Black History Month

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This terrifying sculpture is in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Its power lies in the fact that the path passes between these raging dogs, and by walking along it you have to pass between these ferocious but inanimate canines.

Now just imagine they are real.

I’m reblogging the post I wrote about my visit to Birmingham at the start of Black History Month, which starts today – 1st October – and continues to the end of the month. No doubt there will be many references to Black Lives Matter and to the significant figures in the struggle for Black rights in the USA. But this issue goes further afield than the US; it’s everywhere.

My visit to the Deep South and some of the places where Civil Rights demostrations took place has had a lasting effect on me. To walk the historic walk that Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights leaders took was a sobering and powerful experience. Visiting the Civil Rights Museum there and seeing footage of what took place hit home. One of the most moving street exhibits on the walk was the one about singing and how music and singing together was a source of strength. As a choir member I know just how powerful that can be.P1050175Here’s what I wrote in my original post in 2018:

On May 2nd, 1963, more than 1,000 African American teenagers assembled at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church across the road, and prepared to march to Birmingham’s City Hall in support of the civil rights movement. The following day, “Bull” Connor, Commissioner for Public Safety, ordered police, dog handlers and firemen to the park.

When the protestors entered the park and refused to leave, water cannons were turned on them, knocking them to the ground. German shepherd dogs were directed towards the crowd, their handlers commanding them to attack. This, and the police brutality towards these teenage protesters, shocked America and the world.

This is only one part of the struggle for civil rights which went on in Alabama, led by Dr. Martin Luther King. My recent visit to this, and other sites associated with the civil rights (and let’s face it, human rights) movement, was an eye opening window on to history which was made in my lifetime.

But I’ve no illusions. The struggle against inequality goes on. Some things may have improved, but there’s a whole lot more room still available for improvement.

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Life in lockdown

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How come I seem to be even busier in these days of lockdown than I was before, when I was following a fairly normal, daily routine…….ah, of course, there’s the answer. Routine. Structure. Doing things at a sort of allocated, usual, habitual time. But now, with our daily framework gone all wobbly, we have to dig a bit deeper and find ways to focus, get through what needs to be done (like washing, ironing, deciding what to use from our food stocks then cooking it, and so on).

Yesterday I felt like the proverbial blue-assed fly, flitting from one distraction to the next like a headless chicken (excuse the mixed metaphors). Having successfully joined FaceBook in order to be able to easily message granddaughter in the US and take part in the Rock Choir daily Keep Britain Singing at 3 pm (I’m a member of Rock Choir and need a singing fix to keep me going), I found I was suddenly thrust into more techno-connections than I’d ever been.

Suddenly people I know were appearing on FaceBook wanting to be my “friend”. With extended French family (our daughter-in-law is French), the combination of choir members I know and French family I know got just a bit challenging at one point when I received a message – in French – from my daughter-in-law’s godmother. I had a bash at responding in rusty French and was part way through when I noticed there was a translate button. So I was able to translate her message into English, and if I wrote in English, she’d be able to translate it into French. Phew. I switched from rusty Francais to English promptly.

So that leaves the daily Rock Choir 20 minute sing to schedule for 3pm, and the Great British Home Chorus being led by Gareth Malone for 30 minutes every day at 5.30pm. That’s before I’ve even got near the on-line PE, yoga and keep fit classes.

Then there’s the WhatsApps arriving from friends and family, the face to face calls, the  phone calls, the chats with neighbours over the garden fence – all at a safe distance of more than 2 metres – the emails and the one daily walk to schedule for us and the dog, who, it seems has cracked this lockdown lark rather well.

He’s even decided to watch the daily sing, but he doesn’t join in…..

Street musician, Aachen

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This accomplished accordionist was playing in the square by Aachen’s large and impressive cathedral.  I was on dog duty, looking after our pooch while my other half was inside the cathedral (no dogs allowed).

It was a pleasure to sit in the square for a while and listen to him playing, and I dropped some coins into his hat when I eventually moved on to wander around this central area of Aachen, in Germany.

It’s a lively, attractive city, with cobbled streets in the medieval old town and market area. There are many small squares, several slightly quirky fountains, and of course, the magnificent cathedral built by Charlemagne. The interior reflects his wealth, power and influence, but there are plenty of architectural and historical riches to be found on the streets in the surrounding area too.

Definitely somewhere to return to!

York’s Northern Lights

IMG-20191024-WA0002The minster has been cleared. The spectacle is to be viewed standing in the nave, empty of chairs, and used as cathedrals were in the middle ages. Standing space, no seats, just looking up in wonder and awe. The organ roars and vibrates, playing an overture to set the scene. The music and the blue/green lighting creates an anticipatory atmosphere before the show begins.

York Minster’s Northern Lights spectacular is a totally immersive experience of sound, light, voices, music, sound effects and dramatic, apocolyptic, spirit-ful elemental images projected on to the east window and the roof. Its message includes – in graphic flames and thunderbolts – current concerns about climate breakdown. Nature is there: the sound of a sparrow as it flutters across the high ceiling of the nave, flowers bloom and entwine across the vaulted roof; images of stained glass windows form patterns there, and the east window is an ever-changing backdrop of colours and shapes and eras.

I experienced this a few days ago. It’s on for just one week. If you’re in or near York – go and see it!

Street musician, Lincoln

This cool older guy was at one with his saxophone and lost in his music in Lincoln’s busy highP1010462 street. On a sunny day, there were  plenty of people about and, as someone who has been occasionally visiting Lincoln over the years, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the city has come on and is more in step with the times.

Lincoln has always been dominated by its huge spectacular cathedral. The ascent up the cobbled and appropriately-named Steep Hill to reach the cathedral on foot is part of the visit. It can be a challenging walk!

It’s a lovely place to visit, especially now it attracts a lot of tourists. When I first went there in the late 60s, it was a bit of a dull and proper city, compared with swinging London, where I grew up.

When the university was set up in the city, it breathed new, young life into the place, making it a livelier destination than it ever was when I first went there.