Tuesday, January 31, 2012

To the crematorium

Tuesday 31st January 2012
The organist and I set out just before ten to be sure of arriving in time for an 11 o'clock service at Newcaslte Crematorium.  It's not often that I take a service there, as most people choose the personal feel of their local parish church with no time contraints and all the neighbours able to come.  We took the route past Heavenfiled and were in good time.  The main advantage of the crem for me today was that there was a microphone which relayed my feeble voice to the congregation.  Unfortunately I had to decline the family's invitation to go back to the house for refreshments, since I wouldn't have been able to converse with anyone.  However, we have said our formal goodbye to the deceased in a manner that the family felt was right and that fulfilled my responsibility to entrust her to God as she returns to the source of all goodness and love.

Monday, January 30, 2012

End of the month

Monday 30th January 2012
For business people the end of the month has financial implications.  For the Church of England clergy still living on stipends there are no profit and loss figures.  We receive a standard amount of money to live on regardless of how much we do.  Along with the tied house that is provided with the appointment, this should take care of material needs and leave us free to give our lives to our parishioners.  For someone like me without lots of expensive children to support, there are no practical worries.  The month is ending very quietly as I have lost my voice.  (Actually I never fully recovered from the late November laryngitis because there was a lot of Christmas work and no Sunday off until yesterday.)  I cancelled a school assembly today but did make a visit to finalise details for Thursday's funeral.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weddings and funerals

Saturday 28th January 2012
Molly in the frost
...whilst I met a couple for wedding preparation and then visited a family to arrange one of this week's three funerals.  Every church funeral is tailor-made without any time limit on the lengh of service.  We talk about the deceased and choose readings and hymns to be right for that person.
    One family commented that it makes a great difference when the carers who have helped the elderly people are all local.  This means that they knew the old people before their health began to fail and are able to be real friends to them, understanding them in a way that isn't possible with strangers that we meet only in frail old age.  It's one more positive thing about a settled community.

Return from Lindisfarne

Wednesday 25th - Friday 27th
St Cuthbert's island cut off at high tide which enabled him to pray and meditate away from the crowds
For us, it was enough to come to Lindisfarne itself for an opportunity to take stock and discuss our work.
Friday morning meant time to return home, crossing the causeway while the tide was out  --  and a long day at home catching up with phone messages and e-mails, leaving my desk just after half past midnight.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Off to Lindisfarne

Tuesday 24th January 2012
Crossing the causeway to Holy Island before the tide comes in

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday 23rd January 2012
"Weather" blowing down the valley?
After Morning Prayer, home to take a long phonecall and a quick breakfast, I managed to get out on a sunny morning to exercise the horse in a cold wind which made her reluctant to stand still for photography.  The puddles on the track were lightly iced over but the clouds gathering up at Kielder didn't bring us rain.
    A newly engaged couple came from Elsdon to start preparing for their marriage.  I made a visit to arrange a funeral.  There were e-mails flying back and forth about all kinds of things and with various callers the active day ended quite late.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A varied Sunday

Sunday 22nd January 2012
Over the churchyard wall
Managed to get the sermon finished in time for the 9.30 service at Bellingham by resuming work on it shortly after 6.00 a.m....on to Thorneyburn for the 11 o'clock... a quick lunch at home before going out sick visiting in Corsenside and returning one minute late for an appointment with a couple who need to have their banns of marriage read in Otterburn.  Two more visits in the early evening by car and some phone calls about a death and funeral.  The routine stable duties were slotted in off and on through the day.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday preparations

Saturday 21st January 2012
A sunny interval!
A day of strong cold wind, slight showers and spells of sunshine that felt warm if you were in a sheltered spot.  As usual on a Saturday I had preparations to make for Sunday's church services.  Unfortunately, as too often, it's going to be an ill-prepared sermon.  To be thorough, a preacher needs to spend an hour in preparation for every minute that he or she is going to speak  --  and I haven't done it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Other people working

Friday 20th January 2012
Not an everyday sight for me
Went with a parishioner to watch a relation of hers ploughing in the same way that his predecessors have done on this farm for generations.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Deanery pilgrimage to Canterbury

Wednesday 18th January 2012
Today's route photographed in September
A sudden thaw caused a burst pipe but also enabled me to get the horse out for a good morning's exercise. 
      Today's route was part of the young people's walk to Wark and Simonburn in October (See separate page on "Deanery Day at Simonburn") when we explored the countryside and also the idea of pilgrimage.
       Today's planning was concerned with the Deanery Pilgrimage to Canterbury at the end of September.  (Yesterday's blog picture was a young orchard in early spring in Kent with oast houses in the background.)
        If you live in the Deanery of Bellingham and might be interested in joining our pilgrimage for the last week of September (arriving home on Tuesday 2nd October), please contact me quickly as places are genuinely limited.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Tuesday 17th January 2012

Vague visions of a Deanery pilgrimage
 Where is this?  Clue: not Northumberland.  Answer tomorrow after the preliminary arrangements are confirmed!
     I met some neighbouring Area Deans in the middle of the day, called on someone about to have an operation and spent quite a lot of time on the phone discussing possiblilites for the Deanery pilgrimage later this year.  (It will be a contrast to the last one which took us to see the Passion Play in Oberammergau in 2010.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday 15th January 2012
Memorial window in Byrness church to workmen killed in constructing Catcleugh reservoir
A hard frost (and temperature of minus 8) didn't put anyone off going to church: normal sized congregations at Byrness and Otterburn, though very few at the afternoon service for the under-5's at Bellingham.  i started compiling a record of church statistics for 2011 which I should have submitted by now.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Saturday 14th January 2012
By midday the sun was warm and the temperature had risen to freezing point!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday 13th January 2012
The space and clean air of the fells
Incidentally, this isn't a crafty view concealing some nearby habitation:  this is as far as I could see in all directions uninterrupted by signs of humans or animals.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Another beautiful sunrise, another full day

12th January 2012
The horse's view when I turned her out
Then off to Morning prayer, home to breakfast and e-mails, out to church for Holy Communion, back for a meeting with the Reader, out to walk the dog to call on a neighbouring farmer, back in time for lunch, off by car to visit a Churchwarden and make an entry in a church register, drove back to Bellingham for Evening Prayer, to stable the horse for the night and to spend the evening transferring photographs to a memory stick ready for tomorrow's meeting about the new Deanery DVD.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday 11th January 2012
Coming away from Otterburn
Today meant quite a lot of driving around the parishes, taking assemblies at Kielder and Greenhaugh Schools, visiting one or two people, having various meetings.
Tuesday 10th January 2012
Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning

Monday, January 9, 2012

The rainbow I didn't photograph

Monday 9th January 2012
The rainbow I did photograph (two years ago)
I was out on the fell without a camera this morning when I saw a vivid rainbow ending between two leafless trees on a hilltop with a Scots pine to one side providing just a little touch of asymmetry.  As I went on and looked back I could see the whole 180 degree arc of a double rainbow.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Sunday 8th January 2012
Not my fault
Well, whose fault was it then?  Who was it who tossed her head, caught the rope in a crack and lifted the stable door off its hinges?  Where did the hoofpick fall?  Where was it when I needed it to get mud out of the clip on the turnout rug?  How else could I undo it (ah! scissor tip and 3-in-1 oil) to change the rug and bed you down?  How is it that I set out for Thorneyburn Evensong a quarter of an hour later than I had intended?
     I had been on time for 9.30 Parish Communion at Bellingham and manged to arrive at Elsdon at 10.55 for the 11 o'clock service (which began late).  I was only five minutes late for the afternoon's Home Communion and back in time  --  so I thought  --  to bring Molly in from the muddy paddock.
     Sunday isn't really a particularly busy day: there were only these four specific commitments, but church services are always scheduled for definite times, which makes the day very strictly structured.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The undertaker left his clothes in church

Saturday 7th January 2012
Prayer requests on the star tree in St Aidan's church, Thorneyburn
At the carol service on 23rd December, the congregation were invited to write their own prayers on card stars and fix them to the Christmas tree whilst Jessica played the Northumbrian pipes.  I had hoped that there might be some response to this invitation and was pleasantly surprised to see about forty people of all ages coming out of their seats to affix their prayers.
    Yesterday, Epiphany, , the twenty children taking part in St Aidan's after-school club also wrote prayer requests on stars (as we thought about the star guiding the Wise Men to Jesus).  These were to be added to the tree in church.
     When I went into Thorneyburn church to photograph the tree, the churchwarden and I found that the undertaker had left his smart clothes there when he changed into his overalls to fill in the grave.  Today he called on me to arrange a funeral somewhere else; so I lent him a torch to enable him to go to St Aidan's after dark and retrieve his funeral wear!

Friday, January 6, 2012


Friday 6th January 2012
Star in the East
(remembering that the flowers are at the east end of the church drawing the eye to the altar)
We had the traditional reading at the Epiphany service where the Wise Men ("Magi" in the original) say "We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him".
     For a non Jewish congregation there is a realisation that the birth of Jesus (the Messiah or, in Greeek, the "Christ") is for us too, not just for the local people represented by the shepherds at Bethlehem.   At Epiphany we celebrate the further event when the Good News of God's love for everyone as shown in the life of Jesus spreads further afield and draws the Wise Men to follow the star to Bethlehem.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The day the sun came out

Thursday 5th January 2012
Kielder Water on the way down the valley from taking Home Communion to a parishioner

After the rain

Wednesday 4th January 2012
Water in the corner of a field after the rain and wind which was so bad that the electricity was flickering and I turned off the computer instead of writing the blog.  The evening had already been monopolised by the telephone (and one visitor following her telephone call); so I abandoned plans for work in the study.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


3rd January 2012

Spent much of the day indoors sheltering from strong winds, especially after the exposure of yesterday when  the luxurious warmth of my study turned out to measure only 10 degrees C (50 F on my thermometer).

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wild country, wild weather

Monday 2nd January 2012
The distant ridge of today's ride (on a finer day)
I was determined to get the horse out today as she had been stuck in the paddock rather a lot over Christmas.  The temperature was hovering aound freezing and the countless showers came down as sleet, white snowflakes and the kind of snow that blows into your face as stinging ice chips.  The going was a hazardous mixture of deep mud, boggy moss, tussocks of rushes, slippery descents into rushing burns and concealed ditches and rocks.  Molly enjoyed it!
    On top of the fell, where I was riding from right to left (in this picture), a direction I had never taken  before, I came to an area of bracken and met a huntsman with hounds at his horse's heels going in the opposite direction.  Suddenly I recognised the exact spot and the scene as a picture from a dream that I once had some years ago.  I think this is the second time that something like this has happened to me.  The previous time (in the 1980's) I once dreamt that I was cantering along the edge of an unfamiliar field.  It was a very inconsequential dream  --  until I moved house a few years later and found myself riding in the very field that I recognised from the dream.
    Time and place and the dimensions of life are very much more complex than people necessarily appreciate.  As Shakespeare said, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
                                                       than are dreamt of in your philosophy."