GRAHAM MARSHALL pizzicatoman

JANUARY 26th 2021

We are now in the situation where  there have been over 100,000 deaths in the UK from Covid19.

There could have been more. There could have been less.
The virus is making a terrible mess
of a world that is seemingly heading for disaster
of a sort that you cannot stop by using just a plaster..



I've just ordered a home delivery meal for my birthday next month from Cóte Brasserie (sorry I couldn't make the accent a circumflex). We have enjoyed several such meals during the 'lockdown' restrictions, and I'm looking forward to this next one.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is our Stephen's Birthday, the next day it will be our Joe's 21st! Then there's our nephew, Paul, and Eleanor's penfriend Renée. They have their birthdays the following days....    and very soon (before the month's ned) it will be Diane's birthday - she's Eleanor's sister.

What's the point of observing our birthdays? 

I suppose it is an inevitable feature of the lives of human beings, whose self-awareness of existing in a world of space and time needs to have a framework of some sort to plot life's progress towards decay and death. Milestones fulfilling a number of purposes, some pleasantly reassuring, some quite daunting. The former are not necessarily restricted to our younger years. I myself find it pleasantly reassuring, for instance, that I shall not have to face up to all the necessary further restrictions on our freedom to please ourselves that are going to be imposed by the planet we inhabit in the next generation. As someone who has lived through the global turmoil of the last eighty years in what I have to say has been comparative physical comfort I'm glad that I can leave the future of human life and society here on earth in other people's hands knowing that I've tried as best I could to promote peace and shared prosperity throughout God's world. I cannot contribute anything more to the future. How far my contribution has been what it should have been, I just don't know.  I can easily recognise that there have been many, many men and women whose contribution to the welfare and well-being of the planet and its creatures has been so far greater than mine as to render mine almost negligible. And, certainly, I have had an easy enough ride through life, though not without periods of intense spiritual anguish which left me relying completely on the psalmist's assurance that "underneath are the everlasting arms". 

I am not going to apologise for my comfortable existence. I know only too well that it has been at the expense of other people's distress.  Mea culpa. 


It was around this time in 1965 that I was made a Deacon of the Church of England in Backburn Cathedral and began my ministry in the parish of St. Michael and All Angels, Ashton on Ribble, Preston. A year later I was ordained Priest and continued to minister in Ashton until I was called to be Senior Curate of Lancaster Priory Church and Priest-in-charge of St. George, Marsh, in 1967.

Looking back to those early years of ministry I have to say that parochial ministry in the Church of England in 2020 seems to have changed considerably, almost beyond recognition. Back in 1965 the 'church' still had the aura of a religious powerhouse generating spiritual truths and prescriptions for healthy living which, whether people tapped into them or not, were widely accepted as wholesome. Those of us who acted as Gospel showroom salesmen and aftersales service engineers were generally welcome in the community at large and in the homes of individual families at times of joy and sorrow alike. I could feel reasonably comfortable walking about wearing my still quite shining white dog collar. I felt I would be at least smiled at, nodded to and even shaken hands with by most people.
I might even be approached as the possible source of information, advice, consolation or congratulation by people whom I'd never spoken with before. And when it came to preparing couples for marriage - weddings were still a main feature of parish church life - not only did they live at separate addresses but some of them were grateful for a little sex education.......  What a different world it is today!

In many ways the life we live today is much more real. There is certainly little pretence on most people's part at being 'religious'. Churchgoing has declined to such an extent that all the major branded Christian belief systems - 'denominations' - are beginning to recognise that their hierarchical institutions are as unChristian in their spiritually capitalistic ways as is the market economy of the Western world is ungenerous to the disadvantaged poor it relies on to make money for the wealthy investors. 

That life is, for most of the world's  population, a struggle for survival in the face of insuperable odds  is only too obvious. People like me are so very. very privileged. I have been unbelievably blessed by the fortune in a world that I reckon should be a source of blessing to everyone but isn't because of a uncaring, greedy minority.

It's May 9th 2020.

Yesterday we celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day.  On May 8th 1945 I was six and a half years old. Having lived through the war on the Pheasey Estate at the northernmost edge of the city of Birmingham conurbation I have some clear visual and aural memories of those terrible years. 

Birmingham was one of the most visited targets for the German air force bombardments.  I have to say, however, that I do not recall being 'afraid', even when we would scramble to get down into the Anderson shelters in our gardens or simple huddle together in that space under the stairs we thought would protect us from harm!  
Such is the inexperience of childhood! Innocence? Yes, but only in the sense of being unprepared for harsh reality, and protected for a while from the anguish of expectation.
Things are very different now! Experience brings the prospect of things to come based on the reminders of things already witnessed. I fear for the future of this generation if our children and grandchildren do not recognise and rise to the challenges of nature which our good old planet earth is signalling.

I say to them:

"Take them as the occasion to demonstrate that you accept the opportunity they offer to show that you can work together as all equally children of the God who will give you the insights and mental strengths you need to respond to what you are being called to be and do.

Abandon the greed and envy, fueled by the selfishness of pride, which have driven us all over the last two hundred years to build the modern towers of Babel which, with their Grenfell cladding of easy option contentment, could well enfold the episode that is human history in the unloving embrace of the planet's firey fury. "

On November 10th 2018 I reached my 80th birthday!. Born 10.11.1938 in the Perry Beeches district of Birmingham and now living in Rochdale I have spent most of my parochial ministry in the North West of England. Ordained in Blackburn cathedral in September 1965, I served curacies in Preston and Lancaster before becoming Rector of Church Eaton (Staffordshire), then Precentor of Manchester Cathedral and subsequently Rector of St. Elisabeth, Reddish (Stockport) and finishing full time parochial ministry as Vicar of St. Luke, Chadderton (Oldham). 

Since retiring  in 2002 I have found time to compose music of various kinds for soloists and instrumental groups, choirs and orchestras. I am under no illusion as to the significance of these in the scale of things. But I'd like to think that they could be regarded as having at least a fair degree of competence in their artistic achievement.  Most of the have been performed by amateur musicians. Some have been given fully professional performances, and I am delighted to have recording of them to listen to from time to time.

HERE is a photographe taken on October 24th 2018 in the Music Room on Palace Green, Durham.  The people you see are (from left to right) Me, Eleanor, Anne Cleves, Derek McCulloch, Anne Hedley, David Hedley - all Durham alumni. Derek was introducing a Concert given by the group CAFE MOZART, which he founded years ago.  You can read about it by visiting 


This was an occasion of great and joyful sentiment, one that I shall treasure.