Saturday, 23 May 2020

State of Alarm - day Sixty Six

That was the first night since I have been here, that I failed to sleep, or at least it felt like it. Remind me not to listen to the news last thing at night in future. It leaves me feeling so outraged and upset, in contrast to the long succession of peaceful nights I've had in this house, with the moon shining in through the shutters, and the occasional owl or other mysterious spooky bird in the distance.

'Onwards and upwards', as the saying goes. I made an effort to go and do my weekend shopping at 'Es Cuco' before lunch. For the first time I had to queue outside before being admitted. I didn't mind as I had a tiny sliver of shade under the shop's toldo to shield me from the bright hot sun, 26C today. I couldn't find soya milk - probably looking in the wrong place, and I forgot to buy a pack of beer, so after lunch I walked down to Sumo to get these. 

In between times I got to work on next week's Acts Chapter 19 bible study. It was very interesting to research, and got me reflecting on aspects of the content of the Acts which Pentecostal theologian Professor Walter Hollenweger taught his mission seminar students about in the Selly Oak Colleges thirty five years ago. He was a remarkable man, having found his faith in a post war Pentecostal church and being blessed with a remarkable inquisitive intellect. His published doctorate reviewed the field-work he'd done investigating third world Pentecostal churches, which contributed to the development of poor communities in an amazing way, through literacy and agricultural education schemes, often branded 'communist by US client states. I first heard him talk about third world Pentecostalism at a student conference in the early seventies. 

Maybe my memory is faulty, but I have a recollection that his formation as a theologian was influenced by Karl Barth, one of the great 20th century protestant reformers of thought. He offered students a very different way into thinking about biblical truth, not abstract and idealistic but rooted in the foundations of Hebrew thinking and acting. There's still a lot to learn!

I had a call from a congregation member who's been accompanying the family and friends of a friend suffering from coronavirus, who'd finally succumbed. He's been asked to go with them to the crematorium and 'say a few words'. It's what people often say when they ask a Funeral Director to recruit a parson for them, a trusted role which is a privilege to occupy and which I often do at home willingly. The trauma which the family has experienced seemed to me not to call for a stranger to be inserted into their time of grief, when there was a trusted Christian friend there with them, so I offered some resources from scripture and the Anglican prayer book for use at the crem. At my age, I'm less interested in performing my traditional role than I am in encouraging and supporting others as they are drawn into ministry by the Spirit. If we don't, I think the church will die anyway.

Friday, 22 May 2020

State of Alarm - day Sixty Five

I was enjoying a bright hot sunny morning on the day I was supposed to be taking a delayed flight home at the end of my locum duty here.

Then I had a call from Kath telling me that the Jet2 flight, the fifth re-booked flight in a matter of three weeks, the one she booked for me yesterday, has already been cancelled. Another blow, but what bad luck. If I had hummed and aahed over the booking and slept on it first, this wouldn't have happened. More hassle.

What we think is happening is that UK government policy about enforcing two weeks quarantine on people arriving from UK flights is actually deterring people from booking flights, not so much short stay holiday makers as business and domestic travellers wanting to return home or go to their jobs after a long time away. If there's not enough to cover the cost of running the flight, it gets cancelled. None of the airlines seem willing to be honest with the public and keep promoting flight bookings competitively as if it was still 2019. Such competition to get people's booking money in the face of a global crisis, instead of partnership is a lethal recipe for a dark anarchic future.

As Kath and Lucy run Wriggledance Theatre from their home offices, they are very skilled at digital research. Kath set about investigating which regular scheduled UK flights are running to judge from the published flight arrival boards of various airports, and seeing how that matched up with flight prices being asked - the higher, means the greater demand. It seems that Barcelona has a couple of daily flights to London which do run and are well populated. So, with the same connecting flight to Barcelona from here cancelled on 28th April I have a flight from Barcelona to London on 16th June.

I am not confident it will run given the inability of the British Home Secretary to think coherently about the consequences for travellers and airlines of anything she says in a market driven economy.
The way things are, I am being denied the right of return to the country of which I'm supposed to be a citizen. Sure this is an over-riding crisis time, but no thought seems to have been given to actually testing people as they arrive, or having a set up where they are tested before they board and receive a bio-passport, valid for travel within a limited time frame. Too much effort? Wait and see whether the entire British airline industry goes out of business or not.

Although very upset, I made an effort to complete the Sunday service and send it to Dave for web uploading. Early for a change. That at least took my mind off the anger and frustration I feel. I still find it hard to believe the country voted in this government so decisively, plus I am appalled that brexit was voted through as a consequence. Britain has vainly done its own thing rather than work in close partnership with the EU over covid 19, so the UK now has the highest death rate as the price paid for an 'independence' of thought which has not served Britain well at all. 

The temperature rose to 27c in the afternoon when I finished work and headed out for my walk. Not exactly the best conditions. But I have learned that I need to drink far more water to avoid feeling even worse. Clare has written to Kevin Brennan our local MP to ask if he will take up the case with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of stranded expats let down by airlines needing repatriation now a couple of months after the last repatriation flight left because the reason their reason for not leaving at the time no longer applies. There are Brits domiciled in Ibiza stuck in the UK as well as some others like me, stuck here. Fr Rhys's wife Eluned is an Assembly Member and she has agreed to pursue this through the WAG. I doubt whether any action will ensure, but the government needs to know that their ill considered policies have real world consequences, and that they will be called to account for their foolishness eventually.

Listening to Home Sceretary Priti Parel sounding off on the late evening news before bed made me realised that her words will serve as a deterrent even to existing scheduled flights. I desperately hope mine will run, but my confidence about this is very low. I will rejoice if proved wrong.

Nevertheless, as long as I have to stay, I can continue offering the on-line services until it proves possible to have real proper church celebrations again. It can't be rushed, Everyone is nervous in the wake of two months lock-down. Preparation and planning will take time and much care. I will be ready for whatever comes up. That's my job.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

State of Alarm - day Sixty Four

A beautiful hot summery day today, bright sunshine and blue skies, with the temperature rising to 26c, just the way I like it. Perfect for celebrating Ascension Day. For the first time in a couple of months I saw the condensation trail of a high flying jet crossing the sky, north west to south west. Just the one long distance flight. In the past couple weeks I've seen a small pale green prop driven monoplane flying around and wondered what it was doing. I've recently learned that it's on fire watch. 

There are observation towers out in forest high places, staffed at critical dry times in the year, but also this aircraft which patrols over the entire island, sometimes responding to complaints about local fires. Farmers will tidy up their land and burn what they don't need and can't store in spring until the end of April, early May, but then the land dries out and the fire risk rises, so burning is banned, and the man in the 'plane keeps an eye on all the vulnerable places.

Palm Sunday weekend, I did a little video in which I blessed this year's Palm Crosses and proposed that they could be received once the lock-down was over. We had no idea then when it would happen but it this year's cross, although it looks like every other, would hold special memories of a time in our journey of faith unlike any other. With easing of restrictions allowing small domestic gatherings it was possible to invite church members to come and collect theirs from the Chaplaincy House and stop for a drink and a chat, while observing social distancing - possible because of the generous and sunny front terrace. During the morning half a dozen people came. I enjoyed meeting new people and the conversations we had. Hopefully this will continue next week and thereafter.

When I checked my phone before lunch afterwards, there was another text message from British Airways cancelling the flight booked for 8th June, That's the fourth. Kath once more undertook to source another flight for me. It's impossible to have any confidence in BAe commitment to serve their European clientele, so she has booked me on a Jet2 flight to Birmingham on 18th June. This flight has been bookable for the past month, once Jet2 announced that they would resume services mid month, in line with the resumption of Schengen open borders policy.

British Airways has been proposing flights and then cancelling them without recourse to the facts. Ibiza airport re-opened to commercial flights last Monday, a date announced only last week, so it's clear that BAe has been speculating and playing with its customers once it has taken their money. It's really shameful behaviour for a flagship British institution. To hell with them. I won't trust them to get me home after this. Ever. I am going to see if I can get his matter raised in Parliament, as the lack of honesty is going to undermine any attempts to keep out airline industry afloat.

Later in the afternoon, I walked down to Cala des Torrents, and found a road I hadn't been on before which linked up with roads I had been on before, so another small piece of my map of the areas falls into place. I made a few pots of strawberry jam after supper, having been given a large punnet of strawberries in the morning by one kind visitor, too many to eat while in their best condition but perfect with a couple of lemons from the tree outside for turning into a fragrant flavoursome jam. Now that's something I didn't expect to be doing when I woke up on Ascension morning! Amazing that this morning I should also be given a fresh baked batch of scones by another visitor. My cup runneth over!

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

State of Alarm - day Sixty Three

I woke up to a lovely warm day and got up slowly, thinking of the Ascensiontide prayer video that I started preparing late last night. Things can be better to return to after sleep, and fortunately this was so when it came to completing the text. As there was a slight breeze, catching the trailing vine and the lemon tree at the front of the house, I positioned my HX90 where it could see both, and set about recording. 

After half a minute a car and some cyclists passed. Stopped and re-started. Then another half a minute into recording another car in the opposite direction. This time I paused to let it go past, then repeated the section which was being drowned out. It's what I have to do when I make a mistake with audio, and edit the errors out later, so why not with video? It was easier said than done. 

The Windows 10 video editing app is simply laid out, but far less easy to use than the old Windows Movie Maker which I have at home. There's simply not enough on screen help to use its editing tools, or it presumes you know exactly how it works. Well, you learn by trial and error hands on. Who wants to spend ages on YouTube bombarded by irrelevant ads and suggested videos, just to access a simple 'how to' guide? 

In my vocabulary the word 'trim' refers to removal of some kind of excess - hair, overgrown hedge -
using the 'trim' tool left me with only the bit of video I didn't want. How perverse is that! After several attempts, I worked out how to remove the redundant section of video, and then it was ready for uploading. Will I retain this information the next time I come to use it?

After a late lunch, I walked to the village nearest to the house, 3.5km away, St Agosti des VedrĂ . It's perched on a ridge above the main road, with the 19th century Parish Church in a prominent position with a large patio just up from the village store. The whole area is being re-paved at the moment, in a way that complements the essential simplicity of the building. Its architecture is in the traditional Ibiceno style, thick fortress like walls with tiny square windows, like the older houses. In fact, I could only find one window in the north wall and none at all in the south. I'd love to have seen the interior, but it was locked. There was a notice stating that a capilla could be found at the east end of the building for personal prayer.

As with other churches I've seen here, the priest's house is behind the sanctuary, with its front door opening on to a patio with a tree shaded garden area beyond that. The door was open, and the lobby inside had been turned into a prayer room. I'm not sure how that would work in terms of social distancing, but in a country village few people would visit at the same time anyway. I wondered if a priest lived in the house or perhaps a caretaker, and if it was possible for people to arrange to consult with him. My photos are here.

Monday, 18 May 2020

State of Alarm - day Sixty Two

I'm still needing a lot of extra sleep at the moment, returning to bed and dozing for another hour after morning prayer and breakfast, eight and a half hours if not more. It seems to be doing me good, I think I'm starting to decompress now, and can work at things without getting stressed.

This morning's 'Thought for the Day' on Radio Four was from Dr Jane Leach, principal of Wesley House, Cambridge. She's one of the Beeb's regulars and usually original and insightful. Like most of the contributors at the moment she was reflecting on her experience of lock-down, working from home, looking after the kids. 

She spoke about how time-out changed perspectives on life in, but also how invasive fatigue has started to creep in. Lock-down made space to do new things and be creative, but some ambitions don't come to fruit. There's still not enough time in the day, but worst of all is the depletion of energy as time goes on. 

She said how important it was not to struggle against this, but to yield, accept the tiredness, simply to let go, let God keep you safe. 'Underneath are the everlasting arms' as it says in Deuteronomy. It was such a blessing to hear this. It 'spoke to my condition', as Quaker George Fox would have said. If you struggle you risk depression and burn-out, the very things to avoid in a time of crisis. Well, this much I have learned, or maybe it's just my survival instinct, having lived and worked under pressure for many years, just like my father when he held key safety responsibilities underground. I well remember him saying to me as a teenager; "Whatever you do, don't take a job in a production industry. Your life is never your own." I saw the sense in this but didn't escape. The world into which I emerged became preoccupied with productivity or creativity in every direction, even the church. It was an effort and a challenge to learn just how to be.

Refreshed and relaxed, I enjoyed finishing off this week's bible study, and then putting together a BCP Communion service for Ascension Day, this Thursday, and then thinking about making a little prayer video for Ascensiontide as well. Everything's easier when I start in good time and don't have to rush. After lunch, I drove to St Josep to do some grocery shopping, then filled up seven canisters of drinking water, and returned, feeling pleased with the achievement, and went for a pleasant walk down to the sea shore and back. Rest, exercise, another attempt at an early night .. life continues and may even improve if I can figure out how not to overdo it.

My friend Roy, over in Alicante has recently been working on a project called 'Ideas World Cup 2020' inviting innovative young people to think of creative initiatives that could help the world get through the covid-19 pandemic. A fifteen year old lad from Cardiff is one of the finalists, proposing an idea that harnesses digital phone technology to virtual running events in cities around the world. An extension of what Clare is familiar with down the gym, where the treadmill screen lets you exercise at your own pace in scenic places, to forestall boredom. In principle it has a much lower carbon footprint than any current running tourism event. Amazing!


Sunday, 17 May 2020

State of Alarm - day Sixty One

A good night's sleep, and a quiet time of worship, which included listening to BBC Radio Four's Sunday Service, as well as praying the Offices of Matins and Holy Communion. This morning radio service reflected on the seven fold gifts of the Spirit, and offered profound food for thought. 

Prepared by a Scottish team, it's the second time in recent weeks that I've listened to a non liturgical non-Eucharistic act of worship from Catholic presenters. As there are plenty of on-line streamed Masses available for people to attend, it's really good Catholic broadcast media isn't duplicating these offerings but creatively stepping out of comfortable routine, drawing on the immense wealth of spirituality which perhaps would only be easily accessible to people in an organised retreat, or else willing to go on line and hunt for it. It's true we've all got more time to think at the moment, what's impressive is the quality of the offerings being made by faith communities.

This morning the impulse returned to work on my short-story-turned-into-a-novel again. I had intended to write more while I was here but this is only the second time I have loaded the file in fifteen weeks. Funny how it's possible to get into the flow write thousands of words and forget to insert chapter headings! That's where I left it back in February. What I needed to do, was to help Clare who is reading the first draft to navigate the second half of the 73k words of text.

When I was out walking yesterday I understood what I needed to write in order to turn the story towards conclusion. I only had a vague idea up until now. It's grown and grown as the lives of the characters have unfolded in my imagination since I started writing seven months ago. It was quite a surprise that it developed the way it did, and so easily.

I found it refreshing to work on something different and creative, just for the sake of it. Eventually I went out for my daily walk, and just had enough time for supper before our family Zoom call, so refreshing to see them all enjoying each other's company again.

Confirmed in the news this evening is that the Spanish government is re-opening eight airports to commercial flights as of tomorrow. Ibiza is one of them. The national State of Alarm with phased removal of restrictions depending on regional infection rates, and government powers to act without consultation have been further extended for two weeks, so there's no guarantee that airport opening will not be reversed if conditions require. Does it mean British Airways will now honour my home flight booking for the 8th June? I don't trust them. Pero ya veremos.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

State of Alarm - day Sixty

The emotional upheaval of two flight cancellations in four days has left me feeling drained, needing to hunt for resilience, which normally I don't lack. Thankfully I am sleeping well and have plenty of physical energy, but any time I stop to think during the day, I start to doze off. So I need to yield to this and take a few days retreat. 'Underneath are the everlasting arms' as Deuteronomy 33.27 says. Stopping, relaxing, being silent, being attentive to life's simple physical rhythms and not pushing at anything, a bit like floating instead of swimming. Not easy if you're nervous about sinking!

After breakfast, I walked down to the sea shore road at Cala de Bou and found a bay I hadn't visited before. The shore line is built up with holiday apartments, but there's not a great expanse of beach, as it's very rocky, with old eroded volcanic material I think. What did catch my eye was one of the five island 17th century watch towers, constructed like others on Spain's Mediterranean shore at a time when Berber pirates from North Africa were a significant threat in the region. I have seen them on remote cliff top promontories and just above isolated beaches. I took a long range photo of one we could see further south along the coast when we climbed St Josep sa Atalaya on Wednesday. This one is set against a development of holiday apartments, thoroughly domesticated. 

In the evening, Kath Anto and Rhiannon invited family and friends to a WhatsApp party to share in the streamed replacement programme for this year's cancelled Eurovision song contest, called 'Love Shine a Light', bringing  artists together via a live video link from all the 42 participating countries. It wasn't a competition, and only featured extracts from all the songs which would have taken part. It featured solidarity greetings from artists and musicians involved, a few of them veterans of the contest 40-50 years ago. A superb idea, brilliantly executed technically speaking, the message simply being, a morale boosting 'We'll keep on singing, we will survive this together.

I watched with interest, even though most of the music and performances were not to my taste, I love the energy of young enthusiastic artists. I had no energy to participate in the WhatsApp fiesta. Apparently over four hundred messages were exchanged in a couple of hours. Morale was definitely boosted back home. And across Europe and the rest of the watching world, I hope.