Friday, 30 April 2010

The Doc and Homecoming

It was Jerry who asked me to comment in this blog on two questions he asked me. The first question was did I ever feel as if I was in prison also? I remember very clearly the first time I visited the prison after my appointment as chaplain. This was a brand new prison for high category prisoners only with an added level of security. I was there from the beginning so it was a very interesting time. This prison is now four or five times the size it was during my time there.

That first day I was on my own just me and what I had to do, visit prisoners, was a strange feeling opening and locking doors, opening and locking gates. The one difference was that on a long chain attached to my belt I had a key. I knew I could walk out any time I wanted; this made me very aware of how different my position was to that of the inmate.

I met “The Doc” very early in my ministerial career. I knew him both inside and out of prison. He was known by everybody as The Doc, because he in fact was a qualified doctor. He was one of two such people I knew the other was Harry whom I think I have mentioned before. The Doc had a real problem with his alcohol intake, he could never get enough. He had reached rock bottom living in a hostel for those who have nowhere else to live. He had an old rucksack in which he kept all of his worldly possessions. In money at all he had or could get was used to feed his habit.

He never caused any trouble to anybody; he had learned to accept his lot. He kept himself clean and on this level I was able to help. I always had access to good second hand clothes. He was erudite and had many tales to tell as he shared an ale. He was good company so many people were willing to pay for another drink for him. When he knew he had enough for the day he went back to the hospital and slept.

The exception to this was the few days before Christmas. This was when he would go and do something silly committing the offence of, Breach of the Peace. He knew when the courts would not be sitting and a term of imprisonment would result. He managed to have most Christmas days in prison. So for The Doc this was indeed a kind of coming home event. Did I try to change him no I took the way of the wolves?

The way of the wolves I hear you ask?    This is another tale for another day.

This blog is linked to my other blog where I discuss the artwork used:- Along the Hedgerow

Thursday, 29 April 2010

New Ways New Days

The son of a master thief asked his father to teach him the secrets of the trade. The old thief agreed and that night took his son to burglarize a large house. While the family was asleep, he silently led his young apprentice into a room that contained a clothes closet. The father told his son to go into the closet to pick out some clothes. When he did, his father quickly shut the door and locked him in. Then he went back outside, knocked loudly on the front door, thereby waking the family, and quickly slipped away before anyone saw him. Hours later, his son returned home, bedraggled and exhausted. "Father," he cried angrily, "Why did you lock me in that closet? If I hadn't been made desperate by my fear of getting caught, I never would have escaped. It took all my ingenuity to get out!" The old thief smiled. "Son, you have had your first lesson in the art of burglary."

Fingers had learned his “art” at the foot of a master. His father had been a thief almost all of his life and Fingers was now at that point where he was in prison for the first time. He could go out and return to his ways or make a change.

The clay, what became of it? In the next few weeks it became a horse tethered to a gypsy caravan made by another prisoner from bits of off takes of wood from the prison workshop. The caravan was all fitted out and even had little lights in it. The Clydesdale horse yoked to it was the finishing touches. The two prisoners gave it to me as a gift and it stood on the top landing windowsill of the manse and was commented on by all who saw it.

Fingers made many more marvellous sculptures and on leaving prison he continued to sculpt. His work sold and I saw it in more than one art exhibition. He turned his back on the sacred art of stealing and never returned to the prison life. He realised that there were better things that can be done with his talent.

The last I heard of him he was happily married with a family. One way and another I lost touch with him when he moved to USA to set up home there. I know this blog is read in the USA so if you are out there Fingers, get in touch would so love to hear how you are doing.

I have promised Jerry that I will devote one blog to the questions he asked in a comment yesterday tomorrow I will do that. I will introduce you to the “Doc.”

This Blog is linked to my other where I discuss the artwork used here:- Autumn Waterclour

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

It All Comes To Roost

Fingers was a deep thinking young man of that I had no doubt “step lightly go easy” came to my mind. He was to in Her Majesty’s keeping for a few years. He had been caught stealing a wallet at a football match, not because he had lost his touch but because somebody had reported he was going to the match with this intention. He was watched closely on CCTV and filmed in the act. He knew he had to be where he was, if you do the crime you do the time, he knew the score.

Nevertheless he had been betrayed by one he considered a friend and he was hurting deeply and it would not be a simple matter to win his trust. We talked often but not every time I visited. One of the days we were he said to me, “I notice you still bring your wallet into my cell.” “Why would I not?” I replied, “You have done nothing to make me not trust you. If and when you do I will act accordingly.”

Another day he commented on the fact that I was different from most padres he had met. I did not “bible thump him,” he said. “If you have the need to speak of that we can,” I answered. He said he had many questions and needed something but he sure did not believe in a God. He and I began to look at some of the eastern philosophies together. This was new to me so we were on the adventure together.

Some time after the key incident I spoke to him about it again. I asked if he had always been able to do this, to look at something and reproduce it from memory. He could not remember how long he had been able to. “Have you ever thought of putting that talent to good use?” I asked. “What? Making keys,” he said. “Have you ever thought of making models?” I enquired. It turns out he had been absent from school more than at it in his youth so the possibilities of art had slipped him by.

I was given permission by the governor to bring him in some clay. My youth club had clay and did some pottery work so it was not difficult for me to make this possible. It was agreed so the second journey began.

A warrior was captured and thrown into jail. That night he lay in fear sure that the next day he would be interrogated, tortured and executed. As he lay there he remembered the words of his Zen master. “Tomorrow is not real it is an illusion, the only reality is the now. Make the most of the moment.” Heeding these words the warrior fell into a deep and restful sleep. The next day he awoke to find that his own army had captured the prison and he was free.

Make the most of every moment, This is the way of the Tao.

This blog is linked to my other where the artwork used is discussed:-     Coming Home to Roost

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The True Student

I remember meeting a young man in the prison who seemed to be quieter than most of the other prisoners. He spent his day getting on with what he was told to do, never arguing or causing any disturbance. I should have known his name but sadly I did not I knew him as fingers. One day I had the opportunity to sit with him in his “peter” the name all prisoners had for their cells. We sat together and he spoke to me of his youth. His father was really unknown to him have spent most of his young life in prison himself. His mother struggled to raise him.

I asked him why he was called fingers. He said to me, “Do you really want to know padre?” “Yes,” I said. He spoke for a few minutes more directing my attention to a picture on his cork board. When I looked back to his face he handed me my wallet. He asked me if I had a key in my possession other than my cells master key. I showed him a key he studied it for about four minutes and gave me it back.

On my next visit he gave me a key made of some scrap metal he had got his hands on. The key fitted the door of my garage. Here was a man with a talent that he was surely wasting. I needed to think about this but I had grown strangely interested in this young man and knew he and I were to become friends as only a prisoner and chaplain can. We had just made the first step of an interesting little journey.

A young student one day asked his master a question about the quality of the good student. The master looked to the student and said there are two kinds of learners. The first one on learning a little he shouts from the rooftops of his knowledge. He is quick to tell others and boast. The good student learns and in learning he discovers there is so much more yet to learn and quietly goes about the business of learning.

You are going to discover that “fingers” was one of those.

Thank you all once again for the many comments made yesterday I appreciate them all. I hope to be like the good student and now go and learn the more there is yet to learn.

This blog is linked to my other where I talk about the artwork used here:-  Sunflowers

Monday, 26 April 2010

Do You Have A Minute?

Here in the United Kingdom we are in the midst of a General Election. The other night there I was called by one of the political parties and asked if I would give them some time to answer a few questions. I duly did and I was very aware at the end of the list of questions he asked he was unhappy I had not responded as expected.

When you attend a conference or workshop the last thing is usually the filling out of what I call the happy sheets. Here you are invited to say what you thought of the speaker, the venue and the food. What the organisers do not really want is for you to tell them exactly what you thought of the event. So we have the happy sheets those who were not happy just did not return it.

A friend asks you what to you think of my new outfit? You think it is so wrong for her but find some nice little platitude, because you are really not being invited to tell the truth.

You were invited to a dinner and attended. At the end of the meal nobody ever expects you to say, “Well that was a boring conversation.”

How many of us know of those websites where artists post their work and they get a great many praises and those who would like to make a suggestion don’t say anything because we know that is not what it is about. I have to thank those blogger friends I have met on here that are happy to give and take some honest feedback.

There is the interesting tale of the student who went to the master and pleaded, “Master please tell me who I really am, I am lost and desperate to know my true self.” The master looked at him but said nothing. The student pleaded and begged but still the master made no response. The student got angry and in frustration turned to walk away.

At that point the master called him by name. The student said, “Yes,” as he turned. “There it is.” exclaimed the master.”

It is best to know yourself than seek to desire the praise of others. This is the way of the Tao.

I was overwhelmed by the comments and emails I received yesterday with constructive comments and active support. It humbles me that so many of you take the time.

This blog is linked to my other where I discuss the artwork:-  The Beach

Sunday, 25 April 2010

I Do Not Know

I read an interesting book on art a few years ago. I was just starting to explore the possibilities of panting now that I had given up teaching. I visited the library and the title of the book seemed to catch my eye. “All you will ever need to know about art.” I found this an interesting title to say the least. Then I saw another, “The artists Bible of Art.” Now I am not sure that those titles are exact so do not go looking or surfing to find them. The titles are very close to my memories of them.

Both books had obviously been written by artists with a great deal of confidence in their subjects. The books were indeed sweeping in the sense that they gave the reader many options and possibilities. What I found a bit strange about these books was that both authors admitted to not actually using some of the mediums being described and yet they went on to give advice to the beginning artist on how to best use them.

I learned from these two books but from the chapters where it became clear the author had first hand knowledge of the topic. How much better a book this might have been had they left out the other chapters.

I had an interesting hour last night. My son invited me out for an evening glass of wine and a chat. I love those unexpected moments. On this occasion he was seeking knowledge that I could not give but my wife was well equipped to give. I quietly tuned my ears to a discussion of a group of men gathered at another table near by. I soon realised they were experts on golf. There was not a thing about golf it seemed they did not know.

I remembered the story of the discussion between the emperor and the master. The emperor felt that having reached the stage of life he had there was little that he had to learn. There was one thing only that he felt he needed the answer to so he approached the master who was older than he.

“Master,” he said “what happens to the enlightened man after death?” He was sure he was an enlightened man.

“How should I know?” asked the master.

“Because you are old and enlightened,” said the emperor.

“Yes sir,” said the master, “but fortunately not a dead one.”

No matter where we have reached there is always more to learn.

This is the way of the Tao.

Can I take today to once again thank all my blogging friends for the things they teach me day by day.

This blog is linked to my other blog where I discuss the artwork used:- Summer Evening Showers

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Know Yourself

I cannot paint; I am not sure what it is that is wrong with me. I think maybe I need to get some new brushes or maybe I need to think about trying another kind of paint. Maybe I need to get more light into the place and open myself out to the world around more. Maybe I need to look at the canvas I am using it may be that a better canvas or a different canvas would get things back on track for me.

It is not just my painting it is my running. I am not running nearly as well as I used to. Maybe I need to change the route find a new path. Maybe I need new trainers, the cushioning has maybe worn a bit thin in the ones I have. The running shorts are cutting in a bit more than usual maybe I need to change these.

All in all I need so many things maybe I need to sit down and work out what my priorities are. Make a list of the things I need to do and alongside it the cost of the things I need to purchase. One way or another, things have got to change. I cannot allow all these small matters to control my life.

Another thing that may be affecting my life is those people I meet on a regular basis. Maybe I should find another venue and more stimulating conversation.

There is the story of the monk who carried a mirror with him wherever he went. Now and then he would dig into his pocket and bring it out and look into it. He would then place it carefully back into his pocket. One day a priest noticed this and thought to himself, “This priest is so preoccupied by what he looks like that he is failing to understand it is what lies inside him that is important. He needs to stop worrying about that and take more time over his priorities.”

Thinking this he approached the monk. “Why do you always carry this mirror and spend so much time looking into it?” He was hoping that this question would allow the monk to see the folly of his ways.

“Ah,” said the monk pulling the mirror from his pocket. “I use this in times of trouble,” he said. “It allows me to see the source of my trouble and it also allows me to see the solution to my troubles.”

Maybe I just need to stop blaming everyone and everything and look to myself.

This story is about how easy it is for us to blame everything and everyone but fail to look at ourselves.  Please do not think I am at all depressed just thought yesterday that this little story of the morror fitted me and maybe it would help others.

This blog is linked to my other blog where I discuss the artwork used :-   Number 1

Friday, 23 April 2010

The First and the Last

I lived a distance from school a journey I made four times a day. I wandered slowly down in the morning wishing I was going elsewhere, I ran at great speed there and back at lunchtime and wandered slowly home at night. The journey home I took the long path through the field, even then I had a love of nature born from my Sunday walks with my father.

One day I was followed by one of the school bullies, he was threatening me with all sorts of threats if I did not do what he wanted. I was trembling in my shoes, what was I going to do? I could run, but I knew that would be useless. Without thinking I turned and threw my fist in his direction. It connected with his face causing a cut to his lip and causing his nose to bleed. The next morning the bully was not in the line of pupils waiting to go into school. The teacher came out and called my name telling me I was to go and see the head teacher. There in his room was the bully and his mother. The head teacher said to the mother, “Do you see what I mean about the difference in size?” nevertheless I was given a lecture about fighting. A lecture I really did not need because I had already made up my mind that what had happened would never ever occur again.

There is the wonderful story of the soldier and the Zen Master. The soldier came to ask if there really was a paradise and a hell. The master asked, “Who are you?” The soldier with great pride said, “I am a samurai.”

“You a soldier,” said the master, “look at you, who would ever want you to guard his gate? You look more like a beggar than a soldier.” The soldier grew very angry and drew his sword. “Ah you have a sword,” said the master, “I am sure it is so dull it is of no use.”

The soldier raised the sword to strike. The master said, “Here open the doors to hell.” The soldier thought for a moment and put his sword in its sheath. “Here open the doors to paradise.” said the master.

Whether we live our life as if a living hell or a paradise full of friends and love is a matter of the choices we make.

I guess if I had boasted of beating the school bully I might have had a few more punches to throw. But here I am all those years later still remembering the one and only punch I have ever thrown.

This post is linked to my other blog where I discuss the artwork used:- Alpha-Omega

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Flowers and Flowers.

What a strange start to my day yesterday. I published my blog all about the poppy and what it means to me, then as every day I pop round the blogs of the many friends whose blogs I so love reading. In the meantime Rudhi makes a comment on my blog about “Flower Power” and I thought I was the only one in this circle old enough to remember that. I then looked at Kim’s blog and there I saw a beautiful flower painting abstract in nature which always appeals to me. Then the crowning crunch Katherine has a blog about painting in the rain a little flower painting. I head off to the bath signing “Flowers in the Rain” and I am still signing it now as I sit and write this.

So we are thinking, flowers in the rain and flower power. For the younger readers, probably the majority are younger than me this was a time of love and peace and giving flowers as symbols of them. I remember walking along Princess Street in Edinburgh probably one of the most beautiful main streets in Scotland. My hair was almost at waist level, I was wearing a kaftan and bells, jeans and bare feet. It is ok I was not the only one my friends were the same. We had huge bunches of daffodils we had bought from the fruit market in the early hours of the morning and we were giving them to people as they passed along. “Peace my friend,” we said, “I hope you have a good day.”

One person made a comment, “If you are going to give out flowers you might make them decent ones.”

There is s lovely story about the young Zen monk. He and the Zen Master were in the temple one day. It was the task of the young monk to take care of the shrine. As they stood talking they saw an old lady approach the shrine and place two small plastic flowers on the shrine with great dignity and reverence. The young monk said, “as soon as she leaves I will remove those.” “Why?” asked the master. “Because they are plastic and terrible,” replied the monk, “we are trying to keep the shrine beautiful.”

“Do you think the Buddha would care if the flowers were plastic or real?” asked the master. “You do not like plastic and so you have made your mind plastic. All the Buddha would be interested about was the mind and the thoughts of the giver.”

The lady had given her token with a mind full of beautiful thoughts and kindness. The monk had thought he was thinking beautiful thoughts but instead he was caught up in his own values and ideas. He was then imposing his ideas on the old lady. Who knows where she got the plastic flowers or the story behind them, only her. Judge others as you wished to be judged.

This blog is linked to my other blog where the artwork is dicussed:-Flowers

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Engaging The Brain

The other day I spoke of putting my mouth in gear before engaging my brain. I have held on to that thought since writing it here and mulled it over, as is so often my want. Sherry made a comment on the blog about the “Slow Drive” that she had not expected me to react in that way. Well in my defence it was some years ago, but here was a perfect example of the mouth out of gear. I am sure Sharon was right nothing was achieved and I only felt better for a very short time and have remembered it ever since and not with pride.

When I was very young and still a schoolboy in short trousers, yes we wore them till we got to secondary school, I had many things that brought their little problems. I was the smallest in my year group if not my school; I got the nickname “Titch”. I had carrot red hair and freckles. I came from a very poor background and although my mother tried hard to compensate I was aware of it. So I did not have much going for me did I?

The one thing I did have was a fast tongue and a fairly sharp mind and wit, which because of all of the above I tended to keep well hidden. The Tongue though got me out of many scrapes, and the bullying that might have been was often avoided because the giver preferred not to hear what I thought of them, and the smart nickname just might stick. Those of us with red hair do have a tendency to fiery tempers; I was no exception to the rule.

Those things I have struggled to keep in check and under strict control but the odd relapses do happen.

There is a story of the Prime Minister of the Tang Dynasty who was a national hero for his success as both a statesman and military leader. Despite his fame, power, and wealth, he considered himself a humble and devout Buddhist. Often he visited his favourite Zen master to study under him, and they seemed to get along very well. The fact that he was prime minister apparently had no effect on their relationship, which seemed to be simply one of a revered master and respectful student.

One day, during his usual visit, the Prime Minister asked the master, "Your Reverence, what is egotism according to Buddhism?" The master's face turned red, and in a very condescending and insulting tone of voice, he shot back, "What kind of stupid question is that!?"

This unexpected response so shocked the Prime Minister that he became sullen and angry. "Huh so this is how you treat me?" he said angrily.  The Zen master then smiled and said, "THIS, Your Excellency, is egotism."

This is a lesson I have tried hard to learn and then put into practice. Engage the brain before putting the mouth in gear. Sometimes I fail.

This is the way of Tao.

This Blog is linked to my other blog where the artwork used is discussed:- Be Still

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Art of Concentration

The other day  I decided to try and paint again after my stretch off caused by my accident. A friend said jokingly that his would be something worth watching. I set up my laptop in front of my easel connected to my friend’s computer and began to work. My friend was able to watch or not and I was not aware of whether I was being watched, or if I was working on my own. It was an interesting experience and I was able to work without ever really thinking about being watched.

After I had decided to stop for the day, because the pain was beginning to return to the point of being unbearable my friend commented on my intensity of concentration. My friend on the other hand tells me that such concentration for her is not possible. When she paints she tells me her mind flits from one thought to another. Different strokes for different folks I guess. What surprised me was when she pointed out the time. I had painted non stop from eleven in the morning till three in the afternoon. I was sure that I had only been at it for about just over an hour.

This has brought me much pleasure in the last few days to realise that I was once again capable of this level of concentration. I would hate never to paint again but even more I would hate to lose the ability to give my mind solely to the task in hand. I have spent many years trying to develop this skill and I hope it is the last one to leave me. The trouble is you, see my head is so full of things buzzing around like a hive of bees all demanding my attention that I have had to learn how to filter them all out and be selective in my thoughts when doing something I consider important. Maybe that is why I keep sitting on spectacles or on the other hand searching for them only to realise I have them on. Maybe also that is why I sometimes come upstairs and wonder why I did. It has nothing at all to do with my aging process. Now that does make me feel good. But who am I kidding here?

There is the lovely story of the Zen master who possessed the ability to concentrate so hard that his students were a bit afraid of him. He seemed to be unruffled by anything. One day they thought they would try and bring him back into their realm of concentration. They all hid in the cloisters of the monastery and waited on him walking past. Soon he came carrying a cup of precious tea. As he passed they all jumped out yelling and shouting. He never blinked and carried on till he reached the small table at the far end. Here he laid down his cup, leaned against the wall, and cried out in shock, “Ohhhhh!”

One thing at a time one thought at a moment and savour the moment and the thought. I have so many wonderful thoughts to savour from the comments you all make on my blog and the blogs I read. Thank you all.

This is the way of Tao.

This blog is linked to my other blog where I discuss the tale of this artwork:-Tiger Pause

Monday, 19 April 2010

Fear of Nothing

For the past week or so I have been looking back and remembering events and people from my past. They bring a warm glow and a deep sense of joy to remember people who you shared very intimate and meaningful moments with. I sometimes worry though when I get into such reflective moods that involve my looking back. There can be nothing worse than having to listen to the musings of the past. My students used to remind me frequently they were not really interested in yesterday but tomorrow seemed interesting. Anyway I am reminded frequently that time moves ever onward, every time I go into my wallet and the moths have cleared I see my bus pass looking at me and reminding me. Even worse the man who lives at the back of my shaving mirror keeps telling me.

Does age bring anything worthwhile? I am told it has helped me mellow, my family do not agree. I am told it has helped me be less reckless, neither I nor my family agree. I am told it makes me more thoughtful before I speak, then why do I keep putting my mouth in gear before engaging my brain? So have I learned anything?

There is a story of the general who with his army was taking village after village into the control of his ruler. One day before he attacked a village the villagers on hearing of his coming all fled except for the old sage. Curious the general on hearing about this old sage went to see the old man. When he was not greeted with the respect he thought he deserved or bowed to as a victor ought to be he flew into an angry rage. "You fool," he shouted as he reached for his sword, "don't you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!” But despite the threat, the old man seemed unmoved. "And do you realize," he replied calmly, "that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?"

Have I learned anything? One great and important thing I have learned. I do not fear tomorrow no matter what it might bring. I have had too many mornings to worry about them anymore. When I think of all the times I have fretted needlessly, worried to no point it seems that the greatest of things is to know that tomorrow is not something I can do much about.

I can though make the very most of today without blinking an eye. This is the way of Tao.

This blog is linked to my other where I discuss the art used:-The Boatyard

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Slow Drive

I have been overwhelmed by the comments made and the support offered by fellow bloggers this past few weeks. All those who have commented, on the content of the blog, and those who have offered support in my time of pain, I give you thanks. I painted on Friday working on the painting I showed you a few days ago, “In the Beginning,” adding more texture and making the colours more alive. I am not sure I have improved it and I am kind of stuck with where to go next but the joy of being back in front of the easel. Maybe not wise, in the light of yesterday’s pain, but it did make me feel good.

This reminds me of an event that happened to me some time ago. Before moving to this part of the world I used to live in the west of Scotland. There I was a member of a fitness complex and golf club. During the summer holidays I spent long hours there. Not far from the complex was a shopping area with a little inn. Now again we visited on the way home.

One day I went in there were three members of staff and two customers, myself and another. The staff were busy, cleaning glasses, wiping tables and dusting bottles. I waited and waited until at last I felt forced to ask if anybody was serving. I was told to have patience they would be there soon. I waited another three minutes and left.

Two weeks or so later I was visiting one of the shops and as I passed the inn I saw the manageress leave in her car. She ended up just behind my car following down the hill. I slowed my car to a slow rate and drove onwards. She was getting more and more impatient, flashing her lights at me and the odd peep in her horn. When we reached the bottom at a junction I stopped my car and walked back to hers. “Have you got a problem?” I asked. “I was wondering what was keeping you making you so slow,” said the lady. “Ah, just what I was wondering last time I was in your inn.”

Did I achieve anything? Not really, I felt good at the time but just for a short moment. My impatience has often led me to do things I have later regretted. Did I change her attitude? I do not know but I doubt it. So here I am all those years later asking the same questions. Has my impatience ruined this painting? Was I wise to let impulse drive me to the easel too soon? Is it good enough to say it felt good at the time?

This blog is linked to my other blog where the artwork used is discussed:-Early Morning Fishing

Saturday, 17 April 2010

A Big day

I did tell you Nettie had a daughter, a very pretty girl but also a very shy girl. I suppose it could have gone either way with her. Nettie was not out there in the big world to see what she was up to so she could so easily have gone down one of the many wrong routes, as it was yet went to school, came home and spent most of her life around the house.

I had started what was to become a very successful youth club, “Group 98”. Will leave you to play with that but will give you a big hint it had nothing at all to do with the year. This youth group started a great many ventures, selling pies to football supporters and delivering early morning bread rolls round the parish. With the funds they bought equipment which they had paid for so cherished. Nettie’s daughter became one of the members of this group where she met a really nice lad and they became very close friends. She and a number of this group attended my classes for membership of the church. Some of these young people are now playing leading roles in churches still giving of their time.

Nettie meanwhile was progressing well with her outings. I was feeling comfortable enough to wait or her saying if we were going the next day or not. She and my daughter were forming a close bond. I heard her chat away to her as if they were two buddies. One day we were all out walking and the up and coming event of her daughter joining the church was raised. Nettie felt she really should make the effort to be there. We were both aware of the enormity of this. We visited the church one morning, “This is where we will sit Nettie,” I heard my daughter say. Seems this was going to be a joint effort. “My mummy sits on this seat; I am on this one so you can be here.” It seemed that my thought of a seat very close to the door was being ruled out.

The big day came and we were all ready for this important day. I was full of emotion that day, for Nettie but also for the group of young ones taking a big step for them. Seldom did so many young people make such a step on one day.

When I walked into the church that day behind the church officer I saw this sea of smiling faces and there in the midst of them was Nettie.

Yes she managed to sit through the whole service, and yes a year or so later she and her husband also joined the church. On both occasions she also joined others in the party held in the hall after the service.

A great many steps make a long journey she had travelled a long way. Not long after she joined the church I was asked to become a minister elsewhere and moved on. Nettie did not she stayed in her same house but she still enjoyed her walks, and she bought another coat this time in less haste.

This blog is linked to my other where I discuss the art used on this blog:-Flowers in the Wind

Friday, 16 April 2010

A Walk in the Park

Nothing ever is as straightforward as you hoped it would be and so it was in the progress of Nettie. A week or so after the purchase of the coat I was down for our early morning cup of coffee outdoors. We had been taking a flask and a couple of mugs and having our coffee as we walked round the square. The house was never far from sight but we were now venturing slightly further. I was therefore surprised one day when Nettie told me she could not go over the door that day. I am not sure she knew why and, if she did, I never ever found out. What Nettie said was that when this had all started she had been ok because the outside air was cold and it kept the sweats at bay. Now the weather was turning to spring and yesterday she had felt bad. I said I understood, even though I was finding it very difficult. Lost for words I said it would be alright because I would go home and do a version of the rain dance only instead I would dance for snow. I was really trying not to show my disappointment and near despair. I was staying positive, but I knew we had reached a difficult stage. I went out to do some other visits and work with a heavy heart.

The next day I arose at the same time ready to go down and see if we were walking or not. I went downstairs and looked out the kitchen window. I could not believe what I was seeing, there was a beautiful covering of snow everything was white. I was now for real dancing round the kitchen floor.

Determined to make the most of this event I headed down the road to see Nettie. “Right,” I said “Coat lets go and make the most of this marvellous day.” We got in the car and drove back to the manse. I nipped into the house and got my daughter and my dog. We drove the very short distance to the nearby estate with its large grounds and big house. Here we could walk, all four of us, and we would be lucky if we saw anything other than wildlife at this early time of the day. It was marvellous. I took some great pictures. My daughter took Nettie’s hand something she had never done with her daughter. I could see a tear running down her cheek and knew we were back on track. We were now in fact more than back on track because not only had we walked but on the way back Nettie came into the Manse for coffee with my daughter, she helped by showing Nettie where everything was kept, the two of them were getting on like a house on fire.

I never told her I was hopeless at dancing, after all the snow had come. For long after this day we joked that I did a great turn at snow dancing. Tomorrow I will bring this story to its end and answer the question of Netties daughter.

This blog is linked to my other blog where the artwork is discussed:-Linlithgow Palace

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Next Big Step for Nettie

 Yesterday I told you of the first big step for Nettie. I ended by saying that that all journeys start with that first step. Josephine reminded me that for the journey to reach completion it is done step by step, and she is most surely right on that account. The strange thing about this journey is we are all aware of where it will end but how many steps is there yet to take for each of us?

For Nettie the following week and a bit was the same steps as the day before, all we did was add an extra one or two until we were sitting drinking our cup of coffee at the front gate. Now that was a long journey but we had made it, with much moaning about what she must have looked like in the old fur coat. We were now sitting two or so yards from the passenger door of my car. It was easy to suggest that the next step was to get into the car and have our coffee down in the car park at the shopping centre. Nettie made a comment about having heard all about my driving. “What is it they call you?” she asked, “The flying minister is it not?” Well at least she was more concerned about my speeding than she was about the journey. So the nest day there we were sitting in the shopping centre car park at just after six in the morning. The place was deserted we had the choice of parking bays. We sat not far from the shop that sold ladies clothes. We discussed the visit to that shop to buy a coat. We went through it step by step and agreed that we would give it a go opening time the next morning. The old fur coat had won the day for me. Can I say I was now feeling all the emotion that I am sure Nettie was feeling. We were about to embark or a great big journey, I was going to be as prepared for it as I would for a journey up any mountain.

I visited the store in the afternoon found where the coats were and spoke to the manager. The next day we made it to the car park. We sat for a moment and then decided to go for it. We were in the shop at the coat racks and out the shop in what must be record time. Did Nettie get the coat she liked? I never did find out about that but she got a coat. We left the store me apologising for all the things that had been knocked off the rails in our top speed incoming and outgoing.

Can you imagine the joy in that household that night as Nettie showed her husband the new coat. We laughed and joked and drank a little toast as she pretended to be a model on the catwalk.

Yesterday I made a few steps back to painting. I sorted out my paint tidied the place up, looked at that canvas I shared with you all the other day and wondered what could be done with it. By that time the pain was kicking in again and I retreated to Katherine told me not to do; I came back and read your comments and looked at your blogs. It is great to have found what Sharon calls, “bloggersville.”

I cannot show you a picture of Nettie as asked by two people by email would not be fair to her but this is a pic of me at the time when all of this was taking place. Frightening is it not?

Is that enough of Nettie or does anybody want one more episode?

This is linked to my other log where I discuss the artwork used:-Field of Dreams

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A Big Step For Nettie

Having not painted now for almost three weeks I am finding it very hard to get myself back into my workspace and start being creative. Maybe spending so much time looking at the wonderful work of those of you who follow this blog and give me the privilege of seeing your work has made me question my own “talent.” I had promised a friend I would start back today.

This reminded me of the story of Nettie. Let me share a bit of it with you today.

It was a freezing cold day and there we were Nettie and I sitting halfway up the pathway leading to her front door. We would be about 20 yards from the door. We had two chairs out and she was wearing her mother’s old fur coat and I was well wrapped up in a big jersey and jacket. We were both wearing gloves and grasping a cup of warm coffee. Anybody seeing us must have wondered what we were doing. I admit we must have looked really silly. I was trying to make the cup of coffee last, drinking it slowly, Nettie was gulping hers down as fast as possible. I wanted to linger a bit longer, Nettie wanted to get it finished and get back into her house. Now what was all this about?

This was the first time since the birth of her daughter that Nettie had ever been past her front door. Her daughter was now sixteen almost seventeen. In all that time Nettie had never been outdoors. She was not even able to go out to her back garden to hang out her washing; her husband did that and everything else that involved going out. It was he who had asked me to visit her and meet her.

I had been visiting her for some time before the day I speak of. We had built up to this moment slowly and surely. Nettie had laid down lots of little “rules” about how it would happen and I had talked her out of some and agreed to others.

We had agreed to the chairs, first only one, being the agreed distance. The cup of coffee was mine. Small concessions had been made here and there. It had taken five days for Nettie to reach the chair this was day six when we had agreed to take a coffee and sit on the chairs and drink them before returning.

Here we were we had made it to the chairs. On our return to the inside there was a real sense of achievement. There were hugs and tears and much laughter. Nettie had made a great big step forward. I remember to this day her saying to me when we began to calm down, “What must I have looked like in my mothers old fur coat?” I replied, “You looked just marvellous to me.”

Every great journey starts with the first step.

The artwork used on this blog is discussed on my other blog:-Poppies (A Symbol of Hope)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Doctor the Minister and the Lawyer

Yesterday’s blog was very serious, and for some sad though it was not meant to be but inspirational. On one of the two I mentioned that my family give me a row for giving away my art. My son, the lawyer of the family is always telling me that my art is worth more than I ever charge and that giving it away is not ever a good thing. He believes, and maybe rightly it devalues my other art. It is just me, not a lot I can do about me being what I am. I remember when I discovered acrylic paint and its drying potential how I used to love going and sitting on the beach and painting little seascapes on the flat stones you could find there. Once dry a quick spray of varnish and they looked like nice little miniatures. I would then take them back to the beach and lay them back among the stones seascape upwards. What a pleasure it was to see people find them and get pleasure in taking them away with them.

There is a story of the miser who before he died called his doctor, lawyer and minister to his bedside. He gave them each an envelope containing £20,000. He told them that he wanted them to be present at his funeral and each of them to place the envelope in the grave with his coffin. They duly turned up on the day and each deposited an envelope in the grave and watched them being buried with the coffin. As they left the graveyard they each asked the other if they had been honest. The minister confessed to using a small part of the money to repair the organ in the church. It was after all for the praise of God and not being wasted in a grave. The doctor said he had used a portion to get a small cardiac machine for the surgery. It was after all for the good of the community. The lawyer said he was shocked to the core at their dishonesty. He had he said put in a cheque for the full value of the money made out to the deceased.

Generosity comes in many ways. If there are any lawyers or doctors reading this my apologies, ministers well having been one I know they are used to being the brunt of jokes and are used to it.

I hope today you leave with a smile, and a little thought about generosity.

This blog is linked to my other blog which can be seen at:-Along the Shore

Monday, 12 April 2010

An Inspiring Young Man

I was overwhelmed by yesterday’s response to the blog. I thank you all for you kind words and such open honesty. I feel humbled to have such caring friends. Now let me put things into a wider context. I have had a privileged life in having contact with people at very intimate time in their lives. There in the happy moments of marriage and birth and there with people as they have shirked off their mortal coils. I have been privileged that they wanted me with them in those times. This effects a person at a level that makes you need to return this to others.

Let me tell you of a young man I will never ever forget. He was fourteen when I first met him the pride and joy of his parents who had thought they would never have a son because of their age. He was a lovely young lad. At fifteen he was diagnosed as having leukaemia. I remember him saying to me with help I am going to fight this. His parents did not drive so I often took them and him to hospital appointments, so I got to know him and them well. He was not given much time, but amazingly it seemed to go into recession and he had things he wanted to do. He wanted to ride a racing bike, and he did. He wanted to sit by a river and fish with his father. We took my caravan to a site where he could do that and he had two weeks of sitting fishing with his dad.

On his return home we fitted a CB radio in his bedroom and he spoke to me when I was out on my visits. I visited him first thing each morning last thing each night. I had my thought for the day for him; he had his joke of the day for me. I never left feeling other than uplifted.

One day a I was told the next door neighbour had made comment about the amount of time I was giving the family and had not managed to pop in and see them. This showed how much they were keeping the seriousness of his condition to themselves.

Just a few days before his sixteenth birthday he died peacefully in his sleep. I became the proud owner of a fishing rod.

I hope those of you who are reading this are not now feeling low or sad because he would never have wanted that. I think of him often and I always think of him as an example of spirit and courage in adversity. His life was short but it was meaningful and even now forty years on he is an inspiration. When you are lucky enough to have friends like this it is easy to care for others.

This blog is linked to my other where I discuss the artwork used:-Floral Abstract

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A Still Life to Save a Life

Those who commented on yesterday’s blog seemed to find the story of Arthur moving, in fact one person; Sherry thought it might have been my best post to date. For that reason I have decided to take that story just a little further along its track.

Arthur came to me one day and asked if we could go and visit a person who had called to ask for help. We had visited this lady once before but what she wanted was us to help her curtail her alcohol consumption and we felt we could not do this. So here she was again seeking our help. This time we decided to use the famous, “not yet technique.”

When we visited I asked he some questions, had alcohol ever affected her work? She gave a hesitant answer so Arthur pipes in, “Not Yet.” Had it affected he marriage, “Not Yet.” had it affected home life, (we new it had) she again said, “No.” Again Arthur quipped, “Not yet.” So the discussion went on. Had she been in trouble with the police? Before she answered I heard the now repetitive, “Not yet.”

“Your life is so full of “not yets” said Arthur. “But all those will day soon become nows because that is the way with those who have no control. Look at what is happening to you.”

By this stage even I was beginning to feel sorry for Mary. I was sure she was wishing she had never invited us in. I noticed an empty vase on the dresser. I told her I was leaving but would be back in five minutes. I nipped down the road to the church. I collected a large bunch of flowers and returned. I took the vase and arranged the flowers in it. They looked beautiful even in the midst of all the disarray. I placed them on one side of the dresser. On the other I arranged the wine bottles, a fair number of them, with the corkscrew. It would have made a fair still life painting.

I said to her, “The flowers are there to remind you that in all of this you are not alone. We care for you and are here for you. The bottles remind you of your first love. When you look over there ask yourself what you would really rather have.” When we left the tears were running down the cheeks of Mary.

It was not the last time she slipped off the wagon but it was the beginning of the way back. A year or so later I heard her retell the story of that day to an assembled audience of over 100 people. She was looking so well and sounding so confident. The tears were running down my cheeks.

A still life had saved the day.

This blog is linked to my other blog where I talk about the artwork used:-The Cornflowers

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Arthur Not Of The Round Table

It was a lovely sunny day and a great many people of the village had gathered on the grassland park at the end of the village. At the lower end of the grassland stood a foundry that had been there for a great many years making iron cast mouldings. The moulding were intricate and of a very high quality. One such was a metal representation of, “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. The life of the foundry was coming to an end. The people had gathered to watch the demolition of the chimney stack. As I gathered them to await the moment that would mark the beginning of the end I was approached by a man who introduced himself to me as simply Arthur. We began to speak and I soon realised this had not been an accidental meeting. Arthur had wanted to “bump into” me for some time he said. He explained that he was an ex police officer who had ruined his life with alcohol. He was now a recovered alcoholic and getting himself back on the road of life.

He was wondering if I could help him in one or two ways. He wanted to start a local meeting of alcoholics anonymous, and he wondered if he and I could together set up a help group. This was to be the start of an interesting part of my ministry. At one point we even had an old ambulance parked at the back of the church that could offer instant overnight accommodation. That is for another time.

Arthur used to tell a story of how his life had changed. He had lost his job in the police and was in danger of losing his wife and family. It was a Friday night he had been drinking all day and certainly was not in a state to return home. No taxi driver wanted him in their cabs. He along with another drunk decided to spend the night in a cheap hostel. When he was given a couple of blankets he was shown into a large room full of people in the same state as him. He told of the terrible smell of the place. He looked around and said to the man lying on an old mattress, “You can’t get much lower than this can you?” The old drunk looked at him and said, “Another six feet lower son.” Arthur tells how that night he cried himself to sleep. The next morning he headed home and from that day he had never had another drink of alcohol. Together we had an interesting time and because of him there are marriages that would not have survived now happy and lasting, lives restored.

Often when I feel that things are at a low ebb and nothing seems to be going right for me. Those times when I want to throw the paint and easel in the bin. When I produce nothing I am happy with, or as has been the case I have been unable to stand long enough to paint, I remember Arthurs story and give myself time to reflect. Yes it could be a lot worse.

This blog is linked to my other blog where I discuss the artwork:- Happy days and Holidays

Friday, 9 April 2010

The Princess and Her Tail

There is a story about a princess who had a small eye problem. She felt that this small eye problem was really bad. She was rather spoiled and kept crying all the time, constantly going on about the small problem with her eye. When the doctors wanted to apply medicine, she would invariably refuse any medical treatment and kept touching the sore spot on her eye. In this way it became worse and worse. Finally one day the king proclaimed a large reward for whoever could cure his daughter. After some time, a man arrived who claimed to be a famous physician. The truth was he was actually was not even a doctor but so desperate was the King that he did not take time to check.

He declared that he could definitely cure the princess and was admitted to her chamber. After he had examined her, he exclaimed, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" "What is it?" the princess inquired. The man said, "There is nothing much wrong with your eye, but there is something else that is really serious." The princess was alarmed and asked, "What on earth is so serious?" He hesitated and said, "It is really bad. I shouldn't tell you about it." No matter how much she insisted, he refused to tell her, saying that he could not speak without the king's permission.

When the king arrived, the “doctor” was still reluctant to reveal his findings. Finally the king commanded, "Tell us what is wrong. Whatever it is, you have to tell us!" At last he said, "Well, the eye will get better within a few days - that is no problem. The big problem is that the princess will grow a tail, which will become at least nine feet long. It may start growing very soon. If she can detect the first moment it appears, I might be able to prevent it from growing." At this news everyone was deeply concerned. And the princess, what did she do? She stayed in bed, day and night, directing all her attention to detecting when the tail might appear. Thus, after a few days, her eye got well. Then the man declared that he was pleased to say that the princess was now cured of all her ills and complaints.

How often focus on our little problems and they become the most important thing around which everything else revolves. Yet so often when we stop fretting the problem disappears. I remember my first ever Christmas as a minister. After the midnight service a young man came to speak to me he and his wife wanted a family so badly. They had tried and tried with no success. I advised him to start considering adoption and pointed him in the direction of where he would be given advice. He did just that, beginning the long process. Six months later he came to speak to me beaming all over with joy. His wife was pregnant.

This blog is linked to my other blog where I discuss the use of the artwork:-The Gift

Saying not Doing

I read the blog of Angel Star two days ago where she was telling of being on the edge of the earthquake that rocked Mexico and how she felt the tremor. She said that even although it was short and small there was enough time to be afraid.

This reminded me of the tale of the earthquake in the Zen monastery. Parts of the building were actually destroyed and many of the monks admitted to being terrified. The master after it was all over stood before the monks and addressed them. “Now you have had an opportunity to see how the Zen master reacts in a crisis. You will have noticed how I brought you all to the centre of the building, to the kitchen, the strongest part of the monastery. You will also notice that I stayed calm but that I took a large glass of water something I am not in the habit of doing. But that was alright in such a situation.”

One of the monks nodded but had a smile that covered his face. “Why do you smile so at me?” asked the master. The monk responded, “You did indeed lead us to safety but that was not a large glass of water you drank master. It was a large glass of Soya.”

We are indeed measured not by what we say but what we do.

There was a man who lived next door to a lady who professed to be a very devout Buddhist. Three times a day she recited the names of the Buddha as a mantra and the top of her voice. Yet even after such daily ritual she was a lady prone to much anger. Her neighbour decided that one day he would show her. Just as she was about to start he ritual he knocked on her door and called her name. He kept on knocking and calling her name. Eventually she came banging to the door and in an angry voice said, “Why do you treat me like this I am doing my practice calling on my Buddha and you are here calling my name?” The neighbour said I have only called your name ten times and you feel angry. I wonder how the Buddha feels after you calling his three times a day for ten years.”

By their actions and their practices shall you know them. I am privileged to see many artists who make no claims to greatness but who work speaks volumes to my heart. It is perfectly acceptable to feel fear as we prepare to be creative because it is what we achieve that will speak not our words. I am sure some reading this will remember the words, “Why do they call me Lord, Lord but do not do what I say?”

This blog is linked to my other found at:- Thoughts of Summer

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Teaching and Learning

It was Sharon, (writer of a blog I follow and who sometimes reads mine) who commented on one of my blogs about the wonderful world of blogging. She was wondering how long, if ever, it would take the rest of the users of the internet to catch onto how great a place it was. She was concerned that when they did it would never be the same again. I have thought about that from time to time. There is no doubt at all there is a wonderful community of people in blogging. But why is it so?

I think we find it so because we are able to find people who are interested in the things we want to learn and the things we want to share and talk about. We can select the blogs we want to follow and those we do not. I am sure there are some terrible blogs in bloggers world; I have seen some as I thought about Sharon’s comment. Some that I disagreed with strongly and some that it surprises me people have taken the time to write. I am sure that there are many bloggers who think that what I write each day is a waste of time and space.

I often thought as a teacher how wonderful it would be to have only students who wanted to learn what I was trying to teach. To some extent I experienced this in those who chose to take my subject to examination level and those who opted to be part of my lunchtime teaching classes. These students had opted to learn in their time with me. They were hungry for knowledge and a joy to teach. Could you imagine a school where you only ever attended the classes you wanted to?

The other wonderful thing about bloggers world, is one minute we are teachers the next we are learners. It is a sharing and supporting experience. I feel privileged that people take the time to read my blog and comment and allow me into their world to learn from them.

There was once a professor who had been told of a wonderful sage. He thought he would visit this sage to see for himself. When he met the sage he introduced himself remembering to mention his qualifications and expertise. He told the sage he was there to learn. The sage pulled over his teapot and two cups. He began to pour tea into the cup of the professor, who was still talking and talking. He pored till the cup was full and then continued to pour. After a bit the professor said to him, “The cup is full you can get no more in it.” The sage said, “Yes, his cup is just like you. How can I teach anything to one who is already full and overflowing with what they know already?”

This blog is linked to my other where I discuss the artwork used:-The Spark of an Idea

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The answer is in our own hands.

A young student on day caught a beautiful bird and held it is his hands. As he looked at the bird an idea came into his mind how he might catch his teacher with a question he could never answer correctly. He went to his master teacher and held the bird behind his back. He told his teacher that he held the bird in his hands and asked him, “Sir is the bird alive or is the bird dead?” He thought, if the teacher says it is dead he will simply open his hands at it will fly away and the master will be proven wrong. On the other hand if the master said that the bird was alive he would simply wring its neck and produce the dead bird.

The teacher on being asked the question stood still and thought for a moment. “The answer is in your own hands,” he said.

The stickleback was swimming in the river this way and that, with the current and against it. As he swam the water rat saw him and thought here was an opportunity to cause some disturbance. He swam over and said to the stickleback, “If you do not find water quickly you will surely die.” The stickleback in panic swam up and down searching for help for he did not wish to die. He came across the water vole and asked him where he might find water. “Why do you ask that?” said the vole. The stickleback told the vole what had been said to him by the water rat. The vole saw the joke and decided to continue it. “I have not got a clue,” he said. “But find it you must.”

The poor stickleback panicked and rushed here and there. He then saw the wise owl sitting watching him from the bank. He swam over and asked the owl if he knew where he could find water. The owl looked at him and smiled. “What do you find funny?” asked the stickleback. The owl said, “You are in the water. It is the water you live and move in, it is the water that gives you existence; it is all around you moment by moment.

So often we spend so much time seeking answers, seeking inspiration wondering where and what. So often the answer lies in our own hands. That which we seek is there within us all the time.

This blog is linked to my other which can be see at:- Splintered Dreams

Monday, 5 April 2010

Time Waits for Nobody

I arrived at my first church full of the enthusiasm of youth and the newly graduated. I was ready to evangelise the parish. But before we begin that said the church officials there are some vital repairs that need doing and the church organ is badly in need of repair or replacement. So fundraising began and slowly but surely the church buildings were looking in great shape. Now we can start to evangelise the parish. “We still need to replace the organ,” said the session clerk. So another year of fundraising and a new organ was purchased. “Now we can evangelise the parish,” said the session clerk. “Well,” said I, “we could but I have been called to another church and parish. The evangelising of the parish will have to wait for the new minister.”

So I arrived at my second Church and parish. At the first meeting I was made aware of the seriousness of the church roof. The plaster was in danger of falling in on the congregation to serious injury. Also there was the problem of church out buildings there was a real serious health and safety issue there also. So the first year we spent with a group of volunteers repairing the roof. The next few years fundraising and repairing the halls and buildings. The place was looking good. The session clerk said, “What was it you had in mind to evangelise the parish?” “Well I had all sorts of ideas but I have been called to another church and the evangelisation will have to be done by the next minister.

I moved again to a lovely parish nestled under the hills. Here I was aware of a real shortage of accommodation. The problem could be solved by rebuilding the old garages and washrooms and servants quarters at the back of the manse. Volunteers were called for and the massive building project began. After a great deal of effort and dedicated toil the church boasted a beautiful suit of halls and offices.

“Now,” said the Kirk Session, “we can begin that project you had in mind to evangelise the parish.” “Sadly,” I said, “I have decided to return to university and take up the challenge of teaching. It has been pointed out to me that I have a skill at communication and maybe I should put it to use. I hope the new minister is successful at evangelising the parish.”

Isn’t it amazing how we can always find time for things, but often never for the things we should be doing. All the dreams and projects that are laid aside and time made for other things. We have no time, is the clarion call.

This blog is linked to my other blog where the artwork used is discussed:- The Mirage

Sunday, 4 April 2010


Have you noticed the increase in the use of barriers in modern society? Some are being erected because of the increased threat of terrorism others because of growing awareness of health and safety. Where in the past there was an open concourse in front of the houses of Parliament now there are very large concrete barriers. They have tried to disguise them to make them less obtrusive but they are still there as a constant reminder of the daily threat.

No all the far from Parliament is Downing Street the residence of the Prime Minister and Chancellor. I remember being able to walk through this street passed the famous Number 10. Now they have erected large iron gates manned daily by police. This is of course in Great Britain but I am sure it is the same elsewhere.

I have two souvenirs of barriers of history. I have a piece of the Berlin Wall, just a small section but enough to see some of the graffiti that covered the wall. This was a barrier erected to keep people in and to keep people out. My other souvenir is a section of the fence from the nuclear base in Scotland, the home of Trident. Yes in my wild youth I was known to enter such premises in some vain idea that government and the world might pull back from the creation of weapons of mass destruction. Here I am forty and more years later and they are still there and I have a little bit of fence as a poignant reminder.

I saw on the news, a scene of crime, in a graveyard. The police had stretched tape across all the entrances. Now was that to keep people out or to stop the deceased from fleeing the graveyard?

We are surrounded by barriers of all sorts supposedly for our protection. Little fences and notices warning of deep water beware. The same deep water I paddled in as a boy as I tried to catch minnows. At times we have gone mad with barriers.

But the real barriers that we need to be aware of are the barriers we create ourselves. The barriers we erect in our heads that stop us being all that we could be. Those little mind barriers that tell us we cannot do this or we cannot do that. This is too difficult or I could never do that. I was brought up being told daily that I was not going to be able to do certain things. The trouble was I often accepted the invitation to believe it. Before we erect and decorate these barriers, give it a try you might be surprised.

This blog is linked to my other blog where I discuss the artwork:-The Wall

Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Guidiing Hand

My daughter from day one showed an independence that has continued throughout her life. From a very early age she new what she wanted to wear each day and no matter how hard we tried to convince her otherwise she had made her mind up. This often meant that after having her breakfast she headed off to get dressed you just never knew what she would be wearing. It would beautiful summer morning and she on her mothers suggestion she would have her summer skirt on accompanied by a heavy woollen jersey hat and gloves. We look back now at some of those early pictures and comment on her wonderful dress sense.

When she was four she wanted a shopping trolley, the kind you pull behind you on two wheels. Monday was my day off, treat day. Lindsey prepared to go shopping. Cherry lips and floral gums and two ten pence mix ups. She insisted on going to the shop on her own. This involved discreet organisation. A phone call was made to the shop keeper that she was on her way and another to the organist who lived halfway between the shop and the manse. She always returned walking proudly with her purchases in her trolley.

I was the same with speaking. We wondered if she ever would. Then one day when her Gran was around and giving our dog a ticking off, Lindsey said in a loud voice, “Don’t shout at my Tara.” She really has never looked back in the talking stakes since then.

At the age of 17 she left home to go to university and live in a flat. It all happened so quickly the university called in the morning to confirm her place and she had to move in that afternoon. As we left her at the flat her mother was in tears but Lindsey was the one saying I will be fine. Of course she was just that. She is still the same independent person as she was then as today she celebrates her birthday.

The hand that guides is the gentle hand that lets people feel they are doing it all by themselves. The teacher who encourages self discovery is will always be the one remembered. The greatest lesson of all is the lesson that says, “You cannot love or heal the world till you have learned to love yourself.”

This blog is linked to my other blog where I speak about the artwork used. It can be seen at:-The Jazz Player

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Fidget

My son has always been one who needed to know how things work and what everything does. I took delivery of a new car recently. I was very pleased with it even though it was the same make as my last one it had so many things that were very different. I invited him out for a drive in it so that he could experience first hand what it was like. As we drove along all I could see on my dashboard were lights coming on and going off as he pressed every button the car had.

When he was very young we and friends selected presents for him on the basis of their fidget value. This fidgeting had no bounds. Clocks were taken apart never to be put together again. One day he was found sitting in front of the kitchen cupboard. All the tins were lying in front of him with a nice neat bundle of labels. So we knew what was in that cupboard but we did not know in what tin was what. Some of the tins we managed to guess others it was impossible. So for the next few weeks it was a case of, “Lets open a can and see what we are having tonight.”

I remember when I became a teacher in the first school I taught in. The head teacher told me I would get a weekly bulletin telling me about students with discipline problems. She thought this would be a great help to me. I asked her if it would be ok to delay those for a bit. She asked my why. I said I would rather not label the students, would prefer to take them as I found them. Told her I was not afraid to face whatever came my way. When I eventually did get those reports how glad I was I had not seen them, they were talking about students I did not recognise as the ones in my class. I taught for almost 20 years and I can count on the fingers of one hand (and I have to I am hopeless at counting) the times I had a problem with a student.

We are too fast to label people and when we do they often live up to the label. Without the labels they are full of surprises and they often surprise themselves.

Labels belong on cans in cupboards they sure do not belong on people. Maybe if we forgot that we were abstract painters we might find we painted good seascapes and so on. I am aware that some friends who visit my blog do not like abstract art and I respect that.

The abstract used above is discussed at :- The Painting With no Label

Age Matters Not

I had an old aunt who lived in a tenement block in Dundee and a marvellous lady she was. She was of that ilk who never said die, always positive and always full of joy. She had a leg amputated at a very late stage in life and was offered a place in an old folks care home. Her sister had died at the age of ninety-four so she lived alone. Her reply to the offer was exactly what we expected from her, “Oh no I could not live there it is full of old people.” Her mind was as sharp as a knife and she insisted on her independence. She reluctantly agreed to have a telephone installed but drew the line at washing machines and all those new fangled gadgets.I still have her old washing board which she used right up until her death.

 My daughter studied in Dundee and she and my aunt became very close friends neither treating the other as if there was an age gap. Dundee boasts a nightclub called Fat Sams; she always had a notion to go there. She saw each day as a day full of new possibilities and would not tolerate people saying they could not do anything. She died aged 104.

Three sisters lived together aged 90, 92 and 94. The 90 year old went to have a bath as she was getting in she wondered if she was getting in or out, her 92 year old sister told her to wait she would come up and check. When she got to the top of the stairs she asked if she was on her way up or on her way down. The 94 old knocks her knuckles on the table and says,” I hope I never get like that pair.” She shouts up to them, “Just wait till I answer the door and I will sort this all out.”

Every day is a day with wonderful possibilities and today might be one full of surprises.

I am keeping this short today because I am up early, I have my trainers on and ready to go out for a ten mile run. Those who follow this blog and know what has been happening in my life this last week will now turn their heads and look at the calendar.

Have a lovely day and look again at my picture on the profile of this blog. Is that the little twinkle in the eye I used to see when I looked into the eye of my lovely aunt Liz.

To quote her, “Smile or I’ll kill ye deed.” For those not from Dundee that translates, “smile or I will kill you dead.”

This blog is linked to my other blog. On this other blog  I  have been looking in detail at  some of the art I have used on this blog in the past:-New Beginnings