Election Day Fairy Tale – The happy princess

The Happy Princess : A Fairy Tale with a Twist – By Susie Stead


Once upon a time a long time ago, there lived a king and queen of a great kingdom.  They had one daughter.  Like any parent, they wanted their child to be happy and to protect her from suffering but unlike most parents this couple had the power and the money to achieve their aim.

Their castle, sitting on the crest of long low hill was huge and beautifully crafted. There were rooms for the winter with great fireplaces and walls hung with gorgeous tapestries.  The summer rooms were full of light with delicate curtains fluttering in the breeze. The grounds were vast with a fabulous array of gardens: formal and informal, some with mazes, others rippling with pools and delightful bridges.  There were spots of woodland and pleasant copses for picnics. Wildlife was carefully monitored and the princess enjoyed the pleasures of a wide array of pets from rabbits, puppies and ponies to more unusual pets that visiting royalty brought as gifts.

The King and Queen had a huge wall built around these grounds and their daughter grew up within this enclosure, surrounded by beauty.  Servants and visitors were carefully screened and required to be happy and positive in her presence at all times. Any sickness or death was hidden from her.  The word ‘death’ was hidden from her. When a pet became old or ill, it was put in a pretty carriage driven by a coachman in a silk top hat and two frisky ponies at the front. The princess would feed her pet its favourite treat and wave it off, secure in the knowledge that it was being taken to a very special home where all its friends were waiting for it. Another delightful pet would appear in its place.

The Princess was blissfully happy.

As she grew older, inevitably she grew more curious as to what was beyond the wall. That curiosity grew into a somewhat irritable obsession.  This was not acceptable to her parents so with strict instructions, she was taken out into the streets in the coach. The coachman tried to keep her within the area that her parents had required but the princess simply stepped out of the coach and ran off laughing. What she found down the lanes of that town stifled her laugh.  Skinny smelly children, women holding babies and begging from shop keepers, people wandering about in a strange assortment of old clothes talking nonsense, others with strange lumps and bumps on their bodies or missing limbs altogether.  There were people arguing or walking under heavy loads with bitter tiredness on their faces. When they saw her, they stared and then quickly moved off when they saw the coachman running up towards her. The suffering she saw there overwhelmed her and she let the coachman lead her back to the carriage and back to her home.

Once she had time to recover from the shock, the princess knew what she must do. She told her parents she wanted to make it all better, she wanted all those people to be happy. Her parents tried to tell her that these people were used to their way of life, they were mostly lazy or brutalised and would not appreciate her warm and caring heart.  However, to please her they gave her a generous allowance which she spent on the poor.  The poor were very grateful.

However, there came a day when an arthritic old man refused her gift of a thick warm coat. She’d never been refused before and became quite agitated. She wanted him to be warm and happy, why was he refusing this? As she argued, he stood watching her in silence. An elderly woman passing by muttered, ‘Don’t, it will do no good’ but the old man made a different choice. He decided to tell her the real problem; her parents.  It was they who were the main employers in the area. They paid low wages and charged high taxes.  They owned all the properties and when people could not pay the rent, they were made homeless.  Perhaps if she could speak to her parents, they might make changes that would make a real difference.  The princess felt a welling up of feelings that she didn’t recognise. She was angry and upset, hurt and very, very unhappy. She found the coachman and asked him to drive her home.

Once she had time to recover from the shock, the princess knew what she must do. She told her parents about the old man and his accusation. She told them that she didn’t like these terrible feelings that were in her and she wanted them to go away. Her parents promised her that what the old man had said were dreadful lies.  He was a wicked and ungrateful man – after all, she in her kindness had offered him a beautiful, warm thick coat and he’d turned it down.  Everyone else was grateful.  The princess was not to worry and they would make sure everything ended happily.  They had the old man brought before the court, tried and summarily executed for treason.

The Princess never left the castle grounds again.  She married, had one daughter and lived happily ever after.

EXTINCTION – It’s just not cricket

On 8th October 2019, several people were playing cricket on the road round Parliament Square, in front of Westminster Abbey.   A few thousand others were busy stopping the traffic in 12 different localities.  On the back of this person’s shirt is written the words:  ‘Extinction – it’s just not cricket.’  This was the beginning of the London October Extinction Rebellion.


In my last blog I said that my deepest wish was not to be afraid but to play in the sand of my life.  As I’m sure any child psychologist would tell you, play is a vital thing for healthy growth in children.  I don’t think it stops being important when we are adults.  Surely, part of play is trying out new approaches, new ways to do things, playing with what its like to be someone else, being creative…



Over the last two weeks, Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists played, with great seriousness but also with great creativity and often great courage.  Some of it you might agree with and some you might not.  We’re in the midst of huge change and what is called the 6th mass extinction.  If we want the wonderful diversity of life that inhabits our planet to survive, we have to wake up and change, radically.


(you can start with the IPCC report :International Panel on Climate Change https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/)

We need to challenge ‘business as usual’, suggest alternatives, act them out.  The three demands of  Extinction Rebellion to governments are:  Tell the Truth, Act!, and create Citizens Assemblies (similar model to juries) to take this out of party politics.

Throughout the two weeks of the London Rebellion, people met in People’s Assemblies to plan, make decisions and check in with each other. On the Telegram app there were often messages reminding us to look after ourselves. There were constant reminders that this movement is Non-Violent and when we start feeling the rage rise, we need to step aside.  Everywhere there was a conscious choice to speak reasonably, to hear one another and to ensure non-violence was our signature. When the police started arresting people and the temperature was rising, people who had trained in de-escalation would step in and often someone would start a song to help restore the peaceful mood. We’d  sing to the police ‘We love you police’ and sometimes add ‘we’re doing this for your children.’

Below is a taster of  my experience of the London Rebellion (there were events around the world). I was only up there on 4 of the days and I didn’t camp.

On the Monday 8th October at 8.30am, as requested, a number of us gathered incognito at Parliament square. Police were everywhere and searching people and it was nerve wracking.  A group of us XR Meditators stood at a bus stop on Whitehall ‘waiting for a bus.’  We then moved towards the Women’s memorial.  We’d been told:  ‘when the man with the yellow umbrella walks onto the road, everyone go’.  It was like some sort of strange comic farce.  The man with the yellow umbrella walked out and we all ran onto the road. The police ran after us and a policeman grabbed me and pushed me off the road.  I saw Tim go back onto the road several metres down so I followed.  Someone shouted ‘sit down’ and we all sat down and that was that.  A couple of hundred activists sitting in the road and we’d done it! Whitehall had been ‘taken’ just outside Downing Street.

It may help to know that the people who’d come with me and were sitting with me were mostly quiet introvert types: buddhists, meditators, psychotherapists, nurses, gentle souls.  It was extraordinary.  On that first day, we as a Meditators group, offered meditation on the hour every hour for 10 to 15 minutes and despite the noise, we kept silence and others joined us.  I found it surprisingly easy as all the noise outside drowned the usual panoply of noise inside my head!


I didn’t see it but later on a giant pink octopus travelled down towards Whitehall and got kettled by police.



On the Wednesday some of us came back     and we walked around the different sites.  By St James Park we saw some ‘birds’ fly past while a young man entertained children by making huge bubbles.   Just out of sight is a wooden frame with a young woman on top. In front of her is a crowd of people ‘holding the road’ and a cherry picker has been brought over to remove her.







Later we came back to find an indomitable woman in a wheel chair who had fixed herself to the road with several people attached/glued on to her wheel chair. We helped put the blue plastic over to protect them from the rain.



Coming out by Methodist Central Hall, Parliament Square were some phoenixes and an uncooperative crusty 🙂








These birds joined a band drumming a rhythm that got me dancing in the street.  Shortly afterwards, I saw the young man who led the dancing, gluing himself into his tent on the road in front of Westminster Abbey, while police were arresting and removing others.  I hope you are ok, Patrick.  Further along, I watched as 3 police officers unzipped a tent, read the rights to the person inside and then dragged him out and arrested him.

On an impulse I sat down in the tent.  A policewoman came back, furious and told me I was illegally sitting in someone else’s property.  When I said I was just looking after it for him, she grabbed me by the arm and almost literally ‘threw’ me out of the tent.  several XR people surrounded me to see if I was ok and to offer me care and biscuits.



Down Whitehall, walking back towards Trafalgar square, a group of Australians had decided to appear as jumping kangaroos.


Over the days we watched as the Red Rebels wove their silent way through the crowds.  This time they arranged themselves in front of the Women’s Memorial.



Up in Trafalgar square Extinction Rebellion had found other creative ways to block the road.  Police had stopped them bringing boats into London, so instead, someone drove a hearse in, with a coffin that had ‘Our Future’ written on it.  Two men sat in the front of the hearse, one locked on to the steering wheel.


The police moved in over the days arresting more and more people and gradually clearing the 12 different sites yet XR members continued to act.

On the Saturday we joined the march from Marble Arch to Russell Square, a sombre and highly imaginative funeral procession that allowed rebels to grieve for the ongoing ecocide. The march drew a crowd of more than 20,000 people, despite near continuous rain, and brought Oxford Street to a standstill for several hours. I brought my sign and walked with friends very slowly for over 3 hours.







The view from above was impressive.

On the Sunday the police slapped a section 14 on the whole of London for Extinction Rebellion which meant they could arrest anyone anywhere in London. In response, at least 1000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square.


In spite of this section 14, I came back on the Thursday 17th, a day before the Rebellion officially ended and joined a variety of working people; librarians, nurses, university lecturers, professional coaches, engineers, farmers, scientists etc etc. We marched to Trafalgar square, heard from some of these people and then finished the day with a mass meditation. There was a wonderful medley of faiths and philosophies represented and offerings included inviting everyone to bellow out 3 Ohms, sing a Taize chant “Ubi Caritas” and the first verse of “Amazing Grace” with particular reference to the words ‘I was blind and now I see’.

What is it about this movement that matters to me?  It’s thoughtful, creative, non-violent and aims to be as inclusive and democratic as possible. It can get somewhat chaotic and messy but creativity in my experience is not tidy.  XR is challenging those in power to make systemic change, it dreams of a different way of living which is fairer,  sustainable and which honours, not destroys our beautiful planet. It is waking people up to the fact that Climate change is happening now.  People and creatures, trees & plants are dying now.

Is it worth all this effort when we may not succeed?  As my son put it, ‘you mean we might make this world a better place, for nothing?’ !  Even if we don’t ‘succeed’,  it is so heartening to be in the company of so many people who want to create a better world and want to do it actively and non-violently.  Many people on the rebellion joined in workshops on non-violence and discovered how to relate to each other in healthy, creative ways, how to notice and channel their anger and fear.  That’s got to be good 🙂

This movement is following in some very honourable footsteps: the Suffragettes,  Gandhi, the Civil Rights Movement and many others.  There are older footsteps to honour: for me, the Jesus who challenged the authorities and who turned over the tables of the money changers.

For the love of this beautiful earth and for all living beings in it, lets make a stand.  After all, extinction is ‘just not cricket’.

Coming back to what matters

About 16 months ago, I and Tim left an entire way of life behind.  About 13 months ago a friend of mine, Stephen, left his entire life behind because he died. Within the space of 4 months, three friends of mine died. On the day I was told that Stephen had died, 13th August 2018, I had just spent the morning reflecting & brainstorming, ‘what is my deepest wish?’


In writing down the thoughts,  the most repeated phrase was ‘I do not want to be afraid’.  It finally formed into the following: My deepest wish is to play – to allow myself to make different patterns in the sand of my life and then allow the tide to wash them away.


As I finished writing , the phone rang and a voice said ‘Are you sitting down? Stephen has died.’



I will play in the sand of my life

because it is sand

And its


Through my fingers


Let us play together,

Let us build strange structures

Dig ditches

and fill with them water.

Let us create

Extraordinary shapes in

the sand and delicate

Patterns with shells and



Let us play together

Create together





Then watch the sea

In leisurely fashion


Our precious



And let them go

And let them go.


Over the coming year I played.  It was very serious play.  I discovered what it was like to be the executor of Stephen’s will, to become a mindfulness teacher,  to live in a home that was not public property (ie belonging to the church), to live without a car, and many other things.  I also discovered Extinction Rebellion.

What I kept finding was that I’d appreciate something valuable and then get carried away into planning, angsting, plotting or being utterly overwhelmed and then lose touch with the original experience.  Meditation would eventually bring me back.  That is one of the beauties of mindfulness.


So, with Climate Change and Extinction Rebellion.  I feel a deep love for this good earth:  my dog’s hairy face, the hundred different shades of green in the garden,  the crunch and taste of cox’s apples, the view from a hill I’ve just climbed…  Then I get caught up, rushing, worrying about whether to get arrested or not, becoming in turn furious, despairing and weepy over the burning of the rainforests, the destruction of the coral reefs and more.   That is not to be avoided but I also need to keep coming back to what matters, to let ‘the soft animal’ of my body love what it loves (see below: Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver).


In April, Tim set up an Extinction Rebellion Meditators Group,  a group of meditators who want their action to come out of their meditation, and in keeping with the ethos of Extinction Rebellion, want to respond deeply to this climate crisis, not react by pursuing a narrow ‘solution’ or finding enemies to hate.

It’s quite a challenge!  The group helps anchor me and keep me coming back to what matters:  connecting with the earth, myself, others, – discovering what contribution we can make, not only in relation to the climate crisis but in relation to what sort of people we want to be, what sort of society we want to live in.

Last year, two weeks before my friend Stephen died, I visited him in the nursing home he was in.  He was only 63 years old but by now he was an invalid.  He was in a wheel chair but he’d survived so much, it didn’t occur to me that he’d be dying anytime soon.  I had to travel 100 miles to visit him and was going to ‘fit in’ a visit to someone else as well but just in time, I recognised that push to ‘efficiency’ and chose deliberately not to do that and therefore not be rushed.

In the event, we sat on the porch outside his nursing home for nearly 3 hours, mostly in silence, as the sun slowly went down.  He’d had a lifetime of mental health issues and was struggling with his ‘voices’, I was struggling with the desire to ‘get on’ and with the irritation of having to light his cigarettes every 15/20 minutes by walking over to my car where there was fixed lighter.  Yet still, for large chunks of time we sat peaceably together.  When the nursing assistant came out to collect him, I said with feeling, ‘Thank you Stephen,’ meaning, thank you for the space to sit in silence together, to watch the sky change colour, to be present, to be here.  And Stephen said ‘Thank you for sitting with me’.

That was the last time I saw or spoke to him before he died.


What is your deepest wish? Or wishes.

What is it that matters most deeply to you?

Make time to remember


Wild Geese – by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.





Release of Award Winning Short Film ‘Emmi’


Andy and I are now happy to release the film for general viewing so see below. However it carries a  health warning – Emmi is a dark drama about 4 women in a block of flats over 1 night and is based on a newspaper article I read in 1993 which haunted me.  It is a film I would like to see used as a catalyst for discussion especially amongst 6th formers.



I’m very proud to add this award from ScreenTalk for best short Oxfordshire Film 2019.  As well as being nominated in over 20 festivals,  Emmi was also voted as the audience choice award at the London Rolling Film Festival in 2017 and as best Drama for the Oniros June award in 2017.

Audience choice award – Susie with Andy, Aidan, Peter and Lara
Susie Stead and Natalie Martins (award winning actress who plays Emmi)



I brought the script of Emmi to a Film Oxford Production Group meeting where people voted which film they wanted to be involved in.  Emmi was one of 4 successful ones.  At that event I met Andy Carslaw who eventually became the director of the film and who carried the same vision for it as I did.  He has also become a good friend 🙂



Emmi is only 10 minutes long but I wrote at least 10 drafts, most of them more like 15-20 minutes long.  People liked it but felt it was too dark so I wrote versions which were ‘happier’ or offered alternative endings in the style of the film ‘Sliding Doors’ with Gwyneth Paltrow.



We raised some money by putting on an evening called ‘Grim Shorts’ with films, food and music (what’s not to like?!).  Other than that Andy and I split the costs

(thanks to my mum for her contribution).  It cost us around £1000 to make this film.




Andy and I decided to pay for the actresses, auditioned and were delighted to find Natalie Martins, Amy Harris, Gillian Kirkpatrick and Rachel Pooley (all from London).  Thank you to all of you!  Also thank to the whole team who supported this, supplied with food and tea and lovely cakes from Laura!

Finding the different venues to film was a challenge.  The underpass scene is filmed by the mini plant at Cowley and it really is as unpleasant as it looks.  Film Oxford helped us get the required permissions to film there and I was given the job of filling out the risk assessment forms which I had no idea about but in the end found quite amusing:  eg, there was the possibility of the ‘public tripping or bumping into equipment or cast’ – the answer was to film early in the morning and have someone on look-out for ‘the public’.

Our ‘hoodies’ all looked too nice so Diego Carvalho our wonderful make-up man transformed them. He’s more interested in zombie films but very kindly supported our project!

Lara Stead (my daughter!) with Ben Gooding and Adam Gilday
Diego – make-up artist extraordinaire

Finding a dodgy looking staircase that we could film in was harder than you might think.  The one we found had a skylight that needed covering so Danny, one of our cameramen got onto the roof and managed to cover it without the caretaker seeing.   We then had to film in a very tight space with a camera crew, 3 actresses, a baby and a cat.

Danny & Phil in a tight space












Baby Isis, was totally at peace with everyone, sitting happily with her mother as loud swearing boomed out. The cat was a delight but tended to disappear to the bottom of the stairwell when it had had enough.

At one point we discovered we only had the half the time we were expecting to film and this sent Andy into hyperspace.  A manic look came into his eyes and all extra niceties got stripped.  I was struck by the level of creativity that emerged when we needed suddenly to have a set of locks or a wallpapered hall (particular thanks to Adam Radley and Alex Abbey-Taylor!)

We needed to film outside a ‘grubby’ block of flats but it was all too neat.  Members of the crew disappeared and with frightening speed returned with a mass of detritus:  old fridges, mattresses, bags of rubbish.  The caretaker was not happy!

We spent 3 wonderful, funny and exhausting days filming – 3 days for a 10-minute short!  Thank you everyone involved for making it a pleasure.



Nothing happened then for 18 months (!) because no-one had time to do the editing and we didn’t want to pay someone huge amounts. Also, we couldn’t decide which bits to cut and which to keep.  In the end Andy went on an intense editing weekend, came back and pared the film down to its bones.  I’d been busily coming up with complicated alternatives but when he showed it me all I could say was ‘Shit!  You’re right!’  And he was.


We did pay for some post production with the sound and Kevin from Oxford Audio Post Production did us a great deal.  This was very important as some of the sound is dodgy especially that filmed on the staircase.



We had a lot fun entering competitions – It’s very addictive and ends up costing a lot of money so beware!  Andy and I knew that this was never going to be a crowd pleaser so we’ve been really delighted by the number of nominations we’ve received for competitions and the awards we gained.


A highlight was Southampton Film Festival where our film was shown alongside the now Oscar nominated “Silent Child” about a deaf child.  It is utterly beautiful.  Watch it.  The festival took place over a weekend where we watched films, were taken on a ‘ghost’ tour of the city and mixed with other film makers at a 3-course dinner.  Such a pleasure!


I have ideas for other films, just need the time and connections to make them happen.  I’ve been told to write something funny this time!   My idea of a funny film is a dark humour piece about someone stalking a planning officer after having their planning permission refused over and over again…

I also want to write a mythic piece called ‘The Linden Tree’ and a sort of psycho/zombie horror piece which I literally dreamt about.  I have material for a TV series something on the lines of ‘Rev’ about a church I was part of that slept the homeless and I’d like to do a tele-documentary about the awkward 18 year friendship I had with someone who suffered from serious mental health issues.  I started as a naive do-gooder, became frustrated with him and myself and then discovered he’d become a friend and was shaken with grief when he died last year.

If you’re a producer/director, you’re interested and you and have some access to funds, let me know!






Breaking Free and Shedding a Skin – Part 2

It’s worth it!

Sometimes in order to break free, to grow, we need to shed the skin of our lives. Snakes shed their skins as they grow.  Maybe they have something to teach us.

Back in October 2017, after 23 years, Tim and I decided that we’d stop being a vicar and vicar’s wife.  In April this year we left an entire way of life, a community and the vicarage where we’d lived for the last 10 years.  In March, after further reading on how snakes shed their skins, I wrote the poem below.




The skin has come off.

It lies there coiled on the floor.


The hardest bit was starting

At the head.

Rubbing at 30 years of habit.

Worrying it, dislodging

thick protective certainties.

Finding the sharp necessary stones

To pierce the old skin.


That first breaking!

That relief!

                      Beginning to breathe easily                     .

Smarting with the rawness.

Then, seeing more clearly

How trapped I’ve been.

Rage rising

Spitting out of me, spurring me on.


Tearing, scratching, I look around for help,

Some cannot see the problem,

Others irritate and poke.

But there are those who celebrate,

Thank you!

Affirming, soothing, loving,

They apply a gentle pressure for me

To pull against.


Then the slow, slow, moving

Wrinkle by wrinkle out of the casing.

Cell by cell

Whole sections peeling off gloriously

While others snap and tear.

The tail snatches at the last of the skin

Trying to find a purchase

But it’s too late. I’m out.

I am out.


I stretch and feel the rippling flex of flesh

No tightness at the eyes.

Or pressure on the chest.

The vast expanse of ‘new’

Is fresh and frightening.


The old skin lies useless,

dry, translucent,

Beautiful designs

Etched into the calcified cells.


I need to rest and hide awhile.

I leave the old skin behind.


I don’t look back.




Breaking Free and Shedding a Skin – Part 1

Do you ever get that feeling? You want to break free, move-on but you feel trapped, you don’t know how to make the break, what to do.  Four years ago, I was in that place.

In November 2014, I wrote:  I wake today and the voices come from all directions in disarray.  I should have, why didn’t I, he’s so much better,  I feel cramped,  I feel trapped,  I’m not trapped,  I’m fortunate, lucky.  I’m stressed but I can’t be stressed,  I’m tired but I have no right to be,  I’m a failure but I was given all the chances. 

In December 2014 I wrote this poem:



I was down and low.

My life an untidy room with

No Door.

But inside I’m growing

Like Alice.

The room is getting too small.

Way too small.

It has become an old skin

That has to go.

I shake my head and start to scratch.



I didn’t know how my life was going to change or how I would shed this skin but it dawned on me that I had shed skins before. That last one with all the intricate interplay of lines – the choppy, changing patterns of young motherhood,  a stressed partner with his hair cropped short, religious certainties, Duplo bricks, primary school, children’s boots.  The smell of my daughter’s breath in her first bed.

My skin.

And now this one. By the end of 2014, my last child had turned 18, my partner had a beard and long hair and was sorting his stress through mindfulness. I’d been creating drama, organising alternative evening services in church, working with kids, chasing teenagers, worrying late at night, chafing at the theology of church, angsting at my age and lack of income.

Youtube videos tell me that to help a snake get started, give it a nice long bath or some E45 to soften the skin.

My preparation had been to practice mindfulness for the previous 3 years.  I’d started it because I wanted to ‘fall awake’ to my life (Jon Kabat-Zinn).  The thing about ‘falling awake’ is that you wake up both to the good and the bad.  Fortunately the non-judgement and compassion of mindfulness softened me enough to allow me to look at what was going on.  But where to start?

With snakes the shedding has to begin with the head.  They push their heads against any hard-scratchy surface to get some leverage, some motion.

I chose some sessions with a psychotherapist.

Snakes can get vulnerable and aggressive during the process.



I’d been brought up in an ex-pat patriarchal setting.  There were 2 cardinal rules for a woman:

  • Other people come first and
  • Never openly confront or upset people even if they’re screwing you over – its rude.

Becoming a Christian and a vicar’s wife re-enforced these. Jesus said ‘love others as you love yourself’ but the second part of the sentence always got guillotined.

As I became more aware of this, the irritation grew and the skin felt tighter.  And tighter.

For several years I’d been angry with the Church’s attitude to women but now I also woke up to the realisation that all talk about God was male.  And I’d bought into this for over 30 years.

The shed had begun and it began in my head.

I was waking up.







It was Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch christian who ended up in Ravensbruck Concentration camp during the Second World War for helping Jewish people, who said:

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

On Good Friday this year, we’re going to follow two people who were there on Jesus’s walk to the cross and his death: Simon of Cyrene, who was forced to help carry Jesus’ cross, and Mary, Jesus’s mother, who stayed with him and watched him die. We will also explore two modern counterparts to Simon and Mary. These modern stories are fictional but they’re based on my own and friends’ experiences.

Modern Simon or Simone as I’ve called her is a carer having to look after a sick old man, Bill. About 12 years ago I knew a beautiful free-spirited elderly woman called Marian who succumbed to dementia and I cried when I had to drive her to the care home where she was to be locked in. The character of Bill is based on her.

Modern Mary is a woman who is told her baby will not survive after birth. Years ago I read a newspaper article where a couple in hospital, were given their newborn baby, told she would not survive more than an hour and left there. A good friend of mine who has suffered a great deal in the process of seeking to have children, helped in editing this piece. Another good friend who knows about suffering will play the part.

If you’re in Oxford please come along. There are four actors: 2 are professional, 1 is at drama college and 1 is simply the right person for the part. Our church music group will sing some gentle songs to accompany this.

The drama will take place from 1pm to 1.30pm at Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry, Oxford OX3 8LH

There will be a Good Friday service in the church from 2pm for those who wish to stay.

poster 2018 V of P pdf


For the first and probably last time in my life, I was invited to preach a sermon a few weeks ago and the subject was the ‘Wedding at Cana’, a story told by the gospel writer, John about a particular wedding where Jesus was said to turn 120-180 gallons of water into wine…. And I decided to speak on Wine and the Creative life.

For many people ‘miracles’ are problematic and turning water into wine raises some practical issues 😊. However, if you’re happy to view it as you might one of the great myths and enjoy the story and the meaning that John wants to convey then this is a wonderful story about looking to live life to the FULL. It’s also funny.

This story helped me to find my own sense of value as a creative person having constantly struggled with the feeling that ‘being creative’ is just a nice ‘extra’ and insignificant compared with really important things like ‘helping people’ and ‘saving lives.’ Yet what are we saving peoples’ lives for? Just to eat ‘bread and water’?

No matter how poor we are, whether financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually etc – we need joy, we need pleasure, we need to be creative, we need richness in our lives, we need hope. This is what makes life worth living.

The audio below comes to about 16 minutes and includes the reading of the gospel story. I hope you enjoy it and find encouragement here.

HONG KONG- Part 1 – ‘Going Home?’

Hong Kong Harbour and the Peak
Hong Kong Harbour and the Peak
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I used to live up the Peak in Hong Kong. Only rich people live on the Peak. The richer you are the further up you live. We lived half way up.

“Middle Gap Road?” I ask the taxi cab driver. We used to live at no 19.
He looks at me blankly. Not because his English is bad as it turns out. My friend Chris is more resourceful and points out a landmark nearby.
“Ah!” Says the Taxi driver, “People who live on that road don’t use taxis. They have private cars and chauffeurs.”
I tell him that I used to live there 40 years ago.
“So why you not speak Chinese?”
“My bad” I reply.
He laughs and takes us to Middle Gap Road.

View from The Peak
View from The Peak

“My Bad. It’s been ‘My Bad’ for nearly 53 years. In 1962, when I was 6 months old my family came to live in Hong Kong, leased for a 100 years to the British from Mainland China (well, 99 years and more complicated…). Sounds like Sleeping Beauty but there’s no happy ending. For 100 years, the Great British Empire, did not see fit to give the Hong Kong Chinese the vote. When the time was up, the British passed the land and its people back to Mainland China. No fighting the dragon. No Handsome prince. No Democracy.

By the time I appeared in 1962, my father was on the rise. He was a banker. With the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). Anyone wealthy had servants. ‘Everyone’ had amahs. These are women who ‘live in’, clean your house and look after your children.

When I was sent to boarding school in England at the age of 11 (my brothers were sent at age 7 – it wasn’t deemed so important for me, a girl), my mother impressed on me the necessity of not ‘bragging’ about all the servants I had so as not to incur the jealousy of my peers. 35 years later, as my teenage son teased me about my wealthy early days it occurred to me how ridiculous it was for a child to ‘brag’ about such things. As I pointed out to him, he didn’t need servants, he had me….

There was so much ‘not to brag about’. I was brought up in a country taken from the Chinese during the opium wars (Britain was the baddie – look it up) and now under British Colonial rule. A rule apparently based on the philosophy of: “The rich man in his castle, the poor man at the gate, God made them high and lowly and ordered their estate.” Memory replays a Sunday morning as we leave the Cathedral to be met by a flock of begging Chinese widows in black. We walk past them to where the chauffeur waits with the Jag.

It’s now 2015. I’ve come back to Hong Kong on a sort of pilgrimage. To make peace. To recover memories. I lived here solidly for the first 13 years of my life. My father remained until I was in my 30s. I’m a white British, Colonial Ex-Pat, I never learned Cantonese and I have no right of abode here. In what way if any, can I call this land “Home”?

I’ve come to find out.

‘The Choice’ – FILM TEASER

4 women, 1 night, 1 block of flats and ‘the choice’ that will change lives .

Thank you Andy for putting this ‘teaser’ together. We’re hoping to have the completed short (around 11 minutes) ready for 14th March showing at Pegasus Theatre in Oxford as part of Film Oxford screening: