Sunday, 30 December 2007
The car hunt is proving more hassle now we have got cash than when we hadn't - then it was always very simple: just grab the least bad car you can afford. It became more difficult with having *some* money so that we could get something reasonably decent, but not too new. Now we can (in theory) afford what we want we both find we're baulking at investing real money in a vehicle that will rot and break down.
We need a reasonable sized car for stuff like transporting guitars, amps etc. going away, moving furniture.... all those boring things. We need a second form of transport that would *preferably* also be able to manage other people and guitars & amps, therefore we can't just rely on a bike. On top of that we want to move the 406 on.
My preference would be to buy Chris a VW Beetle, but that was before I realised just how little space of any kind they have (this IS a golf with a different body shell, for heavens sakes). So if we had that as Chris's main car we'd still need a medium sized vehicle. We *could* keep the 406, but that runs directly contrary to our plans and expectations. So to do what we'd *like* to do would cost around £20K, which seems slightly obscene and is substantially more than our first mortgage (heck it's more than half our present one!).
On top of that I've developed an allergy to the colours silver and grey (i.e. almost 80% of cars out there). And to rub salt in the wounds, the 'best' car for our run around purposes looks to be a Peugeot 307 estate.
So almost everything I'd said we didn't want to have in the way of a car looks like it'll probably happen. It's got to the point where there's no will or desire left to keep looking for the 'right' car and it's just down to the old numbers (youngest/lowest mileage) game.
Hi fellow silver car driving sheep, won't you welcome me into your arms?
*edit* We now have a plan. It all depends on whether a car we hope to see tomorrow is bona fide. If it's good then we know what to do, but if not then we know what else to do.
If this was the matrix, would you take the green pill or the silver pill?
Thursday, 27 December 2007
That does not mean our search is finished, as there were things about this car I wasn't happy with. Also this is a car designed - apparently - to be as impractical as possible. When I was told it had almost no boot space I didn't think they really meant that it has ALMOST NO BOOT SPACE. And the opening is so narrow, I'm sure my mouth has been wider from the number of feet I've stuck in it.
But it was nice to drive - calm, neutral, reasonably precise and with just enough weight. Shame it's only the 100bhp version of the TDi engine.
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Hope you guys had a decent journey home. It would be nice to see you again some time, and maybe Steve and I could jam somewhere a little louder (and a little better in my case).
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
All businesses stop, hardly anyone goes out and the country becomes almost unrecognisable.
Some look forward to it's coming with happiness. Some view it as a bleak time, holding fear, isolation and even danger. Some just seem to get buried by it.
I've been asking myself why we 'do' Christmas. Us personally that is. It seems to have become the season of opportunity: businesses to get a little peak in sales, employees to get time off, most of us to eat too much nice food, the church to outreach.
This isn't one of those "what's the hidden meaning of Christmas" posts, and it's not a "Christmas humbug - I'm so miserable" post either. I guess for me, just as I saw a gap between what happens in a substantial portion of church and Jesus, I'm seeing a gap between Christmas and Christ. I'm not sure this is a train I want to step off, but this year I don't think I'd have done stuff like trees and lights if Chris hadn't wanted them. When I was a kid it was a chance to obtain the things I could never afford outright on my own, and to a degree after we were married and had no money that was true again.
Some of this IS affected by what's happened to us.
In our garden there are 2 pieces of slate, one with Sarah and the other with Laurence written on in white paint. The slate with Chris's dad's name has faded and the name become indistinct, partially washed away over the last 2 years. The slate with Sarah's name is still virtually untouched and intact. So it is with us. 2 1/2 years on we still feel much like we did at the beginning, at times. I don't know about this business of time healing: I think instead you just get used to having the load in place and most of the time it sits there without being too obvious.
This is too maudlin for Christmas day. Time to get the family up and feed them croissants.
Monday, 24 December 2007
Thursday, 20 December 2007
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
I grabbed a convenient bottle of 'normal' culture medium that had been prepared for a different project and wasn't used.
Said medium contains HAT for hybridoma culture.
I was un-aware of the HAT content.
Said SP2 cells are specially engineered to find HAT lethal.
It is good to know that this system works well. I shall be quite confident that any cells growing after my fusion on Christmas eve will, absolutely definitely be hybridomas and not suriving myelomas.
Now I DO regret making Chris wait 5 more minutes to collect me.
Someone say something?
I've never really had much of a choice or budget before, so I can actually look at more than just the lowest possible price. How come there are so many utterly boring cars around these days?
Does no-one have any imagination when selecting colours for current models? Who thought metallic blue was an exciting alternative to the otherwise universal silver or grey?
And why do they virtually ALL look like tedious boxes with varying degrees of edges creased into the metal. The only exceptions to that seem Peugeots and Renaults, neither of which I'm really willing to risk spending real money on. BMWs appeal slightly, but they're too darn expensive, there's no local dealers I know of and they look depressingly similar to Vauxhalls range.
OK. What I'd like is something with some interest and some styling, both inside and outside.
It needs to be large enough to carry amps and guitars, luggage for holidays, 5 adults for medium length journeys. It must be small enough to park without too much difficulty in a smaller space.
It MUST be diesel. No petrol engine could ever win me back for serious ownership, no matter how fun it was to drive for a day or a month.
It must handle well in terms of being well controlled through corners between 40mph and 70mph for country lane driving and stable at motorway speeds without the need for white-knuckle concentration from the driver (hello Volvo - have you fixed the V40 yet?).
It must feel reasonably solid, thereby eliminating pretty much any Asian car manufacturer not already ruled out by what might be termed 'styling'.
It must make at least *promises* of reliability. Goodbye Fiat, Renault and Alfa.
I have a feeling that no vehicle matching all of these criteria really exists.
There's a sense of dread that we'll end up with a car in silver - an even more bland colour than beige. If that's the only compromise we'll have probably got away lightly.
Sunday, 16 December 2007
Brussels has a nice feel to it, despite being the centre of European government. It has obviously seen a lot of money spent over a couple of centuries, which is slightly surprising, as Belgium hasn't been a country in its own right for too long.
It's interesting contrasting this with Vienna. In that city there was a sense of it once having been intensely powerful and extremely wealthy, with a long and busy history. Yet it is now a city apparently reduced to scraping a living from tourism, still being proud and elegant yet so poor. Brussels looked like a city that had been poor, yet had become well off and comfortable recently, and was relaxed and enjoying the idea of doing well.
The market wasn't too much like the Vienna market. Few stalls seemed to carry hand crafted goods or amazing decorations. It WAS good to visit, but with a much more modern and commercial feel to it.
We also spent time with Richard and Anna (and Joel). They send their love back to all who know them from Bicester and Oxford. They're doing well, and Richard hopes to set up his own language business next year.
With no more ado, here's a small selection of pics. Sorry if you're on dialup.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
So this morning we had a hard frost that stretched all the way to work.
Because we live in a valley it's common for the air to be much colder down below, and often cycling upwards brings me out into sunlight and moderate temperatures. However the wind was obviously blowing last night, mixing the freezing air above and below the valley, leaving a trail of solid puddles and crunchy grass. Because of the rain that's been and gone, many of the roads have small streams flowing down their edges and these had been churned into slush by care tyres in the bitter air.
I'd been undecided about motorcycling or or push-biking to work today, and eventually decided on the path of least effort. But someone had other plans for me, and when I got on the Triumph this morning nothing I did would convince the engine to turn over. There's a bad contact in there somewhere - probably the sensor on the clutch lever being frozen solid - and it simply didn't want to know.
I've enjoyed a week of not cycling, and now that I'm back on the bike I feel slow when riding and seriously strained from the ride. It feels very much like having been shaken enthusiastically in a giant hand, and it takes the senses a long while to settle down.
Another strange thing is this management business.
Half of me wants to manage people while the other half hates the idea. It seems bizarre to be able (as I did yesterday) to send someone home sick. It's also mildly terrifying to be responsible for the day-to-day activities of 3 other people, knowing my choices will affect their careers, earning potential and happiness at work. In some ways it's the scariest thing I've done.
Oh well, back to the lab.
Saturday, 8 December 2007
Unfortunately it's been built like a typical Italian car and the darn thing hangs when I run from the DVD (that I actually paid for this time!). Seems this happens to others too, all caused by improperly implemented hardware acceleration, according the their forum.
This is just plain stoopid. And there's guys on their forum getting a bit stroppy about the different philosophies between Ubuntu and Sabayon when updating, all the time working on parts of the software that aren't broken. I had VERY high hopes for this one - seems they're going to be dashed again. I might dislike some of the things M$ do, but they've made a relatively clean looking, reliable, stable and very functional OS that doesn't require a degree in programming to install and use.
Since Chris is driving so much to work at the mo I would like to find something more suitable than a large family estate car. Anyone know of a new-style VW Beetle with a Diesel engine and cream leather interior for sale? Anyone need a large diesel powered family estate car that's just been serviced for a good price?
I've also just ordered a cab that looks like this:
It'll be a little narrower for a single 12" speaker (this is a 2X12) to take a Marshall 18watt clone. Phil - that amp is sweet.
I hope the US elects someone with a very strong hand and firmly centrist politics next time round, for the good of the whole world.
Friday, 7 December 2007
We need an abortion law because 2 equally valuable lives have to be considered. One can be very vocal about its rights, needs and wants while the other is completely silent.
We need an abortion law because people refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Who else will protect the children when the adults behave like children themselves?
We need an abortion law because many pro-choice supporters refuse to recognise that many lives are shattered by guilt, anguish and shame. Not because a pro-lifer has brow-beaten a victim that underwent termination but because of the biological, emotional and psychological consequences attached to terminating the life of a baby.
It is embarrassing that we must parade our brutal disregard of the value of human life under the wrapping of scientific integrity and personal freedom.
I doubt they will be published below the article, but who knows? Two of the three comments 'in favour' that I saw were almost breath-taking in their naked selfishness and deliberate misunderstanding.
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
"How are you?" "I'm all right."
That's an obvious one.
Something a bit more subtle, and particularly for an older generation: referring to Jesus as 'the Lord', although it's not unusual even now to hear people pray "Oh Lord....".
There's something in me that says Father, but really struggles with 'Lord'. It's not a conscious rebellion, so much as a recognition of practical reality. You know the law has a right to require you to do certain things, but you don't always do them. At least, unlike with the law, I can come back and say sorry. And even mean it.
Honesty is a curious thing. Sometimes a blunt-edged weapon, wielded with great and careless strength. Sometimes a generous or delicate gift, presented in love.
How often the words have come out of my mouth that I've felt but never meant to say. How often have we watched films (we rarely notice the moments in real life) when a few honest words would save a situation, yet neither party speaks them and the whole film becomes (often unfortunately) possible instead of just a short preface to living happily ever after.
How true is proverbs 26:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
But so often we'd prefer to just settle for bland neutrality. Neither a kiss nor a slap.
Thursday, 29 November 2007
Why I blog at all, as much of the stuff I want to say will offend various people, both virtual friends and various people I know in meatspace?
Whether to start a new blog somewhere else, where I can say what I really think?
Whether it would be better not to bother, and just keep it all inside like I do now, but without wasting hours on the web and all the attendant grief that produces from spending lots of time in front of the computer?
Why I tend to always carry things to extremes? On a forum someone wrote that "art is not a competitive sport", but if that IS true then why does it feel like one?
Why is my head so fuzzy so much of the time right now?
FWIW with all the sickness etc around, I think I've had a sub-clinical infection, and that's made me fuzzy and ill-feeling. Monday I couldn't look down a microscope properly and my co-ordination was all to pot. Dropped a large glass jar of coffee in the afternoon, kept missing wells in the microplate I was trying to pipette into etc. It was most bizarre, as I had about 4 hours decent lucidity on Tuesday morning, then after lunch all was just confusion which carried on throughout yesterday. I don't feel especially unwell, but I really hate the continued blurriness - like thinking through treacle.
Ho hum. On with life.
Sunday, 25 November 2007
I've been drifting through a mix of mild depression, anger, self-doubt, selfishness and frustration. None of these are good in themselves, but they are reminding me of how I have to focus on what's real and of value and what is shaky and transitory.
Every cloud etc.
So I'm still here. Thanks to those that noticed and prayed for me: by the grace of God I'm going to come through all this.
Friday, 23 November 2007
I'm really struggling with my attitude toward conservative Americans: trying not to hate the haters. As much of the English-speaking internet is apparently full of them it makes life difficult. It's interesting how sometimes feelings work their way so deeply into our lives without us really being aware that they have. I mentioned having left a particular forum, and I’m still trying to deal with the fallout from that and the results it’s produced in my thoughts and feelings. 1Tim 1 and Ephesians 4 were really good to read this morning, and I want to push past this.
Work goes on. We have a good bunch of new people now and something of a plan to go forwards. Potentially there’s a good future possible – I just have to become more of a manager and extract myself from *wanting* to do everything.
And I still need to book our weekend in Belgium.
There's more stuff - maybe I'll actually post again later.
Friday, 16 November 2007
Rule #1: When in doubt - buy him a guitar. It does not matter if he Already has one. I have a friend who owns 17 and he has yet to complain. As a man, you can never have too many guitars. No one knows why.
Rule #2: If you cannot afford a guitar, buy him anything with the word ratchet or socket in it. Men love saying those two words. "Hey George, can I borrow your ratchet?" "OK. "By-the-way, are you through with my 3/8-inch socket yet?" Again, no one knows why.
Rule #3: If you are really, really broke, buy him anything for his car. A 99-cent ice scraper, a small bottle of deicer or something to hang from his rear view mirror. Men love gifts for their cars. No one knows why.
Rule #4: Do not buy men socks. Do not buy men ties. And never buy men bathrobes. I was told that if God had wanted men to wear bathrobes, he wouldn't have invented Jockey shorts.
Rule #5: You can buy men new remote controls to replace the ones they have worn out. If you have a lot of money buy your man a big-screen TV with the little picture in the corner. Watch him go wild as he flips, and flips, and flips.
Rule #6: Do not buy a man any of those fancy liqueurs. If you do, it will sit in a cupboard for 23 years. Real men drink whiskey or beer.
Rule #7: Do not buy any man industrial-sized canisters of after shave or deodorant. I'm told they do not stink - they are earthy.
Rule #8: Buy men label makers. Almost as good as guitars. Within a couple of weeks there will be labels absolutely everywhere. Socks. Shorts. Cups. Saucers. Door. Lock. Sink. You get the idea. No one knows why.
Rule #9: Never buy a man anything that says "some assembly required" on the box. It will ruin his Special Day and he will always have parts left over.
Rule #10: Good places to shop for men include Northwest Iron Works, Parr Lumber, Home Depot, John Deere, Valley RV Center, and Les Schwab Tire. (NAPA Auto Parts and Sears' Clearance Centers are also excellent men's stores. It doesn't matter if he doesn't know what it is. "From NAPA Auto, eh? Must be something I need. Hey! Isn't this a starter for a '68 Ford Fairlane? Wow! Thanks.")
Rule #11: Men enjoy danger. That's why they never cook - but they will barbecue. Get him a monster barbecue with a 100-pound propane tank. Tell him the gas line leaks. "Oh the thrill! The challenge! Who wants a hamburger?"
Rule #12: Tickets to a Red Wing/Lions/Pistons/Tigers game are a smart gift. However, he will not appreciate tickets to "A Retrospective of 19th Century Quilts." Everyone knows why.
Rule #13: Men love chainsaws. Never, ever, buy a man you love a chainsaw. If you don't know why - please refer to Rule #8 and what happens when he gets a label maker.
Rule #14: It's hard to beat a really good wheelbarrow or an aluminum extension ladder. Never buy a real man a step ladder. It must be an extension ladder. No one knows why.
Rule #15: Rope. Men love rope. It takes us back to our cowboy origins, or at least The Boy Scouts. Nothing says love like a hundred feet of 3/8" manila rope. No one knows why.
p.s. for those unsure, this IS a joke, OK?
Thursday, 15 November 2007
I met a chap called Phil Coates tonight. Phil sometimes reads Tee bottom - he also has a great name on Harmony Central - Farmer Geddon.
Phil lives about 95 miles North of here - the connection was that he was selling a couple of amps I was interested in and so we met to complete the deal. He also needed to shift some other kit, and kindly donated a Fernandes strat plus some pedals for one of the Bicester youth groups to use. That's generous as the strat is Japanese and looks to be pretty nice for a donated guitar - someone is going to be lucky. There was also a CD, with what looks like that very guitar in action on the back.
I made good time - took about 90 minutes going up. The return looked even easier until I joined the M40: traffic at a complete standstill as far as the eye could see.
So we all sat there.
Temperature gradually dropped.... 3'... 2'... 1'...
Next to me was an NHS mobile diagnostics unit. The guys driving that opened it up, turned on the genny and brewed up - but only had 4 cups. :-/
After almost 2 hours we started to move again, and I finally got back around 11.35ish.
Guess trying the amps out will wait 'till tomorrow.
Wednesday, 14 November 2007
It didn't sound like a Spit - defo not a Merlin engine - but was much smoother and quieter. The aircraft appeared light grey, with black and white chequerboard markings under the wings. It was too far away to see any further markings, and although it was moving quite quickly, it seemed smaller than I would have expected. As it drew level with the end of Upper Heyford runway it began a long, graceful series of barrel rolls, before eventually disappearing OOS.
I wonder if it could be one of these, although I do remember someone producing a 5/6th (or similar) scale flying airframe a while back - that might account for the apparently small size. Fascinating.
Sunday, 11 November 2007
Friday, 9 November 2007
We're both struggling a little.
Options for me so far:
Dark suit, narrow tie, glasses and red strat = Hank Marvin
Curly wig, blacked-up face white strat = Jimi Hendrix
Curly wig, wild clothes, shave beard, strat = Eric Clapton
Blond wig, white shirt & Jeans, Flying V = Michael Schenker (who?)
Options for Chris
Black leather trousers, black leather jacket open to navel = Suzie Quatro (too risque)
Lacy undies and long straight wig = Cher (Chris doesn't have enough lacy undies)
Curly wig, white shirt, bound breasts, 'Red Special' guitar = Brian May (don't have a Red Special)
So suggestions are invited. Come up with a better suggestion for us than any of the above. If yours gets chosen then the 'prize' is to see us dressed that way on the blog. No purchase necessary to enter this competition.
I guess I could go dressed in completely ordinary clothes. When asked who I was I could say 'Tom Jones'. If asked for an explanation why I looked so ordinary I could say 'I'm not unusual'.
Thursday, 8 November 2007
Almost all films now seem to show people meeting and having sex within a few days or even hours, with passing expressions of affection or sometimes lust. Guns seem to feature frequently, usually with serious consequences for various people, but with the main characters coming through largely unscathed. Drug use is also apparently normal.
I'm sure the directors would justify this as all essential to make the film exciting, feel realistic or provide a moral to the story. You can draw your own conclusions (if you care to think about these things) but this is where the REAL undermining of society through cinema has happened, if at all. I doubt the Pullman film will significantly affect even 0.001% of the viewers, but it gives those who have been poked into action something to say. Horse, stable door and much, much, much too late.
Cinema can be art, but mostly it is very much less.
Fern had an interesting comment to make on it.
My recommendation is: ignore it.
The Da Vinci code was a bit of a mess, and only going to convince those that had already decided or were so weak minded that they would be blown with every wind of doctrine. Yet all the 'dumb Christians' blew what would have been a flop on it's own into something huge and renowned. If we aren't careful 'we' shall provide these guys with more free publicity that they could shake a stick at, and they will be wealthy and successful instead of disappointed and wondering.
The choice is ours - protest and pass them glory and success on a plate.
Possibly proving how unspiritual I am, the one thing Christians could do is pray about this. Not a quick 'Dear Lord please help mommy and daddy' prayer but real fasting, dedication and crying out to God in prayer night and day prayer. I wonder how many did that over The Da Vinci Code?
I wonder if God enjoyed watching Harry Potter?
Tuesday, 6 November 2007
I also need to change some of the places I surf. Not because they are overtly 'wrong' but because every time I visit any conversation I have beyond discussing guitars and amps leaves me feeling sick these days.
I won't change the site. yet, anyway.
In a world where people re-hash their blogs every few weeks or months, I'm STILL happy with this looks, and it's the content more than the appearance that is more important. And I really hate going to a blog and thinking "Nuts! What link did I click - where am I"?
So TBOTAM (I've started to think of this as being Tee Bottom) isn't likely to get a major workover for some time.
I've tweaked the blogroll - now alphabetical, a couple out, a couple hanging by tooth-skin and a couple of new ones, including some that should have been added a long time ago. The links list has also been updated to reflect what I'm reading more these days.
Monday, 5 November 2007
Friday, 2 November 2007
To protect the existing tiled surface that Chris was so proud of I'd placed newspaper as well as a large plastic sheet over the carpet. When we pulled the sheet away we found one of the stones used to form the hearth had been moved (despite being cemented in) forwards and sideways, and possibly a neighbouring slab. This has left a large gap between the tiles, and all the grouting had fallen out.
So what should have made Chris very pleased has actually upset her considerably and totally undone all the good this might have otherwise produced.
Blighty in the autumn looks pretty good to us.
BTW the previous images were first adjusted on my laptop. The screen is a little dim and lacks contrast, hence they were a little over-contrasty viewed on reasonable qulaity monitors. Hopefully I've not made the same mistakes here.
Monday, 29 October 2007
The world around us keeps changing, and, so it seems, do we. There's a tendency to allow the inside of us to move on from the outside of us - it's sometimes difficult to keep the 2 in sync. and when those things inside no longer match with what we perceive others expect (or demand) we can experience discomfort, turmoil, confusion, and weakness.
Nature, despite climate changes that may or may not be happening, apparently does not have a conflict in this way:
Saturday, 27 October 2007
I'm removing the hearth from the fireplace in our living room with some prejudice. Said hearth does NOT WISH TO BE REMOVED.
I'd hoped for an old brick structure with nice soft crumbly lime mortar. Some of them have been stuck in with modern hard cement, and the old lime mortar ones are interesting too. Lime mortar is designed to work while slightly damp - ie in old buildings without good (or any) damp courses. Well this is an old building and this is the dampest part of the house. Let me assure you that the guys who designed this stuff knew EXACTLY what they were doing.
I've taken some before and during photos. When (not IF - there shall be no IF here) it's completed I'll take some more and post them.
I can't finish today (the mortar is hardening) but I can post pics anyway.
Bang, bash, biff, wallop.
Brick slips in place to pack the hole to height for the quarry tiles.
Dinner now calls... and possibly a well-deserved cold beer.
Friday, 26 October 2007
Monday, 22 October 2007
But Sabayon might actually have a point: they've included things like proper (proprietary) drivers for graphics cards, which so many of the other distros shy away from, leavinging their GUI desperately crude compared to Windows. Mandriva 2008 comes with the new Liberty font set, which includes a full set of windows equivalent fonts. This *might* solve the other major linux issue of text that makes you *think* you need glasses.
Maybe I'm learning - or going soft.
Sunday, 21 October 2007
I've just produced a study on the sabbath for the meeting here. 10 years ago I'd have needed a room full of books and hours typing. Now I can cut'n'paste scripture straight into my notes, extract 'rules' for Sunday practice in the 1800s and obtain a detailed explanation of how a strict Jew has to handle the sabbath in the 21st century.
Fantastic. I just need a cheap PC, broadband and a careful eye on the quality of sources.
And if you don't know the site Biblegateway is just a Godsend.
Tuesday, 16 October 2007
What's Your Political Philosophy? And do you really care anyway?? Like hell I'm George Dubya Bush!
created with QuizFarm.com
|You scored as Socially Conservative Republican|
Social conservatives share a belief in traditional morality and social mores and the desire to preserve these in present day society, often through civil law or regulation. The government should use its influence in the public square to support traditional family values.
Sunday, 14 October 2007
It's been over a week now, and yesterday was the first day I *felt* like it was lifting. Came home after a couple of hours at work on Wednesday, returned on Thursday, but that was too soon and just did a couple of hours on Friday too. I'm *just* tired tonight, rather than feeling borderline drunk with odd stuff from the body fighting the infection sloshing through my bloodstream. Not aching doesn't do any harm either.
Now there's just a few hundred images to edit. And I need to decide between fotopic and flikr as the best place to pop then up. Flikr appeals because it's more blog-centric, but the lack of speed is almost unbearable.
I need to finish writing the travelogue, before it all fades. Plan is for Tuesday to go cook Hayley and Kita (and Chris) some Thai food, since I've apparently learned how and don't weant to foget that too. Can't be too bad, as what I made last night was actually edible.
Thursday, 11 October 2007
Sunday, 7 October 2007
Chris and I always felt like we were chosen for each other, pretty much from the second time we met (the first time I was busy trying to tickle the tonsils of a girl called Sue - my only other GF). Later I can remember talking to God and asking 'how about a girlfriend?' and He would say 'go out with Chris'. I'd then disagree and want someone else: partly because we had a great friendship and partly because I was hormone-driven and wanted someone a little sexier. But I think, even at that point (we'd been BF/GF a couple of times) that we knew we were going to be married.
But it was always very clear to us that we weren't married. True, we didn't live with each other or have sex (although that was a close run thing a few times) but we KNEW we weren't married - marriage was a very specific joining at a very specific moment, and it was that moment we were working toward.
We've talked this over briefly again today. Chris's wording differed a little from mine but encapsulated EXACTLY the same idea. From the moment we made and meant the vows we were married. It was before first love-making, before sharing a flat, before cooking a meal and even before we could get away for a good kiss on the way to the reception. I'd suggest consummation *sealed/confirmed* the vows we made, but that married status was already present to be confirmed, and actually made the act capable of consummation instead of fornication if we'd not been.
So there you go - we knew from the moment we exchanged vows. I don't know if the words "I now pronounce you man and wife" make any difference. I suspect not, but for the less clued up they might be a useful guide......
My body clock thinks it's presently 3.30pm while my watch says 9.30am.
I've had about 30 min sleep in the last 36 hours.
We've opened all the post.
My second 2Gb memory card has nearly finished uploading from the camera (just got there after I typed this). Chris's images still to be done.
It was good.
It was hard, some of the time.
Food is astonishingly cheap, at 'native' prices.
We met some interesting, good people.
I've hand-written a huge amount covering roughly one third of the trip. Some of this might even make it as far as this blog.
Saturday, 22 September 2007
And now ladies, a helpful tip.
Should you ever be in the happy situation of working with your loved one to pack for a holiday, communication is a facility that can smooth across potential pitfalls. And if you happen to both be *separately* packing your stuff, yet doing so at the same time, if you should choose to be really kind and helpful, packing your partners spare 'arrival day' clothes, please tell him you've done so.
Please don't assume that he'll see the absence of clothes on the bed as a sign they've been packed.
Please also don't assume that because he can't find them in all the places they might have been put, he will assume you've packed them for him.
Please don't assume he is so proud and clever that he won't consider the possibility he's been a dumb-ass and packed them by mistake somewhere incorrectly.
Please don't assume he won't unpack a lot of stuff before giving up and asking if "you might have packed them for me"?
A little communication will prevent a lot of stress, anger, inward cussing and general dis-harmony. I know us men aren't great communicators either, but it's your special skill set: make the most of it.
Have a nice trip.
This is odd for me, as I never have a problem - I can easily travel light, and on the last visit to the US went with hand luggage only, including laptop and space in the case.
This time there's quite a bit of kit, and we're distributing it between 2 lightweight rucksacks and 2 bags. It *should* be fine, but it *looks* way more than usual.
Day 1 Depart London for our overnight flight on the scheduled services of
Day 2 Arrive in Bangkok and transfer to our hotel. Those not flying with
the group will meet us during the day at the hotel. The rest of the day is
free to explore the city or catch up on some sleep.
Day 3 In the morning we board the BTS Skytrain for the start of our
exploration of Bangkok and a true look at the city. Next it’s a local “klong”
or canal boat followed by a public bus to our final destination,
Ratanakosin Island. Here we visit what to this day remains the home of
the Thai Royal family on Ratanakosin Island, on the Chao Phraya River,
home to the most spectacular collection of buildings in Bangkok. We will
see Wat Po, the largest temple in Bangkok, housing a 46m long, 15m
high gold-plated reclining Buddha, the Royal Palace complex and Wat
Phra Kaew, home to the Emerald Buddha and one of Thailand's most
venerated images, a carved green jade Buddha.
In the afternoon we drive 4 hours to our accommodation outside the Khao
Yai National Park.
Day 4 Today we are taken on a full day tour of the National Park starting
with an easy 5km hike during which there is the possibility of spotting
gibbons, hornbills and other wildlife. Towards the end of the morning we
emerge into grassland which gives us a beautiful view of the national
park. From here we are collected and taken to a restaurant for lunch
followed by a drive to Haew Suwat Waterfall, made famous by the movie
“The Beach”. Later in the afternoon we drive to the second highest
mountain in the park for a spectacular view of the surrounds. In the
evening we take a 1-hour night safari drive to see if we can spot any of
the nocturnal animals that inhabit the park.
Day 5 After breakfast we head to Ayuthaya, the 2nd royal capital of the
Kingdom of Siam (4 hours). At its peak the Kingdom encompassed large
parts of present day Laos, Cambodia and Burma. Diplomatic and
international trade missions found their way to Ayuthaya from countries
as far afield as Europe. It was not long before Ayuthaya became one of
the most important trading centres of the region. The population grew to
over 1 million people by the 17th Century, more than any European capital
at the same time. Following decades of wars and then a siege that lasted
nearly 2 years, Ayuthaya was invaded and destroyed by the Burmese
army. Temples were ransacked and statues of gold stolen and carried off
to Burma. Following this devastating defeat the Siamese Kingdom
relocated its capital to Thonburi (now a suburb in Bangkok) on the banks
of the Chao Praya river.
In Ayuthaya we take a gentle cycle ride through the temples that still
remain today as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Late in the
evening we board an overnight sleeper train bound for Chiang Mai.
Day 6 We arrive in Chiang Mai in the early morning. Chiang Mai, a former
religious and cultural centre, was twice under the control of the Burmese,
and a strong Burmese influence is reflected in the architecture of the city.
We visit the temples and, outside the city, the hilltop temple of Doi
Suthep, the most revered Buddhist shrine in the Chiang Mai region. The
climb up to the temple is well worth the effort as on a clear day it affords
an excellent view over Chiang Mai and its striking temple landscape. In
the evening we visit the night market where many of the hilltribe's
handicrafts can be seen.
Days 7 We drive north to Chiang Dao, 80km from Chiang Mai, set amid
forested hills. Home of many of the Hilltribes peoples of Northern
Thailand, all with their own distinct culture and dialect means it’s the
perfect area for our trek. After lunch we start our trek into these beautiful
surrounds. Sleep in a hilltribe Village house.
Days 8/9 We continue trekking for these two days. A good level of fitness
is required, as you can expect 4-5 hours walking each day. Walking from
village to village through magnificent mountain scenery we might see a
wide range of hilltribes; among them people from the Lisu, Karen, Lahu
and Shan tribes. The people are incredibly friendly and we learn of their
traditional lifestyles whilst staying in the villages. There is an elephant
ride and on the last day we spend the morning on a bamboo raft on the
Mae Taeng River. We end on day 9 by returning by road to Chiang Mai.
Hilltribe Village houses (Day 8) Guesthouse (Day 9)
Day 10 The morning is free to explore the delights of Chiang Mai on your
own, your Tour Leader is on hand to assist with arranging optional
activities. A half day cooking school is highly recommended, however, be
warned, you eat what you cook! Another great alternative is to spoil
yourself after the trek with a relaxing Thai massage. In the late afternoon
we fly to Bangkok.
Day 11 Today we transfer to the province of Samut Songkram, better
known for its floating markets. The journey takes approximately 2 hours
depending on traffic leaving Bangkok. Our first destination is the Floating
Markets, where we start our bike ride through the fruit orchards. A boat
ride through the Floating Market is an optional extra. The bike ride is over
predominantly flat terrain and is approximately 30kms long. At the end of
the ride we arrive at our accommodation for the evening, a beautiful
traditional Thai Teak house set on a klong “canal”. In the evening we
have the opportunity for a boat ride through the area to experience local
Day 12 In the morning we transfer by road to Kanchanaburi (approx. 3 to
3 ½ hours). Kanchanaburi province is a pretty area and a favourite with
travellers for its caves, waterfalls and river trips. In the afternoon we take
a further cycling ride around the town. Kanchanburi is best known for the
“Bridge on the River Kwai” and you can visit the bridge itself along with
the J.E.A.T.H war museum, which is a memorial to the thousands who
were killed whilst constructing the ‘death railway’ during the Second
Day 13 Today we take a day of canoeing on the River Kwai itself and
visit the infamous Hellfire Pass, part of the Thai/Burma Railway. We
journey by minivan out to the Sai Yok area of Kanchanaburi where we
start our canoeing (after instruction) back towards Kanchanaburi on the
River Kwai. The river is wide and moves along at a gentle pace so you
have plenty of time to take in the scenery around you. Following
approximately 6 hours of canoeing we transfer back to Kanchanaburi by
minivan. Please note that starting points and exact routes taken on the
canoeing trip may vary depending on the water levels of the river.
Day 14 In the morning we drive back to Bangkok (3 hours). The rest of
the day is free for individual sightseeing or shopping. We transfer to the
airport in the evening and check in for the overnight flight to London. For
those not flying to London with the group the tour ends in the afternoon.
Day 15 Arrive London in the early morning, around 6.45am.
Ben will be here, looking after the house.
Time to go pack.
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Saturday was fun, despite playing fairly terribly. It was nice bumping into Georgia again too - we seem to meet once a year, at the fun day. Why is that when you only see someone once in while, embarrassing things happen. Like scratching a spot on my cheek and bleeding profusely. Ho hum.
I'm also now married to a 'fit bird'. Chris cycled into Bicester and home again: around 17 miles. I think she'll be fine doing the 30km bike ride in Thailand. I think the only fitness concern we'll have is 6 hours canoeing with potentially cramped joints.
Alpha supper tonight, for the start of the Bicester Alpha course. It's kicking off with a meal at the Salvation Army hall in Hart Place at 7.00pm. We're helping with catering and washing up.
This Sunday things will be a little different. No Keyboard players and I'm not around. Mike F is doing a multimedia worship time with mixing decks, projected DVDs, a drum machine and working with Ben and Jonny who are both playing guitar through it. We ran through it last night, and it felt GOOD. Some people will probably find it 'challenging' compared to normal, but I reckon most should be able to push through that and find a fresh place to worship. I hope people encourage Mike as he's put a lot of work and prayer into this.
Friday, 14 September 2007
It may be no coincidence that God's been speaking about letting some things go....
But tonight we rehearsed for the fun day in Garth Park on Saturday. It's true I was playing louder than usual, but my 'voxy baby' little church amp was warm, smooth, fat, sparkly and wonderful sounding. After we'd finished I plugged in the other amp I'd brought - my Madamp A15 that I built a couple of years ago and never use as it's too strident for church. Before coming out it was fitted into a combo cab with a 70s Celestion G12H (for those that know and care about these things). This combination was absolutely GLORIOUS, with astonishing clarity and a very real kick-in-the-pants bass response, thanks to that speaker.
It was also staggeringly loud for a 15 watt amp through a 1X12 cab.
So if you're in Garth park on Saturday afternoon I'll be playing with Dennis Niziol and the Panic Street Preachers. Should be a hoot.
Thursday, 13 September 2007
Like Leighton Tebay on the 'emerging church conversation'. I'm not at all sure his perception of the 'next big thing' of the 21st century is correct, but consumerism and abuse IS certain to be *one* of the key factors in 21st century theology.
So he carefully paid for and downloaded the articles, then kindly offered to send me the full text (in .pdf format).
They contained the word 'penis', and thus got bounced by the email server.
Someone is trying pretty hard, to check forbidden words in .pdf files attached to emails.
Shame they can't block emails with the words 'viagra' and 'cialis' in them, although I suppose they might be argued to be legitimate drugs.
I wonder if this post (in my coffee break) will get picked up?
Better than that, we've had ongoing discussions about blood samples with a senior member of that company. His email address is 'bleader@****'.
You couldn't make this stuff up (well, you could, but it wouldn't be believable).
I got the bike back on the road, finally, and after being a little hit-and-miss it seems OK. The old heap is still on it’s way out, but the feelings that went with it are less sharp and immediate. Glad I left it alone this long though. A new set of tyres has helped, and I'm working on narrowing my chicken-strips.
I just had dental work done – a tooth that had required major filling work over the years (including root canal cleaning and nerve removal) had worn far enough to require re-building. So it was rebuilt about 2 ½ hours ago and feel a little strange now.
BTW I should mention this was my first time back to a dentist (professionally – I loved meeting Linea last year) since ’99. However I may well now start regular checkups. Dentistry has changed a lot over the years, and the bad old days of dentists apparently seeing if they could chip your enamel with their steel instruments has gone – at least at the place I’ve been. Now – and I presume this is the upside of private dental care – they actually seem interested in trying not to hurt the patient instead of giving anaesthetics of questionable efficacy, through a large needle.
Dental care in the US and Canada may have always been more careful, of course.
I’m also oscillation between feelings of inadequacy (or having delusions of adequacy as ‘George’ would say) and realising that I’m inadequate and it’s not a problem.
More thoughts happening, but nothing solid enough to blog.
Sunday, 9 September 2007
The mileage shown below is lying - I think it's calculated on a 'there-and-back' basis - as it calculated 43 miles before creating a blog-friendly format.
Today I'm fairly bushed and *feel* like I've got a cold. Fuzzy head, mild snuffle and gently complaining body. This is all normal for me when I've pushed myself somewhat, and should disappear in a few days. Next year I'll try a different route - wonder what Paul (the other rider from the village) did?
Thursday, 6 September 2007
Mary Mac (as she's known round here) is a Canadian worship leader and song writer who (IMO) is producing some of the best worship songs at the moment. They've got tunes, content, emotion and decent theology - thus they are fairly unusual.
My natural instinct was to criticise the aspects of the CD that I didn't like. That would have made for a possibly entertaining, though by no means uplifting review. So instead of that I'm going to pause, hold for a bit, look for a way of saying the positive things that is more useful than "this is great" and to try to find a manner that's constructive instead of destructive.
Who knows - maybe I'll eventually be able to apply this elsewhere too?
Anyway, this prompted some spontaneous suggestions for other cereal names. Favourites were:
Feel free to add your own below - I'm sure there are a wealth of exciting product tags waiting to burst forth through this blog.
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
300 = Sinbad meets The Lord Of The Rings with a little eroticism thrown in. 20 years ago this would have sat happily with an X cert, but now butchery is commonplace as film makers reach for greater extremes. The key parts of the story are good, and the acting strong, however the films credibility falls apart with the appearance of monstrous human characters that are utterly unfeasible. The soft porn sections (fortunately only 2 and early on) bring nothing except eye candy, and will probably keep some viewers watching, hoping they'll see more. The biggest flaw is to prop up the human story (which is one of sacrifice and strength) with daft items from the costume department. A little less splattery action would make a much more watchable film too.
Pathfinder = a scaled down '300' set in America 600 years ago. Having seen this a couple of days after 300, the similarity is striking, but the storyline and acting weaker, credibility low and the monochrome 'grittiness' obscuring rather than highlighting detail. Miss.
Ghost rider = a story so weak it should never have left the cartoon. The hero made a pact with the devil to do various unlikely things that are good for mankind. He rides a chopper wearing immaculate black leather jacket and jeans, and this plus his receding hairline makes him look like the father of the bikes owner. His girlfriend also appears at least 10 years younger, despite having been contemporaries, although with cinema who knows? This is a film with too much Hollywood theology and not enough of anything else except industrial light and magic. Miss.
There was one more, but that was so forgettable I can't remember ANYTHING about it right now. Maybe later, but for now my scathing gland is empty.
Ah yes, got it.
Shrek the third coming = a nice family film in the same mold as the rest. There's nothing really fresh here, so much as a mix and match of what's been before. There is nothing wrong with that, and the film is quite enjoyable, although with a slight sense of deja vu. Because of the lack of novelty there's little that will stick in the mind as high moments. Puss and Donkey swapping bodies was a great idea, but wasn't exploited quite enough to really sparkle. Having said that, I'm not sure how much longer I could continue watching fairy tale characters wise-cracking, no matter how good the CGI. Overall definitely worth seeing, if for no other reason than to complete the set.
I feel 'different' after the US trip, probably working in combination with the time away earlier this summer.
I feel the need to spend less time wondering 'what if' and surfing, more time doing.
We also need to get fitter for the trip in a couple of weeks, so both Chris and I are exercising more. Sunday morning we did a 5 mile cross country walk to break in/test out the walking boots I bought. There's a bunch of pics that I need to get up from that, plus a couple from Toronto/Webster. I've been trying to pin down where Toronto reminds me of, and realised it's like a nicer smelling version of Croydon.
But I also need to just start getting on with things again, and way too much of my time was being just idled away on the WWW.
Saturday, 1 September 2007
Out at 3.25pm to play an (unrehearsed) gig at a prison with a rock'n'roll band.
Apparently I wasn't to bad until we did American Trilogy, which I obviously didn't know. Almost fell asleep during a rapper and a black gospel group!
So here I am, with a nice curry in my tum looking forward to bed in company for the first time in a few days.
Friday, 31 August 2007
All the shiny bits are... shiny. It smells expensive, with leather seats, fancy screen, GPS etc.
It looks like a sports saloon, drives like a truck complete with quietly creaking suspension.
Fuel 'economy' is interesting too, with careful driving around Webster giving around 12mpg. Really. The 40 mile freeway drive from the airport gave about 22mpg average, and I couldn't do more than 70mph, mostly 50mph to 60mph. Automatic gearboxes have a lot to answer for.
Thursday, 30 August 2007
This trip was also a little odd too so far. In a smallish room in a shiny new building a Frenchman, Iranian, Englishman and Austrian met to discuss the business of a company in Texas, and what we might do to help it. This was actually very positive, and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.
Back to things closer to hand, Boarding is supposed to be starting now, but I don’t see a plane yet. And while I’m grumbling, if I ever have to go through US immigration again it will be too soon. The lure of cheap guitars and big steaks has almost lost its grip after standing in line while a single immigration official is left to service a queue of around 80 people, while aircrew push in front of waiting passengers. Eventually a second officer was found (after I’d reached 3 from the front of the queue) and I then whizzed through. Filling in 2 forms before I can go through isn’t especially cool either, but it’s way better than waiting in the sweaty hell of George Bush international airport while that same bored immigration official gradually works their way through your application.
This time I had fingerprints taken both left and right hands PLUS face scan taken. Guess I should be honoured to be subject to such careful scrutiny.
BTW as things were running a bit late I grabbed some marble cake and a milkshake from the airport starbucks. The milkshake was a cold vanilla flavoured coffee – probably made by someone else so they’d not had a chance to sod it up – and quite nice. The marble cake was ……. *interesting*. Chocolate and vanilla sponge with a bucket full of cinnamon through the middle. Quite nice, but not marble cake (it was spelled Marbol cake – should have guessed) as I’d know it.
Amazing how one night in a new time zone can change things.
The laptop says 23.20pm, but it feels like early evening (which it is here). It’s around a 4 hour flight, then I’ve got to find the car hire place, get the car and hope the ‘Never Lost’ can live up to it’s mildly optimistic name. It’s traditional after flying on business to go out for a steak and a beer before hitting the sack. I hope they have reasonable food on this flight, because I’ll be getting to that hotel around midnight Toronto time and about 5.00am UK time. You’ll know how tired I was by whether I’ve uploaded this by first thing on Thursday morning (in the UK) or Thursday afternoon.
Well – waddayahknow. They’re about to start us boarding, only 20 mins late. TTFN.
Mr. Grumpy back. The plane was an hour late leaving. Made up some time, but I arrived at 9.50 local, bussed to the car rental centre, collected car, programmed GPS and hey presto, at 11.35 I’ve just opened my bag and plugged the PC in.
No food on the flight.
I know I’m in Texas though – people as wide as they’re tall seem to be standard issue, so I’m almost pleased to be feeling hungry as it’s keeping my belly in check.
The sheer sweatiness of this place has to be felt to be believed though. Think every butterfly house, every tropical/rainforest experience enjoyed. This is that experience at 11.30pm.
The aircon in my room is a howling gale (moderate exaggeration for humorous effect, but you know what I mean). The windows are all covered in condensation like raindrops on the outside, and despite setting the car aircon for 73’C it had the windows misting up while driving, again on the outside.
It’s stickier than a used honeypot.