Maple Syrup, Music and Madness-

Welcome to my Blog!

It's a bit quiet over here at the moment but I am currently researching and on the lookout for a writing agent. More to come soon!

Search

Updated: Mar 15

I am not the only one, who has been deeply saddened by what's going on in Ukraine at the moment. I have anxiety and have had many bouts of depression since my late teens. This war has affected me more than I thought, but perhaps because I have been to Ukraine. I wanted to start this blog by sharing my experiences, because I know when people have shared with me about countries in the news, it's helped me to relate to them more. Seventeen years ago, as a seventeen year old, I spent a week just outside of Cherkassy, South of Kyiv. It was my first trip abroad without family, or anyone I knew. I went with a small group to work at a summer camp for orphans (I have included a link to send them donations at the bottom of this blog).

Although I now prefer to stay longer and build strong relationships than do shorter trips, it gave me an insight into Ukrainian life and had a huge impact on my worldview. I’ve never forgotten that trip, the country is beautiful. The journey from our base to the camp displayed people swimming in the river, haystacks, piled like the ones in Van Gogh paintings and fields of sunflowers, in full bloom. There are strange things which stick in my mind, like there being tuna and ham on the table for breakfast, but, most of all, I remember the kindness. The people in Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova are some of the most generous people I’ve met.


The camp held at Kompas Park, hosted kids from the age of age five up to seventeen+. The older kids took care of the younger ones. I took my violin (there’s an airport story there) and they were fascinated by it - I let them play it too because I could see the happiness it brought them. There were children fascinated by inexpensive cameras and mobiles (before smart phones were a thing). I remember a kitten showed up at the camp and it bringing joy to these kids (and me.) There was of course, a language difference, they learned a little bit of English and I learned a tiny bit of Ukrainian. Despite the language differences, I couldn’t say there was a ‘barrier’. I don’t even think about the language difference when I look back. Smiles are universal and when you need to communicate, you find other ways. It is sometimes handy to practise charades.




It was seventeen years ago, but the week left an impression. Now these kids are adults and in a situation which most of us can’t even grasp. I have no idea how any of them are but I do remember their tired faces. I am praying for them and hoping this will not last long. In the meantime, as someone who struggles generally with anything on the news, I think there are reasons why we don't need to let it completely break us.



So, in this harrowing situation, how do we not let ourselves become really depressed by the news? For starters, we have seen Ukrainians are unafraid to stand up to the situation they're in. A lady approached Russian soldiers handing them sunflower seeds to put in their pockets "So at least sunflowers will grow when (they) lie down"*. Another man approached a tank and knelt down before standing up and trying to stop it with his hands**. I really admire how defiant president Zelensky is, an honourable leader for the current circumstances, a leader we could all learn from.


I don't know if anyone else sees it this way, but it does feel a little bit like we're all in a playground and the big bully has come out of one classroom. Of course, it's just one person, a bully usually has some friends, but not a whole class full. From this perspective, it could be said that some Russians are the kids in that classroom, not behind the bully, but tarnished by the consequences of his actions. I am heartbroken for the Ukrainians, however, I am also sad for those Russians who are caught up in this, the ones who want nothing to do with the war.



There's a line in Tolkien's, 'The Lord of the Rings', where Treebeard, at the face of war, resigns to do nothing,

'This is not our war' he says, to which Merry replies,

'But you're part of this world, aren't you?!'


It's one of the movie lines which has stuck in my head. I am very much a European, rather than a British citizen and so when a war breaks out in our continent, in my mind, it's our doorstep. I'm not a fan of limiting how many refugees we allow into our country. All of us are human. I've noticed that when people step up to help others, things have a way of working out. Initially, I felt sad and a little afraid of this situation, however, reaching out and thinking of ways to help has changed my thought processes. It's a terrible situation, if we had to put up a Ukrainian in our flat, we would. Imagine if this was the other way around. I get the impression from the Ukrainian leader and, having met Ukrainians, we wouldn't be pushed away.



The thing which has helped me is to look for ways to help. I heard yesterday that people were collecting clothes and supplies for refugees and Ukrainians. I'm not doing this just to 'make myself feel better', I genuinely care about Ukraine and the people, they touched my heart. However, there's a saying about when you're feeling down to get up and help someone. When you're really low, this can feel impossible. There have been times in the past when I had no motivation or energy I just wanted to sleep all day. However, once I've done something, even something small, like brushing my teeth, it made me want to try and do something else.



Today, being in a better place, I sorted some old clean clothes and drove to a shop (I'm still very excited to be able to drive and do things like this) and bought as much as I could from a list of relief aid and took it to the shop collecting donations. It did feel nice to 'do something', but equally, I have such a heavy heart about the whole situation and felt like crying whenever I remembered why I was doing this. Not everyone will have time to collect donations, or go to vigils, but there are other ways to help.



I've decided to make a list if anyone needs it, of sites to visit which are helping in different ways and will add to it as I find more:


https://hopenow.org.uk

  • This is the organisation I went to the Ukraine with, they do really great things and it would be great to support them in the work they do!

https://www.sanctuaryfoundation.org.uk

  • Here's a way to help refugees coming to the UK: "The UK government has announced it is developing a new humanitarian sponsorship programme that will allow an unlimited number of Ukrainian families to come to the UK." It's still being formulated, but you can pledge to help, the link will take you to the sight to tell you more!


https://choose.love

  • Go to Choose Love to buy support for refugees, essential wash products, support for unaccompanied children and more.


https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/feb/28/how-can-britons-help-the-people-of-ukraine

  • The Guardian has written an article including charities which people can support.


https://www.rescue-uk.org

  • The International Rescue Committee work in places which have been devastated by conflict and help communities 'to survive, recover and gain control over their lives'.


https://chng.it/LJdjJcJv8C

  • This is a link to a petition to tell Boris Johnson to help refugees, you can see more details on the page.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hImSbwafmE

  • Buy a digital file from Ukrainians on Etsy. It's best to buy a digital file as it will provide money without endangering lives. This YouTube video shows how.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-60586817

  • This is a link to a report which includes Ukrainian musicians and artists. There's never been a better time to buy music from overseas.


https://www.airbnb.co.uk

  • This idea was passed on from a friend of a friend! If you have the money, book an airbnb in Ukraine, owned by an individual, not a company. Obviously, it's not the time to travel there, however, the money would help them out. The earlier the dates are booked, the sooner the host gets paid.

It won't be for everyone, but as a follower of Jesus (a Christian to everyone else) I have seen the power of prayer. I do believe there is a God and I do believe prayer changes things. This world is not perfect, so bad stuff will happen, but I do believe God is good. Also, anyone can pray, believer or not.

https://www.24-7prayer.com/a-prayer-for-the-crisis-in-ukraine/

  • This is a website with lots of prayer tools including a specific prayer for the current situation in Ukraine.


I guess the last thing to do, is to let the people of Ukraine know that we stand by them and not assume all Russians approve of the war. The Bible says perfect love casts out fear, maybe this can be a time when love overrules.


*https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2022/feb/25/ukrainian-woman-sunflower-seeds-russian-soldiers-video

**https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ukraine-russia-stop-tank-hands-bakhmach-b2024359.html





56 views

October 11th 2021

I’m not referring to weight, although I am trying to lose several pounds. I couldn’t not write about the recent government reduction in money, not because I want a pity party, but to share how it is and how anyone could be finding things hard without us knowing.

There was a time, in my twenties, when 20 quid was like £200 to me. Even now, £20 is a very generous gift, a lot to spend on a meal out. I hope and pray I never forget the value of money and that 20 quid never becomes ‘only 20 quid’.

It all started when I first left uni, the sudden absence of a student loan and being unemployed meant I was scrimping a little bit. I had learned at uni that I could do my weekly shop on £10 - this was back in 2006-2009. I was living up north in Lancaster with two others and I remember having this on my mind​,​“I need to make sure I always have some cash so I can go to the shop to put money on the key”. The ​'​key​'​ being what powered our electricity and gas. There was one cold and rainy night​,​ I was sitting alone in the living room and everything switched off. It’s never fun when that happens, particularly when it’s dark and raining outside! This, always saving a fiver, might mean missing out on part of a food shop one week if I hadn’t budgeted properly.

I once sheepishly asked an older couple from my local church if I could borrow £5 and I’ll never forget the man handing me £20 out of his wallet. He said I could keep it, which was amazing. Whenever people offered to lend me money, it was always a slight cause for concern, “I’ll have to pay it back, when will I have the money? What if I suddenly run out again?” Most of the time, to save anxiety, I’d refuse. That man, giving me, not loaning £20, meant the world to me.

I started a masters in 2011 and I started to earn interest on my overdraft from my BA (student bank account). I didn’t really understand my situation, apart from that there was a hole which was getting bigger. I somehow ended up getting parcels from

the foodbank for a while. That was a huge blessing.

When I first graduated in 2009, there was a recession and hardly any jobs were available. So I worked Part Time. Most of my twenties were spent looking for work or going in and out of jobs. I had bad depression and anxiety, which didn’t help, they were definitely not the best years in my life that’s for sure.

Probably the hardest thing about not having much money is not having ​'​choice​'​. People are so kind and the foodbank was a lifesaver, but there is a luxury to going shopping with your own money which you can spend how you wish. One thing I always craved was healthy food - fruit, and a large variety, I could do this ​by ​buying individual fruits, but it was berries and grapes I missed. Sounds ridiculous in many ways but there really was a time when grapes were ​like gold dust​! It’s a first world problem really, but when you’ve got a tenner or thereabouts to spend a week, you have to get the essentials - tins, bread, milk, loose fruit and veg​​.

I’m only now learning how to drive. I used to get the bus everywhere. There was one time I got stuck in the centre of Bristol, I needed just 50p to get the bus home. It was a 40 minute bus ride, so I was desperately looking all over the place for 50p. I genuinely hoped someone might have dropped 20p or a few 10ps. I can’t remember why I didn’t have quite the right amount of change, I don’t think I had planned to get the bus home. However, I wasn’t going to ask for change, it’s awkward. People would think, “What did she spend it on that she doesn’t have 50p?”. I was so exhausted, I ended up walking the 40 minute bus ride home which took well over an hour.

It was a long hard process, but I did end up getting help from CAP (Christians Against Poverty) I learned how to budget and a friend helped me sort my bank payments out. Didn’t fancy being bankrupt at 26​, which I nearly was.

What’s all this got to do with £20 being reduced from Universal Credit? It’s got to do with the fact that it all adds up. I know that Universal Credit was raised because of the virus, but over the last year, everything has gone up in price, not by one or two pence, but in some cases one or two pounds. Try and do your weekly shop in 2021 on £10. You might be able to make a couple of meals, but you will have to miss out on other things. Imagine if you had £20 for the week and you needed to get the bus five times a week. It’s autumn, you’ve got £20 for the week, it’s got to cover food, travel and Gas and Electricity. Even worse if you’ve got kids.

I know this is happening all over the country. People are choosing between the heating and the food. Asylum seekers are given less than £40 a week, their support payment was increased by 3p in 2020. I am in a better position now and I am so grateful to have a job and although ​I've​ not been 100% well enough to work as much as I’d like to, I am content and can live comfortably. I guess in writing this, I just hope those who do have the power to change how people live might see it and realise there are more people than they realise who have experiences like this. Perhaps it’s time for change in more ways than one.

0 views
  • Felicity Wilson

Live music and Anna Ash



There’s live music and then there’s Anna Ash. I have loved music for as long as I can remember. However, in the past few years, I had forgotten why I loved going to gigs. I’ve even started asking myself, “Why am I going to see this act live again?” It’s just as easy to stick on a CD (yes, I still use CDs, I like the physicality of them) or pop on a vinyl (even more vintage) and feel encapsulated by the music.

Three artists I have seen live stood out for me this year. I had the pleasure of hearing Emily Barker sing on a rainy summer’s eve with a backdrop of Birnbeck pier. This was an event put on by my local vegan and vegetarian cafe, Loves. This was a magical night, yes, it was raining, torrential, by the end, but one lady and her guitar strummed away the rain and took hold of our ears and imagination.

The second gig which stands out in my mind was RSVP, Britains’ bhangra band, vibrant in colours and sounds. If you want a party, to learn how to dance ‘Bollywood’, these are the guys. It might just be me, but I feel like I’ve been to many gigs where the audience becomes a wall for artists to play against, rather than a canvas to bring to life. If you want to feel alive, which I’m sure many do after the two years we’ve had, RSVP, being bhangra, will revitalise you, your dancing feet and involve the audience in a way you may have never experienced before.

Now, to Anna Ash, who was on at Loves cafe. I produce a Folk Show on Wave Community Radio, called Folk with Flic and was invited as a guest by Loves, who sponsor the show. It was also the first indoor performance they’ve had since Covid hit us. What a woman to kick off this event!

I love seeing people perform and I was so excited to hear Anna Ash sing live. She began by mentioning she didn’t have her band with her and in all honesty I think it made the evening more special. Ash has a voice which sounds sweet and sincere on her recordings, it reminds me of creme brûlée; thick and creamy with a glasslike sugar on top. Hearing her live was better than I could have imagined. This was no musician in a shop window, this was a performer who captured everyone in the room.

I was sat in the seating area on the first floor, able to get a good view of the congregation. Loves has a way of setting a room up for enchantment, perfect lighting and its size means it makes gigs intimate. As the evening went on, young faces sat behind the railings and dangled their feet over the edge. There was barely a hushed whisper as Anna sang. There were times I found myself nodding at moments in the music, they just worked. It’s not easy to solo with an instrument, captivating an audience with it is a skill Anna Ash has. Her songs tell stories and her voice is strong. It’s as natural as it sounds on her recordings, but being live, it’s like feeling a refreshing breeze on your cheeks. If I could describe her singing visually, I would say it’s as clear and strong as a new shoot forcing itself out of the soil. The sincerity of her voice provides the listener with something stable, as if its singing the words for the first time. There was a point where she sang a note which was so poignant it seemed as though the world stopped spinning.

I’ve never heard a voice like that before. I won’t forget it either. In a world where rules are constantly changing and not knowing what things might look like in the next few months, to hear someone sing like that, with conviction and honesty, was a comfort. Thank you for a wonderful evening, Anna Ash and Loves cafe.

1 view