Sunday, 14 December 2008

Magic number

I seem to remember that 6 was my lucky number when I was a kid. No reason. It just was. Well, the other day Hope passed on a task called '6 things I value the most' (she did her 6 on 8th December) and so for several reasons I thought I would give it a go. First off it came from Hope and she is South Carolina's superstar storyteller so how could I say no? Secondly there was the lucky number business and sounded like an interesting subject to think about. I write quite a bit about belief and/or the lack of it but value...that's something else entirely. What do I value most of all?

I thought about it a while and came up with six abstracts (obviously I value my nearest and dearest but you don't really want a tearful Oscar acceptance speech right now, do you?). These abstracts cover a multitude of virtues. See if you can find yourself in there somewhere...


Comprehension...I was good at that in school...and I still value understanding like...nothing on earth. It is hard sometimes to understand others – to think about what they're saying and why, what they're feeling and why, what they're writing and why (and how they're writing too of course) – but it is so vital, so important to try. Media like blogs can easily turn into stifling me-and-yet-more-me worlds but they can also bring new worlds to a reader...worlds that detail new outlooks, new ways of thinking and living. You get the information...all you have to do is try to understand it.

The other day I was reading one of those interview questionnaires in the Independent with the delightful and very funny Meera Syal and she mentioned Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird' as her 'book that changed me'. Some people might groan ('oh not that again') but it is still a great book and for many reasons – all that emphasis on 'learning to walk in someone else's shoes' for a start. It's almost a cliché now but that doesn't mean it isn't still worth learning (just as the book is still worth reading). Also Syal's 'my life in seven words' (remember some of us had a go at that back on 30th June this year) was brilliant, one of the best I've read. For her seven Syal chose 'Happy – now can I have a biscuit?' It takes a perverse courage to admit to quite that level of happiness!


Well, you know, world peace would be nice but I'm not holding my breath...any peace is good with me. I like a little bit of quiet here and there, a pause, a time to think, an end to a long running argument of really any kind. I am the kind of crazy, strong-ideas person that does get into arguments sometimes (though less and less as time goes on) but I do like the calm after the storm more than the storm itself, I can assure you. I like making friends, getting on with people, taking it easy when you can. The world is fairly full of fighting of every kind so I am very keen on peace whenever possible. I have a little poem called 'Just thinking' which is kind of about this. It is a very simple poem...possibly my simplest ever (very Quakerly!). It's in the book or on the website (under poems – distress and recovery). I wasn't going to put it in the book (it's so simple that I knew it's the kind of poem that critics and poetry people would baulk at) but a very good friend of mine said it was one of her favourites and would I please include it. I write for my friends more than for poetry critics – I dedicate a lot of time to choosing friends wisely...critics are like family (you can't choose them!) - so I went with my friend's request. Now I look at the book and I don't regret the decision. It is true – we do 'need peace, every day'. Real friends tell the truth!


Well, it goes with peace, doesn't it? I have always been a fan of romantic love but here I'm talking about any love really. I don't care if you love a man or a woman (or several men and several women), whether you love dogs or cats, or your family or your friends, or Jesus or indeed the Mary Chain, or films or art or even your collection of custom-made clothes pegs...just love SOMETHING... and with as much of your heart as you can manage. I don't care if you think I'm soft in the head either (especially as I quite clearly am a bit soft in the hardly takes a brain surgeon to spot that!).

Some of the best poems are about love of some type (not necessarily romantic love). Colin Will's poem 'Tick' that I have been thinking about of late (it came up in our discussion about 'our best poems' back on 6 October this year) has a lot of complicated love in it and that, to me, is what powers it along. It is a beautifully detailed, gentle poem in some ways but it is positively simmering with various aspects of love too. Am I wrong, Colin?


'When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody's help in anyway.
But now these days are gone, I'm not so self assured,
Now I find I've changed my mind, I've opened up the doors'

I imagine you might know where those lyrics come from! One of my very favourite Beatles songs (and I like quite a lot of their songs).

I don't really need to write why I value giving help and getting it back so much do I? Isn't people helping other people about the best that we can get? From the tiniest details to the major life matters...opening doors is just so important. You never know what's on the other side...and people who go around slamming doors shut...I just don't get them. Never have. (But I do keep trying to understand!).


As I have mentioned before I was not a child who was big on innocence. I was very keen to grow up quickly and I made quite a pre-adult career of that. These days, just to be perverse, I am a huge fan of innocence (in its place – obviously) and I get a bit impatient with the whole world-weary cynicism routine (though I can still do the face...). My Small Girl is about the most wide-eyed innocent child you will ever meet and it is very much a case of a person getting the child they need to help them learn something new! My poem 'A dream is a song of hope' (website - under 'songs') is all about innocence really...and I know it showed naïveté even putting it in the book (I was advised against it by more than one other poet). But, you see, the thing with me is I just can't ever see the point of doing something the way other people would do it. Shelves full of clever, obedient, critic-approved books of that we want? Is that the best poetry can do? It always seems a bit tame to me.


So the question was 'things I value most' and, having had a long period of misery, I would be foolish if I didn't get happiness in here somewhere. Happiness is not to be sneezed at, my lovely friends, grab it (and give it) whenever you can. Music has given me some of my happiest moments so here's something I'll give you – one of my new favourite songs. I found it on a CD sampler from the very good Navigator Records and the song is 'Cathedrals' performed by Heidi Talbot. Talbot was the singer with Irish-American band Cherish the Ladies but now she is a solo artist and onto her second album ('In Love and Light'). I wondered who this song was written by (as I hadn't heard it before) and it took a few goes to find out. It has also been performed by Joan Osborne but it was written and first performed by the US indie band Jump, Little Children who I'd never heard of (had you?). As I say I've been a pop baby, a disco dolly, a rock chick, a rave girl and now, most recently, a folk fan but I've never really been an indie kid so my indie music knowledge is nothing to shout about. Anyway, here's the song (a live version..not exactly MTV quality...). And who's that on guitar? It's that Kris Drever bloke I was on about recently. It's a great song, sung beautifully so please enjoy it and be full of all the happiness that music can bring...even if only for a couple of minutes!



Rachel Fox said...

With all the excitement of the sermon I forgot that this was a meme thing and that it might be passed on. So - if you want to have a go at it please do.

Colin Will said...

Yes, Tick's definitely about love. Next week I start working on a Valentine's Day reading which Anne Connolly, Irene Brown and I are doing. We're calling it Time's Fool, and it will feature readings of poems about love in adult years - our own work and others we've chosen. I'll post more details nearer the time.

hope said...

"Understanding" was a good start because if you embrace it, the rest of your list follows nicely into a world I'd like to live in. :)

I'm glad you have Small Girl in your life...and that you share her. I hope to never lose my sense of innocence about things which matter. That's the nice thing about being here...we share instead of argue. A variety of viewpoints...wrapped in peace and love.

Rachel Fox said...

Colin, it is such a tricky subject to write about (love) because it's been written about so much (in all its forms). I have 11 poems in my 'love' section on the website (some about romantic love, some not so much). I'm sure there'll be a few more before I'm done!

And Hope. I know some people will think we're just soppy middle-aged women...but they don't know what we know...that being a soppy middle-aged woman is really not the worst thing you can be.


The Solitary Walker said...

Loved Heidi Talbot. She sounds like a cross between Kate Rusby and Cara Dillon.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, she is great live too SW. We have seen her at the folk club here before and she is touring and coming back in March 09. Can't wait!

Unknown said...

And none of them materialistic either, well done Rachel. Another thing for me to add to my other list of things to do when Christmas is getting on my nerves...

Jim Murdoch said...

A good list. I think I would have included 'meaning' or perhaps 'purpose' in the list although I'm not sure which one I would drop to make room for it. I'm not talking about this 'meaning of life' people keep going on about but a reason to go on. Why will tomorrow be better with me in it? It's a rhetorical question although I do try and answer it when I'm in a depression which I'm not actually at the moment despite the tone of my own post today.

Rachel Fox said...

Cheers Barbara...yes I did say it was a bit like a sermon! I do also value (obviously) the roof over my head (being fixed as I write, incidentally...), the food on the table (and in the stomach) and a good working heating system but I thought I'd aim for the other values this time.

And Jim, a reason to go on..? Love often helps with that one so maybe it could sneak in there. I find it's the days when I lose sight of all of these six areas (or feel the world has done) that I find meaning/purpose harder to find. It's easily done.


Dave King said...

I agree that some of the best poems are about love (in all its aspects), but there are also too many poems about love. They tend to swamp the good ones and give the genre a misleading reputation. It's a tricky subject to write about, though, in either prose or verse. Very brave of you to take it on, and you acquitted yourself well.

Rachel Fox said...

You've confused me now Dave. I'm not sure what I did well (or was it Colin?). I haven't put a love poem on here this time. Have I?

Liz said...

I like the approach you took to this, Rachel. Clever and thought-provoking...: )

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks, Liz. Much appreciated.
I found another Musings blog today (via Jim M's). Have you seen it?

Art Durkee said...

"But, you see, the thing with me is I just can't ever see the point of doing something the way other people would do it. Shelves full of clever, obedient, critic-approved books of that we want? Is that the best poetry can do? It always seems a bit tame to me."

Hear, hear!!! And amen!

Rachel Fox said...

Hey Art! Don't forget anyone who wants to swap a book for a book with me (or a book for a cd)...I am always open to offers. It's one of the plus sides of self-publishing...I can send the books where I want!

Dominic Rivron said...

I wondered if I would include good health? But then perhaps it's shrewd to omit things one has only limited control over.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes...I did think about that one too (along with the food, roof etc. - see reply to Barbara). Maybe we need 12 things we value (6 abstract, 6 non).