On loving fiercely…

“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”

―Agatha Christie, “The Last Séance”

On UK Mother’s Day last weekend, I posted a photo collage of my beautiful Mama on Facebook with this caption:  29025929_10155383164987285_1739070496427314569_nHow lucky I am to have been raised by this incredible woman. Every good thing in me comes from her: my strength, my courage, my humour, my determination, my fiestyness, and the way I love. She gave me wings to fly and is the roots of my tree to return to. Thank you, Mum, for loving us so fiercely and unconditionally.

It got me thinking about fierce love. Love that comes from someone who: unconditionally wants what is best for you; believes in you completely and without limits; has stood by you through rough times; fights for you, even when you have no idea that you need to be fought for; knows the worst of you and still waits for you with open arms; puts you first always; sacrifices for you; lets you be who you want to be without hampering you; gives you complete honesty enveloped in love.

In my Mama’s case, carried me in her womb for 9 months, fed me for hours on end when my cleft palate would not allow food to go down my throat, waited outside an operating theatre for long hours while I, as an 18 month old baby, underwent major reconstructive surgery to repair my non-existent palate, nursed me through recovery, sat through years of speech therapy with me, advocated for me in school when I was having hearing issues and falling behind, fought to give me and my sisters every opportunity that we could have in school, when I wanted to spread my wings – she let me and gave me a safe and secure place to come home to, and when I finally shared with her what had happened on one of the worst nights of my life, she responded only with love. Fierce love. Unending love.

I am thankful – so thankful – to have been brought up by a mother who continues to love so fiercely.

“Mothers, I believe, intoxicate us. We idolize them and take them for granted. We hate them and blame them and exalt them more thoroughly than anyone else in our lives. We sift through the evidence of their love, reassure ourselves of their affection and its biological genesis. We can steal and lie and leave and they will love us.”

―Megan Mayhew Bergman, Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories

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“Without music, life would be a mistake…”

I count myself lucky to have been brought up in a family where music was a part of every day life and musicianship was not only allowed, it was encouraged.

Every member of my family is a musician. My mum, with her beautiful voice, used to do the ‘folk’ rounds in pubs with her guitar when she was young. Following that, when she became a minister, she used her voice as an instrument of worship within church.

My dad, having grown up in a musical family, learned a host of brass instruments in his youth. Combined with his ability on guitar, attuned ear, and beautiful tenor voice, he and mum used to sing together all the time. Every so often they still do!

Music was a part of my upbringing. We sang in the car, at the dinner table, together round the fireplace at family gatherings…was it any wonder that myself and my sisters ended up continuing the legacy?

My sister, Bethany, became a music teacher. A talented musician who won music scholarships for university – it was clear that this would be her career choice. From her effortless piano playing and beautiful skills on the violin to her soaring soprano not to mention her songwriting ability – music runs through Bethany’s veins.

  
My sister, Laura, took a while to find the musical instrument that worked for her. After trying flute, piano, and horn, she stepped away for a while before deciding to teach herself guitar. As an entirely self-taught player, she plays guitar, ukelele, and is now teaching herself banjo – all down to her natural talent and sheer determination. She has a beautiful alto voice and, while shy of her vocal abilities, is a joy to hear her sing!

  
I, myself, picked up the flute around the age of 8 and haven’t stopped since! Every orchestra, band, choir or show that I could be involved in, I was. After a brief foray into the percussion world,  I then learned piano and delighted in singing both by myself and in groups. Making music was, and is, a joy and a much needed creative outlet for my schoolgirl academic brain!

One of the most wonderful things about growing up in a musical family is the times we make music together.


I delight in making music with my family and, because it is so rare that we are all together in one place, we make the most of opportunities to make musical memories!

This video was recorded at the wedding of my cousin, John, who passed away only a couple of years later. We adapted the lyrics of ‘For Good’ to fit the wedding, and ‘Moon River’ will forever remind me of John! We love this video because it not only captures the joy of performing with my sisters, it also has John’s laughter in the background as he and his new wife were getting their photos taken.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been able to start making music with my friends here in Tanzania and it feels like I am entering a whole new fun world of music – and I’m so very grateful for it all! 

“You must work – we must all work to make the world worthy of its children.” – Pablo Casals 

I woke this morning to the awful news that my country’s parliament had voted in support of air strikes in Syria, against the views and wishes of the majority of their constituents. While the horrors inflicted by ISIS cannot be ignored, the addition of more military, more bombs and more guns to a brutal war – a conflict that has already led thousands of Syrian civilians, many of them children, to flee their homes and seek refuge anywhere that will open their borders to them – is something I cannot ever support. 

Within hours of the result the first strikes had taken place and my country started dropping bombs on an already war-torn and broken nation. 

In my utter disbelief at the result, I found it hard to control my emotions. With tears stinging my eyes, I felt like I wanted to write to every Syrian individually to apologise for the decisions of the leaders of my country and the inevitable destruction and heartbreak that is to come due to this decision. I wanted to look every Syrian child in the eye and let them know that the people of the world can be so much better than this and to not lose hope. 

Instead, I write it here, in the hope that somewhere, somehow, my words may reach those whose lives are being torn apart by this war.  

  

To the father and mother desperately trying to protect their children, I am sorry. I am sorry that this destruction at the hands of extremists and of so-called democracies is tearing your world apart. I am sorry that there is little you can do to stop your child’s tears and I am sorry that the leaders of my country are complicit in destroying any hope of regaining the life you had planned for your family. Please know that I am ashamed of my governments involvement in your pain and it is ‘not in my name’ or the name of many many UK citizens that these decisions have been made. 

To the children of Syria, I am so sorry. I am sorry that your innocent eyes are seeing horrors they should never witness. I am sorry for the terror you live with every day. I am sorry that you will never be able to truly be an ‘innocent’ again and that your childhood is being so cruelly stolen from you. I am sorry that we have failed in protecting you. Please believe and know that there are millions of us out there in the world who have you on our minds and who will keep fighting for your rights from across the miles. 

To the 223 MPs who voted against this action, thank you. Thank you for standing by your promises and for recognising that there needs to be far more work taking place than reactionary, impulsive, ill thought-out military action. Thank you for your humanity and for doing what you could to protect Syria’s children. 

To the 397 MPs who voted for this action, their blood is on your hands. They are not collateral damage. 

  

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower