Wednesday 31 December 2003

We're off

to a 'grown up' new year's eve party in a few minutes. May take some pics.

In the mean time, happy new year everyone.

Tuesday 30 December 2003

Had a great ride today.

Ben and I drove to Wales this morning for a bit of serious mountain biking at the Afan Argoed centre. Although we started off in damp and drizzle (there was slush on the windscreen) the rain stopped around Bristol and it actually got sunny here and there.

It's a fantastic place to ride, with a mix of fast open tracks and narrow twisty woodland trails. Even the climbing (we did about 1000 meters height gain) didn't seem anywhere near as bad as when we ride locally.

Although the weather was kind, it was still winter. When we got to the top a lot of the mud was frozen (easier riding for us :-)

God was gracious to us. Neither had a serious stack, although Ben came closest, miss-timing a jump and catching the side of the trail where the forest rises above it. We both managed plenty of hairy moments, with wheels sliding on corners, and in one place me having to use the 'bail out route' after taking off wrong from jumping some roots. In many places the trail is only about 12" wide, with a steep drop on one side and large rocks on the other. It certainly focusses the mind.

We got home dog tired about 6.30 tonight.

Monday 29 December 2003

We got there.

Chris's parents got back around midnight last night, so our hunch was right. Spent the day with them. That's pretty much it.

They are getting quite obviously old now, even talking about not going abroad any more. I think that's partly a reaction to having 'duty free' stuff nicked while they were in baggage reclaim, but they are now quite 'elderly'. Walking and talking are both slow processes, and I think they've realised that things are running down. Memory is an issue too.

They live about 45 mins away. I wonder if we're going to be doing that journey a lot more soon?

One thing that was very pleasing - I managed to keep Chris's jumper (see below) a secret until we exchanged gifts. She kept commenting and sneaking off to see how it looked in the mirror upstairs. Looks like I got that one right then ;-)

In the post, this morning.

The present occupier
*Our home address*

We need to confirm your current situation

Dear Sir/madam,

Some time ago we were informed that there was no television in use at this address and therefore, that no TV license was required.

Our enquiry Officers will be visiting your home shortly to confirm that this is still the case.

If your circumstances have changed and you now use a television at this address, it is important that you purchase a TV license straight away. Watching or recording TV programs without a valid license is against the law.

A colour TV license costs £116 per year (£38.50 for black and white). The quickest way to pay is by phone etc.

If you still don’t use a TV, you needn’t take any action – but expect a brief visit from our Enquiry Officers just to confirm the situation.

Yours faithfully etc.

Great. A visit from the licensing people. We’ve never owned a TV in all the time we’ve been married. And they’ve never given up chasing us to buy a license either. At least the tone of the letter is polite these days. It used to be really dark and rather threatening. Now they actually acknowledge you might not use a set.

AFAIK these people actually have right of entry, and without a warrant too!

Sense of achievement.

I especially like doing nice things for Chris (being good to your partner is like being good to yourself, only better). I bought her a Queen DVD for Christmas, which she watched this evening. Amongst the songs on there was 'Hammer to fall'.

Now Guitarist mag happened to have an illustration of the 'Brian May' extended A chord (Aadd6 if you care) this month. And he just happens to use it for Hammer to fall (you can see it in the live bits). I'd managed to recognise it already from fiddling around trying it out. One of the songs that we sang tonight was 'Give thanks to the Lord (His love endures forever)' which just happens to be in A.

Thanks Brian, your Chord fits beautifully.

Managed to get a ride in. At last!

And the Chilterns were foul!

It started OK. Clearish skies, slippery but firm trail. Then it came to bits.

We'd cleaned the first decent climb up to Dunsmore. After the green and pond the trails just descended into quagmire. Some of it was frozen and firm, but a lot of it was soft and gloopy, particularly where horses had been through and churned it up. At the end of the what is normally a flat out, top gear trail (we were mid ringing, like it was a fair climb) was a large and unavoidable puddle.

Add cold and very wet feet to the mix.

Then we got a mix of snow, hail and sleet, riding past Chequers (yes, that Chequers). By the time we reached Cadsden I'd had enough, after about 1.5 hours riding. In the summer the whole loop of about 18 miles normally takes less time than that, and we were no more than half way round.

2 hours after starting we were back at the car, filthy and tired. I'm seriously thinking of locking the shed and leaving the whole game until the trails dry out. Lets see how we get on at Afan in Wales on Tuesday. If we get there.

Sunday 28 December 2003

Ever felt like a bit of clay?

Today it was my turn to lead worship in the afternoon meeting. I'd sorted songs, felt I'd heard God on some things to say and was just about ready.

Got there and it all just evaporated. The cold did a major resurgence, and had to ask my good friend (and younger elder ;-) Steve Beegoo to help with the singing. What shreds of spiritual sensitivity for worship seemed to disappear at the same time. That's OK, it's His worship. Then I saw someone, and just felt God drop a word in. I was able to share (brought tears to both of us) and prayed for her with Chris.

I'm glad to be used. It's just that the shape of the vessel you are to be isn't always predictable.

We should see the outlaws tomorrow.

Chris's parents always like to go away at Christmas. A few years back they did a cruise down the US coast to Mexico. That completely put them off warm locations, and so they go to interesting European locations now.

This year they went to Norway, Flying out a few days before Christmas. They should have been back yesterday evening, however Chris's dad isn't really all that sharp on times and dates these days, and he seemed a little uncertain as to their actual return.

We tried to call them today.

3 times.

Ain't no one home.

If we can't get an answer tomorrow morning, looks like we'll be having an unexpected 'free day'.

Saturday 27 December 2003

Sorted - I hope

We've settled on a 406 HDi estate. It's about 4 years old and slightly high mileage, but it drives really well, smooth, quiet and reasonably powerful. The first thing we tried (a 306 estate) didn't really have enough rear leg room and the engine didn't sound good, although it handled better.

We also drove half way across London to look at a used car supermarket (claim to have 5000 cars - believable). The only really suitable car was a Mundano in a foul purple colour. Didn't even bother to drive it, since it was no better than the 406, but £800 more expensive. Chris also saw a silver Volvo with cream leather interior that she thought 'looked comfy'. But it was petrol rather than diesel, and about £2500 more than the 406. Forget that one then.

It's funny. Each car we've had for the last few years has cost about the same. The BX estate cost £4700 and lasted 6 years/185,000 miles. The current 406 cost about £4400 and lasted 4.5 years/142,000 miles. The new one is £4995 and will hopefully last to the 200,000 mile point. By that time the kids should have set up their own homes and we can get something a little more exciting. Or not.

Anyway, the car should be ready in a week or so. It needs the front discs replacing (they're warped, and braking was way under par) and a ding fixed on the driver's door, plus a new battery. The paint is a bit 'flat' courtesy of too may drive through car washes, but other than that it seems good. Now we just have to pull some cash together.

That was a strange night.

I'm not a big one for dreams, but last night's sleep wasn't pleasant. Got the light out around 11ish, but just couldn't drop off, and was still awake after midnight. I really didn't want a 'Christmas all-nighter' as I've done in previous years, having been slept-out, so rolled over again and eventually fell asleep.

And that's when it all started. Ben has been playing 'Serious Sam' on the upgraded PC, which involves a lot of monster fragging. Yuk. That got combined with bits of 'Aliens' (never saw the original, didn't want to see that one either - long story from 15 years ago) plus imagining I was on a cruise ship. And there were sections of 'Terminator' in there too.

None of this is my kind of thing, and maybe that's why I didn't enjoy it. Whatever, I hate the way these things creep under the consciousness. So I've kind of slept, but it wasn't fun.

Time to go hunt cars, I guess. Where's my grenade launcher?

Tuesday 23 December 2003

We've got to replace a car :-(

In some ways it's a good time to do it (prices are low) and it's a holiday, but it's also inconvenient.

We just feel it's time to move our Peugeot on. Not that we want anything flashy, but it's now 7 1/2 years and 140,000 miles old and and reliability is becoming an issue. Since Chris drives the car, this IS an issue. I quite like driving old nails, but she hates the risk of getting stuck.

Present choices seem to be boiling down to 4 year old cars, since we want a diesel (fuel cost reduced by 1/3) estate for extra space. Looks like it may be another Peugeot 406. Although I'm not impressed by the reliability of this one, it was one of the first in the country, and later ones should have been sorted a bit better. Another choices are Ford's Mundano (sorry, Mondeo, but like any ford, they're meant to be dead boring) which is cheapish, but of questionable build quality (again, applies to all Fords). There are also a couple of 'if only' cars - the Audi A4, Volks Passat and the Volvo V70 - which are nice, but would stretch our finances more than I want.

Oh, I was tempted by a Toyota Hilux Surf - basically a crewcab with a glassed roof on the pickup section. I must have spent too much time in the US ;-)

We just need to find "the right one". It's occupying far too much of my thought life ATM, but the consequences of buying a complete duffer are financial ruin for a couple of years, and I don't want to go through all that again.

Monday 22 December 2003

Introspection can be useful.

Virtually all my Christian life I've strongly disliked hymns and carols. Prior to that I was relatively indifferent, accepting them as a peculiar and slightly tedious part of the "Way Things Were Done In Church". It isn't just the tunes, although musically speaking they have generally (with some exceptions) seemed turgid and dull - trying to play on the emotions in a dated and crass way. But even with the 'great hymns' (Oh for a thousand tongues springs to mind) I've had to grit my teeth and get on with it, and this has remained a puzzle for me. Now I think I have some insight.

I grew up in a baptist church. One which, when eventually confronted with the idea that God might actually want to be involved in our lives, decided that it wasn't particularly keen on the idea. Hymns were for the 'main church' while songs for worship (called choruses then, usually with a look of distain) were for use outside the main congregation.

When we married we felt released to move churches, and became involved with a 'housechurch' that was on fire for God. A guy called Steve Findlater, who joined us as a new Christian summed it up for me one Sunday morning with more accuracy than I'd imagined at the time. We had sung a hymn at the start of the meeting, and Steve's comment was "I came to church to meet God, not to sing hymns". Like him, I felt that hymns and God were exclusive. Things that had died, but had not been allowed to lie down quietly. To borrow pop-parlance, a 'rave from the grave'.

I've already been back to God about this a few times, and he's spoken quite clearly about just accepting them for others, so that was kind of sorted. However I was considering this again the other day when it finally dawned on me as to why I feel the way I do. I have always associated that style of music with people actively resisting God. Obvious really, but it's taken this long for the penny to drop. I doubt that I'll suddenly develop a great love for that style of church music, but I expect not to wrestle with it whenever a hymn comes up.

Enjoy your carols, everyone ;-)

Thursday 18 December 2003

New pictures

2 new collections up on my fotopic gallery.

Oxfordshire frosty morning

Christmas shopping in Oxfords covered market

Nothing spectacular, but who knows, you might find something to float the boat.


Ever tried using the 'Language Tool' option on Google? Well, if you translate from English to French and then from French back in to English, you can get some amusing outcomes.

I thought I'd start with Jerusalem, by Blake, and here's what I got!

And did these feet in ancient time go on the green of the mountains of England?
And was the holy lamb of God on the pleasant pastures of England seen?
And it undermines it guessed the glare ahead on our opacified hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here among these dark mills satanic?
Bring to me my extreme gold arc!
Bring to me my arrows of the desire!
Bring to me my lance!
The clouds of O, reveal!
Bring to me my carriage of fire!
I will not cease a mental combat,
nor my sleep of sword in my hand,
until we built Jerusalem in the green and pleasant ground of England

From Bikemagic. I can't think of a finer thing to do to this hymn (other than maybe forget it) philistine that I am.

Monday 15 December 2003

Deep Joy R us.

For our Peugeot (car) we used to have 2 keys.

About 2 weeks ago our daughter lost the one key that worked the central locking system.

Last night Chris put the remaining key down before locking the car from inside.

The keys are on the back seat.

Inside the car.

Get the picture?

A replacement key would have cost about £70 (or about $120 US for those not in the UK). To break in will cost £17 for the replacement glass + £78 for fitting (daylight robbery!). The local Peugeot dealer knows a way to get in (Nah mate, I can't disclose it over the phone) and are looking forward to a little extra business.

Now the good news - I got the keys out :-)

Thanks everyone that prayed for me. Courtesy of a little leverage, some screwdrivers and an ex-coat hanger I was able to extract them. That's the grace of God.

Sunday 14 December 2003

"Light up your life"

I remember this line from 'Carry on up the khyber'. The following line was delivered by a deadpan Sid James. "And up yours".

This afternoon Chris really wanted Christmas lights outside. Simple one might think. But these lights require a transformer, which must be INSIDE. And the cables to plug into this have large plugs, meaning it won't be possible to drill a small hole somewhere and feed them through.

So muggins decides it's time to run power to the shed.

Well, it all went more-or-less flawlessly, and our outside lights are up. The only exciting moment was after I'd run the cable and fitted the socket in the shed. I came inside and wired the plug on the other end. This was plugged into an RCCB unit, which I'd pressed the 'Test' button on. This press was important, because when I plug in it trips the whole house :-/ Visions of re-doing the job ran through my head as I switched back on. However once everything was re-set it was fine.

Yesterday I put up the lights that run up the stairs for the sake of both my daughter and wife.

Christmas spirit? Well I do have a bottle of whiskey now.

Humbug ;-)

BTW I've just seen a gritting lorry go past. Any chance of snow tomorrow?

Friday 12 December 2003

Existence today seems rather strange.

Did the 4+ hour drive back from Newcastle last night in the dark. Courtesy of the lurgy and being away from home I had relatively little sleep the previous night, so used a caffiene stimulant drink on the way back to keep awake (it works, but makes everything a bit unreal). Slept OK last night, but 6 hours max as I had to be up at 5.20 to get Ben out by 6.30. Then drove to a petrol station in Bicester to fill up before getting to work, an hour after leaving home. And it's still dark.

It's times like this that the real world seems a long way away.

And why is it when you're in a new city, pron always appears in front of you? Actually I know the answer. Whether it's a news agent (WH Smith was supposed to have stopped selling it a couple of years ago) or a DVD hire shop, or even a filling station, the stuff just pops up all the time. Managed to walk away from it though; the spirit was willing but the flesh was strong. Must have just been the grace of God, 'cos I'm sure it wasn't my own strength.

While on that topic, we had a visit here (work) from someone from the US a while back. He made an interesting comment, about how pron in the UK is softer than the US, and how it seems to be in the context of a relationship. He was disappointed! Makes me worry about what kind of legacy the US (Canada too?) is building for itself. If they really have detached sex and relationship from eachother (as is starting to happen here) then I suspect social meltdown is not far away. Makes a mockery of the idea of the US being a moral country.

Yours, blearily. The ancient (feeling) mariner.

Wednesday 10 December 2003

Big white world

No, I'm not a Marylin Manson fan. We have freezing fog here, and everything as far as the eye can see (not far) is white. Dishwasher salt works well on the path - it was so slippery that I nearly fell this morning. Lots of warm water required to thaw the car screen.

At least the sun is starting to burn through, so maybe the drive to Newcastle won't be so bad afterall. When it's foggy here people tend to drive about 40mph. Not ideal when you've 250 miles to go, although better than hitting something.

Tuesday 9 December 2003

Yay - I'm going.

Mountain biking in Wales on Dec 30th. Probably, anyway.

Afan Argoed. Manmade trails on a Welsh mountainside, probably in the snow. Some of the best trails in the UK, and with a new section (the skyline trail) recently opened, this should be brilliant. Last time I went there we just HAD to go back and re-ride certain parts of the course. It's not stupidly steep like Coed y Brenin, just fast and twisty with well placed drops and jumps.

My lasting memories were of belting down the trail where it twists from the top, keeping up behind a guy on a downhill bike, my first river crossing and of anticipating the final lump at the end of the trail so that I could jump off the top like I meant it.

Can't wait. Must build up the fitness in anticipation.

Pulled a sickie today

and stayed at home. I'm still not getting over things, and although I feel OK-ish most of the time sitting still I get periods of confusion and dizziness when standing.

Worst of all is boredom.

I'm really grateful that I don't have a broadband always-on connection. The temptation to surf for things I know I should not see would be far greater than is good for me. At least with daytime dialup it's unreasonably expensive and keeps me off the net.

Tomorrow afternoon I'm driving to Newcastle again - 4 1/2 hrs. Hopefully by the time I get to the customer on Thursday I'll be semi-permanently lucid ;-)

Monday 8 December 2003

An interesting week for Ben

He's just started a week of work experience.

He'd like to design cars for a living, having an interest in graphic arts and mechanical and adrenaline inducing things. So he's got a week of shadowing someone at the BMW-Mini factory, which sounds like it's going to be fun. So far he's been checking over a new car fresh off the line (under guidance, of course) and out for a test drive. Tomorrow he's going to Silverstone with the team that are testing a new model.

Now the downside - He's got to be at the Oxford factory at 7.30am, and he has to pick up another lad first, who lives 25 mins in the wrong direction. Bed time for the chauffeur then :-/

Mr. Grumpy today.

Back to work, having had major lurgy at the w/e. Snappish, grumpy and generally unpleasant, I've not been a good specimen to work with. And the face/headache is growing again.

Wonder if I can be sick enough to justify sitting at home tomorrow? I'm sure the office will be a much nicer place without me sniffing, coughing and mumbling.

Sunday 7 December 2003


Realised I've actually been blogging interactively for a long time. And have made real friendships too, although it helps to have met in meatspace. The majority of what I post is on the BM forum. That may be why I blog less and post more. Sure, it's an area I particularly enjoy, but I also know (and, dare I say it, love some of the people) too.

I'm not alone.

Poor Leighton seems to be suffering too.

G' mornin.

I've just got up. I have a cold, complete with sinusitis. I got fed up the feeling that someone was pushing a sharp piece of metal into my cheekbone - woke me up every 10 mins or so. On top of that made the mistake of watching the 2 towers. Dreams full of horsemen getting hacked to bits by orcs and vice verse don't make for a pleasant slumber. Interferon has a lot to answer for.

Anyway, having got up I find that the cold capsules have a limit on how many can be taken, and I've exceeded the dose. On top of that I've run out of whiskey (2 or 3 bottles a year is 'fair use' I reckon). The port I've just opened appears corked, but it doesn't matter because I can barely taste it anyway. At least there's something good about it.

'Scuse me, one side has just started to drain........ Catch that drip!

Now off to answer Linea from last week and then look up reviews of Heritage guitars. Just found what may be my next instrument, up for sale in Texas, and I want to make sure it's the right one before I engage in trying to sort things at a distance of 10,000 miles.

Hope you're all keeping better than me.

Friday 5 December 2003

Good morning.

The last standard has been dispensed. The last email has been sent. Everything is ready for later this morning.

I'm still at work, but not for much longer. Back in 7 hours though.


Thursday 4 December 2003

A little balancing act......

is what life is at the mo.

Work vs family
Health vs strength
Leisure vs tasks
Wants vs needs
People vs God

I'm not sure which causes most sweat. I seem to be majoring in all of the left hand items, while variously trying to satisfy the right hand ones.

The last item became a bit more pointed last night, after the church meeting. As a church we have been trying to push the people into being more pro-active during worship. Previously our worship times were lead from the front, and although sometimes people did bring songs, scriptures and prophetic words, over the last couple of years it has been getting less and less. Just before the summer God clearly said to pause and re-focus on Him. So we've done that (and have been outside our comfort zones ever since ;-). Worship was also no longer 'lead', but instead was simplified so that someone would start the meeting with a song (usually me) and then I'd just carry it on guitar. In September we added a keyboard back, and have jsut started having someone to 'facilitate' worship. It is still very minimalistic though.

I've been leading the worship team for a couple of years now, and in the 12 months leading up to that we were getting together once a fortnight to spend time worshipping, praying and just being together. That time stopped over the summer, and when the autumn came round I really didn't feel the freedom to re-start things - it was on hold along with everything else. Last night I was talked to by a good friend (who's also the drummer) telling me that we really HAD to start getting back together, how people were on the verge of leaving etc. I know there are a number of other people that were singing and playing previously that are struggling now, and particularly missing our midweek meetings.

The question I have is: Do I re-start or wait. I know it will bless people and my instinct is to do it, but I need to hear from God on this, and the old spiritual ears seem as blocked up as my natural ones ATM. I also struggle with my motives because I preferred the worship front lead, but never perceived a problem of the people interacting - if people are going to 'go for it' then a decent band actually helps them.

When in trouble or in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout.
(traditional British rhyme, wot I made up 5 mins ago).

Wednesday 3 December 2003

I'b god a code id by dose



Cough, cough.

I'll blog more when things are a bit less busy and I'm a bit healthier.

Saturday 29 November 2003

Hails of trout - (GSOH part 2)

Well, not really, but that's how we often refer to the weather.

Managed to get a ride in this morning. Around 8.00am the temperature was mild (about 14'C) enough for shorts, and although it was overcast, it was dry. As I was packing the car at around 8.40 there was a real edge to the wind that had not been there earlier, so on went the longs. As I left it started drizzling, and by the time I got to Wendover there was real rain.

Well, not being made of sugar we did go out, but blummin' 'eck, was it cold! After the first mile we were soaked, and had to fight our way though layers of mud and leaves. At this time of year pedalling is really hard work, and it felt like we were constantly climbing, all apart from the steep downhills, where we're mostly sliding ;-) And then one of the party got separated, requiring about 20mins search before we heard they were safe.

After nearly 2 hours we got back to the car park wet and cold. And y'know what? On the way home the rain stopped. This afternoon the clouds broke and the sun shone. God's sense of humour part 2?

Friday 28 November 2003

God has a sense of humour

I'd almost finished a long rant about being shallow and not wanting human wisdom when I decided to check a couple of spellings. Cue quick google search - done - close window. The original window. With my rant on it.

Well, I've got it out of my system now, no-one has been offended and we can move on.

Human wisdom - D'oh.

Thursday 27 November 2003

Don't you love weather?

After all the rain comes the sun. And the ice.

Not a big deal for the Canukes, but over here it's a bit special for it to be 11.15 am and still frosty outside.

I really like the winter, but after all the rain my car locks were so frozen I could barely get the key in. Then came the "pulling at the door" routine to try to get inside. Much hilarity and frozen fingers later, we all got away.

Only to return. Sarah had decided that she didn't need a coat this morning, a thin blouse and sweater (complete with bare midrif) being quite enough. What made me twig was that she was sat in the car shivering and pulling the sleeves over her hands, because she was cold. It's amazing how a discussion on the necessity of a coat will provide more than enough warmth, so that there is no need to return home. Really. At all. Now. Daaaddddd.

Click. Stump, stump, stump, stump. Bang. Rummage, rummage. Bang. Stump, stump, stump, stump. Bang. Mutter, mutter, mutter.

And off we went again ;-)

I last saw her at the bus stop, clutching her bags in one hand and her coat in the other. *sigh*. I'll keep praying for for my kids.

Wednesday 26 November 2003

Well the rain came down

And the floods came up.

Mustn't complain - we had a superb summer. But it's been raining most of the time for the last couple of weeks, and I'm already fed up with it. Maybe it's time I moved countries? ;-)

Still, it's good for the countryside.

Tuesday 25 November 2003

Much better now.

Most of the w/e was a right off, courtesy of the cold finally getting the better of me. Seriously lousy on Saturday (the late night probably didn't help) but had difficulty keeping warm enough in the evening. Sunday again felt rotten (despite >8 hours in the sack) and had to guide worship on Sunday evening. To my amazement, I gather it was actually OK. What was that about God working in our weakness?

After the meeting Barrie (senior elder) prayed for and annointed me, and hey, by Monday I'm virtually fine. Fantastic. Straight back into the world of work again then. God's timing definitely has a sense of humour ;-)

Tuesday is here, and I'm definitely mended. Just tired again from a late night drawing up schedules and emailing people.

Now, when can I fit another ride in?

Friday 21 November 2003

Friday night is time to relax.

I've spent the evening ringing round talking to the other members of the worship team, explaining the way ahead for the next few months. Got agreement - great. Even better, Jeremy (a great keyboard player, though not in his own eyes) has agreed to come out of retirement.

I've also managed to fix the dead PCs, so a sense of achievement there.

Collected Sarah from her boyfriend's place in Shipton.

Everyone else is in bed, so it's time to relax. This week has been really hard - I've not been well, and there's a lot of pressure to manufacture a lot of stock before some CE regulations come into force in 2 weeks time. No work tomorrow, so a slightly late night + lay-in is OK.

Go hunt in the fridge for a cider (I'm not a huge beer fan, although it definitely has it's place). The cupboard is bare - Sarah is to blame I expect. I do have a bottle of Hefeweiss beer - German wheat beer - in there. Pop the cap, and although it tastes OK, it doesn't quite hit the spot. Now I know I'm a philistine, but I add a shot of lime to it. As expected, this makes a small amount of froth flow from the neck. Anyway, when it's calmed I take a good hard swig to mix the lime in: next minute beer is being forced out faster than I can take it, as it foams strongly out of the neck.

Hmmmm. not quite what was intended.

Cheers anyway.

Back up again!

Sometimes people design things really well, even if they then hide it!

Wednesday night 2 PCs here got fried by a power surge. Well I grabbed a derelict base unit from work tonight on the way out and stripped out the psu. Pulled my base unit out at home and plugged in the new psu - bingo, everything OK. So out of curiosity I dismantled the old psu looking for burnt patches - none visible. Checked the internal fuse - closed circuit, fine. I found a connector that was off at an angle but that was all. Then I had a 'what if' moment and reconnected it. Hey presto it re-starts.

Great thinks I, must be that dodgy connector.

So upstairs to BW's PC, out with old psu, in with new and again, everything works. Now both base units are in the same cases, so not being averse to experimentation repeat as before, and hey presto again. Great - cos the old psu is better than the new one.

Then it dawned on me - these have an anti-surge cut out built in, but the cut out remained on as long as they stayed connected to the mains. Since the power cut was short there wasn't enough time for them to re-set, and they remained tripped. Now bearing in mind that I built both these, you'd hope that there would have been some instructions somewhere to let the user know? Can't complain, cos they were dead cheap, but even so.


Fry up last night at the Ertls

While we were enjoying dinner our lights suddenly went very bright, then off, then on/bright then off then on normal again.

Cue 2 dead PC base units :-(

So if anyone has emailed me at home, I'm sorry but it'll may take a little while to get things working again. I know where I can salvage one ATX power supply, but if the mobo has fried then it'll be a couple of working days before I can replace it. Ben's PC is dead too, although we were planning to do an upgrade for Christmas anyway, so that can be accelerated. Living in the country, power cuts are just a routine part of life, but in 10 years I've never needed a surge protector (had modem get fried in a storm PC-off, but that's a bit different). Now, how do I justify replacing the graphics card too? here I come.

Thursday 20 November 2003

Knackered again.

Did circuit training last night without really wanting to - I've been feeling really ropey recently. Do I ache today? Do I, heck. If I get much fitter I won't make it out of bed in the mornings.

Just finished lunch. Our logistics person has brought me a rather late delivery. It's in a large box filled with foam 'quavers', then inside a second box wadded out with brown paper.

Just spilled foam quavers across the floor getting box 2 out.

Must cut through this parcel tape. Gimme somthing sharp!

Oh what the heck, I'll just use the edge of a ruler.

But now I've just got inside. Finally I have it! My own can of dust-pro de-duster.

There's an image on the side of the can. It shows a youth holding the nozzle in their mouth with the can floating in mid air, and is circled in red with a red line across it. I'm sure it's all very serious, but it actually looks just plain funny. It must be very sad to want to inhale something that advertises in large print on the container that it doesn't contain anything interesting at all.

Tuesday 18 November 2003

Sniff sniff.

Seem to have acquired a cold - yuk! Really want to be sat at home with a book doing nothing. Instead running QC on the last production run, setting up assays on this week's test service samples and treating the antibody for tomorrow's plate coating.

At least it isn't too bad - I'm just a bit sniffy and stupid. Still it does explain the aches and pains, when I didn't think Saturday's crash was bad enough for that.

Sniff sniff.

Seem to have acquired a cold - yuk! Really want to be sat at home with a book doing nothing. Instead running QC on the last production run, setting up assays on this week's test service samples and treating the antibody for tomorrow's plate coating.

At least it isn't too bad - I'm just a bit sniffy and stupid. Still it does explain the aches and pains, when I didn't think Saturday's crash was bad enough for that.

Monday 17 November 2003

Another crappy day in paradise :-)

Back to work.

It's raining and my feet are wet from a lunchtime walk.

I'm chasing quotes for bits of lab equipment, and despite repeated calls the suppliers aren't getting back to me.

Good weekend though.

I remember seeing a cartoon comparing the young and the old through their week. The old start all fresh, gradually getting more haggard toward the weekend. The young start all haggard, gradually building up energy for a weekend that wears them out by Monday morning.

I seem to be in the latter category ;-)

Managed a great ride on Saturday. It was warm enough for shorts again, despite the weather forecast. We did the ride from the Lions at Bledlow, up and across the ridgeway (which I cleaned easily) through the woods to the 'stairway to hospital' (a steep and slippery stair run). 2 of the other riders stacked here, but yours truly rode it in fine style. The climb up Chinnor hill was long, but there is always a great sense of achievement when you get to the top. However pride comes before a fall, and chasing Beckers through the woods, I'd nearly caught him when my front wheel caught a leaf filled ditch instead. One brief 'Batman' moment later and I now have a sore thumb and shoulder and an Ibuprofen habit.

Next time, Mike, next time.

Took Boy Wonder and Dan (from the church) riding yesterday morning at Rowney Warren. Dan did really well until he 'pringled' his front wheel leaping a log. At least he got up laughing.

Friday 14 November 2003

I've been busy.

And next week will be the same.

My article about building MTB lights made the front of Bikemagic though. Only trouble is I didn't even know until I started getting comments a day or so later.

Time for bed I think.

Hope the wedding goes well for Linea tomorrow.

Monday 10 November 2003

Interesting time yesterday

We had a celebration in Oxford at the King's centre (where all the churches that are part of OCC get together). James Jordon from the Airport Church in Toronto was talking about 'the Father's heart'. His message was very much a mixed bag, with some really excellent stuff about the love of God, and some flaky stuff about Adam's IQ and how compared to the love of the Father, it didn't matter whether we had good or bad fathers.

The essence of the message was spot on, but I wish people (especially 'eminent' people) would be a little more careful when they stand on a platform.

Chris went in the evening as well (I stayed to make sure the kids went to bed at a decent hour). Again she was touched, but came back wondering whether either she'd missed something fundamental all her life, or he she hadn't quite caught the true meaning of his message. Or he was just plain wrong about certain aspects.


Saturday 8 November 2003

A visit and some thoughts

I visited my mother today. It’s only 2 hours drive, but there are times that it seems like a huge distance, and a major task to get there.

It was really great to see her again. She's got Myasthenia Gravis, which is a nasty auto-immune disease that causes the neuro-muscular junction of nerves to degenerate. The effect is increasing weakness and breathlessness. Treatment to slow the disease is possible, but there's no cure. As a result of the drugs she takes her immune system is quite compromised, and she's very susceptible to infection. We had to leave Sarah behind because of her cold, which was a shame, but it did mean Chris and I got a couple of hours talking time on the way down.

Anyway, she’s just moved churches for a variety of practical reasons to do with age and frailty. The church she felt God join her to is an Anglican congregation – something she struggled with as a lifetime evangelical. Actually she’s been impressed and surprised - they appear to be a non-traditional group, enjoying free worship, trying to reach out to people around them and preaching a need for personal belief in Jesus and repentance. They even practice believer’s baptism. :-)

As part of our conversation we discussed what it means to be evangelical (weird phrase – not being what it sounds like it should mean). The conclusion was that evangelicals place an emphasis on Christians knowing God for themselves, non-evangelicals having a more general belief that having the appropriate behaviour patterns and reciting the correct words is what God wants, the personal aspect being unimportant.

Maybe this isn’t really the true distinguishing sign, but I’m starting to think that it’s the reality of the situation. More and more I seem to hear people ‘discussing’ the meaning of the word of God, as if it were a subject for intellectual interpretation. It’s an easy trap to fall in, as I’ve found. But I quite seriously wonder if this is what’s at the root of the stagnation of so many of God’s moves throughout the years. Focussing on what we know, rather than what God’s saying and doing next. I wonder if this the cause of the resurgence in ‘traditional’ forms of worship. And also the increasingly clear polarisation between a ‘liberal’ church and one which values God’s feelings, whether Anglican or otherwise.

It’s very hard to have a good relationship with one you love if you keep offending or hurting them.

Thursday 6 November 2003

Another photcollection in the fotopic gallery.

Nothing large or exciting, but some images from a visit to Leamington, including the baths. Here. You might be interested. Or not.

Wednesday 5 November 2003

I'm on the front page of Bikemagic!

Although you'd never know it ;-)

We had a great ride on Saturday - hardwork but through beautiful autumn countryside. 'Pev' spotted this scene and submitted the image. BM liked it so much they used it on the 'cover'.

BTW I'm the one furthest left.

Yet again.

Rebuilt Boy Wonder's PC. New cooling fan to stop it crashing, plus new HDD (faster and more space for games). What a lovely way to spend your evening :-/

For all you XP users, remember those heady days when the OS was under 200Mb? And it doesn't try to call ghostbusters after installing either.

Tuesday 4 November 2003

So they finally did it.

And made the first openly homosexual bishop in the US. I guess the liberal side was never going to let it go until it had 'proved' to it was 'right'.

It makes me sad that people can apparently disregard bits of scripture if they don't happen to suit their point of view. There's nothing new in this, but this one does strike at the very fundamentals of what most Christians would call 'clean living.

It isn't the homosexuality, curiously enough, but the sexuality. If a man lived out of wedlock with a woman, would he be considered suitable for such a position?

If our beliefs cannot take us above our wants and needs (I want to look at pictures of naked women on the internet - why shouldn't I) then what is the point of them?

Monday 3 November 2003

There's an interesting thread going on BM

that is serious, for once. And not just about bikes either. The link is here.

Talking about halloween and 'spoilsports'. I pointed them toward Linea's blog for her perspective on it too, just to help balance things.

So, we can ALL blame the Americans for spoiling it ;-)

Sunday 2 November 2003

A novel experience.

I've done some shed clearing, in between bouts of rain. Now there's room for bikes AND people. Which is nice. There's some images in the gallery too, although they don't look anywhere near impressive enough.

Is there a spiritual message in here too, I wonder?

Thursday 30 October 2003

Beautiful morning

Shame I'm so bushed.

Went circuit training last night. Seemed to be going really well, with 22 burpees (squat thrust followed by a jack) per minute, flat out on the oblique curls etc. This morning I decided to ride into work, since it was so lovely and apparently not frosty.

Well, the first warning sign was the reason the cars didn't look white with frost - It was because the rain had frozen smooth on them instead. Then there was the nagging feeling in my legs as I climbed the hill out of the village. It was the same kind of feeling I have toward the end of a long ride - where you can keep going at a moderate output, but don't ask for any more. At the top of the second hill (nothing big) I could taste blood from breathing so hard. And the cold! I was sweating inside the jacket, but my forehead felt like someone had hit it with a hammer.

Oh the stupid things we do for pleasure.

Wednesday 29 October 2003

Yay, now listed.

On the MTB blog-ring.

There's far too much fnaar potential in that, so I'll embroider no further.

A change in the weather.

The last few weeks it's been amazingly dry, although quite cold (especially here in the Cherwell valley). Now the weather's turned to rain. Is this the end of dry trails as we knew them? I certainly hope not, but it did stop me getting out for my second night ride last night.

In the last couple of weeks all the leaves have turned round here, and the rain has started them falling. Not sure I've ever seen it so late before. Will try to get some pix for the gallery before it's all over.

Tuesday 28 October 2003

Comments back again.

Courtesy of Blogspeak. I've grabbed a slightly extended coffee break and managed to re-do them. It's painful working over dialup doing this kind of stuff, but so much nicer over a half meg line.

Finally completed the lights.

For those who've been following things through Bikemagic, you'll know that I've been building an offroad light set. I actually completed the lights weekend before last, but because of working away etc. I didn't have the time to test them properly. I'd also offered Mike Davis (BM's editor) an article on construction and testing, and that took time to write (and edit, correct, edit, re-edit etc). I'm still not completely happy with it, but sent it to him anyway, yesterday.

There's a 'step-by-step' photo guide in the fotopic gallery. Judging by the number of hits, it's proving to be of some interest. I will be writing some detailed (as in "do this, do that") style instructions for the lamp holders shortly. The Battery pack has already been completed.

It's certainly been interesting. I've read quite a bit about battery technology, and feel like I have a much better understanding of everything now. And the lights do actually work well, too :-)

Now, what was that verse about not putting your light under a bushell?

Friday 24 October 2003

Back at last.

Glasgow has grown on me, but I'm glad to be home. The people I met in the lab there were some of the friendliest and quickest learning I've come across anywhere. And towards the end I even started to understand what they were saying ;-)

Actually toward the end it was getting dangerous. I was starting to adopt the accent (Ach noooo. Dinna fash yersell wi' tha = No, don't worry). Not a good plan, since I can't keep it up for long, and am bound to drop back into 'BBC English'.

If I manage to go back in the summer then I'll have to take a bike. The hills there look too enticing. When my colleague flew in the day after me, he saw snow on the hills round the city. It was quite cold, and my lips are all chapped, courtesy of a walk on Tuesday night to find dinner.

Monday 20 October 2003

I'm a leavin', on a jet plane.

For Glasgow at 5.00am tomorrow. Don't know when I'll get back - could be Thursday, could be Friday.

Bye for now.

Wednesday 15 October 2003

Bikemagic, this very afternoon.

A little ray of sunshine from the forum:

Cathaholic is an unheathly religious disease, similar to Prostatestant.


Catholics Anonymous

"Hi. My name is Milo and I am a Catholic. It has been 6 weeks since I last had a cat"


Friday 10 October 2003

Oh yes, almost forgot.

Alex Leigh took some pics on the ride last weekend. For some reason I actually came out. Makes a change to see how I look (old, apparently).

I do believe....

I've fixed it. *Gasps sigh of relief*

Now lets see if |i can really foul it up with a comments facility.

Now I REALLY don't know what's going on.

I just restored the template script to the text I saved after I removed the original comments section, but before the new comments were put in. I seem to have an empty sidebar and eveything at the end of the posts. Not only that, but it's broken for Opera :-(

I can feel an evening's patience is going to be needed, and I ain't got that much right now.

Poxy comments!

Sometimes wish I was a script tech-head, rather than joe-ordinary, having to work through scripts line by line to work out what the stuff was going on.

Sorry if you've been trying to access things in the last couple of days without success. I'd tried to replace the previous comments facility (which had died, courtesy of the provider's problems) except that seemed to stuff things big time. Thought I'd stripped out all the dodgy new comments text before re-publishing, but I must have missed a bit somewhere or forgotten to save after stripping.

Anyway, it's fixed now, and I hope to have working comments again soon. Work is quite brisk at the mo, and trying to sort the blog through dialup (like tonight) is painfully slow.

Ah, relaxation. The Allman brother's 'Jessica' has just finished and Matthew's Southern Comfort 'Woodstock' is playing. Sure it's hippy trippy stuff, but it's also quite calming compared to, say ZZ top.

Thursday 9 October 2003

Tuesday 7 October 2003


Well, America has 'trailertrash'. The UK has 'Wayne and Waynetta'.

In a bid for high ratings at minimal cost 'reality TV' is on the up. Tonight they showed a program called wife-swapping (nothing to do with swinging) where 2 couples change partners (for the daytime only) while being filmed.

I've never seen this extravaganza (no TV) but have heard the fallout from the program from time to time. If you didn't see it then see this thread on singletrackworld where people discuss the program while it is actually on the air.
I find it amazing that people like this can actually bear to exist, yet they apparently thrive and grow and continue with not a thought for anything else. 'Mazin.

Gives a lot of incentive to pray hard.

Monday 6 October 2003

Do not forget.

Blogging is not reality.

I’ve not been here for a week now, and to be honest I have suffered guilt, but haven’t missed posting for it’s own (or my) sake in the least.

Now I have been somewhat busy workwise, and that brought home how much I had been doing using work’s connection in work’s time. Not good. On top of that, I read an article that Jordon Cooper linked to by a guy in the independent, and that covered a lot of the bases I was feeling. In addition, the comments provider I had been trying had a big problem that he (presumably) is unable to fix, and I couldn’t really see the point of a blog without comments (like I’m going to put my email addy up here??!). Finally, I realised that I was getting back from work, shoving dinner down my neck and then sitting at the PC for a lot of the evening, as if I hadn’t had a chance to use one for a while.

To cap it all, I spoke with a good friend the other day about blogs. She’s excited by the online world, and really likes lurking. However she also has a friend that runs the virtual housegroup (don’t have the URL handy, but it’s or or somesuch). My friend used to correspond by email regularly, until replies stopped coming. When she asked why, she was asked to work through the site. Nuts! Personal communication is meant to be that. It was enough to convince me that some bloggers can get too far up their own bottoms about how important it is (I DO have specific sites in mind ;-) and lose touch with reality.

So I got on and lived in the real world more. Went to bed earlier. Talked to my wife. Did a few practical things.

And the only thing that drew my mind back to it was the guilty feeling that I should be posting.

I DO feel like I’ve got things to say still, and I will be posting here, but I’m blowed if I’ll let it rule me, like it was starting to.

On a different topic, I’ve just bought Conan the Barbarian on DVD, and I’m looking forward to a little retro, un-cerebral entertainment.

Tuesday 30 September 2003

I've had to pull comments.

Sorry about that - I hope you've not been affected. I had the following message from the guy tha runs 'blogspeak':

"I'll make this quick. Something bad is happening witht the comments where a virus has somehow attached itself in one way or another to the comments on your sites. I urge you to take the code down for now until I get the problem figured out. This will prevent you from infecting yourself and other people. Believe me, you don't want this on your machine. A reinstall is in order for myself tonight. I'll let you know what I have found today or tonight."


"I've found the problem, but won't be able to fix it until later tonight. In the meantime, I've taken BlogSpeak so no one else gets infected. Someone was dropping scripts in the comments multiple times which were running when the comment window would load. This would then take you to another page, which would in turn install bad stuff on your machine. I urge anyone who has had this infection to run some spyware checker (SpyBot works good) and scan for viruses. Thank you for your patience while I work to get this fixed.

- Harry "

When I hear it's been sorted I'll reinstate comments.

This evening I enjoyed a little rustic industry.

I’ve been making this year’s batch of sloe gin. Thanks to the long hot summer the wild plants round here have been unusually fruitful. In addition, with the clear skies at night we’ve had a couple of frosts (sloes should only be picked after the first frost of the autumn. Sunday evening after church we went down by the river here and picked sloes. I’ve never seen so many in the 13 years we’ve been here. Thanks to the abundance of fruit this year the birds have ignored this otherwise bitter food supply. So instead of scrabbling around trying to find enough berries, after 30 mins we had plenty and to spare.

After work tonight I popped into the local Tesco and grabbed 3 bottles of their cheap gin and a couple of bags of sugar (and some DVDs for Sarah to watch when she’s bored, but don’t tell her I told you ;-). After dinner I dug out the sloes from the fridge and set to work. Now we’ve got 6 bottles sat on the worktop, gently turning to various shades of pink as the alcohol extracts red pigment from the fruits skins.

In order to free up enough bottles for this batch I had to pool together one or two of the previous batches (each year has it’s own flavour and subtleties, hence several bottles on the go). And of course the mix HAD to be checked. Just to make sure it’s OK still.

Breathe easy. I can assure you it’s fine :-)

Anyway, if you fancy making your own, here’s my recipe:

You will need
2 X 70cl bottles of Gin
1 empty wine/spirits bottle of similar capacity to the gin bottles.
1lb of sugar
about 1.5lb of sloes.

Wash the sloes, removing all stalks, leaves and anything else apart from sloe berries.
Make holes in the berries. Lore has it that you should use a silver bodkin, but a stainless steel knife cut works fine. Put about 7 oz sloes and 5oz of sugar in the wine bottle. Pour gin in almost to the brim, making sure there are no trapped air bubbles. Then seal tightly. Repeat, putting sloes and sugar in one of the almost empty gin bottle, and top up from the second. Remove some of the remaining gin from the 3rd bottle and add sloes and sugar to this, topping to the brim with the gin removed earlier.

Now the patient bit. Put the bottles out of direct sunlight and invert, mixing the contents at least once per day for the next 6 weeks. The sugar will dissolve and the gin become a bright ruby red. Allow the gin to stand for 2 weeks, then decant the clear liquor, holding back the lees. If desired, a second lot of gin can be added and the run repeated, although this second run will be inferior in colour and flavour.

Set the gin aside to mature. At this stage it will still be quite rough and fiery, without the smooth fruitiness that develops later. By Christmas it will be drinkable, although it will be better by *next* Christmas (or the one after that). Keep the bottle topped up to prevent oxidation until it’s ready to drink.

A word of warning. This is the drink that the bible refers to as ‘sparkling in the glass’. It looks and tastes wonderful – it’s so smooth, warming and easy on the palate. It can also give hangovers of skull-busting proportions. I’d reckon 3 ‘doubles’ over the course of an evening should be fine. Necking half a bottle might make one a little more respectful in future.

Monday 29 September 2003

I have a problem...

and it's me.

I live in an old stone cottage in the countryside. On one side we have a garden with parking etc at the end. On the other side is an old orchard (that used to belong to the rectory) that has been allowed to deteriorate.

The orchard is owned by the Barnes family trust (some of whom live in Canada, curiously enough). Behind the orchard is a barn that has been recently converted to a house by our ex-next door neighbours. They spent a lot of time negotiating the purchase of the barn and some of the other land, but the way in which we first found out about it was when the local council put planning application notices up about it. Communication has always tended to be like this from them to us.

Anyway, zip ahead to the present. Saturday I was out cutting down the herbage at the back, as I have done for the last 12 years or so, when up raced the ex-neighbour and started 'wondering' what I was doing and explaining that he was planning to do it all tomorrow. Cut a long story short, the ENs now rent this land and are responsible for it. And they don't want us out there, even when we don't interfere with them.

My problem? I don't particularly care for land or property, but I'm not happy about this arrangement. In the previous set up the people responsible more-or-less let us get on with it (on one occasion when they DID get difficult the nettles reached over our ground floor windows). But these people want to put sheep out there, and based on our experience with their chickens when they were neighbours, this doesn't bode well. There are other aspects that I don't have space to go into here.

They're within their rights to do this. I want to live in peace with them, but I have a problem with it.

Managed to get out on the bike again.

And someone caught me on camera. There were about 20 of us altogether. Ben and I are on the right of the pic, both in Fox tops (I'm wearing a yellow helmet).

Friday 26 September 2003

Just how British are you?

Reckon you fit in well here, or fancy coming over to "the old country"? Find out how well you'd fit in - take the test.

She's back.

Brought Sarah home this morning. She was rather weak, and lost her breakfast on the way, but she's there now and getting better.

*sighs with relief*

Thursday 25 September 2003


Sarah had her tonsils out this morning.

Ever since I can remember they've been large, and in the past have nearly closed her throat when she's had colds etc. It was always expected that they would shrink as she matured, but they never really did, so a couple of months back it was decided that they could come out.

I dropped Sarah and Chris off at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford at about 7.40am this morning, and Sarah had the op around 10.30. Anaesthetics apparently don't agree with her, and neither does substantial quantities of swallowed blood! However when I saw her this evening she was relatively happy, able to eat (we made a tuna sandwich in the kitchen on the ward) and quite happy. Earlier she'd apparently been a sort of pale green colour most of the time..... Felt sorry for the lass in the next bed. P had a tumour out today, and has a scar almost a foot long down the side of her neck. Makes me very grateful that God has given us all goodbasic health.

Chris has stayed in tonight, so it's a male dominated houshold for a change. It was therefore imperative that we had Pizza, alcohol and dodgy videos* while they were away, just to make the most of the opportunity! Thanks everyone that prayed for Sarah - we really appreciate it, especially Nigel, who dropped by tonight. Hope Liz is better soon too (yep, she's had tonsilitis too!).

* Ben watched 'Friends', which in my eyes is WAY dodgy. And I had a tin of cider with my dinner. We really did have pepperoni pizza.

New images.

I've put the images from Newcastle up in my fotopic gallery. The majority of the images were taken after I'd finished working, Tuesday between 5.30pm and 7.00pm. I also took some Wednesday morning - it started out overcast and wet, with the sun coming out after about 20 mins. The final pics are of a statue called 'Angel of the North' that stands high above the city - sorry for the quality, but I had to concentrate on driving ;-) I suspect there is a deeper meaning to this than mere art, but who knows.

Wednesday 24 September 2003

I'm back.

Survived the trip, although I'm back later than planned (suffered GBH of the ear'ole for it too). The trip was finally successful, and the lab people up there seem happy now.

Pics tomorrow if poss of Newkie, when I've ssen how they came out.

Monday 22 September 2003

And I'm off again.

Back to Newcastle tomorrow. Their machine didn't quite make it after all, so I have to replace a module in there.

I'm driving up (about 250 miles each way) and I've managed to pick up a digital camera this time, so I hope to get some decent shots, if the weather isn't too bad. If it's been raining at least the streets will be a bit cleaner ;-)

I've been away......

Thought I’d get down a few thoughts for the blog while I’m sat in Edinburgh airport waiting for the plane back to London Luton. This is a bit long, so if you get bored I don't blame you.

Wednesday 17th

Well I *think* the trip was successful, although it started off with a bit of a struggle. Being cautious, I set the alarm for 4.35, allowing myself 50 mins before I had to leave. My bod apparently had other ideas, and I turned alarm off, promptly falling back to sleep, I woke just over an hour later, showered and left the house in about 15’ and made it to the airport in just under an hour. Unfortunately I then spent 15’ in the carpark waiting for the bus to appear. So that was my first experience of missing a plane! Not surprisingly, I didn’t pick up the digital camera.

3 hours late, I made it to Edinburgh.

The place I was going is situated outside the city, and despite having a map, it wasn’t easy to find. While trying to read a map and driving through slightly narrow streets, I managed to clip a curb with the front wheel of the hired ‘people carrier’. Instant flat. Notified the hire company, who passed me to their recovery people who passed me to the Kia importer, who said that they’d set things up with a recovery company, and that someone should be there within the hour, and they’d call me. Being the practical impatient type I just went ahead and changed the wheel. I was a mile up the road by the time the recovery people called. Finally arrived at my destination at 2.00.

Things went ‘OK’ thereafter. The instrument I was to collect tested OK, and with minimal hassle, was loaded into the bus. Looking at the map, the drive didn’t seem too bad – a guessed 80 or so miles. The truth was that it’s actually about 130 miles on twisty roads, and on the Scottish side of the border there are speed cameras every few miles. Made it just after 8.00pm.

The hotel was reputed to be in the ‘gay area’. I’d assumed this was a wind up, but walking from the bus to the hotel, I was passed by a guy telling some women what he was expecting to do later, after he’d pulled another guy. Yuk! The hotel was grand enough, with a chandelier suspended from the ceiling 4 floors up - looking down the stairwell gave me a major dose of vertigo. The room was OK once the windows had been open for a couple of hours. Finally got to sleep about 12.30am.

Thursday 18th

Nothing exciting happened during the day, with installation etc going as planned, customers being trained etc. By the end of the day I’m bushed, and when we went for coffee (at about 6.00pm with the head of the lab) I’m nodding off. We (UK sales manager and I) managed to slope off shortly after, and went back to the hotel to change and go out for dinner.

Newcastle is a curious mixture. Northern cities in the UK have a character all their own, and reflect the tough character of people that have had to survive harsh conditions and poverty. Thus architecture varied between grand and ‘quaint’. Restaurants varied from the exotic looking to the kind where you’re sure they serve rat burgers. I could happily spend a couple of days with a decent camera loaded with fine black and white film and a tripod, just taking atmospheric photos of interesting nooks and crannies.

You could also tell that it hadn’t rained that way for a long time. I was on the way through a ‘poor’ area, and on the mobile phone to Chris at the time. The pavement was most unpleasantly stained, and I remember commenting “you know how the streets of London were reputed to be paved with gold? Well the streets of Newcastle are paved with puke”. Earlier in the day I’d seen casings from used needles in the street, and later we passed a ‘cartoon-drunk’, staggering from side to side of the pavement. There were also groups of both men and women, all out for a ‘good time’.

To balance this up, there seemed to be a lot of church groups in the city. It was almost like God had said “where sin abounds, let grace abound all the more”. I reckon you can tell a fair bit by the name a group chooses, and many of these seemed quite reasonable – the sort of places you’d go if you were looking for a church in a city like that. Certainly not just traditional works that were planted 150 years ago, and have long since gone to sleep. It’s encouraging to see that God is doing something there too.

After dinner we passed the evening seated in a bar attached to the hotel (it seemed safest – lots of the pubs in that area were altogether too full of single males, and I also passed a topless bar – quite unusual in the UK). The hotel bar had a section outside, below ground level, and gave us an opportunity for people watching. There were a number of predatory groups around, and I must have seen ‘Jessica Rabbit’ at least 3 times that evening ;-) I was also quite amazed at the sheer volume of liquid people could consume. A group behind us went through 4 additional rounds (having drinks already when we got there) in the space of about an hour, and some were drinking pints.

Friday 19th

Everything went more or less OK, and I escaped about 1.20pm, having to drive back to Edinburgh for the 6.10 flight. Apparently much later in the evening there was a mechanical problem, but I returned blissfully ignorant, believing that everything had worked OK. Finally got home at 8.55 pm, tired but glad to be back.

Tuesday 16 September 2003

Well I finally uploaded the pics from Sunday's ride.

Now fotopic is working again.

Off to bonnie Scotland tomorrow at 5.30am :-( Guess this'll be the last post for a while then. Get home at about 8.30 Friday night.

If I'm feeling heroic and have lots of time I'll drop back to work for the digital camera (theirs is soooo much better than mine). Grab some piccies of Edinburgh and Newcastle (almost Scottish ;-)

More images posted

Or there would be. Fotopic doesn't seem to be accepting images at the moment. Maybe tomorrow night.

Ben and I went for a ride on Sunday afternoon. I've posted a few images in the gallery again.

Note the misting round the lens on the photo of Ben riding toward me. The camera was in a pocket at the back of my jersey, and the lens got misted with persperation. Authenticates my claim to have been working hard ;-)

Well, that was a grand finale.

The kind of worship time where you want to go down on your knees. The prophetic brought directly, specifically and with accuracy and the word preached clearly

I think the OCC King’s centre is well and truly opened.

Interesting too, someone I’d never met before came up to me with a ‘word’ after the meeting. I know the man’s face, but since he’s Oxford based and I’m 20 miles away in Bicester, we tend not to have much to do with each other. The word was unusual too, in that at the time it made no particular sense, yet felt right in my spirit. It was only as I drove to the supermarket for a late night shop that God started revealing where it fitted.

I seem to be in a state of change too, and others have noticed. For years I’ve been playing guitar in worship, yet unable to sing. When I’ve had to put the guitar down I’ve really struggled, yet God now seems to be gradually releasing me of the need to play. At the same time I’m starting to be able to sing and lead worship that way. Other things are changing too. I’ve always tended toward the pastoral care/teaching side of things, yet that seems to be ebbing and I can feel prophetic stirrings coming to the surface.

It’s curious, because it seems that after having been a consistent, reliable and controlled character for so long, I’m about to metamorphose into a different shape. And few people will be any more surprised than me.

Monday 15 September 2003

More pics up in the gallery

On Saturday Chris and I went for a local ride. Well, I rode and she fell off lot. She's very brave - didn't learn to ride until she was in her 30s, and wasn't brought up to develop a sense of balance. And I took my crappy camera along too.

There will be some more shortly, from when Boy-Wonder and I did our local loop (a fast-ish 18 miles) on Sunday afternoon. It gave me a chance to try a recently updated Sharon (single speed saracen) and the results were quite pleasing. Mind you, riding a mountain bike of road with only one gear is still hard, whatever kit you hang on the frame. I didn't have time to upload last night, so I'll try to post them this evening after I've been to the final meeting in Oxford and gone shopping afterward.

Saturday 13 September 2003

A little snippet

from Bryn Franklin.

He was sharing insights God had given him recently. God showed him the passage where Jesus has been to visit Jerusalem aged 12, and remained there after his parents left. They were a day in the train before realising.

The insight was that "presumption is doing what worked before".

The heart of worship? Two cultures collide.

I’ve been reading in blogs by those I respect recently about different people’s versions of worship, making it a lifestyle thing etc. and some of these have caused conflict for me. For this reason, rather than comment, I’ve tried to hold back until thoughts had distilled. That now seems to have happened, so here goes.

I struggle with the idea of acts of service being an act of worship. Through everything that I’ve read in the bible (filtered through my understanding, granted) and in my experience, worship involves closeness, intimacy, waiting on God. And it’s in this area that I see the main conflict – specifically, external activity needs to be excluded.

God seems to have copied many of the things from heaven for our use on Earth. Symbolically worship has been linked to acts of human physical intimacy. The bible uses VERY unambiguous language about those that worship other Gods. At the same time the church is repeatedly called ‘the bride of Christ’. For me there is a clear symbolic link between worship and physical love. When we are with our partners in this way then nothing else should intrude: we are there for the time between us, and externals that draw from that are an intrusion and distraction. To combine acts of service with worship would be like saying “would you mind if we made love in the car, because I have to get the kids to school”.

So where does the issue of collision come in? I believe that human religious culture and practice still plays a major role in modern thinking. It replaces the awe of God with ‘reverence for the sanctuary, the mystery of God moving us with a spiritual sounding liturgy and a suggestion that we are unable to see God at work because he’s too mysterious. This religious culture sanctifies things, using the concept of “this activity is so good/holy/sacrificial/whatever that it must be valid”.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I am very much in favour of the body serving people both within and without. I can see that by giving ourselves “first to God, then to each other” we are honouring God in our bodies. I also firmly believe that worship is a 24/7 attitude and not something restricted to a Sunday morning. I DO have a major problem with the idea that acts of service can be substituted for corporate worship, and time of drawing close to God.

Finally, bringing up a point from a recent blog by Randall, I’d just like to comment on the role of songs and music in worship. I have a place where I know I’m in God’s presence – a place where I feel I’m prostrate before him, laying there in awe, yet at the same time being held with loving arms. Very often songs and music can help me reach that place. Sometimes God just calls me there alone. But by singing the songs and getting involved in the music I can often find that place more easily, however they’re just tools to help get me there. That’s my place of worship.

We went to a variety show tonight.

It was the first part of the opening 'celebrations' for the king's centre. Steve Thomas spoke for some time about where Oxfordshire community churches had come from, detailing some of the groups, churches and churches they'd been thrown out of. After a time of worship designed to be 'dignitary-friendly' we were addressed by a variety of people. Highlights:

Charlie Cleverly, Rector of st. Aldates mentioned that when he was in Oxford to take up his post he visited a Vineyard meeting. In conversation with the leaders after the meeting (who didn't know who he was) he expressed that he'd hoped for a more conventional meeting (it was the summer and they were in small groups). They suggested he might prefer St. Aldates!

Gerald Coates mentioned a number of things but recommended everyone watch BBC2 at 8.50 on Wednesday. Apparently they're covering a major evangelistic event organised by Mike Pilavachi in Manchester. He said it was interesting how the major evangelistic works seemed to be originating in the anglican church at the present.

Franscois van Niekerk from Hatfield Christian Church in Pretoria said all sorts of pertinent things, none of which have stuck in my mind. Good man though. We'll hear more of him tomorrow at the leaders day.

Barney Coombes spoke about the sanctity of the person as a building block in the church, and how buildings were nothing more than a tool. He related a line from a hymn about how the author loved a particular place where God was honoured. He observed that he had never once found anywhere of any significance in that fashion, and how God was far better represented in his creation that in any of man's works. He also fitted in a straight gospel message, complete with explanations about how to pray for salvation.

Final funny bit was a clipping from Todays (Fridays) paper talking about the area centre. It quoted Reverend Steve Thomas and Reverend Mike Beaumont. We know these guys, and they're friends. It's really funny to see them quotes like this - they're usually Mike and Steve. Weird, the things that people that don't understand try to hang on people.

Friday 12 September 2003

Are virtual words virtually meaningless?

Leighton posted about the assumption that 'virtual words' are in some subtle way different from other communications.

In my opinion the 'virtual' tag is escapism. People (well some, anyway) want a fantasy world, just like they see in films, where they can throw off all restraint. Do what ever they like; the net appears to offer that. Remember how everyone was saying about 3 or 4 years ago how the net couldn't be regulated? Suddenly it turns out that 'meatspace' laws apply where ever you happen to be sat typing.

There's another aspect too. People like to assume that whatever is 'said' in 'cyberspace' isn't real. We were all told we can be 'whoever we want'. As he pointed out, it's almost all text, and text is writing. And writing is just words in visual form. The medium actually makes zip difference. They are still the words that have been 'spoken', albeit through a keyboard.

The bible makes a big deal of words. Words aren't simply noises: they carry both meaning and power. David prayed that God "won't let my words fall to the ground". There's even a suggestion that we may be judged by every word that we've spoken. People are expressing themselves this way as never before. Wonder where all their words are going?

Thursday 11 September 2003

On a cheerier note.

We were impressed with Ben recently.

He's got some fairly 'interesting' friends in the village, one of whom he often has deep and philosophical conversations with. This boy came up with the idea that a perfect life would be one where you never had to do anything you didn't like. Ben's reply was that a perfect life would be one where you could find pleasure in everything that you did.

Not bad for a 15 year old, really.

Contentment with Godliness is great gain.

Another day deeper

And older in debt. I've just about completed the beastly tax return. Can't imagine why I need to do one, since I'm taxed through 'Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and it comes directly from the employer.

Ours is not to reason why.......

I'm afraid blogging may be a bit sparse for a while. I've got a very packed W/E - we're opening the new facility in Oxford, and it's a chance to get local dignitaries in to hear the word of God. Significant because the city council etc are vehmently opposed to anything that might bring a Christian influence to bear on the city. Things may be a little different if you wish to open a mosque of course (or even convert a church to one) but they would prefer it if we'd just become atheists.

Alternatively if we were mearly an ineffective bunch of traditional church goers then I suspect that would be fine too.

Sorry. Rant over.

Tuesday 9 September 2003

Well that was the day, that was.

We had a visit from The man that owns the company I work for today. He's an incredibly interesting person; I've never known anyone radiate 'fatherhood' the way Gopal does.

The company is based in Houston, with branches in Germany, India, France and the UK. Despite being so diverse, it runs very much like a family business, with all the advantages and disadvantages of that model. Whenever I meet him there is an atmosphere of organised chaos, and it seems to follow him where ever he goes. In some ways it was really great to get together, because he's got loads of interesting ideas for areas of research and new work that we can do, yet at the same time it effectively wrote the entire day off for other work.

It now seems that I'm going to Houston in November, and will be spending the better part of the next 2 working weeks in Scotland (although that was thanks to the guys in sales). And we need to upgrade our ISO accreditation, get registered for radioactive work, kit out a new lab and a pile of other things too.

Anyone ever feel inadequate?

I KNOW God put me in this job (I'd never aspire to this much responibility) but I feel so inadequate most of the time. Yet somehow He always seems to make my mistakes get worked out OK in the end. I don't know how He does it, and I know I'm not always faithful to keep up my side of things, yet He still does.

Monday 8 September 2003

It's not what you do......

it's the why that you do it.

I was talking with my mother last night. She's 71 and suffering the slings and arrows of a body that's rushing ahead, age wise, of her mind. The church she's part of has a long tradition of loud and exuberant worship, and while there's nothing wrong with that, she can no longer cope with the volume level in the way she could when she was younger. A few months back she took it to God, and he basically said "it's OK - you can move on". So the search began.

What she wanted was a church where things were a little quieter, but where there was the same waiting on God, the same taking time in the worship, the same openess to God's moving. Having visited a number of churches in the area, she found an anglican church (rather to her dismay) that nearly fitted the bill. Her problem was..... the worship. While talking to one of the members, she summarised it as moving from a church where they worshipped like Mary to one where they worshipped like Martha. They would 'do' a couple of songs, then someone would bob up with a clevely designed prayer, or read something they had been allocated earlier.

Now, for those of a more 'US' background, this isn't a carefully stage managed meeting. This is, after all, just a little anglican church in a London suburb (you'd need to have seen this type of church to know what I mean). It's much more a place where people want to do all the "right things" but just by adding what's perceived as 'lively' to an existing structure. The result is that the focus is on 'doing worship' rather than the object of the worship.

Why, and indeed what, do we worship?

Sunday 7 September 2003

Ah, the presence of God again.

Today has been a day for being with family - church family. The family group (like a housegroup, but subtly different) had a barbecue this lunchtime in a home, followed by the church getting together to baptise.

We started off in a school hall that we've never used before, with some of the most 'interesting' acoustics I've ever come across in a building. We only had time to sing 2 songs, and I really struggled to push through into worship, knowing that was all we had. I was playing and leading sans PA and found it really hard to hear what was going on, while trying to guide people through the 'power of mime'. There were also a lot of people from outside the church present, and that added to the tension. God was gracious though, and I could see and feel many people were entering God's presence, despite my struggle.

The girls being baptised then went forward and talked about how God was at work in their lives and what had brought them to that point. Then each was sent to a separate part of the room, and those that had words or prayers for them went with them. God was again gracious to me and gave me words for 2 of them. While delivering the second word, about half way through I just felt the Spirit touch something inside and nearly broke down, having to pause for a minute before continuing.

We then broke up and walked the half mile or so the house of one of our members, who has a small swimming pool in their garden. It was a lovely warm late summer's afternoon, and not at all the wet and windy time that had been forecast. The Girls were baptised in the pool by one of the elders (Steve's just turned 30 ;-) and either a parent or special friend. After emerging from the water, a piece of music that was specially meaningful to them was played (the only one I recognised was 'come, now is the time to worship' chosen by Olivia). Then we all ate together, everyone contributing to the food and drink, and enjoyed each other's company.

My camera deigned to keep it's memory this time, and there's another gallery if you want to see what we all look like. The camera is anything but wonderful, but there is a 'representative likeness' to the images.


Tired now. Had a long day: sorting out things in the garden, getting Ben new school shoes, buying a map (in Banbury - 25 mins drive away) starting to fix the shower (wood to be cut and varnished), organising a bike ride AND having to break down the shed door because my wife hid the keys this afternoon.

Had a good ride, although poor Dan got mildly scuffed.

Looking forward to tomorrow. Baptisms in the afternoon - Some teenagers from the youth group, plus a lass with significant 'learning difficulties' who's been part of the fellowship for a fair while.

Friday 5 September 2003

New images up

I've added a few mountain biking shots of Boy Wonder and myself to the gallery. Rowney Warren in the spring is a lovely place, and even better when you can hammer around it on an MTB. I only posted a couple of minutes ago, so they may take an hour or 2 to make it to the server.

Bloomin' heck

I've been busy. Out Wednesday evening, Kids back to school and spent all day in the lab yesterday, doing tax return in the evening. Who's got time for living?

Wednesday 3 September 2003

2 wrongs?

Just came across this link. At least they described him as 'former' pastor.

How often do we forget that our weapons are "not those of the world, but are for tearing down strongholds" (gospel according to Toni's memory)?

Tuesday 2 September 2003

If we didn't have rough bits.....

we wouldn't appreciate smooth bits.

I'd planned to post here last night, but that 'wonderful' oven that I mentioned needed re-fitting for various reasons (long story). Got halfway through fitting it, cooked dinner (Chris was out doing aerobics) then finished the job. Finally printed the manual (downloaded from the net) at about 11.30ish. Meanwhile, about 10.45 Chris had started looking through the paperwork for the tax return I've got to complete. Now I've not been particularly good about getting with things (I'm like that these days) and we've got 3 weeks to go until it has to be in. Come about 11.40 some fairly 'firm' words were spoken, and then finally a rather chilly bedtime arrived. Not ideal.

On the good side, we did make up this morning (I hate going to bed angry, but you can't say sorry while you're gritting your teeth).

I'm also struggling with the 'war on want'. That is, I want things and have to restrain myself from being a good little consumer and buying them. I have many hobbies, and they are all cash-intensive, meaning that I could spend a couple of incomes quite happily on self gratification. The thing is that by the Grace of God I know this isn't right, and a tussle ensues. There seems to be a point where the desire to buy reaches a crescendo and then falls away. If I can wait out the storm then things are fine, and I can 'take a view' and be rational. I don't wish to be greedy in all this, but the voice of ME shouts quite loudly at times.

I *think* I've just ridden out the storm and the water ahead should be reasonably clear for a few days. Lets just hope there aren't any hidden rocks.

Sunday 31 August 2003

It's good to have Ben back

He's been away at a youth camp.

"Did you enjoy it"?
"what did you do"?
"This and that".

Looks like they had a barrel of laughs then. He did hug us though, once we'd got home and there was no-one else around.

BTW this nearly didn't get posted. Thought I'd do a 'quick' processor upgrade this afternoon. 1 dead mobo and a number of hours later I'm back on line. Doncha love computers.

Saturday 30 August 2003

Well, that was a funny day.

It started out a bit slow, sayong goodbye to friends, then having to wait half an hour for *someone* to get themselves ready to go out. The next bit is a long story, involving shopping for a gate, but returning with an oven, and having to make 2 trips into Oxford because the oven was too big to go in the first car :-/

But such is life that it all turned around this afternoon, and despite every predictable obstacle being put in my way (why do oven sizes get altered every couple of years??) it is now fitted and working.

This evening another good friend (Jez) brought a 'dumped' bike over, which we fixed and made roadworthy. This is particularly good, since he has had to borrow a bike to ride to work. And the new one is actually quite decent too (amazing what some people throw away, it really is). It's rather good, because Jez is a teacher and gave Ben some 'help' with German for his exams this year, so we've been wanting to find a tangible way to say thanks, and it's great that this came up.

Goodbye for now

To some good friends of ours. A couple we've known for over 20 years now, Trevor and Karin Allen, dropped by yesterday evening, stopping overnight with us. We first met them when we were first married - our wedding was a good point at which to make the break from the dead Baptist church we were in without offending too many people. They were in the new church we joined (and still are) and were one of the more mature 'young couples'. I think Trev was about 30 and Karin 28 then (we were 20 and 18!). But we've always been good friends, and their visit was like rolling away all the time we've been apart.

They're on a whistlestop tour heading north. Hope you 2 have a good time, and enjoy all the renewed acquaintences. Thanks for dropping by.

Friday 29 August 2003

An early morning prayer.

Lord, I want to be righteous.
You can see my heart, how it desires so many things, but forgets you.
Yet you still call me to come close.
You are faithful, I am weak. How can I stand before you?
Wash me through again.
Let me know your forgiveness and cleansing.
Change my heart within from stone to flesh.
Show me your ways, that I can walk in them.
Thankyou Father.

Sometimes you get to see yourself a little more clearly, and a little less like you'd like to think you are.

Thursday 28 August 2003


Yet another new photo collection published.

Chris passed the magic '40' milestone back in February, and to celebrate, wanted to do something a little wilder than usual. I guess you could say she's a fallen woman now (",).

Wednesday 27 August 2003

And now, the end is nigh.......

We had our first rain this morning since we came back from holiday. Bye bye summer, bye bye dry trails, it's been nice knowing you.

Tuesday 26 August 2003

That's better

Got home from work about 6.15, grabbed Sharon (my singlespeed saracen MTB) and headed out. 18 cross country miles and 1hr 25 mins later and virtually all of the stress from yesterday's outing plus todays work have gone.

I may not be very righteous, but I'm grateful for what I can enjoy.

The opulent

Having read Randall's blog this morning, this seemed an entirely appropriate title. As promised, you can view the images from yesterday's visit to Hampton Court palace on I've known Hampton court for a long time, but only from the outside, having fished the river Thames beside it for many years as a kid, so this was a first.

I wonder how much you can tell about people from their decor? People were certainly religious in those days, but apparently with very strange beliefs. The paintings (both walls and canvas) and tapestries show a wild mix of Christian, quasi-christian and greek mythology, all seemlessly intertwined. There was also an erotic flavour to it that I've never been aware of before in 'old master' type paintings. It might just be me, but bearing in mind that during certain reigns the court was practically a knocking shop, maybe I shouldn't find that so surprising.

I've also always been pro-monarchy, despite it being very unfashionable here at certain times. Seeing this place has made me wonder. I've tended to overlook the bowing, scraping and general humiliation of subjects that the royal presence demanded, but here it was so 'in your face' that it couldn't be ignored. It was compounded for me by the regency aspects to the building - the regency period was an era where the poor were truly treated as if beneath contempt by the rich. Toward the end I was just sick of the place - the exaggerated wealth, the rules, and especially the whole falsley religious side of things. Enough is known about the private lives of past monarchs to show that, regardless of their status as head of the church of England, many of them lived deliberately non-Christian lives, even by the standards of the day. I have to say however, that the present Queen does not reflect this, and I have much respect for the way in which she has chosen to live her life.

Maybe I'm really just a rebellious anarchist, trying to throw off restraint.

Ignoring the emotions it stimulated, the palace is kind of interesting, and if you like Gardens then they are particularly good. I've also managed to include a number of pictures of people in authentic costumes. They made a very big deal about use of correct fabrics and techniques etc to make these. These probably do appear very much like they would have done originally, except that they are a lot cleaner! Unfortunately it is not permitted to take pictures inside, so there are no interior shots. The most spectacular interior was inside the chapel, with an incredibly intricate and detailed ceiling, gold covered cherubs a go-go and acres of polished wood panelling. Again my cynicism would make me question whether God's ever been near the place, but he's far more gracious than me and it may be that it is a genuine place of worship, rather than a temple to human glory.

Hope you enjoy the pics.

Monday 25 August 2003

Yaay! It's a bank holiday today.

So I've got a day off with the family. Now, should we visit Hampton court or Windsor castle?

<10 second pause>

Chris just wandered by and said "Hampton court", so it looks like that's where we're going. I'll try to grab some pics and post them on tomorrow.

Sunday 24 August 2003

I just love it when

People are really up for it with worship. This evening we had our 'family' type meeting (meant not to be serious etc). But one song in, everyone is just waiting to break into singing in the spirit when the words are out of the way. And people kept asking to sing appropriate songs, rather than needing a prompt or just waiting for someone else.

We didn't soar, because that isn't what this particular time is meant to be about (if God wants to over-rule sovereignly then that's fine however) but I could feel people just wanting to edge over into more. I'm getting quite excited now to see where He's going to take us over the next few weeks.

My single piece of discomfort in all this is seeing another good friend, Andrew K, there. He's in a lot of pain - pretty much morphine on demand, due to a near-failed liver plus various other functions that aren't too good. I know he's tough about pain, because even though his knees have been shot for a long time he's never stopped working (he's about 6'5", 330lb and runs a building company). But talking to him tonight and seeing him sweat from the pain, makes me want to ask "why"? Healing is a gift that just cannot be taken for granted.

Saturday 23 August 2003

Good friends again.

Had some good friends (Jeremy and Helen, plus progeny) over tonight. It's really great, spending time with people we used to know so well, but haven't really spent been with much over the last few years.

Tomorrow Ben's off to "Exe 2003". It's a youth camp run by salt and light churches in southern England, and held at Exmouth. This year (at 15) he's going as one of the junior leaders. I seriously hope he get's touched while there - while he knows God, he also struggles with what he feels is insufficient awareness of God on a daily basis. We were talking in the car after he'd finished his Saturday job, and discussing how many of the guys in his class did soft drugs (most of them, apparently, although I suspect some say they do to fit in). Ben's always been someone that walks his own path, but sometimes it feels like our kids have to walk through a hairy old world.

Anyway, with his natural sense of timing and style he's upstairs packing now, at 9.30pm. In 12 hours time he'll be off.

Friday 22 August 2003

Well, she's gone.

It's interesting how you can actually get to love some people over the years. I've often felt like the older brother, and Kathy my younger and slightly wayward sister. But I'd like to think that I've had an influence too, and that our marriage has given her inspiration for her own.

Feel slightly hollow now, but that will pass.

Next stop - Sarah :-)

Mixed weather ahead

Actually it's nothing to do with the weather at all, but today there's cause for celebration and sadness.

Sadness first - someone that I've worked with for the last 7 years is leaving today, to move to Ireland. I've known Kathy since 1997, and we've become almost like brother and sister. Kathy is quite an interesting character, and has seen a fair bit more of the world than most people of twice her age. One of my lasting memories of her was that within the first week in the lab together she said "I won't sleep with you; I just don't fancy you". That was fine by Chris and me ;-)

I will miss her friendship though, and as a company we'll definitely miss her skill set and determination.

The good news is today is my daughter Sarah's 14th birthday. We woke her and Ben early (by their standards - we were ready to leave for work) and sat on the bed while she opened presents. We've had some interesting times, particularly in the last 3 years, but it was 15 minutes of un-alloyed happiness for her. When I left she was busy trying on clothes. Tonight we're taking the children to see "Pirates of the Carribean" followed by a Chinese meal in Oxford. Should be fun.

Thursday 21 August 2003

One of those nights...

Think I've mentioned on Randall's blog that as a church we've been told to 'pause, turn and focus on God'. Well, as a result we've scrapped our normal pattern of church meetings, house groups etc. Instead we meet for a light, family oriented meeting on Sunday PM, followed by tea, with a serious Wednesday night time of biblestudy, prayer and worship. The worship has been de-focussed too, so that it's lead from the 'hatha'* principle instead of with a worship leader, and with a single instrument, rather than a band. To keep things simple I'd taken an acoustic guitar.

The plan was to open with a single song to help people draw near to God before starting the bible study. God was gracious enough to turn up however, and after about 20 or 25 mins we managed to pull ourselves round to the idea of bible study. The study was good, but it was clearly not the main event, and we were aware of God really wanting to touch us through the Holy Spirit. We broke down for prayer with people ministering to each other, then came back together for worship. It was one of those nights where you don't want to stop, and the desire to keep going fights with the tiredness of the fingers. There are few feelings to compare with the rythmns of heaven being played through your hands. It doesn't even need a specific song to be sung, although when a new one is started then it brings a fresh wave through, as you move into a new key and chord structure. People were singing in the Spirit and in English, as the spirit moved them.

Even when we were packing away it seemed to just take a couple of key words to trigger another song. However by that time we had also become light-hearted, the way you seem to when you've touched the Throne and come back to Earth.

Who can ask for more?

* "everyone hath a word or as spiritual song". Cringe? Yeah, I did the first time I heard it too, but it's still funny ;-)

Wednesday 20 August 2003

One thing leads to another.

I read Linea's blog this morning about going on a spiritual retreat, and was thinking about how it's a very 'Anglican' church thing to do, at least in the UK. This crossed into spending time with God generally, and how in my particular church stream, retreats tend to be relatively rare, and then usually just for a day or so.

It was at this point I felt God say "what are you planning to do this lunchtime?" The pattern for the last couple of weeks has been to read and reply to blogs, work on my own, view various websites etc. Gradually the realisation came that I've been spending more time on the net than with Him. I then felt him quite clearly say "Come and spend lunchtime with Me".

See you all later then, I've got an appointment.