Wednesday 2: The we:Network 'soft launch' at lunchtime - lots of good networking, as expected. Then sit down with Philip Nott and a potential new trustee to talk about our statement of faith. Not something I've had to do before.
In the evening, David and Karen speak at the Global Partnerships meeting at Highgrove about their trip in January to Uganda, and they talk about the work Romans is doing there. I knew much of the background but it is wonderful to hear more details and see pictures of the people.
Sue drives some bits round to Alan's new house, and them comes back, loads him up and they come home. Ian rings: he is round at a friend's house, it's late, can he stay?
Saturday 5: Prayer meeting at St Edyth's this morning, but I can only go for the breakfast because we are driving up to Guildford and setting off at nine, in theory. We actually set off soon after half past, which is not bad going.
I drive and Sue talks with the boys about sorting out what we want to do in the holiday we're planning to take to New York and New Jersey. On the way, at one point we are all splitting our sides: Sue mentioned a new lad, Simeon, who will be starting at Ian's 6th Form College in the Autumn, and we suddenly discovered that Ian does not ever remember seeing the name written down, had assumed it was spelled 'Simian' and thought it was a cruel name for parents to give their son...
Arrive in Guildford just before the schedule of 12 noon, Sue drops us off at the Cricketers and goes to pick up David Race. Very pleasant meal and then back to David's for coffee and a solid session of catching up. David also gives Alan his 21st birthday present: a well-presented set of four Escher prints.
We also manage to stop off at the Prydes for a short while on the way back, deliver a small birthday present, and do some catching up with Steve and Sally.
Sunday 6: After the morning service, off to St Edyths for a barbecue. Not that many of us go, which is a good thing because we are horribly late, and they are just finishing when we begin to arrive. Oops.
In the evening, there is a secret drink for some of the men in the church, to celebrate Adrian passing his flying licence. For some reason, it has been rescheduled for 9pm - the original plan was to meet at 7pm. Paul kindly picks me up just after 9, and the men's final at Wimbledon is still playing on the radio. I have no interest in sport or tennis, but the atmosphere is clearly electric. The match is won just after we park, and discover that Adrian and John, who arranged the celebration, have parked right next to us, also waiting for the match to finish.
Over a pint or two, I have an interesting, and at times disturbing, conversation with Mike about the right way to treat the people who make up CCM's clients. He believes the loving approach is to be nasty to them, so they will change their ways.
CCM Trustees in the morning: low numbers again. I think several people failed to note the changed date for the meeting.
In the evening, Claire from One25 was addressing the Saint Pauls Unlimited Community Safety Partnership meeting. She describes the comparative numbers from June this year and June five years ago, and we are pleased to hear there are significantly fewer prostitutes on the street and in the squares now. But one lady tears into her, with essentially the same argument as I was hearing last night: if you are nice to these evil people, they will continue to destroy the lives of ordinary, good people; the only answer is to be nasty to them and discourage what they do. She fails to understand that the best way to discourage what they do is to be nice. Their lives are already incredibly painful and unpleasant: they know how to handle that; what they need is some hope, some help to believe that it really can change.
Tuesday 8: To the doctor first thing. Tell him the results of the consultation two weeks ago. I failed to get the prescription yesterday, so he can't give me the injection, but he gives me a prescription for the bone strengthening pills.
Thursday 10: A joint CET BCAN event this morning, with Professor Glyn Harrison on 'reaching men' - nothing new, but a very well presented and thought-through event, and clearly much of it was new to many of the leaders present. I just wonder what, if anything, will be done as a result.
Mark Howe arrives while at Woodies, and I join Mark, Steve and Sue at Valentino's for a lunch that is, as always, informative and entertaining.
Friday 11: Back to the doctor for my injection. He has received a letter from the endocrinologist, confirming my report of the event. He agrees that it doesn't make sense that he can explain to me, but this is what we have to do for the time being.
Saturday 12: Volunteer training in the morning, the last of this series. Sue drives me in then goes to work, picks me up afterwards, and we have a bite of lunch together, fill up a printer cartridge, and visit the Health Club where Sue uses the gym while I sauna.
Then we head off to Morrisons for the weekly shop, following the list that Philip emailed to Sue at work in the morning, and we are still there when John Stevens phones me to say he will be late picking me up. We arrange to meet up an hour later than orginally planned.
John's daughter drives us to the pub and picks us up again afterwards. We have an immensely enjoyable time, picking over the book by Naomi Klein and related topics. Must do it again.
Monday 14: Sue is now on the second part of her sabbatical leave. I drive in to work early for a meeting with Olly and Ailsa, but Ailsa fails to turn up so we go back to York Court and chat for a bit about what can realistically be done to help homeless people more effectively in the current climate.
Tuesday 15: Housing Strategy Group in the morning. The most interesting bit is the new Homelessness Prevention Strategy: I identify a number of fairly obvious flaws with the new document, and this results in some concern but also some surprising denials. There is not a strategy to raise the barriers to homeless people accessing the help they are entitled to, and there was no problems in the production of the strategy. We agree to meet up again outside the meeting to discuss some of these issues more fully.
Thursday 17: Drive Caroline Virgo to Portishead for a very useful BCAN Steering Group meeting. Then in to work - was supposed to be working from home, but various bits need to be cleared away before I disappear tomorrow.
In the evening, Sue and I take Esme off to see the Thornbury Amateur Dramatics people perform in aid of One25. Several entertaining pieces, but the best was a monologue by Peter Tinniswood. The star of the evening was the cat, stalking along in front of the actors and looking at the audience, clearly telling us to depart.
Friday 18: Alan and Philip go on the train to London; Ian, Sue and I squeeze into the car with all the luggage. Sally the Satnav tries to take us through the middle of London, but after heading down the A329(m) to Bracknell, it suggests we try the M3 instead of going all the way down to Guildford. We try this, and it works much better.
Alan and Philip meet up with Roger at his work, and travel with him on the train to Eltham. We all meet safely at my parents house.
Saturday 19: The plan was to go on the Thames Ferry between the London Eye and Greenwich, but this doesn't work out too well for various reasons. We have problems parking, and go on the Greenwich version of the London Eye, which is only in Greenwich for a few months. Afterwards, we enjoy the Painted Hall.
Sunday 20 - Wednesday 30: Our holiday in the USA - details will eventually be posted on the 2008 Holiday page.
Thursday 31: At 11, Father drives Alan and Philip to the station to get a train up to London, and Sue, Ian and myself leave in the car to drive home. It's a long but uneventful journey. Sue drives most of the way, and I take over at the last break. Alan and Philip are back before us, and the long process of unpacking and sorting begins. I help for a while, Sue drives off for some urgent shopping, and a little while later I walk up to Graham's house for a CCM prayer meeting.
Friday 1: Sue and I have 'Biobank' appointments in town at 9am, so we drive in and park at the Gallerys. We get ourselves checked and measured. No surprises, except that they think I am 5 ft 9 in tall, when I have always put down 5' 8" on forms. I thought you were supposed to get shorter with age? Sue drops me off at work, and goes shopping.
While we are having our medical check, Alan and Philip are being picked up by Mark Howe and taken off for a weekend in Southport for a session on programming virtual reality worlds.
Sunday 3: I am doing the words at Highgrove this morning, and it is nearly a total disaster: nothing displays on the projector. I fiddle with all the controls on the computer, but nothing works. Re-boot. Again, nothing. Eventually I locate the projector settings, and it is not set to display from the computer. At this point, it is just a few minutes before the service starts, and I have not entered the play list. But we manage to get everything set up just in time.
Tuesday 5: Up at 5 for a coach to London for an NEF workshop and consultation on how to solve the problem of homelessness. They changed the venue and time, so my coach booking no longer works: I have to get off at Earls Court and dash to get the Underground from there to Canary Wharf. Amazingly, I arrive just after the 9:30 start.
It is an excellent day, possibly the best I have yet attended. the presenters were fine, the material they were presenting was very high quality, and the feedback from the people present was also very helpful. I have issues with one or two details, but overall it was a great time.
Part of the day was the presentation of some research they had done on the cost of getting work, and how to ensure that people will want to get work from an economic point of view. Very important material - what is really getting in the way of more people getting employment?
The logistics, however, did not work. The original plan was for the day to finish at 3 pm in central London, but the revised plan finished at 4:30 in Canary Wharf. So my 5:30 return ticket was no longer a relaxed end to the day. What made it worse is that we were nearly ten minutes late finishing, so I only had 50 minutes to get across London.
With hindsight, this was an amazing journey. From the conference room on the 39th floor, a lift was waiting to take me non-stop to the ground, then I walk to the Underground station and straight on to a train. Change at Westminster, and, again, when I reach the platform there is a train for me. Even the traffic lights on the road are working in my favour. I literally don't stop from the time I leave the conference room to the time I am at Victoria Coach Station. There is just time to buy a coffee and sandwich, then I walk straight on to the coach. Someone was looking out for me.
Friday 8: Annie and Simeon arrive in Bristol for a visit. Annie is a friend of Rosemary Jenkins, and Simeon her son. Annie is about to start at Trinity this Autumn, and Simeon is about to start at the Redcliffe Sixth Form Centre, with Ian (assuming he passes his exams...). We buy an Indian takeaway and some wine and take them roud to their new flat. Very pleasant evening.
Wednesday 13: Sue and I have lunch with Andy and Gay Paget. The original plan was to go round to their house, but their floor is up at present and various bits of work still in progress, so we meet at The Huntsman instead. Decent food, very reasonable prices, and excellent company.
Thursday 14: Philip gets his results: 'A' in Maths, Maths and Physics, 'B' in Psychology and Law. We are very pleased. So, not surprisingly, he is off to Warwick in the Autumn, joining Alan there for one year. He also has a 1 in a STEP paper he took last year; this year he got a 2 in one STEP paper and somehow failed the other. But overall, we can't complain.
Philip goes out in the morning to get his results, and then disappears with his friends. He doesn't come back for tea...
I take the day off work because Sue and I plan to visit Abbey House Gardens, Malmesbury, today. We intend to arrive when it opens at 11, but are only driving in to the Long Stay car park by the river just after 11:30, and it is full. We drive away, find a spot to park on a roadside and walk back, so it is midday before we are finally at the gardens.
It is a beautiful day. We have a coffee, then wander round the upper, more formal part of the gardens, and make friends with a lovely and very active tortise. One oddity is that there are various pieces of sculpture, but they don't say who created them. They have a raised fishpond by the coffee bar, which contains a large number of the largest fish I have seen. One black fish must have been over 2½ feet long, and kept sticking its nose out of the water in a most menacing way.
After lunch, we wander down the slope and explore the rest of the gardens, including a waterfall and a delightful metal fish with a fishing rod and a small man.
The weather is almost perfect: dry with intermittent cloud, but not too hot for Sue in the sun. A degree or two warmer would have been even nicer, but you can't have everything, and considering the weather we have been experiencing recently, it was brilliant.
We finally leave about 5 and wander around Malmesbury. We were there a few years ago, but it was at the time when Sue was experiencing her dizzy spells and she does not remember much of that trip.
You can see some photographs of our visit to Abbey House Gardens in our Facebook album.
I finish writing up 'phase one' of the report on our recent holiday: the bare details are there, but I plan to go back over it and fill in some more when I get time, and add some links to some photos if possible.
Saturday 16: Becky, a delightful lady who volunteered at the Crisis Centre for quite a while, is married at 3 in the afternoon. Ian wants to go round to a friend's house, so Sue offers him a lift if he is ready when she takes me to the wedding. But of course, he takes forever showering, so we are late leaving, and it is just 3 when I get to Woodlands. Fortunately, Becky is traditionally late. After a bit, I spot Trudie sitting with Andy and Gill, and go and join them. They are with Don and Nic and a friend of theirs.
It is a delightful wedding, with a nicely judged PowerPoint presentation to keep us amused while the register is signed. Apart from a very enthusiastic but almost content-free sermon by a pastor of a German church, it all worked brilliantly.
Sue is waiting for me when it finishes, and we go shopping in the nearby Sainsbury's.
Tuesday 19: When I get home from work, there is a hamper packed full of good quality food: cheese, wine, biscuits, and so on. It is from a credit card company, to apologise for messing up a credit card application that Sue made several months ago with the intention of using the card while we were in the USA. We were very unimpressed by a whole series of mistakes and failures to do what they promised, but this is a handsome apology.
Thursday 21: Ian's results today: A* for Chemistry, A for Maths, Physics, Biology and History, B for French and English Language, C for RE and Art, but D for English Literature, DT (food technology) and a half GCSE in ICT (computing).
I joke that he could be expelled from the family for failing ICT, but we are rather pleased - and relieved. He could have done better in ICT and English Literature if he had only done some work, but he passed all the subjects that mattered, and did them well. So it is on to the 6th Form as planned for him.
Annie and Simeon arrive today, so while I go to Homegroup, Sue and the boys go and help them unpack.
Saturday 30: A farewell to "1B" - 1B Sydenham Road: a wonderful community house, associated with the Movement for Faith and Justice. The building needs serious repair and the owner is selling it, so the community is closing. Several interesting and poignant conversations, including one with the Catholic Priest who set it up. A deeply sad but uplifting event.
Sunday 31: A church lunch after the service. Sue and I were bringing a couple of pizzas, but the plans don't quite work out and we end up going round CostCo during the service and only arriving part way through the sermon. But it was a good lunch.
In the afternoon, Sue, Alan and I go to see Wall-E. It has some nice touches.
In the evening, Sue and I drive off in an attempt to see the Severn Bore. But we are a little over twenty minutes setting off, and there is a motorcycle parked, blocking the footbridge to the path we want to take, and Sue is not up to climbing over it. We try to drive a bit further and take another path, but it is very overgrown, we are walking in the dark, and we are sure we have missed the bore by this point, so we turn round and go home. Try again in the Spring.
Tuesday 2: I dash away from work to the SMART meeting in Moorgrove House, but none of the officials turns up. Four of us have a fascinating chat about the history of the area and several of the characters associated with it, and then go home. Presumably the meeting was cancelled, but nobody bothered to tell us.
In to work, and we have the Bristol Evening Post in. They interview and photograph several of us: we hope they will run a story about the lack of funding for alcohol detox in Bristol. One of the three, the photographer, wants to come back and do a series of pictures for us as a private way of helping.
The session with the Evening Post people runs overtime, so I'm slightly late for the additional meeting of the Housing Strategy Group. I manage to sit down just as the introductions reach my part of the table. It is a well run meeting, dealing with some difficult and abstract questions of membership and representation, and where does housing fit in the strategic issues of Bristol? Lots of good quality contributions, but it won't be an easy job for the officers to draw them all together into a package the Bristol partnership will buy.
In the evening, Sue and I go to see The Duchess at Cribbs. I am surprised by the certificate: it is a 12A, but there are several fairly explicit sex scenes I would not have expected in a 12A. Sue suggested it was probably only a 12A because of the lack of nudity. She may have been right, but it is a sad comment on our distorted values as a society.
Tuesday 9: At 5 pm, I attend the Bristol Drugs Project AGM. Apart from the board, I am the only person present. But they are pleased to see me, and I get to ask about how they include service users on the board - and also to help keep the company legal, when the temporary chair tried to ask for a vote for the chair of the board without getting the individual elected first.
Afterwards, I work late, preparing the training material for the following evening. In the small hours, I drive home, and all the traffic lights are green, so I manage to do it without stopping. Ridiculous feeling of achievement. I think this is the second time in eight years.
We have some difficulty finding the venue, but we arrive on time in the end. Before the show starts, JP Quirky does some close up magic for us, which is most impressive. His set is entertaining, but at the end he does a 'gospel message' which seems quite out of place and unrelated to the entertainment. Steve Legg, who follows, is also very entertaining, but he has a sharper wit when interacting with the audience, and he drops in to his act some brief comments about his faith, relating what he says to what he is doing and what the audience is experiencing, so the overall effect is much better. But a good evening, and we buy tickets for the next one. The boys enjoyed themselves, but they will both be in Warwick next time.
Saturday 13: The days is non-stop. Leave the house at nine to get Sue to Temple Meads: she is spending the day with her parents. On to Trinity Tabernacle and the Volunteer training. Back home via the health club and a sauna.
After a bit of work on the computer, check the shopping list, and drive out to Temple Meads to pick up Sue, drop her at work and go shopping. Back home, unpack the shopping, take Ian, pick up three of his friends, drop them at a pub just off the Lawrence Hill roundabout, and on to Sue at her work, where she is sorting out Freeset bags for tomorrow. It turns out that the band Ian and his friends have gone to hear are not performing until 1 am, so he makes alternative arrangements for getting home.
Back home for a quick sandwich, then Alan joins us to see Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day - Philip is already at the Orpheus, working, so he can't, and Ian is not interested. Alan and I enjoy it, but not as much as Sue. I am much happier when I work out who the actor playing the musician is (Ned, from Pushing Dasies).
Monday 15: Global Partnerships meeting at ADH this evening. We spend much of our time praying for Andy and Sam Cheesman, who are about to head off to Hungary. I am going to miss Andy, and it seems I'm not alone.
Tuesday 16: The Community Project executive meeting this evening decides to wind up the company. We have been in the process of reaching this decision for some time: new blood has been needed, and nobody has been coming forward to take on some of the responsibilities we have been trying to carry. It is very sad, but also a great relief, and the Project has achieved an astonishing level of success in some areas. The YAG - Youth Action Group - and the Community Voice, the two most important aspects of our work, should continue.
In the end, it came down to timing. If we had pressed ahead with registration as a charity as originally planned, we would have gained funding for a Community Worker, and things would be very different. But the Council's development worker repeatedly let us down, then we let it drift for a while, and then the rules changed to make it impossible for us to register. And that, as it turned out, was that.
Thursday 18: First thing in the morning, I get a phone call from Alan Goddard: someone attacked the building last night. The bin was overturned, rubbish all down the street, and a brick put through the kitchen window at the back. I am supposed to be working from home today, but instead I drive Sue to the meeting point for her walk with the Stoke Lodge Ramblers, and go on to work. On top of it all, Lisa is off sick.
Alan works hard, and by the evening the shop is ready to open again. I drive back, and am nearly in time for a Cyberporte meeting, where we agree to keep going for another three years in the hope of starting to make some profit. It really does look possible this time.
We all then walk round to Korky and Anni for a meal and the Europe Now meeting. The need for something to fulfil the original vision of Europe Now is still there, but the way ahead is not yet clear. But is is very good to be with people who care, who want to make a difference, and who are prepared to ask questions and to pray and to listen and to think. Apart from Sue Howe and Rob Davis, everyone is present: the Mathiesons and the Daveys, Mark, Steve, Simon, Tracy and me. It is a long time since we were last together.
Friday 19: At lunchtime, the new head of CCISR joins the BCAN Steering Group for the first time. Sadly, the new head of the George Muller Foundation is called away to deal with an emergency elsewhere, and Julian Perkins again cannot be with us. But a good and useful meeting, clarifying and confirming the job description for the new part time worker we are about to advertise for.
I have to dash away from work to get to the surgery in Sea Mills where the nurse gives me my injections. It all runs rather late, so I'm then dashing into home to talk to the boys, deliverying a casserole, and heading out to the Anabaptist Study Group.
This evening, we are looking at the first chapter of Dissident Spirituality ('Dissident Discipleship: A Spirituality of Self-surrender, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor' by David Augsburger). I love the book, but my feelings are not shared by everyone. And I am astonished at the ways in which people get confused or sidetracked.
One major problem, it seems, is that Augsburger mentions a few other religious traditions - Jainism, for example - without explicitly saying that he thinks they are a bunch of heathens destined for Hell, and therefore some readers were confused about whether he thinks it is a good idea to follow those other religions. It seems quite clear to me that Augsburger is a Christian and quite keen on Jesus. It seems unlikely to me that he would want to encourage anyone to abandon or ignore Jesus. And very unlikely that he would seek to achieve such a radical and far-reaching goal simply by inserting a single passing reference in a passage about underlying models of spirituality.
Yet again, we find that an author or speaker cannot say anything about any other religion that sounds positive, or suggest that they agree with some aspect of their doctrine or practice, without being accused of wishing to convert to that other faith. Why is it so difficult for people to consider the possibility that other religions may not be totally wrong and their followers may not be totally evil?
Another critical problem that several people struggled with is that Augsburger says at one point that you can encounter Jesus in your fellow believers, and then 'contradicts himself' a little while later by saying that you can encounter Jesus in non-believers. Which is it? The person asking the question does admit that there may be the possibility that both may be true, but this seems to be such a remote possibility that it is only mentioned for the sake of being dismissed. After all, what can believers and unbelievers possibly have in common?
A major part of the discussion in my small group revolves around the question of where you 'draw the line' between those in the church and those outside it. I try several times to question this: I ask why you needed to draw any such line. I say that I don't find any need myself to draw a line like that. But clearly, what I say makes no sense to anyone else. The need for us to draw a line between those inside and those outside is so obvious that it doesn't need to be - perhaps it can't be - explained.
The fascinating thing is that folk are very happy to make a distinction between the human institution and the 'true' church. I understand that a human organisation needs rules and members, and you need to draw a line somewhere so you know who can vote, or who needs to be told about the events being planned. But why do I need to know who is really saved, and who is only attending the services, singing the songs and going through the motions? Surely I am called to love them, just the same?
The other thing that struck me was another repeated theme: the modest admitting by various people present that they are really living a bi-polar spirituality, because they don't live all the time as if the stranger they meet in the street really is Jesus, the way Mother Theresa did. This confession might make sense if they were claiming to have completed the inner journey, fully in touch with their inner, deepest self, and were also fully in harmony with and submitted to God, responsive to the slightest whisper of His voice. But since they are probably, like me, not perfect in the first two poles of spirituality, why are they so sensitive to being imperfect in the third? Is it that the third pole - other people - is the only one which can be observed? After all, nobody else can see how aware I am of my own needs, fears and desires, and nobody can see how sensitive I am to the leading of the Holy Spirit, but everyone can tell when I'm biting their head off for no good reason. Or maybe we are just so used to being untruthful about the first two poles that it no longer registers? Anyway, as always, lots to think about.
After the group breaks up, I continue some of the discussions with a couple of the people present, and discover another interesting idea: it seems that you can only be church alongside people who are (a) equally committed to the fellowship as you (I wonder how you measure that!), and (b) alongside people who you agree with. I have yet to meet anyone who I agree with on every significant issue, so I suppose that consigns me to a lonely existence unless I manage to convince someone else just how right I am in everything. I simply don't see how you can live with this sort of idea, but it is given simply and as a self-evident truth, and I'm sure they firmly believe these things to be true.
The scary thing for me, on reflection, is that this is the bunch of people in Bristol who I am closest to, theologically. At least they are thinking about, and seeking to articulate these ideas - which is a vast improvement over not being willing to think about such issues at all...
Back to work after the meeting, and I eventually drive home about quarter to one. Astonishingly, I manage the whole journey without stopping once - the second time this week, and the third time in eight years.
Saturday 20: Sue and I head off for a few days, back to Pitstone in Dartmoor. We are quite late setting out, and Sue wants to stop for something to eat at a place in Axbridge she visited with the Stoke Lodge Ramblers. We only get a bit lost.
When we arrive in Axbridge, the scene is quite unbelievable: a mini funfare, with bright lights and music, and young people milling around everywhere. We have to drive right though all this to get to the car park, the walk back through it to the restaurant.
The meal is excellent, but takes forever to arrive. Sue said there were interesting pictures on the walls, and she is quite right. But with hindsight it may have been a better idea to see them some other time.
We eventually arrive at Pitstone around 11 pm. Martin is very gracious. The last part of the journey, because we followed Sally and not Martin's instructions, was spent crawling along some minor country roads, in places with the hedges touching the car on both sides. And it's not a big car. We might follow his directions in future.
Sunday 21: Church at Ilsington, then it is a bright day so we go up the Tor. It's fascinating to watch the various groups climbing, and to hear the advice being given... "Put your left foot on that ledge by your shoulder. Now, just stand up." Most of them are climbing without hard hats, so we assume they must be students.
Wander round Newton Abbott, after struggling to find somewhere to park. Eventually we find a supermarket where we should have parked if we had thought about it. Eat inthe cafe and get some fruit and other bits for our holiday. Back to Pitstone and have a swim and sauna.
Monday 22: We head towards Dartmoore Prison, on the way stopping at Postbridge, where there is a beautiful and ancient stone bridge. We have a coffee and take some pictures. On the other side of the road is a visitor centre, and I ask about the use of iron in the current road bridge. This sparks not only a search in the reference books to hand, but also a phone call to the archeology department of the university of Exeter. It was just an innocent question.
The prison museum is quite fascinating. It has a good range of exhibits, including some details of some of the previous inhabitants. Oddly, as well as some hideous garden ornaments for sale - made by the inmates of course - we can also buy some genuine prison doors. There are hundreds of them in the basement, and one clearly has the name and address of the person who bought it taped on the front.
The local information centre is large and full of interesting exhibits, plus a few inevitable bits about legends of the moor.
Tuesday 23: Over breakfast, we can see some smoke rising up, towards the Tor. I suggest it may be a bonfire, although to be honest there seems to be too much smoke for an ordinary bonfire. But Sue, quite unreasonably, suggests that if I want to play with a bonfire she will take the car and go shopping all day. Not an option...
We drive to Ashburton, via Ilsington, and only get a little lost. En route, we pass Rora House, where I stayed a few years ago with Malcolm Widdecombe, Andy Paget and a few others. A friendly lady sends us in the right direction, and we pick up signs for Ashburton eventually.
After parking, we take a short detour to look at a piece of rock on a green, then in to the market. Very little there, but we get a Le Carre novel, and various other bits, plus a couple of handmade pasties for later.
Whhile looking for somewhere to eat, we find a perfect bag for me... I've been looking for something to carry the Acer around in, and this is just the right size.
Lunch at the Green Ginger Café. Delicious food, and we sit in the garden in the sunshine - for most of the time, anyway. It was warm enough in the shade, but beautiful in the sun.
Next stop, our pilgrimage to Trago Mills: Sue wants to get various bits for when Philip goes to university, and we also find a possible but not brilliant diary for her to use next year. But at 50p, worth trying.
Then Canonteign Falls. Sue had bought me a Tide clock when we came earlier in the year, but the mechanism never worked properly. Possibly we damaged it when bringing it home. Anyway, we now have the name and address of of the craftsman who made it.
Back to Pitstone, tea and coffee on the patio in the late afternoon sunshine, and then swimming and sauna. Watched an episode of The Prisoner on the laptop, then Griff Rees Jones' program on anger. Very impressed by some of the insights and honesty. Check bbc.co.uk/headroom
Wednesday 24: At breakfast, the smoke is coming from the same location as yesterday, again sometimes an impressive plume and sometimes hardly visible. The Tor is barely visible at the beginning of breakfast, and by the end it is completely obscured in cloud.
Drive to Exeter and find a long stay park on the South of the river. Strangely, the car park seems completely full: we drive round and there is not a single space available. Then I drive the wrong way out and discover another, larger section of the car park, almost completely empty.
On the way back, we eat at the Motel by Exeter Racetrack. Three other cars in the car park, and it seems they are all staff. Despite the completely empty setting, we have a tasty and reasonably priced meal - and we can't complain about the service.
Back at Pitstone, we take a final swim and sauna before watching another episode of The Prisoner.
Thursday 25: We drive off just after the 11 am target for our getaway. Sue drops me off at work around 1:30 and goes exploring the new Cabbot Circus shopping centre. At work, Trudie and I have an extremely helpful time with Mandy Addison, looking at mental heath issues and faith.
Friday 26: The idea is that we get Philip packed and his bits in the car, so all we have to do tomorrow is get up, have breakfast and drive away. But the packing is running late, and his computer dies. We are up until the small hours downloading and applying the fix, which involves booting from a memory stick. Not what we want to be doing at this point.
Saturday 27: Sue and I take Philip to Warwick. We arrive just before it starts to get busy, collect his key, and load his stuff into his room. He is just a few houses along from where Alan was in his first year, so it is all very familiar.
Sue wants to help him unpack and get his room sorted, but Philip is not keen on this, so we say goodbye and leave him. We are supposed to be meeting Alan, but he has a meeting first. We bump into him on his way to the meeting, then wander a bit and have lunch with him.
We then drive up to Alan's house, sit and chat for a while, have a coffee, and drive home. It sounds like he is living with an interesting bunch of people, including two chaps who are working for a local church.
On the way home, we drop at a Silk Mill, just off the A46. I never know just how complicated printing a design onto a piece of silk could be. It's a nice place to break the journey. We are both very well behaved, and avoid all the obvious phrases, like "I'm sure he is going to be fine."
Thursday 2: The Voscur AGM. Sue drops me off at the Greenway Centre, which turns out to be a good idea as the car park is packed. I'm standing again for the board, and as there are twelve candidates and twelve places, we are all duly elected without a vote.
In a break, I switch my phone on and get a message: the folk back at the office can't print. We are trying to get the newsletter printed and posted with the AGM invitations. I promise to come in after the AGM.
The rest of the AGM goes really well, with interesting input from the Council, and presentations of the 'Voscurs'. I was sceptical about the idea, but it worked brilliantly.
Fran gives me a lift in to work. I switch off the computer and photocopier, switch them on again, and the printing works perfectly. Spend the rest of the afternoon printing and stuffing envelopes.
Friday 3: After work, I go for a drink with John Stevens. We have a splendid time, nearly manage to put the world to rights, and the drink turns into an evening meal. We will have to do it again, and see if we can finish the job.
Saturday 4: Walk Through the Bible at the Ashley Road Salvation Army. Brilliant. And I pick up a book on teaching which is horribly American, but seems to contain a good amount of very useful material.
Sunday 5: Sue goes to Abergavenny, to sell Freeset bags. It's not really a cost-effective exercise, but probably the sort of thing you do once just to be sure. I go shopping after church, and fail to get to the art show at Studio Upstairs.
Wednesday 8: Meetign today with Wayne Stevens from Shelter and Michele Tedder from the Council, to talk about the new Homelessness Prevention Strategy. Massive problems with it, but not much chance of any significant changes, or any changes, really. But we might be able to influence the Action Plan.
Saturday 11: Volunteer Training first thing, then back to the office where I work on some of the outstanding documents for the CCM AGM on Monday and wait for Andrew Street so we can talk about plans for Monday. But he texts to say he can't make it after all - after church tomorrow, instead?
I drive home, have a late lunch, then Sue and I do the weekly shop. Ian is supposed to be attending a Cricket Club Dinner, but when we get home he has decided not to go. Sue persuades him, so I drop him off and head back in to work to finish the documents for Monday.
Sunday 12: I finish editing and printing the documents for the AGM just after 3 am, pack up and drive away. There is an astonishing number of people around, crowds hanging around outside The Stoke pub, and quite a few cars. One is revving its engines just behind me as I drive up the Gloucester Road, and as soon as he can overtake on the inside, he does so and shoots off through a red light. I drop a copy of the annual report through the doors of Scott, our Accountant, and Graham. Home and text Andrew: I may not make church in the morning. If not, can he come to me? Then bed around half past four.
Sue and I both miss church. I get up around 11, have breakfast, and out for the coffee at the end of the service. Eventually sit down with Andrew to talk about the AGM, then we drive up to Cribbs to trawl through the shops in search of a new fridge-freezer. There is a food festival, which is quite fun with lots of samples, and provides a welcome break to the job in hand.
Afterwards, I got for a quick sauna, then on to Korky and Anni where Ken and Ali Barrett are being hosted. They are the last Brethren missionaries in Spain, a detail which had escaped me until now. Then home, and Sunday 'lunch'.
Sue shows me the trophy presented to Ian at the dinner last night - the 'Most Improved' junior player. It is very impressive.
At work, we make the final preparations for the AGM. I forgot to bring the laptop with me, so drive home, pick it up, and drive in to Trinity Tabernacle. Spend the afternoon woprking on a response to the DWP consultation on welfare benefits.
We have the Trustees' meeting at 6:30, where the Annual Report is agreed, and the AGM at 7:30. It all goes well, everyone speaks well, and we have lots of good feedback afterwards. The timing isn't too bad, either: fifteen minutes behind schedule at the start of the formal bit, but only ten minutes late finishing. We have a short presentation to Trudie, who is retiring at the end of the month. She has been part of the project since the start, and we owe her more than we can say. I will personally miss Trudie's willingness to ask questions and explore, as well as the amazing gifts she has brought to her work.
In the evening, Alan Goddard and I go to the Bristol launch of 'Who is My Neighbour?' - a study by Churches Together on gangs, guns and knives. It is important stuff, and I try to encourage the churches to feel that they really do have the resources and ability to make a difference. It's not easy to make the points I have prepared, coming on straight after a lengthy and upbeat rap number. But something comes across, and it is certainly worthwhile to be there.
Thursday 16: All morning there is a meeting at the BDA, the Black Development Agency, about the way the council monitors progress on race equality. As usually happens in these meetings, I say more than most of the folk present, but it is nice to have several people afterwards thanking me for the points I was making. None of it is rocket science, just pointing out areas where the information we are given does not tie up.
The New Scientist today covers what is possibly the most important subject facing us: the total mismatch between the economists' goal of continual growth, and the reality of living in a world with finite resources. I remember talking about this at school: it seemed an obvious contradiction in our economic strategy at the time, and still does. We, the human race, are not living in a sustainable way today, and the only answer to our problems seems to involve growing the economy so we use up the earth's resources at an even faster rate. It just does not make sense.
After all, we passed the point where the current economy could be sustained back in the 80's. We have probably just shot past peak oil without noticing. The economists seem to fear recession more than anything else, but surely recession - using up the earth at a slower rate - is exactly what we need?
I was fascinated to discover that John Stuart Mill, 'one of the founders of classical economics' recognised this from the start. Writing in 1848 (in his Principles of Political Economy), he described how, once the work of economic growth was done, a stationary economy would emerge in which we could focus not on material growth but on human improvement. Stunning.
In the evening, the Global Partnerships meeting at Highgrove spends an informative and enlightening evening looking at Turkey. More than any other nation I am aware of, Turkey is in a position right now to choose its future - is it part of Europe? Is it an Islamic state? A secular state with a majority Muslim population? Can it stand and survive as an isolated nation? Personally, I don't see isolation as a viable option, but none of the other options seem likely either. I suspect that in another dozen years, the EU will start to regret that it did not make more efforts to encourage Turkey to join. Maybe sooner.
The other disturbing feature of the evening is the way I constantly cough through the presentation, which I hope did not distract anyone else too much.
Friday 17: BT have sorted out the Broadband problem at work, and we are online again. I find in my email a message from my ISP telling me how to connect to the Internet for free using a dial-up line. It would have been nice to have known this on Tuesday...
Also post off my response to the DWP on their consultation, just in time for the deadline on 22 October.
Saturday 18: I sleep in. Sue has a haircut in Shirehamption. A late breakfast, then catch the bus into town for Trudie's leaving do at LaserQuest. I'm not feeling too bright, but walking slowly is fine.
We meet at 12:30, get briefed, and go in to the first session: everyone against everyone else. I'm not up to running round much, so I mainly stand in a corner and shoot people running past. Astonishingly, at the end, I'm in second place, and on the 'high scores' for the day at number five. Make a record of that: I'm not likely to make a LaserQuest high score ever again. The second round is a team game, and this time I am the lowest scorer in my team, although the team did win convincingly - mainly due to superior tactics and teamwork.
The main thing is that everyone enjoys it, especially Trudie. So that was a stroke of genius. It's not the sort of event I would ever have thought of suggesting.
We wander down to a local Italian restaurant, joined by several other people, including Sue after half an hour or so. By which time, I'm not feeling at all well. I order a small plate of pasta, expecting to eat about half of it, but by the time it arrives I can only pick at a few strands of spaghetti. Sue suggests I should go home, and I'm not up to arguing, so I make my excuses and leave. There is a bus waiting at the stop, I get home and go to bed.
I had intended to spend the afternoon looking round the West Bristol Art Fair, but I only manage to get up for a few hours in the evening. Sue and I were booked to go to the Soroptimists Barn Dance, but there is no way I can cope with that. Sue goes and dances, and I sit in front of the TV for a few hours, then back to bed. Fortunately, she reminds me about tomorrow: I am supposed to be doing the words at church. We manage to find a replacement, which at this late stage is something of a miracle.
Sunday 19: Sue drives off to Newbury, to see her sister Barbara, and I sleep through the morning. Have breakfast around lunchtime, take some more painkillers, and back to bed. Steve heads off to Italy for a few days, to spend some time with Rob and Tracy.
Get up mid-afternoon, starting to feel a little more human. Ian cooks a salmon stir-fry: not a lot, but it is nice to eat something. After a while, Sue comes home and I drive down for a sauna... the perfect treatment for aching bones. Another early night.
Lunch with Sue, then over to the CCISR offices for a meeting about Roma in Bristol. A persecuted minority in their own country, with very limited right to work in this country and no access to social support. Not an easy problem to respond to.
Afterwards, I drive home. It's probably sensible, given that I'm still recovering from the weekend. Was supposed to be having an evening out with the FareShare folk in the local bowling alley, but a night in seems to be a better idea right now. I have already given Sue my apologies for the One25 AGM tonight.
Tuesday 21: The chap from Peninsula comes round to see me. They want to offer us a good deal on a replacement photocopier, but I don't want to accept unless they can give us access to the full functionality from our Linux machines. He promises that this is easy - but they have not managed it in the past three years. We will wait and see. The deadline is the end of the month.
In the evening, the Multi Faith Forum has its first 'proper' AGM as an organisation independent of the Council. We are at the Pierian Centre, which is handy for me. We also say goodbye to David Maggs, who is moving on to pastures greener: a very sad loss for the rest of us. It is hard to summarise how many ways David has made a significant contribution to Bristol, through Voscur and the Bristol Partnership, and presumably in many other areas I know nothing about.
Thursday 23: In the morning, we have a meeting of the Voscur board and reps to talk about representation to the Bristol Partnership. They want our Chief Exec or Chair to be a part of the executive, but we work through members being elected to representative posts. But in the circumstances, we will try a bit of a compromise and see where it gets us.
In the evening, I was planning to go to the BAT AGM, but several recent meetings suggested I should go to the Bristol Faith Forum at St Agnes instead. When it starts, there are only ten people present, and I know four of them. But after another half an hour, we are up to a reasonable thirty.
The main speaker is Paul Stevenson, the man who was behind the famous Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963, which was publicised by Tony Benn and which led to the first race equalities legislation in the UK. He is an amazing man. To be honest, not a good speaker - but maybe he has run out of steam when talking about the same events for the several hundredth time. But hawever good the talk, it is a privilege to be there and meet him.
Friday 24: The Anabaptist Network in the evening is good fun as usual. Lots of talk about community, and recognising that we all live in multiple communities today. Several folk were expressing problems with the idea of being accountable to other people, but the problems seemed to be more with the giving up of the right to make your own decisions - which is not what accountability is about. So what is the problem with it?
Saturday 25: Men's Breakfast at Highgrove this morning with Rob Parsons. As always, he is excellent - still one of the best communicators I know, and always with something worth saying and worth hearing.
Sue is at the Charity Fair in Broadmead Baptist, with Esme, selling Freeset Bags. I dash off at the end of the breakfast and catch a bus into town. Sue and Esme are fine, so I pop into work for a while, then have some lunch with Sue. We pack the bags away, take them back to One25, then drive up to the Morrisons at Fishponds - not far, but a long, slow journey.
We get home, and I am unpacking the shopping and Sue is in the shower when she gets a phone call from Dawn Wakefield. I don't immediately connect the name, but Sue is just getting out of the shower and I pass the phone to her. Dawn's father, Dick Wakefield, has just died. He was one of Sue's old friends from the RNIB. The funeral is on Thursday.
We go out to St Agnes: Sister Annaliese is having her 50th birthday celebration there, and throwing a party. Lots of old friends, including David and Carol Self, who are doing really well and enjoying their retirement, and another of the Sisters who did the training with me a few years ago, and who is still praying for Sue following her brain operation despite never meeting her until tonight.
Sunday 26: It is the Wessex Go Tournament, and I have permission to skip church for once. Sue and I drive to Bath, park, and find the venue, then she goes off shopping while I settle down. Steve and Pauline Bailey are there from West Surrey, and a few others I recognise from other clubs. I have entered as 7 kyu, which is where I was ten years ago. I have not played for about three years, but the theory is that you don't get weaker by not playing.
In the first round, I am taking White against Chris Brown, 6 kyu, who is playing his first OTB (over the board, as opposed to 'on the computer') game for some thirty years. I think it is a close game, but forget the 6 points komi, so he beats me by 4 points on the board (58 to 54), so 10 points in all. Not bad for my first game in years.
Lunch with Sue in a nearby cafe with WiFi access. She updates me on the exciting shopping highlights of the morning.
The second match is against Jack Drury, 7 kyu in theory. A young teenager, who seems to be much stronger than his grade suggests. I am Black, and struggling from the start. I make a couple of ambitious plays to see how he will respond, and he wipes the floor with me. I end up losing by 29 points, which is probably less than I deserve.
In the interval, I play Chris again. He tries some unorthodox moves and I'm not really sure how to respond, but it works out okay and I'm comfortably ahead when the draw for the final round is posted.
In the final round I am playing Black again, this time against Wesley Tailor, 7 kyu. It is a totally nailbiting game. We share out the initial territory around the edge quite fairly, then we get into a complicated life-or-death fight in one corner with two kos. I'm sure one of us mis-read the situation, but I'm still not sure which one it was. The immediate fight is resolved, and he has a long group with no eyes sandwiched between two of my groups. This is generally a good situation, as you either get to kill the group, or you gain lots of influence on the outside as he seeks to live.
But after a few more moves, I make a totally stupid mistake and let him cut off one of my groups. For a minute or two, that seems to be the end of the game. But then I notice a possible way to recover, by attacking his stones on the side. It works, and we end up with a capturing race. After a while, it becomes clear that he cannot win the race, and he resigns. After the game, he describes my move as 'brilliant' - which is probably the first time anyone has suggested anything of the sort. Anyway, that leaves me with one game out of three for the tournament, which is probably fair.
Monday 27: Sue goes up to Newbury, to stay overnight. Her mother is having some more teeth out. Ian is supposed to be doing some washing up and sorting his room out, but he has a friend, Hugh, around instead. A nice enough lad, but neither of them are capable of shutting the back door when they go outside.
Tuesday 28: Just before one, Sue sends me a text message: "We're out. She is fine. It hasn't stopped her talking." No homegroup tonight, so when she gets home we have a night in together. It doesn't happen that often. Ian is out, spending the night at a friend's house. It is half-term, after all. Or, to be precise, between terms, as they now have six short terms instead of three long ones with a break.
Thursday 30: Sue goes to Dick's funeral at St Giles church in Cheddington. Ian comes home around four. Then he goes out again to buy a copy of 'On the Beach' - I know we have a copy somewhere, but don't have the faintest idea where. It might even be in one of the boxes we have not unpacked from Guildford yet.
The New Scientist has a fascinating article about relativity: how Einstein was both right and wrong. Right in the theory, but wrong in how he arrived at it. The origin of the theory was his question about travelling with a beam of light, and light was central to the Theory of Relativity. All the strange results follow, as they say, from the fact that light travels at the same speed whichever frame of reference you choose - Einstein's 'second postulate'.
This, when you think about it, is a troubling idea. It means that Relativity, one of the fundamental ways in which we see the universe, depends on the physical properties of an object, and on the accuracy of our measurements of this object.
The article goes on to establish that Relativity does not depend on light. It can be derived from mathematics alone. In fact Galileo, nearly 400 years ago, got remarkably close, and could have derived Relativity from some of his work if he had more modern matematical tools available to him at the time.
Light, it turns out, is merely a good example of an object with no mass, which travels at the maximum speed - the speed we call the speed of light. If it were to turn out that light actually has a very small mass and hence travels (very slightly) at a slower speed than a particle with no mass, we would have to change many of our ideas, but Relativity would stand unchanged. What a relief.
Friday 31: The man from Peninsula comes round again. It is the end of the month, and he has a plan. He finally admits that Toshiba don't support all their printer's functionality in Linux, but has evidence that Ricoh do. There is an equivalent Ricoh printer to the Toshiba he had offered us, a bit more expensive, slightly better spec, but he will provide it for the price of the Toshiba. It sounds like a plan.
We have a good time with our local councillor, talking about what we do at CCM. He didn't know much about us up to now, which says something about the low level of problems we generate. He goes away happy with what he has seen and heard.
Leave work on time for once, and take Sue and Ian to the early evening showing of Quantum of Solace at the Orpheus. Action packed, but hard to follow.
After a while, it becomes clear that this is actually a sequel to Casino Royale, and all the plot is driven by the questions and emotions triggered by the previous film. I was expecting much more to be spelled out for me, but it turned out that I had to remember what had happened and then fill in the gaps myself. So, incredibly, it was not as successful as it could have been because it expected far more of me then I was capable of. I never expected to be saying that about a Bond film. And I did like the idea that water is actually the most important resource on the planet - a really important observation, and probably ahead of the curve in terms of public awareness.
Saturday 1: Prayer Breakfast at St Edyths first thing, then on the bus and down to the Council House. From 11 to 4 there is a meeting about 'Supporting Equality in Schools', which is about how the LGB agenda is being promoted in the Bristol schools following the debacle earlier this year when some folk with support from the Council tried to push some extreme material into two schools against the wishes of the parents.
The sad thing about the event is the lack of any progress over the last few months, either in dealing with the issues or in understanding the positions of the people involved. A great deal is said, seemingly to address the problems which has arisen, but almost none of it is at all relevant. And there still seemes to be a 'victory or defeat', 'all or nothing' mentality - either the original materials will be adopted and used in their entirity, or it will be a complete defeat. But I only ever heard people objecting to a couple of items in a long list of material being used by the school, so as far as I can tell there are few if any objections to the vast majority of the material being reintroduced. But nothing said during the day suggests that this is even a possibility to be considered.
On the plus side, it is an excellent networking opportunity. And they want to set up a meeting in the new year to address questions of faith and sexuality, so this is an excellent reminder of the issues and an insight into the ways in which people are responding to them. Cass wants me to report on this to the next Multi Faith Forum, but I will be coming back from London that evening. Perhaps I will manage to write a report for her.
For some reason, Sue wants me to get a bus home. Then we drive back into town to pick up the Freeset bags for her to take to Highgrove tomorrow.
Sunday 2: Our Homegroup is setting up at church, and I am doing the words. All goes well up to the point when I have entered all the songs and start to display the first one to check it all works. The first part of the first letter on each line is missing. I try messing around with the display settings on the computer, but no joy.
I ask Sam Marsh if he has any idea, but he has not seen this before. We try looking at the settings on the projector, and manage to get the image displayed upsidedown. Then it is displayed as a mirror-image, reversed right to left. Then we lose the display menu position, and fail to find the relevant setting - trying to read the text backwards, and needing to press the right keys in a few seconds or the menu disappears. Somehow, we manage to get the display restored just before the service starts, and for some reason the original problem has been fixed. I seem to be jinxed with this equipment.
The service is quite complex, technically. We have a film from TearFund, which requires the projector to be re-configured twice during the service, and John Stevens has a PowerPoint to illustrate his sermon, both of which would have been shown back to front if we had not fixed the problem in time.
I spend too much of the sermon trying to work out the significance of one of John's slides. It shows what appears to be a graph, with 'Material World' increasing as you go right along the horizontal axis, and 'Spiritual World' increasing as you go down - not up - along the vertical axis. Why down? Is this some reference to the 'Upsidedown Kingdom'? And how, even if you can get more or less spiritual, do you get more or less material? And there seems to be room in this worldview for objects with negative materiality and negative spirituality. What could they be?
Tuesday 4: In the evening, the very last public meeting organised by the Sea Mills and Coombe Dingle Community Project. Tim and Fay each have their spot, reflecting on the past ten years and what has been achieved. A lady from the Community Centre Association invites us to their committee meeting next Tuesday evening. Well, that is progress if anything is - in the past, we were not even allowed to know when they were meeting, let alone be invited to attend. A new day is dawning.
At the end, Fay is presented with some flowers, and they give me a Waterstones card with (it turns out) £20 credit on it. Completely unexpected. But I suppose we have been jointly chairing it for a number of years, Fay has been involved since the beginning, I turned up the following year, and have been the public face of the project at all the public meetings for quite a while. So that was a really nice gesture.
The hardest part of the meeting was where I tried to describe the structures for local democracy and involvement through the Bristol Partnership, the Local Neighbourhood Partnerships, Safer Bristol, PACT and the SMART meetings, and then the otehr avenues of involvement through Voscur. It is not easy to understand because it just does not make sense - how can they expect this system to work?
Wednesday 5: Wow. He did it. I have been following Obama since well before he anounced his candidacy, but have never actually believed he could win. It seemed clear that Clinton, with her experience and contacts, would be able to out-manoeuvre him. And when he became the Democratic Candidate, it still seemed that the experienced white man would easily beat the inexperienced black man, whatever the polls said. After all, they have often been misleading in these circumstances in the past. But no, this time it worked.
It has got to be the right result. McCain made so many mistakes, and failed to address the key questions so often. I heard most of the first debate between the, and was astonished: both men attacked the other, as you would expect. But Obama listed to the points being made, and gave an adequate refutation of each one. McCain would not, or could not, refute Obama's criticisms, but instead took the opportunity to make further attacks. I could not vote for such a person, and neither, thank goodness, as it turns out, could most Americans.
In the evening, I go for another drink with John Stevens. As always, time with him is enjoyable and stimulating. Amongst other things, we touch on the nature of spirituality and whether man is bipartite or tripartite. Sadly, I am a bit late arriving, and he is suffering a bit with his back, so we don't have as long as we might have done.
Thursday 6: Steve Chalke is the speaker this morning for the joint CET, Muller and BCAN event at Woodlands. The subject is 'Re-imaging Church : Every Person Matters', and the talk is available from the usual web site for the Bristol Region Church Leaders.
He is stunningly brilliant, as always. But it seems that quite a number of people present are simply not willing to listen to him. We got into small groups at the end, and the first comment was along the lines of: "That was dreadful. He completely devalues the cross." He was not talking about the cross. He did mention the cross in passing, as an example of the way in which Jesus' approach to ministry was carried out consistently in every aspect of His ministry, including what He did on the cross - which for me was a very insightful and helpful fresh look at a familiar topic. But it certainly was not presented as a complete statement of the atonement, and I can't imagine how anyone could possibly have taken it that was unless they came with the intention of finding reasons to attack him.
There were also a couple of semi-hostile public questions at the end, which Steve handled brilliantly. The nice thing at the end was when a chap who had been at the CCM AGM in October came up to me and said that he was excited because all the good things Steve had been talking about, he had heard everyone at our AGM also talking about when sharing about what we are doing every day. Wonderful! Someone heard, and understood.
I also had a short unplanned chat with Steve as I was about to leave - we were using the gents at the same time. We talked about the recent Moral Maze he had appeared in, and he was wonderfully relaxed about the dreadful way they had treated him. Now that is a sign of real spirituality.
Sunday 9: On the BBC1 Politics Show today at noon, CCM features in a piece on the plight of ex-servicemen. We have been helping a Gulf War veteran who is homeless, and he is a good example of the sort of trouble so many people get into when the leave the armed services. They say that 10% of homeless people are ex-military, which sounds about right.
Monday 10: Meeting the Trustees in the morning, then praying at Pip'n'Jay, then back for a meeting with Graham in the afternoon. The day is completely non-stop, so when Sue rings and offers to pick me up on her way home, I accept.
When Sue went for her flu jab, the Fire Brigade were offering to come round and do a smoke alarm check, so she took up the offer. They come round at 6:30 this evening, and for once I am home at that time. Sue is expecting some 'hunky' firemen, but one of them turns out to be a very nice lady. They are all very nice, in fact, and actually install two new smoke alarms, and leave one for Steve to fit. They will all last ten years in theory, and need to be tested every week. One of our existing alarms, which were all taken down, was cheerfully described as 'as much use as a brake on a canoe.'
Tuesday 11: A lady called Stephanie Williams called several weeks ago to arrange an interview. This happens fairly often, so I didn't think too much about it. She turns up with another lady and recording equipment: they want to video the interview for a final year university project on homelessness. This is a bit less common. After a bit, I ask Alan to come up and talk about some of the folk we have been helping. The two girls just keep on asking questions and recording. The project is turning out to be a bit of an eye-opener for them, but they are really beginning to think about the issues and about the practical questions of what can be done, and they clearly care about the things they are discovering.
In the evening, I am scheduled to do something at Homegroup. After some debate, I decide to work through a paper I wrote for the Trinity College students recently, and get some feedback on the things I wanted to say and how best to say them. It turns into a really interesting time of sharing and exploring some fairly deep issues, and several folk are very enthusiastic about the experience. It works much better than I had hoped, and some of the feedback will make a big difference to the next draft. I hope we will be able to repeat the exercise at some point.
Saturday 15: I am out all day. Fristly, it is the Mental Health conference organised by Hope's Place. Professor Glyn Harrison is the main speaker, and again he is excellent: good material, clearly and thoughtfully presented.
After lunch, we have some seminars. The choice is very difficult, but in the end I go for one which includes dealing with the demonic. I expect it to be very good or very bad, and it turns out to be very good. One contributor is a doctor married to a minister, and one is an Anglican priest. They offer a very balanced and careful description, very nicely balanced. I disagree with a few details of the theology, but it is an excellent presentation. the main drawback is that the advice on how to respond to unclean spirits is all offered from an Anglican perspective, in which you have church structures and procedures and disciplines and rituals all available. I ask about how you translate this into practice for people operating outside the Anglican and Catholic churches, and he gives a thoughful if not totally comprehensive response.
Afterwards, when I should have been doing some sort of feedback, I get talking with him and ask about the theology. It turns out that he basically agrees with my understanding: there is not three different types of activity - obsession, oppression and posession - but one type of activity which exists on a spectrum of intensity and frequency. But the division he presented is helpful for communicating to a bunch of strangers in a short period, so we actually agree after all.
From there I get the bus into town and do a couple of hours working on the application for planning permission - I had promised the Trustees to have a draft for them by the end of the week. It does not go as well as I had hoped.
Get the bus home, then out with Ian and Sue to The Most Effective Drum at Westbury Methodist. Ian's friend Rob is taking part, as he did last year. The title is taken from the quote from the French Playwrite Giandoux: "As soon as war is declared it will be impossible to hold the poets back. Rhyme is still the most effective drum."
Much of the evening is deeply moving: accounts of war and the consequences of war from many perspectives, times and lands. All unique, and all universal. I can't talk at the end for quite a while. And then we lose Ian. He walked back to the car without us, and we are left waiting in the entrace lobby. Eventually, I walk back to the car and find him, then go back for Sue
Sunday 16: Words at Highgrove again. This time it is complex: we are switching computers part way through the service. But, for once, it all works without a hitch. The display at the start is missing the left hand edge of the first column again, but Ed fixes this much more easily than Sam and I did a few weeks ago.
Back in to work to finish the draft planning application. It takes much longer than anticipated, and I end up emailing it round to people around half past midnight. Pack up and leave for home about one.
Monday 17: Sue and I pack and head off to Guildford. Planned to leave about 9:30 and manage to be on the road by 9:45, which is not bad for us. It is a good run until we come off the motorway and hit the roadworks. We are quite late, but David Race is relaxed about our arrival.
We have a lovely time with David: he is looking well, and copes with our visit remarkably well. In the end, we need to make a move in order to see Pam and Andy before they go out in the evening. Sue goes round to see Sally while I stay chatting with Andy, then she comes back for me and we go in search of the B&B in Stoke Road.
We find it without difficulty, register, unload our bits, then go out to pick up the train tickets for tomorrow and fill up with petrol. An early night, as we only had about three hours sleep on Sunday night.
Tuesday 18: Breakfast at the B&B, then I walk to the station. Train to Clapham Junction then change for Norwood Junction. Walk up the hill to Spurgeon's College. Sue spends the day in Guildford, mostly shopping it seems.
Lunch in the canteen, then after a bit I get to see Nigel Wright, who is my supervisor for the dissertation. We talk a bit about wehre I am coming from, and what I am hoping for from the dissertation. He offers the details of a number of further books for me to read as background, which will be an interesting challenge. But he seems to be happy with what I am planning to do and how I am planning to do it, so it is starting to look plausible again.
Go to the library, and, as expected, I can't borrow the dissertation that Peter suggested, but the librarian might be able to find an electronic copy for me.
Back to the station, and my train is waiting. Run, and the guard holds the door open for me for the few seconds I need, which is very much appreciated. Coming into Guildford station, we are a few minutes early, and I have to shut down the laptop and bundle everything into bags in a rush, then squeeze out past the people who have already started to come on board.
Traffic in Guildford is dreadful, and it takes us a while to get out. The roadworks we hit on Monday do not afect us going North, but just past Bracknell everything slows down and we are crawling for ages. I had hoped to be back for the Bristol Multi Faith Forum, but the traffic delays us too much. We stop for a takeaway coffee at Membury, then straight home.
Wednesday 19: A fascinating meeting organised by the People's Republic of Stokes Croft about the Compass Centre. Various local activists, and various people from the Council and the Compass Centre. Two totally different worlds, who find it very difficult to talk to each other. I manage to do some interpretation, in both directions. Probably upset people on both sides... Not an easy meeting, but such a good idea.
The local people want to see the Compass Centre better used to help homeless people and to meet some of the needs they see, which is entirely reasonable. But the Centre is not going to become a drop-in, or be opened up to the public, which rather scuppers most of their ideas. And the money which was spent on the Centre was a capital grant and could not be spent in 'more useful' ways, whatever anybody may wish. But lots of enthusiasm, and energy and ideas, and some useful contacts and communication are likely to come out of it.
I go for a sauna after work. One of the chaps I regularly talk to asks about my week, which leads to questions about what Applied Theology consists of, and everyone in the sauna gets into a discussion about whether God knows the future, and what difference it makes. Brilliant. Several of the people present say they want to continue or follow up the conversation when we next meet.
The Bristol Mind AGM in the evening is in Colston Girls School. An interesting event. I can't help but compare: roughly four times the turnover of CCM, and 20 people at the AGM. And most of them seem to be staff or on the board. There is an interesting talk on a document which has recently been published about the future of mental health services, which contains all the usual features: no analysis of the problems, either qualitative or quantitative, no analysis of trends, no identification of new theories, treatments or ways of improving quality of life, and lots of aspirational statements which don't say how they differ from the aspirational statements we should have been working to previously.
The document, of course, is a 'vision statement' - it will be followed by a detailed plan which says what will actually happen. So yet again the public get to read a glossy document which says nothing, and the real work is done in lots of detailed points in a plan which doesn't relate in any obvious way to the published vision, and the public never get to see or question it.
I ask a question about mental health services for homeless people, an area I have some interest in, and the speaker says this is a vitally important area, which is being worked on by people who know about homelessness. Not as far as I know by anyone I know, so I'll chase that one up tomorrow.
Friday 21: After work, Sue and I go for another 'Comedy Night' at the Labour Club in Patchway. We are a bit late setting off because I'm dealing with some last-minute questions at work, and then we hit roadworks which prevent us turning off the A38 where we need to. And then we can't quite remember where the club is, and take several wrong turnings before we get it right. So the first act has started by the time we arrive. But it is a fun evening, and something worth supporting - a way for the church to build links with the local community. For some reason, both acts did versions of the three rope trick, but Sue didn't notice it was the same trick so probably nobody else did.
Sue sends a text message to Alan and Philip, asking if they would like to go to the next evening, 'An Evening With Jimmy Cricket' on 19 December. But they don't reply so we don't buy tickets for it. We assume Ian will not be interested, and he is staying the night with a friend as he tends to do on most Friday evenings, but we can ask him over the weekend just to check.
Sunday 23: In the afternoon, Sue and I go to see the latest Ridley Scott film, Body of Lies. Very impressed. At first view, it is a traditional CIA good guys against the terrorist bad guys story. But while the violence is very much what you would expect - and very well done - the conflict is all within the CIA, mainly between the two main characters.
I'm sceptical about ideas of a film's 'true' meaning, but it is at least arguable that the film is at least in part suggesting that the real conflict is not between the Western world and the terrorists, but between those who will use people to promote their ideology, and those who believe that people really matter.
The Crowe character is wonderful. Not only is he willing to use, kill, maim and lie to people to achieve his goals, but he is also totally disconnected from everyone around him. He sits at a computer screen, watching people risk their lives and manipulating events from a safe distance - that much is fairly familiar territory. But the family scenes, which several reviewers seem to feel are superfluous, are brilliant: even with his family, he is totally disconnected. He spends time with his children, driving them around and attending ball games, but he has no interest in them. He does parenting as he does everything else - efficiently, and without human contact.
The Di Caprio character, on the other hand, connects with almost everyone he meets. He doesn't have children, we assume, but when he meets a couple of young boys he connects with them, quickly and easily forming a bond, and playing games at the meal table unnoticed by their mother. It is understated and quite superb cinema. In the end, he is not prepared to continue playing the game of using people for the sake of the greater good, and you want to stand up and cheer.
The film goes far beyond the old 'America must change its foreign policy' message. It asks searching questions about the purpose of foreign policy, and the nature of the means which can be used to pursue it. It suggests that in the end, the CIA and the terrorists are on the same side: the side of those who want to achieve their aims through fighting, threats, violence and manipulation, and those who believe that friendship and trust, and maybe even love are the only ways to achieve the sort of world we want to live in. You don't often get that so clearly and articulately argued in a major Hollywood film.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I hope that the vast majority of the people who watch this film will be convinced, as I am, that the Di Caprio character is stating the simple and obvious truth in his arguments. The Crowe character cannot see them, because he is blind to the value of anything outside his home culture. He is stating the truth as he sees it, near the end, when he says "Nobody likes the Middle East. There's nothing there to like." In other words, it is not the culture I grew up in, so I don't like it, so it cannot be liked. The Di Caprio character is willing to get to know other people and other cultures, and discover something of the wonderful variety of human existence. He is willing to live, and willing to love, and demonstrates an approach to living which might possibly work. It is a stunning achievement.
When my mother rings this evening, she tells me that the three of them went to Eddie Finnerty's 70th birthday party - not a 'real' party, but a sausage party. Didn't quite follow that bit. But neither Sue nor I can believe that Eddie is 70.
She also says that her recent examination went reasonably well. They couldn't see quite as much as they had planned, but everything is all right, as far as they can see. She is due back on 16 March for her next appointment, and then for the next 6-monthly check up in May. But the basic thing right now is that whatever the risk of the cancer returning in the long term, it is not likely to prevent their holiday to Australia in January.
Tuesday 25: First thing is a meeting ar ISR about the problems Roma people face in Bristol, and what we can do to help bridge the gap and see them start to receive some of the support they are entitled to.
Then down to Bath for a walk with Dave Wiles, followed by lunch. The drive down is fine, and the walk is absolutely beautiful. Very muddy in places, but a beautiful blue sky and almost no wind - at times, if it wasn't for the mud we could have gone sunbathing. We couldn't get into the church, but saw the location of the mediaeval church, and nearby the site where they have found much older remains of people. Came away with a deep sense of our rootedness, not only in creation, but also in history and in the stories of all the people who have shaped our world, our culture and our environment.
In homegroup in the evening, John Stevens leads us in an interesting exercise: we each write down one thing we enjoy, one dream, and one life-changing revelation. The responses were all interesting, and for some people there were really unexpected details.
He talks about the way that CBT is the only therapeutic model supported by NICE because it is on of the few which are suited to randomised control trials. I told about my recent conversation with the social worker and my feeling that nothing which matters can be measured, which most people seemed to agree with.
But my contribution didn't receive 100 percent approval. Talking to a lady afterwards, she commented that state regulation does not always mean form filling and box ticking and being forced to comply with the latest statistically-proven techniques. It's not what happens in schools, she says.
I point out that schools are driven by targets which are set by achievement in standard tests against targets set by the satistically calculated expectations of the target population. She says that this achieves the best results. I say that as a parent, I don't really care too much about how my child is progressing against the average: I want to know if each of them is reaching his potential.
I talk about our experience of a number of schools, and the OFSTED reports we have read. She explains she worked in the regulation of pre-school childcare, not for OFSTED, but she is confident she knows about schools too.
She says that the schools want the same, and they have policies and procedures in place to ensure that this happens. I agree that they want the same and have policies and procedures, but we do not know if the outcome is actually achieving the best for any individual child. Over the next ten minutes or so, she moves from claiming that schools are achieving the best for each child and there are systems in place to ensure that this happens, but she doesn't want to actually say that we have no way of telling whether this is happening because we have no way of measuring potential, so we cannot measure progress against potential, so she decides our conversation has probably gone far enough.
I think I probably upset her, which often happens when people decide they want to correct one of my 'misguided' ideas, but I don't know what else I could do. The basic response is always: yes, I probably am wrong - these are the facts I am using, and this is my reasoning, please show me where I am wrong. Are the facts wrong? Does the conclusion not follow for the facts?
Almost without exception, they ignore this and present an alternative argument with gaping holes. Just like today: we know that this is happening, because there is a system in place to ensure that it happens. But how do we know that the system is achieving what it is set up for? Well, it must be. Lots of time and energy has been devoted to making sure it works. But how do we know it works? Over and over again, what seems to be a reasoned argument actually comes down to blind faith, and the individual not wanting to admit that their own investment of time and energy in the system may be, in part, wasted. Then they get upset with me because I can't say I share their belief.
Thursday 27: In to the Compass Centre to do a couple of interviews with two of the LITE Course students. In the evening, I'm at the 'Prayer for Easton' but turn up late - partly because I underestimate the traffic, and partly because I take several wrong turns and then can't find anywhere to park.
But it is very worth while, once I get there. After a short time of worship, I share about CCM, the current issues and needs, and also a brief introduction to the underlying ethos and theology. And answer questions. They ask about the building, and I say that we are next door to the Queen Vic, which I went to see two weeks ago, and which we are praying about. Everybody's ears prick up. It seems that a number of the local Christians have been praying about the pub, and wondering if it could be used for some sort of Christian work. Interesting. Then they pray for me and for CCM very thoroughly. A wonderful experience.
At lunchtime, there is a meeting at the Southville Centre for the Voscur board and reps to talk further about the issue of representation. Wendy was at the SouthWest Forum earlier in the week, and she told me that the keynote speaker, Debra Allcock Tyler (Chief Executive of the Directory of Social Change) quoted from an article I wrote and posted on this web site earlier in the year - the one about Engaging the Voluntary Sector. It seems she tried asking for permission to quote from the article, but I didn't reply. Don't remember seeing the request, but who cares? A brief moment of fame!
The Anabaptist Network in the evening. We split into two groups, boys and girls, because someone thought that we might have different responses to the theme: tenacious serenity, or gelassenheit. But, because we split into two groups, we never found out if that was the case. We had different conversations, but then the different groups always have different conversations. If it was an interesting question, we had no opportunity to explore it. After a fair time discussing the subject, and most folk saying they don't do very well with this discipline, I asked if they thought Jesus showed tenacious serenity. It was interesting to watch the reactions. If it is a virtue, then maybe our understanding of serenity needs to be reshaped in the light of Jesus' example.
Saturday 29: A day of Prayer and Fasting for CCM. Well, not quite a day: we meet from 10 am to 4 pm at City Road. It is a challenging experience, but very worthwhile. Several strands of input suggest that we should be thinking about a multi-site operation, and also about spreading the model of ministry more widely, possibly across the country. And maybe the reason why we have not found what we have been looking for in a new building is because we have been looking for the wrong thing?
Sunday 30: My original plan was to spend most of today going round the North Bristol Arts Trail. Actually, that was the second plan - the first was to do it yesterday. But the day is actually spent finishing the planning application for the council, which I promised to submit on Monday.
Next is the Create Centre to help with the induction of the new Voscur board members and review the Standing Orders. Taxi stright to the St Pauls Family Learning Centre for the Community Safety meeting, earlier this month to allow Olly Alcock to attend. His presence is invaluable, as usual. Somehow, I manage to convince the meeting to agree in principle to set up a wet house in St Pauls. Olly said he was 'astonished', and he wasn't the only one.
Back to work for a short while, starting to catch up on all the things I have not done because of the planning permission, then Sue picks me up and drops me at Woodlands for the annual Leaders' Meal. As always, delicious. This time the lighting is not as dim, and the background music not as loud, so it is much easier to talk. Several really useful conversations, and several people praying for me and for CCM.
Friday 5: BCAN Steering Group at lunchtime. Julian Marsh is not well, but recovering. Almost all the rest of us manage to be there, including Keith Hagon, Julian's replacement at Mullers, for the first time. It is a surprisingly positive meeting, with agreement to distribute a slightly updated job advert for a BCAN worker, and a number of different areas starting to come together.
Saturday 6: Sue takes Ian off for a meal in Newbury with her parents. Alan and Philip travel down from Coventry by train to meet them there, then Sue drives them all back to Coventry, drops Alan, picks up Philip's bits, and brings him home. Alan will come a bit later.
Of course, it is not as simple as that in real life, but you don't want all the gory details.
The original plan was for me to get the train to Guildford, attend the Go teach-in and tournament, and for Sue to join me there from the meal on Saturday. But Sue wasn't feeling well enough earlier in the week for it to be sensible to book a weekend away, and to be honest, after several very long weeks at work I needed a day of rest.
Monday 8: Sue picks me up from Muller House in the afternoon, and we drive to the 6th Form Centre where we have a Parents' Evening with Ian. They love him, of course - his teachers always love him. But he is also doing well. In several subjects, just in the past month, something has 'clicked' and he has started to work like he is capable of doing. So, all in all, we are quite delighted with him.
Tuesday 9: The Bristol Multi Faith Forum in the evening is at St Nicholas of Tolentino. Cass, the new chair, comes round for a chat beforehand, and then drives me round. Getting in is not easy, but worth the effort. The building has just been reopened - they celebrated their first mass last Sunday. And it is stunning. We spend far too long walking round the new sanctuary and admiring the art, including a unique wooden carved cross over the altar showing both the dying and rising Jesus - from Malawi, if I remember correctly.
Wednesday 10: There's quite a lot on the news today about Craig Ewert, the professor whose suicide in 2006 will be broadcast on Sky tonight. Part of an interview with him was broadcast on the Today program, and one part caught my ear. He said: "If I go through with it, I die; if I don't go through with it, I suffer and then die."
It struck me that this is exactly the situation each one of us is in. If it is an argument for this man to commit suicide, it is equally an argument for each one of us to follow his example. I know this is not the only argument, but it seemed an odd quote to use in this context.
In passing, I have not yet heard a persuasive argument for permitting assisted suicide. The two arguments used is that people fear suffering, and they want to die with 'dignity'. Suffering can always be prevented if the patient wishes, and nobody has the right to complete dignity.
Friday 12: This morning - 8 am! - is the last of the local steering group meetings for the Business Acton on Homelessness. They will be having more 'strategic' meetings in its place. But the people making decisions will not be those who are involbved with what is happening on the ground, which never sounds like a great plan to me. We will have to wait and see.
At lunchtime, we have a joint Christmas party with Voscur and the other ChangeUp partners at the Barton Hill Settlement. It works surprisingly well, and a good time is had by all.
Sue is not feeling well, but goes into work anyway. There are things that just have to be done.
Sue is feeling worse, so I do the shopping. In the evening, we are supposed to be going out to the Highgrove Christmas Concert, but Sue is not up to going out so we have a quiet night in.
Monday 15: Another 'breakfast' meeting - this time, FareShare. After that, I drive over to try another complementary therapy: Rosen Method. The literature sounds like there is a basic plausibility - talk about 'unconscious physical tensions' and connecting physical and mental stress. The body, mind and emotions are all connected, so why not?
The therapist explains that people often find deep emotions being released through the gentle physical manipulation. After a while, it becomes very clear what happens. The physical side is a sort of effortless massage - gentle pressure and stretching. But this is accompanied by a subtle verbal probing: these muscles are a bit tense... tension in these muscles is often a result of some emotional difficulty in childhood... did you ever have any emotional difficulty in your childhood... did you ever feel your parents weren't entirely on your side as a child? I comment that I don't suppose there is a tenager in the world who doesn't feel this way at times. We pass on to other topics. I don't rise to the bait with any of the questions and, not surprisingly, there is no deep emotional release by the end of the session. But it is pleasant enough, it was a free offer, and I can see that some people would find it a safe environment in which to talk about difficult topics for the first time, which could be very beneficial. I would be a bit happier if the therapist had a counselling qualification, but it seems that they don't understand what they are doing that way.
Tuesday 16: In the afternoon, several of us go round to view a property in Old Market. It is a good location, and plenty big enough for us, but would need a lot of work to convert, and they are asking for 'in excess of' £425,000. And it looks like it would be a pain to heat in the Winter. But it is the most plausible property we have yet seen.
Sue is still off work.
The CCM Christmas Party goes well, but we run out of presents right at the end, and a couple of the female clients decide to have a domestic dispute outside the shop afterwards, which is very sad.
Saturday 20: ACTS is doing a Carol Service, and Sue comes out to join us. But for some reason I have the wrong location, and we fail to find them. So we go to work instead, and work through to the late evening - we both have a lot of outstanding jobs to clear up before the holiday.
Sunday 21: The Highgrove Christmas Service, and I am doing the words. It is much easier than usual, as all the words are on a PowerPoint, but there is another PowerPoint to show, which has an embedded video. Just before the service begins, the computer completely locks up, and I have to reboot. We get the words back just seconds before the congregation needs to see them. But the service goes well, and nobody else knows there was any problem.
Highgrove does these services really well - it worked well for the regular congregation, but is also accessible to the visitor. New people are welcomed but not made to feel uncomfortable. It sounds simple, but I find few churches are able to balance all the different needs and expectations as well, and it seems to be done quite naturally.
After the service, Sue and I pick up the boys and take them to lunch at Morrisons. Pushing the boat out, I know. The reasoning was that they could then help us choose what treats they want to eat for Christmas, but none of them have any interest in this. A second plan emerges, and I take Philip and Ian off to Vue to see Yes Man - Alan is planning to see it with his friends on New Year's Eve, so he helps Sue with the shopping.
Tuesday 23: Sue has the day off, and joins me on my visit to the Endocrinologist at Southmead. We are running a bit late, so Sue drops me off and finds somewhere to park. I settle down with my computer as the appointment is always 40 or 50 minutes behind schedule. But this time I am called less than ten minutes late, just as Sue is arriving.
Another new face, who is not familiar with my history, but that's normal. He looks up the results of my blood test last week, and astonishingly, my results are all normal. Even my testosterone is right in the middle of the normal range. I should have another bone density scan (that's what they said last time...), but apart from that, there is isn't anything more they can do, and the next appointment is set for twelve months' time.
We drive down to St Pauls and have lunch together, then I go in to work and Sue goes shopping. Sue gets to the carol singing on Sea Mills Square, but I'm still at work. However, at long last I do get a guided tour of Esme's new flat in the Methodist Church on the way home. It really is as good as Sue described. Interestingly, the shower is not in a tray, just in a slightly raised area of floor, and there is no barrier to stop water flowing out of the door and into the hallway. But Esme says it works - presumably she is careful to keep the shower curtain in place.
Wednesday 24: We are only slightly late for the Midnight Mass at St Edyths, starting at 11:15. I was home by 11 pm, which was quite good going, especially as Sue has asked me to pick up some shopping on the way home, which is not easy on Christmas Eve. Lots of familiar faces.
After that, it is the last minute preparations and wrapping, and we get to bed around 4 am. As Sue comments, children all over the country are waking their parents up.
Friday 26: I head off for a sauna around 10 am, back soon after 12. A few last minute jobs, then we are all in the car and off up to London. Lunch at Membury. They have completely altered the service station since the days when we were heading up and down between Guildford and Bristol on a regular basis.
The traffic keeps flowing, and we arrive at my parents' house within a minute of the estimated time we phoned though after leaving Membury.
Sue and I leave the boys to sleep at the house, and drive off to a neaby Travelodge to sleep. A much better arrangement than trying to squeeze us all into the house.
Saturday 27: We decide to visit the Ian Flemming exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, which is fascinating. I never knew, for example, that it was claimed that he drew up the plans for the CIA. It works well for my father - his memory is not getting any better, but this doesn't matter as all he has to do is to wander round and enjoy each bit as it comes. There is also an entertaining exhibition of 'children at war' with all kinds of items which various of the adults remembered.
Sunday 28: After a late lunch, we leave London and drive to Newbury. First to her parents, then they drop me off at the pub where we have a room for the night, and Sue takes the boys to her sister. They spare me that bit, as the animals at her parents' house are already starting to get to me and Pip has recently acquired a dog as well as a cat.
As we drive in the dark, there is a bright light in the sky off to our left for most of the journey. Like a very bright star. But there are no stars in the sky, so there must be high cloud. It isn't a plane - doesn't move in nearly an hour as far as I can tell. A satelite would be above the clouds. No ideas what it could be.
Monday 29: I go for a sauna in a very nice club near Newbury Racetrack. Sue drops me off and goes to meet Pip for some more shopping. It is friendly, efficient, clean, and everything works. And they supply towels. The sauna is in the male changing area, so I don't need a costume. The downside is that nobody joins me for the entire hour. It is most unusual not to have anybody to chat with.
Sue picks me up, we go back to Pip's, then she goes back to pick up her parents to bring them for lunch. This takes quite a while because the traffic is bad - there is racing today, as we noticed earlier when driving past the track.
Lunch may be a bit late, but it is excellent, with various options having been cooked by various boys. Then we gather for the presents. Philip is given a 'flying alarm clock' - when it goes off, the top shoots off in helicopter-fashion, and you have to fit the top into the alarm to stop it sounding. Either that, or jam a screwdriver into it. Ian is interested, but in his room if the alarm ever goes off he will never manage to find the top.
We are on the road as it starts to get dark... and that light is up in the sky again. I point it out to the boys, and they can't offer any theory. It stays in place all the way home.
We drive home, then Sue takes Alan to the Orpheus to meet his friends and watch Yes Man. They all come back afterwards for something to eat. Philip and Ian are both out with their friends elsewhere.
Alan and his friends play Monopoly in the dining room while Sue and I watch Lawrence of Arabia, briefly pausing to welcome the new year with Alan and our guests. I was given the film for Christmas, and neither of us had seen it before. It really is an astonishing piece of work.
I look at our web site at midnight, and the page counter says 200,527. I think we passed the 200,000 mark some time on Christmas Day.