Biography

What's in a Name?

I'm thinking about names today.

Not just our actual birth name, or the name you have chosen for yourself, but how we are known in the world, and to those around us.

On this day - 22 July - in 1478 a man called Philip was born. He would become ruler of the  Burgundian Netherlands which is sort of the area which now incorporates among other locations, present-day Belgium, The Netherlands  and Luxembourg.

He was also titular Duke of Burgundy (1482 - 1506) in present-day France. And he was the first Habsburg King of the Spanish kingdom of Castile for a brief time in 1506, before his death in September of that year, when he was had the regnal title of Philip I. 

Philip the HandsomeHe was born into royalty and power. All these titles and territories were part of Philip's inheritance ... he was the son of  Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and Mary of Burgundy, and he was less than four years old when his mother died, and upon her death, he inherited the Burgundian Netherlands. An arranged marriage in 1496 to Joanna, the second daughter of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, put him in line for more.

When her mother died in 1504, Joanna inherited the thrones of Castile and Aragon, and she became Queen of Castile which meant that Philip was proclaimed King in 1506, Sad story but when he died a few months later Joanna was left distraught with grief which gave her father, and her own son, Charles, an opportunity to seize power. Joanna was deemed insane and imprisoned for the rest of her life.

Life was harsh in those says. 

An aside here, Joanna was actually an elder sister to Catherine of Aragon, who would later become Queen of England, and the first of King Henry VIII's six wives!

But back to Philip ... he apparently was well known not just for his status and titles, but also for his good looks. He had fair hair and 'attractive grey-blue eyes' and so he became known as 'Philip the Handsome' or 'Philip the Fair'.

So, with all the things he did in his life, all the places he owned and the countries he reigned over, the obvious love he shared with his wife given her grief when he passed away, Philip's overriding legacy is that he was good looking!

Now, I don't know what he was like as a man, maybe he enjoyed that sort of admiration, perhaps he was vain and loved all the attention. But he might also be turning in his grave, wanting to shout out very loudly ...  'I WAS SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST PRETTY!'

Which has got me thinking.

How do I want to be remembered? In fact, how do YOU want to be remembered when you have shuffled off this mortal coil?

What will our legacy be?

Philip is known as 'Philip the Handsome'. Do you want to be remembered just as 'Polly the Pretty' or 'George the Good Looking?' 

How about 'Rachel the Rich' or 'Fred the Financier'? 'Peter the Powerful'? 'Brenda the Business Owner'? 'Cathy the Clever'? 'Norah the Negative'?

'Patsy from the Posh House'? 'Bernard with the Big Car'? 'Dorcas of the Designer Outfits'? 

I've just picked names out of the blue here ... no offense intended. But you see what I'm getting at?

How do I want to be remembered?

'Cathy the Rich, Famous, gorgeous'?' The person who lived in a big house, drove a huge car, wore designer gear and had a huge bank account? The person who was defined by the job they did, but not much more? The man or woman who went to flash parties and showed off a lot?

Or would I rather my legacy be more meaningful?

'Cathy the Compassionate'?

'Philip the Protector?'

'Bernard the Brave'? 'Patsy the Prayerful'? 'Charles the Caring'? 'Keith the Kind'? 'Rachel the Respectful?' 'Fred the Forgiving'? 'George the Generous'? 'Harriet the Hospitable'? 'Laura the Loving'? 'Polly the Peaceful'? 'Thomas the Thankful'? 'Norah  ... the Positive'?

When people think about us, and about our name, what 'values' might they assign to us? What will they remember us for? Will they remember our smile, our kindness, our caring nature, the love we gave?  Or will they remember that we lived in the big house, drove the big car, was obsessed by our looks and our status in life with little thought of others?

What's in a Name?

As I remember Philip the Handsome today, I'm minded to also think on this ... and to maybe consider a change in my attitude and behaviour now, before it's too late.

What's in MY Name?

Big Thinking Stuff for a Thursday!

                                                                                                                                            


Climbing our Mountains

Have you ever climbed a mountain?

I'm actually talking about a real 'mountain' now, although I'll get on to the metaphorical in just a moment.

I know quite a few people who have climbed summits. I even know some very brave souls who have scaled the highest mountain in the world - Mount Everest in the Himalayas!

In my youth it was something I fancied doing ... well maybe not Everest but certainly smaller mountains ...

However, a medical condition I had in my childhood meant that I don't do well at very high altitude so that was not an option for me. I have been skiing in the mountains but I have always lost a few days of my holiday to severe altitude sickness, so I haven't swished down the slopes for quite a few years now. Truth be told, my knees probably couldn't take the strain now anyway.

I still love the idea of going to the Himalayas and the Andes but I guess I'll just need to do that in my imagination.

Back to why I'm talking about this today.

Well, it was on this day in the year 1919 that a child was born in New Zealand who would go on to become the first of two people to reach the top of Mount Everest.

Edmund Hillary (later to become Sir Edmund) was an explorer, mountaineer, diplomat and philanthropist and it was on May 29th 1953 that he and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest - or at least to confirm they reached the top of the mountain.

It was just one of many achievements but, by all accounts, it didn't make Hillary big headed or arrogant. Although his climb made him an international sensation, and of course led to the opening of the mountain for the generations to come, following his ascent of Everest,  among other things Hillary devoted himself to assisting the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he established, and which built many schools and hospitals. 

To climb a mountain, let alone the highest mountain in the world, takes great bravery, and in 1953 it took exceptional courage. There wasn't the sophisticated equipment including  breathing apparatus which exists today, so the peril was severe. Hillary and Tenzing Norgay weren't the first to try to conquer Everest, many many people had attempted it before and failed and even died in the trying. People have died since ... I remember one former teacher who I learned some years after I left school in the 1970s had perished while attempting Everest.

And, of course, many have successfully now followed in Hillary and Norgay's footsteps.

Everest wasn't the only peak in the Himalayas (and other ranges) that Sir Edmund would climb in his lifetime and he knew that it wasn't just about physical bravery but also mental strength.

After climbing Everest Sir Edmund is said to have said this ... 

'It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves!'

Stand by for the metaphors ... because of course we all have 'mountains' to climb in our lives. They might not be actual mountains but they feel like that sometimes. Insurmountable conditions under which we are living, difficult people, constrained finances, ill health... you get the idea. Fill in the gaps for yourself.

Before we face these problems in life, maybe we need to consider and perhaps attempt to overcome some of our own issues? Those things which maybe are holding us back from going for our dreams and for the things we know will improve our lives. We need, perhaps, to find ways to ensure we are strong, so we can face what might come and ensure we have the mental, physical and spiritual 'equipment' to cope with it all! I'm not only talking about 'mind over matter', it's more complicated than that. But maybe we need to draw on our inner values and strength to face difficulties and move forward.

It may be hard, but worth trying., if we are to reach our goals in life!

So, whatever your 'mountain' is - hope this encourages you today!

 

Sir Edmund Hillary


What we Love ...

Most of us, even if we're not religious, may have heard of St Francis of Assisi.

You know who I'm talking about ... the 12/13th century Italian Catholic friar, mystic and preacher who is best known these days for being the Patron Saint of Animals because of his close association with nature and the natural environment and animals. 

In addition,  his 'Prayer of St Francis' ... Make Me a Channel of your Peace ...  is now widely known as a Christian prayer for peace.

It was on this day - July 16th - in 1228, just two years after his death, that Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX

But did you know that one of  the first followers of Francis was a young woman called Clare, who was actually born on this day in 1194?

Clare, like Francis, hailed from the town of Assisi in central Italy and was from a rich and ancient Roman family whose homes included a palace in Assisi. Clare would have been brought up in the Roman Catholic faith and apparently was very devout even as a child. Although undoubtedly she would have been destined for a rich marriage, instead when she was what we would now call a 'teenager', Clare decided on a religious life.

She apparently heard Francis speak at a church service during Lent, the period running up to Easter, and was inspired to give her life completely to God. She was just 17 but on the evening of Palm Sunday, 20 March 1212, she left her father's house and, accompanied by her aunt Bianca and another companion, went to the chapel of the Porziuncula in Assisi to meet Francis.

There, so history tells us, Clare's hair was cut, she removed her rich clothing and instead took on a plain robe and veil, indicating that she was turning her back on her previous life of luxury and was committing herself to a life of poverty and service to humanity.

Her father was furious. He tracked her down at a convent in San Paulo near Bastia where she had been placed in the care of Benedictine nuns ... but she refused to return home, and continued to profess that she would have no other 'husband' but Jesus Christ. She implored Francis to send her to an even more secluded religious community  - Sant' Angelo in Panzo - where she was soon joined by her sister Catarina, who changed her name to 'Agnes'. Both Clare and Agnes would eventually be canonized!

They remained with the Benedictines until a small dwelling was built for them next to the church of San Damiano near their hometown of Assisi.  Here Clare and Agnes gathered other religious women around them, they lived a life of poverty and seclusion from the world and they became known as the "Poor Ladies of San Damiano". Later, ten years after Clare's death in August 1253, it would become known as the Order of Saint Clare. These days the contemplative order of nuns is in 75 countries across the world but it began with just one woman and a vision from God.

While the Franciscan friars travelled around the country to preach, Saint Clare's 'sisters' existed in isolation from the world, where they lived a life of manual labour and prayer. They were barefoot, slept on the ground, ate no meat and observed almost complete silence. At one point the Pope of the day,  Gregory IX, offered Clare a 'dispensation' from the vow of strict poverty. She declined, and eventually the Pope instead granted them something called the 'Privilegium Pauperitatis' — a ruling that nobody could oblige the Clares to accept any possession. 

It's hard to imagine these days, when we're so wrapped up in belongings and 'stuff' and 'freewill', that a live of solitude and austerity could be appealing ...  but in fact Clare and her followers inspired many to join them, including more members of her own family.

Another sister, Beatrix, also joined the order and after their father's death, their mother Ortolana also entered the convent at San Damiano which followed the Franciscan monastic religious order. It was here that Clare would write their  Rule of Life, which are believed to be the first set of monastic guidelines known to have been written by a woman. 

Many words of wisdom have passed down the centuries from St Clare but I think one of my favourite thoughts from this wise Woman of God are those below.

It's such a profound thought, and could have been written for the 21st century. 

I invite you today to read these words, and reflect, as I am doing.

What is it that I 'love'? What is shaping me?

Is it 'things', possessions, power, status, money?

Is that what is shaping our lives?

Or is it just simply ... love? Compassion for others? And maybe God? 

It's a tough one ... and although it might not necessarily mean a life of seclusion and poverty, it might help us to think about what is important in our lives and what we hold dear!

 

St Clare of Assisi


This is Me!

Are you one of those who perhaps feels you don't fit in?

Maybe you feel like you work so hard and are never recognised for what you do? Or overlooked? Or taken for granted?

And you don't feel you can speak up for fear of rejection?

Are you one of those who feels 'different' to those around you?

Maybe you don't look like other people, or what people think people should look like? Perhaps you, like me and many others, are a little overweight and in a world where 'skinny' or at least 'thin' is considered standard beauty, you feel out of place?

Perhaps you don't dress in all the latest clothes, live in a posh house, go to the parties that apparently all the 'cool' people attend? You don't carry the right handbags, wear the right very high shoes, drive the right car? Or at least what others think are 'right' in this respect?

Do you live in a culture where ageing is just not on? People spend thousands on plastic surgery and making themselves look younger, or more handsome or prettier? 

You know what I mean! There are many many reasons why we might feel we don't fit in with the world. We feel rejected and out of place. 

More importantly we KNOW we have talents, so much to offer, but we're just not given the chance to prove it, because we're 'too old', 'too fat', not the right colour, not the right religion, not someone who looks 'successful', not someone who others think deserve a break? Or maybe you're just someone who people don't look at at all!

In a world where, it appears, 'celebrity' is everything, many of us model ourselves on unrealistic images and we discount so many people who don't fit the model.

But I'm guessing even those so-called 'celebrities' don't look great in the morning. Without that botox or the veneers on their teeth, or spending masses on money on makeup and clothes and cars ... they are just humans. Ok, yes, often rich humans. But why are we comparing ourselves to them? They actually have nothing to do with us. They are they and we are we. I am who I am.

I don't know about you but the older I get, the less I tend to worry about others and what they are up to. That's their life.

Yes, it's true that if we are ambitious, or passionate about what we have to offer to the world, it can be frustrating to be passed over, to stand out, to defy the world. But maybe it's just time to take control, recognise that we are 'different' and we have 'different' talents to the clones.

In 2017 a film came out which captured the imagination of the world. It's called The Greatest Showman a musical movie which told the story of P.T. Barnum, best known as an American showman who created a business by pulling off stunts and profiling 'different' people. Some say he took advantage of individuals who others considered 'freaks' but this movie dug deeper than that and highlighted the strength of those people who were marginalised. He was much more, including a politician, businessman, author and philanthropist, but it's the 'circus' badge that has stuck.

Some so-called movie 'experts' were critical of the film saying it was shallow and didn't expose Barnum for the man he was and glamorized what he did and how he made a living through exploitation. But The Greatest Showman was massively popular. It was beautifully filmed, was packed full of stars and the music and songs were FANTASTIC!

P.T.Barnum was born on this day in 1810, so it's a great opportunity for me to talk about the movie and one song in particular which I have listened to many times. We used to sing it in our Community Choir (when choirs were gathering) and it always lifted my heart and gave me courage.

PT BarnumThere are many quotes attributed to P.T.Barnum ... including this saying

'The Noblest Art is that of making others happy!'

... but he also apparently had lots to say about being 'different'. And I love that!

I may often appear confident but I don't feel like that sometimes, and I've certainly had to learn to live with my own insecurities, and to try to prevent others from 'bringing me down'. I may not feel that 'brave' and I've certainly been 'bruised', but as the years progress I just want to shout to the world....THIS IS ME! Learn to live with it! If you don't like it, then I don't need to be around you.

And so on and so on... 

It makes me feel rather defiant actually. Ok so I may never be a celebrity or even 'acceptable' to many. But I'm not going to let that affect my life! And I won't let it steal my joy! I won't let it stop me trying to share happiness, or be kind, even if others are unkind to me. 

Yes, I am different! I don't particularly want to be like everyone else! Why would I want to try to squeeze my personality into someone else's mould?

SO  ... here it is ... the song ...

Hope it inspires you too!!

This is Me (by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) 

I'm not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
'Cause we don't want your broken parts
I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one will love you as you are

But I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away 'cause today, I won't let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades
And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that's what we've become

Won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
Gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

...This is me

And I know that I deserve your love
There's nothing I'm not worthy of
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is bruised
This is who I'm meant to be, this is me

Look out 'cause here I come (look out 'cause here I come)
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

(Whenever the words wanna cut me down
I'll send the flood to drown them out)
I'm gonna send the flood, gonna drown them out

This is me

 

 


Let me Count the Ways

I think I've said it before but I love a bit of poetry.

And today I'm sharing with you probably one of the most well known love poems of all time. One I absolutely adore.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was an English poet who lived in the early to mid 19th century (she actually died on this day - June 29th - in 1861) and she was one of the most popular and celebrated poets of her time. At one point she was so popular that she was  considered a rival to Tennyson as a candidate for Poet Laureate when William Wordsworth died in 1850. These days, she is best known for her love poetry, but she is so much more.

Elizabeth Barrett wrote prolifically and was considered rather unconventional because she wasn't afraid to express views on the social and political issues of the day - industrialisation, slavery, religion, and the problems faced by women and what it was like to be a woman at that time. Her writings and poems are considered by some as among the earliest 'feminist' texts. She certainly didn't hold back on her opinion and she felt that through poetry she could affect the world. It's known that as a young girl she declared that she was a ‘great admirer’ of Mary Wollstonecraft, also an English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights whose work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) influenced Elizabeth's views on the position of women in society. 

Elizabeth had begun writing early on - some says she wrote her first poems around the age of four  - and by the time she was a young woman she was a successful published poet. But she wasn't a well person, suffering from a spinal condition and later in life, lung problems.

She was in her late 30s when, in 1844 she published her two-volume Poems, which made her one of the most popular writers in England and, more importantly for her future happiness, impressed another poet and playwright, Robert Browning.

They met and began corresponding and this led perhaps to one of the most famous courtships in literature and history. They married in secret, because Elizabeth knew her father would disapprove. In fact Mr Barrett disinherited Elizabeth when he discovered she had married ... he actually did this to all his children when they married. The couple moved to Italy where eventually they had a son ... that was in 1849 when Elizabeth was 43.

A year later she published the poem for which Elizabeth Barrett Browning is probably best known ... 'How do I love thee?' (Sonnet 43 in her Sonnets from the Portuguese). Robert encouraged her in her writing, including publishing some of her love poems.

Thank goodness he did ... otherwise we might not had the pleasure of reading such beautiful words as these ...

How do I love thee - Elizabeth Barrett Browning


The Story of Brave Men

This week has been an exciting one in Jersey.

Among other things, we had a Royal Visit.

HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) did a whistle-stop tour of our lovely island. And although we've had a very damp week, actually on Thursday we were blessed with glorious sunshine, so that was brilliant especially for all the islanders, including hundreds of children, who came out to greet her.

The Princess Royal opened our newest school (the fabulous Les Quennevais School) and a new sports training facility, and visited the Jersey Zoo ... she's the patron of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Waterloo memorial St Saviour's Church JerseyBut for me, her most important duty during the day took her to St Saviour's Church where she unveiled a very special memorial plaque in the church.

In St Saviour's Churchyard in Jersey there are many interesting stories. In 2018 I spent many months wandering around the graveyard with the then Rector of St Saviour, the Rev Peter Dyson, who was investigating the people laid to rest there.

This resulted in a series of 26 episodes broadcast by BBC Radio Jersey and it was fascinating. I learned so much.

As a result of his research, Peter found many dozens of men who are connected to the Napoleonic era... the Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars, including the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Men were found who fought on the British side and even one who fought under the French emperor. It's thought St Saviour's is the resting place of more Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars veterans than anywhere else in the world. It's astonishing that so many veterans of these campaigns eventually found their way to Jersey.

In 2020 a book was published which outlines their stories - 'Napoleonic War Veterans Buried at St. Saviour’s Church, Jersey' edited by one of the world's leading experts in the period, William Mahon.

Napoleonic & Peninsula Wars memorial Oct 2020In Autumn 2020, a memorial was placed in the north Lady Chapel of the Church but the unveiling of the plaque was a year delayed because of the COVID19 pandemic. Finally, this past Thursday, June 24th 2021, that memorial was unveiled by The Princess Royal ... there was a special church service and colourful celebrations including lots of children and members of the Jersey community.

In October 2020, just before Rev Peter Dyson retired as Rector of the parish, I returned to the churchyard at St Saviour's Church to talk to him about the memorial, some of the stories it told and the importance of the research.

This was played in two parts on the BBC Radio Jersey Sunday Morning Breakfast show on October 4 2020.

Here is the complete story. 


*images from St Saviour's Church Jersey Facebook Page

 

 


A June Wedding

Mid June is a popular time for weddings. The prospect of  fine weather always helps of course although in Great Britain and the UK one can never count on a good day, even in summer. But I guess there's more chance of sunshine in June than at other times and these days, of course, the photographs of the day will be the lasting memories for many couples so a bit of sun goes a long way to making a happy Wedding Day!

In the past year, a few of my friends have had to postpone or scale down their wedding day plans because of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, and I know for some that has been rather traumatic. 

But I also know for many couples who've had to change their plans it has meant they have focussed more on the day and the commitment they are making rather than the 'party'. And that has to be a good thing, doesn't it? 

Why am I thinking about weddings? Well ... it's because it was on this day - June 16th - in 1855 that a couple called William Booth and Catherine Mumford were married in a very scaled down simple ceremony in London. 

Stand by for a blatant plug for the first book I wrote!

William and Catherine BoothWilliam and Catherine Booth were the founders of The Salvation Army, which is now a global Christian church and charity movement working in more than 130 countries, but on their wedding day they were still 'seeking' their future. William was a struggling Christian evangelist and his travels across England had kept him and his fiancée apart for many months.  

There are no photos of the day itself, although the couple did get photographs taken across the years so we know what they looked like when they were young.

Their marriage would be the start not just of a busy family life (eventually they produced eight children) but also of their shared Christian service which would take them around the country, working first in the Methodist Church and finally in their own evangelistic ministry which would lead them back to London a decade later. It was in 1865 that they would create The East London Christian Mission which in 1878 became The Salvation Army.

Since their first meeting in 1852 William Booth and Catherine Mumford had regularly written letters and notes to each other and that correspondence continued throughout their marriage, as they were often separated by work and circumstances. And it was those letters, which are held in the British Library in London, which inspired me to write my first book.

WIlliam and Catherine front cover Sept 2013 Monarch books

'William and Catherine, the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters' was published by Monarch (Lion Hudson) books in 2013 and it draws not just on that personal correspondence but also on my imagination.

Included in the book are extracts from the letters, with kind permission of the Booth Family and the British Library. As I read their notes and letters I learned, I think, a little about Catherine and William's characters and so, in addition to extracts from many of the couple's letters and the historical narrative, my story also includes some 'imaginative' excerpts - my 'storytelling', my ideas on how they would have reacted to certain circumstances and events in their lives, some insignificant but others which are important in the history of The Salvation Army.

Which brings me to June 16 1855 and that quiet wedding in London. This excerpt, this little 'story', is in Chapter 7 of my book and is my imagining, based on what I know happened on the day and my understanding of the couple involved, of what transpired on that rather chilly day in mid June.

The sun emerged from behind the early summer clouds as Catherine and William stepped over the threshold of the Stockwell Green Congregational Church.
Catherine clutched her new husband’s hand, feeling small yet secure. William looked down at Catherine’s sweet face and smiled. He could feel her shaking ever so slightly and a rush of protectiveness towards this woman overwhelmed him. He could hardly believe that, after all this time and so many obstacles, they were at last man and wife.
It had been a short and solemn service and blessing. Perfect. Catherine had been pale and had spoken quietly, her voice quivering as she repeated her vows of love and obedience. In contrast, William had found that his voice, which he was accustomed to using to rather larger congregations, had rung loudly around the church. As his “I do!” echoed around the building it had provoked a little giggle from his beloved. Then, in the cavernous chapel, William and Catherine had knelt at the altar and pledged themselves to God and to each other.
Behind Catherine, William noticed that his father-in-law, John Mumford, and his sister Emma, the only witnesses to the solemn ceremony, were now exiting the building and squinting in the watery sunshine. For a moment he regretted the absence of the rest of his family. Of course, it was unlikely that Ann would attend, but he had hoped that his mother and her namesake, his sister Mary, all those miles away in Nottingham, might have been able to make it, even at such short notice. However, he and Catherine had been thrilled when Emma had sent word that they would be able to afford for her, at any rate, to attend. He knew Catherine’s day was also slightly saddened by the fact that her own mother had been disinclined to attend the ceremony, but, as he held Catherine’s little gloved hand in his, he felt a rush of love and appreciation for her commitment to him.
Catherine pulled her shawl closer around her neck and shoulders. She shivered again. Even with layers of petticoats under her skirts she still felt the chill of the day. Maybe she should, after all, have worn her coat. The few days of milder weather in May hadn’t lasted and it was still chilly, even for mid-June.
Catherine turned to the Revd David Thomas, who had so kindly agreed to preside over this most sacred of ceremonies.
“Mr Thomas, thank you!” she announced, grasping his hand and shaking it wholeheartedly. No simpering little handshake for this gentleman. She remembered their previous debates and discussions about the place of women in church and society, and she knew he would expect this forwardness from her, even on this day.
Father Mumford was calling from the street. The Stockwell New Chapel was tucked away from the main thoroughfare and he had a cab waiting. William, Catherine, and Emma took their leave of the minister and made their way to the horse drawn vehicle. It was but a short drive back home to Russell Street in Brixton, where, regardless of her unwillingness to attend the actual service, William was sure that Mrs Mumford would be waiting with some light refreshments. Whatever her views on the marriage, and he still wasn’t quite sure of her, she loved her daughter unconditionally and would, he was sure, come around.
William reached out his hand to Catherine. She grasped it and he helped her into the carriage. Whatever the future held now, they were one. The Lord would determine their way, and, whatever happened, they would face it together.

If you fancy reading more, my book is still available all over the place, including from the usual online sites as well as the Lion Hudson website. 

Thanks!

*image The Salvation Army Heritage Centre


No Cure for Curiosity

Have you ever heard this quote?

'Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses'

It's one of those sayings that lots of us may know ... but do you know where it came from, who wrote it?

Well that was a woman called Dorothy Parker, an American writer, poet, writer, satirist and critic who is best known for her wit and sharp and droll comments and jokes. She was based in New York and it was her observations on life in the city and the people around her that gave her much of her material.

She wrote extensively for magazines - she sold her first poem to the prestigious Vanity Fair magazine in 1914 at the age of just 21 and a few months later she was hired as an editorial assistant for Vogue.  Within a couple of years she was a Vanity Fair staff writer and began writing theatre reviews. Actually she first filled in for P. G. Wodehouse, who was on holiday. 

She mixed in literary circles including as part of a lunch group called the Algonquin Round Table named for the hotel in which they met which included among others editors and newspaper columnists. Some of those companions began quoting some of humorous things that Dorothy can up with during lunch, and her reputation as a 'wit' grew.

Later in life Dorothy wrote that those gatherings were actually rather superficial, lots of people telling jokes and '...telling each other how good they were. Just a bunch of loudmouths showing off ... There was no truth in anything they said...' Plus ca change, as they say.  Interesting!

Dorothy wrote extensively and if you look online you'll see many of her funny and rather sarcastic comments online, many of which of course are taken out of context. I'm guessing from what I've read of her she was a great people-watcher, someone who mental notes about everything around her.  Imagine being at a party with Dorothy Parker. I for one would try to be on MY best behaviour.

There's a website dedicated to her - the Dorothy Parker Society - if you want to find out more. And one of the things I've learned as I've investigated her a bit more is that she thoroughly disliked her reputation as a 'wise cracker',  and of course there was much more to her than those sharp-witted quotes.

I'm mentioning her today because it was on this day - June 7th - in 1967 that Dorothy Parker died and also because there's one of her comments which I absolutely LOVE. I don't know the context in which she said it or wrote it but for me it is profound.

Curiosity - dorothy parker

Don't you love that?

It's not often I find myself 'bored'. There's always something to do, something to investigate, something to watch and enjoy.  And I hope I never lose my sense of curiosity.

I have to admit I am the curious kind. I also love to 'people watch' and actually I also store up things I see and hear, sometimes even writing them down.

I will never be a Dorothy Parker, but occasionally these vignettes of life make their way into my writing and there's more still to come yet.

One example. When I worked in London I spent many hours on the train commuting into the office and it would have been very easy to get 'bored'. Sometimes I read to pass the time, but other times I just watched and listened.

How, I wondered, did that man sitting opposite me get to have SUCH a big nose? Was he born like that, or was he in some sort of accident? It was massive, red and bulbous. And the best thing was he seemed completely unaware of it. Classic.

There were the silly women chatting about shoes and clothes, the girls applying their makeup as we moved along, unaware that at any moment they might pierce their eyeball with mascara stick. There were the men talking endlessly about sport and even those sharing family and work stories and gossip, sometimes with a degree of 'cattiness', sarcasm and petty spite.

Yes often I'm sure 'showing off'' and maybe just trying to impress the listeners around them.

Dorothy Parker would have loved it!

 

 


My Dad

Today I'm thinking about my Dad.

Why? Because today would have been his 100th birthday!

That seems incredible to me. He was born in 1921, when the 20th century was still relatively new. It feels like a universe away from 2021 ... with technology at our fingertips, the internet, air travel, modern medicine, social media. I could go on. In the past 100 years the world has 'developed' beyond imagination. 

DadWhen my Dad came into the world, The War to End all Wars had ended just a few years before ... and of course these days we know it as 'The First World War' so actually another global conflict would come within a couple of decades. And as a 19-year-old my Dad would be involved, fighting for our freedom! Dad RAFAfter a relatively privileged childhood in the lovely and quiet island of Jersey, as the beloved youngest son, that must have been such a shock to his system.

Five years and more later he was a civilian again and destined to spend his life as a farmer in his home island until God got involved and he became a Christian. He spoke so eloquently of the change that came into his life when he met Jesus and it altered his whole perspective on life and his future. With my Mum, who he would meet in those early days of his life as a Christian, he would devote himself to ministry in The Salvation Mum and DadArmy church, including working with Mum leading churches across the UK and then as missionaries in Africa. And raising four children. Often, I know, living on very little, sacrificing much for his family and just being wonderful really. Le Feuvres

Kind, a gentleman, hardworking, funny - his puns were more than 'Dad Jokes' - and loved by many, including those who came under his ministry and leadership and who he mentored and nurtured. 

But for me he was just my 'Dad' and I his little girl. 

If I take myself back in time in my head and heart I can still feel his hug, and see his smile, and hear him singing 'Here we go again, Happy as can be ... All Good Pals, and Jolly Good Company' in the car as we travelled along.  Teaching me to swim by holding my hands, gripped safely in his palms and gradually letting me go to fend for myself. I can still hear him encouraging me as he taught me to drive and being SO surprised when I passed first time, although he never let on that he wasn't sure I was ready for the test. I can still hear his laughter, his head tilted to one side as he smiled. I can still see him digging in the garden and working with the cows on that farm in Kenya, places I know he loved especially. Coming in at the end of the day, covered with African dust and dirt. Holidays on the beach in Jersey with his sand creations - tables we could sit at for lunch, like huge practical sandcastles. And on those glorious beaches in Kenya, playing table tennis with us kids. So many many memories  Dad with Honey

For years after he passed away aged just 63 I expected him to pop his head around a door with a smile saying 'Got you!' His sense of humour still lingers in my heart.

As I grow older, closing in on the age Dad was when he died ... or 'Promoted to Glory' as they say in The Salvation Army church to which he was devoted ... I think I appreciate him more and more. I have at times felt 'robbed' that we and the world didn't have him for longer, because he had so much to give in life, but I am grateful for the time we did have.

I am thankful that he was .. he is ... my father. I feel honoured to have had such Christian examples in my Dad and Mum and to have been raised with love. My brothers and I are very privileged to have love like that because I'm aware not everyone has that in their lives.


Dad and I graduationAnd although I still miss him every day, I thank God for my Dad. A man who was, in reality, from another era. In fact, his parents were Victorian so he was raised in a different world really and his life spanned some of the biggest changes of the 20th century. So apart from the war, Dad lived through challenging and tumultuous times! Heaven knows what he would have made of the internet and social media and all the stuff which surrounds us and determines our lives today. 

But I think Dad would have faced it all with strength and wisdom and humour, because he was that person throughout his life. 

SO Happy Birthday Dad!

I Love You!

 

 


Pursuing our Dreams

Today is my brother's birthday!

So straight up I want to say 'Happy Birthday Steve!' ... the sun is out (at last) and life is good!

However, what I didn't realise was that Steve shares a birthday with someone who features in my kitchen! Or at least something he said is on a magnet which sticks to the side of my microwave!

And this is what is inscribed on that magnet...

"We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes"

I love that thought, and it inspires me every time I see it because it reminds me that although I might be scared of the future, I can still hope. You'll note this is not just about 'dreams' but hopes, which for me are a bit more 'solid' because hope is, in my opinion, a little bit more 'active' than dreaming. 

I can dream about things and that's important because it may stretch my imagination as to what MIGHT be possible. However, in reality that may be just out of reach. But when I begin to HOPE for something rather than just thinking about it, I may do something a little more proactive to make it happen rather than just dreaming.

The man who said this certainly had hopes ... for himself and his family I'm sure, but also for his nation.

Because he was John F Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States of America, who was born on this day in 1917.

Sadly, we know that his time in the presidency was brutally cut short when he was assassinated in November 1963. He was only 46 when he died and it's always poignant to imagine what else he might have achieved had he not been cut down in his prime. 

But still, he has gone down in history as an inspirational figure, for all sorts of reasons, although he probably never thought his thoughts would end up on a magnet on the side of a microwave in the Channel Islands!

But they did and I hope today this JFK thought inspires you too!

Jkf