Thursday, September 26, 2013

wild about Harry

I have a dog fixer. Thirteen years ago Val put me in touch with the couple who bred Matt. And now she has connected me with Dave & Jacky, who had a two year old Springer they have been 'running on'.

However - he was not for me. I had hoped he would be right, but when I saw how he was with Jacky, I knew he wasn't the one.

Fortunately this was not the end of the tale.

Dave & Jacky had been contacted by a couple who had taken one of their pups a couple of months beforehand, and who had decided they couldn't keep him. They have a small baby, and Springer pup & small baby were too much in one house. (Imagine - choosing to give the pup back...) I think the contact had only been made on the day I went to see the breeders, so it was all a bit fresh. With no obligation I drove on to see the five month old dog.

He was a black and white pup. Exactly what I had been looking for. It took me less than ten seconds to say yes. His old owner handed him over with tears and gratitude; I received him in like manner.

He had another name; but I have re-Christened him for his new life. He is now Harry.

Harry is (apart from his colouring) physically very like Matt. Facially he is occasionally scarily similar. But in personality, he's much more like Charlie - a life-and-soul-of-the-party dog. He wants to meet everyone. He barks at stuff, and gets excited, and runs on the wind that blows across the fields.

But he also ambles around the drive at the front of the house, and plays in the garden, and never runs off - so in that respect, he's simply Harry.

I think I need training. I've never had a dog this age before. Having said that, he's already bonded to me. He's brilliant off the lead, and (unless he gets distracted by other dogs) comes back to me whenever I call.

Driving down to the south coast last Friday to see him, I wondered if I should do it. Did I really want another dog?

Perhaps moving here has been the final stage in the grieving process. When Charlie died, I had loads of photos of him put in frames. As I moved into this house, I found them all - and realised I have really only two or three of Matt. When he died, I didn't do the same thing. I decided which photo I wanted, but never got round to actually getting it printed out. Till I got here. It arrived in the post last week.

I'm told Matt & Harry possibly share breeding lines. It's a nice thought. I wonder how the three dogs - Matt, Harry & Charlie - would all get on. Breeding lines or no, they are all part of my family.

Did I really want another dog? As soon as I got him, the answer was clear. Yes. My house has become a home again.

I took a Harvest service for the school in Steeple Aston today, and reminded everyone about how Thanksgiving is so central to Harvest. Well, my heart is fit to bursting with gratitude for this canine addition to my life. A new dog. So different. So the same.

Such a gift. Yep, I'm already wild about Harry.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


I hardly know what to write about the last few days.

When Phil was inducted as vicar at Calverley, I watched with gathering emotion, because I knew deep within that my own time was coming. I listened to the words, and felt the power of the promises, and understood that what was right for Phil in Calverley would soon be mine somewhere else.

At that point (and we're talking mid-May) I hadn't even applied for this post. But I was pretty sure I'd be looking at early autumn as my time - though, to be fair, in part that was because I wasn't clear I could cope with it being much later!

When it came to Wednesday night at St Nicholas' in Tackley, the skies were grey, the air heavy with the promise of rain, and I was both totally thrilled, and slightly disconnected.

It was strange, emotionally speaking. I guess I'd spent a whole week getting the rectory into a liveable state. There we go - classic me. In order to function well, I need my home-space sorted. It had been hard work; it has been worth it. John and Clare were amazing on the first day, and Dad & Lorna were astonishing over the weekend. Their help was phenomenal.

But I'd so focussed there that it wasn't till Wednesday itself that I took time to ready myself in any way for the spiritual side of the challenge ahead. No - I take that back. Building a home for me is all about creating a haven which works in terms of inviting people in for hospitality, and having space in which to pause and relax and breathe for myself. Both of these things are essential in ministry, and it's interesting how that was such an overriding priority during the first week.

But it wasn't till Wednesday itself I consciously prayed; thoughtfully prepared; took time with God and mentally began to realise what lay ahead of me.

During the service there were many highlights: I entered the church early, before anything began, to hear the choir rehearsing my 'Salvation's Songs' hymn. They sounded wonderful, and it was profoundly moving to hear those harmonies being sung in that place as I walked in.  Bishop Colin was lovely (as always) and has subsequently sent me his sermon notes so I can take time to reflect on his words; I am deeply moved by his kindness.

There were amazing people in church (in addition to all the people in the parish whom I am looking forward to getting to know) from pretty much every part of my life. Mum, Dad and Lorna, Pauline & David from the first church I ever attended, Cathryn from the first church I was organist at, my headmaster from grammar school & his wife (where I came to faith), Oxford friends, Aberystwyth friends, a glorious band of folk from Pontypridd, Nigel & Angela whom I met during my first curacy, Ian whom I first met skiing, Ed & George who are such a key part of my jazz life, Sylvia & Brenda from Calverley, too many people to mention, but I can't not mention again John & Clare who through so many years have been such good friends, and Chris & Ruth, whose ability to laugh and cry at the same things has made my life rich beyond telling.

If a person is judged by their friends, you get quite the wrong impression of me. I'm honestly not that good. But I am that blessed. And these folk were only the ones who had made it on the day, and I haven't included the ones who sent cards or best wishes. I thank you all. You are wonderful.

The highlight was singing hymns and seeing your faces and knowing that God is good.

And then...

Today was my first Sunday.

I could get used to this; we had a united Benefice service at Steeple Aston. It was all a bit Anglican and rather lovely. I just about remembered how to do this! (It's been a while...) We'll see what the future holds, but people are super here, and coped with my (probably idiosyncratic) ways well. We sang and prayed and shared the Scriptures and the bread and wine. It was great to be here, to be rector, to be vaguely in charge and totally enthused.

This morning I started with an old Rabbi Lionel Blue joke, then (via an exposition of Luke 15.1-10, but really 15.1-2) gave the congregation the tiny challenge of loving everyone, because that's what Jesus does, and we must do what he does. I apologised for starting with such a small task, and promised I'd raise the bar in future weeks.

Oh well... I guess it's one way to mark an arrival.