Sunday, March 13, 2016

Giving the Peace

Sitting next to me in the pew there was somebody new in church today. She wasn't new to me.We had met before, a long time ago and since lost touch with each other. It was great to make contact again. It's a lovely congregation isn't it" she said and this made me see my parish church afresh. How it is a place where there is so much love, where every one is made welcome, where when we are invited to say"Peace be with you," to one another, everyone around me gives me hugs and kisses. It made me think about why I attend every Sunday, why in this mixed "rainbow" congregation  I have a feeling of belonging that I do not have anywhere else.

It also made me realise why, in spite of the doubts that often plague me, I am a Christian and have been for most of my life. I see how this wonderful faith, a faith base on love, has inspired ordinary people . My devout parents dedicated their lives to helping others. Seated around me during this service are numbers of people doing unselfish loving things. One regularly visits prisons, another provides sandwiches for the poor, another has fought tirelessly for justice in this country. I could go on and on.

If I am deluded, as my atheist friends tell me,I decide, that deluded is what I wish to continue to be.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

In praise of MOOCs

Having just finished an Online Astronomy course called Orion in the night Sky. I started another one, this time simply called Moons.  "Orion" was stimulating and exciting: Moons is  astonishing, amazing, fabulous and any other superlatives you can think of. It is, I am afraid,a little too much for me. I  really need to do it all over again.  There is just so much information to process. Astronomy is all very new to me. All I knew about Moons is what I learnt more than sixty years ago in School Geography class. I became interested in stars when I joined a U3A tour to Sutherland to see the SALT telescope. I meant to read up more about the subject, but only when I had become a bit bored after finishing a poetry course and having time to spare,did I look up other possible courses on the Internet and found these two on Futurelearn.  These courses are run by the Open University and they are excellent. The material is well presented and easy to read and as for the illustrations... I can only say WOW. They comprise wonderful pictures from NASA taken on different space probes. These are quite spectacular!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Some more poems


When you are old, time gets out of hand.
Like water in a muddy dam, its sluice gates open
to spew out effluent cascades.  Your feeble fingers
can’t stem the flow. Brown clouds of days
rush past. You clutch at them,
but as you try to keep them back
they twist and swirl away,
turn into weeks and then to years.
Until all that is left is
a shrunken puddle
on a sandy floor.


The bitter scent of rosemary 
calls to me from the bush
that once grew by the door.
of a house full of girl-children, set
in a garden with a daisy-bordered lawn
and a cypress tree. .

Round-faced Dalena  kept floors polished
and windows clean. Old Soppy tended
flowerbeds and sold my green beans on the sly.
Now −
both in their graves, the lawn paved over
and the cypress tree chopped down.


As the moon, one day from full, stares pale
through clumps of cirrus cloud,
we bring our candles and our hymn sheets,
and gather at the gate to start
our pilgrimage around the cottages.
A singer in a motor-wheelchair leads the way
and bringing up the rear, another singer
leans on a walker.

Our choirmaster gives the note
and off we go. We stumble into “Bethlehem.
Our voices tremble on the damp night air
then swell. Sound spreads, doors open,
hands wave out of windows.
Soft drizzle sparkles in our hair.
We visit all the units
one by one.

Legs weary, breath a little short,
song starts to peter out, and then a woman,
surprised at hearing music by her door
comes out and looks confusedly about.
Through fog that fills her aging brain, recalls
something she first learnt at her mother’s knee and
joyfully, joins in with sweet soprano  Stille nacht,
Silent Night, Holy night

(After studying an online astronomy course)
In the constellation of Orion
somewhere halfway between
Red giant Betelgeuse
and White giant Rigel, lies
Orion Nebula, a fuzzy place,
where stars are born.

As Orion sweeps across the sky,
his hunting dogs beside him,
chasing the Pleiades, bow at the ready,
he carries below his belt the seeds
of suns. They swirl in multi-coloured clouds
of purple, yellow, green and blue.

In the wide disc which gathers round
a sphere that will become a new young sun,
are bits of debris, which, with dust
and ashes from celestial conflagrations
might form, after a million years
another Earth like ours


I get there early to secure a seat.
The coffin is already there and the churchwarden
The coffin wears an outsized wreath
The warden, wears a white shirt and a tie
I kneel and say a prayer

A lay minister in a robe walks down the aisle
Women from the old age home take up their seats.
some people come in at the vestry door
I read the Service Order leaflet.

The lay minster blows in the mic
He shakes it to and fro and blows again.
Some people come to sit in the front pews
I read the book of Job in the Pew Bible

A child toddles up and down the aisle
The wind blows the altar candles out
The verger lights them all again.
I finish Job and start on Proverbs

The priest comes in and puts notes on the lectern
 He looks around and then walks out again.
The warden makes announcements I can’t hear
I finish Proverbs and begin The Psalms

The last of the pallbearers has arrived
They hoist the coffin skew; its wreath falls off
The verger picks it up and puts it back
The organ breaks into the March from Saul.
And now the service can begin.

Numbers were always unreliable.
ID, cell phone, credit card, the only ones
that ever stayed embedded in my brain
and as for names − many have long refused
to be attached to faces,
but now words, once dependable,
my very tools-of-trade,
are turning traitor.

It was the long ones started the rebellion,
the crossword puzzle ones – palaeontology,
Manichaeism, spectroscopy, all
went AWOL when I needed them.
Soon everyday ones joined the fun,
hiding under beds and behind cupboards,
having to be winkled out with
rakes and broom-handles.

Some, I believe, have gone for good.
They went and hid in luggage trunks
or old ice-chests and to make sure
I wouldn’t find them there,
they closed the lids down very tight.
And then they couldn’t open them and so
they suffocated –
serve them right!