Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Were I allowed a single word each day
Perhaps I'd value it.  I'd give it thought
And speak it slowly, as a child is taught
To do.  And then, who knows, each word might say
Precisely what it means.  Instead, I play
With words, use twice as many as I ought
And get intoxicated by the sport
Of badinage.  How proudly I display
What I term 'my vocabulary'.  Yet
A word cannot be owned.  It is absurd
To cast around and catch them in my net,
And use them carelessly so sense is blurred.
In search of high-flown phrases I forget
Creation started with a single word.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

No boundaries . . .

You're probably far more knowledgeable about Togo than I was  . . .  until a recent encounter with an African priest,  I'm ashamed to say that my knowledge was woefully limited.  Now, as a citizen of a once-colonising nation, I feel suitably chastened.

My new friend, who came from Togo, was very proud of his country, and asked me if I knew how his homeland had acquired its name.  May I share the story he told me.

At the end of the First World War, large swathes of Central Africa were apportioned to the conquering European nations.
How did they decide which piece of land they would acquire?  It was, it seems, quite simple . . .  a map, a ruler and a pencil were all that was needed to mark out the new boundaries.  There was not the slightest need to actually travel to Africa.

However, the French government, who had acquired the slice of land that was to become Togo, felt it might be appropriate to keep the land's original name.  The only problem being that no-one knew what this name might be.  Visiting the new colony for the first time, a French civil servant approached a local inhabitant and enquired, in French, what the country was called.  The local inhabitant who, not surprisingly, spoke no French, looked at him in puzzlement.  "Togo?", he queried in his native tongue, seeking to find out what it was that this strange-spoken new arrival needed to know.  The civil servant smiled with satisfaction, it had been much easier than he'd anticipated.  'Togo', he wrote in his note-book, the new country was called Togo.

It has been known as Togo ever since . . . the people who lived there being far too polite to correct the stupid mistake.

I thought of this story the other day when looking at Google's wonderful globe.  Watching the world rotate before my eyes, I noticed the countries I'd visited, the boundaries of the countries that I'd never seen.

My gaze travelled downwards and I caught sight of three control points, provided by Google, that I hadn't noticed before.  By clicking on them I had the option to stop or start the world revolving, to choose whether or not to show a grid, and, finally, to opt for a world without borders to the individual countries.
Out of curiosity, I clicked on the option to remove the borders.

Suddenly, the world looked completely different.  The territorial and political element had been removed  Our globe had become one entity, a single entity dominated by the elements.

And this, I realised, is true.  Man-made boundaries divide us, but the weather unites us . . . the weather is universal.

Just look at the way the dramatic January weather has brought the nations together and emphasised our unity.  Here, in the UK, we sympathise with the blazing heat in Australia and, at the same time, the Australians express concern for our unprecedented floods.  Across the Atlantic, as the ice and snow plunge further south than ever before, the rest of the world unites in sending messages of condolence to the struggling citizens of the United States.

Supremely indifferent to man-made boundaries or economic wellbeing, the climate incorporates and enwraps us all.

But has the Sun, the puppet-master who controls our weather, made a New Year Resolution to show us our true priorities?

As you can read by clicking here,  Richard Harrison, head of space physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, tells us that the Sun's activity is inexplicably falling faster than at any time in the past ten thousand years.  A lack of activity that could result in the Northern Hemisphere experiencing similar icy conditions to those last suffered in the seventeenth century . . . frozen scenes familiar to us from the paintings of that period.

A lethargic Sun?  That doesn't fit our usual concept of the fiery body that brings life to the planet.  Does this mean that we, too, might be skating on the Thames in the not too distant future?

Who knows  . . .  it's just as well that we can't take a map, a ruler and a pencil  and lay claim to a share of the sunshine!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How do you feel about angels?

How do you feel about angels?

I'm sorry . . . that was an unexpected question.  It's also a question that's difficult to answer.  Had I asked you how you felt about something simple, like the weather, I'm sure you'd have been happy to tell me.  But, when it comes to angels, you and I, and everyone else, hesitate and grow cautious.

How do we feel about angels . . . ?
We have paintings and statues of angels in our churches, we embody them in art ('The Angel of the North' being the most recent example), and if anyone is particularly kind and helpful we call them 'an angel'.  But do we consider real angels to be a part of our working world . . . or do we look upon them as religious icons, much-loved creatures of fiction?

It's a difficult one.  What's more, if we do accept them as reality, things can get even more difficult.
We've grown accustomed to the concept of multiple forms of electronic communication swirling unseen through our living rooms.  But to accept contemporary angels would mean acknowledging an even more powerful, invisible energy into our lives.
A Biblical angel, safely trapped in stories and stained glass,  is uncontentious . . . a present-day angel is quite a different matter.

Yet, wouldn't you agree that, by and large, we do believe in angels?  We might fumble and mumble, but this belief runs deep.
Let me speak personally.

When I was a small child I had an imaginary friend.  This wasn't surprising, many only children have imaginary friends.  My friend, so I told my parents, was called Gelaveny, and they accepted this new arrival unquestioningly.
She was frequently referred to, came with us on outings, and always had her place at the table.  Her name may have been a little unusual, but there was nothing strange in the way she settled into our family circle.

It wasn't until much later, when I was in my teens, that a thought struck me.  A toddler would have found it hard to say the word 'Angel', what if Gelaveny was a small child's attempt to say 'Angel Aveny' . . . or 'Angel Avening'?
What if Gelaveny wasn't my imaginary friend, but my Guardian Angel?

So, I admit it, I've been fascinated by angels all my life.  But this letter has been prompted by an angelic encounter that's left me totally bemused.  May I share it with you?

For the past six years or more, I've been taking a series of on-line courses on various subjects.  Courses that have attracted students from all over the world and have been extremely well-run, informative and beneficial.  Without exception, they have enriched my life and I owe them a great deal.

A few weeks ago, one of the networks that I've grown to trust and admire offered a course on 'Higher Guidance Training - Accessing Deep Wisdom'.  The Higher Guidance referred to could take the form of your divine essence, your soul, or your Guardian Angel.
I thought of Gelaveny . . . and enrolled.

The course has now been running for a month. Its original premise . . . that, whatever we may say to the contrary, most of us are reluctant to seek Higher Guidance for fear of being asked to do something we don't want to do . . . rang true.
The training has been practical, helpful and down to earth.  Working individually, within groups, and with partners, we have been guided and instructed.

Last week, after careful preparation, we were told that we were ready to make contact.  We had been given ways of discerning whether we were indulging in wishful thinking, and shown ways of testing any response we might receive for its authenticity.  We were advised to take our time and, when it felt right, to try out the techniques that we'd been given.  Nonetheless, a few days later, hoping to contact Gelaveny, I must admit to feeling sceptical.

Listening to the guided meditation, I followed the instructions.  It proved to be a deeply moving experience and, more to the point, an experience which left me with the strong conviction that contact with a higher level had been established.

But, by the following evening, nagging doubts had crept back in.  Was I fooling myself . . . had I really been talking to an angel?
However, sitting there on the sofa, I had a strong sense of Gelaveny behind my right shoulder.  More surprisingly, I felt I was being urged to get up and go to my computer, I was receiving the distinct message that an important email had just arrived.  A little startled at this unexpected development, I didn't want to get up.  It was comfortable on the sofa.  Nonetheless, if I were to test this experiment it was only fair to do what I'd been asked.

I rose to my feet and switched on the computer . . . one new email appeared in the IN box.  It was an email from the course organisers, an email asking me to complete a survey telling them how I was finding the course, and whether I'd made contact with Higher Guidance!

Whatever you feel about angels . . .  thank you for sharing these thoughts.
Thank you for sharing this story.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

As chosen by Rupert

It was only after Chloe sent the orchid flying off the bureau this Christmas that the penny finally dropped.

Not only had she managed to dislodge the recently-watered orchid (which proceeded to pour wet compost over the carpet), but she'd also sent an ornament crashing to the floor.

Rightly sensing that her actions might not increase her popularity, Chloe recalled a pressing engagement in the kitchen . . . an engagement which demanded her immediate attention.

This, I thought sadly, never happened with Rupert.  In all his eighteen years, he had never broken or dislodged anything.
Where Rupert was careful and agile, Chloe is carefree and clumsy.  In less than four years . . . but, no, it wouldn't be kind to Chloe to itemise all her breakages.

It was Rupert, I'm convinced, who chose Chloe as his successor.
From his vantage point in cat heaven, he spotted the Bengal kitten that was to be Chloe, and knew that she'd be the ideal candidate.  Utterly unlike him in every way, she would ensure that he was never forgotten!

Rupert chose Chloe because, whereas he had always been a serious and sensible young man, she was a beguiling, playful and utterly frivolous, little girl.

 Did Rupert try to manipulate me?  Never!
True, he was the undisputed boss in our partnership, but manipulation was not his style nor his inclination.  Rupert ruled with the gentle, loving, implacable authority of the leader of the pride.
You didn't argue with Rupert.

Rupert chose Chloe because, whilst accepting my authority in theory, she's a strong believer in fighting her corner!
With wide blue eyes gazing reproachfully into mine, she argues each morning that she's bored with free-range chicken . . . that no cat should be expected to eat the same breakfast every day . . . that dragging it out of her  bowl and scattering it all over the floor is exactly what a monotonous diet deserves.

To try telling her that Rupert never questioned his  food, which always remained tidily in his bowl, would be useless.
"More fool he!" would be Chloe's robust response . . .  adding that a conscientious and sustained hunger strike, resulting in your anxious Mum cheering up the dreary chicken with some tasty tuna, was far better tactics!

Could a cat argue with more persuasive charm?  I doubt it!
What's more, as Chloe thoroughly enjoys a battle of wills with her long-suffering Mum . . . rolling beguilingly on her back when she wants to call a truce . . .  such battles are a daily source of entertainment.

One of her favourite points of contention centres on the route we take on our walks.  Whereas Rupert would lead me with enjoyment and purpose in search of our common destination, for Chloe the very concept of a destination is a distraction.
She loves the detours, the deviations . . . everything that turns a walk into an unexpected adventure.

What complicates matters is the fact that she's constantly changing her mind.

To capricious Chloe, the route is always flexible . . . shall we go this way?  No, perhaps not today . . . what about that path for a change . . .?

Rupert chose Chloe because of her loving nature and exuberant sociability.
As a one-woman cat himself, he clearly thought that my friends would appreciate the novelty of meeting an extrovert who took boundless pleasure in being sociable.

He chose a cat who greets each visitor with delight and wide-eyed expectancy . . . repaying all offerings with extravagant gestures of gratitude, and treasuring her growing collection of toys.

But Rupert also chose Chloe because he loved me.
He wanted me to have another devoted, delightful companion.  Not a serious young man this time, but a beguiling, exasperating, utterly loveable small girl . . . a small girl who snuggles down lovingly beside me each night, and wakes me by means of an enthusiastic kissing session each morning.

Rupert knew what he was doing . . . thank you, Rupert!