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

My new concrete jungle

ies-binissalem

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

The Journey

Sometimes the signs are clear and it’s easy to know where to go, but often there’s confusion and a sense of trepidation too.  Since deciding that I would give up my safe and secure job with guaranteed income back in June 2013, life has been an interesting journey.

In all of it, I have had to really work my trust and faith in believing that everything would “turn out” just fine.  Interestingly of course, there is no end in sight to tick off “turn out” turned out just fine, as it is an ongoing process called living!  My life’s “car” can have the tyres pumped, tank filled, oil checked, water in the wipers and the GPS connected, but if I don’t put the key in the ignition and start the engine, I’m not going anywhere!  And when I do start the engine, what if there are road works and I get diverted?

Life is as simple or as complicated as we make it and there are times when I just want to turn off the engine and park for a while.  Then there are the times when the road is clear, it’s long and straight and I like to fly down the middle of it, hair flowing in the wind, a song on my lips and joy in my heart!

I keep moving though, slowly in heavy traffic or zippy and pumped when the road is clear to enjoy a sun shining kind of ride!  If I break down, what am I going to do?  Sit and cry?  Forever?  No, I find a solution, maybe I do sit and cry for a moment, but then I fix the problem and get going again.

I think I have realised that it is so day to day this thing called living.  Next year really doesn’t matter if I can’t appreciate today.  Tomorrow is always going to come, in its own way.  I have to keep my car ready but at times I may leave the doors open and things will fall out and get lost.  And some days I might just want to pull over, stop for a while and contemplate the horizon.

My life three years ago was busy, at times stressful, with no time to just be.  In the three years since, I have done so much that I’m proud of – The Happiness Café weekly radio show; providing meaningful ceremonies for weddings and funerals; facilitating a monthly Death Café in my village; volunteering at a local hospice ward; writing my blog; being at home with my boys and my animals; connecting with interesting people at home and abroad; even starting a Peace Centre for a while and all along, being me.  I may be financially poorer for now, but I am creatively and inspiringly richer.

I am happy I made the decision to search for something different as the difference has been clear – I have more time for me and more time to be, something I value greatly in this busy world

 

Mallorca’s Avalanche of Love

Santiago Stankovic Photography;

Generosity at its best

I have been blessed to meet some incredible people in my life and none other than this past week.  The powerhouse and inspiration behind Mallorca’s recent avalanche of love is none other than local councillor for Inca, Antonia Triguero.

At a recent gathering of Mallorca based group, Kreakolektiva, Antonia was asked by the hosts to speak about her visit to the island of Kos and why she had decided to collect for the refugees upon her return to Mallorca.  That she did shows the big heart she has and that evening, she inspired the hundred or so people gathered to get involved and none other than photographer, Santiago Stankovic, who immediately set about creating a Facebook event which spiralled out of wonderful control.

With these two souls putting their hearts out there for people to follow, the incredible result was almost overwhelming at times, with people coming from all over the island, donating thousands upon thousands of items to be sent to the refugees in Lesvos.

At first Antonia had secured one 40ft container, but a week of Santi driving all over the island inspiring people out of their houses with donations meant that not just another, but up to six more containers were needed and with people power, they have nearly all been secured with the original plan to leave for Lesvos in the next week or so.  There is a bank account into which anyone can donate to help with the transport, see below, as each container cost 4,500€ to send.

Unfortunately the European Union have just signed a sad and sour deal with Turkey and in the last 24 hours the situation in Greece is unclear, with refugees being turned away from Lesvos as well as being being turfed out of the inhumane camps they have been held in.  What faces Antonia now is  where to send these next containers and as soon as NGOs and colleagues on the ground in Greece can tell her, we shall spread the news as to what is happening with everyone’s kind donations.

All this got me thinking about many things.  One is that this could easily be me or you.  From one day to the next, our brothers and sisters, who now find themselves as refugees, were living in their homes, with their jobs and daily tasks, with their loved ones and their pets.  In a heartbeat, they were on their way with just enough to fill a backpack on a journey where they had no map and who knows if they will get to where they don’t know they are going.  Especially now, with the new ruling, no-one knows what will happen to them.

What Mallorca’s good people have shown this week is that we, the ordinary and the extraordinary people everywhere, know what is good and what is right and that is where our energies have been spent this past week.  It is NOT right that we have a situation whereby thousands and thousands of our human family are fighting for their lives on a daily journey with no clear destination in sight.  It is NOT right that our elected officials sit in their fine offices and wine and dine on the misery of our human families affected by greed, violence and outrageous ego.  It is NOT right that we continue to elect these self-same officious men and women who deserve to come down from their ivory towers and ask themselves “what if that were me”?  It is NOT right that the refugees have no safe passage to escape war and misery.  It is especially NOT right the recent and atrocious deal made on our behalf to turn back the refugees that even dare to think of setting foot in Europe.

Antonia Triguero, Santiago Stankovic, people of Inca, women, men, young people and children of Mallorca you are a force to be reckoned with.  You are people with heart, with a conscience, with abundant love and compassion.  You are a people I take my hat off to and thank you for being who you are.

Visca Mallorca!

To donate to Proem-Aid to send the containers onwards, please use “Contenedor Mallorca” as reference and donate to this account: ES49 1491 0001 2021 7549 1022

 

Dying to get there

dime

I returned as a volunteer recently to the Mallorcan association, Dime Cuenta Con Nosotros, a group of dedicated volunteers who visit the two palliative care units on the island.  It has been some years since I have spent Tuesday mornings visiting patients and their families, but I am happy to be back for a number of reasons.

Death is a topic I am curious about, a curiosity that has been there for some time, years in fact.  I don’t know where this curiosity came from, but the subject of death has always been a healthy and matter of fact topic present in the background of my life.  My earliest memories of death was attending the funeral of my beloved nain, my father’s mother, up in North Wales on a windy day.  My younger sister and I spent the time of the graveside ceremony running amok through gravestones and having a rather fun time.

Some years later when I was about 13 years old, my mother picked up the newspaper one day and asked if I knew a girl named Sue.  The headlines explained how her father had shot her whilst she slept and then shot himself, apparently desperate with financial troubles.  My mother broke the news in a very natural way, and I remember that whilst I cried from shock, part of me felt that I didn’t have to cry.  Certainly my mother treated the subject naturally even though the setting was horrifying.

As I headed to my twenties, grandparents died at home, suddenly, not ill but just time for them to go.  Death was celebrated as a life well lived and a death well had, I was blessed, very blessed to have these experiences.  Not everyone is so lucky and death is a subject that brings with it fears, confusion, mystery and for perhaps a few a certain understanding.

Returning to Dime is an honour for me.  There I meet professionals working in the health sector, dealing with death in a dignified and respectful manner.  From the nurses to the doctors, from the psychologists and social workers and to the volunteers, all are learning from their experiences and learning all the time.  Training is given on a regular basis to the volunteers and Dime is fortunate to receive the support of some amazing individuals on this island.  Thanks to charities like Cala Nova Cancer Care Charity Shop, their fund raising and generous donations allow Dime to do what they do which is sending volunteers like me in to visit the many patients facing perhaps one of their biggest challenges ever.

What do I do?  I enter a patient’s room and politely ask if they would like a visit.  In a hospice setting this adds to the quality of care received by the patient.  Why?  We provide support to those inspiring individuals who work in the day-to-day care and treatment of those with cancer and perhaps other life changing illnesses.  We are incognito, we come and we go.  We listen and hold hands and if we need to, we can cry with a family member.  We can try to take them away from their own day-to-day, just for a moment.  Or perhaps we’ll be blessed to help them face what’s ahead.  We can hear what is not said if we are silent, and we can give and spread love for a while, as much as we can.

It is an honour to be part of the team at Dime and it is a privilege to spend time with people facing challenges I cannot imagine.  I can’t change the world, but I can change my attitude about life and perhaps I can, just for a moment, provide a listening ear to someone.

 

Dime Cuenta Con Nosotros relies on donations and are always grateful for support.  If you would like to be a volunteer and have languages, Spanish necessary, then please contact them directly – http://www.cuentaconnosotros.es

Justice, at a price

What a week it was!  Great for me, not so great perhaps for Esperanza Aguirre, President of the Partido Popular Madrid branch, who resigned amidst yet another corruption scandal in the party!  Oh well, good news for some it definitely was!

I also had my first ever visit to the inside of a Spanish courtroom and I went through many emotions whilst there – disbelief and disappointment amongst them.  I was there to support my friend whose son was up on charges for resisting arrest (I really don’t blame him) and I was impressed by his maturity, honesty and handling of the matter in the courtroom.

However, I was more than a little surprised and occasionally stunned by the other participants in this drama!  At one point, one of the lawyers for the prosecution told my friend’s son to kindly address her and use the formal you, the same as she was using to address him.  I’m sorry – what did she just say?!

As a speaker of Spanish and having grown up without a formal you in English, I have long had my own issue with the usted, the formal you.  I waiver between feeling insulted when it is used to address me, especially with those who are younger than me, as well as feeling quite uncomfortable.

It’s one of those situations that has me constantly on my guard – do I use it, dare I not use it?  As a consequence, I have made many mistakes in my 24 years of living in Mallorca, sometimes not using it and receiving very clear messages that that is not acceptable and occasionally being given the freedom to throw it to one side.

The moment the youngish lawyer said that to my younger friend, I realised just how great the gulf is between people.  At no point had the young man lost his respect to this individual; at no point was he rude to this person or any of the others – six more esteemed colleagues including the judge were in the courtroom.  I felt it was entirely unnecessary for her to stop him mid-flow and point this out to him especially as he had not really addressed her with the informal you.  It seemed a clear case of “mind your place” and “I am so much more than you” and it was a shame, especially as the qualities demonstrated by this young man on this particular day were those that make the world a much better place – honesty, respect, humility, repentance, a willingness to move on and above all, a better wisdom and understanding about himself and life in general.

The soap opera continued with the testimonies of the other three young men implicated in the case, and again they were consistent with the story, as well as honest, open and respectful.  I could not say the same for two of the five police officers I managed to hear.  What a situation!  Their stories differed and at times made no sense, indeed the lawyers for the defence were as puzzled as the rest of us.  At one point, when the same lawyer for the prosecution, read out – once again – the list of insults my young friend had apparently hurled at the police office, the policeman actually said he was used to such insults but couldn’t explain therefore why such a physical altercation ensued.

Obviously I don’t work in law enforcement and can’t comment on the training received, but I can comment that what I saw that day were two officers disillusioned with their jobs, burnt out with the absurdity of it all, but more worryingly, buying into stereotypes as to the type of people who surround them.  I can more than imagine that on a regular basis they have to put up with aggression, bad manners, physical threats, rudeness, insults and more, but I can also see that they “see” certain people in ways that are not real.

It is time we looked beyond the make-up, beyond the stereotype and that goes for both sides in this case.  The policeman could look beyond the young, male skater and my friend could look beyond the uniform.  Perhaps if two years ago they could have been given the opportunity to truly hear the other’s story, we could have avoided this sorry spectacle of waste: energy, time, money and spirit.  Perhaps the police officer could have heard a young man’s passion for his sport, needing to practise it every day, living a life that is creative, disciplined, supportive and adventurous.  Perhaps my young friend could have heard of a man’s dreams that led him into the force and perhaps how those dreams were not all he imagined.

We have to go back to court in one month to hear what the sentence will be.  The prosecution changed her mind and now wants three years instead of two.  I hope it gets thrown out where it belongs and I hope my young friend does not have his life ruined from one mistake.  Sadly, that’s all it takes nowadays, one mistake.  However, if you’re a politician or a member of the royal family in Spain, you can be let off for planning a longterm systematic theft of public funds!  There’s still time though, watch out people, justice might just catch up with you.