Friday, 31 December 2010

british museum

On Tuesday afternoon, while the older and younger generation went to see the production of The Railway Children which has been running successfully in the Eurostar terminal in Waterloo, Bethan and I went to the British Museum for the first time in ages.

(The o&y generations enjoyed the Railway Children, as they also enjoyed the two other productions they've been to see together these holidays, Faeries at the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio on Saturday 18th and Bagpuss at the Soho Theatre on Thursday 23rd, although they agreed that they were probably both too old for the latter.)

The Museum, to our surprise, was heaving, packed with tourists. We did justice to the Assyrian rooms, and had a quick trot through Europe (there's a limit to how much you can take in in one visit, spending most time in the Roman Britain room, concluding with a look at our old friends the Lewis chessmen (many of whom are on a Scottish tour at the moment, including Stornoway next year).

It was surprising to realise how few sites all the Assyrian material was from (how different might our understanding of this and other civilisations be if different locations had been preserved or excavated). The wall panels and statues were well-preserved and huge; excavating them and transporting them home was no mean feat. The carvings are so full of detail, so much information communicated to the archaeologists about the way of life then, which would perhaps otherwise have been lost. It also seemed almost wilfully perverse that in most of the information panels they didn't contextualise the Assyrian Empire and the artefacts with more reference to Old Testament history, which is still where most people who have heard of the Assyrians before will have heard of them.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

ministry of food

On Monday we went to the Ministry of Food exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, on wartime rationing.

In the morning we had watched The Polar Express, recorded previously, which wasn't as bad as I'd feared.

no web access at home for 2m poor pupils

No web access at home for 2m poor pupils, warns charity: E-learning Foundation fears gap between rich and poor at school will widen unless more get home internet access
(Guardian, 28 December)

The charity analysed a survey of family spending in Britain, published by the Office for National Statistics last year. The study found that 75% of households had a home computer and 71% had an internet connection, a rise of three and five percentage points respectively on 2008. In the richest 10% of homes, 98% had a home computer and 97% had internet access, but in the poorest 10% of homes only 38% had a home computer and 30% an internet connection. Connection to the internet was lowest in Northern Ireland, where 57% of homes could log on, and highest in the south-east and London, where 72% of homes could access the internet.

forty elephants girl gang

Girl gang's grip on London underworld revealed: Ruthless, all-female Forty Elephants gang ran capital's biggest shoplifting racket, according to new book (Guardian, 27 December)

Monday, 27 December 2010

filming in the area, and near church

Something we did learn at Open Studios was what it was they had been filming in Iliffe Street, when they redecorated the street as grubby old London town. It was The King's Speech, soon to be released. Clint Eastwood's Hereafter also filmed at the Pullens Yards; we knew he had been filming in the Heygate Estate.

The Heygate is often used for filming scenes of inner-city decay, squalor and crime, especially now that it's almost entirely empty. Harry Brown, with Michael Caine, was also filmed there. The most recent crew I noticed there on the way past to work was for Law and Order: UK.

The space left by the petrol station at the top of Walworth Road, our side (there were a pair opposite each other, the other one's still there), was often used as a base for filming units, probably usually filming in the Heygate, including the Bill. They're building on that site now, more student accommodation I think.

So the non-Heygate filming is a nice contrast of subject matter.

Also recently out was London Boulevard, which did some filming in our local pub, the Hampton Court Palace. There was a poster up recruiting extras at the time, and the day of filming I saw chaps hanging around in suits. I don't imagine the scene was very long, as they weren't there long.

As our church is in the City, we have often seen film units, as the city is so empty at weekends. Most recently they were filming beside my bus stop back from church. While I was waiting for the bus they did a couple of takes of Ashley Jensen walking past the bus stop, on her mobile, looking up at the building next to it, then going in. There were certainly people between me and the camera acting, but they may just have been there for shape, and I'm sure they'll have done other takes subsequently - quite a group of people accumulated at the bus stop who when asked by someone trying to get the filming done all claimed they were waiting for a bus, so the best she could do was ask them not to stand in the way or look at the camera. It was filming for an ITV drama; we'll have to look out for it.

Some links. Pullens Yard photos of Kings Speech filming and some other filming. SE1 Direct thread re Clint Heygate filming. Film London location item re Harry Brown in particular. Evening Standard article on Harry Brown and Heygate from 8 July. A Flickr set by Greenwood100 of the Iliffe Street filming.

Guardian, 3 September 2010 (may have posted this before): South London's Heygate estate mourned by locals – and Hollywood: Crumbling flats provided gritty, urban backdrop for Clint Eastwood film and TV shows including The Bill and Spooks

Finally, a set of links relating to the Heygate and the gentrification of the area, some interesting and historical content, but I have little patience with those against the latter and romanticising the former. The Heygate Estate - the Elephant Circus. Live from the Heygate. Southwark Notes (with sections on Heygate, Walworth, Elephant and others). A set of photos on Flickr.

A quotation from the Southwark Notes one on the transformation of the St Mary Newington park from an unpleasant and undesirable patch you wouldn't want to go in or through to a pleasant space with a well-equipped playpark, which well represents the nonsensical attitude:

'St Mary Newington park right by the Elephant was one place of desolate semi-tranquility where there was nothing but roses, trees and grass. It was nothing special but was strangely special. The Council reckons it attracted ‘anti-social behaviour’. All we saw were dog walkers, picnicing locals, frisbee players and psychogeographers all seeming to be enjoying this pagan land quite so socially. After a grant from the London Development Agency, the former open-space has been rejigged into something a bit more colourful. There’s a nice kids play area but some awful orange belisha beacons and b+w stone balls on the grass area. Enjoyment of the space seems more or less no different from before. Community wardens still go there and take notes on anti-social behaviour.'

pullens yards open studios

At last made it to the Pullens Yards Open Studios at the start of this month, though we didn't buy anything apart from fudge and making a donation to the bird sanctuary which had brought along the owls.

Links. Pullens Yards. Iliffe Yard. Clements Yard. Pullens Yards on Facebook.

free church singing

The last two Sunday mornings Bethan has played keyboard for carols in our morning service (and for the psalm in the service two Sundays ago, which was probably our first service without a precentor at all, as well as the first service with a keyboard); three mornings ago I precented Little Town of Bethlehem in the service, and the Sunday morning before that Ruth precented the first non-psalm in a service in our congregation, another carol, Joy To The World. None of it felt that revolutionary, however, as for a number of years we have been singing carols 'before' and 'after the service proper; a number of congregations have been doing such things to get round the rules, which was less than satisfactory.

The news of the Free Church decision to allow hymns and instrumental accompaniment in its services got quite a bit of news coverage, including front page of the BBC News website and the Five LIve News. Clearly included not because of its significance or controversiality but because of its quaint oddness.

london gallery quire

I joined the London Gallery Quire at the start of this academic year. I'd noted it on a previous occasion when I was looking into London choirs, and took the plunge this time and went along. It's quite small - 20-30 people, including instrumentalists - and unusual in being well-represented by tenors. At the different end of the scale from Bethan's Barts Choir ('London's largest classical choir', says their website). We saw Bethan doing Verdi's Requiem with them at the Albert Hall in November, I think; previously seen her and them doing Carmina Burana there, and other concerts elsewhere. At the start of December I did my first concert with the LGQ (their first event was quite soon after I joined, singing in a church service), a carol service in St George's German Lutheran Church on Alie Street, near Aldgate. It went quite well, I think, and was fairly well-attended. I like the LGQ because the music is quite traditional (as opposed to Classical) and because reading music is not required. The LGQ self-description: 'The Quire performs West Gallery Music, the psalmody heard in parish churches and non-conformist chapels during the Georgian period, from about 1720 to 1850.' Most of their performances seem to be as part of services in churches, which is fine by me. They were part of a concert at Cecil Sharp House a couple of Sundays ago, but I wouldn't be happy doing Sunday concerts.

after the fire

The estate street lighting stayed off until last night. Christmas Day there were vans working on the little plant room in the tenants hall. In the morning of Christmas Day our radiators were cold, but the water never went cold and the heaters started getting a little warm again later in the afternoon. In the afternoon there was a knock on the door and they were giving out a couple of free fan heaters to each house affected. A premptive better-safe-than-sorry gesture; we've had much worse and much longer losses of heat and hot water in the last couple of years, which I'm sure they've had plenty complaints about.

District heating for the whole estate is more economical in theory but not in practice because of human nature. When heat/water is part of a flat-rate service charge, there's no incentive to economise or even be sensible. The day we moved into this house, the hottest day yet of that summer, the radiators were on. Socialist good sense undone by selfish individualism. This I gues is one of the reasons why some Christians choose a right-wing over left-wing political approach, the starting point of legislation being assuming the worst of everyone because of the sinful nature of man rather than 'love your neighbour as yourself'.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

a plockton incubator

A few minutes after his twin sister Ann was born on 12th August 1946, Roderick 'Dick' MacRae arrived in the world, in a house in Rhu, Plockton, the last of six children. Both twins were under 3lbs in weight when they were delivered and were swiftly wrapped up in cotton wool, put in a shoe box and placed in the warm oven compartment of the old stove. 'We were just like little bags of sugar!' says Dick.
- start of a biog article on a Plockton weaver in the Free Press of 3 December

Friday, 24 December 2010

the bible that even atheists worship

The bible that even atheists worship: Four hundred years ago, King James created his own version of the holy book. Andy McSmith discovers that this extraordinary work brings the faithful and non-believers together in appreciation of its dazzling use of language
- Independent, 22 December

Funniest quote:
Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion and perhaps the most potent enemy of Protestant dogma, is another prominent member of the KJV fan club. The King James Bible Trust posted a video of him on YouTube, quoting some of the KJV's "proverbial phrases that echo in people's minds", including "beat their swords into plough shares" and "fallen on stoney ground". He adds: "It's important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource."

Most interesting section:
Although the committees checked everything against the Greek and Hebrew texts, they kept as close as they could to the earlier translations. "There was a reason for that, of course, because new was bad in their time," says David Spriggs. "If it was new, it was trivial. For them, things that had some antiquity had value. The language was archaic, even in 1611. They deliberately copied anachronistic word endings and verbs to give it gravitas, because it was to be read in church." One striking example is the constant use of the word "thou". In first recorded conversation in Genesis – and the earliest known earliest known example of someone passing the buck – Adam told God: "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat." By 1611, it was a resounding insult to address an adult as "thou". In Twelfth Night, Sir Toby Belch offered Sir Andrew Aguecheek this advice on how to insult someone: "Taunt him with the licence of ink; if thou thou'st him some Thrice, it shall not be amiss." When Sir Edward Coke was prosecuting Sir Walter Raleigh for treason in 1603, he railed at him: "Thou Viper; for I thou thee, thou Traitor." Yet in the Bible, people "thou" one another and even "thou" God, causing no offence at all. Many of those famous phrases that have gone into the language were not, therefore, the work of Jacobean scholars, but of those earlier pioneers who risked everything to make the Bible accessible to the English laiety.

crib service; fire service

At noon I, along with the older generation and the younger generation, was at a crib service in Westminster Abbey. We got there in plenty of time, thinking it might be packed out, but it was by no means, and we got very good seats. It turned out to be the first time they'd done it, which may be why it wasn't so busy, not being part of anyone's Christmas traditions. The full-on carol services at places like that and St Paul's are usually turning people away, but I guess they have choirs and all the trimmings, while this was just the organ and us. It was interesting to notice how few of the people I could see were singing, even with such well-known carols.

This evening I noticed the estate street lights weren't on, and on further investigation it turned out that there were two fire engines here, and firemen with torches and breathing apparatus and hoses. It looked like the plant room - boiler? electric? - in the TRA hall next to us was smoking, and the hall was quite smokey too. I went out and took some blurry photos. The firemen were in and out of the hall, but seemed to be waiting to get into the plant room. Well, they've gone now, so I guess all is well.

Later: as I summed it up on Facebook, 'Our day went from attendance at a crib service in Westminster Abbey to fire service in attendance at our community hall.' Douglas said, 'Nice sentence by the way.', and I said, 'yes, I was disproportionately pleased with it.'

boy sopranos, complaint letter reply

Two things from today's Word newsletter:

The carol service from King's College, Cambridge starts with a boy soprano singing "Once In Royal David's City". To avoid undue nerves all the boys practise the solo. With seconds to go the choirmaster points at one of them and he sings.

The Greatest Letter Ever Printed On NFL Team Letterhead: In 1974, a Clevelander wrote the Browns complaining of the menace posed by the then-fad of throwing paper airplanes, and implicitly threatened litigation. The Browns' response is just about the most awesome thing ever committed to paper.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

charles dickens' landfall in london: wood street

London is of course full of Charles Dickens links, both fictional and biographical, but in a leaflet with a guided walk in the City I discovered one I didn't know of just a couple of streets from church, in Wood Street: 'The story of Dickens and London really begins here. The Cross Keys Inn stood at 25 Wood Street and it was here the 10 year-old Charles Dickens arrived in 1822 from Chatham in Kent, by coach "packed in like game' in the damp straw of the coach's upholstery."

Saturday, 18 December 2010

sally thomsett in the railway children

The 'did you know' fact about The Railway Children in the new Radio Times's film preview section is this:
Sally Thomsett was banned from revealing her real age (20) and from drinking and smoking on set because her character was 11.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

all is well with narnia

I am a Christian minister who dislikes Narnia, but I think media attacks on the Voyage of the Dawn Treader film are over the top
Is the new Narnia movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, tantamount to Christian propaganda? Or is it an affront to the faithful, its makers so irreligious and "stupid" that they have destroyed the Christian thinking behind the books? Both, if recent press reaction is to be believed.
- Guardian, 13 December

marking a sea-change in the role of blogs?

Iain Dale to quit blogging: Prominent political commentator says he is tired of online 'backbiting' and wants to focus on mainstream media career
- Guardian, 14 December

isn't science more rational than faith?

In our series examining frequently asked questions about the Christian faith, Alister McGrath answers: Isn't science more rational than faith?
- Alister McGrath article on Christians in Science site, reproduced from EA Idea magazine.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

einstein’s god

Einstein’s God: What did the great physicist really believe about the deity?
- Big Questions Online, 13 December. Big Questions Online is new to me, but link from somewhere reliable. Interesting article.

Monday, 13 December 2010

'delicious for chanukah'

Surprisingly enough, according to Snopes the photos circulating of a shop advertising ham as 'delicious for chanukah' are genuine.