It's Alan's birthday, and to celebrate we meet up with my parents and brother. We park the cars and walk to the White Horse, just the far side of Swindon. We then follow the Ridgeway Path to Uffington Castle - not much there - and hence on to Wayland's Smithy, which is what we were really planning to see. It's a strange place, but we're glad we visited it. And it's good to see my mother before she goes into hospital.
Wednesday 18: My mother is making good progress after her surgery. She has been sitting up in bed today, and they hope to get her out of bed tomorrow. They have sent what they cut out for analysis but won't get the results for two weeks.
It's not clear whether Mum will be discharged at the end of this week or the beginning of next, but that's the timetable they are talking about.
Dad is spending all day at the hospital and sounds very tired. We are praying he won't make himself ill.
Saturday 21: Alan and I travel up to London by coach to visit my mother in hospital. She is looking remarkably well, considering what they have just done to her. My father, on the other hand, is barely coping with the stress and worry.
Thursday 16: Sue and I head off for a week in Lanzarote. We have never done anything like this before, so it is something of an experiment. The boys don't want to join us - there is going to be too few computers, and too much culture for their taste.
We fly from Bristol airport, and that all works very much as planned: park in the Silver Zone, shuttle bus to the terminal, check in the luggage, then an interminable wait. But the plane is on time at 13:10. Not much to see out of the window for most of the flight, but we do get some views of some impressive mountains in Southern Spain as we fly over it, and we get to watch Shrek the Third on a tiny screen three rows in front of us.
Having collected our luggage, the first hitch: the rep is not waiting to greet us in the airport lounge. We wait around for ten minutes, then Sue goes off to find a toilet, and not long after I see a young lady who turns out to be the rep. Sue returns, and we head off to do the paperwork for the hire car.
We are staying in an apartment in a small village, Charco del Palo, on the West side of the island, which we find without significant difficulty - we miss one turning, and then spend five minutes turning round and finding the right turning from the wrong direction. The apartment is not big, but is nearly perfect. As promised, we are on the shore, overlooking the sea. Jagged, volcanic rocks, with the surf crashing against them all the time - quite enchanting.
We unpack quickly - not a lot to do - and go exploring on the shore. Just to the right of our apartment, down a short path in the rocks, is a semi-natural swimming pool filled with sea water. It is getting late by the point, and most people are leaving or have already left, but I manage a very quick swim. It stings my skin more than expected, so I make a rapid exit back to the apartment and shower thoroughly.
After scouting out the local restaurants, we decide on La Tunera, the closest, and have a wonderful meal. The first plan was to work our way round each of them, but we decide we are quite happy to keep coming back to this one all week.
Friday 17: The local representative comes round first thing and tells us about the things to do and see. She is not too clear about the places we can sauna, but tells us about several spas that will include one.
There is a craft exhibition in Puerto del Carmen today, so we decide to explore the spa she described at Costa Calera. After getting lost and some searching, we eventually locate it and, fortunately, it turns out to be well worth waiting for.
We drive back to Puerto del Carmen, park, and walk along the Avenida de las Playas looking for the Muestras de Artesania or signs to it. Having walked the whole sea front, we find a tourist information centre: it is closed, but information in the window suggests that the exhibition is just the other side of where we parked the car...
The Muestras de Artesania is quite small but fun. They are clearly quite proud of it as a major contribution to the cultural heritage. We end up eating in a restaurant just by the side of the exhibition. It doesn't look too promising, but the staff are very helpful and attentive, and the paella we share is wonderful.
Saturday 18: We want to be a bit cultured, so we head for the Monumento al Campesino. It's quite something, though we are not entirely sure what. There is a craft place nearby, which is worth the visit. We get to taste some of the local wine, then return to the car via an underground passage that leads through an underground restaurant. Wow. We should probably have gone in that way.
Drive off to San Bartolome, where we have a delightful lunch. We can't find anything else there, so head back to the apartment. We pass the Fundacion Cesar Manrique and decide to stop. It used to be his home, and we have never seen anything like it. Set in a lava field, some of the house is above ground and some is underground, with rooms formed out of bubbles in the lava. One room is half-submerged, the lava field being level with the window and flowing through the window into the room. Wonderful.
From there, we drive on to the Jardin de Cactus, another Manrique creation. The cacti are amazing, and the design of the park and its buildings are as brilliant as we have come to expect: inventive, playful and functional. The guy was a total genius.
In the evening, we wander along the beach to the large sea water pool at the other end of the village, and Sue has a paddle before we wander back again. Idyllic.
Sunday 19: On Sunday mornings in Teguise there is a large market, so we head for that. Parking isn't easy, but we get there in the end. The market is massive. We get a book for Philip - 'Mathematics Made Difficult'! - and various small gifts, wander around for ages and still don't look at all the stalls. Find a small place hidden away just off the market and have a very acceptable lunch.
It's not too hot, so we decide today is a good day to visit the Parque Nacional de Timanfayo and the Montanas del Fuego. They are quite incredible. The visitor centre is another Manrique creation on top of a volcano. It has a sort of well on which they cook the meat in the heat rising up from the hole. They pour water into other small holes, and produce a bang and an instant geyser, and there is a small pit into which every now and then they drop some dried bushes, which catch fire from the heat just a few feet under the ground.
We go on a coach tour, which is spectacular but not good if you don't like heights.
On the way back, we stop at the Ruta de Camellos and take a camel ride, then return to the Costa Calero spa to relax. In the evening, there is a small amount of rain, which is most unusual.
Monday 20: We head North today. Firstly, it is the Jameos del Agua, celebrating the volcanic creation of these islands. Interesting stuff, and bits of it quite impressive, but not enough writing for me, and not enough of it translated into English. But the underground bit, designed again by Manrique, is totally stunning, and then you come out into the sunlight and an incredible blue swimming pool.
On to the nearby Cueva de los Verdes. The queue to get in takes a terrible long time, but it is worth waiting for. The caves are as impressive as any we have seen, and it ends with a visual illusion that is worth waiting for.
On to the very North West tip of the island, the Mirador del Rio. Park in a nondescript car park on the standard lava grit, and walk a little way up a small road. Low buildings in front. Pay to go in, along a short passage and into the main room, where the far wall is a window, floor to ceiling, looking out over the cliffs falling down to the sea nealy half a kilometer below us. And, a little way out to sea, another island. It is quite breathtaking.
You can go out onto a balcony and look down over the drop, and also up some stairs and on to the roof. My vertigo really kicks in, and I have difficulty just standing upright on that roof. But we are 480 metres above sea level, and the view is like nothing I have ever seen before.
We drive back and, after some hesitation, return to La Tunera for a barbeque. It is a good choice.
Tuesday 21: We decide to visit the Castillo San Jose. With hindsight, we don't take the best route, and get lost navigating our way around Arricife. Eventually arrive and go in: a few interesting pieces of art, but, to be honest, less than we were expecting. Then up the coast a little way and visit the spa at the Hotel Beatriz. Very different from the other spa, but worth visiting. The main area is salt water, and I still can't stay in for long. The cold plunge is really cold, and there is a constant supply of crushed ice to cool yourself with after the sauna. Very nice.
Drive into the main part of Costa Teguise, where we eat and then walk along the coastal path Southwards for some distance. Sue keeps thinking there is something we want to see 'just around the next corner', so we end up walking for further than we intended, but it's very pleasant and probably a good idea after that meal.
Wednesday 22: Down to the South West corner of the island, where we visit El Golfo and walk along a coastal footpath to a beautiful green lagoon. We stop a couple more times to admire the scenary at and around Los Hervedores, then back for a last meal at La Tunera.
Thursday 23: We return to the Costa Calero spa for the last time, then on to the airport. Home again about 11 pm after a long but uneventful journey. The boys are all well, and completely underwhelmed to see us again.
Friday 24: Sue and I go to see The Bourne Ultimatum at Cribbs. A fitting end to the trilogy. The frustrating thing is, I read the books years ago, and can't remember a thing about them, so I've no idea how close the film comes. Sue never remembers books, so she is no help, either.
Tuesday 18: Back to the hospital today. The good news is that as well as seeing an endocrinologist, I also got to see the Consultant, who was accompanied by a tribe of trainee doctors. Very nice chap.
My testosterone level is still too low, so it is clear that the treatment is not working. I tried asking why my symptoms are getting worse, but they insisted that it is because they have not yet found a treatment that works. I don't follow this: if the symptoms are getting worse, then surely whatever is causing them must be getting worse. But the latest blood test only showed that my testosterone level is as low as it was before, so what they measure and what I'm experiencing don't seem to match up.
They are going to start giving me a different sort of injection, and see if that works. So I should be going back to the doctor for the new treatment in a couple of weeks, and back to the endocrinologist in six months to see how it is going.
Thursday 20: A Voscur Reps' lunch at the Create Centre, then back home, an hour or two working, then take Alan to a juggling convention at Woodhouse Park. The signs say "Jug Conn," which really doesn't work. He is in a tent, so I drop him and the tent off in a field with lots of other tents. Think as I drive away that it might have been friendly to offer to help him put it up, but it's too late by then.
Mark Howe comes to stay, Steve treats us both to an Indian, and I get an update on their progress with St Pixels. Not a lot of people would try to do what they're doing...
Overnight, it pours with rain.
We meet up as arranged at Victoria Coach Station, and have lunch in the pub next door. The food is fine, but it seems to take an awful long time. Then we sort out some Oyster cards, and catch the underground to St Pauls - but it is closed today, so we go on to Bank and walk back, then over the Millennium Bridge, and on to the Golden Hinde. Not the most sensible route in hindsight.
The Golden Hinde is good fun, but not very big. After that, we wander round a street market under the railway and have a four o'clock coffee. We then spend an hour or so going round one of the areas on the top floor of Tate Modern - rather a rush, but it was great to see some of it.
After that, we try to catch a bus back to Victoria, but this doesn't work at all well, and we end up catching the underground from Waterloo. Arrive back at the coach station with fifteen minutes to spare - very grateful we didn't miss the bus.
There is a lot that happened over the Summer I have not managed to write about. Most significantly, my mother had an operation to remove some of her colon due to cancer. She has recovered incredibly well. We have also done various trips and seen several films, including the latest Pirates of the Carribbean and Die Hard 4.0. I might manage to fill in some of the missing bits if I have time.
Wednesday 26: Back to Dermatology. The moisturisers I'm using are too thin - have to use more of the 'thick, gloopy stuff'. Trouble is that it rubs off on my trousers and sheets, and everything then feels horrible. On the plus side, I can have some pills to reduce my auto-immune response, and he is happy to sign me up for another course of light treatment.
The Anabaptist Network looks at the first of the 'core convictions'. Interestingly, several people present seem quite happy with the idea that Jesus 'got it wrong' on occasions - it makes Him easier to relate to, or something like that. And Stuart questions the morality of paying taxes that will go towards military expenditure. Will have to find out more about the basis on which he argues this.
Saturday 29: Sue takes Alan back to Warwick, and Philip goes along so he can have a look at the campus. Ian and I take the bus into town together - I have to pick up the rest of my prescription from Boots.
In the evening, Sue and I watch Stuart: A Life Backwards, which we recorded last Sunday. Funny, frustrating and deeply moving, just like the book. Afterwards, I went off to make the tea and coffee - partly because Sue was thirsty, and partly because I was unable to talk for several minutes after it had finished.
Sunday 30: Miss church this morning: I am sweating so badly at the point when I'm supposed to leave, and it just keeps pouring off me. It calms down about 11:30, and Sue drives me straight round to the health club for a sauna. What a blessed relief.
Sue was working from home, so I drove in alone - very unusual these days. Normally Sue drives me. Had a 9:30 meeting with the council, but caught up in the traffic so parked just off Arley Hill and raced down to the meeting with a heavy briefcase - not a good idea, but at least I was on time, just.
We had been given guest tickets to the Moscow State Circus, and went for the 17:00 performance. A little late going in, but not much. It was, for the most part, quite stunning. The only Russian human cannonball gave his first ever performance in England, the juggler did routines we have never seen before, and so on. It was entertaining and very impressive, but I still nearly fell asleep in both halves despite downing a coffee before each one.
Sue questioned how appropriate it was for young children - dark and scary at times, and very sexist role models: the men were mostly doing intrepid things, and the women mostly in skimpy costumes prancing around and looking attractive. I pointed out that the magician did nothing other than prance around, and his assistant did all the clever stuff of fitting into ridiculously small spaces, but she didn't seem to be convinced.
Thursday 4: Sue and I have been hoping to go away again at half term, and today I managed to book it. We will be staying in El Portus in Southern Spain, Monday to Monday, flying from Bristol airport again.
Monday 8: Spoke to Dr Johnson's secretary today, after several days of playing phone tag. I had left a message about the new treatment: assuming it is going to work, how soon before I start to see an improvement? The answer she gives me is between three and six months. Great.
The CCM AGM goes well this evening - a tribute to all the hard work folk put into it. We have an amazing bunch of people.
Friday 12: Take Sue to Temple Meads for a 4 pm train. She is heading up to London to stay with my parents tonight and tomorrow, and seeing her Durham friends for a reunion on Saturday, coming home on Sunday.
From the station, I go to collect Simon Toomer, and we go back to the office to try and sort out the computers a bit more - replace the hard disk on the server, upgrade some software, and so on. The hard disk replacement takes much longer than anticipated, so we will have to come back on Sunday to finish it off, or there will be no computers available for people on Monday mourning.
Saturday 13: The letter from David de Berker, the Consultant Dermatologist at Southmead, arrived this morning - my copy, that is, of his letter to my doctor. I thought I had said 'yes' to starting Azathioprine, but in the letter he says it would be the next step. It's also not clear who is to organise the light treatment.
Saturday 20: Sue and I drive in to Bristol first thing. She drops me off at the Cathedral, where I set up a stall for CCM at the Celebration of Healing, then Sue takes over at the stall and I head back up the Portway to Highgrove. We have an event called 'Shabbat Shalom' organised by one of the other homegroups, and some of the folk want to pray for me.
And pray they do, for over an hour. It's really very humbling the amount of love and care being poured out on me. Sadly, I start sweating again soon afterwards, and need to go home. Consequently, I'm late relieving Sue at the Cathedral, and she has packed up by the time I get back. We drop the display boards and papers off at the CCM office, and grab a lunch at Kuvuka.
Sunday 21: I stay comparatively cool and dry during the service, but afterwards I'm in a bit of a state again, so sauna after church. Then it is straight out again, and down to St Agnes where I'm taking part in the ACTS joint One World service.
Ian has some friends to stay for the night. They are no trouble, and very polite.
The packing is not made any easier by Ian's friends being around, but we manage it, and are only an hour behind schedule when we set out, taking his friends home en route.
The journey is excellent - right up the the final bit.
Due to leaving it too laste, we could not park at the airport long stay as we did last time, so instead we booked in to WCP, one of the private car parking facilities, in Winford. The registration is quick and easy, with a van waiting to take us to the airport. It is so good that having started off an hour late, we are only five minutes behind schedule when we arrive at Bristol Airport.
There is a fair queue to check in, but it keeps moving. We have a coffee, go through security, and almost immediately are called for check-in. The plane takes off some ten or fifteen minutes early, and arrives in Murcia ten minutes early.
Bags collected, car paperwork completed, and car picked up without hitch. The directions are clear, and we arrive at El Portus without a single wrong turn.
On the way we stop off at Eroski, a large supermarket, to buy some coffee, milk and breakfast cereal for tomorrow morning.
At this point, it starts to go a bit pear shaped. The instructions say "take the left hand fork up the hill", but all we can see is a left hand bend going down the hill. We follow that some distance, lose our nerve, go back to the entrance, decide there is only one possible way to go, and set off again.
Following the winding roadway a bit further, we discover what is obviously the Reception. But it is closed. Shut up and dark. They are supposed to give us our key.
A short way past the reception is a left hand fork leading up a hill. I walk up it, and confirm that it goes to where we are staying. We drive around the barrier at Reception, up the slope, and into the car park. Up a spiral staircase, and we find our apartment. No key. I search all round: no guard, nobody. I leave Sue with the bags and go down again to the Restaurant. They don't speak English, but I communicate enough of our predicament. They say 'Go to Reception' and I say 'Nobody there.' They go away and make a phone call, and after a short while tell me to go to Reception now. I run down, and there is a man! He wants our passports. I tell him we will bring them in the morning, and he gives me our key. Back up the slope, and finally get into the apartment. Not large, but adequate and clean and well kept.
We go down to reception and properly register, show our passports and confirm we have arrived. After that, we visit the site supermarket, and get some bread and cheese for lunch and some fruit.
We go for a paddle on the beach then swim in the pool. Reception said the Gym opened at 2 pm, but the sign on the door says 3:30, so we go away again, have a short snooze, then back to the Gym for a sauna. It's 15 euros for a visit, or 100 euros for ten, so we buy ten. The sauna is a decent temperature, you can put water on the stones to control it, and the showers are strong and cold. What more could we ask for? In the evening, we pop down to the local restaurant, where they helped me the previous night, and share a very decent paella.
Wednesday 24: We drive into Cartagena and walk to the local market, which is the reason for choosing to visit today. First impressions are not good: just a row of stalls each side of a dingy road. But then we reach the main bulk of the market, and discover it is much larger than it first appeared. But very little variety in what the stalls sell. Shoes and certain types of clothign are fine, but there is almost nothing of interest by way of crafts or anything we can recognise as local produce. It rains on us, and afte a bit we move to the local covered market, still little variety, but we can sit in the dry and have a coffee. We walk across Cartagena to the Roman Ampitheatre. Can't get in or look properly, as they are rebuilding it. We wander along the seafront to the world's first submarine, then back to the car via some Roman columns. We stop at the Eroski supermarket again on the way back for more breakfast cereal, fruit juice, small beers, and so on.
Thursday 25: A quick pop into the local supermarket for fruit, then we walk to the 'other' beach. There is nothing there, but a few people are hanging about. If they weren't friendly, I would have been very suspicious about the reasons for folk hanging around in such a deserted location. We then go up the hill and down the slope into El Portus and the third beach. There is absolutely nothing there. Maybe a few people live there, but it seems to be mainly holiday homes. No shops, bars, cafes, restaurants or anything that would give you a reason to go there.
Back to the site, swim and lunch in the site restaurant, then walk around the site to check we haven't missed anything. We find the main swimming pool, which is closed.
Drive in to Cartagena and park next door to an exhibition of human evolution. We don't go in. Wander around, find a square with some quite amazing trees, then the lift to the castle but it is closed for siesta. Up to the bull ring, which looks like it has been closed for quite some time. Something is happening on the other side of the hospital: metal gates across the road, and guards checking people's bags. Someone explains it is a student party and we are very welcome to go in, so we do. Lots of students, music in the background, and a massive queue that seems to be for people to buy some paella in a plactic tub. That's it. We wander out the other side.
Back along near the harbourside, and eventually we find somewhere to eat. Back to the lift, which is now functioning, and up to Concepcion Castle where we visit the "Centre for Interpretation of the History of Cartagena". It's mildly interesting stuff, but the views from the top are good. Then back to the car, and back to El Portus to use the sauna and spa.
We find Murcia without difficulty, and park underground - all the car parks have been underground so far. Up to ground level, and we are in a sort of square between the river and an official-looking building. To one side is another building, which hosts a Reuters photographic exhibition. We go in and just have time to dash round before it closes for lunch. Some - many - incredible images. Sadly, the little commentary is in Spanish, but we can work out quite a bit of it. We really want to know much more of the stories behind so many of the pictures.
Out of the exhibition, we head for the Cathedral, which is closed. In a square to one side we find a restaurant and buy another paella, quite delicious. After some searching, we eventually find a covered market and wander round it, but it is mostly closed, not selling anything of interest, and closing more as we wander.
As the market closes, we decide to cut our losses and head back to El Portus, where we gratefully relax into the sauna again.
Sunday 28: We decide to visit Mazarron, where we arrive in time for an early lunch. Along the seafront are numerous places to eat, so we check each one and decide to patronise the furthest from our car. It is an excellent choice.
Back to the car and off to see the Belnuevo 'erosions'. We park in the car park in front of them. They really are quite splendid. Sue climbs up so I can take her photo beside one of the standard shapes, and then we walk around the back to try and find some more. No joy.
Back to the car and drive a bit further along the coast. Park by the roadside and then walk along to the coast road. This area has a series of small naturist beaches, presumably because they are too small and inaccessible to be much use to anyone else. In any case, it is not really the right season, and the first few beaches we find seem to have very poor access - unsafe paths - and we don't attempt them. There is some wonderful colour in the cliff at one or two places by the road we are walking along.
Eventually, we come to one with reasonable access, and Sue takes the opportunity for a quick paddle before we head back to the car and El Portus.
Pack up, down to the site Restaurant for the last time, a final sauna together, finish packing, check out and drive to the airport. We are running a bit behind schedule, fail to find somewhere to fill up with petrol, struggle to find a parking space at the airport.
We are a bit fraught when we get to the airport and try to hand the keys back. It is complicated because we didn't fill up with petrol - there is a garage nearby, but you have to know how to find it. It seems they don't just tell you this sort of detail. And we have parked in the wrong place. They will not take the keys until we have parked correctly.
We leave our bags with them, race out, drive out of the airport car park, up to the roundabout, back in, take a different route round the back, find the correct place to park, but it is jam packed with cars - moving, waiting and seemingly abandoned. We have a large car, and it just won't fit into some of the spaces we do find. But right at the end of the row is a space we can fit into, back into the airport, finish the car paperwork, check-in our bags just within the permitted time, and we can relax. It is a frustratingly fraught end to a wonderful and relaxing holiday.
The rest of the journey home is fine, we are collected by the van from the car park just after 11 pm, and are home before midnight.
This morning was the monthly joint prayer meeting with St Edyths. A good time being had by all, the 'all' this time being fewer in number because St Edyths have their Alpha day away today.
I start to sweat on the way home, and keep going for the best part of an hour. Then Sue drives me down to St Pauls, as we are cleaning and decorating a flat for one of our clients this morning. She was going to drop me off, but ends up staying to help.
We get away a bit before 2, and Sue drops me off for a much-needed sauna. Afterwards, we do a diary check and go home. Philip cooked some bacon pasta while we were out, so that gets heated and eaten, a quick play with the new toy, and then we take Ian and a couple of friends to a party.
The party is on the other side of the Downs, and the Downs are closed for the fireworks, so it takes us an hour to deliver them - it would have been faster to walk, as I tell them. Several times. Then Sue and I go on to do the shopping at Morrisons.
Sunday 4: I'm interviewed at Highgrove by some of the children about my work at CCM. It is the first time I've been allowed to say anything about our work at a service. It was very light and simple but, I'm told, a good start.
Thursday 8: After the ACTS meeting at Ivy, I go back into the office because Simon is supposed to be working on the computers. After an hour, I phone his home, and discover he has gone to bed after staying up all night...
Saturday 10: I spend some time in the office, preparing for the trustees' meeting on Monday. Then back so Sue can have the car to go for a haircut. After shopping, Sue doesn't feel up to going out again, so we miss the concert at St Marys, which is raising money for CCM.
Monday 12: I see Dr Silvey for another injection first thing. I talk about wanting a second opinion, as we are not convinced that the endocrinologist is responding to the symptoms I have, as opposed to the symptoms I ought to have. He talks me out of it this time: there are not a lot of options to have a second opinion about. I forget to tell him that my right hand is frequently significantly colder than my left hand, and I sweat much more on the right side of my body than the left. I wonder if that is significant.
Staight from the Doctor to work and into a Trustees' Meeting, then urgent paperwork, and on to a Duty Managers' meeting in the evening at Korky and Anni's. Not many people, but a very encouraging time.
Wednesday 14: Sue has a work breakfast meeting, so for once I travel in to work in the car on my own. On our drive is a dead robin, on its back, feet up in the air, looking just like they do in the pictures.
I go to work via Staples. Yesterday, Sue spotted an HP all-in-one colour printer, scanner and copier, reduced to £15 because it was missing a power lead. We have a suitable power lead, so I go in and buy it. We need a new printer at home, and hope this will do the job.
After lunch, Sue goes by train up to visit her father in hospital. He has a blood clot on his lung, and will probably be on Warfarin for the rest of his life.
She gets home before me, because I'm training this evening. Philip is in a nightclub just round the corner from me, but he declines a lift home when I leave work at quarter to midnight.
Sue was going to go to a "Woman2Woman" event at St Edyths, and then she had to cancel that in order to see her father. But that fell through as well, so we end up taking Philip to see Beowulf at the Odeon in the centre of Bristol.
I've never seen anything quite like it before. Okay, they took a few liberties with the plot, but not too many, and it was visually quite stunning in places. Sometimes, I was hard pressed to tell that it was animated. Just on a few occasions the quality let it down in the way the characters moved - when they couldn't use the motion capture technique that worked so well most of the time.
It's good to share their celebration and hear some of the stories from the past 40 years. A fair number of them know of CCM and recognise me, and a pleasing number comment on our 'magazine' and how good it is. I'll have to pass the comments on to our folk - it is often hard to know how effective you are when you are so tied up with producing something.
I'm still not totally convinced by their new strategy, of training churches instead of running rehabs. I tend to feel that the best training in given by people who actually do what they are talking about. But God seems to be blessing, and they seem to be more financially secure than before, so maybe they have got it right after all.
Sunday 18: After church, Sue and I grab a quick sandwich and run Philip round to the Orpheus. We then stay to watch 'Stardust' - Philip saw it earlier this week, and thought we would enjoy it. We do. We didn't recognise all the actors, but part of the fun was in trying to spot them.
We were planning to go to an exhibition in Cardiff of Impressionist art, but Sue decided that this would take too long, as we need to be encouragind Ian to revise for his mock exams that are just starting. We hope to visit Cardiff in a few weeks' time instead.
In the evening, my mother rings as usual. Roger has managed to book the Thursday and Friday after Christmas as holiday, so now we know when we will be doing something, we have to decide what we are going to do this year.
Tuesday 20: This morning, I'm back at the Hospital - the BRI - to have my assessment for the Light Treatment. It goes well, and I am to start again next week: each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10:45 am, for six to eight weeks.
Friday 23: Our Trustees and some of the Duty Managers have a time of prayer and fasting for me and my health today. Graham Donald and Julie Summers come round to the office and pray with and for me. It is amazingly touching, the amount of concern that people are showing for my health problems.
Saturday 24: My eyes are tested at D&A. Two years ago, my sight was unchanged from last time; this time, I am slightly less shortsighted, but slightly more astygmatic. Nothing serious, so I can keep my current glasses.
Sue and I then head off to see some of the participants in the North Bristol Art Trail. Some of the pieces are very impressive, and it turns out that I've met one of the artists I like, without knowing it, at the Health Club. We also met Val and Cliff Jeal there, also doing the Art Trail.
Back home around 2:30, as we have a carpenter coming round to give us a quote to replace the back door.
Sunday 25: To Redland parish Church this morning. Alan Goddard is speaking very breifly about CCM as part of their Missions Sunday. He speaks well, and we both have several good conversations with people after the service.
Manage two more places on the Art Trail, on my way down for a sauna this afternoon. Some wonderful works - shame we didn't have time to see more of them.
I start my light treatment: 0.3 joules, 31 seconds. Back at the office, the computers are dead again. Reboot the server and they work for a little while, and the next time the server hangs mid-reboot, and I can't do a thing. Simon comes round: the server is dead. We spend a hour or two pricing and sourcing the bits we need, then he drives us up to M-Squared where I buy a new chip, motherboard and some memory. He rebuilds the server, and by 6 pm we have a working system again.
At some point during the day, Philip has gone to Cambridge for his 'audition' as Ian describes it. He has an aptitude test today, and an interview tomorrow just before getting the train home. He has applied to Churchill College: it is near the Maths Department, and David Race described it to Philip from his time there.
In the evening, I go to the AGM of the Bristol Muslim Cultural Society, as the Bristol Multi Faith Forum representative. The Treasurer is seriously unhappy about the way most people are not pulling their weight, but the finances are healthy.
Tuesday 27: This morning, the computers are not working again. I reboot the server and everything is fine for an hour or two, then it switches itself off. Reboot, and it turns off within seconds... You don't want to know the gory details. Simon assures me it can't do this, but it does.
Homegroup in the evening. I'm leading, helping the group explore some questions around the subject of discipleship. Sue is singing with Esme as usual, and has the car so she can go and pick up Philip from Temple Meads. How is Cambridge? Fine. How did it go? Okay.
No computers at work. Simon comes in again, and pokes around in the log files. He thinks the problem is the power supply, so we order a new one with a case - it's cheaper that way for some reason - online.
In the evening, round at Ed and Deb's we have a meeting of the people at Highgrove who are interested in mission and global issues. We are joined by a lady from Woodlands, who described what they have been doing in this area recently, and why. It was helpful background. We covered a lot of ground, and will meet again in January to firm up some of the ideas we had.
Thursday 29: Last week, Sue booked me a massage with the lady who she has used several times through work and who lives locally. It might help my skin a bit, and if nothing else, it is a pleasant way to thoroughly moisturise my skin.
The rest of the day is spent working on the Spurgeon's assignment, the first time I've managed to do a significant amount on this for a couple of months.
Prayer for CCM in the evening. Just Korky and Anni, Andy and myself this time. Several apologies for very good reasons.
Friday 30: Light treatment again. My skin is fine after the previous dose, but they are really worried that I might experience some irritation. I have eczema, for goodness sake! That is why I'm here. Anyway, she would prefer to be cautious, and doesn't put me up to the next level, so it is 0.5 joules again, but this time it lasts 52 seconds. I kid you not.
Lunch with Philip Nott at Easton Christian Family Centre. As always, I enjoy spending time with Philip. We are on the same wavelength in many ways, and what he has to report is very encouraging. But I'm sweating dreadfully throughout my time with him, with my shirt and trousers down to the knee both drenched by the time I leave. I must look a right state.
Simon comes round late afternoon and replaces the power supply. Various problems are solved, and at one point he goes home to pick up a replacement network card, but eventually we have a working system again. Just in time to go.
I grab a very quick sauna, then round to the Murray-Williams' for an Anabaptist Network meeting, where we consider the second of the 'core convictions'. We were supposed to be considering whether it really does make a difference whether you start your theology with the Old Testament or with Jesus, but I'm not sure we got close to answering the question. It was an interesting discussion, though, and punctuated at times by the noise of violent rain and wind.
Sue and I had planned to go to Cardiff today, to see the Impressionist exhibition. But instead I stay at home all day and continue working on the assignment for Spurgeon's.
[(January 2008) Sometimes we are not aware of significant events at the time they happen. Saturday 1 December was like that for me. The day before, was one of the worst - possibly the worst - time sweating I can remember. It was dripping off me for several hours, my shirt and trousers were both drenched. On the Saturday, I was fine. On the Saturday night, I woke less than usual. On the Sunday, I did not sweat very much after church - always a difficult time, for some reason. And on Sunday night, again, I slept much better than usual. On Monday night, I slept through the night.
Since then, right through to the end of January 2008, I have been very much better. I have not needed to get up in the night because of the sweating, and while I often wake up sweating a bit in the morning, this always disappears while I eat breakfast, and does not trouble me for the rest of the day. So, after years of the sweating getting steadily worse, it dramatically improves, almost literally overnight.]
Monday 3: I mis-behave in the light treatment today. On Friday, I was given the choice of staying on 0.5 joules, which we knew was fine, or going up to 0.7 joules, which was a 'massive leap'. Why, I ask, did we not go for 0.6 joules? Why, if 0.5 to 0.7 is a massive leap, is it the specified step in the programme we are following? I didn't bother pointing out that 0.5 to 0.7 is a smaller leap than 0 to 0.3...
The nurse waffles on for a bit: we have to balance the benefits of the treatment against the damage that can be done... What she does not say is that 0.5 and 0.7 are the figures printed on the treatment regime in her hand, and she does not know why it says to jump from 0.5 to 0.7 when she thinks the jump is too big. In the end, I think she realises that she is not making any sense, and she then tells me that, based on what I told her on Friday, in her judgement 0.7 was too much to give me. She has evidently forgotten that I said I was fine, and she said that 0.7 was a massive leap. I don't push the point: I don't really want to antagonise the lady.
Actually get to the second half of the prayer meeting at Pip'n'Jay today. It's been a while.
Mid-afternoon, I realise I haven't seen a confirmation of my place at the meal tonight for leaders of the Bristol Celebration Network churches. After several phone calls, it turns out that there has been a mix-up, and I've been missed off the list. Ah well, a night off for once.
I tell Sue I'll go for a sauna, and pick her up after her lipreading class. But then I change my mind and decide to work through, catching up on some of the work that didn't get done last week. And then Rob Scott-Cook rings to say there is a spare place at the meal if I still want it, so I dash off and have a wonderful time. Poor Sue has to get the bus home.
Ian only got an E+ for his English Language in his mock exams. He is not bothered by this, but we are, and can't work out what to do about it. Sue is trying to fix an appointment with the teacher to discuss it.
I'm in the office all morning, and keep my shirt on all the time, which also happened yesterday. This is somewhat unusual, and very good news. Possibly the treatment is starting to work at last?
More good news: we get a gift of £6,000 at work today. Have lunch with Sue at Kuvuka, do the weekly diary check, and then head into town to pay in the cheque.
Wednesday 5: Light treatment today. The nurse is still trying to find problems. Any irritation or burning sensations after the treatment on Monday? No burning, and less irritation than I usually have. To me, this is good news - the treatment seems to be working. The nurse seems concerned that it is not causing me problems. You have some dry skin on your back, she observes. Yes, I reply, but I had more dry skin on my back before we started the treatment. Oh. I get the upgrade to 0.8 joules, 81 seconds.
Thursday 6: Our oven has not been working properly for ages, and the grill has not worked at all for several months now. After several abortive attempts, Sue and Steve go out today and choose a new oven, to be delivered on Monday. It seems the most important attribute is that they like the knobs, but perhaps I misundertand that bit of the story.
I stay at home to continue working on the next assignment for Spurgeon's.
After the meal, Sue tells her parents about the plans being made to celebrate her mother's birthday next year. It was supposed to be a secret, but that was increasingly untenable as her parents started to make their own arrangements in the light of not understanding or remembering what they had been told.
Alan comes home with us for the Christmas holiday.
Lunch is with the Voscur reps at the Create Centre. We hear that Bristol is going to miss out on a great deal of money because we are not quite disadvantaged enough - we come 68th on a list, and the cut-off point is 66. Lots of unhappiness.
After the meeting, I go to Horfield Prison to meet David Powe, the chaplain. He wants help from CCM to transport people away from the prison when they have finished their time. I explain the difficulties of doing this, but we get on well and promise to keep in touch. He wants to come down and visit us in the new year, and gives me a copy of the book his wife wrote about the prison revival in Lewis he was a part of.
In the afternoon, CCM staff are invited to Elim for tea and carols. It's an odd group, but fun, and it is nice to be invited.
At lunch, the CCM staff go to Bella Pasta in Baldwin Street for a Christmas lunch together. Sadly, Andy is not well enough to join us, and neither is Lisa who had also been invited. But it is an excellent meal. We will try to do something with Andy and Lisa in the new year.
In the evening, the West of England Network meeting is at Easton Christian Family Centre. It is good to see Philip again, and to share about what is happening and pray together. Graham Donald also comes, and I introduce him to Philip Nott, and then take him home afterwards.
We had planned to go out for a family meal tonight, but Alan informed us a couple of days ago that he is working at the Orpheus tonight. Philip is not fussed. He gets to stay in and play with his new games.
In the afternoon, the Bristol Partnership is looking at Community Cohesion and the role of the Faith Communities. It is good that they are looking at the area, but a terribly simplistic approach.
Sue and I take Alan to work and do some shoping in Waitrose. Then we decide we might as well do something. Philip and Ian are not interested, so Sue and I go to see the Golden Compass.
It is pretty much what we had expected from the reviews. Sue described it afterwards as 'dumbed down', which seems a fair assessment. Assuming they dramatise all the books, it is hard to see where the whole thing is going, since the books are all about killing God, and the whole religious thing has been almost completely removed from the film.
Two other commonly-voiced comments seem entirely justified. Pullman's criticism of religion is based on the corruption and worldliness, as he sees it, of the establised church. I don't know of any Christians who do not agree with him on this subject, but it hardly seems relevant. And it is fascinating to see him arguing for science and fact and rationality against religion and superstition through creating a world in which there is magic and witches, prophecy and destiny. The world he creates is a compelling vision, but totally rooted in the supernatural.
Friday 14: Housing Strategy this morning starts at the dreadful time of 9 am. Not everyone notices the early start, but Paul Ville does an excellent job of chairing and steering us through some intricate business.
Back to Highgrove, where Sue goes off carol singing and I stay to help Steve Williams with the food.
Tuesday 18: Voscur Christmas meal at lunchtime: the Riverside Garden Centre. I think it was chosen because it is run by some form of cooperative, but the food is decent, and it is always good to have the chance to get to know soem of the people there better.
In the evening, the Bristol Multi-Faith Forum. It now has a web site: www.bmff.org.uk/. Disconcertingly, most of the meeting is taken up with exploring a set of questions I discussed and began to answer with Irene, the new BMFF Development Worker when I saw her a few weeks ago. Everyone agrees at the end that it has been a useful exercise.
Later, I go for a sauna, then back to work to receive seven new Windows machines we have purchased with the help of Mark from Christ Church, and with grants that Graham has worked to help us get.
Thursday 20: In the evening, I go into work. The new Windows machines need installing and commissioning. Mark from Christ Church and Andy and I work through the evening. We do the five LITE training machines, and much of the work on the one in my office, but that one needs a lot more attention
Friday 21: We have a new back door! It fits, and doesn't need to be slammed to make it shut. True, it scrapes a bit on the ceiling, but that is a mere detail. The previous one has been falling apart since we arrived, so it was overdue for replacement.
Monday 24: First thing this morning, I see Dr Silvey for my next injection. I tell him about sweating on my right side, and my right hand being consistently colder than the left, but he has no suggestions.
Sue and I drive in to work. I'm on holiday, but there is still more computer configuration to sort out, and if I don't do it now, Steve might not be able to work next week. And I had to go into town anyway for the light treatment.
Back at the office, I run into problems mapping one network drive, and finding another. But good news: nearly £4,000 in gifts in the post, so that gets paid in before Christmas.
Like last year, we gave the boys the option of midnight mass at our local Anglican church, or the Christmas Day service at Woodlands. As before, midnight mass won out because it is shorter. We are not as late as last year, partly because this time we have checked and discovered the service starts at 11:15, and not 11:30. And partly because we discover that Ian really can have a shouwer in less than 15 minutes.
The service itself is okay, but the liturgy does assume that everyone present is a Christian, which does seem perverse at this time of year. We get totally drenched in the rain walking home. And then we start the last minute wrapping...
Tuesday 25: Christmas Day. I wake late, after a late night, but also after sleeping through the night. Wow! We all get up late, and by the time everybody has made it into the lounge and opened the presents, it is too late to go ice skating - much to Ian's relief.
Nobody else is interested, so Sue and I go off on our own for a short walk, getting back just in time for the Queen.
The best of the cracker jokes: what do you need to know in order to be an auctioneer? Lots.
We are eating our Christmas dinner while the Dr Who Christmas Special is being broadcast, but we record it on DVD and watch it together after the meal. One of the few programs that brings the whole family together...
We have bought my mother a small keyring with a (small!) digital picture display. I try to load it with some pictures, but can't get the device to work. Very frustrating.
We exchange persents, have cheese on toast for tea, and then watch the DVD of The Prestige which Roger has recently acquired and brought with him. My second time of watching, and Sue's third, but we both enjoy it again.
I drive into Bristol for my light treatment: 2.2 joules, 3 minutes 50 seconds, just like Monday ("Because you missed Wednesday"). When I come out, phone Sue: she and my London family are walking down Stokes Croft, so we arrange to meet in Debenhams, which we manage to do on the escalator going up to the cafe where we share a morning cup of coffee.
We wander around some shops, I go into Dyas to get a replacement for mother's present, and then we meet the boys who have caught the bus. Quick lunch in the Gallerys, then back to the cars and drive to the Tobacco Factory for a performance of Alice Through the Looking Glass. It's very well done, but I fall asleep a couple of times.
Saturday 29: Parents and brother pack up and drive home, then Sue and I go to the local dump - I forgot to put the bins out last night. The we go on to Gardiner Haskins and buy various things, including a new kettle for the CCM office (Sue decided out old one was not safe) and a new Christmas Tree for next year.
Sunday 30: Church in the morning, then Sue and I go to see Enchanted. For some reason, none of the boys want to join us. Sue had confused Enchanted with StarDust and told Ruth that she could take he family to the latter film and they would really enjoy it. So we think we might as well see it, and find out if she was right. Philip and Alan are both working at the Orpheus at present, and we (they!) get a couple of free tickets each week.
We do enjoy the film: it is a wonderful combination of the very familiar and the very innovative. Wikipedia describes it as an 'homage' to previous Disney films, but much of it seems to be an ironic commentary, often subverting the original, very conscious and very deliberate about what it is doing.
For example, there is a wonderful scene in which the heroine gets the animals to help her tidy up the flat, as Sleeping Beauty does for the Dwarves. Being New York, you get flies, pigeons and cockroaches responding to her call. Then at the end, you have the traditional 'ta-da!' moment as they have finished the job, and a pigeon reaches down and eats the insect posing beside it. Brilliant.
And then, near the end, the hero (Patrick Dempsey - Dr. Derek Shepherd in Grey's Anatomy) is taken by the evil Queen, who has turned herself into (revealed herself as?) a dragon, up to the top of the building in a King Kong on the Empire State Building scene. The heroine climbs up to rescue him, and the Queen comments that this is quite a turnaround - if she is coming to the rescue, that must make him the damsel in distress.
We only catch a small fraction of the allusions and references to other films, but it is great fun trying to spot them. And the final sequence, cutting between live action and animation and back again deserves to win some kind of award.
Monday 31: Sue and I drive into town. I go for my light treatment (2.4 joules) then work for a bit, and Sue goes into work to try and sort out computers. The boys catch the bus and meet us at my work, then we all drive to Sue's sister Pip and her family in Newbury.
In the evening, Alan has a couple of friends around. Ian loves Alan's friends: they turn up, and he asks, "So what are we going to do, then?" They are very good and let him hand around with them.
Sue and I watch What Lies Beneath, recorded on DVD. It's fun to try and work out what is going to happen (I worked out who was responsible, and that the bridge and phone signal would feature again, but thought we would discover something about his father's death).
Near midnight, I go upstairs. Ian is with Alan and his friends, Alan and Ian are nattering away. It's great to see them together. I offer drinks all round, but nobody is interested, so Sue and I break open the small bottle of Gooseberry Wine we bought in a monastery near Gloucester a while back. Then we watch the fireworks outside our window celebrate the new year - four different sets of fireworks were clearly visible. A beautiful end to 2007.