Monday, 30 November 2015

Work in progress

This morning I re-stocked the fridge in anticipation of Clare's return from a week with Ann in Kirton. At two thirty, I collected her, in the rain, from Cardiff Central Station. I was caught out by the fact that since my last visit, the collection and drop-off point for travellers in Central Square has closed, and the excavation of the entire site of the old bus station has begun. It meant driving around the the south side of the station, already equipped with a stylish modern entrance and a much greater capacity car park. What's been done is a considerable improvement on the old facility in Central Square. Pity that getting there is just as much, if not more hassle than the old arrangement was. It'll be different again in a couple of years time after the new bus station and new buildings in Central Square are complete. For the moment everyone has to put up with a work in progress.

I am making an effort to document the redevelopment of Central Square in photographs, as I did for the St David II redevelopment, by regular visits to the vantage points I can find around the site. It won't be nearly as dramatic as the transformation wrought in Cardiff city centre between 2006 and 2009, but the reshaping of the city's central transport hub and all the buildings associate with it it will represent a major change to a landmark central site. I wouldn't be doing it now if it wasn't for the fascination with urban development which the earlier experience generated in me. Last week's trip to London opened my eyes to the resurgence of the economy expressed in the number of tower cranes and building sites visible in the cityscape. Over the past decade, the way I regard the built environment I am part of has changed utterly - and this has afforded me great pleasure.

As for photographs, I must get around to sorting and posting them where they are publicly visible. They don't show the wind and rain, or the hassle in finding a suitable vantage point in a busy environment. But they do tell a story of re-shaping places familiar tom people in their passages to work or leisure day by day, and one day that might be of interest to somebody new.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Advent arrives

The only thing of note about my Saturday was that I finally screwed up my courage to go into town and buy a new pair of winter shoes. I live in sandals eight months of the year, but don't much like the misery of a wet winter. With so much rain and wind this last week, I thought I'd better stop complaining and make the effort. On Clare's recommendation, I visited the the Ecco shop, and within minutes found just what would serve me well. A robust supportive waterproof shoe with a sturdy sole, which, given my odd sized feet, offered a perfect and extremely comfortable fit from the moment I put them on. Hardly a question of getting used to then or 'breaking them in'. They 'just worked'. I can't remember if I ever had this experience with a pair of shoes before. Perhaps I always purchased too cheap. Even so, I got a 'Black Friday' weekend bargain, and look forward to enjoying my winter wear - what an odd idea!

I celebrated the Solemn Mass at St German's again on Sunday, with a turnout of three dozen for Advent Sunday, against a background of driving wind and rain. The mood was cheerfully up-beat. There is, in spite of the solemn and serious nature of the pre-Christmas season, an element of renewed pleasure in the start of a new Christian year. It's true for me too. The first ever retreat I made as an eighteen year old student was over the Advent weekend, and it brought home the reality of the mystery of faith to me in a way that steered me into the path I still follow. Poetry, awe and wonder, longing and hopefulness, all part of a creative chemistry feeding the notion that Christmas contains more than meets the eye. I think I need Advent just as much as I need Lent, to keep me focussed on Christ.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Confident accountability

I went into the CBS office earlier than usual this morning to meet up with Ashley, as we had a meeting scheduled with the City Council's Scrutiny Committee across lunchtime down in County Hall. The committee is reviewing the Council's engagement in support of the night time economy, or NTE as it's referred to in bureaucratic circles. CBS supplies half of its radios to those working evenings and nights. Restaurants, pubs and clubs comprise about forty percent, and ten per cent are public service or pro bono users like the Street Pastors, Ambulance and Alcohol Treatment Centre users. 

It was pleasing that we were, for the first time, invited to give an account of the contribution made by CBS, to inform the committee of the level of resources the NTE demands of the City. The question is: does the City cover the cost of this commitment. If not, how can it? None of our business. We just run a voluntary social enterprise that benefits the NTE as much as the daytime economy, and supports, at the point of need, others making an effort and giving their services. All is funded from the revenue radio subscribers provide. All radio users are stakeholders in making Cardiff a better place to be in, and trade in. Without the support of so many volunteers, it wouldn't be nearly so good.

I joined CBS when I retired as an expression of appreciation for the supply of a pro bono radio to St John's tea room, after a spate of thefts from handbags in church over the previous year. The radio is still there, still in use. The thief was caught by other means, but the fact that the radio was there  to provide a link to help from the outside world in one small quiet corner, was a confidence booster for volunteers. This was the first of more than a dozen radios now in the hands of city centre volunteers. I can't hide my satisfaction at applying admin and management skills I learned as a parish priest to the task of building a company back office, and enabling it to deliver a service, driven not by personal profit motive, but by the creative energy of voluntary goodwill, for the benefit of the city. 

This impulse has, down the ages, been part of city life, recognised or not, and it has everything to do with ensuring citizens' welfare, safety and security - not for personal gain, but building a community worth living in. It's similar to the impulse that drives people into the local political area, volunteering themselves for election as councillors in pursuit of the common good, regardless of the criticism they have to endure. It's not about personal gain or status, but about ensuring the common good through personal service. Thank heavens so many are prepared to commit themselves to make this effort!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Knowing and being known

Another midweek Eucharist to celebrate this morning at St John's Canton for a dozen people. Nice that it's near enough to walk there. After an early lunch, I spent another afternoon in the CBS office, trying to arrange and publicise another Counter Terrorism briefing for retailers next week, as there may be more who'd benefit from attending but were unable to attend last week. There was also work to be done on preparing a briefing for a client with several users about the status of accounts prior to a change in payment means. Each change in management, or premises location or payment policy on their part means additional work for us in tracking our sole income stream. 

IN addition the security of our radio network depends upon radios being fully useable by trained personnel in the specific location for which each handset is registered. With over 200 users out there, it's a never ending task. The ancient pastoral duty of 'knowing and being known' in any place is so much more complex in the busy heart of a city's business quarter, and in the era of electronic information. But it's still only as good as the efforts made by those whose calling in life is watching out for others.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Catching up on the front line

Eucharist at St Germans again this morning with a class of children from Tredegarville School, then home for lunch followed by a visit from Chris and Rufus, two of my St Mike's students, now running their own Parishes, but this week back at College for an in-service training programme. In the past few months I've ministered in both their parishes, so it was great to sit down with them and chat over coffee during their afternoon break. 

Both are at the forefront of implementing changes that will bring together parishes and church congregations for the sharing of resources and ministers. It's fortunate that, as pastors, both have decades of professional experience in team work and leadership behind them to draw upon, and a delight to hear from them about emerging fresh initiatives from laity  in response to the challenges of renewal for mission.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Job satisfaction

Clare went off to Kirton by train Monday morning, to spend a week with Ann, leaving me to fend for myself. It's a break from routine which means having the house to myself, shopping for and cooking food that's more to my taste than hers, though not today. After a routine GP visit, I drove to London to see my sister June, and sort out a problem she was having with her new computer. It was a simple matter that couldn't be dealt with over the phone. I needed to see the machine and work out what was going wrong. 

The machine was in fine fettle. The problem was that she'd mis-identified the power button, as it wasn't where she expected it to be, and it was almost hidden, being black on a black background. My fault, not going over there matters with her thoroughly enough. Anyway, she cooked me lunch, and I drove home in the evening. Fortunately traffic wasn't heavy and driving conditions were good, so I made good time, and learned another lesson about instructing people in computer usage.

Today, I had to be in the CBS office early as I was looking after the interview process for the BCRP Board's Business Crime Reduction Manager job, simply a matter of providing refreshments, meeting the candidates and escorting them to the right place. By lunchtime the decision had been taken, and the task of informing the successful and unsuccessful candidates was felt to me. Best news of all is that the new person can start right at the beginning of January. For us in CBS, this is a landmark moment in a long drawn out journey to deliver what was first promised seven years ago, before our present business was properly set up. 

At the end of the afternoon, I was glad to get away in good time to go to a re-invigorating Chi Gung class, and then finish the day cooking one of my favourite chorizo cazuela dishes.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Media spotlight on the Lord's Prayer

Today I celebrated the Solemn Mass of Christ the King (aka Stir up Sunday) at St German's. In the afternoon, following the announcement made in church, I watched BBC 'Songs of Praise', which featured the singing of a hymn which had been filmed there a couple of months ago. Instead of a programme featuring one place and its people, the programme formula featured hymns filmed being sung in different churchs around the country. This was particularly convenient as the continuity theme threading through the broadcast reflected on the Paris attacks of Friday 13th, with Archbishop Vincent Nicholls and Archbishop Justin Welby. 

It concluded with them saying the Lord's Prayer together in French, appropriate in current circumstances for more than one reason. This morning an interesting CofE pre Christmas publicity video (with the Twitter hashtag #justpray) was launched featuring people saying parts of the Lord's Prayer in every imaginable setting of everday life, as well as in church. A great and hopefully infectious idea conveying the relevance of basic Christian spiritual practice to the whole of life.

The publicity launch, however, had a flavour of its own. It majored on the refusal of cinema advertising chains to accept this as a video promotion to be shown in between flims. A pathetic notion. The overloud advertisements shown in movie halls are generally re-runs of TV adverts regular viewers are already bored with from home over-exposure. There's vain repetition of this kind, and the altogether wholesome reptition of 'the words our Saviour taught us to pray', and while words of prayer are not out of place anywhere, why bother to promote them in the context of a dead zone, known for boring infotainment repetitions?

Let's hope the 'justpray' video goes viral on YouTube and Twitter.

Let's hope it will spawn imitiations in many more languages and varied contexts than the initial. Now that would really be a modern mass media act of witness.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Weekend work and leisure

With the CBS administrator Julie away on compassionate leave, it was necessary for me to spend more time than usual in the office on Friday. From her notes of the Radio user group meeting yesterday, I wrote the minutes, and from my notes of the WECTU briefing, I wrote an account of all the advice given, and posted it on the DISC intranet for all RadioNet users to see. I did the BCRP board minutes after a break of the couiple of days, and was satisfied with the result. 

It's highly satisfying to think I can recall the content of meetings I've attended with a fair degree of accuracy, especially when I've got to am age where I find I forget what I gone upstairs for, or logged on to Google to find out about. Fear of memory loss is worse than the reality. So many everyday things are trivial it's no wonder we lose focus on them.

Saturday, we went to Penarth for lunch. The 'Cafe des Amis' has become 'The Bistro' since our last visit. Still serving authentic French cuisine, but now with a different menu. To our taste, the food choice is not as interesting as it once was, although the environment is much the same as it was previously. I would have preferred to have had fish and chips from the stall in front of the pier and sat on the beach again, but for once in a while, the tide was in, close to the promenade wall. It's a long time since I last saw a high tide in Penarth, but when, I cannot remember.

In the evening BBC Four showed 'The Bridge III', more Scandinavian crime drama, in a joint Swedish/Danish bi-lingual production wiht Engish subtitles. Two episodes a time for goodness knows how many weeks. Another convoluted and bizarre long tale that supposed to keep us entertained. To my mind, this particular fomula is beginning to wear thin. It focuses for too much, for its own good, on one main character with a peculiar personality, and while this has its entertaining moments, it feels a bit 'more of the same'- The Arne Dahl series of stories was far superior in terms of the complexity of its characters and their responses to the awful situations they find themselves in.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Briefing on Extremism

This morning's RadioNet Users Group began with a special hour long briefing from a member of the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit (WECTU), updating retail security personnel on the current threat level in the city, and checking that everyone understood how to respond. It was a very clear and thorough presentation, and fifty people were present, more than double the usual attendance at RUG meetings, thanks to Ashley's herculean efforts in getting out publicity yesterday. This was followed by our usual business meeting.

At the end, our secretary Julie responded to a text message informing her that her mother in law had died in hospital a short while earlier. She went off to join her husband, and I took her meeting notes, and the ones I'd taken of the WECTU briefing, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening making sense of them all and transcribing, ready for circulation. I was both amazed and pleased at the ease of my recall and the end products. Sometimes, just remembering what I went upstairs for or went on-line to find out proves is a typically old age farce. But every now and then full concentration yields results, and cheers me up no end.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Looking ahead on the diocesan frontiers

Another struggle against impatience in the face fo traffic congestion to get to St German's for their midweek Eucharist this morning. A class of older Tredegarville school children attended, and I told them about St Hilda of Whitby observed today rather than tomorrow in the Church in Wales calendar. The older group gives me more of an impression of being there on sufferance than the younger kids, and they are not nearly so keen to sing anything. At least the sun shone in to bring a little cheer to the atmosphere. 

We chatted again about Christmas preparations. No sign of Fr Dean's return, it seems, so I continue  stand-in duties with a couple of extra weekday carol services plus Christmas Eucharists to add to the mix. I enjoy offering them continuity of ministry, but hope and pray that I'll work myself out of a job sooner rather than later. Cardiff's 'southern arc' group of parishes needs to embark upon a major exercise in bonding and building together a collaborative ministry with those serving as full time clergy, whether they end up with four or three priests, plus voluntaries helping out locally in the long term. All have an anglo-catholic urban mission history behind them, an advantage in facing community cohesion and development challenges in one of Wales' most economically deprived sectors, but which is also the most religiously and culturally diverse. It's the sort of challenge I'd have relished twenty years ago.

All change may well come in January when Fr Graham retires from St Mary's, having soldiered on five years longer than me in stipendiary ministry. Funnily enough he's going to be living in Splott, and I imagine he'll be more that willing to offer his services there, and I bet he'll enjoy being a voluntary priest just as much as being a full time incumbent once he gets used to the new freedom which retirement brings.

After the service I returned home and collected Clare for the drive to Pontypridd to take part the Ignatian Meditation group in the home of one of the members living outside Cardiff. Finding the house was quite a difficult navigational exercise. The lie of the land on the west side of town, on the way out to Porth is complex, if you're unused to the area. It's fascinating from the point of view of historic infrastructure and townscape, but challenging when the surrounding hillsides are covered with streets of terraced houses whose layout is often obscured by the terrain, its trees and open spaces. It's an urban area that would be rewarding to take time to explore, on a quieter day when it's not raining.

Jill, a local priest in the Ponty group of churches told us how they'd recently completed the process of linking up all the historic neighbourhood parishes of the town into a single new mission area, designated under the diocesan strategic plan, called the Parish of Pontypridd. A new adventure for all of them, learning to appreciate each other's diverse gifts and experiences, learning how to work together with shared aims. Before Pontypridd expanded during the coal mining boom years of the 19th and 20th centuries, its territory would have been part of a few ancient hill top parishes in the surrounding area hardly related to where the new settlements occurred. Coal generated wealth led to a nineteenth century boom in church building and territorial division to produce the pattern of urban parishes prevailing in the twentieth century.

Now an amalgamation of church community resources is occurring, based on the reality of present urban life. Christians are no longer a majority in society, regular worship is more of a leisure option for the few. Yet, the social and pastoral contribution of the church to the common good remains greater than its size or apparent influence suggests. The key question is how the maintenance of such good-will can become a channel of reconciliation that guides the masses alienated from Christian worship and spirituality back to the heart of the church community.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Redvelopment work gathers pace

This morning I had the pleasure of a visit to St Saviour's Splott for their weekday Eucharist, against the backdrop of people arriving and food deliveries being made for the weekly Foodbank distribution. It's always a heartening experience. Getting through the city centre by car was nerve wracking as the congestion starts when you're trying to get out of a side street in Canton on to the main road, and then continues until you get to Newport Road. It's busy each day in the run up to Christmas, but things are made worse by the re-routing of buses on the West side, since the central square bus station has been closed for redevelopment. We can expect more of the same for the next two years. 

Meanwhile the first excavating machines have moved into the cordoned off area in front of Cardiff Central railway station, and are digging out the concrete surfaces of the area which isn't still being used as a stock yard for building material supplies for the adjacent ten storey construction site. Most of its windows are now installed and internal construction work is under way. All is undoubtedly well choreographed, to everyone's benefit. Except public transport users, who must suffer a little, though it could be far worse than it is. 

Sister June rang up to say her new laptop isn't working. The battery appears to have drained, either because of a charger or a plug socket fault. She was very upset, and there's nothing I can do until next week, as I have no clear days until then.

I went into the office in the afternoon for a couple of hours with the aim of dong yesterday's Board meeting minutes, but they had to take second place, with other things to be done first, anyway I couldn't spend long there, as I had to go home in time to get supper prepared then walk to St Mary's Hall for another most refreshing Chi Gung class. Clare arrived home from choir just ahead of me. We ate a late supper together and talked about the family, before checking to see who's on-line to chat with, as we often do on these dark autumnal evenings.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Landmark moment

My only Sunday duty was St German's Mass at eleven. Just as well, since I went to bed rather late, and breakfasted only when Clare returned from the eight o'clock at St Catherine's with fresh pain au raisins and croissants for breakfast. By the time I got back from church, Owain was up after an even later night out, supporting a Bristol DJ in his regular club setting. He was still in a sombre mood reflecting on the Paris attacks. I'm just  wondering about city centre security and what else CBS could be doing to make sure Cardiff doesn't get taken by a surprise attack of any kind. The weather was against us doing much the the rest of the day, apart from following news updates. It's times like this when I most miss being in Spain.

I went into the CBS office in the wind and rain this afternoon to prepare documents for the Partnership's evening board meeting. It was an occasion to approve shortlisting for the Business Crime Reduction Manager's post, which we've been working so hard to raise funds and set up for ever since I joined Cardiff Business Safe after retirement. The we ran the recruitment advertising process, but selection is a matter for the Board. I've not looked at any of the applications, but those on the selection panel have been suitably impressed, judging by what was said in a very reserved way. 

One by one we are passing the landmark moments that are essential to the development of both our crime reduction organisation and the RadioNet enterprise. It's pleasing enough, but there's still the business to be run, and with a full time employee in post, taking on many of the Partnership's core tasks, Ashley and I can pay more attention to the rolling out of RadioNet service further afield.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Tragic Friday 13th

I spent Friday afternoon in the CBS office completing preparations for the BCRP board to short-list candidates for interview for the Business Crime Reduction Manager post due to happen in the coming week. I'm glad that all I have to do is make sure everyone has the necessary documents, and gets on with the task in hand. CBS funds the post, but as directors we play no part in the appointment. I am told there's an interesting array of applicants, but I have resisted temptation to look through them all, and discuss them. We're happy to let others on the Board take full responsibility for delivering a new team member to work with us.

Clare suggested we go to a concert in St John's Canton in the evening. North Walian bi-lingual singer-songwriter Huw M was performing with his folk band to launch 'Utica' his latest CD album of his own songs, on a Welsh record label called i Ker Ching. Another younger bi-lingual singer songwriter performed his songs solo, to start the evening, his guitar technique and musical confidence was impressive, and paved the way nicely for the main act of the concert. Huw band consists of a young woman with a clear singing voice who played accordeon, a woman 'cellist who also sang, and the Marshall sisters, whom I believe are the daughters of  the Pastor of one of Cardiff's Afro-Caribbean churches.

I could tell within the first fifteen seconds that this was going to be quite a song fest. The playing and harmony were crisp and tight. Songs in English or Welsh were beautiful and engagingly simple. The relaxed warmth exuded by the group's leader gave an intimacy to the performance. It was sheer pleasure, and Clare bought one of the CDs to take home and play.

The Wales - Holland football match was being played at the stadium nearby, and foreworks were let off during the performance. The streets were busy as we left. It was only after we woke up late this morning that we learned of the massacres in Paris at the time we were at the concert. People doing the same things we'd been doing, concert going, attending a football mach, eating out, gunned down.

Much of the rest of the day was spent checking the news, wondering how three teams of men, eight people in all could organise themselves without detection by the security forces, and wreak deadly havoc. Owain arrived in time for supper, much disturbed and distressed by events. He'd already learned that a music acquaintance had been with his wife at the Bataclan concert massacre, and escaped being murdered by laying down and pretending to be dead. These are dark days for Europe. For anyone involved in the business of security and public safety, this is a sobering wake up call.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Computer delivered

I rose early and walked to the new temporary bus station in Sophia Gardens to catch the 7.30 coach to London. It doesn't take me long to drop off after a short night's sleep and early morning fresh air, regardless of coach seat discomfort, so the journey passed by quickly enough. In the last hour of the trip through dense urban traffic, I made a first draft of our annual Christmas newsletter on my Blackberry. The keyboard is small, but useable for text entry at a modest pace. A good way to pass the time, I thought. 

As we came into Victoria, our coach was flagged down into a lay-by outside the coach station departure building, rather than going around the block to reach the arrivals hall. The street was crowded with travellers, and we were ordered off the bus. A security alert led to evacuation of the building and that caused a traffic jam on a crowded street. I was able to make good time in reaching the train station, having been dropped off five minutes or so early, and I caught the train that preceded one I usually get to go to Wandsworth Common. June was surprised to see me arrive ahead of time, and we were soon into catching up on the news and eating lunch before setting up the Acer laptop and giving her a brief tutorial on the few differences with her old machine.

I left at six for the seven o'clock coach back to Cardiff. There'd been nothing in the news about the evacuation alert. Nothing remarkable about it these days I guess. The coach arrived in Sophia Gardens nearly half an hour ahead of the scheduled time, and by eleven, I was cooking myself a tuna steak with peppers and onion for a late, late supper, satisfied with my mission accomplished.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Caveat emptor

First a visit to St German's for the weekday Mass this morning, then a visit to Staples to look for a new computer for my sister June. She emailed me yesterday discussing laptops she'd seen in Peter Jones' (aka John Lewis) in London. I knew what the chain has on offer, but realised that they were over specified for her modest needs. There's no point in paying more than you need to for power and capacity you'll never have use for. 

Staples had just the right thing, a 15.6" inch Acer ES1-521 laptop, no extended keyboard, simple and sturdily built. It sported the Windows 10 NOW sticker, meaning that it was an old stock 8.1 machine needing to be upgraded by the user. I've done my fair share of upgrades over the past nine months, so I went for it. Actually, it's a quad core AMD with 4GB ram and a terabye hard drive excellent value at £269. 

I took it home and started running it at two in the afternoon. Four hours later, it finished downloading and installing 153 updates. This gave me time to get rid of some of the crapware, download Libre Office and Firefox, and set the machine up to resemble the working layout of the Sony laptop I bought and set up for her in January 2009. This way she'd have minimum confusion getting used to a new slicker quicker piece of hardware. It took another four hours to upgrade to Windows 10, and it wasn't a seamless experience. No automatic pop up to say the download was available. I had to find and visit Microsoft's upgrade website in order to kickstart the process.

It's not exactly the use of the word 'NOW' that belongs in the real world, and I wonder how the product marketing people get away with this without properly warning consumers that they must expect to waste a day machine minding while it upgrades. I haven't yet heard if the Advertising Standards Authority have had complaints about this kind of promotion, even for a fair bargain of a machine.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Remembrance Sunday

The rainy season continues, and grey days merge into one another. Friday and Saturday slipped by in an unremarkable way, apart from another Arne Dahl, about a plot by far right militants to assassinate a key figure in a peace process, to provoke an islamophobic conflict in Europe. Each story in the series has laid bare the fears that pervade Sweden's peaceful liberal democratic society. How similar to our own.

This morning I went first to St Saviour's and then St German's to celebrate the Eucharist for them. Although Remembrance Sunday was observed in both places, readings were for the Sunday of the year, depending on whether you follow the Revised Common, or Roman Catholic lectionary version. 

Normally this is not a problem, but there are a few Sundays of the year when Anglicans have their own set of readings, and November is one of those times. It was only when I got to St Saviour's that I realised the Roman version of the lectionary was in use, with two out of three readings entirely different, so I had to listen hard and then ad lib around the Remembrance theme using the different texts. I was pleased with the outcome, didn't go on too long, as I can do when I've not prepared properly, and got the impression that it went down OK. 

The act of remembrance around the war memorial in the church garden was performed by lay people, as I had to go to St German's and lead the act of remembrance there before starting the Mass. I also had to curtail my prepared sermon there, to make sure the service didn't overrun, but that wasn't hard. Although I always discipline myself to write a set text to preach from, I habitually change it as I go along, and these days without being over-long. The challenge of how to get the best out of a 10-15 minute opportunity to work with scripture before an audience is still fresh every time, and thankfully remains a real pleasure. 

In the evening Clare went to the Benefice annual service of remembrance for the faithful departed, I stayed home and said Evening Prayer alone. I needed to do that to re-balance, after an out-going morning, there are times when only silence will do.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Last journey

A straightforward drive from Cardiff to Kirton on Tuesday, using the M25 route, with less heavy traffic than I had anticipated, and decent weather, so the 205 mile trip was accomplished with two breaks in just under five hours. Long standing friends of Ann and Eddy, Margaret and Noel accommodated us in their spacious home in Rectory Lane, conveniently nearby. Their children David and Anneke and their partners were there and we ate all our meals together with them.

The funeral was in Kirton's Parish Church dedicated to St Mary and St Martin. Kirton means 'place with a church'. Mentioned as having its own priest in the Doomsday book, the church dates back to the seventh century, although the present building is mainly 14-15th century. Eddie served on the church council here over the years, and it was interesting to hear him talk about the maintenance challenges associated with its particular kind of construction materials, as you'd expect from a lifelong engineer.

It drizzled rain all day on Wednesday, and we walked in procession behind the hearse from house to church, just a quarter of a mile. The church was full to capacity, a hundred and fifty, family villagers and visitors. Clare gave a tribute, I read Psalm 121, and Helen the officiating local priest expounded it in exactly the same way I would have done, much to my pleasure. Anneke read Kahili Gibran's poem on death. Stephen, the Parish Lay Reader and long standing friend of Eddie's gave a moving tribute, which revealed the extent to which he was appreciated as a villager and church member.

He was laid to rest afterwards in a beautiful woven wicker coffin, in a grave just sixty yards south west of the church chancel, a lovely spot. Friends laid on an amazing funeral 'tea' afterwards in the adjacent church hall, which the majority stayed on for. The village drama group of which Eddie was a long standing member, got up on stage and sang a quirky comic song about garden gnomes, as a tribute to him, the sort of thing that he would have enjoyed. Altogether a fitting celebration of a life well lived.

In the evening, we went out for supper to a pub in a neighbouring village. Fish and chips and a pint of Adnam's Ale for me, but I was by this time, too tired to be on good form, and was glad to return early to peace and quiet in our guest room, and take the chance to email Rachel, Eddie's god-daughter, to tell her about the day, and share some photos I'd taken uniquely for her, so far away in Arizona.

Today, we made the return journey together by car. It rained all the way, quite heavily on the M4 section, and the spay from large lorries made it all feel hazardous, so we were glad to reach home safely before dark in under five hours, and then have a quiet evening catching up and reflecting.

The rain persisted, so bonfire night was rather a wash-out, and we didn't hear, let alone see that many fireworks punctuating the darkness.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Day of the Dead

I took Clare to the station to get a train to Felixstowe this morning in readiness for her brother's funeral on Wednesday. I had funeral this morning, so couldn't take her or travel with her. It was in the big chapel at Thornhill crem. Neither I nor my chauffeur remembered this so we went to the wrong entrance, where I met Phil, one of my former students, as he was greeting mourners after a service. He spends a lot of time here, as he is assigned several funerals every week. I haven't heard from him since we met April, before I last went to Spain. I missed his priestly ordination because of being away, and wondered if he was mad at me because of that. It wasn't the time to chat, however. Matters of death and life and being in ministry sucked us apart. An occupational hazard.

After lunch I took the bus to go to the office, meet Ashley and review the job recruitment process we've put in place. I went prepared with my kit to walk over from the office to Adamsdown to celebrate the All Souls' Day Requiem Mass at St German's, with the name of brother in law Eddie to add to the long list this year, and glad of this opportunity. I didn't dare take the car to cross town early evening, with such a high risk of traffic gridlock in several directions. I was lucky to get a bus from Westgate Street very soon after reaching there following my walk across the town centre on a very damp dark night, thinking about the ten hour train journey to Vinaros I made this time last year, and how much I'd love to repeat it. Spain is great for train journeys and at bargain prices compared to the UK.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

All Saints

Up early this morning to celebrate the eight o'clock Eucharist at St Catherine's for just Clare and one other, then back again for the 10.30 Sung Eucharist, with around forty people, children included. I'd prepared a sermon on the All Saints' day readings as this is the one time in seven when the feast falls on Sunday and was taken aback to find the All Saints' Sunday readings had been chosen instead. It pressed me to improvise to some extent, and I enjoyed the exercise, without transgressing and making it too long - I think!

It was lovely, in between services, to have time to call at the new Pontcanna Co-op store, in the recently converted Old Dairy building to buy croissants, pain chocolat and pain au raisin for breakfast. Much concern was expressed about the impact on scarce local parking resources of having a modest sized supermarket in this location, but it seems to be working well, perhaps because it's a dense residential area, so lots of locals shop there, rather than passing trade. A good thing  indeed.

Kath spent the day in a dance workshop, at the Millennium Centre and Clare looked after Rhiannon, taking her and Anwen to play in the woods in Cathays park, across the Taff. The play park in Llandaff fields was so crowded with half term weekend children and their parents, the girls opted for the extra walk, rather than queue to use the slides and swings. After lunch, Clare and Rhiannon made a chocolate cake together in time for tea and Kath's arrival. They left as darkness fell, and had a long journey home due to congestion on the motorways, people returning home for work after their half term breaks, no doubt.

In the evening, I remembered that it was this time last year that my long locum stint in Fuengirola came to an end, before I left for seven further weeks before Christmas at the Costa Azahar chaplaincy. It was an enjoyable time, and I have fond memories of people there. So, I wrote an email to churchwarden Linda to give her a news update on us, the first for many months. Time slips by so quickly.