Sunday, 25 November 2012

12-12-12 Plan Your Own Funeral. Manchester.

As part of Michael Mayhew's Humanity Festival in Manchester on 12 December  2012 we are facilitating a workshop  to Plan Your Own Funeral. Manchester Museum 2.30-4-30pm.
40 places only. £8.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

JOHN FOX DIARY. The Downpour.

Today in a brief interval between rains,we have been building a levee. Only a little one but sufficient to divert the rain water river pouring down our lane from flooding the Beach and out to sea. Needs must. The land slide from the hedge, which was blocking the lane, had to be cleared. So 20 wheelbarrows later we have a clay and stone dam. Eventually Bernard our farmer, the boss  of the disappearing hedge, appeared with a massive bucket loader tractor and usefully removed the 200 or so wheelbarrow loads which remained.

I shovelled soil with Trevor our neighbour. He has a property in Florida. Just down the road from him in the USA are shanty towns. Sounds like the ones in the film "Beasts of the Southern Wild."  To reduce the rising water levels, in the film, stranded hut dwellers bomb the dominant corporate levee with a crocodile skin stuffed with dynamite. Maybe they were premature. As Bob Dylan sings "If it keeps on raining the levee's gonna break" ( anyway).  In comparison with those huge (post Katrina) global shiftings our domestic efforts at Baycliff are of course a mere piddle in the big ocean of it all. We are so lucky. But this downpour does provides a salutary focus.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Weather Eye.

Any climate change deniers left out there should read this week's New Scientist  (17th November 2012). The evidence is coming down our lane. For twelve hours rain has been pelting on our roof.  Swinestead Lane is churning with frothy brown vinegar and the beach below is submerged under half an acre of quagmire. We can't drive out because the hedge on the side of the lane has slid down in a two ton thump of mud. Need to get a digger in.

A change  though to be talking to neighbours and listening to flood warnings on local radio while the big news is about bomb blasts in far away places.

And on yesterday's delayed trains as we escaped from water locked Taunton jam packed carriages buzzed with jolly conversations. Our companion, a submarine engineer from Barrow in Furness had spent  months under the Arctic icecap, responsible for the hundreds of valves controlling air and water purification for 100 men. When he was 5 his dad and older brother died climbing on Mt Blanc.

Monday, 19 November 2012

They are coming from the far north ...

Signing up is going well.

They will be coming from the far north of Scotland, from Somerset, from London
and all points between, beating a path to Ulverston for the Rites of Passage
Midsummer workshop.  

Only 7 places left  ...... 

Mid Monday morning in Barrow in Furness. Its raining and cold outside but warm and cosy inside Signal Films HQ where we are doing IT training. All this  echoes with blasts from the past. Hence the Queen Victoria hoarding illustration which was originally located  outside the then Vickers Shipyard for our Town Hall Tattoo 25 years ago, when we (Welfare State International) were maintaining a seven year residency in the town. Then Signal Films didn't exist and there was very little Arts  provision of any kind. Fortunately Arts facilities have increased. Signal Films are in a nicely converted building next to the equally nicely refurbished Duke of Edinburgh on Abbey Road . All feels positive despite the November rain. Signal Films are a dynamic outfit and they have piles of excellent chocolate biscuits.
And we can blog this to the whole world for what  it is worth!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

 MIDSUMMER SCHOOL 21-24 June 2013 


Learn more about the process of creating secular 
ceremonies to mark milestones in our lives

Another booking today - only 8 places left ......   www. 


Sue Gill                         ONE LAST TIME

The last time I saw Lol Coxhill a sax player we had worked with for years in the 1970's and 80's, he was part of The Dedication Orchestra, a mighty jazz band on stage at Kendal Brewery Arts Centre. Despite his track record as an improvising genius, he secretly confessed to us in the interval his fear of getting 'found out' because he was not so good at sight reading a score as some of the other legendary players. His twinkly secret added a delight to the 2nd half. 

We were not to know that this would be the last time we'd see Lol. A few years later, after 8 ghastly months in hospital, he died just before his 80th birthday. We only heard the news of his illness a couple of weeks before his death. We never visited. 

Another legend, Ritsaert Ten Cate, founder of The Mickery in Amsterdam, international elder to the performing arts movement, was given a diagnosis of a terminal illness. The news prompted countless friends, disciples, colleagues to ask his partner if they could see him one last time. 'But you have seen him one last time' was her firm reply. He was clear about how he wished to navigate his last journey. In solitude he made a sculptural shrine/ark, filmed himself reducing it to ashes and posted it on YouTube as his last public artwork. 

What is our impulse when we make these requests for a last visit? To say those things we have never said - how much this person has meant to me, taught me? To share memories? To say goodbye? Or is it rather to calm our own fears of death by seeking comfort from the dying person that we will manage without them? To take inspiration from how they are coping with dying? 

If we do not make it to the deathbed, how do we respond to the news that our friend has died? Guilt usually. Regret? Relief? Surely any half decent friend would want to make one last visit.

The understanding comes all of a sudden. Memories of times together become all the stronger because now they carry the status of the last time, never to be repeated.  In a recent secular funeral I lead, I used an adapted quote from Brian Patten's poem   'So Many Different Lengths of Time' : 

A woman lives for as long as we carry her inside us, 
for as long as we carry the harvest of her dreams,
for as long as we ourselves live,
holding memories in common, a woman lives.  

The question is: how do we make out farewells, or, does the nature of a farewell make us the person we are?  Make us better able to cope the next time the phone rings and our world has shrunk another bit smaller.     

Last times came up in our Rites of Passage Autumn School last month. There, a couple of participants brought to mind personal 'last times' that they only became aware of with hindsight - last time breastfeeding a small daughter who decided of her own accord she was no longer interested, last time reading bedtime stories to children as part of family rituals. A door closes behind us. Intimations of our own mortality. First times come up too, in our enquiry into rites of passage. These are usually much more juicy!   
A rare sight these days. A white Yacht has just crossed back and forth across the Bay. Once there would have been a constant flow of similar small ships, the white vans of their day, ferrying goods to villages before the Coast Road came to pass. Shrimpers too, before horses, carts and then tractors took over the fishing.  If you look in St Cuthberts Church at Aldingham  on a back right hand pew you will find two small graffti penknife- carved boats accurately scratched by bored children. Great how the scratchings of yesterday become the valued souvenirs of today.

Blogging from the Beach at Baycliff. The next tide always carries some washed up thing. On Friday came a sheep already  bloated. Now bruised black, with ochre ravines  and frothing with maggots. Always a handy maggot under the surface. A serious deterrent to dogwalkers and their spaniels who in the presence of a smelly carcass are suddenly given to cuddling each other.

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