Tag Archives: creativity


Here’s a word I remembered recently: to bodge.

Bodging can be a problem, an approach, or a skill. The English word ‘to bodge’ has, as far as I’m aware, three uses: it can used as a short form of chair-bodging, the skill of making chair legs and other items from green wood; it can be used to indicate a repair which has been done badly, as in a bodged job; and it can be used to suggest something in between, something which uses the skill of improvisation to bodge together a functional, if not elegant, solution.

This latter meaning is not, I think, just a skill. It is an approach which takes the skills involved with whatever craft would be needed to do the job from scratch – to bodge together a repair in a piece of clothing, you need a basic level of sewing skills; to bodge a piece of electrical kit to that inelegant-but-functional state which is characteristic of a good bodge, you need to understand the principles of electrical work (but only some of the tools and none of the qualifications. Please note that, although I will admit to bodging myself, I’m not recommending you try this at home!). To that basic level of skill it adds an appreciation of the need to keep things going rather than simply buying new or beginning again, and it requires a few relevant tools (if not the ideal thing) and some relevant materials (if not just the thing for the job).

Some jobs are improvisational by nature. Improv theatre, obviously. Most things which require contact with the public need a level of flexibility, of willingness to assess what is happening and respond in the moment. Teaching, especially teaching as a visitor in a space you may never had visited before and with people you have never previously met, has a lot of this. These things might be good training for bodging, but I don’t think they’re bodging as such. Bodging is more tangible. You end up with an object.

But that object might not look quite the way it would if it had been new or mended professionally. Here’s the kind of bodging I learned from one my grandmothers: the cuddly toy with a glued on felt eye on one side to replace the broken plastic type, which remains on the other side, has been mended by a bodger. The skirt whose hem I turned up so I no longer trip over it, but didn’t get quite neat so that it can’t be ironed to flat, is bodged. (I tackle this situation with a bodger’s solution: don’t iron it.) If you buy a cushion cover, these days it usually has a zip fitted so it can easily be removed for cleaning. When I took a bit of embroidery we found in my other grandmother’s house and made it into a cushion cover with a bit of backing fabric I happened to have in my spares drawer, I didn’t have a zip, so I just sewed the cushion in – I did have to go and buy a cheap cushion pad – and if I need to wash it, I’ll unpick it and stitch it up again afterwards. I don’t have a sewing machine so it’s just done by hand anyway.

There are some tasks where I think about bodging them, but I come up short because although the thing is theoretically bodgable (or bodgible, or maybe bodgeable – eh, that spelling might not be elegant but it’s functional) I either lack the relevant skills or the collection of no-things by which it is possible to make something from nothing. Cushions, yes. Computers, no – although I know people who can.

What do you bodge? Is it even part of your vocabulary?

Reading Quaker faith & practice: Chapter 21

Personal journey: reading Qf&p on the train

Personal journey: reading Qf&p on the train

Friends in Britain Yearly Meeting have been invited, by the Book of Discipline Revision Preparation Group of which I am a member, to read and get to know our current Book of Discipline –¬†Quaker faith & practice –¬†before deciding whether or not it is time to revise it.

We are beginning with Chapter 21, Personal journey. This chapter contains selections of extracts about youth, age, living a full life, creativity, and death; these are partly arranged in a chronological way, with youth first and death towards the end, and partly not – some could be part of life at any age, and by ending the chapter with ‘Suffering and healing’, rather than death, reading it as a whole is not as bleak as it could be.

One thing that struck me about the chapter as a whole is the metaphor of journey for life. This is a familiar and much used one – we talk about spiritual journeys often, for example, and the image of travel underlies talk about finding Quakerism being like coming home. However, it isn’t always a helpful image. Many of us only set out to travel physically when we have an aim n mind, and the spiritual search does not always or even often work like that. Many of us find travel uncomfortable, something to be endured until we can arrive, and but this is not at all the attitude to life I find in these extracts. It’s all very well to say that the journey is more important than the destination, but that’s very rarely been my experience of actual travel. (In the picture at the top of this post, I’m travelling to work; I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be going if the destination weren’t important to me.)

Doubts about the title asides, this chapter contains some of my favourite passages. I can’t possibly pick out every one, so here are three which I find myself especially treasuring at the moment.

21.01. This passage by Rufus Jones speaks about how he came to learn Quakerism in a Quaker household. He talks, not of being taught, although words were involved, but of being shown, of the religion of his family being something they did together. It’s clear that there was teaching – including Bible reading every day – but that, in memory at least, it was also centrally about experience.

21.19. Dorothy Nimmo’s story is, as she says in the passage, a classic one, and it’s a classic for a reason. This passage reminds me of a debate I sometimes have with my friends about whether I am a ¬†Slytherin. (I am.) It also describes an experience I have had, and I’m sure many others have had, of coming to Meeting with nothing to offer except a need. “Whatever you have.” As someone who has been reprimanded in other settings for being too needy and demanding, I find the idea that I can come to Meeting with nothing but a need very freeing.

21.68. This passage by Iain Law speaks about suffering and death, and how the particular circumstances of Andrew’s death made it difficult to talk about among Friends. The specifics of this passage arise from a historical moment which deserves to be remembered as such; but it also speaks to a broader issues, to the problems which can arise when we are fearful of the reactions of Friends and hold back in ministry. I’ve done this myself – or at other times, not held back, and been met with confused, upset, confusing and upsetting responses.

Before finishing this post, I want to take a moment to address two questions that are asked in the introduction to the Reading Qf&p project: one about the history and development of Quakerism, and one about the authority of the text.

One big issue in the development of Quaker thought is discussed in this chapter – attitudes to creativity and especially to music. This chapter is clear that although early Friends were opposed to music, Friends today are not – indeed, we are broadly in favour of the arts even as we choose to use them not at all or only very sparingly in our worship. There are hints, however, of another shift – Quakers may not officially celebrate Christmas but in 21.25 we can pray for spiritual gifts to be in our Christmas stockings.

What authority does this text have? It inspires and suggests. This chapter doesn’t give instructions but recounts personal responses to situations which we may recognise echoed in our own lives. This chapter can’t have the authority f command because of the subject matter it deals with – too personal, too emotional – but perhaps it can have an authority of guidance: when you are in situations like these, here are some recommendations, some suggestions, some previous experiences to reflect on and, at least, know that you are not alone.