Monday, 30 November 2009

Brown Study

At the back of the church is a chest full of old tat no longer used but which nobody can quite bear to get rid of. Actually some of it is being used again, thanks to me, but the stuff that isn't forms an interesting insight into the liturgical fashions of the near-past. Among it was this set of vestments.I doubt it looks that bad from here. To be fair, the chasuble has a nice, classic Gothic cut and isn't undignified. But it's made from an immensely heavy furnishing fabric - the dark patterning is a thick velvet, and I think even I'd find it a nightmare to wear. There's a matching cope with a vile little pixie-hood at the back which I can barely lift.

More to the point - it's brown. What liturgical season uses brown? I asked and got the answer that it was made for use in Autumn, not in itself a season I thought the liturgical year included.

Goth Walk XVI: A Forgotten Genius

On Saturday afternoon the London Goth Meetup once again trod the streets of the capital discovering some more arcane aspects of its history. The Forgotten Genius in question was not Mr McHenry, our guide and informant, but 17th-century scientist and savant Robert Hooke. Our journey took us round the eastern and northern areas of the City, through narrow lanes and past towering glass and steel monuments to capitalism, and this rather appealing doorway at St Helen's Bishopsgate:

My friend Mr Marc M and his Merry Men were once involved with producing a documentary for the BBC about Robert Hooke. Robert, appropriately enough, impersonated Hooke himself, though all he had to do was sit in a periwig at a desk scratching away at paperwork. Apparently, if you stop the video and look very carefully at the notes, you'll find written in delicate Carolean copperplate, words to the effect 'Isaac Newton stole my ideas, the bastard'.

At the Centre

The weekend before last I had a Rather Large Birthday. Once upon a time I was rather cagey about my birthdate, but a friend who at one stage thought she might never reach another birthday showed me how they could be fun, so now I don't hide the fact. However Swanvale Halt church hasn't had an incumbent hit 40 in-post for simply ages, and I was not only serenaded with 'Happy Birthday' at the end of the service but had a cake served afterwards.

Part of the point of the incarnation of God the Son is that human beings, individual, real human beings with names and histories, are important because we bear his stamp and something of his nature. We glimpse God in each other. Still, I have a rush of discomfort that the church may focus too much of its attention on me and my personality (to which part of me is tempted to play up) rather than on the One for whom it exists, and this may only get more extreme when the curate leaves. The priest is key to the church community, but has to work to keep their centrality within proper bounds.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Disappearing Light

In a strange parallel to the recent electrical works on my house, as a result of which several perfectly serviceable lights were replaced with rather less nice ones that are more to the liking of the smallminded authorities who regulate these things, including a particularly inhumane one in the bathroom, the Paschal Candle at Swanvale Halt church has had to be replaced with one significantly less impressive than its predecessor. This is because the real one has been purloined. There have been mysterious thefts of candles from the church before, but the loss of the Paschal Candle, which is renewed each year, is going a bit further. The culprits thoughtfully left behind the five nails inserted in the candle: these will have to be rammed into one from two years ago which was happily reposing in a drawer thinking its work was over. The curate thinks somebody's had away with it as a Christmas ornament, which makes you wonder about the size of the Christmas tree they'll pinch to stick it on. If Trafalgar Square falls victim to Christmas Tree rustlers this Yuletide, you'll know where it started.

Bad Vestments Blog

This has gone straight in my list of places to visit regularly.

As it should for all Christian ministers who know what a vestment is (but necessarily what to put on it). The point is not just queeny fussing about tat looking right; it's what the blog author says across the top of his site, 'Christian worship isn't supposed to be about you'.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Swanvale Halt Film Club

Last night I watched Coraline (2009), helpfully sent me by LoveFilm - a stop-motion animated movie of Neil Gaiman's novel about a young girl who slips into a superficially appealing but finally threatening alternative world. I've seldom been so captivated. Tim Burton's films are great fun, but splendidly vacuous; this is Burton with heart and soul. Henry Selick also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, which almost seems a dry run for Coraline: I'm tempted to say it picks Burton up and cleans its teeth with him. The weather was atrocious in Swanvale Halt and the wind and rain howled around the Rectory, which was nothing more than the film deserved. Wonderful.

Art Down Below

You'd've thought vampire enthusiasts and Goths formed a seamless unity.The truth is rather different as this justly famous episode of South Park witnesses (the key confrontation is after 4.00 if you can't bear the Spanish subtitles). But there is some crossover between Vamps and Goths in London and I decided to breach the great divide by attending the private view of an exhibition in the Crypt Gallery at St Pancras to which one of the Vamps was contributing. It's rather a lovely space, dank and atmospheric, and thankfully they haven't even cleared away some of the broken monuments. It's better with fewer people in it, though.

Somewhere beyond the crowd of people on the right were the rather fabulous strings-and-electronica duo The McCarricks. Well, you can tell something's happening.
You may have noticed I haven't photographed any of the art. Apart from some moody photographs of Nunhead Cemetery I found it all a bit bemusing, to be frank. Below you can see the aftermath of a performance of which I only caught a glimpse: it involved somebody writhing on the floor under a black cloth.

Halloween 2009

I know this is dreadfully late, but here's a photo of one of my two swede lanterns perched on the wall outside Swanvale Halt Rectory. The other was down in the churchyard!

To See Ourselves

I've mentioned the Church After-School Club before. On Wednesday as their game activity the children were called on to choose a job and mime it so the others could guess. Little Thomas, having guessed correctly the occupation before, stood up and jabbed his finger repeatedly at his classmates. None of them could guess what he was. 'A vicar', he said, 'Telling people stuff'. I'm glad the infants think of us as so authoritative.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Glory of the Morning

In Lamford I had a nice but modest garden as you would expect with my three-bed 30s-semi curate's house. The garden that comes with the Rectory in Swanvale Halt is a bit more extensive and the trek out to the spot for my morning prayers is accordingly longer. This morning the red bloom across the sky gradually faded to drizzly grey and somewhere far off a tinkly bell rang seven. Could it be the church clock at Hornington; or the bell at the public school on top of the hill not far away? Could it even be the old parish school clock, now the old peoples' day centre next to the church itself? Not likely, as it was roughly on time.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Health and Efficiency

Once upon a time it wasn't too difficult to keep on top of things. The post would arrive at a predictable time of day, usually early in the morning, and you sat with your buttered toast, opened the envelopes with a silver paper knife, and, that done, proceeded to the day's work in the knowledge that unless unforeseen events arose nothing would take you by surprise until the next morning. Then came the telephone and, eventually, the answering machine; in theory this could have resulted in a string of demands, but it takes effort to talk to people or to frame your request or news into something coherent enough to be recorded on an answerphone, so there was still a filtering process.

Now there is email. Anyone can throw a word or two together, attach a string of relevant (or less relevant) documents, reply instantly to anything you have sent them, any time of the day they choose. And, unless you are very disciplined indeed, the messages gather, pile, cram against the day the Lord has made like drifted snow, but not so pretty.

To reduce the general levels of mania, I am wresting control of my email inbox. I will check emails, I tell myself, only at specified points three times a day, when I will either reply and delete, print the documents there and then, and delete, or shove the message into a pending tray if it requires more thought. Will I keep it up? Well, I must do something.

I sent a message to a clerical colleague today only to have an automated reply telling me he only checks his emails 'at the start of the week'. Would we could all be so bold. And get away with it.