13 January 2009



May the sea be calm for us,
The little waves sing a soft Goodnight for us,
The stars gently light the darkness for us,
The full moon heavy and low above the shadowy horizon
Unroll her soft gold carpet for us,
So that we may walk quietly into the East of the morning.



Let us be quiet in our hearts as is
The still cormorant watching from the sunlit rock,
The tranquil sea fret stealing over the water,
The gentle wave caressing the shingle,
The sea campion motionless in her gown of white.

For these are the mute harbingers of a loving God
And the promise of His peace.

January 2009

May the cruel winds of Winter
be gentled by the promise of Spring.
May the bitter mantle of ice and snow
be warmed by the green shoots of hope.
May the misery of this war's pain and despair
be overcome by the fragile power of love.


11 January 2009


ENVOI: From Grief to Glory
Occasioned by the Death of Oliver Postgate, 8 December 2008

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil

They had long been walking with Death on a bleak and lonely path. At first Death padded behind them, like the Tiger of her childhood nightmare: “Don’t be afraid, I shall not harm you. I am soft and I am warm.” He had spoken then as now in a voice gentle and light, but always the burning breath was on the back of her neck and the jagged edges of toothed shadows were all about them. The Tiger melted away and a tall young man, Death the Companion, saturnine and unsmiling appeared between them. He put their hands into his hands and drew them close together under the cloak he wore. “Come,” he said quietly, “there must be no more delay, the time is almost here. There is nothing left to fear.” But the young man’s voice was like the jangling of slivers of ice in the moonlit wind, and they were afraid. He because it was his longed for time that now was almost come, and she because she could not imagine any future without him.

He looked up and remembered the warmth of her love even in the most terrible times of his illness, and he smiled at her in the abiding pleasure of her company. She watched as he bent again over his stick, head hunched into his shoulders, as painfully he shuffled and stumbled along the stony path. She put out her hand and stroked the greying cheek red blotched with the marks of his sickness, and to her he was as beautiful as the day she had first met this once-upon-a-time giant of a man, vast in intellect, magnificent in spirit.

“How long now?” he whispered to her. “Not long now.” and she took his hand. “I love you.” he said. The young man led them to a flat place from where they could see the valley beyond and the steep banks of a river so vast, with water in such quantity that it might have been fed by all the rivers and the oceans of the world, mighty cataracts and great tidal waves, quiet pools and bubbling mountain streams. Everywhere the myriad droplets leapt and danced, wheeling and plunging across the surface of the eddying waters.

Death the Angel who separates the soul from the body, now stood beside them, above them and all around them. “Why have you brought us here?” she asked. Death shook out his silvered robe and spoke gently: “This is the eternal river which cradles the Universe. From it you both came, and to it this night he is to return.” The clouds suddenly cleared the moon and unrolled a wide glinting pale gold carpet across the waters, stretching far into the shadowy distance. “Follow me now,” invited Death, “and ride the waters into eternity.” Death led him to the edge of the shining path and together they walked towards the depths of the shimmering waves. She watched him go and marvelled as all his anguish and depression, his anger and confusion, all seemed to fall away from him. He dropped his stick; straight backed and laughing, he plunged into the river and she could see him no longer. A tiny droplet flashed white diamond bright high above the dancing waters, and she smiled.

“I told you sixty years ago,” said the Tiger standing beside her, “that I would not harm you.” She leaned silently against him and stroked his soft flank. And the Tiger, who was Death the Merciful, purred gently with a quiet pleasure.



All shall be ruled by fellowship I say,
When we are ruled by the love of one another.
All shall be ruled by fellowship I say,
In the light that is coming in the morning.
Sidney Carter: John Ball

Sir Rainald’s servants found the young man lying beside the track leading to the Manor House. His clothes, though dishevelled, were made of fine cloth and his hands were pale and soft, but his eyes were blank and he could not speak. He had no visible injury and allowed himself to be led to the long time empty cottage close to the Manor Farm. There Sir Rainald himself brought him a blanket of coney skins, a bed, a stool and a six-board oak chest black with age and beeswax. Each day food and wine, wood for the fire and candles to light the dark evenings of winter were sent to the cottage. Not a word did the young man speak, but he bowed low to Sir Rainald and nodded briefly to the servants.

One frost white morning as the reluctant Christmastide sun rose behind the low timbered walls and the reed thatch, a boy of perhaps ten years lifted the latch of the young man’s door, and went into the small dark room He was ragged and grubby, but he smiled and bade the young man a Good Day as he unpacked his basket. The young man looked silently away, unsmiling. Was there anything else the master wanted Aldret persisted. The young man hesitated, then pointed to the small wooden pipe which hung from the boy’s belt. “Play me a tune.” he said, and lay back against the wool filled mattress. Aldret put the mouthpiece to his lips and the young man shut his eyes

As he always did, the young mand saw in his mind’s eye his wife Ysolt in her coffin, her new born babe lying on her breast. The pipe filled the December gloom with the trilling of birds and the soft song of running water, and suddenly the gloom of the cottage seemed to be overwhelmed by a midsummer sun. He could hear laughter and there was Ysolt in her blue gown, her corn gold hair flying out loose behind her as she danced with him in her father’s hall. He walked with her once more across soft green fields and amongst the dancing dappled shadows of the ancient forest, and he came alive again.

“What miracle is this?” Sir Rainald came into the cottage as the young man, smiling while the tears ran down his cheeks, put a hand on Aldret’s shoulder and a silver coin in his scrip. “No miracle, my lord,” the young man said, “as when our Saviour was born of a Virgin and cradled in a manger. Rather it is the uniting of your abiding kindness to a mind-sick stranger together with Aldret’s generous sharing of his music with me, that have opened my eyes again to the loving presence of my lady who lives on in my heart’s memory. If such courtesy and compassion were always to direct us thus towards all whom we may meet, then my lord in this world we should perhaps have little need of miracles.”



First Peace and Silence all disputes controll,
Then Order plaies the soul;
And giving all things their set forms and houres,
Makes of wilde woods sweet walks and bowres.
Herbert; from ‘The Familie’

“This” complained the Death Watch Beetle “is my sacred space. I have my home here and am nourished by it.” “It’s you who are spoiling my home with your selfish larval gnawing, piles of dust everywhere , and your arrogant claims to be superior.” protested the mouse. “You’ve got no respect for my sacred space.” “Well that’s a joke” said the Beetle. “What about that heap of mouldy crumbs and those disgusting rotten apples you hide behind the old chairs? Uncivilised I call it.” “Look out,” squeaked the Mouse, “there’s the awful Bat. Now, he is uncivilised and disgusting, with horrible noisome habits. I don’t see why any of the rest of us should put up with him. Oh, no...”

The bat landed and hung upside down from the Beetle’s beam. “Room for a little one?” he piped. “No, definitely not.” they chorused. “This is our space.” said the Beetle. “There’s no room for anyone else.” added the Mouse. “You don’t fit in with us.” protested the Beetle. “You are not of our persuasion. And besides, you stink.” “Why don’t you go outside , or into the porch with the Wren?” suggested the Mouse. “She’s a flyer too, and she doesn’t trouble anyone - too obsessed with those eggs. She wouldn’t mind.” “I would mind.” snapped the Bat, “I am a mammal like you. Beetles I can put up with - they taste quite good. But I don’t consort with birds.”

“That, gentlemen, is enough.” It was the Voice speaking in the darkness behind the curtain, through the crack in the door, from beneath the flagstoned floor, from the apex of the vault, louder than the loudest clap of thunder, more silent than the silence of a still feather. Whose voice it was depended on who was listening. It might be Bramha or G-d, Confucius or Amaterasu, Isis or Baku, even Jesus. “This” continued the Voice “is no one creatures’s space. It is sacred precisely because it belongs to no-one. It is made sacred because of the care and love of each for the others within it. We observe precious little of that love here, gentlemen.” The bat began a shrill protest, but the Voice was not to be interrupted. “And by ‘love’ We do not mean ‘like’. We do not expect you to find each other agreeable. We do not require you to worship the same gods, or indeed to worship any god at all. Resolve therefore to look care-fully at each other, to try to understand each other, to respect each other.”

The Voice paused. The Bat, the Mouse and the Beatle moved closer together, looking outwards with wonder and awe, no longer glaring at each other. “I’ll give it a go.” the Beatle muttered. “I’ll try.” the Mouse said softly. “I suppose it might work.” the Bat admitted reluctanly. “It has to work,” responded the Voice, “or you betray that purpose for which you were made, which would indeed be sad.”




Who practices hospitality entertains God - Ancient Proverb

The Secretary bird sat disconsolately in the empty saucer-like nest she had made high in a massive old oak tree. She thought about her chick seized by a marauding eagle and her mate who with clipped wings had struggled into the air, lost the thermal on which he was riding and crashed to a cruel death on the razor wire which topped the fence of the dreadful menagerie in which they had been trapped for the past five years. She flew upwards and then laboriously crossed the boundary fence to an uncertain freedom. She walked across the Norfolk Brecklands, fifteen miles a day until she found, near South Dereham, “The British Raptor Sanctuary” where the Man welcomed her, gave her fresh food and some little hope for her future.

A Posse of British Raptors - a broken winged Barn Owl, two tailless Sparrowhawks, a club-clawed Goshawk and a rather less than enthusiastic purblind Kestrel - listened to her soft mewing cry. She was a conspicuous bird, almost four feet high, elegant in her grey and white and black plumage with long black knee britches, quilled headress and orange eye patched face. They envied her her exotic beauty; they feared she had more than her fair share of fresh food brought to her by the Man; they mocked her African song; they despised her hunting technique - although she had wings and a beak she ran after her prey, for Horus’ sake, and stamped it to death!

Sitting quietly in an adjacent tree, another immigrant outcast watched and mused. He was a young undersized Spanish Griffon Vulture brought to the Sanctuary from Belgium where, searching for food many hundreds of miles from his home in the Pyrenees, he became separated from the rest of his flock and was found distressed and exhausted wandering in a park near Ghent. An exceedingly nervous bird, constantly terrified of an imagined attack from his own shadow, he nowadays rarely finished his dive from his nest to the raw meat put out for him, but soared back empty-beaked and hungry to the safety of the tree-top. He had to be hand fed and so had become the butt of the Posse’s cruel jokes.

A few days later he flew low above the ground close to the running Secretary Bird. She did not turn him away, but left for him a dead mouse and a grass snake, and there was no swooping shadow to terrify him. Guided by the sound of her running feet the Kestrel joined the strange pair and found a short tailed vole which the Secretary had stunned and kicked in his direction. As they made their daily sorties like some dignified avian Battle of Britain Flight emerging modestly out of a misty morning, the Posse shrugged its collective wings, turned its collective ire upon a flight of young marauding buzzards who were creating havoc amongst the older raptor residents, and finally left the Odd Trio to work out their lives together in peace.