Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Chris While, Julie Matthews and a Letter to the President

On Monday Sally and I went to see Chris While and Julie Matthews at the Nettlebed Folk Club.

We both enjoyed it a lot. The music was great and it’s special to have a chance to get to hear some of the background behind the songs.

The songs … a mix of brand new and old …. evoked a whole range of thoughts and feelings.

Some of the things I remember from it …

The opening song was an encouragement to try to see beyond whatever the hassles of the moment are … to believe that things will get better … and a celebration of what can be the beauty of life.

A song by Julie Matthews … Hope Springs … you can see and hear it here. I think I maybe mentioned this once before. Julie wrote it in memory of a friend that died of cancer one Christmas eve. The friend was in her mid thirties and had hoped to live into the January so she could be there for her daughter’s first birthday. But it wasn’t to be. And yet, somehow, people find hope even in the midst of despair.

A song from Chris While, Steady Breathing that you can listen to a little of here. Chris wrote this after spending time with her sister prior to her sister’s chemotherapy treatment. That was eight years ago and things are good.

Julie sang a new one that was inspired by her feelings relating to some things she had heard and researched relating to the 9 – 11 remembrance things that happened recently. She mentioned that there had been no room for the rescue services at the gatherings … that almost as many firelighters have died since 9 –11 as died at the time … from illnesses that they likely contracted because of the work that they did in dealing with the aftermath. And that survivors who are dying because of the work that they did have no health cover … there’s some information on this here. Julie said that as she found out more about this she needed a way to release some of her anger. And part of this was to write a song about it … Inconvenient Heroes.

Another song … I’m not sure of the title … but the words I apologise  featured heavily in it. One of those songs where I think just about everyone, in their honest moments, will think … yes … that’s me as well. The smallness of the two words and the way that they can sound like lies even when spoken sincerely. The way in which we hurt each other. Made me cry. Not unhappily. More out of a sense of empathy.

Walking at lunchtime yesterday I thought about apologies and sorrow. Mistakes we make. How it can take a lifetime to build a trust but only moments to destroy it. How easy it is to say something. How impossible it is to un-say it. It seems as though there’s a built in inevitability in life that people who are close to each other will sometimes hurt each other. And there is ever a need for apologies and for forgiveness.

Another thought and feeling provoking song sung by Chris that I don’t know the title of … the sadness and pain of a relationship where people have grown apart and don’t really see how it ever got to be that way … to arrive at a place where “everything we say seems to be goodbye”.

A lighter hearted look at the circles we seem to run in … spending so much time diggin’ holes and filling ‘em in.

It was a really great evening. If you ever get the chance to go and see them … go ahead and do it.

Today I was walking and thinking about the fire-fighters in the USA who have no healthcare and are sick because of the work they did after the carnage of 9-11.

I thought that there’s not a lot I can really do to solve the whole problem. But maybe there is someone that can.

So tonight I spent a few minutes sending an email to him at

These are my words:

Dear Mr President,

A few days ago I was at a concert here in England. Julie Matthews introduced a song that she had written that had been inspired by the recent 9-11 commemoration events.

She had heard that many fire-fighters had died and others are desperately sick because of the valiant work that they did in helping deal with the aftermath. And yet, many of these men and women are without healthcare.

Julie said she had written the song as a way of helping to come to terms with the anger that she’d felt at hearing of all this.

I believe that irrespective of party politics you are a man who always wants to do what is right.

Please would you do all in your power to see that these men and women and their loved ones are taken care of?

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

There’s a lot more that could be said, I know. And I don’t know that it will make much difference.

In the end, though, if enough people say the same thing politicians do sometimes take heed and listen. And, actually, even though I don’t agree with everything that President Obama says or does, I do believe that he wants to do what is right. It’s just not at all easy knowing what is right.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Bitter sweetness

The past few months have been a mix.

Life is a mix.

A holiday walking in northern Italy. Engagement of our elder daughter. Younger daughter starting afresh at university. A cousin diagnosed with cancer a while ago approaching the end of this life. Our closest friends being told that they must change their beliefs and convictions or be unwelcome at the church they have been involved with for over thirty years. Long, long hours at work.

The leaves are falling from the trees. Winter approaches. And, in the words of Chris While, the night is stealing from the day.

Today as I walked I wondered what it is that ultimately wins. Life or death? There was a time that I sang along with the hymns that talked about death having lost its sting. I tend not to sing hymns any more.

Life, death. Beginnings, ends. Bitter, sweet.

Maybe each needs the other somehow.

There is, I think, no safety in life.

As Simon and Garfunkel sang ... a rock feels no pain; and an island never cries. But neither do rocks and islands smile.

To love, and to be loved it seems, is to find purpose and meaning. And also to lay oneself open to pain.

It seems to be the way that things are.

While I was in Italy I read through the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible.

It’s kind of well known in parts:

For everything there is a season,

and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Ecclesiastes is full of contradictions. Wisdom. Foolishness. Hope. Despair.

A bit like life.