thanks and gratitude

A Mother's Love

Today I want to talk about my Mum.

I know most people think that their Mother is the best Mum in the world ... but mine REALLY is.

She's an amazing person. A great woman. Although she's my mother, she's also my friend - we get on so well - and she's a great role model for me, not just as a woman but also as a Christian.

My mum is a person of deep faith and has lived her life for Jesus since she was in her late teens, often sacrificially. She and my Dad spent most of their married life in Christian ministry and my dad and mum have touched many lives down the years. She's hardworking, a great cook, not someone who pushes herself forward, kind and caring. Mum is a person of grace and love and although she's now aged, she is still sharing that love with her family, albeit a little quietly now.

Mum has also made so many sacrifices down the years for us, her children and her family, and for and her example of love and care I will always be grateful. I love her more than words can say and I'm so pleased we still have her with us and that it is now our turn to care and help her through her day.

It was Mum who first introduced me to the religious and inspirational poetry of Helen Steiner Rice, another woman of faith who had the ability to touch hearts and minds.

So today, on my Mum's birthday, here's a short line by the poet that I think sums up my mother ... it's a simple poem but profound in its sentiment. It inspires me to write ... but actually today it expresses  just what I want to say.

Happy Birthday Mum! Have a Wonderful Day!

Mother's love helen steiner riceve

 


Day by Day

Just a simple thought today.

If you've having a tough week ... this might help ... 

One Day at a Time!

Just One Day at a Time!

Take life day by day


Thankful for Spring

Early April can be a funny old time of year.

First it's a bit warm, then we're plunged into winter conditions again. Light breezes give way to gales. One day the sun is bright, the next the sky is laden with clouds and those 'spring showers' feel a bit more like winter downpours.

It's like the weather can't make up it's mind what to do.

The daffodils and primroses are around and then disappear. The trees have buds but are not yet green. 

It's like nature is about to surprise us, but we just need to wait a little while longer.

But yet in the midst of all the confusion, there's hope on the horizon.

Spring IS a lovely, optimistic season and I for one, am ready for spring this year and hopeful for a new beginning ... 

Thankful for spring
 

 


Taking a few minutes

Well what a week it's been!

If you've been reading this blog recently, you'll know that yesterday was a pretty significant day for me. I left my job at the BBC.

I've been working there, this time around, for nearly seven years. Presenting on radio, producing radio programmes and features, connecting with the community that is my home island of Jersey, as Communities Journalist at the local radio station, BBC Radio Jersey.

But now it's time for a new adventure. Not sure what that is yet, because the decision to leave (not to renew my work contract) came really quickly in the end.

But in the past I've made a pretty decent living as a freelance author, broadcaster, PR and communications, trainer, ghost writer, features writer and much more, so for now I'm going back to that 'portfolio' lifestyle.

I'm taking a deep breath and heading into the future.

The whole week has been extraordinarily busy, with all the things I needed to do to 'tie up' my workload and hand over to others. Yesterday was quite emotional as I said 'goodbye' to colleagues and friends.

To be honest, I'm exhausted. And I've not much more to say.

So, for today, I'm just going to take this excellent piece of advice


Be thankful


 

 

 

 


A Day to Say Thanks

March 23 2020 - a significant day in the history of the UK.

Any idea why?

Well it was exactly a year ago that the British people found themselves in lockdown ... for the first time!

With COVID-19 figures rising, it was on this day last year that the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation and announced a 'stay at home' order. For weeks people had been 'asked' to try to keep safe, sanitise, social distance, stay indoors where possible, but now it was an order! 

Mr Johnson described the pandemic as 'the biggest threat this country has faced for decades' and of course it wasn't just the UK that was affected. This new coronavirus was then, and still is, a global threat. This time last year we could not have predicted the devastation it would bring to all our lives, our economies, our culture.

To try to cut the spread of the virus, from March 23 2020 people were only allowed to go out for shopping for necessities - most shops were closed. People could leave home to seek medical care and limited daily exercise, but that was pretty much it. Where possible we were asked to work from home. No mixing of households, no meeting friends or family members who we didn't live with. No gatherings, no social events - so no church, weddings, baptisms and very limited numbers for funerals.

Over the past year the British people have now experienced quite a number of lockdowns or versions of them, depending on where you live.

Here in Jersey, our first lockdown began about a week after the 'mainland' UK's, but the experience was just as harsh. Businesses closed, hospitality closed, lives closed down, people getting sick, some dying, health services stretched to the limit of endurance.

And today, some of us are still working from home, and only now that the COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out are we beginning to see considerable decline in positive coronavirus numbers.

However, it's not all doom and gloom because when the nation, and our island, entered that first lockdown and so much stopped, what BEGAN was an outpouring of friendship, support, love and community.

People offered to do their neighbour's shopping when they went for their own. Walked dogs for those who could not get out because they were isolating. Sewed masks and scrubs, creating them out of spare material and even sheets and tablecloths, at a time when there was a world shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) even for those heroes on the medical frontline, those men and women who nursed desperately ill and dying people around the clock under sometimes unbearable and stressful conditions.

Remember the 'Clap for Carers'? That weekly moment at 8pm on a Thursday? Many of us applauded, banged pots and played musical instruments on the street (socially distanced, of course) just to say 'THANK YOU' to the nurses, doctors, care workers. And then, a bit later, we clapped also to show our appreciation to all those who kept our communities working while most of us isolated at home - street cleaners, shop workers, emergency service personnel, charity workers, all those who, actually, were putting their lives on the line so that WE could stay safe.

Down the months the kindnesses rolled on. Here in Jersey, a brilliant Facebook page called 'Jersey Acts of Kindness' was created to share the love. Rainbows started appearing in windows and on the sides of roads. Thousands of rainbows, many of them drawn by children, with the word 'thank you' often embedded in the image. Here in Jersey, pebbles decorated with rainbows and flowers and 'thank you' often popped up unexpectedly.

Foodbanks provided essentials for those who couldn't cope, those who has lost their jobs or were 'furloughed' and were not earning as much as usual and so were struggling to put food on the family table. In Jersey, our foodbank was hosted by The Salvation Army. Hundreds of individuals and families donated food and other essential supplies, out of work people gave their time to sort and distribute parcels, many donated and raised funds. It was phenomenal response.

Talking of fundraisers ... we all remember Capt (later Sir) Tom Moore, who raised nearly £33million pounds for the English National Health Service, walking up and down in his garden as he approached his 100th birthday. In Jersey people also walked around their yards, did challenges at home, climbed up and down ladders, created online choirs to raise money for charity.  And so it went on. And on. And on.

Throughout the year on BBC local stations we've been tracking all the 'Make a Difference' stories, and it's been wonderful. Charting first the stories of those who helped in the midst of lockdown and now, also, featuring those individuals and groups who are consistently creating opportunities for others, making life better for our world, sharing love and kindnesses every day.

Most of us have someone we could thank today, for their support during that first lockdown and, indeed, across last year.

So today, across the BBC network, there's a day-long reflection on lockdown. At 12noon today we are remembering in silence on all stations all those who have lost their lives to the coronavirus (69 people in Jersey so far) . We will broadcast features about all the wonderful people who made life better for others in the last year. It's called 'BBC Make a Difference Thank You Day'.

I've spent the last week or so listening back to interviews and features transmitted over the past 12 months, and have re-edited and re-mixed to create new audio features for broadcast on BBC Radio Jersey today. And I have been humbled and inspired by those who are, in my opinion, heroes in our midst. 

Today we all have an opportunity to write and ring in to our local BBC radio station to say a personal THANK YOU to those who cared for us, who showed kindness, helped us, looked after our wellbeing even at the risk of their own.

So ... here are my personal 'Thank Yous' on this day.

Thank you March 23Thanks to the staff at my local supermarket who opened the doors early so that those of us isolating at home could go out to do their weekly 'shop' without feeling too much stress.

Thanks to the health professionals who cared for some of my friends, many of them in intensive care, and some of them right through to the end of life!

Thanks to my work colleagues for enabling me to work from home so I could stay safe, especially as I care for an elderly parent. And thanks to my brother Tim for sharing that responsibility and just being brilliant.

Thanks to those who also 'stayed safe' to try to prevent the virus from spreading. OK, so in the autumn here in Jersey lots of people forgot the need for caution and, in fact, behaved irresponsibly which meant we went into another lockdown over Christmas and well into this year, but I want to stay positive and be grateful for those who DID stick to the rules. 

Thanks to the local Contact Tracing team who worked tirelessly, especially during our Christmas/New Year lockdown when, thanks to those who partied in the autumn, our COVID-19 positive numbers rose to over 1,000 - and that's in an island population of just over 100,000! I've recently had experience of the local Contact and Trace team's efficiency and I could not be more grateful for their diligence.

And thanks to the Government of Jersey and all those who are rolling out the local COVID-19 vaccine programme which means that our numbers are now very low (just three at the time of writing this) and we can see light at the end of this very long coronavirus tunnel.

Although we know we will live with this dreadful virus for many years to come, I am confident that we will emerge eventually and although we may be battered and bruised in many respects, we will all hopefully be changed, and for the better. 

Because if those kindnesses and the love and compassion and care we have felt and witnessed over this past 12 months are the legacy of lockdown ... that has to be a good thing ... right?

 

 

 


Be Happy!

Are you feeling happy today? Be happy

I hope so ... because today is ... the International Day of Happiness !

This is not just something that some whacky person thought up on the spur of the moment to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It's part of a growing recognition at the highest level that happiness is very important to the human condition and to the progress of our cultures and societies and even our economies.

It is the United Nations International Day of Happiness. Back in July 2011 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognised happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples”. In other words, to progress as a global community it's not enough to have economic success. We should also be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing.

WOW!

All 193 members of the UN adopted the resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority, and International Day of Happiness has been celebrated around the world since 2013. Every year a World Happiness Report is published on March 20th, which is always a great opportunity to see where YOUR country lies in the 'list' of happy countries, or not so happy nations, as the case may be.

But it's not just about governments. Happiness is down to each one of us. In ourselves and in our communities.

Every year on the International Day of Happiness, we're invited to take some positive steps to help create happiness. But perhaps THIS year it's even more important than before.

After the year we've had with the coronavirus pandemic, it's easy to feel rather depressed isn't it? Many of us have struggled with our mental health, what with all the lockdowns and personal and economic/business challenges we've experienced. Some of us have struggled to stay happy, and I think for some of us, our concept of happiness might have changed. 

Maybe in the past we thought we were happy when we were travelling, going to parties, buying stuff, being recognised, having career success, promotion and status. Perhaps these days we're happy just with a walk in the countryside or on the beach. Seeing members of our family with whom we've have little contact for months. Just knowing we are staying safe and our loved ones are well. For me, these concepts and feelings have replaced much of the 'doing and having' happiness of the past.

And today, as we think about the International Day of Happiness, we've got lots of help to refocus our minds.

This year the group Action for Happiness, which is a non-profit movement of people from 160 countries supported by a partnership of like-minded organisations, is reminding us to Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind.

  • Keeping calm will always take the pressure off. We're reminded that there are so many things outside of our control, but if we remember to focus on what really matters to us, the stresses may reduce. 
  • Making wise choices will help. We'll improve our own well-being and that of others around us if we choose positivity and positive thinking and actions, rather than negative ones.
  • Yesterday we were thinking about being kind to each other. Action for Happiness also encourage us to keep in touch with others and reach out to help people in need. To 'stay connected'
 
So ... question is ... what makes us happy? How can we stay happy and encourage and promote happiness?

Here are some more ideas from the International Day of Happiness website which has 10 great points to help us develop happiness, especially in these coronavirus times...

  • Let's stick together (to beat covid)
  • Follow World Health Organisation (WHO) advice
  • Attend a Happiness Day event (virtually)
  • Stay Social (online)
  • Be Kind, share and say 'Thank you'
  • Stay active and be mindful
  • Be optimistic, positive and resilient 
  • Stay informed about facts and news
  • Enjoy nature
  • Adopt 'HAPPYTALISM' .. which is all about thinking of ways we can change systems to ensure we never again have such an awful pandemic. It's about looking at new economic models and, as the United Nations resolution encourages to do, to think of the well-being of people as much as we think about economic success

Don't you love that ... HAPPYTALISM rather than CAPITALISM?

On this International Day we have a whole 24 hours to think about happiness but hopefully, if we're just starting out on this journey, what we learn today will transform tomorrow and tomorrow's tomorrow.

And .. for those of you who know me well, you might have guessed already that I have song for you ... and it IS an obvious one. Love this song!

Happy International Day of Happiness !

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

be kind.png

We’re all in this together, even when we’re forced apart. Let’s stay connected and reach out to help others who may be in need.

 
 

That February Feeling

It's that time of year when life can be a little overwhelming. At least that's my experience.

January is over but Spring is not yet with us. We are still often being battered by the winter weather, wet and windy, cold and dull. Life can feel a bit dark in the first couple of weeks of February. Winter can seem never-ending.

Of course, we know it WILL  come to an end ... after all, this is not Narnia during the reign of the White Witch when it was, in the words of their creator C.S.Lewis“Always winter but never Christmas.”

But sometimes it does feel endless.

Although here in Jersey in the Channel Islands we've had the occasional bright winter's day in recent weeks, January was the wettest on record, with only a couple of days of the month rain-free, and right now we're in another dull and cold snap. 

Add to that the fact that we've had nearly a year of pandemic restrictions, working from home and not much getting out, well it's very easy to start to feel sorry for oneself.

But on a day like today I need to remind myself that, even though life is getting me down, actually I have so much to be thankful for.

So many people during this coronavirus pandemic have lost their lives, or loved ones. Many have lost their jobs and life is very insecure. Although the past year for me has not been a bed of roses, I have certainly not had a terribly negative experience. I'm sure I'll talk more about this again from time to time.

But I do need to keep on top of the tendency towards negativity.

A few years back, I realised that sometimes we forget to be grateful for the things we have in our lives. We chase dreams and perhaps things out of reach, rather than just being satisfied with and thankful for what we have - right now!

It was then I created a Facebook page called 'Don't Forget to Say Thanks' . It's not the most followed page in the world but every now and then, when I need to remind myself of the need to feel gratitude, I post a little thought. It's a work in progress. Aren't we all?

So, today, when I am feeling a little worse for wear and mournful of the season, I turn to that inspiration ... and share one encouraging thought with you!

Thanks Feb 9

 


My Tribute

There are times when a song or a piece of music takes you by surprise, or  unexpectedly reminds you of something in your past or takes you back to a moment in time.

That happened to me last weekend. 

On Sunday at lunchtime in the UK the BBC broadcasts its long running and very popular television programme called Songs of Praise, a religious show which features Christian hymns sung in churches of different denominations across the country, and interesting interviews and features about the life of faith of the nation.

Even during the coronavirus pandemic, when they haven't been able to go out and record big congregations singing at the top of their voices, Songs of Praise has kept alive and vibrant. They have recorded soloists, and small groups and choirs singing at safe distance,  and new interviews are interwoven with some of the highlights of congregational singing recorded in recent years, before churches were all locked up to keep us safe.

I've been involved with Songs of Praise for several reasons down the years. I've sung in a few big congregations. As a PR working for different churches and faith charities, I've helped provide guests for the programme. And many years ago, I was actually a guest myself when the programme came to Jersey and I was interviewed for the show. 

In addition to the church based programmes, every year Songs of Praise also hosts 'specials' like 'The Big Sing' and competitions like 'Gospel Choir of the Year' and 'Young Chorister of the Year' which enable the whole nation to enjoy some amazing singers and performances.

This year, for the first time, Songs of Praise is hosting a new contest - 'Gospel Singer of the Year' - and last Sunday (Jan 31) they held the semi-finals. The top three will be in the final today.

But that's not really why I'm writing this.

I'm inspired to share a song with you this Sunday. It was sung last weekend by one of the semi-finalists in the Gospel Singer of the Year programme. And it brought back a particular time in my life and a poignant memory.

In May 1985 my darling Dad died. It was way before his time. He was only 63.

He and mum were living in the UK at the time, ministering in a Salvation Army corps (church) in Kent, and when Dad passed away - or as we say in The Salvation Army ... when he was 'Promoted to Glory' - we held three memorial services. One in the UK church that he was leading at the time of his passing, and then ten days later, the main funeral and an evening celebration service at home here in Jersey, in his 'home' church.

In the celebration service I sang a song for my Dad. How I managed it I'll never know, and I am aware that I missed some of the top notes because of my tears, but I did it for him.

The song meant a lot to me but I have to admit that I haven't listened to it much in the intervening 35 plus years and I certainly haven't sung it in public again. In fact, I don't really sing solos much anymore.

But it was THAT song I heard on the Songs of Praise Gospel Singer of the Year. It was sung beautifully and I was pleased that the performer is in the final. It brought a tear to my eye and caused a lump in my throat, but it's been going through my mind all this week.

So - just for you - I share it with you this Sunday.

The title of the song is 'My Tribute - To God be the Glory' and it was written by the amazing singer/songwriter Andraé Crouch, who also sadly is no longer with us. He mixed his own words to the eternal poetry of hymnwriter Fanny Crosby to create this beautiful song.

'My Tribute' has been sung by many artists down the years, including one of my favourite singers - Sandi Patty. But in the 1980s I also listened a lot to a Christian singer called 'Evie' ... and it's her version of this amazing song that I was inspired by.

It took me a while to find it online, and in the process I discovered that Evie is still performing, including this song, and looking and sounding amazing ... but this is the original recording I fell in love with.

Enjoy and be blessed!

 

 

 


The Day the Music Died

I'm always fascinated by how creative people come up with their ideas.

Plots for stories and novels, film scripts, song lyrics.

Although I know that sometimes inspiration appears to come from nowhere, and characters and music just appear in ones head or even dreams, at other times the idea might come from nature, real life characters, and even news stories.

And today I'm thinking about one of the best known rock and roll songs ever recorded ...  American Pie written and recorded by Don McLean. It was inspired by an event which shocked the world on this day in 1959.


I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

So bye, bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey 'n rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

On February 3rd 1959 some of the biggest stars of the time, performers we now recognise as pioneers of American rock and roll, were killed in a plane crash.

Buddy HollyThe Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens were on a national tour with a host of other musicians - what was dubbed the  Winter Dance Party tour. They had been on the road since January 23rd, travelling from city to city and venue to venue in draughty and unreliable buses. It was all turning a bit disastrous, everyone was exhausted, morale was low and drummer Carl Bunch was hospitalised with frostbite in his toes - caused by the freezing conditions on the bus!

The next stop on the tour was Clear Lake in Iowa and Buddy Holly, who had organised the Dance Party, decided to charter a four seater aeroplane so that after the Clear Lake concert, they could fly to the next venue in Moorhead, Minnesota.

For Holly and two of his friends this would mean they could rest before the next show. But who to take?

Holly had gathered around him a band of fantastic musicians including Carl Bunch on drums, Waylon Jennings on electric bass and Tommy Allsup on guitar.

Jennings was to have a seat in the plane, but he gave up his place to J. P. Richardson (aka the Big Bopper), who had the flu. Allsup flipped a coin for the third seat and he lost to Ritchie Valens.

So it was that Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper were the trio who took their seats on that plane. Shortly after take off, just before 1am on February 3rd, the aircraft crashed into a cornfield.

When the news broke, the nation and certainly the world of entertainment and music went into mourning. Three of the biggest stars and the brightest talent had been lost. Buddy Holly was 22. Valens even younger ... just 17. And although Richardson was one of the older members of the band, he was only aged 28 on that fateful day.

Don McLean has revealed that he first heard about Buddy Holly's death on the morning of February 4th, from the newspaper headlines. The songwriter was then a 13-year-old and he was folding the papers ready for his newspaper route. Hence the line "February made me shiver/with every paper I'd deliver..."

Years ago, to mark a big birthday, I was treated to a night out at the theatre in Pretoria in South Africa with my brother and sister-in-law and enjoyed the musical 'Buddy', based on Holly's life and untimely death. The musical is around 30 years old, but it was a couple of decades before its creation, in autumn 1971, and 12 years after the fateful crash, that Don McLean released his iconic album 'American Pie' from which comes the single of the same name. 

On January 15th 1972 it reached number one in the US Billboard charts and it stayed there for four weeks. The song also topped the charts in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In the UK, the single reached number 2, where it stayed for 3 weeks on its original 1971 release. The song gained more popularity and a new audience when it was re-issued two decades later, in 1991. It was also listed as Number 5 in the Recording Industry Association of America Songs of the Century project and in 2017, the original recording of McLean's 'American Pie' was chosen by the American Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Recording Registry, being cited as "culturally, historically, or artistically significant"

As I said at the start, it's interesting where people get their ideas for genius, but I've always been more than intrigued by this song, not just because it mentions the events of February 3rd 1959, but also because it appears to have hidden references to other events and characters which influenced American culture.

Over the years, experts have endlessly unpicked and prevaricated over 'American Pie' and it's lyrics, trying to unravel it, especially the references which don't appear to relate specifically to that plane crash.

Don McLean consistently kept silent, but eventually, when the original manuscript of the song went up for auction in New York in 2015, he finally revealed the meaning of his lyrics,

He told us that it's a 'morality song' really ... it's not just about the loss suffered on that day, but its key theme is the loss of innocence of the early rock and roll generation which the Feb 3 1959 events epitomise. Apparently, we now know, there are mentions of Elvis Presley ("the king") and Bob Dylan ("the jester"), and McLean also confirmed that the song culminates with a description of the death of Meredith Hunter,  an 18-year-old African American who was killed at the 1969 Altamont Free Concert. That controversial death and subsequent murder trial happened ten years after the plane crash that killed Holly, Valens, and Richardson.  

Today, I remember 'The Day the Music Died', which is how, thanks to McLean's song, Feb 3rd 1959 will forever be remembered. And I think about and give thanks for the many talented people who have entertained us down the years and have left creative legacies in music, prose and poetry.  Some have made a tremendous impact on our lives and on the world. Others not so much, admittedly, but we can't have it all.

Oh and by the way, that 'American Pie' original manuscript sold for $1.2 million! Well-deserved I would say, for a song that pays tribute to those who have gone before and given us so much.