Tuesday, 31 May 2005

How are we doing?

A very good question, and one I was asked this morning (sorry not to answer very well, Emma).

It's difficult to answer adequately.

Some of the time things feel great - we have talked about how it doesn't feel right - like we should be mourning and grieving still, but are almost normal. Yet sometimes sadness settles like a mist falling: lightly enough that you don't notice it coming, but it's hard to see once it arrives.

Yesterday we spent the time with my mother, brother and his Family. They have been incredibly kind and driven hundreds of miles for us, yet the sadness seemed to be there waiting for me, and lightened after we'd left. Actually that wasn't their fault. Before I went to breakfast yesterday I'd spent 20 mins in Sarah's room, remembering stuff. The Sarah-shaped hole in our lives is still there, as it should be. Guess it's re-assuring that we're sensitive and still able to weep a little, rather than calloused and 'business as usual'.

I'm going to get the 'order of service' printed in Bicester shortly, then back to work. Hope I can concentrate a bit. I've had one work conversation this morning, and I *seemed* to know what I was talking about, so there's hope.

This evening I've got Anna (from our church) and Joe (one of Sarah's school friends) coming over. They're going to help with the music for the celebration, and we're going to run through the songs. I apologise to our neighbours in advance for the racket. Well, shouldn't be too bad really - Joe normally plays through a Marshall stack, but he's been talked down to something a little quieter for this ;-)

Sunday, 29 May 2005

Just to let everyone know

In case you haven't heard some other way...

We are having a service of celebration and thanksgiving for Sarah in the church of St James here in Somerton on Thursday 2nd June at 3.00pm. This is open to anyone to come. Because the village is small, it would be great if people can car-share. There will be overflow parking in some fields at the bottom of the village. After the service there will be refreshments at the old school house. Instead of flowers, we would ask people to donate to 'World Vision' (see below).

Tonight we went through the elements of the service. I think it will be a good time of remembering her, and of saying 'goodbye'. There will be a mixture of old and new songs, shared memories of Sarah's life and a small reflective piece I've written.

It would be lovely to see as many of you there as can make it.

World Vision is a Christian charity currently helping people in nearly 100 countries in their struggle against poverty, hunger and injustice, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

Saturday, 28 May 2005

Time Chris posted

From Sarah's Mum.

For once it's quiet, everyone is out, & I have spent the morning re-reading everyone's comments.

You know, I have always found the idea of a blog somewhat strange, why would anyone want to keep an on-line dairy? And why would anyone else want to read it? But it has proved to be yet another of God's provisions for us as it has brought us & others so much comfort.

Thankyou everyone for your comments, I have found them a source of much comfort. So many of you from such different sources, whether friends of Sarah & Ben from senior or primary school, our church - present & past, our village & Toni's internet contacts (even across the world!). I wish I could reply to each of you individually, but there are just too many of you! (we have had over 100 cards too.)

Thanks too for the practical help we have received - such a blessing.

A special message to Sarah's friends at Marlbro'. Thanks you so much for the love & support you've given Ben & Dan. You're a great bunch & you are of course welcome at the Thanksgiving service we are having for Sarah's life, just be prepared to squeeze in (& please car share if you can.)

And Dan, I had thought that one day our family's might be joined, but not in grief. Hang in there, we love you, we've all got a lot to work through, but we will get there, God is there for us all.

Finally, my heartfelt sympathy to Gemma's family. I only hope they receive the same level of love & support as we have.


Friday, 27 May 2005

We heard the news today, oh boy.

The line from the Beatles song seems a fitting start.

We understand that Gemma died last night. In many ways it will be harder for her parents because they have had days of hope and anguish before losing her. Our thoughts are very much with them, and we would ask you to pray for them, just as you've all been praying for us. I am sure Dan will be very sad to learn of this too.

This morning we saw some of the papers for the first time, brought to us by Richard, our family liason officer. Ruth, the reporter from the Oxford Mail (among other papers) has been very sensitive in her presentation of the articles, and we're grateful to her for that.

Outside it's a truly beautiful day, and we are happy to be out enjoying it as another part of God's grace to us.

Thursday, 26 May 2005

And so to the next stage.

It feels to me like we have transitioned from one stage to the next in our process.

Yesterday we gave press and TV interviews. 5 mins of fame going cheap - any takers?

Today we're feeling things more deeply. Driving with Ben to school this morning I was looking at the hedgerows on the B4260 and wishing I could just disappear to France with Chris on that bike for a week. It wouldn't really fix things: the feelings would come with us, and what I was after was a return to those times when we were a complete family still, able to be happy just enjoying our surroundings.

Chris has just gone upstairs to start sorting clothes for Sarah's body and to clear the room a bit. Our daughter was lovely, but took my preference for distributed filing and storage to the next level (floor of her room seems to be about 6" deep in stuff). At least it'll be easy to sort out the clothes she never wore to get rid of - they're all in wardrobes still. Where's the emoticon for sad smile?

I need to go and help now.

Wednesday, 25 May 2005

More thoughts from Tuesday and this morning

Yesterday afternoon we went to the coroner's office to see the body. Dan and Ben had both wanted to see it one more time, and as we were not averse to the idea, took them, along with Sue (Dan's mum).

I was always aware that character played a significant role in how we look, but even I was surprised at the stranger we saw there. We all agreed after that if we'd been presented with a body and asked to identify it, we would have really struggled. I won't describe what it was like, but although we could recognise she'd once used that body, it seemed that the longer she was away from it, the less like her it had become.

Now as it happened, the other girl who had been in the car was in the ITU of the hospital, not far away. We were asked if we'd like to meet Gemma's parents, and were happy to do so.

They were just lovely people, obviously in tremendous pain, and yet still able to reach out in love. When Gemma's mum learned who Dan was, she hugged him and forgave him. I think we were all in tears somewhat then. There were no signs yesterday whether Gemma will pull through or not, but we pray that she will live to make a complete recovery.

This morning Chris and I were talking about how we were coping. As we've said so many times, the grace of God has been there for us in an amazing way. People have arrived expecting us to be devastated, and sometimes we've even comforted them. Mornings are usually worst, but it feels like we have moved from grief to a softer sadness and sorrow. We have been spared the intense anger that often accompanies this kind of thing, and even the 'if onlys' quickly passed. For now we are still quite tender, but are moving forward as a family, talking about how we need to include each other and discussing future plans.

Time is currently running in slow motion. Chris is fairly convinced she doesn't want to return to the old ways of being hectic. I'm sort of looking forward to the return of brisk, ordered chaos. We will just have to wait and see what shapes life assumes after the funeral and celebration. I hope this has changed me as a person. I want to be different, with rearranged priorities. For now, I'll wait and see.

Tuesday, 24 May 2005

Yet more blessing, and some insight.

Yet another day has gone by, and we've just been amazed yet again at people's love. The last 3 days have been really busy with so many visitors, yet everyone that's come has brought fresh love and strength. People have been so kind providing food too, and for that we are really thankful.

Last (Monday) evening we talked with Richard Medway, the police officer assigned to us through this time and the man responsible for actually getting us permission to see Sarah's body in the car. We were able to ask some fairly sharp questions about why things had been handled like they were (and my recollection in the post below isn't completely accurate, now I've thought through a little more).

Essentially because of the nature of this kind of accident, the entire area around the car and the road leading to the site was considered a potential crime scene, and had to be treated that way as far as possible. In addition there were concerns about how we might react to Daniel, knowing he was the driver, and finally the people there couldn't know how we'd cope seeing our daughter dead in the back of the car. It was highly unfortunate that the reasons for keeping us away were not made plain, since I think we could have accepted them, however it's very easy to say that sat in front of a computer, and a little different if you're at the sharp end of things.

And the reason we were fobbed off - it's highly unusual for parents to arrive at a crash scene, and most of the guys there had never experienced having to deal with that kind of thing. They didn't know how we'd react, and dealt with it in the most convenient and (they probably hoped) painless way they knew.

We all live and learn. At least they were gentle in the way they handled it, and we're grateful for that.

But for now, bed time. Sleep well everyone - I hope we do.

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Monday, 23 May 2005

One day at a time......

is how we're living.

This morning that deep sense of loss that everyone talks about finally arrived on my doorstep. We took Ben to the school first thing and then spent time with the head mistress. An area has been set up around the library for people to write messages either to Sarah, or expressing their feelings. This evening when we returned it was absolutely covered in cards and messages of love, each expressed in the character of the poster.

We have really been overwhelmed with the amazing love people have shown us. Not just people from our church, who we knew would support us, but people from our village, some we barely know, or might have even not got on so well with in the past. It has truly been incredible, and I know we are both so grateful for the response that has been made. Thank you.

It has also been amazing how we've been bourne up on all the prayer that's been given. At times we've felt almost fraudulent, in the way that we have been able to smile and even laugh with each other. God has been so incredibly good to us, being there with us, lifting our spirits and smoothing the path for us. Whether it's been making funeral arrangements or receiving visitors, we've known that he's gone before us, and things that could have been so difficult and painful to organise have just fallen into place.

Today was actually much harder for us in many way than yesterday. Both of us woke with a deep sense of loss, and experienced mood swings and many tears during the morning. Feeling a little better, I went to work, only to end up virtually crying down a microscope. My hands were shaking to the point that I felt more likely to do harm than good. Yet later today I was able to hug and encourage others.

Quite amazing.

If you would like to pray, don't just pray for us. Please pray for Dan and his family, that they will know healing and release from guilt. Please also pray for the parents of the other girl that was in the car at the same time as Sarah. I understand she is very badly injured, likely to have major brain damage and on life support. While miracles do happen, and I'd LOVE her to be fully restored, the outlook is very bleak. Her parents will have some very hard decisions to make, and will be suffering terribly right now.

Once again, thankyou everyone for the part you've played in upholding us at this time.

With love

Toni and Chris

Sunday, 22 May 2005

It's amazing

....how all the prayer is holding us up.

Chris wanted me to post about how, when it came to testing our faith, it was real and God was there for us. The rubber has hit the road, it wasn't just words and wishes. Although we have a very long way to go, I know the healing process has started.

Dan's family came over just now. They are lovely people, and they're hurting so badly. We were able to hug them and love them, to pray with them for healing and release.

Thank you, everyone, for your prayers and wishes.

Saturday, 21 May 2005

Au revoir but not goodbye

Tonight Chris, Ben and I said goodbye to someone we loved.

Not forever, but for a long time - the rest of our lives.

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Clever words don't work.

Poetry is pretentious on my lips.

Sarah, we'll come to you but you will never come to us again.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.


It's 1.30 am here. Neither Chris nor I can sleep. Tomorrow we've got to visit Chris's parents to tell them - it's unlikely they can cope with just a phone call.

I'm going to describe what happened. If you're sensitive, don't read on.

We spent the afternoon with Pete (my brother) and Alison (his wife). Ben had come home early because the baby sitting he was doing had been cancelled, and we were having dinner. Around 7.30pm we got a call from Sarah's boyfriend's mother telling us Sarah had been in a car accident and was hurt, could we come immediately.

The road was closed to the site of the crash, and we were delayed initially by a policeman who promised to be back "in 2 minutes" but never returned. He requested that we parked in the nearby petrol station and waited. After about 5 mins we could bear it no more, and walked down the road. As we got closer the seriousness of things became apparent, with 3 fire tenders, half a dozen police cars and an ambulance all in the road. I think we knew even at this point - Chris could certainly feel the wrongness of it all. We were met by more police, and when we identified ourselves they did everything they could to keep us away from the crash site. That they were gtalking BS was completely apparent, and their attempts to calm us by hiding the truth just made things worse, although we were still suspecting major injury at this stage.

The car was visible in the woods off the edge of the road. It had gone down a bank across a stream, and was facing the opposite direction from which it had travelled. The driver's door had been cut off, and the front seats had their backs removed. Around 20 to 30 personnel were working on it at this stage.

We were told that the girls that had been in the back of the car were still in there, and that one was badly injured. We described Sarah to the police and asked for details, but they became very vague, again trying to get us out of sight of the crash. Eventaully we managed to get a minute free of them and walked behind a fire tender on the raised grassy bank so that we could look between the fire engines directly at the car around 90 feet away.

As we were watching, a stretcher was carried away from the car to an ambulance. Again we tried to find out who was on the stretcher, but were prevented and given vague answers. All the time this had been going on I'd been able to pray, and was aware of God's grace there for us and at the same time reasonably certain Sarah was dead. Once the stretcher had gone all the crash team lost interest in the car, began breaking down the cutting gear and left the site. At that point I could see what appeared to be a blanket wrapping something person sized, and although I was trying to reassure Chris to wait and see, since we couldn't be certain, I was pretty sure she was in that blanket.

We requested more information again, and were again held off with nothingness. Further officers appeared and suggested that the site wasn't safe and that we couldn't go down in case we disturbed anything that might indicate why the car had crashed. At this point we became somewhat sharp, since there had been 30 firemen in wellis crawling over the entire site, and the 2 of us could not make the least difference. At this the officer in question went to seek permission from his sergeant, and after more BS, we were told that there was a girl in there who had failed to respond to all resuscitation attempts, and yes, she had shortish blond hair, and if we would wait another "2 minutes" (we had lots of "2 minutes" - enough for nearly 2 hours) then they could finish the investigation there and we could see the body. Although there was quite a bit of blood, we were told it wasn't really horrible like some accidents.

All the 2 minutes were done with best intentions, and without wishing to hurt us, but really didn't help.

Eventually we stumbled down the bank to the car. I was shaking a little, but still able to pray into the situation, again aware of God being there. I climbed into the car and pulled the blanket from Sarah's face. She had blood drying onto her forehead and neck where it had run from her ear. It was still dripping from her nose, and had soaked the clothes she was wearing. The back seat was also soaked in blood, so that touching it put a coating on our hands. Her face was quite un-damaged, and she almost appeared asleep although her right eye was slightly puffy and was going blue where blood had seeped below the skin. The rear passenger side of the car had been stoved in, and it's likely that she started on that side. The impact almost cetainly fractured her skull and mangled her brain, although mercifully that wasn't visible outside.

She was still warm, and her hair soft and silky. We both kissed and hugged her and said goodbye as her body lay there, beautiful in death as in life. I said she lay there - that wasn't true. We knew Sarah had left, and it was just a body remaining. We both felt a certainty that she was with Jesus now.

Then there was more shuffling around, people talking because they needed something to do and it was their job to do it. Dan, who had been driving, was still there. He was desperately upset, and we hugged both him and his mum, reassuring them that we didn't hold him responsible. It was at this point my first tears came. Then we walked back up the road to our car with another policeman who was assigned to us to help deal with things.

I returned later with Ben. He wanted to say goodbye too, and we had been assured the body wouldn't be moved for a couple of hours, and he was able to express himself.

What now? There's no sleep in either of us. We lay there but it just didn't work. Every time I shut my eyes I can see her face and the blood dripping from her nose. In Hollywood style my brain does the "turn the clock back" thing, but that isn't real, and pain and sorrow are. We all 3 know that everyone has a time to die, and this time was Sarah's.

Why Now?


We are thankful for the life and love we've had with her, the friendship and excitement. We've both had a relationship with her that most parents can only envy with their teenage daughters, and we're truly grateful. There is an enormous gap, and that will never completely disappear. But time and God's love WILL heal us, and we will go on again.

If you want to pray, pray for us to cope with everything that's going to be thrown at us in the next few weeks and that we will not become solitary in our grief.

Thanks for reading this far.

Toni Ertl

Friday, 20 May 2005

I might get in trouble for this.

Or it might be the grace of God to me?

What I'd wanted: something neither too big or too small, comfy for long journeys but with enough enthusiasm to be fun. A fairing was essential, the ability to fit panniers highly desireable and it mustn't be too expensive. A Triumph or a BMW appealed, but they were all a little over what I was willing to pay.

I looked at that duke last weekend, but even if it had been OK, hand on heart it belonged on a race track, rather than work carpark. I'd also seen a Suzuki VX800 - another V twin - that quite appealed, although it lacked excitment and didn't have a fairing. Plus it was dead cheap.

Called about it today - sold yesterday. :-(

The other bike they'd had that was a possibility also went this morning.

Just as I was about to ring off, the guy at the other end mentioned "oh, we've got a Triumph in your price range". He described it, and I knew immediately the machine: it had been just a bit too much but was exactly right. Off he went to talk with the owner - came back with a price that was good.

I've put a holding deposit on it

Now, how to tell Chris?

I feel a little like this

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

More thoughts

Quite a long time ago I read 'Stranger in a strange land' by Robert Heinlein.

The story centres around someone brought up from infancy by martians, then discovered by a later expedition and returned to earth. It's trying to present a messianic message, and is all wrapped up in RH's sexual fantasies. However a nugget that has stayed with me is a quick cameo of the martian's attitude. They plan to destroy the earth in the name of art and then spend the next several millenia creating poetry to mourn for it's loss.

There are times I feel distinctly like that. I can look at something, feel the tearing need, watch while it isn't met and see the situation fall apart. Afterward I can wring my mental hands in regret that nothing was done and rationalise why it wouldn't have worked anyway.

I like my comfy home, having time to surf, build guitar amps, be lazy. I have become thing thing I fought not to be in my 20s, to at least a limited degree. There is an expectation of what I might do in the distant future, but not here, not now. It's like I'm treading water while the family grows, but the current is also rising, and staying still is becoming harder. Should I keep swimming or do I need to learn to walk on the wet stuff?

Monday, 16 May 2005

Pentecost in the park

The churches of Bicester got together yesterday in Garth Park.

Last year we hand wind and rain, and so retired to the Meths (Methodist church). I was part of the band made up from (mostly) one of the 2 anglican churches. This year I was playing again, but it seemed to be a 'last minute arrangement' with just the 2 of us from BCC. The songs were all a bit stately, as the people from the 'other' anglican church had complained about last year's music being a bit too lively.

When we got there, some of the local kids had set up a ghetto blaster using the power supply in the bandstand. They were turfed off quite firmly by the park keeper, but hung around, and when he'd gone, tried to get permission from us to plug back in. They accepted refusal for a little while, then took things into their own hands and attempted reconnection. Life got a little interesting.

What's the point of this post?

The kids were what my children would call 'townies' also known as chavs. These are the disadvantaged disciples of the Beckhams, all white tracksuits and bling, although I don't think these kids had the money for much bling. They were also quite seriously drunk and Ben thought they'd been having a quick spliff or 2 as well.

One of the lads climbed back on the stage, and I ended up having a 'conversation' with him. Actually calling it a conversation is an exaggeration. He was barely intelligible, speaking a curious patois - almost jive talk - made up of words from rap records strung together with the odd bit of 'english', all repeated quickly and drunkenly, punctuated with demands to let him speak. Through the drunkeness I could feel there were spiritual overtones coming through. Eventually some of the other guys came to my aid and gently talked him off the stage. Later he told them about how he was treated at home (NOT well) and they prayed for him - he broke down in tears, then laid down and appeared to 'go to sleep'. A girl that had also been rather abusive came back and apologised.

Yesterday something in me was touched. I felt a real desire to get involved with them and do something. I felt like I could actually make a contribution.

Today I've got memories instead of conviction.

We (the church) ran a major youth work in Bicester around one of the poorer estates. The guy that ran that eventually moved on, and there was no-one else in the church to run it. I don't really have the gifting for that kind of thing, and I don't have the time ad I don't like chavs. But yesterday on the way home that didn't seem to matter.

Today is different, and I'm back to normal. I don't want to run a youth work. I don't want to initiate outreach (another area I feel poked on). These aren't my gifting. I'm not sure I have faith for a new gifting. I'm no hero, just a lazy guy that likes his guitars and dreams.

Sunday, 15 May 2005

The blogroll has been growing

So I've culled the blogs that I don't visit anymore. I realised they seemed to have stopped having anything to say, and there was no bond of love between myself and the bloggers that made me want to know about them.

If I really want to know what's happening with Jordon, Leighton or Dan and Phil then I can find them easy enough.

Look before you leap

Yesterday I went to look at this:

Scruffy but nice in a well used and comfy sort of way. It also had a big crack in the swing arm (the bit holding the back wheel to the frame, for non-bikers) which the seller (genuinely, I think) hadn't spotted. Wups. That's a pulled auction then.

There's something about Ducatis that slightly scares me. They're all nuts and bolts and solid engineering, rather than plastic and electronics and clever manufacturing like japanese bikes. But they're also rare and clever and EXPENSIVE to fix. I have a few doubts about longevity in a climate that seems to include a lot of damp.

I've had a lot of bikes in the past, to the point where I've stopped counting. But this one felt different from anything: long and low, with heels just under your bum. Weight wasn't bad - probably less than the last 500 I owned, but with about double the power :-) It also had a set of open race cans on (sounded completely glorious) and the mechanicals were all quiet. We'll see. If I'm still looking when he replaces the swing arm then I might be interested after all. However I suspect I'll be looking at a Triumph sports-tourer instead.

Saturday, 14 May 2005

Sunshine after the rain.

I've been fighting this week. Among the many things is setting up a wireless home network so the kids can access the net in their rooms (I've explained about history files, although not how to erase them LOL) and it also means that if I bring my laptop home I can do stuff when someone 'needs' this PC. Oh yes, and network the printer.

But the router decided last Sunday (2 days in) to block access to Hotmail and ebay accounts.

It's taken 5 days to work out what the problem was and get it fixed.

Then last night I decided to set up my email accounts (I'd not used my old accounts for the last 2 weeks, since the rebuild). Yet more hassle, trying to get all the info in there and make Thunderbird recognise spam from non-spam.

This morning - success!. Entered the last account's details (this one was tricky to log into with OE) and I find it's been spam free. That was the 2nd best thing that's happened to me this morning, and it isn't even 9.00am yet!

Thursday, 12 May 2005

Attacked by GAS

Although there is a little point to it this time.

We'll soon need additional transport (with Ben learning to drive) and I'd like another motorcycle. I had bikes up until '92 or '93 (can't remember which now) and I've still got my old leather. Maybe I'd ride a little slower now, although frankly, it's unlikely.

Probably won't happen (if I've got any sense). We'll see.

Which reminds me of the advert an ex-colleague of mine, also a biker, put in a singles column when he was lonely: "motorcyle-riding graduate scientist seeks pre-Raphaelite goddess for wheelies". Unfortunately the wit seemed to be lost on most of the readership, and he was contacted by lots of multiple divorcees with children looking for a quickie. Incredible as it may seem, this wasn't actually what he wanted.

William - if you're reading this, hope everything is going well still.

Anyway, it transpires that I can insure a 1200cc 170mph missile for significantly less than it costs for my boring family estate car. Food for thought.

*edit* Have you any conception of what 170mph on a motorcycle must feel like? One of my bikes wasn't bad, and I remember nudging it up to 105mph on some of the narrow roads on the Isle of Wight a couple of times. The wind pressure makes you struggle to hold your head up, and detail in the verge blurs as it whips past, 10 feet away. Everything gets rather light and twitchy too, with the steering responding fast to the least input. Being 2 up at the time, with a longer stopping distance I was keeping a sharp eye out for ANYTHING that might require evasion. But then speed wasn't my thing - I was always much more of a scratcher.

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Says it all.


Sorry not to be around much

Life is busy, and I'm especially trying to spend less time on the net from work.

Apart from having too much work to do, I've found an ever-increasing desire to surf. It got to the point that it was impinging on my work to a way unacceptable degree. I'm going to try to avoid the net from work most of the time, especially first thing in the morning (when I did most of my blogging). I found that coming in early and then blogging for 30 mins left me thinking about blog things, rather than work things. I'd then try to concentrate on work, only to be continually drawn back, wanting to comment of just plain surf.

Very very not-good. The words "net addiction" have been hovering in my brain.

So if things are spartan here, that's the way it's got to be. Better to realise now, than to be told "you're spending too much time on the net".

Saturday, 7 May 2005

If you wonder what I've been doing?

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I needed a new PSU - the fan in the old one was literally shaking the computer coz of a failed bearing. This case inc PSU was just a couple of £ more than a PSU only. The lights were a minor indulgence, but at £1.99 (and £0.69 for the fan) I've slipped gracelessly into the wonderful world of modding. Maybe I should be worried that I'm displaying teenage geek behaviour?

Friday, 6 May 2005

Sarah asked a question

Over at two red boots about how and what people play musically. Rather than out up a huge comment on her blog I've posted it here.

Interesting how many serious recorder players there are on there - my brother was a great recorder fan, and had a collection of all sizes.

I learnt recorder at school and at home, but it never 'took' for me. Had about 4 piano lessons aged around 8, but again, it never took and the teacher was un-inspirational (could be a key there).

When starting at secondary school aged 11 we were all offered the chance to play brass in the school orchestra. I had a rellie that played french horn professionally, and so wanted to play that. By a quirk of mis-understanding I got the Tuba instead. D'oh. Initially had lessons for 3 years while at school, but after the first couple of exams lost interest in scales, prefering to play music. Played through with the school orchestra until 14, when I changed schools. I also played for the boys brigade in a military band until I was 19.

At 16 I became a Christian, and was heavily influenced by one of the youth leaders who also played guitar. After 9 months struggling with an apalling acoustic I assembled my first solid from bits and progressed quite rapidly. Played lead guitar for the youth group band, doing evangie and worship stuff. Got involved with a band in Croydon and even played at Greenbelt in '81.

Married in Oct '81 and giving up the band was quite painless. We moved churches too, and I plunged straight into the worship team, which is where I am to this day, albeit in a different church. What's really odd is that a few years ago I couldn't sing for toffee. Now I lead worship regularly, and can almost carry a tune sometimes.

As for favourite pieces, there are quite a few. When I played brass, we had an arrangement of 'Ode to Joy' that I really enjoyed. In similar vein, I actually like to listen to Vivaldi's four seasons (to my kid's dismay). By contrast the pieces I've probably had most fun playing was 'Sunshine of your love' with obligatory 25 min guitar solo when I was 19, and more recently 'Alright now' at a wedding gig. Favourite tracks are hard to pin down, but would probably be Cream's 'Crossroads' and Santana's 'Samba Pa Ti'. There are a few worship songs that I really love to play along with too, but as is normal for me, I can't remember what they're called without a song list in front of me.

Music/guitars have been having a bit of a re-surgence for me recently, and I've been trying to learn new stuff and acquiring more guitars. Presently up to 7 (6 solids and an acoustic) with a used Gibson flying V waiting to be collected from the US. I've also begun recording, although not to any particular standard. Go have a listen at 'The Ryhme of the Ancient Mariner' (see links) for examples.

Sunday, 1 May 2005

Uploading the *Swedish images* now!

94 of 'em - 11 megs worth.

When I was a schoolboy Swedish images would have meant something quite different. No matter, while these won't be THAT exciting, hopefully they'll be of interest. Particularly as I know some of you have roots that go back there.

View them here.