Posted by: Mike | April 25, 2017

Common Ground

Common GroundCommon Ground by Rob Cowen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t want to finish reading this book. Not because it was bad, far from it; this was one of those books which, as the end approached I had a sense of torn emotions – I wanted to read on, to see what was coming next, but at the same time realising that I was coming to a point where there would be no more pages and I would be left somehow bereft. Locked out of a story I knew was continuing, but I could no longer share in.

Rob Cowen is one of those unusual male writers who manages to be completely open about how they feel about something, revealing a rare insight into their deeper emotions, whilst keeping the reader captivated, moved and at times feeling part of the tale. I last found writing like this when reading the delightful ‘At the Loch of the Green Corrie’ by Andrew Greig At the Loch of the Green Corrie. In Common Ground, we are led on an adventure into a small parcel of land on the outskirts of suburban Harrogate and as the book develops are introduced to the many inhabitants of this edge-land. How this small, unassuming place affects the author is a significant aspect of the book, but it also leads the reader to consider how our own edge-lands reveal more of who we are.

I now live in inner-city Leeds, but I grew up in rural Warwickshire and spent a good deal of my childhood roaming a local spinney on the edge of my village, a woodland planted on what had been the deepest hand-dug railway cutting at the time the mainline first came through. Common Ground provoked a good deal of reverie and, whilst reading about Rob’s edge-land, was transported into memories of my own and the strong connection I still feel to that space. Sadly, my spinney is now enclosed by 2m high razor-topped fencing and is no longer the escape it once was and should be for new generations still.

One of the most profound aspects of Common Ground is the way Cowen transports us into the minds of others whose lives intertwine with the edge-land, be they man or beast. The story shifts, sometimes abruptly, but at others imperceptibly from one mind to the other. One is left not being sure where reality ends and fantasy begins, but the writing is alive and often the descriptive narrative is sublime. The author’s own, sometimes deeply raw life experiences are revealed, some provoked to the surface by the place itself and aspects of life many would choose to lock away are laid bare. It would be a cold person indeed who could read this without feeling impacted, sometimes viscerally, as the journey unfolds.

I did finish the book, despite deliberately reading it increasingly slowly as I approached the end – not wanting the experience to finish, trying my best to prolong the final moment. It is probably the best book I have read in several years. It did leave me wanting the next chapter, wishing there were yet more pages to come, but perhaps it is for the reader to begin their own edge-land journey and take up the story where Cowen leaves it…
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Posted by: Mike | May 15, 2014

International Conscientious Objectors Day

As it is International Conscientious Objectors day today, I wanted to offer an article by one of my favourite natural history writers, Richard Mabey from the website.

As we approach the various events commemorate the centenary of the Great War, I think Mabey’s comment in his article sums up my own discomfort with the level of militarised commemoration I anticipate –  “My own view is this: that if the 17 million people slaughtered in that ‘war to end all wars’ were suddenly to tell us their feelings, they would prefer to be remembered by fields full of larks than military march-pasts. Instead the wars go on and the larks are disappearing.” 


Richard Mabey: Poppies and skylarks among the horrors of World War One.

Posted by: Mike | March 14, 2013 Social Justice is vit Social Justice is vital if a country claims to be morally as well as economically developed…

Posted by: Mike | February 8, 2012

The Future of the NHS

I am so deeply concerned about the current governments proposals for the restructuring of the NHS, in all but name privatising a National service. I truly believe 5 years from now the NHS will have disintegrated into disparate, fragmented regional or local provision and what we currently think of as a post-code lottery will be as nothing compared to the mess we will be facing.

That said, my friend Andy Knox, a GP from Manchester, has written a very thought provoking piece about reimaginging the NHS and presents us all with a challenge for how we get from where we are, to a truly National Health Service which treats all patients and staff with equality, respect, dignity and love.

Have a look….

Posted by: Mike | October 11, 2011

Our greatest fear…

This weekend, I was with some friends as part of our kids church gathering and they set us various tasks to consider how we can make our worship part of our everyday lives. One of these activities involved reading a quotation from Nelson Mandela and then creating something in response. I was really struck by the words and it made me stop and think, in a way I haven’t done in a while, so I wanted to share this with you and hope it might make you pause and reflect too..

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Nelson Mandela

Well reading these words really challenged me about what I have done, do and am doing with my life. It caused me to consider all the things I’ve dreamed of being and all the things others have said I might or could be, and what am I doing about it…..

If you’re not following Roger’s blog yet, then take a look at this….

I am aware that more and more people are finding their way to this blog, who can’t be expected to wade through the many (now 128) previous posts. So I think it will be helpful from time to time for me to recap some of the crucial perspectives that are embodied in the ideas put forward here and offer some signposts on the way. Hopefully this will help explain what I’m attempting and make the blog a more successful catalyst for innovative thought. … Read More

via Roger Haydon Mitchell's Blog

Posted by: Mike | June 16, 2011

New Blog

Well, I think I’ve resisted setting up a blog for ages. I’m not sure that I often have anything of great import to say that will be of interest to anyone, but there seems to be a huge groundswell of movement towards blogging, and therefore I suspect that as the inspiration strikes me, I will put up something on the blog…