Saturday, 17 July 2010

Twa corbies? No, only one, but a significant one!

It can be quite unsettling, as one gets to know a new community and the awkward corners emerge. Not church related (although a fellow follower of the way here in Dunoon blogged about it as my first inkling of the issue)

The 'Jim Crow' rock on the shore at Kirn, just north of Dunoon, seems to be both a harmless and well known attraction (as 96% of local people apparently said in an online poll at the local paper) and a sinister call to a bygone age of racism and segregation, the 'Jim Crow' laws of racial segregation in the USA. 'This Fragile Tent's blog post on the subject gives plenty of context and background, and I don't think I have a lot to add to his insightful piece, but I can add a newcomer's perspective. When I drove past the rock on Thursday (four days after someone had greyed out the offensive racist paint), this is the sight one can now see.

As reported in the Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard, the caricature (if that is what it is) has reappeared, just as it was before. The sense of local pride in a landmark, which is all that I had assumed it was until the blog and press coverage this week, has restored the image, over the KLF inspired grey.

How should a Christian respond? If it is rooted in the US history, it feels not too different to historical scars one can find everywhere. Black Boy Hill in Bristol, a city built on slaves, tobacco and such, is an example. Robertson's jam logos are another. But the rock has been like that since the early 1900s, long before US sailors, with their own history and context, were present in the Holy Loch (and we are now long after they've gone). There is another rock, a few miles down the A77 coast road on the other side of the water, down past Ayr, that has 'Jesus Died for You' painted on it, and has for several decades. That gets painted out and repainted on a fairly regular basis. One person's offensive statement...

It is part of the narrative of this place - and a slightly confusing one. I continue to explore the many narratives, inside and outside of the church buildings.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


Impressions galore.

An indolent seal lolling on a rock on the beach at Innellan, gawping lazily at folk stopping to take his picture. Some more circumspect colleagues on rocks a little further offshore, silhouettes rather than photogenic tourist traps.

Deer sniffing around the trailers and bins. Toads sneaking into the porch while Jenny has her late-night hobble around the grounds before she settles to bed. A particularly puffed-up toad that I scooped up in a shoe and returned to the rain outside. I don't think two toads constitutes a plague, so the Mosaic plague-log for our time in Dunoon remains at midges (biting gnats, I would suggest) and rain (not quite full biblical grade hail, but not a bad substitute). The Kyles at Colintraive have yet to run red with blood, even if the northerly-ish wind on Sunday threatened the safe transit of Dunoon travellers to Rothesay!

More people to get to know! Lots of cups of tea and bits of cake. Lots of walks around Bishop's Glen to try and wear off the cups of tea and bits of cake.

A rather empty echo where a 'central diocese' would usually be, down south at any rate. It's summertime, we are in a vacancy and I have a feeling we're not in Kansas, Toto! Still, much time to get to know the people further afield.

Good impressions.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The priest, the treasurer and the sparrow

The last day of school term, children now broken up and celebrating their freedom. A few of them lurking cheerfully on the steps of the church, down on the front. They smile hello as I step through them.

I'm waiting in the church to have a business-like meeting with the treasurer, about the treasure I suppose. I'm fiddling with the amp that gave us an a cappella eucharist the other week (mass setting and all!)

The doors are wide open (I always like to leave church doors wide open) and I love the snippets of conversation and comment that float in. "Where are you, Kenny?" from a mobile conversation. "What's in there?" and "Is there anybody living in there?" the comments on the usually closed doors. No time for debate on the real presence and the slightly dodgy reserving practice.

But the highlight, and lowlight, is the sparrow. He or she has got in somehow. S/He would quite like to get out. He is flying up and down the nave, resting on the sanctuary light chain, then back to the windows above the cracked gallery (some treasure needed there.) She seems to be able to see out of the coloured glass windows, and wants back out. I stand like a slightly foolish Francis impersonator, with my hand out, making encouraging noises. He looks like he might. But she doesn't. For a while it's me, the sparrow and God. None of us seems too upset about it.

The treasurer joins me, with scones. We both try to encourage the reluctant worshipper out. But decide that leaving scones is more likely to succeed. But he, or she (the sparrow that is, not the treasurer), vanishes, probably back through the hole that she, or he, came in (more treasure there, no doubt).

We have a useful meeting. But I can remember more about the snatches of conversation from Victoria Street and the worry and enjoyment of getting to know our little sparrow. It seems obvious: treasure and business matters. The people passing and an accidental bird matter more.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Cognitive dissonance and the tooth fairy...

Frances (8) has lost her tooth at last! Hurray! It has been hanging on in there for weeks!

Peter (11) is annoyed, as F has now lost more than him. But he will avoid the orthodontics (is that a word?) that F will have to undergo in the next 10 years. He has a big mouth, hers is far too small. Never mind, she will probably have the most perfect white smile as an adult.

But the real source of P's annoyance? The lack of funded tooth-fairy-income. Now I am pretty much 100% sure that they both know the deal. You lose a tooth, it goes under the pillow. You get some money (if the parents remember...) But F's demands have become more complex. She wrote a note, properly spelled and everything. She wanted the money. And to keep the tooth (so just what is in this for the 'fairy'?).

And the latest sting, announced by my wife as she went to bed? F wants fairy dust, like her friends in Gloucester. This is apparently glitter of some kind. Which we don't have. 'Bless' those Gloucester parents. You know who you are. 'Fairy dust'!! I ask you!

'Say there's been a strike in the fairy-dust mine,' says wife, as she goes to bed, leaving me to compose a note of dubious integrity before the whole fairy dust issue was even raised.

Solution? Dash the 8 year-old fantasy? Ignore the issue? Buy some glitter (at midnight in Dunoon?)

No - a spattering of a rather cedar-ish incense from my personal stash of liturgical combustibles. A note (in registrar's ink) accepting the no-tooth-keep-the-cash-here's-some-nice-smelly-dust narrative, and the deed is done.

Oh, happy sociology of rituals!