Sunday, 31 January 2016

Early Candlemass

I was relieved when Hamid turned up at St German's for today's Candlemass Solemnities. A GP visit had detained him on Wednesday. When the media fuss about the hostel he's staying in broke out on Monday last, he was interviewed by the BBC. I doubt if the video footage was broadcasted, as he'd as a language learner he'd not yet be capable enough of giving interviewers a recordable sound byte. Even so, he was among those voices complaints about the premises state of neglect. Only the harassment of residents for wearing the identifying red arm bands seems to have caught the headlines, not the other management problems. Hamid is now attending two ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) classes a week, no doubt this will make a difference to him, as he's already been listening and gradually gaining an understanding of spoken English on which to work.

I really enjoyed the service, as we started with the congregation by the entrance, blessing lit candles, then processing around around the nave to our places. I preached about the ministry of old people and hospitality with reference to Simeon and Anna, and how vital these had been to the nurture of the young and outreach of the church down the ages. With Hilary and Angela just having trained as Alzheimer's 'Champions' and a church briefing session on working with Alzheimer's sufferers planned for later in February, the occasion was just right for joining the dots.

Learning to be a digital consumer

Owain had gone out to do a gig on Friday evening, as he arrived home before I did last night, but we had the pleasure of his company over a late brunch this morning before he returned to Bristol. In the last ten days he's had three job interviews, and is still waiting to hear from the first one, which he'd most like to win. It's hard to get enthusiastic about further applications when you're uncertain in this way. I so feel for him.

We walked across into Bute Park and had a light lunch in the restaurant of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The weather was bright and sunny, but a bitter cold wind made walking a ordeal. We continued into town, toured a few shops, had tea in House of Frazer's Cafe Zest and caught the bus home. A teenage couple standing on the bus chatting animatedly in sign language caught my eye, as their faces shone and their hands moved about eloquently. A moment of enchantment in an otherwise dreary journey in a bus full of dreary countenances.

With jobs done and nothing better to do while waiting for this week's delightful episode of 'Young Montalbano', I watched a YouTube video of a talk Clare wanted me to hear, then tried out some of the live and catchup TV apps for tablet available, to supplement YouView on our TV digital box, which can't be watched on two channels at the same time if there's a schedule clash. A second telly would a waste of space, when tablet media consumption can be continued, doing other things if needs be. It's not so often 'must watch' programmes are on at the same time, and more often that telly gets bypassed for jobs in need of completion. The secret is not to watch too much, or too late, and not to watch for the sake of watching, which I confess I've done a lot of when I've been on my own in Spain. I promise myself I'll make better use of my time, next time around.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Cloud woes again

After preparing a sermon for Sunday and working on an office document at home, I went into town mid afternoon for a short spell this afternoon, but it turned into a longer spell than intended, as we realised that Julie's HP All in one PC 'admin central' hadn't synced with MS OneDrive for the past three weeks. It's now the third time this has happened since the the machine was upgraded from Windows 7 to 10 at the end of September last. We discovered this because Julie couldn't find some template documents I had prepared at home a few weeks ago. They were there in the Cloud, but not on her machine as they should have been.

As Julie's worked almost exclusively on issuing invoices in the past three weeks, all I had to do was copy the missing files to a flash drive, and upload them to OneDrive form another machine, then Julie could continue working uninterrupted. For me, it gave an impressive reminder of how productive she's been recently. I completed the missing template task after Julie had finished work for the day and didn't get home until well after eight.

Thank goodness we haven't given up using a network drive and flash drive to back up all that we also keep into the Cloud. Frankly, I wonder if this new way of working is ever going to be quite as good as office back up hardware system under our exclusive control. Mobile computing is great for anyone who works at different locations. In our outfit, I'm the only one that does. Before Windows 10 and OneDrive file system sync by default, we kept files in the Cloud, accessed them from a browser, and/or emailed documents being worked on, admittedly struggling some times to maintain version control. Moving from there to the new status quo seems not a big step, but three sync breakdowns in six months without an obvious reason, using reliable hardware and internet services is ominous.

Trouble shooting to find out exactly how the sync mechanism aborts could take a long time, and might not be possible in the limited hours I have available to spend in the office from Monday to Wednesday, to do the job while she's not at work. Julie's machine's been in use two years and four months. It was solidly reliable syncing to OneDrive under Windows 7, but now no longer. It's the one machine which does need to be completely reliably up to date in every respect.

It's time to get a new PC and set it up, make sure it syncs correctly, before next Thursday so as not to interrupt Julie's workflow. Then, if syncing proves unreliable on an all-new machine, we simply revert to the way we used to do things, restrict our file system to office hardware, and back up to the Cloud just once a week. And maybe ditch OneDrive for Google Drive storage. It's not slick and perfectly safe, but better controllable and safe than sorry.

Our company accountant works on what seems to me like an insanely fast depreciation rate for office electronic equipment, and regularly expects us to include a sum for replacements in our annual budget. So far I've avoided replacing equipment unless its really dead. Older kit has not necessarily proved to be much slower in action for normal office tasks, thanks to our increased use of on-line resources and a faster office internet connection. As with one's car, reliability is the most decisive criterion, not glitz or speed.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Family funeral

Clare and I went to Thornhill Crematorium this morning for my cousin Thelma's funeral. The service was led by two Spiritualist church ministers, as this was the path Thelma followed in later life. The minister who took the first part of the service seemed unused to standing in front of such a large crowd. The main chapel was two thirds full, with extended family members, friends and neighbours. 

As a lively, sociable rebellious fun-loving teenager, Thelma had a great appetite for attending and organising parties, and a great compassionate heart. She married three times, and raised a family of three step children as well as her own. With her third husband Graham who died a couple of years ago, she ran a community centre in Senghenydd for many years, and the door of her home was ever open to welcome anyone who wanted a chat or a shoulder to cry on, or their fortunes told. An amazing unconventional loveable character in every sense. 

Her elder brother Godfrey gave a family tribute which truly captured the ethos of those teenage years. We left the chapel to Bill Hailey's 'See you later Alligator', which often blasted forth from the family record player at home in those teenage years. Her younger sister Rosalyn was there too. Both have been widowed in the past couple of years, and spent a lot more time together, especially after Thelma was taken into hospital last autumn. She seemed full of energy when she returned home and did a lot more socialising than usual in the last few months of her life, perhaps aware that her time was short, since she suffered from COPD, legacy of a lifetime's smoking. 

Most of Thelma's extended family by marriage I'd never met. It is, after all, forty three years since we left Caerphilly, where I served my title as as assistant Curate. Since then our meetings were few and far between. The shared memories of growing up in the craziness of the sixties maintained a bond between us however. Apart from her siblings, cousin Guy and Pam his wife were there, cousin Alan from Nice. 

I enjoyed meeting Godfrey's grown up children; Geraint who lives in Bristol not far from Owain, and is a deejay like him. Also Tegwen who lives in Aberdeen and works there as an engineer. She told us that she'd re-engaged with the church since she's been there. She now attends the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a black African Pentecostal church, where she sings in the choir! Many Nigerians work in Aberdeen, the oil industry brings them there. How on earth can they cope with the climate? I guess the energy of the worship counts for much. Clare really enjoyed the opportunity of speaking Welsh to them all. Idiot that I am, I kept letting myself down by trying to respond in Spanish.

After the funeral tea in the Municipal Club in the centre of Caerphilly, we drove back to Thornhill, and Clare dropped me off at the Crematorium to meet with a family and bury cremated remains from last Friday's funeral. The funeral director drove me back to Roath, where I went looking for Hamid's place, but was unable to find it, as I walked in the wrong direction along Newport Road. I then went into the office for an hour, before heading home for the evening.

After supper, I steeled myself to go on line and book Vueling flights from Cardiff to Malaga, then home from Barcelona to Cardiff, to cover my locum duties in June and July. I also needed to complete the formalities to acquire boarding passes for the April holiday trip to Alicante with Ann. It's ages since I last did any on-line booking, more than a year. Trouble is, when you get out of the habit, gearing up to do things accurately and correctly is not all that enjoyable, although I have to admit that the better web booking services do seem to improve in usability incrementally. At last now, I can look forward, above and beyond any overcast weather days which may yet arrive to loom over us in wet Wales.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Sight and vision in perspective

School Eucharist again at St German's this morning. I talked about St Paul's conversion and his travels thereafter. Hamid wasn't there. It's the first time he's missed in several months. Earlier this week there was some news controversy surrounding the issue of wrist bands to Cardiff asylum seekers to display their entitlement to free meals. It seems that some of the city's xenophobic low life characters had been verbally abusing people wearing wristbands, and they were quickly withdrawn. Disturbingly however, a photograph of the hotel which houses asylum seekers was printed by the Western Mail. Heaven only knows what impact that could have. Such a short sighted expression of the 'what can be seen must be seen' contemporary philosophy. What if it were your home in the frame Mr Editor? It's a violation of the privacy of vulnerable people.

I couldn't go around there and check him out after the service, as I had to drive straight to the School of Optometry for a further eye test, this time involving pupil dilation. It's the first time I've ever had this examinarion. Clare came to collect me from there, as blurring of vision resulting from the dilation left me needing to be driven, for safety's sake. Walking around Lidl's looking for a couple of items hard to find elsewhere was quite an odd experience, with both eyes focussing differently, reading glasses no help and no glasses just as bad. Apparently my eyes are in reasonable condition, with a little wear and tear to be expected at my age. I should appreciate this more and not take good vision for granted.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Back to Tai Chi

More rain today, and a morning visit to the Dentists' in Llandaff North for a check-up. Clare needed the car to go to her study group. Not trusting the timetable, I left in good time, and arrived at the bus stop as one was pulling away, but the driver stopped and let me get on so I arrived over half an hour early. To while away the time with a cuppa I walked to a nearby cafe. Afterwards, I waited a quarter of an hour in the rain at the bus stop opposite the surgery, but arrived at home, the same time as Clare. We cooked lunch and ate together, as both of us were going to be out at supper time.

Having accepted invitations to speak at two different Mothers' Union branch meetings in the coming months, I spent the afternoon working on something to say to them, though not necessarily the same to both, as the branches are in quite different social settings with different issues to address. Then, for the first time since my return to classes, I attended my regular Chi Gung class, and then the Tai Chi class which follows. It's back to basics for me, and I was pleased to find my memory of the opening moves of the short form hadn't forsaken me, although as ever it'll need working on. There's always something to learn through executing even the most familiar of moves, not just about technique, but about your own state of mind.

By the time I'd walked home after the classes, my trousers were soaked through, and I ended the evening watching 'Silent Witness' on iPlayer wearing a dressing gown. I felt a bit decadent not bothering to change properly after a couple of hours work-out. I think I shall ache a bit tomorrow. All that concentration tires the muscles unaccustomed to the extra demand. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Ministry scarcity

A day of cold, wind and rain, with the Mass congregation at St German's somewhat depleted. After, in the hall, a brainstorming session to put together a social programme for the coming year. We've already got an outline plan for Lent, Holy Week and Easter. I shall support them in whatever way I can, until a decision is delivered about future ministry development. Hopefully this situation cannot continue for that much longer. I admire people's determination to continue as best they can despite not knowing what the future holds. This certainly is 'walking in faith', and it reminds me of the same determination I have seen in Nerja and Vinaros, striving to continue as usual in the face of long periods of interregnum.

Addressing the pastoral needs of congregations in different contexts, whilst maintaining an overview of needs in the light of diminishing resources and available ministers is an unenviable task, made much more difficult by church structures which were designed for longevity and stability, less adaptable to changing circumstances. The Church in Wales has suffered major cut-backs in clergy in the past seven years and still struggles to adjust.

Ministry shortages are echoed also across the diocese in Europe. The propagation of new congregations is still happening so the need for ministry grows. It can draw upon the resources and experience of people interested in a different sort of ministry in and around the time of retirement, but it's that much harder to recruit younger clergy with spouses and families that can't re-locate so easily. So, the waiting time to appoint chaplains gets longer. 

Thankfully, among those living now in Europe are Lay Readers and other people used to leading worship or willing to be trained for this. In turn, congregations can find their own members going forward for ordination. Although this can take a long time to nurture and develop, it does illustrate how circumstances of privation can lead to unexpected outcomes. I'd like to think the same can happen here at home in the long term. How we cope in the mean time is what exercises me.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Houses visited and remembered

The weather was mild enough today to encourage us to visit Dyffryn House and Gardens for the first time this year. We had a light lunch in the cafe before entering and watched blue tits feeding at the bird table near where we were seated. In the grounds, plenty of snowdrops were out, an occasional early primrose too, but none of the daffodils were yet blossoming, just appearing as shoots yet to bud. It's that much colder for them to develop out here in open countryside than it is in the urbanised coastal plain of Cardiff. The grounds have been tidied up as far as possible after the fall. All is quietly waiting to emerge, buds are appearing on trees and bushes, earlier than usual.

Inside the house is where changes have taken place since our autumn visit. The main drawing room and the library have now been furnished elegantly with suitable period pieces, now that the restoration of the walls and windows is complete. It's impressive, and the enthusiasm of the volunteer guides is also impressive. It's a grand labour of love, this landmark place in the Vale of Glamorgan, of which many are justly proud.

Owain came over, both to see us to visit friends in the evening and stay overnight. With a Sunday sermon readied on Friday, there was time to enjoy cooking supper and relaxing with another episode of Young Montalbano, in which he lunches with his vineyard owning Father in his huge barn of a bottega. The traditional wine barrels in the background setting of the scene caught my eye, about three metres in diameter, and five metres in length on their side. They reminded me of the large ones I saw for the first time forty years ago in the bottega at Palazzola, at that time, the English College summer residence, south of Rome, above lake Albano. We were staying there as ecumenical guests of a local Catholic parish community that hired the fourteenth century convent buildings for group summer holidays. The site had been in use as a dwelling place since the days of ancient Rome, and the cellars, hollowed out of the volcanic tufa dated back that far. Happy memories of summers when the girls were toddlers.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Abide with me - extended

I had a funeral at St German's this afternoon. The nave was filled, mostly with mourners from three generations of a big extended family. Thankfully, early rain gave away to sunshine, bathing the church in consoling light. The family had printed its own hymn sheet, which had a version of 'Abide with me' containing eight verses, three additional ones which I've never seen before. Every hymn book I can recall, has had just five. Wikipedia has a seven verse version, the Cyberhymnal version has eight. Which text is the author's original isn't mentioned. Henry Francis Lyte, who was a Scottish Episcopalian, composed it in 1845 has he was about to quit his Lower Brixham parish to recover his health. Three weeks later he died of tubercolosis. The third, fourth and fifth verses I'd never heard before are these

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell'st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
These verses make it far more a hymn about one's life journey, than about impending death. This is quite refreshing. 

The gathering in the Cathedral for the funeral of Archbishop Barry's wife Hilary was in my mind as I took the service. I heard today that my cousin Thelma's funeral will be next Thursday morning. It'll be another extended family and community gathering, as she was a sociable and gregarious person all her life.

Just beforehand, a message arrived from Clare to say the car was repaired and ready for collection. Instead of driving me home after the cremation at Thornhill, my driver took me straight to the garage workshop and deposited me on the forecourt. Stepping out of a big posh chauffeured Jaguar to collect a twenty four year old Golf Mark Two, raised a few smiles from the staff. Keeping the car in good repair this past six months has worked out more expensive than over the past six years, but all in all, in terms of total expenditure it's still been cheap motoring.

In the evening at home I wrote my Sunday sermon, and uploaded a few photos I've been taking this past week of a bunch of red tulips bought at Tesco's last weekend. It's been marvellous to watch them open out from being tight closed to that last phase of total openness before the petals drop off. Tracking how they changed from scarlet to a nearly translucent purple was fascinating, but those changes aren't nearly so vivid in digital images as to the naked eye, no matter how good the camera.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

St John's reprise

I went to the CBS office this morning for the month's RadioNet User group meeting, which was Ian's introduction to the 'guys on the ground' in retail security. Three members of the city centre neighbourhood policing team attended as well. Having a full time worker in our organisation promises to be really beneficial as time goes on.

At lunchtime I met with a St German's congregation member for a bowl of soup and a chat at St John's tea room. It's now re-branded as 'The TeaSpot', with new furniture and decor to brighten the place up. I was a little amused to sit looking at a wall decked with old photos, and see myself there with Archbishop Barry, taken after a civic service 6-7 years ago. I don't go into St John's very often these days, and didn't see anybody around that I remember from my days there as Vicar. Time passes, faces change too, but there are many faces that are still vivid, attached to treasured happy memories.

Then, I returned to the office for a couple of hours to deal with a batch of crime reports which arrived in the wake this morning's meeting. Once the job was done, I header home for supper and a quiet evening with Clare watching the latest episode of 'Silent Witness'. The themes in the new series are bang up to date with current affairs, and sometimes offer telling insights into background lives of some of the characters involved.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Urdu BCP discovery

This morning, the car was covered with a thick white frost. I drove to St German's for the midweek Mass without incident. We celebrated St Agnes' Day, a day early, one of the Parish patron saints, as it was the main church dedication of my first Parish in Bristol. No school class attended this week, perhaps because staff had experienced trouble getting into work on time, given how icy it might be out of town. It struck me this time how contemporary is the story of this fourth century teenage martyr. The prospect of a forced marriage, and what was from another angle the Roman equivalent of an honour killing, after she refused to recant her faith, or to marry as required. These are still themes that are being encountered across the world today. Civilasation? The human race is still lacks it, despite our pretence to sophistication.

Afterwards, I transferred to Hamid's phone a .pdf file of the Book of Common Prayer translated into Urdu Latin script for him to explore. It was something I'd found in Google's free digital text library, scanned from a hard copy in a California library. It really needs some editing to make it easier to navigate, and I must print out some of its texts for him to be able to read more easily. 

A more modern Sunday Missal in Urdu I have so far not succeeded in tracking down. But it's a start, and an important one, as the BCP is such a great milestone in the history of vernacular religious texts, available to everyone. I imagine it will read as more quainly and exotic than any contemporary biblical translation, but it its deeply biblical content says a great deal about Anglicanism as an expression of Christian discipleship, everyone needs to be acquainted with in some measure.

I then took the car back to the garage for checking, and walked to the CBS office to put in a few hours before returning home. At the end of the afternoon, Clare said the garage had been in touch and had reported a cylinder head gasket had gone. Not surprising given the succession of recent overheatings due to a leak I failed to deal with. She gave them the go-ahead straight away, but we will be without the car for several days, and it won't be a cheap repair either. Ah well, we made a decision to stick with the car for now, and the consequences are unavoidable.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Not so good news, followed by good news

This afternoon, my long awaited cardiology test appointment at Llandough hospital was scheduled to take place after a two month, ten day wait. As I drove from the street the engine temperature warning light came on. Fortunately I'd left in good time, so I returned home and discovered the engine coolant had lost two litres, since it returned from servicing over the weekend. I replenished the fluid and drove to the hospital without any further trouble, but by then was in danger of running late in the 'school run' time traffic. 

Although I found a parking place easily, I parked almost as far away as I could from the Outpatients department, as I hadn't registered where it was located from signage on the way in. I power walked the five hundred yards along hospital corridors, stopping to ask my way twice, and arrived just on time. When my blood pressure was taken ten minutes later, I was met with the usual frowns, as it had gone through the roof. I didn't bother to explain, just said I always reacted badly the first few times I was tested. The nurse didn't take it again.

The ultrasound and EEG tests followed one another in quick succession it seemed, after brief waits. Little was said by way of explanation. Maybe it was assumed I'd been through this before. I was quite fascinated to hear the different kinds of sound feedback issuing from a system monitor during the ultrasound test. The EEG chart I was given to pass on showed no irregular spikes this time, but then I have stopped overdosing on dark roast Americanos since the first time I had one.

The consultant  discussed the results with me in detail, and smiled when I recounted him the tale of my arrival mishaps. No wonder my blood pressure skyrocketed. He said the tests show my heart is healthy and normal for my age, allowing for the wear and tear to be expected for three score years and ten. As ever, keep an eye on hypertension, and come back for another check in two years time. No tests ad interim, no treatment needed. And for me no more worries about travelling abroad and getting insurance cover. I can once more let others know that I'm available for locum duty. A joyful return home, with an extra spring in my step. The uncertainty of waiting has finally been lifted. And I am utterly grateful, to be able to continue normally, at least for the time being. I keep on reminding myself, nothing lasts forever. Especially not the car.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Board milestone

A late afternoon start at the CBS office, preparing for the early evening Business Crime Reduction Partnership board meeting. For the first time, Ian, our new business crime reduction manager and representatives of South Wales Police and Cardiff Council attended. Once more I took the minutes, and for once changed my habit of scribbling down a few notes to refer to later, and prepared a framework for the minutes document on the early MS Surface that's been hanging around the office for some time. As it's not so big, I thought I'd try and use it to take notes unobtrusively during the meeting. I found I was able to record enough to make it easy to flesh out when I got home, and had a first draft ready for vetting before bed.

During the meeting, I was asked to email the agreed Police information sharing agreement with a few slight corrections, for one final scrutiny before formal signing, and the Surface was also able to do this before leaving the table after the meeting. I was pleased at the neatness and economy of this. The early Surface keyboard has been widely pronounced a disaster, but once I'd suppressed the 'tactile' sound feedback I found it was usable slowly, but it would be horrible for lengthy use. It took an age to complete three dozen updates later in the evening, and as long as you can manage with the software provided, it's a decent standby machine to keep in the office, and use when all others are in use. 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Epiphany halfway

I celebrated and preached at St German's again this morning. The Nativity scene had been dismantled and the figures set aside in the St Agnes chapel prior to being stored away. They were all lined up and looked somewhat folorn, like people queuing in the rain for a bus that never comes.

After Mass, there was an infant baptism to perform, before having a brief chat with Hamid about language learning smartphone apps, and then heading home for a late lunch. Enquiries about finding him liturgical service books in Urdu are not going well at the moment. An Urdu translation of the Roman Missal has been made by a Roman Catholic Bishop, post Vatican II. Obtaining one will be the challenge.

The afternoon was cold and wet, with snow in the Brecon Beacons. Nothing to tempt us to go out for a walk. Responses to the email notification we sent out giving the date of our Golden Wedding anniversary celebration have started to arrive, and quite separately, I received an email from Darren in Singapore.

We met when we were both working in Geneva, and have kept in touch over the years since then. mainly by exchanging Christmas newsletters. His letters are always interesting to read, as he packs a lot more into his life than just being a busy University law lecturer. He admits to following this blog too, and said his generation of Twitter and Instagram users is less inclined to write regular blog posts at length. I imagine some must save up all their words for writing novels. There seem to be quite a steady stream newly published authors today.

I haven't yet publicised my photo presence on Instagram, but over this weekend have spent some time browsing my collection of images and uploading ones that catch my eye. It's most enjoyable if there's nothing else I need or want to do, and there's nothing entertaining on telly.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Cana miracle revisited

This morning Clare and I worked on sending email notifications of our forthcoming Golden Wedding Anniversary celebration party on the afternoon of August the sixth, although we have yet to decide where to hold the event. Kath's advice was, "Get people to put the date in their diaries now, and you can fill in the practical details later." Sound thinking indeed.

In the afternoon, as it was chilly and dry, we walked briskly into town through the park. Clare bought me a fleece lining for my rain jacket, and later a green cashmere jumper for herself. We had a drink in the House of Frazer 'Zest' restaurant, calmer than usual on Saturday afternoons, then walked home for a quiet evening of sermon preparation and another episode of 'Young Montalbano', which never fails to please.

In tackling the Gospel story of the marriage feast at Cana, I returned to an interpretation I first explored six years ago. This proposes that Jesus' rescue of the festivities didn't depend upon a miracle, but on the timely recognition that water should be served when there was no longer any wine. If the house had been drunk dry, was more wine really needed? Let alone good wine, when the drinkers' palates would be jaded with the inferior stuff. 

The president of the feast praises the host for keeping 'the best wine until last'. Just as the gathering is feeling the effects of excess alcohol and heat, cool fresh water is just what's needed to revive everyone, ready for the communal dancing that is characteristic of any Mediterranean festivity. The president might have said that with tongue in cheek, or a hint of irony, and certainly not wanting to insult the host, or complain. If all had indeed drunk enough, the timing made the offer of water just right. Water is a powerful symbol of renewal in biblical writing anyway.

The intention in this little interpretation is not to explain away or dismiss the miraculous. I feel sure the Almighty is up to breaking all the laws of nature without consequence in order to make a point to us when we think we know it all, but in this case, what is the point of turning water into wine? Any excess drinking wouldn't enhance the social climax of the festivities. So few people actually knew what was going on behind the scenes, who was going to be impressed? Jesus certainly wasn't showing off divine powers to surprise an audience. His insight into what the party really needed at this crucial moment, was what made the transforming difference to the occasion.

Does John take the words of the President of the feast literally, because at that time he was still young and easily impressed into thinking miraculously? He doesn't use the word 'miracle', but refers to this event as a 'sign' of God's glory. God in Jesus, working quietly and unobtrusively in the background to keep the occasion on an even keel, just when it needed a change of pace and consumption. John's point remains the same - the difference which the presence and actions of Jesus make to one everyday event. All points to God at work in the ordinary things of life, leading everyone to value the simple things, to enjoy life's pleasures in moderation rather than excess.

I'd prefer to argue that God doesn't need to prove himself, or astonish us into believing by displays of miracles when already everything in the universe is, as Psalm 139 says: 'so fearfully and wonderfully made'. Without imposing himself publicly, Jesus helps to deal with an embarrassing situation for the host, by being aware of the real needs of the moment. This is a reflection of the just and gentle way in which he tackles many a difficult situation encountered in his ministry, and indeed, in the exemplary and humble way he goes to his death, sacrificing himself to reconcile humankind with God. Looking carefully at his life and work certainly does challenge me to think differently!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Family deaths

The news media has been full this past few days of tributes to David Bowie and Alan Rickman after the announcement of their deaths. This morning I received an email to say that Archbishop Barry's wife Hilary had died after a two year struggle against cancer, and then this afternoon, another email from my cousin Dianne to tell me that another cousin, Thelma, had died. 

We all grew up together in the fifties, at a time when Dianne's mother, my godmother Celandine, was living in her parents' home, and the family home of cousins Thelma and Ros was next door. I lived a mile down the hill on the edge of Ystrad Mynach, and used to go to the grandparents' house to play. Of all the extended family members born and raised in the area, Thelma and Ros were the two who married and stayed settled in the Rhymney Valley. Since the death of their parents, they've been the only remaining personal link to the place of our childhood.

After a brief spell in the CBS office this afternoon, I had a bereavement visit to make, in relation to the funeral I've been asked to take at St German's next Friday. Sadly, this will clash with Hilary Morgan's funeral, so I won't be able to attend and pay my respects to an able and courageous woman who had her own career as a lawyer as being Archbishop Barry's mainstay. 

I spent an hour with three sisters of the six surviving children of an eighty year old widow who had two dozen grandchildren and at least as many great grandchildren, getting them to tell me things about her life which I could weave into a tribute at the service, as it seems no family member was inclined to do this on their behalf. Without the story told, a funeral would be very impersonal. The absence of a tribute would be noticed by mourners after the event, even if they hadn't thought of this in advance. So, I patiently press on until I have enough information to make a recognisable sketch to value a life. Could I do the same for my cousin Thelma? I hope I don't have to, as there are too many gaps to fill in since childhood days. When it comes to family I'd rather hear someone else tell their story.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Day in court.

I met with Peter and Hamid at St German's, and Peter drove us to the court building, Columbus House, located just off the Chepstow Road on the far side of Newport. As we left Cardiff, Ashley phoned to brief me on an urgent business matter, which meant I wasn't concentrating on route finding. I heard Chepstow Road and knew it was on the east side of town, and before I could say otherwise, Peter had turned off on the west side junction leading into the city. We got stuck in traffic, so turning around and returning to the M4 lost us a good twenty minutes, so instead of arriving ten minutes early we arrive ten minutes late. 

Proceedings hadn't started, however. We went through security checks, then were briefed by Hamid's lawyer on court procedure for half an hour. We emerged to find that another immigration hearing was in court ahead of us. From ten until two thirty we sat around in the waiting room and chatted, not knowing when the previous hearing would finish. Then Hamid and the lawyer were summoned. The rest of us, five witnesses in all, waited our turn, I was last to appear, at five twenty five, and was interrogated for half an hour, largely around the question of how I could be certain that a convert was honestly sincere in requesting baptism.

I would like to have been better prepared for this, to have had an opportunity to think about the best way to convey what pastoral discernment is all about in a context that is used to a more forensic and analytic ways of delivering evidence. I had no problem discussing Hamid's journey into Christian faith with another Christian pastor who had accompanied him, even though his first language was not mine and his religious and cultural background were different from mine. The judge was a careful listener. She asked me questions, waited for an answer and asked me to slow down and repeat if I went too fast for her. The challenge was to be as precise as possible and not woolly and impressionistic. I wonder what she made of my testimony - my first ever appearance as a witness in a court of law.

Hamid's sister and brother-in-law were in court to testify on his behalf. While staying with them he had been studying the bible secretly. When his sister discovered this, she kicked him out, and not long after he was picked up, identified as having overstayed his visa. Since then, realising the threat to his life he now faces, she's had second thoughts and accepted his desire to become Christian, despite her misgivings. Hence her willingness to come down and testify on his behalf.

Hamid's first request for asylum was turned down, as were his appeals, but a change in legislation made possible a new request. The present appeal is the outcome of another refusal. During his time awaiting deportation in the Harmondsworth detention centre, he met and was helped by Amjad, the Urdu speaking pastor who assisted in his baptism last Sunday. Amjad couldn't testify as he's a Home Office accredited voluntary interpretor. It gave me confidence that Amjad spoke highly of Hamid and his journey into faith. 

While Hamid was in a hostel in Birmingham, prior to coming to Cardiff, his room mate was a Ukranian pentecostal pastor seeking asylum here. Through their limited grasp of English, despite the language barrier, over time they were able to talk about faith and even pray together. He too came to be a court witness. The four and a half hour wait for Hamid's case to start was not time wasted, but rather an occasion for some unusual and unexpected conversations.

The case lawyer wasn't the woman who had interviewed me on the phone from London, but a local partner, in his mid twenties. He seemed confident Hamid's case was credible and well supported. In closing the appeal, he quoted an eminent British judge who stated "We are not required to probe the depths of someone's soul to ascertain their motives or intentions in converting faith. We may ask about their behaviour. In this case, enquiring how often they go to church is what may be relied upon." The judge now has to read through all the submissions before deciding. Hamid's life will be on hold for the next three weeks, until he learns whether or not asylum will be granted.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Valuing confidence

I had to take an early bus into town inorder to walk to St German's for this morning's Mass with a class of children from Tredegarville school, as the car is still at the garage being repaired. Not long after the Mass ended however, I had a message to say it was ready, so I was able to walk just a mile from the church across from Adamsdown into Splott to collect and pay.

Hamid's stray baptism certificate turned up, so I countersigned it and sent a photo of it to his lawyer, before handing it over to him, ready for his tribunal appearance tomorrow. I'm very glad to have the car back from repair, to drive me to church for a nine o'clock rendezvous with him and Peter tomorrow, thus avoiding an even earlier start to get across town in good time, than today. 

The repairs were as expensive as when the tyres and exhaust were replaced. More than the car is worth maybe, but despite the wear and tear, the car is still worth the TLC. I think this whenever it's been serviced and runs well. It has an old fashioned solidity about it, and handles well on demanding roads. Finding a replacement to compare with it will be difficult. I don't suppose we'll get quite the same value for money expended on a wasting asset ever again. So we'll keep it a little longer and feel grateful for its general reliability. 

I remember the previous garage mechanic who serviced our cars, Terry Gibson, in Yate outside Bristol thirty years ago, saying that the time you must sell a car and get a new one is either when it is broken beyond economical repair, or, you lose confidence in its reliability and are not prepared to invest any more time, money or effort in it. Wise advice, and I'm sticking with this good counsel.

As I had to collect the car, I forgot that I had another eye test appointment after Mass. I couldn't have reached the clinic in time without a car anyway, and that hand't crossed my mind when I booked it in. Later in the day the eye clinic texted me to flag this up, and I was able to rearrange for a fortnight's time. What a nuisance for them. Yet, the receptionist was most gracious about my lapse.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Change of pattern

Chi Gung classes re-started Tuesday evening. I was delighted to hear that there was going to be a Tai Chi class afterwards from now on. Since Clare's Thursday evening study circle stopped, I've given up going to the Thursday Tai Chi class in Penarth. After a long break, the chance to re-start learning the Short Form on the same evening is most welcome. It'll be fairly tiring, to do one class after another, but that's an incentive to take it easy during the day, in preparation. I can still remember most of the Short Form, and this'll be my third time to start again, but I'm happy with this. There is such a depth to the postures and the movement in any Tai Chi form, that there's endless room for perfection of the art, and for self-discovery through the learning process.

I couldn't stop for the second class this week, as Clare and I had decided to eat at Stefano's restuarant after the first class, rather than cook hurriedly on her return from choir and mine from Chi Gung, as we usually do. Clare had swordfish, and I had a huge plate of lasagne, more than I needed for an evening meal. If only it was really convenient for both of us to eat our main meal in the middle of the day. Our eating habits remain much the same as they were when the children were young and returning home for a main meal after school. Now, although we're not in employment, we're both busy in the middle of the day, and don't always overlap in eating lunch together. In some ways, retirement life patterns are more varied that the ones we had when both of us were in a work routine.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Car decision

I took the car in for repair this morning, and walked back most of the way, having shopped at Lidl's on Tyndall Street en passant. I took the bus from Westgate Street to Canton Cross, to bank a cheque in my local branch, then popped in to Constaninou's next door for a haircut before heading home for lunch, well shorn and exercised.

I went to the CBS office in the afternoon, and met with Ashley to enquire of BT about SIM unlocking. It's not necessary on phones we issue, he was told. They come unlocked, presumably so that any of the network SIM card providors BT has take over in recent years are not a cause of un-necessary problem to users. Everything now comes under the umbrella of EE, which should include Orange, O2, T-mobile and Vodaphone. So, Clare's SIM card was inserted into the Galaxy III and worked first time, showing her caller i/d, once Ashley had, found the configuration menu to reveal rather than withhold details.

Earlier in the day I saw a notification on my Blackberry which told me that Ian has co-incidentally set up an Instagram account for the Business Crime Reduction Partnership. It'll be interesting to see how he will develop this in action. Slowly CBS and the BCRP moves towards having a decent web presence, it's long overdue as it's something I've not had opportunity to work on properly.

Then, I had a phone call from Phil at N G Motors to discuss work needing to be done on the car. The coolant leak is the least of the worries. There are brake discs, a shock absorber and a wheel bearing to be replaced, all cost more than the car is worth. But then the new tyres and exhaust last autumn also cost more than the car is worth. Despite wear and tear, it still runs well and has little structural rust, so will survive another MOT. It's reliable and it's still nice to drive. With these repairs I can put off the buying a new car for a lot longer, perhaps another year. Our car has long stopped depreciating in value. Why pour money into something newer that will start to depreciate as soon as it's been purchased?

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Baptism on the feast of Christ's Baptism

On may way to St German's this morning, I had a phone call from Amjad, driving down from London to take part in Hamid's baptism. He'd missed the Almondsbury interchange turning and was approaching Ross-on-Wye on the M50, still an hour away. When I got to church, we made plans to defer the rite of Baptism until the end of the service, in case Amjad didn't make it in time. Thankfully, he arrived just as I was about to read the Gospel for the Feast of Christ's Baptism. Without rehearsal, Hamid's baptism proceeded as intended, with Hamid making his baptism promises in Urdu. Before the service, I finally got to read through with Hamid the transliteration of the baptismal formula into Urdu Amjad sent me, to check my pronunciation, and completed the rite without error, thanking God for having a good musical ear and memory.

Amjad brought his wife and three delightful young children with him. He is Pastor and Teamleader of the Kushkhabri Fellowship, whose 'Right Way' outreach projects helps people of Muslim origin enquiring about Christian faith, and supports converts. The fifty strong St German's congregation welcomed them warmly. Some expressed delight in being part of an event unique in their experience. Churchwarden Peter and doyenne of the congregation Gwyneth were Hamid's sponsors. She befriended him from the outset. "She is just like my grandmother" he said to  me on one occasion. Afterwards, Gwyneth said what a lovely experience it had been. She handed him his baptism candle during the ceremony. Hamid is a quiet man with a warm smile and smiling eyes. Today he was radiant.

During the Peace, I relieved him of his baptism candle and certificate, given during the ceremony, to allow him to circulate and greet one another. I handed it to someone else, and later I couldn't find it. Hopefully it will turn up sooner rather than later, as I need to countersign the certificate to establish its status for the benefit of his Tribunal hearing, this coming Thursday. Many a slip 'twixt cup and lip, as the saying goes.

The congregation sat down to an excellent three course lunch in the church hall after the service. There were more than expected, but plenty of food to go round, thanks to the generous imaginations of the cooking team. Hamid, Amjad and his family, also Jim Stewart his wife and toddler son sat down to lunch together and chatted. Jim is Wales Evangelical Alliance Welsh Assembly liaision officer. He started with EA when I was still at St John's, and has now been in post ten years. He and Amjad have recently got to know each other, as both work on advocacy relating to the freedom of people to convert to another faith. It's a subject fraught with social and political difficulties throughout the world.

After the meal, I drove over to Bristol to deliver Amanda's new computer kit, and set up for the first time a wireless printer. Not difficult once you know how, but something of a puzzle when you have to read small print on a sheet that's set out in six languages. The printer is an entry level Epson XP-235. Google Chrome's cloud print facility is something I'll have to get used to. I have tried setting up a wired network computer to work with a Chromebook via wi-fi, with unsatisfactory results, but that was a couple of years ago. Amanda's Chromebook and printer seemed to talk to each other as intended. If it goes on strike, I don't fancy troubleshooting.

As I was approaching Southmead, the car indicated that it was overheating again. I pulled into a garage and steam was issuing from the overflow tank. I put three litres in and drove carefully to Amanda's, then added another litre or so later when it had cooled. I returned home gingerly, to say the least, stopping four times because the overheat warning light kept flashing. The engine, wasn't overheating however, but I suspected the cooling system was far from full. I stopped at a garage and bought some radiator sealant, but the coolant level hadn't dropped enough to add any. The last leg, from Newport I did on the old A48, as a precaution, though heaven knows why, apart from it being safer to stop in an emergency as there are few late evening buses travelling this road late on a Sunday evening. I made it home OK. Tomorrow the car goes to N G Motors for repair.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Saturday tech and movie time

Owain departed after a late breakfast this morning. I spent some time 're-purposing' a work phone made redundant by the continuing upgrade cycle. It's a Samsung Galaxy III, functional and in good condition. Clare's phone is a Samsung Galaxy III Mini, just like mine. It's slightly newer and has more memory, but its connectivity has never been as good as mine, and no remedial fix has ever been effective, so it's probably a hard to detect fault in the aerial, as all else works fine. The new phone works just fine, but will have to wait until Monday to check of it can be used straightforwardly with a different network SIM card from the one the phone was first registered with.

In the afternoon, we walked in the rain to Staples on Western Avenue, to buy an Epson wireless printer and a Toshiba CR 104 Chromebook, like mine, for Amanda. A little shopping around had determined a price on both that was good enough to pay for an extra set of ink cartridges for the same price I'd have paid elsewhere. Carrying the kit back involved a capacious rucksack, long arms and patience. We got wet, but that was preferable to losing our parking space in the street, always crowded on weekends.

After supper, I used iPlayer to catch up on the first episode of 'Hinterland', set in the cefn gwlad up behind Aberystwyth, in and around Llanafan Parish uplands, which we discovered the summer before last when we visited our friend Margaret LeGrice, Vicar of that six church benefice. The lead actors in the series are melancholic, serious, preoccupied, in keeping with the often bleak storyline and stark landscape. It's beautifully crafted, and best of all, as normally bi-lingual as the social environment in which it is set. It's must-watch for Welsh people everywhere. The portrayal of the environment, the dialogue in either language and the relationships between characters are honest, resonant, authentic. A triumph of Welsh film making.

Then we watched together the ever comic and colourful with dark undertones second episode of 'Young Montalbano'. Much more complex threads in the storyline, but each thought provoking. Best of all in this episode was the banter between Montalbano and the parish priest about attending marriage preparation classes. It was very true to life, the excuses busy men make to avoid have to sit through life coaching sessions from someone they believe have no direct experience to draw upon in talking to them about intimate relationships.

After this I finally got around to writing and printing the baptismal homily which I'd devised in my head one very late night this week, and scribbled a few notes before falling asleep. And was late to bed again, thankful that I don't have an early start tommorrow.

Friday, 8 January 2016

SIM song

Friday, I spent the afternoon in the CBS office, continuing the on going briefing with new co-worker Ian before he went out to tour parts of the night time economy with Ashley. Ian's new office phone arrived, and needed to be set up with one of our BT account SIM cards. While the latest model is impressive in its design and build, it took a nerve wracking half hour for Ashley to extract safely the nano SIM card tray for insertion, fortunately before Ian arrived for it to be issued to him.

It's been one of those phone nightmare weeks. A few days ago Ashley took charge of his new Samsung Galaxy 6. Its built-in SIM tray came out easily enough, but as he was inserting it with the nano SIM card aboard the SIM slipped from the tray (it didn't 'click' in) fell into the destined slot, and couldn't be straightforwardly extracted. It took him two hours to retrieve it, and insert it properly before he could carry on configuring it for use.

I wonder how often this may happen to others? New SIMs of nano size specification are manufactured attached to a tray mounting that allows them to be mounted in an older phone with a larger housing, as well a a new one. They can be 'popped' out of the larger housing, but they can be 'popped' back in as well. Can we expect a common fixation standard for this from all manufacturers eventually?

When I arrived home Owain, had just got in from Bristol, and we enjoyed a couple of hours catch up with him, after his Berlin trip. He showed me the photos he'd taken and posted on his Instagram account. One was of the river Spree, covered with sheet ice. The temperature was minus ten while he was there. This prompted me to sign up for an Instagram account of my own.

I only use my phone for taking pictures when I forget to slip a camera into my pocket when leaving home. As Instagram can display a caption with each image and links easily with Facebook, it occurred to me that I could indulge in a little photo blogging when I'm out and about. I often see things which I'd like to share a comment about, but don't make the effort to take and process a picture. So, let's see if it is something I can make use of in relation to other tales I tell on-line.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Epiphany reprise

Late last night I had an email from Fr Mark to ask if I could cover the ten thirty Eucharist at St John's today, which I was able to respond to, as I was still working on my tribunal statement at the time. So, I celebrated a Prayer Book Epiphany Eucharist this morning for eight people, stopped for a cuppa afterwards and bought a jars of home made apple and black current jam and marmalade. At breakfast earlier we'd just emptied our last home made marmalade jar, and this is far more preferable than shop bought marmalade. Hopefully the Seville bitter oranges will be appearing shortly to buy and turn into this year's marmalade batch.

I had a phone call about a funeral before lunch, but the timing clashed with the usual midweek Mass celebration so I had to turn it down. The funeral arranger asked desperately if I knew any other retired cleric she could ask, as the full timers were all busy. Busy, doing midweek services, as are some of the retired clerics. Cutbacks in clergy numbers this past five years mean that there are fewer clerics to cover demands all round. So far the Church in Wales has failed to develop a programme to train lay ministers to officiate at funerals and work with the bereaved, in order to share the work load. 

What the church doesn't do is providing more work for Humanist and Pagan celebrants. The default choice of having a cleric is slowly being replaced by a menu of options, whereas at one time all but the very anti religious would settle for a parson to take the service. I believe they'd settle equally for a lay man or woman who was well trained and had more time to spend with people than clerics rushed off their feet with many duties. What's the obstacle? It could do the reputation of church ministry a lot of good to use lay officiants in this way.

Clare noticed yesterday that there were some daffodil stems with buds on, in a sheltered spot, about to burst in Pontcanna Fields when she was out for a walk. On my way to the office after lunch, I scanned the grass verge on the approaches to the bus stop, and there, where they are more exposed to cold winds, some daffodil shoots were through and already a good six inches tall, a little behind those Clare had seen. They are remarkably early, about a month early, if a remember aright. Last year I took photos of the first daffs, but am hunting to find them in my collections to check the date. It has been a very mild winter indeed, although Owain texted me from Berlin where we'd been holidaying over New Year, to say it was -10 degrees centigrade there, and they'd had snow.

I spent a couple of hours in the CBS office failing to get to grips with how to make our Sage accountancy package produce the year's first batch of invoices to order, and tweaking the terms and condition document which is issued with each annual invoice - there always seems to be something that needs to be modified slightly. Now is the best time, rather than later in the year.

Then, at tea time, I went over to the St David Centre and met with Andy and Michelle, a couple at whose wedding I will be officiating in February at St German's. We sat in Pret a Manger with a drink and I took them through the order of service and answered their initial questions. I haven't done a wedding in the UK for five years. There are similarities and differences to preparing couple for the blessing of their civil marriages, and that certainly kept me on my toes.

Before returning home I looked in John Lewis for a Chromebook and wireless printer for Amanda, but couldn't find the printer model I was after at a decent price. I need to do some shopping around.
We spent a couple of hours of evening together watching programmes about house building and restoration projects, marvelling at the stamina, determination and ability to invest large amounts of cash in customised bricks and mortar, some people are willing undertake, fulfilling their dreams the hard way, often with spectacular results. I can't imagine putting so much of my life into that kind of home making. We lived in a dozen different places and made homes therein before finally settling in this house to retire. I don't think I've yet got used to the idea of living in one place for the remainder of my life. Perhaps I shall always be a restless soul, happier borrowing a place, a sojourner in spirit. 'Here we have no abiding city, but we seek the one that is to come', says the letter to the Hebrews, but is that really true of me?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Epiphany Day

I celebrated the Eucharist of Epiphany Day this morning at St German's with a class of thirty children and sixteen adults present. The sun shone and filled the church with cheerful light. The cross I'm to give to Hamid at his baptism was on the altar with the consecrated Gifts during the service, the customary way of blessing such a special object - by association, rather than with words. Afterwards, churchwarden Peter and I discussed the forthcoming asylum appeal tribunal hearing for Hamid, due to take place next week. Peter had received a message from Hamid's lawyer requesting statements from us both, prior to our attendance at the court hearing. 

I emailed the lawyer when I got back and later received a phone call, during which she interviewed me, drafted a statement, and then sent it to me for correction. I also need to prove to the court who I am and how I come to be ministering at St German's. The lawyer had said that you cannot assume that a law court knows anything about the church and its procedures of authorisation or the status of its representatives, and to be fair these things differ from one church to another. Apart from making a statement we conversed about matters religious, as there were things that needed a personal kind of explanation for her, since she was a Hindu. What a privilege for me to do this!

Sending a scan of my passport was easy. Statement correction took hours. I also had to write to Archbishop Barry to ask him to confirm my Permission to Officiate (PTO) in the Diocese and my role as locum priest at St German's, for the benefit of the court. A PTO isn't the subject of a certificate issued by the church. I'd quite forgotten that, and hunted around for a while in my files trying to find one. The only PTO document I could find dated back to the eighties. It was signed by all six Welsh Bishops allowing me to represent the work of my employer, mission agency USPG in the Province. Quite a rare document, of which I am proud, a relic of a very formative period in my working life in which my ministry as a missionary priest and preacher was established permanently, on the frontiers of mother church, rather than at its centre. Thank God, I'm still there, still being blessed.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Conversion convergence

Monday morning, just after I'd was completed saying Morning Prayer, I had a phone call from Amjad, a pastor friend of Hamid's, whom I was intending to call this day. They'd kept in touch since they met when he was waiting to be deported, and he proposes to attend the baptism this coming Sunday. We talked for half an hour, and it was good to have confirmation from someone who'd known Hamid longer than I, of the seriousness of the biblical quest and faith commitment that has led him thus far.

I was pleased to be able to invite him to take a share in taking Hamid through the baptismal interrogations in Urdu, his mother tongue. He will help me learn how to say the key words of baptism in Urdu. Church Warden Peter and Gwyneth (93), who has befriended Hamid since he started coming to church, will act as sponsors. I will give him a cross made of hardwood to wear around his neck and present it to him during the liturgy. It was given to me by an African member of the Geneva congregation twenty years ago, and represents the international nature of the faith in Christ crucified he is starting to share.

Today, I produced the appropriate liturgical text to share. It will need him to translating some texts for use on Sunday. He told me that apart from his day job, he has worked in ministry to people converting from Islam to Christianity for twenty years, since he himself was a convert. Thank heavens Britain is a place where he's free to help others to exercise their freedom to choose their own path of faith.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Landmark occasion at CBS

Today, the new Business Crime Reduction manager, Ian Tumelty started with with Cardiff Business Safe. I met him in the office at ten as arranged. Hopes were dashed of arriving earlier to make sure things were in order, as I narrowly missed two buses at different stops. I briefed him on the CBS story so far, and gave him the required password access to the office systems to get him started.

Then Ashley arrived and shortly after chairman Gerry. The conversation was a good way to round off his first morning. In the afternoon I prepared and sent out the invitations and documents for the next BCRP meeting, at which Ian will be introduced to the Board and to Police and Council invited representatives. It's taken six years to get this far and get it right. A hard slog, but worth it in the end.

I left for home at four thirty and called in John Lewis' store, where I caught sight of Clare browsing the cushion department, when we'd both completed our errands, we had tea and a scone together. I'd forgotten about lunch. We visited a few shops together in the Grand Arcade. Clare bought a small blue plastic bucket to occupy the space under the kitchen sink, which I carried home. It reminded me of the one kids have on the beach, although it was twice their size. The bus driver also thought so, as he commented on it as we were getting our tickets "All you need now is the spade to go off to the beach." he said.

Nothing worth watching on telly to I spent an hour trying to clear space in Ashley's BT Office 365 email account, which keeps announcing that it's full. Between us we've spent hours deleting old messages to no good effect. The titles vanish, but the space is not reclaimed. Ten email addresses are assigned for a 250mb account. Only two are active, one of which is empty. No emails have been received since 31st December last, and we know some copies to his account were sent. A test email sent from another account was not received. It's possible to log in but few webmail administrative functions work. It's a complete disaster, and not for the first time has complaining to BT about this yielded any results. And to think we're paying for this non-service!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Wet weekend

The roads were much busier yesterday, with cars coming and going from the town centre, visiting the never ending sales. To get some exercise, we walked into town along the Taff Trail late afternoon, not very late but late enough for the Castle Park gates to be already shut requiring us to use a cramped exit through the gatehouse cafe into Castle street. We visited several stores in search of pot-pourri and came home with a new jacket for me, something smart to wear when we go cruising on the Danube in the spring.

Much to my delight, the first of six new episodes of 'Young Montalbano' was shown on BBC4 after supper. There are many moments of comic dialogue and sarcasm to raise a laugh, and yet this never detracts from the tragic seriousness of the story lines. You get small glimpses into people's struggles against poverty and corruption, and conclude that humour is for the people portrayed a front line defence against losing their dignity to despair and anger. It speaks to me more than the earnestness and intensity of Scandinavian noir crime fiction.

This morning I left for the Mass at St Germans in driving rain, and realised that I'd left my sermon behind, which meant I had to improvise around what I remembered of the one I prepared. We kept the Epiphany early, and processed to the crib for a prayer. There was a minor panic due to the absence of an appropriate prayer source to take with us. I retrieved my Blackberry (in silent mode) from my jacket, found the collect for the Second Sunday of Christmastide in the CofE Daily Office app, tucked up my sleeve. That's my first ever liturgical use of a Smartphone. I was impressed back in the spring in Nerja, that parish priest Fr Andreas led hymns and devotions in procession from his smartphone. I wouldn't say 'never' then or now, as I'd rather ban phones from the liturgy. But sometimes, the need is there.

As I arrived, rain started to cascade down the inside south wall of the Lady Chapel. A gutter blockage on a flat roof above quickly led to a small lake of uncleared water seeking to go to ground underneath the lead, not over it. The blockages is a consequence of a tree in the Vicarage grounds, which the church is not allowed to cut down or trim as there is a municipal 'tree preservation order' on it. This grade one listed building sustains damage, not because it's poorly maintained, but because the tree cannot be cut back, if not cut down, to prevent leaves landing on the roof. This kind of blockage can happen in between regular inspection visits, if there's an overnight wind followed by heavy rain. If the Council has the legal right to impose such preservation orders, do they not have an obligation to help prevent things like this from happening as a consequence? 

After lunch, a walk down to Blackweir bridge again to see impact of the day's rain on the river Taff. 
The water level beneath the bridge before it goes over the weir is a good six inches higher than a few days ago, and the speed of flow is astonishing, but it's still a couple of feet above the upstream banks. With more rain forecast will it go any higher I wonder?

Friday, 1 January 2016

Passage of the year

Despite the heavy rain, there were nine of us for the midweek Eucharist at St German's Wednesday morning. Afterwards Hamid and I went and sat in a cafe called the Salad Bowl in Clifton Street, to continue his preparation for baptism the Sunday after next. He's still learning and gaining confidence in English, so it's necessary to go slowly. His journey towards faith is rooted in the Urdu biblical text, and anything concerning the baptismal rite must be cross referenced between the English and Urdu texts, for him to understand and recognise its value. 

In times past I've worked with bi-lingual adults learning Christian faith, but this is the first time I've worked with a second language learner, and it challenges my understanding about effective communication. Nothing can be taken for granted. But what a privilege. Thanks to Google Translate I've been able to prepare for him some simple basic prayer texts in Urdu script. It's quite possible these are things he's learned already, but sharing them with him is a way of checking what he knows and helping him to grow in confidence.

New Years Eve called for a trip into the CBS office to meet with Ashley and Julie, as there were matters to deal with left over from before Christmas plus the induction schedule to finalise and communicate to Ian, the new business crime reduction manager who starts work Monday next. There was also the task of preparing the computer bought for his job in anticipation earlier in the year, but used by me, as making an appointment took longer than anticipated. I was surprised by how long the clean-up took. Although the office Cloud storage is fairly tidy, it needs regular attention to maintain or improve so it's accessible and beneficial to all users. This machine harboured an idiosyncratic collection of legacy file copies used, edited, left after the finished document has been stored, used and now needing removal. There were also personal passwords to get rid of, and bookmarks to be weeded out. I'm so used to working with our file system, but will it be quite so easy for someone coming to it from new? The test comes Monday next.

Clare and I stayed up to see the New Year in with Jools Holland and his band with his remarkable collection of guests. At midnight we opened the front door, and shouted Happy New Year to the world, but the street was quite empty. Cardiff's Calennig celebration  fireworks started before the countdown and we could hear, though not see them, so we went up into our loft bedroom, where we had a good view of the sky across the city centre and the display. Many more people seemed to be out in their gardens, drinking toasts and calling to each other in the dark. Things are hardly ever this lively in our rather sedate neighbourhood.

We woke up late and spent a very quiet New Year's Day, apart from a walk down to the rain-swollen Taff late afternoon. There were few people out and few cars on the road. It was slightly eerie. Only in the evening did all the empty car parking spaces in the street fill up again, with families returning from Christmas and New Year celebrations elsewhere.

The only thing of note today was finding that the Windows 10 'Settings' menu allows one to switch off aspects of synchronisation, including hardware, allowing each device using the same OneDrive account to retain a separate configuration. It's not obvious, and the reason hardware sync is 'on' by default is incomprehensible. Not that many organisations will simultaneously bulk purchase all new machines, so that all are in lock-step with each other. Hardware diversity is more likley and even if diverse languages and keyboard use is a tiny minority in some cultures it is far from being universally the case. Not just in Switzerland, with four national languages plus English, but also India, with Hindi and English at a national level and twenty two other official languages at a regional state level, argue against monochrome, monolingual presumption.