About a year ago I sat captivated by the brilliant extravaganza of the Cinescenie at Puy du Fou in the Vendee, France. It was such an incredible spectacle that we sat there and thought how amazing it would be to see some of those ideas at the Olympic Opening Ceremony. It wasn't just us who thought it was amazing either, we were staying next door to holiday makers where Dad used to work for Disney and he was blown away by it.
I wonder if Danny Boyle saw the show? He did some similar things - the scale of everything, the feudal peasants, the geese and the livestock, the green fields, the history of the Industrial Revolution, (with Kenneth Branagh as Isobard Kingdom Brunel). But he did so much more too.
So many highlights - the Queen as herself in a mini film with Daniel Craig as James Bond, Mr Bean playing with Simon Rattle and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the forging of the Olympic rings, the scale of the whole thing. The soundtrack was a great reminder of all the good music that has come out of GB and you could have put together another one with all that wasn't used.
Sure there were things you could say you'd like to see done differently. Macca at the end didn't do it for me, the Team GB tracksuits look like they were donated by The Glitter Band and the athletes parade dragged a bit even though they had them marching through pretty quickly. But overall it was fantastic.
I really liked Danny Boyle's vision of Britain, there was the tribute to those killed in London the day after it was announced that we had won the Olympics, the tribute to the NHS and children's literature, the honouring of the workers who constructed the stadium. Perhaps, best of all, after all the speculation about who would light the cauldron we were sold dummies in the shape of Beckham, Redgrave and Ali before the honour went to seven teenage athletes of the future, a powerful symbol. There's a lesson in there, I think.
Well, I'm three weeks back after a three month sabbatical and it's been an interesting time to say the least. It was always going to be a bit of a challenge to get back into the groove and, actually, who's to say that it's a good idea to get back into the old groove? I've been trying to catch up with people and situations, some of which (both the people and situations) I'm finding rather perplexing but the rest and recharge of sabbatical have been beneficial and have helped me through.
After two difficult weeks it was good to get back on track with what it should be all about, as we celebrated 'On Your Marks', a Holiday Club for 80 children. It was a great team effort and tonight I eagerly await the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games knowing that the Holiday Club team played a blinder. A day of rest tomorrow and then Sunday morning brings around my favourite service of the year - the Holiday Club service. Bring it on!
The picture? I got pied today as the villian of the 'On Your Marks' drama. Messy Church just got messier.
The Ugley Vicar has a very thought provoking post on the mission effectiveness of the Christian Union compared with the average Anglican parish here: Local Mission and the Christian Union. Take a look, I think it's very perceptive and thought-provoking. He concludes that the CU wins hands down.
In addition to the excellent points John Richardson makes I'd add that there's a flexibility and energy to the CU which means it can move fast (in my experience it has to because students are notoriously lousy at planning), be creative and take risks. The leadership gets rotated every year, no-one gets to be minister, elder or deacon forever. You aren't running thousands of ministries, you are mission focused. You aren't bound by tradition and even though the leaders are inexperienced (most of us, myself included, really didn't know what we were doing) God seemed to come through for us a lot. There's an inevitable incarnational element to most student communities and an openness to one another that most of us miss out on later in life. We might even have been missional without knowing it. There's also a lot of time and space and a lot less responsibility - or at least that was the case twenty odd years ago. We thought we were busy. We really weren't. We wasted a lot of time hanging out together and I really can't see that it was wasted. Fellowship was deep, spontaneous rather than scheduled. It was all about mission. I wonder if a lot of us miss those days? I know that I do.
Had a good night out with the Camera Club last night at the Tropiquaria, a night that inevitably sparked a bit of banter about the nature of creation with one of the guys I spar with on a regular basis. The Meerkats are real posers but not all the animals were quite so co-operative.
Even then, when a peacock turns it back on you it is a terrific sight. The eyes have it!
The top and foot of the rhea, neither end looks that great. Wouldn't want to pedicure those.
Perhaps the highlight was being allowed in the cage with these little fellas, a chance to get some shots without the bars of the cage in the way. 17 135 - the number of the beast?
So, a fun night out at Club Tropiquaria, though the rumour that drinks were free turned out to be unfounded. And if you have that truly dreadful song in your head for the rest of the day then I can only apologise.
And in a couple of days time I probably will be because tomorrow I start the final two days of my Cotswold Way walk. I walk from Old Sodbury to Pennsylvania tomorrow and then on into Bath on Saturday. My walking companion has dropped out for tomorrow and I wouldn't blame them if my finalist decided against it for Saturday either.
Why? Well, the BBC weather forecasts on TV tonight (both local and national) show a great deal of rain due in the next 48 hours, with some areas (north of here) due to get a month's worth of rain in a morning. The forecast is for a lot of heavy rain in the region I am walking.
Until you check the Met Office report online as I did less than an hour later. It forecasts cloud all day. And the BBC website shows rain at around 2pm but for it to be cloudy and nothing worse for the rest of the day. As a precaution I have decided not to pack sun cream but I will pack a raincoat, just in case. Saturday, on the other hand, is a different story. All four reports are currently for heavy rain from early afternoon onwards.
I am resolved to continue, as these are my last two walking days before the end of sabbatical. My three month wait for better weather is over, I've run out of options. I may be gone for some time...
Well, I've probably chosen the wettest year of my life to try this but yesterday marked the halfway point of my 366, taking and posting a picture everyday for the year. I started a few days early, hence the halfway stage was reached on 29th June.
So far it has taught me to get out and about on days when you can't be bothered. The windmill was photographed in January on a cold day and without the challenge I wouldn't have left the house.
I've also learned that it's often good to go out shooting with someone else, I took off for the afternoon with someone I was at a conference with and watching how and where John was looking for pictures helped me find this image in Sidmouth.
Dull rainy days (and we've had a lot of those) and looking at other people's shots on Flickr helped me shoot some things indoors.
Seeing ordinary images in a new way and learning some basic Photoshop skills helped with this picture of a dandelion.
And never be afraid of the cliched shot! I have recently acquired a 'nifty fifty', a 50 mm lens which gives wonderfully narrow deep of field when it's opened up.
I think I like this sort of shot because without glasses this is what my world looks like.
So, other reflections halfway through my 366 challenge? It has been easier while on sabbatical and having so much more time. Some days it feels like a chore and I wonder why I have done it. I have shot some real rubbish some days (see here if you don't believe me 366 Photo Challenge). I have considered giving up a few times but if I did I wouldn't have got a lot of my pictures. I've experimented a bit and sometimes it comes off, others it doesn't. Looking back at the results I'm pleased I've hung in there. I'm not sure I'd do it again.
I'm a middle aged man, a Baptist Minister, and more to the point an evangelical Christian. I have a great family, the best wife, an interest in music (mainly the sort of things that a middle aged man should like) and media in general. I like my sport and hardly ever play any. Will watch Test matches very happily and have a love of football, Exeter City are my club of choice.