Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Post Christmas Family Time

After a late start to the Feast of Stephen it was time to head for the shops, and the discovery that not all were yet open for the 'sales', as if they weren't permanently in sale mode this year end. Owain and I headed out of Cardiff by car to walk up the Garth in the mist, while the rest walked along the riverside to town. After days of intermittent rain, the ground was saturated and extra muddy due to the number of walkers about. I did a spectacular slide off the track and gently ended up flat on my back, my jacket and trousers covered in mud. After supper, an evening dominated by board game favourite Europareise.

St John's Day was marked with a family visit to St David's Hall for an afternoon performance of Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake' by the Russian State Ballet and Orchestra of Siberia. It was utterly beautiful, and the musicianship as excellent as the dancing. It was just amazing to see the prinicipal ballerina taking the past of Odette/Odile dancing her dual roles with a different quality of movement displayed in each persona - the roles were perceptibly acted out within the highly limiting formal convention of classical dance convention.

Afterwards, we visited John Lewis' store for refreshments, and to purchase a new office computer for Anto, to give him a fresh start for the New Year, and a more inherently secure stable system to work with, following his Trojan virus attack on the day they set out for Cuba. He got a good deal on a well equipped Compaq that's more than adequate for the needs his daily workload, and is ten times quieter than his five year old workhorse. Best of all, it only took half an hour to get ready for use, suitably protected with up to date security measures.

Today, Holy Innocents' day, I said the morning Mass at St German's, and returned again after lunch to officiate at the wedding of the couple I prepared last Wednesday. The groom was in his best dress Army uniform for the occasion, as were half a dozen of their guests, one of them in RAF uniform. The bride wore a deep blue satin cloak over her white wedding dress for arrival, to fend off the wintry winds and resembled a mediaeval image of Mary of a noble princess, radiant with happiness. After the ceremony it was too cold to pose for photos outside so they took them all in the church, its beautiful sanctuary and reredos bright with afternoon sunlight. 

I had to drive out of the churchyard through the side gate, as I was blocked in by parked cars and needed an early exit to be punctual for my next engagement, a hour's skating on the ice rink outside City Hall with my daughter and grand-daughter. It's three years since Rhiannon was last on ice-skates, and we were very impressed with how quickly she picked up the technique and stayed upright, even if for the most part she wanted to hold her mummy's hand. Clare and Owain came along and took photos, and we all drank hot chocolate together afterwards. Clare said she'd tried the mulled wine, but found it disgusting. This is not good news given Cardiff's growing pretensions to gastronomic grandeur.

A visit for supper from Kath's friend Kath tonight, followed by more board games tonight. I was feeling too tired for the latter, but I couldn't resist watching a biopic called 'Mongol' about the early life of Gengis Khan shot on location in the Altai region that covers the parts where North China, Kazakhstan and Western Mongolia touch each other. The landscapes were so beautiful, and empty of habitation except for tents and horses. I was reminded of my visit to remotest Northern Mongolia in 1999. It's a region I'd love to return to, but sadly I think my visit was one of those one-in-a-lifetime occasions, only afforded because of the enquiry I was commissioned to carry out there. Such good fortune.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas comes

At lunchtime on Christmas Eve, Kath, Anto and Rhiannon arrived, still jet lagged from their trip to Cuba and full of stories. Owain joined us as well to complete this year's festive complement. After we'd eaten, we looked at the photos they'd taken, and then for me it was off to St German's for the evening Vigil Mass with blessing of the Crib. It was surprising to see how little traffic there was as I drove over at the very time the last of the shops would have been closing. Little sign of revelling on the streets.  Over sixty people were present for the Mass, a quarter of them children. Half those attending took Communion. After the service, with much wild ringing of the sacristy bell, one of the servers appeared, disguised as Santa, with a sack full of gifts for the children. I was given one as I was leaving, to take home for Rhiannon, plus a bottle of Gin for me.

The streets were deserted when I returned for the 11.30 Midnight Mass. On such a cold wet night, it's not surprising that there were only three dozen in the congregation, but everyone sang enthusiastically to make up for it. It was half past one when I returned home, and found a note charging me with home Santa duties, plus full disguise and sack. Rhiannon was awake until after her parents' bed time, not only because of excitement, but because her body clock was still telling her it was tea time, not the middle of the night.

By the time I was up and out of the house for the 10.00am Mass of Christmas Day, I was beginning to feel just a bit jaded. These days, I'm not so good at very late night activities other than sitting writing. Again there were about three dozen of us for this service, very few children, but we did have a young baby. By two o'clock we were all sitting down together to our traditional festive banquet, right on schedule. My only disappointment was that apart from me, none of the family had gone to worship. By mid-afternoon, my usual Christmas Day fatigue began to set in. I think next year I'll have to give Midnight Mass a miss unless it finishes at least and hour earlier.

Friday, 23 December 2011

O Emmanuel - Festive preparations

Such a rainy as well as busy preparation day today. Clare fetched the turkey ordered from Driscoll's on Cathedral Road first thing, then I took the bus into town to shop for salmon and king prawns in the forever  bustling Central Market.  On return we found the salmon was much too long for the fish kettle, even with the head off, so a large tail piece provided us with fish to bake for supper, and I used the head to make a fish stock which, with half a onion, red pepper, a leek, and some beetroot tops, became a tasty soup for a starter.

Yesterday I was given a box of two dozen clementines as a Christmas gift. They were superbly fresh, nicer than ones Clare got from the local supermarket, so I took the fruit she'd bought, put it with four lemons, and made half a dozen jars of marmalade, filling the kitchen with wonderful seasonal aromas.

After lunch, wWe went by car to collect our veggie box order from Riverside Farmers' Market, but the Ty Mawr Organics team were late arriving, so we went home. I returned to town by bus with a shopping trolley in tow, aiming to spend an hour in the office and then go on foot to the market in hope of collecting the order afterwards. Thankfully, by the time I quit work it had stopped raining and Ty Mawr Organics were finally installed at the market, dispensing veggie box orders from the back of a horse trailer. The shopping trolly was well loaded when I set off for home, and I was relived to catch a sixty one bus from Cowbridge Road East with only a minute to wait.

The fridge is full, and Clare has started preparing our traditional vegetarian chestnut casserole dish, loved by vegetarians and omnivores alike in our household. This'll be our first Christmas in our retirement home, and it's been a great pleasure to have the leisure to get everything ready to welcome the family tomorrow.

After supper, a quiet evening in front of the telly watching the Royal Ballet's enchanting performance of 'The Nutcracker'. Tchaikovsky's orchestral music sounded quite fresh to me tonight. Last week, I found a bargain double CD of the four Rachmaninov piano concertos in HMV, with Vladimir Ashkenzy playing. I heard the second movement of number two on the radio and then couldn't get it out of my head. Our ancient tape recording was missing, fragments of the music wouldn't leave my head, so I had to find the cure, and listen again properly. A YouTube rendering wouldn't satisfy, I had to hear it on my home hi-fi. Hence the rare purchase. So, I'm enjoying Russian nineteenth century music this week. Just right for winter evenings.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

O Rex gentium - Either side of Winter solstice

We drove over to Bristol on Tuesday to have lunch with Amanda and James and exchange Christmas presents, as we can't all be together for the feast. We no longer have a house big enough to accommodate the entire family in one go, and now that Amanda needs to use a walking frame and a wheelchair for going out, a small house with no stair lift is inadequate for an overnight stay. I realise how fortunate we've been over the years to be accommodated in large Vicarages, even if heating them was a drain on the budget, even with a subsidy from the Parish.
After Mass at St German's on Wednesday morning, I rehearsed the young couple whose wedding I'll be doing a week today. As it happened, the church was laid out with six large requiem candlesticks ready to receive a coffin for a funeral after lunch. It seemed rather an odd setting to rehearse marriage vows, but the couple didn't seem to mind. The tall Christmas tree was up and decorated, ready to be blessed and lit at the Vigil Mass on Saturday evening. The nativity scene has yet to be prepared. Apparently children attending the service bring the figures to be put in place in and around the stable during the service. The figures have all been spruced up ready. I'm looking forward to it.
Today it was time for the staff Christmas lunch. We went over to the Madeira restaurant next door to the Masonic Temple in Guildford Place. Ashley and I with three of the younger members of staff who work on our floor. The Madeira is a Portuguese Restaurant, very Iberian in cuisine and decor, much larger than its street frontage suggests. I didn't feel ready for a second British Christmas meal within four days, so I had grilled fresh sardines followed by swordfish, washed down with plenty of the indigenous house red table wine, not intoxicating enough to prevent me from returning to the office and preparing four more Overdue letters for mailing out. The office was somewhat quieter than usual.
We bought a bargain Christmas tree for a tenner last week from the Llandaff Fields allotment, where a spare parcel of land used by community group was planted with pine saplings five years ago. With the resurgence of interest in home grown food, the land is now in demand for new allotments, so the trees have to go. We got to choose and dig out our own little tree with roots from a very wet and muddy patch of soil, and kept it in the garden until this morning when we brought it in. Now it stands in the front room bay window, decked with candles, ready for Rhiannon to decorate it when she arrives on Christmas Eve.  

Monday, 19 December 2011

O radix Jesse - Christmas rush

After a busy Monday morning, I enjoyed a leisurely Christmas lunch (my first of the season) with the entire staff team in the now quiet St Michael's College refectory, sitting around a large horse-shoe of tables with a great view of all the traffic queuing both ways in Cardiff Road outside, making their ways to and from shopping in the city centre. By the time I was ready to leave, traffic had quietened down and I was able to drive home briefly before going into the office by bus for a couple of hours preparing debt-chasing letters to overdue subscribers, to reach them before year-end. There's still quite a lot of accounts tidying to be done before they're fit to be passed on to the auditor. Being in town gave me an opportunity to buy Clare's present. The streets were very busy with shoppers. No sign of the retail economy slackening this year in Cardiff, apparently sales are up, again. Other shopping centres are suffering, however.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

O Adonai

A nice relaxed start to the day before attending Mass at St Luke's, our local Parish Church. Sister Wendy Sanderson preached. It's the first time I've seen her since she relinquished her role as Chaplain to the city centre's clubland three years ago. After the service she told me that next year will be a big one for her, as she is getting married in the summer, then starting as a student at St Mike's for a year before ordination. It's great news indeed, particularly as Wendy was not in favour of women's ordination when she began her remarkable adventure in mission and ministry some nine years ago, with a licensing service at St John's City Parish Church, six months after I started there.

On the way to my two afternoon carol services, I called in on Fr Derek Belcher, Team Rector of Cowbridge Benefice for a chat. He's recovering from major surgery and will be out of action for a good while. He has accepted my offer to work continuously with him and colleagues in the Benefice for the duration of Lent this year, with some kind of themed course material running throughout, once we have a common notion of what's needed. I already enjoy my visits to the Vale, it will be a good creative stimulus to be there regularly during the key inspirational season of the year for Christian faith communities.
The first service of Lessons and Carols was at St Marychurch, five minute's drive along the ridge road from where Fr Derek lives. The place was full with forty people attending, and there were mince pies and mulled wine or tea to follow. Thankfully the temperature had not dropped below zero when darkness fell, although the sky by this time was clear and bright for my drive further south along the ridge to Flemingston Parish Church. This time the church was half full, with just eighteen people present for lessons and carols by candlelight. Since my last visit the interior of the church had been repainted and its roof timbers oiled, so the place looked beautifully fresh, and glowed in the warm light of dozens of candles.

Instead of driving home straight away in the dark, it would have been good to stop awhile in the heart of the Vale, far from any street lights, and gaze at the heavens for a few hours, but it was far too cold to do that. With the risk of sharp temperature drops never far away, I did the sensible thing and headed home cautiously across country to safety, warmth and supper of rye bread and Stilton cheese.

O Sapientia

After celebrating yesterday morning's Eucharist at St German's, I met with a lovely young couple whose wedding service I will be conducting on Holy Innocents Day, to get to know them before meeting with the rest of their families at the rehearsal next week. He's a soldier specialising in electronic warfare - making sense of battlefield communications - and she's at Glamorgan Uni studying sound engineering, so unusually, they both have listening as a core interest and skill. He's just come back from a week of training exercises with a month's leave to get wed before deployment. Theirs will be the first wedding I've done since the month I retired. I hope I won't get nervous like I used to when conductign weddings.

After lunch, Clare and I went for a walk around Llandaff Fields, almost empty as everyone's in town shopping. It was windy and cold. By the time we got to Blackweir Bridge it started to rain, although the sun was shining through fast moving clouds. We took refuge in the Bant a la Carte deli on Cathedral Road for coffee and cake before heading home. There was no sermon to prepare, as I'm only officiating at carol services in the Vale this afternoon. So, I cooked supper, somewhat nervously, using for the first time an unfamiliar new electric stove, delivered Tuesday last and installed Thursday. Getting used to different controls and the response time of electric hobs will take some time. Thankfully, I didn't ruin any food on my first attempt, but cooking was hardly a relaxed affair.

Last night was the final double episode of 'The Killing II', as fast paced and with as many twists and turns as a downhill alpine cycle race. The political dimension to the drama as as complex and surprising to follow as the murder mystery element and the two interlocked brilliantly, as in series one. Both have proved to be outstanding works of modern television drama, casting a stark light upon the presumptions and prejudices which accompany every aspect of contemporary life, and the dire consequences of failing to hold them in check, no matter how much any of us believe we're objective, detached and working only with factual evidence.  

Lund, the detective heroine develops throughout as she learns by suffering the consequences of any unwarranted supposition. Her relentless obsessive pursuit of unvarnished fact in her investigations grows, and breeds discomfort in her relationships with everyone else involved. When she's proved right, there's not even the hint of a smile of triumph on her face, if anything it's a suggestion of relief we see in her passionless gaze, as she is freed from the torture of uncertainty that accompanies her when not knowing what really happened.

On the political side of the drama, the character of Buchs, the new Justice minister develops in a similar way, as he finds strength and courage to pursue dark secrets in high places of government which he doesn't seem to possess at the outset. A third drama series is promised. Where else can it take us, and get us thinking about violence, the use and abuse of power in today's world?

O Sapientia, Wisdom holding all things together - understood as factual know-how, insight or experience in discernment is not only about knowledge possessed. It's also about the right and holy desire for truth that sets us free, enabling us to know who and what we are as children of the Most High.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Advent around the world

This morning, I stood in for Fr Martin Colton, celebrating the midweek Eucharist at St Catherine's Church, not far from home. After lunch, I was taken to Thornhill Crematorium to conduct a funeral service, and had enough time for a cup of tea before setting out to St Mike's to celebrate the Eucharist for students on their penultimate day of term. I stayed in College for supper, as I'd been asked to attend a Christmas concert for members of the Llandaff Society in the College chapel, and offer a prayer and blessing at the end. As I was there early, I was able to help Pauline light scores of tea-light candles to give the place a seasonal ambience.

The Oriana womens' choir performed not only choral works, but a series of readings about Christmas selected from Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'. The chapel, with room for just eighty people, was completely full. It was a delightful experience, much appreciated, to judge from the smiles afterwards. 

Peter Sedgewick, Principal of St Mikes, fresh back from his sabbatical term brought his mother to the concert. He's looking very well and refreshed after a few months of study and reading, based in a quiet village outside Cambridge, well away from all the daily challenges of College life, here or there. Already he wants to know if I'm willing to carry on next term with the tutor group. That's something I need to think about over the weekend. It's been a stimulating experience for me, even if I have on times wondered whether I've been doing what's actually expected of me. There's hardly a training manual, and I wonder what students make of this as a requirement of College life. Perhaps I should ask them.

When I got home, I was catching up on the news when I had a Skype notification that Rachel over in Canada just before sunset, was on-line, so we had a great chat for 20 minutes. Just as I was about to switch off, another notification appeared. Claudine had just switched on her iPad over in Bangkok, just about to start her day at six in the morning (Thursday), so we had an even longer catch up chat, about the flooding there, about her work visits to Yangon in Burma. It turned out she'd received the Christmas parcel Clare had posted to her last Saturday yesterday morning (her Wednesday). Four days, Cardiff to Bangkok by mail. That's amazing, if you think how often people complain about the inefficiencies of the modern postal network.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

End of term week

After a couple of afternoon hours catching up in the office, yesterday, I had to dash to St Mikes to preside at a Family Eucharist, the first half of which was led by students. Working with a focus on the half a dozen children present with their parents was great fun, even if the hymns were a bit too long for my taste.

This is the last week of term, many students and staff are looking tired and in need of a good long rest. All but one of the five students in my tutor group have had injury or illness since they returned after the Summer. Spring Term begins in the last week of January. Some students will go on special placements once Christmas festivities are over. It's pretty intense and demanding for them. Do they really get enough time for their spiritual formation, to work on themselves and nourish their relationship with God, with so much intellectual work, so much activity and interaction with others to cram into their lives?

I was back in College this afternoon, seeing individual students. While I was waiting for them there was an enormous hail storm, which turned the pavements white outside, blocked roof gutters and started leaks on the stairs outside the Principal's room which I've been using. At the end of the afternoon the tutor group met socially for a short while to finish the term with mulled wine and home made vegetarian mince pies, thanks to Clare. 

The mince pies were the last to be baked in our faithful gas oven, which we exchanged today for a shiny new all-electric stove, bought over the internet from Boots the Chemist's on-line retail service. The purchase worked well and delivery timing was good and prompt. The gas supply to the cooker was safely capped this morning, and the new cooker arrived while I was in College. Spiros, our favourite electrician from Corfu is coming to wire it in tomorrow morning. So, in the absence of a cooker, we ordered a Turkish take away from Seren our local mediterranean restaurant, and I collected it on my way home from Chi Gung class. Back in College again tomorrow to celebrate the last evening Eucharist of the term.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Not invented here

Back again today at St German's for their Sunday Solemn Mass, Evensong and Benediction. It was good at last to announce the date of Fr Dean Atkins' induction as priest in charge, 23rd January. After Christmas I have two more Sundays there leading worship before he takes over, and then I'll be free to offer to do duties in different places. I've enjoyed the continuity of serving the same community, and would happily do the same somewhere else. However, there doesn't seem to be any taste among our wise and learned leaders to do any strategic planning for the deployment of supernumery ministers for an entire interregnum. This is normal practice in some provinces of the Anglican Communion, but not here in Britain. A case of 'not invented here'?

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Happy to be there

After celebrating Mass at St German's this morning, I took two St Mike's students, 'Becca and Tom, for an introductory visit to Ty Mawr Convent. Rufus another student, joined us there. We joined the Sisters for their Eucharist, then ate a picnic lunch together before I gave them a tour of the grounds I've become familiar with over the thirty five years I've been visiting there. 

The rain and wind held off, so we then went for a walk down the lane into the valley to Whitebrook and back, enjoying the tranquil beauty of the scenery for an hour and a half before our journey home. Just right really for an afternoon's extended conversation about varieties of monasticism. This little area is one of my favourite places in the world. I'm always happy to be there.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


An early visit to St Michael's this morning to preside at the Eucharist. While the ancient churches of both East and West celebrate the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on this day, the Church in Wales commemorates St Cynidr, one of our sixth century Celtic Bishops of the southern borderlands of Wales about whom little is known. In the old County of Brecknock, there are five churches bearing his name, and two places in neighbouring Herefordshire also with associations, plus his own stretch of mountain moorland - Mynydd Llangynidr - at the top eastern end of the South Wales coalfield, overlooking the Usk valley and Llangors Lake - a favourite place of ours. So, it seemed right to remember both universal and local names cherished by our faith.
 Mynydd Llangynidr, looking north towards Llangors Lake
After lunch, I joined a meeting at the Diverse Cymru HQ of their Equality Assessment Group in conversation with two Forestry Commission Wales staff members about the development of their marketing strategy to promote mountain biking and the use of forest trails on both public and private land. Our preparatory task was to consider the draft policy from the perspective of the new single Equalities Act. Diverse Cymru has done a lot of excellent work in recent years to develop a way of evaluating the impact  of the plans and proposals put forward by public bodies. It leads to some interesting conversations about the values and priorities of the business organisations do. The impact assessment leads to a valuable broadening of perspective, puts assumptions to the test and leads, hopefully to an improved outcome for those involved.

While we talked away in the fifth floor top floor office, the wind buffeted the building and rain lashed the windows quite dramatically. Thankfully it was much calmer for the short walk home, and I had plenty of time to cook a paella for an early supper before we both went out for the evening - Clare to her study group and me to Tai Chi. It's lovely to have a life with so much variety in it.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Malware crisis

The annual Christmas circular newsletter is now printed off and ready to go, so after a visit to the doctor's for a routine checkup and lunch yesterday, I went into town to buy some Christmas cards. As I was paying for them my phone went. It was a worried Katherine, asking for advice. Anto's office computer had been hit by a virus, and getting rid of it was posing a problem. I made a few suggestions as I stood outside the card shop in St David's Centre, clutching boxes of cards as I talked, not having had time to put them in my rucksack. I then waited for further updates for the rest of the afternoon. 

It couldn't have happened at a worse time for them. They were awaiting Rhiannon's return from school, and were then about to set off for Heathrow for an overnight stay before flying to Cuba for a long planned trip to all the island's best music and dance places, to refresh their inspiration for their latino band Lament. Viv, Anto's sister minds the shop while they're away, but needs a serviceable secure system to use. Eventually, the status quo seems to have been restored, after performing a system rollback, re-installation of all OS updates and Antivirus software, which seemed to have been knocked out by the malware attack. 

If only I could persuade Anto to use a Linux driven computer for secure threat free surfing, and restrict internet use of his business computer to selected safe sites, the liklehood of bad stuff like this happening would be reduced greatly. I shall nag him about it over Christmas. I even woke up very early and remembered that I had forgotten to tell them to change all their passwords as a security precaution. So I got up and texted them at the airport as they were checking in, poor souls.

Two students were absent for the tutor group meeting, one was poorly and the other's wife was ill, which meant a change in our arrangements. The Paradise Run arrangements came up for discussion, as College students undertake food distribution duties a couple of times a term. Disappointingly, nothing was known as nothing had been said to them about the Street Carers Forum, or its accreditation and training programme. It's up to me now to ensure that there's an evening's briefing for students factored into the College timetable for next term. I think it could be useful at several different levels, and Paul Hocking, Chair of the Street Carers' Representative Group is keen on the idea.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Back where I belong

Today's Sunday duties had me driving early out into the Vale to celebrated with the congregations of St Marychurch and St Hilary in the Cowbridge Benefice, as ever a real pleasure. After cooking lunch for myself, I drove up into Blaenau Gwent to the Parish of Blaina & Nantyglo to listen to a sermon preached by Chris, one of the students in my tutor group at St Mike's, on Parish Placement there. It was a long journey but the sermon was well worth while.

The drive, almost all the way in darkness, took an hour. It would have been so beautiful in daylight, but I left home too late for that. Thankfully, I was well informed about the location of St Ann's church, so all I had to do was keep going until I spotted a road sign for Nantyglo, which happened only in the last couple of miles of the journey. Quite an adventure if I'm honest. It's a place I never visited in the seven years I travelled Wales on behalf of USPG.

Nick Perry the Vicar warmly welcomed me and said that he knew all about me because he'd worked previously in Merthyr F.E. College with my cousin Ros. It's such a small world. He had a delightful rapport with the twenty strong congregation. His opening welcome and announcements in the middle took the form of a relaxed humorous spontaneous conversation with the congregation as a group. What a delightful loving welcoming community they were.

I took special pleasure in hearing the melodious accents of grassroots Valleys people, including their voluntary priest Fr Clive, who celebrated the Eucharist. They reminded me of where I came from - me with my homogenised middle class accent, far more Vale than Valleys, more Jon Humphries than Ystrad Mynach after decades of ministry outside Wales. It made me happy and proud in an uncomplicated way to know where I come from in this excessively mobile age.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


After celebrating the Eucharist in honour of St Francis Xavier, apostle of the East Indes and Japan, at St German's this morning, I joined a group of Tai Chi/Chi Gung students for a refreshing few hours of  guided meditation at Sully Dojo - a place where local judo and aikido students go to train. Website directions and the map provided seemed reasonable enough until attempted in reality. I searched all the side roads in and around Barry's eastern dockland industrial estate before finding the dojo located on the edge of the grounds of a F.E. college whose notice board wasn't noticeable from the adjacent roundabout. It occurred to me that only professionals notice how good public signage is. However, all the world complains when signage is unfit for purpose.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Diverse Cymru launch

As a result of previous involvement in the work of Cardiff Disabled Access Focus Group, I received an invitation to this morning's launch in the Welsh Assembly's Senedd building of  'Diverse Cymru'. Two of Wales' front line advocacy agencies - Cardiff & Vale Coalition of Disabled Persons and AWETU, working on mental health issues with black and ethnic minorities - have combined massive expertise, experience and resources to work on behalf of all kinds of people disadvantaged on grounds of disability, race, gender identity, sexual preference, age or religion, and become a national resource agency. Leader of the House Jane Hutt AM opened the launch. Cardiff Council's Deputy leader Judith Woodman was announced as the new organisation's first president.

About eighty people were present, from a variety of political and voluntary community organisations from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures. There may well have been people belonging to different faith groups but there wasn't anyone present I could identify as representing any religious body. There could be different reasons for this. The need to support this kind of advocacy work may not have caught the public attention of faith community leaders. Or, the work of organisations here joining forces may not have sought formally to recruit support from religious bodies. 

My interest in disability and equalities issues was stimulated as the City Centre redevelopment was coming to its conclusion. Access policy concerns remained an interest for me after retirement when our Amanda had for the first time to start using a wheelchair. I'm learning to look at the world differently and ask questions that were not on my horizon before. I may be able to make observations about religious cultural implications on equality and access issues as a result of professional and personal experience, but I don't represent any religious group. I look forward to the day when they rise to a new challenge of our time and start taking notice.

After the event I drove over to the new Steiner kindergarten in Roath to attend their celebration of St Nicholas patron saint of children and spiritual advocate of generosity and gift giving. Clare was involved in a eurythmy interpretation of the story told about St Nicholas. It was a real delight to watch. Then I took Clare to the station for a train to Coventry, as she's looking after Rhiannon this weekend, leaving me to my own devices.