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we’re back at Maundy Thursday again.

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Tomorrow it will be 5 years since I got the phone call to say Dad was ill, please come to the hospital. It was a different life back then. I was different. So much has happened in this five years that I so wish I’d been able to share with him. He never got to be father of the bride, and he won’t be there to watch me walk down the aisle on the 1st of July either. I genuinely have no idea how he’d feel about the latter, since I never had the chance to ask. But I hope he’d be pleased. I think he’d be proud.

In a way it’s strange to think I never got the chance to tell him I was going to do this, because if he were still here, I have no idea if I’d be sitting here now. Because it also means that it’s five years since this journey started – or at least since it began to take this kind of shape. I guess since I realised a while ago it was a road I was already travelling, maybe he wouldn’t have been surprised, and I probably would still be sitting here now.

From dust we came, and to dust we shall return.
Feels sometimes like yesterday. Sometimes like a very long time ago.

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Easter is a movable feast. This causes some people annoyance, and others aren’t fussed. Though it would be easier to know where you were at any one time – when the school holidays were obviously going to be… It’s the opposite when you lose someone you love, those dates are etched on your minds and hearts for ever.
When you lose someone at Easter, it all goes a bit wrong, timing-wise. In our case, Easter was early, and we turned off Dad’s respirator on the afternoon of Maundy Thursday, which meant more…

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Today would have been my parents’ ruby wedding.

Taken on the cruise for their 35th anniversary, when they couldn’t have an upgrade, as P and O only did upgrades for ‘0’years. Shame, as it turned out they didn’t make this one…

I hope people I marry in ministry have the opportunity to celebrate 40 years together.

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I may have inherited my dislike of being photographed from my Dad, who pretty much hated being on photos, and rarely ever smiled if he was. But sometimes, just sometimes, you could catch the fool in him. more…

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I’m currently in Florida, getting ready to attend #BbWorld10 and present for the last time before I leave. Because it’s cheaper and easier to get a nice direct Virgin flight I’m here feeling more awake than I usually am when I’ve had to change loads of times and take ages. It’s exceptionally hot – why does Blackboard book conferences at this time of year (presumably the cost of the convention centers goes down as the outside temperature goes up). But as it’s summer and a holiday destination and I have a couple of days spare, I’ve brought my mum on her first trip to the US. She’s going to have a fabber time than me. Because I’d booked Premium Economy (she’s scared of flying) and they’d overbooked and had to downgrade me we were fed champagne on the flight which pleased her so she was already enjoying herself before we arrived! Now while I’m at #BbWorld10 full on, she’s going to go on a Thomas Cook trip down to the Florida Keys and Miami and swim with dolphins. (All the years Dad didn’t get fancy holidays cos she was too scared is kind of a shame, but I bet he’d be proud of her now). I’d warned her of some of the things that she’d find were ‘foreign’ even though the language is only a bit foreign. But some things I hadn’t quite figured on pointing out as they’re not things I notice. It’s been interesting to watch her discovering things that I have got[ten] used to.

However, one thing I can not nor wish to get used to. The food in the hotel buffet here is fantastic. As is the service. But the hierarchy of things is visible, in a way that I have to remember how important I felt it was too to see Barack Obama winning power. In the restaurant, people are led to tables. There’s a kind of dividing central area from which the serving staff sally forth with drinks. The restaurant is managed by a venerable african american lady of a certain age, with a sharp eye over her empire. The tables are monitored by a range of hispanic staff, who will talk english mostly to clients but spanish across the room to each other, seem uncertain as to if it’s ok to respond in spanish to a client if they speak spanish to them (most probably surprised to hear it from a brit, as most of the brits are the usual very sunburnt variety). The table clearers are african americans. This wouldn’t unduly worry me if it weren’t for the way the room is seated. I’ve now watched closely at meals and I cannot see any sense of seating by room numbers, by choice of tables, by group size (this is vaguely possible) or by splitting more grownup families from the ones with smaller kids (also tentatively possible). What I can see, is that if you’re white, you’re seated in the first body of the restuarant, if you’re african american, you’re seated behind the central divider, facing the courtyard.  Even if there’s a good reason for this, I find it really painful and somehow wrong….

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When I was a little girl, I went to football every weekend during the season. When I was very very little, my Dad still played, but after breaking his leg and entering a pub argument that he could manage a team better, he started his own team, made up mostly of his friends, Holme Valley Academicals (still going strong – well, relatively, in local football). And after that our saturdays followed a fairly standard pattern. Swimming lessons or music centre followed by rushed lunch, followed by traipsing off to football, which didn’t always take place at a pitch with a playground and thus could be boring, not to mention cold, often prematurely ended by racing off to the HRI with someone injured, then back to the pub/liberal club with pie and peas (big bonus, because otherwise it was  stew when we got home in front of Dr Who). As effectively a club mascot and absorbing it by osmosis as Dad also refereed and after retiring from managing worked for many years for the FA as regional fixture secretary, football is in my blood. In my soul.

Here in the northeast, football lives on in the soul of the people. It’s a religion all of its own. (And not just in the northeast.) People who don’t understand football don’t understand why in much of the east end of Newcastle where the team began, people still put feeding the bairns top of the list of spending their often scarce money, swiftly followed by buying their season tickets, then followed by feeding and clothing themselves (the latter usually in club kit). Football has changed since I was a little girl, and not necessarily for the better. I used to go sit in the directors box to watch Huddersfield Town and though they weren’t in division one, even the division one sides were much less prawn sandwiches. You worked hard for not huge amount of money – as Bobby Robson used to say he was incredibly blessed to be able to be paid at all for doing something that he loved, and you recognised you were lucky. The Holme Valley backs on to the yorkshire pits – the miners’ strike was all too real for us. There was a luxury to play football, but the kind which worked hard and respected others. Not the kind of luxury that used to see Kieron Dyer crash another flash car across a roundabout on the way out of training every other week. I used to watch those reports, think of the tutees in my group the same age and wonder what they’d do if you gave them £100K a week and press adoration. Where do you learn a sense of perspective when you’re treated as a demi-God and have more money than you possibly know what to do with? Look what happened to Gazza.

If you’re really lucky, and work really hard, and are really talented, you can get to the top of your game by your early 20s. If you’re good enough, you can be promoted as far as England. And then you get the absolute pride of playing with three lions on your chest. For your country – the country where ex miners feed the bairns and then go without to scrape together the money to come and watch you week in week out doing what you do well to earn that cap. Wouldn’t that just make you almost burst with emotion? With pride, with motivation? With a sense of duty, of responsibility, of awe?

Apparently not. After a pretty dismal display – blame whatever you want – the altitude, the lack of a winter break, the system, the ball, the pitch, the supporters booing, the injuries, the not-knowing-the-team-till-two-hrs-before-KO, the pressure of being dropped like the keeper if you make a mistake, being tired, or even being primadonnas or incapable of playing as a team, or not having their families or having their families, or not having a drink the night before a match or having a drink the night before a match….or even the last government closing down football pitches (the ones without the playgrounds), or the previous government cutting out team sports in the school curricula… Whatever, it was shabby. If not shocking.

Yes yes, we know it was shocking. We shall all slink home in our M&S football. It wasn’t just football, it was …. football. We shall be photographed looking appropriately sheepish arriving home. And then we shall not be prepared to meet the fans who travelled and waited to welcome us, we shall slink out the back door. We shall have as little respect for them as Wayne Rooney did for the fans who showed their displeasure after the second match. They payz their money, they’z allowed to give feedback – don’t you know feedback is always sought, Wayne? Evaluation and reflective practice is where it’s at in my profession. Shame it isn’t in yours. Within 24 hours of the arrival home, most of them were straight off on their jollies, showing  little interest in their fellow professionals continuing in the world cup or even seemingly in who might be likely to win. The papers are full of pics of them frolicking at their Barbados villas etc. Hmm. Not to mention the beautifully shared (via a shared with friends gadget – who needs enemies, huh? boy, that friend must have agreed with me) picture from the deep navel gazing and introspection over the defeat.

Let’s take a quick step back and compare that with the essence of football, shall we? Imagine a flick book – back and forth for a second or two until you feel sick, eh?

Can it get worse?  Can I feel sorrier for these mostly personable young men drowning their sorrows? But yes. Apparently I can. Because driving home last night I heard an interview on the radio with a fan. One of those people who instead of being given the M&S suit and enough money to afford a sea front villa in Barbados, bought the suit and has saved up since the last world cup to travel to South Africa to watch the Three Lions. Did he get to watch live? Not all of them, no, he watched most on a screen. He saw England once, Germany twice. So, we’re out, they’re living it up in some luxury hotel/villa, where are the fans? Living it up in South Africa still, since they saved up for four years to get here? Sort of. And sort of not. You see, some of them, the other kind of Lions, have being doing something other than drinking beer in between matches. Some of them have not only been volunteering inbetween matches but they’re still there. And when they do leave and come home, there’ll have been a real impact, a legacy left behind them which will most probably last longer and be more useful to the communities they have served than the stadia once the vuvzelas have fallen silent and there are no more construction or concession jobs at them.

I am totally in awe and humbled by the efforts of Lions Raw. Thankyou for showing that there can be pride, humility, respect, motivation, inspiration and effort in the name of football that makes its community value and spirit worth its gold. May the work that you have done in S Africa be long fruitful. If I were running the FA, I’d have had those young men in their team stash putting down their cigars and spending the remaining ten days of the competition helping you out.

Update: apparently I’m not the only one to be impressed:

9.46am: By the way did anyone see the bit on the BBC last night about some England fans who had stayed on to build an orphanage in South Africa? I found my grizzled mask of sneery career cynicism melting into hot wet tears of confused and helpless admiration. There men are saints. albeit, apparently saints without jobs or families to return to. That idiot-bus has finally done something worthwhile.

BBC Look North – Lionsraw Special Report – Part 1 from Dave Dixon on Vimeo.

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I haven’t watched all of the BBC’s series Last Choir Standing , as I’ve been oftne disappointed with the wasted opportunity to show the nation what a great choir doing a really great choral piece does to your heartstrings. Even the male voice choirs seem to be doing pop arrangements. Argh. Amazing response to the Ysgol Glanaethwy singing O Fortuna a couple of weeks ago proved my point. I’ve just caught up on the final, and it’s fantastic to see a Welsh male voice choir singing Cwm Rhondda. I mean, I love Carmina Burana, but how can you not win when you hear Bread of Heaven? How can you not have a tear in your eye if that’s in your blood? In fact, I defy anyone – Welsh, musical, rugby-playing or not – to not be moved by a mass Welsh male voice choir singing Cwm Rhondda. Maybe I’m just biased…my dad taught me well Laughing

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Hmm. Have been a bit absent. Have had a lot to deal with, and haven’t finished yet. All too busy, too tiring, too emotional and generally a bit crap. Ah well. Maybe I just need a holiday. And possibly a new job. And ideally some time to study. I’ll settle for a few early nights.

Anyway, temporarily at least, I’m back. Back on a topic I’ve been carrying round since it was on the news the other week. The Health Secretary has opened a new discussion on presumed consent toward organ donation. Now I can’t speak as a parent who has lost a child in tragic circumstances, or a parent who faces losing a child (or anyone losing anyone) because of the need for a transplant, or as a person of a strong faith which is refusing of transplant (though I confess I find the mormons’ blood transfusion stance seriously problematic), so this is to an extent abstract. I’ve carried a donor card since I turned 18 – in fact I’m on my second as my first was before the national donor register collected your details. My family know I’m a donor card carrier, and I can’t believe that they would refuse me that desire. Sadly, when my Dad died, there was nothing they wanted of him – nothing functioned. But we got the very great pleasure and satisfaction from being able to pass on his things, from his books to african schools, to his glasses to charity via the opticians. To me they were as much a part of him in many ways as a kidney, or a cornea or an anything else. But if we’d been able to extend that help with physical donation as well, I wouldn’t have felt any different about the father I buried being any less whole. Nor would I have thought twice about offering them – each item given away continuing to help others took a tiny part of the pain away consoled at least a little.

Having spent a week living in an intensive care unit (actually looking back and counting up, it wasn’t even a week, but it felt like longer) I can appreciate the difficulty of the amazingly sensitive and supportive staff having to approach family members destroyed by a sudden bereavement, and I guess I can appreciate a little the cloudiness of one’s thoughts in that first numb hour. So why make us do it? Why not allow for presumed consent? Why not let anyone who feels strongly (or their loved ones, who feel strongly) to consciously opt out of offering life to others, when theirs is over? And why not allow that tiny consolation to those who will be thankful for it when the numb hour becomes the dumb grief of the day and days after?

If you don’t already carry a card which identifies you being on the register, please think about it.

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Today it’s Dad’s birthday. I guess I might as well expect to fall apart at each of the firsts, mum’s birthday, fathers’ day, birthday, xmas, my birthday… I’n hoping it will get easier after all the firsts are through. There’s nothing else to say. It still hurts like hell. But I thought perhaps today I would share the prayer I wrote for the funeral.  more…

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