Witterings 2006

Oh no! Here we go again. Lots of good intentions but will it ever get off my computer (or mobile phone in this case – yes you know I’m a gadget freak) and get onto paper, AND… get into print, AND… get into the post/email/blog (at http://www.newcomb.org.uk)?

I have actually tried to write some witterings in the last two years. The one I’m writing is on top of a first draft from last year (started in July would you believe – yes. YOU would).

If I run out of things to say I can always edit what I wrote last year that’s just below & off the screen.

Somewhere there must be a computer program for generating a Christmas letter where all you have to do is fill in a few questions and it will spew out some bardlike composition. Sorry. I haven’t found it yet!

Well you’re wondering what’s different this year that I’ve actually started writing it on time? Well, I have an hour or two spare and I’m sitting in the Gatehouse up in Highgate with a pint of Leffe Blond beside me. And with the sun streaming in through the stained glass windows, all feels well and reasonably relaxed. That’s thanks to everyone else taking the strain I’m afraid. We have our LMC Christmas Party this afternoon which I’ll only be able to attend for a few minutes before I have to rush out and catch the last rehearsal for the Christmas show at the ice rink. Grease (on ice), but for copywrite reasons actually called Summer Loving On Ice – sounds like a cocktail… sounds like a plan!!! It’s all right. I’m not playing Danni. But I AM one of the T Bird gang (despite being about 40 years older than anyone else on the ice). Always wanted to be part of a gang, but never had the leather jacket!

I should otherwise have been at a wedding right now. At last our former resident Greek god, Jonathan, is getting married. Bless him. Would have been nice to celebrate it but I forgot that I had this rehearsal this afternoon.

While I have not been a particularly ‘happy bunny’ this year I have got by with some highlights to brighten up the path. Vivienne is still willing to skate with me despite being dropped on her head a year or two back, breaking a couple of front teeth. But we haven’t done THAT lift again, surprise, surprise. We haven’t won anthing this year but we have been skating in a more advanced group with more difficult compulsories and a longer free dance. With 2.5 minutes to work with Emma (our new coach, and former pupil herself of the lovely Shirelle) created a great programme with a medally of Rhumba and Samba in that order. Having the faster steps later on was quite a boost which I think both Vivienne & I enjoyed every time we reach it. As ever, Maurine and Shirelle came up with fabulous costumes so we were the best dressed couple on the ice again at the British Adult Championship in October, even if we did come last! But it felt good to be in a group that we aspire to be like, even if we’re at the bottom. And if you ever think I’m getting a bit big headed you can always stick on the DVD of the competition to bring me back to earth (actually it’s not TOO bad).

I haven’t had the energy to do much singing, but did get to do the Monteverdi Vespers in July which was absolutely fabulous. Singing does give me a buzz. One of my new colleagues Sharon did the Bernstein Chichester Psalms a month ago, lucky thing. It WAS good.

Sean, Judith, Alan and Jared cheered me up in March when we all went to Venice for 5 days. If you thought Paris was romantic, then you need to go to Venice. But make sure you’ve got your overdraft sorted before you leave and go before the temperature rises and the commensurate odours! It is sooo beautiful. Just like all those Canelettos. Nothing’s changed. I thought I’d be repulsed by all the gold in the San Marco cathedral but it was absolutely fabulous, AND we caught a Sunday evening service with a visiting choir. I’m only sorry that I couldn’t afford to go on the HCS singing trip there 4 years ago and actually get to sing in the place myself.

The same ‘team’ went to Rome in 2005, a trip I’d been looking forward to for a lifetime. Unfortunately we arrived a couple of days before the Pope’s funeral so the Vatican was out of bounds. No matter. I’ve now got an excuse to go back! Ancient Rome was fantastic. Perhaps more impressive than I’d imagined. It also helped to expose the character of Constantine and clarified how and why his presence had helped corrupt the church ever since – but that’s another story. Read Stuart Murray’s Post-Christendom. Judith is a student of the Early Church history so she was a great resource to us all. Just a week earlier (I’ve been reviewing my last unpublished Witterings) I was on an HCS singing tour of Prague which was a great opportunity to see my sister Caroline and David who’ve been living there for more than 15 years. We got to sing the main Sunday service in St Vitus’ Cathedral but didn’t understand a word of the sermon (in Czeck) which apparently was a eulogy on John Paul II who died while we were on the trip.

Work has been ‘challenging’ by which I mean ‘the computers have been driving me crazy’. They seem to have settled down now for a couple of months thanks to some guidance from a friendly neighbour who is a computer consultant. Pity John and his wife Anicka are only here for a year. In amongst all the crazyness, Tim did get our webshop sorted out so we’ve been selling our brand of theological tomes over the internet since June at http://www.metanoiabooks.org.uk (and also at books.ekklesia.co.uk – a mirror site run by friends who host the busiest Christian website in the country).

After doing the world’s first official ISU international skating competition for the elderly and decript (at the beautiful Alpine resort of Obertsdorf) a couple of years ago, Shirelle insisted we start to do a little ballroom to find out what the real thing was about and thus, the theory goes, to help with our ice dance. Unfortunately a couple of quotes from our teacher Peter have been struck out by the editor. On ice, Emma hasn’t yet refined the art of the quotable phrase like Shirelle, despite being on the receiving end for years herself. But anyway, Peter has been wonderful and very helpful – and he doesn’t even shout. One lesson he spent the entire hour trying to reconfigure my face for the judges benefit. While I still have some way to go, the video proves he’s been effective and I actually look as t hough I’m enjoying myself now and again! Learning a Rhumba routine has been a lot of fun. Unfortunately we don’t to it often enough.

Bad sign. I’m just checking what I wrote 6 months ago!

Hey! I’ve forgotten to mention the wedding I went to in September (which resulted in getting into all sorts of trouble since it was only a couple of weeks before our big championships). Young colleagues Tim and Charletta returned to the US after a couple of years and had this wonderful wedding celebration lasting a couple of days. Set at a site next to a lake, the sun came out for the open-air ceremony. We spent the first night singing. Had a great veggie reception followed by a ‘Talent Show’ where I teamed up with their English friend Joel to do a couple of Flanders and Swan songs: The Gasman Cometh and The Song of Patriotic Prejudice. They seemed to enjoy the non-PC flavour! But I thought it not best to do Tom Lehrer’s Masachism Tango which I did at their London celebration before they left. I’ll do that for Vivienne one day (since we’ve spent most of the year working on the Tango on ice). There were about 10 of us Brits there out of a total of 200. I have a few piccies and videos on the web site. The bad part of the 5 day trip was that I started coming down with flu after the talent show and couldn’t face the country dancing. But did spent the next couple of days catching up with all those wondeful people I’ve worked with here in London who all live in the same area 150 miles East of Chicago. I had planned to spend the last day exploring a bit of downtown ‘Windy City’ but felt so awful I slept for 10 hours instead on the floor of the departure lounge in O’Hare airport. Oh it was good to get home and bed!

Oh dear. I never got to tell you about my round the world trip two years ago. Having worked at the LMC for 20 years, they gave me 2 months paid leave as a sabbatical AND a return flight to the US. Having got half the way around the world on the LMC I just had to pay the extra to do the full circuit and include New Zealand (for Chris & Margaret Marshall and John & Lesley Grant) and Aussie (for Sally & Jim Longley and cousins Simon and Jenny up in Brisbane). I spent a month being a volunteer at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Indiana which enabled me to catch up with most of my former colleagues. I then had a couple of weeks to drop in on friends in Vermont, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, and Washington State. A special treat was to meet up again with Jack and Tami George in San Diego. I did my Atlantic crossing with Jack and friends back in 1974. It was such a special trip. Visiting places is great, but visiting friends is the best.

Hope I’ve run out of space! I’ll have to transfer it to the computer and reformat. Thinking of it, I could do with a reformat too.

Love and blessings


Fraser Island, Queensland, 2004

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