Friday, 30 April 2010

Moving day

Today as well as moving day is offically my day of retirement from being Vicar of St John's. And the sun shone!

Clare slept over at the new house last night to await the BT Openreach engineer's visit to equip us with a live phone line. Having retired late after shredding, I awoke to the sound of the removal men knocking the door, and hour earlier than they'd told me. It was a bit of a shock and I blundered around in a dressing gown for half an hour, trying to get breakfast and issue instructions to them. Still, I recovered, and set to dismantling the bed, having been thrown into confusion by the early disappearance of the tool kit. As it happened, when I stopped panicking the necessary allen key was close to hand, and all I had to do was remember how I had put the bed together in the first place.

Apart from that, the clearing of the house in two van loads was done by lunchtime, and the piano was moved separately early afternoon. I was able to fetch the car and transport all our clothes (no wardrobe containers had been supplied) in two trips. By three it was all over, and our new Meadow Street abode was full of furniture with fifty odd boxes and crates to unpack. The phone worked, though when broadband arrives is something we'll need to enquire about.

In a quiet moment at the Vicarage, when all the floors were empty of furniture, I took out the farewell greetings cards presented to me at the end of term service, and took photographs of them, as their size and number made it impossible to hang on to in the wake of the great clear out now in progress. I found then very touching, as I'm sure you will - you can view them here.

Everything else about the day is a blur of activity amid mountains of containers. But, we ate a cooked meal at our own kitchen table and slept in our reconstructed bed under own own duvet, both aching and exhausted, but so happy to be home, in our own home and not a tied cottage for the first time in forty four years of marriage. Laus Deo!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Vigil at the shredder

The past few days has been taken up with packing and taking redundant stuff to the rubbish dump. All our paintings and electronic kit has been shipped over to the new house by car, to avoid any possibility of damage during the move. There's just one more thing to tackle, and that's the remains of work materials archived in boxes up in the attic. I made a start on this a month ago, and lost heart after dumping a third of what I had. Now most of the rest has to go as there's not room to keep it where we're going. There's so much correspondence, decades of it, also minutes and reports and study materials generated in different jobs for different people and needs. Stuff from the past 20 years I have digital versions of, so it's the older stuff that has to go. So finally, I spent three late hours with the shredder in the kitchen, filling green sacks for recycling.

In the course of doing this a sermon text dropped out of a pile of correspondence, dating from 1983. It was one of few I preached at St Alban's Westbury Park in the year we lodged in the Parish's empty Vicarage while I did a teacher training course. I was preaching about the WCC General Assembly in Vancouver, just opening, but the opening section of the sermon was all about moving house. I preached it, in fact, on the evening before the removal van arrived to ship our worldly goods across the River Severn to Chepstow, where we lived during the seven years I worked for USPG.

What an extraordinary co-incidence. Also a revelatory one. It read as if I could have composed it this morning. My thoughts and feelings about carrying all this baggage around in life had not really changed in the course of 27 years since preaching, and sixteen house moves since we got married.

Going through lots of old stuff awakens memories both pleasant and painful. Some of the shredded material I was glad to let go of because of the unhappiness associated with it, things I'd been happy to put behind me. Why keep it until now? Essentially, it's the fear of losing contact with all those many buried memories, the fear that what I choose to remember will be a distortion of the truth and therefore a failure to learn from my own past. You have to put this in the context of believing that one day I will write a full memoire of my years in ministry through four decades of rapid change. This is less than likley nowadays, however. The critical editor's question - who's your audience, who'd be interested in anything you have to say? has stalked me increasingly during this past decade. Thankfully, blogging provides me with a constructive alternative to sucking up to powerful publishers or wasting time and money on trying to produce my own book.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Day of rest and gladness

I awoke early enough to take an eight o'clock service, but this morning didn't have to, as I'm on leave, so I relaxed in bed and wondered where to go to church today. I ended up with the default venue - Llandaff Cathedral - and for the first time heard the new organ. It looks superb, a fine addition to one of the city's treasured, if under-promoted buildings. Let nobody moan about the cost, high quality is expensive, and as long as there's no penny pinching about maintenance, it will have centuries of life, unless it falls victim to a unforeseen revolution in musical taste.
There were about three hundred people there, with quite a number of young families. Everything was beautifully done, as ever. It was impressive to get through a full sung service, with a decent length sermon and baptism in sixty five minutes, though to my liking the pace was rather brisk. The same liturgy steered by me would last ten minutes longer - more pauses to ponder. Children's presence and activities during the service notwithstanding, I find it hard to get used to the hum of conversation post-communion, being used to more contemplative silence among the little flock at St John's. Nevertheless, it's just good to be on the receiving end, and not to have to think about whatever comes next. A real liturgical holiday.

I left the car in the UWIC car park to give myself a couple of minutes walk alongside the churchyard before and after. When I left, there were a hundred or so adults and children out and about, getting ready for the other religious event of the morning - junior rugby matches. The timing of these events gives some families a real conflict of interest, between the demands of sport and worship. I don't suppose that's ever been any different, since the time of the ancient Greeks. Does sport have more to offer to young families by way of encouragement and inspiration than Christian worship? If so, maybe the churches need to revisit what pastoral care and liturgy are meant to achieve in the nurture of rising generations.

An acquaintance among departing worshippers hailed me as I was crossing the car park: "Unemployed?" she said with a grin. I smiled and waved back. No small talk this morning. A wren began to chirrup loudly in a churchyard tree above my head. The fact that I could listen to it attentively without being distracted by busy Sunday thoughts filled me with great pleasure.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Introducing Ben

Moving into a house occupied by all our children at different times and only occupied by us in between jobs when we returned from Monaco means we have now become pet owners. Rachel's cat Ben-jammin' is the longest resident of all, about fourteen years, we think. Mostly he eats and sleeps now, and occasionally comes for a stroke. He doesn't mind who feeds him, but the building activity, plus Clare and I busy around the house disrupts his comfy routine, so he occasionally takes off and sleeps in someone else's garden. That's a temptation I have to resist for the next week or so.

I'm starting the pack books in my study now, and thinking I could have weeded more out in advance to give to the Churches Together Bookshop. Clare has all the rest of the shared library neatly packed and stacked. Then there's all the CDs and tapes to do. I'm daft enough to think that there will be enough time to listen through the whole of our thankfully small vinyl collection and digitize at least some of them in the coming months, before selling them on and getting rid of the record deck. It means extra bother and encumbrance as we move, and I don't know how I'm going to fit the kit into a study that will be half the size of my present one. Woe unto you who have so many possessions, as Jesus said.

Yesterday we worked over in the Meadow Street House erecting the new bike shed in bright sunshine and pleasant temperatures. It all went easily enough, including handing the doors. There was a moment of pleasant recollection, when Clare fished out for use a small handy screwdriver set which was a gift from my dear friend Valdo when he came from Switzerland to Monaco for a few days to help us get ourselves organised after our move there from Geneva, over eight years ago.

The bolts supplied for securing the doors had no screws with them, so this took hours of hassle to sort out, as almost every kind of screw we had was too large, and split the wood. My hands, arms neck and shoulders are stiff today as a result of all the contortions involved, fixing screws in the most awkward of places. All that remains to do now is to fit the roofing felt, and move the bikes over, except that mine needs a professional overhaul after a wheel change that has left me with a derailleur that doesn't quite fit as it should, and I can't figure out why.

Post, phone and email have been quiet this past working week, with only a handful of things to deal with and refer onwards. There's nothing new in this at a Vicarage. Demand on the services of a Vicar, outside of the set routines of worship, however trivial or mighty, are irregular, and can switch from drought to deluge without warning. People think clergy are always busy, and whilst there are always things to do in quite times, it's not always the case because of variability of demand. Now, for the first time time in a working life where I was always responsible for managing my own time, I don't have to feel uneasy if nothing's happening, and wonder what I should be doing next. For the coming days there's really only one thing that matters, and that's moving house. (He says guiltily slipping out another blog posting, instead of applying himself to packing.)

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Make his paths straight

The sun still shines on us in Cardiff, while we go through the multitude of tasks to prepare our new home and empty the Vicarage of all our wordly goods. Taking down all the pictures and photos yesterday and moving them across made me realise we have a lot of re-thinking to do, as we have fewer as well as smaller walls for display, and will not have the space to display so many treasured items.

There were a few items of mail to drop off in St John's, on my way through the centre this morning. I was delighted to see that the work on the south churchyard path is now complete, and it looks good indeed.

For me, it's a nice image - one more project brought to completion, after three years of hassle and headache. It's new and safe at last, yet it blends in well with the old. I feel satisfied that it come to a conclusion while I am still, just, in office.

It's the Ultimate Homage to our Patron Saint, John the Baptist. A church which in his name, honouring our Saviour, has been preparing the way of the Lord, and making His paths straight in more ways than this. Access will now be easier for worshippers of all ages, including those with sticks or on wheels, and the path connects the church to the rest of the renewed repaved public realm. It won't be long before Church Street re-paving is also done. Let's hope it encourages all visitors and citizens to treat the environment with greater respect.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

On naming a new blog

Looking at the Cardiff map, our house move from Cathays to Pontcanna, and into retirement, is a move, due West. So let that suffice as an explanation for this new blog name.

We're in a side street of colourful brick and stone built terraced houses, about 250 yards down a side road, opposite Llandaff Fields, so I could have named this "Edge of Llandaff Fields".

However, there's nothing particularly edgy about the quiet corner we're moving into. It doesn't have the elegance and lawned spaciousness of Queen Anne Square, and parking can be a hassle on times, but this is our house, our family home. All the kids have lived in it, and now it's our turn. Amazingly the sun has shone daily since last weekend, conferring an unexpected element of pleasure to the bothers of uprooting.