Thursday, 29 November 2012

The things that dreams are made of

Some serious Dad dancing went on last night as I revelled in not being one of the oldest in a gig for once.  In fact I was probably mid-range, if anything slightly younger than most.  Age has not been kind to all of us.  Some were looking more old romantic than new, but then I caught a look at myself in the mirror and realised that I have nothing to shout about either. 

The occasion was The Human League, playing in Bristol.  The Colston Hall is a great venue; intimate, with great accoustics and facilities. 

The League (as we in the know call them) were in great nick and it was a great performance.  A few bum notes but then Dare was released in 1981, we should be grateful to still have them.  They clearly enjoyed themselves too.  Slightly bizarrely, a frequently heard comment on the way out was that, "They were better than I expected", which does make you wonder how bad paying punters expected it to be.   

It was a long held ambition to see the band, I missed the opportunity to see them years ago in Chippenham of all places because it clashed with college.  How diligent / stupid was that? What a creep I was. 

Can't swear to the set list but this one from the gig before in The Royal Albert Hall looks like it's the same.  No 'Empire State Human' (a personal favourite), 'Being Boiled', 'Hard Times', or 'Human' but you can't really quibble much with what they did.  One of the stewards told us that we were in for a surprise with something unusual as the final song.  Guess he doesn't know a lot about the band. 

A great night out, time flew, and much needed relief after a rather daft day.  Here's what they did: 

1.            Sky
      2.            The Sound of the Crowd
      3.            Open Your Heart
      4.            Heart Like A Wheel
      5.            All I Ever Wanted
      6.            The Things Dreams Are Made Of
      7.            Seconds
      8.            The Lebanon
      9.            Louise
    10.                  One Man In My Heart
    11.                  Night People
    12.                  Electric Shock
    13.                  Love Action
    14.                  Tell Me When
    15.                  Fascination
    16.                  Mirror Man

    17.                 Goodbye Bad Times
    18.                 Don’t You Want Me

Second Encore
    19.                Together in Electric Dreams

Monday, 26 November 2012

Everyday Church (1) - Aliens!

There are such things as aliens.  I should know, I am one.   That's why I don't quite fit in.  I'm a bit too different to the people around me.  They sense I'm not quite one of them and it makes them uneasy.  Which is why they sometimes get uptight around me and that comes out sometimes with mocking comments or some verbal abuse.  No, not talking about church meetings, (although...) but echoing what Peter says about Christians in his letter to the churches.  Christians are aliens, foreigners, strangers, amongst the rest of the world.  We don't fit in and so life is sometimes uncomfortable, indeed, downright dangerous in some parts of the world. 

We're reading Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis as a church leadership and I am using it as the basis for a sermon series on a Sunday too.  Fabulous book and full of good and godly wisdom.  I plan to blog through the series but would urge you to read the book.  Way better than my sermons or blog posts. 

Chapter 1 open with a survey of landscape in the western world.  Writing from a UK perspective, the tide is out.  there was a time when church attendance was much higher than it is (though, of course, that isn't the same as being a Christian), Sunday School was attended by the majority of kids and the church (for good or bad) had a great deal more power and influence than it does today. 

The last census figures (2001) show that 72% of people say that they are Christians and yet a Tearfund survey in 2007 say that 70% of people say that they have no intention of going to a church.  Something doesn't quite stack up there.  Be interesting to see what the 2011 census figures say, I believe that they are due out next month.

Stuart Murray outlines the differences between the olden days of Christendom and the situation today.  He describes the change for Christians as being:

  1. From the centre to the margins
  2. From majority to minority
  3. From settlers to sojourners
  4. From privilege to plurality
  5. From control to witness
  6. From maintenance to mission
  7. From institution to movement

As they never quite said in the Wizard of Oz:   “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Christendom anymore”.

We came up with an extra one while we discussed this at a Deacons Meeting:
  • From respect to ridicule 
At one time the church and the Christian faith would be respected by most, whether people believed or not.  Now it's pretty much open season.  There's nothing new under the sun though as a first century piece of graffiti shows. 
The inscription is "Alexander worships his God." 
As Chester and Timmis write,Rather than assume we should have a voice in the media or on the high street, we need to regain the sense that anything other than persecution is an unexpected bonus.”  (40)
All a bit gloomy?   Well the situation is pretty close to the one that Peter's readers found themselves in and the church seems to have grown hugely since then.  Perhaps we just need to find a new way to do church.  Next up, Everyday Community.
Part of my reason for blogging this series of sermons is to make sure that folk from the church who miss some of them can be in the loop.  The views expressed are not necessarily those of the church, the value of a sermon can go down as well as up, terms and conditions apply.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Beneath the floorboards

Brilliant and thought provoking post from Jonty Langley here on the the difference between you and a mass murderer.  An illustration based on a song by Sufjan Stevens that would useful if you want to talk about sin, big and small. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

I'm here till the end of the month...

I caught the kids messing around with yoghurt drinks last night. 
Had to warn them about dabbling with the Yakult.
Thought that this was original at first but a friend has pointed out that this is, in fact, a variation on a Tim Vine joke.  I read it last Christmas in his joke book (joke number 711) - nice to know that something I had read lodged in this tired old brain.

Character not reputation

I've been reading some terrific things lately.  Re-reading Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, which is looking like my book of the year, has been great and I had an excellent day with  Pete Scazzero on Tuesday on Emotionally Healthy Leadership - just the right combination of inspiring and informing and challenging. 

This quote is from a book I picked up at a conference a year ago and have finally got round to reading - that familiar to anyone else at all?  Growing Leaders by James Lawrence is something I am reading a little of each evening, it's fine stuff!   Here's a wise quote from it:

"Be more comcerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are." (p.123)  
Basketball Coach, John Wooden      

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Movember update

Here we are after three weeks Movembering.  Today I spent six hours on a bus load of school children, an odd way to spend a day off, and in dressing the part of a World War II schoolteacher, Brill-creamed my hair too.  Hope none of them have nightmares tonight. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Christmas has come early!

Much excitement yesterday as I went to pick my early Christmas present.  This was a test shot that I took in the camera shop and certain camera club chums need not fear, I have not gone over to the dark side and bought a Nikon. 

I'm thrilled to have a Canon 70-200mm f.2.8 L series lens, the Mark 1 IS.  Purchased second hand but it looks like its in perfect nick.  Can't wait to get out there and put it through it's paces properly.      

Thursday, 8 November 2012


Ron Mael of Sparks

Movember is the month to grow the hair on your top lip to raise money and awareness about men's health.  Men all over the country are trying hard to grow their moustaches, women all over the country are generally pretty repelled by it.  But it's all in a good cause, for prostate and testicular cancer. 

I'm taking part for the first time this year and have started by not shaving at all before removing most of my facial hair to reveal a fairly pitiful 'tache; planning to do that at the weekend depending on how it looks by then. 

Might be brave enough to post a pic in due course, in the meantime there is a Sparks song going around my head, Moustache with the great line in the chorus, "One hundred hairs make a man".

Should really be the Movember anthem.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

My Favourite Mormon...

... as the Undertones never quite sang.

To Cardiff on Guy Fawkes night to see The Killers, and what a great night it turned out to be.  'Brandon and the Beardie Blokes' as they probably should be known as, were on great form.  They were tight and they rocked. Terrific light show, with extra fireworks thrown in as well, I suspect, given the date.  They played all the old favourites and about half of the new album, which is slowly growing on me but doesn't do it for me in quite the same way as the others.  'Deadlines and Commitments', my favourite on the album, wasn't one of the somgs they played, but hey.    

One thing, and I did check with my family that it wasn't just my middle-aged man's hearing, but my experience of the sound quality that the Motorpoint offers wasn't great.  Saw Franz Ferdinand there once and thought the same, which is a great shame because the Killers were a bit let down on that front I suspect. 

A really good gig, which would have been great if it weren't for that.  The whole family enjoyed it and that in itself makes it the most successful family gig ever. 

Set List
Mr Brightside
The Way It Was
Smile Like You Mean It
Heart of a Girl
Bling (Confession of a King)
Miss Atomic Bomb
Somebody Told Me
Here With Me
For Reasons Unknown
From Here On Out
A Dustland Fairytale
Read My Mind
When You Were Young

Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine
All These Things That I've Done
Battle Born

Monday, 5 November 2012

Finished! Cotswold Way - Day 10 - Pennsylvania to Bath

It seems a long time ago that I started to walk the Cotswold Way, the 102 mile route that starts in beautiful Chipping Campden, ends in beautiful Bath and takes in some pretty special scenery en route as well.  The plan was to finish this last leg three and half months ago but for reasons that are explained here that didn’t happen.  Since then some time-consuming work situations and terrible weather have kept me waiting for that elusive drier weather when I could enjoy the last ten miles or so. 

Eventually my game of chicken with the weather came to an end.  I lost.  On a Tuesday two weeks ago it was a case of either walking regardless of the weather or face the possibility that it wouldn’t happen this year, especially with the clocks changing at the weekend.  Despite seeing the forecast as foggy with very poor visibility (and they weren’t too far wrong on that score) I set out on my last leg. 

I parked up outside an old disused pub in Cold Ashton and the first thing that I did was retrace my steps to Pennsylvania the hamlet that I reached to get to my B&B last time.  It meant crossing a couple of muddy fields and pausing at the B&B a moment, reflecting how I had been there when I heard the news of my Dad being rushed into hospital.  A silent prayer of thanks before turning to re-cross those ploughed fields.

As the (boring) picture shows, it was wet and slippery and grey on the last day of the Cotswold Way, much like the first day!
On getting back to Cold Ashton I revisited Sarah at Folly Farm cafe for a great cooked breakfast and an interesting chat with a man who told me all about how he had once introduced his companions to someone: "This is my ex-wife, this is my wife and this is my girlfriend."  You do meet some interesting people on this walk. 

Cold Ashton boasts the second most impressive door that I will see on the day and because of the conditions there isn't a great deal to see and admire on the leg.  At one point, near the Lansdown Battlefield, the guide book says that I should be able to see both Severn Crossings from my vantage point but I can't even see the Severn.  Likewise, the much remarked on view over Bath from Prospect Stile is a bit non-descript in this weather. 

The weather is very still though and it's pretty good walking weather, certainly was colder some days in June and July than I was here, at the end of October.  Weston brings the surprise of some serious climbing up steep steps (always hard) just when you think that's it on the climbing stakes but they are worth it for the joy of walking through the last mile or so in Bath itself.  The city is so beautiful that you don't notice the walk. 

By the time I have detoured very slightly to be at the Royal Crescent I have, in truth, finished walking the Cotswold Way.  I did the rest without trying on the night of my stay in the city a couple of months back.  So, it's past the B&B we stayed in and through to The Circus. 

The signage for the Cotswold Way becomes much more discreet in Bath (after all, this is Bath) and consequently is a little harder to follow.  The guide book comes in handy though and before you know it you are face to face with  the place you have been aiming for all this time, Bath Abbey.   

The door is the traditional finishing point but now they have a wonderful finishing point in the pavement just before the door.  When I get there it is so new that they are still due to dedicate it two days later - with a peel of bells or something.   

The woman at the Cathedral Shop is very patient with me when I ask her where the new finish point is and takes me out to show me after signing my sheet as proof of finishing the Cotswold Way.  It's a slightly odd feeling finishing, a bit of an anti-climax, in part because I planned it differently, with friends and a hearty meal.  I hang around for a bit and then go to Costa to celebrate with a spot of tiffin - I know how to party!  I text some friends and family to tell them I have finished and it's good to get their texts and calls in response, I don't feel quite so alone.   

Afterwards I try to catch a bus that is listed but no longer seems to exist and so it's late when I finally get back to Pennsylvania.  To fill in time in Bath I have my hearty meal - Big Mac, fries, coke.  Not quite what I had in mind but nevermind. 

I'm really glad to have done this walk.  I did it as a Cotswold boy and it has always been an ambition.  In the process of walking I found out that I didn't really know the Cotswolds at all, and that I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with walking.  At it's best it was joyous and inspiring, at it's worst dour and drab.  I discovered that I prefer to walk with others but that I can cope with walking alone.   

Now, I wonder what route I will be walking next?