Monday, December 08, 2008

Heather's reading meme

Heather put this meme on her blog so I am considering myself tagged and putting it on mine. If anyone out there wants to join in they are welcome!

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Underline those you intend to read. (I had to make them a different colour instead - no underline on Blogger!!)
3) Italicise the books you LOVE.
4) Post your list so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them.(I've also marked with an S the books I started and couldn't finish....)

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - J D Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens S
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy S
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hello all those British Quaker bloggers out there!

I've been talking to Jeremiah and Robin about what other British Quaker blogs exist and Robin suggested that I do a list. So, as a kind of addendum to Martin's list, here goes.

Martin mentions Simon's Under the Green Hill and Jez of The Friend's Quaker Street. I have a few more favourites including Jeremiah's Fire in the Bones , Heather's Still Life and Daniel's Sitting Down for Something.

More blogs I have just found, added to my Bloglines subscriptions [thanks for the tip Robin!] and am enjoying are A Tentative Quaker, Mister JTA's Electric Quaker II, Ray's Quaker-Buddhist Dharmakara's Prayer, Laura's Silentblog and M. Willis Monroe.

As Jeremiah notes quite a few British Quaker Meetings have blogs although most use them more as a kind of newsletter than in a personal, reflective way. Two exceptions to this rule which both have several contributors writing thoughtful and often challenging posts are Beeston Quakers and Sheffield Quakers.

So who have I missed? If you are a British Quaker and have a blog of any kind or if you would not give yourself the BQ label but still blog about British Quakerism or Quakers in general I would love to get in touch. Are there more of us out there and if not why not I wonder. Over to you!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More of the 5-thing

Just a note to mention a few more answers to this by Heather and Alivia

I'm just fascinated by all these links between us and if I find any more will post more links - and so on ad infinitum!

Please feel free to comment and let me know if I've missed any.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Joining in with memes

There have been quite a few memes on the blogs I usually read lately and I have really enjoyed reading them. I always like finding out about other people even in the rather shorthand way that memes provide.

When I had read a few I really wanted to join in but in general memes are spread around by tagging and it is against the rules to answer the questions if you haven't been tagged. I am not by nature a rule-breaker so I stayed quiet - but kept reading of course.

Eventually I began to feel like my much younger self, standing in the school playground waiting to be picked for a team, being left until last and too shy to put my hand up and say "Me me too". So I was really happy to come across Robin's Meme of fives which she was too tired to tag and so left open. I replied to it - although perhaps I should have put it here rather than in a comment - I'm new to all this!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Failing to turn inside out?

Once upon a time, well in 1994 actually, I set out on a journey round Britain Yearly Meeting as a Joseph Rowntree Fellow with a project called 'What canst thou say?' I was trying to reintroduce Friends and others to the tradition of spiritual autobiography, not just as an historical exercise but as a way of sharing our different spiritual journeys with one another.

Eventually I wrote a book about the fellowship called Turning inside out, a title that expressed what for me seemed the most important part of the exercise. I was trying to encourage Friends to look inside themselves and think about their spiritual journey, then to write about it and eventually to turn the inside out and share that spiritual autobiography with others in whatever way and at whatever time seemed right for them. I also stressed that it was equally important to listen to others' stories even if they were very different from our own.

When I started out I was reacting to what I saw as a sense of isolation among British Friends and a lack of opportunity to share our spiritual journeys with one another. More than one person told me that the only time they were given such an opportunity was when they were visited after they applied for membership!

I continued giving the workshops for nearly ten years after the fellowship ended but although what I had to say was generally well received I ended with a sense of failure. It seemed to me that people were happy with the first steps, looking at their spiritual autobiography and even writing it for themselves, but that turning inside out and sharing it with others, as well as listening to others' different experience was much more difficult.

Certainly over the years the practice of spiritual autobiography has become much more widespread, particularly in America and through blogging, but I still feel that there is a problem with British Friends. Perhaps we really are more reserved and uncomfortable with personal disclosure. Perhaps it is tied up with our increasing individualism and the idea that anything goes. If we are not looking for a way to draw together and discern a way forward as a group, if we are only looking for other like-minded people to feel comfortable with, then we do not have to acknowledge our differences and can dismiss the 'other'.

When I came across the convergent conversation in the blogosphere I felt an excitement and hope that I had not felt for some time. I thought that what I had tried to do before had failed but that now perhaps what I need to do is to ask the questions of British Friends again, to encourage them to make connections in love with the 'difficult' people and beliefs in their own yearly meeting and in the rest of the Quaker world.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

British Quakers and convergence

Reading Robin's blog started me thinking about where British Quakers stand in relation to the convergent conversation. These are just a few introductory thoughts and I intend to write a bit more about my own 'convergent' experience later.

From where we are the whole idea can seem very distant from our day to day reality. After all in our country we do not have different Yearly Meetings with different traditions and so do not need to make an effort to talk to any traditions outside our own - do we? It is all too easy to think that 21st century British Liberal Quakerism is the only way to be a 'real' Quaker.

We forget - or more often we never learn - that while American Quakerism in the 19th century reacted to the different claims of Hicksite, Liberal and Evangelical views by splitting into different groups with different traditions, we in Britain changed from one orthodoxy to another. While retaining the unprogrammed tradition of worship, in the 19th and early 20th centuries British Quakerism was Evangelical. The increasingly Liberal Quakerism which we inhabit now took over as the new orthodoxy in the 20th and 21st centuries.

So what does our history have to do with where we are now and does any of it matter? I think it matters a great deal because if we look around us and see only like-minded people then it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to listen to other Quakers 'out there' who do not agree with us. There is an assumption that we are true Quakers and other yearly meetings who do not share our traditions are somehow second-class. Our very liberalness can make us narrow minded and even make it hard for Friends within our own yearly meeting who want to express their faith through Christian language to do so for fear of hurting others.

I know that it is not always easy to hear strongly-held beliefs that differ from our own. I am not saying that we should not disagree but that we should make an effort to hear 'where the words come from'. British Friends need to be part of the convergent conversation because in this way we can listen to the voices of other Quakers from different traditions outside our own country and our own comfort zone. We can speak about what Quakerism means to us but also hear the true Quaker faith expressed in other ways. We must not isolate ourselves but try to share the hope that is in us all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fare forward voyager

I have been putting together a book of contacts - mostly Quakers - for my sons which I hope will be a help for them on their year-long jouney round the world. On Sunday I will give it to them and say goodbye. I know that we will be in touch through email, Facebook and even this blog, but of course I will miss them. I am glad that they are going on this adventure and I expect it will be the beginning of a new phase in their lives and perhaps in mine, but it is hard not to worry.

On Monday my husband and I are going on a journey too - to America for nearly 3 weeks. Our main reason for going is to attend the QUIP [Quakers Uniting in Publications] conference in North Carolina but we are having a holiday too and going to Chicago, Cleveland and New York. I have to admit that I am worrying about this too. Partly this is my usual anxiety about flying but there are also difficult issues to be addressed at the conference and as the recording clerk I feel partly responsible. The changing face of Quaker publications means that our organisation will have to change too and I know that change can be difficult. On the other hand of course it can be liberating and even exciting. I will report back here later!

One part of the conference I am really looking forward to is a panel on Quaker blogging with Robin M and Will Taber which I am moderating. It will be great to meet with some of the bloggers I have encountered through their writing face to face and to talk about all things blog. One of the questions I would like to explore is why it seems there are so many more American Quaker bloggers than British and European ones. It is such a pity that I could not persuade another British blogger to attend.

Yesterday I was copying out more of Mary Waterhouse's diary when I came upon this passage -

"I have frequently thought lately that I must make mention of the mercy shewn me in being, as I trust, less anxious than I used to be. When a careful thought comes over me – anxiety about any one or anything, it is often turned into a prayer, before it resolves itself into a care. For this surely I may say 'Bless the Lord O my soul! & forget not all His benefits'."

Yet again this voice from the past speaks to my present condition and I will try to emulate her if I can.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Words from the past

One of the things I am doing in my retirement is transcribing four volumes of manuscript journals written between 1825 and 1880 by the Quaker Mary Bevan Waterhouse (1805-1880), mother of eight children including the architect Alfred Waterhouse. They are mainly concerned with her spiritual life as an evangelical Quaker and recorded minister in 19th century Britain but also give insights into her family and social life.

I came upon this manuscript while working in the Special Collections of Reading University Library and was really excited to find that it still existed. I had read the extracts that had been privately published by her son Edwin in 1907 but in his preface he said that he intended to destroy the original as it was no longer needed! I am so glad he had not done that and that Mary's handwritten exercise books, bound later into 4 volumes, had been presented to Reading in 1968.

I am working through the manuscript slowly, going to the reading room about one day a week, and transcribing in chronological order. So far I have got to 1847. I expected to find the task interesting, to find out more about 19th century Quakers and Quakerism. I expected that what I read would fit in with my long-standing interest in spiritual autobiography. What I didn't expect was that Mary would speak to me personally.

Mary has a lot to say about being thankful for God's mercies and often rejoices in the loving-kindness of the Lord. I know that I too have much to be thankful for and that I need to be more mindful of this loving-kindness in my life. The last time I was working on her diary Mary was anxious about the safety of her children when they were away from her and reminded herself to leave them with confidence in the care of God. My two sons, aged 29 and 25, are about to go travelling round the world for a year and I needed Mary's words myself.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Walk on the wild side

I have just been for my daily bit of exercise, walking round the lake near our house. It was a stormy night and there has been a lot of rain but I thought I had picked a calm moment. How wrong I was! As I reached the lake the rain began again, driven by the wind in sheets into my face. I had a waterproof coat and sturdy boots but no hat or umbrella and was soaked in minutes. I could have gone back but at that point I decided to go on and try to enjoy the walk for what it was - and I did enjoy it.

One of the things I am trying to do in retirement is be more present in the moment and I took this opportunity as a sort of spiritual exercise as well as a physical one. The lake and the trees around it always lift my spirits and they did so just as much in the rain as in the sunshine. I enjoyed the pattern of the raindrops on the water and the colour of the branches made dark by the rain. I gave thanks that I can still walk without difficulty and feel the wet and the cold.

Now I am back in my warm study I can give thanks for that too and I am remembering some lines from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet:
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Happy Return

Today is my 60th birthday so I thought this was an appropriate time to get back into blogging. Obviously I haven't said anything here for a long time but I have been reading other people's blogs - especially via Thanks a lot Martin for helping me keep in touch with the Quaker conversation.

60 feels signficant to me. I'm officially an Old Age Pensioner from today with a state pension and a free bus pass - not to mention free prescriptions, eye tests and lots of other goodies! I'm determined to use all the opportunities I have and to keep thinking and learning all I can, but at the same time I am on a continuing journey to discern what I need to do, rather than what I think I should.

I retired from paid work in the middle of 2006 and I am still getting used to that. I'm doing some 19th century Quaker research which is taking me in unexpected directions. I have decided that I need to write my family history in order to understand where my parents came from as well as myself. There is a lot to write about here so I will try to do that as well as reading other blogs.