Tag Archives: sport

19 July: G is for Valley Gardens

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Since I was small, I had always loved gardening, so when the chance came of a holiday job at the parks in Castleford, I seized it. The town council took a pride in their parks, lung-savers in an industrial landscape. As well as the mines there were glassworks, a  factory producing chemicals such as wood preservers, a coke oven and a maltings: the least offensive smell. In a heat wave the fumes gathered in the valley where the town was built on the ford. The rivers ran black. Breathing was a challenge.

Valley Gardens was our nearest park: a good park with a crown bowling green, playground for the children, lawns and lots of traditional bedding, the plants grown in the council’s own nursery. There was also raised bedding with scented plants for blind people to enjoy. And so they did.

I’m ever grateful for the skills learnt at Valley Gardens but also for the attitude to work imbibed from the older guys I worked alongside. Many had been miners and knew how to pace themselves to be productive over the whole day. They were also humble enough to put themselves through the City and Guilds Certificate training: men who knew how to handle tools, being ‘taught’ how to dig or prune before taking on specialised skills such as caring for the greens.

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Recently I read that Valley Gardens, for many years the responsibility of Wakefield City council, is run-down and the play area no longer safe. A committee has been formed to revive this park. When I was there, people knew the decision makers in town. Now they are in Wakefield and need never go near Valley Gardens.

I hope the committee is supported by the community and Wakefield council so that the gardens return to their former glory.

There are parallels in church life. We need to trust people, even  those who shun responsibilities, with a mission they may fail at. Apart from Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were members of the Sanhedrin, Jesus chose women and misfits for his first generation of leaders. I don’t recall his disciples sitting exams.

Since writing this post I read an article describing how the people who use the parks the most are poorer people, people without gardens of their own. So it is poor people who take the brunt of government spending cuts in this area of life, as in so many others.

Our beds were every bit as lovely – and more so – than this semiformal planting in Berlin’s Charlottenberg Park. The Roses were a feature of Valley Gardens: the older gardeners taught me how to prune them. This is ‘Mermaid’, who needs very careful handling with her vicious thorns. But she’s lovely!

 

 

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June 22: Shared Table V, A big Miracle.

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Do I need to add that it was another true story? One of the most spectacular shared meals of all time, that puts into the shade our small miracle recalled in Tuesday’s post – and it happened in the unforgiving Galilean sunshine. 5,000 men, not to mention women and children, all of them fed from  five loaves and two little fish.

John’s account (Chapter 6) tells us that the food was offered by a small boy. So even then, the Lord depended on others to complete his work.

John also tells us that Jesus spoke about himself as real food:

For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me.

Well, they did not get it, those who walked no more with him. But do we get it? Remember  Herbert McCabe:

The doctrine of transubstantiation, as I see it, is that the bread and wine become more radically food and drink.

To the naked eye the Eucharist is nothing like as spectacular as the feeding of the five thousand, at which Jesus floated the idea of his body as food to his followers. But consider how we feel more alive in the company of loved ones, as part of a crowd with a purpose such as cheering on a sports team; breathing the same air, hearing and singing the same chants, sharing conversation. We feel energised.

We can be less than 100% attentive to what is being said and done at Mass, receiving the Sacrament in a daze of fatigue or fret. But our presence, our extended hand, are there not just in the moment, but more radically are on the brink of the eternal moment.

(I doubt the loaves and fish were as big as these carved on Strasbourg Cathedral)

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4 January: the Christmas Truce

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More than once I had heard the story of a Christmas Truce along the Western Front in 1914, and often as not someone would dismiss the idea. I was glad to find a book, written with the co-operation of the Imperial War Museum that makes clear that the Christmas Truce did occur*

The writers do not see the Truce as an irrelevance, rather a

‘precursor, a portent indeed, of the spirit of reconciliation now powerfully abroad as one century ends and a new age begins. From South Africa to Ireland, and perhaps most noticeably of all in the benevolent arm-in-arm relationship between France and Germany (whose deep-rooted antipathy … made the First World War virtually inevitable.’                          p vii.

They tell many stories, using diaries and other records of the time. This was reported in the Daily Telegraph as the account of a wounded French soldier:

‘he said that on the night of December 24th, the French and the Germans came out of their respective trenches and met halfway between them. They not only talked, exchanged cigarettes &c.,  but also danced together in rings.’        p 79.

There are many other accounts of how ‘we achieved what the pope (Benedict XV) could not do and in the middle of the war we had a merry Christmas.’ p 94.

Which was irrelevant: the Christmas Truce or the Great War?

Let us pray for Peace in this New Year.

*Christmas Truce by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton, Pan, 2001. There are plenty of copies of this and other editions at Abe Books for less than £3.

Here is a link to the European Christmas Truce Tournament . Teenage boys from football clubs across Europe meet to play football, socialise, and visit the trenches, cemeteries and monuments of the Great War.

Photo Q 50719 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

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August 13: Re-Focussing Young Minds

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During the Olympics, in 1212, a sensitive idea was brought forward by church leaders: namely to have a pre-Olympic celebration of Christianity called 100 Days of Peace. The aim was to ensure that the theme of Peace would be held to as a religious and Christian theme, especially in the minds of young school children, rather than the typical Olympic image of political peace, a kind of convenient truce between States that were, in other respects, keen to fight each other.

The Peace Corner that we set up in one area of our Newham church of St. Francis was the work of children from our primary school. We also held a prayer service with music and singing by the children and the presentation of their works of art. Themes such as the trafficking of children, the need for Fair Trade mentalities, and inter-racial friendship communicated the difficult long-term commitment needed for overcoming upheaval and distress.

Peace was presented therefore as deeply desirable but also often elusive. Not something that we can afford to treat with glibness. This is a valid point about what creates a genuinely supportive network of relationships. The Paralympics, later in the summer, were a great success, and in many ways a vindication of the churches’ message of better listening and greater kindness. To be ready to celebrate the sporting achievements of those with serious physical handicaps is the beginning of a move towards a more inclusive view of Peace.

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The notion of a worshipping community as a place of inclusiveness appeared as a spirituality of initiatives among the marginalised in the days of St. Francis.

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Plain Speaking

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Giovanni Gaureschi

I used to visit an old lady who was a devout Catholic but who felt she was not a very good person because she found it so hard to confess her sins. She felt that confession and  indeed any form of prayer had to be conducted in more or less formal language and the idea of using everyday language was quite beyond her ken. So I lent her one of the novels of the renowned Italian author, Giovanni Guareschi which recounts in a very light hearted but nevertheless, heartfelt manner, the endeavours of a priest, Don Camillo, in a small provincial town to renew the faith of his somewhat  errant flock and fend off the plots of the Communist Mayor, Peppone. All the time the Priest talks to God with great faith but in ordinary, everyday language.

My little old lady sometimes laughed at these tales. But she told me that they did not really resolve her problem because all the characters were Italian and she was of Irish descent. “Well that’s no matter,” said I, “for I am of Welsh descent but we are all children of God.” She replied,” I don’t care what heathen tribe you come from as long as you give the English a good thumping in the ‘Six Nations’ and one day perhaps even the Italians will beat them too, since their morals are improving according to your book and I will speak to God about this”.

DBP.

http://www.mondoguareschi.com/gallery/guareschi/gua_gall_download/image public domain

found  at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovannino_Guareschi#/media/File:Giovannino_Guareschi.jpg

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