-- Google Analytics START --> <-- Google Analytics END -->
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK
Friday, May 30, 2003From Eglington Terrace Youth Hostel, Edinburgh
It's my Edinburgh break from semi-rural bliss at Crinan. Good holiday. Here though, for an Iona Community get-together; which is good too. More, on all of this, no doubt, next week.
Saturday, May 24, 2003not so soft in Crinan
Last blog for a few days. I'm off to Crinan tomorrow. And today I celebrate because when searching on 'Crinan Kilmartin' I discovered not.so.soft dot com, website of Meg Pickard, closely related to Jan, who's featured on these pages a few times (here, for instance). It's a wealth of good writing, poetry and gorgeous photographs, many of them of that part of Scotland we love so much. If you check in here while I'm away and want to get an idea where I am, then go and see - on not.so.soft dot com's picture pages. They're a treat for the eyes.
[Note, Jan 2004: notsosoft.com ceased to exist later in 2003; but Meg is still very much online at meish.org, and her picture pages are thankfully fully restored there.]
Friday, May 23, 2003All mapped out Ordnance Survey website today. It's not quite the situation the Telegraph article suggested. The contentious issue is around 'where a former place of worship has a new secular use but has no landmark architectural features Ð and is therefore of little or no help for navigation Ð [in this case] the building will not be highlighted with [a plain cross] symbol.' In other words, carpet warehouses, sheltered housing and arts centres in ecclesiastical shells won't appear as churches on the map. 'This has been our policy for many years and will not change,' say the OS. Well, you might have told us...
But they have been listening to punters' points of view recently. Because the Church Times recently reported,
"Our duty has to be with the people who use the maps," he said. "The plain-cross symbol is not something we're just going to lose, because we understand the sensitivity. We're consulting our user groups, and expect to reach a decision in the next few weeks."
Thursday, May 22, 2003Who we are and how we tread Tuesday's blog with him. It's all too easy to slag off the church in such arguments, he felt. And anyway, she's writing from a cosy middle-class position which would probably baulk at some of the expressions of 'carnival' we see on our city streets each Saturday night.
This made me think that the opposition Griffiths sets up lacks necessary complexity. Actually the church and carnival have gone together, do go together, more than she recognises. In ways which Williams was getting at, and in (ah, that expression again), psycho-geographical ways too. Thus, I surprise myself by agreeing with an opinion article in The Telegraph, which rants at the decision of the Ordnance Survey to remove out-of-use churches from their maps of England.
It seems the reason the OS have decided to do this is because these churches are of no 'navigational significance'. Presumably this means that if car drivers don't need to use them as landmarks to get to their destinations, they're obsolete. As the op-ed writer Kevin Myers correctly notes, many map features fall into this category - castles, Roman roads, for example. The loss is in relation to the role maps play in helping us relate, on quite profound levels, to the landscape:
Maps allow a small communion with history, with habits and mores which are long gone: but they have left footprints in the landscape, and in those representations of the landscape which we calls maps, and which only a barbarian would not think worthy of retaining.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003Stacking up Borders, and a rummage around the piles of neglected mags and books I've put to one side over recent months. Reading in Crinan will be as follows: Wanderlust, Respect, Bragg, The Idler, Resurgence, Hot Press and especially, given the place I'll be in, Kilmartin - a guide to Scotland's richest prehistoric landscape and a few back issues of the soon-to-be-very-untimely-defunct 3rd Stone. Roll on the weekend!
Tuesday, May 20, 2003On carnival and pageantry The Ecologist and discovered an article by Jay Griffiths (writer of Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time) 'Rejoicing in the irrepressible and uncontrollable resurgence of carnival' in our time. She writes:
Britain once had hundreds of carnivals: blessing-of-the-mead days, hare-pie-scrambling days, mischief nights and cakes-and-ale ceremonies, hobby-horse days, horn-dance days and cock-squoiling days Ð each area tootling to its own festive tune. Many of these carnivals served an important political purpose, upholding common peopleÕs rights Ð rights of access, land use, gleaning or wood gathering. The common people had a common time for celebrating common rights on common land. But these customs were effectively crushed by one thing: enclosure. Once the literal commons were stolen, the metaphoric common time disappeared.
Trying to find something redeeming in my tradition to align with this celebration of the pagan, I find it in an article from The Times, Christians 'greedy and bored' says Williams:
Dr Rowan William says that too many people are ÒhereditaryÓ Christians who have inherited their belief from their forebears as if it were Òsomething obviousÓ.
Western Christians must recapture a sense of joy and wonder in the nature of God and to learn from countries where faith is newer and more vibrant to recapture the Òexpectant joy of ChristÓ, he says.
"And we look, of course, at the world around us with boredom, greed, indifference, exploitation or whatever, and we donÕt look at it first and foremost as the Earth God wanted.Ó'
Monday, May 19, 2003Cross-fertilisation
It could go further though. Though good, much of the language and thinking in these disciplines is dry, sober and technical. I look forward to another decade when such gatherings will be attended by probation, police, priests ... and poets ...
Sunday, May 18, 2003Tea Total Tea Total, I called it. A hopefully entertaining way to get through something about trade rules on our (belated) Christian Aid Sunday.
Saturday, May 17, 2003Banksy and co Great idea - Guerilla Parenting - whose website declares,
Do your children respect the hours of hard work that you invest in them? No! Children exploit their parents in much the same way that McDonalds corporation exploits the poor and weak people of Canada's rainforests. It's time to take matters into your own hands and force the little ---- to behave properly. The time for calm exhortations and promises of extra cartoon time is over. Use our stencils to decorate your neighborhood with messages that will make your kids behave and stop treating the place like a goddamned amusement park. It's for their own good. Warning: Police may confuse your activities with illegal grafitti vandalism.
Linked to this via Jonny Baker's ever resource-full blog. He's in trouble with one punter who's taken him to task for promoting "vandalism of public or private property as an act of worship". Easy to mock such conservatism - but plainly graffiti can be a costly nuisance. However, it's also a people's art, always has been from those cave paintings thru' hillside chalk horses thru' John 3:16 at football grounds, to Banksy's weapons of mass disruption. Banksy says, A wall is just as good a place to publish as anywhere else, and where there's a good or creative ethic, as there is in his stuff and Guerilla Parenting, for example, and when it's enhancing otherwise anonymous or ugly places, it's not a bad idea at all.
(My all time favourite is still 'The Pies, The Pies' on the last bridge over the M57 approaching Switch Island. What's yours?)
Friday, May 16, 2003Today the world - tomorrow the pub! ogblog. He's one among many "who fell off the back of the bus and couldn't/didn't get back on - the bus being the church." and who (down the pub most often it seems) "are still wanting to work out our faith in awe and wonder (aka fear and trembling)".
Ogblog relates to the word 'openground', which "says it best for us right now":
Thursday, May 15, 2003An ABC of L8? Common Ground route.
Common Ground exist to encourage local communities to celebrate local distinctiveness - that which is special or unique to a particular place:
It can be used to good effect:
As a celebration of the place. As with Parish Maps, an ABC should be a starting point for local action. It should attract local media attention and inspire others to become involved, decide how to channel this interest before your ABC is launched.
To promote locally distinctive produce, created in the area to benefit the local economy.
Every home should have one. The ABC is important for awareness raising, encourage those who have no time to be involved to order one.
A framed copy should be hung in the community centre, Council Chamber, local pub, on the Parish Notice Board.
Wednesday, May 14, 2003Celtic night
We ended with 'Liverpool Hope', which isn't an advert for a local university college, but a localised adaptation of something the Late Late Service produced a decade ago, which moved us tonight as it always will, with a heavenly vision for this grimy place:
I saw a vision:
it was last Thursday at eleven o'clock in the morning.
I was standing at the top of Brownlow Hill, looking down over the city
and the cold, blue autumn sky broke open over my head
and the Spirit of God breathed on my eyes and my eyes were opened:
I saw Liverpool, the holy city, coming down out of heaven
shining like a rare jewel, sparkling like clear water in the eye of the sun
and all the sickness was gone from the city
and there were no more suburbs and schemes
no difference between Grassendale and Granby
I saw the Mersey running with the water of life,
as bright as crystal,
as clear as glass
the children of Liverpool swimming in it
And the Spirit showed me the tree of life
growing in Sefton Park
I looked out and there were no more homeless people
there were no women working the streets
there were no more junkies up the closes
HIV and AIDS were things of the past
there were no more racist attacks
no more attacks on gay people
no more rapists
no more stabbings
no more Protestants and Catholics
no more IRA graffiti, no more Orange marches
because there was no more hate
and I saw women walking safe at nights
and the men were full of passion and gentleness
and none of the children were ever abused
because the people's sex was full of justice and joy.
I saw an old woman throw back her head
and laugh like a young girl
and when the sky closed back her laughter rang in my head
for days and days
and would not go away.
This is what I saw, looking across to the Liver Buildings,
looking up from the city of death
and I knew then that there would be a day of resurrection
and I believe that there will be a day of resurrection.
Tuesday, May 13, 2003New Search search engine today. The other one was ok, but Google's better. You still have to do EDIT-FIND on the archives pages to locate the fine detail once you've completed the search.
Monday, May 12, 2003All or Nothing In Mike Leigh's All or Nothing Phil (Timothy Spall) is searching for respect. It takes a combination of an unexpectedly precious conversation with a customer in his cab, and the shock of finding his young son in Intensive Care with a heart attack, to bring his long-time insecurities to the surface.
The brilliantly-observed story concludes with a resolution of sorts, between him and his tidy, long-suffering wife, and the other family members as they struggle, for the first time ever, to find ways to express their care for each other. Before that it'd always been a struggle just to get by.
Sunday, May 11, 2003Desktop Maybe The pleasure of being introduced to Desktop Davey on Everton's new website hardly compensated for the deep, deep, disappointment of losing out on European football after a fine performance against Man Utd and their diligent referee Mike Riley. Regained perspective whilst stood outside St Gabriels on 'car watch' duty with Mark, one of Liverpool Diocese's five West Ham clergy fans... their grief far deeper than ours. But - final blow on a bitter day - Desktop Davey doesn't work on Macs. I shall cry myself to sleep.
Saturday, May 10, 2003Respect Moyes was good at Old Trafford last night, letting us see brief glimpses into his motivation and philosophy. The most telling statement he made was in answer to a question about what motivated him. "Fear," he said, "fear of failure, fear of losing...." I think that's probably the other side of the coin on which is printed 'driven by need for success', and whilst feeling cautious about that it's evident that when people with rare talent channel such drives (Alex Ferguson the prime present example, and perhaps Tony Blair too) the effect on their chosen 'project' can be wonderful, transformational. It's worked with Everton under Moyes so far.
The other thing he said which really struck me was about how he deals with people. For he's obviously very, very adept at that, what they call in football a great 'man manager'. The important thing, he says, is to deal with people, all people, equally, "with respect." That word again. Heard it this morning too, on a conference about nurturing Christians. It's a core principle of any valid relational activity.
It seems to me that Moyes works hard at cultivating an attitude of respect for all. He must have discovered its value on the mean streets of Glasgow as a youngster, he has learned it on his hard journey through the lower leagues, respecting journeymen colleagues at down-at-heel clubs, he's cultivated it at the feet of acknowledged masters such as Ferguson and Robson, whom he's studied closely. And he showed it to four giddy scousers hassling him for autographs and photographs last night, one of them in a royal-blue clerical shirt, ahem.
Respect. It's the subject of a book I've been reading all too slowly since last month. I must get through it. From all sorts of angles, it's obviously key.
Friday, May 09, 2003Whirl-Mart glides into town Excellent! I've just discovered that The Church of Stop Shopping are due into Liverpool next week. With Reverend Billy (who once led his congregation and a gospel choir into Starbucks for an impromptu sermon on the evils of the transnational bean and hormone-injected milk), Whirl-Mart, a silent trolley procession which mesmerizes shoppers, and My DadÕs Strip Club, an absurdist look at subliminal messages spelled out in supermarket receipts. It says here. Can't wait.
Thursday, May 08, 2003Blue mood Donned the new Everton kit, just launched today. Made in Bulgaria. Hmmmmm...
And so I'm clearing out some of my old kits to send on to the Radio Five Live Shirt Amnesty (they're sending them to fans in South Africa, "where our teams' replica kits are prized - and prohibitively expensive - things"). Getting my Everton-blue clerical shirt ready for tomorrow night's fund-raising dinner in aid of Score sports chaplaincy organisation, at Old Trafford with guest speaker David Moyes. Gearing up for the final game of the season, Sunday, Man U at Goodison. And then the long, still, silent, summer when nothing happens except the raising of hopes and renewing of dreams for August. COYB...
Wednesday, May 07, 2003Good skin #2 Ken Clare's back in work....
The Adelphi for the National Church Leaders' Conference 2003. Organised by 'New Wine', "this conference is always a significant time in the lives of those who attend," their website says. "It's a time to meet other church leaders, receive encouragement and be re-envisioned."
The Adelphi is a temple to former commercial glories, now faded and eclipsed by shining new hotels on the city's prestigious waterfront. But let's hope that on their two-day stay there, these good folk get all they came for. I popped in for a Ridley Hall reunion. Seemed like half the class of 2000 were on this conference. New Wine ain't my cup of tea, but cappuccino with some valued old college people was just right for a midweek afternoon. I don't think it re-envisioned me but our hour round a table at next-door Caesar's Palace will be a highlight of the week.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003Cheers
Monday, May 05, 2003The sea and how you see it .
Felt queasy this morning (too much wine perhaps, last night). But walked all the way into town, it being a blustery bank holiday. When it came to the decision whether to follow the thousands down to the river for the Battle of the Atlantic commemorations, my queasiness increased.
Deep unease in my stomach about turning up at the Albert Dock to coo at warships from eight different countries moored out in the Mersey. Something to do with being drawn by the scale and strength of those vessels while having a lingering awareness of their purpose - death and destruction.
Unable to reconcile all this I did my usual Monday shop in Probe (for new Blur, old Half Man Half Biscuit and cheap Sub Pop compilation) and then found myself unexpectedly back in the realm of the sea, thumbing through the current Reporters Sans Frontieres publication in W.H.Smiths.
RSF campaign for press freedom worldwide, and fundraise by publishing two glossy magazines each year, each one devoted to the work of a photojournalist. This one features the work of marine photographer Philip Plisson, who has devoted most of his life to studying the sea, the Navy and seafarers. Setting sail from French Brittany's picturesque port of TrinitŽ-sur-Mer, he usually prepares his photographic reports aboard his custom-built cruiser, P�cheur d'Images ("Image Catcher"), or from a helicopter. His work is so consistently excellent that in 1991 the French Minister of Defence, "mindful of the need to preserve the memory of significant historical events", awarded him the illustrious title of "Painter of the French Department of the Navy".
Plisson captures the seas in all their moods, the people of the seas in all their struggles and conquests, the crafts they use in all their strength or vulnerability, sea creatures in all their beauty. One of the most striking pictures in this collection is of a dolphin playing in the wash just beneath the stern of a massive ocean-going vessel as it powers through the waters. The picture, in its wonder and terror, invites more queasiness in me, with my weak stomach. Plisson sees it this way: "The vessel's stern seems to beam benignly down upon the dolphin's aquatic antics."
Sunday, May 04, 2003Buster and Stab Up - Ska freedom Order!
Now the court is in session, will you please stand.
First allow me to reintroduce myself.
My name is Judge Dread, otherwise called Judge Four-Hundred Years.
I am the very same judge who put down those sentences on you,
Five hundred years and five hundred lashes,
But have lately
Been getting letters, phonecalls,
And the Probation Officer has recommended
That I be a little more lenient with you
Because you are showing signs of reform.
Well, I have seen to be in agreement
And have brought for you today
To celebrate your freedom
Your Probation Officer.
And your Probation Officer is none other
Than Mister Jools Holland .....
Absolute genius on Later last night, from Ska pioneer Prince Buster, performing Barrister Pardon, one of his Judge Dread songs, vignettes of Jamaican social relations over a chorus of upbeat horns playing a slowed New Orleans-style shuffle. With Jools on keyboards, when Buster as Õthe judgeÕ pronounced freedom, insisting, ÒI want to see you danceÓ, the resultant rhythm set the whole studio swinging in celebration. Glorious.
And timely. Because it melded so well with my impressions of another courtroom scene, wonderfully described by Darcus Howe in this weekÕs New Statesman, from his last visit to Trinidad. ItÕs so good and full of grace IÕm just going to reproduce it here, unaltered.
Waiting for the case to be called, we saw a young man in the dock charged with possession of an offensive weapon - a meat cleaver. The prosecutor said that his alias was "Stab Up". At the magistrate's request, Stab Up, who said he carried the meat cleaver in self-defence, demonstrated how he concealed it at his waist. He constantly shuffled around and adjusted his trousers. This discomfort had attracted the suspicion of the police.
"Stab Up," said the magistrate, "tell me why I should not send you to prison forthwith."
"Sir," came the reply, "I could sing. I could sing real good. I go make it big as a singer if yuh give me a chance."
"You could sing?"
"Yes, sir. I have some demo tapes and I take them to a record producer who tell me I good, I real good. I could make the big time. Gimme a chance nuh, sir. Is only one chance I want."
"You say you could sing? Then sing for me."
Stab Up rolled his shoulders, lifted his head to the ceiling, closed his eyes as the entire courtroom hung in suspense. And Stab Up sang.
A mellifluous voice filled the air. His diction and his phrasing were perfect. Soon the corridor close to the courtroom was packed and Stab Up rendered the song a cappella, his hand close to his mouth as though he were holding a microphone. When he reached for the high note, he bent his right knee and hit a magnificent pitch. He took his final bow.
The magistrate's face was wreathed in smiles. He clapped and a thunderous ovation exploded about the courtroom. Stab Up's eyes were darting all around. The magistrate told the defendant that normally he would have sent him to prison for 18 months. He knew, he said, that he would be pilloried in the press for setting Stab Up free, but he was prepared to take the chance.
Stab Up got two years' probation. I doubt he could reach those heights ever again. He saw bars as he sang - and they weren't musical ones.
Saturday, May 03, 2003The blessing of water Resurgence Brian Goodwin addresses the world problem of accelerated environmental decline through overuse of oil resources. And offers this thought in response: "The alternative that science provides comes through the blessing of water". I'm struck by that as I prepare for tomorrow's baptisms.
Goodwin refers to the school-class chemistry which teaches us that hydrogen burns with oxygen to produce water and energy. Notes that Presidents, neglecting half of this formula, have opted to control energy with damaging and potentially catastrophic effects. And continues:
Friday, May 02, 2003Pic of the Month Pic of the Month. It's a cartoony departure.
Thursday, May 01, 2003Jim gives it the Vees
He once wrote a book called Liverpool: the history we'd like to forget. They don't stock it in the Cathedral shop, but it meant a lot to the inhabitants of the North End of the city who compiled it with Jim during a Lent course. Because it provoked some honest, hard memories. Houses of prayer built on slave trade money, protestant sermons about "The Scum of Ireland", that sort of thing.
"We [began] by mourning and at the end looking for vision," his Introduction says. "If we face our past honestly we shall not regret its passing so much. The grass and ruins will become our hope and opportunity for a better Liverpool to arise."
It's the same school of thought which produces articles in the North End's Scottie Press ('Britain's Longest-Running Community Newspaper'), celebrating Kitty Wilkinson, a pioneer of public health, without regretting the passing of the wash-houses she established in Liverpool and throughout the UK.
Jim's never fitted comfortably into conventional structures but he sat very comfortably in my living room this morning. Perhaps five years after we last sat down together like this, it was good to renew acquaintance with yet another champion of thinking-outside-the-box. I got to know him when I started community work in L8 - he took me on a very long walk around Toxteth, demonstrating an encyclopaedic knowledge of the place's geography and people, and an enthusiasm for working out what it means to be an urban Christian.
He's devoted many years to resourcing similarly-enthused people in this city and others, he's had many arguments and run-ins with the establishment, and been through deep crises of faith. He's heading on towards 70 now but still rides around on his vast BMW motorbike and writes prolifically. Next venture for Jim - getting his stuff on the web. The establishment might not like it. But it'll be so good for the people.