31 January 2008

Trains and wi-fi and speed

National Express East Coast

Travelled today on the new National Express train service from Leeds to London - the train provider whose name is both iconic and ironic.

They have made a big thing of providing free wi-fi - well they have to offer some bribe to cover the manifest deficiencies in the rest of the service which today have included a quite appallingly dirty 1970s carriage, a "quiet carriage" with no signeage (and must be the nosiest such carriage ever), no seat reservations on the return trip which caused a stampede at Kings Cross, no catering etc, etc. Come back GNER all is forgiven?

It's a bit of mystery as to why identical tickets are £40 cheaper if you book them via Virgin booking service but that seems to be life and I couldn't actually get the National Express ticket service to work so it was all to the good.

However the wi-fi on the train is so slow that it took me back to pre-broadband days - (it can't at the moment keep up with me touch typing this post) which set me wondering whether I really appreciate the well-intentioned efforts of the "Slow movement" - what strikes a visitor to London is the frantic pace of life but do we really want everything to be slower?

22 December 2007

Jonah and the Whale

Jonah Fisher onboard the Esperanza

The suspension by the Japanese of the "scientific" hunting of the humped back whale is good news - the whole story is good news for the BBC reporter who is covering the story and rejoices in the wonderfully appropriate name of Jonah Fisher see here

20 November 2007

Stephen Fry

Absolutely no-one else could begin a post like this:

"How difficult, how exquisitely difficult it is to know where to begin . . ."

and not seem terribly pretentious, but then Stephen Fry can - (begin  a post like this rather than seem pretentious I mean)

and what a delight his new blog is - he is one of those people who you can "hear saying the words" as you read what he has written

Go read

20 October 2007

Blog reading trends

So Google has urged me to get on with "reading a book" - but Google reader also records what blogs I read and who is the most frequent blogger on my reading list choice.

I have never maintained a " blogs I read" category because they change so often that I cannot keep them up-to-date.

So here is brief insight into my favourite blogs of the last 30 days:

What is my highest percentage of blogs which I received and then read

Well as a good Anglican priest I was amused to see that I read:

92% of David Chillingworth's Thinking Aloud

he is closely followed by another episcopal uber-blogger

91% for Bishop Alan's blog

and their blogs give insights into the work of Anglican bishops and the faith that we share

but they are "out-read" by a cartoonist, a curate, and specialist music blog which says something about my Anglican perspectives

95% of The Ongoing adventures of ASBO Jesus

clever how cartoons say much more than words

97% of Nigel Wright

good to know what he is up to in his curacy

but top of the heap

100% is a subscription-only music site called Massive Music

My most frequent posters - (average posts per day over the last 30 days)

5.9 items goes to the prolific Mad priest

3.4 Harmony Central the excellent US music equipment site

2.3 Elizaphanian which is Sam Norton's fascinating mix of dog walking photos (see below) parish life and theology from good old Essex

So follow the links and perhaps discover some new blogging gems.


09 May 2007

Helvetica at 50

FontsIf you are into graphic design then the the Beeb's celebration of type-face Helvetica 50th birthday is worth a look.

The comments are even better.

As someone who wages a losing battle with the legion of (ex)primary school teachers who seem determined to spread Comic Sans everywhere then the following is a blinder:

Gareth, Beddoes, I use Comic Sans on my CV specifically to avoid working for people like you to whom presentation means more than content.
Ben, Phimai, Thailand

07 May 2007

Bishop's Blogs

BishopWith nearly 30 years to draw on former youth worker/officer colleagues turn up in various roles and guises.

David Chillingworth who was Church of Ireland Youth Officer when I began my youth work ministry is now Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and by far the best of the Anglican bishop bloggers with his wry commentary on life episcopal and personal and feline.

The mix of his Irish  background, with his Ulster ministry experience and Scottish Episcopal Church life add to the richness of the context.

One cannot help think that not only his nationality but his technological awareness offer some challenge to Church life as his post today illustrates:

One of the problems about using a PDA thingy is that it doesn’t tell you about important things like Bank Holidays - or Christmas and Easter for that matter.  So they jump out and surprise one.

Anyway, we’ve been celebrating with Charles Severs at All Saints, St Andrews, his 50 years as a Lay Reader.  That time has included a period as Port Chaplain for Mission to Seafarers and all sorts of other things - what Charles calls a ‘journey of grace’.   All Saints - with its rich tradition of worship - is a great place for a celebration.  But I something think that the boat girl has a rather better idea of what is happening than I do.  I take what is handed to me, do with it what I am told and hand it back with a good grace.  Last weekend, I succeeded in leaving behind in two different places mitre [1] and cope [1].  My score was better this weekend but I am still short of a cope.

Tomorrow morning it’s the red eye to Glasgow by 8 am for a Daily Service Broadcast on Radio 4 Long Wave - real echoes of the Home Service there.  Got to get my Number 2 accent into gear.

I identify with the diary bank holiday problem cos I use a computer generated diary for my Filofax - so I missed today as a Bank Holiday planning various things locally which fell apart as people realised their Bank Holiday commitments - but too late to plan any alternative personally.

08 March 2007

The Trinity - cats - and Holiday Inns

I am working up some ideas for a workshop on The Trinity - trying to make into something more than theological discourse (though that will be an important element with any clergy group)

I have quite a repertoire of images and ideas for our Trinitarian God who is ultimately indescribable and undefinable.

What has come to mind is that we tend to "anthropomorphize" the Trinity in the way that we might a beloved cat - we know that the object of our love is not human but we can only interpret their behaviour and characteristics in human terms

One idea floating but not yet defined (that came to me first in Holiday Inn at 2am so the first note is scribbled on a piece of Holiday inn express note paper) is the Trinity and our response as follows:

God the Father as BEING with our response being one of SENSE

God the Son as EXAMPLE with our response being KNOWLEDGE

God the Spirit as AGENT with our response being EXPERIENCE

Incidentally I find myself using Holiday Inn Express more and more - the introvert in me appreciates the anonymity and independence between commitment when travelling - and if you use their leisure prices they are now very reasonable for B+B.

02 February 2007

Church Times less we(e/a)k!

Issue IllustrationI've have not renewed my subscription to The Church Times having got increasingly frustrated with the impoverished editorial, and the appalling layout design which has often looked like they have handed it over to Year 6 in the local primary school for work experience. 

I spent the last few months of 2006 realising that it is hard to justify spending all that money (a much deserved discount for clergy might tempt me back) for good cartoons and perusing adverts for hard-to-fill livings around the country - unless the adverts were for evangelical parishes trying to ensure that they did not appoint anyone with conservative or covert "Anglican so-called Mainstream" tendencies!

But I have to admit that Friday without the Church Times is odd - perhaps I am suffering withdrawal symptoms.

The one solace is the excellence of The Tablet. It is delight to read with intelligent editorials and the layout is both intelligible and simply sophisticated - not least because they manage (unlike the CT) to get most things to fit on the page.

01 November 2006

Broadband dependence

At 4.15pm yesterday BT Broadband went off line across undisclosed swathes of the country and it remained so until gone midnight - the first extensive outage that the UK's premier broadband had experienced.

It co-incided with my one night in this week - set aside by muggins for writing and planning ahead. But it quickly became clear just how broadband dependent I have become
- I couldn't work on Thursdays memorial service the draft of which was on email - nor send my thoughts to James or indeed speak to him cos he only has a broadband linked phone with BT latest bit of wizardary which integrates his phone computer and mobile
- I couldn't plan or PCC or Arts council agendas
- I couldn't finish off editing materials for the parish magazine since they had been sent by email
- I couldn't assess two youth work reports  - again stuck on email
- I couldn't access blogs or other sources that I needed for things I am writing
- I couldn't check finances or UCAS offers or . . . . .

Which makes me think (and a little scared) - how broadband dependent have I become . . . .?

26 September 2006

Half week dilemnas

This week is another "half week" for a very good and proper reason. This is the week in the month when I take a weekend off (Thursday tea to Sunday 7am) which is vain attempt to recover sense and reality of leisure weekends - this being the thing which the family most miss since ordination. This weekend off is also our wedding anniversary so Anne and I are away for a break.

The issue is of course that despite support from others (so no preaching on Sunday etc) there still remains six days (and more) work to done, but only three and half days to do it in - plus there is the additional factor that cos people know that I cannot be contacted during the time we are away they email and ring now as if there were no tomorrow and despite the fact that most of things could be sorted Sunday, Monday next week. So the lead into the "weekend off" simply becomes more frantic than ever.

So full weeks are a good and desriable thing after all . . .

25 September 2006

Get ready for a new look Church Times?

Having ranted on about the poor layout and design of the Church Times I was delighted to see in the latest issue this advert:

Church Times/Production Assistant  

Required to assist in the production of our weekly newspaper in Islington. The successful candidate will need to be experienced in Quark, Photoshop, Word and Web working, and have a lively interest in graphic design. He/she would also need a good grasp of English. Salary negotiable.

Please apply with CV by 28 September to The Production Manager

I hope that there are successful in their appointment, and the rest of us can look forward to a more visually intelligible Church Times.

Actually I have also to express my thanks to the Church Times - I have been looking for a more accessible photo of Tom Wright ( one which unlike his own site does not show him like something of out of a Harry Potter cast) and eventually found one alongside Mike Starkeys review of TW's wonderful new book Simply Christian in the Church Times. See my BBA review here


18 July 2006

Almost holidays

Klibreck This is without doubt my least favourite time of the year - the last few days before the main holiday season - when there are too many things to get finished before going away - don't get me wrong I am really looking forward to (indeed perhaps even use the words "longing for") the holidays - but these final days are a slog - dealing with what actually needs dealing with, and deflecting what can reasonably be left until my return.
What makes it worse within the local Church is that our diverse ages and lifestyles mean that the holiday season stretches from now until late September . . . . don't you just love holidays.

18 June 2006

Fun or surreal anglicanism

Stumbled on this link today while looking for a link about The Trinity - what does it say about anglicanism that so much time and energy should go into the detail of being "Anglican" is it fun or surreal? see here!!

12 June 2006

Food and Frustration for Trinity Sunday

Yesterday was an important day -

Trinity Sunday is an important opportunity to remind Christians that The Trinity is not some obscure doctrine reserved for theological debate, but absoulutely core to our experience of God.It was also planned as a day for the PCC to share something of the plans for our building adapting it into a resource for a missional Church -

so I was annoyed, sad and frustrated (or at least I would have been if I hadn't been feeling so ill) to have missed it with a dire stomach reaction to something I had eaten.

Since the 1980s when a misdiagnosed burst appendicitus developed into perinnitus and a hugely damaged stomach wall I have had to live by a restricted diet, and have subsequently developed allergies to a number of foods - onion being the most difficult. Also experience has shown that a sudden burst of hot weather is a high risk time for upsets.

While food at home is a carefully monitored process of checking labels and ensuring a balance any sort of eating out or away from home is a bit of a lottery - but this time it was a thoughtful birthday present which was my downfall in the form of a small tin of mints - one of which I had be given by a friend some weeks ago and commented on how good they were.

Only now with hindsight and a missed Sunday did I check the small print on the mints which says that taken in excess they can cause a "laxative effect". Well in my case "excess" is three in 48 hours and the laxative effect is extreme!

I have blogged before about PC employees wishing to count my dietary requirements as a "disability" - and my reluctance to concede - but it does restrict what I can do - and every bit of food away from home is a risk - see Nigel Wright's post on similar matters.

So today I am taking it steady - and it is mercifully cooler here in the Pennines than the weekend - with thanks to all who stepped into the gap - especially as all our other licensed people were away for the weekend.

06 June 2006


Seems the date is spooking some - fear of numbers is called hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia - ( I think I have spelt it right!) one of the many life enhancing facts taught to me in my teens by a wonderful headteacher called Peter Gem at Oswestry School.

Today is also my (49th) birthday so I have planned no meetings and will spend the working part of the day on the more inspirational parts of my role such as writing until the family get home from work/school when a well practices ritual will follow:presents - birthday tea - and evening in.

It is interesting how even increasingly independent and cynical sprogs value such ritual and insist that today is the day to be birthday boy and dad rather than Vicar.

21 May 2006

Howies hype + t shirts

_howies Feeling slighty left out of the whole Howies  thing - can't really see the appeal - and remain baffled by people being willing to pay the prices they charge just for the brand, when fair-traded/organic things are available elsewhere for less. Is this an example of fair-trade being used as a marketing device?.

I can't help wonder whether there isn't more significance in mainstream brands stocking fair-traded goods. So Redoute have fairtraded T shirts on offer here at special price of £4 while Howies seem to charge about £20 - or £30 if it has Howies on the front and is 'organic' cotton ( a description which is being challenged at the moment by some fairtrade groups).

To finish on a more up-beat note - it is really good that faritrade is getting more stylish and does't immediately scream "hippy"

06 May 2006


We are pushing this idea in our local church and community - its great and really works - AND it is both amazing to me what people still want ( CRT monitors) and what they are prepared to give away ( perfectly kept 3 piece suites cos the leather ones being delivered)

See here to see if your area is covered.

04 April 2006

Art and Shoes

_shoes Having been to two public places in the last week or so where art installations featuring shoes were on display, I was amused to skim read a Guardian article today which suggests that young artists are becoming fixated by shoes - a trend that seems to inspiring/afflicting contemporary religious art as well see here among others that I have spotted in blogsphere in recent weeks.

22 March 2006

The Builders are in

Every five years Church of England vicarages are surveyed and a list of repairs and improvements are agreed between the Diocese and the Vicar. As a result we have the builders in at the moment completing the double glazing which was started in 2001.

Despite  very careful and considerate workmen it is amazing how disruptive the whole process is - but it will be great to get rid of the draughts and to have a door directly from our family room into the garden, with numerous other niggles and incoveniences ( including a new downstairs convenience)  being attended to over the next few months, under the supervision of the Diocesan surveyor.

If you hear clergy moaning about "tied" houses, you might just care to list this advantage in terms of ministry and family life - I could have spent hours arranging what is being done at the moment.

07 March 2006


_bored Alan Creech has a interesting post on I'm bored Daddy . While we have generally tried to ban "boredom" in our household I have been struck by how often boredom strikes at the same time that parents are frantically busy and least able to respond.

As parents I think from an early age we tried to insist that our kids created their own response to boredom - so they have gradually learnt to be less bored - or at least not to tell "unsympathetic" parents that they are!!

What I am learning with teenagers is that time spent individually with them is even more valued than in childhood - but with their busy diaries even harder to plan for.

Sometimes I wish I had the time to be bored!

21 February 2006

Dyslexic joins the spammers

I was diagnosed with mild dyslexia when I changed schools at sixth form level. It mainly affects the way I deal with numeric figures and particularly columns - so I don't have to bother too much about writing - and typing and word-processing has been a God-send to me.

But I remain a little over-sensitive when people correct what I write in public documents and cringe when the pre-dyslexic aware generation say crass things like " why don't you read it through" or as happened people at a parish level clearly seek to exploit the odd error to undermine the content.

_captcha Now Blogger software has introduced something which has got me really stumped - namely the requirement that you enter a sloping set of letters into a box in order to authenticate that you are human rather than a "spammer". The caption on the left was beyond me - so I had to scrap the comment and join the defeated spammers! I think it is the repetition of p and the sloping letters but I am not sure how to get around it.

21 December 2005

All Saints Battersea

I don't often comment on ecclesiastical politics ( generally it bores me silly), but Ruth Gledhill's write up of the situation at All Saints hilghlights some of really daft decisions which result from Diocesan and deanery "reviews" ( if ever a word has been abused by the Church it must be this) of Christian ministry in community then this is it.

This church has had a longstanding ministry (I speak from personal experience of this Church during the early 1980s) - it is the kind of ministry which is threatened by an unhealthy combination of managerialism and intolerant evangelical ascendency which is being exercised by powerful patrons such as the CPAS which can only lead to a kind of McDonaldlisation of the Church of England. Go read here

30 November 2005

Design Restlessness

Got fed up with green/orange etc and could not resist the simplicity of black and white hence the change - but will it last?

28 November 2005

George Best?

I have to confess that George Best was not really part of my childhood/adolescence apart from other kids pretending to him as they waited to be tackled.

However his death seems to have two particular modern metaphors built into it.

1. There is a sad irony that he should have died on the day when it became possible for pubs, off-licences and supermarkets to sell alcohol 24 hours a day

2. It was macabre how the papers on the morning before his death at mid-day wrote as if he had already died simply on the word of a doctor that he was in "his last hours".

When I was training as a priest I was picked up by an experience geriatric nurse on a hospital ward for talking about "last hours" - you should only ever use that expression in retrospect she told me.

She in her many years of experience had seen to many people "come back from the dead". Yet it seems that news editors need to get in with the story even at the cost of the dignity of the dying.

May God bless all those gifted with extra-ordinary talents - and all those burdened with alcoholism.

13 November 2005

Cringe Quote

While getting lunch today I was listening to the R4 quiz "Quote Unquote" which is is based on being able to identify the author of famous quotes.

The cringe came with this quote "and a good time was had by all" which was attributed via Maggie Smith to the "last line of parish articles on church social events".

Perhaps it is the particular kind of clerical cynicism which strikes on Sundays but I could not help wonder whether the phrase really summarises an attempt to say something worthwhile about an event which probably had no intrinsic merit but which people feel they ought to enjoy and value!

Continue reading "Cringe Quote" »

31 October 2005

Emergent No

Just love this blog here which attempts to analyse everything emergent. Actually sometimes its so good at parodying American evangelical narrowmindedness and ignorance that you could almost believe its a spoof

Does anyone know its true origins - is it real or is it a spoof?

16 October 2005

Morris Traveller resurrection

TravellersAs a step towards full recovery from a shattered ankle and broken leg it occurred to me that I should check that all was well with Anne's Morris traveller which has sat unused in the garage since mid July - ye of little faith - turn the key-  quick splurge and it fires up first time and is running like a dream.

A drive around the village and several Pennine 1 in 5s confirms all is well. Fascinating the response that Vicars driving Morris Travellers get from the older generation - several impromptu waves from people I don'tknow. Anne has had her car since 1984, and actually doesn't drive anything else!

Dave Banbury who works for CPAS is just one of many clergy who has re-built his - see photo.

11 October 2005

What is chapter for?

The Church of England has this strange structure called "A clergy chapter" which is a gathering of the clergy in a local area called the Deanery. Clergy chapters work (and Deaneries) because no-one really knows what they are for or what they are supposed to do.

However over the past few years the hierachy have tried to give some purpose to chapters - jargon words like "support", and even worse in a Diocese (regional area) like Bradford where people don't take decisions at a Diocesan level but have devolved all the triky decisions to the Deanery without ever thinking about how this totally unsuitable arena was ever going to make the decisions.

So today we had a wonderfully positive Chapter meeting where collegues simply said enough is enough - its our chapter and we prefer it if no-one knows what it about so it can meet our needs.

In a wonderful moment no-one stepped forward to fill the vacant Chapter Clerks ( person who does all the minutes and all the donkey work between meetings) and despite heavy leanings and hearnest exhorations that someone "had to have minutes"  we had a whole meeting without minutes being taken. Far worse it emerged that cos we didn't have a Chapter clerk no-one was available to handle the Chapter budget ( all £33.42 of it!). Two "important Diocesan bodies and one Deanery committee have no clergy representatives on them.

Guess what happened? - cos there was no minutes recording what people said or decisions made - people were open honest and no decision were made - and decisions made by the Bishop and Diocesan committees were openly challenged.

At last the Deanery might get the message that the Church is supposed to be about mission rather than meetings!

16 September 2005

BT tip

On Monday this week I lost Broadband and had problems with the associated phone line - contacted BT Broadband the suppliers and five people and two hours later they had satisfied themselves that the fault was on their side of the divide with the line to the house - and then guaranteed to have it fixed within 5 days and the superviser was not to impressed with failure to be impressed with this standard of service - especially as we were dealing with a remote location!!

By chance a parishioner who worked for BT tipped me off that if you report a faulty phone line they fix it within 12 hours - and the chances are the Broadband will be sorted as well.

Reported the phone fault (5 minute job) and two hours later the man was at the box at the end of the road - he later called to say that all was well with my phone now - "oh and by the way I fixed your Broadband while I was there - did you know you had a problem with that?

Oh the wonders of complex organisations!!

12 April 2005

The Real Lucy

I wonder whether you share my preconceptions about certain names - in the sense that the way that people live their names creates connotations (good and bad) around them. So for example a particularly nasty lad at my primary school called Russell coloured my perception of that name for years to come - well into my 20s when a particularly gifted and generous band members of the same name redefined it.

Today I had the reverse experience. Lucy has always been a good and happy name to me - I think it started in my childhood with a delightful friend of my family and stretches through my teens when I knew two great Lucy's, and on into a brilliant youth work team member in my late 20s.

However today I attended a meeting with a particularly unpleasent domineering Lucy and it was quite a shock! She was not at all what I expected of a Lucy and I could not help wondering what in her life had caused her to loose the sense of fun and inherent charm that all Lucy's should have?