Showing posts from September 23, 2007

Early memories

My parents moved out of their house, at 47 Devon Rd, Bristol during World War II and went to live with my maternal Uncle Fred, and his wife, Phyllis. Mum and Dad moved because their house was next to a railway line - a sure target for bombers.
“They would” Uncle Fred said, “be caught like rats in a trap” should the line be bombed.

Mum became pregnant with my third sister. The baby was born, named Sylvia, and died soon afterwards. From what I have heard I would guess that she had spina bifida.

Mum and Dad, with my two older sisters then moved into a couple of rooms in nearby Alpine Road. Their own home had been sequestered by “Bristol Corporation” to provide housing at a time when no new homes were being built, and many were being bombed.

In 1944 my twin sister and I were born in that house on Alpine Rd. A bit of family lore is that my father fainted when my twin was born after me, as no-one knew that Mum was carrying twins.

In due course Mum and Dad were able to reclaim their home -…

Poetry. Wordsworth

The fundamentalists and evangelicals with whom I was raised, would have little truck with the Romantics. Wordsworth’s “Intimations of immortality” was a particular bete noir.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:

“Trailing clouds of glory” indeed! But what about original sin! Harrumph.

But I grew to love at least one of Wordsworth’s poems, the one I had to learn by heart in High School. Here it is.

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smoke…


We are still capable of wonder!

Last night six of us, neighbours, went out to “Terra Nossa”, our local Brazilian restaurant (their fried bananas are worth the trip to Sarasota!).

We got home at about 9:00 p.m. and as we got out of the car, someone said “Wow. Look at the Moon”. It was shining on the evening after full moon (a Harvest Moon), but it was still utterly splendid.

When I walked at 6:00 a.m. today the Moon was still radiant in the western sky, whilst in the east was Venus in all her glory. She’s been gorgeous on recent mornings with what has looked like a golden orb.

Wonder indeed.

My mind went back to some poetry which reflects on that wonder - in this case Psalm 8.

Here it is, in the Authorised Version (King James Version in the U.S.A.) - the version in which I learned it by heart many years ago.

1 O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength becau…

Here a copper, there a bob.

In immediate post war Britain there was not much of anything to be had in the stores. We still had rationing, and luxuries were out of the question.

In common with most of the families in our neighborhood, my parents had to scrimp and save. Every penny counted, and at one time there were so few pennies that my parents almost lost the “three up, three down” terraced (row) house which they were buying.

But there were many ways in which the budget could be stretched.

We used Brooke Bond “Dividend” Tea. On the side of each quarter pound packet of loose tea, there was a little adhesive stamp, just like a postage stamp. Brooke Bond provided cards for these stamps, and when one was filled with fifty stamps, off it would go in the mail, and we would await the five bob postal order from the Tea Company.

Similarly, Mum bought “Royal Diadem” flour. Each one pound bag contained a coupon, and when Mum had saved 50, (or was it 100) coupons, my twin sister and/or I would be sent off by ‘bus to the …

Pounds,shillings and pence.

Until 1968 the British currency consisted of Pounds, Shillings and Pence

£ s d

The basic unit, the Pound £

was divided into 20 Shillings s

And each shilling was divided in to 12 pence d

Thus we added up monetary figures in three columns

The right hand column was for pence, which we added up by twelves. Each complete 12 was carried over into the middle column, for 12 pence made one shilling.

e.g. if the right hand column added up to 38, we could carry forward 3 (36 pence makes 3 shillings) and leave the remainder as 2d.

Then we counted the middle column in twenties. Each complete 20 was carried over to the left hand column as a pound.

e.g. if the middle column added up to 90, we would carry forward 4 ( 80 shillings makes 4 pounds), and leave the remainder as 10.

This explains why, when we learned our “times tables” we needed to master the 12 times table - so that we could add up those 12 pence makes a shilling column.

Of course this system baffled and confused overseas visitors to Britain …

To the Bishops assembled &c, &c

Our Episcopal Church Bishops are gathered in New Orleans even as I write.

Some of them are godly, some of them are knaves. We have wise Bishops and unbelievably foolish Bishops. There are some Bishops with whom one might want to spend a long evening with fine food and good red wine. There are others with whom one would not wish to spend twenty minutes in a Laundromat.

But to the Bishops assembled:

1. It is not your job to defend or protect G-d. Love is indefensible, and only the arrogant would seek to protect the Almighty.

2. The Anglican Communion, as we know it, is a very modern creature, dating only since the ending of British colonialism. It is little more than a small blip on the radar screen of the history of Christendom.

It hardly even appears on the screen of all of G-d’s interactions with humankind.

Enjoy this historical perspective dear Bishops!

3. The Church is not the same as God’s reign (the kingdom of God). It can point to that
reign, or it can obsc…

The year of my two "disasters".

My sixth year was a wee bit fateful. I cannot remember which came first, but in that year I came down with scarlet fever, and one of my legs was fractured.

The scarlet fever led to my being taken to the isolation unit at Ham Green Hospital in the village of Pill. (Never thought about it until yesterday, but “Pill” is not a bad name for a village with a Hospital!)

I was taken by ambulance - this for me was a wonderful adventure. During the journey I heard the bell named “Great George” in the Wills Memorial Tower at Bristol University.

This handsome neo-Gothic tower had been erected with tobacco money from a member of the W.D. and H.O. Wills tobacco company. The bell, named, as all bells should be, could be heard in many parts of the City.

Early each morning at Ham Green Hospital all the morning nurses - sisters, staff nurses and ward nurses would walk, be-cloaked, in a solemn procession from their dormitories to the wards - led by none other than the head nurse “Matron”. I belie…