Tag Archives: Billy Bragg

Promises to Tomorrow #17 Invitations

Invitations take many forms – a summons, a gentle prod, a formal request, a temptation, a provocation. I take invitations seriously and try to notice when they arrive subtly in the shape of clouds in the sky and not so subtly with the loud voice akin to a cease and desist legal letter. Each one has it’s own flavour and is coloured by the person extending the invite, they don’t arrive without a bearer, endowing them with power, position or pride. Each day invitations arrive that invite us to our own versions of making bread out of stones, jumping from a pinnacle or relying on angels to break our fall. Who is doing the inviting seems to be fully embedded into whether the invitation can be accepted or not – the more pure the person doing the inviting, the more pure the invitation … but maybe the more clever the ego at tricking us into believing that … the old wolf in sheep’s clothing trick!

Several invitations have come my way this week and are now being accompanied on their journey to being accepted or rejected by a discernment process that doesn’t want to be pinned down just yet. The wash behind the invites is everyday life, rich in its complexity, ambiguity and volatility. Unpredictable and yet certain – elements as familiar as thunderstorms that will pass and bring new life and sunshine.

Being open to invitations during thunder and lightning, doesn’t diminish the invitation as the invitee doesn’t always know what is happening in the invited’s life – that is part of the purity of the invitation. Like the best of the old gospel songs and the foundations of all rock and roll – it is call and response all the time. Hearing the call, knowing when to respond and how to respond are all separate acts and honouring the invitation in its own right and for its very self is part of the pleasure and part of the pain.

In making a promise to tomorrow, hearing the invitation for itself and not connected to the discernment or the answer brings gratitude for being worthy of being invited, and if it is the ego at play, then respect for being worthy of the challenge to grapple and discern the purpose of the invitation in my life at the junction it causes by its arrival.

…. then there are the times of ache when you aren’t invited to the party and the ego takes its own course into unrequited love and humility makes a home in your heart. Thinking of how this lesson has best been taught by the Essex troubadour Billy Bragg who I got to hear again this week and on a rainy Monday night, with the faintest sound of rumbling thunder in the distance, the crowd in the pub roared as we accepted every invitation to respond to the call to arms against fascism. An invitation to inoculation warmly and rowdily accepted with no discernment necessary. Invitations to more music will rarely get turned down!

The Saturday Boy

I’ll never forget the first day I met her
That September morning was clear and fresh
The way she spoke and laughed at my jokes
And the way she rubbed herself
Against the edge of my desk
She became a magic mystery to me
And we’d sit together in double
History twice a week

And some days we’d walk the same way home
And it’s surprising how quick
A little rain can clear the streets
We dreamed of her and compared our dreams
But that was all that I ever tasted
She lied to me with her body you see
I lied to myself ’bout the chances I’d wasted

The times we were close
Were far and few between
In the darkness at the dances in the school canteen
Did she close her eyes like I did
As we held each other tight
And la la la la la la la la means I love you

She danced with me and I still hold that memory
Soft and sweet
And I stare up at her window
As I walk down her street
But I never made the first team,
I just made the first team laugh
And she never came to the phone
She was always in the bath
I had to look in the dictionary
To find out the meaning of unrequited
While she was giving herself for free
At a party to which I was never invited

I never understood my failings then
And I hide my humble hopes now
Thinking back she made us want her
A girl not old enough to shave her legs

Billy Bragg: The Saturday Boy lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC



Billy Bragg, Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, 24 April 2017


Pens, Kalashnikovs and Bridges

Dear Sor Juana,

The sound of ideologies clashing continues to be a hail of bullets resulting in more radicalisation and creation of martyrs. This week the martyrs from one set of ideas are cartoonists, satirists, writers and from another, violent extremists – each to their own kind of weapons – one pens, the other, Kalashnikovs.

The everyday little wars we have where no blood is split, where egos might be bruised or voices raised are transparent. We can see into each other’s eyes. There is something that happens when we know a person’s name, who they are and where they come from. The pursuit of these truths comes with immediacy when crimes are perpetrated, we want to know who would do such things.

With the mass media of our time Sor Juana, being a bystander is not really an option, the news is all around us and nearly all of us have the capacity to document with words and pictures on multiple platforms. Severed heads are tweeted to a sporting audience just as easily as a meme about cats (I know you were a cat lady so you might well have had a giggle about some of those).

The age of fear is every age. I began my life in the shadow of the fear of nuclear annihilation and that fear cloud still hangs over civilisation. Martin Luther King gave a sermon once, as did hundreds before and after him, searching for an antidote to the fear of integration and said only love was the remedy. He had a four step plan: Face our fears; be courageous; master perfect love and be filled with faith. This kind of love hurts, takes prisoners and may well end badly. King prescribed people getting to know one another too and invoked the scriptures of his faith:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love ” I John 4.18

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind ” II Timothy 1 7

My home-grown experience of terrorism began because of some words I had written in a church newspaper. My words against racism inspired a right wing Christian group from my own denomination to track me down to my street, throw bricks through my windows and decorate it with graffiti hated filled slogans. In the wake of this week’s terrorism in Paris, as with all the times terrorism soaks into my world, I remember those moments. The first victim of this week’s massacre was a Muslim.

Thoughts can bring terror, as you discovered Sor Juana. Your thoughts, words and actions inspired some and terrorised others – just as feminism has done for centuries. I think dualism is the enemy and diversity and capacity to embrace a range of views essential for love and hope to prosper. Ways for all the voices to be heard is a practice and the thirst to hear more of the voices, is one quenched by respect.   It is not easy to hold the pen still when outrage roars and fear stock rises and possibly even harder for those who hold the gun. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

My friend Gill Hicks is setting out to climb bridges. This is her response to terrorism, her plan to face her fears, her way to be courageous, her journey to master love and her way to be filled with faith in humanity.  She is in conversation with terrorism every day, losing both her legs in the London bombings ten years ago. She is training hard every day – it is a practice and a discipline to climb a bridge. She is saying Be the Bridge.  I am another Pollyanna. (For those who don’t know the story of Pollyanna, after being a champion of finding the glad in every story, she fell off the top of her aunt’s roof and lost the use of her legs.  The local townsfolk rallied around to remind her of her insatiable optimism cheering them all up in their dark moment. Pollyanna was changed forever.)

Je Suis Pollyanna

My bridge building materials

My bridge building materials