I’d forgotten how catchy the songs are in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.’ Music has the ability to lift heavy-laden hearts, bring calm into anxious days, and raise world-weary spirits. In addition, music can inspire, enthuse and reinvigorate as much as a good book or a run along the beach can.
‘Joseph’ gave me the energy to complete a dull task and put a smile on my face with Tim Rice’s clever use of words, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical interpretation of those words. You don’t have to be an outstanding writer or an able musician yourself to appreciate and be uplifted by musical theatre – whether seeing it live, or listening on a device. My prowess at making music amounts to a reasonable rendering of ‘Chopsticks’ on the piano, and singing along heartily to my CD of ‘Joseph.’ How wonderful it is, therefore, that other people contribute to, and enhance, our lives, by using their gifts to entertain.
Different music suits different moods – and different people. Each of us is unique. However hard I try, I fail to understand why ‘The Lark Ascending’ tops charts, but other people find it sublime. I’m just thankful for ears to hear, eyes to see, and a mind to absorb what writers, musicians and artists offer us.
Awesome, Blessed, Charismatic, Daring, Edifying, Fascinating, Gracious, Humble, Inspiring, Jovial, Kind, Long-lasting, Mesmerising, Notable, Outstanding, Personable, Quick, Rare, Sublime, Truthful, Unusual, Vigorous, Winsome, Xciting, Youthful, Zestful.
Writers aren’t supposed to overuse adjectives, but an exceptional person requires an exceptional plethora of descriptive words. Yes, he’s done it again. Roger Federer, eight times Wimbledon Singles Champion. And I have no hesitation in using 26 adjectives in an attempt to mark his remarkable achievement. But, as well as his winning ways on court, it’s his winning ways off court that impress. He’s said he wants to be a good dad and a good husband.
Federer knows that his career will eventually end. 35 is deemed to be ‘old’ in tennis. So he’s working at getting a whole life balance. You or I may not be tennis players but we can still work at that whole life thing. What is the point of your presence on the planet? What is your world view? What are your dreams? Is there someone on whom you want to model your own life? Look at that A-Z of adjectives. Who do you know who has those qualities? Or even some of them. Whisper it: Federer isn’t perfect. There’s only one perfect person who’s ever lived. Perhaps it’s to him that we should look for the supreme example of how to live.
Today, the middle Sunday of Wimbledon, is a rest day. It’s a relief for the tennis players, for others who work so hard to make the Championships happen, and for armchair spectators around the world. Time to breathe…
Very early each morning I go for a walk. Living on the rural edge of a small city has benefits, not least being able to access the countryside to hear birdsong and walk in wildflower meadows. Unlike every other day of the week, on Sunday mornings – early! – there’s very little traffic noise. Life in the fast lane, in the rat race of frenetic busyness, is put on hold, even if only for an hour or two. Here is time to rest, recuperate and reflect; to be restored and rejuvenated. Just as a phone or camera needs to be recharged in order to be able to work efficiently and effectively, so human beings need times of quiet to avoid burn-out and to just ‘be.’
Elijah was a Godly man whose unpopular message attracted life threats. In a state of exhaustion, depression and fear, God spoke to him – not through the power of ferocious gales, earthquakes and fires, but in a soft whisper. It is in the quiet, or even silence if we can find it, that we’re more likely to hear that quiet whisper and be restored.
(Photos of wildflower meadow in Photo Gallery and two new poems on the Poems page)
‘W’ is for… Wimbledon, Wozniacki, Watson, Wawrinka? True, but ‘W’ is also for WATER.
If you can’t bear to read anything other than Wimbledon and all associated subjects, then think water at Wimbledon. Players glug their way through bottles of it. Spectators use the taps placed around the grounds to refill their own water bottles. Ponds, a water feature, rain… All present at Wimbledon.
The current issue of our local water company’s splendid magazine features the repair and maintenance team who describe themselves as ‘motivated problem solvers.’ They change damaged manhole covers, repair collapsed sewers, connect new housing developments to the sewerage network, and keep an eye on the weather, as a prolonged rainy spell can cause problems.
A coastal officer describes her efforts at maintaining clean beaches and a clean sea… Then there are homely tips: Children are recommended to drink 1.6 litres of water each day; it’s better to soak garden plants once a week rather than dribble water round them daily; wipes should never be flushed down the loo. And the water cycle – in particular how, when and where it impacts the water company – makes for intriguing reading.
‘A nagging wife is like a dripping tap.’ Ouch! That’s a proverb from the Bible. Here’s a more cheery one: ‘Good news… is like a drink of cold water when you are dry and thirsty.’ One for Wimbledon winners, perhaps. Water is life. We shouldn’t take it – or the people who keep it coming to us – for granted.
A hefty thwack and the tennis ball hits you on the thigh – at 134 miles an hour. Ouch. But… as the commentator put it, “It’s a bruise she’ll cherish.” For that mighty hit came at full pelt from the racket of Feliciano Lopez earlier today and was received by a ball girl. Was it worth it? The sting hurt, the bruise will come out tomorrow and, if she chooses to, she can show off the yellow and purple patch to her friends. “This was from the Queen’s champion!” Yes, today, after years of trying, Lopez finally held aloft the enormous Queen’s cup for all to see.
I watched Lopez on the practice court at Queen’s in 2009 (See photos in Photo Gallery) and wrote this:
from sweet spot
I repeat it here – just to show that, eight years later, he’s still the same… except better. He’s now 35 years old, the same age as Federer. Both are considered ‘old’ to be tennis champions. Don’t write off the old! Note the determination, hard work, perseverance and hope that these old champions demonstrate. Lopez feared he’d lose in the final set tie-break but he kept his head, concentrated on the next shot – and won through. That’s tennis. You win some, you lose some. That’s life too. We don’t go through life without inflicting bruises and receiving bruises, but we can work at seeing them as part of the full life that is to be cherished – whatever our age. Be encouraged.
Leafy suburbia didn’t prepare me for London’s high rise living. I visited tower blocks similar to Grenfell Tower when working, nearly fifty years ago, at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. A few years previously I’d been on a special Social Studies course for sixth formers. One assignment was to plan an inner city housing development. High rise towers dominated our thinking. Our tutor pointed out the pros and cons of such a scenario and our cocksure ideas were challenged. But by the late 1960s and early 1970s the towers had become realities – though not at the whim of naïve sixth formers.
Poverty was rife and it was a battle to get local councils to understand the plight of many of our patients, let alone take action to alleviate people’s challenging circumstances. Has nothing changed in half a century? Are there still ‘lessons to be learnt’ as politicians like to put it? Challenge the powers-that-be to get out into the real world and engage with ordinary people!
The gap between rich and poor is increasing. Should we bring back Robin Hood who, according to legend, robbed the rich to feed the poor? In recent weeks, the Queen, for all her wealth, has got alongside those who’ve lost everything. Her compassion, like that of many local people, demonstrates the teaching of Jesus who said that he’d come to bring good news to the poor and to set free the oppressed. How does that work today? It’s a servant attitude. Jesus urged his followers to show compassion (literally, ‘to suffer with,’) through acts of kindness; by so doing it’s as if we do it for him, the supreme example of servant-hood. Civil service.
“Does the bell donging twelve o’clock bother the peregrines?” asked my granddaughter. Apparently not. Neither does a small plane flying overhead. Nor the wind eddying around the spire creating its own mini weather system. The peregrine falcons, nesting high up on the nooks and crannies of the cathedral, are unfazed. The adults get on with feeding their chicks. Their focus is survival.
A couple of miles away sky larks rise vertically from a wild flower meadow. Flowers with evocative names: milkwort, mallow, cranesbill, kidney vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, and – whisper it quietly – bee orchids. Butterflies flutter among the flowers; green and mauve grasses bend and dance in the breeze.
“God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures,” wrote Francis Bacon. He would have enjoyed the sight of great landscapes and of a peacock butterfly; the sound of thunder and of a blackbird singing its evening hymn; the smell of the sea and of a dew-drenched rose.
What would Bacon, who lived from 1561-1626, think of the turmoil of human life today? Similar to his day? Humans ponder and puzzle and stress and strain at the bewildering happenings in the world. Maybe they wish they could be as free as a bird or as a waving stem of grass. But the privilege of being human is balanced by responsibility – with actions requiring wisdom and humility. An ancient proverb gives guidance: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”