Wednesday, December 27, 2006

annual album appreciation and acknowledgement!

I just got asked to recommend some music and it got me thinking....

I've long had associations with music and times of my life and 2006 for me will undoubtedly be forever linked in my mind with Don McGlashan's album Warm Hand, especially 'I will not let you down' and 'Miracle Sun'.

Since Pete very generously leant me his copy (how did you survive without it so long?) earlier in the year and then since I was given my own copy it's never been out of the cd player for long. It's accompanied me up and down State Highway 1 (both the bits you would and wouldn't pay to see - altho' given I was on Intercity buses I guess I'd paid anyway...) several times, covering almost it's entire length on the North Island - in fact I personally have covered it's entire length on Te Ika o Maui this year! From Cape Reinga to wherever it fizzles out in Wellington.

Whether singing it with Charlotte or alone, with or without the cd, I will not let you down has acquired a certain poinancy over the months - the imagery of burnt bridges behind you and yet not letting people down has a definite resonance for me. Seeing the video for Miracle Sun the first time I thought I recognised many of the places - travelling down through Hokianga Harbour and Waipou Forest with my parents kept bringing jolts of recognition - I knew I'd seen those places before!!! It's been almost three years since I was passing through them with Simon & Susie so whilst they looked familiar in the video it was far more of a vague feeling than the lightning strikes of deja vu I got when I went back to those places a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I had no-one with me to share that 'but that's where...' excitement with, whilst Mum & Dad had heard the cd they'd not seen the footage... should have texted Pete or Charlotte I guess!

As with the album that has many memories of 2005 - KT Tunstall's 'Eye to the telescope' has many Quaker associations - with KT she's a friend of Clea who was on the NYFSG staff with me a couple of years ago and she was raving on to us all about her saying we must buy the album when it came out - cheers Clea! - and then it kind of got stuck in the cd player between me and Mez at Glendevon Road. Warm Hands not only was introduced to me by Pete and as I've said big connection with Charlotte too amongst others but Don is from Mt Eden Meeting in Auckland.

We're back to that Quakers and small world thing again aren't we.....

2004 would probably have to be Bic Runga and Drive - I'm amazed my copy still worked by the time I got back from travelling, and still does - haven't managed to wear it out yet, but not for lack of playing. Again an intro through Quakers - M&Q and Jonathan - however this time no connection (that I know of!) to the artist.

I wonder what 2007 will bring....?

Does that help Sebastian?
Right, lunchbreak over - back to SG stuff, I guess I ought to pack....!

Friday, December 22, 2006

chrimble card

Well having received shares in several hundred school dinners this year instead of cards I decided to go for a goat! (Well I am a Capricorn after all) I'm sure the school dinners in question have no overcooked cabbage, bakewell tart or bright pink custard you can stand a spoon up in, not to mention spam fritters and tapioca pudding but even so there is a part of me that still recoils at the memories of such things... but here is your christmas card!

In theory I will find time amidst the Summer Gathering stuff to send round by email the ubiquitous end of year epistle, however don't hold your breath, it may well end up being closer to my birthday than that of the little girl Robert Louis Stevenson gave his birthday to =)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

gathering together

Suddenly it is starting feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel, or at least we're approaching the end of one lot of to do lists anyway as Summer Gathering draws closer. Of course there's another long list of things to do once it starts, or even the day before it; but gradually the empty boxes on timetables are filling up with sessions, facilitators and helpers, negotiations over 10 minutes to get the children from their homegroup chores to their sign in session have been had and the poor guy at the Postshop finally managed to add me on a as a signatory to the bank account despite the system repeatedly crashing on him!

At times it has felt like there have been a very small handful of us holding the planning of this event together and burn-out has hovered on the horizon. It reminded me very much of WGYF, and the sinking feeling that we had at one point where the number of people who were turning up for meetings seemed to be dwindling fast and it felt like more and more was being done by fewer and fewer.

However then, as well as now, we weren't really alone - there were others getting their heads around sessions if not dealing with the frontline logistics. Remembering how it had felt and how in the end everything fell into place one way or another at WGYF has been a huge help, and having Fran here involved with the planning who had been part of that too and could vouch for it meant I didn't feel like I was being completely naive to suggest that it would come together if it was meant to. Not everything went as originally planned at WGYF and I'm pretty sure a few things at SG will bear little resemblance to our original thinking but I've got faith that it'll work out somehow.

A lesson I found hard to learn years ago is if you need help ask for it, don't feel like you have to do everything yourself. I started off yesterday looking at the timetable for the sessions I'm responsible for... far too many of them still had 'Anna' written in as running them as I'd yet to get help organised. I'm still not that great at asking for help but at least now I know I have to do it and that it's far better to spread the load in terms of my own sanity and others learning experience. The boxes look somewhat better now - my name still appears a few times too often but it's not on it's own... it's coming together, we've asked for help and so far we've got it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

disarming serendipity

Nothing is separate, our loneliness is an illusion.
We share the pains and the confusions,
The joys and peaceful days of all our many, varied selves.

And thus throughout our lives,
Throughout our civilisations, we have stamped
The stain of self and judgement,
Even on those we love the most - and they inevitably pass it on.

Thus have we armed ourselves and others
Against the enemies of ego.

How to disarm ourselves?
Again its simple, but perversely hard:
To understand what's happening and to remain awake against
The sleep of self and custom.

Then shall the weapons of destruction fall
Unnoticed from our mental hands,
And the grace of individual lives
Merge within the glory of the All

Adam Curle 2005

I was looking for something else, as you do, and found the FWCC Asia West Pacific Section newlsetter, unopened on the desk, with this poem on the front. It connected for me with several conversations had over the last few days about judgements of others and ourselves, the impossibility of truly understanding someones actions (or lack of them) without hearing their 'whys' and the damage we may unwittingly cause due to our lack of understanding or even not wanting to hear. But just how do we 'understand what's happening' when no-one wants to tell us?

Looking through the newsletter I found, as I usually do, many names that are not only familiar but are attached to well loved faces - what got me really excited though was finding Aletia's blog site mentioned - woo hoo! Aletia is one of the QUNO Geneva interns working on disarmament - there's that word again...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

what a difference a year makes

Fran and I were just sitting talking about what a full on year it had been when Marion rang up about Summer Gathering planning stuff and Bridie and Fran G turned up to drop off a dvd and collect a bag...

It just kind of summed up how much has changed since this time last year! And three things happening at once was just typical.

Bridie and I only met at the last Summer Gathering and now the idea of us not seeing each other for the next month and a half feels just plain wrong - I'm so used to her popping in every few days (or every few hours some days!) for a cuppa and a chat. It's going to feel odd for both of us - just as well we've got phones!

Fran and I had just been saying how so many of the Young Friends who will be at SG this time we have got to know so much better in the last year and would automatically hang about with, whereas last year it took a hefty chunk of the gathering to feel like we were maybe just about part of YF things still. I really am going to have to accept I'm falling out of the top of that group now though even though I am in the process of applying for an 18+ id card to prove my age (given I don't have a drivers licence and I've been id'd 2 out of the last 3 times I've tried to buy wine in a supermarket!). However it feels like some pretty strong bridges have been made across the age range in the last year and friendships made that don't rely on me being an actual YF. After all I'm easily old enough to be Bridie's mum...

Last year the only planning for SG I had to do was working out how to get there and back. This year I'm one of the core team of organisers and am handling the registrations (sound familiar?!) - but at least this time it is all in English!

We've made a conscious effort to get as many people involved with the running of things at the event - partly as a response to last years SG where it was realised that whilst the theme might have been Building Bridges (between our divisions.... yup the same things get recycled here too!) we'd not managed to work on those needed within our own community which felt very divided, altho' some steps had been made (broadening the accepted/percieved YF age range being one of them!). There was a lot of feeling around about 'us and them' between the children, YFs and older adults groups - this year we've shaken the whole thing up and have a much more mixed age focus. Will it work? Well there's one way to find out! But one thing is for sure there'll be a very different feel to SG this year and those of us who've stuck our necks out to make it so are feeling a tad vulnerable but with a certain cavalier attitude of well it's too late to change it now!

It all fits in though with the shift in profile and perception of YFs within the Yearly Meeting this year - after all most of the planners of this SG are YFs. As a group nationally we've become more cohesive with an email list-serve and blogsite aiding and abetting this. We've asked YM to recognise YFs as a 'Meeting' in our own right and now we have to find our way forward as to what that means for us. YFs are beginning to be recognised more as part of things 'now' rather than just the future (which YFs may not hang around Quakers for if not made to feel wanted), and slowly but surely YFs seem to be being recognised for what it is as a diverse group with many skills and levels of involvement within Quakers, most of which is not seen on a Sunday morning.

So much else has changed through the year - as I've said before it's been like living in a soap opera here. So many friendships have blossomed beyond recognition - and for all the things that haven't worked out quite as we'd expected or hoped, as Fran said there have been plenty of good things too and we've both been really lucky (see, I'm not the only one who can do Pollyanna!).

Next year? Blimey, after this year it feels like anything could happen! And it probably will...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

normal service has been resumed!

Aggers on the radio (albeit interupted by adverts), sunshine and cricket... It must be summer =)

I'll just quietly ignore the fact that it is the England winter tour, try to ignore the adverts (mostly for fertilizer, cattle drenching and building supplies!) and resign myself to yet another England collapse in the face of the Aussie attack... thing is the Black Caps aren't doing much better so I can't even console myself with the action going on along the road at the Basin Reserve.

Hey ho, at least I'm not decorating which has been done to the dulcet tones of the TMS commentary team far too often in the past. That pleasure (!?) is still to come....

Monday, December 11, 2006


Ok, before Sarah accuses me again of 'dis-ing Christmas' out here I'd better get this post written to explain, partly prompted also by Kate's post and an article in the New Zealand Insider which arrived in my inbox yesterday.

Some of you will have heard my annual mutterings about Christmas for many years, they started back in 1988 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne when we arrived for Freshers week in late September to find the Local Council started putting up the Christmas lights up the next weekend. It doesn't take that many Sunday afternoons to put them all up (there were apparently so many complaints that they went up a few weeks later in subsequent years). The 2nd year I was there I was working for Age Concern and hearing from many people who couldn't afford it how much they were spending on the childrens' 'Christmas Box' - running into several hundreds of pounds per grand/child. These were people who like me were earning £38 per week plus some Housing Benefit (I'm talking collegues here not clients, altho they were probably doing the same on a State pension!). The children in question probably got far more fun from the wrapping paper and packaging than the hideously expensive toys inside.

I'd reached my late teens and cycnism about the over commercialisation of Christmas had sunk in hard and fast. It's never quite gone away. Coco-cola put Father Christmas into red and white, the toyshops and banks have turned it into a time of increasing debt and maximising their profits rather than goodwill.

When I worked for Garvald, a Steiner organisation in Edinburgh, we learned about the origins of the Christmas festival and it's connection to it's place in the year. Whilst I found much of what Steiner had to say hard to get my head around this made some sense...

Christmas is not a Festival of Christendom only. In ancient Egypt, in the regions we ourselves inhabit, and in Asia thousands and thousands of years before the Christian era we find that a Festival was celebrated on the days now dedicated to the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Now what was the character of this Festival which since time immemorial has been celebrated all over the world on the same days of the year? Wonderful Fire Festivals in the northern and central regions of Europe in ancient times were celebrated among the Celts in Scandinavia, Scotland and England by their priests, the Druids. What were they celebrating? They were celebrating the time when winter draws to its close and spring begins. It is quite true that Christmas falls while it is still winter, but Nature is already heralding a victory which can be a token of hope in anticipation of the victory that will come in spring — a token of confidence, of hope, of faith — to use words which are connected in nearly every language with the Festival of Christmas. There is confidence that the Sun, again in the ascendant, will be victorious over the opposing powers of Nature. The days draw in and draw in, and this shortening of the days seems to us to be an expression of the dying, or rather of the falling asleep of the Nature-forces. The days grow shorter and shorter up to the time when we celebrate the Christmas Festival and when our forefathers also celebrated it, in another form. Then the days begin to draw out again and the light of the Sun celebrates its victory over the darkness. In our age of materialistic thinking this is an event to which we no longer give much consideration.

(Rudolph Steiner, Festivals and their Meanings - Christmas)

Ok, so you've got my cynicism of the commercialisation of Christmas and it's distinct lack of connection to either the early historical meaning of Christmas or to the Christian adaptation of the festival and the symbolism of the light of Christ coming into the darkness of the world (which Steiner has much to say on if you can manage to get through the lecture!) or even the gifts of the Magi - which even my limited biblical knowledge tells me was on Twelth Night/Epiphany not Christmas Day. So why bother with Christmas at all given that the Christian calendar in itself isn't that important to me?

I like the idea of celebrating coming out of the darkness of winter and all the symbolic parallels life has to offer, both secular and spiritual. That makes sense to me and is what I hold on to. To combat in my own small way the commercialism Christmas presents were becoming increasingly ethical/environmentally sound (or books which are practically sacred to me anyway!), cards were homemade or charity ones, virtual presents like 25 trees planted up a Scottish Glen someplace started to join the list and various 'no presents' pacts were made. It was the spending time with friends and family rather than money that mattered, whether that time was spent actually in each other's company or writing/reading letters and cards.

I've yet to find someone here within the Steiner tradition to ask about how they reconcile the close relationship between the cycles of the earth and the festivals here in the southern hemisphere - Christmas is midsummer, St John's tide midwinter, Easter is in the autumn and Michaelmas spring. It's all topsy turvy. What about all the incarnating and excarnating of the earths energies tied up with the festivals? (apologies to those who taught me for that oversimplified statement!) It's all so northern hemisphere orientated.

I understand that for many Kiwis Christmas means BBQs on the beach, family/whanau time, sunshine and pohutukawa trees in blossom, that the European trappings and meanings of Christmas aren't what's important. Great, that's fine by me. Yet so much of the Christmas paraphenalia and imagery around is identical to that of the north - scenes of snowy forests and frost covered windows, reindeer and Victorian carolers - it feels so out of place when you are wandering around in boardies and jandals! (long shorts and flip-flops...). The same Christmas carols are pouring out of the shops sound systems - I mean who here is seriously expecting a White Christmas? If the snowman is bringing the snow then something has gone very wrong indeed (and 'Batmobile has lost his wheel on State Highway 1' doesn't quite fit the tune...)

Stuffing yourself with lots of rich food midwinter makes sense historically, it was a way to survive the cold and that fattened pig needed killing and salting down as food to feed it was running out etc. etc. It's one thing to have a traditions hanging over in a place where once upon a time they made sense on a practical level but when it's at completely the wrong time of year? When the early settlers came here from Europe they must have had the same needs with regard to food as their compatriots who remained behind, so it must have played havoc with farming practices to have birds and pigs fattened up for both the winter and Christmas. Maybe in the warmer climates it wasn't so much of an issue but in the likes of Invercargill and Dunedin winter really means winter!

This year like Kate I'm not doing Christmas cards as such, presents are more where there's something specific I want to give someone rather finding something to give to those on a list, Christmas is mainly a prompt to get organised to do it - as it is with writing to friends and family. Although as some of you will have noticed by now I'm not organised yet!

So, mutterings over... but I'm hoping Fran is planning another 'sproutfest' midwinter to balance the year out again.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

home sweet home

I don't know that I've been quite so glad to get home again for a while, but Monday nearly finished me off - breakfast in Auckland, lunch in Wellington and tea in Christchurch. Remind me not to try that one again won't you?

But I'm home now even though it doesn't quite look or feel like it in many ways. Yet again I came home to a houseful of people, furniture in different places, the kitchen cupboards anybodies guess and a distinct feeling of disorientation after almost a fortnight on the move and no sense of what day it is... Thankfully many of the places I've stayed over the last 2 weeks are well familiar and comfortably homelike to me in themselves, I know where to find the kettle and I get treated like one of the family rather than a guest. The difference for some of the time being that I had my parents with me which was somewhat disorientating in itself - I'm not used to spending as much time as that with them let alone them being in this country! However they too are now back home comparing the wind and rain in Galloway to that of Wellington.

It was a good holiday - but I'm glad to be back and not to be going anywhere again in a hurry.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Josh Phillips

Thanks to Alice for passing the world around about the sad news that Josh Phillips died a few days ago as a result of bike accident.

Josh and I were overseers of YFCC together (these days YFGM) in the early 90's. I have many memories of his guitar playing (thanks for the intro to Tom Petty Josh!), that patchwork coat, those piercing eyes behind a floppy fringe. Being far away from my old photos I can't sit and pour through them and end up grasping around in the depths of my memory for names long forgotten even though the faces remain familiar.

Josh was one of the gentle giants of life - and at the time I knew him one of the heartbreakers with it, but I'll spare the blushes of those concerned though!

It's hard to believe he's gone. It's been so many years now since I saw him that not seeing him will just feel like our paths somehow just haven't crossed again yet.

My thoughts are with Rach and the rest of his family, and with all those who knew and will miss Josh.

Gonna free fall out into nothin
Gonna leave this world for a while

And I'm free, free fallin
Yeah I'm free, free fallin

Tom Petty