Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Threshold

On the threshold of the new millennium

On the threshold of the new millennium

Rest not! Life is sweeping by; go and dare before you die. Something mighty and sublime, leave behind to conquer time. — Goethe

The prompt in the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is the word ‘threshold’. Looking through my photos this one of the tile frieze made at the end of 1999 for the year 2000 leapt out at me. It is hard to imagine today just what a big deal it was being on the threshold of a new millennium. There were all sorts of apocalyptic warnings about power failures, planes falling out of the sky, systems not being able to cope etc. No-one really new what would happen at midnight on 31st December 1999 and what the new millennium would mean for civilisation. So I wanted to mark the occasion with something very special and permanent for my school.

St Thomas More School was a huge part of my life. In the early 1970’s I watched the new school building rise in the middle of an open field that had once been farmland and an orchard. There was an ancient hedgerow all around the site and just one magnificent old oak tree in what would be the playing field. When it was opened in 1975, I was having my third child so was not available for teaching. But, as I drove past the school every day, I vowed that one day I would work there.

I got my wish in 1984 when my youngest child was ready to start school. I was offered a job and jumped at the chance. The next decade was a time of great blessing as I worked in virtually every class, teaching all age groups, then became deputy Head. In 1994 the original Headteacher was due to retire and, to my surprise, I was offered his job. He had been such an inspirational Head that the school was a joy to work in. Taking on his role, I tried to emulate him while making my own mark and bringing my own vision for the school into being.

Due mainly to the quality of the staff and their outstanding teamwork, the school became a strong and successful community, ‘an oasis of excellence’, appreciated by staff, pupils and parents alike.

In 1999, as the new millennium approached, the staff wanted to mark the year 2000 with a special feature. We wanted the whole school community to be involved in creating something totally unique and meaningful. We came up with the idea of making a large tile frieze. Each year group was asked to brainstorm their favourite lessons, subjects, or topics, and represent their ideas on paper.

Reception class, the youngest children were just 4 or 5 years old and had only just started school. They had their photographs taken in their shiny new uniforms, so that was their contribution.

The Year 1 class had helped to build a pond and were raising ducklings which they had hatched from eggs in an incubator, so they drew pictures of that. I have a wonderful memory of the day the ducklings hatched out ~ the local policeman had called up to the school on a social visit and he watched as the first duckling struggled to crack open the shell. When it finally succeeded and out popped this beautiful and perfect little bundle of yellow feathers, he was overwhelmed by emotion and had tears in his eyes.

In Year 2 the 7 year olds made their first Holy Communion as it was a Catholic school so they drew a chalice and host. Being the most significant event in the year, that was their contribution.

Year 3 was the first year of juniors and the children enjoyed learning about Vikings and the Human Body, so they drew lovely longboats and skeletons.

In Year 4 things got much more subject focussed so Maths was represented by a calculator and mathematical symbols.

In Year 5, Music, Dance and Art were the main features, so a pot of paint and a brush was drawn. Science too was represented by the planets.

By Year 6 the children were getting ready to move on to secondary school. In order to give them a taste of independence and adventure, it was our tradition to take the class away to Shropshire for a week to stay in a Youth Hostel. Here, in the Ironbridge Gorge, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, we had a wonderful time. We visited the Iron Museum, The Jackfield Tile Museum, Blist’s Hill Reconstructed Village, River Severn Museum and of course the first Iron Bridge ever built. We also had amazing night hikes, midnight feasts and parties. Altogether it was an incredible opportunity for fun and learning. So naturally the Ironbridge at Coalbrookdale was the emblem of Year 6.

The staff gathered all these pictures and images together and chose the ones that would be painted on to the tiles. The Year 5 teacher, ABW, a wonderfully creative artist and teacher, took on the challenge of putting all the ideas together and creating a design on tracing paper which could be transferred onto numbered ‘green’ tiles. It was agreed that we would go to Jackfield Tile Museum to create the finished work.

A representative group of staff, parents and children spent a weekend at the Youth Hostel and were each given a small area of the tile frieze to paint. ABW had done a magnificent job scaling all the children’s artwork up or down so that the frieze would reflect the life of the school. It was agreed that the year 2000 would go at the top, as well as the 4 trees, oak, ash, poplar and beech, which were the school emblem. In the top corners would be tiles depicting the Ironbridge itself. The children’s artwork would go around the edge, and at the centre would be the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove surrounded by flames.

We painted the tiles in coloured glaze. I will never forget the atmosphere in that studio at Jackfield as we worked on the frieze. There was a stillness and peace in the room which was truly sacramental. While we worked, the Spirit moved in that place and heaven happened.

When we finished, the tiles were left at the Jackfield tile Museum to be fired. A couple of weeks later they were collected and set into a frame made by the reception class teacher’s husband.

Bishop Mervyn Alexander of Clifton RIP came in the year 2000 to celebrate the school’s 25th anniversary and he blessed the tile frieze.

Although most of the staff who worked at the school have retired or moved on now, the frieze is still there in the school hall. And with it is a little piece of all of us who made it.

Catch up ~ haiku


Hounded and harried

He wandered the wilderness

Prey to temptation

Mystery devils tempting Jesus



Prayers of the faithful

Cloaked in celestial clouds

Scent of mystery




Refreshed and relaxed

With a herbal infusion

Healing Jasmine tea

jasmine tea



“Don’t feed”, the sign says

But the Koi plead their hunger

Mouths open, they glide

fish 2



Alert and aloof

Proud Sharpei stands, protecting

The Peace Pagoda


The Peace Pagoda in Willen, Milton Keynes

The Peace Pagoda in Willen, Milton Keynes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



This post is inspired by the Carpe Diem Haiku prompt for today, “Prayer”

When I first retired from my work in education, I went to work as a housekeeper at Prinknash Abbey This was a labour of love and I learned a great deal about the prayerful life from the Benedictine monks who live and work there.  I learned from Fr Alphedge that every single thing you do can be a prayer if it is done with reverence and joy.

Fr Alphedge at work and prayer

Peaceful and prayerful

monks, masters of mindfulness

sacramental lives

Fr Adhelm in the chapel at prinknash

Meaningful moments

Of quiet contemplation

simple and sincere.

Incense is made at Prinknash

Alone with your thoughts

humbly open your heart, and

Let healing begin

Stained glass window from Gloucester cathedral

Drowning in despair

from the core of your being

you cry to the Lord

Peace dove made of tiles

Simple and sincere

the sorrowful supplicant

speaks softly to God

Pieta from polish church in Torun

Fragile, the faithful

cry out in consternation.

Consolation comes.

sorrowful statue

Studying Icons

In silent contemplation

Wisdom is revealed

An icon from Russian Karelia

October 18th ~ Feast of St Luke

Today is the feast day of St Luke the patron saint of doctors.  It is said that he was born in Antioch in Syria.  I have been so worried today by the news from Syria that I thought I would post this article about St Luke from http://www.catholic.org

Would that there was someone so wise in Syria today who could change the course of history in that troubled country.

Luke, the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, has been identified with St. Paul’s “Luke, the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). We know few other facts about Luke’s life from Scripture and from early Church historians.

It is believed that Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile. In Colossians 10-14 speaks of those friends who are with him. He first mentions all those “of the circumcision” — in other words, Jews — and he does not include Luke in this group. Luke’s gospel shows special sensitivity to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian (Lk.4:25-27), and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan (Lk.17:11-19). According to the early Church historian Eusebius Luke was born at Antioch in Syria.

In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor was rich, but scholars have argued that Luke might have been born a slave. It was not uncommon for families to educate slaves in medicine so that they would have a resident family physician. Not only do we have Paul’s word, but Eusebius, Saint Jerome, Saint Irenaeus and Caius, a second-century writer, all refer to Luke as a physician.

We have to go to Acts to follow the trail of Luke’s Christian ministry. We know nothing about his conversion but looking at the language of Acts we can see where he joined Saint Paul. The story of the Acts is written in the third person, as an historian recording facts, up until the sixteenth chapter. In Acts 16:8-9 we hear of Paul’s company “So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ ” Then suddenly in 16:10 “they” becomes “we”: “When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.”

So Luke first joined Paul’s company at Troas at about the year 51 and accompanied him into Macedonia where they traveled first to Samothrace, Neapolis, and finally Philippi. Luke then switches back to the third person which seems to indicate he was not thrown into prison with Paul and that when Paul left Philippi Luke stayed behind to encourage the Church there. Seven years passed before Paul returned to the area on his third missionary journey. In Acts 20:5, the switch to “we” tells us that Luke has left Philippi to rejoin Paul in Troas in 58 where they first met up. They traveled together through Miletus, Tyre, Caesarea, to Jerusalem.

Luke is the loyal comrade who stays with Paul when he is imprisoned in Rome about the year 61: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers” (Philemon 24). And after everyone else deserts Paul in his final imprisonment and sufferings, it is Luke who remains with Paul to the end: “Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11).

Luke’s inspiration and information for his Gospel and Acts came from his close association with Paul and his companions as he explains in his introduction to the Gospel: “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:1-3).

Luke’s unique perspective on Jesus can be seen in the six miracles and eighteen parables not found in the other gospels. Luke’s is the gospel of the poor and of social justice. He is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man who ignored him. Luke is the one who uses “Blessed are the poor” instead of “Blessed are the poor in spirit” in the beatitudes. Only in Luke’s gospel do we hear Mary ‘s Magnificat where she proclaims that God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52-53).

Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus’ life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke’s gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus’ disappearance in Jerusalem. It is Luke that we have to thank for the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: “Hail Mary full of grace” spoken at the Annunciation and “Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus” spoken by her cousin Elizabeth.

Forgiveness and God’s mercy to sinners is also of first importance to Luke. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy.

Reading Luke’s gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God’s kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God’s mercy for everyone.

The reports of Luke’s life after Paul’s death are conflicting. Some early writers claim he was martyred, others say he lived a long life. Some say he preached in Greece, others in Gaul. The earliest tradition we have says that he died at 84 Boeotia after settling in Greece to write his Gospel.

A tradition that Luke was a painter seems to have no basis in fact. Several images of Mary appeared in later centuries claiming him as a painter but these claims were proved false. Because of this tradition, however, he is considered a patron of painters of pictures and is often portrayed as painting pictures of Mary.

He is often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice — the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world.

Luke is the patron of physicians and surgeons.

English: Saint Luke the Evangelist. Russian Ea...

English: Saint Luke the Evangelist. Russian Eastern Orthodox icon from Russia. 18th century. Wood, tempera. Luke is the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. He is considered one of the Four Evangelists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paradox ~ haiku

Paradox Lake 6

Paradox Lake 6 (Photo credit: xeaza)

The word prompt for todays haiku from haiku heights is ‘Paradox‘.  Where to start?  Media, Medicine, Religion…

Outrage on front page,

adverts inside, profits from

sinister sex trade.

My blood boils when I buy a local family newspaper such as the recent Gloucestershire Echo.  On the front page they gloat and pontificate, taking the moral high ground, over the police storming local brothels.  Men and women were arrested, masses of money was seized and young foreign girls who were victims of illegal trafficking were rescued and taken away.  Yet, inside the same newspaper, albeit near the back, were lurid adverts for the services provided by these same establishments.  Is this double standards ~ Yes!  Is this hypocrisy ~ Yes!  Is this paradoxical ~ Yes!!  Should I stop buying the newspaper ~ Yes!   Should I start a campaign ~ I know I should……but will it change anything…?

Nurses come nightly,

tenderly numbing his pain

Killing him kindly.

The world of medicine is riven with paradoxes concerning treatments for prolonging life, saving life, ending life.  Decisions and actions can have monumental consequences.  There will always sadly be some people who misuse their position, skills and knowledge to cause harm to themselves or others.  But for the most part the medical staff we meet are caring people trying to alleviate suffering who have to live with their conscience, and their choices .


Freedom denying,

Future destroying.

Sadly the most glaring paradoxes are to be found in the world of ‘religion‘.  I listened to a wonderful “Thought for the day” on BBC Radio 4 today about just this.  Canon Dr Alan Billings talks about how the individual’s faith and religious practice can be a very good and positive thing; but collectively, due to desire to protect and preserve ‘their’ values and traditions, hierarchical religious communities can act in damaging, destructive and downright wicked ways.  I think of the dreadful cover-ups of child abuse, of the  unjust and insensitive treatment of women or anyone who does not conform to the perceived ‘norm’, and of course the killing and maiming carried out in the name of religion.  It always comes down to a desire by those in positions of power to subjugate those without it.