Thursday, 22 April 2010

Please vote.

By now if you aren't registered to vote in the UK's forthcoming general election, I'm sorry, it's too late for you to register.

There is a BNP candidate in the constituency where I live. This makes me feel vaguely nauseous. I will be voting, and of course I will not be voting for the BNP.

Otherwise? Life continues apace. This identity and my real name are colliding in some interesting (but I think manageable) ways. My foot is healing, walking is getting easier, the regular therapy for joint issues is going well and soon we will be down to monthly instead of weekly appointments which will be cheaper (I would have had to wait, on the NHS...) and take less of my travel time. I am behind on the gardening, composing, teaching prep, tidying, laundry, study for the Big Project (thank God it has no actual deadlines yet!), chamber music administrative work, general life maintenance paperwork, oh, and that thing all musicians must do, the thing that keeps me what I am, practising. Reading other people's blogs is minimal; commenting is happening even less.

I am having a great time and learning a huge amount but I am not going to catch up.

I haven't heard back from the homeless shelter I sent the volunteering application form to. Psalmody work continues apace, and often of an evening I tell Twitter I'm nearly home before stumbling wearily off the Tube, having been reading, half-asleep and exhausted from teaching, about Reformation politics and vernacular worship or some such thing, and more often than not there is someone begging. And I know I'm not in a position to just invite them into the house where I live, I know I don't have the skills, I don't have the understanding, to be of real help, I'm mentally fragile enough that dealing with someone who has really serious problems might well push me back into mental illness myself; I don't even have the financial resources of my own, given that Sweetie pays my rent! and I don't know whether giving money is the right thing -- it won't treat the mental health problems or drug addiction or whatever else has caused them to slip through the ever-widening cracks in a welfare system that has been comprehensively screwed over by the Tories and then by New Labour -- and I'm horribly, shamefully safe about it, never stopping if I'm alone or there aren't people about or I'm carrying an instrument or I don't have money easily to hand, never pausing for a simple decent conversation with a human being, finding out their side of the story, forming some sort of relationship that isn't based on my relative wealth. I walk that last leg of my journey home wishing I weren't such a coward, and I pray someone else knows what to do and has the courage to do it. And I get home, and tell Twitter I've got home safely, and I fail even to mention those who haven't got a safe home to go to.

Lord, have mercy.

A regular mid-week rehearsal has had to change to another time, and my first thought was "that's going to be really annoying for the group". My second thought, so quickly after the first, was "Now I can get to the mid-week Eucharist at Nearest Church". A said service, no less, not a hymn or a chant in earshot (though in my mind's ear the chanted kadosh, kadosh, kadosh and the blessings for ha-motzi and ha-gafen remain). I didn't expect bread and wine to become such a part of me so quickly -- or rather, I knew the bread and wine would, I didn't know the body and blood would. I am taking great comfort in this sacrament, even though my view of the entire world as sacramental has not changed in any fundamental way.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Keeping on

I had a more relaxed Easter week; some gardening, then at the weekend some spring cleaning with Sweetie and Intrepid Anthropologist. My ankle is better than it was but still a bit complainy; other standard aches and pains are behaving as they usually do.

All that stuff I put off until after Holy Week? I have to do it now. Can't keep putting it off.

I'm away the end of this week and all this weekend. The idea is that after I've settled in I'll spend a day writing music while my host is at work, and then when she comes home we can have some social time.

It will be my first Sunday morning away from Nearest Church since I went to Leafy Suburb Church for All Saints, back at the beginning of November. I'm really looking forward to that. I love the work I do at Nearest Church, but it will be good to see how things look from the west end for a change.

In May I am pulling the same trick one week, going to visit Kathryn for a few days. Again I hope to write some music while she is working; last time I tried this I just sat underneath her cats instead, and if the same happens again it is no disaster.

I'm doing this stuff now because I'm well aware that once Networking Organist leaves I'll need to be ultra-reliable for a time, in order that the choir at Nearest Church get to know me better and get a feel for how I am going to do things.

I keep trying to tell myself I don't want to change too much, but there are some things that absolutely must change, and those are going to be a big shock. We are going to start doing some breathing exercises and vocal warmups at choir rehearsals. We are going to start doing a teensy tiny bit of sight-reading practice. This is going to make some waves, I think, but after people get over it I think it will help.

But it does mean I need to be there, I need to be consistent, I need to be trustworthy. I need to make it clear I am going to push people but that I'm going to be realistic about where we are now.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter Bonnet

Sorry the picture is such poor quality, but that's the best I could do this morning. The flowers have wilted now, the wreath has been removed from the hat and is being used as a garnish for a dessert Intrepid Anthropologist is taking to friends.

People seemed quite surprised despite my having told them I would make and wear an Easter bonnet. I think they didn't quite believe I was serious.

Christ is Risen

and I haven't stopped grinning since.


Friday, 2 April 2010

It's probably about 15 years since I was in church for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, and then they would have been very different.

This is all feeling rather new, at the same time as being rather familiar.

I had been feeling nervous about foot washing last night. I was feeling quite strange about it, not wanting anyone to wash my feet... not because I'm ticklish or embarrassed about my feet, particularly, but because it feels like I should be washing someone else's feet, not the other way around. It feels backwards.

But that's a false dichotomy. Gifts need recipients... we can each give and receive, we can each love and be loved.

How can I relate to the Cross if I can't even let someone else wash my feet? How can I accept that ultimate gift from God if I can't accept Gentle Vicar kneeling with pitcher and towel?

So the time came, and I went with the others and had my feet washed, and it was fine. It still felt backwards, but it was fine.

I loved the silent vigil afterward. So often for me, singing is the way to become aware of God's presence. Silence can be awkward... am I supposed to say something? Do something? Short silences in the liturgy make me feel nervous. They always seem either too long, or not long enough. I get stuck in a cycle of worrying about whether I'm supposed to be ready for the next bit, whether I've forgotten someone, whether I might be doing it wrong. In chant or song I often lose that, lose track of worrying about myself, because my whole self is in the song, takes on the song, becomes the song.

The longer silence in darkness was more like singing. My mind was not exactly quiet. I sat there, sometimes with other people and sometimes not, turning over various problems, asking God to be present to various people in various situations. How can I explain? I don't believe that God is ever not with us. I don't believe God could be there in the chapel of repose last night but not also with me now as I sit in front of my computer. But my perception was different, changed, maybe by the silence and darkness, maybe by the preceding liturgy, and God seemed very present.

I didn't really want to leave.

For this morning's Gospel reading we had a sort of dramatized version, with a narrator and different people taking different spoken parts. I loved that our reader, who is female, was reading the part of Christ. I don't know if anyone else noticed.

I did find it all rather short. I'm not sure if Nearest Church doesn't do the entire liturgy or if I'm still accustomed to the longer services in Judaism, but it seems odd to be out by early afternoon. What am I to do with the rest of the day? It doesn't seem right to treat it as a normal day, getting on with bits and pieces of work and study, or to spend time catching up on housework. It doesn't seem right to treat it as a usual day off, relaxing and resting and reading fiction or cooking fancy food. This day feels as if it should be like Yom Kippur, no participation in any of the 39 melachot, no eating, drinking, washing, wearing leather (a luxury), hours and hours and hours of liturgy. Instead I am at something of a loose end.

And yet there are no "normal" days, just as there is no "ordinary" time... if God is with me at church but also out in the world, God is with me when I pray but also when I go about my work, which is even another sort of prayer, if you will. But I am a creature of liturgy, of habit, of susceptibility to ritual, and setting aside times and places to focus on God helps to increase my awareness of God the rest of the time and in the rest of the places. This day is a set aside time.

So I will go for a walk, I think, and I will go back to Nearest Church and sit in silence a while, again.