Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bathtime in Clerkenwell

One of the stranger things I've seen for a while. Think of it as Badger Badger, meets Wallace and Gromit meets "V" for Vendetta. Muchas Gracias to Fr Denman from Edmonton for the reference.

The Peebles Agricultural Show

The Peebles Agricultural Show took place today during which the rain miraculously ceased for a few hours. We've got a parish outing tomorrow and we're hoping the interlude lasts until then.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The first album I ever owned was by a group called The Collectors (whose later incarnation under the name Chilliwack was a bit better known). I can't remember how I came to own this record album - it seems to me that somebody was moving house and gave it to me. The second album I owned was a little more sophisticated - Herman's Hermits.

Anyway - back to The Collectors - there's this girl called Lydia who wears purple and lives in a steeple. The most pressing thing for the songwriter(s) would appear to be to have words at the end of each line that rhyme. Little else matters.

An article by the Georgian president appeared in today's Guardian.

My favourite line from the last paragraph:

I have staked my country's fate on the west's rhetoric about democracy and liberty.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A fresh spirit of militancy is rising up even in peaceful corners of the world. This is the Ginger Heartland after all. Mr Spongecake and Mr Cherry Tart, along with their families and their gods are not welcome anywhere in the oven.

August 12, 2008 at 5:04 AM EDT

TOKYO — Japanese police have arrested a 20-year-old man who attacked and robbed two people after they stared at his Winnie-the-Pooh costume, officials said on Tuesday.

Masayuki Ishikawa was hanging out on a Tokyo street corner after midnight last month while wearing the cuddly costume, accompanied by two friends dressed as a mouse and a panther, when he took offence at being stared at, police said.......

.......Mr. Ishikawa and his friends beat up the two victims and stole $160 from them, the spokesman said, adding the group had apparently donned the unusual garb because they had run out of clean clothes.

Hmmm. I remember the whole phenomenon of 'my cleanest dirty shirt' back in college days. I don't believe I was ever reduced to this though.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dmitri Orlov on the Georgian crisis. He was once a student of Abkhaz language and culture (I wonder if he's available for dinner parties - it certainly beats an after supper game of Twister) and by his his own admission his take on the present situation is influenced by an earlier keen interest in one party to the present troubles. His parallels with Kosovo make things seem a simple matter of alliances - who's bloc one supports.

Things are probably even simpler than that.

Yards of stuff here I didn't know, though, about the ethnic makeup of the region.

Thanks to Sam Norton for the ref.

Monday, August 11, 2008

This is more or less what was preached at a Requiem Mass for Frances McLean. A couple of folks have asked for the text. I couldn't help adding a few bits and pieces which better reflected the whole day and not just the sermon at the Requiem Mass. Think of it as a retrospective sermon.


A funeral sermon for Frances McLean
November 7th, 2008
The Church of Saint James the Less
Penicuik, Midlothian

The words which the Bishop recited as he led Frances McLean’s coffin out of the church were those of devout Simeon who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. As Luke tells the story, Simeon has now arrived at the end of his life and the child Jesus is brought to him. What he says is this:

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.

Simeon was promised one thing only and has now received it. Words like his speak of ‘sufficiency’ and, in my way of thinking; sufficiency has a lot going for it. You might not leap for joy to see the word ‘sufficient’ scrawled across the top of an exam paper or on a written appraisal of our work but I think sufficiency is badly under-rated.

We balk nowadays at eulogies – with their long lists of achievements – being read at funerals in the church. They’ve gone out of style, haven’t they - eulogies? You get the feeling that when such lists of achievements are being read out that we are swimming upstream and are battling what everybody in the church already knows, which is this: that rich or poor, famous or unknown, languid or troubled – we all go this same way!

The same sentences from the Burial Office – which Tony read on the night before the funeral as Frances’ coffin was carried into the chancel - are going to be read at our funerals one day. Our coffins, made of solid cherry wood with real brass handles, or made of veneer or canvas-covered chip-board are going to be covered with the same funeral pall in the church and will give the same visual effect as any other coffin. Frances was buried at Rosebank Cemetery on Pilrig Street near the 200 soldiers on their way to the front lines in the First World War who died in the Gretna Train Disaster, in the same graveyard as her grandfather and great grandfather and in the company of saints and rascals from two centuries of Scottish history. Gravediggers – Council employees in yellow coats – could be seen hiding behind trees puffing on their cigarettes until we’d gone. It was just one more burial to them.

We’re all together in our deaths. It is a great leveller.

Notwithstanding the uniqueness of the woman and our feelings for her, and even though there are remarkable stories that can be told about her, what the bishop said in his prayer at the Commendation referred simply to her participation in the Grace which God has granted to us in Christ:
Into your hands, O merciful Saviour, we commend your servant, Frances. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming…..

I believe that when Frances asked her nurse on Wednesday whether she would survive this illness and was told, as directly as any nurse could possibly tell her, that she would not survive it - she must have put her head back on the pillow and said to herself

that she’d had enough.

There was sadness. I sensed it on the Tuesday afternoon when we spoke. There was solemnity. The bishop told me that Frances said ‘goodbye’ to him on Wednesday after lunch with a great sense of occasion and finality.  You see,

She’d had enough. 

What does that mean? Not that she had no strength to fight it (we can’t know what she was thinking about that) – but that had you asked Frances if she’d had occasion to love and be loved, to apply herself to the world around her, to fill her generation and to meet Christ in the midst of the world’s people she’d have said ‘yes’. It was sufficient. 

She’d had enough.

I hope this for you – first of all, sufficiency.

Do remember that funeral sermons, such as they are, are intended for the living and not for the dead. The question today is not only ‘who was Frances’, but ‘who are we’? Men and women, boys and girls who may well not be in a position yet to say that

we have ‘enough’

- that we live today in sufficiency – that we would be satisfied were our life to reach its end on the 7th of November 2008. This poses for us a challenge. It could provoke in us something of an ‘ache’ and were we to walk away from the hospital bed, the church or the graveside resolved that we would follow the lead of that nagging feeling rather than fleeing from it, then the loss of our friend and the experience of gathering around her coffin or more accurately, the experience of gathering with her around the Lord’s Table could be a tremendous blessing and a new beginning.

Now - you know and I know that ‘sufficiency’ is not a word that adequately exhausts the subject of Frances McLean. It doesn’t end there of course – but it’s something that has to be said.

The image we all have in our minds when thinking of Frances is certainly not a checklist with one ticked and sufficient box but something more akin to a cornucopia – a horn of plenty – filled with fruit – a cup - running over. It has much to do with a sense of humour, with a very loud and boisterous laugh and with a series of active associations around the world of a woman in her eighties. It has to do with the stories we heard of Frances on her last trip to South Africa with Angela being surrounded by the children she helped bring into the world, by the nurses and students she encouraged – people who remembered her and looked at her as one who nurtured life and enjoyed the fullness of her relationships.

And so, this I hope for you as well – abundance – not in what you gather to yourselves but what you scatter abroad into the lives and beings of others. In the remarkable lives or ordinary saints like Frances McLean we get a sense of what can be done with our particular portion of life.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

This is the route of the pipeline which is Europe's alternative route to the Russian pipeline running from Baku to Novorosslysk. It doesn't leave a whole hell of a lot to the imagination, does it?

Mixing military enterprise with the oil business is not unknown, of course. It always seems a little more craven when somebody else does it though. Amateurs! Where were the spin doctors?