Thursday, November 29, 2007


I can't think of a caption to do justice to this photo.... can you help?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007



These are the shoes
of those whose lives all ended here.
These are the clothes they wore,
when death descended here.
No glory, no story
to be appended here.
-And after all, they're only shoes.

These are the bones
of those who are unknown to me.
Here nothing shows
of what they might have grown to be.
No monument, no sentiment
marks their eternity.
-And after all, they're only bones.

The ways of man
are studied with brutality.
Hold, whilst we can,
what's left of our humanity.
Forgiving, forgetting
Should be the way to be.
-But after all, we're only men.

I am currently listening to a (very strange) CD, the new release from Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso, curiously entitled "Caterwauling". The sound and lyrics to the song "Shoes" are a particularly moving part of the album. Although the lyrics are dominated by themes such as war, death, and divorce - it's not all light-hearted fun.. there's also plenty of staring into the abyss of mental illness, as Wolstenhome endured it several years ago. Musically the album uses rock, folk and classical formats to deliver its complex and sometimes demanding songwriting. The recording is rough in places and Wolstenholme can presumably only dream of having access to the recording budgets he once knew as a member of Barclay James Harvest in the 1970s. This is probably the strangest album I have bought in years, yet one on which I hear new things with each play, and which has kept me admirable company while stripping wallpaper over the last few evenings!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Out with the old...

One very old, cumbersome, almost-condemned, and inefficient boiler out!

And one small, efficient, new one in!

It's taking a good few days for the work to be done and in the meantime, we are getting rather chilly. The job of getting up early and lighting the fire has, naturally, fallen to me. Of course, a generation ago this was all part of the everyday routine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


What was intended to be a nice, clean, hot fire turned into a ghastly smog. I think the wood must have been treated with something!

Boris Motson?

We all sat together and watched Scotland's heroic failure to qualify for the European football finals. Such was the importance of the match that my football-mad son, Boris (8) was allowed to buy a months subscrption to SKY sports in order to see it.

Apparently the consensus is that young Boris has a future as a football pundit! Lins was there that afternoon, and his entertaining description of what it's like to watch the footie with 'that hideous family' can be found here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Nothing but a sad groupie.. (Infamy at Last!)

Last year I went to the JLBJH gig in Edinburgh and blogged enthusiastically about what a wonderful evening it was. This week I have been enjoying the DVD of that tour which has just been released. Once Again, John Lees was joined in the band by founder member Woolly Wolstenholme, whose mastery of the Mellotron and love of gorgeously pretensious classical arrangements forged the original BJH sound. Sensibly JLBJH pack their set-list with songs from the bands epic era 68-79, when their English pastoral sound was to the fore and before the rot of the 1980s bland-pop took hold.

Although the set filmed was in London, there is plenty of footage of the Edinburgh gig, including a few seconds of my hideous self, chatting to Mr Wolstenholme after the gig. My wife says that I am a sad groupie! I like to think that I have at last began to embrace the infamy I deserve.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Several million quid later, Paris is 20 minutes closer to London than it was before yesterday. Fullers brewery seemed to hit the right note in their timely celebration of the great news. A fine pint too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


We enjoyed a fine evening on the Lucan estate, the highlight of which, for Boris, Norris, That Hideous Sister and myself at least, was the bonfire. All the scrappy brushwood left over from the log-cutting and splitting was piled up with the roots, and duly lit!

At one point a huge root came rolling out from the fire. It had been on the top - and all its's supporting branches had burnt away underneath it and it came flaming and rolling from the bonfire! This picture below shows his Lordship in the digger lifting it back on.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Marriage Course

Many years ago, we went to a CARE marriage event held at our church, designed to help couples grow in their relationship. It would be a gross exaggeration to say that it 'saved our marriage', it didn't as I am confident that we would still be here if it hadn't been. It did, however, mark a significant turning point and a milestone in our marriage as some of the relational skills we gained that day were the answer to some of our tension-causing blind spots.

And here is a tragic irony. We left our kids that day with a good friend who agreed to babysit so that we could go to the marriage event. As we dropped the kids off she told us that she was in more need of the course than us. Several years later her marriage ended.

We developed a growing conviction that as a church our effort was wasted when we only pronounced about the importance of marriage; and better spent actually supporting marriages! So we began to think and pray about how we might do that, when we came across "The Marriage Course". We did the course ourselves with some friends, and found it really helpful, on an emotional, practical and spiritual level. It contains all the things that we found so useful on that CARE course so many years ago, and loads more in depth stuff. So we asked the church leadership if they would like us to run it in the church - to which they agreed, and so we went down to London to the leaders training conference.

So six years after this process began, we have just completed hosting our first course and had the chance to review what we learnt the first time round.

Hosting the course was a tiring labour of love. It was great to have our place full of people every week, chatting laughing, eating, drinking, watching, talking and maybe praying. Thursday nights will seem very dull now that the course has finished!

Reviewing the course ourselves was hugely encouraging! On a marriage-course evening, although we watch the video together (which contains talks on subjects such as 'communication' of 'conflict resolution' etc) couples work through exercises together on the topic in complete privacy. So we reviewed what we had written in our course manuals a year ago, and were amazed at what a profound difference the course had made to us in a year!

There are I think five myths about The Marriage Course that we need to overcome in order to see it more successfully used in the church:

1) That it is for couples whose marriages are in difficulty. When we said that we were doing the marriage course, a common reaction was an uncomfortable look followed by, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that you're having problems". One professional marriage counsellor wrote to the people that run the marriage course saying to them that the course contains everything that a couple needed to know, five years before they end up coming for crisis marriage counselling! This is not primarily a marriage-rescue course, but a course designed for people who want to see their marriages thrive and grow. Research demonstrates that a generation ago how marriages fared was based largely upon how well the spouses fulfilled prescribed social roles. Now however, in a society in flux, the relational skills with which to manage change are a key element. The course is really for any married couple.

2) That it is a marriage-preparation course. No, it's not that either! The Marriage Course is designed for couples who are already married. There is a separate marriage-prep course that exists.

3) It is mostly for newly-weds. On the course we have just finished the youngest folk had been married a year, and the oldest almost four decades! We've met people who have done it in their retirement and really enjoyed it too.

4) That it is only for committed Christians. There is a Christian content to the course, and it is based upon underlying Christian principles and assumptions, however many non-Christian people have done the course and benefited from it. For instance there is a section on praying-together, but before couples split up for that part of the evening the introduction says, "but if for any reason you are not comfortable with that...... " and gives an alternative.

5) That there is group discussion and that you are compelled or invited to tell anyone else anything about your own marriage. This is absolutely not the case, but probably the hardest thing to convince people of! For some reason, people picture the marriage course as a group discussion-event in which there is an open-forum for airing your problems or triumphs in front of others; or worse still other people wanting to discuss their sex-lives in front of you! There is no group discussion, there is total privacy at all times, and there is neither the compulsion nor even the invitation to tell anyone else, anything at all! This is very hard to convince people of though!

Well, it looks as though we'll be running it again next year. However first of all we need to review what we have done, how we could improve it. One thing that has been great so far has been that when we said we were going to run it, some couples offered to help us with the logistics and prayer-support (without us even asking) and someone else has now offered to help us with the cooking next time!

The course seems to us intrinsically worthwhile. That it fills our house with all kinds of wonderful people, takes us a step closer to the sense of community that we aspire to, and the support we get from the church-fellowship, does the same. For us two, the fact that we work on it together as a couple as a joint project is in itself a new and much welcome part of our worship of God.

Other comment here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

It's getting really cold out

It's nice and warm in here though, although I've noticed the chairs have begun their annual migration to the fireside.


"Pus-finger... he's the man with the septic touch!"
Poor Norris, his thumb has ballooned with an infection which is painful, pus-ridden and has kept him (and thus us) awake for much of the night. It burst in the bath shortly after this photo was taken, spilling a quite extraordinary amount of stinking pus into the water. The antibiotics he's had seem to be calming the rest of it down now. He'll be glad when its healed up, not just because of the physical discomfort, but because he'll be spared other members of the family doing their Shirley-Bassey Bond-theme re-hash while waving their fingers about!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Happiness is a warm... axe

We spent a splendid afternoon on the Lucan estate on Saturday. They have brought down a dodgy tree and so while Lord Lucan worked away with the chain-saw, I swung the axe. Boris and Norris then joined in the fun of throwing all the split logs into the dumper truck ready for stacking. Best of all - they got a ride in the dumper!

More on idols....

Colin over at "Unashamed Workman" has posted recently on the subject of idolatry. He has included a link to a particularly interesting article on Christians and idolatry by C.J. Mahaney entitled, "The Idol Factory".