Friday, December 19, 2008

Behold the duck

Talking of symbols...Manchester seems to have decided to celebrate Christmas without too much reference to Christ.
I apologize for the slightly fuzzy picture above. Maybe I was still shaking with laughter at the giant Santa - or perhaps it is a giant duck in a red coat? Who knows?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gaudeamus Igitur

When I first started writing this erratic, and often irrelevant blog, I made up my mind that my starting point for any "reflection" would be a photograph I had taken.
One problem that has arisen periodically is that on occasion I have been too busy to take any photographs and so I've had nothing to say. Another problem is that I had made up my mind, as far as possible, not to include pictures of people - especially if I had not sought their permission first.
But today I am going to break my second 'rule' by posting a picture of one of my daughters, who has just received her Masters Degree - because these are the latest photographs I have taken.
Like all of the other relatives present at the graduation ceremony, I was really only interested in one of the people receiving an award, and therefore almost all of my photographs were of her. However, there was one point in the proceedings (which, incidentally, began at the interestingly original scheduled time of 4.45pm yesterday evening) when I wished I'd had my camera ready.. but sadly I didn't.
So you will have to make do with my verbal description.
What I'm referring to is the entry procession of all the academics.
Depending on how you view these things it was either impressively dignified or ridiculously pompous (often there is only a very thin dividing line between the two... as anyone involved with church things ought to realise!)
I'm afraid my warped way of seeing things ended up in my personal assessment veering toward the latter... i.e. rather ridiculous.
You see, at the beginning of the procession there were two colourfully-robed individuals each carrying, with solemn perpendicularity, what looked to me like a silver plated fish-slice with an extra-long handle.
Bringing up the rear of the procession were two similarly robed individuals. They must have been less important, I suppose, because neither of them had been entrusted with a silver fish slice. Instead they each carried a snooker cue. Well... that's what it looked like to me. What else it might have been I do not know.
Nor have I the slightest clue what these objects represented or symbolised, although I have no doubt that there was some symbolic meaning to all of it- just as once upon a time there must have been some practical purpose for the 'mortar-board' hat. (An easily transported and readily available picnic table perhaps?)
That's the trouble with symbols... if you are not in on the secret they are meaningless.
And yet, for those who do know their meaning, symbols are a very powerful form of shorthand.
Most of my parishioners know that (quite long ago) I stopped wearing clerical robes. Part of the reason for that is that I no longer know what they are supposed to represent... and they often make me feel rather ridiculous, especially if I am playing the guitar.
But at least no one has ever asked me to process into church with a fish slice or a snooker cue...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Nature's Royal Variety Performance

[A frozen, frost-covered Braidwood Loch]

Winter has definitely come to Carluke! Today's sub-zero temperatures would not have stopped me playing tennis (outdoor) this morning [several times in the past we've shovelled snow off the court to allow us to play] but my playing partner had another commitment this morning [or so he said] so the tennis was off.
Instead, I dug out the camera.
[I had to dig it out; it was buried under a pile of papers, folders and books on the big chair in my study!]
I set out on a cool (very cool) photo-shoot.

Braidwood Loch... (in reality it's just a village duckpond, but don't tell the residents of Braidwood I said that. It is, in any case, a very attractive duckpond in all seasons) ...
Braidwood Loch was frozen over and had a fresh layer of frost covering the frozen surface, like a dusting of icing sugar on a cake.

I just love the many different textures that a hard frost is able to create on trees, grass, plants, spiders' webs etc. In some ways, I think frost can sometimes do an even more spectacular transformation-job than snow.

On Wednesday evening the team of volunteers will put up the Christmas tree and decorations in the church, but now matter how creative and artistic they may be (and they usually do a brilliant job) they are not going to be able to compete with Nature's exterior decoration skills.

To top off a spectacular Natural Variety Performance, late this afternoon there was a lunar eclipse of Venus (or more accurately an occultation of Venus.)
Unfortunately, while my camera can do a pretty good job of capturing 'The Frost Show,' it struggles with the night sky and objects as far as away as Venus. This is the best I could do at capturing Venus as she re-appeared from behind the moon.

And all of this is free... no need to pay for a television licence to see the show!

[Readers from outside of the UK might wonder what this is. We pay a licence fee which funds the BBC.]