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.