Mar. 28th, 2012 10:28 pm
stapsdoes101things: '101' superimposed on a rose window (101church)
Violets and Nutshells

I spent the weekend with a group from my church at Ladywell Convent in Godalming - about ten miles from home, and a world away from my day-to-day life. I didn't envisage going with church, having had it in my head that it was something I'd have to do alone, but actually it was a great group and we got on very well. It was a beautiful weekend to do it, and I've returned feeling thoroughly refreshed and generally positive in ways that are very difficult to explain.

Here, shamelessly copy/pasted from my personal journal, are some things I learned:

- I can get there from the wrong side of London in under two hours;
- Jeffrey John is awesome;
- the thing in my head that tells me that nobody likes me and the people that claim to love me are either deluded and lying is a bad thing, and is itself lying. It looks like a tapeworm.
- Julian of Norwich knew what she was talking about.
- sometimes it is a really good idea to take a box of tissues in with you to the Eucharist;
- nuns actually do conduct their lives to the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein;
- I do not need to be so afraid of myself;
- I do not need to assume that, just because I want something, it must be bad for me;
- I do not need to be so afraid of other people;
- even bad art can be effective;
- the difference between this weekend and others was not that I didn't do much, but that I didn't feel guilty about not doing very much...

Completed. I must do this again.
stapsdoes101things: '101' superimposed on a rose window (101church)
Church = Theatre

February in our church is a month of mixed frustration, curiosity and wonder. It's the month when the Guildford Shakespeare Company moves in and transforms the building into a theatre. For three weeks the vestry is full of velvet and lace and metal crates, choir practice happens in the parish hall, huge lights appear in unexpected places, and half the church is inaccessible. Seventeenth century English crops up a lot. Depending on the sort of church you're used to, some of that might be normal. Some of it, not so much. It is all par for the course when every day of those three weeks, Sundays excepted, is going to see a performance of some Shakespearean tragedy.

Anyway, I do make a point of going to the performances. (I keep meaning to go to GSC's summer performances, too, which are outdoors, but I've never yet got round to it.) This year's tragedy is Richard III, a play I had a passing acquaintance with. (Read it twice, spent a couple of hours teaching time on it at university, seen the Ian McKellan film.) This was a convincing performance, set in goodness knows when (Richmond appears in desert combats and a pristine white trench coat crawling with gold braid, sometimes both at the same time) and that not mattering at all.

What struck me particularly this time round was the extent to which Richard makes the audience complicit in his plot - and it is his plot, in more ways than one. He is the only person who seems to be able to tell us what is going on in this twisted mess of Woodvilles and Plantagenets, and so we cling to him almost gratefully, no matter that we know exactly who he is and what he's in it for. (Except, of course, we don't.) Because, to tell the truth, none of the other characters is a paragon of virtue, not until they're dead. Even the young Duke of York is a horrible little brat.

And then Richard loses us. He has to, and then poor old Richmond has to do his best not to look like a deus ex machina. In this performance it happened in the scene with Buckingham and the crowd (enter Richard between two priests and all that). It was clever. They made us the crowd. It's all very well to watch other people being manipulated, but when it's happening to you, and you can see it happening, they tend to lose your sympathy.

If it sounds as if this was all about Richard, well, it was, really. He was made, as I've hinted, a very engaging character - a relatively young actor, with a wonderfully twisted sense of fun about him. After him Queen Margaret stands out most in my mind, and then Elizabeth Woodville. (There is, after all, a small advantage to female underrepresentation, and those two really are fantastic characters. I would love there to be more about Margaret.)

The church setting lends itself very well to use as a theatre. Though it's two hundred years later than Shakespeare, the subtle (and occasionally not so subtle) use of the church fixtures and decorations works helpfully to frame the action within the Christian-centric society that Shakespeare portrays. (I will be impressed, though, if they ever do Antony and Cleopatra in there.)

In other news, I've just received the programme for the retreat I'll be going on in March. It looks good. And I had a solo verse in a responsorial psalm on Sunday.


Jul. 18th, 2011 02:10 pm
stapsdoes101things: '101' superimposed on a stylised picture of a teapot (Default)
4 June 2011

I've been making odd bits of progress here and there. I've crossed off a few goals and not written them up. I'm plodding on with some ongoing ones. A couple have more or less stalled for the moment.

Writing them up has been problematic because I always like to put in a photo. However, my desktop computer has reached the end of its useful life (useful as a computer, I mean, rather than as a coffee table) and this little netbook is no use at all for sorting photos out. So, rather than wait and wait, here's a summary of what I've managed to do, and maybe I'll do proper posts with photos at a later date.

- I've tentatively booked myself on a retreat organised by some people at church. It will be taking place early next year and is on the theme of Silence. I've also picked up a leaflet from our local retreat centre and may go along to something there. (Goal 2)
- Um, I might have got slightly tipsy on Saturday and sung Moon River with the jazz band at [ profile] angelil's wedding reception. I don't think anyone was actually listening (just as well) but this still counts for Goal 7.
- I've written a funeral plan (Goal 18)
- I entered a competition in a magazine to win a plate of rubber stamps. (Goal 47)
- I listened to two Proms concerts yesterday - the organ recital by Stephen Farr and Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony. (Goal 58
- I've spent quite a lot of time in London recently and, over the space of two visits, spent a couple of hours in the British Museum. I spent the first visit looking round this exhibition. I have to say, most of the reliquaries didn't do much for me, feeling extravagant, creepy, or both, but I did like the Roman section and the part about pilgrimage. The next weekend, I looked at the exhibition of clocks and watches, and glanced around the Medieval room. But really, there's so much there that it would take a lifetime to see the lot. (Goal 73)
- I've made a finger labyrinth out of air-drying clay. It's dry now, but I think it wants some kind of paint or varnish. I'm not sure what yet; I'm waiting for inspiration to strike. (Goal 75)
- I watched The Way; I'd like to see it in the cinema, though. Goal 79)
- You'll see from the photo above that I've begun work on exploring my square mile. I've marked it out on the A-Z and walked down a few of the streets. This is another one for which I really need a working camera, though. (Goal 86)
- I have bought a monocle. Yes, there will be pictures. May I recommend I Need Spex, who not only produced the damn thing to my prescription, but, when they did it for the wrong eye, sorted it out very quickly and politely. (Goal 100)

- Due to computer problems explained above, Project 365 has stalled for the moment. I intend to restart on my birthday. (Goal 8)
- I haven't really been keeping track of my depression, mainly because I've not been depressed for a while. So that's good. (Goal 19)
- I'm not sure what's going on with my watch. I got its battery changed, and it worked for a while, but now it keeps stopping and starting. I think I shall have to mark this as uncompleted again. (Goal 89)

- I am going to change Goal 76, because it's just not happening, and when it is I'm not enjoying it. But that does deserve a post to itself.
stapsdoes101things: '101' superimposed on a rose window (101church)
Buckfast Abbey Church

What's this about?

The term retreat, says old friend Wikipedia, has several related meanings, all of which have in common the notion of safety or temporarily removing oneself from one's usual environment in order to become immersed in a particular subject matter. A retreat can be taken for reasons related to spirituality, stress, health, lifestyle, or social or ecological concerns. In particular, I'm thinking of the spiritual sort of retreat: getting away from my everyday life, spending some time in prayer, perhaps with other people, perhaps alone, on an organised retreat.

Why do I want to do this?

The photograph above shows Buckfast Abbey Church; I took it on a snowy day in 2005, when I was on retreat with the Methodist and Anglican Society of Exeter University. It was a fantastic experience, a relaxed weekend with friends coupled with a serious spirituality. The thing is, I haven't been on retreat since. The other thing is, I was on the committee at the time, and had taken on responsibility for catering for the whole group - so it wasn't quite as stress-free as I'd have liked.

I want to go on retreat again. Five years is a long time to go without doing something I know is worthwhile. I'd also like to leave the stress to someone else.

How will I know when it's done?

I'll have spent at least seven hours at a religious retreat organised by somebody else.

I'll record this in a post on this journal.

August 2013

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