Friday, 31 March 2017

Updated at last

I returned to St German's to celebrate the usual midday Lent Mass and for the Lent Lunch which followed. On inspecting the office PC I found, much to my delight, that finally ten months worth of Windows 10 updates had finished installing, and the machine was completely up to date. Altogether this took sixteen days to complete, not only due to the limitations of the network connection, but also because I had to find out by trial and error how to ensure the machine remained 'always on', and not powering down or going into sleep mode as it waited to complete downloads. This wouldn't have been necessary if the connection had functioned at a normal speed. 

If I'd moved the PC closer to the main router on the ring main circuit, in the office next to the router, or if I'd taken it home to update, updating wouldn't have taken so long. I simply didn't have time to do the machine minding that either solution required. It was a matter of letting it run slowly and checking on it each time I went to church. Now it's up to date, the machine will be able to send and receive emails, and allow slow surfing, and that's enough for the moment, until I can figure out a faster connection between back and front offices. So far so good!

Yesterday and today, I didn't pick up much litter, just half a dozen items as I didn't go out for my usual long walk when I returned home, but worked on my Sunday sermon, and slept for a while. Last night I went to bed late, slept badly and woke up feeling groggy as a result, and this feeling took most of the day to shake off. One way or another I need eight hours a night when I'm as busy as I have been this past few months. It's a symptom of getting old!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Farewell Dell XPS

Unusually this morning, I mistimed my departure and needed to drive down to St John's to celebrate the Eucharist in order to avoid being late. It's something I don't like doing and try to avoid, as I try to walk as much as I can around the parish to balance the times I need to drive across town to St German's, currently four times a week. There were a dozen people in the congregation, wondering what's happening about the episcopal election, worried about brexit. 

Afterwards I drew money from the bank and did a small amount of shopping before returning home for lunch. There was a call from the Touro Tec computer shop about the broken Dell which I took in there for assessment a couple of months ago, so when I'd eaten, I walked there get the report. As I suspected it would need a new motherboard, making it a BER device, as we'd say in RadioNet-speak. This is - beyond economical repair'. I asked the guy in charge if he could recycle or make use of the machine for spares and just let me have the 500mb hard drive to re-purpose myself. I already had a plan in mind if it was in good working order.

It was pleasing to drive to St German's in daylight for Stations of the Cross at seven. There were just half a dozen of us, but I feel it's worthwhile doing with other people. rather than as a personal devotion at home or in church. I wonder if we pay enough attention to telling, retelling and reflecting on the passion story these days. In my youth I was influenced by Franciscan spirituality and devotion to Christ crucified. I still find that things I learned then have value today, and can speak with freshness, even if i haven't used them often during the long years preoccupied with creative liturgical innovation in telling the story of faith. I have changed, and how I interpret the tradition has changed in the light of experience. 

When I got home, I booted up the Acer Aspire portable given to me by Kath from someone at her gym last year. I had Linux Mint running on it, but not satisfactorily, as it kept failing to boot to the graphic desktop, through what seemed to be a read error which persisted regardless of which desktop interface I used. I started it up using the Linux Mint 18.1 live DVD I acquired last week, and using a special USB dock, was able to get the old Dell hard drive running and proving its health, on this machine. So, I wiped and reformatted the spare hard drive and used it to replace the existing dodgy one. Installing Linux Mint 18.1 on it worked after one false start, and has restored to me a stable functional Linux portable machine for occasional use. 

Although this has a pre-UEFI BIOS Core i3 processor which can run a 64 bit version of Linux, with due regard for its age (six years), I installed the 32 bit version. Perhaps I should have done that originally, as it runs quicker and so far error free than it did the first time around. All in all a satisfactory experience, making up for losing the Dell XPS, a real classic top of range machine nine years ago.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

O unhappy day

At lunchtime yesterday I walked to our GP surgery to acquire a blood pressure monitoring device to wear for the next twenty four hours, so that a better idea can be obtained of the apparent fluctuations in my blood pressure through the day. As long as the doctors express concern, I have to go along with this, though it's hard to see how this can be changed. I've lived well enough with this without my life being impaired for a long time. I accept that ageing means slowing down, and limitations on what's possible to consider doing in life. Yet there's still an enormous amount I can do, as long as I sleep well and eat enough and no more than my body needs, and I'm grateful for that.

Ceri, the Practice Nurse initialised the device, fitted the sensory cuff to my upper left arm. There's a digital monitor connected to a pump that drives the sphyngmomanometer, and it's got flash storage to harvest readings at given periods of time during the monitoring exercise. It's about the size and shape of a 200 gram tub of butter, and is packed into holster with an adjustable shoulder strap. Once kitted out the challenge is getting one's clothes back on tidily without disconnecting the the tube joining the components. I decided not to examine it and see what information it could display, and just wear it for twenty four hours. 

Before taking a reading, the device inflates slightly as a one minute warning to get ready, meaning sit down or stand still while the device is working. No sooner had I walked out the surgery than it let me know its intention. The best I could do was stand still. I stopped until it finished, then walked on. But within a minute, a repeat performance. Within another couple of minutes, another repetition. To me it suggested a read failure. Once I was settled at home, writing, it started again, and fell into a rhythm of twenty minutes between readings. 

I felt there was every reason why I should have a normally active day, and not just sit around waiting for the device to take a reading, so I decided to re-start Tai Chi classes. It would be a good test of the stability of my dodgy knee. There were more presumed read errors walking there and back, although I stopped each time I got the signal. During the class it went off twice at the prescribed time, and I just stood still, always easy to do in class, and it seemed to work as prescribed.

I think the device was programmed for a longer timing sequence when I went to bed, as I only recall it taking readings as I was falling asleep, and at first light. There may have been more, but after a marvellous class, starting to learn a new sequence of Tai Chi movements, I was very relaxed and slept well. It didn't seem to be active during breakfast, perhaps it was still programmed for night sequence. I noticed its clock was still set at GMT rather than Summer Time. When I started driving across town to St German's for the week's 'class mass', it started working again, with the same pattern of presumed read errors, and this continued during Mass as well.

After the service I went to check on the office PC, still downloading and installing a year's worth of updates at a stupidly slow pace. If this continues, I'll just take the thing home and update it where I can make sure it doesn't keep choking on the process. I took my jacket off while I worked and in the hour that followed noticed that the device resumed working normally. That was how I discovered that the cuff doesn't like any kind of coverage. The sleeves aren't tight by any means, but basically the device won't work underneath anything except the lightest clothing, which implies that it's usage is going to be restricted to quiet stable environments, unlike real world conditions. At home or in a hospital ward, it's going to be fine, but taking readings from a normally active no sedentary daily life, is another matter altogether. Ah well, now I know. I wrote a note to my GP about this and sent it with the device when I returned it to the surgery.

I walked to Chapter Arts Centre before supper to collect this week's organic veg order, and collected thirteen pieces of street litter on my way there and back, most of them flattened discarded cans from the gutter, including four Carling lager cans strung out along the street where they'd most probably been drunk in between purchase and home. And so many energy drink cans too. As if imbibing their content impairs the awareness of the consumer of the proximity of litter bins, or of any conscience about fouling the environment. A dozen pieces yesterday and Monday as well, while out walking. It's hard not to feel angry about such greedy self-centred carelessness.

Today the formal notification of the UK's intention to quit the EU was delivered. I've listened to the minimum amount of news as the endless reportage on the matter is like having sandpaper rubbed endlessly on the skin. I am angry, frustrated, powerless at the electorate being conned by lies and phobic propaganda from the mass media and the politicians. Around three million expats refused a referendum vote and a matter of high concern for them as UK citizens abroad, and a referendum vote on a simplistic majority rather than a two thirds majority, as is common in other European countries. 

Even the Church in Wales has a two thirds rule for electing a Bishop. The process failed to deliver in Llandaff diocese, and the Bench of Bishops has made a mess of using its executive powers leading to the whole process now being subject to legal scrutiny. Falling just short of the two thirds majority could have been read by the Bishops, if they couldn't agree on an appointment, as a sign of the need to re-convene an Electoral College and let them try again. Or even not appoint until the Electoral College can agree. It may come to a re-run of the Electoral College anyway in the end. If it does, it won't be without rancour and bitterness en route. 

Narrow simple majority voting is like a statistical game of chance, and the margin in either direction can fluctuate, for all sorts of reasons unconnected with the purpose of the vote. When there's a clear consensus speedily reached, it's reason for rejoicing. But life isn't always so simple, so reaching a consensual position in any kind of decision making may take more time and be inconvenient, but it does causes people to think further, to be more aware of a breadth of issues and consequences which may be obscured by fears or ambitions at the the start. 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Refreshment Sunday

Yesterday was another sunny day, so I took the bus into town and out to Penarth at the end of the morning, and after a walk through the parks above the Esplanade, I returned on foot along the rocky pebble strewn foreshore and crossed the barrage, before picking up a bus from the Millennium Centre to town, and then a 61 home. Coping with loose stones and rough rocky surfaces was a good test for the stability and resilience of my knee, above and beyond regular walking on metalled roads, and passed without incident. I expect I'll have stiff legs over the next few days nevertheless.

On the beach I collected just half a dozen plastic bottles over the majority of its kilometre length, then in the last 200 metres of beach and 100 metres of footpath to the car park, the most frequented patch, another dozen pieces. The only waste bin in sight was on the opposite side of the road beyond the car park. The beach was relatively clean as the tide was receding, but among the few items of plastic found at the high water mark, were several that were oily and may have been tossed overboard from a passing ship. I could have picked up more if I'd had a bigger bag. This beach is litter picked regularly by local volunteers. It just goes to show that the stream of visitors lacking concern for the environment continues unabated.

Aware of the arrival of summertime, I put all the clocks forward early, and restricted myself to just one of the two episodes of 'Follow the Money' before turning in early for the night. A nine o'clock celebration at St John's Canton would still be eight o'clock according to my body clock. At the service Sam, one of the two ordinands on placement preached the sermon. It was good to listen to him with a view to making an assessment - something I haven't done since my St Mike's sojourn. It was also good refreshment for Refreshment Sunday to have a respite from preaching.

After the St German's Mass and distribution of Mothering Sunday flowers and cards, followed by a brief check on the state of the office PC Windows 10 updates (now reaching 50%), I took Communion to Angela at home. She's glad to be home and looked after by nurses, family and friends, rather than still being in a recovery ward waiting to be moved into a regular ward, as she was for a week after her urgent shoulder repair. Now she's all trussed up with her arm and shoulder immobilised, similar to the way Clare was after her operation, but cheerful nevertheless, and trying to figure out how she can use her PC to catch up on her administrative backlog after two weeks of down time.

While I was cooking lunch after my return home, Owain called to say he was on his way over to give his mum flowers and chocolates for 'Mothers Day', as he insists on calling it to wind me up. He had forgotten that Clare's in Kirton over the weekend, and called only after buying his ticket, poor lad. Even so he came over and we spent a couple of hours chatting. I walked with him down to Cowbridge Road when he was leaving. Before taking a bus into town, we called into the 'Calabrisella' restaurant, for him to get a pizza, as he'd missed out on lunch earlier. Having eaten a few hours earlier, I didn't feel like eating a full meal, so just shared his tasty arancino and couple of tranches of pizza. An unexpected treat at the end of the afternoon.

While I was waiting for Owain to arrive, I sat down do do my daily Duo Lingo Spanish drill. Before I could get started, fell asleep. When I woke up, an hour later, I completely forgot to continue. It's the first day in months that I missed practicing altogether. Despite going to bed early, I was more tired that I realised.

I discovered a new BBC 1 TV series of 'Call of Duty' about a police anti-corruption squad was on at nine, and that gave me something new and interesting to watch. Just after it finished, I had a message from Jane, the Churchwarden in Montreux, to confirm that I'm wanted for locum duty there the second half of August and all of September coming. I was surprised to discover that it'll be six years since we last spent time in Switzerland. The place is so vivid in my memory that it still seems like yesterday when we were there. I say the same about Spain too. Beautiful places are so nourishing. I need a lovely landscape for nurture and inspiration.

Still no news about the appointment of a new bishop for Llandaff diocese. It's worrying.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Knee news and TV crimewatching

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to go down to St John's Canton to celebrate their midweek Eucharist, Clare went off by train to spend a long weekend in Kirton with sister-in-law Ann. Walking there and back, I collected sixteen pieces of rubbish and binned them. An appointment with my GP later brought the good news that there's nothing more wrong with my dodgy knee than age related wear and tear. The doc also wants me to try out a 24 hour blood pressure monitoring device next week, to track variations over the day, as it's still higher any time it's taken in the surgery than it is at home.

With time to myself in the afternoon I sat and watched several episodes of a new euro-crime Channel 4 TV series called the 'Team'. I found it most enjoyable as uses Danish, German, Flemish, French and English, since it features the work of a multi-national investigation into corruption and people trafficking. It's not about Interpol, although the agency does occasionally feature, but rather about police forces working together. Interestingly, for group discussions English is the common language, although occasionally you also hear one person speak German and another reply in Danish or Flemish. In the evening, I went to St German's to take Stations of the Cross and Devotions.

This morning, I was back at St German's again to celebrate Mass and share in the 'hunger lunch' in the church hall. I checked the office PC's updating progress. It seemed to be stuck on 5% since Wednesday, even though the machine had not been switched off. Then I looked at the power settings and the penny dropped. Although it didn't go properly into sleep mode, the hard drive was set to stop spinning after two hours, so the update download could not be saved. So, I set the machine to stay fully alive and left it to continue, aware it could still take a long time. 

Then I Julie and Ashley in town for a cup of tea and a chat, and before taking Ashley to the RadioNet equipment supplier in Chepstow with a several radio handsets to be exchanged for re-configuration. It was a pleasant drive on a bright and sunny day, and the sun was in our faces as we returned in evening traffic as the sun was setting. Trees in blossom and daffodils in the roadside verges everywhere.

Later, I watched this week's episode of 'The Team'. It's not merely a 'straight cops and criminals' drama series. Relationships between team members, relationships with spouses are also an interesting and complicating feature of the narrative. Well worth watching. Interesting to observe that while people can and do bridge language barriers with their variety of language skills, there are often problems in communication arising from the intended meaning of the content. A detective finds an encryption key concealed in a couple of lines of romantic poetry. The discovery is then texted to a colleague working on the vital file, but intercepted by her husband, who reads the lines and concludes his spouse is having an affair, creating a crisis and disrupting progress on the case. It's well observed indeed.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The shadow of terrorist violence falls again

Yesterday was uneventful, unmemorable, a day of rain showers mixed with sunshine. I went for a walk in Pontcanna Fields during a bright spell in the afternoon, but got soaked in a sudden shower on my way home. Unusually, I didn't spot anything to pick up from the streets on the way there, but along the river path collected thirteen items, half pulled from briars in the undergrowth.

Before this morning's 'class Mass' at St German's, I took the car to N.G. Motors for its MOT test. After the service, I went to check on the church hall office PC, which we'd left running on Sunday to address the update backlog problem. It was running, but had stalled, in need of permission to continue. Once rebooted, it completed a lengthy update process, lasting twenty minutes, then declared that another batch was available to download. So, it was a matter of setting it off and leaving it again. 

The internet link is stable enough, but very slow, which may mean the Powerline network set-up is not being as efficient as usual in sending a receiving data. Is a workaround possible, apart from relocating the machine elsewhere in the building nearer the router, at least for the purposes of updating? The church hall ring-main is extensive. At present the distance is forty metres, so who knows what electrical interference may be affecting transmission?

By the time I decided to give up on machine minding for the day, Clare had received a text and sent one to met, to say the car was ready for collection. This was most fortunate as it meant that I didn't need to go home and return at the end of the day, or possibly next day if any repairs were needed, to collect the car. So delighted my venerable auto is still roadworthy! It meant I could call into the Lidl's on the way back from retrieving the car, and stock up with additional food items for the coming days, during which Clare will be with sister-in-law Ann over in East Anglia from tomorrow. 

As I was relaxing after lunch, a brief but urgent phone call came from my sister June to switch on the telly, as a major incident had been declared in London. That's how I learned about the terrorist incident outside the House of Commons. Given the gravity of the 7/7 bombing, I feared the worst as I switched on. With four deaths reported, including a policeman, it was an appalling incident, but I was grateful that it wasn't worse involving a truck bomb or lethal toxic attack. Paramedics were on the scene very quickly and police had the area under security lock-down very quickly after the initial incident had concluded. The assailant's car, used as a simple lethal weapon was travelling on public roads, with possibly the best video surveillance and policing in Britain. It's impossible to scan minds for deadly ill-will, however. The stories of all those involved will dominate the media for days to come. 

This week, some airlines working on Middle Eastern routes are starting to ban electronic devices larger than a phone from cabin baggage, due to reports of terrorist techies disguising explosives to resemble batteries used in laptops. Placing them in the aircraft's hold in robust containers would limit damage from any undetected device. Working out exactly how to manage this, so that no passenger has their electronic baggage stolen in transit to or from the flight will be challenging. I don't suppose it'll be too long before this becomes ubiquitous on the majority of flights, even though the risk of an attack on an airport terminal is regarded as far more likely than successfully detonating a bomb on a 'plane, in the light of rigorous security  measures already in place. It's a strange 'new normal' we've had to get used to in over the fifteen years since 9/11. 

What a hostile world we've created for our descendents, despite all our best idealist intentions!


Monday, 20 March 2017

Future travel prospects

Another wet morning. I was collected at ten for a funeral service in Pidgeon's chapel, and this was followed by burial at Western Cemetery. Light rain persisted throughout. I felt sorry for the small band of mourners at the graveside, huddled under umbrellas on waterlogged clay terrain. The water table on this site is a couple of meters below ground, but in wet weather, open graves frequently flood giving undertakers problems and mourners additional distress. It's not always possible to pump all the water out of a grave beforehand, and water can seep in again within fifteen to twenty minutes.

I was home and dry again by noon. After lunch I paid the balance over the phone on our Rhine cruise in May. I couldn't get the web payment facility on the website accept a card transaction, but a lady on the end of the Riviera Travel enquiry line was able to put it through, and it didn't take any longer. We're both looking forward to this greatly.

Then I did some more long drawn out Windows 10 computer updates, as each of mine at different times comes to the top of its particular queue. I also updated Libre Office on all my machines, the least onerous of tasks. Each new update brings improvements, some of them take a while to discover if you don't look at the published change-log. Improvements in speed however, are immediately noticeable and welcome every time. It's rarer and rarer that I ever have to use MS Word these days. 

This weekend I bought a copy of Linux Format magazine fro the first time in several years, as it had an up to date Linux Mint 18.1 distribution disk with it. These days I find that less and less of the technical content of the magazine is material I can understand. There's much about web computing and content management I have not kept abreast with, and have become less interested in how to do new things than I am in issues like user friendliness, or the social and cultural impact of media on life today. I still can and do troubleshoot computer problems for ordinary users, but that's now the limit of my expertise.

I whiled away a little time trying to run the live Mint distribution CD on a laptop with UEFI boot software, but without success. I am so nervous of making an irreversible change, which requires me to find and pay a real expert to put right. Progress, if it is progress, is leaving me behind, I admit.

By late afternoon the rain stopped and the sun shone, so I went for a walk to Pontcanna Fields before cooking supper, collecting a dozen pieces of litter on my way. So far, rough mental calculation still indicates that I pick up an average of half a dozen for each kilometre I walk. There's more than this on the ground for sure, but sometimes after rain, it's difficult to retrieve.

Just as I was getting ready for bed, I had an email from a churchwarden at St John's Montreux asking if I was available at the end of the summer. That's when I next have free time so I emailed my availability to her, and found myself quite excited at the prospect of an all new assignment, as I attempted to relax into sleep. I can hardly believe that it's nearly five years since we last visited Switzerland. My focus has been mainly on Spain since then, so the prospect of returning to a familiar and much loved part of Europe as a locum, and bringing my French back into use is going to be another challenge.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Disturbing church times

I walked to St St John's in the drizzle this morning to celebrate the eight o'clock Eucharist, rather than walk first to retrieve the car, parked in Greenfield Avenue where I'd been obliged to leave it overnight. On the journey, I collected a eleven pieces of litter, mostly cans and bottles, many of them discarded in the past couple of days. 

Meadow street was unusually full of cars over the weekend, with little movement in or out. This may have been a product of bad weather, and people watching the rugby internationals on TV at home rather than driving to a favourite pub. There was just one space free when I returned by car from St Germans some six hours later, after celebrating the Solemn Mass, followed by a baptism. By ten o'clock Monday morning eighty percent of the cars will have gone. Many working people live in our street and commute to work by car.

News that the episcopal election candidate Jeffrey John has not been included in the short-list drawn up for interview by the Bench of Bishops charged with making the appointment. He was two votes short of the necessary two thirds majority in the Electoral College vote, and the unanimous choice of Llandaff electors. I find this most disturbing. He seems to be feared by the Bishops as a potentially controversial candidate. He started ministry as a Llandaff ordinand, and the work he has done over the years marks him as an outstanding candidate. The fact that he is a celibate gay man in a committed stable civil partnership doesn't seem to have been a stumbling block for local electors, even though it seems to have been the reason for him being forced to withdraw from an appointment as Bishop of Reading, and passed over for Bishop of Southwark. 

The concern that he may not be acceptable as a bishop to a minority of traditionalist church leaders and faithful in Wales is one that can only be dispelled by making an appointment that challenges the reality behind the fear. In the past, traditionalist bishops outside of the UK have strongly objected to other gay appointments, and their threats to split the Anglican Communion over this issue, have been the cause of prolonged efforts at avoiding schism through dialogue. There is no formal schism so far, but many traditionalists continue loudly to denounce others who think differently from themselves, effectively admitting that living with differences of conviction is not their priority.

Jeffery is an outspoken liberal, and I wonder if he is quietly regarded by as being not 'orthodox' enough to be a mainstream bishop, as he's at risk of attracting allegations of heresy. It seems likely to me his views are no more un-traditional than positions held by many episcopal leaders, but it depends on who notices views expressed, whether in praise or condemnation. I wonder if fear of adding to polarisation between traditionalist and liberal tendencies is intoxicating the decision making of the Bench of Bishops at this time? How should the clergy and laity of the diocese respond if they think they have been disregarded? How can charitable behaviour prevail when the world, if not church members are sensing conflict in the air?

Friday, 17 March 2017

Long drawn out updating

After a late breakfast, I finished off my Sunday sermon, then headed to St German's for the Friday Mass and hunger lunch. When that was finished, it was time to return and inspect the office PC. Overnight, it had updated its anti-virus libraries and scanned automatically, and, the download counter for the update backlog of updates stood at seventy five percent. The machine was still locked into completing this as a matter of priority, and the much simpler task of downloading and update the more preferable Chrome browser promised to take forever. So the PC will be left running until Sunday for its next inspection.

Often I read complaints in tech' web articles about the havoc wreaked on workloads by the interference from routine downloads. You can schedule them for when you're not working and are prepared to leave a machine running. To hell with you if don't like leaving computers switched on all the time. Linux systems tell you when software update downloads are available, and let you decide when to activate them. For the most part, these happen in the background, allowing you to continue working. I seem to recall that system tweaks are available that permit users to regulate the amount of bandwidth used by an update, in case a fair amount is required for work. 

Microsoft strives to impose control on this process, by giving their updates absolute priority by default. Their argument is, it's safer for all users, but especially those prone to ignore notifications and refuse to take responsibility for personal computer security. It's possible to opt out of the default and regulate this for yourself, with a little effort, but no choice is given about this default and not doing so generates unhealthy dependency on 'Microsoft knows best'. Users, from the outset should be confronted with a choice about whether they go along with this, and be offered an alternative to manage updating for themselves, with a separate mechanism working along Linux lines. It's already been mooted in on-line forums, but will it ever happen I wonder?

This evening, Owain arrived for the weekend in time for supper, although were obliged to start without him, as we were due leave early and walk in the rain to St John's Canton for a concert. We arrived early, and well before the concert started, Clare had a phone call ostensibly from me, but looked bewilderingly at me across the room, but my phone was silent in my pocket. I took it out to show her, and she looked even more puzzled. I opened the phone and discovered the opening screen had acquired a locking device. My first thought was that my phone had been hacked, as it otherwise looked identical to the way I expected it to. Then the penny dropped. I'd picked up Owain's phone, identical to mine, and he was ringing Clare's on my phone in a panic, to arrange to retrieve his phone before the concert. We arranged to meet for the exchange over the road outside Tescos, asap. I couldn't then call him to check his ETA, as his phone was pass-coded. He did, however, turn up within minutes, and I was able to return in good time to St John's before the concert started.

It was given by the Castalian string quartet, with works by Haydn, Schumann and Beethoven. They are a group of young musicians, playing together since 2011, having met and trained together in Hannover University School of Music. They have risen quickly to rank with top tier international touring performers, and no wonder. They play with such disciplined cohesion and passionate energy as generates exciting performance, rich with emotion. It was a rotten night, so there were hardly three dozen people present. I felt sorry for those who didn't brave the elements to share this experience. The church is a superb music venue for all kinds of live performances, and musicians tend to love it. In the silence between musical movements, the wind could be heard roaring through churchyard trees over the high roof. It was as if the music emerged from the wind, and was driven along by it. A marvellous experience.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

A swings and roundabouts day

I drove to St John's to celebrate this morning's Eucharist, and then on my way home took the car into the Kwikfit garage a few streets away to see if could get the car's heater fan fixed. It had stopped working and I assumed it was due to a burned out fuse. It was surprised to discover however that there's no fuse, but rather a thermo-couple switch, linked to a similar switch in the radiator fan. It turned out that the heat exchanger which supplies the fan with air had finally given up the air-lock which had caused the fan to deliver only mildly warm air instead of hot air, for the past two years. 

Before the heat exchanger filled with cold water, the relay had stuck in the 'off' position. All that had been needed was to top up the radiator by the volume of the air bubble and run the engine until the main radiator fan started and with it, the heater fan. Anthony, the garage supervisor did the detective work on my 25 year old VW Golf Mark Two and got the heating working again. He's worked on it before and taken pride in helping keep it on the road. It cheered me up no end. On previous occasions, I've tweeted my thanks to Kwikfit for going the extra distance for me as a customer. It's been noticed and appreciated by the team, who remember me when I bring the car in for them to work on occasionally.

It wasn't until I got home and tried to switch on my mobile phone that I discovered it wasn't working. As I was getting into the car, my outer jacket pocket, containing the phone drooped outside the car and took an unlucky hit from the door, closing under gravity, without me noticing. Thankfully, I was able to slip the phone SIM into the my spare old Blackberry, and use it until I worked out what to do next. I walked to Canton Mobile Zone on the corner of Severn Road, to see if a newish Samsung J3 screen could be repaired, or if the phone was broken beyond repair. The manager told me replacing the screen would cost £100. He showed me on his smartphone the cost of an OEM screen, inevitably increased lately due to the drop in sterling. I paid £95 in a discount deal before Christmas. Now the best price on offer is around £120. Before going ahead with the repair, the manager found a replacement screen, attached it to the phone and started it up. It worked fine. If it could do that much, I was in luck. After half an hour's wait, phone and I were happily reunited. Walking there and back, wandering around the street of shops, I picked up and binned forty nine items of litter.

I drove to St German's early enough to set up the office PC with a Powerline Network Adapter. I still have a couple of redundant spares. It worked first time in finding the internet, but I wondered about the quality of the signal passing through a large ring main with secondary router and wi-fi device in-line, as the actual speed of downloading was glacially slow. At the outset, I'd expected the system to be more responsive, as it's a Core i5 machine containing few extra programs and no new data. We left it running while we were in church for Stations of the Cross. On return an hour later, Windows Defender update had stalled and needed re-starting. I checked to see if anything else had updated, and it looked as if Windows 10 updates hadn't started either. After a restart we decided to leave it running overnight, just in case it was running slowly due to competing demands, once it had been recognised by the Microsoft servers after a ten month break and change of address. I can check after the lunchtime Mass tomorrow. In the meanwhile, home for supper and a couple of hours of telly before bed.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Midweek meditation

The sun lit up the interior of St German's beautifully during the 'class Mass' this morning. The class in church today seemed to have quite a few children unresponsive and in a bad mood. I had to work quite hard to get them smiling singing and moving about. 

No sooner had the class left after the service, than another class of younger children arrived to look around the church with their teacher and support staff. At the same time, a couple arrived for a preparation session for the christening of their year old son on Sunday after Mass. 

With a midday deadline to be home for the Ignatian Prayer Group, I had just enough time, after meeting them, to install another network plug and attach to an office desktop machine donated to the church. Thankfully it worked, but the Windows 10 PC hadn't been used for ten months. Many  updates are needed and now it's connected to the internet, it'll have to be left to complete those before it's of any use, as updating 

There were seven of us for the Ignatian Group. It was a welcome respite after a busy morning. I spent the afternoon writing a eulogy from the notes I took yesterday to deliver on behalf of the family at next Monday's funeral. Before cooking supper, I walked to Chapter Arts to collect the week's organic veggie bag. I picked up a dozen pieces of litter en route. The litter bin next to the Romilly Road bus stop is in a convenient place to deposit my haul, being near home. I wonder if the guys who empty that bin notice it's been more full than usual lately?

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Lucky x-ray date

I rose at eight this morning to phone the GP surgery for a 'book on the day' appointment, to tell the story about my need for a knee x-ray to Dr Benjamin. I walked to the surgery, and after a brief conversation and inspection, came away with an appointment request, and a telephone number to call. Within minutes of phoning the appointments booking desk, I was given an appointment in Llandough mid-afternoon, fortunately free due to a cancellation. 

I was in and out of the hospital just three quarters of an hour, and this meant I could return home for a cup of tea before walking across the parish to make a bereavement visit, to prepare for a funeral next Monday. It'll be a week before the x-ray results reach my GP. Whatever the outcome, my knee joint has improved noticeably since yesterday. 

Walking through the parish today I picked up eighteen pieces of litter. It's only a fraction of what's there to pick up. Paper, cigarette cartons and paper cup get trodden flat and sodden in gutters. That sort of mess call for gloves and tongs, it's messy business, so I focus on removing things people could stumble over, and hope it won't be too long before the street sweeping machines do the rounds again.

Monday, 13 March 2017

A day for protest and for prayer

After a slow morning start, I went to join a group of local people outside the Pontcanna Street local post office to demonstrate in protest at the impending closure of the Sub-Post Office, when the present license holder retires and the property is bought by the Co-operative. There were about twenty of us there and several people made placards and held them up for the Media Wales camera toting reporter who turned up to take pictures and interview local Councillor and spokesperson Iona Gordon, who'd organised the protest and is pressing for the Co-op to reconsider its plans. Planning permission has been granted for the premises to be extended, but retention of the sub-Post Office doesn't seem to have been mentioned by the developers, or considered by the Planning Committee, if I'm not mistaken. It is still possible for this to be amended before the place closes for refurbishment, so long as enough fuss is made by locals who rely upon this vital amenity.

It was only a brief affair, so the Clare and I returned for lunch. In the afternoon I walked to the Natural Health Clinic in Cathedral Road for an osteopathy appointment with Kay. Since my last longish walk last week, my knee has been giving me more trouble, so I was looking forward to this session. Kay did a thorough diagnostic on the knee joint and declared that the knee ligaments and meniscus cartilage were all in good condition, but given the persistence of mild pain in the knee joint and fibia, I should ask my GP for a referral to have the knee x-rayed, in case a cist was hiding in the back of the knee. She worked on the afflicted components. To my relief, walking home was less uncomfortable than walking there.

In response to an email round robin from Bishop David on Saturday evening, I decided to join a prayer vigil in the Cathedral, being held on the eve of the meeting of the Bench of Bishops, now charged with the task of consulting the church and making a decision about who should be the next Bishop of Llandaff, and in a situation where the electoral college seems to have only fallen short of a required two thirds majority by ten percent. I'm not going to add to the speculation or debate surrounding this issue. It's a difficult situation and I'm among the many who have written to the Bishops about this, though not to endorse any candidate as I have no right to do that as a retired priest, but simply commenting on the nature of the decision and reflecting on it from a perspective of change in the 20th century church. All in 300 words! 

All I feel I can do is pray that God's will is done through whatever the outcome and consequences of the decision reached, and that all will accept and welcome the person appointed with open hearts and minds, despite personal feelings about them, or the issues surrounding the decision making. There are many issues in the spotlight here, over the question how the church chooses its leaders, what sort of people they are and what we expect of them. 

Depending on the different expectations of church members of different 'integrities' there can be different ideas of the ideal person, both in the wider community of the faithful, and its episcopal leadership. If we had free and open debate about candidates before the Electoral College met it might be helpful, or might not. Whether decision making is in the open or in secret, coming to a consensus calls for reconciliation of differences. Sometimes this comes easily, other times, only after a painful struggle, and we've seen a good few of those in the church during my lifetime in ministry. Praying for reconciliation is the least I can do and try to do often but tonight, with the Cathedral open for silent prayer from eight to midnight. 

Martin dropped by and picked me up to save me walking, and give us a chance to chat beforehand. I was minded to stay an hour, but he couldn't stay as long as I could, so I walked home afterwards, and found walking was still much easier than expected. Sitting in silence in the darkened nave before a fifteenth century crucifix in a spotlight behind a stand of votive lights was all that was needed, but there were brief prayers offered aloud on the half hour appropriately chosen and beautifully read. I was there for an hour and a quarter. It was a memorable time, and I came away feeling refreshed, and connected to the church the diocese in a more intimate and immediate way than I sometimes feel at grand liturgies. Each is as centred on Christ as it can be, but in silence and darkness, there's nothing to get in the way.

Oh yes, just for the record, on my walks today I collected ten pieces of rubbish.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Education through Drama

Overnight motorway closures let to Kath and Anto taking an extra hour to get back to Kenilworth from the Shropshire borderlands, due to diversions on to minor roads, so they slept in late. It was midday yesterday by the time I left for Cardiff again. Thankfully, my Sunday sermon was ready for printing and that left me free to relax and enjoy idleness for the rest of the day. I didn't feel like going for a walk as my knee was playing up again, so for the second day in a row, my Lenten exercise lapsed and I picked up no litter.

The evening's episode of Danish crime drama 'Follow the Money' pursued the trail of a large bank's advisers misleading customers and forcing small clients into bankruptcy and sales of assets from which the bank secretly profited. It sounded all too familiar from contemporary life, given the recent scandal surrounding the mistreatment of RBS clients in the UK.

This morning, I walked to St Catherine's to celebrate the eight o'clock Eucharist. On the way there and back, I picked up half a dozen assorted pieces of litter on my way. After breakfast I drove to St German's to celebrate Mass there. Afterwards I stayed for the Parish Lunch with thirty others in the church hall, as Clare was attending her afternoon study group in Bristol. Then, when I returned home, I cooked supper for us, and we watched the last in the ITV 'Good Karma Hospital' series together. I'm glad there will be a second series to follow. It's more than just an entertaining medical drama.

While it's located in an exotic setting, with romantic threads running through the story line, it portrays the reality of a country in which many people are still very vulnerable through poverty, coping in an environment which can be precarious and highly risky on times. It portrays dedicated people working together with great compassion and love for the people they serve, and is constantly surprising, in the challenging situations the medical team has to face. This is educational drama about third world life and concerns right now. Hopefully it will serve to encourage British people to value and care about the medical services they receive, which we're all capable of taking for granted.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Night away

Another call came in about officiating at yet another funeral overnight. I've been quite busy since the start of the year, plugging gaps in the Parish caused by Fr Mark being on sick leave. While I was updating my records, Clare asked me to help her check over a flight booking with her. She and Kath are going to fly to Arizona in October to visit Rachel and Jasmine.

I returned to St German's at the end of the morning to celebrate Mass, but instead of staying for the Christian Aid Lent lunch following, drove up to Kenilworth to be sure of arriving before Rhiannon returned from school. It was my turn to look after her overnight, as Kath and Anto were driving to a Sonrisa band gig over in the Welsh borderland and wouldn't return until well after midnight. 

I cooked supper for us, and was then left mostly to my own devices, as she's now at that stage when she likes to spend a lot of time in her room communicating with her friends. It'll be another year or so before she and her parents consider she's confident enough to be left on her own. Meanwhile I get to spend a little extra time with her occasionally. It's lovely to watch her growing and enjoying being a teenager.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Castle concern

I walked to St John's Canton to celebrate their midweek Eucharist this morning. Then in the afternoon Clare and I walked together to town, on my part, with no particular aim in mind apart from exercise. When we reached the Castle, Clare proposed that we enter and have a cuppa in the restaurant there. It proved an opportune moment to renew my 'Castle Key' residents' free entrance pass. My original pass was issued free and expired over eighteen months ago. I simply never got around to renewing it. Now it costs a fiver to cover the cost of issuing a new card, which is forty percent of the price of a single visitor entrance ticket. Most reasonable. I was impressed that a fresh plastic photocard could be made for issue within minutes of proving one's residence rights, using a hand-held scanner to take a photo and etch it on a card with name and renewal date.

On our way out Clare chatted with one of the guides/welcomers who look after visitors, someone who had been on the team when she acted as a tour guide there. Recession has reduced the number of visitors, and Council budget cuts have led to a drastic limitation of the conservation budget, so that some of the most visited rooms are suffering from wear and tear and starting to look neglected. This is hardly likely to attract extra visitors. "It's slowly turning into one big function suite."  I heard said. Hiring the place out for receptions and social events helps balance the books. One of Cardiff's iconic tourist venues is in government speak 'Just About Managing'.

What's so sad is that the region boasts many institutions of higher and further education with staff and students undergoing various specialised aspects of training in conservation arts and crafts. There's no reason why a partnership between these institutions and the City Council couldn't help to guarantee a high standard of maintenance and provide a practical training ground at the same time. Admittedly a significant obstacle would be the surveillance CADW exercises on listed buildings and monuments in Wales. It's a quango which sets acceptably high standards, but is dauntingly slow and bureaucratic in exercising its regulatory powers, so getting a functional partnership between educational interests, Council and CADW, even with a shared aim, would not be easy to commend to politicians preferring the glamour of quick wins. 

Wales has so many ancient monuments, more than its fair share of ruins. Across the centuries few prestige building projects realized by wealthy or powerful people have survived the test of time in their intended condition. Sooner or later, places lose their significance as status symbols in the public eye. They become unaffordable to run, and end up in ruins. The hardest thing is to witness the decay of beautiful things and places through neglect, for whatever reason.

After walking around the shops for a while, my knee joint started to become painful. I may just have overdone the exercise lately. Anyway, I caught the bus home, tired and aching, conscious of my own wear and tear. After a short rest, I drove over to St German's for the evening's Lenten Stations of the Cross and eucharistic adoration. At the end, a man who arrived with a friend during the service asked with tears in his eyes, to talk to a priest about his troubles. 

He said his landlord had thrown him out, and that he'd been on the streets for two days and neither eaten nor slept. I'm not sure I believed the story he told, or maybe it wasn't the whole story, as he looked remarkably clean and tidy for someone who'd been out on the streets a couple of days with no support, but there was no way to corroborate his story, He was hungry, but there was no means to give him anything to eat and drink at that time of night with the church day centre closed. I sent him to the homelessness hub in Tresilian Terrace, and told him where he could contact the city centre detached social worker team, and the church gave him some money to buy a meal on his way. It was the best we could do. There are so many ways in which someone can be precipitated on to the streets unprepared and traumatized by the experience. Cardiff has many voluntary and professional people active in caring for the homeless, and the numbers continue to grow.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Central Square Redevelopment Progress

I went to St German's to celebrate the 'Class Mass' this morning. Church administrator Angela tripped over her dog, fell downstairs and broke her shoulder yesterday. We prayed for her, aware that she was being operated upon at the same time. Afterwards, it was pleasing to hear reports that the church hall wi-fi network now covers the entire building. That gives me added pleasure.

I walked into town and back, late afternoon, to visit Central Square and take photos of the construction site. It's over a month since my last visit. All the lift shafts have been completed, and most of the steel building framework. The first giant plates of armoured glass that will cover most of the exterior walls of the building are being installed on the facade which faces Cardiff Central Station. Other photos taken  of the site today are here.
A few days ago, I found a video sequence of views of the whole development on the Media Wales website, showing that the site reserved for building a new bus station, will have high rise apartment blocks above it, extending above the current roof-scape of Lower St Mary Street. I'm not sure I liked what I saw, but it will undoubtedly be lucrative, and will result in continuing growth of the city centre population. The sad thing about this is, many of those who become residents, other than those staying in hotels, will be students or people who keep an apartment in town as a secondary residence, and live mainly elsewhere. Not exactly a recipe for building new community.

In the course of my walk down to Central Square, and back through Bute Park, I picked up sixteen items of litter, most on the way in, very few in the park. That's over 140 bottles, cans and paper cups picked up on daily walks since last Wednesday. 

The sun began to set as I walked through Bute Park. I heard more varied birdsong in the woodland stretch along the Taff than I have until now this year, and not surprisingly, with only a fortnight until Spring Equinox.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Shoreline reminiscence

This morning I drove Clare to her study group in Dinas Powis, then drove to Penarth, for a walk on the foreshore from the path at the end of the barrage. It's an unusual beach, interesting due to the geological strata in the cliffs above. In some places marl layers take a grey or green colour due to differences in the minerals leached by water out of deeper rock strata. But red limestone beds of crumbly stone of the Upper Triassic era predominate, shot through with layers of pink alabaster. Said to be one of the largest deposits of its kind in this particular stratum of rock.
This beach is one of the most popular places in South Wales for fossil hunters, with a variety of marine creatures caught long ago as they died and sank to a sandy seabed, which turned to stone thousands of years later. I found a slab of rock with no fossil in it, but containing a perfect imprint of sea bed, as it looked when the sea went out and never returned, leaving the mixture of sediment and mineral rich water to dry out and solidify.
This place evokes lovely memories of time spent here three years ago with granddaughter Jasmine (8 at the time) and Rachel her mother. Jasmine was fascinated by the variety of colours and odd shapes in the pebbles. We found a few partial fossils, but nothing special. We came home with five kilos of stones, and she was most disconsolate that she wasn't allowed to take them back to Arizona in her luggage, so reluctantly she left them behind, and later we returned them to their home on the foreshore.
I understand this pink alabaster, much of which is far paler than the above sample, is a popular feature decorating local gardens. It's soft as alabaster goes, and tends to break up with attempts to carve it. It's a striking feature of this stretch of South Wales' Jurassic coastline.

After lunch, I drove Clare to the Heath hospital for another post operative eye check-up, then I returned home and walked around Pontcanna. Today, I picked up fourteen assorted items of rubbish, just six from the beach, including a five litre plastic 'can' washed up by the tide. I could have collected more, but hadn't taken a bag with me, maybe just as well, as I would have ended up being late, and not having time to enjoy the geology.

Monday, 6 March 2017

End of a retail era

For the second time in a few days, I slept awkwardly and woke up with a stiff neck and shoulder which also gave my a painful ache in the scalp. An 8.30am  phone call from Clare got me out of bed suddenly, telling me that our cleaners were standing on the doorstep waiting to be let in. I hadn't heard the bell. It took me all morning to recover from this rude awakening and coax the spasm out of my muscles.

Clare arrived home just after lunch, and soon went out to do the week's grocery shopping without me noticing. I think I must have dozed off on the sofa before she left. Then the doorbell tang, and it was a neighbour who was seeking signatures for a petition which Iona our local City Councillor encouraged her to circulate. This expresses concern about the likely disappearance of our local Post Office, which is embedded in a mini-market in Pontcanna Street owned and run by the Patel family for decades. 

The elders are retiring and selling to the Co-op, which only a year ago opened a new local store on the Old Dairy site at the top of King's Road. It's very well used, and convenient. Is there to be yet another Co-op, some three hundred yards away? Or a relocation? Nobody seems to know. The embedded Post Office franchise is registered to the Patels, and it's an open question as to whether or not the Co-op's development plans for the site include a Post Office. Iona is meeting the Co-op regional managers to discuss the matter, and a public expression of concern about the need for a local sub-Post Office will be worth by good support.

Late afternoon, I walked my usual route around Pontcanna Fields again, collecting an assortment of 40 plastic water bottles, cans, paper cups and plastic wrappers used to package dozens of water bottles. When there are matches, it's not unusual for team coaches or supporters to bring small water bottles to supply the players. There's no excuse for not taking the packaging way, or for discarding half empty, or even sometimes full bottles of water.

On the edge of the Fields is a suite of sports changing rooms. Here on the ground within five metres of a waste bin which wasn't full I picked up seven discarded cans and bottles. Walking the perimeter of the SWALEC stadium, I picked up another dozen pieces discarded in the narrow garden, un-noticed or deposited in the four days since my last visit. Mention anti-social behaviour and sport, and what comes to mind is tribal clashes between rival fans. Sports littering strikes me as being an almost daily issue, from recent observation, quite apart from the appalling mess of rubbish left in the city centre after every Big Match. Isn't it time this became an issue of public concern in relation to sport in the same way as racism and homophobia has become?

On a more cheering note, the heron often to be seen near Blackweir Bridge or downstream from it, put in an appearance again this afternoon, after an absence of several weeks. It stood for ages no more than ten metres from the riverbank footpath in the shallows just staring at the water around its feet. It seemed not to notice me and I was able to stand in front of it for a while before it moved its head, and then flew off to haunt the fish ladder zone instead. An amazing bird.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Lenten Musical discovery

As I didn't have an eight o'clock celebration assignment this morning, I didn't need to rise early, and got up after nine hours of refreshing sleep. As I drove to St German's I listened to a Latin Mass for double choir on Radio 3 by Genevois composer Frank Martin, he of 'Le Vin Herbe' fame. I found it inspiringly beautiful, described afterwards by an announcer as being one of the great a capella choral works of the twentieth century. An opinion I certainly agree with. I'd love to hear it performed live in St German's with its perfect acoustic for choral music. 

Numbers at Mass were down twenty percent today. Over the years I've noticed in other places how church attendance often dips on the first Sunday of Lent. Not for the first time did I muse about people giving up church for Lent.

Clare is still in Kenilworth, so I returned home and cooked lunch for myself, some spicy vegetarian dishes which went down a treat. Later I walked around Pontcanna Fields, and decided that since it's a Sunday, I could relax my lenten litter picking discipline. It didn't stop me from spotting and collecting two nearly full plastic water bottles along the path, neither of them too far from a litter bin with a fresh empty bag. Discarded by people in the throes of sporting activity, I guess. So careless towards other people and the environment.

Watched 'Good Karma Hospital' again, always engaging, sometimes funny, or sad. Often it's thought provoking on social and ethical issues seen from a medical perspective, with the added savour of being set in an Indian beach holiday resort. I never watch British or American based hospital dramas, but this has my attention because of the window it gives on expatriate life and work in a third world country.


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Spring around the corner

Today's my eldest sister Pauline's birthday, she's eighty eight, and still living independently on her own the house Bleadon Hill house which has been the family home for over forty years. I rang to sing her a Happy Birthday greeting. She once told me that when I rang last year and she was away, she'd kept the recording of me singing to her on the answering machine since then. How lovely. Just before I called, she'd opened the front door to discover her daughter Nicky and family, together with her son Julian, just arrived from Abu Dhabi where he lives. A complete surprise to her. I'd loved to have seen her face.

In the afternoon, I took a walk with my camera around Thompson's Park to take some pictures of the crocuses narcissi and different kinds of daffodils, some yet to burst into bud, others flourishing, some starting to wane. I've even seen a few primroses. A few early flowering varieties of cherry tree are out already, but no leaves yet. There'll be more blossom soon, but for now, everywhere there's grass, there are daffodils to be seen. In recent decades, all over Wales it seems, even along the motorway flanks, vast numbers of daffodils have been planted and proliferated, so the countryside seems to me even more colourful now in late winter, early spring, than I recall when I was growing up. Thompson's park was rubbish free, but walking the streets to shop at the Co-op later, I picked up a dozen separate items, unnoticed or dropped since I last passed that way a few days ago.

This evening BBC Four screened the first couple of episodes of a second series of 'Follow the Money', about the Danish finance industry and the police fraud squad. It's beautifully acted and filmed, and full of surprise twists and turns, despite the relatively slow pace, making for a sustained feeling of tension. After several months of repeats in the popular Saturday evening prime time foreign crime series slot, it's a relief to have a new must-watch series to look forward to.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Old assets, new uses

With a trip to St German's for Mass and Christian Aid Lent lunch at the end of the morning, I woke up thinking about the church hall wi-fi connectivity problem, then went hunting through my stored redundant technology bits and pieces to see what I could find. There were four Powerline adaptor plugs and ethernet cables, plus a box containing a complete wi-fi router, redundant after our broadband upgrade last year. That was about the time when I bought a wi-fi extending Powerline adaptor set, which was incompatible with the slower originals. I had to lay out more than I expected to complete the upgrade, and thus had a spare set working, in any case at a decent speed.

After Mass and lunch, I installed the kit and found that it worked as planned. The spare wi-fi extender that had been bought also connected, enabling the signal to travel to the furthest extent of the long steel and concrete building. This little success brought me no end of good cheer. I hate to see good working kit go to waste. There's still a lot more I wish I could find a use for, however.

On my afternoon walk, to the shops and the post office in two separate outings, I continued my Lenten 'wombling' effort, collecting this time thirty eight separate cans, paper cups, glass and plastic bottles, along my 3 km route. That's an average of a dozen pieces discarded per kilometre, much the same as I estimated yesterday. The number of slim energy drink cans among the detritus is remarkable, some of them tossed in the few days since I last passed by. As these beverages are marketed to sustain people who are being unusually physically active, I wondered if there's a correlation between this and total disregard for one's physical environment. 

As I was entering Tesco's, at Canton Cross, a mum and a granny emerged with a kindergarten age child in a strop, who dashed a small yoghourt drink from her lips, which hit my coat and splashed me with drops. They apologised but the child refused to, and refused defiantly to pick up the carton and take it to a bin two metres away. After I'd passed them I thought too late what I should have said to the child to bring home the fact that this behaviour was unacceptable - all the situation needed was to say "I'll tell your teacher you've been naughty!"

Within ten metres of the store entrance, curiously, there are no fewer than three litter bins, yet one can walk several hundred metres along Cowbridge Road and side streets leading off it, and rarely find a bin. It's no wonder people have got out of the habit of using them.

After supper I went over to St Catherine's Church Hall to collect some church keys I inadvertently left at St John's yesterday. The Parish youth club was in full session, with table football, ping-pong and an assortment of other table games being played, by over a dozen youngsters, and watched over by several parents, plus Fr Phelim. As the hall is a 19th century wooden building, an original temporary mission church in good repair, still finding use in the church grounds. I felt as if I was stepping back in time forty years to my days as a Curate. Even in these days of electronic devices and games, it's great that there's still a social space in which physical playful activities still continue to give pleasure and forge bonds between children that might even last a lifetime.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A question of sport

A Eucharist followed by a funeral at St John's this morning, with a trip to St Catherine's first to collect the baptismal register to deliver to someone at St John's en route. Despite testing a copied CD at the house of the bereaved last week, it didn't play on the church's CD player, for what reason I don;t know, although it does suggest that the device is showing its age, as more modern equipment is able to read different formats, although copied CDs will still occasionally fail to play on more sophisticated equipment due to the digital rights management equivalent of watermarking. It's frustrating, and as with other aspects of the new technologies there's no simple comprehensive solution to cover all possibilities.

The service concluded with burial at Thornhill. It was bright and sunny, albeit with a chill wind. This motivated me to get out of the house for an afternoon walk along the Taff, armed with a plastic shopping bag to collect litter I noticed. Just walking from the house to the park, I collected a dozen pieces of litter and another fourteen pieces around the Fields. Some pieces from their condition are recently dropped, including a milk bottle containing fresh dregs. Others are dirty and battered, indicating that they'd been there and ignored for a long time. 

The SWALEC stadium has a strip of managed garden along its perimeter road. From there, I fished several bottles and a couple of plastic beer 'glasses', issued by pubs only on big match days when public drinking occurs on a scale that encourages neglect of the environment and lack of civic pride. 

Sports celebrities have engaged with commitment in campaigning to keep racism out of sport, it would be marvellous is some could take up campaigning to keep litter dumping out of our streets. Not only on match days, but every day, everywhere.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Not Dewi Sant but Ash Wednesday

Today's first assignment was the Eucharist and Ashing ceremony at St Catherine's, with a congregation of eight. Then, after lunch, a visit to Tredegarville School for a simple Ashing ceremony for staff and two hundred children. As today is St David's Day, their morning had been taken up with the traditional school Eisteddfod. I full expected the children to be fidgety and tired with over-excitement, and was amazed at how relaxed, quiet and receptive they were. I explained what we were about to do and then taught them to sing a Kyrie Eleison I learned half a lifetime ago from the Taize repertoire. Once they'd mastered it, they continued to sing throughout the procession of children to the front to receive their black smudge on the forehead. This was quite difficult to achieve with perfection, as some moved as I was taking aim. 

With prayers, it was all over in twenty five minutes. The look on children's faces as they came up to receive, some smiling, some serious, some looking a little lost in the moment, was just wonderful to behold. I would like to have spent time just looking into each child's eyes a little longer than the few seconds each took, as is possible when I meet children at the altar rail to be blessed during Mass. For me, this deepens the sense of awe and wonder at the heart of the sacramental mystery, seeing them so caught up in the experience of Christ's presence in worship.

Before returning home to finalise a sermon for the evening Mass, I spent a while in the church hall trying workarounds to the problem of poor wi-fi connectivity in the building. A wi-fi range extender purchased has not delivered expected results. The fault is not in the device but in the location of the wireless router, in an office under the stairs near the entrance. There building has a steel frame and reinforced concrete walls, making it just about impossible for router and extender to handshake, except when plugged in at a socket in the lobby, ten metres away. The extender's signal cannot penetrate the length of the hall and backstage as the only power socket is located next to a steel and concrete pillar which masks the signal or deflects it in the wrong direction. 

A powerline network setup with wi-fi extender would do the job nicely, if only there was a free wall socket in office under the stairs. The answer may well be to relocate the incoming phone socket, in the main hall, along with the wireless router itself. This made me envious of the solution adopted by some Spanish telecom internet service providers, of having phone and broadband delivered wirelessly into properties to domestic handsets and routers through a domestic transponder which captures signals broadcast from an 4G cell tower transmitter or a satellite antenna in the vicinity. This is occasionally subject to outages due to electric storms or really excessive traffic, as when there's a key football match or major emergency, and everyone is attached or trying to attach to the network at the same time, but normally, its fast, stable and effective.

There were twenty of us for the Solemn Mass and Ashing ceremony at St German's in the evening. For the second night running, everyone sat in the chancel and enjoyed the acoustical pleasure of singing parts of the service unaccompanied. Each Lent these days, I attempt to do something that requires me to be creative and learn something new and not just fall back on twenty odd years worth of material stored in my liturgy and preaching digital archive. This year, I'm going to highlight the different Psalms which are set for use in the Sunday Eucharistic lectionary, as so often these are sung or said with hardly a reference to them, when there's so much to be said about the rest of the readings. 

Tonight, it was Psalm 51, which has contributed phrases to so many expressions of penitence in Anglican forms of worship, and the daily offices. The biblical texts is annotated with a reference to origin as a prayer of king David occasioned by the unmasking of his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and his deadly effort to cover up his mortal sin. So often the prophets denounced Israel as an 'adulterous nation', as people's dalliance with the worship of foreign gods was considered in much the same terms, as being a breach of their covenant with God. Plenty of food for thought here.

I also wondered if there was some different effort I could make that wasn't just the usual routine of fasting, prayer and alms-giving, but which would push me into being more aware, more responsible. Often when I'm out walking I start feeling angry toward people who not only wander the streets at night drinking from bottles, but leave them dumped if not smashed in places where this could harm others, and leave the place looking ugly and uncared for. Often after football training or matches on pitches in Llandaff or Pontcanna Fields the grass is littered with discarded bottles and cans. Not all team coaches and supporters seem to be bothered about cleaning up after them. Occasionally I have collected a plastic shopping bag of stuff to carry to the nearby bins. 

It's immature and irresponsible behaviour, but impossible to police. So, instead of moaning and being resentful, I have resolved for Lent to make it my business to keep a bag in my pocket and pick up cans, bottles, takeaway cartons and the suchlike whenever I am walking anywhere. Having decided this at the Eucharist in St Catherine's this morning, I started on my way home, and collected seven pieces in just over half a mile. Some had been stuffed into boundary hedges, others balanced on garden walls, on waste bins, or ledges from which they could fall and smash. Two bottles that were parked on the street outside of Poncanna's gated St Winifrid's apartments lay there undisturbed since I walked to church on Sunday morning. Residents drive in and out seemingly oblivious of the squalor. 

Council auto-sweepers drive by occasionally, but they only do streets and gutters. Trash dumped out of reach seems to be nobody's concern. Well, if I can see it, I can do something about it, can't I? I don't have the energy to exhort others, start a civic awareness trend or a political campaign to extend community service payback schemes for delinquents to every city neighbourhood, but I can pick up what I notice, if I bother to make the effort this Lent. It is a bit of a penance, but it might help make me feel less ashamed about living in such a slovenly society.