Saturday, 28 November 2015


Those of you who read this blog regularly will know I quite like writing poetry.

Beginning to share my writing here was something of a leap of faith - putting something of myself into the public domain (even if I knew it was to a fairly sympathetic audience). I was really pleased to be able to share what I had written beyond just me and a very immediate audience, but nervous too.

Now I have taken the next step.

Several of my recent poems have been inspired by my work at St Chad's Sanctuary. Others naturally link in to my experiences there. So I have collected some together and created a short poetry book. Well, book might be a bit of an exaggeration, more of a pamphlet I guess.

I'm selling them to raise money for St Chad's Sanctuary.

I can definitely acknowledge a thrill in seeing them in print. The arrival of boxes of my "published" (albeit self-published) work was very exciting. I am pleased with how they look, have appreciated the positive feedback, and am guarding against (hopefully) any adverse effects on my ego!

But it is a bit more complicated, because for the first time (I don't count primary school crafts and the like!) I am daring to ask people to part with money in exchange for my creative efforts. And who am I to say my work is worth paying for? It takes a degree of confidence I only partly have to make that assertion.

I do want them to sell though, and it is ultimately the knowledge that all the proceeds will go to a very good cause which I deeply believe in which gives me the confidence to invite people to buy them. It is after all a donation to something worthwhile and if someone appreciates what they get in return, so much the better.

PS ... This is in no way intended as a sales pitch, just my usual rambling reflections on how I'm feeling about my latest venture.

Monday, 23 November 2015

A time for saying no

We have now been at Carrs Lane for well over two years and I think it is safe to say we have learned a lot along the way. There have been predictable challenges and unexpected ones; there have been lessons we have learned relatively easily and those which have been much harder to get to grips with.

One of the things we have continuously struggled with as we have tried to establish our rhythm of life here has been the right amount of busy-ness. To know when it is right to say yes, and when it is necessary to say no. It is a balance we know we haven't always got right: There is so much to do. So much of it is good. 

Expectations we place on ourselves, balanced against the expectations we sense from others. The things we know we could easily give up but which we really value balanced against the things we don't particularly enjoy but over which we feel we have little choice. The pressures of the little things we forget to take into account when planning out what we can fit in. The endless juggling of the many different building blocks which make for a fulfilled life.

All lived in the knowledge that we all have a breaking point and while it may be fine to tip towards it, going through it is not recommended. Like all the other lessons we have learned and are continuing to learn though, this one too needs to be taken seriously, and, two years in, it is one towards which I feel we are making some progress. We are beginning to make more space. Together, and individually, we are learning to value rest as part of our contribution to community too.

This is the context in which, at half-term, instead of ploughing on regardless or catching up on all the jobs that inevitably build up, we decided to just say no. To leave the undone undone and to just go away, right away. Away from endless emails and the distractions of the detritus of life. Away to cups of tea, walks in the countryside and an open-fire. Three weeks back into another busy term, the value of those days, the value of stopping, still holds firm.

Maybe it is an inevitable reality of this life we have chosen that we will always be close to the limits of how much we can handle. Even though it is exhausting at times, I love it this way. Life is rich and full and varied, and much of it I would never want to change.

We are still walking the tightrope but perhaps this year, we are closer to falling off on the right side.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

I'm sorry I do not know your name

Names are important. They are the words by which we make sense of the world. They are tied up in history, and religion, and culture. They are how we create and receive our identity, or identities. They enable relationship. They are given as a gift from those who love us most.

Anonymity can be important too. A place to hide from who we really are or from who others think we may be. A freedom to express something the identifiable self cannot or will not say. An escape from a reality too painful or too constrained to contain who we have become.

One of theblogposts I wrote during the summer included references to the “Sudanese male” who died in the channel tunnel. There have been others before and since, both here and at every other stage on this arduous journey. There are exceptions, but most, like him, have remained unknown and unnamed.

I was struck at the time by this absence of a distinguishable, personal identity. It was so different from my relationship with the asylum seekers I know: real people, with not just names, but families and histories, with fears and hopes and dreams.

And yet I knew I could not challenge his anonymity by revealing theirs. When I have written about them, I have also concealed their identities behind a protective veil of anonymity. But there is a difference, I think (hope) because they have taken ownership of their anonymity. But his is an anonymity that has been imposed rather than chosen.  It is not the anonymity of protection, but the anonymity of being ignored.

Maybe he would have wanted it this way. I doubt anyone tried to find out. We will never know.

There is a place
A safer space
In the protection of a promise
Anonymity can choose its name
And each can opt
To not be known
To hide
From all they are and cannot be

But what of you
Was this your choice?
To remain forever
Unnamed, unknown

Or were you victim of a system
In which
No-one tried to learn your name

And would you choose that once
Just once,
A friendly voice might whisper

Your name

Was it far from here, and long ago
That someone
The promise of an identity
Inscribed in love
With all you are and hope to be

This the gift
Of those you knew
Left far behind
To wonder
Where are you now

Who’ll never know your final fate
A better way
That they might live with this
The hope you dared to share
That you might find
A better place
A safer space

 The protective veil
Through which one day
You might just dare
To whisper once again

Your name

The promise of an identity
Inscribed in love
With all you are and hope to be

In the midst of this,
Our nation’s shame
I’m sorry
That I do not know
And cannot speak
Not even once

Your name.