Monthly Archives: November 2009

A little ‘sorry’ clears us

I am not about to apologise for the Iraq war. I was one of those who walked the streets in protest against it at the time. I am not about to apologise for the treatment of queer folk either, I have spoken up for the value of same sex relationships all my life.

I’ve done dreadful things, all right, and for them I am really sorry. We none of us get through life without making a mess here, there and everywhere. We all need forgiveness and to forgive. That is part of being adult. Also part of adult responsibility is speaking up loud and clear against every abuse of power, every instance of evil that we see, when even we see it, as soon as we can speak.

Failing to do so, considering some things more important than truth and love, was in part what landed the Catholic Church in Ireland in such a terrible position, ruining lives – apparently with the spurious aim of protecting the good name of the church. Presumably they thought that a good insurance policy and a ‘sorry’ would, like Lady Macbeth’s ‘little water’ clear them of this deed.

And now legalisation is being brought forward in Uganda to punish, even more severely, sometimes with death, those who are gay and in relationships, and those who even know of these relationships. And the Anglican church in this country is saying: nothing. Nothing at all.

Handicapped by a fear of making things worse, burdened by the guilt of a colonial past, the hierarchy is silent. But silence will not do. Whatever our fears for the present, whatever our guilt for the past, everybody with a voice, high and low, important and barely heard, needs to speak now.

Keep ‘sorry’ for the messes you will not avoid, not as water to wash your hands free of public guilt.


Sensitive liturgists look away

For years, I always knew next Sunday’s reading in the church lectionary. I realise that for many of you reading this, it will not be news that if one is to preach and teach and write based on it, one is well to keep all the rhythms of the readings in mind. What is read this week is well pondered if one might need to speak or write in a fortnight or so.

On occasion I was glad of this sense of flow – sometimes clergy were overwhelmed by misfortunes, or indeed by the impossibility of ferry travel, and I was (I blush to confess it) happy to step up to the plate at very short notice. Indeed on occasion at no notice at all. (Sensitive liturgists should now look away.) I remember one afternoon communion hastily transformed into evensong, and back into a Eucharist just after the sermon, when a disrupted ferry finally delivered a visiting priest very late indeed.

Here, I have really missed all this, so this week’s news made me feel incredibly glad. First of all, the Advent blog is back. If you want regular, if not quite daily, writing and photographs, then drop in on Love Blooms Bright from Sunday. Secondly, a friend now has responsibility for a small magazine, and will likely want me to write for it. There is such a pleasure in once again feeling connected to the church year, not just as a passive observer, but as participant. I hope it is not a sin, because it feels like life itself.

Frustrated wail

Over the last few weeks it had begun to dawn on me something in my more-or-less-spit-new-laptop was not as it should be. It was baulking at tasks, taking far too long to kick into operation. Turns out the hard drive was on the blink and on Wednesday it keeled over and died. Much help from son-in-law-to-be and I got the details I needed and reported the failure of this under-warranty device to HP, who manufactured it. More phone calls, more ‘if it is a gobble-de-gook, choose button five’ and eventually the promise of a new hard drive.

Realisation that I had only backed up some of the stuff I wanted and frantic trips to Kilmarnock to the computer shop, where they did managed to get everything accessible, but at cost of selling me some kind of external drive. I already have one (though had not used it as much as I should have – fear nothing however, the book was fully backed up)

I was promised the HD on Saturday – it arrived late Tuesday, and on putting it in, it returned yet more error messages. Turns out they should also have sent disks with the OS on them. These will now come from France. They will come in two weeks time.

Meanwhile I dragged out my old lap top. It struggles. It has no card reader, so I will need to search for my camera cables – dear knows where I put them! – It really struggles with ebay which I need for present buying. Its keyboard is faulty, and I need to keep checking it has actually delivered the message I typed, which would be easier if I was not dyslexic.

I do realise this is not a proper blog post – it is a frustrated wail. Still, at least now you know.

So apologies and I will post something more interesting and less exasperated tomorrow.

Horror movie

There are some phrases which should never occur out of a horror movie.
‘I have something to tell you’ which usually implies ‘and I think you ought to sit down first.’
‘I want a word’ and even worse ‘I’d just like a wee word.’
‘Can we have a chat?’
‘I feel it my duty to tell you’ (old fashioned but terribly foreboding)
‘I’m afraid that …’ Nothing good ever followed that.

Any of these phrases make me want to hide under the stairs with my fingers in my ears saying: ‘la,la,la.’

So what opening gambit really chills your blood?

Wind hover

Hopkins caught him riding the dawn (in fact, caught her, for he describes the dapppled female). I caught him at sun down, hung up against a red broken sky. I take my hat off to Hopkins, as always. He avoids saying the one obvious thing – which I could never resist. The falcon hangs in the air cruciform, as though riding his brokenness. The link is there in the poem but unspoken. What mastery of the wind is that?

And I take my hat off to Robert Bridges too – such fostering of the greater talent. That is another mastery.

The quality of light.

The days are short, and I push them out to their boundaries. The light starts to die by 3pm. Suddenly the warmth goes out of the sun, and the brilliance from the air. But it is still light. By four you would be well advised to use your car headlights, though you can still see perfectly well at ordinary human speeds. Then the quality of vision changes. Water becomes gun metal, glinting and glowering. Trees are figures out of Greek tragedy. The odd last stand of beech leaves fire up against the gloom. The sky, when it is something more than solid flat-roof-lead, rifts and builds up in towers, or glows and transmutes into patchwork. It is still light. Nearly light. I can walk, see the pheasant before it explodes in front of the dogs. The sun is gone now, but you can still see the glow thrown round the earth’s curve. If it is clear, the edges of the landscape are cut out against it. But the pheasants sink back into their holes. I can only see the sheep. Then they, too, begin to fade. But it is still not yet night, not yet, not yet. Then the sky blacks out. If it is clear, there are a few stars, if it is cloudy and there is a moon, then there is still light. No stars? No moon, even hidden? That is real dark.

… if winter comes…

Each winter, early, some acts of faith take place. Today two. The broad beans were planted. Polly and Cassie went to the tup. That used to be difficult – catching sheep, loading them into a vehicle, and saying good bye, until summoned to catch them again, and re-load them. This latter usually took place on the least convenient day and in the most impossible weather. If there was a day when sleet was horizontal, and driven in a force eight wind, that would be the day for wandering a vast hillside rattling a bucket, and shouting :’Polly! Polleeee!’ Every sheep would run from me until at last two valiant little figures would come hurtling towards me and the bucket (especially the bucket.)

Here it was breathtakingly simple. Catch Polly, mark both sheep with the painless orange spray just behind the head, giving a general impression of fierce coloured highlights, and walk them out of my gate and straight through the shepherd’s field gate – all of five yards. Now they are just over the fence, where I can keep an eye on them while they wait for the sudden madness which will overtake them and turn the tup into an object of irresistible desire. And when I rattle a bucket, it will be in just two medium sized fields, for a short walk home.

Degrees of home coming

The lunch with a friend well enjoyed. The presents for birthdays deliberated on, purchased, and sweetly singing on the seat beside me, and now the home coming starts. Leaving the motorway. Reaching Galston – that is nearly home. Then the quiet road, and the track, the track. Once I am on the track I can be sure there will not be an accident, I won’t be a car sandwich as on the horrible occasion in the spring. Then the first gate. There. Shut behind me. This is really safe territory now. Only the friendly neighbours and myself live and move and have our being here. Then the bumpy track. Can I spot an owl? Oh I know that old ewe. Look, the barn owl, that’s the male. Then the second gate. There are the lights of Killie – let each one stand for a friendly soul. A pony calls out to me in the dark. Another answers him – will she feed us, do you think? Then the door, the room. Home. Really truly home.

Save as

I am slowly working my way through a revision of the biography. Each chapter in turn goes into a new folder. Each in turn is re named – 3 or 4 or 5 finished. It makes me feel quite wobbly.


‘It’s time to stop thinking about the children. They are with their father,’ he said, ‘It’s time to think about yourself, and about us, this relationship.’ But the overweight young woman in Matalan was buying teddy bears.