Getting into the spirit of things

Art, G.A. Studdert Kennedy, Photography, poetry, Politics, st andrews, The Unutterable Beauty, Theology


I was at my second Residential Study Week at the University of St Andrews for my PGDip/MLitt. in ‘Bible and the Contemporary World‘ this week. This module is entitled ‘Theology, Art and Politics’, which is essentially studying how these three fields are interconnected – how theology affects which paintings are painted, the interplay between faith and the state, how political ideas are expressed in art, etc. I’m quite excited about what I’m going to learn. Although I’ve never really been that interested in politics, I think I have an aesthetic eye and a discerning ear and the ability to apply theology to various contexts.

Quite coincidentally, I found that during the week I managed to immerse myself in the topic extremely well – in two ways.

First, I finally put the generous voucher I received when leaving OCC to good use in purchasing an Olympus E410 digital camera. (I also managed to wangle a free £30 memory card too). As you can see from my Facebook photo album here I found the worlds of art, theology and politics mix very nicely. (I aim to open a Flickr account or similar soon.)

Second, I happened to notice a bunch of books that the university library was selling off cheap and picked up a treasure trove of 2 books on the relation of church and state (which will be excellent for my first essay), both for £1, and my new favourite book of poetry, The Rhymes of G.A. Studdert Kennedy.

If you’ve never heard of Kennedy, he was a Rev., a Padre serving in the First World War. Many of his poems have a war context, but all combine the expression of a genuine searching, wrestling, questioning Christian faith with the realities of human life. This is surely where Kennedy’s real genius lay during the war – his poems would have helped his fellow soldiers to reflect on the horrors they were facing whilst allowing them to contemplate Christ’s sympathising with their situation.

If you’ve never read his stuff, an online copy of the book I bought (and have already finished), published under the title The Unutterable Beauty, can be found here.

I recommend these for some of his best work (click on the titles:

Faith / Indifference /A Sermon / The Sorrow of God / Thy Will be Done


Paperback writer

Christmas, poetry


Yesterday I got a letter from myself. About a month ago I’d been on a writing course in the Lake District and we were asked to write down our goals for our writing and seal them in a self-addressed envelope. This envelope would then be posted a month later.

This is what I wrote to myself.

…I want you to start writing properly – and blocking in time for writing. If you’re buying an iMac you need to make the most of it.

I’d like you to start writing the following:

  • a short story
  • structure and initial chapter for your first novel
  • poems – 2
  • a song

I’d like you to have finished these tasks by 31 December 2008.

Ambitious/idealistic as always. BUT – the amazing thing is that I am already on the way to completing my goals by the deadline. I’ve bought my iMac and I’ve already structured my novel and run the plot past a couple of people I know.

Anyway, this poem ISN’T one of the two I need to write – it’s an older one I wrote in December 2004 for my small group. But I’ve revised it and really like it myself and thought you might like to read it. (Click on it if it’s too small to read comfortably)

Christmas Poem

If you like my writing, please (1) comment on it and (2) ask me whether I’m meeting these goals. I really want to improve!






Tell Me the Truth About Love

love, poem, poetry, truth, tube, W. H. Auden


Saw this excerpt from W.H. Auden on the Tube yesterday. Thought it was good enough to share.  It’s in Collected Poems, Revised edition (2007).

 When it comes, will it come without warning

Just as I’m picking my nose?

Will it knock on my door in the morning

Or tread in the bus on my toes?

Will it come like a change in the weather?

Will its greeting be courteous or rough?

Will it alter my life altogether?

O tell me the truth about love.

Arithmetic Progression

bogies, Chai Tea Latte, cotton buds, excitement, hope, introspection, journeying, London, morden, oyster, poem, poetry, thinking, travelling, tube, wandering


Today was a good day. In fact, Sunday was a good day too.

On Sunday, I woke up late because I’d gone to the Camel and Artichoke. I’d travelled with my sister. There’d been good food, live music, old friends. I plumbed my memory for trivia. There had been free books on a shelf. Shelves, even.

Sunday morning I ate some fruit and fibre and walked into town conversing with God about my life. I stopped at Caffe Nero and read a chapter of my book interspersed with tai chi latte and 2 cups of free iced water. I couldn’t get the song Samson out of my head. I bought the ingredients for a thai green curry to cook later for my family and relished the sensation of weight on my hands as I carried them home.

Last night me and Russ worked late on a study guide and I was pleasantly surprised by the japanese sushi and soy beef meze I’d ordered. When we finished I had that soul-cockle-warming feeling of having completed something. When I got back ‘home’ I chatted with my aunt about church and hospitality and how you can’t really be the first without doing the second.

This morning I paid in a hefty cheque. A woman came in effing and blinding full volume at some unseen aggravator through her mobile. It annoyed others but made me feel somewhere within the realms of ‘home’ and ‘real’. I went through the diary of the next 3 months and it looked pleasnatly like my workload would arrive somewhere between intensity and shalom. I made teas for everybody and enjoyed the 3 minute wait that necessitates a perfect brew. I was offered the opportunity of going on a writing course, which I took up.

I headed into Mordor for lunch and took some time to explore. I ordered a pizza and headed off to buy my last Empire in a while from Sainsbury’s. The girl at the till asked me as a matter of habit whether I wanted help packing then laughed at herself. She asked me what my excuse for not smiling was and I said I was thinking and she said I should smile instead. I wondered whether if everyone smiled instead of thinking the world would be a better or worse place.

A woman outside held out a flyer asking whether I wanted to volunteer. I declinined as a matter of habit but went back when the words sunk in. I walked past a fruit and veg store and mentally noted to buy my greens and roots there rather than Sainsbury’s. I returned to the pizza parlour, ate at the table and thanked the owner for a great meal. He smiled.

I headed off to the Big Smoke with my oyster and met some Manchester friends in Borders on Oxford Street for coffee or not. I pegged it over to the Barbican centre to check it out and watch a film.

I’ve thought a lot these last few days.

I’ve chatted about god and church and life.

I’ve seen or talked to some old friends, some good friends and made some new ones.

I’ve been given lots of new opportunities.

I feel independent and excited about life and its inherent possibilities and adventures.

I feel an excitement I’ve not felt in a very long time.

I had a dream about holding a lover’s hand and it felt more real and exiciting a propsect than any of those ‘other’ kinds of fantasies that pop into my and other people’s heads.

I feel good; I feel loved; I feel just as disorganised and last-minute as I always have been, but I don’t care. I just wanna get on with living life and trust that some of this hopeful excitement might splash off and colour some other travellers and troubadours along the way too. I wanna grow my hair as long as it will go and feel wild and raw and manly and kingly in the process. I wanna treat women like princesses. I wanna treat the older travellers I meet as precious works of art, helping to mend them where they’ve torn and restore them where they’ve worn. I want to light the young people I meet in a way that highlights their victories and waters their scorched roots. I wanna see the kingdom coming in real physical ways and not just in anecdotes. I wanna see the King in ways that make me go Wow again.

And as I write these words, sitting on the Northern Line going south, I turn my head to look down the almost empty carriage and see two used cotton buds lying side by side on the polished, speckled floor and marvel at the nerve someone had to clean their ears out on a tube and then leave their waxy treasure there. I want that nerve. And then I look left to the seat beside me and decide to explore the empty cigarette packet. Someone has blown their nose on a piece of kitchen roll and folded it neatly before pushing it into the empty packet. That nerve I just wanted made me unfold someone’s bogies. 

I don’t wanna lose that nerve.