Tuesday

Careless Words Cost Pies....


Okay, I know this is Lemon Meringue pie not Key Lime Pie
but I've not yet made a Key Lime Pie and you have to work
with what you've got!
This is a story about just how literal the Universe can be. 

My friend Philip was in Florida teaching workshops and his hosts took him out to supper at their favourite diner.

In the dessert cabinet at the diner there was just one slice of Key Lime Pie. Now Philip loves Key Lime Pie. And I mean loves Key Lime Pie. Philip would marry Key Lime Pie given half the chance.

He kept his eye on it throughout the whole meal, praying for it still to be there when they had all finished their main course (it didn’t occur to him that there might be a whole new pie in the kitchen waiting to be put out). As he was so focused on the pie, he didn’t enjoy his salad as much as he would usually have done; he was too focused on that fabulous pie.

Finally, the waitress had taken away their empty plates and returned to ask if they would like any dessert. The pie was still there!

All the others said ‘No thanks, we’re full’ but Philip managed to overcome his fear of being seen to be greedy and said, ‘Well as I’m here and I do love Key Lime Pie I would like that last piece of pie please.’

It duly arrived; it smelt delicious and Philip took a bite. Just as the sublime taste filled his mouth, his host (who was one of those people who eat from other people’s plates without asking) said, ‘Is it any good’ and he poised his spoon to take some for himself. At once, the other two people at the table lifted their spoons too.

Philip said, ‘Oh no – it’s terrible. You wouldn’t like it at all.’

The waitress, who was just standing behind him, was there in a flash.

‘I’m so sorry, Sir,’ she said, whipping the pie away before Philip’s spoon could take a second piece. ‘Our abject apologies ... we would like to offer you anything else on the house. Anything at all!’
And before Philip could open his mouth, she had thrown the pie into the trash.
           
If you, like me, are a lover of desserts, you may need to take a moment to digest (or not!) that story. It’s just too horrible isn’t it?

But that’s how the Universe works. Philip’s thoughts about the pie were all about lack from the start. He wanted it, but he was afraid it wouldn’t be there when he was ready for it. He never considered that there might be more pie in the kitchen. He was also stuck in the convention of having a main course that he didn’t necessarily want given his desire for the pie so he couldn’t break with tradition and say ‘thanks, I’ll miss the main course and go straight for that fabulous pie.’ If he had, none of the others (who were just as traditional) would have wanted any.

And even though the pie was wonderful, he couldn’t praise it because he was afraid it would be taken away from him.

Ouch. A cautionary tale indeed....

Wishing you lots of fabulous pie this month x.



Monday

In the Eye of the Storm.

Since Christmas, I've been a jobbing vicar on the West Devon Methodist circuit, which means travelling to a variety of churches on a Sunday morning or evening to lead what's known as 'the five hymn sandwich.'

It all came about because of meeting quite a few Methodist ministers — particularly Rev. Jerry Cook — when I was doing the BBC Radio Devon Sunday Breakfast Show. And it's a huge honour to be asked given that although I am ordained, I'm also a notable heretic who has written a lot of books on Jewish mysticism.

Methodists, like other slightly less orthodox Churches are allowed to use Ministers from other traditions and I wish that were more commonplace. I know that the Rector of our Anglican Whiddon Parishes circuit would be hanged, drawn and quartered if he dared to use me. The row over whether or not pews may be removed from churches would be nothing in comparison!

So now I travel throughout West Devon, through the beautiful lanes, under the beautiful sky, to talk to tiny communities which still hold stillness and peace and song as an essential part of life. And I think their attentiveness to this heart of an ancient tradition holds and supports the county in a way it will probably never realise - and never needs to realise. This love is unconditional, whether the worshippers know that themselves, or not.

Being an independent means that you have to both bend like a willow to try and fit the ethos of the place where you are preaching and take the chance of contributing a breath of fresh air to lift some dust. Whether that dust dances like coloured sparkles in the light from the stained glass windows or forms a cloud of grumbling darkness in the corner really depends on how you handle it.

So far, nobody has complained but one or two times it may have come close...

The balance has to be blending who I am and what I've learnt with who they are and what they wish (if anything) to learn. I get to do a sermon at each service and so far we have covered the hidden prosperity underlying the story of Jesus' birth in the stable, that betrayal is an essential part of human learning, forgiveness, binary and non-dual concepts of God, how to bring through the Holy Spirit and how very much God loves to laugh. Twice, just twice, someone has come up to me afterwards and said, quietly, 'that was exactly what I needed to hear today, thank you.' And in those small moments, is the foundation of the Great Work.

Now these are not high-and-mightly lectures delivered from upon high to a hundred people; if I'm very lucky I'll have 20 people in the church but, it is much more likely that there will be three or four stalwarts half-hiding in the back row, hoping that I'm not going to pick on them. Sometimes, I go and sit at the back of the church with them, sometimes, I sit on the steps leading up to the altar, sometimes I need a microphone but that's only because so many of them are deaf!

In the far-flung, beautiful little buildings, a small group of generally elderly people will gather, with a pianist, an organist or a CD player and they will sing their hearts out and have the Grace to listen, politely and attentively, to a total stranger.

Hopefully I'll be come less of a stranger as time goes on and I complete the full circuit. But, you know, there isn't a single Church that I has visited that isn't both grateful for the travelling ministers and also wishes, with a profound regret, for their own priest, with whom they could share their lives, little events and rites of passage.

Methodist Churches are closing all over Devon - and probably all over the country - as the church-going population grows ever older while fewer young people want to embrace the concept of faith. Certainty is the popular belief now; the certainty of atheism. And you can understand that because the orthodox religions cannot compete with a wide-open world. They must update - as my own teacher said, 'cultural patterns may change; Universal Law does not. What must change for the Churches to live is the interpretation of that law. And whatever you thought of Rev. Michael Curry's sermon at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, that Law always has been and must be based in love.

What I have met, so far at least, is a series of pockets of people who are filled with love, with light and the eagerness for a faith that is relevant to today and its problems. And every time I drive home from these tiny churches, through the verdant beauty of Devon, I thank God for them and the peaceful eye of the storm which we experience every Sunday. Wherever two or more are gathered ... there is still Love.



Friday

The EasyJet Blog Part Nine (Resolution).

Meet Harriet. She arrived last week, compliments of EasyJet. No, she won't replace Harold in our hearts but she is very welcome all the same. And she is certainly snazzy!

So, the holiday is over; the refund for items bought or damage has been approved. Now, do I ask for a replacement holiday given that, although ours was certainly affected, we still managed to be happy and enjoy ourselves?

First, I had to sort out in my own multifariously-wired head why this had happened. You may be the kind of person who says, 'stuff just happens,' but I'm a Law of Cause and Effect kind of girl.

Was it karmic for something I'd done? If so, then no, don't claim another holiday. This was Justice.

Was it, however, Justice that it happened to Lion as well as me? Probably not. So, yes, do claim another holiday for his sake.

Was it that I was the agent for someone else's Karma? (that has happened before). If so, yes, do claim another holiday.

Was it going to take a huge amount of time and effort when life is about letting go and moving on? If so, no, don't claim another holiday.

I sat with this in meditation and the answer to why was so clear: I simply hadn't cleared up my thinking from last year's trip to Albuquerque to see Fr. Richard Rohr. When I went on that, I wasn't at all well and, to be honest, I'd thought the trip would be a major part of my healing. It was; but not immediately. So I was coming home, tired, a bit discouraged and bad weather delayed one of my flights which meant I lost the connection at JFK and ended up sleeping on the floor.

Being a vicar and all that, I had rather expected to be able to sleep in the chapel (!) but unfortunately, that wasn't on. So I was not at my best and, understandably, given the lost connection, Colin the Suitcase didn't make it home for another five days.

I didn't think much about it - but I certainly didn't clean up the vibration around it either. So, the Law of Cause and Effect would find it very simple for it to happen again. Nothing more than that.

So that was probably it but, even so, I wasn't entirely sure. So, the answer, for me, was to write just one, very polite, very short email to the head of Customer Services at EasyJet, outlining what had happened and respectfully requesting a replacement holiday. And then give it up to God.

I did just that, and let it go.

Within three hours, we had had a telephone call from EasyJet, apologising profusely and promising a new holiday. Now that's good customer service!

Okay it took a slight nag to get the follow-through but now we are booked to go back to Cyprus entirely at EasyJet's cost in September. We are thrilled.

And that's the end of the EasyJet blog in honour of Harold the Suitcase. Thank you for reading.

And there will be plenty more blogs to come...

Wednesday

The EasyJet Blog, Part Eight (To Complain Or Not To Complain?).

Cyprus is a wonderful place to go on holiday; I just wish we had had more time to enjoy it.

And now we were home, I had to decide exactly how much time I was willing to spend trying a/ to get my money back for the things I had to purchase and b/ whether to ask for a replacement holiday.

You see, I didn't want to complain. Hopefully, if you've been reading this blog, it hasn't come across as a series of complaints because that wasn't how it was intended. I'm a believer in the Law of Cause and Effect and I know that if you go on and on and on about something, you just attract more of the stuff you're going on about.

It's a tough call sometimes; you feel dreadful and you need a good moan. Well, fair enough, but there's an old saying that we should only complain three times or we will start to draw more of exactly the stuff we don't want. The more you complain, the more you feel like complaining and the more miserable you become.

That's why I prefer blessings and appreciations. You do those often enough and they draw more things to appreciate. And Cyprus had many things to appreciate including the amount of times that Lion and I laughed over the whole suitcase situation.

So the key for me, in applying for compensation to EasyJet was firstly to be certain that it was justice that I wanted rather than to throw bricks. Accidents happen, cover-ups happen - I've made mistakes myself in my life and hidden them, I have to confess so maybe this was just long-overdue Karma. But it was also important to make it clear that when someone has a duty of care, they have a duty of care.

The second thing was to work out just how much fun I could have in doing it. And that was slightly testing in itself! Okay, writing this blog is fun because I love to write so much that if I were shipwrecked on a desert island I would most likely write a novel in the sand. But filling in online forms? Not so much.

I might not even have done it had I not tried to contact EasyJet four times while we were on holiday to ask what I should do next and to ask for a replacement suitcase. No reply. Then I had an automated email from them36 hours after we collected poor Harold from the airport. The email said, 'You lost luggage has been found. It will be delivered within the next 24 hours.'

Really? You don't say!

I'm not a subscriber to 'rage against the machine' but this was just ridiculous.

Now, I don't have much clout (sometimes I really miss being a journalist!) and, though my workshop students might disagree, I am a bit of a wimp. I'm a lioness fighting for someone else, but for me...?  But I do have a big brother. And said brother is a top-notch lawyer in contract law.

I emailed him (he was in China or Burma or Bhutan or Dubai or somewhere exotic on business), told him the story and asked for backup. His reply? 'OMG of course!' It may surprise you, but that made me cry. We're not an incredibly close family and he used to sit on my head a LOT when I was a child.

So, I started the process of claiming for the losses and damage. You have to fill in a form that looks like this. And provide pictures of receipts. A tad tricky if you're trying to claim for something that was given to you for Christmas more than a decade ago but which is still very dear to you.

I considered contacting the friend who had given me the lovely golden silk chiffon wrap that was so badly stained but, on second thoughts, I didn't think she'd have the receipt either...  Luckily, in that case, six separate soakings and tamping with soap sorted the problem sufficiently because EasyJet were not going to allow that claim without a receipt!

Eventually, on a website that kept falling over and not saving the files (is this deliberate? I was beginning to wonder...), after two days of trying to get the damn thing to save what I'd posted, Taurean tenacity won out and I submitted my claim...

...To be told that elecrical leads were not covered in hold baggage and that £45 of my claim was being denied. It's in the Terms and Conditions, apparently. I replied, saying that this was cabin luggage not hold luggage to receive this communication:

Right! This bit, I was going to enjoy... Good old journalistic training! I answered as follows, taking apart their terms and conditions. I'm also including  my favourite text of all time from our housesitter (and I did apologise for her language!)







Result! All of my claim has been allowed.

Next episode: how do I actually manage to claim the money given that I am required to sign away all other rights to claim in any way, shape or form in this world or the next? That given that I am planning to ask for a replacement holiday? Stay tuned!



Tuesday

The EasyJet Blog Part Seven (Those Whom The Gods Love...)


The idyom is: 'Those whom the gods love, die young' and it's generally used as some sort of 'comfort' when someone young does die ... as in, they were so lovely, the gods wanted them with them. Cold comfort for many, I'm sure.

However, my Teacher always said it meant that those who were in touch with spirit retained a youthful attitude and aspect throughout their life - somewhat along the lines of Jesus saying that you have to be like a child to access the kingdom of heaven.

In my tradition, the kingdom of heaven is the same as the Hindu solar plexus chakra; the true self - away from the ingrained habits of the ego, so that makes sense to me.

I'm not saying that the gods love me - but I do take the time and trouble to honour and talk with them wherever I am, especially in a land where they played a significant part in history. Greece for example.

You have to be careful with gods because they are never neutral. The first commandment in the Hebrew Testament is clear: 'no other gods before my face' meaning that the One, the Source is the most important and only focus for the true believer. But that doesn't mean that there are no other gods.

If you've ever read Terry Pratchett's brilliant book, Small Gods, or Douglas Adams' Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, you'll be familar with the concept of gods still existing, just fading slowly because they need belief to keep them powerful.

And I'm always respectful of the gods because ... well, just because. Long before I was ordained, I would always greet the angel of a land when I arrived, introduce myself and ask that they be blessed by the All-Holy One. And I would feel that the request was received and appreciated. It might only be my imagination but I like to do it and, if it is real, it's only polite.

Even if places no longer have gods, they have angels and angels like to be greeted too.

The primary god of Cyprus is said to be Aphrodite, and I greeted her and blessed her on our first evening and, as I was peturbed by the whole suitcase thing, I was tempted to invoke her for help. I could feel curiosity about my desires, but gods are always transactional - they require sacrifice in return for their actions - which is one of the reasons that religion goes wrong: it teaches us to worship a transactional God and to expect to pay in return. The Holy One is transformational; you can ask for sure but then you must let go and let God so that better than you could imagine (or at least better for you can happen). We turned the original meaning of 'sacrifice' from 'to make sacred' to 'suffer.'

So I said, 'thanks but no thanks,' and let go and let God.

You'll have read Harold's story by now ... and the next day, Lion and I went out to visit some archaological sites and ruined temples and, at one of them, I sat quietly in the shade of a carob tree, in meditation. There was absolutely no one there but Lion and me and we had walked into the site through quite a small, open gateway. This was not a site you had to pay to enter so you just walked from the car park, and there you were.

I was quiet, and grateful and still. After a few minutes, I felt the energy of the angel of the island (Aphrodite or not, I don't know) settle within me with a feeling I couldn't quite recognise but which felt peaceful and even abundant. I sat with it and realised that I felt young ... and free ... and oddly, innocent. I blessed her again and then the feeling left.

When I opened my eyes, there was a rabbit skin on the stones in front of me. It had not been there before.

This was a perfectly-tanned skin, not a wrap or a scarf, just the skin. Of no practical use whatsoever. And it was just lying there.

I checked with Lion as to whether it had been there earlier and he said, 'no.' I checked to see if any other people had turned up, and they had not.

I can't think of any explanation other than it was a gift from the goddess/angel of Cyprus. Perhaps to say 'sorry' for the trouble over Harold? Who knows.

Do I have any use for it? Practically, no! But it is now lying on the altar in my offic as a symbol of abundance and I find it to be beautiful. In its way, it is a sacrifice - in the old way of the gods. Something died so that something beautiful could be given. On my altar that rabbit's life is made sacred, in honour, appreciation and love.

Monday

The EasyJet Blog Part Six (Harold's Fate)

'The police are looking for you' has never been my favourite salutation.

The lady at LGS luggage services at Paphos Airport had no other details apart from giving me the airport police's number.

What could have happened? What had come to pass for Harold - or even worse, what had Harold done? Okay, I thought he was a sweet little suitcase but did he have a secret heart of depravity? Had he gone on some kind of criminal spree? Or had he been trafficked and coerced? I felt sick.

Nervously, I phoned the number that LGS gave me and, when a policeman answered, enquired if he spoke English. He did, thank God and he was glad to hear from me. The airport police had Harold; they had had him since Wednesday night. He had been picked up in Departures, not Arrivals and they were under the illusion that I was calling from England having left him behind when I went home.

Now everybody was confused. Why would Harold be in Departures? Why had they not been able to trace me? The police had contacted LGS but they hadn't, apparently, added a lost suitcase and a found suitcase on the very same night 200 yards apart into any kind of workable equation.

I had to go and collect Harold; the police don't deliver. And I had to sign for him too. Still, he was alive! He was in existence! He was in one piece!

Well sort of...

We had hired our car for two days because we'd thought we'd go and see some archaeological sites on the second day ... the rest of the holiday was for some much-needed R&R in the sunshine. So, thank goodness, we had transport to the airport, nearly an hour's journey away.

So, Lion and I set off and he dropped me off, intending to circle the airport until I came out with Harold. It should only take about ten minutes, right?

Wrong.

Firstly I had to deal with LGS. You've never seen a woman so bored and unhappy with her job as the woman I spoke with. You had to feel sorry for her. And she had no explanation as to why no one had connected Harold (lost at Arrivals) with Harold (found at Departures). When I asked why, if they knew the police were looking for the suitcase's owner, they hadn't at least tried me, she had no answer. She, reluctantly (because it was such a challenge to her valuable time) led me over to the police department behind the scenes ... and there was Harold!

Now, I posted the least troubling picture first, so as not to upset you. But, I'm sorry to have to tell you that Harold was in desperate trouble. At the very least, he had fallen out of the aircraft; more likely, he had been run over. Harold was a mess. Harold's travelling life was over.

But he had had an adventure...

Harold had had his baggage labels removed and been dumped in Departures, where he caused a major security alert, closed down the airport for half an hour and only just avoided being blown up as a suspected bomb. But there was to be no happy ending. I know he wanted an adventure. But sadly, it was a terminal one (oops, bad pun, sorry).

The police were very nice; once I had explained where I lost him, they did a fair amount of snorting at LGS and filled in a long form to exonerate me (and Harold) from anything, including suspected terrorist activities, which I duly signed. They said they had looked through him for anything that might have identified his owner (and also in case he was a bomb, obviously...) and that they were sorry that one of my bottles of tablets had been badly damaged and the contents destroyed. What they failed to mention was that all my bottles of tablets were either destroyed or missing and those that had been destroyed had leaked all over everything.

If you're ready for the shock, I will now post the rest of Harold's body's pictures. In a nutshell, his top end, where the handle was, was smashed and the contents open to the elements; he was squashed, ripped and had a wheel and one foot missing. He was an ex-suitcase.

Sadly, I took him back to the LGS services desk where I made them check that the laptop was still working. Fortunately, Lion makes sure that even cabin luggage electrical equipment is padded to the nth degree so it was in one piece. Its battery, however, was flat so I needed their power. Miss Life-Isn't-Worth-Living reluctantly allowed me to test it (it was fine - PHEW!) and when I, politely, asked her for a replacement suitcase, she said, 'You must contact EasyJet.'

Having seen the state of Harold and his contents by then, I was trying very hard not to unload a shit-load of Scorpionic fury at her. I managed it but it was close. 

Being a journalist, I asked more questions about when the police had contacted them. Another lady turned up and assured me that they had only been informed this very morning, about half an hour before I telephoned and they had called my mobile several times. The police report said they had informed LGS on the Wednesday night. I showed her my 'missed calls' list which showed no calls. I suggested she called now and she did and my phone rang. She told me she was honest. I told her I absolutely believed her but it was very odd, wasn't it? She went away.

I carried Harold out of the airport to where Lion was circling patiently and we drove back to the hotel to see exactly what, from the contents, could be salvaged.


The answer, I'm glad to say, was pretty much everything. Apart from the iPad lead and all the vitamins, everything was there. But it was all covered with CBD oil and vitamin C powder and it would be a slow process taking three full days. The latter, when oxidised, turns into a gel and then sets like stone onto anything it touches. Which meant that every item of clothing had to be soaked for up to four hours to get it off. And the oil stains...

So that, my dear friends, is the story of Harold the suitcase, who wanted adventure and, sadly, found it.

Colin bore up bravely. He had to be stuffed to the gunnels for the journey home as it turns out that EasyJet was not the company to replace him and we were forced to return home without a replacement. The check-in lady at the airport did point out that he was over-weight but just three minutes of well-rehearsed and pithy explanation was enough and she waved us through.

Harold's body remains in Cyprus. We didn't know what to do with him and there were no skips nearby and, anyway, who could put Harold in a skip? In the end, we took him, empty, back to the airport as we left and insisted that Miss Life-Isn't-Worth-Living took responsibility for him. I suggested she buried him suitably with a ceremony and flowers and she looked at me as if I was totally out of my mind. I had a tiny snigger at that.

There is yet more to come - and, eventually (for us at least) a happy ending. But I will never forget Harold, the little case who wanted so much to travel and to see the world and to return home with his friend Colin and tell all the other cases all about it.






The EasyJet Blog Part Five (Nicosia).

The only thing to do then, was to put on my one remaining smart-ish outfit and head off for Nicosia. Fans of Harold, I'm afraid there's not a lot to report in this episode - but there is a knuckle-biting twist at the very end...

We had a fabulous time in Nicosia meeting up with Darcie Silver, whose book I've been editing. We met on Facebook and have become fast friends. 

Darcie's wife was told that her eyesight was failing rapidly and nothing could be done about it so they decided to backpack around the world on a tiny budget so Natalie could see everything she wanted to see before she became blind. The book's in its final stages right now and serendipity at its best meant we would both be in Cyprus at the same time.

Though it would have been nice to have had my laptop and have done some work together on it...

When Darcie's book Backpacking Into Darkness is out, I'll post a link to it here.

Once Darcie had persuaded me to cross the border into Turkey to see how it felt (it is different, just as crossing the Bosphorus in Istanbul feels different) and we'd had tea and a chat, we went to meet Tim, Natasha and Ariadne for supper. They took us to a taverna in the suburbs of Nicosia in a place which felt like a village square and where the owners let us take our table outside in the cool of the evening. There, we caught up on life, the universe, EasyJet and everything, noshed ourselves silly on mezes and I got tipsy because that alleviated the shingles pain. I don't think I was too embarrassing...

And then it was the hour-and-a-half's drive back to Paphos and a return of all the worries. The are so clever when it's the middle of the night and you've had a tad too much alcohol, aren't they? And the shingles thing means that I can't bear to have a very light touch of something like a sheet on my right side so I could only lie on my right. Pressure, for some reason is fine.

So I prayed and affirmed and relaxed and repeatedly re-focused my mind. And the answer came very clearly. 'Call the airport tomorrow.'

So I did, after I'd checked in to see if there was any news from EasyJet. I phoned LGS the luggage services at Paphos at 9.30am to be met with the response, 'Oh yes, the police are looking for you...'



Time For Some Not Fake Food.