Thursday, 31 August 2017

Swiss train travel - a holiday from uncertainty

There was thunder and lightning in the night. We woke up to see clouds rolling in from the west into the Rhine Valley, giving the landscape a magical and mysterious countenance. Rain was promised for later, but after a memorable Swiss fruhstuck, Heinz went and collected a Renault Megane estate from the Mobilis a local car short term rental pool, to drive us to one of their favourite places in the mountain territory of nearby Lichtenstein, on the other side of the Rhine Valley.

Half an hour later we were climbing a thousand metres up a winding  mountain road to a calm and solitary place in the forest, where currently a clinic is being constructed for patients suffering from burn-out. When it's open, it is unlikely to suffer from a scarcity of clients in our insanely pressurised modern world. We parked nearby, and followed a pathway along a contour through pine trees rooted seemingly precariously, on an extremely steep mountainside. I was surprised to see two different enclosures in which donkeys were grazing and wondered why there were being raised here so remotely from the urbanised valley floor below.

Cloud was already partially obscuring the view below, but only towards the end of our walk did it envelop us. Shortly after we reached the car, it began to rain, and continued steadily until it was time for me to take my leave and return to Montreux. Clare stays another day, but I need to travel to Verbier tomorrow, an hour's journey from Montreux, for a wedding preparation ahead of Saturday's service.

The train from Buchs to Sargans was three minutes late. This left one minute to change to the mainline express train to Zurich - four minutes allowed by the phone app. Energised by the challenge, I ran to the necessary platform, arriving as the express pulled in. It then waited to collect case-lugging stragglers, while I settled into a seat and regained by breath. We left three minutes late. How kind. We arrived punctually in Zurich, where the Lausanne train was waiting. Likewise at Lausanne, the train to Montreux  arrived conveniently as I crossed the platform to wait for it. 

This took me to Montreux in time buy some bread and wine before returning to Church House, as it was a late opening night at the COOP. The only disappointment was a half hour wait for a bus to Territet to complete the journey. The scheduled bus didn't appear. The next one wasn't a full sized electric bendy bus, but smaller. It was rammed with passengers already.  If it hadn't been raining, I'd have walked back anyway, but didn't relish the thought of arriving soaked through,. So I waited instead. I might well have been back in Cardiff waiting for a bus. Timetabling post-rush hour, when services and vehicles deployed change over, rarely delivers what post rush hour bus travellers find satisfactory. 

I'd like to think that in the next quarter of a century, real-time information about travellers' needs on local public transport networks will provide services to match, in the way that rail networks across Switzerland seem to achieve as a matter of national pride.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

A day on the train

One of the reasons for obtaining abonnenements demi-tarifs was the cost of an outing to the Rhine Valley in the eastern Swiss Canton of Saint Gall to see our old friends Heinz and Maria-Luisa. Clare studied eurythmy with them in Stourbridge when I was Team Rector of Halesowen in the late 1980s. Since we last visited them five years ago Heinz has retired, and they've moved from their wonderful eco-house in Grabs to a smaller modern penthouse apartment in nearby Buchs. It's not that we saved much money on the total expenditure for this trip, but rather savings on all other trips we can make in the month's duration of the abonnement which justifies the initial expenditure.

This morning there was a midweek BCP Communion service at St John's, but nobody came, apart from Clare and I, but we continued with the service anyway, so we could remember our Parish Priest back home in Cardiff, Fr Mark Preece, who's in hospital for an operation. This meant that we could leave an hour earlier for our trip across Switzerland. 

First, we took the Train Regional to Lausanne, then the InterCity to Zurich in the north east of the country, to connect with another InterCity train to Coir/Chur caiptal of the the Grisons, somewhere we've never been. In each case, we had time to make the connection without difficulty, aided by the brilliant and comprehensive SBB/CFF smartphone app (or internet site, take your pick), which gives timings and platform numbers, all the detail a traveller could possibly want in your own language. It's so accurate, it's what the train conductors use. Our total journey time, four hours.

The Zurich Coir/Chur train connects with a local shuttle train to Buchs at Sargans, where Heinz met us at tea-time, and took us to a local bus from the station while he cycled home ahead of us. The bus gave us a few moments of humour, as the driver couldn't get it to start properly, and kept diving under the bonnet before he could get all the electronic on-board systems started working properly, and when we got going, he grumbled to us in Schwiezerdeutch over the tannoy.

Heinz and Maria Luisa's apartment is on the roof of a three storey block with amazing views of the  mountains enclosing the Rhine Valley on all sides. The south side walls are mainly high strength insulating glass, as are the interior rooms on this side. Temperature control and room privacy is managed by the use of opaque blinds. With a series of glass doors to open, rather than windows, it's easily possible to ventilate the apartment for eight months of the year. What it's like in colder times it's hard to imagine, though it has a wood burning hearth set in among the south side windows, also, I think, underfloor heating. We had much more to talk about than domestic design, so some of my curiosities remain un-tended. 

The evening was spent catching up with each others' lives, and eating outdoors on the apartment terrace as the sun set. We're in a Canton where church bells still ring at six in the morning, nine at night and at lunchtime, quite apart from church clocks ringing four times an hour. Such timekeeping is a legacy from the old days in this era of digital timekeeping, but it's likely to be bound into civil as much as ecclesiastical regulation to maintain the status quo.

Church bells are rung nowadays not by an ancient sacristan entrusted with the job, but by an electro-mechanical timing device, which is far more impersonal. No doubt many people if not most, regard this as redundant, unnecessary, if not an intrusion, in a world oppressed by many digital alarms. For me the sound of church bells, with their unique character in every place they are rung, by whatever means, for whatever purposes are a reminder of the opening words from the Paschal Vigil.

'Christ, yesterday, today and forever: all time belongs to him and all eternity, to Him be glory forever.'

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Precious reunions

Monday, Clare went on the Train Regional to have lunch with a former colleague living among the vineyards at Cully, between Vevey and Lausanne. Yesterday was so eventful that I decided to do as little as possible all day. I intended to go and do some food shopping, but inertia triumphed, and not because I was terribly tired, but I felt the need just to be inward, and digest such good experiences rather than go out and do something, even something as simple as a trip to the supermarket.

When Clare returned, we walked together to her favourite little beach again at Chillon, so that she could have a swim. The large Lemanique sailing boat which seems to live in Villeneuve Port, came by, close inshore, albeit under engine power, sails furled, deck crowded with passengers rather than crew by the looks of it,and passed in front of the Chateau, offering a gorgeous photo opportunity.

Today, we had visitors, old friends from our Holy Trinity Geneva days, Gill and Claudine. It's five years since we last met. Claudine had just signed up for an apartment yet to be built in Carouge. Now she's living there, when she's in the country. She spends most of the year in Myanmar, working there as a mediator on behalf of the Swiss Government. Gill has moved from Petit Sacconex out to Cartigny, close to her daughter and grandchildren in a village that's on Geneva Canton's Route de Vignoble. For us, it was a happy reunion, having shared so many special moments together over the past 20+ years. 

It was natural for us to celebrate the Eucharist together. We did it as we did on some special occasions in times past, only this time in the lounge of Church House rather than in the church. In a predominantly Buddhist country, though not without its indigenous Anglican presence, Claudine's work schedule doesn't always allow her to join the faithful at Yangon Cathedral, and as a former chorister at Holy Trinity Geneva, she misses part-singing English language traditional hymns. 

So, our English language Mass incorporated four of her/our favourites, sung in parts. I also invited Claudine to choose scripture readings scripture that especially spoke to her. 1 Corinthians 13, Matthew 5:1-16 and Psalm 25 were her choice. That made me wonder - if someone put me on the spot, and asked me what scripture readings I'd most like to hear at a Mass, after an involuntary absence from the sacraments, what would I long to hear read?  

After our celebration, we walked down to Territet Port and enjoyed lunch on the terrace overlooking the lake at Le Contretemps restaurant. It was a perfect setting for a relaxed hour or so, before we had to bid them farewell. Claudine returns to duties in Myanmar this Friday. We'll meet Gill again next week when we visit Geneva.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Baptismal streaming

There we just over twenty of us for the Sung Eucharist at St John's this morning. A young family came to join us on the occasion of Mum's birthday. They normally attend a Catholic church, but love a sung liturgy in English, so occasionally they come and join us - for a treat!

After a speedy lunch I made my way up to Villars via Bex. Fortunately the road wasn't only busy in places, and only one did we have to stop due to an over sized SUV making passing impossible in a narrow village hillside street. The driver had to reverse uphill for a hundred metres to find a place wide enough to let others through. In Gryon, we stopped briefly in a narrow street while a fleet of classic sports cars drove past. Having completed their runs in the Ollon-Villars hill climb event they were returning to base camp, I imagine. Anyway I got there in just an hour, and had plenty of time to spare.

The baptismal part turned out to be a lot smaller than anticipated - parents with infant and a friend, or possibly she was the baby's nanny. A godmother's flight planned from South Africa had been thrown into chaos by sudden travel restrictions imposed on Zimbabweans in the wake of a recent undiplomatic incident involving the wife of President Mugabe, so she didn't make it. Another was unable to come over in time from California, and grandparents who wanted to be there couldn't face travelling over from Australia. 

Aware this would be the case, I suggested that the couple make us of video phone internet calls to enable the absent to join in. So, they came equipped with a Macbook Air and a couple of iPhones. Five minutes before the service they called participants, each in a different time zone, and established a steady connection for all of them via 4G phone comms links, working surprisingly well up in the Alpes Vaudois at 1,300 metres. It meant that the baptism was audible and visible live on three continents at the same time. 

This is a pastoral first for me, and I was delighted how well it  went and how well it was received without awkwardness by the participants. Baby Annabelle was remarkably relaxed and calm about it all. A couple of years ago, an absent son participated by smartphone in his parents Spanish silver wedding anniversary blessing from his home in the UK. I understand some crematoria and funeral homes in Britain also offer a streaming service, though it's never been mentioned in relation to any funeral I've done. It's great that such technology can help dispersed families to strengthen their bonds of loyalty and affection on such important occasions when distance divides.

The drive down to Bex was busier with traffic, and not as easy as the ascent, since both traffic and the steepness of the ever winding road required a lot of additional braking, to the extent that brake fading set in worryingly, requiring me to stay in second or third all the way down, to stay safe. After all, I didn't need a car crisis to hinder me from officiating at Evensong. I got back to Church House with fifteen minutes to spare before Jane picked me up for the drive to Caux, perched on the side of the mountain 600 metres and 1.5km up a winding road above Montreux.

St Michael's Caux was built as an Anglican chapel and dedicated in 1906 to serve English visitors to several hotels of standing at the turn of the 20th century. It has some lovely Edwardian stained glass, all on angelic themes, which readily serve as a catechetical resource on the biblical ministry of Angels. As if that's not enough to beautify the interior, the apsidal sanctuary has a reredos carved in boxwood, which has an appealing orange brown hue to it. It has bas relief scenes from the last supper and the crucifixion of Jesus in dramatic detail. It was the work of artist Alfons de Wisplaere in Bruges, installed in the year the church was dedicated, as were the windows. Almost all the building and its artwork were the gift of one wealthy patron, Herbert Edgar Reid. 

I was annoyed with myself for having walked out of the house without a camera. I'll have to return properly equipped when opportunity arises. But first, some rest. It's good to know that I can still cope with such an eventful working day, preaching three times as well as taking services. Doubtless I'll pay for it tomorrow.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Another summer Saturday

 A day to complete sermon preparation and get myself ready for tomorrow's Christening at Villars. Also a day to go to Lidl's in Villeneuve for some weekend food shopping, while Clare went into Montreux for some retail therapy. Heavens, it was crowded in Lidl's, with families stocking up for trips to a favourite lakeside or mountain picnic places. The queues were long and slow because of the volume of of purchased being made. There's no fast track system for people with less than ten items to check out here. Migros and COOP, both have hi-tech scanning devices you can take around with your shopping trolley, and make fast track payments at a special electronic till. I must take time to try the system one of these days.

After lunch, we walked to the little beach by Chateau de Chillon, so that Clare could swim. It was crowded with families and groups of teenagers recovering from their first week back at school. Due to the amount of picnickers, the clear grassy areas above the beach were periodically invaded by a score of sparrows, a few related families I suspect, whose home is in bushes nearby. It was a lovely sight, as they were very tame, used to foraging for and fighting over discarded morsels of crisps. I daren't imagine what impact crisps have on their natural diet. Yet, there seem to be plenty of them.

Tonight, another episode of Inspector Montalbano, all about the different Mafia clans' efforts to run the Sicilian construction industry together, entirely in their own interests. It was complex story of criminal ingenuity, but the outcome was, as ever, that there's no honour among thieves, and the trail of victims, known and unknown, is everlastingly long.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Contemplating with Cezanne at the Gianadda

This morning we took the Train Regional from Territet to Montreux to pick up the Inter-Regio train that would take us to Martigny, to meet our old friend Wendy from our Geneva days, and visit the Gianadda Gallery together. The half price discount fare card also entitles you to a reduction on the CHF20 entrance charge. In our case as pensioners, it's 30% off. When we lived in Geneva, and even after we moved to Cardiff and made return visits, we'd make an effort to go to the Gianadda to see an exhibition, besides, the gallery is in such a beautiful setting, it's worth the efort.

The main exhibition was the work of Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne, mainly his landscapes, but also a selection of his portraits, and of a series of small paintings done over decades of mostly women river bathing. His last master work was a two metre wide painting on this subject, unfinished at the time of his death in 1906, but considered a masterpiece nonetheless. Known as 'Les grandes baigneuses' it wasn't in the exhibition you have to go to Philadelphia to see it. There was however, a marvellous photo of the artist posing in front of the work itself in 1905 at the early stage of sketching on canvas. Also on display was a collection of Cezanne documents, drawings and other photos of him in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Fascinating.
It seems to me, looking at Cezanne's landscapes that he invested much of his creative energy in the perfection of conveying his impression, his environmental 'look and feel'. Picasso, whose work Clare and I saw in Malaga two months ago was forty years younger than Cezanne and developed his own mastery of impressionist technique, but did different things with it. To my mind, Cezanne is a contemplative painter, offering us an idea about how his world and its qualities can be perceived, whereas Picasso enquires and investigates reality and will use any kind of artistic medium to hand to convey his findings. Rich food for thought this summer, that's for sure.

On show, in addition is a separate exhibition of photographs of artists and other celebrities taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson. It includes a whole series of Henri Matisse at work, and just a few of Picasso, gazing impassively, observantly at the photographer. They're not as revelatory or engaging as the great collection of pictures of the artist at work taken by the American photographer David Douglas Duncan, but Picasso was distrustful of the celebrity circus, sociable only as long as he was able to get on with his work.

We had lunch in the garden restaurant, and after another look around the exhibition, we walked to the 1st-2nd Roman amphitheatre, and looked at the remains of a variety of other buildings which have been excavated or are still being excavated under cover as part of a long term archaeological project. Martigny was a prominent trading post in an alpine valley just one mountain pass and a few days walk from Chamonix, a place where trad routes between eastern and western Switzerland had met for centuries already at that time. Hence the wealth of Roman remains.

The town's Catholic Parish Church of the Annunciation is mediaeval, but there were other churches on the site before it, the first in 381, built by  St Theodul, Valasian Patron Saint. He was the first bishop of Octodurum, which is Martigny's Latin place name. Remnants of a fourth century baptistery excavated are visible in the south arcade of the nave. The Protestant Parish Church looks as if it was built in the early twentieth century, what makes it remarkable and worth a visit is the fact that all its dozen stained glass windows were designed by centenarian Swiss artist Hans Erni, and realised thanks to the patronage of Leonard Gianadda, whose Foundation gallery is but a few hundred metres away.

We concluded our visit and reunion with Wendy over tea and tarte aux murs in the town's Migros restaurant, then caught our respective trains in opposite directions. After a forty minute journey, we arrived in Montreux to hear an announcement that our connecting Train Regional had broken down in Vevey, so we started to walk back to Territet instead. We could have caught a bus, but estimated we could get back in the waiting plus journey time, and we were correct. The bus overtook us, just as we approached the pedestrian crossing nearest the church. A great excursion. You'll find some photos here.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

When the technological failure is yours

We were fortunate yesterday's weather was warm and fine, allowing us to walk and talk with Colette along the lake shore to the Chateau de Chillon and back. Today's morning weather was ominous and overcast. Clare and Colette went for a walk after breakfast, but I stayed in to work on producing a baptism certificate ready for Sunday. I'll also need to take with me a suitable large bowl to use as a font, the St John's Paschal Candle and a decent plain baptismal candle for the child. Aiglon Chapel is simple Vaudois Protestant in its furnishing, and doesn't have a font, only an altar table.

After an early lunch, we walked with Colette along the lakeside to Montreux gare for her return train to Basel. It began to rain, lightly at first, but we arrived at the station and were under cover as the full downpour began. After waving Colette off, we made our way, dodging the heavier rain to the COOP supermarket in the centre of town. Several days ago we made some food purchases here. Clare paid with a preloaded currency Mastercard containing Swiss Francs and Euros. As the transaction was completing she noticed on the terminal display that the CHF bill amount was converted into Sterling, and then back to CHF for debiting from the card. Later inspection of the relevant smartphone app confirmed that this procedure added one and a half Swiss Francs to the bill, due to differences in currency purchase and sale rates in those few fleeting seconds. 

Something was wrong, and we formed the opinion that the default for UK Mastercard must be to convert CHF to ££ automatically. Anyway, Clare decided to tackle the store manager about this, and returned next day. He was puzzled, and promised to investigate and report back, when he had found out what happened. She forgot to give him the Church House phone number however, so we popped in to give him this, and buy a few food items, with cash if needs be.

After spending a while inspecting the wine shelves, curious  to learn where apart from Switzerland the store obtains its produce (I didn't actually buy anything), I found Clare chatting to a charming checkout lady. It seems others in the sales team were aware of the card issue. We checked out our purchases, and Clare inserted the card. It showed a menu she'd not noticed when punching in her PIN on our first visit. It showed payment options possible with the card - CHF, Euros, and Sterling. The latter was shown first in the till menu, given the card's origin and use with UK currency pre-loaded as well as other kinds. It's an option a card user has to remember to reject in favour of the currency desired. So it was, in reality a simple case of caveat emptor. The purchaser must instruct the card how to behave. It's not automatic. Clare had, in fact, automatically treated her new multi-currency card as she would use a normal debit card.

Still, it wasn't quite as embarrassing an encounter as it may sound. Her conversation with the store manager aimed to suggest staff be reminded to check with foreign customers about their choice of currency, when a multi-use currency debit card was presented. With so many foreign clients from all over the world, it must happen from time, retail staff are generally keen to follow best practice and remind clients of the options in front of them. As we cheerfully parted company with the checkout lady, the store manager appeared, bearing a bottle of Pinot Noir du Valais (one of our favourites!) as a good-will gift. I was astonished by the generosity of spirit this displayed. After all, we made our own mistaken, due to lack of experience in using the card. How marvellous!

We then went to the nearby Metro centre for a cup of coffee in a place with a balcony window which overlooks the lake, and watched the rain slowly diminish and the sky start to lighten. Eventually we caught the bendy trolleybus back to Territet to avoid getting wet. We asked the driver if we could buy a ticket and he pointed to a ticket automat in other half of the vehicle. Then I realised when the bus drove so far from the shelter before stopping. People got on via the back entrance, somewhat counter intuitive. 

By the time we reached the machine, walking up a fast moving bus, two of the four stops had been passed, and we were speeding the last leg to Territet. Neither of us could make sense of the picket purchasing routine, nor how much of a ticket we needed. There are no machines at bus stops, just an information panel which would make more sense to locals, the primary users, than to foreigners. 
Bus ticket machines also have an entirely different user interface from the ubquitous CFF ticket machines, almost identical to others of its kind, at least, all over Europe. Since we couldn't figure out how to pay, we decided to get off at the next stop. It turned out to be our stop. I felt bad, getting off without paying, and humiliated by being unable to read or work the ticket machine while the bus was moving about vigorously. Welcome to old age, I thought. 

This is likely to happen increasingly, given the pace of technological innovation, as our responses to change of any kind slow up - the way my sister June complaining about. The world about us just seems to get quicker, leaving us on this occasion bewildered and embarrassed, not yet helpless.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Midweek mysteries and digital tasks

At the midweek Eucharist this morning we were four adults and one five year old girl, brought by her mother, and clearly used to being brought to worship. We celebrated Bartholemew the Apostle a day early, with a 1662 BCP service. It's been a while since I last used the old liturgy on a midweek in St Andrew's Los Boliches four years ago, the difference here was an eastward celebration at the Lady Chapel altar. 

Reading the service using a small modern handy booklet without direct lighting was difficult, so I used one of several classic ornate Victorian altar books possessed by the church instead, with much larger, clear print. Even so, I stumbled over page turning at the Offertory, as my eyes weren't quite attuned to the page layout, so I nearly launched into the Consecration rather than the Prayer for the Church Militant. Out of practice, that's for sure. At the end, the child confidently walked into the sacristy and returned with the brass snuffer on a pole to extinguish the altar candles. It was a delightful surprise.

Clare then walked into Montreux gare to meet her friend and former colleague Colette, who came to us from Basel to stay the night. It was marvellous to converse in French, and then later switch to English or a mixture. Colette is fluent in French, German and English after years of working as a teacher internationally. She got me to install WhatsApp on her new smartphone, with German language user interface. Thankfully, Android functions the same way regardless of language settings, so it wasn't a puzzle, except for the odd error message. Curiously, while I was doing this, the house Swisscom wi-fi router lost internet connection. Not even re-booting could restore it. This caused confusion at first, after all, you don't expect fibre broadband to go down like that. 

While internet was inaccessible, but still wirelessly attached to the router, I got a Chromebook browser prompt to access the Swisscom router and troubleshoot the problem. I can remember this happening when we had troubles with the BT network router connection in the CBS office. It was a slower process then, a lot more arcane and fiddly, not user friendly. The shadow of that bad memory warned me not to bother delving into these router settings, potentially in one of several languages. The problem seemed not to be the hardware, but something happening on the external network, so it seemed better to do nothing except wait. An hour later, all was back to normal.

I discovered in the course of the day that no service booklets or sheets were available for me to use next Sunday afternoon for the Christening in Villars. There are few infant baptisms here with an averagely older congregation, and normally when they happen, it's in St John's at a Eucharist, this is now Anglican recommended and desirable best practice, but doesn't cover all pastoral eventualities. So, I had to look for a copy of the required baptism booklet on line, whose contents I could draw from to use for this occasion. 

The Common Worship Baptism rite contains a plethora of options for infant and adult baptisms, and rubrics for all eventualities. I found a PDF to convert to an editable file in Word 2016 on the church computer, then adapted select texts to a recto verso A4 double columned service sheet, of the kind you may still find in the liturgy corner of a specialist church bookshop. The job was made difficult by the fact that the Word conversion preserves all formatting, whether you need it or not. It took me ages to get texts satisfactorily laid out in a readable format. If I hadn't learned how to do this fifteen years ago, the job would have defeated me. 

Just before bed, I emailed the service sheet PDF to  Jane the Church Warden, who'll get copies made at a print-shop. Apparently the church photocopier is on its last legs. Once upon a time, every church had its copier, bought or rented with a service contract. The modern digital print-shop is cheaper, far more versatile in what it offers, and there are far more of them, so there's far less incentive to pay to maintain older equipment. All in all, it was satisfying evening's chore.

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 fare. He wasn't the one ordered to deliver me to the airport. It was clear something had gone wrong, so I then hailed another taxi, which got me to the airport five minutes faster 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.