Friday, September 29, 2006

Stuck in the Middle With You - Stealer's Wheel

I was most grateful to Richard - see links - for his link to mine. I'm just a bit curious about the positioning. He has blogs characterised as eg "Diggers and Dreamers", but I am in "Middle Ground". Now that could be a compliment - but I wonder if he considers me/this a bit too staid, traditional, .... the b-word would be next. I think "Cutting Edge" would be a bit far, but .... (drifts off wistfully).

Still at least due to an accident of naming I am currently first on the list I am on. Mustn't grumble. No, hang on, that's wrong .....

Respectable - The Rolling Stones

You don't half get some stuff on the telly these days.

Some people say there's too much sex on the telly. That's because they keep falling off. Boom-boom.

Anyway, there's a programme on Channel 5 called Respectable. It's a sitcom set, well, in and around a brothel. I'm sure some people think it shouldn't be on. Probably still more think I shouldn't be watching it. But hey, we do.

When people have complained there's too much sex on the telly then I have wondered where they have found it. They must know something I don't. But anyway, why not? We have programmes about all sorts of things. We've had comedies about the war (Dad's Army, Allo' Allo'), about petty criminals (Minder), and I think about funeral directors (didn't watch them, were they comedies?). We can laugh about sex, too surely. Actually after all the variations on My Family, Respectable is a truly brilliant concept. And it's funny.

And it's educational (I think) - and it's got a clear moral message.

I do hope a second series is in production.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Games Without Frontiers - Peter Gabriel

A wonderful day at the Season 3 draft yesterday. A dispersed networked community gathers together to share its passion - and those who are can't be there are represented, not only in spirit and thought of but important decisions made carefully on their behalf by their rivals, and in Gerard's case make long transatlantic phone calls at ungodly hours to be part of the occasion. He even gets his picture taken by proxy.

There were welcomes to the community; most of those there I had not met before. There were friendships renewed. There were plaudits. There were jokes. There was serious business. There was chat. There was creativity. There was time for games. I saw no tears but we share each others' misery when the star player turns up for pre-season training with a busted knee and a heart murmur. Above all, there was fun and laughter.

There were no arguments, no discord, no tensions at all. Different characters, different viewpoints aired and shared, discussed and respected.

I can only describe it as a foretaste of heaven.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Nothing Happened Today - The Boomtown Rats

Well obviously not true at all. But nothing that inspires me creatively. Enjoyed simple liturgical communion yesterday!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

You've Got My Number - The Undertones

And the results are in. Scores on the doors: 61 and 63.

Damn. I suppose I'll have to go on.

The Professional Non-professional?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Twist In My Sobriety - Tanita Tikaram

"Tradition is not precedent."

Thanks, Mervyn.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Hard Habit To Break - Chicago

This could also have been titled:

Jealous Guy - John Lennon
Power - Rainbow
Speak to Me - Pink Floyd
Anarchy in the UK - The Sex Pistols

and no doubt I'll think of more.

It's hard though. This might be the crucial test.

Do You Want To Know A Secret? - Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas

Too bad.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Call Me - Blondie

Isaiah 50; the suffering servant is called to speak out. But also to be alongside those who need it. To make a difference. This requires discernment and guidance. So the worship tonight will make a contribution. The Bear of Very Little Brain needs it to be made crystal clear, though. No subtle hints. Tell it straight and loud.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Who Are You? - The Who

There's a popular interview question "pick five words to describe yourself". I've had a go. But I'm not ready to absolutely reveal them just yet. Instead I'll give you the initial letters. They are, in no particular order bar the last one:


The first four are adjectives and the last one is a noun and the title of a pop song.

There are other sets too I think, so this may be the first of a series.

Post title: I read some blog awhile ago in which every post title was the name of a (pop) song, so I thought I might have a go for a bit (maybe a fortnight). Whether I can keep it up we'll see - might be a bit restricting - might fit post to title rather than other way round. The other blog was a bit irregular. Hey it's fun to play.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Affordable housing

The cry goes up again "Don't get into debt!" and "We must have more affordable housing". But it doesn't happen.

What is affordable? Affordable to me is cheap to other people. So I can't buy it anyway because they can come in and outbid me; then the prices keep moving up and we get into a spiral - if the value of your house goes up then you can spend more when you move, making the chance to buy worse for those without a house.

Affordable to me is out of reach to others. What do they do?

Who wants affordable housing?
Builders don't. There's not so much profit to be made - the extra time spent in building a bigger house, selling it etc is far outweighed by the extra money made. Efficiency of scale.
Estate agents don't. They are on commission. The higher the price the more they make for the same amount of work. They are heavily incentivised to raise prices.
Mortgage lenders don't. They want to lend as much as possible. Keeps the shareholders happy. They don't want small borrowers, they want large ones. These are the ones they look after. The Carling advert is not far off the mark.
We don't. We want to live in nice houses. Because we've seen them and likely been brought up in them. We don't want a two-up two-down, we want a spare room. We want a nice garden for the kids with room for a shed. We want a garage (probably a double). We want a playroom for the snooker table. We are aspirational. And we want it now, unlike previous generations.
The government doesn't. It doesn't stimulate the economy. And they certainly don't want it in the areas they live in. (Who does? No-one. We think they are the wrong sort.)
The only people who really want affordable housing are those who are so badly off they'll take anything. And they can't afford even affordable houses. And they have no power to affect anything or anyone. They are not preferred customers. They have no voice.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ruth is stranger than Richard

What is Ruth?
Ruth will pout. Ruth is out there.
I will tell Ruth, and nobody but Ruth.
You shall know Ruth and Ruth shall set you free.
Ruth and Justin, the American way.

And if you believe Pat, you'll believe Antony. Ali can go round the world while Ruth is putting her boots on.

Love is Lisa.

Don't you tell it to Therese for she will tell the Birds and the Beasleys.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

What mood are you in?

Well there you go. I played "Everyone's Gone to the Moon" to evoke a mood, but when I asked what it evoked, expecting the answers loss, loneliness, alienation the answer was "joy". And I could see the point. Serves me right for asking a question to which I expected a particular answer.

However they did enjoy "The Sun Has Got His Hat On" so that worked.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

How many sermons can you write?

I've been asking ministers in Circuit how many (different ones) they do in a quarter. Popular answer seems to be between nine and twelve.

Blimey. I'm doing well to do six. I shall have to get cracking.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Speeding fines

Now let's see if I can stir it up.

I saw a headline in the paper on the stand the other day "Speeding Fines on the M1 raise £1.2m" (may not be exact but that's what it came to).

I didn't read the article but I imagine (advance apologies to the reporter if I'm wrong) that this was considered to be A Bad Thing - given the vitriol there's been on Points West about fundraising from "the poor motorist" that's what I expect.

I don't agree.

First of all let's be clear. We are not talking about people accidentally accelerating a little too hard and doing 71 mph, or even briefly doing 75ish while overtaking. We are talking about people wilfully doing 80mph and more. Beetling down the overtaking lane (remember its correct title - it is not a "fast" lane) like it's their own private racetrack because they're the most important people in the world and they haven't given themselves enough time.

This is a criminal offence. It is dangerous. We need to stop it and them. Particularly those who flash their headlights at me when I am overtaking at 75 (holding them up?), and then when I refuse to move over, try to undertake me (double meaning possible) in the middle lane and fly through the closing gap between me and the other car - and yes I've had this happen and seen it happen to others, don't deny it.

I hope the fines next year do not amount to £1.2m. I hope they are zero. In the meantime, until people learn to drive with consideration for others, I support the speed cameras. They may save a life. They may at least help to provide the money to police the roads until they are safer.

(I bet some people complain about the price of petrol. Slow down a bit and see how much you can save.)

When shall we have the sermon?

Discussing with George when it began to be the "tradition" to have the sermon in the middle of the service, rather than the end (climax).

I think I've found it. Richard Jones' book Groundwork of Worship and Preaching, 1980. It's on my bookshelf because it was my set text when I was training. It lays out magisterially that the service should be in three parts "and the sermon of course relates to the second section" (my italics). No argument allowed.

So like the Oxford University Press on Balderdash and Piffle, I throw out a challenge - can anyone find an earlier occurrence?

In a way it's nice to know that at one time I was at the cutting edge of Methodist practical theology. Just a pity that I now have to tear it down and remake it. Why? That's another post.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


How does he do it?

Circuit Meeting all done and chairs being put away by 9.00

Local Preachers' Meeting finished at 8.35. I think that's a record.

It's a gift.

Where's my glasses?

Now I have:

New reading glasses
Old reading glasses (still fine)
Reading sunglasses
Driving/General sunglasses
Dark sunglasses

I'm not quite up to the record set by my mother but I'm getting there. I am never going to keep track of this lot.

Discipline and Freedom

There is joy in creation.
The act.
The impulse of inspiration.
Responding to the muse.
The result may be ephemeral, necessarily or voluntarily.
It need not be shared, for God sees it. Or it may be global. Provocative.
It may be lost. Never rediscovered. Yet it was. It existed.

It can be free. And freeing. It may be the ultimate freedom.

Can it be programmed? Done to order?
Is it the same when it is required? How will the space be filled?
Is it still so joyful when the weight of expectation hangs like a sword over your neck? When the clock ticks, and ticks, and the alarm is set and cannot be delayed? And will chime every hour until eternity? There is no time!
When the heart races: is it good enough? enriching?
Will the weird be acceptable? The discomforting appropriate? The unconventional understood? The straightforward rich enough? The fun caught?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Places I would like to go but never will

The Burning Man festival in America (in the desert).

Monsters of Rock (don't mind being deafened don't like getting wet and muddy).

Monte Carlo.

An igloo.

Who's reading all this anyway?

The other thing about the bloggers programme on Radio 4 was how many people read them. The two ladies on this week knew from comments that hundreds of people were reading (and the one who blogged about the Underground got thousands on July 7) - and these are just personal blogs, not about deep issues. La Petite Anglaise I first heard of on Ceefax. Whereas those who read this one are numbered in ... er, units.

Now this blog wasn't intended originally for a wider audience - and isn't listed so it's not likely to get one - but the idea was that it's more than a personal diary (I can't keep a personal diary, I've tried, if what's written isn't in some sense for public view I mostly can't be bothered to do it) so should I widen it? I've resisted putting it on eg locustsandhoney (Methodist) because you aren't allowed on there unless you put five other members on your blogroll (from whom I don't know anybody) and I'm deliberately trying to keep the links section short and tidy partly as a mark of quality and also that long lists are terrifying (the list on l&h is shocking - how can you possibly find anything there?)

Thing is, it would be nice in a way to have hundreds of readers, but then you have to be witty and disciplined and lots of other qualities (other folk write reams of stuff) and then you wonder if you do have any other life. And although I've proved I can write a thousand words in a day (a couple of hours if I know what I want to say) do I want to? How big is my community? Is it worth being famous? How careful would I have to be?

I don't know really. What's the point as someone once said?

Why do we do it?

I'm listening to yesterday's Radio 4 programme in the series "Meet the Bloggers". This one includes an interview with La Petite Anglaise who lost her job through blogging. She and many others talk about their lives and have titles for their friends and family (Tadpole, Mister Frog, in her case). There's clearly a need to reflect on their lives. Blogging helps.

Me too. But this blog also covers other things - not just my personal story, but larger reflections; which is what some bloggers do exclusively. Am I trying to do too much and falling between two stools? Perhaps it makes this blog confusing. Some posts are coded to protect the innocent. Some are straight. I'm given to understand that it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference. Should the content be taken literally or interpreted?

Stylistic similarities to the Bible, then?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Communion from First Principles

That was what Richard called it on Sunday. So we had no liturgy at all - we simply heard the familiar story retold in a fresh way (and one that followed on from the sermon, moreover - challenging about rules and regulations).

I do prefer it. I am sure not everybody who reads this will totally agree but I don't mind.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Book of the Year

More like book of the decade, or quarter-century actually ...

Read it on holiday (one afternoon, saved the end until the evening).

It's about destiny, its about choices, the ones you make and the ones you duck, it's about life and how to go through it. It's inspirational, it's thrilling, it's life changing.

I only just got to it, but if you can't take my word for it, then there's a review
here but don't bother reading the review, just get the book and read it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Some more pictures

Another tradition to discard

According to Roots magazine, prayers of confession and penitence in a service of worship were not part of early Christian worship (1000 years!) and not even today part of Orthodox worship.

Tomorrow at Staple Hill we shall rediscover our roots. And think about what it implies for our daily lives.

Friday, September 01, 2006

New and improved - why can't they leave things alone?

Well it is more than two years since I got my reading glasses so I eventuallywent for the eye test they've been pressing me for since May. Yes, everything's fine thank you. Well apparently not quite (I think the difference is marginal, but I suppose she's the expert) so new glasses.

"What sort of frames would you like?"

(Firmly) "Same as last time, please." (Worth a try)

Types it in the computer.

Big red word in centre of screen DISCONTINUED What a surprise.

"Come and look at these." (Nice helpful assistant, don't get me wrong.)

Four columns of frames (all on special offer, well I suppose a partial result but talk about choice fatigue).

"Which do you like?"
"I don't know." (Well how do I know? They're not a fashion accessory, they're functional. I didn't know the first time two years ago and I still don't. I feel like saying "you choose". They turned out all right I think.)
"These are quite like the ones you had." (And they are)
"Fine, I'll have those." (She's vaguely disappointed I don't try them all on and then go back to the first ones, I think, but why bother?)

All right, things move on. We progress. But surely, surely, we change things because they're outdated, outmoded, technology's improved, some reason, not for the sake of it? If things were well designed two years ago why are they not well designed now? And if there are things nearly the same, why aren't they just the same? (Maybe the optician can see an improvement in the technology, but I wonder.)

"Do you want thinner lenses?"
"Do you think I should? What's your recommendation?"
I do like to ask the expert - she knows better than me. In the end we agreed to stick with the same as last time. Apparently it's a borderline decision.

I'm sure they'll be fine.

It's the same with shoes. And spatulas (no I won't tell the spatula story again). Just stop redesigning stuff that's already perfectly well designed. Then we can spend the time changing the stuff that really does need a makeover.

Who's a grumpy old man, then?