Sunday, 31 January 2010

There's no place like home!

Visiting the parental mansion has its moments! You know your momma doesn't like your emerging 'tash when she says you look like Paw Broon from the Broons comic strip! And thinks you ought to go back to the shorter hair cut (??). I also learned not to say "bugger" in front of 2 year olds - they promptly repeat it! Other happy joys involve discovering one has no longer left a spare toothbrush there and watching "In it to win it" and pointing out that the particularly dizzy contestant IS gay and it's not offensive to comment on this in my presence! Actually, we had more fun watching a documentary on Dolly Parton! Mum being a hardcore Country and Western fan (and occassional line dancer), I actually knew the words to "Stand by your Man" by the age of 7 and thought Dolly P and Patsy Cline were brilliant! I also went to see Johnny Cash live in the Edinburgh Playhouse aged 8! The mustache is pointing me towards a cowboy outfit and a Village People phase perhaps?

Here's Dolly for y'all!

Less hilariously,there has been what Inspector Jim Taggart would have called "a murdur" in the ole home town, a door or two down from my cousin's house. The householder being my sister in law's cousin. No one is quite sure exactly what happened except that one guy's dead and the other is critically ill in hospital. So pray for all involved in this tragic incident.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Saturday thoughts

Leaving aside annoyance with the bank which led to a nicotine lapse on Wednesday, it's been quite a decent week. I came across this opinion piece in the Evening Standard:

I agree up to a point that often those are most PC and "inclusive" are actually really very intolerant with any dissension from their point of view, but part of the fury at the Jan Moir article was that it was sloppy journalism. Blaming Stephen Gately's death on his sexual orientation, before the Post Mortem have given the public the facts that it was caused by a hereditary heart condition, was simply stupid. Had the argument been prefaced by a few discreetly positioned "ifs", it would have caused less rage (and guarded the Paper's butt against complaints and legal action). As a liberal, I am intolerant of sloppy conservative reasoning. For instance, it strikes me as perverse to argue that Stephen Gately's death was possibly hastened by aspects of his "gay lifestyle", when it is much more clearly the result of his parent's heterosexuality. If they hadn't been straight, then they wouldn't have passed on the genetic condition that killed him! Selective reasoning of course, but at least I am not in the habit of publishing it as gospel truth - unlike certain journalists!

Off to Ma's with her birthday card!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Busy but good.

Yesterday was fairly vigorous. Off to the pharmacy to check the smoking (have not so done, so my lungs are very functional), then the purchase of unguents to smooth my chops prior to de hairifying them (that's be the shaving gel then). Making sure the mobile will ring for another month, getting fixed with an Independent Learning Account (on my lesser wages, HMG (Scotland) will give me 200 smackeroonies to do courses related to education or leisure - a cookery course would be fun methinks!) putting in the papers to the new employers - quite a busy wee day, with the meeting in the evening (which went well).

Today is a bit quieter, so the washing and ironing beckon :-(

Monday, 25 January 2010

Ach, that wasnae sae bad efter a' !

Well, I survived the day of revelation. The DWP seem to be on the side of the angels (i.e. me), the psychiatrist was very helpful (but she's going to phone my mother!!!! To ask questions about how I behaved as a nipper - helps with the diagnosis evidently!) And therapy was... itself. Thanks to all who prayed, crossed fingers or wished me luck!

Haggis, neeps and tatties have been consumed - hence the Broons style title! And in honour of our randy, radical and frequently insolvent national Bard whose festival is today, a wee daud of Scottish culture!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

I'm not stressed, not a bit of it!

My head has been a bit mad since Friday. It's the stress that comes (for me) at the thought of Monday involving an interview with the Job Centre, an assessment session with a psychiatrist for Aspergers and a trip to the therapist. Self revealing for up to 3 hours in a day - the very thought is enough to put me into a high state of anxiety! Friday saw a serious out break of chunky Kit Kat consumption and much sooking of the nicotine inhaler! Saturday saw less of the former but very nearly a collapse of the quitting the weed! Still hinging in there though!

Mass this morning has a very nice rendition of Mozart's Missa Brevis in F (K 192):

Quite nice, but the Embra Quire wur better!

Anyhow, for something a little different, here's the finale to one of my favourite modern works for choir and orchestra: Duke Ellington's "Sacred Concert"

Thursday, 21 January 2010

A day in the life of...

Ivan Denisovich? No, just me! More soup making - Mum's quick and easy pea and ham had to be adapted, due to a shortage in the Supie of frozen peas. Why no peas? All bought to act as ice packs for peeps who have slipped and fallen in the ice and snow! One effect of climate change you rarely hear about! So they were replaced by frozen broccoli.

Then off to the Cathedral to celebrate the 1.05 Mass. Again, it was eastward facing and I have suddenly twigged as to why I may prefer the eastward position. If I have Aspergers syndrome, the extra visual stimuli the celebrant gets whilst facing the people sends my little brain into overdrive. Filtering out the distractions stresses me, so facing east means I am less stressed. It may have nothing at all to do with theology (which I have always said it was) but all to do with the way my brain is wired! Instead of having to adopt all sorts of theological positions which I thought flowed from my liturgical preferences (as I did when younger - and having been living with the consequences ever since), I can feel totally guiltless about it! I don't need to be consistent!

The chiropractor tweaked my back after my little "boing" and, whilst it still aches a bit, it is back in order, so the pain should go after a good nights sleep. Then a study group (with soup) and then early Compline. Now for a bit of telly and some hot chocolate!

And for your entertainment - a little Compline something.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

It's a pain.....

when your back goes "boing". It is particularly annoying when you were in the process of taking out the empty tins and glass bottles for recycling when it went! Luckily, it feels as if it is just a muscle that is pulled and not anything more serious. Never happened when I was a relaxed as a newt!

Paperwork arrived for the new job yesterday. Happily, I will be paid more than I initially reckoned I would. Unhappily, I will have to go and get immunised against hepatitis B - which is a 3 jag series, like the rabies shots I got before heading to Uganda. I don't mind the medics sticking needles into me (as long as I can look away) but I dislike the reaction I seem to get to such shots . I felt slightly yukky after my rabies jabs and always have a nasty reaction to tetanus - I just hope the Hep B is less of a downer!

And just cos I feel like a grumpy old codger with a sore back, here's one of my dad's favourite numbers from my callow youth!

Monday, 18 January 2010

And a not so new Bishop..

The SEC gets a big mention in the Times today. Bob, Bishop of Aiberdeen, has stuck the episcopal heid on the monks of Buckfast Abbey for pretending they have nothing to do with the havoc wreaked by the legendary Electric Soup known as Buckie (aka Commotion Lotion or Wreck the Hoose Juice). He has a point: it's disingenuous to pretend it is not dangerous stuff and in an age of ethical investment by the Church, it looks bad for the monks to market it under their name. It might be an idea if it were sold in plastic bottles simply to deprive the Scoobied Ned a handy offensive weapon. So for several days on the trot, the SEC has been getting positive publicity. Perhaps it'll make us popular!

Anyweys, heerza social an' theo-logical commentary from ra Sage o' Govan!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A new Bishop

I can observe the election of a new Bishop of Glasgow with a certain degree of interested neutrality, not having to live with the results (so to speak). Of the unsuccessful candidates (NOT failed as the Press described it!), I know nothing of the English candidate, but was partially responsible for Alison Peden being appointed Chaplain to Forth Valley College's Stirling campus (I was the chaplain at Falkirk campus and was asked if I knew of anyone suitable to be my equivalent in Stirling - I did and have liaised with her on Chaplaincy matters and can attest to both her excellence and ability). Gregor Duncan conducted my deaconing retreat at Cumbrae Cathedral and preached at my deaconing. I will never forget him describing the choosing and ordaining of the candidates as akin to a local event at the annual town gala in Largs (where he was Rector at the time) know as the "Crowning of the Brisbane Queen"!! Funnily enough, Fr Callaghan's side of the church didn't get the the joke and just looked puzzled. My side was in mild hysterics! Well, Donald Reid and Beverly MacFarlane were virtually horizontal with laughter in the clergy stalls after I caught their eyes and raised my eyebrow suggestively! Gregor also succeeded my training Rector Douglas Reid as Rector of St Ninian's Glasgow. Following a priest as long serving and well loved as Douglas was, was no easy task and Gregor has managed that - and very well indeed. He is a fine preacher, a very capable theologian and a well regarded pastor. OK, he's a bit of a stickler for things being done the right way and in accordance with the rules and I really never did understand why he re-introduced the maniple (or indeed why he still does the conjoined fingers thing after the words of institution - "bunny ears" Douglas Reid called it because that's what it looks like when you celebrate eastwards). So I think FWIW the Glasgow electors have chosen wisely and well and think some of the drool on other sites I've read about "injustice and sexism" winning is simply partisan, ignorant and contemptible.

In a sense, a home grown candidate starts with the advantage/handicap of being known in the Diocese. In Glasgow, due to recent history, that is, broadly speaking, an advantage. What you might call "The Derek Rawcliffe Experience" left them highly unlikely to appoint externally. A nice man +Derek and he had some fine gifts I'm sure, but some of his appointments were dreadful, favouring charismatics who disrupted congregations terribly (Mosspark was the one I knew most about, as the disgruntled and displaced headed for St Ninian's) or the madder sort of English Anglo-Catholic who caused just as much mayhem (Gourock and Coatbridge being prime examples). He also treated his gay clergy appallingly (which, in fairness, he later admitted and apologised for) which was rather unsurprising, given that he was both gay and married (later widowed). He did (after retiring) "come out", but his treatment of gay clergy left a very bitter taste in the mouth of many people. Since then, every time Glasgow has had to elect a Bishop, they have always appointed from within the diocese - John Taylor from Dumfries (who ordained me), Idris Jones from Ayr and now Gregor.

I sincerely hope Gregor does well as Bishop and proves to be both an inspired and inspiring leader. He will be in my prayers in the days ahead.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

A back to the people service

I found myself at an altar in the Cathedral celebrating the 1929 Liturgy in the Eastward position this morning. Candid confession time: although I'm perfectly happy to celebrated westward and have done so for years, in my heart of hearts, I'm happiest facing east! I think it's a celebrant thing in my case. I don't mind the celebrant facing the people, but I feel more comfortable when I am not aware of the peeps looking at me. My focus is absolutely on the words and God and I'm not distracted by fainting grannies, galloping toddlers or the shiny balloon someone has tied to the Font to celebrate a Golden Wedding. (That has happened!) I also love the chance to use some of the old prayers.

This morning, I interceded using the Bidding Prayer. I prayed for "our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth, over all estates of men in these her dominions supreme"! For "the Lord Provost and magistrates of this ancient and royal City", praying "that all these in their several callings may serve truly and faithfully to the glory of God and the edifying and well-governing of his people, remebering always the strict and solemn account which they must give before the judgement seat of Christ" (Now that is a prayer designed to put the wind up the Cooncillor submitting a hooky expenses claim!) And that splendid petition for education: "And that there may never be wanting a supply of fit persons to serve God in Church and State, let us pray for a blessing on our universities, especially those in this city, especially on the Theological Institute of our Church, that in these and in all places set apart for God's honour and service, true religion and sound learning may ever flourish and abound".

I don't think those prayer or sentiments have dated and could well do with further outings in the right context and setting. Then afterwards it was off for a coffee and I ran into the former Vice-Provost, the lovely Jane, who was coming in to do the 1.05pm Eucharist. It was a sort of clerical shift change!

My soup making was quite effective tonight - but I did overdo the pepper slightly in the vegetable broth! Still, it kept us all warm!

A musical interlude: well, after all the talk of facing east, let's "Go West"!

Movement in Uganda - and Archbishops over breakfast.

Here's an article from a Ugandan news website that is quite hopeful:

PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has cautioned those advocating for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to “go slow”, saying the matter was a sensitive foreign policy issue.

David Bahati tabled a private member’s bill late last year making the offence of homosexuality liable to life imprisonment.

The President, while addressing the NRM national executive council meeting yesterday, said although Ugandans should not allow their values to be compromised, they should equally not move ahead with the issue recklessly.

Museveni said he had been questioned about the bill by several foreign leaders, including the Canadian prime minister, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He said Clinton called him for over 45 minutes over the issue. (I almost sympathise with the guy - have your ear chewed by HC for 3/4 of an hour must be like getting coshed verbally! And his African patriarchal sensibilities would not enjoy be on the receiving end of a lecture from one of the most powerful women in the world!)

“I told them that this bill was brought up by a private member and I have not even had time to discuss it with him. It is neither the Government nor the NRM party. It is a private member,” Museveni told the NRM meeting at State House Entebbe. (This is hog manure - does he really think anybody believes that a Private Members Bill from a Govt backbenchers wasn't tacitly vetted by the Whips and/or Party managers?)

“It is my judgment that our foreign policy is not managed just by some individuals. We have our values and our stand, historically and socially, but we need to know also that our partners we have been working with have their systems,” he added as members murmured in disapproval. (He's learnt that he who funds the gravy train, calls the tune - or as Lydon Johnson once said: "Once you have them by the balls, the hearts and minds will follow"!)

Museveni narrated that the gay community in New York organised a rally and invited then President Bill Clinton.

“In that rally, about 300,000 homosexuals attended. I challenge you. Who of you, MPs, has ever had a rally of 300,000 people, other than me? Even for me, it is not often that I get those numbers,” he said. (Not that the fellah's an ego-maniac like!)

The Cabinet, he added, had decided to call Bahati and discuss the bill with him. (Oh goody!)

“This is a foreign policy issue and we have to discuss it in a manner that does not compromise our principles but also takes care of our foreign policy interest,” he said as the MPs shouted: “No, no, no!” (Or at least makes sure we get the nice aid cheques and I don't get grief, rather than plaudits, at CHOGM and ANOTHER ear bashing from Hilary!)

He said when he talked to Hillary Clinton, he informed her that people come from Europe with money and woo young people into homosexuality. (Doubtless convincing HC that he was a raving half-wit - but at least he's OUR raving half-wit!)

Museveni warned that those against development in Africa use this opportunity to de-campaign Uganda.

He told the meeting that Uganda was due to host a conference of the International Criminal Court (ICC) but some people were opposed to the venue, arguing that Uganda was violating the human rights of gays. (Too right they are!)

The Bahati bill wants to impose a life sentence on homosexuality and the death penalty on aggravated homosexuality.

The latter is defined as sex with a minor or a disabled person, where the offender is HIV-positive, a parent or a person in authority over the victim, or where drugs are used to overpower the victim.

Under the proposed bill, promotion of homosexuality attracts a prison sentence of up to seven years, while anybody failing to report the offence within 24 hours risks imprisonment for up to three years.

By hopeful, I mean the President is more or less directing that this bill gets dropped PDQ because donor nations have made it clear they are mucho p**d off with it and will cut aid (and therefore the gravy train for the governing party and its pals). Pressure works. But it needs to keep up until this bill is dead, buried, kaput and gone.

BTW I caught the Archbishop of York on the radio this morning, whilst munching my toast soldiers. He really wasn't all that impressive trying to explain to John Humphries where God was in the Haiti situation. The Christlike God argument kinda went missing without sense (leaving 2 toast soldier munching Edinburgh MTh's as confused as John Humphries) but he was pretty good in sticking the boot into Mad Pat Robertson who has said Haiti got in the neck for signing a pact with the devil to get rid of their French colonial masters during the Napoleonic wars (Not that it might not be a worthwhile price to pay for not being ruled by ze snail and horse eaters!). Quoted his mammy: "Don't point fingers - because fingers will point back at you!" and suggested Mad Pat learn to read the Bible properly!!! Gaun yersel' wee man! Mad Pat, of course, is the heidcase preacher who backed Ronnie Raygun for President and Saviour of the US of A and all affiliates from the evils of Commies, Jimmy Carter and Gawdless Liberals. The Poor old boy is obviously not happy at being ignored by those in power. Course, if he had read enough history to realise that Haiti wasn't a colony in the time of Napoleon III (who was only born AFTER Haiti achieved independence from France), we might take him seriously. On second thoughts, he's a televangelist - we'd still ignore him!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

A ginger Jesus and spinach day.

No, the meds ain't causing hallucinations: I took myself off to the Royal Scottish Academy this morning to look at the Turner in January exhibition and then into the National Gallery to feast my mince pies on familiar and well-loved things of beauty - a magnificent Immaculate Conception by some Spanish guy whose name begins with a 'Z', a still life with Monstrance by a Dutch artist and Poussin's "7 Sacraments" series. I hadn't noticed until today that in Poussin's "Baptism" picture (where John the Baptist is baptising Jesus in the Jordan) that Jesus was a redhead. Hence, "Ginger Jesus"! I'd got out of the habit, I realised, of refreshing my inner spirit with time spent enjoying art and beauty and I must make time in future to do this more often.

Then I went into the cafe under St John's Princes Street. In August it was taken over by Henderson's (the famed Edinburgh veggie restaurant) and I haven't been in. So I treated myself to spanokiptta (Greek spinach pie made with filo pastry) and salads, which brought back memories of wonderful holidays in Rhodes and Cyprus. I now have time to enjoy my idleness given that it's time limited and I'm going to make the most of it!

Music for pleasure today: Frankie Goes To Hollywood and "The Power of Love"

And just so nobody forgets the hoo-hah in Ireland:

Happy St Aelred's Day btw!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Thoughts on the world tonight.

This article from the Independent makes depressing reading:

There is much to love in Africa and much to weep over. But I find it increasingly impossible to see the self-proclaimed moral authority of the African provinces of the Anglican Communion as being something I would be willing to submit the Church in Scotland to. Perhaps innocently, I had always assumed the various provinces to be of equal standing and authority. The headlong rush by the powers that be in England to keep the likes of Uganda and Nigeria "sweet" leaves me baffled. The failure of the those Provinces to challenge either Government corruption or legal provisions against its citizens of a draconian and barbaric nature, to me at any rate, deprives them of any right to be taken seriously as moral examples or tutors by the Church in the Old World.

Less depressingly I've just finished reading a fine novel set in Glasgow called "Buddha Da". Very amusing and also touching, it is a treat for any fan of the richly expressive Weegie dialect, a nice insight into Buddhist spirituality - and contains 2 sentences which summarise my lifelong feelings about carrots! Well worth a read.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

I never knew he was one of us!

This article from the Independent on Sunday:

caused me to go "hurrah"! The Communards were part of my late teen soundtrack. As out and in yer face gay as it could be, virulently anti-Thatcher and very bouncy and pop-py (although personally, I preferred Frankie Goes to Hollywood and still think Holly Johnson's rendition of "The Power of Love" is one of the most spine-tingling and haunting pop ballads ever). Naturally, everyone tended to focus on the wee ginger Scottish guy at the front with the amazing falsetto and ignore the geeky yin at the back on keyboards. He has now come out as a Vicar! Nice to see the dear old Diocese of London still ordains openly gay men, even if they spent their twenties hoovering up drugs like a vacuum cleaner and all else that was part of the hedonisic lifestyle of a gay pop icon in the 1980's! At least he will be unshockable in the confessional - though he might still think the road to Heaven involves a tube to Charing Cross rather than aesectic exercises!

Here's a wee blast from the past in celebration:

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Pardon me, which decade are we in?

Maybe it's the fact the last time we had a winter like this I was still at school, maybe it's having gone last night to see "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll" - the Ian Dury biopic (very good, BTW- Andy Serkis is uncanny, even sings like the Man Himself) but it feels strangely like the Seventies. Rubbish is piling up on the streets of Edinburgh cos the binmen are on strike, Labour's in office, the economy's knacked, unemployment's up and it looks like the Tories will be elected come May.

Part of me wonders if that would be a total disaster for the country. Parties in power run out of steam and a change became both necessary and desirable. But my visceral reaction is not to see a Tory Govt as good. I grew up in a mining area and the Miners Strike covered my last years at secondary school. I won't vote Tory this side of the Parousia. As they say where I come from, "The only good Tory is a lavatory"! (And that's not true I know, I've know some very nice and Christian Tories).

Liberal? Until recently that was a no brainer. I joined the Libs at 18, was President of the Aberdeen Uni LD's and Senior Vice Convener of the Scottish Young Lib Dems. But I was mightily unamused by the dumping of both Charlie Kennedy and Ming Campbell, the current leader seems to be a bit of a David Cameron clone and I think the Scottish leadership were daft not to stay in Govt with the SNP and get more of our policies into effect. Voting Green isn't for me (partly because I think nuclear power is here to stay, so work to make it as safe as poss) and the SNP I disagree with because I think we need to be part of the UK.

I remeber the late George Henderson, Bishop of Argyll, Primus, Labour Lord Provost of Fort William and firm disliker of women's ordination and nasty new things like the Blue Bookie once describing himself to me at lunch in the Western Club in Glasgow as a "Prayer Book Communist" - maybe that's what I'll become!

(The cartoon just appealed to me and has no connection with anything much!)

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snow stops play so..

There being no footie tomorrow this seemed the next best thing:

Rolf, yer accents actually as bad as Russ Abbot's - but we still love you!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Ancient and Modern - and spicy

Nipped along to the Cathedral today for the 11.30 Mass. Piety? No, I'm celebrating it next week and I like to know what it involves, especially when it involves the 1929 Liturgy. "It's just the Prayer Book" hides a multitude of practices. Luckily it was terribly straightforward, just as written and it was thoroughly refreshing to hear the old, beautiful, familiar words which we Scottish Piskies have been using in roughly the same order since 1764, in the moderated splendour of the Lady Chapel of St Mary's Cathedral, with the prayers including a bidding for the repose of the soul of a deceased priest and for the grief of his partner - both male. It's that blend of ancient and modern that inspired me. Glorious language and architecture with an utter rootedness in the reality of the modern world. Don't get me wrong: I love the richness of the modern language 1982 liturgy and its seasonal Eucharistic Prayers. But that classical language speaks to ME deeply and the connection with ages and generations past who have knelt and said exactly the same words touches me. But it is wired to the world and not the moon or the British Museum by the prayers of intercession which say where we are and defines our concerns and intentions. I'm a funny mix of radical and conservative: part right on leftie, part liturgical old fart!

Tonight's soup was one of my better efforts: spicy bean and pepper soup! Ideal for winter. It was the cayenne pepper that made it!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Todays theme tune.

Being on the wagon and in the process of giving up the weed, I couldn't resist this ditty by Rolf Harris as a theme tune for today:

Cheers Cobber!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Having popped over to Fife over the week-end, I returned to a very snowbound Edinburgh to contemplate a bit of waiting for movement. Off I went to deal with bank stuff this morning and returned to Emmaus to get a phone call. Yes, it was my prospective employers saying: We'd like to offer you a job, full time, starting mid-March as a support worker in a house supporting 4 clients with Autism. Conditional (of course) on references and disclosure. Yahoo!

A long time ago, when I was trying to learn to play the violin (and I am living witness to the truth of the Jack Benny line about it sounding like the cat gut was still inside the cat!), I had to memorise a little mnemonic about scales. EGBDF. Every Good Boy Deserves Favours. I must have been good recently! To be honest, it's not really a line of work I'd have thought about 12 months ago. But my experience of being here and discovering (much to my surprise) that I am really quite good with people with learning or social difficulties - and a damn sight more patient that I ever used to be - made me think it was a possibility. One of the most satisfying periods in my life was when I was working in a hands on, no academic ability needed role with the homeless in London. A degree was pretty useless, but the ability to engage with the marginalised, to befriend, encourage and support wasn't - and I could do that. Hands on is what I got distant from with all the hoopla and expectations of Rectoring. Give me a person to support in need, be it sickness or bereavement and I was doing what I joined up for. Give me admin and management and I got stuck, worried, down and started to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. This for me may be a return to the hands on alongside the weak priesthood I loved and not the servicing and propping up the Institution ministry I came to dread. I am so glad to have this new break and chance to go back to basics!! It's been a brilliant day. And Nina Simone says it all!

Friday, 1 January 2010

A catch up blog

Two wee bits of action over the last week which I missed out blogging on. A trip to the cinema to see the musical Nine. We went for to see Avatar but the film was sold out, so after debating going to see Sherlock Holmes, we plumped for the musical. Daniel Day Lewis can both sing and dance, Judi Dench was marvellous in her number (but, hey, her Dameship was the original Sally Bowles in the 1968 West End production of Cabaret!). Other treats were Kate Hudson blasting out "Cinema Italiano" (I bet her Mum Goldie Hawn was proud!) and Penelope Cruz doing more to promote sales of Anne Summers undies than the rest of the EU combined! Once you get into it, it's a great film! Highly recommended!

I also went to the Watchnight service at St Cuthbert's. It's beautiful Church, with a most impressive frieze of the Last Supper and a very fine bronze statue of the Madonna and Child (not at all usual in Presbyterian Parish Kirk!). Bags of candles and very little artificial (electrical) lighting. Content was pretty ordinary in terms of material (I knew the hymns, but were they ideal for a not too well Churched Kirk of revellers?) The best bit was a reading from GK Chesterton's "House of Christmas":

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

And where are we at home? In the world where God was homeless or in Christ, whose life was perfect, not because he was "sinless" in the sense of not picking his nose, but perfect in the sense of being God-centered and resting in communion with his nature in the Trinity. A perfection we cannot imitate, but only be gifted through the Incarnation.

Decadence on Ne'erday

Not quite champagne and smoked salmon and scrambled eggs but bacon and egg rolls, warm pain au chocolat and freshly brewed coffee, whilst watching the New Years Day concert from Vienna and thinking Valentino really should design more ballet costumes, counts as really rather decadent start to the new Year!

Looking back, 2009 was (to quote our Sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth) an Annus Horriblis indeed, breakdown, sick leave, therapy, quitting parish ministry, unemployment and owning up to alcohol problems. 2010 can only be better (if it ain't, then it's find a coffin year). Funnily enough, I feel I now know myself better and am slightly more comfortable in my own skin. So moving on is more of a possibility. My New years resolution: to continue growing and putting aside things that diminish me. I will start a smoking cessation programme next week, as that's the next evil to crush. Is my approach to this year "Look forward in faith"? Not quite, more look forward in trust - because I got here alive, sane and sober and that was far from certain at one point. The year in retrospect has been a case of finding that the Faith or Credal part of my religious life is not actually as important as the trusting to the actual reality of God working for me and my best outcomes. A learning that intellectual faith is less important than the lived variety. Don't live in your head so much, live in the world.

And for a New year theme song? Oh, Francis Albert and a great Jazz number: