Monday, May 29, 2006

Pitchpoleing /Pitchpolling?

Old friends came round for supper on Saturday - we were all to have gone to a concert with delightful friend over from the USA but she couldn't make it alas. Interesting discussion about the appeal of the Da Vinci Code - one of our friends had seen the movie which was awful but gripping. I speculated that people want an excuse not to believe Christianity. An interesting poll though shows that only 5% of respondents "believe the book to be basically true" and this is the same whether or not they have read it, (readers are more likely than non-readers to think there is some truth/partially based on historic truth) and that 51% don't believe the Catholic Church is covering up the truth about Jesus, though there are rather more "yeses" than "don't knows" amongst those who have read it than not.

On Sunday daughter and I went sailing - she had a party in London so C and I went out for supper (amazing how much there is to talk about even though we see eachother most of the day every day!). Manged to catch Evensong at St Martins in the Fields - the first service I have been to there. Choir all robed in red since it is a royal chuch - I think Buckingham Palace is in the parish!

Monday sailing again - we set off on a longish expedition and my daughter helmed brilliantly but the wind got up, she asked me to helm, a squall hit us and we pitchpoled and capsized! We made one mistake in righting the boat (forgot to hold the bows down first to point her into the wind, so she sailed off with the mainsail on the shrouds) and it was v tricky getting back in. A cabin cruiser offered to help but were ineffectual, however they did call the Coastguard so although we did get on the boat and were ready to sail her in to the nearest refuge, the lifeboat took us off and got us warm quicker. After lunch we sailed back also in squally conditions but with a reef in. V good experience, both as practice (capsize drills with an instructor are not the same) but also a lesson in humility. Apparently 3 other similar boats at a club full of experienced sailors of them were blown in by the same squall.

There is an agonising moment when you pitchpole when you see that you will go over, you are still 'in control' but there is nothing you can do to prevent it. I wonder if UK politics is becoming a bit like this. To quote a seasoned commentator: "It won't really matter if Tony Blair does the decent thing and stands down in favour of Gordon Brown, because a sea change is creeping up on Westminster. It feels like 1979, or 1997, when the people decided they had had enough of this lot and want the other lot. There doesn't have to be any rhyme or reason about it. Merely a mood change. Blair was yesterday's mood. If the government is finished, as I believe it is..." This is the Daily Mirror!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

et Ascendit

Another v encouraging sermon from Fr Martin - comparing the 2 Lucan accounts of the Ascension to a colour and a B&W photo, and comparing it to the Exodus of Moses and the taking up of Elijah. He points out that, whereas the Gospel is the story of Jesus journey to Jerusalem (earthly and then heavenly) Acts is the story of the Gospel's journey from Jerusalem to the world in general and Rome in particular, inspired by Jesus through the spirit. It's not "look busy, Jesus is coming" but "be calm, Jesus is here."

Very much enjoying reading Charles' book but I do think his rejection of creeds and the historical truth of the Bible is overblown. To say that "it is silly ... to take literally stories that were not written down until decades after the event." shows, I think, how weak the ground is. In an oral culture people remember things. One should also respect the integrity of the genre and the writers. But someone who hung out with all the Bishops in the 80s and lived in St George's Windsor Castle would be likely to have a very 'liberal' and non-dogmatic view.

The Ascension is often remarked on as a case in point where "it cannot have happened literally" but there seems no reason why not. Jesus clearly needed to show the disciples that His appearences on earth were at an end, and what better way? A cloud covering him is the classic biblical signal for being in the presence of God. To believe in the resurrection and not in the ascension seems to me to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. And if you don't believe in the resurrection ... well!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Voysey Inheritance and Charles Handy

On Monday went to The Voysey Inheritance at the National Theatre with a friend who works for a large Investment Management company. Since the play, written in 1906 , is about fraud in investment management it is remarkable topical in the light of Enron. However for all the magnificent sets and excellent performances, I don't think the play quite works, because you don't really care about the characters. It's also very long by modern standards - could perhaps be cut by 15 mins. It seem an anachronism when a character refers to Picasso as a great artist but P was born in 1881 and by 1906 was a known enfant terrible.

I bought Charles' book Myself and Other More Important Matters and am reading it avidly. Full of interesting apercus - eg "schools, at every level, prefer to teach what can be taught, rather than what needs to be learned." Fundamentally, as in so many other fields, business is about people.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

v encouraging first sermon - and super opera

First sermon from Fr Martin was very encouraging. Text was John 15:9-17 where Jesus says "I have called you friends" (philoi) and Fr Martin talked about the extent to which we are called to intimate friendship with God: reformulating the relationship that the Church members should have with their Master and with one another. "Love of God is a gift from God and an offer from God - we are called to be God's trusted friends - a friendship we reject every time we do not show love to a fellow-Christian. All these 'awkward' people are called by God." Church nice and full and a very positive 'buzz'

Went this evening to a delightful performance of Barber of Seville by Opera East in which a friend is singing. The playing, voices and comedy are all fresh, all the roles are well sung and acted, and the translation (by a distinguished translator who died in 2004) really zingy. I thinkk I have seen this once before, in Italian, and I had not realised just how creepy Basilio's aria about how you start a rumour (La Calumnia) to try to destroy someone's reputation is. But of course these plots are nullified, and it ends with happiness all round - for the time being. "We'll leave the rest to Mozart"

Enron/Dawkins, Christianity/China, Political delusion

Went to Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Gripping stuff, should be compulsory viewing for people working in finance, investment, consultnacy or business. We had a major inkling that something was wrong with Enron when a business acquaintance, who had joined them into a highly prestigious role from a major bank, quit after a year. We asked why, and she said that she had been to a performance review meeting where everyone rated one person highly except the MD who didn't like him so gave him a low rating so that he would be fired. When she said "I don't think that's legal" the attitude was "who cares" Jeff Skilling, the CEO, was a great admirer of Richard Dawkins and "The Selfish Gene" Bad thoughts lead to evil actions.

I see that there is a new-ish Centre for the Study of Christianity in China set up in Oxford. An excellent cause. 60-70M Chinese Christians and growing rapidly. "many in the Party also see much merit in religion. They are intrigued by the capacity of Christianity, in particular, to furnish a practical morality that is beneficial to a society in flux, and provide a foundation for “modernisation” of the kind that has made the US and Western Europe rich and strong."

Extraordinary interview with David Blunkett in the FT Magazine in which he suggests that Blair and Brown are two of the pre-eminent global statesmen, right up there with Clinton, Mandela and Gorbachev. These people are quite, quite mad!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sondheim & Wright

Back from Sundays in the Park with George - an excellent production of a remarkable musical. Went with two friends who are passionate painters (though his day job is Hedge Funds). It's very eloquent about the challenges of orginality, art, the need to innovate, the difficulty of connecting. Sadly the performers are over-amplified and ideally the first act would be cut by 15 mins - but you can't cut Sondheim!

Tom Wright's John for Everyone continues to delight. He must be right to translate judaeoi as Judeans rather than Jews for Jesus' opponents, obviously Jesus and his Disciples were Jews too. He also points out, which I had stupidly missed, that when Jesus' opponents said (John 7:52) "heureneeson kai ide hoti ek tees Galiliaias propheetees ouk egeiretai" (which Tom translates as "check it out and see! No prophet ever rises up from Galilee" though REB has "the Prophet does not come from...") in fact Jonah and Hosea both did come from Galiliee, and that both are associated with resurrection, as John reminds us with his use of egeiretai.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fr Martin's induction

Induction of Fr Martin a delight. V full church, trumpeter, many friends of Fr Martin incl one who knew Fr David (our brilliant murdered ex-Vicar before Gavin) and two who knew my daughter from Cambridge. Fr Martin and Chrissie both seem delightful, Bp Michael in good form and new Archdeacon Stephan. Heard lovely story about ABp John Sentamu who had all the York Diocese Churchwardens to the Minster for a communal visitation, and at the end asked them if they thought it was a good idea ... quiet yes from one lady, murmers from the rest - so shall we do it again next year? Yes from all... but next year we'll have a PARTY! YES! from all. 1000 enthused Churchwardens!

Hope that similar enthusiasm comes into play at St Andrew's.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

New Ecclesiatical Beginnings

Just back from St Paul's Cathedral where Bp Richard inducted Stephan Welch and Rachel Treweek as Archdeacons of Middlesex and Northolt respectively. I knew Stephan reasonably well from the years I served on the Deanery Standing Committee. Rev Canon Lucy Winkett preached a fine sermon on the importance of the physical message that churches send to those on the outside. "the vision of the built environment is a public statement of what happens inside" She also pointed out that Chaucer dreamed of a temple made of glass with metal pillars in the 14th C and this is the predominant building style in the late 20thC. I was able to congratulate Stephan and Ven Rachel and Canon Lucy - Canon Lucy shares my belief in open churches - our wonderful murdered vicar Fr David believed in keeping the church open all the time as far as possible, and hundreds of people came and used it for prayer and contemplation. Naturally Gavin shut it.

On Weds we will have the Licencing of Fr Martin who looks very nice and wise. Hopefully in time he will want to have an open Church. Fr Donald Easton preached an excellent sermon this morning about the importance of being a loving community and not having petty quarrels. I hope it sinks in.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Hay Fever, St John, Ruckert

Eventful few days. Went to Hay Fever on Weds and Dame Judi kindly invited us back to her dressing room for champagne and a chat. On Thurs it was grandson's birthday so I went up to Cambridge to see them, took them punting and then dined on High Table with the Master and one of the new Fellows. On Friday daughter and her delightful boyfriend were here for supper. Saturday I had a 2 hour piano lesson with my wonderful new teacher: Schubert and Mahler Lieder, all settings of Ruckert, v v interesting and difficult for me, but learned a great deal. Ruckert must have been a remarkable man. I thought he was second only to Goethe in terms of the number of settings of his poems by composers (121) but Heine (226) and Rilke (134) are ahead of him though Schiller (65).

Have started reading Tom Wright's superb John for Everyone. In the Wedding at Cana he translates tis emoi kai etoi - normally "what have I to do with thee?" as "what is that to you and me?". This was the gospel I was asked to read at my son's wedding so I made a translation and learned it, though I did have a crib sheet to hand just in case.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Woken up at last?

Well it seems possible that the electorate has woken up at last. The latest Times and Telegraph polls are broadly in line with the local election results in terms of Conservative support (38% vs 40%) although the moving average at present has Conservatives just 4% ahead. It's not that Conservative support has increased much (they were at 38% in Jan) but Labour support has collapsed. And at the moment the national mood seems clear. As the former PLP Chairman Clive Soley put it at the PLP meeting: "“If you don’t sort it out there will be a stable and orderly transfer of power, but from a Labour to a Tory government.” The Times goes on to record:"Mr Blair used his customary technique of making eye contact with every questioner, however critical, but failed to mollify them. Mr Brown stared downwards in brooding silence; other than Mr Blair, only backbenchers spoke.... John Prescott listened with the expression, according to one MP, of a bulldog chewing a wasp."

Meanwhile this incredible botched reshuffle gets even more farcical. No business could survive such mindless shakeups. The whole Jack Straw thing is a bad joke. Not only does Beckett have almost no relevant experience: humiliating someone and making them leader of the house of commons is almost kamikase tactics. It shows that Blair continues to regard the House as irrelevant - it is not. And "Downing Street was also forced to announce emergency changes to the ministerial line-up after it emerged that Mr Blair had given jobs in two different departments to the same junior minister in the Lords, Lady Ashton."

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Old Country - national mood then and now

Went last night with a delightful US friend to The Old Country - a play by Alan Bennet about a traitor (c/f Kim Philby) living in Russia. It was a brilliant performance, esp by Timothy West. I was delighted that my guess as to when it was written (1976) turned out to be spot on. The national mood was still one of managed decline. Also very pleased to see Bp Richard Chartres in the audience (wearing a matching tie to Timothy West - Garrick!) and we chatted briefly in the interval. Nice dinner discussion with our friend afterwards - coined new (?) latin tag transiunt sacerdotes manet ecclesia

Local MP was at the Tube Station urging people to vote Tory and indeed Labour have received a well-deserved drubbing in the Local Elections. But it looks like another badly botched re-shuffle: moving Straw to Leader of the House - well we all knew that Hoon would be a disaster but (a) Straw has an excellent relationship with Condi, (b) changing FSec and Defence Sec when we have troops engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan is dangerous (c) the bolshy Labour MPs and Lib Dems are very anti-war and will mistrust Straw. Well the national mood now is clearly that Labour are on the way out - as even Frank Dobson can see (and say!) this is like shuffling deck-chairs on the Titanic.

The sheer scale of shuffling around (only 8 Cabinet Ministers stay in their jobs, 16 sacked and many deputies are moved) is something no real manager would do.

But it may be 3 more years of misgovernment before we can vote the rascals out.

PS Kate Hoey is being admirably honest on the BBC "What is Prescott being paid for?" "When is the PM going to go?" "Chief Whip departure will be welcomed."