Sunday, February 27, 2005

Flowers and sand 

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour."

This may sound insufferably arrogant, but sometimes when I write here it's from a place of struggling to see beyond the commonplace, the ordinary, the mundane; searching for some insight, a message; striving so hard to see that World, that Heaven, that I dismiss as unimportant most of the ordinary human activity that constitutes daily living.

Some days maybe it's okay to see just flowers and sand.

Saturday, February 26, 2005


It may not be stunning composition, but I did at least get a chance to try out the new toy...


Monday: Buy new toy, in slightly belated acknowledgement of my fiftieth year. Weather forecast looks ominous: gather together “snow kit” for car (shovel, two sleeping bags etc) then dash out to band rehearsal for Godspell. Anonymous carrier bag containing camera in box remains abandoned in a lonely corner of the bedroom.

Tuesday: Up at 5:00am to drive 200 miles to Leeds in occasional sleet and snow, home again at 7:30pm, time for a very quick bite then out for 3 hours rehearsal with cast for Godspell. Anonymous carrier bag remains undisturbed.

Wednesday: Camera box sees daylight! Open box, remove battery and charger, put battery on charge.

Thursday night: Anonymous carrier bag now adjacent to bed. Insert battery in camera. Sit up in bed with camera in one hand, handbook in other. Turn straight to page headed “Advanced shooting”. Wonder what that says about me?

Friday: Load software onto PC.

Saturday: Maybe, maybe I’ll get to take some photos? If I can finish that 100 bloggers article, and squeeze in some desperately needed practice for Godspell. Sooner or later though, sooner or later…

Monday, February 21, 2005

Global blogger action day 

I just caught sight of this BBC news item:
"The global web blog community is being called into action to lend support to two imprisoned Iranian bloggers.
The month-old Committee to Protect Bloggers' is asking those with blogs to dedicate their sites on 22 February to the "Free Mojtaba and Arash Day".
Arash Sigarchi and Mojtaba Saminejad are both in prison in Iran."

I’ve not had time to check it out, so I’m just passing this on, “without prejudice” as they say. As the proposed day of action is tomorrow, you may want to follow up on it.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Busy week ahead... 

I can imagine the clock ticking away for the next couple of weeks and see every waking second already spoken for. I'm playing bass guitar in the band for an amateur production of Godspell; with four hours rehearsing this afternoon, more rehearsals two, maybe three evenings this week; another long bash next Sunday then rehearsals and shows most of the following week, all the other routine non-work activities get crammed into the few remaining minutes.

Which is to say that if I'm quiet on here (okay, make that even quieter...), it's not because I've deserted blogging for ever. But something has to give somewhere; there just aren't enough hours in the day. Is that scarcity mentality? I guess it is; but much as I love doing these shows, I can't escape from the fact that they do consume a lot of hours. I'll be back when I can.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Not having gone digital yet (although I'm hoping that will change very soon), I can only respond to Photo Friday's challenges by digging through the analogue archives. This week's theme is 'Rural', and it came as something of a shock to find that I had to go back eleven years to find something that fitted. This one's from a day out in the Kent countryside.

I really should get out more...

How many...? 

Anyone who frequents web forums (fora??) will probably relate to this. Apologies if you've seen this elsewhere, but it was new to me and brought a smile to my face this morning...

How many discussion group posters does it take to change a lightbulb?

1 to change the light bulb and to post that the light bulb has been changed

14 to share similar experiences of changing light bulbs and how the light bulb could have been changed differently

7 to caution about the dangers of changing light bulbs

7 to point out spelling/grammar errors in posts about changing light bulbs

5 to flame the spell checkers

3 to correct spelling/grammar flames

6 to argue over whether it's "lightbulb" or "light bulb"

... another 6 to condemn those 6 as anal-retentive

2 industry professionals to inform the group that the proper term is "lamp"

15 know-it-alls who claim they were in the industry, and that "light bulb" is perfectly correct

19 to post that this forum is not about light bulbs and to please take this discussion to a lightbulb forum

11 to defend the posting to this forum saying that we all use light bulbs and therefore the posts are relevant to this forum

36 to debate which method of changing light bulbs is superior, where to buy the best light bulbs, what brand of light bulbs work best for this technique and what brands are faulty

7 to post URL's where one can see examples of different light bulbs

4 to post that the URL's were posted incorrectly and then post the corrected URL's

3 to post about links they found from the URL's that are relevant to this group which makes light bulbs relevant to this group

13 to link all posts to date, quote them in their entirety including all headers and signatures, and add "Me too"

5 to post to the group that they will no longer post because they cannot handle the light bulb controversy

4 to say "didn't we go through this already a short time ago?"

13 to say "do a Google search on light bulbs before posting questions about light bulbs"

1 forum lurker to respond to the original post 6 months from now and start it all over again.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Where I'm from 

Fred has a great idea going at the moment, a little project in which anyone can take part. I’ll let him describe it:
"George Ella Lyons is an Appalachian author and poet with a long list of children's books to her credit. Her poem, Where I'm From, begins in this way: I am from clothespins, from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride. I am from the dirt under the black porch. (Black, glistening it tasted like beets.)

Each of us is from a place that is more than a dot on the map. Every experience that we can recall has left its mark on who we are. Nobody is from Clorox, but can't you smell the laundry room at the poet's house as a little girl?

I'd like to make a suggestion-- not just to the 'writers' who read this, but to everyone. Actually, putting on my teacher hat: this is your assignment --
Read Where I From, all of the poem is here.

Then, write your own version-- where you're from. Here's the format, the remainder of the form is in the "continue reading" section if you want to try this worthwhile exercise. Cut and paste it into a word processor to work on later. (This is a borrowed idea, not mine, but worthwhile, I think, and meant to be passed along.)"

Fred's full post, along with the template, is here

I had a lot of fun doing this; more than that, even something apparently as simple as this (simple in concept anyway, though maybe not in execution!) remakes some of those old synaptic connections and reminds us about a little bit of who we are.

Here’s my version:

I am from modelling knife,
from Airfix* and polystyrene cement.
I am from radiogram music, wavering and crackly.
I am from the tree-house in the giant apple tree,
the sycamore over the fence whose helicopters spawned a thousand offspring in the lawn.
I am from Sunday Best and stammering,
from Peter and Margaret
and Laddie the collie-cross
(and from Frisky, my Very Own black-and-white mouse).
I am from deference
and make-do-and-mend,
from please-and-thank-you,
and “ugh, kissing, that’s mushy”.
I am from no games on Sundays,
Sunday School prizes (always a ‘suitable’ book).
I'm from a midwife’s cycle tracks in the deep snow of a February morning,
wafer-thin sandwiches and roast lamb.
From the late night my father worked at the bank searching for sixpence,
the ink I spilled on my sister’s homework,
and the grandfathers I never knew.
I am from the WWII gas masks hanging behind the coats,
the delicately balanced mosaic of tins, jars and boxes holding screws, nails and rusting tools,
the bureau of neatly archived paperwork, annotated in fine script.
Fears, fittings, facts,
already fossils from an earlier age.

*Airfix was a UK brand of plastic model construction kit.

Friday, February 11, 2005


Too tired and empty for many words at the moment. I was just watching a TV programme (a rare occurence for me) following a journey to trace the legend of Shangri-La through India, across the Himalayas and into Tibet. It had me spellbound - not so much the legend, but the landscape, the remoteness - especially the remoteness, the sense of being separate, apart from the rest of the world; almost in another world, or another time. It was easy to see how the legend of a secret hidden valley could arise.

This isn't exactly Shangri-La, but every time I go to this corner of Wales and up into the hills, I get something of that feeling of apartness from the rest of the world. And there's something about the light in this shot that carries just the hint of something hidden around the corner. Maybe one day when I go back there again I'll find it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Earth buzzed by little green men? 

Well, it might have been.
Mightn't it?

That explanation doesn't seem to figure too high on the list of possibilities being discussed though.

Pity really. It's nice to make-believe once in a while...

Monday, February 07, 2005

Memory tricks 

When I saw this photo of Fred’s, it immediately sparked a recollection of this:

Although the image sprang straight to mind, I had to hunt through many old albums to find the photo. The scene dates back to a holiday eighteen years ago; a view just begging to be photographed and captioned. Memory plays tricks of course; as I remembered it, the cliff was an archetypal cliff about three times as high as the one in the picture, and the road was more like a highway.

Having found the album, I browsed through the holiday snaps of our children – they must have been about age 1, 4 and 6 – looking at the smiles, I wondered if memory played tricks there too: did I only photograph the happy times? Surely kids that age must have caused their fair share of trouble and strife?

They may have done, I guess, but if they did, I honestly don’t remember it. My memories are of the unselfconscious smiles, the adventures, the inquisitiveness, the togetherness. I knew there was a good reason for taking all those photos.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

That's a relief... 

Although I've been busy all weekend on other things, running through the back of my mind has been a constant nagging worry about this 100bloggers book. What will I write? Am I good enough? Can I somehow shift myself from this present place of being tied up in the immediacy of daily living, in order to be able to speak from the heart, and not just churn out something detached and impersonal?

Unexpectedly, I found answers to all of those questions:

1. You'll have to wait and see :-) The background though is the counselling journey.
2. Irrelevant.
3. It took time, but going back over some of those old posts reminded me of things I'd forgotten - or one thing in particular in front of which I'd erected such a huge screen that I'd conveniently hidden it from myself.

It's a tricky one, that number three. Last time I made any kind of declaration about writing, it precipitated the inner conflict that set me off down that counselling road. So I'm rather wary about being overly direct on that score. Let's just say I've remembered why it was that writing attracted me.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Issued out 

Those were the words someone else used to describe how they felt after three days spent here, learning about leadership as coaching – or was it coaching as leadership? In three days, there wasn’t a single Powerpoint slide and only a handful of flip-chart pages – this was experiential learning, something that suits me well, since my preferred learning style is activist: learning-by-doing. There were one-on-ones, role-plays with actors, action learning – all based on real-life issues; life inside and outside the workplace.

Most of us left feeling pretty drained – such attentive, intensive, controlled listening to each other and to ourselves, at a multitude of levels (words, feelings, intentions, beliefs…) is quite different from the normal ping-pong of everyday conversation and takes some getting used to. The up-side though is reflected in the uplifting, validating feeling that many expressed as a result of being truly listened to. I’m reminded of a quote I've posted before:
"Listening is a rare happening among human beings. You cannot listen to the word another is speaking if you are preoccupied with your appearance, or with impressing the other, or are trying to decide what you are going to say when the other stops talking, or are debating about whether what is being said is true or relevant or agreeable. Such matters have their place, but only after listening to the word as the word is being uttered. Listening is a primitive act of love in which a person gives himself to another’s word, making himself accessible and vulnerable to that word."

- William Stringfellow

I learned many things; one in particular stood out. Not surprisingly, all my "issues" found their way back to the core issue of my central feeling of uselessness at work – yet when, in a role-play exercise, I tried to articulate what I wanted instead of the current situation, I found I couldn't. Not with any clarity; not in any specific terms. I could say what I didn’t want, I could say what I thought caused things to be the way they are, I could talk in abstract terms about what I'd like, but I was completely unable to formulate any grounded proposal for change.

And that, I guess, is why I stay stuck.

Somewhere along the line, I've internalised the idea that, whatever it is I want, I can't have it – and in so doing, I've strangled the ability to want; pre-judged the outcome even before the idea has been born.

Anyway, I'm "issued out" for now, mentally exhausted and coasting along gently in neutral…