Monday, December 31, 2007


Another memorable year with so much to be thankful for – the highlight being the birth of Alice+Dave’s Dan Amos in October. Ruth+Hannah+Alice (plus Stu+Fee+Dave!) still make us laugh and bring us much joy (as do Mikey+Iris+Dan!). Thankful for lots of very good friends. Lots of wonderful 50th birthday celebrations - thanks to Steve, Mags, Jez, Ken and Ian.
Photos (from left to right, top to bottom): Staffa; Dan; Iris; Mikey; Iona; New Year’s morning on Berrow beach; birthday celebrations in Oxford; Cortona from our bedroom window; eating with lovely friends in Tuscany; and, finally, our bathroom (completed at last!).

Sunday, December 30, 2007


It was just 35 years ago today that Moira+I got married!
It was very foggy, so many of the wedding photographs give the impression of a Hammer Horror movie. All very different to today’s wedding preparations it seems – I don’t think Moira had a Hen’s Party and my Stag Night comprised of a few drinks with one or two mates a couple of days before the wedding. Our honeymoon consisted of one night in Stratford-on-Avon and we returned to Moira’s home in Lichfield to join the family in their New Year celebrations!! Moira says she remembers feeling that her parents were “old” when they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and so is somewhat depressed at the prospect of getting there ourselves quite soon too! What tosh!
Photo: ….and, as you can see, we’ve hardly changed at all!

Friday, December 28, 2007

iona moments 4

The last of my Iona reflections.
Moments of connection:
Deciding to join lots of other people on a pilgrimage around the island in absolutely stunning weather. Having the time to talk at length with other people from our group and sensing that these were very special people. Meeting up with David and with Elly (who weren’t part of our group) and hearing their stories. Feeling connected. Experiencing St Columba’s Bay on an idyllic day and being captivated by the multitude of beautiful stones that formed the shore. Singing in St Oran’s Chapel as we pilgrims completed our tour of the island and feeling a sense of closeness and power.
Saying goodbye from the ferry as it left the island early on Saturday morning. Feeling very humbled by the large number of the Iona Community and volunteers who came to wave us off.
Sensing God and that what I had experienced during the course of the week would stay with me for the rest of my life.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

iona moments 3

More Iona reflections.
Moments over meals and in the pub:
Laying tables, serving food and eating with new friends and other volunteers from the Iona Community. Taking it in turns to eat with different people from Lambeth, Putney and beyond each mealtime: Steph, Jane, Garry, Poppy, Dick, Dientje, Mary, Duncan, Mandy, Robert, Jean, Angus, Jackie, Alice, Marjorie, Woomie, Gloria, Tetla, Enid, Ruth and Ian - who made mealtimes very special.
Walking in the dark after the nightly service in the Abbey down to the harbourside to the “plastic” pub and feeling slightly guilty about seeking out the only bar on the island! Having opportunities to hear more stories and to meet people both inside and outside our group. Laughing over beer and wine.
Retracing our way back to the Centre by torchlight.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

happy christmas!

Had the whole family with us yesterday, which made it a very special day (we realise that there won’t be many occasions this will happen over future years!). Mikey, Iris and Dan were all stars and had a lovely time – even though they seemed to find the packaging far more interesting than the presents!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

christmas carols

Missed the carol service at St Aldhelm’s due to the end of term drinks (priorities?!). So it was lovely to have some thirty carol singers singing outside our house yesterday on their tour of the parish….
Christmas IS coming; the waiting is nearly over.

Friday, December 21, 2007

iona moments 2

Moments of serenity:
Waking up very early and walking down to the east shore before sunrise. Experiencing the stillness of the morning, the peaceful monochrome of the small islands on the opposite side of the water and the gentle lapping of the waves.
Walking along the road beside St Oran’s Chapel completely alone in the early morning and suddenly being captivated by the sound of exquisite flute-playing through its ever-open doorway. Deciding not to seek out the player, but simply standing and listening in awe from the graveyard and simply knowing that this was an act of prayer for the flautist and for me.
photo: early morning, looking across to the mainland

Thursday, December 20, 2007

end of term

I’m being paid peanuts for what I do. There’s a huge part of me that wants to find to a job in education that suitably rewards the contribution made (even though I did appreciate the significant financial sacrifice involved when I decided to retire from architecture to work with young people).
However, last night I spent a lovely evening with a large group of teachers in Bristol who were out celebrating the end of a hard and grueling school term. I spent a lot of the time hugging people who have been very special to me during the course of my “career” in education (this is only my third Christmas!). It made me realise that an enormous part of the enjoyment of the job was actually down to those I work with. Deep down, no matter how frustrated things become, it would take an awful lot to prise me away from these people!
Photo: me, Kate+Rachel at last night’s quiet end-of-term drinks

iona moments 1

At the end of the Iona Community’s “Growing Hope” book of daily readings there is a section devoted to reflections of one man’s time spent on the island (Neil Paynter, a member of the Iona Community). This reminded me of my own time on Iona in the summer. The end of the year has regularly been a time of reflection for me and this is the first of four scribbles recording some of my own thoughts when I was there:

Moments with new friends:
Walking up Dun I, the highest point on the island, on my first full day and meeting Dick from Holland (one of our group) half way up. Walking on up to the top together and immediately knowing I’d met a lovely new friend. Being mesmerised by the panoramic view; we were silent, but we were both smiling. Deciding to walk down the other side of the hill to the western shore but getting a little confused and having to climb over a barbed wire fence en route; throwing our bags over the fence (which meant that we HAD to get over!); Dick climbing over first but slipping and ending up launching himself like a human bird. Laughing uncontrollably just like children (he wasn’t hurt)! Talking and talking and realising that our lives seemed to be following similar paths and that our philosophy of life and beliefs, again, had many similarities. Experiencing the white sands and the turquoise sea on our way back to the MacLeod Centre via the north shore on what turned out to be a gloriously sunny afternoon. Knowing that my time on Iona was going to be good!
photo: Dick+Dientje

Monday, December 17, 2007

advent and liverpool nativity

Moira+I watched “Liverpool Nativity” on BBC3 last night. It was developed by the same team behind the hugely successful “Manchester Passion” in 2005 and, while not being as effective as the Easter production in our view (perhaps it suffered from being crammed into a one hour slot?), it was nevertheless a powerful reminder of the Advent and Christmas message.
Advent is a time of hope and expectation and I’ve been using the excellent “Advent Readings from Iona” book each morning since the start of the month. I found today’s reading (provided by Brian Woodcock) particularly poignant:
People travel great distances to find holiness. Some even come to Iona.
There is a story of a boy who lived in an isolated house on a hill. A God-forsaken place for a young man. But one thing fascinated him. Each night he would look out into the darkness and see a light. It was far away on a hilltop, but this sign of life gave him hope.
One day he decided to go in search of it. It was a long and lonely walk, and it was already dark before he reached the outskirts of the town. Tired and hungry, he knocked at the first door he came to, and explained his search for the mysterious light that had always given him hope.
‘I know it!’ replied the woman who had answered the door. ‘It gives me hope as well.’ And she pointed back in the direction from which he had come. There, on the horizon, was a single light shining. A sign of life in the darkness.
The light from his own house

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Today’s “Observer” referred readers to the top 10 list of 2007’s most watched virals (“comical, bizarre and bite-size clips – often the more amateur the better - that spread at the click of ‘send’ button”). You’ve just got to watch Miss South Carolina giving a garbled explanation of why so few Americans can find their country on a world map; and Tay Zonday (amazing, deep voice) singing “Chocolate Rain”; and “Groovy Dancing Girl” by Sophie Merry from Dublin.
Just wonderful!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

bali climate change agreement?

So, it seems that delegates at the UN summit in Bali have agreed a deal on curbing climate change.
The intention had been to set negotiations in train that will eventually lead to a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Its first targets for reducing emissions expire in 2012. EU negotiators wanted this "Bali roadmap" to contain a commitment that industrialised nations would cut their emissions by 25-40% compared to 1990 levels by 2020.
EU negotiators had thrashed out a compromise text with developing countries, including China, but the US had signaled that it would reject the compromise – a statement that drew boos from delegates in the conference hall – because they complained that the language on reducing emissions was too strong and would commit them to measures that could retard their economic development!
Eventually, the US grudgingly accepted the proposals. Somewhat pathetically, Paula Dobriansky (Head of the US delegation) said “I think we have come a long way here…. In this, the US is very committed to this effort and just wants to really ensure we all act together”. Oh good, so that’s ok then!!
However, depressingly (as far as I can tell at this stage), the US delegation got its way and the compromise agreement accepts that industrialized countries would not set firm emissions targets – to the utter dismay of most campaigners.
You might recall that George Bush infuriated his critics by professing world leadership on climate change at his meeting of the top 16 world economies at the end of September - while offering no new substantive policy and implicitly rejecting binding emissions controls.
I think Chris Miller of Greenpeace got it right: “The Bush administration is well out of step with the American population and, increasingly, out of step with US business”.
No doubt, we’ll get a queue of politicians lining up to tell us how wonderful this agreement is (and I accept that some agreement is better than none at all), but I’m left feeling depressed and desperately disappointed by the whole business and that this latest deal is just yet another fudge. At a time when the world cannot afford to delay, it seems that politicians have merely postponed REAL decisions on climate change for another two years when there will be another conference (in Denmark) to agree the final wording to replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012!

Monday, December 10, 2007

simon smith and his amazing musical tastes

Good friend Si Smith is just one of those very special people.
He’s a brilliant illustrator but he’s also wonderful about coming up with ideas and suggestions. A few years ago, he told me (and a few others) that I ought to see the singer/songwriter Juliet Turner at a gig near Reading – and he was absolutely right! He’s also been fantastic about coming up with music suggestions (“I think you might like this”), such as:
Sufjan Stevens - '
Casimir Pulaski Day'
This Mortal Coil - 'Song for the Siren'
Trembling Blue Stars - 'Abba on the Jukebox' or 'November Starlings'
Looper - 'Impossible Things 2'
Elbow - 'Newborn'
Low - 'When I go Deaf'
Death Cab for Cutie - 'The Sound of Settling'
Denim - 'The Osmonds'
John Martyn - 'Small Hours'

Recently, he told me he thought I might like “Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour” (BBC Radio 6: Sundays 10pm-midnight) – “it’s quite eclectic and rather inspiring” he said. He’s absolutely right; it’s excellent! You should try it too (I’m rarely awake at that time these days, so use the “listen again” link on the BBC website).
Photo: Si Smith (bottom right) at Greenbelt in 2005 beside the tree he designed/conceived for one of the sessions.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

so this is Christmas?

I heard on the radio this morning that, in a recent poll for public theology think tank Theos, 27% of people were unable to identify Bethlehem as Jesus’s birthplace (rising to 36% of people aged between 18+24).
Very sad, but I’m not altogether surprised.
But, if you thought that was somewhat shocking, perhaps you should take a look at this “wonderful” YouTube link: I haven’t a clue who Sherri Shepherd is, but this American “celebrity” recently announced that Jesus pre-dated the Greeks (note: she also thought the earth was flat!).
Photo: from Ruth's "Madonna" lino-cut.

forest of dean

Spent a brilliant time in the Forest of Dean with a group of Year 8 pupils (plus a few staff!) this week. Despite rather wet weather, it was great to see the students tackle things completely “outside their comfort zones” (especially on the night walks, the climbing wall and Jacob’s Ladder) - their huge sense of achievement was just wonderful to witness. Very happy time, with lots of laughter and new friendships made.
Photos: problem solving; the climbing wall; view from the top of the wall; image from the noticeboard(!); and Jacob’s Ladder.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

christmas exhibition

It was pouring with rain, but still they came!
Why do we always seem to get this kind of weather for our exhibitions?
Really enjoyable evening yesterday with loads of people braving the elements and getting into the Christmas spirit.
Photos: detail from Tamsie’s “Pink Sky”; part of Hannah’s “A-Z of little things in life”; Lucie’s “My Kinda Lady”; Ruth’s “II”: and the inevitable red wine traces!