Thursday, 23 June 2016

Feeling Birdbrained...

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I've been spending more time on the beach with my feathered friends. They really are amazing. I went and sat on the beach, not a bird visible in the sky, and threw out some small pieces of bread. Within a few minutes, a whole load of eager gulls were wheeling around me.

It was a bit reminiscent of that Hitchcock classic, The Birds.

The gulls were, however, all very well-behaved towards me - even though they did have a few squabbles among themselves. It seemed to be a territorial thing - there was much chasing and squawking by some birds who also appeared to let certain others go and eat without protest - but I don't know enough about gull behaviour to interpret it.

I am unsure why "birdbrain" is such an insult - the gulls appeared pretty smart to me. Once the bag containing the bread scraps had been put into my pocket I was no longer of any interest, and they rapidly abandoned me.

But today I was feeling distinctly birdbrained. Arriving home from work, I walked directly from my car to the polling station. Standing in the queue, I realised, to my horror, that I couldn't remember my house number. Arriving at the desk, I had a sudden flash of inspiration, and I gave my address in a confident voice.

"Ah, ummm... that address doesn't appear to exist..." was the reply.

I had given the wrong street name!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

More Sea Views...

The subjects for my blogposts seem to fall into three categories of late: cats, the seaside and church activities. At the risk of boring you all to death, this is going to be yet another one of my seaside posts!

The weather has been pretty ghastly over Half Term. If I was visiting, I'd probably be pretty miffed - I guess that's why people go abroad for holidays, where the weather is more predictable. However, as I actually live here, I can enjoy the scenery in bad weather without feeling as if I've lost an opportunity to catch the sun.

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It was so windy at the beginning of the week that even the majority of the gulls were hunkering down on the grass - one or two tried flying, but were rapidly blown back inland. I drove down to the car park on Westbrook promenade and took a few photos of the waves...

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I could see from the remnants of surf on the walkway just how far the waves were reaching. I'm no lightweight, and there were two sets of railings between me and the water, so little chance of my being swept out to sea at that point, but I had no intention of getting soaked by a rogue wave! I decided to beat a fairly rapid retreat to the comfort of my own front room.

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This evening the weather was considerably drier, and the wind had dropped - though a sea mist appeared to be building. I could barely make out where the sea ended and the sky began. The tide was out, which allowed me to see just how deep the water got at high tide - it's difficult to judge when the tide is actually in. Even so, I thought a few more photos, especially of the sunset, wouldn't go amiss. If the view was good enough for Turner to capture more than once, then who am I to disagree...?

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I hope to get a few more photos once the Summer weather makes an appearance...

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Corpus Christi...

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We were very fortunate in Margate to be able to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi with a TLM on the proper day. On the Sunday, however, the Deanery held its Corpus Christi procession at the Shrine of St. Augustine in Ramsgate.

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It was a huge success - over 350 people squeezed in to the church to adore Our Lord. Children who had made their First Holy Communion were invited to ring bells and scatter rose petals before the Blessed Sacrament as the procession walked along the seafront promenade.

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A few years ago, someone rather dismissively told me that no-one bothered with silly things like processions any more...

Do have a look at the pictures of no-one bothering...!

St. Augustine's Feast Day...

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Last Saturday was the Feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury (in the old calendar), and, as the National Shrine is in Ramsgate, we had the opportunity to venerate the only relic extant in England (I think that was what Fr. Holden said in his introduction... I shall have to try to pin him down on that one!) It was wonderful to see so many people making a pilgrimage to honour the saint.

After a procession with the relic along Ramsgate's Westcliff promenade, there was a High Mass, with Fr. Armand de Malleray FSSP as celebrant.

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Fr. de Malleray's sermon gave plenty of food for thought, particularly when he contrasted the secular disbelief in the power of priests to change the bread and wine through the words of Consecration at Mass with the total acceptance that words spoken in Parliament can actually change physical realities. As Fr. de Malleray pointed out, through the words spoken by Black Rod, thousands of women found that they were no longer carrying a child in their womb, but merely a collection of tissues and cells!

Fr. Marcus Holden, the Rector of the Shrine (and Parish Priest of Ramsgate) has organised a whole series of events for Half Term celebrating the work of St. Augustine - you can find out more here.

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There are also more photos to see on my Flickr album page.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

More Gull-Watching...

Now that I work locally, I have the opportunity to spend an occasional afternoon sitting by the beach. It's not, in my opinion, warm enough to go paddling just yet (though we did have a few warm days at the beginning of May) but I do enjoy driving down to a little point near home where I can park the car and watch the waves as they hit the sea wall.

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The other afternoon I decided to get myself a KFC takeaway, and eat it in the car. The last time I was gull-watching, I had brought some bread as "bait" - but not just any old stale stuff. It was brioche. Nevertheless, the gulls were not impressed with my offering, and ignored the scraps I threw in their direction. I had to crop my photos to zoom in on the birds.

This time I threw out a few chips...

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One chap (I assume it was a chap) obviously thought the chips should be his... he spent a lot of time squawking and chasing other gulls away... meanwhile a few opportunists were sneaking in behind him and hoovering up the chips.

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The gulls of Margate are obviously much more choosy than the ones in Cornwall (the PM was answering questions about the gull-menace in Cornwall last Summer!) I'm not sure if that's because they are a more discerning class of gull or if they are just better-fed.

More photos HERE...

Friday, 29 April 2016

Miaowrini's New Hobby...

Miaowrini appears to have started a new hobby... or, rather, adopted a new approach to an old hobby...

She now comes in through the catflap late at night and miaows in a particular way for attention. The sound is unmistakable as she has a mouth full of mouse. She then deposits the mouse in the hall in front of my bedroom door (directly in line with my pillows, so I can't miss it), bats it about a bit, looks in my direction as if to say "Deal with it!" and promptly stalks off.

When I attempt to retrieve the unfortunate mouse, she suddenly comes back to watch. Sometimes she tries to swat it from my hand. I get the distinct impression I'm being Ofsteded by my own cat...

She appears to have discovered a regular supply - yesterday she brought me three. I have visions of seagulls lurking in dark alleys: "Pssst... you wanna score some mouse?"

Thursday, 14 April 2016

A Possible New Hobby...

Ever since I moved to Margate, I have been fascinated by the gulls. The more I watch them, the more beautiful I find them, and I promised myself that I would have a session of photography with my "proper" camera, as I thought my phone camera wouldn't be up to the job.

Arriving home on a beautiful evening, I thought it might be fun to go and sit on the beach... so made a cup of tea in my travel mug (happily unused and abandoned since the end of my daily commute to London) and went out.


The view was almost heart-achingly beautiful, and I settled down to pray Vespers. That completed, I started to watch the gulls - I suspect it's mating season, as much of the wheeling flight seemed to have a display element. I decided to try and take a few photos...


I couldn't see much on my mobile, but I thought it might be worth cropping the photos to focus more closely on the gulls in flight. You can see the results on my Flickr page. Not too shabby, even if I do say so myself!


Saturday, 9 April 2016

Happy Holidays...

I woke up very early this morning to see a fiery red glow on the wall - a spectacular sunrise (or it would have been, if I'd had my contact lenses in!) But, "Red sky at morning, shepherds' warning!" is the old saying, and so I wasn't surprised to find that the skies at lunchtime were grey and forbidding, and it was cold and wet. I suppose we ought to expect rain in April.

It wasn't raining very much, though, so I decided to go for a little stroll along Marine Drive.

First of all I went in to the Sunset Rock Shop - they have a wide selection of different rock flavours, including the traditional peppermint and spearmint, as well as slightly odder offerings such as curry flavour, gin and tonic flavour, and Grumpy Old Git - I suspect the latter refers to the lettering running through the rock rather than the flavour. Intriguingly, examining my photos later, I spotted boxes labelled "seagull poo" next to the fudge. I shall have to go back and investigate.



I then went to the Ruskin de la Mer gift shop. I didn't see anyone in the shop and was browsing happily, until I was suddenly greeted by the owners, Gregory and Tracey, who were sitting quietly at the back of the shop. I jumped a mile...


I discovered that I already follow Tracey on Twitter (she tweets as @ShopMargate as well as @RuskinRap) and the three of us chatted for a while about how fabulous Margate is. The shop was gorgeous too - I shall have to go back when I need to buy presents for my nephews!

Tracey also told me about a charity she is promoting, Beach Within Reach, to allow people with mobility problems to travel over the sandy beaches of Thanet in specially adapted, all-terrain wheelchairs.


Crafted Naturally was next on my itinerary. I was delighted to see that Pumpkin had been reinstated as Marketing Manager after his recent illness. Wendy told me that the poor puss had lost well over a third of his body weight. However, he's now on the mend - and he consented to pose, and to purr when his ears were scratched...


Wendy also told me about her new website for the range of campervan (and VW Beetle) goodies (for anyone unfortunate enough not to be able to get to Margate in person!)


By this time I was feeling peckish, so I strolled in to Bernie's Chocolate Bar for a little light refreshment. Sadly I couldn't manage to perch on one of the tall stools by the window, but was able to catch glimpses of the sea from my table, and Bernie came over for a brief chat while I scoffed the delicious carrot cake and luxury hot chocolate...


Finally, I stopped off at The Two Halves - not for a drink (I was driving) but to apologise for having missed their latest Curry Night. Again. I found Jackie and Sean cutting up the names of runners for a Grand National Sweepstake. I couldn't resist, and promptly bought two tickets.


I drew Gilgamboa and Many Clouds; It meant nothing to me - I'm not a sporting type. However, I thought that the latter sounded promising, given the weather, and was informed that it was actually the favourite. So it's probably the kiss of death for that horse...

A bit like the time I entered the Rugby World Cup sweepstake at work, and asked if my team were any good.
"Who have you got?"
"Ummm... New Zealand..."
Unfortunately for me, the All Blacks were knocked out pretty early that year...

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Hunting Skills...

This afternoon I was having a quiet read (what else are holidays for?) when the catflap clattered. I didn't look up - it's a noisy flap and the cats are in and out several times a day. I then heard Monsignor Miaowrini practising her pounce-and-roll technique in the front room. I still didn't look up - she had been rolling around there all morning...


Then I heard the peculiar kitty-scrabble-sound a cat makes when it is holding on to something with its front paws and kicking ecstatically at it with the back ones. This made me look up...

There, in the hall, was an impressive collection of feathers...


I followed the trail to the front room to find Miaowrini clutching a small bird, rolling over and over with it in her paws... a sort of kitty-crocodile-death-roll. I retrieved the still-warm bird, which had died of fright, I think, as there were no obvious injuries, and cleared away the feathers.


Naturally, my first instinct was to update the Kitty Kill Count. After all, hunting trophies have been scarce since we moved to Margate. I blame the seagulls...

Monday, 28 March 2016

Easter Activities...


The Triduum is rather a busy time. This year, because Easter was so early, most schools opted to work right up until the last possible minute, so Holy Week was taken up with teaching commitments until the afternoon of Maundy Thursday. This meant that my Triduum preparations were rather truncated...

I did attempt to get to Tenebrae at the Shrine of St. Augustine, Ramsgate for Spy Wednesday. However, a full teaching day followed by a revision session for Year 11, followed by an hour and a half of booklet photocopying and collating for Maundy Thursday's Mass, and two and a half hours' choir practice in preparation for Good Friday and the Easter Vigil meant that I was a little tired. By 10pm, with only the first nocturn of Tenebrae completed, I realised that I hadn't eaten all day and I had a full day of teaching still to follow, so I went home early. Nevertheless, the bit of the liturgy I attended was very beautiful, and the Victoria Consort sang superbly, so I was glad I had made the effort.




After work on Maundy Thursday I finished preparing the booklets for the Mass by stapling them - fortunately we will be able to use them again as the TLM operates on a one-year cycle. A run-through of the music followed, but we had less time than anticipated as I had miscalculated the start-time by half an hour. A mad scramble for the choir loft ensued - but we managed to sort out the music in time. Singing the Pange Lingua for the procession to the altar of repose always brings a lump to my throat. We chanted Vespers after Mass and then had the Solemn Stripping of the Altars...


Good Friday started with Stations of the Cross - but since this was at midday, I managed to catch up on some sleep first. Children read a short description of each Station, and some of them walked round with Fr. Finigan...


The Afternoon Liturgical Action of the Passion was very moving. Scooting down from the choir loft for Veneration of the Cross was a bit of a struggle - my joints were playing up due to the damp - but I wouldn't have missed it for the world!


We had "Święconka" - the traditional Easter Blessing of food - at midday on Holy Saturday... it was great to see the children with their decorated baskets...



And then there was a gap until the Easter Vigil itself. We had winds gusting at about 50 mph, and it was raining, so the lighting of the Easter fire and Paschal candle happened in the hall. Deacon Ambrose sang the Exsultet superbly...


Of course, it had to be this weekend that the clocks changed, so I lost an hour's sleep. Fortunately I sing at the 11:30am Mass, not the 9:30am... but I still overslept!!


All my photos are in albums up on Flickr if you want to have a look...

The advantage to finishing the term on Maundy Thursday is that I now get two whole weeks after the frenzy of the Triduum to rest and recuperate. Watch this space for lots of holiday pictures of the beach...

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Palm Sunday...

An absolutely brilliant day today...


I was worried that it would rain, as the day was distinctly grey, damp and overcast (and jolly cold) but the sun came out just in time for the procession. Andrew Bosi, who used to run the schola which visited Blackfen for the Missa Cantata on the first Saturday of the month, came down to help with the singing of the psalms and antiphons during the procession. This was just as well, because I'm not yet confident enough to do the full Gregorian chant... we had the "proper" stuff for the procession and the Rossini propers (based on simple psalm tones) for the Mass itself. Together with Mass XVII, Credo I, the Stabat Mater and the Parce Domine, I think we did quite well...


I managed to get a few photos of the whole thing, and have uploaded them to my Flickr page. Please do go and have a look (and see what you are missing if you don't get to attend a Solemn High Mass for the start of Holy Week!


Present Time...

Matthaeus (Sub Umbra Alarum Suarum) popped down to visit St. Austin & St. Gregory's, Margate, today - well, a Solemn High Mass with all the trimmings on Palm Sunday is well worth the effort!

He brought a present for the kitties...


I had just decided that it might be a good idea to get some sort of mat to go in front of the catflap, so it is absolutely purrrrfect... Thanks, Matthaeus!

Friday, 18 March 2016

That Time Of Year...

We are approaching the greatest Feast in the Church's calendar, which is the cue for the mainstream media to run silly "religious" stories and show even sillier programmes.

The media have pretty much done the "Jesus-was-married-to-Mary-Magdalene!" theme to death, so a new angle was about due. This time it's "Judas-not-as-black-as-he's-been-painted!"

You see, for the last 2000 years, the Church has unfairly castigated Judas for betraying Jesus. It seems that he didn't do it for the money - he betrayed Jesus because he wanted to force him to take power and overthrow the Romans.

That makes it so much better, doesn't it?

The Telegraph report claims that "prominent clerics" think Judas' role should be reappraised. However, the only clerics actually quoted are the Anglican Bishop of Leeds (of whom I'd never heard) and the Anglican vicar whose prominence is entirely due to the fact that she was videoed cavorting around her church during a wedding ceremony "disco flash mob", footage of which went viral on YouTube. Of course, these days that's more than enough to get you a slot on TV.

Anyway, the Bishop of Leeds seems to think that Judas' motives have been misrepresented. Now it's true that they are not mentioned in the Gospels. However, the Evangelists left out rather a lot of stuff which was considered unnecessary for our salvation. Presumably Judas' motives were not considered pertinent. The fact that Judas gave in to despair and killed himself was recorded, and so that, presumably was the important point.

I was rather taken aback by the Rev. Kate Bottley's interview with the Telegraph as a plug for her program. "I don’t think any of the other disciples were whiter than white – we just probably didn’t hear about it" was one snippet.

Ahem. Now, I'm no Scripture scholar, but actually we did hear about it. We hear how Matthew was a tax collector (not an honourable position!) We heard about Peter's misunderstanding of Jesus' mission - a misunderstanding that drew pretty harsh condemnation from Jesus himself  ("Get thee behind me, Satan!") and, of course, we hear plenty about Peter's threefold denial. We heard that James and John got their mother to try and wangle positions of power for them in Jesus' kingdom. The Scriptures record quite clearly how the Apostles fled after Jesus was arrested, and how, after the Crucifixion, they hid in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

Another quote from the Rev. Bottley also confused me: "Up until that moment of betrayal, Judas seems no better or worse than any of the other disciples... But he has been defined by the worst thing he did."

Ummm... but what about the bit which pointed out that Judas objected to the wasting of precious ointment on Jesus' feet because he had charge of the money and was helping himself to it?

Just reading about the programme was irritating. Fortunately I will have better things to do on Good Friday than watch this sort of drivel...
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