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.