy of Jesus's life.'
    Saturday, March 01, 2003
    Because of Dewi
    Today it was the twenty-fifth turnoff - from the M62 to Mirfield where the Mirfield Centre were hosting a St David's Day exploration 'of how the saints, poetry and song of the Welsh spiritual tradition speaks to us'. Donald (A.M.) Allchin was the speaker and a lovely young woman Sarah Stanton provided music on the harp. A good day - depth, insight, gentle challenge, all in honour and 'memory' of good old Dewi Sant:
      It was a strange sermon that David preached
      After the Sunday Mass before the first of March
      To the crowd that had come to him to mourn his dying;
      'Brothers and sisters, be joyful
      Keep the faith and do the little things
      That you saw and heard from me.'
        from Saunders Lewis, 'The last Sermon of St David'