About this blog

This is a window into the weird world of Anglicanism, as experienced on a Cathedral Close. Has anything much happened since Trollope's Barchester Chronicles? You will still see the 'canon in residence' hurrying across to choral Evensong, robes flapping, as the late bell chimes. But look carefully and you will notice he is checking the football score on his iPhone as he runs. This is also a writer's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the novelist's life. And it's a fighter's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the judo mat. Well, the agony, anyway.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

CHAPTER 21--The Backing Tracks

A little Pentecost treat for you, over on my other blog: http://catherine-fox-novel.blogspot.co.uk/

And here's this week's backing track.  I'd love to be able to provide a link to something by the Dorian Singers, but as I made them up, this is not possible.  I mention a couple of highbrow pieces in passing.  The cathedral organist was practising Durufle's Choral Varie Veni Creator Spiritus late at night, ready for Pentecost.  Here it is, played here suitably Frenchly:

Meanwhile, Lindchester cathedral choir were busy with that week's setting of the Mass, Missa bell amfitrit altera.  Lovely bit of Lassus for you:

I decided on these two pieces after a spot of internet research: I snooped about in the music lists of a few  medieval Anglican cathedrals.  Liverpool cathedral is sui generis.  What happens here is no real guide for what would be happening in Lindchester.

So those are your solid bits of cathedral repertoire.  And now the fun starts.  I also refer to this (mwa ha ha!):

And it doesn't stop there, because I also mention 'Slane'.  This is the tune that goes to the hymn 'Be thou my vision'; a hymn containing one of the must baffling lines known to the church: 'be all else but naught to me save that thou art.'  It could use a little footnote, like the one which explains the 'mystic rose' reference in another hymn.  The footnote might say, 'Let anything else be as nothing to me, provided you aren't (as nothing to me).'

Here is 'Slane' sung 'properly': http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00hs3xg

And here it is, RUINED, RUINED I TELL YOU: http://vimeo.com/11157836

Those evil evangelicals!  They've only gone and switched the time signature from 3/4 to 4/4.  Be very afraid!  This is the music to which the horsemen of the Apocalypse will come cantering through our cathedrals, trampling vestments underfoot and making us all worship with guitars.  You see the problem?  No, nor do I.  Load of cobblers.  I swing both ways when it comes to Slane.  We had the 4/4 version in Liverpool cathedral at the wedding of the bishop's daughter only the week before last and the building is still standing.

And now, just to calm us all down, this is the Wesley hymn 'O thou who camest from above', the last verse of which Dominic finds himself thinking about at the end of this week's chapter.  It is sung in the traditional cathedral manner, with the organ half a bar ahead of the congregation.  Enjoy: 

Monday, 20 May 2013


Just in case you’ve been getting as confused as I have, here’s a cast list (in no helpful order, I'm afraid) for ACTS & OMISSIONS so far:

Fr Dominic Todd (53, Vicar of St John the Evangelist, Renfold)
Dr Jane Rossiter (51, Lecturer at University of Lindford)
Danny Rossiter (19, Jane’s son, on Gap Year in NZ)
Mickey Martin (Danny’s Kiwi father)
Sal (Mickey’s partner)
Rt Rev Paul Henderson (58, Bishop of Lindchester, ‘Mary Poppins’)
Susanna Henderson (56, his wife, ‘Pollyanna’)
The Very Rev Marion Randall (54, Dean of Lindchester, ‘Maid Marion’)
Gene (dean’s husband, wine merchant from SA, widower, 3 sons)
Linda (dean’s PA)
Freddie May (22, bishop’s driver, former chorister)
Miss Barbara Blatherwick (Close resident, former matron of chorister school)
Rev Canon Giles Littlechild (precentor)
Ulrika Littlechild (his wife, voice coach)
Lukas (18) Felix (16) Littlechild (their sons)
Penelope (bishop’s PA)
Most Rev Dr Michael Palgrove (archbishop of Canterbury)
Rosemary (his wife)
Rev Martin Rogers (bishop’s chaplain)
Becky Rogers (his estranged wife)
Leah (8) Jessica (6) Rogers (their daughters)
Prof Bleakley (Jane’s HOD)
Dr Elspeth Quilter (colleague of Jane’s)
Simeon E Dacre (poet, CW lecturer, colleague of Jane’s, ‘Spider’)
Rev Canon Dr Mark Lawson (canon chancellor, ‘Mr Happy’)
Miriam Lawson (his wife)
Rev Canon Philip Voysey-Scott (canon treasurer)
Pippa (his wife)
John ‘the Bastard’ (former cathedral employee, took dean to employment tribunal and lost)
Amadeus (cathedral cat)
Rev ‘Father’ Wendy Styles (vicar of group of rural parishes, incl Cardingforth, All Saints’ Carding-le-Willow)
Doug Styles (her husband, teacher)
Laura Styles (daughter, killed in car accident 13 years ago, they also have 2 sons)
Poppy Styles (their granddaughter)
Lulu (Wendy’s chocolate Labrador)
Lucy (woman who ran Laura over)
Timothy Gladwin (39, Director of Music at cathedral)
Sir Gregory Laird (former cathedral organist and choirmaster)
Iona (sub-organist with a dragon tattoo)
June (Miss Blatherwick’s successor, matron at chorister school)
Laurence (cathedral organist)
Thomas Greatrix (head chorister)
Gavin (deputy verger at cathedral)
Mr Crowther (head teacher of Cardingforth Primary)
Rt Rev Charles De La Haye (retired bishop who leads triduum)
Rt Rev Robert Hooty (62, suffragan Bishop of Barcup)
Janet Hooty (midwife, his wife)
Mr Hoban (chorister school bursar)
The Ven Matt Tyler (48, archdeacon of Lindchester, ‘Matt the Knife’/’Voldemort’)
Geoff and Pauline (churchwardens of Lindford Parish Church)

Sunday, 19 May 2013


This week I spent quite a lot of time in what felt like a displacement activity: trying to decide what Freddie would sing as his solo piece for his audition for Barchester.  I lingered over various English art songs that might showcase a tenor voice (Quilter's 'Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal', Vaughan Williams' 'Silent Noon'), then moved on to more churchy things.  

Finally, because time was getting short, I plumped for 'Angels, waft her through the skies', a tenor aria from Handel's Jephtha.  It wasn't until I started writing this section that I realised how well it worked with Ascension Day.  Sometimes the subconscious is ahead of the game: 'Glorious there like you to rise, there like you forever reign'.  

You can listen to it here, sung by Mark Padmore: 

Freddie maintains to the bishop's PA that he's planning to sing the 'Queen of the Night' aria from Mozart's Magic Flute.  This would be an unconventional choice, to say the least.  He claims he used to sing it as a chorister, and this is just about possible.  Here's a boy soprano giving it a whirl:

Eek!  And now, quickly, to take away the effect, here is Ian Bostridge singing 'Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal':

Monday, 13 May 2013


There are some weeks when writing a blogged novel feels a bit like trying to start a train.  Each week there's one more carriage to drag along after you.  It can take a while to get things moving.  The secret, I suppose, is to uncouple some and park them in a siding for a few weeks.  I can't advance every mini plot line every single chapter.  But I can't leave things for too long either, or the tension dissipates.  

Not that this is proving to be a terrible tense affair.  It feels more like a gentle comedy of Anglican manners. The surprises are usually small ones.  I keep being surprised.  I had no idea what the archdeacon was like until I saw him hang his pork pie hat on the stair knob in the empty vicarage.  It all grew out of that moment.  

I had distinct plans for the archdeacon in Chapter 19, but they came to nothing.  The chapter was going to end completely differently. Here: http://catherine-fox-novel.blogspot.co.uk/ In fact, I'd written most of it, but it just wasn't working, so late on Sunday afternoon I deleted it.  We ended up with Fr Dominic remembering his Primary School swimming lessons instead, which I was not expecting.  I was just trying to invent something for him to do on his day off, and came up with bluebell woods.  Which made me remember my own trips to Deer Leap Open Air Swimming Pool in the early 70s.  A trip down memory lane courtesy of google. http://deerleap.ning.com/

Not quite knowing what's going to happen is one of the great pleasures of writing.  It is also one of the biggest stresses.  What if it all falls apart in my hands?

Sunday, 5 May 2013


For your delectation, an entirely new character.  Meet him over on my other blog, in my serialised novel Acts and Omissions.  The Venerable Matt Tyler, Archdeacon of Lindchester.  I hope you like him, because I invented him specially for you.  Perhaps you can tell me what make of car he drives?  http://catherine-fox-novel.blogspot.co.uk/