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Friday, 24 January 2014

Zen, Cold, but Effective. The Artist Extraordinaire this Week.

Just for today, my usual special sofa in my sitting room, is free.  I am sitting on it now, surrounded by cushions but no blankets.  No, all the blankets are in use.  Each room in my house has been rented out to a person who has agreed, somehow, to live here.  This room, in which I sit, my own special sitting room from which I write and plan my days, is free for today only, but taken tomorrow.  In the hours before my next paying guest arrives, I sit amongst my bits and pieces in my favourite room, and write to you.  I have no blanket because all of them are in use wrapping my other lodgers, guests and family members as they snooze happily on my floors, sofas and in my spare beds.  And so, because I think laterally, I have on my coat, my thermal socks, and some very stout fleece lined boots.  Next to me is a bag, and in the bag are my gloves, scarf and hat.  I am very Zen today.  It is all as it is.

Why do I need so many things to stay warm?  Because my heating and hot water has become vague and sporadic.  There is enough hot water to suit the household if I tweak some knobs, but the heating is very half hearted.  No one else in the house feels the cold, and so I have left it, and have begun to wear many layers as I do feel the cold. 

Not much heating, thermal outdoor wear, yes, this lady and I are having the same kind of day

I have been very busy this week, and I have a feeling of calm acceptance.  When I have an idea, I like it to be implemented at once and for all the details, nuts, bolts, bumps and contingency plans to be someone else's problem.  I just like it to work and for everyone to benefit, including me, and then to have tea and feel great about it all.  After a brief lull, I like to have the next idea, and do it all over again.  But this week, I have given myself time and space to
  1. Work
  2. Sit around
  3. Do household things
This seems a good thing to do.  This week, I remember doing an awful lot of putting shopping away, cleaning up, cooking and talking to people on the phone, and yet, and yet, a good number of things are in place for the Next Stage.  Here, for example, is the to-do list that I wrote this morning after the window cleaners had been, Giant Boy had gone to college, and the iPhone man had brought the replacement phone for my old shattered one (dropped it in Sainsbury's yesterday while shopping diligently for food and flowers)
  1. Blog
  2. Fairy
  3. Pork shoulder
  4. Prepare room for Silent Pole
This list will take up an entire day, and that is fine.  The blog is self evident.  I am doing it now, despite the constrictions from such a large heavy coat and scarf.  The Fairy is the next True Fairy, who started to materialise in the studio last night, and is mainly white and yellow.  She is as ever, lovely to me, and must be continued while there is daylight.  She tends to get a bit exaggerated in artificial light, and it is terribly important that she is simply perfect.  The pork shoulder is a challenge; I want to look up a good recipe to cook the blasted thing so that Giant Boy has a treat.  I am very unsure of pork shoulders, being a vegetarian and not very connected to meat, and so having got this amazing gift for my boy, I have no idea how to make it sing, so to speak.  The journey of a thousand miles, I am told, starts with a single step.  I will cook this pork shoulder, and the boy will bow low to his mother's skill.  Preparing the room for the Silent Pole will not take long.  In last week's blog I explained how a silent, elusive, and private Polish man comes periodically to stay in my house while he works over here.  We never see him once he is here.  We know he is around because of the lonely ping of the microwave in the early hours of the morning as he heats his single sausage.  Sometimes we hear the echo of slippered feet as we turn the corner, but when we look, no one is there. If we stand still, we can hear the faint tapping of a laptop and the gentle sigh of a Polish man hard at work, in the ether somewhere vague and distant.  I will move my laptop and books from this sitting room, make a bed on the sofa, and hand it over to my silent Polish man, who will, quite appropriately, arrive tomorrow when I am out for the day.  Giant Boy will let him in.  If Giant Boy is out, he will waft through a crack in the door, he knows where to go, and all will be well.

What have I been Doing?

Have I led you to believe that this week is all about pork shoulders, fairies and Polish men?  Ah.  Zen.  In a flash I shall tell you about the other busy side to my week. 

  • A Graceful Death is coming to Brighton.  I am delighted to link the exhibition with the Dying Matters Coalition who will help with the promotion, and are happy to be linked with us.  I went to London to meet with them and had a very cheerful and productive meeting.  AGD is showing during Dying Matters Awareness Week, and as such, will be given help and support.  The dates and venue for this next exhibition and project are Tuesday 20 May to Friday 23 May inclusive, at St Peter's Church, Preston Park, Brighton.  The theme of this year's Dying Matters Awareness Week is You Only Die Once (YODO).  I will build this theme into the exhibition.  I have asked for someone from Dying Matters to come and launch us on the opening night, which they didn't say no to, though I expect they will be a bit busy that week.  But you never know!  Zen, a thousand footsteps and all that.  

  • Dying Matters has asked me to write a guest blog for them. I said Is the Pope a Catholic, and so it was settled.  In April, I will write of AGD and the work I do within it, and the effects of working in the way I do with the dying, through art.  This ties into the AGD Brighton event, and will I hope, interest more people to come along.  Of course it will.  They will be arriving in Winter coats and hats, and fighting to get in to take part.

  • I have written my first article for an on-line publication.  A lovely journalist contacted me from e-hospice, to talk about AGD.  The end product is that I have written something that will be published in two parts over Monday and Tuesday of next week, on the origins, the people, and the effects of the A Graceful Death exhibition.  Over the next few months, e-hospice will link to the videos filmed by Eileen Rafferty, of the sitters talking to me about the end of life, as part of the project.  They will also link to Lizzie Hornby's music which has been composed specifically for the exhibition, and to the articles, poems and words that people have written to be included in each event.  This is to prepare for the Dying Matters Awareness week AGD in Brighton, which this journalist will then cover.

  • I met with a documentary film maker, a lady who is, I think, very brave and clever, in Oxford.  Along with two other Soul Midwives, one of whom had arranged the meeting, we talked over what work we do for the end of life, and she, being thoughtful, listened and asked questions.  She is wanting to make a film about Soul Midwifery, and this was one of her first meetings with us.  Her previous documentary was about the lives of the women in Amsterdam's red light district.  We will get on well, she is not just a pretty face.   I hope to be in this documentary.  I would.  She is also coming to the AGD Brighton event, to see what it's all about.

  • AGD is also taking part in the Dead Good Day Out festival in Southampton on 10 May.  This too is for Dying Matters Awareness week, and will be a day out for the whole family. Organised by colleagues Deb and Chris Wilkes, it promises to be just as they say, a Dead Good Day out -

 "A day of thinking about Death - confronting a few taboos, some myth busting, how to lighten the environmental impact of funerals, and providing an informative and open atmosphere for questions and debate.

Our date will be Saturday May 10th 2014....a date for your diary

This will be at the start of The National Dying Matters Awareness Week, 12-19th May 2014

It will be a multi-faceted event, covering many aspects of Death and Dying.
A welcoming day for all of the community, including families, health professionals, a diversity of faiths - an engaging, colourful, reflective and creative day with music, poetry, paintings, funeral planning, food, lectures, discussion groups, talks, coffin painting, will making, sugar skulls decorating , film screenings and more!

...all in all, a 'Dead Good Day out'. "

Before I go now, into the kitchen to stare at the pork shoulder, I am publishing an extra blog on Monday or Tuesday, written by my friend Alan Bedford, on a subject about which he knows a great deal.  Alan has noticed similarities between his work in child protection and the difficulties in over medicalising the end of life.  He says,    

"I was struck by the links between the tendency and temptation to over-medicalise dying, and the risks of missing the message being given by abused children when they display physical symptoms or behavioural disorders. Sometimes the search for a medical ‘causes’ can overwhelm the more sensitive and less tangible attempt to understand what the child is saying through their ‘illness’"

Alan not only writes Serious Case Reviews in child abuse cases, he has been 9 years a director of a local hospice.  Look out for it, it will be a very good read.  In the meantime, chill.  Literally.  I am. 

Just on my way to the kitchen for a cup of tea and to gaze at the pork shoulder.