Monday, 31 December 2007

Mother's photograph

Actually, my mother would have hated that photo. In fact, I never knew her to be pleased with any photo of herself. I'm similar to her in that respect. I think I could count on the fingers of one hand the photos of myself that I like. But then, we never see ourselves as others do. As Robert Burns wrote:
"O wad some Power the gift tae gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!"

The outward persona bears little resemblance to the inner person, that part of us which is truly ourselves. Physically, we're not the same person were were a week ago, let alone 90 or so years. The skin has sloughed off and been renewed. Bones bend, joints creak, we're less agile that we were, less able to remember, less resistant to illness. Yet inside, the me that is me is daily striving to develop, to learn, to expand, to accept newness and change. That's why, at 94, my mother was looking forward to attending computer classes in her new housing complex, so that she could use her computer "properly." As it was, until 6 months or so ago, she was quite able to send e-mails, though she didn't have full control over punctuation, capital letters or the italic key, which made some of her mails a bit of a challenge to read.

As with every death, part of the past disappears from living memory into history. I am amazed that one of her earliest memories was of seeing a German Zeppelin bomb London during the First World War. For me, that image is restricted to a flickering and jerky black & white movie. For her it was in full colour and surround sound. That world has long since gone, and now it is one more step removed.

So we have the practicalities of farewell and disposal. Today will see arrangements being finalised, now that the various offices and departments are once again open prior to another day off for New Year. We will be taking her back to Heathfield in East Sussex where she lived very happily for almost 20 years, and to a service in the old parish church. Then the "wake" will be held in nearby Burwash, in the "Kipling Room" at "The Bear". An appropriate closing of the circle, for it was in the 1930's that she nursed Rudyard Kipling's widow, Carrie, at their Burwash home, "Batemans". I think she would have been (will be?) pleased.

Saturday, 29 December 2007


Evelyn F Thornburgh
2 June 1913 - 29 December 2007

Mother always said that she didn't take a good photograph, but this seems to capture her quite well - taken last month just after she had moved into her new apartment. (And yes, she used the computer in the background, not only to play Solitaire but also to send e-mails!)

She died early this morning after a short illness, aged 94.

Support us, O Lord, all the day long of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last: through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Holy Innocents

The power of this image lies in the portrayal of the event in the midst of everyday life. And still it happens .... Iraq ... Afghanistan ... Pakistan ...

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

On the Feast of Stephen

I must gather my winter fu-el from the coal bunker so that I can light the fire again tonight. Nothing better than sitting in front of an open fire with mulled wine to one side as the night grows darker and the wind blows stronger.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Well, it's up, and it's a big one!

I visited our local Garden Centre in Bungay on Thursday to purchase my tree, only to find that all they had left were three that were lying dumped at the edge of the car park and looking very scruffy. And so a trip further afield was called for, and I travelled 10 miles up towards Norwich to another Centre that lies hidden off the main road. Here there were trees a-plenty, and I choose this wonderful specimin. Perfectly balanced all round, it was just slightly tall, so having got it home I had to chop off the four bottom branches to fit it into its stand, and then take about 8 inches off the top so that my glass "spike" topper would fit. And so it stands in the hall, with two sets of lights and old and new decorations, some I knew as a child, and others I have bought over the years.

This is what tree decorations should do - evoke memories. I can recall unpacking some of them with my mother many (many) years ago. Others came from a friend who was throwing them out. I haven't seen him for 25 years now, but handling the small glass baubles makes me think of the times we spent together. Newer ornaments have been bought in Belgium, and they make me recall the scents, sights and sounds of Brugge in December, with its Christmas market and "warme wijn" stalls. (I still have three boxes of chocolates from my favourite - a cheap - little shop in Brugge that I am keeping for the 12 days of Christmas - as well as a 12-inch chocolate "Black Peter" who is St. Nicholas's helper in Flanders).

So, with two Carol services down and three to go, 2 "normal" Sunday services for Advent 4, and then a Midnight Mass and Christmas morning Eucharist, it's all beginning to gather pace. Sermons are written, and organists primed. And now I've just discovered that I've run out of my home-made marmalade. I shall have to make some this afternoon!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Monday, 10 December 2007

Scribblings from the south

Away from the parishes for 24 hours for a pre-Christmas visit to see friends in Sussex, and exchange cards and presents. I enjoyed my first Christmas meal, turkey with all the trimmings, a flaming pudding, as well as nibbles and a fresh berry roulade. I feel as if I've eaten an elephant!

It's always good to see this group, most of whom I've known from 1971 when that Christmas vacation from Teacher Training College I started working at a small independant corner off-licence, "Munnery's Wine Stores". The shop changed hands (and rapidly closed) in the late 1980's, but friendships made have been friendships maintained, and we meet up a couple of times a year, mainly to celebrate birthdays, and eat ... and drink ... though as I was the driver, I was on fruit juice today.

When I was working in the shop, I could drink several Bacardi & coke in an evening without any problem. Now, just one is enough. Alcohol tolerance certainly lowers when you don't drink all that often. Two bottles of beer from our local St. Peter's Brewery, and I'm glad that I live within walking distance! Mind you, it is good stuff!

Back to Suffolk tomorrow, collecting, on the way, another friend who is staying until the weekend. Then there's the Benefice Shared Supper on Friday night (which I am hosting) at which you never know how many people are going to turn up, nor what dish (savoury or sweet) they might bring. Then two house guests for Saturday and Sunday night. It's a busy social week, on top of all the usual parish meetings (two PCC's and a clergy Chapter) and Sunday services. Then the Carol services begin! Add to this the fact that we've just learnt that the tower of one of our ancient churches is falling down, and it's going to be a busy Christmas. Joy to the World!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Invisible bluebirds

The small picture is so small that the white cliffs are invisible.

Here's a larger upload.

No longer retreating but advancing

My pre-Christmas retreat at the English Convent in Brugge was as restful as ever.

Even the Channel crossing was a lot less rough than expected. There was a super view of the receding White Cliffs of Dover as the ferry headed out for Dunkirk last Monday morning.

The Convent has a wonderfully calming atmosphere, from the sounds of distant footsteps down the corridors, to the shutting of a door or the clinking of plates in the kitchen, all carry with them the sound of a holy silence.

Life there is governed by bells. The waking bell clanking from the small bell tower at 7.00 a.m., and then the Angelus about 15 minutes later. Across the city come the echoes of other bells, monastic and secular, striking the hours and quarters, calling to worship, announcing the Mass.

The city was wet and windy this year, but still I enjoyed getting around, walking the streets, shopping for gifts and chocolates, revivingyself with a Hoegarden wheat beer or coffee, and visiting one of the Art Museums and its superb collection of Old Masters. And the Christmas lights as darkness fell made it all the more magical.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Pre-Christmas shopping

Norwich was heaving yesterday. Tuesday's are usually fairly quiet, but the city was busy busy busy with people clearly starting their seasonal purchasing. The first indication that the hordes had arrived were the "FULL" signs against the usual carparks. The only choice left was the new Chapelfield Shopping Centre carpark, which is not the cheapest in town, hence there were several hundred spaces. And then out into the streets, threading through the throng, clutching my list and enjoyuing the bustle and the crisp cool air.

It's a good city to go to. It's also the closest from where I live. Ipswich is about an hour, and it's rather vile. Bury St Edmunds is 45 minutes (on a good day and no sugar-beet lorries), but is rather limited, whereas Norwich is only 35-40 minutes and has an excellent variety.

"Cafe Rouge" is always a good lunch stop, as is "Togos" sandwich bar, but yesterday it was "Waggamama" and a bowl of chicken and pork soup with noodles, spinach leaves, and a sliced chargrilled chicken breast. A warming meal just right as the sun dipped and the temperature started to drop.

Next week though I'm off to the English Convent in Brugge for my pre-Christmas retreat. A couple of years ago that first week in December was SO cold there that the canals froze over and I spent the afternoons moving from one cafe to the next and being warmed with a mulled wine. Now that's what I call a Retreat!

Friday, 23 November 2007

Desert Island Films (1)

If I was castaway on a desert island and could take 10 films with me, which ones would they be?

Well, there's have to be this one .... I can watch it time and again.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

It's going to have to be one of our study films for Lent 2008!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Rising above it all

When you think the whole world's against you, and you've got problems, take a look at these two. They've risen above their disability and made something beautiful.

(Thanks to Pat who sent me this link)

Saturday, 10 November 2007

More images

More images of yesterday's high water surge from the local BBC Gallery.

High waves at Lowestoft

The Butt & Oyster at Pin Mill - anyone fancy salt & vinegar crisps?

Dunwich church

Friday, 9 November 2007

By a hair's-breadth

If the water had been but 8 inches higher our coastline would not have escaped the predicted flooding. As it was, it got damp in various places.

High-tide wave at Lowestoft

Flooding along the river Waveney at Beccles

Pictures are from the Local BBC website

Thursday, 8 November 2007

High tide

I had my windows cleaned today, for the first time in six years. That's not to say they haven't been cleaned in all that time, but this was the first time I've paid someone to do them properly. That was this morning. This afternoon it rained - in torrents! The back patio was awash, but the cleared drainage channel worked well. The big new water butt caught a good amount, and it was a real autumnal afternoon, with a fresh wind blowing down from the north.

However, with a Force 8 gale blowing down the North Sea all day coinciding with two very high tides along the East Anglian coast, and there are 6 Flood Warnings in place and numerous other Flood Watches for our area.

There are also several Flood Watches in place for the Waveney river. It's not unusual for our local river to burst its banks in winter. The wide "flood plain" meadows do their job excellently, and the bridge at Homersfield is always a good indication of how high the flood waters are. (Trivia: This was the first concrete bridge in the UK, built mid 19th century).

It doesn't look good for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft tonight - the peak of the 6ft surge due at around 7.00 a.m. We'll see what the morning brings!

Monday, 5 November 2007

Remember, Remember ...

The annual remembrance of the campaign against, as the Service of Thanksgiving for Deliverance from the Gunpowder Plot puts it ... "the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities".

My... that's a big one!

Local brew

I don't often go there - in fact I haven't been there since the start of August, but St. Peter's Brewery was the destination Saturday lunchtime. I stuck to one brew, the Suffolk Gold (2.9 abv), whilst my companion had the Winter Ale (4.6 abv). After two bottles each it was time to walk home - just a mile down the road .....
it wash a lubberly strowl ..... no wind (*farp*) and clear air ... and once back, the armchairs were deep and soft .... (*hic*)

Thursday, 1 November 2007

A gentleman's Gentleman

There are times when I could do with a decent butler .....

He didn't arrive again!

Last night, and the Feast of the Great Pumpkin, and I waited eagerly for him to arrive with goodies and sweets, but not a sign. And I even put out this carved image to welcome him.


Wednesday, 31 October 2007

24 hours later

The new cooker and hob arrived as arranged, and it took an hour to get them fitted. Then the rest of the day to clean, clear and store all the crockery, pans etc. But now it's up and running, and tonight it will cook its first meal. (Don't quite know what, yet - I shall have to explore the freezer ...)

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Chaos in the kitchen

The new cooker and hob arrive tomorrow morning at some time between 7.00 a.m. and 8.00 a.m. ! Which means that this evening the old ones have had to be removed and disconnected. Due to the cowboy kitchen fitters and builders almost 7 years ago, this entailed dismantling two of the built-in kitchen units as the fittings of the old hob were concealed behind the backboard. The hob was also held in place with "blu-tack". Hence, at the moment, my kitchen looks like a bomb has dropped!

As it was ...

As it is ...

As it shall be ...

? ? ?

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Tell it like it is

Browsing the web pages for the French Diocese that covers the Dordogne, I came across this article. There's not a lot one can say .....

I can see Christian relations with the Islamic world taking a nose-dive!

Friday, 26 October 2007

A fortnight ago (3)

... and it was a visit to Castelnaud Chateau. On the southern bank of the Dordogne, it lies halfway between Beynac and La Roque Gageac. Privately owned, it has a superb display of furniture and armaments. best of all, you can wander around on your own - no Guided Tour!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

A fortnight ago (2)

... there was thick morning mist in the Dordogne valley. From the hilltop village of Domme it looked as if we were at sea ....

so it was quite appropriate there was "Isle Flottante" on the menu at lunch ....

Later there was a nice cooling "Orangina" in the sunshine at Villereal.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Damn, but I hate spending large sums of money

Well, I've finally bitten the proverbial bullet and spent almost £700 this evening ordering a new oven and hob. The present ones I inherited when I moved into this vicarage, the Diocese informing me at the last minute that it was my responsibility to provide cooking facilities in their house, and I just managed to prevent the cowboy kitchen fitters/builders from throwing them out. They were past their best then, (the cooker and hob, not the builders .... though I don't know ... ), but for the past 6 years they've cooked my meals, boiled the marmalade, and generally worked as they should. However, the door on the main over has never shut properly, and it remains a bad fit even after replacing both the hinges. I've had to prop it shut with a clothes peg rammed underneath! And then, about 6 months ago, one of the two elements in the fast electric ring went "phut", followed about 8 weeks ago by the fan oven refusing to heat and the thermostat on another of the rings not working, so that it's either "on" or "off" with no variable control. Which means I have just two rings and the small top oven working properly - though the top oven is a bit like a miniature "blast furnace"!.

As it's not my house I have dithered over replacing the units, but I really do have to do something now, otherwise it will be difficult to cook my Christmas confections, or keep hot the various dishes at the December Shared Supper which I host. (And as an aside - the photograph shows the total work space I have - just a small corner. Wonderfully designed for a vicarage kitchen don't you think?)

I await the courier's call to arrange a convenient delivery slot. I have already primed the local electrician in the village to disconnect the old units beforehand.

Oh well, the rainy day has arrived, and I can't take it with me .... though if and when I move, I just might take the cooker and hob!

Friday, 19 October 2007

More food

Tonight was a "Shared Supper" night - the monthly "pot-luck" supper held in various homes around the parishes of the Benefice. The invitation is open to all to come along - just bring a dish of food to share. The result is that you never know how many will turn up or what you're going to get. In the event there's usually between 10 and 18 people, and the dishes a good balance between savoury and sweet.

Tonight was a "protein-rich" night with 7 hot dishes of meat, one roast vegetable flan, and two bowls of mashed potato. There was also cold trout as an entree. Then there were five different desserts and a cheeseboard, so it was all rather good. There's always wine and beer and fruit juice available, and we finished with coffee.

These suppers are not a fund-raiser, they're purely social, and it's good to have a regular event that doesn't ask for money.

I can't claim responsibility for them - they were already established when I arrived, but I'm certainly going to see that they continue.

*burp* (again!)

Thursday, 18 October 2007

A feast for the senses

Back from a 10-day sojourn in France to a land that is in the depths of autumn. This time last week I was wandering around in a short-sleeved polo shirt, sipping red wine and nibbling on bread, pate and cheese. Now I've a shirt and jersey on, and the heating is going. Next door has lit their wood-burner, and the delicious smell of wood smoke is drifting down my chimneys.

Last Thursday was also the day of the buffet lunch. In the Leclerc Hypermarche at Villeneuve-sur-Lot the restaurant had a massive lunchtime buffet where you paid a flat rate and ate as much as you wanted.

Four main courses, four desserts and some cheese later, and I was slumped in the chair sipping a small black coffee. It was wonderful.


Tuesday, 2 October 2007

It speaks volumes

It's now a fortnight since the 3rd annual second-hand Book sale at St James South Elmham. Last year we eventually made just over £1,000 and we wondered if this year we would be as successful. It was a busy day, with lots of people in the morning, and a steady trickle through the afternoon. Money has been coming in ever since, from sales that took place afterwards, late payments, and a couple of specialist books placed with a local Book Dealer. At their Harvest festival this last Sunday I learnt that the total for this year now stands at over £1370. A magnificent result, and the event goes from strength to strength as it becomes more widely known. It's already planned to have another one next year! I thoroughly enjoy it, and always come away with several volumes earmarked for holiday reading.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Like leaves blowing in the wind

The story so far .....

I suppose that this Blog is not really an on-line Diary, more what used to be called "a Commonplace Book" containing occasional thoughts, reflections, celebrations, grumbles and disjointed ramblings.

A bit like life, really.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Away day

The AA (Automobile Association) web site kindly provided me with the route down to St. Alban’s, avoiding motorways, the itinery saying it was a distance of 112.3 miles which would take 2 hours and forty-five minutes. Somewhat optimistic!

The route down took me via a wonderful new A road, virtually clear of traffic after a slight hold-up at road works at Duxford and the Imperial War Museum, and then onto an horrendous B road that was single-track with Passing Places! And I met a bus!

Still, allowing for the rain and slow traffic through the centre of St. Alban’s, I made it to the West Herts Crematorium in just over 3 hours.

The return journey was worse.

With the M25 solid from accidents and road works, and not wanting to try and find my way back along the narrow B road, I took a route through Hitchin, Welwyn Garden City and Hertford, and then onto the A10 for Cambridge. The traffic was bad, and it took me an hour to reach Hertford. Eventually reaching the A10 I headed north and turned off for Duxford. I met the queue for the road works about half a mile along the road, and it was still some 10 miles to Duxford itself! I turned round and continued up the A10. This would lead me to the M11 and I could go up that and join the A14 to bring me eastwards round Cambridge, back to Bury St. Edmunds and thence to Bungay and home.

I joined the M11 to find it crawling, and so I came off at the next junction that led me into Cambridge itself. The Ring Road is badly signed, and after a circular tour of the centre and past the Fitzwilliam Museum, I finally found a sign for Newmarket. It took me over an hour to negotiate the city.

I finally got home after four and a half hours on the road.

As to the funeral service itself – it was Humanist, and although it was very well taken, it has left me with various questions. My cousin told me that as my aunt was not religious they thought this was the best service to have, and I quite agree. Any funeral has to keep integrity with the person being celebrated, but why then did we listen to a choral recording of the hymn “The King of love my shepherd is,” and say the Lord’s Prayer together? Also, the officiant kept emphasising that my aunt would live on in our lives through our memories that would be with us forever. Actually, they would be with us for the length of our lives, and then, in the Humanist view, on our death they would vanish. This then leaves the grieving relatives with a burden to carry, that it is their responsibility to keep the memories alive so that the person “lives on”. On their death there could be a sense of guilt that their relative will now be forgotten and be “out of mind”.

The Christian faith takes away this sense of responsibility. The person lives on through the gift of eternal life granted by God through Jesus. And it’s into that care and love that we commend them. As the curtains drew together today, we were told once again to keep my aunt alive through our memories of her, and our sharing of those memories.

Well taken, and no doubt absolutely right for many people, but for me it was lacking hope. But then hope is a gift of the Christian faith, and if you are not a believing Christian, then perhaps the hope is not missed.

Aunt Kathleen on her wedding day with her lovely smile

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Taking a back seat

Tomorrow there's a drive down to St. Alban's for the funeral of an aunt, and for once I haven't been asked to take this "family" farewell. Which in some ways is a bit of a relief. I haven't attended a funeral as a "spectator" for some 20 or so years. It will be interesting to see if I can sit through the short Crem service and not keep thinking, "I wouldn't have said that", or "I wouldn't do it that way."

I think that it will be good for me.

This drive comes just two days after a trip down to the south coast and friends near Brighton. I called in at Lewes on the way back. I've always liked this view of the Harvey's Brewery from the river.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Right of Way

Driving across to a meeting tonight, road gives way to rail, every time!

Especially when there are no barriers!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Piratical exclamation


Too early

I had my first Christmas card in today's post! It came from a charity I support, along with their Christmas Catalogue. Sorry. Too early. It's all gone straight into the recycle bin!

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Stap me vitals!

I've had a complaint that it's too long since my last post, so as the midnight hour draws nigh I'm rectifying the situation.

Tomorrow is TLAP Day! For the uninitiated, that's "Talk Like A Pirate Day".

So expect a lot of timber shivering, barnacle blistering, and other nautical terms as I voyage around me parishes, me hearties! I might even clip a wooden parrot to my shoulder.

So get into the piratical mood, ye bilge rates, pass round the grog, and hoist the Jolly Roger. Arrrr.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

The Sparrow

Dietrich was marvellous, but I never saw the other great female singer of the time - one who was a close friend of hers - Edith Piaf. When in Paris in the summer of 1976 I made an attempt to see her grave, but never found it. Something still to do ....

A change of colour

Having put up the post about the "Blue Angel", today was the day for the Spice toilet! Tired of the badly-painted lemon-yellow upstairs convenience, months ago I bought a tin of "Spice" which I thought would look rather smart. So this Saturday was spent with paintbrush and roller in hand, and to the accompaniment of a CD of Noel Coward, firstly putting white on the ceiling, then cutting-in the orange-red around the edges, rolling the walls, and finally doing the gloss whilst the fabric blind was in the wash, A "turn-off brain" day before the spiritual exercise of tomorrow's services. By supper-time I was ready for my large Yorkshire pudding filled with the left-overs of the Thursday braised beef stew. Delicious! However, I forgot to have a glass of red wine with it. Perhaps I'll have one now .....