13. Retirement 2002-2009
I rush on, and if I am spared a little longer, I shall tidy up and add.
The farewell from Downend was a wonderful occasion. Dorothy came, and commented how much love there was. They gave me a Dyson vacuum cleaner and a copy of Sibelius, the music software, which was rather expensive.
While I was in Downend I had spent my retirement lump sum from teaching in having my own house put in order and extended. Now it has four bedrooms and a nicer bathroom, and downstairs the drawing room is large, and there is a downstairs loo. It had been looking derelict, and in fact one week when I came back to the house for my 24 hours off, including a night, I found that local children had got in through the back door. No harm done, but I'm sure the neighbours were glad when the builders started work.
When the work was finished, Charlie came from London and settled in, with a friend/lodger, and the house was going again. For Charlie it was a very good move. He joined a local cricket team, renewed old friendships, got much fitter, and was there when I came for my day off, and in the end when I retired to Street.
Back in Street I took up one or two old pursuits, like the church organ and the choir, and a new one, the Street Society. Sue Monaghan, who lives in Street, taught for a time at Bruton School for Girls, and co-founded the Street Society (which is a civic society in all but name) asked me to become its Secretary. I did that job for two years, and followed up by being Chairman for another two. This meant that I took a new interest in Street, looked at it with new eyes, and began to try to save the best of the old and keep an eye on planning applications. I also looked after the Street Society website.
Efficient committee members looked after various aspects of the Society's life, the monthly meetings with speakers, the outings in the summer to interesting local places, or further afield to Prince Charles' gardens at Highgrove and so on. I represented Street on the Mendip Conservation Advisory Panel, with a lot of professional architects to learn from.
One project I inherited from Sue Monaghan was to study Overleigh and try to get it made a conservation area. Fortunately Sue kept helping. We commissioned a professional conservationist to do a report - expensive. I made a video of the place, which is still on YouTube. At last I think it will be part of a Conservation Area, but not before it has been spoiled in a number of ways.
As part of the Street Society activities, members of the Housman Society spent a couple of days in Street, not looking at A.E. Housman for once, bt at his brother and sister Laurence and Clemence, who spent the last half of their lives in Street. I boned up on Laurence and gave a slide lecture on his graphic work - I delivered this in Street Library - and with a friend presented a scene from his plays about Queen Victoria. I played Disraeli, and the performance, with Charlie in another role, went down well. I had chosen an anthology of LH's verse as well, which the visitors could not be convinced would stand up with his brother's. I made a website for Laurence, a sub-site on the Street Society website.
I must not forget Children's World. The speaker at one of the Street Society meeting was Arabella Churchill, founder of Children's World. She was also Winston Churchill's granddaughter, and you caught glimpses of the famous man as she spoke. I knew about her and the charity through Barbara, who worked there as a secretary shortly after leaving school and learning to touch-type in Bristol; then I heard more through Sue. Bill Godiseth worked for the charity and used to come back and tell Sue about his day's work. Anyway, I had looked up the Children's World website,and found there was a great deal of fascinating stuff there, but that it needed a bit of TLC to make it user-friendly. So I offered my services to Arabella, and have looked after that site until handing it back to the capable hands of Paddy the other week. Looking after it meant that I followed the tours that Arabella did with her husband Haggis and other performers, particularly after the Tsunami. I set up blogs for these, and was rewarded with vivid accounts of Sri Lanka and other interesting places. You can say I took on the job because of the glamour of the Churchill name, and that is partly true, but Arabella had a charisma of her own which made it a joy to know her and be counted among her friends. She died quite recently, and I went to her funeral at the crem, part Buddhist, part Christian. Full of life and feeling, and well as of chanting. The place was crammed, and the dress code was certainly informal.
While I think of websites, I must give an account of the ArLT site. I was asked to look after this while I was still at Downend, but said I'd wait for retirement. It has take up hours every week. It is now a very big site, with a password controlled section for teachers' resources, a calendar of all UK classical events of interest to schools, a history of the Association for Latin Teaching, many of the founder's books digitalised in part or whole, and a blog. It is the blog which takes the most time. I add to it every day, often several times a day. Mary Beard, who writes a blog for the Times, says it is 'not sexy, but essential', and includes it in her top 20 blogs. Many people regularly say kind things about it.
Here I pay tribute to Charlie, who hosts the ARLT and most of my other websites, and keeps things going and explains to me how to do things, and if I am slow in the uptake, does them for me. Trevor is also a great help, mostly on the end of a phone.
Robert is the one who started our family tree, and his versions are still the most attractive and probably the most useful. But I borrowed his handiwork and put it on Family Tree Maker computer program, and it is now on line for other researchers. I have had many contacts and queries by email arising from this, and have made on-line friends and 'met' distant cousins. One lady in London, for instance, shares my love of Cousin Gladys Wynne and her paintings, and we tell each other when another one comes up for auction, and enjoy the web version of the picture. I have also added very many names from earlier centuries, so that it is easy to trace our lineage from William the Conqueror, for example, or any one of a number of his knights, or from the Scottish Royal Family. I have found that we are cousins of John and Charles Wesley; their mother was an Annesley. Robert once gave me an historical novel by old Monktonian Bernard Cornwell, and I showed how we were descended from commanders on both sides of the Battle of Crecy. He gave me another by the same author, from the time of King Alfred the Great, and I was able to show our direct line from Alfred. All good fun.
The family websites that we have are an open one called parsonsfamily.co.uk, and a password-protected one on MyFamily.com, where I feel I can post pictures of children without fear of nastiness happening. In the weeks since I had my cancer diagnosis, I have collected my music compositions onto one page of the parsonsfamily.co.uk website, and added videos or audio of as many of them as I can.
For the first years in Street I had Sue MacDougall as my companion for concerts, plays, and holidays. We enjoyed many wonderful musical and artistic experiences together over the years. Our visit to Poland was one high spot. I was so glad of the chance of seeing my birthplace, as well as the beauties of the southern mountains and the horror of Auschwitz. For some time I kept my return rail ticket there, with the grim reminder that the Jews who went there by train had no return. I kept a journal of most of these holidays, so won't enlarge on them here.
But Sue discovered that she had a alignant brain tumour, and died within a few months of the diagnosis. I shared the hospital vigil with her children and Bill, and was the one with her when she breathed her last. I missed, and miss, her more than even I ever imagined I would. Enough already.
Michael Kidd, and his wife Pat, have become a big part of my life. Sue and I used to spend time with them most weeks, with Michael and me making, and talking, music, while Sue and Pat talked art and many other things. I have continued the weekly visits, and during these last few years Michael and I have retrieved many of his organ pieces and they have been published and recorded. This has been a great joy to both of us. I find that when I am down, I perk up in short order once I am with Michael, and I think he finds the same. Together we devised a website called michaelkidd.org, where you can read more and hearsome of his music.
A year or two ago enterprising people gathered choir, orchestra and soloists to perform 'Bethlehem' by Rutland Boughton in St Mary's Glastonbury. I was roped in and sang the Unbeliever - not type-cast - which I learned was the role the Rutland Boughton himself took. Boughton was a leading light in the Glastonbury Festivals of the early 20th century. One lasting legacy of that occasion is my friendship with Helen Lunt; I gave her a lift to a rehearsal, and we have met off and on ever since to play cello and piano or songs with piano. We have given public recitals in Street Parish Church, Walton (at a flower festival), St Cuthbert's, Wells, and Bruton Parish Church. Helen is now one who comes to spend time with me and I value this.
A great joy of recent years has been Barbara's marriage to Giles Reynolds, and the coming of their wonderful girls, Grace Emily and Sophie Louise. They live in Wooburn Green, about 2.5 hours' drive from Street, but I have been able to visit them, and they me, and to spend the odd day with them when they are on holiday, so that the girls know me, and I hope will remember me. Theirs is a warm, loving, playful and thoroughly delightful family, and it always cheers me to be with them.
I am very glad that this crisis of my illness has brought me together with Rowena and Nicolette again. They are another wonderful household, close to each other and radiating ability and enthusiasm.
Trevor is always there, always loving, a man who spends his life in the service of others, and to make his neighbourhood a better and safer place. I thank God that I have Charlie with me as my chief carer. He is rising to the challenge magnificently.
I thank God for my brother and sister. Robert and I enjoy making music when we meet, and sharing ideas about the Ministry, and Liz is a great sister-in-law. I am very fond of her. Dorothy is the centre of the family now, particularly as providing hospitality and holding family gatherings at Christmas and other times. She and David seem rock-like.
I want to write more about the local church. The rector, John Greed, has been a good friend. When I retired he made it quite clear that he would not ask me to do anything I did not choose to do and enjoy doing, which is wonderful. I said I could preach once a month, and I have done that - well, usually less frequently. With great arrogance I have put all these sermons on the Street and Walton parish website (streetandwalton.co.uk), together with all the sermons that I can get hold of from the rector and other preachers. But most preachers here do not think internet as much as I do.
One of John Greed's pluses is that he doesn't want to grab everything into his own hands. If someone has a good idea, John is happy to let them get on with doing it, and taking the credit. I suppose Sunrise! is an example. John retires this autumn, and I was bracing mself for more work, including taking funerals, but now I shall relax and know that there is a fine team of David Hatrey, NSM curate, a big, humorous headmaster with a very keen mind, reader Brian Moreby who is much appreciated particularly for funerals, and retired and otherwise-employed clergy.
One family that were a huge help to the Street churches are the McConnaughies, Adrian and Sarah, and their boys Caolin and twins Jonty and Dewi. (Spelling?) Sarah was a parish worker for us for a year or two and provided the charm and energy that got Sunrise! going here. The family were also right behind TrinityFest, which deserves a paragraph or two for itself. Adrian taught science at Millfield, with a Ph D which he kept very quiet about, but heard the call to the Ministry. We spent happy hours at his kitchen table as he learned New Testament Greek before going to Trinity College in Bristol, and during the course. They are now at Bath Abbey, where the boys are in the Abbey Choir and enjoying it.
TrinityFest. While I was in Downend the Rector got one of his longed-for projects off the ground, with the refurbishment and reordering of the Parish Church. It is the oldest building in Street, listed Grade 1, strategically situated opposite Strode College and Crispin School, occupying a sacred Lan from the early Roman and post-Roman times, and it was looking almost derelict. John Greed, helped by a generous legacy from a choir member, drew up ambitious plans and with the Wardens got them through all the diocesan and other hoops and the church was taken out of service for a year and transformed. It now has no fixed pews - the old ones were painful to sit in - underfloor heating - it used to be cold - and beautiful designed lighting that brings the whole place, with the red seats, to life. The rector wanted events to bring people into the 'new' church, and TrinityFest was the result. We had a week of services, concerts, talks, exhibition, and ChidrensFest, which was the McC thing, and brought families in. Since then ChildrensFest has taken place each year, with a barn dance and barbecue, and we have welcomed people with little or no previous church connections. The other off-shoot of the original TrinityFest has been monthly concerts in the Parish Church. These are now in abeyance, but they were a fine thing, organised chiefly by Gary, and they culminated in a recital by Carlo Curley. This was a packed event. He charged £1,000, and we paid £250 for a screen to show the console. This was provided by another brilliant young organist who is quite a disciple of Carlo's, and who I hope makes a go of his own recital career.
Among the recitals was one that Robert, Trevor and I gave, called Brothers Plus. That was popular. We also did a recital for Robert in Belper, with some of the same music. In Street Robert played the orchestra part of the Rachmaninov 2nd concerto (2nd movement) while I played the piano. The rector's wife said she had never realised I was a proper musician before! At the return match in Belper I played the orchestral part of Mozart K488 while Robert played the piano. He had played that concerto at school, and knows it like the back of his hand.