Friday, 9 October 2009

I cried today

The day today was engagingly beautiful, clear blue skies that required no need for a coat to defend. For four week previous to today the man at the top of the John Hancock’s building tells us, 94 stories up, you could not see the next tower due to cloud. But today we can see far into the horizon of Lake Michigan. As we wondered thru Chicago towards Millennium Park we were unsure what we would find, newness and discovery are great companions on a journey. Perhaps part of what I have discovered on this journey is that expectation should be much more of a constant companion in everyday life. But do not rule out surprise. A life without surprise is a life without joy and I am aware now that too many of my days before this journey have been joyless, lacking surprise and light with expectation. But today is a day of surprise. As we walked across the water of Crown fountain towards the next event I was unprepared, for how can you prepare for joy. Before me, before us all was something of joy. Here in the park was Anish Kapoor’s The cloud. I have seen it on TV in books on cards many times before i was familiar with its image but unprepared for its encounter with me, with us. Nothing separated you me from this encounter; no barrier, no stage no wire. No guard, no glass, no predetermined distance set by the board.
People in wheelchairs rolled up to it. Young children patted it. Couples lay underneath it. And I watched. Groups of young people gathered together stared up laughed and took photos. It stood above old wise people. It offered shelter to the young and foolish who we need to change the world. And i watched. There was laughter and running, stillness and quiet. And I watched. We looked together, apart. For this encounter there was no language to divide or unite. It offered us a view of ourselves set against the world around us and asked nothing of us. And I watched
And as I circled and watched and saw myself with others, I cried.

Here is a link to see li


Self medication

As an ex mechanic when raise the bonnet of the car there are a number of challenges that i feel more comfortable with the expert dealing with.
When i take a walk down the aisle of a chemist here there is a growing sense of unease within me as I engage with the possibilities of self medication in the USA. For the most part self medication in England is the choice between Ibuprofen and aspirin and if you’re not sure go to the doctor anyway it is free and he has nothing to do if you don’t go and see him or her.
I want you to have a think for a moment, count the amount of various holes ins and outs you have spaced around your body? The sort of places you often tell young children not to mess with in public or put anything into them. Remind me to tell you the time my daughter got a pea stuck in her nose. Anyway back to the point as I walk the aisle of the chemist where you can buy coffee and doughnuts i am astonished what the sell. I know I sound like the kid from the county again. But they sell you self medication for any of those places you just thought of, any. For example ears. I was always told do not put anything smaller than your elbow into your ears. They sell something in the chemists to get into your ears so you can clean them out, a little tool (not a cotton bud). Now there is one thing to buy a tool to put up a shelf and another to bugger about closely very close to the most technical piece of equipment God ever made the brain. They tell me i should not dig up the drain unless i have some training. So why in Gods name are we mucking about with a tool less than an inch from the brain. I do not let anyone near my ear hole unless they have done at least 3 seasons on Greys Anatomy or been to some sort of doctor school that supplies you with a certificate of greater significance than digging up the drains (no offence drain men). The last time i saw this tool used i kid you not was in Bombay/Mumbai in the station waiting room. Where the operator would remove wax from your ear sitting on the floor of the waiting room for 3 Rupees. We are in a land one step away from selling spells and potions at the drug store. A complexly unscientific guess I would say 50% of adverts on TV are for some form of medication. The next time you have to have something done with any of those places you thought of earlier go the doctor who has been reading books and practicing for at least 10 years. Then thank God you’re not sitting on the bathroom floor on your own with some IKEA like instructions. God bless the National Health Service.

Things you should never overhear

There are things you should never overhear, confessions to and of a priest. The whisper of lovers, unless you’re one of the two. The cries of a desperate man under the pressure of life. The public admission of our dark parenting methods. There is a story that does the rounds of people I know. In the good old days if a child would not sleep grannies encouraged parents to dip the dummy into sherry or put a little drop into their bottle, it will help them rest, was the belief. I am sure you will know it too.
After a long day, a longer night and then another morning on one of our train journeys the children around me are tired, excited, looking forward to going home. So show little signs of rest. As the family prepare to leave the train or de train as they call it here. Mom, I presume, says to the little one “if you don’t stop I’ll give you a RitilinshaKe”. I have to check that my hearing is correct and we agree Ritillineshake. The child then begins to sort of sing a song I want a shake, I want a shake. I have to say I presume some of what is not said but I believe mom means to give baby the equivalent of a modern day sherry. Ritillin is used to calm over active kids it is an ADHD prescriptive drug in the UK as I presume it is in the USA. I am not saying this is an American problem but it is the first time I have heard this phrase used. Perhaps I am naive and live a sheltered life but I wish I never heard it. I am unsure what to do with the information, maybe I am overreacting. I wish I had never overheard it.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

we`are going to be early

It is 8 in the morning and they announce the train is going to be early into Chicago. We expected to be at 4 in the afternoon. So they are bringing breakfast and lunch forward. Don’t forget this a three day trip and can be 5 or more hours late. So they finished breakfast early so we could fit lunch in at 10:30. So i am presuming we are going to be in at just gone 12. Another announcement informs us all we will be arriving at for a 30 mins early arrival they bring lunch forward to start at 10:30. I am wondering if we would be 1 hour early would they bring breakfast 6-7 then lunch 8-10,i am a bit confused. When i first got on the train in NT to New Orleans i looked at the menu and thought oh that’s nice, then New Orleans to Houston i thought Oh that’s ok, then Houston to LA i thought that’s familiar, then LA to San Francisco MMM, then San Fran to Glenwood Springs I thought this is very familiar then Glenwood springs to Chicago i thought bloody hell not again. I could have had half chicken cooked in herbs with mash potatoes eight times. The same menu on every train in every state, now that is what i call sticking to the tried and tested, now I know how the Israelites felt in the desert moaning about the quail. Amtrak have been awarded $1.8 billion from the government for upgrades will someone get them a new cook book.


When is too much too much? When we are all held ransom to the talk unlimited mobile phone contract is the answer. As my blog would indicate I have had some excellent and stimulating conversations with people here. But I have had to listen to many more people and their vacuase inane desperately dull phone monologues. I can only assume that after 25 minuets of my neighbour in the train carriage inflicting their monologue on their loved one on the other end they will go home and find they have shot themselves out of desperation. Because at times I am looking for a window to throw myself out of onto the wastelands of Iowa and Jesus said love your neighbour he did not have to sit next to this lot for two days.
At times I go to a Christian community a house run by an order of sisters and most of the time (Major Saints Days excluded) we have silent meals which I have grown to appreciate. But all my evangelical zeal used in explaining the benefits of the silence to my children still leaves them puzzled to its rewards. So back to my train carriage known as train 6 carriage 11 we have passed thru Denver heading towards Chicago. So the train has been travelling from San Francisco hundreds if not thousands of miles. The carriage looks like a well used refugee camp except this carriage littered with phones and laptops. Until the early hours of the morning children are focused upon and baby sat by their relevant films mom (mainly) sleeps or inflicts this ongoing phone monologue to its by now dead recipient. This leaves my need for sleep to be greater than the monologues, the soundtracks of the movies and the flickering of the screens. At sometime around three in the morning i am wondering how much it will cost to fly Chicago to New York. So the next morning when I am awake and almost ready to take on the day all around is a sleep. I have a desperate desire to shout and scream and talk to no one on the phone about nothing of any interest to the human race, but I chicken out and get some tea.
The carriage that started out with some much hope now looks unwelcoming. Bodies of all shapes and sizes wrapped in blankets lie scattered in all directions and all angles. The hopeful space is turned into a battleground of life. The train staff endeavours to use a manual sweeper on the floor but the sweeper is defeated by the enormity of the task before it. And the talk unlimited monologues continue. Bloody phones.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

LA other views

Hi for both of you who read my relefctions on Los Angeles might be interested in an article on the link below it is not good reading unless your out for revenge

Saturday, 3 October 2009

San Francisco to Glenwood Springs

I am watching a group of 25 year olds go up the train one has a silver metal case I presume he has a musical instrument he will play in the observation car. By the time we reach the observation car, strange name like you can’t observe from any other car, tanoy announcement stop looking out the windows unless you’re in the observation car, end of announcement. Yes so I get to the Observation car and the case is open and in full swing you guessed it is a poker game. There are neat piles of different coloured chips in front of the players and playing cards are doing the rounds. This game continues to evolve in one form or another until Reno ** hours. There is beer drunk stories swapped money lost and won but no arguments, no bad language, no difficult embarrassing encounters with fellow human beings. Just fun.
This train journey is made up of the usual Amtrak characteristics top speed of 50 70 MPH, the occasional stop for track maintenance, when you are always told by the crew what the problem is. Not inappropriate amounts of time our speed is that of an elderly lady on a bicycle in no rush to get to church. But always the movie on view out of the window is of the American landscape who is always the main actor with humanity as supporting role.
What America has and I believe they may have forgotten this is, space. For hours on end there is just land. Land then land then land. In England train travels out of the city to take you to another city, you are moved out of the city to the suburbs into the countryside and then into the suburbs over coffee, you get what I mean. Coffee time can take you from city to city. Here you get coffee, dinner, poker and no second city maybe a small town like Truckee and the empty American landscape. What they have is space. I presume in this one sabbatical journey I will have travelled more miles than Jesus did in his adult life.

LA Church

I have toiled with this blog about church in LA, because it was so disappointing and therefore did not want my immediate feelings to dominate my writing,
On this sabbatical journey church is always a challenge. It begins with Google; searching, mapping, locating buses etc. I planned to go to a St Mary’s here but the buses worked against me, so I go to the cathedral. I wonder how St Paul did his church hopping without Google maps.
For those of you who don’t do church this might fit all your expectations. It was a vast building hiding a highly decorated interior. I brought a book from their bookshop before the service and spoke to a guy in the queue who was very nice and offered to take me for a beer, but I told him I was moving on the next day.
I sat in a pew on my own and waited for the service to begin trying to prepare myself, an indulgence I do not get to do often. There was music and a procession of the good and the great; robed, costumed and looking out of place in modern America. As a pack they make their way to the front of church. I am reminded of a German theologian who was on a lecture tour of America. On returning from church to his hosts for lunch he is asked, did you enjoy the service? He thinks before he answers. He replies in a dower German fashion. I never thought about enjoying church before. Here in LA we exchange the peace we receive the bread and wine and I hang about post service and have some free food. Not one person speaks me, no one. I don’t look like one of those dirty unwashed that sneak into church for warmth and free food. I like the German am not seeking entertainment. As we poorly attempt to sing the unknown hymns we are all I hope embarrassed by our lack of passion. Our response in the liturgy is void of the conviction that should bring to life the words that offer us and our neighbour an alternative world view. I am disappointed more so because these are my brother and sister Anglicans. I return to Downtown LA on the bus ignored. I wonder how many come to my church and experience something similar? I sit on the bus wondering did I not have enough faith.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


Today we drove down from Monterey to The Big Sur, it is the first Sunday of my sabbatical I have not gone church.
We spend some of the afternoon on the beach and the experience is truly beautiful. The sandy floor is the on the edge between clear blue sky inland and the fog coming of the pacific and on the shore are waves. The waves come and come and come in their different forms rushing with excitement as if they are going somewhere they come with purpose as if they hold an appointment with someone or something. The big waves come to the show like large teenagers running towards daddies’ car to be loaned. The smaller ones like children running to the ice cream van eager for reward. Then come those waves that slowly edge their way across the sand when they arrive they hardly cover your feet they are like old people make less noise happy the stroll not in need of excitement.
But the waves come in all their forms. And they have come to the sand dependable since before time. Before the plane, the car, before the highway and all that brought us to this point, theses wave have come. Before empire before electric before kings and queens they came and the big ones have always been excited about their arrival. Each wave comes different from the other but performing the same task, each wave individual but going the same way. Repetition and beauty are not often found in other places. Repetition and beauty are a rare marriage. I presume for those of us who are pursuing a spiritual journey that includes the liturgy of words we need to be open to the beauty of repetition.

just out of reach

It was a late Monday night and we were exiting the Westfield shopping complex the sky was Disneyesqu in its colour, in front of us was a man with a paper cup. Ok so some of you are a little pissed with angle I am taking. My brother has text me to say he is having to get some therapy because I am depressing him.
So what has changed since one me has become 2 well. We have also been doing the married things we usually do on holidays. Does this ring any bells with you? looking at supermarkets to see what the locals buy. We also go looking at estate agents to buy houses we will never live in and can’t afford. So we take the hire car to Moteray to go the Big Sur, but I have to own up to a lie. I promised myself at home to hire, a Ford Mustang (red if possible) with no hoffing roof. I get to the hire shop and say, like a man of 50 something with no vision, do you have a compact? I look round to see who would book such a car to go down highway 1 in California. There is no one else inline, it’s me. Then the lady behind the counter asks would I like a bigger car for $6 a day extra, I give in and also book a sat nav which is almost as dear as the cheep car. I get into my Toyota something bland and make my way the airport.
So we are looking in estate agents for houses we will never live and cant afford, we are in Pebble Beach it has some sort of Golf course there they are advertising Tiger trees is going to play there. In the local estate agents they have all the photos of houses set in woods this is like pornography for the over 50s. The starting price is $5million so there is this one it has sea views not like Rhyl this is Pacific sea views. The cost $34 million not 3 point 4, but $34. So I am thinking you get house and i presume garage for that, well you would be wrong not even a window its just a building plot for a house $34 feking million. Arn’t you glad sometimes some things are just out of reach.