Mayflower 400

Dear friends

Growing up in Southampton means that you know about at least two famous historical ships – the Titanic and the Mayflower. And this year is 400 years since the Mayflower sailed from this port town.

The thing that impressed me most about hearing the story of the Mayflower is that it’s about a group of people that fled religious persecution. It’s essentially the story of a group of people who wanted to live and worship differently than the dominant religion at the time and were being persecuted for that. They gathered together, got a ship (the Speedwell), and sailed from Holland to Southampton where they met the Mayflower ship, which had set out from Rotherhithe, London. The Mayflower was carrying 102 passengers who wanted to build a new life, in peace, across the Atlantic Sea. Half of those passengers died within the first year in their new home (mainly from disease having arrived in November 1620). But essentially they were colonisers, settling where other people already lived. That always seems to end in pain for those who lose their land for no other reason than someone else wants to live there! This website gives a great in sight into the full story of the event and it’s position in terms of native Americans and the colonisers: https://www.mayflower400uk.org/education/the-mayflower-story/.

So, these past several months one of my work projects has been conservation work to the Pilgrim Father’s Memorial (aka Mayflower Memorial) here in my hometown, originally constructed 1913. As it is literally a 5 minute walk from my former primary school, I can’t tell you how many times, over 40 years ago, I saw the memorial and heard the story of the Pilgrim Fathers.

The commemoration weekend here is in 2 weeks – 15 August 2020. Despite knowing about the commemoration date for the last, well, hundreds of years, the Culture team were a little slow to get going on the conservation work and had to be rescued (financially) by the Property team. An exemption request submitted to Procurement was eventually approved and a specialist main contractor was appointed in February. However with stone to be sourced and carved, completion of the works for the commemoration weekend was always ambitious. And then, the pandemic was declared!

The first half of the contract took place in the stonemasons yard with lots of photographs being sent showing the stonework progression. I really wanted to go to the mason’s yard so was rather disappointed that the pandemic meant this was too high a risk to take, especially with 5 of us at home, since the yard was in another town.

However, with site works commencing in May, I was finally able to visit site and hold external site meetings, rather than conference calls. And this past week, with copper Mayflower ship back atop facing West, the upper layer of scaffolding came down to reveal the refreshed mosaic dome, renewed stone work and, at night, a beacon light shining out from it’s quirky Art Nouveau/ Arts & Crafts style fire basket metalwork. The memorial isn’t the tallest of columns, about 15 metres or 50 foot. And it’s location means that most people in town probably will never see it, unless they make an effort.

But it is a story, an event that happened, 400 years ago and, like with any real event, it shouldn’t be forgotten.

I am descended from people who, not wilfully, were transported across the Atlantic Sea from the African continent to work and effectively colonise islands of the sea. Many of them died within months of arrival, from disease, from hard labour, from abuse, from broken hearts. Though there is no specific monument with their specific name that I can definitely say they are my descendants, I still feel proud that somewhere in my family history, I am descended from survivors.

Change is necessary for progress…

Dear friends

It’s been more than 10 weeks since my last post and much has happened, in your lives as well as mine.  Change is necessary for progress is my personal motto, it has been for a very long time.  In modern speak, I suppose that would show I have a growth mindset.  Anyhow here’s a synopsis of what I’ve been experiencing these past weeks 🙂 

1. Children grow – when our eldest was about 9 months old, a friend gave me some advice which I believe she had received from another friend who is a mother of 10 children.  That advice was, remember it’s a phase.  Whatever seemingly difficult stage you or your child is at, view it as a phase.  This advice has served me well and has certainly helped me to remain sane! I strive to apply it to other aspects of my life, other relationships.  I think one day we will realise how brief mortality is and we’ll see all things clearly (see 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 12) For now, when I had to buy yet another pair of school shoes for our youngest, Son2 (approaching 10 years old) and discovered he’s now in the smaller men’s shoe size, I thought, it’s a phase… what size feet will he reach as a grown man!?

2. I’ve decided to look up more, seize the moment, capture now, be a little more impulsive and take more photos of life as it happens – like this photo (no filter) of our yellow sky, pink sun, as a result of Saharan sands a few weeks ago.  Related to this, I’m going to post more photos, probably of trees and skies as this reminds me to see the beauty all around.  We live on a beautiful planet which serves life well.  We, humans, need to serve life well too. 

3. The long awaited restructure began at work and some of my older colleagues have been taking stock of what their pensions look like and is it worth retiring a few years early.  I’m in the generation that’ll work till 67 years so it’s not something I’ve paid too much attention to (I probably should but I’ve not…)  So I was traveling to a meeting with two older colleagues, both male, and one mentioned his wife retired several years ago, she earned quite highly so they were OK.  The other chuckled, commenting his wife never earned much and “my wife retired at 23!” I impulsively stood up for his wife and said, “I don’t think she would call it retirement, I’m sure she did a great job raising your sons!”  He did accept this but I realised how many people out there devalue their own family, because they are making a different contribution.  I’m so glad that as a working mum I could still stand up for my sisters.

4. Glass an hour – this is a little mantra I’ve been telling myself in relation to drinking water.  It’s like the fruit & veg, 5 a day, here in the UK.  I’m blessed to live where I can turn on a tap at home and work and drink safe water.  I know many in the world can’t do that and I, sadly, remember a time when living at my dear mother’s home and she’d been unable to pay the water bill and it was cut off (I don’t think they are allowed to do that now).  I walked a couple of miles each day to public toilets to fill bottles of water to bring back home.  So I appreciate water and what it means for our health.  I don’t think we can ever drink too much but we can certainly have too little, so, as I’ve noticed myself feeling thirsty more often, I’ve tried to drink a glass of water each hour.  I always feel much better and less tummy aches when I do this.

5. I mentioned the long awaited restructure at work began.   I’m one of the few whose salary will increase, quite significantly, as a result of this due to the grading of my job.  Our jobs have now been aligned to public sector gradings and although people many are grumbling that it’s less than private sector pay, I say, well, go and work in the private sector if you want to earn that kind of money; don’t expect public taxes to pay ridiculous amounts for you not to deliver!  And around the time the restructuring consultation began, I was approached by the local school of architecture to see if I’d be interested in studio tutoring 🙂  Of course!!! 

6. The world wide General Conference #LDSconf was, in my humble opinion, absolutely sublime. I am steadily working my way through all the talks, starting with those given by the apostles.  I can only suggest you listen to it – check it out on LDS.org or on YouTube.  I don’t have a favourite but memorable messages for me are: am I Sad, Mad or Glad?; women in these last days; the need for humility.  

7. Finally, the changing world.  The past 10-12 weeks have seen human tragedies on an increasing scale of horrific-ness (i.e shootings, terrorism acts) plus natural incidents, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes.  And then political incidents across the globe affecting whole countries and regions.  For comfort in these difficult times, I gain comfort from the words of prophets reminding us Who wins in the end and I am striving to be on that team. Elder Dallin H Oaks reminded us of these words from 20 years ago in his talk at conference:

I see a wonderful future in a very uncertain world.  If we will cling to our values, if we will build on our inheritance, if we will walk in obedience before the Lord, if we will simply live the gospel, we will be blessed in a magnificent and wonderful way.  We will be looked upon as a peculiar people who have found the key to a peculiar happiness.

President Gordon B Hinckley, November 1997.

poised…

Dear friends

Autumn leaves poised, waiting to fall

Sometimes in life it feels that things are poised, waiting to happen.  Like the leaves on this small tree that I saw this morning.  They’re changing, virtually imperceptibly, from green to yellow to red, poised, waiting for a wind to blow and take them to another stage in their life, away from the tree.  I really must develop more patience, from Mosiah 24 v15, and be peaceful like these leaves!

the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

I feel that things are poised for me a little.  The pre-assessment – before any type of surgery – went very routinely  MRSA swabs, blood test, blood pressure – but when the nurse checked my admission appointment it wasn’t there!  It’s been rescheduled for next week.  Same consultant – a gynaecological oncologist. So I’m back to waiting. I’ve tried to not use too many pain killers, especially at night.  This means I’m in a cycle of a few rough nights followed by a long night when I’m literally so exhausted I have to sleep.  The appointment time has changed – once – from afternoon to morning admission.  Not sure if that has any significance.  And I’ve already decided to not consent to anything other than the hysteroscopy and laparoscopy – we’ve already booked flights to Manchester eight days later!!

Things at work are equally at a poised state.  Our business is being transferred (back) to the local authority, so we are going through the TUPE process.  However the local authority is also having a restructure and the draft structure shows architecture under development (we’ve already heard our new director refer to the architects as the ones delivering concepts), and not within construction management, which we do via our contract administration role.  We are all keen not to be pushed into a discrete role of design and illustration alone.  That is how some practices work, but our small team has built on the fact that we’re all quite rounded as architects. In our favour is that the lead for construction management is old school and believes in the lead consultant delivery of a construction contract.  From January we will be working for our new employer and it feels like everything has been in a state of transition for far too long!  We are poised!! 

brains and prayer

Dear friends

I wanted to share this so I don’t forget.  And I wanted to write it so I remember. 

It’s a short passage from Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons.  Leonardo Vetra is explaining prayer to his daughter, Vittoria:

He took a model of the human brain down from a shelf and set it in front of her.
‘As you probably know, Vittoria, human beings normally use a very small percentage of their brain power. However, if you put them in emotionally charged situations – like physical trauma, extreme joy or fear, deep meditation – all of a sudden their neutrons start firing like crazy, resulting in massively enhanced mental clarity.’
‘So what?’ Vittoria said.  ‘Just because you think clearly doesn’t mean you talk to God.’
‘Aha!’ Vetra exclaimed.  ‘And yet remarkable solutions to seemingly impossible problems often occur in these moments of clarity.  It’s what gurus call higher consciousness. Biologists call it altered states. Psychologists call it super-sentience.’  He paused. ‘And Christians call it answered prayer.’ Smiling broadly, he added, ‘Sometimes, divine revelation simply means adjusting your brain to hear what your heart already knows.’

And then, this weekend, in preparation for a lesson, my dear husband shared this quote with me, from February 2003 Ensign, James E. Faust (belated Apostle):

“An important part of the spiritual being within all of us is the quiet and sacred part from which we may feel a sanctification in our lives. It is that part of us wherein no other soul may intrude. It is that part that permits us to come close to the divine, both in and out of this world. This portion of our beings is reserved only for ourselves and our Creator. We open the portals thereof when we pray. It is here where we may retreat and meditate. It is possible for the Holy Ghost to abide in this special part of us. It is a place of special communion. It is the master cell of our spiritual battery.”

I know that that part of us where no other soul can intrude is within us all; it’s part of who we are as human beings, and probably part of that portion of our brain that lies dormant so often. 

I believe we can all do much to adjust our brain, come close to the divine and receive the personal messages that Father wants to tell us.