Wednesday, 29 December 2004

We survived

a visit from the putative outlaws.

Sarah's boyfriend's parents came over this evening with the whole family for dinner. I *think* they had a good time: certainly there was much mutual appreciate spoken out.

Actually it wasn't bad - both sides are learning what the other is like, and they seem basically decent people, the kind of family you'd hope your kids would marry into (if you leave God out of the equation). Loving, warm, friendly, caring. If Dan came to know Jesus that would ice the cake nicely. I can see the 2 of them marrying and I'm not at all unhappy with that, except I just wish Dan were saved for both their sakes.

Parenting: who'd do it?

Saturday, 25 December 2004

Great day.

And you know what made it? A call from Randall.

I was asleep in the livingroom with Chris's parents after dinner when the phone went. Leapt up, gabbed it as fast as I could in the hope of them not jumping too much and said in a sleepy voice

"Toni Ertl"

"Hi, this is Randall Friesen" came from the receiver.

Never would have expected it, but it made the day for me I think. It was enough to make me almost instantly wake up.

Randall - Thankyou. I hope you had a great day in Saskatoon.

Friday, 24 December 2004

Thank you everyone that prayed

Sarah was virtually recovered this evening, and we were able to all get together.

From the left, that's my brother Peter, Ben, my mother, Alison (Pete's wife) Sarah and Andy (P&A's son). That's everyone except Chris and myself.

Once again, thank you, and thanks to God for being gracious to enable us to get together.

Please pray for us this W/E

Sorry to have to ask this way.

My mother is on drugs that suppress her immune system, and mustn't be brought into contact with sick people. She's due to come over tomorrow afternoon to spend Christmas with us.

As of this afternoon Sarah has been throwing up (last occasion was about 10 mins ago). Seems she caught this from her boyfriend, who had it a few days ago.

So - looks like I need a healthy daughter and a bit of a miracle for her to be OK in tyhe morning, and my mum not to catch it while (if?) she comes.

Anyone good at the bended knee stuff? It feels like a cheek to ask, but who knows? God is gracious.

Thanks everyone.

Sunday, 19 December 2004

Happy Christ-mas everyone.

Breaking all my 'rules' I gave in to the family and did the tree this morning.

We're off to the carol service this afternoon (what I guess some would call a 'seeker sensitive' meeting) so no guitar playing required. Poor Chris is having to make mince pies, having promised to do it and then forgotten until about 1.00pm.

p.s. may take more pics after dark.

Sunday, 12 December 2004


We went out for a bit.

And this afternoon we stayed in.

The rest of the time I seemed to be driving people everywhere.

BTW the tee shirt says "real men don't waste their hormones growing hair" :D

Saturday, 11 December 2004


Is something I feel after I've finished servicing one of our cars.

It's a task I've been putting off since the spring (naughty naughty). Despite only taking just over an hour, because of all the grovelling on the floor and getting coated with very black, sticky oil, I'm slightly reluctant. Now the job is done, and I feel both relieved and slightly more righteous that I did a little while ago.

I'm not going to think about how many miles that poor little diesel has done since the last one.

On a different note, I'm going to try to get the rest of the holiday pictures up soon. It had become one more burden, and so got laid aside when I didn't have the energy or enthusiasm.

Wednesday, 8 December 2004

Quite a lot of thoughts.....

but not much time.

I'm quite busy here, and also finding the immediacy of forums tending to draw me when I do have time to post. Plus blogger has been very slow recently, to the point of frustration when trying to log in. I may be shallow these days, but it doesn't seem worth the wait - like being on dialup again.

I was quite taken with a thread over at 'eagle and child' about language and swearing. If I get time later I'll post a little more thats been running through my head - the thread is also getting a little 'mature' now, and I suspect any comments I add will disappear into the morass.

Thursday, 2 December 2004

I wonder if?

I wonder if Randall managed to arouse Lauralee last night. I think we should be told, as caring and concerned adults. Come on, tell us man. We need FACTS!


Wednesday, 1 December 2004

More thoughts on tradition

We visited my mother at the weekend. Unfortunately I didn't have all that much time with her, but we did discuss the retreat she'd been on.

My mother changed churches about 18 months ago, moving from a fairly loud mixed culture charismatic church to an evangelical anglican one. The move wasn't because of the style of meetings or anything to do with the actual church itself - only that she couldn't cope with the sheer volume of a Sunday morning meeting. The new church is also quite un-anglican, and more like the previous one in terms of attitude, however being mostly white and with a more formal background it is somewhat quieter. As an anglican church they make only the barest nod to the formal liturgy.

Last week she went away on a retreat to a place called Burrswood which is essentially anglican. She's been there previously and benefitted from their healthcare and advice, however this time she went with a friend (the wife of an anglican priest) and for rest/spiritual refreshment reasons rather than medical restoration. The friend wanted to follow the pattern determined for the retreat, and therefore my mother tagged along for each of the 'services' they held. The first of these was a standard formal service, everything done from the book, a mumbled message etc, however the second was managed by a guest speaker who was inspiring and made the service come alive. The 3rd and 4th meetings were just like the first, with even less life (if that were possible).

Back to the point of the title. My mother has never been one to put down tradition, having grown up in formal meetings. However her conclusion was that liturgy applied like this was more likely to kill spiritual life rather than encourage it. I was more than a little surprised to here this, however her concern was that with a liturgy those leading could simply rely on on the form of words and order of service. Even though they may be good (and some of the words ARE very good indeed) without the Spirit of God being involved in the meeting you might as well not bother.

Exactly what I've been trying to say here.

Tuesday, 30 November 2004

Blobby blobby blobby.

Is how I feel.

182lb (13 stone in olde English, 81Kg in foreign) for 5'10".

It's the heaviest I've ever been and I'm not happy about it, but I like my food, and I'm not getting enough exercise.

Back on the bike to ride to work this morning. I really need to get out and do some bigger rides. Mar 2003 I did a 100Km off roader round the chilterns, and darned knackering it was too. The way I am this morning 10K would be hard.

I really find there's a trade-off between my fitness level and how well I work here though. The fitter I am, the more stupid my brain is, and the less mentally agile I become. Concentration just dances around, and it's nearly impossible to focus firmly on anything. Trying to hold a meaningful conversation with people I don't know is also really hard; the brain stays blank when it should be finding new threads for exploration. I come across as stupid and slow, which is half right in these circumstances.

The other side of losing fitness from a peak is depression. If I get fit, then stop I get dark, dark mood swings. It's not as bad as it used to be, but then I'm not super-fit like I was when I raced as a teenager. I stopped cycling for a while at 16 and and came pretty close to suicide, although it was a good opportunity for God to break in. Probably would have done if He hadn't.

Another dilemma then: fat and unwell or slim, stupid and moody?

Which would you choose?

Friday, 26 November 2004


I've been doing a production process this week that involves lots of standing up and walking short distances, repeating 600+ times. This morning we pouched the product into moisture proof pouches using a heat sealing tool that requires squeezing hard. I now have sore knees, stiff legs, sore and uncomfy hands and a headache from the drone of the dehumidifier.

Bushed, and not dubyah either.

Sorry I've not been around much. The bog was less of a conversation (with the exception of a Randall and Linea) and more me writing things as they popped into my head. I've been having more conversations elsewhere recently, and in turn this has meant I've had less to put on the blog. Or maybe I just need time off again?

Thursday, 18 November 2004

Until 3 days ago

This kitchen was relatively clean, warm and comfy.

It will be again, hopefully by the weekend. The guys *should* be finished this afternoon, but who knows? I hope so, because the weather is due to change tonight, and become cold.

Wednesday, 17 November 2004

Madness and dirt here

This week we're having the water jacket replaced in our rayburn (oil fired kitchen range that heats the house). Everywhere is sooty and the living room is full of the stuff from the kitchen and hall. What was mooted as a two, possibly one day job that should have been done in June/July has turned into a 3 day (so far) job in mid November. By the grace of God it isn't especially cold at least: 10'C - almost a summer's day in Prince Albert ;)

I may take some 'during and after' pics if I can find the energy and enthusiasm. Poor Chris has a rotten cold, and has been scrubbing the floor on her hands and knees this evening. I just feel bushed and lethargic, courtesy of a busy day at work and circuit training this evening.

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

Cycled to work this morning

for the second day in a row. It was colder and clear this time, rather than overcast and damp like yesterday, yet I'm significantly warmer - perspiring even, when this time yesterday I was quite comfy. Maybe things are loosening up, after a few weeks off the bike. I certainly pushed a higher gear most of the way here. My legs felt happier, but my bottom didn't approve of the saddle and the arches in my feet (alweays a weak point) complained bitterly too. They'll complain even more tonight - I've got circuits again, and they get very upset doing that!

Monday, 8 November 2004

A passion for the King

was the title given for Sunday - a whole day together with all the Oxfordshire community churches at the King's centre in Oxford.

The thrust was all about having such a passion and what to do with it. Things started with worship before moving into a kind of illustrated message. Then there were seminars before and after lunch, rounding off with a worship time at the end.

Chris and I went to seperate seminars, since we have different interests: she was certainly inspired by what she heard. For me it was a time of stimulation and reviewing things. It's hard to hear new teaching when you've been involved in the church for a long time, yet things can be explained in a way that you haven't understood before. I went to a seminar on 'crossing cultures'. I've been talking a little more about our possible calling to Italy (still not sure why some people laugh - unless they think it's all sunny beaches, vineyards and pasta - the cruelest empire that ever arose came from Italy). Afterward we spoke with Alec and Pauline Watts - a couple in their 60s that are about to move to Estonia to either support an existing church or plant a new one. Chris says she has faith for us moving as big as a 1cm gap between her fingers. It's interesting how this is unfolding - I felt God first speak about this one rain-drenched afternoon in Harrowgate about 5 years ago. I doubt it will happen for at least another 5 years, maybe more.

Funny stories abounded too. There's a couple - Neil and Dee - that we know reasonably well (I used to work with Dee) who recently returned from 2 years at Montargis in France. Neil was saying how the French consider the English hypocrites because they are too nice to speak the truth. He started to disagree after he'd been told his French was bad 3 times in 2 days (harsh, since Neil grew up speaking French in Belgium). Also how everyone is scared to invite people round for dinner because everything must be PERFECT. You have to have the right cutlery, correct wines, and the courses in the right order. And the ordeer for the courses varies according to which region of France you or your guests are from. Apparently this is a major source of fear, and many people won't have dinner guests because it would be too embarassing to make a mistake. Makes me glad to live in England sometimes.

In the afternoon I went to the songwriting workshop. Another area I need to re-start in my life. I know there's stuff bubbling under the surface, but there are issues I struggle with (particularly my poor singing). Again, it was good to have things put into a fresh perspective. Also interesting to hear from some people. One of the guys - Andy Neave - has been a pro musician for 20 years, working as a musician who is a christian i.e. writing music for secular use. He was suggesting now is a bad time to try to get signed with a big label, but it's a good time to start out independantly.

All this self sacrifice etc was interesting in view of what was in this mornings papers - someone committing suicide by placing their car on a railway line. Although they died, 7 others did also. The contrast between those that would give up their lives for others and those that don't care how many they hurt has seldom been made more plain to me.

Thursday, 4 November 2004

Chris's mum.

Thanks to everyone who's prayed.

Chris's mum has been re-diagnosed as having low blood pressure. That may explain why she fell over whenever she got out of bed, although whenever checked at the hospital her BP was normal.

I'm not completely convinced, but the attacks seem to have stopped so I'll go with it for now.

Wednesday, 3 November 2004

Never thought I'd see the day.

when I could no longer see a point in debate with other christians. That time has come.

Never thought I'd see the day.

When I really couldn't feel united with other Christians.

There's a forum I'll not name, with some great brothers there. And there are some that belong to their country and party first and Jesus second. There are worse things they could support, I guess, but it's a deeply frightening thing to behold. It's the same kind of faith that would enable deeply committed catholics to burn protestants at the stake, and (I'm being generous here) enable Martin Luther to murder anabaptists.

Time to move on, before I say something I'll regret.

Monday, 1 November 2004

Sorry things have been lean recently

But they may get a little leaner yet.

I'm finding that I'm spending too much time on the internet, chatting on forums. When I'm not doing that I'm focussing on my guitars and things to do with equipment, again on the net. It's affecting my work and my walk with God. It's also been a time of struggles and temptation, and I've not come through flawless there either.

So I'll be trying to take a break.

That doesn't mean I'll stop posting altogether, or stop reading your blogs. But I really need to change priorities, and my main priority recently has been entertaining myself. Not good and not cool. I need to stop it now, and by the grace of God, that's what I'll try to do. Internet addiction is a little strong for it, but only just.

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

More new images

in the gallery from our holiday.

That time in France seems a lifetime away now. We're both tired, probably feeling the winter blues encroaching. Chris's mum keeps having these mini-strokes at the moment, and was admitted to hospital yesterday for further investigations.

I'm also really struggling to rub 2 thoughts together right now - it could be tiredness, but I took the kids to Drayton manor park yesterday, and some of the rides there rattled my poor old brain round in it's boney pan. There wss one ride that we did where I felt a distinct 'thud' inside and a couple where I came off feeling dizzy (isn't that the idea?). I didn't want to bail too much out of pride, I guess. It rubs in how old you are when you can't keep up with the kids on this stuff, and as I already look older than I am (43, look 53+ with grey hair) I'm battling that in a way I never thought I would. Didn't mind looking old when I was young because I *felt* young. Now I don't and it's suddenly an issue.

Maybe I should be grateful that there are always challenges to living.

Guess Chris's mum knows about that too, although I think she's rather standing on the sideline, watching the combat take place, more than participating actively.

Sunday, 24 October 2004

So much for that!

About 10.15 am we got a call from a neighbour of Chris's parents - her mum had collapsed getting out of bed this morning, and had been rushed to the local hospital.One quick phone call later (putting off preaching AND playing) and we're dashing to Northampton.

It turns out that she had been having issue for some time. First pins and needles in her fingertips from time to time, then she collapsed in Tescos on Friday, then Friday night on the way to the loo, then Saturday morning (the one we knew about) and then this morning. The diagnosis is that she's having 'mini-strokes' which more or less resolve after around 30 mins. Asprin (to thin the blood) is the normal treatment. They tested her reasonably thoroughly and then sent her home at about 2.30pm this afternoon.

We arrived at the meeting this afternoon around 4.05, just after they'd started the meeting. I played (acoustic) guitar but didn't preach - I wasn't up for it after all the fuss.

Saturday, 23 October 2004

An issue for the future.

Chris's mum had a mild stroke last night, it would appear. She's well enough now, I understand, but couldn't get out of bed this morning, as her legs wouldn't work.

Any available pray gratefully received. Thanks.

Finished, at last.

My first sermon in a very long time.

Hope it makes a difference, and isn't just a bit of theologically sound waffle.

I think there's a balance between preparing too early (so it isn't fresh in your mind any longer) and preparing too late (so it's not in a good order). I've been carrying most of this for a couple of weeks, and I hope I've got it right.

It's about how we're designed for relationship with God.

Thursday, 21 October 2004

Beautiful morning.

So good I even took the camera out with me, but unfortunately the sun hadn't risen far enough, and the landscape was just a bit dark to make a decent image.

It's quite odd this year compared with last. All the trees dropped their leaves together at the very end of August. This year it's been so cool and wet that even though we're 2/3 through October most leaves are still green. They're begining to fall now, but it's taken this long for ANY to come down.

I might try a walk in a while, just to see if I can get some nice autumnal pics, maybe pray a bit.

Sunday, 17 October 2004

At last!

I've got a couple of galleries of photos up from the holiday. It's taken absolutely ages, but I finally got there.

They're a bit of a mixed bag: some good, some not so good. I really wanted to convey some sense of what the places we visited were really like, so there are lots of pics that might not warrant hanging on a wall. In fact there are some that the locals would probably rather I hadn't taken.

Anyway, the first 2 sets are here and here.

Friday, 15 October 2004

Tonight will be interesting

A new experience.

Sarah has been going out with Dan for a year. They seem very much in love in an adult way, and he seems a nice caring guy, just a couple of years older than her. He's a nonnie, unfortunately, and that's not exactly ideal, but God can fix that.

We're going to celebrate with her by having a meal over at his parents place. Gulp.

If you've ever seen 'Meet the parents' I take comfort in the fact that I'm much more like Robert De Diro than Dan's father, who's a gently rounded accountant and musician ;-)

I don't really feel too bad about it - my brother met his wife when they were 14 and 15, although Chris and I were a little older at 16 and 17. I also heartily approve of marrying young for a multitude of reasons, provided the couple are mature, rather than silly about things. Much better than going through a string of 'boyfriends' who really just want their end away.

But even so, a daughter is precious and especially so at 15.

Tuesday, 12 October 2004

Well, it's been quiet here

but there's been a storm of debate (I may have exaggerated slightly) over at the Christian musicians forum about trinitarian worship.

Which reminds me of when some friends got married. A little girl there talked about doing things in the name of the father, son and holy goat.

Saturday, 9 October 2004

Trinitarian worship

I went to a worship training day in Derby today, where we had an interesting topic of discourse - trinitarian worship.

The speaker was Robin Parry, talking about how our worship and focus as churches has drifted into being specifically about Jesus, and missed out the Father and the Spirit. There were some stats, based on all the vineyard albums produced since 1999, showing that only 1.4% of the songs made specific mention of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Spirit was mentioned around 1% of the time. The greatest proportion of songs were of the 'you Lord' variety (i.e. not mentioning any specific aspect of God).

His point was that the theology people pick up is often much more strongly rooted in the songs they sing than the sermons they forget ;-) Thus there is something of a danger that people lose focus on the trinity, and only retain awareness of Jesus.

This is all very interesting, because over the last year as a group of churches we've been aware that God has called us to review our worship material. Quite a lot of songs in the past have concentrated on us, and we've seen a turning toward God: lifting Him up, declaring His glory, singing truths about Him. Now we seem to be getting reminded that there is more to the Godhead than just Jesus. I think we're experiencing a bit of a God-driven restoration in our worship.

Anyone else hearing similar things?

Friday, 1 October 2004

Feel like poo tonight

So nothing much to post.

Sorry Andrew, I'll reply when my head's come back together.

Wednesday, 29 September 2004

Gone, gone. The wretched thing's left at last!

My tax return, that is.

So simple.

So stressfull.

Tuesday, 28 September 2004

Obituary of a good friend.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Mr Common Sense. Mr Sense had been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such value lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm and that life isn't always fair. Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not kids, are in charge).

His health began to rapidly deteriorate when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Mr Sense declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer aspirin to a student; but, could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Finally, Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense finally gave up the ghost after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot, she spilled a bit in her lap, and was awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by two stepbrothers; My Rights and Ima Whiner. Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still know him pass this on, if not join the majority and do nothing.

Monday, 27 September 2004

Pressing forward, not looking back.

"I imagine there are a lot of people that could find incredible richness in the traditions and theology of their denominations"

I took this quote from a post on The Heresy about the Anabaptists, and their rise and decline. The thrust was that there is a great deal of value in the traditions of the various denominations and movements scattered through church history. Maybe because of what God is saying to the church line I'm part of, and maybe because He's saying it to me, but I feel quite strongly otherwise.

"You say 'I am rich. I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing'. But you do not realise you are wretched, pitiful, poor blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so that you can become rich..."

This was not spoken to individuals, but to a church. This particular church had an appearence of godliness, but was neither persuing God with all it's heart, nor turning away from Him. Sound familiar? To me, with every move of God's spirit has come fresh reminders of different aspects of the truth He wants us to walk in. For example one can draw the need to confess our sins to our bretheren from Catholic practice, the need for each individual to find their own faith from the anabaptists, the need to be baptised from the baptists etc etc. The problem is that what has become of these 'traditions' are man's way of holding on to what they've got when the Spirit of God has progressed to the next truth He planned to reveal. The tradition is a way of making sure everyone keeps on doing what they did, rather than following the cloud.

Paul grew up in a culture rich with traditions given them by God. He had position and credibility in those traditions, yet what did he say? "I count it all rubbish compared to knowing Jesus". I appreciate this is slightly out of context, since he was referring to Judaism vs Christianity, but I think the comparison is a sound one - he was comparing a set of traditions that had been organised to substitute for a living faith in God and seeing they could not measure up to *knowing* God.

Please don't think I'm throwing away all the theology that goes with church history. However a portion of it has been carefully constructed to support whatever heresies were used to build and maintain the tradition, and it all needs thorough and careful examination before it should be accepted.

We recently were visited in the main church in Oxford by John Kelly from Bangor in Northern Ireland. He preached an impassioned message about how important it was to never be satisfied with seeing fulfilled God's promises to us. The thrust was that as one set of 'promises' are completed, so God opens up a wider expanse of possibilities to us, with 'promises' to match the wider scope. As an example he used the 'missionaries' sent from Ireland throughout Europe in the middle ages (he gave dates and much detail, but alas, I didn't record them) planting churches and bringing both education and the word of God to the courts of europe. His point - it was inconceivable that an insignificant church in a geographical backwater could have such a major role in a burgeoning world. It was only because several generations built each upon the previous, getting hold of God afresh for greater things that it was able to happen.

The essence of all this is that while there may be some nuggets to be found, I believe traditions are just man's way of keeping the clockwork wound long after the electricity of the Spirit has departed. I am sure that if Wesley appeared tomorrow, he would ask the methodists "What on earth do you think you're doing?" He would not be worrying whether people would still be talking about the things he talked of - he'd be wanting to know what God had done over the last couple of centuries. He wouldn't want people to find comfort in methodism - he'd want people to cast themselves on God for their ongoing salvation.

I want it to be said that I served God in my generation, but I certainly would not wish to leave behind anything that will allow other men to walk as I did, rather than find their own walk with God. This is not a negative word, but for me at least, a call to press forward, leaving behind all that has been and straining for the goal.

Saturday, 25 September 2004

French market in Bicester

They apparently came all the way from France too! It was rather fun to bonjour, merci and au revoir with the real thing in sheep street.

I took the camera along and, fotopic willing, there should be 2 collections of images from it. I still haven't completed the holiday pics OR the Basel pics yet, but there were few enough of these (around 55, edited down to 42ish) that I just got them through sharpish. There were some interesting patterns, colours and people for the camera to catch.

Links are here for set I and set II.

Wednesday, 22 September 2004

Fascinating discussion

that however seems to be providing more heat than light here.

It's funny, but you can say things that appear to have a clear and obvious meaning, yet the reader totally misunderstands. And their reply shows they completely missed it. In the thread in question there is the problem of patriotism overcoming objectivity. Shame really.

The original article was all about how Europe and America perceive each other. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that people should not be allowed to use web forums until they can demonstrate an acceptance of differing opinions in other people.

Oh well.

Tuesday, 21 September 2004

Delusions of adequacy

Are what I may have had recently.

Y'know that rosy glow you get when things work out? In my case, feeling like I'd lead a significant time of worship, managing to organise a couple of things. That's like saying to God "go ahead and show me what I'm really like" and of course He does.

I managed a complete debacle last night trying to organise the first worship team meeting for ages. For various reasons I'd managed to get the date, time and location to everyone. Everyone, that is, except the people who's house it was at :(

Oh, there are extenuating circumstances, but they count for diddly squat. I could have crawled under a brick last night, and never emerged again, let alone carried on leading things. But people were gracious, Mark and Helen coped with us turning up and the evening was of some use after all.

Life goes on.

Monday, 20 September 2004

An interesting link and resources

For us as Christians in a postmodern world.

Facing the challenge.

This link is not opposing postmodernism, but it does start to address how we need to adapt our approach (if we hadn't already) to people with this outlook. It also helps show why Alpha has been effective.

Sunday, 19 September 2004

Hug, hug, huggy

We had a celebration in Oxford this morning, rather than our usual church meeting. There were lots of good and prophetic things said, but I don't want to discuss them now.

A celebration is, at least partially, a time to maintain relationships with the more distant bits of the body of Jesus. In other words, say 'hi' to all those friends that you haven't seen for a while, catch up on news etc.

And it's a time of hugging.

Women generally seem much more relaxed with a hug than men. There are some guys that will do it happily, like my good friend Nigel (married to Liz, from 'somewhere green'). There are some guys that are too large to hug easily, like my friend Toby who's around 6'4" and 280lbs.

I also met Sarah (from "the family Clarke") there, just up visiting. Hope my hug wasn't too much of a surprise. Good to see you again.

Wednesday, 15 September 2004

Please pray for Chris

We've just got back from the hospital. While we were doing circuit training this evening her vision in 1 eye went very dark, then started going into sparkles and she felt disorientated. After a few miniutes the vision partially cleared, but even now, hours later it still isn't right. On top of that she had a dull ache behind the eye which has sharpened over the last few hours to become very painful. Now just moving the eyeball hurts enough to make her yelp.

The hospital checked her reflexes and looked for pressure behind the eyes, but didn't find any. Tomorrow she'll go to the optician for more detailed examination.

Hope she can sleep.

Tuesday, 14 September 2004

Well, the blog roll has seen a few changes.

There were a couple of links that I've stopped bothering to follow, mostly because I feel they've stopped saying anything significant. Jordon's still there, because he often links to interesting things, although he's stopped posting much of his own thoughts. Somewhere green is sleeping, but I hope that it'll come back to life one day.

So, please welcome Marc and Johanna.

Talking of success.

I had a call from a head hunter today. The job sounds really interesting, and is related to what I do already quite strongly. I've read through the description, and I'm very sure that I could do it well.

But I like my present job, and if I go then it will add very greatly to the stress of those left behind. And I think I actually love the people I work with too.

Not too hard to know what the answer is, apart from Chris's "we don't want to move now" after I told her.

Which should we be more scared of: success or failure?

I was reading Scott's blog just now. He's been talking about the fear of allowing others to see him as he really is. And as the leader of a fellowship, so the people. They are discovering things about themselves too.

The post from Rose's blog struck a chord. She'd stepped out and danced, feeling self conscious about it, yet obviously with ability. When that ability was recognised and ridicule didn't result she felt amazed, yet released at the same time. This struck a chord for me in a number of ways.

Failure is a familiar friend, and occasional enemy, to me. I'm used to it and while not necessarily looking for it, have strategies in place to cope.

Success can be frightening.

Or to be more accurate, other people's recognition and appreciation of success can be very difficult to handle. I've been reasonably successful at work, and from time to time having that publicly recognised has caused a welling of emotion that is very difficult to handle. Not pride, but almost tears and certainly discomfiture. Church is a little different, since you can shrug off a bit of praise or say "it wasn't me: God did it" and often that's true.

And then there's confidence and assurance.

I wonder how much faith is linked to confidence? This Sunday I led worship. Before the meeting Clive (playing Keyboards) Paul(meeting leader) and I got together briefly. I said I had a cold, and that if the meeting went well then it was 'God's fault'. And although I stepped out in my own little strength, and stumbled a bit, He then took over and I was able to pray out words about healing hearts. I could instruct people to kneel before God in a way that 'I' could never do. But it all just happened, and rather like being part of a dance troup or playing a piece of music, there was a flow and I was moving into each place (rather lumpily as I didn't know where that place was) following the unseen score.

And you follow this or that, then people think you're a worship leader, and successful. I can feel those unwanted emotions even while typing. All I've done is read off a page I can't quite see and forget to trip up.

Monday, 13 September 2004

It's good not to get in the way.

By Sunday morning my cold had fully developed - nothing too serious, but a husky voice, fuzzy head and general feeling tired. What does the bible say - God is able to be strong in our weaknesses. Well, I was down to lead worship, and He was able to turn up without me getting in the way too much. What more can one ask?

Sunday, 12 September 2004

Long post warning

The account from my visit to Basel in all it's glory. Read it if you have trouble sleeping - almost guaranteed to be a cure!

Well, good morning everyone.

This is the second start at typing for the blog, here at London Heathrow airport. I started off thinking I had plenty of time: the flight was leaving at 9.30 and I got to the airport at about 7.30. But once parking, check in etc were all factored in, I was no better than ‘comfy’ (i.e. not running for the gate).

I’m glad the check in desk is already open for me. I’m taking the smaller corporate exhibition stand etc with me, which consists of a 1.3 meter high bright yellow plastic drum on wheels (needs them) and a small suitcase with lights and cables. I’ve also got a back for the laptop and a very small bag with overnight essentials. A pleasant lass 2 people in front turned to look at my ‘effects’ with amazement. It’s obvious it’s all equipment, and I can see she wants to comment, so I wave my tiny O/N bag and say “and this one is for me, OK?” which gets a smile.

Managed to grab a bite of breakfast at the Café Uno in the departure lounge. All the cafes are hidden on the 3rd level, but what the heck. Start writing and breakfast arrives, so I can’t complain. Sat across from me are 2 older guys and 2 younger girls, one of who is one of the loveliest looking women I’ve seen for a long time. Well, until she lights up and puffs away. I’m slightly puzzled, because the women look too much younger to be wives, but they’re all chatting away very intimately, and less like bosses and employees. I don’t know if people watching is good or bad, but at least it gives the imagination something to work with.

Anyway, off to the plane. I should have 10 mins before we start to board, but the laptop is painfully slow to start on battery power now I’ve installed XP SP2. 3 or 4 mins of waiting screens I reckon, plus another half minute while word awakes up. I type the first 2 sentences and then we get called.

*edit* I’ve just started the laptop while waiting to return at Basel airport. It’s been charging all day, and started almost as quickly as if it were plugged in. Who knows what’s going on? Not Bill Gates, certainly.

In the tunnel it’s like a family reunion. Everyone seems to know everyone else, backs are slapped, hands shaken, a few introductions made. Both the lass I spoke to in the check in queue and the people from the café are there. Onto the plane, find the seat and then settle down for the next 1.5 hours. The inflight magazine is finished before the plane even taxis to the runway, and I’m gently steaming. A key feature is about Switzerland and banking services for High Net Worth Individuals (or HNWI as the article repeats). All the way through there are overtones about what money can buy you and how it makes you worthy of notice and honour. After takeoff I read a paper I got from the net yesterday about singlet oxygen degradation of Vitamin D, which is actually interesting.

Landed. Basle/Basel (depending on whether you’re Francais or Deutsch speaking) is blinkin’ hot and steamy. 28’C in brilliant sunshine (it was raining when we took off) is too much when you’ve a shed load of baggage and have to wear your jacket too. The cab driver from the airport drives like his wife’s giving birth in the back.

As the city flashes past I get a bit of a feel for it. Between the airport and centre is a major industrial area, all stainless steel tanks, chimneys and fabricated sheet buildings. Moving into the residential areas, it appears a little scruffier than Austria: roughly on a par with Germany and quite a lot tidier than France. There is a uniformity of colour scheme to the buildings that is immediately striking. Most houses are cream with green shutters or window frames and doors. It’s all quite homely and attractive though, very pleasant looking.

The conference centre and exhibition halls (Messe) are huge. I manage to get a bit overawed, but eventually get to the booth, get the stand up etc. By this time it’s 2.00pm, and a need for lunch is starting to press, so I head for the restaurant on the street outside.

This is where things start getting linguistically interesting. Basel is close to the border by Germany and France, and you can see these racial origins well represented on the streets, as well as what I think of as classically Swiss looking people. On top of that, Swiss German (the dominant language) is a different dialect, with a very ‘English’ sound to it, to the point that if you can’t hear words clearly it’s easy to think someone is speaking English. Now when I sat down in the restaurant outside and I got the menu, all the dishes were listed first boldly in French, then in German and finally in English. So when the waitress turned up to take my order I requested “Roti Epaule et une bierre, shlossgold si’vous plait” (or however it’s written). After a little rapid-fire German I was told “sorry, but I don’t speak French”. Then “ you would like to order the…. pause, then flaps arms like wings…. roast pork and a beer? Jah!

Dinner was good. What was advertised as ‘butter beans’ meant long green beans covered in garlic butter, and with roast new potatoes too, all quite delicious. I was thinking how good the beer seemed, only to find it was alcohol free!

Back in again, the exhibition area was chaos, with many of the bigger stands are still in the early stages of construction. I won’t bore you with the registration saga, but eventually I got fed up, found my hotel (got a bollocking from Frau Manuela Kroll, the resident Mrs Terrible for making an internet booking when they didn’t have any rooms free) before going out for a walk.

Basel is a fascinating place of contrasts. Just round the corner from the hotel and conference centre was a sex bar, a pole dancing bar (advertised as ‘American dancing’ – insight into how Europeans view America?) and 3 shops selling the kind of underwear that normally never leaves the house etc etc, plus a few slightly seedy conventional shops. However I kept walking and things became progressively better. By the time I reached the Rhine it was really rather nice, although later in the afternoon I came across what look like deals being done. I’ll try to get the pics up ASAP (yeah, said that about the holiday pics too).

Don’t EVER get an Orange phone.

Mine ran out of credit, and I couldn’t get it recharged without either A) using a 4 digit PIN number that I didn’t have) or B) a swipe card obtained in Switzerland. And you can’t call customer services for help if you don’t have any credit. Faecal.

While walking round I came across the main church building, which is a focal point for the city. At one end there seemed to be a bit of a wedding going on, but I avoided the participants and wandered through the cloisters and into the open square at the back, overlooking the Rhine. It was fairly busy for 4.30pm on a hot Friday afternoon, however while I was there I noticed 2 crowds gathering: men on one side, women on the other. The Men all had a single snare drums and the women all carried short flutes. Aha thought I – authentic spontaneous Swiss folk gathering. Took some pictures as they started playing, then noticed than I seemed to be standing in a rather large gap. When I looked round, there was the bride and groom from the wedding! Exit stage left, and try to become as inconspicuous as possible.

After walking round the city for some hours my legs have virtually given out.

I bumped into the lass that I’d spoken with at the airport, back at the exhibition. She was over from Israel (there was a significant Israeli contingent) and we passed the time of day. She mentioned how much safer it seemed over here than in Israel. I also bumped into a couple of people here from the UK, eventually spending the evening after the last session has finished in their company. Got to bed with a tummy half full of smoked ham canapés and a half litre of weissbier. Mrs. Terrible got the last laugh on me though. The (smelly) room they found me faces out on the main road past the Messe. The Hotel has a bar attached, and there was a group downstairs that were having a party until after 2.00am. It’s too hot to shut the window, and in any case, the Tram’s bells and the laughter penetrate through the glass.

Saturday 11th Sept, 6.45 am.


Amazing how one word covers it all.

Sore throat (been developing since Thursday, made worse by talking) legs *really* hurt from walking on top of circuit training, generally crappy from insufficient sleep.

Crawl back to the meeting after breakfast and checking out. Breakfast was lovely, except for the coffee (which had more bitterness than a Thomas Hardy novel) and the grapefruit juice that seemed to remove any remaining skin in my throat at first swallow.

The first session starts well, with Zinkernagel bringing some reality back to experimental data, explaining why experiments sometimes don’t follow reality. It then deteriorated into a semi-coherent mumble, with the otherwise eminent JF Bach from France struggling with English while talking about immunotherapies to handle diabetes. When he finishes there is an ‘invitation’ to the delegates to look around the exhibition, and a cue for me to get my backside downstairs. Fast.

I ‘enjoy’ a coffee even more aggressive than my first, plus an excellent choc-chip muffin while manning the stand. We have a very small (3M x 3M) booth with a simpl,e backdrop and posters, plus a few catalogues. Some of the (now completed) stands are vast edifices, temples to the art of attracting the idly wandering punter. Thus we have Pfizer running a quiz show, complete with compere. Next door to me, Sanofi have a couple of nice coffee machines and a supply of croissants, pastries etc. Novo-Nordisk have set up an internet café. Even Astra Zeneca (with a stand the same size as mine) attract punters with freebies like sweets, pens, notepads and a special modem cable in a credit-card sized device that retracts so fast it threatens to take a finger off J

The upside is that I only have to deal with real customers – those that actually want our products or want to ask questions. At least. feeling as rough as I do, I haven’t got to beat off crowds, and it has given me time to write this up, live from the conference, as it were.

I mentioned the family atmosphere earlier. Well that has continued. Everywhere people greet each other like long-lost brothers. I have seen a number of couples walking round, holding hands completely un-selfconsciously. I’m amazed at the number of pregnant women here too – I believe there are around 1400 to 1600 delegates, and I must have seen at least 10, probably more like 15 pregnant ladies. There are 4 or 5 couples with children.

It‘s a very international affair too. Last night I struggled to find anyone else that spoke English automatically (I don’t know the people in this field, so fraternising wasn’t so easy). There are Turks and Greeks, Jews (complete with skullcap) and Arabs (women wearing clothing covering everything but the face and hands, Egyptians, Slavs, Serbs, Lithuanians, Russians, Koreans, Poles, Argentinians and Americans, as well as all the traditional western European races. The Italians are the most noticeable. Every time they meet there are loud cries of greeting, hugging, kissing on both cheeks etc. Quite a show.

Right, 3.05 pm. Time to break the stand for the return home. It was OK first thing, but for the last hour or so no-one’s come into the booth. There have been people constantly milling however, so I couldn’t just escape to the meetings.

5.00pm sat in the departure lounge. Well, that was relatively painless, if a little more hassle than the outward journey. I got the stand down and packed, thanks to a little help from Paul of Astra Zeneca, who were next to me. Reached the airport by 4.30pm. First oddity, all the airport staff speak to each other in French. Except when they don’t, of course. Next, my luggage is 2Kg overweight, so I have to pay another 34CHF for the priviledge (no one minded on the way out). Then, because the yellow box with the stand is so large, it has to go through a special door and different X-ray scanner. Finally I’m offered the opportunity to use a special lounge at a bargain price. 30 CHF seems rather a lot to me, so although I’m assured it is a “very lovely lounge” I try to decline graciously and wander through to departures.

On this side of the gate it makes the Marie celeste look like the London underground in the rush hour. The airport is beautiful (although it stinks of cigarettes everywhere). I don’t know how it’s economical to run the place though, unless mid-week traffic is a great deal higher. Anyway, I’ve just made the interesting discovery that although I need gate 24, despite the fact I’m sitting by gate 22 and 23, the next one along is gate 25. Ummm.

Stay with me. I’m just going to hibernate you while I look for the gate.

Awake again now? Good.

That wasn’t so bad really, since it was just around the corner after all. The sign for 25-30 actually indicated for passengers to walk down some steps. For a little while there I thought the Swiss might be more like the French, rather than the Germans, as I suspect them to be.

Since this posting is now 4.5 A4 M$ word pages long, I’ll stop there unless anything entertaining happens. Hope you found this entertaining.

Thursday, 9 September 2004

Better, calmer

after the storm.

Nuts. I've not been that angry for ages. Must be all the energy I should now have since I've been on holiday. I was so fed up with everything that I've come very close to wishing I could hand in my notice.

By the grace of God, I've settled down a bit. Thankyou Father.

I see blogger is publishing again.

I wonder what else can go wrong.

We had a coldroom go COLD on us last night. instead of +2'C to +8'C it went to -12'C. We may have just lost our entire stock for sale. On top of that I've got sales people whinging and asking for stupid irrational things that they insist are important, but don't actually move things forward.


And I've been listening to a new worship CD I was given. The production and music on it have left me feeling really churned up - they are just so bad. Why is it that 'christian' music is so lifeless, sterile, pretentious and dull. These are big names here - Tim Hughes, Rebecca st James (sounds like she's being distracted from an orgasm while she's singing. Really.) Matt Redman and a bunch of others. It's completely trivial, but it's occupying far too much emotional energy.

Why isn't it ever good, coming home from holidays

Wednesday, 8 September 2004

My feet have barely touched the ground

after the holiday, when I'm off to Basel on Friday. I'll try to get some pictures of the city if I get out of the conference at all. It's the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology meeting.

Monday, 6 September 2004

While I was away I read "The Heavenly Man"

In 2 days.

Many things are still dropping through the system from this - I've not read anything so significant for a long time, despite the fact it's a biography and contains no formal teaching whatsoever. I can't possible review it meaningfully, but I will make comments from time to time. It shows how shallow we are in the west, that issues like sexuality and marriage, desires for comfort and possessions can get in the way of us pursuing God's will for our lives.

A couple of things I'll mention:

In their bible school where they are training people to go out and take the gospel, they don't just receive bible teaching. They're also trained how to jump from a 2nd floor window while handcuffed and survive, and how to handle being tortured.

Western 'christian' philosophy and teaching caused the Chinese house churches to become fragmented and in a state of dis-unity.

God's will can include imprisonment, intense physical suffering, deprivation and even death for Christians. God's will, not man's or the devil's.

I wonder if many people actually believe in the same god at all?

Saturday, 4 September 2004

I'm back, in case you wondered.

And I can confidently say the French Alps are a darn long way from rural Oxfordshire!

We left the apartment at 8.45am this morning, and got to Calais around 5.10pm. 645 miles including a 40 min lunch break, plus 2 other stops: you do the math. Finally arrived home at 8.00pm UK time after almost 800 miles. And why does it have to get so hot? The car has no air con, and the temperature gauge said the air was 32'C. Even in England it was 28-29'C, which is almost unheard of for September. My brain is now scrambled by the heat and the miles.

Maybe it's going to be an Indian summer? Dry trails would be nice.

I have more than 350 images to sort through, although I'll try to get that done soon. Tomorrow is purportedly a day of rest.

By for now.

Friday, 20 August 2004

They're back!

Ben returned today from Kyrgystan. Well tanned, slightly smelly and a little fitter and leaner (if that were possible for someone who's 5'10" and less than 120lbs) than before he went.

He came bearing gifts, such as rugs, pictures, a wooden box (for the outlaws) and a litre of fermented horse milk (really, and it smells like salami!). There are 229 images to work through from the trip. When I get a chance I'll post some.

Sarah also returned from Soul Survivor. She was touched by God, and had a great time. She was a little muddier - as you'd expect camping in England - and has a few more bruises from the mosh pit they arranged by a stage in the evening.

Good to have them both back. They've been missed.

Thursday, 19 August 2004

Rejection of homosexuals

Jordon has a link to Scott's site, where Scott posted an article about rejection and acceptance of homosexuals.

My take on this is that Jesus accepted sinners, calling them to repent. As a church, we have fellowshipped with couples that live together, fornicating. Homosexuals that are active are not greatly different from this.

A requirement of church membership (for us) is that we determine to try to live our lives in holiness, rejecting sin. There are no problems accepting any single adult into membership on this basis, whatever their sexual orientation. The basis for not accepting someone into membership would be that they rejected Jesus as saviour and Lord of their life, and/or that they refused to repent of or recognise known sin in their lives.

If you agree or disagree I'd like to know. If you don't think anything then you needn't post.

Online gaming is taking over the world

It's just overtaken Namibia.

Wednesday, 18 August 2004

Just found an logo that appealed.

You can view it here.

PoMo Christianity and Gnosticism

I have been reading the letters from Peter, John and Jude over the last couple of weeks. These were all written to combat the emerging heresy of gnosticism that arose in the latter half of the first century and matured in the second century AD. I have been struck by some similarities between the expressions of PoMo christianity and gnosticism:

An assertion that we cannot know the truth.
Interpretation of scripture to fit personal wishes.
A focus on mysticism and 'special knowledge'.
Support of immoral behaviour.

Also not specifically a gnostic trait, but also discussed: a desire to return to older, empty religious forms.

Now if I were clever and dedicated, I might prepare an in depth paper in the same way Leighton has regarding sophists, as a study of I Corinthians. However the truth is, I'm off on holiday in a couple of days, and it ain't gonna happen.

Why the apparent attack on PoMo stuff? It's not really an attack, but over the last 18 months I've been following a number of blogs, reading comments, following posters back etc. I've had a period when I've absorbed quite a bit of info from a wide variety of sources, many of which seem to be aknowledged leading lights in the 'emerging church' movement.

I began with no perspective, either good or bad. I met people that stirred me. Some stirred me to love and enthusiasm, and pushed me closer to God. Some I found made me question what I believed and thought in a very positive way. The 'worship labyrinth' concept sparked a bit of creativity, and a desire to exand the way I worshipped. While there were things that didn't sit quite right, I became quite positive about EC things. But then I dug deeper, and some rather unpleasant things started to crawl out. There appeared to be a large body of people with free-wheeling liberal, and frankly heretical 'theology'. I observed an absolute denial of certain clearly stated biblical truths, together with an incorporation of humanistic philosophy into stated beliefs and a support of immorality.

It was interesting too, that some sites actually made me feel slightly ill after reading their contents. I'd come away feeling soiled, and as though God's spirit within me was offended.

Now I certainly don't want to get into a 'burn the heretic' rant, but I think that the EC is NOT a 21st century charismatic movement. Instead I think it is a reaction of the disaffected to mainstream 'safe' religiousness, in great danger of being hijacked by a rejuvenated form of an ancient heresy. Those who would consider yourselves part of this movement and love Jesus, I would say "be on your guard".

Happy anniversary

1 year and 290 posts later, the Blog of the Ancient Mariner is still going.

Monday, 16 August 2004

Well - those that know me?

Courtesy of a link on Jordon's site, I've taken the Enneagram Type test.

free enneagram test

I'm half inclined to go back and re-do it, because many of the questions covered more than 1 aspect of who I am. I scored equally between the 'Helper' and the 'Enthusiast':

free enneagram test

It's interesting to see where I did least well too: I only scored 2 points on type 3 - Achiever (OK I can live with that) and type 9 - peacemaker (certainly missed it a little on that one).

Twaddle, really.

And to prove it, I've just been back and re-done it using equally valid answers, with completely different results. I may be slightly scizophrenic as a person, in that I've taught myself to deal with certain situations in certain ways. For example, I'm actually somewhat shy, but because it's necessary for me to meet (often quite important) people, I've had to learn to hold conversations when I actually feel intimidated. After a while my modified behaviour has kind of 'replaced' my natural attitudes:

free enneagram test

What was interesting is that my second highest score this time round was cat 4 - the individualist: At their Best: inspired and highly creative, they are able to renew themselves and transform their experiences.

This is also somewhat true.

It really is complicated being me sometimes!

Now I've read the descriptions a little better. I think I'm a 7 more than anything. Oh well, I'm sure it's not all that bad.

Sunday, 15 August 2004

Sarah's leaving in the morning.

Off to soul survivor. Not with the youth group, but instead with some other Christian kids from school, accompanied by a couple of teachers.

Should be good - but what will we do with ourselves while they're away?

Lots of things!

Friday, 13 August 2004

When fresh breath matters most?

As seen on the Clarke family blog. Posted by Tim Marchant.

For a number of years my local pub had the standard Durex machine on the wall, then after a refurbishment it was (curiously) replaced with a breath mint machine.

I always had this vision of couples late at night in darkened lanes having conversations along the lines:

"You did pick up something from the gents like I told you?"

"Yes of course I did. Fancy a mint?"

Made me LOL.

Thursday, 12 August 2004

I've been discovering new forums

This place is a little small and parochial in some ways, but the topics of discussion are sometimes compelling and insightful. Like these:




You'll need to register to post, but I highly recommend getting in there, even if you can only play cards.

Tuesday, 10 August 2004

Summer time, and the weather is plentiful

One might be forgiven for thinking that Noah had just been reincarnated in the last couple of days. It's been silly warm - yesterday was mid 20s yesterday, but the rain has been torrential. This results in an amazing degree of stickiness for all concerned. Wearing a lab coat doesn't help either.

Today is better, since it rained overnight and cooled down a bit. About an hour ago it stopped, and we've now got sunshine with rising temperatures and about 95% humidity.

Other than that, life goes on. My mother goes in for some testing this afternoon, with mild concern about possible cancers. We shall have to wait and see what the what the outcome is.

Saturday, 7 August 2004

I think I managed to work off some of that Chinese meal this morning.

The evidence is here.

It was tremendous fun, and really good to be back with the other guys again, but hard work.

And blinkin' HOT.

*edit* Link now working. Thanks Sarah, for pointing this out.

Thursday, 5 August 2004

Happy Birthday Randall

The lucky guy is a couple of years behind me.

Interesting that I was 41 when I began shaving again (although being a guitar player, mountain biker and all round 'rad dude' I had to keep a goatee). Is this the affordable way of managing mid-life crisis, I ask ;-)

Wednesday, 4 August 2004

Well, it's been OK (kind of) so far.

I went to work. I came home again. Nothing bad happened.

Chris has booked for us to go out to a local (not too expensive) chinese restuarant, which is nice. I have a large piece of beef in the fridge (reduced!) that I'd planned for tonight, but what the heck. I'll find a way to freeze it somehow.

I've done a bit of a 'fleece' and bunged the Heritage guitar on HC for sale. We could use the cash at the moment, and I've not felt completely comfy owning such an expensive instrument. I love the looks, but my strat actually works best for what I do. It's a big investment to only bring out for the occasional solo.

God knows what's right.

Birthdays - schmirfdays.

Well, 2 1/2 hours later I'm back. A little fatter and deeper in debt ;-)

Good food. The Yin Hong in Bicester is a bit different to some Chinese style stuff I've had, but well prepared and presented none the less. It wasn't particular;y cheap after all, even though Wednesday is a 'special' night - all you can eat for £13.95 a head. Portions were not 'special small' either. I'm still settling in the deep south.

Tuesday, 3 August 2004

The sky just turned black.

We've been sitting here in the office, sweating away like crazy - it's about 30'C outside and feels like 95% humidity. It the last 5 mins it's suddenly got so dark we've had to turn the lights on, and it seems dazzlingly bright. We've had a couple of peals of thunder, and as I started typing we heard the first rattles of hail stones on the windows. The temperature has also just dropped at least 10'C.

Bye bye summer, it's been nice knowing you.

I can feel the headache there now, from the storm building.

I have been reminded of my frailty

By Randall, no less.

Randall had a birthday on Sunday, and shared a day of celebration with his friend Tryntje, yesterday, whose birthday is Thursday.

Now I split these 2 - I'm 43 tomorrow, and began reminiscing in the comments on Randalls blog, when I thought it might be interesting to do so here instead.

Birthdays were always special when I was a kid. It wasn't the presents alone, although since we were quite poor in some ways, receiving substantial things was a real treat. But the whole day was made special. For several years running my birthday treat was to be taken to the London zoo, with a friend (and of course, my 'little' brother).

It's interesting how the memories come back. I have little snapshots, and as I'm digging deeper more are emerging. The first snapshot is of leaving our house in London quite early, but being August, it's hot outside already and the 'hot smell' was rising off the pavement. This was coupled to a feeling of both lightness (looking forward to the trip) and brightness from the brilliant sunshine being reflected off the pavement - much more of an issue when you're only 4 feet tall or so - and cool air coming through the toes of your sandals.

We walked over to pick up my friend on the trip. Her name was Julie Wadey, and because I was expected to call her mum 'auntie' I assumed she was my cousin. Ho hum. Their house had the steepest staircase I'd ever been up - so steep you felt like you couldn't make the bend at the top. One year they gave me an Airfix kit of a Republic Thunderbolt - the picture on the box showing a classic silver thunderbolt with black and white chequers round the nose, climbing up from a bombing run. I loved models as a child, and spent all my pocket money one them for years. I wonder what happened to Julie.

We would travel up on the train, and then get on a river boat that took us from Hyde park to the Zoological gardens. The boat journey seemed completely timeless, and a cool break from the earlier heat. Stepping off the boat at the other end, I remember returning to the heat as we walked along paths covered with fine gravel, inset with flower beds in geometrical shapes. The flower beds were all new in this particular memory, and were actually dark brown earth, waiting to be planted.

There are a lot of memories that all blur together from when we actually entered the zoo, and I'm sure they stretch across several years. The Aquarium was (to me) vast, with all kinds of exotic and conventional fish, from tiny neon tetras to huge tilapia and carp, and weird stuff like lungfish, electric eels and axolotles. The reptile houses were good, but there are few solid memories from them, blending with every reptile house I've visited.

A famous exhibit was Pipaluk - a polar bear - bred in captivity if I remember correctly. Pipaluk wasn't especially amenable to do much in the heat, and it must have been very hot it his white concrete enclosure. All the polar bears just flopped around, apparently oblivious to the crowds trying to see them.

The Elephants and Rhinos enclosures were close by, and were surrounded by curving sandy coloured concrete walls with a ribbed surface (memory again). The floor of the enclosures was bear earth with a couple of short scrubby denuded trees inside for them to scratch against. The elephants were friendly and interested in visitors, coming to the edge of the enclosure and extending their trunks so they could sniff you, and (if you were brave) you might stretch out a hand and touch the rough skin and feel the strength of the muscles underneath. I remember the tip of a trunk coming my way and stretching to reach it. The end of the trunk wasn't hollow, but was clearly divided into 2 nostrils, with little fleshy extensions at the top and bottom that were almost like fingers, and could be brought together to grip things. And it was damp!

The Lions seemed to prefer being inside, and although we saw them tearing their meat, they weren't particularly exciting. However the Tigers were something else. Pacing up and down in their cage, they were much more like Felis domesticus in their movements. There was a commentary while we were there, discussing tiger-stuff. The memory I have is how to distinguish between types of tiger - IIRC Bengal tigers have a white spot on each ear and the 'other kind' don't. They also have a greeting sound, rather like a domestic cat - a Prrup noise. The announcer made the noise and the tiger Prrup'd back. When the crowds had gone (things like this were always crowded then - few people had TV and wild animals weren't 'old hat' then - I waited until the tiger got closer, pacing in his cage, and PRRUUP'd at it. I think it answered, but I can't actually remember. I did try this at home, and it worked on our cat though.

And what was the final thing that we'd do before leaving? Visit the shop of course! They had all kinds of rubber animals (big fad here, in the 60's and early 70's) that were very realistic. Of course being a boy, I HAD to buy snakes. Some of these would be up to 3 feet long, and coloured to look very realistic. There were beetles and dinosaurs and Lions and tigers and elephants and rhinos too, but none of these were as exciting - or as LONG - as the snakes.

Curiously, I have no memory of ever travelling home. However I do appreciate the investment my parents, and particluarly my mother made for me in those birthdays.

Monday, 2 August 2004

The world in the church

I picked up the Times this morning, and read an article that made the front page with interest.

Archbishop stands aside to be humble parish priest

The archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, announced yesterday that he is to retire 5 years early to return to his roots and serve as a stipendiary parish priest.
He was quoted as saying "...I am looking forward to just being with people, caring for them and about them".

Further in the article it also states: Already senior diocesians have begun jockeying to succeed Dr Hope as the country's second most senior prelate after Canterbury.

It's very pleasing that there is a note of incedulity in the article: how could someone as powerful as Dr Hope wish to step down from power to become ordinary? Now it may be that everything got a bit too much for him, but I'd like to believe that he also wanted to get back to a place where it was just him and God, and he could just get on with serving people.

The other interesting bit was the reference to 'jockeying' for position. Given that the paper may be somewhat biased in it's reporting, I presume the offices of some of the potential 'candidates' did have statements prepared expressing readiness etc for this. To me, the idea that one can attain a position of authority in the church by one's efforts and through political persuasion is about as wrong as anything can be. If this is a half true representation of how things really are then it's no wonder the anglican church can't find unity (or even a biblical perspective) on so many key issues.

I can just picture Paul and Silas running into the crowd shouting "we are just men like yourselves". God save us from men that think they should have position and authority in the church.

Sunday, 1 August 2004

We had this email from Ben today.

Forgive the spelling - it must be really hard trying to type on a Kyrgyz keyboard ;-)

hiya dad.
i'm mailing from an internet club.
say hi to the others for me. i haven't been able to find postcards but i'll thank people anyway when i get back.
as expected no broadband, speaking of which is ours back up again?
i am back in bishkek for the day after the forst phase of walking. it was tiring. i hate this keyboard, it is appalling...
anyway, i am mailing, and then i'm going to go and find lunch. bishkek is a really interesting city, there is a real contrast in sty;es out here, but its quite a nice place. the mountins are the best, the look really good. i have taken over 100 photo's already, and would have sent some if they had a usb cable. its fantastic.
my self inflating matress has turned outto be really good, but it still doesn't make sleeping on rocks in a tent an enjoyable experience. its quite hot out here, but the main probl;em is that it is quite sticky.
we spent a little time looking at souveniers and i'm tring to find stuff for you lot, should be fun! i have been ill once, a breif bit of diahorrea and i threw up once, which meant i didn't get to go up a peak, but i have walked on a glacier. looking foward to coming home, buit i still like it here, i'm glad the insects dont like me!
makes me want to go to greece again! it is so cheap here. the most annoyiong thiong, apart from havce tocrap under rocks, and haveing to share a single shower with a hotel full of people is that we can't drink the water, we have to iodine it, but it wont put me off the place.
hope everything is great
love you all

Thanks, everyone that's been praying for him.

Saturday, 31 July 2004

Sorry for the lack of posting

Been busy.

Harmony Central has some interesting things going down sometimes. We've been discussing sex before marriage and a pile of different things. Plus I've been putting together a song sheet for the church to use. Friday I had a day fasting from the net.

Today was a good day. See below.

It's been a good day.

Left home this morning at 8.00am to go on a bike ride with some of my 1XV friends. I haven’t been able to get to a 1XV ride since February, and although I’ve managed the odd ride locally, maintaining fitness has been impossible.

We were riding at a place called ‘The Lookout’ just outside Bracknell, Berkshire. It’s just over an hour’s drive for me – about 65 miles each way, hence the early start. The lookout is an area of Crown land that has been opened up for public use, and is mostly forest, with a number of bridleways running through it. A local MTB club has worked with the authorities to create a number of routes that run through the woods, and provide some interesting trails. It’s all rolling countryside, so although none of the hills are huge, they are still high and steep enough to make you work hard for your height. The ground is very sandy, draining well, however this also causes riders to have interesting ‘moments’ with virtually zero grip available for steering or braking.

When I got there it was still reasonably cool – the calm before the storm, so to speak. We headed off into the woods, and I was quite pleased to be able to keep up, although that only lasted for the first hour. Fortunately Paul, our ‘guide’, was also not at an absolute peak of fitness, so I didn’t get left behind.

What can I tell you about it? We climbed. We descended. We swooped. We railed the berms (except for those that were just piled up sand). We slipped and slithered and scared ourselves a little. I remember starting a descent that would match some of the better trails in Wales (albeit much shorter) with some words of warning echoing in my ears. Partway down was a drop off (i.e. ledge). It was only about 18” high – no problem one would think. But this was on a trail about one foot wide, descending at about 35 degrees, covered in roots, shale and very loose under tyre. And about 8 feet after the drop was a 180 degree turn with a steep slope beckoning if you got it wrong. Only one of the group actually did it: big up to Nick Cummins. The rest of us: Paul ‘I’ve just come back from the Alps and it were much steeper’ Cooper, Jay ‘I like big steep descents’ Tejani, Andy ‘plastic fantastic’ and me all bottled it. Further down the trail I had a brief handlebar/tree interface moment, but survived.

There was one other section that we all bottled. At the bottom of a very steep descent someone had placed a large tree trunk across the trail. Earth was banked up to it in a ramp, and the intention was obvious – it was a jump. That wouldn’t have been too bad – it was too high to just roll off, but with a decent bit of speed it would have been OK. The problem again was the landing area: all sand, tree stumps and pot holes. Prudence prevailed. I’d like to think that if I’d been on my usual bike with 5” of suspension travel both ends I’d have done it. As it was, I was on Sharon (as the Saracen hardtail is known) with shorter travel forks, no rear suspension, and I’m just not familiar enough with that bike to risk it.

I was pleased with some of the riding I did toward the end of our time though. As I got more used to riding and relaxed, so I gradually settled down and started using the terrain. On one steep descent there was a small lump in the ground, followed by a steeper slope after that I could jump off. There’s a great feeling you get when all the rattling from the bumps stops for a second or 2 while the bike’s airborne and you’re sailing through clear air. There’s another section too, where to the left of the trail there’s a large bomb hole with a near cliff-edge. The slope into the bomb hole goes down at about 65 degrees, but is actually fine, provided you relax and just roll down. I’d done this before a couple of years ago, and although I wasn’t the first to do it this time, I had no hesitation in rolling over the edge and seeming to disappear into the ground.

After nearly 3 hours I was thoroughly saddle sore (it’s VERY bumpy) and managed to get everyone to head back to the car park.

When I got home I took a couple of hours to thoroughly clean both Sharon and the Diamondback thoroughly, perform some maintenance and generally remain being a teenager for a few hours more. By the time I’d finished they looked good enough to want to eat ;-)

Finally washed the dirt and sweat off my poor old bod, had an hours sleep, then made dinner. I wanted something a little fun, so I made a Pizza with tomato, sweet red peppers and tuna on the bottom, cheddar, sliced salami and oregano on top. Smelt wonderful J Sarah is sleeping over at a friend’s house, and we were able to sit outside in the warm evening air eating dinner. I’d opened a bottle of wine, and with music drifting gently over from our neighbour’s house, it was like being on holiday, only cheaper. We sat out there until the sun disappeared and Chris got too cool to stay out.

I’ve got a CD playing in the PC, and one of my all time favourite tracks has just come on – Snowy White’s ‘Bird of Paradise’.

I was going to post this but we just had a call from my sister in law to talk to Chris. Now ‘While my guitar gently weeps’ has just come on. I used to play this with the first band I ever played in when I was 17 – oh the memories.

The end of a good day. Thank you Father.

Saturday, 24 July 2004

Please pray for Sarah

Ben's 10,000 miles away and I'm more concerned for my daughter.

She's recently been buying trashy magazines, mostly for the freebies on the front. However last weekend she came home with 'cosmopolitan', which is nothing more than an instruction manual on how to pick up men and get laid, plus how to deal with the consequences of feeling cheap afterward. I was aware of if, and while mentioning my displeasure at it, didn't do enough at the beginning. She has also been extremely 'protective' about it, and I guess that started the warning bells going.

Last night I got hold of it while she was out (can't condemn it if I don't know what's in it) and it was fully as bad as my worst fears - definitely not for under 18s. I'd left it out so she could see I'd read it, and of course she the tried to hide it, refused to talk to me or look me in the eye. I perceive this is all guilt, but by using 'whatever' as a tool to brazen things through, she's hoping to come out as if she's done nothing wrong. I KNOW this kind of thing is insidious, changing attitudes covertly, and it's worth a bit of pain now to see her pull through without significant harm.

But please pray for us, to work things through to the right conclusion.

Wednesday, 21 July 2004

Recycling in the 3rd world

Came across the following article today:

In April of 2003 Mike meets Richard Robbins at a conference in upstate New York. Richard has written a book on corporate globalization, and he offers to organize a lecture by the WTO for his students at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, where he is a professor.

Andy and Mike are happy to accept this invitation—especially since they already have been invited to speak to some trade experts in Australia. They feel they have come up with the surefire reaction-getter, but since it's likely to be their last chance, they'd better make sure. College students will make an excellent test audience before the real thing in Australia.

Just before leaving for Plattsburgh, they hear the conference in Australia has been cancelled. This is no longer a dress rehearsal.

The whole crew (Mike, Andy, Matt, Caz, Wolfgang, Snafu, Andrew, Rich) drive up from New York and arrive in Plattsburgh. Richard shows them the venue. Andy and Matt put on standard WTO business suits, while Mike wears a McDonald’s uniform.

Richard is kind enough to foot the bill for more than a hundred McDonald’s Hamburgers, which Mike passes out to the students at the beginning of the lecture. Andy introduces the talk by asking that important basic question: “Why is starvation a problem?” Matt’s illustration of “poverty guy” stands shrugging on the powerpoint slide. Andy explains with candor how WTO agribusiness policies (like the policies of the British during the Irish Potato famine) are causing widespread starvation in the Third World today. He suggests a solution that—unlike protectionism and so on—remains within the logic of the free market.

The solution, as elegant as it is simple, is to provide Third Worlders with filters that allow them to recycle their food—extending the lifespan of a typical hamburger up to ten times.

In answer to one student’s outraged question, Mike explains that McDonald’s, in partnership with the WTO, is already experimenting with this technology in its products, and has been including 20% “post-consumer waste” in many of its hamburgers. Patrick’s 3-D animation of Ronald McDonald squeezing Menu Item Number Two from his colostomy bag erases any doubts about what is actually being said: the WTO believes that the poor should eat their own shit, or perhaps eat the shit of the rich, if an efficient pipeline can be established.

As might be expected, the students react violently to these concepts. But what is more surprising is that they have been reacting—with hisses, boos, even a spitwad or two—ever since the beginning of the lecture. Long before Andy tells them that they have eaten shit, they are appalled at the version of reality that he is asking them to swallow.

This is the only negative reaction Andy and Mike have gotten for a lecture. But the strong reaction clearly isn’t because the lecture is any crazier, since the students started reacting from the very beginning: it’s because the audience is smarter. All along, the problem has not been with the lectures, as supposed, but with the audiences themselves.

Years of neoliberal “education” and experience seem to make people stupid.

This realization causes Mike and Andy to abandon the lecture they planned for the agribusiness conference in Sydney (cancelled, but a special luncheon just for the "WTO" has been scheduled in its place), and to devise a whole new approach to the problem of representing the problems of free-market orthodoxy.

The original link is here

I was intrigued by the line near the bottom "
Years of neoliberal “education” and experience seem to make people stupid." I wonder if this is what I've been experiencing with some of the statements I've seen on blogs - 'respected' and respectable people saying things that are clearly stupid and wrong. Guess that wasn't really what it meant, but anyway.....

BTW this WAS a spoof, although the way I feel about Maccy Ds, they might well be operating the recycling program already.

He's gone!

Ben left this morning for the expedition to Kyrgystan.

For those who are not geography graduates, Kyrgystan borders China, Kazakstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and was once part of the USSR. He'll be gone for a month, doing a mixture of Jungle and mountain trekking, local project work, and then relaxing afterward.

The trip has been organised by World Challenge, which specialises in taking teenagers on expeditions like this. We have met a number of people with sons and daughter that have been on a WC trip. Ben's school have combined with another school about 90 miles away to provide sufficient numbers for the trip. It's far from cheap - the expedition has a basic cost of £2700, on top of which a full set of equipment has had to be purchased. I reckon all in it's run to about £3300, and Ben's paid most of it himself - certainly well over £2000 of it.

He's never been away from home this long, but I'm sure he'll be fine. It's just us I worry about ;-)

Thursday, 15 July 2004

That's dinky.

Ah, but does making it BOLD affect the colour?
Ah, make it bold first, THEN change colour.
Font seems to make no difference though - I've probably got a "" tag somewhere in my template.
That explains the BLACK Shrek

We saw a film.....

Shrek 2 tonight
And I can say, it's a good film.
Chris thought it came rather too close to the truth at times though, and she missed all the 'quotes' from other films. I sure I didn't spot many of them too, but Ghostbusters and Mission Impossible were the most clearly un-missable, with little bits of xXx too.
Casting was good, and I'd NEVER have recognised John Cleese.
Just as good as the first film, but different.
If you haven't seen it already, don't leave the cinema until after the first credits have finished.

Tuesday, 13 July 2004

So many things.......

once again.

This week is full of meetings. Last night in Oxford for an area leaders meeting, tonight back to Oxford to pray for the kid's school, Wednesday Bicester CC body meeting, Thursday I *think* is free, and I'm sure there's something on Friday.

Last night was a good follow on from the Oxford Celebration a week ago. Steve Thomas was describing his conversation with God while he'd been 'away up the mountain'. About asking God where He saw the church was, and God's reply about "if I tell you, will you take responsibility?" before showing him Revelation 4 - Laodicea. Ouch!

The future is looking interesting.....

Thursday, 8 July 2004

Well, we've been plastered.

The living room has been done, and last night was in a filthy mess when I got home. Much elbow grease later, it's 'tolerable' and decorating has commenced. Now if only we could afford a new carpet too.

Pics up sometime soon.

Tuesday, 6 July 2004

Thin posting time ahead.

We're having some building work done in the living room this week, so I've had to dismantle the PC.

No internet at home:-(

No ebay for Ben to surf :-)

Every cloud etc.....

Sorry everyone if I don't get round to checking your blogs very much.

Monday, 28 June 2004

Sorry there's so much!

I hadn't realised how much I'd written. If you can bear to read it all, please start off at 'Thursday morning'.

Budapest images

are here. It may be a while before they can be viewed.

Why are we like this?

Following the late night return, I received GBH to the earhole this morning out of Chris’s reasonable disappointment. Contained my feelings until she’d left the room, when I let them out with an anguished groan. It appears she wasn’t out of earshot after all, and asked what’s wrong. The answer doesn’t bring happiness, but did eventually result in a better relationship this morning.

As an observation from this, I wonder if, for a marriage to work well, it’s necessary to have continuous un-vocalised communication to allow partners to align themselves with each other. In our case, it’s quite common for us to be at odds when I first get home, despite the fact that we want to be together. It really blunts the pleasure of returning, even though we both want to be together again. I think this is better than the ‘cool’ approach that I’ve seen in other couples (at least for me) but I’d prefer joy un-alloyed with friction.

Sunday – It’s the last day

Although the conference was due to kick off at 8.00am, we actually agreed this time to meet in the restaurant for breakfast.

As it turned out, we didn’t get to hear any of the talks. There was work to be done, and we needed to discuss some data that a customer had submitted. This took most of the morning, tying it in with data that I’d generated earlier this year, and one way and another, we just didn’t make it to the talks.

About 12.00pm we realised that almost all the other exhibitors had gone, and at 1.00 we decided to throw in the towel and break the stand too. For a short while we were the cloakroom too, while the great and good (and less ‘great’) left their luggage for us to look after, before we were finally done. At 2.30pm I found myself at the airport for a 6.20pm flight, and no way to check in until 4.20pm :-/ Pass time talking with another lass that we got to know, who’s a cytogeneticist in London, and interesting.

Finally managed to check the case, then go look at over-priced tourist stuff and expensive jewellery. Picked up some Amber ear-rings for Chris (she’s always wanted some, and the kids usually get the prezzies) then sit and read.

And wait.

Realise I should have been called to board 25 mins ago.

Go and look at the monitor – flight delayed to 7.20pm. Nuts.

10 mins later, hear some kind of announcement in Hunglish about the flight, so go look again. Delayed ‘till 8.00pm 

Collect voucher for ‘refreshments’ and buy a dubious Danish pastry and 2 bottles of water. The aircon is off, the terminal is hot, sticky and airless and so am I!

Visit duty free. Kids love ‘Milka’ chocolate, and the really big bars are 2.70 euros. Grab 2 and then acquire a litre bottle of apricot brandy (locally made, and silly cheap).

Sit down to finish typing this, look up and see a Finnish lass from one of our competitors that had been exhibiting too. She’s a really nice person, and so we sit and chat about photography, children, digital cameras, travelling for work and all sorts. Her plane has been delayed too, but is at least on the stand being prepared – I feel sorry for her, since she has to change at Helsinki before flying on to Turku and home – won’t arrive until about 1.00 am.

As we’re discussing my plane lands and taxies to the stand. *Sighs with relief*. Maybe an 8.00 pm departure is possible after all.

7.43pm – I’ve just been called to the gate. TTFN.

The plane is absolutely packed, mostly with lads coming back from stag weekends in Budapest. While boarding I half recognised a girl from the conference. She’s Greek, desperately attractive and now stuck alone in the middle of these guys that have (as they told everyone) toured the sex shows. Cue 2.5 hours of absolutely continuous (failed) attempts to chat her up. Fortunately she’s as bright and intelligent as they are stupid (she’s doing a PhD in Kings, London) and is more than capable of resisting, but was still worn down by the end of the flight. I intervened a couple of times, just to try to draw their attention away and change topics when things got a little near the knuckle.

11.30pm – finally make it home. Chris has gone to bed quite a bit earlier, but Ben’s up, since he’s not got to do anything on Monday. At least he’s glad to see me.


Saturday Morning, bright and early

The sun is shining, and we’ve arranged to visit a local indoor market with a couple of cytogeneticists that we met yesterday. The sun is hot on our backs as we make our way there at 8.00am.

The market is held inside a huge hall, with fixed stalls. There are basically 3 kinds of stall – Butchers selling every part of the animals except the skin, greengrocers with their huge piles of pale unhealthy looking peppers (there was one called ‘eros’, although it’s hard to see why) and stalls selling cured meats, salamis, pigs trotters etc. Occasionally you see the odd stall with alcohol. Some stalls specialised in different meats, usually denoted but the animal’s head being mounted on the wall. Wandering round, we bought paprika in ornamental bags to take home, but somehow didn’t really fancy anything else. The upper level had much more touristy stuff – lacy things, carved objects, toys, Tee shirts, plus a variety of cafes and bars. I took some pics from there, plus on the ground floor on the way out.

That evening we enjoyed a cruise on the Danube, in a huge boat complete with band, dinner and shoals of waiters that really did look after their charges. Despite the bottomless approach to supplying drinks people were generally restrained, and I saw no serious excesses. It was a slightly scary arrangement though, with party atmosphere and unlimited booze – quite easy to see people pairing up and disappearing off together, me included. I have seldom felt this as a concern quite so strongly. Maybe it’s my own inadequacies and immorality coming to the surface?

I also took some pics both on and from the boat. There were a couple of technical staff that were using our products who attended the conference for the first time. I’d been asked by their rep to look after them, and since they were good fun, it was natural that we all kept each other company. That’s why you’ll see Carol and Liz in some of the pics, plus John (a Cytogeneticist at Newcastle) who we also got on well with. I have also included a pic illustrating the challenge to male pulses engendered by the fashion of tight translucent trousers and thongs that were ‘de rigueur’ amongst the lovelies here. Anyway, much fun was had: some at my expense when I was dragged (not entirely with good grace) up on the dancefloor. About 11.30 another male member of the group that we all knew appeared, and William and I made our getaway, only being propositioned once during the 30min walk back (not counting the lap dancing bars we were invited to enter). Interesting place, Budapest.

Friday – it’s hard to wake up, despite the alarm being the same time as normal.

Back to the stand, there’s minimal inerest, but that’s what we expected. Manage to work on the laptop for a while, then go into the conference for some of the more interesting presentations. Most interesting was the recent findings that foetal stem cells not only move into the maternal circulation, but appear to persist and actually perform some protective functions in the mother’s body. There was some excellent work done using mice and a special imaging system showing where foetal cells were assisting in healing just 6 days after the mouse became pregnant. This work has only been done in the last 3 months, and is of considerable importance in understanding the processes involved in reproduction.

There was also some amazing work done by a group in Hong Kong that were isolating foetal DNA from maternal circulation to allow them to identify whether the foetus was suffering all kinds of genetic conditions (they were investigating thalassaemia). This is of key interest, because it might make it possible to replace the presently hazardous methods of CVS or amniotic fluid sampling with a simple sample of maternal blood. Another worker’s results were rubbished somewhat publicly, and I spoke (purely by coincidence) with a colleague of the guy that had been put down, and he accepted this quite philosophically. This sort of things seem very common in the science world these days, and I have seen otherwise eminent and respectable scientists to take childish pot shots at each other from the lecturn.

In the evening a soiree to a ballet had been arranged, however since neither William (the MD) and I appreciate ballet we decided to walk round Budapest. Rain had started during the day, and by evening the streets were pretty sodden. We squelched over one of the bridges spanning the Danube and wandered over to the Gelert Hotel, which has a swimming pool fed by a natural hot spring. Entry here was refused (it was shut) so we just kept walking. For 2 hours. Guess we got to see plenty of Budapest. Eventually the sun came out, and it grew warm before we headed off for dinner.

The city seems very like the way I remember Vienna from my last visit in 1967 (aged 5) with just a few concessions to modernity, such as graffiti sprayed on many walls and buildings. There was littler evidence of rubbish, but most building more than a few years old were in need of repair, and it was common to see holes in plasterwork or even areas where sections of ornamentation had fallen off completely. Many buildings were originally decorated in typical mittel Europe style, with plaster mouldings and ornate doors. This is normally highly attractive, but here it was a sad reminder of greater times, now past.

Many people also look poor, and vagrants were quite common in places. Prices of many things seem very similar to the UK, but I’d bet that wages certainly aren’t. A sign of things bubbling under the surface is the number of ‘nightclubs’ offering table dancing.

On our return to the hotel, we found that Greece were beating France in their European cup game, and to our considerable pleasure, they held that lead to the end. There were some Greeks at the conference, and they were celebrating very enthusiastically.