Sunday, 27 February 2011

Graham Swift - The Light of Day

A good few days away in cloudy Brixham, a chance to read as well as mess around as a family. Got back on track from my slightly wobbly reading choices with Graham Swift's novel. Having enjoyed Last Orders previously, this was a fairly safe choice. Lots of short chapters in this one, an intriguing novel about a private detective with a dubious past who falls for a client. The investigation takes an unusual turn and I probably can't say much more without giving things away, though it's not too tough to see what is going to happen as you go along. 8/10 from me.

The smell of grace

We have been doing a short series on "Meals with Jesus" and today did the third of them, the breakfast that Jesus shared with his disciples in John 21. This has to be one of my favourite chapters in the Bible. After John 18 Peter has crashed and burnt and we were speculating this morning where Peter, or any of the rest of us, would be if John finished his gospel at verse 14.

But Peter, who denied Jesus three times, is forgiven as the breakfast makes clear. Jesus invites him for a meal of fish and bread and the end result is that Peter is not only forgiven but given gospel work to do. Astonishing! There is hope for all of us.

To underline the lesson I cooked fish during the sermon. Some hate the smell, some love it. But it's the smell of grace. Delicious!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Books of 2011, so far

I'm away for a few days with the family to wander around Brixham and read some more. I love to read on holiday. I've done okay on the book front so far this year though and neglected to blog accordingly.

So far it's been:

One Day - David Nicholls 9/10
Winner of the Galaxy chocolate book of 2010 or something but don't be put off by it's popularity to a mass market, it's great. Two students get together on the night of their graduation and the book devotes a chapter to each subsequent anniversary of that date. An easy read but Jonathan Coe likes it too, so it must be intelligent as well.

Last Night In Twisted River - John Irving 9/10
I'm a sucker for Irving, Owen Meaney being an all-time fave. This is him doing what he does so well, again. Echoes of Owen Meaney too in the bizarre death of a mother-figure. The rest of the novel deals with the consequences of a father and son as they go into hiding over it. And, of course, there are bears and wrestlers and writers in this book too.

The Fry Chronicles - Stephen Fry 5/10
Bit disappointed in this. After a while his constant apologising for his background and being miserable about himself get a bit wearing. And I suspect that the interesting stuff about his manic depression is missing - unless it started after this period in his life. Went to two lectures at Cambridge all the time he was there apparently. No wonder he missed out on his first. Ending rather infuriating, mentions a cocaine habit and then tells us we have to wait until the next book for that story.

Preachers, Keep Yourself From Idols - Derek Tidball 6/10
And now for something completely different. This is a month old, from IVP. Thought it would be good to read about the traps preachers can fall into and one or two of the chapters were rather fine. Overall not so great though.

It's Only A Movie - Mark Kermode 4/10
Another autobiography - of sorts. I guess it was a bit specialised for my tastes in terms of some of the films he obsesses over. Some unpleasant stuff on censorship and what is okay to watch - we'd disagree on some of those things but I've never been into horror at all. Don't really get on with his writing style either, all a bit too overblown for me.

As these have been read in the order they appear here, you can see that I need to up my game!

PS - John Irving's book had a fascinating note at the end on how he writes his books. He cannot start to write, he says, until he knows the last sentence. And that last sentence doesn't change in the rest of the process.

From the last sentence he works out a plan to find out how the story comes to that end point. He maps it out to work out a beginning and the characters and where everthing fits. This takes him 12-18 months. Only then does he sit down and write the thing. It took him three years to write "Last Night on Twisted River" once he had his road map in place - which he says is fast for him. Having the germ of the story in his head for twenty years helped him write 'so fast'.

For this reason and for so many others, I will never write a novel!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Suffering for my art

Well, it sounds better than simply saying that I slipped on some rocks while out trying to take some photos yesterday. Bit bruised and wet but nothing serious - the camera was fine. I was on Kilve Beach in Somerset, a remarkable place and experimenting with some welding glass and the tripod. You then convert to black and white and hope that you have something useful to show for it. (The welding glass is too dark to see through and so there is a lot of guesswork involved).

The effect is to slow everything right down and so the misty effect is in fact where the tide washes in and gives it this dreamy quality. It's not quite there but it's the best of my first attempts.

Friday, 11 February 2011

100 not out

After I had been here a while I got a call from the then Church Secretary, who told me that one of the church members was going to be 100 in the next few days. He then went on to say that the church's policy on such occasions was for the Pastor to take some flowers round. I had just arrived from a young church with hardly anyone over pensionable age and it amused me to think taht I had joined a church which had any kind of policy on what to do in the event of a member celebrating their 100th birthday.

On reflection I think he rather overstated it in terms of it being a policy as such, no-one else around here seems to know about it. Still, it is a nice thing to do and so I repeated the experience again today, with another lady from the church reaching her century. The flowers from the church joined the other buckets full - but what else do you buy someone in this situation? She was in good spirits and enjoyed showing off her cards. Wonder when I'll next be called upon to exercise the policy?

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

When I consider your heavens...

We're in the middle of nowhere (well, Hothorpe Hall to be exact) and part of what makes this Living Leadership conference great is the location. The people, food, focus of the studies and facilities are great too. Woke up to a beautiful sunrise this morning and was treated to some wonderful starscapes (is there such a word?) this evening.

Not done any post production on these as the software is on the other computer but I hope they give a sense of the surroundings. The one with the stars is a 76 second exposure which explains why the stars have left little trails - the earth's turning cause it, not camera shake! Even though the night was very black, the bottom half shows the light polution form a nearby town, though I don't mind the orange effect it gives this. Freezing cold but a lovely night to be out.

"When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?"
Psalm 8:3-4

Monday, 7 February 2011

God TV

Off today to a three day pastoral Refreshment Conference which, if it is as good as last year's, will be very good indeed. The focus is more on you and God, less on you and the job. Ministers need to hear this from time to time.

Thought I'd post this in the meantime. One of the drawbacks of getting Sky to watch the sport is that you get a lot of rubbish thrown in for free, including the religious programming. There is some good stuff. There is a terrible amount of dross and I shudder for how many will be put off or led astray by the theological pornography that some peddle. Strong words perhaps but I get very angry at some of the rubbish (being polite again) that is peddled by charlatans. And reading my Bible I think Paul had something to say about some of them too.

Anyhow, (keep it light, keep it light)I like the cartoon and the link is below in case you want to see more of the man's work.

I will come back more mellow...

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Chocolat Soundtrack

Tomorrow evening we have the next Reel Issues. This is where the church rents the local cinema to watch a film and discuss it's themes afterwards. Chocolat is the choice to kick off 2011, with Cast Away, Signs, and Africa United completing the spring line up. I can't make this one (nothing to do with Exeter City being on Sky, I'm away at a conference) but I put together the soundtrack anyway. Here it is, Scritti Politti's 'The Sweetest Girl' only losing out due to length...

The Drifters - Sweets For My Sweet
Shanks and Bigfoot - Sweet Like Chocolate
Sammy Davis Jnr - The Candy Man
Heaven 17 - Temptation
The Archies - Sugar, Sugar
Deacon Blue - The Chocolate Girl

Friday, 4 February 2011

The King's Speech

Contains spoiler - if you have been living down a well for the last month.

Finally caught the film that everyone is raving about last night. It has done terrific business around here and I've heard nothing but rave reviews but I didn't think it was all that, to be honest. Well acted and a great cast and everything but the story itself just seemed a bit lame to me. Man has stammer, meets another man who helps him, end of. (Sorry if I've just spoilt the film for you.)

Perhaps I lack sympathy. I mean, speaking in public - how hard can it be?

I say this very tongue in cheek, I have vivid memories of drying when called upon to say a few words. The first one was as a kid when asked to say thank you to the person who presented the prizes at school one year. They chose me as someone who hadn't won a prize - a feat I managed to replicate every single year of my school career.

Actually, speaking in public is really daunting for a lot of people, something I can forget these days as I do it every week. Proof? The cinema owner rang me to record the film information for the cinema line for him this week. His usual person is away and neither he nor any of his staff would do it.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

A tramp in the forest

Was in the Forest of Dean for a meeting today and so thought I would make the most of it and take a walk in the woods while I was at it. There is a Sculpture Trail there near Coleford and inspired by the brilliant talk given at Camera Club this week by the exceptionally talented and humble Tony Howell, I thought I'd get out and do some landscape photography. Sadly the weather was very dull and grey, so don't think I came back with any great pictures but it was good to get out and walk, think and pray. Mistakenly read that the Trail was 2-3 miles when it said 2-3 hours. It was 7 miles and took me 3 hours as I was stopping to take pictures at decreasingly regular intervals. Saw perhaps a dozen people in all that time and two of those were from the Guardian asking the occasional visitors what they thought of the government's plans to sell off large swathes of forest. Gave them nothing coherent.

The sculptures were not that great, though there were a couple I liked. My favourite was Cathedral a large stained glass window hung high in the trees at the end of a pathway. It was the one I was most keen to photograph and (sadly) the one at the furthest point from the car park.

To see a really talented landscape photographer, check out Tony's site. He's a world class pro, living just down the road here in Burnham.