Wednesday, 31 March 2010

More Easter

A month or so ago I visited Stony Dean School in Amersham. The Young Enterprise company here have been very active with a whole range of products and services. They make the Holding Crosses we give children who are baptized in Church and I was collecting the latest supply. They were taking orders for simnel cakes. I collected my two cakes today. One has gone to the children but we have the other. We seem to be missing the chicken and the number of eggs is not quite right – but it’s still an enterprising activity. Wendy has commissioned a larger cross for the office. The school is given pieces of timber, some offcuts and some new. Wendy chose a piece of English Oak. I’ll report when the cross arrives.

Here’s our cake.

Tonight was the second – and last – performance of the Passion Play. Lots more photos below. It’s also featured on Bishop Alan’s Blog at

Passion Play 2

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Capture Easter

Tonight was the first night of the Passion Play. An experience for all: audience and particularly the cast. The Lent card I’m trying to follow has the suggestion “Use a digital camera to find images that capture Lent/Easter” I think these images do.

More pictures here.

Passion Play

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Nearly two weeks...

... with no blog entries! It’s been a busy time: getting ready for Zone Plus, building a tomb for the Passion play, hospital visits for cousin Tony. So not a lot of time for Sustaining the Sacred Centre. I’ve looked at the list of activities again - "Listen to some music you've never heard before."

Last evening we went to the Aylesbury Choral Society’s concert at the Aylesbury College. They performed Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers – a piece of music I hadn’t heard before. The Choral Soc where joined by six professional soloists and were accompanied by the Gonzaga Band – a group of musicians playing contemporary instruments (contemporary with Monteverdi, that is) – sackbuts, cornetts (sic), a chamber organ and a theorbo. The whole evening was fascinating: the harmonics of the singers with the authentic sounds of the band. The entire work was sung in Latin – although the programme had a translation. It brought back a few memories of my O-level!

Contrasting with the 17th century music was the location of the concert – the atrium of the new Aylesbury College. Acoustically the space is variable – we sat in a low-ceilinged part of the atrium for an earlier concert but last night we were in the open area and the sound was much better. The space is very asymmetrical – a three- storey interior space between a flat wall and a curved wall with the now almost compulsory curtain wall suspended on a complex framework.

A very enjoyable – and sustaining – evening.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Eat Fish and Chips at the Seaside

Well, not quite although Great Kingshill is nearer the seaside than Little Hampden. We had our delayed Christmas meal with the deputy wardens and their partners on Friday evening at The Red Lion, Great Kingshill. We originally planned this for January – we decided that December was too busy so going out in the new year would be better. However, we were snowed off – or at least the majority were. Don managed to get up to the Rising Sun in his 4WD and we walked – we were the only clients that evening. However, when I tried to book the Rising Sun for the delayed event, I got a recorded message “we’re now closed for a while...” So Red Lion it was. I picked the fish and chips (it was rather more grandly described)

The pub did a grand job: we were 17 so we ordered in advance. Instead of arriving at the table asking “who ordered sea bass” the staff had our names – so the service was very rapid and personal. The food was excellent – try it (I may get a discount next time of lots of you go – mention the blog!) I had tried it out a week or so before. We’d got it booked for one of our regular deputy warden meetings but several people couldn’t attend. I had already rebooked it once because of snow so I felt I couldn’t cancel yet again. So I did a “rent-a-guest” evening where I invited some friends to join me: it was like a dinner party but at the pub. It was great fun and I can see this being repeated.

The Christmas meal was a success – I felt it helped me to “sustain the sacred centre” that these lent activities are all about. We had an organised movement after each course so that we could speak to as many people as possible. In spite of the complexity this worked and nobody was left with nowhere to sit. We ended with the Messy Church Grace much to the amusement (or amazement) of other diners.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Following links – more engineering

As we’d failed to get into the cathedral of Saint-Etienne in Châlons-en-Champagne, I thought I’d try to find some pictures of the interior on the web. It’s not quite the same as visiting but there are usually dozens of pictures – by amateurs and professionals of any significant building. I found several – but I also found a fascinating site which resonated with yesterday’s entry about engineering. Structurae is an international database and gallery of structures. To quote the home page “This site offers you information on works of structural engineering, architecture or construction through time, history and from around the world. ... Structurae deals mostly with bridges, tunnels, dams, skyscrapers, stadiums, towers, etc. Explore this site to discover the marvellous works of structural engineering.

The site is German so there’s an emphasis on German buildings but as well as St Etienne, I found the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, the CNIT dome at La Défense – I used to stay in the hotel in this dome – it’s apparently the largest concrete shell in the world in terms of square footage of area covered per support – there are only three. There’s also an entry for the vaulting in Christ Church, Oxford.

You can see the Structurae site here.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Read a magazine – be an engineer

Wow, over a week with no postings! It’s been a busy week but I did manage to read the Times science supplement Eureka. This included an article by Lord Browne of Madingley ‘Change the world – be an engineer’ which argues for the UK to train more engineers.

Lord Browne doesn’t ask a question that has worried me for some time: why are engineers not regarded more highly in this country? In Europe – at least in France and Germany – engineering is highly- respected profession but not so here. Yet virtually everything we interact with daily is the product of engineering. I commented a while ago about the two cultures – the sciences and the arts. It’s acceptable for people to admit knowing nothing about the former – even to boast about it. But to say “I don’t know much about Shakespeare” or van Gogh or Beethoven? Never. Engineering has an even lower rating.

I think one of the problems is that scientists and engineers are not good communicators – at least in a way that everyone can understand. There are exceptions: David Attenborough, Robert Winston and the Coast presenters. But science and particularly engineering don’t get the media coverage. There are four or more reviews of theatre, films, the opera and other arts events every day in the papers but when did you see a review of an engineering achievement?

Lord Browne is a former chief executive of BP and is President of the Royal Academy of Engineering. You can read his article here and his contribution to a debate on the House of Commons Select Committee Inquiry into Engineering here.