Saturday, 31 December 2016

I wonder, if all the anger

That was put into smashing this or protesting that were used for something positive, what benefit there might be to the angry one - not to mention everyone else.

Wishing anyone who reads this a peaceful, successful and benevolent 2017, and that any scars 2016 gave you will heal quickly enough.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

PHS waste collection services are cultured

Swan Lake is their call holding music at HQ.

However being transferred to an internal phone got some kind of Brit pop. :p

Ah well, nice while it lasted.

2016 seems to be a year of loss

I was discovered yesterday via a friend that Andrew Jones (better known as Tall Skinny Kiwi) lost his wife about 6 months ago, then via the same friend today of someone's wife being mauled by dogs and dying in Bolivia. People die all the time, but for reasons I don't really understand it seems much more significant to me in THIS year than ever before.

There's a feeling of helplessness that goes with it all.

I've been trying to re-connect my faith and understanding with who God can really be in the light of the suffering and death of those we know and love, and keep coming back to the idea that our suffering and death isn't really that important to God in itself. Starting with Jesus, He came to suffer and die so that we could have life. His disciples expected to suffer and die because that was His example and a likely outcome of following the other things He did. The early church expected to suffer and die because that was the natural outcome of trying to live as a Christian in a pagan society that knowingly embraced the demonic. There are occasional instances of people missing out on suffering - Peter gets released from prison in Acts - but only for a time before meeting an even less pleasant end.

Chris and I were talking about one of the songs done by Gospel Bell at the gig last night "Give me that old-time religion". The lyrics are almost funny in their niavity about church history: one line suggests that 'old-time religion' was good enough for the pilgrim fathers, who actually fled to America to escape the influence of 'old-time religion'. If there weren't enough suffering in the world then the historic church would bring some more to make sure the necessary quota were met. Not that I'm suggesting God instigated that.

And then I read a gospel or 2.

Jesus quite clearly appears to go around alleviating suffering, bringing comfort and a sense of worth to people. It's at odds with every other period of history.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Does anyone ever look at my


Not all pictures are *quite* like this, of course.

I have 2 posts running round my head

One is about coping with depression while trying to be normal, the other about liking the idea of an Amazon Echo Dot in the house.

Neither seem like a great idea really, but both could help you keep going when things might be more difficult otherwise. I'm doing one, but not the other, but would prefer them to be reversed in some ways.

Some stuff.

One post isn't helpful, the other self-idulgent - I'm not sure which is which. Time to stop then.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

We're all christmassed up

Tree up - check.

Lights - check

Garland over the fireplace - check

Meat bought for next weekend - check

Yup, looks like it.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Christmas humbug

Writing Christmas cards.

The not-remembering spouses names.

The not-managing-to-align-words in a pleasing manner.

The nagging feeling of having forgotten someone.

The mis-spellings that you spot immediately after writing.


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I have a dilemma

A friend here at work has a bundle of trouble going on in their life right now. He's talked to me a little, opened up a bit about things, and is in a horrible situation.

The dilemma I have is that I want to pray for him - to offer to pray for him and bring some comfort - but after recent events I just don't feel that I can do so in good conscience. From the time I heard about our friend Jo's cancer I prayed every day for her, as did many others. The answer was NO then, and I could cite other non-trivial NO instances too, so why should I raise someone's hopes and offer to pray for them when in all likelihood the exact same answer will be given?

What do you do when there's no faith left, nor any expectation that God will do anything? It's curious how, having fought traditional church for so long, suddenly I find myself there, with a faith that's barely worth the name.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Words I can't sing.

Yesterday I was asked to lead worship for a business meeting.

Now bearing all things in mind, this was an interesting situation. It feels a little like walking a narrow ledge right now, between wanting to simply reject church & walk away from everything - this is a real desire, albeit under control - and re-embracing the stuff I no longer trust or believe to be real. At the moment the ledge is narrow, because there's not too much understanding to hold on to, things to have faith in, but there are some things still, so I'll keep balancing & walking along.


I have a large body of songs to select from, all handily printed out from previous times. So I created 3 piles: Songs that have words I can sing & keep a clear cosncience, songs that might be usable in the future, songs that don't appear to tell the truth.

Curious how the songs that I could use were mostly old hymns or recycled words and structures from old hymns, "Be thou my vision" being one (aspirational) example, "Praise God from whom all blessing flow" being another.

Minus 6 degrees centigrade

That's how cold it was in Somerton this morning. After about 20min wandering round trying to take pictures, it was difficult to grip the steering wheel to drive into work. My fingers are still feeling the effects half an hour later, and typing is difficult.

T'was pretty though.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Lumia just goes on and on.

Just had almost 6 days use from the phone out of a single charge, and only had to charge it as a 'just in case' measure because of a potential medical emergency.

Charged it last Sunday evening, disconnecting it around 10pm, using it as normal to make calls, take a few work-related photos, send texts & emails, do a brief bit of navigation, a couple of min surfing. Plugged it in around 2.30pm this afternoon with 10% charge showing, which was probably good until Sunday morning without serious use.

Performance wise it's not a ball of fire, and Microsoft's interface is somewhat clunky compared to vanilla android, but I'll accept that trade for this kind of longevity and the fantastic call quality.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

How do I know God is real?

That's a good question, and one that's been kicked around in my head quite a bit recently.

There's a Douglas Adams quote from the HHGTTG that goes along the lines (from memory) of 'it being no good spending hours debating whether God exists if someone then gives you his bleedin' phone number'.

So no phone numbers then.

Entirely subjective, but the pre-Christian Toni was a complete Bastard, really - I know because I was there.

Why bring this up?

Because as I'd got closer to deciding God wasn't there, the inner bastard had been coming more to the fore. I've found myself being more like I used to be: less kind, less gentle, more sweary, more greedy, more depressed, more negative about others, more liberal in my thinking and less self-controlled. It's not much, but it was a solid reminder of who I am without Jesus. If salvation makes me more like Jesus then the opposite does the opposite.

Yes, I've been a Christian almost 40 years, but the flesh - the 'natural' attitudes - have never gone away in all that time, so much as being dealt with on a daily basis, sometimes coming to the fore, sometimes being held in control. Last weekend at the alpha day we had someone talking about how they had never sworn and their partner would never swear, even in court when asked to repeat something said by another person. I was reminded of who the natural Toni is, and how different I would be if left to my own devices.

Never mind pie in the sky when you die - salvation is for now.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Lumia 640 - better than anyone would admit

So I've had the phone just over 5 weeks, and as promised, here's a mini-review of an obsolete phone that nobody wanted:

Battery life - 4 days is easy, 5 days not unusual, with a few calls, texting, a bit of internet or routefinding. I don't live on my phone, and just use it as a tool.

Call quality - is generally landline quality, often in places where I'd struggle to even get a phone signal with the other 2 phones (iPhones seem at least as bad for reception here).

Screen - clear, clean, bright enough and crisp.

Windows applications - generally perform well once I got used to where to find things.

Windows maps - GPS locks in a couple of seconds, then generally chooses a good route with accurate ETA.

Keyboard layout - makes it easy to hit the bar at the bottom & return to the home screen.

Screen/phone size - I'd prefer it to be smaller and slimmer, but it's not unmanageable - glad I didn't get a 5.5" phone.

Lack of apps in general - I mostly don't care that I can't play candy crush. :-)

Firefox isn't available for this version of Windows 10.

The need to perform 2 actions when answering a call from a locked screen - swipe to open, then touch to answer. It should be a single swipe or tap.

The way my google address book has been scrambled when importing, so that names & pictures don't always match the telephone number/email address.

Wish the mapping app could do real-time traffic conditions.

It's a better mobile phone than any of my previous devices including candybar phones, but I just wish it was smaller and slimmer.

It's raining. Again.


Guess we're lucky - some parts of the country are flooded right now.


Especially for Robyn Friesen (if you ever read this) the word of the evening is 'moist'.  ;-)

Mismatch? Postmoderism again? Squitchy Christianity?

In the NIV study bible that I use there's a highlighted theme at the start of the book of Malachi that goes something like "The Jews stopped believing that God loved them and no longer trusted in His justice". I've kept coming back to this phrase again and again, because it matched my own thoughts well and I was hoping to find something that would enable some kind of reconnection (I've read a lot of the 'people in difficult circumstances' passages over the last few weeks).

But here's the mismatch - reading the actual passages of Malachi gives a very different understanding of the relationship between God & the Jews. It's not at all a case of God wooing back a 'lost' nation, but much more a people who have lost sight of God being threatened with harm and the example of Edom being crushed again and again demonstrating the fruitlessness of resistance.

I don't have any particular answers right now, other than I'm sure it's the same God in old & new testaments, God did demonstrate His love for us by sacrificing His only son on the cross, and that He has no problem with us suffering, struggling and dying in this life. So much of the Christianity I've heard preached suggests that God is a great big, soft, loving father who would wrap us in His arms and protect us from the world, struggles and pain - yet this isn't at all the God of the bible that I can see, nor, the God we seem to experience in this life. Squitchy Christianity isn't reality.

In a way I recoil a bit from trying to really understand who God is: apart from the sheer incapability of my mind, with that comes a responsibility that I don't want.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Hope I never grow up

My sense of humour is still suitably off-colour that I can find various entirely innocent words amusing when placed in the same sentence.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The will-man cometh

To talk to us tonight.

About making a will.

Happy days.

Apparently I'm popular in France

According to my blog stats:

Hi to my French Friends. ;-)

And apparently most people came here via yesterday, although I have absolutely no idea why since I couldn't find an obvious link here on the site. Hi Jenifer, if you drop by.

Web stats are curious things - definitely not something to become concerned with - but can be amusing occasionally.

Where do you go - when you've no-where to go?

So the personal fallout of our friend Jo's death, is that God doesn't asnswer prayer, at least not in the way we like to think He does, and that I want to walk away from faith and the church.

Reading church history tells us quite a bit: that we 'see' God as being like us, that He doesn't have a problem with people suffering and dying, that over and over again we ignore some quite key things while focusing on the stuff that reinforces our view that He's like us only better.

Where do you go when there's no-where to go?

After the crowds went away, Jesus asked His disciples "are you going too?" and they came back with "we've left everything for you - where else can we go?".

It's a bleak place, to discover God isn't who you were taught he was, and that things aren't what you hoped they'd be.

I could walk away if it wasn't for the way that God has, sometimes, been involved with my life. Sunday was interesting, going to a big multi-church meeting in Oxford, watching the visiting speaker indulging in very clear emotional manipulation to whip up the crowd, and then God just dropping the odd bit of genuine change in here & there. Bizarre. It made me soul-search about how I've lead worship in the past, but I've always had as light a touch as possible and feel my conscience is clear, at least in that area.

There is no worship in me right now, and I'm grateful not to be having to teach or lead worship. I still want to walk away, but I can't.

A good friend says that he gets angry with God, but this is far from that and much closer to a desire to stop living and stop struggling with it all. My starting point was whether God even existed, which is no place for anger, and it still is to an extent, but it's changed into wondering how we've mis-understood so badly and whether I really have any idea who God is after all.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Just found myself about to comment on a post about Brexit.

That was one of the reasons I stopped doing facebook - so much stoopid.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Sometimes I wonder

...looking at church history, and in the light of our life experiences, if we've not completely mis-understood who God is and how He wants to interact with mankind. At the funeral last week the worship band played Matt Redman's "You Are God In Heaven" and the lyrics seemed so completely 21st century-ridiculous, it was almost a mockery.

Have we been busy doing the same as every generation, and making God in our own image? I'm starting to think so.

Reading over on The Heresy (If you don't know the blog, I wouldn't worry too much) a debate about hell, salvation and who gets saved, the 21st century attitude is to ask how could anyone possibly be condemned to torment - no-one could deserve that (unless they're a paedophile). For second and third century Christians for whom death in various extremely unpleasant forms was distinctly likely, and where the everyday people around them were intentionally occupied with pagan evil, the idea that their oppressors might suffer the same cruelty as a just punishment afterward seemed entirely right and proper.

This time has both shaken and is reshaping my theology, and I'll never be the same again. I wonder a little more now if the traditional church that just goes through a kind of mummery isn't right after all - they have a lot of history on their side.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

In lieu of anything meaningful

Yes, I KNOW this has been floating round for years, but working with people from Germany, Spain, Italy, Pakistan, India and America, I find it funny.

61 English expressions that don't work for Johnny Foreigner. ;-)

1. “It’s not quite what I had in mind.” – What the bloody hell is this?
2. “That’s a bit off.” – I will never forgive you for what you just said.
3. “Oh yes, he’s a lot of fun.” – He’s an absolute nightmare.
4. “They’re fine once you get to know them.” – They’re arseholes.
5. “It rings a bell.” – I have no idea what you’re talking about.
6. “Fancy a drink?” – Fancy staying out until 3am and waking up with your face glued to a kebab?
7. “We’re going on a date.” — We’re getting pissed together.
8. “I got a bit tipsy last night.” – I drank 17 pints and then punched a police horse.
9. “Picnic” — Daytime piss-up.
10. “Barbecue” — Piss-up in the garden.
11. “It got a bit lively.” – The police were called.
12. “I’m doing Drynuary.” – I’ve stopped drinking during the day.
13. “I’m a bit tired.” – I’m hungover.
14. “I’m feeling a bit under the weather, to be honest.” – I have alcohol poisoning.
15. “I’m a tad poorly.” – Kill me.
16. “You look like you had fun last night!” – You look like you slept in a bin.
17. “It’s OK, we’ve not been here long either.” – We’ve been here for ages and we’ll never forgive you for keeping us waiting.
18. “Yes, it’s great, I love it.” – I am very dismayed by this haircut.
19. “Anyway, it was lovely to meet you.” – Please go away now.
20. “I’ll let you get on.” – Seriously mate, piss off.
21. “I might pop along.” – I’m probably not coming.
22. “I’ll see how I feel.” – I’m definitely not coming.
23. “I tried to call you.” – I let the phone ring twice and then hung up.
24. “It’s totally fine if you can’t make it.” – I don’t want you to come.
25. “It could be worse.” – No, it couldn’t.
26. “I’ll have a word with them about it.” – I’ll never mention this to them.
27. “It is what it is.” – I can’t be bothered to fix this thing, so stop complaining.
28. “Truth be told, I’m a little bit miffed.” – I’m going to stab someone.
29. “Want to have lunch together?” – Want to run to Greggs and back in the rain?
30. “It was OK, but I wouldn’t order it again.” – This meal was horrible, deeply disappointing, and shit.
31. “Did I give you enough cash?” – Give me my change. Now.
32. “With the greatest respect…” – I think you’re an idiot.
33. “Well, it can’t hurt, I suppose.” – You’re making a huge mistake.
34. “Maybe I’m not explaining it properly.” – I am explaining it properly, you’re just dim.
35. “I’m sorry you feel that way.” – It’s not my problem.
36. “It’s a step in the right direction.” – But it’s still rubbish. 
37. “Very interesting.” – You’re talking bollocks.
38. “Don’t quote me on that.” – Don’t blame me if the vague, half-made-up information I just passed on backfires on you.
39. “It was working a minute ago.” – You’ve broken it.
40. “Don’t worry, it’s probably my fault.” – It’s definitely your fault.
41. “You should come over for dinner sometime.” – I will never invite you over for dinner.
42. “Ooh, I could get used to this!” – Something very faintly luxurious has just happened, e.g. being offered a cup of tea.
43. “Can you pop it in an email?” – Please stop talking.
44. “That’s a very good question.” – One that I don’t know the answer to.
45. “Can I borrow you for a second?” – You’re in deep shit.
46. “Now, don’t be alarmed, but…” – Be very, very alarmed.
47. “Let’s agree to disagree.” – I’m obviously right, but I’ve run out of things to say.
48. “Look, let’s just forget it.” – I will never, ever forget this.
49. “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.” – I have no idea what to say about the crushing disappointment you’ve just experienced.
50. “Oh, hi! Sorry, I didn’t see you there.” – I was actively trying to avoid you.
51. “Well, that’s not quite what happened.” – Will your lies never end?
52. “There’s been a bit of a mix-up.” – I’ve ruined all of your plans and destroyed everything you hold dear.
53. “Only if you’re making one.” – Why yes, I desperately want a cup of tea.
54. “It’s up to you.” – You’d better pick the thing I want to do.
55. “Could do, I suppose.” – No.
56. “Sorry.” — I’m not sorry.
57. “I don’t mind.” – I do mind.
58. “It’s OK.” – It’s not OK.
59. “I’m fine.” – I’m fine.
60. “I’m fine.” – I’m furious.
61. “I’m fine!” – My whole life is in tatters. Please bring me a drink.
 Favourites roughly in order of usage are:

20. “I’ll let you get on.” – Seriously mate, I can't bear talking to yu any longer.
 1. “It’s not quite what I had in mind.” – What the hell is this mess?
 4. “They’re fine once you get to know them.” – They’re arseholes.
43. “Can you pop it in an email?” – Please stop talking.
51. “Well, that’s not quite what happened.” – Will your lies never end?
34. “Maybe I’m not explaining it properly.” – I am explaining it properly, you’re just dim.
39. “It was working a minute ago.” – You’ve broken it.  
54. “It’s up to you.” – You’d better pick the thing I want to do.
And, of course, "I'm fine/it's OK"

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Ever wonder why you do stuff?

Life seems so futile in many ways, especially at this end of things where one is gradually working down to retirement, then hoping to die comfortably before becoming old to the point of complete indignity.

It doesn't really matter that much what phone I use, what car I drive or a bunch of other stuff, but they're good distractions for a while.

It's tempting to sign this post off as 'Marvin', so at least you know I still have a sense of humour.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Day 2 on the settee this week

I went to work this morning & got sent home: been able to do a bit via email, but this hasn't been my most productive week. Felt miles better first thing, but was a dizzy, coughing wreck by the time I arrived at the Innovation Centre.

In other news, the Microsoft Lumia 640 turned up today.

So it's a 5" phone (yikes) that feels slim, lighter than expected & neat. The back is a really good fit, but comes off OK without a fight, and although the phone doesn't have the presicion engineered feel of my carbon & metal RAZRi, it's still good. The Giffgaff SIM worked fine, since the phone is locked to O2 and Giffgaff share that network. Call quality is great, with pretty much landline quality from indoors on my settee, rather than having to go outside and STILL getting breakup - this is a PHONE phone, rather than a small tablet computer.

The screen is also nice, both in terms of clarity and of oleophobic coating to reduce smears, and the interface seems pleasantly fluid if quite unfamiliar, despite having Windows 8.1 (may have to migrate to W10 to stay current in the app store - give it a week). At this stage I'm not sold on the windows mobile experience, but there's the promise of good things to come if I persevere. There's also a 5200mAh external battery pack given away 'free' (but no charger - just a USB cable) with the phone, and fortunately I still have my Motorola charger. Hopefully battery life will be a couple of days at least.

In terms of storage there was just over 3Gb free from 8Gb basic memory, which is no worse than Android (no idea about iPhones, other than to hear 16Gb iPad owners complain about no useful space). There's all the kinds of tools you might expect to find if you were using a windows PC, which is handy in some ways, more complicated than it need be in others. My initial experience is that I don't actually like windows, but on a PC it just gets out of the way and lets me get on with life - hope this will be the same.

And I've 14 days to return it - one of the key reasons for buying online. Not that I expect to, but if I just can't get on with the interface then, in theory, there's a no-quibble guarantee they'll take it back.

But sofa so good.

Now, where's that micro-SD card that was supposed to arrive today?

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Pulling a sickie today

Had been asked to prep some songs for the meeting this morning, but my voice isn't good for singing (or very much at all) and when I move I cough. So I'm sat at home while Chris has gone to church, keeping warm with a laptop on my legs, coughing occasionally.


Circling over.

Just ordered a Lumia 640 from O2 for £70 on PAYG. Should take my Giffgaff SIM card OK (shared network) and I've got 14 days to return it if it turns out to be a lousy buy.

In the end it came down to a mix of low cost & size that made me go this way - £70 is a relatively small gamble for something I'm not sure about (Windows on a phone). The other options were a Moto G4 plus - great screen, nice camera, OK battery life, huge piece of plastic, Moto E3 - smaller & neater but laggy when actually *doing* stuff & not just flicking across desktops, iPhone 6 - much smaller and neater (IOS10 is enormously better than IOS6, which completely turned me off) but also relatively expensive and with poor battery life.

I'll report back whether the Lumia experience is good or bad later.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Migrated the main PC last night

It could be called an update, but I pressed an old 750Gb Samsung HDD into service and installed Linux Mint Mate 18 (Sarah). The dark colours look and everything seems to work OK.

The install took a couple of hours nstead of the usual 20min because I'b wated to partition the old drive to keep a usable windows install + data, and as the disc was a little fragmented there was a lot of file relocation going on. Also the codecs etc used for audio & movie playback weren't included on the disc for the first time I can remember, and they seemed to take about 20min to download even before the great disc shuffle had started. There were times when I wondered whether the install had failed, but there was data passing through the bus as illustrated by the light on the fron of the case, and I could feel the HDD writing when I touched the case.

One minor hiccup was having to instruct the sound card to switch outputs from the front headphone socket to the rear, using the command line and alsamixer command. I'd forgotten the need to do that last time, and it took a while to remember why sound was working.

This is planned to be a long term install, and I've been copying folders across from backup locations to the new desktop this morning, from where I'll use them. This PC used to be Ben's games machine (it's an old core 2 duo machine) and it struggles to run firefox these days, though Opera is pretty good. Likewise Chris's machine is about that age, grinding away with W10 now. She'soften frustrated because it always seems to want to download updates when she wants to use it. We may have to go to high speed broadband sooner rather than later.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Circling is stupid.

I need to replace my old, now non-functional Motorola RAZRi phone.

That's not a problem.

The problem is that I'd like a phone similar to what I had: maybe a 4.5" to 4.7" screen with HD, similar 3-5 days with occasional use, slim and relatively pocketable, reasonable performance by current standards (an upgrade there!) decent mapping and navigation, reasonable camera.

Sadly, the market does not agree that this is a reasonable spec now. Everywhere it's phablets with screens as big as an E-Reader and 1 day battery life if I want anything with a reasonable specification. I've thought of joining the devil's ranks and buying an iPhone 5S or 6, but battery life is also less than ideal, performance somewhat lacking and that's a shed load of cash for last years (or the year or two before that) phone. And that's without having to cope with using Apple's most claustrophobic interface.

So I run in circles trying to decide what to do, not choosing anything because nothing is what works just right.

I've been looking at the Motorola G4 & G4 Plus: decent performance, great screen, good camera in the plus, fast charger (plus again) and not a bad price. But the thing is enormous, and even though it's not heavy, I couldn't imagine going for a run carrying one of those the way I did my RAZRi.

But then I keep coming back to a Lumia: cheap, smaller, but also with a reputation for unreliability and instability.

Then there's all those other phones out there.

And round we go in a circle again.

It's not like a lifelong commitment, but it IS a commitment for a couple of years, and one I want to get right.


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

So we say goodbye.

Goodbye Jo. You'll always be that chubby-faced 10 year old girl that I first met when I remember you, even though you were also a wife and mother now. Wish we'd been able to know each other as adult friends for a bit longer.

The disappearing blogroll

Now seems to have reappeared. Bizarre.

Ever take a marriage quiz?

LIVING FOR NOW You definitely want to have a significant relationship at some point in your future, but you are just not quite ready to make that commitment to the “forever one”. At the moment you like to have love and try out the skills of relationship maintenance: sharing personal space, communicating openly and compromising but you are not ready to make this an everyday experience. You have lots of facets to your life that are important to you and right now you are not ready to dedicate the significant time and effort marriage requires. You want a little more time to explore who you are and what you want before settling down.

 It's like the last 35 years never happened, apparently.

Take the (silly) test here:

Sunday, 9 October 2016

It seems I'm leading worsip today

Not for the first time, do I not feel ready for this - not because of what I've done, right or wrong, but because of what I'm carrying in my heart. So much easier to be at the back, maybe just play a bit, keep silent.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Of sausage and sealing wax, to chat of many things.

Apologies to Lewis Carroll.

This morning I was pondering issues of faith, certainty and making rules. Rules have long been a part of Christianity, inherited nicely fro Judaism with a good stirring in of human nature. You know where you are with a rule - rules are solid and reliable, not leaving room for doubt.

So, having survived losing a child, we're now experiencing a young friend dying of cancer, slowly in front of her husband and children. It does some interesting things to faith, not seeing healing or recovery happen.

Of course I know the intellectual answers to situations like this, but they don't answer the emotional questions.

So we're in a state of some limbo, in many ways.

On a different note, the kitchen is now fitted, and I cooked our first meal there tonight after a day spent relocating, sorting and discarding much of our excess kit that's been accumulated over the years. Let me tell you that drawers are greatly over-rated when it comes to kitchen storage, because everything is HEAVY, and a 30kg limit isn't very much.

We've won some & lost some with this design. Space is arranged differently, and we have far more drawers than before, but very much less cupboard space. The built-in freezer is a little bigger, despite having only 3 trays & a pit in the bottom for freezing. The fridge is about the same, but with a slightly less convenient layout. Dishwasher seemes a couple of inches narrower (NOT expected) and runs fairly quietly, oven's wider and with less height.

Induction hob is a winner.

It's now official here - an electric hob can be as good as gas to cook on. Heating starts in moments instead of minutes, and when you turn off the heat, the heat goes off. We have a large non-stick frying pan that wouldn't get more than a little warm with the old halogen & ceramic hob, but tonight I fried on it for the first time. Also nice is that any spillages don't burn on, because then only thing getting heat from the hob is the pan.

We had a brief moment of frustration earlier, thinking the hob hadn't been connected, when in fact the touch controls required a finger pressed on the power on mark for a couple of seconds before starting. Once that was sussed then it was plain sailing, although the obviously electronic nature of the device is mildly dissappointing - touch controls everywhere, fans starting up when the power goes on etc. There's a lot to be said for simple kit, even though this works really well.

Wonder if it will last 26 years like the last one?

In the vein of replacing things, I'd wondered if we needed to replace the settees soon. Chris told me they weren't going anywhere because the place she normally sat had a Chris bottom hole shape in it. That caused considerable amusment between us.

I also need to replace my mobile phone. The RAZRi is nearly 4 years old, and has succumber to the fluctuating battery fault that got so many when they were upgraded to android 4.4. The old HTC Desire that was my first smartphone was still around, rooted by Ben & running Cyanogen Mildwild - managed to find a punched SIM card outer that would take my microSIM from the other phone & suddenly I'm back in business. Seems pretty slick considering the almost 6YO hardware.

We'll be moving Chris to a smartphone soon, from her old clamshell Nokia, and whatever she gets I'll probably also have for me so that I can help trouble-shoot for a while. I'd quite like a WinPho (probably a Microsoft 650) but tried a couple of budget androids this afternoon while shopping. I was quite surprised at how much better Android phones are now - when I last went looking, a Galaxy S3 was quite glitchy and not always smooth, while these were all pretty good.

Talking of moving stuff on, we came across Sarah's Virgin Mobile SIM card packaging this afternoon. She had her first phone about 14 years ago, and what a meal they made of selling you access to a mobile network then! Guess it was all part of selling the dream of mobile telephony at a time when everyone sat down to a PC. Now it all seems almost embarassingly obvious, but in those days a mobile was still somewhat special. And it wasn't even a long time ago.

We're both coughing well tonight - hope we can sleep. Chris has had a REALLY nasty cold this week and I may have just acquired her cough.

Sleep well internets.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Since we're on a posting roll - divergent

Watched the first 2 films in the divergent series over the weekend, and I can't help compare them to the Hunger Games films (of which I watched the 2nd or 3rd in the series while flying somewhere). Emotionally tortured teenage girl falling in love and bringing down a distopian regime seems to be the theme. Lots of pretty CGI enabling big sets, lots of people waving guns around. The storyline is present, but seems relatively uninvolving.

Guess I shouldn't complain since at least we're getting some real scifi films made after such a long, dry period: Gravity, The Martian, Interstellar, Edge Of Tomorrow were all good and watchable, although Interstellar had a hokey weak ending. Now if only someone would make the Ringworld trilogy, and then the Known Space series, that would be great.

My blogroll has disappeared

No idea why - it's nothing personal.

Happy thirtyfifthiversary to us

About this time of day, 35 years ago, I recall riding over to Chris's parents place, to see her before she got reading for the wedding. Her father was out (apparently he'd would not have been happy with my breaking of 'luck' from not seeing the bride on a wedding day) and so we saw each other briefly before I went home again.

Today we 'celebrate' by having our kitchen torn out and living room filled with all the stuff that normally lives in the kitchen instead. Chris has a nasty cold, so I'm not sure whether we'll go down the microwave meals or dining out route tonight.

Yay us. ;-)

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

So the new kitchen is finally ordered.

Fitting starts next week.

It's been harder work than it should be, but we seem to have finally got there. I wonder how long it will take to get used to everything being different after 26 years more-or-less like this?

Friday, 23 September 2016

It's 12.50am and I have a cold & can't sleep


Went to bed, laid for an hour, got back up & finalised identifying kitchen appliances (yup, that's a fridge) for the refitted kitchen. Doing the redesign has been frustrating, with drawers only available in the width of units that we don't want or at different heights across different width units and too many faffy, fiddly factors.

We have a design that we can both agree on. Done. Probably.

Media is a funny thing.

2 angles.

One is that culture and interaction are being shaped by media consumption, to the point where as a non-TV watcher I am finding myself decreasingly able to connect with media presentations. Part of that is the generation Y concern for fluffy bunnies, inclusivity and the environment, but a much larger part is the manner of presentation. It feels all tense, urgent and yet the words and emotions used convey little of the meaning to me. It's a lot like sitting in a technical business meeting discussing quality standards for an area of business for which I have no knowledge or interest.

This was prompted by watching a bit of the latest version of Alpha videos last night. It just doesn't connect. But more than that, I'm finding the people that DO connect with that kind of thing being less and less able to communicate effectively to me.

Maybe the answer is to get a TV.

Angle 2.

It feels like media is everywhere to be consumed.

That's not news at all, but what is different and increasingly so is the availability of copyright content EVERYWHERE to the point of blurring ownership to consumers.

I can watch videos on Amazon prime, streaming in DVD quality, and very nice it is too.

I watched 3 videos during our 10 hours of flying to Turkey and back.

I recently downloaded some TV programs from veoh that were unavailable from Youtube, and have found various sites that work as a streaming portal for almost every recent film one could wish for, and with no suggestion that one is breaking the law in the way that torrent users used to.

Apart from causing distress in the movie industry, it's going to be increasingly difficult for people to have a sense of copyright over digital content, if everywhere you go content is freely available whether a fee has been paid or not. I'm in several minds about the rightness or otherwise of all this because the rules governing this kind of content are relative and set by society, rather than clear and absolute, and the ground in this area is shifting. Curiously the BBC has changed the rules this month regarding streaming TV programs, and a license is now required to watch programs retrospectively. I wonder if this will help them or if the horse has not only bolted, but been caught, bought, sold & turned into glue. Never mind any stable doors.

Monday, 19 September 2016

It sometimes surprises me how stressful travel, particularly air travel, can be.

It also amazes me that I voluntarily put both myself and my wife through the stress of doing it in the name of relaxation and fun – that I don’t learn from my previous behaviour – calling it a mistake is incorrect, both because it’s deliberate and has also sometimes resulted in highly beneficial moments.

Of course, it’s not always so bad.

Travel in countries where the language is somewhat familiar, at least sufficient to take a stab at, hasn’t always been difficult. Flying back from Frankfurt at Christmas last year was fine. Likewise Seville the previous summer and various other holidays & trips. Geneva was slightly hard going, simply because the budget-tourist part of the airport is thoroughly unpleasant, so even though all travel arrangements were looked after by the Crystal Ski people, it was still a crappy experience beyond their control.

This year has been one of our steepest challenges yet.

We did pick up a few works of Turkish, a very few, so when the online check-in website was in Turkish only I could recognise the words for hello, Exit and please. After that we fell into the loving embrace of Google translate (did an amazingly good job) and I literally sweated my way through putting in the various details for us to check in and download boarding passes (however Turkish Airlines always print boarding passes anyway when we bag-dropped) to put on phone and tablet.

A week or so before we flew I got a notification from Tripcase (travel management app) that our flight times had changed, but the change seemed minor and I didn’t worry any further. This did, however, cause enormous anxiety when my head still remembered the original times for both journey legs, despite reading the new times repeatedly, and I had waking nightmares about missing our connection in Istanbul.

It’s going to be fine.

I’m writing this sat in the domestic departure hall of Bodrum airport with almost an hour before we board the first flight to Istanbul. Of course it will all be fine, but I won’t be able to post this until we’re back home, so will also be able to confirm the flight was, in fact, fine.

I wrote that Saturday morning – we made it back fine, with the greatest stress occurring at Heathrow airport . Now I’m ‘looking forward’ to my first day back at work, travelling to Bristol & trying to sort the kitchen refit out.

Friday, 16 September 2016

So the final day has arrived

And it's with a mix of regret: not having done many of the things I'd wanted to, and relief that we'll be heading back to our own home, own bed, own food etc.

I was going to say that this holiday has been conspicuous by the lack of forming friendships, but last year in Spain we didn't do so either except when re-connecting with our dear friends in Badajoz. Each time this trip we had just a couple of occasions to get to know people, like Juliette and Sanjiv at Ortakent or a couple of couples on the 2 day trip we've just completed to Ephesus & Pamukkale, and then we've gone separate ways. Interesting for me how one gets drawn to people, so with Juliette and Sanjiv, it turned out that they were Christians and there was an almost instant and natural connection, yet we didn't discover this until we said goodbye at the last minute.

Unlike many previous trips, I've not tried to blog this one through the time here, mostly because our room wasn't conducive to sitting down & writing and the wifi is a bit of a faff. We're actually sat out on our (tiny) balcony this morning because Chris had a tummy ache and we're just waiting in the cool for everything to be fine again. We'll probably head off to Golturkbuku in a while for a swim and lunch, before dinner tonight with Ben and some goodbyes.

Packing shouldn't be difficult - throw everything into the suitcases, carefully segregating clean & dirty (I have 2 un-worn tee shirts, a couple of pairs of pants (both European and American meaning) and lots of pairs of socks. Generally it's been too hot for socks, and I've been wearing an ancient pair of M&S leather deck shoes most of the time: loose enough to let air circulate, strong enough to walk around. Chris intentionally brought more than she could possibly wear in order to have options, so my few clean items will travel with her wardrobe.

Anyone interested in Ephesus?

Apparently there have been quite a few by roughly that name, but the Greco-Roman city is the one we all think of. It covers a very large area, and there's lots of ruins, but not too much in the way of really interesting buildings, and in all honesty, I'd call it disappointing after some of the places we've seen. The library of Celsus has spectacular frontage, the amphitheatre is colossal (seated 25,000) and the 'terraced houses' that are now under cover (extra fee to view) are probably the high point. There's some other interesting bits that haven't stuck in the mind especially, but those were the highlights. I keep comparing it with other places we've seen on this and other trips, and apart from sheer size, it isn't really that special *compared with* Pompeii, Herculaneum and Philippi. We've visited a couple of sites on our own this trip: Euromos and Iassos, that were smaller, but not much less interesting. On the second day of our 2 day trip, visiting Pamukkale and Heirapolis, the amphitheatre in Heirapolis was in much better condition (after re-assembly). 

Generally archaeological sites in Turkey have been scruffier and with poor signage compared to other parts we've seen. TBH there's ruins everywhere, but they seem to consist of piles of shaped stones, tumbled and fallen, with little sense of what they once were. The region has suffered a lot of serious earthquakes, so perhaps that's entirely reasonable, but for a tourist it's less exciting. If you want exciting ruins then go to Italy or Greece (and most of the good stuff here has Greek origins, built on by the Romans anyway).

Chris is feeling better, so I think we're going to leave shortly. Later I'll do online-checkin & hopefully book some decent seats on the flights home.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The best laid mice of plans and men

Wonder if blogger for Android will work this time?

So we were ready for a nice early start, everything packed, only to find the carpark completely rammed and no way to get our car our. :-p

As with everything, the Turks have a very practical approach to motoring, but just like the car we saw on the main Bodrum highway, on its roof, it doesn't always work for everyone concerned.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Just occasionally things come together to make sense.

It might be theology, relationships or all sorts of stuff. Tonight it was Turkish starters (meze) where instead of everything being a bit too sharp or oily or over-cooked & mushy, instead it tasted just right.

We ate in a tiny place called Sheaniah's in Golturkbuku just round the coast from Torba, having already been there for lunch earlier in the week with Ben. According to the blurb on Google Turkbuku is normally crowded with film stars and athletes, and someone was trying to impress Chris (Christina) with having worked with Anthony Hopkins, failing sadly because she'd not heard of him. :-)

They were very friendly, even giving us turkish delight and cologne as part of their Bayram celebration for Eid, inviting us to see the house etc, though sadly we're unlikely to ever go back.

Friday, 9 September 2016

I've just seen a man wearing rocket boots

was the title of the last blogpost I wrote.

That post is presently 'publishing' from my phone, as it has been for the last 5 days, and written because we had actually seen someone wearing rocket powered boots, hovering over the Agean sea. It made other witty comments about activities going on that I've mostly forgotten now.

So we've been here for almost a week in the most westernised bit of Asia - Turkey is like India without the incredible grinding poverty, polytheism, respect for British things and iffy food. Considering how the nations of Greece and Turkey have their history and genetics woven so closely together, it's amazing that they should be so different. But even though the countryside is so very similar, Turkey *feels* quite different in a way that's hard to pin down. A few times, driving around, it's felt as though the scene unfolding in front of us had come from India and might have been something we'd see if we were travelling there.

Or it could be an over-active imagination.

We've travelled a bit now, with more journeys due soon to archaeological sites. Turkey certainly has a lot of ruins, though little of what we've seen so far has been handled sympathetically with the exception of the materials recovered from shipwrecks and displayed in Bodrum castle. Many of the sites have been plundered, sometimes for building materials in the case of the Halikarnassos Mausoleum, often for objects of antiquity to ship back to museums in Britain and other nations. So the Mausoleum is basically a hole in the ground with a small number of decorative artifacts strewn about, the remains of the great frieze presently being in the British Museum. The temple of Apollo at Didyma was much better, but there was much still missing. We will shortly try some of the less well known sites around Milus, Praen and Euromos.

It's been good to spend time with Ben, especially since he's taken the week off to be with us. His local knowledge has led us to a restaurant where one barbecues the food at the table, and another tonight at a place tucked away for locals, serving delicious grilled meats. Food at our hotel (we're half-board) has been patchy, with mediocre stuff some nights, nice stuff others, and eating out has given us a much more favourable view of Turkish cooking than otherwise. I am, however, slightly dodgy in the tummy, and wondering why.

Now - bedtime.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Does this indicate you've been a victim of terrorism?

If, when in a large crowd in a public place, you hear a loud sound that you can't identify, you assume that someone is shooting? Which has apparently happened a couple of times now.

I'll throw no stones, but it should be making people stop in their tracks and ask "why is this happening in this nation?". To the best of my knowledge, few Americans have been killed as a result of foreign terrorists on American soil.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

A nice thing about

Is the way clothes etc are reduced to make way for autumn and winter collections. :)

Well, mostly. Except for swimming costumes. They're still reduced, but the start point makes reduced feel like full price.   :-p

Monday, 22 August 2016

Happy birthday

27 years old now - I wonder how you're doing?

Time goes so fast and yet so slowly, life is so full and so completely trivial.

Looks like today is a day of contrasts

On LinkedIn there was an Image of Marissa Mayer's resume (also described as a one-page CV) where it's suggested she is productive 18/24 (and apparently sleeps 3-4 hours a day).

 Then, via the BBC I came across a blogpost suggesting that mediocrity was actually quite reasonable.

I have a suspicion that one appeals considerably more than the other. :-)

Picking up the fallen

It's been a good-busy weekend, and last night we were 'relaxing' with me running through my browser history for the previous weekend trying to find a picture of a particular kitchen and worktop that I wanted as an example. Chris suddenly called to me, to come outside because someone had fallen off their bike and ended up on our verge again.

Felt sorry for the young chap, quite scuffed and bloody, and he came in, washed his wounds and I then took him to Banbury Horton hospital. His parents live in Yorkshire, so not exactly round the corner to look after him, and his GF was away, so again not able to provide help. He'd originally intended to ride back to Banbury, but was obviously concussed from the accident and not really in a condition to do so.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Had the Dell XPS keyboard replaced under warranty today

And it's nice to be able to type on it again - seems better than the previous one too, and pretty close to Apple standards in terms of responsiveness.

Getting dell out for the work (next business day onsite) was a pain in the parts, having to go through online stuff first, then not being offered a number to call or a form that could be completed. Google sorted that, but I was quite cross by that point, but the chap in India with the temporary fake US accent was patient and polite. It was still better that Apple's return to base warranty, where you take stuff to the store an hour away, they demo that it doesn't work while telling you there's probably not a problem and then send stuff away on the proviso that you'll pay if they can't find a fault. If I ever bought another Mac at full price it would NOT be through Apple again.

Apparently this battery is starting to swell too. :-p

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

What's in a name

I came across the name Eyelid the other day.


Sorry that's wrong.

The name was Eilidh. Apparently it's AyLee, like Hayley, but without the H.

Humans are a funny bunch, never sure whether they want to conform or stand out, and very often both at the same time. As an odd foreigner in the UK, I wish I felt less antipathy toward celtic pronunciations, or perhaps it's the German in me wanting to fight the illogicality of using letters to 'sound wrong' in a European language.

And now I've just remembered a couple of words in Swedish.

So what's logic got to do with language? :-)

Monday, 15 August 2016

Have just downloaded our visas for Turkey.

And it's tempting to quip about it feeling like christmas, but that's a bird-brained joke. ;-)

It will be good to see Ben again.

Monday, 8 August 2016

So I gave in last Friday

Ran a 5K up to North Aston, round the green and back home.

I need to find a balance between doing the serious running that lets me do half-marathons while leaving me with pain and the sedentary lifestyle that's so pleasant but leaves me fat & gasping. There's the time factor too, and I feel less & less inclined to make effort except at those things where I can go mindlessly flat out, then stop & gasp a sort of recovery - working steadily is uncomfortable.

Aging bodies are curious, slightly disappointing things.

On a different note, we have a kitchen fitter coming over tonight to discuss changing things. I fitted the kitchen 26 years ago, and although it might last another 10 years, it's becoming scruffy and some things, including appliances, need replacing. So we've dived into the murky, complex world of the modern fitted kitchen, and as could be predicted, it's murky and complex. ;-)

Most staggering is the cost of worktops: >£1200 for 3 meters of Corian. >£2000 for 3 meters of walnut. On a forum discussing the cost of kitchens, one of the guys paid £5500 for 15 meters of granite worktop 10 years ago. I think we may be a little more economical than that, although I DO know various people that have had granite worktops fitted, but it's highly unlikely we'll be doing that!

The cost of the actual 'kitchen' - the units themselves - now seems trivial by comparison, and kitchens from the big suppliers all seem to be made to the same standard with similar construction methods almost regardless of pricepoint - certainly they all look incredibly similar. Gone are the nasty MFI doors (and many of them were quite nasty) but in their place are MDF mouldings, and the 'solid wood' doors also look more like they are made from MDF. Everything closes softly, drawers have sheet steel folded sides and every little nook, cranny and slot can have some kind of storage facility, that you could never imagine using, built in.

The connection with the first half of this post, is that I'm too achey now to want to kneel on the floor and fit a kitchen myself.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

My name is Toni, and it's been more than 3 weeks since I had a run.

Not quite alcoholics anonymous. ;-)

I'm not sure where we're going to go with the running yet. In terms of recovery, I managed to gently back away from all my training until a few weeks back, keeping the depression and mood swings difficult but manageable while that was going on. The body has been settling, to the point that 2 weeks after my last run, while walking down to the car carrying a guitar and amplifier, I realised that my legs and joints were quite comfy in contrast the the way they've been hurting pretty much all the time for a year or more. Also for the last couple of weeks I can squat down without intense pain for the first time in ages.

Currently my right knee still has a little swelling on the side. Last weekend I finally removed the 2nd largest toe nail on my left foot, because it had detached all round except on one side, and was just flapping annoyingly. Overall the body is doing well I guess.

The running will have to restart however. It made a huge difference to my lungs, and having had a cold recently that didn't hit the chest, plus keeping my wieght down, it needs to be done. And there is a certain pleasure to running through the countryside on a gently warm evening with birds flying and crops in the field. Just not sure about what level to set as a target yet, and not sure whether the body will make it easy to get right.

Friday, 29 July 2016

You know people need to come off drugs

When they post comments about how reading a book is surreal, because the reader is staring at markings on slices of tree while hallucinating vividly.



Thursday, 28 July 2016

One door shuts, another opens.

So today I finished one of my part-time jobs. The company was developing a screening system based on data generated by a university group that *looked* absolutely solid - strikingly so, which should have been it's own warning - yet which could not be reproduced by either us or them when it came to trials of typical patients.

It happens.

I'm really sad things didn't work out: we refined the technique a lot over the course of the project while learning loads, invented some really useful hardware and should - if everything had worked out - have had a system that would make a lot of lives a bit better and save the health service millions each year. The nature of development from academic data is hit and miss, and this one was a miss.

Tomorrow is my last paid day, but "there's no need to come in" and both the lab and office are clear & sorted.

Next Thursday I start a new job doing the kind of work I've been doing most of my life. I *hope* that I haven't bitten off more than I can chew, especially on such a short time of employment. It will be a challenge that I'm quite looking forward to, but with a slight sense of wondering whether it will become a large wave that towers over me instead of one I end up riding.

Monday, 25 July 2016

How is it they're jumping for joy?

Worship and praise are a curious experience.

So often the worship leader seems so full of joy, praise, exhuberance, happy gratitude. I wonder sometimes if I'm deficient as a Christian in some ways, that I don't overflow with 'joy inexpressible' to all around me. Am I a miserable git, sinful (OK, got me there) faithless and ungrateful?

Not really, but I can't seem to do the happy-overflow thing.

Sometimes it can drive guilt or feeling down, sometimes I can even accept it's who I am and that to be otherwise wouldn't be real. Occasionally I can feel a bit like it too, but that's somewhat unusual. Generally I try not to base life on feelings, but some things are intended to be outward expressions of feelings within, and those I'm not happy to fake so much.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Why did you just stop?

A post from Fernando about Bill Cunningham made me think about the desire to retire.

Bill C loved what he did, continuing to work into his 80s, when most would have retired 20 years or more before. I too love many of the things that I do, but there are times when the stress - the friction points - make me really wish I could just go fill shelves in Tesco.

I wonder if it's possible to find a way to live where the friction is dealt with, freeing us to just get on with what we're good at? This is really rhetorical, but it's also an 'I wish'.

p.s if anyone hears of any jobs going where I can cycle round a major city taking photos, then writing about them, please let me know. :-)

I should agopolise

The spelling on this blog, primarily due to typos, has been terrible recently.

Reading through posts from the last few weeks, I was somewhat horrified at the mistakes, especially as a spelling and grammar nazi. It is entirely my own fault, of course, however Firefox/blogger spill chucker does some odd things, failing to spot the switched spelling in the title, yet picking up on nazi.

So.... sorry.

We change.

There's a slightly uncomfy irony that, as one who wanted to reform the church for so many years, I now want a church where life and practice are familiar. And most of all, where I feel I can trust what's going on.

This is probably just a passing phase.

It's also true to say that I'm not the man I was - much more experienced, much more knowledge - though I still make the same dumb mistakes. More knowledge and experience aren't necessarily either good, useful or helpful things however, compared to faith and trust. And even fresh starts often prove not to be that either, of course, because we always bring ourselves.

More crypticism than a 'mummy' movie. ;-)

Monday, 18 July 2016

Recovering, which is good.

Last week I ended up with a nasty throat, which gave me a voice that would do justice to Wandring Star, plus a general head cold. However for the last couple of weeks my body has just been very very grumpy, aching in various places and not being at all happy. Likewise emotions have been generally dark, miserable and downward.

Hopefully that was all part of the same thing, and will now lift completely.

I'm giving running a break too. The swelling on one knee seems reduced and yesterday I managed to crouch a coupole of times, though it was very uncomfy standing up again afterwards. Not being able to get down without pain may be the price required for continuing to run.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Since you been gone.


I'm told one should never start a sentence with the word 'so', but frankly, breaking conventions harmlessly is fun sometimes. ;-)

Playing bass does odd things to the way you look at music. So why does nearly every recent-ish worship song make me want to play the main riff for Since You Been Gone, at least from the basic chord structure? I picked up the chords for Matt Redman's Sing And Shout this morning, and although it's not written *quite* like that, it *feels* like it's written just like that. There was a bunch of about 10 songs that I worked through last night, and underlying most of the songs was this feeling that riff was coiled and waiting, ready to spring out at any time.

My fingers are also callousing up nicely from their soft girliness at the beginning of the week. 2 hours thrashinga round on acoustic guitar on Tuesday followed by more than an hour of bass last night (and 20min this morning) and I've already developed callouses on my fingertips. I've 3 basses to choose from, with the fretless 5 string having lovely smooth tapewound strings that are kind to the fingers,but requiring more accuracy in fretting than I'm capable of right now. I've got a Jazz copy that's got a skinny neck and smoother strings, but it's a bitt too smooth and rounded, and can sound a bit thuddy. Harshest to play of all is the precision copy, with a big fat maple neck and really abrasive strings (like running your fingertip over a rats tail file) but it's got a wonderfull growly tone from the musicman style bridge pickup, and sounds just so much better than the others.

So P type it is then.

Delusions of adequacy - I just watched a Janek Gwizdala teaching video on youtube. Hah ha. Hah hah hah. Nope, not even close yet. :-)

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Seems it's a time of change.

So this week I seem to have joined an acoustic gospel blues band, which is interesting considering my antipathy to acoustic instruments. Sat in with the guys (and gal) in The Bell at Adderbury on Tuesday night, bought a slide on Wednesday and will be shortly trying to learn the set in time for next weeks gig at Shipston. Should be  'interesting' (I may also try to sneak in a home made 'micro' valve amp for solos once I know the guys a little more). They talked about Sister Rosetta Tharpe as one of their sources, but I'm not sure they're ready for anyone turning up with a white SG yet.

Sunday I'm playing at the celebration in Oxford, but this time probably bass rather than electric. I think I know around half the songs in the set, so that's going to be interesting too - there's going to be lots of concentrating on getting the notes right from the chords, since I can't hear where bass is pitched as easily as I can guitar.

Change is here to stay.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

I Am Legend

And there's been more than one of me.

It's a little grotesque (OK, actually rather a lot grotesque) but I also find this funny.

I'm amazed at the grace of God sometimes

And maybe sometimes I'm not aware of it, so I'm not amazed.

However. A couple of weeks back by lab-based job was coming to an end, simply because the claims made by a university for a particular technique didn't stand up to scrutiny - there was no diagnostic value in the process.

Another company here had a job going, and after no effort on my part at this point in time, I've been offered the position. There's some history with them in the past, and I've offered plenty of free advice & guidance, but nevertheless, this is still quite unexpected.

And I'm grateful.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Decisions, decisions.

Our holiday plans are still flapping freely.

Earlier in the year we'd decided to go back to India, and that really appeals still, but I just don't feel up to the hassle of sorting out out own tour, and we don't really fancy any of the pre-arranged ones that we can afford/aren't willing to spend that much on a personalised tour. However, as I write this, Chris is watching 'Marigold Hotel', so the debate may be over regardless.

So where else?

TBH I'm tired right now. Tired of facing work challenges that make me want to curl in a ball at times - not because they're unreasonable, but because I'm trying to cope with the odd emotional things that fairly severe exercise does to me.

In many ways Greece, especially going to Lesvos again, appeals. It's a known quantity, we've not seen Daphne and Iannis since 2009, the location is great and it's guaranteed relaxing. At the same time I know we'll start to get a little bored after a week, and we've mined out many of the island's attractions already. We could fly to athens for a few days first, see the acropolis etc, then get a boat across, but that's hassle again.

And then there's Turkey, where Ben's having a great time. I'm very very tempted to pick one of the really good deals on a flight/hotel/car through expedia and just go for a couple of weeks near Selcuk/Efes (Ephesus). There's LOADS to see - we could even drive over to Cappadocia for a couple of days - and see Ben too. But I dunno. Hassle again, and trying to cope with an alien culture where I don't speak ANY of the language.

Don't tell Chris, but I've even wondered about going to Scotland, while they'll still let people from the south across the border. Scrub that - last time I had a holiday where it rained all the time I hated it. :p

Guess we'l just have to wait & see.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Joggers nipple

Is not a joke.

7.5 miles in the rain, wearing a belt that held my singlet still against a moving nipple, is not kind. My right nipple was actually weeping slightly this morning. Should I have more sympathy for breast feeding mothers now?

Update Saturday - nipple no longer painful and scabbed over OK. :-)

Am I an innie or outie?

And we're not talking belly buttons now.

As it turned out, I didn't get a vote in this election, being a European. It's curious however, that although my inclination was that leaving was probably going to be a good thing, the reasons for leaving the EU as presented - and indeed everything I've seen of the leave campaign - seem utterly horrid, full of lies and misdirection, preying on emotion and gullibility. Doing the right thing for very wrong reasons is never good where people are likely to follow those reasons, and I suspect this has a strong potential to go bad. It might have also been better to wait another year & let a less foundational country fire the first shot across the EU bows, in the hope that reform could have happened.

I have already heard of the phrase "phased deportation" being used by a politician - breath taking. There is also a Youtube clip of Nigel Farage - one of the key leavers - declaring that a claim at the cornerstone of the leave campaign was a mistake and obviously not true.

It will be important to understand why the vote swung this way for future generations, especially as British society is so very mix these days. Immigration and a lack of integration is certainly a key part. It's also almost certainly a part of the rejection of 'the system' that America is also experiencing with Trump being a presidential candidate and over here with Jeremy Corbyn heading up the Labour party.

For now we wait for the dust to settle and see whether it is battle plans or negotiation terms that are being drawn up.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

You know it will make you uptight and grumpy.

I read the Backyard Missionary blog (see occasional blogroll) for the first time in a while yesterday. Hamo wrote one post describing a film he went to see with his wife, about refugees trying to enter Australia being effectively held prisoner on an island by the Australian government. He knew the film would leave him feeling out of sorts & helpless, and no surprise, that's exactly what it did.

So when I started reading that book on leading missional communities by Mike Breen and the guys at 3DM, the outcome was predictable.

After ordering a paper copy via Amazon I was also able to preview the first 1.5 chapters on the kindle app. The first chapter looked good in many ways, and talked about building extended family that more-or-less worked in a way that I'd seen previously. Great. The 'new church' buzzwords are springing up - like Oikos instead of family - to differentiate this from the old church, but that's how 3DM works.

So I started chapter 2 on the 4 foundational principles of missional community, the first of which is discipleship. OK, I can buy that, makes sense. So we then cut to an example of this, where a MC that had been serving food to homeless people, switched to meeting their needs of friendship because the city social services were already meeting those practical needs very well. The section then concludes reinforcing to us how vital discipleship is.

This was an example of discipleship?

What did I miss - is there a special revelation for the anointed? Is there some subtlety that I'm too stupid to get. This sounds like a missional community discovered that it wasn't being effective doing the obvious thing, so changed approach. Am I supposed to overlook the inappropriate example because I'm overawed that an MC (to use the book's abbreviation) is out befriending homeless people? Isn't there a practical example of discipleship that couldn't have been found & used instead?


Chris and I talked about this - we saw this pattern clearly in Building A Discipling Culture, where examples are given that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic. I feel like the little kid shouting about the kings new clothes when I see this stuff, knowing all the adults watching are going to ignore me anyway. Are these guys charlatans, and if so, why do so many follow their movement? If they're not then why doesn't their teaching hang together? Do they just simply need an editor for their books?

Monday, 20 June 2016

Missional communities?

The buzz-phrase that hasn't gone away yet.


For my sins I've started reading another Mike Breen book, this time about leading missional communities, working on the principle of the devil you know is better than the one you don't, because they seem to be the future for our church movement. I want to know if they really are the next wave of God moving through the church (as the book authors suggest) or if they're just the latest fad in consumer church, making it possible to look like something vital is going on, when all we've done is drop a need to teach people and let people socialise every week without guilt.

So I bought Leading Missional Communities.

Wandered through the first chapter over dinner. As with all these things, there's a mixture. So I recognised descriptions of extended family that I've seen working in churches that I've been part of - typically when they were new, young churches, everyone giving themselves to each other. However that was always set against a backdrop of teaching and discipleship in a housegroup format, rather than a larger group of people whose stated aim was primarily mission.

There's another, more personal, thing that bothers me. My grandfather was a wonderful Godly man who got very grumpy with the church in later years, was extremely unhappy about moves of the Holy Spirit and resisted so many things. I have some of his character, and DO NOT wish to follow him in those ways. It makes me very cautious about what I follow and particularly, what I stand against.

I also remembered that I need to review What's wrong with outreach? that I mentioned in this thread.

In a nutshell, it's good, sensible and unspectacular. If, like me, you aren't a natural evangelist driven by a desire to be continuously sharing the gospel, then it may be freeing. There's nothing in there that should be controversial, but some will probably feel it undermines the drive for evangelism.

I grew up in a time when society was becoming increasingly inoculated against Jesus and faith generally, through nominally Christian stuff in school, through media presenting salvation through science and faith as being mentally defective. The churches response - up the ante - push a gospel harder and harder, through Evangelism Explosion, door knocking, various missions, initiatives to guilt-trip Christians into pushing the gospel at people.

This book explains why that wasn't really going to work (as indeed it didn't really). There's an irony mentioning it at the same time as LMC, because the kind of outreach it talks about is where the church stops withdrawing from the world, and instead lives with the world in order to show the world what Jesus was really like. I have a feeling that this is the real missional community that the church needs, but instead we are going to get to copy someone else's program.

Buy Keith Schooley's book - it's good, and a lot cheaper than LMC, though less hip.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Is youth wasted on the young*?

Do you ever have the feeling, assuming you are 50+ like me, that life has flown by, and what remains is a gradual slide into decrepitude as one's body and brain gradually fail?

We were talking about this a couple of weeks back, and I said that if possible I'd live the same life over again, experience the same things for the first time, even without the experience and wisdom I've collected on the way.

After Sarah's death it needed a deliberate decision for us to stay together, not because we'd fallen out about anything, but because the natural desire is to escape, move on, start again. The aging process causes something similar I suspect, a greiving for lost youth and strength. It's no surprise that middle-aged men leave their wives and families of many years to attempt to recover what they've lost, and all the sharp-tongued comments about the manopause and old men in sports cars only makes me feel more sympathy - though not agreement - toward them.

My grandfather had grown up in a world where older men of his background were respected for their experience and survival (to acheive 70+ in a working class environment was good going) yet was disappointed that, when it was his turn, no-one cared. The present world cares even less for 'old people', though rubs along with them them if they can still afford to live normally. While I'm maudlin like this, the future isn't orange.

*Terry Pratchett, who knew something about getting old & falling to bits, though who had no hope of anything better afterward..

Monday, 13 June 2016

Trying to sort out a trip to India

I'm reminded just how big a country it is, and how different the culture too. Not sure I'm brave enough to DIY instead of using a travel company - we'll see.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Good morning sunrise

Or it would be if it were not cloudy. Don't you love 5am airport runs, :p

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Looking at re-activating the photoxon blog

Trying out dynamic templates.

The one I'd selected a while back (Timeslide - that was 2 years ago!) shows titles of posts, requiring a click to view the content. This makes me run a mile when I view other blogs, and I have to REALLY want to read the conent to bother. Guess that's a miss then.

There's a bunch of other variations from the dynamic set, but most of them are dull/ineffective/not set up properly (my fault - ignorance can break nearly anything). However the classic version looks fairly good right now, so I'll give that a try.

Fonts are another question. Calibri is a clean modern font, not the easiest to read, but it's crisp and neat so I've gone with that. Colours are default, not because I can't change them, but they are neutral and ideal for viewing images. It was tempting to use an orange theme to tie into this blog, and also to put a big picture up as background. Neither are really desireable (do you view images in a gallery against a technicolour background?) even though both are tempting.

The plan will be to upload at least one set of images/article/review per week. Images to be primarily local and recent, though may occasionally pop up travel stuff too.

You're welcome to wander over to view the building site while I'm tweaking it, but there's a strong chance a lot of test posts will get removed before 'launch' (what a grand term for use).


Well, that didn't last long. The dynamic pages simply couldn't be configured the way I wanted some I'm trying Blogger's 'awesome' template. Not completely keen on the pale blue border that I can't seem to change. :-(

*edit 2*
And it's done. is now (just) live, though with minimal content so far (working on that too).

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Finally finished processing the images from Bosnia Herzegovina.

There's a lot of stories in there, and not especially ours. Bullet and shell holes, mosques and muslim graveyards in a Mostar that's also absolutely crammed with tourists. Grafiti that tells the reader that we still bleed, never forget & never forgive, the war isn't over. Empty, ruined buildings, a mix of new and shiny alongside old and patched cars. Ordinary people still working their small holdings, plant vineyards and build houses.

Then there's the youth work. Pics of happy teenagers, Bosniak, Croat and Serb, playing tabletennis and table-football together, beatboxing and drumming, sending messages on their phones. It's a contrast.

I may try to get some images up, if I can make sense and get a coherent thread.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

According to Endomondo

I have run 252 miles in the first 5 months of 2016 - on target for 620 miles (i.e. 1000km) for the year then.

I'm undecided whether to continue at the level I've been running or back off a bit, since it's been a big sink for time, cash and energy, plus my poor old brain has been a bit scrambled and I'm aware of mood swings etc. In some ways I'd really like to carry on, but it concerns me that the body is often achey and sore and I struggle to speak clearly and enunciate thoughts, almost certainly because of the running.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Today would have been a good day

To stay under the duvet. At least when people tell me they feel like they can't cope, I can quite understand that feeling.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Evening meadow

Had a little wander down to the water meadow at the bottom of the village this evening. Pass the chocolate box. ;-)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A big thankyou

To those who left flowers yesterday, or sent messages. We really appreciate you remembering Sarah.

Friday, 20 May 2016

So the high street is a zombie

The suggestion I read today was that the high street, with its shops, was dying. Not, surprisingly, because of amazon and other online retailers, but because we've reached peak 'stuff'. There's nowhere for the economy to grow now because we all have more than we can use already, and with the downturn in wages, few are just buying more toys for the sake of more toys.

In some ways it's really good - less useless stuff being made so less materials are wasted. But it's also bad, because less stuff being bought means less jobs and income for many, and that steepens the downward spiral. That's no news to anyone, but it does beg the question about how and if we can restructure society to cope with less in the future.

Or am I forgetting human nature?

Are you the pigeon or the window?

Or neither.

This morning when I went into the coffee room there was the outline of a pigeon's head, beak, breast and one wing on the glass. It's not the first time that I've seen the evidence of a pigeon that flew into the window there, and it probably won't be the last. This time wasn't as spectacular as some, where the lines of both wings and the breast have been very clear in a kind of V with a bulge at the bottom, but in this pattern I could make out the beak being open and one eye that had hit the glass. Ouch.

What does a pigeon do, after it's hit the glass and bounced back? Give up flying?

So this Sunday for a variety of reasons I'm speaking at the new church in Banbury. No worries, lead this kind of thing loads of times, done it all before, right? Except that I was feeling very post-glass-pigeon like, no idea what to do, quite literally feeling a bit dazed and confused.

And then laying awake in bed at 4am Thursday morning it was as though I'd been picked up, put back on a branch again and told I could fly, including being shown how to use my wings.

There's some stuff behind this including a prophetic message from Martin Dunkely at the Oxford celebration last week, and connected to that asking God if He was going to use me to teach any more, or if that had all gone now as it seemed to have done. But much more than that, if you've read here recently I've been increasingly concerned that church has become just another organ-grinder experience, where we 'do the stuff' but lives don't change much, people feel good but there's nothing tangible at the end of it - people go looking for social liberal change because the 'spiritual' stuff isn't making a difference.

There's also been a bit of 'where your treasure is, there is your heart' for me, and I've been distinctly organising treasure a bit. Plus I've found myself behaving in a way that's fairly repellent at times, and in a way that I've seen in others and been quite critical of, hence ditching Facebook. Not that I'm suddenly and miraculously back on my feet (was I off?) but life is headed in a better direction. I hope.

Ramble? Yes, lets.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

GM foods are the work of the devil.

Or perhaps not.

This will probably not come as a surprise to those who would not have shouted 'Judas' at Bob Dylan 50 years ago.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Need my head tested

After managing to survive one half marathon I've been wanting to do another.

So tonight's training was a gentle 9.5 miler.

Frankly, I need my head tested - who ever thought that I could deceive myself so easily into thinking that regularly running for 1 1/2 hours + was fun and a good idea? So I dodged a bullet that first time, and now I like the idea of trying again? Madness.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The frustrated togger.

Well sort of.

I've just finished uploading images from Bosnia Herzgovina (Bay-Hah as they call it) to the computer and done an initial sort through. There's some interesting pics in there, some of which I'm fairly pleased with, but it *felt* like I missed almost every good image that I saw because we were either travelling, in company or because I couldn't just go-shove a camera at people.

There were stories in the faces of so many people, and for the first time it really made me wish I had a nice small camera and a robust attitude that would let me just go up and ask for a picture. I did grab a few pictures covertly in the market of Mostar, but they weren't really the ones I'd wanted.

On the last day, while wandering through Capljina we passed an alley with a couple of tables set out. There were some guys drinking drinking there and on the wall at the end of the alley was a huge swastika and a nationalist slogan. The men looked about the right age to have fought in the war, and became aware of us just as I was looking up at them. There was a sense of tension in the air & we carried on walking past, even though there was probably no real danger for a couple of tourists carrying cameras.

We stayed with friends just outside the city, in a small suburb/village, and many of their neighbours were old with the kind of faces that showed a life of hard labour in all weathers. They were friendly and generous, but they weren't *my* neighbours to offend or upset, and I didn't feel able to ask for pictures.

I should have liked time to photograph many of the buildings and put together a series illustrating how the effects of the war are still visible. Looking through the images, there are a few that might work, but nothing really adequate. Mostar had the feeling of a city that used war damage as part of the draw for tourists: there were plenty of bullet holes and even the odd shell hole still to be seen, and of course it is well known for having been under seige in the war. But Capljina also had its share of war damage, even though it also had a shiny new glass and steel post office, giant bronze statue outside the town hall and new blocks of flats.

When we first saw the bullet holes, Chris's reaction was that the concrete was just showing signs of age and falling apart, but it quickly became clear that was not the case. Travelling through the country (6+ hours drive between Capljina and Banja Luka where we had the run) houses with war damage were to be seen everywhere until we reached the Republika Srpska; the serbian part of BiH. Here the countryside changed from mediteranean to alpine, and the buildings seemed in much better repair, cars newer etc.

BiH is also a place a beauty: amazing countryside in a wide variety of forms, interesting ruins and towns, spectacular hills and mountains, lovely flowers etc, but apart from a couple of occasions, somehow we just didn't quite get out there. We weren't there to take photos, but to visit friends and run that race, and it's important to remember that.

I've no idea if we'll ever go back. It's a possibility, but only a small one.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

It's our last Capljina evening.

And I'm slightly sad to be going, though looking forward to not feeling like we're in someone else's hair, even when they're as kind and generous as our friends here.

Wonder if there will be Cevapi on the menu? ;-)

Here's the waterfalls with water falling at Kravica earlier today.

Monday, 9 May 2016


But what's in a time? ;-)

I'm a little disappointed not being closer to the 2 hour mark, but considering all things it's pretty fair.

The day started without a decent breakfast, which is to say badly for something as energy intensive as this, and the air early on was quite cold so that I wore a sleeved top instead of a singlet, which was also a mistake. And I forgot a lesson that I'd learned 30 years before, that when you're on the start line and you feel like you need a pee then you should go and HAVE a pee, because the feeling won't go away, no matter how much you try to convince yourself that you'll need the water later.

There were only about 1000 runners in this, and and that made for a relatively small massed start. I was part of a group of 5: 2 local guys (Ivica, Martin) plus us 'foreigners' (Mick, plus Sam, Mick's 18YO daughter and myself) and we got separated fairly quickly. I found a route round the outside of most of the crowd, and ran comfortably for the first 6 miles or so, starting to run out of energy in the 7th mile and then dragging myself along for the next couple of miles until I came to the station offering sliced fruit (mostly apple and orange segments) and could refuel a bit - it was amazing how the extra energy from that little bit of fruit let the legs almost return to normal for a short while.

The route started from Banja Luka town centar, heading north up the main road out for just over a mile before turning right and right again to head back down (though it was slightly uphill) past the town. This section was in blazing sunshine, and even on the first lap around the town it was fiercely hot without any shade at all. The route then crossed over below the town before heading back up round the other side to turn right again and run across the top of the town. There were 2 laps like this around the town before heading back up the main road (also uphill) to the centar again and the finish line.

At the end of the first lap Chris was waiting for me. Apparently Sam had dropped out at 4K with breathing difficulties, but instead of finding them as a group, she had disappeared. Much worry and prayer going on.

The last couple of miles were just a case of trying to find a pace that was fast enough to be comfortable (because running slowly makes me hurt) but not un-sustainably quick, and also finding a happy measure of breathing that would set the pace for the legs. Inevitably I walked on and off, just allowing the batteries to recharge a little before starting to run again. There were a few people running slowly at this point that I passed, only for them to pass me while I walked, then to repass again.

The final section - I wrote climb initially, because that's how it felt even though it wasn't steep - was really draining, hot and tiring, and seemed far further than it had any right to be. Chris met me about 150 meters before the finish and ran with me as far as she was able. I was also 'paced' by a small boy from the crowd for the final section.

The actual finish was slightly puzzling, because there was initially a red arch across the road, then a first white arch followed by a second white arch, both of which said 'finish'. On reaching the first white arch I thought I'd arrived, only to realise that I then had to keep going for the second. :p  A few yards further on was a line of girls hanging finishers medallions around runners necks, then further back passing out bottled water and finally so guys trying to move runners out of the finish area.

 After finishing I discovered that Sam was still missing, no-one having seen her since Mick left her to make her way back to the group. Ivica and Martin had both finished before me and Mick arrived just a couple of minutes afterward. There was a lot of concern and some tears of worry shed, however Mick pointed out how stubborn she was and to confirm that he knew his daughter's character, she appeared just after the 2:30 mark, having recovered her breathing and completed the run. Cue much relief.

So here I sit the day after.

Various parts ache a bit and a couple of toes are sore, but overall it *feels* like I've got away with it very lightly.

Wonder what to do next?  ;-)

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Just a few days now

until the half-marathon. Hope the legs keep working. :-)

In other news, we're getting involved in a new church plant in Banbury, which is quite interesting really - life never was going to settle back to being the same - and will also remain connected to Bicester.

There's loads of stuff to blog really, but I'm not really feeling terribly talkative right now, so sorry about that.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Chilling out isn't great.

It's been so warm over the last couple of weeks that I've been running in shorts and tee shirt, even though we'd had frosty starts to the day. Sunday changed that with some cooler weather and hail, but yesterday didn't seem too bad in the day.

Went for a local 8.5miler last night wearing leggings and my long-sleeved winter top, then got rained on and chilled about half way round. The legs got grumpy, knees angry and I ended up walking down the hills to try to prevent damage. Cue hurty legs in bed, though I did manage to sleep OK in the end.

I hope this run will be worth it.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Why am I not surprised.

The web is more than doomed.

Wonder how big a blogger page is?

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Seems I made it home just before the hail hit.

I'd planned a 10-11 miler for this afternoon, but having led worship this morning, then had my mother back to dinner while Ben's here on his one-night stop-over & driven back to Bicester again, I just didn't have the energy for more than 5K. It started raining as I reached North Aston and was moderate most of the way back. About 10min after arriving I heard the hail rattling on the windows.

In less than 2 hours Ben will be in Oxford getting on the bus taking him to Gatwick Airport tonight for a 7am flight to Turkey on Monday. It's been good to see him - I'm going to miss him when he's gone again, even though I love when it's the two of us being together.