Friday, 31 July 2015

Breaking the silence

Going off on a virtual roadtrip is one thing, disappearing off into the ether is quite another! Life offline has been busy;  holiday, a saga of lost keys, DIY gripper-rod removal (not the best project to start on arrival home after a ten hour train journey) and I don't know what else. I've been shamed into cranking up this blog again by reading of The Love That Moves The Sun's resolution to post more regularly. Probably regularly with a small r in my case. 

So, why  these photos (above)? There is a connection with what comes next, I promise, in  typical Greenpatch wandering mode of course. These last few days I've been musing on this series of meditations by Pray as You Go , based round some of the  works of Gerard Manley Hopkins and I've been really encouraged to learn more about the joys and struggles of his faith journey. I first came across his poetry at a very very young age indeed. I must have only been around eight years old when we were introduced to his Pied Beauty. Can't say I was hugely impressed to begin with. (Maybe this had to do with not only having to learn it by heart - if you're familiar with the rhythms and cadences of GMH this is no mean feat, but being required to write it down from memory as well - punctuation and all!). However, something must have lingered, once the element of compulsion was removed. GMH has come back into my orbit in a small but significant way during the last five years or so. Later in the year, God willing, I'm fortunate enough to have an extended  opportunity to focus on where I'm going on my journey and in a place where the the inspiration and memory of Hopkins is very close indeed. And no, I won't be blogging it, good resolutions notwithstanding.

I'll leave you, not with the latest PAYG offering,  (we're sitting  with his 'gloomy' poems at present),  but another classic  GMH which has been in and out of my thoughts lately -  God's Grandeur. 

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.

  It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

  It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
  And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

  And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went

  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

  World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Hazards of an over-fertile Imagination

Image courtesy of Idea go at

Is it just me whose imagination goes walkabout at the most inconvenient times? Like the Ascension Day service, for instance, as we were busy All Hail (ing) the Power of Jesus' Name, Let Angels prostrate fall...I'd visions of said angelic beings toppling over like a line of dominos.  It could have been worse, I suppose.

Does anybody else suffer from an over-active imagination?

Monday, 11 May 2015


It's all over sunflowers on the A-Z Challenge Blog. If I thought that I was due a breather after all my hard work - I was wrong. We've been told to look out for the launch, later this week of the A-Z Road Trip. Cue ancient picture of Mr GP charging round the wilds of Wales. Shall I? Shan't I? That is the question. 

To other matters: Either my feed is being attacked by gremlins, or relatively few folk on my listings have been blogging these last few days. Maybe (for those in the UK at least), we're all suffering from Post Election fatigue.  It's been an 'interesting,'   and I use the word advisedly,   time.  If  the various feedback, discussions and analysis is to be believed, I am not a little apprehensive about what the next few years will hold, especially for  those who are already struggling: the elderly, sick, disabled, unfortunate....maybe it's my Franciscan streak coming out here - the need to stand up for the underdog. 

We'll see...

Thursday, 7 May 2015

A-Z Challenge Reflections

So, Spring has Sprung, the grass is 'riz, especially in my part of the UK where the traditional April showers have decided to wait until May. The A-Z, my first one, is finished. What can I say? I did it! What did I learn? That organisation and inspiration can co-exist happily together. That's quite a lesson for this INFP serial procrastinator. Knowing that I was off on holiday on the very last day of the challenge forced me to be organised and use the pre-schedule feature (all my posts were written the evening before). I surprised myself at how disciplined I was about keeping to plan, even if some of my blogs were written very late indeed!

Serendipity played a large part in my challenge. I'd started with no particular theme in mind. Maybe using one might have resulted in better quality of writing, however, this being my first attempt, I thought it best to keep to a simple pot-pourri. It worked beautifully and I'd great fun linking a piece of music to the topic. OK, some were a teensy bit far-fetched, certainly but it made blogging far more fun.

Could do better.... Next time round I'll need to try and engage more with other A-Z ers. I visited some lovely blogs and have met some great bloggers but I found it quite exhausting on top of writing my own. More organisation needed on my part, I think. Thanks, though, to everyone who commented or joined the site, especially Betty who posted words of encouragement nearly every day. Thank you again, you kept me going!

I said at the beginning that I hoped that taking part in the challenge would help me rediscover  my blogging mojo. Whilst it's not quite back on full force, it's certainly on its way.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

A-Z Day 30: Zoo

We made it! A month's worth of bloggery. So, for our last blog, let's visit the land of hairy baboons, plodding elephants, sleeping lions and exotic birds. Yes - we're Going to the Zoo!

Talking of hairy baboons, I've come across a wonderful tribute to the late, great Windsor Safari Park, now Legoland. I'm sure many UK bloggers will have happy memories of days out spent there. Mostly of said baboons, who, when we were visiting, were certainly not as pictured, quietly reading a book. Reading? No! Boring! Why read when there are thousands of windscreen wipers there for the taking? We have the evidence - in writing, that one of the first phrases Ms GP learnt to say was "'Boons climin over Daddi's car!!" Better than tigers making a snack out of your tyres, I guess. But it was fun, and we were almost disappointed on our last visit,  to discover that the powers that be had banned cars and we were escorted through on a safari train instead. Happy days.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A-Z Day 29: Yellow

Image courtesy of "patptichaya," at

Y is for: Yo-yo,  yacht , Yolanda  and yellow. Yellow is the colour of buttercups, sunflowers, daffodils, sunshine and  pancakes. And what could be nicer than a plateful of golden pancakes with banana topping. Yes, you're in for another trip down memory lane, this time to Australia, whence originated the original Bananas in Pyjamas song that I remember singing to the Junior Greenpatches. And...oh dear....I do wish I'd not remembered these; from the 1970s, comes the stuff of nightmares (and people worry about some of today's children's programming - come back Teletubbies, all is forgiven!). Yes, it's the Banana Splits. Time to don your sunglasses. All together now....

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

A-Z Day 28: Xanadu

No pictures today. You've quite enough to put up with as it is.  I gather that Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan whilst under the influence of something - and we're not referring to one too many late-night cheese on toast snacks, either.

Kubla Khan
Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
   Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
   The shadow of the dome of pleasure
   Floated midway on the waves;
   Where was heard the mingled measure
   From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
   A damsel with a dulcimer
   In a vision once I saw:
   It was an Abyssinian maid
   And on her dulcimer she played,
   Singing of Mount Abora.
   Could I revive within me
   Her symphony and song,
   To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

As for theme-related music....well....enough said! 

Monday, 27 April 2015

A-Z Day 27: Washing Day

Trout image courtesy of Vectorolie at

"Those who wash on Monday have all the week to dry," as the old saying goes. Or as the old folk song goes:

'Twas on a [ Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday ] morning
When I beheld my darling
She looked so neat and charming
In every high degree
She looked so neat and nimble, O
[ A-washing | A-hanging | A-starching | A-ironing | A-folding | A-airing | A-wearing ] of her linen, O
Dashing away with the smoothing iron
Dashing away with the smoothing iron
Dashing away with the smoothing iron
She stole my heart away.

How can one ever match such a model of domestic endeavour? I certainly can't.  Still, one thing that Ms Perfect didn't have was a singing washing machine. No, not sinning - singing! When our old faithful front loader conked out  recently after fifteen years faithful service, we installed a new, super-duper all singing, all dancing model in its place. You know - the kind that has enough settings and programs to put Mr Smoothing Iron's sweetheart to shame. Though it stops short of drying, folding and ironing the load.  I nearly jumped out of my skin though, at the end of the first test cycle,  when it launched into a tinny version of the motif from Schubert's Trout Quintet. Well....What can you say? And I'm not the only one, it seems. A search for  youtube Samsung, trout I've found several other people showing off their domestic laundry arrangements. Maybe we could form our own quintet. I wonder what we'd call ourselves?

Anyway,  rather than deprive you of the pleasure of looking them up for youself, I'll leave you with a link to a performance of the proper version.  

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A-Z Day 25: Venice

V is for: Vacuum cleaner, Vim, varicose veins, vigil, video, velcro, vitamins and....Venice, where we celebrated our (belated) 50th birthdays, some six years ago. Here are just a few of the wonderful memories we brought back with us.

Venetian-themed music? I've been completely at a loss as to what to choose. Until a minute ago, when by one of those happy co-incidences I stumbled across a recording of Giovanni Gabrieli's In Ecclesiis.   Cue hazy  memories of singing in  this one for a combined schools' concert more years ago than I care to think. I've also clearer  memories of food fights in the dining hall before the performance. (It being one of those occasions when combined our musical resources with those of a nearby boy's public school). Isn't it strange how you can go from the sublime to the ridiculous in just a few lines? From Venice to flying mashed potato and squashed peas. The mind is a strange beast indeed.

Friday, 24 April 2015

A-Z Day 24: Ukulele

image courtesy of koratmember at

Well - I did warn you that I'd be blogging a right pot-pourri, didn't I?  Never more so than when we're talking ukuleles. Don't worry, I'll not be waxing lyrical about George Formby. No, no blog on ukes could ever be complete without a mention of that intrepid octet - the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. They've been on the go for over 30 years. We've seen them live a couple of times; their concerts are usually sold out almost as soon as the tickets go on sale. How to describe them? Professional musicians? Comedians? Philosophers?  May it's best to let them tell you:

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain is a group of all-singing, all-strumming Ukulele players, using instruments bought with loose change, which believes that all genres of music are available for reinterpretation, as long as they are played on the Ukulele.

And what reinterpretation!  Anything and everything: from Kate Bush to Handel, David Bowie to George Formby (Cossack style!), Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg to the Shadows and much, much more. Here they are in full flood  in a miscellany of hits called  Fly Me Off the Handel.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

A-Z Day 23: Travel

Heading towards the border: Spring 2011

Today's blog is somewhat  of a cheat, being an extension of Tuesday's Railway theme. I was pondering the meaning of the  saying To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.  Did you realise that its origin is from Robert Louis Stevenson's essay El Dorado? No, neither did I, at least, not until about 20 minutes ago. The wonders of the internet, eh? What does it mean then? "Anticipation of an event is better than the actual experience?" "The journey is more important than the destination?" When we embarked on our epic Durham to Oban trip four years ago, I seem to remember we veered between the two viewpoints. To spend all our travel time longing for it to end would have meant us  missing  out on so many wonderful experiences along the way. Although there were some (East shore of Loch Lomond, anybody?) that I would not want to repeat!  

For the music spot, I'm recycling another old set of  Greenpatch travelogues.  I love the old 1980s Intercity advert.  Just one thing though. Have a close look at the clip and see if you can spot one significant difference between the behaviour of our happy commuters  then and now. Go on....

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A-Z Day 22: Simon's Cat

The two Greenpatch felines: Tiger and Sofa Cat

Short and sweet today;  do say hi to our two resident moggies. Tigercat arrived shortly after the beginning of Growing Greenpatches. He's our third cat, following on from Scaredy, Kung-Fu and the late, great Gothcat. All of them have had to co-exist with GP dog, or as it is now - dogs, which can make for some fun times, to say the least. But Tiger, described by our local Cat Rescue as "The cat with cattitude," has his own way of coping with any nonsense - with a well aimed paw! Grace, our tartan 'Sofa cat' seems altogether calmer and more serene. Maybe some of this will rub off on her more feisty companion - some day.

Double-trouble indeed, though by Simon's Cat's standards, we have it easy!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

A-Z Day 21: Railways

R is for: rainbows, rats, relativity, raffia, renaissance, Rome,  rants and, best of all, railways.

I love  rail travel, which is just as well, given that as one of that rare breed - a non-driver, I do an awful lot of it; at minimum one -  sometimes up to three times a week. The staff at our local station are beginning to recognise me! 

Part of the reason I'm so fond of it is because of the space it gives me; I do some of my best thinking on good old FGW, Cross-Country, South-Western, and, on very special occasions - Arriva Wales. There are curiosities to discover: like the labyrinth installations  on the London Underground, the Paddington Statue on Paddington Station. Nearer to home, I'm pleased to report that the memorial plaque to young Henry West is now safely back in its place of honour on Platform 7.

Much much further afield is the spectacular scenery along the famous West Highland Line, where Mr GP and I spent a wonderful day as part of our grand hike from the North of England to Oban, four years ago. If you ever have the chance to visit the Western Highlands, please, please don't leave the area without booking a trip; you'll be in for a truly memorable experience, I promise.

It's getting late, so I'll leave you with today's musical treats: Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, (whose playing once inspired Mr GP to learn the flute) in Locomotive Breath, and the old favourite: Love Train by the O'Jays.

Monday, 20 April 2015

A-Z Day 20: Quiet, Quinn and Queen

Today's letter is brought to you courtesy of the letter Q.   Q - Question? Querulous? Quotation, Quintessential? Quackery? Quango? No, I've decided to delve into the Greenpatch archive for a recycling session of every entry tagged with 'Q' There aren't many, but I hope you'll agree that what they lack in Quantity they more than make up for in Quality.

Oh - and if you disagree with me, please be kind enough to keep Quiet about it. Yes, two years ago, I was musing and enthusing about Susan Cain's book Quiet - The Powers of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. 

Six months earlier,  Here Be Dragons - the bearded variety, as I discovered how helpful Quinn Creative's reflections of jealousy were to me in the place I was in at the time. Her book Raw Art Journalling has been another major source of inspiration over the years. Thank you, Quinn.

Finally from Quinn to...? Go on - have a guess.  Have a peek at the photo (above) if you're in need of a clue. Yes! It was Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. So, for today's musical interlude, there can only be one choice and you'll find it here. Sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the late, great Freddy Mercury and Queen, live at Wembley Stadium in July 1986. It's a Kind of Magic. I can vouch for that, given that I was there, well -  either that evening or the one after. And in case you're wondering, no, you'll not see me (big hair and all) in the crowd. Given that I was five months pregnant at the time, we'd spashed out on a couple of the posh seats. Quiet it certainly wasn't!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

A-Z Day 18: Passion

Passion Flowers
From Journal 52 2014: Week 23 Passion

There are so many different definitions of Passion: a strong and barely controllable emotion; an intense, sexual love; an intense desire of enthusiasm for something; the suffering and death of name just a few.

What they all have in common is an energy, a creative  force; call it the Spirit it you will, that inspires, enriches and draws people towards  true integrity and wholeness of life.

If, like me, you profess  a Christian faith, a question you may well be faced with concerns your passion. What inspires you? What draws you? What brings you life? What for you is energising, life-giving?   Your  response to that may well take you further into exploration of  some of those tricky questions that Christ himself  was forever asking people : What do you want? What do you want me to do for you? Who do you say that I am? 

I'm still working this one out myself. What I have realised over the last few years is how much a part creativity plays in helping me understand and work through what's going on underneath the calm (What!!? says Mr GP) Greenpatch exterior. I love colour, quirky creativeness, making connections and helping other people to do the same.  Activities like art-journaling, as in  my Journal 52 picture above,  help bypass the old internal censor. When I write, I can manipulate, control and hide behind a mask; arty activities have a habit of breaking through this.

Another definition of Passion  of course, is the biblical account, dramatisation or musical setting of the Passion of Jesus. So, for the musical offering today, here's another favourite of mine: the wir setzen uns mit tränen nieder bach from Bach's St Matthew Passion.

Friday, 17 April 2015

A-Z Day 17: Orchestra

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Never let the educational tone of Growing Greenpatches be doubted! Today's fragrant offering from the virtual pot-pourri comes courtesy of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with their rendition of Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra

Not so fragrant are several of the viewers'  comments. My apologies - why some people use the anonymity of the internet to be so unpleasant I'll never know.

After that little diversion - back to Britten. If you've never heard this piece before, you might be slightly confused as to  the composer. The piece is arranged  round a theme of Purcell, but is composed by Benjamin Britten. I guess it's familiar to many people of my age group; pieces like that formed a backdrop to my childhood. Never had the chance to take part in that particular piece, although as a teenager, I did get to play the handbells in a production of his Noyes Fludde.

The percussion section in Young Person did make me smile as I listened just now; more specifically - the triangle player. It brought back memories of taking part in Derek Bourgeois' Pied Piper. It takes guts and concentration I can tell you; split-second timing and manual dexterity (which I, at age 12 or so, definitely did not possess!) Trying to stop the wretched thing twirl round on its twirly thing, reverberate when it shouldn't, and to actually hit it bang on cue, is an art, I feel. A second's hesitation and one's moment of glory is gone, never to be repeated. Fan's of Blackadder, the final series, will remember poor old Baldrick's orchestral efforts here. I feel for him, poor soul. 

Happy listening.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A-Z Day 16: Nada Te Turbe

Let Nothing Disturb You. There are two musical treats for you today (I couldn't choose between them) - both inspired by a  hymn written by St Teresa of Avila: Firstly, the familiar  setting  by the Taize Community (above). Then, equally beautiful yet very different in style, a Virtual Choir made up entirely of Carmelite nuns.

Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia
todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene,
nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A-Z Day 15: Midway

Midway definition:
in the middle between two places or points
 : at the halfway point
: in the middle of an act, process, or period of time

So - I'm midway on the journey blogging A-Z. How am I doing? Not too badly, if I say it myself. Even if it's neither high literature nor deep theological reflection, at least I seem to be getting my blogging mojo back at last. 

"Could do better" - I'm finding it quite difficult to keep up with visiting other blog challengers. Apologies - life and all sorts of tiresome bits n bobs have prevented me. Never mind, we are only halfway through...just...there is time.  My thanks go  to everybody who's popped in to read Growing Greenpatches, however. It's been fascinating to discover the sheer variety of bloggery topics I have managed to get to so far. I will get round to reading  you.

Today's musical interlude could only be those much-loved words of A.A. Milne, sung here by the equally loved Robin,  Kermit the Frog's little nephew. All together now..."Ahhh!"

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 14: Laughter

If Plan B doesn't work, go back to Plan A.  First thing this morning, I'd planned to blog on 'Listening,' and had stumbled across some inspirational resources to back up my ramblings. Tonight, the post that I had worked out so fluently in my head, seems to have evaporated. This might just have something to do with the 'interesting' time I've just spent trying to untangle the unholy mess caused by three of my four church rota turns all falling on the same Sunday! Is there a collective noun for this? A multiplicity of rotas, perhaps? Does anybody have any suggestions?

So, it's back to Plan A. After all that, what else can you do but laugh?

Monday, 13 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 13: Kingfisher

Two looks at the gorgeous kingfisher today: Above - a reading of Gerard Manley Hopkin's sonnet As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame, and below...

Disclosure - by Anne Lewin

Prayer is like watching for the
Kingfisher. All you can do is
Be where he is likely to appear, and
Often, nothing much happens;
There is space, silence and
No visible sign, only the
Knowledge that he’s been there
And may come again.
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But sometimes, when you’ve almost 
Stopped expecting it, a flash of brightness
Gives encouragement.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 11: Julian of Norwich

Wise words from medieval mystic and your original spiritual director - Julian of Norwich, aided and abetted by those rather more contemporary Moody Blues. Who would have thought it? I've been fortunate enough to have visited the chapel built over the site of her original cell during Mstr GP's student years; more info on her life here in Norwich Cathedral.

Over more time  than I can recall,   my membership of a local Julian Meeting has been one of  the mainstays of my spirituality. A simple half hour of silent prayer in the supportive setting of a small group - it almost runs itself. I can imagine that there are as many different ways of being a Julian member as there are groups, but the thread that runs through all of them is the simple setting aside of space to be with God. Strange, yet wonderful,  that somebody whose life was so radically different from ours here in the 21st century can still speak into the lives of those who thirst for 'something more,' today.

all shall be well...

Friday, 10 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 10: Impatience

If patience is a virtue then my halo should be positively glittering before long.  It's not really appropriate to elaborate here, other than saying that what's bugging me is very much what we call a 'first world problem.' Enough said. 'Learning curve' may be a bit of a cliche, but I'm learning all right: that I a) have issues  sitting with uncertainty, and b) hate having little or no control over a situation. The 'Self-Assembly Vocation Pack,'  cartoon that I drew years ago is becoming ever more meaningful. Pah!

Meanwhile "I'm still waiting..."


Thursday, 9 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 9: Honey

Image courtesy of Digitalart at

Talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous! I'd some plans to give you something highfalutin' and cultural today but typing this after Mr GP's birthday celebrations, my mind's given up on me.  So, here we are - honey, that snack of choice of that quintessentially English teddybear Winnie-the-Pooh. 

Isn't it funny
How a bear likes honey?
Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!
I wonder why he does?

Like Pooh, I do love my 'little something.' Probably too much, sadly, although I've not yet had to be pulled out of a rabbit-hole. That would be just the job for GP dog, given that he's bred for just that. Only knowing him, he'd be so anxious to get down the hole to find both rabbits and honey, that he'd likely get stuck there with me.

I'll give you a choice of music today: either Jack Buchannan's Everything Stops for Tea, or (tenuous link), the epitome of bubblegum pop - the Archies Sugar, sugar. Well, I did say from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 8: Greenbelt Festival

The Green Caterpillar - Greenbelt Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse, 2011

...and so to G for Greenbelt Festival, that annual dose of music, arts, worship, and social justice issues;  land of Amorphous Green Caterpillars, silly hats, fairy lights, music, mayhem and musings. Now in its 41st (or 42nd?) year, it's found a home in various different locations, the latest  being the beautiful woodland estate of Boughton House, in Northamptonshire. I've been an [albeit tiny] part of Greenbelt since 2008, both as a festival-goer with Mr GP to begin with, then one year solo, followed by three years as a worship volunteer. I've learned and experienced so much from it over that period. Encountering GB at a time when I was searching, re-thinking my faith and transitioning between churches, it's been in turn   a refuge, inspiration, exasperation and 'I-don't-know-what-elseration.'

Sometimes it's good to have a break, however, and so I've decided to take a 'sabbatical' from Greenbelt this summer. Last year, its first in Boughton, I found quite tough, both physically and otherwise (and I'm no softie!) It's that little bit further to travel for me than was Cheltenham, adding extra logistical and financial difficulties  onto the load. We'll have had quite a tiring year by the time August Bank holiday comes round again, plus the possibility of something equally exacting that I may be taking part in this autumn. Taking into account that Greenbelt is also in the process of re-inventing itself, it only seems sensible to wait and see what the feedback from this year, theme The Bright Field brings. I'm sure I'll enjoy it all the more for having a gap between visits, although the Bank Holiday is going to feel very strange indeed.

I'll leave you with a powerful moment  from Greenbelt 2012, (the muddy one!) -  the Sunday morning festival communion service with folk band Flaming Nora leading the crowd in Mike Scott's hit Bring em all in. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 7: Found Poetry

F for Found Poetry. There's nothing like celebrating the arrival of Spring with a Found Poem. Have a peep here for another example of this simple way of combining words and colours which even a totally non-artistic GP can manage. Another cause for celebration - the arrival of our new colour printer/scanner; long-awaited after a year of greyness. I even managed to install it myself!  Who knows? I may even be able to rediscover  my colouring and creativity as well as my blogging mojo.

The song for today? Well - with Spring in the air,  what better  choice than Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 6: Elgar

So, after a day's break, we're back to the A-Z Challenge, letter "E," and who better to highlight than good old Sir Edward Elgar and one of my favourite sections from his Dream of Gerontius; the Proficiscere Anima, sung here by Robert Lloyd. I don't suppose I'll ever get a chance to take part in Gerontius, now that I'm no longer in a regular choir. Never mind, that doesn't stop me listening and enjoying other peoples' performances. I've been a devotee of Elgar's works ever since encountering them at school, and in fact, Mstr GP  would have been born to the strains of one of his Pomp and Circumstance marches, if Mr GP hadn't wrestled the headphones away from me first.

It's easy perhaps -  nowadays, for some to be slightly dismissive or scornful of some of his works as being  jingoistic or even rather simplistic, 'easy,' listening for the less 'sophisticated. Take Victoria Wood's famous 'Continuity announcer,' for example: "Enigma Variations - nothing we can't hum there!"  If you've only encountered him in bite-sized chunks in 'Favourite Hits,' type contexts, I guess  you might be left with that impression.  [Yes, yes, I do realise I've posted a 'bite-sized' here, but you get the picture?!] Like all good things, it's worth persevering for the long haul, I promise you.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 4: Domesticity

D is for Domesticity.   I'm enjoying one of Mr GP's birthday pressies,  Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes.  If we're talking about feeling old, I feel even older when what was almost the background to my own childhood, (I was born at the tail-end of the 1950s) is related as social history. I guess to children nowadays and even my own offpring, now in their mid and late twenties, the lot of women post-war must seem as much in another age as the events of the late 19th century would have seemed to us. My mother, who would have now been in her nineties had she lived, was similar to that cohort of women, marrying and setting up home in the mid to late fifties. Reading their memoirs, I realise more and more that she, in attempting to juggle career and children, was quite ahead of her time and I can maybe now better appreciate her struggles. At the time,  at least when I was younger I rather resented her absences whilst also realising that she needed that space; domesticity wasn't her greatest strength and life would have been even more frustrating than it already was had she not had that outlet for her true skills.  As it was, I suspected that she played down her abilities in front of my father and some other family members. But then, from what I'm reading, women were often forced by social pressure to do  just that. Here's the publisher's 'blurb:'

In Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes, Virginia Nicholson tells the story of women in the 1950sa time before the Pill, when divorce spelled scandal and two-piece swimsuits caused mass alarm.

Turn the page back to the mid-twentieth century, and discover a world peopled by women with radiant smiles, clean pinafores and gleaming coiffures; a promised land of batch-baking, maraschino cherries and brightly hued plastic. A world where the darker side of the decade encompasses rampant prostitution, a notorious murder, and the threat of nuclear disaster.

Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes reconstructs the real 1950s, through the eyes of the women who lived it. Step back in time to where our grandmothers scrubbed their doorsteps, cared for their families, lived, laughed, loved and struggled.

This is their story.

I'm wondering about what piece of music would best represent that era and I've plumped on the theme tune for the popular request programme Housewives' Choice.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 3: Commemoration

I've been home for an hour or so after attending the traditional Maundy Thursday liturgy, with its solemn commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. For me, the most telling point is  with the  closing singing of Psalm 22 "My God, my God, look upon me,"  as the altar and church are  stripped of their furnishings.  As we sit silently in the darkening building, it never fails to give me thought, however at odds with myself and my fellow human beings I might feel.

The setting I've chosen here (singers unknown) is by Samuel Wesley.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 2: Birthdays, Bach

Let's hope that this one doesn't crash the server... Do enjoy  another all-time favourite of mine for Holy Week, J.S. Bach's St John Passion, sung here by the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir, conducted by John Eliot Gardner. This is another work that I've been fortunate enough to sing in in the past, although not, I would add, with the outfit above, (way, way beyond my capabilities). I find the opening particularly moving. When we sung  it, we had some liturgical dancers performing along to the overture. They   took it to a  truly different dimension.

B  is also for birthdays - mine! After 50 *ahem* years I'm growing accustomed to having my birthday in and around Lent and Eastertide. This year it falls on Good Friday. What a  dilemma! Do I celebrate or go along with the mood of the liturgy  for the day.  Any thoughts?

Now, thanks to the wonders of modern technology,  you should receive this post at  7 a.m. BST,  tomorrow, just in time to browse over with your morning coffee. If you live in the UK, that is. Or more likely, as this morning, you won't. I'm not sure if it was April Fool's gremlins in the works or my own ineptitude that did it. Luckily I just had time to press the magic button and send my bons mots soaring into cyberspace before I rushed for the train.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Blogging A-Z Day 1: Agnus Dei

Let's begin as we mean to go on -  given that for some of us it's Holy Week - with the divine Agnus Dei from Faure's Requiem. (Yes, Mr Spellchecker, I said "Agnus!")

I was trying to explain to my spiritual director recently why I love this piece so much, and failed utterly. I simply   can't   put  it into words.  From time to time I'm brought up short at the sheer amazingness of a world  where beauty can be expressed in so many and diverse ways.   What could be a seemingly random jumble of sounds and words can be crafted into a unique creation that points to something beyond all words, sounds and emotions. Or - to adapt  a certain classic advertisement: "Reaches the parts that other [words] cannot reach."

 The effect certain pieces of   poetry, prose and  music have on me are again so difficult to describe. The best I can say is that what I experience is if not quite like synthesia (as when somebody appears to sense  sounds as colours), yet  on a similar spectrum; a hybrid of the senses: not quite sight, sound, touch, smell. To sense such a fleeting instance of beauty is to see the world shot through with a jewel-like patina. (Excuse the purple prose but I'm trying to write this against a backdrop of raucous laughter from Mr GP watching a re-run of "Whoops, Apocalypse!")

I've been sitting with another 'A' these past weeks also: one of Sieger Koder's thought-provoking pieces of artwork from his series of reflections on The Folly of God - Alive! and brooding on Christ's challenging words: "Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?"

I suspect that the two 'pictures'  are not unconnected.

I'd love to know if there's a piece of music, art, poetry or something else that has spoken to you.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Spring has Sprung! April 2015 A-Z Blog Challenge

Mr and Mrs GP Jnr's Wedding Cake

Spring has sprung, the grass is 'riz and I'm emerging from a hibernation which has included  Christmas, a  wonderful retreat,  angst, a broken-down washing machine and, much much more. 'More,' being another trip across The Pond for Ms GP and BF's wedding earlier in the month - an event uniquely theirs. As I wrote to an aunt this morning, Ms GP has always 'done different!' We had an unforgettable  few days celebration, met some great new members of the family, (The 'Outlaws!) even managed to squeeze in some sightseeing. Mstr GP spent happy hours exploring a certain Mr Bob Dylan's favourite haunts, and I've mentally bookmarked a rather lovely veggie cafe for my next visit. Never separate a GP from her Nice Cup of Something, is my motto.

So - to business! The April 2015 A-Z Blog Challenge? Why oh why? Why not? The dreamer in me likes to think that I'll be regaling you, the reader with a carefully themed, thoughtfully planned and prayed -over piece of theological reflection each day.  Especially considering the challenge begins during Holy Week. The realist knows that the actuality will be nearer what I wrote in my original welcome message to GGP: "a right old pot-pourri of bits 'n bobs." Isn't that what life is made up of, after all?