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Showing posts from February, 2011


A Scotland supporter obligingly takes a pic for some Wales fans beside the statue of Greyfriars Bobby a few hours before the Welsh walloped the Scots at Murrayfield. What can I say about Edinburgh, other than that if I was ten years younger and/or a little less anchored where I am I would move there like a shot. The weather was not much while I was there and I know from past experience and present observation that the parking wardens are feral, but I simply love this majestic, gray, quirky, noble, self assured, cultured, elegant, ancient and trendy city. It is a little disconcerting that the street names are all the ones I know from back home and that they run off each other in quite a different order than I am used to. It is disconcerting also that despite the disparity in age and size there is something of the feel of Dunedin about Edinburgh. It is not just that we colonials have aped Edinburgh in trivial details of naming and aesthetics, but rather that somehow the values wh


The journey from London to Inverness doesn't seem so far if you sleep most of the way, which I did. I had checked my bag into the left luggage place at Victoria, had lunch with Alastair Cutting, walked to the Tate Modern, saw the artworks, got lost walking back, found a tube station and thus my way again, had dinner, got my bag again and boarded the Caledonian Sleeper, so it had been tiring afternoon. I was glad to have a wee dram in the dining car before retiring to my rocking swaying little cell to sleep. At about 2 in the morning I awoke and peered out my window at a station with an unpronounceable Gaelic name and saw that there was about a foot of snow on the platform. At about 7 I got dressed, and raised my blind to watch the gray dawn rising on countryside that seemed at once familiar and utterly other. At Inverness I was met by Bishop Mark Strange, who appeared, reassuringly large, talkative and casual, a minute or two after the train disgorged its passengers into the fro

Farewell Augustine

I'm not sure what I expected from this course, but whatever it was, it's not what I am taking away. I'm used to being on courses: we're very fond of them in the Anglican church, and for some years my job was to devise them, construct them and run them. This one followed the usual (sorry) course of events. We had a timetabled structure to the day, we ate we sat round in chairs, we took notes as various people winged in for the event, gave us their opinions and winged away again. For me the highlights of the content were Jane Williams, wife of the archbishop and, surprisingly, John Rees, an English Canon lawyer. The content was good, but as far as courses go, this was just another one. What made being here worth the cost of a round the world air ticket were those things that money can't buy. One of these was the company I kept. I was with thirty other people who have recently been through an electoral synod. In other words, thirty other people with long and varied

Pictures From Canterbury

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad Location: Pictures from Canterbury

George and the Dragon.

A couple of you have asked me privately to tell you the legend of St. George and the dragon. OK. Can do. But I know several versions of the story and am at a bit of a loss as to which one to tell, so I will divide the story up into sections, and for each section put down both of the two major variants I know of, one variant being written in normal typeface, the other in italics. Then you can choose the bits you like and construct the legend that you like best. 1. Once upon a time there was city ruled by a king who had a beautiful daughter. Near the city lived a dragon ( or in some versions a crocodile, but we'll stick with a dragon. They look better on flags and coins and such) 2. The dragon was very wealthy the dragon built it's nest beside the town's only water supply 3. One day the king got into debt. With no other sources of revenue the king borrowed the money he needed from the dragon, taking out a mortgage on his daughter as surety. in order to stop the drag

Bishop's Crook

On display in a glass case in the treasury of Canterbury Cathedral is a bishop's episcopal staff called The Canterbury Crozier. Made in mid Victorian times by William Burgess, it is an exquisite piece, worked in silver and ivory and encrusted with semi precious stones. The curve of the staff is carved to depict St. George fighting the dragon, with the dragon's intended princessly victim tied to the handle. The detail, in for example, St. George's armour and the ropes tying the princess Is astonishingly realistic. When this beautiful and valuable thing is not in a glass case being oohed and aahed over by tourists, it is used by the Bishop of Dover as he goes about his episcopal duties. What interested me in it enough to ask the obliging cathedral verger to unlock the treasury and let me see it, is the fact that the first owner of this remarkable object was Henry Lascelles Jenner. In 1866 Jenner was selected by the Archbishop of Canterbury as the first Bishop of Dunedin a


From my room in the Cathedral Lodge I look out at the immense bulk of the Cathedral itself. Surrounding it are the various buildings of the close which house the Cathedral school and in which live some of the 300 paid staff of this busy and ancient society. People have lived in intentional Christian community on this site continuously for 1,400 years. Surrounding the close is the town of Canterbury, bustling with students and a few, hardy, out of season tourists. All of it, Cathedral, Close and City wear the patina of age. Houses are crooked and streets are narrow. Ancient fortifications sit jammed against ancient places of worship and ancient dwelling places. There are half timbered houses and walls made of stone or flint and panes of runny distorted glass. And yet there is a strong sense, not of being in a museum, but in an energetic, vibrant modern town. It is a bit incongruous for someone like me, used to the Historic places trust getting twitchy over minor changes to an 80 ye


It was -1 degrees when I landed, but the sky was a clear bright blue, and with just as much to fear from nutters bearing gelignite as the yanks, the Brits processed us visitors with infinitely more grace, efficiency and friendliness. I had forgotten, until I was sitting on the tube, how much I love this place. There is a feel to it which is utterly other - there is no amount of imagining that could convince me I might be somewhere in New Zealand - but at the same time it is comfortable and familiar and deeply, deeply known. The tube zims speedily through the dark tunnels and I am surrounded by that variation in humanity which makes London so unpredictable and so appealing. There is an elderly East Indian woman with bags of groceries at her feet, reading the Financial Times. A group of tiny schoolgirls in panama hats gather Madeleine style around a Miss Clavell. An achingly beautiful girl sits distractedly in a hippie costume of kaftan and brightly woven headband. Young men rece

Fear and loathing in LA

Long haul flights have a sameness about them. You sit, read, watch, toss, turn sleep, toss turn, stretch, queue, pee, toss, turn, eat, drink, read and watch some more, toss and turn. Every so often, after a long long interval, you disembark, sit in a viewless soulless joyless room for a while, reembark and continue as above. This every so often activity is 'the stopover', where all of the fuel, and some of the supplies, cargo and passengers get changed for fresh ones. Flight NZ2 had one in Los Angeles. Everywhere in the world, on stopovers, passengers are speedily ushered into an isolated part of the airport, left to their own devices, safely separate from all that is happening in the rest of the airport, and indeed the world, then speedily ushered onto the plane again. But no longer in the USA apparently. Since 9/11 the authorities have insisted on photographing us all and finger printing us all lest we do something dastardly, such as, I suppose, taking more than our fair sh