Sunday, 28 January 2007

Lack of heat

I had already decided that the theme of this posting was going to be about the lack of heating in our ancient rural churches before I read my colleague’s blog about the loss of his central heating in his clerical abode on Long Island. He makes the point about how we are now so used to living in heated homes that a loss such as this is seen as a crisis by some. Well, they should try coming over to the “old country” and worshipping in the churches in this Benefice.

In the two churches where I celebrated the Eucharist this morning, the breath from the sparse congregation plumed out of their mouths like smoke as they sang the hymns. One, having removed its ineffective bar heaters high on the nave walls, has just underpew heaters, and in the other the boiler has broken down and there are only ancient heaters under six or so pews.

I suggested that people brought blankets or hot-water bottles with them, but “We couldn’t do that” was the general response. My reply was “Why not?” If you know it’s going to be cold then why not prepare for it? It wouldn’t bother me if people sat there wrapped up if they were warm. How on earth did our worshipping forefathers manage in the “Little Ice-age” of the 18th century? There may have been stoves in some of the churches, and this old photograph of the church at Ilketshall St. Margaret shows such a contraption with the chimney going out of one of the south windows. But equally, some of the churches would have been without any sort of heating, yet the congregations (and clergy) survived.

It seems that we’re breeding church-goers who expect these ancient buildings to have the same level of warmth and comfort as their hothouse double-glazed hermetically-sealed homes. I think they're going to remain very disappointed ..... but, as my clerical comrade-in-arms says, probably much more healthy.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

But the Lord was not in the wind

Well, we didn’t get blown away this last week, but it was rough. No damage to the house or trees, but all around there are signs of the fierceness of the wind. One of the Scots Pine trees in the churchyard at Ilketshall St. John was snapped off about 9ft above the ground, the falling trunk missing the church and all the gravestones. Large branches off the same trees at St. Cross South Elmham, again falling onto the grass. Some tiles dislodged on the porch and chancel roof at Ilketshall St. Lawrence, which we were able to replace once it had all calmed down. A tree down in St. James South Elmham and another in All Saints SE. Large trees down at Flixton across the driveway to the Old Rectory and church car parking area. Tiles off roofs in Bungay, and lots of debris on the narrow lanes, which made driving a bit dodgy.

Although the power stayed on during the storm, we had two lengthy cuts yesterday, and I rummaged in the garage and got out the small camping gas stove to boil water, and, as darkness fell, an oil lamp which supplemented the candles in the lounge. That’s one thing a Vicarage doesn’t run out of – candles.

Today, Sunday, has been calmer, though the temperature is now dropping and the forecast is for possible snow showers on Wednesday as the wind shifts to the north-east. That is when we usually get some snow as it blows down the North Sea from Scandinavia and hits land on the East Anglian “bump”.

So winter hasn’t finished with us yet even though the snowdrops are coming out already. They might get a shock! But at least the hosepipe ban has been lifted ......

BBC news picture of Brighton's Palace Pier

Friday, 12 January 2007

Constable or Turner?

The wind is howling again, but the open expanses of Suffolk do allow some rather spectacular views of the scudding clouds.
Is it a John Constable sky, or a one more suited to J W M Turner with his rainstorms and winds?

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Hot chocolate

It's amazing how far chocolate powder will spread if you drop a full carton of "Grand Poulain" onto the kitchen worktop and the lid flies off .....

Perhaps someone's trying to tell me something ...

chocolate ... ...

diet ... ...

but it's been a stormy old day and I want some comfort ...


Stormy weather

Well, that was a bit rough! It’s a turbulent day, weather wise, rain, with a strong gale-force south-westerly blowing, and we’ve just had a squall pass through. The wind howling and blowing water under the garage door and the back passage door, roaring in the chimneys, and making the lights flicker. So I sit here with a mug of hot coffee and chomping on de-frosted a chocolate ├ęclair and watching the cobwebs get blown away. I love weather like this. Put it down to my growing-up in Brighton where the “sou-westerlies” would scream in from the Atlantic and hammer into the sea-front. I would go down to the beach and watch the waves surge onto the promenade, the sound of the moving shingle almost deafening. On really rough days I’d head out to Rottingdean where the spray would drift across the road, and where you would continually have to lick the salt from your lips. If I was feeling in need of added excitement, I would make my way along the Undercliff Walk, a path some 10-15 feet wide that ran from East Brighton’s “Black Rock” the three or so miles eastwards along to Rottingdean. That was fun at high tide, for the waves would break over the walkway, and you would have to dash from one raised seat to the next to avoid them. It only ever caught me out the once, when I misjudged the wave on the narrowest part of the Walk. It was a wet and cold walk back to my flat that day.

The Global Warming predictions say that the weather is going to get more extreme. If you’re in a safe, dry house, then it can be enjoyable, but for those whose homes get damaged, or who are homeless, or who have to work out in such conditions, I do have sympathy. But I still look forward to experiencing more wild weather.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Twelfth night

Is this Twelfth Night or not? If you count Christmas Day as the First day of Christmas, then tonight is Twelfth Night, and all decorations, apart from a sprig of holly or greenery, should be down. But if you take Boxing Day as the First Day of Christmas, then it's tomorrow. And I was brought up with January 6th, Feast of the Epiphany, being Twelfth Night. But this year, and today, I've taken the decorations down, and the tree stands bare in the hall waiting to be carried outside. The baubles are wrapped in their tissue paper and packed into the old box, and the cards lie waiting to be trimmed into gift tags with a pair of pinking shears. And although I had to change three bulbs on the light sets at the start of the Feast, I haven't had to touch them since. We'll see how many still work when I unpack them at the end of this year.

The crib scene has been dismantled, and Mary, Joseph and the child now await the arrival of the Magi. That second version of the Crib will remain up until Candlemas, February 2nd, as will the illuminated star on the top of the church tower, as well as the one on the front of my house. A note of explanation will be attached to the garden fence.

I have managed to get the Christmas boxes away into the hall cupboard, but I can see that there is going to have to be a bit of a sort out later on. I have old suitcases piled in there which are filled with costumes, art materials, and camping equipment. I think they will have to be culled, maybe as part of Spring-cleaning.

I host my monthly Coffee Morning tomorrow, and the marmalade is bubbling on the stove. We move into the season of Light and Revelation. What Wise Men will knock at my door tomorrow? As is the custom in Eastern Europe, I shall put the initial letters K M G there to welcome them in place of the now-removed Christmas wreath.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Fast away the old year passes

2007 - and I saw it in watching one of my favourite films ....

... wishing that the Aston Martin DB5 had a longer run and was more successful in evading the pursuit.

It's a bit like watching "The Great Escape" and hoping that this time Steve McQueen manages to leap the barbed wire fence on his motorcycle and make it into Switzerland ....

My New Year's Resolution of getting off my backside and taking more exercise has already been put into practice. It's a glorious morning here, clear blue skies, bright sunshine, with a stiff and cool north-westerly breeze. Just right for walking, so I've tramped the foootpath circuit out of the village and across the fields to the south. The last section, across a sown field, was particularly muddy, and when I got back it took me ten minutes to clean off my boots. Still, as proof that I actually went ...

The walk isn't really long enough though, so I shall have to consult the footpaths map and see which one will take me through to Brooke Lane. That way I can return to the village on a dry road, rather than across our version of the Somme!

Hot coffee now, and maybe a biscuit since it's "elevenses" time.

I wonder what film's on the telly this afternoon?