Friday, 16 November 2012

Home - a quart into a pint pot

    First of all what's a quart?  I thought this as I was working out how to fit necessary belongings into a one room living space that was one twelfth the size of my home.  A quart in fact doesn't come near the economies to scale I am making in terms of furnishings and belongings.  (A quart being actually 2 pints while we are having to scale down much, much more than that.)  
    However the old adage you can only sleep in one bed, cook on one stove and drive one car is so true, as coined by Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes with the up side being that lots of unnecessary clutter is being consigned to the Charity Shop or re-purposed.  
    Meanwhile that well-known Swedish home wares store is proving exemplary in its space-saving furnishing and storage ideas.  In fact the opening and closing sequence of Ikea's small spaces film has given me hope and inspiration -  turning any glass half empty feelings on their head and persuading me that I will find some creative solutions!  I will!

Relationships - Different Strokes for Different Folks

    They say walking a dog is one of the quickest ways to make friends.  Especially when it is a very beautiful black Newfoundland called Tinkerbell.  When we lived in a village she was better known than us.  
    However now she lives in the inner-city and is getting a mixed reaction.  Her new home is distinctly multi-cultural and while she still gets lots of people stopping to pat her and say hello, one group of people go out of their way to avoid her - crossing the road to walk on the pavement there rather than pass her. 
     It was explained to me that in some cultures dogs, particularly black dogs, are seen as 'Devil Dogs' or linked to 'Death.'   Tinks is blissfully unaware of this of course and tries to make friends with everyone.  She'd have an attack of another sort of 'Black Dog' if she understood! Interesting - how prejudice and culture can close down a chance for communication and friendship even at this simple level.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mortality - Living to have a good death.....

The quote about the certainty in life of 'death and taxes' is attributed to both Daniel Defoe in 1726 and Benjamin Franklin in 1817.  Margaret Mitchell added 'childbirth' to the list in Gone with the Wind in 1936.  Maybe not childbirth, but tax is much on the mind at the moment with this the time when dreaded returns are either late or in train.  And death too seems to be in the air this November with friends and auditors.  
Its so hard to find the right words to give comfort but being in the midst of sadness of both strangers and intimates several condolence poems, thoughts and prayers have been passed on and recycled.  One that has really hit the spot is the wise words attributed to a senior Master at Ampleforth, a Catholic British public school.  When asked what was the ethos of the school's teaching, he answered; "Our job is to prepare our pupils to live life in preparation for a good death." 
It has helped the bereaved of those who lived life well, and to find some purpose for themselves going forward, as has this poem which was left one friend in an envelope by her mother who died of cancer last month. 

You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has live
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back 
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left  
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her 
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory let it live on 
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back 
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

David Harkins