A Poem for Puddin’

Yesterday I lost one of the loveliest ladies of my life. She was a bit off-character on Christmas day during the evening, but we thought little of it. On Boxing day she kept to herself more than usual, but she was largely herself for most of the day. I went out that night and came home at 1:30 in the morning, when I noticed that she really was not herself. She was barely moving, except every so often to switch from the couch to the floor and vice versa, she would lift her head up and occasionally wag her tail. I offered her a bit of pork and she didn’t touch it (she is usually a glutton). So I laid down on the floor with her when she was down there, sat with her when she was on the settee, until around 5am when I was getting too tired, so I carried her up to my bed and let her sleep with me for a change. I’d already realised that she might be dying, so much of those four hours were spent telling her how much I loved her. During the night she moved position twice, then in the morning my mum let her out. Apparently she struggled with the stairs. She spent most of the day lying down, occasionally drinking, and her legs seemed to stop working properly. We eventually got her to the vets in the evening. As I went to pick her up to take her to the car I found that she’d pee’d where she was lying, and during the car journey she poo’d without seeming to notice. At the vets we were told that it could have been a clot, so we chose to have her put down. I wrote this poem for her that night:

A future lost, a past worth treasuring,
But you weren’t you as I said my long goodbye.
I would have carried you until my arms gave out, had you been you.
I threw my heart and you chased it, curled up with it, gave warmth to it.
You may not be in my sight, but your warmth is in my heart,
It warms my tears.

Below is a charcoal picture I drew of her around 8 years ago.

Picture Challenge Story

The challenge: to write 500 words about this picture. I went for an exact word count.

 

A chill spread across the land as the wind blew in from the sea. The trees shivered in response, awaiting the opening of the skies. A clap of thunder heralded the threat, but the promise of rain was enough to make the trees tremble with excitement. The clouds were dark and heavy, ready to burst, ready to shower the land. A glimmer of light flickered through the clouds. Not lightning, but the Sun itself, forcing its way through, threatening to overthrow the darkness, to dry up the rain before it had begun.

The trees grew restless. They had need of sunlight, they had need of rain, yet where did their loyalties lie? ‘Who cares about the rain?’ cried one youthful tree, merely a sapling not three years since, ‘there are all sorts of rivers and lakes around here’. The elder trees were not at all impressed, after what seemed like an age one of them replied, ‘you know nothing of the replenishment of the soil, young one, you know nothing of drought, though perhaps one would do you well.’ The outspoken younger tree rocked in the wind, deep in thought. ‘I heard thunder, what if there’s lightning?’ A susurration swept through the forest, for the electric threat was all too familiar to some of the older trees, and the younger had heard terrible tales of flames and fear. ‘You’ll be begging for rain if fire catches,’ declared a particularly stout tree who had seen his fair share of flames.

The argument raged back and forth in the bustling wind, until one of the oldest trees in the woodland pointed out that it was not in their control, but that whatever happened there would be good and bad. They fell silent, but for the wind buffeting them to and fro, and watched as the battle between light and cloud commenced. The contrast of the dull clouds and the pure light cast strange serpentine shapes in the sky. They appeared almost to be writhing, attempting to strangle the Sun and subdue it. Screams echoed across the land from the serpent’s many mouths as the heads were forced apart. The Sun was winning, forcing its way through the vaporous vipers, illuminating the forest below.

In the distance the skies grew darker and heavier as the clouds were forced back by the Sun. Before long their hissing could be heard as they proclaimed defeat and released their rain elsewhere. The light of the Sun was soaked up by the trees, young and old, as they began to discuss the hostility in the heavens.  The young trees could not hold back their excitement, nor could they stop themselves from gloating. The older tree shook slightly, ‘let them have their moment,’ he thought, ‘for soon they will be dreaming of rain, wishing for the return of the serpents. The sounds of thunder may yet be the music they choose to dance to, if they ever should feel the fire of dragons or the damage of drought.’

Photographs of Dogs

As I have decided to share photographs as well as stories, here are some pictures of my dogs. The one which I consider to be my dog is the bottom one, though she doesn’t seem to be as much of a poser.

Pea in the sea

Peanut eyes 3

Peanut scared CU 2

Puddy white

Taizé – not a story

I used to regularly visit the Taizé community and once took the opportunity to write about it for a local church newsletter (I forget which one). It is not a story, but it felt worth sharing. I wrote it in 2oo9. Accompanying it is a picture I took whilst there several years ago, it is one of my personal favourites, taken at the grave of Brother Roger, the founder of the community, who was brutally murdered during a church service. It is one of those pictures which, for me at least, tells a story of its own.

Taizé

Going on a ‘pilgrimage of trust’ to an ecumenical community of dedicated brothers can sound very daunting to a young Christian and trying to explain how amazing it is to visit is often fraught with difficulty. It truly is a place you need to visit to understand as it is often quite paradoxical. When people ask questions they tend to somehow instinctively hit on the negatives, which for someone who has been are bizarrely not negative at all. “What is the food like?” “Very basic” “Can you drink?” “One weak beer per day” “Are there showers?” “Yes, but very unpredictable” “Where do you sleep?” “In a tent, often on rough ground” (I got a beautifully placed stone this year, right in the middle of my back and pointing upwards).  One friend quipped that it sounded like a concentration camp, which is surprisingly similar to Brother Paolo’s remarks that it is like an upper class refugee camp. These seem like insurmountable obstacles to fun and enjoyment, yet every year thousands upon thousands of young people of all walks of life make this pilgrimage and find it worthwhile, often wanting to come again. I’ve now been six times and fully recommend it, so what is there to it?

Part of what I have already described is part of the fun, as odd as that sounds, they are only ostensibly negative. Taizé takes us back to basics in many ways, whilst there we appreciate the beauty in life from the perspective of a simpler mode de vie. We spend so much time tied to our material lives: constantly texting; obsessively checking Facebook; watching too much television; yet in Taizé we find we have everything we need without these incessant distractions. It is refreshing not needing beer for a good time, something many often need to realise – myself included. Living for a week without a proper bed or shower helps us appreciate it more when we return to it; Taizé can help us discover that these things truly are luxuries we do not need. This is often an unnoticeable part of the Taizé experience which lasts for longer than the week there. Could you imagine eating every meal with just a spoon and considering it normal?

The biggest parts of the Taizé experience are, in my mind, relationship and discovery. In Taizé you can really discover yourself, whether through silent reflection or through communing with others. Taizé’s most beautiful paradox is that on the one hand it is a place where you can go and be at complete peace if you wish; if you want it you can find it, in church, down by the source or by going into silence (if you dare). On the other hand it is a place where you can socialise with thousands of young people from all over the planet, singing, dancing, chatting, laughing and much more. Taizé is one of the few places in the world where young people from warring countries have been known to get along and laugh together. The opportunities for making friends in Taizé are endless and from every continent too, though Antarctica may have to be missed out; I thought I saw a penguin once but it was just a visiting nun. The coach journey, discussion groups and visiting Oyak are all great places to make new friends and learn about diverse cultures.

In Taizé the days have structure and everything flows well. There are three church services per day (optional but recommended) and they allow for deep reflection. The chants are beautiful and simple, and I would be surprised if someone came away without a favourite (unless like me they have several favourites which they can’t choose between). There are no sermons to endure, just short Bible verses and psalms. Silence is at the heart of the service and is the perfect time to reflect or to simply open yourself up. Whilst there you can also opt to do a job, ranging from washing the pots to washing toilets; keeping people quiet in church to keeping people quiet late at night; there is something for everyone. Work is usually seen as something to grumble at, I know I’m guilty of a lot of grumbling, but in Taizé it just does not seem like a bad thing at all, quite the opposite in fact. Mundane jobs become fun and feeling part of something bigger needs to be felt by everyone from time to time. Taizé works so well because everyone contributes and gets into the community spirit.

Through forging new relationships and through self discovery Taizé can be an incredible experience. It also allows for us to discover more of God too. Church gives us the time to reflect and open ourselves to Him if we wish, but nobody is pushing. The Taizé community allows you to go along at your own pace, never pushing or dragging, but offering a guiding hand where it is wanted. Discussion groups can vary from dealing with tough questions about faith, to simply having fun and playing games with people of differing backgrounds. It is a place where you can feel safe even if the Bible intimidates you as you will not have it thrown at you or forced down your throat; if you do want to plumb its depths then Taizé can be the perfect place to do so.

I always come back from Taizé feeling refreshed both emotionally and spiritually, and want to share it with everyone I meet. This year I found myself in the odd position where so many amazing things had occurred whilst there that I struggled to say anything about it to my friends and family! It was beyond words and I get something new from it every year; burdens are lifted and my mind is often more clear and focussed. Taizé is a deeply personal experience which unusually can be shared with others; they will find it to be an amazing place too, even if their reasons are different. This has been a description of my own views on Taizé, something I like to try to put into words and often struggle to do. I can only recommend visiting, if you haven’t already, as I guarantee you will benefit. Hopefully my words can at the very least get people wondering.

Frére Roger

Here be monsters!

Sometimes I have a friend who inspires me to be creative. I have a friend for whom I used to draw lots of pictures of monsters, each of which had a background story. Here is a sample of the ones I can find on my computer, though I am sure I did many more.

Andy likes chocolate, porn confuses him and his favourite book is Spot the Dog. He subscribes to the Beano comic.

Andy likes chocolate, porn confuses him and his favourite book is Spot the Dog. He subscribes to the Beano comic.

 

Although Carl Bambleby does not wear clothes he once dreamt of being an underwear model. However he was considered too ugly. He now makes internet cartoons and enjoys playing chess in his spare time.

Although Carl Bambleby does not wear clothes he once dreamt of being an underwear model. However he was considered too ugly. He now makes internet cartoons and enjoys playing chess in his spare time.

 

Clive is studying theology. He is addicted to custard creams and dreams of a house in the French countryside where he can make animations in his spare time. He also likes to repair wrist watches.

Clive is studying theology. He is addicted to custard creams and dreams of a house in the French countryside where he can make animations in his spare time. He also likes to repair wrist watches.

 

Gordon is a slow, steady worker. He eats a lot of Weetabix, loves architecture and sunbathing. He once worked as a bus driver.

Gordon is a slow, steady worker. He eats a lot of Weetabix, loves architecture and sunbathing. He once worked as a bus driver.

 

Liam likes fancy restaurants and expensive wine. He has never driven and has a chauffeur. All his money is inherited.

Liam likes fancy restaurants and expensive wine. He has never driven and has a chauffeur. All his money is inherited.

 

Sammy got too close to the fire and melted.

Sammy got too close to the fire and melted.

 

Squidge's voice is so high-pitched that  most cannot hear him. This means that nobody knows his real name: Archibald Wesley Haversham-Winstanley IV. Though this doesn't bother him as he was born deaf.

Squidge’s voice is so high-pitched that most cannot hear him. This means that nobody knows his real name: Archibald Wesley Haversham-Winstanley IV. Though this doesn’t bother him as he was born deaf.

 

Stacey is rather athletic. She is bisexual, has an obsession with the size of her derriere and is lactose intolerant.

Stacey is rather athletic. She is bisexual, has an obsession with the size of her derriere and is lactose intolerant.

Some old paintings

I am tempted to start sharing more than just stories on this blog, as scrolling through posts which are just text can be tedious. With some posts I have included music, which breaks up the monotony somewhat, and have already shared some images. Here are a few paintings I did around five or six years ago. I’m no painter by any means.

fear

My favourite.

My favourite. I call it Horse Egg.

mine!

summataboutwomen

I used to draw cartoons about a sperm called Frank…

Sometimes images can tell stories better than words alone, especially if it is a bit silly. During lectures I used to occasionally draw these little cartoons about an orange sperm called Frank, based on a keyring I had been given. I’ll not share them all here, but there might end up being a fair few. The quality is not amazing, though it does improve as they go along. There is rarely any continuity amongst them and many actually contradict, though there are some themes which get repeated.

The first one I ever drew.

The first one I ever drew.

 

In some of the pictures Frank is a tadpole. That's when continuity went right out of the window.

In some of the pictures Frank is a tadpole. That’s when continuity went right out of the window.

 

Frank 10 Vocabulary

 

 

I inserted Frank into a few film scenes.

I inserted Frank into a few film scenes.

 

This one is now even more appropriate.

This one is now even more appropriate.

 

I loved drawing scenes from Frank's childhood.

I loved drawing scenes from Frank’s childhood.

 

Ooh look, I stopped doodling them in lectures. Frank's imagination is fun to illustrate.

Ooh look, I stopped doodling them in lectures. Frank’s imagination is fun to illustrate.

 

How cute!

How cute!

 

 

I often made reference to Frank being a keyring.

I often made reference to Frank being a keyring.

 

35 S&M

 

 

Some of them are educational.

Some of them are educational.

 

It is always good to end with Tremors.

It is always good to end with Tremors.

I’ve done 50 overall and have plans somewhere for loads more. I doubt I will ever draw them all, but it could be a nice distraction some day.

 

 

Tim the Elephant

Tim the Elephant

 

I drew and wrote this in 2008. It is my shortest short story. You may need to click the image to see the text, but failing that, this is what it says:

Tim the elephant is an unusual elephant, very unusual indeed. He is not unusually small or large, in fact he happens to be two inches taller than average; a fact he is very proud of. He isn’t an odd colour, and he doesn’t have any unusual talents, he simply floats along on a flying rock. As you would probably agree, for an elephant this is rather unique.