Wonder’s Kiss

Let turmoil cease –
Stand in view–filled
space –
Allow muscles to gentle,
And breathe.
When the mind
and grumbles
with things undone
Press Stop.
When time
nips at the ankles –
brays its passage,
demands its entrance,
remember childhood’s
deaf ears.
For wonder waits to
Kiss your space
with tenderness.

excerpt Awe&Wonder 2023


We decided to take the opportunity to visit Lourdes as we were passing en route to Portugal.  We then found out about Fatima in Portugal which neither of us had ever heard about. Another very important shrine in the Catholic Church.

Millions of people make a pilgrimage to these shrines, both dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. 



The Grotto, Lourdes

The Lourdes apparitions are several Marian apparitions reported in 1858 by Bernadette Soubirous, the 14-year-old daughter of a miller, in the town of Lourdes in southern France.

From 11 February to 16 July 1858, she reported 18 apparitions of “a Lady”. Soubirous described the lady as wearing a white veil and a blue girdle; she had a golden rose on each foot and held a rosary of pearls. After initial skepticism from the local clergy, these claims were eventually declared to be worthy of belief by the Catholic Church after a canonical investigation. The apparition is known as Our Lady of Lourdes.

According to Soubirous, her visions occurred at the grotto of Massabielle, just outside Lourdes. On 16 July 1858, Soubirous visited the grotto for the last time and said: “I have never seen her so beautiful before.”[2][page needed] On 18 January 1862, the local bishop declared: “The Virgin Mary did appear indeed to Bernadette Soubirous.”[3] Soubirous was canonized a saint in 1933 by Pope Pius XI. In 1958, Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Le pèlerinage de Lourdes (“The pilgrimage to Lourdes”) on the 100th anniversary of the apparitions. Pope John Paul II visited Lourdes three times; Pope Benedict XVI visited Lourdes on 15 September 2008 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions.

Imagine a large, expanse of common land with wild flowers, bushes, trees the backdrop of an expanse of stone rising from the ground. A place where animals were pastoured and firewood collected. Here to be discovered, played within by children, was a natural, shallow, grotto (the grotto of Massabielle) with an overhang.  Down it drips water in certain places.  This would have been countryside just outside the town of Lourdes where young teenager Bernadette, lived with her family. Her visions were quickly verified. The spring water from the grotto is believed to possess healing properties . Since 1860 an estimated 200 million people have visited the site. The Roman Catholic church has recognised 69 miraculous healings. The site now supports 3 basilicas, fountains providing Lourdes water.  Masses are held all through the day.  The underground Basilica, completed in 1958 can accommodate 25,000 worshippers.



From the back of the square to the Main Basilica

Our Lady of Fátima (Portuguese: Nossa Senhora de Fátima, pronounced [ˈnɔsɐ sɨˈɲɔɾɐ ðɨ ˈfatimɐ]; formally known as Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Fátima) is a Catholic title of Mary, mother of Jesus, based on the Marian apparitions reported in 1917 by three shepherd children at the Cova da Iria in Fátima, Portugal. The three children were Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto. José Alves Correia da Silva, Bishop of Leiria, declared the events worthy of belief on 13 October 1930.[3]

Pope Pius XII granted a pontifical decree of canonical coronation via the papal bull Celeberrima solemnia towards the venerated image on 25 April 1946. The designated papal legate, Cardinal Benedetto Aloisi Masella, carried out the coronation on 13 May 1946, now permanently enshrined at the Chapel of the Apparitions of Fátima. The same Roman Pontiff also raised the Sanctuary of Fátima to the status of a minor basilica by the apostolic letter Luce superna on 11 November 1954.

The published memoirs of Sister Lúcia in the 1930s revealed two secrets that she claimed came from the Virgin Mary, while the third secret was to be revealed by the Catholic Church in 1960. The controversial events at Fátima gained fame due partly to elements of the secrets, prophecy and eschatological revelations allegedly related to the Second World War and possibly more global wars in the future, particularly the Virgin’s request for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Imagine three primary age shepherd children receiving an apparition becoming known as Our Lady of Fatima, in a tree, whilst guarding the families’ sheep.  The apparition occurred six times, once a month and by the final 70,000 pilgrims joined them at the site. Several huge churches now exist alongside a square half as big again of St Peter’s Square in Rome which will hold a million people. Over 4 million pilgrims visit the town per year.


Lourdes is an enclosed area and for us, walking from our nearby campsite, we had to show an entry card.  The place is rather beautiful beside a river and various things were happening either side of the river as we reached the central part.   We walked past what were the baths where people queued to interact with the Lourdes water. As we visited in May the crowds were not huge, but still many, many people. 

We quickly realised that a group of seated people were those who were sitting in front of the grotto itself.  A queue of people were quietly, reverently, walking forward to touch the wall of the grotto with their left hand, wipe a handkerchief over the water on the rockface, acknowledge the statue of Mary, have a picture taken in front of it and then slowly walk through and leave or sit in silence. 

In Fatima we walked from the car, in the rain, around to the front of the Basilica which seats thousands into the vast open square, so reminiscent of St Peter’s but even bigger.  The whole area of this shrine takes up a quarter of the town.  It is not enclosed.  There was a covered area open at the back in the square and it seemed a mass was being said there constantly. We were interested to find the original tree where the Lady made herself known, unfortunately so many people wanted a personal relic and that tree is deceased.  Another has taken its place!!

We wandered through all these vast expressions of devotion bemused.

  1. We couldn’t help but be touched by the sincere devotion of many of the people we walked amongst.  Some were tourists like us, but so many were here because they needed something that only God could give.
  2. The devotion to Mary was difficult. We felt a misdirection in their faith because for us the continued focus on Mary is difficult to understand.  It appears Mary is as important as Jesus. Could it be because Jesus as expressed in the Catholic Faith has become so transcendent he is difficult to access.  Mary as a mother, can seem more available, more empathetic, and more able to understand their everyday lives. This is a Mary who has been elevated to sit in heaven almost as a fourth person of the trinity sometimes.  The Mary we understand is human, a mother of many children, a believer in her own son, a person who listened to God and humbly gave birth to His son. Surely this tells us more about God than it does about Mary.
  3. The images of Jesus are invariably Jesus on a Cross or during the passion week.  His ascension is in the stages of the cross, but most of the images are his suffering and death.
  4. It was difficult to watch the things people felt necessary to do to gain access to God – lighting candles, saying the rosary, touching the grotto and then touching their heads, the head of a child, wiping their faces. One of the most difficult things to watch was women walking on their knees down a stone pathway in Fatima.  This was in the rain. 
  5. The hope was palpable – would God heal me, deliver me, do something in my life that nothing else can touch? 
  6. We were struck by the numerous ethnicities, ages, people in wheelchairs pushed by armies of volunteers, various diseases on show and hidden, all wanting an encounter with God. 
  7. And God does seem to meet with people.  Maybe not what they wanted or were looking for, but there was thankfulness. In Lourdes, stone plaques declared their thanks in a multitude of languages all over the walls of one of the chuches
  8. The outstanding Lourdes church building for us was the huge underground basilica which would hold 25,000 people. The Fatima church building was the basilica opposite the main dominating basilica which held 20,000. Breathtaking modern art.  It was obvious in all the buildings that no expense had been spared on the buildings, whether 19th century or 20th century.
  9. The church visibly tried to care for the people with masses always available along with confession in any number of languages.
  10. We were also very appreciative of the fact that the Church kept the sanctuaries clear of any commercial activity.

We were moved by the sincerity of devotion of the pilgrims, however, our conviction is that the bible speaks of a God who wants to make Himself known wherever we find ourselves.

The Christ – Glass on light panel


Our beloved van Bertha had a traumatic beginning to our travels.  She had been stolen in January this year, 2023.  Despite all our neighbour’s attempts we could not be woken to the actual moment it happened.  At 7am the next morning they delivered the awful news.  Fortunately Ann, taking some excellent advice, had arranged for a tracker to be installed.  Despite all the thieves’ efforts they failed to find it.  Therefore we retrieved Bertha parked only 2 miles away.  Thieves obviously waiting to see if the van was tracked.

The garage returned her on April 26th – the day we wanted to leave on our travels!!  She required an MOT, so we did that immediately.  Phew, she passed. Then we returned the courtesy car arranged by the insurance company.  Then we packed up Bertha and finally left at 8.30pm that night.  Arriving in Dover we were placed on the next ferry 11.30pm.  We arrived in Calais, and Steve, by now an expert at uncovering wild camping places, set us on course.  It was lovely.

We were hot on route to our friends, Stephen and Mara Klemich in Omegna, Italy.  We arrived on Friday morning, the 28th, around 12.30pm.  We share long distance driving with 2 hours on and 2 hours off.  Despite the lack of sleep we did it only half a day later than intended!

Stephen and Mara have a wonderful gift for hospitality and we snuggled happily into their lakeside property.

On Monday Ann flew from Milan to Dublin via Munich for a writing gig with the WPCU (Week of Prayer for Christian Unity) – a fantastic, beautiful and eclectic mix of people. She returned on the Friday at 3am in the morning owing to the vagaries of delayed flights.

We did the Coronation – watching and praying for the country. Perhaps you were involved in a Street Party or gathering despite the weather. As our Queen often remarked, the rain was her constant companion throughout her reign.

We are now on our way to France, our aim to pick up the Camino de Santiago trail in Southern France and then journey into Spain. Our idea for this adventure is entitled Pilgrimage whilst recognising we will not do all the walking – we are in a van – but pilgrimage is our intention.

We are currently camping in Villecroix on the Italian Riviera.  Yesterday we took the opportunity to visit Monaco – by bus and train. 

The Rough Guide says that Monaco is roughly the size of Hyde Park, and the country is ruled by Prince Albert 11, alongside a government.  The total population is 32,000 of which 6000 are ex pat Brits. 

Built on rock by the sea it is a masterclass in how to cram the maximum amount of property in the minimum of space, both overground and underground. 

First impressions of the large underground train station was an immaculate construction bringing you seamlessly to the surface amongst, if not breathtaking highrise, certainly clever construction, clinging as they do to the rocks.

Everything is perfect. If work is being done, there is meticulous order about it as if nothing unsightly must be in evidence.

The Formula 1 race happens at the end of May and so there was a hive of activity with the construction of stands, safety barriers, press terraces, housing and hosting rooms for the Formula 1 cars, competitors, sponsors and assorted devotees.

Monaco dripped money – the cars, the shops (selling jets, super-yachts, jewellery, Ferrari showroom) – let your imagination run riot. If it was expensive you would be able to buy it in Monaco.

We visited the Monte Carlo Casino.  (It had to be done) We didn’t get far.  The entrance was a stunning room populated  above us with what looked like a decoration of green, Portuguese Men of War jellyfish.  They had an explanation – mine – ‘come and get stung so badly it could kill you!’ We got as far as the slot machines the use of which we were clueless.  We watched.

Still can’t get over seeing an outlet that would sell you a jet just like you’d look to buy a house!

Monaco –  Hyde Park with a huge ego and streets paved with gold – well almost! If they could they would.


I sit and write in the top floor of our house where is located our bedroom.  I sit at my paternal grandfather’s beautiful roll top desk with my laptop and second screen next to a long window overlooking gardens including our own. 

My position, which is at the top of a small hill allows me a vibrant view of the foliage, the neighbouring housing and reveals an immense amount of sky.  Living in West London I realise this is a privilege. 

Our back garden is resplendent with a large magnolia bedecked with burgeoning pink tips as the flowers, desperate to display themselves in all their glory, are held back by the continuing cold weather.  I think it will be a magnificent display when the warmth of spring truly visits us.

Our feathered lodger Alexander is in attendance.  He has a nest alongside the house within some lopped mature laurel trees.  Alongside him the now ever-present parakeets, desperate for the nuts hanging underneath the magnolia.  Where are the hordes of sparrows, or gatherings of blue tits?  The garden feels empty of birds and seed languishes, uneaten.  

Raindrops spray across the window as suddenly wind and water lash furiously for five minutes then everything quietens.  The lowering sky, a multitude of greys, hangs somewhat miserably over the piece of land I occupy. 

Through the alleyway of two houses I can see the green grass of the large play area and youngsters playing football, trying to score a goal between two rocks.

It’s peaceful, it’s ordinary and I feel grateful.  Much of the world is not like this.  

However, I sit here to write about my new book AWE+WONDER. It contains all the finalists and their wonderful work. My writing is prose and poetry responding to the theme. Designed by the hugely talented David Salmon. It is about to be published April 2023. I also to invite you to the exhibition, of the same name, which opens on 7th April.  Together with my partner in crime, Katrina Moss, the Chaiya Art Awards are proud to present their third exhibition. 

It is the UK’s biggest art awards illuminating spirituality with a first prize of £10,000. This unique free art exhibition showcases over 100 pieces of work in an affordable art collection which includes – interactive installation, textiles, photography, film, sculpture, ceramics and painting.

7-16th April at gallery@oxo and The Bargehouse on London’s Southbank

Visit us online: www.chaiyaartawards.co.uk

More details:  www.chaiyaartawards.co.uk

Please come. We will be there to greet you.

2020 The Year That Everything Stopped

I had been managing the days well but things changed.   The weather turned, which didn’t help.   Waking up each morning to face the day positively became a challenge.  I can talk to myself severely and say there are many people worse off than I am.   I live in a house with a garden.  I live with my husband, whom I like and is my best friend. I live near my children and can see my grandchildren. And yet…..

Nothing is quite the same.  

My normal way of living has stopped.  I counted on continuing to work with the Off West End Awards, which I have done for the past ten years, but theatres are closed.  I danced, because I love to, and zoom doesn’t come close to being in a large mirror-bedecked practice room, with people I know and like.  I visited and hosted friends for meals, and whilst we’ve set up zoom meals, it’s not the same.  There is pain in the months of loss.

I can see the grandchildren now. The pain of separation was great, and our family has grown closer.

I recognise there is pain in so many; so palpable it’s carried in the atmosphere.  Pain of living with people who abuse in so many ways and cannot live in peace. Pain of loss of loved ones.   Pain of those in different countries where Covid runs rife with people dying, their medical workers overrun beyond endurance. The horrors of explosions, of killings, of racism, of the knowledge that those in charge do not know what they are doing, learning along with the rest of us. Yet, we are irrevocably part of each other, as Covid has shown so eloquently.  One is ill and the rest of us become at risk.  Life is more than me, it is about us. A great lesson.

This upside-down world we live in brings to the surface many emotions.  Alongside unexpected joy, delight, appreciation and wonder creeps wave after wave of fear, anxiety, despair, depression, loss, grief, sadness.  I can choose to self-medicate with all the devices and methods of engagement at the push of a button, rather than allow myself to feel all these uncomfortable emotions. 

‘I have done Netflix’ I heard someone say.  I haven’t.

The changing weather worries me.  If the day is glorious sunshine, the natural world sings hope.  I delight in physical exercise because the world looks so good.  Will that continue in the pouring rain?    Today I was out, having been unwell for about ten days, for my first run. It was a challenge, but although not fully recovered, it did my psyche so much good.   I pray for a beautiful autumn to minister its wellness.  Gifted with the most glorious spring I can ever remember, followed by a glorious summer, do I hope too much?

Listening to a Rob Bell podcast on my run, he speaks about needing to train ourselves to sit and listen to our emotions.  Not to reach for an anaesthetic, rather to follow these emotions back to their caves.  I don’t like to feel all these emotions, to sit in the quiet, let the pain emerge and then follow it.   My challenge is to follow these things back to their caves, find out where it sleeps, then maybe I might transcend, grow, innovate and work my way through to the other side and find something delightfully unexpected.

There are things that haunt.  Things like ‘have I failed?’, ‘have I lived up to my potential?’, ‘have I wasted my time?’  Then I think of the fleeting nature of life, and everything in me wants to have lived it well.   The question is – what is a life?

I don’t know the answer to that, but about fifteen years ago I made a decision that I would become a person who loved others.  My background did not prepare me well for this. However, it seems obvious to me that all things pale compared to relationships – with my husband, my children, their spouses, their children, my friends, my local community, my wider community.  Learning to love people, and contributing to their wellbeing through prayer and action, despite all the upsidedownness and reshaping of these days, doesn’t change.


I can’t breathe

So simple
In two three, out two three
In two three, out two three
Lungs threatened,
Body fouled
By virulence –
Spreading, filling,
Sucking life.
Nano second by nano second
Body shelled
 And we, the onlookers,
Watch and wait our turn.

George Floyd
Another name, another man,
Another emptying.
A human being imaged in the Divine
Like us
A man of dust returned there
By a knee.
How great our shame that
Inalienable rights
Again prove sectioned,

Where white clambers on black
Without mercy.

Two viruses
The difference –
One could be eradicated
By a vaccine.



Loving in Isolation

I’ve been reflecting this morning on the strange time is and wonder whether I, along with others of us, can be bold enough talk to about the things that are truly important.

Maybe time is giving us the opportunity to connect with our loved ones afresh in honesty, humility, thankfulness and encouragement.  We don’t know what tomorrow will bring which is why I feel it’s so important to communicate.   We have time to find a way to express how we feel about each one. 

Perhaps we can be brave and offer apologies, ask forgiveness, allow some restoration.  I was thinking of different ways to communicate: speak, record, write, draw, in any way we find most helpful, about how we love and appreciate each other. I know I want to leave a legacy of applause for my loved ones.

Perhaps we could think about a favourite piece of music, poem, hymn, something from the bible, something not from the bible, that would bring us comfort and then tell family.  Should hospitalisation then occur and complete isolation happen, they can arrange for these things to be recorded and sent to us, along with their voices perhaps reading some of it, bringing them close once again.

I wonder whether this is an opportunity to be at our most loving and our best selves.

(Pic: me and my mum Mary the year she died 2008)




A New Psalm


I declare the goodness of God.
His faithfulness beyond measure.
The beauty of His presence, the joy of His companionship.
He fills lives with mercy.
He teaches what is important and everlasting.
He takes away the clouds, clears the skies,
allows His clarity to shine unstopped,
like a glorious full moon, radiant before the dawn.
He is immeasurable, but also intimate.
He is resplendent, but as present as skin on the body.
He forgets nothing, yet remembers only love.
In Him, the world begins and ends.
In Him, purpose is defined.
In Him, all things receive their proper proportion.
The light of His loveliness pours over His people
covering them with supernatural radiance.
He is, we are.
His story is our story.
We cannot be forgotten, or misremembered.
In Him we live and move and have our being.
In Him we are whole.
He glories in us.
We exist to glorify Him,
His praise ever in our minds and hearts.
The tale of His living, unstoppable goodness forever in our mouths.





The Incident of the Swallowtail Butterfly

This is a glorious Swallowtail Butterfly feasting on bougainvillea in Patara Turkey where we went on holiday.  I sat for ages trying to capture this beauty in motion.  It will live for about a month.

I am a proud grandmother of three.  One is two and a half and his understanding amazes me.  He seems to be a child who needs to have things explained to him.  An intent listener he internalises what is being said to him. 

A butterfly incident occurred three days ago. 

I take my grandson to the small children’s zoo often.  It is walking distance from my house through some spectacular open spaces.  Living in West London I am always grateful for the green spaces many have fought to keep.  There is a children’s playground in the zoo and a small trampoline set into the ground.  I bounce across first then he follows.  Without warning I felt and saw a movement to my left.  I looked down at my leg and a huge butterfly was resting on it.  Its wingspan was the size of my hand.  Exiting the butterfly house and it must have hopped a ride on my back.  We hailed a keeper and within moments he captured the butterfly and safely returned it.   My grandson face was full of concern as he understood how to open and shut the doors of the heated butterfly house to keep them safe. If they were outside with us, they would die.   His explanation of the incident to the family was long and somewhat convoluted ending with a loud ‘Crash wallop’.  However, the enormity of the moment had struck home.

He is growing up with an understanding and care for the natural world.  Isn’t that something we all need to be reminded of again and again?  God’s creation of the world and everything in it, including us human beings, is a wonder to behold.   Let us cherish each other and love our world every way we can however small.