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.

Monday 24 June 2013


Chapter 25 ready for you over on the novel blog.  This week, embarrassing revelations about the contents of the bishop's suit pocket, and naughty goings-on in the new curate's house.

Sunday 16 June 2013

The Sound Track to Chapter 24

This week's backing track is hard core cathedral repertoire, I'm afraid.  The precentor is preparing for the big service to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the queen's coronation.  The old musical warhorses are wheeled out on these occasions.  In fact, I'm convinced that the following scenario plays out every time:
ROYAL VISITOR (thinks): Oh bloody hell.

I'm just teetering on the brink, after some 8 years moving in cathedral circles, of getting fed up with this Parry anthem.  Here's a version of it, with the vivats, (that's real cathedral techie language, that):

The thing you need to understand about Parry is that we are allowed to like him.  This is not true of Handel or Rutter.  Basically, the more you instinctively warm to a piece of choral music, the less likely you are to be allowed to think it's brilliant.  

And then there's the other Herbert Parry warhorse, Jerusalem, lyrics by William Blake.  Now this one I am sick of, so here's a guitar version:

And next up is Handel's 'Zadok the Priest', a coronation anthem for George III.  This is often sung with  more welly (technical musical term for you there) than accuracy, but here's a brilliant and controlled rendition for you from the King's Consort and Choir:

And finally, possibly my least favourite hymn of all, 'I vow to thee my country'.  I've completely given up on singing the first verse, as I cannot find a way of finessing the meaning in my mind into something I feel happy with.  I see no evidence that the scriptures promote a love 'that asks no questions'.  ('How can this be, seeing I know not a man?')  It's a nice enough tune, I grant you.  Did you know there's a middle verse that's been suppressed?  Here it is:
I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.
Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.
Here's a version which seems to be sung by Americans, just so that we can appreciate the shining bounds increasing:
And finally, here's a way out of the hideous Slane 3/4 versus 4/4 argument.  But I dare say we aren't allowed to like it:  

Sunday 9 June 2013

CHAPTER 23--The Martial Arts Background

No music for you this week.  Instead, a bit of martial arts.  I have not yet revealed to my readers that Freddie is a karate black belt.  It was hinted at last week, when he remembers his dad telling him not to be 'a girl' at gradings and contests.  

In this week's chapter when he is attacked, Freddie switches into automatic, and defends himself.  Obviously, I have a duty as a writer to make my dialogue authentic.  I don't want to use Freddie's speech as a Trojan horse to sneak up on my poor readers and dump masses of Japanese terminology on them.  (Especially as Freddie is off his face, and struggling to speak coherent English.)  But, of course, I know what went on, because I've done my research.  And the good thing about this blog is that I can show off the 7/8ths of the iceberg the reader wouldn't normally see.  Honestly, we writers are so self-effacing.  We try to wear our research lightly at all times.

And so, for the curious, here are the techniques he used.  The first--the knee buster--is sokuto fumikomi (stamping kick to the knee), and is one of the first techniques you learn when you take up karate.  Here it is being demonstrated very carefully.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsVzHOQ_NU8

I was pretty rubbish at it.  But that was true of all my karate moves, to be honest.  If I were to try it on someone tomorrow, they would probably say, 'Are you all right?' because I would have fallen over.  But used correctly and at speed, it is capable of doing exactly what Freddie says: busting someone's knee.

The second technique Freddie uses is a block, I'm going to say soto uke (outer block).  This is because the second attacker is trying to punch him in the face.    The block knocks the attacker's hand out of the way before the blow lands.  Here's more than you probably want to know about soto uke

And finally he turns and deploys mawashi geri jodan, which I'm guessing was his signature technique, the one he used to win contests with.  Jodan, I'm sorry to tell you, basically means 'to the head'.  So this is a roundhouse kick to the head, and that's why Freddie is feeling sick with dread the following day about the kind of damage he may have inflicted on his assailant.  Here, in rather too much mathematical detail, is why he has good reason to be scared: 

In contests and training, you are not making full contact with your opponent.  You are not supposed to unleash the full mathematical potential of your strikes.   If you are attacked in the street, the best martial arts advice is still: run away if you possibly can.  If not, fight back, then run away of you possibly can. If you use what are essentially designed as disabling and killing techniques indiscriminately and without control to teach your attacker a lesson, then it stops being self defence.

So to sum up my martial arts advice for the week:

And finally, here's the Lara Croft picture Jane sent to the archdeacon:

Sunday 2 June 2013


Here's where to find Chapter 22:
The music to go with this week's instalment begins with one of my favourite choral pieces.  I first heard it in Durham cathedral when I was an undergraduate: 'Jesus Christ the apple tree.'  Fr Wendy sings a verse of it as she sits under a crab apple tree.  Poor old Wendy.  She's one of those countless thousands who think they can't sing, because someone poked them in the back when they were children and told them they were out of tune.  My mother (who sings very nicely, though she doesn't believe it) can remember vividly that poking moment, and the teacher saying: 'Shut up, you: you're growling.'  Never, ever tell a child they can't sing, even if they can't.  Most will get the hang of it later, but if you poke them, you'll snuff out a bright light for the rest of their life.  

Here's the song for you, sung with beautifully rolled Rs in the Anglican manner, by the choir of King's College, Cambridge.  I looked in vain for a version by Durham cathedral choir.  Sort it out, please, Mr Precentor.

The next musical reference is Jane's dystopian vision of a world run by 'the aggressive homosexual community' forcing people to participate in Sound of Music Sing-alongs.  It's quite a big thing, this.  Check  it out for yourselves here:

And apart from a fleeting reference to this again (mwa ha ha!)

that's about it for this week, other than St Patrick's Breastplate, which is the tune to the Trinity Sunday hymn, 'I Bind unto Myself Today'.

This is a hymn with a long history rooted in the stories of St Patrick.  Here's part of it, given a haunting twist, by composer Arvo Part.  I play this when I'm besieged by panic or misery, as many writers are from time to time, I'm afraid. 'The Deer's Cry':