Archive for December, 2007

That was the week that was

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

Well, let’s start with Christmas Eve. Not much to say: I went to work, somewhat bleary, and cleaned up some of the email I got during my week in Marblehead. I decided this year that I would not go to Midnight Mass, just set up for it, since I am always overtired on Christmas after going. HWMBO misheard me and got dressed for Midnight Mass, just as I returned from setting up. He was a bit nonplussed, but we appreciated the extra sleep.

We had a guest through Boxing Day, one of HWMBO’s friends from Singapore. He is a Chinese teacher, and brought presents: a set of Beijing Olympic keyrings with the mascots on them, and some eau de cologne. Very nice. On Christmas Day I went to Mass, and was sad to hear that the sermon was to be delivered by the Nigerian archdeacon who is studying here and is a relative of a parishioner. He is not in tune with the congregation, and preaches as if it were a Nigerian bible study. Very long, and dull. But, saved by the archdeacon’s alarm clock: he arose late and arrived just as the Rector was finishing up an impromptu sermon.

Then, home to cook a chicken, some roast vegetables, stuffing, creamed onions, and the like. We ate around 2, and then settled down for the Queen’s Speech (HM the Q looks every minute of her 81+ years now). As there’s no transport on Christmas Day, we went nowhere and did virtually nothing.

Boxing Day was much the same, except that our houseguest came with us to the New World restaurant in Chinatown for dim sum, which we enjoyed, on the whole. The ang moh group at the table next to us was having none of it: you’re supposed to order from menus in restaurants, so they ordered from menus rather than choosing from the carts that roamed the dining room. I went to Blackwell’s after that and bought some books, HWMBO and our guest went to Fopp’s (newly reopened after emerging from bankruptcy) and helped their gross takings quite a bit. We walked down to Whitehall, and I was dead tired, so I went home while they walked around a bit more.

Our houseguest left for the airport that evening, and, for the first time in months, we were alone in the house! What joy! Lodgers are nice, but Not Lodgers can be even better.

I worked Thursday and Friday, and wrote my sermon for Sunday morning, which I attach below. Saturday we did a little shopping and went to Tate Modern for the show All the World’s a Stage. I think it closes on Wednesday; don’t rush to see it; it wasn’t worth what we paid for it (which was nothing). And lunch in the Tate restaurant there is always fraught. They seem to have removed Diet Coke from the menu, drat! I had a (very small) glass of apple juice. HWMBO had fish and chips, and I had the burger with chips. The chips (French fries to USans) were not well-cooked: they were slightly soggy on the outside and somewhat hardish (meaning not well cooked) on the inside. Next time we’re going to the Members Room to see if that’s any better. We stopped off at the Discount Shop (where they sell off stuff they couldn’t flog during the year), and I picked up some Gilbert and George cufflinks, and a couple of fridge magnets, one of which was an entire G&G painting cut into small squares. Much Fun will be had.

On the way home we stopped at Sainsbury to pick up dessert (carrot cake) for this evening, and the sky over the Borough was impressive:

This morning I preached: at this particular C of E parish they keep RC festivals, so it was the Feast of the Holy Family. Not much to say about the Holy Family as we don’t know much about their family life. However, much to say about families in general. Tonight we will go to our friend Alex (aka Inuit Boy; for UK readers he is the actor who portrays the Inuit with penguins [who have obviously seriously lost their way] in the DFS commercial) for dinner and bring the carrot cake as dessert.

December 30, 2007 Feast of the Holy Family
Sermon delivered at St. John the Evangelist, 10 am.
Readings: Sirach 3:2-6,12-14; Ps 128 1-5; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

In the name of God, the one, the Undivided Trinity. AMEN.

I am a very amateur genealogist. The Internet has been a real boon to those of us who want to research our family trees. I have been able to order my grandfather

Happy birthday to <lj user=”dirrtysean”> and <lj user=”charleswanmushi”>

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

…and many happy returns of the day

Next time you say that you can’t do something…

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

…remember this video (thanks to Michael W. for the reference).

Benazir Bhutto assassinated

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

…according to the BBC and CNN. This is a horrid end to a very turbulent political life, and carries on from the execution of her father, also once Prime Minister of Pakistan. Very sad day.

Thanks to <lj user=”cutedwogy”>, Today’s Yule URL

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

…speaks for itself (just click on it, reader!)

Tony Blair becomes a minion of the SWB

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

As predicted, our former Prime Minister, who had been appointing bishops and deans in the Church of England, has become a mackerel-snapper. No better case for disestablishment has ever been presented (except, perhaps, Gordon Brown and Margaret Thatcher, Presbyterian and Methodist). The man who gave us the gutless wimp sitting in Thomas a Becket’s seat has flown the coop, leaving us to deal with the messes he has created.

Monday through Thursday

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

Well, I’m back in London now, but not without incident. Let me backtrack.

Monday we went shopping yet again. Got the usual (razor blades, Irish Spring soap) and unusual (Puma trainers for

Saturday and Sunday in Marblehead

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Saturday dawned bright, but cold. A horrible storm was on its way, so we must go shopping first!

My soon-to-be ex-sister-in-law arrived at 10, so I “hid” downstairs with my uncle until my sister arrived to ferry me around; she also brought a warm coat to make up for the fact that I’m so lame I didn’t bring one. We went to Swampscott to have lunch and look for memory for my uncle’s computer. No memory there, so we went on to Danvers to a Best Buy; no suitable memory there. However, I picked up a set of Harmon-Kardon speakers with subwoofer for him, as the Bose speakers he was using were a bit anemic-sounding. Ruth took me up to see the horses while she fed and mucked them, then back home to install the speakers.

Once I figured out how to increase/decrease volume, those speakers rawked! My uncle is 78 at the moment, and the only way he keeps his mind active is to transcribe music from scores into the music program in his computer. The sound was a bit funky, and he had been futzing with the controls to try to make it better. Once we got this system installed, everything just perked up: it was clear, bright, and there was some bass for the first time.

When I saw how his eyes lit up as the sound system started working as it should have, I realised why parents are so happy and pleased when they give a gift to their children that the kids really like. It’s not a feeling that childless people like myself get very often, so it was worth the wait.

Then we went out to the local Chinese restaurant, Fantasy Island, in Salem. I may have written about it before, but I have to say that it’s really not the greatest Chinese restaurant I’ve ever patronised. First, they brought a basket of four large rolls and butter. Rolls and butter? In a Chinese restaurant? Aiyoh! Then my brother and sister ordered a Pu-Pu Platter, which is a large plate with a little Sterno burner in the middle, surrounded by deep fried meat and prawns. Instant coronary, I would think. My uncle had the egg rolls from it, and used that very hot mustard as a dip. Augh! Everything here is so huge: the portions, the pieces of meat; it was incredible. I had chicken wonton soup, which was OK, nothing too special, and Sesame beef, which, again, was OK but was three times the size of a portion at our local Chinese in London, the Well. I ate about 2/3rds of it, and my sister, brother, and uncle managed to get through about 1/2 of the Pu-Pu platter.

I suppose that for the sake of the sensibilities of my Chinese friends, I should put that last paragraph behind a cut. Well, my children, someday you will learn that Chinese food is not the same the world over, and some places are positively dreadful. You may actually be dragged to these places by your ang moh friends. So be prepared, and be very scared.

Today I haven’t left the house, as 6 more inches of snow fell this morning. There is now about 16 inches on the ground (around 40 cm) and while it’s warmish now (about 4C) it’ll get colder than freezing overnight and the whole town will be an ice rink tomorrow. Didn’t go to church, sadly; most of them were closed, I think.

Tomorrow, more shopping, and then dinner in Boston with and and some friends from Luti. Tuesday is our Lodge meeting (where the dinner is…wait for it…Chinese buffet. Argh!) and Wednesday we’re going to Outback. Thursday, weather permitting, I’m back home. The time really flies.

I’m in Marblehead…

Friday, December 14th, 2007

…and boy, am I annoyed. The plane trip itself wasn’t too bad. The security line at Heathrow ran as smoothly as those things do, and I got into the loung area in plenty of time to have a coffee and buy a few things. The plane took off almost on time. The food on the flight was lousy, of course, and American Airlines does’t have on-seat movies; you still have to watch a screen suspended from the ceiling.

So we landed about 15 minutes late in Boston. It was snowing, and was just stopping. There were 10 inches on the ground. The pilot informed us that there were no arrival gates open as all the planes were being de-iced and we thus had noplace to go to. We waited for 1-1/2 hours on the taxiway before a gate became free. Then, the fun began.

Normally the US citizens line at Logan is pretty quick. Last night there were a lot of returning Americans, and only three agents on duty. I waited in a queue for an hour before I got through to the baggage area, where they were just starting to disgorge the baggage onto the belt. It was now close to 11:30 pm and I was sure my brother had given up, as I couldn’t get hold of him. Luckily, he’d parked his truck and come into the terminal building (the original plan was that I should call him when I got out of the baggage area and he’d swoop by.

Well, I was wearing Crocs (easy on-off when you have to have your shoes x-rayed) and I had to struggle through 10″ of snow. Ouch! We got home around quarter to twelve, and I collapsed into bed.

So, I’m here. Will be contacting the locals as soon as I can to set up meetings and such, but the fact that another blizzard is scheduled for Sunday doesn’t make me hopeful. I may be snowed in during much of my time here.

Departing on a cold day in London

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I presume I’ll be arriving on a cold night in Massachusetts. There is frost on the grass in the back garden and frost on the roof of the church. The thermometer hasn’t risen above 0 C today (it was close to -1 when I got up this morning) and the house was 17 C at 5:30am. I’m sure none of these temperatures are astoundingly cold to you Americans who have been going through rough weather lately, but they’re pretty cold for us Brits, especially in London where it rarely goes anywhere near zero C.

I have to shower and then pack. I’m leaving the house around 1:30 pm for a 5:55 pm flight. I hope that’s enough. I will be writing to you from Massachusetts next, I hope.

In my travel advisory of a few days ago…

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

…I forgot to mention that any other denizens of the Bay State or environs who want to toddle up to Boston to have dinner with me and possibly others should email me or reply to this entry. I’d love to meet other ljers in that area.

Future travel plans are:

  • New York City, either third or last week of January;
  • Pune, India, some time in February, probably early.

Hope to see some of you either next week or in January. I’m not aware of any lj friends of mine in India, but if you’re there, do give us a shout.

Happy birthday, <lj user=”ruiqi”>

Monday, December 10th, 2007

…and many happy returns of the day. Although your b’day isn’t in lj, your post tipped me off. What a lovely flat for a lovely guy.

Hope to see you in London soon.

Our Companions in Mission program

Monday, December 10th, 2007

(Friends only as it’s not final yet)

You may recall a few posts about the Companions in Mission program in which I have been participating for nearly the past year. We haven’t been particularly happy with the results, which have been mixed for several reasons.

  • The Associate Vicar in charge of the parish became pregnant unexpectedly, and took her maternity leave in September, leaving us with some pastoral responsibility for taking services;
  • The initiatives we have begun weren’t supported very well by the laity;
  • All of us on the team range from Liberal Catholic to Anglo-Catholic, whereas St. Anne’s is mostly Evangelical (although not always so).

The program was to go through March of next year. However, today I got an email from the Canon Missioner (who is in charge of the program) with a document (for my comments) stating that for various reasons, the program had not been a success and we would end the program at the end of January. He asked my opinion. I emailed back that I thought that, while I agreed with every point, I felt that extending through February and ending at the beginning of March might be better.

  • It would be unfair to the laity to end the program so abruptly without explaining exactly why we were ending it
  • There was only one extra month that we would have to attend on Sunday, and then we would end the program at the beginning of March, as it was originally intended.

Who is going to tell these good people that they have not lived up to OUR expectations? I would say that we need to stick it out until March, and then have a full and frank discussion in which we talk about the lessons we’ve learned and ask what they’ve learned from our efforts. I think that this experiment has not exactly failed, but has taught us lots of things about our own capabilities in ministry.

Next time, we should:

  • Make sure that the ministers share (broadly) the churchmanship on the parish. Being at the top of the candle when most of the parishioners are in the boss under it does not help. Not only do we speak different liturgical languages, but the natural tendency is to try to haul them up the candle, rather than help them do well at the level they are already inhabiting.
  • Have SMART objectives set forth at the beginning, and stick to them.
  • Make sure that the parish itself is ready to work with the team. The parishioners at St. Anne’s have become alive to me (at least) over the past year in a myriad of ways, and are trying to feel their way toward a greater and more loving relationship with God. However, they need to help us help them; we can’t just put them all on the sleigh and haul them where they want to go. Perhaps a set of agreed principles, signed by the PCC and the CIMs at the beginning of the relationship, would be helpful.

Prayers for St. Anne’s Bermondsey and for the CIMs would be welcome from them as prays among my friends.

Sick as a dog

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

Today I was going to go to a raising in Twickenham at 4 PM. Unfortunately, around 1 or 2 pm, I started to feel really flu-ey. (I’ve had my flu jab). I sat in the living room with a blanket over me and shivered for about an hour. My stomach is pretty queasy, so I have just been drinking orange juice and water. HWMNBO got me some flu tablets and some tablets that reduce stomach gas.

I am hoping that a good night’s sleep will cure this; if not, I shall have to go to Massachusetts feeling pretty bad. I don’t want that. So good thoughts and prayers (from them as pray) would be most welcome.

Back to Massachusetts next week

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

I have neglected to mention much lately; work and evening commitments meant that I have been quite the Red Queen lately. However, I ought to mention that I’m off to Marblehead on Thursday 13th December, staying for a week, returning to London on Thursday 20th December.

and , perhaps we can have dinner one evening that week. The only commitment I have at the moment is Philanthropic Lodge’s meeting on Tuesday.

Happy birthday, <lj user=”airyharse”>

Friday, December 7th, 2007

…and many happy returns of the day. I’m certain I’m the first person wishing you a happy birthday this year from this time zone.

Happy birthday <lj user=”dangtri”>

Friday, December 7th, 2007

and many happy returns of the day.

Today’s Other American Shooting News url

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

I am really sorry about the shootings in Omaha. However, that wasn’t the only story in the US that had to do with a gun. This gentleman took exception to being teased, and took it out on the teasers.

Today’s Effects of Computers URL

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

Not being a big drinker, I don’t go to pubs much at all (maybe 2-3 times a year). However, this article tells of the decline and closing of gay bars and presents a good analysis of why they are closing, as well as a historical perspective on how they began. A must-read, even for someone like me who doesn’t visit them often.

Today’s Electrifying URL

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

I understand that men are much more likely to be hit by lightning than women. Here’s a guy who enjoys it so much he makes it himself (video).