Thursday, 30 June 2005

Decisions, decisions.

Well, I'm sat here surrounded by kit.

I've just dug most of my kit out, played it, and now can't decide what to use tomorrow.

First I tried the Bluesbuster, swapping valves around until I came back to my favourite for dirty tones - a 6CA7 output valve. 6V6GTs work best for clean, but this gives a warmer, fatter but very direct sounding drive, run at slightly lower gain and lower cathode voltage.

Adding my old Guyatone overdrive pedal pushed the sounds over into hard rock territory, but was a bit too gritty for some things. It worked well with the Heritage, but made me want to play the rythm parts too fast. The strat didn't really have the power to push it hard enough, and the tele didn't hit that tonal spot quite right either. Out with the Dean V, neck PU and it's singing, but with more control and less 'mad rocker' than the Heritage.

A quick swap round (having driven Chris from the room with the noise - she hates me fiddling about with overdriven guitars) and I've got the AXL amp + Korg processor running. The tones are much less direct here, but warmer, fatter and softer-edged. A little boxy, due to the 8" speaker, but without the really bright highs of the greenback in the bluesbuster. Again the Dean sounds great - sweet and fat. The heritage is a little too soft and fat on bridge and too bright with both. The Strat does better, but then I remember another old friend. Out comes the Washburn - the PUs on this are the Gibson 496/500T pairing, and the output is HUGE. This thing is an overdrive monster, pushing the normally gritty Korg patch into serious distortion.

Hmm, tempting.

I'm just not sure.

2 very black guitars could be too much, even for Nigel Tufnel.

It will probably be the Dean V, the Heritage Les Paul and the Strat as backup. May well put both amps in too, using the AXL/Korg for the jazz band and the BluesBuster + overdrive for the other slot.

Now to go clean some fingerboards and strings.

p.s. need to go finding some tunes on the net. Thanks, Meg, for the heads-up on the jazz band.

Wednesday, 29 June 2005

Another quiet day

Too much to do.

Not much to say.

Monday, 27 June 2005


Today all I want to do is run and hide.

Four million dollars down the drain

When good people go bad.

It doesn't make the grace and gift of God any less, but it does make me wonder why he gave the gifts in the first place. It's really sad when those who should know better, don't.

On so many levels.

Sunday, 26 June 2005

The more things change....

.......the more they remain the same.

Last night I collected Ben from a party. On arrival I found the way in full of large, swearing, drunken individuals, all trying to look threatening. Turned out someone had been rude to someone’s girlfriend, so that someone had responded with a shove. So the first someone went to get his mates to ‘bury’ the second someone.

As a kid in the 60s I enjoyed reading about Andy Capp: a little cameo of life ‘oop nawth’, although much of it could have been applied anywhere in the UK.

The relevance? Many hark back to the ‘good old days’ when people were respectful and polite. Andy Capp was a guy we were supposed to like, except that he’d happily knock his wife about, get drunk, go fighting and enjoyed being an un-employed layabout in the classic style.

History teaches us......

Rant over

Saturday, 25 June 2005

Some very kind and willing people

...have agreed to work with me for the concert on Friday. Calling it a band may be a little optimistic, but as it's the normal church worship team, at least we're all used to playing together. I just need to find out how much time we'll have, so we can sort out the set. Haven't got Anna's agreement yet for keyboard, and need to get a drummer, but I've someone in mind and there are a number of possibilities.

I'm quietly optimistic - hopefully to become noisily optimistic soon ;-)

Now the question is: which guitar, which amp???? Processor, modeller, direct?
Sunday evening I think I'll be auditioning my kit over again, but at the moment the woodcross plexi-clone is favourite with a stompbox overdrive as a booster and either the Dean flying V or the strat as the main guitar. If I do sit in with the jazz group then I'll drag along the Heritage Les Paul too.

Decisions, decisions.

Friday, 24 June 2005

I'm suffering from BWS

No not a nasty disease of the bowel - but Blog Withdrawal Syndrome! I seem to have got hooked!

I posted on Sunday, & read the blog on Monday but thought I'd better not post - after all it is supposed to be Toni's blog. No time on Tuesday & on Wednesday our internet access went down! This meant I couldn't find out what my dearly beloved was up to (he had rung me but didn't say much). Consequently I toddled off to Family Group to be greeted by 'I saw Toni's flight was delayed!'

'Really?'says I!

The blog has become essential reading since local friends & work colleagues have started reading it. Otherwise I find that other people know more about Toni ( & sometimes me) than I do! It can be very disconcerting!

BTW things have been mostly OK whilst Toni was away so thanks to everyone who prayed. Thanks too to Catriona & Tracy who were fantastic 'girly' company on Tuesday evening, probably the best fun I've had since IT happened, & Carolyn who came & helped me clean my house today. Not only did we achieve a lot but it was great fun. Perhaps this is the way housework should be done, in pairs or even groups. It would take some planning but we could have 'housework parties' moving from 1 home to another. You'd much more done than working alone & it'd be a lot more fun!

Definately something to think about!


*&£@!! Broadband

Our internet connection has been down at home for several days, and I don't know why.

Now fixed.

Our smartcom modem/router became a dimcom device instead.

Several hard resets and re-input of the ISP details later, we have a working connection.

A desperate plea

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t take my desk…. Over the last few months we have grown very attached to each other, and I do realise that I wouldn’t move far from it but I feel that we would both be heart broken…….. not to mention me and your desk might not get on……

No names mentioned.

There is a strange sense of deja vu, bearing in mind the comments of the last week.

Summer's here

And for a change I'm feeling rather hyper.

I had really wanted to do something for the 'concert' the Marlborough school are having in memory of Sarah, but I couldn't see a way in. Now I've had some ideas, and just need to persuade a band into being for it. Suffice it to say I've found a way of combining some quotes from Brian May and Cream into some of the worship stuff we do. Those who hear me play regularly will recognise some of this stuff, but the Cream quote is new in this context.

And of course it'll need a ton of energy and determination.

Ben was talking about the other guys that will be playing and their stage presence. In church I try not to do the rock thing, throw shapes or whatever. Maybe it'll be a chance to play some worship to people that would never normally hear it, and let my hair down (yes, both of them) at the same time. As long as I can managed not to get psyched out by all these young and desperately talented people I'll be fine.

BTW, about the title. I KNOW summer's here because it's raining hard outside.

Absolutely pelting.

One of our guys was outside about 10 mins ago, loading equipment into a van. We were having a mini-seminar inside the building when there was the most enormous thunderclap. I've just come downstairs to find him in the office, rather shaken. Apparently the lightening had struck 'just behind him' and he literally jumped into the back of the van, ripping his trousers at the same time. The inside of the van was all lit up, it was so close.

Glad I didn't take my bike in this morning as I'd originally planned.

BTW sat in with a Jazz band and jammed along a little last night. The guys were good, but were sneaky. First number was fine, but things went progressively downhill after that, with chord structures becoming increasingly improvisation-unfriendly, at least if you don't know the tunes anyway. It's the first time you've ever played jazz. They were all good though: lots of feeling and some good, tight rythms.

Thanks guys.

Thursday, 23 June 2005

Sitting in the corner, watching all the world go by

But never mind Tommy Steele. I’m sat in the ‘quiet area’ of Kobenhavn’s Lufthavn, looking out of the window at the planes arriving and leaving. Neither of us could imagine a UK airport having a quiet area – it’s alien to the nature of airport designers.

It’s interesting how planes get decorated these days. There’s one I can see with a picture of a dancing woman in a bright pink dress on the tail. Baltic airlines. A new arrival from Norwegian airways has a photo showing the head and shoulders of a woman from the 20s – no idea who – it’s too far to read that curly script style. Presumably someone famous in Norway.

I was sitting back in my chair in the quiet area with a full tummy, thinking about what characterised Denmark to me after this trip. There seem to be 2 main things: the food and the people.

Food has always been interesting: never dull. The last 2 nights we ate in the same restaurant/bar (the unfortunately named Restaurant Puk). On the first night I had a rare (smallish) steak covered in mashed potato that was then grilled to brown nicely, served with a knob of hot paprika butter. Last night I had Kidneys (a huge pile) again grilled to perfection, topped with bacon done well so it was crisp and salty, and served with onions, mushrooms and a creamy sauce, plus new potatoes. Absolutely delicious.

And tonight we ate in a place here at the airport called “A Hereford Beefstouw”. The steak here was cooked out in the open, served with chips and parsly+garlic butters, it was bloody, succulent and sumptuous.

The restaurants have been good. I couldn’t imagine finding these anywhere else in the world. They’re too earthy for Sweden, too relaxed for Germany, too homely for America and not elegant enough for France. Fantastic.

The people are like the food (not a surprise) and are polite, yet down to earth. The girls are mostly slim and sexy, without being ‘in your face’ about it. The guys are mixed, but you can imagine some of them leaping from longboats waving axes in a way that the Swedes just don't bring to mind. Round the back of the hotel was the red light district, which our cabs went through on the way to the exhibition centre. Stuff on display was way beyond anything you’d find in London, and I’ve already mentioned that this kind of thing was invisible in Stockholm. But almost everywhere there was a smile, a nod, a gentle encouragement. They’re clearly not perfect, but they also seem welcoming.

And they drink a lot of STRONG beer.

My colleague described them as a caring people, strong on social responsibility, quite moral in their own way, and rather relaxed when it came to issues below the belt. They certainly smiled a lot, although a delegate from the conference had her rented flat broken into, and no-one apparently was willing to actually help. Her impression was that even the police weren’t interested. To add insult to injury, she had a pile of Australian Dollars, and the thieves weren’t interested in them. Says something about the value of some currencies ;-)

Anyway, nice as it was, I’m glad to be home again.

Wednesday, 22 June 2005

A little greeting, courtesy of Organon

Who set up a web connection facility here at the conference.

Just been learning about PCOS - an unpleasant thing where women get fat, hairy and their ovaries go all up the duff. One treatment we just heard about improved Glucose metabolism and re-balanced their hormones, but made the women fatter (they were feeling better, so they ate more and used it more efficiently).

And they go pregnant while taking a nasty drug (they were told NOT to get pregnant)!

Ho hum. A meeting awaits, on Activin and Inhibin B - our kits.

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Last evening here

An the rain has just hooned down.

There was a tremendous clap of thunder just now that felt like it originated 20 feet away from the (wide open) window.

Well we've survived another day of seminars, visitors and biochemical tyre kickers.

Heard some good explanations of why fertility is decreased as a woman's ovaries age.

Been bored sitting in a seminar with a speaker that used I English that I couldn't undestand (talking about PCOS).

Saw a presentation where someone reported data generated using the first commercial immuno-assay I ever developed (R&D Systems ICAM-1 parameter kit).

Looking forward to going home.

Ben's working Saturday. Afternoon delight?


Day 2

Copenhagen is different from how I remember it on my last trip. It seems much larger than I'd remembered, but I'm sure that's down to some false impressions. The hotel is very modern, but that's fine: at least it's clean and tidy and reasonably well laid out. The exhibition is in a large and airy hall at the 'Bella Centre', so is quite pleasant too.

Copenhagen is a bit cooler than the UK, with daytime temperatures in the mid 20s. I was joined yesterday by William (the MD) and Myriam who heads up DSL France. Post show we explored a little and had a meal. Temperatures dropped as the evening wore on, and we found that the blankets provided by the open air restaurant were very useful.

I'm posting this morning as I have a little more time than expected.

I wasn't sleepy when we got back last night, and finally got off around 3ish. We had arranged to meet for breakfast at 7.45. I awoke convinced the alarm had failed to go off, leapt out of bed, showered, dressed and rushed downstairs late. Shovelled breakfast down and dashed back up.

Only to hear my alarm going off.


That's the first time I've done that. Feel really heady now - WAY too tired. It'll back off in a bit, but return with enthusiasm after lunch. Wonder who's talk I'll sleep through?

Monday, 20 June 2005

A little late posting....

Heathrow terminal 3 is a sweaty hell right now. The flight was due to depart at 12.05. It’s now 12.28 and we’re all sat in the (mercifully air conditioned) departure gate. The main departure lounge was packed nearly solid, and it seemed incongruous to be walking past ‘shops’ carrying the Harrods and Chanel names, seeing the calm and cool atmosphere on one side of an invisible barrier while being jostled by the crowds.


Today is supposed to be fathers day. My family were gracious enough to overlook the event for me, but the radio driving to the airport was full of it. I was OK until the last 7 or 8 minutes, but as I was leaving the M4 to the airport it all got too much. I feel like a piece of fatherhood has been torn away, and although I can be a father to others, I’ll never be a father to Sarah again in that way.

So not the best start to a morning.

They’ve just called us.

Back again.

Got here OK. After 40 mins delay we finally got to board, only to sit on the apron for another hour. Ho hum.

Anyway, everything was set up fine, and I even got fed in the evening which was a definite plus.

Sunday, 19 June 2005

Thanks.. God & anyone who prayed -I feel much better now. Ben & I are off to lunch with friends (Clive & Carolyn) -a timely invitation. Then Carolyn is helping me with Sunday School, which is just as well as Sarah always used to be my helper.

As it's Fathers Day we will be doing something crafty on that theme. I think Toni's glad to be away from it all!



Chris writes:
Well Toni has just left & quite frankly, I'm not feeling great. I never like it when Toni goes away but this is the fisrt time since Sarah's death & I'm struggling. Anyone who reads this please pray for me.

Friday, 17 June 2005

After Saturday posting may be thin for a few days.

I'm going to Copenhagen for the annual ESHRE (European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology) meeting. It's not just a junket - we've got a stand in the exhibitors hall, and we'll also be going to the sessions. I promise to take the camera, so hopefully there will be a new section over at fotopic in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, 16 June 2005

Psalm 139

Chris writes:
Last night at Family Group (otherwise known as housegroup, a small church meeting) we meditated on Psalm 139 verses 1-18. This is the passage that Clare McCourt read out for us at the Thanksgiving service we had for Sarah, and the reason we chose it is because Sarah had written out verse 14 & stuck it on the wall above her bed. Verse 14 reads:
'I praise you because you made me in an amazing & wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well.' (Youth Bible)

However last night two other verses struck me, firstly verse 5: 'You hem me in - behind & before; you have laid your hand upon me' and verse 16: 'All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.'

We talk about Sarahs death as a terrible accident, and of how she was taken too soon, or before her time, but this is not in fact true. God's hand was on Sarah's life, her death was not an 'accident' in the sense of God having slipped up or made a mistake, because He doesn't make mistakes. And her life was not cut shorter than it was intended to be because all her days were ordained before she was even born.

Of course it seems to us that her life was too short, certainly far too short for our liking, and we will never know in this life why it had to be that way, but it wasn't a mistake that she died when she did.

Another verse Sarah had over her bed was Psalm 121, verse 7 'The Lord will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life'.
God didn't fail to keep this promise, he just fulfilled it in a way other than that in which we would liked him to fulfill it. Who knows what harm he kept her from? What we do know is that he now has her safe with him where she can come to absoloutely no harm whatsoever.

Not that any of that means that we do not grieve (I spent most of the evening in tears). I miss Sarah more than words can say, (& now I'm crying again!) & I will go on missing her to some degree for the rest of my life on earth. But then I will have all of eternity to spend with her.


Please pray

For Julie and Graham Hillsdon.

Their son (the driver of the 'other car' mentioned below) is being buried today.

Funerals are very odd when you're the parent. It feels a bit like a wedding, with all the guests/friends there. You have to be out in front, on view to all. People wait for you to come in, sit down, stand up, leave etc. And all the while you don't want to be there, feeling everyone else's pain and discomfort as well as your own.

In many ways it was easier for us, because we'd been intimately involved in putting things together, and we were supported by the love and prayers of so many people. It must be a desperately hard time if all you can feel is the loss, without hope for the future.

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

It seems a lot of people have been asking.....

.... how we are.

I'm not entirely sure what the answer is to that, really.

We've both been back to work: Chris just over a week, me for 2 weeks. We're both trying to get back into things, both trying to re-take our normal lives. A major struggle for us both is to think clearly: it's very easy to be fuzzy headed, unable to focus our thoughts.

Generally we've been sleeping well, although the last couple of days sleep has been difficult for me. Monday night it didn't really happen at all, and last night I woke around 4ish, then had constant 'dreams' of trying to evade being burnt alive by molten lava (a childhood nightmare). I suspect it's simply going back to work and trying to press into things - whenever I've thrown myself at work sleep has been scarce, and that's probably just how it is.

A number of people have also asked how they can pray. We both need patience and inspiration to know how to answer everyone who asks "how are you?" with freshness and honesty. We KNOW the questions are genuine, and we don't want to answer the 50th person with a curt "OK". Please also pray that we won't turn self-centred and inward looking, and that we'll not drift away from trying to walk in God's grace, now the main crisis is over.

Please also pray for Dan and his family, and for all those who have been touched through Sarah's life and death.

One more request - there was a major traffic accidnet in Oxford 2 weeks ago, in which a heavily overloaded car crossed the road and struck another car. The overloaded car held 8 - 7 teenage boys and the mother of one of them driving - 3 of the boys have died and some are still critically ill. The driver of the other car - an ex-marlborough school pupil - was killed outright too. One of the local papers published a headline asking people to pray for those still critical from this accident: please do. In addition to this, Chris visited the parents of the other driver at their request yesterday. Please pray that they'll be drawn together as a family, and that God will give them hope for the future.


Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Paging Ben

Hope the exam is going well - now get back to work.

How's that for encouragement?

See you tonight.

You never know who will read a blog.

So to all those who are reading this that I would not have expected to....


Monday, 13 June 2005

Well, that was another weekend I guess.

Friday night Ben was out, so we went to see Episode III - a mistake in retrospect. As we already knew the outcome of the film (mostly bad things happen) there was only novelty in *how* they happened. I think we went to get out of the house and 'tick the box' as much as anything. Seeing Natalie Prortman laying there pretending to be dead broke Chris's heart afresh. The only good part about the evening was bumping into Sarah B (one of our Sarah's close friends) on the way back to the car.

Saturday came and went. It was nice to see Martin Hathaway (Vicar for Somerton and Heyford parish) again, when he dropped by in the morning. But apart from that, the day was a bit of a washout really. We'd also hoped that some of the stuff from ebay would arrive, but only Chris's trousers turned up. Considering these were the last things we bought, and they had the cheapest postage, I can see some neutral or even negative feedback happening soon.

Sunday improved a bit, with the church dividing in 2 to meet in a couple of houses. Good to see some of our extended family again, and spend some time with each other. Ben went off to Oxford again with some friends, and we...... didn't do anything again, except play 'taxi driver'. Well, Chris visited someone in the village, while I went with Ben & a friend to Oxford and drove the car back for him.

The weather doesn't help either: overcast a lot of the time, but usually clear, bright and cold first thing. High of 15'C to 16'C with about 5'C overnight. This is June, darn it! The air *feels* dead cold on bare skin without the sun, and with everything else it's making us reluctant to get out much.

Sunday, 12 June 2005

Quizzes are like busses

You don't see one for ages, then suddenly 2 come along together.

What's your theological worldview?

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Reformed Evangelical




Neo orthodox






Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal


Roman Catholic


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Some quizmasters have badly missed it, I'm afraid. While I'm sure I share some theology with Wesley, the fact that I believe the Gospel has social implications does not make me a methodist. Likewise the fact that speaking in tongues is not central to my theology does not stop me being a charismatic.

Ho hum. At least I'm not an emergent/POMO/liberal. ;-)

Found this courtesy of Two red boots.

Saturday, 11 June 2005

I'm not normally one for quizzes

But this one caught my eye

What guitar are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

No surprises there then.

Bit like life at the mo'. Some days good, some days not.

Today wasn't quite so much fun, but we're still here. I went shopping this morning, but got fed up with slow people standing in the way. I *felt* I'd have liked to got a big stick and start putting it about a bit, but then that's not so different from normal really.

Oh well. Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, 10 June 2005

It would seem I've been tagged

Thanks Marc.

This is a slightly awkward question, as I'm not at all sure what the answers are for most of this.

Number of books I own

Frankly, I have no idea. And as I'm lazy counting ain't gonna happen. As a guesstimate I'll say 347.65 with a standard deviation of 48.2, but the real value is anyone's guess. More than my wife would prefer me to have is a reliable value.

Last book I bought

Blowed if I can remember - libraries here are pretty good. I *think* the last book I bought was "Billy" by Pamela Stephenson to keep me occupied on a flight to Houston.

Last book I read

I'm in the middle of "Deathstalker war" by Simon Green - one of Ben's library books. We have tastes that are not too dis-similar in our entertainment. It's a lighthearted tale of political violence and oppression on a galaxy-wide basis, while a bunch of people are fighting their way through a planet full of nursery toys gone bad. You'd need to read it......

Five books that mean a lot to me

I struggle with how to interpret this. 'Mean a lot' as in changed my life or as in favourites? Nuts, I'll go with favourites: too many books have influenced my life to be able to pin it on any single volume.

Well it's corny to say it, but I read the bible most days, usually while eating breakfast, so that's one I'd definitely take.

People are going to think I'm showing off, but I'd place the Illiad second. Certainly a book that I've enjoyed reading, and one that takes me to a side of Greece that can be felt tucked away just out of sight when we've been there. The version I have was translated by E.V. Reiu, and was published in Puffin Classics.

Marc has already used it, but I'd include LOTR in my top 5 too.

Number 4 is a difficult one, but I'd choose 'Ringworld' by Larry Niven. Niven's worlds feel credible, even if the people in them are slightly implausible, and he's long been a favourite author.

Finally I'd suggest The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison. Comic science fiction at it's finest, when Harrison was writing this character freshly and was still inspired.

So there you go: another window into my head. Mostly entertainment, rather than anything weighty and philosophical or contemplative. Most of the Christian books I've read have been great at the time, but what they've had to say has either been built in or rejected, and then I've moved on. They are generally not books I would choose to re-read much. As for passing the tag on, I'm at the bottom of the blogging food chain, so I guess I get to keep this male rabbit.

It's not always our fault.

It's not always our fault when a sense of humour gets the better of a little modesty and common sense.


As my beloved wife will tell you.... I'm not perfect.

Thursday, 9 June 2005

Too damned much time for thinking.

I've just finished processing stuff - tired and my legs ache from standing all afternoon.

I finished going through a bunch of 'what if' stuff in my head relating to the future, then I went through a pile of past stuff.

I remembered Sarah when Ben and I picked her up from Sarah B's after she'd slept over that Saturday morning. I remembered the feel of her fingers as she held my hand while we were driving to Bicester village. We went to Tesco after dropping Ben off for work, and she bought mango pieces for breakfast before we went home so she could nap, change and go to work.

I remembered her in the back of the car again, nose dripping blood, little trickles of it down her face.

Damn, I miss my daughter. Now I'm crying online.


A little too much time for thinking.

I've been doing a manufacturing process today which involves lots of repetitive action and too much free time to think. Thoughts can be un-helpful sometimes, leading into darker and blacker places than real life. And life to me seems a fragile, transient thing over which we have no control. This is a fertile breeding ground for fear.

Chris had tummy pains this morning.

And I have too much imagination.

Perfect love casts out fear. It seems that a lot of the time my love is pretty imperfect.

It's interesting how the devastating sadness and grief that often goes with a death like this hasn't hit us. But some of the things that happen to people in these times are still there. We're still human, after all. Having just written the post below, it shows how shallow my love and trust can be. But then, if my salvation was based on my strength alone I'd never have even got as far as accepting Jesus in the first place.

Had an interesting conversation this morning.

Unknown to me, Jon (a colleague from here) has been reading this blog.

Among the many things we discussed this morning was the effect Sarah's death has had on us. Logically he'd expected it to push us further away from God "How can God be real if he lets things like this happen?". I know he's not the only person to thing this on our behalf. So why haven't we denied God?

Situations like this remind me of a guy called Job. Some think he was just an illustration, some think he was a real guy. There's some stuff about him in the bible. Keeping it short, his story is that he was wealthy and had a large, grown up family. In a single day his children were killed and his wealth taken away, with only his wife left to him. Her solution - "curse God and die". What Job said has always stayed with me:

"Should we only accept good things from the hand of the Lord?"

It seems to me that if God is God, then we are His to leave or take as He wishes - how could He be God if it were otherwise? We don't own ourselves, have no 'rights' over our lives and cannot knock on His door and say "you've got it wrong: I should be different". That doesn't detract at all from the concept of a just and loving God. But what it does do is let us realise that we are part of a much greater picture, and have a role that we, willingly or otherwise, fulfill.

To explain how all this works in the process of free will is probably beyond me. But that may be another part of faith - acting as we feel God would have us do, and trusting that it lines up with His will.

Ebay has been getting hammered this week.

Chris has always felt the cold more sharply than me, and riding pillion (good medieval word, pillion) she's tended to suffer a bit. Cash was ALWAYS tight when we had bikes, and she never really got a decent leather or suit.

And in those days we didn't have ebay.

Kitting ourselves with gear from the shops would almost require a second mortgage. We HAD to buy new helmets immediately - 15 YO lids are just asking for trouble: apart from the fact mine didn't really fit well. So we did the RRP thing on those, simply because new is necessary, and you have to get a precise fit in lots of different areas.

I've got that leather despatch rider-style jacket I bought earlier that's tiding me over, but we'd got rid of all the jackets Chris used to wear, and she's been borrowing one of Ben's that's motorcycle 'style'. So we started looking.

I'd thought she might like a coat style, but it turned out she'd prefer a proper leather. A couple of days and some careful bidding later and voila.

But she also suffers cold legs. The natural answer is some leather trousers.

Behave at the back there!

Nothing to see.

Move along now.

Wednesday, 8 June 2005

How do we keep going?

Chris and I were discussing this last night. We've both felt guilty at times because we're not devastated, not living up to people's expectations; worried that people will think we're cold and un-feeling.

Quite a few years back we had talked with a good friend about a period she went through with her daughter. The daughter had anorexia, and was in a serious condition. At the time, both her church and and a wider number of people had been praying for the daughter, that she would survive and recover. The daughter was aware that all this prayer was happening, but was not in a good place with God and didn't want Him 'interfering' in her life.

Despite being seriously ill, she was still able to move around and look after herself. As I understand it, she then said to God "if you're there, show me what I'd be like if you weren't helping and people weren't praying". The following day she couldn't get out of bed and was very unwell indeed. (If either of you are reading and I've got it wrong, feel free to correct me).

It feels like that's how it is for us. We're still being carried through people's prayers and the grace of God. There are still times when we want to hide away or feel really sad, but the devastating, tearing grief that some people experience has never landed, and for that we're really grateful. If all the prayer were to stop overnight I think we'd just crash and burn right now. But I know that there are lots of people out there who've been praying for us and are still holding us up.

I know it's God's power, but to those who come before the throne for us - thank you.

Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Living life through your nose!

Trivial details can make all the difference.

This may seem a little bizarre to those who are less affected through their sense of smell.

I've always been someone who noticed and remembered smells. Smells are far more evocative than sounds for me, and although I can easily forget a person's name and even face, I'll often remember their smell, if it's distinctive enough. There are smells I associate with places, smells linked to objects and smells matched to activities. Some smells have changed over the years: for example petrol smells little like it did when I was a teenager.

There's a new product from Doritos that smells from a distance very similar to old fashioned wiring when it burns. It's so similar that when a colleague here opened a bag, we spent 15 mins trying to find the wiring fault.


It's a little unfortunate that I really like 'em. If you sit up on the computer 'till 3.00am nibbling, next morning they repeat something rotten on you. For 2 days.

Told you it was bizarre.

I notice my own smell too, if it changes.

For years, certainly the last 5 years, I've been using the same deodorant. It's so familiar that apart from when I first spray it, I can't smell it.

Now I can't get it any more, and I've found a replacement from Adidas. Thank goodness I found this one - the first I bought had distinct overtones of 'high school disco' after it had been worn for 30 mins.

The new smell is slightly sharp, with a lemony hint and a touch of soapiness that wasn't obvious when I tried it. It's like working next to someone I've never met before. It's almost like there's an olfactory line drawn under the old Toni, and a new life with a new scent that's just begun.

My nose, my nose lived dangerously
It’s courage was no stunt!
And during the war in Germany
It was always out in front!

Yet when the battle was o’er
And we’d defeated the Hun
Suddenly, for no reason at all
My nose started to run.

A Nose: A World War II Nose
By Spike Milligan

Monday, 6 June 2005

Photos from the celebration in Somerton

The Oxford mail have a series of images available online from the celebration. If you'd like to see them then click this link and enter 'Sarah Ertl' in the search box.

Please note - this is really for broadband users only. The page is unfortunately an example of poor design, and seems to be around 1.2 Mb in size (unbelievable!!). If you're on dialup then it'll take several minutes to download.

I found the answer to my earlier question

Remember my post here?

Driving artound has been surprisingly uncomfortable for us, with both of us thinking about Sarah whenever we're in the car. I don't really know why, that's just how it's been. It's been like that pretty much every time we get in the car, some times stronger, some times less so. It's slightly different for me if Ben drives, but whenever I drive I remember how she looked when I saw her body in the back of the car. It's not a tremendous problem, but that's just how it is.

Anyway, Chris and I had bikes (well, I had the bikes and she sat behind me, but they were ours) from when we were first married. Ben was in Oxford, so last night after we got back from church we went for a ride to Burton Dassett, a country park about 10 miles north of Banbury.

It was a lot like being just a couple again, but in a good way. We were just happy to be in each other's company enjoying the countryside. Unfortunately it was windy and cold up there (it's high up - a spot for slope soaring gliders) and we didn't see the sun set, but it's still a lovely place. Riding there and back was also great fun, with the road sweeping away in front and the bike cornering smoothly through the bends. It took a lot of self control to keep the speed rational too, but we managed it!

I've wondered since if this IS part of God's blessing to us. A way of being together without all those memories being resurrected continually, and a reminder of happy times as a couple. If we hadn't agreed to buy this thing before Sarah died I couldn't have done it: I'd not have had the will, and would have worried that people would think it was a 'Sarah-substitute/middle-age crisis' thing. As it is, it seemed right to go through with the deal, even though I didn't really want to at the time.

Maybe now I know why.

Sunday, 5 June 2005


Was our first PC-free day in 2 weeks.

I think we just needed a break really, and for me to spend some time away from the computer. We also dropped in on some of our friends who had been so kind to us over the last couple of weeks. If you consider yourself in this category and wonder why you didn't see us, it's because many of you weren't in when we called - sorry. It was good for us to be getting out again, though.

We're looking forward to meeting with the church again this afternoon. There will probably be more tears, but they're hurting less than they did.

Friday, 3 June 2005

A good question...

wen r u gonna rit ure post 4 2day already?
anon | 06.03.05

Looks like now.

I've been very happy for everyone to come here and read about what's happening to us, I really have. But maybe I should explain a bit too.

A blog is like a diary, but one everyone can see and read it, even leave comments. I don't do this for a living - it's just me (and occasionally Chris) expressing myself.

Some days you don't feel like posting, at least some of the time.

This morning we were both feeling pretty low actually - probably about as low as in the first couple of days after Sarah died. All the effort of focussing on the funeral and celebration was finished, and instead we were just a bit drained. Ben went out last night and slept over at Dan's.

When we woke it was just the 2 of us.

For the last couple of years we've been thinking about the time when Ben and Sarah would go to uni, then eventually move out altogether. But that was well in the future, and we were still very much a family together.

This morning we were just a couple again, and that's hard to take when less than 2 weeks ago we were a family. It's an adjustment we were making, but it's happened too soon, and needs time. And mornings are the most difficult time anyway: it's when memories hover, before they get swept away as the day's rush comes stampeding through. So we were sad and a little lonely, even though we love each other's company.

I'm at work now. We both need to establish a bit of routine in our lives, and someone has to pay the bills.

So please understand, if I don't post on here for a day or so I'm just getting on with life, or I might be down, or could be 'busy'.

Like I've always said, I'm just a very ordinary guy who's been given some grace by a very big God.

Thanks for reading and being patient.

Thursday, 2 June 2005


Plus some tears.

This afternoon we were able to say "goodbye".

The service at the crematorium was hard really. Emotions were sharp at times, and there was a real spirit of sadness in the room - for me at least. If preparing for the services was like closing the lid, this was when the nails were hammered into place. But our families were there with us, and supported us in our pain.

Then we had the celebration of Sarah's life in the village.

It WAS a joyful time.

There was a certain sadness, but a happiness too. Actually there was a fantastic spirit of release and unity. I can still feel the change in my heart: fresh hope for the future and a knowing that our lives are moving forward.

Then there was the hugging.

A repeated theme of the memories of Sarah was her tendency to hug. At the crem' I hugged a number of people, but the hugs were those of sadness and often in tears. After the celebration the hugs were with laughter and joy, despite there being tears present. At one point I found myself thinking "this is a serial hug-fest!". I hugged friends from the village, I hugged friends from the church, I hugged people from Sarah's school, I even hugged work colleagues!


There was much love around too. You could see it in people's eyes and on their faces. God has touched many people through this, and it makes me really happy to see it.

There are a lot of people we have to thank for their kindness at this time, probably many more than we know about. I'm reluctant to name people because I'm bound to miss someone, and that would be dreadful. But to all those of you that served us, provided meals, ironed clothes, ran errands, prepared flowers, set out chairs and did any number of things: THANK YOU.

This morning is hard

Chris writes
I woke up today & immediately remembered, and my heart sank. Later, after washing & dressing, I felt I should be able to just walk into Sarah's room & there she'd be, all tucked up in bed & reluctant to let anyone wake her. I went in & made her bed which has been stripped of bedclothes since I washed them. Not sure why that helped but it did.

I then rooted around for a pair of earrings she had made to wear today & came across a little drawstring bag of the sort that holds jewellery. Being nosy I looked inside. I came across 4 scraps of paper. One said 'I love DH',& another said 'Sarah loves Dan'. The third one was headed 'prophecies' & had a list of words on it. Underlined were the words 'peace' 'provision' & 'perseverence' all of which seem relevant to us today.

The final one was a scrap of paper with my writing on it. It said:

You are destined to take the Glory of God into this world!

I don't remember writing it, & I'm sure I never dreamed that it would be fulfilled partly by her death, but I pray that it will be true today. That as we remember Sarah we can also glorify God & help others to draw closer to Him.


That day has arrived

This morning neither of us really wanted to get up, knowing what's happening later.

We had it sprung on us last night that Chris's parents are bringing 2 extra relatives: so much for carefully planning transport.

And there's a certain amount of fear that something will go wrong with the preparations for the services. Once again, people here have been amazing with their kindness, as they've organised things like parking, stewards etc. to make sure that's taken care of. And all without fuss or hassle for us in any way. But we have planned out the order of service etc, and while we're sure it will be fine, those nerves sometimes just won't let go.

And underneath all this there's a feeling of finality. It's then end of that time of limbo, where Sarah's dead, but not completely gone. Not in any strange, spiritual, haunting sense - we know that's not real. But in the sense that our lives have been on hold, feeling like it's wrong to go on yet, to start doing things again, making changes to take account of her absence. We need that sense of closure as much as anyone, to allow us to re-become a whole family again.

Looking back, we're so glad that we were able to say goodbye to her in the car. I think that's one of the things that has shortened the grieving period. It's allowed us to let her go in our hearts and accept what has happened is real. We still find ourselves doing things to take account of her, whether it's the food we buy or how we plan time and transport, but each reminder stings less that it did a week ago. I know we're going to come through this at peace with each other and our memories.

To Sarah's school friends - we'd love to meet you after the celebration. Do come and say 'Hi' and hug us (if that's your thing). And tell us your names too - we might not remember them all, but at least we'll know some of you.

Wednesday, 1 June 2005

The grieving process is odd

I have been considering this for a few days now. This may be more of a window into my head than I'd normally want to open - or maybe not - but it might be useful to some people, so is probably worth it.

One of the things I noticed in the first 24 hours was how we wanted to just be still and quiet. We had close family around at that stage, and after the conversations naturally petered out we just sat in silence. Not an especially comfy silence, granted, but in many ways we prefered it. Words didn't cut it (how many people have said "there are no words to cover this"?).

Alongside that was the strangeness and almost awkward rudeness of biological function. It seemed really wrong to need to eat, to want the loo, to sleep. After the first sleepless night we were desperately tired, and I've remained aware of a lack of endurance since then - I really want sleep! Last night I stayed up 'till a bit after 12 to email various people, read a couple of forums etc. I just HAD to go to bed. My eyes start feeling heavy around 9.30-10.00ish.

Then there's the bike. Oh yes, the bike. This became my little secret bit of guilt at the beginning. See on the Saturday (THAT Saturday) I'd been to look at the one I'd mentioned earlier and agreed to buy it. It was irrational, but in my own mind I started to wonder if there could be some connection between that and what happened. People are daft sometimes. I KNOW there's no connection, but it took a bit of God's grace and patience to see that. Chris and I talked it over, and as our sharper eyed neighbours will have noticed, it's sat there at the bottom of the garden. Don't really feel much like riding it at the moment - there's a sharp reminder of that day, and especially that evening. Sarah was really excited at the thought of us having it, but it's the one area where I'm struggling to push past the feelings I have. Think it'll just get left until after the funeral. Once I get on it then it's likely to feel different.

So we're not completely (well, I'm not) perfect.

There you go. A window into my head, briefly open.

And now...... Breakfast.