Sunday, 30 January 2011

Bats in the Belfry

Friday evening's choir rehearsal - which went well - was enlivened by a visit from the bat, or one of the bats, I don't know how many we have.  For some reason, we only get a fly-past on odd occasions.  I'm assuming it's to do with bats having fabulous hearing and perhaps carefully honed musical tastes.  Whatever the real reason, when we pactice in the west-end gallery of St. M's at a certain stage of the rehearsal we are lucky enough to get a swift inspection by one of these odd little creatures, apparently on a whim.

Until I joined the choir, whenever bats came up in conversation I had a mental shudder.  Now all of a sudden I find myself feeling protective towards them and find their fleeting visits rather endearing.

St. M's is a lovely mixture of several periods and styles of architecture with wooden ceilings in some, not all, places, and a variety of possible nesting places for our 'flying mice'.

For some reason, after a Friday critical hearing we usually seem to have a better than usual performance by the choir on Sunday morning.  Probably pure coincidence but this week we had two services, one the Candlemass Eucharist in the morning, and in the afternoon a special commissioning service for Lay Pastoral Assistants.  Both of these services were rather well sung (in my opinion) and added to the enjoyment of the day.

Whether the bats influence the performance, or vice-versa I really don't know, but if anyone else does I'm happy to learn.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Communion - Sharing in Common Participation

I read a post by Chelliah Laity this morning which stopped me in my tracks.  She asks can Christians go on strike?
Never having considered that there might be any problem inherent in a Christian striking for his/her beliefs, it seemed to me there could be no conflict of interest.
A life-long socialist, trades union member and from a political family, having only very recently become a Christian, my slant will obviously be rather different from the standard one, if it exists.
My father was a baker, first a member of the communist party and a bakers' union member, later an area TU officer and finally a member of the National Executive.  He fought all his life for what he believed in, the rights of his members, the right to free speech and the right of every man and woman to a decent living wage.
My mother was a leader of the Socialist Guild of Youth in South Wales, quiet, self-effacing and utterly and completely convinced that the right of the individual to freedom of speech was (God-given).
Both parents were atheist but had friends from all religions Jewish and Catholic, Protestant and Muslim and while we (my three brothers and I) were discouraged from engaging in any religious activity, had we shown any such inclination it would undoubtedly have met with the response (if that is what you believe and want from life it's up to you).
My father's eldest brother was an MP, later Chief Whip, Leader of the House and finally Commonwealth Secretary in Harold Wilson's government, and was regarded by my parents - though they were great friends -as a bit of an anachronism, a political light-weight for his more measured response to current crisis.
All through my working life I belonged to first one, then another trade union, depending upon who my employer was, never afraid to stick my head over the parapet, often shot at and occasionally sacked for my "subversive" activities, I wound up in the Civil Service for the last 23 years of my working life and had to tone down my activities to the uniform grey mode of protest deemed appropriate for Her Majesty's Civil Service.
Along the way, I had been briefly a Young Communist, a CND supporter and had been involved in many rallies and marches of the type the young and energetic are drawn to.
The fact that few of these protests produced any tangible result did not in any way detract from the feeling that one was doing one's bit!
Engaging in such activities introduced me to people from every walk of life, educated middle-class, educated working-class (sneered at by some as working-class intellectuals as though that were a crime), almost totally illiterate but strongly motivated people and a few clergy who held strong pro-peace views.
Each and every one of this disparate bunch of rebels had a good reason to be where they were on the protest day, and each and every one was prepared to stand up and be counted for what he or she believed to be right.
Jesus, I believe, would have been at the front of many of these marches, probably holding a banner, and certainly never standing by and denying his beliefs.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

I Was Wrong

Never thought I'd live to see the day when I'd admit such a thing. (And of course, if it was anything important, I probably wouldn't)
In the wee small hours of this morning I had a bit of a rant - a tantrum if you like about the removal of one of  my favourite actors from the BBC's Silent Witness.  "As this is not science-fiction" I said, "it is unlikely they will ressurect the character".  Well, tonight they did just that.  In a very unlikely storyline they reproduced the black-eyed Tom Ward like a magician with a rabbit from a hat.  Oddly enough, I feel less pleased than I'd expected.  Whether because of the implausibility of the story, or more likely, because I hate being wrong!
Earlier, as though someone really 'had it in for me' another favourite actor, this time the delectable Robert Powell resigned from his post in Holby City.  He also, in case anyone in the world hasn't noticed, has truly beautiful (this time blue) eyes.
Men we are told, admire other aspects of the female of the species, me, I like eyes.  Not exclusively you understand, I wouldn't want them on a plate, however well cooked, but for me "the eyes have it".
Holby City will now lose much of its appeal for me.
Can hardly wait to see what tomorrow brings!

They've Done It Again

Did I happen to mention a couple of things?  (a)  I have a tiny problem with insomnia (b) I'm addicted to some TV programmes.
Well, since (a) has me in its grip once again, it seems a good time to have a moan about the latest "atrocity" perpetrated by the writers of "Silent Witness".
Now this is a series which is normally interesting, different and with for me, the additional attratction of the lovely Tom Ward.  Therein lies the rub. They've only gone and killed him haven't they?
What a mean, spitefull, cruel, vicious (did I say mean?), thing to do.
For afficionados of the series, there has recently been much speculation about whether he and the female lead played by Emilia Fox were at last going places.  That might now be a little difficult.
I know the story-line has to be constantly tweaked to keep viewing figures up but really, this is a tweak too far!
Yes, I do know Shakespeare regularly annihilated his heroes (and heroines) - Romeo and juliet to name but two, but just because he hated his creations so much that he couldn't wait to get rid of them doesn't mean the precedent was set for all time.
As Silent Witness is not science fiction I suppose that means our hero is unlikely to be retrieved from Hades or wherever and his lovely dark eyes will never more grace the screen,  What a rotten trick!
If it were not unladylike I'd spit!
Spttt !

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Feel-Good Factor

I've just watched another first rate episode of the wonderful "Lark-Rise to Candleford".  For any non-addicts, should there be any, this is a superbly dramatised and acted version of the best-selling book.
Every character has its own appeal, the controlling master-minding Dorcas but with her vulnerable streak,  the sanctimoneous Thomas, batty old twister and his lovely long-suffering sage of a wife, not forgetting the dear ditsy Minnie, several sandwiches short of a picnic, but so endearing.
Every now and then the BBC pulls a rabbit out of the hat rather than a bundle of dead hair(hare), and this is one such.
At one time I would have been ashamed  to admit to just how much television I watched, these days it is hard to imagine an evening without at least one habit-feeding dose of addictive TV.
Perhaps it's the enforced solitariness of my existence, or possibly, advancing age, but I no longer feel the need to appear to be doing something worthwhile every minute of the day.
When (if) the weather warms  up a little, there will of necessity be hours - weeks - of gardening (I have done nothing for a couple of years, and it shows), but while it is cold, dark and damp no further excuse is needed for me to down-tools, put my feet up and goggle!
Is this wasting my life?  I don't know and don't much care.  One of the very few advantages of living alone is not having to apologise or explain my behaviour to anyone, and while the BBC offers dramas which can pick up one's spirits like Larkrise they will always have one devoted follower.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

".........and the greatest of these is love"

I received a letter today from a woman I have met only once or twice many years ago.  She is married to a man who was one of my husband's team of 'reps' about 20 years ago.
Her husband was injured in a car accident very seriously and while receiving treatment picked up a bug which very nearly killed him.  It has left him with several severe problems, mobility, speech and others which make life supremely difficult for both of them.

Her letter told me in detail but without a word of complaint or bitterness, just how vital her full-time care of every single detail of his life has been,  She has single-handedly polished, burnished and maintained their love for each other and told me with real joy how close they still are and that it was her faith which gave her the strength she needed and which in turn has helped him to learn to walk again.  They are now looking forward to celebrating  their 50th wedding anniversary later this year.

When I last met them in the late 70's we were on a Thames River Boat, dining and dancing with a crowd from Decca.  We were all comparatively young none more so than this very good-looking lively couple who danced the night away and were so fit and healthy. 

Life plays some cruel tricks on some people, but how we deal with disasters large and small is very much down to strength of character and when this is reinforced by faith and the love of God is a recipe for success.

Love whatever its source is probably the greatest motivator of good human behaviour.  Without it we are hollow.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

No thanks I'll sit this one out.

Happily singing the bass line (I'm an alto), this morning, at a singing workshop I take part in once a month, it suddenly struck me what a really good form of exercise this is.  One of the many ways in which I now occupy my time is with my life-long love of music.

I trained with a very good teacher in the 60's (the 1960's that is, not my 60's), and sang with Kentish Opera, New Opera Company, and later with the London Philharmonic Choir.  At the time it was all I wanted to do, but I also had an interest in ballroom dancing.

Now all this time later I sing with the local church choir, not particularly well but still enough to scrape by. Sadly, my dancing days are long over.  As my late husband didn't dance and getting him onto his feet at the rare dinner dances we attended years ago, was quite a painful exercise (especially when he stepped on my toes with his size 12's!) I gave up altogether.  This I rather regret now that I'm aware of the need to keep up some level of muscle tone - use it, or lose it,

Before John and I met, if I was at a dance and was approached by someone I didn't like the look of, and asked to dance, the standard refusal formula was "no thanks, I'll sit this one out".  This usually resulted in the most gorgeous man in the room coming up and asking for a dance, and much to my dismay I had to stick to my guns and refuse.  S...'s law!

In those days there was an etiquette about behaviour at dances and woe betide any female who was unwise enough to try to buck the trend.  Reputations were ruined in five minutes.

Happily singing, particularly in the various opera companies was an altogether less restrictive activity and with a totally different set of people so at least some inhibitions could be thrown to the winds.

Since losing John after 38 years of marriage I have found myself slowly, even at my advanced age, beginning to lose a lot of the defensive armour I've worn for so many years, and starting to revert to my old single life persona.

Singing this morning in what is a very free and easy group with a very relaxed approach to music it occurred to me how easy it would have been to miss this opportunity to stretch my horizons, and simply to shut up shop and sit at home and do nothing.  Or, in other words engage with life, or just sit it out.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Birds Eye View

Having a quiet, reflective (shorthand for bone-idle) morning, coffee jug filling up nicely, I was startled by the extra loud racket of a skein of geese flying in red -arrows like formation, the leader calling and the rest answering.  They could have been whooper swans not sure, but it occurred to me what a truly awful world it would be without birds.
I am interested in birds and for the past ten years have been a member of the British Trust for Ornithology Garden Birdwatch scheme.  This entails a daily count of the maximum no of any one species seen at one time, this then goes onto their weekly and finally, quarterly count forms.
It sounds time-consuming but in fact, becomes so routine that I never pass a window without looking out to see what visitors are resting, feeding or drinking at that time.
Over the years I have had some rare sightings and many birds which are not commonly regarded as garden birds are regular visitors because they know there is always a choice of food on offer.
Today I have 4 reed buntings (dear little things, with black - male - brown - female faces), they are sparrow-sized and have white moustaches, familiar to me now but often the cause of surprised comment from human visitors.
In the days (several centuries ago) when I was a member of CND, we used to end our march in Trafalgar Square where we would sing "The Hiroshima Song".  This included the line " No birds fly in the leaden sky"
and for me invoked far clearer images than all the mushroom cloud, landscape destroying and sickness spreading films which accompanied our campaign.
Whatever kind of world would it be without one of the loveliest of God's creatures.  I hope and pray we never find out.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Things that go bump in the night

Have just been woken (1.45am) by a most tremendouse crash which had me jumping out of bed and tearing downstairs as though all the devils in Hell were after me.
A bit of an extravagent reaction I admit, but also my usual one to any odd nightime disturbance.  My husband sensibly, used to take his time listen to hear whether the noise was repeated, then torch (kept beside his bed) in hand creep downstairs as quietly as his size 12 slippers would allow.

Being of a less relaxed temperament, my instinct is always to act first, then think, if at all, later.

He always said "wait, it's better to know what is in the house before charging in, all guns blazing".  Right of course, just not my way.

On most occasions it would prove to be some minor accident, particularly when we had cats, like a stool being knocked over, or a shelf losing a book or two, but on one memorable night a fox got in through the cat flap and was chased all round the sitting-room before escaping the way he got in.  We saw it flying up the garden absolutely terrified while our two mogs fur standing on end and equally terrified stared at us as though we were the intruders.

Tonight, finding nothing out of order downstairs I returned up the stairs looking everywhere for a clue and discovered in the bathroom, lying on the floor on the shower...............I really ought to leave it here  and leave you guessing, the self-adhesive (alleged) hand-grip which had come 'unstuck' from the tiles.

What an anti-climax!  Nerves too jangly to go back to sleep (after about only 3/4 of an hours sleep anyway) decided to get it out of my system here.

Why is it always night-time when these inanimate objects decide to exercise their right to misbehave?

Monday, 10 January 2011

Change - Fight or Flight or Just Accept

Like I suspect, most people, I dislike and fear change.

Yet if we are to live any sort of life in the real world we are going to meet with change at regular intervals. How we cope with that depends on a  number of things: Have we been consulted or involved with the re-structuring, has it been forced by the departure of a particular person, is it necessary for the success of whatever venture we are talking about for the structure to alter?

There is the fear of proving inadequate to the task expected of us.  There is the inevitable "new broom" affect.  There may be personality clashes, disagreement about methods, having to change one's own attitude to accommodate someone else's ideas.

As I am currently faced with such a situation, having first of all thought of 'throwing in the towel', then realised that it would be cutting off my nose to spite my face, the next problem was, having rejected flight, whether to fight for some continuation of the old system or on reflection to simply try to accept that this will be yet another learning curve to add to the many I have taken on in the past year.

Since the original idea of volunteering to do this few hours a week was to lighten the load of extreme loneliness suffered since my husband's death and to try to make new friends, it would make no sense at all to abandon such progress as I've made thus far only to have to start again from scratch elsewhere.

There are many lovely people in this social group whose friendliness and acceptance of a total outsider has proved a total blessing to me and it would be rank ingratitude to reject their kindness.

So, all-in-all it appears that the decision is made.  Look out St. M's, I'm here to stay!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Why Do We Do It?

Sorry if this post is not what you hoped!

Yesterday, sorting through my Christmas cards to see what if anything I needed to reply to (do people send you messages cramped into tiny spaces on your cards, too?) it suddenly made me as myself why we send them.

Is it to let people we never see know we are still here, or maybe to stop them getting in touch by any other means?  Do we send them because we need to let people know we love them and are thinking about them, and again, does that let us off the hook so we need do no more?

I'd like to believe my reason is pure affection for each and every one I send to, but know that's not true. Like I suspect, most people, I go through my address book(s) and send everyone within the covers a card, then think of all the people locally who are not in the book, followed by people whom I see most days etc.

Having said that, I choose my cards with care and try to send each person one I think they will like (though if the same criteria is used by those who send me cards there must be some strange misconceptions about me out there).

Sorting through the pile - much larger than in previous years - I had 74! - yes, I do count them, so what? the beauty of some of them was really striking, while the utter banality of others mind-boggling.

Some are so pretty I am tempted to keep, won't go down that route again, threw out about 600 a couple of years ago - needed the space.  Recycling is such a misleading expression, in my dreamworld ignorance/innocence I used to believe they were really cut and pasted (in the old-fashioned sense) and sold for re-use.  The reality of all that art work colour glitter and allure being pulped is quite disappointing.

Which has strayed somewhat from the original question.  Why do we send them?
I send them because I think it lets the recipient know that they have been in my thoughts, even if only for a brief moment, and if others do the same, there are a lot of loving thoughts out there in the ether at this time of year.  A good thing surely?

Monday, 3 January 2011

Sad Mini - blog

On logging on to my lap-top just a minute ago, I read with real sadness, that one of my favourite actors has just died.  He was such a hugely talented man, not good-looking or particularly elegant or gracefull, just simply a truly wonderful artist and with so many facets to his artistry.  Particularly memorable for me was his wonderful portrayal of the 'barmy' sergeant in "Sharpe".  I'll never forget his 'talking to' his mother in his hat!
What a huge loss and so young too.

God Bless you Pete Postlethwaite.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Superstition, Suspicion,Perdition

A time of year when we all seek to be what we have never been, what we have hoped we might be, what we have no hope of ever being.  In short when our expectations are at an all-time high.

Whether we have sat and seriously pondered our failings, been informed of them by others, or simply think by dint of a turned page in the calender we will miraculously be changed into a new, shiny, perfect human being, we all (or at least most of us) feel there is a chance that the coming year we - and it - will be better than what has gone before.

This belief goes back to pagan times when the Winter solstice heralded better days ahead - a fairly predictable superstition.  One of my not too distant ancestors was a self-styled druid, also a chartist and also even more weird, Welsh.  The only things I appear to have inherited from him are a seriously bolshy attitude to most of life's little vagaries and the very superstitious habit of crossing my fingers and touching wood.  (simultaneously) not easy!

This, however, I have been informed by many people is in fact not a pagan practice at all - the cross being that on which Our Lord was crucified and the touching wood, that of the cross in question.

This leads me to the suspicion that not all superstition is in fact just that, but that it may have its roots in more acceptable theology.

leading me to believe rightly or wrongly that perhaps not all superstition leads to perdition.

Not a serious thesis but perhaps a different way of viewing the prospect/s of a New Year.

A Happy and healthy one to all who read this.  And those who don't