Category Archives: friends and family

Many Quake, but Few are Quoken…

My absence from the blogosphere for the last week or so can be explained by this: I have been at a Gathering.  Or perhaps it was a Meeting.  Was it a meeting of minds?  Or a gathering of bodies?  Or both?  Where was it?  Who was it?  What was it?  All questions will be answered, though only in the Quaker way.  This is much like the economists’ way: ie if you ask three Quakers a question you will get four different answers.

Quakers.  As Romeo might have cried, wherefore are ye Quakers?  The answer lies in history, in an insult hurled at Friends who, inspired to speak, might quake in body or voice.  In true Friends’ fashion they took the insult and turned it into a name for themselves.  (I don’t know, there are so many words we can’t use any more: queer, Quaker…)

A week is a long time at Quaker Yearly Meeting, also – confusingly – known as Yearly Meeting Gathering.  A Gathering happens but one year in three, and is a residential affair, a sort of cross between a conference and a retreat.  There are meetings for worship and meetings for business (thought it’s often hard to tell the difference) and a bewildering profusion of workshops, lectures and plenary sessions (I’ve never been quite sure what a plenary session is, though OH helpfully informs me that it’s ‘when everyone gets together.’  Thanks…)

So: that took place at Warwick which, apart from being Margaret Thatcher’s favourite university is a pleasant place, open and airy with lots of trees and leading quickly onto farmland and woods (where I walked one morning with a group of Friends.)  By the end of the week it seemed I’d been there half my life; long enough, indeed, to write a poem about my experiences.  I read this out at the final meeting and it was well received: many people asked for a copy, and you can read it below.  There were a couple of interesting lectures from Quaker politicians; one MP and one MEP, on their experiences of bringing Quaker ethics into politics.  I even managed a couple of early-morning meditation sessions.

After that I had only a day’s rest (or half-rest, since I did a poem at the Hiroshima day vigil in Loughborough) before being plunged into an unexpectedly ferocious walk.  At the moment I’m good for seven miles on the flat or up gentle hills; however this walk was seven miles not on the flat or up gentle hills.  The first bit was fine, meandering through a valley, but being Derbyshire there was no getting away from the hills, and up we went.  And up, and up some more and then much more seriously up and finally I could take no more and declared that it was time for lunch.  After lunch we climbed the final bit to the top, and I was assured it was all downhill from then on.  However, what was not specified was exactly what sort of downhill.  And this was not a gentle downhill; nor was it even a steep downhill, it was a quite unfeasible downhill.  A path quite clearly marked on the OS map was simply not there; and following where it ought to have been led us down a vertiginous and unreasonably thistly slope to a thicket of bracken and thorn bushes.  The way seemed hard, if not impossible.  The words ‘going back up’ were pronounced, whereupon I mutinied.  I could not, and would not, go back up.  And that was flat.  It was the only thing that was flat but flat it was.  So we hobbled, skidded and fell down the bumpy slope into the valley and struggled through an inhospitable landscape to find the path which our more sensible friends had found half an hour before.  It was not fun.  The rest of the walk along the river Derwent would have been delightful had I not been so exhausted.

However, the views were tremendous.  And the company was good.

And that’s us up to date.  How have you been?

Kirk out

PS Oh, I nearly forgot – here’s the poem.

Gold Star

(on my first Yearly Meeting)

 

First I was afraid –

you might say, petrified –

when the plan was laid

that QYM be tried;

I wanted to refuse

curl up like a recluse

but something told me: choose

to be a Yearly Friend

 

From early intimations

upon a box of oats

of wholesome men with hats on

dispensing Quaker quotes;

vague notions of the logo,

love and peace and cocoa

(though not like John and Yoko)

that’s what I knew of Friends.

 

As the years increase

I find my spirit’s kin,

witnesses to peace

that never were sworn in

link arms around the fence

sing madness into sense

and speak the present tense

that’s what I learned of Friends.

 

Midway along this road

I happened on a Meeting;

I sat, I shed my load

amid that silent seating;

but I had no prognosis,

no great apotheosis:

it happened by osmosis

that I became a Friend.

 

So here at QYM

(or is it YMG?)

I’ve come to sense the stem

of something that is me:

though I wobbled at the gate

and got into a state

something told me: wait

and find your way with Friends

 

And now I am afraid –

you might say, petrified –

because our time is played

and, Friends, I need a guide

to light me back to earth

where peace has little worth

and where there is a dearth

of people who are Friends.

 

Let’s lift up that gold star

and set it in the sky

so when we travel far

we hold its halo high

the circle growing vast

we feel the light that’s cast

until we come at last

to meet again as Friends.

 

© Liz Gray, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Cannot Be Siri!

I think I must be channelling the spirit of Ronnie Corbett: I keep wanting to make corny jokes.  Incidentally I was very touched by the image of four large candles standing solemnly on the altar at his funeral last year:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36073888

RC was much loved, perhaps more so than Barker of that ilk who, though more talented, could be a tad pompous.  It was crystal clear to anyone watching Ronnie C in the BBC armchair in his trademark sweater and lacking only a cup of cocoa to resemble a parent going to bed (my parents drank Bournvita which I found disgusting, though I used it once mixed with water to paint my face) that he did not take himself remotely seriously.

But I digress – which, now that I think about it, is further proof that I am channelling the little Ron, since his whole routine was nothing more than a long digression followed by a short punchline.  Lots of foreplay, you might say.  Anyway, somebody on Facebook suggested that I should tap Siri on my i-phone and say ‘I see a little silhouetto of a man’.  I didn’t even know who or what Siri was (I guess it’s a sort of speaking Google) but I did so and it spoke the lyrics of Bo Rap, as Queen fans call it, in a gravelly electronic voice.  Which was amusing.  And which brings me to today’s joke:

What did John McEnroe say to Harry Potter’s grandfather?

You cannot be Sirius!

Kirk out

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Poo Sticks # 2

Devoted readers of these pages may remember a post, nine or so months ago, where I outlined the rules of Poosticks:

https://wordpress.com/post/lizardyoga.wordpress.com/13420

Like the better-known game invented by Pooh, it involves sticks: unlike that game, it involves poo.  Well, now a new version of Poosticks has been invented by none other than the good old NHS.  A while ago they wrote offering me a kit something like a home pregnancy test except that it was a home bowel cancer test (just routine, no cause for concern).  I thought I might as well, so I said yes, whereupon a mysterious brown envelope arrived in the post containing All You Need to test for bowel cancer.

*WARNING!  GROSSNESS ALERT: DO NOT READ IF EATING*

Well, I had to read the instructions a few times before I could understand them – but basically the test is an alternative to taking a stool sample to the doctor’s and having it tested.  However, it is not easy.  First you must peel back the cover to reveal two small windows.  Next you must catch your stool.  This is an unpleasant process involving folded toilet paper and much reaching: it can be quite alarming to feel just how much crap is emerging from the anus and trying to decide on a cut-off point which will not overspill the toilet paper (I did warn you it was gross.)  Then, having caught your turd (and still not able to wipe the bum) holding said steaming grossness in one hand, you must take a stick in the other hand (hence the name) and delicately scrape a little from the turd, transferring some of this in the form of a smear onto one of the windows.  This soiled stick must then be deposited somewhere whilst repeating the process with a clean stick.  The window can then be sealed and the cleanup can commence.  This ordeal needs to be repeated three times on consecutive days before the tiny package of disgustingness can be sealed and posted.

Oh my days!

And that’s my new game of poosticks.  I hope the results will be clear: no reason to think they won’t.

Kirk out

 

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Doctor, Doctor; Can’t You See I’m Fuming, Fuming?

Well!  They’ve been and gone and done it now!  The fat is out of the bag and the cat is in the fire – and yes, I did mean to Spoonerise my metaphors in that way because the Whole Order of Things has Been Upset.  It’s women priests all over again; it’s Political Correctness Gone Mad!  How many more male strongholds will be feminised!  How can the Doctor, an intrinsically masculine figure, a repository of – well, maleness – I’m not sure how but he just IS because – well!  I mean, every time he regenerates he’s a man!  Isn’t he?  I mean, that proves it!  The Doctor is male, all right!  He cannot be female!  It just won’t work!  He’ll – she’ll – be crying all over the place, she’ll be all warm and fuzzy and not dangerous or eccentric because everyone knows women can’t be dangerous or eccentric – and the TARDIS WILL BE COVERED IN DOYLEYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Deep, calming breaths, deep calming breaths…

OK.

So, the news is, if you haven’t yet caught up with it, that the latest regeneration of Dr Who has been announced and it’s a woman; Jodie Whittaker, to be precise, of Broadchurch fame.  I have no idea if she’ll be any good , but in principle I think it’s great that they’ve gone this way.  I see no reason why the Doctor can’t be female: coming from Gallifrey there is no need for the character to confirm to any earthly genders (or colours, come to that) so it’s high time these boundaries were breached.  I look forward to seeing what she makes of it.

But never mind guys, there’s still one or two niches left for you.  After all, most MP’s, CEO’s, film directors, Head Teachers, rock musicians, Chief Constables, firefighters, surgeons, lorry-drivers, bus-drivers, train-drivers, bishops, scientists, engineers – are still men.  At least, last time I looked.  So you can’t be the Doctor for the next few years?  Never mind.  A man can still be Prime Minister.  In fact with any luck a man will be, very soon…

Kirk out

 

 

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July 12th 2014

I’m reblogging this as it’s the third anniversary of the death of Gaz Carnall who ran our home from home, the Fingerprints cafe on Queens Rd

Infertility and life

Gareth 4

The date July 12th 2014 is the date my life changed. The path I was on suddenly closed and I was moved to a different path, a path which for the rest of my life would not include my brother Gareth.

Lunchtime on July 12th would be the last time I would speak to him. Rhys and I had been to Ikea and I had checked us in on Facebook. Gareth was always teasing us about our fascination with Ikea! We were in the car on our way home and my phone rang, it was Gareth. His first words were “there can’t be anything left in Ikea for you two to buy!” and we howled with laughter. We chatted for about 20 minutes, he was telling me how busy he was, he had a party he was catering for that night and then a first birthday party he…

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July 12, 2017 · 9:38 am

Here are the Main Points Again

From time to time I like to welcome new readers to this blog and thank those who have stayed with me, even if it’s only to post the odd ‘like’ or comment.  If you’re shy about commenting, please go ahead and do it anyway; I’m not combative and I won’t jump on you if you dare to express an opinion, even if I don’t agree with it.  That said, I don’t tolerate rudeness or trolling – not that any of you would be so ill-mannered as to attempt it.  So please feel free.

I’m very bad at mentioning my blog to people: often they come across it quite independently and are surprised.  Basically I’m a terrible self-promoter: as regular readers will know, I’m a member of the Insecure Writers Support Group and in an age where we’re all supposed to be self-sufficient, self-promoting little market forces all selling ourselves to each other, I’m a bit of a disaster.  You’re supposed to get out there and yell ‘hey, look at this!  This is brilliant!  You want this!  Come and get some!’  Whereas I just stand in a corner and mumble something like ‘well, there’s this thing over here.  It’s quite good.  I mean, I think so.  You might want to take a look – but only if you have time.’

Like I say, bloody disaster.

In other news, Tony Blair has been found!  Yes, he wasn’t in a bunker after all, but had scarpered to the Middle East where he is now taking part in the peace process – presumably to make up for  the part he previously played in the war process.  And possibly also trying to find some weapons of mass distraction.

Sorry, destruction.

And finally, a group of us gathered yesterday to watch ‘Pride’, the true story of how gays and lesbians (in the days before unwieldy acronyms were invented) collected money for the Welsh miners during the fatal strike.  I remember the strike vividly: it was remarkable for its viciousness and although there were faults on both sides (I was never a fan of Scargill) the police behaved appallingly.

But this was not that story but an altogether more heart-warming tale of two cultures; London, not exactly gay-friendly then but at least getting there, and rural South Wales where no-one has ever met a gay or lesbian (at least, not knowingly).  This is not, thankfully, an issue-laden film but one where two cultures unite against a common enemy: Thatcher and her cohorts, and where the attempts of a local homophobe with ‘a stick up her bottom’ fail to derail the connection that is made between them.  If I were going to be hyper-critical I’d say the film was a bit Richard Curtis, but I don’t care.  It’s great – and when the lights went up nearly everyone was dabbing their eyes.#

So if you haven’t seen it yet, go watch.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3169706/?ref_=nv_sr_4

And let me know if you spot Tony Blair anywhere.  The hunt is on!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2063812/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Kirk out

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What Manner of Folk be These, with Aran Sweater and Finger in Ye Ear?

English folk music is not nearly as well-respected as its Irish or Scots counterparts.  Maybe this is because we’re the dominant country, so we don’t have as much oppression to sing about – though I’d question this, in the light of historical events such as the Industrial Revolution.  But folk doesn’t have to be about oppression: much of it is about love – a love of place or a love of person (usually a woman since, let’s face it, most of these things were written by men) – and there’s a simplicity about the songs.  They arise out of working-class traditions and may not be erudite or complex but nevertheless have an authenticity.  Consider the simple pun on thyme/time in ‘A Bunch of Thyme’:

This also illustrates the primacy of the oral tradition, as the pun suffers from being written down.

English folk music has long been the object of ridicule: the sneers I’ve been subjected to for liking folk clubs are second only to those I suffered for being a Leonard Cohen fan.  The finger-in-the-ear-whilst-singing-nasally is a cliche too easily trotted out by cynics; but folk clubs are by and large open and inclusive spaces where a variety of styles can be aired and where people can come together to share songs.  You may think it’s ridiculous for a bunch of middle-class, middle-aged English folk to sing about being ‘lonely round the fields of Athenry’ but to join in with an impromptu rendering of a song you love is a moving experience.  It ain’t clubbing on acid, but it’s humming on real ale – and I like it.

Not that any of this sums up my experience last night.  I’d been meaning to go to Loughborough Acoustics for months and finally made it last night.  The club which hosts it boasted all the atmosphere of a wet bus shelter in Skelmersdale: I opened the folk room door with an ominous creak to find two-and-a-half men (one half hidden behind a PA) one of whom was on stage and tuning up.  I was greeted with all the enthusiasm of a horizontal wind blowing into the aforementioned bus shelter and approached the bar to see a complete absence of any Proper Beer.  Oh dear.  In the end I had some water and sat down to listen.

To be fair, I must have picked the worst night of the year to go to the club since everyone was apparently at some festival or other (not Glasto, I’m assuming).  It got better; people did eventually talk to me and by half-time I had thawed out somewhat, emotionally speaking.

I’ll give it another try.  Mind you, when I told my daughter I was going to a folk club she said ‘oh, what sort of folk are they?’  I think she considers me ripe for some sort of pensioners’ jamboree.  *Sigh*.  I guess this is what it’s like to hit sixty…

Kirk out

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