On This Day

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


Calling it out

If you're as old as me, you'll remember the days before the internet ... and social media.

Those days when if we wanted to contact people, we would have to write a letter, take the trouble to meet them in person, or phone them.

Today, though, we can post something online, send a 'direct message' on one of the social media platforms and get almost instantaneous replies.

It's like magic! 

Well I think it is anyway.

When social media first came around I was a bit dubious. Did I really want to tell the world what I was up to? Did I really want my opinion out there? Did I want to get involved in conversations not just with people I know, but perhaps with those I don't?

Well ... the answer was 'YES'... although I determined from the start that I would try to be wise.

Social media has, of course, been accused of creating the downfall of humanity, or something similar.

But actually I've realised that social media is only the vehicle for misbehaviour and vile, and even evil. It allows us to be more vocal, to be nasty ... especially for those who want to do so while 'hiding' in plain sight. 

Social mediaBut as this quote reminds us ... it's not as simple as that!

And it's down to us all to call it out.

Take, for instance, the recent racist vile and vitriol posted online ... on Twitter primarily ... by those who blamed certain individual footballers for losing the England football team the Euro 2021 Cup.

So, a few of those most excellent young sportsmen missed a penalty which meant that the Italians won the game, and picked up the trophy.

In the past those racists who pointed out that these brilliant sportsmen are not white might have spouted their evil to like minded friends in the pub. But instead they posted on Twitter. Which thankfully resulted in lots of 'calling out' .. and hopefully a ban from that social media platform. Hopefully for life!

Posting on social media in public IS just like having your face on a big poster for all to see. And if you think you can behave immorally and unethically, and with hatred and offence, then think again!

You will be called out and there are masses of us online now who are determined that the social media platforms will NOT be hijacked by the 'Nasty'.

When I first started using social media, there were lots of people who doubted my sanity and thought I was going to the 'dark side' of life.  Social media was an evil place and we should all stay clear. If we didn't want to be corrupted, we should just not go there.

But I quickly learned that it didn't have to be like that. We don't have to exclude ourselves from the magic of social media. In fact, we can be part of the solution, rather than the problem or allowing the problems to be perpetuated.

I've seen so much amazing stuff, so much positivity, on social media. Prayer circles for sick friends, positive quotes and comments for people to be inspired by, encouragement for folk who are having a hard time. Certainly during the COVID19 pandemic, and lockdown, social media was a bit of a saviour for a lot of us, keeping us in touch with our family and friends when we could not meet. 

So ... as for me ... when I'm on social media I try to block the negative. I report when I see bad stuff, and I try to stay away from the controversial discussions. I certainly don't welcome them into my life and I don't go looking for the bad, but I do try to share the 'good'. It's part of what I'm trying to do with this daily blog, which I daily also post to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

I'm mentioning all  this today because apparently it was on July 15 2006 that Twitter was publicly launched!

Yes, it wasn't that long ago and yet these days Twitter and the other social media platforms - Facebook, Instagram, and now Tik Tok and other newer inventions - are just part of our every day life. And some of us can't imagine life without it!

When Twitter came along, with its 140 character limit, I thought I'd never get it. 

As you know if you read this blog regularly, I'm a bit verbose!

But now I love it. These days I get up to 280 characters to say what I want to say, but for me each tweet is a bit of challenge.

Although the first 'tweet' or message was sent in March 2006 by the company's CEO Jack Dorsey, (who created the platform with Noah GlassBiz Stone, and Evan Williams) it was publicly launched in July and it soon caught on. By 2012, more than 100 million users posted 340 million tweets a day,  and Twitter was handling an average of 1.6 billion search queries every day.

Today (actually as of January this year)  Twitter  has in excess of 350million active users!

It's a powerful platform.

Yes, of course those who run these huge companies have a duty of care to ensure the platform is not abused, and to ensure those who do abuse others online are dealt with, but it is also down to us, the users, to ensure we behave online, and to call out those who don't.

If I want social media to be a healthy place, I need to be part of the community which encourages goodness online.

And I suggest that if we all did a bit of that, the world (and that includes social media) will be a better place!

 


Anyone for Tennis?

Right now I'm spending a bit more time than usual watching sport on the TV.

No - I'm not talking about the football (or if you're reading this in the States, the 'soccer').

The Euro football tournament is  currently happening and of course, it's all over the British media, especially now because the English team will face up to Italy in the final at Wembley stadium on Sunday this weekend!

I put my hand up and admit that I'd actually rather watch paint dry than endure a football match on TV. I've been to 'live' matches and they are different. Great fun, much excitement.

But watching on TV, it's not just about the actual game. Hours upon hours are dedicated to all the pre-match conversations, then there's the so called 'expert' chat during half time and of course at the end of the match all those experts unpicking every minor detail of the 90 minutes of play - why what the 'experts' thought would happen didn't happen, and so on and so forth.  I find it all rather tedious. So I'm not talking about watching football.

No - I'm talking tennis.

Yes, I know many of you reading may think that watching a tennis match is also pretty boring. But not me.

You see, it all comes down to personal interest and personal choice.

I can't bear watching all the hype around football and all the machismo around the players and the game. But I love watching those tennis players with all the thought and tactics that are employed. I love experiencing the ups and downs of play, which can swing so quickly in favour of one player or the other. There's so much 'thinking' involved ... as well as the athleticism and dedication which we can all marvel at.

One of the tennis 'Grand Slam' tournaments, and the only grass court 'Major' competition  - is held in a town in southwest London which is world famous. 

Wimbledon.

In fact, the Wimbledon Championships is recognised as being the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely regarded as the most prestigious. 

Right now we're on the brink of the final weekend of Wimbledon 2021 ... it's the Ladies Singles Final tomorrow (Saturday) and the Gentleman's Singles Final on Sunday. And there will be the doubles finals as well. These days there are junior tournaments and the Wimbledon Wheelchair championship matches.

But on this day back in 1877 it was the start of the very first Wimbledon Championship. The tournament was held, as it still is today, at the  All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club (AEC & LTC) in Wimbledon, London.

The AEC & LTC had been founded in July 1868, as the All England Croquet Club. But as the interest in croquet was waning, in February 1875  lawn tennis was added to the interests at the club.

In June 1877 the club decided to organise a tennis tournament to pay for the repair of its pony roller, which they used to maintain the lawns, or the outdoor grass courts.

Although the game of 'tennis' can be traced back to 12th century France, in England it became what we now know as Real Tennis which was (and still is) played on an indoor court and became known as the 'Game of Kings'. There appear to have been various incarnations of the game in different countries.

It was the introduction of technology, namely the invention of the first lawn mower in Britain in 1830, which is thought to have led to the ability to prepare grass courts - or lawns laid to grass - which could be used as a fairly safe playing surface. This in turn enabled sports and leisure enthusiasts to create  pitches, greens, playing fields and ... tennis courts!

This development meant that the sports became more popular and people began to want standardised rules. It was in the mid 19th century that modern rules for many sports were first conceived, including ... lawn bowls, football, and lawn tennis.

The world's first 'tennis' club was actually founded in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in England in 1872. In nearby Birmingham in the English Midlands, a few years earlier (between 1859 and 1865 actually) a chap called Harry Gem, a solicitor, and his friend Augurio Perera had developed a game that combined elements of another past time called 'racquets' (similar to squash) and the ball game pelota which hailed from the Basque region of Europe, on the French and Spanish border.
 
The duo first played the game on Perera's croquet lawn in Birmingham and a few years later the friends got together with two local doctors to  set up that first club on Avenue Road in Leamington Spa. It's here that the term "lawn tennis" was used as a name of an activity by a club for the first time. 
 
The game caught on and by May 1875 the Marylebone Cricket Club drew up the first standardised rules for tennis. 
 
Just two years later, the organisers of the first Wimbledon tournament had no precedent so, using those MCC regulations, they had to come up with a set of rules for a tournament.  
 
That first event only included a 'Gentlemen's Singles' competition, and 22 men played on the now famous grass courts, having each had to pay for the honour of taking part ... the entry fee was one guinea.
 
The tournament began on 9 July 1877, and the final – delayed for three days by rain – was played on 19 July in front of a crowd of about 200 people who each paid an entry fee of one shilling. Hopefully the club made the money they needed for that pony grass roller!
 
Until fairly recently, rain was an issue for Wimbledon and I've spent many an hour over the years watching re-runs of old matches on TV while 'rain stopped play'. However, in 2009 the All England Club put a retractable roof over the famous Centre Court, and in 2019 the other main show court, No. 1 Court, also got a roof.
 
Back on World Poetry Day on March 21, my 'One Day at a Time' blog featured one of my favourite poems - 'If' by Rudyard Kipling - but what I didn't point out at the time is that there's a line in the poem which is engraved over the entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon.
 
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
 
Wimbledon Triumph and Disaster
These are words, of course, to inspire those players who are about to perform, hopefully at their best, on one of the world's most prestigious courts at the oldest tennis tournament in the world, with all the history that involves.
 
As today's competitors step under that inscription, I'm sure they are aware of the many many incredible sports men and women who have preceded them and all those who have also played on that hallowed turf. I hope so, anyway. Because although I'm sure they are thinking about their own game, the legacy of those who have gone before, including the early pioneers of the game, must be acknowledged.
 
But the words can also inspire us.
 
We might not be able to play world class tennis, or kick a ball at the highest level of football, or change the world, or do something spectacular.
 
But we all face 'triumphs' and successes, and 'disasters' and failures in our lives.
 
Life is like that. Ups and Downs.
 
And if we can face them both with equal measure - then our lives can surely achieve some sort of 'balance'.
 
More of that tomorrow!
 
 

All we need is Love

Here's another one of my 'favourite films' moments.

Ok, so it's a bit unseasonal ... but today I'm thinking about the 2003 movie Love Actually.

It's associated with Christmas, of course, because it's set in that season. But as the title indicates, it's all really about love.

Love in different forms, unrequited love, love which is not returned, love which is complicated, people showing love and sharing love, love at different stages of life.

I love it!

Why am thinking about this ... in July?

Well it's not to do with the whole 'Christmas in July' thing, I can assure you!

No it's because there's a song in the movie, near the start of the film, which is one of my favourites.

And it was released as a single this day - July 7th - in 1967.

All you need is loveI'm talking, of course, about All you Need is Love, from the 'Fab Four' - the Beatles!

Although it was written by John Lennon, it was credited to the Lennon–McCartney song-writing partnership. Lennon apparently deliberately wrote lyrics that were simple because the song was actually written not just for the British market, but for s specific global event and it needed to have international appeal.

All you Need is Love was Britain's contribution to Our World, the world's first live global TV special. The Beatles were filmed performing the song at EMI Studios in London on 25 June 1967 and the programme was broadcast via satellite, and seen by over 400 million people in 25 countries. 

It's one of those songs that's in our psyche and in our history. It's certainly in mine.

Many of us can just sing along. It's a song which with the constant repetition of the chorus 'All you need is love' .. has a powerful message. And it's not about love we can't attain. It's about doing everything with love.

I mentioned that on Sunday, but it's definitely worth the repetition. 

So - combining one of my favourite songs, with a favoured movie... here it is - as featured in Love Actually.

It's a strong reminder of something that's really important, and which - if we all just tried to love a little bit more -  could change the world.

 

 

 


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


A Dark Day in History

Today I'm turning back the hands of time 81 years to June 28th 1940. 

It's not a date that you may know as important in history but for the people of the Channel Islands, and for Jersey and Guernsey in particular, it's a significant day.

It was a Friday and since September 1939 Great Britain, including the British Crown Dependencies - the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, and the Isle of Man - were at war with Germany.

The first months of what is now known as the Second World War (1939-1945) is known as the 'Phoney War'. Relatively little happened in the way of conflict but it was in that time that Hitler began working seriously on his plans for world domination. Nazi influence grew in the homeland, and  troops began to flood across Europe, gradually encroaching on France. On May 10, 1940 the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium in a 'blitzkrieg' (German for “lightning war”) and then their sights were set on France.

Allied troops based in Europe were moved back by the advancing enemy and by the end of May 1940 many thousands of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops were cornered in or near a small coastal town in the top most northern point of France near to the border with Belgium. Between May 26th and June 4th 1940 during what has become known as the Battle of Dunkirk (Dunkerque) an estimated 338,000 Allied forces were evacuated from Dunkirk, across the English Channel to England, as German forces closed in on them. The massive operation, involving hundreds of naval and civilian vessels, became known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk”.

With the defences now virtually non-existent, on June 22nd 1940 France surrendered, or at least agreed to an Armistice with German forces which came into effect after midnight on June 25th. As far as Hitler was concerned, next it would be Great Britain.

If you know where the Channel Islands are and the history of the time, you'll know what comes next. 

The Channel Islands are actually VERY close to France. The islands sit in the Bay of St Malo, and Jersey is the nearest to the French mainland - just 14 miles (or 22 km) away. On a good day from Jersey's East Coast we can see not just the French coast, but even houses and wind turbines on the French side of the small channel which separates us. 

By the end of June 1940, after months of anticipation, it had become clear that occupation of the islands was inevitable. The Germans were just across the water!

In summer of 1940 Hitler seemed unstoppable as he raced through Europe and was now almost in waving distance of the British mainland from northern France and the Low Countries. For Hitler, taking the Channel Islands was a big deal. Invading and occupying Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark would be a PR coup and, he hoped, strike fear into the hearts of the British people and their government in London, headed up by Winston Churchill.  It's reckoned he thought invading the Channel Islands would be a signal that he was on his way! Soon he would be marching through London in victory!

It was on July 1st 1940 that the Germans DID invade the Channel Islands - actually the only place in the British Isles to be invaded and occupied by German Nazi forces - and so began five long years of Occupation.

In the final weeks of 'freedom' confusion reigned. Many people with means and/or family in the UK had already left but now many thousands decided to evacuate, not wanting to hang around for the Nazis. The British government had made the decision that, to save lives, it would be best not to engage in military conflict with the Germans when they eventually came. There had been some British forces based in the islands, but by June 20th, any remaining military personnel had been withdrawn, so leaving an 'open door' for the enemy to invade.

Unfortunately no one told the German High Command.

Viscount's Inquest BookOn June 28th, being unaware that the islands were undefended, there was a German bombing raid on Guernsey and Jersey in which 44 islanders were killed  - nine in Jersey and the remaining poor souls in Guernsey. There was a desperate scuffle to inform the enemy of the situation, including a belated message on the BBC that the islands had been declared "open towns". Later in the day the BBC reported the German bombing of the Channel Islands. on June 30th the deaths of the islanders killed in Jersey were reported at an inquest and recorded in the Viscount's (the senior law officer) Inquest Book, which is now part of the Jersey Archive.

The islands would be occupied until May 9th 1945 and it was in the run-up to the 75th anniversary of that Liberation (Liberation75), while working at BBC Radio Jersey. that I recorded a fascinating project which would run for a whole year right though to May 9th 2020 and beyond.

I worked in partnership with the Jersey Archive, part of Jersey Heritage, with the experts there selecting 50 objects from the collections in the Archives and the Jersey Museum through which we told the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey. The series ran from May 2019 through to June 2020 and we produced 50 short features each one focussing on one object from the collections that tell us a specific story about that part of our history. 

The features ran every Friday morning just after 0830 on the BBC Radio Jersey Breakfast Show. We ran the first on Liberation Day (May 9th) in 2019 and then we picked up the series on June 21st and ran a feature every day until Libertion75 and beyond.

Object Number 3 in the series happened to land on Friday June 28th 2019 ... exactly 79 years on from the bombing raids on Guernsey and Jersey which heralded the start of Occupation.

And so it was on that morning we heard from Linda Romeril, the Head of Archives and Collections at Jersey Heritage,  who brought out the object which tells that story ... that Inquest Book.

And so, as I said, let's turn back the clock 81 years to June 28th 1940 ...

50 Objects - No.3 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

I loved doing this series and I learnt so much. Each of the features is on the BBC Radio Jersey website under 'Breakfast' or various presenters, but Jersey Heritage/Archive also placed each feature on Vimeo - the whole series is there!

If you want to listen to this on the BBC Radio Jersey website - click on the link below

James Hand - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 3 - 28 June 2019.

 

 


Forever Young

If you like your pop music you may have heard of Bob Dylan.

He's had a lifetime in music, bringing us so many inspirational songs many of which were inspired by his own political beliefs, and which have become anthems of  civil rights and anti-war campaigns. I'm thinking Blowin in the Wind  and The Times They Are A' Changing for starters.

Bob is also an artist and author, apart from being described as one of the greatest song-writers of all time, and a cultural icon.

And when I was looking for an inspirational thought for today, I came across this lyric  from Bob which I love. It's actually the third verse of his song Forever Young ....  

Forever Young Bob Dylan
Bob wrote the song as a lullaby for his eldest son Jesse, and in my research I discovered that a demo version of the song was recorded in June 1973 which was included on Bob Dylan's compilation album Biograph in 1985.  But he subsequently recorded a live version of the song in Tokyo on 28 February 1978 which was released as a single in Europe on this day - June 22 - in 1979.

It's been recorded by many artists down the years but as an additional 'extra' today ... let's enjoy a rendition of the song from another iconic American singer, musician, songwriter and activist, Joan Baez, who is from the same 'era' as Bob Dylan and whose contemporary folk music often includes songs underpinned by social justice and protest.

Love love love this!

Have a great day everyone!

Stay Young!