Friday, July 16, 2010

Learning to Live in England, Part 14

Not a great deal to report, although there have been some highlights.  We've mostly just been enjoying being here.  We are never bored!  Our little flat is so darling and so bright that I actually enjoy keeping it sparkling.  It only takes, on average, an hour a day to do the cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

On Friday (July 9) we went into Southport again, that lovely town the brochure calls a Victorian seaside resort, which about sums it up.  We had intended to go to the art festival, but never found it.  Never mind; we had a great time poking around in various shops.  (No, didn't buy anything).  Afterward we went to the Nostalgia Tearoom, where waitresses in black dresses with white ruffled caps and aprons serve a traditional tea, sandwiches and scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

Saturday night we attended a play at the Civic Center, in the spirit of trying to support our community.  It was set in Liverpool, making it of double interest to us.  The drama club, it turns out, is in the neighboring town of Skelmersdale; hence, most of the audience (family and friends of the cast and crew, one supposes) were also from Skelmersdale, not from here in Ormskirk.  Nevertheless, the play was better than we had expected it to be, and we are glad we went.

Sunday we went back to St. Nicholas in Liverpool, arriving half an hour before the Divine Liturgy because Demetrios wanted to help sing, and to arrive in time for at least some of Matins.

His voice isn't what it used to be, lacking about half its former power; but it is still as sweet and clear as ever, and yes, it did cause the ladies near me to sit up and take notice.

Elias, the cantor, sent a message to me that he would like me to read a snippet from the fathers just before Communion.  I declined, as it seemed wrong on so many levels.  If there is to be such a reading, it should be done by someone other than a stranger and a foreigner, it seems to me.  And then there's the question of whether it would be controversial for a woman to read.  Last thing I need is to be the focus of controversy.  Lastly, I wasn't sure just when I was to read it.

We went to the coffee hour afterwards.  There was a long table set up in the narthex where a family was serving koliva in honor of the anniversary of some loved one's death.  In Richmond, they serve it in a plastic cup with a spoon.  Here, they hand you a packet in plastic wrap, done up with a slice or two of bread.  Presumably you eat it at home? 

Off the narthex is a function room, where coffee and juice and sandwiches and cake are served.  We went in there and dontated a couple of pounds and helped ourselves.  Elias came up to chat with us.  He said the reason he had wanted that reading was that there is no sermon.  The priest, he says, can't preach.  Well, give him credit for not trying, I say!  If you can't preach, have the humility to recognize that and not inflict your efforts upon the congregation. 

And yes, I found out it is controversial here for a female to read.  A girl of about 12 read the Creed in English, and I mean in the Queen's English, too, not in Scouse.  It was beautifully done, with great reverence and perfect clarity.  But Elias says some people have come to him and said, tell her not to read.  He replies, no, he will tell her to keep reading.  Okay, here's where the weaker brother principle comes in.  Don't eat meat if it offends your brother (or sister) and don't read, either, if it offends them.

So usually, when Demetrios sings somewhere for the first time, there are thank-yous and sometimes even compliments about his beautiful voice, but there weren't any this time.  I'm sure he will keep singing anyway, whenever his voice permits. 

On our way out, we had to squeeze past the priest, who was standing near the door chatting with two women.  So then he had to speak.  Not to me, but at least to Demetrios.  What did he say?  'You didn't tell us you could sing!'  Demetrios smiled and said something about how he had learned as a child.  Then I stuck out my hand, so the priest had to put out his, which I took in mine and then kissed.  Then we departed.

Elias drove us home.  Demetrios, in the back seat with Elias' son Alex and friend Zisis, carried on a conversation with them, while in the front seat, Elias and I compared notes about people we know in the Orthodox world.  Elias wants to take us to northern Wales, where his spiritual father is, Fr. Daniel.  Northern Wales, Elias says, is very beautiful, but the greatest beauty there is Fr. Daniel.  He proposes August 28 for the journey, which is Dormition on the Old Calendar.  We'll try to firm that up next week, to be sure someone else can sing at St. Nicholas that day.

Also, Elias wants to take us to his house, in a village very near Ormskirk, next Sunday after church.  He and his wife are giving a graduation party for their daughter, who is completing high school.  We shall look forward to it and to meeting more Orthodox people.

Elias is the kind of person you're so happy to meet that it brings tears to your eyes.


GretchenJoanna said...

How lovely that Elias is there. I will look forward to hearing about Wales and your other adventures to come.

Bb said...

I hope you'll forgive me, a stranger, for bombarding your blog with comments like this. You've no idea how delighted I am to find another Orthodox blogger who is reasonably local to me. I occasionally go up to Scarisbrick, near where you live, to the church suppliers there (Ormsby's), and I have an uncle who lives a ten-minute walk from the church you visited in Leyland. I go through Liverpool every Sunday on my way to church.

Perhaps one day our paths will cross.

Seeing as you're in the northwest, two things I would not be able to forgive myself for not telling you about are:
a) the annual pan-Orthodox pilgrimage to St Bertram's tomb and well in Ilam, which is usually on the first Saturday in August and this year will be Saturday, the 7th of August
b) the annual pan-Orthodox pilgrimage to St Winefride's well, which is usually the first Saturday in October. (Please forgive the broken photographs. The website stopped working over the past week so I have linked to the archived version.)

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Michael, I'm delighted to welcome you to my blog and certainly hope to mett you.

Where do you go to church?

Thanks for the info!

Bb said...

Thank you, Anastasia. :-)

All of the Orthodox around these parts seem to know one another. There are sufficielty few of us for that to be the case, so I'm sure we'll meet very soon.

My parish is here. There's aren't very many of us but we do what we can. :-) If ever you want to pop your head round the door, you'd be very welcome.