What Price?

Money, Dollars, Success, BusinessThis has been puzzling me.  Maybe you can help me work it out….

I’m not even going to touch on the conspiracy theories or give any opinion on the character or behaviour of either of the protagonists here, because that’s not what interests me.  What I want to figure out is the part money plays in the story.  (Also I know it is far more complicated than I’m making it.  I just want to solve my puzzle.)

Once upon a time there were two men (as I understand the story) who were developing electricity in amazing new ways, so that it would be available to all.

Thomas Alva Edison, Inventor, 1922One was called Thomas Edison.  He was a smart, hard-headed businessman as well as a brilliant innovator.  He needed investors in order to develop his amazing stuff.

The other was called Nikola Tesla.  He was clueless with money and no good at working with people but also a brilliant innovator.  He too needed investors, for exactly the same reason.

Edison wanted to develop a business empire, selling electricity and electrical products to people.

Tesla wanted to develop free electricity, so that no one would have to buy it ever again.  He’d worked out a way of doing that.

So let’s imagine you were an astute investor, back then, with lots of money in your pocket.  Which of these men would you invest in?

It’s not a hard choice to make, is it?  Edison wins hands down, because his investors will get great returns as everyone clamours to buy his products.  Tesla doesn’t stand a chance.  You invest in his company and you get free electricity forever – but so do all the other people: the ones who didn’t invest anything.  There’s no profit to be had in something that is free.

That means the world is stuck with power stations that run on fossil fuels or nuclear power, and we are all still having to pay for our power – as is the planet.

Flash, Tesla Coil, ExperimentNow let’s imagine an alternative universe in which the investors all went for Tesla’s ideas.

No one owns electricity.  It’s as free as the air we breathe, even in places where people struggle to survive.  There are no bunkers full of nuclear waste that can’t be safely disposed of, no pollution in the seas around Japan, no coal or oil-fired power stations belching out fumes.  Suddenly electricity is not a commodity. It isn’t bought and sold.  You can’t own shares in it.   You can’t wage wars over the fossil fuels to power it or build pipelines where you shouldn’t.  It’s simply energy, like a thunderstorm or a forest fire.

We live in different times now.  What if crowdfunding had existed back then?  Ordinary people hand over their money to pay for some kid’s operation or to refurbish a hostel they will never see.  In my tiny country £46.6 million was raised in one night last week for Children In Need.  Billionaire stars turn philanthropist and give away their fortunes.

If Tesla were here now, asking for investors, would he find them?

Light Bulb, Idea, Light, Dim, Bright, OnSo this is my puzzle:

Have we changed, in those few short years since Edison won his battle?

Is the pursuit of money, ever so slightly, losing it’s grip?

Are we treating it more, now, like energy, allowing it to flow freely rather than stockpiling it and having to make a profit from it?   And if we use it that way, how might our world change?

 

 

A Fairytale Finale

English: Ballet shool Deutsch: Tanzklasse

A true story, this – and if not stranger than fiction, it at least has more or less all the features of a fairytale.

Those of you with long memories, who have been following my blog for quite a while, may remember the Tale of Tuesday.  Tuesday (her real name, for once, as I’m sure someday she’ll be famous) was a young girl I taught here in Somerset until a year or so back.  My job was to teach her maths and English.  It wasn’t always easy, as sitting at a table writing was the hardest thing in the world for her.
“I need to MOVE!” she’d say, so there would be several breaks in a lesson when she was allowed to waft around the study, arms and feet stretching and waving wildly, before settling for a bit more learning.

All she wanted to do – and I truly mean ALL – was to dance.

Her ballet teacher told her parents  how talented she was.  She advised them to try for a place at a ballet school.  So it was that, in the spring of last year, Tuesday was accepted at one of London’s most prestigious (and expensive) ballet schools.  Now she was not from some wealthy, upper-middle class family.  The cost of moving to London, paying rent there and covering her fees would have been prohibitive at the best of times but this, it turned out, was the worst of times.

No sooner had Tuesday got her place, than her father was diagnosed with cancer.  He is one of the most focused people I’ve ever met, and thinks the world of his daughter.  He’d been quite prepared to work all hours to fund her place, but his health deteriorated very fast and things became incredibly difficult.

So do you believe in magic?  Friends rallied round, a crowd-funding appeal was set up and somehow – none of us are quite sure how it happened – the rent, the fees and the cost of all the extras a young dancer needs were paid month by month.  I know that some of my blog followers were kind enough to contribute to her fund, so heartfelt thanks to them.

Those were hard and difficult days.  Her mother was worried sick each day.  Her dad was battling his illness and still trying to work when he could.  Tuesday struggled to fit in with a class of children from very different backgrounds to herself.  When I met up with them in London last Christmas things looked bleak.  None of us knew what would happen.

Bridge, Wood, Forest, Woods, Tree, TreesTime for a sprinkling of fairy dust now, though.

The ballet school discovered the desperate situation the family were in.  They also discovered that Tuesday was an outstanding dancer – one they wanted to hold on to.  They offered her a bursary, so that she could keep attending for free.  Her dad was moved to one of London’s best hospitals specialising in cancer, so that he had access to pioneering treatment and expert care.  He’s still with us.  Tuesday began to earn the respect of her classmates and to fit in far better.  By the summer, things were looking up.

Every Christmas, the school puts on a performance of The Nutcracker at a small London theatre.  When I discovered that Tuesday had been chosen to dance Clara – the leading role, I knew I had to go and watch.

As in all fairy tales, though, there are twists and turns in the plot right up to the end.  The theatre was closed at very short notice and it seemed the show would have to be cancelled.  I did tell you it was a prestigious school, didn’t I?  There were friends in high places and somehow or other they were given the run of one of the most famous theatres in London’s West End for a day.

Statue of Anna Pavlova on the dome of the Vict...

Thus it was that I found myself sitting in the royal circle, watching the most magical production, while the little girl who had twirled and glided around my study just a year or so before was giving an immaculate performance and capturing the hearts of everyone in the audience.

The ballet school had thoughtfully sent a car to pick her father up, so that he would be able to watch.  During the interval Darcey Bussell – one of the UK’s most celebrated ballerinas – introduced herself to him and told him how brilliant Tuesday’s performance was.

I just could not have been happier and prouder as I watched Tuesday take her curtain call and accept a bouquet of flowers with poise and grace that belied her tender age.

On the tube going home, I overheard a couple discussing the show.
“That little girl who danced the lead,” said the man, “What a future she has ahead of her!”
“She was splendid,” agreed his partner.

She was.

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Dementia

Hand, Old, Age, Skuril, Elderly Woman, GrandmaIf someone had asked me, back in 2008, what gift I was being given by my mother’s encroaching dementia, I’d have been hard-pressed to give them an answer.

As anyone who has been in intimate contact with this condition will know, the hardest time is the early stage – the time when a normally functioning, intelligent human being is experiencing very specific and often debilitating gaps in memory and in the ability to cope on a day-to-day basis because of them.

It was me who grassed Mum up to the doctor.  That was certainly the way she saw it.  By telling her GP of my concerns, I unleashed a battery of humiliating tests and visiting busybodies.  She never forgave me for that.  When her condition became so bad that I had to give up work and move away from my family to become her live-in carer, she threw it in my face at least once a day.

Those were easily the hardest months of my life.  So the gift?  I was given the most incredible insight into the way minds work.  Usually, minds are sophisticated, faster than light and keep their backs, so to speak, well covered.  As Mum’s slowed, though, I was able to watch and observe – to see how a trigger experience could change and shape subsequent behaviour.

Everyday Life, Washing Dishes, Cup, GlassLet us take, for example, the story of the washing up liquid bottle.

While she was still living alone, an occupational therapist came to assess Mum in her house.  Mum found that threatening, insulting, patronising and intrusive.  She realised she was being ‘tested’ but didn’t know why.  At one point, the OT held up Mum’s bottle of washing up liquid, covered the label and asked her what it was used for.  We never knew whether or not Mum had been able to answer her correctly.

Mum retold that story many times afterwards, but in her version, the OT asked this question of the grandchildren.   That was the only way Mum could justify someone asking such a stupid question.  In her version, the grandchildren giggled, rolled their eyes and then answered correctly.  In the event, Mum had had no one to giggle with.  She had been face to face with a person who, in her own home, was checking whether she knew what washing up liquid was and she’d felt violated.

Several months later, when I was living there, she suddenly stopped using washing up liquid when she washed the dishes.  I asked her why she didn’t put some in the water.
“Well,” she said hesitantly, “I don’t know.  I just get a funny feeling about it.  I mean, they keep coming in and turning the bottle around so you can’t see the label.”

I looked and saw that the bottle was on the worktop, but the label was facing the wall.  Seeing the bottle with its label concealed had clearly triggered memories of the therapist’s visit that were sufficiently uncomfortable to make her want to stop using the product.

She could no longer remember the trigger, but the resulting emotion remained and affected her behaviour.

A visiting professional would have viewed Mum’s behaviour as illogical and a symptom of her disease.  Because I could follow the trace of events, though, I was able to recognise that she was attempting to avoid an unpleasant feeling by ignoring the existence of the obscured bottle.

How many of our behaviour patterns, I wonder, stem from a suppressed unpleasant memory?

 

Walking with hope

I was so moved by this little boy’s kindness, courage, optimism and general awesomeness.

Joel’s a 9 year old who has been watching the news and seeing little kids his age and younger walking many miles to find safety.

He’s decided he wants to walk from his home to London (115 miles) to raise money for the refugee children.  He and his dad are going to do the walk in the next school holiday – late October.  They are taking clothes and a tent, but no food, water or money, because Joel wants to find out how kind strangers can be to those who have nothing.

He’s decided to give his much-loved Lego characters and Hot Wheels cars away as perks to people who contribute to his fundraising.

What an adventure he’s embarking on – one he will never forget.

The full details of his story, and ways to contribute using cards or PayPal can be found at the link below.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/walking-from-my-home-to-london-for-other-children/x/12208181#/story

Minglish!

English: William-Adolphe Bouguereau's La leçon...

Sam and I invented Minglish.  I teach him for an hour a week after school and as we only have that short time to build up his skills in both maths and English, I sometimes have to find ways of combining the two in a single piece of work.  Minglish is – obviously – a hybrid of maths and English.

Right now, I’m being tasked with teaching him his four times table, improving his reading skills and expanding his vocabulary so that he uses more exciting and adventurous descriptive words in his creative writing.  I’ve spent most of today dreaming up a way of combining the ‘three rs’ in a way that should appeal to Sam (inasmuch as the four times table ever could).

Since that leaves me little time for blogging, I thought you might like to join Sam on the adventure I’ve planned for him.  Hopefully as, over the next few weeks, he reads the words, finds suitable vocabulary to fill the gaps, answers sums and memorises the numbers, he may make progress in all three targets.  Not exactly the style of teaching I’d choose, left to my own devices, but needs must when the National Curriculum drives.

If you’re an educator or parent, feel free to copy or adapt, although a mention of the originator would be kind and obviously passing it off as your own work or making a profit from it would not.

 

Sam was wandering along the ______________ path, when a _________________ dragon swooped towards him.

“What on earth…?” _____________ Sam.

“I am Foraytes,” the creature ____________. “I have come to help you with a problem you’re having.   I have come to teach you your 4 x table.”

Sam groaned ______________.   “Thanks, but honestly, please don’t bother.”

Foraytes let out a _______________ shriek and grabbed Sam’s shoulders in his _______________ claws.  

 “I will teach you, whether or not you choose to learn!” he cried _______________.

 “Right, okay, fine,” said Sam ______________. He decided it would be best not to annoy this creature.   Miserably, he sat down on the _______________ ground.

 “Can you count in twos?” asked Foraytes, settling down in front of Sam.

“Sure – easy,” said Sam, and did so. “___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___.”

 “That will do,” said Foraytes ______________. “Now say them again, but this time miss out the 2 and every alternate number.”

This was harder, but Sam had a go: ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___.

 “Oh!” ____________ Sam.   “I just counted in fours, didn’t I?”

“Indeed you did,” ______________ the creature, with a reptilian smile. Then it pointed a wing towards the distance and said something that sounded like ‘Fort Ooze.’

“Huh?” said Sam.   “Where?”

Foraytes hopped up and down in ____________. “Say 8,” he shrieked. “When someone says Fort Ooze, you must reply 8. It’s the password.”

“Oh, four twos!” Sam ___________ . “I get it! Yeah – Fort Ooze. Eight.”

 “That’s better,” ____________ the creature. “Now go to Fort Ooze and remember the password.”

Sam thanked him and headed in the direction Foraytes was pointing. He didn’t much like the sound of Fort Ooze, but he still wanted to ______________.

“By the way,” Foraytes called after him. “Do you know Fort Ends?”

Sam thought for a moment.   “OH, you mean four tens,” he ____________. “It’s ____.”

He heard the flapping of wings as the ______________ creature rose into the sky.

Sam walked ______________ along the path leading to Fort Ooze. Eventually he came to a wide river.   The only bridge was broken and had a huge gap in the centre.

 There was a rowing boat tied to a post on his side though. Next to it was a tall ______________ box with this notice on it.

Five Oars.

Insert correct change in the slot.

 

Sam was getting used to this by now.

“I think it means Five Fours,” he _____________. He took a _____p coin from his pocket and put it in the slot on the box. The door swung open ____________ and Sam grabbed a couple of the oars and started to row across.

He tied the boat up _____________ at the other side and kept walking.

After half an hour or so, he heard something above him. At first he thought it was Foraytes again, but he looked up to see a ____________ dragon who looked much younger and more friendly.

“Hi,” called the small dragon, “Are you Sam? I bet you are. You met my uncle Foraytes, didn’t you?”

Sam managed to nod before the creature carried on, “Thought so. Can you work out how old my uncle is?   If you can, I’ll tell you my name.   Then you’ll be able to figure out my age, too. Isn’t this fun!”

Sam smiled in a ____________ way. “So your uncle is called Foraytes. That sounds like four eights. So I’m guessing he is ____ years old,” he replied.

The little dragon clapped all of its wings together. “You’re clever! Now guess my age. Go on, go on! My name is Wunfor.”

“Then I think you must be ____ years old,” ____________ Sam.

 “Oh you’re VERY clever!” squealed Wunfor. “Tell me all the bits you’ve learned.”

Sam sighed. “OK. I know Wunfor – one four is ____. Two fours, I mean Fort Ooze is ____. Then I found five oars – five fours – was ____, Foraytes – four eights – that’s ____ and Fort Ends, wherever that is, is four tens, which is _____.”

“Fort Ends is quite near here,” Wunfor told him. “Do you want a lift? I could carry you on my back, you know.   I’m ___________ strong!”

By now Sam’s legs were aching __________, so he was happy to accept a lift. They flew far above the treetops and the lands below looked like ________________.

“See that place with the four tall pine trees over there?” Wunfor shouted. “It’s called Four Trees.”

“That makes sense,” said Sam. “Is it ____ miles away by any chance?”

 “Wow! You’re magic!” _________ the young dragon. How did you know that?”

“Four Trees sounds like four ___s,” grinned Sam.

 “Well you’re going to do fine on the rest of the journey if you’re that __________,” Wunfor told Sam. “Here we are now. This is Fort Ends.”

They landed by some ruined stones.

“There was a _________ fort here once,” said Wunfor ___________, “but it ended ____ years ago. You need to keep walking in that direction, Sam.   Oh, and if you run into my grumpy Uncle Sevenforce, just shout 28 at him as loud as you can, then he will leave you in peace.”

“What if I forget?” Sam asked _____________.

Wunfor shook his head.   “Well you know most dragons breathe fire? He does that with a force seven gale thrown in, so you’d better remember!”

 Sam thanked the __________ dragon and hurried down the road. “Sevenforce 28, Sevenforce 28,” he kept muttering under his breath.

He noticed a gate across the road ahead. A very posh looking man stood next to it.

 “Hello,” said Sam, _____________. “Please can I go through the gate?”

The man had the poshest accent Sam had ever heard. “Fwar Fwars,” he said.

“Er, sorry?” Sam ___________.

 “Fwar Fwars!” repeated the man crossly.

 Suddenly Sam understood.   “Oh, you mean four fours! That’s ____.”

The man stuck his nose in the air and walked across slowly to open the gate.

“Thanks Mister,” Sam __________ and he carried on along the ___________ road.

By this time Sam was getting hungry and thirsty. He’d been travelling for ages.  He saw a small cottage ahead, with brightly coloured chairs and tables outside. There were red umbrellas over each table.   ___________ he went and sat down at one.

 A smiling waitress appeared almost immediately. “What can I get you, Sir?”

“I’d like a lemonade, please and slice of chocolate cake.” Sam __________.

“Certainly, Sir,” the waitress ___________. “Our lemonade costs six times four pence and the cakes are all nine times four pence. We also have coffee and walnut and lemon drizzle cake.”

“Your prices are very good!” exclaimed Sam, hunting in his pocket for the money. He took out ____ pence for the lemonade and _____ pence for the cake. “I’ll stick with the chocolate cake, thanks.   I __________ chocolate.”

 “Thank you Sir. I hope you enjoy your rest at the Fourpenny Café.”

 Sam had just taken a mouthful of the ____________ chocolate cake when there was a rushing sound behind him and the fiercest dragon you can imagine landed beside him.

Sam was so startled, he sprayed cake crumbs all over the table. “_____” he said, as soon as he had stopped coughing.

“So you’ve heard my name!” __________ the dragon. “Yes, I am Sevenforce. How much is the cake?”

“Er, it’s nine times four pence,” Sam said.

“Which is…?” The dragon’s eyes narrowed _____________.

____” he replied ___________. And the lemonade was six times four, which is ____.”

“Hmm, not bad,” said Sevenforce. “I may pop back for some later.   Right now I have some burning issues to attend to.” And to Sam’s relief, he flew off in another direction.

 After his snack, Sam found it was an easy downhill walk to Fort Ooze.

“Password!” shouted a familiar voice.

___” replied Sam, ___________.

 “Well remembered,” smiled Foraytes, peering down at him from one of the battlements. Let’s see what you’ve learned.”

Sam smiled. “I know how old you are, Foraytes. You’re _____. And your nephew Wunfor is ____. You have a scary brother and he’s called _____________. I had to shout ____ to stop myself getting burned by him.”

“Excellent,” Foraytes replied. “How many pence did it cost to hire the five oars?”

“Well I only used 2 of them, but 5 x 4 is ____. And I had to get past that posh bloke who said ‘fwar fwars’ by saying ____. Oh and the cost of lemonade is ___x 4, which is ____ and the cake costs ____ x 4 which is ____.”

“Superb,” __________ the dragon. What places did you see?”

 “I got a lift to Fort Ends, which is 4 x 10, which is ____. Oh and we saw Four Trees ____ miles away.”

“Congratulations.”   Foraytes bowed before him (32 times).   “Here is your prize, young Sam.”

And to Sam’s delight, the dragon gave him four wings, which fitted perfectly, so that he could fly straight home.

 

 

A ‘Dark is Rising’ Night

English: It was a 'dark and stormy night' ... ...

This train of thought began a few nights ago, as wind and something wet and very cold lashed against my bedroom window.  I’d been working on my latest manuscript, so I suppose I was in that slightly altered state that books always bring about in me.  At any rate, the combination of the storm, the creaks and groans of the cottage and this dark, deep magical time of year as we approach the winter solstice made me think, “Whoa – it’s a Dark is Rising night!”

It was then that I realised how Susan Cooper’s stunning and fearsome children’s novel had seeped into the very bones of me.  It had shaped my perceptions and altered the person I was.  A truly great book should do that.

I don’t remember when I first discovered The Dark is Rising.  Probably in one of my jobs as a school librarian/ head of English in the early seventies.  There was some wonderful children’s literature around at that time – Ursula Le Guin‘s Wizard of Earthsea, Alan Garner’s Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Penelope Lively‘s meticulously crafted time-slip adventures, Peter Dickinson‘s Changes Trilogy – but it was Susan Cooper’s masterpiece which helped to craft the person I am now.

Kids bookshelf with German and American childr...

So all this got me thinking:  What other books have shaped my life?  Notice I’m not talking here about favourite books, books I’ve enjoyed, books I’d recommend (although – to the right person – I’d recommend every one of them).  I’m talking of books that have jolted me into a new understanding and way of seeing.  I’m talking of having my prior perceptions dragged – kicking and screaming at times – into a new paradigm or, in some cases, of having my wildest and most cherished suspicions and hopes about what is really going on here validated and encouraged.  In either case, what follows is a list of books – whittled down reluctantly to ten and in no particular order – which have changed me forever.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper  Written for children but reaches the magic deep inside each of us.  For me, the boundary between the normal and the magical was broken down forever once I’d read it.

CosMos by Ervin Laszlo and Jude Currivan  Magic for grown-ups!  Here I discovered highly respected academics writing about and expanding upon the cosmos as I wanted and needed it to be.  (I’ve been lucky enough to encounter both authors in life, and they are two of the most delightful and inspiring people I’ve ever met.)

The Crack in the Golden Egg by Joseph Chilton Pearce  This book kept appearing in other authors’ bibliographies, so I decided I needed to read it for myself.  Thank goodness I did.  Stunning and life-changing revelations on every page.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell  Yes, he’s a brilliant novelist and I loved The Bone Clocks too, but it was this book and it’s way of weaving infinitely subtle links between lifetimes and personalities that shifted my way of seeing other lives and times.

Autism and the Edges of the Known World by Olga Bogdashina  With a title that great, how could I resist?  This (along with my next choice and Suzy Miller’s Awesomism) should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the autistic spectrum and the amazing people who dwell on it.

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida  I’ve already devoted one blog post to this stunning little book but it still deserves a place here.  For me it was filled with moments of joyful recognition as I was shown that hunches had been right all along, or gave me insights I’d never have found alone.

The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto  Needs no introduction.  A beautiful, wise, witty man (I was fortunate enough to hear him speak once) whose unique vision and stunning images changed the way the world worked for me.

Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts  Before I settled here in Glastonbury, I came for a long weekend and – as visitors do – went for a psychic reading.  I was told many things that day.  One was that I would become a writer, but that first I needed to find and read the Seth books.  I did.  They are complicated, abstract, awkwardly written and lack the easy readability of Abraham Hicks, but they changed my life and I re-read them constantly.

Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch  This is where I first discovered a God I liked.  Neale’s God was witty, charming, wise and surprising.  I struggle with the financial empire the books have spawned, but the words resonate deeply.

Khalil Gibran (April 1913)

The Prophet by Khalil Gibran  Last on my list but the first of these books I discovered and – if I had to choose – probably the most life-changing.  I love this beautiful, deceptively simple little volume like no other.

 

So there you have it: the books that made me.

Please feel free to share any of your own life-changing reads below.

 

 

Tuesday’s Tale

English: Ballerina oil painting “Oh why do I have to learn this stuff?” T asks, her small face screwed up with frustration and incomprehension.

It’s Tuesday morning.  We’re working on the properties of three-dimensional shapes. “I mean, I’m going to be a ballerina!”

One of her dramatic sighs follows and I grin sympathetically.

With some kids, I’d branch off into sacred geometry at this point, but not this time.  With others I’d talk about the uses of shape and space in construction, engineering, architecture and the like, but T isn’t going to be an engineer or an architect.  She’s going to be a ballerina.

Another dramatic sigh, accompanied by such wild flexing of limbs that I have to duck to avoid the flailing arms.

Whenever I’m teaching T, I have the uneasy sensation that I’m caging a butterfly.  She does her best to learn and we get along just fine, but sitting still for two hours at a stretch is far from easy for her.  She just isn’t wired that way.

“Go on,” I say.  “Have a few twirls around the room, then let’s get back to work.”

T has just turned eleven.  She’s not just a small girl with a romantic dream.  She’s a magical, exceptional, brilliant dancer.  She’s been accepted for a place a one of the UK’s most prestigious dance academies  in September.  They have only 8 places a year and the admission standard is ridiculously high. Her mum and dad were stunned and overflowing with pride when she got her place. Nederlands: ballet dancer - detail

The effort she has put into her dancing is incredible.  The effort her parents have put into supporting her is similarly so.  Her mother travels all over Somerset and beyond with her on buses and car shares to get her to dance classes, auditions and performances.  Her self-employed dad has worked all hours to earn the money to fund the lessons, costumes, travel costs and so forth.  They’ve been determined that nothing will get between T and her dream. Now she has her place at the academy, of course, the costs will rocket.  It will involve moving from Somerset to London and paying huge tuition fees.

All that was fine.  Everything was set.  Dad was confident that he could earn enough, if he put everything else aside. The trouble is, one of those things he put aside was the dodgy mole.  He kept meaning to get it checked at the doctors…

When he did, the diagnosis wasn’t good.   The cancer has spread to his limbs and his lungs.  The doctors are calling it incurable.

They don’t look for problems, T’s family, they look for solutions.

Her mum, with characteristic zeal, has researched alternative treatments and come up with one that claims a 40% success rate – the Gerson diet.  It involves juicing huge amounts of fruit and vegetables for him – about 8kg a day – and more-or-less ties her to the kitchen.

Her dad – well, we can only guess at his feelings.  Having always been the provider, he has been trying to carry on working, to make sure the fees for her first term can be paid by September.  When he does that, he is stressing his body and not allowing it to heal.

That was the point at which T’s mum had called me.  Did I know any fundraisers – someone who could take the pressure off the family and raise enough to get T through her first year at the academy?

“Why me?  And why NOW?” the small reptilian part of my brain asked – the part that’s hell-bent on self-preservation.  “This will take massive amounts of time and effort and energy… I’ve done this life experience before – several times.  I’ve supported children I teach through the illness, sometimes even the death of a parent.  I’ve helped them with fundraising.  Couldn’t the Universe share things out a bit?  I have so much else to deal with right now…”

And here was T, sitting in my study on this Tuesday morning, telling me she’s going to be a ballerina.

What was I supposed to say?  ‘Actually no, sweetheart, you’re not.  You’ll be going to the local comprehensive, there won’t be any money left for dance classes and on top of that, your dad’s cancer is terminal.’

No.  I would not be saying that.

Miracle Machine

Miracle Machine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Walk your talk,” the other end of my consciousness from the reptile was telling me.  “Think about it.  You believe in creating miracles.  You’ve been blogging on about it for months.

” Why have you been given this life experience again?  Why do you think??  Because this time, you have something new to bring to it.  You have the knowledge that – if they are expected, lightly yet with conviction – miracles happen.  And a few miracles are needed here and now, are they not?”

“Yes,” I said, humbly.

So this is where LIME (Life Is Miracles Expected) magic becomes interactive.

Click away NOW if you don’t want to get involved.  

Or is it too late?  Are you already caught up in T’s story?

Ideally, I’d like… every person who reads this blog to put some energy into helping T’s miracles arrive.

Your energy may be in the form of money – however much you’d feel comfortable transforming into energy to help pay for her academy fees.

It may be in the form of reblogging this post, or linking to it on social media, so that it reaches more people, who can also join our creation.

It may be that you will send healing and positive energy to Christian – T’s dad.

Or you may have other wonderful ideas for ways of creating these miracles.

Any money that reaches my PayPal account  from the ‘make a donation’ button below will, you have my word, go into the fund a family friend is setting up for T.  I promise I’ll keep you informed of progress, because  you now have a part in this story.

Thank you for sharing your energy and helping to make this happen.

Make a Donation Button

Fire and Knives

I once taught a lovely young girl who was in foster care.  After several years with the same family, she was told she was being transferred to a new placement.  It involved moving to a different town and changing schools.  

This is the story I wrote to help her with this huge transition.

Fire and Knives 

Shi'ah's Sorrow

“How do I stop myself from having any pain?” asked Marnie.

“Pain?” said the Old One.  “What sort of pain?”

“Any sort,” replied Marnie, kicking at the dusty ground.  “Pain like… being burned and cut – just pain.”

The Old One shrugged.  “That’s easy; you stay away from fire and knives and things that can hurt you.”

Marnie scowled.  That was not the right reply.  “Suppose the pain comes after me, though, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t get away from it.  Then what do I do?”

“Ahh!” said the Old One, slowly.  “That sort of pain.”

 

The Old One wandered over to his rocking chair and sat down gently.

“Come and sit with me, Marnie,” he said.

“Don’t want to sit,” scowled Marnie.

“Fine,” smiled the Old One.  “Just you stay standing, then.”

“Don’t want to stand either,” Marnie grumbled.  “Just answer the question, why don’t you?”

“Well it’s an interesting question, you see, Marnie, and one that deserves a good answer.”

“SO GIVE ME THE ANSWER, THEN!” screamed Marnie, kicking furiously at the side of the house.

“Well, let me see.  I’m thinking this sort of pain wouldn’t be from flames and knives at all.  I’m wondering if this would be more like the sort of pain you get when you have to say goodbye to people and places you’ve known a long time, and you’ve got used to them and fond of them and it feels bad inside in every way.  Would that be the sort of pain we’re talking about?”

 

Marnie had stopped kicking at the house and was scuffing the ground quietly.  “Maybe.”

The Old One nodded thoughtfully.  “Yes, that’s a tricky sort of pain to avoid,” he agreed.

Marnie blinked hard several times and swallowed.  “So how would I avoid pain like that?”

 

“How would you avoid it?  Ah, that’s easy,” smiled the Old One.   “You’d start by saying to yourself, ‘I must be as nasty and grumpy as I can to the grown ups around here, then they’ll be glad when I go and they won’t miss me, so they won’t be upset.’  Then you’d think on and say, ‘I’ll be extra quarrelsome to my friends, and ignore the little kids around here, so that they don’t cry or make any fuss and they’ll be glad to see the back of me and then they won’t be upset, either.’”

 

Marnie was staring, open mouthed, at the Old One, but he smiled gently and kept talking softly.

“Then, of course, there would be your own pain.  You’d push it down deep, well out of the way and tell yourself how glad you were to be moving.  With any luck, if you kept it buried for long enough, it might not hurt any more after a while.  Simple, isn’t it, Marnie?”

 

Marnie was still staring.  “Is that the right way to do it?  Is that what you’d do?”

“What I’d do?  Good gracious, no!  Why would I even think of doing anything that stupid?”

“But you said…” spluttered Marnie.

“I said,” interrupted the Old One, “that’s what you’d do!”

 

Marnie went rather pink and started kicking again.  “So what’s wrong with that, anyway?”

“Well, Marnie, there’s a whole load wrong with it.  Let’s take the way you treat the adults.  They know it’s not your fault you’re leaving.  They’ve loved you for a long time and watched you growing up.  They’ve felt proud of the good ideas and help they’ve given you and they’d be proud to see you moving on as such a fine young person.  They’d like to have good memories of you.  But you’re taking all that from them.  You’re making them feel sad and disappointed.  You’re making them feel hurt and neglected.  That gives them lots of pain.”

 

Marnie slowly turned and wandered across to sit next to the Old One.  He carried on, as if he hadn’t noticed, although, of course, he had.

“Now what about those little kids?  Remember the bigger kids who played with you, when you were small?  Remember how kind they were to you, when they helped you make toys or played games with you?”

Marnie nodded.

“What are those memories like?  Good or bad?”

“Oh, good!” exclaimed Marnie, starting to smile at the thought of them.  “There was this one big kid, called Asher, who always played ball with me.  It made me feel really important and grown up.”

“That’s right,” smiled the Old One.  “I remember Asher playing with you when you were a real little tot.  Then one day Asher just started ignoring you, didn’t he?  Just treated you like you didn’t exist.”

“He did NOT!” exclaimed Marnie, angrily.  “Asher would never have done that.  He was really kind and friendly!”

“Oh yes, my mistake,” agreed the Old One, mildly.  “I must have been confusing him with someone else I knew.”

 

Marnie looked at him carefully.  She opened her mouth to ask a question, but then changed her mind.

“Go on,” she said.

“Where was I?  Oh yes – your friends.  They’ve been there for you when you’ve been grumpy and miserable and bossy and mischievous and they’ve kept you company and given you such a great bucket-load of happy memories to take with you on your journey.  Do they deserve to have their memories of you spoilt?  Do you deserve to have your memories ruined too?”

“Probably,” whispered Marnie, miserably.

“Can’t see much purpose in that,” shrugged the Old One.  “And finally there is your pain.  You got any painful memories at the moment?”

Marnie scowled.  “None of your business!”

“Ah,” he smiled.  “Keeping them buried, are you?  I’m guessing some of them go way back – back to when you were just a very little person.  And have they faded away?”

“Stop it!  Stop it!  STOP IT!” shouted Marnie, trying to block out his voice.

 

The Old One waited for a moment, until Marnie was still.  “I know it hurts,” he said gently.  “When pain goes deep, it hurts all the more.  You don’t start to feel better until you let it out.”

 

Then the Old One stood up and walked to the garden fence.  He looked across at the mountains in the distance.  They looked beautiful with the sun setting on them.

“Ah, Marnie,” he sighed.  “Just look at that view!  Drink it in and remember it!  Those mountains are worn into beautiful shapes, like carvings.  Wouldn’t they be dull and dreary if they were just smooth and round?”

Marnie looked at the mountains and shrugged.  “I suppose.”

“They’ve been attacked by fierce winds and sandstorms, lightning and torrents of rain, over the years, to get that way.  They’ve suffered too.  It’s the pain in our lives that makes us wise and strong and beautiful.”

 

He turned to face Marnie.  “There is another way – a better way.  Accept the pain, and the tears if they come, because they gradually wash the pain away.  Smile through the tears at those you are leaving behind.  Leave them the greatest gift you have – memories of the wonderful person you are.  They will give you wonderful memories back.  You’ll have no need to feel guilt or shame or bitterness.  Just know that life is an amazing journey, and take the best from every part of it.”

 

Marnie hugged him and the tears flowed and the pain that had been digging inside like a knife, or like burning, began to melt away.

Sunset over mountains

 

 

The Iron Gate

I don’t know where this story came from. 

I know I’m the one who wrote it, many years ago, but what dream-maker or muse placed the images and ideas in my head I can’t fully understand or explain.

I wrote it for a friend, but now I see I also wrote it for myself.

Just maybe, since coincidence doesn’t exist but synchronicity does, you have come to the story because it was also written for you.  Please open to that possibility and enjoy, because it is sent to you with love.

jap_garden_maple_tree

Once a man was walking along the street, when he noticed a beautiful garden behind a high iron fence.  The man was overcome with a great desire to go into the garden.  It looked irresistible.

He could smell the slightest hint of perfume from the flowers, but he knew that if he was in there, the scent would be overwhelming and he’d be able to drink it in for as long as he wished.  The grass was soft and waved gently in the breeze.  He ached to be there, laying in it and staring up into the trees.  There were secret corners and paths he could not see from the street, and he longed to be able to follow and explore them.

No one else seemed to be in the garden, or even to notice it.  He felt strangely certain that this garden was there especially for him – if only he could find a way into it.

shut the gateHe followed the fence for a long way, but it was far too high to climb.  Eventually, after turning several corners, he came to a gate.  This too was very high and made of iron, but the man was filled with hope.  Perhaps the hinges were weak; perhaps the catch was rusty.  He stepped back and took a run at the gate, throwing his full force against it.  It barely moved, and the pain was excruciating.  His shoulder was bruised and his wrist was sprained.  He had jarred his leg badly and his whole body felt battered.  Despite this, though, he smiled.

“That must have weakened the gate,” he told himself.  “Next time I’ll manage it.”

A few days later, when the swelling and bruising had died down, he returned to the gate and, once again, threw himself at it with all his might.  As before, it stayed firm and he was battered and injured by the experience.  He refused to be put off, however, always returning and enduring the same pain, just for the chance of entering the garden.

“After all,” he reasoned, “Such a beautiful, enchanted place is worth all the suffering.  I should have to go through pain if I’m to reach that perfect garden.”

As time went by, he began to think about the necessity for the pain more than about the garden.  It had become a ritual he had to endure.  He felt proud if he made himself suffer more frequently, or if the bruising was worse than usual.

“That’s got to be good,” he said.  “That takes me closer to my goal.”

 

Finally, the inevitable happened – he ran at the gate so hard that he banged his head against the metal bars and knocked himself out.  He lay, motionless, on the pavement.

White feather on rust

White feather on rust (Photo credit: Marius Waldal)

Slowly, a perfect white feather floated from high above down through the sunlight and landed beside him.  He could not have heard any sound and yet the motion made him stir.  He tried to sit up, but felt dizzy and disorientated.  Someone seemed to be beside him, but perhaps he was not yet fully conscious.  The figure appeared to be very tall.

The man felt the softest of touches to his shoulder.  His pain seemed to subside.  He was not sure whether the figure had spoken.  He didn’t remember hearing any sound, yet there was a question in his head, as if someone had just asked it.

The question was so obvious; he couldn’t see how he had not thought about it before.

“Why not?” he asked himself, and reached up to turn the handle of the gate.  It swung open easily.

He stood, wondering at the lack of pain, and walked through into the garden.  It was as beautiful as he had imagined – more so, in places.  He felt peace and warmth and happiness flowing through him.  He’d had no idea that life could feel this good.

 

When you reach your gate, why not simply open it and go through?