Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Fugue

It bubbles up gurgling with enjoyment,
Encouraging itself forward,
Propelled by enthusiasm.
Atom catches atom
Pulling each other onward,
Unguardedly grasping with shared excitement.
Cascading over rocks boyd by its momentum;
Teasing, caressing, taunting the stubborn surfaces.

And then it...
jumps -
Leaps forward
Arking into the free fall -
Soaring then plunging
Embraced by self.
Summasalting, roaring,
Gouging out halls.
Immersed it remembers,
Hears the call
And turns once more its thoughts to its end.

Slower now - burbling and sighing
Tickling through pebbles and reeds.
Communicating its pleasure in the journey.
Joined by sisters and brothers
The family grows - swells,
Flows powerfully in numbers.
Synchronized in smoothness,
Sleekly pulled by the immense purpose.

Contained, hemmed in,
Controlled but not tamed.
It pushes on ignoring the rude
hindrances to its spread.
More sure now of its approaching goal.
And finally...
It feels its reaching fingers
Entwined in loving tenderness,
Wecomed, absorbed, consumed.

Monday, 23 February 2009


My closest friendships are based on a mutual love of chatting over cups of tea. Chats without tea - not the same. Tea without chats - just wouldn't happen. Tea is as important culturally in modern Britain as it always has been in traditional African culture. The astute visitor to Ethiopia or Sierra Leone is schooled in the essential good manners in accepting the offered hospitality of a drink of coffee or bush tea. A refused drink could cause offense for a generation. But even good friendships in England can be challenged with the refusal of the welcome that is embodied in a cup of tea or coffee. Relationships are cemented in the giving and receiving of hot drinks. Office politics smoothed by the generous offers to make drinks for your colleagues.
Tea, whilst admittedly not healthy to drink in excess, is also at its most charming when flowing freely. Pots seem to improve the tea fourfold, making it more rounded, mellow and fuller. Although here I should advise that to warm the pot is to bless the brew. Caution should also be taken with milk jugs, which tend to flow freely even into the cups that prefer of all things soya milk or even black tea. As I said much to Hebe's amusement, "The problem with jugs is you get carried away".
I will continue my musings on tea soon.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Harbingers of spring

Today feels like spring. The air has a mild freshness to it and the late winter flowers are stretched wide in response to the sunshine. The snowdrops bob around in the breeze and the scent of the winter box ( sarcococa) is heavy in the air. Hellebore flowers open like jewels waiting to be lifted and treasured and everywhere shoots are emerging.

Friday, 20 February 2009


He who bends to himself a joy
Does the winged life detroy;
But he who kisses joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise.

If you trap the moment before it's ripe,
The tears of repentance you'll certainly wipe;
But, if once you let the ripe moment go,
You can never wipe off the tears of woe.

William Blake 1757-1827

Faith and Sexuality

When I was 16 I met a boy who was different. He shone, was kind, exciting and wasn't obsessed with getting in my knickers. A good friendship developed and I was introduced to his church. It was an exciting time, a church plant on a new estate, it had vision and leadership and passion. The people were some of the most happy and inspirational people I had ever met and I wanted to be part of it - belong. So I was confirmed, became a member of the family and a surrogate child to many of the great people who went to the church. However, despite having loved the Jesus of a pictue bible I had as a child, I really thought of him as just that, a hero from a fairy story, a knight in shining armour. So I thought we all knew really that it couldn't be true, but it was nice to believe in.
So you can imagine when times became hard I found solace elsewhere, buried myself in drugs and sex. Going away to university enabled me to hide even better, especially from myself. The church still cared, were worried but stood by me without judgement when I let them close enough.

At the end of my second year of university - I was flunkingout, having a break down - years of coping with my father's mental illness, continual suicide attempts, my own sexual and substance misadventure had taken their toll. I was at the end of hope and failing all my courses due to fact I now found it practically impossible to leave the house or talk to anyone.
One night after another suicidal cry for help from my father - I had had enough. I remembered one key thing from my time in the church - "Ask and you shall be answered, knock and the door shall be opened, seek and you shall find". And so I started shouting- if not screaming at God - If you are real you've got to show yourself or I'm jumping off Clifton suspension Bridge.
In the middle of this tiraid, the whole room filled with light and I could feel a force, that can only be described as a whole stadium of Manchester United Football supporters cheering for me. It was love - the most powerful thing I have ever experienced.
It was the middle of the night - I had on orange tartan pyjamas, scary bed hair - but I pulled on my trainers and ran to the local church through the civilized Clifton streets. Inside the porch I found a bible and read and talked to God??!!
I knew I needed more than experience though and returned on sunday to listen to, of all things, a sermon on reasons for belief. Through support and Alpha - I began to know you could believe through your head and your heart - you didn't need to turn off reason to believe. In fact you could embrace your minds questions and delve deeper.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Uplifted Flight

Vibrant beauty,
Free winged spirit,
Cresting in uplifted flight,
Rising above the hard winter landscape.
My spirit soars with you,
Bound to you.
Held by love.

Bright Meadows

To lie in bright meadows
The damp bed of early summer grasses
Beneath our backs
Reminding us that there can be
Reality within happiness.
Shading our eyes
To search against the sun
For the larks
Singing in beauty,
Suspended in the liquid skies.
Lazy bees bumble over
The carpet of meadow flowers,
Unperturbed by the human form
In their path.
Heavy with golden pollen,
Accepting of the gifts
That we are so mistrustful of.
So let us lie in bright meadows
And be as a bee.

It is her!!

Not only have I found my own muse. I have also found Louis MacNeice's (pictured). Her name was Nancy Coldstream formerly Sharp, laterly Spender, an artist and friend and collaborator with some of the most famous names of 20th Century Britain. (See her portrait of MacNeice at Or search for it at the National Portrait Gallery. She had the most exciting and tragic life - a book and film of her life would be sensational. The world knew that she had lived in it. Fellow artsist Nicolette Devas recalled Nancy Sharp as "a long-legged bouncing girl with a lively intelligence who seemed to carry the zest of her native Bude sea breezes in her blood". Their studio was "a barrack-like place with a glass-domed roof. And there we slept and had parties. We lived in squalor. The beds were like old dog baskets. Our dirty washing and laundry piled up in a corner for weeks.
"The stews were wreathed in fungus and the food rotted in saucepans. The washing up fouled the sink until we washed up in desperation so that we could eat. The mice approved of our way of living and multiplied. We were terribly happy."

She even inspired Auden to consider an affair, despite being gay, he opted instead to remain her lodger.
Read about her and MacNeice in some of the obituary extracts below ( she died in 2001).

"Early in 1936, Auden introduced Nancy Coldstream to Louis MacNeice at the Cafe Royal. That autumn, MacNeice came across Mrs Coldstream pushing her pram back from Hampstead Heath and they stopped and talked. His "black velvet voice" brought to her mind a sentence from Isaiah, "Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire." "I felt cheered, not to say warmed, for the next half-hour," she recalled.
The next January, Auden had MacNeice to supper at the Coldstreams, and after several more meetings - including a visit to Crufts Dog Show - Nancy Coldstream and MacNeice began a passionate affair.
When MacNeice was commissioned to follow in the footsteps of Dr Johnson in the Western Isles, he took Nancy Coldstream with him to provide the illustrations for his book, published as I Crossed The Minch (1938). William Coldstream raised no objection, perhaps having in mind Auden's candid observation that "Louis could be very convenient" keeping Nancy happy, while he got on with his painting.
The romance of the Hebridean trip was tempered by the rain - their beds were so damp that they slept in their greatcoats - and when she later read MacNeice's book she was struck by the grim memories that did not appear. But they delighted in each other's company and even talked of marriage, he promising her a bull mastiff bitch puppy for a wedding present.
As soon as they got home, however, she telephoned MacNeice telling him that she could not leave her husband. The affair nevertheless continued for some 18 months, much to the disgust of the nanny who looked after MacNeice's young son. This woman was besotted with her employer and would start doing the washing-up, with much banging and crashing, whenever MacNeice brought Nancy home for the night. "Louis got in a frenzy and couldn't operate at all, and I got furious," Nancy remembered.
MacNeice later returned to the Hebrides on his own and wrote for Nancy Coldstream the poem Leaving Barra: ". . . you who to me among women/Stand for so much that I wish for,/I thank you, my dear, for the example/Of living like a fugue and moving." He dedicated his new volume of poetry The Earth Compels (1938) to her, and included a powerful tribute in the poem many consider to be his masterpiece, Autumn Journal.
Nancy was beginning to find MacNeice tiresomely importunate and possessive. In the long poem he was working on, Autumn Journal, he included a long and evocative tribute to her. "September has come, it is hers / whose vitality leaps in the autumn," he wrote, but by then Nancy had met and fallen in love with Michael Spender, a scientist and explorer, and the elder brother of the poet Stephen. "The thing about Michael was that he had a foot in two worlds," she said, "which made Louis's world seem more and more claustrophobic." The affair with MacNeice was over, though they remained friends all his life.

On the outbreak of the Second World War, she left her children with her mother and became an ambulance driver, driving her vehicle bravely - if erratically - throughout the Blitz. The Coldstreams were divorced in 1942, and the next year she married Michael Spender, with whom she had a son, Philip. Her husband became a squadron leader in the RAF and an expert in aerial photography, but was killed in an air crash in the last week of the war.

Read the rest of the tale of her exciting life or or

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

She who binds to herself a joy

Hebe introduced me to great blog when we first started to realise we had feelings for each other and decided for the first of many times to try to do the "right" thing and have no contact. Cecilia ( nom de blog) is a pastor in a small town who is in a same sex relationship. She wrote this recently in response to some people's disgust at lesbian love: "But part of sexual identity isn't just who you want to make love with: it's who sparks your soul, who makes you get lost in a conversation until the wee hours of the morning because you can't get enough of their sweet company, who makes you laugh and forget all the terrible things about yourself you walk around believing most of the time. Attraction isn't just physical. It's emotional. It's affectional. (A real word? Who knows?)"
Hebe is this to me -she sparks my soul!
We have come a long way in the last month - finally making a decision to be a couple - not just very good friends that screen!?! I found this hard - not because of what people might think - although that is always a factor - but because being a couple in my mind is about being everything to each other- I had no concept of being this in love and not wanting to spend every minute of the day with that person. Filling the time until I can be with her again. Wanting her to want to be with me as much as I want to be with her - so that I know I am loved. But this is neither realistic or possible for either of us and yet my heart and mind can't make sense of someone loving you this much and not making as much time for you as they possibly can. So I doubt. Doubt myself, doubt her, doubt the relationship. Freak out slightly, test the boundaries, question.
You can imagine how frustrating it has been for her on the other side of the mental impass. She has wanted to feel free and independent since entering into a heterosexual marriage for 16 years after losing the love of her life in a car crash. She has wanted to be the centre of another woman's life - to be loved completely - but has also craved independence and freedom from emotional expectations.
I need to trust her love, enjoy the time we have together and live fully inbetween. I hope she can be patient with me still and gentle in her defense of her independence. Ironically, I am not dependent on her, I am even quite self reliant and blessed with many good friends. But somewhere in me is a self-destruct button, that when I am in a relationship I feel the subliminal need to test it to the limit. Perversely if she wanted much more I may feel pressured and trapped, would probably react by pulling away. WHY ARE WE ARE OWN WORST ENEMIES? WHY DO WE WISH FOR WHAT WE WOULD PROBABLY STRUGGLE WITH IN REALITY?
So I pray for grace, patience and love. May we find a way through insecurity and personal demons and get back to enjoying just being without unrealistic expectaions and doubt.

Monday, 16 February 2009

I Ask the Wind

I ask the wind
It is not that I am loved
But that SHE loves me
And so...

I ask the wind to caress her with the gentlest of breezes.
I ask the sun to bathe her in its comforting warmth.
I ask the moon to adorn the surfaces surrounding her in silver.
I ask them to tell her...
To tell her that I love her
And always will.

My Spirit Calls to You

I lie awake and think of you
Your bubbling beauty.
My body calling to you across
The oblivious ploughed fields and still muddy lanes.
Insistent, perceivably silent, yet shouting still.

The stars undimmed by surburban glow
Shine down in their billions
On the space between,
Illuminating the innocent distance.
Lighting the journey of my spirit's voice
As it calls to you come home to me.
It will be heard and silent it will not be:
Come home to me.


"A Labyrinth is not a maze. There is only one entrance, one path and no choices, tricks or dead ends. A maze is designed to make you lose your way; it is a game. A Labyrinth serves the opposite purpose; it is designed to help you find your way. By encouraging you to walk without having to think about where to go next, it can enable you to be still, to let your mind escape the bustle of everyday life and reflect."
I first encountered Labyrinths at a Cathedral workshop. I find them an inspirational and moving experience. They can be created out of nearly anything, nearly anywhere and used in hundreds of ways. As an teacher I was fascinated by the potential to reach children and help them develop spiritually and emotionally through these sacred spaces.

I am reminded by the poem Leisure by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

So few children now are encouraged to look around them to appreciate the world and their place in it. The 'awe and wonder' children used to experience is often now lacking in their lives. But even the most deprived children when given the opportunity to experience sacred spaces are stimulated.
Some good websites for labyrinths are:
Give them a go!

It is hers.

This is my first blog post. I chose vitality leaps as my address from my favourite poem by Louis MacNeice from Autumn Journal:

September has come, it is hers
Whose vitality leaps in the autumn,
Whose nature prefers
Trees without leaves and a fire in the fire-place;
So I give her this month and the next
Though the whole of my year should be hers who has rendered already
So many of its days intolerable or perplexed
But so many more so happy;
Who has left a scent on my life and left my walls
Dancing over and over with her shadow,
Whose hair is twined in all my waterfalls,
And all of London littered with remembered kisses.