Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Renovation 9.

Although Rob and I did some work over the winter, trimming the edges of the liner and placing edging stones, the next pic was taken on 4th March 2016 after a light snow.
You can see the pond now clearly delineated, and the gill nets dragged by ice and snow onto the surface of the pond. But all is well.
To the bottom right you can just see the stone fire pit where I make paellas in the warmer months on a wood fire.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Renovation 8.

It was 3rd November 2016 before Rob and I reconvened. You can see in the photo above that there is now about a foot of water in the pond. This rise in level was due to rain and to ground water pumped up from the well. We had stretched gill nets over the pond to protect the fish from herons.
Our work that day consisted principally in collecting soil to build up the two new banks, after their original level had settled.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Renovation 7.

At last the day came for us to put the new liner in place, laying on top of the old one. This was on 23rd October 2015. 
In the photo above you can see a large object in the pond. This was an old plant tub made of durable plastic and which Rob had opened the bottom of, intending it to be a refuge for the fish.
Once the liner was in place we were able to empty three water butts of rain water, and pump the contents of a well into the pond; in all, about 1000 litres. We put back the five goldfish which had survived the herons' visits, together with large clumps of the oxygenating weed.
At the end of the day there was about 8 inches of water in the bottom of the pond, and within minutes of being introduced the fish were enthusiastically exploring every inch of their new habitat.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Renovation 6.

On Thursday 22nd October 2015 Rob and I met again to complete the building up of the two new banks. Once satisfied that we had put enough rock and soil in place, with the right contours, and had faced it with old pieces of carpet, we put the old liner back into the pond. Here it would act as an under-liner for the new one.
You can see from this picture how clean we had managed to get the old liner before putting it back it in virtually the same orientation that it had previously occupied.
I should say that during all this time we had perfect weather for the job. Apart from some rain which fell during the weekend, we had clear, sunny days, and temperatures of about 13C.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Renovation 5.

It was the following Tuesday, 20th October 2015, when Rob and I re-convened. I should say that each day we worked on this project, we spent up to three hours working together - between five and a half and six man-hours.

By the end of Tuesday 20th the two new banks were built up. You can see in the above photo a length of red carpet which we used to maintain the bank on the near side. You can also see a length of black hose leading into the empty pond cavity. This would stay in that place under the new liner and act as a release conduit for water accumulating under the liner.
We hoped that by replacing the old liner, which had indeed been leaking, we could cure the build-up of so much water under the liner.
The old liner had been rained on a few times over the weekend and, together with some scrubbing down from Rob and I, was now more or less clear of sediment on its upper side.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Renovation 4.

Overnight on 16th October it rained quite a bit. Rob and I were glad because the old liner would get a good soaking and make it easier for us to clear all the sediment from it. Sadly, I didn't take any photos of the old liner being cleaned. But during the next day, 17th October, we set to with brushes and a hose pipe, and did our best to remove more of the mud.
We also worked again on the two new banks that we were establishing for the pond. The photo below shows the results of our work that day. The new bank on the far side of the pond is a little clearer in this pic. And you can see water still pooling in the pond cavity.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Renovation 3.

Next day,16th October 2015, Rob and I faced the hardest job of all; we decided to take the old liner out of the pond and lay it out so that we could clean it more thoroughly. We needed every ounce of strength to drag the liner out and across the grass to an open space where we could lay it out. There was still sediment on the upper side, and mud clung to the underside - it weighed a ton!
Our hope was that if it rained the upper side of the liner would get a good wash.
We were interested to see that water was already pooling in the open pond, and it soon became clear that the top soil of the garden was laid over a solid seam of clay.
We then began a new task. We had decided to make the pond a little smaller by creating two new banks. Our work would result in reducing the size of the pond from being an irregular 6m diameter circle, to being 6m in one axis, and 5m in the other.
We started on the far bank, placing first rocks and then soil to build a new bank. You can just make out, in the photo above, the new soil (and rocks) which we put in place along an eight or nine foot segment along the far side of the pond. This was another back-breaking task which ended the third day's work.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Renovation 2.

The following day, 15th October 2015, Rob and I emptied all the sludge out of the pond by hand. We used a bucket and a washing-up bowl to scoop out the knee-high sediment, which we then spread all over the garden among the plants and bushes - back-breaking work. In two and half hours we had just about cleared all the mud out.
Having revealed the liner we were able to make an inspection for puncture holes. We found a few holes, two of them on the pond sides were about an inch long - yes, there had indeed been a slow leak.
As we gazed at huge expanse of exposed liner we knew that the next day's work was already presented; we would have to clean up the old liner quite a bit more.

Friday, 22 April 2016


Here in the presbytery garden at St Ignatius' there is a wonderful pond, which was created by one of my predecessors twenty five years ago. Last year, 2015, the pond was so over-grown that I even launched an inflatable into it so that I could do some weeding.
I also suspected that the pond liner was leaking. The question then was, should I attempt a small clearing up job, or should I replace the liner. 
The pond is an irregular circle with a diameter of 6 meters, so emptying the pond and replacing the liner would not be an insignificant task. This is what I decided to do.
With the help of Rob, from the parish, the two of us began this huge work of renovation on 14th October 2015. We pumped some of the water out of the pond so that we could catch the fish. I should say, at this point, that there had been nine good-sized goldfish and one large dark fish in the pond. We retrieved only five goldfish - the herons had taken the rest. The pond is also full of frogs and common newts.
This is how the pond looked after our first day of work:
By the time we started work on the pond the newts had already migrated into the garden to overwinter; many of the frogs on the other hand, made their own escape out of the pond as we worked, others tried to conceal themselves in the deep mud, hoping that we hadn't seen them. 
Having pumped much of the water out, we discovered that there was about 16 inches of sludge and sediment right across the bottom of the pond. No wonder the weeds were so prolific! We would have to remove all of this by hand. It suddenly became became clear to us the size of the job which we had undertaken.
To be continued.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

A very happy birthday ...

… to our dear Queen, Elizabeth II. She is our longest lived monarch. May God bless her on her ninetieth birthday, and through her, the whole nation.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Undimmed witness.

The memorial to the martyrs of Durham is by the small roundabout on Framlingate, north of the city and close to Durham City Hall. The memorial (photo above) could easily be missed, so it is better to park the car and walk over to see it. The inscription reads: "Without doubt these priests were martyrs to God."
It is good that this memorial exists, but the place where six priests and three laymen gave their greatest witness is a quarter or a mile further north, on the very crest of the hill. Here, nineteen years ago a gully named 'Dryburn' was filled in with ballast so that a new hospital, The North Durham University Hospital could be built.
On this arial photograph of the hospital, somewhere in the top part of the picture stood the ancient gallows of Dryburn, which was last used in 1805. Here on 27th May 1590, Frs Richard Hill, John Hogg, Richard Holiday and Edmund Duke were hung, drawn and quartered. These four were beatified by Pope St John Paul II in 1987.
On 4th February 1594, Mr John Speed was hung for having assisted Fr John Boste.
Then on 24th July 1594, Fr John Boste was hung, drawn and quartered. He was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
Then on 9th August 1600 Fr Thomas Palaser was hung, drawn and quartered, and Mr John Newton and Mr John Talbot were hung. Fr Palaser and Mr Talbot were beatified by Pope St John Paul II in 1987.
What a record! What a blessed site for healing!
All these martyrs would have been held, before execution, in the old Gaol, which was the then north Gate of the old city of Durham, part of which still exists just behind the shops near where Owengate and Saddler Street meet.
Also, we must include Fr Thomas Plumtree, who took part in the Northern Rising of 1569 and celebrated Mass in Durham Cathedral. He was captured and hung, drawn and quartered in the the Market Place at Durham on 4th January 1570. He was beatified in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII.
The Market Place (photo above) is as busy as ever, but holds no memorial to Durham's first saint.
All these martyrs are commemorated in the beautiful Church of St Godric, just to the west of the old city, and where there is Eucharistic Adoration every day.

May the life and witness of these ten men be a light for many, a light that will never grow dim.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The faith of men.

I like the film "Risen", particularly because it enters into the reality of masculine faith. The encounter with the death and Resurrection of Jesus by the Tribune Clavius, played by Joseph Fiennes, presents a realistic and timely version of how men are called to become men of faith.
In the encounter with the Mystery of Christ, the film expresses really well those first uncertain steps when a man seek to rationalise and manage the situation, the struggle to respond in a mature and responsible way whilst not understanding, and the acceptance of a new way of living. Above all, it is the inner transformation of the man which "Risen" explores. We see the hard-working Clavius exercising his profession and authority diligently and prudently, with hopes of a more assured and peaceful future, only to see him achieving those hopes, not through blood and sweat but through the gift of another. His transformation becomes tangible in his personal contact with the Risen Christ. For me, the best scene is when he climbs to sit by Jesus who, at night time, is awake in prayer to his Father. Clavius readily acknowledges his faltering heart to Jesus; he doesn't know how to approach Jesus, nor what to say to him, and yet his joy and wonder at sitting beside Jesus confirms his inner conviction of faith.
This is a film about discipleship that should move most men in some way, as it traces the outlines of the same journey which all disciples of the Lord have made. Although the film ends with Clavius as a lone pilgrim setting out in his Christian life, I would have preferred to see him setting out with a group of disciples, as a part of the Church and sharing the same mission. Nonetheless, the film ends with us knowing that Clavius has been transformed, changed, in his whole person, and that that change was the work of Jesus, and that what matters most is what Jesus does, and not all the other stuff which human beings who are not connected with Jesus do. 
If you're a man - go and enjoy this film!

Monday, 7 March 2016

The Coxhoe Four.

Four young men were arrested at this village and condemned to death. We can't forget them.
Coxhoe is a village in County Durham about six miles south east of the city of Durham. One mile east of the present village is the site of old Coxhoe. The above photo shows the site of Coxhoe Hall, which was demolished in the 1950's. Most likely, somewhere near this place these four young men, Edmund Duke, Richard Hill, John Hogg and Richard Holiday, were arrested in the spring of 1590. Edmund was twenty-seven years old, the others were all twenty five years old. They had arrived from the continent only a few days earlier, disembarking at South Shields.
They were all Catholic priests and, having not found the friends they had expected to meet at South Shields, they were heading south for Yorkshire. Having been arrested they were taken to Durham, tried and condemned to be hung, drawn and quartered. Their execution took place at Dryburn, just north of the city of Durham on 27th May 1590.
I visited Coxhoe recently, both the new village and the site of the old, and as I stood looking south over the site of the old hall to the site of the old village just below, I was overwhelmed by the thought of the character of the these four young men who, not having yet been able to exercise their priesthood in this country, were so willing to give up any part in society, even a society that rejected them, in favour of the most complete exercise of their priesthood. 
The Coxhoe Four were all beatified by Pope John Paul II on 22nd November 1987.
Blessed Edmund, Richard, John and Richard, we humbly seek your prayers.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Not a one man job.

At the start of the year I was just moving one of Satan's tabernacles when my grasp slipped and it rolled over onto my foot. Well, I was limping badly for a few weeks while my toes recovered their usual stance. 
Moving a large set, like the one I had hanging around, really is a two-man job.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Ordinary Prayers

The other day I received a complementary copy, from the Latin Mass Society, of their new booklet, The Ordinary Prayers of the Traditional Latin Mass. This is a tremendous publication which they have clearly put a lot of work into.
The Ordinary Prayers is not so much a pocket missal as a Liturgical prayer book, which is so presented as to lead to a greater participation in the Mass. Indeed, it is a booklet which truly appreciates the Mystery which takes place in the Mass. Its simple presentation of the Prayers of the Mass, with marginal notes and accompanying icons, will do much to lead to that interior participation in the Mass, which was so desired by the Second Vatican Council.
If you can get hold of a copy, I do recommend it to you. And I hope that this small but significant publication, will lead to a much needed re-focus, within the Church today, not only of what takes place in the Mass, but of us being present to the saving Mystery, by our participation in the prayers and actions of the Mass.
I have never seen a comparable publication for the Novus Ordo, and the Latin Mass Society should be congratulated for their service to the Liturgy of the Church.