Tuesday, January 30, 2007

deeper foundations

Moira and I actually made it to one of Foundation’s littleservices on Sunday evening. We were made very welcome (thank you!). We knew one or two people already, but I did find it rather strange to see people there who I already “knew” from their blogs!
Photo: apologies and thanks in advance to Steve (Tunnicliff), but I downloaded this image from the Flickr link on the foundation website – taken at foundation’s recent weekend at Lee Abbey – hope that’s ok?!

Sunday, January 28, 2007


At this time of year, I’m not around at home during the week to see daylight start to penetrate through the house, so I appreciate it all the more at the weekends. Yesterday morning was made even better because the sun actually did shine (albeit briefly)! Sunshine, music playing, the morning newspaper, the smell (and taste) of real coffee and no school to go to….
It felt good!
Photo: morning sunshine and coffee at home

PS: for some reason, someone decided to hack into our number40 website and it’s taken us a few weeks to get it back up and running again (more or less). So, apologies if you’ve been wondering why everything was so out of date - and, if you haven’t, why not?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

george going green(ish)?

In his State of the Union speech, Mr Bush seemed to be trying very hard to give the impression that he was a champion of green(ish) issues. Part of his speech focussed on energy policy – and, in particular, climate change and energy independence. Mark my words: any day now he’ll be using his father’s favourite “read my lips” line when he points out to the rest of us that America has been trying to warn the world about the implications of climate changes for simply ages!
Came across this at the weekend by the very amusing Armando Iannucci in the Observer, which seems apt in the circumstances (and is probably what Mr President really thinks):
“President George W Bush writes:
Scientists have moved the Armageddon clock a few minutes to five minutes to midnight. My fellow Americans, this should not cause us any worry. The clock is set at Greenwich Meantime, and we in America are at least five hours behind. So we’re fine.”
Unfortunately, it could be true….

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Despite the fact that I regard myself as a free-thinking liberal, there are those among us who have hinted that I might actually be just a grumpy old man (no way!)! Whatsmore, if you’re going to write about Channel 4’s ‘Big Brother’, the convention appears to require an opening statement along the lines of: “I don’t watch this programme, but…”. Well, I’m afraid this goes for me too!
Quite apart from the racist allegations levelled at Jade Goodie, I have been absolutely appalled (I heard an extract on the radio) by the outrageous bullying nature of the verbal exchanges. I work in a comprehensive school (with an excellent track record for good behaviour) and there are lots of pupils who will have been watching avidly over recent days and who would have seen absolutely nothing wrong in what was said (or how it was said). To them, they will see ‘Big Brother’ as justification for the awful way in which they address some of their own colleagues on occasions – I’ve witnessed this first hand, believe me!
I’m afraid I utterly loathe such programmes and am saddened by their popularity – but perhaps I AM just a grumpy old man?

Monday, January 22, 2007

3191: a year of mornings

Daughter Alice put us on to this blog and Moira+I have become firm converts. It’s an incredibly simple idea and yet quite inspirational in its way. Two friends live 3191 miles apart in America; they both like getting up early (like me!); they each post a photograph of their respective domestic lives on the blog most days, side by side. It’s really rather beautiful and seems to have attracted a mini worldwide following (so you probably know about it already!).
Photo: entrance hall at Old Schoolhouse, Drimnin, Scotland taken on holiday in the summer (I don’t normally take “domestic” photographs like this, but perhaps Stephanie and Mav will change my thinking!)

Friday, January 19, 2007

high winds and a friday bonus

Like many people, we experienced horrendously strong winds yesterday. At school, ridge tiles were blown some 80 metres over neighbouring buildings but, fortunately, no one was hurt. I watched one tiny Year 7 boy almost blown across the sports field – saved only by the weight of books in his school rucksack (he seems to insist on carrying all his books around with him all the time – cunning plan)!
However, the awful weather did mean some compensation for its hard-working staff – the school had to be closed today on a health+safety grounds.
So, it was very nice to take advantage of a Friday “bonus” and pop down to the Tobacco Factory for a glass of red at lunchtime with Moira, Ruth, Stu and Iris.
Photo: Stu+Iris fighting over a beer at the Tobacco Factory (apparently Iris is one of the regulars – she was there the previous day too).

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I liked Ellen Louden’s recent post on Foundation’s website (‘Rhythms of Life: a reading’) quoting from Iain McColl’s words about farmer and writer Wendell Berry’s work and, in particular, when he talked about “a rhythm of life which does not pillage the earth but which recognises that there are ‘no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places’”.
It reminded me of John Bell's words on the guardianship of creation in his book ‘Hard Words for Interesting Times’:
“It is the amount of energy I choose to use; it is the demand for unseasonal vegetables that I choose to make; it is the number of journeys by private transport that I believe is right; it is the mountain of waste I decide not to recycle; it is the investments in environmentally hostile firms I want to profit from. And for Christians, it is the distance I want to put between the will of God and my lifestyle…. All of this ultimately affects the state of the planet and the consciences of those with whom I engage”.
Photo: “Prayer Tree” at Greenbelt 2005 by Si Smith and friends.

Monday, January 15, 2007

terry's all gold?

Over the weekend, I think I heard something about John Terry (Chelsea’s captain if you don’t know these things) being offered a new contract by his employers for a reported £150,000 per week. Now I know I’ve made a conscious decision to work with young people in education rather than to pursue a career in football (my age and footballing ability might be small factors in this too perhaps), but I’ve just worked out that it would take me nearly nine years to earn what Terry will have earned by this time next week!
Has the world gone mad?
PS: of course, I've just remembered that this pales into insignificance compared to Becks. I would need to work for some 29 years to earn HIS weekly wage. I may need a small pay rise.

Friday, January 12, 2007


It took me back…. I was 21 and I was in love with Moira and with Joni Mitchell (Moira won and I bet Joni's still hurting!). I was working in Birmingham on my “year out” - after three years studying architecture in Oxford and with three years still to go after that before I finally qualified; I'd just bought my first Mini for £30....
Really enjoyed the Joni Mitchell concert on BBC4 last night, recorded in 1970 (despite the wonderful, dated studio setting!). Moira thought she looked old - although she was all of 27 at the time!
Time to listen to more Joni CDs on my way to work!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

“my first sock”

Recently received this image from daughter Alice (taken on her webcam!) under the subject heading “my first sock”. She took up knitting about a year ago and, I think, will almost certainly have become a knitting guru by the end of 2007!
It made me smile.

Friday, January 05, 2007


It’s pure coincidence that the subject of this quick note also happens to be the nickname of an Aussie cricketer (following this morning’s depressing news of yet another defeat for England and a 0-5 whitewash). I’m not bitter….
Good friend Andy at school put me on to a story in a Surrey local newspaper. The article explained that the Council had decided to undertake a pigeon cull involving a marksman shooting the birds in the middle of the night. This attracted a variety of contributions on the newspaper’s blog…. it seems that Monty Python is alive and well (and living in Surrey).
If you have the January blues, this might be worth checking out!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

spiritual journey

One of the things we miss about moving from Oxfordshire is the wonderful mayBe community of friends. Not only did it provide a weekly get-together around a midweek meal (and wine!), but it also provided us with a particular kind of food for our spiritual lives. Our local church community in Bristol (at St Aldhelm’s) is wonderfully welcoming and we certainly feel we belong there; we’ve also been very fortunate to have the weekly house group, but we’ve become increasingly aware of how much we miss what mayBe had to offer. We spoke to Ian about this when we were in Oxford just before Christmas and he asked us why we didn’t “make it happen” ourselves… we’re still pondering this!
For me, like many, the New Year has often been a time for reflection and I sense that 2007 will make for further interesting times as we continue on our spiritual journeys. Some things have already been added to the “will-do” list: a) booked a week at Old Walls, near Kingsbridge, Devon in February for part-retreat/part-holiday and b) booked a week with Iona Community on the island at the end of August.
It’ll be interesting looking back at the end of the year!
Photo: beach at Berrow (from our walk on New Year’s Day)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

fairytale of new york

Happy New Year! Advent and Christmas are over for another year – as are all the carol concerts, the Christmas Eve broadcast from King’s College, Cambridge and the like. It was a good to have time to reflect on the coming of Christ (I thoroughly recommend “Advent Readings from Iona” by the Iona Community). I seemed to manage to avoid most of the commercial songs associated with Christmas (eg. Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” and Crosby’s “White Christmas”) – although I did find myself singing “…. chestnuts roasting by an open fire” etc in an effort to rock Iris to sleep sometime over the holiday period!
However, the one song I really did enjoy listening to (over and over) again was “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues+Kirsty MacColl – which was the subject of an excellent TV documentary on BBC3 over Christmas. The song has absolutely nothing to do with the virgin birth, shepherds or wise men – but does have an awful lot to do with alcohol! The only divine reference comes in the immortal lines: “Happy Christmas your arse/ I pray God it’s our last”! And yet, despite this, I strangely find the song both stirring and poignant. The blurb on the BBC website puts it this way: “We’ve all been there. You’re down the pub on Christmas Eve, cheesy Yuletide songs are being belted out non-stop and you want to kick the jukebox. And then you hear those magical opening lines:’It was Christmas Eve babe/ In the drunk tank…’. All your troubles melt away, and by the time the chorus has come around, the whole pub is singing along: ‘The boys of the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay/ And the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day’ “.
Photo: composer/singer Shane MacGowan (and mouth!)