Saturday 30 September 2006

I love this pic.

I've not seen the film but I suspect that wasn't *quite* how it was put.

Worship assessment

How do you like to worship God and find Him best?

One of the few quizzes online that's actually offering some insight and usefulness.

Sacred pathways.

I came out as contemplative:

Loving God Through Adoration

“Contemplatives refer to God as their lover, and images of a loving Father and Bridegroom predominate their view of God. …The focus is not necessarily on serving God, doing His will, accomplishing great things in His name, or even obeying God. Rather, these Christians seek to love God with the purest, deepest, and brightest love imaginable.” (28)

“…holding hands with God. …we gaze lovingly at our heavenly Father and have our heart’s delight satisfied.
…(Contemplatives) want nothing more than some privacy and quiet to gaze upon the face of their heavenly Lover and give all of themselves to God.” (181)

“Healthy contemplatives will understand that rich human relationships are a way to enjoy God’s love, just as is solitary and intimate prayer. …God can reveal Himself to us just as much in a conversation with a fellow believer as He can when we are on our knees in prayer.” (189)

“Some forms of contemplation wander form the folds of orthodox Christianity…we should beware of any meditation that calls our ego to somehow be absorbed into God rather than talking about relating to God.”(189)
“Contemplatives must move beyond mere meditation…to an alignment of our will and obedience into conformity with Christ.” (190)

Mary of Bethany, Dr. James Houston (professor at Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.); St, Teresa of Avila; Thomas Merton; Thomas Aquinas; Augustine, Julian of Norwich, King David

Psa. 63; 116; 73; Song of Songs; Isa. 41; 49; 59; 61; Jer. 2:2; Mt. 26: 6-13; Luke 10:38-42; John 14-17

Abba Father Open the Eyes of My Heart
Faithful One Power of Your Love
Here I Am to Worship Purify My Heart
How Beautiful Reveal Your Father Heart To Us
I Love You, Lord Seekers of Your Heart
Joy of My Desire Trust His Heart
Knowing You What Wondrous Love is This?
Lord, I Thirst For You When I Look into Your Holiness
More Love To Thee, Oh Christ With My Whole Heart

1. Make use of the Jesus prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner) or some other prayer (Make haste to help me.) Purpose: to practice the presence of God, reminding yourself that Jesus is Lord, you are a sinner, you need His mercy.
2. Practice secret acts of devotion – something you do for someone else without letting anyone else know about it.
3. Carry a pocket piece – something tactile to remind you Who you serve, e.g. a small cross.
4. Dancing Prayer – allowing God to lead and follow Him wherever He takes you. Allow Him to speak and place requests before you.
4. Centering Prayer – Choose a word and focus on it (Jesus, God, peace, etc.) repeating it until it becomes a part of you. This is not “new age”’; it is a way to close oneself in with God, away from distractions. You are resting in God’s presence.
5. Prayer of the Heart – “focuses on emotional attachment to, or adoration or, God. …Its aim is to love God, to have our hearts enlarged so that God owns more and more of us.” (187)
6. Meditative Prayer – this is prayerful reflection of a biblical text or theme, use of something you can see, taste, touch, hear or smell. (Lecto Divina; placing yourself in the passage )

Some of it's right, although it misses the mark in places too. Interesting

Friday 29 September 2006


Absolutely hammering down here right now, thunder and lightning, the works.

My muscles are killing me from Wednesday night circuit training. Cycling in was not a good plan this morning, but worse still was plate pouching. Stand still, making arm movements with intermittent squeezing. All those back muscles annoyed at being woken up say Aye.


400mg of ibuprofen later I hope things will settle down soon.

Well this morning

was a very clear reminder of why I learned to drive (or ride a motorcycle, though that's just a compromise).

At least it only drizzled *most* of the way in.

The last (Siena) post.

We went to the market dead early – around 8.00am planning to get breakfast on the way, but somehow not doing so. It was big as these things go, selling everything from leather jackets and belts (3 euros for leather at one stall) through curtains to fish and meat.

By the time we’d checked out of the hotel it was 10.30 and the flight was at 6.30 so we were felling the squeeze a little. Chris had really wanted to see a town/city call San Gimignano (nicknamed San Germolino as we could remember the name well) that was famous for have most of its towers still standing. So abandoning the idea of getting to Pisa we turned off at the delightfully named Poggibonsi (it’s all industrial, having been flattened in WWII) to get there.

Perception is a curious thing.

After leaving Siena we could both feel a lightness, but once we’d parked in the park-and-ride area there was a sense of happiness and lack of the heaviness we’d both felt there. Chris even said “this is like being on holiday” despite the need to get to the airport later. So we wandered round yet another medieval city, just enjoying the views and looking at handbags ;-)

By 2pm we’d had lunch and found Chris’s Christmas present before heading back to the car.

There were 2 roads we could have taken to return to Pisa airport, and naturally we took the more ‘scenic’ route. This gave us delightful views of the Tuscan countryside (which looks a lot like the area between Stokenchurch and Henley on Thames only sunnier). Rolling hills, valleys with roads at the bottom and intermittent road signs. Curious how a little place like Pisa will be signed at one junction, then not mentioned at the following 2. Keeps tourists on their toes I guess…..

We made it to the airport in adequate time. No real drama, just the usual hurry up and wait. It was good to be home when we finally got there.

So Arrivederci Italia. I’m sure we’ll be back sometime.

Thursday 28 September 2006

Heard in the office

"I'm one of those people that can sing along to a song, recognise the tune anywhere, but never actually understands or takes any notice of the words."

"Yes, I've been to church too."

Tuesday 26 September 2006

More Siena

Right, back from the last day of talks.

Yet again, many good talks. After a good lunch I wandered out to the local church. Chris had already been in there and seen among the paintings and statues something that looked like a body.

Yup, it’s a body.

Met a number of people in there too, including one of the ‘faculty’ from the meeting. Ilpo Huhtaniemi has an amazing name as well as an amazing understanding of LHR receptors.

So that’s it. Done. We have to spend the day tomorrow finding interesting things and making our way to Pisa for the return flight, which we are both ready for. Chris is ‘cultured out’ and doesn’t want to see another painting of horrid things being done to people, either in the name of religious belief or because it’s a good ancient classical story. She’s also been a bit perturbed by the fascination with displaying parts of dead people. Without wishing to go into detail here, there seems so much mythology and simply bizarre (pagan?) practice mixed up in Roman Catholicism that it’s hard not to see it as a sect, and certainly not the ‘one true church’. All this kind of stuff is kept at a low level in the UK and maybe north America too. And you thought Olsteen, McClaren and Wimber were odd?

So home soon, and not too soon really. It’s a beautiful city on the outside, but you get the feeling there’s less pleasant things underneath. You need to be here to feel it. Having typed this I almost feel threatened here – probably a sign of an over-active imagination coupled to a need to go find dinner in a city that speaks a different language.


Back from dinner.

Tip for Johanna if she ever comes through Italy: don’t eat the ‘menu touristas’. Our final meal here was back at the first restaurant we ate in, and had the best food we’d enjoyed here and they had what *looked* to be a great offer. Emphasis on the word looked.

Tomorrow we want to be up early so we can visit the Wednesday market. Then we’ll head off to Pisa.

It’s funny how after a while you start to notice things about a place. Like the streets here are covered in faeces and rubbish (this is Chris’s observation – she’s spent much more time outside than me). But the city is too crowded for dogs, and in the centre there are no green public places at all, so they just go in the middle of the pavement. And birds have no care about where they go anyway. Plus every day seems to be rubbish collection day, so there is refuse in all sorts of places. Adds to the authentic medieval air, but it sure isn’t attractive. They scrub the pavements with a mobile scrubber every day too, so it’s not lack of effort on the part of the city.

We’re about to go to bed, but while I’ve been typing this I’ve had the TV on. They have the selection of Miss Italia happening right now, with voting by telephone. Now Italian girls are rather spectacular in what passes for fully clothed here: plunging necklines go down a long way, and the legs are generally long and shapely. But somehow 100 girls in minimal bikinis walking and gyrating in front of an audience seems neither quite right, nor either exotic or erotic. Just a bit boring actually – now how sad is that!.

Monday 25 September 2006

Hello darling, dinner is in the dog.

Well, it isn't quite like that really.

This morning was a time of slightly greater than usual distraction in the dash to leave as we had to be at the Marlborough school so they could show us the garden they have prepared to commemorate Sarah and Howard Hillsdon (a former pupil killed just 1 week after Sarah). In the emotional stirrings of it all I simply left my lunch in the kitchen. Chris was due to see her mum today, so the plan was that she'd drop it here on the way.

At 12.15 it seems lunch was somewhere between Banbury and Bicester, and had no plans for imminent arrival at Upper heyford.

Lunch was therefore half a Mattesons garlic boiling ring and a few slices of a moist white plastic bread. Yum.

It was funny reading about hitting rock-bottom.

This W/E hasn't been good in many ways, even though I really enjoyed wandering around Bristol docks with Chris on Saturday (images up later). Am I suffering SAD with the shorter sunlight hours, or just simply being a miserable beggar? Can't seem to shake the feelings of uselessness, loss and weakness right now. I'm really hesitant to blog about this, but there also seems little point in blogging if you're going to hide feelings - except where some's going to get hurt.

What I'd really like to do is just hide in a hole, but that's not possible right now.

Sunday 24 September 2006

More Sienese posting


Well yesterday I think I probably hit rock bottom.

After the plenary session yesterday there was a ‘welcome reception’ with nibbles and drinks. For various reasons I felt weighted down, and had only managed to really talk with one person. After a few forays up and down through the crowd looking for a conversation I could join the miseries got the better of me and I headed off to find Chris for dinner.

This morning we had a mix of sunshine and mist, with a clean coolness to the air. Despite vows otherwise, we ate breakfast at the hotel in the hope of meeting other participants in the meeting. At least they managed real rolls this time, however we appear to be the only ‘victims’. If they do it again and I DO come next time then I’ll try the Alexi where everyone else seems to be.

Yesterdays talks were good, especially Teresa Woodruff from Chicago talking about ‘oncofertility’ the damage cancer treatments cause to female fertility and techniques for maturing primordial follicles in vitro after cryopreservation. Today was full of gonadotrophin receptors, testosterone metabolism, hormone antagonists and molecular causes behind oligospermia. So far it’s been a reat course with little of the jargon molecular biologists often love to throw in that so often clouds what they’re actually attempting to achieve. No-one has mentioned SMAD at all.

I was hugely relieved to be able to make some better contacts (or renew contacts) today. Nerves are the enemy of ‘nobbing’, yet a major reason to be here is for me to ‘nob with the nobs’ as it’s delicately described, and failure to do so would make the trip very much less fruitful than otherwise. Despite knowing these are just *people* that have to eat, sleep and use the toilet like everyone else it doesn’t stop me being hideously nervous. With a touch of the grace of God contacts have been made with key people and hopefully some interesting work will come out.

We went to the dinner last night, held in ‘the most expensive restaurant in Siena’ to quote one of the local guys. Bueno. Enoteca Italiano was good, especially the range of wines which you might expect as it’s a winery. We were feeling a little lost (Chris wanted a table inside as the night was cool, but tables there were scarce) when we were invited to Join Teresa and Tom – that’s prof. Teresa Woodruff and her husband, who I suspect is a professor somewhere too. They both had invites to lecture here at the same time – now how unlikely is that? So a very pleasant evening, and I’m quite proud of Chris, holding her own in such company.

*edit* heard that the wine we enjoyed last night sells at 50 euros a bottle. Glad I only found out afterward.

And so this morning.

Cool and misty again, we abandoned the ‘delights’ of plastic food in favour of a small café up the road. For less than 6 euros we enjoyed fresh food (Chris had a filled pastry, I had a small panini filled with cured ham) and a couple of caffe latte that were good. Now it’s 8.45am and I need to walk down for the morning session.


If you'd like someone to pray for....

....please pray for Chris. She's been getting tummy cramps is really pretty unwell. It's especially bad today, but it's been going on for quite a long time now.

Images from Italy

OK, I've uploaded the first batch of photos from the trip to Florence - pooling them together, I've added 117 pix to the gallery. I'll do Siena later when I get round to it.

Catch them here.

Next blog update below:

Fascinating stuff.

Most fascinating was a talk by Teresa Woodruff from Chicago – first met her about 8 years ago – doing work maturing primordial follicles (eggs to you) in culture. This is important because cancer therapy is often lethal to the reproductive system, so freezing an ovary would make children possible in later life. She even coined a phrase ‘oncofertility’. Went along to the welcome party, then back to collect Chris for a later dinner.

We were talking over dinner about our feeling toward the city. So many people have told us how wonderful it is, how it’s their favourite, how magnificent etc. I hate to say it, but somehow it feels oppressive.

Maybe it’s the narrow streets, the rain and cloud, hassles with transport and the poor hotel, but somehow there’s a feeling here of dark unpleasantness. Not too far away is a museum dedicated to instruments of torture, complete with a skeleton in rusty iron cage. None of this is unique to Siena, but most societies have buried, flattened and changed almost everything over the last 500 years. Here all the buildings are more-or-less still there, a little patched but otherwise un-modified. There’s no doubt it’s a fascinating place, but compared to the friendly and open atmosphere of Florence, it feels dark and brooding.

Not sure we’ll hurry to come back.

Saturday 23 September 2006

I have screwed up.

25th wedding anniversaries.


Friday 22 September 2006

Post 2

So the weather fell apart.

Chris is dressing in her warmest clothes before we venture out for dinner. There have been small rivers running down the centre of the streets, and getting wet feet has been inevitable. We had a wander after that last post, and came back 1 ½ hours later, rather chilled. At least the room is warm.


Darn it, typing is difficult.

We’ve just got back from dinner.

Chris enjoyed 1 ¼ glasses of a rose wine too pleasant to leave.

The grappa here is delicious.

Alcohol does typing ability no favours at all.

As a matter of interest, after a couple of glasses of wine my nose starts to go numb, followed by my lips, eventually travelling up to my scalp and ears. If my speech makes no sense after a couple of drinks it’s probably not that I’m drunk, so much as my mouth being numb and no longer obedient to my brain. It really does feel like the after effects of a dentist’s anaesthetic, right up to the nose being tickly and ears losing sensation.

Mmmmmm. Garlic reminders.

That WAS a good dinner.

Sunday morning.

We awake to the sound of running water, and it wasn’t the people in the room above preparing a bath.

Actually that’s not entirely true. We awoke several times during the night. People walking through the streets about 70 feet below us wanting the world to know they’d had a good time. The streets are so narrow that all sound is reflected upward by the stonework, penetrating any acoustically soft surfaces like windows and entering the room of sleepers to jar them awake.

The bathroom here is almost funny, except we have to use it.

Breakfast came in plastic bags, although the coffee was freshly prepared with steamed milk etc, and very strong. Dark and rich without an excess of bitterness. I can see where the various by supermarkets and coffee shops attempts at producing an Italian-style coffee have come from, but they all land wide of the mark. I think we might attempt to find a café tomorrow as this level of fare is almost insulting.

Looking from our window we can see the clouds have come right down now. Towers have lost their tops: the Duomo tower with it’s zebra strips has disappeared almost completely. The rain has also jacked up a few notches since I started typing. It was just steady but mild, whereas now it’s hammering down. Chris bought a guide book that described the various floods this area experienced. In 1966 they had flooding in Florence so severe that people died and many buildings were filled with mud. That started with rains in mid September……. But repeating that is a helluva way to signal our arrival here.

Italian beds (from a sample of 2) are a mixed blessing. The good thing is that they all seem HUGE. Wider than many American double beds I’ve slept in. The bad is that they are very firm. This is causing me problems with nerves in my back, with pains resulting in my right hip and knee. Sometimes exercise and stretching helps, but I’ve done a bit and the relief was very temporary. Oh well, no point in moping.

I think we should go out soon. Staying in the room will only fray tempers, and it would be better to get wet but see some of the city than stay indoors and come home empty.

Right, back again.

We had a good morning, wandering round. Headed up to the Duomo, then off to the right to find the old city hospital: Santa Maria della Scala. 6 euros buys entry to what appears to be a relatively simple grand building with extensive paintings on its plaster walls. That’s on the surface of it.

So we wandered round the paintings, through a few rooms with more paintings, we looked at the walking stick collection (more than you’d think it might be) before following a set of steps heading down for the Siena archaeological museum.

There is a lot of stuff underground.

After a couple of hours walking through tunnels, corridors, darkened rooms and chambers filled with Egyptian, Etruscan, Roman and Greek artefacts you stop concentrating on the artefacts and start to focus on the tunnels. We went down 3 levels, and there were more levels yet, although we didn’t find out how many. Glass panels in the floor showed lower areas too that were quite extensive. There were steps in the walls leading up and down into darkness. This is the kind of place that would have you believe that the daVinci code might be real after all.

Chris kept on saying “this building’s weird” so much that she started to apologise for it. Seriously though, it was *weird*!

There were other things that made me feel uncomfy both yesterday and today. We’ve been in a few places with paintings out of Christian ‘mythology’ now. The raising of Theophilus’ son from the dead….. 14 years after he died? Peter and Paul doing certain things together that they never did. Peter being enthroned etc etc. Virgin birth of Mary anyone? I find it no surprise that people observing traditional ‘christianity’ decided it's mumbo jumbo. Yes, we can’t know God in all his fullness, but there’s certainly no need to make up fanciful stories to ‘prove’ how all powerful He is. This makes me really mad.

Andrew – if you’re reading this: THIS is what the *traditional* church is all about to me. THIS is what I hate with a passion. For me, all the robes, rituals, bells and smells lead right back to this kind of flight of fancy, where stories get swapped and grown or invented and the are used to justify certain actions and attitudes.

Anyway enough ranting. Off to find the University Santa Chiara for registration and the start of the sessions.

Thursday 21 September 2006

Well, the first blogpost from Italy.

This is our second day here, having survived our stupid-o’clock start and subsequent drive to Florence plus finding our hotel.

Florence was simply amazing as a city. There is so much there, so many nooks and crannies, so many edifices, so much art that a couple of days isn’t enough to get under the skin properly let alone sample a decent proportion of it all. Italy was the old America, where everything had to be built bigger, better, more ornate than everyone else, and Florence seems to have led the way in that. The Duomo is outstanding in its sheer size and degree of ornamentation, yet is by no means the only extremely decorated building. It is also in the process of being cleaned, changing from a grimy grey with black streaks to a sparkling white and green. This morning we parked in the Piazza del Carmine opposite the church of the same name. This comprised a large but externally drab building, which inside had the most ornate painted plasterwork, yet seemed to be ‘just another example’ that hardly got noticed.

Our hotel yesterday was a great find. The Uno Vittoria is a very modern hotel with interior design that blends the avante guard with hints of art deco and the electrical engineering of Charactacus Potts. First thing that hits you through the front door is the strip of mosaic running across the floor, over the ceiling and up to the reception desk. We were also a little disconcerted that the corridors leading to the rooms are all painted satin black, floors, walls and ceiling, and with a life-size picture of a member of deceased Italian aristocracy applied to each rooms door. You’ll need to see the pictures, but the room had the bed area covered in squares of purple leather with tiny lights at where the corners met. There were lights under the floor, mirrors and a huge LCD TV screen on the wall opposite and a kingsize bed. The shower room would be a honeymoon couple’s delight, while the bathroom was sparkling, if a little too purple. Aircon, internet connection and everything controlled from a console on each side of the bed. I found this place on Expedia, and it cost a total of £74 for the night including breakfast. The ‘standard rate’ given in the room was 449 euros plus 20 euros for breakfast.

For the price we paid, if we ever go back I’ll stay there again.

I’m usually too tight to pay hotel porters for handling my bag (makes me quite cross) but in Italy this is *how it is done* and so when we were edged into using the porter I didn’t object. We’d never have found our room without him! He was good natured, showed us how to make everything work in English and had the good grace to look both surprised and pleased when I tipped him. In fact service there was thoroughly excellent, with the waiter from last night’s meal recognising us at breakfast, and staff always being helpful in a non-intrusive manner.

So from the sublime to the … less sublime.

We’re here in Siena now. I may blog later about the stuff we saw in Florence.

Having described the hotel there, I don’t really want to describe the hotel here, other than to say it’s old, cleanish and the rooms are larger. I’ll apply the thumper principle at this point.

Siena has dealt with the problem of too many cars trying to drive through tiny streets by banning them. Not all cars: residents may still drive in the city, but visitors may not. It is also absolutely full of scooters and mopeds. We parked outside the walls (this is free, although spaces aren’t easy to find) and walked in to try to find the hotel. Having checked in we got a taxi to drive us back, collect the bags and return.

Siena IS a medieval city. Not was: is. For some good historical reasons it never got developed after the 16th century, and not much before that. It was even ignored by the Germans, who blew up significant portions of Florence, and therefore a lot of the buildings are truly ancient and remarkably authentic. Streets are tiny on a scale that makes even Paris and London look like they’ve never known the word ‘alley’ and frequently mountain-bike steep. As we travelled in the taxi to collect our bags the forecast heavy rain arrived. Travelling back through those tiny, winding passages (they can’t be called streets) the driver won my admiration. Not that I couldn’t have driven there too, but that he was so smooth and so precise in the knowledge of the width of his vehicle. There were some places where the gap was no more than 4” wider than the car, but he always got through with just the right amount of wiggle.

So here we sit. The rain stopped briefly and has now re-started, although with less ferocity. Chris is bored and wants to go out, so I’m going to stop here.

There will be some words later

But I've just had time to choose and prep a few images in my coffee break.

While we were there I wrote a blog post pretty much daily, but the hotel in Siena was 'basic' (read unchanged since the 1950s) and internet access but a twinkle in the proprietors eye. Not yet sure whether to meter the stored posts out gradually just as if I were there or whether to simply upload about 6 pages of word document.

That's an answer in itself really - lets do the gradual upload.

Anyway, without further ado, here's the pix:

Oh BTW somewhere down there lives Johanna (Gummie Worm Pizza) right now: lake Geneva.

*edit* wonder if this is us?

Wednesday 20 September 2006

We're back!

But it's bed time.

BTW johanna - you didn't see us, but we waved to you as we flew over lake Geneva.

More tomorrow.

Friday 15 September 2006

Thursday 14 September 2006

Well we're packed.

So why am I sat here?

I've been pushed all evening. From the moment Dan and Kita left.

So I end up packed early but very stressed, sweating like a pig and looking over my shoulder all the time.

And then there's the little things to put away that were forgotten because we were hurrying. Like my tooth brush, shaver (that had been charging) etc. And I'd fully packed in 35 mins too.

So I sent Chris to bed. Finished shaving. Took cases downstairs, packed the stuff that never made it.

Cooling down now.

Checked out the route for trouble (M25 has roadworks).

Just about ready I guess.

Ben's got food, drink and a house to look after.

Night everyone. 3 1/2 hours 'till I wake. 8 hours 'till we fly.


Forgot to mention it. Off to Italy, for a conference in Siena starting Sunday. Flying to Pisa tomorrow, overnight in Florence, then on to Siena Saturday evening.

Need to pray.

Shooting in Montreal.

Pricing is an art that baffles me.

I can post a letter to the US for 68 pence.

I can send a light weight jacket to Switzerland by FedEx for £55.

Airmail is the winner at £4.49.

Wednesday 13 September 2006

And while I'm talking about riding.

There was a curious calm and quiet outside first thing. It rained last night and was misty in the valley this morning. As I left home, just before hopping on the bike I stopped.

The silence was almost uncanny, as though an invisible blanket had been draped over the countryside.

No cars.

No bleating sheep.

No cows complaining.

no birdsong.

Even the eternal noise of chainsaws and lawn mowers had ceased.

Rather nice, but odd. It was broken 5 mins later by a Range Rover that overtook me going up Mudginwell hill at around 75mph. That's a lot of metal to be throwing around on a country lane at those speeds.

There's a buzz I get.

It's a childish thing, I know.

On the way to work there's a hill that climbs up from the village of Upper Heyford through the airbase. It's around 1/3 mile, and although not steep, it is certainly not gentle either and too long to simply rush it in a big gear. A couple of times recently I've met other guys cycling up this same slope. Last week it was a chap who looked around 10 years older than me (mid 50s) on one of those funny Raleigh shoppers with 10" wheels and huge balloon tyres. Went past him at around 3 times his speed with a cheery greeting. This morning it was a younger guy on a touring bike, obviously straining up the hill in too big a gear. Went past him around 50% faster, again with a greeting (having a bike come past when you don't know it's there can really make you jump!).

So yes, it's childish, but I do get a buzz from overtaking other guys. Life IS a race.

Tuesday 12 September 2006

Ben's off today.

He's got his interview with the ski resort people today. Late last night he just thought to check what they wanted him to take: Passport, Driving license, Birth certificate.

And photocopies of same.

So here we were, 7.50am, photocopying documents. The selection process starts at 10.00am in Birmingham. 2 hours *should* be enough.

Apparently it was OK and he'll hear in a couple of weeks. He did get there late though - 2 hours wasn't enough after all.

Monday 11 September 2006

So here I sit.

The next line that springs to mind is "broken hearted. Spent a penny."

But in the interests of good taste we'll leave it there.

So here I sit, email from Steve B reminding me that I need to get a worship team schedule out, and don't I know it. That's the express purpose for this evening PC time (been shopping already, eaten dinner and now I'm finally free). Turfed Ben off of here too - he still can't find his XP disc - stoopid automatic update trashed his OS, and now it won't boot.

So I'm wondering what the schedule will look like. Anna (main keyboard player, worship leader and song writer) is producing and needs to step down. We've a few potential players (and good for them - I'm really grateful) but it seems like I'm going to be 'it' a fair bit, at least providing the music.

Lets hope we don't have a repeat of Sunday, where we did one song I don't know well starting from the chorus and not the verse, with everyone then entering the verse in the wrong key (I know who's fault that was!). My playing just unravelled and we did it a capella, which was fine by the grace of God. Ho hum.

OK. Head down.


Just spent almost an hour with Ben trying to get windows to repair the installation on his machine.


Sunday 10 September 2006

If anyone is interested......

I've put images up from yesterday. Although I visited 20 churches, by the end I was getting tired and forgot to take pictures. The link is

St. Mary's at North Aston.

Saturday 9 September 2006

Just completely stuffed tonight.

It's completely my own fault, of course.

Really wanted a break for the mind, so watched a DVD after chris went to bed last night (she was tired out after tiling our fire place).

Today I did a sponsored bike ride, which involved visiting as many churches as possible either on foot or on a bike. I must have ridden for the equivalent of 3 hours, visiting various places, and I'm just pooped now - no energy left really. I've eaten, slept and still have nothing left.

Went shopping after the ride. Found a raincoat someone needed, collected a transformer from Maplin for an amp re-design.

Tonight we're invited over to next door - a combined 40th birthday and moving in party for Andrew's GF, Davina. I hope the head wakes up a little, otherwise I'll be both pooped and pooper.

BTW at some stage I'll put up the pics I took on the ride. Managed to photograph most of the churches I visited (20 in all) on the way round.

Thursday 7 September 2006

Chickens so passe.

It seems the real thing is now murine.

Johanna had......

Better watch out when she returns next year, or she might get nicked for speeding.

Wednesday 6 September 2006

For once Kirk doesn't boldly go.

Somehow the idea of a burning re-entry surrounded by vomit doesn't appeal. How curiously logical.

Quality of content?

There was a post by Fernando about the quality of blog content, frequency of posting etc.

I struggle with this a little, as I have slipped into a habit I promised I never would - watching traffic through the site.

The blog was never intended to be for anyone but me, however since Sarah's death this blog has been the centre of interest for a lot of people, and to my surprise, traffic hasn't dropped off a great deal since March this year (to date almost 15,000 visits since then, and that doesn't count RSS feed readers).

The issue of content bothers me. Not that I expect to provide great content all the time: life isn't like that, being a mixture of the occasionally amazing and frequently dull boring with the odd bit of crap for good measure. I've seen some bloggers apologising for the content on their pages, which was funny in the case of one, as their blog often had rubbish on it when they were pleased with it.

But I don't want to start worrying about driving traffic here. If you want to read then you're welcome. If you don't, only you will know. I still occasionally wonder about starting fresh so that I can post all my thoughts and frustrations without fear of upsetting those that know me directly. But maybe it's good to keep all that reined in - a word spoken, or written, can have a lot more power to influence once it's out there.

As for this blog, you can expect the usual mix of dazzling brilliance, mostly buried in mundane rubbish

Monday 4 September 2006

I'm not sure if this is real or not?

I've just popped a dead cheap (£6) belkin network card in the PC and it seems a bit quicker with connections and browser operations generally. Probably wishful thinking. Or maybe it's to do with the thick layer of dust I removed so everything is running 20'C cooler now?

At least it's working now - Ben *knows* how to take PCs to bits, but doesn't take enough care sometimes, especially when it's someone else's machine. He'll be back online soonish - he's just completed an upgrade and rebuild. It all got a little traumatic earlier with the MOBO he'd bought requiring SATA drivers from a FLOPPY(!) and having to share mine with him, then finding that it didn't work. Got there in the end.

Whatever, we're both back together and it seems OK. I should be able to run this PC as a dual boot linux system in future (linux needs specific drivers to use my router through USB).

And talking of cooler, I finally received that Emiliana Torrini CD. Her voice seems less captivating on my HiFi than it did loud in the car, but it IS cool music. Nuts, I don't even LIKE acoustic guitars.

(*edit*) Just heard some nice tremelo electric guitar, so that's better.

Saturday 2 September 2006

Another cool smilie.

This one takes a moment to work though.

What a sweet irony.

The BBC forecast that the weather today in Bicester would be like this:

What we got was a bit of rain this morning, stopped by 11ish and then a breezy, relatively mild day. The fun day was good, although with the relatively poor weather this year we probably had >1000 people instead of the >3000 last year (we'd hoped for around 5000+).

The irony? To sing "I can see clearly now" in the first band this afternoon.

I'm doing something un-precedented here.

After a single read of his blog, I'm adding a new name to my blogroll.

The writer isn't a total stranger, yet at the same time I barely know him. But from what I've read so far, he does seem to have some good comments to make and wisdom to share. And it'll make looking up his blog SO much easier.

Friday 1 September 2006

I've had this running round my head for a couple of weeks.

Back at the beginning of the year I decided I'd read the bible through again. I've done it a couple of times before - no biggie - but it's good to make sure you see the bits that don't often get a visit in normal circumstances. For me that includes Psalms.

I have an issue with Psalms.

While vary a bit, the common theme is "God, you're all powerful, come and kill my enemies and bless me above others".

Reading through this section is something I've struggled with more than at other times as the apparent self-promotion and desire to destroy opposition has been much more noticeable than before.

As a result of a visit from Ron and Mary MacClean (from Winnipeg) a few years back we went through a phase of refocussing on God-oriented worship and stopped singing a lot of the songs that focussed on I, me and us. Yet here are the psalms, absolutely full of I, me and mine. On top of that I'm trying to understand how it was OK for all these to call for the physical death and destruction of those that rejected God.

Now I accept there is more to this than meets the eye. At the time of writing it wasn't unusual for an enemy to expect to kill and maim their opponent, so in this respect the literal death of one's enemies might well bring peace and rest, yet it still didn't sit right with me. A recent post by Marc also had me thinking. His point from reading Justo Gonzalez book was that Jewishness was fine with the early church. I have some significant reservations over that. I'd suspect that they were having to do a considerable amount of re-interpretation and adjustment of their understanding for just the reasons above.

So back to why are these psalms in the bible? I dunno!

However I do wonder if they're there because they are an authentic expression of how the Jews saw God and man from the time of David through to after Israel's return from captivity in Babylon. If I 'squint with my spirit' I can see the canon of scripture in Psalms, but there's something in them that grates. Or maybe, as some of the right-wing evangelical Christian Americans I've discussed stuff with might suggest: I'm just a soft and wishy-washy liberal with no moral backbone, and the death and shame of one's enemies if perfectly fine by God? I dunno - still working things through.

I'm still buzzing a bit.

Tonight we had the second and final rehearsal of the rock'n'roll band.

I got there tired and a bit apprehensive as I knew I was going to have to deliver a lot more leads and breaks than with the other band. I'd slept poorly last night as I was still pretty high from that rehearsal when I went to bed, and sleep never comes when I'm like that. But once we started playing I just eased in, and although the timing was off and muscles aching, I could still tear into Johnny B Goode like I meant it (cheesy, but darn good fun). Digging into the processor I found a lovely tremelo patch that fitted 'You'll never walk alone' (I call it you'll never walk again).

So here I'm sat, working my way through a large glass of port (bottle's been open too long and needs drinking up) listening to Johnny Winter, blogging and dreaming up some more licks to use tomorrow.

But there's something else that's curious. Dennis, the guy that's put this together always seems to draw out good playing in everyone that works for him. He's not a young guy and plays everything like it's Country and Western (yup, BOTH kinds of music ;¬)). Yet somehow I find myself nailing licks for him when I'd fluff them often as not at other times. I remember seeming him playing a few years back supported by a guy with a shredder guitar banging out licks like his life depended on them. At the time I thought "he's a darn capable guitar player". Now I wonder if it was Dennis and his influence. I've played with him before in worship, and almost always the guitar has sounded sweeter and more exciting than most other times.

Maybe Dennis has an annointing to make other players play better?