Living with the new normal

TX long roadListening to a recent radio interview with Dr. David Nabbaro of the WHO, I was impressed and reassured by his honesty and no-nonsense plain speaking when questioned about Covid-19 and where we are right now with this pandemic. I quote some of his words as they convey the reality of what we, collectively, have to do to help bring the spread of this virus under control and eliminate it:

“This virus is not going away and is really dangerous. This virus doesn’t get bored. This virus only has one purpose and that is to multiply. We have absolutely no choice but to take it seriously. We’ve got to have everybody working together, and we need a comprehensive approach, we’ve got to do everything….”

here he mentioned wearing masks, keeping socially distant, using  testing/tracing, and remaining vigilant at all times

“….over time, this will become the norm. We don’t have an alternative. This virus isn’t going away for the foreseeable future – we’ve all got to learn to live with it.”

His clarity, laying on the line what we collectively have to do, no matter which country we live in, had my thoughts turning to the astrological psychology I’m trained in and have used to counsel numerous clients over the years. Please come with me as I leap from our global pandemic to the qualities, energies and expressions of the planet Saturn, and what it means in terms of observable human behaviour and where we are right now.

I’m sharing an edited extract from a talk I gave at a UK national astrological conference some years ago. It offers a practical exploration of the meaning and manifestations of the planet Saturn in everyday life. You do not need to have any prior knowledge of astrology, or of what the planet Saturn represents; I hope I can enlighten you a little on this and give you some food for thought which might help a little as we steer our way through this virus-laden mess.

Millstone or Mentor? (that was the title of my talk)

Do you check the weather forecast before you leave home to see if you’ll need an umbrella, check the train timetable on your phone when going to the station, and maybe make sure you have a map in the car when setting off on a journey to a new destination, even though you’ve programmed the satnav? If you answered “yes” to any of these, then you were probably drawing on your own resources of Saturnian energy.

Structure and organisation

In astrology, the drive associated with Saturn is for Security. Saturn is concerned with structure and form, always seeking to organise, preserve and maintain things within manageable limits. In our solar system, Saturn is the furthest planet that can be seen by the naked eye.  Before the outer planets were discovered, following the invention of the telescope, Saturn’s position marked the outermost limit of our knowledge of the solar system, so it is not altogether surprising that astrologically it symbolises limitation, boundaries and our own security drives. It is the planet that swings into action when we need to know just exactly where we stand, so having social structures, guidelines and rules to abide by are all part of Saturn’s realm. Saturn gives the physical sense of self which we gain through the body. The structure, organisation and limitation associated with Saturn are present in the various systems in the body – the respiratory system, the circulatory system, and the digestive system, to mention just a few. The skeletal system provides a firm, solid physical structure around which the other systems are organised. As all these systems are interdependent, their clear-cut organisation is vital. The skin – our own boundary which marks our physical outermost limits – contains them all.

Saturn helps us to become responsible and reliable as individuals; if we live within the rules and guidelines of society then we reap the benefits of feeling safe and secure. Saturn is the perfect foil to  unfettered over-expansiveness and behaviour which can get out of hand. If not contained, our excesses can take us beyond the limits of acceptability. Saturn helps in curbing what might become outrageous and antisocial behaviour by giving us a sense of caution and responsibility. Taken to extremes, this sense of caution can become fear,  holding us back and restricting us in everyday life, so it’s important with Saturn that we get the balance right, and that we don’t allow our fears to hold us back from doing what is important for us. Because it symbolises such qualities as  responsibility and caution Saturn may not sound like much fun, so it’s important that we understand its positive attributes. It’s value should not be underestimated as it plays an essential role in our psychological make up. Like all the planetary qualities and energies, it can operate at different levels of consciousness, sometimes dormant and inert and responding in a habitual manner, but at its highest level Saturn will endow us with the ability to act with dignity and maturity. Then we can live with a clear conscience, accessing the deep learning of life we have developed, and become a mentor and benefactor  to those who seek our help, support or advice.

 What we know about Saturn astronomically – that it has rings which form a boundary around it – reflects the astrological meaning of the planet. Its protective rings are akin to the qualities of limitation and boundaries which are astrologically associated  with Saturn. Psychologically, Saturn can be like a millstone. It can represent those things in life which are really heavy & which drag us down, so has the effect of being the “killjoy of the cosmos”,  but it can also be like a wise mentor, guiding, teaching and advising with our best interests and safety at heart.

At the moment there are a lot of people getting fed up with the restraints we’re living under to help curb the growth and spread of Covid-19, so it’s easy to understand how these limits might feel like a heavy millstone, a drag on what we’re used to being free to do. This might make us rebel against the Saturnian harshness of where we are now, yet our lives would almost certainly be a chaotic mess without Saturnian qualities around to provide the structure and practical grounding of living in the material world, especially now our current world and lifestyles and jobs  are under threat.

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Something seems to be missing

many+words

Following my previous post “What would you like see more of in the world?” I’ve been sent a few suggestions from readers of the qualities they would like to see more of:

Compassion….caring….kindness….empathy….tolerance……trust……truth……and of all them, along with the other words I took up with me on to the Fourth Plinth, are transpersonal qualities.

Transpersonal qualities are those which are beyond the personal. They’re timeless, they have a universal application which crosses cultures, and they have a spiritual dimension. We, as human beings understand them. We may find it hard to  define them exactly but we know one when we see it. Try defining “beauty” or “joy” or “trust” in just ne word. It’s not always easy but we know what they mean.

I’m changing tack a bit now to the current shambolic hoo-hah in the UK, created by PM Boris Johnson’s special advisor Dominic Cummings. He broke the all the lockdown rules he himself was involved in creating and justified what he did by breaking the lockdown, and driving 260 miles to his parent’s home when ill with Covid-19, probaby spreading the virus as he went (you can read plenty about the details on line – we have pretty much nothing else in our news right now). Bottom line summary:  “I risked infecting other people when I had Covid – 19, but that’s OK because it’s one rule for me, and the rest of you have to do what I say. Apology….. why should I apologise? I don’t believe I did anything wrong.”

This man’s moral compass is utterly defunct and with no remorse that I could see, he shows a large amount of contempt and disrespect to the British public. And he has a severe lack of humility and empathy for the many people who have adhered to the lockdown rules for 10 weeks now. The danger is that people, seeing he’s flouted the rules and has seemingly got away with it will begin to flout them too. Respect for them has gone right out of the window and the Prime Minister will not (at the time of writing) sack him, and appears weak.

The sad and troubling thing is that most members of the government have also come out in support of him. Yet not one of them sounds convincing or convinced as they shuffle their toes along the government line, hoping their spinelessness doesn’t show too much.

What has this to do with transpersonal qualities? What is missing, apart from humility and empathy? Which quality shines the light on lies and evasion?

Truth.

What’s missing ? Ordinary people who have done as instructed by the government to “Stay at Home” and not spread the virus look in vain to the government for the quality which goes hand in hand with truth.

Trust.

What is needed now from our leadership?

Integrity, Authenticity, Truth, Openness, Consideration………you can probably think of whole lot more.

 

What would you like to see more of in the world?

Compassion

I’ve been inspired or nudged (take your pick!) to share this story by blogger Jane Fritz, who I recently nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award. If you read to the end of the post, you’ll see where and how Jane fits in.

Back in 2009, and thanks to a touch of skulduggery on the part of my daughter, I was entered into the draw to spend an hour on the empty Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, as part of the living art project by artist Antony Gormley. To my initial horror, I was awarded a place.

From 6th July to 14th October 2009, 2,400 randomly selected “Plinthers” from across Britain had the opportunity to contribute to this living portrait of the people of the UK. In Gormley’s words “The 6.3 metres on top of the Plinth will be a testing ground for our freedoms and our identities, singular and collective. . . we might learn something about who we are and how we are through the 2,400 person-hours making up this monument in time”.

What on earth was I going to do while I was up there? And did I really want to do this at all? I certainly didn’t want to do it on my own; I was very nervous.

I intuitively felt it important that I should “virtually” take as many other people up on the Plinth with me as I could. I contacted as many of my family and friends as I could and asked them all a simple question:

Please send me one word which expresses the quality you would like to see more of in the world.

I said I would read out each word, together with the name of the person who sent it, and where they came from. But I also said that I would spend the first few minutes of my hour on the Plinth in silent reflection of all the words that people had sent me to read out. I invited everyone who sent me a word to link with me for this period of inner reflection at 3 p.m. on Monday 3rd August and think of their own word. Thanks to all  who sent a word I didn’t feel alone, or even nervous, once I’d got up there as I knew many people were up there with me on the Plinth in thought and spiriLovet.

The words people chose – there were 94 of them in total – were selfless and an expression of transpersonal – i.e.  beyond the “me”/personal – qualities such as love, peace, harmony, compassion, acceptance, empathy, gratitude and understanding.

There were a few amusing exceptions though – a local shopkeeper initially wanted more money in the world to pay his bills, but quickly changed his word to “respect” when he saw the disapproving looks on the faces of his staff! And one lady I asked for a word after the event said she wanted more wine in the world. By that time I could kind of go along with her in that in my post-Plinth more relaxed state of mind! Of the 94 words, I read out all but the last 8, simply because the hour flew by and I ran out of time.

Nothing went wrong. The support I received from the family and friends who came along, from many people in the crowd and from those on the open-top tourist buses passing by was fantastic. I loved it up there and in spite of all my fears and nerves in advance of the event, I enjoyed every minute.

I was already on a high about being up on the Plinth on a sunny afternoon, but when I heard the news via my family on the ground that my first grandchild had just been born – a whole month early –  while I was up there, I was completely over the Moon. I jumped for joy and was able to announce her unexpected arrival to the world in a unique way, making 3rd August 2009 a very special day for me indeed.

Back to the Sunshine Blogger Award. One of the questions I asked Jane and the other bloggers I nominated was the title of this post:

What one thing would you like to see more of in the world?

Jane’s reply? Compassion, compassion, compassion. Where has it gone??? The world needs you back. Yes, individuals and communities show compassion, and leaders in some countries, but other world leaders are bringing the world down with their vitriol and lack of compassion. It’s 75 years since VE Day and it seems all the lessons the world learned have been forgotten.

Compassion, along with Love, Peace, Truth, Inclusiveness plus many other transpersonal qualities, was what a lot of  people responded with. We need all of these qualities right here and now. What would you have asked me read out for you on the Plinth, I wonder, and what quality would you like to see more of in the world?

VE Day 75 years on

The pictures above show VE celebrations in the street in 1945, probably in London, alongside the official programme for the London Victory Celebrations in 1946. The latter is from my family archives – both parents lived and worked in London in reserved occupations during  WW2. They worked in a butcher’s shop by day, and as Civil Defence wardens by night. They went through the blitz, lucky if they managed to get 4 hours sleep, and they slept in a Morrison shelter in the front room.

WMorrison shelterhen I was a child they had a big clear out, and the Morrison shelter was set up in the front room so I could see it. Here’s what it looked like (not the actual one they used). I crawled inside and hated it. It was like a claustrophobic cage and I wonder how they managed to get any sleep at all; I’d have been constantly worrying that a bomb would hit the house and I’d be trapped inside. Notice how the roof of the shelter doubled up as a table.

Susie air raid shelter 2Prior to the Morrison shelter they’d lived in another house which had an Anderson shelter in the garden. My mum doesn’t look too bad standing outside it, with her pinny and sensible shoes. I don’t know when this was taken, but it’s during the war.

There are no photos of either parent in their air raid warden’s uniforms, but someone made a sketch of my dad in his. Note the short back and sides and the moustache – fashionable at the time, but it makes him look a bit serious (he wasn’t). The  drawing is dated 12th December 1941. He was in the Civil Defence for the long haul, until the end of the war.

Fred sketch

 

Now the 75th anniversary of VE Day upon us, I’ve been wondering what my parents would think of the Britain they worked for and supported the war effort for, 75 years on? They would certainly recognise and embrace the upsurge of community connection and kindness, friendliness and helpfulness that has become more evident since we’ve all been in the lockdown. Coronavirus and pandemics might ring bells for them; they were children in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic but I never heard them speak of any memories of it. The biggest thing that ever happened for them was WW2. They would certainly be able to empathise with the fear and concern about this, as-yet, unpredictable disease afflicting the global population. Fear would have been ever-present in their lives during the war, and maybe it’s something we are gradually getting used to as a “background” as we seek to get on with our lives in as normal a way as possible in these exceptional times. Does the fear and worry ever go away, or do we learn how to deal with it better and in more manageable ways? I guess it’s the latter.

With all this in mind, I’m not sure I want to sing “We’ll Meet Again” with the nation on Friday, or watch too much of the nostalgic stuff on TV, or hear the stirring Churchill speech we’re being promised, or take a part in the suggested socially distanced afternoon tea shared with neighbours outside our houses. I may choose to be a grumpy introvert and stay away – the waving of the Union Jack leaves me unmoved and I’ve managed to avoid it for a long time. That’s not to suggest it’s wrong to remember and acknowledge what people experienced during WW2 and 75 years ago, when it came to an end and new way of living evolved. It’s rather similar to where we’re at right now in 2020 – life is unlikely to be quite the same again. Something new and positive must evolve from this situation, we must adapt and go forward, consider the environent a lot more  – so many people have realised they appreciate it –  and a lot of things must change.

Looking to the future, that will be no bad thing.

The Sunshine Blogger Award

blogger award - CopyThe Sunshine Blogger Award is about positivity, kindness, and bringing a few rays of sunshine into the lives of readers. But those drops of sunshine are brought about by those who write the blogs which get nominated, and I’m honoured that my blog is considered worthy.

Way back in March when I was still in the US enjoying being with my family and grandchildren – let’s call it BC – before coronavirus, I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by Carol Kubiki. She has ever-itchy feet and writes about her campervan travels in her Back on the Road Again blog. Thank you Carol for nominating me. Carol visits plenty of interesting places in the UK and overseas, has had many accounts of her travels published in MMM Magazine, and has won an award for her travel writing. She has a penchant for ice cream too. Go take a look at her blog and read about some of her travels.

I was pleasantly surprised that Carol has nominated me, but that was back in March in Houston. Now it’s May, and I’ve finally caught up with the challenge that goes with this nomination. Since arriving back in the UK we’ve been in lockdown for weeks after making that dash back to the UK so we didn’t get “trapped” in the US. Being trapped with grandchildren would have been no bad thing, we had a roof over our heads and were in the good company of family, but there were small worrying details like travel, health, house insurance and US visas which had limited length to run.

I did initially heed Carol’s comment on her blog that she’d discovered this award comes with a fair amount of work/writing (it does) and I’ve been back to revisit the award guidelines. I’m (sort of) willing to have a crack at it, and I’m going to bend the rules a little because it’s proved to be a bit of a challenge to do the whole thing so I’m not convinced that the 11 people I “should” go on to nominate will be so fulsome in their thanks and praise of being nominated! I follow a fair number of photography blogs, so as much as I enjoy looking at them, these bloggers are more photographers than writers so they’d probably turn tail and run! So my nominees will be fewer than the suggested 11, and of course it’s entirely up to them if they want to take up the challenge.

It’s lockdown days at the moment, and a challenge is always character building and good for the soul, so they say. And rules are meant to be bent a little, so let’s call them guidlines instead. Here goes with my take on things:

The Rules (aka Guidelines)

  1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you for a blog post and link back to their blog. Thank you Carol!
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you. Another blooming hefty challenge which I have interpreted in my own way!
  3. Nominate up to 11 new blogs to receive the award. Leave a comment on their blog to let them know they received the award and ask your nominees 11 new questions. I’ve nominated 5  blogs.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog. Done it.

My Nominations

1) Jane Fritz in Canada who writes Robby Robin’s Journey. Always sensitive, thought-provoking and on the button. I’d be so happy to meet her and talk.

2) Graham Welch who writes A New Life In Lille, telling of his ongoing journey from being a UK resident to a resident in France, and on the cusp of opening a cheese and wine bar in the Dordogne. If we get to France when this lockdown is over, we’ll drop in.

3) Little Miss Traveller who writes of her many UK and overseas journeys in her Love Travelling Blog. I don’t know how she’s managing in these lockdown days, but am sure she’ll have plenty of happy memories and photos to sustain her.

4) Karen Harding writes of life from the magical perspective of being over fifty and proud of it in her Some Kind of 50 blog.

5) Paul Handover writes about Learning from Dogs, and as a fellow dog owner I enjoy reading some touching and hearwarming tales on his blog.

And there I’ll stop, throw the ball to them, and answer my 11 questions.

My 11 Questions (set by Carol)

What is your favourite thing about blogging?

It’s a space to express/share/rant/mull over/discuss/pontificate even, about something that catches my interest or triggers a response. It doesn’t matter if nobody reads it (although it’s nice if they do!) because I’m doing primarily for me to keep my writing wheels oiled, my brain active, and to express something which is important to me.

What would be your top tip for a new blogger?

Just do it!  Get on with it, write even if you’re not sure where it’s going, but don’t give up. Keep at it and don’t let a good idea disappear down the plughole of intertia.

Assuming you are still with us, do you think you will still be blogging in five years time?

I’m not quite sure what Carol meant here – “no longer with us” sounds a bit like final curtains…..of course, she could have meant if I was still blogging. In 5 years, who knows? But then I started my first blog in 2006 and kept it going until 2017, when I left it’s presence on the web as a resource centre for anyone interested in Astrological Psychology. On the strength of that, 5 years doesn’t sound all that long.

If you could have something named after you (either your real name, nickname, or blog name) what would it be?

Maybe a rare butterfly, if my real name would translate into Latin for the scientific listings!

If you could have one super power what would it be?

Flying, like a bird or a butterfly – what else?!

What is your favourite road trip film?

Now that’s an interesting one. I’ve taken several road trips in the US since my son and his family went to live there and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. But the film that springs to mind in response to this is Thelma and Louise.

What is your first drink of the day, tea, coffee, smoothie, water or something else?

Orange juice

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Here the choice is difficult – maybe a mash up of the following:

Thank you for the Music by Abba; Human by The Killers; Shine On by Chris de Burgh, The Logical Song by Supertramp and Tallis’s utterly sublime Spem in Alium motet which has 40 different voice parts.

If you could go back in time, what event or period would you go back to?

The Roaring Twenties & the Jazz Age

I was a chef in a previous life and love cooking and eating, what is your signature dish / favourite thing to cook / eat?

My signature dish is risotto, which is often a lot better than some risottos I’ve had in Italian restaurants in the UK.

Where in the world do you feel you most belong?

Here and now at home in lockdown feels pretty good. That aside, and travel once again being permitted, I’m happiest in Audrey, our palace on wheels (aka campervan).