Katherine Gregor

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Katherine Gregor (a.k.a. Scribe Doll) is a literary translator and scribbler who has also been an EFL teacher, theatrical agent, press agent, theatre director, complementary medicine practitioner, and one or two other things. Perhaps that's why the literary characters she relates to most are Arlecchino, Truffaldino, Gianni Schicchi and Scapin, and feels empathy with crows, squirrels and cats. She lives in Norwich, Norfolk. (Photo courtesy of Rosie Goldsmith @GoldRosie )

Ash Wednesday

Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.

Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.

Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.

 

The voices gently rise to the stone vaults and fill the 12th-century church, one of London's oldest.  The congregation forms a queue.  Slowly, everybody advances towards the altar steps.  

 

Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.

Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris.

Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.

Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.

 

The rector's expression is stern, menacing almost.  I think I am supposed to look down in humility.  Instead, I stare straight into his eyes, searching for an echo to my thought.  "Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return,"  he says as his thumb traces a black cross of ash on my forehead.

 

I am thinking of the phoenix.  Of what happens after the return to dust.

 

Asperges me hysopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.

Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.

Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.

Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.

Ne proiicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me.

 

The soprano pierces through the semi-darkness, and lingers high up before fluttering downwards, graceful, having made her plea for us all.

 

I return to the wooden pew, kneel, close my eyes and breathe in the frankincense.  Yesterday, Shrove Tuesday, I ate pancakes.  I realise that I haven't decided on what I will give up for Lent.  I remember those friends who will probably give up chocolate, or alcohol, or both.  Not eating chocolate is easy for me, and, since I hardly drink, renouncing alcohol would hardly constitute a sacrifice.  Now cheese, on the other hand... Could I manage a whole forty days without cheese?

 

The futility of my thoughts suddenly makes me sad.

 

Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali confirma me.

Docebo iniquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur.

Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae: et exsultabit lingua mea justitiam tuam.

Domine, labia mea aperies: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.

What's the point of giving something up that you know you will go back to on Easter Sunday? Doesn't knowing a privation is temporary make it too easy? Easy and pointless? Isn't the true purpose of Lent to cleanse your soul for Easter? Will my soul really be purer without cheese or olives or whatever other anodyne habit I decide to break? 

 

For Lent, why don't we give up something less tangible and yet destructive to us and to others? Something we would work on eradicating from our minds and washing from our souls?

 

Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.

Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.

Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Ierusalem.

Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae, oblationes, et holocausta: tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.

How about we pledge to give up resentment?

We could train ourselves, little by little, to replace resentment with responsibility and forgiveness.  Turn the other cheek.  No, not to ask for another slap, but to remove whoever has struck us from our field of vision, from our thoughts, from our world.  To set ourselves free.

When someone upsets us, we could indulge in making up a story about something that just might have happened to this person that would explain his or her unpleasant attitude.  It doesn't have to be true, only plausible.  And the self-storytelling might make us feel better.

 

How about we give up gossiping? 

We could try never speaking of a third person except to praise at least one aspect of him or her.  Is there nothing good to say about him or her? There must be something, however small.  We could avoid divulging personal information about others.  Instead of using what we know about them as social currency, we could cherish it as a secret treasure.

 

How about giving up sadness?

We could choose an image, a tune or a thought that makes us smile and summon it whenever we feel the clouds gathering in our minds.

 

How about giving up fear?

We could try to imagine that we are safe.  Just making believe at first, until it becomes reality.  After all, we can't make it real if we don't imagine it first.  And if we can imagine it, then perhaps we can create it.

 

Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.

Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.

Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Ierusalem.

Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae, oblationes, et holocausta: tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.

 

How about we monitor the words that leave our lips and give up using them irresponsibly?

We could replace "Filthy weather, today" with the more accurate "It's cold" or "It's very wet" or "It's very grey".

When someone asks us how we are, we could discard "Not too bad" in favour of "Very well, thank you".  It may not be true at the time, but people mostly don't ask because they really want to know.  And "well" might make us feel better.

 

How about we give up believing we can't and, at least for a while, try to imagine we can?

 

How about we give up the familiar comfort of darkness? There is a lot of darkness, I know.

Just one candle.  It's surprising how much light just one little flame gives.

 

ScribeDoll

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A Writers' Social

The Scene: A bar.

The Players: Novelists, children's writers, academics, translators, journalists, biographers, and other assorted literary intellectuals.

*

"Hi! Nice to see you! Which way did you come?"

"Oh, it was bloody awful.  I drove down the [name of motorway] but there was so much traffic.  I guess because of the football... I didn't realise [name of team] were playing at home."

"I know, I know, it's awful.  The other day it took me hours to get into town.  They were digging the road, you know the one..."

*

"Did you find that wallpaper you were after?"

"Yes! But then when I tried a sample it didn't look right with the curtains.  You know my curtains with the lilies.  So I really don't know what to do now.  I'm losing my sleep over it."

*

"Where are you from?"

"–"

"Is your accent French?"

"–"

"What is it I hear?"

"I can't possibly tell you what it is you h–"

"Are you South African?"

"No, Armenian."

"Oh, how interesting! Armenian... that's like Sephardic, isn't it?"

"–"

"Or am I thinking Coptic? What is it I'm thinking?"

"I've absolutely no idea what you're –"

"Armenian... Is it like... It's on  the tip of my tongue..."

*

"It took me hours to find somewhere to park! [Name of city] is getting worse and worse!

"Where did you park, in the end?"

"You know the Arts Centre? Well, there's that street right on the side of it... What's it called? St-Something Lane..."

"Oh, yes.  You should try behind the cinema, next time.  I generally find a space there..."

*

"Will you have another?"

"Oooh, I shouldn't... Well, all right, I'll have another red.  A bit rough but it's alcohol, it does the trick.  Aren't you finishing your drink?"

"I don't like it."

"What is it, whisky? Are you going to just leave it? Such a waste.  Do you mind if I have it?"

*

"Oh, and you know, I saw him the other day.  His wife's left him."

"Oh, no! I hadn't heard..." 

"Just walked out.  To be honest, between you and me, I've always thought she was a bit difficult."

"We must ask him over for supper.  Poor thing.  He's having to fend for himself now so can't concentrate on his book."

"Oh, poor man."

*

"And I saw their daughter the other day – I don't think you've met her, have you?"

"No.  I knew they had a daughter." 

 "Nice girl but had a drug problem in her teens.  Her husband's got this promotion at work so they've bought this house in Yorkshire.  They're knocking down half the walls and rebuilding it."

*

"How's your back?"

"Still really bad.  Living on Ibuprofen."

"That's not very good for you."

"I know! Painkillers aren't good for you in general, are they? The GP's put me on this new painkiller.  Let's hope it works.  My neighbour says she was on it.  Apparently, it really helped except that she then got so addicted..."

"Have you considered acupuncture?"

"Oh, they say it's brilliant.  Yes, I must get around to it.  It's on my list but there's always so much to do, there just aren't enough hours in the day! You know what it's like... The other day, I had to drive into town to sort out my watch.  The battery died after only three months.  That took half the morning.  And then I had to rush to get a birthday present for..."

 

Scribe Doll

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
And they say the art of conversation is dead! :-)
Monday, 22 January 2018 10:13
Katherine Gregor
:–)
Monday, 22 January 2018 14:38
Ken Hartke
That's enough to drive you to drink...if you can find a place to park.
Monday, 22 January 2018 18:17
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8 Comments

A New Focus for the New Year?

I am just wondering if a shift of focus might help.

Practice makes perfect, so the more you repeat an action or even a thought, the more likely is that action or thought to become consolidated.  After all, wherever we direct our attention, there our physical and mental resources flow.  Everybody knows that.

Or do we?

It occurs to me that we spend a lot of our time and energy fighting against things we don't want.  Perhaps more than necessary.  Perhaps more than building, nurturing, creating the things we want. So much of our focus and energy goes on being anti what we hate or dread that I question how much energy we have left on focusing on being pro what we actually want.  Do we have sufficient time and energy to focus on both with equal effectiveness? It's a question that has been buzzing in my head for some time now.  Speaking for myself, I certainly do not.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I get the impression there are more marches and demonstrations against unwanted situations and wrongdoings than in favour of desired or just ones.  Of course, when something blatantly wrong happens, I feel that peacefully voicing your disagreement or sense of outrage is the right thing to do.  But once this opinion is expressed, shouldn't the next step be to focus all our strength on building what we actually want?

When I was a small child, my mother had a UNICEF desk calendar with a quotation for every month.  One stuck in my mind, even though at the time I couldn't understand what it meant.  "Problems, like babies, grow bigger with nursing." I cannot remember who said it and only several decades later do I understand more fully the meaning and wisdom of this sentence.

It seems Mother Teresa once said, "I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me."  Nobody could possibly doubt Mother Teresa's commitment to world peace.  I can only suppose that the reason she refused to attend anti-war rallies was because she disagreed with the focus – however kindly and justly intended – of these rallies. The focus of any anti-something act is one of opposition.  Like pushing against something.  Could it just be possible – and that's just an idea – that by pushing hard against it we unintentionally end up supporting it? Feeding it? Strengthening it by giving it so much of our attention that we somehow consolidate it even further?

Surely, for focus to be unwavering, then we need to choose very carefully – no, we cannot be both in equal strength – whether we want to fight what we don't want or build what we want. 

As a year of much darkness, ignorance, stupidity and senseless waste draws to a close, I am hoping for a 2018 with the following:

Replacing anti-Brexit stands with pro-Europe commitment.

Replacing every retweet of a bully or genuinely incompetent politician with a tweet about a wise, kind or simply happily comical individual.  Plants that aren't watered wither.  Let's stop fuelling destructive individuals with too much attention.  Instead, let's lavish our attention on those we want to play more prominent roles in our society.

TV and Radio stations where 50% of news headlines broadcast good, encouraging items.  Yes, there are some, if news editors are willing to look.

Rather than anti-sexual harassment protests, pro-respect and gender equality rallies.

This list could go on and on and on...

One step at a time, we can shift our focus, and, consequently, change things for the better.

Together, we can do it.

So let's.

I wish you all a very happy, healthy, wealthy, fulfilling New Year.

Scribe Doll

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
Worth a try! Happy new year to you!
Monday, 01 January 2018 01:32
Katherine Gregor
They do say in Qigong and Tai Chi that by pushing against your opponent you only lose strength and make him/her push harder agains... Read More
Monday, 01 January 2018 15:21
Rosy Cole
Thank you, Katia, and much reciprocation :-) Couldn't agree more with your sentiments. As someone we both know (not a member of t... Read More
Tuesday, 02 January 2018 13:36
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Qi Gong

It's the same every morning.  I negotiate my way out of bed and, eventually, brave the steep Munchkin stairs and stagger into the kitchen.  I put the kettle on, wait for the first crackling sound and switch it off.  I pour the water into a mug and go back upstairs, sipping it.  It's pleasantly just short of hot, cleansing, comforting.  I open the curtains in my scriptorium.  The sky is still dark.  For a moment, like every morning, I am tempted to skip the next stage of my morning routine.  That lazy, sneakily undermining voice that says, "What's the rush? You can always do it tomorrow."

No.

Today.

Now.

Just for ten minutes.

I start deliberately shaking on the spot, sending the movements from my feet through my body and all the way up to my head.  I direct little jolts to every inch of my skin, every organ, every muscle, every vertebra, waking every nook and cranny.  I imagine I am one of those blankets Roman housewives would shake from their windows every morning, when I was a child getting ready for school. They would flap them vigorously.  To banish the dust, evict mites, fill the fabric with fresh air, toss out memories of bad dreams, liven the wool with sunshine.

I quake from toe to top, like a rag doll, loosening every joint, becoming aware of parts of my body I didn't even know existed.  I banish stale air from the hidden recesses of my lungs, evict dark thoughts, fill my cells with imaginary rainbows, toss out all physical and emotional gunk and liven my muscles with a dose of resounding universal YES.

After a few minutes, once I have given every part of my body a good shake, I stop.  It feels wonderful, like being reset, with every nerve tingling and feeling alive.

Then I stand.  Knees soft, head floating into the sky, feet plunging firmly into the earth.  As the tingling subsides, I focus on my breath.  Regular, deep, inhaling from my belly, imagining sunlight filling my lungs.  Trying to think of nothing else.

Ah, I must remember to buy some cheese later –

Breathe.

I forgot to e-mail my friend, yesterday –

I gently bring my mind back to my breath.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Slowly.

If I can finish work by three, I could –

Never mind that for now.  Just breathe.  Slowly.  Regularly.  Let the belly expand, the lungs fill in full, then let the air out, no rush, sense the warmth spread through my body, grow in strength.  I suddenly feel taller.  Towering over the house.

At least ten minutes have gone by without my noticing.  This time, as the breath rises, it carries up my arms.  Effortlessly.  Naturally.  And so I begin the sequence of movements that constitutes the form of Qi Gong I am practising today.

Dragon and Tiger meet.

I'd tried different kinds of yoga over the years – many of my friends swear by its benefits – but it had never agreed with me.  For some reason, it made me feel ungrounded.  I also did pilates for a few months, but it felt like too much effort.  Then I discovered Qi Gong and it's 70% rule of practice.  Always give it your 70%.  No more.  The interesting result is that I end up achieving far more than when I set out to give it my 100%.

Dragon looks to the horizon.

When I first started Qi Gong, I was suffering from yet another episode of adrenal exhaustion, or Yin deficiency, as my Chinese doctor elegantly puts it.  In other terms, your garden variety of burnout, with all its classic symptoms that make life seem unmanageable.  When you wake up every morning, and your heart sinks at the prospect of the day to come as though you have to climb Mont Blanc in summer clothes.  When I enthusiastically asked my teacher how long I should practise every day, he replied, "Five minutes."

I frowned.  Didn't he understand I intended to take Qi Gong seriously?

"Five minutes.  No more," he reiterated.

Tiger crouches.

He was right, of course.  By setting out to do a five-minute practise session at home, I would inevitably end up practising for twenty minutes, then half an hour, and now nearly an hour every morning.  Of course, if, when I wake up, I were to tell myself that I would spend an hour doing Qi Gong, I would simply never start.  So, every morning, as soon as the nagging little voice of laziness and procrastination whispers, "Why don't you leave it till tomorrow?" I cheat it by replying, "I'll only practise for ten minutes. No more."

Three months after I first started Qi Gong, my health was better than it had been for years.  When people asked "How are you?" I could actually reply, in all honesty, "Very well, thank you."

Tiger separates her cubs.

I find that practising Qi Gong has also helped sharpen my focus in other parts of my life, such as work.  Also, the slowness of it is not only very grounding, but also surprisingly empowering.  After a few minutes of practice, I feel like a willow, soft but sturdy, swaying in the strong wind but not breaking.

Tiger pounces.

Most people I mention Qi Gong to don't know what it is, so I explain that it's the mother of Tai Chi.  Many react by saying they couldn't cope with practising such a slow-moving exercise.  I try to tell them that it's that very slowness that makes you feel so in harmony with life, that's so empowering.  The trick is not to build a boat solid enough to withstand a powerful wind without capsizing – it's to weave a sail of silk that can gather the wind in its embrace, so the boat glides faster and more effortlessly.  But, of course, different disciplines are suitable for different people.

Dragon and Tiger pierce heaven and earth.

Outside the scriptorium window, it's now light.  My body feels like a friend, an ally, and I am looking forward to starting my day.

Dragon soars to heaven and brings back the pearl.

And, let's face it, with movements that have such beautiful, poetic names, I'd certainly rather practise Qi Gong than do "press-ups", "push-ups", "weight-lifting" or going on a "treadmill".  But that's just my own, personal choice.

Scribe Doll  

For further information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qigong

http://www.norwichqigong.co.uk

Recent Comments
Ken Hartke
Thanks for the inspiration. I'm a "lapsed" Tai Chi person and I need to get back into it. Discipline is lacking. It always cleare... Read More
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 17:09
Rosy Cole
An invigorating post in itself :-) I so sympathise with your episodes of adrenal exhaustion which can be quite a handicap and are... Read More
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 19:58
Stephen Evans
I think this would make an excellent short film!
Sunday, 17 December 2017 14:46
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3 Comments

Latest Comments

Stephen Evans A Visitor to your Planet: A One-Minute Play
19 February 2018
High praise! Thank you.
Katherine Gregor A Visitor to your Planet: A One-Minute Play
18 February 2018
Beckett would be envious.
Stephen Evans A Visitor to your Planet: A One-Minute Play
05 February 2018
I just realized that the last two posts were plays. How true to the spirit of The Green Room!
Rosy Cole A Visitor to your Planet: A One-Minute Play
04 February 2018
Interesting dynamic. Reflects the popular conception of 'democracy'. (Look at it this way, the US is...
Ken Hartke Flipping the Omelet
01 February 2018
One word: Fritatta

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