Friday, July 04, 2008

Holiday 7

Our last morning at Plas Baladeulyn, awakening to sunshine and exquisite birdsong - I've made several attempts to make digital recordings of the birds that sang to us this week, using the tiny Zen MP3 player with built-in microphone which I had for my last birthday but one. It's superbly sensitive for such a small piece of kit, and the WAV files it produces easily editable. The trick is to stand very still holding it by the lanyard attached. Often it seems that the birds go shy when I start recording, but with a little patience and editing, some lovely small sound clips result.

Having paid the bill and bought some organic veggies to take home with us, we headed for Bangor, stopping only to get some food and fuel for the journey to Llangollen. It was here that a glance at the Western Mail on the news stand confirmed something that I had learned from the church prayer list I looked at in Beddgelert yesterday. Bishop Tony Crockett died on Monday after and eighteen month battle with cancer. He's the same age as me. We were at St Mike's together training for ministry. Our paths didn't cross often in forty years. The last time was when he was Archdeacon of Carmarthen, invited to share in a Partners in Mission consultation for the Diocese in Europe. Knowing me to be a 'returnee', he rang for some inside information. He served the Church in Wales very well, and is a great loss to us all. By the time the round of episcopal elections are over, during the course of just one year the Province will have changed four of its Diocesan Bishops. That's something of an upheaval nobody could have envisaged.

Pondering on these things we headed down the A5 towards Llangollen, taking a detour to eat our picnic lunch at the top of the Horseshoe Pass, up the track beyond the famous Ponderosa bar/restaurant, beloved of bikers from far and wide for as long as I can remember. There must have been a score of them in the car park when we arrived, many of them fifty-something. It's a sign of how such a hilltop rendezvous, with its striking panorama of Denbighshire moorland and distant Snowdonia peaks has become a place of pilgrimage for them over the years.

In an empty piece of grassland behind the buildings there is shrine of a different kind, a plot set aside as a Garden of Remembrance with a plaque to recall three young children killed by their father's suicide in 2003 in this vicinity. It's the kind of tragedy that has been repeated several times since then in different places in Wales by parents in reaction to marital breakdown and legal separation. It's a most disturbing kind of domestic violence, and difficult to imagine how anyone could come to such a decision. It speaks volumes about the ideas and expectations which some people have of themselves, that leads to such cruel destructiveness. Is it mental or moral sickness? Or a mixture? So much we don't understand.

Early afternoon we reached a Llangollen, buzzing with activity in the run up to the International Eisteddfod next week. Our friend Anne welcomed us and took us to her new top floor flat overlooking the river Dee, just opposite and on a level St Collen's Parish Church in the town, a spectacular view of both the surrounding hills and townescape. A most pleasant place to stop overnight on our way home. Anne had recently taken delivery of a new iTouch MID (mobile internet device) and laptop, and asked me if I would set them up for her and show her how to work the iTouch. Not that she couldn't, but that the learning curve and hassle zone of set up would be much shorter if someone else could help. I'd never seen an iTouch before, and had the pleasure of unpacking and charging it, and learning from its minimal instruction sheet how to get it to divulge its main secrets. More fun than angst I must say, and we were rewarded with a very nice supper and comfy bed for my efforts.

Good to get on-line again, and check all the news blogs about the GAFCON affair - interesting to see some forthright criticism, not only from the usual mainstream and liberal religious commentators, but also from secular journos openly expressing appreciation and value for the Established Church, its volunteers and its public professional ministry in all sorts of places nobody else wants to work - the church that's there for the unbelieving and the alienated as much as it is for the faithful committed. They sense there's a genuine threat to liberal democracy if there isn't such a broadband religious institution at the service of tolerance and social cohesion.

Wow, they're getting the message. Anglicans appreciated and not mocked for a change. Is this a bit like save the whale I wonder?

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