This week is the Week of Prayer for World Peace. Here are some thoughts from John Dear in his book “The Beatitudes of Peace”

Governments, militaries, weapons, and the unjust global social, economic, military system kill tens of thousands of struggling people each day through poverty, corporate greed, guns, warfare, weapons of mass destruction, the unnecessary spread of disease, and systematic environmental destruction. If we sit back and do nothing to save our brothers and sisters from this violence and death, then how can we claim not to be complicit in their murder? The heartbreaking recognition that we are one with every human being pushes us into nonviolent action for justice and disarmament, for an end to the killings and wars, so that all our sisters and brothers might live in justice, dignity, and peace.

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A dragon in the garden

It is on evenings like this that I am reminded one of the reasons that I love being in our garden. While picking raspberries I disturbed a dragon fly that was drying and stretching it’s wings, presumably it has recently emerged from one of our ponds or from a neighbour’s pond. After taking a few photos with my phone I nipped inside to call our new lodger out to meet our other new resident, he was impressed!

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Mysterious residents of Meanwood Park

Walking Charlie in Meanwood Park we came across a series of doors to some of the residents. Here are a few pictures:


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Critical Mass 2

Last October I posted a blog about the Leeds Critical Mass cycle rides around the City centre on the last Friday of each month. Well, sadly, I missed a few over the winter months. I did make this month though but it raised a new question:

“What constitutes a critical mass?”

I ask that question because only four of us turned out yesterday – myself and three amazing post-grads studying for their PhDs in various areas of biodigestion. Anyway, we decided to do the circuit as two of them hadn’t been on a Critical Mass cycle before. Our circuit allowed us to have some very interesting discussions and also generated the question above.

I’ve been thinking about it since and realised that only one person is really needed to constitute a critical mass. It’s not really the number but the effect it has – one act of kindness, one voice speaking out or even one vote in an election can make all the difference. So, although it would have been nice to have been a group of 40 or more, 4 of us made a difference, 4 of us kept the wheels of the Leeds Critical Mass Cycle rolling, 4 of us got to know each other better, four of us constituted this month’s critical mass.

So here’s to you guys, it was good to meet you!

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A critical mass

This evening I have been out cycling with Leeds Critical Mass. Some people see this as “monthly protest by cyclists reclaiming the streets.” Others insiste that these events should be viewed as “celebrations.” Well I enjoy it so much it must be a celebration even if we reclaim the streets in the process.

I went on a few of the very early Leeds Critical Mass rides but then lost touch. Then, over a year ago, I felt inspired to rejoin them and I’ve only missed a couple in the last year. They happen on the last Friday of the month and we gather at Leeds City Museum in Millennium Square at 6pm, someone brings a trailer with a sound system and we set off for one or two circuits of Leeds City Centre slowing traffic and bringing a lot of joy and fun to pedestrian onlookers. On one of the first ones I went on I remember someone shouting something at us but it wasn’t quite clear whether he told us to “use the cycle paths” or if was calling us “psychopaths”!

Most motorists seem amused, give a toot or smile out of their windows but tonight we had someone who obviously thought they were more important. The car told us this straight away – a big black Range Rover with tinted windows and LED lights. The use of the horn confirmed that the driver was “loud” and used to getting their own way. The lack of indicators, the aggressive driving told us that here was someone who thought they were “it”. They quickly found themselves surrounded by bicycles and delayed even more, their attempt to change lane without signalling in order to get past the car in front and the cycles left them trapped but as we rounded a bend his driving made some of the cyclists rethink and he was let through before he did some physical damage. And then, just around the corner, was a police car with blue lights flashing – a pity they were busy on another task!

Part of me worries for the next cyclist this motorist meets. Part of me wishes I had a camera on my cycle or I had taken his number so that I could shame this motorist on-line. Part of me wonders what this driver was racing to, whether that few lost seconds were so valuable that they were willing to risk people’s safety. 

Whatever, the outcome was that tonight’s critical mass did feel more like a a protest to reclaim the streets, and I felt less like celebrating.

Anyway, next month it will be almost, er, advent! How shall we celebrate that on our bicycles?

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What’s app? iWorry about that

The poet Matt Harvey has written a brilliant short article in the recent copy of Resurgence. He finishes it by saying:

So my message to you is: don’t worry – or if you must, worry efficiently with the new iWorry app, which itemises your worries and organises them according to their capacity for cortisol leverage. And remember: there’s still no ‘i’ in team, but there’s definitely one in anxiety. And it’s stressed.

A magazine well worth reading!

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Generosity Ninjas

Generosity Ninjas.

What a great idea this is, and the fact that it helps both the recipient and the giver! Advent is already several days in but I am going to try and be a Generous Ninja for the rest of Advent, and hopefully, all year round!

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Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever

I came across John Ruskin’s “therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever” quote recently and, having been taught that if something starts with a “therefore” there must be something that comes before and I should therefore read it, I went looking for a bit more of it’s context. So here it is:

Men cannot benefit those that are with them as they can benefit those who come after them; and of all the pulpits from which human voice is ever sent forth, there is none from which it reaches so far as from the grave.

Nor is there, indeed, any present loss, in such respect, for futurity. Every human action gains in honour, in grace, in all true magnificence, by its regard to things that are to come. It is the far sight, the quiet and confident patience, that, above all other attributes, separate man from man, and near him to his Maker; and there is no action nor art, whose majesty we may not measure by this test. Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labour and wrought substance of them, ” See! this our fathers did for us.” For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, or in its gold.

Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity. It is in their lasting witness against men, in their quiet contrast with the transitional character of all things, in the strength which, through the lapse of seasons and times, and the decline and birth of dynasties, and the changing of the face of the earth, and of the limits of the sea, maintains its sculptured shapeliness for a time insuperable, connects forgotten and following ages with each other, and half constitutes the identity, as it concentrates the sympathy, of nations: it is in that golden stain of time, that we are to look for the real light, and colour, and preciousness of architecture; and it is not until a building has assumed this character, till it has been entrusted with the fame, and hallowed by the deeds of men, till its walls have been witnesses of suffering, and its pillars rise out of the shadows of death, that its existence, more lasting as it is than that of the natural objects of the world around it, can be gifted with even so much as these possess, of language and of life.

– John Ruskin in The Seven Lamps of Architecture

I think that if we apply this to our actions then it makes a lot of sense and I want to think this through a bit more but I am not so sure that I agree with him when applied to architecture as a whole.

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Hope for the future

“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.”

– H G Wells

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I’m not sure who this saying is attributed to but it’s quite good!

“Democracy is not about changing the people in power but about changing the minds of the people in power.”

It seems to me that, too often, we change one set of people for another set of people who have the same or very similar mindset. Economic growth seems to be more important than people and the planet. Somehow, it must be easier to change the minds of our elected leaders than to find people who think differently and get them elected!

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