Sunday, 8 December 2013

Jaz (James Davidson)

Sat in my armchair reading the Evening Gazette, I was taken back about thirty years. It was a cold and wet November evening, the streets were empty; the wind was blowing the rain into my face. I could see the phone box at the end of the street from where the urgent call had been made, but the house number 1a could not be found. An elderly lady had called the house, asking for the doctor, her great niece was pregnant and in discomfort.

I decided to knock at number one and ask directions, I was told, “round the back”, before the door was closed quickly on me. As I pushed my way past the bins and overgrown hedge, I could see a dim light through a small window. I was greeted at the door and taken quickly to the young lady; her husband was working and great Aunt staying over a few days to help prepare for baby’s arrival. It soon became clear that baby was imminent and would be delivered there and then.

The house was less than basic but Aunty was a great help rushing around preparing what was needed. Jenny (the young lady) followed all my guiding and soon we had a beautiful baby boy. The gift of new life has never ceased to amaze me, and there was a moment when Aunty was holding the child in her arm; she looked at him and said “You will be called James, and you are very special; we have waited such a long time for you”. She placed her first and second finger of her right hand on his heart, bent over and kissed his forehead. Before I knew what was happening, Aunty said “Here, have a cuddle” and there I was, looking into the child’s eyes; the moment was an eternity and I could sense something that I could not understand, but strangely did not disturb me.

A few nights later in the newspaper, there was a mention in the birth column: “James Davidson born to Chris and Jenny. Blessings and hope for the future. Love, Aunty Liz”. What are the ingredients, what needs to happen, for there to be hope for the future? Could James, shape, mould, create new colours, that our lives became fused in such a way, that possibilities became our reality; now I was beginning to dream.

I had little contact with the family over the following years. Life was not easy for them but they seemed content in their unity and keeping themselves to themselves. James became known as Jaz and gained some popularity around the community, involving himself in social action, speaking out against injustice, poverty and inequality. I read this evening in that same local newspaper, how he intends to run for office in the next election. He is challenging a regime that has been very comfortable for far too long. Jaz speaks with simple words of truth and wisdom that has freshness about them; he speaks with integrity that people respond to, they want to believe, and turn away from how things have been. The old ways will not give up easily and I can see a battle brewing. I remembered again, that first moment I held James, and wondered how this story will end. 

©Copyright 2013 John Pearson

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Gardener

In relation to poverty; someone said to me recently. If you were setting out to clear a garden of weeds, it really doesn't matter where you start or how much you can do - just do!

I don't regard myself as a gardener but I am a willing labourer.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Tickling Fish

Wandering and wondering has always been a pastime greatly enjoyed; you never know what you are going to come across or even imagine. Each walk was an adventure with many possibilities; I could be a warrior, hunter or explorer, just as the fancy took me. Every tree was different, with shape and character all of its own, blown by wind and weather.

A frequent walk would be as far as low buildings, and the wood just beyond; Granny’s farm, now owned by my uncle and his family. This was the place where my Mum was born and I spent many a holiday with my cousins. There was always something to do: collect eggs, take the milk cans on, potato picking, hay timing and fastening in the hens. You might imagine it was all work, not a bit; rummaging among the old stuff stored up in the stable chamber, jumping off bails of straw and making dens in the wood.

We always knew there were trout in the beck, but I can’t remember the first time we realised they were big enough to catch and eat. Imagining ourselves as Robinson Crusoe, we would plan how to catch this wild tasty delight (we didn't consider the preparation at this stage). A rod and a float seemed quite impractical in such a narrow stream; a net might be a plan.

Sunday lunch followed the church service, but straight after the service was also a ritual, as men folk would gather over the road and to the left. The women would be just outside the gate and we kids would be over the road to the right. There was a progression for us young lads, as we increased in years we would move closer to the men; conversation moving from games to farm work, joinery and such like. Family was wider than just a name, for it stretched out within a group of names, associated with each family. Groups extended to neighbours and shared work relationships, a community network spanning distance and time; a sense of belonging, and fitting in to the way of things. It was one such Sunday morning, one of the older men suggested we tickle the fish with our hands and hook it onto the bank side; we wondered if he was pulling our legs. My uncle was a man to be believed and he verified the art, saying that tickling hypnotised the fish so you could grab it.

This new found skill had to be put to the test, so all seven of us set out down the beck that Sunday afternoon. Our eyes were glued to the water; we had seen fish here before. Talking was reduced to a whisper and it felt like we were walking on tip toes. “There”, said Chris, “there’s one”. I had never heard silence like it, apart from the rippling stream as I approached the edge. I rolled up my sleeves and laid flat, face down. The water was so cold as I moved my hands slowly toward the undercut bank; my heart skipped two beats as I touched the fish. Wiggling my fingers in a tickling motion, the fish seemed quite content; I smiled and nodded my head to the others. At that moment there was a flash and he was gone, the disappointing sigh from those stood around said it all.

We walked for a few hundred yards or more and came upon a likely spot, the bend in the stream had created an overhanging edge and there was the biggest fish we had seen. Chris was straight in; my fingers were twitching, imagining what he was feeling. A moment later, Chris jerked and it was as if half the stream had come out with the fish, we all got showered; but where was the fish? It had to be here among the grass but was nowhere to be seen. Then Bernie, the youngest of the group, frozen to the spot said “it’s down me wellie”, the fish was head first down his wellie, flapping its tail fin against his leg. There was a deed to be done with a stone that was carried out without a word; the procession back to the farm recounted the excitement over and over again, even the one that got away.

There are no fish in these becks today and the stream is barely a trickle, but the skills and how we learned them, became a template for much more than just tickling fish. Remembering the old ways, and how often things that seem impossible, turn out to be great fun.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The old man's song

The old man climbed long and hard with all his strength till he reached the top, encouraged by those below; unable to hold on to the sheer edges. He shouted out all that he could see, but the crowd below could not hear. He began to sing loud and clear, his voice carried on the wind. He sang of clear air and fields of green, trees, fruit and berries of plenty, and cool streams of quenching water. Those below took up stone from the ground, and fashioning tools began to hew foot holes into the steep face; soon every one of them, were free from the darkness.

Loud discontent as they saw, all was not as the old man had sung; very little fruit, no berries but good soil and water. The crowd were about to turn on the singer when a young boy said; “if he had not sang that song; we would still be in darkness”.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A Quiet Listen

To achieve great things, begin by doing nothing.
From nothing comes everything and everything amounts to nothing.

Take time to discover you, then everyone becomes familiar.
Notice the things around you and you will see your next step.

Step into the quiet, and wait just long enough; to hear the small voice of clarity,
refreshing, like a mountain stream.

Practice makes perfect, so my father taught me; but also to be satisfied with what I have.
To forgive myself is to forgive others, so my freedom rests with me.

Note to morning office: Create some quite this day.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

The original King

How many times we must have copied and shared this track - as recorded live with Alan Andrews. The King is among us and his glory shall be seen; as we learn to touch each other. ...

The King

Written by Alan Andrews and shared among many, this wonderful song was re-worked by Andy & Lynn  who worked with Zion Community. Choreography by Andy Raine and friends, this has been danced all over the world from streets to Churches. Very emotional just listening to it again.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Andromeda galaxy

If it were dark I would take you outside and with the aid of some optics, show you the heavens. Stars, Nebulae and galaxies spread out to infinity, light displaying energy from the beginning of time, reaching us here and now. Andromeda galaxy is about two and a half million light years away and as we look at it, we are looking back to the age of the dinosaurs. Andromeda was formed out of the collision of two smaller galaxies between 5 and 9 billion years ago. These scales of measurement are often outside our natural thinking and take some understanding.

In the beginning was God and nothing had its being without Him, God in the brightness and God in the darkness; Gods presence in all things. We focus and see easily the brightest of these stars and in the density of the galaxies we see form and movement; God in the immense and God in the smallest of detail. To see into deep space, it is necessary to have the darkest of skies.

We see things in black and white, left or right, right or wrong. Our evolution has been a sequence of choices, one way or another. Our opinions and behaviour is decided by these choices, one way or another. Our human need is for direction, we create a structure for how things will be; this will suit some, but not all. Differences cause friction when they could produce harmony, an orchestra consists of many instruments, musicians, a composer and a conductor; a symphony could be likened to a galaxy. Many of these structures exist; cultural, political and religious.

To return to the beginning is like looking out to the many galaxies; to the reference point of Gods presence in all things. Our reference is unity not separation.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Travel Chest

It was a windy afternoon and following Sunday lunch when all was put away, my Mother and Father would take an afternoon nap. I went upstairs to find a comic but that was not what I was looking for. From the top landing there are four doors, well actually there are five, the fifth, taking you up the back stairs to the attic rooms. All houses have an attic of sorts, a place to store the stuff you don’t use but don’t want to throw away; and that was where I found myself, that windy afternoon.

Grandfather’s wooden chest (that’s my great grandfather) was standing under the skylight. Grandfather had made it himself, an intricate piece of furniture with many drawers and compartments; this would have travelled with grandfather through Europe and across to Asia; father had told me many stories about grandfather’s expeditions.

The locks were strong but soon the great lid was lifted; I loved to poke around in the chest to see what I could find. Some old medals, a compass, a pocket knife, spare buttons and a dice. I played Kim’s game, closing the lid and trying to remember all I had just seen. Opening the drawers and lifting out each separate tray, a set of drawing pencils and an old notebook. I sat back with the notebook and read how grandfather had planned his expeditions down to the finest detail (there were no mobile phones in those days).

An old envelope had been caught between two drawers, upon which had been written a simple message – Tom, write on this paper your hopes and dreams; illustrate your imaginings. Tom would be grandfather’s son (my grandpa). I opened the envelope and took out a small piece of paper, still blank, not a mark on it; perhaps it had always been lost?
I took the paper and one of the pencils and began to write and draw. It was not long before I had filled the page and it was then that I noticed, the paper was unfolding; twice, as it became four times it’s original size and now the creases had vanished, I continued to write and draw.

After a number of days and more writing, again the page was full, and again it unfolded twice (without creases) to become sixteen times it’s original size; now this gave me something I could really explore on. I kept this to myself as no-one would believe me, I had no evidence and I could not reproduce this phenomena.

A weekend away at grandpa Tom’s house and we were busy with a jigsaw, just the two of us. I asked him if he remembered an envelope from his father, which referred to hopes, dreams and imaginings; he said he couldn't remember but grandfather had brought many things back from his travels. I explained how the paper, when full, opened twice with no sign of creases, and this happened twice. I now had a very large sheet of paper but didn't think it would open again.

Grandpa thought for a while and then went to his desk; he brought out a beautiful pen, polished wood with ornate carving. He said, I think that big sheet of paper was meant for you, and if ever you get round to filling it, then this pen will enable you to go off the page. You will write upon people’s lives with the things you have to say; that’s how change is brought about. I asked if the pen was magic; he laughed and said, no, the magic is inside you and it has already begun to unfold.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Vine

Lent lunch last week - I was asked do a short meditation based on the reading John 15: 1-10.

I am going to tell you a story about a community of people, ordinary people who together shared extraordinary experiences. These were people who were from a number of churches, often families; young people, parents, grand parents and from a range of backgrounds.
The common ground here was a love of God and a willingness to reach out.

The community formed around very simplistic values – Availability, Vulnerability and Openness, a wanting to belong. The catalyst was a young boy who had a gift of dance – expressing the message of the Gospel through emotional movement; this inspired his parents and their friends. The Gospel was not only being reviled to those who watched but very much to the community as they experienced the emotion within these stories.

The community grew to around 30 and weekends away on mission became frequent; even to one week missions in London, Ireland and America. These were as I said ordinary people; they had regular jobs, families, homes and responsibilities. Their time together was special, quiet prayer, sharing visions, growing in the trust of God and each other. Learning about each others strengths and weaknesses – commitment to each other – shaping the community.

It would be nice to hear compliments about the dance and ministry; it would be a privilege to be involved in the healing of another. But the point I want to make is not about the remarkable things that happened around this community. It was something very simply said at a day event at a Methodist church hall one Saturday afternoon. “You guys are special; it is the way you are with each other that stands out”

The name of that community was The Vine. The first dance choreographed by the community was I am the Vine you are the branches – a song by John Michael Talbot.

                     In accepting that we are the branches – we are community and part of the vine.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Magicians Gift

Every good story begins with once upon a time and our stories are no different. Our stories are fiction but there are many truths for those who listen carefully. I am the signalman, I work here in Saltburn and live only a stones throw away from here. I was born in Middlesbrough and moved here only a few years ago. I have always been a signalman following my father on the railway. I love the railway, the smell of the engine a mixture of oil coal and fire; the sound of the steam and the iron wheels on the tracks, to see such power takes your breath away, you can travel direct to London from here.

It’s a lonely job, sitting in the signal house waiting for the next engine. The bell rings to tell me she is on her way, I pull hard on the levers to set the points, drop the signal and send the return signal bell. Every passing engine has to be logged into my book and I check it is showing all its lights. The signals operated by my levers are in semaphore and tell the drivers when the lines are clear. When all that is done I go back to my chair, waiting for the next signal bell. There is time to think, to read and allow the imagination to wander where it pleases. The signalman’s job is very small but so much depends on it.

We are going on a journey this evening, a walk around my town. I ask that you bring your imagination, for the story I have for you is about ordinary people and extraordinary events; taking in some of the popular landmarks and some of the less known places. I will lead the way and we will stop form time to time to continue the story.
I begin my story here at the railway station because it was here that our main character first arrived late one evening with the wind driving rain in off the sea, a cold November evening 1911. No one was waiting, no one expected him – Matthew was returning home after being away for several years. Matthew Smithson was a magician and illusionist; he entertained lords and ladies on the south coast and astounded his audience with illusions, producing items from seemingly thin air. His slight of hand was quicker than the keenest eye. No one knew Matthew by name or anything about him; his stage name was ‘The Great Illumine’ Matthew had found a way to create light without flicker or flame.

People would claim to know his secrets that it was achieved with many small mirrors and a lamp hidden offstage but the truth was they had no idea at all. It had something to do with the way he held the light that enabled it to be visible.

Matthew was always a quiet boy when growing up here in Saltburn choosing to draw and to write than play in the streets with the other boys; in later years he transformed with brightness when performing his illusions on the stage. The house he had called home was left to him by his mother who had passed away that summer; his father had died when he was just a small boy and he had no other siblings. The neighbours Mr and Mrs Watkins who still had no idea of this late arrival had kept the house in order. Matthew carried but two suitcases, the rest of his belongings were being sent on - this was to be Matthew’s homecoming, leaving behind the glamour and status that followed his aura of mystery.

Matthew pulled up his coat collar and walked quickly toward the house. Over the next few weeks he became re-accustomed to the town and took time to appreciate the belongings of the family home; the only people he spoke to were the Watkins. Warrior terrace was built in 1865 and named after the recently launched HMS Warrior, a totally new design of warship; this new town wanted to be associated with everything new.

Matthew and his mother had moved from Newcastle to Saltburn just as this new town was being born, a new start for them also in this growing town.The house was nothing special but it was in a position to see across to Huntcliff between the streets; this great cliff, standing so tall and defiant against time and tide, providing protection for the town. Often as a young boy, Matthew would walk out to the very top of this great cliff and imagine that he was on top the world, a powerful king who could command the elements it was there that Matthew felt truly himself and that nothing was impossible.

It was on one of these walks; Matthew was in his own world that day, his imagination was running away with him. He was high up and close by the old Roman signalling station that had only recently been discovered. It was as if all the energy in the ground, laid down over thousands of years was coming up through his body. His hands began to shake and a small light glow began to emerge from between his fingers. Matthew was frightened and excited both at the same time, he had always believed that strange things can happen, but this was beyond his imaginings. The shaking stopped and over the space of half an hour, Matthew was able to control the light, turning it on and off at will.

Matthew was only 9 years old when he moved to Saltburn in 1871, Britannia place was a mere four years old and the cliff lift was a wooden tower structure with water counter balance weights. The pier also built by John Anderson stretched far out to sea.

The creativity and newness of this town fascinated Matthew; he was living in an inventive time and he took all things in, picking up the creative drive of the fathers of this town.
Matthew’s gift of light was something he felt he needed to keep hidden, people wouldn’t understand, so this was to be a game of hide and seek.
Matthew would decide on something he wanted to achieve, not knowing if it was even possible; he would keep going until he came up with a solution, then he would build a disguise around, it so creating an illusion.

The gift was safely hidden behind Matthew’s illusions and he went on to create many more through his ingenuity and swiftness of hand. At the age of 23, Matthew left for the big cities and the south coast as “The great Illumine”.

We stand here at the top of Amber Street, looking down Milton Street and again we can see Huntcliff in the distance. A boy from Emerald Street, one of our jewels was up on Huntcliff one evening as the sun was just fading; he was playing hide and seek with an imaginary friend. Behind a bush he suddenly slipped and fell towards the sea below; his fall was broken by a small ledge and he managed to hold his balance.

As the young boys scream went out Matthew was also walking close by; he ran to the edge, lay flat on the grass and peered over. There was no thinking, just instinct as Matthew began to scramble down to the boy.

Soon they were side by side and it was only then that Matthew realised, that there was no way back to the top without help and a rope. Matthew applied the strength of his mind to the problem but there was nothing he could conjure up on his own. He would need to attract attention but to be heard or seen from that distance was very unlikely. Somehow, a signal had to be sent.

It was becoming cold and the young boy was trembling, Matthew reassured him and decided what had to be done. All these years Matthew’s gift of light had been hidden behind his illusions, carefully concealed to entertain and dazzle the audience. Matthew spoke to the boy “do not be afraid lad, hold on to me; I’m going to do something magical”. He held his hands high in the air and light proceeded from between his fingers, brighter than ever before; there was no hiding this light as it shone out far and wide. Matthew began to move his arms in semaphore signal, spelling out SOS ROPE – SOS ROPE, he kept going till he could hardly hold his arms, but the light kept shining brightly.

Just at that moment, shouts came from above and a rope was lowered down. Matthew and the boy were brought safely back to the town and a celebration in the streets, for the signal had been seen by many homes that night.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


I walked on a little further and left the path to my right, approaching an edge I heard the river below, my intake of breath was sharp as I realised just how high up I was. Deciding to rest for a while I took out my flask and something to eat; there was a sense of timeless peace, right here where I was resting, it came over me slowly as my body leaned into the place I had sat. My breathing slowed and I became aware of many different sounds, each bird had its own location and purpose, the sounds of the branches moving in the breeze provided the background frequency to this new concerto. The river roar was interspersed with flashes of crisp sounds as it collided with many rocks; I felt my eyes beginning to close as my mind did not want to be distracted by visual content. I don’t recall how long I stayed at this place; it was a time in itself, seeming like an age, yet over too soon, a place on the edge, between one thing and another. I had experienced things before when in meditation, but that was usually in the quietness of the chapel; I wanted to know what was special about this place or was it just about my thoughts that day?  It was as if the volume control of my senses had been turned up high and I had been drawn into the reality of my surroundings, almost like entering from another world. I knew that I wanted more of this.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Star gazing for beginners

Moon 31/12/2012

For as long as I can remember, the stars have held a fascination beyond anything else. Being told by the gas works night watchman, their names and which ones were double stars, grew my fascination. Drawing pictures in the sky that told stories of Castor & Pollux, Orion the hunter and Cassiopeia. Discovering that stars are not just bright lights in the darkness, but different colours of reds, blues and yellows. The observer book of astronomy soon became a close friend and it was not long before a Christmas present unwrapped a small telescope; this was probably the biggest turn off as it revealed very little compared to the books. I wanted to see the horses head nebulae, Andromeda galaxy, double stars and pick out craters on the moon.

This was the mid 1960's and soon we had satellites, moon landings and pictures from a telescope in space. I have to admit that witnessing the Mars landing and landscape views are very low down my Buzz range compared to views into the vast cosmos. Measuring distances in light years we find ourselves trying to grasp the fact, we are watching something that happened millions of years ago; in a strange way, we are also looking into the future, for what has happened out there will happen to our solar system.

There is a science and there is a beauty regarding the cosmos and our existence; it is for some to understand the far reaches and others to marvel at the unknown that draws us into a familiar echo.

I attempted yet again to see the markings of Jupiter and a close up of the moons craters; with a borrowed Sky-Watcher 130 mm I wanted to capture an image of the moon at least. Camera attachments and a slight modification to improve in-focus; I managed the moon. Even with the best of equipment we at at the mercy of cloud and weather conditions, light pollution and spare time; these do not often seem to match up. I am encouraged by the Internet and Sky Google Earth, many images provided by the Hubble telescope; also images such as the one below, capturing just what we see without the gadgets. Android apps provide us with how the sky looks in real time (with or without clouds) even in the day time, everything is around us.
I guess it is about belief - and seeing only confirms what we felt we knew; understanding is not always necessary.

borrowed from Cloudy nights web