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Tuesday 14th September 2021
If your memory of lockdown is of reading every book you owned and then having to buy more online you’ll have thrilled to the prospect of a book fair. In the weeks leading up to the sale books poured in – novels, histories, biographies, science, travel, gardening, cooking – every category was well represented. And all saleable – some of them at very good prices. The churchyard fairly buzzed with eager browsers and buyers. And cake-eaters – did I mention the coffee and home-made cake stall? Always a draw. You stop for a coffee and before you know it you’ve bought 5 books. There was a whole children’s section, with books to buy and books to make – and oranges (the healthy option!)
Inside – more books. Books on every available surface. CDs, DVDs – music and film. I almost bought The Deathly Hallows Part II having despaired of ITV every screening it (actually it was on last night, so I was spared another purchase and, OK, yes, I did come to Harry Potter a bit late).
It was a mammoth task organising so many books and Sheena’s team spent every afternoon of the preceding week sorting them into categories, lining them up (thank goodness for banana boxes – they could have been made for books not bananas), labelling and pricing and setting out the stalls whilst the forecourt was adorned with gazebos and bunting guaranteed to draw the curious that little bit further down Church Row.
An added attraction at midday was an engaging talk from JP Flintoff on the art of speaking and writing, helped by a few cautious volunteers.
There were plenty of books left for the congregation to browse through on Sunday and enough to make a decent donation to Oxfam in a week or two.
Monday 13th September 2021
Wednesday 8th September 2021
So what can we expect to hear in this new Mass setting? It will be a reflection of Ben’s own musical experience, notably the breadth of the Anglican choral repertoire, and especially the music of “sacred minimalist” composers such as Arvo Pärt and John Tavener - whose simplicity and clarity he much admires. We can also expect a little of the rich colours of that jazz harmony. With his admirable ear, Ben seems to soak up musical influences like blotting paper: his receptive musical mind processes everything he hears, and then he writes “what I like the sound of.” He begins a composition, he says, by working on its words, carefully marking the inflections and accentuation of the language. As he does this, musical ideas take shape in his head: in our Hampstead Mass he has paraphrased a motif from one of Bach’s preludes in the Kyrie, and it threads its way again through the Sanctus and Agnus. He writes fluently and easily – not surprising, perhaps, for one who as a schoolboy, untutored and merely for fun, wrote several complete fugues. In his own words:
My love of sacred minimalism and melody can be found throughout the Hampstead Mass. In contrast to some of my other compositions - where rich jazz harmony is more prevalent - I took a more traditional and austere approach. I do, however, use some of those colours in the final bars of the Agnus Dei.
The HCMT Trustees will be pleased that their commission came at an opportune moment for Ben. He says that without it he would have had to take part-time work which would not only have interfered with his PhD studies, but also prevented him recently fulfilling another commission from the BBC, this time for Evening Canticles (you can hear the “Maida Vale” Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis - and several other compositions - on his website: www.benponniah.com). The Trustees can also feel that their charitable Object of maintaining and promoting “the performance and appreciation of Church Music in Hampstead" is being happily fulfilled by their support for such a promising choral composer near the beginning of his career. Ben Ponniah may well be “a name to watch”
As you all know, the Hampstead Church Music Trust helps to support not only the service music at the Parish Church, but also other projects for church music within our defined local area. So the Trustees were pleased to be approached last year by a young choral composer (fortuitously living in Fellows Road at the time) who had found HCMT by googling our website. Intrigued by BBC Music’s description of Ben Ponniah as “a name to watch”, after due enquiries the Trustees commissioned a four-part Mass setting from him suitable for performance at our Eucharists. Now completed, the new Hampstead Mass will be given its first performance at the morning service here on Sunday 19 September.
Geoffrey Webber suggested we might all be interested to hear more about the Mass, so I met Ben in Hampstead this weekend to talk about his music. Ben Ponniah comes from a musical family, and at the early age of six became a chorister at St Mary-le-Tower in Ipswich. There he received an excellent parish church musical training - as rigorous as that delivered in Hampstead by Martindale Sidwell - and also became familiar with a similarly wide-ranging repertoire of Anglican cathedral music. With this musical experience as background Ben shone at Ipswich School, though he was discouraged from taking music as an A level subject - “because,” said his music master, “you can do it all already!” So he did economics instead and went on to read that subject at Nottingham University. But his spare time in Nottingham was filled with music-making, and he also took jazz piano lessons. These were revelatory: Ben already had the enviable ability to play by ear, as well as considerable competence as a pianist, and these accomplishments were now enhanced by experience of jazz’s analytical approach to chord sequences and the colourful added 7ths and 9ths of jazz harmony.
Ben’s persistence with economics however proved its worth. He took school posts teaching economics, which provided him with a livelihood while he became more and more convinced that what he really wanted was to become a choral composer. A turning-point came when he received a generous donation from a benefactor in his home town of Ipswich, who funded a professionally-performed and recorded CD of his compositions. This tangible evidence of Ben’s ability led in two important directions: he was advised to take a PhD in composition with Dr Phillip Cooke at Aberdeen University, and he began receiving commissions for his music - notably from the BBC. It was at this point that he approached HCMT.
Tuesday 7th September 2021
We got off to a slow start on Saturday morning and began to wonder if it had all been a huge mistake. Last year, with so much locked down and no one feeling safe to travel, people came because they were just so glad to find anything open, but now we had competition. Thankfully it picked up in the afternoon and by the end of the day we had welcomed a very respectable 69 adults, one dog and one not very interested baby.
Sunday afternoon was much better. Tea outside drew visitors who hadn’t had any intention of visiting a church but who can resist home made cake? And at such reasonable prices! 64 adults came in during the afternoon, plus an indeterminate number of children (but no dogs).
So what did they see? Well, the gallery was open, that’s always a draw, even the congregation don’t often have a chance to get up close to the gallery windows and memorials.
Then there was Sue Kirby’s display from the Archives. Sue has a nose for interesting items and a determination to seek them out however daunting the storage. Plans of what might have been – I’m quite glad some of the designs for the 1878 extension were rejected! – and pictures of how the church looked in earlier years.
Then there was the Lady Chapel with the lovely Fulleylove window and the new Steevens memorial. We even had gentle organ music on Sunday which all added to the atmosphere.
How many of the visitors were “doing” Open House? Difficult to say. I rather regret the demise of the catalogue – obvious to everyone what you were doing: “How many have you done?” “Have you found……..?” “is it worth visiting…....?” Much more fun.
I’m most grateful to everyone who gave their time over the weekend to make it all possible.
Now on to the Book Sale!
Thursday 2nd September 2021
Some photos from a recent visit to Sarah Phipps beautiful garden. It is a paradise, a retreat, anything and everything you want a garden to be. These photos show a little bit her great design flair, sense of colour and love and knowledge of plants.
11th September is our Mega Book Fair. We have received an incredible collection of wonderful second-hand books. Do come along and browse.
We are also very pleased to announce that John-Paul Flintoff will be doing a short talk at 12 noon on “The Art of Writing: The two best ways to make your writing compelling”. He will then be answering questions on the subject. Afterwards he will be signing his latest book “A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech”
John-Paul has written several other books including the very interesting “How To Change The World (The School of Life)”. He teaches people to communicate like fully human beings, and has done so on four continents. His talks draw on his work in journalism (as writer and editor, The Financial Times, The Sunday Times of London) and as a theatrical improviser. His online work has included racing against the clock to draw the Oscar winning actor Olivia Coleman which you can watch here https://www.flintoff.org/be-drawn
And to top it all there will also be delicious Traidcraft refreshments
Tuesday 31st August 2021
his weekend the church is taking part in Open House London, a London-wide (as its name suggests) initiative to draw people to the city’s beautiful buildings. Of course our church is open every day (and we hope soon, all day once again) but our listing on their website makes that know to a wider audience. Last year we were gratified at the number of people who came in just because they were so glad to find ANYTHING open. Who knows how many we’ll get this year. There are several other properties open in the area: The Friends Meeting House, Swiss Cottage Library, Keats House, Isokon, 2 Willow Road and 8a Belsize Park Garages (please someone go and see what that is!). What you don’t see every time you come to church is the selection from our Archives – the illuminated manuscript we featured on Church Chat a couple of weeks ago, and drawings and plans of proposed extensions, some of which I’m very glad weren’t accepted. We also have a transcription of the George Steevens memorial in the Lady Chapel – be honest, how many of you can read it from the ground? /p>
And of course, being HPC, there’ll be tea and coffee, so even if you’ve seen it all before, come and have a coffee with your friends
September’s music choices continue to reflect our changing liturgical patterns as we emerge from lockdown, as well as themes that arise from the lectionary. The location of the choir in the morning service should facilitate the performance of settings with organ once again, so on Sunday 5th we plan to sing Harold Darke’s Communion Service in E, and on the 12th Haydn’s Mass no. 7 in B flat, often known as the ‘Little Organ Mass’ due to the solo organ part in the Benedictus. Best of all, we look forward to welcoming the Junior Choir back with us at morning services from September 12th.
Performing the superb music of the classical masses by Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and others in today’s liturgical circumstances is far from straightforward, since the manner in which the Mass liturgy was conducted when the pieces were written required the composer to make some movements short and others long, not corresponding to the lengths of the texts: the Gloria and Creed were required to be short, whilst the Benedictus needed to be long. Composers even ‘telescoped’ the longer texts, with all the parts singing different texts simultaneously, so that the complete text could be sung with dispatch. Haydn’s Gloria for his Mass No.7 was so short that his composer brother Michael decided to remove the telescoping, and this is the version we will sing on the 12th. We will sing the Benedictus during the communion, in order to have time to include the extended soprano and organ solo. Some settings of the Agnus Dei in classical masses ended in triumphal style to mark the conclusion of the liturgy, and so seem ill-suited to use just before the communion today. However, Haydn’s Mass No.7 ends calmly, so fits well.
On the 19th September we are delighted to be giving the first performance of the Hampstead Mass composed by local composer Ben Ponniah with funds from the Hampstead Church Music Trust. Ben will be attending the service and we look forward to seeing him then.
Evensong continues as in August, but now with a visiting organist each week. There is a mini-theme in the form of the so-called ‘Dresden’ Amen, which will be sung as the Final Amen and which also appears at the end of Stanford in B flat and in a psalm chant by Thomas Armstrong. We observe the readings with the spiritual ‘Go down, Moses’ on the 5th, motets with texts concerning the law on the 12th, and two pieces describing the heavenly hosts on the 26th, anticipating Michaelmas (29th). Fans of Edward Elgar will be pleased to see one of his epic psalm-anthems Great is the Lord alongside the superb first movement of his Organ Sonata on the 19th. Amongst less well-known composers featured this month are Philip Radcliffe (1905-86) who for many years was a Lecturer in Music at Cambridge and composed his Preces and Responses for the Edington Music Festival in 1971 (I sang in the first performance as a treble!), and the Italian organist Tarquinio Merula (1595-1665) who spent most of his life working in Cremona, and was renowned for his lively and innovative works for both voices and instruments. His Capriccio cromatico was not of course designed to be heard in our splendid organ’s ‘equal temperament’ tuning, but there are plenty of suitably spicy-sounding options on YouTube…
(The photos show Ben Ponniah and The Hospital Chapel in Eisenstadt where Haydn's Little Organ Mass was first performed, with the composer playing the organ.
Friday 27th August 2021
Thursday 26th August 2021
Churches get given things. From the steeple cup presented by Mrs Susan Weedon in the 17th century (now safely residing and on permanent display in the V&A) to a small silver vase bearing the Girl Guide badge presented by Miss Grace Rush more recently. Items are catalogued, used or safely stored. Most items.
In a dusty envelope on the top shelf of one of the vestry cupboards has lain, for as long as I can remember, a most beautifully crafted Illuminated copy of the Holy Communion service from the Book of Common Prayer. It has no title page, no name, no one seems to know anything about it or who made it. Or why. An act of prayer almost certainly.
It will be on display during the Open House Weekend (4th and 5th Sept) – do come and see it.
½ cups of Kings IV, verse 22
½ lb Judges V, verse 25
2 cups Jeremiah VI, verse20
2 cups Nahum III, verse 12
2 cups Numbers XVII, verse 12
2 cups 1. Samuel, XXX, verse 12
2 teaspoonfuls of 1 Samuel, XIV, verse 25
6 Jeremiah XVII, verse 11
1 ½ cups Judges IV, verse 19
2 teaspoonfuls Amos IV, verse 5
A pinch of Leviticus II, verse 13
Season with Chronicles IX, verse 9
Directions in Proverbs XXIII, verse 14. Bake 1 ½ to 2 hours at 170°C Gas Mark 3.
N.B. You may use baking powder instead of Amos IV, verse 5.
Send us a photo of your Bible cakes. There are some great videos on YouTube
Saturday 14th August 2021
These photos were taken near the top. Don't let them go to waste!
Wednesday 11th August 2021
Creator, as I prepare to go into the world, help me to see the sacrament in the wearing of the cloth - let it be an ''outward sign of an inward grace''- a tangible and visible way of living love for my neighbours, as I love myself.
Christ, since my lips will be covered, uncover my heart,
that people would see me smile in the crinkles around my eyes,
Since my voice may be muffled, help me to speak clearly,
not only with my words, but with my actions.
Holy Spirit, as the elastic touches my ears, remind me to listen carefully and full of care -
to all those I meet.
May this simple piece of cloth be shield and banner and each breath that it holds
be filled with your love.
In your name and in that love, I pray. May it be so...Amen.
Yet again this was a huge success! It was very well attended and much enjoyed by all. The talks and presentations were greatly appreciated, coffee and biscuits went down well and the lunches were, as usual, delicious. A big vote of thanks to all who made this possible for their hard work. These are some of the things I remember-
Day 1 – John Willmer compiled and with his team read a series of wonderful Homecomings, including the Parable of the Prodigal Son and Mole and Rat’s return to Mole’s home in the Wind in the Willows.
Frances Spalding talked of John Betjeman’s and John Piper’s contributions to the Shell Guides describing the changing face of England. They posed the question “what to do?” about the heartbreak of changing the architecture of small towns with old architecture being replaced by housing estates.
Edward Humphreys talked nostalgically of the history of trams in London- particularly of those in the poorer areas, where tram fares were one third cheaper than bus fares. The first electric trams started in London in 1904, disappearing in 1952.
Day 2. –Stephen Clarke gave a hilarious account of his “disastrous” national service in the ranks, as with an Oxford scholarship, he felt and was seen as too intellectual to be an officer.
Tulip Siddiq MP gave a fascinating talk about her life as an MP. The most difficult thing about being an MP was selection. Her father’s recovery from a stroke made her a strong supporter of the NHS. In the Labour party she said that values were more important to her than policies
Stephen Tucker, warmly welcomed back by all his old friends, treated us to a wonderful collection of the origins, characters and historic recordings of Verdi’s Rigoletto, including a recording by Caruso.
Day 3-Sheena Ginnings gave a very moving account of her personal visits to some of the holy places in Israel and Palestine, and the spiritual value of silence and our personal experiences at these sites.
“Tea at the Ritz” at Henderson Court was a huge success. The sun came out, it was well attended, there were lots of wonderful cakes and Jeremy playing Beatles songs on his guitar- some 90 year olds even got up to dance!
Day 4- Wonderful readings on “Somewhere Else” compiled by Moragh Gee and read by her team. Two especially will stick in my mind - “The Selfish Giant” by Oscar Wilde and “How Long, O Lord?” by Keith Waterhouse, about building Noah’s Ark – with a twist!
Rupert Berryman’s talk on Wind Power emphasised the importance and limitations of offshore Wind Power – its huge cost and technical difficulties. Only a small contributor to our energy needs, we will remain very dependent on other sources.
Jeremy Fletcher pointed to the connection of the Memorial Painting after Filippo Lippi, hanging in the Clergy Vestry, with the Medici family, painted to identify members of the family with the saints to illustrate the divine justification of their authority.
Whilst the Vicarage Garden tea was rained off, a delicious tea was served in the Parish Rooms.
Day 5 – Gardeners’ Question Time with Jenny Bunn and Pen Linell produced many useful hints and tips for gardeners. Always water in the morning as evening watering encourages slugs – and never grow hostas!
Alex Bunn, a prison doctor, told us to remember those in prison. 30% of prisoners had been abused as children. The average reading age of prisoners is that of a 12 year old and reoffending is high and a major problem.
Graham Dunn – our new curate talked amusingly of his journey to Hampstead via various interesting jobs, including Vodaphone, until he became a mature student at Westcott House. Graham is particularly interested in Social Justice and the role of Christians in the work place.
In Part 1 we left Joanna as a 10 year old entertaining her friends with her own theatrical shows. Four years later, in 1776 Joanna’s father was appointed Professor of Divinity at Glasgow University, so the family moved to Glasgow, but that only lasted 2 years as her father died and she moved, with her mother and sister, to Long Calderwood in Lanarkshire.
Here she mostly educated herself, reading Shakespeare and the major British poets.
When she was 22, Joanna, with her sister Agnes, joined their brother Matthew, now a qualified doctor, to live in London and, 7 years later, the sisters moved to Hampstead – then definitely on the outskirts of London! Shortly after their arrival Joanna wrote a poem describing the then view from the heath:
It is a goodly sight through the clear air.
From Hampstead's heathy height to see at once
England's vast capitol in fair expanse.
Towers, belfries, lengthen'd streets, and structures fair.
St. Paul's high dome amidst the vassal bands
Of neighb'ring spires, a regal chieftain stands.
And over fields of ridgy roofs appear,
With distance softly tinted, side by side
In kindred grace, like twain of sisters dear,
The Towers of Westminster, her Abbey's pride;
While, far beyond, the hills of Surrey shine
Through thin soft haze, and show their wavy line.
View'd thus, a goodly sight! but when survey'd
Through denser air when moisten'd winds prevail
In her grand panoply of smoke array'd,
While clouds aloft in heavy volumes sail.
She is sublime — She seems a curtain'd gloom
Connecting heaven and earth — a threat'ning sign of doom. . . .
So shows by day this grand imperial town;
And, when o'er all the night's black stole is thrown,
The distant traveller doth with wonder mark
Her luminous canopy athwart the dark.
In London Joanna now began writing, intending to publish. Favourable reviews of her first collection of poems, published anonymously in 1790, encouraged her to continue writing and she published, still anonymously, a series of plays on The Passions.
What is now Rosslyn Hill Unitarian chapel, was in Joanna’s day a Presbyterian chapel where the minister was the Rev Rochemont Barbauld. His wife was the radical writer Anna Letitia Barbauld, and they made their home the centre of an influential group of literary people. When Joanna joined this group she didn’t tell anyone about her published works.
She was described as ‘a stiff, solemn Scotch girl — small and light in person,who sat demurely while her work was discussed.’
Lucy Aikin (niece of Mrs Barbauld and near neighbour in Hampstead, also buried in our churchyard) recorded —
‘I well remember the scene,she and her sisterarriving on a morning call at Mrs. Barbauld's; my aunt immediately introduced the topic of the anonymous tragedies, and gave utterance to her admiration with that generous delight in the manifestation of kindred genius, which distinguished her. But not even the sudden delight of such praise, so given, could seduce our Scottish damsel into self-betrayal. The faithful sister rushed forward, as we afterwards recollected, to bear the brunt, while the unsuspected author lay snug in the asylum of her taciturnity.'
A critic in the Quarterly Review described the sensation caused by this first, anonymous appearance of the Plays on the Passions: ‘The curiosity excited in the literary circle … the incredulity … that these vigorous and original compositions came from a female hand … the astonishment, when they were acknowledged to be by a gentle, quiet and retiring young woman.’
No doubt our church congregation well knows to never underestimate a quiet woman!
Sunday 1st August 2021
It is always a delight to see a composer such as William Byrd featuring in one of our national newspapers, even if the title runs “Was the great composer William Byrd secretly a traitor to England”, as recently in The Telegraph. Unlike other Roman Catholic composers such as Richard Dering and Peter Phillips who left England for the Low Countries, Byrd stayed at home and at the very least lived a complicated life as one of Elizabeth I’s favoured musicians. His musical legacy happily enriches both Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions, as will be heard this month at Hampstead Parish Church.
A few weeks ago we performed his dazzling motet ‘Laudibus in sanctis’, and this month we sing his ‘Preces’ & Responses each week, as well as his Short Service, and in the final week movements of his ‘Mass for Four Voices and communion motet ‘Ave verum corpus’. Evensong ends each week with a Final Amen taken from Byrd’s ‘Caroll for New-yeares day’ published in 1611 in his collection Psalms, Songs and Sonnets.
As we gradually emerge from compulsory Covid-19 restrictions, Byrd’s ‘Mass for Four Voices’ is one of the five settings chosen for August which are all fairly concise in nature.
In his notices at the 11 am Holy Communion on July 25th the Vicar explained that members of the choir would be returning to sing at the 11 am service in August, performing in one of the galleries in order to make safe use of the church space.
Most of the Mass settings are by Renaissance/Baroque composers, but the one exception is the ‘Mass in the Ionian Mode’ by Charles Wood (1866-1926), a kind of pastiche on 16th-century modal writing, though more chordal in style than polyphonic. Accompanying this Mass setting is the communion motet ‘Ecce panis angelorum’ by Samuel Wesley (son of Charles the hymn-writer and father of S. Sebastian Wesley) which delights in the subtitle ‘Transubstantiatorial Hymn’. The only modern work on the list for the morning service is the ‘Salve Regina’ by Francis Poulenc, helping us to celebrate the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 15th August.
The music chosen for Evensong includes two works that are settings of the readings for the day: on 1st August we perform William Boyce’s lively rendition of verses from Job, ‘O where shall wisdom be found?’, alternating solo verses with full chorus, first published in 1790,
and on 29th August we sing a setting of the Beatitudes by the great early 17th-century Dutch organist Jan P. Sweelinck (image below), ‘Beati pauperes’, in which the composer subtlety reflects the various attributes of the blessed.
Amongst other selections are two of Hubert Parry’s beautiful ‘Songs of Farewell’ on the 22nd, and the powerful ‘Second Service’ of Kenneth Leighton with its spiky organ part, played by visiting organist Richard Gowers, on the 15th. Contrasting with Leighton’s ‘Canticles’ on the 15th we conclude our Marian celebrations with the serene setting of ‘Ave Maria’ by Robert Parsons, a work that probably dates from the reign of Queen Mary. The calmness of the setting is partly due to the initial slow rise of the soprano line, gradually ascending the six notes of the hexachord, but by the end full polyphony is achieved in a glorious Amen.
The organ music chosen to top and tail our services often (though not always!) reflects either the musical repertoire of the service itself or the liturgical calendar. On the 15th, for example, we hear Bach’s ‘Fugue on the Magnificat’ in the morning (remembering the BVM), and Leighton’s ‘Paean’ in the evening (to complement his Second Service).
One rarity: I first came across Aguilera de Heredia’s ‘ensalada toccata’ when reading Willi Apel’s ‘The History of Keyboard Music to 1700’ as an undergraduate, where it is described as“one of the most valuable treasures of early organ music”. It has unfortunately remained very little known to this day outside Spain, but thanks are now due to Seville organist Juan A. Pedrosa who has just has put a fine edition of the work online. The description ‘ensalada’ (‘salad’) refers to the delightful mixture of different musical elements heard during the course of the piece. (There is an image below of the beautiful organ in Seville Cathedral)
Regular worshippers at Evensong will have noticed some minor changes to our pattern of singing at present. During these summer months I have planned the music so that we sing the same setting of the Preces, Responses and Lord’s Prayer during the course of each month, as well as the same Final Amen. This repetition allows regular attenders to experience something familiar each week in a service that contains so much varied music. For the singing of the Psalms we are alternating the two sides of the choir, Decani and Cantoris, within each verse. Many verses of the Psalms contain a single idea that is posited slightly differently in the two halves of the verse; this is thus reflected rhetorically through the interplay between the two sides of the choir. (Amongst the psalm chants this month is one by former Organist & Director of Music Martindale Sidwell.)
Finally, instead of singing an Introit every week, these will only be sung occasionally, when fitting well with a particular liturgical or musical theme.
Thursday 29th July 2021
We are having a Book Fair on 11th September from 11.00 am to 3.00 pm and we need books, CD’s and DVD’s.
Summer is a great time to go through all those books you haven’t read, or have read and won’t read again, or bought during lockdown and now don’t have space.
Or you may want to Spring clean and make more space for other books. So many reasons to go through your books and donate them to the Book Fair.
Please leave them at the back of church marked Book Fair.
If you have any questions or would like to help sort and sell books, please contact Sheena Ginnings through the Vestry
“Tell is what you did in the summer” we invited in last week’s email. On reflection that sounded rather like those essays that punctuated primary school years: “What I did in my holidays” – always a challenge for children who didn’t do anything much (and occasionally an embarrassment to parents when the truth came out – “I don’t know why Daddy didn’t come with us because he hasn’t got a job” made my mother cringe).
So --- having made the suggestion I thought I’d better start us off with my trip to Bekonskot Model Village, which ended in a thunderstorm at Marylebone and a whole new meaning to the expression “wet through”.
I went at the suggestion of my (grown up) daughter. I love models, and joy of joys, model trains – there’s a track runs right round the area with LOTS of trains. There were, of course, lots of children too, but also not a few unattended adults. It’s so well done – the models, the ingenuity, the scenery – even the bushes and the flowers were to scale and the lawns were immaculate. The cat, strolling along the railway line, not to scale and causing a few anxious moments for the onlookers as a train trundled towards it.
I rather envied the gardeners who must have access to all the little paths the public aren’t allowed to walk on, but goodness, keeping the grass so tidy must take some doing. Imagine having to lift all the models to cut under and around them.
A bit of history….*
Bekonscot Model Village and Railway is the world’s oldest model village, opening for the first time in 1929. It is now operated by The Roland Callingham Foundation Charity, continuing the tradition established by their founder of welcoming visitors to the village and supporting worthwhile causes by sharing the income with charitable organisations. To date they have donated over £5.5 million to various, mainly local, charities.
The brainchild of Roland Callingham, it all began in 1928 when Mrs Callingham made a short but moving speech which suggested that either the indoor model railway went, or she did. The model railway moved outdoors.
Local buildings and personal favourites of the staff provided much of the village’s inspiration. The Waitrose Building bears a striking resemblance to the actual Waitrose not far away. Bekonscot’s founder was never concerned with precision: it was, and always will be, eccentric, fun and full of character – and never meant to be taken too seriously.
Bekonscot has been through many changes in its history, the biggest coming in 1992 when it went from being kept up to date, with all of the latest cars, trains and planes, to being returned to a 1930’s time warp. The village has remained like this ever since, with new and refurbished buildings always in the traditional style. (This makes some of it quite painful; the zoo for instance, with its tiny, bleak animal enclosures, and the fox hunting scene, things we’d rather not remember.)
It’s easy to get to – if you can call Marylebone easy to get to – with fairly regular trains if the drivers haven’t been “pinged” (ours were – both ways) and not far from Beaconsfield station. And it’s not ridiculously expensive. So altogether a very satisfactory place to go and a thoroughly good day out. (I’m sure my shoes will dry out eventually.)
*From their website: https://www.bekonscot.co.uk/
Sunday 25th July 2021
The last three weeks have been a time of “firsts” for me as I settle into my new role here at Hampstead Parish Church. One such occasion was this week’s Leavers’ Service for Year 6 at Hampstead Parochial School.
It was wonderful to be able to welcome children, parents, and staff into church in person, along with colleagues from St John’s Downshire Hill. The service was livestreamed on Facebook for those who couldn’t be there.
There was a mix of music (some wonderful violin playing from several children plus hymns such as Be Bold, Be Strong and One More Step Along the World I Go), readings from scripture, poems written by staff and many memories read out by children themselves.
What struck me as the children were reading out their recollections of their time at school was just how powerful and important these years have been for them. The impact that their teachers have had (maths lessons involving M&Ms came up more than once) and the bonds of friendship that have been formed, shone through in all that they had to say.
The service was also an opportunity to say goodbye to a number of departing staff, among them headteacher Allan McLean. The transformative role he has played in the school and the love in which he is held was clear to see – not least in the incredible video tribute featuring staff, parents and children singing an appropriately reworded version of David Bowie’s Starman!
What was also powerful was the way in which the service marked both an end and a beginning. This is a key point in the lives of these children as they move on from HPS, with all the emotions that entails, to an exciting new future and all the possibilities that contains.
It was clear that the link between our church and the school was threaded through the experience these children have had and our core Christian values were evident throughout the service. One of the great privileges of church life is to walk alongside people at significant points in their lives and the service was definitely one such moment.
For all of us this year has been one of adjusting to changes, coping with difficulty, and adapting to new ways of doing things. It was obvious that our school pupils and staff have navigated through all of this with ingenuity, patience, and love.
As our children move on to pastures new, and as we all step into what the next few months hold, what better refrain could there be than the opening hymn at our leavers’ service: “Be bold, be strong, for the Lord your God is with you.”
Wednesday 21st July 2021
Judy’s chat article last week reminded me of the Literary Hour I did on Joanna Baillie way back in 2011 (I think!).
I’d never heard of her until I did one of the excellent ‘Tomb Trails’ being run during the conservation project by Camden & the Heritage Lottery fund. When the tour guide mentioned that Byron, Walter Scott and many other leading writers declared Joanna Baillie Britain’s best dramatic writer since Shakespeare, I knew she needed to be explored – immediately!
So, Internet to the rescue - it’s amazing what you can find in its obscure corners, using Google scholar. Here’s a very brief introduction to her childhood.
She was born on September 11th 1762 in the manse at Bothwell in South Lanarkshire. Her father, James, a Scottish Presbyterian minister, claimed among his ancestors the nationalist Sir William Wallace. Her mother, Dorothea Hunter (also buried in our churchyard), was descended from the Laird of Ayrshire. Joanna’s aunt was the poet Anne Hunter and her uncles were the noted royal surgeons William and John Hunter. So Joanna imbibed both creative talent and intellectual stimulus from the start. She was born a twin, but her twin sister died shortly after birth. She had an older sister, Agnes & a brother Matthew.
Joanna’s first teacher was her father, who was strong on ethics, but rather neglected the three R's. She was composing verses before she could read, and apparently astonished everyone by the amusing tales she invented.
When she was six, the family moved to Hamilton. Then, at aged ten, she was sent to boarding school in Glasgow, where she excelled in music, art, mathematics and reading and where she took to entertaining friends by telling stories and organizing her own theatrical shows. Clearly a talented child.
Below is an unattributed portrait published in The Scotsman on 11th September 2018, Joanna Baillie’s 256th Birthday when she received the ultimate 21st century accolade – a Google Doodle on her birthday
Further instalments to follow … watch this space.
William Taylor died on 17th June 1747. The “new”, ie current, building was consecrated on 8th October 1747. You don’t usually bury people in an unconsecrated building which was clearly a great disappointment to William, who was a Page of the Bedchamber to Kings George I and II (see a description of this role below). We know all this because it says so on his memorial OUTSIDE the church.
“Sacred to the memory of William Taylor Esq. who was several years one of the pages of bed-chamber to their majesties King George the First and Second; was always a careful, diligent and faithful servant. He died the 17th of June 1747 aged lxiii. By his will he left several annuities and legacies to his relations, servants and to the poor, and others; and in his lifetime gave fifty pounds towards the rebuilding of this church, and earnestly desired to be interred therein; but after his demise, although the utmost solicitations were made use of by his executors, that favour could not be obtained for his remains.”
So his remains lie under the path to the south of the church, near the memorial on the south wall. Sadly this memorial is now in a very poor condition and completely illegible but fortunately was recorded by local historian Thomas Barrett so we have a lasting memorial to one man’s disappointment.
Curiously, on 24th June 1746, John Padmore, Apothecary, was buried in a vault under the new (unconsecrated) church.
One wonders why.
*Pages of the Bedchamber 1660-c. 1822 (from Wikipedia)
The pages of the bedchamber originally waited without Doors, at the Back-stairs; but now [c. 1720] they wait within the Bed-Chamber, where they take care that every thing be ready, especially during the time of the King's Dressing; fetch Water for the Grooms of the Bed-chamber, which the King is to use, and other necessaries.
These places were in the gift of the groom of the stole. The procedures for swearing and admitting them to office were the same as those for the gentlemen of the bedchamber. They were usually six in number. During the reign of Anne the holders of the offices were designated `pages of the backstairs'. After 1760 this description was applied to a distinct body of pages. The pages of the bedchamber last occur in published lists in 1822.
The pages received wages of £2 13s 4d and board wages of £77 6s 8d amounting to £80 a year. In addition, they were entitled to livery of £47, fees of honour which yielded about £17 per annum under George I; and vails and gratuities from aspirants at the backstairs which have been estimated at about £120 per annum. After 1725, they received a further £365 apiece in lieu of diet.
Tuesday 13th July 2021
Shobana Jeyasingh was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2020. The Covid pandemic delayed the official ceremony but on 8th July Shobana was presented with her CBE award by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal at St James’s Palace.
Shobana Jeyasingh is an internationally recognised choreographer who founded Shobana Jeyasingh Dance 30 years ago. She has created over 60 critically acclaimed works for diverse platforms including stage, screen and unconventional public spaces such as Palladian monasteries, fountain courtyards, city offices and even the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral as part of the Cultural Olympics in 2012. Her work is noted for both its intellectual rigour and its visceral physicality.
Over the course of a distinguished career she has collaborated with scientists, gallery curators, composers, film makers, digital creatives as well as dancers and designers to make bold multidisciplinary work. Her work has toured extensively to Europe, USA, India and the Far East and is now part of the national curriculum in the UK. Her recent dance works Material Men redux (2017) and Contagion (2018) were both chosen to be in the top ten dance works of the year by UK broadsheets.
Notable commissions include Rambert Dance Company, Ballet Black, Wayne McGregor|Random Dance, Beijing Modern Dance Academy, Contemporary City Dance company Hong Kong and most recently Opera National du Rhin France.
Shobana is the recipient of numerous awards for choreography as well for her contributions to the dance world though her writings and talks. She was a judge in the BBC’s Young Dancer in both 2017 and 2019. Shobana has honorary doctorates from the universities of Surrey, Leicester and Chichester. She was awarded the prestigious Woman of the World Award in 2017
Asked what this award meant to her Shobana said "Contemporary dance choreography with its history of disruption, equity and innovation has to still fight its corner in the world of arts. So accepting this award on behalf of all who bring contemporary dance into being is a matter of joy specially at this difficult time for art making”.
To find out more about her amazingly creative work have a look at her website https://www.shobanajeyasingh.co.uk/
Very many congratulations Shobana
Sunday 11th July 2021
I am always pleasantly surprised when the response to “That’s Joanna Baillie’s grave” is met with “I didn’t know she was buried here” rather than “Who?” Although, frankly, if there hadn’t been a picture of her in the parish office I might never have got further than Who? either. Until recently though the response to any mention of her grave might have been “Where?” so overgrown had the area become. It is, perhaps, a consequence of our not-very-summery summer that the undergrowth has become overgrowth, and it’s quite hard to find anything at all. Last week’s gardening group remedied that. The photos show her grave before the gardening group got to work and them after we’d cleared the weeds (including the nettles!)
Joanna Baillie was born in Scotland in 1762 and lived much of her early life there, moving to Colchester and then finally Bolton House, Hampstead in 1802. She was a neighbour and close friend of writer Lucy Aikin (their graves are side by side).
Baillie’s writings included poetry and plays. She seems initially to have only written for her own enjoyment but once published became a shrewd businesswoman, using her income to help other writers and charitable causes.
You can read about her in detail on Wikipedia from which I chose this paragraph:
“Few women writers have received such praise for their personal qualities and literary powers as Joanna Baillie. She had intelligence and integrity allied to a modest demeanour that made her, for many, the epitome of a Christian gentlewoman. She was shrewd, observant of human nature, and persistent to the point of obstinacy in developing her views and opinions. Her brand of drama remained essentially unchanged throughout her life, and she took pride in having carried out her major work, the Plays on the Passions*, more or less in the form she had originally conceived. Her inventive faculties were widely remarked upon by "practically everybody whose opinion on a literary matter was worth anything" and she was on friendly terms with the leading women writers of her time.”
*It’s sometimes suggested that Baillie wrote “A Passion Play”. She didn’t. Her Passions were Love, Hate, Ambition – sometimes comedies, sometimes tragedies. They were well received and Baillie herself thought them some of her best work and pushed for them to be published in one volume. Now available from such websites as World of Books and Amazon the strap line reads “A series of plays in which it is attempted to delineate the stronger passions of the mind.”
She knew and corresponded with Sir Walter Scott, was a friend of Lady Byron (she had a poor opinion of Lord Byron’s works), she was compared to Sappho, her plays were widely performed in the UK and USA, and her poetry translated into Singalese and German. An entry in the Camden History Society records describes her as the “most famous dramatist of her time”. And yet we hardly know her.
We recently celebrated the 80th anniversary of the death of Evelyn Underhill. One of her many talents was as a conductor of retreats. She led retreats for both laity and clergy and in 1927 she was one of the first woman to lead a retreat in Canterbury Cathedral which was attended by 50 other women. She is remembered in the cathedral in a very special place, the All Saints Chapel which contains a crucifix that used to belong to her. The Cathedral Archivist told me that ‘the figure was found in Florence in a 'junk shop' by Evelyn Underhill. It was used on the altar of her house, Lawn House in Hampstead. When Lawn House closed, it was acquired by A B Norman who presented it in her memory to the Cathedral for All Saints Chapel in 1965’.
She led the movement that encouraged Christians to spend time in silence and prayer and through her book ‘Mysticism’ encouraged the study of the Christian mystics, those men and women who, she wrote, ‘insist that they know for certain the presence and activity of that which they call the Love of God … They know a spiritual order, penetrating and everywhere conditioning though transcending the world of sense.’
This week I visited Canterbury Cathedral for the first time and went to find the All Saints Chapel. I ask several guides and even the chaplain on duty and no one could tell me where it was. Then I bumped into one of the senior vergers coming out of a lift and he told me the chapel wasn’t open to the public. I explained why I wanted to visit and he took me through a locked door, up a narrow winding staircase to a beautiful, simply laid out chapel with Evelyn Underhill’s crucifix behind the altar. Opposite the altar was a window looking down into the cathedral and he told me that Archbishop Runcie used to use this chapel as his private retreat space. I can understand why – it felt like one of those ‘thin’ places a sense that Evelyn Underhill would have understood well.
Wednesday 7th July 2021
“I will lead them up and down” says Puck, and that is what Jon Siddall did with his excellent team, both within and without. I don’t think we managed any wild thyme blowing, but the churchyard made a lovely sylvan setting. It was very interesting to see and hear so many new people – and indeed we heard much better than in the church. The costumes were a fun mixture, with elegance for characters like Emma Lyndon-Stanford (good to see her back) as Titania, and for the two very lively young men, Ulysses Wells and Ashley Collin, playing the two lovers. A charming touch was that one was dark and one was blonde – and the same with their ladies. We had to get our heads around an all female team for “Pyramus and Thisbe” but special applause for Hana Salussolia where I am sure English is not her native language, but who was as broad and funny as could be as Bottom. The fairies were one family show or rather two families, and before we know where we are young Rufus Pennock, who played the violin, will be wanting a gig with the Hampstead Collective. Was Oberon his mum? And old friends like Adrian Hughes and Matthew Williams were there, so no-one could say at the end that these shadows had offended!
Tuesday 6th July 2021
Last weekend was a special weekend for us and for our new curate Graham Dunn. On Saturday 3rd July he was ordained deacon in the splendour of St Paul’s Cathedral by the Bishop of London, The Rt Hon & Rt Revd Dame Sarah Mullally. Covid restrictions meant that the congregation was limited, but it was still, as Graham said, “a wonderful and joyous occasion”. Many of us watched the live stream of the service on YouTube.
Then on 4th July it was our chance to welcome both Graham (at all four services) and his wife Anouk. We were also pleased to welcome members of his family and friends who came to support him. A welcome with bubbly had been planned but Covid restrictions on gatherings don’t allow this just yet but - as Jeremy promised - we will make up for this later!
We are looking forward very much to getting to know both Graham and Anouk.
Monday 5th July 2021
Our series of mini-fairs continues into the autumn with a “Craft Fair” on 16th October (a date cunningly chosen to double up as a pre-Christmas Fair).
So what are we selling?
Well, that rather depends on you.
Did you discover a hidden talent during lockdown? Or resume a long-forgotten skill? Sewing? Knitting? Crochet? Pottery? Jam-making? If it was creating life-size elephants out of junk we may not have space for your creations, but anything else please offer for our sale in aid of church charities.
We plan to hold the sale in the church where the Friends of the Music will supply a Refreshment stall, and there will be a Traidcraft Stall selling - dare I mention the words – Christmas cards!
Start crafting now!
And please let us know what you can offer so we can plan the layout. email@example.com
Saturday 3rd July 2021
As I approached the church for the concert I saw a car was parked blocking the door. I was only surprised it wasn’t a dog sled with team, with the state of the weather. However, a small ginger poodle was in the audience and behaved superbly. We had a word.
It may sound frivolous, but it’s such a pleasure to see the singers and the bands in proper concert clothes. It gives the whole thing such style! And there was plenty in the music. I’ve never heard the opening chorus of Handel’s “Dixit Dominus” at such a clip – and everyone survived. I hadn’t seen Aidan Coburn conduct before, and he has a very nice rapport with his team of singers.
A treat, for me, was Leo Duarte’s lovely oboe, and he and Jacob Garside, cello, almost breathed together.
Good to see Christine Buras back home, as it were, and she and her lady colleagues were all on form. Malachy Frame is a bit younger than most of the singers I know and he is making great strides with his voice. It always was a good one, but baritones, like a good wine, take time to mature. Ruairi Bowen is a find (and a tall tenor!) and for my money, he can sing for us any time. And on that (top) note, I’ll leave you!
Thursday 24th June 2021
If you’re looking for a rundown of the plot to A Midsummer Night’s Dream these two might commend themselves to you (for brevity if nothing else)
People get lost in the woods. Puck manipulates their romantic affections and (in one case) anatomical head-shape. They put on a play.
Four Athenians run away to the forest only to have Puck the fairy make both of the boys fall in love with the same girl. The four run through the forest pursuing each other while Puck helps his master play a trick on the fairy queen. In the end, Puck reverses the magic, and the two couples reconcile and marry.
In 1968 Peter Hall shocked Shakespeare lovers with a film version that might seem quite tame by today’s standards. The Bridge Theatre managed to shock me a couple of years ago by adding lines –as if we weren’t capable of understanding the nuances of Shakespeare’s language. I’m glad to say my annoyance was shared by the man in the next seat.
You’d think everything had been done that could be done, everything seen from every possible angle, and yet somehow every production does something new, some twist, some emphasis that makes you think “Oh, yes, I hadn’t seen it like that”. And I’m sure the Hampstead Players’ forthcoming production will be the same – we’ll go away realising something we hadn’t thought of before.
And if you don’t approve Shakespeare thought of that too
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
“Comfort”: the first word in Handel’s Messiah, sung by Aidan Coburn with beautiful expression, phrasing and tone, seemed peculiarly appropriate to re-open the Hampstead Collective’s concert series after some six months of live music drought. The Hampstead Collective grew up around the core musicians of the Hampstead Parish Church choir as they came together to bring music to the church remotely during lockdown. As restrictions eased over last summer they planned an autumn-long festival of solo recitals, ensemble pieces, sacred meditations and larger scale works with which we could “start the week” at 7 pm on Mondays, collaborating with the Hampstead Players for spoken contributions. And then in November a second lockdown intervened, the last five concerts had to be postponed, and could only be resumed at the end of May. The full-length Messiah had been intended as the gateway to the Christmas season. But it seemed equally appropriate to hear it as the church turned towards “ordinary time” having, since Advent, celebrated all the stages in the gospel story. The performance brought together eight singers and a small and extraordinarily high standard orchestra, directed from the harpsichord by Geoffrey Webber. The singers shared the solo parts and all sang the choruses, and the result was an illuminating experience, bringing out, at least for this listener, many of the intricate details of Handel’s rich score which massed choirs and large orchestras can blur.
The following week returned to the one-hour format, and a fascinating programme put together by soprano Elspeth Piggott from music written by Italian women in the seventeenth century. Much of it was written by nuns, whose convent environments opened up opportunities that were only rarely available to other women. However, Elspeth’s sensitive and engaging performance could not quite, for this listener anyway, avoid the impression that the nuns’ music was just a little constrained, compared with the pieces she gave us from two of the very rare women who were able to make their living as professional musicians and composers, Francesca Caccini and Barbara Strozzi. The following week, Christine Buras picked a very different soprano repertoire, linking songs by Messiaen, Barber and Howells. She grouped them under the heading “Joy has returned” and the closing song, a setting by Herbert Howells of Walter de la Mare’s poem King David telling how the king’s sorrowfulness was dissipated by a beautiful sound, sung with captivating feeling, seemed to epitomise this sentiment.
The last of the sacred meditations the Collective had programmed again involved eight performers, directed this time by Malachy Frame, and two readers, with a wonderful mix of polyphonic music and poetry read by David Gardner and, in Spanish, by Lorena Paz Nieto. It brought home yet again just how fortunate the church is to be associated with outstanding musicians. Jess Dandy sang in this concert, having also, the evening before, linked two great women mystics by providing an unforgettable introit by Hildegard of Bingen for the Evelyn Underhill memorial evensong. Now look out for Jess as one of only four singers performing in the First Night of the Proms on 30 July. Another distinguished musician, perhaps the best baroque oboeist of his generation, also has HPC connections, and we were lucky to have Leo Duarte playing a prominent part in the little orchestra for the final concert. The whole series should have been brought to a conclusion by a performance of Handel’s Theodora. That would have involved 40 performers, and the restrictions were not relaxed in time to make it possible. But we were given a foretaste in the 90-minute replacement programme that was hastily – and most successfully - arranged, with a performance by Christine Buras and Catherine Backhouse of one of the duets (Streams of pleasure ever flowing). Now we know what we have to look forward to, as the Collective are planning another season and intending to start with Theodora. This series ended instead with Handel’ s witty, innovative and energetic piece Dixit Dominus, written when he was only 22, a setting of Psalm 110. Aidan Coburn took it at appropriately energetic tempi, which the seven singers obviously revelled in, and provided an uplifting and heartening finale to a series which has been, in these difficult times, a blessing, a huge delight, and yes, a comfort.
In February Lucy Coleman, Jane and martin Bailey’s granddaughter, started a readathon to raise money for BookAid. She hoped to read 20 books in 4 months. Jane updated us on her achievement:
“Lucy finished her Readathon for BookAid International last week! Her challenge was to read 20 books in 4 months and she read 21 (the details are on her JustGiving page – see Lucy Coleman – Book Aid International - Lucy’s Readathon). She was amazed by the generosity and kindness of her supporters who raised a total of over £1,800! (with gift aid).”
You can see what books she read on her justgiving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lucy-coleman13.
(A typo led me to another of her justgivng pages - this young lady is clearly no stranger to fundraising!)
Saturday 19th June 2021
Hampstead Parish Church supports two foodbanks – one run by CARIS Haringey as well the Chalk Farm Foodbank . We have all heard about the increasing demand on the resources of food banks. I asked Adrienne who runs the Chalk Farm Foodbank to give us an insight into their work and how they have been affected by the pandemic, and how we can help them. Adrienne writes:
“In 2020, we fed 2260 people (766 children), compared to 1263 people (407 children) in 2019. That's a huge increase, with the number of children we're feeding nearly doubled. This is partly due to seeing more repeat visits where we suspect many of our clients are kept in poverty for longer due to the effects of the pandemic on lower income families and those with additional health complications.
The idea of foodbank is that it is a pit stop, a place to fuel up and go forward - making powerful, healthy choices from a place of resource, not lack. So, our aim is to direct people to other agencies and set them up for success so that they flourish and then no longer need a foodbank! However, due to a lack of access to public funds, we are currently seeing more repeat visits from people who are in crisis and desperately need our help. Sadly, some families are having to decide what is more important: food, clothes or rent. But all of these are basic essentials!
We work almost entirely on a donation basis, so we need continued food donations, funding and more volunteers. Donations we are consistently in need of are: juice, UHT milk, baked beans, and shampoo and conditioner. Since some of our volunteers are now returning to work as we come out of the pandemic, we need more people to volunteer just a couple of hours of their time each month to ensure that we can keep serving our community well. We are currently looking for a Volunteer Admin Coordinator, a few more Afternoon Helpers to restock our shelves on a Thursday, and Befrienders to check in on those that are using our service.
To donate money, please visit our website: https://chalkfarm.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/donate-money/
For more information on what food donations we currently need, please visit our social media pages below.
To sign up to our bi-termly newsletter, or for information on how to donate food / volunteer with us, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chalk Farm Foodbank
Springtime for the Vicarage Honey Bees
While it is natural to sigh with relief when winter finally ebbs away, spring is one of the hardest times for both bees and beekeepers. This year's unpredictable and erratic weather patterns were particularly challenging for our Sage and Alma colonies in the vicarage garden.
Throughout the winter the colonies remained in tight clusters, maintaining the core temperature at around 32°C. With the warm February weather, the clusters loosened up and spread out, the queens returned to laying, and the workers had to work even harder to generate enough heat to keep the brood nest warm. The stores of precious pollen and honey they gathered so diligently during the summer and autumn months were rapidly depleting. As these old winter bees died off, and the ever-increasing brood numbers began to outstrip the number of carers, housekeepers, and foragers, our Sage and Alma colonies risked starvation. We helped sustain them by supplementing their feeding with solid sugar fondant, syrup, and pollen patties. They seemed very pleased with the handouts.
The brief window of warm weather at the end of March, after a cold and wet month, was a boon, and we welcomed the opportunity to carry out the first hive inspection of the year. After leaving them largely undisturbed for five months, we faced that first peek inside with great excitement, but also some trepidation. We were encouraged to note that both queens were laying- we saw eggs, brood cells and young bees, and they were just beginning to build up new stores of honey and pollen. But Sage was clearly the stronger of the two colonies with many more brood cells in all stages of development, and many young bees. We sensed the Alma queen was struggling, so we decided to even out the populations by stealing a frame of capped brood from Sage and giving it to Alma to adopt as their own. It seemed to work, and the smaller colony began to grow and thrive.
We were surprised that after several inspections we failed to find our Alma queen -marked with a blue dot to make her easier to spot. We did eventually find another queen (unmarked), indicating that at some point the colony decided to supersede her. This can happen when the queen is ageing or ill, has run out of genetic material needed to fertilize her eggs, or has died. To keep up the colony numbers, the bees produce a new queen to take over the responsibility of laying eggs. This new Alma queen seemed to be a strong replacement, and by mid April both colonies were flourishing.
Sage, in fact, was so successful that conditions in the hive were starting to get crowded. Although we had provided them with extra space to store their honey, it clearly wasn't enough. The workers were preparing new Queen cells, not to replace their fertile monarch, but in order to establish a second colony. She and about half of the bees were preparing to leave their former nest to find new lodgings. This swarming process is a perfectly natural and healthy activity in the life of a colony, but in urban settings it is not encouraged. We intervened by creating what's known as an 'artificial swarm'- removing our lovely Sage Queen, enough worker bees to support her, and several frames of brood and honey to a Nuc (a temporary hive). We then selected the healthiest looking Queen Cell back in the original hive, and destroyed all the others. This way our old Sage Queen was able to continue laying in her new space, while a new queen could take over in the old, much less crowded hive. We are now having new issues with both queens, but that's a story for another time...we are still waiting to see how the it all plays out,
It has certainly been an eventful time and a steep learning curve for all of us. These mysterious and highly sophisticated insects are creatures of continuous wonderment. The more time I spend with them, the less knowledgeable I feel about their curious workings, but I remain in complete and utter awe.
(In the three photos below one is of our Sage Queen (marked blue); one of a well-developed Queen Cell ready to hatch; and one of a healthy frame showing the classic pattern of stored honey and pollen around the top, and big patches of brood- older and younger, sealed and unsealed.)
Friday 18th June 2021
15th June 2021 was the 80th anniversary of the death of Evelyn Underhill a writer, poet, spiritual guide and retreat leader, whose writing still speaks powerfully to us today. She is one of 18 modern women commemorated in the Church of England’s calendar of Holy Days and she is is buried in our Additional Burial Ground. Until now her grave has simply described her as ‘Evelyn,’ the wife of H Stuart Moore and the ‘daughter of Sir Arthur Underhill’. There has been no reference to her achievements. With the support of 31 generous donors from the United Kingdom and the United States we have been able to commission a new ledger stone for her grave, designed by the artist Lois Anderson. Around the edge are the words “Evelyn Underhill 1875 –1941 - Christian - Scholar - Spiritual Guide - A Christianity which is only active is not a complete Christianity”.
Sheena Ginnings writes
“Sunday 13th June was special. We were celebrating the life of Evelyn Underhill. At the 11.00 am Holy Communion service we were privileged to have as a guest preacher The Right Reverend the Lord Harries of Pentregarth (a former curate) who preached on the life and work of Evelyn Underhill and the influence she had on so many people, including T S Eliot. Apparently they both liked cats! Among her many achievements Evelyn Underhill was the first woman to be made a fellow at Kings College, London and their present Dean, The Revd Dr Ellen Clark-King (see photo below of her at the grave) did a reading from Evelyn Underhill’s book ‘The School of Charity: Meditations on the Christian Creed’ (a book that Derek Spottiswoode recommended in his sermon on the 50th anniversary of her death).
One of Evelyn Underhill’s most important books was on Mysticism. Evensong started with a haunting Introit by Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth century German mystic, sung from the gallery at the back of church by Jess Dandy. The beautiful anthem based on the Wisdom of Solomon 5.15,16 was by the female composer Oliveria Prescott (1842 -1919). And then another former curate, Ayla Lepine, preached on what we might learn from Evelyn Underhill on the importance of a spiritual life and the impact Evelyn Underhill has had on her.
(The sermons and the music have all been uploaded to the Hampstead Parish Church site on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/hampsteadparishchurch )
Judy East writes
“It rained on 15th June 1991. I remember because on that day we commemorated the life of Evelyn Underhill and the 50th anniversary of her death by planting an ‘Iceberg’ rose at the head of her grave. A few of us gathered round under umbrellas while Philip Buckler did the honours – with the spade and the prayers.
15th June this year was fortunately much nicer as a far greater number gathered for the dedication of the new ledger stone. Now she’s not “wife of and daughter of” but a person in her own right fittingly commemorated in her owns words.
Thanks were expressed to Barry Orford, Ayla Lepine and Jeremy who started the project off and to Sheena for running with it and making sure we had the money! It’s taken a while but it was worth it!
Then it was lunch outside the church – in the sun. I don’t recall what we did after the rose planting all those years ago – rushed off to get dry I expect.”
Tuesday 15th June 2021
It may not be generally known that Manley Hopkins, father of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, was a member of our parish, a churchwarden sometime between 1877 and 1886, and a Manager of the Hampstead Parochial Sunday Schools, later to become our own Hampstead Parochial School. When he left in 1886 the school presented him with this handwritten and illustrated address:
“Hampstead Parochial Sunday Schools
To Manley Hopkins Esquire
We the undersigned teachers and scholars of the Hampstead Parish Church Sunday Schools, having heard that your connection with this neighbourhood is about to be severed, desire to make this the occasion of expressing our deep sense of the loss to be sustained by all the agencies of the Parish – and especially by the Sunday Schools – through the departure of yourself and your family, whose interest and efforts for the welfare of the Schools have for so many years been continually exerted
We would further record out high appreciation of the many services which you and they have rendered to these Schools by personal intercourse, teaching and superintendence, involving considerable sacrifice of time and convenience: and we desire to testy how much these services have been valued and how much we all have benefitted thereby.
During the many years that you have been going in and out among us many classes of scholars have grown up and passed away beyond the confines of the Sunday School room but believing, as we do, that the good that each man does lives after him, we are persuaded that your efforts to impart religious life and knowledge as well by precept as by example, still bear fruit among them, and that your influence will be felt long after you have left Hampstead
Such lasting good as is seen in elevated thought and bettered life is the best memorial a man can leave behind him, and is the memorial of your long sojourn in Hampstead, which you and your family, we feel, the most desire.”
Signatures follow – not all of them legible
- Arthur Wellesley Chapman
- ……………Superind. Boys School
- Mr W Buckler 1st Class
- Edw G Saunders 3rd Class
- Mary G Currie
- Silvia Field 4th Class
- C O Bartrum 4th class
- Edward Vandermere Fleming 5th class
- Alfred Taylor 5th class
- Lilian Craigie 6th class
- E Carlisle 6th class
- James Henry Thiethener (?) 7th class
- Bruce E Wakley (?) 2nd class
- Amelia Langmead Superint. Girls’ School
- Jessica B Champneys
- Annie J Nash 1st class
- Florence Essex 2nd class
- Mary S Nevinson
- E Maude Roberts 3rd class
- Violet E Wrightson 4th class
- Caroline D Saunders 4th class
- Sarah A Bürch 5th class
- Eunice (?) Emerson 6th class
- K Satchell 7th class
- Florie E Gay 8th class
- Florence Husband Infants Class
- Anne M Howard Infants Class
- Edith H Nash Infants Class
Manwell G Tracy (this name is separate so perhaps is the Head of the School)
CARIS Haringey, a charity based in Tottenham supporting homeless families, is one of the local charities supported by Hampstead Parish Church. CARIS stands for Christian Action and Response in Society. It is a non-proselytising organisation committed to expressing God’s love through social action. Its services are equally available to families of all faiths and none.
Hampstead Parish Church is thrilled that Gloria Saffrey-Powell, the Director of CARIS Haringey, has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for her service to the local community during COVID-19.
Gloria’s determination, dedication and devotion have been the driving force of CARIS Haringey for many years. Under Gloria’s leadership the charity has been recognised for its work in the local community, receiving local and national awards, including The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2020.
Haringey has one of the highest numbers of homeless families of any local authority in the UK, with around 5,000 children living in temporary accommodation. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness
CARIS Haringey works to support these families by providing food, clothes and other essential items. They also work with clients to help address their long-term needs, through the provision of training, advice and advocacy. Services are provided to families living in temporary accommodation and unsecured accommodation across Haringey Borough.
“It is a great honour to receive the BEM award: this award is not just for me, it is for all the staff, volunteers and everyone who works within the voluntary sector, who sees working in the voluntary sector as their mission. It is a recognition of the value placed on being someone’s hands and feet enabling them to stand - a voice for those who believe they have no voice.”
We are so pleased that Gloria’s personal contribution and service are being acknowledged with this award and we have sent our congratulations
Thursday 10th June 2021
In this, the last concert in our 'Sacred Meditations' series, the Hampstead Collective explores the theme of light, from it's life-giving force in the natural world to it's powerful ancient and continued use in spiritual and sacred imagery. We are aware of the presence of light in our world by the effect it has on our surroundings, and by its absence in darkness, and this promises to be a special, atmospheric evening in Hampstead Parish Church.
This programme features incredible music by Gibbons, Victoria, Marais, and Purcell, interspersed with poetry by Emily Dickinson, Seamus Heaney, Pablo Neruda, Lope de Vega, Philip Larkin, William Wordsworth, Margaret Tait, and Gabriela Mistral. The concert ends with Bach's extraordinary 'O Jesu Christ, mein's Lebens Licht,' a motet for choir and orchestra.
We are delighted to be joined by David Gardner and Lorena Paz Nieto for this performance, who will be reading poetry in English and Spanish.
Tuesday 8th June 2021
For the last few months Angela and I (and sometimes the kids!) have been taking Saturday morning walks on the Heath. However low one is feeling it has become the ultimate fillip. We walk in the area of the Heath by Kenwood House. I’m reading a biography of Keats currently and he knew it as Caen Wood House.
My mother knew it as Ken Wood House. She loved the Heath and when she could she walked there almost daily - Parliament Hill and the Vale of Health being part of her usual circuit. There was a tree at the end of Lime Walk which she would occasionally visit to mull over some major decision in her life. Unfortunately it was one of the casualties of the October 1987 hurricane.
Angela and I have also fallen in love with the benches on our walks. There was once one at the foot of Kite Hill with the inscription: I was born tomorrow/today I live/yesterday killed me. Sadly it appears to have been moved.
We love the runners, the dogs and their walkers, the young and old couples, the families, and the coffee & croissants at the House... And ‘running into’ friends from HPC!
from Mum’s Memoirs:
The best thing of all about my new home [in Cannon Place] was its closeness to the glory of Hampstead Heath, for in that year a love affair started which lasted for ten years until I left the Garden Flat and moved into my mother’s house [in Thurlow Road] , which sadly was not close enough to the Heath for daily encounters, which are needed to keep a love affair going at passionate pitch. Hardly a day went by in those first years when I would not venture down to the Vale of Health pond, where Shelley is said to have sailed his paper boats, to feed the ducks. I learned to recognize many of the trees, the oaks and beeches, firs and sycamores, silver birches, ashes and limes and many many more. There is a stunning spot on a hill surrounded by cedars, where you glimpse Ken Wood House in the distance, and the temptation to walk across is almost irresistible. There are fine timber benches dotted about at convenient spots for resting or admiring views, most of which have been donated in memory of a loved one who had been a Heath lover. My ambition then was to have my own memorial bench, and I chose a very special spot in full view of what became for me a kind of shrine. This was the most immense and glorious copper beech tree I had ever seen. Its span was more than seventy feet. I told my secrets to this tree, leaning against the stout trunk and pouring out my joys and sorrows. It was a form of praying really, I suppose. Tragedy befell this wonderful tree as a result of the great storm, when it was weakened, losing some of its main branches, and finally had to be felled.
Despite it being half term our glorious clothes sale on 29th May raised over £2,000. It also had a serious sustainability theme reflected not only in its theme of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ but also in the lives of many of the people helping at it. The theme was inspired by the numerous young people who are showing the way by refusing to buy new clothes. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry after oil! Much fashion for the young now is about thrifting – shopping at charity shops (or church clothes sales) looking for interesting items at low prices and finding new life and new uses for them – and there was plenty to choose from at our sale. Wayne Binitie (on the left in the photo) led the way in a kilt and dinner suit purchased at the clothes sale!
Wayne is an artist exploring how through art we can engage with the climate crisis. He was recently interviewed on Radio 3 https://www.ukri.org/our-work/responding-to-climate-change/ukri-towards-cop26/green-thinking-podcasts-bring-new-approach-to-climate-questions/ If you want to hear what he said scroll down to “ Artistic reflections of the environmental crisis”. He discussed what it means to make art about the environment and whether artists can save the planet. He teaches at the Royal College of Art and his PhD, which was funded by Arup Engineering and the British Antartic Survey, was on ‘Polar Aesthetics: Art of the Arctic and Antarctic”. He works with mixed media and is known for combining sound and ice. And Solange Lion (in blue ) works in sustainable design .
The Radio 3 programme advocates that we
- tell stories
- bring together new ideas
- mobilise communities.
All this we tried to do on Saturday 29th May . Hampstead Parish Church leading the way .....
Our two burial grounds – the one attached to the church and the Additional Burial Ground across the road - are the final resting place of many famous people. Have a browse on the Tomb with a View website https://tombwithaview.org.uk/ and the history pages of the church website https://history.hampsteadparishchurch.org.uk/index.php and see who you can find.
The Additional Burial Ground also has eight Commonwealth War Graves - six of soldiers from the First World War and two from the Second World War, who died at home from their wounds. Read about these men on the Tomb with a View website on this page https://tombwithaview.org.uk/people/hampsteads-war-heroes-first-and-second-world-wars/ You can find out more about what life was like for the residents of Hampstead during World War One and the men who are commemorated on the various war memorials around the village on the Community@War website https://communityatwar.org.uk/
In addition to their historic importance did you know that in November 2003 the original burial ground attached to Hampstead Parish Church and the Additional Burial Ground were designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (borough importance grade 1)?
As well as being important historic and scientific sites the burial grounds are also important havens for wildlife and areas of peace and calm for people in a busy city.
Would you like to help look after these two important spaces? The Gardening Team meets on the first Saturday of each month from 10.00 am to 12 noon under the experienced guidance of Jenny Bunn. Refreshments are also provided. If you would like to know more contact Judy East at email@example.com
Tuesday 1st June 2021
Wednesday 9th June 2021 at 7.30pm
Yes, it’s 45 years since the Vicar of the time, Graham Dowell, his wife Sue and others founded The Hampstead Players/Friends of the Drama in 1976 “to promote the mission of the Church” through drama, the music of the church being very well represented by the Friends of the Music and our top-notch choir led then by Martindale Sidwell.
45 Years. I’ve been a Member for 40 of them, but it’s wonderful that we still have the important contribution of some from those earliest years, Judy East, John & Maggie Willmer, and Bill & Christine Risebero. Over the years we’ve had some professional input from Ian East, Bill Fry and Harry Meacher. We’ve also had significant contributions from those who believed that amateurs could indeed produce “drama to a high standard”, such as Pat Gardner and John Hester. And there have been some who “graduated” from The Players to be notable professionals, John Risebero and Ben Horslen with their company Antic Disposition, Matthew Parker (Matthew Stevens when with us) and Howard Hudson. Do Google their work!
We’ve performed in Church, in the Crypt Room, and in the Churchyard, but also ventured out to other churches, to Pimlico, to Ealing, to Winchester... and to South West France, where we took seven Shakespeare productions between 2001 and 2010.
And of course after our record-breaking The Sound of Music in Autumn 2019 it’s been lockdown, but we have still kept going with Zoom play and poetry readings; also meetings where a continuing bright future is envisaged, starting with a new outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1st to 3rd July).
We have performed a varied selection of plays over the years, many memorable, including Arcadia in 2005 and The Cherry Orchard in 2013 – do look at our website www.hampsteadplayers.org.uk. I remember those that had a real resonance in our beautiful Hampstead Parish Church: the two Murder in the Cathedral productions of 1990 and 2008, David Hare’s Racing Demon in 1997, and the Millennium Interregnum year 2000 production of Inherit the Wind. This last play had a cast of 22, including our new Churchwarden Sheena Ginnings, and a production team of 13... and all but three were members of Hampstead Parish Church.
So, on Wednesday 9th June, we shall be looking back over the years and remembering those men and women who supported us, and there shall be some pieces from those years performed by Players from our first ever Chair John Willmer to our current Chair Matthew Williams. We shall remember Graham Dowell and all the Vicars since who have supported us - Philip Buckler, Stephen Tucker and Jeremy Fletcher... and Father Stephen will be joining us for a favourite party piece of his and “to raise a glass to the Players”.
Saturday 29th May 2021
Friday 28th May 2021
On Sunday morning, 23rd May, we celebrated 'Messy Pentecost‘ at Bubble Church in front of the church. Maureen organized lots of fun and creative activities for the children. There were different arts & crafts stations where we made kites, windmills, holy spirit headbands, doves out of paper plates, etc. followed by a short narrated play 'The holy spirit comes‘.
We sang the wonderful song 'Soul on fire‘ - brilliantly performed by Father Jeremy on his guitar and had tea, coffee and food afterwards. It was all very reminiscent of spring fairs past and it was lovely to get together again in this way after a long time. Everyone braved the chilly temperatures (what could be more British than wearing a winter coat at the end of May??) and luckily the rain only started after the event. Time well spent on a Sunday morning!
The Hampstead Collective’s “Messiah” – a reviewSo the Hampstead Collective at last was able to perform “Messiah”, and how they showed what they can do with eight singers, who know what they’re at, and a small band which meant you got the colours of all the instruments! But I do wish we were allowed to know who was who! I had the advantage of being ex-RAM, and I was busy playing catch-up with the people I’d know there. Malachy Frame, of course, I still know, and Leo Duarte had been borrowed for the occasion, but Jacob Garside, the cellist, also ex-RAM was the ‘fixer’, and we even had the Principal’s son Tom on trumpet!
All under the excellent control of Geoffrey Webber at the chamber organ.
I didn’t know any of the ladies, who were all very elegant and very sincere. They really tried to convey the story, and the one who sang “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” was particularly touching. (I wouldn’t have minded some of the dresses!)
It was our chaps to the fore! Aidan Coburn produced a beautiful effective “Comfort Ye My People” when he did crescendo and diminuendo on long notes. Malachy Frame was in fine form, especially in “The Trumpet Shall Sound” – what a pity the singer can’t play it too, as we know he does it so well on Zoom. I’d pricked up my ears when Ruairi Bowen first appeared at the Church, and they stayed pricked. Very nice indeed. And Alex Ashworth used his powerful bass-baritone to great effect.
Over the last year and more I think we have been the People that walked in Darkness! Now perhaps we can see a Great Light – classical concerts are starting again!
Sunday 23rd May 2021
I thought Playlists were all about music. Not so. Courtney has created wonderful accessible Playlists on the Hampstead Parish Church YouTube site of all the recordings that have been created since the beginning of lockdown. Just to give you a flavour – You can watch again Jim Walters thoughtful reflections for Holy Week in 2020; or the fascinating different ‘Objects of Hope’; or the whole of the moving 45 minute readings of the Stations of the Cross (first uploaded in 2020); or the occasions the Community Choir has sang as part of a service; or, if you missed it, you can watch ‘The Dream of the Rood’. It is all there as well as sermons from the beginning of lockdown given from living rooms and studies, HPS assemblies; and the sound or the Church Bells. And of course the many, many beautiful anthems by the choir. When I was putting this piece together I was moved by the voices of the choir and Malachy Frame on the trumpet singing and playing “Drop, drop, slow tears”.
Do explore. Go onto YouTube, search for Hampstead Parish Church, and click on the tab that says ‘playlists’. If you don’t see this you may see a tab ‘Filters’ click on this and select ‘playlists’. When you see the folder you would like to explore click on ‘View Full Playlist’ and it will bring up a list of all the recordings in that folder.
It is a treasure trove!
By an odd coincidence two books by members of the congregation were advertised in Red magazine this week. The best books to read this May (redonline.co.uk)
Emily Itami (better known to most of us as Emily Paine) has her first novel coming out this week – Fault Lines – described by Sarra Manning, Red magazine’s literary editor, as a “lyrical story about love and a fascinating look at the collision of old and new traditions in modern Tokyo” and by US publisher Francesca Main as “Brief Encounter set in contemporary Tokyo”. Hachette UK calls it “Alluring, compelling, startlingly honest and darkly funny, Fault Lines is a bittersweet love story and a daring exploration of modern relationships from a writer to watch.” From an Amazon review: “The story focusses on Mizuki, a Japanese housewife with a hardworking husband, two adorable children and a beautiful Tokyo apartment. It's everything a woman could want, yet sometimes she wonders whether it would be more fun to throw herself off the high-rise balcony than spend another evening not talking to her husband or hanging up laundry.” Emily has already been widely published as a journalist and travel writer for a number of papers.
No newcomer to fiction writing and also a successful journalist, Elodie Harper has just published her third novel, The Wolf Den (the first in a trilogy set in Pompeii before the eruption of Vesuvius), described as “A riveting tale of power, love, hate, privilege, female empowerment and friendships found in the most unlikely situations” and by Sarra Manning (Red magazine again) as “a one-off kind of historical novel, this is the story of Amara, a slave in Pompeii’s most notorious brothel. While she may be exploited Amara refuses to be a victim and is determined to escape her brutal existence. It is a mesmerising, richly detailed tale of sisterhood and courage.” Possibly not for the faint-hearted one review notes “Violence, sex and death feature heavily in The Wolf Den. Scenes depict women being beaten, raped and emotionally abused.”
And now for something completely different:
Many of us have already discovered Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life which came out to much acclaim last year – who could resist a book on the life of fungi? His first book, it seems to have been an instant success across continents – the latest translation being into Japanese, so I’m told. As the Guardian review describes it “A book about how life-forms interpenetrate and change each other continuously. He moves smoothly between stories, scientific descriptions and philosophical issues” or to quote Waterstone’s “Entangled Life is a mind-altering journey into this hidden kingdom of life, and shows fungi are the key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways we think, feel and behave. The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them.” Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures — Merlin Sheldrake
A more recent discovery on my part, but close to my heart as a vegetarian (though I don’t see myself taking the leap into veganism any time soon), is How to Love Animals in a Human-shaped World by Henry Mance. You’ve got to admire someone who works in an abattoir to gain an insight into what he’s writing about. But our attitude to animals is, he claims, inconsistent. We idolise dogs and cats whilst happily slaughtering pigs, cows and sheep; whilst keeping wild animals in zoos – our relationship with animals is fraught with contradictions and governed wholly by tradition and inertia. How to Love Animals was Book of the Day in the Guardian on 1st May – for a full description of the book and Henry’s research do look up their review How to Love Animals by Henry Mance review – the case against modern farming | Science and nature books | The Guardian here
"Immediately after a pandemic" is the obvious answer, and that's exactly what The Hampstead Collective is excited about, with Monday's performance only a few days away. The work is often performed at Christmas and Easter, and at Christmas the bonus is that the only section of dramatic narrative of the piece ties in well, from the 'Pifa' to the sudden appearance of the angels (with distant trumpets) and their final disappearance into the clouds - the only moment of humour in the work. But Messiah's libretto encompasses the whole story of Christian salvation, from Isaiah to the Book of Revelation, and this summation arguably feels most appropriate at the end of the liturgical year. Although we've quite a wait until 'Christ the King' in November ('Worthy is the Lamb that was slain'), our performance is sandwiched between the last two major festivals of the calendar, Pentecost and Trinity. Rather like the anthem 'See, see, the word is incarnate' by Orlando Gibbons, which the church choir will sing at Evensong on Trinity I (June 6th), Messiah allows us to contemplate the liturgical year in one grand sweep. But the correct answer is of course, "any time!”.
The plan is to stream and have a distanced live audience as before
Wednesday 19th May 2021
Much sorting is going on in the gallery at the moment. On the grounds that you can’t achieve anything without first making a mess a group of us have turned out a whole lot of Hampstead Players’ costumes and spread them along the pews – not invisible from the nave unfortunately but it’s work in progress. The purpose is two-fold: the Hampstead Players are doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the beginning of July and the church is having a Clothing and Craft Sale on 29th May. Let’s hope for better weather than we had for the Plant Stall – but then again, a similar result would be very acceptable. Rain or shine Esther and her team will have a range of clothes, fabrics and crafting accessories to tempt you. And Sue Kwok and her team will have a range of cakes and coffee - more temptation!
Tuesday 18th May 2021
The Al Masri family is doing well. Monther has started a training programme, working 2 days a week with an organisation supported by the Roman Catholic charity Caritas. He is learning to do painting, decorating and tiling and is enjoying it enormously.
The photos below show Monther learning to do tiling, Aseel on her seventh birthday and baby Yousef having his first ride on a train on his way to Croydon to get his residence permit
A request for your help
The family needs to move by the end of September when their current tenancy comes to an end. They have lived in their current flat for two and a half years but baby Yousef is now 15 months old and they need more space. The Al Masri’s have been good tenants. They have always paid their rent on time, and the current landlords are happy to provide a reference confirming that they have been good tenants.
The family are looking for a three bedroom flat anywhere in North or Northwest London and are happy to consider a two-bedroom flat if it means they can remain in Camden near friends and the children’s current school. Rent payment will come from the Universal Credit housing allowance and as additional security, a guarantee may be negotiated.
If you have, or are aware of, a suitable property for this lovely family, the Community Sponsorship group would like to hear from you. Please contact Andrew Penny through the Parish Office
New English classes after Covid
During lockdown Monther couldn’t attend English classes and he struggled with online classes and Rahaf was tied up with baby Yousef . With lockdown easing and Yousef now 15 months old, it has been possible to set up new one to one classes.
Rahaf has two hours each week with Laura Bamford and Lucy Penny at HPC; the focus being on her practical needs, particularly shopping and communicating with organisations like the school and GP
Monther on his free days is continuing his English lessons at the Working Men’s College but in addition he is having three hours a week of lessons in Hampstead with John Barker, Laura Bamford and John Trimbos. These lessons are focussing on the vocabulary and language that he needs for his new job, asking and answering questions and taking instructions. There are also practical English sessions doing such things as identifying tools and taking and reporting on measurements.
We are incredibly grateful to this committed team of English teachers and Monther and Rahaf have both said how much they are enjoying their lessons.
The Community Sponsorship Group and the Al Masri’s would like to thank you very much for your ongoing support.
Sunday 16th May 2021
This wonderful rose over our front door, Rosa banksia lutea, is one of the first to flower, and will cover an eyesore, or a wall. Always flowering by the beginning of May, and it's evergreen.
Thursday 13th May 2021
The refreshment stall at the plant sale raised £163.20 which will go to Traidcraft Exchange whose work, helping support struggling communities around the world, is more important than ever during the pandemic. And not only did we raise money for a very worthy cause but many people said how much they appreciated, once again, being able to sit down and chat with friends over a cup of coffee and a slice of home-made cake, all made possible by the amazing bakers and willing servers at HPC.
Sandwiched between two very acceptable days was Saturday 8th May, the day we had decided to do a plant stall. Because we could sell plants outside, no need to worry about covid restrictions, we could have refreshments – we envisaged tables and chairs, people browsing the plants then sitting in the sun with their coffee and cake, having a socially distanced chat with their friends.
The best laid plans…….
To say it rained would be an understatement. It poured. It blew. We had to tie the gazebos down to stop them blowing away. “No one will come” we thought as we set up inside. “We won’t sell a thing”.
We were so wrong.
They came. They bought. They bought plants, they bought coffee and cake, tea and rolls. They chatted – possibly not quite as socially distanced as one might wish, but we had all the doors open and everyone wore the obligatory masks.
The atmosphere was – I think it’s not an exaggeration to say ‘electric’. We were back in church, we were raising money for our charities, it felt so like old times, something we haven’t been able to do for over a year. We saw people we hadn’t met for so long, were able to catch up, or just notice with relief that “we’re still here, still OK”.
Everyone had been so generous in giving us plants that we were still selling on Sunday morning!
We raised a wonderful £600. Whilst that was the point, to raise money, at the same time, it wasn’t the point, or it stopped being the point, once people got together. Just like our Spring Fairs the real point was community.
PS from Jenny Bunn
And I would like to thank all the wonderful helpers on the plant stall last Saturday, Judy, Gaynor , Meg and Lorna. It was a very successful day
Bubble Church Children’s Workshop at the plant sale was an opportunity to promote Bubble Church and meet new people in the community, and we did! Here are a couple of photos of the children’s plant related activities.
Bubble Church have also produced two new promotional postcards with information about Bubble Church on the back. One of the cards features a child’s picture of Daniel in the lion’s den.
The shelter closed on Maundy Thursday; we had a small celebration to thank some of the key players, but it was a slightly melancholy affair as the C4WS staff were exhausted and concerned about the fate of the five remaining guests, and the helpful and friendly hotel staff were sad as their jobs came to an end. The hotel will undergo a (much needed) thorough renovation.
Nevertheless, it had been a comfortable and mostly warm (icy dining room apart) home for the guests. In many ways much more comfortable that the traditional revolving shelter, as they did not need to find a new church each night of the week, did not have to carry their belongings around all day and slept in beds in their own rooms, which were much cosier, despite our, and other church’s efforts, than mattresses on the floor. The C4WS staff could see them for welfare meetings on site and the office in Lancing St was only 100 yards up the road.
So, the static shelter had many advantages, but it was harder to create a sense of community, both among the volunteers and the guests themselves who tended to spend the time in their rooms (although they were free to come and go during the day). The C4WS staff tried hard, and with some success; there were yoga classes, a gardening club (mostly in pots), bingo, film shows and more, but nothing creates a community like sitting down to eat together with a team of volunteers each night. A few teams did cook (or tried to, on the practically non-existent facilities) and the usual plastic packed dinners were surprisingly good but eating together was not possible.
Overall, the static arrangement was better for the guests; the casualties were the churches, for which there was inevitably little of the sense of common purpose involving such a wider section of the congregation (and more) which so characterised our efforts at HPS, and the same was true elsewhere. That was unfortunate, and it’s easy to forget that the shelter is run for the guests, not the volunteers! I am, however, very grateful to the small stalwart group of people who were able to volunteer and fill up our rota and I quite understand why so many felt they could not help while Covid raged.
We lost a month and half through disappointments in finding a hotel/hostel to house the shelter but were able to welcome 20 guests (previously only 16) and the total number was 54 for the season (usually more like 80) We were much less strict with the move on after 28 days rule as it was hard to find stable accommodation for many, and indeed we had not done so for 5 guests at the end of the season. These guests had no recourse to public funds. A recent decision in Brighton confirmed the local authority’s obligation to accommodate such people. Camden has refused to do so and with the help of Camden Law Centre (acting pro bono) we are seeking judicial review of its decision. Meanwhile, we have a grant to keep the guests in back-packer hostels, but that is an unsatisfactory long-term solution.
Refreshed by their post shelter break, the staff are now busy with the judicial review, writing reports and deciding what to do for the next season’s shelter. A static shelter again seems inevitable, and we hope to have identified a suitable location when Nikki Barnett our director returns from maternity leave in June.
Thank you to everyone who helped in any way with shelter this season; I wish more of you could have been involved and a major item on our agenda is to see how that might be achieved next season.
Monday 10th May 2021
The last year has undoubtedly presented challenges we could never have anticipated when the Coordinated Community Support Programme pilot began in August 2019. The pandemic has highlighted the vital importance of providing assistance to individuals and families facing financial crisis, as well as the need to coordinate Local Authority and Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector support within a local area.
With this in mind, we are delighted that the Coordinated Community Support Programme Year 1 evaluation is now complete and can be found on our website: https://www.coordinatedcommunitysupport.org.uk
Despite having to significantly shift their methodological approach in light of Covid, the external evaluation and learning team have done an excellent job capturing how the programme has developed in all four pilot areas - Oldham, Norfolk, Swansea and Tower Hamlets.
Highlights from the report include:
Coordination between services and provision does not just happen; it requires resource, capacity, funding and headspace for organisations to engage with each other and build networks
The CCS programme provided over £100k in grants to pilot site partners between March - October 2020. Funding was directed towards addressing issues including:
Organisational capacity - provision of infrastructure support and facilitating delivery of services (in line with WFH guidance)
Direct funding for those in need – distribution of emergency food, fuel, furniture items and data top-ups to those in need, including people with No Recourse to Public Funds
Service expansion – support to enable organisations to meet rising demand (i.e. family solicitor services in Norfolk)
The CCS Programme was found to have:
Acted as a local ‘asset-identifier’ by bringing together local partners around a common goal
Become a broker between VCFS Organisation and LAs, particularly with reference to small community and volunteer led organisations that, whilst small, are integral to the fabric of local crisis provision
Provided a flexible and solutions focused space to discuss immediate and emerging needs
Operated a flexible and needs-led funding approach devised in partnership with the local CCS network
Provided opportunities for partners to make valuable contributions to local and national policy related discussions, including The Children’s Society policy and campaigns work
Thank you for your continuing support
Wednesday 5th May 2021
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through the footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Note: John Gillespie McGee Jr was an American spitfire pilot who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940. He died over Tangmere, Sussex in 1941. He was nineteen.
Saturday 1st May 2021
The National garden Scheme is now busy with gardens to visit throughout May and June Of particular interest may be Lambeth Palace which will be open in the evening to visitors on May 17th from 5.00 pm to 9.00 pm.
In addition to enjoying the gardens you will also be able to listen to The Secret Life Sax Quartet - people may remember they played at our last spring fair in 2019!
There is disabled access and you will be able to purchase wine and soft drinks to enjoy while you listen to the music and walk around the garden.
Lambeth Palace has one of the oldest and largest private gardens in London. It has been occupied by Archbishops of Canterbury since 1197. It includes a formal courtyard which boasts an historic White Marseilles fig planted in 1556, parkland style garden features, mature trees, and woodland and native planting. There is also a formal rose terrace, summer gravel border, scented chapel garden and active beehives.
Find out more about the garden on the National Gardens Scheme website https://ngs.org.uk/lambeth-palace-city-tranquility/
Rose is caught in a cycle of climate chaos. From severe drought to flooding, extreme weather robs her of what she needs to survive: a reliable source of water.
When she was a child, Rose remembers how often the rains would fall, giving fruit to the baobab trees and providing plenty of nutritious food to eat.
‘When I was a young girl, there was plenty of food,’ Rose says. Now, the rains are totally unreliable. The climate crisis has galvanised extreme weather and Rose’s community are feeling the brunt of it. For months at a time, Rose and her family lives with drought. ‘Because of climate change, I worry a lot about food. I pray to God that the rainfall will become normal like it used to be.’
Rose Katanu Jonathan.
Rose strives to provide for her grandchildren who live with her. She does all she can to give them happy childhoods, like the times she remembers when there was plenty of food. But the climate crisis is driving her to the brink.
In times of drought, Rose sets out on a long and dangerous journey every morning to collect water for her family. She walks on an empty stomach.
‘Because I am old, I can’t walk very fast. When I get home I just rest in the evening. I have no energy to do anything else,’ Rose says.
There is a nearby earth dam just minutes away from Rose’s home. It should be a lifeline. But it’s not wide enough or deep enough for everyone’s needs. Even when the rain comes it runs out of water too quickly. Imagine how dispirited Rose must feel watching the rain fall for days, only to find the dam empty just a short while later.
Even worse, if the rains are much heavier than they should be Rose’s community is at risk of flooding. But she has faith:
‘I believe God gives me strength and helps me persevere. I pray that God will help people to help me.’
With a reliable source of water, people like Rose would be free from long, painful journeys. They would be able to grow fresh vegetables to eat. And they would be able to protect themselves from the dangers of coronavirus. With such dire need, every last drop of water that falls in Rose’s community is precious.
This Christian Aid Week, will you stand with people like Rose and help them fight the climate crisis? Your gifts could help communities build better earth dams to harvest more water; sow drought-tolerant crops that grow even with very little rain; or set up an advocacy group to demand change at the highest level and put a stop to this climate crisis.
We can’t hand out Christian Aid envelopes in church this year so please donate at Christian Aid Week 2021 and help ensure people like Rose have the water they need to live.
“Rose’s story” is taken from the Christian Aid Week website christianaid.org.uk
Tuesday 27th April 2021
Brave primroses on the path up to Mount Vernon today.
Monday 26th April 2021
For a bit of exercise I walk up The Hill in Burford as far as the Catholic Church. I walk across the gravel car park to look at the little garden beside the door of the church. From its sheltered corner this has charmed me with an array of shrubs and bulbs which have coped with the vicious winter we have had here. It is next to the Notice Board on the church which I look at. It contains one sheet of paper with the Sunday readings and information about the week. My eye was caught by something I had been seeking - Making an Act of Spiritual Communion. When we are unable to receive Holy Communion in person this prayer can be said while the Priest distributes the Sacrament to the congregation.
I felt delighted to have discovered this prayer. As I did not know such prayer existed I had not looked on line, but now I know that this prayer, and others like it, are recommended for use by many churches, both Anglican and RC. It now means a lot to me. The Church of England on their website has published this guidance piece on receiving Spiritual Communion Guidance on Spiritual Communion and Coronavirus
The photos show the entrance to the church and the little garden. The prayer on the notice board is below.
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love you above all things and I desire to receive you into my soul.
Since I cannot, at the moment, receive you sacramentally, come at least
spiritually into my heart.
I embrace you as if you were already there and unite myself wholly to you.
Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen
What does the word “Nepal” conjure up to you? Trekking amongst spectacular Himalayan peaks? Valiant Gurkha soldiers? I have to say that “ good food” wasn’t on my word association list until I was indulging in lockdown TV watching and saw Santosh Shah get to the finals of BBC’s Masterchef: the Professionals. Santosh grew up in a little Nepali village – there’s a stunning picture at https://www.chefsantoshshah.com/ - but had to leave at age 14 to work in India because the village couldn’t sustain its population. And with climate change that is becoming even harder. Practical Action (one of the charities we support, and so, as it happens, does Santosh Shah) quotes a local as saying “it doesn’t rain on time and when it rains it pours” (https://practicalaction.org/turn-the-tables/).
Practical Action are now undertaking a major programme to engage with governments as they prepare for the climate conference COP 26 in Glasgow this autumn, pointing out the need to develop resilience and sustainability amongst communities that are already facing the impact of climate change. But on a more practical level their local team of local people in Nepal have developed a five point plan for resilience and sustainability. But even straightforward and locally based programmes need resources and support, which our contributions help to provide. In Nepal their plan involves
- Developing more resilient seeds and farming methods for local farmers, allied to better, and more easily accessed, weather forecasting so the planting can be attuned to the weather conditions.
- Using solar energy and other ingenious engineering to ensure that water from rainfall and mountain springs is available for domestic use and irrigation when it is needed.
- Diversifying business opportunities and improving business skills, which involves communication and training.
- Advancing the opportunities and leadership skills of women in the villages so they can thrive.
5 Improving market access in a land where roads and tracks are very steep and prone to landslides. This is my favourite because it involves aerial ropeways. If you know a child who enjoys “Go Ape” you will know what I mean! I’ve found them ingenious and exciting ever since our daughter Lucy brought back pictures of the first ropeways from a Practical Action trip to Nepal in 2008. This is a recent Practical Action picture, not one of hers, but it gives a good idea.
So Practical Action expects that the villages can, for example, further their prosperity by not only growing, but also getting to market and perhaps selling to many high-end chefs, the colocasia leaf, which Santosh Shah says is “a spinach like leaf with a deep earthy flavour. One of his signature dishes the ‘Tandoori Octopus’ has the element of colocasia leaf; as he was growing up this leaf used to grow in his mother’s garden during the rainy season”.
Lucy, I may add, says, from personal experience, that Nepali food is particularly delicious. Encouraging the thriving of those who grow and cook it seems like an all-round win.
It is by furthering these sorts of practical approaches, drawing on the experience of local people across several countries across through their network of local offices, and impressing on governments and authorities the benefits of resilient and sustainable development, that Practical Action seems to me to implement the values which Hampstead Parish Church seeks to foster.
In the Seventies there were Palm Sunday processions through Hampstead, latterly to Parliament Hill to erect a huge cross, made from a telegraph pole, on that green hill not so far away. The cross in this photo (it's 1975 says Marian Ward) is a bit more modest, but the procession is still spectacular. Leading it (from left) are Lawrence Hill and Keith Ward who, as curates-in-charge, had brilliantly and unconventionally supervised the interregnum between Ellie Hall’s departure and Graham Dowell’s arrival. On the right is the recently appointed Graham, who brought a sea-change to HPC.
Keith reckons this was then a Deanery event, though later it was taken over by Churches Together in Hampstead. Thinking back, he wonders why he is carrying the cross. Maybe it was just Graham’s humility - or maybe Graham wanted himself as Jesus, and Keith as Simon of Cyrene. But, as always, Lawrence is the one who looks most like Jesus. In fact, we often had to persuade the children he was not.
It looks like Heath Street - in which case is the procession coming down from a service at Whitestone Pond? One of the clergy is Bob Coogan, then, I think, an Area Dean, but do you know the others? Judy recognises the vestments, but do you remember anything else about this event, or our Easter processions in general? Let Church Chat know.
Saturday 24th April 2021
I went into St James’s square to look at the beautiful cherry blossom and came across this powerful ‘Mother and Child’ sculpture by Rebecca Hawkins. It was commissioned to raise awareness of the plight of the Lai Dai Han in Vietnam. The Lai Dai Han, meaning ‘mixed blood’, are a group of thousands of men and women of Korean and Vietnamese ancestry who were born as a result of rape during the Vietnam war between 1964 and 1973. These individuals are still ostracised by their society today.
The artist says “These women and their children have faced an enormous trial of strength through adversity. They stand up again and again to tell these intimate stories of how their lives were turned upside down, with such courage and dignity… meeting people with this kind of strength of human spirit is both humbling and inspirational.” Mother & Child’ is based on the concept of the Strangler Fig tree, a parasitic plant which takes over a host tree by entwining itself around its roots, trunk and branches, and is common in Vietnam. The mother represents one of the Vietnam War’s many victims of sexual assault at the hands of the South Korean soldiers. The child represents one of the Lai Dai Han, born as a result of these acts.
This sculpture was unveiled by Nadia Murad, the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, at Church House, Westminster, on Tuesday 11th June 2019. It was always intended that it would be displayed outside somewhere in Central London. This beautiful location is a powerful contrast to the horrors it represents.
Thursday 22nd April 2021
Some years ago our churchyard was best known as the last resting place of the painter John Constable but times change. In 2005 Dava Sobel wrote “Longitude” and in 2007 it was made into a film. Suddenly everyone wanted to see the tomb of our “other” John - John Harrison, Carpenter and Clockmaker, who invented the marine chronometer, making it possible to tell the time at sea. Visitors can read his story on the sides of his tomb, which is situated outside the south door of the church. It’s a splendid tomb.
It’s not the original one.
Have you ever heard of “Grimthorping”? Defined as “to remodel (an ancient building) without proper knowledge or care to retain its original quality and character” it was named after one Baron Grimthorpe who apparently made a less than satisfactory job of certain restorations and the term has been applied since to work that destroyed medieval architecture simply because it wasn’t to the taste of the restorers! *
It seems that this may have been the fate of Harrison’s original tomb. In 1843 a watercolour by Thomas Gosden in his “Monumental drawings of Celebrated Persons” represented the tomb as in apparently perfect condition.
But in 1879 it was deemed to be not so much in need of restoration as in need of complete rebuilding. The Corinthian design in Portland stone with marble panels was replaced by the apparently (going by the watercolour) more elaborate build in Ketton stone with Sicilian marble panels and a plinth of Spinkwell Stone. The new slab on top was raised to allow for an inscription by the Clockmakers referring to the “reconstruction” – I don’t think anyone realised just how drastic that reconstruction had been. In broad terms what we would notice is probably the change in colour, from white to the current sandy yellow. (Remember this is on the south side of the church where it would catch the sun and, because Harrison died long before the extension of 1843 added the transepts, the tomb would have been much more prominent than it is now.) And then there’s the inscription. According to Gosden’s painting the original inscription was much simpler.
The new tomb was unveiled on 16th January 1880 to much acclaim no doubt, though the Ham & High, writing some three years later remarked “in the old churchyard by the southern wall (of the church) is the tomb of John Harrison … this has been renovated in execrable taste by the Clockmakers Company”. (The railings were removed in 1934)
Fortunately the more recent restoration by that same Clockmakers Company has much improved the appearance of the tomb and its legibility. And who knows, if we’d seen the original, we might not agree at all that it had been “grimthorped”!
- The term Grimthorping of course didn’t come into use until the 20th century – the work on St Alban’s which sparked the allusion being done in 1905.
I am indebted to Sir George White Bt, Keeper Emeritus of the Clockmakers' Museum, who wrote the article published in the Clockmakers' newsletter of 14th December 2020 which prompted this piece. - and to the Clockmakers for giving me permission to use it.
I finally had time in the recent lockdown to finish this cushion which I started in 1989! Some of you may have spotted me working on it during virtual coffee sessions on Zoom after Sunday services
A sunny day in St James' Park, not many people but lots of pelicans. I only saw five this time but there should be six. The have names - Isla, Tiffany, Gargi, Sun, Moon and Star. One of them has had a damaged wing for several years, there's half of it missing, but it seems to function perfectly well without it. Perhaps it has to paddle when the others fly. It can certainly dive without any trouble.
There have been pelicans in St James Park since 1664 - a gift from the Russian Ambassador to King Charles II. Although they don't generally stray far from the park they have been known to pop along to their cousins in the Zoo - and steal their fish!
(A couple of weeks ago Barry Orford wrote an article about the remarkable life of Evelyn Underhill who is buried in the Additional Burial Ground. Followers from all over the world come looking for her grave, but it is hard to spot because she is described simply as ‘Evelyn,’ the wife of Hubert Stuart Moore. There is no reference to her achievements and Hampstead Parish Church would like to create a fitting memorial for her, to provide a focus for those coming to honour her and to help new followers to connect with her. A ledger stone to be has been designed by Lois Anderson, a well-known local artist, which will incorporate the existing granite cross.)
Barry writes “Why raise money to improve the stone on a grave in our Additional Burial Ground? The answer is that it marks the resting place of Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), one of the most important figures in the Twentieth Century Church of England. Yet you would probably walk past her grave unless you were familiar with her name and looking for it. The planned ledger stone is intended to give her the prominence she merits.
What is her connection with Hampstead? She and her husband lived near Holland Park, but with the coming of the Blitz they came to join friends in their home at Lawn House, Hampstead Square. Her health was rapidly failing, and a move away from the most intense bombing was essential. After her death on June 15th, 1941, her funeral was held at Christ Church before her body was brought to St John’s for burial.
In my earlier article I have suggested some of the ways in which this remarkable woman affected the life and thought of the Church of England. She deserves remembrance and honour for these alone. But her work was rooted in the person she became, and her impact lay not just in her writings but also in the witness of her life to the glory and the cost of Christian discipleship.
We can meet her only through her writings, but her body, through which the Spirit of Christ reached out to so many, deserves reverence. If ever a burial has made a place holy ground, it is here. The words of her friend T. S. Eliot remain true – 'There is holy ground, and the sanctity shall not depart from it … From such ground springs that which forever renews the earth / Though it is forever denied.'
Visitors who treasure the life and work of Evelyn Underhill do indeed come in search of her grave as a 'thin place', where time and eternity, earth and heaven meet because of the woman who lies there. It is right that they should find a commemorative stone worthy of her.”
The photographs show her grave and the proposed ledger stone. If you want to know more there is a link on the homepage of the church website to the Evelyn Underhill Memorial Appeal page or you can use this link https://history.hampsteadparishchurch.org.uk/mon_info/abg_p_080b.php
Donations can be made via the church’s web using this link https://www.hampsteadparishchurch.org.uk/data/donate.php quoting the reference "Underhill” or by cheque to Hampstead Parish Church, Church Row, London NW3 6UU. Please write “Underhill on the reverse of the cheque.
If you have any questions, or know of anyone else who might be interested in supporting a memorial for this remarkable woman, please contact Jeremy on email firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday 14th April 2021
Lent to Easter
Love Life, Live Lent was Bubble Church’s focus for Lent. We kicked off with our Pancake Party on Shrove Tuesday. Some people give up something for Lent, like chocolate, but our focus was showing love to others through small everyday actions. Children and families were asked to make a Lenten Tree. Each week they wrote one small act of kindness on a leaf and hung it or stuck it on their tree as a reminder.
We explored Fasting, Almsgiving and Prayer. We celebrated Mothering Sunday, Palm Sunday where children performed the Passion Play and Easter Sunday in church.
During this lockdown period, Bubble Church were delighted to have other members of the congregation join in our activities and worship with us.
Island Hospice and Healthcare is very fortunate to be one of the charities that receives financial support from Hampstead Parish Church through its charitable giving.
Founded in 1979 Island was the first hospice to be established in Africa. It is now a centre of excellence and charities from all over southern Africa visit to learn from them. Over the years it has had to adapt its operations to the changing conditions within Zimbabwe and to face new challenges as they presented themselves, the latest being coping with the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently the country is experiencing a further period of lockdown that is being gradually released, and a vaccination programme is being introduced for medical and healthcare personnel. Staff are alternating working from home and the office as they can.
Island does not run an in-patient hospice but provides a hospice service in the community, with a small head office in Harare and three other locations around the country from which these services are provided. In total there are just over twenty staff who are employed by the hospice together with a group of volunteers.
Below is a report from Zimbabwe that illustrates how Island have adapted to the situation on the ground. In the past Island staff would attend rural clinics and locals would travel to these clinics to receive palliative care medicines and counselling. A lot of these rural clinics closed over the years with the collapse of the commercial agricultural economy and staff would often see their patients walking long distances on the roadside heading towards the nearest clinic. Island came up with the idea of introducing roadside clinics that were introduced to cater for hospice and healthcare needs in the rural community where there is very little public transport, and where it does exist it is beyond the reach of many https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2ZvPU-2zx4&feature=youtu.be
These roadside clinics have been very well received and have also meant that many more patients have been able to receive the services provided by Island. Island staff arrange to meet their patients at prearranged times at designated stops on the road and palliative care is administrated.
Aside from these services Island is also engaged in various projects that are mainly funded from overseas grants, two of which are mentioned below.
As an indication of the importance of its work and the standard of care and quality of its operations, in February Island received a FCDO, UK Aid Direct grant for an 18-month project “Piloting a disability-inclusive palliative care service in Zimbabwe” which is believed to be the first of its kind and will be run out of the Mutare office in the east of the country. Island is also just entering its fourth year of a Jersey based trust funded initiative “Supporting Older People to become agents of their own change - a model for improving the health of older people in resource constrained Zimbabwe”.
Both of these funds support important projects but money is desperately needed for the day to day operation of its activities and Island is very grateful for the ongoing support it receives from Hampstead Parish Church.
Further information and details about Island can be found at http://islandhospice.org.uk/
Monday 12th April 2021
This year a holiday abroad may prove to be difficult to arrange, so we are delighted to announce that there is a holiday option close to home. This will be Holiday in Hampstead's 7th year and we are hoping to run a full programme of activities, as long as nothing unexpected occurs. If you are a member of the retired community and look forward to being informed, entertained and amused and enjoy proper cups of coffee and delicious lunches, this week is definitely something to look forward to. Full details of the final programme, together with the booking form, will follow in a couple of weeks but please make a note of the date and times now - and leave your foreign holidays until later in the year!
Dates: Monday August 2nd – Friday August 6th 2021
Time: 11.00am – 4.00pm
Place: Parish Rooms and Hampstead Parish Church
To find out more contact Diana Finning, Rosemary Loyd, Sue Kwok or Julia Scott c/o the Parish Office.
Sunday 11th April 2021
My mother was a fervent Royalist all through her life, three years older than our present Queen, of that great wartime generation, and she would have been deeply moved by the death of Prince Philip. Here is her account of a Royal occasion from a diary she kept in 1935, aged 11. Please excuse her spelling and punctuation – it did get better! David Gardner
May 6 Monday 1935 Bank Holiday in Scotland
The King & Queen’s Jubillee... Silver Jubilee
This is the day of the year, the day, to be remembered through out all the English History that is to come. Well, let us begin. After I have got up, & had breakfast, I start out for Joans’ at 7.o.clock! Arrive there, get ready to start for Q. Victoria St. Where there is an office window where everything can be seen; throug crowds we pass till we arrive at our destination. We have to wait over 3 hours before the procession comes from the St Pauls Cathedral. There is a raidio which gives us the service from beggining to end. At last the procession arrives, first, soldiers mouted, followed by the King & Queen. The latter dressed in pink looks wonderful, & so does the King. The Prince of Waels, the Duke & Duchess of York & Duke & Duchess of Kent all look fine. Princess Margaret Rose is so sweet, & so is Princess Elisabeth. Marina is holding on to her hat, in case it blows away. Every thing is so prettey & Historicle, after wards, we have a “snacky” lunch, & home againg. I play with J. for the rest of the afternoon, & am taken home in the car to the house, then to the Lodge, where we play cards, until we go to Hampstead Heath where we see search lights, & a huge bonfire. On the way back, we notice a beach tree all lit up with lights. The Kings’ speech is wonderful, & I am so proud to be a subject of King George the 5th. God Save our Gracious King
Tuesday 6th April 2021
We are thrilled that Monther, who was the gardener at HPC, has started a new job. We now have a new gardener, Saleh Alhulani. Sahel, his wife Amneh and their children Mohammad and Yousef are Syrian refugees sponsored by another Hampstead Community Sponsorship group, Welcome Syrian Families.
One of the photographs below shows Saleh, with his wife Amneh and Emily Woof the coordinator for Welcome Syrian Families.
Saleh and Amneh were living in Homs when the war in Syria broke out. Two months later their home was bombed and they had to move with their six children. For two years they moved their family around Syria trying to get away from the fighting. They moved about six times before fleeing to Lebanon where they lived for six years before coming to England. Life in Lebanon was also difficult. The Lebanese economy is bad and Syrian refugees are not welcome. They were constantly on the move because they had no money and there was little work. Eventually they moved to a refugee camp, but these too are difficult places.
One daughter is married and living in Idlib with her husband’s family. Idlib is currently at the heart of the fighting. Amneh tries to call her children every day. The day we met she said that when she called her daughter in Idlib she could hear the sirens in the background. Three of her other children are married and living in Lebanon. Saleh and Amneh are proud grandparents and we were shown photographs on their phones of their 9 grandchildren.
They miss their children and grandchildren terribly but felt they needed to try and make a life for their two youngest children, Mohammad who is 20 who would like to work with computers and Yousef who is 10.
Despite all this Saleh is an amazingly cheerful person, who the second time we met brought me some delicious falafel which he had made. In Syria he worked as a chef and would like to try and set up a catering business.
We are very pleased to have Saleh working for us. There is a lot to do keeping our two graveyards tidy. At the moment one of the big challenges is keeping the litter under control. As a result of lockdown the graveyards have become an important green space for a lot of people, who bring their takeaway meals to eat in the fresh air. As lockdown hopefully eases the brambles will be starting to grow! So much to do.
Of all the festivals in the church's calendar, Easter has inspired the most memorable poems. Many of you will know George Herbert's great poems "Good Friday", "Easter", and "Easter-Wings"
Less well known but equally deserving of your appreciation is this sonnet by Edmund Spenser (1552 – 1599)
MOST glorious Lord of Lyfe! that, on this day,
Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;
And, having harrowd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin;
And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,
Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
May live for ever in felicity!
And that Thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love Thee for the same againe;
And for Thy sake, that all lyke deare didst buy,
With love may one another entertayne!
So let us love, deare Love, lyke as we ought,
—Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Saturday May 8th would often have been around the date of our annual Spring Fair but alas, this year it’s not to be.
If you are suffering withdrawal symptoms take heart – we are running a PLANT STALL that day – outside, we can’t have too many people in the church yet – from 11am to 2pm.
Do you NEED plants? Do you HAVE plants you give us to sell on? We welcome cuttings, pottings, seedlings. If you have large herbaceous plants that are taking up too much space, divide them with a sharp spade. We can sell the other halves! And this benefits your plants too, because they’ll flower more profusely with this treatment.
Did I mention there would be Coffee? And Traidcraft refreshments? And Homemade Cake? How can you resist!
Tuesday 30th March 2021
This Easter garden was made my sister Caroline and my great niece Caia (aged 2).
On the path up to the columbarium, just behind Evelyn Underhill’s grave, is the grave of Ernest Chitty. On his tomb he is described as “Poet Priest Pacifist”. I suspect that, had they met, he and Evelyn Underhill would have had much to talk about. For many years he was the vicar of All Souls’ Loudoun Road, and then St Georges Bloomsbury. After he retired he assisted regularly at St Peter’s Belsize Park where he started writing poetry and expanding his ministry as a counsellor. This is one of his poems
Holy Week Diary
Chosen to be Judas
In the Reading of the Passion.
Palms are waving,
Christ is riding into town.
Brings me Piat d’Or
A welcome gift for any week,
For Jesus bitter herbs,
And bread and wine,
At a farewell meal.
Two at Church,
Each for half the time,
The rest pass by as
I lost my keys and
Jesus is crucified.
My team lost,
But should have won,
I and Jesus
In the tomb.
Lost an hour,
Where’s the saving?
Found my keys,
Flags are waving.
Easter Day, 1989
Sunday 28th March 2021
(There is a new memorial in the Lady Chapel to George Steevens, a one time resident of Hampstead and commentator on Shakespeare, which was created by John Flaxman)
William Blake had a short, disastrous term at the Royal Academy School in 1779, but he did make a lifelong friend. John Flaxman’s cool, Neo-Classical style was rather different from Blake’s, but Flaxman became a generous champion of Blake’s work, and helped support him and his wife Catherine by directing commissions their way.
Like Blake, Flaxman was born in humble circumstances and lacked a formal education. But he had an innate talent for drawing, and inherited his father’s skills as a plaster cast maker. At the age of 15 he entered the Royal Academy Schools and began to win prizes.
Early on, he worked for Josiah Wedgwood, designing and casting the low-relief Classical decorations on the firm’s celebrated blue stoneware. For some years he studied in Italy, earning a living making medallions and memorials in low-relief, and later, as he became more celebrated, sculptures in the round. There are examples in Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s and many other churches. He became known as one of the finest sculptors of the age, the British equal of Antonio Canova.
At the Academy, as Professor of Sculpture, he gave knowledgeable, if dry, lectures, many of which were published. So too were his many illustrations of classical literature. notably of Homer, Aeschylus and Dante, which his Neo-Classical style suited very well. Less interested in Shakespeare, he yet did some very fine low reliefs for the front of Covent Garden theatre, featuring Shakespeare himself and characters from The Tempest and Macbeth.
His memorial to George Steevens is a good example of his classically-balanced, beautifully-crafted style. More than merely academic, it has an element of ironic humour. A self-regarding Steevens lounges in front of his nervous-looking subject, ready to emend his work at will.
Tuesday 23rd March 2021
Beibhinn sends a huge "Thank you!" to everyone for the amazing support that she received for her fundraiser. We walked a total of 7.04km around Hampstead Heath and with Gift Aid, Beibhinn raised a total of £496.03 for the National Literacy Trust. We've been touched by not only the financial support, but also the kind words and encouragement we've received.
Courtney, Paul, Beibhinn, Teddy & Iris
There is still time to give
I am a collector of old cookery and household management books. My mother started the collection and I inherited her books when she died, over 20 years ago. For about a decade after she died, the books just sat on my shelves, but in the last 10 years I have been actively adding to the collection, and have expanded it considerably.
My collection now includes a few hundred books, dating from about 1720 to about 1980. The majority are printed books, but I also have a small but growing section of manuscript recipe, remedy and account books. These are possibly my favourite part of the collection. Another expanding area is food manufacturers’ pamphlets and advertisements. I have a particular fondness for Stork pamphlets from the 1950s and early 1960s.
There are several things I really like about cookery and household management books. One is that they are predominantly written by women, used by women, given as gifts by women and annotated by women. Of course, there are cookery books written by men, and I have several of these from the early nineteenth century, but they tend to be of the ‘Grand Chef’ variety, often with a frontispiece portrait of the great man. They are often more pristine than most of my books, suggesting that they have been less used by actual cooks.
I like the way most of my books show signs of wear. Unlike most book collectors, I am not overly concerned about condition – I like it when I can see what the former owners of books liked to cook, when books fall open on certain pages, sometimes even with splashes of batter or grease. One of my favourites, a small book from New England from 1848, has splashes of candlewax on the front cover.
Annotations are great. Sometimes a former owner has written in a margin a correction or addition to a recipe, or a comment on how it worked out. Extra recipes are often copied onto flyleaves at the back of a book. Sometimes margins or blank pages are used for scribbling accounts, lists or drafts of letters. This kind of informality shows that these books, often kept in kitchens rather than more formal rooms had a different relationship with their owners than books which were perhaps bought and kept more for display purposes than actual use.
Recently I have started posting about these books on Instagram. If you are interested, have a look @LVMHouseholdBooks
Sunday 21st March 2021
Sightsavers International is a charity perhaps best known for aiding impoverished people worldwide who suffer from cataracts, trachoma and river blindness. It was founded in 1950 by John (later Sir John) Wilson, himself blind. It operates in 33 underdeveloped countries, from Sierra Leone to India.
The hardships of the impoverished blind need no description. On the charity’s effectiveness, the American non-profit evaluator Givewell, focusing primarily on the cost-effectiveness of the organisations which it evaluates, includes Sightsavers as one of the top ten charities recommended by it.
Cataracts cause about 50% of the world’s blindness, and the World Health Organisation in their bulletin of 6th September 2011 described cataract surgery as one of the most cost-effective of all health interventions, requiring no follow-up and, once performed, conferring a lifelong benefit free of further cost to the charity. From its foundation to 2018 Sightsavers has supported 7,300,000 sight-restoring cataract operations.
Trachoma, the commonest cause of blindness due to infection, is caused by bacteria which bring about a roughening of the inner surface of the eyelid. This leads to a breakdown of the cornea. Some 1,200,000 have permanent blindness as a result. It is endemic in 51 countries worldwide. The commonest treatment is with a drug (Azithromycin) donated by Pfizer. Eight countries in recent years have made confirmed reports that they have eliminated trachoma. However it remains widespread, particularly in Ethiopia and South Sudan.
River blindness, the second most common cause, is spread by the so-called black fly, which bites humans, thereby spreading the tiny larvae that, on maturing into worms, can attack the cornea. About 17,700,000 are infected, some 40% in Nigeria, and about 270,000 permanently blinded. The most effective remedy is a drug called Ivermectin, donated by Merck & Co. It is inexpensive, needs no refrigeration and has a wide safety margin. Unfortunately it does not kill the adult worms, but someone taking it every six months will stay free of the larvae, and if it is administered to a neighbourhood for long enough - 15 to 17 years is the practice - it will cause the larvae to die out and with them the worms and the disease.
I am particularly drawn to Sightsavers, who up to 2018 had distributed over one billion treatments, since money donated to it is helping to free from trachoma and river blindness not just people alive now, but their descendants in perpetuity.
For more information visit them at their website Sightsavers
Saturday 20th March 2021
(a new memorial in the Lady Chapel commemorates this former Hampstead resident)
George Steevens (1736-1800), educated at Eton and King’s College, Cambridge, inherited a competence and a substantial house in Poplar from his father, a former ship’s captain and Director of the East India Company. He preferred to live in Hampstead, where he bought a house, formerly a tavern named the Upper Flask. His daily routine was to walk into London before 7 am, paying visits to friends, bookshops, and publishing offices before walking home in the early afternoon to pursue his studies.
He was a leading Shakespeare scholar, who attracted public attention with the notes he contributed to Dr Johnson’s great edition of Shakespeare (8 volumes, 1765), who paid tribute to his ‘diligence and sagacity’. Steevens was largely responsible for enlarging and revising Johnson’s edition in 1773 (10 vols.) and again in 1778 (10 vols.). After Dr Johnson’s death for many years Steevens collaborated on a friendly basis with the other great Shakespeare editor of this period, Edmond Malone, who published his own edition in 1790 (11 vols.). Feeling slighted by Malone, Steevens produced a new edition in 1793 (15 vols.), remarkably quickly. As a contemporary recorded, ‘he left his house every morning at one o’clock with the Hampstead patrol, and, proceeding without any consideration of the weather or the season, called up the compositor and woke all his devils [workmen]. The nocturnal toil greatly accelerated the printing of the work; as, while the printers slept, the editor was awake; and thus, in less than 20 months, he completed his last splendid edition.’
Steevens certainly possessed ‘astonishing energy’ and perseverance, the more remarkable given the absence of any libraries at that time. He built up his own considerable collection of rare books (sold at auction in 1800 for £2,740), from which he provided hundreds of notes illuminating the most obscure details of Elizabethan language and customs. Unfortunately, he also loved hoaxes. In 1783 he published an article describing the upas tree of Java, which could kill all life within a range of 15 miles, the authority being a completely fictitious Dutch traveller. The unsuspecting Erasmus Darwin admitted the upas tree to his poem, The Loves of the Plants (1789). Steevens contributed to his Shakespeare editions many bawdy notes which he attributed to some of his Hampstead neighbours. A certain ‘Mr Collins of Hampstead’ (unidentified) was credited with a note on Elizabethan beliefs in the aphrodisiac powers of the potato, illustrated with a remarkably wide of quotations. Steevens also wrote a note, expanded in successive editions, on the fact that stewed prunes were used in Elizabethan brothels as an abortifacient, which he ascribed to ‘Amner’. This person actually existed, the Reverend Richard Amner (1737-1803), ‘for many years the Minister of a Dissenting Congregation at Hampstead’, and Steevens would have derived pleasure from the fact that some of Amner’s notes have been unwittingly cited by modern scholars. On the other side, Steevens was praised for his generosity. He helped some people with gifts of money, such as Fuseli and Chatterton’s mother. For others he freely shared his considerable knowledge, helping Charles Burney with his history of music, but also Sir John Hawkins for his rival history. The help he gave Isaac Reed, historian of the drama, and John Nichols, biographer of Hogarth, was so great that he was in effect co-author. He was also a loyal friend, gaining my respect for visiting Dr Johnson on the day of his death.
I have included many selections from Steevens’s work in two volumes of my collection, Shakespeare, The Critical Heritage: Vol. 5, 1765-1774 (1979), and Vol. 6, 1774-1801 (1981).
Thursday 18th March 2021
There is still time to buy delicious Easter Eggs from Traidcraft, one of the charities supported by Hampstead Parish Church. Follow the link below
Tuesday 16th March 2021
During lockdown, Beibhinn has become particularly intrigued and excited whenever the post is delivered. Pre-Covid she wasn't home for this great excitement since she was at school, but over the past year she has thoroughly enjoyed running to check the post every day. For Christmas, I thought the perfect present for her would be a magazine subscription to The Week Junior, which she now receives every Friday and completely devours in what seems like minutes. To my surprise, she loves conversing about current events and stories from around the world. We've had great conversations about the US election, the Covid vaccination programmes around the globe and all sorts of various wonders reported weekly.
When last Friday's issue arrived, she read about an event taking place this weekend called the Where's Wally? Weekender! which is in support of the National Literacy Trust. Within moments she had me film a video asking for donations and she set up her own JustGiving page. Myself, Paul, Teddy and my Mum will be walking 5k with Beibhinn in the Heath to support her efforts, in our Where's Wally costumes no less. (Although my Mum is not quite convinced about the costume just yet, I'm working on it).
Beibhinn has been overwhelmed at the support she has received thus far, smashing her target of £100 and raising nearly £300. We couldn't be prouder of her enthusiasm and the initiative she has taken to do her part for a good cause.
Please do keep an eye out for us this coming weekend as we trek through the Heath creating our own real life Where's Wally tableau. Pictures to follow next week!
And if you do have moment to visit her JustGiving page, Beibhinn, and all of us, would be very grateful.
Monday 15th March 2021
Saturday 13th March 2021
(Pat Gardner (1923-2018) on her son Davy)
My mother left our family Diaries written daily from 1981 to 2013, her 90th year. They read well and cover much. One learns much about her... and also, as I discovered, about oneself!
The Eighties: Home to Davy – I’m sure I’d miss him a lot if he wasn’t with me... Why me – a peace-lover, has to put up with these aggro people? It could be the death of me... It’s a great pleasure to live with Davy. There’s so much to share & appreciate together... Davy makes the big sacrifice & shaves his beard off for Gran’s birthday appearance!... Always pleasant when Davy is home, though seldom quiet... How many times do I think to myself ‘Thank God I live with Davy’!!... Oh the joy of sharing one’s passion with a twin soul. Fate took one David [her ex-husband] away but gave me another... Lose temper with Davy. Always at me for not reacting exactly as he wishes to anything he reads, listens to or watches... Snow & ice still pretty treacherous but we make it safely to Judy’s party. Davy tends to hold the floor in the manner of his father – sometimes amusing, at others embarrassing... Davy a proper Jekyll & Hyde – all smiles, sweetness & light when he realises he’s gone too far... Mum’s 91st birthday, so visit Hampstead Cemetery. Pay my respects & ask them to help Davy if they can to find more fulfilment from life... Davy & I have made a pact. We are not going to quarrel any more. At any rate we are going to try very hard not to... Absurd spat with David. D rings sweetly to apologise & brings flowers in the evening. We are more & more like husband & wife – How awful!... Davy gets home, but totally motherless. How did we rear such bad mannered children?... Davy out drinking – Falls asleep in chair with full cup of coffee. Disaster! ...
The Nineties: D home late with black eye & smashed spectacles & not even he knows how!... Morning revelation – D spent the night in a police cell in Stoke Newington – having been picked up in ‘motherless’ condition!... Mother’s Day present from Davy! Casebook on 3 matricides!... It is alarming to realise that without Davy I could not keep up this house... His companionship means more than ever now... Perhaps I’m feeling a little bit insecure now that Davy is leading so much more of a social life than before – It’s as it should be of course, but I’ve got so used to having him around for the past 17 years as a companion, enjoying TV together, & theatres & meals. Anyway, I cheer myself with Hamlet & King Lear!... Feeling depressed about D’s entanglements – ‘It cannot come to good’... Davy & I agree how ‘mature’ we’ve become with one another & both feel that the church has much to do with it... Davy is keeping off smoking & cutting the drinking severely – Not happy with his growing paunch!!... If he would only cut down on the vices!
The Noughties:... Davy for ever ‘catching up’ with TV, newspapers, books, periodicals, videos & a dozen other concerns... Davy comes in drunk & says he’s lost his glasses AGAIN. 9 June 2000: The first audition for ‘Inherit the Wind’. Mary Ruth is available to play Rachel but Angela Bates was equally good... 25 September 2000: Davy is 46 today. Angela reads in for Mary Ruth – so well. She’s a honey... I feel my life to be caught in a whirlwind of change. Davy has met a lovely girl & it could be serious. Please Lord, guide us all aright... 1 January 2001: See the New Year in with Davy & Angela. Angela helped Davy all day with his Hamlet script on the computer... Davy is touchy & difficult. Embarrasses me when he’s like that in front of Angela... Angela brings out the best in him... A gem. Oh dear, he’ll have to pop the question soon... Mothering Sunday 25 March 2001: Beautiful card from Davy... Angela & her parents sat with us in church... Long may she love him... She is an angel & I long for them to get engaged... However did he manage without her? She seems to fit into his life like the glass slipper... Can’t wait for the proposal & please God, acceptance!... 6 June 2001: Davy rings to say Angela has invited us all to dinner on Saturday. How super – I tell him to get on with the proposal – so we can all celebrate... 7 June 2001: Oh joy! Oh rapture! Davy and Angela are engaged to be married! What can I say, my heart is so full – just thank you, thank you dear Lord for bringing them together... Haunted all night by the realisation of the changes about to happen in my life... 25 September 2001: Davy’s happiest birthday – 47 & last one as a bachelor!... I just hope A can cure him of his excessive imbibing. Sunday 5 May 2002: The Wedding Day. How is it possible to write of such a day? I have never seen Davy so happy, nor any bride more beautiful.
Friday 12th March 2021
One of the charities we have supported for many year is PSALM (Project for Seniors and Lifelong Ministry)
There are key issues that PSALM tries to address:
- The need for opportunities to think boldly and imaginatively about how to live well in later life.
- The need for confidence rooted in a mature faith as a source of resilience.
- The need for Churches to work hard to counter the traditional undervaluing of older people and seek to provide more engaging and enlivening opportunities for older people to reflect and contribute.
We do this by providing lectures, workshops and seminars with the specific aim of addressing matters of interest and concern to people over 60. Some may remember the two entertaining talks on ‘Decluttering’ that one of their speakers gave a Holiday in Hampstead a few years ago.
PSALM is one of the many charities that have found it difficult to operate during the pandemic and the different periods of lockdown
Beryl Dowsett reports that "sadly Psalm's future plans are on hold, in the light of the current pandemic and travel restrictions. As they deal mainly with workshops for older people it was inevitable but we hope they’ll bounce back when it’s safe to do so.”
In the Additional Burial Ground
Monday 8th March 2021
The Voluntary Rate is an appeal to people living within the parish boundaries to help maintain the fabric of the church. The money isn’t used for mission or development, wine or candles, it’s purely for bricks and mortar (and new lighting). But more than that it says “Hello, this is us and we’re here for you” to everyone in the parish.
For the first time since we began in 1986 the voluntary rate appeal has gone out without the need for any input from the congregation. Just as much work for Maggie (if not more) but not for us.
Originally the basic information needed to set up the Rate came from the rating list at the Town Hall and involved visiting to copy it all down – Pat Gardner helped a lot with that. Later we were allowed a printout to take home and later still the information was made available online. Maggie keeps an eye on changes in property - demolition, infill, new builds, conversions to and from flats etc. to keep our records as up to date as possible.
The very first VR involved everyone filling in the addresses on the letters by hand – yes, 4,500 addresses BY HAND. We did them in church, we did them in PCC meetings, we took them home. . . . we got them done.
The system got better. There were address labels. Now we only had to peel the sheets of labels apart and stick them on – in exactly the right place or they wouldn’t show through the envelope windows – and fill in the amount we were asking for according to a list – so much for each council tax band.
Then, joy of joys, the addresses came ready printed on forms and all we had to do was fill in the amount.
Finally, none of that was necessary and we only had to put the forms in the envelopes. Oh, did I not mention that? All 4.500 letters, forms, leaflets, flyers, reply paid envelopes, had to be put in window envelopes. It was actually a lot more fun than it sounds. OK, not the actual envelope stuffing, but working with a group of like-minded people, all dedicated to the continuance of our church in Hampstead. Refreshments were provided – coffee and most excellent biscuits by Gaynor Bassey-Fish, an equally delicious lunch by Elizabeth Beesley and her helpers – even last year when the pandemic was beginning to make itself felt we managed to meet, eat and work, suitably socially distanced, and get the letters out.
Delivery was another matter. Originally, in fact up to only 4 years ago, all the letters were delivered by hand. Canny people knew which streets to get and which to avoid, the ones with endless steps, the ones with pretty gardens. But eventually increasingly secure properties made it impossible to get a large proportion of the letters delivered and so we invested in a Royal Mail licence, the extra cost involved being more than offset by knowing that the letters would actually reach all those hitherto unreachable properties.
But this year, unbelievably, it’s all happened, as if by magic!
Sunday 7th March 2021
Thank you to everyone who has collected stamps for Support Dogs over the past year. HPC recently received a letter from the charity thanking us for our support:
"8th February 2021.
We would like to express our thanks to you for supporting our charity by donating stamps. The income we receive from stamps, although modest, is incredibly important to us especially in the current climate when fundraising is so hard.
Thanks to the kindness of people like you we are thrilled to say that we have seen a 70% increase in money raised for our charity through stamps in the past 12 months!
By supporting us you’ve done something really special. You have enabled a child with autism to be matched with the ‘best friend’ a support dog who be their safe place in a world they find frightening. An adult with epilepsy will now be able to live their life without the fear and danger of their unpredictable seizures. Disability will no longer define lives, rather people will live with dignity, independence and confidence.
We rely 100% on voluntary donation. Everything we do at Support Dogs is only possible because of wonderful supporters like you. Your generosity means the world to us, the children, adults, and their families we support and the dogs we train.
Community Fundraising Manager"
Please keep saving your stamps! There is a collection box at the back of church, or you can post them through the vicarage door – 14 Church Row.
For more information on Support Dogs see https://www.supportdogs.org.uk/
Saturday 6th March 2021
Congratulations to Handley and Anne Steven's celebrating their 55th Wedding Anniversary this weekend
- or rather, during my Monday morning cleaning
the crates arrived containing the very fine memorial to George Steevens (1736 -1800) sculpted by John Flaxman RA ( 1755 - 1826). Steevens was a parishioner of HPC, living at the Upper Flask (now the site of Queen Mary's House) from 1771 until his death. He had family connections in Poplar however, so was buried there. After that church was deconsecrated in 1977 the memorial was moved to the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge, where it has been in store for almost all of the last 40 years. The sculpture conservator from the museum who brought it to Hampstead said that his first task at the Fitzwilliam 40 years ago was moving it from Poplar to Cambridge. It is now fixed to the formerly very blank wall of the Lady Chapel, above the entrance to the clergy vestry, and will be well worth a good look as soon as the church can be fully open again.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the pleasure of signing up to Audible audiobooks and being able to plug in my headphones and listen when I can’t get to sleep or I don’t want to disturb anyone.
Below are two more audiobooks that I have enjoyed and can recommend.
‘The Mission House’ – Carys Davies
Set in a former British Hill station in contemporary South India this is the story of a man who travels to India to flee contemporary life in Britain. At first he find solace in simple pleasures and new friendships, but religious tensions rise and the mission house proves not be the safe haven it first seemed.
I found this book very accessible and enjoyed the setting. The story is beautifully crafted, and the characters are all very strong. ‘It is a deeply human fable of the wonders and terrors of connection in a modern world.’
‘Agent Sonya’ – Ben Macintyre
This book is described as ‘the incredible story of the greatest female spy in history’. A true story, Sonya Burton was a dedicated communist, a decorated colonel and veteran spy who risked her life to keep the Soviet Union in the nuclear arms race. For many years she lived a very quiet unassuming life in the Cotswolds, a mother, a wife and a secret agent all at once.
When I first started listening, I thought I had made a huge mistake. There were a lot of characters with difficult names to remember and the story jumped from country to country. However, I stuck with it, and was really glad I did. It is a totally fascinating story, meticulously researched about a subject of which I had little knowledge; definitely a book for Le Carre fans.
Tuesday 2nd March 2021
'Love Life, Live Lent' is Bubble Church’s focus this Lent. We kicked off with our Pancake Party on Shrove Tuesday. Some people give up something for Lent, like chocolate, but our focus is showing love to others through small everyday actions. Children and families were asked to make a Lenten Tree. Each week they will write one small act of kindness on a leaf and hang it or stick it on their tree as a reminder. They could hang more leaves on their trees if they wishe
Making your Lenten Tree
You will need a small tree branch, paper, string, a pair of scissors a jar or container.
For the leaves – cut these out from coloured paper or draw your own.
Draw a tree and have your leaves ready to stick on.
Each week: Write your act of kindness on a leaf and hang it or stick it on your tree.
The lovely acts of kindness that members of Bubble Church will be doing during Lent include “get my mum tea”, “give mummy lots of hugs”, “tidy and help my mum” and “share toys at school”.
Saturday 27th February 2021
22nd Feb to 7th March
During the two weeks of Fairtrade Fortnight, individuals, groups and companies come together to celebrate people in developing countries who grow much of the food we eat, but who are often underpaid and exploited.
At Hampstead Parish Church we usually hold a Big Brew after the morning service to raise money for Traidcraft Exchange, the charitable arm of the Traidcraft organisation. Last year we decided to hold this event earlier than usual and, thank goodness we did. As a result, we were able to send £332.24 to Traidcraft Exchange, before lockdown came into force.
Soon afterwards we had to stop holding our monthly stall selling Traidcraft goods. However, with the easing of restrictions over the summer, the church was able to hold a very successful Open House day when we set up a stall selling refreshments which raised £139.43. We are grateful to all those who have purchased from Traidcraft in the past and, by doing so, generously helped some of the poorest people in the world.
Throughout the pandemic, Traidcraft Exchange staff has continued their work supporting people in developing countries.
- In Tanzania the government does not accept that coronavirus is a threat and Traidcraft Exchange has continued its work supporting people with disabilities such as sight loss, to find work.
- In India coronavirus means that work has completely dried up for women who work in garment factories. Traidcraft Exchange has been providing emergency relief to many of these vulnerable households
- In Bangladesh communities have had to face the double challenge of Covid-19 and extreme flooding. Some coastal and riverside communities have lost homes, crops and marketplaces but Traidcraft Exchange has continued to run training sessions helping to support the long term sustainability of these groups.
This year the focus of Fairtrade Fortnight is climate change, and the growing problems this poses to farmers and workers within the Fairtrade community. Climate change is a huge challenge in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Honduras; countries that have contributed least to the causes of climate change. Drought, crop disease, floods and heatwaves are among the challenges they face and with the emergence of the global COVID pandemic, the problems for farmers in developing countries are bigger than ever.
Choosing to buy fair trade ethical food and drink is a way to make a difference . Through fair trade, farmers and growers can earn enough to feed their families, send their children to school, provide a future for their local community and, helped by charities such as Traidcraft Exchange, they can look for solutions to the problems they face due to climate change.
This year Traidcraft have asked us to delay our Big Brew until later in the year. We hope that with an easing of restrictions we will be able to meet personally.
We certainly hope to resume selling Traidcraft goods once restrictions permit. In the meantime, purchases can be ordered direct from the Traidcraft Shop at www.traidcraftshop.co.uk and donations can
Friday 26th February 2021
Some church recycling
Thursday 25th February 2021
Parliament is a strange and unnatural place in lockdown. No bustling, purposeful corridors of people, no full chambers with lively interactions, no cross-party socialising in a bar – no alcohol allowed anywhere in the palace.
In the Lords there are only 30 allocated seats, all socially distanced. Very few peers actually attend and we are often in danger of not having 3 for a quorum. Most peers loom at us through the 10 Zoom screens around the Chamber. What would Barry and Pugin have made of this desecration of their priceless work? Actually neither of them lived to see it completed, so perhaps their souls rest in peace.
One Good Thing to come out of this is online voting. Peers often queue to go through voting lobbies at unholy hours of the night. Now we log on to our phones, computers, i-pads, possibly in our pyjamas (such sacrilege!). We cannot sit beyond midnight because of the tech teams, but I often find myself on the Jubilee line for a late train home.
But our work is seriously diminished with set speakers’ lists – no impromptu question to unsettle a waffling Minister, no chamber reaction to unacceptable answers. And because our expenses are now dependent on actually speaking, ever longer speakers’ lists fill with people who have no expertise and nothing to add, but who depend on allowances to pay their bills.
As a deputy speaker, I attend to sit on the Woolsack, and to see real people. Roll on a return to normality, perhaps to earlier nights and certainly to proper challenging, debate, personal interaction. Zoom and Teams are amazing tools but as humans we were not meant to live virtually.
In this photo Baroness Anne McIintosh is speaking
Postscript – I had thought the Jubilee line ran through the night and discovered when I got to the Westminster platform recently at 12.28 that the last train was 12.32. So all was well,. Was quite weary after a 12 hour day, so very glad my trusty tube got me home OK! I did wonder how many other 76-year old women worked such silly hours – but I do enjoy it.
Wednesday 24th February 2021
Two hundred years ago, John Keats died in Rome on 23rd February. He lived in Hampstead for the last few years of his life and the house where he lodged, Wentworth Place, in what is now known as Keats Grove, is now a museum in his memory. Hampstead Parish Church has a bust of the poet presented by American admirers of his poetry, just by the steps to the Lady Chapel.
John Keats was not an enthusiastic church goer during his life. But as I discovered when working in Hampshire last year, he is associated with another place of worship, the chapel at Stansted Park which straddles the Hampshire/East Sussex border. In 1958, the then owner, the Earl of Bessborough, published a short book on the history of the estate called A Place in the Forest Being the story of Stansted in Sussex which provides some interesting details of Keats’ visit.
The building, formerly a hunting lodge, dates back to 1480 but was rebuilt as a chapel in the early 19th century in Regency Gothic style by the owner of the estate at that time, Lewis Way. Despite his poor health, John Keats travelled extensively in England, Ireland and Scotland. Towards the end of January 1819, Keats and his friend Charles Brown were staying in Chichester and later in Bedhampton. He was at work on The Eve of St Agnes and The Eve of St Mark. It was probably in The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle that he read that the chapel was to be consecrated on 25th January, the anniversary of the conversion of St Paul. They decided to attend although it was several years since Keats had renounced his Christian faith. His attention wandered during the very long service and he found inspiration in the arms of the Fitzalans and the Earls of Arundel, then depicted in stained glass in the three arches of the window opposite. Back at his lodgings in Bedhampton Mill-House, these are some of the words Keats recorded on a much-scored manuscript
A casement triple arch’d and diamonded
With many coloured glass fronted the Moon
In midst whereof a shielded escutcheon shed
High blushing gules…
(From The Eve of St Agnes)
The painted east window of the Stansted chapel is probably unique in being the only window in a Christian place of worship which is wholly Jewish in design and symbolism. Lewis Way dedicated much of his life and his fortune to converting Jews to Christianity and this chapel was designed to be the headquarters of his endeavours. Mrs JRH Moorman, daughter of Dr GM Trevelyan, was the first to suggest that this wonderful window with its seven lights was the inspiration of The Eve of St Mark.
The first stanza could be describing the entrance to the chapel which is unusually low
Each arched porch and entry low
Was filled with patient folk and slow
The second stanza of the poem goes on to refer to many of the features of the window including silver stars, cherubs, a menorah (seven branched candlestick) and the Ark of the Covenant.
Keats visit to Hampshire was a productive one. He completed one of the world’s greatest narrative poems. But he must also have had some first thoughts for The Eve of St Mark’s too.
Tuesday 23rd February 2021
Judy writes "I think this poem goes well with our Lenten altar frontal"
This is the place of prayer.
Here where the inward pointing nails
The ever-narrowing gate
when the world of time and space
yields up its measured form.
Here in the needle's eye.
Dark upon dark.
The aching, echoing void
of the hollowed heart
at the point of change.
(and that is the agony)
bearing the unknown
to the mystery
at the place of prayer.
Monday 22nd February 2021
This remarkable woman is buried in the Additional Burial Ground and you can visit her grave P 80
What is her claim to remembrance? Simply the fact that almost single-handedly she restored to the Church the serious study of the Christian mystics, those men and women who, she wrote, ‘insist that they know for certain the presence and activity of that which they call the Love of God … They know a spiritual order, penetrating and everywhere conditioning though transcending the world of sense.’
Her major study Mysticism (1911) remains a landmark in the literature on its subject. Through it she wished to make the experience and thought of the great mystics available, not for detached study but as a guide and inspiration to contemporary Christians. The mystics, she said, remind us that engaging with the realm of the Spirit is ‘not to know about, but to Be.’
In her books, she returned constantly to the assistance that the mystics can give to Christian life and devotion today. For Evelyn Underhill, the mystics were no more ethereal or ‘otherworldly’ (in the worst sense) than she was herself. She was a woman who combined deep Christian discipleship with an astringent mind, a keen humour and a down-to-earth character. Today’s vague talk about being ‘spiritual but not religious’, would have earned brisk dismissal from her. ‘No deeply religious person is without a touch of mysticism, and no mystic can be other than religious.’
Given the range of her scholarship, and her grasp of theology and philosophy, it comes as a surprise to find that she was largely self-taught in these disciplines, yet she was regarded seriously by professional scholars. She was concerned that theology should cease being a matter of arid speculation and study among specialists and return to being inseparably linked with Christian life and worship. Her second major book, written near the end of her life and reflecting her mature thought, was called Worship.
Nor did her activities end with writing. From 1924 onwards, she became known as a conductor of retreats. Many of her later books are based on material that she delivered during these retreats. Also, she helped countless individuals by her counsel. She was also engaged in ecumenical work, aimed at encouraging dialogue between Anglicans and members of the Orthodox Church. Everything she did reflected her abhorrence of narrowness in Christian life.
She achieved a prodigious amount of work, yet she did it as the wife of a solicitor, playing her full part in his life. To this, she added regular visits to the poor. She was clear that authentic Christian prayer should lead to awareness of social realities, and to action where necessary.
It must be stressed that though her work was concerned with the life of the Spirit, she was not someone to whom prayer and meditation and even belief came easily. Notebooks discovered after her death reveal that her path was frequently lonely and anguished, though this was never apparent to those she helped. It is her refusal to hide behind easy pieties and sentimentalities that make her a continuing encouragement and challenge to Christians.
We have much to thank her for.
Saturday 20th February 2021
Dogwood and snowdrops in the the Hill Garden near Golders Hill Park
One of the few bonuses of the Pandemic for many has been the time and opportunity to read more.
I often wake in the night, finding it hard to get to sleep again. I decided to sign up to Audible audiobooks and it has proved a great decision. I mostly read fiction, and some biographies and I wasn’t sure how I would get on with listening to a book rather than reading one, but after a few chapters of my first book it just seemed perfectly normal! Books are downloaded on to your smart phone or tablet and then you can listen to them out loud or through headphones. When I wake now, I just plug in my headphones and listen to a book. My only personal rule is that the story mustn’t be too exciting, or I don’t drop off to sleep! There is a sleep timer, so when you do go back to sleep the book doesn’t race too far ahead.
Here are two books I have enjoyed listening to recently:
‘Where the light enters’ – Jill Biden
A hugely readable book by Dr Jill Biden, wife of now President Joe Biden. It was published in 2018 so there is no mention of running for President at that time and is a very warm account of how Jill built a family – and a life of her own. Joe Biden lost his first wife and baby daughter in a car crash leaving him with two small boys to bring up. He then met and married Jill who had to learn to balance life as a mother, wife, teacher and political spouse.
I really recommend this book as a it describes the challenges Jill faced marrying into a strong Irish Catholic family, helping Joe to bring up the boys and supporting him in his political career. I found it a very genuine and honest account and a good background to what is now the US First Family.
‘A single thread’ – Tracy Chevalier
This book is set in Winchester in 1932 and tells the story of Violet Speedwell, who has become a ‘surplus woman’ having lost her brother and fiancé in the First World War. She is drawn into the life of the Cathedral broderers where she finds support and community. She is also drawn to a married bellringer, Arthur.
I found this book soothing and calming. The story paints a rich picture of history and social change in the inter-war years. It is well researched and the description of cathedral life, and all the issues often associated with small communities rang true for me after our time at York Minster. ‘The novel touches on issues of the position of women, of sexuality, of being an unmarried mother, of the importance of friendships, of identity, family, of love and art.’
The Digital Divide:
Prior to the pandemic, some older people were not interested in accessing digital services or getting online, however that is changing. Use of technology is now an important component for many people to keep in touch and access services so they can lead a thriving life and maintain their pre-COVID-19 independence.
Age UK Camden has continued to support those unable to access digital solutions by providing training & telephone support throughout the pandemic on a case by case basis. This has included distributing equipment, training and problem solving. From 1st February 2021, our one-to-one gadget clinics will be returning. These sessions will take place on Monday afternoons, and will be a dedicated time to learn or enhance digital skills, supported by a volunteer tutor. These sessions provide the perfect opportunity to help older people unlock their digital potential!
If you or someone you know needs help with learning how to use Zoom or WhatsApp, or if you were given a new smartphone for Christmas and want to know how to make the most of it, do sign-up to a Gadget Clinic by emailing: email@example.com or calling 020 7239 0400 to book a place. For more information, visit: www.ageuk.org.uk/camden/our-services/it-training
How you can help us:
Fundraising continues to be a vital part of ensuring we can continue to do what we do. We have just launched our 'Donate a Cuppa' campaign, encouraging people to support our older generation by donating to our campaign: www.justgiving.com/campaign/donateacuppaAgeUKCamden
Quality Pre-loved items, donation drive! With our Charity Boutique now online and our Shop in Leather Lane shut due to the current restrictions we are asking those in and around the Hampstead area to donate quality pre-loved items to our drop off point at Henderson Court.
Items we need:
- Pre-loved designer clothes and accessories in a saleable condition.
- Leisurewear in good, saleable condition.
- Fashion, art and design, and autobiographical 'coffee table' books and magazines.
- Shoes and trainers in good condition.
- Vinyl records.
Due to limited space, please only donate one bag per person. You can drop items off at Henderson Court Monday-Friday between 3-4pm. Please do not leave items outside Henderson Court as they could be damaged or thrown away.
Do Stay in Touch: Please sign up to our regular newsletter – we would love to keep in touch with you. www.ageuk.org.uk/camden/get-involved/email/
And last but not least thank you again. You continue to support us on a daily basis and in addition there have been several times over this past year where we have turned to you for help and you have always been there. It has meant such a lot to us and to those we look after.
With best wishes,
Nikki (Morris)CEO Age UK Camden.
Thursday 18th February 2021
Our granddaughter Lucy, aged 13, has started a 'Readathon' to raise funds for Book Aid International. This charity sends books to disadvantaged and marginalised people across the world. Education by reading helps to empower people to change their lives for the better. It costs just £2 for Book Aid to send a book and in 2020 they sent over 865,000 books to schools, libraries, universities, hospitals and refugee camps in 19 countries. Lucy is aiming to read 20 books over 4 months. She has a page on the JustGiving website with the link https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lucy-coleman13 which gives further details. She would be very grateful for any support that you could give her challenge to further the work of this inspirational charity. With many thanks.
As some of you will know, Jeremy and Julia very kindly offered to host our two bee colonies in the vicarage garden. We are extremely grateful to them both for their kindness, openness, generosity and interest. During our post-service zoom calls, parishioners have been asking us what happens to bees during the winter months.
Winter can be a risky time for honeybees. Many other insects including bumble bees hibernate during winter, but honeybees hunker down inside their hives, and huddle together to keep warm and protect their precious queen.
Fewer bees are needed in the winter so colonies shrink in size. The queen stops laying eggs, and the male drones, no longer seen as essential workers, are banished. The all-female winter workforce, fed on a low fat, high protein diet when they were autumn larvae, are fatter, stronger and have a longer lifespan (4–6 months instead of only a few weeks) than their summer sisters. They need to survive the entire winter.
When outside temperatures begin to drop, these winter worker bees retreat to their hives and form a tight winter cluster. They shiver and vibrate their wing muscles to generate a survivable heat (32–37°C). The outer layer line up and face into the cluster to create a thermal barrier, while inner bees feed on their stored honey for energy. Though the queen is always at the warmest centre of the cluster, worker bees rotate their position from the outside to the inside, so no individual gets too cold. The colder the weather is outside, the more compact the cluster becomes.
To sustain themselves and the heat, the cluster moves in formation around the hive to reach their reserves of honey. For most of the winter, the cluster stays intact, but when temperatures outside rise, the bees will take 'cleansing flights' and eliminate body waste. They never defecate inside the hive.
The queen is waited upon and fed and groomed, and spreads her pheromones to keep her colony happy. She only resumes her egg-laying in January or February in order to strengthen the size of the colony for the season ahead. This new brood will help to replace the bees that have died during the winter, and to ensure there are enough bees for spring foraging.
The colony's ability to survive the winter depends in part on the stores of honey they have built up during the warmer months, and a careful beekeeper should ensure they have more than enough reserves to last them the winter. Our two colonies had limited stores this year, so we decided not to take any honey from them. So far they seem to still be thriving, though they have several more weeks to get through. Dampness in early spring is another big threat, so we are hoping they will make it.
The Vicarage fox
Wednesday 17th February 2021
For Passiontide 2020 we were preparing to put up Essy Sparrow’s Stations of the Cross in church. But it was not to be – lockdown intervened and instead Ayla made them into a video for YouTube. This year, having learnt how to manage lockdown, we will be making them available for prayer and reflection in church. There will be restrictions on numbers, if necessary, and the usual instructions about face masks and sanitising, and a one-way system will be in operation.
By way of introduction we repeat here extracts from Ayla’s interview with Essy which was printed in the April 2020 Parish Magazine and is still available in full on this website under Magazines.
Thorns, Tears, Truth: Essy Sparrow in conversation with Ayla Lepine
Ayla – The Stations of the Cross focus on how alone Jesus is, even when he’s surrounded by people. The first Station, with Jesus in the Garden at Gethsemane is the only one where Jesus covers his face.
Essy – It’s a mix of both prayer and fear …… Sometimes we see Jesus in the garden as a holy figure who doesn’t look particularly tormented……... For me, Gethsemane and taking up the cross, feel very tied together. They’re connected through the pain of being betrayed by someone you love. That’s a unique kind of grief.
Ayla - The Station covered in text is interesting too, because it’s so densely packed and tense.
Essy – I was flicking through the newspaper and thinking about the story in relation to the news. People were yelling, but nothing added up. Their arguments didn’t make sense. Pilate didn’t know what to do. That felt like so many of the stories that we read……. about a girl who got attacked because she was Chinese. People thought she had Coronavirus. Her friend stood up for her, and she got knocked to the ground. Those kinds of stories, where people are willing to stand up for each other are important situations to watch from a power dynamics point of view. In this story, the attackers’ friends just left her on the ground. They did nothing.
Ayla - Thinking about how you’ve looked at the crucifixion in your series. You made two different images. Why is that?
Essy – The first one is a self-portrait; that’s me in my orange jumper.
Ayla – Why did you choose to make the second one?
Essy – I also wanted to make something for someone to meditate on, if they wanted to have a different experience.
Ayla – When we move through the story of Good Friday, even if we’ve heard the story thousands of times, we inhabit it again, and it changes us in new ways. How did you feel after you finished making the Stations?
Essy – I had a big cry. …….. It was a really intense experience to have. The art is exactly how I felt.
Sunday 14th February 2021
Friday 12th February 2021
It's quite handy knowing an international baritone because thatis how I found out about this book. And he may be called Deutsch but he's Viennese! This was my choice for a Christmas present from a friend, in the original language.
I read on, fascinated by how rude he could be! It's divided into chapters about various famous singers he has played for, mostly from the German speaking areas. He tells you how wonderfully they sang whatever it is - and then he tells you what he didn't like. And this can extend to beer and sausages after the concert, rather than a posh meal. My sympathies were with a well known singer who, when asked why he didn't work with him any more, replied "Oh, Helmut's such a Prima Donna!" He had a Japanese wife who went back to Japan. I wonder why?
Op>f course, Germans's a great language to be rude in. I wondered what he'd think of an up-coming CD where the singer is actually English and the pianist comes from some place called Wales? Thinking of "Tom der Reimer" carried off by the Queen of the Elves with bells on her harness, the rising singer says he wouldn't allow anyone but his duo pianist to tinkle his bells! That's the spirit!
The first time I prayed the Rosary, it was a mistake. Well, not a mistake, but it wasn’t entirely intentional. I had been on a walking pilgrimage, with the British Pilgrimage Trust. One of the people I met, walked with and (at the end, at Westminster Abbey) prayed with was a friendly woman who told me she worked at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Soho Square.
And one lunchtime I was doing work nearby, so I popped in. She recognised me, seemed very pleased to see me, but said, “We’re about to start the Rosary. Would you like to join us?” This, by the way, was before I started going to church regularly at Hampstead, or indeed anywhere. As you can guess, from the fact that I went on that pilgrimage, I was curious - but joining the Rosary suddenly plunged me into anxiety. It promised to be yet another of those things that people do in church that cause me to wonder if I will ever know what’s going on, and how to do it. What if I do it wrong? Will somebody be offended? But on balance I thought it was worth the risk. I followed Lucy into the church and kneeled beside her, and did very little else for the next however long because I didn’t know what I was doing. There seemed to be quite a lot of repetition. But it was restful. I enjoyed it.
Fast forward a few months, and I was by now popping into HPC quite regularly, including for Morning Prayers and Evening Prayers. One day Ayla (our curate until last year) said that she was doing a Rosary group on Thursday mornings. I was pleased, and slightly surprised. I had no idea that Anglicans pray the Rosary. Surely it was too “high” - like trying to pray from the top of the steeple? Apparently not. I joined the (then live, in person, Zoomless) group, and quickly got into the rhythm of it. Once again, I found the repetition helped me to ground myself in a prayerful way. And the rotating cycle of Mysteries provided a different contemplation each time.
Cycle? There are four sets of Mysteries: Joyful, comprising the early life of Jesus; Luminous (His ministry); Sorrowful (you can guess); and Glorious (the Resurrection and beyond).
When Covid came, our small but perfectly formed group transitioned quickly into Zoom. Then Ayla left, and we have had to lead ourselves. It’s been my privilege to do that fairly often.
When Sheena asked me to write this, I felt surprisingly daunted. I’m not a theologian. I can’t make a robust intellectual argument in favour of praying the Rosary. Happily, I realise I don’t need to. You can find that kind of thing elsewhere, I’m sure. (Have you met the Internet?)
What I can assure you is that I continue to find it extremely helpful in creating a prayerful space, and have missed very few weeks. Others in the group would say the same. To be honest, I quite like the small size of our group just as it is, but at the same time I would be ecstatic if, by writing this, I were able to persuade you to join us.
We meet on Thursday mornings, every week, at 8.30, and finish at 9. Perhaps we’ll see you there.
After a rather sedentary January (including 10 days of quarantine for the Gardner household), a team Step Challenge with work colleagues is just what I needed to boost my energy. Week by week in February, four teams of four are battling it out to be at the top of the leaderboard.
As the oldest participant by some margin, I also feel I have a point to prove! And so I am starting each day, regardless of the weather, with a brisk walk. This morning however, I had to stop in my tracks to admire the most beautiful sunrise over Hampstead Heath. How wonderful!
Tuesday 9th February 2021
At Hampstead Parish Church, what we do is underpinned by our mission: Building an inclusive community of Christian love, faith, witness and action.
As set out in our Mission Action Plan, we are committed to seeking justice and welcoming all.
Last summer, following the tragic death of George Floyd in the US and the Black Lives Matter movement that followed, we witnessed a new and urgent impetus for scrutiny around issues of racial injustice, a need for deeper understanding, and a commitment to effect real and lasting change.
At Hampstead Parish Church, as in many organisations, we felt a need to talk, listen, reflect and take action. This is not merely about celebrating Black History Month in October, and then continuing as normal for the rest of the year. This is about examining our behaviours and actions, and being open to hear and learn from the experiences of others, however uncomfortable that might be, and then taking action to dismantle barriers and create a truly inclusive church.
We have therefore established a Racial Justice Working Party:
- To listen to the perspectives and experiences of others, and take steps to build our awareness and understanding on matters of race or ethnicity
- To raise awareness of the issues associated with race in society today and use every opportunity to promote equality and inclusion
- To promote multi-culturalism and the richness this can bring to our community and our worship
- To recognise injustices and more subtle inequalities and micro-aggressions, and to call them out
- To aim for a more complete telling of the history of our church and parish, one which includes the contribution of all races and reflects diverse historical perspectives
Wondering how you can help make a positive difference?
We are looking for people who can bring diverse perspectives, lived experiences and cultural understanding to this Working Party. If you would like to find out more, please contact Angela Gardner or the Vicar via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Racial injustice is a complex matter and we recognise that many of us have much to learn. To help build our awareness and understanding, we encourage you to use the resources which you’ll find on the website here. And do, please, share your feedback with us.
Dear Parishioners of Hampstead Parish Church,
A big thank you to you all for your support over this last year. We have really appreciated it. You have supported us practically (responding to our shout out for items when we’ve needed them, often at short notice), financially (we have needed to provide more services for people at a time when income has been challenging) and emotionally – your wonderful encouragement has really kept us going – thank you! We couldn’t have achieved all that we have without you! You have made such a difference to some very vulnerable people, many of whom have never had to ask a charity for help before.
I am so proud that Age UK Camden has been at the forefront of the local community sector response to the pandemic and has worked closely with local partners such as yourselves to provide effective and comprehensive support for the borough's most vulnerable residents.
During the past year we have had to be flexible, helping with a wide range of practical and emotional concerns which have arisen because of the pandemic and the restrictions. As you know in lockdown 1 we had to respond with providing food for people who had no other means of receiving food. After a time the Council stepped in to support us with this as the numbers in need were so high across the borough. All of our services have continued throughout the pandemic and we have made use of the phone and the internet if we haven’t been able to meet with people face to face. And with the support of the Council and Public Health England our Hub at Henderson Court has continued to offer support and a safe space for some of the most vulnerable, such an important service.
Services that people are finding particularly beneficial at the moment include:
- Online and telephone support – advice, information, befriending and counselling.
- Streamed musical recitals. Listen here: Age UK Camden | Lunch time concerts
- Book group. Join our book group here: Age UK Camden | Book Club
- Community Connectors service – social prescribing to stay engaged with the local community and help with confidence for people to come outside for exercise when they have been isolating for so long.
If you know someone who would benefit from our services please do share our website with them or direct them to our Information and Advice phone line 020 7837 3777 10am-4pm Monday to Friday. There is always room for one more!
With best wishes,
CEO Age UK Camden.
There was mention in Church Chat a few weeks ago of Julian of Norwich’s 'Revelations' as a source of comfort during the lockdown.
I too, have been finding the work of this 14th century visionary something of a go-to. Struggling to reconcile my feeling that ‘staying safe’ at the expense of others is decidedly un-Christian while abiding by the socially responsible rules of ‘staying home,’ has taken a toll on what I can only call my principals. How can we be grateful for our comfort and safety with others imperiled? Is this what it means to “experience a wondrous mix of well and woe?”
One theologian who has recognized Julian as a prophet for the 21st century Is Matthew Fox, who has written a short and accessible guide: Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—And Beyond. Fox positions the anchoress as a ‘fully woke woman,’ a visionary whose wisdom should resonate with us on more levels than her ability to shelter in place while simultaneously embodying compassion for her community: Julian spoke about patriarchies, environmental sustainability and (most anachronistically) – the theology of optimism.
Fox organises his study of Julian into seven lessons – all of which, through his lens, are indeed ‘woke,’ 21st century, and exceedingly wise in the era of Covid. My particular favourite is chapter three, which ‘calls us to deep reflection on the divinity to be found in nature, and in all beings that dwell in nature.’
Some nights ago, with Julian set aside, wide awake at three am, I went to the shelves and pulled down a book that I have been carrying around for three decades, unread, simply because it has my grandmother’s handwriting on the front cover. This book, written by a woman who lived for some time in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, about twenty minutes away from where I was brought up, is one of the most beautiful celebrations of the wonders of the natural world I have ever read.
That’s what I thought on page one. On page three, came an even more miraculous recognition, because on page three, the author writes:
An anchorite’s hermitage is called an anchorhold; some anchor holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle to a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor hold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and it keeps me steadied in the current, as a sea anchor does, facing the stream of light pouring down. It’s a good place to live; there's a lot to think about.
Fox sees Julian the anchoress' worship of a creative divine alive in the work of Emily Dickinson. I see it in Annie Dillard’s A Pilgrim of Tinker Creek.
May you all find much to think about in your reading this winter…
(unsurprisingly, the UK edition of Tinker Creek is published by Canterbury Press Norwich)
"Have you any holiday plans?" Even asking this question seems a distant memory when the most exciting outing most of us have had recently has been to the local park. However, Wade Davis's book about the River Magdalena allows you to explore with him Colombia's vital artery of commerce and culture that runs a thousand miles from the mountains of Southern Colombia northwards to the Caribbean. The book is peppered with facts about this beautiful country, with its unequalled abundance and diversity of biological life. 1,932 species of birds, including 165 distinct humming birds, and 26,00 native species of flowering plants for a start. Most of all, it is a series of personal encounters with some extraordinarily brave and resilient people who have survived appalling periods of violence, cruelty and sudden death and have shown enormous courage and hope for the future.
Two anecdotes in particular stuck in my mind amongst the many reported in this book. One is an account of those who managed to transform Medellin, from the murder capital of the Americas when Pablo Escobar ruled, to a beautiful city with parks, libraries, a university, science museum, Metrocable and famous botanical garden. The other is the story of Jose Manuel Zapata, known as Morita, who became the guardian of his small town. He was so outraged by the guerrillas who had rounded up all the locals at gun point and marched them to his hut, where he was watching the World Cup football, that he ordered them to let the people go immediately - and ended up letting the guerrillas watch the football with him. Asked how he could face down killers he said "I have a father who is called God who walks with me everywhere".
Read this book and you will feel that you have visited Colombia from your armchair!
Still flush from the triumph of our 2019 summer performance of Vivaldi's Gloria and then our Christmas Lights concert, we enjoyed starting the new year getting to know our new music director, Aidan Coburn. Unfortunately, like everything else, in late March we had to put away our music with the hope that restrictions would be lifted and rehearsals would resume within a few weeks.
By Easter it was obvious that things were not going to return to normal any time soon so it was decided to start our summer term meetings on Zoom. Many choirs have struggled with the challenge of singing on-line at the mercy of 'variable' internet connections (the word cacophony springs to mind!). So we allocated part of our meeting to singing songs that we had sung before (muted of course apart from Aidan!) and spent the rest of our time listening to memorable pieces of music chosen by members of the choir. Some of us still harboured a vain hope that we could put on some kind of summer concert but it was not to be. Never mind, we thought, we can still practice some wonderful pieces for our Christmas Concert!
What a joy in September when briefly we were able to meet again in church on a Thursday night (extra careful to follow the 'hands, face, space’ rules). . . but not for long. By the end of October we were back on-line but this time feeling more confident about the new music we had been practising. We did manage to record a few pieces, Ave Verum Corpus, Panis Angelicus, Crimond, Litany and Wiegenlied - one of which was played to the congregation in December.
So, 2021 sees us back on Zoom but we are ever hopeful that this summer, or maybe in the autumn, we will be able to demonstrate our joy of singing and perform for you in church because we really do love singing in the Community Choir
Saturday 6th February 2021
or rather, during my Monday morning cleaning… the crates arrived containing the very fine memorial to George Steevens (1736 –1800) sculpted by John Flaxman RA ( 1755 – 1826). Steevens was a parishioner of HPC, living at the Upper Flask (now the site of Queen Mary’s House) from 1771 until his death. He had family connections in Poplar however, so was buried there. After that church was deconsecrated in 1977 the memorial was moved to the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge, where it has been in store for almost all of the last 40 years. The sculpture conservator from the museum who brought it to Hampstead said that his first task at the Fitzwilliam 40 years ago was moving it from Poplar to Cambridge. It is now fixed to the formerly very blank wall of the Lady Chapel, above the entrance to the clergy vestry, and will be well worth a good look as soon as the church can be fully open again.
Wednesday 3rd February 2021
- A compliment is uplifting
- A little praise so worth while
- Especially when reworded with a thankful smile.
- It cost nothing
- To acknowledge a good deed
- Or a simple task.
- To someone, who is there for you,
- And will do, almost, anything you ask.
C H U R C H
- C - is to Care for people
- H - is to Help each other
- U - is to try and Understand each other
- R - is to Respect them too
- C - to Care can feel very rewarding
- H our Hearts can be strong - but at times so weak that can change from you and I.
When Graham and Sue Dowell left Hampstead in 1986, he had been our Vicar since 1974, they retired (!) to their home in Clun. After Graham died Sue moved to a different house with field behind but in the centre of the village. She has sheep grazing on the field and now has acquired 2 donkeys which arrived on 20th January.
Meet Bella and Kamala who love visitors and the attention they get from them.
Each Tuesday lunchtime a group of women from our congregation meet to pray for an hour. Inside Out was formed in October 2019 in response to requests for a church prayer group for women. We actively pray together for each other, the activities, mission and ministry of Hampstead Parish Church, seeking the flourishing of our own spiritual life, and that of our church and the wider parish.
In normal times we meet in the church Lady Chapel but when Lockdown happened we moved on to Zoom. As soon as this was lifted, we met in the Vicarage garden through the summer and then went back on to Zoom as Autumn and the colder weather approached. Apart from short breaks during school holidays this remarkable little group has met every week without fail and we continue to meet! Not everyone can make it every week, but we are committed and look forward to our hour of prayer together. p>We have shared our joys, our sorrows, and our frustrations. We have prayed for our children, friends, family members, our church our parish and more. We have seen wonderful answers to prayer and through praying together we have got to know new people and experienced a strong bond of fellowship.
Inside Out is open to all women. We meet from 12.15 - 13.15 every Tuesday for a time of open prayer and fellowship. If you would like to join us, the Zoom link is in the weekly Wednesday church e- mailing; we would love you to join us.
Sunday 31st January 2021
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
This is the writer's first novel, which was short listed for the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2019. She subsequently won thriller book of the year at the British Book awards, seeing off Lee Child and Val McDermid. The title of the book may be off putting to the average reader who is not looking for a blood & gore novel or a violent one. It was actually the working title for the book which somehow stuck.
The writer's childhood was in Nigeria and the U.K. before she returned to Lagos. The action takes place there.
The main characters are Korede who is the sensible and plain one and her sister Ayoola who is the opposite and has a knack of attracting any man she chooses. Korede is a nurse at the local hospital and her sister is a designer of clothes online when she isn't spending time manipulating others to amuse herself.
The action opens with these words 'Ayoola summons me with these words - Korede, I killed him'. What happens next draws Korede into a web of deception which then explores the relationship between the sisters and the mother and father. All is not as it seems on the surface and soon the undercurrent of local customs and misogyny begins to appear.
It does have some amusing moments and in fact, I did not realise until I was deeply engrossed in the novel, that she cleverly draws you into an insightful portrait of a dysfunctional family. I very much enjoyed this snapshot of aspects of life in Lagos, the food and the language. At 223 pages it isn't a heavy tome, but it has a lot to say. I can't wait for her next book to appear, but it is the sort of book you want to re-read.
I have been sparing with details of the plot, so it does not spoil the enjoyment of reading the book, but would emphasise that it isn't a conventional murder mystery.
Thy Will Be Done, by Stephen Cherry
I came across a review of Thy Will Be Done in King's Parade, the magazine for alumni of King's College Cambridge, where Stephen Cherry is Dean of Chapel, and Ayla Lepine is the College Chaplain. So we have some nice personal connections.
The review included an extract which looked promising. The topic of the book, an extended study of the Lord's Prayer, was itself attractive, since it is of course deeply familiar to us all, but not something we have studied together recently. The length of the book is not too daunting (some 200 pages). It is conveniently structured for Lent, in six parts - Heaven, Earth, Bread, Forgiveness, Temptation, Glory - and each part is broken down into six short chapters which can either be read day by day or all together once a week before the group meeting. The extract was enough to convince me that the style and content would be both readily accessible and at the same time sufficiently stretching to engage the attention of a thoughtful and well informed congregation.
So I recommended it to the Vicar, who has agreed that it would be suitable, and he will shortly be using the weekly worship e-mails to invite us to sign up for one of the three groups, to be led by himself, Jan and me, which will meet on Zoom at different times during the week. Stephen Cherry himself has very kindly promised to join us on Zoom at some point, and meanwhile he has helpfully provided a set of questions to stimulate our discussions. We haven't ever run a study group on Zoom before, and it will be sad not to meet in person, but it will be good to take part from the comfort of our own homes, and I hope that it will prove a good Lenten experience for all of us. Lent starts on 17 February, so if you want to get a head start, you can order the book now from the Church House bookshop, or from an online supplier such as hive.
Our theme last Sunday was Fishers of Men. Maureen told the story with props. Afterwards, children made invitations to friends, inviting them to Bubble Church.
Jesus asks four fishermen to come with him to learn to 'fish for people', to become Jesus' disciples. First he walked beside the sea of Galilee. He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea and asked them to follow him. Then he walked a bit further and saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat; preparing their nets. Jesus called them. They all immediately said 'Yes'! They left their father in the boat and followed him.
Children's fish-shape invitations to Bubble Church
'Come and follow me!'
Monday 25th January 2021
"If Candlemas be fine and clear there'll be two winters in that year"
Before there was Groundhog Day there was Candlemas. And before Candlemas there was Imbolc - the pagan festival of the coming of spring.
It seems there has always been a need to celebrate the coming of spring as soon after midwinter as possible. The date is supposedly midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox - not sure the maths quite works but perhaps it did before eight days were chopped out of the calendar in 1582.
But what is Candlemas? It's the day on which churches used to bless all the candles for use during the year. Somehow it's not the same blessing bottles of candle oil (and one tradition states that only beeswax candles should be blessed anyway). In the days when we used wax candles we did bless the whole year's supply (candles burn better if they're old so we always had at least that many in the building).
February 2nd is also The Presentation of Christ, being the day Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple, along with their offering of two doves or pigeons (Leviticus suggests a sheep but presumably they couldn't afford that) and seems to be one of the oldest of the Christian festivals. After the Presentation, according to Luke, the family went back to Nazareth (not Egypt, as in Matthew).
Snowdrops were known as Candlemas bells and there was a superstition that they shouldn't be brought into the house before Candlemas.
Candlemas was also the absolutely last day of Christmas - after that we start counting down to Lent and if you kept your decorations up any longer there were dire consequences:
Ceremony for Candlemas Eve
Down with rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and mistletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all
Wherewith you dressed the Christmas Hall;
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind;
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there [maids, trust to me]
So many Goblins you shall see.
Ceremony for Candlemas Day
Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
till sunset let it burn;
Which quench'd, then lay it up again
Till Christmas next return.
Part must be kept wherewith to tend
The Christmas log next year.
And where 'tis safety kept, the fiend
Can do no mischief there.
End now the white-loaf and the pie,
And let all sports with Christmas die.
Note: We keep Candlemas/Presentation of Christ in the Temple on the nearest Sunday which this year is 31st January.
Seen on Hampstead Heath
Sunday 24th January 2021
To Die But Once by Jacqueline Winspear was one of Susan Woolf’s favourite lockdown books. The book opens in 1940 against the background of the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk. Maisie Dobbs, the principal character tries to help a local pub landlord and his wife who are concerned about their son who has not been in touch for some time. Young Joe Coombes, a happy-go-lucky young man, who is not yet sixteen, has been working away from home—he is an apprentice to a painting and decorating company with a lucrative government contract, and the work requires a crew of painters to work away from home, and Joe is the youngest on the crew. His father tells Maisie that Joe had been acting strangely of late, and complaining of headaches. Could the lad have been enjoying his first taste of freedom a little too much? Or is there something more serious at the heart of his lack of contact.
Other elements of the story include 'a well-known' London family involved in organized crime (and one member who will not hesitate to resort to extreme violence), and Anna, an orphaned evacuee who is living with Maisie.
Susan Woolf says " the author is reliable and I like her central character, Maisie Dobbs. I always learn something about London in the early twentieth century. Unlike many authors, Jacqueline Winspear does not put in excessive details about meals and tea."
At the end of December there was a ring on our doorbell at about 9 am. Outside there was a very evident smell of gas, and I was greeted by a gas engineer who said they thought the leak was coming from next door (they'd been alerted by the paper delivery service from Anne's Community Store) - they'd tried the bell but no response (not surprising as the house seemed empty). I gave the engineer the landlady's mobile phone number. About half an hour later the road was full of gas & electricity vans, all services in the area had been switched off and a locksmith called - it was then discovered that the front door was bolted on the inside; so the police and fire brigade came with added assistance - finally, the fire brigade achieved entry!
It was discovered that the entire property was being used as a cannabis farm! Quite amazing - and not surprising that they were the quietest of neighbours!
On a very sober side, the criminals had illegally tapped into the electricity supply and this cabling had overheated until finally it had melted the mains plastic gas pipe - hence the smell of gas - and the potential for a catastrophic explosion.
(the photograph, taken by one of my neighbours, shows the inside of one of the rooms after the police removed the plants!)
Friday 22nd January 2021
Taken on a very wet day but these birds have been regular visitors for the last couple of weeks. My book tells me that they are Redwings
Another photo taken 10 days later
Wednesday 20th January 2021
Spotted on a walk this week, signs of hope - spring bulb shoots outside the Vicarage!
Four years ago - in that previous life of somewhat hazy memory - I devised the January Literary Hour on Invisible Women - Significant Writers (NB: 2 years before Caroline Criado-Perez seemingly 'borrowed' my 'nvisible Women' title for her book!).
Mostly I focussed on women writers who'd been first in some way, but had been somewhat neglected, side-lined or forgotten, that is, had become invisible.
One of my selected writers was Julian of Norwich, who had in fact chosen to be invisible, by becoming an anchoress. What made me think of her again now, is realising she lived through another deadly pandemic, the mid 14th century Black Death, yet she managed to retain her trust in a divine wisdom that 'All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.'
'Julian' became not only invisible, but also anonymous. No-one knows her birth name as she assumed the name of the Norwich church to which her anchorage was attached. A manuscript copy of her writing, dated 1413 (now in the British Library) began:
"Here es a vision schewed be the goodenes of god to a devoute woman and hir name es Julyan that is recluse atte Norwyche and zitt ys on lyfe anno domini millesimo ccccxiii"
This was the shorter version of her later book 'Revelations of Divine Love,' written in middle-English around 1395, which was the first book in the English language known to have been written by a woman. Her manuscripts were carefully preserved and copied by Benedictine nuns and were later published by a Benedictine monk in 1670. However, this book remained generally 'invisible' until 1901, when the longer version was translated into modern English by Grace Warrack.
Perhaps we could see Julian as not only a mystic, but a medieval proto-feminist, given that she sometimes referred to 'Mother God... mother in grace and mother in nature' = "moder substantial" and "moder sensual."
During a grave illness in 1373 she suffered a near-death experience in which she received sixteen "shewings" - ie visions or revelations. She said heaven opened to her, and she wrote:
"God said not, 'thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased ... but said 'thou shalt not be overcome"
If ever there was a time to hang on to these words it is now, remembering and praying for all those presently suffering from this 21st century pandemic.
Let us truly hope that All Shall Be Well.
As a parish we have supported Christian Aid for many years. Their work continues in spite of the pandemic.
Put soap* at the top of your list to save lives, urges Christian Aid
* Not literally buy them soap! As online shopping continues its meteoric rise, Christian Aid this year has expanded its digital gift selection to include a Charity Gift https://charity-gifts.christianaid.org.uk enabling supporters to help train more women to make soap for £15 or provide clean water for £30. It doesn't sound like much, does it? But it makes a big difference to the communities.
The humble bar of soap has morphed into a key tool in the global fight against coronavirus and Christian Aid is urging the public to put it at the top of their list.
Christian Aid has provided soap for almost 250,000 people worldwide since the outbreak began and CEO Amanda Khozi Mukwashi is appealing to the public also to buy the traditional gift of soap for the world's most vulnerable people.
Refugees living in crowded camps are particularly vulnerable to disease. Since April 2020 Christian Aid partner organisations in Bangladesh have provided over 40,000 bars of soap for Rohingya families and the local host community.
In Ethiopia, where coronavirus is an additional threat to lives on top of the climate crisis and the locust swarms of 2020, Christian Aid partners are training women to make soap from the drought resistant aloe vera plant. The soap not only protects the women's own families but provides a vital source of income.
Ms Mukwashi said: "This has been a year when we in the UK have experienced vulnerability in a way we haven't for many generations and have been given an insight into what it is like to not be able to fully protect our loved ones from outside forces.
"But we have tools at our disposal. We can wash our hands with soap and water and this year we are appealing to the public to help put those critical tools in the hands of some of the world's most vulnerable people."
NHS Consultant Dr Paul Grime of St Thomas' Hospital, London, who travelled with Christian Aid to rural Ethiopia said: "We mustn't underestimate the importance of soap and water. These may seem like basic and simple resources to us, but they can make a huge difference to those who don't have them. Making them available gives people the chance to protect themselves and their loved ones, control the spread of the virus and other infections in their communities and avoid the devastating impact that infections like coronavirus have on the poorest members of our global community."
Wednesday 13th January 2021
Here we go again!
Bubble Church resumed smoothly on Sunday on Zoom with love, appreciation, and sense of fun. Bubble church at home has all the elements worship alongside stuffed animals and real ones too. Dressed is . . . appropriate! Our new addition was a kitten. We missed Jeremy and his guitar, but we enjoyed recorded music with well know songs like, One more step along the way and Peace like a River. The theme was a New Beginning based on Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan. Children were asked to think about a time when they had a new experience and whether it was what they had expected.
We drew pictures of Jesus in the River Jordan receiving the Holy Spirit. We talked about our own baptism as a new beginning.
We ended with the usual big wind up AAAAA. . . men!
Tuesday 12th January 2021
Sometimes known as the Octave of Prayer, this runs from January 18th to January 25th. Though it's not in the Anglican lectionary, January 18th is sometimes kept as the date on which we acknowledge St Peter's Confession and the 25th, which we do keep, is the Conversion of St Paul. Hence we commemorate two pillars of the early church, martyred for their faith.
The origins of the Week
In 1908, a Franciscan Friar, Father Paul Wattson, proposed an octave devoted to Christian Unity. The point then and now is to address reconciliation of all branches of Christ's Church.
In 2021 the material has been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp* in Switzerland. The theme that was chosen, "Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit", is based on John 15:1-17 and expresses Grandchamp Community's vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the Church and the human family. The usual printed resources have not been issued this year, instead the material is all online at Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2021 (ctbi.org.uk)
Introduction from the material for the Week
Our spiritual well-being is as important as our physical well-being. In the past year both of these have been seriously challenged: the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to be careful about our own health, taking precautions such as washing hands and wearing facemasks and maintaining social distance. Some of us have been ill or have lost someone close to us. Meanwhile the working lives of many have been disrupted and families kept apart, often at huge personal cost. Perhaps it has made us all more anxious about our health and more aware of our vulnerability. Opportunities to worship and pray together have been seriously curtailed. We may well be feeling a sense of isolation from God as well as our neighbour.
Lockdown has caused us to think again about our priorities and the things and people that we value, that make our lives whole. The long periods of absence from family and friends, and the inability to share a meal together or celebrate a birthday or a wedding, are examples of this.
When it comes to our spiritual life, what is it that is most important for our well-being? What does it mean to be part of the one Church, the Body of Christ, when all we see of our sisters and brothers are on the screen of a laptop?
Show your support for Christian Unity by posting unity messages to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Twitter wall - simply add the #wpcuwall hashtag to your Twitter post (note there is a delay before they appear). You can also find updates about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on Twitter by following the #wpcu2021 hashtag.
*If you'd like to find out more about the community at Grandchamp see
Community | Communaute de Grandchamp
For some years our Parish has partnered BASR, the Betlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation. Occasionally, our parishioners have visited this modern little hospital on the outskirts of Bethlehem in the West Bank. It has become a centre of excellence in the Middle East, while still remaining embedded in the local community. It addresses both physical and mental well-being, especially among children - though its doors are open to anyone in need.
It is difficult enough to live in the West Bank. Through arbitrary restrictions on movement, house demolitions, the appropriation or destruction of farmland, and by sheer physical violence, the occupying forces impose an intolerable burden on Palestinian everyday life. BASR's specialism in physical and mental trauma derives directly from this.
And now there is Covid to deal with, which is drastically affecting both the West Bank and Gaza. The Occupied Territories aren't given access to Israel's supply of vaccines. The demand for BASR's services has never been greater. Against the odds they work tirelessly to bring food, PPE and medication to the people of this beautiful, impoverished city and its refugee camps. Their current target is to support some 700 vulnerable people living with disabilities and 400 inpatients and frontline staff.
Edmund Shehadeh, the Director, has sent us his Christmas greetings and wishes us in Hampstead a blessed New Year. We normally offer BASR a share of our Christmas collections, but that has all changed. But we can still respond practically by contributing through the following link: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/help-basr-counter-covid19/. If you have any questions you can always get in touch with me through the Vestry
Monday 11th January 2021
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on why you need to sort what you have and maybe declutter. That word that we now hear so often. I thought you might like some hints about how to do this.
De-cluttering is surprisingly tiring so select one drawer or one room or part of a room at a time. When sorting paper or small items, handle each just the once. Take the decision whether to keep it or dispose of it. File documents and find a logical place for objects. Resist the temptation to just put them back on the pile! Boxes labelled 'keep'/'recycle'/'charity shop' might be helpful and keep a big rubbish bin to hand. The following questions might be helpful as you make up your mind about each item:
When did you last use it?
Will you need it again?
Is it replaceable?
Is it useful/beautiful/especially significant to you?
Here are some of my favourite tips
- Store out-of-season clothes in a suitcase until you need them again
- Any clothing that doesn't look good on you/doesn't fit (and is unlikely to ever fit) or you can't imagine wearing again, should be put aside to go to a charity shop
- Clear out newspapers and magazines at least once a week
- 'One in one out' is good advice. It is hard to get rid of certain items, for example books. Personally, I usually keep non-fiction but with fiction I keep a book only if I definitely know I should like to read it again or I want to gift it to someone
- photographs- identify individuals before you forget who they are. For groups, trace around the figures using a soft pencil and tracing paper and write in the names.
I hope that I have inspired a few New Year Resolutions!
Thursday 7th January 2021
The shelter opened on 14th December, six weeks later than usual, in the County Hotel, in Upper Woburn Place, hundred yards or so down from Euston Station. Having decided that a rotating shelter, in a different church every night, was not feasible within the Covid restrictions, we had great trouble in locating a hostel or hotel able to house the guests and reasonably accessible for volunteers. The C4WS staff worked like Trojans to find a venue, and several locations were on the point of being signed up when some hitch prevented it.
Although found late in the day, the County Hotel is in many ways an ideal for location and accommodation, and its owners, Splendid Hotel Group, really seemed to want to help us. Each guest has his/her own room and although they do not have en suite bathrooms, we have taken on three rooms on each floor, so that each guest has a communal bathroom to his/herself. The hotel cannot be described as splendid; it is, to put it politely, "tired"; it has not been redecorated for, I guess, 50 years. Brown melamine tables match the yellowing (once white) paint and pub pattern carpet. But is basically clean, and some bits, such as the catering kitchen (in which one cannot cook!) are a good deal cleaner for the attention of some of HPC's volunteers. It's warm (in fact tropical in the rooms unless the window is open), and the beds are luxurious. I have spent two very cosy nights there myself.
Guests can come and go or stay in their rooms; they do not have to leave a church hall with their bags at 9 am and not return to a different church at 7pm. We can take 20 guests where before we were stretched to sleep 16. A decent hot meal is provided by the hotel, via airline caterers in the evening and unexciting but adequate cold lunch and breakfast. A casualty of these arrangements is, however, that there is not much of the community feeling of the old shelter model; the guests do not eat or sleep together and while some friendships have developed and quite a few games are played, most prefer to stay in their rooms. Social distancing and masks make it difficult anyway to build up much of a communal atmosphere.
There was, however, a good feeling at Christmas and New Year. For Christmas a team organised by Rosslyn Hill came to cook a Christmas dinner and there was a short concert and film all well received as were the Christmas "stockings" and a fine array of woolly hats and scarves (both supplied by members of HPC). An industrial oven had been hired for the meal, but alas, proved to big to fit in the lift (and weighing 80kg, it was not getting down stairs any other way) Harry, C4Ws' resourceful Shelter manager quickly contacted Linda Gilson, deacon at the (fairly) nearby Kings Cross Methodist church which as well as hosting Mandarin and Cantonese congregations, also runs C4WS' Friday Lunch Club. Linda was happy to lend her voluminous ovens, and turkey and roast potatoes hurried back and forth along the Euston Rd. Some of the guests are still sporting paper crowns on their woolly hats; It was an evening worth remembering.
The advantages of the shelter in a hotel come at cost. Splendid Hotels have given us a good deal, but it is still much more expensive than using the free churches and their halls. We have received some grants towards the cost but more is needed. Many people who had volunteered for the shelter last year asked if they could make a financial contribution this year instead and others may wish to as well. The easiest way to do so is to visit the C4WS homeless Project website and on the home page (top Right) you will find a Crowdfunder button, which will also allow you claim gift aid, if appropriate. Thank you!
Monday 4th January 2021
It was no surprise to find the text of one of our earliest Christmas hymns, While Shepherds watched, in our Carol service order of service. Hymns were common in reformed churches elsewhere from the reformation onwards, but not in the Church of England. What did exist, encouraged by the puritans, was the singing of metrical paraphrases of the psalms, and While Shepherds Watched, published by poet laureate Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady in 1700, is very much in that tradition. Much more of a surprise was the music, sung by the female voices of the choir, and the attribution to Jane Savage, 1752 - 1824. A female composer, at that date? That she was little known was less surprising; female composers tend to be obscure.
This work, I now discover, was unearthed and edited, and published by the Church Music Society just in time for Christmas, by an MA student at the University of York, Rachel Webber, who was looking into the musical life of the eighteenth-century charity institutions for girls and women. She said 'when I was looking at the one 1785 collection of music for The Asylum, I was shocked and thrilled to see an extended piece with the popular hymn/carol text of While shepherds watch'd their flocks by night by a 'Miss Savage'." ( https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/hymn-student-savage/ ).
The slightly Handelian flavour of Jane Savage's music perhaps picked up on family tradition. Her father, William Savage, was a soloist for Handel, both as a boy treble and an adult bass, and sang in the first London performances of Messiah, itself associated with a charity institution, the Foundling Hospital. The music of churches and cathedrals was a solely male preserve, but music in the charity institutions could, and did, involve women. According to Rachel Webber, "it's interesting that whereas cathedral music at the time tended to hark back to the baroque style of composers such as Handel, the music for the hospitals was more progressive, looking forward to the classical style." Miss Savage was apparently a talented harpsichordist and singer, performing only in private, and her music mostly written for the family home. Alas, she seems to have given up composing after the death of her father in 1789 and her marriage in 1793. The performance by our choir, predating that by the Ely Cathedral girls' choristers two days later, must, excitingly, have been just about the first for over 200 years. How good that HPC has assisted one female composer, however belatedly, to achieve credit and recognition.
The best laid plan. . . this article should have followed on from the Vicar chalking over the main church door, and even have been accompanied by a photo of him precariously balanced on a step ladder as he did it. However Covid intervened and the service was removed to the vicarage hallway. But the chalk was blessed and we were invited to provide ourselves with chalk or crayon to make our own marks over our doors.
So what is it all about?
In previous years passers-by have been bewildered by this chalking over the main door of the church which last year read 20 + C + M + B + 20 and which, from Epiphany this year (6thJanuary but we celebrate it on the nearest Sunday which is 3rd), should read
20 + C + M + B + 21
Never having done it at HPC until Jeremy arrived many of the congregation were somewhat bemused as well.
Clearly the 20 and 21 make up the year - 2021 - but what of the C M B?
Think Epiphany, think Three Wise Men, think legend rather than bible - Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar. That's a start.
But it's on the church door - it's done with chalk blessed during the service - it has + between each letter.
There must be more to it.
There is. The letters stand for- Christus Mansionem Benedicat - Bless this House. Apparently done to ward off evil, I think today it has a more positive feeling, much in the same way that people sometimes ask a priest to bless their homes.
From the order of service at the Eucharist for Epiphany Jeremy's words were:
"Peace be to this house, and to all who enter here. Amen.
followed the star of God's Son who became human
20 two thousand
21 and twenty one years ago.
++ May Christ bless our home/office/school/shed
++ and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen
"May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and in everyone we meet may we seek and serve that same Jesus who is your incarnate Word, now and forever. Amen"
After your blessing the inscription on the door should read as above
20 + C + M + B + 21
So go ahead with this delightful tradition - and bewilder your neighbours.
Tuesday 22nd December 2020
On a table just as you come into church there is a beautiful small Nativity made by Chris Money entirely from recycled materials. Even the stable is recycled. It is made from a box in which paper for the photocopier is delivered.
If you come after dusk the beautiful cedar of Lebanon to the right of graveyard is lit up.
This tree has seen Hampstead through two world wars and now two pandemics. We thought its steadfastness would make a good Christmas tree. Lighting it was a challenge until Jayne Gill, a member of the flower team, met Rupert Nash, a landscape designer and member of our congregation. With Rupert's help we lit up the tree.
The graveyard is adorned with different gifts. In the trees are giant size gifts like those we are given. Also hanging from the trees are other decorations. All of these are made from recycled materials or items picked up on the Heath.
Coming from the East (through the front gate) are the Magi. They brought gifts to the Christ child. It is believed they came from Persia where the religion at that time was Zoroastrianism. These 'wise men' were mathematicians, alchemists, and astrologers.
Crowns and words on acrylic mirrors represent the three wise men. They brought Gold `(a rare element - which was incorruptible), Frankincense (a resin associated with deity and ritual) and Myrrh (a resin that is used in healing and embalming) .
There will be a signpost to Bethlehem on corner of church, but you can also follow the stars.
The Christ Child is God's gift to us at Christmas. The Holy Family is in a tent round the side of the church. In the tent are shepherds represented by mirrors with words describing their qualities. The tent is surrounded by angels represented by convex mirrors with words that describe the qualities of angels and their earthly manifestations - people like nurses, doctors and care workers.
We hope that people in seeing themselves in the mirrors will be able to identify with the personalities in the Christmas story.
There are many challenges right now, but there is always hope. Maybe guided by the Zoroastrian philosophy of 'good thoughts, good words, good deeds keep chaos at bay' and Christ's love, wisdom and compassion as described in the gospels we can meet and overcome these problems and challenges.
The decorations in the graveyard were made possible by the help and support of Andrea Taylor, Paul at First Aid Wheels of 174 Mill Lane who spray painted the shapes, Rupert Nash and Matt@dotbespoke.co.uk who cut, coloured and help to shape the decorations and Sophie at PolyStar Reading who donated the bright recycled plastic and scaffolding net for the presents. We are grateful to all of them.
The very first known depiction of the nativity scene dates from a 4th century catacomb under Rome and Mystery plays enacting scenes from the Bible date back to the 5th century. But it is St Francis of Assisi who is credited with creating the first Crib. Being St Francis of course he used real animals (and people) to bring the Bible story to life.
Our crib figures were made by the Loehr family and given to the church several years ago. This year, whilst we have all been in lockdown, they've been on holiday with their makers and have been beautifully refurbished by Alf, Nicola and Makena. You will notice some additions to our tableau - two female shepherds have joined the group; others have had a change of clothes and hairdos. Joseph is a completely new figure. And two splendid angels have flown in, one with actual feathered wings. The stable too has had a much-needed makeover. It is, I believe, the structure made by Ken Clarke some 40, or even 50, years ago, so it's stood the test of time, but was becoming alarmingly rickety!
We are most grateful to the Loehrs for the work they've put into refreshing our figures and imaginative new layout.
Not sure yet how the new Tier 4 restrictions will impact our ability to visit the crib but isn't it reassuring to know that the figures will be there throughout the Christmas period, bearing witness, even if we can't.
The creation of the Holy Family and their resting place in the week before Christmas felt a lot like T S Eliot's 'Journey of the Magi'. It was a hard birth. It took 5 helpers working on and off over 3 days (from Thursday to Saturday) to create it. It rained, the wind was strong, and it was cold. Jeremy's gazebo kept threatening to blow away, a guy rope snapped and at one point the gazebo actually lifted!
On Friday Monther came to do his job at HPC and when he saw the tent he told us he had lived in a tent like this for two years in Jordan and proceeded to suggest ways we could make it more secure. Esther and her friend David persuaded some nearby builders to give us some solid concrete blocks (the stones from the graveyard which we had been using had not been very effective at keeping the tent sides down) - these with some sand bags left by the electricians did the trick of holding down the gazebo. Esther and I made figures for Mary and Joseph. All seemed to be going well on Friday evening. Monther said he would come back on Saturday to help some more. We didn't think we would need him but we did! On Friday night we think foxes knocked over Mary and Joseph (possibly attracted by some food in the gazebo). The papier mache heads that Maureen Smith had made had fallen off and were crushed.
Monther was really needed on Saturday. Monther and Jane (Hinde) decided Joseph should kneel rather than stand so he would be more stable. They remade Mary and Joseph. Then Monther was adament that the old blankets I had in the corner should go on the sides to provide insulation from the cold (although I had to persuade him not to cover up Esther's angel behind the Holy Family). Jane produced black tights for the faces so we had a black holy family that we were all very happy with. Then we had to make baby Jesus. Jane made the body and we found some swaddling cloth (we were very grateful to the Hampstead Players wardrobe). Monther took it from me and said he would show us how he wrapped his baby. So what we have is a genuinely wrapped Middle Eastern baby! Monther's time, his commitment and sharing his personal experience was his gift to us.
The gazebo and the Holy Family may not survive till Epiphany with all the rain predicted but creating 'it was (you may say) satisfactory'.
The season of Advent calls us to slow down, to watch and to wait. However, in 2020 it might feel like we've been doing this all year already, forced to be at home, watching for news, waiting for it all to go back to normal.
Like many of you, our Christmas plans this year are looking very different from those we originally envisaged. Due to the all the various restrictions, Anouk and I will be spending Christmas in our flat at Westcott House in Cambridge, where I'm training for ministry.
Whilst we'll be sad not to see more family and friends, one thing I am looking forward to is being in charge of the cooking for Christmas.
I've always found making food a great way to relax - it's something practical to do and, usually, you can see the end result of your work which isn't always the case in life!
The kitchen in our flat is rather small, as is the oven and I imagine cooking Christmas lunch, even for just two of us, will be a bit like a cross between playing Jenga and solving a Rubiks Cube, but I know it will also be fun.
Aside from the traditional stuff, I suspect I will also attempt one of my favourites on Boxing Day which I can't take credit for - it's Nigella Lawson's ham in coca cola https://www.nigella.com/recipes/ham-in-coca-cola I usually do a version with cherry coke with a cherry jam glaze which tastes great and is also very festive indeed. It's definitely worth a try.
Whether you'll be in the kitchen over the coming weeks or steering well clear, my best wishes and prayers are with you as we look forward to Christmas, which reminds us as we wait and watch, that there is always light in the darkness.
Sunday 13th December 2020
2020 has provided many challenges to C4WS, not least how to provide and operate our winter shelter in compliance with Public Health England guidelines and ensure the safety for guests, staff and volunteers.
After many months of hard work, and having to change our plans several times, we are delighted that our shelter, in a hotel near Euston Station, will be opening this winter on 14th December. In what will be our 17th season of providing emergency accommodation for those in need there are some significant changes. Instead of a rolling model where the shelter moves between different churches we are using a hotel which will act as a single, static venue. This enables us to increase capacity to 20 guests and ensure that each guest will have a private room of their own. In addition, we will not be a night shelter but providing this accommodation 24/7 and running until 1 April 2021.
The hotel will be providing meal and volunteers from Hampstead Parish Church will be serving them and providing a friendly presence.
As well as this Christmas is coming and Jenny Bunn and Susan Woolf have put together Christmas bags for each of the guests which include practical items, a puzzle book, chocolate and a knitted cap, scarf or mittens.
If you would like to volunteer to support the shelter please contact me through the Vestry
Several weeks ago on Church Chat I wrote about the change in plans for the Hampstead Good Neighbours Scheme which has been necessary because of the pandemic. This year instead of Christmas hampers volunteers will be putting envelopes through the letter boxes of 30 women and 10 men who are isolated and vulnerable and are likely to be alone this Christmas.
The Christmas envelopes are now packed and decorated and ready for distribution
Each envelope contains -
A beautiful pair of hand knitted wrist or leg warmers
A lovely handmade notebook wrapped with a pen
Flannel and soap
Hand cream (wrapped)
Notelets and a book of stamps
Jelly sachets x2
3 chocolate coins
Tin of sweets (wrapped)
Fun lavendar bags, for some and for others a fun Christmas decoration in the shape of antlers or a Christmas stocking with a chocolate inside which can be hung up
Season's Greetings card signed by Jeremy
This has been very much a joint project with Henderson Court. I would like to thank Barbara and her friends from Henderson Court for making the knitted wrist and leg warmers, Diana Finning for helping with the shopping and lots of wrapping, Maggie Willmer for making the beautiful notebooks, and Chris Weatherhead, Julia Scott and Jane Bailey for making all the fun stockings, antlers and lavendar bags.
I also want to thank Rosanna Aruta, her children Matteo and Vittoria and their wonderfully creative friends from Hampstead Parochial School for decorating each of the envelopes. Jenny, Eloise and Harold Lupa helped together with 6 other families. Rosanna said "All of them were super excited to decorate and send messages".
Anyone who's ever visited me in December knows my next door neighbour goes in for Christmas lights in a big way. This year, more than ever, everyone seems to have responded.
You put your lights up first
Someone has to be the one
who reaches out to lift the street
from November darkness
to December light.
Just so he comes
even if no one notices.
Communicating through whatever comes to hand.
Love used to be hugs and kisses
Now is it this - a light shared
In a winter window?
Wednesday 9th December 2020
Following many years working as a museum curator, six years ago I set up my own business, 'Sort & Survive', to provide advice and practical help to individuals and institutions looking to re-home, catalogue or display their collections of antiques, paintings, furniture and memorabilia. I was surprised to find that there was an organisation in the UK, the Association of Professional De-clutterers and Organisers (APDO), to support and provide training and validation for those working in the field. Since then, decluttering has become much more mainstream with almost daily TV programmes where an organising expert is parachuted into the home of someone whose hoarding has got completely out of hand. The Japanese de-clutterer, Marie Kondo, author of 'Spark Joy' is now a household name and has her own trademarked method. Rather counter-intuitively for a self-styled queen of minimalism, she now sells her own range of upmarket homewares!
Unlike some practitioners, I do not subscribe to the idea that de-cluttering is key to good mental health or can become a fundamental organising principle of your life. For me, Church, friends and family do that. However, having worked with individuals whose homes are no longer functional because of an accumulation of 'stuff' I think that it is useful to know how to prevent this happening. Even if we are not drowning in possessions or paperwork, we can start to feel overwhelmed by a stack of unanswered correspondence (or overfull inbox) or an accumulation of junk in the attic or shed.
- Urban living can often mean living in compact spaces.
- You save time when you are able to find what you need quickly.
- Clearing out gives you more space and means that your home is easier to clean.
- You also get a good feeling that your redundant possessions can find a new life elsewhere.
Part two with hints of how to go about decluttering will be in Church Chat in the next few weeks when you may be starting to think about New Year resolutions, and possibly one of them will be to do a bit de-cluttering!
Sunday 6th December 2020
Monther, Rahaf, Aseel, Mohammad and baby Yousef are all doing well.
The Covid pandemic brought particular challenges for them. With limited language skills they have had to learn to send and receive emails and use zoom - but now they can!
We had hoped Monther would start a painting and decorating apprenticeship with a charity attached to Caritas, the Roman Catholic relief and development organisation. However the loss of income felt by churches, as a result of being shut, has meant that this apprenticeship is currently on hold until the company has sufficient work and we don't know when that will be. He is continuing to do 2 hours a week at the church keeping the graveyards tidy, but he needs to widen his work experience and develop other skills. If anyone has suggestions please contact me or Lucy Dennett through the Parish Office.
While we are encouraging the family to be independent as far as possible and to use their own resources to solve problems we are continuing to encourage them as much as we can to improve their English. They have a super team of volunteer teachers helping them - John Barker, Adriana Rouanet Bassi, John Trimbos and Hilary Oulton (from St Mary's RC Church). The photo you see of Monther was taken during an English lesson on WhatsApp video. He wanted John Barker to see him in traditional Syrian costume.
Tuesday 1st December 2020
The tradition of Advent calendars dates back to the mid 19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas. The first printed Advent calendar was produced in the early 1900’s. Advent calendars typically don’t strictly follow the period of Advent. Instead, they begin on December 1 and mark the 24 days before Christmas.
Today, most Advent calendars include paper doors that open to reveal an image, Bible verse, or possibly a piece of chocolate. But they have also become a Christmas commercial extra and could just as likely have pictures of dinosaurs behind the paper doors or luxury items.
As Christians we believe that Advent is a time of preparation as we wait to celebrate on Christmas Day the coming of Jesus into the world, God incarnate, and the hope that he brings.
2020 has been a particularly challenging year and our own Hampstead Parish Church version of an Advent calendar seemed appropriate. Each day has a challenge that different people are facing and an opportunity that each of us has to to respond and to demonstrate the love of Jesus. We wanted each reflection to represent challenges in our community right now as we wait in hope for the Light of the World to come. Bubble Church will also be adding their voices to some of the posters.
Sarah Cheriton-Jones has designed a beautiful set of posters incorporating the challenge and opportunity for each day, with an image and the Church of England theme for Advent 2020 - 'Comfort and Joy'.
Each day a new poster will go up on the railings of the Additional Burial Ground and a smaller version will go up on a notice board in church. And each image will be posted on the church website, our Facebook page and on Instagram and Twitter.
I went on an early cycle ride to Richmond Park last Friday because the forecast said 'clear morning'. The forecast was wrong. Very wrong. It was extremely foggy. I did get some nice photographs though.
Sunday 29th November 2020
Is it a tree? Is it a man?
Although our Traidcraft stall isn't operating at the moment you can still get Traidcraft supplies for Christmas through another local supplier, Marion Hill. Please support her because all the profits will go to the Traidcraft Foundation that supports farming initiatives in the Third World, which is not the case with Traidcraft products bought at the supermarket.
Marion advises -
"If you live within safe delivery/collection range of Belsize Park* and would like to buy Fairtrade groceries or sweet treats, Christmas or general cards or a selection of Fairly Traded gifts please ask to see what might be available.
You can view a more or less current stock list (there have been some sales since) at https://drive.google.com/file/d/15ILWcbEER7Ss5JZ6dvu_58CKNHeXxKUk/view?usp=sharing.
I can also supply an illustrated list of cards and photos of my selection of bamboo socks.
Traidcraft products can also be ordered directly from https://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk/ and you can view the Christmas catalogue at https://issuu.com/traidcraftshop/docs/xm20_-_issuu.
At this pre-Christmas stage it will probably not be possible for me to take orders which would require my placing orders with Traidcraft as I would normally do through the year. But I will happily endeavour to meet orders from the stock I hold in Belsize Park.
I met 2 separate customers at Swiss Cottage Farmers' Market on Wednesday and could walk to e.g. Hampstead Parish Church, St Dominic's Priory or St Mary's Primrose Hill.
You can contact Marion through the Parish Office
I was walking through New End and the words 'noisome pestilence' on this plaque on the end of the Heathside Preparatory School building caught my eye. It reads:
"This building was erected by voluntary contributions for a dispensary and soup kitchen. It was founded as a thank-offering to Almighty God for his mercy in sparing this parish for the visitation of cholera in the year 1849. The site was purchased in 1850 and the building was completed in 1853. He shall deliver thee from the noisome pestilence Psalms 91 v3 Thomas Ainger MA incumbent"
Our hopes and prayers that the whole of humanity will be delivered from the harms of Covid-19 next year!
Thursday 26th November 2020
Autumn colours, winter berries and spring blossom on Hampstead Heath this morning.
Wednesday 25th November 2020
In the beginning was a Hug;
and the evening and the morning were very good;
And behold! there came forth many hugs;
numberless as the stars in the heavens;
And behold! they brought much brightness and joy;
And then came forth 2020;
when darkness descended and, from this time forth;
Hugs were thus necessarily 'rested;'
As of an actor's demoralised resting;
awaiting that elusive new ray of hope;
And behold! it was not very good;
And suddenly there arose the mighty Zoom;
thus it came to pass, there was created;
the Virtual Hug;
And lo! the evening and the morning;
were not quite so good;
But behold! there was created a holy Hug Store;
of sufficient dimension to hold all hug desires;
Until such time would come to pass;
when all could gather in and celebrate;
A day of safe delivery from present danger;
A universal Day of Thanksgiving;
where all stored hugs could be released;
And once more shared abroad;
in an abundance of bountiful joy;
Yet God, for now, had no time to rest;
for behold! God said, Be Patient,
Keep Washing Your Hands;
Give Thanks for Soap and Running Water;
and for Timeless Reflections in the Still Waters.
Tuesday 24th November 2020
Our youngest daughter Ahria has always loved a dolls' house. Well to be honest I have too! Having visited the V&A Museum of Childhood on many occasions we would often be drawn to the collection of beautiful dolls houses that have spanned generations.
My favourite is the "Killer Cabnet House" from the 19th century. It was made by Stockbridge surgeon, John Egerton Killer, for his wife and daughters in the early 1830s when he had four daughters living at home: Jane, Mary, Frances Leigh and Ellen, aged 8 to 14 years old.
The beautifully made cabinet shows four main rooms: top left, the drawing room, top right, the bedroom; bottom left, the parlour and bottom right, the kitchen. Everything is up to date and fit for a well-do-do family of the best class. The neat fingers of his wife and daughters made many of the furnishings.
Back in 1783, as a young lad of 16, John Killer started his apprenticeship as an apothecary. The 1822 Herb Garret, St Thomas's Hospital, 5th April, 2020 (category Natural World) will know, it was a long, arduous and intensive training. A hard-working and properly-trained apothecary could rise in the world, as John Killer obviously did; he became a well-respected member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and helped to establish the Stockport Dispensary for the Poor, and the Stockport infirmary which provided hospital beds for workers injured in the cotton mills.
According to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, dolls' houses weren't originally made for children but for the education of young ladies. They were both instructional - the servants you will have and this is what they should be doing - and aspirational - your duty is to help your husband go up in the world and, for that, you need the right sort of home with the right sort of things in it.
Over the years Ahria has had several dolls houses and spent many a happy hour playing with them. More recently she asked if we could get her another one. Feeling reluctant to buy another one I suggested that she make her own. Ahria was delighted at the idea, the only rule was that everything had to be handmade by her.
It is wonderful to see her get so much fun out of a cardboard box, straws, matchsticks and an old hat. I love the plant she made with a few dried up leaves from a house plant in our home.
It just goes to show you really don't need expensive toys to have fun. Everything was already there at our own fingertips!
Monday 23rd November 2020
The Arts & Faith discussion on 19th November considered Martin Wroe's Lockdown poem I Lift Up My Eyes, and its continuing relevance, now we're into our second lockdown. The poem particularly resonated with me as Psalm 121 has been my favourite psalm since childhood.
This re-visiting of it was written on April 24th, a month into our first lockdown, with the strains on the NHS very much in mind, especially because a hospital chaplain, Rev'd Katie Watson (Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) had asked Martin to write it.
Martin Wroe is assistant vicar at St Luke's church, West Holloway and an occasional contributor to radio 4's Thought for the Day. He says he sees religions as poems and tries to write a poem every day.
His lockdown poem is long, with threads of Psalm 121 weaving through different perspectives of where "My help come from," such as "my help comes hidden inside PPE"; and in the "shy defiance of a yellow daffodil"; or from those who "walk beside us when we die"; plus many more examples, until the affirmation "I lift up my eyes, and find my help comes from knowing Love is present"
Faith is certainly challenged - "I thought plagues were the tantrums of a petulant god we no longer believe in" and the poem confronts God with "I don't know if I believe in you, You don't make it easy"
The relentless strain on everyone, but particularly on care workers, is clearly conveyed in many telling phrases, such as "My days slip through these dried out fingers, raw from washing, wet from tears" and the sense of general isolation comes across as lockdown confines us to where walls close in to a caged safety.
A powerful message comes through in so many small details conveying pain, loss, frustration, but ultimately gratitude to those who carry us through such precarious times "against the odds." Finally Hope shines through since "Love will keep our lives from this time forth, for evermore"
So let us hope that a successful vaccine and further effective treatment will 'come forth' before too many more lives are lost.
The poem can be read here:
Tuesday 17th November 2020
After the election results, I decided my cats needed some festive accessories to wear while watching the inauguration. Here is Algie modelling his homemade stars and stripes bandana, which he was surprisingly okay about wearing. If your pet would like one, let me know at email@example.com I will be listing them for sale online, with a percentage of profits going to organisations that secure the voting rights of ethnic minorities and others in the USA who are often disenfranchised.
After the morning service on Sunday Jeremy left the zoom link on so there was time to chat. Harold Lupa was very keen to show us his creative sock squirrels complete with red bows. He explained that they were made with two socks and I think he said toilet paper? Peter even had a go at making one!
Ellie and Harold also introduced us to their adorable new kittens. The Lupa kittens are named after detectives. Watson is on the right and Enola on the left. I discovered that Enola Holmes is the teenage sister or Sherlock Holmes and she stars in a film on Netflix
When I came to Hampstead I was pleased that there was a long tradition of supporting the Children's Society. I've known it since I began in ministry (when it was the Church of England Children's Society). Many know it as the charity which popularised the Christingle.
More recently I've worked with it more closely. Somehow I got linked with the national network of Diocesan Children's Advisers, where I met some CS people. There may also have been an evening after General Synod business when I met the lead person for church relations with the CS, but the details are hazy (it was that kind of evening). I now find myself writing some of the monthly prayers the CS send to churches, and did lots of work in the early summer on Christingle resources. The Church of England's national online service on Sunday 13 December is a Christingle, and I contributed to that too. The Society's research, campaigning and direct work with vulnerable children and young people is stunning. Its' not just Christingle!
I recently received an email from Jon, a volunteer working for the Children's Society. He wrote to thank us for our donation and to share details of one of the projects that he is involved in, which has been impacted by COVID-19. This is what Jon said-
"I'm a volunteer befriender in the Refugee and Migrant team, which works with young people who have often fled war torn countries, and are separated from their families. They often have no support networks here and limited opportunities to make friends.
I meet face to face with a young person, to do an activity that we've chosen together, such as visiting a famous London landmark or museum, or playing games or sports. This helps the young person get familiar with their new city. I personally was overwhelmed with my first visit to London as teenager, not knowing if you tap in or out of buses. Can you imagine how it would be for a young person from another country? These activities helped them get an understanding of British Culture, improve their English and build their confidence.
Well since the lockdown, this has stopped We've replaced these with weekly catch up calls, which were quite tricky, as it's more difficult to communicate on the phone across a language barrier. Fortunately technology is a big helper, we've recreated things we were doing before by taking online tours of museums or zoos - something we can do at the same time.
I do hope I've give you an idea of how we've recreated our services during lockdown. We couldn't do so without the support from parishes like St Johns. THANK YOU
Despite the challenges we continue to walk towards the young people that society crosses the road to avoid. These young people have something within them, that something is hope. We counsel, support and campaign for the young people whose hopes and happiness are the most threatened by abuse, exploitation and neglect. We couldn't do that without the help of our supporters."
Monday 16th November 2020
For several years many of you have generously sponsored Christmas hampers to go to frail, elderly and isolated people in Camden, who are unlikely to see someone at Christmas. These hampers have been put together in collaboration with the Hampstead Good Neighbours Team at Henderson Court and have been delivered by volunteer befrienders
Since March it has not been possible for the befrienders to visit, so this year we are putting together envelopes of goodies that can be posted through their letter boxes. Sadly it can't be as substantial as the hamper we have given in previous years, but working with Annabelle Williams who runs the HGN scheme, we have identified items that will be warmly welcomed.
Gift Aid collected from hamper donations last year means that this year we have sufficient funds in hand to put together the Christmas Envelopes. We do however want to keep you in touch with the project.
The Envelopes - decorated by Rosanna Aruta, her children and friends - will be delivered to 30 women and 10 men, and will include amongst other things, socks and facecloths (always very popular), little soaps, tissues, hand cream, knitted wrist warmers, pens and handmade notebooks, notelets and stamps and little boxes of pear drops.
Meanwhile Chris Weatherhead and Julia Scott are making tiny Christmas stockings for each envelope, plus a little surprise. Each package will also have a card from Age UK and Hampstead Parish Church, which will be signed by Jeremy, so they will know that we are thinking of them
If you would like to know more contact Rosemary Loyd (firstname.lastname@example.org) .
Wednesday 11th November 2020
Due to the second lockdown, Bubble Church returned to Zoom. Having done this for almost six months we were well rehearsed. However, it felt a bit strange in church without the buzz of children and families. Jeremy sang the songs and played the guitar. I played the tambourine quietly! Children participated in the bible reading, prayers and making poppies during the activity.
Fr Jeremy's talk included the origins of poppies and how people wore them to remember those who gave their lives for others. Children and families were encouraged to have hope, love for others and to continue to be willing givers. The service ended with the usual wind up Amen!
The prayers below were written and read by children and we ended with our usual wind up Amen!
Today we remember the dedicated men and women
who serve and have served in our armed forces.
Thank you for those who have fought for our country.
May we always take the time to remember their sacrifice
and that without their bravery our lives could have been so very different,
without the freedom we so much enjoy.
We thank them for what they did for us.
We pray for those who have been injured or disabled though war.
For those who have lost loved ones, homes and security through conflict.
For those who face danger and take risk for peace.
For those especially children, caught up in current conflicts and for refugees and all those in need of help.
Please guide us in building a just and peaceful community for all.
Thank you for making our world and for making us care about other people.
Thank you for making our houses and making gardens for us and creating animals and creating trees.
And thank you for making soldiers that fight for us and try to keep us safe. In Jesus name
Tuesday 10th November 2020
Last year as we got towards Christmas we thought the beds for the C4WS guests looked a bit bare so we bought each of them a Terry's chocolate orange. But we wanted to do more this year so we have been assembling Christmas parcels for each of the 16 guests.
The parcels vary a bit. Each will include a Chocolate Orange and then some practical items like a small tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, comb, soap, a flannel or sponge, sanitizer gel or wipes, lip balm, pens, a pencil, notepads and a Sudoku or crossword book for each bag.
also wanted to include a woollen scarf and hat for each person. Jenny has a friend who, with her husband, has retired to live in in a home overlooking Ambleside. They have a knitting group in the home and she agreed that after they finished knitting items for another charity they would make hats and scarves for C4WS. However one of the party fell ill and in the upset no one checked and all the hats and scarves they had made for C4WS were sent off to the other charity! So we need 15 hats and scarves (suitable for men or women) for our Christmas parcels by the beginning of December, either knitted or bought. You can leave them at the back of church marked for Jenny Bunn. We will also plan to put a plastic box on the back shelf that you can put them in.
If you need more details please contact Jenny Bunn email@example.com
The Cenotaph was unveiled on Armistice day 1920, a century ago this year. I have always understood that my Perrin grandfather, William Perrin, the first Bishop of Willesden (which then including also the area which is now Edmonton) was among the clergy present at that ceremony but I have no certain record or photo of that day.
However, this photo is of an Armistice ceremony soon thereafter in which my grandfather can be made out as the robed (and bald!) Bishop. Queen Mary can also clearly be seen on a balcony behind, and my grandmother and aunt were included in that party (probably not my father as he might not have been in London then). I do not know the year: but my guess is 1926 as in my grandfather's obituary Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London, wrote "When I went round the world from July,1926, to May,1927, I handed the whole diocese over to his care".
Sadly, the lockdown in March made it necessary to call a halt to the monthly Traidcraft stall at HPC on Sunday mornings. I am very grateful to Judy, Julia, Jeremy and Ayla for all their hard work in selling off as much stock as possible before it reached its sell-by date, and distributing what remained to the Foodbank.
As with so many traders, it has been a difficult few months for "Traidcraft plc", and its sister charity "Traidcraft Exchange" and, more importantly, for the producers who rely on what they can earn each day by selling their goods but have either been unable to work or to travel to markets to sell their produce.
In many of the vulnerable communities where Traidcraft work they've seen fragile progress to economic stability eroded, and the harsh reality of living hand to mouth has been laid bare by lockdowns. Farmers in rural communities were unable to harvest their crops and, across the world, markets ceased operating. In India and Bangladesh, factories closed their door, causing a huge number of people to migrate across country and return to their family homes.
In normal times Traidcraft is all about long term, systematic change - they work to build livelihoods, increasing incomes and challenging unjust business practices; put simply, they aim to offer trade support, not aid, but these are not normal times. The last few months have seen a crisis like never before and Traidcraft has taken action to support communities by providing soap, food and the other basics that people need to get through this crisis.
Since the Traidcraft stall was set up at HPC over 10 years ago we have been extremely grateful for the generosity of the members of the congregation who have given their support by buying goods from the stall and by making donations and by supporting our Big Brew each year. We had hoped to find a way to resume operations in a limited way but the latest lockdown has made that impossible. In the meantime below are photos to remind us of Big Brew which we hope will be possible next year!
You can, if you wish, order direct from the Traidcraft Shop by going to www.traidcraftshop.co.uk
You can also donate to "Traidcraft Exchange" online at
Friday 6th November 2020
Whilst out on one of my local walks during the first lockdown I met my friend from the gym, Dilys Ward and somehow we got onto the fact that she was interested to see that there were Commonwealth war graves in the Additional Burial Ground. I had been doing a bit of clearing in the ABG myself with our lodger Michael and so we got chatting about the graves in there, including the World War One graves. Dilys said that in normal times she went every year on a tour to Flanders led by her friend David Humberston and how much these meant to her and she would look these graves out in the ABG herself.
Later in the summer our paths crossed again, and Dilys mentioned that David and his wife were coming to stay for the weekend and she intended to take them to see the ABG. It was a baking hot weekend and I suspected that they probably opted to stay indoors as many of us did! But no - she let me know that they had had a very interesting visit together and spent more time there than originally planned.
I thought nothing more of it until about ten days ago an email dropped into my inbox from Dilys. Unbeknown to me David Humberston is the Chairman of the Western Front Association , Leicestershire and Rutland Branch and a battlefield guide. Since visiting Hampstead he had been busy researching the lives of the six WW1 veterans buried in our ABG and produced the most wonderful piece of work. You can read the results of David's research on the church's website by following this link
On Remembrance Weekend it is wonderful to read of the stories of Geoffrey Rose, Francis Ellerton, George Harvest, John McClure, Anthony Beesley, and Angus Campbell who gave their lives for our nation.
Huge thanks to David for his work - It a timely reminder to us all of the sacrifice made by others for us.
'We will remember them'
Wednesday 4th November 2020
CARIS Haringey supports over 100 vulnerable families, many of whom are living in temporary accomodation. Each year CARIS Haringey invites them to a Christmas party. There is food, games and lots of funs, and each child receives a gift from Father Christmas. Because of Covid the party won't be possible this year. Tonya (in the photo) and the team at CARIS Haringey have been creative. They have ordered a large floor to ceiling Chrismas poster, which includes Father Christmas. Each family will be invited along and will be given a Family Christmas Pack and will have their photo taken with Father Christmas, which will then be WhatsApp'd to them.
CARIS Haringey have asked us to help them to make the Family Christmas Packs really special. Tonya has sent us a list of what they would like to include with some hints of where items might be bought.
- Something to brighten their temporary accomodation e. g colourful throws, bedspreads, cushions or duvets. Primark, Ikea, Morrisons and Asda are all a good sources.
- or Christmas accessories like Santa hats or stand alone decorations
- or luxury body sets for mums (which you could make up)
- or activity items like colouring books, pens, pencils etc
- or new childrens books (because of covid they can't accept second hand books)
- or Ikea lap trays ( called Klipsk the trays you sponsored earlier in the year have been incredibly popular)
Last but not least - TOYS!
Tonya suggests -
- Multicultural dolls
- Wooden train sets
- Super hero figures
- Dolls head (to do hair)
- Paw patrol sets
- Peppa pig sets
All can be purchased on Amazon or at Argos.
Another idea Tonya suggests is "purchasing some Multicultural puzzles from www.verypuzzled.com they have a beautiful range of puzzles. Many of our clients are from Nigeria, Ghana & Jamaica so a few of these would be amazing. I think each puzzle is about £10".
Because of Covid all items need to be new and where possible wrapped especially toys and bedding.
Items to be donated can be left at the back of church of contact Sheena Ginnings firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to know more or to arrange delivery or collection.
We need to receive all items for the Family Christmas Packs by the end of November at the very latest.
Tuesday 3rd November 2020
We would normally have been making the final preparations to open the C4WS shelter this Monday 2nd November. Unfortunately we shall not be doing so. It became clear in the Summer that, because of Covid restrictions, we could not run the shelter on the traditional model, rotating round seven churches each week. Since then Adam Eustace, our new Project director (standing in for Nikki Barnett, whose baby ,Daisy, arrived early in January) and his team have been working like Trojans to find a suitable and affordable venue for the shelter.
One of the major factors is ensuring that the hostel is located somewhere reasonably accessible for the many volunteers whose help will be indispensable in running it. An otherwise very suitable hostel was found in Pimlico, but the great majority of our volunteers, including most from Hampstead, were reluctant to travel so far.
Fortunately, after a slow start, Camden has taken up our case, and is now determined to find us somewhere in the Borough. The most likely possibility currently is an unused day centre in West Hampstead. It will require the installation of some showers and an additional lavatory or two, as well as a few stud walls to divide rooms, so that we can accommodate 16 guests. All this is quite feasible and we are seeking a reliable plumber and builder to quote for the work- if anyone can recommend such a contractor, please get in touch with me- email@example.com
Equally, if you have not already heard from me about volunteering, but think you may be able to help, please get in touch.
We will not be opening on 2nd November, but we are determined to get the hostel up and running as soon as we can.
Wednesday 28th October 2020
Bubble Church created a beautiful display for Black History Month which is displayed at the front of the church, just below the Chancel steps. They looked at the life and witness of Martin Luther King Junior and Rosa Parks (who, on 1st December 1955, in Montgomery Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a crowded bus to a white passenger). The display includes works from children who were in church and children who created work at home. One exercise involved decorating a lolly stick and writing one inspiring word based on what they had learned from the life of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Junior
What is Nigeria?
A place. A people. A way of doing things? A flag. A government. A passport? On the 1st of October, 2020, I joined the live feed from Eagle Square, Abuja, of the national festivities to mark our 60th year since independence. The event was attended by the President and Commander-in-Chief, his VP, high-ranking members of the Legislature and Judiciary, top government officials, members of the Armed Forces, cultural troupes, and well-meaning Nigerians who had come to pay their respects to a nation in its prime.
Together, we watched the patriotic display of acrobatics and other performances, as well as the symmetric and beautifully coordinated aerial display by military aircraft. Then in united silence, we observed the traditional three hearty cheers and the national salute, which constitutes the firing of twenty-one artillery volleys.
It was a proud moment. Nigeria was alive; displaying her glory and splendour through the color and precision of her people and institutions.
On the 13th of October, 2020, I joined young protesters at the Lekki tollgate, who had peacefully gathered to voice their grievances against a rogue Police unit that for years had killed, maimed, brutalised and oppressed the constituents they were mandated to serve. I mingled with the crowd; we spoke passionately about our expectations of a better country, we sang, danced, shared refreshments, and renewed our awareness of the deep bonds that connect us a people.
It was a fine moment. Nigeria was as alive on those protest grounds as she'd been on Eagle Square during the national parade.
On the 20th of October, unspeakable horrors were unleashed on these same peaceful protesters gathered at the Lekki toll gate. Armed men in military fatigues, who appeared to be officers of the Nigerian Army, invaded the protest ground, shooting sporadically at protesters. As one eyewitness account coined it, "they were shooting at us to kill us, not to disperse us".
The young protesters huddled together as they sat on the ground. Chanting the national anthem and raising the green white green flag; in the hope that it will be their defence against the invading army. Blood was spilled on the flag, as the protesters were riddled by a steady stream of bullets from the machine guns.
I spoke with West, an aspiring young entertainer, who was present on the scene. He shared with me how he watched as up to four people around him were gunned down by the men in military uniform. Right beside him, a young girl begged for her life after seeing them spray her boyfriend with bullets. They shot her in response.
Nigeria was present at the Lekki protest ground. Just as she was alive in every location around the country where her young people were rising, awakening to the power they hold and the possibilities that their beloved nation could provide them.
The attack on the protesters was nothing short of an attack on Nigeria. The evil forces who for decades have profited from dysfunctional national systems, realise that the awakening of Nigeria in these young people is detrimental to their continued looting and robbery of the commonwealth.
So they sought to silence these powerful new voices; and Nigeria bled out unto her flag.
But what our enemies fail to realise is that Nigeria cannot be silenced; she has 200 million tongues. The hope of Nigeria cannot be extinguished; we have much more reserves of it than crude oil.
The aspirations of these young people, who out of the dark cloud of poverty and oppression that held them captive, defied the cowardly assault of a brutal enemy, while holding on in faith to their national flag, cannot be gunned down.
Our hopes and dreams for a new Nigeria must be amplified by this massacre. We owe it to the fine young men and women whose vision of a new day was the passion that fuelled their discontent.
We owe it to our children. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to Nigeria. Peace and unity.
Tuesday 20th October 2020
Here are two pictures inside and outside the walled garden in Canons Park, Stanmore, close to my home. The land originally belonged to the canons of St Bartholomew Smithfield and eventually passed into the hands of James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos. He made his fortune largely by embezzlement and built the manor house and estate called Cannons (with an extra 'n') between 1713 and 1725. He lost his fortune in the South Sea Bubble. As Jonathan Swift put it 'Since all he got by fraud he lost in stocks'.
He was patron to the young Handel among others. Here Handel composed a number of pieces including the Chandos Anthems. He played the single manual organ in St Lawrence Church, Whitchurch Lane, which runs to the south of the estate and was the family chapel. The organ still exists and is still playable.
Legend has it that Handel was inspired to write his air and variations 'The Harmonious blacksmith' after hearing a Whitchurch lane Blacksmith singing the air or used the rhythm from the sound of the anvil. However, both stories are almost certainly fictional.
What remains of the house is now part of North London Collegiate School. Some of the grounds remain as Canons Park. When the estate was dissolved, the iron gates found their way to adorn the entrance to Hampstead Parish Church.
Editor's note. The stone on the churchyard wall noting the provenance of the railings has the double 'n'
On Thursday (15th October) around 20 of us were very privileged to join Bishop Rose Hudson -Wilkin for an inspiring 40 minute conversation on Zoom.
Jane Hinde arranged this very special event. "I first met Rose in about 2014 whilst she was Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. She was hosting an event for her former congregation in Hackney and asked my husband Ian's saxaphone quartet to provide entertainment during the evening. Her husband Ken was then the baritone player in the group. It was a remarkable evening where Bishop Rose shared her life in the House with her old community, ending the evening with prayers in the chapel. Ken is a passionate jazz player who would regularly travel to our flat to practice all the way from Wandsworth Prison where he was chaplain. Ken arranged for Bishop Rose to speak to us."
Below are some of the reflections we took away from the conversation
Jeremy - "I was most struck by Bishop Rose's infectious enthusiasm, energy, and optimism. As one who has been discriminated against, she has turned that negative energy into something positive, not being afraid to challenge and challenge and challenge, but out of love fuelled by indignation. She does not compromise, but allows people a way to change and do the right thing, one small step at a time.
I was struck by the relatively small number of people who chose to come. But we were a very diverse group on screen, and the effects of the meeting will, I hope, be profound."
Angela - "Bishop Rose quoted John 3.16: "For God so loved the world... She referred to Black History Month as being about world history, a shared history, regardless of ethnicity, skin colour, nationality. She urged us to be generous and allow others the space to be who they are. We do not need to apologise for who we are, she said, but we should interrogate ourselves, our thoughts and actions. When we hear something offensive and say nothing, we acquiesce and collude. By having an awareness, we can make a difference where we are and at this time.'
Tari - UBUNTU
I am, because you are.
"Bishop Rose shared this Zulu phrase with us, to emphasize the need for equity in the diverse representations of our one identity in Christ."
Lucy - "I captured that we should start by being aware to the issues; be intentional in our actions and leave space for others; be courageous and call out what you don't agree with - not challenging is the same as passive acceptance; make sure justice is done - and - Go and be the People of God."
Sarah - "I was particularly struck by the story Bishop Rose told about attending a job interview and waiting to be called in. The interviewer was expecting a female candidate and came out of the room to call in the next person for interview. However seeing only Bishop Rose and her husband waiting assumed the candidate had not arrived! I was shocked by the blatant ignorance shown by the interviewer in assuming that a high quality CV didn't match the face of a black candidate. As a church I hope we can understand the destructive power of such deep-rooted unconscious bias, and work together to eradicate it."
Sheena - "She said we shouldn't think of our multicultural society as a melting pot, but rather a salad bowl, where each item is appreciated for its distinctiveness. A rich and diverse community is a strength to be valued and be grateful for."
How lucky we are to have the first concert series of the Hampstead Collective to look forward to every Monday evening right up to Christmas.
The Hampstead Collective grew out of the Parish Choir's experience of working intensively together during lockdown to record the hymns and anthems needed for Sunday worship. Introducing their programme they wrote that although, 'in a busy life as aspiring soloists _ concert, recital, opera cancellations were indeed wounding, and relentlessly so, it wasn't until the closing of churches, that we looked at the centre of things, and realised that the anchor of which we'd only just noticed the existence had become dislodged _ for many of us, choral singing had been the way into music, and coming together on Sundays was a way of honouring that, and maintaining our connection with the source of our identities as musicians.'
Happily they didn't spend long lamenting what was lost. They set about devising an inspiring and varied programme of one-hour recitals, meditations and concerts, which explore their dreams and exploit their strengths both as individuals and as a team. With support from the Friends of the Music, who are assisting with Front of House duties, from the Friends of the Drama who are providing readers, and from the Hampstead Church Music Trust which has backed the project financially, the Hampstead Collective has reached out to draw us all together in an extended parish arts festival, which has lifted our spirits in this sad year.
Space does not allow me to pick out individual performances, and it would be invidious to do so. Highlights for me have included some spectacular instrumental accompaniments and excellent programme notes as well as the vocal stars. There are still many treats in store, so do explore the programme on the Hampstead Collective web-site, and be part of a very special event in the life of our community.
Monday 19th October 2020
These sentences appeared in church bulletins or were announced at church services:
Scouts are saving aluminium cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.'
The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help
Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
Pot-luck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use the large double door at the side entrance.
Tuesday 13th October 2020
In Church Chat on 23rd September we set you a puzzle - Could you find the piece of decorative plasterwork in the drawing.
If you're still puzzling here is the solution:
In the photograph it shows up very clearly but not many people will have seen it in such detail since it was done. But the artist didn't mind that. It's the same in all our great buildings - work done to the highest standard even when it's practically invisible to the naked eye. There are carvings in Lincoln Cathedral that you can't SEE at all - you have to slide your hand in and feel them (well, you're probably not allowed to do that anymore but you used to be able to). Craftsmen worked "for the glory of God" perhaps, and to celebrate the skill that God had given them - they did it because they could. A kind of prayer? I would say so. And if their prayer was in the building then is ours in maintaining and passing on to future generations?
Sunday 4th October was a very special day for Beibhinn, Vittoria, Henry, Isabella, Valentina, Emily and Abigail, who were admitted to communion for the first time.
Originally, they were going to be admitted to communion on March 22nd, Mothering Sunday, but sadly lockdown intervened. Some of the families said they wondered if it was going to happen this year. But it did. There was a wonderful atmosphere of celebration. God parents came and so did friends to support them. Beibhinn's Irish family took part on Zoom. Isabella and Henry had a lovely surprise when their Aunt Emma came down to London to join them. Some family bubbles had as many as 7 people!
A special altar was set up below the chancel railings. The altar cloth incorporated each of the children's hand - prints.
During communion, the Junior Choir sang "Soul of my Saviour"
The service was so full of meaning for the children being admitted to Holy Communion as well as their families. One mum said she was so proud when her two children stood up to affirm their faith and say what they believed. Another dad said he felt that because the communion service was especially for the 7 people being admitted it felt very intimate and the 7 were the focus of the service. He said that Covid has some positives.
"It was so lovely for us and my parents were happy and emotional with how lovely it all was" (Parent)
"I loved feeling part of the church last Sunday.
My favourite part was going up to read my prayer because I was really nervous but when I saw my family my friends along side me and all the smiling faces around I felt confident and happy.
Thank you Maureen I will miss our Sunday classes Love Abigail"
And then as with all the best celebrations, the service was followed with cake!
Monday 12th October 2020
I was reflecting this weekend on the word 'generous' or 'generosity', in the light of the wonderful response to our church's request for financial support in these difficult times.
In my teens we used to sing a chorus 'Freely, freely, you have received, freely, freely give' - words from Matthew 10.8. Generosity is a liberating thing and during these times when we all feel life is very restricted, how wonderful to find something which frees us.
Proverbs 11: 25 says 'A generous person will prosper: whoever refreshes others will be refreshed'. So even if we are required to stay indoors, or not meet with others to comply with other restrictions, we have the ability to free ourselves simply through the gift of generosity.
Generosity comes in many forms; financial support, forgiving a hurtful comment made in the heat of the moment, offering time to help or listen, anticipating others' needs, going out of your way to help, checking up on people, being kind to yourself.
The bad news is that generosity requires effort and can take you out of your comfort zone. The good news is that the goodwill it engenders is contagious, blesses others and refreshes you tenfold.
A friend recently shared this beautiful poem with me:
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
" John O'Donohue
Saturday 10th October 2020
Martin Luther and The Gift of Song
Jess Dandy, contralto
Dylan Perez, piano
Sacred Songs by Wolf, Caplet, Vaughan Williams, Dvorak, and Brahms
You'd be forgiven for not immediately associating the solo song recital with Lutheranism, and rest assured, our programme will not feature ninety-five variations on a theme of 'Ein feste Burg' - sorry if that was what you were expecting. Rather, we take as our inspiration Luther's notion of music as a gift from God, existing in beautiful covalence with His other great gift, that of scripture, and indeed our recital takes as its foundation stone Johannes Brahms' beautifully architectural settings of Martin Luther's own biblical translations in 'Four Serious Songs'.
A prophetic art for Luther, music transcends the capabilities of human invention, and anyone who makes music is a vessel, a conduit, a mirror of the sacred - to borrow Hildegard's expression. In singing, divine inspiration is literal, and the soul becomes airborne. Ruach in Hebrew, a combination of psyche and pneuma in Greek, soul and spirit are breath:
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
(From Genesis 2:7 - King James version) The gift of song honours this divine breath of life, and Monday's recital reminds us that, in words and music, we are recipients of something far greater than ourselves:
"I had made sacrifices to all the gods,
But you I had forgotten."
(From 'He who has recovered addresses hope' by Eduard Morike, Lutheran pastor and poet)
If you want to listen to the concert live in church you can book a ticket through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/the-hampstead-collective-30975107523. Or you can watch on Facebook live via The Hampstead Collective Facebook page
There are a lot of cruise ships moored of the south coast because of the Pandemic. Quite a few are in the Lyme Bay area and the Queen Mary 2 is in Labrador Bay off Teignmouth.
The Queen Mary 2 is the only large ship that we have been on, we generally don't go larger than 350 passengers and latterly 100 passengers for our cruises. We did come back from New York on the QM2 a few years ago but she isn't a cruise ship - she is a liner.
Friday 9th October 2020
On a recent walk in Hertfordshire I came across John Bunyans chimney! It is all that remains of a cottage where tradition says he stayed and preached. It is now a Grade II listed chimney.
The Racial Justice Group has been exploring ways that we might mark Black History Month in Hampstead Parish Church. " Listen to the Voices" has been created to encourage reflection and visually demonstrate our commitment to building an inclusive Christian community.
Posters line the nave. They are positioned so that you read them as you walk towards the altar. They are the powerful voices of people we cannot and we should not ignore, and they will be coming into our head from both sides. As we near the altar the last quote is from Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin . . .
"We are visible but invisible . . .because we're not meant to be capable ... Well, I believe that I am made in God's image."
The posters are made from found objects. They are homemade using recycled board, making the words more intimate and personal. These are not distant words on a nicely printed poster. They are urgent and need to be heard now.
And on the chancel railings are other poems and quotes chosen by individuals that have a particular resonance for them.
People are invited to add a quote or poem that speaks to them. There is also a board at the back of church for people to say who or what inspires them in Black History Month.
Wednesday 30th September 2020
What is Bubble Church?
The need to socially distance means we are not yet able to do Junior Church the way we did it before. So, we have devised a new 9.30 service on Sundays, specially designed for families which is participative, creative, spiritually focussed and fun. Families sit in bubbles in alternate pews. They can wave to each other but importantly children can be with their friends, even if it is at a distance.
Father Jeremy at a suitable distance, plays his guitar and sings and there is always an opportunity to follow me with actions in time to the music. There are a range of percussion instruments which children can choose on their way in. The service also includes a short sermon or talk on the theme or story followed by prayers.
Children and families take it in turn to do the reading and the prayers. This includes families participating on Zoom.
Each week there is a craft activity which all the family can join in. Activity packs are prepared beforehand and place on the seats in each family bubble.
For the last 3 weeks we have been focussing on the story of Creation. The first was how God created the world and everything in it. The following week we talked about the need to take care of the world and the importance of recycling and what we can do. It was also a chance to talk about the pandemic and how much quieter it was during lockdown and being able to walk around with less pollution. Children were given a variety of recycled containers to decorate and take home to plant something in. Some children were given packets of seeds and encouraged to take them home to plant in their recycled containers. I gave them a few examples (see the photo).
Finally, we celebrated harvest. Some children came dressed up as animals. They wrote their prayers on paper apples which we hung on the chancel rails and they put their donations of food for the Chalk Farm Foodbank in a specially decorated wheelbarrow.
Through Bubble Church children continue to develop their faith, engage with music, and have a chance to do a fun activity.
Finally, before they leave there is the big wind up 'Amen' with the actions!
Contrasting with the improvisatory and ecstatic outpourings of Hildegard of Bingen heard in last Monday's Sacred Meditation, our next 'Start the Week' event highlights the music of perhaps one of the most consistent and disciplined composers in the entire history of Western music - Palestrina.
Generations of musicians over the centuries have worked hard to learn and imitate his style, precisely because of these qualities. Music students at some universities today still have to undertake exam questions in Palestrina's style, so that they develop the technical understanding needed to appreciate precisely why his music came to be revered by so many musicians across the centuries (Mozart, Wagner, Schoenberg...). However, one does not need to have studied music at university to appreciate Palestrina's sublime music, because we can all simply hear how wonderful it is. As we listen to the singers weaving their phrases effortlessly alongside each other, sharing the same material yet maintaining their independence, the result sounds effortlessly complete, satisfying, balanced, pure, ethereal, transcendental...the music draws us towards an ideal of perfect beauty. For me, this is why Palestrina's music fits so well with The Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs, in which the beauty of both the bride and bridegroom plays such an important part.
Of the long array of writers on the Song of Songs over the centuries, the Spanish nun Teresa of Avila (an almost exact contemporary of Palestrina) is refreshingly unconcerned with the long history of theological debate about the precise meanings of the verses in their Christian interpretation. Writing to her nuns she warns against those writers who claim to have all the right answers, and offers her own thoughts simply as her own understanding of, or reaction to, the text. Our Sacred Meditation concludes with the poem known as the 'Dark Night of the Soul' by Teresa's long-time friend John of the Cross, whose poetical writings often refer to the Song of Songs, the text that was clearly so cherished by both of them. The musicians are delighted to be joined by Gaynor Bassey Fish as our reader
If you want to listen to the concert live in church you can book a ticket through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/the-hampstead-collective-30975107523. Or you can watch on Facebook live via The Hampstead Collective Facebook page
Our harvest festival this year was a bit different. There was no harvest lunch, but we were still able to celebrate and to share our own harvests and the harvests of others. It was a very fruitful event! The gates outside were literally decked with grapes and grape vines which had been found overhanging the walls of the graveyard. Fenton House gave us some of their apples and Jerusalem artichokes to share out and the children decorated the chancel railings with red and green paper apples, 'Handpicked by God', with their own spiritual thoughts of harvest. The flower arrangers focussed on their personal pandemic harvests - engaging with their gardens, knitting for premature babies in Sierra Leone and twiddlemuffs for the Royal Free, taking up cycling, sewing scrubs for the NHS and new technical achievements. All things that may not have happened if it hadn't been for Covid.
This year, as in the last few years, our harvest collection went to 'Send a Cow' https://sendacow.org/ a wonderful charity that helps to lift families out of poverty in Africa. People also donated food items all of which will go to our neighbours at the Chalk Farm Foodbank.
We also had the pleasure of hearing Melissa Wilson's first sermon on her placement with us.
There was much to celebrate.
Tuesday 29th September 2020
This morning, I tabled before my husband, Walter, the argument that 'All lives Matter', is a more holistic idea than 'Black Lives Matter'. His response: .."its necessary because black lives have gotten the raw deal in the utopia where 'All lives matter'".
As we search within ourselves and deliberate towards the Black History month event being convened by Hampstead Parish Church, I share a few thoughts and questions for reflection.
Can you say 'Black Lives Matter'?
This may seem like a no-brainer! Why wouldn't anyone be able to say "Black Lives Matter"? Even as a keen observer of all the protests that have rocked our cities in recent months, I was shocked to find that I had never verbalised the phrase. I'm black; and proudly so...why then hadn't I said it? Perhaps it's a bit of pride in me, that resists being singled out from the entire family of humanity, in a fight for my life to actually matter. Why should that be a struggle? Shouldn't any life mattering be a given? So I kept silent. But now I say it, "Black Lives Matter". My life matters.
Are we prepared to face the harsh truths (not white-washed) about the history of Black and White relations?
What sort of event is Black History month going to be? What is Black history? Will we be studying the totality of African history, or looking at it solely through the lens of European slavery and colonialism? If we are to spend time unearthing the truths about Black history in relation to white subjugation, we must be prepared for a jarring, uncomfortable month! Will we accept the truths that will be revealed? How do we plan to heal from them as a community? What changes are we prepared to make?
What does racial justice look like to you?
Think about it. Draw up a scenario in your heart and mind. Can you live with the outcome of a racially just society? Where all lives have the same access to benefits and opportunities? Where the aspirations of your children are not innately given preference above and beyond the needs of their coloured peers? What are you personally going to do to champion such a society, if you decide that it is acceptable to you?
It is said that to create a desirable future, we must take a good look at the past. Our history will only define us to the degree that we allow it. I look forward to working together in love, to inspire a culture of justice and harmony in our diverse community.
Wednesday 23rd September 2020
Do you recognise this piece of plasterwork? If you've spent any time in church you must have seen it, been staring at it, but it's so high up and, even with 21st century lighting, so hard to see, that most people wouldn't notice it. Yet the craftsmen thought it worth taking the trouble to make it beautiful. That's what Open House is about - finding the beauty in our buildings.
I confess that when Ayla said she'd successfully entered the church in the Open House London Scheme I was slightly sceptical that it would go ahead. We were barely out of lockdown, schools were only just going back, there were no services in church, let alone events - there seemed no possibility that it could happen.
I was proved wrong - even though right up the last minute I was receiving updates from the organisers about what we could / couldn't do, what limitations there were going to be. I wondered if anyone would come.
We duly commissioned some eye-catching posters from Maggie Willmer - we were actually going to be open, not just online as some venues were. But the church is open every day so what difference would they make?
They made a difference!
78 people (thanks to Track and Trace we know exactly how many) visited us, spent time looking round, perused the Archive display Sue Kirby had set up, admired the Fulleylove window and learnt more about the artist from Caroline Barron. They devoured Sue Kwok's cakes and coffee.
I am deeply grateful to everyone who helped - Sheena for her imagination and drive when I would have flagged, and all the team of volunteers who gave up their time to be there for the visitors. As one woman said "how lovely to find such a friendly welcome". And personally I felt it was really nice to have an event in church again. All the interesting things to see - people to chat to - tea and cake - it felt almost "normal". Ayla would have been very pleased with it I'm sure!
Tuesday 22nd September 2020
In August Jenny Bunn asked if we could make caps for premature babies in Sierra Leone where her son James works. Sierra Leone is a very poor country and the caps help to stop the babies loosing valuable heat through their heads.
ames is visiting England for Christmas and can collect the caps then. Several of you have already responded and below is a photo of the beautiful caps that have already been made. However lots more caps are needed. There is still time to make a cap (or another cap) before James arrives. If you need a pattern you can download one from this Mothers Union website http://mugloucester.org.uk/b/resourcesPatterns.html The recommended circumference is 28 - 35 cms. The mothers of premature babies in Sierra Leone will be incredibly grateful
We have been given a donation towards the cost of wool if you would like to contact Courtney in the vestry at firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a box at the back of church where you can leave the caps. Grateful thanks
Event Five: O Resplendent Jewel
A Sacred Meditation on Hildegard of Bingen's vision of divine love, wisdom, and power
Christine Buras, soprano
Jess Dandy, contralto
Margaret Pritchard Houston, reader
Monday 28th September 7pm, Hampstead Parish Church, in person and online
Next week's Start the Week with The Hampstead Collective is a Sacred Meditation, following the Benedictine Threefold Progression of Reading, Music as Meditation, and Prayer. It was the polymath, Hildegard of Bingen's Feast Day on 17th September, and we wanted to mark that in some way, so, complemented by her own chant, we've taken as our touchstone 'a vision of such mystery and power that I trembled through and through' from the end of her life, from her final offering, arguably the apotheosis of her spiritual experience, 'The Book of Divine Works'.
In it, Hildegard sees the image of a human figure - a woman, her regard direct and unapologetic, pulsating with a life force all vermilion and gold, her face, she says, 'of such beauty and brightness that I could more easily have stared at the sun'. At once the incarnation of divine power, wisdom, and love, this woman is a living cosmology, the 'supreme fire and energy', which enlivens us all as creatures of God's creation, and 'mirrors of His divinity'. Against a contemporary asceticism, Hildegard's cosmology was shocking in its literal embodiment of a living, visceral, impassioned existence. It is not, she argues, through deprivation or self-denial, but through a full-hearted, and full-throated engagement with all parts of our experience - intellectual, emotional, and cosmic, that we are to honour the Creator, and truly realise His intentions for us, which, she claims, He 'foreordained....before the beginning of the world'.
Hildegard's visions sear themselves onto our consciousness, and call us to 'inscend', to feel into the true materiality of our existence - mountain, ocean, flora, fauna, to 'flood' ourselves with 'the depths of God's mysteries'. They are bold, elaborate, 'dripping', or even 'sweating' - as she often writes - with sapphire and gold. She is at pains to point out however that she is the mere vessel for such messages. She refers to herself as a 'feeble form' - and we do know that she suffered from a variety of health problems throughout her life, beginning in childhood; the neurologist Oliver Sacks has even gone so far as to claim that her visions may even have been the direct result of what we now recognise as severe migraines. Some might claim this line of argument was a tactical necessity of her sex, and it is true that it was very dangerous for medieval women to write, or display agency of any kind, as evidenced by the fate of Marguerite Porete a century later for example, but in some ways, the notion of Hildegard as a vessel accords with her own cosmology, and does not actually diminish her power. Human beings in Hildegard's universe are mirrors of divinity, comprising the Trinity -'the sound and life and creativity of all within their life'. God the Father is the intellect, his 'greatest gift' to us, God the Son is the 'heart', the love that 'abounds in all things', and God the Holy Spirit, is the 'mighty course' of wisdom which interweaves, binds together heart and mind, and is the 'divine substance' of the cosmos. It behoves us, and is already within us, therefore, as mirrors of divinity, to be as living examples of the Trinity. Furthermore, if God is the creator, and we are in His image, we too are creators. Hildegard exemplifies this: she cannot hold within her 'inner eye' the weight of the depth of her own heart and mind. She brings forth 'Wisdom's inspiration' through music, poetry, and visual art - using symbolism, allegory, and metaphor to weave her sapiential 'tunic'', to hold what she is, and what we are, as members of God's creation.
If you want to listen to the concert live in church you can book a ticket through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/the-hampstead-collective-30975107523. Or you can watch on Facebook live via The Hampstead Collective Facebook page
Wednesday 16th September 2020
One of the themes running through the Psalms is the visible presence of God. The notion of God pantokrator invites us to consider kratos-power-ut also kratein-to sustain-and in the balance of these two notions, we see an omnipotent God who benevolently sustains, yet does not interfere with, the universe. It is this subject that is celebrated in this week's two cantatas. The famous virtuoso soprano & trumpet work Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen instructs its listeners-every creature in heaven and earth-to praise God both for his glory and for his sustaining help. 'The heavens declare the glory of God,' begins BWV 76, before describing both in the complexity of running semiquavers and in the words of the nineteenth psalm those ways in which the silent voices of the stars communicate across all time the praise of the Eternal. 'So laot sich Gott nicht unbezeuget!' announces the tenor soloist-'Thus God does not leave himself unwitnessed!'.
The second part of the cantata takes an unexpected turn: '[May the world] hate me! To embrace Christ faithfully, I will abandon all joy'. We have, by this point, come some distance from the opening chorus, but the underlying principle is unchanged: it is precisely because the heavens unfailingly declare the glory of the eternal God that the hate of this temporary world is inconsequential. Before long, though, the full chorus returns and concludes: 'The earth brings forth fruit... Your word is flourishing... May you, O God, be thanked and praised.'
Monday 14th September 2020
I was privileged to visit Sarah and enjoy her wonderful garden. So lovely
Saturday 12th September 2020
Just as the Covid-19 pandemic was coming towards its main peak in the UK, and not long before I was re-deployed into ICU to work Nursing shifts, I received a message from a friend and fellow Physiotherapist (who I used to work with at the Royal Free), with a proposition: to join her in setting up a social media page to help boost morale. We had both by this point been pulled in from our normal roles to provide respiratory physio treatment to patients in ICU, and had been seeing lots of Therapists in similar positions to ourselves trying to share information and ideas as well as acknowledge the good and hard work they were doing, but without a platform by which to do so. We also noticed that most of the media and social media attention celebrating the work of Healthcare Professionals in response to the pandemic was directed at Doctors and Nurses (which was and is very well deserved), but with little coverage or understanding of the vital roles played by other workers in the NHS.
The idea behind our Facebook page: 'On the Frontline - NHS AHPs' was to share stories and successes with the aim to spread some positivity during a very unknown and testing time, and also to help raise awareness and promote the roles of Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) within the NHS, including their extremely vital roles during the pandemic. There are 14 AHP professions, including Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy and Radiography. We initially thought we might get a few hundred followers, and were absolutely amazed when our first post got over 3,000 likes, and over 800,000 views! The response has been incredible: we have now reached almost 14,000 followers, and continue to get some really lovely feedback about how useful our page has been.
Off the back of the page, we have also started a podcast: called 'AHPs - Off The Record', for which we are interviewing AHPs from all different backgrounds to hear about how they got into their profession, how they have been affected by the pandemic, and any top tips for aspiring AHPs. We hope that through the Facebook page and the podcast, we might help to encourage young people to consider going into AHP roles, as well as improve the general public's understanding of what we do. If you're interested in hearing more, please have a look at our page or listen to the podcast!
Tuesday 8th September 2020
'Le Tombeau de Couperin et de Sainte-Colombe' transports the listener and observer on a spiritual and meditative exploration of the French aesthetic across genre and period. At its heart, the programme presents a series of sacred songs from the mid-baroque, from the jaunty and resplendent Hymn des Anges by Clerambault, to the pleading supplication of Couperin's Usquequo Domine: 'How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou forget me forever?'
Tenor Aidan Coburn performs with organist Mark Shepherd - on an exquisite Klop chamber instrument, boasting vertical eight-foot principal pipes - and Jacob Garside playing the viola da gamba. A member of the viol family, the gamba heard in this concert uses seven strings, a number typically associated with the French baroque and with Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe in particular. It is interesting, perhaps, that neither of the eponymous tombeaux of this programme involve the singer; 'Le Tombeau de Sainte-Colombe' is an homage by Marais to his great master, and 'Le Tombeau de Couperin' sees an inventive arrangement of a Menuet by Ravel.
The sacred music is punctuated with moments of secular musings, inviting the observer to reflect on the shadow of the world as we currently experience it. A series of poems from Victor Hugo's Les Chants du crepuscule ('Songs of the Half Light') will be heard against a backdrop of a selection of works by Claude Monet.
We have a new Parish Photo with a difference. We couldn't meet in church for a parish photo this year in the usual way, and even now there are limits on how many of us can be together in church at the same time. So we asked you to send in individual photos. Thank you very much to everyone who sent in a photo. Sarah Cheriton Jones has created a beautiful collage of all your photos which you can see in the entrance lobby and on one of the boards on the left as you enter the church. In all there are 103 images - 154 adults and 38 children. It is a wonderful snapshot of our community and an eclectic mixture of individual portraits and family groups. Do come and have a look
What a joy it was to see so many of our church children and their families filling the church at 9.30 for their own service and opportunity to say farewell to Ayla. Led by Maureen and Jeremy on the guitar, the children joined in enthusiastically with the actions to the songs, sitting in 'family bubbles' on distanced pews. Maureen had prepared colourful packs full of interesting things for them to make their own farewell cards for Ayla, and these were then put on a board at the front of church. On the front of the card was a beautiful drawing by Ellie Lupa of Ayla and Jeremy about to sing a duet!
The Diracles family joined in from Scotland, where they are now living, via Zoom, on a large TV screen, to read the Lesson - little would we have thought this time last year that we would be seeing that in church this year! Backpacks were blessed, as has now become a tradition at HPC at the beginning of a new school year and key rings rather than tags were handed out with the words 'Blessed to be a blessing' on them, for attaching to bags.
Ayla spoke movingly of how, when she first came to HPC, she had had no experience at all of working with under 14s, and of how much she had learned from our children over her time with us. She encouraged us all to remember to experience the world with wonder, as do children, as it is a sign of what Jesus/God/ The Kingdom of God is like. She reminded us that we are learning all the time, whatever is happening around us and to keep our hearts open. Her finishing words seemed apt for all, including her - thank you for being you!
Hampstead Parish Church has had its share of remarkable women and it seemed very appropriate to thank Ayla for everything she has done for HPC with a copy of a very beautiful banner made for the Hampstead branch of the Church League for Women's Suffrage.
I am a museum curator and came across this banner in the Museum of London while researching a housing association set up by suffrage campaigners. This led to some research on the Church League for Women's Suffrage. The League was founded in 1909 with the aim of securing for women the vote in 'Church and State' on the same basis as it was awarded to men. The League also campaigned for the revision of the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer and for the ordination of women. It was one of many specialist non party political suffrage societies. There were also groups set up for Catholic and Jewish supporters of votes for women.
The banner was designed by Laurence Housman and made in silk, sateen and cotton by the Suffrage Atelier in c 1910. The words on the front read 'The Glorious Liberty of the Children of God'. The reverse is painted 'Hampstead Church League for Women's Suffrage'. The banner was carried on demonstrations where different suffrage groups all displayed their own colours. The purple, white and green adopted by the Women's Social and Political Union are the best known and have since come to represent the suffrage cause. The original banner now forms part of the Museum of London's excellent suffrage collections.
Monday 7th September 2020
There something wonderfully optimistic about a sun flower.
When Ai Wei Wei was conceiving his sun flower seed art work for the Tate Turbine Hall he said that "the Sunflower seed represented optimism during difficult times."
The sunflower was much loved by Blake, Gabriel Dante Rossetti, Edward Burne Jones and William Morris, and I always thought it was their passion for art before Raphael that had bought it to their notice. Having just double checked, it appears that although there is evidence of sunflowers In Arizona and New Mexico From about 3000 BC, it wasn't bought to Europe until the 16th century. In fact I can't find a painting with a sunflower earlier than Van Dyke's self portrait around 1633. (A challenge to you Church Chatters.)
They are heliotropic and while in bud follow the sun - hence leading to the symbolic idea of devotion, and the seeds do a spiral in a Fibonacci sequence suggesting eternity.
One Easter Ayla mentioned loving sunflowers so it was the obvious thing to do for her farewell, and our first main service together in church, since the beginning of lockdown.
I really wanted to decorate the gates to the church to welcome everyone, so I was thrilled that Tesco was doing a bunch for £4.00 . Unfortunately when I went to buy them I discovered they were discontinued that very afternoon. So I spent Friday afternoon on the 46 bus going to all their branches to get the end of line flowers. Finally hittting the jackpot in The little Venice branch. Seven bunches of sunflowers are surprisingly heavy but I got lots of smiles.
Sheena Ginnings, Marilyn Brooks, Jane Padkin and Jayne Gill and the very tall David James all helped make the church look wonderfully festive for Ayla's farewell .
Sunday 6th September 2020
Following on from our sold out opening concert on Monday 31st August, everyone at the Hampstead Collective is busy preparing for our second appearance - the first in our series of Sacred Meditations, 'Where two or three are gathered together,' a programme devised and directed by Dr Geoffrey Webber with Jess Dandy (alto), Aidan Coburn (tenor), Ben McKee (bass), Geoffrey Webber (organ) and Handley Stevens (reader) Geoffrey writes:
When we began to plan the events for the 'Start the week' series it wasn't at all clear how many musicians would be allowed to perform together during the first stages of a return to normality, so we planned our series to range from solo recitals through to the forces needed for Cantatas and Oratorios. The Sacred Meditations generally fall in between these two sizes, from two singers performing the music of Hildegard of Bingen, to a larger group of singers for the programme 'Lux aeterna'. On Monday we have just three singers performing music that often drops down to just two voices, so the title 'When two or three...' seemed fitting, though not exactly corresponding to the three figures in our publicity picture for the event (God, Man and the Devil)!
The idea behind the Sacred Meditations is to allow words and music on a particular theme (and often from a similar time period) to complement one another, thus facilitating religious meditation. At an earlier point in my career I was Director of the Edington Music Festival in Wiltshire, and one of elements of the Festival that I enjoyed the most was the occasional 'Sequence of Readings and Music'. The daily liturgical round of services provide the bedrock of the Festival, but the Sequences offer a different and much-valued perspective on religious life. It's a bit like the annual Festival of Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge, except not just for Christmas!
On Monday we travel back to the reign of Elizabeth I, with music by William Byrd and John Mundy, and readings by Richard Hooker. We are delighted that throughout the Sacred Meditation series we will be joined by members of the Hampstead Players to perform the readings for us. Byrd wrote much small-scale sacred music for domestic use, and we include his Mass for Three Voices in Latin (probably composed for singing in the private Chapel at Ingatestone Hall in Essex) as well as some Psalm settings in English. The readings come from Hooker's famous 'Polities' in which he outlined much of what we now recognise as standard Anglican theology, avoiding what he saw as the extremes of the Calvinists on the one hand and Roman Catholics on the other. He writes powerful and often beautiful prose, and on Monday we hear his thoughts on subjects including the theology of the Sacraments, the meaning of true penitence, and the value of the use of appropriate music in worship. All the texts being sung and read will be available in the e-programme, together with some thoughts and prayers on Christian meditation.
Hooker came from Exeter, where a statue of him now stands outside the Cathedral. As it happens, I was on holiday there last week (during the gales...) and took the picture below. The blue plaque to him reads as follows: "'Prophet of Anglicanism' and a Son of Exeter, he was a lively Elizabethan priest, quick-witted, urbane, intellectually acute, politically sophisticated and passionately committed to the Church of England he served.
Monday 31st August 2020
As you wander through the Additional Burial Ground you can't help noticing that some graves are overgrown and the people buried there have seemingly been forgotten. And then you come across a grave that is still tended. Anton Walbrook's grave is one of these.
He was a refugee from Nazi Germany who had made Hampstead his home. He was born Adolf Wilhelm Anton Wohbbruck in Vienna in 1896. He always wanted to act and when black and white films started to be made his dark good looks made him an ideal movie star. He went to Hollywood in 1936 to dub a film he had made. Antisemitism had spread through German to his home country of Austrian. Because of his homosexuality and his Jewish heritage he decided he could not return home. He didn't like Hollywood and moved to England, eventually buying 69 Frognal. He died while working in Germany 1967. He had left instructions he wanted to be buried in Hampstead.
Many people remember him as the dark, manipulative ballet master in 'The Red Shoes'. I remember his moving speech in the 1943 film, 'The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp', in which as a refugee from Nazi Germany he is explaining to an immigration officer why he came to England.
The Hampstead historian and author of 'Buried in Hampstead', Christopher Wade, told me that he had always noticed how well looked after this grave was. One day he met a man looking after the grave. He told Christopher that he had worked in the glove department at Harrods and had sold Anton Walbrook some gloves. He thought he was such a charming man and after he heard he had died, and had no family in England, he decided to look after his grave. He lived in Uxbridge and regularly came over to tend it. I suspect he, like Christopher, has since died. However so often when you pass this grave there are stones or pebbles on it; an old Jewish custom to mark that a person who respects the person buried there has visited.
I had noticed that the grave was getting a little untidy. Then, the other day I walked past and saw that it had been tidied up, and tucked behind some stones were these photographs of Anton Walbrook, with his brooding good looks. It is good to think that he is still remembered here, in the part of the world where he made his home.
I have been looking into the paintings we have had in the Lady Chapel over the years. Remember Sergei Chepik's Golgotha (1)- a temporary installation in the late 1990s? That wasn't the first time a crucifixion had hung over the altar. Before Donald Towner's Christ in Majesty, painted in memory of his mother, Grace, in the late 1950s (2) there was another painting of the crucifixion (3). (Apologies for the quality but it's a phone photo of a very old print). Allegedly it suffered from over-zealous cleaning and was destroyed. Imagine being the person who did that!
After Chepik it became for a while a place for temporary artwork. Alfred Lohr provided us with the seasonal paintings from which the covers of our orders of service were taken (below is the one for the Trinity season) (4) and a few of his friends contributed works as well.
However our interest was aroused by a reference to an Ellis Wooldridge fresco - Woldridge designed the windows over the high altar at the time of the major re-alignment of the church and construction of the chancel and chapel but I hadn't realsied that he was also responsible for some of the other decoration. Apparently he painted the Baptism of Christ "in the chapel" - but where? Pictures of the time show that the walls and ceiling of the 1878 church were highly decorated, there wasn't an inch of space, it seems, that didn't have a scroll or a text or an angel. And there was definitely something on the north wall of the chapel, over what is now the clergy vestry. Could this be where the Wooldrige Baptism was? Did nobody think to photograph it? We have pictures of Wooldridge's painting in the chancel (you can find one in Prof Michael Port's "Story of a Building" - or you could if we were allowed to have books out!) so why not the chapel?
Sadly by 1958 all the painting, including those done by Alfred Bell in the nave and Wooldridge's work on the chancel and chapel, had darkened so much that it was deemed necessary to paint it all out and opt for a lighter colour scheme. Visitors today remark on how light the church is. It was not always so.
PS None of this investigation would haver arisen had we not (well, had Ayla not) successfully entered the church for the Open House London weekend - 19/20 September. More about that soon.
Mum, dad and the kids on Hampstead Heath
Wednesday 26th August 2020
The Hampstead Collective has been formed out of lockdown by the choir of Hampstead Parish Church and its organist and director of music, Peter Foggitt. The church and choir have exemplified a new language of connection over the last few months, running virtual services with a weekly hymn and anthem, as well as daily prayers and communal activities. These offerings have provided a lifeline for many in, at best, a landscape without punctuation, and, at worst, one marked irrevocably by suffering and loss. With the generous support of the Hampstead Church Music Trust, The Hampstead Collective is delighted to be at the forefront of a joyous and safe return to in-person, embodied music for spiritual reflections.
The Collective has put together an inaugural autumn season of sacred music, broadcast live online, and to socially distanced audiences, from the historic surroundings of the Parish Church. For seventeen weeks beginning 31st August, the Collective will come together every Monday at 7pm to explore the transformative power of church music-making through a diverse programme of Bach Cantatas, Handel large-scale works, Sacred Meditation, and Song. All repertoire has been chosen to complement and illuminate the cadence of the Church Calendar, but also to illustrate the individual as part of a whole, a chance for everybody's distinct musical voice to be heard.
The online events are free of charge, and can be accessed on all social media platforms, as well as the Collective's website: https://www.thehampsteadcollective.com. Following the announcement of the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, the Collective is also delighted to welcome socially distanced audiences to their events. Tickets are limited, and can be accessed via Eventbrite, Facebook, and the Collective's website.
Our opening concert features a double bill of Bach Cantatas, one of the core strands of programming for our series. Bach's music is sacred and societal, but also unmistakably human - this is not the sound of certainty or of one who never questions or wavers, but the music of someone who is searching, looking for meaning beyond what is immediately visible in earthly surroundings, and it is this that makes his music feel so relevant, and so modern.
Soprano Christine Buras writes:
'When Jess (Dandy) first suggested Cantata 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, to open our "Start the Week" concert series, I leapt at the chance to perform it. Anyone familiar with Bach's music, and particularly his sacred vocal works, knows he is capable of delving into and illustrating the deepest and most complex of human emotions in his music. This short cantata, scored for a modest ensemble of strings, oboe, and voice, shows the full scope of this ability, all told through an intimate first-person narrative. We begin in a state of acute suffering and self-loathing, overwhelmed by our own monstrous, sinful nature. But over the course of the cantata, a miraculous transformation takes place. With profound remorse and repentance, and absolute trust in God's forgiveness, our shame is transformed to ebullient joy. I find this work to be one of the most affecting in Bach's entire oeuvre; in fact, it was one of the pieces of music which, when I first heard it as a teenager, made me feel that I had a vocation as a musician. I can't think of a work I'd rather perform for my first live performance after lockdown. I hope you are able to join us on Monday evening to share in the experience of bringing this astounding music to life.'
Link to first Eventbrite event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mein-herze-schwimmt-im-blut-tickets-117662312143?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=escb&utm-source=cp&utm-term=listing
Tuesday 25th August 2020
Twenty years ago my son James, who is a pediatrican, was working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre in Malawi. Malawi is a poor country with a high infant mortality rate and resources available for looking after babies born with problems, such as babies born prematurely , are limited. One of the challenges is that premature babies, particularly, loose a lot of heat through their heads. He asked me if I could ask my knitting friends to make caps for the babies. I spoke to a friend, who was in the WI at the time, and the idea took off. By the time James left Malawi the project had provided the hospital with 639 caps! You can see from the photos how pleased the mums were with the little hats, which they could take home with them.
James is now working in Sierra Leone, another poor country, with similar problems and he has again asked if my knitting friends can help. James is visiting England for Christmas and can collect the caps then. If you would like to knit some caps James and mothers of premature babies in Sierra Leone would be incredibly grateful. If you need a pattern you can download one from this Mothers Union website http://mugloucester.org.uk/b/resourcesPatterns.html
We have been given a donation towards the cost of wool. Please contact the vestry.
There will be a box at the back of church at the end of this week where you can leave the caps. Thank you very much
Last week I wrote about VJ Day and how much it had meant to relatives of the Far East prisoners-of-war, but I've been asked now to say more about the small brass altar cross which my father brought home in his belongings, and how it has touched so many lives since then.
In 1942 the cross was forged in the prison camp in Changi Singapore by a skilled engineer who made it out of the brass of a howitzer shell case to the specifications my father sketched in a pencilled diagram.
My father, Padre Eric Cordingly, kept it with him throughout the war and it graced the altars of four little prison chapels in the three and a half years he was in captivity before he brought it home with him and placed it on a shelf in his study.
Years after my father died, my mother was still caring for the cross and then she heard that there was now a small museum in Changi and she thought that's where the cross ought to be. So my brother John and I took it out for her in 1992 and the prison Chaplain blessed it
and put it in pride of place on the altar of the reconstructed open air chapel. It is a working chapel and visitors leave hand-written notes and scarlet and yellow hibiscus flowers on the altar beside it.
That could have been the end of the story but, for one man, the cross was yet to perform a small miracle. Harry Stogden, the engineer who made the cross, tragically died of beri beri on the boat on the way home, and his son, Bernard has spent a lifetime missing him. But one day something caught his eye in a prisoner-of-war newsletter. "It was a story of the Cross of how it was made by a Staff Sergeant, and the only name they had was his Christian name 'Harry'. The words were jumping off the page, I knew this man must be my father." Bernard contacted the man who had written the article: "'I knew Harry very well' he said. 'He was an extraordinary man. He was a very clever engineer. He made needles for sewing machines and he designed a self-locking joint to use in artificial limbs.'" Bernard was thrilled: "Believe me I couldn't have felt more proud to listen to all the marvellous things my Dad had done."
He quickly arranged to go out to Singapore and when he finally arrived at the museum he found himself overcome with emotion. "I absolutely broke down and the people that were there dispersed while I was in this situation. Then I said 'I'm alright now' and the lady I'd been in contact with said 'This is your father's cross. We've unscrewed it all ready for you' and I took it out of the case and I held it. It was a wonderful day. I felt that my father had held it and he'd made it and I felt I was walking in his footsteps. Everywhere I went my father had been there. It was a very moving time."
Changi Museum and Chapel are currently closed for major renovation. As an independent museum it was so successful that the Singapore National Heritage Board decided to take it over and I'm happy to say that I now have a huge file of legal papers assuring me that when the museum opens next year the cross will be displayed and cared for as one of their most precious artifacts.
The photos show: Eric Cordingly's pencilled sketch of the proposed Changi Cross; Reverend Henry Khoo, Changi Prison Chaplain, accepting the gift of the cross from John Cordingly and Louise Reynolds in 1992; the cross displayed on the altar of the reconstructed open air chapel in Changi Museum Chapel; and Bernard Stogden holding the cross in the chapel in 1998.
Seen on the towpath just outside Oxford
Tuesday 18th August 2020
My father, Eric Cordingly was a Rector in the Cotswolds and married with 2 small boys (one of them was John) when war broke out and he was assigned as an army chaplain to a territorial battalion of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. In October 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, his battalion was sent East, their destination Singapore. They arrived in time to join in the fierce fighting, just days before the fall and surrender of Singapore on 15th February 1942. He was just 28.
All the prisoners were based in an ex military camp in Changi on the north east of the island and in the first week he discovered an abandoned mosque and got permission to use it as a church, which he named St Georges. It became a hub of activity and was popular with the men who, as my father said, were homesick and felt that it reminded them of home.
While he was in Changi my father asked Sergeant Harry Stogden, a skilled engineer, to fashion a cross for his wartime chapel from the brass of a Howitzer shell case. Harry took a historic photo (below) of my father and the cross before he was sent up to Japan to work in the mines.
The men were gradually all sent off in working parties to become slave labour on Japanese projects all over the Far East, the most notorious of which was building the Death Railway. My father was sent off in April 43 in a hideous train journey packed into cattle trucks for 5 days and nights in sweltering heat. He was stationed in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, close to the River Kwai, in the 'hospitals' which took in the sick and dying men who were working on the Railway.
He continued his ministry in the most tragic way by sitting at the bedside of the young men who were dying of tropical diseases, brutal treatment and starvation. Then he gave them as dignified a burial as possible. "In the past several months I have buried over 600 men," he wrote ,"It is too harrowing to picture vividly a ward of men whose sole kit consists of a tin and a spoon and a haversack and a piece of rag, lying on bare bamboo. Many is the time at the bedside of a dying man he has asked me to pray for his death, for release from his abject misery."
When the Railway was complete my father volunteered to stay on with the sick men until they were sent back to Changi in April '44, where he stayed for the rest of the War.
The Japanese finally surrendered on 2nd September 1945. One of the photographs below is of a Thanksgiving service on 7th September 1945. The men were all issued with new clothes from a Red Cross shipment and you can see my father standing under the lamp on the right. My father's step sister worked at the War Office and told my mother to have a look at the Illustrated London News where this photo was published. My mother instantly recognised him and realised for the first time that her husband had survived his imprisonment. He arrived home on 13th October 1945. He had been away for four years.
The first photo is of Eric Cordingly with the brass cross on the altar of St George's, Changi and the second photo is the Thanksgiving Service in Changi on September 7th 1945
Amongst the Far East POW families there has always been a sense of frustration and sadness that the sacrifices made by the men who fought in campaigns in the Far East were brushed aside and forgotten. They came home without fanfare and were told not to talk about their experiences. So there was mounting excitement that the BBC was going to recognise VJ Day 75 with two television programmes.
The commemoration at The National Memorial Arboretum in the morning was "inclusive, dignified and very moving" as one family member said to me. The sight of old men sitting on benches spaced far apart for social distancing was very poignant, and so was the moment when Prince Charles reached out to support an old soldier who nearly toppled over when laying his wreath.
The evening programme, The Nation's Tribute was more showbiz, but no less moving. I'm familiar with one of the men whose face was projected on to the buildings at Horse Guards Parade. Bob Hucklesby, now 99, told the heart-breaking story of being up in Thailand working on the Railway when he became very ill with dysentery and he was laid on a bed in the Death Hut. He asked his two best friends "his muckers," as he called them, to make him a back rest to prop him up and he stayed awake all night. In the morning he was the only one left alive. Bob has devoted his life to making sure that his comrades' memory is not forgotten.
While we are still struggling with the restrictions of coronavirus it was refreshing to see a military band, an orchestra, a choir and some brilliant soloists all performing so enthusiastically and we were given a chance to sing along to "We'll Meet Again". Two wonderful programmes, but by the end which I was an emotional wreck! I wasn't the only one. As the coverage of VJ Day 75 ended, a text pinged on to my phone: "The end of a perfect day. The BBC has done us proud today haven't they? And I feel rewarded for the respect that has been paid to such brave men." It was Bernard Stogden, now in his 80''s, whose father Harry left for the Middle East when he was 5. Harry created the Changi Cross (which I referred to in my other piece), an important symbol for so many. Harry was a prisoner of war for three and a half year, but, after enduring so much, sadly died of beri beri on the boat on the way home. Bernard has spent a lifetime missing him.
The first photograph is Bob Hucklesby, and the second one is of a funeral in Thailand in 1943 which was projected on to the buildings of Horse Guards Parade during the evening programme. Eric Cordingly is the tiny figure in the white cassock leading the processsion. The third photograph is Harry Stogden.
Seen outside a Franciscan Church in Oxford
A beautiful palette of pinks and purples
Tuesday 11th August 2020
'God and Beer', a 2m x 1m panel of printed cotton, was the subject of Esther Fitzgerald's knowledgeable talk. It came from 18thC Alsace and showed a bucolic 'genre' scene of merry-makers and ale-houses, in the contemporary spirit of Rousseau. Much interest lay in the pub-signs, which carried the hexagram, or 'Star of David'. This was not necessarily a Jewish symbol - historically it had been used by both Christians and Moslems - but Esther made a good case for it, all the same. In the 18thC Alsace was a major centre of French Judaism, and inn-keeping was one of the few trades open to them. And it was a time when the Jewish community was moving out of the shtetlekh into more open society. Why not express their growing status with such lively designs?
Sue Garden is a Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords. The Woolsack is uncomfortable but she spoke enthusiastically about the place itself and its role. Holding the Government to account is vital - more so in these uncertain times. Preventing bad legislation through as many as 200 amendments to a single Bill, the Peers are a hardworking bunch - at least, the 450 out of 830 members who regularly attend. Sue emphasises their ordinariness: visiting a school in an old car, without an ermine robe, can disappoint teachers and pupils alike. Covid has cut the numbers of attendees to 30, the others following (and voting) via Zoom, while the dilapidated - not to say dangerous - state of the Palace of Westminster will soon mean that both chambers will be re-located. But the 12-hour sittings will no doubt still remain.
The 19thC philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts was the subject of Sheena Ginnings' entertaining talk. 'The richest heiress in England', and a friend both of the Queen and Dickens, she inherited the Coutts banking legacy in 1837. This included a house in Piccadilly and the (then) country house of Holly Lodge in Highgate, with its 60-acre estate. Beside her many charitable works - for the poor, for children, for animals, in Britain and overseas - she developed the estate into a 'Victorian paradise' with a forest glade, a rose walk, tulip and monkey-puzzle trees and rhododendron groves. The estate was later broken up, but through her utopian Holly Village, her model farm and her famous and extensive kitchen garden she pointed the way to an alternative, ecological lifestyle.
Monday August 3rd saw the start of Holiday in Hampstead 2020 "lite", the non-fattening version. We are pleased to have reflections from two members of the audience on two very different, but fascinating talks.
William Blake: God and Beauty
Ayla Lepine's splendid talk on William Blake addressed the artist/poet's religious dimension. He was both visionary and practical, a combination of 'Innocence and Experience' which today appealed particularly to young people, making him a mainstream contemporary figure. Blake saw Jesus as the Human Form Divine, something mirrored in all people; it was by valuing ourselves that we come to know more about God. With a wide range of visuals and poetic extracts, Ayla charted Blake's respect for the art of the past, his fascination with Adam and Eve, as joint stewards of creation, and his Abolitionist views, whereby all humankind is brought together under God. Blake insisted on the the primacy of the mystical over the rational, recognising the crucified Jesus transformed into the resurrected Christ.
Crime dot com
Geoff White followed with a lively account of his work as an investigative journalist. He introduced Crime dot com, his recent book on cyber-criminals, which has just been published. He identified three types: governments hacking for political reasons; organised gangs out for profits; and 'hacktivists', young people working alone just for the hell of it. He told the story (story-telling is his speciality) of the 'Love Bug', which had affected the world, and how he tracked down its perpetrator. Cyber-crime relies on technology, but even more on understanding people and how they can be persuaded.
Andrew Lloyd Evans
We started off with a bang courtesy of our dynamic duo Ayla Lepine and Geoff White. Ayla spoke eloquently on the subject of William Blake: God and Beauty. Using a series of paintings by Blake and others together with quotes from some of Blake's poetry she illustrated Blake's radically different theological approach. This included: the idea of seeing the divine in everyone we meet recurrent themes of Adam and Eve and the lamb - seeing God in nature the inevitability of the fall and of salvation turning from rationality and scientific discovery to release the mystic aspects of creation he was against the slave trade, since discrimination and slavery would be abolished in the kingdom Blake often used the format of previous artists' painting particularly from the renaissance, for example turning images of the crucifixion into those of the resurrection.
From The Divine Image
For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
The hunt for the hacker Geoff spoke on the subject The hunt for the hacker who started it all, an investigative journalist's extensive researches into cybercrime, using material from his soon to be released book Crimedotcom. He divided cybercriminals into three groups:
Organised cybercrime gangs
Activist groups, e.g. teenagers who hack twitter, who are especially dangerous because they seek publicity
Sometimes groups act together, for example the NHS ransomware attack. He told the intriguing story of the Love bug which hit the computer world just as it was breathing a sigh of relief after the millennium. Geoff traced the hacker responsible to the Philippines. Interestingly the success of this virus stemmed from appeals to human emotion by sending a love letter - more psychology than technology. However, this virus stole passwords and propagated worldwide by using personal address books. For the hacker there was no success in terms of career or money. There certainly seems to be a parallel between the spread of computer viruses and the viral spread in the current pandemic.
Sunday 9th August 2020
Back on the 14th of May the kids and I were gifted with a packet of sunflower seeds, a pot of soil, and a watering can. To make things fair (because that's the only way we can manage to get anything done), I counted out each seed. There were 30. So each child got to poke a hole and plant a seed 15 times. I fully expected absolutely nothing to happen (notorious plant-murderer), but just a few days later tiny little green shoots popped up out of the dirt. Surprisingly, every seed actually sprouted and we enjoyed watching which plants grew fastest and became dominant. In the end, we had just over a dozen cheerful sunflowers on our window sill.
We enjoyed sitting downstairs in the communal garden and looking up at the flowers in our window. What I didn't realise was that a lot of our neighbours were doing the same thing. A few of us have already started making plans for planting sunflowers in multiple window boxes next spring. And maybe planting a few on the ground so we can watch the flower heads follow the sun.
So while we watched our flowers grow, we also grew closer to our neighbours. It's probably been the best thing to come out of our time in lock-down. Extra thanks to our friend who started it all with her gift to us. Who knew a little packet of seeds would make so many of us so happy?
Friday 7th August 2020
Here is an Easy Pizza Fish to try for Lunch
Ingredients found at home
Tomato sauce for the base
Courgettes or other vegetables to make the scales
Grill for 5/6 mins YUM !
While you are waiting why not try this ?
Spot 5 things which would not have been around at that time
It's 2 pm. Select hat. Drape scarf nicely. Keys. Check. Identity (just in case). Check. Stick (alas). Check. And off I go.
On a lucky day, who should come bouncing down the road but Scooby. Who? He and his older lady companion belong to a very monsyllabic gentleman who lives up the road. They are King Charles spaniels. Scooby takes no notice of rules. Social distancing? Pah! And he nearly has my hand for lunch.
Moving on. ..Perhaps Monty and his jolly owners will be around. Monty is the smallest dachshund in the world. He is about 12 inches long. He used to hate my hats with a passion, but he has now decided if he's put on the rock garden he will lick my hand. I'm in!
By now, I've advanced to the top of the road. A quick sniff at Tim and Julia's roses and its heigh ho for Platts Lane. As you round the corner, a great sky opens before you, with wonderful clouds. I am looking out for the gentleman I think of as Mr Labrador. The Lab, which is yellow, and very large, likes a lot of - shall we say? comfort stops, and he keeps his owner busy.
Passing various busy builders, including one who always wears a piratical bandana, I reach the top of Briardale Gardens. Briardale Gardens is Arts and Crafts (and how!). You can tell it's posh because people grow flowers in the tops of their stone walls. Jasper and Charlie might be out - they're Cavaliers (bigger size breed than Scooby), and brothers. They're always full of gallantry! At number 19, I always wave, if she is there, to the nice girl I think of as Ms Computer - and it's a nice little touch. She sits in her bow window working at her computer - she's been doing it for weeks. Briar Cottage has the prettiest garden, and I know the owner, so I can tell her.
And before I know where I am, it's down to the main road, and a hope of seeing Violet, the Dalmatian puppy, but she is a big girl now and can go on the Heath.
The only place I am going is to sit down! And have a nice big coffee. And then it's all to do again tomorrow.
Where did I hear that advice Keep Moving. . .?
Thursday 6th August 2020
If it's Thursday on the Holiday in Hampstead programme, it is tea at the vicarage. The sun shone gently, despite dire warnings from the weather men, and the vicarage garden was beautiful. Julia and Jeremy were wonderful hosts. Pergolas has been set up to protect us from the sun, there were flowers on all the tables and bunting to celebrate our first parish tea party since lockdown. It was idyllic. Jet was sunning himself, the bees were gently buzzing in a very well behaved way and Diana, Rosemary, Sue and Julia kept up plyed with cups of tea and delicious cakes.
It was lovely to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, including Pippa Adams who was born in June during lockdown.
Wednesday 5th August 2020
The All Age Service on Sunday 2nd August was interactive and wrapped around with love, generosity, creativity, prayer and lots of laughter. The published theme was the feeding of the five thousand. We started with the Junior Church hymn that includes the words "God is a great big God, higher than a skyscraper".
Maureen taught everyone how to make a paper fish. Much talent was displayed and not a little frustration expressed in the 'chat' forum, including "This is the hardest thing we have done in ages."!
Jeremy's sermon was on this miracle of feeding the 5000, which shows God's amazing provision, love and generosity. It happened on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, which tradition says was at Tabgha. Jeremy has visited Tabgha and showed us the fridge magnet which he has to prove it.
And then what we were waiting for - we all sang "Happy birthday" to Jeremy and watched a fabulous video made up of birthday wishes from the congregation - which included greetings in English and Arabic, and a greeting accompanied of a strange hooter (I think); also children popped out of boxes, or were waving placards; people were sitting in pavement cafes, on windy Beachy Head, or in their back gardens; and even from Greece - everyone wishing Jeremy 'Happy Birthday' all interspersed with modern rock captions. It was wonderful and amazing!
And then to end the service a Bach voluntary with Peter Foggitt, playing the organ at Emmanuel College Cambridge, lit up in beautiful psychedelic colours
This service was possibly the largest HPC service on zoom with 84 people, including 20 children. A great celebration!
Tuesday 4th August 2020
A couple of weeks ago Peter and I were invited to help to pack and distribute summer activity packs to the families CARIS Haringey is supporting. During August most years CARIS Haringey has a one week summer camp for the whole family, with a range of activities. It is an important part of the support they give their families, who don't get away for a summer holiday. But this year because of Covid 19 and the need for social distancing this wasn’t possible. CARIS therefore decided to give each family an activity pack. They also wanted to give each family something that children could work on. Bettina Schmidgall, in our congregation, came up with the creative idea of Ikea lap trays, which many of you donated towards. Other members of the congregation donated items or money towards goodies for the activity packs.
All the families that CARIS supports were invited to get an activity pack, not just the families who have no recourse to public funds. We made up over 100 packs! Peter pumped up 100 footballs, with the help of Oscar and Cecily, who are friends of Ruth, one of the volunteers. Amongst other things he also had to unravel 100 whistles on strings that had somehow got tangled up. I made up parcels with balls, bats, chalks, stickers, writing materials, games, books, sweets, hand sanitiser, and other fun items. After the packs had been made up (and our backs were aching) we had lunch and a chat with the rest of the team, more than half of whom volunteer each week. I spoke to Amy who runs the knitting group at St Ann's, where the food bank is temporarily based. They made colourful knitted shapes, which they tied to the railings outside their shut church, till someone stole them! I also chatted to Ruth who runs a Coffin Club and Death Cafe and does Humanist funeral services. She had encouraged Oscar and Cecily to come along. p>After lunch the families arrived. It was so super to see how excited the children were to receive the packs and the trays and a hula hoop for each child (In the photos you can see the activity packs and the folded Ikea trays and hula hoops)
Each time I go to the foodbank at CARIS Haringey, I am so pleased that they are one of the charities that we support
Monday 3rd August 2020
A group of parishioners has been meeting from time to time over the last few months to talk about racial justice and racial inequality. We have been discussing how we as a church, as we seek to follow Christ, can address these issues in our own community, and through this engagement help to bring about a fairer and more equal society. At each meeting we have listened to a range of black voices either in the press or through video clips. Sunday 2nd August was our third meeting and we heard clips from Revd Azariah France-Williams (priest in the Diocese of Manchester, Chine Macdonald (Head of Fundraising and Community Engagement, Christian Aid), and Dr Anthony Reddie (Theologian, University of Oxford). At the same time the Saturday morning book group is reading 'Ghost Ship' by Revd Azariah France-Williams, who describes powerfully the prejudice he has experienced in his life and in his ministry.
The discussions have been open, honest and thoughtful and I hope they will continue after I move to Cambridge. This photo shows books that I would recommend to anyone who wishes to find out more about racial inequality in our society and the challenges that black people face.
Sunday 2nd August 2020
On Saturday afternoon some of the Youth Group met for a socially distanced picnic at Fortune Green. Despite not being able to share food, it was great to meet together and connect in person for the first time since lockdown. This is a summer of big changes, too.
Rika is going to York University to study English Literature, Tilly to Cambridge, and Tamsin to Washington DC. All of them are in some ways truly venturing into the unknown, as there is still a lack of clarity about exactly how teaching and university life will happen in the various possible scenarios of Covid-19. Though there is uncertainty, there is excitement too.
We talked about protest, war, and injustice, as well as the debate around Hagia Sophia and the decision that it will become a mosque again. We also spoke about a recent BBC series on Iraq, which Nesh highly recommends. We also talked about TikTok: compelling, imaginative, ingenious, addictive, politically ambiguous. . .
Every time the Youth Group gather, amazing things happen. The conversation ranges widely, there is time for everyone to explore ideas in depth, and the mutual respect and trust in the group means that we deepen our faith and ask vast questions about God, society, and culture.
From September Nesh and Jan will run the group together. Anyone between c.15-18 years old is very welcome.
And, PS, Nesh told us he's selling his electric car. It's a bargain, and has had one careful driver. . ..
Tuesday 28th July 2020
Monday 27th July 2020
It all started last week when Maggie met Harold Lupa's new bear Richard. Maggie offered to introduce Harold to her bear Gregory, which she did on Zoom coffee on Sunday. And then everyone decided to introduce their bears (and other animals)!
There were bears from the Netherlands, Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Switzerland and Engliand.
Bear friends included a large hippo from Canada with a special Japanese hat, a bull, a tiger, a squirrel, a pink elephant, a black bird and an interesting puppet.
Some bears were with their original owners, while others have been inherited. The bears had had different life experiences. They had been through several marriages, or been taken to school (some with nametapes which are still on), or been used at work or crossed continents. Some are still called 'bear' and others are named after people, like 'Iggy' after 'St Ignatius'
Like us the bears, and their friends, all have a history. Erika, who is Canadian, had a neighbour who had gone to school with Christopher Robin and had met 'Winnie the Pooh'. He said Erika's bear reminded him of the original bear. ( 'Winnie the Pooh' was originally called 'Edward' but after Christopher Robin Milne visited the London Zoo and met a lovely Canadian bear 'he' became 'her' and 'Edward' became 'Winnie'. Harry Colebourn, a Canadian lieutenant, had brought the bear cub, named after the city of Winnipeg, to England at the beginning of World War I, as his regiment's mascot. He left her at the London Zoo when his unit left for France in 1915.)
Jane has a bear that is over a 100 years old that belonged to her mother called Ben Dalton (her mother's maiden name). Jane says he is very old, very small, very loved and very worn and he just fits neatly into her hand.
Nick's Swiss mountain bear (with backpack and walking stick) is even older. He is 150 years old!
A fiercesome tiger and bull were presented to Sue by the China-British 48 Group. Sue remembers then peering nervously over the top of a Chinese New Year goodie bag as the recipients were told how terrifying they were.
Bill told us a story about his stage star monkey. It was bought as a prop for the Hampstead Players production of 'Inherit the Wind' - the play about the Scopes Monkey Trial. It was used by the peanut vendor played by Angela Bates who during the play met one of the stars of the show, David Gardner, and romance blossomed. Soon after the play David bought another monkey to remember their meeting which he still has.
During Lent, and just before lockdown, the artist JP Flintoff did drawings of members of the congregations. The drawings took place all over the church, wherever the sitter chose. The drawings symbolise us as a community of God's people, connected to this holy place and bound together as the Body of Christ. JP has created a beautiful poster combining all of the portraits and expressing the diversity and uniqueness of each person. It is on display on the notice boards next to the Lady Chapel with some of the individual images. Through them we are seeing each other in a new way.
In the poster the artist has also left spaces. These spaces can be seen as symbolic. They can represent spaces for God. Spaces for silence. They can also represent people who aren't or who can't be with us. People who have died recently, or in years gone, and are still deeply missed. People who would love to be in church but can't come because they are unwell or are self-isolating; or people who can't cope with being with other people right now. The spaces also reflect those who suffer from loneliness or isolation and need to feel the love and closeness of God.
JP has produced a limited edition of the images and posters. If you would like to see the poster and all the images or would like to find out how to buy the poster or one of the images, go to https://flintoff.org/art/portraits-of-a-parish/ 15% of the profit will be donated to Caris Camden which supports the C4WS Winter Night Shelter
I often think of this and that,
Thoughts that benefit a Vicar's cat.
They saw the colour of my fur
And said "Jet's just the name for her!"
I thought it was a charming touch,
And so I love them very much.
I really have no need to roam,
I live in such a cosy home.
Now it's the Vicar's special day,
The congregation shouts "hooray!"
And as he hears our happy cheers,
We hope that he will stay for years!
Wednesday 22nd July 2020
I was all set up to do a week of research in June in preparation for my next project. The six dancers and studio had been booked when Covid19 struck. I decided not to cancel or postpone but rather to do it via zoom, skype, facetime and anything else on offer. I felt that we all needed to exercise our creative muscles because they too like other muscles lose tone if left unused.
The dancers probably were a bit surprised when I rang to ask them who they were living with and whether they had bikes. As I suspected some of them shared a house with dancers who might be persuaded to do some partnering? We used parks, back gardens, bedrooms and kitchens and any partners available, to generate and study movement. Although I probably would have got further in a studio in terms of my research most of my aims for an R&D were met . However the most enduring aspect was that we became a family like unit since together we had to find solutions and build our own infrastructure - provide our own studios, film ourselves and find seemingly remote ways of being surprisingly intimate.
Performance arts needs an audience to complete it. Covid19 with its closure of all venues brought a sudden invisibility. I decided to look at our archives and wondered if we could keep dance alive virtually. With universal screen fatigue in mind I decided to create a series of short films drawn from our stage productions. Social media platforms are refreshingly free of the cost and hierarchy of theatres and so it was possible to show as well curate the seemingly opaque grammar of contemporary dance sitting on my stairs at home!
I mostly choreograph freelance dancers whose working life is patterned by short term contracts. It's a life style choice that needs resilience, optimism, ingenuity and amazing self management.Life in the arts (specially in contemporary dance) had always felt like swimming upstream against the current. So in some ways when the whole country had to adapt to a lack of security in March this year life seemed suddenly more equitable.
The photos show two dancers in rehearsal and my home studio
Friday 17th July 2020
2020 will be remembered, I'm sure, as a year that tested our resilience: the pandemic has impacted each of us, old and young, in very many ways. But it has also been a time of innovation and creativity - and nowhere more, I feel, than at Hampstead Parochial School. When it became evident that we were in lockdown for a significant period, that the SATs exams were cancelled, and that learning would need to continue online for some time to come, I wondered how we might recognise and celebrate with our Year 6 children that important transition as they leave primary school and prepare for secondary school in September.
In previous years, Year 6 children have staged a drama production for the school community, there would be Sports Day to enjoy and a School Disco, school shirts would be signed as a keepsake, and there would be the Leavers' Service at Hampstead Parish Church (attended by all the school and with barely a dry eye in the house).
Not so this year.
However, what we have seen is a wonderful demonstration of creativity and inclusion. A small group of parents have worked hard to compile a Year Book with photos and memories, to pull together a video of all the children, and to organise 2020 Leavers hoodies for the children to wear proudly.
And today, we were able to join a moving Leavers' Service in the school hall via the Hampstead Parish Church Facebook page. We dialled in from nearby (some parents watched on their phones in the Additional Burial Ground), from our homes, and one family even joined from South Korea! There were shared memories, singing (accompanied by Mr McLean on guitar), prayers and a message from Father Jeremy (in deepest Wales). Mother Ayla spoke about the school's values of forgiveness, responsibility, koinonia, friendship, compassion and respect - which have been very much in evidence through our Year 6 children - and she presented a Bible to each child. And there was a wonderful video of the children dancing through the decades - from the Charlston to the jive, 'YMCA', 'Gangnam Style' and 'Swish Swish' - all masterfully put together by their teacher Mr Williams.
A huge thank you to Mr McLean, Mr Williams, Miss Ohene-Kodua and all the Hampstead Parochial School staff team for making this end of school year special for our children. And thank you to Mother Ayla for leading the worship for us all to enjoy - and then taking the time to hand deliver Alice's Bible to her at home.
Happy summer holidays, everyone!
Wednesday 15th July 2020
Shortly after the choir last sang in church on Sunday 15th March, performance cancellations started to come thick and fast. The lead up to Easter is always a busy time for singers, both in churches and on concert platforms, but in the space of a few days it became clear that this year would be very different. By the time we reached Easter Sunday, not only had the flurry of musical activity associated with Holy Week - in and out of church - completely dissipated, but all of my upcoming performances for the next six months and beyond had been cancelled. Scores for imminent new operatic productions found themselves back on shelves, concert shirts remained un-ironed, and frantic attempts were made to get refunds for flights and train tickets that had been booked for performances, with Ryanair in particular doing their very best to fill the now vacant hours of one particular Tuesday morning - and afternoon.
So, what now? Well, after running out of refunds to chase up, and having had a go at baking some bread, the thing that I think we were all missing most was singing, and singing together. This maybe seems obvious, but I don't think it was to me at the time. Sure, I missed the music, the act of singing itself, and the sense of purpose and professional identity from being able to carry out my work, but our job is also inherently interactive; communication is a vital component of good performance, both among performers and between them and an audience. In fact, in many ways it's the whole point of performance, and so in a life suddenly without singing there was a real sense of social loss, a break in the circle, and a feeling of having lost the ability to communicate.
The choir's weekly hymns were initially conceived as a way of keeping the choir in touch with the congregation at Hampstead, and the hope was that in gathering together to sing familiar music at home, we might feel connected even though forced apart. For me, the weekly task of preparing these hymns has not only provided direct and meaningful contact with my wonderful friends and colleagues in the choir, but has also afforded me the opportunity to stay in touch with my own communicative capabilities as a musician and as a social being.
The photos show the set up I use to record the hymns (trumpets, microphone, laptop, keyboard etc), one of the complete audio files for the most recent hymn, and one of a little drawing of a slightly disconnected circle ..!
Tuesday 14th July 2020
Lockdown and the Covid pandemic has affected us all in many different ways. For many people it has been a sad, difficult and uncertain time. For others the uncertainty has also been a time of reflection.
Earlier this year members of the congregation were invited to think about where they found God in this pandemic and to create a square to reflect this. Margaret Pritchard Houston has put these squares together and created a beautiful altar cloth for the Lady Chapel. In this creative way members of the congregation have placed their reflections before God, in a space that is important to them.
The background is green, the colour of Ordinary Time and it will stay in the Lady Chapel for the rest of Ordinary Time this year. Around the edge Margaret has put squares from the fabric she has been using to create face masks. Through the centre is the Cross.
Please do come and look at it when the church is open.
Sunday 12th July 2020
It was lovely to be back in church for communion on Sunday for the first time since lockdown began and then to be outside in the sun afterwards.
The Vicarage has some new residents! Two bee hives now sit tucked away on the 'top lawn'. They've been with us now for about three weeks and it is hard to imagine life without them. The minute the sun is out the bees are out and about in the garden and further afield. There is a true 'bee' line across the bottom of the garden where you can see bees taking off and coming in to land, like an airport runway. They then land on their landing board and crawl into the hive with large sacs of pollen tucked between their legs.
When Erika and Maurits Dolmans were looking for somewhere to site their hives and the new bee colonies that were on order, we were delighted to be able to help. We know nothing about Bee keeping but we hope to learn a bit this summer! The two hives have names - Sage and Alma. Starting out initially as a small nucleus or 'nuc' the bee colonies in each need to grow so they are inspected regularly to check that all is well, that they are collecting pollen and that the Two Queens are laying eggs. At the moment 'Queen Alma' seems to be taking a break from laying for some reason, so if she doesn't buck up, the bees will create a new Queen to replace her - no room for complacency!
It's very therapeutic watching the bees come in and out but it is also great to think we are helping support our bee population which is on the decline.
In other news, the exterior decoration of the Vicarage, which started in mid-March, is now completed at long last. The scaffolding has gone and we can come and go from the garden without having to crouch down! The house looks extremely smart and hopefully it won't be long before we can welcome visitors back.
Friday 10th July 2020
Surely one cannot say
Yes! to just one,
Many compete, which
Bring problems galore
Oh! such decisions I decide to ignore -
Leave it to others to
Single out one.
Of course, Hope sings from trees, from
Flowers and leaves - though amongst much more,
Humour as well has its place for me
Offering distraction from doom and gloom
Perhaps sowing seeds for a simple joke, where
Each line of verse grows from
SYMBOLS OF HOPE!
Monday 6th July 2020
More than seventy members of our wider congregation took part in Sunday's Intergenerational Service, including from places outside London, and as far away as Nigeria and Germany! The theme for the service was from Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest..for my yoke is easy and my burden light.."
In her sermon Ayla invited everyone to choose a physical burden of equal weight for each hand, to feel its weight and then to think about how our hands felt when we put the burden down. There were some interesting burdens including bottles of wine, books, cans of juice, jam, actual weights, grapefruits and mustard and a banana! We were also encouraged to see this gesture of our hands with our palms held up without the heavy weights as a gesture of both giving as well as receiving.
This beautiful service included a reading from Christina Zandstra, a prayer from Peter Diracles and prayers from the Gardner family which included prayers of rememberance for those who died or who were injured in London on 7th July 2005.
"Peace be with you" was exchanged in sign language (one of the photos shows Jeremy demonstrating this)
And there was lots of lovely music. Jeremy on his guitar invited us all to sing two songs popular with Holy Hamsters and Hampstead Parochial School. Then It was very special in our own homes to sing "Holy, holy, holy" with the choir and Malachy's trumpet accompaniment. The choir treated us to another amazing online anthem "His yoke is easy and his burden is light", from Handel's Messiah. As Margaret Willmer said in the chat box commenting on the anthem and the images of the different singers appearing as their voices joined in "I am in awe of the mathematics of putting this together"!
Zoom has its frustrations but it does enable us to be together and to share God's love with each other.
Tomorrow will be the 15th anniversary of the 7/7 London Bombings when three tubes (at 8.50am) and a diverted bus (at 9.47am) were targeted by suicide bombers. I was one of those caught up on his way to work, lucky to survive in an Edgware Road carriage where seven had died.
When I got home from hospital mid-August, I thanked fellow tube travellers, the emergency services, the police, the NHS, friends and family, including my extraordinary wife Angela.
I always maintained I saw more love than hate that day.
Every year since then we have marked the day. Angela and I (with Matthew and Alice, if a weekend) take the tube to Edgware Road, joining others on the platform for 8.50am. We stand and remember the 52 victims and those who responded so bravely, from fellow travellers to paramedics. And we pay our respects at St. Mary's Hospital.
Some years have been marked by official events such as the unveiling of the Memorial in Hyde Park and a service at St. Paul's marking the 10th anniversary.
However, a group of us survivors also get together for a Greek dinner with physiotherapists, prosthetists, police and others who helped us that day and have become part of our lives. Last year there were four of us who got together (with four legs between us) and our long-suffering wonderful wives. We were planning a bigger commemoration this time but, like much these days, it will have to be postponed.
I've only missed two of these reunion dinners, including the very first, which coincided with a performance of The Hampstead Players' Julius Caesar production (which had been due to be staged a week after 7/7) - and turned out to be a very memorable night at Hampstead Parish Church with a couple of my saviours in the audience.
Angela and I intend to drive early tomorrow to Edgware Road, and there are also some events online.
I always remember and, in the depths of other crises and tragedies, I cling to the hope that there will be more love than hate.
Saturday 4th July 2020
Nowadays if we want to make any alteration to the church we go through a faculty process - plans are submitted to the Diocesan Advisory Committee, notices are posted on the church and people are given a set period to register any concern.
It wasn't like that in 1874. When the Trustees wanted more space for a growing congregation the chosen architect, F P Cockerell, suggested pulling down the church and starting again rather than adding an extension. A petition was got up and signed by some 270 people. Not that many, you may think, to effectively prevent the church's destruction, until you look at some of the names:
W Holman Hunt
George du Maurier
Ford Madox Brown
Edward Burne Jones
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
It would have been a brave Trustee who advocated going ahead anyway. So they didn't.
Although there are variations and changes throughout Christian history, the main colours for textiles in the Christian year are green, purple, red, and white (or gold). Sometimes you see blue for Advent (following the medieval Sarum tradition) and we also have our 'Lenten Array', which is plain canvas with a subtle grey motif symbolising the crucifixion.
Monday 29th June 2020
The congregation and a number of friends of the parish, including writers, artists, and clergy, were invited to make 3-minute videos reflecting on something that was, or has been, a symbol of hope for them during the pandemic. Everyone chose one thing and made a short film describing its significance for them. A symbol of hope might be a favourite picture, a flower in a person's garden, or something at home which holds a special meaning. Objects chosen ranged from a holiday souvenir to a valuable piece of sculpture; from a blank piece of paper to a precious piece of embroidery; from a holy object to church building; from a bunch of keys to a valuable painting. The videos are thoughtful, personal and moving and show in times of crisis what is precious to us and helps to encourage and sustain us. These videos can be viewed on the Hampstead Parish Church page on YouTube
Below are a couple of written reflections. Sarah Phipps has chosen a painting by El Greco and writes "This is my object of hope. I pray with it every day. Jesus is at Calvary surrounded by Roman soldiers and people. They do not know now, but in three days the risen Christ will come. Christ is my hope, and he will be my hope always."
Caroline Barron writes "My objects of hope would be my two large flower pots filled with seedlings which I have grown for the first time: calendulas, marigolds and cornflowers. I rarely plant seeds and have never planted out seedlings with such careful attention. Lockdown gives one a chance to notice things - and appreciate them. Perhaps when the lockdown ends we will emerge better at noticing and cherishing not only seedlings but also each other."
Saturday 27th June 2020
In a conversation recently Monther (a member of our Community Sponsorship family) told me how much he likes bike riding and so Jeremy generously offered to repair his Purple Townsend bike to give to Monther. A few days ago I cycled over to the bike shop in Archway where Monther and I met to pick up the bike. We bought him a helmet and a good lock and rode off down parkland walk - which was much longer than I remembered! He looked as if he was really enjoying himself and talked about riding with his father. I left him on 7 Sisters Rd. He has a great sense of direction and was very confident that he knew the way home.
Then on Friday I had a WhatsApp video call from Monther - he said he was at the Victoria Embankment by the Thames. And sure enough there was his bike against the railings with the London Eye behind. He looked as pleased as Punch. He pointed out all the other cyclists riding past. He said he was cycling round London.
It was a great moment.
Friday 26th June 2020
A couple of weeks ago I took apart a mid-nineteenth century book to rebind. The spine lining was some printer's waste. It looked like a Law Report and the interesting thing for me was the reference to Admiralty, salvage and collisions which many of you will know was John's law speciality. The photograph shows the spine lining of the book I took apart yesterday, also mid-nineteenth century. There isn't any sense to it but some of the words stand out!
Tuesday 23rd June 2020
Some of you will know that many homeless people were found accommodation in the otherwise empty hotels when the lockdown was imposed in March. The following is taken from Nikki Barnett's report to the Caris Camden trustees on 10th June. Nikki is manager of the C4WS shelter project.
Post Shelter & Guests we are still Supporting:
• 7 guests were accommodated by Camden Council when we had to close the shelter at the end of March.
• 2 have been rehoused in more permanent accommodation.
• 1 left London to work on a farm.
• 3 remain in The Britannia Hotel in Primrose Hill. This hotel was arranged by the council specifically for those who needed to 'Covid Shield,'
• Of these, 2 are able to make housing applications as they now have ID and are in receipt of benefits. They are working with their referral agencies on these and have a clear move on plan.
• 1 is No Recourse to Public Funds and their move on plan remains unclear. It would usually be into a hosting scheme, but understandably these are all currently on hold. We are exploring the possibility of HO accommodation for him with the help of his solicitor. If this is not forthcoming, we will need to think of how C4WS can provide ongoing accommodation for him when the hotels close (currently the date is the end of June)
• 1 has a local connection to Camden and is being supported by their team either into their hostel pathway or into Hope Worldwide PRS.
• We have continued to support former C4WS guests who moved into other shelters and are being housed by the GLA. 2 are EEA migrants who are now eligible for benefits. Both have secured accommodation which is covered by housing benefit. C4WS has supported 1 with a hardship loan.
More widely across Camden:
• The majority of those who Camden Council had been working with who had been placed in random hotels when the crisis hit, have either been moved into their hostel pathway or alternative GLA provision (also hotels).
• The official occupancy for The Britannia Hotel where C4WS guests who were identified as needing to COVID shield and are currently housed is meant to finish at the end of June. However, Camden have a contract with the hotel which could mean they can negotiate an extension of up to 3 months. This is currently unconfirmed.
• For those who are eligible, Camden are working towards a housing first option with significant support, and they are providing 20/30 more properties for this purpose.
However, for the C4WS guests who have recourse, their housing is being managed by their original referral agencies.
• There are two council commissioned shelters which were talked about being reopened, Chalk Farm (but this sounds more like a day centre/drop in), for EEAs and one in Holloway whose management falls under Islington Council.
• The issue here will be is capacity/social distancing. The information about how these will work hasn't been released (it sounds as though it's not ready yet).
• Chalk Farm is likely to be limited in capacity, with reduced accommodation and will focus on the team getting their referrals into work and other accommodation, rather than operating as a shelter.
• DePaul Night Stop (a hosting scheme for young people) is running, but it's gone from 30 hosts a night to 3 across the whole of London.
• The issue with sustaining all the above is funding. Camden has a large budget for tackling homelessness, but the hotel model is not sustainable long-term.
• There is also a large transient homeless population, which is not being housed in the hotels. This is made up of those who were offered places initially, but for whatever reason could not sustain them plus new arrivals in the borough made up of those who were in precarious work before the crisis hit and have lost their accommodation and are not eligible for benefits.
• We know there is still a large street homeless population, as those drop ins who remain in operations have reported large numbers, such as the American Church who are feeding around 150 people a day, and Streets Kitchen around 60 people a session.
For the future, there are challenging times ahead for C4WS and all Cold Weather Shelters. We are waiting for guidance from Housing Justice but it is very unlikely that a rolling shelter (one night each week in 7 different churches) will be possible and we will explore ways of running a more static shelter while involving as many of our volunteers as we can. I'll write more about our plans when they are clearer.
In the meantime these are a few reminder photos of the 2019/2020 Night Shelter at Hampstead Parish Church
Thursday 18th June 2020
I love the big trees outside my window, even on a rainy and cloudy day like today. They really are a symbol of hope, reliability and patience. If I'm lucky, I can sometimes see a flock of parakeets flying above and listen to their very noisy cheerfulness.
When we ventured out to the Heath on Easter Sunday after spending long weeks inside our flat since the beginning of lockdown, I was dumbfounded that spring had arrived in all its glory. I was clad in winter clothes, because to me everything seemed like we were still in the middle of a dark winter. But Mother Nature doesn't care about the pandemic or our problems and rightly so! For far too long we have treated nature as an afterthought. A friend texted me to say that she thinks the pandemic is nature's way to pressing the reset button. Scientists have already warned that zoonotic pandemics will happen more
frequently in the future if we press ahead with the destruction of the natural habitat of animals and plants. I worry very much about what this means for my children. I want them to have a green and sustainable future that they can look forward to. Luckily, it isn't too late to make changes and it really starts with me to make more careful and responsible choices every day.
Wednesday 17th June 2020
In December the parish hosted a study day about Evelyn Underhill with talks by experts including Revd Professor Jane Shaw, Revd Dr Julie Gittoes, Revd Dr Earl Collins, and Prof Anne Loades. You can listen to them and learn more about Underhill here.
God, who dwells invisible in the heavens and yet for the salvation of humanity does manifest Your power on earth, pour down upon this place the light of Your countenance: that all who come hither to seek Your face may truly find You. Amen.
Tuesday 16th June 2020
Sunday 14th June was the third anniversary of the appalling fire at Grenfell Tower. Our church bells rang out 72 times at 6 O'clock in the evening to remember the 72 people who died in that dreadful fire, then there was a pause for reflection, followed 3 rings to remember that it was 3 years ago.
Lucy, who was a volunteer the morning after the fire, created this tribute at the church door with 72 night lights to remember each person who died.
In Lucy's words "It was an incredible privilege to be invited in by a community so utterly shocked and devastated. I went to the community centre which was the support hub. I was one of the few white people there and of course many of the victims were from the BAME community. It was the first time I had experienced a situation where those directing everyone's efforts were not white. It really reaonates in the context of the current BLM campaign. The memory that has never left me is the number of people taking "selfie" photos against the background of a smouldering, blackened block. The most terrible personification of our instagram culture. The love and dignity I witnessed at the community centre on that day was in stark contrast."
Jeremy reflected that "It was incredibly humbling to ring the bell 72 times, to keep silence, and to ring three times for the years since the fire. Lighting the candles brought home the value of each human life, and the need to ensure that our systems and processes are just, fair, and safe for all. That's a call for the church to hear, as we remember, and as we act."
"There are gates in heaven that cannot be opened except by melody and song"
from an 18th century description of the purpose of Eastern European Jewish Nigun singing
Saturday 13 June would have been the Women's Retreat at St Katharine's. We couldn't go this year, and so Barbara Alden and Ayla led a group of 16 women on zoom in a beautiful meditative hour and half of of music, poetry and prayer. Barbara sang Jewish Nigun songs and a range of Native American chants. Sometimes we joined in, and sometimes we just listened. We reflected on this image as we sang "Halleluia"
The music was interspersed with images, poetry and prayer and Ayla led a short meditation on the Magnifcat from the Gospel of Luke and the Song of Hannah from the first book of the Samuel.
Some of the feedback..."a blessing"; "taking time out and being still"; "I hadn't realised how much I needed this quiet time"; "the time flew by"; "lovely and peaceful"; "Hannah and Mary, two strong female voices bound by the arc of the universe"...
Monday 15th June 2020
On Saturday 13 June Junior Church met for another action packed zoom family service, this time based on the 'Feeding of the 5,000'.
Jess Mathur told the story, aided by some very inventive props, and Maureen showed everyone how to make an origami boat. Jeremy then led the children in some lively action songs, with everyone being encouraged to join in
The service encouraged children to think about those who do not have enough, as well as the need to share what we have; inspired by the boy who handed over his meagre amount of food to Jesus.
The prayers were written and read by children in the group.
The session ended with the blessing and what has now become a zoom custom - the children’s Wind Up Amen!
The service was another lovely way for junior church families to stay in touch and feel engaged in our lively community.
(The photos show some of the boats complete with fish, sharks and random starfish and the Sea of Galilee; and Maureen’s snack of fish and chips!)
Sunday 14th June 2020
This is the view from my upstairs window. It is also the view from my Cross Trainer; that's not something I thought I would ever say three months ago. I would normally use the Cross Trainer once a week at my gym, because my back prevents me from running, but seeing Lockdown looming, I decided to buy one for myself to keep on top of aerobic exercise, particularly if the Spring weather proved bad. During the Pandemic use has in fact been sporadic, varying from once a week to every other day and I have found it very cathartic.
We have also been surrounded by scaffolding since March 16th. It's the same throughout the house, making it dark and bringing a whole new meaning to the word 'Lockdown'. We do literally feel that we are in lockdown here - access to the garden has been compromised, and it feels oppressive. I can't wait to fling open the French windows downstairs on a sunny day. Now that the decorators are back privacy is compromised too.
But beyond the scaffolding is our garden which has been a great blessing; a symbol of life beyond the Pandemic, of growth, exploration and creativity. Praise God that he is with us in all things; here's to the removal of the scaffolding and to happier days!
On Sunday 14 June, after our bell rang 72 times for the lives lost in the Grenfell Tower fire 3 years ago, we had a parish conversation about racism, the Church, and transformation.
I compiled some quotations and resources to help frame and stimulate our discussion and they're below, together with film, book, and podcast recommendations.
I'm especially inspired by what James Baldwin, the black gay American writer, has to say about change:
'Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.'
The photograph was taken at the recent London protests. Change is possible. Good conversations are possible. Growth and transformation are possible, as we strive for justice and liberation together.