Wednesday 29 December 2021

Darn it, I feel fat.

 The pleasure of Christmas food (including the run-up and a US trip) without any significant exercise for a month, and I both look and feel like a bloater. My stomach is now covered in a firm layer of adipose tissue, and I have grown moobs somewhat too. Yuk. 

Running might have helped, so too might walking. The weather has done what it so often does at this time of year, and has been almost continuously wet, making walking through the countryside an exercise in keeping balance on the mud, and the only brief walk we did manage was accompanied by lots of slipping and sliding - at least neither of us fell, though there were some times it was a near thing.

Darn it, I feel ignorant.

And we're both learning French. Naturally Chris is much better at it than I am, the language being fussy & full of abbreviations with words changing in some seemigly arbitrary manner (yes I know it isn't, but that's how it seems). It doesn't help that the learning system we're using (Duolingo) only present colloquial English translations of French sentences, and that doesn't make getting the real meaning of the words, nor the means of sentence construction easy. 

This also doesn't help with conversation, which is really what we need. It's likely that the only soloution there is repeated practice in situe, and that won't be happeneing for a few years yet if at all.

Darn it, I feel dull and boring.

My usually creative outlets - music and photography - aren't going anywhere really now. Music-wise I've been surplus to requirements at the church for a couple of years, and that side of things has almost completely wthered away. Gospel Bell had a few gigs this summer/autumn, but covid has put that to sleep again. There's no fun in just woodshedding, and I think the time really has come to begin flogging gear. Photowise the weather here doesn't make for inspiration, and I'm not an indoor photo type really.

Darn it, sometimes it's just good to moan a bit. 

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Well, I'm back

 From the windy city.

It was a good trip, busy, useful, hopefully productive as the coming weeks will show.

Jet lag is a little better than expected, which is good, though I do feel quite dozy still. Presently I have to isolate at home until I get my day 2 test results back confirming I don't have covid.

In other news, we hope to shortly buy a house in France. Many a slip twixt cup and lip as they say, so lets wait and see if it comes off.

Monday 15 November 2021

Deja vu

 Curious that my first blogpost after 2 months is about having broken another tooth, and I'm shortly to visit the same dentist.

The tooth that they repaired before has been, I think, rebuilt a little lower than before and my bit has changed, putting additional pressure on a different tooth that then gave up. I can feel that the teeth on the other side meet first, and then the jaw has to tilt slightly for the teeth on the other side to meet.

I'm waiting this morning before driving into Bicester for my 9.15am appointment - it's just not worth going to work first.

Friday 17 September 2021

Hurry up and wait.

I broke a tooth yesterday. No biggie, it doesn't hurt, but it does need fixing. Having tried to book online, including making a payment in case of no-show without success, I managed to get an appointment this morning. 

And left with just enough time to get there.

You've probably already rolled your eyes at that, quite reasonably.

Everyone was in 'delay Toni' mode, including the near-stationary traffic on the dual carriageway heading to Bicester. 

So I called ahead to apologise, expecting them to be busy, only to be told they were running late, and that's fine. You may also guess that I'm writing this because I'm waiting. 

Ok, 20 min after due time I went in. Now just waiting for the anaesthetic to take effect before we drill and fill. 65 quid later (thanks NHS) we should be done.

Now the fun will be a call with a potential customer in the US when I get back. 

Monday 6 September 2021

This year, travel has gone to hell in a handcart.

We'd like a proper holiday, nothing too exotic, but a genuine break, especially as it's our 40th anniversary. And we're constrained to October. It's a source of modest amusement that, just as we'd did 40 years before, we'd be travelling on a Sunday.

TBH I have no idea where or even if we might go somewhere, let alone anywhere interesting. We're just in travel limbo, with guilt on one side of the equation and risk on the other. 

Just looked up flights to various places, comparing them with the channel tunnel - the tunnel doesn't look good value, even if you factor in car hire for a couple of weeks. 

Hmmm. What to do, what to do.

Wednesday 28 July 2021

A little youtube browsing

 I don't listen to much music these days, but in the video listings up popped Texas with 'I don't need a lover' from a concert in Holland. I remember the tune - quite fun - so decided to watch. 


The crowd are quite responsive, hands in the air as the rhythm part starts. The slide sounds 'off' to me from what I remember, but it doesn't spoil anything too much as live parts often sound different. Then the guitar player swaps his acoustic for electric and starts pushing out a chicka-chicka-chicka style rhythm part that sounds like it's in the wrong key and completely fails to fit or pick the song up. Hands go down, crowd looks bored.

I actually felt embarrassed for them. 

The guitar player was Birelli Lagren, who was supposed to be a prodigy and incredibly able, yet he just kills the whole show with his playing. Weird. I wouldn't have mentioned it, but ever since then the video keeps popping up in my feed. Eventually he seems to get it together, but by then the song is nearly finished

See for yourself:

I looked up what they did on a couple of other live concerts, and if I didn't know better I'd swear they used backing tracks, or at least had some parts including the acoustic slide part pre-recorded (one give away was the lack of anyone onstage with an acoustic guitar after the opening bars in the Live in Paris video). Maybe they were just never much of a live band.

What's fun?

Musically speaking, these guys know how to play live:

And COMPLETELY different, though musically very well done, this may amuse some:

Sunday 18 July 2021

I don't blog much these days. That's not a miracle, and this isn't a book review.

Partly it's because the conversation is pretty much finished, and those who still want to talk will send emails instead where one can say things more openly. Blogging seems to have become about business, whether promoting products themselves or helping support a brand, either personal or corporate. I've come to realise too that I'm what some call neurodiverse, and the one blogger from the old days who still writes is simply impenetrable to me - I'd hoped we might have been friends, but I plainly misunderstand what he says.

But I know there are a few who drop by & they might find this interesting.

This isn't a book review, but I've been trying to work through God On Mute by Pete Greig. 

For those unaware, a few years back we had a friend die of cancer. Young mum, strong Christian faith, we'd known her since she was a chubby-faced girl of 10. She wasn't the first person we'd know die prematurely of cancer, but her death made many of those who knew her ask why, and was the tipping point that started me asking the questions that had always been suppressed by the cloud of faith that we use to hide the stuff we can't answer. A result of her death was that church leadership decided our local church was glum (their words) and so we were shown the "Prayer course II - unanswered prayer" videos to make us get over it and be cheerfully missional again because being glum is not a good advert for the gospel (also their words). 

At the start of the course pretty much everyone said they wanted to understand why God didn't heal and wanted answers. At the end of the course no-one had answers but it seemed to have made the questions for most people go away. In the video, Greig's book God On Mute was referred to as giving fuller answers and more in depth theology, therefore I bought the book.

So I came to the book hoping to find some solid theology, but early on there's a bit of a disclaimer that's not what the book is about, and a suggestion that there are much better authors who write detailed books - which granted Greig says he's studied to get to where he is - but which was the gentle 'let down' to not expect too much.

I would say that it's a book written by someone hoping to reach out beyond the church, for people of the generation where everyone has degrees but doesn't think or know anything. Lots of anecdotes, stories, accounts of miracles and of miracles not happening. Each time a crucial scripture comes up - like the ending of the book of Job where God says "look at me" but gives no answer - it gets treated as though God being God is enough and one cannot ask any more. When you're a hammer, every question about scripture looks like a nail, or like the Sunday school answer, even if it looks like a rabbit you know the answer will be Jesus. Missional, sure, but honest and open?

If you don't really have an answer, please don't pretend.

In the videos there's a section where they briefly suggest God doesn't do miracles much because He doesn't like to break the laws of nature too often. This concept doesn't get explored there, but I suspect this is the TL:DR bit that all the fluff and stories are building up to. I'm persisting with the book in the hope that there IS more to it, and this isn't just another coat hook being treated like a nail under the hammer of mission.

A brief aside, he mentions being from the 'emergent church' movement, and sadness that many of his fellow emergents have dropped away because their faith has been challenged. This is no surprise at all - a liberal reading of scripture must inevitably lead one to doubt the truth of the bible, since if parts of it were wrong, why should any of it be right (except the bits which affirm the stuff we like/approve of).

So I shall continue, but TBH already expect disappointment. The truth may be out there, but is likely not in here.

Thursday 10 June 2021

To look is human

 To REALLY foul things up you need a computer and the internet*.

That's about as much as I'm going to mess about with that old maxim, though there's many a true word spoken in jest as we also say.

The speculative house hunt is continuing. In a way, I'm getting my foreign travelfix without leaving the country, though it's deeply unsatisfying but never the less better than nothing. There are many reasons for buying a house in continental Europe... and many for not doing so, not least of which is that we don't need to make life more complicated than it already is.

Just came across an advert for someone selling a portion of a farmouse in a hamlet. It's been redecorated & generally sorted out inside, lots of space, a terrace, gardens, 20min drive to the nearest ski resort, and 40,000 square meters of idle arable land and woodland. I've set myself a conscious limit not to become interested in anything that looks like a farm because I'm absolutely not going to start farming and it would be fundamentally wrong to leave the land idle. Yet here's a possibility where nothing would change if we bought the place. 




On we go. ;-)

Tonight I did also find a place in a tiny alpine town near the Swiss border that's clearly an ancient building, seemingly not tumbling down and yet affordable. Requires refurbishment according to the advert, which can mean anything from just redecorating to basically pushing the whole lot over and starting again. You can even walk right past the place in google street view (I've used that a few times too - really helpful at sorting between the good, bad and the ugly).

*Or a woman who thinks you shouldn't look at her, regardless of what she displays.

Monday 7 June 2021

It's been a while

I mistakenly deleted the last post from the blog, intending to remove a post with someone's email address and ham-fistedly hit the wrong button. It's a little how life feels in general, with wanting to be clear about things and instead finding that is tending to delete other stuff.

So surely, after such a long period between posts, there must be LOADS of stuff to write?

Well here's the odd thing: with lockdown going on, really very minimal participation in church life and a busy work life there has been a lot of ticking over, but nothing exciting. The grand kids get bigger (and share their colds if I get close, lock-downs now permitting) but apart from seeing them occasionally life is almost linear.

This is an odd stage to be at. Looking at my mother and various older friends who have retired, I can see we've entered that phase where life gets gradually narrower as you wait to die. We still have 5 to 7 years to go before retirement, probably 25 odd years to go before death, but things are lining up that way already. This isn't being maudlin (though I could manage that too) but an outcome of taking stock and reviewing capacities and needs/wishes. We simply aren't the people we once were, and while a part of me wants to be, there's no drive and no need to be those people again.

At the moment I think there's an unspoken debate going on (i.e. we haven't talked to each other yet) about do we do things that might be fun while we still can, things that might be a little risky to finances or health, or do we just gradually contract and stay safe. It's a curious place to be, and not at all 'living the dream'.

Stroll on Wednesday's second vaccination.

Monday 29 March 2021

Sometimes you need a sense of humour

We are due an unseasonal heatwave in the next few days leading up to Easter. However good Friday will be cool and bank holiday Monday just 8 degrees and raining. 


Thursday 25 March 2021

Anyone fancy an Italian ruin?

 Saw this place up near lake Como:

The heart goes "Mmmmmm, YES!"

Head not *quite* so convinced!

I could imagine spending 2 X the purchase price bringing it up to scratch, perhaps more.

Saturday 20 March 2021

The jab jabbed.

 So we both had our vaccinations around 5.50pm this evening. Astra-Zeneca/Oxford vaccine, no side effects so far. It was run like a military style campaign, although being British, the instructions mentioned a requirement to bring a mask and the vaccination registration number but failed to make clear the need for our NHS numbers (sorted, but even so..... ).The innoculation itself was barely noticeable, so fine was the needle - the bad old days of vaccine emulsion being given through a large bore needle seem long gone, and I'm sure this was *mostly* saline solution.

Hopefully my friends can get theirs soon too.

Now we wait until June for stage 2, but the way things are going in Europe right now, I doubt we'll be travelling much this year, let alone looking at houses. Presently there are no plans for a holiday, and we'll just wait & see what becomes possible, if anything at all.

Sunday 7 March 2021

We have our dates for vaccination

 How tempting it was to write vaccilation (even if it's not spelt correctly).

Anyway, yay us. Later this month, then June for the follow-up dose. Perhaps we WILL manage to get away at some stage this year, not that there aren't more important things, but that would be nice.

Thursday 11 February 2021

Thoughts on Europe and language

Sometimes it's important to write the words we say - talking to other people about going to a hookah bar with a friend can be 'open to interpretation'.

On a different side, we're starting to see an exodus of Brits from Europe. I've been looking at houses in France, Spain, Italy and Greece since October. Previously very few were obviously British owned, but now there are many with English language posters, throws, etc and even the general decor and style of the places is quite different from local tastes. In the case of the nicer (i.e. not semi-derelict) houses you can tell after just 3 or 4 interior shots, even without the written clues.

Without residency, Brits can only stay 90 days out of 180, and I suspect a lot are selling up and moving back. 

Thursday 4 February 2021

Myanmar blocks Facebook for 'stability'.

Was a headline that came up on my phone from the BBC news website this morning. It feels like many western countries could learn from this otherwise troubled state in that area.

Tuesday 2 February 2021

Borrowed, but funny

 Now that I've lived through a real plague, I understand why rennaisance paintings are full of obese, naked people laying around on couches.

Monday 1 February 2021

So much futility

This Wednesday the church house group are going to watch a video on mission. If people are excited about God then they'll talk about Him, and if they aren't then all the pushing, prodding and guilting in the world won't make them want to. I really want to just go find a church that builds people up & lets them get on with it.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

What a range.

I have the BBC weather app monitoring a range of different places. Wetaskiwin in Canada is presently at -20 degrees, while Anjuna in Goa is at 32 degrees. Somehow Britain manages to sit somewhere in between, like it does in so many ways: from where I'm sat in the lab I can see melt water dripping from a partially snow covered roof.

It makes me think of the quote about being neither hot nor cold and being spat out, which of course has nothing to do with temperature or weather, and was entirely specific to that location.

Wednesday 13 January 2021

There is a sense of futility

That recalcitrant computer systems generate. We come to rely on their behaving in a consistent manner, when experience tells us they are rather less reliable than the laws of gravity. It's like your desk eating pages from documents and books or rearranging piles of papers.

I'm not referring to my own computer at home but rather to those for work, where drive letters frequently change, access to folders on a virtual desktop is revoked or the folder content disappears. I'm reminded of a biblical expression, likening Egypt to a reed, splintering and wounding the user when they lean on it. Hard to know if it's a testimony to man's endurance or stupidity, refusing to learn.

Monday 11 January 2021

Life, it seems, goes on.

 And having written that, it's hard to know what to say next, other than "I'm still here".

We seem to have remained covid-free, although we both know some individuals who've had it. Chris has been working from home, and while I've been going in as normal, we're all masked up, distanced, have perspex shields in the office areas etc. In the latest form of lockdown Chris and I don't drive distances for walks, but we have still been managing to get out into the waterlogged landscape.

The tiny cluster of churches we're involved in are having a 'review' with the idea of seeing what needs strengthening, what needs fixing and what's healthy. I don't want to talk about that specifically, other than it has helped crystalise my thoughts that, more than almost anything, a church needs someone who is able to lead well in charge. So many churches shrink, crumble, fail through inadequate leadership that it now seems to be an almost un-predictable lottery in the type of church to which I am accustomed. At one time I'd have said that all the training given in seminary was to enable someone to lead a church when the Holy Spirit wasn't around, but now I seriously wonder if it's both to equip the able and weed out the unsuitable. Having shed quite a few tears over my failure to lead a church well, I hope I've a little better understanding now.

In a lighter frame of mind, we've been considering trying to buy a house in Europe - UK house prices are quite ridiculously high, while in several European countries they're relatively depressed. Plus it would provide a little toe hold on the continent for this Austrian to have a reason to remain one.

It's definitely been an interesting exploration, seeing how different nations and even different sections of nations are when they're at home! At the 'poor' end of the market, the Spanish tend to be both fussy and slightly austere at the same time, the Italians inclined to make stylistically bold and unfortunate choices (and houses built 1950s to 1990s are generally unattractive). The Greeks value their ruins quite highly, and the place is generally more expensive than one would expect, though we have slightly fallen in love with one house up in the mountains north of Kalamata. Of all the races, the French seem to be the best, with the tidiest, most practical and generally attractive houses even when they're of modern construction. 

A factor influencing any choices is, quelle surprise, language. I can manage a bit of Greek (and read the alphabet) a smidge of German and a touch of French (no Spanish or Italian, though I'd learn). Chris is French only (much better than me) but not really happy to live somewhere that would be outside either that or English, though the Greeks would probably be fine with that!

Another factor, as we creak around the place these days, is how many floors is acceptable. I've seen some FANTASTIC places in France and Italy on 4 levels, but the thought of all those stairs is somewhat unappealing. Spain seemed to be best off for bungalows, but they all looked like they were breeze-block and whitewash construction. 

The reality is we almost certainly won't buy another house anywhere else, one being enough trouble on its own, but the research has been very informative.