on talking to Dad in the kitchen

This morning I was pottering around the house, cleaning this, tidying that and all the while the radio was playing in the background.  Mostly I was tuned out to the songs but suddenly one came through clearly. This song is about the Living Years and the lyrics are all about the regret you feel when the people you love are not there any more for you to talk to.  ‘I just wish I could have told them, in the living years’ a line that will resonate with me forever.

Suddenly, hands in the sink, the sun glinting across the kitchen window and the washing blowing in the breeze, I could hear myself chatting to my Dad.  What a conversation we had.  I told him all about the ups and downs of the politics of this country, we talked of fairness and of hope for the future.  I told him all about his great Granddaughter, and how she is the light of our lives, I talked about my sons, how much I had missed his wisdom while they were growing.  I explained about my daughter, soon off again on her travels and about how much the world had changed since he was last in it. I told him about my husband, and how he has the same calm and gentle manner that I loved in Dad. I told him about making my home in a town he had never visited and how I had found good and loving friends here.  I made him smile with tales of family gatherings and made myself sad that we have missed so much fun together.

We remembered the tough times of my growing years, when I would rebel and fight for freedom, and I thanked him for being constant, for the lessons he taught me, they have informed my life. Dad didn’t say much but I knew he was smiling and nodding, except for the bits about the politics, I think he frowned a lot then.  It was a two way chat, the like of which I don’t ever remember having before.  Eventually I stopped talking, the sink was still full of pots and the washing was still blowing in the wind.  Yet something had changed.  I felt a peaceful connection to the past and a real hope for the future.

So if you do actually have someone to talk to in these living years of ours please do so. You see my Dad and I did chat a lot, but so much has happened since last we sat side by side putting the world to rights there is so much more to talk about.  It was great this morning chatting in the kitchen to my funny, clever and wise Dad, who would do anything for his family, who shared his politics and talked more sense than anyone else I have ever met.

Use these living years wisely folks, grab life, love life and talk to all the important people as much as you can when and wherever you can.  There is nothing more precious than that.

on the politics of hope

This blog could easily have been written about a movement coming together to enable change at the highest level in a political party and in a way that is exactly what this blog will be about. This blog is about Hope.

I have written here often about embracing change, about seizing the day, about trusting in yourself and the universe to deliver what is necessary.  It matters.

Hope is a word that has been much used in the recent campaign and also in the media.  To live without hope is to live with despair.  For each of the people struggling with illness, with sadness, with bereavement and with poverty, hope is the only thing left.  Hope for a decent life, hope to be treated with dignity and care, hope that the world will understand and support us all, hope is political, hope is universal, hope is all of our responsibilities.

What does this small word really mean? The dictionary is a good place to start.  The Oxford English gives us three definitions

A feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen: A person or thing that may help or save someone: Grounds for believing that something good may happen:

All accurate, all true, this is what the word hope means. Yet I think it is so much more. Hope is the light in a dark place.  Hope is the flicker in the heart that encourages it to keep beating.  Hope is the opposite of despair. Hope is what makes us keep on keeping on.

Of the three definitions it is the last one that speaks to me.  Hope is ‘grounds for believing that something good may happen’.  In other words, hope is action  Hope is the mechanism for beginning to trust the world around us, and hope is tangible.  This means it is always possible to create hope.  Even in a desperate world hope can be offered.  A helping hand, a smile and acceptance of each other as one and the same.

So, in a week when undoubtedly the press will implode with reasons not to be happy, when we will see ever more people struggling and dying who we know could help, when the politics are personal and the individual is lost, it is vital that we remember hope.

Hope is the person who gave a pair of boots so that a refugee may wear them and walk on with dry feet. Hope is the smile between those who recognise their bond. Hope is powerful and can and does change lives forever.

My hope is that changes over the weekend will give a voice of hope in a place where we have had little evidence of standing up for the hopeless.  I hope that those in need of help will be given the help they need and will come through the darkness.

Writing this I am remembering a poem that has stayed with me for a long time. In this poem  Sheenagh Pugh says exactly how hope can be and this has been a source of comfort to me many times.

Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse.  Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen:  may it happen for you.

If we remember that Hope is action, then each of us can play our part and create hope within our own world.  Today we can do that, and we should.

on being human in a sometimes inhumane world

I think it has been three weeks since I first saw the film on the news about the camp in Calais. In that time the people there have been on my mind in a way I cannot remember ever before. I was particularly taken with a young man, I think he was fifteen years of age.  All alone with no family around him he was surviving until the day he could get to the place where people knew him.  As he stood outside his tent, I was overtaken with passion to help. This boy was the same as my boys once were.  He needed someone to care for him and help him.

I pondered, I talked endlessly to my family, to my friends.  All were sympathetic and were trying to understand why I was so taken with this human tragedy happening just over the Channel.  I dithered, I wanted to collect equipment for the camp but I didn’t know where to start.  I trawled the internet and found people helping, this gave me hope.  I still did nothing.

Then this week and another news reel, this time it was a photo which once seen was never going to be unseen.  Another boy, not yet grown lying in the waves on the shore.  His journey had ended.  Again I cried, and cried, but crying doesn’t help anyone.  This time other people were ringing me, wondering what we can do. I still did nothing.

Enough was enough I had to do something so that night I made plans to travel to Greece to do whatever it took to help.  By morning I had reconsidered, I was being selfish.  The money spent getting me there would help many more people if used another way.  I was still doing nothing.

Talking with a friend who was involved in gathering supplies for Calais in another town, made my mind up, this I could do.  So, three weeks later than I should have, I did something.  In the twenty four hours since setting up a group we have had donations and promises of more, we are in touch with others who have vans, who can get things to where they need to be.  It felt good to be acting not talking. Turning up at strangers homes watching as they filled the car with blankets, with coats, with shoes, encouraging words, good luck!  I hope it helps! I realised something, we really are all in this together. For every negative word there is a positive, and seeing strangers giving with gladness filled my heart with hope.

What we are doing is a tiny drop in a massive ocean, but there are many more drops also doing the same.  If someone who is cold gets a blanket, someone who is hungry gets fed and if someone who believed no one cares, feels looked after, then that is enough.

We cannot all solve everything alone.  Together however we are mighty powerful.  Together we can change some of the world and reach out to those who need help.

There is much to do in this world.  Governments need to be held to account, arms need to be replaced with love and peace.  Money must not be worshipped at the cost of humanity.

The boy in Calais, the boy on the beach, the families clustered at ports, the people at railway stations scared, frightened, clinging to their babies, holding each others hands,they are at once all our sons, our daughters, our brothers and sisters, they are our global family. No matter what governments say, no matter what the cynical press print, we are human and we can help, and we will.