Tag Archives: religion

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not worth the earth – these streets are your streets, this turf is your turf.

There are so very many things that I could write about Climate Camp 2009, and other experiences I’ve had in the last couple of weeks. None of it would be very coherent or cohesive, though, I would find it difficult to get points across, I would argue with myself, I would struggle as I always do.  This statement addresses some of my concerns about it, and this article voices some of my hopes and happinesses.

And what about me? I am well and happy. My head is full of ideas, hopes, fears, half-formed analyses. A lot of things are wrong in the world. Some things are right and good. Some things are ugly. Some things are beautiful. I had some time to think and a lot to think about. I value opportunities to meet and spend time with interesting and kind people. My brother is one of the most interesting and kind people I know. I value time spent with him, above much else. I met several new interesting and interested and kind people, too. I like being heard and respected for who I am. I enjoy pubs, pretty girls, Thai food, sunshine, laughter, foxes, freedom and fire. All of the above were features of my week away. I missed my lover, and my bike. My sister is sixteen years old. I got to Newcastle to see her a few hours before her birthday began.

This weekend just gone was Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year – it started at sunset on Friday. I guess that means I started it by tipsily cycling home from the pub where my newish boss had treated me and a colleague to drinkies following an unexpected, but pleasant, ‘it’s 5pm on a Friday and this bottle of wine has been in the fridge for ages!’ one in the office. I had a ‘credit crunch date’ at home, as the boy and I need all the spare dolla we can muster for paying the deposit on, and buying stuff to go in, our new flat next week. We had a nice meal and watched The Proposition – I’d seen it before, in the cinema with K, but he hadn’t, and it is still as bleak yet brilliant as I remembered. Then we sat and talked about stuff and I ended up crying about EDL and/or UAF until I felt very very sick, and not sleeping well at all, wakefully Thinking about Things until after 4am.

I got up on Saturday morning with puffy eyes, had some tea, and baked some really nice cinnamon biscuits. Then had some more tea, then went out on my bike to meet my good buddy P, who I hadn’t seen in four weeks, due to our busy lives. We met at the start of the canal, rode down the Union canal path (nice and flat, and mostly wide with just a couple of slightly scary bits where you’re supposed to get off and walk, but of course we don’t), over aqueducts and under viaducts, talking about stuff – what we’d both been doing over the month, his 30th birthday being in a few days, bikes – to where it meets the Water of Leith path somewhere around Wester Hailes and so we switched on to that (pretty good, scenic, but a lot more bumpy – rather him than me on that roady bike he has borrowed from his brother while the latter is in New Zealand. Leon can handle all the rocks, sticks and mud just fine) and took it all the way to Balerno, where it somewhat abruptly ends. It had been pretty grey and drizzly all day and a proper downpour commenced just as we stood there wondering what to do, so we went to the shop and bought some milk to have with our biscuits, then went a little way back along the path looking for shelter. I always find it sort of awesome how much cover the trees can offer from even this torrential rain – we quickly found a really nice dry spot with a big rock to sit on.

Then P decided that if we scrambled down a horribly steep bit to the river’s edge, it would be a perfect place for a little fire, but upon investigating my handbag it turned out we had no means of making the fire (a mirror, yes, but not enough sunlight for that) so, as the rain wore off, he went back to the shop and bought a lighter, the cheapest newspaper he could find (Daily Express – ugh ugh ugh!), and a fruit loaf, while I ate an apple and collected firewood. We locked our bikes together just off the path. He leapt fearlessly down the slope to his proposed fireplace and I crept gingerly behind him, which took about twenty times as long, but didn’t fall. He crumpled up paper, mysteriously found a huge, comfortable plank and by means of balancing it across rocks, assembled it into a handy bench upwind so we’d be out of the way of any smoke. I built the sticks into the little pyramid over the crumpled paper, gathered some more wood, and lit the fire. He got a rock and bashed the protruding ends of some ‘deadly’ nails back into his lumber bench, convinced me it was now safe to sit on, and flapped the remaining paper at the base of the fire as a makeshift bellows, to get the flames going. Then we just sat and toasted pieces of fruit loaf on a stick and had them and the cookies with milk and talked and stared at the beautiful fire for a couple of hours. When it was time to go home, we let the fire burn itself out and then doused the embers using water from the river in the empty milk bottle. The sun had come out while we were sitting there and it was finally a really beautiful, crisply sunny late afternoon, and clearly the last day of summer, and the start of something new. The ride back was easy because it was all very slightly downhill, and we had a laugh, and talked about autumn and time and light, places, politics, plants and plans.
I went home and hung out with D without crying about UAF, and made some totally delicious vegetarian chilli. That was Rosh Hashanah. When I was younger I used to go to shul.

I talked to my dad on the phone. My mum’s got swine flu but he said she’s not feeling too bad. He’d been to the first day of his teacher training course at uni, so he hadn’t been to shul either, which is more ground-breaking – and had spent the week working in the school where he’s been volunteering part-time for a while now. He told me that it had been the most enjoyable working week of his life and I wasn’t surprised, but was very happy for him. I told him about my three-month review and how happy I was at work too, and about my plans for my career, and about K’s success in Catalunya, and about my bike ride. He told me about reading a story to the children (And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street) and how he was impressed and amused by some of their own creative writing, and described the way that he cycles to the school and to uni now – it has been a very long time since he hasn’t had to drive to work, as he used to work a long way out of town in Consett and Blyth. And he told me that my sister had been at a surprise party for her (belatedly) and one or two of her friends’ birthdays.
Obviously I’m gutted for my mum being ill, and I don’t really know what my brother did, but for the rest of us I kind of love that we each celebrated the New Year in our own, very meaningful ways. I think God would like it, if there was one.

In summary, then, same as almost always I suppose: small things good, big things… not so good. Or thereabouts. I am not mentioning the footy. My hopes and plans for 5770 are pretty shiny and exciting. They include

  • not filling in one single job application form
  • Barcelona
  • A garden
  • Saving up for this, yeeeah booooi!

Happy new year to you too.

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To wish impossible things

the prophet
We are walking back toward the towering Koutobia mosque that we’re using as a handy landmark, when we realise it’s 4pm and the resonant solemn call of the muezzin rings out from it, amplified but pure, clear and bright as a summer stream but rich and deep like molasses, dewy, soft thick emerald Scottish moss, old longstanding trees. Heartwood. We are awestruck and silenced and it feels odd to think that the call is not for me, so pervasive and essential does it seem, and I don’t know what to do and sit down there to think and listen, listen and think.

Another day, as I look out of the window, the later prayer time must fall and a man in a red shirt stops where he is, unrolls his mat and kneels there, bowing toward Mecca, as this wonderful hot bright city seems to pause for breath in the purple twilight, dusky and dusty, breathing in deeply and calmly and just noticing, just taking stock, at this moment when day meets night. Again something takes hold of me, my heart – I’m humbled and shy; I feel perhaps I start to understand, being here, why one might believe and say and sing that God was great. I feel a part of something bigger, and at the same time I feel refreshed and affirmed to be one and unique and me; one of many.

And it’s the stars I think of, not the ones I know obscured by London smog and Edinburgh haar, but dreams, simulations or imaginations of journeys through space with them whooshing up huge and burning on every side; the stars up there in the thin atmosphere and the neat bounded glassy stars of the intricate repetitive tile work down here, radiating their own way, in painstakingly-mapped, bright, straight lines and angles; and the people, who glow like little stars, one and all.

And I think that Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, and Stephen Dedalus and Dr Rieux and Billy Pilgrim and old Wandering Aengus, and maybe Winston Smith, Alex Portnoy, Candide and le Petit Prince and Titus Groan and certainly old Walt Whitman and his body electric, would have got it as well and nodded and swung to this same beat, I’d always thought it was all about searching for something inexpressible and elusive, something subtle, indefinable, untouchable, something that would never be found, but now I think perhaps at the same time it’s about knowing and realising, feeling it, that it’s all over us and under us, that it’s inescapably there, here, now.

New words for old desires

It’s just various lists today and that is all. I like lists very much, I have been making and collecting them for many years; my paper notebooks, the most important ones, are full of them. I think they’re eloquent and shapely, suggestive, intent, expansive, neat. I like lists of songs, lists of names, lists of places. I think they’re my favourite pages on wikipedia, the ones that just list hundreds of names or words… they’re just so full of potentialList of Fanta flavoursList of misquotationsList of fictitious Jews. There’s a list of lists! Joy! Be still, my beating heart!
I especially like indices, and contents pages too. But I even like shopping lists, sometimes, or menus, or when people make those food diary/calorie intake things; there’s poetry there, I’m sure of it, freeform and grinning up at us. Teriyaki chicken salad sandwich. Blackcurrant-banana-orange-juice smoothie. Piece of bread with chocolate spread. Green milk. I grow old… I grow old… I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. Gertrude Stein understood this before I did. I don’t know what to think about Gertrude Stein, I suppose I like to think she and I are alike in some ways and not in others. Alice B. Toklas, more, maybe; she liked hats too. I’d like to read her book very much, it’s called What Is Remembered which is a very good title. It sounds rather sad. Anyway.
Entries on the ‘Missed Connections’ page on Edinburgh Gumtree: I love those things. I habitually read them for other cities, not because I or anyone I know would be in there, just because they’re nice. I love it when people look, notice, react, I suppose. It’s proof of that.
So, yes, as I was saying, Entries on the ‘Missed Connections’ page on Edinburgh Gumtree
Lynette
(West Lothian)

i always miss
(edinburgh)

Bryan Temple
(Leith Trinity Newhaven)

Livingston, you got petrol at Morrisons Petrol Station, and smiled at me.
(Livingston)

angry number 10 girl
(a princes street bus stop)

girl in the green car
(jewel)

Laura Scott
(Leith)

The girl who is not a librarian
(edinburgh somewhere)

London Kings X-North Berwick-Edinburgh Waverly
(Edinburgh)

debbie cemetery
(edinburgh)

Need to find Ryan
(Edinburgh)

Import prohibitions and restrictions that the New Zealand Customs Service enforces at the border (I had to look it up for work, so that shows how long I’ve had this beast tucked away for)
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Easter Sunday.

A small, spread out ‘congregation’ hardly congregates, more politely distributing itself evenly among the sparse, simple wooden chairs in Old Saint Paul’s tonight, high-ceilinged, candlelit and draughty. More people are there alone, and there’s perhaps a slightly younger average age than I’d expected – it’s not just little old ladies, in other words, though there are also no children and I may in fact be the youngest person outside of the choir. The choir in their white robes with red bits at the collars: what are they thinking, I idly wonder during the quiet bits. They are equal-opportunitiesishly pick-and-mixed in terms of height, age, gender and skin tone, complete with the requisite big girl who sings like a little girl (she does some bits solo, and she’s got an amazingly high, delicate soprano voice, floaty like dandelion clocks and dragonfly wings), several earnest-looking prettyboys who remind me of a question that occurred to me once, way back in the mists of time, while watching the boy I liked in my primary school choir: does raising your eyebrows make your singing sound better? (well, does it? I’ve never been able to check because I’ve never been able to sing either way). My other favourite is the small, bald, slightly spooky one who looks a bit like Pierluigi Collina.
There’re some ritualistic goings-on, lots of gilded ornaments and the covering and revealing and re-covering of something called ‘the Sacrament’ – it’s something small that I can’t really see. Hand gestures, mumbled responses that I’m not familiar enough to get to in time, and what the order of service calls ‘censing’, which seems to be the act of spreading sweet smoke everywhere by swinging a gold cage that hangs from a chain like a holy nunchaku. A man without any special dress steps up and reads a couple of passages from the Bible, elongating word-final consonants and pausing emphatically just like the priest in The Simpsons. In John 20:19, he seems to especially enunciate the bit where the doors were locked “for fear of the JEWS” and I look at the floor, then feel silly and paranoid for thinking so.
The choir dwells incessantly on the line “see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently”, repeating it ever-changingly over and over. In the emotionally weakened, open, unstable state I’ve got myself into it brings tears to my eyes and I let them flow and fall, wondering, if anybody notices, what they’ll think my story is. A pure, devout and blameless soul who’s undergone some undeserved and traumatic persecution and identifies her Semitic little self with old Joshua ben Joseph; the new Jesus in a double-D cup, Jesus in her cowboy boots and her mineral make-up? Or do I look more like a penitent sinner, a glamorous murderess perhaps, humbly kneeling on the hard wooden floor to beg of your Christian charity, to receive the forgiveness that comes clouding in the sweet smoke, ready for redemption this Eastertide, for a fresh start, a little resurrection of her own?
I’m somewhere in between, I suppose, but definitely a lot more the latter; far from glamour and Gabriel Garcia Márquez on this blustery night in Scotland in almost-spring, far from Jesus and Saint Paul and all the saints and angels, and also far from, but drifting ever-so-slowly toward, peace.

Outside, as I sit on the steps waiting for my man, a little white feather floats down out of nowhere into my field of vision and I watch it as the wind buffets it bouncingly along down the street, past the clicking stilettos and the unmistakable rivers of last night’s urine, until it blows into the gutter and there it stays. Or to be more optimistic about it, there it is hidden by the kerb from my view, and it goes ahead where I can’t follow. There’s always more than one way of looking at these things.