Tag Archives: Wales

February 17th: Lift up thine eyes to the hills …

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There are hills and hills of course. Saint Thomas’s Hill is on the rim of the dish that cradles the city. Most cyclists seem to dismount to climb up it, but coming down is another matter; I think that qualifies as a hill. For the last fifty years it has housed the University of Kent, not visible in this winter’s picture.
Indeed I’ve deliberately shown this ‘temporary’ car park in all its glory to stress the point brought home to me as I turned this corner the other day – without my phone of course, so I could not recapture that careless rapture. Here the panel of parking regulations, the hastily spread asphalt and the scrubby edges of the car park impel the walker to pass by on the other side as quickly as possible.

I walk this way nearly every day, eyes averted.
Between where we stand and those whitewashed cottages a footpath takes a short tunnel under the railway; then to the left of the cottages and to the playing field behind the tall trees; a not unpleasant walk. From there the hilltop is seen to be covered in university buildings; from here neither they nor the post-war houses across the field make much impact.
There’s no way you could imagine yourself in the Kentish countryside, but look up! There is a hill, there are trees, there is hope. Even if the developers would happily sacrifice the trees on the altar of Mammon.

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This car park has never been built upon. It used to be an allotment garden, gone wild before we came, but good for raspberries, brambles, lizards and slow-worms. A sustained effort was made to rescue the reptiles, now safely rehoused on reclaimed land elsewhere. But this land will be built on. People need homes too.

But what struck me the other day as I walked home?
A hint of sun on the hill, made the grass, and the young stems of the trees – there are plenty of willow in yellow and red – shine against the black of their trunks and branches. It was a Psalm 121 moment – I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
A spring in my step, though nothing material had changed. The car park, graffiti and the intrusive buildings were still there, but look beyond!
The window looks out onto real hills, the Black Mountains of South Wales.

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Psalm 121
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

King James Version – to match the window.

A version of this post has appeared in the Will Turnstone blog.

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10 February: O is for Oswestry

Stoswaldaskingnyplspencer1f89r.jpgThe Empire builders drew a straight line in the sand dividing Syria and Iraq, and all those similarly ruled boundaries in Canada and Australia. Was anyone asked would they rather be in Manitoba or Saskatchewan? Thank God those boundaries cause little friction.

The Welsh border with England has very few straight bits, and the area around Oswestry is a case in point. On the map England seems to have taken a huge bite out of Wales, and place names in English and Welsh turn up on either side of the border. Maesbury is a mishmash of the two, and Welsh Frankton is definitely in England.

The New Saints Football Club play in the Welsh Premier League but have their ground in Oswestry, England, and so it goes on.

The Old Saint of Oswestry was King Oswald of Northumbria who died at Oswald’s Tree – or Oswestry – in the 7th Century, battling against the pagan Mercians and their Welsh allies – who of course were more than capable of going to war against Mercia when the fit was on them. Or of marrying across the border as seems to have happened more than once in my own family.

Let us be grateful for peaceful co-existence along the Marches of England and Wales and pray for peace along the many borders that divide rather than unite people in our world today.

Oswald from a Ms in New York Public Library:
File:Stoswaldaskingnyplspencer1f89r.jpg From Wikipedia

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5 February, 2018. Helping and Helping II: Come, follow me, my friend!

After yesterday’s story of a blind man finding his way, here is a tale of …

The Fog by W. H. Davies

I saw the fog grow thick,
Which soon made blind my ken;
It made tall men of boys,
And giants of tall men.

It clutched my throat, I coughed;
Nothing was in my head
Except two heavy eyes
Like balls of burning lead.

And when it grew so black
That I could know no place,
I lost all judgement then,
Of distance and of space.

The street lamps, and the lights
Upon the halted cars,
Could either be on earth
Or be the heavenly stars.

A man passed by me close,
I asked my way, he said,
“Come, follow me, my friend”—
I followed where he led.

He rapped the stones in front,
“Trust me,” he said, “and come”;
I followed like a child—
A blind man led me home.

… a blind man leading the way. Jesus may have spoken of the blind leading the blind into the ditch, but that did not happen this time. The sighted man who could not see found his way thanks to a blind man with the simple technology of a white stick, tapping and trailing on the paving stones, coupled with a good memory.

Jesus was talking of spiritual blindness, warning us about following fashionable and presumptuous teachers, in his day the Pharisees: ‘Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.’ (Matthew 14:15).

(By the way, I saw the blind man of yesterday’s post a few weeks later, confidently making his way along Station Road, unaided.)

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February 3: Aberdaron XII.

 

 

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So we left Aberdaron. May we, like R.S. Thomas, look into the water (in this case a holy well) and

‘… Ignoring my image I peer down
to the quiet roots of it, where
the coins lie, the tarnished offerings
of the people to the pure spirit
that lives there, that has lived there
always, giving itself up
to the thirsty, withholding
itself from the superstition
of others, who ask for more.’[1]

 

[1]R.S. Thomas, ‘Ffynnon Fair’ in R.S. Thomas,[1]R.S. Thomas, ‘Ffynnon Fair’ in R.S. Thomas, ‘Collected Poems, 1945 – 1990’, London, Orion, 2000. ‘Collected Poems, 1945 – 1990’, London, Orion, 2000.

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February 2, Aberdaron XI: Air.

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Words on the air? Heard, half-heard?

The same words speaking a different truth on a different day.

The toddler’s joy in words.

The venom of trolls who would not dare speak their words on the air.

 

We will return to R. S. Thomas, and after tomorrow, we will no doubt return to Aberdaron. Meantime, let us speak words of peace.

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Please support Sister Rose for her sleep-out in Littlehampton on Saturday 24th February to raise funds for Worthing Churches Homeless Project. Sister now has a website for donations:

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/rosearden-close1

Thank you, Maurice.

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February 1, Aberdaron X: Earth.

 

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Even a walk of twenty paces is a pilgrimage in Aberdaron! We may dismiss the Adam and Eve stories, but we do so all too lightly, for we come from the earth, to dust e shall return, but as Archbishop Arthur Hughes said: From dust, through grace, to glory1

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January 31, Aberdaron IX: Fire.

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Sometimes a candle can speak where words cannot.

As here in Canterbury Cathedral, on a cake, or at a memorial site.

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January 29, Aberdaron VII: the beginning

aberdaron church leaflet3

We continue reading the guide to Saint Hywyn’s Church. It is sobering to sit in Canterbury and read that this church dates from the first half of the sixth century. Pope Gregory only sent Augustine to Kent in 597!

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January 28, Aberdaron VI: Take time.

aberdaron church leaflet2

This is the back cover of the Aberdaron leaflet we looked at yesterday. I guess they knew, when they put it together, that people would read the back before opening it.

The evening I posted this, we had family around looking at the flames of our front room fire; earlier in the day Abel had me stop by the river for a few moments of staring.

A time to be thankful.

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January 27: Aberdaron V: Sauntering around.

aberdaron church leaflet1

I had to go to the far end of Wales to learn that the English word ‘saunter’ comes from the French for the Holy Land.

In Mediæval times most would have gone on foot and by sea: to Jerusalem or to Bardsey, the island off the coast where many Welsh saints lived or came to be buried; sauntering, in the modern understanding, implies an expansive, carefree, relaxed gait, a readiness to stop and stare, as the Welsh poet W.H. Davies reminds us, and a readiness to greet other people.

Your holiday for this summer may be at the planning stage, where will you go, who will be in your party, what will you get up to? Wherever you go, make time for sauntering!

And wherever you go today, make time for sauntering! And be ready to greet other people – and their dogs and cats!

More posts from Aberdaron to follow: the parish invite readers to copy this leaflet freely, so we will share it page by page and urge you to make the pilgrimage to Aberdaron, in person as well as by proxy, and possibly travel on to Bardsey, weather permitting.

MMB

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