Pillar, Pillar, Pillar

Goodison Park, the home of the Mighty Blues, Everton FC, was built on pillars in the late nineteenth century. Once again, paying over £40 each for the pleasure, me and my two sons shared the experience of a packed and glorious Lower Gladys Street stand.

I’m not a season ticket holder or a member of the Everton Members’ Club, so I must wait for tickets to go on General Sale for the half-a-dozen games or so we go to. This has often led to us sitting at the back of the Lower Gladys, nearly always behind a pillar. Do we resent the pillar? After all, they restrict our view. and there are so many of them. A friend of my youngest recently went to his first Arsenal game and sent him a photo of the ground. Joe returned the favor with a shot of our Pillar.

You look closely at it. It’s made of wrought iron, rivets up and down on either side, rising up to touch the descending roof, painted in royal blue, the club’s colour. We are seated now but, back in the day, when I was a lad, I stood in the Boys’ Pen here, a large caged area in the corner of the ground, for sixpence or 2 1/2p in today’s money. It kept you safe-ish, while, outside, young men chased and fought each other, sometimes with knives.

It’s a friendlier place now. The club is rebuilding again, the team and the ground, with planning going on in the next few years to move to a site on the north docklands. The team is safe in the middle of the league and this evening scored the only goal against an in-form Newcastle United team. It was a dull game overall. The main success was in getting three points, keeping a clean sheet and having over 75% of possession. ‘Job done!’, said the manager. And who would disagree?!

But Operation Goodison when the stewards appeared in a row at the Bullens Road exits along the gangway, wearing their bright yellow, hi-viz coats under the floodlights was the highlight for me. I was waiting for them to start dancing, high stepping in a chorus line in search of Hedy Lamarr but they didn’t. Not this time,anyway.

It was difficult for my lads to see. They’re both six feet or more and when everybody stands as the ball heads towards goal, the view is restricted to a six inch gap from side to side, except for the pillar, which is everpresent. And you stoop. Another proof, if proof were needed, that the ideal height for a man is 5 feet 7 and 3/4 inches, statistically, classically and philosophically proven.

Should Everton move to a new stadium, it will be a happy-sad feeling for me. The pillar has been part of my footballing comunity experience, practically all my life. Going first one way and then the other, dodging the pillar, calling out, ‘What happened..? Did you see..?’, while waiting for the replay on the big screen, if you could see it, was ample return for the price of the ticket on a damp April evening. Job done once again.

I offered to swop seats with my youngest son; my view of the pitch being slightly better than his but he shook his head. He pointed out he was listening to the commentary on Radio Merseyside, who were watching the match on Sky. He shrugged his shoulders. ‘It’s one of those’, he said. It certainly is and we will miss the pillar when it’s no longer there.


Do you want sedation?

Bulletin (Bull) 1: holding up my end so far, S. Oh, no, gotta go…graphic to follow.
T: NO GRAPHICS!! X Aghhhh, no, Vesuvius…
T: Poor you xxx
Reaching the moment of no return, T. (Bull 2)
T: xxxx
x On R3 now, the woman who co-wrote Animal Farm. Night, T. Bull 3. Holding on xx T: Night xxxx

After a stormy night (Bull 4), entering the mince and gravy stage…more gravy. Only good news I can see is no veg. Will keep you posted xx Ooo, have to go…

Haven’t got long to write this…must be down to my last ounce of solid matter, surely..?
T: xxx

How much liquid can flow out of the human arse..? T: xxxx

How are you feeling? Xxx
T: Coughing a lot. x See you at 4.15 xxxx
Are you sure? I can ask our C. to meet me. You can stay in the warm and look after yourself. I don’t want you catching more cold.
T: I’d rather be with you. c u in a bit xx
Ok, love. Me too. It’s at the Gastroenterology unit. I bought some bread and Lancs white cheese for you too. Oops, need the loo…though slowly drying up, if you get my meaning xxx

Xxx Going out for bread and loo roll…don’t ask…would you like cake?

T: In cafe. REALLY early!! xx
Good for you, missed the rain! Which cafe? Still at bus stop xxx
T: Cafe in hospital. First floor x
That’s the Costa, then. There’s another one on ground floor
T: It’s outside the Costa – by the big window x
I know…will come and get you…I’d love a coffee ! Anyway, on the bus! See you soon xx T: No rush. x
There’s the bum rush, T. xx T: Come to cafe 4 coffee. Same one x phone cut out xxx

Well, here I was in the changing room with my partner, T. The nurse in sky blue asked me questions..’Are you allergic to anything? Heart attack in last three months..? Have you been scuba diving or deep sea swimming in last three months? Do you want sedation?’ ‘No…I said ‘No’ on the phone and I’ll stay no.’ ‘You sure?’ She looked at me with all her years of experience. What if it really is painful..? I saw the look in her eyes…and said ‘No’.

My reasons for this were two fold. Firstly, surely they were exaggerating any pain..? It probably was as bad as going to the dentist…or getting your ears syringed. And, secondly, I could get away straight away with T. and have our tea. So plans are formed. ‘You are aware of the risks?’ I nodded. I‘d read the leaflets the night before. ‘You sure then..? Sign here on the screen with your finger.’

‘Right then, change into these sexy blue shorts and night gown. The

hole goes round the back. You’d be surprised how many blokes get it wrong. You’ll have to wait awhile, not sure when you’ll go in. The one before is overrunning and I’m tired’. ‘What time did you come on?’ ‘7am. ‘And onto..?’ ‘7pm.’ ‘That’s a long day’, said S. ‘It’s the lists, you see. They won’t let us alter the lists and staff are off over Easter. And the young doctor in there said I don’t work fast enough!’ And she laughed.

By now, I had heard and read about the ‘procedures’ several times. A gumshield would be put in my mouth. There would be suction (so, it was like the dentist’s then). A tube would be put through the gum shield with a camera on the end. Would I be able to see the pictures, I’d wondered? Would you want to?! ‘The tricky bit is getting it up and over your larynx’, the young doctor said. ‘You’ll feel a slight reflection. That’s natural. We spray it to keep it numb.’ ‘Ok’, I said. ‘It takes about 10 minutes.’ And it did. I didn’t really take in much, as I was baulking a fair bit. ‘Are you ok?’ the nurse asked. ‘Yes’, I tried to say,’ crack on with it. I’m fine’ but it’s hard to talk. So, I waved my hand and gave the thumb’s up. In truth, it was uncomfortable but felt worth it to get checked over.

I’d been referred, following blood tests showing iron deficiency. And before Christmas, I’d noticed an abnormal amount of dark blood in my poo one day. Because I’ve had piles, wiping blood away from my bottom wasn’t that unusual but I’d not seen anything like this before. And it scared me. It wasn’t until the January that I was able to go to the GPs. She checked me over, thought I was ok and referred me to Endoscopy just to be sure. So here I was.

The young doctor said, ‘Right, turn onto your left side for me. I’m just going to pop my finger into your bottom with some gel (he was wearing surgical gloves) to check it’s ok to take the camera. And off we popped!

A colonoscopy takes longer, about forty minutes, but it flew over. They push the tubing in quickly to the far end of your small intestine, the caecum. (I chuckled inwardly; it brought a whole new meaning to the question, have you ever been on the ferry to Secombe (local reference)?) Biology class seemed real to me now and I wish I’d learned or remembered more. ‘We do this quite quickly. The real observations take place on the way back.’

Without the sedation, I was wide awake and began to follow the journey of the camera inside my stomach tubes. ‘They’re fantastic’, I exclaimed. ‘Yes, you’re right’, said the doctor. ‘Although I’ve never done it, I think it’s like caving or potholing.’ ‘Yes, I said, having tried it once…under water.’ ‘Yes, we do it under water sometimes. We flush you with water…’ and on it went through long corridors, opening up into high caverns. Ridges like vaulted ceilings led the way. It was amazing. The stomach tubes have folds, which halt the flow of the food, dropping it into sections, so that it didn’t all squash into one place. ‘Great design’, I thought. ‘So clever and really beautiful!’ And I am usually so squeamish.

And yet they were looking for a polyp; something that caused the bleeding. ‘So far, so good. Those white drops in the lining..? Do you take Safarel..? ‘What’s that?’ I asked. ‘…is the right answer. So, you don’t. It’s a condition, which makes little white droplets, like those.’ I looked carefully at them on the screen. ‘I think they may be quinoa seeds. I have them in my breakfast cereal.’

And yes, we did do the rounds on how do you pronounce keen-wha or Quinn –oh-a, if you’re from Bootle (the posh end, obviously; a spoilt childgood, I thought sadly).

‘You can cook quinoa as well, you know’, Anna said, one of the two nurses present. ‘Yeah, but I just put them raw in my breakfast cereal.’ And that led onto a discussion about breakfast cereals…as the tube progressed slowly backwards, revealing…a pea. ‘Last night’s tea’, I beamed and punched the air. It was so exciting.

As we neared the rear end – I’d barely looked at the clock – the doctor said, ‘I think this may be the cause of your bleeding.’ I looked but…’There it is, a haemorrhoid.’ ‘Ah’, I said, still not seeing very much, till he zoomed in. ‘Oh, there you are, my little friend, my good, itchy, little friend.’ And if a haemorrhoid could smile and offer a hand of friendship, it was, for sure, albeit briefly, as we were off and out popped the tube and the camera…the pictures faded.

‘All done! You have an almost pristine prepared bowel for your colonoscopy.’ I may have started to glow with pride…till more questions. ‘Are you vegetarian, vegan?’ ‘No, I don’t’ eat meat…haven’t for over thirty years…but I do eat fish and dairy, so….’ ‘Pescatarian, then..?’ ‘No…’ and that led into a discussion about what was a pescatarian. Anna said, ‘…sounds like someone belonging to a cult, doesn’t it?’ ‘They mainly eat fish and I hardly eat any.’ Dare I mention that I eat a lot of fruit..? And pictured guiltily the orange whisps on my folds, like flock wallpaper…and thought better. ‘Well, I don’t think I was asked…if I was vegetarian. Lots of questions, but not that one.’

‘Well, I think that’s the cause of your low iron. You may have to take an iron supplement for a while. Talk to your GP.’

And off I went on the trolley. Though short, it was like a sleigh ride. Bells were ringing and we nearly had a 2-bed and a blood pressure unit trolley pile up in Gastroenterology, which would have been spectacular but for the skilfull breaking of my navigator, Anna. She furled me over into a cubicle. ‘Here’s your clothes…you can stay and have a cup of tea and a biscuit in the recovery suite, if you like, but as you haven’t had sedation, you’re free to go.’ ‘Really, can I..?’

My throat felt a little sore. My bottom was a trifle uncomfortable but nothing much. I looked down onto the white sheet, now stained with a small patch of watery poo and started to feel embarrassed, then stopped. This is what comes of bottoms and the doctors and nurses deal with it everyday, no problem.

It felt good to get dressed. I put on my favourite green top and made for the door. Almost out, a nurse called me back. ‘You can have a cup of coffee before you go, you know.’ ‘I know, thanks,’ I said, ‘…but I’m gonna have a pint!’

They say live for today. Be present. Don’t let yourself get absent for who knows about tomorrow…hopefully, full of good stuff. And I rang T. to tell her the good news. ‘All done, on my way, 2 mins.’

PS Text sent the next day…Boss dump at 08.45 this morning, T. It felt soooo goooood. T: Aww, that’s nice xxxxx

The clothes we wear

Mother Julian of Norwich used to say that God can come to us through the clothes   we put on. They make us feel safe, comforted and protected. They express our exhuberant personality, our sporting prowess (if we have any) and we change them as we grow or do different things, like singing in a choir at a concert or gardening.

She was a remarkable woman, writing in the 14th century in Norwich. Her words are as she spoke them. They talk about ordinary experience of life, like putting on clothes. She wrote in English, indeed, is reckoned to be the first woman to do so.

Our children’s meeting last Sunday looked at the clothes we wear and asked how do they draw up closer to God, to the great mystery? How does it work..?

I’m fortunate, I think, to have a job which allows me to dress casually. But I do look forward to the weekends when I can put on jeans and a baggy jumper. I feel comforted. They are familiar. They keep me warm, if need be.  At other times of the year, they let the heat out from shorts and t-shirt when the sun shines on us warmly. But where is God in all this? Julian said that no matter how hard or sad life becomes at times, through loss or sense of failure or…, God is always present, always there for us, wrapping us round with love. It just takes work, like my favourite pair of socks.

Further Reading:

Brenda Clifft Heales and Chris Cooke, Images and Silence: future of Quaker Ministry, Chapter 4 (Swarthmore Lecture, 1992)

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, 1395


A Good Death and Life

A little while ago, I found myself at a friend’s funeral. I hadn’t known him greatly well. He was into his 90s when he died and, to me, was someone who would sit quietly, watching what was going on around him without much comment. Well, his speech had been affected by illness, so it wasn’t easy for him.

His friends and family told us stories about his  travels as a young man, backpacking around South America, before going on to get his first degree in Modern Languages, followed by a Masters in Linguistics, and eventually a doctorate. In the 1980s, he even advised the government on its Adult Literacy strategy. This was also a man, who, in another life, might have played cricket for Lancashire, such was his talent. His children and grandchildren clearly loved him dearly.

His was a life well lived, an adventurous life, you might say. And I thought of the quiet old man, sitting there round the table, watching and waiting for someone to start a conversation with him. Unless you ask, you may never find out about the layers of experience an older person has until you attend their funeral.

Threads, Sprints and Collaborations

“Threads, sprints and collaborations…” ‘Oh, yeah, what are they?’ ‘I’ll tell you later.’ ‘Later? Why can’t you tell me now?’ ‘…because I’m feeling sad, that’s why… I’ve just finished Rep Council after six years and it feels like leaving school. I’ll not see me mates again. That’s why I’m feeling sad.’ ‘Right, well, what are you going to do with all the things you’ve learned at Quaker School for grown-ups…not saying, you’re a grown up, like! Do they give you a certificate?’ ‘Not exactly, but I have got a blue hoodie and I am growing younger! You know, I have got a few ideas of things l’d like to do. For one, I’d quite like to visit some of the other local meetings in my area, talk to people, find out how they’re doing. Haven’t done that for ages. And I’d like to go to a few more regional events, meet more Quakers…possibly even a bit of Quaker Camp in the summer months…anything involving outdoor worship, singing and telling stories ‘round camp fires and owls has to be good, yeah?’ ‘…Singing…in a Quaker meeting…that doesn’t happen, does it?’ ‘Well, why not? There’s no law against it.’ ‘Are you sure?’  ‘Yes, I am. Anyway, I’m wondering about Quaker chaplaincy work but need to know more. There’s a course on at Woodbrooke in September…and I might do some visits in prison or hospital to see if I really want to do it…something to think about, anyway. I could go to the anti-fracking protest on Preston New Road…’

‘You know, that Quaker school sounds good. How come I’ve never heard of it…and who’s taking over?’ ‘Don’t know…not sure they’ve got anyone. And they need two people, a first named Rep and a deputy. I think Area Meeting nominations are on to it but I haven’t heard anything.’ ‘Well, I’m interested…’

Shine on Me

‘Tell us about some of the things you learned.’ ‘Ok, I made some notes from our Home Group…’

(1) Acknowledge what we do well

(2) Using our discipline to create freedom. Helping people to see the value of discipline

(3) Sweep away the dust and find the beating heart of our meetings

(4) Try new things and don’t be afraid of failing. Uphold small groups, who experiment with new things

(5) Rediscover the power and purpose of older things, which have worked well. Remember the early friends were radical.

Naming and supporting our spiritual gifts

‘Actually, you don’t have to tell me.  I’m starting to see what threads, sprints and collaborations are all about for myself and it sounds exciting. When’s the next Rep Council, did you say..? April… well, tell me, who’s on nominations again? Do you think they know I want to go to Quaker School?

Autumn leaves are falling 

Report for Hardshaw and Mann Area Meeting on Quaker Life Representative Council, 13-15 October 2017, held at Woodbrooke, where we explored the theme of “Shape Shifting – New models of Quaker Meeting and Community”

The Tickle of God

How do Quakers take decisions collectively? We don’t vote or aim for consensus. We believe we are led by (and here individual Quakers will insert their own word for…) God/the Spirit/the Guiding Light/Presence/Christ to discern the way forward…or to wait a while longer.

The Mind of Christ, Bill Taber on Meeting for Business, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 406

‘But how do you know’, I asked the tutors and the students on the webinar*, ‘when the spirit is present with us during group discernment?’ And the answer came back to me straight away and was so simple. It’s the same feeling as in meeting for worship! We’ve all experienced the power and wonder of people speaking in ministry, sometimes for the first time, and revealing how the spirit is working in their lives. We are moved and left deepened by our sharing. ‘So, that’s how you make decisions in your meetings..?’ ‘Well, this is the ideal. All sorts of things can get in the way, like if you’re feeling stubborn, like the bear or sad, like the wolf (Isaiah 11: 6-9)) We don’t always succeed in holding a fully ‘gathered’ meeting for worship but we feel it when we do.

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom

American friend, Bill Taber, described  the way a meeting makes decisions.  It starts with waiting, he wrote. For how long? For as long as is needed. He recognises five gut feelings, which show a healthy group discernment meeting. The first is Joy in Being Together with friends, part of supportive, challenging community, large or small. The second is Joy in the Presence of God. Thirdly, there is the Assurance we will be helped by God’s guiding presence, if we listen well. And fourthly, there is Trust in the process. It works. It may take time, although some decisions may be reached very quickly. It isn’t always about time. It can be more about intensity, when decisions come quickly. During the meeting, we are enabled to step out of our own individual minds into the mind of Christ, while maintaining our self-awareness.

The fifth gut feeling tickled me  – Excitement! How often do we experience the excitement of entering the room, leaving it up to God to discover what is going to happen with surprising results! We do have fun in our meetings at times but not excitement. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced excitement but, perhaps, I’ve never known it was there.

Time places great demands on friends, we heard. Our meetings can feel long and laboured. Too often, tasks fall on the same group of individuals, who do the work but lack the joy. How do we encourage more friends to come to business meetings when we have so many callings on our time?  One of our tutors told a story. Two friends were talking about the next Business Meeting. ‘Oh, no,’ said one, ‘how am I going to get through three or more hours of agenda!’ His friend replied, ‘ I can think of no finer or more joyful way than spending time with God, discerning our way forward.’ And I’ve felt this too at times but also felt the slow hand ticking of the clock.

How do we learn and practise our business method? It’s true that by contacting Quaker Life at Friends House, you can arrange for a team of Young Friends to visit your meeting to model good and bad practice. And I wondered about holding a business meeting in our children and young person’s meeting in January. The children could take on roles of clerking, eldership and ministry. It would help us be clearer about what we can do the rest of the year and who we can ask to do it. Bill Taber emphasises the importance of a daily spiritual practice in helping us arrive at meeting with ‘heart and mind prepared’.

‘And the ministry, so often dry in business meeting, so moving in meeting for worship’, commented a friend on the webinar. ‘That’s it, Christine! That’s it!’ It stuck me forcibly that I’d always put an subconscious divide between the two forms of worship. Yet they were both the same. I’m feeling so excited about attending my next business meeting for worship!


Links and further reading:

A Sustainable Life, Woodbrooke course*

Douglas Gwynne, A Sustainable Life

The Mind of Christ, Bill Taber on Meeting for Business, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 406

Alistair Heron, Quaker Speak

Brian Drayton and Bill Taber, Language for Inward Landscape

Emilia Fogelklou Norlind, The Atonement of George Fox, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 166 (1969)

Ben Pink Dandelion, Quakers, A Very Short Introduction

What politics and economics for equality?

One Saturday afternoon, I was attending a talk, given by Alan Pinch and Enid Pinch on inequality in the UK and the wider world at Mount Street Quaker Meeting House in Manchester. During the lifetimes of people in the room, there were those, who had witnessed the campaign for the 1944 Welfare Reforms, supported the Miners’ strike, noted the Northwest’s regional dependency on manufacturing armaments and sought answers to local to global effects of climate change. Attending were interested individuals as well as members of Green and Labour parties. Nobody disclosed they were a good Tory and not all present were Quakers.

It reminded me of meetings I attended in my teens to talk about political ideas. Sadly, the world has gone backwards since then, though not everything was great in the 1970s. While hearing that 1.6 billion people have been lifted out of poverty is good news, millions of people in the UK today are heading back into it, including children. An awful lot of them are in work, struggling already or looking carefully at inflation and interest rates.

Universal Credit could be a good thing, if its current implementation plan could be amended. 50,000 people have died from pollution in UK too. An unequal society is a better society? I just wanted to hear how that sounded. It sounds like what it is, nonsense; a more equal society is a better one. So, how do we go about achieving it?

Small groups like us, talking and listening, leading to action, like campaigning groups, local food growing and cooking groups, Save Our Bank groups are part of the answer. Some suggested introducing the Citizens’ Wage to end poverty, wherein everybody receives a basic income to live on. There are pilots under way in Glasgow and Iceland. Others thought its implementation would be too problematic. Better to keep a range of benefits.

If some 60% of the electorate is not represented by the party they voted for in government, then do we need to build a progressive alliance to bring back more ‘socialist’ policies in power? Does that mean electoral reform and, if so, of what type? Or can Labour win a majority on its own, even after revised constituency boundary changes?

Sometimes, judging by the headlines, it feels like little positive change is taking place. Small groups, like ours, meeting on a stormy Saturday afternoon, talking about what matters to us, contribute to the good in the world. One day, we might just reach the tipping point, needed to make UK a more equal society, politically and economically. And, as our chair, Jonathan Dale reminded us, this would be fulfilling our testimony to equality.

As we got ready to go out into the dark night, we were presented with a challenge! What if friends created their own local Quaker Socialist groups in their meetings? The following day, I spoke about this in the notices after meeting. One friend unexpectedly came up to me afterwards to say he was interested. ‘Good’, I said. ‘I’ll send an email round the googlemail group to see who else is interested.’ It’s a contribution, friends!

So, you may well ask, what does a small Quaker Socialist group look like, and how does it differ from any other Socialist group? Well, that’s a good question. We haven’t got one yet but let me think… Each would have its own character, I suppose, depending on those involved but, probably, it attracts mainly older, white, middle class people, employed in or retired from public service. That’s not like Socialist groups these days, then? The manager of our local meeting tells me that attendance at local Labour Party events when they hire a room is heaving, particularly with young people.

I think a Quaker Socialist group would attract young friends to it, where we have them. Some would find themselves leading it in many cases. The group meets face-to-face at the meeting house or in people’s homes, as often as agreed, with food to talk and learn, a film to watch or text to discuss, perhaps a speaker. It also uses technology like Skype or Zoom to get together online, widening the circle, to discern what actions to take or groups to connect with and which campaigns to take part in or support.

But there’s hardly anything Quaker particularly in this, you might say. Well, no, I’m coming to that. I was once listening to an elderly Quaker friend, who had been active in local politics. He told me that, when faced by opposition, the thing to do was to crush it. And if they got up again, crush them still harder! Perhaps, this is the reality for many politicians today. But does it have to be this way..?

I’m reading George Lakey’s ‘Viking Economics’ at the moment. It’s an enlightening read. In the Nordic states in the 1940s and ‘50s, a consensus of people of all social classes decided they wanted to end poverty and worked out how to do it. They supported radical and progressive organisations (trade unions and political parties), able to take them there. This approach met with strong resistance from employers and banks, sometimes using the police and the military to break strikes, till they too realised everyone benefited from having a high wage economy. Rather than paying for individuals to be idle, the opposite seems to be the case. The basic income, in fact, stimulates the individual’s desire to work creatively and constructively, earning more and paying taxes. Everybody gets on with living now that they don’t have to worry about childcare, housing, education, health care, even eldercare costs, which are subsidised either in your own home or in a care home. The necessities of life are affordable and not a worry. So, people pay higher taxes at a level necessary to make this work and everyone buys into it because everyone benefits from lifelong ‘universal services’. So-called Popular, right-wing, anti-immigration parties support the safety net, even proposing measures to strengthen it, placing them well to the left of the Democratic Party in the US.

We Quakers have a discernment process, which we believe is spirit-led. Together with our core belief that there is ‘that of God in everyone’, it’s hard for us to think about crushing anyone, though we might wish for it at times. We’re only human, after all. Rather, we do what we can, individually and together, for the good of all in our society, advocates for equality and supporting good causes and campaigns, rebuilding belief in social capital, like that, which existed widely in Britain from the late 1940s to ‘60s. It started to unravel in the 1970s.

Such an approach also means accompanying ‘the good Tory’. They may even be leading the way, though, regrettably, I personally don’t know anyone, where I live, who is a Conservative. Maybe, a Quaker Socialist group could meet with members of the local Conservative Association to explore common ground..? I’ve no doubt Tories care deeply about this country and its people too. The idea that the richer people become, the more this wealth ‘trickles down’ to all of us somehow still holds on to the nation’s psyche. Does anyone still believe this, when millions of people in the UK are wondering whether they will have to make a choice between mortgage or rent rises and food or clothing for themselves and their kids?

In 1918, London Yearly Meeting approved eight “Foundations of a True Social Order”, which warrant revisiting today. Number 8 reads, ‘The ownership of material things, such as land and capital, should be so regulated as best to minister to the need and development of man.’ (Quaker Faith and Practice: 23.16). And American Quaker and author, Douglas Gwynne, reminds us that when George Fox published his “Fifty-Nine Particulars” in 1659, for the economic empowerment of the poor, Fox advocated that church lands be parcelled out to the poor for farming. Manor houses, church buildings, and even Whitehall (the government’s administrative headquarters in London) should be converted into almshouses for the disabled. Fines should go to poor relief, not to the lords of manors. All forms of patronage should be outlawed.’ (Douglas Gwynne, A Sustainable Life, Chapter 4, p.62)

It was Joseph Chamberlain, the nineteenth century Liberal Mayor of Birmingham, later a Liberal-Unionist, and not ‘the good Tory’, who pushed for and achieved great social improvements, leading to the city being called the ‘best governed in the world’ (1). It gained greater powers for local authority control, which addressed public health issues, housing, education as well as supporting wealth creation. This voice is still there within the moderate elements of the Tory Party. Occasionally, you hear a few of their voices, when discussing the roll-out of Universal Credit, for example.

I know Quakers as a body, The Religious Society of Friends, do not outwardly support one political party over another. Individuals can and do align with all political persuasions and none. Our disparate views are often reflected in the letters pages of The Friend. Yet, just as we meet together to discern our ways forward in our business meetings, encountering diverse, even awkward views before our clerks reach for a minute to describe the ‘sense of the meeting’, then so can Quakers work with others of all political persuasions to bring about the peaceable kingdom on earth…or at least in the UK. They fought for it and achieved it in the Nordic countries. Why can’t we? And how long does it take..?

From all this , you might think I ‘m a socialist. Well, I probably feel a
socialist. I feel all Quakers should be socialists…however, I don’t like
labels, which is why I’m a Quaker and prefer to hold issues in
the Light and see where the ‘still small voice’ guides me, us. I appreciate my
views are not underpinned by any philosophical thinking and I prefer it
that way. I can draw on new light, listening to all views without
prejudging, even to that ‘good Tory’, who just might hold a vital piece of
the solution.

Wikipedia, Mayors of Birmingham, Julian Ralph, (June 1890), in Harper’s New Monthly magazine, pp99-110