An Ecclesiological Dilemma

On Sunday, I managed to do something that is very in tune with my general klutziness & general inability to be taken anywhere without doing something stupid. I was visiting a church I semi-regularly go to for my own spiritual nourishment (not that I don’t get nourished at my own church, it’s just nice to go somewhere sometimes where you’re not working), and it happened to be a communion service.

I’d never been there for communion before and was intrigued to discover that the bread was pitta bread & you dipped it into the wine. (The dipping was less intriguing, intinction is the method of choice amongst most of the churches I visit.) The elements were passed around the congregation while we sat in our pews and all in all, it was a nice experience. However, as I dipped my pitta bread and raised it to my mouth, the wine dripped – quite considerably – down my top. Well, not down my top, more under my top and absorbed by my (thankfully not white) bra.

Luckily, no one saw what happened (it was at this point that I was very glad we were in our pews). But it struck me that I was now faced with an ecclesiological dilemma…

The elements of communion are very important and are to be treated with respect once they have been blessed. After the service, all the leftover bread and wine has to be eaten. In certain traditions within the church, the only way of disposing of them is eating or burning. And thus I pondered whether I ought to do something about the wine that had gone astray. Obviously, I tweeted:

And obviously, the Anglicans of Twitter responded with ‘helpful’ advice:

Leading to one potentially inappropriate solution:

Twitter chat re wine in bra

In response to those who suggested bra-burning, I suggested perhaps I could endeavour to suck the wine out of my bra (given the cost of Bravissimo underwear, I was reluctant to burn it). Hopefully, that won’t count against me at some point in the future…

My learning points? Black is always a good colour for clothing. (Except when you drop toothpaste down your front.) Pitta bread really isn’t as absorbent as you think it might be – and definitely less absorbent than a communion wafer. On Twitter, you will always find people who know the correct solutions for your ecclesiological dilemmas…

Laying ghosts to rest

Yesterday was Carol Service Sunday – aka a very, very long day in the church calendar that sees early starts, massive mince pie consumption, mulled wine aplenty and plenty of carols. Yesterday also saw me lay to rest a ghost that has bothered me for fourteen years…

When I was an idealistic Sixth Former, I wanted little more in life than a Prefect’s badge. [Ok, who am I trying to kid, I really wanted to be Head Girl.] I got one, and in addition, acquired the visual monstrosity that was the Choir Captain badge – ironically, my co-captain and I fought for several months for a badge that identified our status, once we got them, we refused to wear them except on formal occasions. The job of Choir Captain was essential to be the Music department’s dogsbody – taking choir registers, chivvying no-shows, cataloguing the music library (actually, I chose to do that for funsies). At Christmas, there was a specific role: to prepare and perform with a choir of juniors (known as the Pippin Choir – don’t ask, it’s to do with apples) at the annual concert – this proved to be my first, and until this year, only experience of choir conducting. 
This year, through a chapter of accidents, there was no one available to conduct the Christmas gospel choir at the morning carol service and thus, I think because I am a choir nerd, I was asked if I’d step up. The prospect was terrifying. I can remember little of my Pippin Choir conducting of 1998, other than that I was anxious about the fact that school rules dictated that my shirt had to be tucked into my skirt and thus, I could do little to hide my posterior from the audience. (I was 17, of course that’s what I was concerned about!) I do remember that I wasn’t eager to repeat the process. But thankfully, the church choir was accommodating and all went smoothly yesterday morning, in fact, I rather enjoyed myself.
In action during the rehearsal. 
See the baby? That was the only time he wasn’t watching the conductor, 
he’s going to be a singer for sure! 
However, that wasn’t the only Choir Captain task that was being repeated yesterday. Fourteen years ago, I missed a couple of days of school in order to spend 24 hours being grilled at the University of Cambridge (it did not go well). The night I arrived home, I received a message saying that, as Choir Captain, I’d been picked to sing the Once in Royal solo that would begin the school carol service the following morning. I was rather proud and excited, but partly thanks to nerves and an absence of rehearsal, when it came to the service I fluffed the high notes and was mortified. 
It says something about my personality that I’ve held on to my failure in this performance for nearly half of my life. (I’m also virtually certain that no one who was there remembers my error at all.) In fact, I could probably tell you of every single mistake I’ve ever made in my not particularly impressive solo singing career – in fact I did tell you about one I took five years to recover from. I possibly ought to look into this. Occasionally, there have been opportunities to redeem myself, but they’re rare. Sometimes, such redemptive opportunities take fourteen years to come along…
Last week I was asked to sing Once in Royal at the start of the evening carol service (and only because the other contenders were already down to sing solos in the rest of the service). I said I’d think about it, genuinely considering refusing because of what had happened all those years ago. In the end, I agreed, but was racked with nerves as the clock ticked towards 6pm last night. Screwing up the opening of the biggest service of the year was just not an option. 
Never have I been more pleased that I’m no longer the angst-ridden 17 year old I once was. Last night, I held my nerve, remembered to breathe and successfully hit the high notes. Four simple lines of music were sung and a ghost was lain to rest. 
This is not me blowing my own trumpet. I didn’t really care what people thought of my singing, what mattered was that I proved to myself that I could do it. That I didn’t give in to my fear. That I didn’t let myself believe that I couldn’t do it. I don’t need to do it again (though I probably will be at Wednesday’s service). It is done.
The moral of this story is simple: just because you got something wrong at the age of 17 doesn’t mean that you’ll still get it wrong when you’re 31…

Fractionally Festive Friday Fun

As it’s December, I will finally allow myself to share some of the festive fun that’s accumulated over the last few weeks. (Don’t think I take this blogging business seriously, there are rules people!! Yes, they’re entirely of my own making, but it’s always nice to have structure…)

Firstly, Advent season means that it’s absolutely ok to be listening to Mariah Carey on a regular basis. There are many interpretations of her Christmas classic, but the version below is beautiful in many, many ways:
1. She’s singing live and virtually a cappella, which is an impressive feat and just goes to show that whatever else Mariah may bring to the table, she has a pretty amazing voice.
2. There are children’s instruments providing much of the accompaniment.
3. There are children singing. (And one of them is wearing cute headgear.)

Before you accuse me of being rather secular in my Christmas fun, to counterbalance Mariah, here’s the ever-lovely Swingle Singers singing O Holy Night. Regular and truly devoted readers might recall that two years ago I posted a video of this arrangement performed by the Swingles at my old church. As carol service Sunday approaches, I am grieving the absence of the St Mary’s carol service spectacular in my life, and watching this enables me to imagine for just a few moments that I’m sat on a stage, the smell of evergreen and candles all around, and that lovely singing men in lovely jumpers are right in front of me. (Plus, the video’s filmed on Hampstead Heath which was the destination of choice for family Christmas walks when I was a child. The whole thing is Christmas in a nutshell.)

Finally on the Christmas front, it would be wrong not to point you towards the 42 worst nativity sets – particularly as countless people have sent the link my way, given the family’s obsession with nativities. I did mention it last year, but this year there are a few new ones, the most notable of which has to be the Tampon Nativity…

Tampon Nativity

Fear not! You can make one yourself – full instructions can be found on the Tampon Crafts website (tagline: “for any time of the month”, the hilarity). There, you can also learn how to create a whole lot of Christmas crafts (snowflakes, bells, lights…) plus a few less Christmassy creations, like a tampon blowgun; iTampon; and truly disturbing heart earrings. Personally, feminine hygiene products are pricey enough without buying additional ones for craft purposes, but maybe if you’ve got a stash that need using (e.g. you’ve recently entered the menopause or acquired a MoonCup), perhaps it’s worth exploring?

This leads us nicely into the realm of non-Christmassy fun (after all, there are still 3 Sundays left in Advent). This morning, I’ve discovered possibly the most British corner of the internet – a combination of the tube map, the shipping forecast and a cup of tea:

Finally, some fun that is slightly more niche than usual. Many, many months ago, I had my first experience of eating snails – in fact, it will probably be my only experience of eating snails. It was at the start of our Easter trip to Chateau Duffy and four of us had a somewhat epic night out on the cobbles of Montmartre. At around bottle of wine three or possibly four, I was persuaded to sample escargot – an achievement given that I’ve always had fussy eater tendencies (though these have diminished considerably over the last three years). A friend filmed it, and I finally got my hands on a copy of the video last night, when their presence in my flat enabled us to AirDrop the rather large file. It’s a little long, because snails are tricky creatures to release from their shells, so if you just want the image of my face while I’m chewing it, go to around the 2.50 mark…

I feel I should apologise for some of the language used by my fellow diners. It’s also worth looking out for the hot beardy French man sat at the next table…

I suspect that as we draw nearer to Christmas, Friday Fun will increase in its festiveness, but for now, I think it’s good to remember that there’s more to life than Christmas insanity.

The etiquette of getting into a car, as a lady…

Living in London, one doesn’t spend a lot of time in cars. I spend a lot of time at bus stops, on buses, in tube trains and pounding the pavements, but in cars? Not so much.

Apparently, travelling in a car is such a novelty in my life that I no longer know how to use them properly. (As a passenger, obviously. I still have no clue as to how a car is driven.) Let me demonstrate this, by sharing an utterly mortifying story from today…

My friend Shannon has use of a hire car this week, which is jolly exciting and meant that I was transported from a Sunday lunch gathering to a Matryroshka Haus communications meeting without the need of public transport. The car was parked in Canary Wharf and I was left to get into the car by myself while Shannon and Andy went to sort out paying for the parking.

The lift to the car park provided an excellent opportunity for a continuation of my reflective photography obsession.

I opened the front passenger door, pulled the lever to move the seat out of the way and attempted to climb into the backseat. I put the lack of space in which to do this down to my own ineptitude at dealing with car seats, and struggled on, thanking the heavens that no one was witnessing my acrobatics. Once launched into the car, my bottom didn’t quite make the seat and I ended up briefly wedged in the gap between the front and back seats. Thankfully I managed to right myself and by the time my friends returned, I was buckled in and happily munching Minstrels.

As they got into the car, I started to share my exploits – but hadn’t got very far when Shannon opened a door at the back of the driver’s side and I realised that her hire car wasn’t a 3 door as I’d presumed but a 5 door with incredibly accessible backseats. I burst out laughing and told my sorry tale. I was laughed at and then informed that at least those watching the security cameras would have got a laugh.

This is indeed true and reminded me of a video I spotted this morning which is a feelgood little something with which to kick off the new week:

I’m not sure why this video is named ‘Shocking’ – it isn’t shocking at all, simply a glimpse of the nicer things in life that security cameras pick up. Big Brother isn’t always bad…

Liz the Licking Vicar – an explanation

The quest to see become a reality has gathered some pace of late. (i.e. Some important questions have finally been answered, after early September’s dilemmas.) Today, my web designer and I had a meeting at the Royal Festival Hall, working out the answers to some key queries – like colours, banner photos and fonts.

Testing out a font that works perfectly, but may prove to be rather pricey. It’s the website creator’s Macbook & text…

Posting this image on Facebook elicited an exchange that drew to my attention my neglect of the ‘licking vicar’ story. So let me make amends…

Back in April, when we returned to Chateau Duffy for our Easter sojourn, we were graced with Chef Richard’s presence and his amazing culinary creations. One such delight was a dessert accompanied by a particularly yummy cream confection. After scraping my bowl with my spoon, the friend sat opposite me issued a challenge: she would lick her bowl clean if I did too – just so she didn’t feel bad about it. No problem! I duly picked up my bowl, stuck my face in and got to work. I have no shame.

For some reason, no one noticed Rachel the Challenger participating in this activity, yet nearly everyone saw my antics, laughed heartily and took photos. [Sadly the photos taken by someone on my own camera were amongst the few that remained lost even after The Great Memory Card Disaster was resolved.] It resulted in my being awarded the moniker “the licking vicar”, which, in this circle of friends has stuck. When I saw some of this crew in Texas, they wasted little time in sharing the nickname with others – which is slightly unfortunate, given that any mention of it requires immediate explanation.

Needless to say, no matter what the above photo suggests, the licking vicar will not have any place in my new website’s tag line!

Doing a Liz & recreating the Licking Vicar moment on the last night of Chateau Duffy #2.