Saturday, August 13, 2011

Geneva in early August

I can think of a half dozen lovely vistas which I have seen - in Canada and around the world. I have to add this one - the Geneva waterfront with the "jet d'eau" and Mont Blanc in the distance. We spent a week there with an old seminary pal of mine (now the Rector of Geneva) and his lady wife.

Orson Wells was not entirely wrong about the Swiss - they are tidy and orderly and life is a bit dull at times. They are fastidious recyclers and the busses/trams/trains/harbour-boats are all on an honour system. People "tut" at you when you cross the street at an unauthorized time and place.

But it's a lovely town.

It's too expensive to buy much of course. Every currency has fallen against the Swiss Franc. You see tourist families from nations with falling currencies negotiating with their children about limiting their sweets at waterfront stalls for reasons which have more to do with family finance than with sound dental health or good dietary habits.

The smugness about the Swiss Franc being the most stable currency in the world is wearing off with the realization that nobody can afford to buy their stuff any more and there are all sorts of folks being laid off in Switzerland.

Everything is advertised as being on sale. Still, I'm glad we went. It was a lovely trip to a beautiful place.

Beans on toast now for the next few months.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Pause for Thought
The Richard Allinson Show
BBC Radio 2
Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Words don't often fail us in our household. We are a fairly verbal lot in my family. We have lots to say.

Unless we visit a country where we don't speak the language. Then we have to use hand signals and point to places on the map.

I usually end up in Church on a Sunday. If it's a Communion service I can usually figure out what's going on. Sometimes the hymn tunes are familiar but I don't dare join in

I was a priest in a place called Chibougamau in Northern Quebec in the 1980's It was a mixed up sort of place and you really needed English, French and the native language, Cree, to get by as a clergyman and I only spoke two of them. The English and the French weren't a problem but Cree was hard to learn. Even after a few years I never managed more than a few words and phrases.

My first visit there was to an old lady named Alice who lived in a plywood shack on the edge of town and walked with two sticks and couldn't get about much. She was cooking a duck in a pot when I arrived. She pointed a chair out to me and motioned for me to sit. She carved the duck in two pieces and gave me half on a plate.

The door was open.

I knew that the word miyotchisigaw meant "nice day" and that any sentence could be turned into a question by adding the word "na" at the end. My church warden had taught me that - thought it might be useful.

I looked at the open door. "Miyotchisigaw na?" Isn't it a nice day?

She looked outside.

It was overcast. The wind was cold and blowing hard. There was still ice on the lake.

Enhe, she said, Miyotchisigaw.

Alice went on at length later to her daughter about her visit with the new priest and how she thought he would work out better than the last one had.

You see - if it were only the right words that mattered you could send those on a post card.

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Pause for Thought
The Zoe Ball Show
BBC Radio 2
Saturday, August 6th, 2011

The person who reads the gas and electricity meter at the Rectory where I live near Edinburgh knows when I've sat down for my lunch or lain down for a wee nap or am in the middle of a difficult phone call. The doorbell rings, the dogs start barking - chaos reigns. We miss him most of the time and get a card stuffed through the mail slot to fill in and send back. My wife's dog usually chews that up. The ones that are still legible I oftentimes neglect to fill in.

And so I get a visit. Always at the wrong time. The doorbell. The dogs. Chaos.

And what would they tell me if they got their information? That the winter has been long and I owe them more than I think in heating costs. That I've been leaving too many lights on and I owe them money for electricity. It's a bill after all - one which accumulates and which I'd rather forget about.

And so I get a visit.

There's not much in life that gets avoided. Less than we think. Not much we can conceal which somebody won't eventually require of us - loudly. We take a certain amount of pleasure in watching the high and mighty dragged before committees to answer questions. It's about time, we think, about time that the truth was told.

Not only is it a component of most religious traditions that we owe Somebody a reckoning, it's the experience we have of being observers of the ups and downs of other people's lives - that their performance at work is eventually found out - their lack of dedication to their spouse - their nickel and dime dishonesty when it comes to expenses - their lack of engagement in the lives of their children. It does come out eventually - and sometimes too late.

The time to turn things around is now. With the dog eared slip of paper asking us to make a regular accounting, with timely conversations with people we may have offended. With requests for grace and forgiveness.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad