www.jesusonthetube.co.uk for the website of my best known image of Jesus on the Tube, being ignored by all but looking out at you (so smarten up)
www.agracefuldeath.blogspot.com for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life
On There Being A Whole Load Of Holy Mothers Here This Christmas
We start here with the two of us. This is a turquoise glittering Virgin Mary that has a slot in her back to put money into. We have recognised each other here and the earth has reeled upon its axis.
So we start with my Glittery Bling Virgin Mary as the first Holy Mother. I am a Holy Mother too, because I just am. I fix you with a steady and dangerous stare and dare you to think otherwise.
Christmas was a hoot. My house filled with frolicking family and friends, and my dear father, who after a number of strokes is benign, cuddly and affectionate. He was deeply intellectual and literary before the strokes, but rather tense and agitated. Now, he has retained his academic memories but not too much else, nor can he remember much about his day to day life. His eyesight, always extemely bad, is now only partially working in one eye but - he sat in the kitchen doing crossword after crossword with the Wonderful Eileen, both of whom are pretty brainy, and quoted Shakespeare and poetry at the drop of a hat to anyone who asked. From time to time he asked who all these people were, "Blowed if I know Dad," I said in the spirit of Christmas fun, just to see what happened next.
Cousin Maddy is the next Holy Mother.
Cousin Maddy is a Holy Mother. She brought up her three excellent children alone, with all the Nonsense such a feat entails. She did a wonderful job and has recently married again, her current husband as she calls him, is the nicest man ever, so a happy ending for Maddy. Not that she is going to die now, the happy ending is the Single Mother And Trying To Make Ends Meet part of her life.
This serious lady gave me the Turquoise Glitter Mary Swear Box. She, Maddy, is a trained Physiotherapist, and is, as a scientist, supposed to be serious and restrained. Not a bit of it. As you can see, Maddy arrived in her antlers and pyjamas, forgot all the soft drinks but remembered the wine, port, whiskey, beer etc. Among Maddy's Holy Mother features, is the ability to clear up after herself and her children and in the process tidy and wash your whole house. Yes. And last year, she didn't like the tree outside my sitting room window and disappeared for wee while. "Where," we all said quizzically to each other as we lay prone and in a collective and rather painful but delightful torpor on the floors and sofas after our Christmas lunch, "is Maddy?" Oustide we heard the rasping of a teeny saw but dismissed it as probably an animal happily chewing wood in the garden. We lay and pondered and suddenly there was light as the tree outside the sitting room fell, the blocked sunlight flowed in and we saw Maddy in her dungarees outside, all 5'4" of her cleaning her teeny saw in satisfaction and wipe her brow with her teeny hands. "Oh good," she was heard to say as she came back inside and we lay stunned in our self induced post lunch paralysis, "what next?"
Our next Holy Mother is Jules, my cousin Charley's beloved other half.
Jules lives an unassuming life, in that she keeps herself out of the limelight. Jules is a Holy Mother because she is tough, wise, very very clever and still we beat her in scrabble (ha ha) and she has been so very kind to my Dreadful But Adorable Kids. My furious and scornful Muppet went to stay with her and Charlie, along with a whole load of teenaged cousins none of whom were as Outraged as my dear Muppet (now 17 and still despairing of us ever growing up and being nice) one Summer. Jules and Charlie provided them with the best Summer they can remember. Jules is as twinkly as the Holy Mother that Maddy gave me for Christmas. Now my sweet but violent Rambo Boy aged 14 is champing at the bit to go. "Fine," says Jules and Charlie, "just give us a week's notice and we would love to have him." Eh? I say to myself. If I was offered someone elses Boxing Boy for a holiday, would I agree so kindly to have him? Amazing.
Poetic Holy Mothers now. I am very fortunate to know and admire some pretty excellent poets. Rosie Miles, Nicola Slee and Rachel Mann are three, Penny Hewlett is the fourth. Over Christmas I received three poems in with the cards, two about Mary and one really quirky Rosie Miles one about a Robin. I can't write poetry and love how these ladies can. Start with Rosie. She and Penny were shortlisted for the Birmingham Poet Laureate this year. If ever you get the chance to see Rosie read her own poetry, do so. She is a natural. Hem hem. Here we go then -
The campest robin in town
The campest robin in town
Is pink, not brown.
He flutters and flits,
fluffs his feathers
in the coldest weather
It's said he's flighty as seed.
He tweets all the boys
--sparrow, tit, wren --
at the Gay Bird Baths
which have frozen over
then feeds his lover
a song to make him go red.
On now to Nicola Slee, who's new book "Seeking the Risen Christa" comes out in March 2011. Nicola's poetry touches my heart. I think this is from her new book -
Crista, God's beloved,
born incognito in our midst,
strange to us yet common as any baby:
Teach us to recognise you,
to cherish you, care for you, and to honour you
in your endless becoming among us
From Seeking the Risen Christa (2011)
And finally from the Rocking Rev Rachel Mann. She of the Rock Chick Angel Of The North portrait that I am painting of her, she who is known as the Metal Vicar because of her love of Heavy Metal Music. Rachel caused a stir last year with an article on how Christianity can learn a lot from Heavy Metal. Rachel knows her stuff, and rode the media storm with finesse. Here is her poem.
Mary: Her Kind
I have known the greedy looks of men
their black eyes frightening as night.
I have hurried, busied myself since I was ten
refusing their snares, kept my wits bright:
Lonely child, lonelier woman, hardened mind.
A woman like that is no-one’s possession, quite.
I have been her kind.
I have been a canvas mother to a holy child,
a carved idol receiving prayers from those unable to cope,
been forced to be pure, pious, to deny the furious wild
been stripped of sex as if thus I was a fit focus for hope:
seething, febrile, exploding, confused, disaligned.
A woman like that gets washed away, becomes empty and mild.
I have been her kind.
I have binned the heavy blue gown
escaped the velvet prison, stolen a motor bike,
pawned for a rock of crack the heavenly crown,
shagged some hairy ape, luscious women, ‘cos that’s what I like:
I have refused your dreams, wasted my soul.
A woman like that is free, save your frown.
I have been her kind.
RM. At the Hairdressers. 08/12.
Finally, just so you know we are one big happy singing family, like the Von Trapps, here is my daughter, me and Maddy singing for those seated in the sitting room, and doing it by the door so there was no way to run out and watch telly. My father is holding my hand and has a beautiful voice and is probably thinking that if he joins in we will let him go home.
But we didn't. He had to stay till the 27th and then he was taken back to Teddington and released. We all love having him to stay, he is so pleased with everything. That, I have to say, helps with any guest.
This is the high spot of the song. We belted it all out and it looks as if someone is chewing our legs.
And this, I supsect, was what everyone made of it.
Darling Thumping Boy sighs and wonders why we women have to be so embarrassing. What I say to him, is, "We are Holy Mothers and it not only our job to be embarrassing, but it is Christmas, and we will do it 24 hours a day till we have had enough. Hooray."
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