Thursday, 31 May 2012

Changing times

For Tuesday's Tutor Group meeting, the final one of the year, we walked together down to the weir on the river Taff, north of the Cathedral, then called into the Black Lion for a drink before supper. Wednesday afternoon, I attended the College Eucharist celebrated by Helena Cermakova for last time. She is moving to Devon and stops being tutor as this year ends. We sang a setting of the Eucharist written and dedicated to Helena by student Sam Erlandson, formerly an organist at Bangor Cathedral. A nice finishing touch. Thursday morning early, it was my turn to celebrate the Eucharist for the Feast of the Visitation. That's my last duty for this academic year. Chris, one of the students in our group, soon to be ordained, led Morning Prayer beforehand. 

I've been asked a few times this week if I'd be returning as a tutor to College after my six months in Europe. Certainly it's something the Principal and I have discussed. I've greatly enjoyed working with the students in our group. The problem I've had this year is that pastoral locum duties along with CBS office work have taken up much of my time. It's meant that I've not had sufficient time to devote to a satisfactory level of engagement -  not so much with student demands, but with College community life. This seems to me an essential component of students' spiritual and social formation as ministers. Many things have happened that have passed me by, or to which I have felt marginal - so although the College seems to have been happy to have me on board, sometimes I've felt inadequate to the task.

Things will change by the time I return. CBS will be employing someone else to do the admin, so I'll be able to re-think my role and relation to its organisation. What the demand for locum clergy will look like in 2013 is anybody's guess. My interest in simply continuing to fill brief occasional gaps (no matter how enjoyable or interesting I have found that until now) will doubtless be shaped by the experience of doing a longer spell of duty in one place. Nothing stays the same indefinitely - that's for sure. St Michael's has changed for the better since I was a student there, and it will continue to change, being now much more responsive to the challenges its students face than it seems church leadership may sometimes be. I'd rather feel able to give more to the College in future, than feel less than adequate. Only time will tell if this is going to be possible.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Wagner at Pentecost

Our friend Claudine arrived at lunchtime yesterday from Geneva, where she'd stopped over, after flying from Bangkok, to give a talk to Holy Trinity Church's Care and Concern Group, before coming to us for a night at the opera and a relaxed weekend. We went to see the WNO's Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde', and our friend Pauline came with us as well. The performance at the Millennium Centre was superbly crafted. It's the second time we've seen this production. This time I decided that I don't like the opera. Not because it's so long - five o'clock until ten fifteen - with an hour long supper break, but to my mind, essentially this great saga of tragic romance is not all that romantic. The bottom line is 'death is stronger than love'. Depressing teutonic philosophical musings. At least it reminds me that I'm a Christian. Pagan myth and legend don't do anything to make my life more worth living. The music, however, is rich and powerful, worth listening to despite the sentiments floated over it.

This morning I had only one service to take, an eleven o'clock at Holy Cross Cowbridge. This meant we could have a late breakfast and be together for worship. I would have been happy to take Claudine to any of the Benefice churches, because people are all so welcoming, but Holy Cross, in the middle of the town is a special place to take visitors. I knew it was important for her, as she doesn't often get to church these days. She lives in Thailand, travels to and from the north of the country and goes to Burma in the course of her work for the Swiss government's humanitarian programme. She misses the regular sustenance of traditional Anglican worship in a mainly Buddhist environment where most of the few churches are very conservative evangelical. A Pentecost Parish Eucharist hit the right spot for her, and I glimpsed her beaming smile during Communion.

Afterwards Clare and Claudine went out and sat in the sun in the Cowbridge Physic Garden, opposite the church - a very pleasant place to relax while I hung around in church and chatted with people after the service. Then we drove towards home, stopping for an excellent lunch at the Loch Fyne restaurant near Saint Hilary en route. We arrived back, just in time to welcome colleague friends of Claudine's who dropped in for tea, catch up and a baggage transfer. Their daughter, recently back-packing in Thailand, had sent home with Claudine a package of clothes redundant after a sojourn in temperate New Zealand! How small the world becomes for those who lives revolve around travel, as opposed to the rest of us whose journeys, great or small, occasional big events.

Friday, 25 May 2012

I was there - Olympic torch Cardiff

I went into the office after lunch, but as there wasn't much going on, I left early for home and got caught up in crowds gathering the welcome the arrival of the Olympic torch. I gave in to the occasion and positioned myself at the top of high street opposite the Castle, a little too early for comfort really, in bright sunshine. Preparations to cordon off an area for the torch procession through the city centre were thorough and long drawn out, since it was vital to keep some pedestrian thoroughfares and crossing points open until the last minute. It was quite an impressive feat of organisation. Well done Cardiff Council for that.

A brightly attired troupe of Carnival Samba dancers and drummers brought a good measure of local spirit to the streets, as did Wonderbrass, Cardiff's swinging jazz ensemble which does great things when playing out of doors. I'd got the Torch arrival time wrong, as there wasn't much public information to say when it was due to appear. In the hour beforehand, promotional teams of the three main Olympic sponsors - Coca Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung - worked like mad to mount advertising banners along barriers, and gave out free things to wave, so that the media record would show a sea of corporate commercial banners. To my mind this utterly despoils the Olympic ethos.

What annoyed me most that the distribution by the Samsung team of little flags with the Union Jack on one side and the Samsung Olympic sponsor's logo and colours on the other. Which is worse, to have your country's flag burned by hated adversaries, or defaced by a foreign owned global corporation? Will nobody be locked in the Tower of London for this betrayal of our national dignity? To make matters worse, the Samsung blue colour is nearly the same as that of the Tory party. Who let Olympic organisers get away with all this? The reality is every bit as absurd and degrading of our sovereign identity as the satirical TV comedy series based on LOCOG recently portrayed.

The corporate PR folk in their naff uniforms put much loud effort into warming up an already overheated crowd, making the wait seem even longer. Only on a big match day have I seen so many police officers in the city centre - dozens on foot where they belong, with the crowds, then amazingly in a vehicle procession, 3 riot squad vans, 3 patrol cars, 6 motor bikes, 4 expensive police bicycles, and 2 police horses. How much did that little show cost in fuel and police overtime? Money not being spent making the city centre a safer place to do business. Ironically the police got more of a cheer from the crowd than did the corporate PR drones.

When the torch arrived, it was preceded by a large vehicle sporting a rear end platform installation supporting half a dozen photographers. This stopped for a photo opportunity outside the Castle, blocking the view for hundreds of people in the vicinity, all straining to get a glimpse and take their own picture - as I was.

I heard a number of people curse in frustration, as their camera or phone batteries died at the vital moment. Such a long orchestrated wind up meant that people happily snapped away at unimportant stuff believing that the moment was nigh when it wasn't. Fortunately, the torch procession went down St Mary Street, crossed the Taff, then doubled back toward the Castle, crossing the Taff again to enter the Castle grounds and appear at a ticket only open air concert on Cooper's field, so those who hung around after the media circus passed got a second go - if their batteries lasted.  Mine did, just - the overall results, disappointing. Occasion, un-necessarily over-hyped, disappointing.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Op success

Up very early today, to take Clare to the Heath hospital by 7.30am for her first cataract operation, after a six month wait during which she was given no indication of when it might take place. In the end, a couple of weeks notice was given, but it meant we could make no long term plans until we knew the date for certain. We'll have a similar indeterminate wait until the second eye is done.

Just after lunch she rang for me to collect her. Half an hour later she was home eating scrambled egg on toast, and learning how to cope with the discomfort of disrupted vision. Now she's discovering that her distance vision in the repaired eye is better than it has been for years. Her brain has to adjust to the disparity to overcome double vision. By trial and error she's learning which assemblage of specs works best for her. Already the prospect of being able to return to driving is enough cheer to see her through the recovery period of caution.

With supper preparation taken care of, I went to my group meeting. Rufus, one of the students gave a presentation on a variety of different images of crucifixion. This was sparked by a discovery he'd made of an old nineteenth century Bavarian crucifix broken and abandoned in college store room. He took it home and did a very good repair and restoration job on it. He also researched its origins on the web, and was able to tell us about Mayer of Munich the craftsman in whose workshop it originated. Then by way of contrast, he showed us many different pictures of traditional and contemporary works of art.

It struck me afterwards that the different angles of interpretation that lay behind passion portrayals resemble the practice of lectio divina in meditating on scripture. The Gospel narratives are lengthy, charged with attention grabbing moments that rouse the spirit and kindle imagination. This is true whether the aim is prayer and contemplation or to register an interpretation or comment provoking discussion about meaning and relevance. The production of art on religious themes is far from being the exclusive province of devout believers. It attracts skeptics, agnostics, atheists, self-publicising controversialists and iconclasts too. This story has special power to get people thinking about it. And that may happen in ways which not everyone is comfortable with, even in a theological college there are those who'd prefer that religious imagery of a certakept out of the public realism and confined to private imagination.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Google blues

I started the week with a home visit to my friend Father Graham Francis, as his 'tech consultant' to help establish a simple and straightforward means for him to upload a .pdf file of his weekly church bulletin to the website I set up for him about four years ago. We've both been so busy that it's taken a long time to get around to sorting this out person to person. I started the project using Google Pages. Since then the website I made has been relocated to Google Sites, fortunately without breaking the URL or appearance. One time when we needed to do a site update, we lost the password and it took ages to recover - that was before Graham had broadband. It's much easier to manage these things now. 

This time the new Google Sites interface had me puzzling for ages to find out how to make a simple functional way of attaching .pdf files to an archive page. I'd simply forgotten how the web layout editor worked - and really it's very simple to do once the penny drops. The site appearance has changed, and this fooled my memory. Google cosmetic changes create problems for older users like my sister June, and her contemporaries, a decade older than me. I wonder how many more people find this a difficult issue? We have quickly learned to hate Google+, and the appearance changes which the Google+ absorption of Picasaweb have led to. Does anybody at Googleplex listen to people over sixty?

After lunch, mission accomplished, I made my way to St Mikes to prepare for a Family Eucharist with a group of students experimenting with a traditional style of ancient liturgy adapted to the setting of the college chapel, with pews cleared to one side so that everyone was standing together or sitting on the ground in the cleared space. The preparation and parts of the service were filmed for a documentary programme being made on one of the students. I wonder how that will work out? I'll be interested to hear what reaction the service designers get from those who took part also.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Spring comeback

Back to Sunday duties in the Vale of Glamorgan today. First, celebrating the Eucharist at St Mary Church. I was last there for the Easter Vigil. It hardly seems like six weeks since then. Then, on to Ystradowen, my third Eastertide visit. How delightful it was to see Cowbridge Team Rector Fr Derek Belcher and his wife Pam in the congregation. Although still on sick leave, Derek is starting to get out and about now, and get himself fit to return to work after his Big Op. An arch of Clematis is blossoming over the gate into the churchyard and the huge trees on the ancient motte to the west of the church yard are growing a bright green canopy of leaves. It all looks wonderful.
At lunchtime our friend Claudine rang from Thailand to confirm arrangements for her visit next weekend to hear the Welsh National Opera sing Wagner's 'Tristan & Isolde'. She's only just returned home to Bangkok from a trip to Burma this week, where she gave a training session to humanitarian workers on internally displaced persons. When she went to work for the Swiss Mission in Thailand, her briefing was to examine the situation of Burmese refugees settled in the north of the country. Now, after a year of swift political changes, she is being invited to work both sides of the border. This week she goes back to Switzerland briefly, then comes to us for the weekend. I don't know how she copes with the jet lag.

It was sunny and warm enough to sit out in the garden this afternoon and fall asleep without getting scorched. It's not a match on forty degrees in Bangkok. I wonder how long Spring will last this time? I hope Claudine won't be too cold when she comes.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Coast Path walk

As the weather was reasonable, we went to Penarth again for lunch today. Then we walked along the clifftop as far as Sully Bay, passing the substantial concrete remains of World War Two coastal defence positions at Lavernock Point, something I've not visited before. The route has been upgraded, fenced at dangerous points and properly waymarked, all as part of Wales' 870 mile Coastal Path, currently receiving a fresh publicity boost in national news. Several years ago before the path was stabilised, we walked only as far as St Peter's Church Cogan and I got very muddy indeed.
The churchyard wall bears a plaque commemorating Marcon's first ever broadcast in 1897 of a radio signal received at Brean Down on the other side of the Severn Estuary.
The tide was at its lowest during our walk, revealing a two hundred yard pavement of Jurassic rock strata reaching out from the base of the cliffs for a hundred years or so. The worn rock layers form edges and ledges whose pattern seems to imitate the movement of waves coming ashore. Along the steep cliff edge bushes bearing May blossom were in full flourish.

Overlooking Sully Bay is a gun emplacement which was unusually constructed with heavy steel shutters, presumably to keep out the wind and the rain when not in use. The shutters, though much corroded over the past seventy years are still there - one is fused by rust into its guide rails. The other lies within the shelter, torn out of its mountings and thrown to the floor. What the Lufwaffe and dodgy scrap merchants could not manage has been achieved by idle handed idiots incapable of valuing a significant if ugly token of our island history.

Watched the final two episodes of 'The Bridge' after supper. Lots of suspense, the odd snatch of quirky humor but it was hardly worth watching ten episodes of grisly melodrama to see Saga, Ms Robocop finally display a few seconds of normal human emotion. Impressive acting, to have remained stony faced for so long, but the whole thing was ultimately disappointing. The fact that the series used Danish and Swedish languages because of the mise en scène was only capable of entertaining someone adept in Scandinavian languages.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Ascension Day

After a couple of hours in the office, I joined the community at St Mike's for the tea-time Eucharist, before going to my Tai Chi class. The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon celebrated and preached (for too long, making me late leaving for class). I remember Bishop John as curate in Chepstow, when we lived there and I worked for USPG. 

The service was bi-lingual, with hymns and readings in Welsh and English, a mix of languages in the prayers, and best of all, a full decently singable Welsh language setting of the Ordinary of the Mass. How I wish the sung parts were done in Welsh more widely in the church. Cathedrals often use Latin settings with English said texts, so why not Welsh? Well, I already know the answer to that. To my shame I let my suggestions to the musicians and congregation at St John's that we should learn a Welsh Mass setting continue to fall on deaf ears over eight years. It always seemed like too much effort. For a few it was 'not what we do here'. Should I have pushed harder, believing in the immense value of this and the prestigious assertion it would convey to international visitors, that cultural diversity begins at the heart of the capital city? Yes, maybe I should. But the longer in ministry I remained the more carefully I had to select what to work on, in order to bind the congregation together, and not stress or divide it. 

However, I reckon that if the Bishops made the challenge to church congregations to learn how to sing a Welsh Mass setting, and cathedral Deans put some effort into setting the example, and using their musical resources to promote the idea across the dioceses they served, it might give substance to the rhetoric about bi-lingualism being a tool for mission. We also need a bi-lingual edition of the best of Emanau'r Eglwys, the Anglican Welsh language hymnbook which contains many traditional texts also available in English translation. It's good that there is an ecumenical bi-lingual hymn book Caneuon Ffydd, but 900 Welsh hymns and 60 English doesn't quite fit the bill. It's not enough to have the vision or the scholarship to make such a publication. It also needs a lot of investment, and positive promotion.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The hard face of truth

Our flight back to Bristol left at lunchtime, and the connecting buses and train got us home by four thirty, just in time for me to make my way up to St Mike's for the weekly tutorial meeting, at which Chris talked about his year's project, which involved getting people in his placement parish thinking about what they wanted a church website to achieve for them - quite a task when the majority are only slightly acquainted with internet use, often through children or grand-children, rather than personally. It was a very insightful presentation, which may well lead to him sharing his considerable expertise with others in College in an informal session before the term ends.

Having uploaded my 'Cartooning for Peace' pictures to Picasaweb before leaving Geneva, I also sent the link to tutor group members, and challenged them to think of ways they might use any of the striking and often controversial images on display during a College meditation or prayer session. How often we pray for peace or about peace without really facing up the disturbing difficult and divisive issues that lie behind the need for peace.

Finally, Radko Mladic is on trial at the War Crimes Tribunal in den Haag, seemingly contemptuous of the process, indifferent to the suffering and death the army under his command meted out during the Bosnian war. It is a deeply serious affair, ensuring that truth is told for the sake of surviving victims, and so that the rest of us can learn the lessons of those tragic events in which too much power was given over to people who thrived on ill-will and hatred of others. 

Sometimes, it is only the political satirists of this world, whose critical scorn is poured out upon the lies and pretensions of the powerful, who can catch the world's attention - provided their voices are not hastily extinguished. Sadly, the churches' record on freedom of speech is sometimes little better than that of other conservative faith groups. We have a long way to go before we can really say that we are following our Master completely on this count.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Days of fellowship

We attended the nine o'clock Eucharist at Holy Trinity Church on Sunday and met lots of old friends over coffee and croissants after the service. As the Chaplain was on pilgrimage in the Holy Land, a visiting priest from Basel celebrated. She had been incumbent of an English parish, but when her husband was posted abroad she resigned to become an 'accompanying spouse' and a non-stipendiary priest, as no posts were open to her locally. Nevertheless, a spare cleric, like a retired one is invaluable support to chaplains who do need to get away. After a quiet afternoon, we were taken out to Meyrin for supper with Alec and Ann-Marie, who have celebrated their Golden wedding anniversary since we last saw them. It's almost twenty years since we first dined with them, when we came out to Geneva for interview, and we've been friends ever since.

Sunday afternoon and most of Monday, Manel was busy in the kitchen preparing all sorts of food for her evening guests. I took the opportunity to slip out and return to the Quai Wilson and take photos of the entire Cartooning for Peace exhibition. You'll find the full set of pictures displayed here.

Each year since her husband Prabha's death twelve years ago Manel has invited friends to a house Eucharist with more food and fellowship to follow. Now eleven years after I celebrated the first memorial service, she invited me to offer the Eucharist again, so we could remember him, and on this occasion also our mutual friend Peter. Over twenty people were there - old friends from the UN or with Sri Lankan connections, others were Cursillo or Holy Trinity friends we knew. Among those present were a couple of Buddhists and a Muslim. In every way this gathering was typical of both Manel and Prabha, and the diversity of people they associated with in their lives, both separately and together. The home they made contains many Buddhist and Hindu sacred art works as well as Bibles and Christian books, representing a faith which truly embraces the world of faith. 

An occasion of this kind is rare for me these days, but one I treasure greatly for the wonderful people I have had the privilege of meeting and knowing as a priest. It was a fitting conclusion to our briefer than usual sojourn in the City of Calvin.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Peter's memorial service

Before lunch today, I went down to Holy Trinity in the centre of Geneva to meet with former organist Keith Dale who'd come over from Bangkok for this afternoon's Memorial Service, en route for Britain where he's due to play some concerts next week. So, when I arrived he was practicing on his former instrument. Where he is now living, he teaches piano and seldom plays the organ. When he performs it's on the harpsichord he took with him. His is only one of four in the city. He is hatching a plan to get all four together to play the Bach concert of four harpsichords, he tells me. That'll be a first, no doubt. When he'd finished we went over to Manor and drank coffee and talked for a couple of hours, and I heard all about his enthusiasm for life in a new city with a new culture and language to engage with. Quite an adventure.

After we parted company, I went back to Manel's, changed into my best suit, collected my alb and headed back to Holy Trinity Church good and early to prepare for the service. Another old friend and colleague  Pastor Ken Kvistad, who helps out at the church nowadays was there to welcome everyone on behalf of the Chaplain. He's in the Holy Land this week. There was a congregation of 150, and the place was full, with ex UN colleagues, plus present and past members of the congregation, plus his two sons and spouses and his ex-wife. I was meant to round off the tributes and lead into prayer, but succeeded in missing one rather lengthy hymn altogether, which disappointed some and relieved others at it meant we ended punctually enough to have decent time for the reception that followed in true Holy Trinity style.

It was a lovely occasion painting a rich portrait of a man who had for several decades set the tone of welcome and quiet pastoral care, with his friendliness and often outrageous sense of humour, mocking our frailties, passions and pretensions, but never deriding or humiliating anyone. His was a life well lived, and he will continue to be missed until his generation of adventuring young internationalists determined to make the world a better place by their efforts, have gone the way of all flesh.

Politics and the art of cartoonery

Clare and I spent much of yesterday wandering around Geneva town centre and browsing shops, eating lunch in the Manor top floor self service restaurant, an old haunt of ours. We started by walking down to the Quai Wilson enjoy the lakeside view. We discovered an outdoor art exhibition of international political cartoons stretching over two hundred metres of quay-side, the product of a competition run by a new international non-governmental organisation established in 2006 called 'Cartooning for Peace'.

A hundred cartoons from countries around the world, protesting against injustices of every kind are the best entries submitted in a competition held every two years. A very impressive witness to everyone who visits Geneva, whether to do business, take a holiday, or work for a UN agency or a humanitarian organisation. It's the kind of thing that Geneva does very well. How I'd love to see those cartoons displayed in Bute Park, Cardiff! Here's just a couple of them, displayed in context.
This observation applies equally to every religious fanatic who takes themselves too seriously. And this one speaks for itself about perceived inequalities in the realm of religious leadership.
When our energies began to fade, we headed back to Manel's for a cup of tea and a rest. Then I headed out again, this time on public transport to Meyrin, where old friend Michael Bell met me with his car and drove me to his home in Prevessin to meet up with his wife Barbara before going out for a very pleasant supper in a Chinese restaurant on the rte de Gex. I missed them last time we came over, so it was great to catch up on the past eighteen months. For all of us, time seems to fly past faster than ever, and there's always so much to share. Although the trams were still running when we decided to call it a night, they ferried me home to the doorstep, to prolong our conversation and fellowship as much as possible.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Another Geneva visit

We were up at five this morning, then in a taxi on the way to the station at six, for a train/Bus to Bristol Airport. As the airport was fairly quiet, we dropped off our case and were through security and into the departure area by ten to eight. The flight to Geneva left ten minutes early and landed twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Our friend Gill was waiting for us as we walk into the arrivals area. It was one of the quickest and smoothest trips we've ever had. 

Our friend Manel, with whom we are staying, cooked us a superb Sri Lankan lunch to welcome us back. I'm here to conduct a memorial service on Saturday for our old friend Peter, who was such a stalwart member of the Geneva English community and church for so many years. After I'd unpacked and changed, I left Clare to take a siesta, and walked into town to Cornavin station to take a train out to Coppet, where I was to be picked up by Julia's husband Philippe for a visit at their home outside of Divonne les Bains. Half of Cornavin station is currently being re-built. The eastern block of the station buildings has been demolished leaving only the stone facade, propped up but a giant steel frame. Finding ticket offices and information services was a challenge, as re-direction notices were unusually lacking. Nevertheless, as usual, trains ran on time. In next to no time I was sitting chatting in the afternoon sun out in Philippe's magnificent garden, catching up on all that's happened since we were here last summer.

Julia belongs to an ecumenical pastors group in the Pays de Gex, an initiaitve of the very conservative diocesan Bishop of Belley-Ars. She's the only Anglican, and the only woman in the group, as well as being a priest. Next week she has to give an introductory presentation on Anglicansm to the group, and asked me to look at it with her. It was an interesting and enjoyable experience, reminding me of ecumenical encounters of a similar kind which were part of my life as a Geneva chaplain. In those days, fifteen years ago, my French was not nearly as good as Julia's, and was the source of much amusement I suspect. She has spent most of her adult life in a francophone context, so it was a pleasure to read her written text. In fact, I enjoy being back in a francophone environment again, even if the reading matter brought with me is a Spanish language textbook to prepare for my time in the Costa Azahar chaplaincy.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Spring Planting

I said the 8.00am Mass for two elderly ladies at St Luke's Canton this morning - they told me that others who usually came were all away for the Bank Holiday weekend. After breakfast, Clare and I went together to St Catherine's, where I celebrated a full Sung Eucharist, and I preached there for the first time. There were forty adults and an amazing twenty children in the congregation, some of whom were in the choir. It's a huge church, seating three hundred, at a guess, and the church warden emeritus kindly herded the congregation towards the front section before the service began, which made it easier for me to focus on them.

Afterwards, we went to the farmers market, to buy some small gifts of local cheeses to take with us to Geneva. Clare also bought a blossom laden self pollinating apple tree which promises to bear two varieties of fruit if it takes to our garden. Last week at B&Q we bought tomato plants and a strawberry pot, and she has already has them thriving. After lunch she spent the afternoon agonising about where to plant it, and how to rearrange furnishings and a flower bed. Fortunately, after a week of rain it was decently mild and sunny enough to sit outdoors as well as work. Meanwhile, bees came and visited the apple blossom in a comforting way. Thankfully, our Pontcanna back street gardens and nearby parks aren't short of flowers, blossom or insects.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Ubuntu luncheon

Clare had a school open day to attend throughout the day, so I took a trip to Monmouth to collect a mirror she'd ordered for the dining room, and then called in on my old friend Martin for lunch and PC trouble shooting at his Stow Hill home in Newport.

Martin had called me a couple of days ago for advice because his stable and reliable Ubuntu desktop no longer worked properly after his always-on PC was disconnected from the mains accidentally. As the latest version Ubuntu 12.04 was launched only a few days earlier, I suggested he might be able to upgrade on-line and that this would solve his problem. He got the installation running, but after reboot reached a blank screen, and gave up, not knowing what was going on out of sight. As I couldn't run any diagnostic without seeing the screen and poking around, we agreed a lunch date would be the best answer.

He was out when I arrived, so I sat down quietly with his machine and booted it to a visible desktop using a Ubuntu live DVD I'd made earlier. To my relief I found that his hardware and filesystem was intact and functional. Nothing corrupted or lost, despite menacing messages about hard disk health flashing on screen - a particularly scary feature, for which there appears to be no simple reason or remedy. 

I decided to do another install direct from the DVD, and this ran smoothly while we ate a very nice fish risotto and caught up on the news. The end result, however was much the same. Blank screen. Then the penny dropped. This machine, a couple of years old didn't have the graphics capacity for running the Ubuntu Unity 3D desktop without the required drivers, which clearly weren't available at install. Pressing Ctr-Alt-Del a few times replaced the blank screen with the log-in screen - the installation by-passed this as it was set to auto log-in. Switching to the Unity 2D Desktop and logging in produced the desired result, and once more gave Martin the access he needed to his system.

I guess it might have been possible to tweak the installation to produce the 2D desktop at first pass. If so, I didn't notice it. The message from Ubuntu producers Canonical seems to be 'Up grade your hardware.' It's left to others who rely on the core Ubuntu product for building their own Linux distribution to make sure it runs 'out of the box' on older standard hardware - as it certainly does, very well indeed. Except for the odd tweak here and there.

Back home for supper, preparation an early start tomorrow, then two hours of 'The Bridge' before early bed. I don't know why I watch this bleak dystopian stuff. Sunday mornings following in church, even dull routine Sunday mornings are such light and harmony in contrast.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Match Thursday

A postcard from Cuba arrived this morning, sent by Kath, Anto and Rhiannon during their trip there in early December last year. Who dares complain about the Royal Mail in comparison to that?

I had my second lunchtime visit of the week to Thornhill Crematorium to take another funeral, standing in for my former colleague Jenny Wigley. He's on leave this week and so is her curate Chris Colton, also a former colleague of mine, who is on holiday with her husband Martin in Equador. I stand in for him at St Catherine's our local Parish church on Sunday morning.

Following a visit to St Mike's to see a student about their annual report, I went to the office for an hour before supper, then drove to Penarth for my usual Tai Chi session. On the way home, I unwittingly took a route which led me into the thick of departing football spectator traffic, on foot and in cars, just as the City stadium in Leckwith was emptying. I knew the match was on, but thought it would be finished by the time I was passing, not having registered that it was a late kick-off. This delayed my homecoming by forty minutes. I'll know better next time.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Variety is the spice of life

I had a funeral to take yesterday lunchtime, then spent a couple of hours in the office. Excavation has begun on the site of new Admiral tower block, next to our office in the Motorpoint Arena Business Centre. Great mounds of earth have sprung up, and I guess must also be removed from the site by lorry. When the weather is kinder I must walk around there and see if I can figure our how traffic on and off site is being managed in such a confined space. If the SD2 redevelopment is anything to go by, working in such confined spaces is now quite an engineering art.
After an early appointment with my GP to complete a periodic medication review, it went earlier than usual to St Mikes for a lengthy tutors' meeting, to complete our review of end of year reports not covered last week. Then, after a break, our weekly tutor group meeting, which was spent considering the Church in Wales' policy on the disposal of cremated remains, in response to a question from one of the students. An evening Chi Gung session came as light relief after that sort of day.