Christmas preparations

As of this morning, I have a new-found respect for my mother – not that I didn’t respect her before. It’s just that the high level of previous respect has shot up to an even greater level.

This is the first year that I’m not due to celebrate Christmas in my parent’s home (I’m being careful with language here, as my folks have moved house twice since I ever lived with them – so where they live is not really my home). Instead they’re coming here to Dublin.

It made sense to invite them over, because I need to stay in Dublin to fulfil my singing duties at the cathedral up until and including Christmas morning. And rather than my sit crying into my microwave turkey dinner all on my own (which would never have happened – I’ve already turned down 2 offers of Christmas dinner from friends, and would no doubt have got more), I thought it would be nice for them to come to me. And it would give me the opportunity to play host for once, and perhaps take some of the pressure off them. After all, despite their spry appearance, they are both pensioners.

The thing I didn’t really appreciate was the amount of work that goes into preparing for Christmas. There’s the preparation of the house – tidying and cleaning – and the purchase of all the food, and all those ‘extras’ like crackers.

I was at Marks and Spencer at 9.30am this morning picking up my turkey, as well as a whole load of other food. And as I write this at about 11.00am, I’m contemplating a further two food shopping trips today.

It doesn’t help, of course, not owning a car. I can’t just fill a trolley and dump it in the boot – whatever I buy I need to be able to carry home (without my arms dropping off).

Anyway, I feel that I’m beginning to ramble now – and that’s probably because I’m trying to avoid having to go out again. But I suppose I should switch off the computer and get going – and hope that I find the strength to battle through the crowds in the city centre. Thank goodness all my present buying is completed.

Funeral service

The funeral service of the Very Reverend Desmond Harman took place at 11.00am today in Christ Church Cathedral Dublin.

At the request of his family the service was a Eucharist of Thanksgiving and Celebration, and it was celebrated by the Most Reverend Dr. John Neill, Archbishop of Dublin.

The sermon was given by the Venerable Edgar Swann, Archdeacon of Glendalough and the late Dean’s brother-in-law (sermon text).

The following music was performed:

  • Organ music before the service: Pièce d’orgue (BWV572) – J.S.Bach, Carol – Gerald Finzi, Fugue in E flat major (BWV552ii) – J.S.Bach
  • The Funeral Sentences – William Croft
  • Requiem – Maurice Duruflé
  • Psalm 122
  • Hymn: Now thank we all ord God (Nun danket)
  • Bring us, O Lord God – William Harris
  • Hymn: Praise, my soul, the King of heaven (Praise, My Soul)
  • The Spirit of the Lord – Edward Elgar
  • Set me as a seal – William Walton
  • Sussex Mummers’ Christmas Carol – Percy Grainger
  • Hymn: Christ triumphant, ever reigning (Guiting Power)
  • Expectans Expectavi – Charles Wood
  • Organ Voluntary: Praeludium et Fuga in G (BWV541) – J.S.Bach

Much of the music for today’s service was chosen by Dean Harman for his installation service on 26th April 2004. That service ended the same was as today’s service, with the motet ‘Expectans Expectavi’ by Charles Wood.
The interment took place privately.

New OSP web site

It was back in 1995 that Robin McMorran created the first web site for my old church in Edinburgh, Old Saint Paul’s; hosting the site on a free server somewhere in the Netherlands.

Then in 1998 I took over and design and maintenance of the site; moving it to its current domain name of Since then the Old Saint Paul’s web site (also sometime known as OSP Online) has gone through many design iterations, including this version of the site from 2005:

But just as I moved away from Edinburgh in April 2007, disaster struck. The web hosts were hacked, and all the content of the server (including all backups) were lost. I was busy moving to a new country, and didn’t really have the time to rebuild the site from scratch. So the vestry made the sensible decision of commissioning someone more local to home to build a new site.

Justin Reynolds has a long association with Old Saint Paul’s, and has produced numerous web sites for other organisations in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Plus he’s a professional web designer – and as such, was an obvious choice. I’m just glad that, amongst his other commitments, he was able to find the time to work on the OSP site.

Anyway, so the new site went live this morning, and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s pretty fantastic. Do have a look around, and let me know what you think. The address is:

Christmas card photos

I’ve heard of planning ahead, but this is quite impressive. On Monday night, in the middle of our preparations for the Nine Lessons and Carols the two choirs of Christ Church formed up outside the cathedral to take some photographs round the tree. The idea being that the shots will be considered for the cathedral’s Christmas card for 2008.

This isn’t one of the shots taken (you may notice the lack of any choir people in the frame), but a photo I took earlier in the evening of the cathedral and its Christmas tree. If you want to see the photo with the choirs in it, you’ll have to wait till next year.

This year’s christmas card for 2007 is a water colour by Olivia Hayes

Old Jameson Distillery

This morning I did the tour at the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin.

But before I tell you about it, I should probably mention that a friend of mine works there as a tour guide – and in fact she took my tour today – so my comments may not be entirely objective (even though I don’t think she reads this site).

It was pretty quiet in the reception of the old distillery when I arrived at about 11.00am. On this cold December day, only a week before Christmas, the tourists were a bit thin on the ground – and those just ahead of me had only moments earlier set off on one of the regular tours.

But I wasn’t here to see any old tour – I wanted to see my friend in action, and she wasn’t starting the next tour for another 30 minutes, so I decided to settle back in the café and treat myself to a hot whiskey (Jamesons of course). I don’t normally drink spirits so early in the day – and rarely drink whiskey at all – but it seemed like a good idea at the time. And I must say I did enjoy it very much, and it helped the wait pass very quickly.

The tour started, and my small group were ushered into an auditorium for an introduction and film about Irish whiskey and the history of John Jameson. My friend was taking the tour, and we had kind-of colluded not to disclose to any of the other visitors that we knew each other – mostly so as to not spoil things for them – but also so that I could secretly infiltrate the group and encourage them all to laugh at her jokes.

After the film, we were taken through a series of rooms, each showing the different stages in the manufacturing process. This isn’t a working distillery however (the production of Jameson moved from Dublin to County Cork some years ago) – it’s more of a whiskey makers museum, with mock-ups of the different parts of the whiskey making processes. As you go from room to room, you learn about the preparation of the barley, the mashing of the grains, and the distilling and ageing of the resultant spirit.

It’s an interesting tour, and slickly put together. But best of all, everyone over 18 years of age gets a free shot of Jamesons (with a mixer if preferred) to try for them self at the end. And three people from each tour group are also invited to take part in a tasting – which involves sampling five different drinks (3 different Irish whiskeys, a Scottish whisky, and an American bourbon), with the eventual aim of picking out your favourite.

Of course, I made sure that I volunteered for the tasting at the end (it was free booze!), joining two enthusiastic American gentlemen from Washington DC. And all three of us ended up selecting Jameson as our favourite – for my part because I found it more smooth and drinkable than the Scottish and American varieties (a statement that will no doubt get me into a lot of trouble with my whisky-drinking Scottish friends).

Anyway, so I really enjoyed the tour, and ended up feeling pleasantly merry by the end of the tasting (just in time for lunch), so it was all good. And I enjoyed the Jamesons so much, that I even stopped off to buy myself a bottle on the way home. Here in Dublin, I hear the cool thing to do is to mix it with Cranberry juice, which I’ll have to try. But in the mean time, I’ll just make do with a dash of water in it (which is how I was taught to drink whisky in Scotland).

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