“Come on now, we’re going to go build a mirror-factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them”

Thanks to my book club I have just read Fahrenheit 451 (Flamingo Modern Classics) by Ray Bradbury.  It is awesome.  I recognise I am not alone in thinking this as many people have read and appreciate this dystopian novel.  It depicts a not so distant America where books are prohibited and the general population tune in to shallow entertainment that anaesthetises from real life. The main character, a fireman who burns the books, is awakened from his sleep. He loses everything, but lives to activate change.  Although written in 1953 it is prescient and disturbing.  I feel somewhat depressed I never found it before, but exhilarated by the discovery of it.

Many questions and imaginings arise from the book. The quote above was only one of several I found striking.  If I looked long and hard at society what would I see?

I chose two things:

  1. A society that ruthlessly judges others. If someone has the courage to put their head above the parapet and say something different to perceived opinion, social media erupts into horrific abuse and people’s lives are often changed forever. An example is Gina Miller, the person who took Brexit to court.  She triggered the wrath of the tabloids, received death threats, harassment and racial abuse.  A woman driven by a genuine sense of responsibility towards a country she loves. ‘Hate-filled abuse is poisoning Britain. I fought it and ask you to do the same | Gina Miller’ https://buff.ly/2i9b6VL  
  2. A society that allows its plumb line of sexuality to be the entertainment and advertising industry and pornography. I taught briefly young troubled teenage boys 2008/9 excluded from every school they had attended. My school, specifically for such children, was their last chance to gain any qualification.  The pornography they watched on their phones was appalling. Their treatment of myself and other women in the school, dismissive, disrespectful and demeaning. Apart from disallowing phones during the school day there was nothing to be done to stop their daily diet.  Does pornography damage? I believe so. ‘Friends’, that series we all loved so long ago actively endorsed pornography. When Joey, Chandler and Ross needed cheering up pornography was an answer which the women thoughtfully provided. When, by chance, it was streamed free on Joey’s tv it was celebrated and never switched off.  It was an underlying theme in the series which I missed. “Friends” The One with the Free Porn (TV Episode 1998) https://buff.ly/2wjXJrs  What do we allow to teach us subliminally? 

We all need back-up!

Remember “About a Boy”? I’m recalling the film of the book by Nick Hornby.  Marcus, a 12-year-old somewhat odd son of an unstable single mother recognises they need friends or ‘back up’ when things get tough.  They do as his mother is so unhappy she tries to die. However, a small unlikely community grows around them, including a confirmed bachelor Will, terrified of growing up. When the bad times happen friendship sees everyone through. 

Why is community important?                                           

1. We need each other:   nurturing human connection is essential for our well-being. We need to be touched, to be hugged a certain number of times daily. I’m not talking about sex, but about human beings appreciating and loving each other.

2. Be a friend: Let’s not wait for people to befriend us, why not foster friendship ourselves. We don’t have to do anything grand. One of my friends rarely had someone round for a meal because entertaining was so stressful for her.  She believed she must clean the house completely;  provide outstanding food; be the perfect host.  She had a difficult full-time job, so she was exhausted before she began.

3. Eat together:   we all need to eat, why not organise mealtimes to eat with others? We have had people living with us for years and we tried to eat together.  The quality of food depended on when I shopped but there was food of some description!  People didn’t care. They loved being invited.

4. Know your neighbours:   we need each other.  Do you have elderly neighbours? Can you check on them, perhaps pop in with a pack of biscuits to share a cup of tea?  Elderly people are among the loneliest in our society.  When I walk my streets I remember those who live around me. I feel I belong.  Are we too busy to stop and have a chat?   Send an invitation to neighbours for a Christmas drink it might surprise you who you meet. 

5. Volunteer:   doing something positive, serving your community is a great privilege. It brings a sense of belonging, of ownership and has certainly helped me to understand and care about the people I live amongst. On occasion we band together.   I lend my voice as we stand against what we view as destructive initiatives in our neighbourhood.

6. Life is more than me:   let’s allow ourselves to be part of something greater than ourselves. If my life was only about myself, it would be paltry indeed.

7. Living without fear:   being part of, and living within a community brings a sense of safety and security.  I know my streets, I love my streets, I love the people who live here and I pray for us regularly.

 

8 Steps to Developing Our Potential

Potential: latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness

What stops us from developing our potential and becoming the best we can be?

  1. Fear – stemming from a lack of confidence, a poor self-image, a tendency to always compare ourselves with others. When we do that we always come out the poorer. Rarely do we ever feel we are better than others we choose to compare ourselves with.
  2. Not taking responsibility for ourselves. So often we make decisions by default, ie we fail to make a thought-through decision and ‘go with the flow’. It takes time and effort to decide what we really think.  If our opinion is different to the opinion of others we must be bold and speak out and follow our conclusions.
  3. Failing to explore what do we want? This is such a difficult question for so many of us. Perhaps as we grew up choices were taken away from us. However, as adults we must put energy into thinking through what we want out of life.  Be realistic and honest.  Don’t do this alone. Talk it through with another.  If we don’t pursue answers how can we take the necessary steps towards our goals?
  4. Getting distracted.  Work hard. Stay committed, focused and determined.  It is your journey and it will be different to everyone else’s.
  5. All work and no play.  Achieve a good work/life balance. Don’t sacrifice relationships – friendship, marriage, our children.  Nobody on their deathbed ever said ‘I wish I had spent more time at work’.  However painful at times, good relationships make life beautiful, joyous, fun and worthwhile.
  6. Paralysed because we don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes. A friend arrived at my home distressed because she realised she had accepted a job she now hated.  We talked, we prayed. An amazing thing happened. When I next saw her the company had decided it needed to make cuts and offered employees redundancies.  She left grateful for a way out with honour.  She learnt a great deal through the experience and found a job she loved.
  7. Short term thinking. Play the long game rather than going for the instant. We may need to study, to be an unpaid intern, work abroad, work with difficult people.  Patience with promise is a wonderful thing to learn.
  8. Ignoring the spiritual dimension – perhaps God has invested more in us than we think. Explore the possibility of becoming our best by asking Him to help.

Never let a Terrapin mistake your finger for a sausage!

Shocking footage of the unbridled appetites of terrapin.

I actually enjoyed watching and feeding the little creatures amazed they were meat eaters. I then discovered that these animals, originally bought as tiny pets, grew from the size of a 50p piece to a dinner plate and consequently were being released into the wild.  They have enough strength to snap a child’s finger off and are a pest to our natural wildlife.  The ones in this footage were rescued terrapins from homes that no longer wanted them.

I watched these insatiable small creatures climbing over each other, their whole being desperate for a mouthful of sausage and thought about ‘appetite’.

 Appetite for food, for sex, for love, for revenge, to win, acquire money etc.  We are creatures of appetite.  This can be positive and life-affirming or negative and destructive. Perhaps in our rush to feed ourselves, we allow others to go hungry, to miss out.  When we take, do others go without?   

A society that nourishes the craving to feed ‘me’, ‘I’ at the expense of others, is a society that will, in the end, be left with nothing to give and destroy itself.   Human beings thrive on loving, giving and community rather than isolating ourselves through voraciously feeding our appetites.

Lydia’s Song – a cry from the heart

Katherine has written passionately about sex-trafficking in Cambodia borne from her experience of living in the country as teacher.  There she experienced a fascinating yet impoverished world with evidence of injustice all around her.   Her understanding of cultural differences resonates throughout her story-telling.

The story is told through the eyes of Lydia, a British teacher living in Phnom Penh. Lydia bravely fosters a young Vietnamese girl.   Both Lydia and Song are betrayed and the child is sold into prostitution. We follow Song through the horrors of the child sex trade and her redemptive journey.

The writer looks at the unfairness of life; the choices that confront us; can terrible circumstances ever be redeemed?  Her conviction is that there is a loving God who aches to be intimately involved in lives and brings healing to the most desperate situations.

If you enjoy stories that bring insight into another culture and tackle distressing realities whilst containing a thread of hope within, then this is for you.

The book is available from all good bookshops and from Amazon.

About the Author

Katherine tweets @kathblessan
Check out her website at: http://www.katherineblessan.com/

You can’t be brave if you’re not scared

I didn’t regard myself as a fearful person. Spiders terrified me, but they terrify many of us. That’s not real fear is it? Relationships were scary, but most of us find those challenging don’t we?   I remember a friend saying all fear was at root a fear of death.  I couldn’t understand what he meant, but his words lived with me.

What brought me face to face with my fear was the illness of my child.   As I sat in the ambulance, the little body limp, I lifted the small frame and prayed. He didn’t belong to me; he had been loaned, and I placed him in God’s hands.   We returned home together.

A light went on in my being.  The illness revealed fear inhabited me.  I describe it akin to a secret lattice-work that occupied my whole being.  I recognised how my responses were born from fear.

(A large Huntsman spider I cohabited with in Australia)

There are moments in life when what has ruled inside us externalises and becomes clearly identifiable.  I acknowledged my fear and faced it.  I determined to monitor my responses, to fight and sweep it from my life. I told friends; I sought counsel; I asked for help; I asked for prayer.

Am I still afraid of spiders?  No.  I don’t like them. I wouldn’t want to touch them or have them on my body, but I cohabit with them and am at peace in their presence.   I recognise their contribution in the home and garden.   Does fear still raise it’s head in my life? Yes, but I have found tools to deal with it.

Do I think all fear is at root a fear of death? Yes I do. I find it interesting the book I have written concerns the one thing we never talk about–dying and death. The great taboo, because of course, we believe we will not die. 

Not all fear is unhealthy.  Fear of being burnt keeps us from placing our hand in a fire.  It protects us from damaging ourselves and others.  But sometimes we must face the fear that stops us from functioning well, screw up our courage and be brave.  It is okay to be scared, but as you face destructive fear and find a way through, award yourself a metaphorical medal for bravery.  You might feel exhausted and spent, but you will have overcome and I applaud you.

 

 

Blogging for beginners

There is a great organisation called the FEU (Federation of Entertainment Unions) and as a member of the Writer’s Guild I am eligible to apply for free courses.  I have just completed a course called ‘Blogging for Creative Freelancers’.  It was led by William Gallagher and it was genuinely helpful.    The point was made that here we were a roomful of writers all struggling to write.   Others who would not call themselves writers appear to have no problem at all.  Maybe that is par for the course!  I left fired up and energised.

Then I sat to blog and went blank.  I remembered – don’t get overwhelmed.

So a few tips from people much better at this than I:

  1. Do it.  No point in having a blog and not writing in it.  You’re a writer for goodness sake, write! 
  2. Find a theme for your blog and write around that.  One person on the course wanted to write about the state of the care home industry.  He was incensed by it.  We all encouraged him to go for it.  Write about something you know.  Someone else suddenly realised they loved biking, did it every day in London.  Another said they liked rom coms did anyone else?  I along with one other person put their hand up. I love them. I like a friendly, feelgood film with a happy ending.  Can’t help it.  Even trying to write a rom com book as I write this blog.  There are people who blog about rom coms.  I shall be searching them out.
  3. Don’t simply write to promote what you are doing – the world is bigger than that and the great danger is we bore everyone to death. 
  4. Blogging is a great way to connect with other like-minded people 
  5. Here’s an exercise for you:   make a list of at least five things you know about.  Pick one of those five things and name five things you could write about in that area.  You will be amazed at what is inside you.  

Happy blogging!

 

REFLECTION

Reflection is, for me, an essential tool for learning and for thinking.   I reflect usually first thing in the morning.  It is an important part of my faith and easily turns into prayer.

Reflection gives me a sense of perspective.   I consider my work and jobs to be done and ask myself questions.  What are my priorities?  What do I need to prepare for?  Is there preparation time in the diary?   I think about my relationships. Is there anyone I want to see?  Does anyone need particular care or attention? 

Reflection helps me learn from my mistakes.  If I have treated someone poorly how can I put that right?  Do I need to apologise?   Have I made an unwise decision?  Can I put it right?

Reflection also helps me discover new ideas.  This is an exciting part.  I am always creating.  As I reflect on a particular piece of writing it is amazing how so often a fresh thought will jump into my head which I can translate into my work.  

Reflection helps me ‘see’ those around me. It gives me listening ears and an open heart.  It allows me to meditate about them in the most loving way possible.  I was reflecting on a friend’s comment regarding her child.  My friend seemed out of sorts. When I saw her with her husband and her older child, things were abrasive between them.  As I reflected on her words I realised what she had said describing her child was her own reality.  I had a fresh perspective.

Reflection helps me live in peace.  Life happens and can be full of turmoil, unlike the picture.  Yet even though a storm may rage, it is still possible to live from a place of peace. May you know peace today.

 

How to Fly

Just lean back, close your eyes and let go. Trust me. I won’t let you down.

Feel me behind you, around you, holding you up.

My power is more tangible than the wind, warmer than the sun.

Feel it soar around you, feel it beat upon your face

Sway – dizzy-headed but safe no tension in your being buffeted by the waves of my love.

Lean into me – I will support you

Lean forward – I will catch you

Lean backwards – I will be there

Lean sideways balance on the currents of air

As I breathe on you

I WILL NOT LET YOU FALL.

Lift your face to meet my kiss

Reach and I will lift you

Up, where the wind will roar in your ears, play with your hair

Up, where the sunlight bathes

Gliding, soaring, spinning

Trust me

I WILL NOT LET YOU FALL

by Rosie Pru

The Journey

 

What do you take on a journey?  Depends on the journey.  Last Christmas we were unable to be together as a family.  We have two adult children, both married, one couple live near us, another in Sierra Leone.  However, there was a window of opportunity, grasped by my daughter’s husband.  He and my daughter were on route to Malaysia to a friend’s wedding and had a ten hour stopover in Paris.  Why didn’t we all meet up for lunch?  Eurostar was duly booked, and for the journey I packed croissants, cheese and jam (breakfast on the train); Christmas presents; Christmas musical crackers. Yes we did wear our Christmas hats in the restaurant to the bemusement of the other diners.

The gentleman who had packed the basket on the sand had one other thing he carried, a fishing rod and line, to fish in the sea.

For another type of journey we may only take who we are and who we believe in.