Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Today, Boris, Norris, Doris and I had a great day out on the Strathspey Railway. With bright sunshine, fantastic views of the Cairngorms, a nice old train with really friendly crew, the kids had a ball. There are great walks from Boat of Garten, and although Aviemore is a dump, the train is soon underway, back up the line to such pleasanter places.
Having travelled on about 10 or so of the preserved lines in the UK (which is a a little sad I realise) I'd rate this one as amongst the best. It might not have twenty gleaming mainline engines to show off, but it has the Cairngorms and the friendliest staff.
Boris and Norris love standing on the bridges while the engines go underneath, getting absolutely covered in smoke and soot.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
While Boris and Norris' mischevious monkeyesque behaviour has been well documented here over the last few months - today little Doris has joined in the fun. In the picture you can see her hand after she had just excavated the contents of our gas 'living flame' fire, gravel, fake coals etc. Her face and clothes were equally sooty and disgusting.
I need to find the person who told me, "the jump from two to three children is easy - you'll barely notice the difference" and give them the long overdue slap they so richly deserve.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Holiday High: Old Friends
Holiday Low: The M6
The worst thing about living in Scotland is that so many people and things are at the other end of the M6! The M6 is Britain's foulest motorway. Apart from a brief respite through the Lake district and the occasional train screaming past, this road is mostly tree-lined and interminably dull. It is overcongested, far too long and its service stations ghastly souless holes into which no sane person should ever venture.
Driving down the M6 last week I thought something was odd. We were driving to our holiday, but the M6 wasn't covered in roadworks. Usually as soon as the holiday season arrives the powers-that-be make the road as impassable as possible, with billions of cones, queue's, contraflows, hold-ups and irritation. Why not this year, I wondered? Then it dawned on me, it was only the Scottish school holidays, they must be waiting until the English schools are off as well, before digging up the only motorway connecting the North and South!
On the way back Northwards we came off the aforementioned motorway at Carlisle and went to see Hadrian's wall. we drobe accross and inspected the wall and Birdoswald Fort and museum. Boris was very interested, Norris tried to be interested but was undermined by his attention span, while Doris was just happy to be out of her car seat!
The wall was built to keep the troublesome Scots out of the Roman Empire, and was the empire's North Western boundary for 300 years. Apparently the Roman's conquered Scotland but had to withdraw their troops in order to defend themselves from Barbarians invading accross the Danube. They pulled back to the border and fortified it, making England and Scotland the two distinct entities they are today. Just think, if it wasn't for the Barbarian incursion accross the Danube, we wouldn't have Alex Samond!
Holiday Low: The Great Blair Drummond Rip-Off Park!
The sea lion show was OK - but extremely short, the animals to admire all fine, the safari drive again no problem. However, right in the centre of it all are huge, brightly coloured rides and attractions, all of which besotted the kids - and all of which cost a lot of money. Dragging the kids away from these to see animals was of course, a struggle but we managed it and they were quite taken with the large bears. Thoughtfully Blair Drummond had mounted telescopes in the viewing areas to make sure that you could see the creatures even when they were far away. However, guess what, the telescopes only operate for a few minutes at a time with the insertion of all your remaining change. The whole place is a giant money-extraction machine, even to the extent that a map to find your way around the place costs several quid.
And to think we gave up a bright sunny day in the mountains (which are better, and free!) for this! Never again.
Holiday High: Great Big God III
I'll be completely honest, I do have one or two reservations about this CD, but I have put these aside for very good reasons.
GBG3 is musically very strong, and although there are a couple of ropey vocals, the standard of songwriting and playing is superb throughout. The kids singing with the adults are unusually good, the lyrics exceptionally clear and the songs without exception singeable and accessible. My kids just love the sound of this album, and sing its songs all day, without any persuasion!
Why then, the reservation? Well, I think there is at least one theological howler, some clumsy lyrics and Iwould love to be able to re-balance some of the emphasies in the songs! The greatest fault in the English tongue is the fact that 'great' rhymes with 'mate', God is definitely the former, but not the latter; perhaps the obvious rhyme was just too tempting and it spoils an otherwise superb song. The constant message that the cross shows us God's love is excellent, I would just love them once in a while to go beyond that and tell the kids that the cross does more than that, it actually achieves our salvation too! I also was a bit shocked by some of the anthropomorphisms used about God, which initially struck me as irreverent.
Having said that, I am delighted that my kids are singing that the cross shows God's love. After all, his love caused the cross, and demands a response of love from me. Love is the basis of everything that happened at Calvary, and this is a good place for kids to start learning about it - they have the rest of their lives to grow into understanding more about what the cross actually acomplishes, rather than just demonstrates. As for the childish anthropomorphisms, I have had to think again. In the Bible, God frequently uses this type of condescension to communicate Himself to me, why then should he not to a child? If I think I am closer to God's stature than to that of a child I am enormously wrong! In fact, against the scale of God, I am barley bigger than a child, and if God will allow Himself to be described in adult language, then the descent to child-language is barely perceptible.
As a Christian parent I rejoice to hear my kids singing things like, "I want to be like Jesus" - exactly the kinds of values and aspirations I long to instill in them. It's good to hear them sing "I will praise you" a song which worships God in good and bad times alike, in open defiance of the prosperity error so many of the charismatics flirted with in the 1980s. I love hearing my kids singing the Palm sunday song, "Hosanna", and am moved to hear them singing a Psalm-like song in which a child brings her pain to God. I have also wondered what our neighbours have thought when their kids have gone home from our house happily singing, "My God Never Goes to Sleep"!
It's great to hear such great creativity, and musical talent, being harnessed and used for the Glory of God. My kids love this music, sing this music and talk to us about what it means. My reservations are not all wrong, but we can't deny we've been blessed by this terrific little album!
Friday, July 14, 2006
Monday, July 10, 2006
Much in this Carson welcomes and salutes. However, this book is an attempt to expose the movement as being one of compromise with unBiblical standards and doctrinal naivety. Carson alleges that much of the emergent movement is simply selective in its use of the Bible, and lacks integrity in its failure to be as counter-cultural as scripture demands. He sees this as being based on a non-Biblical epistemology in which truth is deemed as insufficiently knowable; and propositional truths ruled out of court despite their scriptural prominence. Finally, Carson says that the emergent conversation misreads post-modernity, and has misread 'confessional evangelicalism' too; over-reacting against unrepresentative extremes.
One problem which Carson admits is the huge variation in the subject matter - making his generalisations almost meaningless in practice.
All movements in recent church history, house-churches, mass-evangelism, seeker-friendly have had valid contributions to make; but have stood in need of some correction too. The emergent church claims to be romancing our culture for the gospel. If it turns out instead to be seducing the church from evangelicalism, then it too must respond to correction as graciously as its image would suggest it should.
There should be more hillwalking books like this! I have, over several years, picked up quite a few books on walking, from Poucher, Butterfield, McNeish to the standard SMC guides. Most of these are route guides, suggesting everything from campsites, to car park to lines of ascent. These have proved to be very useful over the years, and comparing and contrasting the different options offered has been fun. The SMC are the most cautious and least ambitious route-makers, McNeish in the middle and Butterfield at the other extreme. At times it seems that it is not possible to have two mountains within 30 miles of each other without him wanting to link them together into one monstrous outing!
However, before even starting I have digressed - for "The Joy of Hillwalking" is not a route-guide type of book at all. It is rather, a book which humorously reflects on the whole business of hillwalking, climbing, camping - and many aspects of life in the great outdoors.
Storer is, of course, no stranger to writing moutain guides (with dull titles like "50 more routes on Scottish Hills), but this book is his reflections on decades worth of climbs done in mountain ranges all around the world. In it we find out how much he despises the sport of bagging, his love of wind, rain, scrambles and snow, and countless hilarious scrapes he has got into on various expeditions. Not a few of which are entirely unsuitable for a junior audience. He regales the reader with tales of falls, injuries, navigational blunders, other walkers foibles, camping disasters, and flaming tents! Alongside this, he describes engagingly the wonderful sense of isolation in the hills and the love and respect for the mountains it engenders.
Storer seems to have spent every weekend and holiday in the hills, and apart from a job seems to have no ties, attachments or responsibilities to get in the way of his outdoor pursuits. If he did, perhaps he'd be a little more sympathetic to those of us for whom a Saturday Munroing is a treat, and a month-long cross-country expedition an impossibility.
Hill walking books which evoke the sheer joy of the whole thing are few and far between - and this is on occasion laugh-out-loud funny - especially if the blunder in questions in one in which you can vividly recall yourself! The only other book of this type I've come accross is "Mountain Days and Bothy Nights" - a really entertaining book on bothying in Scotland.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Sadly, by the time we were high on the summit ridge (which seemed to go on interminably) the view had gone and we were surrounded by cloud in falling temperatures. We didn't linger long to enjoy the moment, save for some hastily consumed chocolate, but chose a quick, steepish descent off the hill towards the end of the Loch by the youth hostel. As we headed back towards the station, a short rain shower persuaded us not to stay out playing on the moors but to get the kids to the station into shelter. Sadly, on the West Highland railway, there is no afternoon train southbound, so we had to wait until 6:30 for the next one. This wait (which had the potential to be "difficult" with three tired children) - turned out to be a great end to the day. A wonderful cafe has opened at Corrour station, with sofas, books, kids toys and nice coffee. We had our evening meal there, watching the rain lashing the mountain we had just climbed, before the evening train took us back to Rannoch, the car and a holiday cottage.
The next day in Fort William, Boris and Norris bought themselves Munro charts. Two more sad munro baggers in the making, I fear! All this is much to be encouraged!