Monday, 29 February 2016

The Poor Little Mouse


I lived on this island for almost a year. I had at last taken the plunge and given up butchering. My desire was to get to university but had no qualifications. 

I worked for a year on the building of the Abbey and in return I got food and a room. it was a time to study in the quiet nights. The island is three miles long and one and half miles wide. The total population is the winter months was about 80. In the abbey during the winter months there was only about six or seven of us. 

I had many times during that winter when I wandered the island alone. I swam most days summer and winter.  One of my favourite spots what the North Beach.

I remember one day in particular.

The North Beach Iona

I stood upon that lonely beach, 
alone amidst its beauty
Cerulean the sea stretched to
to kiss the waiting sky.
The crashed on distant shores
Staffa and the Dutchman's Cap.
Bare footed I wandered warmed by golden sand.
Whispering grass on white faced dunes.
In the midst of majesty so rare
so small I felt.
Stooping took within my palm 
a million grains of sand.
Each grain its place upon this beach
each playing its part.
contributing to the beauty of the day.
Insignificant I felt.
But I too had a part to play.

How easy it is to feel small and insignificant. But this feeling can so easily be made worse by the actions of others. A thoughtless word or deed. The act of pretending to notice and listen yet paying no heed to others.

It reminds me of the little mouse.

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. "What food might this contain?" the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. 

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning: "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" 

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said "Mr.Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" The pig sympathized, but said "I am so very sorry, Mr.Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" The cow said "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house - like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever.

Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient. But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. 

To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. 

The farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many! people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness. 

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern you, remember: when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another. 

Each of us is a vital thread in another person's tapestry. We are all part of the great tapestry of Life.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Rubbish Truck.

Summer Place and Summer Memories.

I started my working life working as a butcher. Having been advised to leave school as soon as possible because I was never going to make anything of education. How wrong people can be in their estimate of others. It never crossed their minds that maybe they had failed me in the education system, never seeing the honest difficulties I was having.

Anyway I left school at the age of fifteen with no qualifications of any sort, not even an O grade. I started work almost the next day as a butcher. Deep down I knew that this would never be a permanent thing, but it got me past the initial sense of defeat and a feeling of uselessness. 

When I got to University to take my first university degree the job had its uses. I was able to leave university for the summer vacation and walk into a summer job with no difficulty. One such summer I was working as a relief butcher van man. I took over the job of the regular butcher to allow him to have his two weeks holiday. Then I moved to another van and did the same again all summer. 

One day i was driving up a very narrow street. Parked up on the pavement and half on the road was a dustbin lorry. As I drove past it the driver of the bin lorry decided to just pull out back onto the road. he obviously did not look or see me. The side was torn off the butcher van. I had virtually had a load of rubbish dumped on me.

This reminds me of the very true tale of the taxi driver.  The passenger in the taxi tells the story.

One day I boarded a taxi and asked to be driven to the airport. We heading along the motorway in the correct lane and at the correct speed. Suddenly a black car jumped out of a slipway right out in front of the taxi. The taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by inches!

The driver of the other car whipped his head around and began yelling at us.

The taxi driver just smiled and waved at the irate driver. He was in fact really friendly.

So I asked, "Why did you just do that? That man almost ruined your car and sent us to hospital or worse." 

The taxi driver taught me what he called, " The law of the Rubbish Truck."
He explained that many people are like rubbish trucks. They run around full of rubbish, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment.

As the rubbish piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you.

Don't take it personally, just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on.

Do not take their rubbish and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. Others do not need  your rubbish they have enough to contend with their own. 


Saturday, 27 February 2016

Labour in Vain.

Moonlight Along the Shore.

As another week draws to a closeI can look back with some sense achievement. It started rather badly with me having on of my dark moments or days. I have those from time to time when everything seems futile and uncreative. Fortunately this did not last long and the week progressed well.

I painted an abstract. Not sure it is going to rock the world. In fact a dear friend asked if it was a painting of a door. So there you go I do not think it is going to set the art world on fire or open many if any doors for me. 

The other painting I did this week was much more taxing on the body and certainly took many hours. There is a wall round my house that had balls on each pillar. The wall was painted a horrible yellow and the balls were all of differing sizes and shapes.

Now the balls have gone. The wall has been wire brushed and painted a lovely shade of pebble. No longer do I walk towards the house and fringe. My legs are still painful after all the bending and whatever else muscle use was involved.


It is done and I am happy with the result of the effort.

Life is not always so obviously satisfying.  let me share a true tale with you.

There was a young woman who took great pride in the growth and care of the flowers in her flower garden. She had been raised by her grandmother who taught her to love and care for flowers as she herself had done. 

So, like her grandmother, her flower garden was second to none. 

One day while looking through a flower catalogue she often ordered from, a picture of a plant immediately caught her eye. She had never seen blooms on a flower like that before. 

“I just have to have it,” she said to herself, and she immediately ordered it. 

When it arrived, she already had a place prepared to plant it. She planted it at the base of a stone wall at the back of her yard. It grew vigorously, with beautiful green leaves all over it, but there were no blooms. Day after day she continued to cultivate it, water it, feed it, and she even talked to it attempting to coax it to bloom. But, it was to no avail.

One morning weeks later, as she stood before the vine, she contemplated how disappointed she was that her plant had not bloomed. She was giving considerable thought to cutting it down and planting something else in its place. 

It was at this point that her invalid neighbor, whose garden joined hers, called over the wall to her. 

“Thank you so much! You can’t imagine how much I have enjoyed the blooms of that vine you planted.” 

The young woman walked through the gate into her neighbor’s yard, and sure enough, she saw that on the other side of the wall the vine was filled with blooms. 

There were indeed the most beautiful blooms she had ever seen. The vine had crept through the crevices and it had not flowered on her side of the fence, it had flowered luxuriantly on the other side.

Just because you cannot see the good result of your labour does not mean that it bore no fruit.

The little seed of hope you planted. The little portion of love you shared. The small plant of learning you gave to another. You just never know how much that has grown and bloomed. Having been in the jobs of preaching and teaching I often rejoice in the little words of those I have shared with over the years. To know that you labour not in vain.

But for anything of worth to grow you must continue to offer  yourself looking for nothing in return.

Friday, 26 February 2016

The Tiger's Whisker.

The Storm

As one who ran the coastal path day after day I saw the sea in all of its many guises. Still and inviting when you just want so much to run in and enjoy. Other days when the waves come crashing to the shore, The last thing you would consider doing was entering it for a swim better just to watch its fury from a distance.

Yesterday I overheard a conversation about somebody I know. The person was saying that the man was to be watched and left alone. That he passed a quick temper and could turn to anger so easily. I could hardly believe they were talking about the same person as I knew. The person I knew had lived long and had a very interesting life, which with a little encouragement he would tell you about.

He had in fact been a prisoner of the Japanese during the war working on the building of a railway under cruel and very difficult circumstances. I think maybe he became angry when he heard other speak cruelly , or to indulge in silly gossip that could easily cause harm.

In fact the trouble lay not with him but with themselves. What were they in fact doing when I overheard them but maligning a man I liked and respected. 

This reminds me of the ancient story of the tiger's whisker. let me share it with you. I apologise that it is longer than my usual tales but very worthy of a read.

Once upon a time, a young wife named Yun Ok was at her wit's end. Her husband had always been a tender and loving soulmate before he had left for the wars but, ever since he returned home, he was cross, angry, and unpredictable. She was almost afraid to live with her own husband. Only in glancing moments did she catch a shadow of the husband she used to know and love.

When one ailment or another bothered people in her village, they would often rush for a cure to a hermit who lived deep in the mountains. Not Yun Ok. She always prided herself that she could heal her own troubles. But this time was different. She was desperate.
As Yun Ok approached the hermit's hut, she saw the door was open. The old man said without turning around: "I hear you. What's your problem?"

She explained the situation. His back still to her, he said, "Ah yes, it's often that way when soldiers return from the war. What do you expect me to do about it?"

"Make me a potion!" cried the young wife. "Or an amulet, a drink, whatever it takes to get my husband back the way he used to be."

The old man turned around. "Young woman, your request doesn't exactly fall into the same category as a broken bone or ear infection."
"I know", said she.
"It will take three days before I can even look into it. Come back then."

Three days later, Yun Ok returned to the hermit's hut. "Yun Ok", he greeted her with a smile, "I have good news. There is a potion that will restore your husband to the way he used to be, but you should know that it requires an unusual ingredient. You must bring me a whisker from a live tiger."

"What?" she gasped. "Such a thing is impossible!"

"I cannot make the potion without it!" he shouted, startling her. He turned his back. "There is nothing more to say. As you can see, I'm very busy."

That night Yun Ok tossed and turned. How could she get a whisker from a live tiger?

The next day before dawn, she crept out of the house with a bowl of rice covered with meat sauce. She went to a cave on the mountainside where a tiger was known to live. She clicked her tongue very softly as she crept up, her heart pounding, and carefully set the bowl on the grass. Then, trying to make as little noise as she could, she backed away.

The next day before dawn, she took another bowl of rice covered with meat sauce to the cave. She approached the same spot, clicking softly with her tongue. She saw that the bowl was empty, replaced the empty one with a fresh one, and again left, clicking softly and trying not to break twigs or rustle leaves, or do anything else to startle and unsettle the wild beast.

So it went, day after day, for several months. She never saw the tiger (thank goodness for that! she thought) though she knew from footprints on the ground that the tiger - and not a smaller mountain creature - had been eating her food. 

Then one day as she approached, she noticed the tiger's head poking out of its cave. Glancing downward, she stepped very carefully to the same spot and with as little noise as she could, set down the fresh bowl and, her heart pounding, picked up the one that was empty.

After a few weeks, she noticed the tiger would come out of its cave as it heard her footsteps, though it stayed a distance away (again, thank goodness! she thought, though she knew that someday, in order to get the whisker, she'd have to come closer to it). 

Another month went by. Then the tiger would wait by the empty food bowl as it heard her approaching. As she picked up the old bowl and replaced it with a fresh one, she could smell its scent, as it could surely smell hers. 

"Actually", she thought, remembering its almost kittenish look as she set down a fresh bowl, "it is a rather friendly creature, when you get to know it." The next time she visited, she glanced up at the tiger briefly and noticed what a lovely downturn of reddish fur it had from over one of its eyebrows to the next. Not a week later, the tiger allowed her to gently rub its head, and it purred and stretched like a house cat.

Then she knew the time had come. The next morning, very early, she brought with her a small knife. After she set down the fresh bowl and the tiger allowed her to pet its head, she said in a low voice: "Oh, my tiger, may I please have just one of your whiskers?" While petting the tiger with one hand, she held one whisker at its base and, with the other hand, in one quick stroke, she carved the whisker off. She stood up, speaking softly her thanks, and left, for the last time.

The next morning seemed endless. At last her husband left for the rice fields. She ran to the hermit's hut, clutching the precious whisker in her fist. Bursting in, she cried to the hermit: "I have it! I have the tiger's whisker!"

"You don't say?" he said, turning around. "From a live tiger?"

"Yes!" she said. 

"Tell me", said the hermit, interested. "How did you do it?"
Yun Ok told the hermit how, for the last six months, she had earned the trust of the creature and it had finally permitted her to cut off one of its whiskers. With pride she handed him the whisker. The hermit examined it, satisfied himself that it was indeed a whisker from a live tiger, then flicked it into the fire where it sizzled and burned in an instant.

"Yun Ok", the hermit said softly, "you no longer need the whisker. Tell me, is a man more vicious than a tiger? If a dangerous wild beast will respond to your gradual and patient care, do you think a man will respond any less willingly?"

Yun Ok stood speechless. Then she turned and stepped down the trail, turning over in her mind images of the tiger and of her husband, back and forth. She knew what she could do.

The trouble with people we find difficult does not always lie with the person but often with ourselves. 

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Building Bridges.

The Forth Rail Bridge.

For many years I lived near and crossed in train the beautiful Forth Rail Bridge. It is a work of art that has stood the test of years of wind and rain. Next to it stands the Forth Road Bridge, built in my lifetime. I watched as it spanned the river Forth. Hailed as a feat of engineering it is now under constant state of repair and problems. It is now unable to cope with the heavy daily traffic expected of it. Yet there it stands bringing together Fife and Lothian and the regions beyond.

A third bridge is in the process of being built. it is fascinating to watch as the roadway reaches out from each side, and from the middle to add yet another link across a very busy stretch of water. it is due to be open by the end of this year. 

I am sure it will look marvellous but I doubt if it will ever have the grandeur and wonder of the Rail Bridge. 

I lived close to this bridge in my childhood and one of my close friends grandmother lived directly under it. She never need a clock she could tell the time by the trains crossing over it. 

This brings me to my tale of wisdom and woe for this morning.

But before I begin. Today I will meet with my friends and we will once again attempt to set to rights the world around us. It is a fine company and I look forward to this weekly gathering. The one sad thing is that the company used to be one member larger. The missing member still will be in the place where we meet but he will be sitting alone. On a number of occasions I have tried to sort the rift but to no avail. When I asked him what was wrong he could not remember what the difference had been but he was not for changing. 

Once upon a time, two brothers lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. 

It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labour and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John's door. 

He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I'm looking for a few days work," he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?" 

"Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighboor. In fact, it's my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river and changed its direction, now there is a river between us. 

Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll go him one better. See that pile of wood curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence - an 8-foot fence - so I won't need to see his place anymore. Cool him down anyhow." 

The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you." The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day.

The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. 

There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge - a bridge stretching from one side of the river to the other! A fine piece of work - handrails and all - and the neighbour, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. 

"You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done.

" The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other's hand.

They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. "No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother. "I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, " but I have many more bridges to build."

Everyday we have the choice of building fences or bridges. One leads to isolation and the other to openness.Those bridges may not be fine works of art but they stretch out bridge troubled waters. 

What will I? What will you build today? A bridge or a fence. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Gathering.

I spent a long day yesterday preparing and painting the wall around my garden. When we arrived here the wall had an homemade ball on each pedestal part of the wall. They were all of differing sizes and far from achieving the desired effect. The lower part of the wall had been painted in what could only redescribed as an off yellow. Every time I saw this wall I knew I was going to have to do something about it.

It took me the whole day and even now I am hoping for another dry day to complete the work. It is now a shade of light grey. The cement paint that I used was called textured pebble. I think it is a great improvement but then I am of course biased.

The fact that I spent the whole day working with paint called pebble reminded me of the lovely story of the merchant his daughter and the moneylender. 

Many years ago in a small town, a merchant had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to the moneylender. The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the merchant's beautiful daughter, so he proposed a bargain. 

He said he would forgo the merchant's debt if he could marry the daughter. Both the merchant and his daughter were horrified by the proposal.

The moneylender then told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty bag. The daughter would then have to pick one pebble from the bag. If she picked the black pebble, she would become the moneylender's wife and her father's debt would be forgiven.

If she picked the white pebble, she need not marry him and her father's debt would still be forgiven. But, if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.

They were standing on a pebble-strewn path in the merchant's garden. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick her pebble from the bag.

The girl put her hand into the bag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles. "Oh, how clumsy of me," she said. "But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked." 

Sometimes it is necessary to think out of the box or, in this case, out of the bag. So often we get ourselves all tied in knots over something that is worrying us. We cannot see a way past the problem. We can have sleepless night and restless days.

The longer this goes on the more complex the solution seems. 

So often the very fact of worrying is what blinds us to what can be an easy solution. It is a simple fact of life that worrying never aids clear thinking and never solves a problem.

It is so easy to reach the point where iy is possible to be worried about why you have nothing to worry about. 

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Black Dot Examination.

Constructive Thinking.

The thing about an abstract painting is that everybody sees it very differently. As the artist of a few abstracts that have sold I often feel tempted not to give  my abstracts names but rather to just give them a number. 

I fear that by giving it a title it in someway gives an insight into what I was thinking at the time of painting, and so the mind of the viewer is led someway along a path that restricts what they might well have seen.

It gives me great pleasure when somebody sees an abstract very different from what was on my mind. Often when they describe what they see I look at my own painting again and see it in a completely new light. 

Which makes me think of the professor:

One day, a professor entered his classroom and asked his students to prepare for a surprise test. 

They all waited anxiously at their desks for the exam to begin.

The professor handed out the exams with the text facing down, as usual. Once he handed them all out, he asked the students to turn over the papers.

To everyone’s surprise, there were no questions–just a black dot in the center of the paper.

The professor, seeing the expression on everyone’s faces, told them the following: “I want you to write about what you see there.” The students, confused, got started on the inexplicable task.

At the end of the class, the professor took all the exams, and started reading each one of them out loud in front of all the students. All of them, with no exception, defined the black dot, trying to explain its position in the centre of the sheet. 

After all had been read, the classroom silent, the professor started to explain:

“I’m not going to grade you on this, I just wanted to give you something to think about. No one wrote about the white part of the paper. 

Everyone focused on the black dot – and the same thing happens in our lives. However, we insist on focusing only on the black dot – the health issues that bother us, the lack of money, the complicated relationship with a family member, the disappointment with a friend. The dark spots are very small when compared to everything we have in our lives, but they are the ones that pollute our minds. 

Take your the eyes away from the black dots in your lives. 

Enjoy each one of your blessings, each moment that life gives you. Be happy and live a life filled with laughter!”

Have a wonderful white paper day.

Monday, 22 February 2016

It is What You Really See That Matters

Structural Abstract.

Before I begin can I make comment on this painting. I have been working on this textured abstract for a bit, I am not sure if it is finished, or ever will be but i have put it on here today because it does kind of tie in with my thoughts.

I remember when I was a prison chaplain, I will not name the prison for obvious reasons. My wife and I were invited to a prison officers dance the week prior to Christmas. I had many friends among the officers and do I went well prepared. Immediately after the meal was over I went to the bar and purchased a pint of beer. For the rest of the evening until I went home I nursed this beer drinking hardly any of it all. During the course of the evening I was offered a beer by a large number of officers and each time my response was the same. " I am fine I already have one thank you very much." This was I went home sober.

Two days later on visiting the prison the first thing said to me was. "My minister you had a grand night.
 Every time I saw you , you had a full glass in front of you.
This reminds me of two stories.

The first is about a nun.

Sister Mary Ann, who worked for a home health agency, was out making her rounds visiting homebound patients when she ran out of petrol. As luck would have it, a petrol station was just a about 200 yards  away.

She walked to the station to borrow a petrol can and buy some petrol. The attendant told her that the only petrol can he owned had been loaned out, but she could wait until it was returned. Since Sister Mary Ann was on the way to see a patient, she decided not to wait and walked back to her car.

She looked for something in her car that she could fill with petrol and spotted the bedpan she was taking to the patient. Always resourceful, Sister Mary Ann carried the bedpan to the station, filled it with petrol, and carried the full bedpan back to her car.
As she was pouring the petrol into her tank, two Presbyterians watched from across the street.
One of them turned to the other and said, "If it starts, I'm turning Catholic."

The second story.

A woman was flying from Melbourne to Brisbane. Unexpectedly, the plane was diverted to Sydney.
The flight attendant explained that there would be a delay, and if the passengers wanted to get off the aircraft the plane would re-board in 50 minutes..
Everybody got off the plane except one lady who was blind. A man had noticed her as he walked by and could tell the lady was blind because her guide dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of her throughout the entire flight.

He could also tell she had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached her, and calling her by name, said, "Kathy, we are in Sydney for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?"

The blind lady replied, "No thanks, but maybe Max would like to stretch his legs."

All the people in the gate area came to a complete standstill when they looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a guide dog! The pilot was even wearing sunglasses.
People scattered.
They not only tried to change planes, but they were trying to change airlines!
True story...have a great day and remember...
Things aren't always as they appear!. It is always wise to consider what you see and what you hear before jumping to conclusions about another person. False gossip and actions are so often the cause of much hurt and harm.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Floral Abstract.

We certainly have moved a long way from what I remember as my first day at school. A parent had to be there the first day to enrol us. We got dressed in the new school uniform and posed at the door of the house before heading off to school. 

I do not think that has changed very much, I think that still happens. My mother took me to school that first morning my friend who lived next door was with me with his mother. A new experience indeed. We were enrolled and met our teacher and school began. At about eleven, after a bottle of rather watery milk the bell rang and we were all let out of the class. My friend john and I headed home, even although it was in fact only play time. When we eventually got home you can imagine the  reception, we were promptly marched right back to school. Our parents wanted to hear nothing of how boring it all was, or how much we preferred being out and about. 

The next day, we were left to find our own way to school, with the stern reminder we were there until lunch time. There was no school run. No large gathering of parents at the school gate waiting to escort us home. Going to school was a rite of passage and there was a certain amount of trust there.

It wasn't that our parents were uncaring, they knew when we would be home and they would most certainly be out looking for us if the time exceeded too much. 

I read the other day of a head teacher writing to parents asking them to do two things. The first would some parents please stop arriving at the school gates in pyjamas and dressing gowns. They obviously did not have to come far and I am sure the children would learn more by heading there on their own. The second thing was would some parents please stop smoking cannabis at the school gate. I leave that one with no comment.

I think there was a wisdom in allowing youngsters to spread their wings with a watchful eye. 

I remember my daughter with her shopping trolly heading off to the little local shop for the Monday treat. Monday was my day off and we had a little sweet treat on a Monday afternoon. Yes she went to the shop alone but unbeknown to her I phoned the shop and they kept and eye out for her crossing the road. 

This reminds me of the story of the Cherokee Indian rite of passage.

His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone.

He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone.

Once he survives the night, he is a MAN.

He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.

The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises.

Wild beasts must surely be all around him.

Maybe even some human might do him harm.

The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man!

Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold.

It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.

Life is like a rite of passage for all of us.

We, all need at some point to make some difficult steps. But it is good to know that we have friends and family, sitting on the stump beside us.

When trouble comes, and things get difficult we need somebody to reach out to. We also can be the person that sits on the stump for others. Allowing them the freedom to be and to make mistakes, but to know they can reach out if need be and you will be there.

A friend does not need to make every journey or be constantly there. They need to be sitting on the stump ready when needed.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Not so Much What I have Done.

The Four Seasons

Before I begin this morningI apologise that these paintings are not in the order of seasons so I will leave you to sort them in your mind. This is a series of abstracts I painted for my sons office. They were an attempt to portray the four seasons without doing it the obvious way of painting a snowscape etc. 

I was greatly helped again by my father. My Sunday walks with him played an important part in  shaping and moulding the way I looked at life. One of his greatest lessons came to me on one such a walk.

Let me digress for a bit. Three times in the last week I have heard people talking about their bucket lists. A great idea to do all the things that you want to do before you die. A great idea but sadly the things I might want to do I can no longer attempt. The good side is that I have reached a point where I am happy doing what I am doing. I hope I am bringing some joy with the art I am producing. 

Now let me share with you the lesson my father shared with the little guy with the crop of bright red hair, me.

I went on to share this with every class of students that sat before me, and some of them I know listened. 

Here is the little lesson I shared.

Each of us are  on this earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end. It can be taken away at any moment. So we must make the most out of every single day."

 "So I would like you all to make me a promise. From now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice. It doesn't have to be something you see - it could be a scent-perhaps of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone's house, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees, or the way the morning light catches one autumn leaf as it falls gently to the ground.

Please look for these things, and cherish them. For, although it may sound trite to some, these things are the "stuff" of life. The little things we have here on earth to enjoy. The things we often take for granted. We must make it important to notice them, for at any time... it can all be taken away."

here endeth the lesson.
The other day I was asked why I went walking, was it just to keep fit or was it more than that? It was because I remember that lesson my father gave me on more than one occasion. 

I try to appreciate all of the things we so often take for granted or overlook, especially the people around us who we can so easily take for granted. How easy it is to say thank you to the bus driver as I alight from the bus, but who knows he might be having a bad day. 

Take notice of something special you see on your lunch hour today. Go barefoot. Or walk in the forest as the birds come to roost . Stop off and pop into the shop and buy a little packet of those sweets that remind you of school days. I did that two days ago I bought a packet of smarties and savoured each one as I remembered the pals I had shared them with in my youth.

 For as we get older, it is not the things we did that we often regret, but the things we didn't do.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Music Movement Life and Love.

Yesterday I had my afternoon with the friends I meet once a week. it involves me in a fairly lengthy bus journey or a train journey  depending on the place where we are going to meet. We sometimes meet where I lived before moving to my present place of residence. Otherwise we meet in a place where I hung my first ever painting up for sale.  I still have three paintings on sale in this place.

Yesterday we met there. We are a group of men each retired from a variety of jobs and each with a varied and interesting way of now spending our days. So after a bit of time going over what we have each achieved since the last meeting  the topics of discussion range from philosophy to politics. From religious topics to the mundane of what books are being read or  what television was found interesting. The latter is very infrequent because television seems to come low down on the list of interests of each and all of us.

There is often a rule at meeting where an ale is shared, "Discuss anything but leave out politics and religion." This is a rule we ignore. yesterday we of course discussed politics. At present our prime minister is trying to get a "New deal," in the EU. Then there will be an in out referendum. 

Now without boring anybody I can tell you we had a very interesting discussion. The discussion was not on the actual facts of what is being discussed in Europe, we have done that to death, but more on the way of politicians. It was generally agreed that no matter what happens they will all manage to look like winners.

I had found an interesting piece which I shared with them and share with you today.

It comes from the mouth of Armon M. Sweat, Jr., a member of the Texas House of Representatives. In 1952 he was asked about his position on whiskey, in Scotland the home of the drink we call it Whisky.

This is the exact words he said.

"If you mean whiskey, the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean that evil drink that topples Christian men and women from the pinnacles of righteous and gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, shame, despair, helplessness, and hopelessness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it with every fiber of my being.
"However, if by whiskey you mean the lubricant of conversation, the philosophic juice, the elixir of life, the liquid that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer, the stimulating sip that puts a little spring in the step of an elderly gentleman on a frosty morning; if you mean that drink that enables man to magnify his joy, and to forget life's great tragedies and heartbreaks and sorrow; if you mean that drink the sale of which pours into Texas treasuries untold millions of dollars each year, that provides tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitifully aged and infirm, to build the finest highways, hospitals, universities, and community colleges in this nation, then my friend, I am absolutely, unequivocally in favor of it.
"This is my position, and as always, I refuse to compromise on matters of principle."

Now is this not in fact just like a politician. No matter what the question they will have two response so that all those who vote for them will be content with one of the responses.

We had an interesting discussion all agreed that it would be good if all politicians could be just like us. We all call a spade a spade and a shovel a shovel. There can be nothing better in life than knowing that the person you speak to is giving you an open and forthright honest answer. Friendship can only be built on truth not on lies or prevarication.