Saturday, May 31, 2008

Who resides in the city centre parish?

There was a phone message on our home answering machine from a worker at the Representative Body asking for population statistics on the Parish, omitted from our annual financial returns. The box on the form was left blank simply because of the difficulty of a straightforward answer to the enquiry.

The former Central Cardiff parish boundary cut through two of the three electoral wards of the city of which it was made up. The new parish boundary cuts through the third ward as well. These three have in common a mix of empty properties and multiple occupancies. The 2001 Census made a poor job of getting accurate returns, and the disparities between Census figures and those emanating from Council tax and housing returns are among the highest in the city - 15-20%.

Added to that, a considerable amount of new accommodation has been built in the past couple of years and it's far from clear how many of the new city centre apartments are occupied yet. How many, for instance, of the ten flats in the David Morgan Building bought by a property speculator before completion, are now occupied permanently? Or are they let out on a short or longer term basis? Of the people who have moved in recently, how many have yet to put their names on an electoral register? How many are merely using their shiny new home as a pied-a-terre during their work time in the Capital? I can't even begin to guess how many people are permanently resident in the city's expanding number of hotels.

Given that we're now dealing with fractions of the three wards, and that there's no consistent composition pattern across any residential area, the only certain way of getting an estimate of the actual population would be to conduct one's own door to door census. Doing this would be less than easy, as all the new apartment blocks now have secure entry systems. All in all, patterns of occupation and residence in the heart of the city are vastly different from the suburbs, and this makes the task of relating to 'the Parish' quite different in different contexts. Moreover, the ordinary suburb doesn't see its average population rise by 70,000 a day during the week and sometimes twice that on a weekend.

All of this begs the question of what purpose the statistical enquiry serves, and the further question how well any Parish incument is acquainted with the real population of their area. If one were to add together the reported populations of all the parishes in the city borough, would this tally with Census inhabitant figures, or the Council's figures?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The real cost of a good party

On the way home from the noon Eucharist, I saw a couple of men in Skanska hi-viz vests carrying bin bags full of cans and plastic beakers, emerging from the Heras fencing surrounding one of their work areas. Over the weekend I'd noticed how many cans and beakers were strewn all over their workspace. How many bin bags have you collected? I asked. Twenty, said one of them, clearly not in a good mood, pointing the finger behind himself towards to Owain Glyndwr pub and the Cornish pasty shop, in his view the chief culprits on the block. They had to clear up so that their slab laying teams could get back to work.

Later I talked to Debbie, Skanska's liaison officer, who was also lamenting about the mess. She mentioned broken glass on the streets too. Only drinks in plastic or canned are allowed for sale in the city on match days, but people bring stuff in with them from the coaches, and discard when it suits them. Either that, or open air drinkers are carrying out wine bottles un-checked by pub management.

So much money is made on match day booze sales, it's like the City is sometimes a bit reticent about making demands on the back of such economic success, fearful that the big players will all pack up and leave. But, one way or another, the City pays with clean-up costs, or simply in the case of re-paving streets, much needed work time to get the job done.

Much more has to be done to alter public attitudes and behaviour, towards discarding consumer rubbish. It undermines the dignity and attractiveness of the place, and makes no demand that people should behave in a manner worthy of city of quality.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Debate about public art re-emerges

A lunchtime meeting down the Bay for Pauline and myself to meet with representatives of the city planning department and the SD2 developers, and the art procurement advisor to discuss the situation regarding a piece of public art that is proposed to be installed in the south churchyard garden.

From the conception of the renovation of the garden an unrealistic suggestion was grafted into the plan that the developers (who are paying) could determine the general policy about what should be commissioned to go there. I reminded them as long as four years ago that permanent changes of such a nature to an area that had been a churchyard for 800 years could not be implemented without faculty approval, and that there would be limitations on what the diocesan chancellor may deem to be acceptable. Somehow this fell on deaf ears, until finally the process stalled over a year ago, and the person then commissioned to the task left the job. Today's meeting is an attempt to re-start the process.

Once more I made the church's legal position clear, and piointed out that the kind of art that is usually installed in churchyards is commemorative art, which was why I had suggested two years ago that a potentially acceptable solution would be to commission a memorial to Cardiff's blitz victims, since there isn't one. I could see the mental shutters descending. The 'vision', or is it 'fantasy' prevailing is that something that looked forward to the future was what was sought. Can you have a monument to optimism, built on indefinite economic progress, I wonder? How could you make a sculpture of a soap bubble? Those who forget their history are comdemned to repeat it.

I'm not a great fan of the church's legal alternative to secular planning permission. It has consumed for too much of my life in these years of rapid change for the church in the city, and been a cause of great frustration with all its overblown procedures and paperwork. But in the end, it does serve valuable purposes, if only to remind the secular steamroller that not all the world agrees with its assmptions and values. Hopefully, if things are handled properly, it will be possible to have a dialogue and come to a creative solution.

The outcome of the meeting was an agreement to proceed quickly towards the commissioning of an artist who will start by working with the church community to shape some possible ideas that can be turned into concepts and proposals that can be tested by the PCC, diocesan advisory committee and eventually the Chancellor. I think they understood that the PCC is in favour of the proposal to install a piece of public art, so long as it is of the highest quality, relevant to life at the ehart of the city, thoughtful and vandal-proof. Whether it is possible to embrace both themes of remembrance and hope - whether there really is a possibility of dialogue between the community of mammon and the community of faith, remains to be seen.

Well .... there'd better be, or it will make nonsense of all I've tried to do as a city centre missioner.

Tuesday rubbish harvesting

A wet Tuesday morning indeed, following an even wetter bank holiday outing to Cyfarthfa Castle yesterday. Time to clear the rubbish out of the tower entrance stairwell, there since Saturday, having emailed photos of it to the city centre manager. Before I could get started, I had to shop for bin bags, as I couldn't find any in church, and that necessitated to trip to the bank to get some money out. In order to save myself from complete mind numbing, I made an inventory of the items I picked up.

172 assorted plastic drinking glasses (a hundred of them at least had Heineken - Saturday's match sponsor) logos on them
54 beer cans - mostly Carlsberg
Two unpoened lager cans - to add to the six full cans from a 12 pack lobbed over the fence into south side churchyard
22 plastic soft drinks bottles
A dozen paper cups
Wrapping paper from around 50 pasty purchases from the Cornigh Pasty shop opposite the church tower.
One of the four bin bags of rubbish collected was full of carboard, newspaper and wrappings from bulk purchased food items arriving with the spectators. All of this was sodden wet.

Were very lucky considering the rain we've had in the last 24 hours that the drain coverd in rubbish didn't block and flood the church.

Now the city cleansing department under new leadership is doing an even better job than before at getting the streets clean after big matches, but even their forces can be overwhelmed all too easily. The problem is that drinks and fast food retailers don't make much of an effort to provide extra rubbish container capacity to meet the needs of the tens of thousands extra on the street. At such times the existing litter bins quickly overflow because they can't be emptied fast enough, and far too many visitors can't be bothered to use the bins, let alone carry their detritus a few extra paces to a bin.

There are bye-laws obliging retailers to stow their street furniture and keep the place in front of their shops clean, routinely ignored by the majority. Producers of consumer food and its wrappings don't seem to feel much obligation to help stem the tide of chaos clients cause in their wake. It's not impossible to do, but it's another thing that has to be worked on in preparing the city for its shiny new future.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cleanliness - godliness?

During Friday, all the scaffolding in the nave of the church was taken down and is now all piled up on the floor ready to be transported away next week. The nave still cannot be used, everything is still shrouded in dust sheets, or plain dust. So, we had another Sunday in the St John chapel, where I couldn't help noticing just how dusty the Comper reredos figures are - in need of a lot of tlc. But even on a dull wet day, the brilliant white distempered walls, and newly polished wood floors lift the spirits. There's just the Victorian tiles to strip, clean and polish now, to add that extra sparkle - once the dust has been carefully removed.

Several Irish rugby fans joined us for the main service, giving thanks no doubt for Munster's victory in yesterday's Heineken cup. The tower porch entrance was piled with rubbish thrown over the fence by clients of neighbouring pubs and fast food joints, but thankfully due to the nave being out of use, I entered through the south porch, and didn't have to wade through or clear the mess before going to the altar of God. It meant I was certainly less angry or despairing than I usually am after big match days, but avoidance isn't exactly a state of grace. I shall take photographs to show at the next Countdown 2009 Cleansing Focus Group meetings, to show what we routinely live with. It's all part of our little effort to encourage to Council either to tackle the problem of people who wilfully dump their consumer rubbish, or to make sure that those dumped upon do not have to suffer for the sins of the guzzling slobs who make the cash tills of food and drink industry bleep with frenzy.

After Evensong, I noticed the packaging of a dozen tins of lager in the middle of the churchyard. I went over to retrieve it, and was surprised to discover that it was half full of un-opened 500ml lager cans. Either someone passing had got tired of carrying it after all their mates had taken a tinnie, or as one of the departing congregation said wryly, perhaps it was a thank-offering for last night's victory.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Baptism re-enacted

I had the pleasure of attending a school assembly this morning at which prizes were distributed by the Deputy Lord Mayor, for a Rotary Club sponsored event. It's amazing how well Tredegarville children do, whether it's artistic, performance or sporting competitions. The school's physical environment leaves much to be desired, but this is more than compensated for by the commitment and enthusiasm of the staff.

After the noon Eucharist and lunch I made a return visit to school to baptize a doll in a re-enactment of the liturgy with commentary for a Year Three class. Now that we have the old St James' font in the lobby of the school, and our own paschal candle, it's possible to set things up and do the ceremony as one would if it were a real baby. Currently we have three babies attending God on Mondays with their parents. One was baptized in St John's on Easter Monday. I'm hoping and praying that before long one of the other two parents will ask if it's possible to christen their child in the school context. That would set the seal on our mission venture there in my eyes.

For the Christening role play, we chose godparents and parents. Two of them were Muslim. The whole class was of an age where reading together aloud easily and wasn't the most natural thing to do, but they made a good effort of it. The boy elected to be the baby's dad (unfortunately randomly chosen by me) turned out to be an English learner - I think one of our new Eastern European intake - he couldn't manage to read from the liturgy sheet, but I resisted replacing him with someone who could, because he had already taken charge of the dolly and was nursing the child as if it was second nature to him, with a big grin on his face. When I did a Czech baptism on Chrismas Day two years ago, I recall the father proudly bearing the baby, in a way that comes less easily to British working class fellers. Maybe it's culture, maybe it's something that runs in families, I don't know. Anyway, I asked the smiling lad what they were going to call the baby, and without hesitation he said "Mary", to the approval of the whole class. A moment to treasure.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Work on the re-paving of the streets around St John's is moving on a-pace, now that the specially tailored slabs to fit over the water drainage channel running down the middle of the thoroughfare have arrived. The area on the church side of the thoroughfare (they tackle one side at a time) opposite the Queen's Arcade from St John Street down to the churchyard path is nearly complete. Work in front of the Old Library on the Trinity Street side is now complete and attention has shifted to the Howells Department store side of the thoroughfare. It must be difficult for the store management, as the enclosing of the area for work takes out one of their three entrances on Trinity Street.

Some of the teams working on preparing the ground for the repaving are working Sundays. 7/7 working isn't all that common-place apart from the site security people. It's just as well to press on with some of the most disruptive aspects when there are few people around, a lot safer, when excavation vehicles are moving around in confined areas. One can't have any illusion about the sacredness of Sundays. I guess Sundays are sacred to those who make that choice and pay the price. Enough said.

It won't be long now before the work moves up-street towards the Market and the church - another week and work on the St John Street side, and the thoroughfare in front of the Owain Glyndwr pub will be complete. I'll have to find out what's proposed for managing traffic when the next section is being done, so that I know what to tell church people coming for Sunday services, or dropping stuff off at the tea room. We've got a few irritable weeks ahead of us.

This should be the last week of interior disruption in church, with scaffolding due to come down at the end of the week. The renovation work, internally and externally, has inserted a degree of uncertainty into church life and this has led to a 20% drop in attendance. Visitors looking around during the week, as far as was permissible in a building under occupation made comments that implied they thought we'd been closed during the redecoration. It was a matter of pride to say that we'd been open throughout the entire five months this has lasted for worship, and with few exceptions, for the tea room as well.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Progress on several fronts

Another early hospital appointment today, with a view to investigating the state of my bladder, in the light of my kidney related problem. I was at the Heath by eight o'clock, to check whether they'd take me, as I had forgotten to confirm my appointment by phone. When I tried to explain that I hadn't confirmed, and asked if I had to reschedule, the receptionist said wryly : "You don't get away from us that easily. Now what did you say your name was?" This time I was obliged to undress and don a theatre gown ready for action, but beforehand was interviewed by the consultant responsible for the day's intake. He looked at my X-rays and CT scan output, all called up on-screen from a central server which must hold tens of thousands of these images - each took an average of 2-3 seconds to pop up, indicating the very powerful image rendering capabilities of the hospital diagnostic computer kit. Nice technology.

The CT scan showed a kidney stone descending from the left kidney to the bladder, about two thirds of the way there. It wasn't visible on the X rays, probably because it was shielded by a bone. He concluded that the bladder investigation would yield nothing new, and cancelled the procedure. "Come back in two weeks and we'll see if it's visible by X-ray. Then we can treat it with ultrasound pulses." He said. Apparently, if they can fix a location by X-rays in 3D, they can zap the stone and cause it to break up. I felt quite pleased with this outcome, and was on the bus home by ten. It meant I was able to go into church and enjoy the Friday Eucharist celebrated by my good friend David Lee, and then spend an hour washing up in the tea room.

The work on the nave of the church is nearing completion. The scaffolding will be gone by mid week next week. For the second week running we shall hold this Sunday's services in the St John Chapel, which is actually very pleasant, since everyone sits closer together and that makes the singing sound extra good.

Today, after much manouvering, a date was finally fixed for the launch conference of the report of the Spiritual Capital conference. It will be on 16th July at City Church - much later than I'd ever thought, but apparently this will fit best with the speaker we want to engage, and the plan to promote the event. None of this I am responsible for, having handed it over, but I find it very frustrating to have to wait so long to have closure for a project which has already taken up a big chunch of my time and emotional energy over the past year and a half. Let's just hope that it proves to be a useful contribution to stimuate dialogue between churches and local government in this xity of ours.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Inside the night time economy

Another Countdown 2009 group today, concerning itself with making the city's public realm cleaner, seeking to set standards that will equal those that will be set by the managers of the new shopping mall being built at present. During the construction phase, it's notable the attention given to cleaning up around the periphery of the site, with so many vehicles coming and going. Other parts of the city centre need fresh efforts to keep down the mess routinely produced day in day out by consumers totally unconcerned about what they throw away, whether it's chewing gum, cigarette ends, fast food or drinks containers or packaging from newly purchased products.

There's a huge and successful effort made by cleansing teams on match days. This isn't so easy to replicate on a day by day basis, because the everyday reasons why mess is made are complex. Not enough waste bins in the right places is one reason. Businesses leaving out their wheelie bins at the wrong times, and end up overfull, and un-emptied, because a collection has been missed is another. There's a lot of patient vigilance required to keep ahead of the task, in the absence of a real culture shift which results in every citizen taking responsibility for their own rubbish, and ensuring that it ends up in the right destination.

It was interesting to hear from the city centre night time operations manager about the chill wind of recession blowing in clubland, with some clubs seeing their revenue cut by nearly half, although this could also be to do with the decline in popularity of some venues and the rise in others. Violence on-street rises in the early hours of the morning, problems are caused by clubs and bars ignoring the official regulations to clear away their on-street tables and stop serving people out of doors after 11.00pm at night. We were shown photos taken at 1.30 in the morning, with outdoor drinkers still at it as if it was early evening. When people are both drunk and tired at that time of night, fights can start and the furniture left out gets used as weapons. The regulations of licensed premises are practical and well thought out. When adhered to, there's little trouble. Clubs losing money are prone to cut corners in the hope of increasing popularity and profits, but this can backfire if they end up losing their licenses because of violence on their patch.

Yesterday I had a call from a young woman who lives in an apartment on St Mary Street in a block whose residents suffer greatly from the clamour of revellers and hooting taxis in the small hours, across the weekend. She was troubled to learn that a neighbourhood convenience store was applying for a liquor license extension that would enable it to sell alcohol eighteen hours a day, and was asking my support to raise the matter with the licensing authorities. I went and checked out what she'd told me, and wrote a letter of objection to the local government officer responsible for applications. As my contribution was late, almost on the deadline, I wondered if it would be allowed, but I was reassured to find an acknowledgement in my in-box this evening, indicating that I was just in time.

It just amazes me that anyone should want to sell booze at two o'clock in the morning from Thursday to Sunday. Such drinkers as remain are for the most part in the clubs or wandering between them, or leaving town to go home, probably drunk and wanting to sleep. Some may like to pretend Cardiff is a 24 hour city, but in reality this is not the case for the vast majority of people, most of the time. I for one will be glad when we have enough of a recession to drive people to consume far less, far less often, and to revert to more natural rhythms of life work and recreation. It will reduce the overall health care bill for certain.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Communications - progress made

Finally the Countdown 2009 Communications Focus Group met for the first time, at the ungodly hour of 9.00am on Monday morning. Normally for me Monday morning is recovery time after Sunday, but for once, I felt it was important that I push hard against somnolence and go to the meeting rather than send apologies. I'm glad I did.

It was chaired by Mike McGuinness of Capital Shopping Centres - the third person to be invited to lead this group, and an excellent choice. He steered the meeting with great skill, and the whole gamut of difficult issues highlighted in various Focus Groups, around 'communications' got aired. Nobody fought, accused or blamed, but difficulties were addressed, and I came away with a sense of having gotten straight down to business and made progress. I hope we can keep this up.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Creative science

I had a hospital appointment first thing this morning for a CT scan. It was a pleasant surprise, having checked in well before time, to be ushered in to the radiology department's scanner unit ten minutes early, and find myself lying on the table, breathing in and out at the command of a robotic voice, while the great doughnut shaped device smoothly glided up and down around my lower body, its huge magnetic pulses changing the spin direction of billions of atoms in my body for long enough for them to emit a signal that could be recorded and mapped by computer into an image of my insides that a doctor could read. By ten past nine I was on my way out, with no idea of what the images disclosed. But, all in all, it was an intriguing experience, managed by all those young technicians and medics a third of my age.

In fact, when I was their age, I heard in my final year Chemistry undergraduate lectures the amazing news about the fresh discovery of this 'nuclear magnetic resonance' phenomenon, and of its potential value in identifying the shape and composition of organo-metallic compounds on which some of us had been working. That's 42 years ago, and what a wonderful journey of creative technological development has been undertaken, turning a natural phenomenon into a laboratory technique and then an entire branch of diagnostic technology - an industry that employs hundreds of thousands around the world, and has as its end-product, not merely lots of interesting images of our insides, but a powerful means to identify the causes of sickness, in support of the healer's art.

If I was God, I'd be pretty pleased with what my favourite creatures had managed to do with some of their inherent curiosity and imagination.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The problem with communication

This morning I attended the second meeting of the Countdown 2009 executive and listened to the reports given by seven of the nine focus groups, and reported back on the last Faith Focus group meeting, using the minutes, as I had not been able to attend. Yet again there was no report from the Communications Focus Group, which has yet to meet, having now changed both its convener and its facilitator.

Most groups reporting back had something to say about the need for better communication. In way, all a communications group can do is propose suitable means and protocols to ensure everyone's information needs are met, and everyone systematically called upon to account for their activities and tasks in hand within the overall plan to ensure the city's redevelopment project comes harmoniously to its completion on time. Easier said than done, however.

What is most needed is a level of mutual good-will, trust and transparency between all those who are supposed to be working together for the common goal. This is most difficult to achieve, since local government service areas have a way of organising themselves to ensure stability and continuity, without always understnading that stability and continuity cannot really be achieved apart from healthy partnership with others.

Saint Paul's idea about the community of the church as the body of Christ, reflected in the phrase 'all members of one another', captures something of the mutuality and interdependency of any good co-operative enterprise. This requires a real sense of personal commitment which goes above and beyond one's role or task. It means everyone needs a sense of the vision of the whole. And this is what tends to get lost in practice, even though the rhetoric is known by heart.

It would be impertinent of me to be over-critical. I know how hard churches find working together, despite the beliefs and ideals which bond different congregations, even denominations under a common Christian identity. The question for any and every large organisation whether religious or civil society is how to infuse its disparate parts with that kind of vitality and enthusiasm which empowers them and enables them to be cohesive in action. It certainly requires hard work, and inspirational leadership to set the tone in effective communication, and an ability to let something from beyond ourselves work through us.

I hope that when our Spiritual Capital research project report is published and its findings debated with local authority members and officers, there will be some opportunity for mutual learning and insight to develop around these issues.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Still harvesting

I revisited the database of Cardiff's religious communites today, remembering that there were a few bits of information I needed to check, involving a trip over to Pontcanna to inspect a building I know to be a church, but wasn't sure if I already had its details. Sure enough, this produced more information about another small network of communities I knew nothing about, yet which had its own website, for anyone who know about them to visit.

It occurred to me that I should also add into the collection some information about Cardiff's so-called 'sects', (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christadelphians, Spiritualists etc) since these also have a well established presence and membership. Another couple of hours of searching added in another eight communities to the list, although information about some of them is somewhat sparser - if they have websites, contact details are not easy to find, but this is true of many of the small new generation groups as well. Some of them even have members - only login facilities to access some of their site information. It's an interesting dimension to the 'presentation of self' that having a website conveys.

The database now stands at 228 entries. I look forward to see how all this will look when it's presented as part of the Spiritual Capital website makeover that will happen as part of the publication of our research report. It will also be interesting to discover, as undoubtedly we will in due course when someone complains, about oversights and omissions in this information gathering exercise.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Childrens' world?

We had the delightful family experience today of a visit to a children's ballet performance at the Millennium Centre - Angelina Ballerina - all the characters are storybook mice (horrendous for the dancers, who were all masked in mouse headgear), the music edited Tchaikovsky. The house was full with little girls and parents or grandparent all dressed up in ballet dancing gear. An amazing almost surreal experience.

I would have loved to take a picture of the audience to add to my 'amusing but strange' collection of photos, but mindful of prevalent child protection anxiety neurosis, and not wanting to be presumed to be a pervert, I kept my camera in my top pocket. One just has to be grateful to contemplate the thought of a thousand young innocents entranced by their participation in the performance through their clothing (like lads in the team colours on the football terraces), and wonder about the world into which they will grow up.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Something missing

Yesterday Clare and I visited the Cardiff bay barrage for the first time in a couple of years, and had a wander in the sunshine, watching boats come and go through the sea-locks, and enjoying the view across the water, noting the changed and changing skyline. On the way there, we called in to have look at the huge new glass walled swimming pool and water leisure centre.

It's an impressive opening contribution to the sports village complex. The road layout and access to parking for the pool and the ugly looking 'temporary' ice-rink built next door is a bit of a challenge first time, especially in the absence of conventional road signage to make it easy and clear to know what to do. Owain emailed me last week with the observation that the pool's website carried no detail on how to get there by public transport - yes there is a bus stop outside, and I think I've seen buses which have 'Sports Village' on their destination panel. I suppose 'hunt the bus' and 'hunt the bus stop', could be promoted as a new leisure feature of Cardiff life.

We had Kath, Anto and Rhiannon to stay for the weekend, and the pleasure of a Skype-ing Rachel, John and Jasmine in St Martin, and the two grandchildren being able to catch a grainy glimpse of each other thanks to webcams. Anto brought his brand new custom built acoustic Spanish guitar with him, which I had the opportunity to try out. We played together for a while. I realised it was the first time for several months that I had touched a guitar. That tells me there's something not quite right with my life, and it's nothing to do with physical health. Much as I enjoy so many aspects of my life and work, there's something about it that saps creativity and morale. Whether prosecuting or defending the cause of faith and the value of the church in a social environment which needs convincing, or else is antipathetic, it requires a kind of spiritual energy I seem to lack. I'm certainly not short of breath, but the testing nature of today social and cultural environment leaves me feeling barely adequate to the task sometimes. And this hits hard in the area of creativity most of all. Roll on Pentecost !

Friday, May 02, 2008

In a new light

I'm pleased that the doctor has now officially signed me off the sick list. It don't seem to be having any more problems with my kidney at the moment, and it seems a bit daft not to be about my business when I'm feeling well. Yesterday, being Ascension Day, I didn't want to miss celebrating the Eucharist with St John's congregation. I was happy to be back in my usual place, and to have gone to the ballot box in the local elections immediately beforehand.

The north aisle redecoration is almost complete, and now the tower area is swathed dramatically in long films of slightly opaque plastic producing an eerie misty sort of light in church. All the pews are also covered in plastic drapes, which are transparent and shiny, reflecting some of the natural light pouring in, rather than diffusing it. Two quite different natural lighting effects. For the moment we're restricted to holding services either in the chancel or in the south aisle St John Chapel which is fully useable. It's good to see and use the building from fresh perspectives.

Tonight it looks as if the LIb Dems have been voted in with a few gains, for a second term, although not with an absolute majority, which will mean a few days of negotiating, to see who will work with them. Although the old 'first past the post' electoral system is still in place the spread of votes seems increasingly to deny any one group of a majority that will confer on them the right to act unilaterally. If negotiation and consensus building become more of a habit, who knows? One day we might end up with proportional representation voting that will ensure power sharing and negotiated agreement is the norm. Is it right any longer to exalt one group, one strand of thought and action and appoint them to do what they like?