Monday, 26 January 2015

Mind the gap


Last week didn’t cheer me up about Grimsby’s robustness in the face of recession. 

Educational aspiration has been a theme in this blog before.  One newspaper now reports the ‘learning gap’ between local authority areas when scored for the percentage of state school pupils gaining places in ‘the top thirty universities’ (although there is an obvious judgement call here).  Reading (where I started ordained ministry thirty years ago) comes way out on top – the only place where more than half did so.  Buckinghamshire (where I was brought up) comes third with more than a third.  North East Lincolnshire comes in the bottom ten with a score of 6% (as does Hull).

Two days later, another newspaper reports ‘the growth gap’ (there is some common journalistic style here).  It lists ‘cities (sic) with the lowest and highest growth in jobs 2004-2013’.  Only Milton Keynes outstrips London with 18% and 17% increases each; that is over 750 000 new jobs in London.  Grimsby and Hull are there in the bottom ten again – with a decline of about 7.5% each, which is a loss of 5 000 jobs in Grimsby’s case.

Meanwhile, the nearest thing on which the picture looks down from the Cathedral in Florence is the hotel in which we stayed over the New Year.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Psalm 87


I’m mesmerised at the moment by Psalm 87.

It has a poetic twist.  It assumes that being born in Zion (Jerusalem) puts one at the head of the queue, but it also assumes that when God makes the roll-call he will simply say each of us was born there.

The really mesmerising part of this is that those who sing it have God say ‘I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me... of Zion it will be said “this one and that one were born in her”’.

Rahab is Egypt – remember that the defining myth of the people who sang the Psalm is that this is the country which enslaved them.  And remember that Babylon is the country which had recently destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and deported its people.

The present book of Psalms was the collection brought together for and used in the newly rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.  I don’t know why I hadn’t previously found it astounding that they sang of Egypt and Babylon as sharing their inheritance.

It is the Psalm on which John Newton based his hymn ‘Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God’, and these opening words of the hymn are a direct quotation from the Psalm.

Newton’s mediation on it is that of an eighteenth century evangelical who also wrote ‘Amazing Grace’, so his version spells out the consequences ‘if of Zion’s city I through grace a member am’ given that ‘solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion ‘s children know’.

The Psalm ends with those born in Zion saying ‘all my fresh springs are in you’ and Newton reads this alongside Jesus’ promise of living water: ‘the streams of living waters springing from eternal love well supply thy songs and daughters’.

But, as interesting as I’m finding it to trace how the favourite hymn is simply expounding the Psalm, it is the thought of the people of ‘Second Temple’ singing of God’s inclusion of both Egypt and Babylon which is the fresh spring for me at the moment.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Friday, 9 January 2015

Biblioteca San Lorenzo


Each reading desk has a list of the books (which would have been) chained there.


The windows were most fun.


The current exhibition included this 1405 farming scene.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Florence's 'English' Cemetery



Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Fanny Holman Hunt


Fanny Trollope, mother of Anthony



Wednesday, 7 January 2015