Thursday, 8 March 2018

Homelessness

As people who follow me on Facebook will know I have become troubled by homelessness. I used to be involved in a project in Notting Hill in the mid 1970s that provide some temporary accomodation to homeless people for 30p a night if they had it and sometimes some free food from friendly local restaurants.
 
Since 2010 there has been a huge increase in homelessness as least partially as a result of government policy. I have chatted a bit to homeless people and give the odd pound coin but I am no expert. And yet walking to chapel on Sundays I pass several rough sleepers and I know it aint right.
 
So I financially support Coffee4Craig which works on the streets of Manchester (and elsewhere); I have invested some of my savings with Green Pastures that houses homeless people; and I have just given money to We are Beam that crowd funds for the training of homeless people individually.
My efforts are a drop in the ocean no doubt and what we need is a change in government policy. The obvious solution (as practised in a few cities in the USA) is to house everyone and then see what their problems are since whatever caused them to rough sleep it can only makes things worse over time. Think shortened life and increased mental health issues.
 
So I reckon we need to light a candle rather than curse the darkness

Sunday, 25 February 2018

History One


My paternal Victorian grandfather – Albert – was a master saddle maker turned tent maker. My dad left school at 13 to work for his dad in 1926 and despite wanting to be a forester he ended running his dad business when his dad got ill 5 years later and never escaped. And that was it for him apart from his Second World War service in the navy (But that’s another story). So my mum worked part-time for my dad and my sister worked full time for him after leaving school at 15. I worked for my dad every summer holiday from aged 3 – I have the photos to prove it until I left Uni. My godmother worked part-time as a secretary for my dad in the evenings and on Sunday afternoons. So he worked 7 days a week! I had a few honorary uncles and aunts who worked for my dad and members of their families babysat me and my sister.

 But this wasn’t the life for me especially after passing my 11+ and going to the local grammar school where I wasn’t able to do wood or metal working and my dad would never share his practical skills with me. I felt trapped and desperately wanted to escape and find people to share ideas with.

To escape I choose the hip new world of computer programming – this was in 1968 – and hoped to make a career there. I loved history but did not want to teach it and maths so computers seemed a good choice. I enjoyed figuring out flow charts and algorithms but really hated coding. When I got an NHS job as a computer programmer in London in 1971 I spend 15 months writing coding like: 101.72,78,4. And if the typist misread my figures the programme would not work and a day would be wasted! This was long before personal computers!
 
So I quit moved to Notting Hill Gate and eventually got heavily into therapy. But that’s another story.
 
The point of my story which I seemed to have lost(!) was how I did not feel I belonged in my family – I used to think I was adopted as this would explain things (quite a common fantasy among counsellors apparently). And when I left there was no going back. I have returned for funerals and felt a strong sense of community which I have birth rites to but can’t live in. And living in a fashionable part of Manchester that is forever changing I feel something is lost.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018


Poem for Caroline

 Before

Oh God
What am I going to say
To you
Who are dying?
Words are hopeless
 
I have my presence
Deep breath
My task is to be with you
 
You are going too early
But I feel that way about everyone
Called to their own death
What next?
 
During
 
We sit in silence
Connected by spirit
I sing you a chant
We both know
 
When I speak to you
Your body moves in response
From the depth of your pain and morphine
You know I am with you.
 
After
 
I walk back to the train station
A local man with a fag and a walking stick
Says ‘Cheer up, it may not happen!’
I smile ruefully.

Monday, 1 January 2018

The Boss meets Q his spiritual director once more


The Boss and meets Q his spiritual director once again
-          Hi Q.
-          Hi Boss.
There was a short silence as the Boss relaxed somewhat into the familiar and comfortable ambience provided by Q who waited patiently and alert. The Boss sighed, Q raised an eyebrow but remained silent.
-          The thing is….The thing is, I am still troubled by those close to me having dreadful illnesses – dementia, Parkinson’s, a death by brain cancer and more.
-          Hmm.
-          Yes and, as you know, it troubles me that this happens in our world created by God.
The Boss shifts uncomfortably in his seat.
-          I know, I know, you theologians don’t talk that way anymore… but for an ordinary member of the congregation it is all God’s creation… And it feels so unfair.
-          Hmm.
-          Q stop ‘hmming’ me!
-          OK… I guess you are wanting a response?
-          I am!
-          To be honest I don’t know.
-          Oh for goodness sake!.... Next you will be telling me how mysterious God ways are.
-          True.
-          True but that is b- all use to me!
-          I’ll resist the urge to suggest that being useful to you is one of the meanings of scripture.
-          You better had!
-          OK let’s breath a bit….I now this is very painful for you (The Boss nods.) and for many others…. Can I tell you how I see it?
-          Yes please do.
-          A logical, rational reading of the scriptures and other holy texts only gets us so far. The idea that God has a hidden purpose in somebody’s suffering does not help much as far as I am concerned. I do, however, think that responding to others’ suffering can be valuable to us, as can reflecting on our own suffering. But this does not make sense to me as an explanation of suffering. What does makes sense (At this point the Boss leans forward in anticipation.) is that in moments of deep contemplation these issues do resolve for me; I am then at peace. However, when I return to ordinary consciousness I can’t find the words, the thoughts, the ideas. It’s like water slipping through my fingers. I can’t hold it. All I have is the memory of things making sense.
-          Oh, sighed the Boss.
-          Oh indeed. But perhaps we can invite that level of experiencing, of deep contemplation to happen to us… I know it is hard when we are suffering. Maybe pray for it if you like and then give ourselves some possible opportunities. Whatever seems to work for us.
-          Hmm…. Worth a try.
-          Indeed.

 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Mystic detective goes to Cambridge

Paul was tired; weary; so tired he was beyond sleep; travelling on a slow delayed cross country train back to Manchester. It was dark but at least the Pet Shop Boys were on his I-phone. His trip to Cambridge had been mostly a waste of time but not completely as it had eliminated one area of inquiry relating to Frankie and had also opened up a new one. But so what? The gloomy song Suburbia seemed just right to resonate with Paul’s mood.

Travelling to Cambridge the night before he’d been hopeful. And even the hotel – recommended by Frankie – had not been bad at all. Neither had the restaurant with its camp style and food, and retro feel which added to his enjoyment. As did its name. I mean who in 2020 calls a restaurant Battleship Potemkin?

But the next morning his meeting with James had at first seemed like a right waste of time.
-          James, I’m glad you agreed to meet me.
James shrugged,
-          And to talk to me about him.
-          I’m only doing this for him …
Paul nodded,
-          What can you tell me about his relationship with Julia?
-          She was a right case … a real money grabbing bitch …She pushed him and pushed him … wanted him to get promoted and promoted, when all Frankie wanted was to teach his students. But that’s not where the real money lies. (The last words were almost spat out with – anger, resentment?)
-          So you first got to know him when his marriage was on the rocks?
James nodded,
-          He was so beaten down, sad to see it really.
-          Was that when?
-          When he got busted?
-          Yep.
-          Whose fault was it?
-          At first I thought it was her.
-          His wife?
James nodded,
-          But no it can’t have been.
-          Then who?
-          Can’t tell you.
-          Can’t or wont?
-          More than my life’s worth …Look I am sorry … and Frankie is a great guy but …
-          You know he got thumped last week?
-          Sure, that’s why I am even talking to you.
-          Is there nothing you can tell me?
-          OK... Look all I am going to say is this… Check out the Sons of Gideon.

Friday, 15 September 2017

More mystic detective


Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie was playing in the T Hive where Paul was settling down over a mug of mocha. It took him back to his childhood and his father’s love of Bowie. Music was one place where he and his dad met up. ‘Haven’t heard this song in years and it makes me feel a bit misty and spaced out inside listening to it again,’ said Paul to himself. And memories of being out with his dad in a rowing boat on the River Severn flooded through him. These moments of contact with his dad were precious to Paul – few and far between. Most of the time his dad was kind of absent – lost in some unhealed traumas relating to his army service in Northern Ireland during The Troubles in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

His father had died in 2001 unresolved about his time in the Army despite the relative success of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. And it was as if he had passed on these issues to Paul to figure out. Paul’s own service in the police force had not helped. But somehow working now as a private detective seem to. Sometimes, indeed often, things could be resolved to some extent; not always how his customers wanted it to be but a resolution none the less.

And with regard to his friend Frankie and his recent beating, the question remained: was Frankie in the wrong place at the wrong time or was he a victim of a deliberate hit and if so by who and for what?
-          Did you get a good sight of who attacked you?
Frankie shook his head,
-          It was all over so quick… and it was dark… all I remember is that one of them had a sniffle.
-          Sniffle?
-          Yeah.
-          Broken nose?
-          Maybe.
-          Oh… just remembered one of them had a Welsh accent.
-          Welsh?
-          Yeah and not the sniffler. It was the way he said “Isn’t it?” at the end of a sentence, typical Welsh!
-          Hmm.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

More mystic


It wasn’t like Frankie to be late. He was usually so reliable that he was someone you could set your watch or even mobile phone by. Indeed, why not text or phone call? Paul felt a deep sense of unease as the minutes ticked by as he sat in the T Hive nursing a large cappuccino and gazing wistfully at the luscious cakes at the serving counter. But it was only 10.30 in the morning no time for a cake; maybe an almond croissant …. But where on earth was Frankie?

The door lurched open and a dishevelled Frankie staggered in and sat down clumsily and heavily in the chair next to Paul.
-          Pheeeww!
-          Frankie?
Frankie looked at Paul from a bruised and swollen face.
-          What the fuck happened to you?
-          I dunno  (He shrugged his shoulders and winced)… Well yeah I got the shit beaten out of me last night…. Or rather early morning …. In the town centre… Northern Quarter… near Al Faisal…
-          Who did this to you?
-          It was too quick to get a good look at them.
-          Them?
-          Them. There were two of them… A very professional job… Not enough to leave much damage – a couple of cracked ribs and a pain in the testicles.
Paul winced in empathy.
-          It does sound professional.
Frankie nodded.
-          But why?
-          Why Indeed!