Saturday, 16 June 2012

Can't Compline?

I've landed on my feet for a while with an interim position for two days a week at the rather special Goodenough College in London. It's an international hall of residence for postgraduate students and if you're interested you can find out more about it on my business blog, Coracle Communications.

We're often told not to mix business with pleasure. To some extent it's hard not to when you're working somewhere like that which has a distinctive community feel all of its own - and where there are various talks, exhibitions, concerts and extra-curricular events going on. Of course, it's best to keep the professional and the general interest side separate on such occasions.

That said, I find I'm benefitting greatly from some of these extra-curricular aspects. I attended one of the College's 'Port Talks' the other week and found it really helpful - all about decluttering your email and organising your work priorities.

There's something very holistic about that. Equally, as I'm around on a Monday I've attended the candle-lit Compline service that takes place at 10pm that evening. I do like reflective liturgical services, but I wasn't familiar with the Anglican Compline setting. Where has it been all my life? It's lovely.

Goodenough College Chapel - simple, dignified, beautiful
I've only been twice and won't make it every Monday (I've got people to see and things to do) but there's something about the rhythm of it. Just the job before you settle down for the night. I must admit, it threw me a little the first time as they divided the chapel in two for the chanting of the Psalms and the various responses. There were only two of us on my side of the aisle and my chant leaves a lot to be desired. My wife can do Anglican chant but I never learned and so I tend to trail along with what everyone else is doing. As there were only two of us I felt a tad exposed ...

It was easier going the next Monday as there were more chanters on my side of the chapel. Not that it had thrown me the first week, I'm old enough and ugly enough not to be intimidated so easily. And once you get into the swing of it, the chants suggest themselves.

Why don't more places do this? I can see why chant has fallen into disuse, but look what's replaced it? Grim sub-Cold Play power pop and slop.

Ok, ok, there's nothing more boring than a born-again liturgist. But I'm unrepentant. Bring back the chant. We need it. It can do us good.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Olympians for an hour

Two days before a wet Jubilee weekend the Olympic Torch came to Crewe.

I went over with my daughters and some of their friends to see it set off on the Cheshire section of its journey. The platform at Alsager station was full, fuller than I'd ever seen it before and the London-Midland carriages so packed that the conductor hadn't the time to collect all the fares.

John Williams the poet was there, with his wife and son, there were people I recognised from the Co-op or generally from round town (or 'the village' as it still likes to call itself).

We stayed at the station end at Crewe, as my youngest daughter had to get back to school and we needed to dash so as not to be too late. We lined the pavements and waited.

Eventually, with a dull throb of police motorcycle engines, the first of the sponsored corporate vans hove into view. All balloons and fixed and cheesy grins. Banks and financial services with buses and lorries decked out like carnival floats, models and dancers waving from the tops and sides. 'You can tweet us all day long,' they said. As if we would.

More helpful was the hand-written sign held up in one of the windscreens. 'Olympic Torch, six minutes behind.'

As the corporate jollities rumbled on, a cause for genuine mirth. A bloke came running from the main station car-park, dragging his luggage behind him, tie flailing, clearly late for a train. With the pavement lined with spectators he had no option but to run down the middle of the road.

'I'm late!' he kept calling, White Rabbit fashion as the crowds applauded. 'I'm late for my train!'

Out there, alone and exposed in the middle of the road, he did the decent thing, the British thing. He turned his plight into a joke. He began to wave and acknowledge the applause, to act as if he were part of the procession itself. Good on him, well done that man. You can keep your corporate clap-trap and ra-ra-ra, what he did that day made me proud to be British. We are all Olympians now.