Saturday, 31 December 2005
So we missed a call from this man.
Thanks for taking the time to call, and yes, we'll certainly meet someday. Love to you all and praying you have a peaceful family Christmas (and new year, as Chris pointed out to me).
Wednesday, 28 December 2005
Rose is interesting, because for a long time we'd thought Chris the only Christian in her family. It's since turned out that Rose's family have a strong Christian faith and have been involved in all kinds of things. I'm not sure where it might take us in the future, but I feel it's significant that God has brought this to our attention after so many years.
She's also the oldest female in her family remaining, at 85. Quite remarkable.
Let me quote this post by Nikita:
Back To Work After Christmas
-But I have a LOT to tell!!
I'll start from the beginning and apologize now for the long post coming up!
Christmas Eve, Dan came to my Grandparents house (Grandma Joy etc) and the whole family was round. Grandma cooked a lush dinner (Jacket potatoes, cold meat etc etc)
and we played muder in the dark!!! Was very funny! :D
Cameron, the youngest cousin at 4 yrs old, wouldn't part from Dan! hehe!! And Dan didn't get annoyed that much with him! wow! lol!
Christmas morning was kinda boring. Everyone was cranky for bein woken up early!
But about 18:00 things started to get intersting...
My (great) Aunt Dorothy had given the grandchildren (us kids) £30 to give to a single chrity we think needed it most.
We went round the room, and each kid voted secretly for the chrity they wanted. I voted for OpenDoors. But as nobody had ever heard of it in my non-christian family, I decided to make a quick plea and tell them about what OpenDoors did.
Then we voted again. There was 5 kids voting, 2 didn't vote for OpenDoors, 2 others changed their mind because of what I said, with the guidance of the Lord. £30 is now heading to OpenDoors.
This caused a big discusion with my family.
Like "If there is such a thing as God, why do so many people worship other 'Gods'?" and "If there is such a thing as a 'God' then why do young people die?" "Why did the Tsunami happen?" etc etc
I prayed to God to guide me with what I needed to say, to show me the right verses, and to help my family understand the Christain faith.
He guided me.
He showed me the verses, I quoted them to my family,
and He helped them understand why I became a Christian, and I hope and pray that the Lord can give them more hunger to search for Him.
After the discusion,
Brooke (my 11 yr old cousin) said that she believes in God. Uncle David said he thinks something is out there and wants to find out what. Uncle Craig wants to keep 'open minded' but thinks Christianity is the way forward.
Brooke and Ginny, the only other girls that voted for OpenDoors, on Christmas Day, decided they want to come to BCC youth group and want to become Christians.
Dan phoned as soon I'd finished talking to my family.
I ran upstairs and actually burst into tears! I was SO happy!!
I think felt the Lord speak through me! It was scarey but amazing! I was quoting from the Bible, I was talking to Craig, Grandma, David, Ginny, Brooke, Grandad and Mum about God!!!
It was AMAZING!!
Kita - you, Dan and Liv do good things to our hearts.
Tuesday, 27 December 2005
With a little help from my trusty (rusty) hacksaw and drill the new closure plate for the rayburn has been persuaded to fit. It's been running about an hour and seemes to be OK. However part of the process required cutting of some mineral fibre rope, and just like glass wool, the fibres have stuck in my skin in odd places.
I've just got back from work now, having popped in to top up the liquid nitrogen conatiners we keep cells frozen in.
LN2 is amazing stuff.
It has a crystaline transparency that water cannot match, and because it is so inert, all polished surfaces stay that way without corrosion. Looking down into the biggest dewar (vacuum flask to non-scientists) you have a brilliant clear view to the bottom. All that disappears when you stop adding nitrogen, as the moisture in the air condenses in the freezing gas stream, turning to fog.
Monday, 26 December 2005
Sunday, 25 December 2005
Saturday, 24 December 2005
Thursday, 22 December 2005
Olivia will be a little late due to a work training event.
Wednesday, 21 December 2005
I always wondered what the point of carols was, and why people would especially want to sing them, after all, the words are frequently contrived and a little cringe-worthy. I've finally figured it out. The point is to have a bit of a jamboree together, visiting houses, stopping off for food and drink and having a mostly well-behaved party.
Seems fair enough.
I wonder if this is how many religious festivals started?
There's some value in this thinking too. I'm a natural humbug, and while I enjoy doing things that are a bit wild, I can also be reserved and look askance at those doing slightly outre things that I don't naturally gravitate to. A little self-analysis can be useful for figuring out what makes me tock when others tick.
Tuesday, 20 December 2005
Answer: Chuck Beret.
MD "Can I have the keys to the company car?"
Me "Here they are, and by the way, it's full of fuel"
MD "Well, what can you say to that!"
Oh yes, it's a barrel of laughs here.
Monday, 19 December 2005
There's a website for it of sorts, but not especially impressive, so I see little point in linking to it.
Matt - say "Hi" to Cas for me.
Sunday, 18 December 2005
The trailers made it look good, so I picked up the DVD in Gatport Airwick.
Darn silly thing to do.
Tedious and embarassing in it's stupidity, not to mince words.
If you haven't seen it then count yourself lucky. I'm just glad it only cost £6.80 instead of £16 for proper cinema tickets.
Saturday, 17 December 2005
And the guilty party:
Pulling the Rayburn to bits.
Those with long blogging memories will remember last November and there's a certain sense of deja vu re-reading that archive. The guy that replaced the water jacket last year put a metal plate in wrong - above instead of below the insulation, and also upside down! That last pic shows what happens to mild steel after a prolonged period in intense heat.
I was just talking with Chris about how the burner works and how simple it was. Used the immortal words "it's not rocket science" when I realised that actually it IS like rocket science. The main difference is that we're generating heat, rather than propulsion.
Ho hum. Better buy some more coal.
Thursday, 15 December 2005
Thanks if you were praying for me to make it - I got home around 4.45ish. Really tired now (I kept falling asleep) but have managed to stay up until a reasonable bed time, so here I go.
Time-zone reintegration isn't half as 'hi tech' as it sounds.
Wednesday, 14 December 2005
It seems our flight to Chicago has been cancelled. Fortunately our travel agent in the UK has booked us onto a Northwestern airlines flight around the same time that is still on, so we *should* make it home as planned.
Tuesday, 13 December 2005
Monday, 12 December 2005
The presentation seemed to go OK. But I just feel isolated, a bit useless and inadequate really. Been thinking about Sarah, and that's not lifted me up either. The guys here are smart, sharp and have already done most of the background work required (or aso it seems) so I'm feeling dull, slow, insecure and inadequate.
There's no way I'll give in to depression, but I'm certainly aware of it, lurking in the background.
It's probably lack of sleep, accumulated over the last few days, and will lift once I get enough. I was tempted not to mention this, but it doesn't seem useful to hide things like that.
Don't worry about me - I'll come through, but this is just how it is for now. We're heading off for dinner in about 10 mins.
Missing my family - blood and extended. See you all in a few days.
Met some people from the company I used to work for (R&D systems) that were good ad interesting. Had a huge bacon cheese burger in a sports bar (made up for zero lunch).
Finally got to my hotel at about 9.30pm. Now I'm unpacked and have surfed a little I'm off to bed.
Oh, BTW. Jon - great to hear how you got on yesterday. Keep hanging in there. I think there is a lot of healing waiting for you.
Sunday, 11 December 2005
I also put a wreath on the door, ivy twisted around a twiggy circle with red gingham bows.
2) The stove didn't go out even though we were out of the house for 5 1/2 hours, and the house still feels warm.
3) Best of all, Jon came to church.
It was a really good meeting, I was certainly touched by God. I hope Jon felt some of that too.
Set alarm for 6.30.
Woke up at 5am worrying about catching the flight.
Never mind, there may be time for a snooze on the plane, if my bod will let me.
Wonder who will stock a replacement jet for the rayburn? Sorry you had all that too my love.
For those not in the know, this is an oil fired stove (the same as an Aga) which is a major source of heating itself, but which also runs the central heating. Toni mentioned in his blog about not sleeping that he thought it was making funny noises, obviously that wasn't just the product of an over tired & over active brain. This morning it was making more funny noises, it sounded like it couldn't fire up, & when I went into the kitchen I could smell oil. So I have turned it off. I suspect that the jet needs cleaning, or something simple like that, but I can't do it. Poor Toni, he's going to have a lot to do when he gets home. We were meant to be going Christmas shopping next Friday, & putting the tree up on Saturday, but I wonder if we'll have time.
Whilst outside gathering winter fu-ooo-el to light the little stove in the living room, Carolyn rang to invite Ben & I to lunch. What a blessing!
Said little stove has smoked profusely & made the room very smelly, but appears to have lit now. We also have a couple of oil filled radiators & a fan heater, so we are not totally without heating. I need to get the large oil filled radiator downstairs but it is rather heavy & our stairs are steep & twisting. I wonder if muscle man can be persuaded to get out of bed to help?
Saturday, 10 December 2005
All done with the aplomb of a peri-pubertal teenager trying to convince himself he looks OK.
Yesterday's journey was a 'mare though.
The plane was delayed by about 2 hours at Gatport Airwick, partly due to fog, partly due to everyone else talking a long time to eave. The pilot announced that to save fuel, he wouldn't be making up the time.
We literally ran through part sof Fort Worth's airport, only to then wait 35 mins for baggage collection. Bags re-checked, 20 mins through security. From which we ran to the train that taook us round the airport to our terminal, then ran down to the gate just to be told the plane left early and we'd already missed it.
Mexican food, a couple of beers and 2 hour to kill let me sleep a little, then being on a quieter plane let me sleep a little more - probably an hour in total.
WE got to Tom and Jenny's party around 11.00pm - almost exactly 24 hours after leaving home. They had a lovely warm welcome for us, and made it somehow feel worthwhile afterall, just for that. Finally slept at about 1.30am (7.30 in the UK) and woke around 6.30.
So here we go - a grey and un-characteristically cool Texan day. Thanks everyone that prayed for me - I had no right to hold up so well.
Friday, 9 December 2005
Shortly after writing the previous post, Jill, a friend from years ago, rang me (NOT having read it) and was able to talk & pray with me & generally encourage me. She had been at a prayer meeting but left early & on the way home remembered that she wanted to ring me, so that definately sounds like she was prompted.
Eventually I said I needed to go as I had to pick Ben up (the car is driveable but has only one headlight & he didn't want to stopped by the boys in blue.) I was just putting my shoes on when the phone rang. It was Sue who had read the blog. She simply said 'Is there anything I can do?'. So I said 'Well.. you could pick Ben up', which she is kindly doing. That meant I was home just now to receive Toni's 'phone call from the States.
All this goes a long way to restoring my faith which was being shaken a bit. He really does respond when we cry out to him, he does sometimes seem to wait until we are desperate though (or is it that it is only then that we really cry out?).
BTW, Toni's flight was delayed this morning for 2 hours because of fog. He was ringing from Dallas where he is changing flights for his onward journey to Houston. He did not manage to sleep on the plane so he has presently (at 10:30 pm GMT) been awake for more than 40 hours & doesn't expect to get to bed for about another 8 hours!
So, do we lose our no claims bonus or fork out?
Either way it is going to cost a packet I suspect.
And Toni isn't here, & I have so much to try & do re Mum's house move, which I was going to do this week but didn't because of Ben being in hospital. And Toni was going to help but now isn't here to do it.
I just want to run away & hide.
He and I take slightly different views. I think it's great. But then I always was a Christmas humbug.
However, while checking out the bible I did come across Galatians 4 v9-11. Slightly out of context, but food for thought over Christmas and Oester (to give it the original pagan name).
What do i want for Christmas? A large wooden spoon apparently.
My car to take me to the airport arrives in 3 1/2 hours.
I had my first inkling that things weren't going to be easy when I couldn't finish in time tonight at work. Calling home so I could stay another 30 min, I found Chris was in tears.
Dashed home. Attempted rather feebly to comfort wife. Cooked dinner. Greeted newly returned son.
Ben popped out to see some friends (they needed hugs from him, apparently) and we engaged each other's attention in a way that helps most males sleep after. Note this bit.
Dashed back to work. Sorted laptop. Collected papers to read in preparation for meeting. Picked up data. Packed box. Wrote a couple of orders. Dashed home again.
Toward the end I could feel things becoming increasingly imprecise. Most of this week has felt like it was wasted. There's been a cold going round that takes the edge off people, and with Ben in hospital, my edge has been truly off. Today, when the rubber hit the road and I HAD to get stuff done God was gracious enough to give me a sharp brain.
It's like I rode through the eye of a storm, with calmness around and thoughts flowing reasonably clearly.
Tonight the fug was returning, but the brain would not stop sizzling from the days business.
Got home, packed the case with the stuff Chris had so kindly ironed. Went donstairs, ironed a pair of jeans to wear while travelling, dashed around and got all hot before climbing into bed. Had our last (by now, too warm) cuddle and then completely failed to sleep.
My head was too full, overflowing with thoughts, awash with streams of words, imaginings and intentions running through it. Must find that hat. EZ81 or 5Y3 rectifier. Add an extra line to that organisation chart. Should I go to guitar centre or Rockin' Robins? Will Mervyns have any good trousers. What will Gopal want to know. 170pF or 180pF. Is the Rayburn OK - I'm sure it sounded 'wrong' when it fired just now. Wish I could blog my *thoughts* without typing.
My head felt swollen, face tender. No position was comfy.
At 1.15, with 3 hours left before the alarm, I got up.
So here I am. There was nothing I fancied on the spirits to help me sleep (that Hungarian Apricot brandy will make me feel hung over) so I'm sipping a beer, typing twaddle.
In 24 hours it will be 7.55pm (local) and I'll be at someone's party, attempting to make conversation without saying anything too stupid or too rude, and trying not to fall over. Maybe I'll sleep on the plane?
Hope you all slept well. This took me 40 minutes to type.
Thursday, 8 December 2005
Wednesday, 7 December 2005
Sue and Ian - thanks for hosting last night: good fun having en-masse fondues (2 meat, 1 cheese and 1 chocolate, for those not present)
And thanks too to Tracy and Peter, for leaving a magazine and card for Ben. That was really kind of you, to think of him.
Just another day at work here. Headache, tired, runny nose. Just keep on going.
Tuesday, 6 December 2005
You're Love in the Time of Cholera!
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Like Odysseus in a work of Homer, you demonstrate undying loyalty by
sleeping with as many people as you possibly can. But in your heart you never give
consent! This creates a strange quandary of what love really means to you. On the
one hand, you've loved the same person your whole life, but on the other, your actions
barely speak to this fact. Whatever you do, stick to bottled water. The other stuff
could get you killed.
Take the next dumb quiz
at the place all the geeks have nothing better to do.
The doctors can't understand why it is that he's only had intermittent pain, rather than constant, as they'd expect. They did a CAT scan (no labrador jokes please) but we've not heard if there were any conlusive results from that. So he waits in hospital, pleasantly bored, to see what's happening next.
He must be feeling normal, because he insisted on walking with us to the car. After saying goodbye I turned away, then back to say one thing more and all I saw was his leg disappearing as he jogged round the corner heading back. I don't believe in fate, but if I did I'd suggest he likes to tweak it's nose. Rather like his father.
Livi came with us too, and it was nice to spend time with her, having not seen her on Sunday.
Once again, thanks for all your prayers and care.
Monday, 5 December 2005
Chris rang this morning, and I understand that he'd not had a recurrence during the night. They ran another ECG and BP test and the same abnormality was present in the ECG as before. Chris is going in now, and should be there in time to talk with the doctor when he comes round later.
It's funny, yesterday apart from early 'wobbles' I was fine, but today I feel quite fragile. Not good as I really need to crack through some work, but maybe if I can throw myself into that I'll be distracted enough to get over it.
Thanks everyone for your prayers, thoughts and best wishes. Special thanks to Jon for expressing your concern even though you're in the middle of a really bad time. Special hug to Olivia because I know you've been very worried too.
Sunday, 4 December 2005
At 6 am this morning I was wondering if that would happen.
Ben came home from work yesterday with a high temperature and a headache, feeling pretty rough. Went to bed but didn't sleep well. Some time before 6 he woke with a crushing chest pain and cold sweating, came down and woke us. It was bad enough to double him up, even when being sick.
Everything here said 'HEART PROBLEM' in 10ft high letters of fire, and we dressed and rushed to the Horton hospital A&E. We were taken seriously, and he was quickly admitted and ECG'd, then ECG'd again. His trace was quite seriously abnormal, and blood samples showed raised enzymes indicative of heart damage. He was given brufen, Asprin another un-named drug and nitroglycerin, while at the same time put on Oxygen. His heart showed mild arrythmic behaviour, and a 3rd ECG was again quite abnormal. Eventually he had a chest X-ray and was moved to the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) where he eventually recovered. He's being kept in overnight for observation.
After Chris came home to collect a change of clothes, books and food for him they came round with an ultrasound scanner and checked his heart over. Apparently his aortic ventricle is bicuspid, rather than the standard tricuspid issue. Not the cause of the problem though. They also noticed some fluid around the heart, and have concluded the cause is pericarditis due to a viral infection.
I have a feeling this has originated downstairs. We will be praying more carefully to cover our family in the coming weeks. I'm just grateful that no real harm has been done, and that we've only been mildly inconvenienced. This could have been so bad if it had happened while I was in the US.
Thank you Father, for looking after us.
Saturday, 3 December 2005
Then I almost made the mistake of thinking I was being honoured instead of tagged.
Seven things to do before I die:
1. Plant a church 'myself'
2. Hold my natural grandchildren
3. Make it to retirement
4. Gig with a loud, anti-social rock band
5. return to mountain biking
6. See my extended family go on to maturity
7. Learn another language
Seven things I cannot do:
1. Run a marathon
2. Smoke Eddie van Halen
3. Fully understand women
4. Eat without restraint
5. Lift more than my bodyweight comfortably
6. Enjoy vegetarian food
7. Hear clearly
Seven things that attract me to my spouse:
1. Our unity
2. The way she balances our relationship
3. Her hair
4. Shared experience
5. Nice boobs :¬)
6. Her love
7. Her refusal to be weak.
Seven things I say most often:
2. How are you?
3. Is that your first lie today?
5. Good to see you again
7. God, help....
Seven books I love:
1. Ringworld, Larry Niven
2. The Hobbit, J R R Tolkein
3. The bible, NIV study edition
4. 9 o'clock in the morning, Dennis Bennett
5. The Lord of the Rings.....
6. The Stainless Steel Rat, Harry Harrison
7. Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Seven movies I would watch over and over again:
1. 2001, a space odyssey
2. Blazing saddles
3. Men in Black
4. This Is Spinal Tap
5. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
6. Lord of the Rings – all of them
7. Easy Rider
Seven people I want to join in too:
7. Sarah (two red boots)
Friday, 2 December 2005
Missed Livi too.
About a decade ago I read a book by Charles Simpson, talking about (among other things) the need for 'Fathers'. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn't seem to be really happening. It seems to have taken 10 years and a lot of growth, change and 'life' for it to be coming real.
I'll go read some blogs in a minute and find out what I've missed.
Thursday, 1 December 2005
Monday, 28 November 2005
We saw the Goblet of fire last night - it's not bad, but not fantastic. The problem with making a film from those books is that the books are long and detailed, while the films are unable to take more than a small fraction of the stories woven through.
Maybe they'll do an 'extended edition' DVD?
We also saw the trailer for Narnia. There's a large dose of [Samwise Gamgee accent]"Oh look Mr. Frodo, they've made another moving picture thing without us"[/Samwise Gamgee accent] overtones.
Which is what poor Chris has been doing.
And you have to remember to only put three names, instead of four.
We realised there were a lot of people that we only have CC contact with that still won't know. So she wrote this year's news letter, has done virtually all the cards and taken it entirely upon herself to get the things out. There have been tears, particularly when the correct number of names were forgotten.
Me? I still hide my head in other things.
Friday, 25 November 2005
We'd never have worked that one out.
People are just SO stupid sometimes.
The Lord is my pace-setter,
I shall not rush, He makes me stop
and rest for quiet intervals,
He provides me with images of stillness,
which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of effectiveness
through calmness of mind,
and His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish today,
I will not fret for His presence is here.
His timelessness, His all-importance
will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility,
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness
shall be the fruit of my hours,
for I shall walk at the pace of my Lord,
and dwell in His house forever.
Thanks to Sue.
Thursday, 24 November 2005
Saturday 19th Schoennbrun.
Here we are in the airport waiting to fly home. I got tired last night, writing about our first day (keep thinking of things I’ve missed, like the food shops in the underground) and finished about 11.00ish. We had a generally relaxed morning preparing to leave, and even packing wasn’t too bad. Vienna airport was hot, noisy and crowded on the ‘wrong side’ of passport control, but here by gate A50 it’s cool, calm and comfy. So on with the story.
I had arranged for a tour. I normally hate the idea, but this time it seemed good to help orient ourselves in an effectively un-known city to make the most of the time. We were collected a little late from the hotel, then transferred to a new coach at a deeply ugly bus station built in the 50s. The guide was a blond lass about our age called Jennifer (really her name?) with again excellent English. Something we noticed early on was how the Viennese have a soft accent. German people speaking English tend toward a harder tone, with sharply pronounced ‘Oww’ sounds. The Viennese is smoother and quite easy on the ears.
We drove through the city, out to the Prater (city fair-ground, rather like the Tivoli Gardens of Copenhagen) with it’s big wheel. This was my first real disappointment. As a 6 year old boy, the wheel had seemed enormous – it used tram cars as carriages! With experienced adult eyes, its 67 odd meters height seemed relatively unimpressive, and I wondered how I managed to remember all those roof-tops from my original trip. Still, it is the oldest wheel in existence.
The journey out to Schoennbrun was relatively un-attractive – lots of concrete buildings, housing that was clearly ‘low-cost ethnic’ and graffiti – the ‘un-seemly’ side of city life. While describing the various palace buildings as we had passed them, our guide also talked about life-style and income. Typical wages, it was suggested, were around 1200 euros/month take home, with about half that being spent on rent. More on that later.
Schoennbrun was pretty much what we’d expected. There was a smaller market there, compared to the version outside the Rathaus, but it looked great, as by this time it was snowing as hard as I’ve seen almost anywhere. To keep warm, Chris enjoyed a Kinderpunsch and I had a Jagertee: basically strong tea with even stronger rum added. The buildings here were as ornate and over-done as one might expect from the rulers of a very substantial eastern European empire. Some of it WAS beautiful, while some was just ‘knee-deep-in-decoration-because-we-can’.
Just an idle thought. Apparently a mark of the Habsberg family was a protruding lower jaw. My lower jaw has always stuck out – kids at school used to make fun of me because of it. I dreamed, as one does in early teenage fantasy, that I might have been part of such a family, long lost, and due to inherit some forgotten wealth. Fat chance. My father’s sister once had the family trees examined, hoping for exactly such a thing. It turns out that, rather than being royalty in name, some of our ancestors were hung for street-robbing. Apparently there are lots of Habsbergs around the world today, all independently wealthy and none of them recognised by Austria as having any ruling rights. And of course, that’s not to say that a Habsberg didn’t pass a few genes along, via the wrong side of the blanket.
Apres tour we had lunch in a Restaurant called Rosenbergs on Maysedergasse. This was a bit of a cop-out, and it was all self-service with most servitors speaking good English. The cuisine was reasonably authentic Austrian, and that made up for it. We played ‘dumb tourist’ and had snitzel, although I managed to get some dumplings and mushrooms with mine, rather than the universally acceptable potatoes. It was good too.
Since we’re on the olfactory side of things, one of the things I always do when visiting a new country is to sniff the air. Stockholm I mentioned was kind of sharp and flinty, whereas Vienna airport’s air was almost odourless – fresh and clean, but without any particular smell other than airports generally. However by this time I’d been collecting and processing a lot more data from my nose, and can say that Vienna smells like nowhere else, being rich and varied, and with a strong sense of having been lived in for a very long time. There’s a gentle spiciness to the air that comes from Apfel strudel and Goulash, rich coffee and frying food, gluhwein and frankfurters. And tobacco smoke. Smoking is relatively rare in the UK, and the cigarettes all smell similarly unpleasant. Austrian tobacco smoke would sometimes get too much, but was warmer and sweeter generally, with a cigar-hint. I don’t know that I’d recognise these smells again immediately, because they take time to filter through the senses, but both the food and the smells reminded me intensely of my childhood, even though we were in England, with my mother cooking Austrian-style. Even now, all that she touches has a hint of Austria.
On the coach we’d met an Australian family – Ian and Di (not another Sue!) with their daughter Heidi and granddaughter Juliette. They were friendly, and we talked a bit going round Schoennbrun. Then we bumped into them again in Rosenbergs. Turned out the next leg of their ‘round the world’ trip was in England, with them staying a week in the Cotswolds. It seemed a good idea to give them our address, and who knows – maybe we’ll see them sometime next week?
After lunch we explored a little more, wandering down to the Naschmarkt and the flea market that is held behind it. We’d been warned on the coach ride to go there “it’s not nice” and “what is stolen in the week in Vienna appears there on Saturday”. This is where we saw the other side of Vienna – the true poverty. The Naschmarkt was interesting, with all kinds of foodstuffs available, Austrian and Turkish (Austria has many Turks) plus Chinese restaurants and a large fish section. We even saw cooked fish being sold for consumption in the same way as kebabs are sold in England. I bought a couple of bottles of wine here, just for fun really – who knows if they’ll be drinkable? Prices were noticeably lower here to – the first time we’d seen anything like discounts.
In the Flea market we were amazed to see what appeared a cross between a jumble sale and a boot fair, with piles of clothes, shoes, phone chargers, computer parts and miscellaneous household debris strewn on the damp ground or bits of cardboard. More amazing was how people were avidly rummaging through, looking for useful, reusable items. This was an intense contrast to the way clothes were displayed in shops, often in splendid isolation with low stock and high prices (or commonly, no prices at all – if you need to ask, you can’t afford it). One of my mother’s memories was of the elegant clothes shops ,where on entering she would be greeted with the words “I kiss your hand gracious lady”. If one did not show an inclination to buy then you ceased to be a “gracious lady” fairly quickly. It is likely she was only shown this deference because of her non-local status, and that they would not have been sure of her financial status.
Diverting from the main topic here a little, but adding thoughts, we had both wondered about why some of the large and obvious differences existed between Vienna and London. In London every thing is fast food, regardless whether it’s sandwiches, pizza or burgers, and the whole place is full of cheap clothes, fancy trainers and far-eastern produced electronic toys. Vienna by contrast has a little of the fast food concept, but tied it firmly to local style products, prepared freshly and suiting local tastes. They’ve blended in some of the Turkish flavours, but kept them in the same style, rather than abandoning national dishes. And everything with a hint of luxury is more expensive. It seemed to us that Austria has rejected the ‘supermarket culture’ that France and England have fallen in love with, instead preferring the ‘traditional’ ‘handcrafted’ things, made by local people at a living wage. We saw 2 ‘supermarkets’ there, one being an Aldi and the other on the Herrengasse (can’t remember the name). They were maybe half to a quarter the size of Bicester’s (small) Tesco. This approach is very much a double edged sword, as it tends to keep prices high and local people relatively hard up.
I think I rather admire a society that has apparently rejected the “give me more for less” attitude and *appears* to value the work of the hands.
One long trudge back to our hotel, a snooze and short interlude later, we head off to the Rathaus market again. This (Saturday) evening it’s crowded with people drinking, talking, snogging (Chris was a little shocked to see two girls at it) and buying stuff off the stands. It’s much more familiar now, and we only notice a few ‘new’ things. We managed to find a stall selling Gluhmost (spiced lower-alcohol apple drink) and that was nice.
There were some ‘interesting’ things we saw named on the food stalls that we just didn’t recognise: Fladbrot, Ungarische Langos, Kartofelblumen. We ordered a Langos, and it turned out to be a deep-fried bread, smothered in salty garlic butter – very messy and antisocial, but quite delicious. I passed on the Kartofelblumen – potato pancakes, as I didn’t want to eat too much, and instead we had spicy, smokey Grillwurst, again in the compulsory French bread, washed down with a Kinderpunsch for Chris and a Gluhwein for me. This time we hung around until they closed the stalls at 9.00ish
As we were leaving we could hear a cacophony of horns deliberately playing discordant notes across the road outside a theatre. Our view was blocked by a tram car, but we could see a large crowd gathered, intently watching something happening there.
We made our way over, and were greeted by the sight of a mocked up crucifixion scene: ‘Jesus’ - a blindfolded, barefooted man - was stood with his arms strapped to a bar, supported by a man on each side. A tall rectangular wooden frame rose above his head, and supported from the crossbar was a cow’s carcass, split open and bloody. The event was directed by a guy running back and forth, shouting orders and moving people around. He started pouring artificial blood on the ‘crucified’ figure’s mouth so that it ran down his front. A bunch of guys then came out carrying 5 bamboo poles about 20 feet long, each with a sword mounted on the end. They placed a cushion with a blood bag inside on ‘Jesus’ chest and then pushed the swords into it so that blood spilt and ran out. Finally they got rid of those and came back out with flaming torches. While some crowded round, others (around 40) picked up the wooden framework and started to carry it round the building.
I should mention at this point that the temperature was well below freezing, and all these people were dressed in tee shirts and thin white cotton trousers. We were feeling the cold, dressed in winter clothes, and the wind had picked up quite a bit. The actors were clearly shivering, and ‘Jesus’ must have been in a bad way. Because of the weight of the framework they could only carry it around a ¼ of the way before stopping and resting. It must have taken nearly 15 mins to complete the circuit of the theatre and finally escape. The actor playing Jesus had remained blindfolded throughout, and appeared so cold that he had trouble moving from his position after being unstrapped. They were finally able to support him back into the building. His feet were still bare on the freezing cobblestones.
Chris was fairly disgusted by all of this, and glad to get away. When it was finally over we made our way back to the hotel, grateful for the first time that our room was so warm. Thus ended our second day.
Wednesday, 23 November 2005
Apparently our meeting in Minnehopeless is still happening, and the email apparently cancelling it didn't mean what it said.
There's no time to book a flight to Canada now, and I'm going via a party at Houston (at least it'll be nice to see everyone again - maybe I can play Jenny's guitar once more).
I guess Chris won't divorce me after last weekend.
WHO laboratory manual for the examination of Human semen and sperm cervical mucus interaction.
Tuesday, 22 November 2005
So here I am on Sunday night, trying to re-collect all my thoughts, feelings and impressions from the last 3 days. To help do this I’ll try to cover each day individually. You may therefore find it helpful to read each day’s entry as if it has been made fresh.
Friday 18th Nov, Day 1.
3.10am is a harsh time to start any day – one is inclined to ask while showering “do we never learn?”. Catching a plane for a 6.45am departure is a dumb thing to do. However we did actually succeed, and arrived in Vienna at around 10.20 local time. Walking through the terminal to baggage collection I could already tell we were in Austria: the ceiling covering had been removed in the corridor, and I could see how things were made. No other country in the world would bother to make small pine boxes with careful dovetail joints to encase the PA speakers in this kind of ceiling.
I arranged a cab to take us from the airport to the hotel (chickened out of the train: too much hassle and we had a case which doesn’t roll that well). The woman on the taxi stand had good English (they nearly all had good English) and talked me into booking the return by cab as it was cheaper both ways. Our driver was friendly, chatty and told us he hoped we’d brought coats, ignoring what we were wearing, as the temperature would drop to minus 10’C on Sunday. We passed through the industrial outer areas and the Vienna woods on the way in, then into the city proper, round the ring and finally to the hotel.
I had a sense of anticlimax.
If you’ve seen a number of European cities, as I now have, after a while they all begin to look the same. The houses by the Vienna woods look just like many around Stockholm. Most of the buildings would pass un-noticed in Budapest or Copenhagen. The Hofburg and some of the other palaces are grand on a scale that few other cities could equal, but the city buildings themselves, while opulent, aren’t unusual on the outside.
Our hotel (the Hotel de France) was a large old building, actually purpose built in the late 1800s on the Ringstrasse, very close to the centre. Check-in was fine, and despite being early, we were given a room. It was here that my impressions really started. The room was decorated ‘traditional’ style, and because of a high ceiling, darker walls and being very warm, felt quite small. I flicked on the TV, and the first thing that came up was a 1960s version of Cinderella in German. This immediately set a tone for me – I felt as though I’d been transported back in time. The décor, manners and even the TV felt as though they belonged in the time of our parents. This feeling was to return frequently.
There were a couple of things we needed to do to obtain some travel cards and confirm a tour for the following day, so out we went on what turned into a long walk. Eventually we wound up at die Wienerin in Wallnerstrasse, enjoying Goulash soup for a late lunch. This soup tastes very much like a spicy oxtail soup, but is quite salty. It was served with beautiful bread, which had salt crusted on top. I (not so beautifully) managed to save the last, saltiest bit of bread until we’d just got ready to go, them popped it in my mouth. Eckk. Crinkled mouth syndrome.
We headed back to the hotel for a rest, recouping our strength for the Christkindlmarkt at the Rathaus (town hall).
The Rathaus and market were only about 10 mins walk from our hotel, and we headed over there about 6.00ish, when it was properly dark. A few flakes of snow were falling, but nothing very much. The first thing we noticed as we got near where the number of lights in the trees. These resolved into different shapes: hearts, stars, balloons, faces – all kinds of things. Next there was a ‘train’ carrying children and their parents to an area with buildings containing Christmas ‘themes’. Then we finally came on the market itself.
Since it was Friday the market wasn’t too crowded. The stalls were set up in wooden huts, all side by side in the grounds of the Rathaus. Some sold wood carvings, usually of nativity or religious figures, some sold baubles, others toys (many hand made from wood - Santa’s elves had been busy!) and all kinds of things. There was a stall selling scented candles that had very oddly shaped candles, which the proprietess held out for all to smell. My initial reaction was “must be my dirty mind”, but it was actually called ‘love’ and was shaped like a vagina. Europe has a very different view on some things compared to the English. Bizarre lights aside, it was really very special, and produced a certain level of anticipation. I can't say that it felt like 'Christmas' because there wasn't much of Jesus visible, but it covered the word 'magical' in a way that Disney could only envy.
We bought sugar-coated nuts, Gluhwein, Bratwurst in bread, munching and stumbling our way round the market. By about 8.30 we’d seen most stalls, and were ready to drop, so headed back to our hot little room, incomprehensible TV and sleep.
Monday, 21 November 2005
Thursday, 17 November 2005
You can tell that there's a euphemism buried there, and a hidden story, but the subtlety with which she's written makes it almost impossible not to overlook. Nicely done, dear lady. Very impressive.
I am 'French'. In the nineteenth century, it
was the international language of diplomacy.
It is a 'beautiful' language, meaning that it
is really just a low-fidelity copy of Latin.
You know the importance of communicating
'diplomatically', which for you means both
being polite and friendly when necessary and
using sophisticated, vicious sarcasm when
appropriate. Your life is guided by either
existentialism or nihilism, depending on the
weather. You have a certain appreciation for
the finer things in life, which is a diplomatic
way of saying that you are a disgusting
hedonist. Your problem is the French have been
obsolete for a long time.
What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by some bored geeks with nothing better to do.
I can't tell you what a relief it is to have my disgusting hedonistic character out in the open. Now I can misbehave in the most obscene fashion and people can say "Oh, it's OK, it's because of his French character">
Wednesday, 16 November 2005
I've 'lost interest'.
Started well enough with a meeting with Jon - good brisk and efficient. Very motivational. Then came the lap-top upgrade that didn't happen. Software didn't work, ditto hard drive enclosures, and 4 hours later we're in exactly the same place we started from.
Tuesday, 15 November 2005
Last night Olivia was round for dinner before going to the 'Soul Survivor' group. Knowing she was there, on the way in from the car I was thinking about greeting and hugging her as well as Chris and Ben and the way we hug. This consideration got extended to Dan and Kita too.
I realise that I hug them all like they're my children.
Dan, Kita, Liv - I don't want to take this too far, but it really feels like you're part of our family. There's something different about how I feel about you vs how I feel about most people. I guess this is what extended family feels like, or maybe I'm getting a little of God's father heart.
He used a lot of carefully constructed sentences to say that 'Big Organised' religion was self-seeking and had it's own agendas quite apart from God's. He also suggested that God was more likely to be at work in the small and the peripheral than the grandiose and organised, and that stylised irrrelevant religious forms were pointless.
Of course he was a great deal more polite.
He was from a celtic community - Iona something or other. While I think he's probably mostly right, if church history is known then there may have been a little axe-grinding going on.
Monday, 14 November 2005
Waiting to hear if a guitar is available. At Music live I spent best part of an hour on one stand, trying diff guitars. I spent most of the time playing one of these. At the time it seemed good, but not great, however the memory of it just kept coming back. Eventually called the manufacturer to ask if it had been sold (the one I played was slightly different, with 2 humbuckers, rather than the standard 1 bucker, 1 P90). Now I'm waiting to find out if it's still there.
What makes it special?
It played like it was alive a little. Plus the PUs can be switched to single coil for stratty type tones, but without the usual thin, weedy nasal sounds that split buckers usually make. JJ have some custom tone circuitry that keeps the pickup tone balanced, and these are specially made Dimarzios that can't be found anywhere else. It'll go from a fair rock attack to a rich funky feel just by pulling the tone knob. The fingerboard was tight enough grained that I initially though it was ebony, and the finish is really nice too.
It's not free, but the Gibson V is up for sale if anyone wants it (£300 obo).
My poor bum's still thawing (that's bottom or butt to my north-American friends - I don't have a personal tramp) from sitting on a frozen motorcycle seat.
Anyone ever walk away from a situation realising they've made a mistake? Well when I went to that motorcycle show I didn't buy an insulated 2 piece suit, instead opting for a slightly cheaper unlined 1 piece. I realise that was a BAD MOVE now. Never mind though, I'm sure I'll thaw out soon.
It's certainly rather lovely out there right now - when you're warm enough to enjoy it.
Saturday, 12 November 2005
Olivia - there's one dedicated to you there too.
Some are just a bit raucous, as they're demoing the drive channel for rythm work. I was pleased with bits of both versions using the clean backing track. The clean one (November Saturday) has lots of space and feels quite sensitive. The version with the overdriven lead (Olivia's song) was a slightly more conservative take. With some there was a definite Gary Moore thing happening - unfortunately spoiled by mistakes later in the take.
If you listen I hope you enjoy them.
Friday, 11 November 2005
Thursday, 10 November 2005
I should be able to start recording properly at last. Up 'till now I've been using a guitar processor as a mic pre-amp, which is highly unsatisfactory because it colours the sound. This will give a degree of control not available before, while hopefully producing a more accurate sound.
It's a 10 channel mini-mixer BTW, VERY cheap.
Wednesday, 9 November 2005
The most recent description I heard of postmodern was the word 'unprincipled'. Postmodern seems to mean that "whatever works for you is OK, as long as I can do anything that works for me". To me, that would imply a city of readily available vices, each to suit a different taste, but kept clean and neat in appearance. Certianly it would seem that if golf is your vice that it will be fulfilled in many and pleasant ways.
Being an Arab city, I doubt it's the overt den of vice that somewhere like New Orleans was reputed to be. However some cultures have an ability to turn a blind eye for paying customers. I wonder if this could be the case, or whether he really meant that they've built a city from scratch in the last 40 years, no expense spared.
Tuesday, 8 November 2005
The best place is here. Click the guitar for a larger image (not linkable).
However that's not actually the instrument she has, because although it's equipped like a Custom II, the neck actually says 'Standard' IIRC.
Liv - you have a true 'special'.
Monday, 7 November 2005
We were at a funeral in London today. My 'Great Aunt' (actually not a blood rellie at all, but never mind) died just over a week ago.
Winifrid had served God in her generation, right through to her 90s. My mother had been close to her, and knew her better than many: knew her struggles, knew when she was baptised in the Holy Spirit (it wasn't called that at the time) and a pile of stuff we talked through. We met her son, Ian - me for the first time in about 25 years, Chris first time ever IIRC. We also met the Austrian side of the family: Gerhardt (who looks like the real father Christmas) Monica (Winifrid's daughter) and their children Marcus, Andrea and Johann.
I'm ashamed to say that I wasn't feeling especially robust, and didn't make a decent effort to talk to them all properly. I now seriously regret my failure, but that's just how it is sometimes.
I had a lot of people come up to me, telling me how I looked like my father.
The 'church' hall they had the service in is a curious building. Knocked up in the post-war period, it reminds me of every British 'shack-built' church, with saggy, fibreboard ceiling and questionable paint choice. There's a particular smell these buildings have too: not necessarily bad, but characteristic. Quite a few people there, which was great, and from many different ethnicities too.
I went to the 'Music-live' show at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre on Saturday. I didn't buy anything, at all! Although now in retrospect I'm starting to wonder about a particular guitar I tried. I need to make space though - anyone want a Gibson flying V at a bargain price?
Friday, 4 November 2005
Today I have felt God speak a very clear word to us in the midst of this exciting time of growth, but also battle.
There is much to praise God for:
* People are become Christians! Moving from the Dominion of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. Adults and teenagers!
* There is a great sense of family and life when we gather on Sundays and at other times.
* A special unity between the churches, demonstrated through various events.
* There is momentum and potential with regards to a community centre in Keble Road, with the potential for a Christian pre-school.
* We are having regular visitors, and new people wanting to come along.
All these things are what we have prayed for, and God has brought this about for His glory. But as we have pressed on and battled in these areas, it is becoming clear that there is an enemy who will contest the growth of God’s Kingdom. (Ps 17 v 8-12; 1 Pet 5 v 8)
The clear word I have heard from Him is, “Be Alert”.
As we speak, the battle is clear to me in these areas:
* Health, and related fear: Attacking our capacity to serve him.
* Weaker family members: Attacking the weak or young.
* Niggling minor conflicts: Attacking relationships in the church.
* Lack of sleep: Attacking capacity to live for Him.
* Lethargy: Attacking our motivation to serve Him.
I believe God wants us to take heed and “Be Alert”, for our own family’s sake and the wider church family. As any church begins to grow and develop the enemy will try and subtly creep in. He is, however, defeated! Our prayers and words spoken in Christ’s authority, combined with our alertness, will see his strategy come to nothing. God can always turn such attacks into victories for His Kingdom, growth of relationship and increased trust in Him. But His call to us together is to “Be Alert” at this time.
I would encourage you to personally consider these scriptures: Josh 8 v 1-4; Ps 17 v 8-12; 1 Pet 5 v 8; 1 Thes 5 v 6; Eph 6 v 18
God bless you and keep you alert, as you pray into this.
I like cream cakes.
I want a narrower girth.
I didn't go.
1 minor demerit - ate a bourbon biscuit from the box behind me, but only a single one.
Well, I'm only 'practically perfect'.
Thursday, 3 November 2005
HC is a place where 'grown up' musicians let their hair down. This is a thread about someone's new girlfriend. Language and ideas there can be more than a little 'strong'. Do not click that link if you've got delicate sensibilities or you're under 16. It IS worksafe, in that (when I linked) there was no pron up but some of the words can get X-rated.
Wednesday, 2 November 2005
Tuesday, 1 November 2005
I'm so puffed I can barely use the track-ball this morning, having cycled (in) for the first time in a year. My chest is a little tight and the legs feel very jelly-like.
My bottom is also most displeased.
The saddle I used to know and love is a thinly padded job that provides comfort by flexing of the Titanium rails supporting either end. After 5 mins it was starting to feel like some kind of blunt device used to seperate the buttocks for medical purposes. To cap it off, the bike I rode was set up for Ben with flat pedals instead of clipped. When I arrived I popped the front wheel up on the curb and then tried to lift the rear wheel by jumping as I normally would. Instead of lifting the rear of the bike, my feet simply left the pedals: what goes up must come down, and my poor, tender bot hit the (hard) nose of the saddle.
Anyway, I won't be around online today - I'm fasting off the internet. If your thinking God thoughts, please pray for Helen Davis - still not well after giving birth to Samuel.
TTFN. Love to all.
Monday, 31 October 2005
So when I saw the link on his site I had to take the test. The results I found a little surprising:
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!
Congratulations! If your mission in life
is not already to preserve the English tongue,
it should be. You can smell a grammatical
inaccuracy from fifty yards. Your speech is
revered by the underlings, though some may
blaspheme and call you a snob. They're just
jealous. Go out there and change the world.
How grammatically correct are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
Hell is where the police are German, the chefs British, the mechanics French, the lovers Swiss and its all organized by the Italians.
Wednesday, 26 October 2005
OK, we all know that 666 is the number of the Beast, but did you know that...
670 - Approximate number of the Beast
DCLXVI - Roman numeral of the Beast
666.0000000 - Number of the High Precision Beast
665.9999954 - Number of the Pentium Beast
0.666 - Number of the Millibeast
/666 - Beast Common Denominator
666 x sq. rt (-1) - Imaginary number of the Beast
1010011010 - Binary of the Beast 6
1-666 - Area code of the Beast
00666 - Zip code of the Beast
1-900-666-0666 - Live Beasts! One-on-one pacts! Call Now! Only $6.66/minute.
Over 18 only please.
$665.95 - Retail price of the Beast
$699.25 - Price of the Beast plus 5% state sales tax
$769.95 - Price of the Beast with all accessories and replacement soul
$606.66 - Wal-Mart price of the Beast
$566.66 - Costco/Price Club price of the Beast
Phillips 666 - Gasoline of the Beast
Route 666 - Way of the Beast
666 F - Oven temperature for roast Beast
666k - Retirement plan of the Beast
666 mg - Recommended Minimum Daily Requirement of Beast
6.66 % - 5 year CD interest rate at First Beast of Hell National Bank, $666 -minimum deposit.
Lotus 6-6-6 - Spreadsheet of the Beast
Word 6.66 - Word Processor of the Beast
i66686 - CPU of the Beast
666i - BMW of the Beast
DSM-666 (revised) - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Beast
668 - Next-door neighbor of the Beast
- Number of the Blonde Beast
uh... what was that number again?
Tuesday, 25 October 2005
Ben passed his driving test first go this morning, with just 2 minor observations. For my friends not in the UK, you are permitted up to 15 minor observations before you're failed, however most people don't pass first go and the driving test is generally recognised as being quite difficult.
In a few hours he's off to Paris with a lad called 'Molly'.
Monday, 24 October 2005
Anyway, I'm off to meet estate agents and show her potential flats in Bicester. She'd to move ASAP, although the housing market is fairly dead, or so we've been told. God can do good things with house moves in difficult circumstances.
Hope it's over soon for all our sakes.
Looking forward to Liv, Dan and Kita being over tonight. If Chris is too unwell then she'll hide in the bedroom.
Saturday, 22 October 2005
Friday, 21 October 2005
A: If you only take one Baptist, he'll drink all your beer.
How can we walk without hypocracy? Is there a difference between being a hypocrit and giving in to sin, then regretting and repenting from it.
BTW being baptist has nothing to do with it, just in case anyone felt picked on - it was their joke, not mine.