Weekly blog club: Something for Santa

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This is what we left out for Santa on Christmas Eve at my parents house.

Milk (for Santa) with a jam tart. Bowl of water & a carrot for Comet the reindeer.

It’s really lovely to be discharging my Uncley duties in helping create a teeny tiny bit of Christmas theatre/magic for my nephew and niece. They’re both at an age where it’s still ok to believe & it’s lots of fun to be part of that.

It’s also nice to be introducing them to Christmas traditions of my own. A little bit of a Christmas Carol, the poem the night before Christmas. For me Christmas is as much a spoken word festival as it is a celebration of consumerism & food. Scary stories, poetry, nostalgic trips down memory lane where we all remember that time when…

And as a Christian calling Christmas a spoken word festival reminds me of the opening words from one of the Gospels: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

So, Merry Christmas and God bless us every one.

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Advent 24: The Furnaces and the Squatter Cottage

The historical bit of the Advent Challenge has been the most difficult. Raw facts and information are difficult for me to process, I need a story to hang the context on, I need an experience to hook me in.

Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust prepared an archaeological and historical commentary on the Lightmoor Development in 1991. The full document can be found here.

Two bits leapt our at me regarding one about the furnaces and another bit about the Squatter Cottage.

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Benjitales Chapter 6: Joshua

Joshua dies. I tell this particular part of the story to illustrate that justice in the city is as swift as it can be brutal.

How do you break out of a well guarded city when there’s an angel at the center of the city who can see everything as it happens? Joshua didn’t speak of his plans to anyone knowing that once the plans were given words they’d be knowable by the Angel. The plan would have to be written down but disguised enough to obscure it. Also those taking part in the escape would have to be unaware they were taking part in an escape.

Joshua communicated his plan by writing a series of stories for children on parchment. The first story concerned a snake trapped in a pit that burrowed his way through the earth. The second story was about a bright red fish that couldn’t remember anything. The third story concerned how a troop of monkeys observed humans floating their dead by wrapping them in muslin and floating them down the river and started copying them. The final story was about a small mouse that slept for a few days and awoke in a new land. The stories were illustrated, bound and sold by merchants across the city.

Joshua was able to talk in half understood conversations with his small group of conspirators. Evie’s mother understood enough of her conversation with Joshua to know she needed to pack lightly.

Joshua had prepared a second group of conspirators, these were the forgetful red fish. They were ready to spread out across the city and engage in activity. Busy group forming activities. Joshua had a notion that this would busy the Recording Angel and the small group of conspirators would float out of the city unnoticed.

No one knows if The Process noticed first or the Recording Angel picked up a stray conversation. There were armed guards were waiting as each drugged sleeping escapee floated on a small reed raft under the walls & out of the city.

A court was hastily convened. Pleas were heard, confessions extracted by The Process. Evie was taken away from her mother & was locked in a circular room somewhere in the tall tower.

Joshua was made an example of. Citizens would not quickly forget this attempt to subvert The Process. His death didn’t weigh heavily on an immortal angel or the clockwork children of The Process.

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Advent 23: Lightmoor Bricks.

Looking into the history of Lightmoor has been a fascination for me since moving to the village. It’s been nice as I mention to friends locations around where I live and their faces light up with recognition. It’s usually that they studied the Industrial Revolution at school and the place names rekindle little gems of knowledge. (And let’s end this silliness, Ironbridge is the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Not Gornal, not Dudley, not Birmingham but Ironbridge. End of.)

Jon (who set the terms of the Advent Challenge) particularly wanted bit of history about Lightmoor. I also think he was hoping there’d be something about Lightmoor Bricks in this set of 5 blog posts. Well, Jon, just for you…

At the risk of sounding like a GCSE History Exam paper the Industrial Revolution happened where it happened because of a series of quirks that created just the right set of circumstances. Geology, topography and a spark of entrepreneurism. The glacial boulder clay, coal, ironstone and sand deposited in the Gorge have been used to make iron, bricks and tiles in the area for generations.

The tiles and bricks made in the area are sought out the world over. Michael Portillo made a train journey through Telford and stopped off in Ironbridge to make a tile the traditional way. The Ironbridge Tiles are used in the Houses of Parliament.

Lightmoor Bricks have been used all over the area. In creating Lightmoor Village BVT resurrected the Lightmoor Brick design and added their own bit of flair to it. People that had bought their houses off plan could add the brick to their house for a little extra cost. I’ve not looked too closely but I’m not sure if any of the new houses used the design.

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Benjitales Chapter 5: Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy is old, some children joke that Deuteronomy is as old as some of the older parts of the city. Deuteronomy hasn’t spoken in years. Some say this is due to a vow of silence. Some of the crueler children joke that a prophecy from Deuteronomy angered a previous monarch and they removed his tongue. Deuteronomy looks every inch the angry prophet, grizzled face, grey beard and balding head.

Old Deuteronomy collects dreams, visions, prophecies, stories, gossip and any related fragments. He has an elaborate classification system, different colour thread criss cross the shelves and onto the floor.

Deuteronomy rises early in the morning and writes down his own dreams in his ledger and replaces the red thread that links his dream to the gossip from a passing trader about a King ten years ago, threads a blue flecked with silver through the edge of the page he has written on and ties that to a wicker basket half full of sea shells. Deuteronomy casts his gaze across the shelves and tries to discern a pattern, an increase of woolen threads there and an introduction of grey feathers over there.

The door to Deuteronomy’s house is never locked and residents let themselves in to pass a tidbit of information, a fragment of a dream, a bawdy joke. The only signal that Deuteronomy offers to dismiss you from his presence is two methodical strokes of his shaggy grey beard.

Deuteronomy has slowly been circling two or three dream images. First: A pair of hands roughly hold slender wrists onto the arms of a wooden chair.

Second: Two black blades sharpen against one another.

Third: A locked wooden door (Deuteronomy is certain the door is locked) in the base of a tall wall in a garden. A dark sense of foreboding pervades despite the garden setting.

The Recording Angel, Eremiel, notes the three dream images of Deuteronomy in his ledger, cracks his knuckles and mutters “well, well” to himself.

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Advent 22: Christmas in Lightmoor

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Lightmoor Village 01 (Photo credit: Kevin Hodgson)

My love for Christmas is well documented (ignore the things that my workmates may tell you). It’s important for communities to mark seasonal moments together. In Lightmoor one of these important seasonal celebratory moments happened recently. It was the second Lightmoor Christmas Lights Switch On and Bring and Share Feast. As Lightmoor is still young compared to its big sister community in Bournville I sometimes get the feeling that if you do something more than twice, boom, you’ve created a tradition. Yes, other communities have Christmas Lights Switch On events and, yes, other communities gather together and feed themselves but last Christmas there was such a special feeling at the event. (I think there’s something profound when communities gather together, look out for one another and break bread together. It’s a wonderful, beautiful thing)

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Advent 21: Lightmoor Book Club

I’m really proud of Lightmoor Book Club. It grew out of a conversation between three Lightmoor residents on twitter (Me, Sharon and Jake).

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Advent 20: Obama

Having followed the Republican primaries through the year & picked over swing states, polling data & position points I decided I would stay up all night & watch the results roll in.
I booked the following day off work. I bought in sweets, snacks & treats.

I had the TV on mute on CNN & would switch to the BBC coverage every so often, the laptop had MSNBC & twitter running in different windows. I was my own little media centre. I had even been supplied a colour in sheet for the state by state results. I had red & blue colouring pens.

I vividly remember from the 2008 election night watching Gore Vidal get grumpy with David Dimbleby. It was electrifying. This election night didn’t have anything like that. The closest we got to that was Karl Rove refusing to believe that Obama had won the election on Fox News. (It’s a beautiful moment if you’ve not seen it)

I was pleased Obama won, I wasn’t a weepy hope filled mess like I was in 2008. My first feeling was “Thank goodness, now I can go to bed”. He’s got a mandate & he can get on with governing.

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Advent 19: Lympics

I can’t hope to encapsulate the whole of the Jubilympics in one post and I don’t intend to. I don’t even intend to deconstructe the whole of the Opening Ceremony. Just one tiny  piece that made me bawl and still has the capacity to stir my soul if I think about it too closely.

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Advent 18: Jubilee!

As soon as you mumble the word Jubilee at me I get the rest of the line from a Eden Burning track in my head. The whole line is: Jubilee good news for the poor, the acceptable year of The Lord.

The Jubilee year is the year at the end of seven cycles of shmita (Sabbatical years), and according to Biblical regulations had a special impact on the ownership and management of land in the Land of Israel.

“This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families. ”
—Leviticus 25:10

(Would you look at that, quoting Leviticus and everything)

Jubilee really did mean good news for the poor, it was about relief from debt, freedom for slaves… Concepts I could really get behind this year (or any year for that matter).

I know that the Queen’s jubilee wasn’t anything to do with Biblical jubilee but what if it were? What if the Queen had come out onto the balcony of Buck Palace & forgiven the debts of countries or instructed David Cameron to forgive debt or free people. That would have been remarkable.

As it was we got Gary Barlow toadying up & getting an OBE for organising a concert & writing a song. 😦

Lightmoor had a wonderful community centred celebration event. Community groups had tables, local businesses sold stuff & everyone was invited. It was a great event.

Here’s a link to the photos, video & audio made on the day. The weekend after was a total washout for the official events. Our village event was a glorious day.

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Advent 17: A one man crime wave

Yeah, I know, a slightly misleading post title… I’m not quite a one man crime wave but rather this year has been a difficult year for dealing with a number of homophobic hate crimes in various guises. (This post also poses the challenge of writing specifically enough about what happened without pointing the finger, encouraging more attacks or naming names)

Every time something happened I have reported it to the police, to their credit West Mercia Police have been swift in responding & taking detail & approaching individuals involved (where that has been possible). I’ve never not felt supported by them. Also the community in Horsehay & Lightmoor has been brilliantly supportive both online & offline. It’s that kindness both visible & on a very personal private level that encourages me to never hide my sexuality, never give in to bigots & keep my head held high.

I’ve worked alongside the Youth Group in Lightmoor to tackle broader issues of diversity & understanding. They have a great DVD resource that shows people that have experienced hate crime talking about the impact of bullying/attacks on their lives. Not every person from a stream of diversity may feel confident enough to stand up & share their story over & over again with strangers. (Reopening wounds as they heal might not be productive) This DVD allows a story to be shared, aired & discussed. I trust those stories shared with the youth group travel with them through life & become something they return to.

It’s the experiences I’ve had this year that drive me to work in my community alongside young and old (& the people in-between) to be a positive force & foster understanding. I can’t ever hope to speak for every gay person ever but I can speak for this gay person & I’ll keep speaking up as long as I have breath in my lungs & people that will listen to me. It’s why I coordinate Shrewsbury’s Annual Pink Picnic and I’m considering instituting a pink picnic in Telford. (Being against a fun, family friendly picnic makes you look like such a grinch)

Yes, I’ve been a victim of crime on a number of occasions this year but I turn that momentum into positive energy. I’m not saying that’s easy & that it hasn’t been upsetting because it’s not & it has been but each time these things have happened I pick myself up, dust myself down & keep going.

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Advent 16: Trains, Delays and Overcrowding

And now we move into the next set of posts: Significant Events in 2012.

I’m going to try and move through the year in some kind of sequential order but I’m not going to try and address universally significant events. It’ll just be significant events for me.

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