The way to a celebrant’s heart….

@LondonBakerBoy

Give me cake…. give me truly amazing cake!

Life just gets better and better!  I had a last minute call from a couple a week ago and it turns out that they are such a relaxed couple, they’d forgotten to organise their wedding!  No problem for the Ninja Celebrant – aka me – and I got to meet them and know them just a little bit two days before their wedding!

The wonderful Britishness of this particular wedding was right up my street.  The bride was English born Punjabi Sikh and the groom an amazing mix of Congo and Cuba so you can imagine the colourful display attending the wedding.  I should have counted the nationalities by checking passports, but that might have seemed just a little too weird.  Counting on two hands, there were guests from the Republic of Congo, Cuba, India, Kenya, England, Wales, France, Italy and Eire and that was just a few of the people with whom I spoke!  All in all, I enjoyed myself very much.  I loved chatting to the guests before and after the ceremony as there were so many interesting people in attendance.  I am seeing the couple again before they go, to get to know them a bit more as I feel there is a lovely friendship to enjoy there.

The icing on the cake of course – as seen in the image – was the incredible wedding cake made by the bride’s brother – London Baker Boy (follow him on instagram, please)!  Oh my gosh, I fell in love with both cake and boy!  I had already thought the bride would be the go to best friend if I had a problem and who would always solve it with food, but sorry, now I know her brother, she’s out of my new best friend in the making!  Her brother is incredible!  He’s not even set up in business yet but has the makings of a true professional.  He brought the plain cakes from London and decorated them here in Mallorca, which must have been quite a challenge as you never know what you’re going to encounter for ingredients or tools.

There were four cakes in total and the three tiered cake was chocolate at the top, a carrot and cardamon in the middle and at the bottom some kind of raspberry flavour.  The little cake to the side was less sweet and made specially for the groom – ginger, rum and raisins.

Very lucky for me was the fact that the cake cutting took place before the wedding breakfast whilst I was still there!  As I had fallen in love with the whole of the bride’s family, mum took pity on me and insisted that not only I come to stay when next in the UK but also take the slice cut by the couple home with me.  Orgasmic!  Melting in mouth kind of cake!  Needing a cup of tea with it cake ideally, but eating in a car park as I left the wedding would do!  It was truly, utterly, absolutely delicious London Baker Boy – you rock!

Hardeep, which is his real name, please do this more and if you want a cake taster, I am your’s!  You were born to create perfection on a plate and you have found your purpose in life – giving unadulterated pleasure to so many!  Congratulations on your first wedding cake.  Everyone’s day was lit up in so many ways – from the beautiful bride and her handsome groom, to the colourful clothes of the guests, to the Mallorcan magical setting and your cake!  Can I say I love you?

And to the couple who finally remembered they were getting married in Mallorca and needed a celebrant, thank you for choosing me and introducing me to your amazing families and friends!

 

London Baker Boy https://www.instagram.com/londonbakerboy/

 

 

 

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Well would ya believe it!

Santiago Stankovic Fotografia

One World Music Festival

What an exciting time I’m having!  Since being withdrawn from the teaching programme, I am enjoying being where I am and the gifts of abundance are dropping in my lap which makes it so much more exciting!  No sooner than I decided that the blessing in losing one job was to give me time, space and energy on keeping my own house in order, ie my own business, the rewards began to show.

Ceremonies, enquiries, bookings started to come my way and being open to my purpose shows me that the path I am on is the right one for me.  The last two formal ceremonies, one a wedding and one a funeral,  have seen me receive tips from the ones who booked me.  Last Sunday’s ceremony to open the second edition of the One World Music Festival, showed me that there is a place for me and my work in the not so usual settings.

I facilitated the most incredible meeting of a Death Café too and 25 interested, curious and open people showed up to share thoughts, reflections and moments in an enriching setting.  I came away humbled and excited that finally we are talking in an open manner, prepared to listen to others and sharing ourselves in such a positive way.  I am preparing meetings in Palma soon to carry on this very important work of talking about death in a natural manner, after all, it comes to us all eventually.

All in all, I am excited to see the day to day unfold as losing one income has opened me up to gaining so much more.  Watch this space!

Photo credit: Santiago Stankovic Photography

To change or not to change….

determination, dedication, celebrant, mallorca, spain, binissalem, education, values, ceremonies

This week has been a week of looking within, going within and above all being happy with what I have found there!  It was a week of decision making, not easy and the doubts loomed large but faded gradually into the distance as I made up my mind.

I felt my father’s presence and whilst I am not sure if I got his blessing, I certainly got my mother’s stamp of approval and her good wishes for whatever I was going to decide.  It was a silly thing but also huge.  It was a moment of stubbornness which transformed into determination, although those it impacted on might not see it that way… yet.

I am no longer English language assistant at my local high school.  Why?  Because I refused to get one form and that was the deal breaker if I was to continue.  The one form was not necessary last year when I was employed on the same job.  I had the equivalent form through the Spanish authorities last year and that was deemed more than sufficient for them.  Had I been looking at doing a different job this year, this form might have made sense although it was a form required by the British authorities to whom I had mistakenly applied to continue in the same job.  Confused?  So was I until the end!!

You see, bureaucrats do things differently to sensible people.  They follow orders, don’t seem to question a lack of logic and they certainly aren’t going to look upon people as individuals, oh Lordy no!  If you are a bureaucrat reading this, please tell me how you treat people as individuals because your colleagues referred to me as Dear assistant when they wrote me – and no, I wasn’t their dear!

I could have forked out sixty quid and applied for the ICPC (International Child Protection Certificate) and I could have spent hours working out the addresses of where I had lived 25 years ago in the UK along with the jobs I had back in the late 80s and early 90s.  I could have then spent more on translating the document into Spanish and getting an official stamp.  I chose not to.  Not because of the cost although what I would be earning is not a fortune!  I chose not to because last year I was not required to.  Last year I worked with the same young people amongst the same colleagues in the same institution and I was deemed okay to work with children by a certificate that the Spanish authorities required.  I was stubborn and refused to take instructions and apply for the form when asked to by the British authorities.

Mind you, I thought I was home free when, after months of reminding me, telling me, cajoling me about the form – to which I always informed them that I would not be applying for it – they finally wrote me in September and told me where I would be working come October 1st!  Home free I thought!!  I returned to my local high school on October 2nd, having prepared a digital presentation for the new 1st year students and another digital summary of how I spent my summer for the returning students I had taught last year.

Whilst the first two weeks nearly killed my soul and spirit, I rallied round after hearing César Bona speak at an educational conference.  He was voted Spain’s best teacher and one of 50 best teachers in the world.  I was inspired by his message – make it different for the students.  I went back on the Monday morning fired up and I was off.  It was a great week, hard work but rewarding in a weird sort of way too.

However, by the end of the week I was told I had been withdrawn from the programme for not complying with requirements of the ICPC.  Fair enough.  The Spanish local education authority were going to give me a second chance and if I applied for this form, they would keep me on.  I have not applied for the form.

Have I let the kids down?  Yes.  Have I let my colleagues down?  Yes.  Have I let myself down?  No.  It may appear to be a act of stubbornness or even pigheadedness – it certainly looked that way to me during the decision making process – but I am determined that I will do something worthwhile and not get side tracked by bureaucracy.

I am not a teacher is one thing I have learned.  The teachers who are great teachers actually impart their knowledge.  I entertain, I think I inspire a little bit and I generously share what I know.  I hope I get kids thinking when I’m with them, but I really don’t think I have anything to teach them.  I’ve been told the kids loved me and one colleague told me that “people like me are badly needed in the schools” whilst another told me “they won’t have your creativity and spontaneity and everything you transmit“.  Two students told their mother “I like her classes, tell her that she won’t be able to come to your yoga classes anymore if she leaves” and “tell her she can’t go, it’s thanks to her that English is so much fun“.  Those were moments when I doubted if what I was doing was the right thing and being swayed by my ego took all my strength not to back down.

On the day where I had to make my final decision, I had my last wedding of the season.  It was just the couple who had eloped from Canada.  I was more daring with these two than what I have normally been for a wedding and I chose not to give them the ceremony to approve prior to their big day – they agreed to this.  After the ceremony, they were so delighted and the groom was so amazed with my work that when I went to leave, he placed a tip in my hand.  To say I took this as a sign that I am doing the right thing is exactly what happened.  To say how much I appreciate his gesture means that words are not enough.  His generosity exceeded his showing me my worth with his act of kindness and for that I am truly grateful.

I made a decision at 16 years of age that I was not going to choose money over happiness and I am so glad I did so.  Whilst money is our right in order to live within the constraints put out by our society, it certainly is not going to have power over my choices for the trying to be the best I can be.  I am not at the school anymore but it doesn’t mean that I am not planning my next move.

Youngsters, you haven’t seen the last of me, but the classroom is not where I want it to happen – watch this space.

My new concrete jungle

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Buildings may have changed but sadly content did not

I have been a busy woman since last December, enjoying my new position as English language support assistant at my local high school.  As with most of my better life stories, this one came about as one of the beautiful flukes of nature and I’m happy it did!

My friend Alexandra had asked me, last October, if I knew of anyone who wanted to work in the school system here on the island, someone with native English.  The deal was 12 hours a week and good pay.  What the heck I responded, me me me!!  Admittedly I was in it for the money as winter slows down for me on the wedding front plus not many people know what a funeral celebrant can do for their loved ones, therefore business is slow there too.  However, once I started the process of applying, excitement got the better of me.

I must add that the application process was huge fun, police checks and even a sexual delinquent certificate was required which I did think rather strange, working with kids and teens.  Fortunately and for the record, I am not a sexual delinquent and have the certificate to prove it!

I have always resisted the teaching profession and perhaps coming from a family of educators, this was part of the reason I didn’t want to know.  Now I am there, firmly established, guess who sits by me, chuckling away at the daughter who said never, to find herself saying “this is forever”?  Yes, you guessed it, my dad, dear Gerry German – teacher, headmaster, advocate, educator and inspiring man all round!  There are days when I am having such a good time that I feel his presence, knowing he’s wondering what took me so long to realise that teaching is an amazing feeling and a great opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong, the system is broken in my opinion!  Large classrooms housed in unfriendly buildings and this one is only 10 years old!  Bells ringing every 55 minutes and people chaotically changing classrooms with no order, only noise and mess.  If your child has any special needs and is sensitive to what around, then this must be the most awful place to be, especially when everyone falls out of their classroom, desperate to move.

I began in mid December and was asked if I could introduce myself to all my new groups and include a “dinámica” to do with the students. Dinámica, what the heck is that!? Luckily for me I bumped into one of second born’s teachers from the eco school on the way to school on my first day who explained that I could start by asking the kids about themselves or what their favourite hobby was!  Phew, remember, I have never been inside a classroom in my life outside of my own education.

Introducing myself went down a storm and I have done that twenty seven times so far!  Yes, that’s right, I am the English language support for years 7 to 10 of secondary and the 2 years of baccalaureate – they split the classes for English and all I can say is thank the Lord – 30 kids in a class would have had me committed by now!

The teens loved my story of where I was born, how I came to England, life at boarding school and work as a celebrant.  I hear “Bob Marley” shouted lots when they see me in the corridors or playground and most seem genuinely happy when I show up especially since I got them practising sitting in silence and going inside themselves.  That was mind-blowing and the honesty they shared in their feedback, from being able to say they enjoyed it or that it was weird was so wonderful to be part of.  Now other classes come and ask for the same thing so I shall start a club at break time when the only request is that they enter the room in silence and leave the same way.  My colleagues also want to attend!

Sadly, with a broken system, what I am seeing is that no-one really benefits.  The ones with a linguistic ability mixed with the ones who need a helping hand means that neither enjoys the class and the teachers are hampered in their efforts.  This is said as an observer, I am not a teacher and my admiration for my nine colleagues in the foreign language department is huge.  They work hard, they are dedicated and it seems as if they are fighting a losing battle which is not what they signed up for.  They are there because they want to teach, because they love the English language and because they believe everyone has the right to an education.  It’s not as simple as that though and along with problems and perhaps poverty and violence in some homes, the system cannot produce enough winners for the future.  Please note I have met some incredible young people with dreams, goals and determination who are doing well despite not being nourished by the system.  Young people who have taught themselves English via youtube and gaming and with no English in their circle but with an incredibly high level achieved by their own efforts.

I have this week off as there’s a holiday smack bang in the middle of the week.  I can’t wait to return – I’m being paid for the most incredible journey of self-development I ever imagined!  Being given the opportunity to practise patience, respect, non-judgement and acceptance on a daily basis along with creativity and humour, I have found my niche – 55 years old and am I glad I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up – this is growing!

The Last Day – a short story

Photo by Gwyneth Morgan

There were no other cars as she arrived at the end of the rocky lane and for that she was grateful.  She chose her spot carefully, observing for the last time how her car had to look as she parked it.  In the past she would have found the first free space and left it there but today was special and she wanted the parking spot to be special too.  She chose a spot beside the olive tree and parked the car carefully.  As she stepped out, pulling her scarf around her, she noticed, not for the first time, the knocks and bumps in the body work, much like her own.

The wind was blowing fiercely now; the island was on red alert due to the high winds which they said were reaching up to 160km/h which was perfect for what she had in mind.  She checked that the letter was visible, just there on the passenger seat and she left the keys alongside it and the driver’s door unlocked to make it easier for the next person.

She had nothing to take with her except herself, wrapped up against the wind and carefully she stepped over the stones and through the gate and made her way down to the beach.  She had always loved this particular beach, with its 20 minute walk through the woods, downhill before reaching the little secluded cove.  As she gently stepped over rocks and stones, she remembered past excursions when life had been good.  Suddenly she stopped.  The winds were howling through the trees but just on top of them she was sure she heard another sound.  She remembered that summer when they had come here, late one night, to camp out under the stars.  They had stopped suddenly when they heard the gentle sounds of a cow; but until they had discovered it was in actual fact a cow, their hearts had stopped in shock.  How they had laughed when the cow had run off with its own fears.  Good times, why did they have to end she thought yet one more time.

Even though it was still day, the skies were a fearsome mix of colours – blues, blacks, reds and oranges – she was glad for the colour fest, as up until today everything had been just a dull beige colour in her life; vibrant and pastel colours long missing from her day to day.  The sounds ripping through the trees felt like her head and she felt in symphony with it all.  As she got further and further down to the cove, the sound of the seas got louder and louder.  Suddenly she was there and the sight took her breath away.  The waves were high and crashing against the rocks and the shore, their colour dark and menacing.  The wind pushed her back, almost pleading with her not to come any further, but today was the day and she had made her decision, no turning back.

She stopped, observing the cove in front of her.  Where would be the best place she asked herself.  Over to the left, to the rocks up high, the jagged, uneven rocks?  Or to the right with the huge slabs of smooth rocks where she had spent many a day, lying on top of them, feeling the sun on her naked, bare skin and his fingers tracing their way up and down, in and out of her being.  She laughed, it would have to be the right side, this was fitting after all, the memories were stronger here.

She made her way over to the right of the beach, pushing herself against the wind, determined to get to her spot.  Twice, she was pushed back and if she listened carefully she could hear the winds shouting to her, no, no, go home.  She would not let them change her mind, this was it, this was her decision taken yesterday evening and she was not going to change her mind now.

Last night had been truly the worst night of her life and today she felt that finally she could put it all behind her.  How had she been so wrong about him?  Seeing him last night, smiling, happy, with not a care in the world and with her!  It was almost as if they had never been, never existed, never lived.  How her heart had stopped, the pain unbearable – if God had been good, the pain would have been the heart attack she so desperately wanted.  Just to stop the pain, stop all of the voices in her head, the ones laughing at how naïve she had been, those other ones scathingly telling her what an idiot she was.  But no, instead here she was today, to stop her heart once and for all.

She climbed up onto the rocks, her steps heavily pushing ahead against what seemed like the strongest fortress in the world.  This was so hard, she thought as she pushed herself up.  She reached the top and as the wind knocked her back, she hung on, not wanting to climb up and do it all over again.  She pushed through her limits and with a final mighty push, she heaved herself up onto the rock of her past.  Her hands held her in place and as she looked around, she thought she could hear voices.  She shook her head and told herself she was being silly, there was no-one here today, she was all alone.

Her right hand felt something and she looked down.  There she saw it, as clearly as the day they had scribbled and scratched for a good two hours.  Their initials encircled in the heart.  A sob escaped from her and she thought no, I have to be strong, no more tears.  But what a special day that had been and how proud she had felt when he proposed they sign their names there, so long ago.

She forced herself to stand up and whilst her legs felt weak with the effort, her mind was strong.  This was it, no turning back now.  She threw her arms out to embrace the future and as she stood there, before the strong and fearsome seas, she saw a crack of light open in the dark sky.  The light shone down on her and as she was lifted to her feet by one last gust of wind, the wave came and embraced her, finally she was free.

 

 

Thanks to Gwyneth Morgan for the loan of her photo

Mallorca Death Café

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Since last December, I have been hosting regular Death Cafés in the village of Binissalem where I live.  This summer I also hosted one in our capital Palma and last weekend another up in the beautiful mountains in the village of Deia.  To say I am happy I discovered the Death Café movement is an understatement – I am ecstatic!

As a bit of background first and taken from the Death Café website to make it clear:  “at a Death Café people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. The objective is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’ and is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes”.

Every meeting I have ever hosted has been unique but perhaps one regular occurrence is that whilst I may try to suggest topics of discussion, my wonderful DC members prefer to do it their way!  If I were to give our encounters a quality, I would say that respect pours out of everyone at every encounter.  Some people’s opinions on death can be very different but the atmosphere of respect makes every opinion count.  I have learned a lot about myself too and see that my opinions are constantly challenged in the setting of my head whilst I hear what other people have to say about subjects about which I may have previously been quite closed.

Everything about the Death Café movement has me excited!  From the name itself – after all saying the word death generates so many reactions,  from horrified facial expressions to curious bemusement!  In all cases it does get people talking!  The guidelines suggested for hosting a death café are also entrancing!  Setting a death café in a tea room or eco café, enjoying tea and cake, how could I not enjoy conversation about death in this type of setting.  For my village to boast an eco café serving the best in tea and cake makes every encounter that much sweeter (plus the kilos have been piling on)!

Whilst the guidelines do advise that a death cafe is not a bereavement support group, even that has been questioned in one of my events simply because Mallorca is not yet set up to offer the recently bereaved a setting for support as I recently discovered.  Seeing the compassion and love so freely shared in a recent event towards a grieving widow made me proud of my fellow sisters and brothers residing on planet earth and I saw how the death café can help.

We meet to talk about death and through that we talk about life, about hope, about different cultures and we break down the taboo around death.  We challenge ourselves and our opinions and beliefs always in an atmosphere of respect and interest.  Our conversations are our inner most thoughts and reflections, shared perhaps for the very first time.  In short, these encounters free us up to get on with life and living and I am so glad to have discovered the Death Café movement.

Find a Death Café near you          www.deathcafe.com

Enjoy tea & cake near me              L’Exquisit, C/Rectoria 2, Binissalem, 07350 Mallorca

Magic and the secret garden

Some of you may recall that I “won” the Euro Millions recently, a nice little amount of 15 million euros and that I spent it in a flash – this all happened in my head in a 30 minute drive from Palma to school pick up!  I bought a load of property, gifted it around, including my favourite building of all time which I turned into the Binissalem Peace Centre!  I also bought my lovely eco café people Javi and Elena a building and also my son’s eco school a building, amongst other things!

Today, I discovered that the building I had ear-marked for the Peace Centre is the new location for my son’s school! I am sitting writing this with the biggest smile on my face as I enjoy the wonder of magic and knowing that believing is seeing and even if I do see it slightly differently, it all works out!!  I shall have to relocate my Peace Centre but what a result with the win!

Just before I heard the news, I had parked my car and seen a sign saying “Euromillones – 63 millones” and what do you think I did!  I went and “won” it again!

I spent it in the 12 minutes it takes to drive from the school back home and you’ll be happy to know that the following got 10 million each – Mallorca based not for profits PermaMed, Ondine and Fundación Sa Llavor and London based Communities Empowerment Network.  They will be able to carry on doing what they do so brilliantly already and this money will help them take the pressure off, to get really stuck in and take what they already do so selflessly to a new level.  From promoting permaculture to a wider audience, to keeping our seas and oceans clean and also devloping new ways of holistically educating and caring for our next generations.

I also put aside 5 million to create old people communities including making sure that there is a healthy support for the dying and a million of that was donated to the awesome people at Capsula Mundi to help with their development of the burial pod.

Eight million euros was used island wide for culture and the arts and lots of projects, existing and new, got lucky by being gifted money to help promote culture and the arts.  First born is well happy with the new studio and jazz appreciation school!

I’ve got 10 million left over but I want to go abroad and go back to my roots, Jamaica and Wales, and see what I can do there with the money.  Watch this space.

I’m happy and content – 63 million euros well spent!

Special moments

 

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What a weekend!  I facilitated the monthly Death Café on Friday evening in my favourite eco café, L’Exquisit and we were nineteen, a record breaker and hardly any room left to move! Although I try to propose different ways of doing things, the group always seems to want to remain in the big circle and talk, one by one.  However, if numbers continue to rise, we’ll have to occupy the whole café and not just the back room!

This meeting was a little bit different as I was inspired to ask at the beginning, along with each person’s introduction, for everyone to share a quality that they believed people would use to describe them when they were no longer here!  That shook things up and some found it a little surprising to think that far ahead.  I went back to qualities at the end of the session by asking everyone what quality they would take with them until the next meeting, one that they would imbibe, include and inspire in their daily lives – mine was faith, oh and being present, I wanted two qualities!

The monthly meetings are always moments of insight with the wonderful experience of hearing from other people and enjoying their take on matters.  Each meeting attracts many new people and I love seeing the core members there, time and again.

As usual, it all too soon came to an end but the next Mallorca Death Café will be on Friday 17th June at 6.30pm – all welcome and although the meeting is conducted in Spanish, there is always translation available.

The weekend continued with a wedding on the beach at which I was invited to officiate the ceremony.  I had worked closely with the couple to get the ceremony just right and wow, didn’t we do well!  It helped that the couple – not a first love but definitely a match made in heaven – were two people enjoying a thoroughly “conscious relationship” as demonstrated by their thoughts and opinions on what marriage meant to them which was shared in the ceremony.

I was truly honoured to facilitate this moment in their lives and the groom spoke about conscious commitment whilst the bride added that freedom can be found in the commitment two people make.  Their relationship is at once a mature one and totally childlike in its innocence.  And to top it all, the some fifteen young people and children there were mesmerised by the more than half an hour we took for the ceremony.  Never have I seen such full and present attention and to see it from young people took my breath away.

From the wedding, it was onto see first born perform his gipsy jazz duo with him on guitar and singing accompanied by young Gavin on guitar.  He is a natural that boy (dare I say he takes after my side of the family!!) and his humble confidence on stage is a delight to see.  His voice is a gift from the gods and his hard work and dedication is plain to see.  The two young musicians worked hard to please us with their sound and my only complaint is that society has forgotten how to listen.  Luckily, there were some audience members who took no hostages and shushed for people to stop talking!

Special moments, they come and they go, and when they come,  so many at once, life is pure wonder!

 

L’Exquisit – eco café located in C/Rectoria 2, Binissalem

Djaume Reinhardt Jazz & Swing – available for weddings, concerts and private events, contact Noah on +34 630 590 262

Mallorca Death Cafe – monthly meetings in L’Exquisit or ask me about hosting your own

Wedding celebrant – http://www.glynisgermancelebrant.com