Sunday, 31 August 2008

Friends for a reason, friends for a season, friends for life

Saturday was the first in this season of inductions, but it was one with a difference. Although I took part, leading some prayers, I was there as a friend. Colin Norris was inducted as the Senior Minister of Westbury upon Trym Baptist Church. Colin has been a close friend since our time at theological college, and over the years our friendship has deepened, so it was good to be there for this special occasion. It’s slightly unnerving as it was Colin’s fourth induction and I’ve attended them all!

By contrast, today I was in Melton Mowbray to for the farewell service of Charles Jenkin. Charles has been the Rector of St Mary’s and while I was in Melton our relationship as colleagues in Churches Together became a valued friendship. This too was a special occasion, in the process meeting up with other friends we haven’t seen for a while.

Although I find myself regularly hearing the nice sort of things said over the weekend, on these two occasions, because of the nature of the relationship, I have been part of the story, and it caused me to pause and be grateful to God for those with whom I have shared and continue to share friendship. I came across a phrase several years ago, ‘There are friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for life.’ Colin and Charles fit firmly in the last category.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Brillante Weblog Award

I've just been nominated, along with six other people, for this not-to-be-taken-too-seriously award by the generous Catriona at 'A Skinny Fairtrade Latte in the Food Court of Life'.

These are the rules for the nominees:
1. Add the logo of the award to your blog
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog
5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blog

It's a bit daft nominating Catriona, but call me daft because I'm going to anyway - her blog is a favourite and it would be unjust not to! So, the seven are:
Andy Goodliff
Bishop Alan's Blog
Living Wittily
Maggi Dawn
Sean the Baptist
Skinny Fairtrade Latte

I agree with Catriona that it feels 'a bit incestuous or narcissistic' but it's a bit of fun for a Bank Holiday Monday. And the spin-off is that it's got me into blog-mode again after a few weeks of being blog-lite.

Thursday, 14 August 2008


I’ve finally succumbed to watching reality TV! Tuesday saw the first of Maestro in which eight celebrities compete for the chance to conduct a live orchestra in Hyde Park on the Last Night of the Proms. They soon found out that it's no easy thing to conduct an orchestra and I have to say it was fairly compelling viewing.

Initially I struggled with the fact that many of the competitors were unable to read music which is foundational. I managed to overcome this, just about, as it became increasingly clear that conducting was more than just waving a stick to keep time or not.

The first outing of the totally inexperienced ‘conductors’ was mostly painful in the extreme. The process of acquiring some basic skills through the involvement of personal mentors and group experience was fascinating and continued to provide entertainment. When it came to the first performance before an audience, it was at times hysterically funny, an experience shared by the judges, mentors, audience and orchestra alike.

If I keep with it, and I’ll certainly watch next week, it'll be interesting to see who wins. Goldie was the most convincing and showed some musicianship and authority. Jane Asher was pretty good. Sue Perkins delivered. Peter Snow was a total disaster in a thoroughly good-natured way and was dismissed, but it was a close contest with the Blur musician Alex James, whose intake of breath before the down-beat of his piece was probably the high point of the programme.

The BBC Concert Orchestra seemed to be having fun and did brilliantly under the circumstances.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Puglia and Il Concerto Bandistico

I’m just surfacing from a post-holiday avalanche of emails. We've just spent two weeks in Puglia, Southern Italy – a beautiful, rural region, considered by some to be the new Tuscany. Food and wine were superb, accommodation was very good with a secluded swimming pool, weather consisted of cloudless, unbroken sunshine and if anything was too hot when it got up to 40C! To add to this we met some great people: Brian and Catherine, David and Jane, and John and Marian who treated us to pre-breakfast coffee as we passed their villa on our not-very-early morning walk.

It was a very chilled two weeks which was just what we wanted. For the first time we went to a Lido and it exceeded expectations, swimming in the warm Adriatic and enjoying a welcome cool breeze. We visited Puglia’s equivalent of Cheddar Gorge, the Castellana Grottoes. And other trips included the neighbouring towns and the city of Lecce which was fantastic although you could suffer from Baroque overload.

As it happened the patronal festival took place in our town, Cisternino, which included a number of outdoor musical performances which were free. The highlight were the two town bands, one from Citta di Francavilla Fontana, and the other from Citta di Bracigliano. They didn’t just play but performed with a high level of accomplishment in their own inimitable style which was highly spirited though not always overly fussed about intonation. The programmes over three days consisted of condensed versions of Italian opera arranged for band with solo instrumentalists taking the part of the solo voices – the trombonist taking the part of the tenor used a valve trombone with a raised bell, which was something else. We were treated to Il Traviata, Turandot, La Boheme, Tosca, Rigoletto, and other excerpts as well. The sound ranged from very quiet to deafeningly loud with four Sousaphones, and a full complement of brass together with other wind. It was such a one-off glorious sound that you wanted to bottle it and bring it home, except that probably it wouldn’t sound the same in Milton Keynes – that’s the nature of holidays!