Tag Archives: winter

31 May, Going Viral LXXVIII: with homeless people in Canterbury

CATCHING LIVES WINTER PROVISION

REPORT 2020/2021

Catching Lives is the agency that looks out for homeless people in Canterbury. One of their projects is to provide winter shelter and support for those living on the streets. It has been clear this winter that some choose not to come in from the cold, but for those that do so, some impressive help has been given. This is the report on their work this winter.

INTRODUCTION


During the winter of 2020/21 Catching Lives worked alongside other agencies, such as Canterbury City Council to offer a form of emergency accommodation under Winter Provision to as many rough sleepers as possible, giving opportunities to work with such individuals to try and find more permanent housing options for those who wanted it. The Covid-19 pandemic meant that this winter we were unable to operate our usual Canterbury Community Shelter, as clients staying would have been sleeping in a church hall, sharing the airspace, and therefore at risk of catching and spreading the covid-19 virus.

We explained to Canterbury City Council at an early stage that we would not have the funds to secure a venue at which all those staying would have their own rooms.The outcome was that Canterbury City Council were able to negotiate a licence to occupy all the rooms at the Youth Hostels Association (YHA) building on New Dover Road from 14th
December 2020 to 27th February 2021, meaning that 17 rooms were available for rough sleepers to occupy. This included their own shower and toilet facilities so they did not have to share with anyone else.

Assessments for rooms were carried out by Catching Lives Project Workers at the Canterbury Open Day Centre on Station Road East. Those allocated a room were able to keep it until they either found other suitable accommodation to move into, or had to leave due to serious behavioural issues that would have put the safety of others at risk. The YHA was staffed by two catching Lives Project Workers in the evening, who welcomed the clients in and provided them with evening meals prepared by Catching Lives volunteers earlier in the day. Two staff members were on duty overnight (one Catching Lives Project Worker and one Serveco staff member). As with previous winters, the funding for the Catching Lives staff members came from usual sources, namely generous donations from Charitable Trusts and individuals within our community.

Those staying in the YHA could access from 5pm and had to leave at 8am the following morning. They were provided breakfast and lunch, and access to other facilities such as phone, computer and washing machine use, at the Day Centre every day of the week. Art and activity packs were put together by Catching Lives’ Art Coordinator Miriam Ellis, with the support of local artists, for those staying to do in their rooms. Catching Lives Project Workers, and Outreach
Workers operating under Canterbury City Councils’ Rough Sleeper Initiative, provided ongoing support to help clients take steps towards finding housing.

This included, but is by no means limited to, help registering with a GP, referrals to mental health services, looking for work, applying for benefits, referrals for supported accommodation and signposting to the adult drug and alcohol support service run by Forward Trust.

As well as the rooms available at the YHA, Canterbury City Council also offered people temporary placement in a variety of B&Bs, hotels and shared houses (both in and outside of Canterbury). The decision whether to offer one of these locations instead of a room at the YHA involved several factors such as their level of support needs, including physical and mental health considerations. Those placed out of area were supported by the outreach workers, including two taken on by Catching Lives on a temporary contract funded by the MHCLG Winter Transformation Fund.

As always we would like to thank our local community for supporting us by donating items such as money, food and clothing, and also to those who organised fundraising events for us. We’d also like to thank all our volunteers, such as those who prepare meals for clients at the centre, and our bookshop volunteers who bring in a substantial income whilst also spreading much needed awareness of our work, for their valuable donation of their time. This is especially the case over the last year as we are aware that many of our supporters have been effected by the pandemic themselves yet have still been able to show us such tremendous support. Thank you also to all staff at the Youth Hostels Association for use of their building, and for their cooperation in making this particular part of the local winter provision possible.
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Catching Lives staff

Terry Gore – General Manager
Maria Summerson- Catching Lives Winter Provision Coordinator
Graeme Solly – Project Leader
Charlotte Hill- YHA Project Worker
Davinia Downey- YHA Project Worker
Gill Key- YHA Project Worker
Iwona Waligora – YHA Project Worker
Niki Reynolds- YHA Project Worker
Richard Hopker – YHA Project Worker
Zo Defferay- YHA Project Worker
Emma McCrudden – Outreach Worker
Megan Johnson- Outreach Worker
Paul Wardell- Outreach Worker
Dorota Witczak – Project Worker
Paul Todd – Project Worker/ YHA on call
Stephanie Hagen- Mentoring Coordinator/ Project Worker
James Duff- YHA on call/ Trustee/ volunteer
Miriam Ellis – Arts Coordinator
Karen Baxter – Mental Health Outreach
Denis Tweedie – Mental Health Outreach
Luana Ali – Client Data Coordinator
Simon Rice- Volunteer Coordinator
Paul Willoughby – Administrator
Michael James- Fundraiser

Comparison statistics
During winter provision:
27 different people stayed in the YHA for at least one night, with an average of 7 staying per night.
14 people in B&Bs were supported by Catching Lives

Why were people homeless?
Relationship breakdown 9
Loss of work/ moved for work 6
Eviction- Antisocial behaviour 10
Sale of family home 1
Issues with other tenants 3

Feeling domestic abuse 3

Eviction- could afford rent 2
Release from prison 4
Discharge from hospital 1
Passed tenancy to relative 1
Unsure 1


ACCOMMODATION OUTCOMES (as of 20/03/2021)
YHA
3 moved into private rented accommodation
2 moved into Porchlight supported accommodation
2 placed in further Winter Provision temporary accommodation by Canterbury City Council in Canterbury
7 placed in further Winter Provision temporary accommodation by Canterbury City Council outside of Canterbury
1 refused further temporary accommodation due to it being out of area and returned to rough sleeping
1 refused temporary accommodation due to it being out of area and currently sofa surfing
4 rough sleeping. Unable to contact to offer accommodation
1 sofa surfing. No offer of temporary accommodation made
5 unknown. Loss of contact.
1 in prison or custody
B&Bs
3 moved into private rented accommodation
7 remain in winter provision outside of Canterbury
4 currently sofa surfing

All clients in the B&Bs were registered with a GP; this may be because more of the clients staying in the YHA were newly arrived foreign nationals who had yet to make contact with local health services.

ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In contrast to the conditions at the rolling night shelter, clients at the YHA had their own room, including their own bed; shower; and toilet. There were several positive outcomes of this, which are summarised below.
In the rolling night shelter there have been issues with clients snoring; clients have informed us that they do not want to access the rolling night shelter because their sleep is disturbed by others snoring, or making other noises during the night. Conversely, some clients have chosen not to stay at the night shelter as they themselves snore and have experienced hostility from others as a result of this. The benefit of better sleep extends beyond the night-time and reaches into other aspects of clients’ lives. Crucially, better rested and safer feeling clients are better able to access support in the Day Centre. Further, some clients are working, or seeking work, and find the conditions in the rolling night shelter unconducive to securing, or maintaining, an employment position.

The sex aspects of homelessness wherein more males than females present as rough sleepers, means that the number of female clients accessing previous rolling night shelter provision has been consistently small. On occasion, the rolling night shelter provision has seen one female sleeping in a communal area with up to nineteen male clients. Thus, for females, the communal nature of the rolling night shelter has constituted a very real barrier to their accessing the provision. One female client who had terminated her place at the rolling night shelter the year before, as the communal arrangements had escalated her anxiety to an intolerable degree, told us, “I’d rather sleep in my car”. For her, the YHA provided a safe and accessible space, in which her only objection was the lack of a TV in the private rooms, as this would have provided something for clients to occupy themselves with in the evening. The importance of developing sensitive policy responses to women’s homelessness has become a central theme in the recent research literature on homelessness, therefore these aspects of accessibility in relation to the rolling night shelter deserve further consideration.

In addition to these factors, clients often present with a history of complex childhood abuse and trauma and therefore, may feel disinclined to share a small space with other rough sleepers. Both clients and staff felt that the conditions in the YHA were more dignified than with the rolling night shelter. Staff observed that for many clients, this may be the first time in a long period that they had slept in their own private room: the YHA “was ten times more dignified than clients sleeping on a cramped floor, often within a foot’s reach of each other.” One Project Worker observed that the pandemic meant that socialising with the clients was reduced and it was “a lonely experience” for both clients – who are the main concern – and also for Project Workers. Another commented that it would have worked better if the overnight workers could have begun earlier, at 9pm, for instance, so that they could spend time with the residents, getting to know them, “making them a last drink or something to eat. You don’t see anyone until the morning when it’s all rushed and you’re rushing them through the door”. This arrangement, “would benefit clients as it would give them extra human beings to talk to”.


Other key Points are:
The task of managing and resolving conflict was enhanced as people had their own private spaces to withdraw to in the event of disagreements, or arguments.
Having a centralised location meant that bedding did not need to be transported daily therefore this aspect of the night shelter provision was less labour intensive than is usually the case.
We must continue to ensure all rough-sleepers are fully aware of the winter shelter and how it operates to hopefully allieviate any concerns some may have about accessing it.
To ensure ongoing training in how to de-escalate conflict is provided for Project Workers and staff from outside agencies who are to be involved in facilitating the night shelter, to make sure all boundaries all clear and maintained consistently.
If winter provision is carried out as a partnership in future years it is vital that all services are aware of how the referral procedure, and access arrangements work, including Out of Hours Canterbury City Council, so that communication is swift and clear.
Some staff at Catching Lives reported difficulties in communication with Canterbury City Council: “the council were frequently unresponsive to emails or phone calls, and generally did not respond in a timely way. When this happened, it impacted on our ability to provide the highest level of support for our clients.”
For Project Workers to be provided with a synopsis of each client – their current circumstance, history, if known, and particular needs – in particular, for those working on the overnight shift.

Catching Lives are incredibly grateful to the Churches who have demonstrated huge generosity in providing use of their halls during previous winter night shelters, and also the volunteers who have supported people by providing activities and food preparation. The experience from both our own perspective and also our clients’ is that the model in which
they have their own self-contained rooms is beneficial for clients in the ways that we have discussed. An ideal scenario going forward would be to continue involving the community, providing volunteering opportunities where we can, as the support of our community is vital for us to be able to keep doing what we do, but to also secure an arrangement whereby it is possible for clients to be able to access their own room or space, which would be a better model for allowing a greater number of people to access the shelter, with or without a pandemic. We are keen to have discussions with the churches who have supported us in the past, and also Canterbury City Council in order to find a model for the coming winter that best meets the needs of our clients.

Feedback from clients


When clients were asked for feedback about what could have been better with the provision, one central theme emerged. This is that the YHA could have been opened in the day for clients to use, “it was pukka, but the only thing was that they kicked you out between 7-8am and you couldn’t go back until 5pm”. This same client pointed out that if a
client presented with a temperature, they would be barred from accessing the provision due to the pandemic, but that “you’re [clients are] more likely to catch a cold outside in cold and freezing temperatures”.
Other comments echoed this: “I wish it was open longer”. Given that places such as cafes, and the library had to remain closed, in very cold weather of snow and ice clients struggled to find dry places to sit down whilst waiting to return to the YHA in the evening. For clients who were self-sufficient with an income, the situation was slightly more manageable. For one weekend clients were able to stay at the YHA during the day, and we would like to express gratitude that the Council and the YHA enabled this. Moving forward, we would like to extend this arrangement across the entire period within which the night shelter operates.

Generally, feedback from clients about the YHA was positive, with comments such as “it was better than what he had before”; and “it was very good”. A few clients expressed appreciation that their views on the provision were being sought. Other feedback includes, “staff were helpful”; and “it was good that it gave me structure to my day”.

Feedback from Project Workers


A couple of Project Workers highlighted the importance of clear and consistent communication from the outset, from both Catching Lives and Canterbury City Council. Generally, feedback was positive, with one Project Worker commenting that the night shelter, “was brilliantly run by Catching Lives” and that staff at the day centre were
“knowledgeable about almost everything I needed to know for the job”. The benefits of positive teamwork amongst the Project Workers were also highlighted with one worker stating that, “I think we pulled together well when we needed to […] covering sickness, etc.!”


Case study of a client’s experience of winter provision


-written by Megan Johnson, Project Worker supporting clients in B&B’s

Usually during the winter months churches open their doors and provide overnight shelter for people with no home to go to. The need for social distancing during the pandemic means this has not been a viable option this winter. The government issued funding to enable local authorities to address this and provide emergency winter provision.
Canterbury City Council has done so by accommodating people in hostels, B&Bs and studio flats. In some cases people could stay only overnight , in others, they could stay 24/7. For those provided with a room available day and night, they have had a time of relative security and stability, this has laid the ground for people to cope better with the challenges they face, engage consistently with our support and potentially change their situation of homelessness. Thanks to additional government COVID19 funding Catching Lives has been able to temporarily employ additional staff and spend more one-on-one time building relationships and supporting clients to progress with their recovery.

One notable example of this is a woman who lost her cleaning job due to COVID19, with the stress of being unable to pay her rent and the rampant fear during the height of the pandemic, she experienced a mental health breakdown. English not being her first language she didn’t know who she could reach out to or what statutory support was available and she ended up sleeping on the streets for several months. Canterbury City Council accommodated her in a B&B and Catching Lives have been working with her for several months now. We have been able to support her to make a successful application for the Right to Remain in the UK, a new requirement due to Brexit. Not only did this mean she could access public funds, it was a huge relief for her to know that she will be able to stay in the UK where her grown up children are living.
We accompanied and supported her for an assessment with her Mental Health Social Worker and they found that her mental health had improved significantly since the previous summer when she had been hospitalised several times. They agreed she was fit to work and so we supported her to prepare a CV and start applying for jobs, which she was
able to do from her accommodation using her mobile and the wifi of the B&B. We began searching for private rented accommodation, she wanted to stay in Canterbury where she has lived for the last seven years. During our house search a potential landlord who couldn’t offer a room but was highly empathetic to her situation gave us a lead on a
cleaning job. We contacted their recommendation and she was offered work to start once she was living back in Canterbury. Within a week we had found a room in a shared house where she felt safe and welcome. We successfully applied for a grant from the Vicar’s Relief Fund to help her pay her deposit and first months’ rent. Though happy to offer a room, the new landlord wanted ideally to see a contract of employment first. We hurriedly arranged a trial shift at the cleaning company and provided transport to and from her first day in her new job. She worked hard and successfully secured a contract which we were able to show to the landlord and we helped her move in to her new home a few days later.
Things are slowly getting back on track and for the first time in a long time, she is starting to think about the future and building the life she hopes for. We have been supporting her to improve her English with a free online English Language course so that she will be able to apply for a variety of different roles in the future and we remain her first port of call if
anything starts to go wrong.
Without the safety and stability of a room available to her 24/7, things might have turned out differently. The emergency winter provision has provided many of the homeless people we are supporting a safe place to rest, and also a base from which they can take the first steps towards recovery.

THANK YOU


Thank you to all those who provided financial donations towards our Winter Provision, and
thank you to all our volunteers and other members of the community who have supported
us, not just during the winter but for the duration of the time we have spent in lockdown,
including everyone at St Paul’s church for the generous weekly food donations that were
dropped off for those staying at the YHA which were gratefully received!
Thank you also to all of our staff members, for pulling together and really making a
difference.


FINANCIAL STATEMENT


INCOME EXPENDITURE
DONATIONS £45,000.00 SALARIES £44,946.80
GRANTS £22,921.00 NTS £79 PURCHASES £201.81
STAFF EXPENSES £686.41
CLIENT EXPENSES £249.49
INCOME TOTAL £67, 921.00 EXPENDITURE TOTAL £47,645.02

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Going Viral LXVII: another cold and frosty morning.

St Peter’s keys

Another glimpse of life in Lockdown Canterbury.

Good morning to you all on another cold and frosty morning – it is very icy out there – going for my walk yesterday I rather glamorously slipped over on the ice, whilst heading up St Thomas’s Hill, all is well but be careful!
Morning prayer: https://youtu.be/E3J53B5PCtk
Today in Morning Prayer, we have been asked to remember another character: St. Scholastica, so a little bit about her… I love how we get to hear of these folk down the ages…
Scholastica (c. 480 – 10 February 543) is a saint of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion. She was born in Italy. According to a ninth century tradition, she was the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia.Her feast day is 10 February, Saint Scholastica’s Day. Scholastica is traditionally regarded as the foundress of the Benedictine nuns. Ref and more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholastica


Plastic Free Lent: With Lent beginning next week, Sami (from St Dunstan’s), Caroline Blamely who heads up our eco-church committee and myself are compiling a series of tips to help us reduce the amount of plastic we use in our lives – so much is changing a habit. So watch this space, as we will be publishing these tips in my daily brief, on our website, twitter account, instagram & Facebook – so watch this space.

Ash Wednesday: 17th February: This will be live-streamed from St Dunstan’s in the evening (7.30), 
Meanwhile, keep warm, it’s freezing, and am heading off to Barham Crematorium so prayers for another family mourning the loss of a loved one – it is so tough. Keep connected, keep well and keep praying!

God Bless, Jo

Rev Jo Richards Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury

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31 January: A Hawthorn Berry

A feast for the blackbirds

Another poem by Mary Webb; this one sprung to mind one January afternoon, as I walked home from the Goods Shed Farmers’ Market, passing this well-laden hawthorn tree. A few more cold days, and the blackbirds – see below – will have stripped it.

A Hawthorn Berry

How sweet a thought,
How strange a deed,
To house such glory in a seed--
A berry, shining rufously,
Like scarlet coral in the sea!
A berry, rounder than a ring,
So round, it harbours everything;
So red, that all the blood of men 
Could never paint it so again.
And, as I hold it in my hand
A fragrance steals across the land:
Rich, on the wintry heaven, I see
A white, immortal hawthorn-tree.

Let’s stay with Mary Webb today. Here is the blackbird; he is too preoccupied to sing, with that annoying human standing right next to his lunch. Mrs Blackbird was hidden behind the ivy in the first picture.

Mary Webb once more takes us from the things we hardly see for familiarity to the immortal, eternal. Infinity in a grain – a seed – of hawthorn. A hawthorn seed planted in her time would be ablaze with haws now, if not stripped by the birds, and then creamy white in May, the original Mayflower. This very bush is special to me. Walking by one day after an operation, I realised my sense of smell had returned, an unexpected gift from surgery elsewhere in my head. I try to remember in passing, and be consciously grateful.

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29 January: Snowdrop Time.

dids.snowdrops
Ah, hush! Tread softly through the rime, 
For there will be a blackbird singing, or a thrush. 
Like coloured beads the elm-buds flush: 
All the trees dream of leaves and flowers and light. 
And see! The northern bank is much more white 
Than frosty grass, for now is snowdrop time.

It’s a while since we tapped into Mary Webb, but she gives pause for reflection. Rime is the soft hoar frost that coats the ground and trees and disappears as the sun gets to work. This short poem is full of hope, inviting us to look and listen and ‘dream of leaves and flowers and light.’ And the snowdrops are a promise that those things will come.

Once you could buy posies of violets or snowdrops bundled with glossy ivy leaves. The snowdrops someone planted a few yards from our door are increasing, year on year. They are working towards a self-sustaining community with the trees above them – and below them, for tree roots run deep, bringing nutrients up to where the bulbs can harvest them.

Enjoy your walk today!

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28 January: Consider the flowers of the wayside.

violets.ct27en.4.1.20

And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is to day, and to morrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith?

Matthew 6: 28-30.

The photo is from January last year, but could have been taken today, had the skies not been so grey. I always enjoy our early violets that bloom before their season. They put me in mind of this Gospel passage. I don’t think this was just a throwaway line of Jesus; he wants us to give our attention to the flowers and how they grow and are provided with sunshine, soil and water. That includes solid science.

These violets did not appear by magic, nor do they survive by magic. The bed they grow in was created at the edge of a footpath maybe 20 years ago, with shrubs lining a brick wall and violets providing ground cover beneath, shadowing out any weed seeds that might try and grow there. It’s almost a self-sustaining habitat now, requiring annual pruning of the bushes, and an occasional thinning of the violets.

I once declined to look after the garden of a lady who wanted me to uproot the violets carpeting her rose bed. The combination struck me as one of the most attractive prospects of her plot and she wanted to be rid of it! Removing the violets would have been against nature. Other plants would have come along to fill the space, requiring repeat weedings in turn. Working with nature allows our violets to do what they do best, bringing a smile to the faces of passing humans.

Pat, a girl I once worked with, had no money on her mother’s birthday, but had never noticed the bank of violets by their front fence. We gathered a fine posy to mark the day. Consider the flowers! They can speak of our love for each other as well as God’s love for us. Let’s work with him to restore beauty to our world.

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12 January, Going Viral LXI: Will we remember?

Yesterday, Tim; today his mother, Sheila, brings a poet’s eye to the face mask and what it might teach us, now and when we can discard them (and please, not on the street!) Thank you again, Sheila for your artist’s wisdom.

Will we remember that we're beautiful?
When, masks discarded, hands once more held out,
Will we remember - beauty born - oh! Beauty born,
Made by Beauty to be beautiful.

Will we recall when the wrinkles show once more, how smiles light up that beauty, 
When mouths now visible
May kiss and speak in beauty?
In tenderness, you made it so, in praise, in song?
Will we have forgotten the gentleness of touch?

The scent of the winter's buried spring,
Earthbound,
Still masked, but waiting.

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25 December: Unto us a Son is given.

L’Arche Kent

Unto us a Son is given

      Given, not lent,
   And not withdrawn—once sent—
This Infant of mankind, this One,
Is still the little welcome Son.

      New every year,
   New-born and newly dear,
He comes with tidings and a song,
The ages long, the ages long.

      Even as the cold
   Keen winter grows not old;
As childhood is so fresh, foreseen,
And spring in the familiar green;

      Sudden as sweet
   Come the expected feet.
All joy is young, and new all art,
And He, too, Whom we have by heart.

Alice Meynell, Later Poems, 1902.

By Heart’ does not mean – or should not mean – so well known that we do not appreciate the Infant of Christmas and take His Story for granted. I’d be tempted to say that Childhood is so fresh and unforeseen, after spending time with my grandsons. The feet are expected, but not where the feet take them. Joy is young, in the anticipation and the execution of scaling the climbing frame and whooshing down the slide, of trying out sounds: the Word of God was once Gada, gada, gada!

We don’t have to understand Christmas to enjoy it. Even when times are hard, as they are for so many this year, rejoice, and do not reason why. Just because.

Merry Christmas from us all, Will.

Image from L’Arche.

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6 December: Ho, ho, No!

manc.santa

I was warned about Manchester’s 2019 Santa well before I saw it. Now it’s difficult to unsee the thing. As a representation of a saintly bishop it leaves a lot to be desired! The little Kentish village of Barfrestone has a better one.barf.4.st.nicholas

Here he is, recognisably a bishop, recognisably blessing his people (I doubt the Mancunian’s gesture could be so interpreted), with symbols of his generous charity: the three gold coins for the dowries he gave to three girls who might otherwise have been enslaved; the little boys he rescued from drowning, and a representation of the little church of Saint Nicholas.

We in L’Arche Kent called by during our community pilgrimage last year, for it was in this village that the community was born more than 40 years ago. I was on a sort of pilgrimage to Manchester, not to tip my hat to Santa by Piccadilly Gardens but to visit my mother and my daughter; two good reasons for the journey on a murky day in Manchester. Since my daughter has left town there’s only my mother, but she is isolating herself and outsiders are meant to keep away from Greater Manchester. So thank God for the internet!

Today, 6 December, is Saint Nicholas’ feast day. We can’t do much about the hijacking he has been subjected to by the forces of Mammon, but we can find ways to be generous, maybe in secret, as he often was.

And let us use this season of Advent to make straight the paths of the Lord, through marshland, mountain, or Mancunian murk!

Merry Christmas Manchester!

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5 March, Desert VIII: Fear 1

trees-wind-moon

Edward Thomas wrote ‘Out in the dark’ when he knew he was about to leave for the front during the Great War. No wonder fear drummed on his ear. Like Dylan Thomas, who admired him and claimed him as a Welsh poet, he was aware of the creative nature of night, but he was also often downcast.

We have to love the night, the dark, which is safe for the fallow deer, but does not feel safe to Thomas. Always remember that Jesus was afraid that Thursday night in the garden. Feeling fear is no sin or weakness but we must face our fears.

Out in the Dark

Out in the dark over the snow
The fallow fawns invisible go
With the fallow doe;
And the winds blow
Fast as the stars are slow.

Stealthily the dark haunts round
And, when a lamp goes, without sound
At a swifter bound
Than the swiftest hound,
Arrives, and all else is drowned;

And I and star and wind and deer,
Are in the dark together, — near,
Yet far, — and fear
Drums on my ear
In that sage company drear.

How weak and little is the light,
All the universe of sight,
Love and delight,
Before the might,
If you love it not, of night.

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6 January: Traveller’s Joy

travellers joy3sm

It’s the feast of the Epiphany, the visit of the wise men who travelled from the East to Baby Jesus, so why not celebrate with Traveller’s Joy!

This is the name of a wild clematis that is happy climbing around hedgerows and wasteland, with pale green-tinged flowers in late summer, and in winter seed heads that look white or grey according to the light. Old Man’s Beard it gets called at this stage.

 

travellers joy1smAlongside the railway towards Dover it has spread itself. I arrived at just the right moment this week to catch the few minutes’ sunshine through the beard. Right beside it is the Victorian footbridge, recently decorated by community artists with – Traveller’s Joy!

 

I can remember being warned, by well-meaning teachers, that there was no time to stop and enjoy the flowers on the journey through life. Perhaps they meant it figuratively, but the worst offender also tried to interest her class in cultivating the strip of sandy soil outside her classroom. And the baby the Wise Men visited grew up  to say that the flowers of the field were dressed more magnificently than Solomon in all his glory.

When clothed in a low sunbeam, the wild clematis is quietly magnificent, a true Traveller’s Joy!

A version of this post appeared on Will Turnstone’s blog last year.

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