Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Back in the garden of England for a few days this week, catching up with old friends.  A lovely thing, to be able to pick up where you left off without any apparent effort. 

Breaking bread and slurping soup with people you have shared so much of life with is a great pleasure.  Thanks guys!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Exeter City 3 Rochdale 1

Finances being an issue this year, this was the first league game I've attended this year.  A bit scrappy at times this one until the end when Exeter played some good football.  The general consensus is that, in a game of two halves, the scoreline flattered Exeter a bit.  However, the win sees us soar to 23rd in League 1. 

I have no goals to show you as I had an interesting conversation with the Head of Security at the ground about 20 minutes into the game which resulted in me having to put my camera away.  He was very polite and reasonable but apparently my zoom lens is too big to be allowed.  Ordinary cameras and smaller lenses are permitted, which will be a challenge for future games, but a challenge I am ready to embrace.  The concern was that I could be selling the shots tonight.  Sure there's a huge market!

Bit frustrated as I have never had a problem before but on checking the ground rules you aren't allowed to take any kind of camera in and so will have to abide by smaller lens rule next time.  Especially frustrated as I was perfectly positioned for Nardiello's penalty for 2-1 and the final goal for the particularly impressive Jake Taylor.  

So what do I hear bid for the final pictures I managed with a zoom lens...

Stephen Darby - on loan from Liverpool

Troy Archibald-Henville is comprehensively outjumped by Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro.  Great names!   

All City can do is watch as the ball hits the post as 0-0

Messy Toddlers

As I haven't been under pressure to produce a sermon this week I have been able to take it a bit easier this week.  Do some reading, visit a few people, make arrangements for when I am away, and play an atrocious round of golf.   Oh yes, and we started a new congregation which attracted about 55 brand new people to the church. 

We started a variation on the Messy Church model of church, which centres around whole families coming to do craft and games together, a short (typically 20 minute) worship service and then tea or some sort of food afterwards.  We are aiming to do this in the new year.  In the meantime we have started with half-termly Messy Toddlers.

Most of the work came from a committed team of people at the church here who planned about ten different craft activities and catered for the food afterwards.  All the activities were based around the theme of light and so was the completely chaotic service part of the morning, though how many heard a word, I wonder - especially when the musical instruments came out.  As I tried to make myself heard above 30 toddlers I couldn't help thinking how different it was to the old pram services that I was taken to as a child.  One of the great ideas for the service was to take photos (with permission) of the children as they did their craft and games and put them up on the screen at the beginning.  It worked really well.

But, you know what?  Lots of Mums thanked us for doing it.  Some commented that they had done more with their child that morning than in the previous week and hopefully they went home with the feeling that church could be fun and informal and welcoming.  That's quite a barrier to overcome for a lot of them.  They also took home a lot of craft!  

So we have a new congregation of 55 (plus the team which takes it to just under 70) and I'd wager that 90% of them have no other congregation.  It's an occasional thing at the moment but who knows?  And when we start our monthly Messy Church....

Exciting times! 

First impressions count

They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression and the importance of this was shown to me again over the last couple of weeks.  We have been doing the rounds of options that my daughter has for next year and sixth form college, and the first two colleges provided a great contrast.

College at Weston didn't have her name on the list despite her preregistering (though they later sent her an email saying it was a shame that she hadn't come).  Of the five options for A level she was looking at, two of her favourites were not attending the evening at all and everyone kept apologising for the lack of literature which was still being printed by the office an hour after we had arrived (though to be fair we had got there early).  A couple of very enthusiastic lecturers there although one simply started the conversation without introducing herself or anything about the course by asking, "so, any questions?"

First impressions at Bridgwater College very different.  It started in the car park where the attendants helped us find a space to park - mine even ran off, beckoning me to follow him, to find a space.  Impressed I wound down the window to thank him and he replied, "It's a pleasure sir".  This is not typical behaviour in the UK.

There was quite a queue at the entrance to register but there was a woman at then end of the queue to greet us and apologise for the queue and explain that if we had preregistered we could join the fast track queue.  Their preregistration system worked and we were on the list and from there we were given the first of our detailed directions as to where we wanted to go.  Every time we needed to ask staff or students we were given friendly, helpful and excellent directions.  So impressive on every level.  All the lecturers bar one that we wanted to see were there and were, overall, probably just a bit more helpful than the guys at Weston. 

Two questions rise from this for me. 

How good are we as a church at welcoming people on a Sunday, or to anything that we put on?  Speaking for me and mine, we have some way to go on this.  It's particularly important given the second question.

Where do you think my daughter wants to go?

Having said that, none of them compare with the college she visited at Oxford University the same week though.  Having visited the Great Hall there she came back giggling, "I've been to Hogwarts".  Not sure she's quite cut out for the dreaming spires.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Elim @ Bristol

Spent a couple of days at a good conference in the heart of Bristol this week, in Stokes Croft.  More details in a future blog.  Stokes Scroft is best known recently for the recent riots after Tesco opened a Tesco Express there - which was kind of asking for it - the place has a vibrant culture of street art. 

This is the only one that I knew anything of, an original Banksy on the side of a building just down the road from where we were meeting.  Didn't know it was there before I stumbled upon it during a lunchtime stroll.   

All of the following photos were taken within about 20 yards of each other, on one of the junctions of Jamaica Street and a couple of side streets. 

The great thing is that on the same crossroads you had the Elim @ Bristol church building displaying this reproduction of a Banksy.  Thought that this was so cool, as it fits with the street art around it and at the same time gives something of the Christian message of love, peace and hope in an area which has seen people throwing more than flowers around recently.  Very cool.

And inside we were greeted by the friendliest welcome team ever, a group of black, white and oriental brothers and sisters.  The conference was off to a good start before the first session kicked off!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Paul et Paolo

Johnstones Paint Trophy
Exeter City 1 Swindon Town 2

Due to reasons of budget this was my first game of the season, but the promise of an early kick off (a good move to get some kids in) and reduced prices made it worthwhile to come down to the game.

What a contrast in styles it was too.  I made the mistake of not bringing my camera and the getting seats behind the dugouts.  One cultured, measured, calm and collected, the other passionate, demonstrative, fiery and, at times, comical.  Not talking about the teams but the managers and their contrasting styles.  It must be a good job that Paolo Di Canio eats a healthy Mediterranean diet, otherwise he'd be a surefire candidate for a heart attack. I think he put in more effort than some of his players.

Actually, not true.  His side deservedly came out on top tonight and on this showing things are looking good for the side - if he can contain his frustration with his side.  I get the impression that as a genius on the football pitch he might struggle with lesser players who cannot do what might have been instinctive to him.    

Exeter, on the other hand, have a bit of a job on this season.  They have lost the spine of their team - captain Matt Taylor, playmaker Ryan Harley and last season's top scorer Jamie Cureton, and are clearly struggling.  Early days and there are worse teams than us in this division but Paul Tisdale has his work cut out.  With Keith Millen being given the boot at Bristol City there is talk of Tisdale being one of the people on their list.  They'd be daft not to look seriously at him and I fear it might be a good move for him.  We certainly don't owe him anything but immense gratitude if and when he leaves.  But I do fear that the task will be much, much harder without him at the helm.  We'll see how it all pans out. 

At least this wasn't a league game so nothing really lost in the end.  Though a small boy behind me was heard to bemoan the fact that we only have the FA Cup to play for now this season.  So, no pressure Paul!

Monday, 3 October 2011

An Indian Summer

The lighthouse on the beach at Burnham on Sea

We have just had the most ridiculous (and welcome) weather to start off October this year.  Over the weekend the temperature was in the eighties both days, with the local website saying it reached 27 degrees in the shade and 30 degrees C (86 degrees) F on the sunny beach here - the hottest October days since records began.

Not surprisingly the beach was busy as we walked it with friends who were visiting for the weekend and more ice cream was consumed than you would normally expect.  I now have a summer cold in October - a first!

The forecast for later this week is 14 degrees - back to normal!