Wulf's Webden

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Friday 20 November 2020
by Wulf

Off on (virtual) holiday

If there’s one type of vacation which is ideal for 2020, it is a virtual one, where you stay at home and use a few prompts to spark your imagination. It’s cheaper, more environmentally friendly and, of course, avoids all the issues that a global pandemic creates even for national, let alone international travellers. Therefore, this weekend, Jane and I are (virtually) off to South Korea.

We bought some ingredients in a local oriental food store a few weeks ago and on today’s trip to the supermarket I slanted the weeks shop towards fresh things we needed to supplement the packets and jars, like spring onions and red chillis.

So far we’ve done our ‘flight’ by enjoying some Berliner doughnuts and then dined in Korean style with thick pancakes with added vegetables and prawns accompanied by spoonfuls of Kimchi (our first encounter with this famous Korean food – we must have picked a western-friendly one as I’ve heard that some people find it highly off-putting).

Later this evening, we might watch something in Korean (with subtitles) and then tomorrow we’ll do some virtual touring with a tool like Google Earth. Food is also catered for and we’ve got meals planned to keep us going until Sunday lunch. Oh, and no jet lag either!

Thursday 19 November 2020
by Wulf

Tawny Owl

Brewing again! I decided to do another run of the Cotleigh Barn Owl recipe I used for my Little Owl brew with the difference of using another of the yeasts I got from Crossmyloof (Beòir). That advertises use for Scottish and Irish brews so it will be interesting to compare it with the Midland used in the previous batch.

Mind you, I managed to cook up the wort a bit stronger. Last time I exceeded the 1.045 target and got 1.048; this time I inched up to 1.050. Efficient all the way but lets see what the yeast takes it down to.

Wednesday 18 November 2020
by Wulf

Like a Discount Descant

I’m starting to gear up for the Christmas season although the biggest musical event in the church calendar – the carol service – is going to have to be online this year. My plan is to put out recordings of the carols we are going to use and invite members of the church to send me back a recording of them singing along.

I’ve got a head start because, for several years, I supported choirs at St Clement’s with digitally created renderings of the different voice parts. However, up in the new place, I want to go one better and provide backing tracks with at least some of the parts sung rather than just played.

The soprano part (melody) is generally fairly easy, although I’m an octave lower than the typical female soprano, and the bass parts are the ones I’m most familiar with. I can do some of the tenor ones and I’ve made a start on getting Jane to help out with the alto lines (those I could probably sing but it would take extra work to learn them properly).

The biggest challenge are the descant parts in some of the carols – I’m definitely in the discount rather than top notch category when it comes to those parts. I did manage the one on O Little Town of Bethlehem with only minimal use of pitch correction but I’ll be glad when I can get some proper descants to fill in the gaps!

Tuesday 17 November 2020
by Wulf

Circles and Conclusion

I made an order the other day, most of which arrived. Separately dispatched was a set of guitar strings which allegedly were delivered on Saturday. I was in all day but there was no sign of them. Having given an extra working day for them to arrive yesterday, I followed it up this morning.

So, Amazon says go to the carrier (Royal Mail). Royal Mail says ask the sender (Amazon). Hmmmnnn… I can see that going round and round. Fortunately I spotted the customer services link on Amazon and took my chances with the chatbot.

In truth, it turned out to be quite straightforward. As the strings are relatively low value, I just had to respond to a few prompts and a replacement set is now on the way. Job done, hopefully, although I’d rather have had a less circular start. At least delivery issues with online orders have been so rare recently that it feels like something to blog about.

Monday 16 November 2020
by Wulf

Bad Witness?

On Facebook this morning, I spotted Premier Christian Radio posing the question: is it a bad witness for Christians to break the law by running church services in lockdown? To this, my one word answer is yes.

In a Christian context, “witness” signifies how we communicate God’s message to those around us. A good witness stirs up those who yearn for love and acceptance and draws them into the presence of Jesus; through his self-sacrifice, we can be reconciled to God and stand on solid ground rather then being condemned to empty isolation. Conversely, a bad witness mars that, presenting a view of a small God, constrained by rules enforced by mean and petty people.

Running public worship services during this present, short lockdown worships ritual and demonstrates a lack of imagination. Every church service is full of ritual – what is done or avoided and the expected sequence of events – even if it is at pains to avoid obvious expressions like a written liturgy. Churches have taken a lot of measures to make gathered worship as safe as possible but there are still elevated risks – what if the person behind you who is singing along loudly to the video on screen has an asymptomatic infection and an ineffective mask? Can you resist giving a hug to someone who is clearly in distress and in need of comfort? Also, in my experience, many people did not feel ready to return to live services when they were entirely permitted and so we still needed to maintain online streams as well.

I suspect that some of those who have deliberately persisted in keeping public worship services going during lockdown have had Hebrews 10:24-25 in mind:

… and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25, NASB

I have those verses in mind too but I don’t see a few weeks where we chose not to run our regular meetings in church as an apostate forsaking of assembly. Technology – online services and Zoom gatherings but also things like plain old telephone lines – gives us the means to express care for one another by staying physically apart while easily keeping in touch. There is no ban on encouraging one another and we express our worship as we find creative ways to do that without just being content to take the low-hanging fruit of the Internet-ready.

Watching an online service isn’t always an amazing experience (especially when you’ve already spent several hours editing it together!) but neither is sitting spread out and masked in a large room. One day, we hope we’ll return to church in the good ole way (whatever that is for you) and may we be ready to relish that like never before! Meanwhile, if you feel oppressed, perhaps spend some time on the Open Doors website and hear the stories of some who deal with a level of persecution that you, frankly, might not be fit enough for.

Sunday 15 November 2020
by Wulf

A Round Plan

This afternoon’s achievement has been creating a leaf mould enclosure. We had a role of chicken wire and various other bits and pieces lying around. The first step was measuring what length we needed. I thought I might work it out with pi (the circumference of a circle = 2πr, where r is the radius and π is approximately 3.14159) but, in the end, it was easier to use a bit of blue plastic pipe. It was already in a loop so I closed it down to the size I needed and then we rolled that out to set the length.

The cut ends of the chicken wire were long enough to curl round and join up into a cylinder and then I cut the end of a piece of wood to form a stake and drove it into the ground to secure the cage to.

Finally, we dropped in some leaves. Next door’s magnolia tree had given the end of our garden a generous carpet and we also popped to the churchyard to gather some more. We have a bit more capacity, so we’ll aim to fill it up further in the next couple of weeks as it will compress down as it decomposes and, if all goes to plan, we’ll have an excellent material for mulching by next spring.

Saturday 14 November 2020
by Wulf

Plants in the Ground

We’ve been doing a bit of gardening over the past couple of days. We finally felt ready to get some new plants (a couple of dogwoods and a type of buddleja I’ve not noticed before – Buddleja glomerata). The dogwoods are in a new bed I made down by the canalside, where they add some useful colour and will also provide some screening from the tow path on the other side once they find their feet next year. The buddleja is in a pot for now so we can shelter it if we get a very harsh winter but we’ll probably seek to find a more permanent home for it time.

We also got some seeds, which Jane planted out this morning under cover – things like sweetpeas, which should set us up for early flowering displays in 2021.

Finally, we did some plant moving. The garden came with some large grasses which looked pretty but weren’t really where we wanted them. Those have now been relocated near the canal bank, where they will be sympathetic to how several neighbours have tended their patches.