Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Birthday tomorrow - 59... big one next year. So time maybe for a thoughful posting..... 
This evening I got home from a school governors' meeting. heated up my chorizo soup and flicked on the TV. I've caught a few programmes in the season the BBC is running called "Shakespeare Uncovered". This evening American actor Ethan Hawke was taking us through "Macbeth", illustrated by bits of various productions. It was really good, and somehow connected me to my birthday.
Why is Shakespeare so good? I did English Lit O Level and A Level. We did "The Tempest" and then "Hamlet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream". I have to say that, like many people, I didn't really "get it" then, and I suspect that puts off many people for life. I know it's a bit of a cliche, but I realy think you don't "get" the greatness of Shakespeare until you've lived. As I watched Lady Macbeth disintegrate I recalled a prisoner doing exactly that in front of me when I was prison chaplain. As Hawke pointed out that Macbeth and his wife never meet on stage for the last part before her death, my mind went to the hundreds of family problems I've encountered, not least with my Marriage Tribunal work now. Time and again these plays poke a finger right into my life, and life in general.
And it's not just the great tragedies - although I think they are the pinnacle of Shakespeare. He puts life in all its aspects up there on the stage, in all its comedy and tragedy. It's simply all there, and as the programme said this evening, WS then turns round to us and says, "Look, that's you and me up there, too".
So, 59 tomorrow, 59 years into Shakespeare, 59 years into life.     

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

From Winefride to David

Lovely programme on the Beeb this evening - "Britain's Lost Routes", with Griff Rhys Jones. I caught part of an earlier episode, crossing Scotland on the drovers' road, and this one was even better. It followed the ancient pilgrims' route across Wales from the north-east to St David's in the southwest.
A climb up from the old port of Greenfield brings you to Holywell, where I visited in 2007. It's the only shrine in Britain (I think) continuously visited through from the Middle Ages. The freezing waters of St Winefride's Well bubble up in a beautiful two storey medieval shrine (left) marking where her head miraculously rejoined the rest of her body after an attempted murder... 
The route then heads over the Clwydian Range to Ruthin, and onwards along Lake Bala and over a stunning pass, Bwlch y Groes (Pass of the Cross) to the Dovey valley and Aberystwyth. Down the coast then to where the various pilgrim routes converged at Nevern, and on to the destination - St David's. Two pilgrimages there was worth one to Rome.
I love my homeland Wales, the hills, lakes, castles, churches, cliffs, sea, the green and the grey. And that includes the South, too, where I live - not that I'm biased, of course...  
The programme is excellent - beautiful photography, interesting group of "pilgrims" and Griff in his, I think, more mellow later style. Great stuff. Fr M approves. You can catch it here on iPlayer.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Two days

Boy, am I relieved. Thursday saw the biggest ever meeting of our National Tribunal for Wales. Our main task is the processing of applications for the annulment of marriages, and we concluded seven cases and gave serious discussion to three more. Each case requires three judges, so it was all hands on deck.  This required the cooperation of all our canon law judges from across Wales, each involved in at least three cases. So we met in England! In Shrewsbury to be exact - becase it's easier by rail, OK?
I was out of the house 7.30am and got back 7.30pm, my head full of legal stuff and feeling a bit worse for wear. Fr David, our administrator, had done a great job in planning the day, getting all the right documents to the right people etc, and technically it all went off fine. However, as Judicial Vicar (ie boss), I carry the can, and so I'm always mightily relieved when the deed - or ten deeds in this case - are done. There just remains the, er, small task of translating into "sentences" ie written documents the arguments that we used to reach the decision we made in the four where I was presiding judge. However, having made and heard all the relevant points, that's not so hard.
Today, something completely different - a lovely five hours with 25 or so of our wonderful Eucharistic Ministers on their periodic day of recollection. We went off to the Ty Croeso Centre at Llantarnam Abbey outside Newport, and had a relaxing time. Only the weather spoilt it - the ground are beautiful but only a few brave souls ventured far... I did a talk in the morning before a period for quiet reflection, after lunch we had a "plenary" to share reflections and discuss issues of interest, then Fr T led an Holy Hour to finish. 
Two very different days, two days apart, one church, one priest.  

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Commonweath sings

A massive p.s. to my last posting. I didn't mention one of the best things on TV over the Jubilee long weekend - "Gary Barlow:On Her Majesty's Service".  I only just caught up with it on iPlayer. What a lovely programme, the story of the making of "Sing", the Jubilee song that we heard at the Buckingham Palace concert on the Monday evening.
Gary Barlow turns out to be an excellent guide to the process of putting together the song with Andrew Lloyd-Webber, and then travelling the Commonwealth to add music from all sorts of different cultures. He is just so excited by music, and feels the raw attraction of people who play and sing because they simply want to.. Girls singing in Kenya, lads drumming on old rubbish in  a Nairobi slum, an aboriginal singer, Solomon Islanders... all sorts. I found myself really drawn in - even by Prince Harry allowed two bashes on a  tambourine.

If you want an enjoyable hour, well-produced, and guided so well by Gary B. "The Commonwealth is massive - I mean massive-massive" he muses. And how much better the song sounds when you learn its story. Catch it here on iPlayer.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The long weekend

So, the Queen's Jubilee is over. I started to watch the Thames bit, but I found I got bored - partly becaus eit was, um, a load of boats on teh river.and partly because I thought the BBC's coverage was not up to much. Like my paper said, they seemed to treat it as only entertainment, with riverside semi-celebs making mostly inane comments...
The Buck House concert I watched from beginning to end, and enjoyed quite a lot of it. Robbie wanted to entertain us. Our Tom did OK I thought, our Shirl belted out "Diamonds Are For Ever", of course. Grace Jones was... Grace Jones. "I Gotta Feeling" didn't quite work for will.i.am. Elton n Macca are getting on. The visuals on Madness' "Our House" were astonishing (see pic). Ed Sheeran did very well, just him and his guitar. The Macca-led climax was good, and then the BBC ran their titles over the fireworks!  Anyway, on the whole I enjoyed. 
Missed the service but caught the carriage ride n balcony wave, which I found moving really - simply the Queen and her people, respect and, yes, love.
Meanwhile, "The Apprentice" on Sundaye evening. I'm still a fan on this the eighth series. People said there were no nasties this year and it was boring. The most interesting thing was the gradual change in Ricky, the eventual winner - a genuine journey of self-discover I hope.
Meanwhile - up to my neck in Canon Law work at the moment as Thursday 14th is T for Tribunal day, when all the judges of the National Tribunal for Wales are meeting at Shreswbury to decide 9 annulment applications. Yes, I know it isn't in Wales - but it's good for the train connections...  So I have to write opinions on four of the cases, each of which has three judges. 
So, the Queens, the Apprentices and the Judges - weird mixture, but just a week for your humble pp blogger. Oh, and there is the small matter of four funerals to be organized over the next two weeks, and our 3 Churches Mass, and... and...

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Sandra's smile

What a pleasant surprise! Fr T and I were just out for our fairly regular Saturday pub lunch. We were at the local Ty Glas, where we had two different styles of chicken. Fr T said that the lady behind me was smiling at us every so often... uhuh, I thought...
When I eventually looked round I realised that the lady in question was someone I knew 30 years ago when I was curate at St Francis of Assisi, and one of my responsibilities was to be chaplain at Ely Hospital. This was home to 650+ residents with learning disabilities, and very often physical ones too. Sitting behind me was Sandra, one of the residents that I knew best. Always smiling and warm on my ward visits, Sandra was a regular at the Sunday afternoon service, which I took on a rota with the Anglican and Baptist chaplains.
When I asked her if she remembered me, she buried her face in shyness. Her carer nodded to me that this gesture meant that she did. A few minutes later, after we had finished our meal, I asked her again, and she gave me the most wonderful smile and managed a warm "Yes!" She remembered our services and one or two other residents I mentioned.
Ely Hospital had been the subject of a ground-breaking enquiry in the late 60s, after a visitor made allegations of bad treatment via the "News of the World". It revealed cases of men and women locked up there for over 50 years in some cases, and led to a revolution in the care of people like Sandra, not only in Ely but throughout the British healthcare system.  
How wonderful to be instantly transported back 30 years and to once again enjoy the transcendent smile of Sandra, now free as a bird in the community, enjoying her pub lunch... next to me.
Picture shows the social area where I used to have a cuppa with Sandra and others after the service.