Odds and Ends
Updated: Wednesday, 11 December 2002

This a miscellaneous collection:

A Love Poem

What is a Friend?

Kitchen Prayer
Memories of Heather
A Saying
I'm OK - You're OK
Choir Outing 1993
Holy Land Pilgrimage 1994
Letter to the Editor - Newbury Lock
Carol Night Poster


This is a love poem I wrote in my teens. Occasionally I wonder what happened to the Jen in question - did she become a famous potter? I still have the mug she made for me. Incidentally RUV is part of the index number of the Humber Hawk I had at the time - see On Motoring.
What more can I add
To that said before?
You’ve broken into my store
And captured the love I had!

As in keeping with the tide
I am sending my special love.
This I tell when we’re in RUV
And you are quiet by my side.

Also when you’re clasping pencil and pad:
Erasing lines with expressive face.
True, you are my heart’s ace,
(Even when you boast of handsome Dad).

‘Tis strange that I should feel this way,
Poor ‘though I am without a penny;
Yet all would I give to delightful Jenny,
With her viola and love of clay.

Stranger too that Jen should stay
With me longer than a week!
And although I may be full of cheek,
I pray she will never go away.

totum tibi sudo me.


I would have liked to have written this. I found whilst holidaying on Kos.


What Is A Friend? 

What is a friend? I will tell you.
It is a person with whom you dare to be yourself.
Your soul can be naked with him.
He seems to ask of you to put on nothing, only to be what you are. He does not want you to be better or worse. 
When you are with him, you feel as a prisoner feels who has been declared innocent. 
You do not have to be on your guard. 
You can say what you think, so long as it is genuinely you. 
He understands the contradictions in your nature that lead others to misjudge you. 
With him you breathe freely. 
You can avow your little vanities and envies and hates and vicious sparks, your meannesses and absurdities and, in opening them up to him, they are lost, dissolved on the white ocean of his loyalty. 
He understands. You do not have to be careful. 
You can abuse him, neglect him, tolerate him. Best of all you can keep still with him. 
It makes no matter. He likes you. He is like fire that purges to the bone. 
He understands. He understands. 
You can weep with him, sin with him, laugh with him, pray with him. 
Through it all - and underneath - he sees, knows and loves you. A friend? What is a friend? 
Just one, I repeat, with whom you dare to be yourself."

~ C. Raymond Beran



My wife has this prayer in the kitchen.

Kitchen Prayer

Oh, Lord, I thank You for my little kitchen
Place of self-sacrifice and serving love
Many hours of each day I labour here.
Oft with a smile, oft with a tear.
But always I know, dear Lord above
You are watching me with tender love.

Did you not create the woman to be,
A co-labourer dear Lord, with thee?
Even though my work is trivial and mean
And oft my kitchen not very clean,
Yet I know each little service of I love I do,
Binds me close, and closer, my Lord, to you.

Oh Lord, teach me to give with love,
The best I have to give.
A smile at breakfast, a kiss at lunch
And time still to forgive -
If sometimes my work is criticized
And all appreciation is denied.

Oh Lord, I thank you and love you,
Please bless my kitchen each day.
Live, King of Kings, Within these walls
And keep sin and selfishness away!


I wrote this after attending Heather's Funeral.

Heather Ferguson past away in August. Being at the wake was like being at a party without a hostess - very strange. 

Each of us has fond memories of Heather. Her work fund-raising for the Cheshire Homes brought us into contact with some fantastic people we would not otherwise have met.

 Earlier in the year we went to such a fund-raising event and had chance to meet and talk to some of the staff and residents from the home. It was hard not to reflect on the saying "There but for the Grace of God go I". There was one chap in what could only be described as a pram, so desirous to talk, but so frustrated not being able to due to severe cerebral palsy. 

It is hoped that others will come forward to carry on the work so ably performed by Heather.



"Never overestimate knowledge; never underestimate intelligence."




An article I wrote on 9 February 1992 for the "Choir Clef" column in St. Nicolas Church Magazine.

I'm OK - You're OK

I attended a Personal Effectiveness course recently, where I was introduced to "The Life Position Exercise". In it you select from the following list those feelings most frequently experienced:-
























Internal rage












and deduce in which of these four life positions you are:-

I'm not OK 
You're OK 
I'm OK 
You're OK
 I'm not OK 
You're not OK
 I'm OK 
You're not OK

To be "I'm OK, You're OK" you need much of what behaviour scientists1 call Adult and Natural Child, and not much Critical and Nurturing Parent or Adaptive and Rebellious Child - feelings of Joy, Peace, Happiness, Confidence, Contentment, Spontaneity and Enthusiasm predominate, rather than the others in the list.

I sense Newbury Parish Church choir is moving towards the "I'm OK, You're OK" box. For some the transition is easier than others. Dr. Thomas A. Harris's book, "I'm OK - You're OK" (ISBN 0-330-23543-5) is a bit of a heavy read at first. In it he explains how to gain control of yourself, your relationships and your future - no matter what has happened in the past. On the course I played a circus clown in the exercise to bring out the Natural Child. In choir outwardly I am Adult. Inwardly, I'm looking forward (hint, hint) to clowning about on the choir outing!

1     E.g.. Eric Berne in his work Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy


Another article I wrote the "Choir Clef" column in St. Nicolas Church Magazine.

Choir Outing - 10th July 1993
Christchurch Quay, Priory & MacDonalds

The choir sang for its supper, and sang remarkably well. For many, both front and back rows, it was their first experience of singing a fully choral Evensong, complete with Introit, Setting, Anthem and Office Hymn.

The service began with Christopher Tye's magnificent gem "O Come Ye Servants Of The Lord". This has long been a favourite of St. Nicolas Choir and features on the record we made in the 1970's. The Preces and Responses were by Martin Neary, and David Osselton acted as Precentor. Instead of the Psalms for the 10th Evening (Psalms 53, 54 & 55) the alternative appointed Psalm (No. 22) was sung. Despite only having 30 verses it is a psalm of great contrasts with much scope for choir and organist (Andrew Trewhella) to use their art to the glory of God. Sub-titled as "The prayer of one cast down, but not forsaken", psalm 22 conveniently divides into 5 sections, namely, "The Silence of God", "The reproaches of man", "A cry for help", "Praise for deliverance", and "Taken up by the whole world". Andrew's accompaniment was extremely sensitive complete with appropriate decoration.

There is, in my opinion, no better way in which to introduce settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis to an embryonic front row than by singing one of Stanford's. On this occasion B flat major was chosen. The Magnificat presents the opportunity for the treble line to sing alone, quietly but sweetly yet with no discernable change of tempo. David Osselton can be very pleased with the results of his painstaking rehearsals. The Nunc Dimittis is the province of the tenors and basses who sing the first two and half verses in unison. It starts quiet and is marked slow. However the trick is not too slow, but to keep the pace going letting the acoustics of the building do much of the work. Verse three is marked faster and during the second half double forte as the tenor and basses break into harmony and the bases divide. After the great exaltation, sanity and quietness is restored as the phrase "Thy people Israel" is repeated. The full choir combined to conclude in a dignified singing of the Gloria with its repeated Amen.

The role of the choir is, of course, to lead the congregation in worship both in singing and in the spoken word. The latter can be just as much of challenge, especially in a strange building. Needless to say the Apostles' Creed was well said. However, The Lord's Prayer was sung to a setting by Robert Stone (1516-1613). And not only that, some of the words were changed, and, moreover, changed in an "odd" way. The variations from the original being made in order to fit in with the words of the Book of Common Prayer (1662), that is about 100 years after the setting was written!

The anthem was "Teach Me, O Lord" by Thomas Attwood which was very fitting. The words are taken from Psalm 119, verse 33, in which teaching is requested and a promise is given. After some very moving prayers the service concluded with the hymn "Love Divine".

So far I have written as if Choral Evensong was the pre-occupation of the day. Being structured and rehearsed it was perhaps the easiest. The choir need to work a little at playing together. The weather that day was typical British summer: dry and liquid sunshine with variations of wind and cold between. A shower on arrival prompted a quick change of plans and the picnic planned for the beach was partaken in the shelter on Christchurch Quay. After a little patience the "storm" abated and mariners venture towards the sea in an open boat. To the relief of some we remained within the confines of the natural harbour and disembarked onto a pontoon moored to Muddiford Sands. To inlanders expecting terra firmer, stepping unto something which was also bobbing up and down and frequently awashed by the waves, this was something of a shock. The description "Sands" is a little imaginative, at least as regards the part we explored. We did eventually discover an area of relatively flat grassy sand on which to play cricket (or was it linear rounders!). The teams were nominally Decanni versus Cantorus, although who actually played for which is still being debated. Anyway from the youngest to the oldest, all had a go and most managed to hit the ball and score a run or two. Unfortunately I cannot report who eventually won since the score was forgotten in the mad rush to board the returning boat. Winning is not important, but playing together is.

MacDonalds is a fun place, full of noise and activity. Unfortunately there was an age limit on the bouncy castle and the older "children" amongst us (over 40) had to content ourselves with a second Big Mac!


RFW at Christchurch Choir Outing.jpg (37786 bytes)

 This picture was not included in the article but it was taken on the outing and is of me tucking into a bar of nougat whilst waiting for my turn to bat in an impromptu cricket match on the beach.


Another article I wrote for the St. Nicolas Church Magazine.

Reflections on My Holy Land Pilgrimage
26th October - 4th November 1994

Several of us purchased the video "The Homeland of Jesus". It includes Manger Square in Bethlehem at Christmas. We visited the Church of the Nativity just before sunset.. Although busy, in comparison with the video it was empty. Will Newbury's Market Place be similarly crowded with Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus this Christmas Eve? Perhaps we ought to take Jesus out of the Church in amongst the revellers and the commercialisation?

If the visit to the Holy Land taught anything it was the possibility of harmony between people of different faiths and people with no faith. This was the most unexpected amongst much that was unexpected, and the biggest shock. Reluctantly I found myself concentrating on the differences in the degree of witness, rather than the differences in the faiths. The witness and worship of devout Jews and Moslems has to be seen to be believed. It puts the half-hearted efforts of most Christians to shame. In saying this I am mindful of Jesus's teaching in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18, vv 9-14), the need to be sincere and humble when we use ritual and symbolism as a vehicle. Nevertheless there is much to be said for quiet, obvious witness in the way we dress and behave in contrast to the bombastic assertive hard-sell.

And didn't we get fed-up with persistent hawkers thrusting their wares on us every time we paused to take breath. Some of us coped better that others with the badgering. In the comfortable West with the security of its hard currency it is difficult to equate to the dog eat dog daily fight for survival and the luxuries like aspirin which we take for granted. We entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by a circuitous route via a poor Coptic Chapel on the roof. The old Armenian priest had a headache and signs of arthritis, and had not been well for days. He was so pleased when one in the party produced a pill, although reluctant when our Guide, Lillian coaxed him to accept it with a drink of water.

This proved an odd introduction to church itself. The rich splendour and the squabbling of the Orthodox and the Catholic Chapels seemed frankly disgusting as they vied for ownership of the holiest spots. It brought home to me what a rotten lot us Christians can be as our Guide explain the inertia which prevented the various denominations from repairing the roof damaged by an earthquake decades ago. Despite this environment it was just possible to capture the moment. This could be the place where Jesus was Crucified, buried and rose from the Dead! Although, upon reflection, it was easier to put to the back of my mind the noise and fumes of the bus station which is adjacent the Garden Tomb, the other site outside the city wall where these momentous events could have taken place.

As the trip progressed so did the number and variety of the Tee-shirts purchased and worn by members of the group. By far the most popular were ones with the message "I walked my feet off in Jerusalem"! Others featured the Jerusalem Cross (a large centre cross with a smaller cross at each of the four quarters), and scenes of the Old Town decorated in gold. Watch out for them next summer - you will be able to spot who went!

I wondered what Christ would have made of the Holocaust Museum. An optional trip, for me it put the pilgrimage into dreadful perspective. (Some readers may remember how visibly moved Richard Capstick was after his visit to the museums at German concentration camps). I almost couldn't cope with the man's inhumanity to man displayed in photographic and audible "sound-bites". Lillian, our guide, heightened the experience. Born of a French mother and a Polish father in the early 1940's she told how she owes her survival to her defiant father who refused to register, and therefore she was spared the enormity of the experiments and death in the gas chamber. I do not generally condone disobedience. Nevertheless as members of the human race, let alone Christians, we have a duty to be constantly alert to the consequence of what others tell us to do, be it to experiment with drugs or to exterminate any of God's creation.

There is so much I could write about the Pilgrimage. Just to quote the itinerary would take a page or more. No doubt those who went will be willing to give talks, and shows slides and videos taken to anyone interested. The Holy Land is changing all the time as the peace process firms ups. If you have been before it is very worthwhile going again, not only to revisit the holy sites, but to witness the changes and everyday practical examples of how people with different Gods, or no God can live together. Had I not been I would never have had the understanding to even dream of talking about different Gods, and, as John Cartwright put it in his sermon on Remembrance Sunday, the sacrifice of peace. The sacrifice of dying in war, oppression or pagan ritual is bad enough, but the sacrifice demanded by the give and take mentality of living in peace is greater.

David Cook allowed me the honour of reading from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 vv 1-11) on the Mount of the Beatitudes. This is the traditional site where Jesus uttered the immortal words of the beatitudes and the most wonderful principles of the blessed life: "Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires ... Happy are those who work for peace".

For me going to the Holy Land did not reveal an instant plan, just pointers of what it is possible for a small cog in a big wheel to achieve. One pointer came on a visit to Christchurch, the church in Jerusalem built by the London Society for Promoting Christianity among Jews. The founders wanted Jewish people to enter the church and see the Christian faith, not as something alien, foreign and "gentile" but as it was in the beginning - Jewish. Although built as a Protestant place of worship, it has several features more in keeping with a synagogue. Services for Christians are held on Sundays, and services for Jews on Saturdays. The bridge between is the Director of Music who masterminds the music on the two days, directing both the Jewish and the Christian music-makers in their respective traditions.

What ever our calling and talents let us do all we can to find out what God wants and to work for it in peace.



Letter to the Editor - Newbury Lock
14 July 2000

Sorry to be a wet blanket but I don't think a granite water feature is appropriate for Newbury Lock. Since the wanton neglect and eventual demise and demolition of Newbury Lock Cottage together with the late John Gould's adjacent boathouse there is little enough of the warm, rosy-red brick left. The splendid St. Nicolas Church and Newbury Bridge provides sufficient contrasting grey. Any more grey would destroy the delicate balance.

Over the years the "green lung", as John called it has gradually been eroded. Not so long ago the tranquillity extended over a larger area. Where the present St. Nicolas Hall is there was a graveyard complete with trees. All that is left is a merge Garden of Remembrance which unfortunately frequently doubles as a depository for litter!

North of the navigation much of Northcroft is now car park or devoted to formal, organised recreation, generating  noise and/or pollution.

It is becoming increasingly harder to find havens of inactivity near the town centre where one can simply linger awhile in relative peace and quiet with one's thoughts. Rather than attract yet more people to the Newbury Lock area, perhaps we should do the opposite.

There are many drab pockets in and near the town centre which would benefit from art. Places which people pass through on their way to work, school or to shop. They are crying out for something which provides a distraction from their characterlessness.

Yours sincerely

Robert F. Willis



Kneeler.JPG (39315 bytes)

 I made this kneeler for St. Mary's, Speenhamland in the 1960s. It took me ages and helped get my hands working. At St. Mary's it was kept in the choirstalls .It was taken to St. Nicolas, but today (march 2002) it is nowhere to be seen. I wonder what happed to it. 



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