Friday, March 25, 2011

Annunciation and burial

Funeral on Lady Day
for Neil McKellar

A bird is singing
in the tall trees
over and over the same
liquid notes spilling over
the dug earth. A requiem,
perhaps, for the soul that is
gone into the sunlit morning.
Quiet words. Dust. The green
of the grass of this spring
surrounds the stones
as an old man is taken
home and the angel announces
to the startled girl
that a new life will come and be
God and the bird is joined
by all his fellows in a
sudden chorus of pure joy.

C.M.M. 25 March 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A country funeral

Musta been funny anyway!
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Yesterday, unbelievably when I look at this jolly photo from last June, we attended the funeral of Canon Roy Flatt, on the right of the pic. I've never been to a church service where more than half the congregation were outside the church: such was the crowd that turned up at Christ Church, Lochgilphead, that we stood in the grounds - some under awnings that (unnecessarily, as it turned out) sheltered the speakers that relayed the proceedings, some in the sun under the trees.

Roy had made up the order of service himself, and there was much poetry and good moments of silence in which we could hear the rooks in the tall trees of the churchyard. It felt very calm, and very natural. The coffin was carried past us at the end, to the strange combination of Nunc Dimittis and When the Saints go Marching in, and the burial took place opposite the church porch. Our feet sank in the moss, we moved from the chilly shade into the warm sun, and it was over.

This was the best kind of funeral: a day was full of calm and affirmation and warmth of greeting and friendship. The drive home was glorious, and the world felt peaceful.

RIP, Roy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring contrasts

 This morning was swathed in fog, here on the Clyde coast. It was cold, damp, grey and depressing. It looked as if it might stay like that all day, might continue to be a dismal backdrop to a comfortable life.

Around 2pm , there was a sudden lightening of the sky. By three o'clock the sun was shining, and half an hour later I was in this sunlit wood where the daffodils that lurk untended in the rough grounds of Toward Castle were golden among the brown tussocks.

Later, I walked by the calm sea. Peewits called in their creaky voices as five of them at least wheeled and dived above the fields. The sun gleamed on the water.

I felt my spirits rise.

But in Kuji City, it looks as if Spring will never come again. I found the Kuji City blog, and on it this image, among many others. There are videos that show a desolate road winding among piles of rubble. No-one speaks.

The silence is broken by what sounds like crows calling. It looks cold, grey and sad. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to have lost everything so suddenly and so completely. And now it seems as if there is further horror to come as control slips from those dealing - how heroically - with the threat of radiation from the damaged nuclear reactors.

And I was depressed?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Once more Ultreya ...

Last weekend saw the first Cursillo in Scotland weekend for almost two years, after a period of reflection leading to a determination to return to the basic ethos of the movement. And Cursillo #59 seems to have been worth the wait, with sixteen participants showing all the signs of having been overwhelmed by the dedication of the team and the love of God. At the Clausura, in Dunblane Cathedral for the first time, they spoke movingly - and in some cases wittily - about their experiences.

They spoke to a good crowd of the Fourth Day - the people who have been on previous weekends - who had braved the snow and sleet to be there to welcome them. This effort on the part of people who are for the most part not in their first youth, is typical of the commitment that puts the weekends on in the first place, for Cursillo is an extremely labour-intensive phenomenon. The amount of stuff that has to be transported, unpacked, set out, removed, inventoried, packed up and taken away again is remarkable - many, many heavy boxes-full. And yes, the people involved in doing the donkey-work can, like anyone else, become tired and scratchy. I was helping with some of it on Sunday, and by the time of the closing Eucharist I felt more like a bath and a lie-down than jolly hymn-singing.

But then the magic happened, just when it should, at the moment of Communion. As I received the chalice from someone I know from her own weekend, and from her service on team when I was Lay Rector, I knew once more the joy that all this service brings and returned to my place with an idiot grin on my face.

Mind, the evening was still spent in dribbling stupor ...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Caught up in the past

I've been so taken up by the process of blogging my father's wartime letters that I find myself adopting his style of delivery on occasion, although this is not in fact something new for me. As a young teacher I was assailed by the chap who taught next door through the partition wall - he'd heard me sounding just like my father as I taught and recognised it from a time when they were colleagues. But I realise that as I knew him so well, I know when his tongue is firmly in his cheek - as when he is discussing the new family allowance scheme. His reference to the brutal and selfish father could hardly be further from himself, though he is right in describing my mother as an ardent feminist: nice to know it came from somewhere!

Another thing that struck me was the amount of the allowance: 5/-. How many of my readers say "five shillings" when they read that? It's a rare indicator of age, as is the relative value of money. Apparently the average wage for an agricultural labourer at the time was £3/7/101/2 for a 49.4 hour week, according to this site, while another fascinating site points me to a worth of £25.30 for that 5/- if calculated by reference to average earnings (though I'd be happy for someone to correct me in this if I've made my usual hash of reading statistics). It certainly gives a dimension to the other letters concerning money, and to my father's reckoning that he had far too much cash accumulating in his current account because of the lack of opportunity to spend any of his RAF pay.

I've been stymied in my attempts to find any really detailed history of Redlands private hospital for women in which I was born and where my own first son was born four years before it closed, though by that time it was run by the NHS in Glasgow. But it's a fascinating exercise, this digging in the past; my main regret is the unasked questions of my own youth. We don't tend to become interested in our parents till they're history? 

Probably not.

I haven't a clue why the font of this - and the size - are so odd. Blogger is not always instinctive!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Playing away...

Must post briefly about yesterday's gig with 8+1 in Rothesay. One of the things about singing in a smallish group with no natural base (such as a church choir has, for instance) is that every now and again you want to perform. It's just that - we don't need money for ourselves, as we are perfectly happy to pay for our singing just as we would for any other class, like tap-dancing or mediaeval history; but every performer benefits from having an audience now and again. And what an audience we had on Bute! St Paul's, the wee pisky church on the front that is sister to our Holy Trinity in Dunoon, was packed - we could even see heads in the balcony, which may in fact have belonged to The Local Paper. It's estimated that there were 70 paying customers, plus a few others.

It was, quite simply, a great performance. It had all the tightness of a live event, the rhythm, the excitement. We were singing mostly popular stuff - Gershwin, Sting - with a few Spirituals and a bit of French thrown in - and the audience loved it. We could see flashes as people took photos - the one I've used is courtesy of Rob, biased by his being the other half of a soprano - but some at least belonged to the unattached. I haven't posted a link to a recording made of one song, simply because an iPhone recording, made off-centre, doesn't do this event justice. We had such a ball, and enjoyed every minute.

We've been invited back. I'm dead impressed by the good people of Rothesay - they were knowledgeable and gracious in their enthusiasm. They kept thanking us - I kept telling them we were having fun, and should be thanking them. And the people in St Paul's - they put on a great bunfight. Nothing seemed to be too much bother. It was well worth the journey.

And we have another gig on Friday ...

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Taking off in Argyll and The Isles

This slightly hazy photo (courtesy of Al) is all I have to remind me of Diocesan Synod - that and the rather dog-eared copy of the Synod papers, with all the doodles and remarks that aid concentration when we're talking about money. If you look closely, you will see an angel, and in the far left a bishop - our new Bishop Kevin making his post-prandial speech at the Synod Dinner. The accordion between angel and bishop is not part of the speech, which consisted, hilariously, of the safety briefing before a flight. The angel is a member of the cabin crew, and by this stage in the proceedings is wearing the chastity girdle and the golden wings - for when the engines fail. There is a lighted halo at her feet. Her opposite number - for it is too big a plane for one angel - is on the other side of the stage.

Reader, I was that angel. Seems I may be up for a new post: Bishop's Fool. It has a suitably Learian twist, I feel - Shakespeare, not Edward. It was all good clean fun and I ended up dancing, unwisely, in rubber-soled shoes: I don't usually stay for ra jigging.

Synod itself was wonderfully optimistic. Having arrived at a properly God-centred vision of our future, we were already well on our way to behaving as one always feels a church should be. The one cloud on the horizon as far as I was concerned, the one bit of contrary weather on the flight, was the revelation that we still carried some dinosaurs on board - the kind that have never realised how strange it feels these days for a church of which two thirds of the punters are women to use a creed with the words "who for us men and for our salvation". I felt moved to speech at that point, and they backed off into the swamp, but I have a feeling they may well resurface before we're finished.

But I niggle. No-one spoke for too long, and everyone seemed to depart in peace. The weather was kind and I managed to get to the deli for my lemon-infused olive oil and one or two other good things. We've taken off in a new direction and are travelling hopefully. Happy landings!