Sunday, 27 December 2009

Snowy Perth

(That's Perth, Scotland for the avoidance of doubt!!)

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Last night we had the heaviest snowfall that I can remember - something around 12 inches.  This has been a fairly long cold snap for this part of the world - over a week now with the temperature barely rising above freezing.  There is a stunning, aching beauty about it all, but it has created havoc with travel and normal life for many people, who feel trapped in their homes because of the icy pavements etc.  In a way, the two cordylines summarise these responses.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Walking in a winter wonderland

The weather curtailed our travel plans for today.  It was a bit disappointing, but common sense had to prevail.

In the afternoon we wrapped up warmly and went for a walk around this part of Perth.  It was beautiful.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas fun with Organic Demo

An interesting take on some old favourites.  Go on, smile!  You know you want to!

P.S. After posting this I went back to what I'd been listening to before - Franck's Panis Angelicus.  Slightly bizarre?

The wonder of Woolies - again!

Earlier this year, all of the branches of Woolworths closed across the UK, so there are no Woolies adverts on TV this Christmas.  Many of the shops have remained closed, probably due to the unhelpful economic climate.

I was delighted to hear on the radio this morning that one of the stores had opened again in the run up to Christmas.  It's only going to be open for a week - and it's being run by St. Andrews Church in Bo'ness [story here].

I love the thinking behind this decision - to provide an opportunity for people - shoppers - to experience something of the spiritual aspect of Christmas, in the midst of their shopping trip.  Taking the good news to where the people are - it's not new in itself, but I like the way that the opportunity of a vacant shop has been taken, it's innovative, it has the potential to capture the imagination of the passers by, and it certainly gives out a positive message about the church.

When I heard this I was reminded of a sermon that I listened to recently.  Harvey Carey (preaching at Willow Creek - you can find it here) told the congregation that:

"God is calling you not to be boring anymore... Don't do the same stuff year after year."

I don't think he could level that accusation at the congregation of St Andrew's in Bo'ness - at least, not this year.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Perplexed and pondering

“But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”
(Luke 1:29)

I really like the New Revised Standard Version’s translation of this verse.  The alliteration (perplexed, pondered) is nice, but I also think that these words are evocative.  They capture the feeling of the moment – with Mary need time to deal with the brain churn following the angel’s appearance and unusual greeting (if you can have such a thing as a normal greeting from an angel).

I can readily identify with Mary – in that I’m not very good at thinking on my feet.  I’ve always been a bit slow on the uptake.  I like to stop and think, and ruminate or cogitate, to digest and adjust my thinking.

So I’m finally reacting to the Tiger Woods story.  I remember being intrigued by some of the adverts that Accenture produced (before they dumped him).  I particularly liked those that were in the ‘split percentage’ format.  I admire (present continuous) Tiger’s prowess as a golfer; his dedication to practice and fitness; his ability to remain calm amidst the tumult of the crowd (mostly); his charming way of dealing with fans and media alike.

I do not seek in any way to minimise the magnitude of his errors.  He has acted badly, and he needs to address that.  His performance as a husband and father do not match his performance as a golfer.  But to some degree that applies to all of us – we are found wanting in some area of our lives.  Hopefully not to the same extent, and hopefully our dirty washing isn’t the subject of tabloid headlines.

I hope that during his break from golf, he takes the time to be perplexed and ponder what he should do - that he reflects and ruminates; puzzles and wrestles.  I hope that he is able to find restoration and forgiveness with his family.

As he has been a role model to so many aspiring golfers (young and old alike), maybe he can be a role model in the way that he puts the pieces of his family life back together.  But it will require: 
  • 100% effort, 0% compromise; 
  • 100% sincerity, 0% denial; 
  • 100% integrity, 0% spin.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Dealing with negativity

Talking Bear was saying something about this yesterday.  

Then, this afternoon, I started to watch a game of rugby on telly, and I found a real life case study to follow.

Leinster were playing the Scarlets.  Leinster have a very talented full-back called Rob Kearney, who was one of the stars of the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa earlier this year.

On 25 November 2009, Kearney told the Irish Times:
“I suppose I have to be (confident),” says Kearney of his own faith. “It’s something that I try and work on. I build up in my own head a level of confidence because I find that I play my best rugby when I am and if I do doubt myself and people around me then that’s when things start to go wrong.

“Everybody has their own different techniques,” he adds, ignoring Earls’s flattering reference. “You try and relive some good games that you’ve played, the good aspects that you did that week in training; maybe you made some good tackles. You try and put all these things together and slowly but surely it will manifest in your head that you’ve trained really well this week and you are prepared for the task ahead.”

And in today’s Irish Times:
The sight of Kearney jumping to pluck the ball out of the air as masses of opponents descend upon him as become of the sporting year’s true defining images. While he’s been delighted with this aspect of his game for the last good while it’s only good “until I start dropping them”.
“But that’s a confidence thing too as well. When a ball is kicked up and you think to yourself I haven’t dropped one of these in a while then you wouldn’t have any negative thoughts in your head.”

So how did he play in the game against Scarlets?

In the first 20 minutes he dropped three high balls.  After 65 minutes he allowed the ball to bounce in front of him, rather than trying to catch it.  The problem is that a rugby ball is oval, and the bounce isn’t always predictable and it sailed over his head, was collected by an opponent who scored a try.

But… he scored a try in the 7th minute; and another in the 22nd minute; and in the second half added his weight to a colleague’s backside to help him score a try!  Also, in the second half he took two high balls in his normal comfortable, confident style (although he did make a couple of other mistakes).

All in all - a mixed performance.  So the question is, which events form this afternoon’s match will make his highlight reel?

I guess that he’ll remember the good stuff, but I also guess that his coach will be giving him some extra practice sessions catching high balls!

One final thought.  After he allowed the ball to bounce over his head, one of the television commentators said something like:
‘He’s so much better when he’s attacking the ball.  These little chinks come in when he waits for it.’

I wonder of that can be said of some of our efforts in other walks of life?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Now it feels like Christmas

Two reasons for the change of mood: 
1 - the wonderful school Christmas Concert on Wednesday, and 
2 - the change in weather with the first real snow and serious frost arriving.

(The view is from my office yesterday.)

Monday, 14 December 2009

Beautiful and useful

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”
William Morris

It seems to me that the philosophy of the arts and crafts movement is captured in this article on Subway Architecture (found via the Fast Company weekly). 

I realise that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that for some things function must take priority over form, but if something functional – like a subway/underground station – can be made interesting/beautiful as well, why not?  I’ve certainly enjoyed the emerging variety of stations on the London Underground in recent years.

Do you have a favourite station from the article, or from your own experience?

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Frosty Perth

It's been a frosty weekend in Scotland - this was Perth earlier today.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The politics of Scrooge

Sometimes I wonder if politicians in this country (and probably everywhere) go out of their way to look foolish.  Today's nonsense in Scotland is about Christmas cards - particularly the design chosen for the First Minister's card.  The image offends political opponents because the saltire is deemed to be a symbol of nationalism... well, it is our national flag.  Doh!

Would I have chosen this card?  No.

Is it worth a political stooshie?  No.

Will our politicians ever grow up?  I'll leave that for you to decide.

Friday, 4 December 2009

In praise of talent

Last night I had the great pleasure to attend (the second half) of an annual Christmas concert.  (There’s a story about why just the second half, but it’s not really relevant for now!)

The concert features young people from across Perth & Kinross.  We are very fortunate to have a wide range of musical options for our youngsters, thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of music tutors.

We are also blessed by having a wonderful concert hall, with possibly the best acoustics in Scotland.

We attended because Dolly D is now a member of the Perth Youth Orchestra – she plays cello.  The Youth Orchestra filled the very large stage in the Concert Hall, and produced a fantastic sound bringing out the best of the acoustics.  They played with energy, but also discipline, following the direction of the conductor. It was really wonderful to be there.

The Youth Orchestra were joined by the Perth and Kinross Chamber Choir who performed a goosebump-inducing version of “Steal Away”.

But in a night full of highlights, one piece stands out for me.  The Perth and Kinross Senior Brass Band played “Who is He?”, starting with two cornets playing alone.  They were perfectly in time, perfectly matched, perfect in every way – and my Dad would have loved it! 

I’m convinced that being involved in music like this is really beneficial for young people – developing discipline, playing together, using talents, learning new skills, and building confidence.  I didn’t have the perseverance to learn an instrument when I was younger, maybe it’s not too late?

So much energy, so much talent, so much to be thankful for.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Advent words

These words just came to me throughout today - in sets of three. I offer no theological analysis. Feel free to suggest your own - groups of three would be neat, but not essential.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The value of community

Recently Ron Edmondson wrote about the value of community. We have drawn great strength during my Dad’s illness and death from the support of several communities.

The carers and nurses who looked after Dad for the last few weeks of his life were fantastic. They were loving towards my Dad – though sometimes forceful. But they always treated him as a human, as far as I know they never talked about him in his presence, they talked to him. They treated him with dignity, while undertaking some pretty undignified tasks. Above all of that the carers provided vital companionship for my Mum. This helped Mum to carry on caring for Dad at home, and she was thrilled that two of the carers were able to attend the funeral. I hope that the carers in my organisation provide such a good service.

Our church here in Perth was great. We were overwhelmed with offers of practical support, with messages of encouragement and sympathy. But most of all we were sustained by the prayers of so many people. As we approached the church on the day of Dad’s funeral I was acutely aware of the number of people who were praying for us at that time – it gave me a huge lift, and helped me enormously.

The minister of Dad’s church (and the assistant minister) helped us by encouraging us to talk about Dad, to remember the many positive aspects of his life. My Mum’s priest has provided her with sensitive, supportive pastoral care throughout this difficult time.

Personally I received great support from work. My boss was very understanding about time off whenever I needed it. I was very moved to receive sympathy cards from my staff groups. I hadn’t expected it at all, but it was greatly appreciated.

Of course, friends and family were great, which you would expect.

The value of community? Priceless.

Our heartfelt thanks go to all who supported, and continue to support, us through these times.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

“In a Sentimental Mood”

I’m really not sure how to write this entry. So I’m just going to type and I’ll see how it ends up. As I’m writing I’m listening to some Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” on Spotify. It’s the kind of music that my Dad loved – actually he loved a wide range of music. He played trumpet, cornet, clarinet and a wee bit of sax, but the trumpet was always his favourite. He played in semi-pro dance bands and amateur orchestras.

He died on 10 November 2009, which is why I’m “In a Sentimental Mood”. His death wasn’t unexpected, which meant that we had some precious time with him before he died. The brain tumour impaired some of his functioning – physical and cognitive – but somehow there was a wonderful intensity to those last few weeks. Of course a lot of time was taken up with the practical task of caring for my Dad, but there were times of intimacy that I will always treasure. On several occasions I was alone with my Dad, mainly to give my Mum some respite, and we had the chance to say things that we’ve not been good at saying. I’m glad that I had the chance to tell Dad that I loved him, was proud to be his son and was incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities that he had given me (often based on sacrifices made by him and Mum).

As Dad’s health deteriorated, I got involved in aspects of his personal care. We’re not a naturally tactile family, but I was surprised how easy I found the close physical contact and how it helped me to deal with Dad’s illness.

In the end Dad died peacefully in his sleep. He was very calm the last time that I saw him alive. He couldn’t talk, in fact he was barely able to open his eyes, but he seemed totally at ease with his fate. He really did seem to be resting in peace.

I’ll write some more about Dad later.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Fun Theory

I came across this at Steve Roesler's site.

Which got me thinking - if we look at things from a different perspective, how can we apply this sort of approach in work, in church - without trivialising core activities?

The answer, I think, lies in two key elements.

Firstly, ensuring that we don't lose sight of our objective (in this case encouraging people to use the stairs).

Secondly, and probably most importantly, to look at the required activity from the viewpoint of the participants. Lecturing people about the value of using the stairs would have had some impact, engaging them and allowing them to express themselves is clearly much more successful.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Hands up for change

I think I've mentioned before that we're in the middle of a major re-organisation at work - many of us changing roles, all of us changing the way we work (culture). I was speaking to a colleague today about the process, and the associated frustrations, which led me to a half-formed thought about the stages of changing roles. Driving home it grew a bit. It's still rough around the edges, but...

I think that there are four changes that are needed when people stay in an organisation, but change their remits.

1 - Handover
This happens before the change is implemented, and involves discussing the role with the next incumbent; highlighting issues; passing on information etc.

2 - Hand holding
This straddles the change date and covers helping your colleague settling in by taking them to meetings; introducing them to key contacts; answering their questions as they take the reins.

3 - Hands free
This should cover the first few months - being there when called upon; finishing any tasks that require continuity.

4 - "Hands off!"
This is when the new postholder is confident in the role and wants to stamp their own mark on the job. It should include a 'thank you' and a 'please go away now'.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


There are a lot of things changing in my life just now, and when I think about it I tend to think about the negative aspects - additional responsibilities at work; change of office location with a resulting sense of loss; illness for my dad meaning travelling each weekend; etc.

On Wednesday of last week I was feeling particularly low. Too many deadlines due on Friday; a sense of remoteness in my new office – relationships still to be formed, alliances and politics still to be identified and understood; physically a bit ‘under the weather’. Generally I was feeling a bit sorry for myself.

Late in the afternoon I found myself staring out of the window, sort of wondering what to do next, really just wondering when I could go home. Then I noticed the setting sun send its warm, golden rays through the grey clouds that covered most of the sky. As I stood there mesmerised, the sunset grew in intensity turning to a vivid red that changed the whole perspective.

Nothing had changed in terms of the pressures that I felt, but my mood had picked up considerably.

On Thursday morning, the sky was clear and blue as I drove through the Perthshire countryside. There was some low lying mist lingering before the sun warmed up. The trees were clinging to the last of their leaves. The sunrise was beautiful – not particularly dramatic – just beautiful. The yellow glow hinting at the rising sun, still hidden behind the hills. My spirits soared.

There are no photos to accompany this entry. I did have my camera with me, and I thought about stopping on a couple of occasions, but I decided that I wanted to enjoy the moment. So I turned the radio off, temporarily suspending my acquisition of information, opened myself to the beauty around me, and thanked God that I was alive and blessed in so many ways.

Sometimes we’re too self-absorbed to see things in perspective; and we are too ready to focus on our problems rather than revel in the joy that we can find if we would only open our eyes to it.

Friday, 23 October 2009

How cool is this??

This is such a great idea - I love it. Seems to me like the ideal decor for an office.

By the way - I decided to come back... but you know that already!!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Having a break

There's a lot going on in my life at the moment - work, family, stuff - and anyone reading this will know that my posting has been erratic (quantity and quality) for several months now. Rather than limp along in this way, I'm going to take a few weeks away from blogging to re-focus, re-calibrate, and re-think.

Will I be back?

In the immortal words of Kenny Dalglish: "Maybe's aye; maybe's no!"

I will commit to one more entry (before the end of October) - to let you know the outcome of my ponderings.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

London Bridge is falling down

While in London we visited Tower Bridge (built to ease the pressure on London Bridge – hence the title for this entry).

I wasn’t as convinced about doing it as the rest of my family for two reasons. Firstly, it seemed to be a bit tourist-y, but then again, we were tourists! More pertinently, my limited head for heights has become almost non-existent in my middle age, so the prospect of climbing 43 metres above the Thames wasn’t altogether appealing. But the lure of the view carried the argument, and we went for it.

There is a reasonably good exhibition about how the bridge was constructed, as well as a chance to walk around some of the original engine rooms that were used to raise the bridge. But the best bit is the high bit – crossing the walkways between the two towers. Again, there’s interesting information provided, but the views are stunning, especially on a nice summer’s day.

As an aside, they say that you can judge the prosperity of a city by the number of cranes in the skyline. Recession, what recession?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


"Hope is never light years away"

A phrase that leapt out from Athlete's new album - Black Swan.
The track is called "The Unknown".

Public art and education

We’re really fortunate in this country to have a rich cultural heritage, which is readily accessible, and frequently free! While in London we visited the National Gallery. It has a massive collection spanning the 13th to 20th centuries.

Apparently it gets very busy when it rain… well it is on Trafalgar Square, and it is free. While I loved the Monet (several versions of the lily pond), the highlight for me was the 10-minute talk. Monday to Friday at 4 p.m. one of the staff gives a wee talk about one of the paintings. It’s free education – and it’s interactive. You stand in a group around the painting, then there’s the talk, then you can ask questions.

I went to hear about Caravaggio’s Emmaus. The talk was very informative and... did I mention that it was free? Seriously, if you’re in London it’s worth finding out what the talk is about - even if it's rubbish it'll only take 10 minutes; and if it's good you'll remember it for a long time.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Where did the summer go?

That’s not a question about the weather – specifically the absence of the forecast “barbecue summer”. Rather, it’s a recognition that this summer has flown past, without too many blog entries from me. Over the next few days I’ll pick out a few highlights.

We spent a week in London in July, which was great.

One of the most memorable things that we did was to visit the Houses of Parliament. We didn’t follow the usual tourist route, but had arranged in advance with our local M.P. for a tour with a member of his staff. This had two advantages.

Firstly, we were able to access areas that would be off limits to routine tourists – thanks to her staff pass.

Secondly, and far more importantly, we were able to get a first hand insight into working in Parliament. The young woman who showed us around was enthusiastic, informative and engaging. She managed to connect with each of us (probably not too easy), and left us feeling a bit more positively disposed towards our tarnished home of government.

I wonder if I’d give a similar impression to people visiting my place of work?

Even if you can’t get the same sort of tour that we did, the Houses of Parliament are well worth the visit.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Loch Leven

That Hideous Man has reminded me of a morning that I spent with the Fish Wife around Loch Leven last year, we climbed the same hill, and took similar photos (merged in to this panorama). It is truly beautiful - and more or less on our doorstep.

There's also a nice farm shop sort of place at the northern end of the loch, for food etc.

How much we take for granted!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Difficult decisions, justice and compassion

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has decided to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi (the Libyan who was convicted for the Lockerbie bombing) on compassionate grounds. I don’t envy MacAskill – this was surely a difficult decision for him to make. He has been condemned for releasing Megrahi; I am sure that he would have been criticised if he had decided not to release him.

What are we to make of this situation?

Firstly, we must remember that Megrahi remains guilty of the crime. He has had two unsuccessful appeal cases heard, and he withdrew his latest appeal.

Some objectors have stated that this decision means that the victims’ families can’t have closure. While I understand that this decision must be difficult, since it brings painful memories back to the surface, I don’t see how it affects individual closure. Megrahi is still guilty, he is dying. Would keeping him in prison really help?

I find the statements from Hillary Clinton (“absolutely wrong”) and Barack Obama (“ a mistake”) unhelpful. In my view, there are no absolutes here.

It’s difficult, but I tend to agree with MacAskill when he said:

"Our justice system demands that judgement be imposed, but compassion be available.”

I’m glad that our justice system has the scope to be compassionate, and on balance I’d rather that we made ‘mistakes’ through being compassionate, than through being vengeful.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Does anyone recognise this man?

I came across this video from TED last night (it runs for about 16 minutes).  I almost didn't watch it, given my feelings about politics in this country at the moment.  However, I'm glad that I did.

While I recognise that the speech and appearance was no doubt carefully scripted/choreographed (although someone needs to teach him how to knot his tie!), there is a confidence and vitality about his delivery.  This got me thinking... if the difference is that Gordon Brown is speaking authentically about something that his is passionate about, why don't we see this side of him more often?

But also, for the rest of us, how much vitality do we bring to our day-to-day work, and how much more do we bring to the tasks that excite and inspire us?  And, what can I do as a manager to help staff bring their "A" game to the for?

In the meantime, can we please see more of this side of our undoubtedly talented but flawed PM please?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


"If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves."

- Thomas Edison

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

I am part of they

Child protection services in Dundee have just received a fairly damning inspection report, against a backdrop of a recent high profile case of a child dying at the hands of his mother's drug using partner. I'm not going to comment on any of the details.

However, I was intrigued by the response from a long standing councillor. Rather than simply saying, "It wisnae me!", he expressed a more balanced view. He looked at himself and accepted his share of responsibility. Effectively, he was saying "I am part of they". You can find the newspaper story here, but I particularly liked - and respected - the following comments:

“I’m an elected member with 46 years’ standing. In all that time I have never had such a damning report put before me.

“I’m duty-bound to ask, what was my role in this?

“I feel more than a little ashamed as a member of the authority when this report is before us.

“Where did the failure occur? Were we alerted early enough?

I wish that more of our politicians were like this - sadly very few of them are.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Earth is a miracle.
Life remains a mystery.

From HOME by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Monday, 8 June 2009

Making sense of election results

... I can't (make sense of election results that is!)

We voted in the European Parliamentary Elections on Thursday, with the results announced today. Well, I say we voted - actually less than 30% of the electorate voted in Scotland. I should know better, but I still find this shocking. The turnout in elections here is dismal, with the European elections typically very low. Why do people choose not to vote?

Equally shocking is the election of two MEPs from the British National Party. I find their far-right policies repugnant, and their tactics dubious. I feel offended and embarrased that they were elected from my country. Yet, if people turn out to vote for them, can I really complain?

I can't have it both ways.

So will this shock people into casting their votes the next time around, to ensure that dodgy fringe parties are not elected - I doubt it very much. And maybe that's the greatest tragedy of all, that we seem to no longer care who represents us.

I can't make any sense of that!

Sunday, 7 June 2009


Yann Arthus-Bertrand has produced a film called 'Home' highlighting the beauty and frailty of our planet. His purpose is to draw attention to the depletion of the Earth's resources and the need for all of us to act to sustain it. The images are beautiful, the message is important. Quoting the blurb:

HOME has been made for you : share it! And act for the planet.

You can watch Home (approx 90 minutes) free on YouTube until 14 June 2009 - please take a look at it, even if you don't watch all of it.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Low tide

We visited the in-laws at the weekend. When we arrived I popped down to the harbour to take some photos. I was surprised to see the skeleton of 'Miller's' boat shed. I knew that they had ceased trading some time ago, but the removal was unexpected.

When I went back up to the house, we had a chat about it, and it was clear that Fish Granny and Granda had quite deep emotions about the loss of this building. Fish Granda started to work there when he left school, and the boat building business was able to thrive when the fishing industry was more vibrant in that part of the world.

On reflection, I understand the poignancy associated with the loss of this building that in many ways has served to symbolise the traditions of the village.

Some people are happy to see it removed - it will improve their outlook - and realistically no-one would want the building to fall into disrepair or become an eyesore.

All of this got me thinking about what things - places, people, memories - am I emotionally attached to and unwilling to let go. Probably, more than I care to admit!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Park life?

All the people
So many people
And they all go hand in hand
Hand in hand through their parklife
(Blur: Parklife)

We spent yesterday in Edinburgh it was a gorgeous sunny day, with almost cloud-free skies and high temperature to match (well, high by Scottish standards). After lunch the Fish Wife and Dolly D went shopping, and I wandered off towards some bookshops through Princes Street Gardens. I expected the gardens to be quite busy, but was surprised how many people there were. I was equally surpised by the obvious desire by so many to soak up as many sun rays as possible.

Now I don't want to be a total grump... but a recent news story told us that skin cancer in the UK has doubled over the last 12 years or so. We also seem to have added a new 'binge' to our lifestyles - after binge drinking and eating, apparently we now binge-tan!

Will we ever learn that healthy lives need balance, not excess?

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Silver lining

Our housegroups are in the middle of an interminable series on the armour of God – not my cup of tea to look at stuff like this in detail. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago we were looking at the breastplate of righteousness, and I was leading the study that night.

As my mind wandered I recalled that there was a prayer by (or attributed to) St Patrick called the Breastplate of St Patrick. I even remembered where I had a copy of it (David Adam’s book The Cry of the Deer – which is another name for the same prayer). So I referred to it during the study, quoting a wee bit of it, and used it to conclude our prayer time at the end of the evening. It was only as I was reading it out loud that I realised how wonderful it is. Now it’s my new favourite prayer!

You can find the prayer here – other translations are available, but I like this one.

So there are silver linings to dark clouds… at least sometimes.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Bloggers block

I've got so many ideas swirling around in my head just now, but somehow I can't settle down to write anything. I suspect that it'll fall into place in due course - if I can just let it happen.

In the meantime...

This seems to confirm that there can be a silver lining to a raincloud.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Surprising service

This weekend I had to renew the anti-virus software for my P.C. The online subscription renewal was dearer than buying the latest version of the software (which included the annual subscription). So I went off to PC World, credit card in hand, knowing that I would hate the experience - I always do! My mood was not greatly helped by the pricing policy in the shop - they don't show the prices, so you have to ask for assistance even when you know what you want.

After a remarkably short period of time a member of staff approached me and asked if he could help. I asked him to clarify the price of the two products that I was choosing between. He gave me a rough indication, but said he would go and double-check, but added that there were a couple of other options that I might like to consider. My heart sank. I really didn't want to spend any more of my Saturday morning listening to a lengthy sales pitch about fancy and expensive features which I would never use.

He duly returned, told me the prices and said that he used another package which was very good, but slightly dearer. No gobblydegook, no whistles and bells, no sales pitch. As I had been using the package that he had priced for me for several years, he recommended that I stick with that. He was polite, efficient and very pleasant. He took me to the sales till (I assume that they are paid by commission to some extent) and wished me a good day.

As I walked to the car I thought about how helpful he had been, and how the experience hadn't been the horrid drudgery that I'd anticipated. I put the software into the car and went back in to the shop to find him and thank him properly - not just in the automatically polite way that I tend to in shops. Chris (that was his name) told me that he had just started in this particular shop. I hope he's still there the next time that I need to visit. I will make a point of finding him - even if I have to wait a bit longer - and I probably won't have the same sense of foreboding as I drive down to the retail park!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

A ray from on high

To see this world a person needs more than eyes.

"You need a certain dose of inspiration, a ray from on high, that is not in ourselves, in order to do beautiful things."
Vincent van Gogh

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Manage like your hair's on fire

I came across a blog entry with this wonderful title - and had to read it. I guess that Rafe Esquith has an interesting and inspirational story to tell, but I was particularly interested on the six levels of moral development:

Level 1: "I don't want to get in trouble."
Level 2: "I want a reward"
Level 3: "I want to please someone"
Level 4: "I follow the rules"
Level 5: "I am considerate of other people"
Level 6: "I have a personal code of behavior and I follow it"

This is relevant for me just now as I am preparing some bible studies for teenagers on the Sermon on the Mount, and need to convey to them the standards that Jesus is explaining to his disciples. So I can definitely use this.

As I was thinking about this I began to wonder if there should be another level:

Level 7: "I follow the standards of Jesus"

Of course, none of us can actually live up to that, but it seems to me that it's a pretty good target to aim for.

While thinking about teachers with their hair on fire, I was reminded of this TED video. I can't imagine what would happen if Clifford Stoll's hair caught fire, but I can see that it has probably happened to him on more than one occasion!