Sunday, 25 March 2012

Last Sunday

Well that was it - my last Sunday as Churchwarden. On Tuesday we have our APCM and my successor (carefully selected and nurtured for a couple of years) will be elected unanimously. After six long/short years I have just put away my stick (ebony, silver base, silver crown on the top - wouldn't last five minutes if not locked up) probably never to carry it again.

It's been an eventful six years. We got that event dreaded by all Churchwardens, an interregnum. Not unexpected, though, and well planned. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially getting to pick the new Vicar! On the down side, we have had to dispense with the services of a number of people, either by virtue of redundancy or by 'encouraging resignations'.

I have been to at least 650 Eucharists, about 150 Evensongs and a Healing Service, a dozen or so Taize's and a few other odds & ends. I have been sworn in by the Archdeacon six times and received a full-blown Visitation. Five Confirmations, three Ordinations one First Mass. Innumerable funerals of people I have known for years including two priests and two former Churchwardens.

During this time my family got to see me once or twice. I have acquired six grandchildren - two sets of twins in the interest of efficiency - and lost my mother. My eldest son was accepted for training, Deaconed, Priested, served a Curacy and now is Vicar of his own parish. My younger son got divorced, found someone new, bought a house and now has two little boys.

I have put away the sticks, counted the collection, locked the doors and come home. Now what?

I think I'll just give in & do what I have been desperately fighting off all day and have a little weep.

Churchwarden checking out!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


In recent days I have read much on the subject of blogging, the theory of blogging. As a newcomer to the ‘doing’ of blogging, although not necessarily new to the ‘being done unto’, I am of course, interested and keen to learn at the knee of the masters of the art. Sometimes, though, and almost despite yourself, you learn more from the clangers, those who do not yet know the eternal truth that, when one is in a hole, one really should stop digging; those who wander around the blogosphere wearing a big target on their backs and carrying a placard that says ‘Victim’. Then there are those who claim to be one thing but their every word, their every response to others, shows them to be something different.

Who are these people, you may well ask. I don’t know. I don’t actually care very much, but more importantly, I simply don’t know. The reason I don’t know is that in this world of t’internet we are all, like it or not, essentially anonymous. We can be who we want to be. This of course is how dodgy individuals can convince people that they have huge lottery winnings coming to them if only they will transfer a couple of grand for ‘administration’ and how a 45-year-old paedophile with halitosis can convince the 14-year-old girl he is grooming that she is conversing with the hottest 16-year-old boy on the planet.

‘But I give my name!’ you protest. So you say, and some of you are clearly and provably who you claim to be. Not all. Let’s face it, you could claim to be Pablo Picasso or the Queen of Denmark and someone would believe you. Some say that Archbishop Cranmer writes a blog. And he provides a photo! Can that be right?

Some of you use a pseudonym that your genuine (i.e. not internet) acquaintances will recognise (like ‘Mary’ or ‘John B.’), similarly there are those who use an obscure pseudonym but with their own photograph; both preserve a modicum of privacy for themselves and those about whom they write while still allowing for conversation with a wider audience.

Others, and I include myself, remain largely anonymous for all sorts of reasons. For me, not only does it give me the freedom to make the odd sardonic comment in my blog without anyone being personally offended or embarrassed but it also ensures that anyone that I have inadvertently upset does not turn up at my door wielding a machete. I live alone - this is important to me.

If it were not for the opportunity provided by some level of anonymity fewer people would be blogging and the world of the blog would be the poorer. The (almost) universally respected Church Mouse (may he soon return) might be inhibited by the responsibilities and obligations he might have to shoulder in real life, Drayton Parslow might not actually be a genuine Minister of Religion, which could undermine his message somewhat and Mr Cat O’Lick might not even be a cat, despite his picture, and what would that do to his credibility?

To those who are in holes and still digging, I would say that a bit of judicious anonymity could have made all the difference but it is too late now. Those with the targets on their back might still have time to put on a fresh jumper. Those who pretend to be kind and caring types but then lapse into the nasty world of the insult can never hide. They show their true colours, whoever they are - or say they are.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Unintended benefits of idleness...!

I should have gone to Waitrose but didn't because a) couldn't be bothered and b) I get annoyed because everything is so expensive in there, but mainly a). Anyway, I didn't and only remembered when I had returned home and put my slippers on that there was no bread.

No bread.

No breakfast.


So I made some. I have a magic loaf-creating machine so the principle of idleness has not been breached. Tip in some tepid water and a packet of sawdust, press a button and step back.

Then I went away and embarked on lots of things far more interesting - and forgot about the bread again.

Forgot, that is, until about fifteen minutes ago when I was unable to dismiss the wonderful smell any longer. It took me a few minutes to remember the burgeoning bread, by which time the aroma of new-baked had filled the house.

Sometimes it's good to be idle!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Suffer the Little Children?

Just over a week ago I spent a very pleasant weekend in Lincoln together with such luminaries as The Vernacular Curate, Daydreamer and others. For those of you familiar with the great Wogan, this can be described as something like a TOGs outing but in this case, a bunch of church enthusiasts spent a weekend in the company of each other and a very BIG church – Lincoln Cathedral. Splendid.

There were many good things in this weekend but the highlight for me was the Sung Eucharist on Sunday morning in the Cathedral. However, when out of one’s own place of loveliness, one sometimes sees different things or sees the same things differently (blog on the virtues of travel in preparation and will appear when I have half a mo).

Allow me to detour for one short moment. My earliest memory of ‘Church’ is actually of being chucked out! I would have been two or three, taken there by my Mum who was herself newly-confirmed. When she went up to receive Communion, I and one or two other under-age non-confirmed sprogs-in-best-clothes were removed by the Sidesmen and put out in the porch without so much as a by-your-leave. Apparently it wasn’t considered proper for children to witness the taking of Communion by their elders and betters. I remember being quite scared at being expelled in quite so stern a fashion. I am still offended by it now and the experience has informed much of my adult attitude to children in church.

Back to Lincoln. We were made very welcome and comfortable by the good people of the Cathedral and the matched pair of 4-year-old girls in our party (known to all elsewhere as the Twins Aculae) were offered the possibility of Sunday School. Ooooh yes please, off we go with Mum. As the service progressed, it only got better and better, floating as it was on the odour of sanctity and with music piped, I am sure, directly from Heaven. I remember thinking that it was a pity that the Twins’ Mum had missed most of it.

Later, though, as I thought more about it, I thought what a pity it was that the Twins themselves had missed it. Sure, they’d had a lovely time and made lovely pictures but they missed all the splendour of a Festival Mass and the glories of Mozart’s Missa Brevis in D sung by a very good choir.

Now, call me odd if you will, but my little sprogs got taken to Church. There wasn’t a crèche and it wasn’t always easy keeping three under-fives happy single-handed and they didn’t always appreciate the finer points, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time and, just as I didn’t want to miss it, I didn’t want them to miss it either. (I used to bribe them into silence with teensy little bits of Milky Bar administered at the necessary intervals. They still have their teeth and they mostly still go to church.)

For nearly thirty years since then I have gone along with the conventional wisdom which seems to range between ‘keep the little brats out where I can’t hear them’ and ‘the children should have a Ministry of the Word tailored to their own particular needs’. I have even gone into battle with the people who ‘do’ things like crèches to convince them that there should be a crèche even if they are not feeling inclined to run one.

I’m no longer sure which way is the right one. The answer probably lies, as so many answers do, somewhere between the two. I would appreciate other opinions.

What I am sure about though, is that no children should be compelled to go to the crèche/Sunday School and that old dear who leaps from her seat at the sight of a ‘new’ family, blocking their way in and almost demanding that they use the crèche/SS facilities so graciously provided because she’s SURE they’ll enjoy it more – must be discouraged (or, if all else fails, Promoted to Glory!)

Monday, 7 February 2011

An Ill Wind....

Let me start by mentioning that I like cars. I don't lust after them, I wouldn't take food out of my children's mouths to buy a better one, but if the keys to a nice white Jaguar XKR just happened to fall through my letterbox one day, donated by a grateful admirer (huh!) I wouldn't ask too many questions.

My fellow Doorkeeper at the particular house of God that we try to keep nice bought himself his heart's desire when he retired a couple of years ago. It's big, it's black, it's German and it's got more gadgets than Harrod's Toy Store in November. He is a nice man in all other respects, but has he stopped raving on about this flippin' German monstrosity yet? No he has not.

My Vicar, who is a 12-year old boy despite having been walking the earth a bit longer than that, has also got this German creation with a removable roof and heated seats to compensate. Engine capacity is about 200 litres and it makes a noise like a jet fighter on afterburn.

Now me, I've just got an Astra Estate in fog grey. It's fine. However, I've been having a bit of bovver with it just lately. First of all, some poor woman rear-ended it when I had to stop alarmingly quickly to avoid hitting a learner driver who did something absurd in front of me. Then, when I should have been taking it to the body shop to have the damage assessed I couldn't because the battery died so I had to get it to a different garage for a transplant. Then I couldn't get it to the body shop for its refit because I was going on holiday - and so on.

Anyway, I got it there today. My assailant's insurance kindly offered to provide me with a hire car. Thank you very much. I was expecting a Ford Ka or something. Not on your life, mate! A young man turned up to collect me and drive me to the hire company in a very nice car. Kind, I thought. Where's my Ford Ka? It turns out that, because my car is an automatic, they undertake to provide similar, and the only automatic available was this thing -

a '10' plate Audi A6, no less. Just over 1000 miles on the clock. Huge!

All you have to do is point it in the right direction. It decides if it's dark enough for lights, wet enough for wipers, too close to another car for comfort. I'm wondering if it will change colour to match my next outfit.

Note to self - ring body shop & tell them there's no hurry for that repair.......

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Yoof culture

- and that’s ‘culture’ as in petri dish – growing things – not ‘Culture’ as in NDUBZ or Plan B (am I ‘on trend’ there? Oh, sod it, who cares?)

I mis-spent a fair slice of my middle years helping with, and eventually running, our Church’s junior youth group. Every Wednesday evening, including school holidays so that the poor dears wouldn’t be bored, 7 – 9 pm, age 9 to 13, but if they wanted to stay past 13 that was OK too.

As if I didn’t have enough to do with a full-time job, a house full of kids and a weekly food bill to rival the National Debt. (who said “always ask a busy person…”? Shoot him!) I was caught off-guard by our very sweet, young curate (beware sweet young curates) and his partner-in-crime who were re-starting the youth club and really wanted, no, needed, a female of parent age to support them. Look around the congregation for potential candidates…. that’ll be me then. To be fair, they both became life-long friends so, with hindsight, it wasn’t an entirely stupid thing to do.

And, to be even fairer, we did share a vision. We all accepted the futility of trying to get teenagers into church on a regular basis. They have far more important things to do on Sunday mornings like sleep, eat and talk to their mates. But, we thought, if only we can get them at least to be familiar with the place and the stories, then there will be fewer barriers to their return, should they want to come back later. That was 27 years ago.

Our group was roughly equally divided between the children of ‘church’ families and those from families who did not regularly cross our threshold. (Let’s not call them ‘unchurched’. That’s another post for another day when I need a rant.) We used to treat them to a few minutes’ ‘teaching’ and then let them loose on the snooker table and tuck shop. One dad once told me that, although he didn’t go along with all that religious stuff himself, he could see that it kept the riff-raff out. That’s OK then.

I came across some photos the other day, which prompted me to do a ‘where-are-they-now’ exercise with interesting results. No less than three of them are police officers (how did that happen?), one is a nurse, one a midwife. One is a professional singer, one has created a big (really big) family. One got a degree in Geography and went off to teach in New Zealand. One late arrival eventually became a Roman Catholic and is now a monk. One is a priest in the Church of England (nothing to do with me – God did that all on his own!)

Those from the ‘church’ families still pitch up at the old place now and then; some have children in today’s choir, most drop in when they are visiting the wrinklies at Christmas. But we can announce a significant achievement and for this I claim my Indulgence please. Thank you. (That was such a good fund-raising idea until that German bloke messed it up.) One quiet little thing came from a family that never ever crossed our threshold. They didn’t even pick her up from club; she just came and went with her mates. Miracle of miracles, she reappeared last year – in her 30’s now - with a couple of littlies of her own. They go to Sunday School, she comes to Church and sometimes helps with the Sunday School herself.

You see, the strategy works – we did it, we got one!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Goodbye Old Friend

I can remember the last Daily Mail London-New York Air Race when I was at University in London in 1968/69. The idea was to get from the Post Office (now Telecom) Tower in London to (I think) the top of the Empire State Building in the shortest time. People competed on scheduled flights, in private jets, you name it. The highlight of the whole gig for me was the participant who took off in a Harrier 'Jump' Jet - he had parked his Harrier in a coal yard somewhere in London and took off from there, inevitably covering half of London in coal dust. Magnificent! I can't remember if he won or not but it doesn't really matter.

Today, at the hands of the cost-cutting bean counters in Whitehall, the Harrier took its last flight in the service of the RAF and Navy, ahead of time - the Harrier had some good life left in it.

Aircraft buffs used to sat that the UK had at least 3 things to be wholly proud of - Concorde, the Harrier and the Red Arrows.

Anybody want to buy an 'aircraft' carrier, one careless owner, might come in useful as a floating football pitch.....