Testament of Youth

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A  photo of the cast of a school play, not seen since circa 1970, turned up in my inbox courtesy of a friend who now works at the school.

Not sure what the play was, perhaps The Murder of Maria Marten or the Red Barn – Gruesome but of great appeal to teenage girls (and Victorians).  We all seem to think it was comedy though.

Our adult selves are formed by moments and memories. The person we will become embedded in embryo form, probably from the moment of conception, in the way a shoot can be seen curled inside a bean.

Theatre, music and art  are part of a great tradition in schools, for those lucky enough to have benefited. The highs and lows remembered with affection and the lessons remembered for life bear testament that good teaching is more than the three ‘R’s and learning by rote.

Ice Cream Days

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Age: 93 and 1/2

status: infirm but happy

source of joy: sitting in sunshine

additional source: ice-cream

I did give my mother the soubriquet ‘The Boxer’ for her fighting spirit,  a predilection for  television, and boxes of chocolates.  For years that held true, now though, as old age ravages the once indomitable energy, it is less apt.

Also, I read somewhere that it would be unwise to trust anyone whose first name was ‘The.’

Music and Peace in Snowdonia

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The only sound to come from the audience last night as Catrin Finch played her harp was thunderous applause.  She played by candlelight because there is no electricity in the intimate and tiny St Tanwg’s church.

The church that  lies amid dunes in the hamlet of Llandanwg between Llanfair and Llanbedr has special significance for Catrin because she was married there.

Many have worked hard over the centuries to preserve this church, a holy place even by dint of its survival.  The very ground seems hallowed in the way the Camino is,  after so many souls have passed before with prayerful intent.

Unsurprisingly the church is steeped in history, the more recent no less inspiring and the facts almost make a better story than fiction.

In march 1945 Flight Lieutenant John Wynne, from Llanbedr, ordered his crew to bail out when their RAF flying fortress caught fire  during a bombing raid over Germany. He eventually managed to bring the burning plane down and survived, but the crew were captured as they landed in Huchenfeld unaware that only weeks earlier the RAF had destroyed  over 17,000 people  in a bombing raid and subsequent fire storm in nearby Pforzheim.

The RAF prisoners were stoned  in revenge for the attack.  One airman, Tom Tate, managed to escape, but his five fellow airmen died. It was nearly fifty years before Flight Lieutenant John Wynne  found out the fate of the other airmen and worked tirelessly for peace.  Llanbedr is now  twinned with Huchenfeld, reconciled 65 years after the massacre and a commemorative plaque for the RAF crew has been placed on the wall of Huchenfeld church.  The village, Llanbedr, received a  Coventry Cross of Nails.

The cross originates from the German bombing of Coventry Cathedral in 1940, when much of the city was reduced to rubble. Two of the charred beams that had fallen in the shape of a cross were set on the altar and three medieval nails were bound into the shape of a cross, creating the ‘Cross of Nails’.

It is a powerful and inspirational symbol worldwide of forgiveness and reconciliation. In post conflict Europe of the 1950’s and 60’s, the presentation of a Cross of Nails to churches in Kiel, Dresden, Berlin and other cities destroyed by Allied bombing, symbolized peace and the growing trust and partnership that developed.

By the 1970’s this courageous vision began to spread to other areas of conflict and the Community of the Cross of Nails was formed in 1974. There are now 170 CCN Partners around the world drawn together by the Coventry story and working for peace and reconciliation within their own communities and countries.

John Wynne was awarded  for the Guernika Peace Prize for his work of reconciliation. Guernika and Pforzheim were both firebombed although Guernika was destroyed  by German and Italian Air Force.

The prize was established in 2005 by the City Council of Guernika and Pforzheim and the organisations Guernika Gogoratuz (Institute for Peace), Peace Museum Guernika and the forcinghouse Guernika.

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Ode to Joy

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Sunday breakfast outdoors in December, even with a coat on, has to be noteworthy, add ‘Desert Island Discs’,  result : bliss.

Later, if the sun holds, I’ll drag out the lap top, check the latest round of rejections, prepare  the manuscript for the next batch of six potentials and try again.  Then there will be the daily word count for the next mattress filler.

One day it might even be a stocking filler.

The Wolves in the Walls

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This wolf in the wall in Hay reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s picture book and was perhaps standing there in his honour.

There was a stage adaptation of The Wolves in the Walls in Glasgow a few years ago,  and very good it was too, arresting in fact, maverick and irreverent, and slightly sinister – absolutely of appeal to children.

 

Season of mists

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Re-reading Keats and unable to marry the words with the grey and wind torn view,  I  realised autumn has gone over. Too late for the maturing sun and late harvest now.

And then comes a day like today raising hopes of  mellow fruitfulness all over again.

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SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;
For Summer has o’erbrimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.