Friday, July 29, 2005

Popty Pain

Followers of Pab's excellent blog will no doubt know instantly what a
'popty ping' is, for the less familiar I believe the explanation goes along
the lines of the Welsh for oven being 'popty' and therefore the added
'ping' eludes to a certain, more modern form, of oven equipment.

Of course microwave technology had found uses in industry long before it
became part of the domestic kitchen landscape, as any friend of Nicky Mc
who has been privileged with the answer to "how do you make a Malteser?"
will know*.

As always scientific discoveries are pretty much morally neutral, it's the
uses humankind finds for them that introduces the ethical dimension.

And so for every honeycomb chocolatey good invention I guess we shouldn't
be too surprised to read stories like this about the US militaries
trialing of the Active Denial System.

Not at all worrying. Not even the bit about getting the setting wrong in
the trial.


So I guess if you're planning to riot in Iraq (I believe it's quite the
fashion these days), do be sure to remove all eye-wear, coinage, zips etc
before engaging.

And given Caroline's recent escapades, can I suggest that anyone in her
position is best staying well clear - after all the system works on the
premise that people get themselves out the way as soon as they feel a
burning sensation and therefore avoid any serious damage. I think we can
probably all see the flaw in that theory...even before we start considering
just how much metal there is in those wheels of steel...

*Personally the Malteser factoid is my favourite of the Nicky Mc trio; the
other two being: how long does it take to make a single jelly bean and how
do they make flake chocolate flakey.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Also at Blah

I should have mentioned that last night at Blah, I also had the pleasure of meeting up with fellow blogger Dan and new to the blogsphere Steve H

Which reminds me I really must get around to updating my bloglist...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Blah Manchester

I head straight from work this evening to the lovely S & K’s. As ever the warmth of family hits you as the front door opens (and my ‘favourite neices’ spill out over the threshold to greet ‘Aunty L1z’ with the sort of hugs that make the day a better place).

There do however seem to be more children than ever this evening, thanks it seems to H’s last day at junior school sleepover party.

S seems just a little relieved to be escaping with me into the world of adults as we head for the second Blah Manchester.

This evening we hear the thoughts of Andrew Jones (aka Tall Skinny Kiwi) on Aggregation: The Emerging Church According to Manchester

Unfortunately I don’t think the Manchester connection was really necessary nor did it work well; it comes across as an awkward and unwieldy segue. Andrew admitted he’s never stopped off in the city before and his comments are rather tired old stereotypes that seem to sit a little awkwardly with at least some of the audience. If ever there were a city that knew it’s civic history without need of an outsider reminding it, then Manchester would be it. It may come as a surprise to some but the Worldwide Message Tribe is not seen by a number of us as a crowning triumph…

Despite this slightly awkward start the rest of his talk is far stronger and more engaging as he discusses a number of metaphors that can help us understand and describe the way parts of society and indeed the church is moving. I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with his proposition that emergent church is essentially ‘missional’, it seems a little at odds with one of his other statements, which I feel far more in accord with, that this stuff is ‘descriptive’ not ‘prescriptive’. It seems to me, that as with the Alt Worship style stuff before, there are as ever two camps; those for whom a different way of church comes out of a life, culture and theology that they are already living out and those for whom adding a drum beat, projector and a few flashing lights seems to be the latest bright idea of how to reach out to a culture they neither inhabit nor truly understand.

Before we split up into groups to discuss our thoughts on what we’ve heard, he finishes up with a look at the idea of a form of church that follows the model of aggregations rather than congregations.

As is often the case with these sorts of things I find someone putting language and words to the experience I have been living out for the past goodness knows how many years.

S has in the past described me as someone who does ‘do church’ just not in the traditional way. I guess now we have more fancy words for it.

It made me think about the aggregations that are a part of my ‘church’ life. The blogsphere is one, Greenbelt is certainly another, but the list is long and highly inter-related. To describe it and the networks and inter-relationships would need a 3D blob diagram.

Andrew’s talk challenges me to think hard about the self-selecting nature of aggregations and how to ensure we don’t lose some of the strengths such as inter-generational interaction and that can be more inherent in the congregational model (though certainly not always).

Plenty to think about as S and I drive back to his house, where the wonderful K has tea waiting for us.

As we munch our food the conversations continue and I realise that here is another aggregation in my life; one of the many small forms of church that exist in a back room over garlic bread and salad.

Monday, July 25, 2005


S has come up with a cunning wheez; buy P an exotic cookbook and stand back and watch the magic happen.

The Lebanese feast this evening was certainly worth the price of the compact little Australian Women's Weekly cookbook.

The range of salad and vegetable dishes, were accompanied by homemade baby pitta breads, hummus and Baba Ghanoush and the crowning glory of a fabulous fish dish. You have to admire anyone who takes the time to pulverise their own chick peas…

The fish tasted familiar but rather than look stupid I enquired politely as to what type of fish it was. P looks sheepish for a second and then replies “…errrr that would be Lebanese Cod”.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Another Place

I seriously need a break from all the Greenbelt emails and phone calls and best mate S similarly could do with getting away from 'real life' for a bit, so we decide to escape for the day and head for the seaside.

Forsaking our usual haunts we decide to try Crosby so we can check out Anthony Gormley’s Another Place . This basically comprises of 100 lifesize metal figures (formed from a cast of the artist’s body) spread out along a 3 km stretch of the foreshore – all staring silently out to see. The figures are set at different distances from the tide line so that the water rises and falls about them at different points.

Of course it’s only once we’re well on our way that S reads out the info she’s gathered from the web.

Including the tide times.

Which explains why we arrive to find this:

We decide to head off for some lunch and happily when we return a little later the tide is well on its way out.

Walking down a vast uncrowded beach is pretty much my idea of heaven anyway, but the figures are a great addition.

This is the kind of art that everyone just seems to ‘get’. Dotted along the beach there are huddles standing around a statue. Some people stand silently alongside – sharing the silent gaze as the ships pass by.

Some people sit their kids on the shoulders and take photos, some drape seaweed to form makeshift clothing and some it seems find use for an old hat.

Gormly really does seem to have the knack of creating public artworks that people just love interacting with.

His work The Field is a similar example, as witnessed by people’s eagerness to create their own clay forms at the Magnitude and Menagerie venues at recent Greenbelts. Which in turn is the source of one of my fondest Greenbelt memories – I had to smile when the clean-up team discovered two lovingly formed corgis left at the base of the Queen Mum’s memorial bust.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Little things amuse...

This story on made me smile.

And in the course of looking for a suitable picture for this blog, I stumbled upon Andy Gets Unemployed

Kind of like a small scale blog, but illustrated by lego figures.

The disclaimer probably has a point though.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Wibsite

The wibsite is one of those websites that regularly turns up a few gems.

Home of the Dullest Blog in the World (a beautifully executed piece of post-modern bloggery), it also has little features like Worship Song Fridge Magnets.

A more recent addition involves adventures with Sunday School style Fuzzy Felt.

This one particularly caught my eye...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Lower Back Pain

I believe it was a nice weekend outside.

Myself I spent it laid out on the sofa having somehow pulled my back out mid-week.

I’ve never done anything like that before. I'd suggest it’s not to be recommended.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Easy night

A lovely, leisurely evening round at Stuart and Karen’s. Takeaway from the Punjab, good conversation, protecting rabbits from Molly the Retriever houseguest (well it makes a change from foxes...), Big Brother on telly, Shark’s Tale on DVD – easy.

The night is completed with me proof reading Stuart’s assignment. Theological and grammar debates over we return to the lounge to find Shark Tale finished and Karen fast asleep. Bless!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

...when a plan comes together

The Greenbelt Blog is back up and running. Accordingly I'll be copying a few of my more Greenbelty posts there. Like this one:

The ability of Greenbelt’s myriad networks to make weird stuff come together never ceases to amaze me.

In the course of a conversation about something entirely different, my friend S mentions how he is currently involved in a secret mission to hopefully bring something rather impressive to Greenbelt this year.

It’s not so much that if I told you about it I’d have to kill you, but rather that if I let any cats out of bags he’d probably take out a contract on little old me (well he wouldn’t personally want to get those perfectly manicured hands dirty now would he?).

Anyway, key to making this happen is the need to source a handful of expensive, contemporary looking, sofas and chairs (trust me it makes sense when you know).

They need to have a particular look. His best idea to date is to try and blag and borrow off a furniture store in Cheltenham. Greenbelt 05 brought to you in association with DFS? Hmmm maybe not…

So I mention to him that I happen to know where there are one or two rather posh leather sofas and armchairs are at the racecourse, but my memories of them are a little vague.

I send an email to one of my Venue Managers who worked in the general vicinity of said furniture last year (and kept the great unwashed clear of where they’re stored), to see if he remembers better.

Not only does G know which sofas and chairs I mean, but he provides S with full descriptions and best of

My email response to S demands his awe and admiration regarding how amazing our Venue Managers are.

His response?

“Why’s the weirdo taking photos of furniture?”

Some people are never happy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hanging around

Well you can guess how it started can’t you.

These trainers have been hanging from this telegraph line for years now.

I can imagine that their continued, stubborn presence is a constant point of antagonism between the original owner, his mother and which ever of his mates thought this would be ‘funny’.

After all those laces have stood up to several Mancunion winters, which suggests high quality…

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Penguin of Death

In the Hotline magazine on the way home last night I stumbled upon this.

Too many surreal jokes colliding at once!

Monday, July 11, 2005

London Routine

I’m starting to get used to these monthly trips down to London for the Greenbelt Management Group meetings. Already little patterns and routines start to emerge.

I take a half-day's leave, dash back to Manchester, dump the car and get to the train station in plenty of time, so I can nab a seat on the train with a plug socket.

With iPod on and the laptop fired up I rattle off a couple of hours of Greenbelt work, whilst the countryside flies past.

From Euston it’s a simple enough journey, just a couple stops on the Northern line to Moorgate.

Today I’m wondering if it will feel different.

It doesn’t really; we don’t stop at King’s Cross and there are staff and signs everywhere, but other than that it’s business as usual. What else can we do but get on with life.

I’m grateful to emerge above ground at Moorgate and make my way down London Wall, but simply because in this weather the underground is always so stiflingly hot.

At least the subterranean world of the Greenbelt offices is the opposite, cool and refreshing. A few pre-meeting meetings with people and then the main event.

This is the penultimate Mgmt Grp meeting before the festival and there’s so much to get through. So much good, good stuff to cover.

Seeing things like T’shirt designs makes it seem so real, so close.

From the meeting I dash back to Euston in time to get the last train home. A slower journey this way, but quieter. Again the laptop is the centre of my world – Greenbelt work for the first hour, then DVDs and relaxing for the last two.

By 1.30am I’m home; remarkably calm and unstressed considering the madness of this round journey. As the adverts used to suggest – it’s always best to let the train take the strain.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Strange Items

Ok, Ok…due to popular demand here are pictures of some of the strange items that I have purchased or been given of late.

First off may I present the rather marvellous belated birthday present I received from Caroline when I visited.

It appears my views on the dark side of hamster life are shared by others…

Next let us move on to the item that caught my eye at the Cheltenham Car Boot Sale.

Obviously it has now made its way to the Home for Mutant Giraffes in Bristol, where it will be able to enjoy life amongst other freak giraffes away from the laughs, jeers and rude stares of folk that don’t understand.

I’m given to believe that its motorised wheels get up a fair head of steam on kitchen lino.

And finally, the treasure that Sally found on the same stall and decided I needed in my life.

Yes it’s what everyone needs – a penguin soap dispenser that makes a penguin sound when pressed.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

A Busy Week

I suppose it’s the irony of blogging that when a lot is happening in your life you have no time to blog about it.

Of course I should perhaps try and pretend that the activities that have kept me from blogging have been utterly glamorous and exciting. A catch up blog along these lines perhaps?

Sadly the reality in my case is far less impressive. In truth a large proportion of my time has been spent on the laptop, frantically trying to pull together some sort of venue management coverage that will secure the ability of a programme packed Greenbelt to go ahead.

It needs a complete hammering to pull back some time and thoughts of leaving to go on holiday on Saturday morning, turn into late afternoon plans and then eventually a phone call to the good Caroline to say “I’ll be so less stressed if I spend tonight blitzing this and then head to you tomorrow morning”.

It’s a good friend that is ok with such behaviour (or at the very least prepared to pretend to be ok about such shocking bad manners). I’m pissed off that the start of my week off is now just 24 hrs in Bristol with Caroline as opposed to the full weekend we’d hoped for.

We did however have a fab time. Lots of giggling and gossiping, hamster related fun (yay – feed them enough monkey nuts so that their cheeks bulge to full capacity!), a meal at Wagamamas, James Bond style vehicle shenanigans, window shopping, tours of Bristol and yet more giggling.

On Monday Caroline reluctantly heads off to work leaving me with a few hours to kill before hitting the road myself. Annoyingly I realise I don’t have Kirsty’s phone number with me – it would have been a long-shot that she would have been free for a coffee, but even so…

Ah well, if all else fails…go shopping!

Of course Paul will probably be horrified that I gave Cribbs Causeway my custom, but hey it was on the way to the M5. Two pairs of shoes (sale time hurrah!), a pair of sunglasses and a laptop bag later I make it to the motorway and head south to meet my parents in Dartmoor.

The hotel in Ilsington is as lovely as ever. They don’t have wonderful disabled facilities as standard, but are so good to us that their flexibility and helpfulness more than make up and means that a holiday is possible for Mum.

Mum is still wearing the ridiculous boot contraption and her mobility is even more hampered than usual, just transferring from chair to chair is a major undertaking. They’re waiting for a further consult to try and improve things.

In the meantime it is putting an additional strain on Dad. They want to stay on a few days after I leave on the Friday, but this is dependent on Dad feeling that by them he can cope solo. Accordingly I’m unable to offer even the usual level of help as he ‘needs to try and do it alone’. I do what other tasks I can, but it feels insufficient.

More than anything they are both worn out and tired. I use their end of the afternoon rests and early nights to make good use of the hotel swimming pool and still manage several hours each day on the computer trying to keep on top of all the Greenbelt work.

Sadly the weather through the week is not too great. Still it’s lovely to be able to spend time together and when the sunshine does break through, drive up over the moors and do our annual pilgrimage across to Cornwall.

Kit Hill is the equivalent of a family heritage site. My father’s mother was born within site of this striking landmark and grew up beneath (literally) the famous Tamar rail bridge, which is also visible from the hill.

The week flies by and all too soon it’s Friday evening and I head off towards Cheltenham to the Site Operations weekend.

Of course when this date was booked, we had no idea that we would be clashing quite so spectacularly with the Live 8 concerts and the G8 marches in Edinburgh. Texts messages from friends at one or the other make we wish I could be with them…

On top of which, Kathryn is getting priested this weekend. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be in the right area of the country and still not be able to make it.

I don’t have time to get too maudlin though, as this weekend is all about working (and playing) hard. Even outside of the meetings there are discussions to be had and decisions to be made. Key people are missing though which makes things strange and rather difficult at times: David is sadly unable to join us due to having seriously done his back in, Pete manages to pop in for a bit, but is rather tied up with organising a Dame Kiri Te Kanawa concert in Centaur, Ben is fully immersed in the Bradford Festival and so on and so on. On Friday night it looks like we’re going to have no one from GB staff and no programme information. The wonderful Paul saves the day, gives up a bit of his valuable weekend off and pops in for an hour first thing on Saturday morning.

The meeting goes well and seems (from people’s comments) to have been productive. I have a slight concern though that the reason it feels so good is that we still have very little solid information to plan with. I fear it’s not that there are no problems, it’s more that we just don’t know what they are yet.

I fear get-in week and the festival itself are going to be very stressed this year – with lots of unknowns jumping out at us. Not good.

Still if anyone can cope it will be this crowd. As ever, I’m awed by the abilities of this bunch of people to make things work. The commitment and creative problem solving is truly something to behold.

After a night at the pub (joined by the excellent Caroline – so good to have her out with her Ops family again!) and late night revelry involving watching Live 8 and drinking the Rob’s Greenbelt 05 Puppykicker Ginger Beer (mighty fine for a home brew!) I slept like a log…for a good 4.5 hrs before getting up for breakfast.

The morning is spent doing a few exterior site tour bits - primarily the new North Stage area. You know you’ve appointed the right venue management team when one of them is prepared to drive cross-country to meet you on site for this and hence get a feel for the space and the issues!

The presence of the immense Sunday Market/Car Boot Sale on this bit of site, doesn’t make planning any easier, but having literally just commented on the junk being sold and “why would anyone buy this type of crap”, my eye is caught by something yellow with long legs on wheels. Hmmm… details will follow in about 1 weeks time…

After a pub lunch up on Cleeve Hill we disband and head our respective ways.

I’m glad to get home. It’s been a tiring week all in all. I think I need a holiday…