My 2013 

V2. 24/12/13

Stephen Petter, b 10/5/1937. 281 Redcatch Road, Bristol, BS3 5DY.

2013: Several highs, lots of lows.

Let's start with the pleasant events.

Florence my grand-daughter was accepted as an apprenticeship Chef.  Her several going-away parties were very emotional for all of us, and for her many friends, mostly girls (well, young women) but including boys. One night I came downstairs to find a young man moving silently around the house. He told me he was making sure all the girls were tucked up OK. Later I was assured it was OK, he's gay.

Jim achieved his M.Sc., and he is now a senior manager in the NHS, in charge of Paramedic training. He has also shared in the acquisition of a small yacht. I have dreamt of owning one most of my life but never got round to doing so. It is moored at Poole, where my father used to have a boat, the 'Puffin'. Sarah B (Jim's wife) seems to me to be much happier now that she is on top of her job, in charge of an NHS Minor Injuries unit. She and the unit have received several accolades.

A high spot of the year was the wedding of my nephew Richard to the beautiful and very talented Melissa. By an amazing co-incidence she comes from the small town, Comox, in British Columbia, to which my sister, Rosemary, Richard's mother, and I were 'evacuated' during the War. The wedding took place in Siena, Italy, in a very grand old Pallatsio, Siena's former City Hall, replete with renaissance murals, carving and paintings. The wedding party stayed in a fine country retreat.  I stayed for a few days before and after in a back-packers' hostel in the heart of Pisa. A week or so later there was a second wedding reception in a National Trust estate near Bristol. At both parties I did my wild dancing to the Rolling Stones ('Aint got no satisfaction') nearly collapsing with exhaustion each time.

I went to Italy for the wedding straight from Malaga, Spain where I'd had a good holiday with Sarah 3. We had an apartment about 100 yards from a good beach, and a short walk to an excellent local shop. We got on fine despite Sarah having a bad foot which meant little walking or standing, and I going almost totally deaf due to my only good ear getting blocked. The high spot of that vacation was the day trip we did to the Alhambra, which lived up to all expectations. Earlier in the year Sarah 3 and I had a week in Cornwall, staying in a friend’s cottage, rent free in return for dog-sitting. We spent most of the time on lovely cliff walks, and had three sea swims.

Sarah (Pearce) is called Sarah 3 (or, more recently, 'Saral' to use the Bristolian accent). My daughter is Sarah 1, and my daughter-in-law is SB (because nee Brierley). There are several other Sarahs in the extended family.

Carrying on with the good things in 2013, it was rather momentous because it was the year I managed to give up most of my irksome appointments including clerk to Bristol Quaker Area Meeting (AM) Trustees.  In June I ceased being clerk to AM Overseers (the pastoral role). I completed the job of registering a new charity (Open Wing Trust) and am now only a trustee of it until next spring. I also ceased to be the Site Representative of the my Allotments site. And late in 2012 I handed over the running of another charity that I'd co-founded, Friends of Sangam Foundation.

As clerk of Trustees I produced a much better – more accurate and more comprehensive - Annual Report than had been done in the past.  As clerk of AM Overseers I resolved a very difficult situation that had plagued the AM for several years. I had to be very firm in demanding it be handled in the manner I was led to accept, and it worked despite much opposition. Thank God.

I completed a year of Counselling in September. I think it has done me a power of good. Each week after counselling I got into the practice of attending evening prayers at the nearby Bristol Cathedral. I was often the only 'congregation'. These practices and help from Saral who is something of a personal guru or spiritual guide have helped me to be more clear-headed, decisive and effective. Another plus:  I had an article published in The Friend in May, in many responses.

 I am pretty healthy, doing a lot of heavy work on the allotment and in the garden, and I frequently do a walk which takes an hour and includes two steep hills. 

Now I need to turn to the negatives. It was in many ways the worse year of the last 10 years, in some ways the worst since my marriage broke up in the 1980s.I've already mentioned the job I had as clerk to AM Overseers. It took 8 or 9 special meetings, some of them very fraught, and much time and worry. Now, almost a year later, it seems that the process was a success. I have no relevant training but as has happened in the past, I have relied almost entirely on The Spirit's guidance and have seen successful outcomes. (One day I will write about all these occasions.) At the same time I was also very busy as clerk to Trustees. It is not right that one Friend should carry two such heavy burdens, and in neither did I have an assistant clerk. I was not appointed until late January, the early January meeting having been clerked by a Friend serving as a one-month stop-gap. So in addition the normally steep learning curve I did not get a helpful handover. On top of this a problem occurred which I had never before encountered in many years of trusteeship: disagreement between me as clerk or secretary/chair and another trustee, about the Trustees' Annual Report (TAR). It is primarily a report to the Charity Commission, but I and many others see it as a also a report to the membership and to posterity. This was on top of the fact that I was not able to complete it by the (unnecessarily early) agreed date, due to my Overseers workload. The dispute, which involved several emails and a personal visit, was very disheartening.

Another blow came when I was summarily dismissed as Site Representative of my Allotments. I had had what I considered a minor dispute with one plot-holder, because she had let a hedge grow across a path and after some unsuccessful requests I cut it back. I think she has influence with someone in the Council. I mentioned this disagreement in an email to all the tenants and the result was a letter to all tenants informing them I was dismissed, not giving a reason, which could be taken to imply I had done something heinous. In an email to me they said it was because of my 'totally inappropriate email'. It left me very hurt, after I had carved the whole site out of an ill-kept rough pasture, marked out the plots and paths, and done many hours of voluntary work in addition to trying to maintain good standards.

Yet another blow occurred when I said to the clerk of AM nominations that I would be prepared to continue as clerk to Trustees, and was told it was out of the question as she's received complaints about me. Why do people not discuss things with me instead of behind my back? This forced me to realise that for the 11 years I have been in this AM I have been marginalised. I was only made clerk to overseers because I argued that it was wrong for us not to have any AM Overseer functionality. I have never been asked to be a Visitor. I have been told I would never be made an Elder. I have not been appointed to any jobs other than administration ones such as trustees or premises. All this is very much in contrast to my standing previous Meetings.

The worst blow of all happened in January. In short, it was made very plain to me that my fellow members of my Local Meeting, Bedminster, were not my friends. I asked for support in my idea of asking to go to other Meetings with a message about the centrality of God in Quakerism. I had expected rejection but had been convinced I must at least ask. In that meeting I was vilified by several members, and even shouted at. This, and I think what I mentioned in the prevous paragraph, is due to me 'banging on about God'. Many of my former fFriends are non-theists. I  have not been back to Bedminster Meeting.  For the rest of the year I felt bereft. I attended other Quaker meetings and also services at other churches. I was much attracted by the progressive practices at St Stephen's (Anglican) in the City centre. I came close to joining Horfield Meeting where I was told by several that I and my ministry would be welcome, but I also found a strong current of non-theism. Late in the year I asked to have my membership transferred to Central Meeting, and by now I am fairly well integrated into it.

Another source of worry and unhappiness is that Jim and Sarah B with whom I share our present home, feel that time time is fast approaching when they will want to sell it. I had hoped this would be my final home (except possibly a 'Home') and I have invested a great deal of money and time making it near perfect for me. Even if I get as much as I hope from the sale of this house which is unlikely, I will not be able to afford any place with satisfactory space. In fact I am seriously thinking of and have applied for a bungalow or chalet in an Alms-house. The advantage is its location, very near St Mary Redcliffe ('the finest parish church in England') and near the city centre and shops, but its disadvantage is that it is very small, a bed-sitting room and a small kitchen and bathroom. I do have other ideas, e.g. to live on a boat, a remote cottage, or a place back in London, which would have to be in a very grotty borough to be affordable.

I have an immediate problem in that I do not know where to go or what to do about Christmas. I usually go to my daughter's but her marriage is breaking up and she does not want me this year, which is fine. My ex-wife has been invited here, partly because it was assumed I would not be here. I am seeking somewhere where I can experience spiritually-uplifting solitude.Update: I was persuaded I and my ex-wife would both be welcome. So we are both on best behaviour and so far all's well. On 29th I am going to London for a few days to help in an ICAHD exhibition. (Israeli Campaign Against House Demolitions)

I think that's all my complaints. Believe it or not at present I feel very cheerful and very aware of how fortunate I am. Saral (“S3”) and I have very wonderful deep conversations mainly about religious matters, and there are many things I value in our relationship.

Originally written on 11/12/13!


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