Two churches

This morning I attended 11 a.m. Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland, as I have done almost every Sunday morning for seventeen years. Being a member of the choir, I watch the proceedings from up in the organ loft.

cathedral mass

Services at St Patrick’s are traditional, based on the same format that has been used for centuries in Catholic churches all over the world. In the choir we mostly sing classical four-part motets, in either English or Latin; today’s programme included Call to Remembrance (Farrant), O Lord Increase my Faith (Gibbons) and Ave Verum Corpus (Elgar). Singing such pieces requires concentration, but there is also time to appreciate the beauty of the liturgy and the music, and the prayerful atmosphere of the setting.

After a brief lunch break I walked up the road to St Matthews in the City for a very different experience at the annual Blessing of the Animals service organised by the SPCA. The church was packed with people and animals, mostly dogs, some of them extremely active and vocal. The programme of hymns, songs from a school choir, poems and talks was mainly cheerful, though some aspects – lighting a candle for pets who have died, and prayers for animals who suffer abuse – were quite emotional.


It is said there are many spiritual paths, all equally valid. Today’s two services could hardly have been more different, but both were uplifting.


A Christmas Cat-Fest Part 3: Daisy the pianist

daisy-in-bedDaisy (aged fifteen) is our most musical cat. Of the many cats I have known, she is the only one to be fascinated by the piano. Whenever I attempt to practice she jumps onto the keyboard and marches up and down on it, taking particular satisfaction from playing the bass part. She is also a keen vocalist, expressing her desires for food or attention with raucous cries at all hours of day or night. When Daisy was about a year old, she and her three kittens came to us for fostering from the local veterinary surgery, where she had been left by her previous owners. We soon found homes for the kittens, but I nearly always end up keeping my fosters and so Daisy stayed on. Confident of her position as the senior cat in the household, over the course of her long life she has reluctantly tolerated the comings and goings of feline companions Felix, HomerMagic and Leo.

This is the end of my mini-series about cats, and I expect to return to posting on more serious topics in the New Year. Happy Christmas, and thank you for visiting my blog.

Daisy the piano cat

Every cat is unique in appearance, personality and behaviour. Our black and white Magic is addicted to raw chicken necks; Leo the tabby likes to relax in the letterbox; and tortoiseshell Daisy is interested in music. My attempts to practice the piano are often interrupted when she jumps up on the keys and plays a loud accompaniment. Here is a short video of Daisy’s latest composition.

Daisy may not be so skilled as the famous American piano cat called Nora but then, like me, she only started learning to play in later life.

P.S. A reminder that my short novel Blue Moon for Bombers is free from Smashwords until the end of November. To download a copy click here.

My Desert Island Discs

Imagine on this April Fool’s Day being invited onto Desert Island Discs, the BBC radio series in which each celebrity guest is asked to select eight pieces of music to take with them if they were marooned on a desert island, and also one book and one luxury item. My husband is currently listening to the archives of this program, which has been running ever since 1942, so we have been talking about our own choices. I would want mine to have an intrinsic beauty, to evoke some personal memories,  and to represent a mix of moods and styles.

Having said this I could easily fill my whole program with the pieces I have been singing in church choirs over recent years, including traditional favourites like Mozart’s Laudate Dominum, Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus, Schubert’s Ave Maria, Franck’s Panis Angelicus, and Tallis’s Spem in Alium, also parts of more modern works like Philip Ledger’s Requiem and Rutter’s Magnificat.

Bach would be essential, whether the magnificent Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the soulful Double Violin Concerto, or one of the simpler short pieces which I’ve been trying to learn on the piano, such as the Allemande from Suite No 4 in E flat major, or the Aria from Goldberg Variations which might help me fall asleep while on the island. Some New Age music such as The Fairy Ring by Mike Rowland would be relaxing too.

And Elgar, to remind me of England and especially the beautiful Malvern area which has been significant in my life – Land of Hope and Glory would be a bracing choice.

Popular songs which resonate with events, dances and romances from younger days would include Both Sides Now sung by Judy Collins, Here, There and Everywhere by the Beatles, Only Yesterday by The Carpenters, Summer Nights by Marianne Faithfull, Thankyou for the Music by Abba, The Carnival is Over by The Seekers, Days by The Kinks, Eternal Flame by The Bangles, Smoke gets in your Eyes by the Platters … and many more.

My humourous selection would be When the Foe-man Bares His Steel from the Pirates of Penzance – I once sang in the chorus. And I would like an aria from Grand Opera sung by Enrico Caruso or Mario Lanza, the passions of my teenage years, and at least one piece from a musical such as Carousel, West Side Story, Cats or Les Miserables ….

It’s lucky that I’m not famous enough to be on Desert Island Discs, because reducing this list down to eight items would be quite impossible. And I don’t know what I’d choose for my book, nor for my luxury, considering that I couldn’t have my iPhone or computer – now that’s a dreadful thought.