Love is a rich tapestry

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For my daughter who turns one today. For my husband who has been the most excellent of father’s for a whole year. And for myself, past, present and future, who continues to evolve and whose life is infinitely better because of you:

Love is a rich tapestry

Flesh of my flesh,
I nourished you at my breast
And watched you grow.
I thought I would be your guide,
But confess I was surprised,
At how much I still needed to know.

I watch you learn,
But learn from you in my turn.
To take simple delight in the purity,
Of everyday marvellous things,
Like the technical mastery of fingers,
And of what it is to just be.

To amuse you I jump,
You clap your hands as again I leap up,
And I feel the wonder actively,
That, as you laugh in delight,
And I jump up to take flight,
I’m free, for a few moments, of even gravity.

Fruit of my loin,
You have filled my life with joy.
I’ve taken pleasure in being your nurse,
But this world I brought you into
Belongs not to me but to you.
You are master of this new universe.

Miracle in the making,
This world is your’s for the taking.
People ask what hopes I have for you?
But that answer is not mine to give.
Your life is your’s alone to live,
To others be kind, to yourself be true.

You are like me but uniquely other,
And I cannot wait to discover
Your likes, dislikes, dreams and ambitions.
These things that give your personality shape,
That will help you choose your own way,
To find your future of your own volition.

Blood of my blood,
Go forth with my love
And with this understanding:
Whatever it is that makes you happy,
Whoever you decide you want to be,
I will always be your champion.

Love is a rich tapestry
That exceeds biology, history and geography.
It is the greatest gift I can bestow.
Let it support you when days seem tough,
Let it revive you when you’ve had enough.
You will have it with you where you go.

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Ten reasons to love weddings

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1. The groom’s expression when he first spots his bride. I haven’t been disappointed with any of these yet. So grooms if you think no-one is watching you when the bride marches in then think again! On the plus side if your tongue hangs out, you make an eyes wide and circular mouthed ‘ooo’ response or just produce the sappiest grin you never knew you could make, those of us watching you will think it’s rather endearing. If you roll your eyes at your bride’s firework tiara or zombie make-up then maybe rethink whether or not this is the woman for you before you commit yourself with the vows.

2. Everyone is so happy. Or at least at the weddings I’ve been at. I’ve yet to attend one where the bride’s divorced mother and father try to set each other alight with romantic candles or the best man punches the second usher who happens to be the brides brother-in-law after some inappropriate remark, but I’m sure these things must happen.

3. That moment of suspense when the vicar or registrar or whoever asks whether anyone has any objections. Although I know this is unlikely and recognize it really would spoil the wedding I can’t help but eagerly squirm around in my chair to see if anyone is feeling objectionable or hope that the groom’s pre-existing but previously unknown wife comes bursting through the door or something.

4. The wedding dress. I’m sure some brides wear terrible outfits for their own wedding, but on the whole the bride tends to look the loveliest you have ever seen her before. Truly worthy of the ‘ooo’ face the groom is making at the other end of the aisle.

5. Wedding outfits of everyone else. Generally men all look rather dapper in a suit but there is a whole range of options for female guests, members of the bridal party etc that are a feast for the eyes and a source of much amusement as you bravely voice loud approval of the bride’s mums outfit or silently whisper to a friend your condemnation of something another guest is wearing.

6. The ceremony. I like every part of this, I like thinking about why the couple have chosen the readings they have and why certain people have been asked to say certain things. I like hearing the vows and noting the way the couple support each other as they do this. I like heartily agreeing, with the rest of the guests, that we’ll help support the newlyweds in their marriage and really meaning this. I like feeling the love.

7. The free food and drink. Given my passion for eating and drinking you’d think me remiss if I failed to put this in my top ten. Obviously it’s not the best thing about a wedding (if it is that doesn’t say a whole lot about the special day) and I’d still want to go even if I had to pay for all my own beverages and refreshment but I like the drinks on the arrival, the wine at the table and a nice meal shared with happy people whom you may or may not know.

8. The singing. Not always a component of every wedding, tends not to feature so much in civil ceremonies but I do love the opportunity to belt out a song in unison with others, which I tend to otherwise only get the opportunity once a year with Christmas Carols. So long as everyone is singing loudly it really doesn’t matter if you can’t actually sing or not, it’s just fun to all do it together.

9. The dancing. The little ones running around in circles or playing hide and seek behind their mums, the dads breaking out the dance moves, the increasingly drunk guests bouncing around and pretending drunken stumbles were part of the moves they were trying to pull off.

10. Speeches. These are best enjoyed if I’m not giving them. Even if speeches are awful it’s fun to dissect them afterwards and talk about just how awful they were. The Best Man definitely has the hardest job in trying to be amusing without upsetting anyone, remembering to acknowledge the bride and resisting the urge to go too much into a bromance ode of love to the groom, a bit of emotion is nice, wailing throughout the duration so that no-one can hear what you are saying isn’t fun for anyone. Tough gig.

 

Shaded memory

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Bleak, black, blocks of wood, writhing limbs
Pinned against the blue-grey, sea-shades of the sky
Where honey flavoured fingers of the sun
Unfurl their stiffened joints
To caress the ground beneath
And pour out affection on luminous blades of jade

A solitary figure, knock-kneed and balanced by a stick
Pulling a zipperless coat tight, with the one spare hand
Thrusts himself forward
Wading through the tempest
Into a bullion beam
Where dust mites dance around his head in lazy jubilation

Gnarled hand, grips tight, around gnarled wood
Whitewashed, waxen hair, molded to his head by rain
Gleams radiant in the beam’s glare
Rheumy eyes determinedly focus
On the aged oak tree ahead
Standing as it has since before his grandfather’s grandfather’s days.

Wood, darkened by the rain and scarred by the decades
Yields to the old man’s touch, tracing the time long-past, where
Now ancient, heart and letters
Were once painstakingly etched
Into the timber’s flesh
And bittersweet memories further blur already clouded eyes.

 

An Image of Youth Unbroken

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In memory of Megan Biddle


Whilst we live, you are immortal;
Apart from us but a part of us for ever more.
To you minutes and hours take no toll,
But march on us, unwanted and unasked for.

Like a flower pressed between
Two perfect sheets of glass and frozen;
You are free of time and yet trapped within,
An image of youth unbroken.

Unconcernedly the world keeps spinning,
Pulling us further and further from you;
It cannot erase what once had meaning,
But takes from us what we never knew.

Grey hairs will never leave their trace,
Although years dispense us this aging gift;
Wrinkles will never crease your face,
But fold in ours the dates you missed.

And when we are blurred, and fade away,
And are extinguished one-by-one,
Your memory will burn bright until the day,
That final flickering image too is gone.

When we too are liberated from our time,
Then you shall move from this eternity into the next;
Today’s sorrow will be redefined,
And we shall be reunited for all the rest.


On Monday I received the terribly sad news of the death of my parent’s neighbour, Megan. Megan was an eighteen year old woman I had known since she was a little girl. Her mother used to babysit for me and my brothers when we were small and when they moved next door to my parents house some years later I had the opportunity to babysit Megan and her brother Jack. It had amused me to think maybe someday she would babysit my children.

I knew Megan as a happy girl, full of love and life and laughter, like her whole family. Whilst I did not know Megan well as a young woman, having moved away by this point, I never saw her without a smile on her face and believe she grew up in the same spirit of happy adventure I knew when she was younger. It is overwhelmingly sad to think that she is no longer with us and I cannot imagine what her friends and family are suffering.

Her friends have organised a paypal collection to raise money for a commemorative bench, festival-style bands to remember Megan and for anything remaining to go to a charity Megan would have liked.

If anyone would like to donate you can do so through Paypal to the email address:
alice-rose.brooks(a)hotmail.com *

*replace the (a) with an @ – Writing it as above limits the likelihood of that email address getting spam.

Ten Reasons I Didn’t Need Valentine’s Day To Know He Loves Me

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As last week’s ten reasons was pretty much why I hate Valentine’s Day I thought I’d counter the idea that I’m a bitter, love-hating, unromantic wench and set out a slightly more romantic ten reasons this week: ten reasons why I didn’t need Valentine’s Day to know he loves me. This doesn’t so much contradict my Valentine loathing ways as reinforce the idea that the day is essentially pointless. The following might not be your textbook romantic gestures but to me couldn’t be better examples of what love is really about. And all examples occured last week.

1. He patiently spent 30 minutes tweezing a shard of broken glass out of my foot whilst I winced and cursed him constantly.

2. When I spent two days working from home and was an intense bundle of frustrated, tired and agitated charmlessness he didn’t hold it against me when I would be vile to him for such irritating things as breathing and bringing me a cup of tea when I didn’t want one.

3. On said charmless days he also didn’t hold it against me when I chose to spend my lunch break watching yet another episode of Pretty Little Liars on Netflix, which he hates, rather than watching a show with him that he liked.

4. When I was looking on the verge of another neurotic sleep/Pretty Little Liars -deprived meltdown with another evening of working late he would systematically bring me a cat for a quick stress-busting cuddle/outpouring of affection.

5. He spent several hours helping me get ingredients and make cookie-dough brownies for a party he wasn’t going to.

6. He reassured me that I haven’t ruined his life by dragging him to Geneva for my career ambitions even though he hasn’t been able to find a job here and is patiently forced to tell people over and over again that he hasn’t found a job yet whilst still pretending to be upbeat and positive about it so that other people won’t hold it against me.

7. When my tooth was aching, scabby-nositis (impetigo) flared up and a cold took full hold he made me my favourite homebrew remedy of fresh lemon, ginger, honey, cinnamon and cayenne pepper without my asking.

8. He made me dinner every evening, including judgement-free-stodge-based-but-endorphin-inducing pizza and potato wedges when I was feeling most sorry for myself (with virus/work combo).

brie, hot dogs and sausages (640x384)9. When heading back to the UK for the weekend and thus leaving me in Geneva by myself he made sure the fridge and cupboards were suitably well stocked so that I wouldn’t be tempted to eat brie straight from the wrapping, uncooked hot dog sausages or just spoonfuls of sugar in his absence. I’d like to pretend I’ve never done any of these things but he learnt the trick of leaving me with well-stocked cupboards from experience.

10. He still gave me a Valentines Card and chocolate even though I told the world I hate the holiday and he wasn’t even here on the day so could totally have used that as an excuse if I had decided to hold lack of card against him.

Ten reasons not to bother with Valentine’s Day

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1. It’s a made-up holiday

Modern trappings of February 14th have absolutely nothing to do with an actual St Valentine. 90 seconds of internet research, which included a brief skim of Wikipedia and is therefore completely incontestable, revealed that of the possible St Valentine’s the day might relate to none of these seem to have anything to do with romantic love. There were three possible St Valentines and two of them were beheaded so if the Day was meant to commemorate one of the possible saints then a more fitting tribute to/emulation of these potential saints would be for followers to decapitate themselves.

2. It’s a money-making scheme

Once you realise that St Valentine’s Day is only a mass commercialisation of a misinterpreted Saint then you might want to rethink buying into this and giving your money to Clinton Cards. The CEO probably isn’t going to use all their Valentine’s Day profits to romantically shower the object of their affection in lovingly thought out gifts. They will probably pick a card and gifts from their company selection (which they will get at hefty discount) and they will laugh at us suckers making them rich from a holiday that doesn’t really exist.

3. It’s an attack on the singles

So even if Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday designed to make card and cute-kitsch producers a lot of money but you think this all just seems like a bit of harmless fluff there are more obvious reasons to hate the holiday. Valentine’s Day makes single people feel inadequate by sending out the message that you ain’t nobody til somebody loves you. Which is bollocks.

4. It builds up false expectations

Even if you are single, hate Valentine’s Day and anticipate no Valentines you will nonetheless spend the entire day at the office eagerly looking up every time the door opens willing it to be a delivery of flowers for you. And when you get home you will eagerly rifle through the mail hoping that hidden amongst the bills and junk there will be a card from a secret admirer in there. Not receiving these things you weren’t really expecting will make you want to find someone called Valentine and behead them.

5. It sets up couples for failure

Valentine’s day makes happy couples feel inadequate and suggests that their love is insignificant unless proved on this one specific day of the year. It sets couples up for failure. However many red roses, foil heart-shaped balloons or boxes of chocolate you buy or are bought for you, you will both be forced to question whether the amount you love and are loved by your significant other has been accurately reflected in the value of the gifts given.

6. It falsely prolongs doomed relationships

Valentine’s day makes unhappy couples think that so long as they show each other affection and a suitable tally of tacky bears holding I love you hearts once a year this is enough to compensate for the other 364 days of the year (365 in a leap year) where they make each other miserable. In this instance the cursed day is simply prolonging the agony of unsuitably matched persons.

7. It’s kind of creepy

If someone you don’t know sends you a card covered in blood red hearts and writes something along the lines of ‘I’ve been secretly admiring you from afar for many months’, that’s actually really creepy. Who the chuff is sending you that? Are they ‘secretly admiring’ you right now? Isn’t that harassment or stalking or both?

8. V-Day/Schmee-Day

Valentine’s Day gets abbreviated to V-Day. This sounds like a sexually transmitted disease as in, whilst gossiping around the office water cooler, ‘Did you hear about X, she’s come down with a nasty case of V-Day’. This sounds even worse if said in bad French accent.

9. It will ruin your dinner out

If you go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day you will be forced to pay more for a limited set menu whilst being bombarded with trite songs about love by bands you hate. This will be universally applied to everyone whether they are in love or not.

10. You can’t win

Even if your partner is a staunch hater of Valentine’s Day and makes this widely known, by, for example, sharing this on their blog for the world to see, they will still be filled with irrational rage if they are not showered with the cards, tacky gifts and chocolates they don’t really want.

 

If you aren’t convinced by my ten reasons or worse were convinced to boycott the day only to find your significant others looking daggers at your for apparent lack of romance and you need some last minute/improvised gifts then check out Opinionated Man’s great ideas ‘For Men Only – Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas’.

The fight against fear

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In the light of the atrocious attack at the office of Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on 7 January, where twelve died and others were seriously injured, I have been thinking about fear quite a lot.

All of us have different things we are afraid of, though I acknowledge that I have the luxury to be afraid of lesser things, like falling off my bike or not having enough money to buy lunch as often as I might like. My fears are a world apart from those of someone living in a war zone or receiving death threats for their work.

The journalists at Charlie Hebdo knew their lives were in danger but didn’t let fear of this prevent them from continuing their work and expressing their commitment to freedom of expression. Tragically these fears were realised when armed gunmen stormed their building and took the lives of so many, devastating the lives of even more.

I have been thinking about what it was these violent fundamentalists feared so much about that magazine that they felt compelled to carry out this attack. Yes, the magazine was well known for its frequent displays of irreverence, irreligiousness and indecency but if those killers were so sure of their faith why should something they found offensive frighten them so much?

I have also thought about the fear that those who lost their lives and those who survived must have felt as the attack took place. I thought of Stephane Charbonnier, editor of Charlie Hebdo, and the interview he gave to Le Monde in 2012 where, when questioned about death threats he’d received, said ‘I am not afraid of retaliation, I have no kids, no wife, no car, no credit. It perhaps sounds a bit pompous, but I prefer to die standing than living on my knees.’

Whilst it isn’t necessarily the case that these murders were orchestrated by a well-known terrorist outfit this was an act of terrorism, designed to bring people to their knees by instilling an overwhelming sense of fear.

Of course people are frightened by what happened, that’s a perfectly natural and shameless response. Yet in spite of this, support for the murdered cartoonists and others has been overwhelming. Yesterday evening, even though the fanatics who perpetrated this act were still at large with their deadly weapons and deadlier mindsets, thousands of people did not let fear prevent them from coming together to express their solidarity with those killed at Charlie Hebdo and affirm their commitment to the principles that publication upheld.

What frightens me most about acts such as these is that some noxious groups and individuals would take the seed of fear sown by these unwarranted attacks and intensify this into a frenzy of terror that would enable political parties to increase racial and religious prejudice and to curb the rights of their citizens*. Whether deliberately or not, they try to achieve what the terrorists have yet failed to do and bring us to our knees.

And recently, across Europe, there has been a large swing of voters to far-right-wing parties and increasing evidence of intolerance to others. There has been an increase in active support for anti-Islam groups in Europe for those too lazy to take the time to acknowledge that not all Muslims are terrorists. However there are also people, like those at Charlie Hebdo, who wont give into this acceptance of intolerance and hatred. For every anti-Islam or National Front march there are usually a sizable bunch of counter-protestors.

It is easy to look at the world around us and despair at the acts of violence and evil that are committed across the globe, to smaller and larger scales, on a daily basis. It is easy to look at the faces of strangers and find ourselves questioning whether or not they pose a threat to us. It is easy to give in to the fear that these acts of hate strive to generate and scaremongers muster for their own ends.

What is remarkable is that most of us chose not to. That in times of tragedy people gather together to share their candles and overcome the darkness. The global reaction to what happened has, on the whole, been a wonderful show of resilience and love in the face of evil. It has been a positive reinforcement that people are essentially decent and will not stand for such acts of violence against individuals and against principles that they hold dear.

Hate is ugly but rather than allowing the fear it engenders to breed it into something insurmountable it’s much more effectively held at bay with love and with laughter.

“I love you so, I have no time to hate
Even those wolves without. The great winds move
All their dark batteries to our fragile gate:
The world is very strong, but love is stronger.”

To Olive V – Lord Alfred Douglas


*UK Conservative David Davies MP has claimed that the Paris attacks call for repealing the Human Rights Act