Freedom by Michael Healy

Michael’s response to the trigger

Freedom is a precious favour which most people assume is their right
But many have found their lives are restricted and so have to fight
Two examples were slavery and the African Apartheid system
Both were defeated by strong men campaigning against them.

Born on 24th August 1759 and died on 29th July 1833,
William Wilberforce was a leading politician and MP
He led the campaign for the abolition of slavery
Throughout Britain and the lands of the British Empire.

He campaigned most of his life against the evil that was slavery,
And as a Member of Parliament he could influence the laws
So when the Slave Trade Act of 1807 was passed
He had achieved much of his life’s aim.

In 1826 he resigned from Parliament because of failing health
But he still continued to campaign and eventually Parliament
Passed the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. He died just three days later
After the passage of this bill into law.

Nelson Mandela was another campaigner for freedom
Born in South Africa on 18th July 1918, he campaigned for
Freedom for the Black South African from Apartheid
The system of preference for White South Africans.

He trained as a lawyer and graduated from Hare and Witwatersrand Universities,
before Practicing in Johannesburg. Here he developed his political interests.
These led to bitter disagreement with the Government.
In 1962 he was arrested and charged with attempting to overthrow the state.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment and served 27 years.

With growing unrest among the black South Africans, he was released in 1990
From there he was elected to be President and set about rationalizing black and white.
This he achieved and his country is now fit for both black and whites.
With Freedom for both ethnic groups.


Bucket list by Kevin Murphy

Kevin’s response to the ‘Bucket List’ trigger:
Bucket List:
‘I am just a poor boy though my story’s seldom told’… is one of my mantras. My mother was incredibly practical, perhaps out of necessity as my father was not; perhaps from the make do and mend attitude of the war; perhaps because her father was a shoe mender – the inter war years being a busy time, but also one where customers did not return to collect the shoes he had repaired because they could not pay.
My mother got permission to start work not at the statutory accepted end of her 14th school year, but the Monday after her October birthday, just two weeks after war was declared in 1939. For decades after her father died in 1956 (from his Great War wounds – gassing) we had one of his lasts in our cellar.$_35.JPGThis had use right into the eighties – a trade secret to stop heels rubbing – gently hammer out the leather to stretch it.
One of our most famous family stories is about the time my Father got my sister and me to surprise Mother, who would normally wallpaper all by herself, by papering the hall ceiling for her while she was out at mass. All of us on ladders, he at one end, passed to Ces in the middle who passed it to me at the other end. We had difficulty making it stick in the stretches between us. It slowly drooped at one or two points and gradually, oh so gradually, gathered pace until it effectively dressed Ces atop her ladder. She was intrepid though. She did not let go her hand. She did let go of something else. At first the giggle … led to tears of laughter … before she eventually wet herself.
When Ma returned there was a six inch patch of paper in the middle of the hall ceiling, a twelve inch puddle on the hall carpet, and a wasted roll of the wallpaper we could little afford in a corner.
I do try to do all the jobs. Laying a hedge I swung the billhook back and caught the back of my head. Only the dufflecoat hood saved serious injury. I’ve electrocuted myself fixing the washer, and broken a finger dropping a car axle onto it. Though the list of fixables did reduce over the years, I persevere, I am intrepid. I’ve fixed the flat screen TV in the last year … but now I am a bit of a ‘Gunner’ and the list of things I’m gunner fix is getting longer again.
There is no need to fix. I am no longer a poor boy. Money in the bank making negative interest. My kids deny it when I sing ‘I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told. ‘
There’s a hole in my bucket dear Kevin,
I’ll fix it dear Diane…

Solution by Margaret Moreton

Margaret’s response to the trigger ‘word’:

Solution by Margaret Moreton

‘The word was made flesh … and dwelt among us … full of grace and truth…’ The word was “solution” and was proclaimed to the world. It too was flesh – nothing more nor less – and dwelt among us – full of dread and despair … and yet hope.

“Arbeit macht frei” – so many times have I seen this maxim proclaimed in news bulletins or I’ve read it in journalistic articles, but never have I felt the chill of its impact so deeply, as I stood beneath the gateway carrying its message. My mind ranged through the translated meaning which I understood from schoolgirl German, and which I’m sure lay behind the hoped for message greeting impending occupants. The dastardly underlying meaning hit me and clearly I saw the man who put it there. He who dreamt it up must have borne a triumphant, cynical smile across his lips. A more loaded welcome would have been hard to extend.

What did I expect as I stood there? This epic chapter of history I had lived through. Had I been asked that question in the late forties, my answer would have been different from that which I may have offered a few weeks ago. Even with that answer, I would not have come close to what now I saw and learned. I had seen photos of ‘striped pyjamas’, ‘Goon boxes’ and barbed wire, but none began to relate the choking horror of what was preserved, telling of what happened. As I walked on, between the harsh naked once-dwellings of selected and herded humans, I was eerily forewarned by the chilling silence, of the awfulness of what I had to address as I went forward. No birds sang; no dogs barked; indeed, in the vast openness of Birkenau, no rabbits scampered, no foxes prowled.

Everywhere was evidence of the dehumanisation of people; of men and women like you and me, and of children like ours. Names ignored and numbers used instead. Thus dignity was gone – indeed how would a number need – on demand – dignity? Clothes removed, comfortless striped pyjamas supplied in return. Dignity and individuality were gone. Barbed wire and electric fences corralled all, and all were watched by armed guards in elevated wooden towers. Dignity was gone! Even in death there was no dignity – corpses were haphazardly cast into mass graves, body on body. Unsuspecting souls were promised much-needed showers; instead were stripped, cornered and poisoned by Zyclon B, then cast into an oven inferno.

The stark reality of rows of supported wooden planks with holes over buckets every two or three feet – latrines in a very open communal area – no question of a label or a latch on a door – no question of a door. Privacy and dignity were words far divorced from the vocabulary of the master. The dormitories were grotesque – indeed the derivation of the word was a mockery – sleep could only have happened in exhaustion. Just tier upon tier of stark, rough, wooden, crate-like structures, each one shared by, I believe, two or even three people – often by corpses.

Seventy years of suns, snows, rains and fogs have not cleansed the chill concrete ‘shower-room’ of its awful gasping cries; of its bitterly dashed hopes for a future. It is still there, that aching mausoleum of innocents. Neither have those years cleansed and erased the shuddering ghastliness of the vast ovens, nor the sight of crammed heaps of empty Zyclon casks, nor yet the impact of the towering chimneys.

While I was there I bought a book: ‘Man’s search for meaning.’ Its cover carries the picture of an imaginary but splendidly vibrant bird, poised for flight, perched, on a barbed fence surrounding an open space, guarded by observation towers, wired electric fences and flood lights. I see it as a defiant salute to hope, despite the awfulness of Holocaust – a message voiced in its forthright writing. We all need hope in our lives. So felt the man who secretly fashioned a tiny rosary from his once-a-day ration of bread.

Towards the end of my visit, I became aware of the biting wind and my deeply blue hands. It seemed to sum up and underline the pervading chill; the insidious lack of any feeling of warmth anywhere. In quiet moments now, there still thunders through my mind the phrase, ‘Man’s inhumanity to man.’ I have seen in widescreen, pictures of those words drawn in abject sufferings. May they never be so clearly portrayed again.

The word? The word was ‘solution’. And the solution? Was it final? I think not. I was helped in my aching tiredness, over the last hours there, by three groups at various times: firstly by a party of young Jewish men, then by a party of Irish visitors, and finally by a French family. There lies something towards a solution, with natural barriers down and help given as and when it was needed. We can preserve our differences without resorting to aggression, if we have humanity, nation unto nation.

The Unbelievable Truth by MICHAEL HEALY

Michael’s response to the trigger ‘truth’:
As a group, the sad truth is that Human Beings as a race do not take care of each other. Indeed, through history the evidence is that Wars have sought better and more efficient ways to cause such harm. This truth was brought vividly to my attention some years ago.
The year was 1978. I was talking to the Chief Scientist of a company called Cary Scientific Instruments in Metuchen, New York, USA.
The purpose of my visit was to assess one of Cary’s Raman Spectrometers with a view to its possible purchase for research at Nottingham University, a mere £70,000 .
The Chief Scientist was an interesting man, I guess about twice my age. He was an expert in the use of spectroscopy for chemical analysis. Their machine was state-of-the-Art: laser powered, and computer driven. By comparison my machine at Nottingham would have looked out of date at Stonehenge. I continued our conversation by asking him what was his background. He explained that he did his first degree at Harvard followed by his PhD , and then he joined the US Army’s technical branch just as the war started. He found himself being seconded to the Manhattan Project – the Atomic Bomb.
He went on to explain the excitement of developing techniques for purification of Uranium and methods for measuring it. He had witnessed several bomb tests in the Mexican desert, which he said were astounding. ‘But none of us realized what the impact would be’. He then went on to describe the dropping on Hiroshima. ‘We were all horrified at what we had developed and the magnitude of the effect,’ he said.
I was slightly shocked to note he had tears in his eyes. He continued that as soon as he could he left the US Army’s Technical Branch and returned to civilian life.
‘Have a look at the pictures of destruction caused to see what it meant,’ he said to me. ‘Be careful what you do as a scientist.’
This encounter had a profound impact on me and ever since I have considered the impact of any research I do.
Oh yes, I bought the Raman Spectrometer


Surreal by Michael Healy

We moved on from the triggers of the essential elements into firstly the Surreal – for which this is Micheal’s piece by way of introduction, then up to ‘Impression’.


In the colourful world in which we live The skies are blue and our land has a tinge of green birds fly by squeaking in agitated  flocks,And fields of corn wave golden across a tree-punctured landscape or Crashing waves form a Dark storming sea.

But, not everything has to be painted by an artist in exact form. They may have their own interpretation of the world, As the work of our artists John Constable and JMW Turner.

Although these two highly skilled men had a famous artistic feud, their work led to some romantically famous, beautiful trees, cottages and ships, on canvas representing the British countryside of the 1880s.

But not all contemporary painters  used romantic realism – some of the painters used their own representation of things,  a style that finally became known as Surreal.

Salvador Dali was one such exponent.  Born in 1904 he was a great self-publicist for his work.

Pablo Picasso was another great artist of the Surreal style.

Like Dali, Picasso was born in Spain, in 1881, and became probably the leader of the Surreal Movement and sold his many paintings for fortunes.

Surreal art was not just restricted to painters on canvass.  Sculptors also indulged in that medium.  Henry Moore became internationally famous, for his sculptoral gigantism. He established the Henry Moore Foundation as a school to develop Massive  metal Sculptures, as was his style.

Not everything had to be obscure or massively oversize in the Surreal.

For example, the matchstick Men of Lowry: highly powerful but realistic and original imagery.

Michael Healy



‘Crying out’ by Kevin Murphy

Here’s Kevin’s piece from the 3rd March trigger ‘Gear change’

‘Crying out’ by Kevin Murphy

We were playing in the sandpit, Little Madam and me.

Somebody was crying.

I went to the back door. ‘Mamma. Somebody’s crying’.

Mamma came to the door. She could hear her.

‘Daddy!’ she shouted, ‘somebody’s crying, out over Jarvis’s.’

Daddy stands at the back door. ‘That’s “Help, Help” isn’t it? Sounds like a woman.’

He runs to the back gate. Mamma runs after him.

We run after Mamma.

Daddy can’t get the gate open. He throws my train. He throws Madam’s trike.

Daddy’s in the lane.

We are all at the gate – I stand against the post and Madam holds Mamma’s pinny.

All down the Lane, men at their gates, listen to the cries for help.

They run. The run across the lane, across the field, towards a point in the big hedge along old Jarvis’s farm.

The first one disappears in the hedge.

A shout. He runs out. The men all shout and run along the hedge to get to the farm-gate.

Mums and kids stand in the lane.

I cry for the poor lady.

Madam laughs at me.

I poke her.

Mamma lifts her up.

She looks at Daddy running.


The lady still cries, but we cannot see the fathers any longer. They have disappeared along the boundary fence and probably clambered into the farm. Mothers gather up the little ones and move together into huddles. There is some whispering and more attention and concern is displayed to the infants.

A mother sidles towards the side lane to improve her view of the men, to gain first impression of safety … or menace.

The rescuers reappear and the first couple give a wave to the gathering on the Lane.

The lady still cries out so the women look from one to another. I see Daddy and Mamma lets me run towards him.

I career into his arms. He gathers me up into his arms, laughing and kissing me.

‘Stop laughing at the poor lady, Daddy,’ I say patting his head.

‘What a ridiculous father you have Kevin.’ He looks around and shouts at the other men who are all panting and laughing and waving to their arriving wives and families.

‘We weren’t to know!’

‘Naagh, we couldn’t chance it.’

‘So frightening – real wasn’t it.’

‘ ’ark at the stupid thing – took no notice of us!’

‘Old Jarvis shoulda told us.’

‘Told you what, Daddy?’ asked Mamma.

‘That he’s been and gone and bought himself a blinkin’ peacock.’


‘What’s happening to the lady, Daddy?’

A true story. Mr Jarvis had a farm, now a scrap yard, across the field from Meadow Lane, on Jackdaw Lane, Oxford. My sister was actually called Madam by everybody until she got to secondary school. Clark’s got the idea for their shoe advert from her.


WHERE COMFORT LIES by Faymarie Morris.

WHERE COMFORT LIES by Faymarie Morris.
It wasn’t long after her 5th birthday that Rosie first began to question things. Her Mummy had been very ill and Daddy had sent Rosie to stay with Grandad Percy, Grandma Bella and Auntie Meg, until Mummy felt stronger. Rosie loved Grandad Percy and liked nothing better than listening to the stories of her Daddy’s mischievous antics, when he was a little boy. But grandad was deaf and often had to resort to an ear trumpet in order to hear her. Rosie was mischievous too and would whisper in grandad’s ear until he took out his trumpet, then she would yell loudly down it. She always made him laugh though. Her exploits amused him and he loved her to sit near him, by the fireside, and read stories.
       Grandad Percy was deeply religious and had been a methodist preacher, when he was younger. Sitting next to him in chapel always made Rosie giggle because he used to sing all the well-loved hymns, in a rich, baritone voice, but just a few bars behind everyone else. The poor organ player struggled with the ever changing tempos and was constantly having to readjust. But everyone excused him because he was a well respected member of the community.Then one morning, while she was waiting outside the post office for Auntie Meg, a snooty looking lady with long grey hair approached her and asked.
     ‘Well, who are you? You don’t live in Milton, do you?’
     ‘No,’ answered Rosie, ‘I’m staying with Grandma and Grandad.’
     ‘Who are your Grandparents? I don’t recognise you at all.’
Rosie, a little miffed at this interrogation, leaned forward to wave at Auntie.
     ‘Oh, but that’s Miss Wise. So how do you know Miss Wise? The woman’s voice was quite sharp as she glanced at Auntie, then sneered knowingly.
     ‘ That’s my auntie Meg,’ Rosie said, beaming.
     ‘Well, that explains it, dear. You must be Mr and Mrs Wise’s granddaughter.’ Suddenly her tone had changed into some sickening parody of the original. ‘But, but, that must mean you…you are Hedley’s daughter? Well I never.’ Realisation had finally hit her. She peered sideways at Rosie with a look that anyone older would have described as envy, then added, ‘your father…your father was…ooh, your father was such a handsome young man. I remember that all the local girls called him ‘the dashing major’ each time he went galloping past them on his horse.’
Rosie was getting bored now and started to edge away. The woman had funny eyes that weren’t even looking at her.
     ‘I hope you realise that your Grandfather is the most well respected man in the area. You do know that, don’t you?’
Rosie nodded absent-mindedly and turned away.
     ‘Your Grandfather is a wonderful, god-fearing man and you must love him dearly.’ She had said, suddenly spinning Rosie around to face her. Rosie shuddered as she looked up at this woman with strange eyes, now raised heavenwards in some ecstatic, beatified trance.
      ‘Rosie, come on sweetie. Time we were heading back. If you want those new colouring pencils, we’ll have to cross the road to the newsagents.’ Auntie Meg whisked her away, leaving the frustrated, indignant, cross-eyed woman behind them.
      The conversation had puzzled Rosie and during that long afternoon she had gone over it, again and again. She had considered asking someone but Auntie Meg was busy baking apple pies. Grandad was in the conservatory, taking his afternoon nap and Grandma was sitting in the bay window, knitting, so Rosie decided to do some colouring in, instead.
The summer-house was damp and smelled musty and Rosie didn’t like it but soon that dislike was replaced by the look on the woman’s face. It was so clear in her mind it kept getting in the way of her pictures. Suddenly Rosie threw down her pencil, raced to her bedroom and flung herself down onto the bed, sobbing. She missed her Mummy and Daddy so much. They would have known how to make things better. Her innocent, 5 year old brain had no idea how to process what she had seen or heard.
    On Sunday morning they all went to chapel. It was the week before Easter and the chapel was full. The lesson and hymns all contained the Easter message, delivered with great passion and watched over by an image of Jesus, suffering on the cross.
    As the preacher delivered his sermon, Rosie had tried to take everything in. She listened to each emotive word the preacher used and studied his overblown actions. It was soon pretty obvious to her that Grandad didn’t hear much because he kept turning his head and cradling his ear. Then, while they were singing ‘There Is A Green Hill Far Away…’ Rosie was casually looking around at the worshippers when she noticed the woman with the funny eyes, about 3 rows back and immediately turned to face the front. There was something unsettling about her, apart from the eyes, that is and Rosie wanted to go.
     She grabbed Auntie’s hand and whispered that she felt sick and Auntie seemed more than happy to leave. Of course she hadn’t felt sick, well not really but she had felt uncomfortable and once outside, felt instantly better. She had imagined they would just head straight back home but instead, Auntie sat on the low wall, outside the porch, waiting for the others to come out.
     Rosie wondered if she should tell Auntie why she wanted to leave, but didn’t quite know where to start. She was watching the antics of a group of rooks that kept circling and swooping around the graveyard. One of them landed on an old gravestone, a few feet away, squawked loudly and then did a long white poo and Rosie watched it slowly trickle down. It made her smile but not for long because soon everyone started to file out then milled around in the porchway, like sheep.
     Suddenly the lady with the eyes burst out of chapel, into the light, and headed straight towards Auntie Meg. Rosie didn’t know what to do. She wanted to go, but she was only a kid and couldn’t. She didn’t even want to look at the woman let alone talk to her. What should she do? The cross-eyed lady was coming closer and Rosie’s stomach turned over.
     A stream of vomit ran down the woman’s coat and dribbled onto her shoes. Rosie started to heave again but managed to turn away in the nick of time, and aimed it into the flowerbed. All the pretty flowers were covered in bits of food and the whole disgusting mess was slowly merging into the soil.
    The woman, clutching her handbag closely to her chest was running up and down. ‘Keep her away from me,’she yelled, looking at Auntie Meg. ‘She did it on purpose. I know she did.’
Auntie Meg winked at Rosie and said, in a simpering voice, ‘But, but, Miss Ellis, I did nothing, really I didn’t. It wasn’t me. Ppplease don’t accuse me.’
    ‘I didn’t mean you, I meant her.’ This time she was looking at Mrs Foster, the vicar’s wife, who also strongly denied doing anything.
      Rosie was so confused. She kept thinking of what the cross-eyed woman had said outside the post office and could make no sense of it. Rosie loved her Grandad. Grandad was a good man, the woman had said so herself and anyway, wasn’t God supposed to be good too? Well, if that was right, she reasoned, with the simple logic of a 5 year old, why is my Grandad frightened of God? When the cross-eyed woman said Grandad was a wonderful, god-fearing man, Rosie had been terrified. She wondered if Jesus had been frightened of god too…but she didn’t say anything.
     No one knew how she felt, especially adults because they didn’t understand. They always said, don’t ask so many questions, Rosie. You are only a child and children should be seen and not heard and must always do as they are told. You will understand everything, one day, when you’re older…
     The years passed by and Rosie kept her own council. She was 13 when her favourite teacher Mrs Dobb, had been trying to explain something that Rosie obviously didn’t understand, and ended up by saying,
    ‘Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions, Rosie. If you don’t understand something something adults say or if what they say feels at all uncomfortable to you, ask questions. Question everything Rosie. Just because adults say they know everything, doesn’t mean they do and, you know what feels right, don’t you? If you trust your instincts you won’t go far wrong.’
     And for the rest of her life Rosie had done just that. She trusted her feelings, questioned everything, and slowly decided, for herself, that there was no place in her life for god. God was unnecessary and as soon as she was old enough, had read about atheism. They were rationalists, humanists, sceptics and freethinkers and at that moment a light switched on in her brain. This had made total sense to her and just felt right.
     Atheism wasn’t even a little bit scary. Atheism was warm and soft, like a deep feather mattress and for Rosie, atheism meant comfort.