Juggling life through a bi-polar lens. Sometimes up, sometimes down. Mostly trying to tread water in the middle. Creating a likeness to a normal life. Whatever "normal" is...

Saturday, 26 January 2008

When Hymns Harm

My Primary school (infant + junior) was a smallish Roman Catholic affair, now greatly expanded from the 300 or so intake of the 1970s, when I was there.

Once a week we had an Assembly. I'm astonished to hear that schools now have to have this daily. Once a week was quite enough! In we would troop, class by class, as line by line the floor of the Dining Hall would fill up with children sitting cross-legged, trying to claim as much room as possible before a teacher came and told everyone to squeeze up again. Line after line of children in ever increasing size till the eleven-year olds squeezed in at the back and braced themselves for half an hour of boredom.

I can't remember a single thing that was said to us in any of these sessions.

I do remember what came first though, before any of this wildly memorable instruction began: the hymn.

The Headmistress, a nun in black called Sr Callista who looked to us about 90 but who, from contemporary photo's, I can see was probably around 45, did love to hear us sing. She especially loved to hear us sing at Mass, every Wednesday morning. Several parents stayed on for this event, and Sr Callista made it her personal goal to present them with children who walked in line and bellowed loud enough for them to hear the words. This way, they knew that she was an excellent Headmistress. And so the Assembly became a perfect time for Singing Practice. You couldn't get away with a mumble into your jumper. It had to be sung, and sung high and loudly and you had to smile and learn it and enjoy it.

But other than presentation, did any of the teachers ever wonder what we made of the words?
Sr Callista introduced new hymns. After all, she was looking after young children. So the Thees and Thous were replaced by a pale blue Celebration Hymnal and "folk" hymns were used. As we sang she beamed with pride. Aren't we good? Don't we like the new hymns? Isn't this all marvellous?

Here's one of them, as much as I remember from 30+ years ago:

[chorus] Suffer little children to come unto me,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven!
Suffer little children to come unto me,
for theirs is the kingdom of the Lord!

[verse] And Jesus said, "Children, little children,
(can't remember that line)
[repeat, then chorus again]

The tune was monotonous and I now loathe it. I've noticed that many of the hymns people of around my age count as favourites, I can't stand at all. Probably because of how much we had to sing them back then. But there is a more serious reason for my hating this one.

At this time, I was being seriously bullied at home. Emotionally, verbally and physically. "I lived in fear" sounds like a cliche, but it describes it exactly. I was regularly hit. Mostly it was across the face. But thighs were targets, too, while brothers preferred forearms. More elaborate options included holding my hand against the wall behind a door, then slamming the door open against it, so that the metal handle bruised my palm, wrist, fingers or knuckles. I still have trouble with my hands today.

The unfairness of it all is what stings when I look back. It's the unfairness of it that ripples into my present and causes problems. The physical pains can't be re-experienced, but the sting of injustice lasts. When I'm low it haunts me, like a ghost walking his same path night after night anew.

Why didn't I speak up?

Why didn't I find a confidante?

Why didn't I write about it at school, try to tell someone that way?

Well, there was this hymn, you see. And in it, it said that little children had to suffer to go to Jesus- "Suffer little children to come unto me..."

Of course, "suffer" in this sense, means "cause" or "encourage". But I was an adult a long while before I knew that. I thought I must be being blessed with all this suffering... and prayed for more.

photo's taken last summer at Fountains Abbey

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Something bright for January.

I meant to post these pictures a couple of months ago. I was just looking for a cheerful picture to put on here and re-found them.....

OK I know I shouldn't really buy flowers from a supermarket, what with private florists struggling to survive, but........
they had reduced them to 50p!

They lasted nearly two weeks. I dried out the sunflowers and hung them in the trees for the birds last month.
I knew they were a bargain at the time, but little did I know they would brighten things up round here in January, too!

Friday, 18 January 2008


Sometimes you scribble down a poem, and it feels just right.
Then you lose it. Forget about it. You don't find it for years, and then, when you do, you think, "What on earth was that about?" Laugh, with embarrassment. Then throw it away.

Other times, when you come back to it, you think how it still applies, and therefore, perhaps, how little things, or the world, or you have changed.

I scribbled this one down in 1994.
I'm quite frightened to have noticed lately, that the overall sentiment is once again true.
Also angry, as I had been well for a few months, dammit........
I'm still fighting.



The things that brought me joy last week
today are just a chore.
I've mislaid their fascination
and am too tired to seek.
And I know that I am falling.

The love I felt not long ago
has been left out too long;
like butter in a room too warm,
there's not much left to show.
And I know that I am falling.

The things I used to dream about
are nowhere in my memory,
I cannot call for help for them;
no energy to shout.
And I know that I am falling.

I know too well what lies ahead,
I know this sepid pool;
the heaviness of my emptiness
will pin me to my bed-
Oh God, I am falling......

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Time to boost batteries....

After the rush of the Christmas build-up, being host on Christmas Day to extended family, the still more draining limbo betweenChristmas and New Year, I needed a nap!

"Luckily" I caught that bug that's going round. It's been on the news here- a norovirus (sp?). Headaches, aching limbs, feeling/being sick, running off to the bathroom over and over, shivering, fever....

I still say "luckily" because it meant that I could take to my bed! I know it was yucky, but I really think it did my BRAIN good to be reduced to firing only on very basic cylinders for a while.

Sunday 30th was when it first hit me: with a weak tiredness and a headache, like the feeling you get when you're about to go under with a head cold.

Last Saturday was my first time out of the house since it began, and yesterday was my first without a headache.

My next Open University Course doesn't start till the end of this month, so I have a couple of weeks to recharge and ehm, well, tidy up and get a bit organised.
Not even sure I'll be taking this next one. I got a distinction in that last one. Got the results just before Christmas. But.....

no matter how many times I do well at no matter how many things, there is still this voice in my head whispering two words-
the first is "Fluke!"

the other is "Fake!"

Never mind. I cling to the simple things. I'll recharge my batteries with basics. Like a cat who was so pleased to see me she snuggled up and slept on me; first under my chin, then on it, then up so close she had her face resting in my eye socket, all the time floppy from sleep and warm and soft and purry.

Whatever the aches and however many the demons, this is bliss. Me and Fluffy.