Monday, 27 September 2010


Back in January I saw, among other artistes, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing performing at the Cross Kings, as was. Yesterday I went to hear them again, this time at The Gaff up Holloway Road. A rather crazy thing to do on a Sunday evening, but sometimes craziness must be embraced. I missed Lady Carol and her ukelele, but did catch some of delightfully-named compere Ophelia Bitz. The Men themselves once again offered good if very loud fun (not that these things are always contradictory) and I considered it a success if I could get the general gist of what was going on. Sometimes we had an introduction to the songs, which was helpful on occasion ('this one's about the Empire'; 'this song's about a works outing to Margate ruined when a Cthulhu octopus god crawls out of the water'). Mostly the topics were offbeat and humorous with episodic lapses into the more serious - the one about the Tommy who turns his bayonet on his sergeant having decided 'my real enemy's the bastards in authority' was admitted to be 'nice and cheerful for a Sunday'.

Back to Church

I'm told some churches find 'Back to Church Sunday' terribly successful, and make a great effort for the last Sunday in September to invite people who may not have been to worship for ages, or are on the fringes. I'm told.

At 8am yesterday I confronted a church containing 9 people. As I told them, and was rewarded by rueful smiles, Back to Church Sunday seemed in danger of becoming Stay Away From Church Sunday. If that title hadn't been claimed by all the others.

Thankfully at 10am some people did indeed come Back to Church. We had more than a dozen children and over a hundred people all told, including two young men who came in on their own and sat at the back - 'Roman Catholics' I instantly concluded but they turned out to be a local window cleaner and his Estonian houseguest. Instead of preaching I talked through the Eucharist stage by stage which people seemed really to appreciate. It's always struck me that I only knew anything about why the liturgy was the way it was because of studying 19th century church history at college, and then had nothing in the way of instruction until I got to vicar school, so how are the laity supposed to work it out?

It all went on a bit, but wasn't unsuccessful.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Trouble Down Below

I said to our curate the other day that I was increasingly worried about the Garden of Remembrance and the measuring of plots for the burial of ashes which seemed to make no sense to me. 'We're going to be digging through ashes to bury more ashes if we're not careful'. The following afternoon the man from the undertakers' called to deliver a pot of remains and, brushing the dirt off his hands, asked me where I'd put the guide marker for the hole. 'In the middle of the plot', I said. 'I nearly cut straight through the tube in the previous plot', he said. 'I've smeared a bit of dirt up the side so you can't see it.'

So today I tried to sort the business out by measuring the whole area and working out how big the plots are supposed to be, and comparing that with the plan. 18" by a foot, I make it. According to the original plans the plots look about 8" square and there's a border a foot wide at the edge of the grassy area. That's not the plan we use, however. The plan we use is a copy of that one, with a completely different layout pasted over the top, showing no border and half as many plots, tacked on the office wall. How we've never had 'ash-clash' before is a minor miracle.

Goth Walk XXI

The LGMG went walking last week through the dark heart of London - and, as he freely admitted, that of our guide the young Lord Declan - examining the origins of Goth in the capital in a grand peregrination that took us from Kensington through Brompton and Westminster and up into Soho, narrowly avoiding both the Bishop of Rome who happened to be around at the same time and a gaggle of figures carrying black flags. Anarchists, was my first thought. Then I saw the beards; Pirates was the second. Pirates have black flags. Then I saw the placards reading 'Jesus hates the Pope' and 'Jesus loves Islam' and realised they were Muslim Fundamentalists. One of my colleagues misheard the latter slogan as 'Jesus Loves His Mum', which we much preferred though didn't think it really needed saying.

These are my two favourite pictures of the day, arches in a church doorway on Milner Street, and massed black-clad folk descending the steps of the Albert Hall. I tried to think of a joke involving Hitler, and failed.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Green Set, Amended

I swore to change the rather substandard crosses of gold ribbon I added to the stole and maniple of the green set, and I've finally bought a length of proper vestment braid from eBay and done the job. I think the new crosses look much smarter.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Power of Christ Compels You!

Every month, we go to Widelake House to hold a communion service for the largely gaga residents. Once a year it all becomes rather more involved. Giles the manager of the House is convinced (I'm not sure on what evidence) that the place is built on a Saxon burial ground or a plague pit or something, and insists that it gets blessed. Being a Papist he used to invite one of the Bishop of Rome's clergy to do the job, but somebody was rather cursory and dismissive on one occasion and so now he turns to those of us from the province of Canterbury. Our curate did it last year, and now it was my turn. We started in the manager's office and then I was led around the house by a member of staff, pausing in all the lounges and opening all the bedrooms. Most of the residents were elsewhere, sat in the lounges or wandering about, which expedited the process, one of them preferred I carry out the rite outside the room itself, and my guide suggested that another resident would not welcome the intrusion, but everywhere else got sprinkled and prayed for. 'Everything will be SO much more peaceful now', beamed Giles, 'I can go on holiday in the right frame of mind'. I'm not entirely sure about that.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Down in the Depths

Last Thursday took some of the London Goths to Shoreditch to view the exhibition 'Subterranean London', which was kicking off the annual Illumini Event, in the basement of Shoreditch Town Hall.
I saw some interesting items on the way along Old Street; an excitingly derelict building, a Gothic triple doorway, a backbone on a building, and a beguiling rogue sculpture which I now know to be the Credit Crunch Monster created by a guerilla sculptor naming himself Ronzo.

However, little did we know that we were not the only people there, but that several hundred (and for all I know several thousand) others had had the same idea. It took me, at any rate, an hour and a quarter to make it along the queue. We were, to be fair, plied with sweetmeats by costumed attendants and juggled at by entertainers during the long, long wait.

Once inside, a labyrinth of tunnels, chambers and stairways was revealed, decorated by a variety of artworks mostly of the sculptural variety inspired by the strange world of underground London - crypts, forgotten railways, cellars, air raid shelters, and the like. It was very intriguing, if cramped, and I thought the quirky and slightly unsettling humour was worth the wait.

Of course I can't help viewing these types of things as a former museum curator, and my only gripe was with the tiny size of the labels - rather than squint through the semi-darkness I photographed the most interesting for future reference!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


A member of the congregation came into the church this morning waving a leaflet she'd been handed as a customer of Lloyd's Bank in the village. The branch is closing on 3rd December. It's a terrible decision which will cause not just 'inconvenience' as the leaflet puts it, but social, economic and environmental damage. Social, because of the considerable proportion of older people and poor residents who will be deprived of banking services in their community, not to mention the school, the church, and the old people's day centre, who all bank with Lloyd's. Economic, because of the many businesses in the parish who use the bank and who now will have less reason to stay in the village. Environmental, because businesses banking cash will now have to go to Hornington, which means more car journeys, more congestion, more pollution. Brilliant.

Lloyd's made £1.6Bn profit last year. It has no justification for closing any branches, let alone Swanvale Halt's. The ordinary people of this village have, through their taxes, saved Lloyd's skin and paid its bosses' bonuses. And our reward is to have our bank, which is so vital for the community, closed. It can't be a commercial decision based on the business activity of the bank; it isn't my personal bank, but my observation that it's always busy is confirmed by what people tell me. Instead it can only be that managers have looked at the map, seen that our branch is barely a mile from Hornington's, and decided that we can do without it.

Well. My first action was to call the Surrey Advertiser and then to circulate the councillors and community activists I know of. If we do end up losing our bank, it won't be for want of shouting in protest.

And what is this to do with the Church? Human beings are made in God's image and are consequently more important than profits. We shall start there.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Busbridge Lakes Trip

I am very fond of Busbridge Lakes. It's the closest Gothic Garden to where I live and I was completely unaware of its existence before coming across the reference in Hedley and Meulenkamp's compendium of British follies. Last year I had a group of friends from the LGMG over to the Rectory for a housewarming party, as the August Bank Holiday weekend happened to be the last one before I started work. This year I did the same, and decided to take those who remained on Monday out to the Lakes and show them the follies.

Mrs Douetil, on the gate, claimed that it 'hadn't been a good year' but at least our pennies added to the revenue a little. Not least of this was the money we paid for bags of grain to feed the birds, grain at which they universally turned their beaks up. They preferred coffee cake, at least the peacocks did. Only Mr Webb, as you can see, succeeded in arousing any interest and actually got various exotic ducks feeding out of his hand. Perhaps there was something interesting on his cuffs. My heart fell as I thought we were going to be barred from the Ghost Walk by a path closed as a result of a fallen tree (indeed in another place there is a photograph showing my incredulity from the naughty side of the notice); but we found the upper path and got in that way. Only to discover sheep hiding in the Hermit's Cave, rather than ghosts.