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Fresh eyes in dusty London

16 Aug

As I meandered through Picadilly Circus at lunchtime yesterday I came to a large group of people blocking my path. After 3 years of living in London and working in tourist-laden Covent Garden, I have learnt to walk like a Londoner. This usually takes on the guise of walking at a speed most people would label ‘an awkward-looking-run’, and adopting a face that tries desperately to say “I live here, I’m in a rush, and don’t you dare approach me with that clipboard”.

So, used to darting through tourists (I haven’t knocked over any small children that I know of), I am usually unfazed by huddles of people, or men stood for hours on end covered in gold paint. But this crowd yesterday intrigued me. Instead of rushing on, I had a little nosey look and quickly realised that I had stumbled across the new M&M store.As a big fan of those little chocolate dots of heaven (as you may know from another one of my blogs), I just had to see what the fuss was about.

For the next fifteen minutes I became a tourist. I browsed the store, excited at the tall rainbow arrangement of M&M tubes that reached the ceiling. I huddled around the man, with a group of children, finding out how to fill our cellophane bags with colours of our choice. After laughing at some ridiculous M&M memorabilia (M&M spatula or toothbrush holder anyone?) I dispensed a few pink M&M’s and headed to the till to pay my 53p (the cashier laughed at my paltry portion)

The thing is, yesterday I saw London with fresh eyes. It reminded of my first visits when everything was so exciting; it reminded me of why people love to visit its vibrancy and multiculturalism. But most importantly, it reminded me that we need to see things with fresh eyes sometimes.

I love helping on Alpha, and I love leading a Post-Alpha home group. Not only because it’s so wonderful getting to know people and being a part of their journey – but because its amazing to be around people who see God with fresh eyes. Their passion and excitement is infectious and can reawaken our desire to spend time with God.

Sometimes our faith can get tired. Maybe you can find yourself resenting the fact that it’s hard work. You might have lost that spark, that amazement and desire to spend time with your God. Perhaps you are moving out of duty rather than passion.

So – just as I have found a new, re-appreciation for where I live, let’s pray for fresh revelations of Jesus. Fresh passion for our faith, fresh desire to read the bible. Fresh eyes. Not just reminders of what captured us enough to devote our lives to following Jesus, but to re-experience that in a whole new way.

Isiah 43v19 says ‘I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland’.

Pray that for a fresh outpouring of God on your life. Pray with others, join together and make this your prayer for your life, campus, church, family and workplace– to see streams begin to flow, new springs, new dreams, new zest for your relationship with God and with life.



The marching man with dirty knees

28 Sep

As London wakes
You drink your breakfast
From an aluminium can
Another hungry sip
Adding to your already foggy mind
Your familiar morning haze
You with your dirty knees
And ripped jeans
Taking big
Intentional steps
A swerving stride
High legs
Marching man
Your scuffed hands
Are weaponless
But you are invincible
Marching into battle
Barking slurred orders
To invisible troops
An army of one
Striding across busy roads
To unheard beats
An unseen band
Marching man
Lifting your hand
A sharp salute
Honoring the invisible
A smirk on your face
Like a naughty child
Would you notice
If I stayed to march with you
For a while?
A few paces
In step
Your lonely battle cry
Saluting with you to the unseen
To the beat of the invisible band
I didn’t.
But the little part of me
That doesn’t care about intrigued stares
That I let you march alone

An ode to the man who didn’t ask

23 Sep
Sitting there
On the pavement
Against the wall.
Your concrete sofa
Your chaise longe
You sit reclined.
Legs outstretched into my path.
Exhuding an
Atmosphere of regality.
This is your street
You breathe through a
Smouldering cigarette
Not bothering to
Pull it from your lips.
Denying yourself the London air,
Ash threatening to fall on your
Marked jacket.
You don’t mind
Your outfit
A dusty street man’s,
Mismatched and well worn.
3 pairs of trousers
Rolled carefully to different lengths
A strange rainbow of colour
Against the grey of your pavement
You stare.
Moving only your eyes
As people open shops
Beginning their working days.
Fueled on good nights sleep and steaming coffees.
A different life
Ruled by ticking clocks and ringing phones
I wonder
What is going through your head?
Maybe nothing,
A simple fog of morning sleepiness.
Maybe jealousy or intrigue
At the lives of passers by.
Or perhaps bemusement at our complicated existence
But I sense a disconnectedness
A blasé
An unaffectedness
That says
This is my world.
You live yours
You do not ask of me,
Or speak
Or look
As I expected.
You don’t interrupt the moments I spend
Seeking my key
An opportunity to request change or food
As many would
Did you even see me?
Notice me?
I am touched by the irony of this
The lack of exchange,
You have turned the tables
The un-noticing
Becoming the unnoticed
This is my world
You live yours

Goodbye airs and graces. Goodbye British-ness

14 Sep

I have seen three couples arguing in the streets today. Three! Not just having tense conversation in stage whispered tones. But arguing, really arguing. Picture the girl crying, tears and snot streaming. Ranting passionately, angrily, whilst the bloke is standing there (in one case) arms outstretched in confusion as to why his girlfriend feels it appropriate for such a display of emotion in a such a public place.

Why couldn’t she wait until we got home? Or at least drag me down a side street for some privacy. Where are these tissues all girls are meant to carry around in their ridiculously large bags. This is embarrassing.

And it made me think.

What is it about arguing outdoors, in clear view of people? Us Brits who blush at the thought of a wardrobe malfunction or a huge, angry, red spot. Who would, on a normal day, do everything in our power to avert glares and chatter from passers-by. Passion, that’s what it is! Despair and anger that seem to override social awareness and the ability to go red in the cheeks.

But there’s something about the vulnerability of a girl’s tears and shouts being displayed so publicly. And the thing is, it was never meant to happen that way! I imagine they set out for an enjoyable day of sightseeing, until hormones or late busses, downpours of rain and tired feet turn words into accusations and ‘final straws’.

I don’t know why I’m siding with the men on this one! Maybe it’s because these blokes seemed so unsure and surprised by this display. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, and yes I’ve been there. That sense of urgency and despair, the lack of brief questioning as to whether this is really the time or place (albeit neither), the poor guy trying to satiate me whilst I make an unabridged public display. The tissues? I didn’t even bother looking.

Once the sobs subside and the post bawl headache kicks in. So do the red cheeks and the fear that someone you know may have seen you. The British-ness returns and you promise yourself that you will never ever do that again.

Vertigo heels in the early morning

14 Sep

You stand there. Awaiting the green light, that familiar shrill beep. I see your feet first. Sky high, black, vertigo-inducing heels. I wince with memories of painful soles after nights of dancing, piggybacks home. They must hurt.

It’s 8.30, a Tuesday morning. Too early for aching feet and blisters.

Your legs, slim and pale, blemished with greying bruises, lead to a baggy jumper. Masculine, long and oversized, covering your shorts or skirt. I can’t tell. You must be cold. I see your tattoo covered hand, intricate black cobwebs of ink, a spider somewhere perhaps. Delicate work that must have taken hours. And hurt.

As you move the hair from your face I see another tattoo. Scrawled, black cursive writing spells the word ‘silence’. I don’t want to stare, not obviously.  So I battle the hungry temptation for a prolonged glance at the words on your neck.

I want to make sense of you.

For me.

Your head is held high with a confidence that rivals any I could ever pretend to have. An air of self-assuredness that I can almost tangibly feel beside me.

I wonder how someone can look so naked and exposed yet exude a hiddenness.

‘Look at me, want me’

‘Keep away’

Time allows us to stand for a moment longer. I wonder whether my fleeting thoughts and judgments echo those standing with us. Have you even been home? Do you stand on street corners whilst autumn leaves fall around you, signaling the coming end of another year?

It’s okay to cross.

As you pace ahead, comfortable in your sky-high, patent heels – my heart skips a rushed beat and my judgements lay scattered on that pavement.

I see, tightly held in your hand, the small, grasping hand of a child. Four or five, bright blonde hair and admiring blue eyes. Walking beside you in his neat school uniform, dragging a sparkling silver scooter.

‘Green man Mummy’

You head up towards the school. You in your vertigo shoes, with your big round eyes, and your son oblivious and comfortable beside you. A mystery.

Taking on the world.

And keeping it out.

All at once.

And me? Silenced by irony in my sensible clothes and boots. Hushed by stark contrasts, confused stereotypes. Covered and comfortable. Evoking no questions but with hundreds on the tip of my tongue. A breath away. Off to work,

Neither taking on the world.

Nor keeping it out.

Maybe I shouldn’t have looked

14 Sep

I sat opposite a man on the train home last night. I looked at him.

Living in London, you get used to not looking people in the eyes. It’s a shame how I can share a carriage with someone, yet retract into my own little bubble – my paper, my iphone, my music, and get off – not having taken a second to look and think about those around me. To recognise them, acknowledge them. Sometimes I wonder if I could sit opposite a friend and not even know.

Anyway, last night I took a second to look at this man, in his suit, with his big briefcase. Hiding under his hat. And I saw these big, sad eyes.

A person.
A story.
A history.
You hold so much
Under that ‘travelling face’.
Journeying with me
The equally unknown.
Yet we share a space
A stare maybe.
So I glance.
Your eyes are sad.
You purse your lips
And lie back in your hat.
A mystery.
What are your dreams
Your thoughts
And hurts?
Who knows you.
Really knows you.
What do you want with this life?
Are you mad at what it’s offered.
You have gone.
Home perhaps.
I imagine you stepping slowly
Slouched with those sad eyes
Who are you
Travelling man?
As unknown to me
As I am to you.
We shared the space
On this train.
A moment.
A few stops.
But your eyes,
Heavy and softly glazed,
With what I imagine as
Unshed tears.
Will stay with me a while.