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

    Friday, December 31, 2004
    2004 Revisited - my Christmas letter for those who missed it
    BIG MOVE this year - ten minutes the other side of Queen's Drive to the outlands of Croxteth / Norris Green. To become priest-in-charge* at the CHURCH OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD (*that's vicar, effectively, without some of the privileges). Been here nine months now, settling in ok, thanks. Twenty-four hours before being licensed to that post, I went to see BILLY BRAGG singing Leon Rosselson's WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN, for a bit of perspective: 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. Well, you have to watch yourself in this sort of job. Highlight of settling-in, so far: embarking on a series of PARISH WALKS which I'm documenting online at WWW.JOHNDAVIES.ORG and are proving great ways to get to know the place and its people. Musical highlight of the year (live): seeing PJ HARVEY at Dublin Olympia, and earlier bumping into her on the steps of Books Upstairs, for a quick surprise chat, which was nice. Musical highlight of the year (cd): the entire recorded works of SUFJAN STEVENS, a joyful discovery. Poet of the year: Cardiff's incendiary LLOYD ROBSON. Our WAYNE 'played too well' for England and inevitably we lost him to one of those cash-cow clubs, but not before I'd done three Rooney baptisms and been interviewed (and quoted at length) by a GUARDIAN journalist watching the Portugal game in the WESTERN APPROACHES (the Rooney family local across the road). He lives in Formby now. We haven't missed him. Surprise of the year: DAD, 65, comes with us to his first ever football match. Surprisingly good event: Liverpool Clergy Conference, because for entertainment we had ROGER MCGOUGH and KEN DODD. Best other event: a seminar at LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL with Tel Aviv architect EYAL WEIZMAN, curator of the banned exhibition and book A Civilian Occupation; his analysis of the landscape of The Occupied Territories is mind-blowing. Book of the year: Weizman's; runner-up: Franklin Foer's HOW SOCCER EXPLAINS THE WORLD: AN UNLIKELY THEORY OF GLOBALIZATION. Hopes for next year: more enjoyable study time at ST DEINIOL'S LIBRARY and another great fortnight in ST IVES CORNWALL, both of which I newly-discovered this year. And, of course, EVERTON FOR EUROPE - all entirely probable... HAPPY NEW YEAR - and keep up with me daily on the website...
    Fireworks at the Cathedral

    The city at its brightest and best. Ending the Year of Faith with a spectacular fireworks display on and around the Metropolitan Cathedral this evening. Yes, that's right - on the Cathedral. The pyro-men used the spacecraft shape of the 1960s place of worship to full effect, with lights going off from all around the building's circular base at the beginning and gradually building up to the top where at one stage some rocketed out horizontally into the Liverpool sky.

    With Asia's suffering very much in mind, stewards making a collection as we stood in the road at one of the city's usually-busiest junctions, it was wonderful to be present with thousands of others, open-mouthed, awestruck at this great way to celebrate - and remember - the passing of time, the preciousness of joyful moments.

    [Download Jess's 5mb fireworks movie here]
    Thursday, December 30, 2004
    08080 004 004

    Jess's in-car pic of our new-found friend at Knowsley Safari Park today.
    Wednesday, December 29, 2004
    The Lakes in the rain...

    The Lakes in the rain... soaked approaching Hawkshead today, still a more satisfying time was had by all than sitting home stewing. [Image - from John Sandell photography - is actually of Langdale].
    Tuesday, December 28, 2004
    The Landmark Trust

    Fantasizing today, about a holiday in a property of The Landmark Trust. Theirs is a great idea - save from ruin the country's grand old houses, follies, industrial legacies and historical relics, and rather than open them up for the public to browse around as other trusts do, instead let them out as holiday homes.

    So you can stay in castle keeps, lighthouses, halls and towers, old mills, a room in The Wardrobe, Salisbury, or in The House of Correction, Folkingham. Something for everyone. Plenty to excite in the Trust's lovingly-produced Handbook.

    Trouble is, of course, this ingenuity comes at a price. 2005 is way out of the question for me. Start saving now and a week at Stowe's Gothic Temple or Freston Tower, Ipswich, may not be impossible by the turn of the decade. Meanwhile, I think if there's any money available to be spent at the moment Pip's got the right idea about where and on whom.
    Monday, December 27, 2004
    Liverpool Regeneration - who benefits?

    James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, ... said he was continually being offered the chance to sit on various quangoes with between £5000 and £12,000 for the privilege, while local people were being excluded. The Bishop who has since resigned as the chair of Kensington regeneration board, told the national regeneration magazine 'Newstart', "So, it is alright to pay professional regenerators - day trippers who leave at the end of the day and get £50,000 a year - whereas the people who live there, the people with all the local knowledge and the daily skills of survival, get nothing".

    - from the latest online issue of Nerve. Meanwhile I'm gearing up for what promises to be a fascinating debate in the New Year as Urbis and Will Alsop ask What if the North became one city? Alsop's exhibition and related events could just end up being another excuse for regeneration pros to waffle on together; but might instead, hopefully, provoke a genuine public conversation...
    Sunday, December 26, 2004
    Ah! Sweet release - at last - from obligations! Those Christmas-time and Sunday-church obligations to remain patient and polite in the presence of strident, shrill, shockingly conservative and self-possessed old women.

    And - ah, yes, sweet embrace of other obligations - those Boxing Day obligations beloved by fellow Christmas-sufferers. To get out of our crushing homes into the public houses and soccer grounds which are our salvation.

    Sweet obligations - to give ovation to the Blues as they emerge onto Goodison's underheated turf (small stacks of snow neatly placed along the pitchside, our groundsmen's Christmas Day efforts well rewarded); to politely applaud the Man City goalkeeper as he approaches our end, and mildly boo if he neglects to acknowledge the friendly greeting.

    Strong obligations - to taunt the ex-Liverpool players in City's team, at every opportunity, especially Robbie Fowler, who returns the taunts in a provocative run past our fans after his headed equaliser, which gets him booked - pure pantomime for the Christmas season.

    And deep obligations - to stay past the end to once again applaud a winning performance, and forty points, already past last season's entire total, in the bag before the New Year.

    Home, obligation-free, I opt to start reading a great Christmas present, What's Our Name? Everton! by Mark O'Brien. Diary of last season by an erudite and very witty fanzine writer. Which, like all the best books about football, is about far more than football alone, as this extract shows:

    Monday 6th October 2003
    'Kop Star Shot' screams the Liverpool Echo. The star in question is none other than Jon Otsemobor. No, none of the Liverpool supporters have heard of him either.
    The young defender, with one first team appearance to his name, received slight injuries to his arse, while two of his mates were more seriously wounded, when some loon opened fire in the infamous Slater Street. Imagine Mathew Street's sinister cousin - less hen nights from Clitheroe and more shaven-headed psychotics from Huyton - and you'll get the picture.
    It's just the latest in a series of crazy incidents in the city centre in the last few weeks, although shootings are almost passe these days. You see, Liverpool has an uncanny knack of always going one better than everywhere else, with gangland figures recently blowing up a car outside the 051 club and throwing a nail bomb into Dickie Lewis' Pub. They'll be carpet-bomboing Bold Street and sending smackhead suicide bombers into the Newz Bar next. Just you see.

    "All I know most surely about morality and the obligations of man, I owe to football," (Albert Camus). See what he means?
    Saturday, December 25, 2004
    Word from Jerusalem: Christmas makes us defiant - peace is possible
    It is in the midst of the Roman occupation that the Incarnation took place; it is in spite of the occupation that Mary and Joseph found joy and love in the birth of Jesus; it is in spite of the occupation and in the midst of economic hardships that the shepherds came to visit a family of modest means and discovered great joy and peace; it is in spite of the occupation that the Magi came to offer their gifts to the child.

    We celebrate in the midst of the occupation and in spite of it. ... The oppressors [and] the powers ... do not possess the last word ... they can treat us as nonhumans, but they cannot crush our spirit, nor can they take away our God-given human worth and dignity...

    Therefore Christmas makes us defiant. ... The Incarnation took place when God took on our humanity, when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This happened in Palestine under Roman occupation. Then as now and in spite of all the hardships, we celebrate Christ's birth, Emmanuel, God with us, giving us hope, joy, peace, and love.

    We are defiant. We are full of hope. We will continue to work for peace through justice.

    - Naim Ateek, from the 2004 Sabeel Christmas message.
    Friday, December 24, 2004
    Christmas circulars and Cardinal Newman
    A morning reading all the Christmas circulars which have come my way this year. All welcome, some sketchy, a few funny (none more than the Turners', brimfull of dry wit and with another great card from Jessie - winner of my 2003 Card of the Year), some info-packed, and one in particular, lengthy, wide-ranging, deep and profound.

    Robert, vicar of St Margaret of Antioch, Princes Avenue, Toxteth, writes letters which move me in their honesty, integrity, and breadth of quotations from Billy Connolly to Cardinal John Henry Newman. Robert cares for one of Liverpool's jewels in one of the city's poorest and most multicultural areas - St Margaret's, known as the 'Black Church', in the parish from where the 1981 riots erupted. Over the past decade Robert and local people of all faiths have battled to keep it open and won a Heritage Lottery grant to stop it from literally crumbling. They had a wonderful celebration last July when the repair work was completed - and this is why:

    "... St Margaret's Building is a 'Given', and a glorious sacred space, in stained glass, art and architecture; a Parish Church, of the catholic tradition, of the Church of England, to serve the children and the survivors of that Pain" (his emphases).

    I have witnessed this. Few places seem holier to me than St Margaret's when Robert and a dozen ragged children of the predominantly Muslim C-of-E school share an intimate midweek eucharist together.

    In sincere good faith Robert battles with authority and bureaucracy in the church, between the Pain of his place and the liberating power of the gospel, and his Christmas circulars are full of that struggle. And full of great quotes from other fellow-strugglers across the years. They thrill me and sustain me. I have told him this in a letter I've written today. And it is this one, from Newman, which moves me most today:

    God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission - I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his - if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work: I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

    Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me - still He knows what He is about.

    Thursday, December 23, 2004
    Lads' night out
    Annual lads' night out tonight (last blogged about here). Christmas may be a time which brings out the worst in many (just heard about a fight in the sports shop today over the last Liverpool FC baby's bib), brings out the sadness of absence (spent the day visiting elderly folk who'll spend Christmas Day missing their departed partners), and brings out terrible feelings of guilt and panic (over those forgotten in the card list, those neglected in the visiting). But it is a great excuse for a gathering; and it's the one thing which brings us all out together for one night a year, fortysomething blokes whose friendships peaked twenty years ago but who really, really love - maybe even need - and would not do without these get-togethers.
    Wednesday, December 22, 2004
    Eyal Weizman at Greenbelt 05
    Good news from Greenbelt:

    One of the latest names to confirm for next year's festival, Eyal Weizman is an Israeli architect who has written, photographed and spoken extensively on the politics of planning in the West Bank. Go here or here to read more about him and his work.
    Tuesday, December 21, 2004
    Where it really means something
    I've had my Christmas early. Came in an hour-long carol service at HMP Altcourse. Because in a crowded chapel full of clergy and churchgoers, prison visitors, staff and management, on the lips of prisoners the familiar words of scripture and seasonal song rang, rankled and rose:

    One prisoner read Isaiah 9, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. ... He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice ... from that time on and forever". Which made me wonder, what sort of justice, for whom, and when?

    The story of the shepherds ... rank outsiders, despised nobodies - to whom God came first to break the good news. Retold with feeling by a senior staff member. He resisted embellishing it by making the obvious analogy; which made the story sparkle all the more.

    A prisoner bravely shared his tale of new-found faith inside - who is being released on Christmas Eve and who ended his moving story of conversion by facing up to his uncertain future back outside and saying, "I know I'm still a prisoner now - but I'm already free."
    Monday, December 20, 2004
    It's a kinda Magi-c
    Planning right over Christmas today ... and tomorrow I'll be digging out my old Magi sermon, ready to refresh it for a new audience in a fortnight's time. I like celebrating that these visitors, the magi, were strange travellers in the story of Jesus' birth - foreigners: they came from outside, they followed a strange religion, they probably looked different, dressed differently, thought, sang and dreamed differently from those they visited. And they have a place at the very heart of the Christian story.

    They carried a different sort of wisdom, the Magi. They found significance in the stars; they found guidance through their dreams. The Magi connected the physical world easily to the unseen world. They were after a God who was at the heart of all things, a creator, an originator, one who kept the stars in tow, who you could find in the rhythms and relationships of nature. Soothsayers, astrologers, wise dreamers tuned into creation - thus oddly Godly, despite what some graceless religious folk would say... then as today. Matthew wanted us to know that Jesus received their affirmation.

    Tonight I'm tickled by a news report in Northern Earth about the aftermath of the summer's floods in Boscastle. The unique Museum of Witchcraft was severely damaged in the floods, NE reports, but this "unique resource," carrying "an awesome array of objects and literature relating to folk magic and medicine" is well on the way towards restoration because of plenty of goodwill and voluntary donations. NE continues,

    In an ironic twist that drew laconic comments from locals, the Museum building survived relatively intact - but the nearby expressly Christian gift shop and building, established as a riposte to the museum, was washed away in the flood.
    Sunday, December 19, 2004
    Satan's Laundromat

    Found this at Satan's Laundromat, a photo-blog I was introduced to from Jessica's site.

    Saturday, December 18, 2004
    That's life
    A short drive up the M6, navigating cones round Charnock Richard, liaison on the windswept forecourt of Darwen Services and a brief drive to a piece of wasteground on which the charge is £4 to park. Negotiating deep puddles and slippery slopes, a short walk to Ewood Park. Thoroughly uninspiring football game but nice toilets. One point won. A long, ill-tempered shunt from the lake-like car park all the way uphill and out along the A677 and down the motorway again, J31 to J20, Salmesbury to Lymm. Man United on the radio, superceded by Fall tribute cd once it becomes clear their opponents won't beat them. Intermittent rain. A Christmas meal among friends in a cosy Cheshire satellite town, bread and wine to end. Home over Thelwall Viaduct, five lanes down to one tonight. Youths outside the Western, 11.05pm. Inside, bursting out the rattling windows, very loud karaoke. Another glass of red before bed. A winter's day, Northern England, 2004.
    Friday, December 17, 2004
    Making a splash

    This is good to look at, great fun, and it's in the newly-reconditioned heart of the city - the fountain in Williamson Square. Kids play in it; folks gaze at it; at night it glistens, glitters, shines in the coloured lights at its base. And Roger McGough's playful little poem skips merrily around its edge:

    water is fountainous is gymnast is flash
    water is mountainous is scallywag is splash
    water is mysterious is playhouse is dream
    water is serious is stargazy is steam
    water is humorous is teardrop is serenade
    water is curious is careless is cavalcade
    water is sumptuous is rainbow is ecstatic
    water is tempestuous is babyface is erratic
    water is curvaceous is shipshape is piggyback
    water is flirtatious is scatterbrain is paddywhack
    water is mischievous is fidgety is chatterbox
    water is Liverpool is river is paradox

    Plenty more pics of this and other pieces of Liverpool public art at this site.
    Thursday, December 16, 2004
    Everything keeps Dissolving
    Sensitized to loss by BBC4's Peel tribute I turn the pages of this month's The Wire to discover that Jhon Balance finally lost his long-term battle with alcoholism, never regaining consciousness after a fall downstairs on 13th November. Just 42, he was. My age.

    It's easy to say why I'm sad about the untimely passing of Peel, the affable champion of outsider music, and footy fan. Less easy to surmise my respect for Coil, whose music and life-vision was so extreme I don't think even Peel would play them. Balance and his partner Sleazy (Peter Christopherson) pushed everything to the limits. As The Wire ed Chris Bohn writes, this included forging "lines of enquiry into the most arcane corners of occult knowledge" and the drive to "mint sounds that would act on the molecular level, in much the same way as the chemicals they were ingesting impacted on them." True - open yourself to Coil's music and you find it really does go through you.

    Hardly great role-models, then, Coil. Except for a certain purity of vision which was to do with a genuine desire to "open channels towards new ways of perceiving the world," as The Wire's Chris Sharp puts it. Theirs was "a wildly various but ceaslessly questing body of work". And, despite being drawn to the darkness, in Coil's music "there is almost always something redemptive to be found in its inky depths."

    This is the key to the goodness in Balance. He said he created moon musick, and the moon is not only the globe beneath which acts of terror take place, it is also the gentle mover of the tides, the earth's friend. You can feel that in the music. His extreme vision included a lighter touch, and friends remembered him at his funeral with readings from Aleister Crowley and also by playing the theme tune from Are You Being Served, which he'd performed at his last show in Dublin (doubtless a transfigured version). You get that in the very English oddness of Broccoli and Queens of the Circulating Library, which I've blogged about before.

    Sobering to read the masthead of the Coil website today. It says, starkly, coil: ended. Their cd Coil Live One opens with a title which seems to express the loss of Jhon (on top of the loss of John): Everything keeps Dissolving. Those are darkly tragic words. Except for this thought - if you are an alchemist then dissolving is the means of re-creation. Within Balance's music all shapes, forms, preconceptions, laziness and tired ideas dissolve. To be transformed into sounds sometimes brutal, always vital. Which is why it will continue to invigorate the lives of those who dare to let it in.
    Wednesday, December 15, 2004
    Shine a light
    Small boy to me at end of tonight's Christingle service: "Can I go and get another Christingle?"
    Me (generous to a fault): "Yes, go on."
    Small boy's mother, two minutes later: "What are you doing with that?"
    Small boy: "The Sheriff said I could go and get another one."

    The Sheriff. No-one's ever called me that before. I like it. The Sheriff of Norris Green. I could take to that.
    Tuesday, December 14, 2004
    Life just bounces
    Christmas shopping complete. Parcels parcelled. Cards for posting, posted. Behind my right eye something aches. Muscles behind my kidneys too. I'm shattered but happy that it's a job now done.

    Essential rule of Christmas shopping #1: Buy in Liverpool. Feed the local economy. For the last two years it was all done in the little shops of Bold Street. I shopped around a bit this year, but all within the Liverpool postal area.

    Essential rule of Christmas shopping #2: Ignore people's Christmas lists. Saves any possibility of overlapping with other family / friends and means that the exchange of a gift between two people allows an element of surprise (admittedly I note sometimes shock or despair is part of the recipient's response).

    Christmas shopping delight this year: Trying applying generosity to my buying. How did I do? You'll have to wait and see.

    Christmas shopping gaffe this year #1: Buying what I thought was a blue santa hat from the Everton FC shop only to discover on getting it home it's a Santa stocking. Can't wear that on me head at Blackburn next Saturday;

    Christmas shopping gaffe this year #2: Buying cards in bulk from a charity which twice, over two months, failed to deliver to my address - a bloke twenty houses down the road was bemused / annoyed on both occasions. The cards went back both times - I never got the delivery;

    Christmas shopping gaffe this year #3: Buying cards from a shop to get them home to discover they had Happy Birthday inside them;

    Christmas shopping opportunity this year: Due to above card gaffes, I made me own cards last-minute and photocopied them. Hope they'll do.

    Christmas shopping treat this year: After completing my shopping, a purchase from Probe - Perverted By Mark E., a truly wonderful celebration of Fall music. Probe's sticky label calls it an "ace double cd set of U.S., U.K., German and antipodean indie misfits paying tribute to the mighty Fall - a load of great cover versions and a heap of fantastic originals inspired by Mark E."

    The drive home after Christmas shopping this year: A celebratory journey, singing along to Perverted By Mark E., waving my Everton club shop bag at friendly flag-bearing Blues car drivers and, at traffic lights, in the rear view mirror of cars bearing LFC stickers. "And green grow the hedgerows along the walls / And I see that my problems are really small / And life just bounces so don't you get worried at all".
    Monday, December 13, 2004
    Mennonite musings
    I miss my frequent day-trips to London (from when I was computer-programming and Greenbelt-directing) and the occasions they offered to stop over and take part in something going on at the London Mennonite Centre. I've been poring over their latest mailing today, clicking through their website and pondering over reviving those valued, precious links.

    One day perhaps the Peace Churches will claim me for their own - it would not be such a remarkable departure for me, energised into the faith in my late teens through the social-gospel / peace-church visions of the likes of Jim Punton, Alan Kreider and Ron Sider. Meanwhile I'll plod on where I am, energised by the likes of these things on offer from LMC and their excellent book service:

    - Michael Kirwan's Discovering Girard - which looks a very accessible introduction to the mimetic theorist;

    - A day at LMC with Stuart Murray Williams, author of Post-Christendom and the forthcoming The Church after Christendom;

    - And four days with Richard Blackburn, looking at Family Emotional Process in churches - a systematic attempt to try understanding congregational behaviour. Based on the work of Edwin H. Friedman whose book Generation to Generation blew my mind at college and now sits on my shelf demanding to be re-read.

    These and plenty more ... they're all happening in Highgate, 2005.
    Sunday, December 12, 2004
    Nothing is what I most need
    What do I really want for Christmas? Nothing. It's not that I don't want anything. There's always going to be some stupid object I think I can't live without. But, at the core, nothing is what I most need. Do you get me? I need nothing - the sense of nothingness. Wouldn't everyone be happy with a little nothing in their lives?

    That's the best wisdom I've found in an entire treeload of Sunday supplements today. It's pretty Zen in its own way and the best thing about it is it doesn't come from some London media arts crony; these are the words of Paul, a postman.

    Having spent much time searching all this newsprint for something (other than the footer coverage) to provoke, inspire, entertain, and been otherwise disappointed, I realise the irony in what I've been doing ... it's been nothing. Which is probably what I really needed...
    Saturday, December 11, 2004
    Everton beat Liverpool convincingly to go second in the league

    I have three services to take tomorrow and after this afternoon at Goodison I am hoarse. Football may be a fickle pursuit by contrast with the eternal verities I pontificate about each Sunday; it may be... but it feels great to be an Evertonian today. Anyone got a throat lozenge?

    Friday, December 10, 2004
    Resisting non-places
    I feel uncomfortable with Marc Auge's Non-places - Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. Because his proposal seems to make perfect, and disturbing, sense. Auge says that we have created spaces, often related to travel, commerce, leisure - airport lounges, motorways, out-of-town supermarkets, Showcase cinemas - in which all the transactions are predictable, mediated, mechanical, and overwhelmingly solitary (the check-in, the check-out, the lane-switch, the credit card payment). These he calls non-places, in contrast to anthropological places which are organically social.

    In the anthropological place life comes to us through human interaction, through natural events, through all manner of felt, smelt, experience. In non-places the only link between individuals and their surroundings is through texts - the signs and screens which direct our journeys and our transactions - 'Check-In'; 'Departure Lounge'; 'J23 1m'; '10 Items or Less'; 'You have £800 available for withdrawal'...

    If you consider that non-places are growing, it's a bleak picture Auge paints. But my discomfort is in tension with a better feeling, that even in non-places anthropological space breaks through. The giggle of a group of schoolchildren visiting a supermarket together; a conversation at a checkout till; how people use the room in airport lounges when their planes are delayed; ironic McDonalds staff - all these point to a tendency for subversive, irrational, creative, natural human behaviour to break back through.
    Thursday, December 09, 2004
    Truth in the New Piccadilly
    Truth is my neglected child
    So unembraceable
    For any length of time
    She's always wanting ....

    - Sidsel Endresen's voice weaving through Bugge Wesseltoft's minimal music - the soundtrack of my journey to London and back today.

    Those words... yes, Truth is a neglected child. But the thing is, you can't neglect a child like that for long; Truth seeks your attention; throws things at you to alert you to her presence. And anyway, you can't resist her for long - in her warmth and her insistence she's dangerously beautiful.

    After a good lunch hour with Oliver at Greenbelt HQ, an unexpected afternoon with another Greenbelt friend Martin, who I met in the long and contented queue at Apple's new Regent Street store.

    Over a couple of cuppas in the New Piccadilly we mulled over Truth - two rookie clergymen uncomfortable with the role, struggling with its many contradictions. It is difficult, embracing the truth about the submerging church we're in. Except the dangerously beautiful side of her, which is there still, when you look closely. And it's wierd, reflecting on who we are now, disturbed by those people who act oddly around clerical-collar-wearers, even some close to us. Wondering where our personal Truth now lives.

    Truth, the song, ends with the words: "I make my compromise..." Perhaps that's really all we can do with resistable, dangerous, beautiful truth. Meanwhile, both Martin and I made our compromises with the credit gods this afternoon, in that gorgeous new temple of computer consumerism. And me, I came home with a Powerbook G4....

    Wednesday, December 08, 2004
    Pip's Selection Box
    Pip's Selection Box arrived in the post today. The man has a gift of encouragement. He has a heart for the outsider. He has an eye for the lost lonely one in the corner. He has blobs. He has fun. He also has an ear for a lovely tune. And as with his previous self-selected CD gift to me I'm listening to more dance per minute than at any other time in the year. Affirming stuff. I'm looping his Bugge Wesseltoft choices now: haunting, beautiful. Thanks, Pip.
    Tuesday, December 07, 2004
    Altared again
    You might recall my blog earlier this year where I described Altar 8, the photo-book of a project run by Liverpool Community Spirit (email) where a plain green altar was taken round the streets of Liverpool 8 and people were invited to decorate it with images of their thoughts, reflections, or beliefs.

    Well, they've followed up that very creative idea with something similar. Altaring Liverpool: A Book About Change. This time the altar went around unadorned, but people were invited to put it in specific places - places special to them. It was an exercise in exploring the 'living geniuses of place and person and harnessing this boundless wealth of constructive vision, talent and passion in our city.' The pics and people's explanations are great. And the book's opening quote, from Equus by Liverpool-born playwright Peter Shaeffer, is excellent too:

    I wish there was one person in my life I could show. One instinctive, absolutely unbrisk person I could take to Greece, and stand in front of certain shrines and sacred streams and say, 'Look! Life is only comprehensible through a thousand local gods. And not just the old dead ones with names like Zeus - no, but living Geniuses of Place and Person! And not just Greece but modern England! Spirits of certain trees, certain curves of brick wall, certain chip shops, if you like, and slate roofs - just as of certain frowns in people and slouches'... I'd say to them - 'Worship as many gods as you can see - and more will appear!'

    Some might reject that as pantheism; but that'd be mean-spirited. I'd rather join in the celebration and call it Pan-o-Scouse-theism.
    Monday, December 06, 2004
    Ready to be heartbroken
    They're all going on about Band Aid at the moment but the other current 20th anniversary re-release interests me more: Lloyd Cole and the Commotions' Rattlesnakes. As Rough Trade put it, 'Rattlesnakes' was originally released in October 1984 and was a student bedsit classic because of its blend of smart, ironic lyrics and sympathetic pop influences (Big Star, Byrds, the Velvets and Creedence Clearwater Revival). And yup, that's precisely its place on the soundtrack to my life. There I was, in a room of my own:

    Looking like a born again
    Living like a heretic
    Listening to arthur lee records
    Making all your friends feel so guilty
    About their cynicism

    That was before Band Aid, of course. After that, even I, occasionally, felt guilty about my cynicism.
    Sunday, December 05, 2004
    What's the frequency, Tommy?

    "What's the frequency, Tommy?" you're this season's dream, uh-huh
    You were brain-dead, worn out, numb, like Gary Speed
    I thought I'd pegged you an idiot's dream
    Bog-eyed vision on the Sky TV screen
    I never understood the frequency, uh-huh
    You blew our expectations out of the air, uh-huh

    I'd studied your free-kicks, fouls and stares in footy magazines
    Moyesey said, "Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy"
    You smile while giving rivals tooth for a tooth
    You're 28 but moving with the freedom of youth
    You wear a shirt of royal blue, uh-huh
    I never understood the frequency, uh-huh

    "What's the frequency, Tommy?" you're this season's dream, uh-huh
    Butterfly stitches, midfield general, hogging the scene
    You smile while giving rivals tooth for a tooth
    You're suddenly moving with the freedom of youth
    You wear a shirt of royal blue, uh-huh
    I never understood the frequency, uh-huh
    You blew our expectations out of the air, uh-huh

    I couldn't understand
    You're suddenly moving with the freedom of youth, uh-huh
    I couldn't understand
    You wear a shirt of royal blue, uh-huh
    I couldn't understand
    I never understood you're fine with me, uh-huh

    (Inspired by the observation at yesterday's match that the phenomenal Thomas Gravesen looks - and plays - like Michael Stipe on steroids...)
    Saturday, December 04, 2004
    Your love is teaching me how to KNEEL...

    I'm slowly coming round to the new U2 album. musically nowhere near as adventurous as their thrilling 1990s outings, nevertheless lyrics like these rise, sparkle, shine out - real jewels. And you know, of course, the singer means what he sings. Niggardy Christians bemoan the band's churchless faith. I'm fulla church to the eyebrows and I just wish I had something even approaching the humility and insight in that astonishing line. Your love is teaching me how ... how to KNEEL... let it be so now.
    Wednesday, December 01, 2004
    Pic of the month
    I'm off on a couple of days more study at St Deiniols, please do not disturb. But in the meantime enjoy December's Pic of the month - something seasonal from Steve Erspamer.