Monday, March 31, 2008

Light at the end of the Tunnel

Today the Spiritual Capital research project Steering Group met and received the final report from the University research team, together with the first full draft project report, which I've been working on steadily over the past couple of weeks, along with Roy and Prof Ballard. In addition, I've managed to pay off the service providors' fees entailed, within the project fiscal deadline. This is a great relief to me. We now have a couple of months in which to publish, and to prepare the final conference on the findings.

It's all been very interesting and thought provoking, but also hard work overseeing the process and worrying over deadlines and finances, in order to keep the whole thing on course. What else can I say but - never again!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Low Sunday

Percy and Alwena's grandson Charlie was baptized at the Parish Eucharist this morning, much to everyone's delight. For the first six months of his life Charlie has been highly prone to infection, and the occasion of much prayer, as his little life was in danger. Now he's doing fine, and proving to be a source of delight to his family, and everyone else who knows and loves them. It was a delightful celebration, and followed by a splendid relaxed lunch in the Park Plaza Hotel. This was extra welcome, as it meant that I didn't have to cook for myself, with Clare still away.

Following the afternoon Eucharist at Tredegarville, I took Peggy her Easter Communion. Last Monday, when I'd rang up to make arrangements, she was feeling too ill to receive me. Her health fluctuates considerably because of her ailments, although she is always cheerful and serene. This morning I heard from people in church that she'd been well enough for a birthday outing the day before (94th, I think), so I called by to check her out, and found that she was up and around the house, in good form and delighted to be able to receive Communion. This gave me great satisfaction - a completion of my Easter duties.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

War time reminiscence

I received a letter in the post today, in beautiful copperplate handwriting from Margaret Lewis. She is the widow of the Revd. Roy Lewis who was Curate of St John's between 1941 and 1945, after which they went off to minister in Guyana, presumably with SPG. She must be in her nineties now.

She wrote enclosing a copy of a service booklet produced in May 1945 for a service of thanksgiving to celebrate the end of war in Europe, for our archives. I was pleased about this as I'm not sure that we have one, certainly not one in such good condition.

However, what was even more pleasing was her mention in the letter about the occasion when St John's was saved from an incendiary bomb which dropped through the roof during the Blitz. There is still a phosphorus burn mark on the tiled floor of the nave where it came down. I'd very much like to see a little commemorative plaque alongside it telling the story, but have not been able until now to pin down the detail of who tackled the bomb.

She told me that her husband Roy, and another Curate, the Revd. Frank Rees were the ones on firewatch, who saved St John's from the blaze, by sandbagging the bomb while it was still smouldering. I also learned that the stained glass windows were all stored in Castell Coch for the duration of the war.

I'm just so pleased to learn this. Now I have all the information I need to mount a little plaque ... except the date. Now that shouldn't be too difficult to track down should it?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Baptismal joys

Generally on Easter Monday, I'm pretty exhausted, but having had so much quiet time to myself without distraction meant that after a lie-in, I was ready and looking forward to celebrating the baptism of Joshua (9), Owain (5) and Ethan, just two months old.

It had to be today, as one granny was flying in from Canada yesterday, and the other granny can't make next Sunday. About forty friends and family turned up and packed out the chancel, where we were obliged to hold the ceremony, since the font area is all plastic wrapped for decoration. Our spare small portable font, a legacy from the St Alban's mission church, is also in store for the duration of the works in church, so I had to use a glass bowl from home as a font.

The children's parents, Chris and Katy used to come to St James', and Katy comes with them to God on Monday. Recently they've been trying out St John's, and been warmly welcomed (as ever) by Norma - who also showed up to represent the church congregation. Julie who does the God on Monday catering, a family friend, was also there with her kids. It was altogether a delightful occasion.

After lunch, it was a matter of getting myself up the motorway to Kenilworth to see my lovely a grand daughter and her parents, and spending the night with them, before returning to face the big task of writing up the Spiritual Capital Research report, in the few free days I know I can take off this week. Not long now, but I'll be glad when it's done and published.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The feast of feasts

The earliness of Lent, inclement weather, and uncertain state of the church pending redecoration have all contributed to poor attendance of late. There were, however good seventy adults and children present for the Sung Eucharist. It all fitted together beautifully, including a little trumpet fanfare from Bethan (9), and all the children present (regular and occasional Sunday School attenders) did a little Easter egg hunt I'd prepared for them during the last hymn. Lots of glorious singing, relaxed ritual and the spontanaiety of relaxed happy children made it into a Family Eucharist worthy of the name.

Then we had a party, with several cakes, sandwiches and crisps, tea and fizzy grame juice and orange. About forty people stayed, including a few of our visitors. The idea was to celebrate the sixty years life of the church's ministry to children post-War, when the new Vicar T M Hughes started up Sunday school again. Old photos were brought out and displayed. Recently, Norma Thomas who runs the Sunday School today, and started with it in 1948 has given a few talks and written about those years in the church magazine. She is a real missionary spirit, the prayerful and considerate soul of our church welcome team.

Everyone felt it was time to say thank you to her, not because she looks like stepping down, she is fit and well, and looks twenty years younger than her age, but as someone said better to be able to express appreciation for her ministry while she can enjoy it, not after she's gaga or dead. So, this celebration's secret agenda was to honour her and say thank you.

It came as a complete surprise to her when, as part of my short speech, I asked her to come forward. At first she looked a little shocked and embarrassed. "No no" she said; "You can't, it's Easter!" - utterly certain, unselfconscious in voicing her priorities for celebration. It was a wonderful joyous unforgettable moment. Norma isn't shy. She's quiet, confident, comfortably at home in the background, always aware and sensitive to what is needed. Generations of children and adults have loved her and been loved by her, and countless numbers have been welcomed into church by her from day to day.

There was truly a Paschal mood in church this morning. It felt like we are Easter people, and gloriously so. People happy to be what they are, as well. What a treat.

Early Easter surprise

I was a bit surprised and disconcerted that only one person turned up for the eight o'clock Eucharist this morning, until I remembered that there was to be a special 'do' after the Sung Eucharist following. Disconcerted because as was unlocking, a man in the street with a group of young people had asked if there was going to be an eight o'clock and I'd said 'yes', but he hadn't followed me into church.

A quarter of an hour later, as my sole communicant and I recited the Creed, I heard the sound of footsteps. When I turned around the man with eight teenagers had installed themselves in a pew. I welcomed then and continued with the service. Most seemed fairly familiar with worship and were very attentive. All came up and received Communion. As a result, this was the the largest number of eight o'clock communicants which I can recall in several years.

It turned out that they were a High School travel group from New Jersey, so I told them about our link with Rutgers College choir, and told them to look on You Tube for the video I posted of the choir singing outside church before their concert last summer.

We persist in offering services with a poor take up, and often I wonder why. Then there are moments such as this which provide reason enough. Even such a predictable routine event is capable of springing surprises.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Christ rising in darkness

I enjoyed another day of quiet solitude in which to prepare for the Vigil and for tomorrow. With the sun shining for most of the day, it was very pleasant. I just out for an hour, just to shop and realised just how busy it was away from the tranquility of Queen Anne Square.

I set out an hour and a half early to get the church ready for the Vigil, only to be thwarted in obtaining access by car, as Westgate Street, next to the Stadium was closed off. I'd forgotten there was a Rugby tournament all day. It took me quite a while to extract myself from the congested traffic and find a parking place adjacent to City Hall. This meant that I had to carry the garden bucket to be used for the Easter fire, plus a sheaf of papers, unflied, and unprotected from the spotting rain, an extra four hundred yards down to the church. As I arrived spectators were starting to drift out of the stadium and through the city centre to find their buses and cars and get themselves home. By this time it was starting to get dark, then the handful of people arrived for the Vigil.

Our Easter ceremony is simple, and informal, kindling and blessing the fire (twigs and ferns from the Vicarage garden), lighting and processing with the Paschal Candle, singing the Paschal Proclamation and reading John's resurrection Gospel, renewing baptismal vows, singing the Te Deum, and departing with a blessing. There were eight of the stalwarts present. It was a quiet reflective occasion, and reminded me of similar Easter Eves back in Geneva, just half a dozen or so people, gathering in a church porch on a noisy busy street, with a draught of air and a smoky uncontrollable fire. Such a contrast to the morning that follows, and to the big cathedral events that follow much the same form. It means so much to me that could imagine being there on my own doing it if I had no takers. But there are always a few for whom this represents something wonderfully special.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday savoured

I woke up, very grateful to be feeling better, and more refreshed by a night's sleep. I felt I could face preaching the Three Hours with little apprehension, knowing for sure that the cold was on the wane. The catarrh following I can cope with.

About forty people came for the first hour, thirty for the second and around forty five for the third. Chris Seaton came and joined me to narrate the Passion and do the intercessions during the Liturgy of the Passion during the Last hour. His last activity as a student on placement with us. I've much appreciated his company during this Lent.

This year around a third of the congregation came up to venerate the cross, only a tiny handful last year. No great increase in devotion I suspect - this year I think I succeeded in issuing clearer instructions at the end of the sermon, making a properly informed choice possible.

Afterwards Philip our organist produced toasted buttered hot cross buns up in the tea-room, and the handful who had organised the whole affair and seen people in and out quietly while I preached and prayed, stood around, drank tea, and enjoyed a quiet moment of pleasure eating together before setting off home through cold windy streets.

This year, I'm home alone for the Easter weekend. No conflict of interests for me this year between the effort of a domestic (chocolate filled) Easter celebration, and living out Christ's story. A retreat for me, in fact. Just to be able to potter around, prepare a meal, to focus on getting myself ready for Sunday in tranquility, without distraction, is special. I enjoyed preaching today. It was had work, in the same way that a long run can be, but rewarding.

With my own particularly large portfolio of doubts about what we've made of Christianity in this era of 'modernity' (aka materialism), preaching the passion thoroughly, with all the preparation I can muster, confirms me more strongly in the essentials. If only I could be as patient as Christ is about the state of the church!

I was influenced by Franciscan missioners in my college days, and the longing to be a radical evangelist persists in me. I feel fortunate to be at St John's, just because the church, as well as its regular faithful congregation, gets visited continually by a large slice of the general public, watching, listening, taking in the messages conveyed by the place and its ministry, even if they don't appear to join in. It's so vital that what they receive is a sense of relevant good news.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Stripping the altars

I'm so grateful to feel less groggy today. I'm coughing, unpleasantly full of phlegm, but functioning a it better. I've been filling in the empty hours of the last few days thinking about and writing when I've felt up to it, material for our Spiritual Capital Research project report. I begin to feel that with the Gweini survey data, we have a relevant kind of advocacy for the participation of religious communities in civil society, that will raise some debate, and hopefully action. It's great to be involved with several excellent creative and analytical minds in forging something useful.

I couldn't go to the Cathedral for the Chrism Eucharist, as bidden. The noon Eucharist of this day still attracts people who might otherwise not make it to the evening service. Today, two elderly women joined us whom I'd never seen before. As soon as I'd given her Communion the second one said : "Please pray for Mary, who's been told she has two weeks to live." I turned the post Communion prayer into a prayer of commendation. Afterwards the other woman came up to me, tearful, and re-iterated the request, saying "She's in hospital, where we met her and she's afraid." She had the tears of helplessness in her eyes. Glad I was there for them to be able to pour out their souls' concern in trust.

After lunch, one of the excavating machines digging up Working Street severed a power cable outside church, so we were faced with the prospect of a candle-lit service tonight and more worryingly, no amplifier to carry my pathetic voice, and no heating for tomorrow's Good Friday service. Thankfully, praiseworthily, Western Power had it all sorted by six thirty, so we sang the Maundy Eucharist thoughtfully by elcetricity, and departed in darkness, as the ritual requires.

Evan and I stripped the altar after Communion - we don't do the procession with the sacrament because we don't offer Communion at the end of the Good Friday Liturgy, and nobody wants to stay on and keep Vigil. If I'm honest, this kind of devotion is not really part of this church's long standing tradition, even though they love Eucharistic worship and give it their all. No point in trying to impose something others may have tried introducing without success, just because some book says you should. You can't force-feed the flock!

As we approached the altar together, Evan siezed the huge linen altar cloth in the middle and yanked it deftly, unceremoniously off the altar, neatly into a bundle. Normally he is a tidy, methodical man, but it wasn't the uncharacteristic nature of the action that struck me. It was the sheer impression his action created, a kind of visual shock that was entirely appropriate to the moment and its sombre mood, summing up the painful disruptive drama of stripping away the safe and familiar, exposing us to the emptiness of the moment the Vigil of the Passion begins.

I wonder if anybody else noticed? By that time Psalm 88 was already under way. We're only a silence away from Golgotha again.

Will the diggers be operating in Working Street tomorrow, or is it a construction workers holiday? I should have checked.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

St Joseph's day lament

Well, I survived three days of morning and evening Eucharist with a third of my usual voice. The noise of digging up St John Street outside has proceeded efficiently, at a pace. A work-place security fence now blocks entrances to several of our small churchyard areas. This means that, even if I wasn't rotten with cold, even if it wasn't still cold and raining, I still couldn't carry out my planned pre-Easter tidy-up of all our churchyards. Amazing. My intentions were so good and pure when first formulated. Never mind. Allan and I had a go at one of the remaining accessible ones before tonight's Eucharist, and filled a bag with bottles, and it's only half done.

I feel like I'm walking a tightrope with this cold. I thought I was getting better yesterday evening and then had a bad night, leaving me feeling incapable of assisting at Tredegarville School end of term Eucharist. I had to call in early and leave messages for Fr Roy and the Head Teacher. So very frustrating to feel I have to give in if I'm to keep going past the weekend.

I'm past feeling angry about the inability even to consider deploying clergy in partnerships with sustainable work loads that can cope with this kind of eventuality. What seems like a common sense priority to fire police and ambulance services, doesn't seem to hit the radar of church management at all. Sooner or later some kind of crisis happens, hitting the routine. Clerics like everyone else are vulnerable. The flock need caring for as ever. It's not an optional extra. How much better if we had an effective support plan in place - like working in partnership.

Oh, but I forgot, that would mean reforming the entire parochial structure of ministry and the church to achieve properly. We're not desperate enough to do that yet. Time will tell. Our kind of Anglicanism has successfully created a religious enterprise dependent upon clergy providing sacraments. Having created the demand, we now have problems guaranteeing supply. We still rely on predictable regularity in our devotional life to sustain us when all else around is chaos. But we don't plan to maintain supply, like the world strives to maintain supplies of energy, water, food, security, health care, 24/7/365.

People are kind and concerned when something goes wrong, but it's not at all what they need to sustain them in their day to day struggles. We need generous plans, not damage limitation.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St Patrick's setback

I didn't ask for this. I'm overwhelmed by a nasty chesty cold, the same kind that Clare to two weeks to recover from before she flew off to the Rockies. Two services daily Monday-Thursday with the entire Three Hours to carry on Good Friday. It's really too late to start ringing around, or sign myself off and dump the stand-in recruitment problem on the Area Dean.

When you put a lot of effort along with the rest of the church welcome crew, keeping the place open daily for prayer and worship, even during interior redecoration, and the digging up of the streets outside to re-lay pavements in sparkling granite, cancelling services without warning is the last thing I'd want to do.

So it's a question of hunkering down, resting plenty and letting nature take its course, trusting that I won't lose my voice totally or end up too ill to cope. Not a bad exercise in restraint, really.

I noticed that despite the Church's transference of St Patrick's Day celebration away from Holy Week, the Irish pub opposite the church was holding forth openly in wind and rain this day, regardless.

Maybe nobody told them that even the Pope, if he observes this Celtic feast, will do so when the story-telling of Christ's passion is out of the way.

Would the Brewer's marketing team either know or care?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday - strange company

The various churchyard enclosures and entrance porch were less strewn with match day consumer rubbish that usual this morning, thanks to a rain all day and into the evening yesterday. There'll be less to clear up. I fully intend to have a good tidy up before Easter, unless the weather defeats me.

The work on the south aisle is nearly complete. There's just the huge plastic screens to take down the sanding of the chapel floor and re-levelling of tiled areas to be completed in the next few days. Scaffolding and screens are up in the north aisle and painting has begun already. The church is bound to feel a bit like a zone of occupation if not a building site to casual visitors, who pop in for al look and don't read the notices. It's had an impact on regular attendances too. We were less than three dozen in total for the Parish Eucharist today. We just have to take it on the chin and keep going.

Tonight was my last FutureFaith talk. It was also the smallest evening congregation so far this Lent. People voting with their feet? Weather? Post match blues? Heaven knows, maybe nobody's that much interested in where we're going. The podcast web page has logged over 600 unique visitors, from all around the world, with less than a tenth of them making a return visit.
If I count the known familiar faces who've heard any of my talks during the past six weeks, it still amounts to just twenty people.

Well, as Paul said: "Preach the Word, in season, out of season", and it was mad Ezekeil who said: "Whether they listen to you or not".

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What did you do on Grand Slam day grandpa?

Wales won the Rugby Grand Slam today. I admit I'm pleased, It will be good for business and for morale, although I find match post-mortems are ridiculously boring time wasting affairs, clogging up the news channels. And despite the valiant effort made to clean the streets after a night of heavy revelling in the rain, the church yards will have acquired even more rubbish by tomorrow morning when I arrive to open up at eight o'clock.

I could have gone to the stadium today and visited the ambulance teams and shared a little in their joys and sorrows, but there was something much more pressing to do. Five Good Friday addresses for the Three Hours service - all of them needing to be written, soon. As an act of self discipline, I worked without having the radio on, and didn't consult the news feeds until I had finished the job. Such a pleasure that they won without my presence, or my cheers.

As I am home alone at the moment, and as it was raining, I stayed in all day and wrote, browsing the fridge for snacks rather than making a proper meal (naughty), but achieving what I set out to do. As a result I feel just a bit more in control of the coming week. Twenty services to do between now and Easter Monday, when I have a baptism to do, on the only date both grannies can make it. Knowing this, and how much it would mean to them (as it does to me), I decided that the rigorist approach, (during Sunday services only) glorifies only the rules. I just hope I won't be too exhausted to show a little paschal exuberance.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Palm parade rap gig

Up early, to take Clare to the 6.35am bus on the first leg of her journey to visit Rachel and family in Fairmont Hot Springs, British Columbia. I couldn't get back to sleep so I was at my desk for a couple of hours working on data compilation for the Spiritual capital project, before visiting Tredegarville school for an assembly.

We anticipated Palm Sunday with the telling for the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and distribution of palm crosses to 200 children, teachers and parents. After I was asked about the assembly format by Kelly the teacher responsible for getting her class involved in running it, I wrote a few verses in rap format, and proposed that she asked her kids to try it out. Which they did. Wonderfully. What else can I say?

You should have been there to see Kelly's 30 seven year olds working well together and having fun. Several of the more articulate members of the class took it in turn to rap the verses and imitiate the execrable posture and pronunciation of American street poets. It was sheer delight, and made my day. I loved their enthusiasm.

My last Lenten Future Faith talk attracted the same number, and the Eucharist was as well attended as usual despite the difficulties of access presented by a church still in the throes of transition from having the south aisle painted to having the north aisle painted. In fact there is a hiatus at the moment, caused by the need to re-surface the parquet in the south aisle chapel, suffering from years of neglect. Hopefully all will be achieved and the place made a lot tidier and quieter in time for the end of Holy Week next week.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Caught out

It was such a damp day. After the Eucharist I promised mself I'd take an hour to collect rubbish from the various churchyards, but courage failed me in the face of the weather. Instead, I set to and spended two hours or so machine minding, having mastered 'Booklet creation' on the photocopier, and being faced with the task of creating a hundred or more copies of the final annual report 2006 for Central Cardiff Parish, delayed for a whole year by difficulties, nightmares, in fact, getting the accounts fully audited.

I also took the opportunity to get Sunday worship materials done in advance, and the vital Holy Week publicity posters and leaflets. Having achieved all this to my pleasure, I stupidly locked myself out of the sacristy, leaving keys, hat, raincoat and bicycle locked inside. I had keys to get into the choir vestry and use the phone there, but could raise nobody to bale me out, so I had to walk home in the rain without a coat, pick up the car and drive out to Allan's to borrow his keys, then return to church to pick up my gear, switch off the computer and lock up. It was half past six when I got home finally, having finished my jobs before four.

Note to self. If I can't get the historical sliding catch lock exchanged for one that works with one of the two master keys for most of the locks, I must hide a spare key somewhere safe and accessible. The full set of church keys required to access all areas still weighs a pound and hangs heavy in my bum-bag. Oh for a caretaker to relieve me of this burden!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reports and consultations

I had to dash from a Retail Partnership meeting down to the Millennium Centre for a the launch lunch of Gweini's report on the economic contribution made by faith communities to the life of Wales. It was an excellent occasion, very much to the credit of all in the Evangelical Alliance who made it happen.

Two years worth of work came to fruit with a hundred people representing AMs, civil servants, and religious communities from far and wide, gathering to learn that faith communities contribute £102 million a year through voluntary efforts. £10 million of that is in Cardiff alone. Just knowing that is valuable to our Spiritual Capital research project reporting. It's a way of saying to local government: "Look here, we're investing this much time and energy in public service. What about finding a way to consult us more effectively? You might even benefit more"

I had to leave early and get back to St John's to give the last in the series of Lent mediations for the Tuesday women's group, last in the series, then go on from there to another meeting, this time, the first meeting of a work-group which I was chairing, which brings together city centre faith communities and gives them an opportunity to offer feedback on the development process to the Council, under the 'Countdown 2009' headline. It's the first initiative of this kind towards the city centre's religious communities that has occurred, and very much to be welcomed.

I was a bit fed up that only two out of eight representatives showed up, showing how churches and other religious communities don't recognise a worthwhile opportunity, even when it's spelled out to them. Is religion so busily occupied with its own internal affairs living up to its own vocation? Fortunately, the representatives from Tabernacle and Ebeneser who came were wonderfully articulate about the difficulties of maintaining church life in the city centre. Good to hear their voices saying many of the same things which I go on about. It's not quite a chorus, but it's better than simply being a lone voice.

Finally, we had our Spiritual Capital Steering Group meeting, to consider some of the fruit of the report writing that's been going on this week, around the survey report from the University. Paul Ballard, Roy Thomas and myself have been thinking drafting organising material, and starting to shape what we feel we can say in the light of our overall objectives. I'm pleased that some of the work I've put in on the Spiritual Capital blog over the past eight months is a useful reference point. It's a good start, but there's a lot more to be done to produce a sound working production model in the coming weeks. The worst time really, with Holy Week and holidays looming fast.

Anway despite a day of non-stop meetings, I feel much cheered by the day's mad dash of activities.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Bryn at his best

Four friends came over from Geneva for the weekend, to hear Bryn Terfel sing Verdi's 'Falstaff' at the Millennium Centre. What a splendid occasion! What a superb production.

The final scene is intriguing.

After Falstaff has been humiliated and tricked and bullied into repentance, he cheerily accepts his come-uppance and says something like "Well, there we are. What would you do without me to laugh at, and raise an excuse for a party?" Everyone admits they've all been equally fools as he, then, at the end of the astonishing choral fugue that finishes the opera, Falstaff is hoisted into the air over the crowd, to loud cheers. Dressed, as he is in scarlet, grinning from ear to ear, Falstaff's pose, instantly evoked the imagery of an icon of the Ascension of Christ. Accidental? Or studied?

But there was something about that last act, moving from humiliation to reconciliation, which had a gentle passiontide feel to it. And not just because Falstaff was wearing red.

Oh yes, and Rhys Meirion, another North Walian star in the making sang in beautiful clear tenor voice, taking me back to the Chrismtas concert at St John's in which he sang 'O holy night' the best I heard it from anyone in 2007.

Praise the Lord we are a musical nation - as Organ Morgan once declared.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Challenge too far

This morning I had to give a twenty minute presentation to a conference of a hundred black and ethnic minority women in city hall, introducing Christianity in Britain today. I spent goodness knows how long putting a dozen slides together to accompany a script that had only taken me a couple of hours to put together. It was a challenge that I'd been looking forward to.

However, the reality turned out to be somewhat different than I'd expected. The large room in which it was held in City Hall, turned out to be cramped, with half being taken up with tabled and displays for community organisation exhibitions, and the other half set out with insufficient chairs for the numbers who turned up. The public address system was poor and there was no lectern on which to rest the notes, which I had to follow because someone else was working the computer with the slide show on it.

So, there I was, crippled, unable to wave my arms, microphone in one hand and notes in the other. It's not easy to read and speak freely and look at your audience all at the same time - OK I don't do multitasking. Added to this the amplification was poor and people were coming and going at the back of the room throughout, and talking. It was like this all day, and several speakers stopped, asked for people to be quiet, and got a round of sympathetic applause which made no difference to the volume level of conversation for more than a minute. I was so thrown by the circumstances, I didn't have the confidence to demand silence.

I was even more thrown when one of the organisers interrupted me and told me to finish as I was just a couple of minutes from finishing, and running to time. This was so unexpected that I was unable to re-connect with the script and slides, and finished in chaos, humiliated. Chaos then followed surrounding the musical accompaniment for a couple of 'Bollywood' dancers, as the laptop containing it could not at first be linked with the amplifier, so ten minutes were wasting with people fiddling around, and calling in assistance from the house staff. Ten minutes which I could have used better, but I had been bumped off stage - a new experience for me. And one which I didn't cope with very well.

Out of politeness, I had to stay until the end of the day, but feelings of extreme annoyance pursued me like a yapping dog for the rest of the day. I had been encouraged to prepare a slide-show to accompany my talk. It had consumed five-fold the time taken to prepare the talk, and been aborted four fifths of the way through. I should have obeyed my gut instinct and said "Sorry, don't do visuals."

All in all this was not an experience I'd care to repeat. I find it harder to cope with being on the end of other people's disorganisation than I do with my own because, in the end, politeness has to prevail, even if others somehow lose the plot. This was a case of ambition in arranging a conference not being matched by the level of organisation required, packing too much into too short a time-frame, to do proper justice to the occasion.

The only scrap of comfort all day was meeting a stranger in the lunch queue, who said that she'd enjoyed listening to my podcasts.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Cleaning up Cardiff

I attended today the inaugural meeting of a City Council work group on the issue of 'Clean City'. It's one of three such groups I'm part of in connectiPost Optionson with all the preparations for the opening of the redeveloped city shopping centre for trade at the end of 2009.

I guess I've nagged enough about problems caused by litter thrown into the churchyard. Now I have an opportunity to work with others equally concerned about tacking the issue. Group members were very forthright about, not only the litter, but the dirtiness of the streets, with so much trodden in chewing gum, and pavements soiled by the deposit of so many greasy fast food wrappers. At least the new paving in Caroline Street, the heartland of Cardiff's chip shops, has shown lately that it comes up a treat after a good hot wash. Good news for those overseeing the work of re-paving the public realm, which is under way outside the Cathedral, and just about to start in St John Street.

Straight away, as far as I am concerned, there's the matter of insufficient rubbish bins in and around the church. There were two around the whole 250 yard perimeter of the church grounds. One got smashed and was then taken away without being replaced a couple of weeks ago after an evening of drunken pranks. We need at least five to encourage everyone to use them. Few can be bothered to carry their rubbish more than ten yards. The new Head of Cleansing said she'd look into it. What a nightmare of a job she has - so many people complaining! The last Head of Cleansing went off sick and didn't return.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Report delayed

Today the first draft of the Spiritual Capital research report findings from the University arrived several days late, disappointingly, necessitating the cancellation of our project Steering Group meeting. It wasn't possible to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest sufficiently quickly to have a wortwhile meeting. The whole prject is now two months behind schedule, and judging by the initial product, there'll be quite a lot of work to do in order the render a proper account of the issues we have been considering and compiling information on, quite apart from the statistics. Not such good news at mid-Lent, with the most demanding creative time immediately ahead, in Passiontide.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Dydd gwyl Dewi

For the past few years St David's Day has been taken up with a civic service for all the Mayors of Wales at St John's. This year, because of the refurbishment work on the church, the event has gone up to the Cathedral.

A small funfair was set up, including a huge helter skelter, outside in St John's Street and Working Street. However, there was an 'official' David's Day parade through town, trying to emulate the idea of St Patrick's Day parades, (which I thought were an American invention anyway). Weather wasn't exactly the best - this being in a period of high winds, which seem to be magnified by the funnelling effects of tall buildings, so it wasn't such a good time to be out and about.

I took advantage of not having any duties to go up to Sunningdale in Berkshire and rendezvous at Holy Trinity Parish Church there with my cousins and their spouses at the spot where my aunt and godmother's ashes were interred on St David's Day last year. A memorial stone had been placed there and the idea was to share memories and dedicate the stone.

I dug up and potted some of the characteristic tiny daffodils from our garden to take with me, and succeeded in planting them behind the stone, where opefully they will take root in a little Welsh soil, a hundred and fifty miles from where Auntie Celandine was born nearly ninety years ago.

There was no question of spending a few quiet moments in the Parish Church because the young group had taken it over for a 24 hour sponsored fast for Tear Fund, and were running a happy riot of activities in there to keep them going. So we stood in the pale sunshine outside, and enjoyed the birds and the green tranquility of this neat suburban village, before going off to lunch in a hotel.

I was glad to have been able to do that, as I was abroad when her funeral took place. However the 250 mile round trip in a day really left me feeling a lot older than I think I am.