Saturday, 20 December 2014

The power of music

The first time I attended midnight mass was in 2009, four months after my husband's death.

Not a church-goer, not a Christian, not even with the vaguely "C of E" background of most British  adults in the UK, I was despondent, lonely and with a hankering for I knew not what.

A caring lovely neighbour thought as a music-lover I might enjoy the experience of Midnight Mass and, since she was intending to go to our local church took me with her.

At a time when I would normally have been in bed, we left home and drove to town.

The church was beautifully decorated, candle-lit and amazingly full of people - no mean feat since it is a huge building.

There was an air of anticipation throughout the service.  The sermon was preached by the then rector wearing a reindeer hat with antlers on his head, the excellent choir sang every carol and hymn with which I had a nodding acquaintance (from school days), until they got to one I had never heard before.

Sung softly, and unaccompanied the unusual and haunting tune caught me and stayed with me for many weeks after the service.

I discovered it was called "Jesus Christ the apple tree", and made up my mind then and there that I would learn it, start to sing again (after a 24 year gap) and that I would join the choir of that church and one day sing the lovely carol.

Five years and six Christmases after that, we are finally to sing it in our Nine Lessons and Carols Service tomorrow evening.

,For the  past week I have been laid low with a horrible cold, sore throat and basso profundo croak, which is now beginning to loosen its grip, so tomorrow I will sing the lovely carol even if it kills me and deafens everyone else.

It is much too important an occasion to miss.

Christmas is about so many things, memories being one of the more important ones.

If I have done it right (unlikely), clicking on the picture at the top will give you the version of the carol sung by the St. John's College Cambridge choristers.

If it doesn't work you can get it on you tube.

Either way, listen, enjoy and have a very happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

A Sad Day at St. Mary's

This morning we learned of the death last night of one of our oldest (in terms of service), members.

She had been in poor health for quite a while and had visibly deteriorated rapidly in the last couple of weeks, yet somehow, no-one had been prepared for this.

Always a controversial character, M had a very short fuse, a fairly sharp tongue, and a well honed critical faculty.

She had in her time clashed monumentally with many of us, not least yours truly, yet, there was an openness about her attacks which was refreshing and once she had had her say,normal service was resumed.

Additionally and much more importantly, she was the first to offer help, physical or financial when a sudden need arose.  Always to be found making something for a craft fair or bazaar.  The first to bring in a pile of quality items to be raffled (and only too ready to do the selling of the tickets for said items herself).

She had a very large house and garden with a heated swimming pool in its own building, both of which were constantly offered for church functions, or to raise money for her numerous charities.

If someone was taken ill she would run them home or to hospital, visit them and bring them home.

She collected jokes and always had a list of the best ready for every eventuality.

Tireless in her work for a number of groups and committees, she seldom used her failing health as a reason to duck out of a responsibility.

In short, she was a marvellously contradictory personality, and a hugely valued and well-loved pain in the posterior.

God rest your soul, Blessed thorn, and may you rise in Glory.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Knowing your place

This lovely snoozing image was my dear feral Sam.  The picture I wanted to use was of the current door-step feeder, the ginger monster.

For some reason, although I have his photo in my gallery, I cannot access it for the blog.

Yesterday was very cold and I had intended to give him his usual large handful of cat biscuits/kibbles or whatever they're called, but he decided to sit a few feet away from me and stare at me.

Slightly concerned since he is usually hungry I soon realised that he was not looking at me but at Hercules the other ginger cat belonging to a near neighbour.

Hercules was placidly washing his round furry face with a languid paw but with a glint in his mean green eyes which boded ill.

He is top-cat around this area and most of the other moggies treat him with respect.  Not so my ginger lad.

For some reason he had decided to brave it out and only a certain rigidity in his long spine gave a hint that he was not too comfortable.

Neither cat paid me any attention so I grabbed the box of biscuits and put a small handful in front of each of them, standing between them to attempt to ward off attacks.

Hercules sniffed, ate one or two of 'his' pile and strolled off round the corner without a glance at my friend.

Delighted, I added more biscuits to  his pile and said encouragingly "come on he's gone you're safe"
As he didn't move I touched the top of his head tentatively and said "eat your bickies".

He stood up.legs stiff and gave me 'the look'.  You know the one, it says "will you never learn your place woman, this is man's business", He then walked off in the same direction as Hercules.

How can a cat make me feel small?


Sunday, 30 November 2014

At ease in my own skin

The theme of this post is borrowed/stolen shamelessly from Jean Rolt of "Tregear Vean".

When the time finally arrives that you can be at ease in your own skin after a major trauma (illness, bereavement, shock of some kind) you may well not be happy.

I think the definition of happiness varies from person to person but one thing on which most people agree is that it is not a permanent state.

It is, rather, a brief fleeting sensation of pure joy, with no caveats.

Those of us lucky enough to have experienced this feeling will not only accept that it can be only a temporary one, but also feel glad that it is not a permanent condition.  To be filled with overwhelming joy every day of one's life would surely lead to some kind of insanity.

Human beings are capable of sustaining great calmness in the face of sudden emergencies, great courage in the face of threat or danger, but perhaps not quite so well able to cope with the magnitude of sheer joy.

To be content with one's lot is a major achievement and often one we struggle to attain, but once reached is a wonderfully sound foundation on which to base a life.

Not to be dependent on another human being for our happiness, but to work at creating it for ourselves is a huge step on the way to true content.

I have written before (many times) on the subject of loneliness with its attendant lowering of spirits
but that is not to say that you cannot find a level within your own being which will allow you to be alone and content.

Some months (about 10 or 11), after the death of my husband I had some counselling from a lovely wise caring priest who was able to make me understand that the key to content lay in seeing life from the perspective of others, some in a similar situation, but all with experience of the sudden gulf which separates us from our fellows after a bereavement.

Until then i had been sunk into a state of gloom and loneliness which I had convinced myself was to be my state for the remainder of my life.

At first resenting the fact that I was being expected to take part in ordinary life, it gradually became clear that the only way forward was in doing just that.  Not to cut myself of from people, not to close my ears to other people's problems but by becoming involved in listening to the woes and problems of those around me to gradually find a role where being of use to someone, even in a very small way
was richly rewarding, and, on the rare occasions when it was possible to really brighten someone else's day, capable of producing real joy.

When finally involvement in some capacity with someone with problems produces a feeling of strength and sometimes even the ability to offer a solution, becomes the daily norm then you can rest easy in your own company.

I have gone from despair through experiment, disappointment, small feeling of pleasure to complete and absolute happiness, however brief and a feeling that, with God;s help and a favouring wind i can cope with whatever life throws at me and sometimes even enjoy it.

Bless you Jean and forgive my theft.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Foreign call centres

Yet another post on the subject of foreign (usually Indian) call centres.

Yesterday between 1.00pm and 6.10pm I received no less than three calls.

Today, one at 9.30am  and one at 4.15pm.

It is beginning to feel personal, yet I know it is not.  Look up numbers beginning with 003, 002 and 0009 on Google and you will discover battalions of persecuted victims.

As I have said before (many times), my calls begin "Can I speak with Mrs Bar nez" or "am I speaking with Ray Barnez".

Firstly, there is no such person, secondly it should be speaking to not with and thirdly I don't really care tuppence how they address me, I'd just prefer them not to.

Last evening's 6.15 call "Am I speaking to Ray Barnez" was answered, "Not any more you're not" phone put down.  Today's 2nd call simply was left unanswered - I hung up about 10 minutes later.

This sounds mildly amusing but it is slowly driving me nuts.

No-one seems able to deter them.

Perhaps if we all simply left the phone off the hook until they gave up the loss of revenue would finally get to them and they'd find another occupation.  Or am I being naive?

Has anyone a new idea?


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Censorship

Switching on my computer this morning I saw that there was a fresh comment on my latest post.

Eager to read it I found it was not a comment, but a hate-filled, mysogonistic diatribe on the subject of American women.

Shocked by the aggressive bile and unable to find anything remotely resembling reason in it's content , I read it twice and deleted it.

Later, I wondered two things.  Firstly, why had he (I assume it was a he) chosen my blog to display his paranoia, and secondly, had I done the right thing in deleting it.?

Normally in favour of freedom of speech I can only assume that it was my desire not to be associated in any way with its contents which made me obliterate it.

Was I right to do so, or should I have allowed it to remain in all of its offensive glory?

Opinions please.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Last Last Post?

This morning after our normal Eucharist (this time half an hour early), we processed as usual to the 1st World War memorial in the churchyard for our usual laying of a wreath, and prayers

We then, instead of as most people would think, going home to put our feet up and rest our tired voices, made our way, a long blue and white crocodile, to the Market Square.

Since we were a quarter of an hour earlier there than normal, we had to stand (in silence, the microphones were right in front of us) until the town Remembrance Service began.

This year, the petrol fuelled generator from which all the cables operating the microphones was run, was right behind us.

Backs and legs aching from the previous hour and a half we then took part in the hour-long service - six hymns and an anthem - and additionally had to cope with the fumes from the generator.

Much as I respect and love the annual remembering of all those who fought in the two great wars and all the others since, I think the time has come for me to listen to my last Last Post in the Square.

Having to move off in procession at the end of the service with feet and legs of solid concrete is almost impossible, and the fact that the street we walk along back to St Mary's is cobbled is just the icing on the cake.

Time I think to call it a day.  Next year I will take part in the church service and the churchyard  one but not the Civic Service in the square.

Not one to play the 'age card' as a general rule, next year as an 80-year old I will do just that..