Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Ascent to Glion

Late this morning we took a ride on the funicular railway up to Glion, ascending 300 metres on a very steep track over which the road and motorway snake on high bridges. The trip only takes a few minutes and your ears pop as you ascend. It's a single track with a passing place in the middle for the two carriages which make up the train to pass each other. There's also a small station halt at Collonges, near the crossover point. None of this is visible from below, so this few minutes ascent was a journey of discoveries and wonderful views of Lac Leman and the French Alpes beyond.

The train which goes from Montreux to Rochers de Naye has a station at Glion, which it shares with the funicular railway, so you can book a ticket to go all the way from Territet to the top at 1900m. It's a trip we've promised ourselves to make in coming weeks. Near the station there's a large hotel building of the mid nineteenth century, standing in its own manicured gardens overlooking the lake, with superb views. Formerly the Hotel du Righi Vaudois, it's been closed and empty for over fifteen years, so passers by can enjoy the private view once enjoyed by its clients. the gardens are still being maintained, perhaps by the Commune.

We had lunch on the leafy terrace of Cafe de Jaman near the station. Clare had Roesti with goats cheese and I had a generous plate of Spaghetti Carbonara. We were both taken aback by how costly this simple repast turned out to be, but never mind, this is a rare experience to relish. Afterwards we found the Temple de Glion, which has a plain whitewashed interior. It looks far older on the outside, although it was built just before the first World War. It has a fine arcaded terrace overlooking the lake, resembling a cloister, an unusual and attractive feature. 

We decided to walk down from Glion on a route which had flights of steps as well as footpaths. It took far longer than we imagined. Heaven knows how long it would take to climb up! We were both tired and with wobbly legs when we finally reached St John's. We'll pay for this tomorrow with stiff legs I'm afraid.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Montreux's Old Town

We both slept late and made a slow start to the day, but after lunch we walked to Montreux Gare to enquire about tickets for our forthcoming travels. The day travel card is still good value but only for a nine hour train excursion. Its price is has increased from CHF50 to CHF60 over the past decade, understandably, but now there may be no price advantage for travelling to Buchs to visit Heinz and Marlies as we plan to do next week, unless we buy a carnet of six for the price of five, which would make each single journey six francs cheaper. This would leave us two spare tickets for another day trip together, but we can't decide at the moment where we would go on the few spare days we have left, given that we're arranging to see several old friends over the coming couple of weeks while Clare is here with me.

We walked from the station up into Montreux Vielle Ville, through which the train cremailere up to Glion, Caux and Rochers de Naye runs. The old village spans both sides of a steep ravine with a fast flowing stream, and walking routes which take you up the Gorge de Chauderon to the heights of the Col de Jaman.  Houses are stone built, 3-4 storeys high with shuttered windows and wide eaves, solidly built, rather plain, and asutere, reflecting their protestant social environment. We found the mediaeval church of St Vincent, patron saint of wine growers, perched on a rocky promontory and flanked on either side by neat rows of vines, planted on steep slopes. It's the protestant Temple of the Paroisse de Veytaux, a building of 13th century origins, ordered with great simplicity and respect for its primary liturgical functions of celebrating word and sacrament. It would serve equally for Roman Catholic services as for protestants today. One thing lacking is a font. It's fairly rare to find one in Vaudois protestant churches, app part of its particular reformation history no doubt.

Rather than walk back into Montreux, we followed a road and a footpath which led us back down to Territet and into the churchyard garden where, this evening, I found the tombstone of Henri Nestle founder of the great chocolate empire. I can't help wondering what the grand old man, who died in the first year of the twentieth century would make of the company's way of doing business in the twenty first.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

From Lakeside to Mountainside

An hour before this morning's Eucharist, St John's choir met and rehearsed music for the Sung Eucharist service of the day. Clare went and sang with them. Altogether there were just over thirty of us for the service, regulars and returning visitors with summer homes in the vicinity. Many lingered for a drink and a chat afterwards, including a young Chinese couple training at the local hotel school. She was from Hong Kong and he was from Taiwan. I wonder what they made of my sermon, which contained biblical reflection on the theme of hospitality?

After lunch and a siesta, I drove into the mountains for a second Eucharist at the ski resort of Villars up at 1,300 metres, which involves a challenging 900 metre ascent from the Rhone Valley. There's a modernised road which runs from Aigle to Ollon and then to Villars, and that was the route I used on the return run. But, I needed to do a practice drive up on the much narrower and slower road up from Bex, a longer distance. Next Sunday there's an early afternoon Christening in Villars, but there are road closures in Ollon because that route is used for a motor hill climb competition, over the weekend. Today, I needed to time the journey to prepare for next week, not least because on return, there's an Evensong service at five at the 19th century English chapel of St Michael in Caux, above Territet, which is still used occasionally, but no longer owned by the local Anglican community.

The church building used for Anglican services in Vilars is called 'Aiglon Chapel'. It was built by the Commonwealth and Continental Church Society (now known as Intercon) in 1883 as a mission to English speaking visitors and residents of this popular mountain resort. Its architecture externally and internally is Swiss Vaudois Protestant in style, in contrast to St John's Territet which is a typical Oxford Movement Anglo Catholic edifice. But then Intercon is primarily a protestant evangelical missionary enterprise even today. The most flourishing of the three Anglican chaplaincies at the eat end of Lac Leman is Vevey, also founded by Com and Con in the 19th century. Villars services used to be taken by the Vevey chaplains, but this seems to have changed in latter years.

It's called 'Aiglon Chapel' because it was bought by Aiglon school in 1996. The school was founded after the war by a church member. It has grown enormously and is one of several in the region with an international constituency and reputation. The entire school population is now too big to be accommodated by the church building, so only upper or lower school services are held here twice a month. Denominational services are held on other Sundays of the month, on variable occasions. The Anglican group is not large, we were eight people, including visitors. Even so, it's good the pastoral connection remains through changing times.

I drove home by the quicker route. Well, it was quick enough until I reached the Rhine valley floor. The road from Aigle to Villeneuve was one long crawling traffic queue, holidaymakers making their ways home before school starts again this week. Traffic on the autoroute above was also moving at a snails pace due to a traffic accident in the tunnel de Glion. So, it took me an hour to get back to Montreux, just as it had take me an hour to get to Villars. It's good to learn about weekend traffic in this region early on and be prepared for it. Normally traffic flows easily, with the occasional choke point in a town, as there seems to be plenty of space on the road, but it all depends on timing, plus the occasional misfortune for some poor motorist. I could also have gone by train up to Villars, but there's no guarantee the timing of the Regionale from Territet to Aigle or Bex to connect with one or other of the mountain railways would be convenient enough for these occasional services. Quite a pleasant thing to explore nevertheless.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Montalbano returns

This morning was spent writing a sermon for tomorrow on my Chromebook, and then transferring it to the church computer, a Lenovo laptop, for printing. It's the first time I'd powered up the latter, and a pleasant surprise to find it was completely up to date and working as intended. This is rarely the case with laptops I've encountered on locum duties. They may work, just, but need updating if a previous locum hasn't used it at all. It is, after all, an optional tool to use, and some don't bother.

As there's a boulangerie but no food shops here in Territet, we walked to Montreux to get some fruit and veg before lunch.  Clare said that she'd found an Italian specialist store which looked as if it was a small wholesalers, open on weekdays, but a notice said that clients should ring for a Saturday rendezous. She asked a neighbour about this store, and was told - "It's bizarre, having to telephone to buy a sausage."

After lunch we walked to the Chateau de Chillon along the lakeside path and found a small pebble beach where Clare could swim. She was delighted to report that the water inshore was warmer than that of the Mediterranean in Malaga, where she swam a month ago.

In the evening on BBC Four, I watched the newest episode of Inspector Montalbano starring Luca Zingaretti, and other key actors from the earlier series. It was the 27th episode to be broadcast over a 17 year time span. This is the first new one in three years. It's interesting to observe how the characters morph into middle age. The technology used has changed, but the townscape portrayed is, as it ever was, suspended in time, somewhere between the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Not for the first time, the plot portrayed the complex lives of elderly people and their secrets. Yet again, it was a masterpiece of story telling as well as ingenious slightly dubious detective methodology. So glad not to be missing this series while I'm here.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Arrival day

As soon as we arrived we logged our electronic devices on to the speedy fibre broadband Swiss Telecom wi-fi, and advised the children of our arrival.  After a late breakfast, we walked the couple of hundred metres down to the lake through a pedestrian tunnel under the road to Territet railway station. A footpath runs by the lake, through the Commune de Montreux and beyond, said to be 30km long. The lake wall is constructed to contain flowers and shrubs along much of its length. Given that the climate here is mild for much of the year, the vegetation is reminiscent of the Mediterranean coast, richly colourful.

We walked from Territet into Montreux, found the main shopping street and did some top-up food shopping. The fridge was already stocked with most of the essentials, so it was mainly veggies and cheese we needed. Food prices as notably high here, about a third dearer than Britain, and double that of the euro-zone. It's twenty minutes drive around the end of the lake to St Gingolph in France. It may not be worth going there to try and save money, except for a very big food shopping trip, as France voisine is not going to be as cheap for fresh food as we found Spain to be. We just make the necessary adjustments and live within our means, so we can keep all our budgeted cash for travel, and benefit from our abonnements demi-tarif

We returned to Church House for lunch, and really needed an afternoon siesta afterwards. Since we've been here, curiously, a small bus has arrived and departed, usually empty from the alley next to the house. When Clare went around the back to check out the cost of riding up to Glion on the funicular railway behind the house, she got chatting to a lady who was waiting for the bus. It seems this is a replacement railway service, as the funicular is hors de service this week for annual checks and maintenance.

I worked on my Sunday sermon, staring out of the window at a large building 100 metres away clad in plastic sheets covering scaffolding. Then I went for a walk to find out what it was. It looked as if it was old and elegant from what could be seen of it. A history plaque on the end wall, near its side entrance stated that it's the historic Hotel des Alpes - Grand Hotel. In the late 19th century it hosted Austro-Hungarian empire royalty among its guests, and the first telephone in Switzerland. As an early mass tourism venue it pre-dated the arrival of the railway line and indeed helped to attract developers to extend rail travel to Territet and beyond. It ceased to be an hotel thirty years ago. Part of it became a theatre. It's now being restored, and is treated as a national heritage conservation site.

Early evening, hours before sunset, heavy clouds rolled in from the mountains and we had several hours of heavy rain and thunderstorms. We found out how the telly works and were delighted to find we could access UK TV channels. This means we can watch the new series of Inspector Montalbano tomorrow night. Later, Jane visited us and briefed us about forthcoming services and chaplaincy life in changing times. After decades of demographic changes, Montreux and Lausanne chaplainces are much diminished in support. 

Tourism still flourishes but there are far fewer ex-pat residents now than in the golden era when many wealthy Brits retired along the lake and built these churches. In between the two is Vevey chaplaincy. It flourishes, due to the large population of local anglophone residents, employed at Nestle's headquarters and other satellite companies. What will the future bring? Both Montreux and Lausanne are currently in vacancy wondering how to proceed, especially in the light of a shortage of clergy able and willing to come and settle here for ministry.

Journey to Switzerland

Yesterday morning, I celebrated the Eucharist at St John's with nine others, took my leave of them and returned home immediately to finish off packing my case and eating an early lunch. Just after one, Mary our neighbour drove us to Cardiff Central station to take the train to Bristol, with lots of time to spare, just in case there were delays in arriving at Temple Mead station. This happened to us the last time we travelled over to Bristol Airport to fly to Budapest a year ago, causing unwanted and stressful delay in arriving for our flight. This time, all was well, except that the airport shuttle bus stop has moved from one side of the station entrance to the other for the first time in all the years we have been using the service.

Bristol Airport was, as to be expected in mid-August, quite busy. People were queuing, but moving through the check-in area surprisingly quickly. Check-in desks were apparently replaced just last month by an array of automatic self-service terminals, supported by airline staff. The system is very simple. Your flight ticket QR code is scanned, your bag is weighed, and as long as it conforms to the prescribed weight limit and content declaration, the machine prints a baggage label which you apply yourself. The bag is then taken to the usual check-in desk site and placed on a conveyor, where the label is scanned to check that it's the correct one issued against the ticket. 

I think the label may have an RFID tag plus a bar code to make it recognisable to both standard systems in use at different airports. The technology now being rolled out to regional airports has been around for some years and it works impressively. Staff are available to help travellers on a friendly face to face basis, but are more efficiently used, as those used to this routine check themselves in and move on quickly.

There was a queue of several dozen moving at a steady pace through the security clearance area. This too has been remodelled in the past year. There are now six luggage and people scanning terminals, half of which were in use. This procedure only took us ten minutes surprisingly, and is a testimony to improved efficiency. People moan about long delays at larger airports. Well, Bristol's queue of maybe fifty people at a time, scaled up five or ten times at any moment in a bigger airport, even with a bigger system working at full capacity, will scale up the delay in getting through. It's still amazingly efficient at processing people unless the technology fails, or staff don't show up for work when expected. Millions of people around the world, on the move, day and night, and under such constraints. It's a remarkable everyday achievement.

As testimony to increased airline traffic, our flight was twenty minutes late taking off, and made up five minutes en route. The queue at passport control was long and slow, and although this meant we picked up our luggage as soon as we arrived to reclaim it, we missed the half part nine InterRegio train to Montreux by a few minutes, and had to wait forty minutes for the next one. Church Warden Jane met us at Montreux Gare at twenty to midnight, and drove us the last kilometre to St John's Church House.

While the church is characteristically Victorian (dating from 1875) and Anglican in appearance, the house adjoining is characteristically Swiss with shutters and dormer windows in the roof space. The upper interior is entirely clad with wooden panelling, and has four bedroom, two bathrooms, a large landing space and a small upstairs rood terrace in the space between house and church. It's a very spacious house, and the only disadvantage, like so many English churches of this period, is that it's by a busy main road and railway line. Thankfully, it's pretty quiet at night, and we slept well.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

More digital chores

I had a funeral to take at St Catherine's yesterday morning, followed by a burial at Thornhill. Then in the afternoon and evening I scanned another collection of my sister June's old holiday slides from 40 years ago, which I brought back with me from my London visit last Friday. It's fascinating to see how the Amalfi coast, and Ibiza looked in those days, when tourism development was in its infancy, and most people still lived poor and simple rural lives around the Mediterranean. June is delighted to see them again on her computer, not least because it awakens pleasant memories of her youthful travels.

I was back again at St Catherine's this morning to celebrate the midweek Eucharist for five of us. Over coffee after the service, I acquired a handful of fresh basil and a variety of different tomatoes, freshly picked from the church veggie garden. I cooked these as soon as I got home into a delicious pasta sauce for lunch, such a pleasurable blessing.

The rest of the day I spent on computer chores. Typos in the CBS Network News I prepared when I was in Malaga needed correction. The printers were not able to take on editing tasks. I suspect now they are simply too busy with production runs. The MS Publisher file created was not backwards compatible. It would be a matter of finding a PDF editor up to the task of doing do accurately and cleanly. I downloaded and used PDF-Xchange, a free editor recommended by Tech Radar. It was very complex and it took a certain amount of ingenuity to make the required changes, as I didn't have time to learn how to use the editing tools properly, but I succeeded in the end, and the printer reported that the edited PDF performed as expected, before going into production.

The next chore was document scanning. Clare's Will and mine to send the children copies, plus a long company document, which missed my scanning blitz six years ago. when I was setting up the CBS office data system. Both jobs took ages, as the scanning routine is so slow. It's hard not to lose concentration and remember to turn over double sided pages. The one page I did miss was number thirteen, what else. Scanning the page later after checking the whole pdf revealed the error. The challenge was to insert the missing scanned page. I had no suitable software on my Windows 10, but thankfully my old Vista desktop, still running happily and hosting reliably my slide scanner when needed, has a suite of PDF editing apps which are simple and effective.

All in all, a productive sort of day, despite the challenge of obtaining right tools to do the job with the minumum of learning necessary for the task.

Monday, 14 August 2017

A day of updates

Yesterday, morning, Clare and I went to our solicitor's office on Llandaff Road, to go through the revised draft of our Wills, and sign them. The last time we did this was November 1992, just before we moved out to work in Holy Trinity Geneva. Co-incidentally, we're flying to Geneva on Thursday, on our way to locum duties in Montreux. I've already been busy with arrangements for a wedding blessing and a christening on top of the regular services. It's going to be an interesting time.

 I went over to visit my old friend Graham Francis, who's living now in retirement just down the street from St Saviour's Splott, where he has been helping out during the interregnum, in the same way I was helping out at St German's. Recently he's been undergoing chemotherapy prior to surgery to remove a stomach cancer. He's facing up to this life threatening challenge with confidence, realism and good humour, and continues to busy himself with worship and ministry in whatever way he has energy for.

A secondary reason for visiting him was to give his Windows 7 laptop a servicing, and decommission his ten year old desktop machine, which still runs, but astonishingly slowly. Fortunately, many years ago I set up a back up program to auto-run - Syncback. The computer hasn't been used much since the advent of tablets and smartphones, so backups an external drive have only ever been partial. Even so, given the time, it successfully completed its routine, so that now he has a complete and up to date archive of his files of the past decade, if not longer, which can be attached to his laptop when needed. 

Sadly the intermittent use of this device also has created problems with updating, and it runs very slowly, due to congestion which the use of CCleaner took ages to sort out. The anti-virus library was 520 days old and there were scores of other Windows security updates. All seemed to be competing for internet attention, and after four hours, I had to walk away, leaving the machine running in the hope that in the course of time, days if not weeks, it will sort itself out. I recall a similar problem with the office PC over in St German's taking weeks to update, although that problem was compounded by a flaky wi-fi connection.

Bringing machines back to working order after increasingly longer layoff, due to the ease of being able to do basic everyday tasks on a tablet or smartphone, is a great disincentive to using a Windows computer, so it's no wonder their market share is falling. This adds to the perennial problem of built-in redundancy, caused when older operating systems are no longer supported with security updates, or drivers not provided to enable older hardware peripherals to run with a newer operating system. Good equipment going to waste, causing electronic waste pollution when disposed of wrongly, and all due to the illusion that newer and fancier, with more options available is really desirable. It isn't, so the big computer businesses play tricks to force us to give up on old kit. What a foolish world!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Taxing time

Last night I watched the final double episode of the Spanish crimmie on BBC Four 'Se Quien Eres' and was most disappointed at the conclusion. The disappeared student turned out to be alive after eleven days of incarceration in an underground cellar without food and water, something I consider highly unlikely. And she was revived by some rather dubious DIY first aid, and seemed to recover so quickly she was able to escape and run for her life, instead of being hardly able to stand after her ordeal. The last episode was dramatic in its revelations, but was in effect only a curtain raiser for a second series of ten episodes yet to come. Incredible in every way, and after such a disappointing end, it's doubtful as to whether it'll be worth watching the second series. Shame, because it did actually start to raise interesting questions about the identities we construct for ourselves in relation to others.

This morning I celebrated the Eucharist at St John's and St Catherine's for congregations of around thirty in both places. We had no organist at St John's, so I led unaccompanied singing, which worked quite well. There are times when I think organ accompaniment can inhibit people from singing out. Is it that the congregation can't hear itself singing so easily, and ends up not making the effort?

For much of the rest of the day, Clare and I worked at filing out on-line tax returns. Hers is somewhat less straightforward than mine, due to a small amount of income from a legacy of foreign shares. It's quite difficult to understand what is required to complete the necessary dialogues in order to enter the required figures, so it was painfully slow for her. I managed to complete mine in a few hours, while helping her, but filing her return will have to wait until tomorrow.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Wandsworth excursion

After a reasonable nights sleep under the circumstances, I work up before the alarm went off, and got myself to the bus station with fifteen minutes to spare. Considering that the coach stopped in Newport to collect passengers, the journey was perhaps the shortest I can recall, arriving thirty five minutes ahead of the scheduled time. There were none of the usual slow downs due to congestion or traffic queues going into Central London, possibly because this is the holiday season and the flow of commuters is much diminished. On the return trip, we arrived fifteen minutes early, on a coach that went direct to Cardiff without stopping in Newport. There was some of the usual Friday evening rush hour congestion, but it was less worse than usual.

June was surprised when I turned up three quarters of an hour earlier than expected, but pleased that we had the extra time. First, I had some adjustments to make to her Samsung Galaxy tab and some apps to install - this is still a mystery to her. I particularly wanted her to be able to use Viber, but after installation, was thwarted by the requirement to use her mobile phone number to receive a text message for verification purposes. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but June doesn't use the phone she has. It was uncharged and out of credit, so no verification code could be received. Such a disappointment. Still, I was able to install several catch-up TV apps, and perhaps more importantly to complete the configuration of her Smart TV hub. 

She's had this TV for a couple of years and enjoyed live watching without understanding that catch-up services were also available. So she's been watching catch-up TV on her computer, sitting in the most uncomfortable of positions. Not good at her age. I wish I had realised this earlier. She didn't realise the potential of her new equipment, and lacks confidence to learn what's necessary to use its potential to the full. Often you have to pay for set up services when you buy new electronic equipment. I think this should be included for free in the sale offer, especially where sales to older people are concerned.

I set out in good time for the return coach, having experienced a dreadful rush on my last visit, due to mistaking the actual departure time. This time it was worse. There was 45 minute delays on the rail service due to 'trespassers on the line'. The train stood for 10 minutes waiting for a platform just outside  Victoria station. I dashed from the platform with six minutes to get to the coach station. I made it, dead on 18.30, and was relived to find a queue for the Cardiff service. There were so many travellers there were two coaches. The one I was directed to went straight to Cardiff. Just after ten I was home again, and enjoying a late supper, very pleased not to have missed the coach.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Software - built-in redundancy frustrations

There were ten of us again for the Eucharist at St John's Canton this morning. I had a phone call from the GP surgery late yesterday afternoon telling me my prescription was ready, so I walked there to collect it and have it made up at the pharmacy opposite before going home. 

After lunch, I went into town and met with Ashley to catch up on CBS affairs. Then we went hunting for a copy of MS Publisher, to make ready for the autumn newsletter publication, but we couldn't find a Microsoft Office bundle which includes it. 

It's ages since we last needed to change software. For the most part we use Free Open Source material. I've worked with an old copy of MS Publisher 2000 for the past fifteen years and never needed anything else. I doubt if it can be installed on a Windows 10 machine, if I could lay hands on the original disk, as 64 bit computer hardware running Windows 10 can make it impossible to run older software. It's not often I need to use Publisher, but it's inconvenient having to spend time learning to use an alternative program that's unlikely to be compatible with MS Office generated files. I need to do some research to find a sustainable solution.

Early to bed tonight, faced with an early walk to Sophia Gardens bus station for a 07.15 coach to London to see my sister June.


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Swiss discount travel sorted

Yesterday morning I took a funeral service at Thornhill crematorium for a man who'd died alone at home. He'd been an angler who'd lived in Cardiff in the last decade of his life, and had not made any friends. There were just six mourners. It was possibly the smallest funeral congregation I've had in decades. Being alone in the wilds of nature can be a consolation, and for some even, a way of life. To be alone in a city, infirm only able to remember past haunts is sad to contemplate.

Clare and have both been thinking about our forthcoming time in Switzerland, people we hope to see, places to visit. Our dear friends Alec and Ann-Marie will be in Anzere as we arrive, and as that's not too far from Montreux we'll be able to meet up with them. Cousin Dianne and husband Ian plan to be in Monthey some time during our stay, and we have Geneva visits lined up as well. When I checked my regular medication, I found I'd be a week short before returning home, so I wrote to my GP, and dropped a letter into the surgery, conveniently located near St Catherine's, where I went to celebrate the midweek Eucharist for ten of us this morning.  

Travel in Switzerland is a pleasure, since public transport is so good. It's expensive, but value for money if you buy an abonnement demi-tarif which gives you 50% discount on public transport fares and some special offers on museum entry charges etc. When we were in Geneva we had an annual subscription, but visitors can buy one for a month. It can be obtained on-line, but there are several websites offering similar services. Sorting out which one to use and how the system delivers the product is a headache, because several options are available - digital, postal, pick up at the airport station on arrival - but, by the evening we had spent nearly a hundred quid each and received a digital document for printing which, presented with one's passport entitles us to half price train tickets. The outlay will soon be covered with trips we have planned.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Transfiguration anniversaries

I had been looking forward to walking to church services in the Parish this morning, but in the end I thought better of it and took the car, as I wanted to be sure that I could travel between St John's and St Catherine's without hindrance and in good time. There were congregations of about thirty people in both places to celebrate the Transfiguration of Christ and think about the dropping of the first atom bomb on Hiroshima, something I always insist on doing on this day. I found it less easy than expected to revert to using the Church in Wales Rite, as used in our Parish, after eight weeks of using the CofE Book of Common Worship. Maybe I was tired from yesterday's video binge, but also the cold virus is still having lingering after effects.

Today is our 51st wedding anniversary, and we talked about going out for a celebratory meal, but by lunch time, eating at home and having a siesta seemed preferable, especially as I had another a bereavement visit to make for a funeral at St Catherine's the week after next. As the family live in the Parish, I was able to walk there, and got some additional exercise by wrongly identifying the street location. Having forgotten my phone I was unable to check, though I was able to ask a passing child, who found the street for me on his Smartphone, with a little help from his mum.

I spent a second evening of binge watching episodes of 'Sé quién eres', so now I'm up to date, ready for the final double bill next Saturday night, endlessly speculating on possible concluding scenarios. The drama poses the interesting matter to consider, memory issues notwithstanding - do I really know who I am? And to what extent do others really know who I am, when I am perceived from so many different angles and perspectives? Quite apart from not being able to remember anything about who he has been, the main character finds he doesn't like the person he finds he had become. So, in the depths of himself he is passing judgement on what he learns. It's as if his normal memory of self and his past actions has enclosed him in a shell, and this is shattered by the accident, leaving him, to quote Paul 'as one untimely born' through his clinical amnesia. It's a fascinating exploration of the elusive mystery of personhood.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Catch-up viewing language lesson

Feeling somewhat better on Friday, I worked on my Sunday sermon, worked on next Tuesday's funeral and then went into town in the afternoon, for a catch-up meeting with Ashley. On the way there I walked around the Central Square development site and took photos It's ten weeks since I was last here and the major visual change is the extent of the external glazing of the buildings. On a bright but cloudy day, the reflections look very decorative. Not so wonderful on one of Cardiff's many low grey cloud days, I suspect.

This afternoon, Clare and I walked our usual circuit along the Taff through Bute Park and back. It was pleasantly warm, and there was an open air concert going on in the car park of the SWALEC stadium, with a wild sounding jazz big band playing.

In the evening I decided to catch up watching the latest BBC Four serialised euro-crime, a Spanish production called 'Sé quién eres', (I know who you are), rather than drop in and watch the most recent double episode. I got through four of the eight published episodes in one go, as not only was it an engaging story line with good acting, but to my amazement, my last couple of years of hard work using the Duo Lingo language app is now paying off in terms of being able to follow dialogue, and see how it relates to the sub-titles. It was like a four hour lesson in colloquial speech. I learned a lot about how common phrases and interjections are actually used. It was most rewarding.

The plot concerns a tough ruthless well connected lawyer who loses his memory in a car accident and finds afterwards that his car is a crime scene, and he is chief suspect in the disappearance of his student aged niece. He is totally reliant on what his family and colleagues tell him about what kind of person he is. Finds find this leaves him feeling unhappy with himself. He no longer wants to be that kind of person. Yet he has to recover a sense of himself and his memory to defend himself against allegations which promise to ruin his life. 

The thought provoking story of how this happens is convoluted and interesting, and the theme of family loyalty runs through it, as well as that of corrupt practices in the legal profession. I think it's set in Barcelona. Thankfully the discourse is in Castilian rather than Catalan, or I would have far less chance of following it and getting so much out of it. That's the first time I've watched any TV or video since I went to Malaga, two months ago. Amazing how one can live without entertainment when everyday life on the street is so interesting to be part of.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Church duties, home front

I walked to St Catherine's to celebrate the midweek Eucharist yesterday morning for nine of us. Afterwards, Clare arrived by car to meet me, and we drove to Abergavenny under grey skies spitting rain, to meet our old friends Mike and Gail for lunch in St Mary's Priory Tithe Barn restaurant. Despite the poor weather, we strolled around town after lunch, and through the fields down to the river Usk and back before parting company. The first time we met here, summer four years ago, it was a bright sunny day. Last year at this time we came to the National Eisteddfod here, and it was more summery. Today was a typically disappointing British summer day. No wonder millions migrate south for a week or so in the sun at this time of year.

When we returned, I had a bereavement visit to make at the top end of Grangetown for a funeral that I was asked to do while I was still in Spain. I decided to walk, needing the exercise and not wanting to lose my car parking place in the street. It rained lightly all the way there, so I got soaked, and again cursed the weather. That didn't do my cold any good. It continues to develop uncomfortably.

Today I walked to St John's the celebrate the midweek Eucharist for ten of us. Afterwards, Clare and I met and visited a solicitor's office on Llandaff Road, to start revising our Wills. The first and only time we did this was in the days before we left Halesowen for Geneva. Names and addresses have changed, all the children have come of age, there are different considerations to be taken into account new. Last night I scanned and edited my original copy into a digital file. I find this easier to work on and correct. Clare couldn't be persuaded to do the same. Still, the process is under way now. If all goes to plan, we'll be signing them before we set off for Switzerland in two weeks time, for my next six week locum spell at Montreux.

After lunch, I planned to go into town and meet with Ashley and Julie, but during the morning the effect of the cold on me worsened. Rather than fight it, I simply went to bed and slept, ministered to by Clare with some strange tasting herbal concoction, to boost my immune system, I believe. Just before supper, I felt well enough to check emails, and found I'd received another funeral request for the week after next. It's nice to be back, working in my home parish with friendly people, and for a change, not to have to drive for an hour before taking a church service.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Home run saga

Most of Monday was occupied with packing, and domestic chores, so the furthest I want was to the rubbish bins on the opposite side of the road. At the end of the afternoon. I took a final paseo along La Malagueta beach promenade, around the port and through the Old Town, feeling that I'm going to miss this place rather a lot. In the evening I settled down early to sleep, and got about four hours, before rising at half past three. I was outside the apartment waiting for the taxi ordered to take me to the airport at four. Over the next half hour I was passed by half a dozen taxis. Only one stopped and the taxista was just hunting for a fair. He wasn't the one ordered to deliver me to the airport.It was clear something had gone wrong, so I then hailed a taxi, which got me to the airport five minutes after than I could have driven the same route, but I had to pay €25.

Half an hour later than planned, meant that 200 people were queuing to drop bags and or check in. If I'd arrived as the first desks were open, I'd have been on my way to Security in ten minutes. It took 35 minutes this time. What was impressive was the way Vueling scaled up the number of desks open from four to a dozen while I was waiting. This speeded up the queuing rate considerably. As a result, anxiety levels gradually dropped among fellow travellers. People were queuing from the tail of the queuing control zone out of the airport doors by the time my turn came. In this early morning slot there are half a dozen Vueling flights all leaving within the same hour, so that's 1,500 people and luggage to process, given that all those flights would be full at this seasonal peak demand time.

It's a long walk to the Vueling departure gates, but I had enough time to walk at a relaxed pace, but not to stop for coffee. Boarding unusually began a little earlier than expected. I settled in my seat and sarted dozing while other passengers arrived. Then a steward asked me and the couple next to me if we would be willing to move seats, to accommodate a mother and two small children. I was moved up to 1A, on the front row nearest the door, a more comfortable seat, and free upgrade!

In the early days when we took EasyJet flights to and from Geneva and there was no seat reservation policy, I always aimed for a left hand side front row seat. This meant that I could get away first when we landed, and walk at my own brisk pace to passport control, without having to weave my way past slower passengers struggling to wheel their cabin cases. It's years since I sat in that position on any aircraft. On the approach ot Cardiff Airport we crossed the Seven Estuary and circled over Steepholm giving me the best view of it I've ever had, in the clear light of the rising sun. Wales, looking green and beautiful as ever, but ten degrees colder than Malaga, very noticeable as I've been fighting a cold since Sunday.

I received a text message while waiting for my case, to say that the taxista had gone to Calle Reding , a back street behind the main road, instead of Paseo Reding. Spanish postcodes don't have the same pinpoint accuracy as British ones, though there is a numbered bus stop outside the apartment, where I waited. This snippet of information would have forestalled the near disaster.

Anyway, by half past nine Clare and I were breakfasting together, and the rest of the day unfolded with usual post travel chores - looking at mail, updating the house Windows computers. They can't be relied on to do this without supervision. After two months off-line there are selected updates to complete, and this is done at a different pace on machines with different hardware. Sometimes they get stuck and need a nudge. There's also the latest edition of Libre Office 5.4 to download and install. It's always a pleasure to do this on any device that can take it, as the updating works so well.

Relieved to be home again unscathed. Only one glitch, however. I forgot to leave behind my spare set of apartment keys. They aren't the only ones available, but I'll need to send them back soon.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Final duty assignment, and winding up

Saturday was, as ever, a day for finishing a sermon, while coping with heat and humidity. At the end of the afternoon I walked into the Old Town, and saw many smartly dressed people on their way to or returning from a baptism or a wedding in one of other of the parish churches. The marvellous 'Genesis' photo exhibition by Sebastian Salgado has now gone from Plaza de la Constitucion. It now seems so empty and spacious in contrast.

When the Cathedral bells rang, I walked over and joined in the Sunday Vigil Mass. An elderly priest was assisted by an elderly server, and two much younger Sisters, who led the singing, and assisted with proceedings. A couple of hundred people were present, but didn't join in the singing. I made an effort, as well as I could, having still not memorised the Spanish Ordinary of the Mass. It wasn't as easy to follow on this occasion, as the priest's accent made it difficult for me, even though earlier I had rehearsed the same readings in my sermon preparation.  I still have a long way to go, moving beyond guesswork with the spoken language.

This morning, I drove to Velez Malaga to celebrate their 10.30 Eucharist. There were two dozen of us present, and there was Pat and Peter's 60th wedding anniversary with food and drink after the service. They came up last for Communion, and stayed behind so I could give a special anniversary blessing. I had a prayer in mind, on my tablet, and stupidly forgot to take it with me, so I had to pray ad extempore instead, which was probably better, in the joy and serenity of the moment. Somehow, the Spirit compensates for all we lack.

After a delicious lunch, I drove back and impulsively started gathering in my things from around the apartment and packing them. When I'd done as much as I could, I tackled the church computer, removing my working files from it, leaving it ready for the next locum. Then, I finished my end of stay report, and had supper. Tomorrow, apart from cleaning up, there's not much to do apart from wait for my 04.00am airport taxi. I hate have to leave so early. I'd rather be able to go by public transport,  but it doesn't leave early enough for me to check in without time pressure. 

If I come here again, I'll aim to take cabin baggage, so I don't have to queue half an hour for Bag Drop, and so can take the earliest RENFE Cercania train to the airport, clear security and walk straight through to the departure gate in good time, eliminating all my present worries over missing the flight. The older I get, the easier I want to passage from one country to another to be. 

Friday, 28 July 2017

Nerja and an old friend re-visited

I got to the Muelle Heredia bus station in good time for the 10.35 ALSA coach to Nerja, but it didn't arrive until 10.50, perhaps because there were enough travellers to fill two coaches. I was on the non-stop one, which reached Nerja in just an hour. Muddled myself into thinking I was meeting Judith at our usual venue on the Balcon de Europa. I walked down there, and when I failed to find her, sent her a message and discovered our rendezvous was on the Balcon de Maro. I was lucky enough to arrive at the bus station again as a bus from Velez Malaga to the Nerja Caves, via Maro was pulling in. I was its only passenger, and only half an hour late.

We spent the best part of four hours sitting in the shade, drinking beer, eating a salad lunch and catching up on a couple f year's worth of news. It seems that no sooner had she stepped down as Church Warden after an eight year stint, last Easter, than her hip joint started giving her trouble. He is awaiting further investigation and a plan of action, which will probably involve a hip replacement operation in the coming year. She's in good spirits, but hating to need a walking stick for the time being. She told me how kind and supportive her Spanish neighbours are, helping her spontaneously whenever she needs a bag carried to her door. They have really accepted her as a fellow village even though she speaks very little Spanish. It's all done with the smile, I think.

Finding a local bus timetable for the return journey to Nerja proved impossible. Nothing on the bus and nothing readily findable on the smartphone web browser, except a bus after the time my coach leaves Nerja. So, decided to walk, afternoon heat and lack of shade notwithstanding. It's only four kilometres to the coach station, and the exercise did me good, after sitting for so long. I just got a little scorched on the legs, but nothing serious. The return journey was an hour and forty minutes, as the coach went via Torrox Playa and Torre del Mar. I was back in the apartment by eight, and ready for supper. 

I didn't go out again later, as I had work to do for Ashley on a RadioNet Newsletter to make public some details of the major frequency changes successfully executed by CBS during the past year. A few weeks ago I found the church laptop version of Office 2010 includes MS Publisher 2010. I downloaded  from CBS Cloud storage the last newsletter edition I prepared ages ago, and found it loaded perfectly well in the newer program. The saved file, won't be backwards compatible with software on my home PC so reluctantly I admit it's time for an upgrade from Publisher 2000.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

A saintly parochial doctor

Today was another day of lying low, avoiding the heat, reading and writing until early evening, when I ventured out to Muelle Heredia bus station down the port to book a bus ticket to get me to Maro and back, to see former Nerja Chaplaincy Church Warden Judith Austwick. Moored in port was a 19th century two masted sailing ship, Jersey registered 'Eye of the Wind'. I think it must have been a promotional visit, to advertise sailing holidays as a crew member for the select few who are fit enough and can afford the experience.

Then I walked through the old town to visit the 16-17th century Church of Our Lady of Victories, a big prestigious looking building on a hillside with a grand patio of steps ascending to its main entrance. It's said to have been build on the site where King Ferdinand set up camp in 1487, to lay siege to Malaga during the reconquista campaign. It's a remarkable building, highly decorated and endowed with artworks, and an elaborately sculpted crypt, worth a separate visit some time maybe.

As it was late enough in the day for it to be open to visitors, I thought it would be worth the effort, even if the road leading to it out of the Old Town is noisy and polluted. Indeed, it was open, and a few people were gathered in the entrance porch, embracing each other. The Mass was about to start and when the priest appeared in purple, I realised it was a requiem Mass, and didn't stay. 

I had long enough however to look around breifly, and learn about a devout 19-20th century parishioner, Dr Jose Galvez, a gynaecologist and health care reformer who worked among the poor in the area, especially lepers, and developed a large hospital on the hill above the church. He's known as 'Gálvez Ginachero'. Only later did I realise 'Ginachero' is Spanish for gynaecologist. It seems the Spanish, like the Welsh, can nickname a man by his profession. A framed photo of him hangs on the wall near his tomb in the crypt. An enquiry process to lead to his beatification has been started by Málaga diocese with the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

On my return walk I went along the Paseo de Malagueta, and saw that a couple of hundred plastic chairs had been laid out neatly on the beach in rows, ready for tonight's open air free cinema. The huge inflatable screen had not yet arrived, but the projection and sound systems were being tested. A French comedy is showing tonight 'Un hombre de altura' in Spanish, originally 'Un homme a la hauteur'. A Tall Man. It starts at 22.15. Too late for me.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Midweek pilgrim encounter

There were none of the regulars at St George's this morning, but two American women arrived for the Eucharist. They'd been in church last Sunday, learned of the midweek service and decided to come. Today it was my turn to celebrate St James the Apostle and pray for Spain, after last night's celebration at Santiago Parish Church in the Old Town and they were glad to share this.

I learned that they were related through the marriage of their children to each other. Both had been widowed in the previous year. They decided to take time out to travel, and to think about what they might do with their lives, post three score years and ten. Over the months past they had lived and travelled an unplanned journey in Europe, especially Spain, and felt much enriched by people they'd met and places discovered they never knew about before on their personal pilgrimage. 

They hadn't yet come to a decision about their futures, but both said they had experienced freedom of the Spirit in a new way, having sold up their homes before leaving, to make ready for whatever new life might lay ahead of them. I thought about T S Eliot's phrase in the last stanza of 'East Coker, which equally applies to women
'Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion...'

After we parted company I went to the bank nearby to cash a cheque I had been given by the church treasurer. Last time I queued for ten minutes, this time I was there for forty, chilled by the air-con, which didn't seem to have a de-humidifier setting. I was glad to get back to the apartment for a cold cerveza sin alcohol before making lunch. This week I have been winding down the perishable food stocks, as the apartment will be empty for six weeks or so. It means I have to think more carefully about what I need to buy, so there's nothing but rubbish to dispose of at the end of Monday, when I have to clean, pack up and wait for a 04.00am taxi to the airport. I'll appreciate a more temperate climate back home for a while, but soon start missing endless sunshine.

In the evening, I took a walk along the Paseo La Malagueta and around the port. At the moment no cruise ships are docked, just a few luxury sailing yachts, so it was quieter and less crowded than usual, and perhaps a little more hazardous to walk as more space makes pavement cyclists and skateboarders bolder in weaving their path at speed among walkers.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Tale of two Jameses

Yesterday, I spent most of the day relaxing indoors, avoiding the sun and writing a couple of reports I needed to get done. I even made a start on next Sunday's sermon. Strange how some days my mind seems to be active and productive, when the heat makes me want to slow right down and do little.

It was gone six when I made myself go out for a walk around the port, and was compensated for the effort by the Transmediterraneo ferry 'Sorolla' from Melilla entering port and executing the precise manoeuvre in tight spaces which it turns it round to present its stern to the quay for docking and the unloading of vehicles and passengers. It's the first time I've watched any big vessel enter port and doing this. Annoyingly, I walked out without my camera, but a few snapshots would not have done it justice. A video or time-lapse would be better.

Today was the same, although I was reading rather than writing most of the time. I'm tackling a big paperback by expert Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Robert Eisenmann on James the brother of Jesus. It's material I've entirely missed out on, presenting a forensic literary analysis of biblical and other ancient near Eastern texts from that era, as well as the Scrolls, demonstrating the relationship between them and his subject material. It's an attempt to reconstruct the story of the first century Jerusalem church when it was led by James the Elder, writer of the New Testament Epistle.

It's very detailed reading, with complex arguments based, it seems to me as much on what is unsaid, or removed from a text, or changed, as much as what is actually stated. It's a literary method that to my mind resembles that of a criminal profiler, looking for patterns to interpret. I have a long way to go with this book. The worst thing is its physical size and weight. It's heavier than my Chromebook and not pleasant to hold for a long period of time. I won't be taking it home, but leaving it here, and seeing if I can borrow a copy to read when I return.

Today is however, St James' Day - the other St James, one of the twelve Apostles. When I ventured out around six, I walked through the tunnel to the nearby barrio de Santiago, to see if there was any festive activity at the church. Sure enough, the place was open, and preparations were being made for the singing of Latin Vespers of the Feast by a Gregorian choir, with Mass to follow. I sat in the church, meditated, and enjoyed the quiet hustle and bustle of the place during the hour I had to wait.

There were eight choir-men, one accompanied on keyboard another conducted. All wore black shirt and trousers. Each wore a minimal scapular with a symbol on the front of it, to denote their role. It's too hot for any fuller form of vesture. Six clergy concelebrated the Mass which followed. The one who presided at Vespers also presided at Mass, exchanging his red cope for a chasuble. The MC and altar servers were all adults, and not in any kind of liturgical vesture. 

We were treated to a homily, which I mostly understood. The president spoke of the importance of Santiago de Compostella in the hispanic soul, of pilgrimage, simplification of life, fellowship, solidarity and peace. About a hundred people were seated on the pews in the nave, and another sixty on chairs either side of the sanctuary, and another forty odd scattered around the aisles or standing at the back. Two hundred people, of all ages, on a weeknight evening. 

It was impressive, and uplifting, especially when it came to singing the Missa de Angelis, which many worshippers know enough of to join in with the choir, and best of all the paschaltide 'Alleluia', which everyone seems to know and joined in with. I could just about recite the Lord's Prayer in Latin for Vespers, but still haven't managed in in Spanish. I'm also stuck on reciting the Apostles Creed in either language. This seems to be used more than the Nicene Creed these days at Masses I have attended. Apart from being conveniently shorter, I wonder if there's a reason for this.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Another up-country visit

This morning, I collected the car from St George's cemetery and drove out of town towards Granada for my second visit to celebrate the Eucharist for the Salinas congregation. I made sure I was early enough to get a drink in one of the village hostelries beforehand, and take a stroll around the place with my camera. I discovered there's a working train line running through the place, that connects Cordoba with Granada, although Salinas station is no longer operational, so it's necessary to drive 18km to Loja for a train.

There were fourteen of us for a Sung Mass, with eight in the choir. Once again I enjoyed the quiet and reflective nature of the occasion. It was great to have such a good sing. We met at Bar Manolo for a drink afterwards. Curate Doreen soon arrived from taking the service and Velez Malaga so that we could have lunch together, and spend the afternoon discussing ministry and the chaplaincy. It was something we'd promised ourselves we'd do during my stay, as we did during last September's locum duty here.

It was six by the time I drove back to Malaga. The countryside of the Comarc de Noroma on the plateau 600m up behind the coastal sierras is heartbreakingly beautiful. Heartbreaking, because it's impossible to stop and take pictures where the views are best. It's so photogenic in the warmth of early evening light, richly green, but with darker greens than we get further north. The slopes grow olive and almond trees. 

The rolling plains grow cereals and have recently been harvested, leaving swathes of bright golden stubble tinted red, grey or white, depending on the underlying soil. That palette of yellows and greens is so exquisite it almost moves me to tears. I can't even gaze at it on the move, as I must keep my eyes on the road! I could do with a few days to wander the back roads and capture this landscape at different times of day. Villages and farms are relatively few and far between. Three small towns along this route have Villanueva as their first name. But, it's the open rolling countryside that captures the eye.

I can see what draws painters to Spain, like Provence. I wish I could paint, not just take travel snaps. But that requires the kind of time and patience as well as vantage points I don't have. Well, at least I can talk about it!

Memorable Magdalene's Day

This morning, Bishop June Osborne was being enthroned in Llandaff Cathedral, and remembering her with thanksgiving prayer was a duty happily done. Later, it was good to see photos on social media and quotes from her address. I'd really like to read the whole thing, but haven't been able to find it on-line so far. It's great that she chose the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles for this landmark occasion in Llandaff diocesan history. Celebration of Mary Magdalene's feast day disappeared from the Book of Common Prayer in 1552, only to reappear in subsequent 19th and 20th century revisions across the Anglican Communion. Recently the Pope has upgraded the festive status of Mary Madgalene to the same rank as that of the Apostles, and the Roman Church has adopted her Orthodox title 'Apostle to the Apostles'. About time too, and the same about the ministry and leadership of women in the church. 'In Christ there is no male nor female'. Funny how that has been ignored for so long.

I was amused to see that a small group of fans camped on the pavement overnight outside the Plaza de Toros, in anticipation of this evening's concert by Vanessa Martin. I wondered where they came from for this ordeal, and why. It's something I've seen often enough outside the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena before a celebrity gig, and it's hard to see the point of it. From mid morning, the sound and stage crew were in evidence, along with some members of the band, testing and balancing their equipment. Occasionally there's be a burst of song, whether live or rehearsed, it was hard to tell. It was just loud. By the time I went for a walk around town, the fast food stalls were setting up to feed people queuing to be let in.

I walked to the far side of the old town, and took some photographs of the barrio where the church of Nuestra Señora de la Peña is located, closest to the Rio Guadalmedina (which our guide at the Flamenco Museum told me means 'City River' in Arabic. What's left of the northern aspect of the mediaeval town wall is in the sector also. In this barrio there's an interesting number of modern buildings, discrete, minimalist in their appearance, some apartments, others business or artistic workshops by the looks of it. Some remaining older tenement buildings are ripe for renovation, some being worked on to retain the facades and make entirely new interiors.

It's as if there's an architectural debate going on about here what can be done to make something different of a decaying area. There are some striking contrasts between plain modern facades and those which are a century or two older. It's different from the nearby Lagunas barrio where a rearguard action seems to be taking place between grass roots conservationists and enterprising modernisers.. Well, that's my impression. How it all holds together in the grand city centre plan I have no idea. So much depends on who owns what, and who in power can be persuaded to do what.

On this excursion, I took some photos of the Interactive Music and Flamenco Museums that I failed to get on the day we visited them. Before returning to the apartment, I walked up the Gibralfaro to the mirador to get a few photos of stage arrangements in the Plaza de Toros. The music was audible loud and clear from on high. Concert goers were filing into the arena to grab their places as I called in at SuperSol for a few last minute weekend purchases.

I noticed in the arena bull-pen a couple of dozen back-clad security officials assembled for a briefing before the action started. At this point, all was quiet, preparations concluded. Shortly after sunset the support band struck up. An hour later the main act began. It wasn't as loud as the Queen concert, and it was only as loud as anticipated, until just after midnight, when the volume was turned down. Soon after this, it was all over, and by then I was nearly asleep, thankfully.

The irritating part for me was that the star singer wasn't, to my ear, pitch accurate against the backing band. This could be due to the acoustic impact of being in a circular building framed by tower blocs affecting the sound emanating from the building, as opposed to what's heard on stage. But, it's not unusual at really loud concerts, or in a studio setting, where performers can hear each other is through ear pieces, channelling their microphone output through a mixing desk. It's a distressing experience for a performer to listen to a recording of themselves in these conditions after the event. Anyway, glad it's all over now. It could have been worse.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Malaga Summer Festival Movies

I had two loads of washing to do this morning, a sermon to complete, and a couple of documents to prepare. Also I had a brief video chat with grand daughter Jasmine, who is over from Arizona for holiday travel in France and Britain with her Dad and Stepmother. She had not long arrived to stay with Clare in Cardiff, before going together to Kenilworth, so that cousins Rhiannon and Jasmine can spend the weekend together. They get on so well together. It's sad that they live so far apart.

Apart from shopping, I didn't get out of the apartment for a walk to the port until sunset. An event was just concluding on the Artsenal stage, and a setup crew was struggling to erect and secure a large inflatable cinema screen on the open patio above. Rows of white plastic chairs, seating for a couple of hundred was already laid out, and were rapidly being occupied. 

Tonight is the first of a series of free open air movies to be screened at different venues around the city under the title 'Cine abierto'. The movie? 'Hunger Games: Sinsajo Part 2', a fantasy genre of which I know nothing. Spanish subtitles accompanied Spanish dialogue, to compensate for lack of acoustic enclosure plus background noise from traffic and distant muzak from shops. Perhaps it would have done me good to stop and watch, but the first few minutes seen failed to arouse interest, so I strolled back to the apartment, and settled for an early bed time instead.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Night music

I didn't sleep much. Clare's alarm went off well before mine, so I cancelled it. We left the apartment to retrieve the car from the cemetery at four fifteen, and by twenty to five, after driving through empty streets with most traffic lights showing green, we were hastily kissing goodbye, whilst coping with new drop off parking arrangements I wasn't prepared for. 

Very short stay cars must now take a ticket and get corralled into the multi storey parking complex, level with the departure hall, and you get fifteen minutes for free, though the system isn't clear as to whether you must validate your ticket before leaving within the free time, as you must when you need to pay. I was able to drop Clare off as close as possible to the entry where Terminals Two and Three meet. This is convenient, as Vueling check-in desks are opposite this entrance. She had all the time to spare she needed, and texted me progress reports until she arrived in Cardiff.

As I drove back, still two hours before dawn, the new moon was rising over the horizon, an orange sliver of light in dust laden darkness, hanging above the Avenida de Andalusia as I drove eastwards back into the city centre. A wondrous sight. I went back to bed and made up some of the sleep I'd lost, though not enough, and passed the day pottering about until it was cool enough in the evening to do some food shopping, and then go far a stroll along the Palmeria de las Sopresas.

A bassist and a singing electric guitar player were busking at the start of the open air sculpture display. I think they were singing in Portuguese. On the open air stage of the 'Artsenal' art-space, a jazz quartet was busy re-creating the music and ethos of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelly in the 1930s Hot Club de Paris quintet. The violinist, apparently classically trained, learning how to swing, was using sheet music when she wasn't improvising. The two guitarists and bassist were using tablets showing chord sequences for tunes. It sounded pretty authentic, despite lacking the third guitarist. Each evening I go down there, something different is happening live. What a treat.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

A flamenco day to remember

I said Morning Prayer in St George's at the appointed hour, as nobody came for the Eucharist. There were signs the church yard hadn't been opened to the public yesterday or today. Once duty was done, Clare and I walked into the Old Town to visit the Flamenco Museum just around the corner from the Museum of Interactive Music we went to yesterday. 

The museum occupies the second and third floors of the Casa de la Peña Juan Breva. The word peña translates as 'rock' or 'crag' in English as in the dedication Nuestra Señora de la Peña, which shows up in Marian mountain sanctuaries. I came across this first in the parish of Mijas, not too far from Malaga. The word is, however, also used to describe a circle of friends who form an association, so, peña flamenca, are to be found all over Spain. These are associations of people who sing, play or dance flamenco, and enthusiastic supporters and promoters who want not just to preserve but also to promote this performing art.

The ground floor of the Casa de la Peña is a clubroom bar and restaurant. I think the courtyard area is a performance space., but we didn't see that. We paid one euro each and were taken upstairs and shown around by one of the peña stalwarts, a man about our age. He spoke some English, perhaps an assortment of other European language phrases as well, but was pleased that we made an effort not just to listen but to converse with him about every aspect of the material on display. He spent an hour with us, explaining, telling stories at a pace we could manage, with such enthusiasm, it was a real delight, and not difficult to keep up with him either, when he speeded up.

The museum has artifacts belonging to the history of 19th-20th century Malaguenian flamenco heroes - photos, portraits, sketches, engravings, publicity posters, clothing, flamenco dancers' shoes, percussion instruments, and best of all, a dozen well worn twentieth century guitars, played by one or other of los maestros. The one that caught my attention quickly was a 1930s Valencian guitar, by Vicente Tatay. My first Spanish guitar was a 1960's instrument by the same luthier, so it thrilled me to observe the likeness, although worn and aged, I think mine is more worn, given so much less than expert use over the past 54 years. 

Enthusing about this in Spanish with our guide at the start really boosted my confidence for this little extra curricular learning exercise. I learned, however, that for the past 54 years I have been pronouncing the maker's name incorrectly. 'Tatay', sounds like Tat-ae (as in och'ae). I never knew, but won't forget what I've discovered in this amazing encounter.

We left the peña and went for a drink on one of the nearby plazas, discussing what we should do next. Clare was keen to see a flamenco show, and regretted that tonight's performance at the peña would start too late for it to be possible to attend with an airport departure at four in the morning. On our Museum of Interactive Music visit yesterday, people were queuing as we departed for an in house flamenco show. Clare thought it was a one-off show, but agreed we should return and check. Happily, we discovered it happens most days, and seems to make use of performers from an escuela flamenca in the city, and, the show was just about to start. Well, after fifteen minutes waiting in a chilly air conditioned performance studio, along with a couple of dozen others.

The forty minute show featured three high quality artists; a virtuoso guitarist, a singer, and a dancer. The studio has room for about thirty, so everyone sits close to the performers. It must be quite hard for them, as it's hard to draw in a formal audience of inhibited strangers, conditioned to watch, and not to join in, with no alcohol or camaraderie to help generate an atmosphere. I noticed advertising for the evening show at Peña Juan Breva, stated that the price included tapas and a glass of vino malagueño. That would do the trick for sure. Still, the lunchtime performance was excellent, well worthwhile, and it put us in the mood for lunching while we were out.

Just off the east side of the Plaza de la Constitución is a famous alley - paisaje de Chinitas, where there was once a coffee house frequented by artists and intellectuals, among them, the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. He immortalised the place with a verse which is displayed on a panel of tiles high above the fish restuarant which now occupies the buildings. Here we dined well, with fresh fired berenjenas Andalusian style with cane sugar garnish, a marvellous sopa de mariscos, followed by pascadito and salmonillas. It was quite hot in the alley, although we were shielded from the sun by a toldo, but we ate unhurriedly and made the most of this last opportunity to feast together.

We returned at tea time so Clare could pack her case, then walked to the cemetery to check that the church car parked there hadn't been blocked in by some unannounced vehicle arrival. Then we went to the beach, so she could have a paddle in the sea at sunset, before retiring early to bed, before the inevitable three thirty wake up call, heading for a six forty Vueling flight back to Cardiff. Once more my life will change its pace tomorrow, returning to solitude for the last eleven days of my sojourn in the wonderful city. 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Ten second wisdom

We walked into town after breakfast this morning and visited Malaga's Interactive Music Museum. It has a great collection of instruments of all kinds from Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, including a remarkable number of 19th and early 20th century European pianos, all in beautiful condition. It has a section dedicated to modern hearing tests, and several booths where one can try out different kinds of instruments, percussion, stringed and wind. 

I was tempted to try out the hearing test section, as I've had troubles lately with ear wax blockage due to the heat, an annual summer nightmare for me these days. Then I realised the impairment has diminished over the past couple of days due to anointing my ear cavities with a smidgeon of olive oil. For the moment, I can hear almost equally well with both ears. So I skipped that section, and went on to look at the amazing collection of traditional and hybrid stringed instruments. 

Tow large adjacent houses in the same block have been given over to this museum, and transformed by renovation to accommodate the museum. The ground floor of the second building is paved with glass for visitors to be able to look down at a section of the mediaeval city walls which, I guess at one time would have formed the boundary to the basement of the property. Such a delightful place to visit.

From there we wove our way through the back streets to find a vegetarian restaurant for lunch which was in the same street as La Casa Invisible which we visited last week, called Vegetariano El Calafate. We enjoyed a high quality menu del dia for just under 10 euros in a pleasant back street environment. This is just close to a residential Old Town barrio which is undergoing a measure of regeneration, with the church of Nuestra Señora de la Peña at its heart. It's an area I've not noticed hitherto. 

One of its local characteristics is writing on the walls - not graffiti, though there's a certain amount of that as well - but rather, cleanly stencilled aphorisms from poets and philosophers, four metres above the pavement on surfaces freshly rendered and painted. Is this the thinking man's barrio, I wonder? In Germany and Austria, quotations from scripture or devotional hymns or poetry are commonplace traditional forms of domestic decor. Then I remembered how often in cafes, here in Malaga, and elsewhere in Spain for that matter, the little packets of sugar you're served with have a quotation on the side without advertising on it. It can be an aphorism, or a joke. Great practice to decode when you're learning a language. This is probably not unique to Spain, but here is where I have noticed and appreciated the proliferation of ten second wisdom. I wonder where this began?

We returned to the apartment for a siesta, and afterwards, as Clare didn't want to go for a swim, we walked out on the eastern quay of the port to inspect the most recent cruise liner to arrive. All three seen on Sunday afternoon were long gone. The Royal Caribbean Line's Bahamas registered MV Navigator of the Seas was docked at Terminal one. Although it's not as big as the Celebrity Reflection, docked on Sunday, it carries ten per cent more passengers. It's fascinating to see these giants of the sea coming and going, but I find it hard to imagine taking a holiday on what is, in effect, a floating city.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Competa re-visited

We were invited by Mike and Patricia to visit them at their mountainside finca outside of one of the regions best known and much loved (especially by ex-pats) pueblos blancos, Competa. They've been living there for twenty two years, and crafted gardens out of the hillside and tended orchards of olive, fruit and nut trees, as well as making their simple ancient stone cottage into a home with all mod cons. The sixteen kilometer drive from sea level up to 600 meters is on a well maintained road with countless hairpin bends and views you'd really like to stop and gawp at. 

With the Sierra La Maroma at the head of the deep wide valley is over 2,000 meters, and can be snow capped in winter. The water captured by the high mountains makes the valley unusually green, good for growing fruit and olives. On the ascent, Sayalonga is the largest village, straddled along a promontory on the side of the valley. There are other pueblos blancos on the valley slopes too, and farms, perched remotely on places seemingly hard to access. It's easy to imagine how much tougher and slower life must have been before the advent of motor transport and metalled roads.

We received a warm welcome and showed around the place, before we set off for lunch in Competa at the Restaurante Perico in the main village square, Plaza Almihara, owned and run by the same extended family for several generations. We ate very well indeed, and enjoyed the company and conversation of Mike and Patricia's student grand daughter, who joined us for lunch. We arrived just before two. I noted the door of the nearby parish church was not yet shut for siesta, so I was able to slip in a take a photo of the interior, something I'd been unable to do on our last visit in 2011.
Looking back at the photos taken back then, there's one of stone masons at work in the Plaza Almihara, laying an image of the town's heraldic shield in coloured pebbles and fragments of rock in the middle of the square. I'd forgotten that happened while we were there, during a programme of improvements to the town's public realm, designed to make it more appealing to visitors and boost civic pride, no doubt.

After lunch we returned to Finca Patricia and continued talking for another hour, and then began our return journey, this time with Clare taking photos from the car window with my Sony HX300, and me driving slowly, for comfort as much as anything. She doesn't use a camera much, so it took her a
while to get to grips with it on the move, but it was still worthwhile. It's a valley I wouldn't mind visiting again for a lengthy stop start photo opportunity, to satiate my curiosity.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Mad dogs and ship spotters

This morning we drove to Velez-Malaga for the celebration of the Eucharist with a congregation of seventeen people. I was please to have an opportunity for Clare to meet the congregation here, in such a different environment from Malaga, yet with the same open, warm welcoming spirit. After, we joined the majority of worshippers for coffee and churros at Cafe el Tomate just along the street, before driving back to Malaga for lunch at the apartment.

On the last stretch of the drive along the Paseo Maritime, I noticed three large cruise ships docked in the port, as well as the usual Malaga-Melilla ferry. While Clare had a siesta, I walked out along the eastern quay to take photos. TUI Discovery 2 was docked at Terminal One, she's visited Malaga several times during my stay so far. At Terminal Two, Celebrity Reflection was docked - nearly a quarter of a mile long with 2300 passengers and 1200 crew. It's one of the giants of Mediterranean cruise ships.The area was a hive of activity with shuttle buses plying to and fro, taking visitors into the city.  

Moored at the quay further away from the terminals, in isolation and apparent inactivity behind locked security gates was Europa 2. I think it may be in between cruises, changing crew, re-stocking for its next voyage. This is one of the newest, most luxurious vessels of German Hapag Lloyd Line, taking just over five hundred passengers, all over the world. I think I may have seen it docked here before.

I got back to the apartment just as Clare was waking from her siesta, so then we went down to the beach for her afternoon swim. By suppertime, I was beginning to feel a little over-cooked. Although I am quite used to being outdoors in a hot and sunny climate, I have to be very careful, and avoid as much direct sun as possible. Already, I have an embarrassingly well tanned face, for someone who always wears a sun hat and stays in the shadows as much as possible.