Monday, 11 December 2017

Modern Morality Tale

I finally had the GP appointment this morning which Clare booked me in for while I was away. It was needed for my six monthly medication review, and to discuss a couple of minor issues that may merit attention. I came away with a trial prescription for additional blood pressure medication. I've been on the same meds for the best part of ten years, and getting older, losing weight, diet change etc, doesn't always lead to desired improvement. The pharmacist who dealt with me was also interested in talking with me about my experience with the medication. I think it might be part of a piece of research work being undertaken. I can expect to receive letters about arranging specialist appointments some time soon.

When I visited the surgery last week with a prescription request, the reeptionist drew attention to an application form for patients in the practice to fill in, and request access to the practice's new on-line appoinment booking system. Recently I've been receiving tex message reminders of GP appointments to add to the email reminders from my dentists. As I abandoned the use of a paper diary a few years after retirement, I rely completely on Google Calendar and its notifications, delivered to every digital device I have. I vainly like to think it means I am more punctual, less likely to miss appointments and be in the wrong place, now that I tend to me more forgetful anyway. It does, however, depend on me remembering to switch on a phone or a tablet when I get, and on that score, I have put myself to shame a few times recently.

This evening we attended a play being put on this week in St John's Canton. It featured a mix of professional working with amateur actors who have been homeless. It was based on Charles Dickens' second Christmas story 'The Chimes' a project with the backing of the Chapter Arts Centre. The nave had been arranged with tiered seating facing inwards, and the cast used the south aisle and chancel as off stage areas. 

There were many songs as well as dialogue in the style of musical theatre, plus an excellent hi-fi sound and video projection system, well used to provide the mise en scène. It was a fine piece of work, given a punchy contemporary feel by the use sound bytes from May and Thatcher, in addition to verbal quotes about poverty, homelessness and the benefit system from current political discourse, This highlighted an uncanny similarity between Dickensian and contemporary talk of the poor and of poverty. 

I left, feeling aggrieved to think that the mindset of the rich problematising the poor has changed so much less that it could have. Really, it's the rich, refusing to share wealth and power which are the problem. As this was a largely secular take on past and present, it also occurred to me how much worse it would have been without the prophetic ministry of Christian and Jewish teachers, preachers and philanthropists. And how much harder it now is with a huge proportion of citizens losing their religion. At least this is compensated for, to a significant extent, by everyday Islamic philanthropy and good will towards the poor, exercised by by those who have little, as well as those who have much.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

St German's Advent Welcome to Bishop June

For the second week in a row, I celebrated and preached for a said Eucharist at St Catherine's, only this time it was at eight o'clock, and there were ten of us. I met Dylan, the third ordinand to be placed here for part time on-the-job training with St Padarn's Institute, which replaced St Michael's College Llandaff as the Church in Wales' ordination training centre last year. As a native Welsh speaker from near Llangollen, he spent the first half of his first year at Eglwys Dewi Sant, and is now getting quite a different, more common experience of settled urban Parish life in a benefice of Canton.

It started snowing during breakfast, but the temperature wasn't yet low enough for to cause problems on the roads, so rather than leave early and take the bus / no bus risk to get there on time, I drove over to St German's to join the congregation and Fr Phelim in welcoming our new diocesan Bishop June Osborne, presiding and preaching for the fisrt time. I was pleased to have an opportunity to meet her at last, and to see how happy people were on this historic occasion. She preached an encouraging and thoughtful sermon about prophets as solitary people standing apart from crowd in order to deliver the message of God. The future, under her fresh and different style of leadership will be interesting, not just to observe from the sidelines, but also to participate in. 

In our briefest of conversations, I raised with her the matter of the role of retired clerics in the life and work of the Diocese, and she said that she was aware of the extent of this, and intends to look afresh at what potential contribution might be made by the ranks of used aged volunteers. Given that many of us are fitter and active for much longer in life, but happy to have the freedom of a pensioner's life, there may be more we can do, as part of our Christian stewardship of time and talents, and be seen as part of the bigger strategic plan. Well, we'll see.

Later in the afternoon, I headed from home to the Stenier School in Llandaff North, for the school Community Choir's third pre Christmas concert. Despite the weather the audience was bigger, and the choir did very well indeed, singing a variety of material in Latin, Welsh and Old Engish. They were more confident, more cohesive, and thus clearer in delivery. My first carol singing opportuniy of the year, when in times past I'd have gone through half a dozen Carol services by now, and for this reason it was that much more a fresh enjoyable experience.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Dodgy Business

Thurssday morning, I didn't get ready early enough to be able to walk to the dentists for the second day in a row, and took the car, leaving myself half an hour to drive there. Just getting out of our street and on to the main road took half an hour. I began to think it wasn't a good idea, but the rest of the two mile trip took me fifteen minutes. It can take double this amount of time if there's a sudden hold up. The repair didn't take long, and I was home again just after ten. Clare had an appointment half an hour after mine. She used public transport and returned half an hour after me, lucky to find the traffic free flowing despite the rain and cold.

In the afternoon, I visited the CBS RadioNet office, where I found Ashley and Julie much disturbed by announcement from the 'For Cardiff' Business Imprevement District launching a competing radio network to ours. As if they haven't got anything better to do, trying to re-invent and reproduce as high a quality system for lower cost The process by which this decision was reached is alarming because of the lack of professional integrity shown by key players in two separate boardroom dramas, but I shall say no more. We have asked the City Council formally for an enquiry, and await a response.

Russel and Jacquie came to lunch yesterday, and we enjoyed a couple of hours good conversation.  Owain has gone to Geneva for a long weekend, and sent photos of himself and school friend Ludo enjoying a fondue in a hostelry on the snow clad Col de Sainte Cergue. It's twenty five years this months since we first took him up there, as a family newly arrived in Geneva. That was when I met the challenge and delight of ski de fond for the first time. I wonder if I'll get to do this during my new year sojourn in Montreux?

Today, with my sermon finished and printed off, I went for a pre-lunch walk around Thompsons Park and took some photos with my new DSLR, to help me get a fuller idea of its capabilities, especially in winter light. Later I went into town to buy Christmas cards, but felt disinclined to keep up the momentum, printing off labels and stuffing envelopes. Thinking abut an early morning Sunday start, I only watched the first of the two episodes of French crimmie -  'Witnesses - Frozen' on BBC Four. It's failing to sustain my attention with its suggesions of esoteric witchery. When you stop caring about the lead characters, it's time to go to bed. There's always catch-up in the week, maybe.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Winter watching

The week slips by quickly, or so it seems when daylight hours are this short. At least it provides an excuse for some catch-up telly.  At last, time to catch up on the Channel Four Walter Presents Scandi-crime series 'Dicte - Crime Reporter', series two. Its key characters are interesting and flawed people, working on harrowingly difficult cases, and trying to make personal relationships and family life work in mid-life and mid-career. It contains some funny true to life scenes of conflict in relationships. It reflects how much a professionally successful person owes to the understanding and support of family and friends. It can be comic in an un-contrived way, without being a comedy show. It's what I regard as excellent drama, like Inspector Montalbano.

Monday afternoon I had a session with Kay our osteomyologist, for a treatment on my back and also for a helpful conversation about managing the consequences of old injuries revealing themselves in ageing musculature, as these have un-noticed creeping effect on the alignment of bones, if they aren't checked and worked on regularly. Staying fit to function normally, let alone for athletic pursuits at this time of life takes time, just like getting up in the morning seems to take longer than ever.

Anyway, it was helpful and constructive, and encourages me to carry on using the special shaped neck pillow Clare gave me to try out over the weekend. Much of the problem I've had with disturbed sleep over these past few months has concerned getting and keeping neck and shoulders comfortable and relaxed during sleep. To awake from a couple of nights sleep almost free of stiffness and pain is a like a gift from heaven, not that it makes that much difference to getting started and active.

Tuesday, a week later than last year, I drafted our annual Christmas newsletter, and gave it to Clare to error check. It required two attempts to get rid of the flaws found, and there'll be another look at it with fresh eyes tomorrow, just to be sure.

This morning, I walked to Llandaff North for my dental check-up, in just thirty five minutes. Apart from needing the exercise, traffic congestion on routes through Llandaff make it difficult to predict a journey time. It can be ten minutes to cover two miles, or it can be half an hour. Traffic conditions can change unexpectedly.

It is bothersome that with the housing developments taking place to the West and North of Cardiff, no road improvements are planned, or even seem practicable through such a densely populated suburban area. Expanded rail services on the Taff Vale line will help to improve things, but there's still a missing link in the network from Llandaff North, which would facilitate a circular 'Metro' style rail route around the city, with connections from it to the suburbs. Infrastructure which our Victorian forebears created was sadly mutilated post-war, and will cost a lot to restore.

The dental visit was brief, and I caught a bus back home. Last summer's filling has cracked and needs replacement. Fortunately it's under a year's guarantee. So all I have to do is arrive by 9.20am, and that's a challenge either by car or on foot at that time of day.

In the evening I wrote a sermon for Sunday, then found the Channel Five TV catch-up app and was able to watch another episode of 'Bull', the first of which I saw last night. This is a courtroom drama series featuring Michael Weatherly, who until last year played one of the key regular characters in Five USA's NCIS. In this, his own series he plays a an expert psychologist who acts as a behavioural consultant to lawyers, helping them to plan their argument strategy to appeal to juries, on the basis of profiling jurors. Apparently, it has some basis in American legal praxis, but whether it's that hi-tech in the real world, I wonder. Weatherly certainly looks bullish, bulky, not as slick and stylish as his alter ego Tony Di Nozzo. This is the second series, apparently. Is he still growing into the part? The plot lines were a little too compressed and clever-clever for dramatic impact, leaving this viewer puzzled, and just a little underwhelmed.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Another Advent begins

Well, the real countdown to Christmas is now under way. To mark the changeover to the new year and its Markan lectionary, I resumed using the book version of the Breviary (as opposed to the on-line app) in daily prayer, Clare has prepared an Advent table wreath, so that every meal can have a little candle light to  bless it.

We went to St Catherine's this morning, where I celebrated and preached at the main Eucharist, with no music or hymns, as the choir and organised had excused themselves with the evening's Advent Carol service to prepare for. I would have liked us to sing a few things unaccompanied, but didn't want to disrupt the sides-persons, who were already distributing service booklets and notice sheets without hymn books. There were thirty adults and fifteen children present, so maybe I could have interrupted the routine, but on by first Sunday back in several months, I wasn't sure this was such a good idea. Why not just let things be different for a change eh, Keith?

Clare went off afterwards to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama afterwards for a midday concert. I went home and cooked lunch, for her to return to. Editing and up-loading photos took up most of the afternoon, then we returned to St Catherine's for the Advent Carol service. The choir did very well, and I was acutely aware of the difference it made, this being a Parish choir, with a strong sense of connection to what they were singing. I was glad to have nothing do do but sit with Clare in the congregation, and enjoy the occasion.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Saturday Outings

A trip with the new camera to Dyffryn House and Gardens this morning. It's as much a pleasure to hold as the Alpha 55, quicker to focus, and offers photos to play with which are 50% larger. I used my 18-55 kit lens around the house and gardens, and switched to the 18-280mm telephoto lens at the end of lunch in the cafe, to snap birds feeling at the table outside the window. This was where I was most hoping the upgrade would be worth it. I wasn't disappointed. An excellent longish lens and high-res photo size will produce better results than the HX300 with three times the magnification and 20% smaller file size, as it can focus and shoot faster. Learning how to get the best of this combination is going to be a photographic adventure for me.

The Gardens are mostly tidied up for winter, and bulb planting has been done With such a variety of trees, even without leaves they add colour to the landscape. Some are budding earlier than usual and winter flowering specials are already about their business. The vegetable garden is an array of vivid rows of green and purple Brassica varieties, with a dash of orange. An amusing sculpture trail with pieces themed on the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' is laid out, for children of all ages to discover with the map provided. Such a delightful way to sustain visitor interest in a quieter part of the year.

In the evening, we went to a concert performance of Fauré's Requiem, which was meant to be at Eglwys Dewi Sant, but had to be switched to nearby City URC due to a church heating breakdown. The choir had evidently rehearsed hard, but the last minute switch of venue can't have helped. It was accompanied by piano and organ. For acoustic balance, the organ could have done with being more in the background, not so much loudness but choice of stops used. The choir lacked the emotional energy to make the performance sparkle. I couldn't help wondering how many choristers, mostly of a certain age, were familiar with the meaning of the text, and where it fits in Christian devotion, and in Fauré's case, theological discussion, as he had a slightly unorthodox take on its finer meaning. 

Ours was the liberalising post war generation when the influence of established Christianity and religion in general on society became noticeable, and this affected education and religious literacy. Controversy over the critical interpretation of scripture simply led to more ordinary people being deterred from taking seriously or receiving its inheritance of biblical and liturgical information. Ignorance, like a disease has spread down the generations since, and affects attitudes to many things including classical music. People of any kind of informed committed religious faith are perhaps no more than ten percent of the UK population these days. There's an awful lot of muddled religious belief out there, as well as agnosticism and ideological atheism. The muddled that worry me most.

When we returned from the concert, I watched the French crimmie 'Witnesses - Frozen' on BBC Four, have seen last weeks episode on iPlayer, earlier in the week. I had a most annoying time trying and failing to convince the telly that I was an already registered iPlayer user. Perhaps it would  have helped to get the password right, still on a piece pf paper on my desk, and not in my password book. But, it still let me watch, so really what's the point?

The French spoken is mostly with a Pas-de-Calais, if not Wallonian accent, nice and clear to follow, not quite making the subtitles redundant, but rather making them less than vital to keep up with the dialogue. I'm not convinced about the practical plausibility of the plot, about a serial killer with ritual magic and child sacrifice overtones. Too many lingering shots of women staring aimlessly. I've not returned to watch the second series of the previous Spanish crimmie, as it had become so implausible as to be annoying. So much for entertaining Spanish conversation listening practice.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Part exchange

Yesterday afternoon, I went for catch up session in the CBS RadioNet office. Ashley took charge of my faulty electrical equipment and ran some tests with his expert equipment to establish whether it was the laptop charger or a socket board that caused the current to leak to earth and trip the mains switch, on by first day home. The charger seems to be fine, but the mains connector lead was faulty. I noticed the transformer getting warmer than usual, using it with a plug adaptor in Spain. Perhaps this alone caused the UK plug to flex and crack where the lead exits. Anyway it's a bin job. Luckily I have others . Next time I take the laptop abroad, I must be sure to find a continental lead to take with me instead. I'm sure I have several unused stored away.

I changed my Euros into sterling then visited Cardiff Camera Centre to check out if they had sold the discounted Sony Alpha 68 on offer lately and they hadn't. Its imaging technology is five years younger than my Alpha 55. The assistant asked if I was interested in part exchange and gave me an interesting quote. 

I banked the sterling this morning, and later returned to the shop, with the original telephoto lens which I hardlyever used, and another vintage Minolta telephoto lens which I never take out with me as it is heavy enough to need a tripod. Instead of paying £425 for the camera body, I paid £285, and got a spare battery added in for free. Only when I got home did I realise I had forgotten my dental appointment, for the simple reason that I'd not switched a phone on, and walked out of the house without one. It's unusual for me not to switch on and check out the news when I get up, then I get my diary notifications. Strange. I rang penitentially, half an hour late, and re-booked for next week.