Friday, February 06, 2009

Frustration and bemusement

Another horrid day with snow and ice in different places causing travel problems. I was meant to go and fetch Auntie Daphne for the weekend and a trip to the opera from Crediton in Devon, but her area had a heavy snowfall overnight. Both Severn Bridges were closed due to ice chunks dropping from gantries and smashing car windows. So my afternoon excursion down south west was impossible on both counts.

The morning started with a meeting in the cold damp churchyard with representatives of the Diocesan Advisory Committee, a planning officer, and two people from Parks, to talk about our request to replace the existing ash tree which is pushing up our paving, with something smaller and contained which will not provide us with the necessity of re-laying the paving to accommodate tree roots every three years. It's something we want to get sorted out before re-laying the paving. The answer was 'No'. The experts were not convinced the roots were to blame. We agreed to take up some of the displaced slabs for inspection next week when the church is closed for the floors to be stripped and polished.

The DAC only wants us to have an archaeologist on hand to supervise any stone lifting, just in case there is any possibility that beneath them is a sliver of untouched ancient something worthy of investigation. The history trail makes it abundantly clear that nothing has been as it ever was before since the churchyard was a construction site for the addition of the south aisle 1888-90. Few if any grave stones are in their original position. Tracing where they were originally laid in the absence of detailed grave maps from pre-1855 when the churchyard closed, would probably best left to a clairvoyant rather than an archaeologist. But committees have their pet ideas, and no doubt they have a field day when there's no archdeacon around to inject a little common sense and real information into the proceedings.

I wonder what our new Archdeacon, Peggy Jackson will make of it all. I hope probably in vain that we'll have the old rugged path transformed into a safe, smooth and appropriately dignified church entrance path by the time she takes office. It sends out a negative message to visitors in the heart of the city, inviting them to negotiate a dodgy walkway with unkempt trees, and flower beds often choked with rubbish tossed over the railings, to enter the church. The way in must reflect something of the interior promise, or people simply won't bother.

At least we are lucky that we have a professional archaeologist who also happens to be PCC secretary. He knows the story of God's acre in the city centre better than most, and will happily supervise without asking a fat fee.

After the Eucharist I wondered if we were going to have another outbreak of yesterday's crazy moment. There was a smiling Chinese woman in the bongregation, and she came up and received Communion. She came into the sacristy and presented me with an official looking paper in Chinese script, with no English rendering. She understood nothing I said to her, although she made an effort at sign language. Then she got out a mobile phone and dialled a number and started to speak to someone. Eventually, she handed the 'phone to me to speak to the person on the other end. Fortunately the called spoke English. She didn't know who I was and she was just a bit wary of telling me who she was. I explained what had happened, and then quickly she was able to unravel the mystery.

The woman was indeed a Chinese Christian in search of a community of believers who share her language. The woman on the phone was a friend of the friend our visitor had called, and luckily she attended the Chinese church and was able to convey instructions as to its location. She departed, all smiles, leaving Ben, Ian and myself much bemused.

Whatever next?

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