Wednesday 24 June 2009

Whatever happened?

I have been not a little disappointed in the last few days to see that the excellent site "Reading Ruth Gledhill" appears to have been taken down. I have read "The Times" for years and recall remarking over a decade ago upon how poorly informed the Religion Correspondent appeared. Newspapers are ephemeral things and their enjoyment is dependent upon a regularly decreasing number of brain cells resulting in progressive short term memory loss. One experiences, for instance, the pleasure of a familiar response having forgotten that it was evoked by the same writer last month, last year or even further back. The great thing about the site was its archive of articles by this lady. It was possible to see very clearly that the absurdities were far from isolated and to appreciate that tendencies one suspected over time were not merely the product of one's imagination.

Once upon a time it occurred to me that the weather forecast might benefit from being in two parts; the forecast proper and a review of the previous day's forecast where yesterday's prognostications were set against- for easy contrast- what actually happened.

Anyway, if anyone out there knows of the blog's migration and can fill me in I'd be very gratefu

Thursday 18 June 2009


On Friday last I flew to the USA and on Monday evening I flew home again. Rather was I flown to those destinations since my unathletic physique precludes the wing-flapping necessary for personal flight. Indeed I am no jet-setter and my little trip was the result of an extraordinary set of circumstances which included the celebration of a family wedding in the state of Massachusetts not far from Boston.

The formal part of the visit being completed on Saturday and my return flight being booked for Monday, I went to Mass on Sunday morning and packed in a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the afternoon. The Museum was a first-rate experience and definitely worthy of a place in my top ten of best museums for both atmosphere and the quality of the work on display. It is always a privilege to be able to attend Mass and especially, in my experience, when travelling on one's own in a distant land. It is to be "at home" while far from home. Nevertheless, one notices differences.
(To be continued)

Tuesday 16 June 2009

You'll never guess where I've been

...but more about that tomorrow.

Thursday 11 June 2009

The Successful Extempore Preacher

To Chester in search of the Suit. In Foregate Street a black Protestant preacher was powerfully holding forth.


At this point our eyes met. I smiled...


I gave him a big "Go on, then(if you can!)" grin


One has to give these chaps some credit. They certainly have some nerve.

Monday 8 June 2009

An unusual wild rabbit

Early one morning last week I saw two wild rabbits in the garden. One was the usual wild rabbit colour. This was the other one. His black fur helped emphasise his elegant form but I fear it may make him an easy prey

Sunday 7 June 2009

Terribilis est locus iste!

hic domus Dei est, et porta caeli: et vocabitur aula Dei....

I escaped the parish today and went to mass in Liverpool at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. The cathedral has, I know, its critics and I would certainly agree that there is indeed something tragic in the disjuncture between the noble ponderous forms of Lutyens's crypt- as much as was completed- and the "60's shopping centre" surfaces that abut it but, once inside the vast upturned "funnel" encompassing nave and sanctuary I have always felt it a most worthy space. In spite of the nave surrounding the sanctuary and the easy visibility of the altar there is both an austere grandeur about the space and an impressiveness about the altar. A variety of features ameliorate the architecture's brutalist tendencies while the boldness of forms counters the tweeness that is frequently encountered in the post-conciliar era. And, oh, yes! The "Benedictine" arrangement of the high altar is ab initio!

And then there was the music! Gregorian chant had "pride of place" being used for the Introit, Communion Antiphon, CredoIII, and Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Missa de Angelis (Mass VIII). The choir sang the Gloria from the Messe Solenelle by Louis Vierne. Rather oddly, but nevertheless beautifully the choir sang Byrd's "O lux beata Trinitas" at what I call the Offertory but, as often as not these days,is called the Preparation of the Gifts. (Oddly, I say, because I think it is a hymn for Vespers.) The dialogue and Preface were sung (well) in English as was the Responsorial Psalm and we sang a couple of (safe) hymns.

As at Westminster there is a proper male choir, boys and men, and of a high standard. That such choirs have survived is little short of miracle, given the last forty years, and is something for which I am deeply grateful. After Mass we were treated to a Bach fugue on the organ. I remained to the end and was surprised at how quickly the cathedral had emptied reflecting upon how, when I was last at Sunday Mass in Clifton Cathedral, a small but sizeable group had remained to listen, applauding the organist at the end. I generally abhor the cult of personality and applause in church but I think an exception should be made for decent organists. In fact good organists shouldn't just be applauded. They should be canonised!
As for church guitarists.... The appropriate treatment is best carried out off church premises!

Saturday 6 June 2009

My Dad was a D-Day Dodger!

While it is only right that we celebrate the heroes of the invasion of Normandy today I should like to mention my father's role in Hitler's downfall. Today I learned that, while stationed at Bridgnorth in Shropshire, there was a real risk of the wily old fuhrer moving in with him. I don't think that my Dad(R.I.P.) knew of this particular plan but he would have been tickled to know that, among the attractions, the presence of an airfield (!) was prominent.

Many was the time I heard of how the German bombers would follow the Severn to Bridgnorth before taking a right turn to drop their deadly cargoes on Brum.

Friday 5 June 2009

Not too sure what's going on here

but here is a picture from my collection

Thursday 4 June 2009

"Fires of Faith"

Thanks to Leutgeb's mention of it at Bara Brith, on Sunday, I was able to get Eamon Duffy's new book "Fires of Faith, Catholic England under Mary Tudor" delivered by Tuesday and read by yesterday evening. Perhaps- for me at any rate- the strongest point in its favour is that it shows the real achievement of the reign in laying a firm foundation for the Catholic resistance that was to be such an important feature of Elizabeth's reign and subsequently. Perhaps I should have been aware of this from "The Stripping of the Altars" but "Fires of Faith" brings it home forcefully. The fact, for instance, that all but one of the bishops were prepared to resist the Elizabethan settlement, to the extent of accepting deposition, imprisonment or exile - a complete volte face from that obtaining with their predecessors under Henry VIII- is a tribute to the efforts of Cardinal Pole. In fact, given the radically Protestant dispensation of Edward's reign, it is hard to imagine any Catholic resistance under Elizabeth were it not for the vigour of the Catholic restoration under Mary. Having tended to view the period from a Jesuit perspective I feel I have gained something of a necessary corrective.

Monday 1 June 2009

Extraordinary times

On remarking to my daughter that other achievements of Cardinal Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom the Sequence "Veni Sancte Spiritus is attributed, included bringing King John to book (charter actually) with the barons at Runymede and the division of the entire Bible into chapters it was observed that "He must have had a lot of time on his hands". I had to admit that this was very likely the case since he spent some years in exile, like St Thomas Becket some years earlier under John's father.
Bit of a shower our English kings!