Do you need my friend Gaz’s services?

Close-up photograph of coffee beans.

As some of you will already know, I have some friends. One of them, also called Gareth (although he usually goes by the name of Gaz) also appeared in a book that I’m in. What are the chances of that?!

Anyway, Gaz sent me an email today, that I thought would be better sharing with all you lovely people out there in Internet Land.

As some of you will already know, last month I got a new job. Hooray! But as some of you also know, it turned out to be absolutely nothing like I thought it would be. Boo!

As a result, I chose to call it a day there and then rather than struggle on indefinitely doing something I neither liked nor wanted to learn in a situation I was extremely uncomfortable with.

But, enough moaning! That’s not why I’m emailing you!

I’ve decided that as I couldn’t find the right job for me, I’d make the right job instead. Therefore I have now set myself up as a freelance copyeditor / writer / proofreader / web designer, and am just doing what all freelancers probably do to start off with – tap their mates for work!

I’ve been in touch with some of you already, but I now have my official details sorted out, so thought I’d pass them on in the hope that in turn if you hear of anything, you can pass them on. My work email address is:

[email protected]

And my website can be found here:

http://www.caffeinefreelance.co.uk

On there are details of my experience, more contact details, and services I can offer. I’m happy to tackle pretty much anything from basic document and content editing to writing commisioned articles, so if you do hear of anything or have any leads then I’d be really grateful if you could let me know.

So there you have it, from Gaz himself. Via my blog. Who knows, maybe someone out there is thinking right now, “If only I knew of a freelance writer in Edinburgh…”

Stranger things have happened. Like the time that I sent out an email in May 2003 to my friend Geoff saying hello and we’ve moved to Edinburgh … just at the same time that Geoff was sitting at his PC thinking “I wish I knew just one more contact in Edinburgh, then I could accommodate the Russian choir that I’m touring round the UK”.

This weekend

This weekend began with a fairly relaxed Friday evening, sitting in bed watching Green Wing. In bed because (1) upstairs was the warmest part of the house, and (2) the small colour portable TV isn’t trying to show us Landsdækkende kommerciel TV kanal.

Moving house

Martin and Gareth moving a bed.
Not quite Pickfords, but definitely cheaper!

On Saturday morning (-ish!) we drove down to Edinburgh to help Jane’s sister Soo and husband Martin to move house. Martin is Soo’s husband, just to clear things up, not Jane’s. That’s me.

The photo above shows Martin and I removing the last remaining item of our furniture from 54 Drum Brae Park en route to its new life in the flat that Soo and Martin are moving out of. It’s complicated, I won’t bore you with the details.

Family time

Eddie and Owen on the sofa.
Eddie tests out his new ventriloquist’s dummy, Oscar.

Just around the time that we felt that we’d probably helped enough — which coincided nicely with a quick trip to PC World (“Where in the world?!”) while Jane nipped next door and bought two McFlurrys at the McDonalds ‘drive-thru’! — we nicked off and visited my brother Eddie and his family for the rest of the evening.

Church

The congregation of St James, Leith
The congregation of St James, Leither. They were very patient while I took this photograph. From their website.

While we were still living in Edinburgh back in the first quarter of 2006 Jane and I said that if I didn’t get a job and we were renting in Edinburgh then we’d start attending St James the Less, Leith.

Of course, we don’t live in Edinburgh now, but this morning was a perfect opportunity to go along anyway. And how I wish we lived closer to Edinburgh now. We both loved the service. It was informal, but structured; it was relaxed, yet intensely focused on God; it was musical and arty, but not pretentiously so; it was personal, and also a community event.

The church building in which the congregation meet was originally the hall, I think. But it was decorated for the Easter season, in vibrant yellows, with wine glasses painted on shelves (“I am the vine, and you are the branches”), and something arty and wonderful hanging from the ceiling above the altar, which is in the centre of the room.

Walking through the doors (which have handles on the outside, which I pulled only to discover that you need to push these ones!) we discovered a table with various sheets and a hymn book on. As we started to help ourselves, an older woman got up from her chair and came over to speak to us. She introduced herself, and another man who came over, and told us which books we needed, and apologized that there was no-one on the door yet. But we were early. We arrived at 10:15, believing that the service began at 10:30, but seemingly they “gather” at 10:30 and start at 10:45.

What a difference worshipping “in the round” makes. No more ‘us’ and ‘them’. Readings and intercessions are done from where people are sitting. The person giving the talk stood in the middle and walked us through a presentation of his attendance at a friend’s funeral in Botswana last weekend. It was rich and moving and intimate and spoke of love. It was unusual, but there ought to be more unusual in the world, and in the church.

I felt at home at St James’s this morning. We may return there more often.

BBQ

Neil Costley pulling a funny face.
Is it a bird? Is it the pain? No, it’s Neil Costley.

After an unsuccessful attempt to buy lunch — although to be fair we didn’t try very hard. Jane said, “I’ve got £20” but then we completely failed to visit any shop that sold food — I bought a new suit at Slater Menswear at 100 George Street, who I have to say have the nicest, most friendly staff in the world.

A bit of trivia: one of the women who works there, her husband is the guitarist for the metal band Holocaust; Metallica covered their song The Small Hours on their $5.98 EP in 1987.

Then it was time for the Powerpoint barbeque. A great end to a great weekend, and also to a great season of Powerpoint events (the Christian youth event I’ve been playing guitar at for a few years).

At one point someone was wandering around carrying a wicker basket of banoffee cheesecake. It was like something from an advert that might go along the lines of: “If Carlsburg made Feeding of the 5,000s, they’d probably be the best Feeding of the 5,000s in the world!”

A big, un-narcissistic hello to all the lovely people at the BBQ who said that they read my blog / blob / blurb!

And now I’m back in Cellardyke, and Jane is tucked up in bed in Edinburgh. That’s the only thing about this great new life: Jane isn’t here half the time.

Life and death with Mozart

Cover of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's Mozart 250 concert programme, showing multicoloured images of Mozart's portrait.

Last night Jane and I drove down to Edinburgh to hear the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the SCO Chorus performing two of my favourite pieces of music by Mozart: Ave Verum Corpus K618 and Requiem. We left shortly after I arrived home from work, and got back very late, hence no blog post yesterday.

Ave Verum Corpus is a piece that I’ve performed with the National Youth Choir of Great Britain on numerous occasions. But I never tire of it. It always remains for me mystical and magical. And probably other words beginning with ‘m’.

Ave verum Corpus
natum de Maria Virgine:
Vere passum immolatum
in cruce pro homine:
Cujus latus perforatum
unda fluxit et sanguine:
Esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.

Hail true body
born of Virgin Mary:
Truly suffering
in crucifixion for mankind:
From whose wounded side
flowed water and blood:
This we pray:
test us in Death

Last night as I sat in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, listening to the SCO Chorus, memories of NYC courses and old and loved friends came rushing back, that brought a tear or two to my eyes.

The orchestra and chorus were conducted by Andrew Manze. I’m not going to pretend that I knew who he was; anything that I do know is gleaned from the biographical notes in the programme. But what I can say is that I warmed to him immensely during the one moment that he spoke with the audience, following the Ave Verum Corpus, introducting Eybler’s Symphony in D (c.1795).

Manze’s passion and enthusiam for Mozart and his (perhaps) protégé Eybler was infectious. He spoke with such warmth about Eybler, explaining his influence in Vienna following the death of Mozart and later Salieri, and the part he played in shaping the likes of Beethoven and Schubert. He brought their stories alive.

The performance of Symphony in D was, according to Manze, possibly its UK debut, and I loved it. It was a strong and courageous piece, bursting into life from the start, with echoes of the great Mozart (of course!), but also fun and lively.

An interval stood between Eybler and Mozart’s final piece: the mighty Requiem, that defeated him; he died before it was finished. That task was handed over to his student Süssmayr by Mozart’s widow Constanze.

I’m not sure what it is about Mozart’s Requiem (affectionately known around here as “Moz’s Req”) that I love but I do. Perhaps it is that it is a mass setting; perhaps it is the theology of the text; perhaps it is the passion and emotion; perhaps it is all of that; perhaps it is a lot more. But I love it. And last night I loved it also.

The last time I heard this requiem performed live was in St Andrews, in 1991 as part of the 200th anniversary remembrance of Mozart’s death. But then, if I remember correctly, it was set properly within the context of a Eucharist (Mass).

That it was performed in a concert hall, back-to-back, didn’t detract from its magnificence.

In other news: this weekend marks the 5th anniversary of the death of my dear friend Will Reynish. It felt somewhat fitting that I attended the requiem, as I remembered his love and friendship. He’d have loved that I’m back in St Andrews, where he was once a student too.

Communio
Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine: Cum sanctis tuis in aeternum: quia pius es. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpectua luceat eis. Cum sanctis tuis in aeternum quia pius es

May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord: With thy saints for evermore: for Thou art gracious. Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon them: With thy saints for evermore, for Thou art gracious

Some goodbyes and some tears

Rain droplets on a window.

The last few days have seen quite a few moments of saying goodbye, and a few tears too.

Thursday

I had my last regular meeting with my spiritual director on Thursday. He has accompanied me through a great deal in the last nine years or so (can it really be that long?) The meeting went well, I was excited about my news and what lies ahead; and rightly so. But when it came for me to say thank you, I just cried. Words alone can’t express how grateful I am to his journeying with me, through some at times very dark places. I am a better person for knowing him, and for the paths that we have trod.

Friday

Yesterday I met Mum off the bus, in the pouring rain. At least I would have, had she not got off at the wrong stop. We went to visit an old colleague of Mum’s from her days in India in the 1960s, Dr Winifred Bailey. She was dying. We went in, sat with her, told her our news and held her hand.

Winifred knew that we were there, and smiled, although we couldn’t make out anything that she could say; she was very weak. I had to go, but before I did Mum and I held her hand and prayed with her. As I left the tears were trickling down my cheeks.

Winifred died early this morning. I’m glad we went in. I’m glad we sat with her, and told her that we loved her.

Saturday

Today Jane and I had to decide what to do with Triskal, one of our cats. It’s a long and complicated tale, involving neighbours who began to feed him … and kept feeding him until he was over 60% (and dangerously) overweight. They want us to bear the responsibilities (and the vet bills) for him but they want to keep him. The situation has made us feel more and more angry, and more and more sorry for Triskal, who clearly is fond of these people but he is getting more and more ill.

What to do? It appears that they don’t want to take him over officially until he is well, despite the fact that it appears that it was them who made him that way! We’ve decided that as we are moving, and we still pay the vet bills we are taking him back. Hopefully he will resettle once we’ve moved.

He’s part of the family. It has been a hard decision to make. There were tears. There will be more. This moving lark is a real wrench at times.

Getting ready for Pentecost

Dove in flight, against a firey sky background.

It’s not even Easter; blimey! it’s not even Holy Week, and I’m already having to think ahead to Pentecost for the next edition of Inspires, the magazine of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Pentecost is that great Christian festival, falling 50 days after Easter, and 10 after the Ascension, that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force–no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them. (Acts 2:1-4, The Message)

The Holy Spirit is often associated with the symbol of a dove, and of fire. The liturgical colour red. I tried to get something of those symbols in my image for Pentecost, above.

I would have said that friend and photographer-extraordinaire Steve Brown would have been proud of me for that image montage, but it lacks something of that bleak, post-apocalyptic holocaust feel that he does so well. Check out his work. (Warning the site doesn’t work 100% in Mozilla Firefox if you have particularly strict pop-up blocking.)

Anyway … back to violet, Lent and onwards to Palm Sunday and Holy Week.