Archive for March, 2022

A Nursery Rhyme for Our Time

The House that Dave inherited

With Thanks to the House that Jack Built

This is The House Dave inherited
This the referendum that Dave prepared
Because of the bogey he utterly feared
That lay in The House Dave inherited

This is Boris the Russian Doll that lies on his side
(Because he can’t do upright)
He won the referendum that Dave prepared
Because of the bogey that was utterly feared
That destroyed the House Dave inherited

In the wreckage of The House
(Inherited by Dave the unbrave)
We can see Boris the Dolly lying on his side
Amidst curtains and carpets and bottle of fizz
Where he lies and lies and lies and lies
Underneath layer after layer 
Doing his thing in that Russian Dolly way
Which is how we came to lose
The House that Dave inherited

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Who’s for Tennis? In the Armchair? Bouncing on Tarmac? Whizzing Across the Lawn?

About to smash the ball…perhaps

Why do we love certain sports? As children we see people playing them and we feel ‘I can do that’ and sometimes we can and sometimes it’s silly to even try.  Nobody in my family played tennis but I was completely entranced by this dotty game from an early age. Alone, in another time-space continuum I watched Rod Laver, Christine Truman and Billy Jean in grimy black and white… glued to a little old box with total fascination. I honed my service alone on the school’s tarmac, and later played endless rallies with those happy to play endless rallies. As a teenager I played in Regent’s Park next to Sean Connery and Ursula Andress. I improved my backhand significantly as an adult and also the serve.  I was not good… but not bad. In middle-age after surgery on the left side I over-compensated with the right arm and my tennis days came to an abrupt twanging end. But I still love it….And so, as I no longer play I have become an armchair tennis player. Now I watch the trajectory of the ball and begin to wonder if others far, far away are reproducing merry cosmic cataclysms in the same way. Somewhere in the further regions of space, divine Olympic forces are pinging white dwarfs and balls of gas around with gay abandon.

But apart from the configurations of the of the ball’s trajectory, I’m entranced by the personalities and the dramas, not to mention the enthusiasm of following one’s own national players. The first time I saw Andy Murray play, when he was little more than a weedy youth, I was captivated by his variety of shot and sheer intelligence; similarly, the first time I saw Emma Raducanu in action I felt the same way. When she competed in the US Open I put £50 on her to win, something I never ever do, and am unlikely to do for a year or two. And now today, after the third round of Indian Wells, when all the English hopes have almost entirely fizzled away, comes Harriet Dart, a face I have hardly ever seen, as fresh as a daisy and brave as a lion and the excitement begins all over again.

It’s a poetic game. The personalities, the arcane rules, the harmony of player and ball and the technique needed to master oneself and one’s opponent will always intrigue.

Better still I have a nephew who is now arguably the best tennis correspondent in the UK so I can even boast about something tennisy, even if my days of playing are gone forever! His name is Simon Briggs. His writing is almost as scrumptious as my own, but I strongly suspect his opening serve is a great deal better.

Not much has changed
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In Bad Times We Have to Be Good… In Praise of the Great Caroline Myss

This is a moment when I fancy a bit of diversion. Last night when I looked at myself in the mirror in candle light, I thought: “Wow I haven’t changed a jot!”… which is vanity par excellence… tinged with delusion… and dicey eyesight. Such are the silly thoughts that wander through the human mind, when it happily veers away from the unthinkable — the war, its horror and the danger it presents to our world in its entirety… and let’s face it… the unthinkable is here, right now.

I just watched the astonishing Caroline Myss in her blog talking about The Age of the Unthinkable, and by the time I had finished, I felt just a bit naughty, but thankfully not too bad. Even though I have prayed and organised and even contributed to vigils, I have been trying to go elsewhere; let’s face it, we all need a few moments of cheerful distraction. Then I listened to the clear and persuasive voice of Myss, and she pulled me up, as only she can do.

Caroline Myss talks in an intimate, persuasive, slow voice as though she is standing beside you, and it is very compelling. Towards the end of her talk she explains stuff about the Divine, and light and love. Most incredibly she does it in both a poetic and prosaic way, simultaneously, which is astonishing in itself.

In her video blog she views the war and how there is “an ‘allness’ in all this” and she will throw a phrase in, and then expand on it with simplicity and elegance, as she goes on about “the grace of endurance” “the collective heart” that beats together, adding “…we need this part of our collective heart to survive together.”

She closes her blog by encouraging all of us “to pray for the people in Ukraine and Russia… we are all in this together.” She is constantly reminding us of things we think we know. She reminds us of the importance of us all… individually… and she reminds us that the Russian leader is himself a single person… and then she reminds us about her next class. But whatever she says, she has prompted us to take on board that we need to be good, and go on being good, and I love her for saying this.

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The Call for Peace

Last night I attended a powerful vigil addressing the conflict in Ukraine. It took place in Hove Methodist Church, and a great many people attended. People now need to gather to resonate with the sorrow that this war is inflicting… We all feel the pain in so many ways. I read a couple of prayers, but the prayer I had intended to read seemed too strong for that gentle company. Here it is.

A Call for Peace
Sometimes a prayer is a poem; sometimes a poem is a prayer

We need compassion
And we need peace
To kindle kindness

In the glare of war
The heat is cruel
Fire and brimstone rip and burn
Backwards and forwards we go
Goose steps, trench warfare
Arguments, supporters, twisting history
Fine fortunes, fine killing machines
Delivering death to the door

On the street
The talk is of tanks advancing
The sacrifice of self-destruction
Taking innocence with him
A weeping cry of love
Lost in the stuttering racket
Of smoke and sorrow

Because of all this
For century after century
We map-out our demands
We want peace 
Closure of conflict

Let the tanks rust away
Make war a friendly ball game 
Let flowers grow on death’s pathways
We want peace

From our hearts
We ask for glory
Glorious transformation
So that the warmongers relent
The peacemakers are blessed
The casualties are healed
And we have calm

And in our souls
We open up to hope
The warmth and light of goodwill
Perfect peace
Now… and for all time

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