Thursday, 10 June 2021

To look is human

 To REALLY foul things up you need a computer and the internet*.

That's about as much as I'm going to mess about with that old maxim, though there's many a true word spoken in jest as we also say.

The speculative house hunt is continuing. In a way, I'm getting my foreign travelfix without leaving the country, though it's deeply unsatisfying but never the less better than nothing. There are many reasons for buying a house in continental Europe... and many for not doing so, not least of which is that we don't need to make life more complicated than it already is.

Just came across an advert for someone selling a portion of a farmouse in a hamlet. It's been redecorated & generally sorted out inside, lots of space, a terrace, gardens, 20min drive to the nearest ski resort, and 40,000 square meters of idle arable land and woodland. I've set myself a conscious limit not to become interested in anything that looks like a farm because I'm absolutely not going to start farming and it would be fundamentally wrong to leave the land idle. Yet here's a possibility where nothing would change if we bought the place. 

No.

Nope.

NO.

On we go. ;-)


Tonight I did also find a place in a tiny alpine town near the Swiss border that's clearly an ancient building, seemingly not tumbling down and yet affordable. Requires refurbishment according to the advert, which can mean anything from just redecorating to basically pushing the whole lot over and starting again. You can even walk right past the place in google street view (I've used that a few times too - really helpful at sorting between the good, bad and the ugly).


*Or a woman who thinks you shouldn't look at her, regardless of what she displays.

Monday, 7 June 2021

It's been a while

I mistakenly deleted the last post from the blog, intending to remove a post with someone's email address and ham-fistedly hit the wrong button. It's a little how life feels in general, with wanting to be clear about things and instead finding that is tending to delete other stuff.

So surely, after such a long period between posts, there must be LOADS of stuff to write?

Well here's the odd thing: with lockdown going on, really very minimal participation in church life and a busy work life there has been a lot of ticking over, but nothing exciting. The grand kids get bigger (and share their colds if I get close, lock-downs now permitting) but apart from seeing them occasionally life is almost linear.

This is an odd stage to be at. Looking at my mother and various older friends who have retired, I can see we've entered that phase where life gets gradually narrower as you wait to die. We still have 5 to 7 years to go before retirement, probably 25 odd years to go before death, but things are lining up that way already. This isn't being maudlin (though I could manage that too) but an outcome of taking stock and reviewing capacities and needs/wishes. We simply aren't the people we once were, and while a part of me wants to be, there's no drive and no need to be those people again.

At the moment I think there's an unspoken debate going on (i.e. we haven't talked to each other yet) about do we do things that might be fun while we still can, things that might be a little risky to finances or health, or do we just gradually contract and stay safe. It's a curious place to be, and not at all 'living the dream'.

Stroll on Wednesday's second vaccination.


Monday, 29 March 2021

Sometimes you need a sense of humour

We are due an unseasonal heatwave in the next few days leading up to Easter. However good Friday will be cool and bank holiday Monday just 8 degrees and raining. 

England. 

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Anyone fancy an Italian ruin?

 Saw this place up near lake Como: https://www.idealista.it/en/immobile/21276008/

The heart goes "Mmmmmm, YES!"

Head not *quite* so convinced!

I could imagine spending 2 X the purchase price bringing it up to scratch, perhaps more.


Saturday, 20 March 2021

The jab jabbed.

 So we both had our vaccinations around 5.50pm this evening. Astra-Zeneca/Oxford vaccine, no side effects so far. It was run like a military style campaign, although being British, the instructions mentioned a requirement to bring a mask and the vaccination registration number but failed to make clear the need for our NHS numbers (sorted, but even so..... ).The innoculation itself was barely noticeable, so fine was the needle - the bad old days of vaccine emulsion being given through a large bore needle seem long gone, and I'm sure this was *mostly* saline solution.

Hopefully my friends can get theirs soon too.

Now we wait until June for stage 2, but the way things are going in Europe right now, I doubt we'll be travelling much this year, let alone looking at houses. Presently there are no plans for a holiday, and we'll just wait & see what becomes possible, if anything at all.

Sunday, 7 March 2021

We have our dates for vaccination

 How tempting it was to write vaccilation (even if it's not spelt correctly).

Anyway, yay us. Later this month, then June for the follow-up dose. Perhaps we WILL manage to get away at some stage this year, not that there aren't more important things, but that would be nice.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Thoughts on Europe and language

Sometimes it's important to write the words we say - talking to other people about going to a hookah bar with a friend can be 'open to interpretation'.

On a different side, we're starting to see an exodus of Brits from Europe. I've been looking at houses in France, Spain, Italy and Greece since October. Previously very few were obviously British owned, but now there are many with English language posters, throws, etc and even the general decor and style of the places is quite different from local tastes. In the case of the nicer (i.e. not semi-derelict) houses you can tell after just 3 or 4 interior shots, even without the written clues.

Without residency, Brits can only stay 90 days out of 180, and I suspect a lot are selling up and moving back. 

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Myanmar blocks Facebook for 'stability'.

Was a headline that came up on my phone from the BBC news website this morning. It feels like many western countries could learn from this otherwise troubled state in that area.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Borrowed, but funny

 Now that I've lived through a real plague, I understand why rennaisance paintings are full of obese, naked people laying around on couches.

Monday, 1 February 2021

So much futility

This Wednesday the church house group are going to watch a video on mission. If people are excited about God then they'll talk about Him, and if they aren't then all the pushing, prodding and guilting in the world won't make them want to. I really want to just go find a church that builds people up & lets them get on with it.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

What a range.

I have the BBC weather app monitoring a range of different places. Wetaskiwin in Canada is presently at -20 degrees, while Anjuna in Goa is at 32 degrees. Somehow Britain manages to sit somewhere in between, like it does in so many ways: from where I'm sat in the lab I can see melt water dripping from a partially snow covered roof.

It makes me think of the quote about being neither hot nor cold and being spat out, which of course has nothing to do with temperature or weather, and was entirely specific to that location.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

There is a sense of futility

That recalcitrant computer systems generate. We come to rely on their behaving in a consistent manner, when experience tells us they are rather less reliable than the laws of gravity. It's like your desk eating pages from documents and books or rearranging piles of papers.

I'm not referring to my own computer at home but rather to those for work, where drive letters frequently change, access to folders on a virtual desktop is revoked or the folder content disappears. I'm reminded of a biblical expression, likening Egypt to a reed, splintering and wounding the user when they lean on it. Hard to know if it's a testimony to man's endurance or stupidity, refusing to learn.

Monday, 11 January 2021

Life, it seems, goes on.

 And having written that, it's hard to know what to say next, other than "I'm still here".

We seem to have remained covid-free, although we both know some individuals who've had it. Chris has been working from home, and while I've been going in as normal, we're all masked up, distanced, have perspex shields in the office areas etc. In the latest form of lockdown Chris and I don't drive distances for walks, but we have still been managing to get out into the waterlogged landscape.

The tiny cluster of churches we're involved in are having a 'review' with the idea of seeing what needs strengthening, what needs fixing and what's healthy. I don't want to talk about that specifically, other than it has helped crystalise my thoughts that, more than almost anything, a church needs someone who is able to lead well in charge. So many churches shrink, crumble, fail through inadequate leadership that it now seems to be an almost un-predictable lottery in the type of church to which I am accustomed. At one time I'd have said that all the training given in seminary was to enable someone to lead a church when the Holy Spirit wasn't around, but now I seriously wonder if it's both to equip the able and weed out the unsuitable. Having shed quite a few tears over my failure to lead a church well, I hope I've a little better understanding now.


In a lighter frame of mind, we've been considering trying to buy a house in Europe - UK house prices are quite ridiculously high, while in several European countries they're relatively depressed. Plus it would provide a little toe hold on the continent for this Austrian to have a reason to remain one.

It's definitely been an interesting exploration, seeing how different nations and even different sections of nations are when they're at home! At the 'poor' end of the market, the Spanish tend to be both fussy and slightly austere at the same time, the Italians inclined to make stylistically bold and unfortunate choices (and houses built 1950s to 1990s are generally unattractive). The Greeks value their ruins quite highly, and the place is generally more expensive than one would expect, though we have slightly fallen in love with one house up in the mountains north of Kalamata. Of all the races, the French seem to be the best, with the tidiest, most practical and generally attractive houses even when they're of modern construction. 

A factor influencing any choices is, quelle surprise, language. I can manage a bit of Greek (and read the alphabet) a smidge of German and a touch of French (no Spanish or Italian, though I'd learn). Chris is French only (much better than me) but not really happy to live somewhere that would be outside either that or English, though the Greeks would probably be fine with that!

Another factor, as we creak around the place these days, is how many floors is acceptable. I've seen some FANTASTIC places in France and Italy on 4 levels, but the thought of all those stairs is somewhat unappealing. Spain seemed to be best off for bungalows, but they all looked like they were breeze-block and whitewash construction. 

The reality is we almost certainly won't buy another house anywhere else, one being enough trouble on its own, but the research has been very informative.


Wednesday, 2 December 2020

It seems that nothing has really changed in 4 years

 Since I posted this where-do-you-go-when-youve-no-where-to

I still feel essentially the same. There are no answers, and only an assurance that we've simply not understood and that much of evangelical teaching about the character of God and his 'son' (how many have thought what the phrase 'son of God' means to people today compared to the idea of the ultimate being sending a part of Himself to be human and walk among us). 

Perhaps there are no answers, other than if that's what your faith is (that's how you view the world) then that's how you'll interpret what happens to you.



Monday, 30 November 2020

Another day back in the office.

I wonder sometimes if our 'new' super secure corporate network is safe because hackers would fall asleep waiting for it to respond. 

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Premature Treejaculation

 It's what happens when you make Christmas come early.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

I am now over DIY

 All my life, I've fixed things instead of paid other people to do it for me, often preferring the chance to do it well than risk a stranger making a mess. I built furniture, fitted kitchens, bathrooms, heating systems, electrics as needed.

As a result of the flood we had, our livingroom needs repainting, therefore the skirting boards (which got wet & damaged) and trunking carrying cables needed replacing, plus some of the sockets and wall boxes had been damaged & should be replaced. No worries, half a day - day at most. For a variety of reasons the job is still not finished after more than 2 days, and I have a couple of hours work remaining.

Somewhere I read that as one ages the number of mitochondria in ones cells decrease, resulting in loss of strength - a man at 65 typically has the same strength as a 20 year old woman (so the article said). Apart from reminding me why men and women can never be the same (equality is something different) I'm developing a lot more sympathy for those who are not 'naturally' strong and able. This has been a weird experience, where I've not had the strength needed in hands and wrists, sometimes not in main core, for doing the required tasks. Much time has been spent on hands and knees, to the point where my the skin of my knees actually stung when getting into a warm bath this morning, and various parts of me hurt at different times, the skin under thumbnails especially where it's pulled away from the nail. And this was just a small job.

Worst of all, my inate ability to just 'do stuff' seemed to have evaporated, though it has begun to return. Previously, when fixing things, as I began working the way to repair or build something would be 'obvious' even though when I started I didn't know what would be needed or have more than a rough idea in my head. 

So when it came to fitting trunking, I'd offer it up to the job, and where previously my brain would simply say "cut here, taper there etc" instead I have had to consciously figure out what to do. 

I have become DIY senile.

The lack of strength and clear (optical) vision has also been an issue, and one that would be funny if it weren't frustrating. The original trunking was fitted by my father almost 30 years ago (when he was 51 - I'm 59) when he saw how ugly wires had been run along the top of skirting boards, and being methodical he carefully attached it using plain steel screws and rawlplugs at regular intervals just like he'd do in a regular modern house. So 30 years on, steel screws in damp walls have mostly rusted in place and are EXTREMELY reluctant to see daylight again. I can't be so weak, because I did manage to snap one or two through rotational force, but mostly I found it really hard to put enough strength into the screwdriver to start them moving without noodling the head. 

So I'm over DIY. If I can afford to pay someone to fix stuff, from now on I will.


*edit*

Day four of DIY - the brain is starting to work again, or at least I managed to find a way to address the piece of work in my hands so that it fit as it was supposed to, and I'd re-learned enough that I could make some decent progress. That part of the job is now complete - hope the painters, carpet people (thanks TerryP) and flooring fitter make a decent job.

The adhesive material No More Nails was utterly underwhelming in performance, although it did eventually live up to its name. Two of the skirting boards just fell off after 2 days, but not having any masonry nails around, I was forced to use screws. I think the product name should be lengthened to No More Nails - you'll be screwed if you use this.

And just one more addition - how is it that bitumen remains sticky and soft after >20 years? When we last had the wall replastered the guys doing the work pained it with a bitumen compound to hold back the damp (ha ha) first, some of whichj was dripped into the trunking I removed. It was still liquid-sticky, thick & black, and once it was on the hands it became transferred to everything and anything that I touched. My hands are still black/brown in places despite scrubbing with white spirit.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

When your computer describes a location as 'home'.

The company I now work for, having been acquired recently, has just been re-computered. The familiar system - probably a bit insecure, definitely not very corporate - has been switched for a new, very corporate system. New machines, different ways of working, new slower performance, a different look and feel.

It's like starting a new job with all the baggage from the old one still there. 

A question I keep asking is if someone knows where some data, info etc has gone. Having to learn the new location of stuff. It really feels like someone has come in and changed the place that was home to somewhere strange, and like we're being watched. 

One of the things that I really like about start-up businesses is the personal feel, but this is deeply impersonal. It has to be like this, and if I can bend to the flow of the stream then it's probably a good place to be for the last 15 years of working life. But I can already hear the siren call of a small business.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

I haven't talked about stuff for a long time.

 Stuff? Cars 'n tech and that sort. Y'know, stuff.

All you avid followers of this blog - the ones I imagine are out there - will know I had to replace the Mini Countryman that I'd been driving since 2014, and that we bought a Skoda Karoq 4X4 SUV. There was a time when Skoda was the car of last resort - what you'd choose if there was NOTHING else affordable (they had a model optimistically called the Rapide 130) - if you didn't mind the wheels falling off. Eventually bought by VW group, they became the 'sensible' part of VAG's output (VW badges indicated tech & sophistication, Seat indicated sporty) and although many versions have been intentionally hit with the ugly stick (Skoda Labia anyone?) the most recent releases have been a lot better.

Enough beating about the bush - is it OK?

Yes. It's softly sprung although a bit bouncy, a little vague in handling but OK, otherwise comfy and acceptably economical for a vehicle of this size. Performance is a bit Jekyll & Hyde, with a lazy, sluggish engine until the turbo spins up, at which point there's quite a lot of power. Overtaking needs planning and it's necessary to hold a lower gear for a few seconds before starting to accelerate in order to spin that turbo. This was all fine, since I'd wanted something more relaxing and laid back than the mini to drive, mostly so I'd drive more slowly and hopefully be a bit nicer to people because I couldn't be in a hurry (and I still don't really have my confidence back yet).

Last week Chris's car had to go in for a service, and the courtesy car was a 'new' Mini Countryman. This was an interesting comparison to make, because it felt MUCH larger than the model I'd previously had, and because the bonnet was flat across most of it's length it made the car feel very long in the nose. On top of that the steering was more heavily weighted and both that and the very well controlled ride worked together to give a feeling of far higher driving precision. Suddenly I missed my old mini! Picking the car up in the morning, it felt great to drive, far better handling and much more planted on the road. However on the return journey after a busy day & lots of stress it felt like harder work, being more demanding and less comfy. 

Perhaps this choice was the correct one after all.

Other things I miss from the mini is the well designed control system. My previous mini had a screen in the centre dial with the control operated from a joystick set between the seats. Changing settings, selecting music etc could be done blind, with just the briefest of glances to see what was displayed on screen. The Skoda (and other VW group cars) has a touch screen with pretty graphics and awkward, multi-layered menus that require significant concentration and a lot of reaching across from the drivers seat to operate. Other annoyances include a cruise control that's slow to adapt to road conditions and a stop-start system that stops and restarts the engine in the last few moments before the vehicle stops moving, only to stop the engine a second time. Also the reversing sensors don't stop warning when the car is no longer in reverse and the electronic handbrake that sometimes won't let go when starting forwards uphill (made worse by the laggy turbo that prevents the engine delivering power at low revs). On the motorway it's quiet and smooth, but the engine is quite growly & noisy at lower speeds.

This all sounds like grumbling, and to a small extent it is, however overall I'm pleased with the car, and it's doing what we wanted/needed.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Looking at houses in Italy, Greece, France and Spain

 I notice many of them have multiple bathrooms and often an extra toilet too. Mentioned this to Chris, she replied "It's because they're in continent there"

Very droll.

Monday, 5 October 2020

Vows of poverty?

 There's a thing about being brought up a Christian that says "thou shalt not be rich, and if you are then it's wrong and a sin". Note that I didn't say this was a biblical teaching, but it certainly underlies a lot of the 'truths' that used to be imparted and bible stories that were told. Rich man and Lazarus, camels and needles, (gates or otherwise not withstanding). Many of the words of Jesus on the topic are fairly straight forward and without nuance, although much of the OT is. My grandfather* was convinced that if God had given him wealth he would have lost control and come to a sticky (i.e. sinful) end. Certainly some of my forebears would have looked askance at the idea of personal wealth, even though there would likely have been significant jealousy within that look.

I've known of key church leaders who've determined to give away as much as they can. Historically it seems that often the call to Christ and the call to be poor go hand-in-hand (bet the missional guys keep quiet about THAT bit!).

When Chris and I were first married, it wasn't unusual for guys to travel door-to-door trying to 'offer' investment opportunities, and they found it almost unbelievable that we had no interest in money and making more of it (wider context here - Margaret Thatcher's government was in power, greed was good and everyone suddenly discovered they could own stuff). We would politely tell them that we weren't bothered - we didn't have much anyway - and weren't worried for the future (in what I now realise was probably a slightly smug-appearing Christian way).

So it begs the question, are we called to be poor?

This has become pointed for me because we have inheritence money that needs to be invested before even more of its worth fritters away in savings schemes. When money is hidden in savings accounts, getting a little interest, you know it's being used to help others and it's invisible, just numbers on a page. If you instead invest it in something like a second home, suddenly it's very visible, in-your-face in a way only bricks and mortar can bring home. 

So back to the beginning, we automatically - I automatically - think poor. I don't think bigger picture, continuing to scratch around for odds and ends to mend and make do, because I know being well-off is wrong. In 2019 I changed camera systems, selling off the old stuff and investing significant money in new kit - and have felt underlying guilt ever since for doing so. Guilt colours decisions about money and the future in ways that are just plain dumb, and makes it difficult to make simple rational decisions. While talking with Chris the other day I realised how much my 'thinking poor' locked me into un-thinking caution and fear of losing everything because I dared to try something different.

And I don't have an answer to the question.

I could reach back into Christian double-think and say that if you're called to poverty and have faith that's where you should be then it's right for you, ditto being wealthy. But I don't think God particularly works that way, at least for most people who are just trying to get on with their lives, doing the best they can to provide. It's not a case of being full of faith that they are in the station in life that they were pre-destined to occupy (and woe betide them if they get ideas about changing that station) but trying to live by walking down the path that's in front of them as they are best able.

 Is the flip-side that if one becomes well off through application of those Christian values of hard work, diligence and personal growth then you can quietly nod & wink toward the idea of poverty while enjoying the money your hard work has earned. If you're grateful for being able to earn well, does that make it OK? Is a bit of guilt a necesary price, and a burden we should just simply carry like st. Christopher**, on our backs, knowing it will do us good in the long run?

This may be somewhat muddly - I have several slightly different strands of thought running around right now, and they may have become a little tangled. 

Guess I'm just trying to think through some of the hangups in my family history.

Just as an addendum, let me tell you that it's much easier to be poor when you're young, single-minded, determined, energetic and enthusiastic. When you're older, achey, tired, sceptical and have been broke at times in the past then the whole poverty thing looks as attractive as fish that have been left somewhere warm for a few days.

 

This turned out rather longer than expected for a coffee-break post.

 

*I'll balance this with a phrase my grandmother used to apparently quote quite frequently, that contentment with godliness was great gain. She'd had many moments anxious about money and knew a thing or 2 I reckon. Though not about managing wealth, other than the theoretical principles.

** People like to make up stories for better legends, and Christians are just people like everyone else.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Sometimes google translate is more perceptive than it knows.

For a variety of reasons I'm looking at potential houses in Italy (no plans to move permanently yet) and many of them are in need of considerable restoration (in some cases they're literally selling a ruin). There was one I saw which only had a couple of pictures but looked OK-ish - the I read the description:

In the first outskirts of Foligno in a quiet and characteristic area, we offer a sky of about 150 square meters in total, consisting, on the first floor, of a large living area with fireplace, bedroom with walk-in closet, a bathroom, and two large bedrooms on the second floor. and second bathroom. On the ground floor the property is completed by large funds.

Was there ever a clearer admission!

Salvation?

 A devout Christian was caught in a flood and had to retreat upstairs to escape the rising water. A fire crew in an inflatable boat pulled up to his window and told him to climb in. "No" he replied "God will keep me safe". So the fire crew left him and concentrated on rescuing the other villagers.

The water continued to rise and the man had to climb onto the roof of his house to escape the flood. An inshore lifeboat crew pulled up to the eaves of the roof and told him to climb into the boat. Once again the man replied "No, the good Lord will look after me."

The water rose further and the man had to cling to the chimney stack to avoid drowning. A coastguard helicopter appeared and hovered overhead and the crew told him they will lower a man down to lift him to safety. The man shouts back "No! The Lord God will save me".

The water continued to rise and the man was drowned. Arriving at the gates of heaven he berated St Peter, saying "I placed my trust in the Lord, but he let me down in my hour of need!". St Peter shook his head and replied, "He sent two boats and a helicopter, what more did you want!".

 

It's an old joke. It's kind of funny, and kind of pointed if you've been in church a long time. ESPECIALLY if, like me in times gone by, you were expecting some divine act of rescue instead of something very ordinary and human-driven.

I'm still trying to get an understanding of "what's going on" with this God/Jesus business.

A couple of random thoughts:

I understand the problem in the story. Our rejecter of rescue wanted to see bible stuff happen, but instead 'god' (yes, it's just a story) sends boats and helicopters instead of letting him walk on water. 

The current equivalent that eats me is why, when there's all the stuff in the NT about miraculous healings, do Christians HAVE to be cured by the miracle of modern medicine. 

Or not cured, and die regardless.

Why are churches centres of spreading coronavirus instead of the place people go to get healed from sickness.

Etc. in a similar vein.

 

I've mentioned before, the occasion someone I once respected told me, when I'd mentioned to him that I'd once prayed for resurrection from the dead and it didn't work "it would have done if you'd been in Africa". As I said at the time, my situation could not have been more desperate in any country. If it had been down to my level of faith, well, then it's not about God's power. 

 

If I look at the bible and suspend the 'eyes of faith' a little, I see an enormous amount of humanity, with tiny bursts of something else just occasionally. I get that stuff is written 'that you may believe' but I want cold, hard facts, not someone else's ideas of how they thought things should have been. No, I don't do poetry either. 

My friend Marc recently put this post up about being ecumenical. There was certainly a time when I was pretty sure the way I understood was The Right Way, and that approach to theology has a long and chequered past in the church (I've had some interesting talks with my mother about Bretheren and Baptish churches in the UK over the century). So when I read church history and start to compare it with the experiences I've had over the last nearly 60 years, and particularly the last 30, I start to see the hand of man very much at work in the church. Make me wonder, how much do we build out of ourselves, and how much really is God at work.

So I just don't get it. I'm not walking away, but I really can't accept the suspension of intelligence (God-given?) and integrity required to square the circle right now. For you younger than me who've already been through your crises of faith like this, I'm just a little slow, OK.  ;-)


So much rain

 Not like the flood we had a few weeks back, where I'm told we got 3" in less than 2 hours, but it started raining Friday afternoon, continuing all day Saturday and its still raining now.

We went out for dinner last night to celebrate 39 years* of marriage. Driving through the country lanes to enter Oxford on the East side, we used a small road between Water Eaton and Marsdon - part way along, cars coming the other way started flashing us. Turned out there was water across the road, not very deep, so having a 4X4 we kept going carefully. We then passed a couple of cars stopped by the side of the road and entered some deeper water, where I had to drop down to first gear in order to keep going. Eventually came up behind a Jaguar that was creeping along, presumably because that vehicle was much lower than ours and finally made it through after a half mile or so. 

Dinner was good - we got the 'Greek' dishes (kleftico and stifado) that we'd missed in Attica (seldom on the menu, or if they were then not available) and it was nice being out again. 

But we drove back on main roads. I'm starting to think that buying a 4X4 SUV may not have been as dumb as it might have seemed.


*The thing about getting married young is that you don't really think that you'll end up like your parents, and it's kinda awkward to be older and not like you were. Being together 39 years has been fantastic: I don't subscribe to the idea that there's one person for everyone (and only one) but rather through continuous effort and some self-sacrifice you remain together on good terms and in love. It's been, and continues to be, good. Just wish we were still 20ish on the outside. ;-)

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

The unacceptable condition

Seems to be old, white and male.

One of the descriptions I heard of the Trump vs Biden debate this morning was of 3 old white men incoherently and bitterly wrangling.

I wonder if, in the present run to make Black Lives Matter and to positively discriminate so that women can lead and put society right, that we've lost site of the fact that everyone has value. 

 Sure these guys are vying to become POTUS so their value isn't in question - or is it? The manner in which this 'debate' has been presented looks *to me* like their value IS in question. The present encumbent has arguably worked to reduce the value of that position, but should that mean everyone then gets tarred using the brush he dumped all over?

Or perhaps I'm becoming defensive BECAUSE I'm an old, white, privileged male?

I understand the *slogan* All Lives Matter has been adopted as a white supremacist retort to BLM, yet the inherent truth in that statement cannot be ignored. We need all lives to matter because otherwise not only will we replace one oppressive group with another (is it their turn to be on top - should anyone be on top?) but society will never be at peace with itself. As soon as the debate changes from doing what is right for everyone to individuals and groups claiming their rights then the struggle has been lost and at least some part of society will be poorer for it.

I am very much reminded of this cartoon and earlier post.

Friday, 25 September 2020

And so the final day is nearly over of the holiday that nearly didn't happen.

It's genuinely been a good trip, better than expected, everything running smoothly & hassle free from the cab waiting at the airport for us to the amazing friendliness & welcome of the Greek people. Not everything has been *perfect* but it's all been pretty darn good. We also had the bizarre experience of bumping into people we know from 30 years ago (on an Oak Hall trip) at our second hotel here in Nea Makri on the Attica coast. I did wonder about trying to blog this trip, but frankly was just so tired before we went that there was no energy for writing at first.

High points?

Seeing the Acropolis (or Acropolipse as it's been nicknamed) without crowds, watching some great sunsets together, finding the (almost) perfect beach. And most of the people we've dealt with have been great.

Low points?

Having to re-organise the main section of the trip just 4 days before leaving, driving into the mountains above Athens without a clear plan of where to go and then running out of energy for the difficult roads on the way back down.

It's also been good to refresh my reading of Greek letters, and to be able to recognise some of the words locals spoke to each other from the (very little) language I've been learning. 

I have a couple of memory cards full of pictures in the camera, though not as many as sometimes, that I'm looking forwards to working through. Hopefully the house is still all OK, with dehumidifier running while we've been away. We also have a nasty suspicion that we forgot to empty the fridge and bin in the kitchen.  8^O

So the challenge that remains is to find somewhere for dinner tonight, get the suitcases packed OK and then get the car back to the rental people at Athens airport tomorrow. Personal locator forms have been completed, ditto check in, so it should be a breeze. ;-)

Monday, 7 September 2020

Arriving today: MAXTOP Bumbag Waist Fanny... and 1 more item

Sometimes you have to love the truncation of email titles. I could just imagine a bunch of small children saying those words over and over to feel like they're being REALLY rude. It's the kind of thing we'd have done at school.

This is probably much less funny if you're from North America, and fanny doesn't mean pudenda.

Friday, 4 September 2020

Today my calendar tells me that at 1pm I have a 'Talent Review'.

Which for all the world sounds like judging a bunch of guys playing the spoons or a ukelele orchestra as they perform.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Lets just say that one of the reasons people around my age take early retirement is that we can't face trying to learn a new set of systems & phrases devised by someone a little disconnected from reality to do something we've always done. I'm speaking obliquely because personal blogs are no longer considered purely personal by the organisation for whom I now work, and any anything written may be analysed for a negative impact on the business. 

A bit like my good friend Randall - a man who has done plenty of coding and page creation for blogs - finding that the 'new' blogger back end no longer works well for him. There comes a point where the system refreshes are simply detractive and ultimately destructive. Everyone smiles, tells you how wonderful it is and how it will make your life better, but inside you can feel yourself wanting to curl into a ball. I quite get that my mum doesn't want to use computers and feels technophobic, but I'd hoped that new technology wouldn't lock me out because of my background. In the end I don't think the tech will, but the changes in society and the impact they have on interfaces are very likely to do that.

 

*edit*

Survived. But it's extraordinarily difficult not to be cynical.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Invest in friendships - or evolution can teach the church something?

 Please forgive my click-bait title and rambly post.

A couple of min ago I was reading this BBC article about the need to maintain friendships and the manner in which lockdown has affected friendships in society.

The church we are involved in has become missional, 'seeker-sensitive', following a chaotic pattern of variable meetings across the month (at least there is some kind of pattern). Over the last couple of years I've found myself feeling increasingly isolated, disconnected and unable to talk about things that matter to me or concerns that I have when we come together. Plus there are concerns about the leadership - not integrity, but certainly understanding, ability and to a degree intention - and it really doesn't feel like the family that I've invested in over the last 3 decades.

So to the article. 

It talks about digital contact not being a satisfying replacement for meeting, but TBH the adoption of digital contact during Covid has simply clarified the feeling I have of no longer being connected. And rather than being unsatisfying, and I've actually been pleased not to be seeing people. Partly it's down to the pleasure of a Sunday actually being - potentially - a day of rest instead of another day of service and chores that are different to those you normally do. But only partly. 

The seeds of this were being sown consistently over the last few years. We've both had significant concerns about church direction and questions have been asked: to which extensive email replys have been sent which were not especially helpful.

I have concerns about becoming my grandfather, who was *that guy* in various churches over the years for whom things were never right. He would be a thorn in the flesh of various church leaders, never settled, never happy, never being valued, never bending. I've certainly been enough if an 4rse at times (memories DO make me wince occasionally) though never intentionally to cause people pain or hassle, and it's often been when I've been very much between a rock & a hard place. But I absolutely don't want the role of disaffected rebel or 'angry watchman' - there is no reward in that.

So what's the connection to the title?

The deep friendships are the ones that might save your life, and need real, meaningful contact to establish and maintain. The shallower, simpler, more outward-looking we get the more stretched and weakened can become things we do that would otherwise help maintain the friendships. And if you know the bridge/truck metaphore, then the weaker the bridge becomes. I realise that a lot (probably almost all) my church friendships are BECAUSE we're part of the same church, and not because I would choose to spend time with those people of my own volition (or them with me).

 And when that happens who will you talk to about the things that are important but difficult?