Thursday, June 23, 2011

No News is Good News

Thursday, 23 June

Hard to believe June is nearly gone already!  We've been lucky about the weather; it's been drier than last year, sunny most days, but still cold.  There hasn't been a single day I would venture outdoors without a sweater or jacket.  We are enjoying the long hours of night, too, although with the solstice just past, those hours will decline sharply now.

We go to bed when we're tired and get up when we wake up.  We eat when we're hungry and go out when the weather is nice.

Demetrios is hard at work on his book and I've been typing (and debating) it with him.  The debating part is very difficult because for some reason, I become very emotional about it.  I suppose I want it to be so perfect, and am frequently disappointed.  Hard to explain how something so crystal clear in his mind (and indeed, in his writing, once he takes an hour or two to explain it) comes out as gobbledegook to everyone else.  He has drawn some illustrations, though, and written some more, and drawn some diagrams and compiled a glossary of terns, so his meaning ought to be more understandable now.  It's an extremely difficult subject to begin with, which may be why nobody else has done it.

I've been concentrating on the charity knitting, and have finished a darling blanket with matching cap for a girl preemie.  Am having fun planning what to do next. 

We've continued attending the Tuesday night Bible study, although it didn't meet this week, and I'm still enjoying the Knit 'n Natter group at the OPC (Ormskirk Parish Church).

New friends?  Well, we met a very nice Ukrainian woman at church Sunday.  Her name is Valentina, and she's here studying finance at Liverpool, commuting between here and Dublin, where her husband and children are. 

We reconnected with Zisis, the dapper young lad who is taking his master's degree in shipping, who introduced us to his friend, another grad student named Maria.  Zisis has found a job since we last saw him; he works at what he says is the best clothing store in Liverpool.  Meanwhile, he's still looking for something in his own field.

Diana, the lady we met at Liverpool Cathedral, writes that her house is surrounded by scaffolding; new windows, new doors, and a new roof are all being installed.  So she can't come for tea just yet, but hopes to when the construction work is done. 

Our dear Elias came for lunch yesterday.  He's someone you just feel you've known all your life and we had two hours of delightful communing.  He didn't pass the big exam he took on Monday, so will have to re-take it at the end of August, so we may not see as much of him as we'd like. 

David and Julia and their son Nick are off in Vienna with her cousin Robbie.  Before that, last weekend Julia and her friend Sue went to the Royal Ascot.  We are eager to hear them tell us of both places. 

And that's it.  Nothing earth-shaking.  And not a single theological thought in my head just now.  But we're enjoying it all enormously. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Living in Ormskirk, Part 04

Wednesday, 15 June

I don’t quite know how to explain how it is that for us, just being here in Ormskirk is so much fun. Part of it is, there’s always something to do, if only to watch the bird life on the pond in Coronation Park – or go to have tea in some coffee house and watch the world go by, as we do most afternoons. Then on Thursdays and Saturdays are the markets, and they’re fun to poke through. Last week we found me two leather purses and bargained with the vendor, who sold them to us for six pounds each, slightly less than they’re worth. We also found some blond nesting tables, which we’ve needed from the beginning, and a gorgeous vase. (This week I’ll look for silk flowers to put in it.)

Monday I went again to the Bible study/knitting group again, at the nearby Anglican church. On my way there, I noticed a woman stopped at the corner, who turned out to be one of the knitters, Pam, who and recognized me and was waiting for me. Met two more ladies, as well – and again, I only completed two rows the entire time!

It was Ann’s (the curate’s) last time with the group, as she is moving away to Wigan to pastor two parishes there. We will miss her! (We do not need to believe in ordaining women to recognize that they can be as good as men at many ministries.) The parish has two new curates now, the just-ordained Stuart and Linda. (Stuart’s blog is here.)

Tuesday evening, we went to the Bible study at Stuart and Angela’s house. They are still on a high from his ordination, and both quite tired, too. We made it a short evening. We are studying the book of Ezekiel.

Today we have just received a note from the wonderful lady beside whom we sat at the ordinations on Sunday, the one we were afraid we’d never hear of again. I’m going to quote her entire note, because it made us laugh a lot: First, so you’ll understand what she says, I should tell you the at the ordination service, it was deacon reading the Gospel, but the person acting in the role of deacon was actually the Dean of Liverpool, soon to become Bishop of Durham. (Did you know that technically, the one who appoints the bishops of the Church of England is the Queen?)  Diana writes:

I have marvelous story to tell!: —

Liverpool Cathedral was full! The Dean was reading the Gospel, by the PASCAL CANDLE, at the Ordination Service. HORRORS, -- the candle top came apart and a flame fell down into the flowers and a small fire started, near the hem of the Bishop of Durham’s – sorry, not yet – the Dean of Liverpool’s shimmering garment. What to do? Everyone froze!

What happened? Why ask!

An American lady, cool as you like, stepped up and put out the fire – one footed!!! (It was the same in the 1939-45 war.) (Except it was the whole country)

It reminds me of a joke. There was a shipwreck. 2 Scottish men, 2 Welshmen, 2 Irishmen and 2 English men were washed ashore. What to do? The Scottish men wanted to start a distillery, the Welsh men wanted a choir, the Irish men started to fight and the Englishmen waited to be introduced!!

Have fun!

– affectionately,

You see?  She’s full of beans, as they say here, a real character, and we plan to invite her to tea somewhere in Liverpool, as that is where she lives. And we greatly look forward to knowing her better.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

PENTECOST, In Which Stuart is Ordained…

…and I Single-handedly Save Liverpool Cathedral and Everyone in It

Well, that last is an exaggeration. Okay, so it’s a wild exaggeration; nobody, apart from the deacon, was ever in any real danger.

What happened is, we attended the ordination of our friend and neighbor, Stuart, with 13 others, at (the Anglican) Liverpool Cathedral, and it came time for the reading of the Gospel. So the richly-attired deacon came down the center aisle as far as the cross aisle, where Demetrios and I were, and where the Paschal Candle was set on a stand taller than the deacon himself. And just as the deacon had finished the Gospel Lesson, and the people were saying, “Praise be to Thee, O Christ,” the Paschal Candle went out. It went out because its entire top section, wick, wax, flame, and all, fell, barely missing the deacon himself and dropping into a wreath of flowers on the floor. Of course the wreath caught fire.

The deacon, facing away from the candle, heard the people gasp and turned after a moment or two and saw the burning flowers, but in his alb and cope, his best move was to get out of there. So, with the equally long-skirted acolytes either side of him, he processed solemnly back up the aisle to the chancel.

People murmured, but nobody did anything. Demetrios later said he was waiting for some official to do something. Others appeared reluctant to trample the beautiful flowers. Somebody began ineffectually beating at the flames with a giant candle snuffer, but the fire only grew. So finally, unwilling to wait any longer, I did it – just waded in, hiking up my dress some, and began stomping and in a moment the fire was out (and my brand new shoes, unharmed).

Okay, back-tracking now to tell you the main story, Stuart is the very special man at whose house we meet on Tuesday nights for Bible study. He’s a good and humble man and we are very fond of him and Angela, his wife. So when we found out his ordination was on Sunday at 10:30, we realized we could actually be there, as the Orthodox service, only a few blocks away, didn’t begin until noon. So, on a glorious Pentecost morning, we set off, taking the train to Liverpool and a cab from the station to the Cathedral.

We found seats right beside a delightful old lady who looked like an elderly Katharine Hepburn and was as personable as she was pretty. (We ended up giving her one of our cards, in hopes of keeping up the acquaintance.) She is a geographer, used to teach geography in school and keeps up her interest (though she didn’t know where Thessaloniki is) and she kept chatting amiably until the opening prayer.

Those to be ordained are first taken to the Chapter House, where they stand before the Bishop of Liverpool and make some affirmations and vows.

First, each affirms and declares “my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon.”

This of course raises a couple of questions in my mind, such as what Scripture is thought to set forth and what is not allowed by Canon, but we can pass over those for now.

Next come two oaths:

I, _____, swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors according to law.


I, ____, swear by Almighty God that I will pay true and canonical obedience to the Lord Bishop of Liverpool and his successors in all things lawful and honest.

Then, says the rubric, “When the legal business is completed, those to be ordained are conducted from the Chapter House to their places in the Cathedral.”

The service proper begins with the Cathedral Procession, consisting of:

Beadle  [a minor parish official whose duties include ushering and preserving order at services ]
The Cross of Liverpool
Cathedral Readers and Chaplains
Visiting Readers
Visiting Clergy
Officers for post licensing Initial Ministerial Education
Assistant Dean of Women’s Ministries
Director of Ordinands
Mace [one who carries a mace, an ornamental staff borne as a symbol of authority before a public official]
The Archdeacon of Northolt (one Rachel Treweek)
The Cathedral Chapter
The Dean of Liverpool
The Bishop of Warrington
The Bishop of Liverpool

We were able to stay through the ordinations, but had to leave for our own church just as the Eucharistic rite was beginning,

What can I say about the service? The words were unobjectionable (apart from the filioque) and the rites impressive enough. Although we missed a certain profundity to be found in Orthodox services, one could almost think the service quite orthodox, until you remembered that of the 14 people ordained, 10 were women. (It's their organization; let them do what they please with it, is what I say.)


We ducked out after the Applause (to welcome the newly ordained) and before the Exchange of Peace, to find our glorious morning transformed into a cold, rainy one; and having broken one of our two cardinal rules, we were carrying only one umbrella, the one in my purse. Demetrios had bought it just before we came here, thinking it a bargain at only $5. NO! You need a good umbrella here, and it’s worth every penny you pay. This one was virtually useless; we actually tossed it in the trash bin later, at the end of the day.

After two miserable blocks of wet and cold and wind, we hailed a cab to take us the remaining four, and arrived only a few moments late.

Gotta tell you, it’s been a while since I did a full, forehead-to-the-ground prostration. Those Pentecost prayers, just the parts where you do the prostrations, seemed to me half an hour long! They’re virtually never done at our parish back in Richmond, except on Pentecost Sunday. I’m going to have to start doing some of those at home or I’ll be totally unable by next year. I habitually forget I’m no thirty-year-old.

After the Divine Liturgy, we were reunited with several friends, notably dear Elias, together with Philippos and Yiannis. We met another Yiannis, a Greek-American born and raised in New Jersey. It felt very good to us and apparently to him, to meet another American in church.

We had to hurry away soon after church, because back in Ormskirk, the local parish was having a biggish “do” for Stuart. And for Linda, their other newly-ordained priest. The festivities were to continue until vespers at 4:30, so we thought we could make it, but we didn’t.

Yiannis, the one we met last year, kindly drove us to the train station; we only had to wait 12 minutes for our train to depart at 3:10; we arrived in Ormskirk at 3:40, and the Church House was several freezing, wet, windy blocks away. We gave up and ducked into the first open café we found, to take shelter and have a LONG-delayed meal.

We were still there when a formally-attired party of some 30 people arrived – a gray-mustachioed man and his bride, and, we supposed, his and her various children and grandchildren and best friends.

Then, home through the wind and rain and cold. We gave up even trying to stay somewhat dry and dashed through it all as quickly as we could, laughing and panting until we arrived at our cozy, warm apartment, where we stripped off our sodden clothing, got into pajamas and robes, hung up our wet things near the radiators to dry, and settled down to a hot cuppa in front of the television. Watched a hilarious movie called “Clockwise” and then, early to bed and to sleep while it was still daylight.

Here is a slidehow of the ordination, in case you want to see pictures.  In one of them, the paschal candle is visible, and you can see Demetrios and me standing near it, bottom center of the photo.  We're also in the bottom right corner of a couple more photos in this group.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Living in Ormskirk, Part 03

Friday, 10 June
Evening at a Pub

Robbie is here. Robbie is Julia's Brazilian cousin. His mother and hers were sisters, but Robbie was born and raised in Brazil, and still lives there. He will be here in England a few days, then will tour parts of Eurpoe, meeting again with Julia and David later this month in Vienna.

He's somewhat dark-skinned, has a slight accent, and is good fun. Retired now, he used to teach information technology at a college there in the southern part of Brazil.

Nick came, too, David and Julia's younger son; first time we've seen him this year. He's teaching English at Bangor University and will be extremely busy the next two weeks, but after that, hopes to spend more time with us. We hope so, too, but don't know how realistic that may be, given that his dissertation is due in September, 2012.

Anyway, we met Robbie and Nick, Julia and David, James and Kim at the Star, a pub in their village of Rainford. The pub was quite crowded, mostly with people the others knew.

Somehow we had even more fun than usual, perhaps because of the two 'newcomers'; I don't know.

Robbie says winter where he lives in Brazil is like the weather we're having now, which is mostly dry (eastern England is officially in a drought now) but chilly; one needs both sweater and jacket, and we've kept a little heat on in our flat.

(But the most fun part is, the sun doesn't set this time of year until around 10:00, and even by 11:00, you can still see red sky in the west.)

I've been reflecting on my life, and in very recent years, at least, it seems to have been very easy, and to be all about having fun, and so disgustingly superficial, so obscenely trivial, I don't even know why I blog about it.

A priest once told me it's only pride wanting to live a heroic life; to do that is for very great souls, not souls like mine, and perhaps in His mercy, to look after Demetrios is the main thing God is calling me to do, and I should accept that and (at least for a beginning) concentrate on doing that as best I can.

I hope he was right! Because at least Demetrios does seem genuinely very happy now, in contrast to the miserable man I first met, who told me he had secretly been unhappy all his life, although he had put on a good front for his friends.

He's still working hard on his book, and perhaps that is another thing my life is about, helping him with that (arguing every paragraph with him). So far, it expresses very succinctly his thoughts, which in itself is a tremendous accomplishment, but is only for his own benefit. Now he needs to transform it into a piece of communication. So he's working on some explanatory notes, some definitions, and a few small diagrams to illustrate what he means. I told him even 'E=MC2' is meaningless unless one knows that E stands for 'Energy,' 'M' stand for 'Matter' and 'C' is not only for 'Constant', but specifically for the speed of light.  'And even to say that is meaningless unless you have some idea what the speed of light is,' I added.  So far, he has written only his very compact formulae, all of which need considerable unpacking.

Well, if it ever reaches the form it should, as I trust it shall, I shall feel very honored to have helped him with it.

So maybe my life isn't entirely useless, but it does feel that way just now.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Living in Ormskirk, Part 02

Monday, 06 June

We got to bed early on Saturday night, in order to get up in time for Church on Sunday.  We conked out and got out of bed the moment our eyes opened, but found, greatly to our surprise, it was eleven o'clock Sunday morning.  (No, we don't have an alarm clock.)  So we missed it for this week.

Sunday afternoon and evening, we went to David and Julia's for a cook-out.

James drove us in Kim's new car, a red VW Scirroco, a coupe; and I made the mistake of sitting in the back seat.  Not that it was uncomfortable or anything; it's just when I tried to get out of it, I couldn't.  Instead, I slowly sank all the way to the floor.  I couldn't do anything but sit there and laugh until James pulled me out.  (I'm glad I've lost some weight, or he might never have been able to!)

David has a fancy new grill, over which, on a spit, he guarded a lamb roast while the rest of us sat out in the summerhouse.  Well it wasn't lam, said David; it was hoggit.  Hoggit is the meat of last year's late lambs. 

What can I say?  Men (or even women) who can cook as well as David aren't one in a thousand (although it has been my delight to know a disporportionate number of them).  In the cavity where the bone had been, David had stuffed rosemary, garlic, and mint, which had marinated into the whole roast.  There were also potatoes, some of them roasted in a pan beneath the lamb, and carrots and broccoli, and for dessert pudding, chocolate cake served hot, with cream to pour over it.  All in all, a severe challenge to my diet, but I managed by eating small portions of everything.  Yes, even of the cocolate cake, and yes, even with a bit of cream.

Tuesday, 07 June
of Bibles and Knitting Needles

Ann Stein is a curate at the Ormskirk Parish Church.  Last year, after I had left England, she friended me on Facebook, and by that means, we've been in touch ever since, albeit loosely in touch. 

One of Ann's ministries is to conduct a group that does Bible study on Monday afternoons, between 1 and 2 p.m.  and then knitting from 2 to 3 p.m.  Ann wrote me that last week the bishop had visited this group, and the ladies had told him they even had 'an outworker in America.' 

So I was doubly happy, yesterday, to rejoin this little group.  I'd only been once before and that was last year, and only for the knitting part of it.

The Bible study goes by topics and the current unit is on Prayer.  One or two of the ladies don't care for it as much as for some other topics they've done.   'You either pray or you don't,' said Dorothy, 'and you either mean it or you don't.  That's all.' 

The other unit they had studied in the past and ALL disliked, interestingly, was Spiritual Warfare.  The theology was 'too deep' for them, they said.  And then, of course, it all depended, didn't it, upon the difficult issue of the existence of 'a personal devil'.  No, I didn't take up the subject.

At two, the Bibles were put away and the knitting needles were brought out. The ladies do charity knitting: teddy bears for children in natural disasters, tiny shrouds for stillborn babies or babies who don't survive, little blankets (23" square) for premature babies, sweaters jumpers for tots in Africa, and the like.

During the whole hour, I accomplished ONE row of knitting!  Too busy with other things.  There were names to learn, everybody else's project to admire, my project to explain, patterns to share, and the chit-chat so trivial in itself, but so crucial for social bonding.  I also turned in the 5 wee blankets I had knitted during the year, including that spiral one that had been so surprising to work.

The ladies do more than knit and socialize; they also share paperback books they've read, pass them around to others who may like them.  AND, they even share needles, as in, 'I've got some needles that size; I'll bring 'em to ya next week.'  Now THERE is a real challenge to my generosity!  Ask me so share anything else, fine; but knitting needles?

And if you're a knitter, you'll appreciate this:  they have a communal stash!  Yes, a large plastic bin full of various yarns.  Parishioners donate them from time to time, and the knitters themselves contribute their leftover or unused yarn.  Isn't that a great idea?  You can put A's leftover yarn together with B's and come out with enough to make a very nice project.  Plus, you don't end up being displaced from your own home by overflowing boxes of yarn. 

At 2:30, tea was served, with shortbread cookies biscuits.

Overall, I had great fun and met 10 or 12 very congenial ladies, all roughly in my same age group.  Who knows?  Some of them may turn into friends one day.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living in Ormskirk, Part 01

Monday, 30 May - Tuesday, 31 May 
In Which We Arrive Safely

This year we flew Continental.  When I worked in the airline industrty, we despised Continental, considering it no competition at all, at the bottom of the heap, suffering from problems of maintenance and integrity.

This time, however, we were quite pleased.  Both flights, the one out of Richmond and the one out of Newark, departed and arrived on time.  Service was good, seats were good, food was good.  On the trans-Atlantic leg, we had extreme good luck.  The flight was full; there was only one, single, empty seat, and it was right between us.  So we got to spread out some, which makes a considerable difference.

We flew comfortably into the night, and a couple of hours later, into glorious day, in time to see broad stretches of Ireland through the breaks in the clouds.  As Manchester, our destination, is right across the Irish Sea, we got there very soon afterwards; in fact, we arrived 20 minutes early.

David was waiting for us, although Julia had to work. 

He drove us to our little flat, and we were there by 9:30.  James, his son, had already brought us his TV for the duration.  'Never actually took it away,' David said. 

The next thing I noticed was a pot of begonias atop the fridge!  Then David pointed out the coffee and the tea he and Julia had brought.  And then - he opened the fridge, and it was full!!  They had stocked it with everything from butter and yogurt to a roasted chicken, potatoes, cole slaw, tuna salad, bread, and I can't remember what all else, but several other items.

It meant we didn't have to make a trek to the supermarket for two or three days.

'Just kick back and relax,' said David as he departed.  'Oh, and it's all dusted and hoovered for you.'

!!!  Imagine the kindness.

So we crashed for the rest of the day.

Thursday, 02 June
Doing as Little as Possible

We crashed after we arrived, and have felt groggy most of the time since. Our only activity, only time we've been out of the house, was to meet David and Julia, together with James and his girlfriend, Kim, for dinner last night. James is Demetrios' godson.

It was great to reunite with all of them, and the food was good, too. But frankly, it's all still a blur, and I don't remember many details.

We did venture into town today, sort of reconnecting with its stone sidewalks and cobbled streets, Victorian buildings, the old Clock Tower, the odd-looking, gray-stoned Ormskirk Parish Church, with both tower (square) and spire (conical).

We shopped for some food at Morrison's, nearest supermarket, and on our way home, we stayed half an hour on a park bench beside the pond in Coronation Park to watch the waterfowl, the moorhens and coots and mallards and gulls.


The mallards had nine ducklings, including a bright yellow one, much more conspicuous than the rest. As I said to Demetrios, 'If you'll pardon the expression, that one's a sitting duck for predators like the Yellow-legged Gull.' We watched the gull making continual passes over the ducklings, but their parents (as well as two 'uncles') were guarding them too carefully.

No sign of the swans. Eventualy three pair of Canada geese appeared, and as they swam past us, I said, 'Maybe they've displaced our swans.'

No way! Little did I know. About 45 seconds later the swans appeared, emerging furiously from the underbrush of the island in the middle of the pond. And with much noise (from so-called Mute Swans!) and much splashing and flapping of wings, the swans chased the Canada Geese, all six of them, right out of the water.

Then the cygnets appeared, six of them this year. Still quite small. We were delighted to have stayed long enough to see them. But we left quite soon, as it had become nerve-wracking to watch the gull trying to steal a duckling.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Trouble in Paradise

We've arrived safely in England, but so far I can't get the library's computers to work, to upload all the blog stuff I've been writing from home.  Silly machines won't recognize my flash drive.  I will try a different one next time I come; otherwise I'll just have to do the writing from here, from the library, not as pleasant as from home.

Or else we'll just have to face up to needing an Internet connection at home. 


More as soon as I can.