Tuesday, August 29, 2006

touching base

...but only for a few days, and a mad crazy few days at that - so far I've managed to double book myself three times (but as Premises Cttee got shifted so it clashed with Elders & Overseers that one is hardly my fault!), not bad considering I've been back less than 24hrs.... this is what happens when my brain fogs up with a cold...

I'm going to have to watch it, each time I've come back from Auckland this year I've brought back a cold - Marion is going to start veto-ing future trips if I'm not careful. Oh well at least I'm not projectile vomiting as poor wee Benjamin was whilst I was up there. He put me to shame though - he sat and took the accupuncturists needles no bother whatsoever, hardly batted an eyelid, whereas I was squirming in my seat just watching. Hmmm, I'm not feeling that ill though that I'm prepared to try it myself - I'll stick to honey, lemon, ginger, echineacea etc. I got a bottle of Green Ginger wine for hot toddys (sadly not Crabbies) in the supermarket this afternon and got id'd, I mean come on what's that about? I know Marion jokes about me looking 12 (common consensus is about 25) but really I ask you?! Luckily I still had my passport in my bag having flown Qantas yesterday and they require photo id, I'm not usually in the habit of taking my passport to New World!

Anyway I'm supposed to be writing a report for Premises Committee not blogging so best get that done, but before I do... big news came in today Anna Levin & Rob had a baby boy Joe last Thursday (24th Aug) weighing in at 8lbs 10.5 oz - I'm sooo chuffed for them, all very exciting. I really am going to have a lot of new faces to catch up with at some point, these friends of mine who keep having babies... ah well lets me off the hook a bit longer, no danger of us dying out yet =)

Monday, August 21, 2006

this is a repeat of an earlier broadcast...

.. normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Well once I stop trying to get to YF diners in 3 cities in one week and other such madness.

I'm off to a workshop in Christchurch with Elizabeth Duke on travelling in the ministry amongst other things which seems more than a little appropriate.

Anyway got to go, got to serve up one more breakfast and then get a plane...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

WGYF - a year on....

"I sing for joy at the work of your hands,
Forever I'll love you, forever I'll stand
Nothing compares to the promise I have in you."

Even just typing that brings a lump to my throat and the tears are welling up as I remember the last morning at WGYF singing that song holding hands between Eleni and Thomas. We'd done it, it was almost over... at least the Lancaster part was.

WGYF Lancaster 2005 started a year ago today. Well the event officially did, it's conception was 5 years earlier. Even in terms of us gathering in Lancaster a good number of us had started arriving 5 days beforehand; to set up, produce nametags, allocate rooms (yet again...). put together welcome packs and the signage we needed and an inordinate amount of other tasks that seemed to multiply each time we turned our back on the list for 5 minutes.

Whilst in no way could I describe WGYF as 'my baby' having come in on the act just 18 months before it happened it was very much my life from that point onwards. I felt at times as though my life didn't really exist beyond it and I really valued the times spent sitting on the floor playing with my godson and his little brother or reading them bedtime stories to remind me that there was another world out there! However I don't think I could have done it any differently - being WGYF administrator wasn't so much a job as a vocation, a way of life, good preparation for becoming a Resident Friend....

Many participants have spoken about WGYF being a life-changing event, for many of us on the various planning committees it was as much the process as the event itself that had the impact. I have no doubt whatsoever that the line in the mission statement about creating the next generation of Quaker leaders (in whatever sense you wish to interpret that) will come to bear fruit. I think of the difficulties we overcame (and those we didn't) and the way they were handled; the skills developed in clerking, eldership (in the liberal tradition sense of the word), pastoral care; translation; working together on committees under extreme pressure and over vast geographical distances; fundraising; the report, preparation material and grant application writing. The practical lessons we learned in terms of large event planning and management; the spiritual lessons learned in terms of discerning (sorry simon!) a way forward again, and again, and again....

I recently came across John's photos from the Kenya WGYF (pages and pages of wedding photos and then up pops a rhino!), seeing the familiar faces of the Lancaster participants there and knowing that the spirit of the the gathering was passed on through them was something really special. Each time I see [wgyf] in the subject line of my inbox I know too that the community we created has continued.

We have been there for each other through marriages and deaths, natural and human disasters, celebrations of life and shared our fears for the future. We have shared our experiences, our hopes and dreams. We've networked, arranged to visit physically and 'meet' virtually.

I know too that our reporting back has touched the lives of others, the way it has affected the life choices of many of us and the way we've lived our lives and made decisions since has also reached many others. WGYF was always about more than just those of us who got to Lancaster for those 9 days, it was about Quakers around the world being brought together, being united in seeking unity with and acceptance from each other regardless of our many and varied differences.

Was it a success? Can we justify the vast expense? These questions have been asked many times in many places, maybe it's too soon to tell, but maybe it's not....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Trespassers W....

"Christopher Robin said you couldn't be called Trespassers W, and Piglet said yes you could , because his grandfather was, and it was short for Trespassers Will, which was short for Trespassers William. And his grandfather had two names in case he lost one - Trespassers after an uncle, and William after Trespassers."
(from Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne)

Ever played word association games? Well the quote above barged into my head whilst thinking about a sign that used to be (and probably still is) outside the Salvation Army Hall down the road from where I lived in Edinburgh - Trespassers will be prayed for.

Tangental thinking it may be, as we discussed at Young Friends on Sunday night when looking at Meeting for Worship, ministry and eldership. However that is a tangent and not what this post is about.

The Trespassers bit is.

As is the will be prayed for.

The events in the Middle East have lead to some considerable discussion here - letters and emails have been written not just to the Quakers in Lebanon and heads of State there and in Palestine, but also in Israel letting them know they are being (to use Quaker speak) 'held in the light' whilst a peaceful solution is looked for. After all if you are hoping for a peaceful resolution it needs both sides to come to a place where that is what they want and seek. The 'aggressors' need held in the light as much as the 'victims' as they have to overcome a monumental shift of perspective to drop their current methods and find the courage to put their faith in an alternative which may not produce such instant effects or self gratification.

Invasion of space at any level is very emotive. It is very easy to want to put the shutters up and haul up the drawbridge. It isn't easy to trust that those who have violated your space can be capable of dialogue. It is hard to risk innocent others getting hurt along the way - the stories that have captured the hearts of many around the world and have helped boost public calls for a solution in Lebanon have been those of children bombed and caught in the crossfire, similarly it took children being shot in Britain to bring about enough public pressure to change the gun licencing laws.

But sometimes there isn't anything you can do other than pray for, hold in the light or whatever, those whose determination to achieve their own ends takes little heed of the damage and resentment they may be causing along the way that is likely to backfire on them. Lebanon had been rebuilt after the last round of wars, it had worked hard towards achieving an integrated multifaith community - now a new generation of dissenters has probably been created. Buildings can be replaced, trust is harder to regain.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

think it, do it...

'Think it, do it' became somewhat of a catchphrase when I worked at Garvald (in the one remaining Community House, Natty Cat is obviously still around and much adored by Lesley!). It was one of Catriona's maxims and would result in things like us starting to chop down the tree that blocked the kitchen window about 1/2 hr before our shift ended, reorganising the linen or kitchen cupboards mid tea break, and deciding what the blazes we're off out for coffee instead of battling with someone who just really did not want to do whatever it was we'd planned for them that day. We'd realised that we spent far too much time talking about what we'd like to do/what was bugging us and not enough time doing anything about it because we felt like we 'should' be doing something else at the time.

Ok so some things couldn't wait (well not without more stress than it was worth), but most things could and the difference it made to get something done that had been subtly driving us nuts was well worth the effort involved in doing it. However usually what made doing it possible was we'd do it together - both the staff on shift and whoever we could rope in of the residents (keeping us supplied with cups of tea & coffee and answering the phone for us often being as much help as mucking in!).

Ever since when I've opened a cupboard and my heart has sank as I've thought 'I must get round to dealing with that' as something rolls out across the floor or the door won't quite shut a little voice at the back of my head has been saying 'think it, do it' - I don't always, but when I do that little bit of life feels so much better. And like watching the pennies to save the pounds it's the little things added together that make the bigger difference. I don't have Cat, Heather, Alison or any of the others here to work with me, or Peter or Nicola to answer the phone but considering my current bugbear is one small kitchen cupboard I really should just go and do it rather than blogging about it. I've got half and hour before Meeting for Worship, if Cat & I can cut down a Laburnum tree in that time I can do a cupboard surely?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

guardian angels?

I think the guardian angels Sarah's cards referred to are looking after me at the moment. I can't quite otherwise explain what has become an almost daily occurance since getting back from up north.

I seem to have a distinct lack of presence of mind at the moment. Those who have known me some years will be well acquainted with my regular inability to keep the kitchen calendar and my diary up to date and ne'er the twain shall match, which results from time to time in some interesting double bookings (just where do I get my reputation for being organised from?). Well right now I can read either or both, and if anybody asks I can tell them when I'm supposed to be where but something seems to be short circuiting as I seem totally incapable of relating that to where in the day/week I've actually got to.

But somehow it hasn't mattered. With almost unerring accuracy I've found myself in the right place at the right time through no apparent willful act on my behalf! I've been there to let people into buildings, for expected phonecalls and visitors/B&B guests, something has come along to remind me just in time to head off wherever else I'm supposed to be (altho last night's salsa class was a close call but I still managed to arrive first!). It's quite uncanny.

I'm not intending to push my luck though and rely on this continuing (and I'm hoping this post isn't the equivalent kiss of death to the (cricket) TMS commentators saying someone looks as though they're heading for a century as they then usually lose their wicket the next over...), but meanwhile to whatever/whoever it is looking out for me I'm extremely grateful!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

online, offline....

(written last night!)

I have a love hate relationship with computers - love them when they work and feel like the classic cartoon of 'hit any key' with a mallet when they don't.... so having lost a great long email to Chris McC this morning because the internet siezed up on me yet again, and I'm back in the office because the connection isn't stable enough to trust using the wifi in the house, I'm torn between wishing I knew more about it all so I could fix it myself and just not wanting to go anywhere near it all in case something else goes wrong!

The lengthy email that I lost was written as a result of finding somewhat serendipitously photos of John & Rachel's wedding through someone I don't (..think) I know who'd linked to my photos on Flickr (what was that about Quakers making the world a smaller place again?) I knew their wedding was in July - along with Andy & Sharon, Hazel & whatsisname, Clare & Michael, Cat & Peter and of course Sarah & Karl - the only one I actually got to - and knew therefore it had happened but hadn't quite got my head around exactly when. Great to see the photos of it, and of Mair being bridesmaid and Bri looking smart in Cat & Peter's, anyone got pics of the others I missed by being half way round the world away?! Anyone thinking the names sound familiar it's the WGYF John & Rachel not my brother Jon & Rachel, I'm kind of assuming they'll tell me when they finally set a date...

I also found pictures from Graham of Pardshaw the same way - some of which even have me in them! Ok, so I'm still in my jammies when everyone else looks dressed I know... I keep telling you I don't really do mornings very well.

All exciting stuff this photos online business. Yesterday Alex and I went to the Wellington Flickr group meet up. Basically a rather random bunch of people who all take photos of Wellington - the vast majority of whom were ex-pat Brits. We pondered as to why this was and decided in the end it was probably because we were from the other side of the world that we found it an interesting enough place to photograph (rather than taking it for granted) and didn't have as many hang-ups about looking like a tourist.

When I lived in Edinburgh, a city I think is probably the most beautiful I've ever been to, I hardly ever took photos in the city centre. I just couldn't face looking like a tourist! But when you've bumped into far too many people because they've stopped suddenly mid-pavement to take a picture, seen lives endangered as folk step backwards off a kerb to get a better shot not, to mention overheard some of the inane comments made and questions asked ('what time does the one o'clock gun go off?' being one of my 'favourites'...) the idea of being perceived as 'one of them' rather than a local (...and I've got to live here) has little appeal. Tourists here seem to be a bit more savvy - I could comment on the difference in geographical origin but that could sound somewhat unkind!

Grrrr, lost the connection again, will save into a document and hope I can post this in the morning... just as well the real post still works, got a pile of birthdays to deal with! (Susie have you moved yet?!?)

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I've been catching up on some blog reading having got a bit behind lately - I need to work out how to get a few more RSS feeds to sites sorted as I've been missing some good posts! At least with blogs they don't disappear after week like the radio programmes I keep meaning to listen to.

I've also spent quite a bit of time over the last few days reading back over some of my own early posts, looking back to before I came out here and dipping in and out of the intervening months wondering what picture of me it conveys. Kate has written a few posts about online identities and how people perceive us through our blogs and how much that tallies with the flesh and blood versions of us and the shock of finding people were not always how or even who they seemed to be (couldn't find the post I wanted though when I looked just now but this is on a similar vein!).

I've never really tried to focus this blog on anything inparticular (as those who have been reading for any length of time will know!), it has just been whatever felt like it needed written at the time. I know out there reading this are Mum & Dad (an incentive to use the spellcheck if ever there was one!), one or two other family members, a selection of (F)friends from various parts of my life some of whom have known me many years, others just months and to varying degrees of closeness. There are those I only really know online - like connections picked up post WGYF with other participants I didn't really get to know at the time (well I was kinda busy...) and some people who have come across this blog by accident (if there is such a thing) or through links from friends blogs or the Quaker blogwatch.

Blogs have meant there are those I've kept up with that I probably wouldn't have otherwise, and because of the time I spend reading them I suspect this has been at the expense of writing to others I maybe would have emailed if I'd had more time. It has also strengthened various friendships, sometimes extended them into a realm they probably never would have reached otherwise as through this media we've shared ideas and parts of our lives we wouldn't have thought to otherwise.

I have a quote from Richard Bach's book 'Illusions' as the signature to my emails

"Every person, all the events of your life, are there because you have drawn them there.
What you choose to do with them is up to you."

Blogs I suppose are just another way of drawing us to each other, and what we make of them is up to us.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

wisdom in unexpected places

There are occassions when I wish I had a digital camera rather than a film one - yesterday was one of them.

I'd spent the afternoon reflecting on Sarah's Angel cards that I'd got quite fond of whilst away with her and how I felt like I could really do with one right now, altho' I knew I didn't really need to pick a card to know what it would say. There was that element of needing something from outside my head though to tell me - I may be a fairly intuitive person but I'm also a healthy sceptic of my own ability to be right! In many ways it's back to that distinction between is it 'that still small voice' or wishful thinking?

I understand far better now why Friends have a tradition of 'testing their concerns', of 'Meetings for Clearness' when making big decisions to follow what feels like a spirit led path. Having others prayerfully consider the matter and hold you in the light to discern whether they too feel it is the path for you to take rather than just getting as caught up in the excitement as you might feel would be very grounding and add a sense of validation.

But why the camera? Well as I headed down the road still with this all in my head I saw some graffiti I'd never noticed before on the wall by the Mary Potter Hospice which said in large capitals 'Everything is in it's right place' - who needs Angel Cards?! But I wanted the picture now, not when I finally finish what is a new film - by then the moment will be lost. However the camera in my head works quite well =)

out of sight...

This morning I was in on a skype conference call between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch as we shared games ideas for the Children's sleepovers happening this month in Welly and Chch (so when is Auckland having one Pete?!).

With Kirstin and Seraphine (aged 10 & 9) in on the call along with Pete, Julian and I (plus Xavier contributing 'noises off') it was a bit like having us all back at Summer Gathering again just chatting as if we were in the same room. The idea of webcams came up and us then being able to see each other too, something Mum & Dad have been threatening to provide me with for a while. I mentioned this and said I wasn't sure I was keen on the idea - Julian's comment was 'then you'd have to brush your hair before phoning!' my response was, 'nah, they know me better than to expect that, I would have to tidy up though!'.

Which reminds me, I knew there was something I should be doing this afternoon.... and it's not brushing my hair!