Thursday, 29 June 2006

We say goodbye and you say hello

Not quite McCartney and Lennon, but we're leaving behind a lot of people we'll be thinking and praying for and looking forward to meeting a lot of people we've been thinking and praying for.

Dan, Kita, Livi, Laura, Jon, Rachel, Tracy, Phil (Show this to your mum, Liv) plus our many friends in the church and elsewhere. All those people that are special to us.

Our mobiles probably won't work over there, so if you need to contact us, post up here.

All our love

Toni and Chris.

Monday, 26 June 2006

Oh, and guys - I'm looking forward

to a good, honest Canadian burger - I've heard they're really something special.

If you had the choice

Which airline would YOU choose to fly with?

Funny, the range of feelings one goes through.

I’ve just spent an hour or so in the lab. All pretty mindless stuff, like logging in samples, putting labels on kit components etc. It left a substantial portion of my mind to freewheel, so it started rambling through the trip.

In some ways this should be like a business trip – going somewhere new, making myself greet and talk to people I’ve never met, forcing myself to not be shy (I get terribly tongue-tied sometimes). But there’s a knot in my stomach of hot anticipation, that’s excited as well as a bit nervous and uncertain.

Ever noticed how thoughts slide over each other so freely, roiling away like a bucket full of eels when you have time without commitment. Yet produce a keyboard and they slither off into dark corners, fighting not to be brought into the light.

I AM looking forward to it – that second paragraph only expresses the concerns – but I am nervous too. Will I be cornered by a coalition of females all wanting me to answer for my stance of certain issues? Will Marc and various others seize me at candle-point to explain exactly why liturgy is so important? Will Dixie talk us through the anticipated birth of her next child (actually that would be fine – childbirth stories don’t bother me at all). This is a little tongue on squamous lining, but once or twice I’ve wondered what I’m going to say to certain people.

It’ll be interesting to see what Chris and I discover about ourselves and each other too. It’s times like this that what’s inside can come out, and while I doubt there’ll be any unpleasant surprises, it can be revealing to see what’s been growing inside.

2 ½ more days and counting.

It’s been a weird weekend

Saturday morning started off OK, shopping in Banbury, bumping into people we know etc.

Randall’s father died in afternoon (morning in Canadian time). It was impossible not to feel some of the emotion from what has obviously been affecting him very deeply. This produced slightly odd behaviour in me, wanting to check for emails, check his blog every few minutes, as though I was being there and available. It’s a bit like the feeling you have when something important is going to happen and you MUST make sure that all the little details have been taken care of properly. Just that nagging feeling that there's something missing and you have to go through everything one more time to be certain.

Sunday was similar, really.

We had a ‘breakfast’ meeting as a church/house-group, which was nice, meant a very late breakfast and displaced mealtimes that added to the feeling of dislocation. Sunday afternoon Chris and I both seemed to sleep half the time. There were a bunch of things we wanted to do, but along with the dislocation, we just read, slept and drifted, and in my case checked blogs and email. Eventually Chris made dinner, and after that we both managed to actually do something: she spent time in the garden and I fiddled with a speaker cab and a guitar (which deserves its own post). Ended up migraine-ish on Sunday night, but fine this morning

Weekends seem to be more about recovery than anything these days, recouping strength for the week.


The cat has just been sick in my laundry basket of CLEAN, IRONED clothes!



Friday, 23 June 2006

Indulgence and change

I have been working in this building since February 1999, when we separated from our original parent as a joint venture with an Oxford university. The building was fitted out to be an ‘incubator’ for small businesses, offering fully serviced units complete with receptionist, telephones, networking and internet connection. With a number of small companies all in their early/startup phase, based on new technologies, it was natural that the building management would want to promote networking and synergy from ideas.

Thus was instituted the Friday Morning cake meeting.

As a ploy to draw people from their offices, we were offered coffee and cakes. Delicious cakes. Cream cakes. Large, flaky Danish pastries. Sliced Fruit cake, all moist and golden. Lush custard tarts. Doughnuts in different varieties. Fresh fruit tarts. Plus a host of other examples of the art of sweet baking to make the mouth water. In summer there would be cool fruit juices alongside the coffee, and at Christmas mulled wine was served.

It was a time we looked forward to – a treat at the end of the week.

This was probably a reflection of the building manager at the time. Anne Sophie (Vallier as was) was delightfully French, and the cakes were probably an expression of the appreciation of good food such people have. Her successors have been more restrained, more English, and although the cake selection was a shadow of its former glory, it was still bountiful enough to attract our company and appreciation.

Fast forward to the present. Friday cake time is like a shag on a rock: lots of anticipation, but in the end it’s rather disappointing and you leave feeling a bit uncomfy. We’ve become so disillusioned that most of us aren’t bothering to go. One week we were presented with platefuls of quiche. QUICHE for heaven’s sake (this isn't a baptist church)!!! The dead leftovers usually get placed in the common-room downstairs. These days it’s dog-eared looking sandwiches, huddled together like dishevelled refugees from a British Rail buffet car. They are filled with stuff like prawns and goo, egg and goo, 2 colours of cheese and goo, fish paste and goo. Today’s leftovers were a little different. Grey, crusty pasties piled together like a monument outside a tortoise graveyard. At this rate, by Christmas we’ll be able to do our own production of ‘Oliver’ complete with authentic gruel.

I think we might start our own cake-time. Maybe invite a few select companies to join us. Relive a few pleasant memories. Anne-Sophie, if you’re in the area then come and join us – I’ll shop to make it worth your while.

Why do I do what I do to me.

Wondering why I’m doing this?

I seem to be getting stiffer with each morning ride. Definite muscle aches this morning, and the legs were reluctant to bend letting me into the bath. Once I got off the bike this morning there was a major dose of bum-hole-cramp (this is stress and exercise related, and highly uncomfy).

Oh well, at least I can justify being fat to myself now.

Saturday is a day of rest for me.

Sunday we’ve got a breakfast meeting as a church, so I might well see if Dan can be persuaded to come out on a chilty ride in the afternoon. It’ll be hard work, but much more fun that just pressing on as quickly as possible to get to work.

Right, 8.48am – off to the lab. Today is a big day for results.

post script.

Riding back tonight wasn't so bad. Managed a decent pace, even though there was no tailwind.

Thursday, 22 June 2006

Thoroughly demoralised this morning.

Back on the bike again this morning, I was grinding my way up the long drag out of Somerton, aching legs, straining lungs, and arms telling me how unhappy they were. A noise like a bike behind me made me turn round quickly – couldn’t believe there was one so close as when I’d passed the turning to Ardly, the road had been clear.

A chap on a road bike hammered past me, going probably twice as fast, and with a cheery, comfy greeting.


All the advantages of a road bike become irrelevant when you’re climbing. The bike is a little lighter, but only a bit, lower tyre drag counts for zip against gravity and all the streamlining doesn’t really help at lower speeds. He was just a huge amount stronger and faster than me.


By the time I got to the top of the hill he was disappearing in the distance, already near the top of Mudginwell hill. When I’d got to the top of THAT hill he was rolling into Upper Heyford, half a mile distant. He’d made more than half a mile over the distance of about 1.5 miles.

If I could leave work for the next 6 months and train full time I could never develop that kind of strength. It would be nice to know if he’s a tour rider in training, but most likely is he’s just Joe Soap on his way to work in Steeple Aston.


Lunchtime blogpost

I wonder if someone can explain to me what the effective difference is between burlesque and stripping?

Burlesque has featured significantly in the press recently (although I had read elsewhere of it) and appears to involve un/partially clad women dancing, sometimes with animals. Stripping (for non-UK readers) involves women dancing and removing their clothes.

I’m puzzled because one is presented as wholesome, broadminded and non-threatening to social morals while the other is seen as sordid and degrading: the first step on the ladder to prostitution and drug dealing.

Anyone know?

On a topic that is kind-of related (over confusion and women) I see the new Episcopalian primate is determined to fan the flames of controversy. In a “2 men say they’re Jesus, one of them must be wrong” way, I can see and feel that the whole thing isn’t right, but I don’t know what the fix is for something broken like this.

To me the whole thing smells of making theological points, and not trying to serve God in humility and honouring other above ourselves. Who knows?

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Lunchtime stuff

I think both Chris and I are feeling a bit like certain foundations have been swept away under our feet without us noticing, except at times of stress.

We had that occasion a couple of months ago when Ben went ‘missing’ without letting us know where he was. I’ve always had faith that God would look after my family, yet that trust and assurance has just evaporated: it’s there in my head but not my heart. Now there’s the issue with Julie. My peace has gone over things like this.

There’s never been a question about whether God has a right over our lives – whether we recognise it or not. The bit I struggle with is my perception of capriciousness – it doesn’t square with the God I know.

Now I can get intellectual and start analysing. Is it my perception that’s wrong, my theology, my assumptions about reality? Is it just that I still only see the local picture, and after nearly 30 years, still don’t have a wider perspective than what’s making me feel happy or sad? Probably.

Maybe when you’re young death is something you move on from. Maybe at mid-40s you’re in the middle, rather than at the new end.

Pox knows what it’s like to be 70, waiting to die?

Early morning blogpost

I’m sat here at my desk trying hard to cool down after cycling in – the wind was behind me, the temperature around 12.5’C and I wanted to push a little harder this morning to make up for my lack of circuit training tonight (church meeting). The office is NOT at 12.5’C (more like 25’C) and humid.

I’ve been sent a ‘humorous’ .pdf file by a friend (thanks Mike D) about rules for women during the world cup. It seems to me that the WC (I LIKE that connotation) brings out the feminine side in me. Just like Wimbledon causes instant ‘bloke-ness’. Sure it is great to see extreme sporting prowess and skill, but mostly this stuff doesn’t pass the ‘so what?’ test.

Guess with footie this is especially strong though. As a kid I was always the one that got picked last for teams. While not having 2 left feet, ball control skills were very minimal and as an instinctive participant, there was never anything exciting about just WATCHING a bunch of guys kicking a bladder about. School football didn’t help either, with memories of standing around in shorts and archaic baggy tracksuits in icy weather, any contact with the ball causing extreme stinging agony to the afflicted limb, fingers too numb to button shirts up afterward. To be honest, if no-one ever played football again then I really wouldn’t care less, except that I wouldn’t want to derive them of their fun.

I just wish it wasn’t big business, with shareholders and the whole 9 yards. Whatever happened to a simple game for the people to play?

9.00ish. Off to work.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

We're wondering if this is a certain age?

An age where those you know and care about start dropping like flies.

There's a lass in our church who became a Christian about 8 or 9 years ago. She's kind of small and a little un-noticeable, but really caught hold of God in her own quiet way. Within just a couple of years she'd stand up in front of several hundred people to bring a prophetic word, and yet also had a kind and serving heart.

At the weekend she was in considerable pain, and very unwell. On Monday a doctor visited and had her transferred quickly to hospital. I understand that she is drifting in and out of consciousness, and blood tests have shown an elevated white cell count, though by how much I don't know.

So if you have a little time to spare, please pray for Julie, with her husband John and children Claire and Martin.

Saturday, 17 June 2006

Shock horror probe.

Tonight we witnessed the Somerton parish vicar dancing on the graves after dark.

It was the Somerton annual pig roast, and she was joined by a whole bunch of others that were also enjoying the rock'n'roll band laid on.

Thursday, 15 June 2006

A lunchtime blog post.

Not surfing leaves free time. Newspapers can provide an interesting take on what’s happening, even if stepping back a little tells you the story is being spun faster than a child’s top.

The Daily Mail has provided a particular insight into the total hypocrisy of papers, detailing the less salubrious side of Heather Mills (Mrs. Paul McCartney for non-British readers) as a working girl. It was bad enough that I had to stop reading. A little further on in the same edition was a columnist discussing how “we all make mistakes” and how deeply wrong it was that the papers should be raking over the sordid details. Seems to me that if you’re going to publish salacious content purely to titillate then you ought at least be brazen about it, rather than excite with one hand and then deflate with the other.

Then there’s all the goings on with footballers WAGs (Wives And Girlfriends).

They really ARE short of news right now, and there’s nothing really happening in the Joeball world cup either.

The Times is a bit more interesting, with recent articles on giving fish oils to school children to improve intellectual performance (a ‘proven’ fact that’s never been demonstrated in a properly blind trial).

And following the education theme, how modern education has been specifically adapted to advantage girls and disadvantage boys. This is an observation we made when choosing GCSEs with Ben – how everything is tailored to steady coursework and continual review (which suits female working practice) and a de-emphasis on achieving in stress/burst competitive situations which suits the male psyche. When I was a teenager I remember there being talk about how girls were disadvantaged in education, especially in subjects where passes were exam-based. It seems that in the 30 years since then things really have been turned around, with girls doing well and boys under-achieving.

There may be something of a backlash, but it will be too late for Ben, leaving within a few weeks. Whether education has let him down or not could be debated, but it certainly failed to excite him or catch his imagination, and he tolerated it, producing the minimum necessary course work to get by. Most of the time.

The idea of a career in science does not look to be on the cards, which is a shame, as I believe him to have just the right mix of the practical and intellectual that would enable him to do well. Handling and using wood has been in my family genes for many generations. At the moment favourite possibilities are some kind of career in fine furniture making. All the artistic, creative and practical skills combined together. And little or no coursework required documenting design, equipment and process. Sounds pretty enticing to me too, if only I didn’t have a life-style to support.

Right, back to work. Our ‘guest’ from the US should be here soon.

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Blog thoughts while at work. Pt 2

Last night I managed to get the hotel rooms and car booked for the trip to Canada. Big thanks to Marc, who found time to research hotels and stuff for us. We’ll be staying in the Albert Inn, as they had decent facilities and a really good rate.

Funny how prices of almost everything vary according to where you buy instead of what you buy.

Going direct to a hotel’s own website was without fail the most expensive route. Booking through a travel site was up to 40% cheaper: ridiculous! I’m glad that we did get a good rate, but it makes you wonder why things are done the way they are in the world of hotels.

Cars were less hassle/involved but still required some care. Avon base prices looked brilliant: $280 CAD for 9 days family car hire. Then came damage waiver, tax, tax and tax. You even pay tax for having air con in the vehicle! $600CAD was the real price. I ended up getting the car from I’d looked at prices in the spring and booking through added about 50% to the cost. On the Canadian version of the site I still told them I was a UK resident, but that didn’t make a difference.

So we’re booked in.

It still feels like there must be something that’s been missed. We’ve got flights, car park, accommodation and transport booked. That *looks* like everything necessary to get us there and back.

Blog thoughts while at work. Pt 1

Most bizarre song recently heard – Sandi Thom “I wish I was a punk rocker”. I’m not sure if this is meant to be ironic or just plain wishful/wistful thinking? I lived through those days of punk – she’d have been covered in phlegm and other less pleasant things singing like that at a real punk gig. It’s SO unreal it’s almost funny. Punk seems to have collected a lot of nostalgia – degradation and self destruction apparently look good in retrospect.


I’m in the second day of breaking away from work-day internet use. Not been too bad really although I do keep thinking “I wonder what XXXX is doing/what’s happening on ebay/just time for a quick look at www.????.com”.

There are already benefits.

People that want to talk to me aren’t automatically a nuisance when I want to surf and sociability has been increased. There’s less dragging at my thoughts too, so that concentrating on work issues is easier. And finally there’s no longer an issue of ‘just another 2 mins looking here’.

Which ties in with my next point. Recovery IS happening.

It’s been a long year in limbo.

All my energy and determination to get on just evaporated after the accident. I was *at work* but not really present. Some days I’d be somewhat productive and some days I’d just be there, reacting to whatever caught my attention. Guilt became an all-enveloping cloud, as I knew I wasn’t pulling my weight (I’m still not, yet). I had the knowledge, the skills, but no motivation.

Drive IS returning, but it’s a slow climb back up.

And after those first couple of months where God was so present and so essential to just going on day to day, as daily dependency reduced, so did focus on Him. I have very much become the centre of my life, and that’s another battle that is still being fought too. Trying to serve Toni has become an automatic thing to do, and as you’d expect, the more I serve myself, the less satisfied I’ve become. So another circle of dependence to break.

Last week God spoke to me like He used to. It wasn’t a ‘there there’ word, not a word of comfort, not a burst of sudden insight into some situation. It was an “I know you want to do this but I want you to do that” word.

There’ll never be a time here when “it’s all fine” but there is recovery. Not here yet, but it’s coming.

Monday, 12 June 2006

Leaving now

The rain stopped about 10 mins ago, and the sun is coming out, so I'll cycle after all.


This is a half-dozen thought morning.

Y'know - the kind where you have half a dozen thoughts swirling around, all of which ask for some measure of expression.

First off - I'll only be on email today. I'm staying off the net again for personal purposes (this is probably going to become the norm for me).

Next - looks like we have our weather back again. Got up, put cycling kit on and went to the front door to get some fresh air circulating through the house. "Mmmm, smells like rain I thought". And sure enough, it's just lashed down outside. Contrast this to the 2 of us sitting outside last night, drinking chilled wine and talking about stuff until 10ish.

And talking of drinking wine, apparently it only takes a couple of glasses for me to lose all sense of judgement. My excuse for making embarassingly dumb comments last night on Johanna's blog.

And now I've run out of time.

Hey ho, hey ho etc.

Saturday, 10 June 2006

Ebay is a place of treasures and disappointments

I've been collecting valve (tube - toob - if you're from across the pond) bargains from ebay over the last few weeks. Looking for auctions ending late, badly worded, posted in the wrong place etc.

These all provide variety in the tones I get from the amps I build. Want Fender spank? Pop a 12AT7 in the preamp and a 6L6 in the output stage. Marshall roar? That'll be an EL34 and a JJ 12AX7. Higher gain levels? One of my NOS (new-old stock) Mullard 12AX7s and an Ei 6CA7. Need to keep the volume down a bit? Try a 6V6GT or use my own little Metisse amps Purity with a single EL84 output valve and a 12AU7 for sparkly vox tones or a 12AX7 for metal mayhem.

Well, from one seller I picked up 3 pairs of valves for about the price of a single one new. Some beautiful NOS General Electric 12AU7s in original boxes, some used Groove-tubes 6L6/5881s which were still good and some Canadian made Westinghouse 6L6s.

These Westinghouse valves are beautiful. They're the coke bottle shape that you see in every 50s sci-fi and Frankenstein movie. A really tall and classically elegant valve. Tones should be sweetly bright, with snap and spank, pushing into 'Bad to the bone' drive when cranked. I drew them from the packaging and looked at their fragile arrangement of wires and metal plates through the smokey glass envelope.

"These have had it" I though.

Unfortunately I was right.

Guess which semi-troglodyte

spent enough time in the sun this morning.

I think I live and work in dark places too much. We appear to be enjoying the bit of summer that had been hovering over Saskatoon weel before last (they've got our cool and damp). " hours outside this morning, cutting grass, moving stuff round in the shed with Chris. By 12.30 I could feel sun on my shoulders, and that's a warning.

Think I've caught it just in time. If you see me sweating freely at the wRants gig tonight then you'll know I got burnt after all.

Friday, 9 June 2006

Once again - sorry for the lack of content.

I've been trying to turn a number of things around in my life, and the internet has been one of the things that while good in itself, hasn't always helped.

Now I need to get back to the lab.

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

‘Left Behind’ has the Antichrist. “It’s got all the Christian stuff, and it’s still got all the cool stuff.”

"The reason that I think this game has a chance is that it’s not particularly preachy,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities. “I will say some of the dialogue is pretty lame -- people saying, ‘Praise the Lord’ after they blow away the bad guys. I think they’re overdoing it a bit. But the message is OK.”

The game is based on the best-selling series of Left Behind books, which offer an account of the end times as predicted in the biblical book of Revelation. One of the series’ authors, Tim LaHaye, said the game had the potential to communicate ideas like salvation to people who might not think of themselves as particularly interested.

From the Kansas City Star.

Now I've seen it all.

It's hard to know whether to laugh or frown about this one. I think laughter is the better option - this is just so nuts that it's almost impossible to take seriously.

I know what it is that bugs me about this kind of stuff. How it's people winning still by their own strength and ability. From the little I DO know of how God deals with His people in times of extreme persecution and suffering, giving them guns and permission to blow away their enemies isn't part of it.

I did laugh reading the article, but this is so far off it's trolley that it never even made it to the hospital.

I predict it will fail.


"In the game, Tribulation squads unleash the usual arsenal against the Antichrist: guns, tanks, helicopters. But soldiers lose some of their spirituality every time they kill an opponent and must be bolstered through prayer. The failure to nurture good guys causes their spirit points to drop, leaving them vulnerable to recruitment by the other side."

How many people can be bothered to pray regularly? Too much hassle and time.

Friday, 2 June 2006

And tomorrow

we'll be off to the first of many weddings this year..

This is Hazel and Jeff in Scarborough.