Sunday, 27 March 2016


The fourth Easter Service  is done and dusted

Time to look back and reflect (having consumed a quantity of chocolate first) on the four busiest day's of the year.

Last evening we had the Easter Vigil with Bishop Alan performing Baptisms and Confirmations.

The Easter Fire was lit inside rather than as usual in the Churchyard, since it  was pouring and blowing a gale.  The saltpeter fire was a small flame compared with most year's blazing bonfires  but was quite adequate for the lighting  of the Paschal Candle.

Because the weather was so bad the church was very dark indeed, too dark to see our order of service booklets so it was with some relief that we reached the stage of lighting all the candles held by individuals before we had to sing.

The music was very good and the choir sang extremely well so the 2 and a half hour-long Service was well supported.

The Bishop's sermon was, as it always is, a good one with plenty of anecdotes as illustrations.  He also has a habit of leaving at least one piece of wisdom which tends to stick in the mind.  This time, talking about none of us being perfect he remarked that "every Saint has a past, and every Sinner a future".

We finished the third service with sore throats but lifted spirits.

This morning, day four, we had a very happy service with a lot of singing once more and this time, since it was once more pouring outside, the rector informed the congregation that the annual Easter Egg hunt normally in the churchyard would this time, be held inside the church since "the Lord rains outside".

We finished the service after the final blessing, when everyone thought that was it, by singing (very well, I must say), Hosanna Filio David.  As the choir processed out it was to loud applause.

Unusual, but very welcome, since the choir was by then 'on it's knees' with exhaustion rather than devotion.

A very good Easter.

Deo Gracias

Friday, 25 March 2016

Two down and two to go

This is what we sang today Good Friday.

For me the combination of beautifully written very atmospheric music and the truly terrible (in the real sense) words of this piece, are absolute perfection.

We had an open day at St. Mary's as we did last year, with two half-hour performances of carefully chosen music from the choir among the many things of interest.

This was followed by the Solemn Good Friday service where we sang Solus ad Victimam so well that the hairs on the back of my head stood on end.
All the Easter music is my favourite part of the choir's work throughout the year, even Christmas coming second in my estimation.

We have a very skillfully and carefully created labyrinth marked out on the church floor with footprints marking the stations of the cross.

There was also this year a cross set out with tea lights on the floor of the chancel just below the alter, people were offered the chance to light one or more of them while offering silent prayer and by the time we started the service all the candles were lit making a blazing cross at the alter.  Very effective.

There was a 'last supper' table set out traditionally and many other ways  to attract people who dropped in.

Last night's Maundy Thursday service was lovely, today's even better.

Two more to go.

Deo Gracias.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

It's THAT Week Again

This morning at St M's we processed in from the icy air in the Churchyard having had our palm crosses blessed, teeth chattering and shivering in our choir robes we sang "Glory Laud and Honour".

Then followed the usual narrative version of the Gospel read (in some cases ) well but taking its usual lengthy chunk of time.

We had a longish sermon followed by very long intercessions and, by the time we reached the anthem were flagging somewhat.

This year it was the beautiful Hosanna Filio David by the 16th Century Spanish composer Tomas Luis de Victoria.

We have struggled to make this sound as good as it should, occasionally singing it very well but more often rather less well - this morning was one of the latter.

It is difficult to explain why this quite common phenomenon occurs, when to all intents and purposes we know it well and were not even on this occasion too severely depleted in numbers.

Something odd seems to  happen to polyphonic music where the time is all-important, a sort of fracture leading to different timing in unexpected places.  The conductor is beating the normal beat, the choir parts all appear to be correct and yet, suddenly there is this strange lack of harmony.

Perhaps somebody somewhere is throwing the proverbial spanner in the works in case we become too complacent.

I hope this does'nt  auger badly for the remainder of the Easter music.  One can only hope:-)

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Miserable Petty Post-Birthday Moan

Yesterday I hit the unbelievable age of 81.

No, I know there is nothing remarkable about that, but it doesn't feel real to me.  Yet.

Never having made much of a fuss about birthdays per se, I was amazed and a bit overwhelmed by the huge celebration my dear neighbours made of my 80th.

I hope I managed to show how pleased and happy I was last year but also hope I made it fairly plain that a repeat would not be so welcome.

Having said that, I love receiving cards whether birthday or Christmas cards and really value the time and effort people make to choose something appealing.  So, this in mind I was a little perturbed when no cards arrived early (usually oneor two come a day or so early) and then went off to work at St. M's knowing that the postman would not arrive on the day itself until mid afternoon.

I had a card and a planted terra cota pot  of violet and white Polyanthus from my friend the Parish Administrator, and a beautiful bouquet of pink and white lilies and roses from a neighbour.  The postman came and I picked up a pile of catalogues, advertising and charity appeals from the mat.
Not one single card and to  make matters worse today's post has just been delivered unusually early and again not a card to be seen.

In the scheme of things this is totally unimportant I know, but neither my family nor John's appear to have remembered the day.

One brother did ring yesterday and when I said a bit forlornly that no-one seemed to have sent me a card this year he said he had posted one to me a week ago.

So now I'm not just feeling neglected but actually mad at the thought that somewhere there is a compulsive card pincher sitting on a pile of cards addressed to me.............Or maybe not.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Divided by a common language

I had to blink and look again, but no it wasn't a two-tailed jackdaw.

Having just come back from town laden with heavy bags I took a taxi, this time, one of the former Black Cabs.

I say former, because most if not all of the ones in this town have done their service elsewhere and are living out their last years in towns across the UK. far from where they started.

On the glass dividing the driver from me was  the printed legend "Fares outwith Ayr Town must be paid for in advance".

Now how's that for a mind-boggler?

Not only is Ayr many hundreds of miles from Aylesbury but is actually in another country.

But that was not what caught my eye, it was the word (is it a word?) outwith.

It is so odd, so un-English and will not be found in either the Oxford or any other dictionary yet is in fairly common use among our Scottish bretheren (and sisteren).

Most people are aware that Wales has its own language, but fewer are familiar  with the 'almost' English spoken in various parts of the British Isles.

My taxi driver this morning was Asian and our rector at St M's is American and neither of these I am sure would have known what to make of this strange variation of our language.

Personally I love the rich embellishment of basic English by the addition of local dialect words and as a lover of language anyway find it fascinating that there are so many ways to say something,

If language is solely a means of communication then perhaps there  is less room for such words and phrases but if we see its wider uses for example poetry, it is perhaps time we threw away standard dictionaries and began to include English as it is spoken.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Dragons Leeks and Daffodils - It Must Be St David's Day

Two of my dragons, on the left Ivan Llewellyn Pendragon and on the right Rhodri.

I know I have shown them before but they deserve another airing, and what better day than St David's Day.

Had I the skill to draw what my imagination sees you would have a dragon with a bunch of leeks in one hand/claw and a daffodil between his teeth.  Sadly, it must remain just an idea.

Why is it that this day brings out all my latent frivolous Welshness (is there such a word?  there is now).

Born in Wales of Welsh parents, and having been briefly evacuated - for six months only - back to Wales from Birmingham, I have never since then actually lived there, but somewhere under the ancient layers of Britishness beats a Celtic heart.

Manifesting itself only on such occasions as the televised "Six nations rugby" when a sudden yell of "come on Wales, get on with it" followed by a groan or a roar might be heard echoing round the Close, it is not a part of my everyday life.

The fact that I sing is perhaps a symptom of Welshness, since all the Welsh sing.

That is not the same thing as saying all the Welsh Can sing.  Just that singing is second nature to those afflicted by the bug.

All my family and most of the aunts and uncles could and did sing so maybe it's something in the water.

Suffice to say that after a week of very cold dry weather, the saint has ushered in the new month with gales and rain so we are under no illusions about the advent of March.

Happy (belated) St David's Day to all
keep dry:-)