Paul & Sue Hazelden
- Family News -
July to December 2006


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Sue's health | Paul's health

•   July 2006
•   August 2006
•   September 2006
•   October 2006
•   November 2006
•   December 2006

July 2006

Thursday 6: Off to the Orpheus with Philip to see 'Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest'. Alan was already there, but working - he said he didn't mind - and for some reason Ian didn't want to come. It lives up to the publicity - superb and absurd action scenes, breathtaking pace, some superb photography, just don't think too deeply about it.

Saturday 8: David and Carol Self's leaving do at St Agnes. Sue and I mingle for an hour or so.

Sunday 9: Ian is doing something at Highgrove, and Philip is heading off for his Maths Summer School today, so I go in on the bus to David and Carol's final service. It is both sad and deeply joyful, and the place is full of people who want to say goodbye. They will be sorely missed.

After the service, I miss the coffee and cake, and walk down to Temple Meads to meet Sue and Philip to wave a tearful farewell. Philip has to take a rule and compasses, so they must be doing Euclid.

Friday 14: at lunchtime, the bell rings at work, and it is Paul Thaxter offering to take me to lunch. Paul used to work for Shaftesbury, and helped CCM for a while soon after I arrived. He is now with CMS, doing an event about 'Emerging Church' at Elim. It's good to catch up.

Philip eventually gets back from his Summer School, despite the train breaking down. It was Euclid, and he enjoyed it.

Saturday 15: didn't finish preparing for the Adrian Plass event, so back in to work by bus around 10:30, and work through to just gone 3. Off for a quick sauna then train home.

Sue arrives home with the shopping, then I'm off again, pick up the display boards and publicity material from the office, and on to Longwell Green. Unfortunately, I miss the church and end up driving much too far. Turn around, and try finding the church...

In the end it's an excellent evening. Adrian and Bridget were excellent as usual, and Sue and I were invited to join them and the organisers of the evening for a curry afterwards. It made for a long day, but well worth doing. But, next time, possibly not the weekend before we go on holiday.

Monday 17: Ian is off on his school trip to Manor Adventure, and Sue and I are taking the opportunity for a few days away. Up early, final packing for Ian, and then Sue takes him in to Bristol while I finish ours. Sue gets back, a final cup of tea, load the car and we are off soon after 12. We are heading for Kent, near Brand's Hatch, so most of the journey is on very familiar roads.

Stop for lunch in a shopping centre on the outskirts of Swindon. It's dreadfully hot, but the eating area is blissfully cool inside. We are slowed down by various sets of roadworks, but basically keep going. As usual, we avoid part of the M25 by coming down the A322, through Guildford and up the A3.

Arrive at Silverleigh just after 6 pm. We are staying in a small hotel - more like a guest house in many ways, but it does have a sauna and swimming pool. The room isn't quite ready for us, but within half an hour, we are shown around, moved in, and start unpacking. Then we hit the swimming pool and sauna - wonderful after a long and very hot journey. Even better - the showers are strong and cold: always a good sign.

Tuesday 18: a relaxing morning in and around the pool, and reading. It's still hot. In the afternoon, we go for a walk through some nearby woods where it is cool, and get an ice cream on the way back.

Wednesday 19: it's still hot, but Sue has an idea. A nice, modern, air-conditioned cinema must be an excellent place to hide. The staff reckon that Bluewater is the nearest, so we get directions and cut through the country lanes to get there. Amazingly, no wrong turns.

We decide to see Superman Returns. Possibly not the best decision of our holiday - I prefer my super-heroes to have some brains - but it is cool and relaxing. Afterwards, we can't leave without visiting Lakeland and a few other shops, so Sue has a good time.

Thursday 20: it's not quite as hot, but still... a day by the river sounds good. So we head off for Rochester. The Castle is quite amazing. I find it odd that it was captured by King John from the Barons in 1215.

The Cathedral is also cool and has some interesting features: the oldest Medieval tiled pavement in Britian, a naked Bishop on his way to Heaven, and a new fresco, amongst others.

Friday 21: on the way home, we stop off in Guildford for lunch with David Race. It's really good to catch up with him again after so long.

We had planned to leave at 2:30, to give us a clear 3 hours to get back to Bristol. We were only 15 minutes late, but the traffic on the motorway was dreadful. Sue thinks the A4 will be better, and once we are on it, it is for quite a while, but then we get bogged down again, and she takes us on another detour.

There is no way we are going to get back in time to pick up Ian, so Sue rings Alan, who shoots down into Bristol. Meanwhile, we are approaching Bath, but Sue doesn't want to drive through it, so we head North and come in to Bristol from the East. On the plus side, we saw quite a lot of countryside we have not explored before.

Alan and Ian are home long before us. Ian had a great time, despite a long graze on his arm from the assault course.

Saturday 22: Steve and the boys failed to put the bins out on Wednesday night, despite being reminded! So, apart from a shopping trip, we take last week's rubbish to the tip. It's nice to be home.

Thursday 27: the letter from the hospital arrived today, confirming details of the latest consultation.

Friday 28: Ian goes off to play cricket with some friends at Stoke Lodge, then we have lunch, Sue and I take Alan to work, then I take Sue to her Audiology appointment. She only needs to get a better fitting earpiece for her hearing aid, but she is not feeling too good and wants me to drive.

Saturday 29: my parents and brother come down from London, to stay the night. It's good to catch up with Roger, who has just come back from a holiday in Jersey. Work is very busy, but at least he is getting some experience of managing a programming team in India.

After tea - for some reason, we always give them cheese on toast - Ian decides he wants to play Risk, so why not? It's Dad, Roger, myself and the three boys. Philip is very unlucky, and then it looks like a three-way battle between Alan, Roger and myself: Dad is weak, and Ian can be completely over-run whenever we want. Alan gets very strong, thanks to Philip's cards. He knocks Dad out, and nearly finishes off Roger and myself - but not quite. By 1 am, I have managed to defeat Alan and Roger and it is finely balanced between Ian and myself. Half an hour later, it is clear that I can defeat Ian, but it will take another three turns, and Sue is not happy that we are still up, so we agree on a tie.

It's a bit disturbing, this game. I'm a father, a Christian and a pacifist, and several times in the course of the game I have to decide which of my sons I want to kill...

Sunday 30: we are booked for lunch at Littlecote House, so we set off soon after 11 am. We're a little late, but not much.

It's a 16th-century house in Wiltshire. After lunch, we look round the craft shops, the great hall and a bit of the garden, then have a coffee. They have a Pool table, so we have a few games. Philip isn't bad, after playing quite a bit during his Maths Summer School, and Roger used to play Snooker regularly, but Alan is quite worryingly good. He claims to have played just once in the past year. Perhaps he is just naturally talented, or maybe, as he claims, calculating the angles is simply applied mathematics?

Anyway, the visit is successful, and we eventually get home again around 8:10.

August 2006

Thursday 3: supposed to be working from home, but there is a RSI strategy meeting in the diary, so Sue makes a detour from her schedule to drop me off at the bottom of Arley Hill, and I walk from there. But it turns out the meeting has been cancelled, so I get the bus home again. Working with the Council is frequently just not fun.

Wednesday 9: Grrrrr.

Lots of phone calls to various parts of various hospitals. You don't want to know the details. To summarise the conclusions: the form ordering my bone density scan arrived in Rheumatology on Monday. There is a 5 month waiting list for these scans, so even if the form had been sent off immediately, there would still not have been a snowflake's chance in Hell of having the scan performed before my scheduled return to Endocrinology next week. Possibly because of the delay, they have squeezed me in to the list at the end of November 2006. I have cancelled my appointment for next week, and will have to re-book it for some time in December.

In the evening, I go round to see Karen and Marcus for the final details of the wedding service on Saturday. I'm not marrying them, as they have already done the legal bit with the Registrar on Monday, but we are doing the rest of the wedding service at Banwell Castle. It should be quite an event. I'm looking forward to it, as it will be the first wedding service I have taken since moving to Bristol. And it has given me a wonderful chance to get to know Marcus and Karen much better.

Thursday 10: CCM Staff and partners are invited round to the Luxfords for a barbecue in the evening. As anticipated, Andy and Gill are excellent hosts, and the evening includes beautiful food, playing watering cans and Connect-4, a talking spoon and juggling.

Saturday 12: Marcus and Karen's wedding.

We leave Alan and Philip to do the shopping in Sainsbury's in Clifton, as they can get there and back by train. The RAC directions to Banwell Castle direct us down the A38, which is a good move as the M5 has serious delays.

We arrive at the castle in time for the pre-service nibbles. The service is around 40 minutes late starting, which gives us a good amount of time to talk through the order with Leslie. This is quite important, as we only have one microphone so we need to coordinate its movement quite carefully, and she has not seen an order of service up to this point.

The service goes well, with just a few minor hiccoughs behind the scenes. There were a number of personal and personalised contributions behind the scenes, which for the most part were very relevant and quite moving. It was a real privilege to be involved.

Friday 18: Tristan Thomas' leaving do. A sad occasion, but Tristan is moving on to do Teacher Training. He will be sorely missed at Voscur. The plus side was that it drew back some of the old guard: Halina, Ben Barker and Jean Erskine. Brilliant to catch up with them. After a few drinks at the Ostrich Inn in Lower Guinea Street, we went on to Windmill Hill City Farm and had a riotous evening, eating everything on the menu.

Yesterday, our bin was not emptied. It happened late today. We have gone onto a new system in which the recycling and compost are collected each week, but the main bin only once a fortnight. They issued a sticker to tell us which weeks the bin would be collected, and it seems they gave us the wrong one. So the bin men tried to collect our bin last week, and didn't come round this week. But the whole street had the same wrong sticker, so it must have been fairly obvious.

Thursday 24: Voscur board meeting in the morning.

Sue sends me a text message with Philip's exam results: A* in Double Science and Maths, A in French, Business Studies and English Literature, B in English Language, German and IT (only half a subject), C in RE and E in DT. We are quite pleased, especially as it seems he never did any work...

Friday 25: This evening, a strange noise in our bedroom. Some plaster has fallen from the ceiling in the en-suite, over the shower. It's made a bit of a mess.

September 2006

Friday 1: in the afternoon, Sue, Ian and I join Pip (Sue's sister) and a couple of her boys and we go to see the Chinese State Circus with the Shaolin Monks. Much of it is very impressive - the monks running up and down poles, for instance. Some is simply incomprehensible, such as the theatrical bits: they say that each small gesture is filled with deep meaning, but without any understanding of the deep meaning, all I can see is a lot of small gestures.

But that is just a quibble. A lot of it was simply astonishing, although the boys seemed unimpressed. You see far more impressive action on film. I think they don't quite appreciate how much (or how little!) of the action sequences they see on film could be done in real life.

Monday 4: trip to Glasgow for Jesus in the City. It's a good meeting, but getting up at 4 am after a late night and being woken up at 3 am by someone racing what was presumably a stolen car outside our house... it was not a good start to the day.

Friday 8: attended the World Premier of the new film about George Müller, Robber of the Cruel Streets at Hope Chapel. It's a well produced retelling of his life story, and includes a few shots of our friend George Collett. Stirring and faith-building stuff.

In the evening, I eat with Korky and Anni and some of the other CCM trustees, then a time of prayer for the ministry. We need a lot of guidance...

Saturday 9: I am volunteer training in the morning, and Sue heads out with Esme and Fay to the Bristol Open Doors. Sue phones in the afternoon and suggests I visit the Pierian Centre, so I do just after 4 pm. They let me in, even though they had just closed, and I rush round. Have to go back next year. Also to the Concrete House in Westbury-on-Trym, which Sue visited.

In the evening, Sue and I go down to the harbour at 9:30. We are told it is the highest high tide for ten years. Lots of people down there, including Steve and Korky. Quite amazing. Just a pity it was dark. The water came right up to the edge of the road by the station, and even on Trym Cross Road it was worryingly close to the road where it goes over the bridge.

Thursday 21: Off to Orpington after work to stay with the Cockburns. The journey is a bit wet at times, but generally okay. As always, it is a delight to spend time with them. The three boys get to sleep in the lounge with the computer, but we think they did sleep a little.

Friday 22: The point of staying with the Cockburns is so that we have a sensible journey on to Hastings. It's my parents' golden wedding anniversary, and we have arranged a meal in a restaurant with as many of their friends as we can manage. They think they are just visiting Jim, and can't believe their eyes when they walk in and see us all. The whole thing took quite a bit of arranging, but was worth it.

Sunday 24: The computer is dead. Ian noticed it wasn't right yesterday, but didn't say anything. Today, it sometimes boots, but then reports a hard disk failure.

Friday 29: Off to Warwick with Alan. We drop him off in his new digs, nose around a bit (they have a spin dryer in their lounge, and a nice little model mouse in the bathroom!) and then go on to a hotel nearby for a weekend in sunny Coventry.

Saturday 30: After a lazy start, we use the leisure facilities: I swim and sauna while Sue has a massage, then a brisk walk. Later, we go to see 'Sons of Men' - a convincing portrait of a society falling apart, but how depressing! Then we take refuge from the rain in a Chinese restaurant, which turns out to be a much better choice.

October 2006

Sunday 1: On the way home, we find a garden centre with a restaurant and various shops. Sue browses the clothes and other bits while I rummage round the cheap books, so everyone is happy.

Philip was going to be configuring the new computer while we were away, but that did not go as well as anticipated, so we are still nowhere near having a working system back again.

Tuesday 3: Breakfast meeting at the ITV offices with Business in the Community's Business Action on Homelessness steering group. They want to make it more efficient by splitting the meeting into two: one to handle the strategic planning, and the other meeting to talk about the nuts and bolts. I speak against the plan: I have seen it tried several times before, and it has never worked as they hope. The strategic people never know enough of the reality on the ground to make the planning appropriate, and the people dealing with the sharp end details always need to ask for changes to policy which can't be handled in their meeting but referred to the other group, where they don't understand what needs to be changed or why.

Monday 9: The CCM AGM at Trinity Tabernacle. The evening goes really well, but we are disappointed by the low turnout.

Friday 13: The first meeting of the re-formed Bristol Anabaptist Study Group. Conveniently, it is walking distance from work, so I work on and go directly. Several familiar faces, and a number of new ones - an interesting mixture of people. This has the potential for being really significant: somewhere we can talk about and explore issues that actually matter to us.

Sunday 15: A bring and share lunch at Highgrove today. We bought the bits yesterday, but Sue work up with a headache and feeling sick, so I went to church alone and came back home straight after the service ended.

Sunday 22: In the afternoon, I get the Megabus to London. Staying at Spurgeon's with Mark Howe. We meet at the local train station (Effingham Junction), have a bite to eat, and trudge up the hill in the light rain to the college.

When we get there, the door code we were given does not work: the doors seem to be locked on the inside. Eventually, I find one that opens, just as Mark is talking to a girl in a top floor window, whose attention he attracted with a stone thrown at the window. Which, contrary to past experience, didn't smash...

It's a good time with Mark, catching up on various things, and talking about a range of questions and issues neither of us get much chance to explore in normal life. I get to use the library, and gather a number of quotes for the assignment I'm working on. I need to make some significant progress with these assignments, and am taking two weeks off work to achieve this.

Tuesday 24: Working in the morning, a quick bite of lunch, and then dash down the hill to catch the train. The station had given us the train times in the morning, but by lunchtime it had changed. Instead of 22 minutes to get from the train to the bus, I had 7. Ran all the way, and just made it. Remind me to allow more time in future...

Thursday 26: The assignment is going quite well, so Sue and I take Philip to the Orpheus to see The History Boys. Superb, as you would expect from Alan Bennett.

Saturday 28: A letter in the latest New Scientist from Brian Clegg of Wiltshire:

'Clear thinking seems to be in danger of being overwhelmed by science's own version of political correctness: anti-anthropism. "Why is the universe the way it is? Most scientists would prefer a deep reason that has nothing to do with our existence," says your piece on multiple universes (7 October, p38). Should scientific judgement really be based on what people prefer? Try saying "most scientists would prefer a deep reason for climate change that has nothing to do with our existence" to see the problem with this approach.'

Tuesday 31: The Housegroup meets round at our home tonight, and Ken Barrett joins us. We extended an invitation wider than the group, and some 17 or 18 people came, which was about the limit of our lounge. It was an excellent evening, Ken talked about his work, and lots of people met up who hadn't seen each other for some time. And we had some Spanish food and drink.

November 2006

Friday 3: Sue and I go away for the weekend, leaving Philip and Ian with Steve. We find a good deal on LateRooms and after Philip comes back from his paper round we head off to Hatton Court Hotel, near Gloucester.

One reason for choosing Hatton Court is that it has a gym and sauna. However, when we arrive, it turns out that they have to be booked in advance and can only be used by a single room at a time. Hmm. I book to use them at 7 am, so I can get down to breakfast with Sue at 9.

Saturday 4: I collect the key from reception at 7, and find the gym. I work out how to switch the sauna on. It is a standard two-bench height model, but only large enough for a single low bench. So, even without the badly fitting door, it would be almost impossible to get a decent temperature. Oh, yes - and there is no shower. This really is a first. So I fill up the bath with cold water while the sauna starts to heat up. I'm not impressed.

After breakfast, we decide to visit Prinknash Abbey (pronounced 'Prinnage'). It has an 'Orpheus Pavement' that looks worth a visit. It is. It's a reconstruction of the largest Orpheus mosaic in Northern Europe. The original is buried under a graveyard in Woodchester, so two builders spent ten years researching and creating it from 1.6 million tessarae. Incredible.

As a way of encouraging people to visit the Abbey, it's not bad. But I can't help feel there is a slight incongruity in this mosaic, and lots of information about Orpheus, as an attraction in a Monastery. He is not exactly associated with chastity: as the background information pointed out, one account of his death has him torn to pieces by the Thracian women because he has not had sex with them for three years. A worrying prospect, you might think, for any young monk.

Tuesday 7: In the evening, I go to the Inauguration of the Bristol Inner City Partnership - a group of several inner city Anglican parishes, several of which I have links with. Was told the wrong location, so arrived several minutes late, but it was a moving service and they fed us well afterwards. Alan and Linda Jenner offered Sue and I a place in Madeira if we wanted to go for a holiday there next year... have to talk to Sue about this. She doesn't like hot places.

Friday 10: Sue is at the NCAP Conference this weekend - Friday to Sunday, and hoping to see Alan as well. I'm interviewing for the Office Manager post, miss the BCAN Steering Group at lunchtime as a result, but get to see Richard McKay at St Nicks, which is a real bonus.

In the evening, I take Ian to see a performance of The Most Effective Drum, dramatised poetry and music on the theme of war. One of his friends is taking part. The idiot - Ian, not his friend - was supposed to meet me at the office at 6pm, but he forgot. Fortunately, there were two performances we had booked in to the first, and I could change the booking, drove home, picked him up, and made it in time for the second performance.

I'm glad we did. The whole thing was deeply moving. Some of the poetry and music I was familiar with, some I could guess, but all of it was spot on in describing the many different voices of people involved in warfare directly and indirectly. I found it hard to talk with Ian about it afterwards, but he said he enjoyed it and was glad we had gone.

Friday 17: We decide to try to see Casino Royale this evening, so I dash back from work and we shoot off. But the Orpheus ran out of tickets half an hour before we arrived. Instead of going home, we head off to the Vue at Cribbs Causeway. All the tickets for Bond have gone until about 11:30, but there are spaces for The Prestige, so we see that instead. Good choice - Philip and Ian both enjoyed it, and Sue wants to go back and see it again. We talked all the way home about the characters and the storyline, and it's not many films that manage this.

Saturday 18: I go into work to complete some preparation for Monday and my trip to Belfast for Jesus in the City. Afterwards, I go to the Orpheus again, but they have sold out again.

Sunday 19: More baptisms at Highgrove this morning. After the service, Sue and I go to buy the tickets for Casino Royale and run into the Wood-Robinsons, who have moved near to the Orpheus. It's good to catch up with them.

This time, we get the tickets. And I also buy The Obsever, as it has an 8 page pullout about homelessness: 40 years since Cathy Come Home. It's a good summary of many aspects of the current state of affairs.

Later, we just get to the Orpheus in time to grab four seats together. The film is a bit long, but it works, and takes the Bond franchise in a promising direction. Solid entertainment with some nice moments, just don't try to think too deeply about it.

Friday 24: The Bristol Anabaptist Study Group again. This time, we have a couple of people doing a short presentation on the centrality of Christ, and a discussion. Absolutely fascinating. Some people present don't see how the centrality of Christ can help us in deciding how to interpret the Bible.

Thursday 30: My bone density scan at the Rheumatology Department of the BRI. They are concerned I might be at risk of Osteoporosis, so I do a questionnaire (how much milk do you drink each week? Err...), take all the metal out of my pockets, then take off my trousers and get onto a table with metal arm over the foot. Don't worry: it will move up to your chest. We are interested in your pelvis and spine. It moves all the way up, right over my head. Are my glasses all right? Yes, but I'm not sure why it did that.

Several more attempts, it's still not working. Call in another girl. Several more attempts. One of them spots that my height was input wrongly: the machine thinks I am only 0.17 metres tall. So why was it going too high? They fix my height, and it still does not work. I must be confusing it - the poor thing is used to working with ladies. Not sure if she is serious or not. You are being very patient. I think that means she is getting worried. Eventually it works. They will let me know the results in three weeks' time.

December 2006

Friday 1: Sue took the car and shot off to Newbury to stay with Pip and see her parents and Peter tomorrow - mainly delivering Christmas presents, I understand.

Saturday 2: In the afternoon, I get both the boys out in the garden with me, and we get a satisfying amount of work done. Then Sue phones to say she is leaving Newbury, I get the bus to Cribbs and make a start on the weekly shop. She eventually finds me in Morrisons, we finish the shop and come home together. Philip has cooked bacon pasta for us, which is very welcome.

Several days ago, Philip asked us if we could pick him up one evening so he could go to see Pan's Labyrinth. I had read some interesting reviews, so offered to take him, and 10 pm on Saturday night was the first opportunity. Not exactly an enjoyable film, but I'm glad we went. Perhaps it is my ignorance of film, but I have never seen anything quite like it, mixing strange fantasy with brutal reality. Several people were literally in tears as the film ended and the lights came up, which is something else I don't recall seeing before.

Friday 8: After a meeting in the afternoon, I dash into town to buy a replacement bin for the CCM kitchen - the old one has a broken lid. Then Sue picks me up and we wander round Staples together. We find most of what we are looking for on behalf of CCM and One25, but the real success lies in finding a bin for the lounge at home: Ian broke the previous plastic one with his cricket ball a few months ago, and we have not been able to find a suitable replacement up to now.

On the way home, we stop off for an hour or so at the Create Centre, which has its usual Christmas Fair today and tomorrow. Sue went last year with Esme, but it's my first experience of this event. Sue says the crowds were worse last year, so I'm quite glad I didn't go then. Lots of stalls worth browsing round, and we could have done with more time. Maybe next year...

Sunday 10: Sue drops me off at Ivy Church, where I'm preaching this morning, and then carries on with Philip to a family buffet in Newbury. I have a prior commitment, Ian has a party to go to in the afternoon, and Alan is still in Warwick.

Wednesday 13: Philip's birthday, but I hardly see him. He has a number of interesting looking presents, but doesn't want to talk about them...

In the morning, I attend a consultation event about financing the voluntary sector, on behalf of Voscur. Our views will go into a report to the Cabinet Office some time in the Spring of 2007. We make a number of fairly obvious points about the nature of funding, contracts, performance targets and so on. It will be interesting to see what the report actually says...

Sunday 17: I was supposed to visit the City Mission church last Wednesday, but the timing did not work out, so I decided to attend a service instead.

I was five minutes late, and the only person present was the Pastor. We actually started the service 25 minutes late, at least in part because the pianist was making a cup of tea for a homeless person who has drifted in. We sang a couple of carols, then I was asked to do the opening prayer, which I did, and the homeless person took the opportunity to leave, thanking us for the tea. At the end of the service, someone else drifted in, who had been on the LITE Course and remembered Andy with great fondness.

Later in the afternoon, Andrew Street picks me up and we go to the Health Club, where he converts to a new membership contract jointly with me. We save lots of money this way.

Monday 18: Philip has a Wii for his birthday, very entertaining. But we can see why there are so many reports of things being broken in homes with one of these devices.

The builders have taken the scaffolding away today. The house looks quite bare without it. The theory was that they were going to repair a couple of patches on the roof, but they only managed to do one - fortunately, it was the one that leaked into the bucket by the side of our new computer.

The bad news is that our battens are rotten, and we need a whole new roof. I was hoping to take Sue away next year to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, but we may have to postpone that for a while...

On the box tonight was a very entertaining programme: The Trouble with Atheism. Lots of interviews with militant, fervent, 'evangelical' atheists, making some good points but also a number of really stupid ones. It was really quite comforting. I sometimes worry about all the daft things Christians say in support of their beliefs, so it is nice to hear lots of leading atheists blithely shooting themselves in the foot in just the same way.

Also tonight was the second part of Hogfather on SkyOne. Apart from Ian, we are all Pratchett fans, so it was a good family occasion. I was also an interesting contrast to the previous program. Terry Pratchett is an atheist, but he has actually thought about the issues and has a number of interesting things to say about belief and human nature. He really does put forward a much more coherent picture than any of the people interviewed in the previous program managed. I'm not sure whether to be relieved or worried by this.

Tuesday 19: dentist first thing this morning. He did something last time, which now needs supporting, so I need a filling. I don't understand it, either, but book in for the filling in January.

At home, one of our Church friends congratulates us on Philip's success. What success? Oh, the maths challenge earlier this term: it seems he got a gold, best in school, and is through to the next round. Minor details, not worth mentioning to his parents.

Wednesday 20: The CCM Christmas Party, the culmination of much planning, prayer and preparation. This year, for the first time, it was held at Elim during the day - we usually go to City Road Baptist in the early evening - so we didn't know how many people would turn up. It was a slow start, but in the end the numbers were absolutely right: just enough seats, just enough food and almost enough presents. John Bonner did two excellent presentations of stage magic.

I dashed away to get to the Voscur Christmas meal at the Severn Shed. The food was quite mixed: some very nice, and some not too good, but it was a splendid time and a good chance to meet some of the new staff.

Leaving Severn Shed, I bumped into Cliff Jeal, so we walked back to the centre together. It was good to have the opportunity to chat with him outside the usual context of a social event at One25.

Later, Sue and I shot over to CostCo. Our venerable Dyson03 is in need of replacement, but we weren't too impressed by the range of options or the prices of new vacuum cleaners, so we'll probably muddle through until the January sales.

Sunday 24: It was a classic this morning in Church. The preacher was wanting to make a perfectly valid point: that Jesus came (and still comes) to a place where people are excluded and marginalised. Good stuff. However, the point was made of the basis of a fundamental confusion between the Temple and the Synagogue.

So we had the story of Jesus reading in the Synagogue from the passage in Isaiah - "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..." - and then had the context described to us on the assumption that the Synagogue Jesus spoke in was the Temple in Jerusalem, with the Gentiles and women being excluded, and the High Priest only being allowed to enter the Holy of Holies once a year. I looked around to see if anyone else had spotted any problem with this, but there was no sign.

I have tried talking about details like this, in several churches, and generally get a response something along the lines of: (a) oh, was there a mistake?; (b) if there was a mistake, it doesn't matter; (c) it's wrong to pick holes in what the preacher said; or (d) God was speaking to us through the preacher, so it is wrong to criticise what was said. But I can't help feeling that, if Jesus was 'full of grace and truth', then His followers ought to try their best to be both gracious and truthful.

Rant over.

We spent most of the afternoon sorting out and tidying up, and in the evening my parents and brother arrived from London.

We decided to go to the midnight service at St Edyth's: parents, Roger, Sue and myself. Sue thought it started at 11:30, but we were a bit late as Father can't walk at any speed and we set out too late. And, it turned out the service started at 11:15, which was a bit sad. The doors were locked, but Father rattled them and someone came and let us in, right in the middle of the sermon. Oops. Still, it was good to be there, and to b able to chat with folk afterwards.

Monday 25 (Christmas Day): Nice gentle start to the day: breakfast, open presents, solve puzzles. Sue had seen that the Bristol Ice Rink was to be open and free for a couple of hours today, so we went in. Free parking as well! Alan and Philip queued for the skates, then Sue persuaded Mum to have a go - she clearly wanted to try again after... years. Alan was remarkably confident, if not terribly graceful; Philip kept on his feet and improved markedly; and Mum managed to get all the way round by hugging the sides and Father holding her hand where possible. All in all, it was great fun, and tremendous value for money.

Tuesday 26 (Boxing Day): The main event of the day was the 1:30 pm performance of Treasure Island at the Tobacco Factory. Excellent entertainment, with only one tense moment: my father started talking about 'the front of the stage', and I tried explaining that this production was created for a space in which the audience is sitting on three sides of the stage. I'm not sure he believed me, but the performance started at that point, so we got through it okay.

After the performance, they had a quick coffee, loaded the car and were off home. Ten minutes later, I spotted Father's library book... Mother rang later to say they had arrived home safely, so we promised to post the book tomorrow.

We're talking about a quick visit to Guildford later this week - partly to deliver presents, partly to catch up on the news, and partly to talk to folk about leadership styles for my Spurgeon's assignment.

Friday 29: Off to Guildford for a flying visit. The plan was quite sound: 11:00 Andy & Pam Cribbin, 13:00 Barry Sandell at the Tesco café, 14:30, David Race, 16:00 Steve & Sally Pryde, 18:00 Pete & Chris Puttick, 20:00 home.

We had a lovely time with the Cribbins, and only a few minutes late at Tesco, but then Barry invited us back to their place as we didn't have the boys and they could fit us in for lunch after all. That was great, and Suzanne's mother hasn't changed at all since we last saw her, which was presumably their wedding. But we were a bit late getting to David, and in the end I left Sue with Steve & Sally while I shot off to the Putticks. It was a long day, but wonderful to see people and catch up a bit with the news.

Saturday 30: With the boys off to Newbury, to Sue's parents. Ray and Di were there, and it was good to see her again. Lunch with them, then we drop the boys round to Pip and go to buy some bits from Argos in the middle of the worst downpour I have encountered in years. Sue dropped me off, I had about 8 yards to run from the car and still was drenched. It had eased off a bit by the time we left.

Pip brought the boys back, and we were only a bit over an hour leaving. Then home, via shopping, which thrilled the boys but they showed great fortitude.

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