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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

More thoughts about Michael (and Farrah too)

Jelaila Starr's latest video is on the subject of the passing of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, whom she noticed passed within hours of each other last week, Farrah from a long battle with cancer, and Michael from causes yet to be determined. The timing of the video was as always impeccable, coming as it did moments after I watched the video for USA for Africa (the American version of Band Aid) on YouTube. This incredibly moving song features so many talented artists including Michael Jackson and of course Ray Charles, two incredibly gifted individuals, both of whom have now passed, Ray several years ago and Michael of course more recently. The song was co-written by Michael with Lionel Richie and no doubt raised millions of dollars for the Africa appeal.

Jelaila says that it was of course no coincidence that these two chose to depart their physical forms when they did - for more and more people are choosing to leave as we approach the crossover point at 2012. To a lot of women, Farrah Fawcett was the epitome of the 70's glamour girl - the beautiful blonde with the sunny personality, the glittering career and the perfect relationship, only it is never quite the way it seems ... Still, she represented that dream and Michael too represented dreams in his own way - the dream of creativity and self expression - to be able to unleash that raw and untapped potential that exists inside each of us, which many are too afraid to show.

The reason for the outpouring of grief that has followed (and despite my post of a few days ago, I am not totally immune, especially after watching those two videos) has been a huge heart opening for many designed to get people to look at and talk about their own shattered hopes and dreams regarding beauty and creativity.

These are things that I have been thinking about myself of late - now that I have become officially middle aged, I find myself at the crossroads between youth and old age - too young for a lot of things, but too old to hang up my dancing shoes (or walking boots in my case) and start drawing my pension. Nevertheless, I have become aware that there is much I wanted to accomplish in my life that I may not now have the chance to do - I also have certain regrets about the choices I made which have led to perhaps have less choice - if I had followed my intuition and learnt to use a computer in my 20's would I be working in a 9 to 5 office job now rather than a housekeeper? Who knows? If I had made that little bit more effort would my book have been more successful, again who is to say? Nevertheless these were dreams that I had which have not come true, and so you could say that I too have been grieving for the loss of my dreams about beauty and creativity.

Next time you listen to a Michael Jackson song or watch a repeat of Charlie's Angels, see what this brings up for you, the results may be interesting.

Monday, 29 June 2009

The hive mind

On Friday when I get some chips from the van that visits our village every week, I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of bees buzzing around the entrance to the alleyway that runs along the side of our house. After I got home, and we had finished eating, our neighbour rang the doorbell to let us know that a large swarm of bees were building a hive in one of our conifers. The hive had become quite large and in the space of maybe ten minutes, was inhabited by several hundred bees.

Because the alleyway is a public right of way, which people from all over the park use as a short cut, we had to get something done. Initially we wrote out some notices to warn people and posted them at both ends, but ultimately we had to get the bees removed, and so we called in a local pest control firm.

They arrived the following morning, and informed us that they wished to gas these poor creatures (not if we could help it) but could not do so as the bees would start to swarm and it would be too dangerous in such a public place. He contacted a friend who is a beekeeper and works for Surrey Wildlife Trust and asked him to come over to collect the bees safely and add them to his hive.

It was fascinating to watch him at work in his protective gear, gently lifting bits of the hive, bit by bit and placing it on to a special box which the bees eventually filtered into. Both of us agreed that we would much rather pay a bit more for the bees not to be killed, after all, there are less of them about than there used to be, and they do an essential job of spreading pollen from the various flowers that they obtain their nectar from. It became a bit of an attraction as news spread across the park, and we were joined by several inquisitive neighbours who came to watch.

It made me wonder about the reasons why the bees chose our garden, and our space in which to make their home, as according to the Shamanic tradition, all animals have a special significance and meaning, and when they show up in your life, are there to remind you of something. I wondered what this could be and remembered that some years ago I bought a pack of divination cards called The Beasts of Albion, and that the bee was one of these cards, so this morning after I returned from the gym, I looked up what the bee represents.

The book says the following:

"The Bee represents hard work which will eventually prove fruitful. It can mean the ability to communicate ideas, and the need to be kept informed of events. The Bee is able to create order and to organise skills and people, whether in the running of a business or a home. The Bee may also represent understanding and pure intent."

The book goes on to say:

"The Bee's hive is the order of the universe. Inside, the Bee teaches you your own place within this order, and the order within your own life."

This is interesting coming as it does, two days after I received some Theta Healing from our friend who runs the Inner Journey group that we attend each week, whereby I discovered that I do not know what to do with my life and sub consciously believed that I never would. Thanks to his healing, that belief has been reversed so that my body now knows that I shall know what to do with my life. All I have to do now is figure out what that is - if only it were that easy !

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Some thoughts about Michael Jackson

I was as surprised as anyone to hear the news of the death of Michael Jackson yesterday, who was undoubtedly a remarkable and ground breaking artist, yet am somewhat bemused at the outpouring of grief that has followed. I seem to be the only one who has not experienced great sadness and a sense of personal loss, which I must admit, I find quite strange. Of course we have seen this phenomena before when someone famous dies, most famously with Princess Diana, yet it still it seems to me at least, somewhat out of proportion. To be honest, I felt more grief and more shock when I heard about the death of Marvin Gaye, who in his own way was just as iconic. I can still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news, the same as people are now saying that they will always remember where they were and what they were doing when Michael died.

I was never the most ardent of Michael's fan, but I was a fan nevertheless. I still have my original vinyl copies of Off the Wall and Thriller, his best selling albums, and even went to see him once at Milton Keynes Bowl. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I can remember little about the show, other than the crowds and the noise - it was an outdoor arena not far from where my brother and his now ex wife were living, and we were so far back from the stage that we could not see a lot.

So much has been said and written about the man in the 36 hours since the story broke, that there is not much that I can say. It seems ironic though that those who castigated him the most during scandals which rocked his career and saw his popularity plummeting, have been among the first to say what a genius he was and how much he will be missed. Some say that this is par for the course and part of parcel of being a journalist - who are after all not paid to give their personal opinions.

Yes the man was a legend, and yes he was also an enigma, yes he was gentle and misunderstood, and yes he was a genius. He was all of these and a lot more, and yes, his records will now undoubtedly go back to number one. But, try as I might, I do not feel this sense of loss.

When the time comes as it surely will, when Stevie Wonder dies, then I will feel a sense of loss, and then I will be upset, for I feel for Stevie and his music the same way that many it would appear, felt for Michael. Listeners on LBC radio have been phoning in to say that Michael's songs formed a soundtrack for their life, and I can say the same thing with Stevie.

I have wonderful memories of the four concerts of his that I have now been to (I am always the embarrasing one who recognises his songs after the first note and sings along), of dashing out to the record shop on the day his records were released to get my copies and then listening for hours on end. So many special memories of special times. I hope that Stevie has many more years on the planet yet, for the sake of his children as well as fans.

That is the most important thing for Michaels memory right now - that his children be spared the media circus and protected from the public gaze to live as normal a life as possible with those who love them.

The outpourings will no doubt continue for a while (until at least the funeral), so I will simply sit and listen, allowing his fans to honour him in the only way they know how.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Christians fight for the 'right' to burn book

Following on from the religious theme, in America (where else), in the appropriately named town of West Bend, Wisconsin (yes, really!), a group of Christians have filed a legal claim to hold a public book burning. The book in question is Francesca Lia Block's Baby Be-Bop, which the Christians claim is "explicitly vulgar, racial and anti Christian."

Baby Be-Bop, which according to Amazon was first published in the mid 1990's (what took these Christians so long?) is a gay coming of age tale set in the 1950's, in which the main character, a boy who is struggling with his homosexuality, is beaten up by a homophobic gang.

The complaint was lodged by four men from the Christian Civil Liberties Union. In addition to the 'right' to burn the book, they are also claiming $120,000 (£72,000) in compensation for being exposed to the book in a display at West Bend Community Memorial Library. The plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim that their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by the book at the library," and that it contains derogatory language that could "put one's life in possible jeopardy, both adults and children alike."

They claim that the use of words in the book such as "faggot" and "nigger" are derogatory and offensive, permeating violence. I can see their point, but personally believe that it depends on the context in which these words are used. I have not read the book, so cannot really comment, but we have to remember that it is set in the 1950's when the use of such words was commonplace. The author no doubt felt that she had to use them in order to make the book authentic. I also remember the famous Big Brother episode from a few years back (not that I normally watch BB you understand) with Charley and the unfortunate Emily, where Emily (the white girl) was evicted for using the N word, which her black house mates used all the time to describe other members of their race. I was not alone in observing the double standard whereby it was alright for black people to use this word, but not for whites.

This is not of course to say that I think the use of this word is okay, as like I said, it all depends on the context, sometimes, as I suspect is the case with Francesca, you need to use words like this in order to make a point.

The city of West Bend though have to decide whether or not this claim is valid, and their insurers are currently evaluating this. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, acting director of the ALA's office for Intellectual Freedom said "I would be very surprised if they found any merit in this claim. Should they find any, we would certainly support the library in fighting it."

This legal challenge comes in the back of a lengthy campaign by residents, which was finally thrown out at the beginning of June, to restrict access to teenage books deemed sexually explicit from library shelves. Larry Siems, director of PENS said "Obviously we were really pleased with the outcome to that – there was a unanimous vote to keep the books in the library and we thought the matter should be over." Siems added that there seemed to be "a bit of theatre" in this new lawsuit, which had little possibility of going forward. He added "It does seem more to gain publicity than a real serious challenge." But, he said, PEN remained very concerned about the impulse behind the claim. "This is a group of people trying aggressively to rid the library of these books and that's very serious - it needs to be fought."

What are my views on this - I am not a Christian, or member of any organised faith, preferring to go my own way, but I respect the rights of others to follow whatever path they choose - as long as that path does not impinge upon the lives or the rights of others. If it is allowed to continue, then as far as I can see, this court case will impinge upon the lives and the rights of many - especially vulnerable young adults, who thanks to people like these aforementioned Christians, struggle with their own sexuality. When you start to talk about public book burning, it becomes a dangerous game, and makes one wonder where it will all end. Thousands of priceless and irreplaceble texts were destroyed by such bogoted actions at the library in Alexandria, and more recently during the cultural revolution in China.

The main character in this book is attacked and beaten up by a homophobic gang, something which is still all too common in both Britain and the United States (remember that in some countries, homosexuality is still punishable by death). Both a public book burning and these gang attacks are a form of violence by cowards and bullies who are too afraid to look into their own souls and examine why they revile homosexuality so much - in most cases, it is nothing to do with their religious beliefs, but to do with their own fears and insecurities - there is something about what they see as feminine men that they find challenging - men you see, are not supposed to be like this, they are supposed to be macho and strong and not express their feelings, especially not with other men. This I believe is the root cause of this fear, the recognition that their own feminine side is crying out to be seen and acknowledged, and their fear of expressing this and of being seen as vulnerable.

This is a shame, as society needs a generation of men who are able to express both masculine and feminine in equal amounts as we move towards a more balanced and equal state. We need men who have that softer edge to their personality, who are not afraid to express who they truly are. I am fortunate in that my own wonderful partner is one of those men. I have known since the start of our relationship twelve years ago that he was a cross dresser, but this does not make him gay - far from it, as he loves women - in every sense of the word, so much so that he wants to be one!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Two thirds of teenagers do not believe in God

A survey of 1000 teenagers conducted by Penguin Books to mark the anniversary of controversial novel "Killing God" has revealed that two thirds of them do not believe in God. Six out of ten (some 59 percent), believed that religion has a negative impact on the world, stating that family, friends, money and even music, were more important than God.

The survey also revealed that half the teenagers had never prayed, and 16 percent had never been to church.

Kevin Brooks, author of "Killing God" said: "I can't say I am surprised by the teenagers' responses. Part of the reason that I wrote Killing God was that I wanted to explore the personal attitudes of young people today, especially those with troubled lives, towards organised religion and the traditional concept of God."

"How can the moralities of an ancient religion relate to the tragedies and disorders of today's broken world? And why do some people turn to God for help while others take comfort in drugs and alcohol? These are just some of the questions I wanted to consider... and I wasn't looking for answers."

Only three out of 10 teenagers believe in an afterlife and 41 per cent believe that nothing happens to the body after death, but surprisingly one in ten believe in reincarnation.

A Church of England spokesman said: "Many teenagers aren't sure what they believe at that stage of their lives, as is clear from the number who said they don't know whether they believe in God. On the other hand many of these results point to the great spirituality of young people today that the Church is seeking to respond to through new forms of worship alongside tradition ones."

I don't know about other villages, but this is not the case where I live, where the church seems staunchly against anything that goes against traditional teachings. One villager, who has been organising inter faith services for the past year or so, has been banned from advertising them in the village newsletter of which I am editor (not by me I hasten to add, but by the Parochial Church Council), yet these are the most popular and well attended services in our church. Many times I have said to the Rector that if these were better advertised it may act as a springboard to get more attendants at the other services. It is the sort of thing that we need in this day and age, not the staid and humdrum hymn singing and sermons which no one can relate to.

Echoing my own thoughs, Hanne Stinson, Chief Executive of The British Humanist Association, said: "It confirms that young people - like adults - do not need a religion to have positive values. The 'golden rule', which is often claimed by religions as a religious value, is in reality a shared human value - shared by all the major religions and the non-religious and almost every culture - that predates all the major world religions."

Personally I have always found Christians to be quite depressing. One of the questions in this years Religious Studies A'Level which I invigilated a week or so ago was "analyse the concept that religious people live only for death". This was quite a heavy question for 18 year olds, but one that really made me think. It is true that many Christians and devotees of other religions do live their lives in fear of what may or may not happen to them after death, believing that they will face some kind of judgment. No wonder friends of mine who do rescue work deal with so many Catholics!

The pity is that as we create our own reality during life, this is also true after death, and so if this is what you believe, that if you upset or anger your chosen God you will face hell and damnation, then that is exactly what you are likely to create. Hence the fact that the majority of negative near death experiences have been associated with those of a more religious persuasion.

This is not what I believe, but, each to their own. If it makes them happy that is fine. I am not one to judge, but I do not see how it can make anyone happy to go around constantly judging yourself and others as unworthy and as sinners.

The real meaning of sin, as I discovered when writing my own book, Genesis of Man, is to "miss the mark" or to be "off centre", i.e. the acknowledgement that you need to change your ways, not as a form of judgment, but more an observation. The same also applies to the term repentance which translates from the Gnostic "metanoi". This has nothing to do with apologising to God for our misdeeds, real or imagined, but simply means a change of heart, the acknowledgement that our belief patterns no longer serve us, and a change is needed, a shift away from our ego centred view of the world. Sooner or later, we all reach this point. From the results of this survey it is evident that a significant number of teenagers are reaching it earlier than my generation, which is excellent news.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Officallly middle aged!

Today was my birthday - I have reached the grand old age of 44, and with average life expectancy for women at around 88 years, I guess I can say that I am now officially middle aged ! How then did I celebrate - by going to work and mopping up an old lady's accident all over the bathroom floor - lovely !

In between the mopping up, I had to wash (thankfully not by hand) the breakfast dishes and prepare the trolley for morning tea. After that I had to iron the table clothes and napkins, clean the Managers office, the residents lounge and the dining room, and lay the tables for lunch. I then had ten residents rooms to clean, plus four toilets (two for the staff and two for the residents) and one bathroom. I finished all that lot just in time to wash up the dishes from lunch, prepare the afternoon tea trolley and mop the kitchen floor ... So, you could say it has been a busy day.

At least my money worries could soon be at an end. The chef mentioned yesterday that the girl who used to work in the kitchens in the evening, clearing tables and washing up, has left. it is only 2 hours each night from 5pm-7pm, but it is 10 hours a week that I could do with. I do not really want to work seven days a week though, even if it is only for 2 hours each night. So, I spoke to my boss who has agreed that I can work three nights a week next week and see how I feel about taking the job on a permanent basis. They will of course need to advertise for someone else to cover the remaining two nights, but that shouldn't be a problem.

So next week it will be busy, busy again, with a big exam tomorrow and a smaller one (the last one for the season) on Tuesday and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, plus my usual weekend duties. You know what they say though, make hay while the sun shines. The way I look at it, each day that I work there is paying for another night (with food) in Ilfracombe. One month tomorrow and I shall be on my way, and then the fun can really begin.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

My get up and go has gone

I am in a strange place at the moment, not feeling as if I want to do anything at all. This is understandable in many ways, after the last month I have had - rushed off my feet with the demands of two jobs, the village newsletter and various other more personal matters.

There is a distinct lack of energy and get up and go, and I am evidently a little run down, since when I went to give blood the other day, I found for the second time this year that my iron was too low - only a little bit too low, but nonetheless, too low. This is not dangerous, since the levels they demand have to be quite high in order for donors not to get complications afterwards, when their iron levels fall even more. Nevertheless, this has made me reassess the way in which I have been treating my body. My diet has been somewhat erratic of late, with far too much wheat and junk food, none of which contains the nutrients that I need, so this end, I have begun a course of multi vitamins and vitamin C - 1000 mg's a day, which will hopefully boost my immunity. I am also making a concerted effort to exercise more - going to the gym every other day and trying some of the exercise classes on offer.

Things should start to settle down into a more regular routine now the exam season is almost over, but the next worry will be the search for another part time job to replace the exam invigilating. 12 hours a week at the nursing home does not cover my living costs! I have two more exams next week, on Monday and Tuesday, and then it is over until the next lot in November. My boss at the nursing home will be off sick for the next six weeks, following an operation, so there may be some overtime, but long term I do need a second part time job. The right one will no doubt come along.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Everything happens for a reason

A week or so ago I applied for a part time job in the post room of a nearby pensions company which I saw advertised on the Internet. The following day the agency that had posted this vacancy telephoned me to say they would forward my application on to their client. They rang again a day or so later to offer me an interview which would have been today. I had to re-arrange this for tomorrow after I received the exam timetable from the school and realised I had been rostered to invigilate a 2 hour exam this afternoon. Thankfully this was not a problem, with both the agency and their client understanding my predicament and the need to earn money.

I wish now (in some ways) that I kept things as they were and told the school I would be unable to work, as when I got home about half an hour ago, my partner informed me that the agency had rung to say that the interview was now off. It seems that their client interviewed another applicant today that they liked enough to invite back for a second interview, and decided in their wisdom that it would be unfair to continue interviewing other applicants. I am not sure where this idea comes from, since there is no guarantee that this person will do well at their second interview, want the job if offered, or even be any good at it. Still it is their choice and their decision to do this, and I am sure they think it is for the best. I can kind of see the logic therein, but there again, maybe not ...

It is annoying though from my point of view, since I had psyched myself up for the interview tomorrow and read up on the company, not to mention going out of my way to visit the agency this morning with a copy of my passport, when I had 101 other things I needed to do. Yet if I am honest, I did have doubts - if I had got this job I would have been working seven days a week - Monday to Friday 2.30 to 5.30 in this job (the post room) and Saturday and Sunday 8am-2pm at the nursing home. I am not 100 percent sure whether I would be able to handle this. It is true that both are only part time jobs, and 2.30-5.30 is a lot better than most other part time hours, but it would still have been a pain not having a full day off each week. It would have been impossible to go much further than Guildford in the mornings and everything would have had to be meticulously planned (no more lies ins) to make sure I was back in time for work. In retrospect then maybe the job was not for me.

To this end, I have gone ahead and booked those extra three nights at the Laston House Hotel that I said I would do if there was no news re this job by the end of last week. If they change their mind and decide they wish to interview me after all, then they will have to honour this, as time off already arranged. Actually I am glad I rang them, as it turns out that the husband of the couple who run the hotel has recently had a heart attack, and the hotel has been closed for a while. At times like this, they need as much support as they can get. It will also help me, as I can leave my car at the hotel during my time on the island, saving me the cost and hassle of parking in town.

So, my holiday has been brought forward by three days to Wednesday 22nd July. It is good to be travelling a day or so early, as being the busiest weekend of the day, the roads will be busy, necessitating an early start to get to Ilfracombe by 1.30pm to park in time for the 3pm sailing. It should be a good couple of weeks!

As one door opens

As one door closes another opens - Revelations 3:8

When God leads you to the edge of the cliff, trust Him fully and let go. Only one of two things will happen - either He'll catch you when you fall, or He'll teach you how to fly!

Have a blessed day and remember to be a blessing...

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Wing mirror man

There is clearly something in the air at the moment, with me not being seen and noticed, especially with driving, as there seems to be a real increase in idiots on the roads these past few days.

On Tuesday night we had a power cut, and so as it was a such a nice warm evening, my partner and I decided to take a drive to the bottom of the hill to take some photographs of the trees. We were halfway down the winding road that leads to the bottom of the hill when a black Mercedes came speeding towards me in the middle of the road, forcing me to swerve (not funny when there is a sheer drop on the other side). After he had sped away, I moved back out again in order to compensate, probably a little too much. A smaller white car came towards me, also further over than he should have been; there was a loud bang and both of our wing mirrors were gone. We both stopped our cars, and I watched through the rear view mirror as the female companion of the driver of other car came running down the hill towards me with her partner in hot pursuit.

I switched on my hazard lights to warn the other traffic and wound down the window so I could talk to them both. "You have just taken off my wing mirror" he said. I said "well you were a bit far over". "No I wasn't he said, you had at least a foot between you and the edge of the road". Expletives rushed from both their mouths as I sat there in gaped astonishment, trying to control my rising anger. I was not going to sit there and tolerate this kind of language, for a minor accident that was obviously both of our faults, for which there were no injuries and were the costs were too negligible to worry about exchanging details, so I calmly said to them "I am sorry, but you do not get to speak me like", wound up my window and continued on my way, my heart pounding within my chest. I pulled into the next car park at the bottom of the hill to recover my composure, before returning home.

Then yesterday I was driving back from the supermarket, well within the speed limit (I was going 40 in a 50 mph zone) when some idiot came out of a side turning and positioned themselves half out of the turning, half in a turning place in the middle of the road blocking my way forward. If that wasn't bad enough, the idiot behind this person also came half out of the turning, blocking the other half of the road, so I was forced to stop in my tracks. It was a good job I was concentrating (they clearly weren't) as if I had been going much faster it could have been a nasty accident (and I can guess who would have got the blame).

I really do not know what is going on with people at the moment, why there seems to be so much darkness around with such stupid behaviour. It is almost as if I am just not being seen at all. There is just no need to speak to people in the way that "wing mirror man" did, and as for the other two, well, they are both accidents waiting to happen.

Still it could have been a lot worse. At least it was only my wing mirror that got broken, which didn't cost that much to replace. The garage were able to get one in within hours of my ordering it, and one of their men even fitted it for me - proving that there are still some gentlemen out there!