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An Irish Blessing for St Patrick's Day

Today - March 17th - is St Patrick's Day.

It's the day that Ireland and Irish people or those of Irish descent across the world celebrate - well, BEING Irish - and one of their most important patron saints. In 'normal times' much partying is done , much Guinness is drunk and shamrocks are worn, but importantly it's a day when many people go to church to remember St Patrick and give thanks for him, because it is, first and foremost, a spiritual/holy day.

Don't worry, I'm not going to start a whole essay about St Patrick. That would take far too long because it's a very complicated story, with many twists and turns, legends and stories of miracles.

Just some highlights.

Patrick wasn't Irish but was born in Roman Britain. When he was about 16 he was captured by Irish pirates and taken as a slave to the island of Ireland, where he mostly looked after animals for about six years. It's while he was looking after those sheep that it's believed he 'found God'. He escaped and managed to get home to his family where he studied Christianity and eventually became a priest. Later he returned to the place where he had been imprisoned to spread the Christian message to the Irish, who mostly practised a form of paganism ... the ancient Celtic religion.

And if you're wondering why the shamrock, or the three leaf clover, is a symbol of Ireland on this day in particular, it's because Patrick is said to have used the little plant with the three leaves to explain the Christian Holy Trinity - God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - to those he was hoping to convert.

Patrick didn't have it easy. Standing up to the local warlords, often apparently getting beaten up, sometimes being imprisoned and threatened with execution. But he continued his mission and although there is evidence of a Christian presence in Ireland before Patrick, he is generally considered as the founder of the faith there. He became a bishop and is known as the 'Apostle of Ireland',  and his feast day is marked on March 17th, the day it's thought he died.

But we can't be exactly sure. There's lots of mystery surrounding Patrick, even question marks over when he lived. It's generally believed that he was a missionary in Ireland during the fifth century, and by the seventh century, he had become revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

So today, to mark the day and to celebrate the man who was St Patrick and the legacy of faith he brought to Ireland, I leave you with one of my favourite Irish Blessings.

 

Irish blessing road
*Oh and if you're wondering, the 'road' in this picture is La Grande Route de St Ouen in Jersey.

 


Life is like a book

Just thinking today about how easy it is to go through life never taking any chances or stepping outside of our 'comfort zone'. 

Just wondering ...

What might I be missing?

 

Life is like a book


Being Dennis (the Menace)

 

Dennis the menace

Who knows who this is?

If you were (or still are) an avid reader of  'The Beano' comic you might recognise him?

It's Dennis the Menace!

The mischievous little boy with, it has to be said, a bit of an evil streak. He gets up to all sorts and unlike many anti-heroes, he doesn't really get any better as time goes on. He is just Dennis.

Why am I remembering him today?

Well, it was on March 12th 1951 in the UK that the long running children's comic first featured the little boy with the devilish grin and the catapult. The comic came out a week later on March 17th ... but it was today that history began. Well,  Dennis the Menace history anyway.

I loved the Beano, and other comics actually, not just for the jokes but also for the cartoons - not just Dennis, but also 'The Bash Street Kids', 'Minnie the Minx' and 'Billy Whizz', with the fantastic quiff of hair.

And the great thing is that The Beano is still entertaining kids today. Published by DC Thomson in Dundee in Scotland, the comic first appeared on 30 July 1938 - it's now more than 80 years old but Dennis is still Dennis. Sort of.

His name of his cartoon strip has changed a bit over the years ... 'Dennis the Menace' to 'Dennis the Menace and Gnasher' (his dastardly dog) and now to 'Dennis and Gnasher'. By the way, did you know that Gnasher apparently is an 'Abyssinian wire-haired tripe hound' ? No, me neither. You learn something new every day.

The idea of an archetypal naughty schoolboy who gets into all sorts of trouble and causes mayhem especially for the adults around him is, of course, a winner for a comic strip. It's what all kids want to do but mostly feel they can't - right? It's escapism, pure and simple.

Down the years, there have been TV shows and films about Dennis, but you might have noticed that usually the little lad is not the dark haired broody chap we know here in Great Britain, but an angelic looking blond kid, who is nevertheless as mischievous as our Dennis.

Dennis usaWell that's because in the USA, Dennis IS an angelic looking blond kid!

He ALSO appeared for the first time on March 12th 1951, in newspapers across the USA. Originally the comic strip was distributed by a company called Post-Hall Syndicate and today it's distributed to at least 1,000 newspapers in 48 countries and translated into 19 languages by King Features Syndicate. It's why the cartoons and TV shows and movies generally feature the little blond version of Dennis.

But weirdly, although Dennis the Menace appeared for the first time on exactly the same day on both sides of the Atlantic, there was and is NO connection.

How spooky is that?

It seems that creative people on both sides of 'The Pond' were having almost identical ideas about creating a boy character with mischief on his mind, at the same time! Plus, the name apparently was independently conceived based on different personal experiences. Ok, so the word 'Dennis' lends itself to rhyming with 'Menace' but I still think it's a bit freaky that different cartoonists came up with the same concept independently. 

That aside, on this auspicious Dennis the Menace Day, I wanted to leave you with a quote from the boy himself.

I've no idea which version of the Menace this is attributed to or whether I need to say it in an English or an American accent, but when I looked online for 'Dennis the Menace Quotes' THIS is what popped up.

And I love it. 

A little while back I blogged about just being yourself and not being forced into anyone else's mould. and this quote in the same vein. 

Dennis is just Dennis, in the UK and in the USA (and around the world now). He's just Dennis, even though that's a bit naughty, disruptive and hilarious. And he works hard at remaining Dennis and not becoming someone else, despite the pressure - in his case, to conform and behave.

So this Friday ... I don't know about you, but I'm going to think about being the best ME that I can be!

 

Dennis the menace quote

 


A Favourite Song

Do you know what a 'crossover' song is?

No?

Well - it's a song from one genre which makes it into the popular charts.

In the USA there are so many different music genres, all popular in their own right - I'm thinking blues, and country and western, jazz, bluegrass, R+B, soul, funk, techno ... etc etc ... you get my drift I'm sure! 

And then there's the Gospel and the Contemporary Christian Music scenes - all incredibly popular with very successful artists, many of whom may never make it into the 'Pop' download lists but who have brilliant careers, millions of followers and fans, downloads and sales. Radio stations galore playing all types of music.

In the UK it's a bit different, with a much more limited 'pop' scene and fewer opportunities for radio play on our most popular stations, but there's a growing number of online stations playing different kinds of music.

But back to my first thought. Every now and then there's an artist who successfully manages to 'cross over' ... someone from one genre who 'makes it' in the pop world.

One of those brilliant singers is Carrie Underwood, born on this day in 1983.

I remember seeing her on TV, winning the fourth series of 'American Idol' in 2005. Apparently during the programme run, 500 million votes were cast in her favour and for the final - 37million votes were recorded. That gives you an indication of the numbers of people who enjoy music ... just in the USA ... and why it's possible to be a star there whatever your style of music.

Carrie was just 21 when she appeared on American Idol and she was described as a 'farm girl' from Oklahoma. Musically she came from a 'country' background and although not everyone who wins these TV talent shows goes on to great success, in the case of Carrie Underwood, she's gone on to become a seven-time Grammy-winning country megastar. 

Carrie apparently takes her musical inspiration from many different types of music, but she's also released songs and albums with Christian themes.

So today I'm just going to share with you one of the Carrie Underwood's songs that I love - 'Jesus, Take the Wheel'. When I used to present on BBC Radio Jersey it sometimes popped up in my playlist especially on a Sunday morning, but also at other times of the day.

Now if you've been reading this blog for a bit, you'll know that I'm a Christian, and I love especially the first few lines of the chorus of this song ...

"Jesus, take the wheel
Take it from my hands
'Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go..."

For me, that's a bit of a prayer.

Enjoy!

 

 

 


Choose to Challenge

Today is International Women's Day. It's a day to support and celebrate women's rights. Not that we shouldn't do that EVERY day but it is a good thing to have ONE day at least when the world comes together to celebrate the achievements of those of the female gender and to think about what we all might do to help ensure girls and women gain the equality they deserve.

Iwd hillary clinton quoteIt's also a day to encourage girls and women to believe in themselves, to believe that they have as many rights in life as anyone else to follow their dreams no matter how big. I love this quote from Hillary Clinton ... it says it all I think! Even if the world around you is telling you that you are second class, all girls and women are deserving of the same chances as boys and men. And we all not only have the right to dream, but to make those dreams come true.

In 2021 this might sound a peculiar thing to say, because in many cultures women have equality with men across the board ... don't they?

Don't they?

Well, perhaps in many countries women do have equality, even in law, but that doesn't mean females get equal treatment and are considered equal by everyone. And we do know that there are many cultures still where women ARE treated as second-class citizens and girls still don't have the same chances as boys. There are still communities where girls are not allowed to go to school, where some are held back from school because they need to be at home to help the family - collecting water, looking after siblings. There are some cultures where girls are married off to older men even before they are teenagers, effectively ending their childhood. There are still places where women do much of the work in the community, as well as taking the lion's share of family responsibilities and child care, but are excluded from decision making and leadership.

And that's just for starters!

Today International Women's Day has become increasingly about standing up for women's equality and challenging the norms of society which keep women and girls subordinate.

And this is interesting because that's where IWD began back in the early 1900s, when women's inequality and oppression was beginning to result in more and more women fighting for change. 

The campaign for women's suffrage - the right of women to vote - had actually begun in the mid 19th century, with corresponding advocacy for economic and social as well as political equality. But by the early 20th century not much progress had been made and there was growing unrest and debate. Women still felt largely oppressed and they became more vocal.

In the USA in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights and the following year the Socialist Party of America declared February 28th as the first National Woman's Day (NWD).

In 1910 there was big conference in Copenhagen in Denmark -  the second International Conference of Working Women - and it was there that the idea of an International Women's Day was mooted. The conference was attended by over 100 women from 17 countries and the idea was approved.

Although the USA marked their National Women's Day on the last Sunday in February for another couple of years, in 1911 International Women's Day was marked for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, on March 19th. On that day, more than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. And the right to vote.

As the world stood on the brink of global conflict which we now know as World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on February 23rd in 1913 - again the last Sunday in February. At that time, Russia followed the Julian calendar while most of the rest of the world used the Gregorian calendar where that day equated to March 8th. Hope you're keeping up with this.

Anyway, it was at this point that discussions began to try to align everyone to celebrate on the same day and it was agreed to mark International Women's Day every year on March 8th.

In 1914, women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the impending war and to express solidarity with women across the world. In London a women's march resulted in the arrest of suffrage campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst as she made her way to speak to the large crowds in Trafalgar Square.

Although women remained passionate down the years, it was not until 1975 that the United Nations celebrated International Women's Day for the first time. Two years later, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by nation states, in accordance with their individual national and historical traditions.

Moving into the 21st century and by the year 2000 unfortunately there was little appetite for or activity in most countries for International Women's Day. The world had moved on from the years of 'feminism' and in fact that concept was now a bit of a dirty word. But still the world was not equal. Women were still being treated differently, including being paid less than men and given fewer opportunities in many areas of life. 

So it was that in 2001 a website called www.internationalwomensday.com was launched, with the aim of reinvigorating International Women's Day. Today the site provides help, resources and guidance to all those campaigning for better equality between the sexes, and more opportunities for women and girls across the world. Every year there are different themes which sum up some of the challenges facing women across the globe, and call us to action. Some of the themes have included #ChooseToChallenge #TheGenderAgenda #EachforEqual #PledgeforParity #PressforProgress #MakeItHappen ... you get it right?

In 2011 the centenary of International Women's Day was marked across the world, and in the USA, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 2011 to be "Women's History Month", calling on Americans to mark the day and to reflect on "the extraordinary accomplishments of women" in shaping the country's history. Which brings us to Hillary Clinton, who was then US Secretary of State. She launched the "100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges".

Down the years, there's been a substantial change in attitudes to International Women's Day. There has been sign up from many international groups working with girls and women, lots of charities and business organisations now organise events and many business leaders and celebrities actively support the day.

In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers, and the day is officially recognised and celebrated in many countries around the world, including some where gender equality is still not a given.

Because although many people, including from younger generations who didn't live through the years before Gender Equality legislation, might think that the battle is won, there is still much to be done. Women are often still not paid the same as men doing the same job. Women make up at least half the population of the world but we still don't have equal representation of females in politics and the business world. Many women choose to create their own businesses rather than enter the male dominated business world. Around the world, as I said at the start, girls are often disadvantaged for cultural reasons. They experience inferior health and education, and violence against women and girls is often worse than against men and boys.

Today we are encouraged to not just act locally but also to think on a global level and to try to make a difference, and not just on International Women's Day.

But what might that mean for us? Might it mean stepping out of our comfort zone? Not just accepting the treatment of others because it doesn't affect us personally?

This year's campaign theme on International Women's Day is #ChooseToChallenge

We might not march like those women in 1908 and in 1914. We might not get arrested as Sylvia Pankhurst did, just for deigning to speak up for the rights of women.

But we can CHOOSE to celebrate the achievements of women. We can CHOOSE to challenge inequality and unfairness when we see it and help create a more inclusive world.

And, as it says on the International Women's Day website,  today maybe we can all spend just a few minutes in reflecting how WE might be able to do our bit "to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding".

We might not feel we can make much of a difference on our own, but two voices are better than one. A thousand voices are better than a hundred, and a million voices, all challenging the status quo where women and girls are still not given the opportunities they deserve, could change the world.

And you don't have to be female to take up the challenge. It's something we can ALL do!
 

 


Smile! It's Saturday!

Not much to say today ... apart from the fact that ... it's Saturday!

I'm so happy!

It's the first weekend in March, so if you're in the northern hemisphere, I hope Spring is 'springing' wherever you are, that you maybe get a chance to get out into the fresh air and you have an opportunity for a bit of rest and relaxation. 

If you're somewhere else ... enjoy whatever season it is where you are!

That's all ... have a great day!

Saturday smile*image by Cathy Le Feuvre ... isn't it lovely?


The Sound of Spring

First week of March and Spring is definitely in the air.

Every morning right now I awake to a lovely sound. In the trees in the garden next to mine ... loads of birds just celebrating the arrival of the day.

Because there are no leaves on the branches yet, you can see them up there singing their hearts out. 

It's glorious ... so let me just share this glorious Sound of Spring with you today.

Hope it brings joy to you hearts!

 


Ordinary Miracles

I work at the BBC ... BBC Radio Jersey to be specific, in the Channel Islands.

I'm the Communities Journalist, so part of my job is to engage with our local community and help people to share their stories. Not just to contribute to 'news stories' but to share their life experiences and talents.  

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic BBC local radio stations across the British Isles have been highlighting the good that is happening in communities through a campaign called 'Make a Difference'.

Every day we hear about people who are making their world, their communities, better places. Initially it was just really a response to the impact of the pandemic and to highlight how people were helping those who could not get out, and those assisting directly in response to the pandemic restrictions we are living under.

Now it's extending beyond that and we love to hear from people who are just helping others in all sorts of ways, helping to make the environment better, coming alongside those who need help. We've had stories about fundraisers for charities that are struggling to survive in these Covid19 days. We hear about those doing beach cleans, we highlight jobs that are in caring roles. As well as the ongoing direct response to the pandemic - charities and individuals offering food parcels, clothing, and general day-to-day help to those who continue to be affected.

I'm sure I'll talk a lot more about this down the line ... but it has got me thinking about my life.

What do I do to 'make a difference' to the lives of others? I'm not talking about saving the world, inventing something that will change the course of human history or intentionally setting out to be an inspiration.

I'm just talking about the kinds of things that our 'making a difference' people do every day.

Reaching out a hand of friendship, caring enough to smile at someone (even with a mask on), picking up a phone to chat to someone, dropping them a message on social media, doing a little kindness that will bring a little joy to another. 

There's a song by the fabulous Barbra Streisand which, I think says it all. It's one of my favourite songs. I love the sentiment that we can all be 'ordinary miracles' just changing the world quietly, not drawing attention to ourselves, even by sharing our efforts and stories on the local radio station.

Enjoy and be inspired!

Change can come on tiptoe 
Love is where it starts
It resides, often hides,  deep within our hearts
And just as pebbles make a mountain, raindrops make a sea
One day at a time change begins with you and me
Ordinary miracles happen all around
Just by giving and receiving comes belonging and believing

Every sun that rises
Never rose before
Each new day leads the way through a different door
And we can all be quiet heroes living quiet days
Walking through the world changing it in quiet ways
Ordinary miracles like candles in the dark
Each and every one of us lights a spark

And the walls can tumble
And the mountains can move
The winds and the tide can turn

Yes, ordinary miracles
One for every star
No lightning bolt or clap of thunder
Only joy and quiet wonder
Endless possibilities right before our eyes
Oh, see the way a miracle multiples

Now hope can spring eternally
Plant it and it grows
Love is all that's necessary
Love in its extraordinary way
Makes ordinary miracles every blessed day

 

 


Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!

Today is St David's Day!

And if you're from the country of Wales, if you're Welsh, or part-Welsh (as I am) this is an important day.

On March 1st every year the people of Wales, and those of Welsh heritage wherever they are in the world, celebrate their patron saint. 

My Mum is Welsh so in our family we've always known about St David's Day. But it was when I spent my final two years of schooling in Wales that I realised how passionate people are about their saint, their history, their culture and their language. 

DaffodilOn this day, people wear the traditional symbols of Wales - daffodils or leeks - and enjoy traditional Welsh food ... my favourites are Welsh cakes which are like little griddle pancakes. Yum!

But who was St David?

Well in the 6th century, he was a Bishop of a place called 'Mynyw', which is the modern day St Davids, a city in the county of Pembrokeshire  in the southwest of the country.

David (Dewi) was born in Wales, although there's no clear evidence as to the year that happened. It is known that he was a celebrated teacher and preacher and that he founded monasteries and churches in Wales - St David's Cathedral is situated on the site of a monastery he founded in the Glyn Rhosyn valley of Pembrokeshire - in 'Dumnonia' (a kingdom in the southwest of England) and even Brittany in France. David is even believed to have visited the ancient religious site of Glastonbury

David established his own Monastic Rule, a system of religious and daily living for monks, and one of David's main rules was that when his followers were tilling the soil, THEY had to pull the plough themselves, rather than animals. Monks living by the Monastic Rule of David drank only water and ate only bread with salt and herbs - no meat, and certainly no beer. They were allowed no personal possessions and while David's monks worked in the day, they spent the evenings reading, writing and praying. 

So, why is David's feast day March 1st? 

That's the day when it's thought he died. As with his birth, there's a question mark over what year that was. Some say 601AD, others 589AD. 

David was buried in St David's Cathedral and his shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. Invading Vikings removed the shrine during the 10th and 11th centuries but in 1275 a new shrine was constructed, the ruined base of which remains to this day.  

Although St David had been a popular saint in Wales since the 12th century, his religious feast day didn't become a national festival until the 18th century. And it's on March 1st every year that Welsh heritage people celebrate the man who now is their patron saint. Children especially are encouraged to celebrate as they learn about their history, and they often head to school for the day dressed as coal miners or in the traditional Welsh woman costume, with the girls often wearing a leek in their lapel. I remember at school one girl wearing such a BIG leek, a huge green vegetable, that it covered her whole chest and ... boy did it smell (like onion).

But why daffodils, and why leeks ? 

Well the leek became a symbol of the Welsh spirit because one legend says that St David advised his people to wear leeks in a battle against the Saxons. It was the days of hand-to-hand combat and wearing the leek meant that they would be recognised as Welsh by their compatriots in the heat of the battle - so no chance of someone killing a fellow Welshman! That's just one of the stories, but leeks were a popular food for many centuries and were also used for medicinal purposes, and the link with St David's Day is thought to be especially through the Tudors, who had strong Welsh roots and heritage.

And the daffodil?

This lovely yellow blooms appears in early Spring, around the time of St David's Day and it's just a joyful flower, isn't it?

But the floral link with Wales is fairly recent really and is thought to have been adopted as an alternative to the leek in the early 20th century, by which time the wearing of vegetables on your coat on March 1st had become a bit of a joke. Welsh politician and elder statesman David Lloyd George, who was British Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922, was said to be an advocate of the daffodil being used as a symbol of his Homeland.

The Welsh are a proud people and on St David's Day that pride is more obvious than ever.

If you're not aware, the country (now called the Principality) has its own ancient language. Welsh is a Celtic language - with links to the ancient Celtic Britons - and although for centuries Welsh was the common language of the people, it did fall into decline in the early 20th century as English became dominant. However in the 1990's the value of the native language was formerly recognised for its importance to the Welsh culture, heritage and future, with The Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998  regulating that the Welsh and English languages should be treated equally in the public sector, where sensible and possible.

These days there's Welsh speaking media, the language is taught in schools, as well as there being educational establishments where Welsh is the predominant language for conversation and teaching. I read recently that as of September 2020, it was reckoned that about a third of the population of Wales could speak the language and more than 15% spoke Welsh every day. It's been a real success story for the reinvigoration of a mother language that could easily have died out. And if you visit Wales, you'll see signs everywhere in Welsh and English.  

I know just a few words of Welsh ... passed down through my Welsh heritage ... but I'm no expert.

So, finally, today I could say 'Happy St. David’s Day!

But I instead will sign off by wishing you ...  'Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!'