Thursday 30 December 2010

Hernia and Ushaw

Yesterday I entered the Day Surgery Unit of Darlington Memorial Hospital for a hernia operation.  The op. was a success, but the wound is of course still painful.  On the other hand I feel a lot better now (24 hours after the op.) than I did eight years ago when I had a similar operation by the same surgeon.  Maybe in the intervening years the mix of gases in the anaesthesia has improved or the surgeon with 8 years extra practice has become even better or the knives are sharper!

I have been told on good authority that there are some concerned Catholics who do not want to sign the online petition about Ushaw College for fear that if the College continues to stay open it will be on the terms that it has existed for the past twenty/thirty years.  This is certainly not the intention of the petition; indeed the petition, and the proposals which I have heard about. all envisage the present teaching structure of the College being swept away and a new and more traditional regime installed.  I would ask everyone who is concerned about the possible closure of Ushaw College to sign the petition at the address below.

And - Oh! - the closure of the Conference Centre business may be more apparent than real!

Saturday 25 December 2010

Christmas Day

I intended to publish a photo of the sanctuary of my church taken before Midnight Mass (at 8.30 pm!) when I offered my greetings to readers this morning.
However the batteries died, and I took another photo this morning before Mass.  Here it is, with my renewed Best Wishes.

Christmas 2010

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.

May this Christmas Day bring you and your family every blessing and comfort in the knowledge that our Saviour Jesus Christ has come and that our world has been redeemed.

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Ushaw Petition

I would like to ask all my readers to take the trouble to go to the following link and sign the petition which you will find there requesting the Trustees of Ushaw College to reconsider closure of the College until consultations can take place.

The main thrust of the petition is this:
1.  The absence of any consultation or discussion prior to the decision being made,
2.  The prospect of St Cuthbert’s Chapel no longer being available for Catholic     worship,
3.  The apparent lack of consideration given to ways of securing a future for the college,
4.  The loss of more than 60 jobs in an area where alternative employment is scarce.
  In the light of these considerations, we urge that the trustees of Ushaw College forestall its closure until such time as:-

1.  a proper study has been made of options that would enable it to continue to serve the Catholic population of northern England,
2.  there has been the opportunity for the closure to be debated publicly.

Monday 20 December 2010

Ushaw Crisis

I found it fascinating to read, on Father Brown's blog, Forest Murmurs, that the projected closure of Ushaw College has been brought up in the House of Commons, though realistically I do not suppose that will make a great deal of difference to the trustees of the College.
Like Terry Middleton, who commented on my last post, I too have found from my recent experience of Ushaw that the Conference business-side of Ushaw seemed to be doing well, the Reception and organisation was good, the meals in the Refectory were varied and most enjoyable, the staff were very pleasant - no hint there that  the business was in trouble.  Perhaps it was/is - but then we do not know - it's all speculation.  But it must be true that with the Conference business gone, the chances of keeping the College open with just a handful of students looks very unlikely.
As Leo Darroch says in his comment, an appeal by Trustees for funds for Ushaw, on a par perhaps with the money raised for the new Youth Village, would have been welcomed by lay people and priests alike.  Of course, we already have in each diocese an annual collection for the training of priests, but another collection to stave off an early closure would have done well.
But at the moment all we can do is speculate.  Perhaps WikiLeaks might like to get involved!

Saturday 18 December 2010

Ushaw and its Demise

We now know the latest piece of information about the demise of Ushaw College, which has managed to slip out into the public domain.  The commercial side of the operation at the College, the Conference Centre, is to close at the end of December.  The Conference Centre business was an important money-stream for the upkeep of the College, and I know that this continued money-stream played an important part in the proposed rescue plans which had been drawn up in the hope of keeping Ushaw open.
I am now left wondering and speculating which came first, the chicken or the egg.  Did the decision by the Trustees to close the College at the end of the scholastic year precipitate the Conference business into an early closure, or did the early closure of the Conference business, and the loss of the money-stream, decide the Trustees that there was no hope of keeping the College open if the Conference business closed?
One day, perhaps, we shall learn the whole story. But, as of now, the omens for Ushaw College do not look good!

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Friday 3 December 2010

Barney Life No. 23

A few weeks ago I published a photo of my pond from my living room window.
A few days ago the view looked like this.
Two days later it looked like this.
At least the fish are safe in the pond: Mr Heron surely cannot dig through a thick layer of ice!

Monday 22 November 2010

Barney Life No.22

Saturday, November 20th, was an important day for Latin Mass aficionados, with the first Mass in St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle, for many years.  But I had to take a rain-check on attending for two reasons: one which I need not bother you with, and the other purely parochial. Saturday, November 20th, was the day of the parish Christmas Fayre.
The parish has no hall of its own, so we hold our Fayres in the Witham Hall, an old building in great need of some renovation, but right in the middle of the main street of Barnard Castle.  Originally built about 1850 by a benevolent member of the Witham family as a reading room and meeting place for the ordinary folk of Barney and much extended over the next 150 years, it now has dances, concerts and film-shows, art displays for local artists and meeting rooms for many societies.
As is usual in most parishes, a willing cadre of volunteers works very hard to prepare goods for the stalls.  Each Sunday in the run-up to the Fayre we have various Sundays, named Bottle Sunday, Grocery Sunday, Pound Sunday - each Sunday brings a welcome load of 'stuff' for our stalls.
At the same time we have our Christmas Raffle - all prizes are donated and I think that, thanks to the generosity of parishioners, we have the best prize raffle in Teesdale! First prize and second prize were both  £100, plus £50 and £20, with another twenty odd prizes as well.  The draw for the raffle took place at the end of the Fayre.
We had a great morning; crowds of people seemed to come in droves followed by lulls before another drove came in.  Financially too it was a great success, with a total income of about £2000.. Here below are a few photos of the event.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Mass in Newcastle's Cathedral

Yesterday, Saturday, November 20th, Mass in the Extraordinary Form was celebrated in our diocese's most important church, St Mary's Cathedral, for the first time in many, many years.   David O'Neill, the LMS representative, who arranged to have the Mass celebrated, has posted this report on the LMS local blog.  Unfortunately, I was unable to be present, and my first excuse for not being there will follow shortly in my next post (the second excuse I may share in a few weeks).
Photographs of the Mass can be found at the following location:

by David O'Neill
Despite a terribly wet day in Newcastle and despite the usual parking problems a congregation of some 150 attended today at St Mary's Cathedral for only the second EF Solemn High Mass since Vatican II.

The celebrant was Fr Shaun Swales of Coxhoe, deacon Fr David Phillips from Stella and sub deacon Fr Michael Brown from Forest Hall who is also the Northern Chaplain for the LMS. The serving team was myself as MC, Aidan McGregor as thurifer, Martin McGregor and Frank Walker as acolytes and Keith McAllister as crucifer. Fr Chris Warren from the cathedral was in choir on the sanctuary. We had expected Fr Wilfrid Elkin from Barnard Castle and Fr Gary Dickson from Thornley to join him but illness prevented it. We wish them both improved health quickly.

The newly named Schola Sancti Baedae from Jarrow sang the plainchant Proper for the feast of St Felix de Valois under the direction of Dr Michael Dunn and the choir of St George's Anglican Church in Cullercoats under their director Shaun Turnbull sang Victoria's Missa 'O Quam Gloriosum' with Agnus Dei I & II taken from 'Missa de Angelis'. Their motets were Viadana's 'Exultate Justi in Domino' at the Offertory and Franck's 'Panis Angelicus' at Communion. The organ played Muffat's 'Toccata' at the Offertory and J S Bach's 'Piece d'Orgue' as a

As is usual at celebrations of Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form Holy Communion was received kneeling and on the tongue by everyone communicating.

Thanks are due in no small measure to Cathedral Dean, Fr Peter Leighton, who so readily granted permission for the use of the church, Fr Chris Warren of the Cathedral, who has liaised tirelessly during the preparations, and we must not forget the Cathedral Sacristan, Eileen Mitchell & her staff, who made vestments etc available to us with great generosity of their time.

Lastly those attending must be thanked for coming out on such an awful morning in such numbers thus showing our detractors that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite with it's prayerfulness does mean so much to us.

Friday 19 November 2010

Letter to the Universe, Catholic Times and Catholic Herald

I have sent the following letter to these Catholic weekly newspapers, The Universe, the Catholic Times and the Catholic Herald;  I hope that the letter is published by one and all.

Dear Editor,
I am sure that you and your readers will have heard that there is a proposal to close Ushaw College, Durham, at the end of this scholastic year.  Ushaw College has a wonderful two-hundred year history of training priests, mainly for the Northern Province of England but with students from all over the British Isles; it was founded in 1808 by refugee students and priests from Douai College in the Low Countries, which trained many young men to be priests to keep the Faith alive in England during the persecutions of the 16th and 17th centuries and to become martyrs for their faith.  In my time at Ushaw, some of the traditions of Douai College were still in use at Ushaw. Ushaw College is a magnificent building with beautiful chapels, a famous Big Library and extensive grounds.
It would be a great tragedy for the English Church, not only in the north of England but for the whole country, if Ushaw were allowed to close.  I cannot believe that closure is inevitable.  The College is looking for business partners to promote it and to keep it in being.  I pray that they may be found, and I invite your readers to join with me in prayer to that end.
 Yours sincerely,
 Father Wilfrid Elkin

Sunday 14 November 2010

The Closing of Ushaw College

On the 8th of October 2010 this press release was sent out by the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle: 
 Trustees announce proposal to close Ushaw College
 The trustees of Ushaw College have announced a proposal today that pending consultation with College employees and the Charity Commission that Ushaw College will be closed.
The 200-year old Roman Catholic college is home to St Cuthbert’s Seminary which has been forming young men for the priesthood since its foundation more than 400 years ago.  Ushaw also provides a range of conferencing, events, and accommodation facilities to groups, organisations and businesses from throughout the UK. The proposal means that if implemented the College will cease operating at the end of the current academic year in June 2011.
The seminary serves the seven dioceses of the Northern Province of England and the Diocese of Shrewsbury and the wider church.
In recent years, Ushaw College has developed to blend heritage with advancement while maintaining its core function of the formation of priests to help renew and continue the work of the Roman Catholic Church in the region. Currently, there are 26 seminarians in formation at St Cuthbert’s Seminary and once they have completed this year’s studies, it is proposed that they will transfer to another seminary.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Chair of Trustees said: “This is one of the most difficult proposals that we as Trustees have had to make, not least because of the excellence of the formation our students are receiving.”
Monsignor John Marsland, President of the College, expressed his sorrow at the proposal: “Ushaw has a long history within the Roman Catholic Church and words cannot express how sad we are that we are considering such a drastic step.
“We have long tried to find a development partner and it would be nice to believe that a partner will still come forward with a viable business plan but unfortunately time is running out and we have to face the reality of the situation we are in.”
 Ushaw College can trace its roots back to Douai College, which was founded in 1568 in the Spanish Netherlands (now northern France) to provide priests for the English mission and to educate Catholic laymen when Catholicism suffered persecution in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Much later, students and staff from Douai relocated to County Durham and eventually settled at Ushaw in 1808.
For a time in the 19th century, Ushaw’s educational facilities made it the premier Catholic college in England and right into the 1950s 400 students were in attendance. Since Vatican Council II, the College has had important ecumenical links with Durham University’s Department of Theology and Religion and, in the past three decades, increasingly close cooperation with Cranmer Hall, the Wesley Study Centre and, most recently, Lindisfarne Regional Training Partnership. The decline in priestly vocations provided the college with an opportunity to diversify, resulting in innovative educational outreach programmes, a new biomass enterprise – complete with a willow crop -- and the three-star English Tourist Board accreditation for its accommodation and its sought-after unique setting for conferences and events. The college has also become the home of the North East regional office of CAFOD, and the Churches’ Regional Commission.
Whatever the future may hold for the Ushaw community with its historic buildings and long tradition of education, formation and outreach, the College remains grateful to God for all the thousands of friends and benefactors who have supported it over the years. (Here ends the statement)
In some ways this is not a surprise - for years we on the outside have known that the numbers of students at Ushaw College has dropped drastically from the glory days of the 1950's and 60's - and we have been asking ourselves how long this could go on for.
Even so, the proposal to close the College is a shock. Considering the history and achievements of the College, as outlined in the press release, it smacks of despair and perhaps a loss of faith.  As far as I know, there has been no consultation, even amongst the clergy, about Ushaw's future - there has been no analysis of how matters have reached this stage - we are not told why this decision has been reached - we do not know how widespread the search for 'development partners' has been.
According to a report from Australia, when George Pell was appointed Archbishop of Melbourne, he already knew that his seminary was failing (he had been Auxiliary in the diocese); he made a few simple changes: he ordered that Mass, Lauds, Vespers and Compline be compulsory for all students each day, insisted the seminary life be more regulated and that the official teachings of the Church be passed on to students in their formation. When all the professors walked out in disgust at this backward step, he appointed others who would bring order to the seminary. And so they did - the seminary never looked back. The teaching of Latin, the official language of the Church, was introduced by the new president of the College and the students began to learn about the tradition which had built up the Church from the beginning.

I know nothing about the present curriculum at Ushaw College, but I would not be surprised if a more traditional form of teaching would not bring more vocations to the College, including the teaching of Latin and training students in both Forms of Mass.

In the meantime, whilst looking for 'development partners', surely there is something which everyone can do about Ushaw - and that is, we can PRAY.  The Trustees do not mention prayer, but if we pray hard for Ushaw to continue, surely the Lord, whose priests (and people) we are, will grant our prayers for the greater benefit of His Church.  Let us say the Rosary as often as we can that this seed-bed of vocations to the Catholic priesthood may continue to be a beacon for the Catholic Faith for the future.  We must not lose Ushaw College!

I am writing a note to my Bishop along these lines - perhaps others could do the same.


Monday 8 November 2010

News from the Latin Mass Society

Westminster Bishop celebrates the Latin Mass Society’s Annual Requiem Mass in Westminster Cathedral

The Rt Rev. John Arnold, auxiliary bishop in Westminster, celebrated a Pontifical High Mass of Requiem in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 6 November for the repose of the souls of all deceased members and supporters of the LMS. Father Nicholas Schofield was Assistant Priest, Fr Andrew Southwell, LMS National Chaplain, was Deacon and the Sub-deacon was Fr David Irwin. Gordon Dimon of the LMS was MC.
   A congregation of some hundreds heard the men of the Cathedral Choir sing the plainsong Requiem Mass.
   The Mass was followed by a homily by Bishop Arnold and then the traditional ceremonies of Absolutions at the Catafalque. The coffin for the occasion was supplied by the Fairways Partnership, Funeral Directors.
   Before Mass, a wreath was laid by Dr Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the LMS, and other LMS Committee members on the grave of Cardinal Heenan in the cathedral nave in thanksgiving for the Cardinal’s efforts to preserve the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Father Patrick Hayward read prayers for the occasion.
   Doctor Shaw said afterwards: “This was the second time that Bishop Arnold has celebrated the LMS’s annual Requiem Mass and we are most grateful to him. We also thank Canon Christopher Tuckwell, the Cathedral Administrator, and Fr Alexander Master, the Cathedral Precentor, for their help”.
   Note: The Extraordinary Form has now returned to many of our cathedrals throughout England and Wales and the LMS is actively seeking to introduce further Masses.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Barney Life No.21

This is the organ which has stood in St Mary's Church for a very long time.  I do not know its full history, except that I have learnt that it was a gift to the church from one of the early parish priests of the church.  Since I arrived at this parish, the machine had had an annual servicing.  There is no doubt that it has been a very fine organ.  However, two years ago, the organ man suggested that the time had come for a complete overhaul - stops were sticking, slides were not sliding, all the gubbins behind the facade needed sorting out; an overhaul would mean dismantling everything, taking everything away, making the keyboard electronic, and so on and so forth.  The cost, plus VAT, would be £35,000.
When the Trustees of the church were informed of this choice, they were understandably horrified, and the  matter was dropped.  The organ continued to deteriorate, and for some months now I have been intoning the Sunday hymns (with varying success - sometimes too high, sometimes too low).
In the summer this year I was told about Ahlborn Organs by the son of one of the Trustees; the man who imports and builds them, Peter Lord, came to see me and he gave me a very attractive price for a Praeludium II - two manual, stops everywhere, foot pedals, the lot - £7,500 everything included (delivery, installation, VAT).
We agreed that it would not be necessary to touch the old organ, which would remain in situ, and the new organ would fit in the loft just by moving a bench out of the way.
The Trustees were suitably astounded at this news, but rather anxious on hearing that the sound came out of speakers, not pipes!  They asked me to arrange a visit to someone who had an Ahlborn Organ.
Yesterday (Monday), a group of Trustees and I visited Matthew Atherton, choirmaster at Barnard Castle School and a first-rate organist, in a nearby town, who kept a top of the range Ahlborn Organ in his living room.  For an hour or so, he kept us entertained by demonstrating the abilities of the Ahlborn Organ.  One feature which particularly amused us was the ability to make recordings of hymns and then to play them back when zapped by a hand-held zapper: no organist needed at the time of the service!
The Trustees were so impressed with the Ahlborn that they agreed it was the right and proper thing to do to order one for the church.
I did so straight away - before anyone had second thoughts.  Progress will be reported.

Saturday 30 October 2010

The View from my Sitting Room

The pampas grass in full bloom on this fine sunny day at the end of October.

Friday 29 October 2010

Barney Life No. 20

Last Sunday, October 24th, (I know that I have been a bit slow in writing this!), the Trustees of the Bowes Memorial Church met together for their annual meeting.
I have mentioned before that this is the only parish church in the diocese which is not owned by the diocesan trustees but by a group of trustees originally set up by Josephine Bowes herself.  It was intended that the church would be built beside the museum which John was building, so that Josephine would have a personal church when she was living in the rooms to be built for her in the museum (John expected her to outlive him, since she was younger than him).  As it happened, Josephine died before the church was even begun, and John out of loyalty to her memory started to build the church.  Before he could finish, he ran out of money, and the church stood as a roofless folly for about fifty years, until the trustees of the church could raise enough money to finish the build on the new site at the corner of the museum park.
There are twelve trustees: six notable Catholics from the north-east, and six parishioners; all must be practising Catholics.  The chairman of the trustees is a member of the old Catholic family, the Salvins, while the treasurer is a direct descendant of one of the trustees appointed by Josephine Bowes.  As parish priest, I am not a trustee, but I liaise with the trustees on matters of the upkeep of the church, house and grounds.
I may have something further to add on this subject in a few days.

Friday 22 October 2010

The Sheep on the Desmesnes - at last

Barney Life No. 19

Sheep on The Mains

The Romans made a road right through what we now call Barnard Castle.  But it was the Baliol Family who arrived with the Norman conquerors in 1066 and who began to develop the castle and then the town.  In the Middle Ages, the Baliols, who owned the whole area, set out a number of 'desmesnes' on all sides of the town, large open areas, which the locals could use for strip-farming, and of course paying a rent to the lord of the manor.  In time, all of the desmesnes were fenced in and became farms.  All, except for one, to the south-east of Barney: this one was donated by Lord Barnard to the people of the town in perpetuity as an open space for their enjoyment.
The Desmesnes, or Mains, as the locals call the area, is comprised of two areas - the Upper Mains and, of course, the Lower Mains, with a steep climb in between. Walkers of all kinds use the area, some hikers follow the path through the Mains along the river Tees to the ruins of Eggleston Abbey, mostly the dog-walkers like me wander all over the area excercising our dogs - some days there are regular processions of dogs and owners.  The area is managed by the local Town Council, or rather, not managed for most of the time I have been here.  However, recently, one of our councillors put forward a plan to turn the Upper Mains into a wild flower moorland field: in the summer the thick unruly grass has been cut for sileage and removed, and the hope was that a second cut could be made before the winter sets in.  The local farmer decided that the grass was not long enough, and so a flock of about 100 sheep has been brought in to do the job instead.  They will be here for about another week or so, before being returned to their own fields.  As far as I can see, the sheep are doing a good job - the grass is getting a good cut!
(I was hoping to publish a couple of photos, but for some reason the photo-link isn't working)

Saturday 9 October 2010

Barney Life No. 18 (posted 11/09/2010)

Every Monday and Tuesday I celebrate Mass at 7.30 in the evening.  Normally the Mass on 
Monday evening is a Novus Ordo Mass ad orientem (facing east, back to the people); but 
this Monday just gone, with the Novus Ordo and the Latin Mass calendars both registering a 
ferial day, I celebrated what we used to call a 'black Mass', a Daily Mass for the Dead.  I 
thought that it would be good for me (and for my servers) to become very familiar with the 
slight changes required for a Mass for the Dead.
The Mass on Tuesday evening is normally a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, as it is now 
called, the first Tuesday of each month being a Missa Cantata.  Our Sung Mass this past 
Tuesday had an extra singer just to help out both for my parts and the choir parts.  Every 
time I began to sing something, I was aware of a little voice joining in.  I eventually realised 
who it was - little Martha, just one year old and only, I think, the second time at a Latin 
Mass, trying to join in as best she knew how!
After Mass, we repaired to the presbytery for coffee and tea and chat, and this is her with 
her Mam and Grandma.

Barney Life No. 17 (posted 10/09/2010)

Summer in Teesdale
Tees Valley 1

Tees Valley 2

Barney Life No. 16 (posted 23/08/2010)

As usual, my Sunday Masses yesterday began with a Traditional Latin Mass at 9 o'clock, and, yesterday, as usual the Beards Family were in church for the Mass.  However, yesterday was not quite as usual.
Also present were a BBC cameraman and his producer/director who are making a documentary about one of the Beards Family, Clara, who intends to enter an enclosed Benedictine Convent on the Isle of Wight in September.  This team of director and cameraman have already spent a couple of hours in an empty St Mary's Church filming Clara and the church, no doubt for background shots whilst a commentator introduces the topic of the documentary.  Yesterday they filmed the whole of the Mass with of course a live congregation and concentrating on Clara and her family, showing, I imagine, the effect of the TLM on her and the others in church. 
Many in the congregation were alarmed before Mass when they saw a film crew in church, until just before Mass I explained that this was not the Benefit Fraud Squad or Big Brother State but the making of a documentary.  I suggested that they ignored the camera and tried not to look 'holier than thou' for the camera because they are holy enough already.
Needless to say, the Mass was celebrated without a hitch and without any stops for second takes.  I think the congregation was amused by the whole event and supportive of Clara in what she proposes to do.  We pray that she may receive the grace of God to try her vocation in this way.  When the film is eventually completed and broadcast, I hope that it will show a very positive side of the Catholic Faith today.

Barney Life No. 15 (posted 22/08/2010)

On Saturday afternoon I helped a young couple to renew their marriage vows.  Nothing unusual in that, you say!  Except that they were married only a few weeks ago, in Italy.  The groom, Filippo Pellizzon, is Italian, and the bride, Marie Ball, is (perhaps I should now say, was) one of my parishioners.  Their marriage took place in Italy according to the laws of the Italian Church and of the Italian State.  Marie's parents, Tom and Mary, with other members of the family, went out to Italy for the wedding.  But to keep all Marie's friends who could not go to Italy happy, it was the turn of Filippo's parents to come over here to England so that the English could celebrate Marie's marriage.  I understand that Mr and Mrs Pellizzon had never flown before or been out of Italy, so this was quite an adventure for them. 
The renewal of vows was in the main a reading through of the normal wedding service; I gave my usual sermon about how Our Lord and His apostles were to blame for the wine running out at Cana, and with the nudging of His mother how he over-compensated with new wine (as he does when anyone turns to Him); we sang a couple of hymns; and a very enjoyable service was had by all.  The organ was played by a young lady playing for the very first time for a public service (well done, Juliet O'Brien! - I doubt if it will be the last public service you will play at!)  I have added a few photos which I took at the end of the service.

Barney Life No. 13 (posted 19/08/2010)

Mr Heron!  Mr No-Show!
Since my last post about the invading heron, there has been no sign of him.  He usually arrives at breakfast-time for an early snack after his flight from the heronry.  I have had other smaller visitors - a beautiful dragon fly (I was so fascinated watching it flitting around the dog and me, apparently curious about us, that I forgot to photograph it) and a wagtail.  But not a sight of the heron. 
I wonder if this could be the reason.
Brolly Scarecrow
Yes, I know - to you and me it looks like a folded sun-umbrella (and that is what it is). But to the heron, flying up there or perhaps perched on the church roof, it may look like danger.   I know that he is anxious about any movement in the house and flies off at once if he sees anything, but, with the wind fluttering the fabric and the brolly being moved every couple of days, I think that it makes quite a good scarecrow.
Anyway, here is a bonus photograph.  Can you see three ghosts?
Ghosts   Ghost Koi, of course.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Angie Taylor (1965 - 2010) - Storm's Saviour (posted 17/08/2010)

Today Angie Taylor was laid to rest - she was 45.  She had spent some years in the Army, worked for a while after that in Northern Ireland for the Ministry of Defence.  She and her husband Roy moved to Spennymoor, Co. Durham, where she became a care worker.  But her passion in life was for the welfare of dogs, especially lurcher types.
I first met her like this:
In October 2006, after many anxious delays, I had to have my trusty red setter Rusty put to sleep (his back legs had gone).  Instead of using my new found freedom to relax and do a few tours of the countryside, I set about finding a replacement.  First I went to Deerness Kennels near Durham City: the staff let me walk through the kennels sponsored by the RSPCA, and then through the kennels housing all the other strays.  I returned to the office and mentioned that the only dog I was very taken with was the dog with the intelligent look who stayed at the back of the kennel when I passed, even though he simply did not want to know me; the manager said, "That's Storm. We'll have to see Angie".  I said, "I will phone to make arrangements."
Then I went to Sadberge Dogs Trust, near Darlington; again I took a liking to a lively black but small lurcher; they said they would keep the dog for me for a week (I think).  However, when I returned home, I telephoned Deerness and arranged to meet Angie to discuss this Storm which she was apparently responsible for. 
The next day I went back to the Deerness Kennels, arriving before Angie did. One of the kennel assistants brought Storm out and we walked him slowly around a grass lawn.  Angie arrived, and, after a short discussion with the assistant, decided that I would be a suitable new owner.  Storm was chipped, I received his papers, he was put into the LandRover and away we went.
Some time later, Angie told me what she knew of his history.  The dog had been wandering around Bishop Auckland for several weeks, being chivvied, harassed and starving.   In the middle of a huge thunderstorm (hence his name) one August afternoon, he hid in someone's garden shed; the door was closed on him, the dog-wardens captured him with a noose on a pole, and he was brought into Deerness Kennels.  He was so emaciated and traumatised, with a running wound on his front leg, that the owners of the Kennels were almost convinced that the best thing would be to put him to sleep, but Angie intervened and persuaded them that she could bring him back to health.  She washed him, gave him antibiotics for his wound, and that began to heal.  But the most difficult part of the rehabilitation was getting him to trust her.  Many days she entered his little cell and sat for ages doing nothing but being there, sometimes she talked out loud to him, without looking at him, and for long enough she got no response, until gradually he came to her and let her touch him.  All the while, she said, she was praying to God that she would be able to find the right person to become his new owner.  Then, when I turned up, she took it that my appearing was God's answer to her prayer - which was the reason why she quickly agreed that I should take charge of him.  The rest of the story I know only too well!
This is the boyo last night.  After 20 minutes racing up and down in the back garden and furiously digging a hole trying to get to Australia, he runs into the sitting-room, flings himself on the floor and pants madly for several minutes.  He is no longer the frightened dog he once was!
Last night I celebrated a traditional Requiem Mass for Angie.

Barney Life No. 13 (posted 13/08/2010)

This evening, at the unusual time of 5 pm, we celebrated Mass and thanked God on the occasion of the Silver Wedding of Andrew and Christina Beards.  The Mass was in the Novus Ordo ad orientem.  The chief celebrant was Father Gerald Anders and his co-celebrant and preacher was Father Philip Egan.  Father Egan spoke about memories, how sometimes they become selective as time goes by, and yet our faith and traditions are based on the memories we have of events gone by, in particular, the memory of God's sacrifice which we celebrate in the Mass by which we join ourselves to Him.  The singing was lively and led whole-heartedly by Andrew.  The company after Mass drove back to the Beards' house for a small celebration of a more informal kind.
Congratulations to Andrew and Tina; may the Good Lord bless them and their family!

Barney Life No. 11 (posted 10/08/2010)

As the Lord almost said, "If the householder had known at what hour the heron would come, he would not have let him break into his pond."   But since this householder does not know when the great fish-eating bird would come, he has to be vigilant and prepare his defences and hope that they are enough!
Defence 1 Defence 2
You may see that around the edges of the pond, there are strings, fishing line, posts, and I hope that they cover all the easy approaches to the water.  I know that Mr Heron will not give up and that he will be back; he has been here each morning recently, and I know that he has taken at least one fish out of the pond because he dropped it before he could swallow it.  I have been trying to catch him on camera, but he is too quick for me and flies off if sees a glimpse of movement in the house through the windows.  If I ever take a photo of the Flying Thief, I will post it on the blog!

Barney Life No. 10 (posted 05/08/2010)

August 5th
Hedge Cutting Day
It is just as well that I checked my hedge-cutting machinery on Tuesday, because that evening John O decided that Thursday would be a good day for cutting the hedge. So, straight after morning Mass, (today, Thursday), John B and I began to trim the sides of the hedge.  John O arrived half an hour later with his truck and a horse-box type trailer.  He immediately attacked the hedge at the five foot mark with his chain-saw, and immediately extra daylight began to flood into the garden.  One-armed Anthony turned up to help with clearing up; John B and I agreed that he was better with his one arm than we were with two arms each!  The cuttings from the hedge were all loaded into John O's trailer, and by late afternoon we had two trailer loads.  We worked all morning, until a short break for lunch (and a walk for my dog Storm) and gathered again in the afternoon to complete most of the work.  There is still a small amount of cutting to do; we hope to get that done tomorrow.  I have placed here two photos - before and after, and below that an album of the work in progress.  We are all shattered!
Hedge 1
Hedge f

Friday 1 October 2010

Barney Life No. 9 (posted 03/08/2010)

Getting Ready ......

 The trouble with this hedge, as you can see, is that it is enormous, about ten or eleven feet 
high, and from the road-side it looks even taller because of the wall; and it is beginning to 
block the pavement (sidewalk).  When it was cut last year, the Calvary was higher than the 
hedge.  Now it is dwarfed by it.  The plan is to cut the hedge down to about five feet.  This 
will happen within a couple of weeks, now that all the nesting birds have raised their chicks 
and flown the nests.  I will be supervising, directing, deciding, whilst the two Johns will do 
the hard graft.  John will do most of the cutting and the other John and I will do the clearing
Today I have been checking the machines which will be used to do the damage to the 
hedge - they have not been used since this time last year.  Fortunately, I think, all is well.

Hedge 3