I was always under the impression that my allotment was a space of contemplation for me myself and I. But after just a month or so, I realise that I am not alone down on the land - far from it.
So who joins me down on the proverbial 'allotment farm'? First we have a robin, large, overfed, familiar and constant - he goes by the name of Bob and I arrive and he flies instantly in. And I realise I spoil him with worms - but he prefers small ones. Next up we have a blackbird, noisy, pushy, but accommodated by Bob. The blackbird goes by the name of Turpin of course and is a regular visitor and appreciates the larger worms that Bob turns his beak up to.
It is just over a week since I wrote last but how times flies. In that week the allotment has gone from being a strip of land which I have been enjoying but struggling with to becoming a source of pride. Allow me to explain.
When I took it on it was land that had been tended, but neglected for a year or two - now it feels like a piece of land I am working. Today, as I came home, I looked back with pride on my handiwork and the progress I think I have made. Fo many days I have been unable to see what I have been achieving, but now, I look back literally and figuratively and actually can see progress and the positive shoots of my labours coming through.
When you are too interested in history I for one find that I can be easily distracted. Is it that my mind is too curious, that my imagination too flammable or that I like deferring completion by proactive self commissioning of new projects?
Either way, the last days, indeed the very life of King John has slipped into my consciousness, become highly fascinating and indeed the source of a small joke between one my best friend and I. Let me explain.
I'm sitting at home, enjoying the Easter break with friends who are staying and privately reflecting on 4 great days in Birmingham at the Annual Meetings and General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. I realise having mulled it over a fair amount over the last 24 hours that much of what I picked up is food for thought and deserving of greater reflection and contemplation.
So what did I come back with that I can share here? A first outlet of thanks and appreciation to fellow dissenters:
So the start of the next Annual Meetings gathering if the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches draws near. The sooner we finish now, the sooner we recommence our family reunion.
For a family reunion is what this is - and in celebrating the new ministers, meeting the students and remembering those sadly no longer with us, we annually regenerate our passion, our commitment and our values.
There are reasons to attend a conference, to learn, to listen, to network, to socialise - today I wept and they were tears of delight, of pride and of achievement.
At the General Assembly of the Unitarians and Free Christian Churches Kate McKenna was received into ministry and is now styled Rev. Kate McKenna and listed in the roll of Unitarian Ministers.
I often write about my slipping into the back of my chapel, a chapel or a tranquil place in order to reflect. On other times I talk about my active interest and role and history in front line politics. Detached from that is my own digestion of news, events and current affairs.
So today I found these three strands coming together when my dear friend Rev. Feargus O'Connor introduced and welcomed the presentation of cheques from the Unitarian Movement to the British Red Cross. In reply the representative from the British Red Cross, Hugh Fenton, highlighted the work that is going on in Syria and Yemen to tackle the humanitarian crisis facing both civilian populations.
Poets amongst priests is, in many respects, obvious, but for me at least, it is initially anachronistic. But sitting here amongst the gathered Unitarians and Free Christians poetry is a refreshingly dominant interest and theme.
There are those who have self published, there are Chapels celebrating poets with whom they have a link or interest or direct connection and there are Ministers who use poetry as a means of expression, of dialogue and of communications.
On Sunday in Elder Yard, it being April, the Reverend David Shaw chose for his theme the value of humour - it being April. He shared stories of his mother, revealing her life charms and his deep affection and how it made us laugh and how important that was. He further developed the notion that crying with laughter was a similar emotion in crying from sadness and the direct and known link between comedians and depression.
Today I sat in the main plenary hall of the General Assembly listening to the Reverend Dr. Ralph Waller, Principle of Harris Manchester College Oxford and Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford Queen's Suite. His use of humour in driving home a serious point was a crucial and nuanced element of his presentation.
So I am seeing a large number of people here at the General Assembly and it's a great chatter and discussion. I'm seeing quite a few people looking in via Facebook and enjoying the photographs and the reports.
But more interesting for me is the role of twitter and Facebook as a means of sharing information. Too many people appear to be viewing and absorbing and not sharing. So let me illustrate my point.
Listening to the clear and impressive Convenor Robert Ince (outgoing) here at the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, I am struck by the need and reliance on communications and the challenge facing faith organisations.
Reflecting on that I penned these: my own little set of pleas to all of those Unitarian congregations and Chapels who are perhaps listening.
Yesterday's hour or so at the allotment was a mixed bag indeed. Much of the plot is in raised boxes making the task easier, giving me a real sense of progress as I tame it back and limiting the net amount of work I have to do.
But at the end of the plot, the opposite end to my shed is a rough bit of ground with three trees standing there. I have started to clear that bit of ground slowly but it is not proving as easy as I might hope.
Tiday was hardly my second visit, but a welcome one nonetheless - and coming the day before the General Assembly of Unitarians and Free Christian Churches - it seems an appropriate time to write a posting.
Now, Elder Yard is a very special place in a number of senses. It is special to me as my haven of personal reflection and solitude - more tranquil than the external experience that is my allotment. It is special to me for where it is located. Ithe very street in which it sits it is surrounded, almost shrouded, by other buildings, largely the Cooperative - living almost the Victorian and pre-industrial dreams of working together. Within Chesterfield itself it is unusually early and survives from a more tumultuous and some would suggest more naive era of ideas, passion and principles. And within itself it is very very special - a piece of untouched space in an otherwise busy world, tended and preserved and nurtured for future generations.
Well that was an experience and a half. Two weeks ago, in what felt like an act of disloyalty I attended Nottingham Panthers vs Sheffield Steeelers. I have recently moved to Chesterfield, Derbyshire, having left London after 10 years. So going to see Panthers (I went to Nottingham University).
But in the last two years I picked up enthusiasm, affection and loyalty to Streatham Hockey Club. It was not expected and it has entirely surprised me. And for many weeks over the last two years I have travelled down to south London, to stand rinkside and scream, cheer and tweet my way through a game that has completely hooked me. (Twitter @edfordham)