Monday, 23 January 2017

Afternoon sunshine.

We had a nice walk at Stowe (again) and Chris found herself a tree to stand inside.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

It never ceases to amaze me

That I can get flights and a hotel in Europe for the 2 of us for less than the price of staying somewhere nice in the UK. Nuts.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Traditions are odd things

especially when interpreted/created by the English. Loosely connected with faith and expectation: on Sunday evening we went to the local Wassail.

It's a little bit of syncretism with roots in Norse culture, plus a little bit of Christianity (well, God gets a mention in a song) stirred in either because of appropriation or to give a veneer of acceptability. It is performed on 12th night - 12th night according to the Julian calendar, that is - and the 15th was the nearest convenient date possible. Folded into that is the Morris dancing (Morris may have been adapted from Moorish, possibly Syrian, dancing, but hankies and bells are almost certainly pure English since few other races ritually self-mock) that's now an essential part of such things too.

The idea is that the apple tree for making cider needs to be awoken after winter, encouraged to make it's roots grow and to produce a good harvest. On this occasion the weather should have been snowing hard, but global warming has changed things and it was just drizzling, so the dancing was held indoors. There was also consumption of choice baked comestibles and rough cider (spiced wassail was available in the form of hot apple juice punch).

The actual ceremony is supposed to take place at sunset, but with leaden skies it was more like night time. The tree was ringed with flaming torches with the Morris inside, a song sung by the crowd on the outside, then the words read:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink unto thee

The sound of a shot being fired was then made and a simple dance performed inside the torch circle. After that everyone drifted back inside with imprecations from the hostess to eat up the cake left over. Eventually we all pushed off back home.

Brackly Morris, practicing the mystic art of levitation while dancing.

The 'fool'. He's a tall chap, and I actually find him terrifying, even though there's probably nothing to be afraid of.

Dave The Morris leading proceedings.

Thank you to Victoria and Sebastian for inviting us.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

New year, new flavour

Of Linux, that is.

Just trying Solus Linux, and so far it looks pretty nice in a slightly retro-gnome-ish kind of way. Mostly it's been very, very easy to use, pre-installed audio & video codecs, immediate networking, simple to update and add new software.

Hiccups? I've not managed to add the Samsung printer yet - that usually installs right along with the rest of the system software, but setup won't let me do anything. I also had to do the same as with Mint regarding audio, since both distros use Alsamixer, and switch the audio output in the command line mixer console to change from front to rear audio output.

Otherwise it seems reasonably quick, and is certainly nice to use in a way that most gnome-based distros aren't. If it had a dock then I'd think it an Apple imitator.

To think it is to add it: Cairo Dock is now added, though a little dark & flat for Apple. I could have a lot of fun with this one, but I need to go to bed.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

The tree is outside

and the decorations are in the loft. Not exactly our usual routine for either a Sunday morning, nor so soon after Christmas, but that's how it needs to be this year.

In a few days we'll have Phil & his daughter Katie from Oz arriving, so need to move stuff around.

Christmas is a funny time. Emotions flap from possibilities and things that might have been but now can't be. Getting older does provide understanding, but that's not always either helpful, nor a source of pleasure moving forwards. For those I've hurt or offended during 2016, I'm sorry - sadly I can't wind the year back and I can't recapture words once spoken or typed.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

I wonder, if all the anger

That was put into smashing this or protesting that were used for something positive, what benefit there might be to the angry one - not to mention everyone else.

Wishing anyone who reads this a peaceful, successful and benevolent 2017, and that any scars 2016 gave you will heal quickly enough.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

PHS waste collection services are cultured

Swan Lake is their call holding music at HQ.

However being transferred to an internal phone got some kind of Brit pop. :p

Ah well, nice while it lasted.

2016 seems to be a year of loss

I was discovered yesterday via a friend that Andrew Jones (better known as Tall Skinny Kiwi) lost his wife about 6 months ago, then via the same friend today of someone's wife being mauled by dogs and dying in Bolivia. People die all the time, but for reasons I don't really understand it seems much more significant to me in THIS year than ever before.

There's a feeling of helplessness that goes with it all.

I've been trying to re-connect my faith and understanding with who God can really be in the light of the suffering and death of those we know and love, and keep coming back to the idea that our suffering and death isn't really that important to God in itself. Starting with Jesus, He came to suffer and die so that we could have life. His disciples expected to suffer and die because that was His example and a likely outcome of following the other things He did. The early church expected to suffer and die because that was the natural outcome of trying to live as a Christian in a pagan society that knowingly embraced the demonic. There are occasional instances of people missing out on suffering - Peter gets released from prison in Acts - but only for a time before meeting an even less pleasant end.

Chris and I were talking about one of the songs done by Gospel Bell at the gig last night "Give me that old-time religion". The lyrics are almost funny in their niavity about church history: one line suggests that 'old-time religion' was good enough for the pilgrim fathers, who actually fled to America to escape the influence of 'old-time religion'. If there weren't enough suffering in the world then the historic church would bring some more to make sure the necessary quota were met. Not that I'm suggesting God instigated that.

And then I read a gospel or 2.

Jesus quite clearly appears to go around alleviating suffering, bringing comfort and a sense of worth to people. It's at odds with every other period of history.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Does anyone ever look at my


Not all pictures are *quite* like this, of course.

I have 2 posts running round my head

One is about coping with depression while trying to be normal, the other about liking the idea of an Amazon Echo Dot in the house.

Neither seem like a great idea really, but both could help you keep going when things might be more difficult otherwise. I'm doing one, but not the other, but would prefer them to be reversed in some ways.

Some stuff.

One post isn't helpful, the other self-idulgent - I'm not sure which is which. Time to stop then.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

We're all christmassed up

Tree up - check.

Lights - check

Garland over the fireplace - check

Meat bought for next weekend - check

Yup, looks like it.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Christmas humbug

Writing Christmas cards.

The not-remembering spouses names.

The not-managing-to-align-words in a pleasing manner.

The nagging feeling of having forgotten someone.

The mis-spellings that you spot immediately after writing.


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I have a dilemma

A friend here at work has a bundle of trouble going on in their life right now. He's talked to me a little, opened up a bit about things, and is in a horrible situation.

The dilemma I have is that I want to pray for him - to offer to pray for him and bring some comfort - but after recent events I just don't feel that I can do so in good conscience. From the time I heard about our friend Jo's cancer I prayed every day for her, as did many others. The answer was NO then, and I could cite other non-trivial NO instances too, so why should I raise someone's hopes and offer to pray for them when in all likelihood the exact same answer will be given?

What do you do when there's no faith left, nor any expectation that God will do anything? It's curious how, having fought traditional church for so long, suddenly I find myself there, with a faith that's barely worth the name.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Words I can't sing.

Yesterday I was asked to lead worship for a business meeting.

Now bearing all things in mind, this was an interesting situation. It feels a little like walking a narrow ledge right now, between wanting to simply reject church & walk away from everything - this is a real desire, albeit under control - and re-embracing the stuff I no longer trust or believe to be real. At the moment the ledge is narrow, because there's not too much understanding to hold on to, things to have faith in, but there are some things still, so I'll keep balancing & walking along.


I have a large body of songs to select from, all handily printed out from previous times. So I created 3 piles: Songs that have words I can sing & keep a clear cosncience, songs that might be usable in the future, songs that don't appear to tell the truth.

Curious how the songs that I could use were mostly old hymns or recycled words and structures from old hymns, "Be thou my vision" being one (aspirational) example, "Praise God from whom all blessing flow" being another.

Minus 6 degrees centigrade

That's how cold it was in Somerton this morning. After about 20min wandering round trying to take pictures, it was difficult to grip the steering wheel to drive into work. My fingers are still feeling the effects half an hour later, and typing is difficult.

T'was pretty though.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Lumia just goes on and on.

Just had almost 6 days use from the phone out of a single charge, and only had to charge it as a 'just in case' measure because of a potential medical emergency.

Charged it last Sunday evening, disconnecting it around 10pm, using it as normal to make calls, take a few work-related photos, send texts & emails, do a brief bit of navigation, a couple of min surfing. Plugged it in around 2.30pm this afternoon with 10% charge showing, which was probably good until Sunday morning without serious use.

Performance wise it's not a ball of fire, and Microsoft's interface is somewhat clunky compared to vanilla android, but I'll accept that trade for this kind of longevity and the fantastic call quality.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

How do I know God is real?

That's a good question, and one that's been kicked around in my head quite a bit recently.

There's a Douglas Adams quote from the HHGTTG that goes along the lines (from memory) of 'it being no good spending hours debating whether God exists if someone then gives you his bleedin' phone number'.

So no phone numbers then.

Entirely subjective, but the pre-Christian Toni was a complete Bastard, really - I know because I was there.

Why bring this up?

Because as I'd got closer to deciding God wasn't there, the inner bastard had been coming more to the fore. I've found myself being more like I used to be: less kind, less gentle, more sweary, more greedy, more depressed, more negative about others, more liberal in my thinking and less self-controlled. It's not much, but it was a solid reminder of who I am without Jesus. If salvation makes me more like Jesus then the opposite does the opposite.

Yes, I've been a Christian almost 40 years, but the flesh - the 'natural' attitudes - have never gone away in all that time, so much as being dealt with on a daily basis, sometimes coming to the fore, sometimes being held in control. Last weekend at the alpha day we had someone talking about how they had never sworn and their partner would never swear, even in court when asked to repeat something said by another person. I was reminded of who the natural Toni is, and how different I would be if left to my own devices.

Never mind pie in the sky when you die - salvation is for now.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Lumia 640 - better than anyone would admit

So I've had the phone just over 5 weeks, and as promised, here's a mini-review of an obsolete phone that nobody wanted:

Battery life - 4 days is easy, 5 days not unusual, with a few calls, texting, a bit of internet or routefinding. I don't live on my phone, and just use it as a tool.

Call quality - is generally landline quality, often in places where I'd struggle to even get a phone signal with the other 2 phones (iPhones seem at least as bad for reception here).

Screen - clear, clean, bright enough and crisp.

Windows applications - generally perform well once I got used to where to find things.

Windows maps - GPS locks in a couple of seconds, then generally chooses a good route with accurate ETA.

Keyboard layout - makes it easy to hit the bar at the bottom & return to the home screen.

Screen/phone size - I'd prefer it to be smaller and slimmer, but it's not unmanageable - glad I didn't get a 5.5" phone.

Lack of apps in general - I mostly don't care that I can't play candy crush. :-)

Firefox isn't available for this version of Windows 10.

The need to perform 2 actions when answering a call from a locked screen - swipe to open, then touch to answer. It should be a single swipe or tap.

The way my google address book has been scrambled when importing, so that names & pictures don't always match the telephone number/email address.

Wish the mapping app could do real-time traffic conditions.

It's a better mobile phone than any of my previous devices including candybar phones, but I just wish it was smaller and slimmer.

It's raining. Again.


Guess we're lucky - some parts of the country are flooded right now.


Especially for Robyn Friesen (if you ever read this) the word of the evening is 'moist'.  ;-)

Mismatch? Postmoderism again? Squitchy Christianity?

In the NIV study bible that I use there's a highlighted theme at the start of the book of Malachi that goes something like "The Jews stopped believing that God loved them and no longer trusted in His justice". I've kept coming back to this phrase again and again, because it matched my own thoughts well and I was hoping to find something that would enable some kind of reconnection (I've read a lot of the 'people in difficult circumstances' passages over the last few weeks).

But here's the mismatch - reading the actual passages of Malachi gives a very different understanding of the relationship between God & the Jews. It's not at all a case of God wooing back a 'lost' nation, but much more a people who have lost sight of God being threatened with harm and the example of Edom being crushed again and again demonstrating the fruitlessness of resistance.

I don't have any particular answers right now, other than I'm sure it's the same God in old & new testaments, God did demonstrate His love for us by sacrificing His only son on the cross, and that He has no problem with us suffering, struggling and dying in this life. So much of the Christianity I've heard preached suggests that God is a great big, soft, loving father who would wrap us in His arms and protect us from the world, struggles and pain - yet this isn't at all the God of the bible that I can see, nor, the God we seem to experience in this life. Squitchy Christianity isn't reality.

In a way I recoil a bit from trying to really understand who God is: apart from the sheer incapability of my mind, with that comes a responsibility that I don't want.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Hope I never grow up

My sense of humour is still suitably off-colour that I can find various entirely innocent words amusing when placed in the same sentence.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The will-man cometh

To talk to us tonight.

About making a will.

Happy days.

Apparently I'm popular in France

According to my blog stats:

Hi to my French Friends. ;-)

And apparently most people came here via yesterday, although I have absolutely no idea why since I couldn't find an obvious link here on the site. Hi Jenifer, if you drop by.

Web stats are curious things - definitely not something to become concerned with - but can be amusing occasionally.

Where do you go - when you've no-where to go?

So the personal fallout of our friend Jo's death, is that God doesn't asnswer prayer, at least not in the way we like to think He does, and that I want to walk away from faith and the church.

Reading church history tells us quite a bit: that we 'see' God as being like us, that He doesn't have a problem with people suffering and dying, that over and over again we ignore some quite key things while focusing on the stuff that reinforces our view that He's like us only better.

Where do you go when there's no-where to go?

After the crowds went away, Jesus asked His disciples "are you going too?" and they came back with "we've left everything for you - where else can we go?".

It's a bleak place, to discover God isn't who you were taught he was, and that things aren't what you hoped they'd be.

I could walk away if it wasn't for the way that God has, sometimes, been involved with my life. Sunday was interesting, going to a big multi-church meeting in Oxford, watching the visiting speaker indulging in very clear emotional manipulation to whip up the crowd, and then God just dropping the odd bit of genuine change in here & there. Bizarre. It made me soul-search about how I've lead worship in the past, but I've always had as light a touch as possible and feel my conscience is clear, at least in that area.

There is no worship in me right now, and I'm grateful not to be having to teach or lead worship. I still want to walk away, but I can't.

A good friend says that he gets angry with God, but this is far from that and much closer to a desire to stop living and stop struggling with it all. My starting point was whether God even existed, which is no place for anger, and it still is to an extent, but it's changed into wondering how we've mis-understood so badly and whether I really have any idea who God is after all.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Just found myself about to comment on a post about Brexit.

That was one of the reasons I stopped doing facebook - so much stoopid.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Sometimes I wonder

...looking at church history, and in the light of our life experiences, if we've not completely mis-understood who God is and how He wants to interact with mankind. At the funeral last week the worship band played Matt Redman's "You Are God In Heaven" and the lyrics seemed so completely 21st century-ridiculous, it was almost a mockery.

Have we been busy doing the same as every generation, and making God in our own image? I'm starting to think so.

Reading over on The Heresy (If you don't know the blog, I wouldn't worry too much) a debate about hell, salvation and who gets saved, the 21st century attitude is to ask how could anyone possibly be condemned to torment - no-one could deserve that (unless they're a paedophile). For second and third century Christians for whom death in various extremely unpleasant forms was distinctly likely, and where the everyday people around them were intentionally occupied with pagan evil, the idea that their oppressors might suffer the same cruelty as a just punishment afterward seemed entirely right and proper.

This time has both shaken and is reshaping my theology, and I'll never be the same again. I wonder a little more now if the traditional church that just goes through a kind of mummery isn't right after all - they have a lot of history on their side.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

In lieu of anything meaningful

Yes, I KNOW this has been floating round for years, but working with people from Germany, Spain, Italy, Pakistan, India and America, I find it funny.

61 English expressions that don't work for Johnny Foreigner. ;-)

1. “It’s not quite what I had in mind.” – What the bloody hell is this?
2. “That’s a bit off.” – I will never forgive you for what you just said.
3. “Oh yes, he’s a lot of fun.” – He’s an absolute nightmare.
4. “They’re fine once you get to know them.” – They’re arseholes.
5. “It rings a bell.” – I have no idea what you’re talking about.
6. “Fancy a drink?” – Fancy staying out until 3am and waking up with your face glued to a kebab?
7. “We’re going on a date.” — We’re getting pissed together.
8. “I got a bit tipsy last night.” – I drank 17 pints and then punched a police horse.
9. “Picnic” — Daytime piss-up.
10. “Barbecue” — Piss-up in the garden.
11. “It got a bit lively.” – The police were called.
12. “I’m doing Drynuary.” – I’ve stopped drinking during the day.
13. “I’m a bit tired.” – I’m hungover.
14. “I’m feeling a bit under the weather, to be honest.” – I have alcohol poisoning.
15. “I’m a tad poorly.” – Kill me.
16. “You look like you had fun last night!” – You look like you slept in a bin.
17. “It’s OK, we’ve not been here long either.” – We’ve been here for ages and we’ll never forgive you for keeping us waiting.
18. “Yes, it’s great, I love it.” – I am very dismayed by this haircut.
19. “Anyway, it was lovely to meet you.” – Please go away now.
20. “I’ll let you get on.” – Seriously mate, piss off.
21. “I might pop along.” – I’m probably not coming.
22. “I’ll see how I feel.” – I’m definitely not coming.
23. “I tried to call you.” – I let the phone ring twice and then hung up.
24. “It’s totally fine if you can’t make it.” – I don’t want you to come.
25. “It could be worse.” – No, it couldn’t.
26. “I’ll have a word with them about it.” – I’ll never mention this to them.
27. “It is what it is.” – I can’t be bothered to fix this thing, so stop complaining.
28. “Truth be told, I’m a little bit miffed.” – I’m going to stab someone.
29. “Want to have lunch together?” – Want to run to Greggs and back in the rain?
30. “It was OK, but I wouldn’t order it again.” – This meal was horrible, deeply disappointing, and shit.
31. “Did I give you enough cash?” – Give me my change. Now.
32. “With the greatest respect…” – I think you’re an idiot.
33. “Well, it can’t hurt, I suppose.” – You’re making a huge mistake.
34. “Maybe I’m not explaining it properly.” – I am explaining it properly, you’re just dim.
35. “I’m sorry you feel that way.” – It’s not my problem.
36. “It’s a step in the right direction.” – But it’s still rubbish. 
37. “Very interesting.” – You’re talking bollocks.
38. “Don’t quote me on that.” – Don’t blame me if the vague, half-made-up information I just passed on backfires on you.
39. “It was working a minute ago.” – You’ve broken it.
40. “Don’t worry, it’s probably my fault.” – It’s definitely your fault.
41. “You should come over for dinner sometime.” – I will never invite you over for dinner.
42. “Ooh, I could get used to this!” – Something very faintly luxurious has just happened, e.g. being offered a cup of tea.
43. “Can you pop it in an email?” – Please stop talking.
44. “That’s a very good question.” – One that I don’t know the answer to.
45. “Can I borrow you for a second?” – You’re in deep shit.
46. “Now, don’t be alarmed, but…” – Be very, very alarmed.
47. “Let’s agree to disagree.” – I’m obviously right, but I’ve run out of things to say.
48. “Look, let’s just forget it.” – I will never, ever forget this.
49. “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.” – I have no idea what to say about the crushing disappointment you’ve just experienced.
50. “Oh, hi! Sorry, I didn’t see you there.” – I was actively trying to avoid you.
51. “Well, that’s not quite what happened.” – Will your lies never end?
52. “There’s been a bit of a mix-up.” – I’ve ruined all of your plans and destroyed everything you hold dear.
53. “Only if you’re making one.” – Why yes, I desperately want a cup of tea.
54. “It’s up to you.” – You’d better pick the thing I want to do.
55. “Could do, I suppose.” – No.
56. “Sorry.” — I’m not sorry.
57. “I don’t mind.” – I do mind.
58. “It’s OK.” – It’s not OK.
59. “I’m fine.” – I’m fine.
60. “I’m fine.” – I’m furious.
61. “I’m fine!” – My whole life is in tatters. Please bring me a drink.
 Favourites roughly in order of usage are:

20. “I’ll let you get on.” – Seriously mate, I can't bear talking to yu any longer.
 1. “It’s not quite what I had in mind.” – What the hell is this mess?
 4. “They’re fine once you get to know them.” – They’re arseholes.
43. “Can you pop it in an email?” – Please stop talking.
51. “Well, that’s not quite what happened.” – Will your lies never end?
34. “Maybe I’m not explaining it properly.” – I am explaining it properly, you’re just dim.
39. “It was working a minute ago.” – You’ve broken it.  
54. “It’s up to you.” – You’d better pick the thing I want to do.
And, of course, "I'm fine/it's OK"

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Ever wonder why you do stuff?

Life seems so futile in many ways, especially at this end of things where one is gradually working down to retirement, then hoping to die comfortably before becoming old to the point of complete indignity.

It doesn't really matter that much what phone I use, what car I drive or a bunch of other stuff, but they're good distractions for a while.

It's tempting to sign this post off as 'Marvin', so at least you know I still have a sense of humour.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Day 2 on the settee this week

I went to work this morning & got sent home: been able to do a bit via email, but this hasn't been my most productive week. Felt miles better first thing, but was a dizzy, coughing wreck by the time I arrived at the Innovation Centre.

In other news, the Microsoft Lumia 640 turned up today.

So it's a 5" phone (yikes) that feels slim, lighter than expected & neat. The back is a really good fit, but comes off OK without a fight, and although the phone doesn't have the presicion engineered feel of my carbon & metal RAZRi, it's still good. The Giffgaff SIM worked fine, since the phone is locked to O2 and Giffgaff share that network. Call quality is great, with pretty much landline quality from indoors on my settee, rather than having to go outside and STILL getting breakup - this is a PHONE phone, rather than a small tablet computer.

The screen is also nice, both in terms of clarity and of oleophobic coating to reduce smears, and the interface seems pleasantly fluid if quite unfamiliar, despite having Windows 8.1 (may have to migrate to W10 to stay current in the app store - give it a week). At this stage I'm not sold on the windows mobile experience, but there's the promise of good things to come if I persevere. There's also a 5200mAh external battery pack given away 'free' (but no charger - just a USB cable) with the phone, and fortunately I still have my Motorola charger. Hopefully battery life will be a couple of days at least.

In terms of storage there was just over 3Gb free from 8Gb basic memory, which is no worse than Android (no idea about iPhones, other than to hear 16Gb iPad owners complain about no useful space). There's all the kinds of tools you might expect to find if you were using a windows PC, which is handy in some ways, more complicated than it need be in others. My initial experience is that I don't actually like windows, but on a PC it just gets out of the way and lets me get on with life - hope this will be the same.

And I've 14 days to return it - one of the key reasons for buying online. Not that I expect to, but if I just can't get on with the interface then, in theory, there's a no-quibble guarantee they'll take it back.

But sofa so good.

Now, where's that micro-SD card that was supposed to arrive today?