Friday, 26 February 2010

Take a friend and go ape

I was wondering whether meeting up with an old uni frined and going to an Indian restaurant in Rugby counted. The Masala Lounge does offer ‘Avant Garde Indian Cuisine’ (I’ve always been rather concerned about ‘Indian cuisine’) We had an enjoyable evening and some excellent Indian cooking. It was really avant garde: much more delicate than your normal curry.

When we got back to our friends’ house we had a phone call from another college friend who happened to be passing (from Ely to Plymouth!) so we agreed to meet up and have lunch. We went to the Admiral Nelson at Braunston – a canal-side pub so I nearly achieved another of the suggested actions – except I want to save that for later.

So I think meeting up with two friends whom I first met in 1963 and having lunch with them and their wives counts as going ape.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

I've made a loaf!

OK, so it was in the bread machine.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Anthony Caro Chapel of Light

From Anthony Caro Chapel of Light

Last Thursday we were returning towards Calais to catch the ferry on Friday morning so a diversion to Bourbourg was easy. We found the Church of St Jean Baptiste but the Chapel of Light was closed for annual maintenance – it was due to reopen on Saturday and clearly work had finished. After some disappointment and annoyance at finding yet another of our targets closed (the Cathedral at Châlons en Champagne was closed, too) we decided to find the Choeur de Lumière office. We were welcomed by Coralie and explained that we had hoped to visit the Chapel particularly as it was one of the items on the Diocesan Lenten activities (I’m not sure if pulling rank helped!) She was very helpful and got us permission for a special visit. She phoned the Guardian Benjamin and by the time we returned to the Church he was waiting with protective covers for our shoes. We were admitted past the ‘no entry’ signs into a wonderful world.

The Church had been destroyed in the war – during the Dunkirk evacuations a British pilot crashed his blazing plane into the roof of the Church to avoid the town. Later the Germans took much of the stonework and ground up the paving to make an airfield. The Church was restored in the ‘50s but the Choir was left untouched with a brick wall closing off the East end of the Church. In 1999 Sir Anthony Caro was asked to design the restoration of the Choir and the work was completed and dedicated in 2008.

The Choir is approached though an external sculpture ‘Threshold’ which is inspired by the ancient plan of the town of Bourbourg.

It represents a transition from the busyness of the town to the calm of the Church. The Choir itself is full of light – enhanced by the choice of a modern material – mineral concrete – for the floor. The new floor is symbolic but it is separated from the columns and walls by a gap to respect the difference between the ancient and the new. The Baptismal font is constructed in this new material and is designed to allow immersion. I think it’s unusual that the font is placed in the Choir of a church rather than the traditional location near the entrance.

Caro’s sculptures fill the nine niches around the Choir itself together with two in the wings. All are constructed of steel and terracotta and are big and bold. The first, Alleluia, has body fragments and figurines. The Niche elements represent the creation with an emphasis on water – The Depth, Sea Creatures, Galapagos, Seashore, Watering Hole, Waterfall, Undergrowth, Beside the River, Fruits. Finally in the other wing is Paradise Garden featuring Adam and Eve. There are also two towers – Tower of Morning, and Tower of Evening – made out of French oak. These make use of the height of the Choir and encourage climbing. Unfortunately we were asked not to enter because they had been recently treated.
The lightness and modernity of the whole was a big contrast to the dim and traditional main body of the Church, a wonderful example of Sustaining the Sacred Centre.

We thanked Benjamin for hosting our special visit; he gave us a candle of Notre Dame de Bourbourg which we’ll light to remember our visit.

There’s a wonderful quotation on one of the brochures issued by the Chapel of Light: “... Not all our books will perish, nor our statues, if broken, lie unrepaired. Other domes and pediments will arise from our domes and pediments. Some few men will think and work and feel as we have done, and I venture to count upon such continuators, placed irregularly over the centuries, and upon this kind of intermittent immortality.”

More pictures - click on the slideshow to see all the pictures.

Friday, 19 February 2010

First week of lent – first feedback

France was closed this week! We were staying near Châlons en Champagne so I tried to visit the cathedral there – described as a belonging to the spearshaped gothic style. The building was started in 1235. However, the cathedral was closed. We enquired at the tourist office and they said that it is not open at the moment because they can find no one to secure it. We did see the ‘impressive Gothic north facade’ so I think I can count that as a visit.

On Thursday we tried to visit the Caro Chapel of Light but this was closed for maintenance. However, we found the office and negotiated – and were let in. Pictures and more info over the weekend.

I did manage to ‘Just sit and be’ on the ferry coming home today!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Lent is nearly here

Last year I followed the daily suggestions in the Love Life Love Lent booklet. Having something pre-determined to do each day was a challenge but I did manage most of them. This year I’m going to try to do 3 or 4 things each week from the Sustaining the Sacred Centre card I copied a week or so ago. I’ll try to select these ahead of time so you can have a go, too.

Lent starts on Wednesday so it’s a short week. We happen to be going near Bourbourg so I shall try to visit the Anthony Caro Chapel of Light at Bourbourg (not on a day trip – but I think that’s OK!) I’ll also try to visit a Cathedral and just sit and be...

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Software – computer programs – have been in the news recently. Today the recall of the Toyota Prius for brake failure has been blamed on a software fault. Computers controlling brakes? They are getting everywhere! A few years ago I had a towbar fitted to my car and one of the items in the bill was a charge for a software upgrade – presumably to handle the extra lights.

The other reference to software recently was in connection with the A320 Airbus that ditched in the Hudson River a year ago. This Airbus was one of the first commercial fly-by-wire aircraft where computers interpret the pilot’s intentions and keep the plane flying safely, correcting errors that would otherwise cause the aircraft to stall. It’s now reported that Captain Sullenberger was significantly aided in his textbook-perfect landing on the water by the A320 software which controlled the descent. So not all software is potentially error-prone, although most PC owners wouldn’t agree!

So next time you’re sitting at the end of the runway waiting for take-off, think of a French programmer somewhere in Toulouse. But think of flight 1549 rather than Prius brakes!

More Lent activities

Two more Lenten activities: Christian Aid has a daily programme of activities “Count Your Blessings” which you can download from their web site It’s a thoughtful set of activities that encourage you to donate small amounts each day.

Tearfund has a Carbon Fast which focuses on environmental issues. This, too, can be downloaded from their site

Friday, 5 February 2010

Lent is coming

Last year I followed the Love Life Live Lent book. This year the Oxford Diocese has published some suggestions under the ‘Sustaining the Sacred Centre’ section of the Living Faith banner. The suggestions are for activities that we can do during lent – one for each of the six weeks. There are a whole range of activities – some are way out and some even crazier. So here’s the challenge: I’ll try some of these and report my experiences. Why don’t you – and feed your thoughts as comments? Perhaps I’ll offer another bottle (to be consumed after Lent, of course) to the best. Are you up for it?

Click on the image for a larger version - I'll put the list on the web in a day or so

Monday, 1 February 2010

Zone Plus

Last year Malmesbury Abbey had a skateboarding week in the abbey! Friend Helen and I were inspired by this and discussed – rather vaguely – doing something similar at Great Missenden. I didn’t think much of this till Helen e-mailed me a while ago saying she had arranged to borrow a skateboard ramp for us for the Easter holidays so Zone Plus was born (or rather began to ease into existence) We’ve had a number of crazy ideas to amuse youngsters during the holidays – and to get them into Church. They range from a drama day to graffiti (not, I hope on the Church walls – think what English Heritage would say about that!) We’ve got a web site – – not fully operational yet but things are starting to take shape.

I’ll keep you posted – meanwhile bookmark the website!