Wednesday, 12 August 2020

ON THE STREETS

We've seen no progress over finding the murderers of the local boy. He was from a Somali family, and had been at Paddington Academy, where he had just finished. Sadly, it appears to be, as they say, "gang-related".  

One of the striking features of the lockdown was how the beggars disappeared, but now they have returned to all their normal positions. The man who comes and sits outside Royal Oak Station was one of the first to resume (he commutes regularly to his pitch), but now there is a person back by the cash machine at the Chippenham as well. The purveyors of hard-luck stories (and habitual visitors) have returned to my doorstep as well. One of the hard-luck stories actually lives in Archway, so I really don't know what he's doing here. I used to have a regular hard-luck story who was also known to a fellow priest in Winchmore Hill, so I get the impression that some people have a fairly wide radius in which they ask for help and seem to spend much of their time travelling around doing so.

It's worth pointing out that most of the street beggars are not homeless. Westminster City Council did a fine job of getting homeless people into temporary accommodation when the lockdown began, and no doubt that suited the hotels in which they were placed, but I admit to some anxiety about what is going to happen next. I wouldn't fancy being the council official who has to tell the homeless that it's time for them to get back out onto the street, nor indeed being the local politician who has to announce the policy. Perhaps it won't happen? But, then, where will they put the homeless? 

Soon after the lockdown eased some drug users started using my church porch. I opened the door and surprised them one day, but they claimed only to be rolling cigarettes. Not true of course. Tiny little plastic packets and paper torn into little squares, as well as bits of foil were the detritus left behind. It became evident to them that I did not welcome their presence, and I scowled at them each time I saw them, which was fairly often since that porch is opposite my front door. The upshot was that they moved round to the north porch, which we have opened up as part of our conservation and development works. That porch had been bricked up in the 1950s when Clarendon Crescent, which it opened onto, was gradually falling derelict. Unfortunately, the configuration of the porch was such that it was very hard to close it up, and a space had been left that they tried to close with netting. Over time the netting failed, and the porch became a great place for pigeons to roost. When I came, we had a portaloo out there, but it stood on at least six inches of pigeon guano and was covered in filth; it was one of the nastiest spaces in London. So, we cleared it, and restored the door, and cleaned up the steps.

It has always been our intention to construct a glass pavilion over the north porch, but this proved to be the most controversial bit of the whole plan for the new building, and so we took it out, having spent eighteen months discussing it, and so the new building received its permissions. We then made the case for the glass pavilion separately, and were duly granted permission, though too late to get it built as part of the main contract. Had the contract been finished on time (or indeed anything like on time, or even properly) we should have had the pavilion by now. The work was going to be instructed this spring, but of course did not happen.The reason the porch was bricked up sixty years ago was the same reason we insisted we needed the pavilion now, the likelihood of anti-social behaviour; and so it has proved. The drug users not only consume their drugs nicely concealed at the bottom of the steps, but feel able to defecate there as w ell. Clearing away human excrement does not put one in the best frame of mind for the Sunday Mass.  

The man at Church House Bookshop asked me wistfully how it was in Paddington, because there was absolutely nobody about in central Westminster. I had to tell him that things were almost back to normal here. The quietness of central London is not something we are enjoying here. The Council have even removed all their paraphernalia for wider pavements, though we still have some bike lanes left. Sadly, though, my favourite restaurant has not re-opened. We would like to help them out!

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

ARCHBISHOPS AND PR



PAVEMENTS AND BIKE LANES

During the lockdown, the city council have  been painting bike lanes on the Harrow Road (and some other roads), which would be very good if they then made some effort to stop cars parking in them. It really is no help to be offered a lane which is then full of parked cars. They have also widened the pavements in various places, by fencing off stretches of road, so as to offer more social distance. This is good in places, but they have done it along long stretches where few people walk and there is no crowding, while they cannot do it at bus stops, which are the greatest pinch-points. In fact, during the lockdown the Vale Café has built an enclosure in front of its café for its clients to enjoy shisha pipes, which is exactly behind a bus shelter, and so has created a brand new bottleneck. I imagine they were entirely within their rights; it was just a thoughtless, anti-social thing to do. 


OH NO, HE WASN'T

I have written before about how strange it feels when your contemporaries attain high public office; now the new Archbishop of York, my old group leader from college, has actually started work in his new job. He was interviewed on Radio 4 and managed to say very little in a genial sort of way, which I suppose is one reason he was appointed, because he’s quite good at PR; he comes across as a friendly man-of-the-people, and doesn’t say anything too controversial. In this he is rather unlike his predecessor, because Archbishop Sentamu has always been combative and has sometimes seemed rather hectoring in his public pronouncements. Archbishop Stephen will have a different tone.

However, he has also given an interview to the Sunday Times Magazine, which, if not exactly a car-crash on the Prince Andrew scale, leaves him looking a bit foolish. I do appreciate that it’s very easy to be stitched up by journalists, but I’m not sure the clever PR instinct is on display. The first thing is the photo, full page, half length, staring into the middle distance with narrowed eyes, one hand on his pectoral cross, the other holding his pastoral staff, dressed in full gear, cope and mitre. If the photographer had asked him to look pompous it would have been very successful, but I bet he didn’t. 

I don’t want to go into the semiotics of it, but this picture conveys a lot of meanings that Stephen probably didn’t intend. We’ll leave aside the facial expression, but why have you dressed up at all? Cope and mitre? It’s fancy dress as far as the readers are concerned. And don’t say it’s not grand because it’s a modern design of cope, in a simple dupion fabric with a manufactured orphrey, because it has still cost hundreds of pounds, and is designed to attract attention. Underneath the cope, of course, he is wearing a rochet, the odd linen garment that is particular to bishops, and which in the Anglican tradition has very full sleeves, gathered at the cuff. In the eighteenth century these “lawn sleeves” became very exaggerated and can be admired in many episcopal portraits, but they have shrunk in modern times. The gathered cuffs remain, though, and are prominent in Stephen’s picture, generous pie-frills, somehow reminding you of how the young Lady Diana used to dress, a piece of strange historical affectation, looking soft and feminine, but embodying an assertion of historic privilege. 

You also get a mixed message from the pastoral staff, which is very noticeable in the picture. It is, naturally, a “simple” shepherd’s crook, but it’s also a symbol of episcopal authority and jurisdiction, prominently displayed. The simplicity of the design is as weighted an ideological statement as the gothic silver of a medieval example (check out William of Wykeham’s one at New College, Oxford).

Enough, then of his photo. What did Stephen actually say? The interviewer says that Stephen is in no doubt that Jesus would have joined in with Black Lives Matter protests. Really? Have you thought about that? I think we can agree that Jesus would sympathize with the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement, (though not some of their demands) but join a protest? Really? The actual Jesus was quite determinedly apolitical; I find it hard to imagine him on a protest. But then, Stephen is directly quoted: “Jesus was a black man, and he was born into a persecuted group in an occupied country.” No. He. Wasn’t.

I was expecting some sophisticated theological argument to the effect that Jesus embodies all our humanity, and so he is (not was) black as well as white, yellow, brown or whatever. Or perhaps an argument that he is particularly in solidarity with the oppressed of the earth, and so, in that sense he’s black. But, no, it’s a simple statement, which is just demonstrably untrue. Jesus was a Palestinian Jew, that much is certain about him, so he was not a black man. Probably of a darker complexion than he is sometimes portrayed, olive-skinned like many Mediterranean people, and presumably a bit tanned since he spent a lot of time out and about, but none of that makes him black, I’m afraid. And no, he wasn’t born into a persecuted group, either. Yes, Palestine was occupied, but the indigenous population was not persecuted by the Romans. The Romans were not persecuting Jews in Jesus’s lifetime. Palestine was a client state run for them by the privileged Jewish elites. In fact, Jesus was born into a position of racial privilege, because the Jews of his time were rigorous in excluding outsiders, and he was of priestly descent when the priestly class were the dominant power in Jewish society. He could have been part of the class governing the country as Rome’s clients had he so chosen. One of the remarkable things about Jesus is actually the way in which he sides with those who are persecuted or marginalized, the foreigners, the Samaritans, the lepers, the mad, the ritually unclean. He is an insider who chooses to opt for the outsider. I am surprised that the Archbishop seems to have forgotten that.

He has also forgotten when “Jesus of Nazareth” appeared on the television, and is comically distressed when the interviewer points out his mis-remembering. I remember the series (starring Robert Powell) too, and I can date it because I remember discussing it with my first girlfriend, so it was 1977. Stephen seems to have convinced himself he was in his early teens when he saw it, but since he is two years older than me, he was at least eighteen at the time. Why has he never checked on Wikipedia? This is the sort of question archbishops are asked all the time, so I’d have thought it was good to get the details right, for the sake of PR if nothing else.


EVIL STRIKES THE PARISH

Nauseatingly, a teenage boy has been stabbed to death in the parish. At present we don’t know much about it, but it is what we have been dreading for months. The evil of a violent subculture where carrying knives is routine has taken root here. So sad for everyone involved.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

ON THE BLOCK

Let us make it clear; there was no "block party" on Harrow Road last week. Fair enough, it was quite close to the Harrow Road, but it was actually in West Kilburn. The photos that circulated were of the Mozart Estate. So there was no "riot in Maida Vale" as has been reported. It must have been really horrible to be near it, though my colleague who lives there heard nothing except the helicopter. Still, Harrow Road was a more accurate location than you often hear from the media, as things happening in W10 are usually said to be in Ladbroke Grove or North Kensington, I have to say that when it was very hot you did have the feeling that people were becoming fairly oblivious to the consequences of their actions, particularly after having been confined to their homes for the best part of three months.

Our ability to sleep on the hot nights last week was not improved by the seemingly constant presence of the police helicopter. One night Colville Gardens, the next night Mozart, and then events you never heard about. I can't help wondering how much that costs, and whether drones might not be more efficient. Perhaps you can't fly drones after dark, but the summer evenings are long, and I have been told that helicopters are fantastically expensive to run. It does sometimes seem that the Met use the helicopter, like police horses, as a means of intimidation, but I'm afraid I don't think it works, as it seems to encourage kids to imagine that they're in a video game.

Our joy is unconfined at the news that we are to be allowed to worship more or less normally again. We shall be humming rather than singing, and the peace will be a nod rather than a handshake, but it will be so good to have the congregation back in church. Now I am busily writing protocols and thinking up ways round hazards, while one of my people bravely produces a risk assessment for every fantastically unlikely eventuality.

I have booked a haircut. Ludicrously expensive, but they will earn their money! 

Monday, 1 June 2020

WHERE DID EASTERTIDE GO?



INADVERTENT POLYCHROMY

St Mary Magdalene’s is a famous example of “structural polychromy”, the art of making buildings colourful by the materials you use, in our case red brick and creamy Bath stone. Yesterday on a walk I discovered a striking example of inadvertent structural polychromy, at Holy Trinity, Brompton Road. This famous church is not a particularly distinguished building, a Commissioners’ church of 1826-9, built in Suffolk brick, which was originally off-white in colour. It was extended to the east by Blomfield in 1879-82, and had a south-west porch added in 1913, and a north-west porch and chapel in 1920-24, and finally a new northern entrance in the last twenty years. When each of these extensions were built, the original building will have been blackened by pollution, and I imagine that the successive architects will have assumed that their additions would tone in, to form part of a coherent whole, but the church has recently been ruthlessly cleaned, and now presents a very odd appearance indeed, because it is a patchwork of different bricks. The nave is the original Suffolk bricks, pale grey after cleaning, but Blomfield’s chancel is pink, and then the two western extensions are bright yellow, while the modern porch is dark brown, which no doubt seemed like a good idea when the rest of the church was dirty, but looks foolish now. I suppose it’s nice for the architectural historian to be able to see the various stages of building laid out like this, but it is hardly aesthetic.


LOCKDOWN

We introverts have rather enjoyed lockdown; it was very strange, but once one established a routine, it wasn’t too bad. I said my prayers and said Mass every day, and read and wrote, and prepared services and sent stuff out to the parishioners, material to help them with prayer and their spiritual lives. There have been funerals to prepare and take, but not the feared  avalanche. It all seemed as though one was actually being liberated to concentrate on the most important parts of one’s ministry. I was terrified by the idea of live-streaming at first, but it became enjoyable. I even filmed myself reading “The Dream of the Rood” as a special Passiontide treat. And, astonishingly, people actually enjoyed it. The challenge now will be to find a way of continuing to live-stream after we resume normal worship. The best period of lockdown was when everyone was paralysed, and there were no meetings going on, but that didn’t last. I was amused to find that I was more familiar with Zoom, thanks to clergy colleagues, than some of my secular co-workers. The thing that has been difficult to understand is why we all feel so tired, when it seems that we are doing less. Perhaps we aren’t in fact doing less, just fewer peripheral things. I also made time during lockdown for getting out on the bike regularly, and I decided that in the absence of real sport I would relive the last two years, so I have been reading the bike race reports from the appropriate day. We’re still in the latter stages of last year’s Giro d’Italia, but Froomey has already won the 2018 edition.  It doesn’t help me forget that I was meant to have spent a few days in Rimini a couple of weeks ago watching this year’s Giro, but reminds me why I love the sport.


LEADERSHIP

Of course, the most striking feature of lockdown for us in the trade has been the Church of England’s failure of leadership. It is quite clear that Cardinal Vincent Nicholls is now the spokesman for English Christianity. The government task force on reopening places of worship came about after the Cardinal’s pressure, and this weekend the Cardinal has publicised his frustration at its work being thwarted by government or civil service. From the Church of England bishops we have heard nothing. In fact, neither the Church of England centrally, not the Diocese of London, chose to inform the clergy that the task force even existed. The bishops caused us great pain by banning us from streaming from our churches for no coherent reason, and personally I can testify to how worthless that made me feel when I had imagined that I had been doing something that was worthwhile in the service of the Gospel. In Holy Week that was a significant psychological burden to have to carry, and it was not how we might have expected our bishops to treat us. The bishops have chosen to act as autocrats and order their clergy to act in particular ways, which is in fact unlawful, but what is really bizarre is the silence that has prevailed over resuming worship. It appears that our bishops do not actually regard worship as important, or the spiritual health of the nation as any concern of theirs. It will be difficult for trust to be regained.  

Thursday, 23 April 2020

AFTER THE TRIDUUM

Triduum

As it turned out, the Triduum went pretty well in my dining room. We didn't do anything that involved movement, other than carrying the paschal candle from one side of the altar to the other, and bringing forward the crucifix, which really could not be avoided. On Maundy Thursday there was obviously no footwashing (it's optional anyway) but nor did we receive the newly consecrated oils, because we had no newly-consecrated oils, as bishops hadn't consecrated them. Nor did we have a procession of the Sacrament at the end, as we do not have an aumbry in the dining room (or permission from the Bishop to reserve the Sacrament in the vicarage). Nor did we strip the altar (which is deprecated in the modern rite, anyway) as the effect would be very limited at that camera angle. On Good Friday I did not prostrate myself before the altar; the effect would have been very comical, but there wasn't enough room anyway.  Obviously only I venerated the cross (though since Fiona is the congregation I cannot think that any new cross-contamination would have occurred that hasn't occurred already, but such are the rules). We did not receive Communion, as we could not reserve the Sacrament there overnight. Instead I preached, which I would not normally do. Then on Holy Saturday we did the Vigil in the traditional way, but simply kindling the new fire, not making a bonfire, and not actually going anywhere. I at least got to sit down for the readings, which was a mercy. Poor Fiona had to listen to me singing the Exsultet, which was a final penitential observance for her before the Easter joy. In fact I sang quite a bit on Saturday night, most of it not quite as badly as that. Lesley had picked some dwarf daffodils from her garden which we used to decorate the altar, having picked them up from her doorstep (I was passing, it wasn't a special journey).

The dark red walls of the dining room worked quite well for Passiontide, but I had to make some sort of  change for Easter, so we brought back from the sacristy the painting of Mary Magdalene meeting the risen Lord outside the tomb. This fits neatly into the space between the bookcases in the dining room, and is a good size for visibility. My friend John painted this as a gift for the church a few years ago, after we had let him have an exhibition of his pictures in the Undercroft, and it is a re-imagining of Rembrandt's painting of the subject (which is in the royal collection) but rather in the style of Van Gogh, who John much admires. In the background, the view of the skyline of Jerusalem includes the profile of St Mary Magdalene's, which is nice.


Blessed are the Cheesemakers

We seem to get lots of fancy cheese in the Felix Project deliveries at the moment, so I have just turned cheesemonger, and cut up a six-pound semi-hard cheese into family-size portions. This was a Witheridge cheese, very fine. Soft cheeses are more difficult to parcel out, and you have to look for big families, or people who just like cheese a lot. The cheese packed for supermarkets usually comes to us at the end of its life, but sometimes the whole cheeses for catering have more life in them, which is a real joy for some of our people. We had a couple of officials from Kensington and Chelsea Council visit us today, as we are feeding people from their territory, so Jacqui was negotiating to get the use of a building in Ladbroke Grove, so that we can distribute food from there as well, to prevent their people coming over here, because at the moment we seem almost to be attracting custom, which is not the idea at all.


On the Road

I was shouted at on my bike the other day, as I didn't stop at a zebra crossing, but what had happened was that I had made eye contact with the person who was actually going to cross, and so we understood what we were doing and both proceeded perfectly safely.  The observer at the roadside just saw me failing to stop and so shouted self-righteously. Never mind. I was hooted by a van when I was passing a group of cyclists (a family, I have to assume) presumably because he thought I was part of a big group, or possibly just because I had to go quite wide to get round them. No problem. Why exactly was he on the road? I was getting my exercise.

The Harrow Road is not a lot less busy than normal, with long queues outside Co-Op and Iceland, not terribly well distanced, and making the pavement rather congested. Most of the shops seem to be open. Some of the usual drunks are still around. People are parked just as randomly as ever.

The drugs industry seems to be continuing to operate, as the couriers on their mopeds continue to come and go. One had taken to parking his moped on my forecourt, so I have started to close the gates; We are content to allow parking for Grand Junction, and occasionally let other residents park, but I'm not inclined to support this particular enterprise.    

One of the more curious parked vehicles is outside Lord's Cricket Ground, on a loading bay. This is a medium-sized dark green horsebox, which has been there for three weeks or so. I observed a couple of parking wardens on St John's Wood Road today, so perhaps they may have booked it.


St George's Day

Happy St George's Day, especially to all Syrians and Palestinians, whose patron he is too. We use a prayer calendar provided by USPG (Anglican mission agency) and find that it marks extraordinarily obscure secular observances. We had Earth Day, and a day for people with autism, and any number of observances to do with slavery, but we find that St George's Day is not marked. Curious. Anyway, we commemorated him at Mass today, and I shall be ringing the bell this evening and will think of the soldier-martyr as I do.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

PASCHAL FULL MOON

We'll Meet Again

As Her Majesty said on Sunday, we will meet again. Her generation display remarkable stoicism, as witness my hundred-year-old aunt. We received our first delivery of mail for a fortnight yesterday, and on top of the pile was an Easter card from Aunt June. I suspect that this may be the only one we shall receive, from the only centenarian I know. Extraordinary that she is sufficiently organised to have bought Easter cards and sent them to her dozy nephews. She included a note apologising for not having had us over for lunch, but she had had a couple of problems, "AND NOW THIS!" So, hats off to Aunt June, and her generation.


Chapeau

And hats off as well to the caterers ("chapeau" is what bike racers say). I had worried that our efforts to feed people would be starved of supplies, but I was wrong. Last week the Felix Project asked if we could take more than usual, and when the delivery arrived it was full  of useful stuff, like ready meals and roasting chickens. Much of this came from the restaurant empire of Richard Caring, so our clients were eating The Ivy's famous shepherd's pie (complete with beautifully-piped potato on top), and chili from Sexy Fish (in Berkeley Square) and pea and watercress soup from Bill's. The chickens, and kale and asparagus, were not branded, but I suspect they had come from Caring's suppliers, as they seemed very good quality. There was also a mountain of little chocolate things from "Deliciously Ella". I see that Richard Caring has a charitable foundation, and clearly he is keeping some of his catering staff busy with producing these excellent ready meals for charitable purposes in this crisis, which seems to me to be a brilliant example for people to follow. I notice that Urban Caprice, the outside catering arm of Le Caprice, are working in their kitchen (just round the corner) again, so I imagine they are part of the effort, because they too are part of his empire. So, credit where it's due. It is very pleasing to think of some of our vulnerable, troubled, and damaged denizens of the Harrow Road dining on The Ivy shepherd's pie.


No More Rebellion

I have bowed the knee. We have been specifically instructed by the Bishop of London not to stream from church, as apparently some people have interpreted that as encouraging people to want to be in church, and to travel in spite of regulations. It is said that some people are using the streaming of services as an argument that churches should be reopened. We are accused of cynically ignoring the archbishops' guidelines or of pushing their boundaries, which doesn't seem entirely fair. I don't think anyone is acting cynically in this, but I do think the leadership of the Church of England have a very inflated idea of how much notice everybody else pays to what we do. So, I am currently trying to make my dining room look as churchy as possible (which does involve moving a lot of bottles). Ironically, while the conservation works were going on in church, and the whole building was technically a building site, most of the more fragile contents of the building migrated to my house, and most of them were in the dining room, but it didn't look like a church, more like an antique shop. So yesterday's Mass came from the Vicarage, and I am now working out how to do the Triduum Sacrum without moving from one spot so as to remain in camera shot.


Resurrection

When we came across from church with arms full of the necessities for the service yesterday teatime we were astonished to find a parakeet lying on its back in our drive. The more astonished since we had only been in church for about three minutes, and it hadn't been there when we set out. It looked dead, but we noticed its little chest was heaving, so we assumed it was mortally injured. "Poor thing," we both said, and left it. It made no reaction to our presence. I did another journey back and forth, with vestments, and though it was still alive, I thought its chest was moving more weakly, and its eyes were shut. About ten minutes later, Fiona came with me to get a last load of stuff, and as she came out of the front door the parakeet suddenly rolled over and flew away.

This was immensely cheering, because it was horrible to see a beautiful creature apparently dying outside your own front door, but it was also utterly mystifying. I think it had probably flown into our bathroom window, fooled by reflections, and been stunned, though how it came to fall where it did, in the middle of the drive, rather than on the flat roof under the window, I can't fathom. The added strangeness is that we hardly ever see parakeets on the Green, despite their being very common in the Park and elsewhere locally. If it had remained (apparently unconscious) on the drive much longer it would surely have been found either by the crows who have taken up residence on the Green, or by Bad Cat (Casimir's enemy) and I wouldn't have fancied its chances, but perhaps our comings and goings kept other things away, so it had time to recover, which it emphatically did. After that it seemed right to go out and admire the Paschal full moon later on.    


Monday, 30 March 2020

INTO THE STRANGE LAND

Pigeons

Last time, I reported the escalation in the pigeon war, but not the detail. My notice asking people not to feed the pigeons had been annotated, "Would you feel the same if this said, 'Please do not feed the homeless'?" and "One love", "Please feed everyone". Perhaps the author was not aware that we do feed the homeless? Or perhaps he was, and genuinely feels that there is no moral difference between pigeons and people? Certainly, it would be disgusting if language about vermin were applied to human beings, the homeless for instance, because all human beings are of intrinsic moral worth, but it is simply nonsense to pretend that there is a moral equivalence between pigeons and people. One love? What does that mean? I know it was a song, years ago (Bob Marley?) but what's it supposed to mean in this context? There was also a long disquisition on a laminated sheet, which referred to pinning and stapling things to trees as evidence of my contempt for nature, so that was attached to the tree by a large strap, which also secured a stuffed Minion to the treetrunk, a cruel and unusual punishment, in my view. I'm glad to say that someone else removed all that, and we seem to have reached a truce. After all, going out to feed the pigeons would be an unnecessary journey.

Meanwhile, Morgan Sindall continue to occupy parking spaces, but lots of people seem to think that parking regulations have become advisory for the duration. I don't think the Council has that view.


A Strange Land

I hope we didn't all catch the virus in those first few days when the supermarkets were packed with people buying loo paper. I was baffled by the sudden emptiness of the fresh vegetable shelves; how can you stockpile broccoli? The trouble was that it was all a bit wild west, and it was impossible to keep your distance, and the supermarkets seemed to have no mechanism for imposing order. Now it's all a bit better, but it can still be confusing; I encountered a queue outside Tesco at the weekend that appeared longer than it was because of a woman waiting for her husband to come out of the shop, and a beggar, both hanging around the line. Interestingly, most of the beggars have vanished, though there is often still one in front of the cash machine at the Chippenham.

Having a wife who used to be a ballet dancer has its moments. Fiona has discovered that Tamara Rojo, the director of English National Ballet, has started to live-stream company class (that's the session that all the dancers in the company do before they go off to their various rehearsals). This started with a number of dancers in a proper ballet studio, but now we are down to Tamara on her own in her kitchen. The first morning, I remarked that it did have the look of a kitchen where all the clutter had just been hidden away, not one that was naturally clinical. Fiona wondered whether Tamara had deliberately had the worktops fitted precisely at barre height, as ours are not quite the right height. Still, she found that you can hang onto the edge of the sink quite effectively, but it's a good thing we haven't got one of those trendy island units, as you could never do class then. 

At St Peter's, we continue to try to feed people. No more sit-down meals, though the first time we tried to do that some of the regulars got in via the side door. The problem is that our clientele are not always easily impressed by rational argument, and the desire of some of them to be helpful can be overwhelming. So, we have had to be strict. Food banks are encouraged to continue, and that's what we have become. We are still getting deliveries from the Felix Project, and are parcelling food up and giving it out. If people have to line up they have to do so outside, two arms' lengths apart, and we're delivering some meals to people. At first I feared that Felix would have nothing, since they distribute stuff that the supermarkets can't sell, and as panic-buying was emptying the supermarkets I was afraid that would mean we would get nothing, but deliveries have continued, if a little eccentrically. Quail, anyone?

So now I have a You Tube channel (do subscribe). With the very considerable assistance of a Lunch Club volunteer I discovered how easy it is to live-stream. I was fussed about getting a decent webcam and so hurtled over to John Lewis (when you still could) only to discover that they had sold out, including online. Enquiries revealed that there seemed to be none to be had anywhere in the south of England. A very kind friend then retrieved her webcam from her mother and sent it to me by post (which was being delivered then) but by the time it arrived I had already done it once using the camera and microphone built into my laptop, and found the results acceptable. After all, who wants to see me in HD? Having got it to work once means that my fear of the technology is a strong disincentive from changing anything now, though I'm sure it can be improved. We shall see. Someone else asked me how to do it, and I had to admit that I couldn't explain because it was really very easy and I didn't remember what I clicked and when. That doesn't stop me doing things wrong, and yesterday we lost transmission halfway through Mass, which wasn't my fault (as far as I know). But, technical glitches aside, we are successfully broadcasting a Sunday Mass, and other services as well, and the feedback is tremendous. I am moved and heartened by the messages that I am receiving back, and I have to say that this is the most positive feedback I've ever received in more than thirty years of ministry. Being able to use the beauty and resources of St Mary Magdalene's is a great benefit in this. It's not the same as normal Sunday worship, because we have no music, and I can't move about, and it's only me with Fiona answering, but we can offer spiritual resources, and an experience of worship that people can share. We even managed to do Stations of the Cross, with me carrying an iPad around the church, which was jolly hard work, and a bit wobbly, but worked. The only cloud on the horizon is that the Archbishops think that this is a bad thing, and that we should only be streaming from our homes. My own inner turmoil when receiving that pronouncement was acute, as I am not a natural rebel, but I am quite clear that my going into church to do this can do no harm, while the good that the services are doing is immense (and much greater than if they came from my dining room). So, yesterday (like many others) I rebelled, for the sake of my people's spiritual lives.