Friday, 30 March 2012

Community Remembrance

I had an unusual rendezvous this morning in my role as Royal British Legion Chaplain to the Cardiff and Vale Branch. I was asked to dedicate a World War I memorial plaque which had been re-located in the Grangetown Albion Social Club premises. It was dedicated to fallen soldiers who had been recruited from the long gone local Gas and Coke works, upon which Cardiff's Ikea superstore now stands. It had been rescued and stored when the buildings were demolished, and finally the indefatigable Syd Nash had found a home for it and arranged the ceremony, presided over by the deputy Lord Mayor. There were only just over a dozen people present for the traditional eleven o'clock start, and my dear friend Eric Smith, the Grangetown Salvation Army bandmaster came to play the Last Post and Reveille.
I remember Syd asking me five years ago about St John's housing the plaque. I don't think he had a clue of just how impossible it would be to make that happen. Soundings about re-locating the war memorial plaque from the old Central Cardiff Labour Exchange building in St John's fell on deaf ears, and rightly so really. Many churches erected their own war memorial, as did some industries and public bodies. If ever  relocation of a memorial is required, destination needs to reflect community of origin. Churches shouldn't be the only place where remembrance happens, any more than they should be a museum or a dumping ground for old memorials. It's something that always needs thinking through, a change that needs careful and sensitive management. In this case, the final solution was as good as it could be, in a local public building not far from the original site.

Father Ben Andrews, Grangetown's Parish Priest turned up to the ceremony. It was, after all, taking place not far from where he had lived for the past seven years. I was disappointed that the Legion hadn't thought to invite him officially to take part in his role as local Pastor. They just relied on having me there as Chaplain - their 'default parson'. I was under the impression that he'd not been available to take part. If I'd known enough in advance, I would have invited him to share in it with me. Next time I am invited to do something like this, I make sure to ask if local clergy have been properly invited.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


A visit to the Practice Nurse this morning for a routine check-up, linked in to a medication review with my GP next week. Now that Spring weather is here and I'm riding by bike again, I'm feeling amazingly well these days, but it doesn't exempt me from the usual tests to ascertain whether or not I'm at risk of anything new. It's a duty I reluctantly perform. If I had something fatal would I really prefer to know well in advance or not? Enjoyment and good quality of life can't be medically monitored.

My College tutor group met for the last session of term this afternoon, and I had a chance to look at the students' work portfolios, as a preliminary to writing end of year reports on each of them. It's what's required by the ordination training process, and I can't say I'm happy with having to assess them in detail. My perception of each student is limited by the nature of the contacts I've had with each of them, only part of the picture of the whole person and how they are developing. I fear I may miss things out. Having too much information may make it difficult to see them in a context that is always moving and changing. The more we may think we know, the less we may actually know. 

I don't imagine that Nurse is as uncertain of the worth of her investigations into the state of my health as I am about my students. I try to see myself as I was in the days of my ordination candidacy, and honestly wonder, would I have survived selection and passed muster if judged by today's standards? I think not. I was chosen by people willing to trust in what I might become with the right encouragement and guidance, rather than through the lengthy process of evaluation and testing. Keeping faith with those I looked up to was part of what kept me on track and opened the way for me to become what I became as a missionary pastor. It kept me in the church, and kept me in the service of the church. And it was quite personal, less than objective - a risk of faith maybe? I was blessed by it anyway.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

On the move again

After a successful attempt to compensate for the hour's advancement of the clocks with a punctual bed-time for a change, I drove out into the Vale of Glamorgan on this bright spring day for a nine fifteen service at Llandough followed by an eleven o'clock at St Hilary. In just one more week of mild weather, great swathes of daffodils in the roadside verges have come to bloom and blossom is appearing on the trees. It was a good day to announce officially the appointment of a new Team Vicar, Martin Perry, starting in July. He was parish priest in that part of the Vale of Neath where last year's Gleision Colliery tragedy occurred. His presence will be a godsend to the hard pressed ministry team of Cowbridge Benefice, understaffed now for about two years.

Over the weekend, came confirmation of an invitation to do locum pastoral duties for the Costa Azahar chaplaincy, between Barcelona and Valencia in Spain. I'll be there from July until November, and then will go to Sicily for locum dutues in Taormina during December. It'll be strange to working out of the country again for six months, save for brief visits home, and one special weekend in August already booked for locum duties in Merthyr Vale. However congenial chaplaincy work abroad may be it's no good reason to change that prior commitment. I am, after all, despite the breadth of my past ministerial experience a 'Valleys boy', and still want to support clergy in the Valleys needing holiday cover. These days there are convenient flights from Cardiff to Barcelona, and from Bristol to Valencia, booked well in advance, this doesn't have to cost as much as a train trip to London.

After lunch, Clare and I worked together on the layout of the book translation she's editing. It's a review of published material on the influence on babies and infants of using electronic media in their presence, and the impact of this invasive activity on bonding between mother and child. The original German text was compiled by her friend Marlies over in Switzerland. It has received favourable attention, and an English translation has been made. She is preparing this for publication, and my task is to get it to look right, and resemble the German original, using an ancient version of Microsoft Publisher. It's a very fiddly exercise. There are always minor changes that need to be made, and almost all of them distort the layout, which means it then needs scrupulous checking again. Still, it's a worthwhile cause, and it will hopefully raise another kind of debate about what we are doing to human relationships by such over-use of electronic media that there are negative and undesirable consequences.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Sully Island Tai Chi visit.

At midday today thirty odd members of the Rising Phoenix Tai Chi group met at Swanbridge near Sully in the car park of the Captain's Wife pub. In good weather, and with the tide still ebbing to its lowest point, we crossed over rocky causeway on to Sully Island a quarter of a mile off shore. It was our first outing of the year for an open air workout of Chi Gong exercises with the first quarter of the Tai Chi short form to crown the occasion in conclusion.
It must be over thirty years since I last visited this little slice of off-shore Wales, when the children were young. It was great to be free to roam the island's length and breadth and take photographs of the landscape. You'll find them here. Exercising as a large group in the open air on a good day is always an enjoyable experience. The feel of a spongy carpet of grass underfoot, and the unevenness of the ground surface is refreshing for the feet and ankles after the firmness of the best of sprung wooden church hall floors.

Spring is unmistakably here!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Easter comes early in Kenilworth

Yesterday I drove to Kenilworth in time to fetch Rhiannon from school, as mum and dad were busy elsewhere. I stopped overnight in order to attend Rhiannon's Year 3 Easter Play performance in Kenilworth's St Nicholas Parish Church first thing this morning. This year, the Feast of Feasts falls in the Easter vacation. St Michael's College students will be on holiday too, so there'll be no celebration of holy week together, which I think is a great shame. Once more the secular educational tail wags the religious dog.

The entire school, around 350 children were there to watch sixty odd eight year olds sing and act out the story of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. There were a hundred parents and others there in support, so the church was packed. It was very nicely done with lots of lively modern songs. 
My only regret was the complete  absence of any traditionally used passiontide hymns and music. To my mind that makes it so much harder to connect the school story telling with that of a mainstream parish community - a real cultural divide. Also, all the music used was recorded, and this means the children don't get a chance to sing with live instruments, even though some are learning them in school. Rhiannon has now given up the fiddle in favour of the flute - which her mother plays.

By eleven o'clock I was an my way back to Cardiff for an afternoon in the office, followed by my usual Thursday evening of Tai Chi, and another very late night session, editing and uploading video clips of the play and finishing off the third volume of the Millenium Trilogy. Must watch the film of books two and three now, to see if they capture the story as well as film one did.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Pastors and major incident planning

I had my first dentist's appointment in two years yesterday afternoon to fix a broken filling. It was also my first even non-NHS dental appointment. Since my Bristol dentist of 30 years standing retired, I've not been registered, so I was a little taken aback at the cost of treatment. Still, I'm lucky to have had little need for repair work over decades, and can't complain. With the modern dental technology available, the work is certainly not as discomforting as it used to be. The sound levels are just as high, but the noises emanating from the various tools used are different, and left my head ringing as I emerged into the afternoon sun. I was glad to go home and get absorbed in reading Steig Larssen's Millennium Trilogy, until well after midnight.

I spent a good deal of today reading as well, before going into St Michael's for the tutor group session. This week we focused on the role of church and clergy in the face of major disasters and tragedies, in the aftermath of the Belgian coach tragedy in Switzerland. In emergency planning there is little or no front line role for pastoral ministers unless a cleric is part of a response team due to other skills and roles they may normally play - ambulance driver, doctor, chaplain to the police or emergency services. Yet, those who work on the front line of any crisis need support the moment they take a respite from harrowing work - a role now taken up by psychologists and counsellors rather than pastors. In the City EVAC planning, the nearest to the front line clergy are placed is outside the mortuary, to support the bereaved. 

Yet, in any situation, how much you know people involved and are know by them is what counts. It's not only that we have to earn the right to speak about God in today's work, but also earn the right to be there, and known as a religious representative at all. In a secular society, where often great care is taken to do the right thing by people suffering in crisis, assumptions can no longer be made about clergy having rights of entry and participation.While the majority appreciate the role clergy may still have to play in the event of death, the challenge today is to demonstrate that they have a role to be valued in all the changing scenes of life. How important is its then for ministers to take a genuine interest in the society their church community belongs to -knowing it well and understanding how it works, who leads, and who cares for what. It's a special challenge at a time when churches may require a high level of care and maintenance.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Grand Slam Mothering weekend

As Clare was to be godmother at a Baptism in St Catherines today, we did our weekly market visit to the Saturday farmers' market in Roath yesterday. It took us ages to get home again as incoming traffic was very heavy due to the final rugby international match of the Six Nations championship. We were lucky to re-gain a parking place in the street, and decided not to venture out again, so we stayed in and watched the match on TV, with its Welsh language commentary, much to Clare's delight. That must be the first time I've watched a rugby match from start to finish in decades. 

I was impressed by  the natural ease with which interviewers switched into English when necessary. It reminded me of the multi-lingual confidence exhibited by Swiss news media. The match was well worth staying in for. With Wales winning the Grand Slam, Cardiff was full of very happy people. It's a great boost to national confidence. If only competitive team work, persistence, patience and planning could also be reflected in Wales' economic performance, a way out of recession would be more assured.

My Sunday duties this morning were at Penllyn, and then Ystradowen. The weather was perfect, and this time I remembered to take my camera. Only when I was telling Clare about my morning later that I realised a strange co-incidence had occurred. In each small congregation, just one mother had been present with two small children - 3-4 year olds. Both mothers had borne identical twins.
Ystradowen church and the White Lion Pub
While the Penllyn congregation was somewhat larger than usual, the Ystradowen congregation was smaller than on my last lisit. The churchwarden explained that a number of the regulars were absent as their families were taking them out for a Mothering Sunday treat. Afterwards, I heard that the White Lion pub next door was to close soon, and that the monthly congregational fellowship supper would have to move to a new venue. How sad. Another social loss for a rural community. Another casualty of the recession, no doubt.

Owain came around for tea, with flowers and a card for his mum. He's loaned me his copy of the Stieg Larssen Millennium trilogy of crime books. I'm well into the first, and inevitably, having seen the Swedish film version of 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' some months ago, I'm comparing these two ways of telling the same story as I go. Even a well written, easy reading book seems slow compared to film. How much goes into portraying each scene setting of the story.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Not necessarily 'like us'

I had to get up extra early to be at St Michael's before quarter to eight to preside at the Eucharist, joined to Matins led by one of the studentss. As an experiment, he'd opted to play recorded music quietly in chapel for fifteen minutes beforehand, and during the intercessions that he led. Listening to a polyphonic Latin Mass setting beforehand was fine, but during the intercessions, it was like listening to two people talking at the same time. A few of us discussed this with him over breakfast and I explained my problem with his choice of music, and the need to use something purely instrumental, or even vocal without words, so as not to distract from the prayers he spoke. 

It was only then I realised that those familiar and powerful Latin liturgical texts were not being heard by others in the same way as I heard them. For some the music was just a collection of pleasant ethereal sounds, elevating to hear, but bearing no meaning. Without a frame of reference for understanding, it's hardly surprising. It's just that it hadn't occurred to me that some seminarians would lack this kind of religious cultural experience. It would be the same if Byzantine, African and Asian sacred music had been playing - unless you'd been introduced to it, knew what it represented, or you'd listened to it in context, it would remain just a background sound. It would then only distract from quiet prayer if it was the kind of music which called attention to itself by inciting you to tap your feet or get up and dance.

I realised how fortunate my generation was, being enthused by the newness of ecumenical, inter-faith and cross cultural exploration. We were in at the birth of 'world music' as a new genre. Today's proliferation of consumer channels for all sorts of music from around the world means lots of choice appealing to all tastes, but choice itself can become too demanding, so you choose a few things and stick with them. Travel broadens the mind's horizon, opens the ears to new musical and cultural experiences, but not everyone making the journey appreciates this, any more than they relish different food away from home. However much variety any of us is exposed to, we all need discernment to help us to know what's best for ourselves and others in every situation. Understanding that other people are not necessarily 'like us' requires lots of learning and experience, as well as personal gifts and aptitude.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

To be the preacher today

I had a funeral at 'the Res' this afternoon, one of the biggest I've done there, with dozens of people standing at the back. The deceased was one of ten children and had seven of her own. She lived in Ely for over fifty years, and was well known in the community. The number of people attending reflected that. A daughter and a son each gave tributes and told funny stories about their Mama, making everyone laugh uninhibitedly, and earning them each a round of applause. Tears and hilarity went together. My role was to bind these affectionate contributions into the funeral liturgy in a way that upheld its meaning and gave the occasion dignity. There's no professional formula for this - it's like acting as a compere or a show host, staying attuned and responsive to the moment, in spite of the fixed nature of the ritual.  Mama was laid to rest in a new plot, near the north gate of Western Cemetery, just at the edge of the Parish, half a mile from where she spent most of her life. I wonder how many people of the rising generation of people in urban housing estates will live so long in the same place?

The funeral car dropped me off in good time at St Michael's for the weekly tutorial, and I led a discussion on what it meant to be a preacher in a contemporary world, so full of people with lots to say and so many different and effective ways to deliver their message. Preaching to congregations is one thing, but the vocation of those ordained to ministry is to preach the Gospel to the world and for the world, not just to those who already believe. I don't think the group found it that easy to work with. Yet, it's the kind of question which needs to be asked and need to be re-visited occasionally during one's ministry. Changing context and experiences determine that we are never quite the same, nor those we seek to engage with as listeners. I don't think I learned to start asking this kind of question until I was a third of my way through my life in public ordained ministry.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Quite an unusual Sunday.

An extra early start this morning to drive through sun streaked mist to Bassaleg Parish Church for the eight thirty service to hear Rufus preach to a congregation of twenty eight over fifties. I was pleased with this photo taken in the churchyard on my way in.
I was also pleased with this one too, of the church lych gate, surmounted by an image of Archangel Michael, erected as a memorial to soldiers who died in the 1914-18 war.
I drove straight home after the service, and then rode into town on my bike, to avoid parking hassles, as I also had a date to hear 'Becca preach at the St John's Sunday Eucharist. I was delighted to see lots of new faces and people of all ages among a congregation of about sixty people. So good to know there is evidence of new life and growth there. As ever, people were pleased to see me and some greeted me with big hugs after the service.

Kath, Anto and Rhiannon arrived yesterday - Anto went with sister Viv to the big Rugby match between Wales and Italy. We took Rhiannon to the park when they arrived and Owain came over to join us for supper before his evening deejay gig. Anto wasn't with us for lunch as he had a band rehearsal this afternoon. The rock band of his youth - 'The Third Uncles' - is preparing a reunion gig for this autumn's 'Swn' festival in Cardiff so its somewhat mature members get together occasionally to rehearse. I'd love to be a fly on the wall!

It was warm enough to have lunch in the garden, and sit round in the sun afterward, playing drawing games with Rhiannon, before their departure to pick up Anto and go home at tea time. Then, I spent a couple of hours writing sermon evaluations while my memory of both was still fresh. I helped having seen the material they were working with during the week beforehand, even if the output was different. It's made me think about the value of preaching today. As I have to give some input to Tuesday's tutor group meeting, perhaps I'll do something around this theme.

Friday, 9 March 2012

BT incompetence

Thursday afternoon I took my work laptop into the Motorpoint office and set it up. The BT broadband link was quickly up and running, along with an email requiring urgent attention. We were less fortunate with the phone connection, running on the same line however. It came and went several times - rather unusual, the man on the help line thought - somebody in the Stadium House telephone exchange not far away, was messing with something they shouldn't have been. We had two BT Open Reach engineers visit within half an hour of each other, neither knowing of the other's assignment. Although the line was declared fully operational, no incoming or outgoing calls were possible from the land-line soon after the second one left. But thankfully the broadband stayed running. 

Today I took the car into town with files I had been safeguarding at home, and then we shuttled the heavy network laser printer and smaller items of furniture which hadn't yet been collected, across to the new office. It'll take a while to sort everything out, but I have my important stuff where it should be, under lock and key. More than a dozen people are working in the new office. It's twice as large as the second floor of Charles Street. Our workspace is about the same size. It has a door on to the balcony opposite, for fresh air, vital in so warm an environment, and the kitchen is next to us.

Some time during the day, the facility for call divert to Ashley's mobile was switched off, robbing our clientèle of a vital lifeline for hours. He spent hours on another phone complaining, arguing with a succession of call centre operatives to get the service re-instated immediately. CBS pays British Telecom for the highest standard of service as a business client to ensure things like this don't happen during a move, to avoid  any impact on the service we provide. What a mess.

I returned at five, to cook an early meal, then go to Ely to visit a bereaved family and prepare a funeral for the elderly mother of seven children. She had brought them up single handed after her husband deserted her, and what a lively happy bunch they were, so proud and appreciative of their Mama, who'd raised them to make the most of their lives and support each other, with a great imagination and little education. She'd lived in the same house for fifty three years - where she'd moved after her Bute-town birthplace home was demolished for redevelopment. How very precious is the stability and constancy brought to home and family life by generations of working class mothers in a century of great upheavals.

After the visit, we went to Chapter Arts for a late showing of 'War Horse'. Well worth the acclaim it's had, though I didn't think much of the over saturated colour rendering of the film, and un-natural natural lighting. If it was intended for theatrical effect, it wasn't a success, to my mind, as it made some scenes look contrived, like the film sets they probably were.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Surprise sprint

It's reading week for St Mike's students at the moment, though I have been in touch by email and phone with a couple whose sermons I shall be hearing in situ this weekend - for me it's a rare duty-free Sunday. It was good to have the extra free day to remove computer equipment, accounts and other essential files from office to home, while our relocation to the third floor of the Motorpoint Arena south west wing takes place. With a planned trip to London to see my sister June on furniture removal day, I didn't want to return to chaos.

As usual on my visits, I got my sister's Sony laptop up to date, tidied her browser and desktop and then had a go at setting up a remote access facility so that I can do this from home, but failed miserably. Ignorance of all the technical details caused me to lose my nerve. I need someone to hand hold me through the process. In the process I discovered that her computer no longer recognises (and therefore does not charge) its battery. Is this a smart battery fault or a charging circuit failure? She'll need to take the battery to a Sony dealer for testing. If it's not that it's a motherboard failure. Will that be the end of it, I wonder? We had planned to visit to David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy, but the rainy weather discouraged us from going out.

The coaches to and from London were non-stop, and as quick a journey as could be, on return with clear roads at night. We got in ten minutes early, in just enough time for me to witness the departure of the five westbound buses, any of which would take me home. They were all queuing at the traffic light, to exit into Wood Street. No wanting a half hour wait for the next, I decided to chance it, and ran across Wood Street and into Westgate Street to my usual stop, some four hundred yards. The last of the buses in the queue to arrive at the stop was the sixty one that drops me closest to home. It pulled in just as I arrived, and I was home by the time the bus should have arrived. 

I was a little breathless, but amazed at the resilience of my legs as I ran, especially as I'd been immobilised in a coach seat for three hours. I expected to have to stop with pain or cramp, but didn't - and there was no aftermath. I have the weekly Chi Gong and Tai Chi classes to thank for a tangible improvement in my physical condition over the past year. Getting old doesn't mean you can't get fit again.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Rare opportunity

A fine morning for Sunday duties at St Marychurch and St Hilary today, and the rest of the day free with no evening service to take for the first time in many months. The weather wasn't good enough for an outing, so we stayed home and did very little, apart from chatting on Skype with Claudine and Keith in Bangkok.

A possibility has emerged for me to do a month as locum chaplain in Taormina Sicily in December this year. Whoever was booked for this has had to cancel. It's a small community maintained by visiting locum clergy, and the duties are probably slightly less than what I do here regularly. It's too small to support a full time chaplain. There's free accommodation, but we pay for our own travel. I'm happy to do that. It's so much more agreeable to go as a guest than as a standard holiday tourist. I love the opportunity it presents to meet local residents, and learn about what life is like in a more direct way.

The region is spectacularly beautiful, and the chapel in situated on land overlooking the Straits of Messina once owned by the family of Horatio, Lord Nelson. I'll have to go there on my own for a couple of weeks before Clare finishes term, and the she'll join me. It was good to have leisure time today to look at websites and maps, consult the family about what Christmas plans they might have before making up our minds about saying 'yes'- they all said "Go for it!" It's too early in the year to book winter budget flights, but we can prepare by examining the various travel options available. Kath's godmother Angela, one of our neighbours when we were in Birmingham in the 1970's,  was born in nearby Catania. One of her British born sons lives there. Maybe we'll get an opportunity to visit while we're there.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Saturday stroll

I attended the funeral at noon today of Gwynne James at St German's, another key figure in the life of the church who died just short of his ninetieth birthday without seeing the long awaited new Vicar inducted. I'd only known him as the man at the door with a kindly smile of welcome as he gave out books for every service I took there, until just before Christmas, when he went into hospital. I learned during the service that he'd been verger, head server and sacristan in times past. There were a dozen clergy present, and I was touched that after the Solemn Requiem Mass, the five servers who'd assisted escorted his coffin from the church.

Traffic was very slow moving on my return journey home, as shoppers descended on the city centre for the afternoon. I thought there might be a rugby match on, but was mistaken, that's next weekend. After lunch Clare and I went for a brisk walk in a strong chill wind around Bute Park, stopping off to take refuge and take tea in the outdoor snack bar in one corner of the walled garden, enclosing the greenhouses which are one of the city's major horticultural heritage assets, the heart of so much of the Council's success stories in floral city competitions. 
The umbrellas went up because of a brief shower. Thankfully it didn't last, so we were able to continue our walk down to the Castle, when I got a satisfying shot of the east face of the main buildings in the afternoon sun.
Then we walked across to the National Museum and spent an hour looking first at the Queen's jubilee exhibition, then the wonderful collection of Impressionist paintings and sculptures - some of them have been familiar to me, part of my visual for sixty years since my first childhood visit. I'm now a fan of Goscombe John's sculptures, and the Museum has a superb collection of them, both large and small.

We continued our walk into the centre, and called at the office to pick up a purchase I forgot to take home yesterday. It was the first time Clare had visited my current workplace. I wanted her to see it before we move next week to new accommodation with City Cente Management in the Motorpoint Arena office suite. "What a mess!" was her only comment. I had to admit it usually is like that - so many bits and pieces of work in progress. Will we have a chance to get tidy after the move I wonder?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Dydd Gwyl Dewi

Weather for our national Patron Saint's festival turned out right, blue skies, sunshine, fresh but not too cold, but it was misty when I rode my bike for the first time in 2012 across Llandaff Fields to the Cathedral. 
I needed to make contact with Cathedral Administrator, Michael Turk, about arrangements for a meeting next week  between staff and a team from the Royal British Legion organising a major anniversary concert in the Cathedral in September this year. Mission accomplished I joined the congregation for the eleven o'clock Eucharist, and sat next to Fr John Webber, who retired the same time as I did. It was good to catch up with him as I haven't seen him for several months.

Then I cycled into town in time to watch the end of the St David's Day parade on the Hayes. It was so full of revellers that  I had to make a big detour to get to the office, being unable to wheel my bike through the crowd, it was so dense.
In the parade were effigies of some renowned modern Welsh cultural heroes, with one historical, and to my mind ironic figure of Owain Glyndwr, whose army sacked Cardiff's Norman Castle and burned own the first St John's city church. The Welsh attacked foreign colonisers in those days, whereas nowadays outsiders are relied upon to invest in and enrich the city.
A good time was had by all. Tables were laid out and decorated for a street party down the middle of Trinity Street outside St John's, laid on for school children taking part in the parade. I understand there's a plan afoot to repeat this for the Queen's diamond jubilee.

Things were quieter later on when I left the office early to ensure I could ride home in daylight and in time to cook supper, so we could leave punctually for our usual Thursday evening engagements. As I was returning from parking the car in a neighbouring street (it was one of those evenings when sloppy parking had robbed the street of several regular spaces), young man from the corner house was standing in his front garden, mobile phone in hand, looking bemused. A severed bike lock cable hung from the railings. His bike was gone. 

All I could do was encourage him to report it to the Police, and recount the story of how my new bike's lock was severed by a thief with bolt cutters and taken from St John's churchyard in broad daylight in front of people sitting out eating and drinking. Nicking a bike from the corner house next to the lane in darkness required somewhat less bravado to pull off. It's distressing and annoying. There is at least one thief known to Police who uses bolt cutters to steal bikes, caught and not charged on the grounds that evidence of carrying tools indicating an intent to steal was too flimsy to stand up in court.