Thursday, 22 April 2010

We happy few......

Warm beer, cricket, stoolball, morris dancing, conkers, maypoles, poll tax, queueing, Brighton rock, Stonehenge, stoney beaches,the Rolling Stones, the rolling south downs, Ugborough Beacon, Hadrians Wall, northern bluntness, Cheddar Cheese, Kendal Mint cake, Eccles Cake, Victoria Sponge, Queen Victoria.

Tea with the Vicar, Harrods, the corner shop, red telephone boxes, 007, Harry Potter, Del Boy Trotter, Whit Friday bands, the Beatles, Benny Hill, the Old Bill, the Robin Reliant, the Mini, the mini skirt, Notting Hill, Robin Hood, Yorkshire Dales, the Daily Mail, Diana Queen of our hearts.

Sunday roast, marmite on toast, open fires, Spitfires, 1066, 1415, 1966, 'We'll fight them on the beaches', annus horibilis, & did those feet in ancient times walk upon Englands green & pleasant land......?

Happy St Georges Day!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Thank you for the music.....

Try as I might, I couldn't remember when I last entered a proper record shop. Amazon now owns me & my entire music collection. I have surrendered to the instant charm of immediacy, the siren voice of the cheap download.

Last weekend I snuck away from the keyboard & wandered into an independent record store in Covent Garden. It was a meandering kind of morning; Lazy, hazy sunshine for slow saturday starters, a long breakfast watching the world wake up around us.
Where people used to wash down a full English with a mug of tea & the daily papers in a rush, they now saunter through sun dappled squares, taking out a skinny latte & muffin, surfing on their iphones.

And so to the record store - We can't even call them records anymore. My kids think a record is something you get from the Police & my explanation that the Police did indeed make some great records only adds to the air of generational confusion.
It's a clash of cultures, a flashback to a simpler, shared world. One where we all went to town on a Saturday morning to buy the same records. Now in 2010, alone behind my laptop, we develop obscure tastes for exotic blends of Peruvian trance-punk that no other human being will ever enjoy with us.

The record store - It wasn't the same of course. The lighting was too good, the carpet clean rather than the expected residue from decades of dirty feet, the fragrance too fresh. But the racks were there, even some vinyl, 1000's of CD's - no cassettes of course.

Despite the unaccustomed plushness of the store, the racks were enough. I stood in front of the A-C's & began flicking through, the dull familiar clacking of plastic cases a portal back to the old world of musical youth. Back to the halcion days of recording the Top 40 on a Sunday afternoon & masterfully pressing pause just in time to keep the voice of the DJ from penetrating your Maxwell C90 mixtape. Only after a song had won my heart on the C90 would I search it out on the shelves & purchase the whole album.

For a few brief moments I stood in harmony with those days. Alongside me, other balding, waist expanding 40 somethings, knowing glances every so often revealing the conspiratorial truth between us: 'We are the music lovers, we are the pioneers, the guardians of taste. We're keeping it alive for an ignorant nation. We alone know how to take it slow, take our time, savour it in our hands before coming home with our prize in a bag.'

For the record, I emerged with the frighteningly modern Plan B - The Defamation of Strickland Banks; some old school George Benson blues from 1969; & from the back of the bargain rack in a cobwebbed corner, Devon's finest, Seth Lakeman, weaving modern folk stories.
So, here's to the independent record store - May you survive until next time I stumble across you with time on my hands!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Acts of God & clouds of smoke

I was almost prevented from getting to Torino in January because of unprecedented snowfall, now our trip to Roma looks to have been scuppered by everyones favourite Icelandic volcano. I'm already beginning to wonder what we'll have to fight through to get to Calabria in the summer - maybe fire & floods?

Last time we were in Calabria we faced a wild fire, spitting & leaping across tinder dry land & fuelled by an angry wind up the valley from the sea for 24 hours. We fled the house, grabbing what we could & watched as the wall of flames moved to within 20 feet away, consuming everything before it. Then,as we prayed, the wind changed direction & blew itself out up the mountain away from the buildings. Talk about Acts of God!

So to this weekend, & our TV screens are filled with incredible images of huge pillars of cloud. Volcanologists (not to be confused with pointy eared Star Trek fans) are brought out from under rocks to offer pasty faced expert opinion. It's their moment in the sun, they have dreamt of this day. They will die under the bright lights of the TV studio, but it's all been worth it!

In my old insurance company days we used to define an Act of God as a catastrophe which no one could predict or prevent. This rather old fashioned notion that some things are just out of our control & only really God knows the end from the beginning. I'm sure in this post modern age of Dawkins et al we'll have to start calling them acts of nature lest we upset the sceptics.

Anyhow, that is a rant for another day. I had been under the impression that our trip to be with the fledgling church in Rome this weekend was very much in the plan of God. It seems that He has another way of doing things after all. Perhaps instead you will take this opportunity to join me in praying for our friends that we can no longer visit.

Pray that God Himself would encourage them, strengthen them, cause them to flourish. Pray that this little flock would know what it is to be led by a cloud of smoke, by the Good Shepherd Himself, even in days when they are without the kind of leadership we take for granted.Pray for vibrant, healthy New Testament churches to be planted in Rome. Pray for the Riconcilliazione family of Churches across Italy, that they would continue to grow & see breakthrough.
Join with me in calling for an Act of God, an unprecedented, unpredictable, uncontainable growth & spread of His Kingdom that sweeps this nation out of it's complacent brand of secular catholocism & into the promise of God.

That should keep you going whilst I try to sort out the refund on my tickets!