Everything is new, well most everything!

A long time, in fact almost four seasons since I hung out on my blog. I’ve been busy journeying again, 500 miles North but we still cling to the West Coast. We found ourselves in Argyll, Scotland and have been reestablishing roots and planting seeds for new roots to grow. Literally and philosophically. I’ll write more about the real seeds soon but let’s say I’m pretty proud that the first homegrown salad is starting to sprout already. I am now a grower, it’s official! We also had flowers in the garden in January. Yes, Scottish winter produced flowers. I was also confused.

Actually, we have found ourselves regularly feeling a little like aliens in a new land for many reasons and more than once a bit confused!  This is Scotland, I know Scotland, I was born here, right? Although there are often sounds, smells and humorous happenings that are reminiscent of the Scotland I grew up in, this is most definitely a very new experience. We are in Wild Argyll, it’s wild indeed, but simultaneously  more peaceful than anything I can ever remember. A daily contrast which has not yet ceased to amaze.crab

My partner on this journey was busy trying out his new midge hat (I’ve not seen him in it since) and unpacking our van when a group of local kids got curious and came to call on the Little Browns. The first seeds of friendship come easily to children.

The first smiles and hands of friendship were not too far behind in the adult world and for that I’m thankful. The delivery of a delicious fresh stuffed crab pulled from Loch Fyne a few hours before will forever make me smile. As will the first ferry trip to a local event across the loch; I now conclude that every child in the village was on board! Scotland is synonymous with hospitality in my mind and I have not yet been disappointed. Moving is not easy. I am possibly still grieving the daily abundance of friendly greetings which used to pave our pathway as we walked to school. I still miss those who I’ve come to know as sisters (and brothers) and I’m ridiculously thankful for Easy-jet and Skype.

I often reflect on the feelings which accompany the resettlement process when I think of my World Cafe friends in Gloucester; many of whom do not have the privilege of the native tongue or a van full of familiar belongings. The fact that it was our definite choice to make a life-changing move, is one for which we are unspeakably grateful. Choice is perhaps the pinnacle of freedom. It certainly makes it easier to treat all the ‘newness hurdles’ as positives. I particularly wonder how my mothering friends who have arrived in a new land, carrying the vulnerability and hurt of experiences of war or worse, can be urged to remember the importance of looking up and smiling when dropping off children at the gate of an unknown school for the first time? That, on top of the massive newness hurdles they face, they should remember to wear their best face on such occasions. Never underestimate the difference a friendly smile in a playground, or even an invite for a cup of tea, can make to someone who is ‘new’. Tea seems to work everywhere (see earlier blog on topic) and I’m glad it can be that simple. Well done Argyll. Thanks! It’s good to be here.

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Dynamite Days

Today was one of those days, a ‘dynamite day‘. I’ve lived through a few but when it happens I’m still always taken by surprise. Today things just happened. Good things. The things that restore and refresh my hope in humanity. Nothing major just tiny little things that happen all day long and then I stop being surprised and begin to think, “oh dynamite day again“. Things which looked impossible a fortnight ago or maybe even yesterday just happened almost when I wasn’t looking. If I was a knowledgeable astrologist, which (for now at least) I’m not,  I’d guess that planets and rainbows were in perfect alignment with the unicorns or that star dust was combining with moon beams or something like that. I, however,  just call it a ‘dynamite day‘ because I can never explain what it is. I simply know that the tiny fuse that has been burning has just caused a little explosion and it’s become visible to others, even if it’s fleeting.

Had I stayed at home undoubtedly good things will have happened today, I’d unfortunately  know nothing about them and it may not have been the same things I’ve been thinking about and willing on. Is that actually prayer, maybe it is?

Maybe I should start expecting ‘dynamite days’ and stop being so surprised when people show kindness beyond the call or a person turns up just at the right time for the right reason? Perhaps it’s just that today my eyes, ears and heart are opened and I’m looking in the right spaces? Who knows, who really cares?dynamite

Anyway, all the things that happened in a serendipitous line were individually tiny little sparks, it’s just because there were so many together that today feels like a Dynamite Day. 

I’ve written this down for me really (although you are welcome to it). So, on the days when I’m digging deep and asking for more patience, more grace, more money, a gentler option, more time or an allie, I can log on and read about and remember this day. A really good one! These are the ones that make life worth living.

 

A Reflection on being thrown out of a church…

Today I was pretty sad to be standing on the doorstep of a church being passed by people off to buy up a bargain, the well-heeled entering an auction of around £2,300,000 worth of social housing by Bristol City Council were squeezing past and largely trying to ignore the chanting residents who had come to place a final plea, “Don’t buy our council housing”.

As I enjoyed the sunshine on the church lawn, I listened to a minimum wage worker, sharing a one-bed flat with her three-year old and another sofa surfing lady, she turned up because she feels hopeless, she works full-time but cannot keep up with the private rent alone. She also came along because her three year old had space to play on the grass. He seemed to be enjoying the drumming and playing with the doll’s house which was ‘lot 43’ in the mock resident’s auction taking place on the forecourt of the church.

As I was listening to her the child became quickly desperate for the toilet, as little kids do. I went off towards the church to find out where the toilet was and hoping to pay a quick visit myself. No sooner than I had been pointed in the right direction and ushered through the door, by a young security guard, I was swept off my feet. Not by a wave of peace, a meeting with the Holy Spirit or an overwhelming sense of worship & God’s glory but by a massive security guard, who physically picked me up and moved me backwards towards the door. I could see he was following the instruction of a young auction house representative who had spotted me and declared that I was “with the trouble-makers” (and  therefore presumably not registered to be at the ‘private’ public auction event so trespassing or something?). I was then ejected and pushed backwards down the stairs whilst being informed by a police officer that I had stepped “over the line”. Having previously been in the church to look at the beautiful stained glass windows and quietly observe how an auction takes place in such a setting, I had been unaware of any police “line”, rule or church door policy.

Just then I noticed the now screaming three-year old, hopping around on the steps of a locked port-a-loo outside of the church. I asked the female PC, “I wonder if you could look over there, this is not a point of demonstration, trust me for a moment please, I appeal to you for some empathy, could you perhaps locate the keys to that port-a-loo or let that child go to the toilet please? She rolled her eyes and offered an explanation about the auction being a ‘private event’ and toilets not being available on site.

 Historyall saints

 “The church of All Saints Clifton was founded by a group of laymen, who were disquieted that, in the 1860s, there was far too little accommodation for worshippers in Clifton, and hardly any room at all for poorer people. The existing churches, under trust patronage, reserved most of their pews for those who paid a rental. So in 1862 a committee was formed with the objective of providing a large church in which all the sittings should be free and unappropriated”.

Then it struck me. Although this was my first experience of a social housing property auction in a church, none of the story was new. My sadness to witness such acutely obvious ill-treatment of the ordinary residents, of the poor and vulnerable citizens of St Paul’s and Clifton was feeling even more acute because the auction was happening inside a church. As I walked back onto the forecourt a man I did not know, scruffy, long-haired and bearded gently touched my shoulder and drew my attention to a picture on his smart phone, it was Jesus turning over tables in the temple. He shrugged and smiled a smile of understanding. He turned around to face the police line in front of the now locked church doors and carried on with his chanting, “Council Houses, for the people, not for profit”.

ruth

April Birdsong

I once met a young mother in a garden, it was Spring, some years ago, she was vibrant and bold and I was drawn to her. I listened as she told of her struggles as a young mother, a foreigner in this land, she sought acceptance and hospitality, she was not weak or afraid. She boldly fed her child on her breast, although the child was past the age of the accepted norm for breast feeding in the circles of that garden. She was strong. She was she, unafraid to wear flamboyant colours and her eyes were as blue as the ocean. bird4

I recall that this young mother was often shocked by the lack of hospitality and restricted openness of others in that garden, her natural kindness and inner beauty shone through, a little rainbow song, audible and beautifully, different from the elite and exclusive choir of common garden birdsong. She seemed confused, sometimes, by the tune of the more established song in the garden.

With courage she stepped boldly, learnt the way and found she was encouraged by others in that garden. She was beautiful and blond, high cheek boned, emanating an energy and beauty of which, then, she seemed unaware. Her wings had been clipped in her homeland, she twitted and twooed until she found a song she could sing and she took flight again. She quickly learnt to sing the song of that garden, learnt the tune and found that she could sing with the others, in what sounded like harmony to her and to the maestros of the choir. She then found her very own branch to stand on, established on a good tree and high above some others, she sang from it for all to hear, in perfect tune with the newfound and comforting harmony of the garden. bird3

I met her again this Spring. An established mother now, not so young, not so colourful but her branch is firm and on it she sings her tune to perfection, sometimes even leading the choir, no longer a foreigner in that land. A short struggle, quick forgotten. bird5

I met another new and even younger mother this Spring, a tiny baby on her breast. She is not so blonde, her eyes they are not blue. Her song is hard to fathom. Her struggle just begins.

Garlic Bread & Roses

 A Tiny Bite Site Sized Reflection.

I smiled as he passed me a pink rose, the Portuguese man, he interrupted while I was listening to a conversation between a 7 year old child and a young Eritrean man, who was attempting to explain the yellow wreath at the centre of his country’s flag. The child was painting flags for people but didn’t quite grasp the point about the 30 leaves of the wreath representing the number of years Eritrea spent in civil war, before achieving independence. He told her it was 400 really and I could see that the calculation was out of sync with her Key Stage 2 numeracy lessons. Anyway she liked the yellow. The man’s pool partner was getting restless for him to take his shot. When I looked up to find the Portuguese man, to say thanks, he had gone.

Garlic bread in the hands of toddlers will lead to greasy handprints on windows and doors………….. and everywhere really. Especially if adults are busy chatting and eating and not chasing them with a Johnson’s baby wipe. Just an observation. The bread was gone by the time I got there. As luck would have it, some much needed carbohydrate came in the form of a beautiful cake in celebration of International Women’s day. I enjoyed it.

” for the people here are singing Bread & Roses, Bread & Roses” ………..we battle too for them for they are women’s children……….”

Tuesday’s Child is full of grace….

 Desk Maintainance Day V’s World Book Day

A short diary excerpt from a full-time mum ……………..and Community Organiser.

Tuesday’s Child is full of grace!

“The pace of life these days seems faster than I’ve ever known, change is fast, this is no secret, people don’t have time to finish a cup of tea”. My new friend, 90-year-old Dorothy, told me this over a cup of tea on Tuesday.

It wasn’t a full cup as I was interrupted to resolve a conflict between a 3-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy who simply could not agree which one was more qualified to drive the cardboard box train. A dilemma, sure, but the 6-year-old is mine and much bigger, than the 3-year-old girl. This is the nature of mixing community organising ‘work’ with family life. Conflict is a constant. Internal and external. Tuesday’s child wants to be full of grace but feels a bit half full…….better I suppose, than half empty.

Monday’s child is fair of face………

Monday was meant to be ‘desk maintanence day’. I use this term for the necessary desk based work that is intertwined with the other ‘stuff’. A day of catching up with myself instead of other people (and processing receipts for money spent on the mountains of milk, tea, coffee, biscuits, pens, an electric heater, shoe leather & suchlike). Keeping a track of my projects, contracts, networks, emails, links & online conversations. Recording my work and sharing a bit about it, particularly with those who sponsor me as they are busier than I and have bigger desks to get through their MOT’s. Oh and I needed to work on the plan for continuing my work & at least attempt to find someone who might pay me. newI’ve found this to be the joy of self-employment, particularly in an ‘industry’ where a Tsunami of preference for “newness and cleverly innovative solutions”, appears to wash up on the shore, to the beach comber’s delight, with an old shopping trolley full of short-term thinking; where short life ‘project work’ is constantly at the mercy of the political purse holder. Oops careful not to bite the hand that feeds so many, but Monday’s child would like to see a game with a tad more depth behind it’s fair & perfectly symmetrical face.

Unfortunately Monday disappeared into Tuesday & my desk empathised……..I lasted less than an hour before being called away. I’ll catch up later!

Wednesday’s child is full of woe…..puss in boots

An odd woe, I really feel a need to be at my desk given the pile of follow-ups now pending. This will not be possible today as a school trip with my daughter to a Rain Forest in Berkshire, in a hail storm, prevents any desk maintenance. However I’m a glass half full girl & if the Queen caves into the campaign for an extra bank holiday, in celebration of all teachers placed in charge of school trips, then I’ll get this day back sometime in the near future. I suspect the Queen is too busy with her birthday party plans anyway. Oh and I know this is awful, but my daughter was far too busy with other kids to notice my presence behind the canopy of the rainforest (but I’m told she will recall my adoringly giving into her begging me to come on her trip, in the future and feel that she is loved). Deferred gratification? Perhaps a point missed in the tsunami observation of Monday. Note to self……opt out of the forthcoming national day of ‘Clean for the Queen’ community projects, finish a full cup of tea & spend a respectful day at desk instead.

Thursday’s child has far to go………………

In fact, off to the Cotswolds this morning. It’s World Book Day, 7-year-old is feeling like a true Cinderella today but is in tears because she is dressed as Puss ‘n’ Boots; she was definitely a Puss ‘n’ Boots when we had the planning meeting!hook I drop her, accompanied by a medium-sized Captain Hook and a tiny Peter Pan at school and hit the road. I’m off to meet a dedicated volunteer, he has 1000’s of hours under his belt. Should be interesting.  It’s an hours drive, & I hope I don’t stuck get in traffic as my desk maintenance will be creating an almost critical pile up by mid-afternoon in the office.

Friday’s child works hard for a living and Saturday’s child, well, who knows?

A Tide of Change or a Ripple in the Water?

 people power

Community Listening (June 2015):

“It won’t make a difference, the decision has been made!”

It won’t matter any if I stay sat here on my bed.

“People, they don’t matter, they have no power in the end!”

It won’t make a difference, we are defeated from the start!

 

Community Organising (Summer/Autumn 2015):

Hey, it will make a difference, if you just take the chance!

Hey, it will make a difference, is it time to make a stand?

People, they are important, they are the centre of our town.

It will make a difference if we just stand up from sitting down!

 

Reflection (Winter 2015):

“What do you mean, have you heard the news?

It is hard work all that walking in our shoes!

“We have heard about a ripple, to slow down all that haste”

People, we are after all important it’s up to us to change the space!

Nicky Brown, Community Organiser.

Kingsholm Advent Fenster 2015

window 1It’s very exciting to watch something grow. I’m not a gardener, but I’m starting to get why people have greenhouses. Listening to a story (the seed), an idea (a bit of water), a little likeminded group (sunshine), a street party (energy), another story, a conversation, a project, a buzz, the cycle of action. It’s remarkable how the energy flows!

As part of #Giving Tuesday on 1st Dec we will witness the second Kingsholm Living Advent Calendar or as it’s become known, “The Advent Fenster”; an idea shipped in with a Kingsholm resident & Volunteer Community Organiser, from her Swiss village. Basically, each day of advent a window is decorated in a Christmas style, reflecting the creativity of the residents or business behind the window. The window displays its number, 1 to 24, like a normal advent calendar.

When a window lights up, it remains lit every evening throughout Advent until the final window launches on Christmas Eve. Some participants use the launch as an opportunity to invite neighbours over to see the window, have a drink and a perhaps a Christmas treat. A few are even planning on carol singing, on their front street, on the day they launch their window. People are feeling welcomed by the windows and by the residents behind them. Many walk around using the opportunity to meet new neighbours or meet with friends as they search for the windows. Find out more by joining the Facebook Group

The Captains of Our Soul- Gloucester’s Invictus Year

Scotland rugbyFestival, fun & bunting the city’s looking stately

Graffiti art and Scrumpty, sand volleyball and pimms

Rugby colour all around, excitement felt so greatly

Top designers bins with bells on, we are flying in the winds

 

Out of the night that covers me,

Flags flying ,pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my City’s unconquerable soul.

 

In the fortunate clutch of circumstance

We have grasped the Scrumpty Story

Under the bludgeonings of chance

In this City’s new found Glory

 

Beyond this time of splendid cheer

Pimms & Whisky in the shade,

We’ll tell the tales of our Big Year

Now a city unafraid.

 

Gloucester’s season, time and date

A city rich & worthy, we’re high up in a cloud

A city changed, new master of it’s fate

The World Cup has made us proud

 

As we put up the bunting

As we take our place upon the stage

Just take a little pause to ask

Do we pay the Living Wage?

NOT JUST A NUMBER- A Reflection on people databases….

Its 10am, I don’t ‘open’ until 11am but I’m in ‘the space’ to fill the kettle and do some preparation ‘work’ while it’s quiet.  In walks the No1, he is keen and very early. We talk and ‘work’. He begins to work alone as I greet No2 volunteer. We have not seen each other for a while. We catch up and I check where she is at and if she has capacity to help me this week? No 3 comes in as No1 and No2 are ‘working’ away, I introduce them all. We chat a bit. No 1 is ‘working’ away. No 4 enters the room, now a  good friend and seriously committed volunteer. We get a drink. We talk. Ready to log on now and do some ‘work’,  No5 has appeared with No6 (who is a dog). We all move outside except no 1, still ‘working’plate spin and remaining focused. Well done No1. Oh I forgot No 2.5, but she is only two and a half. No 7 came in, sat down and got up to go elsewhere. No 8 sent a text and No 9 is struggling to get out of the house today. No 10 is likely to arrive soon, none of us yet know who this is but the door is open so I expect a No 10 will appear, it’s the middle of the afternoon! I’m not sure if I did a lot of ‘work’ or not?