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Archive for the category “Words in my window 2018”

Words in my window: Hope

November’s a funny old month. It feels like the beginning of winter and the end of the year. Which can both be positive or negative things, depending on which way your year has shaken out and how you view the seasons.

With the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War arriving early in the month, a line from the Wilfred Owen poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ seemed apposite.


I’ve always found the poem heart-breakingly powerful. A guttural cry against the tragic inhumanity of war. An inhumanity that – in our humanity – we seem incapable of resolving. A paradox illustrated, of course, by the fact that this ‘war to end all wars’ didn’t do the job.

But, the very fact that we continue to anticipate that war will end forever one day is also illustrative of that inescapable human trait: hope.


Or do I mean optimism? One Instagram follower admired the optimism of HOPE/SPRINGS/ETERNAL. Are ‘hope’ and ‘optimism’ the same? There are certainly similarities. The proverb cited in my words derives from the idea that human nature compels us to ‘always find fresh cause for optimism’ (Oxford Dictionary of English, 2010). A few pages later, the OED states that optimism is ‘hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something.’ It also highlights Leibniz’s philosophical viewpoint ‘that this world is the best of all possible worlds’ and ‘good must ultimately prevail over evil in the universe.’ Leibniz was born mid-17th century and died in early 18th. His philosophy was ridiculed by many, particularly Voltaire. If you’re interested in that, you’ll find a piece I wrote about Voltaire and the Brexit Referendum 2016 here.

All this seemed to lead into the idea of individuals being works in progress which, to me, suggested that we start from a point of potential… I had intended ON A BLANK CANVAS but I was short of Ns. Sometimes the letters lead to a better phrase and, actually, I prefer the more humanised:


Although, as some artist friends pointed out on Instagram, this blankness would be sorted with some of their handcrafted tubes of oil paint! If you’re interested, just pop over to Foldyard here in Berwick on Bridge Street.

And so to the end of the month and what has become a hope trope! This time ‘hope’ with a different emphasis.


This seemed to resonate with people. Friends on Instagram and Facebook responded to HOPE/IS/A GIFT with affirmations: ‘Yes – absolutely’, ‘Indeed’. And with assertions: ‘A necessity’, ‘(a gift) that must be shared’, ‘ (a gift)…that is well grounded in God’s promises‘, ‘From God given to us in our Saviour Jesus Christ’.

Even as I write, the vote on the Brexit deal in Parliament has been postponed – having been set to go ahead as recently as this morning! We live in strange times. Whichever way your politics swing, and whatever your thoughts on Brexit, it is all very unsettling. All very ‘uncharted territory’ as Theresa May might say. However, that’s to suggest that we are or have been in ‘charted’ territory.

And so, fittingly, and somewhat unexpectedly, December has arrived and I am about to complete 52 weeks of placing different phrases in my front window.

Since I won’t be writing a post until 2019, I’d like to wish you a peaceful Christmas and a hopeful New Year – and to leave you with this week’s #wordsinmywindow:



Words in my window: two for the price of one!

A Better Hospital for Berwick, unity and dissonance, Halloween, Cancer and Cards Against Humanity all feature in September and October

I feel as if I may crash and burn. I aimed to have different words in my window each week for a year. I have managed that. Just. But I also thought I’d blog about them – not so much to search for meaning but to reflect on the meanings they conjured for myself and others. I have managed that each month. Just. Until now. So it’s two for the price of one.

Look, September and October have been fiercely busy. Perhaps the most important and mind-consuming thing has been the campaign: ‘A Better Hospital for Berwick’. This fight (and, actually, it is a fight) to ensure that our community’s hospital and essential facilities are not quietly shrunk away is stomach-clenchingly real. The idea that a whole population might be left vulnerable and isolated because of laziness and a focus on financial savings rather than on the realities of life lived and the inescapable fact of being over 60 slow, undualled miles from the nearest acute health facilities, is totally compelling. For me, it has been a wake-up call about the NHS. The NHS is not what it was. Like our hospital in Berwick, it’s been disappeared while we weren’t watching – actually, while we were watching thinking someone was fighting our corner and had our best interests at heart. We were wrong. You can read more about the Berwick hospital campaign and my views on the NHS here.

Inevitably my passion for this campaign infected my words in September: STAND/AND/BE was followed NO/MATTER/WHAT.


The Husband suggests that the final week of October also sits with September’s passionate scream for compassion and an NHS that remains national and inclusive:


Next up was LIFT/UP/YOVR (I ran out of Us). In some ways, I was thinking spiritually as one FB friend suggested when he cited some liturgy:

“Lift up your hearts”

“We lift them to the Lord”

But also voices. I was thinking hearts and voices. Lifting hearts and voices together is so much more powerful. Finding ways to unite rather than to dissociate is so much more productive. This is when positive things happen. When what is lost is saved. When what is denied is restored.


And so to voices of a different kind. Whilst some saw pragmatic references such as THIS/IS/YOUR ‘last day of the working week’, my brother saw ‘birthday’. And, yes, it was the now 17-year-old’s birthday in that week and she had said: ‘it had better be about me’. What mother could refuse? Happy birthday to you!20180930_094320

CHOOSE/WORDS/WITH ‘enough letters to fit the light box’ said one friend. Correct. However, these last words of September generated the most (I think) polarised responses. From ‘passion’ to ‘an etymologist’, from ‘caution’ to ‘the letters you have available’, from ‘your window messages are perfect for a game of cards against humanity’ to ‘kindness’, ‘wisdom’ and ‘care’.

Talking of letters available, HELLO/MEllOW/FRUIT was called out for its hint of catty sounds (due to a lack of Ls) rather than its Autumnal references.

Did I say it’s been busy? As many readers will know, back in October 2015, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. It’s been a pretty weird three years. At times I felt my life was on hold or that I was waiting for it to be over. Sometimes I expected to wake up knowing who I was when the whole cancer thing stopped. But it hasn’t stopped. It doesn’t stop. It’s always with you. Your shadow. Your possible nemesis. Your companion. It’s not necessarily heavy and life-draining. Sometimes it’s just there. Sometimes it makes you lethargic. And sometimes it manifests itself in an urge to grab life by the balls.

So, I’m currently doing a course at Edinburgh University which is fascinating but demanding. It’s called Between Counselling & Research – a title too long to feature in my window but certainly enigmatic enough. Trust me, it makes my brain hurt. I’ve also started a new job as a part-time Community Fundraiser in Berwick for HospiceCare North Northumberland –  find out more about that here.

So, maybe TURN/BACK/THE was more about tides than clocks for me. For someone else it was: ‘Once upon a time I wouldn’t change anything but now.’ For one person it was: ‘Oh yes please! Turn it back to pre-June 2016’ (a pre-BREXIT ref). My Cards Against Humanity pal found plenty in his pack: ‘Unfathomable stupidity’, ‘Insatiable bloodlust’ and ‘Wearing an octopus for a hat’. Whilst ‘sheets’ and ‘curtain’ are both practical ideas, ‘EHT’ wins the prize.

Turn back the

Oh, and who decided that there was a Halloween week? Ridiculous.






Words in my window: August


Sometimes it’s the crusty bits around the edge and other times it’s the gooey bits in the middle

So said my brother. And, as ever, he’s right. Maybe with his picture of an underbaked cake he intuitively realised I was alluding to the thing that so often stalls progress and stymies action: PERFECTION. How many people want to do things but never do because they fear they won’t be good enough (I know I do)? How many people enjoy a slightly underbaked cake with a slightly gooey centre (I know I do)?  Exactly.

Linked to this is a thought which cropped up when I was chatting with someone who’d recently been dealing with cancer. We agreed that cancer and such life-shortening and life-inhibiting illnesses change your perspective on life. ‘Don’t put off joy,’ said my friend. She didn’t mean get out there and do what you want to do, no matter the consequences. She meant don’t forget to pause and take pleasure in the here and now. The gift of the moment, if you like.


I had thought about NO/FLIES/ON as in ‘no flies on him/her’ for this week. But, as I fiddled with my letters, I realised how delightful it would be (for me!) to create a palindrome and see if anyone noticed. Of course they did! Someone also spotted ‘stealth’ in these words – whether sinister or comforting, predatory or protective, I don’t know.


It’s a strange thing with these words and the lack of punctuation. SO/LONG HOT/DAYS could easily be read as ‘So, long hot days…’ However, the clouds were gathering in late August and most people responded with teary emojis (although my friend the anagram hunter came up with ‘Solo thong days’ – which sound a tad lonely!).


I had intended ‘Define kindness please’ for the last week in August. However it’s really hard to fit eight letters on a line of my box. Anyway, DEFINE/KIND/PLEASE is more enigmatic – indeed one person pointed out that it could refer to the species humankind as well as to a characteristic. However, most people went with the characteristic. The idea that kindness is  ‘not causing harm’ came up as did the, to me, more proactive ‘show it’. Perhaps my favourite response was ‘I see you’, with it’s suggestion of real interaction and understanding. To me, ‘I see you’ holds a promise that is linked to the ‘don’t postpone joy’ comment at the beginning of this piece: KIND/KINDNESS is a gift which we have the power to share with others in any given moment of time.

Of course, in a different context, ‘I see you’ might have altogether more sinister overtones. Fortunately my radar in my words earlier in the month was not on!

I leave you with a picture of my family enjoying perfection in the rock pools of Spittal over the other side of the Tweed from Berwick.


Words in my window: July

Featuring this month: football (remember that?), the weather, outrage, music refs a-plenty, a stone circle and, of course, cod philosophy!

Was it really only a few weeks ago that the entire nation was fixated by the possibility that the three lions on our young heroes’ shirts would roar victoriously and bring football home?

Had a dream

How quickly WE HAVE/A/DREAM changed tense. But, hey, it was brilliant fun and hugely uplifting to momentarily feel a collective buzz of optimism – and be reminded that, despite its many shortcomings and at times negative impacts, global sport can be a unifying force.

WE HAVE/A/DREAM was one of two sets of July #wordsinmywindow to provoke an Abba reference on social media (‘a song to sing…’ thanks for asking). Perhaps Abba’s in the ether what with the new ‘Mamma Mia’ movie. Having said that, maybe Abba is (as Elvis sang) always on some people’s minds.

Despite having to prolong the dream for another four years, the sporting spirit-lifter (cheers!) of the World Cup was doubly welcome in Berwick. Here, the endless sunshine and blistering heat – enjoyed and moaned about in equal measure by most of the country –  was smothered by a dour and chilly sea fret. Hence the first July words in my window:


Positively playful compared to some of my recent window offerings. And, yes, I was a little bit too pleased with myself for overcoming the lack of Ns in my letters!

The thing with doing this weekly #wordsinmywindow malarkey is that sometimes I can’t remember why I put particular phrases up. I’m sure I had something in mind for:


But I’m darned if I can remember what I was thinking about at the time. Perhaps that people seem to enjoy finishing unfinished

It had to be done.

And several people did finish the phrase: ‘day’, ‘only day it ever is’ and ‘…first day of the rest of your life’.


In July, I had a marvellous conversation with a friend about spirituality, life, power and money. It is so very hard to hold on to things lightly and to live generously in our ‘what’s mine is mine’ culture. The more you have, we thought, the more you need to have, either to im/prove your status and perceived value (by self and/or others), or to service what you already have.

As far as opinions and politics are concerned, social media seems to make us even more prone to shout out our thoughts or point-of-views and retreat to a place where listening to others’ responses – particularly those who might not agree with us – is unnecessary. Or, if you’re Trump (and he’s not alone), you say one thing one day, the opposite the next, and call anything that’s inconvenient Fake News. As John Lennon wrote: ‘Strange days indeed’.

If, like me, you’ve not seen the second ‘Mamma Mia’ movie, you may well be equally puzzled by the idea that TREAD/LIGHTLY/ON garnered the second Abba reference of the month. I’ve now listened to their 80s song: ‘Andante, Andante’ and understand.

Speaking of treading, one of my aims this year has been to visit places locally in Northumberland that I haven’t got round to dropping in on yet. One such place is Duddo Stones. If ever a place echoes with mystery and the footsteps of passing years, Duddo does. I guess because one of the stones disappeared at some point in this ancient public art installation’s history, I found myself thinking of that catchphrase: ‘Leave nothing but footprints’. Which I suppose is what you’d do if you couldn’t resist stealing everything.

Linking to the thoughts above about our bite-and-run culture, my final July words were WHO/DO/YOU. These were purloined from a phrase often used by the outraged in response to a comment or thought from someone they don’t agree with: ‘Who do they think they are!’ It’s interesting, because it is a rhetorical question, neither requiring or desiring an answer. It’s designed to insult the status of the original writer/speaker and to be nodded at by those who share the respondent’s sense of outrage. The subtext is that the writer/speaker is ignorant, audacious, and should keep quiet. Funny in this world of citizen journalism and voice-for-all social media. To me, it is the perfect illustration of a society that wishes to speak but not listen.

Thank goodness that a friend on Facebook saw something else entirely in these three words:

‘Which Dr….Who do you…. think traversed the widest timeframe?’

Thanks, Adam!

I’d just like to say:




Words in my window: June

Monty Python – Anagrams – Completion


From Facebook for SOME/TIMES/LIFE

‘s a pile of shit, when you look at it?
…. Is a passing thought.
 Hmmm. You may or may not know Jackie but, on the subject of life, times and interesting, a Chinese curse is said to run thus- ‘May you live in interesting times.’
Good – or been good, Joe Walsh would say…

makes you smile and some times makes you cry


From Facebook for NOW/IS/THE

anagram of own and won

3 of the letters in the word ‘window.’

Is the place that the past and the future meet
changing room of time
Age of Aquarius
Summer of love or winter of discontent?
the right time


From Facebook for THE/BUCK/STOPS

just up from the book shop near the bus stop.

When he sees the doe!!


This month I was struck by the fact that people often see my weekly words as something to be solved or completed – and also how playful and creative people are. One friend came up with loads of anagrams for NOW/IS/THE including the rather delightful HOT SINEW! I also like that people often hedge their comments with a question mark – just in case it’s not the right answer, perhaps.

The Husband and I have been getting our money’s worth from the NHS recently. With this noble institution’s70th birthday featuring large in the media, it seemed only right to give N/H/S a window slot. Yes, it’s a bit broken. Yes, it’s creaking under the weight placed on its ageing shoulders. And, yes, like Victorian school buildings and prisons, it needs a facelift, a refurb and a rethink. But it’s the NHS, our NHS. Let’s face it, as a country we bloody love the NHS and would feel much less complete without it.

I missed the Monty Python Life of Brian ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ reference of the first comment on SOME/TIMES/LIFE. It seems only right to sign off this month with an excerpt from that timeless song:

“Life’s a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true
You’ll see it’s all a show
Keep ’em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

Words in my window: May

Why do we fill time in the ways we do? Does choice or necessity pull rank in how we occupy the hours of our lives?

I was busy enough during May to almost completely bypass the Royal Wedding. On 19th May, when my London Daughter sent an Instagram of a beautifully set afternoon tea, I asked what time the wedding was. Her reply: “It’s just finished, Mum!” Ooops.


However, I’d had the presence of mind to do a special Royal Wedding #wordsinmywindow earlier that morning. Worried about someone taking umbrage and smashing my window (see January’s words), I decided against OFF/WITH/THEIR. Instead I chose an allusion to the oft Marie Antoinette-attributed ‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche’: LET/THEM/EAT (using an upside-down 1 as an extra T). This prompted a variety of responses on social media, including:

Let them Eat…….Standing Up. Buffet style!!!!

Happily with family and friends

and the more prosaic:

Can’t be over soon enough, blurg…


‘Under the Sun’ (ellipted from ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ from Ecclesiastes, the Old Testament Bible book) would have been my choice to kick off May – prompted by the glorious Bank Holiday weather. However, there’s only one U in my light box letters. Hence UNDER/THE/SKY which, to me, seems to encapsulate the idea of being rather than doing, observing rather than striving to change and celebrating rather than denigrating. Of course, this rather leapfrogs the spiritual soul searching of the original. Is everything we do simply a reinvention of things already done? Does that make it all meaningless? Is true meaning only to be found through a connection with God/ a higher being?

20180513_111459.jpgThe next words of May feel almost like a double negative. I toyed with the equally nebulous ZERO/IS/CERTAIN. Suffice to say that the tenure of ZERO/IS NOT/CERTAIN was definitely uncertain. Our decorators turned up unexpectedly and kept removing the sign in order to paint the windows. On the upside, the window frame forms a slightly less frayed frame to my words now! One friend emailed and included a PS:

Zero may not be certain but I wouldn’t want to put too much money on it.

Another commented on the JOIN IN visible on a poster beneath it –  one of the many community notices that regularly feature in our windows – which highlights the opportunity to contribute a stitch or two to a tapestry being created to celebrate Berwick  à la Great Tapestry of Scotland.

Spirituality seems to haunt my words. WANDER/WATCH/WONDER was inspired by a brief stop in the beautiful Northumberland village of Felton and a wander in its Grade 1 listed church: St Michael And All Angels. Inside, we found a tenderly curated prayer trail based on Psalm 23 (The Lord is my shepherd…). It meandered lovingly around the church. All that work to offer a relatively small congregation and passers-by like us a week to stumble across it and consider it; all in this obvious and yet, somehow simultaneously, unlikely setting.

The Husband is very good at spending time pondering things – whether it be a planning notice on a lamp post or a flower in the garden. I am much more of a ‘no time for hanging around’ kind of person. But this little oasis of calm in that lovely church made me pause. No matter what your beliefs, allowing yourself valuable time to reconceive thoughts and ideas must surely be central to a world that welcomes rather than excludes or condemns out of hand. Surely curiosity and wonder are the lifeblood of existence?



Because we held an Open Garden as part of a fundraiser for our local parks here in Berwick, I finished the month with TEND/OUR/GARDENS. A nod to the French writer Voltaire’s picaresque satirical novella, ‘Candide’ or ‘Optimism’. It was an unplanned link and counterpoint to the earlier words: LET/THEM/EAT, and neatly pulled May’s words full circle to UNDER/THE/SKY.


Words in my window: April

I hijacked the first words of April: MIRACLES/DO/HAPPEN into March. The 16-year-old felt the words that have, by default, become the first of the month were ‘too frivolous and obvious’. But this is what came to mind four weeks ago.


Despite my daughter’s feelings, SPRING/IS THE/THING gained plenty of positive feedback on Instagram and Twitter. Perhaps courtesy of an optimistic bounce delivered by the changing season.

Spring garden

A little view along my garden path to lift the spirits

The bounce was short-lived. In a week where the USA, France and the UK bombed Damascus following Syrian leader Assad’s alleged chemical attacks on his own people, I felt bereft. The treadmill of violence and violent retributions seems relentless and inescapable.

Random acts of kindness and generosity – often acted out on a personal level – are so powerful. They often work to change perceptions and bring people and communities together in unexpected and productive ways.

Why does this not translate into world-stage actions? Why is the present endlessly shaped by stories that unfolded from divisions hatched long ago? Why has the status of land, nationhood and territory remained one of possession, exclusion and expansion? Why do we seem so easily to distance our macro actions from the micro state of being human?




It can be difficult to remember the point of being. Two local events here in North Northumberland/Berwickshire helped me reconnect and breathe at a different pace. The first was ‘Food for Thought’, organised by the recently conjoined Scotus Society of Duns and Chirnside’s David Hume group (Thinking without Borders). It was a day to ponder senses, taste and pleasure, and to question the philosophy of food-related values and ethics. The following day, 20 or so people joined a Berwick Slow Food Event at Chain Bridge Honey Farm to celebrate National Tea Day. We listened, rapt, to Willy Robson’s tales of his family business – as a lad Willy was responsible for flogging the family honey and took a van to Edinburgh, supplying many stores on Princes Street. Times have changed: retail is transformed; and, with the advent of pesticides and climate change, so is bee-keeping.


The Husband felt my words were ‘taking a sinister turn’. In my mind BEHIND/THE/SMILE summed up the sense of going beyond. Like the Spring that started the month, the smile is a strange and powerful force. Smiles can transform moments even while grief, hardship and unbearable events unfold in parallel. Despite the disturbing situation and general bizarreness, tell me you did not smile as the leaders of North and South Korea, Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in, held hands and stepped back and forth across the border between their countries on April 27.

I’ve been fascinated and delighted with the feedback I’ve received about the words in my window. People comment on social media and in person. It’s intriguing to hear what they have to say. One person said, ‘You have that stupid message thing in your window’ and then told me their reaction to LIFE/KEEPS/COMING: ‘I hope it’s not a bloody sequel!’. Another said, ‘That’s the house with the inspirational words in the window’. A local pub approached me to discuss whether they could do something similar in their window.

Hell, yeah!

Words in my window: March

I ended February with HOME/IS/WHERE so I guess THERE/IS NO/PLACE was a natural bookend.

It seems extraordinary that, given that we are all in the world for such a brief moment in time, we are hellbent on territory and our right to it. So much time spent on who can be included or excluded from a land that is ‘ours’ by a stroke of fate and birth.

Don’t get me wrong, if someone started camping in my garden and said they’d decided to live there from now on, I would doubtless be shocked, puzzled – and furious at the sheer audacity of it. I hope I’d also take the time to find out a bit about the person who had moved in before I booted them out.


Right now, it’s as if there’s a pervasive feeling of being out of control in the world’s ether. It’s as if it’s blowing through existence and sowing a sense of malaise and defensiveness; as if all we hold dear – whatever our political stance – is at risk. This unnerving perception tends to lead to a drive to cling to things that make us feel safe and protected – nationhood, social structures, the ‘right’ order of things. A need to repudiate the illusive and transient aspects of life (and death) and chisel out absolutes. What are we frightened of losing? Why are we frightened of losing it? Maybe it’s just my age.

One fellow Instagrammer commented on WHAT/IS/LOST (maybe facetiously):

We must consider this issue. And perhaps retrieve what is lost and remake it anew.


Looking at my March windows, they seem quite biblical. A Lent and Easter connection, perhaps.

20180318_102348In fact, LEAP/OF/FAITH was more to do with an ill-advised email I sent. It caused distress to the recipient and had an uncomfortable and disconcerting (albeit self-contained) ripple effect.

Some find apologising very difficult – I don’t mean the throwaway ‘sorries’ when you knock elbows with someone in the street (although why is it always me who says sorry for that and not the other person?!!) – I mean the deep-down sorry which excludes buts and justifications.


Of course, forgiving is even more complicated. Does someone have to be sorry to be forgiven? Can you stay angry about something and still forgive? Why do forgiveness and repentance matter so much?


I am including my first light box of April since it seems to sit well with this batch. It went in the window yesterday, April 1st, which this year was simultaneously Easter Sunday and April Fools’ Day.

It also chimes with one of the inspirations of my project, Nathan Coley’s installation at Scotland’s Museum of Modern Art in Edinburgh, There Will Be No Miracles Here, which I mentioned in my January post.


Words in my window: February


A ring at the door bell. An old friend I’ve not seen for some time. He cuts straight to the chase:

‘What does it mean, ‘ice and a slice?”.

Me: ‘Erm, hi! Yeah. What does it mean?’

Him: ‘Well, it immediately makes you think of gin and tonic, yes?’

Me: ‘I guess so’.

We may just be about to experience the Beast from the East but at the beginning of February a cold spell was also forecast. I hoped for a playful ambiguity with my first February words in my window ICE AND/A/SLICE. Also, at first glance, ICE AND looks almost likes the name of our near neighbour, Iceland (the shop not the country!).


Valentine’s and Lent were definite cues for WHEN/HEARTS/BREAK. But boy, oh, boy did I struggle to come up with a phrase I liked and had enough letters for.  The whole process became almost too knowing. I enlisted the support of the Husband and 16-year-old. ‘Hearts will break’ was too much like a challenge, ‘Hearts are organs’ a tad provocative. Finally, I chose the elliptical ‘When hearts break’. My friend from above returned bearing chocolates. And an email arrived with a PS:

What happens when hearts break? Or what happens if, for that matter? I think we should be told!


I think quite a lot about cancer. It’s something that happens once you’ve had it. You wonder when it will come back. You almost wish it would come back so that you can get it over and done with. Then you feel guilty because you know that, unlike many others, you’ve been given a reprieve: you’re still here and you’re cancer-free. I’m reading a marvellous book, ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi a neurosurgeon (who’d never smoked) diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer at the age of 36. He writes beautifully and explores the connective tissues of life, death, hope and faith – literally and figuratively. How do you find who you are and the life you want to live when you know – really know – you are going to die? I guess these thoughts, along with the viciousness of news of school gunshootings, bombings of innocents in Syria etc etc and, conversely, as so often happens with streams of consciousness, the snowdrops in the garden informed LIFE/KEEPS/COMING.


I have a lovely home. It’s warm, it’s safe. It’s mine. I’m lucky. A stroke of fate can remove all our certainties. Think Grenfell Tower. Think Migrants from shattered territories. Only today a block of flats ‘pancaked’ in Leicester.


I’m not quite sure if my own thoughts about the words in my window come before or after I choose them. The thing is, words are so stimulating – don’t you think? Here’s some words from someone else’s window here in Berwick:




Words in my window: January

For Christmas I received a light box and set of letters. Statements or words, placed randomly or intentionally, can have surprising effects – from graffiti to art installations. I encountered Nathan Coley’s work ‘There will be no miracles here’ on New Year’s Eve 2016 and wrote about my response here.

I decided to place a kind of Christmas greeting in the front window of our house (which fronts on to the main drag here in Berwick-upon-Tweed and has become a de facto community noticeboard). And then I began to wonder what might happen if I put different statements up over a period of time? What responses might the statements (they have to be statements as there’s no question mark in the pack) elicit from passers-by?

My aim is to change the statements every week or so. Here are January’s words in my window:

And here’s the gen on responses so far:

I also used GLAD/TIDINGS/HERE & NOW as my post-Christmas pre-New Year greeting on this blog and Instagram and got thumbs up all round.

WHAT/LIES/AHEAD prompted one Facebook friend to respond: ‘Some from Trump, some from our politicians. Lots from the Daily Mail.’ Its placement (31st December) was quickly followed by the smashing of a lower window pane in the early hours of New Year’s Day – was there a connection?

NO REST/THEY/SAY perplexed some friends. Was it a biblical reference in response to the smashed window pane? Were they supposed to slip a word of encouragement through our letterbox?

I don’t really want to give guidance on what the statements mean. I’m not sure they mean anything other than what the viewer thinks they mean. Although some of the ambiguity is contrived by my choices, I am sure other ambiguities will derive from others’ interpretations.

Whatever the known and unknown responses of those who see these statements, I am enjoying placing them there. And, perhaps inevitably, I now find myself thinking about what the next words might be in a more purposeful and conscious way.

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