Tag Archives: work

17 September: X is for Exeter

harvest18.1

A city that was badly bombed during World War II, that has lost its town centre shipping, though the quays are in demand for filming; a beautiful old cathedral, the river inviting you to follow it down to the sea at Exmouth; the beautiful and fertile Devon countryside … all this you can find in the guide books.

My brother and sister-in-law’s allotment garden is not in the guide books, but you can find it … if you know where to look.

Here they grow their fruit and vegetables. When we visited we were invited to join the harvest, and a couple of hours later to sit down and enjoy the results. Which we gladly did. It helps that both of them are professional chefs, but they are also generous hosts. We don’t see enough of them.

I’m afraid the photograph of their allotment and shed disappeared between computers and memory sticks, so here is a harvest breakfast with Kentish rather than Devon fare. And here below a harvest loaf. Not as good as my brother’s efforts in past years, but I’ve already been asked to make one for this autumn.

harvest18.2 loaf

A reminder to pray for the farmers in these uncertain times, to thank God for our families and friends, and to share our blessings.

 

 

 

 

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August 8: Another man with dirty hands and clean heart.

handwash

I’ve just been scrubbing my hands after a spot of bicycle maintenance; that and the story of the classic car enthusiast removing every speck of grime from his hands to attend an ordination reminded me of another tale that I heard on the radio a few years ago, before the days of ubiquitous thin rubber gloves.

An Anglican priest, non-stipendiary, meaning he earned his living at another job, as Saint Paul did, was the speaker. I don’t know what his other job was, but it involved getting his hands dirty, the sort of dirt that lodges in the fingerprint whorls and cracks and resists the scrubbing brush. Printer’s ink maybe?

Every Saturday evening this good man would hold his hands in a strong solution of bleach until the residual grime disappeared, ready for Sunday Eucharist. However the result was not good news for his skin.

As I recall the story, his wife intervened, concerned for his health. His hands, she told him, were clean enough to eat with, despite the last ingrained stains, and he was preparing to celebrate the Lord’s Last Supper, a meal with God’s people in his parish; people who knew about his work. They would not be put off by unwashoffable dirt, nor would they expect their priest to contract dermatitis in order to lead them in worship.

He stopped using the bleach. The congregation did not stop coming to Sunday Eucharist. Surely Jesus chose fishermen and a tentmaker as his ministers, but he also chose a man with very dirty hands, the extortionate tax-collector, the future Saint Matthew.

 

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August 7: He that hath dirty hands and a clean heart.

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My friend’s husband was of course invited to his sister-in-law’s ordination as an Anglican priest and so was I.

Years had flown, stomachs sagged, hair gone beyond blond, but our handshake was as firm as ever. I looked down at his hand, unnaturally clean, for him. Much of his leisure time before retirement was spent restoring 1950s cars to drive for a while, then sell on. He probably earned about £1 an hour in profit, but he took great pride in his work, which demanded a great deal of practical knowledge not to be learned from books, even the Haynes manuals.

I once spent an afternoon with him, touring the scrapyards of South Staffordshire, looking for a couple of small parts. A manufacturer had tried to  save money by substituting plastic for brass in a moving part of the wiper motors. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. My friend was reluctant to buy new motors when he could salvage what he needed for next to nothing.

You see why the clean hand was unnatural. But there are preparations to work into the hands and nails and fingerprints, leaving them looking respectably clean. Half an hour rubbing in green gunge the evening before the ordination and husband and wife were ready to go.

 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart. Ps 24, 3-4.

Not that he was any less welcome on the mountain of the Lord before applying the heavy duty hand cleaner, but since he was dressed in his best, he had to go the whole hog.


Somehow the original idea for this post slipped away. It was the importance of that small part; important enough for the car to be dangerously incomplete without it. While we should not inflate our sense of self importance, we should remember that the Good Shepherd leaves 99 behind while he looks for the lost one.

Two lessons in one reflection. That’s Agnellus’ Mirror for you!

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July 28: Fair Trade and Climate Change

COFFEE - a young coffee plant in Maray - Peru - banner

Ebrottié, a cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire

link to video

 

The Fairtrade Foundation invited readers of their website to share the next three stories from their farming partners; given in their own words.

“Climate change is a global issue. We, the farmers, have to deal with its consequences every day. For instance, this year we lacked food because of the heat. The production decreased this year too, so this affects the economy. People harvested less and received less money. So we all suffer from the negative consequences of the climate: it impacts the environment and our economy.

“There will be a food shortage because of the heat whereas, before, there were a lot of forests, the rains were regular and the seasons were well divided. It was easier. There were four seasons, now we don’t know anymore when we should plant and when we should stop.

“Climate change has an impact on crops which results in less money and food available. There is also a lack of workforce, because the cocoa farming is not profitable anymore. Young people who used to work with us do not come anymore. The farmer is left with his family, struggling to keep the production because of the negative effects of climate. These are the difficulties we currently face.”

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July 3: Clouds over London I.

london towers clouds
We went to Greenwich for a reunion. Greenwich Park is on a hill; it was a favourite retreat for royalty such as Henry VIII, not far from London then, now an inseparable part of London but still green.
This  tremendous sky towering over the towers deserved to be remembered. Next morning I read these lines in Dante’s Inferno,  lines that seemed to fit the picture:
“Not all the gold, that is beneath the moon,
Or ever hath been, of these toil-worn souls
Might purchase rest for one.”
Divine Comedy Canto VII
People earn crazy salaries in those towers; people work crazy hours in those towers, chasing what seems like imaginary money from one side of the world, through devious channels and passages, to the other.
If only they could see the clouds of heaven in all their beauty! But their towers, even as they exalt them from the ground, obscure the sky and the sight of heaven.

Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Nicholas Lash, in Theology for Pilgrims (p22), tells how Frei Betto, a distinguished Dominican theologian from Brazil was invited to contribute a guest editorial for New Blackfriars, their magazine. He wrote that people had told him that Britain was a secular country, yet he found it a pagan country, where the things that were worshipped were not called gods.

 

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26 June: Whose time is it, anyway?

 

car-lightsI felt I ought to be catching up on the classics, so set the Kindle to work, digging them out. Another bite at Virginia Woolf led me to her ‘Orlando’; I have to admit to skipping a great deal in order to reach the end of the book, but this passage struck a few bells.

Father Valentine and I were discussing clock time and personal time in a recent exchange of emails. It’s easy to lose track of clock time if you don’t have appointments to keep. All very well for a privileged young woman, as VW was, but not for a young person on the verges of crime and unemployment, wanting to hold down a job. Valentine and I both know a few like that! (‘You’ve got an alarm on your phone, why don’t you use it?’ ‘I thought my mother would wake me but she went out.’) And here’s the privileged Virginia Woolf. 

“Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality, has no such simple effect upon the mind of man. The mind of man, moreover, works with equal strangeness upon the body of time. An hour, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented on the timepiece of the mind by one second. This extraordinary discrepancy between time on the clock and time in the mind is less known than it should be and deserves fuller investigation.”

(from “Orlando: A Biography” by Virginia Woolf, 1928, available  on-line.)

For better is one day in thy courts above thousands (elsewhere). Psalm 84:10

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13 June: Apparent indifference.

 

walk5I was looking for something else when I came across some of the extracts I made from Richard Jefferies’ “The Gamekeeper at Home”, first published in 1878. Ian, a lad I once taught, had an ambition to become a keeper, and enjoyed reading this book together, despite the sometimes old-fashioned language. I hope you enjoy this extract.

He had the capacity to stand and stare that Jefferies describes here.

The book is available at Project Gutenberg.

Often and often, when standing in a meadow gateway partly hidden by the bushes, watching the woodpecker on the ant-hills, of whose eggs, too, the partridges are so fond (so that a good ant year, in which their nests are prolific, is also a good partridge year) you may, if you are still, hear a slight faint rustle in the hedge, and by-and-by a weasel will steal out. Seeing you he instantly pauses, elevates his head, and steadily gazes: move but your eyes and he is back in the hedge; remain quiet, still looking straight before you as if you saw nothing, and he will presently recover confidence, and actually cross the gateway almost under you.

This is the secret of observation: stillness, silence, and apparent indifference.

I made no comment when I published this extract on the ‘Will Turnstone’ blog, perhaps the best sermon or reflection, but ‘if you are still’ you may hear, or see in the corner of your eye, feel a breath on your cheek, smell the breeze that the prophet heeded.

As for apparent indifference to one’s surroundings: by some quirk of my mind’s working I’m put in mind of Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” There are many who seem indifferent to Jesus, but are able to be still and silent, to observe what needs doing, and get on with it without fanfare.

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June 7: The Poetic Pillar Box.

 

ams.postbox

We see above a pillarbox at Centraal Station in Amsterdam, nicely bringing together two strands of today’s reflection from GK Chesterton’s Heretics. Of course, railway signalmen – and they were men in England a century ago – needed greater vigilance then and could not offload much responsibility onto technology. But both postmen and signalmen had to be men of integrity. Over to GKC:

The word “signal-box” is unpoetical. But the thing signal-box is not unpoetical; it is a place where men, in an agony of vigilance, light blood-red and sea-green fires to keep other men from death. That is the plain, genuine description of what it is; the prose only comes in with what it is called. The word “pillar-box” is unpoetical. But the thing pillar-box is not unpoetical; it is the place to which friends and lovers commit their messages, conscious that when they have done so they are sacred, and not to be touched, not only by others, but even (religious touch!) by themselves. That red turret is one of the last of the temples.

Posting a letter and getting married are among the few things left that are entirely romantic; for to be entirely romantic a thing must be irrevocable. We think a pillar-box prosaic, because there is no rhyme to it. We think a pillar-box unpoetical, because we have never seen it in a poem. But the bold fact is entirely on the side of poetry. A signal-box is only called a signal-box; it is a house of life and death. A pillar-box is only called a pillar-box; it is a sanctuary of human words. 

postbox.clitheroe

Not just an excuse to share two favourite photos! But this 19th Century box (at the top VR means Victoria Regina, or Queen Victoria) is at Sabden, Lancashire. Text from Project Gutenberg. It’s no good imagining the Brownings posting their letters into such a box: they were not introduced for some years, although the penny post was speeding letters around the country from 1840. More from the Brownings soon. ‘Heretics’ is available on Kindle or Project Gutenberg.

 

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3 June: More Passion Flowers

 

passion.flower.st.Thomas.smI’m sure you’ll understand why I don’t usually take my phone to church, even if this one usually stays switched off when I switch it off. Not like the one that erupted into cacophonous life during an Archbishop’s sermon. This habit partly explains why I’ve only just added this picture of a passion flower from Saint Thomas’ Church in Canterbury. We looked at the symbolism of the flower a few months ago after we spotted some on tombstones in nearby Chartham. You can tell the Christian story with it.

passionflower.real.jpg

Here is the real thing, a promise of summer to come, and also of heaven to come! Saint Thomas’ flower is next to the sacristy door, the priest and servers process by the passion flower on the way to the altar to celebrate the passion and death of Jesus.

As we have remarked more than once, Jesus lived a lifelong passion. He enjoyed the world, loved it. He told us parables about the flowers of the field, trees and fruit, wine and wineskins, seeds and sowers, so it’s appropriate that we should have this little parable in stone in our Church, even if Jesus would not have known one in his earthly life.
hops.St.Thom.sm

Would Jesus have known this plant, the hop? I don’t know, but it was very common in Kent back in the Nineteenth Century when the church was built, and is still grown in the local area for the brewing industry.  Hops were harvested by hand until after the Second World War, with whole families joining in; school holidays in Canterbury were adjusted to allow children and parents to go to the hop gardens legally rather than as truants!

The hops can be seen between two arches on the opposite side of the Church. They represent the people of Canterbury, and the work of their hands. So Christ’s offering and ours, depicted in stone on the walls of our Church: Laudato Si!

PS: So far we’ve not found carved passion flowers in any local churchyard that we’ve visited since Chartham.

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I June, Pilgrimage to Canterbury XII: Getting Creative!

vw hut pilgrimage 2018

It’s been a few years since I made any art work for church, unless I count some of the photographs in this blog, at least as they have been adjusted to run alongside the texts. A few of my banners I felt happy with, but this pilgrimage has opened my eyes to real artists working together as a team. So it has been a pleasure to work with our three designers to produce works that we hope will make the pilgrimage more enjoyable and prayerful.

Antonela and Zsombor, who come from Romania and Hungary respectively, understand design techniques and work well with computers, but they are also true artists. And they make a good team. Run-of-the-mill photos when transformed by an artist’s hand have become lovely paintings. It’s a shame that they will be reproduced so small, as we are using the images as stickers to go in the pilgrim’s passport that will be issued each one. Another designer, Ines, comes from Portugal, and has produced very different illustrations. We are blessed to have such talented people – and the opportunity to use their talents in this way. We’ll share some of their pictures later. In the meantime here is a touch of creativity from last year: a beach hut disguised as a camper van. I hope the owners enjoy it even more than we pilgrims did, and don’t take it for granted.

Nothing asked of them was impossible, let’s hope the walk is not impossible either!

Best foot forward! May we not take our home town for granted, but see it anew when we arrive back in Canterbury.

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