Thursday, 30 August 2007

More reflections

It must be the time of year for remembering. Perhaps it has something to do with the end of Summer and the approach of Autumn. The warmth lessens, the leaves start to turn, there's a sense of change in the air.

Other Bloggers are also looking back. In the Hamptons on Long Island there's an appreciation of more gentle road signs when people knew how to behave on the road. Grandmere Mimi is looking back on the New Orleans she knew and lost to Hurricane Katrina.

And as I sliced the softened oranges, lemons and grapefruit for my Three Fruit Marmalade, and put it to boil in the stove, I was thinking of the ways in which my home town of Brighton has changed, and how much of what I grew up with is no longer there.

My private primary school has become a girls-only part of Brighton College. Brighton, Hove & Sussex Grammar School became a VIth Form College many years ago. Brighton Technical College is now part of a University. And then as I flew further afield: Northumberland College of Education was swept away in reforms soon after the 1970-73 intake left. Moorlands Bible College has dropped the "Bible" part of its name, disposed of the phallic logo, and continues its mission. Salisbury & Wells Theological College has, as mentioned in the previous post, closed its doors to that form of Christian training and become Sarum College instead.

Of all those places, the Bible College is the only one that is still recognisable, and I don't particularly want to return there. I've moved on, and so have they.

And it's the same with my home town. All the shops I grew up with in the Kemp Town area of Brighton have long gone. Mr. Mockford the greengrocer, with his beetroot always on the boil behind a wooden partition. The "Home & Colonial Stores" with the tins of broken biscuits. "Webbs Stores" and its flavoured milk machine where we would buy a carton to slurp on the way down to the beach. "Barnard's", the little TV and electrical shop that had a model railway running around its window. "Fogel's Patisserie" that, being Jewish, was open on Sunday, and from where we would get cream cakes for tea. The Post Office in the old Georgian gymnasium building is now just offices. And the small corner off-licence, "Munnery's", where I worked on and off for 11 years has been closed for a decade or more, and the shop turned into town house accomodation.

The skyline of the new city is completely different from that which I used to see from the top window of our house. We had two open piers. The block of "Sussex Heights" was the tallest thing for miles. And of course, Black Rock has disappeared under the Brighton Marina construction. You can no longer walk from Brighton to Ovingdean Gap and round the corner to Rottingdean and back. That was a wonderful Sunday afternoon walk, and I had an unforgettable wander along part of it one Tuesday afternoon when I was about 13.

One image of Brighton comes back to my mind again and again. When I was about 12 I had a vivid dream of the sea rising up and flooding the town. I was standing in the bay windows of the top floor of the house looking out over the rooftops, and the waves were rushing towards me and breaking on the windows. This was long-before warnings about global warming and rising sea levels. It was long before stories of Meteor impacts and tidal waves. And this same image is as strong with me now as it ever was. At the time I even wrote some of the dream down, and I still have it packed away somewhere.

Premonition? Imagination? I certainly enjoyed the storms that would sweep in, and I would go down to the sea-front and dodge the waves. Time will tell.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

The past is another country

At dusk, as I sat in our old Priory church for the Evening Daily Office, I had an intense experience of being in the Private Prayer chapel in the south transept of Salisbury Cathedral.

Twenty-five years ago I began the habit of going across from the Theological College at irregular intervals to sit in silence in that small enclosed chapel and think and pray and meditate before the glorious stained glass window. The bustle of the tourists making their way around the main body of the church was insignificant, and I was able at those times to engage in real heart-searching and an openness to where I might be led as my ministry began.

In the chancel of the rural Priory this evening I became aware of how that world has disappeared. I would not be getting up to walk down through the spacious Cathedral nave and out of the great West doors. I would not be walking across the Close back to the beautiful College building where the bar would be open prior to Supper.

And even if I could get back there, the College has also changed. No longer a place of clerical training, the Entrance Hall has been re-modelled and the wonderful stairwell truncated. The lecture rooms are changed, the Common Room no longer a place of talk and reading, and the new chapel taken over as an expansion of the library. Even the old chapel has become less atmospheric than it was.

You can never go back, and I know that. But just sometimes the loss of what was becomes tangible. Salisbury was the pinnacle of my exploration. It was if I had climbed Mount Everest, and ever since then it has been the journey down. Mountain tops are places for experiencing the holy. Sinai. Tabor. Revelation and Transfiguration. But each time the people had to come back down into the world.

The understanding of this doesn't stop the memories though.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Seasonal confusion

Here in East Anglia over the last few days it really hasn't known if it's Summer or Autumn. This was 5.45 p.m. today, 23rd August. It should be late afternoon summer sun. Instead we have thick drizzle and mist. And the leaves have started falling!

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

"The old home town ...

... looks the same
as I step down from the train ...."

And it does in this short film from the You Tube site.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Drizzly Monday

A damp old Monday today, so a little taste of Italian sunshine for this evening's meal - pasta and meatballs in a tomato and marscapone sauce. Okay, I know it's not haute cuisine, but it's cheap and easy, and I feel like it .... not cheap and easy, but pasta and meatballs. Though I ought to admit that the meatballs are not Italain but Swedish, coming from the Ikea store in Milton Keynes. Another fall at the final fence of the Culinary Cup.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Match of the Day (2)

Responding to the request for the football references I used in the recent wedding ....

I welcomed people into the stands, both the home team supporters (bride) and the away team supporters (groom) and hoped there would be no trouble between them. Then the first half "kicked off", through to the Signing of the Registers which was "half-time".

The Marriage Certificate was handed to the bride in an envelope marked "Final Score Certificate" and which was decorated with a picture of a footballer. I apologised to the supporters that there had been no trays of oranges to pass around during the half-time break, but that they would have made too much of a mess on the church floor.

The second half then began (I had thought of bringing a whistle and sounding it, but decided against it). At the end the couple walked out to the theme music from the BBC's "Match of the Day" played with some skill by the organist. Again, I had considered giving the couple a football to dribble down the aisle on their way out, but thought better of it.

Fairly mild really, but how does one compete with a bride who arrives at the church in a "Green Goddess" fire engine?

Friday, 10 August 2007

The greasy spoon

Didn't throw anything into the oven. On opening it I discovered that I hadn't scraped it out following a couple of rather nice pork chops that were grilled earlier in the week. It took me 15 minutes, lots of hot water, de-greasing spray, and an old dishcloth, to clean it! So after that I delved into the freezer, located a tub of left-over home-made chicken stroganoff, threw that into the microwave, and then prepared some cous-cous. It was quite tasty.

And I had two large glasses of shandy!

Match of the Day

7.40 p.m. and just home from the rehearsal for a wedding tomorrow in one of our village churches. This Saturday is the start of the UK Football season (yawn!), so the couple are going for a football motif at the close of their ceremony, having decided to walk out to the theme music of the BBC's "Match of the Day". The score took some finding, but I eventually tracked a copy down, at a price of £12.

There's a lot of talk in the press at the moment of how the average cost of a wedding these days is £20,000. All I can say is that we, the church, don't see much of that. Without the music score, the service tomorrow, use of building, organist, me as the officiant, and the piece of paper to say that they're married, is just under £300. What the heck to do couples spend the other £19,700 on? The reception can't cost that much. I suppose when you include all the dresses, gifts for the bridesmaids etc: it can swiftly mount up, but I don't know how couples afford it. Of course, the answer is that they can't, and it all goes on plastic, so they start their married life together in debt. The old idea of actually saving up for something has long gone.

So I don't feel guilty about asking for the church fees. They are a miniscule portion of the total that will be spent. But in small parishes like ours, struggling to pay our way, they are a valuable bonus.

I shall do my "commercials" tomorrow as usual - welcoming the guests into the parish church, asking them to turn off their mobile phones, and reminding them about the Gift Aid envelopes and that there will be a plate at the back of the church as they leave for their donations towards the ongoing work of that church.

But for now, I shall throw something into the oven for supper, jot down a few ideas for football puns in the service (1928 BCP), and pour myself a large shandy.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

As if that wasn't frightening enough ...

Being consigned to the Hufflepuff House at Hogwarts is fairly unsettling. Even worse is to see myself as a character in "The Simpsons"!

And just what the hell am I doing shopping at the "Kwik-E-Mart"? And why have I removed my clerical collar?

The first person to suggest that I'm going browsing amongst the top-shelf magazines will be made the subject of my first "Cursing" class at Hogwarts!

Get Simpsonized here

Wednesday, 1 August 2007


Incey Wincey Spider
Climbed up the water spout
Down came the rain
And washed the spider out.
Out came the sun
and dried up all the rain
So Incey Wincey Spider
Climbed the spout again.

How did the damn thing get into the sink when the plug was in the hole?

Lammas Day

August 1st, "Hlaef-mass" and the start of the harvest. Signs of late summer with noise and dust as the wheat is cut. And another day without rain!