Hobbit Spotting

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We began retreat last weekend with a crowd breaker exercise.  Everyone wrote down one thing the rest of the group didn’t know about them.  I wondered what I wanted to share about myself.  I wrote ‘father was a linesman’.  They were read out and we guessed which one around the circle.  Mine was one of the last.  I was asked if he fell from grace.  Yes, he did.  He had a stroke, or something similar, while up a ladder and fell to his death.  This was back in the 1980s when I was still at school.  I did not regret sharing it.  As I have said elsewhere I do not mourn my dead as much as I take joy in remembering them.  I was happy to talk about dad and would have said more.  An honoured memory.

On the book front, I have finished Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch.  It was an entertaining read, a diversion about the police department that deals with the magic side of the city of London.  I will look out for Moon over Soho, the next in the series.  Currently I’m reading London Falling, a darker book by Paul Cornell, again about London police, and a much darker occult.  For the first 80 pages the characters seemed to blur and slide in my reading, they didn’t have distinct voices in my head.  Now the story has kicked in and the magic begins to get more interesting.

I’m currently working on translating some sentences from Maori Language Week into Brithenig.  While it is topical I want to have a go at the poem Home, by Warsan Shire.

Sung Versions of Pastoral – Songs of Love and Courtship

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A night of Robert Burns’ pastoral songs, a night in the Marama Hall, well attended, presented by Professor Nigel Leask of the University of Glasgow, and accompanied by the University’s Department of Music.  The singers and musicians passing themselves off as unquestionably fine.

I thought my edition of Burns was the Complete Poems and Songs, however I can’t find his naughty poem When maukin bucks… listed under any of its titles or lines.  Prurience perhaps, when others are included?

One hundred and thirty love songs, in a life’s work of over five hundred pieces.  Burns was more literate and familiar with his country’s poetry and sung culture than his persona suggests.  He sought out material and made it presentable, often preserving what would otherwise have been lost.

He funded himself supporting himself as an excise man.  “[Y]ou may think my songs either above, or below, price; for they shall absolutely be the one or the other. In the honest enthusiasm with which I embark in your undertaking, to talk of money, wages, fee, hire, and etc. could be downright Sodomy of Soul!”

The final word from Lord Byron, “What an antithetical mind, a mixture of dirt and deity!”

Robert Burns

What the Thunder said

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Doubting Thomas, by Andy Moxon

Who is the third that walks always beside you?
When I count, there is only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that one the other side of you?

T. S. Eliot

I find I’m always coming back to this quotation, this question.

Sailing to an Island

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…the stories circulate like smoke…
A long time since…
…go here…

I attended a talk on the Poetry of Irish and Scottish Islands.  Dr Lucy Collins from the University College Dublin gave us samples from three generations of poetry.

An Island Man, by Jack B. Yeats (1907)

I learnt a new word: archipelagic.  Us islanders are not isolated.  We are joined, by the sea.

In the urban setting the isolation and solitude of island life becomes the mark of authenticity of a culture, returning to its origin.  The island is a place of peace in contrast to the city as a place of conflict.  The non-industrial states articulate an independent national culture, or a culture of the people within the British Union, a negotiation between a supra-cultural literature and the literature from the periphery.

One seems to wash off the dust of cities, the dust of belief.

I live at the edge of the universe, like every one else.

When the people move there, the island moves with them.

And when the Island is not nice:

They lashed him to old timbers
that would barely float
with weights at the feet so
only his face was out of water.
Over his mouth and eyes
they tied two live mackeral
with twine, and pushed him
out from the rocks.
They stood, then,
smoking cigarettes
and watching the sky,
waiting for a gannet
to read that flex of silver
from a hundred feet up,
close its wings
and plummet-dive

Law of the Island, Robin Robertson

A Brithenig translation for Yom HaShoah

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Eo grêdd in ill sul

benc ys es tardd

i suryer

Eo grêdd in ill afur

benc ys es asent

Eo grêdd in ill Dew

benc ys yst


I believe in the sun though it is late in rising

I believe in love though it is absent

I believe in God though he is being silent…

I haven’t checked ‘asent’ for absent, although ‘aseint’ for absence is listed.  So working back this is an acceptable translation.  The original was an anonymous graffiti written by French Jews fleeing the Holocaust.

Advent 3

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There comes a point in Advent when the daily lectionary readings stop being set out according to which week in Advent we are in, and specific dates in the calendar set in.  December 17th marks that date.  We are a week out from Christmas.  It stalks us with terrible inevitability.

This was the weekend of the Friends and Family Invasion.  Southern Dave turned up with Mum in tow, banging on the door of Manono House and banging her luggage-on-wheels up the stair-case.

Dave came up for his nephew’s band playing at the Musician’s club for the ‘Not So Silent Night’.  From my hearing of them it was heavy drums and guitar and inaudible lyrics.  There is a slogan ‘If it’s too loud, then you’re too old’.  In that case this music was too young for me.  It was like listening to a boy racer or that party across the road in the middle of the night that is going to make you get up and call sound control.

I was told that ‘This was not your music, it’s ours’.  As my day began with listening to Karl Jenkin’s Mass for the Armed Man, the Wellington Ukelele Orchestra doing It’s A Heartache, and listening again to Jessye Norman singing Zueignung which had been used beautifully and tearfully for carrying out the casket at the funeral of a gentleman; the day had not progressed.

Sunday left me with a ghost of a headache which disappeared as Mum and I enjoyed Thomas Adès’s The Tempest.  Prospero awaits on his island for revenged against those who exiled him there.  He is dressed in the wreckage of his courtly robes, his spells tattooed on his body like a pirate.  It’s the revenge of the undressed on the dressed: Ariel is an inhuman and elemental spirit who rides on the shoulders of kuroko; Caliban is half-Mohican, half-feathery beast (which annoyed me less than the painted orc from The Enchanted Island in last year’s season).  In hindsight the character who journeys the most is Ferdinand, washed ashore he is divested of his nobility and then restored as Prospero and Miranda are restored as rulers of Milan.  There is a story that has not been told.

Having been introduced to the opus of Thomas Adès I would like to give it more consideration.

In the evening I attended Knox Church for the evening service Celebrating Christmas Down-Under as the choirs of five churches participated.  I am told the music group from Opoho stole the evening when they walked to the front dressed in hats and bush-shirts for a version of Peter Cape’s poem Nativity:

They were set for the home, but the horse went lame
And the rain came pelting out of the sky
Joe saw the hut and he went to look
And he said, ‘She’s old, but she’ll keep you dry’

So her kid was born in that road-man’s shack
By the light of a lamp that’d hardly burn
She wrapped him up in her hubby’s coat
And put him down on a bed of fern

Then they came riding out of the night
(And this is the thing that she’ll always swear)
As they took off their hats and came into the light
They knew they were going to find her there

Three old jokers in oilskin coats
Stood by the bunk in that leaking shack
One had a beard like a billy-goat’s
And one was frail and one was black

She sat at the foot of the fern-stalk bed
And she watched, but she didn’t understand
While they put these bundles at the baby’s head
And this river nugget into his hand

Gold is the power of a man with a man
And incense the power of man with God
But myrrh is the bitter taste of death
And the sour-sweet smell of the upturned sod

Then they went, while she watched through the open door
Weary as men who had ridden too far
And the rain eased off and the low cloud broke
And through a gap shone a single star

Merry Eczemas to one and all.  The weather is too hot to sleep now.

Advent 1: Be alert! God loves lerts!

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We marked today the death of a member at Opoho Church making a cairn of stones in a clay bowl out of memories.  There was no water.  I would have liked to add water.  It would seem incomplete to cast a person off into the afterlife with only dry stones.

She who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience
Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop and think

T. S. Eliot, adapted

Perhaps I can add this prayer from the office of Celtic Night Prayer from the Northumbrian Community.  I find it useful.

Do not hurry
as you walk with grief;
it does not help the journey.

Walk slowly,
pausing often;
do not hurry
as you walk with grief.

Be not disturbed
by memories that come unbidden.
Swiftly forgive;
and let Christ speak for you
unspoken words.
Unfinished conversation
will be resolved in Him.
Be not disturbed.

Be gentle with the one who walks with grief.
If it is you,
be gentle with yourself.
Swiftly forgive;
walk slowly,
pausing often.

Take time, be gentle
as you walk with grief.

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