Little Cherub

The thing that I like about blogging is that it is almost cyclic. I read people’s posts. I often “like” them, as much to show my appreciation that somebody took the trouble to write. And, now and again, the subject matter sparks thoughts of a post of my own. Here is one such subject.

I had a period as a youngster when I was in a choir. It started very innocuously. My Junior school announced that such-and-such a church choir was looking for new members. I was about nine.

Hitherto, my religion had been limited to Sunday School, where my mum and auntie both taught. Church of England [C of E, Protestant]. Of course, at that age I had never considered the big questions on religion – I’m sure we all must come to them sooner or later, but not at nine. The choir happened to be at my local church, also C of E, with which I had no previous association.

I settled in, but it was hard to go somewhere new at that age. One of the older boys took me under his wing. He was quite unusual, a few times he would even argue with the choirmaster, an adult! (Shock, horror!) One practise, he even stormed out! But gradually I made a space for myself, made my own friends, and so on. It also prompted my parents to get involved with that church. I can look back and see it as quite sexist, but that’s how things were in the mid-Seventies. My mum helped make the coffee at the end of each Sunday service. My dad became a sidesman. I note the “man” bit – I don’t think there were any sideswomen, although the job only entailed handing hymn books out to people on arrival. But again, that’s how things were in the Seventies.

Gradually I progressed in the choir, moved up in the world. The choir had almost a ranking system. A light blue ribbon on the cassock (which we wore for services), then a dark blue ribbon, and so on. I think each ribbon gained a slightly larger “salary”, for we were paid to sing. But pennies each time, so much so that we were only paid every quarter or so, a few pounds. Weddings were the big money-spinner because couples getting married presumably paid a fee for the choir and we would get a few pounds every weekend during wedding season (almost always summer), just as long as we were able to make it on a Saturday afternoon.

The longer I stayed in the choir, the more I got to know people. The vicar was an old Irish guy. It was probably really because I was an obnoxious child, but we never really hit it off. I got on much better with his deputy, Jim, and was very upset when Jim died a few years in.

My involvement with that church probably even got me into secondary school, which was also church-affiliated. They were pre-disposed to give places to boys with a C of E background, although it was a grammar school so there was a large element of academic ability too.

To be honest I find it difficult to remember all the ins and outs. Certainly, on the “ins” side, I took myself as far as being confirmed. Confirmation is a process in the C of E where you actually affirm your commitment to the church, but as an adult, as opposed to just being baptised as an infant. I must’ve been early teens, still way too young. There should be a minimum age of eighteen, say, for this kind of stuff.

And I kept going in the choir, eventually becoming the head chorister. I don’t know how good I was, but I remember when a group of six or seven churches got together for some festival or other, I was asked to perform a solo. And again I was parachuted in to sing a solo for the church that my auntie was involved with. I guess I must’ve been pretty good, but it’s like any kind of natural talent – you just take it for granted and don’t realise that you have anything special. I know now that other people thought I had something special, but I just took it in my stride.

But at the same time, I began to see the church as very exclusive. Love thy neighbour – just as long as they’re one of us. It was not lost on me that these people followed scriptures which taught one thing, but who lived their lives according to something else. I came to view them as an insular group of people patting each other on the back. It’s a feeling I’ve had about the Church of England ever since. Again, it is quite possible that my memory is faulty here, but we tend to forget facts, not feelings, and I’m certainly able to remember that I was, in time, able to feel and express my own dissent.

Indeed, just a couple of years ago I was told that my live-and-let-live attitude (which I talk about here), which I’ve held for much of my adult life and regard as eminently reasonable, would send me straight to the burning fires of hell. By a christian, I have no idea where, or what denomination. So much for mutual tolerance, but it did reassure me that the view I’d formed all those years ago was sound.

But back in the day I was altogether coarser, and my experiences with the church just triggered an anti-religion sentiment. Especially at an age where we start to question everything anyway. But the end of my involvement, when it came, was no big bust-up. I retired as gracefully as possible once my voice started breaking. By that age, I was far more interested in going to watch soccer in any case, something which probably destroyed what little voice I had left.

At that point, I fast forward to the late 1990s, for dad had stayed involved with the church until his health gave way. Within a few years, even mum was unable to cope and dad moved into a nursing home. By that time, he’d have had some association with them for more than twenty years. Only one of his former sidesmen friends, a lovely old chap called Ian, ever visited. When dad died in 2012, I told the church but nobody came to the funeral. Short memories.

My experience in the choir ultimately turned me off religion for several years, and it’s only really as an adult that I’ve taken a more rounded view that if somebody feels better for adopting a religion, then good for them. But at the same time, they can count me out.

The John Lennon/Elton John song is wonderfully appropriate here:







Anniversaries

It is Friday once again, and Fandango has unveiled his Friday Flashback. He just uses this as an opportunity to repost something that he first posted on this day in some year gone by. Just to give more of a flavour of the person behind the name. Or, he could be a Russian bot, you decide!

Anyway, it’s a great idea so I try to follow suit. Certainly when I started blogging back at the start of 2017, I wrote purely for myself, when I felt like it. So you won’t be surprised to learn that I don’t have anything from the actual day.

In fact, my post today was first posted on November 6, 2017, almost a week later. It is only interesting because, two years down the line, I had those exact same thoughts just the other day, I could have written that exact same post yesterday (if I’d been bothered!).

Especially with my background as a cyclist, I learned to push myself. There is always farther to go. Or faster, or whatever. There is always some way in which I can improve. In fact I have to be very conscious of the flip-side to this, i.e. realising (or rather, not realising) when I accomplished some big deal.

But I could rewrite my post word for word. I’m generally of an age where I’m settled in my body. I am what I am. I’ll think things through for myself, and if people like my view on a particular subject, fine. If they don’t, fine.

And yet, this aspect of how other people perceive me was a factor then, and is frankly a factor still. I’ve kind-of accepted that, for me, the stroke will always be there, that there will always be farther to go, but getting to the point where nobody else notices is a definite milestone, something to aim for. I know it will happen bit-by-bit, because for lots of things, already, no-one would ever know. It’s a milestone in itself to realise that while stroke might be front-and-centre for me, it isn’t for anyone else.

But I’m my own worst enemy for seeing progress. I see myself every day, if there is any progress, it is backwards! as I do one dumb thing after another. That was the single most important reason for blogging in the first place – to record progress with that all-important little timestamp in the corner. But, for most of us, life is just one dumb thing after another, so am I any different? I wonder if you, or anyone even, would see any progress between then and now?

Interesting also that I talk about memory, and it is true that some people can walk you through their stroke minute-by-minute. I couldn’t and can’t. I can piece together dates by looking at a calendar, but I don’t bother. I know I was admitted on a Wednesday, and that they ballsed-up my admission, as I describe in the post. When you think that the NHS is brilliant, think again. Your experience might have been good, but it’s not across-the-board. It was just before Valentine’s – because I gently teased a young nurse. I was in about five weeks, all told. Among my nurses were two Italians. I wonder what happened to them, because of Brexit? They certainly don’t work on the ward any more. A casual observer might point out that nurses are the type of people we can least afford to lose…

But, you see, none of this is important now. It’s all past and I have other tenses to concentrate on.

Stroke Survivor

A mate of mine (both online and real-life) posted today that it was the sixth anniversary of his stroke. He hides the effects well, although he says that even now, every day is a struggle somehow. I suspect it will always be so.

It kind of makes me think, “how do people perceive me?” I mean, if I’m just sitting there having a coffee, it’d probably take a keen observer to work out that I was only using one arm. I suppose when I’m moving about it is far more obvious, as I walk both jerkily and with a limp. I lose my balance quite easily (but am able to take remedial steps). I’d expect this to get smoother over time. And hopefully I’ll be able to use the arm for more.

Interesting also that he has a clear memory of when his stroke was. Lots of people do…

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Tricky Treat Trends

Ah, Trick or Treat is over for another year. Let me re-cap.

Number of people calling for Trick or Treat 2019 0
Number of people calling for Trick or Treat 2018 0
Number of people calling for Trick or Treat 2017 0

I guess being on the edge of a village has its merits – any children in search of candy walk in the other direction!

But secretly, I am happy. For, when my daughter was little – and not so little – I would not let her take part. Every year, she asked. Every year, I refused.

Trick or treat. The notion that you go up to some stranger, and that you’ll do something nasty to them unless they give you something nice. Possibly I am old-fashioned, but it just seems the wrong value to instill into a child. You should be nice to people, period. So it sounds suspiciously like a threat to me. It’s only candy. Fine, but when you want to teach your children how best to conduct themselves, principles are important. Only doesn’t really come into it.

There again, perhaps that’s why I was such a blistering success as a father? I’ve posted about my daughter before. I won’t go into it again, but suffice it to say that when it came to child-rearing, I was very much graded Z– by my daughter. So I suppose Grumpy Old Sod is another option.

My wife and I do, however, buy a small supply of candy, just in case anybody knocks on the door. I never wanted my child taking part, but if other people allow theirs, that’s for them. I doubt that many people even think twice. It’s never a great expense because the supermarkets always have fun-size specials at this time of year, plus we have no particular preference regarding the actual treat we buy – cheapest available will do. I think it was Skittles this year. And I guess we get to eat the leftovers ourselves 🍰 🍰 🍰 🍰 🍰