A day of rest?

I don’t seem to have had time to draw breath this week!

On Monday I had to travel up to central London to Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, to attend a meeting of my London Lodge, the Blackfriars Lodge No.3722. Not only did I have to fulfil my role as Inner Guard, but I also acted as Worshipful Master for the part of the meeting when a newly initiated Brother is told the secrets of the Degree, invested with his apron, and has what I suppose could best be described as the basic ‘rules’ of The Craft explained to him.

On Tuesday I spent the day doing household chores and helping my wife with some shopping before going over the Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, to attend the Lodge of Instruction (LOI) for my Mother Lodge, The Grove Park Lodge No.2732. We had to practice the ceremony of Installation, which is when the outgoing Worshipful Master of the Lodge (in this case, me!) installs his replacement. The rehearsal went reasonably well, but thanks to some roadworks on the way back, I did not get home until 10.15pm.

Wednesday was the day when the Installation Meeting took place, and most of the day until I left for the meeting was spent doing a few small household chores. In order to make sure that I was not late, I left home at 2.30pm, with the result that I reached Cheshunt in plenty of time for the start of the meeting at 4.30pm. The first part of the meeting went well, but unfortunately my ongoing problems with what seems to be hayfever and/or a strong cold meant that my throat got very dry whilst I was speaking, and I had to keep stopping to drink water in order to speak. The situation got worse when I began to stammer … and as I ploughed on, the stammer became more and more pronounced. (I had a terrible stammer when I was young, and had to undergo speech therapy for many years in order to overcome its worst effects. Unfortunately on very rare occasions when I am under some form of stress I still get episodes of stammering, and when they happen I have found that I need to stop what I am trying to say, and to not speak for a while whilst I regain control … none of which was possible this time!)

Once the meeting was over and I had time to calm down, my stammer disappeared, and I was even able to make a speech during the after-meeting meal and to sing the Master’s Song! (Interestingly enough, I was taught to sing in order to help me to overcome my stammer, as I am told that it is impossible to stammer whilst singing.)

By Thursday I thought that I might be able to have a bit of a rest and to use some of my time setting up the Internet router that our new service provider had given us. The router was quick to install … but for some reason it would not connect to the Internet. There then followed a series of long phone calls to the new service provider … but as their computer system was in the middle of an upgrade no one seemed able to help me. I was advised to telephone again on Friday morning, by which time the service provider’s computer would be back online. Luckily we still had an active Internet connection with our existing service provider, and this meant that we were still able to receive and send emails, surf the ‘net etc.

First thing on Friday morning I had to take my car to the body shop to have the damage that was done to it some weeks ago repaired. When I returned home I telephoned the new Internet service provider to sort out the connections problems … only to discover that the contract had not been activated as they could not connect our house to their service! (It appears that the cables used by our existing service provider operate on a different system from that used by the rest of the service providers in the UK. To change service providers would have required a new cable installation and the loss of our existing landline telephone number … all of which we had been told would not be necessary.)

Sue and I therefore set off at once to see the manager of the Bluewater branch of the new service provider where we had signed up for their service in order to find out why we had been told things that were patently not possible or true. After a frank exchange with him, our contract was invalidated and I was told that the money I had paid for the new router would be returned to me when I returned the router. As there is a branch of the service provider closer to where we live, it was arranged that I would take it there to get my refund.

After returning home for lunch, Sue and I went to the Bexleyheath branch of the service provider to return the router. This turned out to be less straightforward than we had hoped, and the manager of the store was more than a little reluctant to accept back the route and to give me a refund. Eventually he agreed to speak to the manager of the Bluewater branch, and once he had I was given my refund.

I celebrated this minor victory by paying a visit to the nearby branch of THE WORKS, where I bought another 54mm-scale pre-painted Polish Cavalryman (i.e. an officer of the Russian Life Guard Lancers/Uhlans) and a couple of copies of a wooden game entitled CHOPSTICK CHALLENGE. The latter contains a number of different-sized block of pine and wooden dowels which will be useful for modelling.

Once I got home I then had to telephone our existing Internet service provider to ask that the existing contract termination be removed. They agreed to this without any problems, and even offered us a new package which is cheaper than our existing package. Result!

Today I am trying to have a quite day doing as little as possible … although I do hope to spend part of it reading some more sections of ZONES OF CONTROL and thinking about how easy it might be to convert the AIRFIX BATTLES rules so that they can be used on my Hexon II hexed terrain. Ross Macfarlane and one of his regular opponents have already made some progress in this direction, and his recent battle report has encouraged me to think along similar lines.

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Another busy Masonic week ahead

This afternoon I am off to Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, Central London, to attend a meeting of my London Lodge, the Blackfriars Lodge No.3722. Hopefully we have a new member joining today, and I am doing part of the Initiation ritual. (For the information of my regular blog readers who are Freemasons, I am doing the ritual from the end of the Obligation to the end of the Charge after Initiation.)

On Tuesday I am attending a Lodge of Instruction (in other words, a rehearsal) at my Mother Lodge in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. We are preparing for the following day, when I will be Installing my successor as Worshipful Master of my Mother Lodge.

Other than my Lodge of Instruction’s Annual General Meeting (and a meal in a nearby Turkish restaurant that always follows it) and a meeting of the Research Lodge in Hertfordshire of which I am an Officer (Junior Warden), my Masonic year will be over by Thursday.

The new Masonic year starts in September … and with luck it will be a quiet one!


Bristol: A driver’s nightmare!

On Friday and Saturday Sue and I made what seems to have become an annual visit to Bristol. I have a friend who is a fellow Freemason, and every year he has invited us down so that I can attend a meeting of his Lodge or Chapter, after which Sue and the other ladies join us for what we term a ‘white table’ or ‘after meeting’ meal.

Bristol is a lovely city … but it has what I consider to be amongst the worst one-way systems I have ever had to drive through. I have yet to pay Bristol a visit and not get lost at some point! Signs pointing you towards a destination seem to disappear without notice or are so badly placed that you end up in the wrong lane at the junction where you need to turn. Last year what should have been a ten minute-long drive took nearly an hour when I missed the turning we should have taken and ended up on the road going out of Bristol to the east when I should have been going north!

In an attempt to avoid getting lost during this visit we used the satnav to navigate us across the city to our hotel. Despite a minor hiccough due to a road that the satnav told us to use being closed, we actually managed to get to our hotel in Clifton without getting too badly lost! It is a hotel that we have stayed in before because it is within walking distance of the Masonic Centre in Bristol, and despite having changed hands since our last visit, it was a great place to stay overnight.

The Bristol Masonic Centre.

We arrived at our hotel just after 3.00pm On Friday, and after parking our car, unloading our luggage, booking in, and dropping off our luggage in our room, Sue and I went for a walk around Clifton Village. It is a rather up-market area, with lots of small restaurants, fashion boutiques, coffee houses, wine bars, and the inevitable estate agents! Our walk took us to the edge of the Avon Gorge, from where we had an excellent view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Overlooking the Clifton end of the bridge was a building that looked rather like a lighthouse or small fort. It is – in fact – a camera obscura and it was featured in an episode of the Canadian crime series, MURDOCH MYSTERIES, entitled THE MURDOCH IDENTITY.

The Camera Obscura.

On Saturday we were able to leave the car parked in the hotel’s car park, walk to the Centre – where the meeting was great, the meal afterwards very good indeed, and the company was exceptionally welcoming and friendly – and then take a taxi back again afterwards.

We almost got lost getting from the hotel to the M32 motorway, but by just after 5.00pm we were on our way home. Despite appalling weather for the last half of the journey, we arrived home a little after 8.00pm tired but already looking forward to going back to Bristol at some point in the future.


A busy Masonic week ahead

I suspect that I will not be doing much wargaming or wargame-related activity this week … or at least for the first half of it. (I do have a blog entry that will be published on Tuesday, but that has already been written to mark a special centenary.)

On Monday I will be attending a meeting of the Blackfriars Lodge No.3722 at Freemason’s Hall, Great Queen Street, London, where a good friend of mine is being installed as the Lodge’s new Worshipful Master. He is a member of my Mother Lodge, and is currently my Immediate Past Master. Furthermore I helped to introduce him into the Craft and performed his Third Degree ceremony.

On Wednesday I will be back at Freemason’s Hall to see another friend installed as the new Worshipful Master of the Kent Lodge No.15. He is also a member of my Mother Lodge (he is currently the Secretary) and I had the honour to install him as the Worshipful Master of my Mother Lodge nearly ten years ago.

At the request of both my friends I will be performing minor roles in their Installation ceremonies … and it will be a great pleasure to do so.


A wonderful and interesting birthday gift

Yesterday was my birthday – my 66th one to be precise – and amongst the presents I received was a very interesting looking sliver metal box …

As you might notice, the lid is embossed with various Masonic symbols. (I could tell you what they all mean … but if you are interested you will find out what they are for yourselves!) I thought that it was just a very nice trinket box for me to keep some of my Masonic memorabilia in … but it was heavy enough to indicate that there was something inside … which there was.

Inside the box was a set of playing cards … but not just any set; it was a set of Masonic playing cards!

Now as regular readers of my blog know – and especially the two friends who sent me this wonderful present – I love using playing cards in my wargames, so here was a present that combined two important aspects of my life; Freemasonry and wargaming. My wife thought that the gift was inspired, and I absolutely agree with her …

… so here’s a massive big thank to Tony and Maxine for your wonderful birthday present!


First Degree nerves

No wargaming for me today as I am getting ready to Initiate a new member into my Mother Lodge.

As I have mentioned before, I have been the Worshipful Master for both a Second Degree and a Third Degree … but this is the first time I have ever Initiated someone (i.e. done the First Degree). The First Degree is quite a long piece of ritual, and although I have been able to share some of the work with other members of the Lodge, my bit is nearly 2,500 words long and has to be delivered from memory. (I do have the Immediate Past Master at my side to prompt me if and when I forget what comes next, but it is my intention to call upon his services as little as possible … I hope!) As this is the new Initiate’s first experience of Masonic ritual, it is important that it is done as well as possible, and all the Officers of the Lodge have been practicing hard to makes sure that is. It’s my job to pull everything together and to make sure that it is a special day for our new Brother.


Second Degree … and the Third Degree

This afternoon my Masonic Lodge will be demonstrating the Second Degree ceremony … and as I am the current Worshipful Master the bulk of the ritual has to be done by me. Although this is my second time in the Chair, I have never done a Second Degree ceremony before, and I must admit to being a little nervous about doing it. Funnily enough I have done a Third Degree ceremony, which is much harder as I had to learn far more ritual.

The Third Degree in Freemasonry is by far and away the most difficult of the three Degrees a candidate has to go though … and is probably the origin of the expression ‘giving someone the Third Degree‘ (i.e. using excessive force, pain, or emotional pressure to extract a confession or statement from someone). In Freemasonry we certainly don’t use any of those methods as were aren’t trying to get someone to confess to anything … but the ceremony does make the candidate confront something that he might fear, but only to show him that he has nothing to fear except fear itself.

So why am I bothering to tell my regular blog readers all about this? Simply so that they can understand why so very few of my recent blog entries have actually been about wargaming. Instead of writing rules, devising scenarios, or painting figures, I have been trying – not very easily – to learn a great chunk of Masonic ritual.

Once today is over I hope to get back to wargaming regularly again, although rumour has it that there might be a candidate for Initiation (i.e. the First Degree) on the horizon … and I haven’t ever done that ceremony before either!