wordy collusion…

There are times when we say the wrong thing. I’ve been extremely angry and dismayed this week at one person for using language I have great objection to  (the event and the culprit will not be divulged, so don’t ask!)

We all do it, and we all live with the consequences of our words.  Even I have been known to, on occasion, open my mouth and put my foot in it as they say.  Not just a foot – but swallow both feet whole and chew the legs off somewhere below the knee.  Usually the comedy of the event is enough to limit damage.

The last time I did this spectacular feat of verbal cannibalism was at a party long ago (yes wine was involved), a housewarming for 2 young chaps who had made the commitment to live together (and are now in a civil partnership).

The evening was swimming along nicely as was my liver, thanks to one young chap in particular (not the host).  He and I had been talking for much of the evening, and thanks to his neverending bottle of white, my glass was never more than half empty.  Under such circumstances my sense of humour can be sharp and fast, responsive one-liners,  but I have never intentionally been offensive or hurtful.

We’d gone to sit out in the garden for a smoke (it was a warm night) and I lifted the crumpled packet of ciggies from my pocket.  I offered my smoking companion the contents of the box – he lifted a scruched-up sorry excuse for a cigarette,  looked at it, and commented “Ali darling, that is SOOO bent!”  we both laughed, and quick as a flash, before my brain could engage “aye, so are you hen! Gonna look at it or light it?” Realisation dawned that these words were coming from my mouth, and mortified, I looked at him intending to apologise for such a crass comment. He was too busy curled on the floor in the pains of extreme laughter.  I too crumpled, and we hugged each other, giggling like kids.  As we laughed and hugged some more the stunned faces around us, and the “I cant believe she said….” resounded round the garden.  No smirks, no collusion, but plenty of shock, and relief when the realisation hit that my comment had been received with the humour it had been made.

Despite the excellent conversations following that moment, with this chap and others, about relationships, God and faith  I have looked back on that night and my comment with a mix of guilt and humour  – words can cause pain and my words had the potential to be harmful. It was only the grace of their “target” which made it otherwise.  It would have been so easy for the others there to collude in, ignore or avoid what had been said – but the shock and the challenge was a tangible entity.  And I’m glad.

I’m glad I live in a world where I have friends and colleagues willing to make a challenge even to  humour if it steps over the line into prejudice, or appears to do so.  I’m extremely relieved that the attitude of “we’re all friends here so it doesn’t matter” is becoming less and less of a reality and prejudiced language is increasingly unacceptable.  Increasingly so, but still present.  and I long for the day when we not only no longer “say the wrong thing” but carry the internal wranglings of our prejudices.  All are equal, all are loved, and no words, no thought process, no prejudice held will ever change that reality.  May the reality and realisation of that change our prejudices.



been spending a lot of time on facebook of late, much to the neglect of random wafflings.

its such an easy way to stay in touch with friends and family I no longer see as much as I used to (moving 400 miles does that to a person!), but i am conscious of the limits of FB – I only add people I know* , so the conversations are largely pally, catchup or wanders into the downright bonkers.  I miss waffling and ranting on here – expressing my thoughts, insights, ups and downs; i miss the depth of conversation which can appear here even with those i speak to regularly through other means; and i miss the buddies who commented here but aren’t on FB  (you know who you are!).

so i’ll be back from time to time – whether courting controversy, being utterly & completely waffly and random, thinking aloud or having a good old fashioned whinge.  do join in 🙂

*apart from the 2 (yes, only 2) fb friends i havent yet met, but have conversed with on lots of occasions and who are trusted friends of those i know.   I’m looking forward to chatting with them  over a glass of vino or 2 at some point in the future.

Church and Community

the campaign for the Iceni project moves on apace – an article from todays evening star:

Myself, Canon Paul Daltry (Minister for community engagement), Councillor Jane Chambers (Mayor of Ipswich) Brian Tobin (Director and co-founder of Iceni), Councillor Inga Lockington (former Mayor, and Iceni Trustee) and Revd Angela Oakey-Jones, (curate @ Rushmere)  having a round table meeting, stragtegy planning and organising ourselves as emergency fundraisers.  The push is on to save this most vital organisation, and to have it flourish in new and challenging areas of support for the service users.

Some things are worth breaking blog lethargy for

Over the last few months, as part of my getting to know this town and its people, its issues and its aspirations, I’ve been chatting to some thoroughly cool and exceptionally caring folk at the Iceni Project.  Brian (one of the founders) and Sarah (one of the service users) came a couple of months ago to Deanery Synod, and shared some of their story.

Iceni was started by Brian and a pal, who saw a need for drug support and rehab in the town and decided to do something about it.  From humble beginnings (tearing a urinal out of a loo so they could fit in a desk) they have grown into one of the best programmes in the country – helping drug users in this town, supporting police and doing what they could to keep young women safe during the Ipswich Murders in 2006.  They won the Guardian Charity Award in 2008, and have advised councils up and down the country, in addition to being involved in the Olympic planning.

I’ve spent a little time at the Iceni Project’s centre in town, chatted to staff, volunteers and service users and seen the brilliant work which happens.  But now it is under threat.   Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Team turned down their funding bid last week, a situation which is currently under review thanks to the hard work of Ben Gummer MP.

This morning I was on local radio – BBC Radio Suffolk, talking about the campaign to keep The Iceni Project open.  Their one-stop-shop phased approach is innovative and effective – it works, and they have a proven record over the last 10 years.  You can hear me on Iplayer at 1hr 18 minutes, and Ben Gummer MP at 2hrs 25mins.

Please also read the Iceni Website, and consider signing the petition to save Iceni, whoever and wherever you are.  what else can you do?  please contact your MP and ask them to support Ben Gummer MP in all that he is doing for Iceni and to challenge the funding process.  And please pray lots.



to all of you who have been worrying that the lack of a blog may be a return to the difficulties of 2 years ago, I’m fine and having a blast in Englandshire. The lack of updates is merely a break to get my wee brain around the new stuff.  I’ve not got it all in a coherent enough place to blog it yet.

But life is good, the job is great (and busy!), and praise be –  yesterday  i got the whole of the way through the maze that is common worship without losing the place, getting bits back to front or sidelining the deacon.  It’s slowly starting to make sense, and soon i shall be playing around with it like a true pro  – scary prospect!

A busy few weeks

Its been a mad few weeks in the new job – the first month has flown by, with new people to get to know and much to process.  Getting used to being in a team again is proving tricky, i’m simply out of the habit of having colleagues to talk to, to lean on or rely on on a regular basis.  After seven years of solo artistry its a bit wierd, but hugely liberating and supportive.

I’ve been struck by the size of the church machine here, and have commented several times in those groups where the comment is made “but we’re only a small diocese….” Seeing ourselves as small whether as a diocese  or a congregation can be disempowering and limiting.  It makes the discussions automatically about what we cannot do, not what we can do.  What we can acheive may vary from situation to situation, from area to area, but the size thing is relative, and completely unhelpful.  Just to give a little perspective – the Diocese I am now in is comparable to the size of the Scottish Province, in terms of clergy numbers and resourcing, and Ipswich Deanery not much smaller than Glasgow Diocese.

For the team and for St Francis, there has been a fair bit of sadness in the last couple of weeks – a significant death within the congregation.  P was a member for over 30 years, and lay reader since the earliest days of the Team.  I had the opportunity to meet him a couple of times, and I can honestly say he was the nicest possible bloke.  Love of God simply oozed from his being, and his thoughtfulness for others displayed a humble heart and caused that same humility in others.   I visited in the hospital, and we chatted, laughed and prayed, after which he spent 5 minutes praying for the beardy one and I, that we would settle in and be happy and blessed here.  He fair brought tears to my eyes, and will be missed greatly by colleagues and congregation alike.

Schools, hospital, hospice, home visits, induction days,  a funeral or 2, wedding planning, social nights in the vicarage, deciphering Church of England liturgy, language and links with the state law  – feet havent touched the ground much, apart from a day or so suffering an irritating (and hugely painful) kidneystone. Stubborn me wouldnt slow down too much, to the consternation of the rest of the team, but I am learning.  Family crises this weekend have caused me to simply stop for a while,   “clear your diary, take a couple of days, have fun, explore, wind down” came the order from the Rural Dean (who happens to be Team Rector here , AKA the boss), followed by a list of places to visit, pubs for a decent lunch and directions to the chippy in Aldeburgh.   We couldnt explore today as we were waiting for a delivery,  so instead chilled in front of the box watching a rather dire movie with Alan (I fell asleep, it was that bad), Tomorrow I’m off in search of the beach!

Changing identities

A few months ago when visiting and showing the Beardy One around Ipswich, i was asked (over the obligatory glass of vino blanco) how long i thought it would take for my identity to change.  At the time i thought it an odd question – it’s just me – who i am, how i react, what i think/say/feel. These things, these aspects of my consiousness are all intertwined, intermingled like a finely woven blanket. Each affects the other in the warp and the weft to create the picture that is Ali.  Maybe I didn’t quite grasp the subtlety of the question – for even at this stage there are slight changes to that weft – a different hue here and there.

Of course there are the obvious things – the stopping mid-sentence to correct a comment based on simple geography and tense: “we do it…” to “when in Scotland we did it….”  (that has happened a lot!), the smiles and “hello vicar” over the road at the shops from multitudious strangers, “Guess where the vicar’s from!” games with the P3’s at one local school (sorry – Year 3’s – there i go again!)  All part of the culture shift and re-becoming English after 18 years in Scotland. Not a rebranding or re-invention, but discovery and integration of the new.

It’s the not-so-obvious things which will take time to get my head around – shifts in understanding of my role within this community, in this team.  Some aspects are tied in with the “state church” stuff and the establishment (and still pretty alien), some with the sense of being a part of something much bigger institutionally.  The size still throws me a wee bit – at the clergy conference 2 weeks ago it was slightly overwhelming.  Now its just big, and I am a part of it.  Discovering where i fit in to this wider machine is part of the journey, and at the moment much is still shrouded in the mists of the unknown.  Whether or not it becomes any clearer remains to be seen, but there is fun and excitement in the discovery.