Monday, 31 December 2012

Putting Yourself in Hope's Way

I've had a weird year. I'm not going into it. Some things have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, somethings have crashed and burned, some things drag dully on till you don't know if you can go on dealing with them (the post about the central heating fiasco will probably appear in the New Year when I've calmed down some!). But I'm looking forward to something better in 2013.

I'm not a big fan of the kind of self-help book that assures you that you can build your own fantasy world, live the dream, achieve success in anything you set out to do. So much depends on stuff you can't control, skills you're born with, or not, people you meet, or don't, the places you just happen to be, books you happen to read at the right time, even sheer dumb luck. On the other hand, however, you can even the odds a little.

In my youth I was a folk singer. I really thought I could have been a contender. And maybe I could, if I'd found a club, joined a band, met a musician who could have pushed me beyond my amateur level, maybe --- maybe --. But I didn't. And the reason is that I didn't go out and about in the folk scene often enough, or ask for enough help and advice or learn enough skills or take the whole thing seriously enough. And so you could use the shorthand and say, truthfully, I didn't want it enough.

Wanting doesn't guarantee success. But if you're having enough fun trying, it won't do you any harm. And if you protect yourself too fiercely against disappointment, don't put yourself in hope's way, you can pretty much guarantee failure. So next year, I'm going to be working hard, polishing some skills, taking chances, trying experiments. I'm going to be putting myself in hope's way. Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas Everyone

Welcome to our clean, tidy and very cold house. After much angst, time on the phone and three visits from our engineer, we still don't have reliable central heating, but we do have an open fire, a working cooker and an immersion heater, so we will be counting our blessings and enjoying each other's company for the next few days.

There'll be food, presents, glitter and music, and the smells of pine and spice and citrus. It will be lovely - we'll eat a lot, watch silly television and forget all our responsibilities for a while. It is good to take a moment to celebrate the joys of being embodied every now and then, and not be put off by the puritans or the social, intellectual or spiritual snobs who would like to tell us it's all a bit naff really, and shouldn't we be more serious, less self-indulgent or in other ways above all that. Well, I guess sometimes you have to. If you are medically overweight or adicted or suddenly realise the cruelty and injustice that goes into the production of whatever your pleasure is, you do have to make a stand sometimes, no matter who calls you a kill-joy. But let's not forget who, and what we are. If you're a Christian, this holiday is about remembering that God is not above the experience of bodily life. We have to remember that people who despise the pleasures of food, comfort and affectionate gestures for themselves can be dangerously callous about the needs and rights of others to enjoy them. And a little honest enjoyment can be the first step in recognising our duty to share.

I know, there are less Christians about these days. many of the people celebrating the holiday week ground their happiness in other traditions, other rituals, and many don't have a religious reason to celebrate at all. But I hope you are all having a happy holiday, without guilt or or grumpiness. I hope you are warm, healthy and with people you love, and that the food is good and the presents just what you wanted. If you are ill or grieving or anxious, I hope there is someone who remebers youand shows you they care. And I wish you all light and love and hope for the new Year.

Monday, 17 December 2012

The Thistle Rose and Shamrock Night

Around this time of year my life gets silted up with cooking, cleaning, wrapping, carols, nativity plays and some or other getting ill. I mean to post, and don't. I mean to email people and don't. I mean to get things wrapped up and cleared away, and who am I kidding?

So this year, before I get utterly Christmassed, I just want to say a few words about out poetry evening. We don't get many in Stirling - apart from the lovely mix of music and performance work that is Junk Jam anyway, so it was quite a scary thing to organise one. However, with the backing of some very fine poets (Stirling definitely punches above its weight on the actual writing front) and the excellent Burgh Coffeehouse who were so kind and so helpful, we took a deep breath and dived in.

I won't say we were packed to the rafters, because we weren't. But we did have a genuine audience, and some really great poetry. We had great tea, and rather wonderful cake (most of us will be back again for that). And the Burgh said they'd have us back. What more could you ask?

Besides myself, our poets were:
  • Hazel Buchan Cameron(published by Red Squirrel)
  • Anne Connolly (published by Red Squirrel)
  • Richie McCaffery (published by Happenstance)
  • Chris Powici (published by Die-Hard)
  • Sheila Wakefield (published by Talking Pen)

And will we do it again? Watch this space!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Week of Starting Over

It's done. Everything clean and fresh and full of light.

Books and pictures back.

Some things moved around a little.

And some things back where they were. It's not so different, but it's calmer, simpler, more serene. As I hope next year will be.

A few new followers have recently joined up - you are very welcome, and I hope you will enjoy what you see here. And can I just remind anyone in the Stirling area about the Thistle Rose and Shamrock poetry night in the Burgh Coffeehouse on King Street, this Thursday from 7-9pm. Poets reading are Hazel Buchan Cameron, Anne Connolly,Richie McCaffery, Chris Powici, Sheila Wakefield - and me.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Two Winter Haikus

fifteen long-tailed tits
trapezing on the birch stems
catching December sun

dark wings against the snow
two buzzards circle, harvesting
the dead of winter

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Week of the First Snow

These are old photos, taken about this time of year, but two years ago. That's because the last couple of weeks have been taken up with family things - our son's graduation (in nursing - with distinction - which is an enormous pleasure) my mother's move into residential care, and absorbing the outside school responsibilities of looking after our grand-daughter into a busy life - and cooking up a poetry night at our local coffee house. But I think you can take it that the territory of rain still looks pretty much like this!

We got the roof fixed just in time before the rain, and the central heating pump replaced just before the frost. And the upgrade to the broadband went without a hitch, so I can now listen to the radio on my laptop without it having to pause for breath every five minutes. Now we are having the sittingroom and the hall decorated. We have had to move four bookcases to accommodate this, and it's not a big house, there are books everywhere! There is dust everywhere too. I knew I was a B- housewife but really, there are places behind bookcases where finding the original carpet is like archaeology. But it will be done by Christmas, and there are new bookcases (larger!) coming, so everywhere will be not only cleaner and fresher, but tidier.

Outside the only vegetables flourishing are the brassicas - kale and cabbage and early broccoli seem unfazed by all the wet. And the birds are back, drawn in mostly by the frost. I've seen redwings and fieldfares, there are swans on the river, and the Scandinavian starlings are here in force. And I've just seen a greater spotted woodpecker on the top of the birch outside my window. I thought it was a starling at irst, but it's too big, and piebald. Other people have told me we have woodpeckers, but this is the first year I've seen them regularly for myself. Also blackbirds. I know blackbirds are supposed to be territorial, but in winter they seem to move about mob-handed, and there are about eight of them bobbing about the garden, knocking each other off the patch below the feeders where the small birds scatter the seed.

We are coasting towards the end of the calendar year, and we are already in Advent, which is the start of the liturgical year, so it's a good time to be quiet, review and assess things before we make a new start. So I'll be doing just that in the next few posts