Archive for the month “April, 2013”

T-Shirt of the Week.

T-Shirt of the Week.

A great message for South Sudan where, after 20 years of constant war, violence is never very far from the surface.
The trouble is that, in this picture, the chap wearing the T-shirt is the Headmaster of one of the local schools and when I took the picture he had just finished chasing his kids around the playground wielding a big stick.
In his defence, he was trying to make sure that the children didn’t get in the way of the trucks that were off-loading the containers full of textbooks.
However, I think the irony of the situation was lost on him.


It’s Everywhere!

It's Everywhere!

How come you can find Coca-Cola in places where clean water is unheard of? This photo was taken in the Rift Valley about an hour’s drive from Nairobi in Kenya.

Contender for Fine Face of the Year Award

Contender for Fine Face of the Year Award

Boys undergo tribal scarring when they are about twelve years old. It signals their transition into manhood. They are not allowed to cry or show pain while undergoing the procedure, otherwise they will be branded as cowards.
This chap’s scars obviously didn’t heal properly, either because the knife was blunt or perhaps he flinched.
These days some fathers refuse to let their children undergo scarring because they consider it a relic from an uncivilised past. However, in some of the remote villages, if you are not scarred, the village elders might well refuse to speak to you, because, regardless of your age education or social position, you are still a boy!
Once you are scarred, you can no longer be asked to milk cows.

With Thanks to Everyone Who Took Part

We got so much fun reading everyone’s entries to our little competition that we sought permission to publish the entries for all to see.  To our delight, everyone agreed.

I hope I will be forgiven for exercising my right as self-appointed Editor-in Chief, to make some minor changes, and I apologise in advance for the formatting errors that will inevitably occur.  WordPress remains a constant source of wonder to me.  I just don’t think I’m clever enough for it!

So here goes, and I hope you enjoy the “5 Items” as much as we did.

By the way, if you are an infrequent visitor to the blog and you missed the deadline, please don’t feel inhibited about sharing your five items with us.  We’d love to hear from you. 

From London:

 1. A recording of the Pinkies singing “Hand in Hand”, both because of the joy I have got out of singing all my life and because it encapsulates a lot about the choir as a community.

     2.  A wok, because of my love of cooking, but also to symbolise my love of travel and a great year spent in China.

    3.   The book I am currently reading on Greenham Common because, through it, I could discuss my love of history, higher education of women and also feminism.

  4.    A copy of Richard III, because three Richards play an important role in my life.

 5.    A game of “Articulate”,  because of my love of language and competitive games and of getting friends and family around to play them.


  From Derbyshire:

 1.         My walking stick – symbolises the battle I have had and the achievement that I am proud of.

2.            A photo collage of the family – I have  several of these collages and they all mean the world to me, largely because family means more to me than anything else.

3.            A tiny wooden needle case – demonstrates my love and ability of needle work and also my love of creating something from nothing. 

4.            A hand full of compost – I have always loved gardening and nature. Natural beauty is soothing and I am never happier than when sitting quietly in the garden on a warm summer’s evening.

5.            My LAMDA Gold Medal certificate – shows a love of drama but also represents a great achievement and a life-long dream realised. 

 From the Gower Peninsular:

1.            Olive-wood Fish key ring from Bethlehem Families’ Co-operative: The Fish is early Christian sign.  My Christian faith is paramount in my life and at the centre of my ministry & calling. The place where the fish key ring was made is in the city where Jesus was born. I am reminded of the struggle Christians face in Palestine from both Muslim and Jew and I give thanks for their courage. As a child, youth, and adult, (if I’m one of those), and wherever I’ve served as a priest I have been surrounded with the love of God which passes all understanding.

2.            A model of a San Francisco cable car: The reminds me that in 1972 my life was wonderfully changed for ever and in 1974 I was married to a Santa Clara lass called Leslie. We had an awesome best man – is that enough crawling to the best man? I mean! The cable car would open up my heart to my immediate family and the myriad of cousins that seems to be the lot of an Irishman.

3.            A piece of Nelson’s Column (Dublin, Ireland):   Nelson’s Pillar, which in spite of the London one was known in Dublin as Nelson’s Column, was blown up in 1966 by the IRA (Irish Republican Army). This was about three days before a rugby international between Ireland and Wales took place in Dublin and I was there with a group of fellow supporters of both teams. . It would remind me that rugby and all its camaraderie was integral to my life story. The country where this Nelson’s Column was located holds a treasury of memories of childhood and school holidays spent on relatives’ farms.

4.            A Pantomime Dame’s mop cap:  The mop cap would transport me to Youth Club days and the hours of fun experienced with a diverse group of other people trying to find their way in life. There are so many stories – some best left under the mat!!  For four years, pantomimes were prepared and performed giving youngsters a chance to experience acting and build up their confidence levels. My mop cap was part of my dame’s costume (before I had grown a beard) and I was appearing with a brilliant Dick Whittington and an outstanding Buttons. I trust the judges will not hold these revelations against me!

5.            A lap-top with JAWS (screen reader software):  Without the amazing advances in computer technology I would not have been able to continue serving as a priest in parish life. In 1985ish I was registered blind and computers with screen readers enabled me to do the day to day office work that is involved in parish life. My incredulity continues to be awakened in that now I can have screen reader software installed into a lap-top computer. It has given me so much freedom to search the internet, read newspapers and other articles, write letters and emails, keep records and diary and so much more.


From London again:

1)    My Wedding Photo:

This represents several related things: I am gay, and therefore different; that I am proud of who I am, and that I had the courage to be open about it, aged 17, to my friends and family; that my friends and family have been nothing but accepting and welcoming, which is a privilege by no means everyone like me around the world enjoys; and that I have found someone I love and who loves me. 

 2)    A Cadbury’s Creme Egg Cupcake:

I love making things, and being creative – ‘experimental’ baking is one of my favourite things, and this represents the pinnacle, this far, of my cupcake career. They were delicious, but there are none left now, sorry. 

 3)    a2 + b2 = c2

My degree was in Physics, because I like to know how things work.  I find the applications of science the most exciting.  As much as I loved hour-long theoretical cosmology lectures, I find the way microwaves work more interesting!  You can’t get much more applicable than Pythagoras’ theorem – it’s two-and-a-half thousand years old, and you can test it with a ruler. And it’s useful when measuring patchwork squares (see point 2 re. making things). 

 4)   The Iraq medal

I always knew I would be a civil servant.  One of the things that motivates me in my job is that I’m doing it to make a difference in the world. Whatever you may think about the Iraq war, the UK military personnel who served there did a lot of fantastic work with local communities, building infrastructure, developing the economy and supporting the peace process. I was proud to work alongside them, spending 4 months in Basra in 2006/7. 

 5) The Sheet Music to ‘Mr Sandman’

Music is one of the most important things to me, and I’ve been singing and reading music since I was 5 years old. This particular song was sung in the inaugural performance of ”Gin and Harmonics”,  probably the best London-based, gin-themed, all-female, 8-part, a capella group in the world. The song sounds amazing when we get it right, but we often don’t, and end up giggling instead. Perhaps because of the gin.  

From Corby:

    1.  A video camera to symbolise my love of the media and all of the videos I’ve made.

    2.   A German dictionary to symbolise my fascination with languages, and also the    immense amount of joy that German and Germany has given me.

     3.   A star map to represent the intrigue of the unknown.

      4.   A monkey wrench to represent engineering and its intricacies.

      5.   And finally, a joke book, which represents the fact that no matter what, I like to have fun.


Five Items That Say It All

From Gloucestershire:

 “When We Were Very Young” poetry by AA Milne to represent the years of bringing up the children and the various books that we read over the years to and with them. Some of the poems have entered our way of speaking and we still, for example, go upping and upping until, we reach the top of the hill or use James, James as an example, stop on the stairs to think or to query what happened to Alice down at Buckingham Palace.

 – a heart shaped pottery decoration to represent 20 years of being with one man and the love we all felt for him and got back from him. I would also need a photo of the dozens of hearts made by friends for him to celebrate his life. Each heart represents a friend and they are all so important.

 – a chopping board and knife and garden spade to represent the food we grow, cook and eat and the love and care we would like to think goes into every dish. The garden was always a place where I felt happy and am learning again to appreciate. Of course there are geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue) and I am sure the missing mouse and Alexander the beetle are there safe and sound.

 – my bright yellow car to represent the new life that we are making now things have changed. Perhaps my dance shoes can be in the boot as I head my way to the Friday dances with a super new bunch of friends.

 – a needle and thread to represent the fun I have had over the years making things and to open up the discussion about “spare” time and how it is used. Perhaps I could tell them about the bread maker and dishwasher and how actually they don’t liberate me from the mundane tasks because others just seem to fill the gaps and somehow there is never enough time to do the things you want to do. 

From London:

1.   My 4D jigsaw puzzle of London through time which combines my love of puzzles, learning and the fabulous city I live in. (Plus it’s really cool!)

 2.  My holy communion photograph as it shows me with my family and illustrates my Catholic upbringing, both of which were important in making me the person I am today.

 3.   A mug with a picture of me and my partner in our choir outfits on it, because Kate is an important part of my life, as is the choir we both sing in.  Plus the mug has “What do you mean we’ve got too many mugs?!” written on it, which always makes me smile and reminds me how central laughter is to our relationship.

 4.    My smart phone because I am constantly amazed by the amount of technology I carry in my pocket.  I think mobile communication has genuinely changed the world for the better and will continue to do so for years to come.

 5.    All the money in my bank account, because this reminds me what a lucky person I am to live the life that I live and to be in a position to be able to do that.  I thought that the people visiting this museum might come from completely different backgrounds to me and I couldn’t think of any other way to demonstrate the ridiculous wealth and lifestyle we enjoy in this country. Being born in the 20th century in an English speaking western nation has allowed me privileges which large portions of the rest of world can’t begin to understand and that more than anything has shaped me as a person. 

From London, again:

1 –        A London tourist guide or maybe some kind of object to represent London: I absolutely love living here. 

 2 –        A china teapot: I love drinking tea!

 3 –        A photo of me with my class: preferably one where we’re all laughing and pulling funny faces which we often are!

 4 –        A fiction book (but how do I choose which one??):  I love to read and I always teach my children that ‘Reading is the Key’.

 5 –        My iPad: I’m online all the time 

From the Gower Peninsular:

1)  A diamond and emerald pendant made from my grandmother’s engagement ring.  The pendant represents family, past, present and future.

2)   Some sheet music because singing, making music and teaching piano has always been a big part in my life

3)   My walking boots to signify the time I spent in the Sierra Nevada back-packing in my teenage years.

4)   My WI membership card   Women’s Institute membership is important to me because of the friendships developed and the opportunities to continue to learn and develop skills in needlework, flower arranging, craft and cookery.

5)   A Bible to represent the importance of the Christian faith to me. 

 From Sussex:

  1.  A packet of Bensons and Hedges to remind me of how unhealthy I was.

     2.    My old pair of football boots to prove how fit I used to be even with the

            above ciggies.

3.    A set of Wilbur Smith books for inspiring me to take an interest and travel in Africa.

4.    A couple of the Sex Pistols and/or The Clash to show how rebellious I was.

5.    and finally my passport to let me or anyone see how lucky I’ve been since I got it.

              Enjoy the Tuskers.

I’ve Got to Tell You This.

Just to give your eyes a rest, I am interrupting the “5 Items”  report-back to tell you a story.

In our State there has been a re-shuffle and we now have a new Minister and Director General.  The new top man was, and still is, the Deputy Governor of the entire State and will also hold the post of Minister of Education.  He is one powerful individual and there is a lot of nervousness amongst many of our colleagues, especially those who have got used to not being at their desks and generally not doing much.

Last Friday was the Minister’s first day and he was received with great ceremony.  A bull was slaughtered, hundreds of school children sang, and women danced.

Then he started work with a no-nonsense assembly of the Ministry staff, laying down the law about his expectations.  This man is tough.

Then a boy turns up at the front door of the Ministry asking to see the new Minister.  He was about eleven years old and had put on his Sunday best. 

He explained that he wanted to ask the Minister why people in Lakes State kept killing each other and what did he intend to do about the people who were returning to South Sudan from the North.  He also said that he wanted to sing the Minister a song.

To my amazement, as soon as the big meeting was over, he was ushered in to Minister’s office, where he had a twenty minute meeting, in private, with the big man.

As soon as I realised what was going on, I asked if I could photograph the event, which I was allowed to do.  (I still haven’t been introduced to the Minister, so he must have been a bit surprised when a strange Hawaja walked into his office and started taking pictures.)

It’s a bit like a kid from the East End of London pitching up in Westminster and asking to speak to Michael Gove, although I would have been less keen to photograph that!

The New Minister Arrives.

The New Minister Arrives.

Despite the broad smile as he met an old friend in the receiving line, the new Minister is known to be a hard man. As he is also the Deputy Governor of the State, he has considerable power. You don’t mess with the Minister!

A Private Meeting

A Private Meeting

Apart from the court photographer, there was no-one else in the room. The boy talked, the Minster listened and the meeting ended with a long and rambling song, which I think the boy was making up as he went along.
There are a long line of ambitious Ministry employees who would have given their right arms for a twenty minute interview with the new Minister.
I fully expect this young man to take over from the Minister in a few years time!

Suited, Booted and Feeling Very Proud of Himself.

Suited, Booted and Feeling Very Proud of Himself.

An extraordinary young man who has just had his meeting with the Minister.

And the Next One, Right Along Here, Please.

From London:

1. My iPhone – I honestly don’t know what I did without one. It is a fabulous piece of technology and reflects so many sides of me. It keeps me connected to my friends and family, educates me by giving me access to unlimited knowledge, I’ve watched telly on it, read books on it, bought train tickets, theatre tickets, I’ve played games, written poems on it even flirted on it. I think it is a good representation of my generation, as we grew up as technology did and have seen such huge developments. Most of all I listen to music on it and music has always been such an enormous part of my life. My personal soundtrack (playlist) is with me wherever I go! 

 2. A ticket to Phantom of the Opera – this represents three things. The first two are the two parts of my working life. I was an actor and I have always worked in the entertainment industry. Theatre, film and music are important to me and feed my soul. My closest friends are largely still in the industry one way or another and it connects us. I now working in ticketing in one of the most famous and beautiful music venues in the world and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. Constantly surprised by it too. The third one is personal. It connects me to my dad who taught me to sing using songs from Phantom (one song will always be his as it got me into drama school and I sang it at his funeral – not knowing the story at that point,  I didn’t realise the character is singing the song to her late fathers grave). The ticket I would choose is from 25th Anniversary production at the Royal Albert Hall and was one of the most lovely memories I have. It was a kind of date and so also reflects  my capacity to love and my colourful, if a little painful romantic history! 

 3. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho – this wonderful book was given to me at a very difficult time. It tells of a boy who is sent on a journey to find some treasure. The journey takes him from his home in Spain all the way to Egypt. When he finally gets there he discovers his treasure is back in Spain where it’s been all along but had he not made the journey and had the adventures he would never have seen how beautiful the pyramids are. It completely inspired me as it was such a simple tale of following your dreams and taking chances, of really experiencing life. I’ve read it several times and bought if for several friends. It has a profound effect on all who read it. I suppose it is the way I hope I’ve at least tried to live my life and I go back to it to remind myself every now and again. Here’s my favourite quote:

“I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.” 

 4. A bottle of Champagne – my favourite drink, but that’s not the only reason why I would put it in. It represents celebration and sometimes commiseration. My friends and family are incredibly important to me. They create me in the space in between them. Champagne makes me think of all the parties, weddings, christenings and even the odd funeral I’ve been to. It reminds me of Christmas, my favourite time of the year in my favourite season. It reminds me of being with my closest friends to celebrate an achievement or a birthday or to cheer some one up when life’s been cruel. It’s a sociable drink and that is a big part of who I am. Champagne (or its cousins Cava and Prosecco) has never made me feel bad…..well apart from the odd hangover!   

 5. A postcard of London at night – I live and work in London which is the obvious part but it has always been a part of my life ever since I was a child. I was always going to live here. I saw my Aunty and my brother move here to study and I got to visit them both. That’s when I fell for it! I would study here one way or another! In a way it sums up all of my life. It is such a vast mixture of everything and it is always open! It lives. It has history, art, theatre, a social buzz. It has music and writing and diversity. You can never be bored. Even a stroll can offer new sights and experiences. You can be in the heart of the metropolis and in amongst the trees in a matter of minutes and from London you can go anywhere.   We’ve had our differences and I’ve wanted to leave from time to time but ultimately I’m in love with it and, for now I can’t leave. Living here was a simple dream achieved and I’m proud of that! 

From London again:

WW2 Royal Australian airforce wings patch from my grandfather’s uniform. 

 A battered fine art paintbrush with immaculate bristles.  ( representing not only my artistic side but my rather messy habits relating to unimportant things and my obsession to with the business end of any matter.)

 A dictionary with the pages super glued together wrapped in my degree certificate.   (The dictionary represents my feelings about words. I’m as dyslexic as they come (apparently) and for a long time I felt like reading and writing were secrets I would never be let in on. My degree in history has blown that misbelief out of the water.) 

 The button hole my wife made me for our wedding day. 

 A blank slot for the future.

From Buckinghamshire:

  1. A small red woven blanket I brought back from Peru which has been used to wrap all my children and grandchildren in. It represents the way that some things about cultures are universal – in this case blankets for comfort, warmth and decoration.

    2. My backpack that I always take on walks and which has travelled miles ( on foot ). A hands-free way of carrying things you need to help you through a day.

    3. My reading glasses; a blessing to have these and I would never take them for granted.

    4.  My bike.  A great machine. Raleigh – made in England!

    5.  My print of J. W. Waterhouse’s ‘The Lady of Shalott’.  This epitomises lots of aspects of English culture; the Morte D’Arthur legends, poetry, art, music.  Perhaps all cultures have those things. In the picture, she has woven the blanket she brings with her on the boat.  The river looks like the Great Ouse and the sky has very English weather; there are reeds and bulrushes and pied flycatchers.

From Shanghai:

1)   My phone (I used to hate people who said this. SIGH!). It keeps me in
touch with people all over the world, and being a shenangian-laden smart
phone means I can use skype, facebook, facetime etc literally anywhere
 (Asia has 3G). It blows my mind that I can do this. When my sister went
away for 2 months in 1990 we got an aerogram after she got home, and that
was considered good. Also it has a camera that shares pictures and videos
with my family in real time, and I’m not sure my life would be the same if
my sisters didn’t leave me 30 minute long baby-teething video-voicemails.
I’m sure they feel the same about my messages.

2)   My passport. The more I travel the more I realise that many choices I
make are because I was born rich, white and English speaking, and the more
I wonder what I might be if I hadn’t been. Especially because I’m a girl.

3)    A sketchbook. I’m so, so bad at drawing, to the extent that I should
probably focus on non-representational art. But I LOVE drawing, and it’s
something that I’ve re-started doing since all the people in my class (being
5) seem to do it because they like doing it rather than because they are
good at it. It’s one of the few things where I like the process more than
the finished product. However, if one more of my class draws me with two
noses I will change my answer.

4)    DEET. I get that mosquitos are an energy rich source of fuel that
completes many food chains that have a positive impact on the natural
world. But anyway, screw them. And malaria. Seriously.

5)    If there was ever a chance of me affording it; a plane! How unspeakably
amazing is it that we can just hop on a plane somewhere?. I know it has
downsides, wider ranging than just Ryanair, but still.. we can fly, for
less than the price of a firstborn.

 From Minehead:

1   One of my patchwork quilts – as this hobby has been part of my life since 1967

 2   An atlas of the world – that’s how my urge to travel got started.

 3  A combined  family-tree for John and me – from great-grand-parents onwards – this links a love of history and the thrill of creating a new bit of the family.

 4  A badminton shuttlecock – to demonstrate my competitive nature and the role sport has played in my life.

 5  An empty notebook and a pen – to stand for a lifelong love of teaching and learning – often at the same time!


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