Thursday, 16 April 2015

Meet and Greet

Every Wednesday it is my great pleasure to sit at the 'welcome' desk near the entrance to St Mary's.  A somewhat chilly post on many days since both the outer and sometimes the inner doors are wide open.

Nevertheless my 'meet and greet' partner and I thoroughly enjoy our weekly exchange of views, personal chat and deeper discussions, interspersed with visitors of all kinds.

Some scuttle in, heads averted so as not to catch our eyes and manage only the barest nod in return to our "Good Morning"s

Others drift up to the desk and linger and chat about their own churches, or sometimes their family stories, while some, just a few ask deeply interested questions about the age of the church and which are the bits to look out for etc.

Occasionally we get musicians who have heard that our accoustics are particularly fine and want details of concerts etc.
We have visitors from Australia, America Germany, Nederlands and many other countries, as well as coachloads now and then from all over the UK.

There are days when no-one crosses the doorstep and days when there are endless trickles of couples, groups and single callers.

All are grist to our mill, and the chance to have a really good chat about our various 'treasures' is really welcome.

Best of all is when someone on leaving says."thank you so much for making our visit so interesting"

A couple were on their way to the door last Wednesday when I remembered that they were particularly interested in old wood and I had neglected to show them our (four) misericords in the choir stalls.

I apologised for delaying them but said I hoped seeing these hidden carvings would make up for it.
They were so effusive in their thanks that I still had a smile on my face half an later.

Volunteering can be dull and sometimes seem a thankless exercise, but it can be such a source of joy too.

Oh dear, I sound like Pollyanna.  I'd better go and lie down. :-)

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Belated photos

The two pictures above
are two of the four I took to illustrate my balloon story.  Have managed somehow to retrieve them fromthe clutches of my evil blog gremlins, but couldn't help the other 'prisoners'.

They are still just about surviving but the six smaller ones are about grapefruit size and Mummy has now wrinkled, descended to ground level and is looking at the floor.

All this just so I could discover how long they could remain with some helium still in them. (19 days so far).

If this sounds slightly off the wall I must plead Easter exhaustion.  Three mammoth days gone, and one remaining.

Musically it has been a wonderful experience but physically draining.  Some 11 hours so far.

Tomorrow we will round off the service with the Hallelujah Chorus.  By which time none of us will have any voice left.

There have been some rather odd changes to the 'normal' way of doing Easter, courtesy of our American rector, but he is getting used to us and we to him.

Much as I love Easter, I am glad it comes only once a year.

Spiritually rather traumatic, musically uplifting and exhausting in equal measure and mentally taxing it is a mixed blessing.

Happy Easter everybody.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

When is a balloon not a balloon? When it is family

Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean it's not true.

On Monday night 'the girls' took me out to celebrate my big birthday.  When the eight of us arrived in two taxis at the restaurant they persuaded me to enter first.

Aware they were about to spring a surprise of some sort I entered slightly warily,  The corner table was set for  8 with a string of 6 helium balloons in the centre and one larger one with "Happy 80th Birthday " was tied to the back of 'my' chair.

Little glittering sparkling tinsely bits were strewn over the table top and there was a little box with  a small cuddly bear in front of my chair.

To cut a long story short it was a wonderful evening.  Lovely food, good wine, lots  of happy chat and quite a volume of noise.

Luckily being Monday, it was a quiet night for the restaurant and we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

During the evening more little gifts manifested themselves and at exactly the time of my birth 80 years earlier a cake with a sparkling 80 on top was brought in with the waiter joining in singing the inevitable Happy Birthday .

Three hours later as we gathered up bits and pieces to  leave they insisted I was to take the balloons home.  Six smaller ones went in the 'other' taxi, and they had tied 'Mummy' balloon to my wrist so I wouldn't leave her behind.

They all came back to my house for a brief final tot of Tokaij (a bottle I had been keeping for years)  and I had a box of chocolates ready as a final mouthful.

They had stood the balloons  on their heavy base in one place and I set the big one just behind them.

After they had gone I tidied up washing glasses etc., gave a look round said 'goodnight' to the balloons and went to bed.

Next morning as I left for St Mary's they were all standing just as they had been so with a muttered 'bye', off I went.

Returning at lunchtime to my surprise 'Mummy' was standing in her place but the other six were all sitting on the floor in front of the TV.

I have no idea what they had been watching but I ignored them all and went to get lunch ready.

As usual I brought in my tray, sat in my chair, feet on footstool and switched on the TV just in time for the last bit of "Loose Women".

One of the six balloons raised its head about a foot (affected I suppose by the heat from the TV) and effectively blocked my view.

Tutting I found myself saying "you can't sit there I can't see through you", and I picked up all six of them and dumped them on the sofa out of the way.

Since then they haven't moved (at least, not while I was there), and (Mummy) is still where she was.

The only change is that the six are a little smaller.

Nobody warned  me that balloons have personalities.





PS  I have put some pictures of them onto my computer but couldn't manage to up;load them for this blog.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

On being (almost) 80

Not until tomorrow.

I took along a box of chocolates for the choir this morning with strict instructions (not until after the service) mainly aimed at the 'mice'.

The secret is well and truly out so  no point in denying the fact that I am now officially old.

The look of fascinated horror on the faces of some of the mice "how can anyone be so old and still in a choir?" is one I have become used to.

The usual "you are fantastic for your age" while taken with the usual ton of salt is also rather annoying.

My mother who reached the age of 103 was incensed by the heaps of congratulations she received whenever her great 'achievement' was mentioned.  Neither she nor I understand why ageing without total collapse of all faculties is a source of astonishment for so many people.

After all the only thing you have to do to receive all these accolades is to keep breathing.

That brief tirade over, I am having the birthday of a lifetime.

Presents from all kinds of people are appearing on my doorstep, through the letterbox, in the post etc.
This is something of which I have no previous experience and it is lovely, if slightly alarming.

Everything is remaining unopened until tomorrow - despite the fact that one item was presented to me a month early.  So tomorrow will be very busy.

The 'girls' are taking me out to dinner tomorrow night to my favourite restaurant and have been heaping gifts on me for days.

With a long lifetime of birthdays passing almost unnoticed in the main to this is quite a step.

That said, I still have and sometimes wear a silver ring given me by my best friend on my 21st and also a little sawdust stuffed cat given me by my then boy-friend.

I love and value both of these things but am nor accustomed to being drowned in gifts.

As I said, lovely, but a little alarming.

Roll on tomorrow.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Happy Anniversary?

Today would have been my 44th wedding anniversary.

Had John still been here we would, as usual, have had a long debate about whether we 'needed' to celebrate it by going our for a meal or something similar.

Not one of the world's great romantics, John would have quite happily forgotten all about it, along with every other anniversary had I not been a part of the occasion.

In the 38 (and a half) years we were married I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times he spontaneously bought me flowers or gave me a card.  Yet I made a big thing of every one as a way of balancing my past life.

From a family which - just about - managed to celebrate birthdays and made nothing whatever of other events I grew up neither expecting nor wanting lots of 'jollies'.  This changed when I got into my early twenties when for  some reason the dormant romantic in my soul began to emerge,

A series of boy-friends who did the meal and flowers thing made me realise my own approach which bordered on indifference, was not the normal one.

Even today when my lovely neighbours are nagging me to say what I would like to do on my birthday in a couple of weeks, I would much rather do nothing at all and let the inevitable happen with no input from me.

In my mid-twenties I began to take flowers to my  mother and give them a card to celebrate their wedding anniversary.  Later John and I  would take them out for a drink or a meal if we were in the same area of their 'day'.

Both parents were at first slightly bemused, then gradually became more accepting of our 'strange' ways.

Despite thinking their anniversary worth celebrating somehow John never quite caught on to the idea that ours might be worth a raised glass too.

When I read about the wildly extravagant manner in which some, usually young, couples mark the fact that they have been married for 3, 4 or even 5 years, I can't help wondering where we went wrong.

When is an anniversary not an anniversary?   When one half of the couple has 'bowed out' of the dance.Happy Anniversary John.

Monday, 23 February 2015

I couldn't resist this

Sorry.  (but not very)

I seem to be suffering from acute cuteness disease at present.

Saw this on a BBC newsreel at the weekend and felt sure it would make it to Utube.

A pity about the soundtrack it is better without it/

Enjoy.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Ashing and another Lent begins

Last evening we had our Ashing service at St. Mary's, and a lovely one it was too.

Since it is half-term the choir was down to less than half its full complement, but the sound we made gave no indication of that.

We sang "View me Lord" with one or two slight changes to our previous renditions, long pauses between some of the phrases etc.  Accurately and sensitively sung by our half choir.

Lead and conducted by our young organist (the musical director/choir coach was otherwise engaged) the sound was, in my opinion, probably the best we have ever produced.

The homily was well rounded (if a little long) and the 'ashing' itself very well executed.

This is the fifth time I have experienced this somewhat eccentric seeming ritual, and the first time I have ever had what was a real cross, rather than a dubious daub placed on my unsuspecting forehead.

One year, our previous much-loved incumbent, either intentionally or accidentally made what looked very much like a question mark on my face.  (control yourselves please), and  I couldn't wait to wash it off.

Lent for me is a time for quiet reflection, a reviewing of the past year and a resolve to make the next one better.

Yes, like half the population I do give up chocolate but that is only a very small part of this solemn time.  A chance to consider dropping other self-indulgent habits and to take small, positive steps on the journey to Easter.

For us this year at St Mary's has been full of big changes and the last 8 weeks or so very challenging with no less than 6 deaths in our wider church family, including the shocking one of a young priest in a neighbouring church.

Moods have swung from sadness, through acceptance to finally, hope, and the community as a whole has drawn closer to each other.

Our new incumbent is striving to support and uphold those most in need and at the same time to establish a forward-looking church.  Hard for him and quite hard for us too.

Altogether a different Lent.

Deo Gracias.