Sunday, 23 April 2017

Leisurely Spring Sunday

I could have done with more sleep, being tired after yesterday's walk, and it seemed to take me ages to wake up fully. Thankfully I didn't have an early service today, just the St German's Parish Mass at eleven. Afterwards, Area Dean Fr Stewart Lisk to chair the Parish Easter Vestry meeting. There was no requirement for me to stay on for this, so I returned home, earlier than usual for lunch. Angela was there in her role as Parish administrator, just three weeks after returning from hospital with a repaired shoulder strapped up, completely organised and ready to play her part in the meeting. 

She told me beforehand that she was now getting on well enough to dismiss the twice daily carer assigned to help her to wash and dress. She recounted how the carer expressed concern to Marisa, Angela's daughter, as she thought Angela was 'confused'. The carer insisted she'd been there for her since January well before the accident, whereas in reality she'd been visiting for two weeks. That illustrates, I guess, how much pressure people are under in the caring profession. Angela is a sharp and organised as ever, and hasn't lost her sense of humour either.

As it was sunny and warm, we were able to eat out in the back garden, which is looking lovely at the moment. Our apple tree has lots of blossom on it this year, and so far no rain or cold wind to dislodge it, like last year. Then, overcome by tiredness, the rest of the day was devoted to somnolent inactivity rather than strolling in the park, until it was time for the penultimate episode of 'Line of Duty'. This continues to be a compelling watch as the determination of the unpopular police anti-corruption team, is pitted against continued resistance to the exposure of a web of lies, falsified evidence, snooping and office intrigue. It's superb British police drama, but does tend to make you wonder how far art reflects life.
    

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Bay watch

After preparing my sermon for tomorrow and an early lunch, Clare and I walked along the Taff Trail down to the Bay wetland area, enjoying the Spring warmth, bluebells and cherry blossom. We saw a few pairs of Great Crested Grebes in the wetland area. We saw one couple performing mating rituals, posing to each other, displaying the full extent of their head plumage and elongating their necks. We saw one bird disengage, dive and bring to the surface something in its beak, which it then presented to the other. I thought it might be a fish, but on checking later with a decent bird book, learned that it was fishing for strands of seaweed to offer. 

Being a good fifty meters offshore, my photos were taken almost at full length zoom with my HX300 so the quality and composition wasn't wonderful. Clare remarked that I'd have been better off taking video. Funny, all my Sony cameras make a good job of this, but it never occurs to me to use the built in facility. But I still enjoy the challenge of old school 'hunt 'n shoot'. This is one of the better shots.
We had tea in the Millennium Centre, then caught buses to take us back to Pontcanna, as we were both quite tired after a four and a half mile walk. Later, after supper I watched the third in the  Danish series 'Department Q'. This time an investigation into the disappearance of children from families of Christian religious sects, due to a murderous psychopath convinced he was an agent of the devil with a mission to destroy the faith of true believers by making them helpless witnesses of unspeakable suffering of innocent children. 

It was pretty nasty stuff, but it gave me cause for thought. One of the detective heroes is a practising Muslim. The other is an atheist who claims to hold no belief in God or anything metaphysical. His only conviction is that justice must be pursued regardless of the cost to himself or others, and that no crime victim should go without redress. The conversation is fragmentary and disjointed like the characters themselves. The atheist nearly loses his own life to rescue two kidnapped children, and it's the Muslim who finally catches the perpetrator, and drowns him in the sea in a life or death struggle with the diabolical killer.

Earlier in the film there were images of the religious sect practicing full immersion baptism in church so these resonated with that of the killer drowning as he resisted subjugation and arrest. It reminded me of parents speaking about babies crying at the font when they have water poured over them, as 'crying the devil out'. The film auteur plays with religious themes and symbols, raising the question of whether the existence of evil is more tangible and oddly credible than that of goodness. 

The atheist survives, his unbelief intact, just grateful to see children restored to their widowed mother. It's the religious man who is compelled to use lethal force at close quarters to stop the perpetrator's violence in its tracks, aware of the trail of death left behind him in a hospital. Experiences which will impact upon this kind, gentle and devout man. It's the kind of paradox which is not at all foreign to those who serve in security forces or the military, while the rest of us remain, for the most part unaffected. I what would Kierkegaad, that 'melancholy Dane' have made of this, I wonder?
      

Friday, 21 April 2017

Easter reunion

I wasn't called on to celebrate at St John's yesterday, as there are no weekday services in Easter week, to free the Parish clergy to take time off, so I had a lazy morning, with a walk around the park in the afternoon, without taking a rubbish collecting bag with me, for a change. I collected and binned half a dozen bottles and cans during my hour's walk anyway, but the park was unusually tidy after the Easter weekend and bank holiday.

I drove over to Ely for a bereavement visit at six, relating to the first of two funerals I'll be taking in St German's next week. Unusually, both are for people in their sixties, i.e. just a bit younger than me. Most of those I do are of people ten to twenty years older than me, as the average lifespan has risen so much during my lifetime in ministry.

I went to St John's city Parish Church for the midday Eucharist this morning, and a lunch date with my Romanian friend Dr. Laura Ciobanu, on a flying visit to see old friends and colleagues in Cardiff. I missed the bus that would have taken me there in time for the start of the service, and sat quietly in the nave, resisting the temptation (and the invitation of the Vicar) to make a disruptive late entry. It's better sometimes just to sit quietly and receive in silence.

Laura and I ate and chatted in the church tea room, re-branded 'The TeaSpot' these days. I'm glad to see it's open regularly again, with new volunteer teams. Vicar Sarah Rowland Jones and Curate Rhian Lineker shared the service, as Sarah's voice was cracking up after a busy few weeks. She recruited me to take a midweek Eucharist on her behalf when both of them are away in the first week of May. That'll be nice. Many of those still attending were regulars when I was the Vicar there - already seven years ago at the end of this month. It's always a pleasure to go there and be greeted by friends, old like me.

It's good to see there's been an exhibition of prints on themes taken from the Stations of the Cross in the north aisle exhibition area these past few weeks by local artist Wendy Batey Roberts. The aisle also still hosts a charity card shop in November and December, and church social events. Getting rid of old redundant chairs to clear the space and keep it free of clutter during my time was well worth the effort, though the credit for taking the initiative and maintaining the area clutter free belongs to organist Phil Thomas. The cleared north aisle came in handy for storing organ pipes during the period when the Father Willis instrument was being restored to its early glory, It's still going strong and the monthly Friday organ recitals continue, with healthy audiences.

After parting company with Laura at three, I wondered around the shops aimlessly for a while, then headed home for tea and a dull evening in front of the telly.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Meditating the Emmaus journey

This morning I went to St German's to celebrate the midweek Mass. No school children with us today, so it was in the Lady Chapel, quiet and reflective. After a quick cup of coffee and a chat about funeral arrangements for next week - I have two at St German's, one Wednesday and another Friday - I returned home to collect Clare and Diana to drive to Ruth's place in Tonyrefail for the Ignatian meditation group. Co-incidentally, the scriptural passage we used was the Road to Emmaus resurrection story, which was the Gospel for the day I'd read and reflected upon earlier. It was good to spend further time pondering over it. 

My imagination was attracted to constructing the conversation between Jesus and the travellers, how he'd have started from what they told him about events in Jerusalem, but brought them naturally around to seeing how what happened could be understood from scriptures they were familiar with by weaving it into the conversation as he listened to them pour out their puzzled hearts. It was rewarding, along with table talk with friends over lunch.

We drove back, I had a snooze for a while, then walked to the bank to deposit a cheque, and popped in to Stavros Constantinou's Salon next door for a belated hair-cut before returning home. Before I could do more than answer a few emails, it was time to cook supper. Later we watched the latest 'Benidorm' episode, always good for a doze of knockabout comedy, double entendres and sometimes ribald jokery. This Costa Blanca holiday resort is such a popular venue among Brits. Its portrayal of an all inclusive holiday hotel is affectionately mocking, and does well with its touching happy endings. Truly comedic. Straight after this we caught part 2 of this week's Hinterland, specialising in tragic and dark endings. An odd contrast, just before bed, come to think of it.
  

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Geeky downtime

A lie-in followed by an idle day was just what I needed. I frittered time away attempting to convert an old Memory Stick Duo into a bootable Fedora Linux live medium in a USB card reader. A couple of days ago, I downloaded the latest Fedora ISO, both 32 and 64 bit versions to start with, aiming to try out on live the five year old Acer Core i3 laptop bequeathed me by Kath, currently running Linux Mint rather sweetly. 

I reformatted the Memory Stick and used a Mint utility to install the ISO on it. Neither 32 nor 64 bit versions worked. With trial and error, I realised Fedora's ISO wasn't happy loaded on a FAT16 or FAT32 filesystem. I reformatted to EXT4 filesystem, and the 32 bit ISO proved bootable. I must have a go at the 64 bit version eventually, to see if it will work on this old Core i3 machine. Being able to run any live version this way proved satisfying. I like the way Fedora's Gnome user interface works, and its reasonable performance under the circumstances. So then, I attempted a full installation of Fedora, not on the Acer's hard drive, as I didn't want to mess up Mint, but on the spare hard drive I've had sitting in a USB dock, since I retrieved it from the deceased Dell XPS.

Everything worked fairly well eventually, although Fedora's Anaconda installer bewildered me when it came to assigning full disk space, as I didn't really understand what it was asking me to do, as the drive in question was already partitioned ready for a Linux install, though not in a way Fedora was prepared to make sense of. Deleting the drive partitions and leaving Anaconda to do the rest worked, however, and in the end I was in possession of a bootable USB hard drive. It seems a little slow running to me, but maybe if physically installed in the machine, it would perform better. On the other hand, Gnome is not a lightweight user interface, compared to Mate on Linux Mint. Well, we'll see, when I next have an opportunity to tinker.

At teatime, I went out to Chapter to return two weeks worth of canvas carry bags for our organic veggie order, due tomorrow, then walked to the NatWest ATM on Cowbridge Road, to draw some money out. Since the start of the Triduum, I've had neither time nor opportunity for litter picking. On this journey of just over a mile, I picked up forty four pieces of litter. The forecourt area in front of the bank boasts a generous wheelchair ramp. There was an amazing amount of litter, paper cups, fag packets, a few cans and bottles, paper and plastic in this area, I admit that I wondered when it was last cleaned. But, as this is private property, not public realm, I made no effort to pick anything up. I tweeted about the mess instead, in the hope someone will notice.

After supper, a telly free evening, for a change. Plenty to read and think about, with Teresa May calling a General Election in the hope of increasing support for her brexit intransigence. I keep wondering what the possibility is of the electorate expressing concern and displeasure at the entirely foreseeable consequences of the referendum, and a government unable to agree, announce and implement a coherent strategy, by voting them out of office. A rainbow coalition of opposition parties might succeed in bringing Britain back from the brink, but that would be a miracle of co-operation beyond belief as the campaigning begins. But in these days of social media, six weeks is a very long time in politics, and many things can can, both for better and for worse.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Bank holiday outing

After a late breakfast, we drove to Cold Knap beach car park, west of Barry, then climbed from there up to the Coast Path and followed it to Porthkerry Country Park, about a mile along the coast. We had a coffee there, and were able to walk back along the beach, as the tide had gone out sufficiently to make it possible. By this time is was getting on for two, so we drove to a Co-op store on College Road Barry, and picnicked on sandwiches bought there before driving Owain to Cardiff Central station to catch a train back to Bristol. 

We then drove to Homebase on Newport Road, to get some plant nutrient and a new weighing scales, as ours died last week, after decades of use. We also called at Curry's digital, so that I could browse the new acquisitions and sale stock, and buy a Bluetooth mouse to use with one of my PCs with a dearth of USB ports. At ten quid it's worth the effort of finding out if using a Bluetooth  connection regularly is as good as should be.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Keeping the feast

I was grateful for a little longer in bed than usual this morning, as I didn't have an early service before going to St German's, especially as I had a sermon to prepare before retiring to bed after midnight. We were thirty five in church for the Solemn Mass of Easter Day. Such a low attendance is to be expected until word gets around about the arrival of a new Parish Priest, and the establishment of a relationship between a new pastor and the local community. It was, in any case, a joyous celebrations, not lacking in enthusiasm at all.

After Mass, a crowd of more than sixty arrived for the baptism of Skyla, whose mother brought her to church on a Sunday within a day of her birth, several weeks ago. Great-Grandma is a regular attender at church, so Skyla's first appearance was a special moment for the congregation, and her mum kept on bringing her subsequently. I returned home feeling full of the new life of Easter.

Owain came over to join us for lunch and to stay overnight. We had Paschal Lamb, and a lovely bottle of Bourgogne Pinot Noir, one of our favourites. After several hours of idleness following lunch, we had a walk around Llandaff Fields, and later enjoyed the latest twists and turns in this week's episode of 'Line of Duty' on TV before bed.

I'm pleased with myself that for the four main Masses of the Triduum I wrote fresh new sermons, without any need to re-visit stuff in my archives. I'm amazed at how insight comes, thought it may not be a coincidence that the given liturgies of each day have been supported by experienced teams of servers, making it possible for me not to have to divert energy into forms of worship, being comfortable with what the others involved were also comfortable with. Being able to produce an original sermon for the occasions is related to not having to worry about the rest of the service.