Tuesday, 29 July 2008


Not much going on in this blog at the moment... but this is worth 2 minutes and 19 seconds of your time!

Friday, 25 July 2008

The rough and the smooth

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Rant #483

This morning I started to read a research report that had landed on my desk in recent weeks. I didn’t even get through the Executive Summary before I binned it.

The problem wasn’t the content – I didn’t read enough of it to be able to assess its value. The issue was the use of language. Maybe it’s a symptom of my increasing grumpiness in middle age, but I am thoroughly fed up with government agencies, quangos and other people who don’t directly deliver services talking about the need to drive up standards.

To talk of driving up standards infers two things to me.

Firstly, it suggests that standards are not adequate as they are. This begs a further question – is it the standards that are inadequate or the performance against these standards?

Secondly, the assumption that improvement can only come through driving up implies that there is a significant degree of reluctance from at least one of the parties being discussed.

The people producing these documents are frequently the same people who exhort those working in UK public services to work collaboratively; to develop partnerships; to breakdown artificial barriers between agencies etc, etc. Yet the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.

In my view if they wanted to work in genuine partnerships, they would use language that fitted with that approach.

Here endeth the rant… (for today!)

Monday, 21 July 2008

Unplanned benefits and (as yet) unsuccessful culls

In one of my recent posts I commented about swapping rooms in our house (Dolly D's bedroom and the study). After the dust has settled - literally and metaphotically - it seems to be working out OK so far. One of the unplanned benefits is that I've been able to set up my antiquated record deck in the study and listen to vinyl LP's regularly.

In the coming weeks, I intend to listen to the vinyl that has survived previous culls and decide which - if any - merit digitising in some way, shape or form. This is supposed to be part of a concerted effort to lighten our load of accummulated possessions in our house. Since there's little prospect of finding a replacement stylus for my more than 25 year old record deck, there is an imperative to complete this task systematically and quickly. The trouble is that I keep getting distracted and listen again and again to tracks that I haven't heard for many years. Oh well, it's fun while it lasts!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Friday photo: Consider the lily

Thursday, 17 July 2008

It doesn't have to be perfect to be amazing.

It was a fairly dreich start to the day - then the Fish Wife pointed out the fennel misted by the remnants of last night's rain.

The title for this blog has been running around in my head since I read Lucy's entry the other day. We've lived in this house for 15 years and we've never been on top of the whole garden. Gordon MacDonald (I think) referred to 'areas of considered neglect', and I apply this concept frequently. I know that there are parts of our garden (quite a few) that need a good weed and overhaul, but I still get a lot of joy from the garden even though it's not perfect.

I guess it depends on how you look at things. Unfortunately I'm not so positive about everything in my life, but I'm still work-in-progress!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

2148 not out..

My camera is a year old today - and in those twelve months I've taken 2148 snaps. The joys of digital - I'm glad I'm not paying for film and processing any more (or I'd be broke!).

The one below is #2141 (taken 15 minutes ago).

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


I believe that the word that I've used as a title means "slowly" in Welsh. Years ago we were at Spring Harvest in Pwhelli and the guy who was in charge the activities for Dolly D's age group used this word to try to maintain a semblance of order. It sounded like "linky lonky" and really captured the imagination of the kids (well, for a while anyway!).

So what's the significance today? Well, I've been thinking and reading quite a bit lately about needing to slow down. It's ironic that since I started my other blog on 'developing daily disciplines', things have gone to pieces around here. Not from a lack of discipline per se, but a combination of having two of my sister's teenage children here for a week; swapping Dolly D's bedroom and our study; and some wet weather meaning that the garden has gone nuts - along with the usual chaos and mayhem that we call everyday life!

But rather than get uptight about it, I'm adopting 'linky lonky' as my catchphrase for the next few weeks. I'm going to slow down - which may mean even more inconsistent blogging and replying than usual. So be it.

I'm going to slow down:
- to listen to God;
- to do things thoroughly;
- to see what is important;
- to reflect on and apply the things that I learn/read;
- to choose wisely;
- to laugh and to love;
- to focus on the positive;
- to be balanced and proportionate;
- to rest, relax and re-create;
- to be me.

Those sound like 10 pretty good reasons to me. In fact, if I like it, I may never speed up again.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Friday photo: Cathedral view

(Probably my favourite view of Durham Cathedral.)

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Images of Durham

The other way would have taken far too long!!!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Durham windows

Another of my Durham observations was church windows - from the outside. At the time my interest mainly related to the shapes and patterns that could be seen.

St Nic's in the Market Place

The wonderfully named "Our Lady of Mercy and St Godric's"

This one is from the Cathedral - and when Dolly D saw it she remarked, "It looks different from the outside". It strikes me that this statement could equally apply to churches ancient and modern.

The window that I like most was the one below - from Elvet Methodist with the late afternoon sun catching the simply pattern.

The analogy that springs to mind - let your light shine before men. How much light do our churches actually emit?

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

tell-tale signs

Sometimes the wee things tell you as much about the character of a town as the more obvious displays of history and tradition!

I love the contrast between Silver Street and Clay Path!

Monday, 7 July 2008

Participating and spectating

We recently spent a couple of nights in Durham (far too short!). Durham is a wonderful place, which has never failed to inspire and delight me/us.

As ever we visited the magnificent cathedral. Access to part of it was restricted as they were preparing for Evensong, which is fair enough - it is a working church after all. We wandered around the unrestricted bit, then headed to the cafeteria for a cup of tea and a wee cake (very nice).

When we went back into the cathedral, Evensong had started. The choir were singing and there was a small group of people at the back of the cathedral listening, so I joined them. I don't know what the choir were singing, but it was polished and clear and wonderful to listen to ... but then I realised that I was a spectator at a performance rather than a participant in an act of worship.

This was a real contrast to our visit to St Nic's in the Market Place on Sunday morning. The service wasn't polished, the music was competent but not brilliant - but the atmosphere was warm and a sense of worship and togetherness filled the place.

What's the difference? It was nothing to do with the cathedral, and everything to do with me. I didn't go to the cathedral expecting to be part of a church service, and I didn't adjust my mindset when I was inside either. The difference is about 'coming expectantly' and offering ourselves in worship - participating not just spectating.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Surrendering to stillness

On Friday afternoon, while driving home from work, I noticed that the River Tay was quite calm – so I stopped to take some photos.

The river wasn't absolutely still, but it struck me that the gentle movement made it seem even more beautiful and peaceful. The effect of the reflections on the river’s surface was almost like some of the Impressionist paintings (the photos don’t really do this justice).

I guess that there would've been strong currents beneath the surface, but the overall feeling was one of tranquillity. After taking some photos I simply stood and watched for a while. I felt completely relaxed and ‘in tune’.

That feeling of tranquillity has kept coming back to me, and it feels like God is speaking through it.

Over the course of the last week, I’ve been grappling with Mark’s account of the Transfiguration, and have found myself returning to the voice from the cloud:

“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Listening is easy – hearing and heeding are harder. How do I get from listening in my head to obeying in my heart?

Well, in some way it seems to be about hearing the gentle whisper, rather than the roaring wind. It’s about combining being still and being restless. Being still to hear, and restless to obey. The tranquillity of knowing God’s presence and hearing his voice, and the restlessness of desiring and seeking change.

As ever, Heschel seems to capture it more comprehensively and eloquently:

“We ring the hollow bell of selfishness rather than absorb the stillness that surrounds the world, hovering over all the restlessness and fear of life – the secret stillness that precedes our birth and succeeds our death. Futile self-indulgence brings us out of tune with the gentle song of nature’s waiting, of mankind’s striving for salvation.”

Friday, 4 July 2008

Friday photo: tranquili-Tay

(sorry about the terrible pun!)