Wednesday 24 December 2014

Still peace (Merry Christmas, even if you're not 'feeling it')

This has been the least Christmassy December of my life.

What I mean is,

I’ve not sung any carols, I’ve not read any gospels, I’ve not seen any small children dressed as sheep and stars. I’ve not lit any candles, opened any advent calendar doors or written any Christmas cards.

And even in a less Jesus-related Christmassy sense, I only had my first mince pies and mulled wine and Christmas shopping outing this week.

I’ve barely paused between working and travelling from place to place. When I have I’ll admit I’ve spent my time in front of a screen, facebooking or watching TV with hubby or this week, with family. I’ve not had many deep conversations, I’ve not really prayed, and I have more questions than ever about what I do or don’t believe running through the back of my mind.

I don’t know what to do with those questions. If I really stopped, I’m not sure what I’d focus on. I think I’d be a bit nervous about what I’d find (or didn’t).

Last year I put together a few evenings of quiet meditation and reflection in the Cornwall House of Prayer. I missed that this year. I think it would have done me good to put everything else aside for an hour or so, to embrace silence and light and darkness and waiting. Having said that to have organised any one more thing this past month would have probably driven me over the edge.

There is a time and a season for everything.

Sunday 7 December 2014


Two weeks ago we were in Paris.

And before it fades from memory and thankfulness, here's a little celebration of exploring, of visiting a dear friend, of open spaces and grandeur, of creativity and sunny balconies and good cheese.

I'd never been to Paris before, I guess I wasn't that fussed about going, and if Heloise had lived in another place then we would have gone there instead. But it is a bit silly to have had a friend there all this time and never visited.

So we went. Penzance to Paris isn't a quick job when you have no car and there's only a limited number of flights leaving from Bristol airport. But after a lot of trains and buses and walking with heavy rucksacks through the dark and rain in Bristol, we got there, and I'm so glad we did.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Something's got to give but what?

I've done some great things lately, like perform poetry in Plymouth and visit a friend in Paris and hang out with some cool older ladies down here in Cornwall.  I have lovely photos to edit and share and poems to scribble down and blog posts I want to write, but no time it seems. And when I do push myself to do everything, I get ill - like last week - when I had to cancel stuff and spend a lot of time in bed. I say that relationships are priority and yet I don't think I've been around for friends.

I can't seem to find the balance, and I'm not really sure how to change things.

So, for now, here's this morning on my walk to the sea, in an attempt to make a better start to the day...

Monday 17 November 2014

Listening to creation (walk from Penzance to Faugan Round)

I went for a walk yesterday. Needed to get outside and breathe November air, and search for a view or too, and blow out the cobwebs as they say. Actually I found quite a lot of cobwebs on my walk, but I'll get to those later :-)

I went to explore, with an aim to find something that had caught my attention on the map. I went to find paths I'd not walked down before. Not having a car has limited how far we can go in terms of travelling around Cornwall but today reminded me again that there's always more to find and to see, right where we are, we've just got to open our eyes wider and dig a little deeper.

I'm sure I've said it before - I think creation has plenty to say to us.  And interestingly nearly all the songs that were sung at a church service I attended this evening mentioned creation or nature in some way - the sun, waves, mountains, etc - all reminding the songwriter of some aspect of the Creator.

So today, as I walked, I tried to listen...

Thursday 13 November 2014

Penzance Writer's Cafe writings

Sometimes I go to the Penzance Writer's cafe meetings. I'd go more, if I wasn't doing a 9-5ish job. There's lots of enthusiastic writers, and coffee and cake. What more could you want? :-)

I did escape from emails and google docs for a couple of hours last week to listen to a Jane Moss from Lapidus speak. I think the idea of writing for wellbeing (which is what Lapidus is about) is interesting and makes a whole lot of sense.

Jane took us through a few writing exercises. It always amazes me how the smallest starting point can unleash so much, and also how much easier it is to write in a space with other writers, with a brief and with a set period of time to do it in.

Thought I'd share a couple of things I wrote -  unpolished, straight from the pen so to speak.

Sunday 9 November 2014

A weekend in Exeter

Last weekend I went to Exeter.

Partly to have a break from Penzance and make the most of taking some annual leave, partly to see my little sister who studies there, partly to catch up with a a few other friends who live there, and partly because I'd never actually been into the city before.

The megabus leaves at 5am from Penzance and cost me £7 to get there. It saved me pennies and meant I had all of Saturday in Exeter (I arrived at 9am), but when my alarm clock went off at 4am - and when I was failing to sleep on the bus - I wasn't sure that saving money was all that worth it!

It was that weekend when the seasons properly changed. Saturday was the warmest start to November on record (or something like that!). My friends, Annah and Mike, have a gorgeous home that properly makes the most of sunshine, I must admit I'm a little jealous, but they've worked very hard to make it so lovely.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Autumn ramblings

There's been lots of poems recently, so thought it was time for a bit of a life-update. Because I still don't really have a clear focus for this blog, haha! But then I'm not a one-thing kind of person.

I have started a photography website, because... well because one day I'd like to be doing more of that in my life, and it's somewhere just to have images and barely any words. It's not looking quite how I'd like it to yet, but it's a work in progress, like me, like many things in life.

I still wonder at what and when and how much to share here. How much to explain? How much to reason? How much to fill in the blanks? Even if I wanted to, I'm not sure I'd know how. Today, I'll just write, and see what comes.

Monday 27 October 2014

All of me

How can I ever thank you enough?

For the way you
cut through the tension that bound my shoulders
that kept my heart closed
and my ears deaf to the truth
- that stopped me moving
even when I heard your call

For the way you
snapped the chains
that kept my feet from dancing
like they were made to

Thursday 23 October 2014

The Grandstand (Happy Independence Day, Zambia!)

Tomorrow is Zambia's 50th anniversary of Independence from British colonial rule.

I lived in Zambia from 1999-2001, aged 12 - 15, at a boarding school where my parents worked.

So here's a poem that sums up quite a bit of my experience there.

The Grandstand

There is a pyramid
In the centralsouthernafrican bush
Disrupting Zambia’s maize field and gum tree patchwork
It stands
Presiding over The Sports Field
That sprints away to the base of the hill with the cross on top
Flanked by tennis courts on the north and swimming pool on the south

Sunday 19 October 2014

No halo

There was no halo -
Like they show
In the paintings

At least
Not revealed to human eyes, most of the time
Momentary mountaintop flashes of glory
But then it was fish and foot-washing and dinner with 'Les miserables'
And maybe it was all a dream?

Sunday 12 October 2014

We are found

And this is like coming home
We stand, sing, dance, drum
Triumphant declarations
of the good works you have done in us
Triumphant -
not because every day is easy
not because everything has worked out ok (just yet)
But because we are marked by a love deeper than deep
And because we’re here
And because we’re alive
And we’re still standing
And even if we’re not we are HELD

Sunday 5 October 2014

On prophets

Below is a passage from one of the books on my list - that's definitely stuck with me. I love the poetic, ponderous way in which Rubem Alves writes - speaks to my soul somehow.  The prophets in the Bible are some of my favourite characters, especially John the Baptist. Something about their wildness and non-conformity and not really fitting in. Standing on the edge, I suppose. Not a comfortable place, but a necessary one. Every community needs a prophetic voice, if they are to grow and move forwards and become all they were intended to be. Prophets speak truth, and prophets get rejected. They see what the culture around them has not yet awakened to. Like Alves describes in his book, creativity and prophesy are often, poetry... Sometimes I can relate to this description below of prophets, and I definitely know people that fit the description. So this is for them :-)

Sunday 28 September 2014

Exploring Cornwall: The Helford Passage

Last weekend my parents came to visit so I took the opportunity to get out and explore a little corner of this end of Cornwall that I've heard about lots but never made it down to.

Helford passage, on the Falmouth side of the Helford River, is not exactly easy to get to or on the way to anywhere, but I think that's part of the attraction.  We drove down tiny windy roads through tiny villages. We parked up on the hill near a lovely view - you can see where the river meets the sea. 

Saturday 27 September 2014


I turned 28 on Wednesday.

Birthdays are always a bit strange: for me a mixture of hope and reflection and celebration and often - to be honest - a bit of loneliness and disappointment. I'm not someone who talks loads about their birthday but still hopes that somehow everyone will remember it, and maybe even plan some magical surprise party... and when it comes to any sort of celebration (always planned by me, in the end)  there's a strange mix of not wanting to be the centre of attention whilst feeling sad if people forget or don't turn up or whatever. I don't think I'm alone in this, I think birthdays are all sorts of strange in different ways for different people.

Monday 22 September 2014

Revolution poem

Thanks to James Norton, Chris Norton and Monica Radwanski for making this :-)

Sunday 21 September 2014

Three years wedded

Last week we celebrated our third wedding anniversary.  Three years since our colourful wedding in Brighton and our honeymoon in West Wittering and Cornwall.

That's three years.
between us—

Three flats and a bungalow
One city, one town and one hill in the middle of nowhere
One car, one moped, several bikes and now no bikes (and no car either)
Two new piercings, four new tattoos and plenty of hairstyles
Three churches and a House of Prayer
Eleven jobs (I think!)
One change of citizenship
Two trips to Portugal
Two caravans in Cornwall that kicked off a move across the country
A lot of tears, difficult conversations, bereavement, anti-depressants, money worries and quite a few cigarettes
A lot of great meals, wine, sex, laughter, hugs, generosity and hitting the dancefloor
Watching series in bed
Learning to be honest
Learning not to fall out for long
Learning to understand each other (a little more, anyways)
Missing old friends
Making new friends
Wondering what the hell we are doing
Wondering where life will take us next
But at least we're in it together
Sad Sundays
Valued visitors
Doubts and questions
Desperate prayers
Thankful prayers
Winks across the room
Holding hands
Being a team
Being a team

Being a team

And I think, that's really the most important thing.

And when I think we've had it quite full on, I think of my parents, who by their third anniversary had lived in rural northern Kenya for two years, returned to England with no money and nowhere to live, discovered they were having twins, who were born prematurely and spent much of their first few months of life in hospital, while my Dad was studying a masters. Geez. ;-)

Tuesday 16 September 2014

My life in books

You might have seen the post on Facebook going round asking you to list ten books that have 'stayed with you'.  After a second friend nominated me I started properly thinking about it, and then started making a list, and then researching authors and titles when I couldn't remember what 'that book' was called.

I read LOADS when I was younger. Monthly trips with Dad to Basingstoke library on a Saturday morning were childhood highlights, and then my sisters and I would spend the afternoon sprawled across sofas, floors and bunkbeds devouring our choices.  The only detention I ever got was for reading a novel in class. Sad but true. Reading taught me to spell, helped me do well at school and taught me quite a lot about American teen culture (among other things, I hope!).

If I liked a book I'd generally read all I could by the same author, which is why I found it very hard to pick just ten books. And why my list includes quite a lot of series. I could be ashamed of my list of books. It does not include many 'classics'. Then again, I've never claimed to have great taste. I just like a good story, really. Also, I haven't read half as many books in the second half of my life. Since I was 14, studies and jobs and a social life have generally replaced reading books and used up my concentration juice.  Now a book has to be quite easy-to-read for me to stick with it, or at least grip me from the beginning, whereas when I was younger I'd rarely ever stop reading a book halfway through (except if it ended up being scary!).

Even as I write this more and more books are popping back into mind (and I wish I had kept a record), I can even picture whereabouts on library shelves they were placed, even if I can't remember the titles or authors. I generally remember the stories though. I can't think of any books I've read more than once, I guess the main draw is wanting to find out what happens, so once I know, I don't really see the point.

So anyways, here's Katrina's list of books she remembers reading  - which I guess makes them all significant in some way, because I'm sure there's tons I don't remember. These are the ones that I've loved, or have inspired me, or I think were written amazingly, or I couldn't put down, or represent certain seasons of my life - you can guess which are which :-)

Vaguely in chronological order...

Famous Five, Mallory Towers and loads of Enid Blyton
Lots by Jacqueline Wilson
Lots by Judy Blume
Adventure series - Willard Price
The Babysitter's club series - Ann M, Martin
Sweet Valley twins series - Francine Pascal
The Street Children of Brazil - Sarah de Carvalho
Little Women and others by Louisa May Alcott
The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
Children of the Voice - Ishmael
The Diary of Ann Frank
BFG then later on 'Boy' and 'Going Solo' - Roald Dahl
The Hiding Place - Corrie Ten Boom
The Surya Trilogy - Jamila Gavin
Zion Chronicles and Zion Covenant series - Bodie Thoene


'The Atonement Child', 'The Last Sin Eater' and various others by Francine Rivers
Red Moon Rising - Pete Greig
Blue like Jazz, Through Painted Deserts and others by Donald Miller
Velvet Elvis - Rob Bell
The Shack - William P. Young
Punk Monk - Andy Freeman & Pete Greig
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khalid Hosseini
The Brothers K - David James Duncan
Dark Star Safari - Paul Theroux
The Irresistible Revolution - Shane Claiborne
The New Conspirators - Tom Sine
'Mukiwa: A white boy in Afric'a and 'When a Crocodile Eats the Sun' - Peter Godwin
On writing - Stephen King
Don't lets go to the dogs tonight - Alexandra Fuller
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and the rest of her autobiographical books - Maya Angelou
The Fifth Figure - Jean Binta Breeze
The Poet, The Warrior,The Prophet - Rubem Alves
Half of a yellow sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
'The Poisonwood Bible', 'Prodigal Summer' and 'The Lacuna' - Barbara Kingsolver
Mountains of the Moon - I J Kay

I'm sure I'll add to this list as I remember more. Funny a lot of them are non-fiction, but they still told stories or I identified strongly with them in some way...

Sunday 14 September 2014

Falmouth (part 2)

I spent another Saturday in Falmouth and found new places to explore...

Death and beauty everywhere
in hiding places
the game finished long ago

History running through rocks
and veins
the past repeats itself
the past is over
some things are best left forgotten
but not buried
perhaps, not even forgotten

But let go
let fly
A proper goodbye
to summer and mourning
autumn is coming
Winter threatens on the wind

I taste your sadness

Only He
is life-giver
He saw your lonely soul there
he would also
have had secret hiding-walking-light-a-fire places
the cracks spell out hope in these
not forgotten

Maybe you would have started talking
And continued until the stars
switched on
and until he disappeared
said he needed to 'talk to his father'
but after
the night was not so full of fear
and the lapping water echoed his laughter

Tuesday 2 September 2014

An August full of weddings

I went to three weddings in August!

Someone said I must be addicted, which I'm not sure is quite the right phrase - it wasn't like I invited myself. Haha. Since marriages have dominated my summer weekends I thought it only fitting to write a bit about them, and to share some photos (of course!), because I enjoyed taking pics at all of them. And I'm quite pleased with how they turned out, if I do say so myself. If you're on Facebook you may have already seen a ton of them!

Chris & Esther, Brighton (well, Hove actually!). I met Chris through the Breaking society at Sussex Uni
Since my own wedding, very nearly three whole years ago (mad!), the nuptial scene has been fairly quiet. There was a flurry of 'young Christian marriages' (someone had to say it) between the ages of 20 and 24 and now things have chilled a bit. So I think I appreciated this year's weddings more than some - hate to say it but 6 or seven in a year can get a bit much... - I KNOW they are a special day but hours of high heels and small talk can be a bit of a killer.  High heels and small talk were involved to some extent in the last three weddings BUT so was plenty of great conversations, dancing, beautiful flowers, good food, colour, beauty and a lot of love.

James & Lily, St Ives Harbour. I met Lily at the House of Prayer, when we visited Cornwall in 2012
Weddings can be quite reflective times, partly they because mark what can be a huge change in two people's lives.  I suppose they are a bit of a goodbye as well as a hello.  Wedding guests are all the people who've played an important role in one of both of the couple's life up until that point.  This was highlighted by the longest-groom's-speech-ever this weekend in which Benny, my 'little brother', thanked the whole world INDIVIDUALLY for how they'd shaped his and his new wife's lives. I'll be honest Benny, after 40 minutes and you hadn't got to your family yet we were nearly downing the remnants of the champagne BUT I also think why not? What a great opportunity to celebrate friendship and family how relationships really can save you.  After the wedding, things may never quite be the same, including other relationships.  I don't think that's right or wrong but I guess it's kind of bound to happen.  There's quite a few people I haven't seen since my wedding.  Not by choice, but more life taking us down different paths.

Ben & Jess, Godalming. My mum went to uni with Benny's parents. So I've know him all his life!

As we enter September I'm still in that reflective place, perhaps because the three weddings represented three major parts of my life. One in Brighton, one in St Ives and one in Godalming (with strong links to the not quite so quaint Basingstoke). One for a University friend, one a Cornish-church friend and one a family friend. Two guys who are like brothers and one girl who was quite instrumental in us moving to Cornwall. I didn't know their partners very well, and no one went to any of the other weddings (even hubby only came to one). So three very different worlds, that haven't really overlapped in my almost 28 years. At this last one, my parents and sisters were there, but also friends from primary school AND (unexpectedly) friends from time spent in Ibiza and Spain a few years ago. All I need now is a Zambian wedding and an Oxford wedding and I'd have pretty much all 'homes' covered!

My main ponderings have been about that whole balance of past, present and future.  I've probably mentioned before how I'm prone to nostalgia. Which I reveals itself in my 'need' to document life—in journal entries, blog posts, photos, boxes of letters and cards.  To me the past is what has shaped us into who we are today, and so I feel it's important to remember it, to look back and learn and be thankful.  Maybe if my past had been horrendous I'd feel differently? Maybe if I had a fixed place I belonged to or 'came from' I wouldn't care so much? I know other people have a very different perspective - that today is what matters.

Mr Q doesn't understand why I value photos and old diaries so much (causing slight tension over the amount of shelf space they take up, haha!).  He doesn't really seem interested in my life before I met him. He's interested in who we are now, today. Which I appreciate is probably wise, without feeling able to totally 'get'. I suppose dwelling on the past doesn't really help you move forwards, so I know I probably have some more letting go to do.  Which scares me, and I'm not quite sure why. Maybe because stories from the past seem more interesting than the current moment, even though I know we look back on things with rose-tinted glasses. Maybe because to me, letting go reduces the value of something, or someone. But perhaps that isn't true either.

I'm considering writing a memoir about my time growing up in Zambia. Partly because I don't want to forget. Maybe once I've done that, I'll feel more able to let go? Is that a good reason to write something?

I don't know. As with many things there probably isn't a wrong or right and it's probably about finding some sort of elusive balance.  Other people might get overly caught up in the future, in worrying or dreaming or making extensive plans (or all three) and missing out on the present in the process.  Then again maybe we need the mixture of historians and prophets and the right-here-right-now-ers.

It's not easy, this BE-ing present in the present. Not at all. I think for me it requires more intentionality rather than drifting along, including being still on purpose, and being OK with who I am and where I am today.

How about you? Where do you find yourself dwelling?

PS I know I went a bit off track but Hooray for the newlyweds, I'm privileged to be/have been a part of their lives :-)

PPS This is my 701st blog post. MAD.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Saturday out in Falmouth

Yesterday we escaped from Penzance for a few hours to go and explore Falmouth a little.  I love the colour and creativity, along with the usual funny contrasts and interesting characters that Cornwall seems to abound in!  It was good to have a change of scene even though we've only been back for a week...  

 Beerwolf Books - the smell of books and beer - and a new, very reasonably priced poetry book. woop.

 Amanzi, a restaurant serving African food.  We had South African lager and Bunny Chow for lunch. mmm.

Monday 11 August 2014

"Sweet Potato" - New favourite song lyrics

We're back in the South West after fun and restful times in Wales and Brighton.

Good things about today: walking along Penzance prom after work, wandering back through Morrab gardens, and listening to Sia all day.  These lyrics are awesome!

 "Sweet Potato"

She cooks you sweet potato
You don't like aubergine
She knows to boil the kettle
When you hum bars from Grease
She senses you are lonely
But still she can't be sure
And so she stands and waits
Stands anticipating

How can she become the psychic that she longs to be to understand you
How can she become the psychic that she longs to be to understand you

He brushes thoroughly
He know she likes fresh breath
He rushes to the station
He waits atop the steps
He's brought with him a mars bar
She will not buy nestle
And later he'll perform
A love-lorn serenade, a trade

How can she become the psychic that she longs to be to understand you
How can she become the psychic that she longs to be to understand you

So give her information to help her fill the holes
Give an ounce of power so he does not feel controlled
Help her to acknowledge the pain that you are in
Give to him a glimpse of that beneath your skin

Now my inner dialogue is heaving with detest
I am a martyr and a victim and I need to be caressed
I hate that you negate me, I'm a ghost at beck and call
I'm falling and placating, and berating myself for staying

I'm a fool
I'm a fool

He greets his stranger meekly
A thing that she accepts
She sees him waiting often
With chocolate on the steps
He senses she is lonely
She's glad they finally met
They take each other's hands
Walk into the sunset

Do you like sweet potato?

Thursday 7 August 2014

Ffald y Brenin

I'm on holiday in Pembrokeshire with my family and we happen to be staying just a few miles from Ffald y Brenin, a Christian house of prayer and retreat centre.  Our friends who built the Cornwall House of Prayer that we were living next to and helping out at were inspired by a trip to this place in the middle of hills and valleys and sheep fields.  It became known after many people had unexpected and profound experiences of God there, and now thousands of people visit.

This morning some of us went over to take a look. It was lovely to be somewhere so peaceful and still; a place set aside for reflection and listening and blessing.  Especially in the sunshine with lots of space to wander and sit outdoors...

This story is not all butterflies and roses
Then again,
Perhaps it is
Delicate wings disguise the struggle they endured
To come into being
The pressure and darkness of the cocoon

Silken petals hide
Thorny stems
Waiting to draw blood
From anyone that gets too close

Beauty and pain
Sunshine and rain
We'll never be the same again

Sorrow and love
flow mingled down
When will my people turn back
Tears the only water
But after a time
We walk from death to life
From lack to plenty
From promises to reality

Thursday 31 July 2014

Port Eliot and the Poetry Army

Last Saturday was just a total GIFT.

A poetry friend from Brighton, (Roy Hutchins) sent out an email about something he was doing at Port Eliot Festival, and did anyone want to get involved?  I did, but thought I wouldn't be able to afford it. But after having such a positive afternoon performing at the Penzance Litfest the week before, Hubby encouraged me to just GO FOR IT.  So I did, and ended up getting a free ticket and a super cheap train. Woo hoo!

I hadn't really heard of Port Eliot before, but it was probably the nicest festival I've been to. Not that I've been to loads, but everything about it was so pleasing on the eye. Set in the grounds of a large stately home, there was a lake, and trees, and green, and bursts of colour and creativity around every corner, and down every winding path. AND it was hot, hot, hot. Nice.

There's a whole lot of history to the festival that I won't go in to, but I believe it started off as a small literary festival, and has since grown! The majority of things going on were literary based, but there was also music, fashion, art, food and more.

I took part in something called the Poetry Army.  12 of us, just gathered on the day, from all over the UK, performed a piece written by Heathcote Williams.  It combined excerpts of poetry from across the ages to demonstrate the power of poetry to bring about change. We performed in the 'Round Room' in the main house - a round room (yes, really) with crazy murals covering the walls, and books carved of wood, and a grand piano! Really cool, and great to hear a wide range of voices representing an even wider range of people who weren't afraid to speak (write) truth.

Words are POWERFUL.

So that was great, and the rest of the day was super lovely.  I hung out with some of the Poetry Army people, and listened to more great poems, like by Salena Godden, and took photographs, and heard beautiful music (like Luke Sital Singh singing stunning songs that filled the stained glass old church building), and felt peaceful and inspired. Like I said, a gift of a day.

Here's some more pics, and some of the parts of poems that were read:

Poetry is like the water that washes the shores
The wind that cleans us
The fire which joins us together
And it lives within us
To make us better people...

Victor Lidio Jara Martinez (not sure which poem this is from)

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.
'We are the Music Makers' - Arthur O'Shaughnessy

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise

I rise. 
From 'Still I Rise' - Maya Angelou