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Wow, Alexandra!

[I found the Jeff Buckley version on Friday, and played it over and over and over again, and then put it in a post-dated post for Sunday.  Little did I know that the winner of the X-factor was going to cover the same song for her finale, and that it was her new single.  I like it when things like that happen …]

As for the Wisdom who is called “the barren,” she is the mother of the angels. And the companion of the […] Mary Magdalene. […] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples […]. They said to him “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior answered and said to them,”Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.”

My husband brought home for me Joan Baez’s new Day After Tomorrow, knowing that I love her music.  This is a quiet, contemplative, folksy, deeply religious collection of tracks that does not leave me feeling happy.  Sad is good sometimes, otherwise you don’t notice happiness when it creeps up on you. 

I like the compelling title song “The Day After Tomorrow” that looks forward to the day after tomorrow when the soldier will be home with loved ones, no longer fighting for life in a war where both sides cry to God to save them.  Now it doesn’t seem surprising that the song hits home since it was written by Tom Waits who has accompanied me many a late evening since I was sixteen or so.  Here you can choose between Joan Baez’s voice and that of Tom Waits, but the lyrics are the same affecting stuff whichever.

I got your letter today
And I miss you all so much, here
I can’t wait to see you all
And I’m counting the days, dear
I still believe that there’s gold
At the end of the world
And I’ll come home
To Illinois
On the day after tomorrow

It is so hard
And it’s cold here
And I’m tired of taking orders
And I miss old Rockford town
Up by the Wisconsin border
But I miss you won’t believe
Shoveling snow and raking leaves
And my plane will touch tomorrow
On the day after tomorrow

I close my eyes
Every night
And I dream that I can hold you
They fill us full of lies
Everyone buys
About what it means to be a soldier
I still don’t know how I’m supposed to feel
About all the blood that’s been spilled
Look out on the street
Get me back home
On the day after tomorrow

You can’t deny
The other side
Don’t want to die
Any more than we do
What I’m trying to say,
Is don’t they pray
To the same God that we do?
Tell me, how does God choose?
Whose prayers does he refuse?
Who turns the wheel?
And who throws the dice
On the day after tomorrow?

I’m not fighting
For justice
I am not fighting
For freedom
I am fighting
For my life
And another day
In the world here
I just do what I’ve been told
You’re just the gravel on the road
And the one’s that are lucky
One’s come home
On the day after tomorrow

And the summer
It too will fade
And with it comes the winter’s frost, dear
And I know we too are made
Of all the things that we have lost here
I’ll be twenty-one today
I’ve been saving all my pay
And my plane will touch down
On the day after tomorrow
And my plane it will touch down
On the day after tomorrow


 Twenty years ago today I was standing on the football pitch at Wembley making history -just one insignificant person amongst more than 72, ooo young people.  600 million more people watched on television.  We heard Tracy Chapman sing for the first time in the United Kingdom, a small figure with a guitar, filling us all with her words. 

Then, in the dark, the stadium was filled with small flames as Dire Straits sang Brothers in Arms.  That feeling, of being there, of having been there together with all those quiet people listening in togetherness, is still ineffable after all those years.

This concert marked a turning point for South Africa.  The previous year had seen the extension of the State of Emergency, originally imposed in 1985 and intent on ensuring the survival of the apartheid regime.  By 1988 30,000 people had been detained.

The influence of the world was too much for the government to ignore.  F W de Clerk became the President of South Africa in 1989 and began freeing many black political prisoners.  On 2nd February 1990 he delivered his famous “unbanning” speech.  Nelson Mandela was released on 11th February 1990.   The first nonracial democratic elections were held on 27th April 1994 and Nelson Mandela became the President of South Africa.

Getting married in this recent French wedding was a long affair.  The service included Holy Communion and was conducted almost entirely in Latin, save for the vows exchanged by the bride and groom.  Four priests officiated.  Mass lasted over two and a half hours and included the Litany of the Saints, a long exchange between priest and congregation when a seemingly endless list of saints were named and prayed to.  The ancient church, dedicated to St Bernard, dominated the city, crowning a hill on the outskirts.  To hear the whole building swell with the voices of the hundreds in the congregation who had sung these verses all their lives was to want to kneel and pray.  I reflected that we had spent part of the previous weekend with our friends celebrating Holy Communion in Greek.  The beauty and universality of these ancient languages took us away from the here and now, stripped away our everyday concerns and left us with only wonder and awe.  Charpentier’s Veni Creator was God’s introduction.


D’y’know that feeling when you come out of the cinema and you’ve just been so carried away by it all and then your real life comes up and smacks you in the face?  And you don’t want anyone to even breathe or break the spell and you want to carry on being the person you’ve been inside all through the film?

Dude, we have just been to see the COOLEST film ever.  I mean, man, Juno is just, like, SO cool.  You just have to go see this film, if only to have your real life hit you right between the eyes afterwards.  She is just a modern day heroine.  Orange Tic Tacs rule. And, boy, that hamburger phone is to die for.  Seriously, I mean, what greater love could there be than to give up your own child to another woman?  And did you know that foetuses have fingernails?  Hey, who says being a Fertile Myrtle means giving up your dreams, or losing your love.  You can have it all, right, as long as your folks are as cool as Juno’s parents and your sound track sounds like hers does.

Which I hope I would be, and it would.  Great film.  Girls loved it.  So did I.  Trailer here.  Enough said.

 Just before Christmas I met, for the first time, one of the first people to kindly comment on my blog.  He is, amongst other things, a speech writer for Mary Robinson, the former Irish President.  I remember a fascinating and optimistic discussion with him about racial and religious prejudice and its deep roots, informed by experiences in Ireland, and how children can point a way out. 

Mary Robinson was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002 and has recently been appointed one of Nelson Mandela’s 13 wise “elders”.  She was interviewed last week in the Guardian, and I was inspired by her words concerning the role of women as leaders and the different voice that they will often use.  I find that my measures of success or failure are frequently “male” measures that I have unwittingly adopted for my own, and that words such as “power” and “leadership” are construed in a male context that is uncomfortable with women.

Part of the interview is reproduced below, the remainder can be found here:

“Another commitment Robinson has taken on is as one of the Elders, a group of 13 global senior citizens including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter (plus a chair kept symbolically free for the detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi) who hope to use their moral authority to intervene in crises around the world. She was sceptical about the Elders until they all met Mandela. “I wondered about the idea. Was it not a very arrogant concept? Then we had our planning meeting with Nelson Mandela, who I’ve met many times. He has such an incredible power of bringing out the best in people and from that moment on we knew our responsibility was in ‘eldering’.”

The word was invented by Tutu, whom Robinson clearly adores. He is full of wise words and so witty, she says. “He gets us to call him ‘the Arch,'” she says, smiling.

Robinson sees typically “female” leadership qualities in some of the male Elders – Tutu and the economist Muhammad Yunus are two who come to mind – but wants high-profile women to push for a new style of women’s leadership. “There are two types of women who get into high positions,” she says. The first she describes as “very talented” women who do it in a traditional – male – way. Like Margaret Thatcher? “Yes, and fair dos: to get through is not always easy. A lot of women in business accept that model. But there is also the other model I would very strongly advocate and this is equal to the contribution of men but different, complementary, exciting and innovative.”

It is this approach that Robinson hopes to harness in her role as chair of women world leaders (new invitees include the presidents of India and Argentina and the prime minister of Ukraine). She calls it an “enabling collective women’s leadership”. It’s a horrible piece of jargon, which she explains as a coming together of women from politics but also from the worlds of charity, business and the arts in order to change lives. She argues this approach is fundamentally different from male leadership in terms of women’s empathy, ability to work together and problem-solving skills. Traditionally, she says, women have been a bit defensive about exercising power but this has made them more reflective. “Women leaders are often more analytical and self-critical and more honest about it than their male counterparts. It’s as if they are still asking the question ‘Am I doing well enough?'” she says.

Most crucially, Robinson wants this women’s leadership to be directed beyond the traditional fields of health and education. “We deal with health and education, and empower women and girls, but are actually not crunching on the key issue,” she says. This fundamental issue is “security” and her mission is to reclaim the word and define it as most women would; not in relation to the war on terror but in terms of ordinary families; security, in other words, from poverty, climate change, abuse and discrimination.”

I’m posting below a YouTube clip to reflect her idea of “security”.  It seems relevant today when Darfur makes the headlines again, if only because it threatens to disrupt sport.

The clip is French in origin, hence the spelling of Darfur as Darfour.  The images are accompanied by music from Martha Wainwright.  I first heard her music accompanying an art exhibition in disused buildings on a former USAF base in the UK.  I waited until the room was empty, then sneaked a look at the CD playing.  I play her CD as much as any other music I can think of, though I have to check who is within earshot as the language on one of the tracks is obscene.