Friday 28 November 2008

Fluffy like Concrete

Several years ago an online acquaintance accused me of being ‘fluffy’ and New Age. In his opinion my spiritual views were vastly inferior to his own and based on insubstantial… well… ‘fluff’.

At the time I felt too hurt to reply to him. I’d never thought of myself as New Age and I’d never ever thought of my spiritual beliefs as “fluffy”, but I had no idea how to make him see that. That was a long time ago and I’ve learnt a lot about myself since then. Now, if I were to meet that opinionated argumentative man again I’d say, “Yes, I’m fluffy – fluffy like concrete.” :-)

My husband inspired that reply by telling me a story from his past. When he was younger he worked on a building site with a Welsh labourer who used to admire the concrete going around in the concrete mixer - saying in a thick Welsh accent, “Nice and fluffeee!”

I think faith should always be fluffy like concrete – soft, gentle, loving and compassionate, but built on a strong personal foundation. Being gentle is not being weak. Seeing the good in others is not being gullible. Standing in your own personal faith does not have to be done with agression.

It is possible to be meek and enherit the earth… if you’re fluffy like concrete. ;-)

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Newsflash for Autumn

I hadn't realised that the last time I did a NEWSFLASH was September! So I'm calling this one "for Autumn", since it'll be for both October and November.

Nature has been preparing for winter here. Bunny is still eating our garden, but he comes around less often now. The geese have been trickling in from further North to spend the winter here. A field mouse is busy hiding peanuts in an old folded up mat in the garage. My dad found that out accidentally when he moved it and peanuts fell out! We've had field mice winter with us before at other houses. They're not a problem as they'll be off back into the wild in Spring. Yesterday we had a snow goose in the field in front of our house. I've never seen one before. He was beautiful, but too far away to take a decent photo. :-(

We went to the Continental market last weekend, but we didn't stay long. The temperature was below freezing and too windy to be fun. We bought some French cheese and then dashed for the warm car! I felt sorry for the store holders, standing outside in that weather must have been awful.

My favourite quote for the month, with one important twist - they have to be words from a fellow blogger! My Wise Words choice for Autumn:

"I think I know what I need to find. What I'm lacking. Inner peace. I need to honestly ask myself what it is that makes me happy. What I'd like to do. Where I'd like my life to go. I'm not sure how to find that answer, but my gut tells me I need to be quiet, not worry, don't think, just listen. I'll tell myself, when I can hear."
Beautiful words from Pete at Finding Me.


It's been a busy time for me - a time of realising a few things. They're a bit long and I really should post them separately. For now I'll say I've realised I always was who I was meant to be and I've discovered Grace goes further than I thought. Come back to find out more. ;-)

Family... the best family news is that my cousin, who's ex hauled him back from his new life in Australia, is back in Australia from this week. The court case was last week and the judge threw it out of court. She said his ex had clearly done nothing but tell lie upon lie and the whole case was ridiculous. It is OVER - once and for all. My cousin is free to live his new life at last. :-)

This week I bumped into two sisters we know from the first place we ever rented. They were so delighted to see me again and demanded that hubby and I come visit some time. These sisters are in their eighties, but so young at heart that you forget that once you're talking to them. I realised, as we stood there talking, that anyone watching us would have thought they were family, like aunts, given how they reacted on seeing me... and it reminded me of Mr K, who was my "uncle" in South Africa.

Why do we think our only family has to be genetic? We forget love is a stronger link than blood. Which brings me to a favourite quote of mine from "Illusions" by Richard Bach:
The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.

Not exactly anxiety, but dad's still looking for a new job. Otherwise the only other anxiousness is a good kind - I'm waiting for word on when my book gets printed. As soon as I know - you'll know, I promise! :-D

Smile of the month has got to be this joke that reminds me so much of Bunny Boy, the wild rabbit who lives in our garden.

At the moment home is filling up with packets and parcels - yes, we've already started Christmas shopping! Since dad's home (retrenched early this month) it made sense to use the time to go browsing for bargains at some of the pre-Christmas sales. We've done pretty good and have almost everyone done AND my mom and I have baked two fruit cakes and two Christmas puddings.

For the first time in a long time we're not in a mad panic and actually enjoying the pre-Christmas build-up. :-)

Monday 17 November 2008

Weekend Snapshot challenge


I found this great idea on Carver's blog. Please go look at her photos, they are lovely!

My photos were taken on Saturday. We took a drive up North over the Black Isle, over the Cromarty Firth and along the East coast to the village of
Shandwick. This is the view across the Moray Firth looking South East. It was a clear day, but the wind was COLD.

This next photo was leaving Shandwick, it was about 3:30 and starting to get a but twilight-ish, but I figured I'd try taking a photo anyway. I loved the way those trees stood out in the field.

This next one is the Shandwick stone of the graves. It's a Pictish standing stone from about the 8th or 9th century. It stands 10 foot (3m) tall and it enclosed now in a protective glass box. The box made taking photographs of the beautiful Pictish carvings very frustrating, but did make for some nice reflections of the clouds and sky. If you want a better idea of the actual carving designs you can find them here.

The Picts were a unique people who colonised the North-East of Scotland. It was once believed that they painted themselves blue, but more recent research proves it much more likely that they were covered in blue tattoos. The designs they carved onto their stones were probably similar to those they used for their tattoos. I was interested to see on TV recently that the Picts stayed Pagan long after the Western Gaels converted to Christianity. This stone as a cross on one side, so it was carved by Christian Picts, but many of their stones are of wonderfully decorative animals.

The view from the stone. Somewhere across that water is where we live. :-)

Saturday 15 November 2008

Unusual Decoration

I took this photo at a local store this week. Can you see the most unusual Christmas decoration?

I'll give you a hint - it's alive and watching me. :-)

Here you go - a closer shot...

Mr Robin, on the edge of the silver bowl, comes in every afternoon for his snack of tearoom crumbs. We first saw him dashing about under tables, between chair legs and feet, but he was moving about too fast to photograph. I tried whistling like a bird and that worked. Robins are very cheeky and territorial. He wasn't ready to share his favourite shop with another bird and he came right up to where I was.

Isn't he just the cutest Christmas decoration you ever saw? :-)

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Brave Men - Brave Women

Today is a special day for many people - a day we remember all those men and women involved in war. Last year I wrote about its personal significance for my family. This year I thought I'd branch out a little further into personal war remembrances. My mom reminded me of the women in our family who have been involved in war., so this blog post is for them - for Minna and Evie.

Minna and Evie were the great-aunts of my gran and her cousin Sarrell that I mentioned over the weekend. The biggest irony is that, due to family feuds and secrets, the family in South Africa never knew about their family in Europe. When Sarrell was out in the prison camps in Germany and Italy he had no idea two of his Ongley great-aunts were also out in the field of war.

Both sisters were pretty wild and adventurous for their time. Minna Ongley (born 12 October) married an Irishman and proceeded to get very involved in the struggles in Northern Ireland. There are family stories that hint at her and her husband being involved in the smuggling of arms and amunition into Northern Ireland. Later she joined her youngest sister, Evie in France during WWI.

Evie (Evelyn Helen Victoria Ongley, born 4 June) married a British army surgeon. She married young and her restless nature got her into trouble, she had an affair. Worse still - her husband found out. He sued for divorce and took their only child, a son with him. Evie went her own way after that... and what an amazing pathway that turned out to be!

I'm going to quote from a cousin's website as he's researched Evie in depth.

At the outbreak of the 1914-18 war, Evie joined the Women’s Emergency Corps in London and served on eleven committees, before she realised that she would be more use in a different, less over staffed organisation. To this end she joined Le Comite Britannique of the French Red Cross.

Working with the French Red Cross, it became apparent that what was needed by the French Army, were canteens.

In April 1915, with money raised from amongst her friends and also with assistance from her son Evelyn Claude Culling, Evie was able to take a canteen over to France. Initially it was some way back from the lines, at a spot where the walking wounded were sent from the front lines, and near where an ammunition factory had been set up.

Le Comite Britannique of the French Red Cross, were not keen for Eve and her colleagues to go closer to the Front Line and wanted them to stay near Paris, but they ignored this, and following information provided by the Quakers, they got clearance to got the junction at Revigny on the Meuse. This was an important distribution centre for troops going up to the Front, and especially to Verdun.

It was at Revigny that Evie and her colleagues, who included her sister Minna Stafford O’Brien, spent most of the war. Even when under severe bombardment in September and October of 1917, the canteen carried on.

The French recognised the role that Evie had played and honoured her with the Croix de Guerre, in 1919.

After the 1914-18 war, Evie found herself in a state of limbo, until Commandant Goudau who was a member of General Gouraud’s staff asked if she would be interested in running their canteens in Syria where they were now based. With two of her former colleagues she moved to Syria and did that over the next few years.

Evie died during the 1939-45, having written a book about her wartime experiences called “Arms and the Woman” which was published in 1932.

For Minna and Evie - women worth remembering.

Sunday 9 November 2008

For Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday is usually the second Sunday of November, closest to Remembrance day or Veteran's day, November 11. It is a day we remember all those who have died in wars - civilians and armed forces.

This year I am dedicating my post for this day to a particular family member - my gran's cousin L Sarrell Ongley, who passed away this year in September, six days before his 95th birthday.

I never met him, but I know him through the loving stories his family tell, the Christmas cards he sent my mom every year and his poems. I was sent the web link to his poems by a family member a few years ago. It was quite a surprise to discover that they were all written during his time as a prisoner of war, in Germany and Italy, during World War II. I'd never realised any of our family had been a prisoner of war.

In the last few days of this Peace Globe whirlwind a lot has been written about wars, but not much has been written by those who actually have taken part in war.

Sarrell's poems express the stark realities with a wonderful simple truthfulness that makes me want to laugh at his spirit as much as cry at the waste of war. I have picked a small selection of his poems that I am putting up on my blog below this Remembrance Sunday post. For this post I'm only putting one poem, because I think it sums it all up the best.

Sergeant Lynn Sarrell Ongley
16 September 1913 ~ 10 September 2008

A Sacrifice ~ 24 June 1943
Just a prisoner on a prison ship, one of a thousand or three
Lost for the cause of a nation's fight
Doomed to confinement until the right
Rule again for the free.

Chosen to battle a rearguard plan, perhaps two thousand or three
Fighting by day, withdrawing by night
Delaying the push that the enemies might
Be worn down finally.

Trapped at last on a mountain pass, these brave two thousand or three
Taking the blows be they heavy or light
Bearing the pain till the day is in sight
When the hosts of Satan flee

Just a prisoner on a prison ship, one of a thousand or three
Surrounded by faces drawn and white
Patient in faith so sadly contrite
In their shackles of agony.

Fara Sabina P.O.W. Camp
Rome Italy

The War Poems of L S Ongley

All poems by L Sarrell Ongley.

Our Bungalow ~ 13 March 1945

Bare brick walls all cold and damp
With freezing stony floor
A tiny closet wet and foul
The lighting system poor

Shaky beds of nails and plank
No mattress can be seen
A draughty roof of timber logs
The dripping rafters green

A smoky stove burns twice a day
The atmosphere is dead
One table is the furniture
Reprisal it is said

Some window panes are missing
the door wont fit the frame
Two heaters never operate
For coal is just a name

Fifteen feet by twenty
Is the length of our prison hut
Eighty men packed sardine tight
With every window shut

Stalag 357.Fallingbostel. Hanover. Germany.

Stalag Exercise ~ 15 April 1944

Twenty times a day I walk
Around the compound square
Twice to a mile is ten of the best
Quite a fair jaunt without any rest
A deed not common but rare.

Rainy days I do the same
The lads just stand and smile
On the third time round they point and nod
While I race faster across the sod
A picture of ease and style.

Mühlberg P.O.W. CampDresden. Germany.

I Would Like ~ 16 August 1944

I would like to have a four pound loaf
Of steaming snow white bread
A vat of butter rich and fresh
Enough to turn my head
A china plate piled high with steak
Six soft fried eggs on toast
Tomatoes in their dozens
With a chunk of fatty roast.

Stammlager 4BMühlberg-on-Elbe. Dresden. Germany.

Red Cross Parcel ~ October 1942

The Red Cross keep us fit and well
With many a tasty dish
No sooner is the issue made
We fry up spuds and fish

The chocolate lasts a little spell
Our prunes we soak and stand
Twelve biscuits spread with butter thick
My word they do taste grand

The meat roll fried in margarine
With Yorkshire salt and milk
While toast and butter heaped with jam
Slides down like folds of silk

The bully smeared with mustard
Between two hunks of bread
Can be described as having
All powers to turn the head

The oatmeal mixed with rasins
Makes porridge sweet and stiff
Our breakfast cheese warmed on the toast
Gives a savoury niff

Pork sausages baked in eggs
Mixed veg with Irish stew
Sweet custard smoothed o'er apple duff
At last we rest and sip our brew

The creamed rice sweets and apricots
We hold for yet a while
While cocoa in the evening hours
Completes the welcome pile

Maybe I've missed the honey sweet
The golden syrup too
But if their are some missing tins
I leave the rest to you

Without the Red Cross helping us
Our lives we might have lost
So when the war has passed us by
We help what e'er the cost

The cigarettes we cherish most
Their help is great indeed
When food is short we pull the belt
For nicotine is feed

My text to you is finnished
No more there is to be
The weekly Red Cross parcel gift
To you I bend my knee.

Campo Concentranamento 54.P.M. 3300. Fara Sabina. Rome. Italy.

The entire collection, and a his autobiography, can be found here.

Friday 7 November 2008

Brand new Day

Sitting here, after yesterday's frantic reading of and replying to all the Peace Globe participants, feels strangely quiet and surreal. The surreal strengthened by the fact that this Peace Day event is sandwiched between the elections in the USA on the 4th and Memorial day/Veteran's day on the 11th.

Later this weekend I'll be taking time to reply to the people who left such wonderful replies on my own Post for Peace, but today I just want to sit and think about the remarkable experience this has been. It was an amazing experience and I'm truly grateful to Graham for leading me to Mimi and her marvelous idea.

Wishing everyone a peaceful weekend. :-)

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Dona nobis pacem 2008


Dona nobis pacem ~ Grant us peace

Now I’ve been thinking about the world lately…
When I first decided to participate in the Peace Globe Project my first thought was “What does the word Peace actually mean?” Peace… it’s a word we fling about a lot, same as ‘Love’. For many people Peace means no wars, but no fighting does not automatically mean no violence or hatred. It’s possible to force people to behave and not fight, but that’s not peace – that’s intimidation. A lack of violence and aggression can be attained through apathy and weariness too, but that doesn’t make it Peace.

Sitting thinking about the word the song “Peace Train”, by Cat Stevens, kept running through my head. I went looking for the song online… and something interesting happened. I found a small film documentary on why Cat Stevens had become Yusuf Islam. In it Yusuf/Cat spoke about how he had moved from singing about changing the world to being more involved in real change, but how first of all he’d had to change himself - change from within.

The truth is as much as we may talk of Peace, pray for Peace or Blog for Peace, we can never achieve anything unless we start from the simple truth that it has to begin from within. You cannot change the world to change people – people have to change themselves in order to change their world.

There’s a lot that has been written about what needs to change in order for us to live in Peace. Some talk of forgiveness, some of Love, charity, empathy, patience, tolerance… there are lots of words associated Peace. Today I’d like to add my own choice; I’d like to add ‘ENOUGH’.

It’s not an obvious word to pick, but the more I look at the world today the more I feel that this might turn out to be a very important word for Peace in our planet’s future. It seems to me that the concept of ‘Not enough’ causes most of our planet’s wars and violence, or at very least the belief in ‘Not enough’. Not enough food, not enough oil, not enough land, not enough power, not enough religious dominance, not enough religious tolerance… humans have found many reasons to justify aggressive actions through ‘Not enough’.

We fear it too. We fear ‘Not enough’ terribly and that fear makes us miserly and cruel. Believing in ‘Not enough’ we hate those who we think have more than us today and we refuse to share, in case we might be in need tomorrow. We use it to justify our greed as well. We use it to rationalize taking from others. We believe we have the right to have MORE than enough.

As far as I can see, for this world to have enough Peace we first need to let go of this phrase ‘Not enough’ and all the fears and angers that surround it - in other words we have to learn how to share. The thing I like best about the word ‘share’ is that it implies equality and mutual respect. You ‘give’ charity and donations to those you consider lesser than you, you ‘take’ from those you resent or hate, but you share with those beside you. Sharing happens between equals, family and friends. More importantly - you don’t take from people you share with. You don’t take their lands, their lives, or their freedoms and you don’t hate, murder or go to war with them either.

We need to relearn our concept of what is ‘enough’. Enough is being happy with what you have and who you are and then sharing that happiness with the world around you. Enough comes from filling that fear of ‘Not enough’ within yourself first; of finding your own inner peace, each in our own unique and individual way. What fills your soul with ‘enough’ might be anything from creating Art, writing a novel, saving a whale, mothering a child, or following a religion, as Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam did.

We need to remove that dreadful phrase ‘Not enough’ from our mindset, because it links us back to always grasping for more - more money, more power, more wars… more than enough.

Had more than enough?

I have.

How about you?

Now come and join the giving,
its not so hard to do.
Throw your bread upon the waters,
They will come back to you…


Tuesday 4 November 2008

Cat Stevens - Peace Train

Now I’ve been happy lately,
Thinking about the good things to come,
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

Oh I’ve been smiling lately,
dreaming about the world as one,
And I believe it could be,
some day its going to come

‘Cause out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a peace train,
Oh peace train take this country,
come take me home again

Now I’ve been smiling lately,
Thinking about the good things to come,
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

Oh peace train sounding louder
Glide on the peace train
Come on now peace train
Yes, peace train holy roller
Everyone jump upon the peace train
Come on now peace train

Get your bags together,
go bring your good friends too,
‘Cause its getting nearer,
it soon will be with you,

Now come and join the living,
its not so far from you
And its getting nearer,
soon it will all be true

Oh peace train sounding louder
Glide on the peace train
Come on now peace train

Now I’ve been crying lately,
thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating,
why can’t we live in bliss

‘Cause out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
come take me home again

Oh peace train sounding louder
Glide on the peace train
Come on now peace train
Yes, peace train holy roller
Everyone jump upon the peace train
Come on peace train

Monday 3 November 2008

Autumn Weekend


This weekend I took some photos of the trees on the way to the shops. There were even nicer trees, but no places to stop the car. These photos are taken at places along the forest road where we could stop. I like this first one because you get to see the contrast of shade and sunlight...
A smaller road through the forest...
A really nice big tree...
Leaves under the trees...