Sunday, October 30, 2011

Alarm Bells Ringing!

It was such a kind thought . . . it guaranteed that never again would I lose my keys . . . but . . .

Let me start at the beginning. A month ago, very foolishly, I lost the only set of keys to my car. In consequence I was stranded. Not only was it impossible to move the car, it was equally impossible to open the car door and get inside. Only after producing the log-book, my passport, proof of residence and a large cheque, could I apply for a new one.
As I'm sure you'll understand, when the new key finally arrived it was very precious.

A kind friend, anxious to support me and ensure that no key was ever lost again, came up with the perfect solution . . . a key-ring that let you know when it was missing.
A key-ring that flashed its eyes, miaowed loudly, and took the form of a small, black cat.

Needless to say, Chloe was totally intrigued . . . and more than a little disconcerted by the dazzling eyes and ear-splitting yowl of this newcomer!
This was a cat who wouldn't be easy to lose!

I fastened the helpful black cat to my bundle of keys, and felt reassured that they would never be lost again.

True, it was a little startling to hear a loud wail when I fumbled in my handbag and squeezed the small cat by mistake, but it was all in a very good cause.

Keys have a tough life. Pushed in and out of pockets, dropped into copious handbags, they are constantly on the move, constantly under pressure. Not surprisingly, the small chain connecting the black cat to the key-ring became broken.
But this posed no problem. There was a small loop in the middle of the cat's back which enabled it to be connected directly to the main body of keys. If anything, my keys were even safer than before.

It was the day after the small black cat had been attached in its new position (in close proximity to the car key-fob) that I needed to use the car.
Don't ask me what the small black cat said to the key-fob, but the key-fob's response was instantaneous!

As I turned the key in the ignition the car burst into life and sped off down the road to the strident accompaniment of the alarm siren screaming at full blast! It was as though I'd been kidnapped by a demented police car.
Desperately, I looked for some means, any means, of switching off the alarm . . . with no success. Passers-by stopped to stare, other vehicles pulled over and braked in surprise. I felt like a highly conspicuous car thief in full flight, but no pressure on the key-fob, or on the small black cat, would silence the cacophony.

Chloe, initially stunned by the outburst, raised her voice in strenuous protest, which only added to the clamour. There was only one thing to do. The day's plans abandoned, I headed for home, peace and sanctuary.
Once outside the house I switched off the engine and, instantly, the blaring horn and Chloe's squeals came to an abrupt and welcome end.
Thoroughly shaken, we went indoors to recover.

It was with sadness that I detached the small black cat from the key-ring. After all, it had only been doing, on a grander scale, what it had been asked to do in the first place.
As an aspirational small cat, it probably wondered why it should limit itself to protecting my keys when it was perfectly capable of protecting my car?

But the little cat has a new role. No longer a protector of keys, no longer protecting my car, it now sits on the shelf and proudly protects my flat.
Surely such a fierce blue eyes would curb any burglar's enthusiasm?

But I do miss the small, feline (occasionally noisy) bump that used to nestle in my pocket . . .

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Right Approach

Do you recall that tiger at the zoo?
We tried so hard to make him look our way.
You whistled; but I said, "It doesn't do
To whistle at a tiger. You should pay
Him more respect!" Do you remember that
He moved one furry ear a fraction when
I called out, "Hello, Tiger . . . ", as a cat
Will grant remote acknowledgement to men
Who recognise their place, "You're beautiful,"
I breathed, " . . . so beautiful . . ." his massive head
Turned slowly and two regal eyes blinked full
Agreement straight at mine. It could be said
That he was captive and that we were free,
But I was captured when he looked at me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One of the family . . .

You probably know this, most people probably know this, but it came as a shock to me when I discovered
recently that, in thinking of the founder of the Christian faith as having the name 'Jesus', I was mistaken.
To my surprise, I learned that, to his family, friends and followers the man I'd always known as 'Jesus' was, in fact, known by the Hebrew name of 'Yeshua'.

Does it make any difference to his teaching or to our faith?

I know that it shouldn't, but a name conveys a vivid image. My mental picture of a 'Yeshua' is very different from my mental picture of a 'Jesus'.

Try it for yourself. Say 'Yeshua', and then say 'Jesus'. Does an identical figure come to mind?
My 'Yeshua' is mature, substantial and quietly spoken. My 'Jesus' is young, passionate and slight of build.

Names shouldn't matter. But they do. Why else would parents devote so much time and thought to selecting the names for their children?

Nor is it just a question of the subjective reaction to a name. In changing the name of 'Yeshua' to that of 'Jesus', the early church was establishing its European base. 'Jesus' is a name still common in Mediterranean countries, you won't find it on the West Bank.

Historically, we've done this down the ages, changing names to make them more acceptable to the English ear. We insist on calling 'Firenze' 'Florence', 'Roma' has become 'Rome', and in Anglicizing the pronunciation of 'Paris' we've stripped it of all its Gallic zest. But when it comes to the name of 'Jesus', with all the significance that the name conveys, such a fundamental change feels different.

All right, when compared to the strength and universality of the teachings, it may seem a trivial quibble, and nothing that I say is likely to make the slightest difference to centuries of worship, not to mention Biblical tradition, hymns and prayers.

Nonetheless, in discovering 'Yeshua', I somehow feel a little closer to the original teacher's message . . . more one of the family.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Where's Chloe . . . ?"

It was my fault, I willingly admit to the fact. But, when ordering a rather elegant, beechwood, clothes-horse, I little foresaw the consequences.
The clothes-horse duly arrived, carefully packed in a very large cardboard box.
Chloe took one look at the empty box . . . and it was love at first sight. With an enthusiastic leap, she dived straight in. She has continued to dive joyfully in and out ever since.

Not that this would pose a problem were it
not linked to her love of the game of hide-and-seek.

Prior to the arrival of the inviting box, we had played regular games of hide-and-seek in which Chloe would hide beneath the sofa covering or under the bureau. I would then make a great show of looking for her, and she would finally emerge, the winner of the contest, very proud of her ability to outwit me.
However, with the arrival of the box the game's format changed . . . from my point of view, it was not a change for the better!

Let me explain. First of all, Chloe dashes into her chosen hiding-place. Here she crouches, quivering with expectation, waiting for me to find her. I then search the living-room, constantly repeating the mantra, "Where is Chloe . . . I wonder where Chloe is . . .?" at the same time carefully avoiding treading on a protruding tail!

Chloe's excitement and expectancy build up to such a pitch that finally, unable to contain herself any longer, she comes shooting out. Like a bolt of lightning, she rushes into the bedroom and dives head-first into the large cardboard box.

My role, that of the short-sighted seeker, remains the same.
Still reciting the "Where is Chloe . . .?" mantra, I slowly advance on the large cardboard box.

As my head finally peers over the top, Chloe, doing an inspired impersonation of a jack-in-the-box, leaps up and biffs me on the nose!

Guess where she goes next?
That's right, back into hiding . . . and the whole ritual starts up all over again!

Should you have a spare moment, might it appeal to you to be an occasional understudy for the demanding role of 'short-sighted seeker'?

As one who plays this role at least three times each day, I can assure you that it takes a long time for an eager and enthusiastic young cat to reach the stage of happy exhaustion depicted in this picture!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Building a Symphony

Did I tel
l you how I once sang a solo at The Albert Hall?
All right, I'll come clean and add that it wasn't an intentional solo. I was part of a group of enthusiastic amateur singers who had come together to sing Faure's 'Requiem'.
Over-awed by the splendour of the building, the privilege of participating, and the general excitement, I got carried away and came in a bar early in the 'Sanctus'.
Fortunately, my solo performance was short . . . very few people heard me.

This incident came to mind last Saturday when I was invited to a concert at The Albert Hall. It wasn't until we arrived that I learned where we'd be sitting. Not in the main body of the auditorium, but in the seats alongside the back row of the orchestra. There we were, behind the strings, facing the wooodwind, and cheek by jowl with the percussion.
In this position you were not so much a member of the audience as a silent component of the orchestra itself.

My view of the conductor was the one shared by those he was conducting. I was able to observe the intense concentration on the faces of the players - their periods of relative rest, the times of extreme activity, the page turning and the pauses - and to study their instruments in close detail.
Did you know that a drummer has at his disposal at least three different sets of drumsticks?

More than anything, it was fascinating to witness each individual contribution to the build-up of sound. Each note - however small, however seemingly insignificant - a perfectly positioned stitch in the formation of the musical tapestry.

We were halfway through the featured symphony of the evening when, to the left of me, a man rose to his feet. He had an air of purposeful concentration. On a stand in front of him was a small, metal triangle suspended on a frame. The man took a matching hammer in his hand and, with his eye on the conductor, stood . . . waiting. A few bars later his moment arrived. With quick precision, he brought the hammer down on the triangle.
Unlike my impromptu solo in the 'Sanctus', it arrived at precisely the right moment, the clear note blending smoothly with those rising from the other instruments in the orchestra. The man returned to his seat.

Had anyone noticed triangle's moment of glory? I doubt it. But, as an integral part of that moment in the music, it had made its mark. The concert lasted two hours, the triangle player lifted his hammer five times.

There's a story (you probably know it) of Sir Christopher Wren visiting the construction site for St. Paul's Cathedral. Three stone masons were working on the site and Sir Christopher stopped to speak to each one. He asked them, in turn, what they were doing.
The first mason explained that he was carving a piece of stone. The second replied that he was making the base for a pillar. But the third one looked up with an expression of pride, "I'm building a cathedral," he said.

For the percussionist at The Albert Hall I'm sure that the stone mason's conviction would ring true.
He wasn't playing a triangle . . . he was building a symphony.