Resurfacing once more on 50 plus 1…

Image result for 51

A couple of years ago I set up a page called ’50 things for 50 years’. It was to be a list of things that I would try and do in the year before I was 50 and in the year after I was 50.

I’m 51 today: the challenge has ended. To be honest, it never really started; I only managed a few items on the list: I changed job/vocation, read a book I really wanted to, acted in a serious play…and that was about it. Something that was not on the original list was having a massive 50th party with a friend where we invited loads of people: that was a really good memory- not because it was ‘just so’ but because we just kept inviting and inviting. If I could do it again, I would invite more; I don’t like walls.

I think it was partly because life became a bit more hectic: there was no space to do a whole list of things. Maybe if/when I reach 60, I will try again; our children will be grown and financial outgoings should have lessened.

But I think the real reason was ‘bucket lists’ became less important; as a John Lennon lyric goes ‘Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans’. Those things that happened were lovely, but then again, each day and each moment were potentially also as well.

I think at the end what most of us remember are ‘Normal’ things: family life, friends, holidays etc, but mostly those moments where nothing seemed to happen:

‘and our ordinary afternoons

where nothing is apparent

apart from the sky’s subtle palette

and the sound of

our children’s skins, growing’

(Stewart Henderson ‘Prayer of Aspiration’ (part))

When I composed the list I used a quote from Douglas Coupland’s ‘Generation X’: ‘Purchased experiences don’t count’. They don’t; time passes and life is lived- hopefully well.

And there are always birthdays to mark the passing.

Sunday poetry

I am using this today from the excellent Stewart Henderson. When people tell me they don’t believe in God, what they describe bears almost no relation to what I experience:-

You walk too free for us,

for we are dying here, comfortably,

and in control


What we fear in you, is that

you are too tender for the game;

we did not start out this way,

we were once rosy in warm shawls

but on our way

to becoming immaculate

we realised that everything

has to be in it’s place,

and that’s why we put you in yours.


We do not like the way you gasp

at the rhododendron’s fire,

at your cherishing of useless animals;

it attracts too many of the gullible


We’ve even begun to copy you

as a means of reducing your effect;

it doesn’t sound the same when

we say it,

but our salons are crammed with

everyone, bar the wise


Still, we’ve contained you,

and not even the slight song

from out beyond the marshes

will rattle the perfumed locks

of our counterfeit kingdom


Some of us really do want to know

your secret

but we can’t break ranks, you see,

it’s not encouraged.

Being right has it’s drawbacks,

it’s the cross we have to bear.




(It is taken from ‘Limited Edition’- 2nd hand copies still available on Amazon!)

Don’t miss Christmas

I used this, appropriately credited, in a school just before Christmas. I got them to do ‘the beat’ while I did it. I also changed Game Boy/ Mortal Kombat for the audience. I like how you can really accentuate some words in this. If I was forced at gunpoint to name a favourite poet, it would be Stewart Henderson ( or maybe!). You can find this in ‘Limited Edition’….which is available at all the usual outlets…

Don’t miss Christmas whilst yearning for the snow,

And planning deft manoeuvres towards the mistletoe.
The turkey turning golden as the sprouts begin to steam,
The pudding glazed with brandy and smashed on double cream.

Don’t miss Christmas as mince pies singe your tongue,
And you scowl behind your port at decorations badly hung.
Where strange relations gather like a loud annoying swarm,
When the fat log spit and crackle but the homeless can’t keep warm.

Don’t miss Christmas, beware the muddled shelves,
Displaying Game Boy reindeer, destroying Santa’s elves.
Whilst Mortal Kombat shepherds chase dragons through the town,
The three kings never showed, their helicopter’s been shot down.

Don’t miss Christmas, absorb the silent night,
And watch the fragile Saviour arrive from heaven’s height.
As in the holy darkness, a virgin strains, then cries,
God’s helpless, breathing icon, appears with Mary’s sighs.

Don’t miss Christmas, the splendour of it all,
Our brittle, gift-wrapped anthem, sleeps in a cattle stall.
As the poor and lost and starving, weakly start to sing,
It seems only desperate subjects recognise their King.

In the next few days I will be featuring a few videos that I have been looking at which form part of a new take on ’9 lessons and carols’ that (a) I couldn’t think of the audience for at present (b) I never got round to doing. This is the 8th one of those.

Ee’s not the Messiah part 6

Today, not much prose, but a poem. It’s October half term round these parts and for the past 11 years, even pre kids, I have taken this week off. This poem says a lot about the self imposed stress that we place ourselves under with because we fear to let go or we just can’t stop.

In my very limited exposure to poetry, this poet is my favourite and not only because he writes and tours with Mratyn Joseph.

‘Though I created you to stop,

you have forgotten how to.

And having devised your own calendar

in which everything merges-

like oceans meeting, you are,

at present, afloat

and trading water constantly.


On the surface

nothing much is different,

the waves are unremarkable.

What you believe to be the

distant shoreline

is concealed by mist.

You say to yourself:

‘As soon as the palm trees are in view

I will swim to the fertile coast’.


Yet below your cycling limbs,

opposing currents duel and clash,

and you have not detected this turmoil.

And the undertow is carrying you

but you have not noticed.


And, like the shark,

you will now have to keep moving,

without rest.

You have no option-

the days you have invented

demand it.



while you are moving,

the shoreline

will remain unseen.’


When the urge to control or keep moving pushes me to exhaustion, this poem almost moves me to tears. It is both sharp knife and remedy.

(‘No. 4’ taken from ‘Still facing Autumn’)



Thoughts on spring cleaning:4

Rule 4 of study spring cleaning: regrets I’ve had a lot.

I have never been someone who has disallowed people from having particular music at a funeral. I wonder about the level of pomposity, self-importance and insensitivity that would be be needed to say to people whom you have generally only met once before, are in distress and have invited you to share in that time: ‘Sorry- I know best’.

One piece of music that is very popular but which I don’t think I have ever been asked to include in a funeral service is ‘My Way’. I’m not sure what I would say if someone asked: I could not have that as one of my epitaphs: ‘Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention’. I have lots of regrets and sometimes struggle with the mistakes I have made and hurts I have caused ‘through ignorance, weakness and our own deliberate fault’ (as the liturgy goes).

It is the same cleaning up my study:-

‘the plans we had but couldn’t start,

everything in heaven comes apart’

(Stewart Henderson)

…the half formed schemes, the hare brained plans, the views trenchantly held, the reports written as a substitute for action….. I could go on. Of course there is a lot of good stuff that has stayed, but I’ve never been a fan of braying loudly your acheivements to conceal what hasn’t worked.

That is why I need to tidy from time to time: apart from giving me space it helps me to hold myself to account.

That’s enough tidying for a while: now for a few days of music….

A week of Christmas:4

I don’t ‘do’ poetry much: so two poetry posts in 2 days are rare, nay unique.

The only poet I have knowingly been to see live is Stewart Henderson. I was rivetted: even though it was many years ago, it was an excellent night.I think he is acclaimed as the last of the Liverpool beat poets.

I also ‘nearly’ got him to come to my village hall with Martyn Joseph a few years back. He writes lyrics for Martyn Joseph: what’s not to like?

This is from a longer poem called ‘Don’t miss Christmas’ which is both thoughtful and laugh out loud funny. The last verse:-

‘Don’t miss Christmas-

the magic of it all

our brittle, gift-wrapped anthem

sleeps in a cattle stall

as the poor and lost and starving

weakly start to sing

it seems only desperate subjects

recognise their King.’


what if…… number 11

Monday evening, the Parish Church graveyard. A burial of ashes from a tragic funeral I led a few weeks ago. I’m looking round the graveyard- where I once saw stones, I now see people that I knew or relatives of people I know. I’m thinking a bit more about the poem I used yesterday:-

‘And I look for the resurrection of the dead.

(No more hearses,

or death’s graveyard curses,)

and the life of the world to come.’

I knew this person-suddenly and unexpectedly gone; a family with no vocabulary to cope with what can’t be coped with. Finishing the final prayer and the sun suddenly coming out and the family noticing….. just for a while the mood lifting.

I hope, cry ‘what if’- no more mourning or crying- no more hearses or death’s graveyard curses………

…what if…number 12

I had a full day meeting 2 days ago. Doesn’t that phrase fill you with excitement? No. Thought not.

I don’t like meetings and I don’t fully know why. I think part of it is that if you crack jokes or are surreal, you get looked at (at least I do!). Think it is also as I crave relationship: deep conversations, trivial conversations- meetings don’t often seem to do that. I often think that much more gets sorted out in 20 minutes in the pub than in 2 hours in a church council….. Life seems full of wild colour- meetings seem grey…

….anyway, part of a poem from Stewart Henderson (it is in ‘Still, facing Autumn’- think you can still get it on amazon) that tangentially relates to leadership and some of the things that could happen to make meetings, well, more ‘playful’:-

‘I believe leaders should be servants

and servants should be powerless

I believe all leaders should spend

part of their training

playing on merry-go-rounds

and building sandcastles.

I believe the church should be a refuge,

a swing park, an embrace’

He later says:-

‘I believe in absurdity’

I do as well- it is the only thing that keeps me sane.

ps: as it was, my meeting was chaired well, there was real talking and relationships around the pub dinner table….so not a bad day….

I’m thinking about Grace part 50

‘Only love, only love can leave such a mark.

But only love, only love can heal such a scar’

‘What once was hurt, no longer stings, because Grace makes beauty out of ugly things’

‘And I look for the resurrection of the dead. ( No more hearses, or death’s graveside curses,) and the life of the world to come’ (Stewart Henderson ‘I believe’).

Happy Easter: Christ has risen!