Sunday, 28 May 2017

A Drop In The Ocean

St Mary's has signed up to the 24 Hours of Prayer initiative, "Thy Kingdom Come".

A list has been drawn up of those willing to take part and we have each been asked to nominate a time and day to pray for one hour for five people.

I may have mentioned before that I find prayer difficult without the 'trappings' of a set liturgy, so this is going to be a very long 60 minutes.

We were told we could choose where we wanted to perform this duty, either walking, in the company of others, on our own at home - basically, where we liked.

After giving it some thought my decision was to do it at home between 7.00 am and 8.00 am tomorrow (29th) as this is a Bank Holiday and I am unlikely to be interrupted.

The view seems to be that a very large number of people praying over a set period will institute change.

Whether this will prove to be true I have no idea but it will at the very least effect some sort of change in those who pray.

If it does nothing else for me it will be a good exercise in self-discipline..

We shall see.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

AGAIN

Yet another violent act of hatred leaves our world shocked and shaken.

What possesses one human being to unleash such a vicious cruel attack on other human beings, mostly young, going quietly about their everyday lives?

Even though we can hardly be unaware of the frequency of such murderous acts, yet still we hope that normal life is still there to be lived.

It is impossible for most of us to plumb the depraved depths of these assassins, yet still we strive to understand why.

Poor children.

Poor Manchester.

Poor world.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

A Lovely Afrernoon

I have just come back from a piano recital in St Mary's by Alexander Ardakov.

The programme consisted of Tchaikovsky Chopin and Rachmaninov

He  is a world acclaimed pianist and the playing was wonderful.

It's possible that I've never mentioned before that St Mary's superb accoustics attract musicians of all ages, styles and abilities.

Every Thursday lunchtime there is a concert of classical music, sometimes the performers are students, sometimes young professionals just making a name for themselves, and sometimes someone of world standing who is familiar with the famous St M's accoustic.

We also have a jazz concert three or four times a year which attracts well known artists from many quarters.

It is quite a long time since I went to one of the performances as a member of the audience and had forgotten what a pleasure and privilege it is to be able to enjoy music of such a  high standard in a 'mere' church.

The sun was shining outside but I was quite happy to be inside just absorbing the music.

Friday, 19 May 2017

My friend Crow

This is a Google Crow not mine but looks a little like him.

For a few months there has been a dip in the numbers of birds coming to my restaurant, due in part I think, to the long period of drought but since the long awaited rain arrived there is a sudden run on breakfasts.

All the usual characters have started to turn up as soon as it gets light and by the time I am up (6.15) there is quite a line-up along neighbouring rooftops.

I heard a Jay uttering its harsh cry yesterday, the first one this season and for the last two days my Crow is back.

Oddly for such a very large bird he seems to be quite timid and nervous of the much smaller birds.  They will happily eat without any sign of fear just a few feet from him, but, if any of them move towards him he hops sideways and gets ready to take off.

He watches me from the safety of a shed or garage roof but won't come down to eat until i am safely back in the house.

I love the robins and blue-tits, finches and sparrows but there is something special about Crow.

He has been coming to my garden for three years now and I am really pleased to see him looking glossy and healthy.

A friend in the church whose garden looks onto the churchyard is surprised that I find crows in any way attractive.  The churchyard has several resident ones and she regards them as pests.

While it is true that compared with blackbirds or thrushes or even the robins, the crow is somewhat lacking in musical virtuosity, they make up for it with character and personality.

Or maybe it's just that being a fairly solitary individual myself I have some fellow-feeling for my large black friend.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Tedius????

This ancient recording (courtesy of You tube), is one i adored as a child/teenager.

I haven't felt much like blogging for a while, and see no point in writing even more uninteresting stuff for others to read than usual.

Nothing is particularly wrong, but neither is it particularly right.

Interesting things seem to be happening to at least some of the people I know.

Not to me.

This is not a lament.

It is not a complaint.

I don't want 'my money back'

I just want something interesting to happen.

Can't be bothered to make up a tale or invent  a story or imagine something - anything.....

Please forgive my self-indulgence and I promise to do better soon.

Meanwhile, please play this recording.. Says it all really.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Joy in small things

Today was total relaxation day after the 4-day marathon that was Easter.

The singing was hard work but mostly good and occasionally excellent so worth all the effort.

More than 10 hours altogether it takes its toll vocally and with accompanying stiff joint from too much standing followed by sitting in uncushioned wooden choir stalls.

All the services were good in different ways and on Saturday the huge baptism and confirmation one with our Bishop who not only sings very well but also includes some very funny anecdotes in his homilies and sermons, helps to take the edge off the extreme length of this particular evening.

We had better-than-usual congregations for all four services which is quite heartening and makes it feel worth while.

Today I pottered.  A bit of this and a bit of that, nothing  strenuous and with time to observe the birds in this case starlings having a communal bath and emptying the bird-bath about a half dozen times.

Each time I refilled it and the last time I did so there was not a bird in sight only a very small squirrel sitting holding on to the edge of the bath with its little hands and drinking as though water were going out of fashion

Obviously I know they must drink but have never seen one doing so before.

My camera was, of course, upstairs and I was down.

The picture above is unrelated but I liked it.

Easter.  Done and dusted.  Back to (normal) tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The First of the four is accomplished

This evening we had our Maundy service with foot-washing, the first of the big four services which lead us to Easter Day.

We started an hour's rehearsal of all the music for the whole of the services at 6.pm followed by an hour and a half long Maundy thursday service.

Tonight we had some of the usual hymns, the anthem was "An upper room" to the tune of "O Waly Waly" and led the congregation into the lady chapel to the Taize "Watch with me".

A slightly lighter and easier selection than we have had in some previous years, but still a lot of singing.

Oh and I forgot to mention "Ubi caritas the plain-song version which we sang during the foot-washing.

Tomorrow from 10 00 am there is first of all the stations of the cross followed by various other events until the choir sings an assortment of pieces from about 1.30 until 2.00 pm when the Solemn Liturgy begins.

On Saturday we have our usual big service with the Bishop singing the Exultat followed by baptisms and confirmations and the return of the light.

On Sunday morning those of us who have survived the 3 previous services will present the usual Easter Day service which for the choir will finish with "The Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah.

There is then an Easter Egg hunt in the churchyard for the children. (By which time, those of us who  value our lives will have fled) and tea or coffee for the brave/foolhardy few who remain.

I'm glad Easter only comes once a year.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Hosanna

This lovely Hosanna is the one we sang yesterday, Palm Sunday.

Since we have sung it in one or two previous years it didn't need too much polishing, and I think, we did it justice.

The same however, cannot be said for the rest of the service.  For me and for quite a few others, it was perhaps the least satisfying Palm Sunday ever.

Our current incumbent is a horse of quite a different colour from the previous one/ones.

By no means everyones' first choice in style and with it seems, little regard for the traditions of our particular church he dithers, changes things at the last moment, leaves others to organise and then steps in and alters things at the last second.

The result being a chaotic mish/mash of what has gone before and totally new ideas.

There is no way we can influence him or persuade him to simply follow what has gone before, nor is it our place to do so, but, these days I leave church on Sunday feeling ruffled and irritated and thoroughly bad-tempered.  This I'm sure is not the way to start the new week.

Either I need a magic wand or a personality replacement so that I can happily accept this wholly alien
approach to prayer.

Suggestions welcome.  (I think) !!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Confusion

This morning I saw a Reed Bunting in the garden.

Normally I get a flock of six or more throughout the Winter months, a nd by Spring they have vanished.

Not so this year.

Everyone keeps saying what a very mild Winter we have had, and, to an extent I agree, but  when we should have had ice an snow (Jan-Feb) we had very warm days with more sun than usual and plants, birds every type of wild-life started to make ready for a new season.

Since then we have had a number of setbacks, extremely cold and strong winds and lashing rain followed by sunny mild days and cold nights.

The 'Met Office' says the first day of Spring is 1st of March.  We who have been around a while, and are in 'touch' with our historical roots know better.

The 1st day of Spring coincides with the Spring equinox (21st of March).

The 'Met Office' says tonight the clocks go forward one hour which is the beginning of British Summertime.

We know that Summer begins with the Summer Solstice (21st June) or thereabouts.  Quickly followed by Midsummer's Day!!!!!

No wonder the birds are confused.  So am I.  

I have just tried to do some cutting back of dead wood on some easy to reach shrubs, lured outdoors by the brilliant sunshine, only to give up after 10 minutes of battling a freezing and very strong wind.

My daffodils are lying face down in the garden waiting for the wind to go elsewhere when hopefully they will lift their frozen little faces up to the sun.

If this is global warming what on earth will happen 10 years hence?

Will the weather have changed beyond recognition, will Summertime even exist, or for that matter
will we?

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Time marches on

Tempus Fugit, or sometimes it does.  Other times it crawls.

A year older today, I am now 82!!!

This year I have felt all of those years but, bugs and viruses defeated (touch wood) am now starting to look outward rather than in.

Yesterday I received two lovely bouquets of flowers and my sitting room smells gorgeous.

Today, looking at the cards which have winged their way to me I felt a small but definite lift in spirits.

I had a long talk to middle brother on the phone yesterday and was reminded how much contact with loved ones counts when living alone.

In the 7 and a half years since John died I have come to value my three brothers in a way I never previously did.

Taking each other for granted is par for the course between siblings and it takes a sharp reminder such as the death of a spouse to make one realise that our personal landscapes complete with support team are not just a background to our lives.

My three brothers have of course some things in common but are also very individual and I value them all, each for their own slant on life.

Friends in church and in the Close all play their part in my single status life but the ties of blood are, inevitably, the closest.

One of my cards is from my oldest friend, ( since school days)  and that too is a very special link.

Watching the dreadful series of news programmes on TV covering the East Africa famine is heart-rending and the stuff of nightmares, yet it is the everyday reality of these poor  peoples' lives.

Helpless to do anything except pray and wait for the details of how to donate money to appear on our screenes, makes us all the more aware of the huge gulf between their lives and ours.

It seems the situation in Africa never improves despite years of aid from other countries and billions of pounds being poured into the bottomless pit of misery.

Clearly the root cause is not being tackled, but, what can we do at our level?

I fear this is one thing which time will not heal.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Ash Incense and St David

Tonight we had our imposition of ashes service.

We also had ( for me the unwelcome ) return of incense.

I love watching the ritual of the incense being swung but not quite so much when the sacristan swings it in the direction of the choir.

Enclosed as we are in the chancel the smoke stays with us for most of the service, whereas in the main body of the church it tends to drift up into the (very) high roof.

Trying to do justice to "Hide not thou thy face" with a throat and chest full of pungent incense is not easy.

By the time the black cross has been impressed on my forehead by the rector's heavy thumb and with lungs full of smoke my one desire is to get out into the cool damp air of the churchyard and breath clean air.

Since our organist was unable to play this evening our long-suffering choir-mistress had to play the piano to accompany our singing.  This meant that we had no-one to conduct and of course the sopranos lost her beautiful voice to swell their ranks.

Ash Wednesday being a fairly stylised service it was not possible to mention the fact that today was also St David's day, but as the piano accompanied our exit after the service I suddenly recognised a Welsh folk tune in the medley being played.  Our lovely Christine's nod to my patron saint.

Lent is well and truly started.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

My first ever Mattins

Last Sunday was my first attempt to take part in the morning service since the 8th January.

The Friday rehearsal was something of a shock.

We were told it was to be a Mattins rather than the usual Eucharist as there was no priest available to give Communion.

Unlike most of the other members of the choir I have no tradition of Christian worship and the Eucharist is the only service with whose music and liturgy I am familiar.

It is such a totally different piece of Anglican worship that I found myself stumbling to keep up (very good for the brain, if not for the ego) and was really rather glad when it came to an end - about 20 minutes earlier than our usual Sunday.

Talking to some of the congregation since then I found they were split into two distinct camps.  Those who are used to and happy to attend Mattins and those for whom the Eucharistic service is the only one they would choose to attend.

If this hopefully one-off Sunday has caused so much alarm and consternation i begin to see how some of the bigger divisions in the Protestant church have come about.

Never mind the differences between Baptist, Methodist Catholic and Anglican church, this is just one of the presumably many differences in just one branch of the Anglican church.

Religion is meant to unite people isn't it?

Roll on next week when Lent begins.


Saturday, 11 February 2017

Who Stole the rest of the octave?

This is just about how much voice I have.

Back at work at St M's for about 10 days, but not yet back for any of the services, I feel as though I'm in limbo.

Every day I try to sing just one line of music and every day I manage five notes at best,

A hoarse squeak is the nearest I can get to singing and I'm beginning to get fed up.

From my last experience of a really bad chest infection I know better than to try to sing properly when the equipment has failed..

Last time was when I was in my early fifties and singing with the London Philharmonic Chorus.  A bout of bronchitis stopped me from singing for 24 years.

These days the best i can aspire to is the choir of St. Mary's, and is a very average sort of alto with a limited range, but, not to be able to sing at all is horrible.

There is still a bit of a cough and energy levels are low but by now I had expected to be able to make at least some sort of recognizable sound.

Perhaps it's time to try the WD40.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Careful Dining

I really don't know whether to applaud Theresa May for her courage as she prepares to meet Donald Trump, or to deplore her seeming readiness to sup with Beelzebub.

So much is at stake both politically, financially and morally that only  the most considered and careful debate should be contemplated.

Every time this man opens his mouth he alienates yet another huge swathe of the population, both at home and abroad.

Each comment appears to confirm our worst fears as to his style of leadership,  His is not the language of diplomacy.  It shows no evidence of judicious and measured examination of the problems America is facing on the home front.

His manner is that of the school bully with the added incentive of seemingly limitless power.

Whatever the outcome of this first meeting of the new president with a foreign head of state I fear the lady will require a very long spoon.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Not Being Well Enough to Blog About Not Being Well

 I'll bet you're thinking "thank goodness she's going to spare us the details of her latest disaster", Not a chance.

After almost a week in bed sweating, coughing and only getting up to make drinks and other essentials I feel someone somewhere should be made aware of my suffering.

Never one to suffer in silence I feel it is only fair to spread my misery as far as possible (though, not my virus, even I am not that bad).

As I became more and more poorly I informed all those who had to know and took to my bed.

Usually two  days in bed is sufficient to see off the worst part of a cold or flu attack, this beast however is something else.

On Sunday night the pain in my upper back was so severe that I broke my golden rule, gave in and took two Paracetamol Extra tablets and within ten minutes the pain was gone and I was asleep.

Waking 3 hours later I was saturated from neck to ankle, nightie, bedlinen and all and so hot I was glad to get out of bed and walk around.  Looking out of the window I found I had double vision, very strange to see my neighbours' houses with two frames around their doors and windows.

As I had been giddy for a day or two I wasn't really sure how much was the virus and how much due to the tablets.

I may have said before that I never take tablets or medication for anything unless I am forced to do so, with the result that when I do give in (about once in two  years) and take what other people routinely take for every headache, I have quite spectacular results.

Late this evening as my aching back was still causing a problem I took another two, they worked on the backache but unfortunately didn't send me to sleep, so here i am, soaked again with sweat but pain free and joyfully sharing my woes with anyone silly enough to read them.

Night.

Sleep well,

Back soon.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Starting my new working year with my usual elegance and grace

This morning was my first morning back after the Christmas break, so I got up at my usual time of 6.10 am (ish).

Following normal procedure I went downstairs in my nightie dressing gown and slippers, set out the breakfast stuff, put the water heater and the kettle on and opened the back door.

An icy blast greeted me (temperature -5 degrees) and it was pitch black.

Stepping out onto the outside doormat my foot slid on ice and I fell on my back with my knees twisted and one foot under me.

My naked legs were out in the icy cold my upper body on the kitchen floor, such an elegant pose.

I yelled blue murder - fortunately far too early for anyone else to be up and knew that I had hurt my right foot but also that it was not broken.  (I have injured myself often enough to know when something is broken) and tried to get up.

This at my age is no longer a simple matter.  Rolling over onto my knees I clung to the nearest bit of 'white goods', the tumble-dryer, and hauled myself upright.

Shaking and uttering gentile expressions like "Oh my, what a silly thing to do" or something similar I went back inside made my tea and then stepped outside again, headed for the shed and put out bird-seed etc.

Realising that I was going to have a very big bruise and a lump on my ankle I then had a long hot shower.

Before leaving for St Mary's (I was on SPACE duty ) I realised that sometimes one actually needs to take a look around before taking an action, or even try to notice the thick frost on the ground, or even to remember that yes I was once 18 but that was 63 years ago.

January is clearly off to its usual 'flying' start.

Does anyone know the phone number of a good patient angel, or even a body guard?