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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, March 31, 2004
    Deviance amplification
    A problem with Liverpool's image is its long history of deviance amplification. In other words as we well know it's long been represented as an ugly, crime-ridden place. With some justification but by no means entirely fairly. I'm reading a rather dry tome (albeit with a great cover), Ronaldo Munck (ed): Re-inventing the City?: Liverpool in Comparative Perspective, and I'm encouraged that it goes a little way to counteracting deviance amplification in academia.

    It's not another of the many, many studies which focus on the city's social problems and perennial regeneration schemes; instead it invites writers of many disciplines to take a wider view of the city, looking at where it sits globally (neither 'global' nor 'postmodern' so outside the narrow boundaries of most urban theory), studying its culture, economics and sociology with eyes open, and - especially good, this - giving the closing chapters over to local people, young and old, and their perspectives on the place and its future.

    Muenck generously gives over the last paragraph of his introduction to some of these. He sets out to challenge the perception that 'disorderly places' breed 'disorderly people', a perception which has bred 'a whole underclass industry' examining urban ghettos, Third World shanty-towns or inner-city estates 'through what Edward Said has referred to as the new 'urban orientalism', an exoticising of the Other.'
      In fact, the attitudes of the young people ... were remarkably 'ordinary' for people living in an area where one-third of the working population were unemployed:

      "They think we are all dead common and rough. They say don't come here because they rob your car ... If they go to places where they hire stuff they won't let you ... People think we are all druggies ..."

      "I want to get a good job really and just be happy. I don't want to be on the dole."

      "If they did up all the houses, yeah, make it look pretty ... people aren't afraid of pretty things ..."
    I've been reading this book while listening to my new cd. Playing Squarepusher loud, I guess you could say, is a very particular form of amplification deviance.
    Tuesday, March 30, 2004
    A place where you realise your belief

    The people of Liverpool 8 are a rich variety. The area hosts Europe's oldest Black community, the UK's oldest Islamic community and some of the UK's longest-standing West African, Arab, Asian, Caribbean, Greek-Cypriot, Irish, Jewish, Somali and ex-patriot Welsh communities. Among others. So it has a unique spirit, born of struggle and faith.

    Last year Liverpool Community Spirit commissioned Phil Cope to design an altar - a green, unadorned artwork referencing no particular religious tradition and all of them simultaneously, designed to be "an open space", "set apart", which the people of Liverpool 8 would be invited, as individuals or groups, to fill with their own thoughts and reflections.

    Cope defines an altar in the words of Gaanaman Gazon Matoja, traditional ruler of the Ndjuka maroons, Suriname, as 'A place where you realise your belief'.

    The book which records their response to the project's invitation, Altar 8, is a fascinating record of that community's diverse wealth, colour, ethics and faith.

    [email Liverpool Community Spirit]
    Monday, March 29, 2004
    More deferred gratification...
    More deferred gratification... after Patti, now Polly. News just out that PJ Harvey's new album 'Uh Huh Her' will be out on 31st May. The album will be preceded by single 'The Letter', out 17th May. She's one of my guitar heroes I've never yet managed to see live, a terrible gap in my life.

    In another life I'd be off to Glastonbury to see her mainstage this June. I'll have to make do instead with being in her part of the world the week 'Uh Huh Her' hits the cobbled streets. Which may add even more electricity to songs which, with titles like The Life and Death of Mr Badmouth, Shame, Who The Fuck? and The Desperate Kingdom of Love seem likely to carry her trademark intensity and energy anyway... How could something so powerful, dark, sensual, bold, and sheer rock-and-roll come out of sleepy Dorset? I hope to find out on me hols this year...
    Sunday, March 28, 2004
    Missing Patti's arrival
    New job, new day off. No more stay-up-late Sundays and lie-in Mondays; I'm going for a later-in-the-week break from now on. Advantages should include being able to deal with the stuff in my head from a Sunday on a workday in future, and avoiding the disappointment of Mondays being closed days for all sorts of visitor attractions around the country. I'll be able to browse The Tate shop at leisure and get to Preston's National Football Museum at last.

    I'm hopeful there will be few disadvantages to this day-off swop; but I am aware that Mondays are the day that record shops take delivery of new stock... so I'm feeling just a slight sadness tonight, having thumbed through The Wire, that I shall miss the fresh arrival of the new Patti Smith cd Gone Again and the fun of browsing Probe Records for other newly-desirables such as Squarepusher's Ultravisitor (missed him live at Liverpool Philharmonic last night, doh) and some fine guitarist fellah I've just read about called Jack Rose. Still, consider it a lenten discipline - for one week only - putting off cd spending till Thursday...
    Saturday, March 27, 2004
    The birth-cry of new life
    History says, don't hope
    On this side of the grave...

    - Seamus Heaney's lines from The Cure At Troy resurfaced today as a mailing from The Corrymeela Community arrived. First for a long time: since my time there the Community's been through a time of crisis and change, of taking tough financial decisions to ensure its future. Appointed a new leader. Made a new start.

    All this at a time when peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland ceased to excite journalists enthralled instead by the axis of evil, and thus ceased to capture most other folks' interest either. Mine included, I admit.

    Meanwhile the conflict bubbled on, alongside people's efforts towards healing and just getting by. New Community leader David Stevens says, "We have a sort of peace and we have a sort of normality but we haven't got to first base in reconciliation ... This is a traumatised society that has suffered 30 years of violence..." I hear echoes of Heaney again, as I did so many times whilst in Northern Ireland:

    History says, don't hope
    On this side of the grave.
    But then, once in a lifetime
    The longed-for tidal wave
    Of justice can rise up,
    And hope and history rhyme.

    Stevens again: "Reconciliation [is] a generational task. This has to be in a perspective of 30 years or more. And out of trauma, newness comes. Newness will come in this society. Our task is to be a symbol of hope, to put deep roots down, and act for the long-term."

    I, like many visitors to the Community's clifftop Ballycastle centre, have stood looking across a windy Irish Sea hoping that the seeds of reconciliation sown by their work, will keep catching, sweeping inland and, yes, rooting down in places still torn by sectarianism. There's less money for their work from 'abroad' these days. Stevens says it'll be a struggle to sustain it, that they're now faced with being "visionaries and accountants". But I'm glad they've made it through their leanest time to renew the vision which Heaney hymns so well:

    So hope for a great sea-change
    On the far side of revenge.
    Believe that further shore
    Is reachable from here.
    Believe in miracles
    And cures and healing wells.
    Friday, March 26, 2004
    Where I am now
    Updated About me, and Links a bit, today, just to point up the change of address etc. They probably need an overhaul ... sometime ... (the comments about EFC on the links page are especially uncomfortable about a year after they were written...)
    Thursday, March 25, 2004

    It's precisely four years on from our experimental jazz celebration of the Annunciation at Ridley Hall. Our Cafe Emmaus broke the mould; Elizabeth Jennings' words (above) inspired us; as did the testimony of a number of women in our community who shared what they'd felt the moment they heard that they were pregnant; as did the music of Pharoah Sanders; as did Janet Morley's And you held me (from All Desires Known); as did this picture of The Annunciation by Noelle Zeltzman.

    Today, far from ground-breaking experimentation I stumbled into a new phase of life. Served probably the least-well prepared, unsatisfactory communions of my brief 'career'. It was all light and energy then; now, it feels awkward and messy. The only similarity - that Cafe Emmaus was all about improvisation. That's what jazz musicians do; that's what Mary had to do, an ordinary girl astonished by the angel's message. And that's what I'll be doing for quite a while, it seems. Perhaps that's no bad thing ...
    Wednesday, March 24, 2004
    Soul Cure
    Blimey; it's a deep week. In attempting to answer Pete's question (comments, yesterday) about what is the cure of souls I find myself dusting off The Ordinal. Well, quite right too. So I should. Once upon a time (ie, at college) I looked at those words for an hour every Thursday morning. Can't do that tomorrow, I've got to be off out, hopefully doing it. Just as well Chelsea-Arsenal isn't on terrestrial, tonight.
    Tuesday, March 23, 2004
    Last night's thank-you speech
    A clergy colleague who couldn't make it tonight (who shall remain nameless) suggested that I sign the licensing documents 'Duncan Ferguson' ... but I decided against that as I don't want the Bishop sending me off for two bookable offences...

    Funny the people who influence you ... Big Duncan ... yesterday at St Lukes we learned that the nation has voted as its favourite mother - Marge Simpson.

    I've been thinking about the people who have influenced me along my journey, those who have in a way brought me here tonight. There are hundreds; many of you included; but just now I'm thinking especially of three:

    My two grandmothers - not extraordinary people but women who showed me and many others quite plainly and simply what it meant to live a good Christian life;

    Jim Punton - in his own words "a youth leader and Church of Scotland minister, interested in radical theology and an enthusiast for the Kingdom." I picked up on his enthusiasm at the National Baptist Youth Assemblies I attended in the late 1970s, and he (long passed on) continues to be an influence today;

    The people of The Good Shepherd and the three Norris Green Churches who over the past decades have worked hard to bring the light of God to this local community:

    - I celebrate all these tonight and look forward to joining with the people of this church, Christ Church and St Christopher's as together we seek to keep that light shining here.

    [Thanks to all who have come, especially those who have made sacrifices of time, money, personal sacrifices to be here....]

    I would like us to charge our glasses to toast The Church - God's people, united, at one in Christ and his mission.

    Jim Punton often talked of Christ's mission being about creating shalom - complete well-being of body, mind, spirit, community, economically, politically - the whole of life [Download his paper The Community of Shalom]; and he liked to quote Jeremiah:

    "Seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you ... and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its shalom you will find your own shalom."

    Friends - let's drink to that: shalom.
    Monday, March 22, 2004
    Power, money, permission, prayer

    "I DAVID WILLFRED MICHAEL by Divine Permission BISHOP OF WARRINGTON by virtue of the powers designated to me by JAMES STUART by Divine Permission LORD BISHOP OF LIVERPOOL

    To: Our Brother in Christ

    JOHN DAVIES Clerk in Holy Orders Batchelor of Arts


    WHEREAS the Church of the Good Shepherd West Derby in the Diocese and Jurisdiction of the said Lord Bishop of Liverpool now stands vacant NOW THEREFORE I do hereby grant you license and authority to serve during the pleasure of the said Lord Bishop of Liverpool or until the admission of an Incumbent thereof [which ever shall be the shorter] [at a stipend in accordance with the Diocesan scale] and to perform all ecclesiastical duties belonging to the said Office

    AND SO we commend you to Almighty God humbly praying in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit that His blessing will rest upon you and your work

    IN TESTIMONY whereof the Episcopal Seal is affixed to this deed and we have subscribed the same this Twentysecond day of March in the Year of Our Lord Two thousand and Four

    + David Warrington"
    Sufjan in the Observer
    The Observer interview with Sufjan Stevens published yesterday.
    Sunday, March 21, 2004
    A day before the licensing - some ministry from Billy Bragg
    "So this is your last fling before your big day," they said, alluding to my going to a Billy Bragg gig at The Lowry tonight, 24 hours before being made a vicar. Comments lightly meant, but carrying in them a hint of the 'vicars don't do that sort of thing' idea ...

    I hope this vicar continues to. Not many other artists provide the occasion to be purged, purified by the likes of Leon Rosselson's World Turned Upside Down, a song in praise of the Diggers and in defiance of corrupt authority:

    They make the laws
    To chain us well
    The clergy dazzle us with heaven
    Or they damn us into hell
    We will not worship
    The God they serve
    The God of greed who feeds the rich
    While poor men starve

    Uncomfortable words for one in my position; good, essential, uncomfortable words.
    Saturday, March 20, 2004
    One of the best things about a stormy day is it encourages you to stay indoors, dwell a bit. Which is one of the best things about moving, too. Another best thing about moving is it forces or encourages you to rediscover all sorts of lost treasures from your life. So, dwelling a bit today, I rediscovered a few lines I penned at the end of the holiday I took in November 2000 - in the week of those storms which left half our land flooded. It describes my wet-weather retreat at Ffald-y-Brenin, deep in the heart of the old country, Pembrokeshire.....

    I have seen roads become rivers: cars calmed, lorries lulled into tarmac-floored lakes.
    I have seen trees afloat
    And sheep adrift
    And ex-chapel showrooms awash at the edge of watery fields.

    I have seen dark clouds scud across Preseli's gentle peaks
    Washing their green slopes greener
    I have seen Cwm Gwaun soaked: subdued;
    Which once exploded into shape through the upward force of icefields
    Now drips.

    I have seen a three-legged dog wag its tail once at me
    Then hop rapidly into a doorway.
    I have seen the eye of God in the glance of a magpie.
    I have seen dead creatures staring out blankly through roadside puddles.

    In a churchyard
    I have seen an ancient cross that glows fire-red
    And a yew tree dripping blood.
    And I have seen St Brynach, who once subdued evil spirits
    And brought a dead cow to life in defiance of a king,
    Portrayed in cross-stitch, in a cope of many colours
    Armless, expressionless, beautifully designed.

    I have seen my way marred by mud
    And have stared out a squirrel, twitching at me halfway up a tree.
    I have seen my face in a mirror: it looked shocked.

    I have seen St Dogmaels on All Saints Day
    Grey and unsurprising save for an astonishing Abbey.
    I have seen the past catch up and overtake
    In places like this.

    With the world slowly sinking under floodwaters
    Lights blinking, lines open,
    Awaiting submersion,
    I have seen the old land
    In the tar-lined coracle of faith.

    Friday, March 19, 2004
    DNA from sweet FA
    On a day of sorting out utilities for the new house, stopping and starting standing orders, redirecting post, two moments of light: one, when a bishop sat in my living room and prayed for me; and two, this, from today's New Statesman Competition, a bible story retold to illustrate the athieistic point of view:

    "In the beginning was nothing. A deathly silence was upon the face of the void until the great day upon which nothing became something. For millions of years lay something upon the face of nothing, until the coming of the Day of the Soup. From that soup came the amoeba after his kind and the jellyfish and the lizard with his optic nerve and his retina and the dugong, the axolotl and the orang-utan with his cochlea and his pancreas and his beating heart. And great was the Day of the Soup, for that soup was the soup of men. The soup was the father and mother of our forefathers Leonardo and Mozart, of Aristotle and Newton and Melvyn Bragg and Billy Bragg after their kind, of Kylie and Jason and of she who is called Delia. And great is Delia of the Profiteroles, whose coming was with thunder and lightning and a great cloud and a great trumpet blast. Oh, how exceeding great thou art, O Blind Chance, that brought forth light from darkness, motion from stillness, something out of nothing, DNA from sweet FA, rendered the inanimate animate, and provideth us with banoffee pie that passeth all understanding!" David Silverman
    Thursday, March 18, 2004
    I can see a lot of life in you
    Delighted, thrilled by Sufjan Stevens' new cd, Seven Swans, which came today. Beautiful music, mainly folksy acoustic - banjo, guitar, harmonic voices. And words full of depth, full of grace, love, faith and hopeful vision. Rough Trade have made it their album of the week. And if you want to read more I cannot better the fine review, from Stylus Magazine, here.
    Wednesday, March 17, 2004
    To the spirit of QIC
    Another good overnight stay at the well-sited, very relaxed, extremely reasonably-priced Quaker International Centre (QIC) just down the road from Euston, tempered on leaving by the news that soon it is to close; the big hostel on Byng Place to become university accommodation.

    Like so much else: passing through Liverpool tonight, new student hostels seem to emerge at every turn. It's a sign of the times - the burgeoning further/higher education business, the demise of great spiritual centres.

    "Quakers respect the creative power of God in every human being and in the world around us. We work through quiet processes for a world where peaceful means bring about just settlements."

    I wonder if the university will think about keeping the spirit of QIC in place; if nothing else, I hope they fix the shower in the bathroom I flooded this morning...
    Tuesday, March 16, 2004
    With St Francis on Tottenham Court Road
    Where there is Love and Wisdom,
    there is neither Fear nor Ignorance.

    Where there is Patience and Humility,
    there is neither Anger nor Annoyance.

    Where there is Poverty and Joy,
    there is neither Cupidity nor Avarice.

    Where there is Peace and Contemplation,
    there is neither Care nor Restlessness.

    Where there is the Fear of God to guard the dwelling,
    there no enemy can enter.

    Where there is Mercy and Prudence,
    there is neither Excess nor Harshness.

    I'm with St Francis on Tottenham Court Road. Discovering today the truth of many of those words of his in the very heart of the very city, having travelled down a day early for a Greenbelt meeting to catch a look at the National Gallery's El Greco exhibition. In the company of Bob, who is a bit of a contemplative and a bit of a wag, a wise man and a Liverpool supporter (rare commodity).

    Found Love and Wisdom, Patience and Humility, Peace and Contemplation, Fear of God, Mercy and Prudence in all sorts of settings - in El Greco's astonishing paintings, full of unexpected colour and light, all about the eyes (in the exceptional portraits) and the skies (always apocalyptically alive); in many good conversations and exchanges, notably with an international cast of very friendly young staff in a Trafalgar Square pizza house, in a generally thoughtful, chilled-out day in the capital. Rare. Precious. Wonderfully strange.

    [pic: El Greco's St Jerome]
    Monday, March 15, 2004
    The day I didn't buy a DVD player
    Today was the day I didn't buy a DVD player. Not because I haven't decided what I want; not because I have any great ethical concerns (except the concern that maybe I should have ethical concerns); mainly because it all rested on being able to spend the ninety quids worth of WH Smiths vouchers I've accumulated recently from generous people, on a good batch of DVDs. And finding that our biggest branch of said store has a paltry selection.

    None of my first choices were there - Apocalypse Now (greatest ever film), Everton-Rapid Vienna 1985 (the beginning of our years of Euro triumph tragically stolen from us by events later that month at Heysel), Dinnerladies and Peter Kay Live at Bolton Albert Halls (great northern comedy), oh and something religious I guess, erm - U2 PopMart Tour. All absent.

    No point buying the hardware if the software's not there. I'll be back at Smiths with a wants list soon; unless I find tomorrow that their London shops satisfy my consumer demands ... (cue Lent guilt for even thinking these thoughts)
    Sunday, March 14, 2004
    Home is where the art is
    I'm not the only one who has moved recently. Today, I visited Mr & Mrs Earnest Teadrinker, regular contributors to this site, who have moved up the road to Garstang (or, according to their three-year-old, "Arsegang"). Very different sort of town, very different sort of house. But y'know, I knew it was theirs when I walked into the kitchen and saw a familiar objet d'art on the wall - a clock in the guise of a royal blue ceramic teapot.

    "Home is where the art is," I may have intuited at that point, seeing that thing before me which has been a feature of the various kitchens we've brewed-up in over many years.

    "Home is where the art is," we agreed, discussing the challenge of finding places to hang old familar pictures on new and different walls, contemplating having to lose some valued pieces of art because they just don't fit in our new homes.

    "Home is where the art is," I'm thinking now, back home, casting around this new place where hang those pics which have accompanied me all over:

    That Time Magazine cover of August 15, 1988, a mosaic of Christ's face built from 30 different classic pictures, the headline asking, in the week The Last Temptation of Christ was released, 'Who was Jesus?';

    A poster advertising Body and Soul, an experiment in multi-media worship for people fed up of church, which we ran for a couple of years around 1990;

    The cover of a special edition of Coracle commemorating George MacLeod, in which he stares out stern-faced, sharp-eyed, whiskered, imposing as always;

    A profile of Dylan Thomas by Paul Peter Piech, which he kindly gave me at a Cardiff exhibition in 1987;

    A strange, but colourful, scribble of two oddly-shaped characters dancing alongside each other, surrounded by the text "Two little spacemen / one called John one called Jim / Blib blob blib blob / Which is which? / Dib dib dib dib / Take your pick". This was presented to us in 1988 by a rather stoned art student who lived upstairs from our flat - which may have possibly been the first home of that royal blue ceramic teapot clock....
    Saturday, March 13, 2004
    The Hare That Hides Within
    The thing about Wales is that it's big enough to have a vibrant life and culture, small enough for that life and culture to feel, um, accessible, embracing; human-scale, like family (O yes, like family where families sometimes dysfunct, disagree, but also sometimes gel, meld, support, share).

    Which gave me another little thrill during last week's wanderings - on picking up in a Caernarfon bookshop the newly-published The Hare That Hides Within: Poems About St. Melangell. Why?

    It's inspired by Melangell, who saved the hare from the huntsman. A saint whose tale is "a story of fundamental conflicts, power and acquisition, the hunt, and refuge and peace, the praying women ... human abuse of nature, male abuse of women, power's abuse of prayer ..." (as Rowan Williams writes in the Foreword);

    Rowan Williams writes the Foreword; that formidable Welsh theologian/poet, mystic/politician, Archbishop of Canterbury, his character forged in places like Pennant Melangell, where the saint's story unfolded;

    It supports the church at Pennant Melangell, a place of great beauty and solitude, "a numinous threshold" (Anne Cluysenaar), a true pilgrim site I've been to often and written about from time to time [blog :: article];

    It's co-edited by Norman Schwenk, my tutor in English at Cardiff University in the mid-1980s. A creative man keen to share his enthusiasms with his students, keen to engage and learn with them, a poet in his own right, someone whose paths entirely diverged from mine - till yesterday.

    Not only that, the poems are very good indeed. I shall not reproduce any here, but will chance the frontispiece, an extract from R.S. Thomas' 'The Minister' (which also references a Mabinogion tale):

    God is in the flowers
    Sprung at the feet of Olwen, and Melangell
    Felt his heart beating in the wild hare.
    Friday, March 12, 2004
    Perfect circle
    If you've been following this blog awhile, or know me anyway, you may find a sense of inevitability in the way I drew my holiday to a close:

    A wonderful morning wandering the outcrops around Penmon Priory (one of those windy spirit-swept Celtic places, today glorious beside the shining Menai Straits in the shelter of Snowdon's white-topped peaks);

    An afternoon's pilgrimage to Porthmadog's Cob Records where I bought, you guessed it, one of my old Roy Harper albums back.

    While I was in there I felt, "Y'know, I don't really have to do this, I'm over it, life really has moved on". But I bought it anyway, because it's a classic of its kind. Played it all the way back along the A55. Bullinamingvase. Dig it.
    Thursday, March 11, 2004
    Twice reborn
    "Pilgrims grow thirsty. By chance, here is the Trehafod Hotel. It's ten years since I stood in the public bar and I'm trying to understand what's changed. Nothing, it seems. Nothing apart from everything. Because I'm a new man. Since I last stood here every cell in my body has died and been reborn. The carbon is new, the hydrogen is new. Like those Hopkinstown homies I'm priceless with new gold."

    As for Robert Minhinnick in I Know Another Way, so for me on this holiday, so close to, yet so faraway from places familiar to me half a lifetime ago. Twenty-one years since I lived in Snowdonia, on Minhinnick's appraisal I've been reborn twice since then.

    The unforgiving mirror in Bryn Tirion these past days has shocked me into realising this new me is a very different shape than my previous incarnations. The instant I took to decide to leave the white face of Holyhead Mountain for others to climb, opting instead to shuffle around the earthworks below, made me wonder where my ambition - and/or fitness - has gone.

    But the great epiphany came right at the start of the holiday - in Bangor's Cob Records. When I lived in Llanbedr on £9 a week pocket money Cob was my salvation, my temptation, my temple. This store and its sister on The Cob, the toll road across the estuary at Porthmadog was in the 80s at the heart of a thriving market in vinyl exchange. You could buy and sell with Cob Records via the NME; living down the road from it was bliss.

    Days off meant rattling down the Cambrian Coast Line with a bundle of albums under my arm, returning with a smaller - but hipper - selection some hours later. I was skint then so any monetary gains I made at Cob were welcome. I was also a young believer, in thrall to self-appointed authorities on youth/culture etc whose rants against the evils of rock injected tension into my fond hobby of music collecting. Sad to say some of those albums I dumped at Cob I dumped because I thought perhaps those I oughtn't to be listening to them any more. The twice-reborn me now regrets those incidents greatly.

    "Maybe minds too are reborn. Perhaps there is a renaissance of the imagination," Minhinnick's Pontyprydd reflections continue. I think so. I hope so. And to affirm that, I felt a frisson of spiritual healing at Cob on Monday, when buying a live album by Nick Harper.

    Nick is son of Roy Harper, one of the artists whose albums I jettisoned two lifetimes ago at Cob. Roy Harper's records, caringly collected over four years, had to go because I was worried I shouldn't be listening to his broadsides against the pious and powerful. In truth his songs thrilled and empowered me then, intemperate though they were.

    And now Nick Harper has provided the soundtrack to my week. An extraordinary solo artist, a very English Jeff Buckley bending and caressing his strings, hollering and whispering, storytelling and shouting, laughing at himself and lambasting the powers. He is Page/Plant, Public Enemy and (probably) Pentangle all rolled into one. On walking into a performance cafe at Greenbelt 03 I was shocked and awed to see him onstage there. He made my world spin then, hearing him and making all the connections. And he has done so again this week, this artist of great skill and integrity, his father's son.

    What's twenty years? A moment. With grace and healing.
    Tuesday, March 09, 2004
    The stones, the stones remain
    Never done this before. Blogged from a BT Blue Box. I'm at Holyhead Ferry Terminal, pondering the pros and cons of a Dublin day trip. Pros - Dublin town, with all it has to give the curious (read that how you want) pilgrim; cons - my stomach and the Irish Sea tend not to agree.

    As I stand here at this keypad, staring out across an empty estuary, feeling like a silent preacher at a secular lectern, I imagine I shall likely stay on terra firma, exploring the holy isle of Anglesey instead.

    That is a fine pursuit, anyway. Dubin can wait. Today I've been among the stones, Copey's heavyweight gazetteer my guide. I never knew before that Holyhead is itself on an island - one steeped in history and prehistory. Fascinating experience standing atop Trefignath burial chamber, 5,000 years old, looking down on the very twenty-first century aluminium works which dominates the East of the island, scanning the sealine where the country's largest and most frequent Irish ferry sits in dock while passengers board, looking up and over shining Holyhead Mountain, even older than the rocks on which I stand.

    Struck by the transitory nature of much of what caught my eye - traffic on the shining A5, the massive aluminium works chimney, jets flying out of Valley to terrorise Mount Snowdon's sheep. Wondered how much of what I now see will be here in 5,000 years. We live in days of speed and steel. But the stones, the stones, remain.
    Sunday, March 07, 2004
    Charity to the wayfarer
    "Medieval society was far more mobile than is often supposed ... within Wales itself, pilgrims would have travelled in groups and the poor would have been supported by the provisions made by church and community for their welfare; also charity to the wayfarer was considered part of Christian duty for everyone." - writes Nona Rees in her introduction to Pilgrimage: A Welsh Perspective.

    Tomorrow I'm off to trail around a part of God's Country I don't really know too well; Anglesey, rich with pilgrim possibilities. And as I go I reflect on the past few weeks, and about the amount of times I've moved in the past decade, on an oddly God-ly sort of trail. This latest move has perhaps been the most painful but, as with all the others I've been deeply aware of being "supported by the provisions made by church and community for [my] welfare". This wayfarer has enjoyed the charity of many great Christians along the way.

    So off I go again, taking Rees' book with me and also Jon Gower's I Know Another Way: From Tintern to St.David's. And the indispensable Modern Antiquarian. It'll be a nice diversion. But, conscious of the wider, longer, deeper journey I'm travelling on, before I go I'm also thinking of committing some charity to the Church Times Train-a-Priest Fund. It's the least I could do after all that so many have done for me...
    Saturday, March 06, 2004
    I only told her I was looking forward to taking delivery of a garden shed - my first-ever, for my first-ever garden. Pip has evidently been contemplating this all week as today she wrote to tell me:

    I still can't believe you are a sheddist. It sort of contradicts your personality, it just doesn't fit. Perhaps I haven't seen every aspect of you or perhaps I have... predictably full of surprises! Did you know that "shed" comes from the Anglo-Saxon for shade, scead, pronounced "shay-ud" which is how they still say it in certain northern districts of England. Scead, of course means partial darkness or comparative obscurity... yes, you are partially dark and comparatively obscure... ordinary folk know you are different... and I know, in a very special way. Now I can see why you are a sheddist. You have developed extra shades of meaning. The shed could be your intellectual pantry, a workshop, a spiritual home. I won't postulate any further, except, like ginger hair and sticky out ears, it could be genetic!

    I just thought it'd be a handy place to keep me bikes.
    Friday, March 05, 2004
    Pic of the month
    Pic of the month up today. Sorry it's late. You know why. Salt Marie Celeste dropped through my new letterbox yesterday. Haunting, reflective, breakfast-time listening today; the cover image a disturbing meditation.
    Thursday, March 04, 2004
    Bryn Tirion

    It would seem that Bryn Tirion is away from it all. This is what Multimap displays when you type in its postcode. I've booked a cottage there, last minute, for a short break next week. Why go away when you've only just arrived? Headspace. That's why.
    Wednesday, March 03, 2004
    Seeking 'safe'
    "Identify an area you think of as 'safe' and use it as an anchor", my desktop Oblique Strategies advises me tonight. Good advice at a time of great change. Like a storm-crossed vessel I've been shifting about restlessly since Monday, in an unceasing cycle of clearing spaces, opening boxes, selecting locations, constructing storage, switching furniture, filling shelves. Starting over. Living in the manic moment.

    I really could do with finding an anchor. But those areas I think of as 'safe' don't feel safe just now.

    Home is usually 'safe', my space. But this week home has belonged as much to an interminable flow of removal men, painters, electricians, well-wishers, gas-fitters, plumbers, parents, plasterers, friends, as to me. My head is usually 'safe', but this week it's been all over the place. My desk is usually 'safe', but this is a new one and only half-constructed. The district is usually 'safe', but I don't know this one yet. Prayer is usually 'safe', but I'm dumb before my maker and strung-out on Ikea just now.

    There's the webspace, of course, shared with diverse valuable people whose web-company I enjoy (eg, see sidebar - check the various takes on last weekend's Greenbelt Angels gathering) - but for all that, it's not 'safe': vulnerable to dial-up protocol collapses and inflammatory comments, a meagre substitute for being with people (eg, last w/e again).

    I know that safety will come; and strangely, through all of the above. Because even each manic moment has brought me one step closer to stability again. Settling in. Seen that way even the punishing Ikea runs I've dragged myself on may yet prove redemptive.