Tag Archives: personal

6th November

imageOn this day…

The first European set foot in Texas.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States of America.

Mahatma Gandhi was arrested in South Africa.

The Bolshevik Revolution began in Russia.

The Republic of Poland was born.

Stanley Baldwin was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Herbert Hoover was elected President of the United States of America.

The Hawker Hurricane flew for the first time.

imageThe first H-Bomb was exploded.

President Eisenhower was re-elected to govern the United States of America.

President Roosevelt was elected President of the United States of America.

The United Nations condemned Apartheid in South Africa.

Ronald Reagan was re-elected as President of the United States of America.

Australia voted to keep the British monarch as Head of state.

The Dominican Republic became a sovereign nation.

Canadians celebrated their first Thanksgiving Day.

imageThe Japanese fleet was readied for assault on Pearl Harbour.

12,000 Jews were executed by the Nazis in Minsk, Belarus.

Saudi Arabia abolished slavery.

Lunar Orbiter 2 was launched.

NASA Surveyor 6 landed on the Moon.

imageThe Sex Pistols debuted.

Ayatollah Khomeini became leader of Iran.

President Boris Yeltsin of Russia outlawed the Communist Party.

President Yitzak Rabin was buried in Israel.

Americans went to the polls to vote Barack Obama back into the Whitehouse.

Puerto Rico bacame an American state.

Actors Ethan Hawke, Nigel Havers, Thandie Newton, Lori Singer, Maria Shriver and Sally Field were born.

On this day I was also born.

It is said of people born on this numerical day of the year…

You are a dynamic, passionate person who has a lot to give, but who also expects the same level of commitment in return. You are determined to follow through on your own commitments and responsibilities, and you generally do what it takes to achieve your goals. Your charisma sets you apart from others, and you find that others quite easily respect you. Willing to help out, but never a pushover, you know your limits and you don’t have much trouble communicating them. You are somewhat of a perfectionist, and your tendency to try to control things is most apparent in your career and on the home front. You are an executive, but you also know the value of teamwork and charm, so you don’t come on too strong. Your distaste for the superficial is marked.
You are determined, strong, intense and often controlled. Anything that is superficial doesn’t appeal to you. It’s all or nothing. You are never content to look only at the surface of matters. You dig deep, question motives, and instinctively feel what is going on in the environment around you.

Bollocks. Well….some of it. I’m not saying which.

Stop war. Hug more…

shirtsThis is my favourite top.   Well one of them at least.   I’m not really bothered whether it’s the height  of fashion or if it’s cool or not. I like it.  End of.   Thing is, I forget that there’s a proviso that comes with wearing it that I never usually remember.     You know how you can spot a Christian driver on the road by whether his car has one of those fish symbols on the back?     That’s why I never used to have one on my car.  My driving etiquette, let’s just say, left much to be desired and was by no means a good advert for the faith.   So anyone related to me, who works with me, has been or is friends with me knows that I am aka Mr Grumpbag Incarnate.   Can’t help it.   Shows all over my face. Just like the fishy symbol on the car a bit incongruous me wearing that shirt with my general frowning demeanour toward the world at large and especially humankind.

But I have to admit it was fun yesterday, though at first I never twigged what was going on.  Yesterday I wore the shirt on ‘dress down Friday’ and as I had the afternoon off work off on a moderately sunny day, I decided to take a stroll through central London and take some photos for my ‘Lovin’ London’ photo series.  My route took me from Pimlico where I work, to Victoria, then up to Buckingham Palace, through St. James’ Park, Horse Guards Parade, Trafalgar Square and finally on to Leicester Square before catching the Tube home.  Being thick as I can be, I never stopped to ask myself why along the way so many people started staring at me or looking at me and smiling until I began to follow their line of sight to realise they were liking the message on the shirt.    It was as I finally got close to Leicester Square that my suspicions were confirmed when a random, strapping young chap sitting with his mates at a pavement cafe suddenly got up, stood in my path and said “Hey fella! Come here. I’ll give you one.”    Well, I knew I was in the proximity of Soho and the Gay golden mile, but never expected this sort of brazen proposition in broad daylight at 3.15 in the afternoon.

Of course what the guy meant was simply to take up the suggestion on my shirt to hug more.  So there I was hugging a random stranger in the middle of London’s West End and both of us were stone cold sober (or at least I was) and smiling from ear to ear.     It made my day, possibly my week.    I was still smiling as a I rode the train home and musing to myself how different things could have been had I worn my other favourite shirt with its motto: ‘I Love Tarts’.

 

Work in progress

Iimage‘ve been having a recurring nightmare of late. It involves some mysterious yellow tentacled beast, half-submerged beneath clouded waters. I can not see its full shape or size or just how many groping tentacles it has trying to pull me under and suck the life of me. As much as I try to fight tentacle by tentacle, no matter how many I chop off, more and more take their place.

On my desk at work sits my yellow project list or ‘To Do’ pad. Each day it fills up with stuff I have and need to do.   The yellow pad has now become the bench mark by which I measure how productive or successful I have been at my job each day. Despite I the fact that I also have a constantly referred to desk top PC calendar with appointments and reminders popping up on my screen all day long, a beeping task  reminder list bleating out of my iPad at the same time, it is the physical crossing off of work complete on the yellow pad that gives me the most satisfaction when that monument comes…and the greatest sense of frustration when it doesn’t.   When I go home at night, I always take a look at the many unticked items I see, failing at the same time to notice the equally many ticked ones, and sigh  at the thought of how almost doable the list seemed at the start of the day and how many, many more items got added to the urgent category that made the day seem yet again unaccomplished . Wouldn’t it be nice to once, just once leave for the day with a completed project list?

On my way to work this morning, I thought about the day ahead and about how I will no doubt start the day by adding to the yellow project list as I sift through fresh voice mails and emails and realise that right from the outset the chances of me going home with that dreamed of competed list will be slim indeed.    I started to natter to God about this. Some call it praying.  I usually start my day this way as at the end of the day I know my superiors will not see all I do with my day and how I account for the responsibilities I’ve been given, but the Big Guy upstairs does.  Makes sense to get His take on things.   I thought of the yellow tentacled To Do list awaiting me and my fret at not being able to complete it ever and I moan to the Big Guy about it.   It’s not often I sense an immediate response but today I did and one that I knew was speaking to me on more than one level; about my job….and about me.   “There are no such things as completed project lists” He seemed to say. “Only works in progress.”

Crumpled shirt

ironI’ve been called many things but only once one of these and strangely never since.   It was back in 1980-something.  It was cloudy but not raining.  I was fully clothed and soaking wet and surrounded by strange Yorkshire folk from Sheffield who talked funny and ate Yorkshire Pudding and gravy as a starter on Sundays (where as we in the civilized south of England eat it as a side dish to Sunday Roast Chicken).  We were just outside that big posh mansion where Colin Firth as Darcy got his kit off and plunged into the River Derwent outside Chatsworth House in Derbyshire before a blushing Miss Elizabeth Bennett in the TV adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice‘.    It was also my baptism day and I had just been dunked fully clothed in the same river after I’d decided to become a Christian while at Uni at the tender age of 21.

So, in keeping with the strange traditions of those queer northern folk as the members of my new church gathered round me and the others also dunked that day to pray for us, some drippy old bag piped up when it came to my turn that she saw as she was praying for me a “crumpled shirt on an ironing board”.   Oh great. Classic.  My then best mate (and fellow dunkee) to the left of me inspired prayers that he would be a great evangelist and travel the nations.  My former girlfriend (also a dunkee) to the right got other marvelous prayers that she would touch many lives yadda yadda.  Me? A crumpled old shirt.    Talk about wanting my money back let alone extra for a new outfit I would need after I could feel the Corduroys  I was wearing rapidly shrinking around my groin after their sudden submersion in the brutally cold river.

To be fair, the person who prayed aloud the picture was neither old or drippy but pretty and charming and a very solid and sound Christian lady.  The crumpled shirt she saw was only part of the picture.   What she saw at that time was an imperfect garment unsuitable for wearing but one in preparation.   Through the heat and pressure, jet steam and stretching of the ironing process, it would be made perfect for the occasion – a special occasion when it would finally be presented without flaw, stain or crease.

I was none too happy at receiving this prayer at the time or for many years later.  I wanted something that had more promise, something that spoke of a more interesting destiny for my life.  I have often wondered why I never forgot that picture even to this day and maybe I’m only just starting to fathom that out.  I have had very many people pray over me since.  Little of what they said I remember but every time I iron a shirt I remember that prayer at my baptism and rather than from the viewpoint of the petulant snot nosed young adult I was then with all the world to be discovered, I see now with the tear-creased and cold sober eyes of experience that the picture of the crumpled shirt was never one to be despised but embraced.  You see, this shirt is still being ironed out and still has many, many stubborn creases and folds that are coming to light as life draws on that do now and will tomorrow need the heat and pressure of God’s hand on the iron to make smooth.   As I pass through periods of reflection from time to time on how my life has so not ended up as I thought it might be, I am reminded again of the promise of what will still be every time I stretch out the ironing board and lay a crumpled shirt upon it as the iron heats up and the steam starts to rise.

ababa

 

 

Related:

Test of Faith

Safer than a Known Way

Fingerprints

A true story: this time about me

 

I’m getting restless again.

israelscenicIt happens every now and then, usually a couple of years apart and so I guess it’s due round about now. My thoughts are turning to the eastern Mediterranean and I’m poised on planning another solo trip to Israel.

You will see from the cloud tag on the right of this page what subjects I tend to write about most in this blog and so you will see how much Israel features in my thinking.  I have been out there many times since my virgin visit in back in the 80’s.  I think I have actually lost count now of the number of trips in total but certainly into double figures.  I’ve had many reasons for going.   A number of them have been work-related where I have been responsible for the radio broadcaster I work for taking a number of our shows and presenters out there to broadcast live back to the UK.   Some of my visits have been with friends and family where I have acted as their unofficial tour guide (and loved every minute of it).  Other trips I have made alone neither to work or research but just to be.  I guess that’s where I’m at right now.

One word I have never used and will never use of my visits is ‘pilgrimage’, yet that the number one reason Christians do visit the country.  They go to experience the place they read about in the Bible.  Depending on what expression of Christianity they practice, they go to pay homage to saints and people of the past or they just want to see the places they have read about and imagined in walls2their church services or private devotions.  I never have. When I visit, for me I’m less concerned about Israel’s ancient past than about its present and future.   Even from my very first visit staying with Jewish friends and so not part of a tour party (for me the very est way to experience the country for the first time), I remember saying to them as they toured me round this church site or that, that I didn’t want to ‘do the churches’ but would rather meet ordinary Israelis, something I think perplexed them a little – I had after all made my conversion to Christianity while sharing a house with one of my hosts at University and so what’s not to like about churches in the Holy Land?  I guess my thoughts concerning the place and my experience of it the first time were rooted in the fact that I was first inexplicably drawn to the Jewish people and their brand new country when I was around 10 years old.  I had never heard of the Holocaust or Jewish people and never really understood that baby Jesus meek and mild, who I did know about, was one of them.    From that time on I read any book I could on the country, whether fact or fiction, and in me grew a burning desire to be there.  At high school I even stayed after History class one day to talk to my teacher, Mr Chisholm, and I persuaded him to change the class syllabus we were due to study for our ‘O’ Level exams to include the Arab/Israeli Conflict as part of our course components and to drop some dull study of US socio-economic politics.  I’ve never fessed that up to any of my class mates (in case any of them struggled as a result).   The school teachers I think were also puzzled by my interest and I guess I must have been talked about among them, but one other thing from High School I do remember was my Art Teacher, a Jewish Lady called Mrs Rubin, who had recently returned from Israel and brought back for me a full set of Israeli currency coins.   Little did she ever know about how much I treasured them and would hold on to them at night in bed wishing myself away.

aaa

Yes, of course I was young and naive back then and still for many years, even to this day to a degree, I still haven’t fathomed out why I am drawn to that place.  Yes, my perceptions are more complex now and in many ways conflicting, but one thing I have always known is that when you have a calling to something or somewhere – you can’t argue with it or even reason it out and you certainly can’t sanitize it so that it is comfortable and respectable enough for you and others to accept.   Just mention the name ‘Israel’ and it will divide people either pro or against quite vehemently.  I am not deaf or blind to the political, moral and religious arguments on many sides, nor to those that uncomfortably co-exist in my own heart.  Yet none of any of this has managed to smother the watchman in me that is always following events in the Middle East as a whole and the desire in me that rises from time to time that makes me restless and longing to be in Jerusalem again. I’m feeling that restlessness again now.

Jerusalem-Sunset-viewWhen I visit Israel on my own, I usually stay in the Old City in one of the Christian guest houses, not because I want Christian company or activity, but the Church is one of the biggest land-owners in the country and there are many guest houses and hospices they own within the walls of the Old City that are cheap, well looked after and right in the throng of the ancient citadel.   I’m not a recluse there – it’s nice to exchange pleasantries with other visitors over morning and evening meals and especially to listen to what first timers make of their visit.   But Jerusalem is the only place I have visited on Earth that makes me just want to go hushed and quiet in my soul when I get near as the bus upland from Tel Aviv turns the final winding curve in the road and the city is laid out on the hills before you.  When I visit the city, I’m there usually just a few short days just to be and to think but never to reason.  In times like that it is very hard not to find yourself wanting to pray for all that has been there, all that still is and all that yet will be.  One thing I always make a point of doing when in Jerusalem is to go down to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and pray.  There is something about praying there that is like no other. I don’t believe God hears you any better there or that your prayers are more likely to be answered there.  Ancient History beyond my understanding oozes from the very stone walls as if it were their life blood. At the risk of sounding a tad squiffy at this point, on my last visit to the sanctuary to pray, I had the most unusual encounter. As I stretched out my hand to the wall to pray, I just felt a presence around me, Western-Wall-in-Jerusalem-006something I can’t describe, and from the Wall I felt a strange energy or force like electricity whenever I took my hand away from the wall, the feeling subsided only to return when my hand was raised again. Not only my hand and my arm, but my whole body was trembling.  Make of that what you wish. I’ve prayed there on all of my 10+ visits but never encountered anything like that before.  More strange too that I’m not the only one in my family to have encountered something like this.  My Mum has also visited Israel on 2 or 3 occasions, only once with me, and on her last (without me) she too encountered something strange while praying at the wall. Neither of us shared our experiences with each other until fairly recently, but she also felt a strange power that she also described as ‘like electricity’ when she was drawn – compelled as she describes – to touch the wall with her forehead and pray and in that prayer, she was given a vision for the city and its people that she still holds in her heart today.  Well, either a couple of strange encounters or else the Jerusalem Electricity Company needs to urgently check its wiring.  I can only speak for what happened to me.    No. I’m not going back to seek the same experience again.  Each time I go is a whole new experience.   Just being there makes me very hushed and still inside.

I guess  anyone reading this or even just a casual observer of world events must surely puzzle over why this tiny strip of a country, only 12 miles wide at its narrowest, commands such a disproportionate measure of the world’s media and political focus.  This is set only to increase in the coming times.

This year, Israel turns 65 years old since the modern state was founded in 1948.  The country marks the day of its rebirth by celebrations both home and abroad and I was among the group of guests invited to a celebration Reception by Israel’s Ambassador to the UK at London’s prestigious Guildhall.  I can’t put my finger on just why, but I came away from the event knowing that I need to be in Jerusalem again.