Thursday, September 28, 2006


The Mrs and I finally started the Marriage Course last night. The introductory session was more searching, and thought-provoking than I had anticipated. There's a bit of 'homework' to do next, involving getting diaries and planning how to spend more time together - one of the main aims of the first week. I'm looking forward to reading back over some of the stuff we thought about in the first session with the Mrs and to the next session.

In terms of going on to run the course I can see two possible difficulties. The first is that the sheer volume of material is very hard to get through in the timings that they suggest, meaning that our first session went on too long. That's OK for a one-off but isn't sustainable for 8 weeks. However, they suggest that the evening needs to start at 7pm, which is too early if you've got kids! The other thing we felt was that the material possibly plunges too quickly into opening up areas of potential conflict without first giving sufficient opportunities in discussion for the couples to appreciate each other's strengths. We'd want to adjust that slightly when running the course ourselves, we think.

The other good thing was that the video sessions weren't cheesy (as we had feared they would be). We'd seen a few clips from the Marriage preparation course and found a few toe-curling moments. Session one of the Marriage Course however seemed to be free of these - which is good. The consensus however was that the camera close-ups of the male presenter's face while his wife was speaking, make him look rather suspicious.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006

Hero of the Day

Today's hero is Will Chase, the founder and owner of Tyrells Potato Chips! He discovered that Tesco was stocking his products via a wholesaler, and contacted them immediately to demand their withdrawal. His reason? He wanted to maintain the "integrity of his product"!
The reason that Mr Chase is today's hero is not merely that I am a disgruntled former employee of Tesco's and like to see someone telling them where to go! No, it's more than that. When I worked for them, I had to deal with suppliers on their behalf and I know how they misuse their power in the market place to exploit suppliers up the supply chain right the way through to our beleagured farmers. I know how they publicly decry sweat shops, but cannot trace the sub-sub-sub contractors who actually make their clothes on the Indian sub-continent at sub-value prices. It also infuriates me that where I live Tesco are the only viable shopping option.
So here's a round of applause for Will Chase, the acceptable face of capitalism!

The Pope Must Die?

So the Pope has caused a stink by quoting a medieval source who linked Islam with violence, a view which he has subsequently said he does not share. Having read the Pope's speech online, it seems clear that he was wanting to discuss the relationship between faith and violence, in order to repudiate violence. His choice of examples, such as that now notorious quote, has turned out to be most unfortunate. Had a similar quote appeared in his same sentence disavowing the medieval crusades, then perhaps the legitimate point he was trying to make would have been heard above the melee. Who are the Pope's PR team?

Islamic extremists have now called for the Pope to be killed in the name of their faith, for his remarks. Apparently they don't see the hypocrisy in saying, "if you say we are violent - we'll kill you". Why don't they either agree with the Pope that violence is a part of their faith, or disagree with him by dialogue and peaceful protest? Fortunately calmer Muslim voices are also being heard who have listened to the Pope's apology and clarifications, and who have the integrity to see that a violent reaction to the accusation of violence, doesn't look merely hypocritical but like collective hysteria, which discredits them.

It has long been recognised that the Bush-Blair foreign policy agenda has been the recruiting sargent for many a terrorist group, especially in regard to the Iraq war (against which millions of us protested) .What is not often heard is the reverse, that violent hysterical reactions such as we have seen in the last few days, are the best voting drive available to hawkish neo-conservative Republicans. Fear is the only thing that will make Western voters tolerate the immorality, and illegality, of the so-called 'pre-emptive war'.

In the Muslim world one of the great symbols of evil is the American president and his vast squadrons of bombers. In the West one of the great symbols of evil is the suicide bomber, and his masters. If one is critical of both these things, then the extent to which they feed off one another by driving moderate opponents into extremist positions, becomes apparent.

Divided By A Common Tongue

You’d assume that if the customer, the builders merchant, and the builder all spoke English communication would be straightforward. Not the case, if the customer is English, the builders merchant Scottish and the builder Northern Irish. Take the following for an example. Around the edge of our roof there is a metal duct that carries rainwater off the roof and towards the drain, which needed to be replaced. To the customer (me, English) these are “gutters” (pronounced ghu-ttars), to the builders merchant (Scottish) they are “rhones” (pronounced r-r-roans) but to our builder (Northern Irish) its “spouting” (pronounced spoit’n) you’re after! Its something of a triumph of international relations that the stuff was bought and fixed successfully at all.

Our family consists of an English husband, a N. Irish wife and their three Scottish children (Boris, Norris and Doris, no less). There’s every possibility that none of us have ever correctly understood anything said to us at home.

There View From Where I'm Standing

As I walked up to the usual place to take my Monday photo, there was a pleasant chill in the air, the first hints of Winter. Thathideousman and the wife disagree as to whether this is a good thng or not. Personally I love cold crisp winter days when the cold air bites the back of your throat, everything smells fresh and clean and your breath hangs around you in clouds when you exhale (it must be fantastic up the mountains today). The wife, on the other hand, is of the 'pack the hot-water-bottle when going to the Sahara' persuasion, whose extremities feel like some ghastly cryogenic experiment, even in midsummer. Needless to say the onset of Winter is something she greets with less enthusiasm than me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Today's Verse

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.
1 Corinthians 2:3

Today we pray to the God of all comfort for those who suffer pain, loss, injustice and for whom this world is a cruel, cruel place.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Re-Reading Hebews 2:3

"how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? "
Hebrews 2:3

I had the privilege of speaking yesterday at the Open Door Fellowship at the Nazarene church in Perth, on Hebrews 2:3. I am amused to see that on their website the event is advertised as "A lunch club for the over 50s - Enjoy delicious food followed by an inspirational speaker." Well, at least the food matched the billing.

I had always assumed that salvation was described as "great" in Hebrews 2:3 because of the depth of sin to which we have sunk and the heights of glory to which Christ lifts us. That is to say that I had thought that the 'greatness' referred to was firstly about the scale of what it does to us.

Now this is a fine observation in itself, and indeed salvation is 'great' in this way. However, having studied Hebrews 1&2 this week I have realised that this isn't the first 'greatness' that the author is directing our attention to. Rather chapter one of Hebrews is a celebration of the greatness of Christ the Saviour Himself: His unique relationship to the Father (4), His deity (3,8), His achievement (3b), His coronation (9), His right to be worshipped (6), and His superiority to the angels (7).

The greatness extoled in Hebrews 1 is the greatness of Jesus Himself! The begining of chapter 2 deals with our response to this greatness, with two warnings. Firstly, don't drift away from this great Saviour (1), then secondly don't ignore this great Saviour(3). For when the LORD himself has offered Himself for our salvation, what possible other escape can there be?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad ."
-Peter Kay

Monday, September 11, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre

Victor Meldrew and I enjoyed another stupendous day in the hills yesterday, climbing Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre out on Rannoch Moor. The weather forecast had been good, and I set off with high hopes and no waterproof trousers. As we set off northwestwards up the track accross the moor, the rain started and the mist blew around us and the temperature dropped. Most worryingly the wind swung round to the NE, where the bad weather that day was supposed to be.

Nevertheless, we followed the tracks up to the foot of Carn Dearg and then waded through heather and bracken up onto its grassy ridge. The long ridge to the summit is a lovely walk, gently rising from 750 to 950m, past a series of lochans. As we pulled up the final climb to the summit, fog came crawling round its shoulders and engulfed us in it wet embrace. Victor bemoaned the disappearing views, but cheered himself up by saying, "at least I've got my waterproof trousers if it gets really bad".

Once on the summit, new cultural depths were plummed by my esteemed colleague. It seems that Carn Dearg was his 100th Munro and that a celebration was due. I was handed his camera and asked to wait, he posed at the summit, with a half bottle of champagne spewing merrily around the cairn. "Don't take the photo yet" he said. OK - I thought, not entirely sure why. Then in freezing wind, rain and fog, he took off his coat, his shirt and his T-shirt in order to pose with his bottle of bubbly whilst displaying his repugnant naked torso. He's clearly not a well man.

As we sat for some lunch in the little stone shelter by the summit, the clouds suddenly cleared and wonderful views opened up all around us. 50ft of visibility turned into unrestricted views in every direction - in a a matter of minutes. First Glen Coe appeared, the the Mamores, and Grey Corries. Even Ben Nevis was cloud free! Then the Black Mount, Bridge of Orchy hills and the Lawers Group appeared, followed by the steep cone of Schiehallion. The cliffs of Creag Meagaidh were visibile, and Glen Etive's hills and Criese' ski-tows could be spotted. Way to the south Cruachan's distinctive crag came into view while to its west, mighty Ben Lui graced us with a glimpse. Ben Alder wore its clouds like a hat, long after the other hills had felt the sun on their summits, but even this great, shy, remote mountain eventually felt the sunshine on its cairn. A packed lunch has rarely tasted so good, as we sat on the top and watched a long goods train snaking its way Northwards accross the moor.

Cursory greetings were exchanged with a gruff Yorkshireman on his way to Culra bothy, to while away the night chatting to its legendary spooky occupant! We turned Eastwards accross the wide saddle that links the two mountains, over Sgor Gaibhre and back Southwards to the car, a mile or so from Rannoch station. As we descended, the million-puddled bogs of Rannoch Moor sparkled like a vast sequined blanket laid out before us, shimming in the dipping evening sunlight.

Along with the great views it was also good to see birds of prey, red squirrels, ptarmigan, brilliant dragon flies, and countless frogs. As we climbed up to Sgor Gaibhre a large herd of red deer came running up the glen from the south, over the hill and dissappeared down towards Loch Ossian.

The hills of Rannoch Moor may not be the most absorbing mountains, in and of themselves. They lack great cliffs or crags of Glen Coe, and don't have the majesty of a Ben Lui or the symmetry of Schiehallion. However, they present a nice challenge, 25k+ of walking and some good climbs. They present lots of wildlife and, out in the middle of Rannoch Moor, just enough of a hint of wilderness to make it a really special day out.

Victor's contribution to the wildlife and wilderness theme was to have a particularly flatulent day - depressingly winning 8-4 by the end of the walk. His performance in this regard has only been bettered in my experience by Lord Provan of Mearns who is a legend in the field.
I got back home for just after 7pm - in time to put the kids to bed. But I'm itching to get back to the hills again before winter sets in.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

DIY not IV

Before you panic, phone my Mum or refer me for rehab, please note the following. The above picture, taken here this morning, does not indicate that I have taken up IV drug abuse. Rather, it shows that I have found a patch of woodworm in our attic and the advice I've been given is to inject the treatment into the holes in the wood to stop it spreading. The offending stubstance in the syringe is nothing illegal, just V3V complete wood cure, for wet rot, dry rot and woodworm infestation. It doesn't smell too bad either......

Monday, September 04, 2006