Winter has a purple hue, an end of life bruise, as the lazy blue of summer darkens. Long nights and short days suffocate. Skeletal trees reach up bony fingers touching the damp, cold air. Decaying leaves smother the bare soil, a wet blanket on the sleeping ground. Worm casts litter the lawn that's crying out for a cut and blow-dry wind. Once loved, the abandoned pink slide sits faded and brittle, longing to be touched, to be climbed on and up, to be sat on and enjoyed. And then reaching up out of the earth, slender green spears of snowdrops appear. Bright gems of yellow jasmine shine defiantly. Sweet scented mahonia, the lilac of winter catch the breeze.
A mixture of emotions filled 2021 as the new life of a grandchild brought joy , while the worries of being a member of the Sandwich Generation brought its own challenges; an election to a new role in the community and plenty of missed opportunities to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. Like any New Year, I look back with both pleasure and regret. This year is no different. But God is constant in his love, his promptings, his compassion and his promise of new life and forgiveness.
Nationally and internationally it has been a year of disputes, of fear, of injustice and selfishness. The situation in Afghanistan, The Yemen; the fragmentation of Europe; the growing divide between rich and poor; the climate emergency, the pandemic. It seems like humans never learn to be good neighbours and to love unconditionally.
But in Jesus, we have the example to follow, for he challenged the social norms of the day, called out the double standards and gave his life that we might know life in all its goodness.
In Jesus we have a new covenant with God, whereby we commit to him and in a way become one in mind and spirit. As in a marriage where two become one in sickness, in health, in our covenant with God, death will not part us. The prophet Jeremiah says in chapter 31,
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]”
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
The Covenant Prayer written by John Wesley in 1755 is a challenge to read and a challenge to keep, but by God’s grace, it brings peace of mind, joy in living, love of neighbour and the hope that his kingdom is being built on Earth.
I am no longer my own but yours. *
Put me to what you will, *
rank me with whom you will; *
put me to doing, *
put me to suffering; *
let me be employed for you, *
or laid aside for you, *
exalted for you, *
or brought low for you; *
let me be full, *
let me be empty, *
let me have all things, *
let me have nothing: *
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal. *
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine * and I am yours. * So be it. *
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. ***
For thirty five years I have tried to tame the lion in my back yard, but I have decided to relax and enjoy its wildness.
Your wildness is something else - it is prickly like brambles reaching out with thorn like claws. It is tangled like bindweed, wrapping and smothering. And when the ground is parched dry, and gaping open to drink the rain that doesn't come, you limply wait and wilt. In the Springtime, when the days lengthen and the air warms, you shake your mane and for a while you are perfection. For all the time I've taken to make you mine, and for all the changes I have wrought, I wouldn't trade you for a feline friend with preened fur and clean habits. I'd rather have a lion in my backyard.
I’m not called Poetonarun for nothing! The inspiration for this poem came on my 12 mile run around Wellingborough. The artwork, as much as it is, tries to incorporate the physical features of the town with the running shoes that I wore to pound the footpaths and cycle tracks.
I’m off for a run round the town of my birth this mid-land patch, these square miles of Earth. Starting my run in the old Market square once noisy with stall holders peddling their ware, now hushed like a baby, its almost asleep except for shops selling everything cheap. I enter the park, a hidden gem where emerald green lawns and poplars hem. Swanspool Brook, snaking muddy brown, a wildlife haven in the middle of town. Running south of the town to the Nene River where dive bombing terns swoop hither and thither. Slender necked swans jostle Canada geese and the whirr of Whitworth’s disturbs the peace. From there I pound up Turnell’s Mill Lane Where my energy levels flag and wane. Reaching the top I establish the beat, And tap out the rhythm with my feet. Slogging northwards to sprawling estates with labyrinthine roads to navigate. The white bread blandness of these courts and drives brightened by the buzz of community hives where the old are fed and the young play sport, and club members meet and tai chi is taught, and punching the air, the screams and shouts of kids set free when school is out. It’s all downhill from Redhill Grange, So the running is easy for a change. I reach the station, the Victorian quarter With roads of terraced bricks and mortar. Factories that once hummed the metallic din of boots and shoes crafted from cow skin, converted now into bijoux flats, just a stones throw from the railway tracks. Twelve miles around and back to the heart of this ancient site with a Saxon start. Successions of families have made it their home adding to the mix of the body’s genome. Its people breathe life into the streets creating community with each heartbeat. Rehomed Londoners from the East End, Caribbean islanders joining the blend, Gujarati speakers from India’s North West, East and West Africans all came as guests, Polish, Europeans and British migrants, painting this town, diverse and vibrant. I’ve pounded the pavements of this market town And reaching the church and slow right down 'til I’m under the clock in the ironstone tower with its eight huge bells chiming the hour. I’ve run right round the town of my birth... I just love this place, these square miles of Earth.
NN8 Writers Group have been tasked with writing on the theme of “Hope”. I find myself again writing with two voices, but it is the hopeful one that speaks the loudest.
Hope isn’t the taste of a pear, just a day older than perfect, tinged with the blue-green taste of the bruise, spoiling it from the inside, out.
Neither is it the smell of flowers left at the graveside to wilt and frost, turning brown and limp.
Hope isn’t the daily Covid count, awful yet compulsive listening. Neither is it the reassuring words as the monitors buzz and the cries as they fall silent.
Hope isn’t scratchy and harsh, its billowy and enveloping, fleeting and insubstantial.
It’s the smell of the wind and the rain on a mountain top and the sound of a stream gushing over stones on the valley floor.
Hope comes as the taste of a sweet ripe peach, bursting with juice and quenching thirst.
It’s the sight of fragile snowdrops emerging strong, from the frosted ground.
Hope shouts from the roof tops,
“All will be well.”
Hope whispers in the ear,
“And all manner of things will be well.”
A macaroni poem is written with two voices. Last year, like all years, leaves us with a mixture of emotions which whisper inside as we look back and then forward to a new year.
Here is my personal reflection.
A year to remember A year to forget. A darling girl born in March Into a family, loving and safe. Emerging into lockdown more like. Streets were deserted and the air clean; Among the birdsong, the cuckoo called. Covid, Brexit and climate change. We met up online, zooming to work; Phonecalls, Facetime and Whatsapp. No touching or hugs to ease the soul. Running the Nene Way, backpacking the Dales; Dog walks and bike rides. A time to grow. Plans were scuppered and money lost. Sun, sea and coloured sand on the IOW; A trip down memory lane for us both. Job losses, furlough and foodbank queues. Virtual choirs, virtual races, virtual church; We were living in a digital age. Thousands died with no family nearby. Another long walk, another challenge Taking me through the dark winter days. Zombie like eyes above obligatory masks. A vaccine and the hope of Christmas To celebrate Immanuel, God is with us. Where is he in this pandemic? What a year! What a year.
While out with the dogs I saw an inflatable Father Christmas, lying slack on a driveway.
It lay there, on the flooded patio, Deflated and spent, like a giant's condom; The spectre of Christmas in a puddle. Hung from the tree, darkened lights, That in the night shone bright, Now smirked and revealed the sham Of stars fallen to Earth. Green bins bursting open with bottles and paper stand skew-whiff reeking of "I know not what." Traffic absent, the roads lay empty And become the paths, as parked cars Mount the pavement with wind mirrors folded. The feverishness of Advent reached its peak With a day of eating, drinking and being merry. Now, in the hiatus before New Year, Tiredness, grief and "What now?" descend, And with festive pyjamas, we land deflated and spent In front of the telly.
As a teacher for 38 years, there are names which make me smile and then there are those that make me sigh with frustration. All names have been anonymized. Feel free to add your own!
She slumped in the chair ran hands through her hair rubbed tired eyes and breathed out a few sighs. Then came the names of the kids whose games drove her mad and made her glad the school day was over. O__________ with his irritating grin determined each fight to win. J__________ with a face of thunder throwing chairs and tables asunder. C________ who couldn't sit still until she swallowed her magic pill. E____ and R_______, two, M________, D________, to name a few. Those names for ever tainted and so never chosen for any child in her family.
The NN8 Writers Group was given the task of writing about our name. What follows is the first in a series on the theme.
At school I was Carrot or Ginge But that's not me anymore. For years my surname was Knight But I traded it for a mum-in-law. Some shorten my name to Val But they're only friends for a while. My name can be sung, Val-der-ree Or belted Amy Whitehouse style. To a favoured few I'm Grandma Never Gran, Nanny or Nan. But to Him who knows me, Really knows me, And yet still loves me, I am, who I am.
Another poem about dogs to make me smile and remember those lazy, hazy days of summer when we would go away in the caravan, two adults and two dogs, for rest and relaxation. Not!
Starlight and new moonlight pierced the dark and the sound of silence covered the park Until, the dogs ears cocked, they barked at the air 'cos they heard the rabbits nibbling out there. She went to bed and he read his phone while the dogs lips smacked on a half chewed bone, until they curled and sprawled in the chairs occasionally stretching and shaking out hairs. At the crack of dawn, there was a thud on the floor As Bramble jumped down and scratched on the door. To keep the peace, she let him in and first on the bed was agile Pippin, who stretched out between Val and Pete then Bramble jumped up and curled on their feet. The sound of snores filled the room As man and beast slept once more in the gloom. Val awoke and JUST THOUGHT of a short run and before she knew it the whines had begun, for dogs are psychic, no need to talk and all excited they prepared for a walk. Pete turned over and said, "Thank the God's" for the bed was now his - no wife, no dogs. Hysterical laughter came from the van while inside she peed in the toilet/can. And still she laughed and tears rolled down 'cos laughing at the world is better than a frown.