Thursday, August 30, 2007

Les Alpes!

Of all the many wonderful things we saw over the summer, the place I would rush back to first, if given the opportunity, would be the wonderful, beautiful, breathtaking, Alps. We decided that the best way to get there would be to do the long journey in a day from London. It looked possible on paper, and would mean that the back of the long-haul was broken in a day, making it easier for the kids. The trip from London to the Channel Tunnel was fast, as even in SE England the roads are quiet at 5am! The chunnel was fast, efficient and dumped us onto the French autoroute, and by mid-morning the kilometres were flying past. The Autoroutes might cost a bit, but with speed limits of 80mph, and little traffic on them, travelling accross the country is a lot easier than the gruelling M6! After Besancon, the Autoroute ended and we wangled on slow roads into Switzerland, before once again picking up motorway past Lausanne, Montreaux and deep into the Alps. The sight of Lake Geneva glistening in the sunshine was made all the more compelling by a storm, which chased us all the way down the Lake, and which we just outrun to Montreaux. By the time we reached our accommodation (a very poky caravan in a Key Camp near Leuk) it was dark and raining torrentialy. We cooked all the food we had brought with us and crashed out, absolutely exhausted from the travelling.
It was all worth it though as the view which met us the next morning was wonderful!

A highlight of our time in Switzerland was a trip to Zermatt, and from there on the train up to Gornergratt. Four glaciers tumble down the mountains here, merging into one vast ice-flow, overlooked by the mighty Matterhorn. Next time I go here I will pack my walking boots, and won't bring young children!

Our time in Switzerland was all too short (they make you buy six months of car-tax which we barely managed to get much value from!), and we were sorry to leave. Boris, Norris and Doris were just making some friends with other kids from all over Europe on the caravan site, and we were finding our way around the area. The drive out, over the Alps over the Simplon Pass into Italy however was incredible! The scenery was (as expected) overwhelming, and the road an engineering feat of considerable proportions, snow tunnels, cuttings, flying bridges, hair-raising hair-pins all the way.

For the amount of sitting-in-the-car that we demanded of Boris, Norris and Doris they were wonderful. Helped in no small measure by a lot of stories on CD which we had packed. The one that especially grabbed their attention was Hugh Laurie's hilarious telling of "The Giraffe, The Pelly, and Me" by Roald Dahl - which was demanded repeatedly. Ask Norris and he'll do all the voices for you on request!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back to Front Church? II

In order to follow-up some of the things in the previous 'Back to front church' post, I wrote to the "Churchman" - publishers of the original article by Howard Marshall, asking where I could get a copy of it from.

In response to my e-mail they have dragged the archives, found the original and published it on their website here. I have no idea who they are, and haven't come across their journal before, awfully decent of them all the same though.

I think I'll wait until the kids are asleep and make a coffee first....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Cornwall is a place I love visiting, as every corner of it is packed full of memories of childhood holidays, which have assumed almost magical status in my mind. Rationally of course, I have no doubt that the lenses of my retrospectoscope grow ever more rose-tinted with the passage of time - but this does not dampen my enthusiasm for the place - or my delight in seeing my children's eyes light up at the same things which once had the same effect on me.

Names of places such as 'Harbour Cove', 'Strangles Beach', 'Lanhydrock House', 'Respryn Bridge', 'Boscastle' or 'Trevigue' bring a smile to my face and a deluge of nostalgia. The photo above is of Restormel Castle near Lostwithiel, a wonderful circular 'Motte and Bailey' castle dating from 1100AD. It has everything that a day out with kids should have, stuff to learn, things to imagine, room to run, and questions to ask, and photo-opportunities a plenty.

Boris, Norris and Doris had a great time, climbing on the battlements, looking into dungeons and trying to work out how they would successfully break a siege. The Grandparents (London branch) were there too, which added to the fun as was the kids "mad-aunt" who joined us all down there for a few days.

The highlight of the trip according to the boys though, was a ride on a speedboat called "Jaws" at Padstow!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to Front Church?

I am currently reading "Building a Better Body: The Good Church Guide" by Simon Jones, which was sent to me by Stuart as he knows that we are currently thinking long and hard about the nature, meaning and purpose of the church.

In the first couple of chapters Jones makes a startling claim. He says that we have traditionally viewed our Christian gatherings like this:

In contrast he draws on the work of I. Howard Marshall, the long time professor of New Testament at Aberdeen, who caused controversy in 1985 with an article entitled, "How Far Did the Early Christians Worship God?" in which he says that the overwhelming New Testament pattern for Christian meetings is not the traditional one (above) but this one instead.

If Marshall is right, then it has huge implications for the priorities we have for our churches, and how we go about our times together. I am not sure he is completely right, Stott for example would argue in "The Living Church" that the early Christians would have continued to conduct formal worship within the Temple system. At the very least however Marshall's exegesis suggests a distortion in our conception of church. If genuine worship is living for Christ in the world, not drawing away from the world in order to be "lost in wonder love and praise" (as the hymn writer would put it); then it sends the cat amongst the pigeons of much of our assumed ecclesiology.

I have more thinking to do here, and I am trying to get hold of Marshall's original article. Thanks again to Stuart for the book!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Sophisticated/educated - it doesn't really matter. The biggest difference is the natty dressing and the deliberate irony. What do you think Lins?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Aptly Named


What is wrong with these people?

Yesterday my wife took Boris, Norris and Doris the half-a-mile walk to the local school and came back feeling nervous and intimidated. In the course of the ten-minute return journey three van-loads of men had tooted their horns, jeered, wolf-whistled and generally harassed her.

It is a normal road, in a normal town, and she was dressed quite normally; it's not as though she was go-go dancing in the middle of the road in order to seek attention; she simply wanted to drop the kids to school.

Now don't get me wrong - I am not saying that in some other-worldly state I do not notice the aesthetic delights that cross my path; nor even that when the view is particularly stunning I haven't gazed in admiration for longer than was necessary, or right. Without such inclinations, the history of the human race would indeed have been a short one.

However, I am saying that, that although the first thing that happens when you see a person is that you receive a visual image of them, to which you instinctively react; the fact is that they are a person, who deserves to be treated with the dignity and respect that this entails. To physically and verbally respond to someone only the basis of the visual, and not engage with any other aspect of their humanity; is to demean oneself in the very act of seeking to demean the other.

As a student I did various dodgy jobs, including spending a summer labouring. One of the worst jobs was digging trenches for cable TV. I have sat in the inevitable white-van, alongside colleagues leering and shouting out of the windows as we have driven around the town. Curiously, my refusal to do the same, was not understood as a moral conviction - but that I was being, 'posh'. I also thought that some of the worst offenders were those least comfortable doing it, but most anxious to impress with this pathetic macho-bravado; as it gained the status of a right of passage.

So how should my wife react next week when the white-van driving Neanderthals shout and leer? Should she ignore them and hope that the kids don't ask? Should she pretend she hasn't heard? Should she give up walking, and drive to the school? Or should she do what she would like to do and stick two fingers up at them and shout, "depart ye henceforth!" or something with more obvious biological implications. Would this serve to preserve her dignity by making it clear that this behaviour is neither welcomed, nor acceptable? Or could it invoke the violent response that lurks threateningly beneath the harassment, from a culture that objectifies people as nothing more than sexual?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

That Hideous Man & Family - European Tour, 2007

We've been a bit busy for blogging over the last few weeks. It's been quite a summer though and maybe if time allows, I'll post a few photos here! Not being the owner of a laptop meant that I have been computer-less all summer. This has been great as it has meant far less time footering about achieving little, and far more time reading - about which I could generate a vast deluge of postings! Maybe if time permits....
In the meantime, click on the picture above to get the full-size tour poster!

Monday, August 20, 2007