On This Day

Land of Hope ... and Glory

There are some pieces of music which are iconic, and for me that includes not just rock and pop but also the occasional piece of 'classical' music.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a classical buff ... I don't listen to a lot of what might be described as 'classical'  music, but I do enjoy the occasional iconic tune.

So I was interested when I discovered that On this Day - October 19th - in the year 1901, a piece of music which would become one of the most well-known in Great Britain at least, was performed in public for the first time.

The Pomp & Circumstance March No 1 is perhaps best known because it includes the tune which is the song Land of Hope and Glory. which is especially well known in the UK because it's a highlight of 'The Proms'. otherwise known as the 'BBC Proms' because the series of mostly classical concerts are shared with the world by that broadcaster. The march and the tune is traditionally also an integral part of the Last Night  of the Proms concert.

Edward elgarThis iconic piece of music is the creation of Sir Edward Elgar and many of his works are part of the British and international classical concert repertoire. Apart from the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, another of his best-known orchestral compositions and works is another favourite of mine -  the Enigma Variations - but he's also well known for concertos for violin and cello, and two symphonies. Elgar also composed choral works, including The Dream of Gerontius, chamber music and songs.

Elgar is often regarded as a typically 'English' composer but the most interesting thing I've learned about him is that his musical influences came not from Britain but from continental Europe. He also felt like an outsider including musically - this was a time when music was dominated pretty much by academics and Elgar was a self-taught composer. Now THAT'S astonishing!

Socially Elgar also felt out of place.  He was a Roman Catholic in a largely Protestant Britain, and as a result some people were suspicious of him. He was from humble origins but lived in a very class conscious society in Victorian and then Edwardian Britain. He apparently was sensitive about his beginnings even after he gained recognition.

And another interesting point about Elgar - his major success didn't come until he was in his 40's ... 

That's encouraging I think ... it's never too late!

Just a note about the Pomp And Circumstance Marches - full title Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches. Although No. 1 In D and March No. 2 premiered today in 1901, actually they are a series of five (or six) marches for orchestra. The first four were published between 1901 and 1907, when Elgar was in his forties, but the fifth was published in 1930, a few years before his death and a sixth march was compiled after his death, from unpublished sketches. This was published in 1956 and in 2005–2006.

But back to Marches No 1 and 2. Both compositions were played two days after the premiere in Liverpool, at a Promenade Concert - a 'Prom'  - in the Queen's Hall in London. It was  conducted by Sir Henry Wood, who is synonymous with the annual promenade concerts. Wood actually conducted The Proms for nearly half a century and introduced  hundreds of new works to British audiences, and after his death in 1944 the concerts were officially renamed in his honour as the "Henry Wood Promenade Concerts".  In 1901 he conducted Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1  second, after March No 2, and Wood later recalled that the audience  "...rose and yelled... the one and only time in the history of the Promenade concerts that an orchestral item was accorded a double encore." (Henry Wood, My Life of Music p. 154)

And a final point before I leave you and you can enjoy this presentation of the iconic piece ...  The piece now known as Land of Hope and Glory in its original form was just a tune.

It was a big hit, including with the new British monarch - King Edward VII - who happened to mention to Elgar that he thought his March No 1 tune would make a great song. So when the composer was asked  to write a work for the King's coronation, he worked the suggestion into his Coronation Ode, with words written  by the poet and essayist A. C. Benson. Unfortunately the coronation was postponed because the king was unwell, so Elgar created a separate song, which was first performed by Madame Clara Butt in June 1902. And part of that original work - the first of the seven stanzas of the Ode's original final section - is now a feature of the Last Night of the Proms, and has become an English sporting anthem and a  general patriotic song.

Final thoughts on all this - apart from the fact that some people are just brilliant Elgar teaches me that sometimes we have to wait for things to happen for us. And sometimes what we create turns into something more wonderful than we might ever have imagined or dreamed.

How wonderful!

 

 


Order! Order!

I've been doing this daily blog now since January 1st ... 2021 ...

I know, it might seem longer to some of you, it does sometimes feel like an age to me!

And as the months have progressed, I've turned to my computer oftentimes to gain inspiration for my daily 'thought'.

Historic dates - like yesterday's reflection on the Battle of Hastings in 1066 - and marking days when people have been born, or died, or done amazing things. There are some great websites which are packed full of information. I've learned loads actually!

And then, sometimes, I come across just weird quirky stuff that purportedly happened 'On this day' in history.

Take today, for instance. October 15th.

I turn to one of my favourite websites which I've often plundered for inspiration - On This Day -and I find this ....

Apparently, on October 15th 1520 King Henry VIII of England 'ordered bowling lanes at Whitehall'.

I was hooked. What was all this about?

When we think on Henry the Eighth I guess we automatically think of his six wives ... Catherine of Aragon (Divorced) Anne Boleyn (Beheaded) Jane Seymour (Died) Anne of Cleves (Divorced) Catherine Howard (Beheaded) and the lucky Catherine Parr (Survived). 

And, if like me you adore historical films ... you'll think of Henry mostly as a big fat man who could hardly walk or ride a horse, let alone play bowls, so what's all this about?

Bowling alleyI dug a bit deeper and on a fantastic site called TWISTED-HISTORY.com I discovered that indeed, on this day in 1520, King Henry VIII signed the orders to have bowling lanes installed at his Royal residence - the Palace of Whitehall - in London.

This was before he grew into that old, fat guy so desperate to have a male heir that he would do anything, including killing his wives. In 1520. Henry was still a young man, tall, very attractive to women (and he knew it) and athletic. He was a fit guy and having an indoor bowling lane at his home was a status symbol ... maybe like a super duper indoor gym today, with a swimming pool, outdoor tennis court and a personal cinema all rolled into one.  And he was KING!

So he 'ordered' the bowling lanes to be installed at the palace at Whitehall.  Actually, as King of England, he could 'order' anything he wanted. A new wife, a divorce, a new horse, new clothes, a new adviser ... the only thing he couldn't 'order' was a male heir! How ironic!

But this 'ordering' thing is intriguing and it's got me thinking ... what would I 'order' if I could had that sort of power? 

Material things?  A new house ... a cottage or flat by the sea would be ideal for me. Enough money so I don't have to wake up at night worrying about paying the bills or the future. As an author, I'd love to 'order' a best selling book/novel or ten ... that would be amazing. Although probably exhausting!

But actually I think if I could 'order' anything in my life I'd love to live in a world which is loving and kind, not competitive to the point of anguish, and a world where people just get on, less confrontational, no arguments, war and conflict. Some might say that's unrealistic because humans aren't like that... so maybe I'd like to 'order' people to work harder at love and kindness, to make themselves vulnerable to change.  Just to be better at doing this life thing!

I'd like to live in a world where we all try, at least, to get on with each other. Where no one feels they are superior to others. Where we are all treated equally, not judged for our possessions, looks, colour, sexuality, style, status, jobs, the place we live ... you know what I'm talking about. 

And yes, I'd like to 'order' a world where resources are more equally shared, so that those of us who have more are willing to give some of that up for those who have little. I live in an island which is beautiful, but unfortunately even here we have a great divide between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. I would like to 'order' a Jersey where it's not impossible for people to buy a house because costs are so high. I would like to order a world where some people don't have to work three jobs just to pay extortionate rents and to put food on the table for their family. 

 For that to happen I might have to order some radical social changes and that might not sit well with some people.

But hey ... I'm doing the ordering! 

And would I want a bowling alley in my house? 

No ... but (tongue in cheek)...  a swimming pool would be fantastic!!!!

 


Notre Reine, le Duc

October 14th - 1066!

It's a day which changed history.

Because it was on this day that the Norman-French army under William, the Duke of Normandy, took on an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson, at the Battle of Hastings.

Actually my little bit of research tells me that the 'battle' took place about 7 miles  (11 km) northwest of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, in East Sussex, on the south coast of England.

I've read quite a lot about this part of history - I'm a bit intrigued by the Anglo-Saxon era - but I won't go into the details here about why a Norman duke (from the present day France) thought he had a right to the English throne and ended up claiming that right, changing England and the British Isles forever.

Suffice to say it was all a bit of a fiasco for the English ...  they were fighting among themselves, got into all sorts of confusion, ended up traipsing all over the countryside and ultimately, it was a decisive Norman victory.

We don't know how many people/men were actually part of that bloody battle but we do know that the English army was composed almost entirely of infantry topped up with a few archers. The Norman army was only about half infantry, and the rest of their fighting men were cavalry (on horses) and archers.

The battle lasted from about 9 am to dusk on that day and initially the English seemed to have the upper hand. The Normans, unable to break through their opponent's battle lines, pretended to flee in terror. The English chased after them and that's when the Normans turned on them Eventually, Harold was killed -  probably near the end of the battle  - and the English retreated. Although historians can't be sure of casualty figures. some reckon that 2,000 invaders died on that day... but the number of Englishmen who perished on that day was double that. 

The Normans had won the battle but they continued to face pockets of opposition as they marched north towards London. However, eventually, the Anglo-Saxons admitted defeat and The 'Duke of Normandy' ... William ...was crowned as king - King William 1 of England - on Christmas Day 1066.

Bayeux tapestryWithin a few years of the battle, the events leading up to Hastings and culminating in the conflict on this day back in 1066 was captured in embroidery ... I've never seen the Bayeux Tapestry but I really want to.

It tells the story from the point of view of the conquering Normans but experts now agree that it was made in England. It lives in the town of Bayeux - where else - in Normandy in northwest France.

The early part of 'William the Conqueror's' rule included the submission of the English nobles and ruling class, but despite this and social engineering to impose the Norman culture on the Anglo Saxons, resistance continued for several years. These were all dealt with by the new ruling class and monarch and so, despite the opposition, Hastings effectively marked the culmination of William's conquest of England. And the Normans - government, architecture, even spiritual life - would determine the future history of England and the British Isles.

However, here in Jersey, we already had experience of what the English would go through post 1066 because the Norman influence had been present for at least 100 years and more before the Battle of Hastings.

Jersey is just about 12 miles across the water from the French coast and Norman 'pirates' began invading from about the year 873, although they were around long before that apparently. Jersey was part of a region called 'Neustria' –  part of the Kingdom of the Franks in West-France. Jersey and the rest of the Channel Islands was originally part of the Kingdom of France, and not linked to the British Crown as it is today.

The Channel Islands actually remained politically linked to Brittany until the year 933, when William LongswordDuke of Normandy seized the Cotentin - the French peninsula which on a good day is visible from Jersey's east coast - along with the islands and added them to his domain. Jersey, along with the rest of Normandy, was not part of the French Crown,  which had only limited rights in the region.  It was at that time that any form of government and way of life in Jersey which pre-dated the Normans was replaced upon the Norman invasion, a good century before the Battle of Hastings.

During Norman rule, Jersey developed, including as an agricultural economy and links with 'France' were strong. There was a large Norman migration to the island and in fact, my own family - the Le Feuvre family - probably came over to Jersey at that time. My own family tree dates back to around 1560 but like many Jersey families, our name and heritage goes back much further. Today the Norman cultural influence is still evident in the island. Norman law is still the basis of Jersey law (although it now has large influence from English common law) and our local language - Jèrriais - is a form of the Norman language - Norman French !

Oh and one final thing which you may not know... Jersey is a Crown Dependency. We are a self-governing possession of The Crown, part of the British Isles but NOT part of the United Kingdom. We have our own government, our own laws, finance and currency (the Jersey pound is not legal tender in the UK) ... we are an independent county. But our Head of State is the English monarch..

And the Queen is STILL referred to here as the 'Duke of Normandy' - the loyal toast at formal dinners is to our Monarch ... Notre reine, le Duc. ... which refers back to the period before 1204 when the island was part of the Duchy of Normandy.

With the conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy William II, otherwise known as William the Conqueror -  King William I of England -  the Channel Islands remained part of the Duchy until 1204 when King John lost the majority of his French territories and the Channel Islands became possessions of the English Crown.


Imagine

IMAGINE!

You just need to say the word and immediately a particular song starts resonating in my head and heart.

It's a classic 'pop' song, that is much more than a 'pop song', by one of the legends of pop and rock music - the inimitable John Lennon ... he of the legendary pop group The Beatles ... singer, songwriter, musician, peace activist ... what a guy!

I'm thinking about John today specifically because it was on this day (October 9th) in 1940 that John Winston Lennon ... later John Winston Ono Lennon ... came into the world. 

Today I could have chosen SO many songs to celebrate John Lennon - and those of you who know me might have thought I might choose one like Strawberry Fields Forever which is directly linked to a Salvation Army children's home in Liverpool of that name in the grounds of which Lennon played as a child. Today it is an amazing centre run by The Salvation Army which works with the community and people with special needs, and pays tribute to the Lennon legacy.

But no ...  instead I've chosen another of John's iconic songs, composed and recorded and released after his time with The Beatles had come to an end.

IMAGINE!

Rolling Stone magazine described Imagine as Lennon's "greatest musical gift to the world" ... for many many reasons musically ... I won't go on about that now, but if you're interested, please feel free to investigate by clicking on the link embedded in the name of the song above.

Actually the eponymous album on which the song appeared was released in the USA in October 1971,  a month after the international release in the UK.... and the single was the best-selling one of John's solo career.

ImagineIt's a song which resounds with people around the world. 

Some believe this song is 'anti-faith' but I don't think it is. It actually encourages us to imagine a world of peace, without borders separating nations and peoples and without materialism which divides. Yes, it says 'no religion' but note it doesn't say 'no faith', and the two are very different.

John Lennon is credited with writing the song but just before his death in December 1980 he said that much of the song's content and the lyrics came from his wife, Yoko Ono. 

In an interview, actually for Playboy magazine, Lennon said that he and Yoko had been given a Christian prayer book which inspired the concept behind Imagine

He said this:

The concept of positive prayer ... If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion – not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing – then it can be true ... the World Church called me once and asked, "Can we use the lyrics to 'Imagine' and just change it to 'Imagine one religion'?" That showed [me] they didn't understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea. 

Some might think this sounds rather 'pie in the sky', but I love John Lennon's sentiment and he and Yoko's idea that we can dream of the world living as one ... one day!

So, to celebrate John Lennon and this brilliant song, here's the official video for Imagine, which is also iconic.

I love that the first 45seconds actually has no music ... but just the sound effects of John and Yoko walking. I love it's rather surreal concept ... rather like the song actually.

It's actually the first few minutes of a longer 81-minute feature-length film or 'documentary rock video' that was made to coincide with the launch of the Imagine album.

From the shots of John and Yoko walking through a thick fog and mist, arriving at their house as the music begins, to a sign above the front door to their house which reads: "This Is Not Here" (the title of Yoko Ono's then New York art show) and then to the interior shots of John at the piano as Yoko gradually opens the shutters to let in the daylight and reveal an all-white room. It's all so symbolic. But the end is where it gets me. Until that moment it all feels like a piece of art really, including when Yoko sits down beside John at the piano as he concludes the song, and she just looks at the camera.

But then ... as the song ends ... the couple look at each other and ... wait for it ... they kiss!

Fabulous! 

So let's sit back and enjoy the song today ... and dream.

 

Oh and by the way ... remember earlier I told you about the Strawberry Field project in Liverpool? 

Well, click on the link and you'll find information about the 'Imagine' Piano which is there.

It's actually THE world-famous piano that John Lennon used to compose and record one of the great peace anthems of the 20th century and it's on loan to the exhibition, courtesy of the estate of the late George Michael. It's a walnut-finished upright Steinway model Z piano and George bought it back in October 2000.

I haven't seen it myself yet but I'm looking forward to going to Strawberry Field when I can!


Talking Movies

This past weekend the latest James Bond movie hit cinemas across the world.

'No Time to Die' is the 25th in the series of films featuring the British secret agent James Bond -  based on the original spy novels by author Ian Fleming 

For actor Daniel Craig it's his fifth outing as '007',  the fictional British MI6 agent, and it's his final Bond film so next time around there will be a new Bond.

After various delays in production, the latest movie in the Bond franchise was due out in 2019 and then 2020 but release was delayed several times because of the global COVID19 pandemic.

The producers and distributors resisted temptation to release the movie early via one of the streaming sites and decided instead to wait to release it in cinemas. And finally, No Time to Die had its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 28 September 2021. An exciting, sparkling event by all accounts packed full of royalty and celebrities!

Loads of my friends have already seen the movie - it was released in cinemas on 30 September 2021 in the United Kingdom and here in Jersey (as well as other countries like India where Bond is huge) . It is set to be released in the United States on Friday this week - October 8th -  and is now being rolled out across the world.

But it's already a massive success - in its first weekend Universal Pictures reckon No Time to Die took $121 million at the international box office! 

In fact, No Time to Die is being credited with 'saving' cinema. Across the world, the coronavirus has closed cinemas  and James Bond is bringing people back to movie houses in their millions!

But I'm not talking about this today just because of the latest 007 phenomenon, but also because October 6th marks another important day in movie history.

It was on this day in 1927 that a film called The Jazz Singer posterThe Jazz Singer was released.

Starring Al Jolson - a big stage and musical star of the day and reckoned to be the most well-known American entertainer of the 1920s - although it wasn't the first film to have pre-recorded sound, it was the first feature-length movie to have pre-recorded dialogue as well as music and song. 

And so it's gone down as the first 'talkie'.

The movie premiered on this day at the Warner Theatre in New York and it was a sensation! Although many people in the industry may have thought 'talking movies' were a 'flash in the pan',  actually The Jazz Singer revolutionised the motion-picture industry and marked the end of the silent-film era. It was a huge investment and gamble for Warner Brothers, who were just a small studio in those days ... but it paid off.

Film dates back to the 19th century and by the early part of the 20th century movies were very popular ... but they were 'silent'.

There were HUGE stars of the Silent Movies (just think people like Charlie Chaplin for starters), but no one heard them speak or talk, or sing. There was no sound at all and when the films were shown in cinemas there was usually organ accompaniment which was a whole genre of entertainment in its own right.

And then came The Jazz Singer!

The film is the fictional story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young man born into a devout Jewish family who defies tradition - he decides not to follow in his father's footsteps to become a 'cantor' in a New York  synagogue but instead decides to aim high to make it in the world as a jazz singer. It's not just a change of name (he becomes Jack Robin) but also a change of direction which puts him into conflict with his faith, his culture, his home and his heritage.

Although it's gone down in cinema history as the first talking film actually most of The Jazz Singer is still silent with subtitles. There are actually only nine scenes with lip-synchronous singing, two of which also include a few spoken words, lasting less than two minutes.

But it was enough to see off the silent film era. In 1928, the year after its release, The Jazz Singer was given an Honorary Academy Award and by mid-1929, Hollywood would be producing almost exclusively sound film. By the mid-1930's movie makers in Western Europe were doing the same. If you're interested in all this, why not go to  A Brief History of Sound Film (1895-1930) to find out more or click here?

The Jazz Singer has been re-made a couple of times as movies - namely in 1952  starring Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee; and - one of MY favourite movies - the 1980 remake starred Neil DiamondLucie Arnaz, and Laurence Olivier - a classic, in my opinion, with some amazing songs!

Cinema has come a long way since 1927! The majority of those who flock to the 'movies' to feast on No Time to Die may never have watched a black and white film and some might even turn their noses up at the 'old stuff', thinking them to be unsophisticated, 'old fashioned' and a bit 'simple' because they don't have all the bells and whistles, effects, tensions and pounding soundtracks of today's films.

But it's worth remembering that without the trailblazers of movie making, those willing to take a risk, try something completely new, step outside the normal conventions of the day and reach, literally, for the stars ... we wouldn't be where we are today, and not just when it comes to movies!

So to mark this landmark day ... let's enjoy a clip or two from the original 'talkie, learn more about his amazing film that broke the mould, and give thanks for those pioneers of cinema1

Have a great day everyone!

 


A Chapter in History

Today I'm doing something a little bit different. I'm sharing with you a chapter of the first book I ever wrote.

It was published in September 2013 and it was the first of two books commissioned by Lion Hudson/Monarch publishers to mark the 150th anniversary of the worldwide Christian movement, The Salvation Army, in 2015 and it's the story of the founders of that church and charity organisation, William Booth and Catherine Booth.

When I was asked to write their story I immediately wanted to make it a bit 'different' to other 'biographies'. I knew that through their lives together - from their first meeting in 1852 until Catherine's death on October 4th 1890 - they had written letters to each other. These letters are held by the British Library in London and they and the Booth family kindly gave me permission to reproduce some of the letters in my book.

WIlliam and Catherine front cover Sept 2013 Monarch booksThrough reading their letters and notes I really got to know these two people who, through their mutual love for God and each other, and their joint aim to share the good news of Jesus Christ and to see people 'saved' for God and 'saved' from lives of poverty and disadvantage, founded a Christian movement that now operates in more than 130 countries and every day, through their churches and social centres and individuals, help millions of people across the globe.

My reading of their love letters, and my understanding of their characters, motives, moods and history led to another element of the book. Instead of just historic narrative around the letters, I also created little stories, imagining their lives and the lives of those around them based in part on their own words in their letters. 

The book was - not unsurprisingly - called 'William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters'

Catherine BoothToday I'm thinking about Catherine, because as you may have noticed from the dates above ... it was on this day in 1890 that she passed away - in The Salvation Army they believe Christian people are 'Promoted to Glory' - believers go to Heaven when they die.

Catherine died from breast cancer - when we launched my book on September 25th 2013 at The Salvation Army in London, we combined it with a coffee morning for Macmillan Cancer Support - and Chapter 19 of the book ... the penultimate chapter actually ... is the narrative of her final days. 

When news of her death became known, there were newspaper tributes across the world and The Methodist Recorder of 9 October 1890 paid tribute to her as “the greatest Methodist woman of this generation”. 

Today I share this with you, to celebrate this incredible woman whose death was  mourned not just by her beloved husband and her large family, and the wider Salvation Army across the world who called her 'The Army Mother' ... but by many more who admired and loved her.

“Mrs Booth is here, sir; shall I bring her in?”
Sir
James Paget looked up from his desk and nodded. No matter how many years he was in practice, this remained the worst part of the job.
The s
mall woman entered the room.
“Good day,
Mrs Booth. Please, take a a chair.”
Catherine Booth
slipped onto the chair on the other side of the large heavy oak desk on which the consultant had her paperwork spread out in front of him. She sat carefully, smoothed her dark skirts with her delicate hands, and slid off her r gloves.
“Has no one
accompanied you today, Mrs Booth? One of your daughters? Your husband?”
“No, sir.
I have come alone. I thought it best. The General ... Mr Booth, that is ... is preparing for a trip and leaves shortly. He wanted to come but ... there is so much to do.”
Catherine Booth spoke softly, and precisely. There was no hint of emotion in her voice, although her face was as white as snow, framed by her greying hair under her dark poke bonnet.
“Well
, Mrs Booth. I have my conclusions.”
Sir James
looked at the woman across the desk. She smiled a wry little smile.
“And,
Sir James? Is it what we thought it was?”

“I’m afraid so.”
“And ... ?”
“Well, as we feared, the disease is quite advanced already.”
“My mother died of it. Did I tell you that?”
“Yes, Mrs Booth.”
“And ... ” she swallowed deeply... “Is there anything...? I mean, what... time...”
Sir James Paget looked at Catherine Booth. His heart ached for her.
“Well, as I said before. In this stage it could be eighteen months, maybe two years. But there is really... nothing much... we can do.”
Catherine Booth cleared her throat and then smiled, sadly but sweetly.
“God is good, Mr Paget. He knows what He is about. But there is one thing perhaps you can do for me.” “Anything, Mrs Booth.”
“Might you be so kind as to ask your secretary to perhaps call me a cab? I do need to get home. William... Mr Booth ... will be anxious.”

It was February 1888. Catherine had been ill for a while. Sometime during the previous year she had found a lump in her breast and her family doctor had warned that it was, more than likely, cancerous. Eventually she was persuaded to make an appointment with the eminent Harley Street consultant, surgeon, and pathologist Sir James Paget, who confirmed that Catherine had incurable cancer. She had been in agony for some while, but the news that she was dying left William, in particular, inconsolable.
On her return home after that appointment with the doctor, William was waiting and ran out into the street to meet her and help her into the house, where she broke the news just received from Sir James. 
William later recalled the emotional meeting.

She tried to smile upon me, through her tears; but drawing me into the room, she unfolded to me gradually the result of her interview. I sat down speechless. She rose from her seat and came and knelt beside me, saying, “Do you know what was my first thought? That I should not be there to nurse you, at your last hour.”
I was stunned. I felt as if the whole world was coming to a standstill. She talked like a heroine, like an angel, to me. She talked as she had never talked before. I could say nothing. I could only kneel with her and try to pray.

William was due to leave for a series of meetings in Holland that night and Catherine insisted he went, although he left early to return to London where, he recalled, “life became a burden, almost too heavy to be borne, until God in a very definite manner comforted my heart.” The 3 March 1888 edition of the Salvation Army newspaper, the War Cry, delivered the news that The Army Mother, as Catherine was beginning to be known, was seriously ill.
Daughter Emma’s wedding to Frederick Tucker was brought forward to April in order that Mama could be present. Catherine’s last public engagement was on 21 June 1888, when she delivered an address at the City Temple, a free church in Holborn in London.
She managed to attend William’s sixtieth birthday celebrations in The Salvation Army’s Clapton Congress Hall in East London on 10 April 1889 and, although she missed the dinner, where a reported 2,000 people sat down to eat, Catherine did address the gathering and reflected, with humour, on their early days together

As my dear husband was speaking, I thought of his beloved mother, whom I loved as much as my own, and admired more than almost any woman I ever knew. When he was speaking of her, and making you laugh over his likening himself to her in his meekness and self-depreciation, I said to my friend there: “It is quite true, though you would not think it,” for no one knows the bolstering-up, and almost dragging-up, I was going to say, that sometimes I had to do for him in those early days. You would think now that he had always been the bold and self-sufficient – as some people think – man he is, but I can assure you he went forth ofttimes with so great trembling and fear for himself that he would ever have gone if I had not been behind him.

Catherine was still the only person who could be completely honest with and about William Booth, who even his most loyal supporters, friends, and colleagues recognized to be an autocratic leader and, particularly as he grew older, less patient and kind with those around him. For William, his wife’s rapid decline after her diagnosis was unbearable, as he anticipated the loss of the one with whom he had shared his life for nigh on forty years.
The family, who had moved from their home in Rookwood Road in Stamford Hill in the borough of Hackney, where they had lived for a few years, to Hadley Wood, a more leafy suburb further north, which was thought to be more conducive to Catherine’s good health, were now on the move again.
Soon after his birthday party in 1889, the family relocated to Clacton-on-Sea on the Essex coast, in order that she could have her dying wish – to be “Promoted to Glory” near the ocean. Family and Salvation Army life continued. William spent as much time as he could in Clacton, virtually moving his office to Essex.
During her long final illness, when Catherine Booth could do little more than occasionally attend private meetings and functions and then not even that, her main focus became her family, her friends, The Salvation Army, and her writing. She penned letters and notes to individuals and articles for Salvation Army publications. Even if she could not physically work, she was determined that her spiritual warfare would continue. Among the letters and articles were those to comrades at home and overseas, which were designed to reassure and encourage:

Regard no opposition, persecution or misrepresentation. Millions upon millions wait for us to bring to them the light of life. Although not able to be at the front of the battle in person, my heart is there, and the greatest pain I suffer arises from my realisation of the vast opportunities of the hour, and of the desperate pressure to which many of my comrades are subject, while I am deprived of the ability to help them, as in days gone by.

A number of times the family were called to Catherine’s bedside, but she persistently clung to life. 1889 turned into 1890 and in September of that year she was still with them, insisting, despite her son’s protestations, that Herbert marry his Miss Schoch, as planned. Although she could not attend the wedding, a chair and her portrait were set in the place where the groom’s mother should have sat.
Although heartbroken, William continued with his work. Even while his wife was dying, he was writing a book that would become central to The Salvation Army, its ministry and its witness in the future. Catherine encouraged him, and indeed continued to give constant advice as her husband wrote In Darkest England and The Way Out, described as a “social manifesto”.

This 140,000-word tome explored ideas that had been gradually gestating in his and Catherine’s hearts, minds and ministry (if in fact they had not been there from the outset), including providing shelter, food, and training for the poor. Early on, even in the days of the Christian Mission, soup kitchens and food distribution had been included in the Booths’ outreach to the disadvantaged. Work among prisoners and with homeless and vulnerable men and women had already commenced and Salvation Army refuges were emerging. William’s book developed these ideas further and also explored the concept of helping those without hope to learn new trades, primarily in agriculture, and then assisting them to emigrate to better lives in the New World.
Aided in its writing by William’s old friend, the newspaperman W.T. Stead, In Darkest England and The Way Out compared what was considered to be “civilized” England with “Darkest Africa”, a continent then viewed as backward and poverty-stricken. William Booth suggested that many of the inhabitants of London and England, despite the “Industrial Revolution”, were not much better off when it came to quality of life than those in the underdeveloped world. The book drew on recent research by another Booth, the philanthropist and social researcher Charles Booth, who was documenting working-class life near the end of the nineteenth century. William’s book also expounded the concept of “The Submerged Tenth” – the proportion of the population that he claimed were living on the border of or in poverty, and which the Darkest England schemes would be there to save: three million and more men, women, and children who needed ““rescuing”.
William Booth’s vision to help the poor out of the distress they found themselves in was by no means unique – Christians had been practising “good deeds” throughout history and attempts to rehabilitate the poor were common in Victorian England. But the book, which was published just two weeks after Catherine’s death, was destined to become a best-seller and formed the foundation of The Salvation Army’s modern social welfare approach to faith and salvation. It would capture the imagination of the masses, much to the discontent of those in society who wished the poor to remain, largely, in their place. As in the early days of The Salvation Army, when William and Catherine battled with those who believed their new Christian movement to be outrageous, the language of the book and its programme were viewed as radical. It advocated the abolition of poverty and vice by, among other things, a link between the Christian gospel and a strong work ethic, and promoted the
establishment of communities for homeless people, where they could be trained for appropriate employment. Out of this vision came the Farm Colony at Hadleigh in Essex, which did just that, preparing people for a future often as emigrants to a new life abroad. The book also proposed homes for fallen women and released prisoners, schemes for legal assistance for the poor, banks and clinics, industrial schools, and so much more. William Booth proposed that if the state failed to meet its social obligations it should be the task of each Christian to step into the breach – a snipe at the government if ever there was one.
For some, this might have sounded radical. For William and Catherine Booth there was no confusion. They were not turning their backs on their spiritual convictions. Far from it! All the projects and programmes and outreach outlined in In Darkest England and The Way Out had just one aim – to ensure that people became Christians. What good was it to have “saved” people if they continued to be in desperate circumstances and unable to fulfil their new potential as children of God? What hope had they of responding to the gospel if they were drunk, hungry, homeless, abused, and without hope?
William’s book was being finished as Catherine was dying, and in the introduction he paid tribute to the wife so recently departed:

To one who has been for nearly forty years indissolubly associated with me in every undertaking I owe much of the inspiration which has found expression in this book. It is probably difficult for me to fully estimate the extent to which the splendid benevolence and unbounded sympathy of her character has pressed me forward in the life-long service of man, to which we have devoted both ourselves and our children. It will be an ever green and precious memory to me that amid the ceaseless suffering of a dreadful malady my dying wife found relief in considering and developing the suggestions for the moral and social and spiritual blessing of the people which are here set forth, and I do thank God she was taken from me only when the book was practically complete and the last chapters had been sent to the press.

For Catherine there was now not much more time. One of her final messages for her beloved Salvation Army came in a letter to Salvationists from her bed for the 1890 annual Self Denial campaign and appeal.

My Dear Children and Friends,

I have loved you so much, and in God’s strength have helped you a little. Now, at His call, I am going away from you.
The War must go on.
Self-Denial will prove your love to Christ. All must do something.
I send you my blessing. Fight on, and God will be with you. 
Victory comes at last. I will meet you in Heaven.

Catherine Booth. 

This was published on 4 October 1890. Three days before, Catherine had suffered a massive haemorrhage. The family gathered for the final time around her bed in Crossley House in Clacton-on-Sea for a four-day vigil, during which they all prayed and sang. On the day of the publication of her final letter, at 3.30 in the afternoon, Catherine Booth, aged sixty-one, was finally Promoted to Glory.

My darling One,
I never thought of you wanting a line or you should have had a better one, but you will accept this, just to assure you of my fullest and most satisfying assurance of your unalterable and eternal love to me. I have never doubted the possession of your heart from the day you first declared it mine. We were wed for ever, and though I go first you will soon follow and we shall find our all again in that eternal day, Amen, Amen.
Goodbye, darling, till then. I shall be the first to greet you on that eternal shore with all our children
and thousands of spiritual children from all lands.
Yours as ever, Catherine

Chapter 19 (pages 293 to 302 of the book) ends with a note which Catherine wrote to her beloved William in her final days and it is in equal measure, heart breaking, stoic and full of hope in the future, albeit not here on earth.

That was Catherine ... and if you want to read more about her and William, their early lives before they created The Salvation Army, the first years of that movement and their love and family life,  my book is still available including online through Amazon and all the usual websites and the publisher Lion Hudson.

Please feel free to search online or click here ... 'William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters'

Thanks!


Be The Change

"Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”.

It's a famous quote which lots of us have heard ... but do you know who said it?

Well it was a man called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi - the man who we know now as 'Mahātmā,' Gandhi... and he was born on this day - October 2nd - in the year 1869 .


Mahatma-gandhi-be the changeGandhi was an Indian lawyer, an anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist and activist who is renowned for using  'nonviolent resistance' to lead the successful campaign which led to India's independence from British rule in 1947.

He was a hugely charismatic and inspiring character who, although he was wanting rid of the British Raj who had ruled over India since 1858, epitomised a 'way of peace'. 

At a time when others advocated militant guerrilla warfare against the British, he proposed an opposite way. He fasted to persuade others not to riot. In response to the British monopoly and taxes on salt - among other things, an essential for cooking and preserving food - Gandhi defied the salt laws not with violence or even by shouting, but by leading a Salt March, which ended with him making salt from seawater by evaporation. He had started his march in early 1930 with just 78 trusted followers but the long walk was 240miles and took 24 days, and along the way he was joined by thousands. It's reckoned by the time of the salt making at a place now called Dandi, more than 50,000 people were gathered to watch the act of defiance.

In fact, it inspired people to act similarly. When Gandhi broke the British Raj salt laws on 6 April 1930,  it started a movement of large scale acts of civil disobedience against the salt laws by millions of Indians. They felt empowered and inspired by their quiet leader's example. They saw 'another way'.

Gandhi's life and way of living and being meant that, even before this time in his life he was revered as a 'wise man'. His first political activism started in South Africa where he lived and worked as a young man and it was there back in 1914 that he was first given the honorary title 'Mahātmā  - which can be translated from the Sanskrit as "great-souled"and "venerable".

Mahatma Gandhi's way of nonviolent resistance has down the years inspired civil rights and freedom movements across the world. The idea of achieving goals like social change not through bombs and killings and violence but through quiet protests, civil disobedience and political and/or economic non-cooperation can be seen as 'weak' by some, but actually it's the opposite. It's the way of strength and resolve. It's the way of courage and understanding. It's the way of compassion and empathy.

I'm sure most of us have things we would like to change ... maybe we would like to change the world ... but often we look for outside factors to change before we look at ourselves. We think if we change the circumstances around us then THAT will result in the transformations we desire. 

But this quote from this wise man reminds us that if we want the world to change, we need to make that change happen first within ourselves. 

If we want a world where love is all around, maybe we need to start by being more loving ourselves. If we don't want a world where argument reigns, then we need to hold our tongues and use our own words wisely.

If we wish to live in a kind world, we may need to ensure WE are kind first.

If we want a society which is more understanding, then we need - I think - to practice being more understanding. If we're not tolerant how can we expect our world to be a tolerant place?

So today, let's think about the change that WE might have to be, if we are to see a changed world. It's profound, and challenging, and it may mean we need to completely turn OUR lives around.

What a challenging philosophy! But imagine what the world could look like if we are that change!

Have a great day everyone!

 

 

 


Not Lost in Translation

Do you speak more than one language?

Maybe you're multi-lingual or, like me, English is my 'mother tongue' and I only speak a smattering of other languages.

A little French - that's about it. I have a few words of Kiswahili, learned when I was a child in Africa. I can say 'good morning' and 'thanks' in a few other languages but not much more than that! I can't converse in any other that the English language. 

Although many people do speak English across the world, for which I'm very grateful, there are times when we go places and we find ourselves in need of help ... we may need a 'translator'. These days there are apps on our 'phones and tech devices that can help us to translate what is being said, but also there are those clever people who make their living translating from one language to another - helping others to communicate.

Today, believe it or not, is International Translation Day  - a day for recognising translation professionals.

But  why today - September 30th?

Well, today is a celebration of St. Jerome,  who is considered the patron saint of translators.

ThursdayJerome lived in the early part of the first century - born it's thought around AD342 or AD 347. He died on this day - September 30th - in the year AD420.

Jerome was a Christian priest, theologian and historian. He is best  known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin (the translation that became known as the Vulgate) but he also wrote other commentaries on the whole Bible. He was also known for his teachings on the Christian moral life, especially to those living in cosmopolitan centres such as Rome in his time.  Interesting point -  he often focused his attention on the lives of women and identified how a woman devoted to Jesus should live her life. This came about because he was close to several female 'ascetics' from affluent families. 

His contribution to Christianity is so appreciated that Jerome is recognised as a saint and Doctor of the Church by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion.

Today is Jerome's 'feast day' and also ... since 2017 ... a date set aside by the United Nations as the day when we recognise the role of professional translation and translators in connecting nations.  Apart from encouraging us all to celebrate their contribution, the United Nations today also stages an annual St. Jerome Translation Contest for translations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and German.

I first saw translators in action when I lived in Africa - people translating sermons in church services without notes, just responding to what was being said from the pulpit! I've also seen translators work at conferences and that's amazing. They have to be so quick-thinking and alert, and the ability to listen to one language and simultaneously translate into another is a wonderful skill.

Helping others to communicate, to break down the barriers between nations and peoples, is an important contribution not just to relationships between individuals but also to peace and understanding in the world. 

Sometimes we think, arrogantly, that those who don't understand or speak OUR language must be somehow lacking. And I'm not just talking about French, Spanish, English ... or Swahili or any other 'lingo'! We expect them to be like us, act like us, fit in to our agenda - to 'speak our language' in lots of respects. And that means we may miss out on the diversity of difference. When we don't try to understand where people are coming from, let alone their actual words,  that's a shame.

So today, as we celebrate those brilliant people who help to actually translate conferences, and meetings and correspondence so that everyone is aware of what others are saying and thinking and imagining,  let's also ask ourselves whether we are making the most of our personal communications and interactions with others. Are we deliberately not attempting to understand others? Or is it just we're not paying enough attention or can't be bothered to put in the effort to see another person's viewpoint? 

If we are in danger of our relationships getting 'lost in translation',  let's determine to be better communicators, to work harder to understand other people's viewpoints.

Language is very important. Let's use our words wisely and understand the impact negative sentiments may have on another person. Positive words and actions can make us and others feel great and that sort of positivity is contagious. 

And if you do fancy learning another language ... well, why not give that a go as well?

What language might you learn?

Now that's a question.

 

 

 

 


Friends (I'll be there for you)

Today I'm going to indulge myself a little, and share with you one of my favourite TV programmes of all time.

If I mention the main characters in the sit com in question, many of you will know exactly what show I'm talking about.

FriendsMonica, Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe!

It was on this day - September 22nd - in 1994 that 'Friends' aired for the first time on the American TV network NBC. . It's the unfolding story of six friends in their 20's and 30's who live in New York City. Over ten seasons until May 6th 2004, the final episode, we saw their lives and loves unfold.  Lots of laughter and quirkiness, some tears and tragedy, amazing moments. 

I have to say 'Friends' captured my imagination from the get go. I just thought it was so cleverly written - we were drawn into the lives of these people, all of whom were very different and all of whom really were nothing like me. Plus I've never lived in New York ... but it was just fun.  Actually, I found it to be a weekly escape  from the realities and stresses of life - in those days there was no binge watching, we had to wait a week for the next episode! 

It became a 'water cooler' type of show, one which we would talk to our friends and family about. My niece, Vicki, in particular was and is a great fan of 'Friends' and it was something we had in common, moments remembered that we could laugh about.  Quoting from 'Friends' is a thing for us! Even now!

This was a sit com which brought people together. It's been described as an one of those 'iconic, culture-defining shows' and although it's been 17 years since the last episode aired, somewhere in the world and in the UK it's playing right now!! And if that ends I always have the boxed set.

Down the years there have been calls for new 'Friends' episodes but this year the cast did come together for a one-off  special called ‘The One Where They Got Back Together’,which celebrated the mega-hit comedy’s 25th anniversary.

Would I want a new series? 

Probably not ... it was fun while it lasted but time has moved on. The cast have moved on to new projects but still, if they are reading this (wow wouldn't that be fabulous?) I'd just to to say a HUGE thank you to all the writers and producers and staff who gave us so much pleasure down the years, and especially the Iconic Six - Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courteney Cox (Monica), Lisa Kudrow (the weirdly wonderful Phoebe), Matt LeBlanc (Joey), Mathew Perry (Chandler) and David Schwimmer (Ross) - THANK YOU GUYS!

One of the things that defines a great TV show, I think, is the theme tune. Every time you hear it when the show is being aired, it gives you a shiver of anticipation. Now that the show is over and only existing in 're-runs' that theme tune is just like a bit of a comfort blanket.

In the case of 'Friends' it's 'I'll be there for you'' by The Rembrandts, with that iconic chorus which really sums up friendship. Well it does for me, anyway.

I'll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I'll be there for you
(Like I've been there before)
I'll be there for you
('Cause you're there for me too)

In the year or so after 'Friends' was aired for the first time, I was in the USA on holiday, in Florida with a friend and we were out for dinner in the Disney resort area. It was a warm night, masses of people around on the boardwalk and there was a huge TV screen in the central square where, I think, there was a fountain and seating area. We were walking through there and on the screen came the official video for the 'Friends' show! We and loads of other people ended up singing the song  at the top of our lungs ... and laughing until we cried. 

What a memory! Fun, friends and feeling happy. Doesn't get much better than that!

I'm blessed to have great friends (and family members) who I know will stick by me, whatever. And I'm so blessed and thankful for that. We may not live in New York City, and actually we're often separated, but true friends will always be there for each other!

So today, to mark the anniversary of the first time the world got to know those six 'Friends' ... here's the official video ... not only featuring The Rembrandts but the main cast members!

Sing along if you want. Out Loud is good. 

Smile, laugh and ... enjoy!

 


A Miracle and Mystery

If I was to list the following books ... could you tell me what the link is? 

Yes, the well read and clever among you will know they were all written by the same man - Herbert George Wells.

Born on this day - September 21st - in 1886, HG Wells was an English writer and novelist. He actually wrote in many 'genres' - short stories, dozens of novels, and even social commentaries, history, satire, biography and autobiography - but is best known for his science fiction novels and works. In fact, I read that he is sometimes called the "father of science fiction", along with another brilliant author, Jules Verne.

Often, especially these days, as a writer one is expected to just write in one genre - crime fiction, 'chick lit' or women's literature, horror, science fiction, children's books, history, biography, academic etc et

But what I love about people like Wells is that he did it all. Like many of the great authors of the later 19th and early 20th century and some of my favourites - JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis - who weren't just writers but also educators, Wells started out as a teacher. And such was his imagination that he didn't stick to one type of writing, but diversified.

In fact, another of his books - The History of Mr Polly - is one of my favourite reads. It's a 'comic novel' about a man who feels very unfulfilled in life. It's also a bit of a social commentary on the times, English society at the turn of the 20th century, and in particular his descriptions of lower-middle-class life really tells us so much about life in those days. 

But of course, it's his science fiction which has grabbed all the attention. Those books listed above have all been made into (several) successful films so lots of us know about the themes. 

'The Time Machine' in particular has grabbed the imagination of readers down the years and it's also been credited with  the popularization of the concept of time travel by using a vehicle or device to travel  forward or backward through time - think 'Back to the Future' - love those films! 

Actually, it was HG Wells who coined the term "time machine"! What a legend!

I'm absolutely intrigued by the idea of travelling in time, although I always say that I wouldn't want to travel to far into the future ... just a few years here and there to see how life might work out for us might be good for starters. In Wells' novels, and other time travelling works, the reality of  life far into the future is not always what's expected, it's not utopian and it's often overwhelmingly so different that the plot or story invariably doesn't work out well.

HGWellsTo celebrate HG Wells, today I am sticking with the idea of time ... which he obviously spent a lot of time not just writing, but also thinking about.

'The Time Machine'', which was published in 1895, is not just about a vision of the future, but also a commentary on the increasing inequality and class divisions of late Victorian England. It's also about dreams and aspirations for the future,  but also human ambition and what people will do to see their visions a reality ... and so much more!

But for those of us who fancy a bit of 'time travel', for those of us who maybe live with the future always just out of reach, it's easy to forget to live in the moment.

As Wells reminds us in this thought, we can get obsessed by time, by always looking ahead and thinking about what might be over the next hill. We might be one of those who always thinks the grass will be greener in the field just down the way. Or one of those people who constantly fixates on what life might be like in the future, when everything is bigger, better and more successful, rather than enjoying THIS day, this moment!

It's a good lesson.

So, to celebrate this day and the life and works of HG Wells, I'm going to try to remember this not just today ... but down the line as well ... (There I go, thinking about the future!)

I love this idea that 'each moment of life is a miracle and mystery'.

May we never take 'today' for granted or risk missing out on the joyful moments of today by always thinking about tomorrow.