Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Just another Tuesday?

Tuesdays tend to be good days. It must be something to do with being shower day. I had a really slow start this morning. I did NOT want to get up; it's an effort to heave myself onto the shower-chair and so on. However, with a bit of encouragement and more help from Jane, it's worth it.

And today we thought we'd go in to Oxford, first to go to Lidls. What a good shop! No musac, just peace and quiet, genuinely nice and helpful assistants, and of course cheap food. We did a big food shop there, including sandwiches, drink and fruit salad for lunch. We wondered about going to Shotover Hill for lunch, as we wanted to go to Headington afterwards, but instead we headed for Garsington where we'd never been before, but I'd heard about in connection with the annual opera productions that happen at the Manor. And somewhere in the recesses of my memory I recalled Lady Ottoline Morel and the Bloomsbury group. We didn't venture into the manor, but parked by the rather feeble green and had our lunch, sharing the fruit salad from the same pot, watching two jackdaws mobbing a crow on a chimney pot. Their impressive dive-bombing eventually forced it to fly off. Presumably they had a nest in the chimney.

Then we drove through Horspath to our ultimate destination, the art exhibition at Headington Baptist Church - part of Oxfordshire Art Weeks - Site 138. Jane is a friend of Sarah Lomas who arranged it. It's a wonderful light and airy space. I can't begin to describe it all, but we could easily have spent much longer than the two hours we were there. Here are some of the pictures I took on Jane's mobile.

The first thing you see as you enter is a free-standing stained-glass window with the word 'Remember' at the bottom. I counted the stones in the obelisk-shaped pile. There are twelve, and I suspect it alludes to the story of the Jews crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land (Joshua chapter 4).

Once you get inside, the first thing you see is two free-standing opened doors which form a sort of journey from the outside flowing towards the church's centrepiece which is a contemporary wood and metal cross, flanked by 'Holy holy - God Almighty'. There are so many details in the whole installation that it would destroy it to dissect it - but there are cocoons, caterpillars and butterflies, fish swimming up the river, birds on the tree of life, old clothes and on the rear of the first door a new twist to the old story of the rebellious son and the bag of nails.

In the corner behind the doors are a series of actual pillars of stones,  each with a line from the Bible or worship song round it. The guide tells you these were decorated and verses chosen by members of the church's home groups. In fact quite a bit of the art work is done by church groups, as well as individuals. 

But that of course is not the whole exhibition. Round the walls are paintings, photo- graphs, and poems. This is one of my favourites. I think it's called Under the shadow of His wings. It reminds me of the Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, God's Grandeur, about the way humans ruin the beauty of the natural world, 'but for all this Nature is never spent... because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and, ah, bright wings.'
There's one sculpture in the exhibition: two figures surrounded by licking waves and a rescuing hand reaching down, one is safe, the other climbing on. It reminded me of Psalm 40. One of the Chronicles tells us it's a personal statement of finding security in God.
We almost missed one of the exhibition's highlights, which are The Chronicles of HBC, not as you might imagine the history of the church, but snapshots of the spiritual journeys of more than 100 church members, individually bound (in card made of rhino dung!). We didn't find one we thought boring. 

Well, as you gather, I continue to be blown away by the experience. It wasn't all 'high art', but neither was it tacky community art. I think the best description I could find for it is worship. It's there until Sunday. I highly recommend it - but do give yourself time, unlike the two Oxford ladies who blew in - and out - with the comment, 'It's charming!' No, ladies, it's MUCH more than that.

On a mundane level they provide coffee and rather good home-made cakes as well. On an even more mundane level, I have to report that the disabled loo in the bowels of the building is better appointed than the one in the multi-million new Ashmolean Museum!

As we weren't keen to get caught in Oxford's rush-hour traffic, we tore ourselves away and headed home - to find a package from Australia awaiting us. It was a cd from my adopted kid sister, Louise, entitled 'Mix for Michael'. Wow! What a treat! A journey with one of my best friends saying, 'Do you know this one? I love it - I think you will too.' And it's a journey into the unknown, as I knew only two of the songs. At the moment I'm listening to 'Answer' by Sarah McLaghlan. Yes!!! It is just like walking through a landscape with someone and finding you have so much in common. Pure delight.

And then in the evening the political news began breaking: Gordon Brown was resigning as Prime Minister, David Cameron was going to be invited to form a government, which would probably be in coalition with the LibDems. I've been increasingly impressed by Mr Brown - which is saying a lot, as I already thought him an unusually principled and effective prime minister. I am very glad he was in charge at the time of the bank melt-down. He was the man for the moment - and I trust history will record how much the nation, if not the world, owes to his decisive intervention. I believe he also led in debt reduction for the developing nations. He admitted his 'frailties', but personally I admire his instincts and his courage. I have often thought him like Landseer's Stag at Bay, with the press out to get him, like slavering hounds, whipped in by unaccountable media moguls.
But there we go. I actually think that the present arrangement could be not a bad answer, for the moment. If David Cameron means what he says about prioritising the elderly and vulnerable in society - 'looking after those who can't do' - and if the Lib Dems and his party keep him to it, well, good on him. And as for Gordon, he's fought his battles - wasn't it interesting how much, after announcing his resignation, 'now the politics are over', he talked about the troops in Afghanistan and their grieving families. Was there a sense of identification with them, I wondered? I thought the pictures of the Brown family walking down Downing Street to the cars waiting to take them to the palace were touching.         
    I really wish him and them well.

1 comment:

  1. I fully agree re Gordon Brown, glad you had a good day.