Category Archives: Church

A Serious Man

‘No Jews were harmed in the making of this motion picture’ it says on the penultimate page of the 38 page press release. Are they quite sure? There was an awful lot of quietly dreadful stuff happening in A Serious Man, the latest film by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Apart from the ‘quietly dreadful’ it’s a rather sweet and lovely film, albeit somewhat weird. Although neither Jewish nor American, I felt strangely at home anyway. I feel 38 pages of information about a film is slightly on the long side, but it did help explain how they came by a residential area looking as new as it should have done in 1967, when the film is set. Storm damage, apparently. I’d been worried they’d cut down all the mature trees.

A Serious Man 2

The setting is almost too perfect and ‘authentic’, says I who have never set foot in the US. That’s the thing, really, with period pieces. They are too clean and too period. And it had better not have been the CCR Cosmo’s Factory they referred to.

What’s refreshing is using actors who are more or less unknown. We may feel we know them, but we don’t, really. It goes to show that we don’t need to be constantly forcefed Hollywood stars.

So, it’s about this poor middle aged man, who thinks life is fine and normal, and suddenly it’s anything but. Physics professor Larry Gopnik has a wife who wants to divorce him – as long as it’s a ‘gett’ kind of divorce – and a brother who’s a nuisance, a pot-smoking son just pre-Bar Mitzvah, and a daughter who washes her hair rather frequently. There is also his superior who will decide on giving Larry tenure. Or not. A blackmailing student, who gets the Physics, but not the Maths. Television aerials.

A Serious Man 1

More rabbis than you can shake a stick at, and who can’t advise poor Larry very well, and a surprisingly kind divorce lawyer. One sexy neighbour and one gun wielding one, who mows the lawn in a worrying manner. And, a beginning to the film which makes almost no sense whatsoever, except it’s quite fun and enjoyable. Let that be a warning.

On at Cornerhouse from Friday.

(Photos © Focus Features)

Fog follows fireworks?

Once I’d convinced myself that it was a squirrel pecking on my bedroom window, I got up and drew the curtains, to find fog, but no squirrel. (It was a bird in the attic, so I was close.) ‘Fog’, I thought. ‘Yes, of course, it’s the 6th of November. Has to be foggy.’

The Resident IT Consultant was banging and chasing the poor bird, which meant he obviously wasn’t out buying the morning paper, so I settled down with a magazine and my Weetabix. The first page I turned to had the whole story of the fog at Lützen on November 6th, 1632, when King Gustav Adolf of Sweden died on the battlefields in the Thirty Years War. Witchy, or what?

So, maybe fog is formed in the aftermath of lots of gunpowder? We certainly had a surplus of gunpowder in the air the night before the morning of the non-squirrel. Bet Lützen had lots of gunpowder, too.

The magazine went on to show a picture of the Gustav Adolf pastry which Gothenburgers eat on November 6th. The people of neighbouring Borås also eat pastries, as both towns were founded by good old Gustav Adolf. He wasn’t that old, actually. Only 38 when he died in the fog. And he was the father of Greta Garbo, so to speak, since she played his daughter Queen Kristina in the film.

Gustav Adolf church Liverpool, by Kristoffer Morén

This brings us neatly to church. My church, the Gustav Adolf church in Liverpool. In a few weeks’ time we will celebrate 125 years of worship at Gustav Adolf, which could soon come to an end. I’ve blogged about this before, but it seems that things are suddenly worse than we thought. Again. The ‘powers’ in Uppsala still believe they have the right to sell the church and kick us out.

That’s despite Liverpool City Council telling them that they can’t. And even if they are allowed to, who would buy a church in the current climate? It must remain a church, because it’s listed. Before, it seemed as if all that Uppsala wanted was to make money. Now they can’t possibly expect to make anything much from a sale, so I’ll have to assume they simply want us out. We are a thorn in their Christian sides.

Fittingly, the church has just started a blog to cover the story of our possible future. Let’s hope we have one.

(Photo by Kristoffer Morén)

A waffle stop tour

And thank God for the Norwegian seamen’s church in Gothenburg.

The Resident IT Consultant and his witch have rarely been so close to complete meltdown as on Friday. And yes, it’s taken me three days to muster up the strength to even blog after that.

Daughter required a visit to Liseberg, the Gothenburg theme park. Son and Dodo were willing to keep her company. The adults should have known better. Anyway. We drove leisurely, stopping first at the Sia-Glass ice cream factory in Slöinge for Dodo’s purchase of ice cream sauce to take back to Britain. Then a longer stop at Freeport, Kungsbacka’s retail outlet.

Then the bad decisions kicked in, because lunch at Ikea may be cheaper than elsewhere, but with those July holiday queues we should have got out even faster than we did. Still hungry, and it was late by this time. OK, we could look for pizza places in Mölndal on our way in to Gothenburg. We could have, had the Resident IT Consultant not whizzed past all the exits on the motorway.

So, let’s aim for Liseberg, then, and pick something up to eat there, awful though it may be. After negotiating two sides of Liseberg on the outside, narrowly avoiding getting stuck across tram tracks with hired car with weirdest handbrake ever, we spent quite some time driving round the car park. We had lots of company, because many others did the same thing.

At this point I kicked the little ones out of the car, saying they were big enough to cope on their own, and go in there and have fun (hah) while we park. Somewhere. Perhaps. We drove. We drove some more. Still in the same car with the same handbrake. Stopping on steep hill to look at map, behind parked cars. Still with the same handbrake… Phone call from little ones to say Liseberg had given up on the idea of taking payment in plastic and they were traipsing round for cash machine.

Drove some more. Drove past little ones who had found money somewhere. Drove. Drove. Oh, and did I mention I was aiming to be at the cinema at ten past three?

We had a dinner date in the suburbs with Pippi after six. Decided at this rate we may as well go there immediately and park. Maybe even stay there and leave little ones to their fates. Pulled into 30 minute layby to consult more maps, phone Pippi, and breathe. We were outside the Norwegian Seamen’s church, which incidentally is next door to the cinema. The witch decided to use the church’s toilet on the grounds that churches are nice places , and we are members of the Scandinavian seamen’s church in Liverpool, so were practically at home, so to speak.

WC requirement dealt with, there was a tantalising smell of waffles. The sign said they were open for coffee and waffles all day. On investigating some more, space to park the car and its handbrake – legally – came to light. I’m not saying where. Early Pippi plans were scrapped and two demented people decamped to the church’s coffee room and ate waffles. We had still not had lunch, as you may remember.

Ate more waffles. And possibly some more still. Hard to recall. We spent 90 minutes in that blissfully quiet, empty, comfortable waffle heaven.

It was five past three as we began, and all thoughts of the cinema had to be scrapped, despite being next door. Sanity was begging to be restored. I checked on the little ones that they were OK. Found later they had also had waffles at Liseberg, although theirs cost rather more. We rendez-voused at the church later on, and Daughter received short guided talk on its architecture from friendly Norwegian, before we took off for Pippi’s.

Since the purpose of this post is to praise the church and its waffles (did you know Norwegian waffles are especially nice?), I shouldn’t criticise Liseberg. We usually love it, and I’m sure at some later stage I will blog about its charms, but I do not understand the ban on card payment. It’s not really their fault the car parks were clogged up with Liseberg visitors. They even repaid Son and Dodo for their tickets to ride, when Son got irate over having paid 600 kronor (£50) to go nowhere at all. In three hours Daughter managed four rides for her 300 kronor, which even in a good mood I think is really poor. The others watched. And ate waffles.

There may be more waffling here later.

Ridiculous

‘You don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate’. Yes, I think we’d already worked that one out, but the dawning realisation of what he’d just said, on camera and in front of his staff, was quite a sight. I don’t want to be the Senator for Arkansas for a while.

I’d never heard of Bill Maher, and that is a good thing. I started watching Religulous thinking maybe he’d be discovering a lot of worthwhile insincerity about religion. I think maybe he thought so, too. What this stand-up comedian did, was to go round being rude to a lot of people because of their faith.

Personally I’m fairly neutral about religion, so have no crusade to take in either direction, and I’m neither amused nor insulted by Bill Maher. Do think it might have been a good idea for the lovely truck drivers in North Carolina to sit on the stupid man for a while, however. As it was, they blessed him after he insulted their faith.

Religion is full of stupid people and people who knowingly use their followers. If they are so stupid as to appear on film with the enemy, without being armed with religious knowledge, that’s their problem. Other than that, people are allowed to believe in whatever religion they fancy, without being humiliated on film by a comedian who thinks he’s cleverer than all the rest. Bill Maher had access to on-screen written comments about his victims. They did not.

Have to admire the ‘Doctor’ who was so smartly dressed and wore so much bling, courtesy of his congregation, and who was stupid as well, but who thought was he was doing was perfectly all right. He was worshipped by his followers. The rest of us ‘worship’ someone else, be they actors or singers or even (good) comedians. It’s all the same.

The men from the Vatican came out pretty well, but as I said, top marks to the Truckers chapel in Raleigh.

I recommend a dose of religion, as seen in Religulous, to exercise your brain and get you thinking. You may like Bill. I didn’t.

On at Cornerhouse from Friday 3rd April.

A new minister, and throwing the tree out

The floor held. Still, or again, or whatever. I always watch in fascination (never join in, for reasons that will become apparent) in these throwing-the -tree-out times, with people dancing, and wondering if the floor is really up to it. Surely one year it will decide it’s had enough of mad Scandinavians all jumping together in early January? Then they will all end up in the basement.

As I’ve been telling Mary Hoffman over on Facebook, Swedes have a week longer for the Christmas decorations to go. The end, near January 13th, will often be celebrated with a party, dancing round the tree, before it’s stripped and thrown out. We have a song and dance for everything, really. And FC calls for the last time, with sweets for the children, and a clementine to be healthy.

Liverpool’s Scandinavian church had both their annual stomping round the tree today, as well as the  welcoming of our new part time minister, based in London. We don’t like this, but it’s not his fault. He sang to us at the end of the service, which was nice. I also gather from the introductory note about himself in the church newsletter, that he is interested in the art of Simone Martini. Unusual, as the only time I’ve come across Signor Martini is as a character in Mary Hoffman’s The Falconer’s Knot. I know he’s not fictional, but it’s an interesting coincidence.

Simone Martini

Calendars

This calendar is a must-have for me. The artist, Kerstin Svensson, lives and works in “my” part of Sweden, and there is something about her paintings that I need. 

Kerstin Svensson calendar

Most of Kerstin’s calendar pictures are watercolours, with a few in oil. Many are of “my” landscape, and some are still lives of things that are similar to what I surround myself with. So, I suppose I’m just looking for the familiar.

Each monthly picture is accompanied by a quote. Some are from the bible, but others are simply wise words or thoughts. I’m not one for too much depth, but I do appreciate the quotes Kerstin picks. And many of the pictures turn out to have a special meaning for me, like the one for November 1997 when my Mother died. The dark painting of a closed old rickety gate had a sort of message about it.

My Mother used to buy the calendars for me. Since 1998 one of her neighbours has been kind enough to buy and post one to me every year; an act which goes well beyond being neighbourly. I didn’t know her before my Mother’s illness, and now I do. It’s something to do with gates. One closes and another opens.

The title of the calendar means “Peace for the soul”, and I feel it delivers what it promises.

Lucia in Liverpool 2008

Lucia 2008

As promised, here is a brief report from Lucia at the Gustav Adolf church in Liverpool on Sunday.

In time honoured tradition we had lots of little hiccoughs at the last minute, but that just makes for a better performance. Gabriella as Lucia did very well, and her younger sister Annabell sang Silent Night beautifully on her own. We even had a very mature “star boy” this time, along with a few tiny ones. It’s a brave man who stands up wearing a white dress, ice cream cone on his head, and ends up singing solo as well.

Gabriella

The fire alarm went off only once, and our temporary minister’s wife is ace at ironing. Afterwards there was coffee with Lucia buns, and some of us collapsed in tired little heaps. And we were full of plans for next year by the time we headed home.

(So far I’ve only managed to freeze my email while trying to get the promised video up here. Will get back to you with that, should there be a miracle later on. I need my own starboy!)