Monday 27 February 2012

Village websites

Bradley village has a new website established by the Parish Council. It is at and quite apart from anything else, opens with a beautiful photo of St George’s. It has put up historic information based mainly on the material I put together for it and posted here a short while ago. It has also put up some news from the church for February for which I am grateful. It did put up information about activities at Bradley pitches on the edge of the village, but has now taken this down again, I guess because members of the Parish Council are very unhappy about the way this facility has been allowed to develop and be used and therefore don’t want to give it publicity. I’ve tried at various times to encourage those in the village who take different sides in this dispute to be generous in relating to those with whom they disagree so sharply, but I’m not sure such intervention has been welcome, and it is sad that this dispute has also led to different people leaving the Parish Council at different stages. Personally I shall also be sad if the new website doesn’t become home to open information about all activities in or on the edge of the village whether originating from church, Parish Council, pitches or anywhere else, but I will have to be sensitive with those who don’t agree with me about that.

There is another Parish Council at the other end of our ecclesiatical parish, and the Great Coates Village Council also has a well established website at (through which information about St Nicolas’ can be accessed by clicking on the electronic version of the village newsletter). Sadly, exactly the same pattern of internal disputes, and excatly the same pattern of some members leaving the Village Council, is going on here; the issue is whether or not the Council should take a substantial loan to build a new Village Hall. I haven’t been able to engage here because I’d look like an interested party since the proposal does spike the guns a bit of our ambition to develop St Nicolas’ to meet some of the relevant needs. The opening page of the website has a link to the results of a formal Parish Poll in which 40% of the registered voters turned out to vote 87 to 377 against the proposal; there is what could be misunderstood as a disingenuous reference to the turn out at the last parliamentary election (63%) rather than local authority election (33% in the relevant Ward).

I took the photo this morning in Great Coates churchyard. The crosses mark the graves of Canon Quirk (further away) and Canon Barber (nearer) who between them were Rectors of Great Coates between 1892 and 1954. Quirk’s immediate predecessors were non-resident, and Barber’s immediate successors were also incumbents of Aylesby, so their sixty-two years was a brief high point in the ideal of committed long-term residence in a single small community. They were both highly respected and probably much better than me at judging how to help villagers relate to each other well, although last week I did visit a parishioner who is more than a hundred years old who recalled Mrs Quirk’s negative reaction to being refused a little girl’s curtsey at some point in the 1920s.

Monday 20 February 2012

Monday 13 February 2012

Hermit Crab Poetry

Poetry translation requires taking forward not just the content but also the form of the original - in the same way that the body of many a creature is just a lot of rotting mush if it does not have its exoskeleton.

This was the case put by the poet Ian Crockatt in a lecture at Nottingham University which I went over for last week. He is working at a much more professional level than me on the poems of Earl Rognvald in the Orkenyinga Saga, and he shared some striking examples of versions which he has produced which reproduced the same skaldic form as the originals (right down to the place and nature of rhymes and half-rhymes in alternate lines); I'll be glad when some are in the public domain to explore further here.

Nevertheless, it was hermit crabs I thought about on my way home. This may just be a defensive reaction, a self justification for the more amateur attempts I have made to give the poems both new words (not the Icelandic originals) and new structures (not the skaldic originals, which I admit would have been a much more difficult task). It seemed to me that to take new language and to borrow a structure / shell from somewhere else might be equally legitimate things to do.

The first of Rognvald’s poems in the Saga is the Grimsby poem which was the first I attempted to translate (and which I posted on 11th September):

We’d wasted five weeks waiting,
our feet festering in filth.
mired in mud in the middle
of Grimsby, grimly grounded.

Now, let loose, we laugh aloud
on the gulls’ moor’s mounds, mounted
on elk-back, bounding breakers,
our bow’s beak set on Bergen.

This has seven beats to each of the eight lines (rather than the skaldic six beats), and where there are internal rhymes they are accidental products of a very English verse approach to alliteration (rather than any deliberate use of the skaldic pattern). And none of the three later poems I posted on 29th December follow even this form - only one even has eight lines - so are several steps further away from the skaldic form.
He has made me think. Perhaps the very elusive quality for which I look is not content (although a quite accurate correspondence to the original seems important), nor form (although a poetic structure which means the poem can be proclaimed aloud seems important), but character (catching something of what the original might have been meant to make one feel).
In this case, the original has the word megingrimmar (which the critical edition gives as mightily grim) in the second line and meginkaliga (mightily merry) in the sixth, so I’d venture that one essential feature of any new version must be the transition from being depressingly stuck to being joyfully free. If so, even a quite prosaic translation which captures this might be a good poetic translation. And even a skilled skaldic form which doesn’t convey this (perhaps because the search for rhyming words has allowed different pictures to infiltrate) might not be. At least, that is where I’ve got to at the moment.

Monday 6 February 2012

Advert appears

The absurdity of many adverts for clergy posts was pointed out to me a long while ago by someone who suggested the simple stratagem of mentally reversing the redundant phrases to reveal things like lazy priest, with a poor track record, a tentative hold on faith, and an marked indifference to both young and old, sought for a contracting and unsupportive parish in an unattractive part of the country.

We had hoped that our own suggestion of The parish is waiting to explore with appropriate applicants the gifts and vocation they can bring that will complement and surprise its well established ‘Shared Ministry Team’ would strike a different note, not rule out a good candidate who didn’t happen to fit a detailed person spec we'd prepared, and place us and any candidate in a genuinely vocational discernment process.

But necessary and important consultative processes meant that, somewhere between the Bishop’s desk, the diocesan communication department and the Hospice’s HR department, this got turned into The well established Shared Ministry Team in West Grimsby collaboratively serves a number of diverse communities... a Team Ministry open to compliment and be surprised by the gifts and vocation which the person appointed will bring which, among other things, manages to edit out the discernment idea.

We were offered this on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis (‘the advert is about to appear but we could pull it altogether if you don’t like it’) and the only response a Churchwarden was able to slip in included pointing out the spelling mistake. Meanwhile, the diocesan communication department (which, it turned out, hadn’t seen the advert earlier either) did suggest the advert be pulled, and offered a rewrite (rightly retaining the Hospice’s preferred style) for consultation.

This appeared to give us an opportunity to respond, which included me pointing out again the spelling mistake and championing our own choice of words about what we would like to explore with candidates. The re-drafted advert then appeared on Friday exactly in the form in which it had been sent out for consultation without a single amendment. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.

My wife encouraged me to do the first but conjuring up a picture of affirmation-starved candidates coming forward on the basis that we had promised to compliment them on their gifts. But I’m afraid I did the second faced with the truth that things have moved in the diocese to the point where a Team Rector can have no influence over the accuracy of, or wording about the parish in, an advert for a colleague. I am only grateful that I stood back from being Rural Dean eighteen months ago so only now having to encounter this sort of truth on a more occasional basis.

Anyway, the advert is out there, and, as the Bishop pointed out to one of our Churchwardens, those attracted by the Hospice half of the post will learn where the parish is coming from in relation to the other half when they receive the background papers about the job.  No potential applicant worth his or her salt (to return to my opening paragraph) should take the exact wording of any advert too seriously - and so perhaps I should be more relaxed about it as well.

Meanwhile, I took the picture last week in the open porch at the front of the empty Vicarage concerned.