Saturday, 31 October 2015


After a nice late breakfast, I drove up to the Travellers' Rest pub on Caerphilly Mountain to meet a couple and prepare a funeral service with them for Monday. As they live in the Valleys it was the most convenient thing to do apart from meet at the funeral parlour, something I am reluctant to do, preferring to meet on neutral ground, and not at our house now I'm retired. Unfortunately the pub hadn't yet opened, so we had to sit outside at a picnic table. Fortunately the rain stayed away until our business was completed.

Then, Clare, Rhiannon and I went to Penarth and had a fish and chip picnic lunch on the beach. It was such a grey day. With the tide right out, some of the photos I took were almost devoid of colour apart from shades of grey, and converting them to monochrome for comparison, it was fascinating to see the differences.
Later in the day, Rhiannon went out with her little friend Anwen on a 'trick or treat' expedition, and returned with a bag of various kinds of junk sweets that parents are no longer keen for the children to eat. We had only a couple of little visitors, and they got little boxes of Smarties. Just as bad really. Rhiannon doesn't much care for sweets, apart from chocolate, and is good about keeping stocks and rationing herself. Admirable restraint for an eleven year old. It's amazing how she's grown since the summer, and the start of her first year in secondary school.

Another penetrating Arne Dahl episode on BBC Four this evening, all about teenage sex trafficking and child pornography, with a little web hacking thrown in. All very current issues, and interesting to see how they are represented from a Swedish perspective. Much more haunting than all the fantasy horror we're exposed to at this time of year, as it's that much closer suburban ordinariness.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Congestion blues

When the post arrived this morning I was annoyed to discover in a fixed penalty notice, fining me for driving in a bus lane two Thursdays ago, late, on my way to the monthly RUG meeting. I needed the car for a Chepstow trip to our suppliers after the meeting, and normally wouldn't dream of taking my car, since walking and bussing is so easy. I got impatient arriving at the highly congested junction of Queen Street and Newport Road. I couldn't get in to a stationary turning right lane without causing more congestion in main lane, so I drove on, did a couple of right turns to bring me back to where I could make a left turn for the exit I needed. At that point, there was another two hundred yard traffic queue to the lights, so I turned into the empty bus lane, forgetting about the new enforcement order. Of course buses and taxis should have priority, but when there's nothing in sight before or behind, the temptation to fill the empty space was too great. Serves me right.

I had to take the car into the office again today, for another Chepstow trip. We were quite late leaving and when we arrived back in town, it was dark. There was even more congestion at this junction, and no alternative route to get back to the office and park where I could drip off two bulky boxes of new radio purchases. Bob Dylan and the Band were performing at the Motorpoint arena, and doubtless the influx of concert goers added to the usual rush hour congestion. It took half an hour to move four hundred yards and cross the junction, having moved early to get into the correct queue for the lights. Last time's lesson learned.

There's no obvious way to do anything about this frightful bottleneck. I dread to think about the impact of pollution levels on local residents. At this time, city centre population is once more rising, due to construction of new student accommodation. The road passing in front of the newly refurbished Queen Street station is still too narrow for the number of cars needing to use it to reach the south side of the town centre from the east. Only when a decision is taken to redevelop the Capitol shopping centre site will it be possible to re-consider road layout and building design to eliminate the choke point. How long will that be I wonder?

Not long after I finally got home, Kath and Rhiannon arrived after rush hour traffic had well subsided to spend the weekend with us. Such a lovely consolation for time wasted in traffic queues. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Orthodox memories

I celebrated the Eucharist in honour of Saints Simon and Jude for the Wednesday congregation at St German's this morning. No school class present as it's half term this week. It aroused memories for me of starting work in the St Paul's Area in Bristol as Team Rector of St Agnes and St Simon with St Werburgh this autumn, forty years ago. This day was one specially observed in the Parish, as the benefice in post war years had absorbed the neighbouring parish of St Simon and there were still a few St Simon's people attending St Agnes. The redundant church had been given to Bristol's Greek Orthodox community, and I'd discovered this in my first year as a University student, as part of my ecumenical education. The impression made on me by taking part in the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom for the first time was profound and lasting, a landmark moment in my spiritual journey. 

At that service I met Fr Nicholas Behr, newly ordained Russian Orthodox Deacon, just arrived in the city with a mission to grow a congregation among groups of Slavic speaking exiles. We became friends and over subsequent years the conversations we had about our different kinds of Christian tradition showed me how much I'd actually absorbed about Anglican Christianity, from attending church and listening to full content sermons from a priest who really cared. All part of my journey towards ordination.

Within years Fr Nicholas had acquired a church across the street from the University refectory and had grown a Russian Orthodox church congregation, which now has a couple of dozen nationalities among its members. The Greek church flourishes too, having survived the almost total devastation of its neighbourhood, due to the creation of a motorway junction right next to it. With its local parish population decimated, only an eclectic linguistic minority group was in a position to keep it open. The church spire lost its weather-vane and top section in the late eighties and was capped, giving it a distinctive profile in the town-scape, just south of the Ashley Road junction.

I rarely went to the Greek Church, even for social purposes, after I became Vicar, but I kept in touch with Fr. Nicholas and occasionally attended services and sang in his English liturgy choir. Once, I persuaded him to celebrate Vespers in St Agnes as part of our Unity Week observances. We had good relations with local Roman Catholics and local Methodists were partners with us in an Ecumencial Area of Experiment, as it was then called. We also had several afro-caribbean Christian groups in the area, and St Agnes occasionally offered them hospitality, also a tiny group of Latvian Lutherans, a legacy of wartime exiles in the city. It was a time of rich ecumenical and inter-faith experiences that was the richest of my entire ministry.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Landmark day in the Lords

Two outings to the GP surgery today at different times, one for consultation and another for a brief check. Then, an outing to Staples and the city centre to shop for new equipment. Since the death of my trusty Dell, I've reverted to using my equally old Acer desktop PC, also dual boot Linux Mint. It sweetly booted first time to a desktop, after months of idleness, as if it had only been started yesterday. None of this half an hour of scanning and updating, requiring machine minding before useable for work. It just worked. It's safe enough to leave updates until convenient. It's a bit noisy, but Mint is quicker than Windows. How much more power do I need for current purposes? Well, maybe a higher resolution display for photo viewing. It still satisfactory for photo editing. That's all I've considered so far, but to no conclusion. The HD monitors I've seen are all a bit too big for the space in which I want to use them.

Quite apart from a noteworthy welcome introduction of Bishop Rachel Treweek to the House of Lords today, its debate on proposed government tax reform has been revealing, and very creditable. The outcome, which obliges the government to look again at how it proposes to implement changes as part of its cost cutting strategy has really stirred up debate about the what business the House of Lords had in daring to jeopardise a long standing agreement that the Lords don't stand in the way of legislation agreed by the House of Commons. 

What was impressive was how so many peers, including the Bishops, expressed serious concern about the impact of the Chancellor's implementation plan on the poorest income earners, and refused to compromise on the grounds calling for the Chancellor to revise his plans at this stage by blocking the measure's progress threated constitutional democracy. In effect, the Lords were voicing the moral conscience of the public at a moment when government seems to be deaf to widely expressed concerns.

I believe every government needs its upper chamber, full of wisdom, expertise and experience, and whether elected or appointed or a mix of members is of less concern than the quality of its advice and the authority with which it is regarded. So often the Commons and the elected government are acting pragmatically more than ideally with the best interests of the nation in mind. If negotiation and debate are hindered in serving the people as best as possible, another set of eyes and ears can be a valuable corrective. We have a government in power that talks about doing justice for everyone including the poor but can be short sighted in achieving this, or listening to those trying to point this out. How much the voice of moral conscience is still needed at the heart of politics. All too often it is only heard in a selective way. Behind the guise and good intentions of people elected to public service, there can still be a strong streak of self interest that is not there to serve the common good.

Sure we need to look at constitutional reform, Common as well as Lords. The government won the voting competition, but doesn't command the majority of the votes of all electors let alone electors who voted, due to the demographical inequalities embedded in the system of parliamentary constisuency boundaries. I'd like to see voting compulsory, and by a proportional representation system rather than first past the post. It would mean more slow, difficult government by coalition compromise, but there are plenty of other countries that manage this successfully. Over time, proportions may not change all that much, so the same proportionality can be applied to upper chamber representatives, if they are to be appointed, or else let them be elected, starting the initial change with an election in which present House of Lords members are eligible for confirmation, and work from there. Let the world judge whose contributions are regarded as useful to society. Why not?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Movie weekend

Neither Clare nor I felt like doing much yesterday. Only later when clouds parted and gave us a few hours of afternoon sun did I venture out to take some photos of autumnal trees on Llandaff Fields. Mild weather has produced a lovely array of colours, and now that leaves are actually starting to fall, the contrast of gold and brown on the still bright green grass is just lovely to behold.

This morning after a good night's sleep, thanks to the extra hour, with the clocks going back, I returned to St John's Danescourt and Christchurch Radyr for their main Eucharists, with a baptism during and another one after the latter service. It's several years since I last baptized anyone, and an event I enjoy. But when I look into some closed hard faces when I greet visitors before or after the service it's clear they've accepted the invite more out of good-will to the child's parents than any appreciation for the value of the ceremony. The same can be true of the guests at weddings and funerals too. It's difficult to retain an open and welcoming attitude to them when the devil inside me wants to pipe up and say: "Why on earth have you come here with a look like that on your face?" Truth to tell, church is for many occasional visitors an embarrassing place to be, for a host of different reasons, and it's an unending challenge to deal with this.

Before the second baptism, I needed a rest with a drink and chocolate biscuit to sustain me, as I was starting to flag - feeling my age? Or did I fail to eat as much breakfast as I really needed, to keep me sharp? I was fine by the time I'd finished and on my way home, and didn't spend all the rest of the afternoon dozing. I went out again with my camera to Thompson's Park to enjoy the even earlier sunset. Photos are here.

It was something of a weekend for crime drama, with another double episode of the Arne Dahl series last night, with something of a post Cold War legacy crime theme with an ending worthy of spy thriller. Tonight, as Clare wanted to watch 'Downton Abbey' and I didn't, I made use of the FilmOnTV website on my Asus Transformer to view the last of four episodes of BBC's One's 'From Darkness', which I found altogether disappointingly slow. Cut out all the agonising slow facial closups and the whole story could have been better compressed into two hour episodes. 

The digital TV box I had in the Nerja chaplain's house ran the same FilmOnTV streaming service. It's only recently I realise that it could provide an alternative means of viewing when there are scheduling clashes of interest here at home. After this, I chanced upon a late showing of 'False Trail', a detective movie set in rural Northern Sweden, starring Rolf Lassgard, the first actor to portray Wallender, as another detective. The plot centred around the ability of an insane, corrupt policeman to fabricate a web of lies around a murder he'd committed. I didn't mind it being slow to unravel as there were subtitles to grapple with. The scenes of autumnal and winter forests aroused in me a strong desire to visit that part of the world, up near the Arctic Circle one of these days.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Different kinds of duties done

Clare came with me to All Saints' Penarth this morning for a Eucharist with a dozen people attending. The last time I was here was for a Lent talk, since I've retired. Puzzlingly, can't track down exactly when that was, although I believe it was just before work began on a major project to re-develop the west end of the church nave for community purposes, as the all new look and feel to the church came as a surprise.

There's a big extended balcony arranged as meeting areas, with offices, kitchen and toilets on the ground floor either side of the entrance. That still leaves room for a congregation of around three hundred. Church here is still well attended and relatively prosperous, with more than enough to do for a priest often having to work on his own, or else be training a Curate, and functioning as Area Dean in addition. I get the impression that he has the support he needs, and his Friday worshippers were welcoming to us.

For Clare, this was the first occasion to come to worship since her brother Eddie died, and it was special for me to share with her mentioning him by name in the Lord's presence. Naming people in the context of time-hallowed repetition of well remembered liturgical sentences is such a simple way of bonding the living and dead with each other across the frontier of eternity, mysteriously blending pain and consolation. I find it such a privilege to have been able to continue doing this over the forty six years of my public ministry. There's no magic to this, just the love that heals.

Afterwards, I took her by car across the city to the Spire clinic in Pentwyn for an ultrasound scan of her repaired shoulder, which has been giving her a lot of pain of late. The delightful young German doctor, who spoke excellent English with just the hint of a Scottish brogue to colour her voice, betraying her career history thus far, was most reassuring. The shoulder repairs were intact, the pain was inflammation, treatable with a cortizone injection that will enable Clare to return to regular re-enforcing physio exercise without too much grief.

Resorting to private medical treatment is far from desirable in our opinion, but NHS services are overburdened. There could be months of waiting, coping with the pain and continued uncertainty about how much re-hab effort she should be making. The scan provided the necessary information when most needed, to enable her to continue to make progress. That's worth the expenditure. After all, the money might have paid for that weekend outing we could have taken if it wasn't for the deterrent shoulder pain. Who wants money more than pain? Why blame state medicine when older people like us are part of the challenge it strives to deal with? Affording this little intervention, one way or another helps make things better.

Having taken Clare home after scan and treatment, I popped back into town on the bus to visit the office, and deal with the half dozen responses so far to the BCRP job advert in the 'Western Mail' and on the JobsWales website. This is a promising start, and shows us the value of a rather costly advertising process immediately. I might regret this, if by the deadline, I have dozens of applications to process for the short-listers to consider. So pleased, however, to have eventually got this far.

I couldn't put it off any longer. After supper this evening, I gathered my wits and made the vital effort to complete my 2014-15 tax return. The HMRC website is as good as it gets, and I believe this is my tenth on-line submission. All the required financial information was in good order. The hard bit was remembering just how I'd navigated my way through the plethora of options and technicalities to make an honest and honourable return, in order to pay my dues. 

I admit I needed to look at the .pdf file of last year's submission to remind me of exactly how I'd categorised earnings relating to locum duties outside the tax administration remit of the Church in Wales Representative Body or the Church Commissioners of the CofE. The result left me owing tax after a run of years when I got a tax rebate, but never mind. I could log off with a clear social conscience, and somehow that matters to me. Perhaps it's gratitude for having enough to live on, not having to scrimp and save to give a family its just desserts.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Duties line up

I spent this morning preparing a sermon for another set of Sunday sermons in Radyr. I heard from our Area Dean that I'm to be put to use at St Germans for the coming months. Peter Cox rang up and asked if I could cover a service for him in All Saints' Penarth tomorrow morning. Quite a while since I've been there. I also heard from Nerja that not only am I required from early April to mid May, when Clare and I go on our Danube cruise, but also for three weeks when I return. Cover has been secured for the weeks I'd be missing in a normal three month spell. 

I also heard that I might also be asked to offer cover in February and March down at St Mary's Cardiff Bay, in the first few months of my friend Father Graham's retirement. He moves across the 'Southern Arc' of Cardiff as the communities fronting the Bristol Channel are called, to Splott. No doubt, it won't be long before he gets called on for locum duty. I hope he takes a good long rest first however, if only to realise how hard he's been working on the front line for so long.

My Swedish friend Sara emailed me to express her shock and horror at the murderous assault made on teachers and students at a school north of Gothenburg, not far from where she lives. It had only just been reported in the morning news. It looks like the work of yet another right wing extremist, and not a deranged would be jihadi. Whatever next? in a world so tolerant of violent fantasy that it's become part of popular entertainment in such an unprecedented way.

After lunch I went out shopping for an all-in-one printer/scanner, not for home or office use, but for the Alcohol Treatment Centre, which makes good use of one of the RadioNet pro bono issues. A.T.C. is a great health care initiative which cares for drunken revellers from the city night time economy in situ, and minimises the number of A&E admissions at the already hard pressed Heath Hospital every weekend and festive occasion of the year. Its funding is being reduced, and offering a necessary piece of equipment is something well within our remit that we can do.

Finding the right piece of kit was less easy than I thought. A hard wired network monochrome lazer printer was needed for cost effectiveness. Almost every lazer printer on offer in Staples and PC World had wifi and colour print but no network port. In the end, I found just what I needed among the end of line bargains, and returned triumphantly to the office to deliver it. Then home for supper and another night avoiding work (namely filling in my tax return) in front of the telly.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Heavy hearted week

The last few days have been spent trying to absorb the fact of my brother in law's death, and all that follows on from that stark fact. It's not easy to maintain usual routine with a heavy heart. Monday evening, however, we had a BCRP Board meeting, and agreed an interview process for the post due to be advertised in the regional press this week, and again I took minutes, but waited until Tuesday morning to write them up. In evening I went to Chi Gung class as usual, and worked quite well even if my mind was on times far away. 

This morning no class of children attended the Wednesday Mass at St Germans. I visited the school and spent an hour in an RE session with Year 4 in a Q&A session with the kids about the job of a priest. I enjoyed their curiosity immensely. After the lunch break I visited the afternoon session of the nursery class for the start of their prayer time and activities following. There are two dozen in the morning group and eight in the afternoon, but set to grow to two dozen as new children are admitted on reaching the required age of entrance. The nursery teacher and assistants are challenged having to receive children of a range of social and language backgrounds, maturity and development levels. Some are unused to social interaction or play, more accustomed to spending time at home parked in front of a television, little read to or talked to. What's achieved in a few hours of contact time is nothing short of amazing. Would that classes in parenting skills were more widely available in this country as they are in other countries.

After school, I went to the office for a few hours of planning discussion with Ashley before going home to cook supper, and slump in front of the telly, avoiding work I need to do, lacking energy. Eddie's funeral is now confirmed to be in Kirton, his home church on November 4th. Rachel his god-daughter won't be able to come from the USA, sadly, but Owain will be there. Kath has been asked to sing with Anto 'Bridge over troubled waters' a favourite of Ann and Eddie's. The long wait is not going to make it any easier.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Unwelcome news

My old friend and colleague Jenny Wigley was on Canon's duty in the Cathedral this morning, so I took services for her in St John's Danescourt and Christchurch Radyr. I've been to both of them often enough over the past few years to know and be known by a good few people in both congregations, and this makes it an enjoyable experience. 

After the second service, I talked with David Suthers of Radyr Community Council about the impact on West Cardiff of a series of housing estates soon to add several thousand new dwellings to sites around Radyr and Pentyrch. There are no plans to improve main roads into town, nor to add public transport infrastructure. Already, since the expansion of Radyr housing along the upper plain of the river Taff, there's been a marked increase in traffic congestion in Llandaff. It's now one of the most polluted areas of Cardiff. Proposals to develop a cross-city metro line have not been pursued, despite the need already obvious to commuters. Is nobody interested in this kind of investment? Improving quality of life and environment is generally economically beneficial as well.

Not long after I returned from church, there was a phone call from Ann to say that brother in law Eddie had taken a turn for the worse and she was going immediately to the hospital. By the time she arrived, he'd died peacefully, in the company of a couple of nurses. Just twelve days after his open heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurism. We were aware of the uncertainty of recovery after such a high risk rescue operation, taking things a step at a time, but this came as shock after a brief spell of optimism. The rest of the day was spent contacting family and friends to tell them, waiting for the painful impact to make itself felt, and praying for the repose of his soul. 

May he rest in peace.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Data recovery

Cardiff city centre was busy and full of rugby fans today, so we walked to Leckwith to catch a bus to take us to Penarth. A covering of grey clouds, a slight chill wind and comparative absence of people taking their leisure gave the promenade a wintry feel. We had lunch in the pier restaurant, including an excellent 'home made' broccoli and stilton soup. Then we walked along the cliff top for an hour before heading back up into the town to catch a bus home.

With my Sunday sermon already prepared and printed out, I had time to work on retrieving and then removing data from the dead Dell XPS. A hefty machine with 'old school' modular construction, its key components, memory, CPU, network cards, hard drive are all accessible through different panels underside. I was able to find and remove the hard drive very easily. A decade ago I bought an adaptor interface that enabled a CD/DVD/HDD to connect to a PC via USB. It's come in useful for a variety of reasons over the years, but I'd  only ever had occasion to use the IDE not the SATA adaptor. The drive from the Dell is the first SATA one I've come across, so fitting it correctly was something I had to work out carefully. 

To my great pleasure it worked without incident. The drive, an early type 500GB has a couple of FAT format partitions for Windows and a couple of EXT2 partitions for Linux. Thankfully, I have an old dual boot Windows/Linux desktop machine, same age as the Dell, which is now only used for a handful of legacy programs I need occasionally to use. I fired it up into Linux Mint, which saw the attached drive immediately, and was able to transfer, albeit slowly, all files from the various partitions of the Dell drive to the safety of a new USB3 drive acquired earlier in the year. If it was possible to get an economical repair done on the Dell, I could send it off, knowing it was free of data that should be kept away from prying eyes.

I was disappointed there was no episode of 'Beck' on BBC Four tonight, as I'd expected a longer series run. Instead, another Swedish crime drama series 'Arne Dahl' shown in double episodes, with a diverse expert team assembled to apply themselves to very difficult cases, all interwoven with lots of personal relationship stories and back history stuff. I found it a bit long winded, and I began to get impatient ninety minutes into the two hour show. I preferred the concentration of 'Beck' episodes and the issues exposed. As with many high tech crime dramas these days, much is made of the ability to track cellphone users and pinpoint their locations. Is the technology portrayed in use that quick and slick to deliver results, or is it dramatic license, I wonder.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Lost, unsynced by Windows 10

I can't believe that we could have so much hassle as a consequence of the upgrade of the main office admin computer from Windows 7 to Windows 10. We realised last week that the file system wasn't syncing as it was supposed to, and that we seemed to have more than once copy of it on the machine. It took us a while to discover that the OneDrive location where Julie had been saving files since April existed only on her machine, and was not syncing to the web, possibly because it had been set up in a file location that suited us, rather than Microsoft. 

Until April, under Windows 7 it was syncing fine, then stopped without warning. Upgrade produced on this computer another edition of the file system held in the Cloud, up to date until April, with a few additions made by me, directly to the web from other machines, but with none of Julie's work, several hundred files - all there in the filesystem of her choice location but unsynchronised. It's easy enough now she knows for her to save material direct to the web version, but finding and uploading six months of files is no easy matter.

After I'd taken a copy of the file system containing the past six months of work, it was a matter of working out which of several dozen file folders needs updating and doing it manually. Not an easy task. Often resorted to file folders are identifiable quickly, but the myriad of lesser used ones are far more of a problem. We spent several hours together doing this, and I completed as much as I could find at home in the evening before disaster struck. My six year old Linux driven Dell XPS laptop, one of the first purchased by CBS, and redundant for several years, despite being useable and useful, died on me in mid-operation, almost certainly from a motherboard failure. Probably it's beyond economical repair. I was able to complete most of what I'd set out to do on another machine, but now I'm faced with retrieving confidential data from a machine I've never needed to take apart before.

At least there's good news from Ipswich hospital. Eddie's chest infection is responding to treatment, and his rehabilitation course continues.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Garden job done

I went into the office this morning to attend the monthly RadioNet Users Group for the first time in many moons, as I've been away so much. I went in by car, so I could drive Ashley to Chepstow to visit our radio equipment supplier in the afternoon, both to collect kit held on our behalf, and discuss equipment and resources needed for the next phase in our development plan. 

When I got home the garden patio work had been completed, the bill had been paid and the builders had departed, leaving me to move plants and other stuff back into our garden from next door, for Clare to rearrange. We're both pleased with the result.
The bench in the photo is falling apart, but will stay until we get an opportunity to shop around for new garden furniture. We were relieved to learn that Eddie had survived the return journey to Ipswich from Papworth Hospital, although suffering from a chest infection and very vulnerable. Was it right to have moved him? Or was it one too many risks? We can but watch and pray.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Patio progress

I celebrated  Mass at St German's this morning with a Tredegarville School class in attendance. Then I visited the school's Early Years section kindergarten and reception classes, to be introduced to the children as a local priest, and provide an opportunity to ask questions about what a priest does. They are really a bit too young to be that curious about one of those unfamiliar people that drop into their classes to be introduced from time to time, but it's lovely to see them with their teachers in their own classroom. I was particularly impressed by the lovely way the teachers and children related to a child in the class who needed extra attention for some reason.

When I arrived home for lunch much progress had already been made in slab laying. All were laid and the boundaries of lawn and flower beds re-fashioned, in about six hours of work. Tomorrow the job will be finished with grouting between the slabs and re-placing the shed. After that, we wouldn't mind a few rain showers, as all the garden foliage is covered with a layer of white dust thrown out by the disc cutting machine used. Already it looks neat, and Clare is thinking about new garden furniture to complete the makeover.

Last week, Clare received a couple of kilos of green cherry tomatoes, being given away free to a good home by the Riverside Market Garden. She transformed them into eight jars of a tasty chutney, then asked if I could take a picture to illustrate the outcome for the market garden website. I did this on Saturday last, and today this was published on-line.

We learned this evening that Eddie is being to be moved from Papworth to Ipswich ICU, much closer to home and a lot easier for Ann to visit him, as it's only a tenthnof the distance she's been travelling this week. Progress sustained, so far, so good.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Bush transplant

The workmen arrived to make a start on the garden at nine on Monday, and set about breaking up all the old concrete and tiles, and wheelbarrowing it out along the narrow back lane to be taken away by van. I provided tea and coffee. The task must have been rather un-nerving, as two of the garden boundary walls in houses opposite ours are leaning at a dangerous angles, ready to collapse. This is a consequence of letting trees close to them grow too large, and it'll be difficult to remedy. I suspect the property owners are somewhat in denial about their state. Thankfully, the weather's dry at the moment, but I could foresee both walls coming down and blocking the lane after a bout of rain and/or frost. By lunchtime the men had done all they could for the day and departed.

After they'd finished for the day, I noticed that the concrete flower bed kerb had been removed and the Rosemary bush it contained was leaning with some of its roots exposed. We'd already discussed what to do about the bush, to no conclusion. It was a treasured retirement present to me from St John's Sunday School, and has flourished in our garden. It survived re-location once, but now is a bit too big to take different place in the garden, so I suggested obtaining a large pot and keeping it in our miniscule front garden. An hour later, after an excursion to B&Q, the tree was being helped into its new home in a front garden pot, where it will partially conceal new Council provided dustbins we now have to keep out front rather than wheel through the house on collection days. I was cheered by the effort. It'll need further trimming to restrain its growth, provided it survives the transplant. 

The workmen returned on Tuesday, just a bit later, complaining of traffic delays. A third man joined them, and together all four of us easily lifted the garden shed off its plinth and put it on the lawn, affording an opportunity for the rest of the paving area to be cleared and levelled with a mechanical tamping machine which made the house tremble as it packed down a fresh layer of hardcore, ready for tiling to commence.

I went into the office for a couple of hours in the afternoon, to show Ashley a website re-build I've been working on slowly this past couple of weeks, then returned home early to get to Chi Gung on time, though not early enough to prepare supper on this occasion.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Blaenavon duties

I was relieved not to be as tired as I expected to be after my drive to Papworth and back in a day, and glad yesterday not to have a great deal to do, apart from move plants and garden furniture into Liz's garden next door, in preparation for a long awaited makeover, finally to happen in the coming week. So far the weather outlook suggests it's not going to hinder completion in just a few days. 

I watched two episodes of 'Beck' this evening, the first one, on iPlayer, which I missed when we were in North Wales, and the second, live on BBC Four. The second was about the tragic outcome of hidden infidelity between colleagues on a doctor's family. This occurs at a time when a married colleague of Beck's seems keen to develop and affair with him. His alcoholic neighbour tries to encourage him to engage in a little sexual adventurism, as he himself leaves for a Baltic cruise in search of a fling. It's quite heartening to observe Beck thinking about his own behaviour in the light of the tragedy he has uncovered, and disengaging before anything untoward develops between him and his colleague. Well acted, in an understated way.

This morning's assignments were in Blaenavon, two Eucharists standing in for Rufus, on holiday in Italy. The last time I made this trip was for Rufus' first Mass. The hour's drive there and back was made most enjoyable by the array of autumnal colours in thickly wooded green valleys, bathed in bright sunlight. The first service was in 200 year old St Peter's, associated with the town's history as one of the birth places of the iron and steel industry. There was a congregation of three dozen, who sang with great enthusiasm. Craig the organist is also a local funeral director with his own company. I first met him ten years ago when he was working for one of the Cardiff FDs, when he drove me to a burial in Cathays Cemetery, if my memory serves me well.

Then, on up the hill to St Paul's, for an old fashioned High Church solemn Mass for eighteen people, eastward facing, with Angelus at the end of the service. Nothing that I'm unused to, except for having to change from wearing a cope for the Ministry of the Word, to an ancient fiddleback chasuble for the Eucharist. Funny, I thought, the last time I wore one of these was at the Benalmadena Eucharist in the Costa del Sol East chaplaincy last year. There were a handful of them in the sacristy cupboard of the basement chapel we used for worship. I said to the St Paul's sacristan that the lat time I'd worn one for Mass was in Spain. He looked at me, rather bemused.

Clare returned early evening by train from Birmingham, having been collected by Kath from Papworth, and driven there. The good news is that Eddie shows signs of improvement, very slowly stirring from a state of deep anaethesia. If all goes well it'll be a long journey back to recovery.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Critical Care visit

Before we set out for Papworth hospital, a two hundred mile drive, yesterday morning, I found enough time to prepare a Sunday sermon for my visit to Blaenafon, to cover two services for Rufus while he's on holiday. With stops to eat and traffic jams on the approaches to north south motorways it took us four an a half hours. The hospital is on the edge of the Cambridgeshire country village of Papworth Everard, half way between St Neots and Cambridge, where it has grown up over the past forty years as a global centre of excellence for heart surgery and transplants. In three years time, a new Papworth hospital will come into service on the same site as Addenbrokes hospital in Cambridge, teaching centre for the University medical department.

We met Ann, had a catch up chat, then went into see Eddie, still unconscious and on a ventilator, but showing signs of physical movement and an eventual slow painful awakening, although this could take several days, after the kind of surgery he's endured. His colour and vital signs are good, and like others among the two dozen patient in Critical Care he has a nurse at the end of his bed watching a monitor screen, that reports not only on his condition, but is a control panel for his medications, being delivered to him by a bank of pumps feeding into the same intravenous line. It's state of the art tech, while the discipline and dedication of the staff team is classic excellence. The ward is busy, if quiet apart from the variety of electronic beeps and blips issuing from various devices. "Like a spaceship" somebody said.

No more than two visitors per bed at a time are allowed. Facilities for those accompanying patients are modest. The atmosphere in the visitors day room could be described as subdued and tense. There's nobody waiting who isn't having a hard time, except for little ones who have no idea of what is going on. I wondered if there was anyone on duty supporting patient visitors, or what chaplaincy arrangements there were, but I noticed nothing on the walls to tell me. 

There is accommodation for those needing to make an overnight stay while visiting. Having had a night without sleep, Ann checked into a hotel a few miles away, to get a good long rest and decent breakfast. Clare and Ann agreed to spend another night at the same hotel, and I drove them both there before setting out for home. I was unable to cancel my Sunday arrangements at such short notice, as Rufus was out of the country on holiday, not contactable. So I had to return the same day. On Monday work begins on re-fashioning the back garden, including new tiling for haphazardly covered hard surfaces. My task, to move all the flower pots and troughs into our neighbour's garden for the time it takes to get the job done, and get the shed ready to be moved onto the grass for a while.

The roads were reasonably quiet all the way home, but driving in the dark on intermittently unlit country roads was not enjoyable. There was a road closure on the Gloucester outer ring road which prevented me from accessing the A48 Chepstow road. Diversion signs were unclear and erroneously, I ventured a few miles out in deep darkness on the A48 towards Tewkesbury without finding a sign of a diversion. I had to go right back into town and pick up the inner ring road to find my way to the A48 to continue the last sixty miles of my journey. Still, made it home without incident, and after a bite to eat and time to relax, went to bed late and thankfully slept well. It's quite a while since I last drove four hundred miles in one day.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Cloud data near disaster

This morning, I took the car into our local Kwikfit workshop on my way to celebrate the midweek Eucharist in St John's Canton. Father Mark arrived before me to prepare things before slipping away on an errand of his own. It's the first time I've seen him since the Spring, so I was glad to have a few moments to catch up with him.I was relieved that the exhaust adjustment was successful, so the car is altogether pleasant to drive once more.

To my horror, when I got home I had a message from Julie in the office today that the office OneDrive filesystem seemed to be missing six months worth of documents. Oh dear, something I did when tidying up her machine yesterday had evidently unintended consequences. An office visit and a joint investigation thankfully provided us with a way to roll back the filesystem to its state when she last worked on it, although it took us ages to find this. The trouble was that the Windows 10 upgrade from a machine running Windows 7 had left us with multiple OneDrive icons (deep down one or other had been originally a SkyDrive icon, before the name was changed). 

I had been suspicious that older machines with this kind of history weren't syncing properly, as I'd seen this at home. I deleted what I thought was a short cut, when it was File Explorer's main route of access to the on-line files. The other OneDrive icon was a shortcut to a copy of the file system (where it lives, I know not where) six months old. Windows 10 is meant to give you a hard drive filesystem copy of data in the Cloud, to sync for off-line use. If you access OneDrive files from any machine, as you might from a Network hard drive in the office, using a web browser and be sure to save to this location, there's no problem. But, when different machines are in use, and saving stuff off line on the machine to sync with the Cloud later, this seems create version control problems, with the risk that some stuff will get lost. Glad we haven't stopped backing up filesystem to a physical hard drive close to home. After that little incident, OneDrive now has to re-earn my trust

The news from Papworth is that Eddie is holding his own, recovering very slowly from surgery, still heavily sedated if not unconscious, and ventilated. A visit to the hospital is planned for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

School Harvest Mass

An early start this morning to the the car to N.G. Motors to check out a noisy water pump and timing belt. Then a ten minute walk from Splott to Adamsdown to celebrate Tredegarville School's Harvest festival Mass, with over 200 children, staff, and a handful of parents. The children sang beautifully, but the public address system let us down so sadly the children who read were inaudible. The system has not been right since the BBC Songs of Praise recording weekend unfortunately, and the guy who takes care of it wasn't present. I was amazed at how well behaved a church full of children could be under the circumstances..They seem to appreciate the difference of being in a quiet solemn place, with little external noise, and sunshine streaming in to tight up the building. There's still room for a little awe in everyone's life.

I went then into the CBS office, to do some PC maintenance tasks, and whiled away the time until I got a message to say the car was ready. Not only a new pump and timing belt, but two new front tyres as well. The exhaust is still knocking against the car chassis, the mechanics said it was not properly aligned, so it'll have to go back to Kwikfit tomorrow for this adjustment to be made. This apart the 25 year old car now runs quiet and smooth, and handles far better. I think we'll be keeping it a bit longer.

Ann told us that Eddie had been transferred at high speed from Ipswich to Papworth hospital during the night, and was undergoing lengthy open heart surgery in an effort to repair the artery about to burst. Altogether, he was in the operating theatre for twelve hours, before coming to rest in the Critical Care Unit. Three massive hurdles overcome so far, and he's 'critical but stable' as they'd say. Time for us to watch and pray, nothing more.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Family misfortune

While I was out and about this morning, a message came through from sister-in-law Ann to say that Clare's brother Eddie had collapsed at home and taken emergency unit in Ipswich hospital. It wasn't clear from the symptoms whether he'd suffered a serious stroke or an epileptic seizure. Once they had him stabilised and gave him an MRI scan, the reality was different, more serious. An aortic aneurism, striking without warning. Stranger, still, as this was what killed his father in his eighties, he'd had a scan earlier in the year to ascertain whether or not he was vulnerable, and no risk detected.

Later in the day, pondering on this turn of events, I went for my annual 'flu jab at the GP surgery, and was also given an inoculation against shingles which I wasn't expecting. My mother suffered from high blood pressure, given diet and lifestyle factors that's not surprising, and she suffered a stroke on her first ever holiday abroad in the Black Forest. I've traveled more than they could have dreamed of, and have had a fairly stressful mobile lifestyle on times, but a different kind of diet has kept the worst problems at bay so far. With medication, my tendency to hypertension is more or less under control, though diastolic readings continue to vary wildly. A dear ex-colleague, John Duncan would put this down to what he called 'mercurial celtic temperament'. There are always stressful situations in life to respond to. The question is how resilient is it possible to remain as one gets older. I owe a great deal to what I've learned about coping well from regular Chi Gung and Tai Chi practice. I was thankful I had a class to go to this evening.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Back to Chromebook

A nice quiet lazy morning goes down nicely after a busy Sunday. Time to recuperate. I seem to need more of it these days. Then after lunch a walk. I also need constant exercise to stay fit. So, I walked first to the GP surgery with a prescription renewal, and booked myself a 'flu jab appointment, although I forgot to book an doctor's appointment as requested, but as the 'flu jab is tomorrow, all I have to do is remember to book as soon as I arrive. Then I walked part of the way to Victoria Park, hopping on a convenient bus to speed up the process of returning church keys from Sunday morning to Fr Mark, and from there walked over to the Staples store in Western Avenue and back, to buy a new Chromebook.

I gave Owain my 'early adopter' Samsung model. It has served me well over the past two years, and is in good nick, although its battery life is only four hours, about 60% of its original,. He's always made a bee line for it when he's visiting because of its convenient quick access for casual use. I've had my eye on a Toshiba Chromebook 2 for some time, as there's a model with a higher resolution screen which boasts more RAM and a better processor, although a Chromebook's speed relies as much on internet connectivity as anything due to its downloadable operating system. Staples had one one display last time I was in store, twenty quid cheaper than John Lewis, so my walk had added incentive.

There were rain showers as I arrived at the store. The rucksack I'd taken to carry home my purchase was too small for the containing box, and it slipped out and fell to the floor as I was leaving, fortunately not on a corner, so there was no damage to the box and none to the computer when I unpacked it. It was wonderful to set it up and be using it in under five minutes with all my Google account details and bookmarks in place. I'd waited a month before buying a new one, just to find out what it would be like to do without it, and rely just on the Asus Transformer for quick casual usage away from the office desk. 

Well, if you keep the Transformer switched off it takes minutes to book up and re-sync its registered accounts. The native browser is unbearably slow. Chrome and Firefox user interfaces are not fully consistent with desktop or phone versions. The software is showing signs of age in lacking user interface updates, and offering no convenient path to acquire them. I found I was repeating keyboard errors when writing or editing as use of certain keys is not the same as that acquired from habitually using other keyboards. While the keyboard itself is not that bad, the speeds of interaction of both keyboard and touch-screen with the display seem to fluctuate in practice. Such a relief to get back to the simple consistency and responsiveness of a Google Chrome device. Touch screens aren't always as precise as they need to be to avoid error, a good trackpad and/or a mouse is superior in my experience.

The other thing I like about Chromebooks is that the time from switch on to work is half a Windows 10 device and delivers a fully updated operating system. What Microsoft ads don't tell is the amount of time that has to be spent machine minding, either as the PC syncs filesystems, or while updates are installed, either at switch-off or start-up, and this can add a five minute delay to whatever you're doing. Time is always of the essence when you need information from an internet device. Closing many PCs while performing these essential routines may lead to it switching into sleep mode in the middle of updating, and that carries the risk of error. No problem if you rarely switch off your computer, but a risk if you're conscientious, and always switch off, to save battery or isolate from network hackers while unattended. 

Will Microsoft ever be as good as Google in delivering devices that address these issues at source? I find it very interesting that Microsoft partners are now marketing basic PCs in the same price bracket as Google Chromebooks, and with similar specifications. But, sales promoters always have to offer internet security packages to customers, to cover the glaring design deficiency in Windows operating systems, exploited in so many ingenious ways by global cyber criminals.

I notice that Five USA is currently promoting the launch of new CSI series on cyber crime. It'll be very interesting to see what kind of product placement (both hardware and software) features in the laboratory mis-en-scene.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Harvest Festival

Another early Sunday start, with an eight o'clock celebration at St Catherine's, which Clare attended, and read lessons for me. After a second breakfast together of coffee, pain chocolat and pain au raisin, bought from the Co-op on the way home, I went on to celebrate the Solemn Mass at St Luke's. I got back right on time to collect Clare for the trip to Llandenny for lunch with Chris and Wendy Bowler before ascending the Grwyne Valley to preach Harvest at Patricio for a congregation of twenty. 

Autumn colours are only slowly emerging. There's still a great deal of greenery owing to the warmth at the end of summer. Clare was much impressed with the beauty of the valley and its ancient church secluded high up on a wooded hillside with fields falling away steeply below it. After the service apple cake and biscuits were offered, along with a drink of locally pressed apple juice. We'd had quite a differently flavoured apple juice to go with lunch. This is an area whose farms and gardens still harbour many old varieties of fruit, and evidently they are valued.

One of the churchwardens, Rob Yorke is a freelance country loving journalist, describing himself as a 'hunter naturalist'. We had an interesting conversation arising from some of the things I mentioned in my sermon. Such a discussion is quite a rarity for me these days, going beyond "Nice sermon Vicar" at the church door. I enjoyed just listening to the voices of local farmers chatting with their soft Black Mountain accents, a bit like Herefordshire but not quite. It was great to catch up with Chris and Wendy too, and savour their enjoyment of rural ministry while facing the challenge of new formed 'mission area' grouping of parishes.

We heard the Sunday edition of 'The Archers' on the way home in the car between Newport and Cardiff, and after supper watched a documentary programme about Mammoth Science, describing the forensic and molecular biological investigation of mammoth remains now being uncovered, not just fossilised, by preserved in Siberian permafrost, now thawing due to global warming. An amazing new body of knowledge, now offering indications that it wasn't the end of the ice age that killed them off, but early human hunters. 

Sadly the programme presenter had a habit of repeating herself in a way that added un-necessary length without additional information, as if viewers lacked the intelligence or attention span to take it in first time. This seems to be a deficiency typical many modern factual TV programmes. It's bad enough when a subject is dumbed down un-necessarily, but it comes across as poor video editing, or, that there's enough substance for a thirty minute programme, but it has to be spun out to fifty minutes, as that's what the team was hired to produce.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Tale of two new fathers

A Saturday afternoon walk in the sunshine through Bute Park took us into town to end up having a look around and tea in John Lewis'. It's our default outing  when we can't summon up the energy to go further. Walking across the fields to the Blackweir Bridge, I spotted one bird in a small group of crows which resembled the others physically, but was black with speckles and rough patches of white as if someone had thrown bleach over it, rather than the regular pale markings of the carrion crow. It had a crow's beak however. An albino?

No road closures today, but still there were lots of rugby fans in town again, to watch televised games in the Cardiff Arms Park stadium 'Fanzone'. Apparently it's been very popular. Cardiff businesses have certainly benefited from the additional influx of visitors this past few weeks, and construction projects are becoming a feature of city centre life again, as the Central Square redevelopment gets under way.

I've been thinking of Spain quite a lot recently, having much enjoyed autumnal living in Andalusia, and it prompted me to cook paella for supper. Curiously, it's something I rarely cooked in Spain, and it seems quite a while since I last did so here. With sermons ready to preach tomorrow, the only thing worth watching on TV was  Swedish crime drama 'Beck', with a case that explored insightfully the use of illegal migrant labour in Sweden. I liked the well drawn parallels between a young detective, an expectant father, and an illegal Chechen refugee expectant father. With ironic synchronicity both babies end up delivered in the same maternity unit. One father is free, the other injured and under arrest. What was interesting and different was the background stories of the 'illegals', their countries of origin and reasons for being far from home, vulnerable to exploitation. 

The same story could be told, based here in Britain. The differences would be in the countries of origin. Needs are much the same - refuge from conflict, need to earning money to support family back home. The understandable fear expressed by police is that terrorists hide behind vulnerable people, who hide anyway, not just from law enforcement, but from xenophobics, determined not to welcome them or let them be. Everybody suffers. The global failure to tackle inequality and poverty condemns us to a vicious cycle of violence, which even the most practical of idealists still cannot get a grip on.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Upgrades complete, web authoring re-starts

Things are a bit quieter this end of the week, thankfully, so a day of not doing much apart from a walk into town and back was very welcome. I seem to need good exercise as much as rest these days, if I'm not to feel out of sorts much of the time. The city centre was full of New Zealand rugby fans ahead of the evening's match with Romania. There was an atmosphere of congeniality and boisterousness, few signs of misbehaviour anywhere. 

My only complaint is the amount of fast food rubbish, discarded cans, plastic beakers and bottles parked on wall and window ledges, or in the gutters. Litter picking and bin emptying may well occur during as well as after the game. Maybe rubbish bins provided do become full too quickly to prevent this but in the end organisers of major sporting events could do something to nag supporters to make an effort not to dump their empties for others to clear up behind them.

There was no need for me to go into the office while I was in town. I just wandered around watching tens of thousands of visitors having a good time. Julie texted me to say she'd finally found space in her work schedule to let her PC do the Windows 10 upgrade. It had taken two hours in total and was done without hassle. 

That's the last of the machines I oversee to be upgraded, and I didn't have to do anything apart from advise Julie to keep to the routine of using Chrome browser to access emails, which she knows, rather than learn the new Edge browser, such a fiddle to configure to one's own needs, or the new email client, so far, still a bit unreliable. Better to stick with tools you've adapted to your workflow, than get distracted into learning new apps which sabotage effective working habits. Or, only put the effort into something new when your workflow is definitely unfit for new purposes.

The database is now working properly, at least until the next problem is uncovered. Now I can get to work on re-building the websites I made for CBS and the BCRP. I couldn't remember which web authoring tool I'd used a decade ago, but googling soon revealed a forgotten application 'NVU' for Windows, and its correlate KompoZer for Linux. The latter I was able to download and after a brief visit to the Linux Mint help forums, found out how to install and run. There are loads of free templates to make use of on different websites, but initially, all I want to do is try and reproduce the format of the pages I made sitting on Google Sites, and hard to link up to a proper URL, with such user unfriendly instructions. Now we've hiring our own web hosting space, a little learning by doing is possible before going live. I never thought I'd get back to doing this again after so long.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Short and long term planning.

I celebrated the Eucharist again yesterday morning with a class from Tredegarville School attending, and told them all about the church's patron St German of Auxerre, as planned. After the service, I went to the school to consult with head teacher Emma Laing about the all-school Harvest Eucharist in church next Wednesday, then went home to devise some material for insertion in the service sheet for the children. There was also another sermon to prepare for Sunday, to preach at St Luke's, here in my home parish.

This morning the two funerals took place, one after the other. The first one was in Pidgeons Funeral Chapel, and concluded at Thornhill Crematorium. The second followed after a twenty minute break, with a service only at the crematorium. It gave me a few moments to take a look at the re-furbished precinct outside the chapels, where people gather to examine floral tributes after the ceremony.  I'd not had time to notice on visits earlier in the year.  It was re-paved last year apparently, with the addition of raised marble 'benches' on which flowers could be laid for viewing without anyone having to bend over. It's a nice touch, and apparently was expensive to do. It's a durable permanent feature, good for another fifty years at least.

I was back in time for lunch, and then went into the CBS office for the afternoon. Julie discovered more glitches in the database I thought I'd got right last week, so I had to revisit the import process yet again to eliminate the problem and them rebuild. Will I ever get it as perfect as it needs to be, to ensure future durability I wonder. Now I have a good idea and some practice at using Libre Office Base, I must make an effort to migrate personal databases across from MS Works - a simpler task than what I've been working on lately, but maybe worth doing. There's always the possibility of losing the MS Works installation disk, and not having an application that can open the .wdb files. I try to think ahead long term about making access to my legacy of data easy for the children after I'm dead. It could save them a lot of extra frustration and grief.