Tuesday 31 May 2016

Today would have been a good day

To stay under the duvet. At least when people tell me they feel like they can't cope, I can quite understand that feeling.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Evening meadow

Had a little wander down to the water meadow at the bottom of the village this evening. Pass the chocolate box. ;-)

Sunday 22 May 2016

A big thankyou

To those who left flowers yesterday, or sent messages. We really appreciate you remembering Sarah.

Friday 20 May 2016

So the high street is a zombie

The suggestion I read today was that the high street, with its shops, was dying. Not, surprisingly, because of amazon and other online retailers, but because we've reached peak 'stuff'. There's nowhere for the economy to grow now because we all have more than we can use already, and with the downturn in wages, few are just buying more toys for the sake of more toys.

In some ways it's really good - less useless stuff being made so less materials are wasted. But it's also bad, because less stuff being bought means less jobs and income for many, and that steepens the downward spiral. That's no news to anyone, but it does beg the question about how and if we can restructure society to cope with less in the future.

Or am I forgetting human nature?

Are you the pigeon or the window?

Or neither.

This morning when I went into the coffee room there was the outline of a pigeon's head, beak, breast and one wing on the glass. It's not the first time that I've seen the evidence of a pigeon that flew into the window there, and it probably won't be the last. This time wasn't as spectacular as some, where the lines of both wings and the breast have been very clear in a kind of V with a bulge at the bottom, but in this pattern I could make out the beak being open and one eye that had hit the glass. Ouch.

What does a pigeon do, after it's hit the glass and bounced back? Give up flying?

So this Sunday for a variety of reasons I'm speaking at the new church in Banbury. No worries, lead this kind of thing loads of times, done it all before, right? Except that I was feeling very post-glass-pigeon like, no idea what to do, quite literally feeling a bit dazed and confused.

And then laying awake in bed at 4am Thursday morning it was as though I'd been picked up, put back on a branch again and told I could fly, including being shown how to use my wings.

There's some stuff behind this including a prophetic message from Martin Dunkely at the Oxford celebration last week, and connected to that asking God if He was going to use me to teach any more, or if that had all gone now as it seemed to have done. But much more than that, if you've read here recently I've been increasingly concerned that church has become just another organ-grinder experience, where we 'do the stuff' but lives don't change much, people feel good but there's nothing tangible at the end of it - people go looking for social liberal change because the 'spiritual' stuff isn't making a difference.

There's also been a bit of 'where your treasure is, there is your heart' for me, and I've been distinctly organising treasure a bit. Plus I've found myself behaving in a way that's fairly repellent at times, and in a way that I've seen in others and been quite critical of, hence ditching Facebook. Not that I'm suddenly and miraculously back on my feet (was I off?) but life is headed in a better direction. I hope.

Ramble? Yes, lets.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

GM foods are the work of the devil.

Or perhaps not.

This will probably not come as a surprise to those who would not have shouted 'Judas' at Bob Dylan 50 years ago.

Monday 16 May 2016

Need my head tested

After managing to survive one half marathon I've been wanting to do another.

So tonight's training was a gentle 9.5 miler.

Frankly, I need my head tested - who ever thought that I could deceive myself so easily into thinking that regularly running for 1 1/2 hours + was fun and a good idea? So I dodged a bullet that first time, and now I like the idea of trying again? Madness.

Saturday 14 May 2016

The frustrated togger.

Well sort of.

I've just finished uploading images from Bosnia Herzgovina (Bay-Hah as they call it) to the computer and done an initial sort through. There's some interesting pics in there, some of which I'm fairly pleased with, but it *felt* like I missed almost every good image that I saw because we were either travelling, in company or because I couldn't just go-shove a camera at people.

There were stories in the faces of so many people, and for the first time it really made me wish I had a nice small camera and a robust attitude that would let me just go up and ask for a picture. I did grab a few pictures covertly in the market of Mostar, but they weren't really the ones I'd wanted.

On the last day, while wandering through Capljina we passed an alley with a couple of tables set out. There were some guys drinking drinking there and on the wall at the end of the alley was a huge swastika and a nationalist slogan. The men looked about the right age to have fought in the war, and became aware of us just as I was looking up at them. There was a sense of tension in the air & we carried on walking past, even though there was probably no real danger for a couple of tourists carrying cameras.

We stayed with friends just outside the city, in a small suburb/village, and many of their neighbours were old with the kind of faces that showed a life of hard labour in all weathers. They were friendly and generous, but they weren't *my* neighbours to offend or upset, and I didn't feel able to ask for pictures.

I should have liked time to photograph many of the buildings and put together a series illustrating how the effects of the war are still visible. Looking through the images, there are a few that might work, but nothing really adequate. Mostar had the feeling of a city that used war damage as part of the draw for tourists: there were plenty of bullet holes and even the odd shell hole still to be seen, and of course it is well known for having been under seige in the war. But Capljina also had its share of war damage, even though it also had a shiny new glass and steel post office, giant bronze statue outside the town hall and new blocks of flats.

When we first saw the bullet holes, Chris's reaction was that the concrete was just showing signs of age and falling apart, but it quickly became clear that was not the case. Travelling through the country (6+ hours drive between Capljina and Banja Luka where we had the run) houses with war damage were to be seen everywhere until we reached the Republika Srpska; the serbian part of BiH. Here the countryside changed from mediteranean to alpine, and the buildings seemed in much better repair, cars newer etc.

BiH is also a place a beauty: amazing countryside in a wide variety of forms, interesting ruins and towns, spectacular hills and mountains, lovely flowers etc, but apart from a couple of occasions, somehow we just didn't quite get out there. We weren't there to take photos, but to visit friends and run that race, and it's important to remember that.

I've no idea if we'll ever go back. It's a possibility, but only a small one.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

It's our last Capljina evening.

And I'm slightly sad to be going, though looking forward to not feeling like we're in someone else's hair, even when they're as kind and generous as our friends here.

Wonder if there will be Cevapi on the menu? ;-)

Here's the waterfalls with water falling at Kravica earlier today.

Monday 9 May 2016


But what's in a time? ;-)

I'm a little disappointed not being closer to the 2 hour mark, but considering all things it's pretty fair.

The day started without a decent breakfast, which is to say badly for something as energy intensive as this, and the air early on was quite cold so that I wore a sleeved top instead of a singlet, which was also a mistake. And I forgot a lesson that I'd learned 30 years before, that when you're on the start line and you feel like you need a pee then you should go and HAVE a pee, because the feeling won't go away, no matter how much you try to convince yourself that you'll need the water later.

There were only about 1000 runners in this, and and that made for a relatively small massed start. I was part of a group of 5: 2 local guys (Ivica, Martin) plus us 'foreigners' (Mick, plus Sam, Mick's 18YO daughter and myself) and we got separated fairly quickly. I found a route round the outside of most of the crowd, and ran comfortably for the first 6 miles or so, starting to run out of energy in the 7th mile and then dragging myself along for the next couple of miles until I came to the station offering sliced fruit (mostly apple and orange segments) and could refuel a bit - it was amazing how the extra energy from that little bit of fruit let the legs almost return to normal for a short while.

The route started from Banja Luka town centar, heading north up the main road out for just over a mile before turning right and right again to head back down (though it was slightly uphill) past the town. This section was in blazing sunshine, and even on the first lap around the town it was fiercely hot without any shade at all. The route then crossed over below the town before heading back up round the other side to turn right again and run across the top of the town. There were 2 laps like this around the town before heading back up the main road (also uphill) to the centar again and the finish line.

At the end of the first lap Chris was waiting for me. Apparently Sam had dropped out at 4K with breathing difficulties, but instead of finding them as a group, she had disappeared. Much worry and prayer going on.

The last couple of miles were just a case of trying to find a pace that was fast enough to be comfortable (because running slowly makes me hurt) but not un-sustainably quick, and also finding a happy measure of breathing that would set the pace for the legs. Inevitably I walked on and off, just allowing the batteries to recharge a little before starting to run again. There were a few people running slowly at this point that I passed, only for them to pass me while I walked, then to repass again.

The final section - I wrote climb initially, because that's how it felt even though it wasn't steep - was really draining, hot and tiring, and seemed far further than it had any right to be. Chris met me about 150 meters before the finish and ran with me as far as she was able. I was also 'paced' by a small boy from the crowd for the final section.

The actual finish was slightly puzzling, because there was initially a red arch across the road, then a first white arch followed by a second white arch, both of which said 'finish'. On reaching the first white arch I thought I'd arrived, only to realise that I then had to keep going for the second. :p  A few yards further on was a line of girls hanging finishers medallions around runners necks, then further back passing out bottled water and finally so guys trying to move runners out of the finish area.

 After finishing I discovered that Sam was still missing, no-one having seen her since Mick left her to make her way back to the group. Ivica and Martin had both finished before me and Mick arrived just a couple of minutes afterward. There was a lot of concern and some tears of worry shed, however Mick pointed out how stubborn she was and to confirm that he knew his daughter's character, she appeared just after the 2:30 mark, having recovered her breathing and completed the run. Cue much relief.

So here I sit the day after.

Various parts ache a bit and a couple of toes are sore, but overall it *feels* like I've got away with it very lightly.

Wonder what to do next?  ;-)

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Just a few days now

until the half-marathon. Hope the legs keep working. :-)

In other news, we're getting involved in a new church plant in Banbury, which is quite interesting really - life never was going to settle back to being the same - and will also remain connected to Bicester.

There's loads of stuff to blog really, but I'm not really feeling terribly talkative right now, so sorry about that.