Wednesday, 29 October 2008

October snow

Do you remember snow in October before? As is so often the case, Mr Gnome remains typically Trappist on this topic.

Big excitement for the rest of us here in the midlands when Tuesday 28 October brought a chill wind and clouds with a curious ochre tinge, relieving themselves of big wet flakes across Warwickshire and environs.

Mr G managed to resist the ensuing hysteria.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Almighty guide

There are guides, good guides - and then there is Malcolm Miller, English guide to Chartres Cathedral for more than fifty years.

In October 1986 I spent a few days in Paris and took the short train ride out to Chartres to see the cathedral. Noticing a sign advertising 'Tours in English', I tagged along - and fell under the spell of MM.

Softly spoken, deliciously theatrical, MM draws you in with his whispered opening line: 'I'll tell you a secret...'

And you're away, the cathedral's long life unfolding while Miller shows you how to 'read' its 'hidden meaning' - particularly through its miraculously complete, totally integrated programme of stained glass and statuary.

Hint - for the best possible time, take your binocs.

And by 'hidden meaning', he doesn't mean 'da Vinci-style' esoterics - he's referring to the fact that the whole place tells a single narrative - which I guess could be summed up as the story of salvation.

History, engineering, gossip, theology and, well, a kind of numinous glory - these are all elements of the MM experience - all the more intense if you have a prior inkling of the broad sweep of the Bible - from the garden to the heavenly Jerusalem.

I was so mesmerised on that long-ago Tuesday that I joined his afternoon tour as well - and returned for two more on the Thursday.

Two 'MM neophytes' accompanied me when I returned to the Cathedral recently - after a gap of twenty-two years. I worried that the 'magic' might have faded and that they would feel let down after my enthusiastic trumpeting of Mr Miller.

My fears were groundless.

His hair is whiter, his posture a liitle stooped, but his style, erudition and élan remain undiminished.

Catch him while you can.

And here, from a 1980s documentary film, is a glimpse of MM's enthusiastic approach:

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Grand plaisir

Blessedly blasé re most worries, Mr Gnome is a reluctant flyer.

Imagine then the intensity of his pleasure as a spanking new Eurostar train whooshed him from London to Paris in a dizzying two hours and thirty minutes.

(Train - terra firma. Plane - terror-former.)

The journey would have been fifteen minutes shorter had we not been obliged to pass through 'Le Tunnel' at half speed - a consequence of the recent, er, 'incident'.

Leaden English skies dissolved and insouciant Gallic sunshine took over. Hurrah!

More Parisian posts shortly....

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Off the fence?

Back in Blighty after his autumnal foray to the United States, Mr Gnome reflects on the momentous choice facing his American friends.

Having once lived and worked in the USA (in Mrs Palin's home state, to be precise), the HB has retained a lively interest in the affairs of our transatlantic friends and allies.

Somehow this year's election seems particularly important - for the USA and for the whole world.

Not being a citizen, Mr G and the HB are reluctant to say: 'Vote this way, or that way.'

But we do urge our readers (if we have any!) to give a thoughtful perusal to this persuasive piece from this week's New Yorker.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Ear this!

Approaching the end of his brief sojourn in the USA, Mr Gnome has been intrigued by the varied manifestations of the approaching presidential election.
We encountered the charming wearer of this 'earring' in the glitzy interior of Boston's spanking-new Institute of Contemporary Art.
She was delighted to pose - and her only regret was that our alien status disabled us from voting in her home state of Virginia.
In addition, she made an extraordinary prediction regarding an 'event' that, in her belief, may well precede the election day in November.
Cautious Mr G is reluctant to reveal the fascinating prognostication at this stage - but, fear not, we'll let you know should it come to pass.

Monday, 6 October 2008

First day of vacation. OK?

How thrilling to be in Boston, Massachusetts, once again.

We celebrated by going out to breakfast at the delightful Theo's Cosy Corner Cafe, tucked away in the city historic North End.

No need to describe this riot of self-indulgence - the evidence is before your eyes.

Enough to say that we relished every mouthful.

Service was friendly and, of course, our coffee mugs were replenished frequently.

Saturday, 4 October 2008


Briefly back at base after six bracing, memorable days as a guest of the Iona Community.

The island of Iona has been a place of pilgrimage for more than a thousand years.

Restored in the latter half of the twentieth century, the Abbey is now home to members of a Christian community of lay and ordained people, who share a commitment to peace and justice and to the renewal of the church.

I've just relished a short stay in the comfortable hostel-style Macleod Centre, just up the hill from the Abbey.

Our sessions were led by the remarkable John Bell (beard, red shoes, above) who shared insights into the freshness, challenge, relevance and vivid aliveness of the 'family book', the Bible.

And we sang.

John is one of the most influential composers/writers/collectors of songs, hymns and chants of the last thirty years - and he has a terrific gift for getting untrained people singing with joy and gusto - and, before they know what has happened, in four-part harmony as well.

And then there was the food, the company, the weather - a mixture of fierce winds, horizontal rain and dazzling shafts of sunlight.

More pictures on Flickr.

And Mr Gnome was delighted to encounter two cheery gnomes (one of whom posed) who had travelled to Iona from Roanoke, Virginia, USA. Hurrah!

River deep. mountain high

Returned from his northern sojourn, Mr Gnome pauses from reflecting on Celtic spirituality, to gasp in wonderment at the news that Tina Turner (born 1939) is touring again.

These very recent pictures bear witness to the truth that age cannot wither the infinite variety of this remarkable woman, surely the ultimate role model for all of us who have passed our half-century.

Mr G (Born? Don't ask.) is saving up to attend one of TT's lively 'gigs' when she blesses the UK with her ineffable presence in March 2009.