Thursday, 28 April 2005

The final day

I’ve arranged to go in early, and have paid my bill in advance, yet I can’t get a cab in a decent time again. The driver obviously knows the city, and this time it takes only half as long using a completely different route. And the fare in just over half the previous too.

We work. We complete the assays, discuss more key bits of methodology, tabulate data and before you know it, I’m heading back to Arlanda and the airport. In typical British Airways style the plane is late, but not by much, and we make it up on the way back. I arrive home at around 7.30pm. When I get time there will be some pics.

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

What a beautiful morning

My hotel room has a balcony, and is directly opposite a large church. The air is distinctly cool, but has a very clean and bright feel to it, so standing on the balcony, drinking in the sunshine and taking pictures seems like a fine idea.

There are a few people in the street right now, all muffled up against the cold. Stockholm gets cold at night, even as late in spring as now.


I’m rapidly learning to like the Swedes. They have a very relaxed attitude, to the point that they could easily live around the med. The difference is that they seem calm and a little calculating, but calm all the way through: there’s no hint of the fiery temperament you find in Greece, Italy or Spain. When driving they appear polite, moving carefully and giving way without hesitation to other drivers. All this has it’s downside as well as upside: they can be so laid back that they fall over (metaphorically speaking) and things don’t get done. The hotel called a cab this morning for me – took 25 mins to arrive!
The people in the lab I’m visiting are very friendly, polite and open about how they’re working which makes the visit a pleasant affair. We discuss the approach they’ve taken and data generated before heading out to examine equipment and set up some assays.

Before we know it lunch has arrived, and I get to sample real Swedish food. I have something that (from memory) is called pippe et pyet (or something like it). It looks like corned beef hash, but is really a fry-up of leftovers. It’s savoury with lots of lean meat in small pieces mixed with potatoes, onions and subtle herbs. This is washed down with local mineral water. Quite delicious.

I’m free to see Stockholm in the afternoon. I’ve been advised to visit ‘Gamlan Stan’ which is the original centre of old Stockholm, and is on a small island. I’ve been advised it’s a long way, but having collected a tourist map from the hotel, I prefer to walk and actually get a feel for the city. My hotel is by the junction of Vastmannagatan and Odengatan directly opposite a large church. Initially I walked down Vastmannagatan before crossing a couple of blocks over to continue down the Drottninggatan. A couple of things strike me at this point: how a typical Swede is small and mousy or dark rather than tall blond and muscular (or buxom) as I had imagined, just how many parks there seem to be. The parks are all quite busy, despite being in the middle of a working day and a distinct chill being in the air too.

I came across an open air market at one point, where the main items on sale seemed to be flowers for the garden, as well as some fruit and veg. Most of the stands seem to be manned by very un-Swedish looking people – quite like markets in the UK then. Later I learn that Sweden has a lot of Italian immigrants, and it’s likely that’s where these are from.

Eventually I come to the bridges linking the Norrmalm to Gamla Stan and the river that cuts through the heart of Stockholm. It must be deep because it’s navigable by some pretty big vessels. As I cross into Gamla Stan I pass through some large stone gates and the world changes. Previously streets have been wide and clear, buildings generally straight, tall and less than 100 years old. Now the streets are narrow and building lean at different angles as though trying to shoulder for space in the crowd. I pass an infestation of ‘Antik’ shops, gothic goods shops, toy shops, ships chandlers and even a chocolate shop. There are street musicians in various places and all kinds of interesting nooks and crannies. The memory card in the camera got a serious drubbing here, I can tell you!

I turn a corner, and there between some houses I can see a large passenger vessel heading sedately out to sea. The sea was once the provider of a very large portion of Stockholm’s supplies, and is at the heart of many Swedes. Everyone that I talk to in the lab has a boat or harks back to when they canoed or rowed as a child. There are many boats visible moored over by the Kungsholmen and Langholmen. Unfortunately there’s no easy way to the water at the south end on the island, and my feet are getting sore from nearly 2 hours walking on partly cobbled streets. I therefore turn left along Skeppsbron and into Ostertangatan before reaching the academy and the Kungliga Slottet (royal palace). Opposite the palace are some mooring points, complete with reproduction Viking longboat. From here I get back on the Skeppsbron, crossing the Strombron bridge to the mainland and past the Kungstradgarden.

I should mention something about Swedes here and their out of doors-ness. Maybe it’s because of their long dark winters. Maybe part of their closeness to nature. Or maybe it’s just a body’s way of saying “get some sun – you need to make vitamin D”. Whatever the reason, there are people outside everywhere on a day when I’m not getting too warm wearing a thickly padded coat and walking round a lot. In sunny sheltered places the temp is getting into the high teens, and girls are in strappy tops and vests, men with shirts unbuttoned and chests bare, soaking up the sun. Elsewhere the air is cooler, but everyone’s still out. To my amazement there are loads of street cafes with chairs, tables and (in one case) large settees out on the pavement. In the shadier places large blankets are made available, and are in use wrapped round legs and shoulders as people just relax outside. Here at the Kungstradgarden they are courting, playing chess, promenading and posing.

I walk a couple of blocks along Hamnagatan, then turn up Norrlandsgatan, then into Rostagsgatan heading back toward the hotel. Very footsore, I turn into Odengatan before eventually returning back to the hotel.

After a rest and quick snooze I head out for dinner. Because I’m tired I don’t want to travel far, but there are no Swedish speciality restaurants nearby. Eventually I settle for an Italian, enjoying a Lasagne and a bottle of pear cider, before retiring.

An interesting insight into Swedish thought is evident through their TV stations. While they do show a fair amount of US made programming, quite a lot is home-grown, albeit somewhat derivative (interior decorating, gardening etc.). However one BIG difference that struck me compared to Germany was how relatively modest it was. In Germany from around 9.00pm every 15 min. on the movie channels they show ads for phone sex lines. Very graphic ads, too. After about 10.30 the phone sex ads take over, and the ration shifts to 10 min. film, 5 min. advert. Makes those channels effectively unusable. This was completely different, and if Sweden’s reputation for promiscuous behaviour is true the TV certainly doesn’t confirm it.

Tuesday, 26 April 2005


Made it without serious incident, I’m pleased to say. Got to the Hotel about 10.30pm and I’m just going to get some thoughts down quickly before they fade.

Stockholm smells different from anywhere I’ve ever visited before. It’s a mixture that’s hard to define, and has mostly worn off now. I remember leaving the airport, opening the door and being hit by a really sharp smell: a very strong salt tang, mixed with tar, peat and the smell you get when cutting masonry with hot power tools.

When I get to a taxi I get an Italian driver! Does he know the Hotel Gustav Wasa? Does he know where Vastmannagatten is? Does he speak English (as I’ve been assured over and over ALL Swedes do)? Does he heck. He also turns out to be the slowest Italian I’ve ever observed behind the wheel of a car ;-)

Although it’s nearly dark, I can get a good idea of the landscape. I realise in mild surprise that it looks very much like the area between Chantilly and Washington DC. All trees and gently rolling countryside further out, then glass, chrome and concrete modern retail and office complexes. It’s good to see lots of names I don’t recognise amongst the few I do. As we’re passing a building I notice a digital display showing temperature – 5’C. While I watch the display changed to FUKT 50%. I’m sure it means something quite different in Swedish - probably humidity - but it did make me smile.

Leaving in 10 mins or so

Off to Stockholm this afternoon/evening. I'll try to get some pics.


Monday, 25 April 2005

Relaxed? That isn't normal.

I lead worship again yesterday.


I stood out the front, played guitar, sang a bit and started a bunch of songs I felt God had given me.

That's closer to the truth.

Things were a little odd though. I had a call from Rich (the equivalent to a 'pastoral assistant') in the morning. He was leading the meeting, and suggested that we would be having a shorter time of worship to make space for the word. Fine. I'd also chosen a hymn to start (Oh Lord my God) which is unusual, although not un-precedented, and I'd planned to go straight into 'La Alleluia' directly afterward as contrast. But God seemed to have other ideas, and after the hymn it was worship, worship, worship all the way - great to me. About an hour and 10 mins almost unbroken, and it looked from where I stood as though people had come right into God's presence.

So what was odd about this? I did the whole time playing acoustic guitar without pain in my left hand (there's another story) and singing. Even odder - I was quite comfy singing for the last 30 mins or so, which is completely unheard of for me! God MUST be changing something, and for that I'm definitely grateful.

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

I've just GOT to have one of these!

Of all the guitars I could possibly want, Gibson produce this one:

I couldn't imagine a finer guitar to play 'Stairway to heaven'.

Monday, 18 April 2005

I seem to be having typographical diarrhoea today

But whatever.

I was turning things over and questioning earlier this afternoon.

Why do I feel like I've passed my 'use by' date? All my drive and energy for work is gone, and apart from brief moments here and there, that's been true for the last 3 years or so. I'd rather surf than work, rather do nothing that read journals. There are times that I feel more than a little trapped into the need to earn a good wage and keep it up until the kids have finished their education and I can start the slow moulder down into retirement like so many guys I've known.

Why is the church compromised to death? I was reading 'The Eagle and child' earlier, talking about the 'fast food' culture, and it's got right into the church too. Now we have people offering seeker sensitive services, contemporary worship services, traditional hymn:prayer sandwich services and all manner of crap in between. We've got to the point where some people ask why we're even still questioning about women in ministry, we have practicing gay leadership and we have church leaders denying the virgin birth.

All these things come under the umbrella of 'church' now. The church isn't bad because this is happening: this is happening because the church went bad first.

As a teenager I left these things behind. I left the falsehhod of a pretending church for the reality of worshipping Jesus with others that wanted Jesus for His own sake. It was obvious which churches had life and which didn't. But instead of the increased polarity I expected, we've seen compromise. The 'dead' churches have begun to sing the 'right' songs, talk about the Holy Spirit, have little 'open prayer' interludes in the rigid format.

It's all become a large luke-warm pile of blandness, with something for everyone and no-one satisfied. Go ahead and vomit.

The worst of it? I've lost my edge, and now I'm 'nice' and embracing compromise myself. AND I HATE IT! But I'm too wet to fix it. I enjoy material comfort, buying things, good food, nice clothes, and 2.4 kids. I don't want to climb on the altar any more. The idea of street work fills me with mild anticipation and mild lethargy at the thought of arranging some.

This is Mr. Wishy-washy signing off another useless and stupid rant against nothing and no-one in particular except himself.

Wish you were here......

..... so you think you can tell?

Nations perish while good men stay quiet.

I MUST write something about the whole women in leadership issue.

Leighton's post was, I think, the flattening of a psychological hedge for some people in this whole area. I do see this as being an issue over which nations will perish, and I have been guilty of keeping quiet when I should have spoken up. Sometimes it's very hard to overcome one's reluctance, knowing that people you care about may take umbrage, and not wishing to go through the whole arguement thing again.

Part of the problem is it's been focussed down to 'rights'. Part of the problem is the manner in which the government of God's people is seen as a potential career. And part of it is that we want rules and not principles.

When I can find the time and energy I'll try to post something a little deepr - if I can be bothered.

Seeking a king?

We have a guest speaker yesterday - Mike Beaumont - from Oxford. I've known mike for a number of years, and he's probably the best bible teacher I've met to date.

Mike had just got back from China, and was seriously jet-lagged. We are going through an overview of the bible at the moment - covering all the key things from the whole bible in 5 weeks. His section was the period from leaving Egypt through to the fall of the kingdoms. The thought which jumped out at me was where he was talking about the end of the time of judges - Israel asked for a king so they could be like all the other nations.

Mike said "of course, the church would never do that" as a throw away comment.

I wonder who 'they' plan to appoint as the next 'king', and if they'll let God have any input?

Thursday, 14 April 2005


Chris and I have just realised something funny.

She has a good friend at work who recently had a tattoo done. It's been very fashionable the last couple of years for females to have a tattoo at the base of the spine, just above their bottoms. She decided to get her husband's name put there.

His name is....

wait for it......


Chris also just suggested I put his name in capitals to give it more 'impact'.

Tuesday, 12 April 2005


Won't be going to Sweden until the end of the month now :(

Do you only miss something after it's gone?

Like a high pitched whine, interspersed with vibration from your computer?

For the last couple of months the PC has been groaning for the first 5 mins after starting. It's also been whining (from a fan) loud enough to hear upstairs when the livingroom door was left open. Recentlyit would suddenly start vibrating so badly the whole case buzzed in sympathy until given a good 'thump' at the front.

I was convinced it was the power supply fan. So much so that I brought a spare home from work to swap out as a test. Turned out to be the cooling fan for the graphics card. I'd NEVER have thought such a tiny fan could make so much noise! This is just a total racket!!

So I've done a temp fix. Pulled the card, removed the fan unit and absolutely saturated the thing with a PTFE base lube spray. In another couple of weeks it'll start again, but at least I can get a decent alternative in by then I need to do a full OS rebuild soon anyway, and was going to pop in a 160Gb drive. I can therefore do the whole lot in one go, and maybe also replace the processor fan, which has always been a little noisy. This PC used to be totally silent when it was only Duron 900. I rather miss that.

Friday, 8 April 2005

The grace of God (again)

A few days ago I was asked if someone could stay out at a friend's party overnight. I felt quite uncomfy, and decided 'no'.

Tonight I collected both kids from said party. Both were reasonably sober - and were definitely the exceptions. I am so grateful they were not staying.

Over-protective? Probably.

I (to my shame) did the drunken party thing post conversion at 17 and 18, and I'm sure God kept me out of trouble. Actually it's almost funny - I can remember witnessing to a guy that had just had a bad trip, and wishing I was fully sober so I'd think more clearly. However My daughter is only 15, and that really isn't an appropriate environment for someone that age, even if they're precocious and strong.

Like I said, the grace of God.

Looks like I'm going to Sweden.

Never been before. Stockholm, anyone?

Just come across a new phrase that I love

A good idea shipwrecked on the island of wishful thinking.

This was a joint effort between the MD and myself. ;)

Getting better at last

March was virtually a write-off for me, health wise, with a second infection following the first so closely that I never recovered between. By the grace of God I seem to be heading out into clear waters now, with nothing worse than a runny nose and occasional cough to show for it. Best of all, the head is beginning to work again, and I can actually hold 2 thoughts at the same time - something that's not been possible for far too long.

Guess I'd better start looking for a blog to have a good argument on ;)

OK guys, we got the joke now.

Would the canadians that think it's funny to send us their snow kindly come and take it home again. It's currently waiting at the customer services desk for you.

Tee shirts and sunshine for most of the week, yesterday was a little cooler. This morning I left in sleet, and by the time I got to work there were huge wet flakes falling out of the sky.

Tuesday, 5 April 2005

If anyone would like to...

pray for Sarah and Dan (BF of last 18+ months) then they might appreciate it. They are probably no longer an item, and are naturally feeling very tender right now.


Apparently it's all back on. Sorry and thankyou for your prayers.

Our 'chat' at 12.30am and all those tears seem forgotten. Guess I should be glad to have a 'normal' daughter back. Hopefully all the emotional upheaval can be saved until they've both finished their exams in about 3 months.

Saturday, 2 April 2005

Nigel and Liz

....are very good friends of ours, and recently moved from Bicester to the outskirts of Birmingham. We spent the day with them and their children.

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It was like a summer's day again - about 18 or 19 degrees and strong sunshine. We had a wander round Lickey woods (wonderful name, full of imagery). John and Myriam had a great time running around and climbing over things. Shown here in typical poses:

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Myriam is also at the age and of a character where the world is full of wonder and beauty. A guitar appeared this afternoon, and it was suggested that I might play it. As the first note rang out she immediately began to move with the music. At one point she needed the loo and asked that I stop playing so that she didn't miss any of it. If only every audience I had was like that! She also found a pink bud on an almost completely bare tree, and had to show everyone:

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I also had this little glimpse of the future. Myriam wanted someone to play with in the garden, so out I went. After about 20 mins of throwing and catching balls and a frisbee I realised - this is what GRANDPARENTS do! I couldn't stop for Myriam's sake, but NUTS! I'm only 43. On returning indoors Sarah was instructed NO CHILDREN FOR AT LEAST 5 YEARS.

Thanks for having us over guys.

Now it's set up....

and actually rather nice to play. However the PUs are dead cheap and lacking in complexity, so they'll have to move on. I've got enough interesting bits here (including a 70s Gibson PAF) that might improve things.

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Never mind my ugliness - cleaned up this guitar looks great.

Friday, 1 April 2005

Loo cleaning and pets.

Instructions on how to clean your toilet.

1. Put both lid's of the toilet up and add 1/8 cup of pet shampoo to the water in the bowl.

2. Pick up the cat and soothe him while you carry him towards the bathroom.

3. In one smooth movement, put the cat in the toilet and close both lids. You may need to stand on the lid.

4. The cat will self agitate and make ample suds. Never mind the noises that come from the toilet, the cat is actually enjoying this.

5. Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a "power-wash" and rinse".

6. Have someone open the front door of your home. Be sure that there are no people between the bathroom and the front door.

7. Stand behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift both lids.

8. The cat will rocket out of the toilet, streak through the bathroom, and run outside where he will dry himself off.

9. Both the pan and the cat will be sparkling clean.


The Dog