Telling the Bees

Recently I have been listening a lot to the band Big Big Train – Mr FD introduced me to them – in fact I have their music on continual loop in both cars! Lots of their songs are lovely, but I’m particularly taken with the one called “Telling the Bees”.

It reminds me of the production of “Lark Rise to Candleford” that I was involved in when we lived in Milton Keynes. A wonderful ensemble piece, which included some very talented young actors. Of course, you may also remember the TV series, but our live production was infinitely better!

In the play/book the character Queenie talks to her bees, following the ancient tradition of telling the bees of momentous events in the life of the family. This is especially true of the death of the “master” of the bees, as if they are not told, the bees may go away to find a new home, or alternatively the hive will not thrive. Wikipedia tells the story  of a family who bought a hive of bees at auction from a farmer who had recently died and, because the bees had not been “put into mourning for their late master” they were “sickly, and not likely to thrive.” However, when the new owners tied a “piece of crepe” to a stick and attached it to the hive, the bees soon recovered, an outcome that was “unhesitatingly attributed to their having been put into mourning.”

Charles Napier Hemy’s painting “Telling the Bees”

John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem, “Home Ballads” recounts this custom:

Before them, under the garden wall,
Forward and back
Went, drearily singing, the chore-girl small,
Draping each hive with a shred of black.

Trembling, I listened; the summer sun
Had the chill of snow;
For I knew she was telling the bees of one
Gone on the journey we all must go!

“Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!”

The Big Big Train song is a happier song, telling of the passing of responsibility from father to son, and how the bees were told of family events. The connection between nature and humankind…”the joy is in the telling the sorrow in the soul”…It is a lovely song, and I urge you to listen (video below) You too may find a new band to play on continuous loop!

My mother said ‘Listen, son…
Your father’s gone
Now the time has come
You must tell the bees he gave his life
Drape black cloth over the hives.
‘Now I am the keeper
And the years passed by
Until the day that Jenny caught my eye
I walked over and I asked her for a kiss
Sweet taste of honey on her lips
Telling the bees, telling the bees
As old as these hills and old as the stones
I feel it down to my soul
And the bees were told
On the day we wed
Wild flower garlands
Draped our marriage bed
Now two years on, we have our son
The bees were told and we carry onTelling the bees, telling the beesAs old as these hills and old as the stones
I feel it down to my soul

The joy is in the telling
The sorrow in the soul
Tears of happiness and sadness
Let them flow…

Telling the bees, telling the bees

I have just read this on  the blog The Pool, written by Emily Baker, regarding the attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert on Monday:

There’s nothing more Mancunian than a resilient spirit. Today, our northern souls are aching for those lost, but we will think too of Manchester’s symbol of a bee – a hardworking, community-driven insect with a sting in its tail. It’s no coincidence that bees communicate through dance.

Learning that the bee is the symbol of Manchester, it seems kid of fitting (but also kind of pretentious!) to dedicate this to those who lost their lives and who are injured, or who have lost loved ones.

See the bees onthe globe up at the top!

Rather belatedly, I remember another Bee song by the Manchester band, Elbow – another favourite band. Here it is: Lost Worker Bee, it is called.

I love Elbow. We are sad that we won’t get to see them this year.

“Come be the Queen to my lost worker bee”

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Acts 16, 17 and 18 (2017) – Catching Up on my thoughts.

Goodness me! I’ve slipped behind with my blog posts on 40 Acts – but I think I have reasonable excuses…

Monday I was working all day, and when I got home I did some more cleaning. Then I ate a huge amount of curry and lay on the sofa watching a recording of The Last Leg, and groaning because I’d eaten too much!

Tuesday, I spent the morning preparing lessons for the afternoon, and cleaning. (We do have a big house, and because of my bad back and poorly feet – yes, the dyshydrotic eczema is back. Oh joy! – I can only do a bit at a time.) I also prepared dinner. After my lessons I went to pick up Mr FD at the station. When we got home we had dinner & spent some time together (watching TV!!) I also had another fall,  again due to a dodgy bit of pavement. Nothing as bad as the last one, but I still bashed my knee about a bit. So I felt uninclined to do much – even blogging!

On Wednesday I was out again all day, teaching. I usually go to dance group on Wednesday but due to ongoing foot pain, I didn’t. But I was tired, as Mr FD’s hacking cough (he came back from Germany with a stinking cold) kept me awake for a good part of the night. It also kept him awake, so in the spirit of 40 Acts, I didn’t chide him or get grumpy!

 

But, having made my excuses, what did I make of the Challenges?

Act N° 17: GENERATION

An elderly person sitting alone for days; a new mum on her own with the baby and no one to share the moments and the pressure with; a teenager struggling to make friends. We’re missing out if we only interact with our own generation, and we’re leaving others isolated. Today, generosity steps out of its box as we celebrate the richness of mixing with different generations with simple acts of presence, conversation, and touch.

I remember Kezzie making a comment on last year’s similar Act, saying how boring she thought her life would be if she just mixed with people her own age. I can understand that, but I do have to say that I don’t have a largely age differentiated group of friends… From the “older” generation there is my mum – I could have phoned her, but she is away with my sister, in Berlin and Riga. Judy (my sister) posted on FB “Mum tells us that at her age it is recommended that she walks between 4 and 6 miles a week. We have made her walk 36 miles this week but there don’t appear to have been any ill effects.” Obviously my mum is in better foot-health than me! I don’t think I could walk 1 mile at the moment!!

Here is mum in Riga’s Art Nouveau museum, where apparently one can try on hats from the era. I think she looks rather dashing!

I am a tad stumped on this one, but perhaps God will push me at another time. Maybe I could take some chocolates up to the Maison de Retraite to be shared with the residents there. I will think about it.

ACT 18: PRAY

Prayer works best when we don’t think of it as a task. We don’t have to pray – we get to pray. When we understand that prayer’s a good gift from our generous Father, who’s keen to talk with us, prayer isn’t another rod on our backs, but a joy. We can be creative with how we talk to God.

Excuse me while I squirm uncomfortably.

Prayer time has always been a struggle for me – I try to find a time that “suits”; I try to find resources that inspire; I choose lovely notebooks to encourage me to write “thoughts”; I try to focus, and pray meaningfully – but every time I fail. I manage for a few days, weeks, even months – I think 3 months was my record – but it falls by the wayside because…because why? I don’t know. It is a slog, it is not a pleasure; it feels useless, dry, a waste of time…my mind wanders, I think about what we’re having for dinner…I’m not inspired…the words are trite, or so vague as to be meaningless…or, worse, forced. And I am not sure I believe that intercessionary prayer has any tangible results anyway.

So this challenge has been a challenge, and one which I have unobtrusively brushed under the carpet. If it’s right, I am sure that God will be prodding me on this front too.

ACT 19: ON TIME

What does being on time have to do with generosity? A whole heap more than you’d think. Keeping others waiting starts with a belief – however buried – that our time is worth more than theirs. We can become expert in finding reasons why our lateness is justified but do we consider the impact it has? Time to consider the generosity of punctuality. Challenging a lifestyle of lateness is a simple way to start being generous in unexpected ways. Rally yourself up to the task of being on time.

This – again – has me stumped, simply because I am generally on time. I strive to be on time for things, and feel bad if I am late. I think, as last year, this is a reminder not to get annoyed with people who are late. Our friend Gerome is an inveterate late-comer; not, I think, because he doesn’t value us, but because he spends time getting ready – perhaps because he does value us! I won’t get stressed about it. I will accept that is how it is, and be thankful for his company when it finally arrives!

Although it is suggested one might turn up early, (How about being early? Send what you need to send before the deadline, arrive early to greet your colleagues before work today, arrive early to catch friends when you hang out with them. And so on. ) I think we need to treat that suggestion with caution, and sensitivity. It depends on the event, on the people you are meeting etc. There’s no point me turning up early for lessons, for example, simply because my students won’t be ready for me! And if one turns up early at people’s houses you could cause chaos, by catching them still unprepared. So maybe be cautious there.

…and then there’s today’s Act.

On a day when we are considering yesterday’s events in London, when a man ploughed his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, before crashing into the barrier at Parliament, knifing and killing an unarmed police officer and then attacking other officers. He was shot and killed himself. A terrorist attack on what is being called “the heart of our democracy”.

So here I am, more than a little shocked by, but inspired by the swift response and inspiring message that 40 Acts provided. It is up to us to provide love, generosity and goodness in our part of the world.

I will put it in another post.

Act N°15 (2017): Influence & N°16: Beyond

Hello everyone. This is a catch up of the last two days’ Acts.

ACT 15: INFLUENCE

The prompt reads: We all have influence, even if we’re not aware of it. It’s not something reserved for limelight seekers. Influence is simply the impact we have on others that changes how they feel or act. Think about the areas of your life where you have a voice that’s listened to. You might be naturally sociable and have a wide network of friends, or have a close group of those who trust you. Wherever your influence is, use it wisely and generously today.

And the challenges were:

Not sure you have much influence in other people’s lives? Think about who you interact with on a daily, or weekly basis. How do you behave around them or on social media? Are there things you need to change? Could you make more of a conscious effort to engage with others more meaningfully?

It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of large scale injustice or to switch off when it comes to national or international events. But you have influence that reaches much further than just those in your day-to-day. Take stock of what you feel passionate about. Can you write a letter, add your name to a campaign, share something on social media? Don’t file it away for later – do it now.

If you really want to go all out, publicise your cause/charity with an event. It may not happen today or this week, but you can get the ball rolling with inviting a speaker, and researching a venue. Make a big noise, and create some community memories to boot.

And you can read the whole meditation over here

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I didn’t really have time to think about this yesterday, and even now, having given it a bit of thought, I am not sure quite what to make of it. I am aware of the influence I have – especially as a Lay Reader/Worship Leader and a teacher, and as a blogger – but I’m not quite sure about what that might mean in terms of interaction…I may need to unpack that a little more.

However, I have discovered that I am eligible to sign online petitions (or so it seems) with Amnestry International. When we moved to France AI told me I could no longer be a member of AI UK, & would have to join the French AI…which I never did. However, following a link from FB, I discovered several online petitions I could sign. So I did.

The other thing worth thinking about is the crowdfunding project for today. The “blurb” reads:16 million people in East Africa are on the brink of starvation and urgently need food, water and medical treatment. Today, we can all influence how this story unfolds.

The Disasters Emergency Committee launched their East African Crisis appeal on Wednesday. Their member charities are already delivering life-saving assistance in all affected countries. But, they need more money to help reduce the scale and severity of the crisis. When disaster strikes, Stewardship givers are often some of the first to respond.

Yes, I will donate here too. This is the influence that I have.

ACT 16: BEYOND

The prompt today read: Jesus didn’t settle for ‘just enough’ or the wine at the wedding would have been drinkable rather than top quality. So today, scale it up! Don’t measure out the generosity – go large.

The challenges were:

Has someone done you a good turn lately? Go out of your way to thank them with an extra twist of appreciation. Tell someone what a great job they’re doing – just because. Your turn for the washing up? Do the drying up too.

What does today hold for you? Watch out for generous opportunities and then knock it out the park for good measure. Find a way to bless someone over and above.

What’s the most extravagant present you’ve ever been given? If you went the whole hog, no expense spared, what similar thing could you do today for someone you know? This doesn’t have to be financial – use your imagination to be extravagant – but think creatively with whatever resources you have.

You can read the whole mediation over here.

So – what did I get up to?

Well, here’s a clue:

Mr FD is in Germany at the moment, celebrating his Uncle’s 85th Birthday. This past week, despite not working, and saying he’d do some cleaning  Mr FD didn’t, and the house has been looking a bit yucky, so I had been planning to do the cleaning today. But, oh, boy, was I resentful about it…?! Grumble, grumble, he should do it, it’s not fair etc.

But, with this challenge in mind, and Rend Collective on the CD player, I found that my mood changed and lifted. Instead of being grumpy, and thinking “Mr FD should be doing this” I became glad to be doing it so that he wouldn’t have to. (I do hope he notices & says thank you, though!!) I also did more than I’d been planning to do. It had been going to be a lick and a promise… (…that Mr FD would bloody well do it when he got home) but in fact I got right down to it. Three Rend Collective CDs later, the big downstairs room, the kitchen, dining room and sitting room are clean & tidy, and the first staircase cleared of fluff. Oh boy, the fluff!!!

Tomorrow I’ll be doing the second staircase, the landing, the cat trays and the bedroom & study. But my back is really rather painful, so I can’t do anymore now. Hot water bottle and a painkiller are – I hope! – working their magic.

I also want to thank M. Khodri, at ILS, for helping me feel a lot less panic stricken about a piece of bureaucracy and a nasty form to fill in. He was very kind, and helpful. I’m not sure what I can do – probably I will write a Thank You card – but I really appreciate what he did.

More crafting…

I mentioned in the last-post-but-one about Clare asking me for some Sorry-You’re-Dead cards.

Here they are:

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The square at the top is a hole cut into the front of the card, with a strip of the same paper inside. The papers are from a swap or giveaway some time ago, but being sombre colours, with a bright splash, they are perfect for this type of card.

img_0024Another using the same batch of papers, and a black ribbon.

img_0026This one uses up some scraps in diagonal/ triangular formation.

I have been making LOTS of Thanksgiving and Christmas cards that I hope to sell at the Munich Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe – I’m there this weekend. I want to raise money for Phone Credits for Refugees so if I sell them all at 2,50€ (at least!) I should make about 100€.

This charity is a lifeline, especially for the unaccompanied minors living in the refugee camps:

For unaccompanied minors, the group (Phone Credit For Refugees…) is often the only safety net they have. During the demolition of half of Calais refugee camp in March, volunteers tried to make sure every child on their own had a topped-up phone, with numbers of people they could call. During the chaos, 129 children went missing and volunteers reported that people traffickers were hanging around the edges of the camp for a week afterwards, explains James. ‘It’s really frightening and phone credit is a massively inadequate response, but it is something’.

Ahmed, a 7-year-old boy from Afghanistan, is now famous for texting for help when the lorry he was in with 15 other people ran out of oxygen after it reached the UK. Lesser known is that this Facebook group bought credit for him the week before, enabling him to send his urgent message. ‘For him it was life or death’, says James. ‘I think it is for many actually’. “

Here are some of the cards:

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These two use a copied piece of ZIA that I did, and then copied many times. I have used these to make cards, all of which are different, with different “bling” on them, but all featuring “Joy to the World”

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These two (and others like them) use a decoupage set I bought in NOZ for about 1,50€. I blinged them up with some sticky gold borders.

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Finally, I did a couple of quick bits of calligraphy using these words, to make some other simple cards. I’m pleased with them all. I hope people will buy them. It’s certainly hard to get hold of Thanksgiving cards here in France – and many of the people at Convocation will be American – and also Christmas cards, although becoming more popular, are still not very common,as it is more “Fetes de la Fin d’Année” than Christmas.

What can we say?

Another attack on innocent people – men, women, children, Christian, Muslim, atheist, – the world pours out its sympathy, with messages of support all over Facebook, news reports unpicking every detail and examining all the facts.

Yes, it is terrible. And it is, it appears, the world we live in now.

But I honestly can’t help thinking, where were the minute-by-minute updates on the recent bomb attacks in Baghdad, for example?  Is it because this occurred in Europe? Because it brings it one step closer to home? I don’t know. But maybe now is not the time to ask the questions.

It is the time to pray for this world, for those who want to bring discord, hatred, suspicion, death and destruction. And to pray for those who want to counter that with love. Pray for Love.

Pray for Paris…and the world.

I’m sure there are none of you who are not aware of the terrible events of Friday night in Paris.

I didn’t want to let the moment pass without making a comment – but had no idea what to say. However another blogger – a young lady who I met in Paris, at the Convention – has managed to say, simply, but rather well, what I am feeling. I direct you to Naomi’s blog post We Will Be the Hopeful.

I commented on the post to say: You are right, I think, that the terrorists want to do what their name suggests: spread terror. But if we can be the hopeful – offering hope, peace, faith & love – in a world that is full of fear, war,and hatred then we are following the path that Christ first showed us. We know that Life has conquered Death: we now need to go out and live this knowledge.

But among all the justified “Pray for Paris” FB posts there was another that rang true for me:

Every human death diminishes us a little: as John Donne wrote: Any (hu)man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind

I know that this seems more horrific because it is so close to home – Beirut is a continent away (and, anyway, they’re used to it!) (irony alert!) but ANY human death caused by another’s hatred or lust for power is a terrible event, and we must remember this.