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Archive for the tag “Words in my window”

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:

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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:

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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’.

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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:

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Words in my window: June

Monty Python – Anagrams – Completion

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From Facebook for SOME/TIMES/LIFE

‘s a pile of shit, when you look at it?
…. Is a passing thought.
 Interesting…
 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

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From Facebook for NOW/IS/THE

anagram of own and won

3 of the letters in the word ‘window.’

present
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

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From Facebook for THE/BUCK/STOPS

just up from the book shop near the bus stop.

When he sees the doe!!

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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.

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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…

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‘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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Words in my window: February

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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!).

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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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