Monday, 31 December 2007

Confidence, competence and comfort zones - the prequel

Some further thoughts on the use of talents, and particularly in relation to the role of leaders. In all walks of life, it seems to me that one of the most important role that a leader can play is to spot and develop talents. I’m not simply referring to the concept of ‘succession planning’. Rather, I’m talking about maximising the contribution that every individual makes to the endeavour. Sometimes this is easy, as talent simply emerges in the ordinary activities. At other times, close attention and careful consideration is required to spot something in the behaviour or aptitudes that an individual shows and find an appropriate way to develop it.

Of course, the initial spotting is actually the most straightforward part. The developing and nurturing is harder – finding opportunities to use the talent; providing constructive feedback to hone it; stepping aside yourself to let the other person flourish. This can be very difficult, and it can take courage and a long-term perspective to embrace this approach.

Additionally, there is an even more difficult aspect. This is when someone thinks that they are particularly gifted in an area, but you think otherwise. You have to find a way to give a clear but tough message. As a leader you should be able to find a constructive alternative (otherwise why are they part of your set-up?), but it may take a lot of time and effort for such messages to be heard.

And finally, as a leader you should be doing this for everyone in your organisation. Your efforts shouldn’t only be focussed on the most gifted individuals, but on getting the most out of everyone. Much easier to say than to do!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Competence, confidence and comfort zones - the sequel

A week ago – almost exactly at this time – I was just sitting down after the drama/sketch thing that I was involved in as part of the Bethlehem experience.

Two thoughts have occurred and recurred since then.

Firstly, all of us have talents that can be put to use – if we’re willing. Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to rush headlong into an acting career or anything. However, I do wonder if we are conscious of under-used (or unused) talents that we have. I also wonder if we are willing to discover new talents, and then put them to use. Maybe the New Year period is an appropriate time to reflect on our gifts, and see if there are any that could be gainfully employed.

Secondly, I have been truly astonished by the encouraging feedback that I have received from people. The ministry of encouragement is one that we can all be involved in. It doesn’t cost much to tell someone that we enjoyed/ benefited/ were moved or uplifted by something that they have done, but it will mean a lot to them. On reflection, I’m often guilty of assuming that people will know how well they’ve done, and have shied away from providing feedback. Time to change I think. Positive feedback should be used lavishly; negative feedback sparingly and constructively.

I don’t do ‘New Year resolutions’, but maybe this year I’ll make an exception and resolve to be more encouraging and appreciative of the efforts of others.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Thursday, 27 December 2007

What price democracy?

I’ve often wondered why the Western world is so keen to see democracy installed (or imposed?) across the world. Is it such a good thing?

There are inherent problems with voting systems. For example, hanging chads in the US; over 100,000 spoilt ballot papers in the most recent elections in Scotland; not to mention the intimidation and corruption that seems to characterise elections in many countries.

Earlier today I came across this quotation:

“The people are always said to know best. But the fact that democracies do not like sacrifices, do not listen to bad news nor wish to think about bad possibilities in the future, do not want their comfort or profits interfered with, should be accepted with apprehension, not complacence. Why is it evident that democracy and liberal values will prevail? The evidence is very limited, the historical experience with modern democracy brief, of a little more than two centuries. We do not know the future of democracy."
—William Pfaff, The Wrath of Nations: Civilizations and the Furies of Nationalism

My reaction was to think – “that’s a lot to get my head around, so maybe it’s best left alone for other to worry about!”

A few minutes later, I read the news of Benazir Bhutto’s murder and I realise that these are issues that affect us all. Admittedly, the impact of her assassination will not be felt directly by me, but in the nature of security threats (real or imagined) there will inevitably be a reaction for us all.

So is democracy worth dying for? Clearly Benazir Bhutto was fully aware of the risks that she faced, and some of her recent words seemed to echo the sentiments of Martin Luther King shortly before his death. For them, personal sacrifice was a price worth paying because their cause was so important to them.

There is more than a hint of the tradition of the Old Testament prophets in the actions of Benazir Bhutto – going to a place that she cared about, but where she would be in danger; speaking the truth whatever the consequences; trusting that good would come out of her actions. I don’t know what other motivations she may have had – I’m certainly not very familiar with the politics of Pakistan.

How should we respond? As Christians we should pray for Benazir and her family, and that the potential for turmoil and chaos in Pakistan is averted.

Maybe we need to think through how our ways of governing look to other people, and also to God. But most of all we should pray for a world where power corrupts and evil deeds are justified by those who should know better. However we’re governed, violent responses to opponents will always be wrong.

What does it mean when we say

“and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end”?

May Pakistan know peace in the days ahead.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Beyond the stained glass


Recently I’ve been posting photos from a stained glass window in a lovely wee church (St. Mary’s) in Wooler, Northumbria.

Several thoughts occur to me. Firstly, one of the original purposes of stained glass was to communicate key stories to congregations that were largely illiterate. The picture book approach made the stories meaningful and accessible. It strikes me that this is a key role for the church today – especially at times like Christmas when people are more likely to wander into a church.

Of course the danger is that we over-simplify the message, and in many ways this is the downside to the picture book approach. The images get lodged in our minds and the distortions that go along with that. For example, how many people firmly believe that there were three kings in the nativity story? Reality is – no number given, not kings! But the image persists.

The second thought is how do we, as Christians, remember the message of the stained glass window throughout the year? You know - Christ incarnate!

Sheilagh Kesting - the current Moderator of the Church of Scotland – speaking about the Christmas story said:


“It really does speak about justice and homelessness and the kind of world God wants us to live in, and the kind of people he wants us to be… We distort religion in so many ways, but it’s about a God of love, about a God who turns things upside down… That is what our faith is about and in lots of ways it’s disturbing because it unsettles people’s comforts.”

(The Herald magazine 22 Dec. 2007)


Have we moved beyond the stained glass windows?

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

A child is born


Sunday, 23 December 2007

Competence, confidence and comfort zones

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours asked me to do something. Uncharacteristically I said “Yes”, almost without a thought. My normal approach would have been to buy some time to think it through, then I would have said “No”.

The request was to do a wee drama sketch in Perth Concert Hall at a Christmas celebration involving 6 churches.

Generally speaking I’m quite a confident person – but not in this case. It’s over 20 years since I’ve done any sort of drama, and in that time my memory has deteriorated (a lot).

So why did I agree to do it? I genuinely don’t know. I am not competent in this area, I’m certainly not confident, and I’m so far out of my comfort zone that I’ll get jet lag on the way back! I’ve been feeling pretty nervous for about a fortnight!

Anyway, the celebration was tonight – and it seemed to go well. I didn’t fluff any lines (that I’m aware of); and people were very kind in their reactions afterwards. Truth to tell, I really enjoyed it. The attendance was amazing - over 1200 packed into the Concert Hall, with 400 people turned away because it was full. (Only negative note for me - Fish Wife and Dolly D were among the 400, and not becasue they turned up late!)

Our only rehearsal in the venue was cut short, but most of my nerves seemed to vanish as I donned the costume. (I was the archangel Raphael in white boiler suit and hard hat!)

I was really encouraged by the young woman who was performing opposite me. Her role (and her own character) was based on infectious enthusiasm, which seemed to rub off on me.

Would I do it again? Well I wouldn’t say ‘No’ straightaway!

What have I learned?

- Firstly, I can remember things (although it’s not easy).
- Secondly, maybe I need to push out of my comfort zone occasionally.
- Thirdly, it was a useful reminder to me about how it feels to be a bit out of your depth.
- Fourthly, there are things that the middle-aged can learn from the young.
- Lastly, maybe I’m too old to learn some new tricks.

Christmas carbs - addendum

Following on from my last entry, I thought I'd refer you to the paperless advent calendar again - Day 23. Somehow the pictures and voice add a poignancy that my words can't match.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Christmas carbs (not a typo!)

Festivities in full swing now – we had our first family meal today at the in-laws. Over the next few days we’ll be doing a fair bit of travelling to see family. All of our journeys will be by car, so adding to our carbon consumption (first ‘carb’). I’m not trying to be a killjoy, and have no intention of reducing family visits to somehow salve my eco-conscience. But it’s still worth pausing for thought. During Lent 2008, Tearfund will be suggesting ways to reduce our emissions as part of a Carbon Fast, that might be a time to take action and change some of our ingrained habits.

In addition, the usual manic supermarket binge-shopping is upon us again. A quick walk round tonight looking for a few things made me think a wee bit about the air miles that our food clocks up. More pertinently, I heard a lunatic statistic yesterday that on average we put on 8lbs over the Christmas period through over-eating/ drinking (second carb – as in ‘carbohydrate’!) and under-exercising. Maybe there is a need for radical action here. A degree of self-restraint would eliminate the need for all those New Year resolutions about diets and exercise that will be broken anyway. And if the shopping bills are reduced, there are plenty of good causes working with hungry people around the world that could use the money!

Friday, 21 December 2007

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Now it feels like Christmas

Two reasons for the mood change.

Firstly, I’m now on holiday.

Secondly, last night we were at Dolly Daydream’s school Christmas concert. It’s rapidly becoming a highlight of the year for us. It’s held in the wonderful setting of St. John’s Kirk in Perth, which reminds me that I really must take a proper look round it one day (I’ve only lived in Perth for 20 years or so!).

Anyway, last night was full of wonderful talent, devoid of cringeworthy moments and with mere shavings of cheese. Dolly was cello-ing with the string and full orchestras and singing with senior choir.

Other highlights included the swing band – so cool that they were hot; and a reading called “A modern Corinthian”. This was based on 1 Corinthians 13, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere on the weby-net thing. If anyone has a copy …

Putting parental pride aside, the thing that sticks in my mind was right at the end of the evening. Four boys/ young men sang two verses of Silent Night unaccompanied. It’s far from a favourite of mine, but on this occasion and with this performance it seemed to be the perfect ending. Very brave of them and very well done!

It’s Christmas!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

The wonder of irony

On a lighter note than my last entry … I came across this snippet on the BBC website, and almost fell of my chair laughing.

Question - What did the Communist MEP Sahra Wagenknecht say when she was caught eating lobster?

Answer – “I’m fighting for a society in which everyone can afford to eat lobster.”

There must be dozens of slogans that could be used in such a campaign. For example:

"Crustaceans for common people"

"Prawns for the proletariat"


Fight the good fight comrade!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The teachable moment

It’s an interesting phrase, but at the moment it carries negative connotations for me.

Over the past few days there have been a flurry of stories about an aspect of Scottish culture. Not haggis, tartan and shortbread; not the “nearly success” of our football team - but the prevalence of violent attacks (often involving knives) associated with our tendency to binge drink. This is an unattractive aspect of our society.

The teachable moment comes in when nursing staff take the opportunity to highlight the dangers of excessive drinking to the victims of violence – sort of driving the point home. (Of course there’s also an increasing number of violent or aggressive incidents involving nurses in accident and emergency units!).

There is so much to love about Scotland, but also bits to be ashamed of. Will we ever learn? Do we need these teachable moments?

Will we as a society reflect on why our culture is so violent, even compared to that of our near neighbours, who share our delight in binge drinking?

The government is talking about a 10 year strategy. It’s good that they realise the difficulty in changing the ingrained behaviour patterns. Sadly for a lot of people 10 years will be too long – as they will face a lifetime of physical and mental scars – or worse.

Have a happy Christmas – but be sensible too!

Monday, 17 December 2007

Uncomfortable God

Following yesterday’s entry, I came across this prayer from the Iona Community.

The poor… the broken-hearted…
the prisoners… the mourners…
We can make it a reverent and irrelevant litany,
like counting cherry stones:
Tinker… tailor… soldier… sailor…
Rich man… poor man… beggar-man… thief…
what has this got to do with us God?
Sailors… children… merchants… pawnbrokers…
When will it come to us?
This year… next year… sometime… never…
Yet we remember that when Jesus read these words
he added ‘Today – here and now –
these words are coming true.’
Come true for us, uncomfortable God,
here and now!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

A coming Christ in Advent #3

The highlight of this morning’s church service was the new song from Lins Honeyman.

"The splendour of Christ in a bed of straw
Almighty God in human form"

The contrasts contained in the song got me thinking a bit.

What does the Creator of everything want from us? What are we expected to create?

My mind flicked to the Magnificat and the picture expressed by Mary of the Kingdom of God. It’s essentially a kingdom of justice. Given that we are charged with carrying the good news through all the world, does this mean that we are called to bring the values of the kingdom into reality – to create a just world?

I think so – but I’m challenged about my role and where to start. Once again, I’m drawn to Morningside’s Just Christmas.

To create a just world – do something, do it now, do it with all of your creativity, and do it expectantly!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Little things annoy us

No - not children! Although ...

I'm thoroughly enjoying the paperless advent calendar from the Bishop of Kensington. However, today (Day 15) I spotted an error - a typo, a mis-spelling - and as I watched it again to check, this small error took on epic proportions for me. It leapt off the screen, in font size 3-billion.

I'm not a skilled proof-reader (don't have the patience), but these things can bother me. Especially in formal documents.

Don't people use spell checkers? Do they ever read the words that they've written before issuing their material? Do they care?

And don't get me started on apostrophes!

And yes I am aware of various typos that appear in this blog from time to time. I'm not perfect, just crabbit!

Do we all have these little things that distract/annoy us?

Sometimes - for me - the good quality of the material means that I can overcome my irritation - for example, I still think that the paperless advent calendar is cool! But at other times my irritation leads to an irrational prejudice or at least bias against the article.

It's a disappointing character trait, but it's who I am.

Feel free to point out grammatical errors in this entry - that's not a strong point of mine.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Friday photo- Magi from the East


Thursday, 13 December 2007

Rest and be thankful

When wondering what to blog about, four words popped into my head :"Rest and be thankful". This is the name of a place on a road in Scotland. It's a very long time since I've been there - but it's a point at the top of a long climb up a slope, and so the name is self-explanatory.

So why blog about it? Maybe it reflects my mood after a tough couple of days and a tough workout at the gym. Maybe it's a good thought to reflect on during Advent and the Christmas period. Maybe it's a thought to cling to if family tensions or emotions run high in the coming days. Maybe it's just something that we should all do a bit more often.

I really don't know - but I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to 'rest and be thankful'!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Dreams come true - a parable

Question - What do you do if you're a talented Aussie cricketer unable to train with your team as a result of disciplinary action?

Answer - You make your international debut!

In a "Roy of the Rovers" tale, Luke Pomersbach turned up to watch a cricket match as a paying spectator, and was parking his car when the Aussie manager phoned and asked him to play for his country. One of the team was injured (putting on his trousers!) and Luke was called up. I loved this story when I heard it first of all - in an interview he seemed totally gob-smacked and nervously excited. Later on I discovered why he was available on the day - and I liked his reaction:

"I've made a couple of bad decisions and I just want to play cricket," he said.
"I am so glad I have had a little taste at this level and it is the best day of my life."

By the way, he did play quite well (though he didn't score the winning goal - unlike Roy).

Driving around today (a lot), I was thinking about this and how it could be turned into a parable. It has lots of ingredients and several endings. Care to make a suggestion?

And when did Roy of the Rovers get a website?

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Through the eyes of others

During advent I’ve stumbled a couple of things that have made me stop and wonder how Advent (and by extension Christianity) must look from different perspectives.

First of all was the paperless advent calendar, which I love and am finding very helpful as a way of thinking through Advent (double entendre intended!). I particularly liked day 4.

I also came across the art work of He Qi – a Chinese Christian artist. I find these images simple, striking and challenging.

My conclusion? We have become anaesthetised by our cultural assumptions – at this time, particularly in relation to Advent and the Christmas story. Our imagery tends to revolve around children’s nativity plays rather than thought through and engaging our imaginations.

Years ago I read and quoted regularly from a wonderful wee book that I was given – “The Gospel in Art by the Peasants of Solentiname”. Solentiname is a fishing village in Nicaragua, and the book is based on a series of Bible study discussions involving the villagers. They see the gospel story from a completely different perspective, probably more in keeping with Mary and Joseph than with me.

Maybe we need to look at things from a different cultural perspective to be able to make sense of how to engage with our own culture.


“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”
Bertrand Russell

Monday, 10 December 2007

A coming Christ in Advent #2 addendum

I came across an article by Charles Colson which seems to resonate with some of my ramblings of yesterday. A few quotations, but it’d probably be better to read the whole article!

“Sometimes I think Jesus' announcement of the liberation of the Jewish people and the coming of God's kingdom is as misunderstood today as it was by the Jews of his time. Christ was bringing in the reign of God on earth; first, through his own ministry, and then by establishing a peaceful occupying force - his church - which would carry on God's redeeming work until Christ's return in power and glory and the kingdom's final triumph.”

“Preoccupied with self and distracted by affluence, many Christians try to confine the gospel to a superior form of therapy; they fail to see it as a cosmic plan of redemption in which they, as fallen creatures, are directly involved.”

“Christianity won't rise or fall on whether Wal-Mart employees can say "Merry Christmas." But its future does depend, in part, on how God's people advance God's kingdom, as we help establish his peaceful rule in the present historical moment, until Christ reigns in all his glory.”

Sunday, 9 December 2007

A coming Christ in Advent #2

"Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge."

Abraham Joshua Heschel

How do we apply this in Advent? Well, the wisest man that I know was preaching in our church tonight, and he said something along the following lines (my shorthand couldn't keep up, but it's true to the spirit of what was said):

If a secular society wants to turn Advent into a spending spree or festival of light in midwinter, that's their choice. And we join in. But we are called to affirm the wonder and mystery of Advent.

I was reflecting on these two thoughts and thinking that the church, and individual Christians, need to stop being negative about consumerism gone mad in Advent, and start being positive about the story of Christmas. By all means enjoy the season, but make sure that you spend time in reflection, wonder and prayer. Also, share the good news with others.

Then I came across a news story about John Sentamu, Archbishop of York. To avoid any doubt, I absolutely support his actions. His action - visual in its appeal and prophetic in its message - strikes me as an appropriate way for a Christian (whether leader or not) to express negative feeligns about something. In other words, when we choose to convey a message of opposition, make sure that the issue concerned is sufficiently important, and that the message is clear.

Wasn't a significant part of Christ's message about supporitng the poor and oppressed, rather than sooking up tae the high heid yins?

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Through all the Advents of our life

Through all the Advents of our life, we shall wait and look forward with longing for that day of the Lord, when God says, "I am making everything new!"

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Yesterday I had an unexpected wonderful experience, which seemed to chime with the Bonhoeffer quotation.

At work I normally avoid what I call the ‘figurehead’ role – you know those events that you get invited to where you have to flash the smile, press the flesh and make small talk to strangers. Not exactly a comfortable environment for me.

Anyway, we are involved in a health and social care academy. I was involved in the original idea and planning, but true to form ducked out when real people got involved. The academy is really a short course to provide people who are out of the mainstream employment market with some basic skills that will help them apply for jobs in health and social care. Often the participants will be people who have had health problems (including mental health), women returning to the labour market after child care responsibilities but with no relevant skills.

Because someone else was on holiday, I was asked to represent the department at the graduation for the current group. Then I was asked if I would say a few words, and oh, would I present the certificates as well. I agreed, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. I don’t have any problem with the public speaking side (although ‘a few words’ turned out to be a 10 minute slot!); but small talk …

Before the ceremony I was chatting (mainly listening) to some of the college staff who commented on the increase in confidence in the participants over the six weeks of the course. After the ceremony – as I started to relax a bit- talking to the candidates it was clear that this was a really big deal for them. They were enthusiastic, but clearly with underlying concerns and apprehensions. They wanted to know about job opportunities, and could they volunteer, and who should they contact etc etc.

After the photo session, one of the women said “This has been a great day!” As she said this I realised that I had been looking at this event from the wrong perspective – to my shame. It was a bit of an inconvenience to me; for the course participants it was ‘making everything new’.

Well, as I drove home I realised that it was a new start for me to – time to press the flesh a bit more and appreciate that what can seem like a wee thing to me can be a major event for someone else. What was David Adam saying about Mirror Images?

This was a great day!



Friday, 7 December 2007

Friday photo - while shepherds watched ...




Thursday, 6 December 2007

Black holes and pulsars


This is the title of one of the chapters in David Adam's 'Mirror Images' - probably my favourite chapter. It also lets me use one of the fantastic images from the Hubble website!

For the non-physicists (including me) black holes absorb energy, pulsars are stars that emit light. (If I've got any of this wrong let me know.)

"‘There is enough ‘gravitas’ in the Church without me adding to it. We need a bit more levity and the ability to laugh. If we cannot laugh at what we are doing then life has become serious indeed. Christians that are miserable about the world or life do our faith and our God a great injustice."

Challenging? It certainly seems to me that I/we take ourselves far too seriously most of the time. So what are we going to do about it?

Well, David Adam has a couple of suggestions:

"We need to make God at home in our homes and to let God be at work in our work. God is not concerned only with religion but with all of life."

"Promise to make room in your life for God. Accept his invitation to come into his presence. Write it in your diary. Make space each day to rejoice in his presence and to relax into the light, the love and peace of God."

I have a suggestion of my own - read his book, it's really worth it!

Final word from David Adam (for a wee while):

"Does your life mirror the love and the light of God?"




Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Mirror Images #1

"In Mirror Images I want to look at people and how they reflect certain attitudes we have to life: how various individuals show characteristics that we all have a tendency to have. In our meeting with other people we often see images of our own reactions and attitudes. Sometimes this is a clear image and it helps us to see ourselves more clearly. Sometimes it is a distorted image that reaches down into our deepest fears. Then at other times we see a bright image that gives us for a moment a glimpse of the glory that is ours."

This is David Adam's stated intention in this book. He tells us about a birdwatcher and his love for creation; a young woman renewed through falling in love; a man who gave a simple but important service to God; an artist dealing with the desolation of a broken friednship ... But the stories in themselves don't matter - the point is what they tell us about ourselves and our relationship with God. So a couple of quotations - 'ouch' moments for me.

"We should remember that the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. God is not to be found only in church or in the study of books."

"We all need to discover on our journey through this world that the God whom we seek presents himself to us at every moment."

"The danger in some forms of religion is that they can be used as a protection from any real encounter with God."
I might unpack some of these in the coming weeks - if I can dare to look in the mirror again!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The one that (nearly) got away

I’ve just finished reading a fantastic book – and I nearly didn’t buy it!

A few months ago (April actually!) I wandered into a bookshop – just for a wee change. I spotted a book by a guy called David Adam. I’ve read several of his books of prayers in the Celtic tradition, and I return to them frequently. So I picked the book up, opened it and to my great disappointment it wasn’t a book of prayers. Without further thought I put it down again and left the shop empty-handed. In itself this was unusual for me.

(I find that bookshops and garden centres are the only places where I can understand the mind of a compulsive shopper – i.e. I rarely leave either without buying at least one book/ plant.)

Anyway I wandered around a bit, went to an art gallery (The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle – worth a visit, and they do some reasonably priced lunches) but then found myself drawn back to the bookshop and the David Adam book. I bought it without even thinking about it. I’m really glad that I did. It’s the best book that I’ve read this year (so far).

Of course, if I’d opened the book and read the preface to the introduction, I’d definitely have bought it. It’s a quotation from Clare of Assisi:


Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance!
And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead itself through contemplation


It’s called ‘Mirror Images – Seeing ourselves in other people’. It’s a collection of stories drawn from David Adam’s pastoral work over many years. At times it’s touching, at other times it touches a raw nerve as the mirror is held against your face. The stories aren't all happy endings - real life isn't like that, and Adam is certainly dealing with real life. This is a book to reflect on (pun intended!). It is insightful, uplifting and encouraging. I’ll fill in more details over the next couple of days.

The moral of this tale? Don’t judge a book by its content!

By the way, today’s paperless Christmas entry is great (thanks THM!)

Monday, 3 December 2007

Values, teddy bears and a pound of flesh

I was originally going to call this entry “Hypocrisy, teddy bears and a pound of flesh” – but that would be judgmental (not good!), so I’ve amended the title.

Now that Gillian Gibbons is safely heading back to the UK, I thought that it was safe to blog about this. (The last sentence started its life as a joke, but as I type it I wonder…)

Anyway, Gillian’s story can be found over at the good old BBC. There was outrage in the UK, including from the Muslim Council of Britain; and there was some (limited as far as I know) protest in Sudan that the sentence was too lenient.

What judgments did we make? Did we wonder why a teacher wasn’t aware of the potential offence in a culture that she had entered? Did we think in terms of ‘fundamentalists’?

Next story – Wendy Alexander has apparently received illegal contributions to her leadership campaign (see BBC again). One aspect that really puzzles me – why do you need a fund to fight an uncontested election? Surely you just turn up on the day, vote for yourself without spoiling the ballot paper, and you’re in! Anyway, the donation was from someone not on the UK electoral roll and was, intriguingly, for slightly less than the amount where donations have to be made more public.

What judgments did we make?
Political sleaze?
Cannae run a raffle, never mind the country?
“Off with her head!”

Anyone spotted the connection yet?

I’m quite fond of quoting Burns, especially:

“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
Tae see ourselves as ithers see us."

Also, something about specks and beams.
One final question about these two cases – who clyped?

Sunday, 2 December 2007

A coming Christ in Advent #1

The title of this post is also the title of a fascinating wee book by Raymond E Brown that I'm planning to re-read this Advent. Aspects of this might feature in future entries.

For today... mainly questions.

Amongst the many themes for Advent are realisation and hope; the hope of realisation; and the realisation of hope. What does this mean for Christianity in 2007?

Can we focus on Christ as well as Christmas?

Can we focus on needs in our world as well as on our own 'wants'?

Can we reflect the joy of the season, while reflecting on the magnitude of the message?

Can we bring light into the glitter of December?

Can we bring hope amongst the shopping lists?

Can we realise our blessed-ness and bring the hope of Christ into our world?

Saturday, 1 December 2007

AIDS and advent - sinful absence and puny efforts

What’s the connection between World AIDS day and the start of advent?

It’s not a riddle – but could the answer be realisation and hope?

I’d like to point out 4 articles for you to consider:

1 - Tearfund’s December reflection
2 - Reuters’ article about Kay Warren
3 -
BBC article on World Aids day – including George Bush’s attempts to double funding for combating the disease
4 -
British Red Cross campaign to raise awareness and understanding


Contrast the “sinful absence and puny efforts” that Kay Warren talks about with the joyous, hope-filled presence of advent and the supreme efforts that Christ made for us.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Friday photo - to everything there is a season ...


















... until global warming




... or genetic modification

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The church meeting blues

I’m a member of a Baptist Church, which means that we are congregational in our governance. Last night we had our quarterly church members meeting.

Mostly it was dull – there were a couple of highlights, including feedback from our housegroups’ thinking about the direction for our church. But overall it was dull.

I can’t imagine that this is what Jesus intended his church to become.

My thinking was crystallised by one topic that was discussed at some length (the only topic that was discussed at all really). Without going into details – the deacons and pastor had made a decision which they were bringing to the meeting for endorsement. The rationale for the decision-making approach was the need to act speedily on this topic.

Nobody had a problem with the decision itself, but there were concerns expressed about the way the decision was made without reference to the church meeting. Those expressing their concerns were some of the more traditional members of our congregation – in fact, some of those with a long-standing Baptist background (unlike most of our members, including me).

So what? Well, this strikes me as an issue that needs to be carefully considered.

How do we equip our leadership team to make decisions, without constantly referring back to church meetings, and ensure that they remain accountable to the church for those decisions? I understand how difficult it is to serve in a leadership position in church (and other voluntary situations) – I’ve been there!

How do we deal with the concept of congregational governance as our church gets bigger and more complex?

But more fundamentally than any of these things – how do we have a conversation on these issues without people adopting defensive or antagonistic positions. I have a fair degree of sympathy with those who raised the issue, and also admire (to some extent) their courage in speaking up. I did not like some of the manner in which the concerns were raised. I was equally unimpressed by contributions on the other 'side' of the debate.

I was impressed by the graciousness and wisdom of the oldest person who spoke during the debate. I am saddened that this wasn’t reflected by the rest of us who took part.

The debate does need to continue – hopefully in a loving, listening and considerate manner.

Then at the end of the meeting the pastor announced that he’d received a message – during the meeting the son of our members had suddenly collapsed and died. May he rest in peace.

And may we learn to keep our issues in a sense of perspective.
PS - just before I published this I found a link to an article about leadership (thanks to Camel Crossing). It's not directly related to my comments above, but it provides some food for thought and given my interest in leadership, I may return to this in another post.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

As weak as water


For reasons that will keep for another entry, I was thinking about the Tao de Ching, in relation to HIV/ AIDS.

“In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it. This is because there is nothing that can take its place.
That the weak overcomes the strong,
And the submissive overcomes the hard,
Everyone in the world knows yet no one can put this knowledge into practice.”

Topsy-turvy thinking? A bit like ‘blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness …’

The weak and the strong. HIV/AIDS stricken Africa and the affluent West?

Monday, 26 November 2007

The church solution

Yesterday in church we watched a DVD produced by Tearfund for their Global Poverty Prayer Week (albeit it was a couple of weeks late!). The Tearfund materials are fantastic.

So to avoid being tardy, I thought I’d highlight the equally amazing resources that they have in relation to HIV/AIDS – in the lead up to World Aids Day on 1 December.


“People were suffering and nobody was caring for them.”


Take a look at the film – then think carefully about how to respond. Is the church part of the solution? Do we help or do we judge – or even worse not care?

Sunday, 25 November 2007

What a wonderful world

Today's thoughts were prompted by His Girl Friday's entry "Play me the blues".




In his day my dad played trumpet and clarinet in various dance bands and orchestras (he's no longer able to blow his horn). Actually, I blame/thank him for my diverse musical interests. One of my dad's favourites was Louis Armstrong, and I think that "What a wonderful world" is an iconic piece of Satchmo. I also love his version of Summertime (probably my favourite song of all time) with Ella Fitzgerald.

As readers of this blog will know, my musical taste is diverse (see above) and I'm also partial to Joey Ramone's version of 'wonderful world'. Which do you prefer?



Question is - can I pass on my musical inheritance to Dolly D? Might be a challenge - although she does share some of my taste - particularly the more anarchic element.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Life after death

This will be the last entry for the time being about our visit to London. Originally we planned the trip to see the Terracotta Army exhibition at the British Museum – but we couldn’t get tickets. So we decided to go to the Tutankhamun exhibition instead.

Having paid quite handsomely for the tickets, we then read some reviews that were less than glowing! I thought it was fantastic and fascinating. There’s a photo essay at the Time website which will give an impression of the exhibits.

I was intrigued by the extraordinary lengths that the Pharoahs went to model this life in the next. Apart from the elaborate coffins and containers for mummified organs, they also included models of fruit and everyday household articles (jugs, bowls etc). They also (in a similar way to the Chinese emperor) provided servants for the afterlife. The Egyptian shabti could perform any required work in the afterlife.

In ancient Egypt the Pharoah was seen as an intermediary between man and the gods in his earthly life, who was destined for divinity after death. I didn’t know (or had forgotten that King Tut’s dad had reformed their polytheistic religion, and introduced worship of one god. These reforms were reversed by King Tut.

So what else intrigued me? Well, at the time I was struck by some curious things that may reflect prophetically in ways that are beyond our comprehension. (What am I talking about?)

The hieroglyph that means ‘life’ is called ‘ankh’ – spot it in the middle of King Tut’s name! The cross as life – interesting?

Also, the symbols of power that the pharaoh carried (equivalent to the orb and sceptre of our monarchs) were a flail and a shepherd’s crook. Seems to be some resonance here too.

This week I’ve been reading some of the passages from Exodus about the priestly garments and paraphernalia – there are some parallels in terms of the intricate detail of the breastpiece etc., although I’m not sure what conclusions to reach – if any – about this.

Of course, I couldn’t ignore the incredible injustice that must have existed in ancient Egypt – with so much wealth and activity consumed by the preparations for the Pharoah’s eternal well-being. Forced labour, exploitation and greed aren’t a new phenomenon – nor are they only in the past!

Any negatives about the exhibition? Well, there were no queues thanks to timed tickets, the exhibition wasn’t too crowded after the first room or so as we managed to spread out. There was an exquisite beauty about many of the exhibits. However, inevitably the exhibition concluded by forcing you into the shop. Filled with overpriced King Tut tat, it was a disappointing end to a well presented, intriguing and (for me) thought-provoking event.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Friday photo - ancient and modern


(Idea pinched from another blogger.)

They say you can tell how prosperous a city is by the number of cranes you can see.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

It cracks me up - but is it art?

While in London we made our customary trip to the Tate Modern. It’s always been worthwhile – and there’s quite a good restaurant too (although we know another place near by if you’re interested).

This time we knew what was going to be in the turbine hall, having read about it in several papers. Basically it’s a crack in the floor – really!

When we entered the gallery I wasn’t very impressed. We were looking at it from above and it looked just like a … crack. However, when we went down to floor level, I found it strangely captivating, and my attitude towards it changed. It was compelling and seemed to draw you in to the chasm – to poke and to probe.

The work is called Shibboleth, but I think it would have more resonance if it was re-named “Well, I drapped a shilling!”

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Therapy and retail

I’m not one of life’s natural shoppers. By contrast, Dolly D seems to have an insatiable appetite – not for spending money, just for looking and enjoying the experience. Inevitably shopping featured in our trip to London, but with agreement about how the time was balanced. I’m sure that she would have taken up residence in Selfridge’s, given the opportunity.

To be fair the shopping experience wasn’t too bad for me – given agreed limits and my permit to be elsewhere at times while ‘shopping’ was happening.

When we were in London some, but not all, of the Christmas lights were on. I found Oxford Street to be disappointing, although some of the individual department stores had made an effort.

By contrast, I thought that Carnaby Street was fantastic – really captured the mood of the season and the street. Maybe they use the same lights every year, but they seemed to me to be innovative and fun – definitely worth the detour from Regent Street to see them.


But behind it all I still have nagging doubts about our (societal) propensity to consume. Hmmm…

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Trafalgar Square – or is it trendy?

I really like the contrasts that Trafalgar Square offers – the ancient monuments and sculptures, the backdrop of the National Gallery, the rush of traffic, alongside the groups of children (and adults) scrambling on the columns and plinths. I like the way that modern art has been integrated to the square in recent years. (I don’t like the pigeons!)


The latest addition to the square is called “Model for a Hotel 2007”. I think it’s great. It really does catch the eye, and it seems to change subtly as the passing traffic is reflected on its underside.

For me the integration of modern pieces reflects the vibrancy of the city, and prevents the square becoming
dated and out of place in our society. Not everyone
agrees – as you can see from the Guardian article. But each to their own!

I hope it’s still there the next time that I’m down that way – I’d like to see it again, maybe at a different time of day, and see if I still like it.

Monday, 19 November 2007

London in November

We've just spent a few days in London (which is in danger of becoming an annual tradition!). The more we visit, the more we seem to enjoy it.

After our train journey, which was reasonably pleasant (for a change), we dumped our bags at the hotel and headed into town. As we arrived at Trafalgar Square, there was a beautiful sunset. Beauty and London haven't really seemed to be connected to me, but this was breath-taking, and the photo doesn't come close to doing it justice. The weather was good throughout our short stay, and we literally saw the city in a different light.

More dull thoughts and musings will follow, as I get around to sorting out my photos, notes and thoughts.


Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Quoting Moltmann

Having posted my last entry, I found a great Jurgen Moltmann quotation on prayer over at Adventures in Following Jesus. It's worth a look.

Lies, damned lies and statistics about prayer

No, I'm not casting aspersions about the validity of the Tearfund prayer report! In this (final) post about the report I want to consider some surprising stats that emerge from the report, particularly relating to the regional analysis.

London topped the charts with 73% of people saying that they ever prayed. For Scotland the figure was a disappointing 32%. Still at least we're not from Yorkshire - 24%.

Do Londoners really pray more than the Scots? Well, I'm going down there for a couple of days so I might just ask around a bit.

The report suggests that one reason why more Londoners pray than any other region is due to "the number of black and ethnic minorities, who show a higher propensity for prayer".

Well, I wonder if there might be other reasons. Is our personal spirituality shaped by the prevailing culture of our churches? In Scotland, the Calvinist, presbyterian model is based on a fairly passive congregation listening to a man preaching. The rest of the service being fairly restrained and under-stated (some might say sombre). By contrast, the Anglican tradition seems to me to be a more participative event (congregational responses, movement during the service, greeting each other) based around the liturgy. Recognising the over-simplification in this analysis - could it explain some differences in spirituality which continues into the 21st century?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of my comments, I still think that Francois Fenelon was right:

"Of all the duties enjoined by Christianity none is more essential and yet more neglected than prayer. "

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Pray, and let God worry

The blog title is a quotation from Martin Luther. It came to mind when reading a part of the Tearfund report, which highlights the calming effects of prayer.

After prayer 38% of people felt peaceful/content; 22% close to God. 80% reported that prayer made them feel better. This section of the report is entitled 'Too Busy Not To Pray' (referring to Bill Hybels' book) and concludes with this sentence:

"It [prayer] provides a moment of reflection and it provokes positive emotions in the person praying."

I realise that this is not the exeperience of everyone, and in fact, these conclusions can make some people feel worse because they don't respond in this way. This is one example of areas where we need to be sensitive to those around us - often we/I lack this sensitivity and trot out one-dimensional opinions and viewpoints.

Nevertheless the Tearfund report and other research highlights the value that there is in the act of praying. Intriguingly (for me) they make a link between these benefits from prayer and the processing of slowing down and reflecting. They also refer to the Stephen Cottrell book that I've been blogging about recently.

This brought to mind a time when I was a student in St Andrews (hence the photo) and going through a bit of a rough time. I recall vividly - which is unusual for me - walking along the East Sands one night in the haar, feeling completely confused and then without really noticing anything happening I felt completely at peace and reassured. I came to a conclusion about the direction of my life - and have had no regrets ever since.

Prayer takes many forms, but maybe it's most effective when we don't use our feeble words and simply let God work in our hearts.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Prayer in the UK


Tearfund has designated this week (11-17 November 2007) as Global Poverty Prayer Week. To coincide with this, they have just published a survey about prayer habits in the UK. I haven't read the report yet, but it was heartening that some of the Sunday papers picked up the story.

Headline figures include 1 in 5 people believes prayer changes the world; 9 million people pray every day. Over the next couple of days, I'll read the report - and probably pass comment on it! In the meantime, I rejoice that prayer has made the headlines. Go on, be part of a news story - pray!

"When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don't pray, they don't."
William Temple

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Keep Sunday special?

“… rather than fighting a rearguard action to keep Sunday special, it might be better to consider how you can build some Sabbath time into the schedules and rhythms of the life you have. These are the disciplines of slowing down and shutting up… They are the recovery of Sabbath, the creation of a place of rest where joy and contentment can flourish.”
Stephen Cottrell


This quotation seems to sum up the essence of what a modern day Sabbath should be about. We need to avoid the legalism that is often associated with Sabbath-keeping – and the ‘Keep Sunday Special’ campaign. However, we also need to find ways to gain the benefits of Sabbath habits.

Some suggestions from my own experience and feelings at this time include the following:

  • Avoid using your chosen Sabbath day to catch up with chores. Make sure that the chores are planned for other days.

  • Spend time positively with God. In my case, that usually includes going to church (more of that in a wee while), but it also involves some time of reflection, reviewing the week, and thinking about areas of Bible study, theology etc that I want to think through in the week ahead.

  • Going to church. To be honest, this can be a chore at times. But having recognised this, find a way to address it – find something positive and revel in that. Recently, we have started giving an older person a lift to church. Her faithfulness is an inspiration, and spending time with her is something positive in our church experience.

  • Most of all relax. Use the time available wisely for re-creation, for reflection, for friends and family. Do things that you enjoy, rather than things that you feel compelled to do.


When I was at university, the Student Counsellor advocated having one and a half days a week free from study. This would typically include Wednesday afternoon, when there were no lectures or tutorials, and many of us participated in sport – or other clubs. (In my case this included a group called the Malt-esers, which is a tale for another day!) Anyway, the counsellor’s advice struck me as being entirely sensible. Firstly, I didn’t need too much encouragement to stop studying. More importantly I recognised the value of some time to recharge the batteries, and although I haven’t always managed to heed the advice, it has always stayed with me.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Marriage Course


Over the past few weeks the Fishwife and I have been attending “The Marriage Course”. It was developed by Holy Trinity Brompton, and is along similar lines to the Alpha Course – filmed talkie bits on DVD, with slots for each couple to have private discussion about the topic. It was really good – at times a bit challenging, often funny and certainly plenty to think about.

The course was wonderfully hosted by the Hideous one and his much better half. Each week we started with a meal and then watched DVD etc. The format worked well, and it helped us get to know the other couples who were attending. By the way, the Neil Armstrong story is worth waiting for - even if it isn't true!

I would definitely recommend it for anyone. You don’t need to be having problems to benefit from the course. You don’t need to be recently married (we’ve been married for 19 years) to learn something and to benefit from it.

Only one things puzzles me – why was the DVD presented by Jan Leeming and Oz Clarke? (And another thing – why does Tony Blair do the voice on the Alpha Course?)

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Bright field


The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through

to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after

an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

~ R. S. Thomas ~

This poem (quoted by Stephen Cottrell) can be found in “Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds”, which is a fantastic wee anthology.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Erosion

“The boundaries between the different days of the week, the seasons of the year, and even, nowadays, between night and day, have been eroded. This brings a terrible loss. People are deprived of the rhythms and patterns that shape life. And with this, the pressure to be busy and productive increases. There is less time for family, less time for leisure, less time for re-creation, which is the purpose of living.”

- Stephen Cottrell


I was reading something today which defined wisdom as “evaluated understanding”. (I like that and may well return to it – wisdom being another hobby horse of mine.)

Applying this definition to the quotation from Stephen Cottrell – if we recognise (i.e. understand) the erosion of boundaries, then how are we evaluating it? Are we recognising the importance of family, leisure etc? And if we recognise it, what are we doing about it?

There is no wisdom in recognising a problem, unless you are prepared to act on it. (Aye, I know – physician heal thyself.)

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Funny (strange) wee book

The subtitle of this book is ‘Discovering what happens when you stop’, so I figured that it might help with my thinking about life’s rhythms and the dimension of Sabbath. And I liked the cover (shallow but true!).

I started to read it while sitting in Starbucks having a double espresso at the Metro Centre (for those not familiar with it - this is a monolithic shopping mall in north east England). The fishwife and Dolly D were shopping, and I was doing my own thing – not very patiently.

Anyway as I read the first chapter, I started to relax. In fact, I started to stop! Some of the comments seemed to be aimed directly at me:

"I have allowed busyness to invade my life so much that it gets harder and harder to be in touch with that other part of me which thrives on the creativity of indolent wastefulness."

"There was a restless impatience within me."


So with my mood lifted, I tucked the book away and carried on ambling around the shops, and watching what people were doing, having a chat with the shop assistant in the cookery shop etc etc. A good start.

However, the next few chapters were disappointing. They were an encouragement to become a Christian. No problem with that, except that there was no indication about this on the cover notes. It seemed a bit disingenuous. However, I persevered and things improved.

Modern life is crowded and cacophonous. Everywhere you turn there are more people shouting at you, demanding attention and wanting to consume your time. Drastic action is needed. So chuck out the instant coffee. It’s not just that it tastes horrible; I want back the time it robbed me of. The superficial attraction of its speed didn’t save me time; it just encouraged me to cram more in. What people need in their lives are things to slow them down. Labour-creating devices and time-wasting strategies are what I’m after. They will generate opportunities for stillness and reflection.

I particularly agree with the bit about the coffee! But more than that the essential message of the book is that we need to slow down, to take the time that we need to enjoy life AND to get in touch with our creative side and our Creator.

I’ll chuck in some more quotations over the next few entries.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Spaced

Two thoughts colliding with my own thinking.

Firstly, Mark Sanborn's blog "What are we making space for?".

Followed by an article that I was reading "Meet the Life Hackers" by Clive Thompson, who quotes Merlin Mann

"We'd rather die than be bored for a few minutes, so we just surround ourselves with distractions."

Well, I've been thinking a lot about the importance of a proper Sabbath as the focal point of the week - creating space and balance and a time for no distractions. I need this space, and I need to establish it and protect it.

I've also just finished reading an intriguing wee book called "Do nothing to change your life" - actually I'm going to be a tease and keep that for tomorrow, or the next time that I get space to blog.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Web


Shafts of light in an imperfect but connected web.


Monday, 29 October 2007

The peril of personal pronouns

This blog is prompted by a variety of sources - partly from reading Ron Sider; partly from my thoughts about yesterday's sermon at church; partly by the Hideous one's comments on my last entry; and partly (and recurringly) by my bete noir at work.

Ignoring the last source to avoid another rant-a-long, it strikes me that evangelical churches are prone to emphasising personal salvation as opposed to tackling societal injustice etc. (This isn't the main thrust of this blog, and to avoid confusion - I know that we need to deal with both elements.)

The point is that our churches tend to use singular pronouns a lot of the time - for example, yesterday our pastor asked 'where are you being called to engage with the real world?' It's a fair enough question, but I think it's even more relevant to ask 'where are WE being called to engage with the real world?'

The song that I was moaning about yesterday would be more tolerable if it said "WE want ..."

When I was a student I recall Professor Whyte saying that he preferred credal statements to be use plural forms - "We believe ..." This served two purposes - to reinforce the communal nature of church, and also to overcome any theological difficulties with any of the statements!

Of course WE is not just a cop out. WE needs to be a statement of identification and support - it's not about shifting MY responsibility to YOU. I remain accountable, but there is great strength and witness in WE.

OK - grammar lesson over!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Songs and theology

I’ve been reading Ron Sider’s excellent “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience” (more of that in another entry). Almost as a passing comment, he highlights the difficulty that he has with a worship song, which he enjoys singing but has problems with some of the lyrics. I guess that most of us will have our pet hates.

And, yes, I am going to share mine with you!

Today in church we sang (well actually I didn’t) “I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation” by Mark Altrogge. The first verse is OK, as a statement of personal commitment; but for me it’s all downhill from there on. The last two verses start like this:

I want to see the kingdom of God
In my generation …

I want to see the Lord come again
In my generation …


The first problem for me is the view of the kingdom as something not yet present (more of that in another entry as well). But then, who do we think we are, to sing to God that we want the Lord to come again - if you don’t mind very much – in my generation! I’m dumfoonert!

What made it worse today is that our minister is preaching a series on “Disillusioning the Illusions” (sermon titles and series titles can wait for another rant!). Anyway, last week he was talking about the problem in our culture of “I want it my way and I want it now”. So how can we sing a worship song the following week, that starts every verse with I want, I want, I want…?

Or should we just switch off our brain when we stand up (or sit) to sing?

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Inspired

Inspired by The Word at the Barricades, a simple entry:


"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness" (Chinese saying used by Eleanor Roosevelt)


"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world" Karl Barth

Friday, 26 October 2007

electric macca

From the ridiculous to the sublime?

Last night The Ramones, tonight Paul McCartney!

I'm listening to the Electric Proms concert from last night - and it's brilliant. From the tender beauty of 'Here Today', to the rockiness of 'Back in the USSR'. Not bad for a bloke who's about 108!

Dolly D doesn't get it, but if you have more discernment and wisdom do yourself a favour - make a cup of good coffee, maybe with a bit of home-made tablet (thanks Dolly) and sit back for an hour and a half listening/watching online.

It's good!! And if you want more, the Kaisers and a host of others to come.