Sunday, 16 October 2016

Aberfan remembered

While eating breakfast this morning, I listened to BBC Radio 4 on the Nexus tablet, first the news and then Sunday Worship, as it was from Wales, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. The Reverend Roy Jenkins presented it, a Baptist Minister who trained in Cardiff Baptist colleague at the same time as I was at St Mike's. We've known each other since then. He's worked for BBC Wales as their religious affairs guy for decades, and continues in retirement to present programmes. 

When I was at St John's, he involved me in a broadcast round table discussion programme, and every now and then we bump into each other at the opera, or on the street in the city centre. Coincidentally, earlier this week, I received an email from him, after a weekend visit to Malaga, where he'd gone to the Harvest Festival Eucharist at St George's. He'd seen a mention of me on their website, and was curious that someone else was there instead, so I replied, telling him that I'd been redeployed since.

This morning's broadcast was a real tour de force, with hymns and readings which were important at the time of that tragedy, which occurred in a village in the neighbouring mining valley to the west of where I was born and grew up. There were also interviews with several ministers and lay people from the community, some of whom had lost children attending the school inundated by slurry from that unstable coal tip. I was especially impressed by a lay woman and a minister who spoke of how it was prayer that kept them going and enabled them to survive the aftermath of this disaster, and do more with their lives.

I left for the Mojacar Sunday Eucharist thinking about this, and resolved to introduce my sermon on the theme of persistence  to getin prayer, by speaking first about what I'd heard. It made the sermon a bit longer, but as most of  the congregation were my age, if not older, their memory of this event, and its repercussions all over Britain and the world, drew looks of recognition from many in the fifty strong congregation.

I succeeded in leaving home without any reading glasses, but was able to borrow a pair from Fr Alan to get me through, even though they were not my prescription. My driving glasses would not have been up to the task. It's a long time since I last left home without reading glasses. Perhaps I was still preoccupied with what I'd been listening to on the radio.

My personal memories of the Aberfan disaster are twofold. Firstly, in the week after, there were people out in the streets of Bristol city centre, where I was working in a Shell-BP office at the time, collecting for the Aberfan appeal, a sign of the national sympathy that emerged. Secondly, it was, I think, the first Friday of my first University half term weekend, so Clare and I, married two and a half months went over for the weekend to my parents in Ystrad Mynach, ten miles from Aberfan. Little else was on our minds apart from what had happened that morning.

Late the same evening, Archbishop Glyn Simon, who ordained me three years later, appeared on the family black and white telly to give a late night epilogue attempting to interpret the disaster, since he spoke about where God was in the midst of this unfolding tragedy. Afterwards, I remember my father, who'd worked in mining most of his life, who kept faith with reservations about the church, and was skeptical about many things, commented approvingly on what the Archbishop said. As an aspiring ordinand, this was a relief, given how skeptical Dad was at that time about me being ordained!

After the service half a dozen of us stopped at a popular Heladeria on their way home to have a drink and chat together. This is a regular occurrence here throughout the year, and the proprietor expresses his appreciation by sending us tapas - not just olives and crunchy nibbles, but also salchichon, cake and ice cream. Amazing generosity.

After a late lunch, I settled down to transferring photos of yesterday's visit to Garruch from the camera SD card to my laptop for editing and uploading. Disaster struck when I sent to delete several poor quality images, and ended up deleting fifty, because Windows Explorer, with its little tick box options for every file, doesn't behave the way I'm used to. I tells you how many you are about to delete, but in small print it's easy no to read in the middle of a routine file management operation. 

I downloaded one of the Windows recommended file u-delete program, installed and ran it. Deleted files were identified for recovery after a time consuming scan, but the program wouldn't allow me recover them without first paying for a subscription. OK, except that the download failed to mention it wasn't free. I did another search, found a free Open Source software package which downloaded and worked fine. This revealed that just four of the fifty three photos lost were recoverable, for no explicable reason, as I'd done nothing with the SD card since deleting the photos. I can only conclude the file damage was a consequence of the Windows 10 file deletion routine.

Hateful little tick boxes against every file managed by Windows Explorer by default work in such a way that you can leave boxes ticked, navigate beyond view of them in the files window, and forget that you have more ticked than you can see. Where you're copying them somewhere else or deleting, this is a recipe for havoc. It's totally untrustworthy, as a file management tool in this context. You can reconfigure to dismiss the hateful boxes, but why on earth this dangerous facility should be enabled by default is a mystery to me. One more thing which designers and programmers of user interfaces think is helpful when it isn't.

Thankfully, the batch of photos are all of Garrucha, taken yesterday. I can return, walk the same route and reproduce them, for my own interest, if nobody else's. Strange to say, but after I'd realised there was no option but to re-take the photos, I remembered another occasion when I had to do this. It was during a study visit to Jamaica in 1982, with a couple of film cameras - a Practica SLR and a Ricoh pocket half frame camera. I still have the former, but don't recall what happened to the latter. 

The high humidity level caused the SLR's shutter to malfunction. I developed  photos while I was there. When I found I'd lost a lot of valuable photos of my journey across the island, I was able to re-trace my steps and take another batch with the Ricoh. Thankfully I had time and a hire car, having saved money from my travel grant by having local contacts offering me hospitality. All those photos are digitized from the original slides and reside somewhere in my archives.

This evening I went to the beach nearby to watch the full moon rise and take photos. Unfortunately there was too much cloud and too little to capture anything of any interest. Very disappointing, but a pleasant hour on the sea shore, listening to the waves on a mild evening, waiting to see the moon, nevertheless. Maybe tomorrow.

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