Tag Archives: Anne Whitaker

What do we know, anyway? Not a lot…

In my view, we all need to be humble in measuring what little we actually know against the vastness of what we contemplate. We need all the help we can get in our attempts to make sense of a vastness which a great and respected scientist has not long ago admitted may be beyond our comprehension. (He could be wrong, of course!) We need to co-operate with one another, as we all go about honing and sharpening the particular lenses through which we look out at mystery.

Reaching for the Moon...

Reaching for the Moon…

We need the perspectives of rationalist, reductionist science. But we also need the perspectives of those non-rational dimensions of the ceaseless human journey towards understanding where we came from, why we are here, and what, if anything, it all means. The great myths, the great religions, the arts – all these also give us a partial glimpse of  The Big Why.

So my Really Big Why is this:

WHY can we not learn to respect each other’s different lenses/disciplines, instead of – as so often happens – descending irrationally to the primitive level of the tribal carnivores from which we have slowly evolved over the last 100,000 years, and taking up fundamentalist, tribal positions – in which the futile attempt to declare only one lens right and all others wrong, is doomed forever to utter failure?

An example of a body of knowledge which seems to attract such fundamentalist irrationality is the great and ancient art and science of astrology.

It has combined those realms of logos (reason) and mythos (imagination, story-telling, creating of metaphors which help us to live with our deep flaws as humans, as well as celebrating our wonderful creativity) for at least six thousand years, since, in Arthur Koestler’s vivid words from The Sleepwalkers”:

“Six thousand years ago, when the human mind  was still half asleep, Chaldean priests were standing on their watchtowers, scanning the stars.”

So I found it most refreshing, as a life-long appreciator of the wonders of science, to have read Lord Rees’ admission that we may never be able to decode the universe. But let’s pool all our knowledge, shall we, on both sides of the current mythos/logos divide, to enable us to  concentrate on what unites us – rather than what divides us.

Reaching for the Moon....

Please note: comments on this post are welcome, but abuse and ranting have no place on this site and any such comments will be deleted.

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

“My hero the villain” – not for the faint-hearted…

Those of a slightly squeamish disposition might be advised to read the first section or two of ‘ My hero the villian’ with their eyes closed – remember “Lord of the Flies?” and how savage children can be ? Those who are over fifty will be reminded of some of the sexist attitudes to girls which prevailed in the middle decades of the last century ! And all of us who have ever been children will remember that one of the sad but necessary entrance fees to the adult world is loss of innocence….

'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding

‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding

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Archie’s mother was out. The radio was on, blaring out Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel”, his latest hit. I hate it. Archie says it’s because I’m  too young to know heartbreak; he is twelve, but I’m only nine, and a girl. I was suggesting digging to Australia during our holidays. He was sitting with his feet up on the kitchen table, cutting lumps off a slab of butter, rolling each lump in sugar, tossing it in the air and trying to catch it in his mouth. Swinging his feet down, he nodded.

“Yeah, that’s a great idea.” He made for the door. “Come on! We’d better pick a good site before it gets dark.” It was two o’clock in the afternoon. I followed him, gratefully. Out the kitchen door we hurried, down the concrete path, not even stopping to hurdle the dustbins. We jumped over the wire netting fence separating the vegetable patch from the jungle of weeds and willows where his dad, a budgie breeder, laid dead birds to rest.

What a good time we’d had in the budgies’ graveyard last summer holidays! Unfortunately, my father saw us shooting arrows at dead budgies hanging from the clothesline. Fathers have a habit of putting a stop to fun. We were banned from the bottom of the garden for the rest of the summer. I still don’t see what all the fuss was about….they couldn’t FEEL anything….

“Hey Deirdre!” Archie had vanished into the weeds. “How about here?” I followed his voice, picking my way through the nettles. He was sitting on a sheet of rusty corrugated iron, pulling the wings off a butterfly.

“This is perfect,” he said, throwing bits of butterfly over his shoulder for luck. “Sit down here.” I sat down, carefully. “Now look at the house.”

“I can’t see the house from here, Archie.”

“Exactly!” He grinned at me. “You’re slow on the uptake! If you can’t see them……”

“They can’t see us!” I was delighted. “When will we start?”

“Tomorrow morning,” Archie said. “I know a place where I can get a couple of spades.”

“I haven’t seen any spades, Archie.”

“Huh…. girls never notice anything.” Hurt, I said nothing.

“OK, I’ll tell you. But keep it a secret?” I nodded. “See that old air raid shelter, across the cornfield ?”

“Yes”.

“The spades are hidden inside, away in a corner among some nettles. I’ll sneak them up here later on today.”

“How did you find them? ”

He winked,  rubbing what was left of the butterfly into powder between his palms.  “I’m smart,” he said. “Hadn’t you noticed?”

2.

Digging that hole was hard work. We had two bottles of lemonade from our larder, and a packet of biscuits stolen by Archie from the shop across the road.

“My geography teacher said that if you started digging from Scotland you’d get to Australia if you kept going long enough” I said to Archie, looking at the growing pile of earth. “D’you think that’s true?”

“Course it is” he replied,  taking a long swallow of lemonade. “If David Livingstone could do it, why can’t we?”

“But ….” I said puzzled. “But he DIDN’T ….”

“Oh shut up!” Archie said impatiently. “Let’s get on with it.” We worked all day, stopping only to go home for our dinner.

“Where on earth have you been?” asked my mother. “You’re filthy!”

“Oh–nowhere. Just out playing.”

“I wish you’d be more like a girl,” she sighed. “You wouldn’t get so dirty.”

“Can I have some more mince, please?” I asked. I had eaten the two hills, the roads and there was no gravy left for the river. She gave me some. My mother would like it if I wore a skirt and a ribbon in my hair. But I don’t like girls. They’re boring.

3.

“What are we going to do with these worms, Archie?” We were digging up the longest, fattest worms I had ever seen.

“Seems a pity to waste them, doesn’t it?” he said, scratching his head and thinking very hard.

 

“I know! Just you wait here.” He went off to the shed and came back with a hammer and some nails. “Right, pick up a few and bring them over here.” He walked towards the willow trees. I had never picked up a worm in my life. Closing my eyes and trying to think of something else, I collected about ten of them. They were slimy and clammy and they squirmed in my hand.

“We’ll have a laugh here,” said Archie. “Hand me one at a time.” I watched him as he nailed them to the trees. Wriggling and jumping, they oozed slime and worm blood. Archie grinned at me. “They don’t take long to die.” Feeling sick and dizzy,  I forced myself to watch. At last they just hung there, limp.

“That’s my good deed for the day,” Archie said. I looked at him, trying not to show my feelings. “Well” he said. “The birds. I’ve given them their dinner.” I couldn’t say a word. Archie picked up his spade. “Come on, Deirdre. We’ve a lot of digging to do.”

4.

It was Saturday morning. I was lying in bed eating a bacon sandwich, and drinking the  tea my mother had brought me. I was thinking about the hole; it was getting deep. What would we do about the water?

“Deirdre!” Oh blast ….she would be wanting me to go into town.We’d be held up with the digging. “Deirdre! Come and see your uncle Angus – he’ll be off in a minute.” That was different. I liked my uncle Angus a lot. He always looked as if he was just about to have an adventure. I didn’t know what his job was, but I had overheard him talking to my father. It was something to do with nets and seals and the police. Jumping out of bed, I pulled on my jeans and a jersey, and ran downstairs.

There he was, leaning against the kitchen sink, rolling a cigarette. My mother glared at me. “You scruffy little tinker! Why haven’t you brushed your hair?”

“Oh, Anna, leave the girl alone!” said uncle Angus, lighting his cigarette and winking at me. “She’s a free spirit.” He grinned. “Am I right, miss?”

“Of course,” said I, not looking at my mother. It was worth the row later. I wanted him to like me.

“Come here!” he said. “Shut your eyes and hold out your hands.” I obeyed him. “Right! Open your eyes.”

I could hardly believe what I saw. Four half crowns! Ten whole shillings! It wasn’t even

Xmas or my birthday. I stared at him, not knowing what to say.

“Angus!” My mother sounded shocked. “She gets one shilling a week. That’s quite enough for a child her age.”

“Rubbish, woman” replied uncle Angus. “We all deserve a wee treat once in a while.” He turned to me. “Right–no banks, no savings, nothing sensible. Go straight out and spend the lot today on whatever you fancy. O.K.?”

“O.K.” I didn’t say anything else, just winked at him. He winked back. My mother glared at me as I made for the door.

“Be back here in time for your dinner!” she called. I stopped .

“What’s for dinner, then?” Grinning, uncle Angus  pointed to the draining board.There lay two huge silvery salmon.

“Away you go” he said. “See you the next time.”

5.

 

Out of sight of our house, I sat on a low wall. I needed to think.

Archie would be working on the hole. He would be so angry if I said I was going down town. He thought I was less stupid than most girls. I didn’t want to make him mad. But I loved having all this money.  If I didn’t spend it today it might fall down a drain.

I looked at the four half crowns. One was very new and glinted in the sun. Archie could have a share! I could give him a shilling…. or even one and six. But I knew Archie. He wouldn’t be happy. I put two half crowns on the wall, then the other two, whilst making up my mind. Half shares each! That would please him, wouldn’t it?

Archie was busy. He straightened up when he heard me coming. “Where have you been, you lazy little runt?” He was really mad. Just wait till I told him!

“I’m going down town this morning, Archie,” I said. “Are you coming with me?”

“Down town? With all this work to do? Clear off. Go yourself.” He turned his back and carried on digging.

“Look what I’ve got, Archie,” I said, taking the half crowns out of my pocket. “I got a present today.”

“Very nice, I’m sure,” he said in a nasty voice. “Some of us aren’t so lucky. Away and spend it, then.”

“You can have a share.”

He turned round, very quickly. “How much?”

“Half.” He was out of that hole like a shot!

“Deirdre, you’re a real pal,” he said, giving me a big smile. “You’re the best pal I ever had.” He wiped his hands on his jeans and grabbed my arm. “Come on, let’s go. Will we walk or take a bus?”

I felt really happy. “Let’s walk,” I replied. “It’s such a lovely day.”

6.

What a time we had! We got a big ice cream each from Cabrelli’s. In Woolies, we bought a matchbox car each, and new pencils with rubbers on the end. We bought marbles and plasticine. Archie bought a water pistol; I bought a lead cowboy whose hat and gun clipped on and off. Archie called me a swot when I got a bottle of ink for my new fountain pen. We were thrown out when he frightened one of the assistants with his new plastic jumping frog; but the money was mostly gone, so it didn’t matter.

We stopped at the corner sweet shop to spend our last few pennies on sherbet fountains and lucky potatoes, eating them on the way home. I should have got a Five Boys, I thought; my favourite chocolate, you could bite the Boys’ faces off one by one, leaving the smiling one to last. But I had no money left.

 

As we walked, we tried to decide what to do about the water coming in the hole.

“It’s getting serious,” Archie said. “I keep getting wet feet, and I’m running out of stories to tell my mother.”

“Perhaps we could use a tin can as a bailer, like my father does in his boat?”

“Trouble with that,” Archie replied, “is that the water would still come in, and we’d spend half the time bailing it out.”

“True enough.”

Fry's Five Boys chocolate - once the most famous confectionery bar in the world

Fry’s Five Boys chocolate – once the most famous confectionery bar in the world

We walked quietly for a bit, thinking. A short way from his house, Archie brought a bar of Five Boys out of his pocket. Removing the wrapper, he began to bite the Boys off one by one.

“Where did you get that?” I asked. “I thought we’d spent all the money.”

“In Woolies,” he replied. “When you were getting your ink.” There were only two Boys left.

“Can I have one?” I asked. “The smiling Boy at the end?”

“No. You can’t. I bought it with my money, not yours.” I watched him slowly biting into the smiling Boy, chewing it and swallowing it. He licked his lips. “MMM. That was nice.”

Suddenly I felt sick. “Must get home for my dinner” I mumbled, not looking at him. As we reached his gate I started to walk really fast.

“Cheerio, then,” he said. “See you this afternoon.” I didn’t answer.

7.

That night I dreamed about Archie. He was in the hole, digging.The water began to rise. It rose very quickly.The hole was too deep for him to get out. He started screaming, and calling to me for help. He couldn’t swim. I did nothing and said nothing; just sat and watched until the surface of the water was calm.

2200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Rumbold Raven’s Magic Menagerie : lost – and found!

Rumbold Raven’s Magic Menagerie” is a series of eighteen short children’s poems featuring an eccentric, colourful assortment of animal characters: Dorelia the extinct Dodo, Feeble Fred the dozy frog, delightfully dreamy Salome Seahorse, and wellyboot-wearing Tiger Tigbaloo to name but a few – all eighteen drawn together by scary but charismatic Rumbold Raven himself.

Rumbold Raven

Rumbold Raven

The book has an interesting story, since it was written by me and illustrated by my artist friend Albert Ennemoser thirty five years ago. At that time, publishers loved the book but rejected it because of the prohibitive cost of producing Albert’s wonderfully detailed and lavishly coloured illustrations.

Albert returned to his native Austria and the book, which he had given to me, gathered dust in my study for decades. It was well and truly lost – under the spare bed in my husband’s study, to be precise.

By the New Year of 2013 Lola, our delightful granddaughter, was nearly two and already a book lover like me. After a visit with her mum Susie and dad Ben in January 2013, whilst hunting under the spare bed for something else, I came across the dusty manuscript of “Rumbold Raven….” and looked through the poems again.

They leapt off the pages, lively and quirky as ever. “Mmmm”, I said to my husband Ian, Lola’s granddad. “Lola would love this book, wouldn’t she?” So, with the able help of local web designers co-occurrence, it has at last been born. Enjoy!

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“There are very few children’s books that manage to combine great writing with great illustrations. “Rumbold Raven’s Magic Menagerie” has managed to do both. This book is a treasure of beautiful illustrations and engaging words. Each story and picture is unique and will have children’s imaginations captured. The fact that they are both beautiful to look at and interesting to read makes them unusual. I am hoping to frame a couple for my child’s room. Well done Anne for persevering and bringing these treasures to us now after all these years.”

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Emily Cutts, independent psychology researcher and community activist with Glasgow, UK’s “The Children’s Wood” campaign.

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You can download a free two page sample from Rumbold Raven’s Magic Menagerie as a PDF (480KB) and if you like it, why not buy the entire book of eighteen characters for $8.00? Just press the Paypal button below and I will send you the PDF by email.

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Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Treasure in the autumn sky….

No, I haven’t vanished from the blogosphere…. still resting my (much improved) tendonitis-afflicted wrist. However, I enjoy  emerging occasionally: this time, to share something which has lighted up my week.

I love the Northern Lights, those elusive magicians of the Northern dark. Here is a beautiful photograph sent to me last week which I have happily added to my collection. Enjoy!

Northern Lights

Northern Lights over Treshnish Isles, Scotland

(click on the image to enlarge)

….and...if you’d like to read some of my reflections on the joy and awe evoked by the Northern Lights, as well as watching a video of the most stunning Northern Lights sequence EVER, click below:

 https://anne-whitaker.com/2013/04/21/watch-this-clip-feed-your-soul/

Do treat your soul to an uplift by watching this clip. Forget the Measurers and the reductionists for a few minutes. Whatever they may do their best to tell us, there are and always will be sublimely mysterious dimensions to life for which materialist science with all its brilliance can provide only one dimension of the answer…..

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Support from Guardian newspaper for Glasgow’s North Kelvin Meadow campaign!

Check out this article from today’s “Guardian” newspaper:

The Guardian supports: Glasgow residents’ final fight to save North Kelvin Meadow from bulldozer http://gu.com/p/3ckyz/tw  via @guardian

  

Not quite what Rudolph had in mind…..great excitement in North Kelvin, Glasgow, UK!

Friday  14th December 2012. It was a dark and rainy night….despite which around one thousand children, parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents all came out to see North Kelvin’s first Reindeer Parade, escorting Santa Claus through The Children’s Wood:

Santa Sets Off!

Santa Sets Off!

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

Festive excitement and pleasure – Santa, Reindeer, spirited recitation from the Stick Man, juggling, delicious cakes, mulled wine (hot blackcurrant for the children) – combined with serious purpose. We were also there to protest, make our banners seen:

Save Our Children's Wood!

Save Our Children’s Wood!

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

Think globally, act locally urges people to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities and cities. Long before governments began enforcing environmental laws, individuals were coming together to protect habitats and the organisms that live within them. These efforts are referred to as grassroots efforts. They occur on a local level and are primarily run by volunteers and helpers…..” ( Wikipedia )

May 2012 saw the start of The Children’ Wood – an offshoot of the sterling efforts of the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign, for the last few years the latest in several local initiatives, whose objective over a long period of time now has been to save a patch of local waste ground for community green space use, as opposed to its hosting yet another set of newbuild flats  – in an already built up area –  if Glasgow City Council‘s plan for the space goes ahead.

To give you a wonderful ‘flavour’ of what this land means to our community, DO watch this brilliant short film Dear Green Place made recently by film maker James Urquhart.

Time is now getting short. The community’s formal objections have to be lodged by 4th January 2013. To find out more about this and find out how YOU can help, click HERE.

AND – to sign our on-line petition, go HERE. Thanks!!

Meadow in the City

The Children’s Wood

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

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NOTE: Blog/Twitter followers, Facebook friends, community activists and enthusiasts, please do what you can to pass this post around your networks. Thanks!

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300 words copyright /Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Samhain: A little flare of magic in the night!

If you went down to The Children’s Wood, North Kelvin, Glasgow, UK  tonight, you’d find this:

a little flare of magic....

a little flare of magic….

photo: Anne Whitaker

in the centre of the photo, a tiny flare of fire: a long IPhone shot of a beautiful, leaping bonfire on a crisp, cold, dry autumn night. Fireworks going off all round, sparks and whorls of vivid colour in the dark. Dozens of parents and children: children entranced, parents sipping mulled wine, enjoying the first mince pies of an extended winter season which now seems to begin at Hallowe’en. Yes, The Children’s Wood hosted a stunning event then too….fairy lights, food….and five hundred neighbourhood folk.

The local community has proved over the last six months that we need and want and use this  green space. Support us by signing the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign petition. I have recently discovered that most of my blog followers live in the USA and Canada, followed by the UK and a healthy sprinkling of readers around the world. Can you help make this campaign international? If you can, sign the petition and circulate the link. Thank you!

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200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page