Paul & Sue Hazelden
- Family News -
January to June 2009


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Sue's health | Paul's health

•   January 2009
•   February 2009
•   March 2009
•   April 2009
•   May 2009
•   June 2009

January 2009

Thursday 1: a late start, then Sue and I drive in to the Health Club. Sue uses the gym and I have a sauna. Surprisingly crowded.

We then head off to Tesco, where Sue wants to pick up another flying alarm clock. We have a bite to eat, fail to find the alarm clock, but buy lots of other things instead.

In the evening, Alan's friend Hennell comes to stay overnight, ready for his lift to the station in the morning.

Friday 2: my Father's 75th birthday.

Alan and Hennell need to get to Bristol Parkway for 7:30 am to catch the train for their skiing holiday. Sue valiantly volunteers to drive them there, and they not only get to the station on time, but they get there before Mairead. After getting back home, Sue cuts Philip's hair, then we drive in together back to work.

In the evening, Alan is on his way through France, Philip is with some friends having a Wii party, and Ian with a friend who is playing a gig at The Croft tonight, so we decide to do something together.

After various false starts, we end up at the new cinema, in the posh bit, watching External link - The Reader The Reader. It lives up to expectations. Based on the book by Bernhard Schlink, with a screenplay by David Hare, it has a good lineage, and it works.

Afterwards, Sue was not sure if Michael actually knew Hanna was illiterate at the key point in the trial, but I think he was certain in his own mind. The question is why he set up a prison visit and then walked away at the last minute - we did not seem to be given any insight into that. My guess is that he chickened out because he was unable to cope with the emotional impact of meeting her again in this way - does anyone have a different theory? But, if that were the case, I would have expected this to have been picked up later on.

On the way home, I realise I have not phoned my father to wish him a happy birthday. It is too late now.

Back home, much later, Philip has just finished packing around 2 am, and I see the light of a fire, seemingly in the dip of the Trym. I mention this to Sue, and she phones the Fire Brigade. A few minutes later, we have a helicopter circling round, police cars and a fire engine - presumably all attending to a burning stolen car.

Saturday 3: walking over to St Edyth's for the monthly prayer meeting, I see the burned out wreck of a car, nose in the Trym, from last night.

Back home, I say goodbye to Philip. Sue is driving him and a friend back to Warwick. Walking down Sea Mills Lane in the sunshine, it is a beautiful day - a brilliant blue sky, not a cloud in sight, hardly any wind, and warm enough to be in my shirtsleeves. The Avon is three quarters full, and sparkling in the sunshine.

I catch the bus into work. By the time we get into Bristol, the wind is up and bitterly cold. Spend all day at work, getting the trustee minutes into shape and various related jobs. Manage to get lots of small tasks out of the way.

On the bus coming home, I ring my parents, and my father answers. He never answers the phone. I recover quickly, and wish him a happy birthday for yesterday. He quickly passes over to Mum, and we chat for a bit.

As the bus nears my stop, I finish the phone call, and several things happen all at once. I ring the bell to stop the bus, my phone is beeping to say the battery is low, but also to say that Sue is calling, and the lens falls out of the right side of my glasses.

I hold my glasses carefully so the tiny screw does not fall out completely, pick up the lens with the other hand, and somehow manipulate the phone to answer Sue as I stand up to leave. She is fine: she has successfully deposited Philip and the friend, and finished some basic shopping for Philip. Just Alan's bag to drop off, then she will drive home.

I put the phone into a pocket, and walk home half blind in the biting wind, with the lens in one hand and the glasses held carefully in the other, in a grip I dare not change without risking the loss of the screw. I won't describe the complexities of opening the front door, but by this point my hands are so cold I can hardly control them. However, within ten minutes or so, I am mostly defrosted, have a hot mug of coffee sitting in front of me, and have a rebuilt pair of glasses sitting on my nose. Of such small victories is life made up.

Sue gets home safely just before ten.

Monday 5: my parents head off for Australia today. There is a last minute hitch, as my mother discovers my father needs some more medicine and has to get an emergency prescription. But despite this, according to Roger they are ready on time, and leave safely.

Thursday 8: I meet Pam S-C at three, in the cark park at Muller House. Then we go for a coffee in Clifton, and I report back on what I am doing as the Celebration Churches representative on the Bristol Multi Faith Forum.

Pam drives me down to work, then there is a meeting about the sleep out in February before the BCAN Homeless Forum at St Nicholas of Tolentino. At the end, we get a guided tour of the building, and everyone is appropriately appreciative.

Friday 9: in the Metro today, the science bit has an interesting historical detail: the first use of a telescope to look at the sky was not by Galileo, but by Thomas Harriot, several months earlier in July 1609. From the grounds of Syon House in London, he made sketches of the moon, Jupiter, and sunspots. How did I not know this before?

Tuesday 13: after the Bristol Multi Faith Forum at the Pierian Centre, I get a lift home from Sue, who has been at a Secretaries Networking event at the Marriott. She won a bottle of Champaigne worth £60 for answering a question before anyone else:

If a hen and a half lays an egg and a half in a day and a half, how many eggs does it lay in one week?

I can't work out what answer is expected. Sue triumphantly tells me the answer is seven. I tell her it isn't. She has the bottle of champaigne to prove it. Which she will donate to the One25 auction later this year. We won't appreciate it.

I try to explain that if a hen and a half lays an egg and a half in a day and a half, then one hen will lay one egg in a day and a half. Which means two eggs in three days, four eggs in six days, and four and two-thirds eggs in seven days. But you can't have two-thirds of an egg, so the answer might be four.

When we get home, we ask Ian and he says seven. So much for modern education.

Wednesday 14: Almost solid meetins all day. Drop Sue off for work, then on to FareShare for the first of two members meetings to discuss the new membership fees. All the expected points are raised.

A short time in the office, then on to St Agnes and ACTS, but can only stay for half an hour before dashing to the Create Centre and Voscur. It doesn't help that road works on Grosvenor Road means I can't park near St Agnes.

However, there is a perfect car parking space near the Create Centre for once. We get a reasonable number of the board present. The Director's report sparks a considerable discussion on the future of voluntary sector infrastructure services in Bristol: yet again, it looks like we might be getting close to a watershed. I'm not feeling too good, and my nose is starting to run quite badly.

I duck out of the board meeting for another meeting at three about Faith and LGB issues. A much larger meeting than last time, and some interesting people present. For example one of the men from a Christian gay movement seemed to argue that we should ignore what the Bible says because it teaches that married people will not be resurrected. Sadly, he left at the end before I could explore this line of thought with him.

Time for a quick sauna before getting back to work for the volunteer training. The start is delayed because people keep arriving late, but once it gets going we have a really good session. Afterwards I tidy up in the office, and really start to feel unwell. Completely forget that Sue asked me to buy some milk and brown bread on the way home.

Thursday 15: I decide to be sensible and sleep in, missing the second FareShare members meeting. Will have to apologise to Suzie. Sue goes to the dentist for a filling, and doesn't go on the walk scheduled for today.

A postcard arrives from Australia, so my parents have arrived safely.

Friday 16: In the news this morning, we hear that the idea of a 'war on terror' is a mistake, according to the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. With Obama about to take the reins in the other side of the pond, maybe our own politicians are able to discover a little bit of honesty at long last. On the day Bush first used the phrase, I said it was a mistake. But I did not appreciate just how big and how bad a mistake it was going to be.

On the news this evening, we hear that John Mortimer has died. An astonishing man - both a wonderfully creative author and a barrister, with results in some famous obscenity trials and much else in a significant career. He managed to upset and entertain people, to work within and to challenge the establishment - what a wonderful achievement.

The Anabaptist Network in the evening. As always, lots of interesting and thoughtful input. A difficult subject- humility. one chap commented that he got far more from the discussion than he did from reading the chapter, and I suspect a lot of people felt the same way.

Saturday 17: A postcard from my parents, from Singapore. Next step, Australia. Well, we know they arrived.

The New Scientist this week has a couple of interesting articles. One, from a seemingly sane scientist says that results from the GEO600 experiment near Hanover suggests that the world we know is a hologram projected from the edge of the universe. "If space-time is a grainy hologram, then you can think of the universe as a sphere whose outer surface is papered in Plank length-sized squares, each containing one bit of information." So you and I only appear to exist, just as the shapes of a 'magic eye' image only appear to stand out of the paper.

A much more important article, from my point of view, is the one looking at sadness and depression, and showing how these feelings can actually be helpful to us. And therefore, the increasing use of antidepressant drugs, is a very dangerous route to go down.

In passing, they also note some of the academic discussion of depression. DSM3 (the third edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) lists the symptoms of depression but provides one exception: if you have these symptoms after the death of a loved one, you are not suffering from depression but suffering a normal reaction to bereavement. But why this one exception? Why not say it is normal to feel depressed if you are going through a difficult divorce or a long illness or have just been made redundant? I can't reproduce the subsequent discussion, but it is worth reading (External link - Is it really
    bad to be sad? Is it really bad to be sad?).

On the way to the weekly shop, Sue and I go via CostCo: the lens has fallen out of my glasses several times in the past week, and we ask them to do something. The girl offers to use something which is not glue but acts a bit like it. She can't get the screw back. After waiting for a few minutes, we leave her to it and go for a coffee and diary check. It is a strange experience walking across the warehouse with no glasses on my nose. Unexpectedly strange. I'm used to wandering around at home and at work without my glasses, but being in public is very different. Fortunately, they are fixed by the time we return.

On the way into Morrisons, the weather is fine, just beginning to spit a little. We stop for tea after shopping, with the intention of dropping the shopping off at home and going straight out again to see Australia. But, as we come out, there is a raging storm. I cannot steer the supermarket trolley across the car park, and several of our shopping bags blow out and are lost forever.

Ian is visiting a friend, the other side of Bristol, with his bicycle. Driving home, I tell Sue I'm not happy with him riding home in this, and she agrees. It takes quite a bit of effort to track Ian down, and by this time we have missed the film. And he wants to sleep overnight at his friend's house. Which is a bit frustrating, but at least we don't have to drive across Bristol in this weather to pick him up.

Sunday 18: The weather is much better. Ian cycles home and starts to cook the lunch while Sue and I are at church.

Rob is preaching this morning. Talking about prayer, as this is the start of the week of prayer for our churches. An excellent sermon, including a significant amount about praying for our national leaders and for global issues. I just wish people would make the connection between prayer and obedience more frequently: if you pray, expect God to speak; if God speaks, do it! I know this sounds obvious, but if we don't say it, I think we give a misleading idea of prayer.

In the afternoon, Sue goes to the gym and I sauna. Then a quick coffee together, and Sue drops me round to St Nicholas of Tolentino for the United Service. Just in time. I am doing the 'Intercessions' and had assumed I would just sit in the congregation and come out at the relevant point. But I am shown into the vestry, with a dozen or more others who are taking part, mostly male, and almost everyone in clerical robes. The two who are not robed are in smart suits. My trousers suddenly look very scruffy. We pray, the music starts, and we process.

It is a wonderful service: all the various parts working together really well, all the different contributions from many different people blending, and a real sense of God's presence. George Kovoor spoke and managed to both challenge us and articulate what, I'm sure, many were thinking. There are few services these days which I am really glad to have been present at, but this was one of them, and even more it was a privilege to have been a part of it.

Monday 19: In the evening, Sue and I grab a quick bite and then out again to the Orpheus to watch External link - Australia Australia. Sue has seen it already, but I haven't. It is quite an experience - completely predictable, especially if you have seen the trailer, but it works. The photography is beautiful, and it deals with the 'lost generation' tastefully. And it handles the whole Aboriginal mysticism very nicely. I was deeply irritated by the magical aspects of 'Holes' but in this film it too seemed to work. Have not yet worked out why. Possibly because so much of it was understated - like the small stick the grandfather was carrying all through the film, which gets passed on to his grandson right at the end.

Tuesday 20: Meeting with some church leaders this morning. A girl who has recently become a Christian through CCM and attending their church is pregnant and not sure if she wants to marry the father. They are talking about offering her a course. Sue and I have done a marriage preparation course in the past, but we would never dream of trying to help someone decide if they should marry this individual. But that is up to the church - if they want to run their pastoral care this way, it is their business.

About 4 pm I go into town, pay in a cheque and have short session with a sunbed. My skin is not as good as it was, and part of the problem is probably a distinct lack of sunshine in the past few months.

Back in the office just before 5, and I do something I've never done before at work - switch on Radio 4 via the Internet and listen to Obama's inauguration and speech while I'm updating the BCAN web site with more details of the sleep out. If anyone wants to sponsor me, we have a CCM sponsorship form now.

Listening to the radio is such a relief. He is president now, and will make mistakes and let us down, like they all do. But at least he has made it this far: since he won the election, I have been afraid somebody would make good on one of the threats he has received, and that he would be assassinated before he could take up office. That would have been too awful.

Several interruptions as I'm trying to finish up and get home before homegroup. There is a chap outside with a broken bottle, threatening to slash his throat. In the end, he only has minor wounds and goes off with the paramedics. And we get a phone call from the Salvation Army, the largest hostel in Bristol - they have a 15 year old boy, and they can't do anything with him. After a number of phone calls, we have something arranged for the night and some ideas of possibilities for tomorrow. But in the end, the Police pick him up and we don't need to put our plans into action. By this stage I'm too late to go home and drive straight to homegroup, and even then I arrive 45 minutes late.

Wednesday 21: This morning, we hold the interviews for the post of BCAN Coordinator. David Maggs has booked a room at ISR. One candidate is very young and inexperienced, and doesn't convince us that the inexperience is balanced by any other benefit. Another is older but still with little experience, and the third has experience but wants to do Christian Social Action rather than help others do it. Not an easy choice. We agree the first is not suitable, but don't agree about the other two. Decide to sleep on it and take the decision to the BCAN Steering Group on Friday.

Friday 23: Take the bus in to town, as I'm at the Council House for a meeting about 'Voluntary Sector Infrastructure Support Services'. A typical meeting with the council: lots of detail, little clarity about many of the big questions, and confusion about the process. I make the point that, if we are to engage in a consultative exercise in a meaningful way, we need to know up front what criteria are going to be used at the end of the process to judge between the different options. I mention the leaflet I recently received about waste treatment as an example of wasted effort.

I have in front of me an information leaflet from the West of England Partnership, 'Planning For Waste Treatment Facilities' as an example. Three options are identified: A (two large facilities), B (eight small facilities) and C (five appropriately sized facilities). After a lot of work, they have concluded that A is not flexible enough, and B provides too many small facilities which will not be cost effective. So, surprise, surprise, option C is preferred. So, how did they not know this when they decided to invest in researching the three options? And how come none of the consultation actually asks about what will happen at these 'facilities' - which is what the public is actually interested in?

From the Council House, I steam up the hill to Muller House and the BCAN Steering Group. Just a few minutes late. We talk about the interviews, and decide to invite the two remaining candidates back and give them a role play in which they can demonstrate the sort of skills we expect them to use in the job. The second interview is fixed over the phone: two weeks today.

In the evening, I collect the car from Sue and drive over to Clifton for a drink with John Stevens. I would have been on time if only I could have parked. We have an enjoyable time, but I think John was a bit shocked about my views on discipleship. Or, maybe not my views - put down in the recent article on Discipleship: Life and Ministry - but by the depth of the problem I see in this area, and the extent of the church's failure to take the issue seriously.

Saturday 24: In the afternoon, an enjoyable few hours talking about homelessness and related issues with some Catholics in training for pastoral ministry. Sue drops me off at Emmaus House, Clifton, and we go for a coffee at a local place afterwards and do our weekly diary check.

Sunday 25: At Highgrove, after the service, Amy Harrison speaks to a smallish group about her work. The session works well, and I think we will try to repeat the approach with other people.

Tuesday 27: Trudie comes round to me for a coffee, and we chat. She is still looking for something to do and earn a bit of money, but it does not seem too urgent. Like many 'retired' people, it sounds like she does not have time to fit in a job anymore.

Wednesday 28: A 'LITE Bite' first thing, then a Muller Partnership lunch, then down to Cabbot Circus and Cafe Rouge, where the CCM staff have a delicious lunch - paid for by donated vouchers - to mark Claire's departure. A sad moment. We don't think she ever quite appreciated how much she brought to the job, or how valuable her contribution was, however much we tried to express it.

Saturday 31: After shopping with Sue, back in to the office to meet a possible volunteer fundraiser with Graham. But she does not turn up. Graham sits in on the 'Home Church' and I get to catch up on some of the outstanding paperwork in the office.

February 2009

Sunday 1: Annett at church this morning. Just a five minute slot, but a beautifully clear and comprehensive summary of what she is doing.

Monday 2: Off with the LITE Course students for a day away at the Scout activity centre near Thornbury. Last time we went, we were indoors all day. Andy didn't say any different so I assumed, mistakenly, that this would be the same. Oops.

The first sessions are fun, with the standard set of teambuilding challenges, although one is very impressive: you are given a piece of wood with a nail sticking out, and 16 more three inch nails, and you have to balance all 16 on top of the one in the wood. Very neat.

Then we do some air rifle shooting, and I turn out to be quite good at that. Although the black target on a black background is a bit of a challenge.

Sadly, I slip while on the climbing wall and do something to my left wrist, which steadily gets more painful as the day wears on. We go out into the snow for a session of archery, which in normal circumstances I would have loved. But the inadequate jacket, thin trainers and strained wrist make it a complete write-off. I help for a few minutes, then retreat into the warm.

Tuesday 3: We have a JITC meeting in Belfast. Cass is due to pick me up at 6:30, but she arrives at 6 while I'm still eating breakfast. Check the airport web site before we leave, and everything seems to be fine. We have a good run in to the airport despite the snow.

The taxi driver in Belfast is not too sure where we are headed, but we phone for details en-route and are told where to go. Our destination is in the area which used to be known as 'murder mile' and Patton used to be the minister there. All kind of lurid details of what it was like to function as Christians in the middle of 'the troubles'. As always, we get to meet a range of interesting people, and seem to make some significant progress in the planning.

On the way back to Belfast airport, Patton describes serving as a member of the Territorial Army as the army chaplain in Afganistan. It was when the numbers out there were lower, but he was the only chaplain serving the whole army in the entire country. Which seems rather incredible.

We run into a bit of difficulty on the way back. We are just coming in to land at Bristol, when the engines power up and we head off into the sky again. The stewardess clearly does not know what is going on, so we are assured that 'there is nothing to worry about' and 'we will be making a further announcement very shortly'. After a while, the captain comes on and explains that the runway was closed for de-icing just as we were about to land on it, we would circle for a bit while they cleared the runway, and we had plenty of fuel. In the end, we were less than half an hour late landing.

Very few passengers, so we get out of the terminal quite quickly. And then Cass realises she can't find the car park ticket, which holds us up a bit more. But it's not a major problem, and she drops me back home at quite a civilised time. It's been a long day...

Thursday 5: Most of the aternoon is spent with Woz, who runs the New Street Day Centre. It is possible we might be able to run the Wild Goose out of the centre for a while. What a fascinating idea! Of course, lots of details to think about before we know if it would work, but we have to explore this.

Friday 6: It snowed overnight. Caroline phones me: she is supposed to be driving me to Muller House for the second interviews for the BCAN post, but Stoke Hill is closed. Phone round the others and it seems nobody else can make it, so we decide to postpone the interviews. Doe to bad planning on my part, I have email addresses but not phone numbers for the two candidates. Given the weather, they will check, won't they? After all, they both have my mobile number.

Sadly, one does, but the other struggles in and finds nobody to interview her. I feel really bad about this.

Sue was planning to go away for as 'Oasis' women's weekend, but it is cancelled. She would have been driving along the stretch of road that people were stranded on last night, so this is probably a good thing. The organiser went down early, and is trapped in the conference centre. Cancelling is a wise move.

Which means I can have the car after all. I drive into work along the Portway - going around the hill, rather than over it, sounds good - and the journey is fine. Very little traffic, no hold ups, no problems parking.

Saturday 7: The CCM Strategy Day. We decide to go ahead: most of the folk can make it. Only Linda is stuck at home, with the taxi driver unable to get to her house.

We try to get a balance between planning and reflection, and also between affirming our history and traditions on the one hand, and being willing to make changes and try new things on the other. I think we are reasonably clear about what is a helpful principle we want to hold on to, and what is a pragmatic choice we are free to change with changing circumstances. But it is hard to be sure. Which is why we constantly need to be open to hearing God both directing and correcting us.

In the evening is a men's curry night at Highgrove. My mind is not really in tune with a social event whose main focus is on curry, sport and some television comedy program. With hindsight, it was probably a mistake to attempt the social, given the timing, but I would have regretted missing it. And I had been assuming that Sue would be off on her weekend.

One nice detail is that I get to chat with a chap who was a nominal member of our homegroup when we first joined Highgrove. I remembered his name and a few details, so was able to ask some relevant questions.

Tuesday 10: Ian takes part in the American Maths Challenge. He is part of the school team, and they come third in the regional competition, which is rather good as they are mostly up against private schools who put a lot of effort into these events.

Tuesday 17: the chap from BT fails to turn up for our meeting, which is frustrating. But the man from CUF does, and we have an excellent time.

Then off to Muller House, for the second round of BCAN Coordinator selection: the two candidates do their presentations, and thankfully everyone present is clear about which of them did the better job. We have a winner - Colse Leung, from Woodlands.

Multi Faith Forum in the evening. It's quite hard work, as several key people are not present.

Friday 20: to Southmead Hospital for a DEXA scan, to see how my Osteoporosis is progressing. This time, the nurse looks competent and old enough to have left school, and the equipment all seems to work first time. I should hear from them in three or four weeks, and should see my doctor to talk about the results.

Tuesday 24: Sue goes to Frenchay for her annual scan.

Wednesday 25: I get a phone call at work from the Government Office for the South West ('GOSWA'), asking if I can meet the Under Secretary of State for Defence on Monday. It seems that we are one of the significant agencies in Bristol caring for the needs of veterans. I can squeeze it in between two other meetings, just.

Friday 27: the bulk of the day is taken up with a Voscur strategy and planning event for the board and senior managment. Jean Erskine facilitates it, which is slightly odd as Jean set up and ran Voscur for many years. But it is good to see her again.

The day is much like most planning days: we spend a lot of time thinking about the context and the environment and the issues and challenges, all of which we pretty much already know and agree upon. And then in the final session, we get to spend a little time looking at the critical strategic issues we face.

Back to work to catch up on some urgent paperwork. GOSW have postponed the meeting with the Under Secretary: he has to be in Westminster. Probably to talk about the fuss hitting the news about the way ex-servicemen are cared for.

Down to Pip'n'Jay for the Sleep Out. I arrive a little later than intended, and several people are already bedded down. We had planned to get folk together for a short service, but this is not going to work. I get the list of people who are registered to sleep out, and there seems to be maybe a dozen or fifteen people more actually joining us. Not something to worry about. It seems possible the participating groups might raise something close to £10,000 from tonight's activity, which would be quite impressive.

Lots of interesting people, and interesting chats. I had offered to stay up and keep watch, but several other people will be doing this and I'm not needed. So I get the sleeping bag out, put it on top of some cardboard boxes, and go to sleep.

At least, I try to sleep. The youngsters do not settle, and I can't ignore them. Eventually get an hour or so. At least it is reasonably mild, even if it tries to drizzle through much of the night.

Saturday 28: in the morning, everyone is cheerful enough. When most people have left, I clear up the rubbish left behind - not as difficult as last year. Then it is just Alan, Tony and myself... and Tony's car won't start. He calls out the breakdown people. He and Alan send me home to sleep.

In the evening is the One25 Auction at Woodlands. One25 do these events so well. One minor difficulty: the caterers fail to bring all the food they had promised, so we are not terribly generous with the portions - Sue and I are serving half the people - and we just manage to make it serve everyone. We bid for a few items, but they all go for much more than we could afford, which is sad for us but very good for One25.

Afterwards, Sue stays behind to help clear up and I get a lift from Maria, walking back with her and one of her school friends who is living on a boat. Lots of interesting people, again.

March 2009

Monday 2: This evening, my mother phones unexpectedly. They are back home, somehow a day ahead of schedule. She talks about the holiday, but I don't take much in. Sue tells her that I slept out last Friday, and that Ian was on his school team in the Maths Challenge and they came third.

Tuesday 3: In the evening, it is the BSOCS ('Bristol School of Christian Studies') talk at Woodlands.

In the middle, Sue texts me: Ian has just told her that Toyota phoned to say the MOT has been moved from 9:30 am to 2:00 pm tomorrow. Not impressed - either by the change, or by the fact that they rang home and not one of our mobiles as requested.

I was a bit apprehensive about the talk, but I needn't have worried: he was excellent. Would have liked more about the purpose of law (not to say what is right and wrong, but to help us prioritise different kinds of right) and about the distinction between law and morality (something can be illegal but not immoral, or immoral but not illegal).

Saturday 7: I miss the monthly Highgrove and St Edyths prayer meeting again. Sue goes to Newbury for a family lunch, and drops me off at work, where I try to catch up on the week's paperwork and prepare for Monday and the Trustees' meeting. I leave just before 7 and walk up to the Health Club for a much-needed sauna. Sue picks me up afterwards, on her way back, and we drive home - forgetting to pick up some milk on the way.

Sue's parents are thinking about moving, and inevitably this is a very complex question with lots of different factors and points of view to take into account. Still, it sounds like they made some progress while talking about it today.

Ian is out this evening at a party, but comes back just before midnight. Which I suppose we should not complain about. "Did you have a good time?", I ask. "Yes," he replies as he disappears into his bedroom. Which is much better than the grunt he would have given quite recently. Progress, indeed.

Thursday 12: Ian has his exam results: mostly good, but disappointing in his Philosophy. The teacher says his grasp is excellent, but he cannot or will not get it down on paper. So why can he do this in Sociology and not Philosophy?

Saturday 14: Over breakfast, Steve and I respond to the latest absurd financial market 'solutions'. He thinks the markets are a classic example of the Emperor's New Clothes: as long as everyone kept acting as though the money was really there in the system, everything was fine. I said it was more like a complicated pass-the-parcel: there is a sweet under every layer, but nothing in the middle, and each time the player can choose whether to take a sweet or claim the prize. The game keeps going as long as nobody tries to claim the prize. You know it is empty, but you keep playing as though it is worth something, because that way the game keeps going and you keep getting the sweets.

The discussion identifies a more significant disagreement: Steve reckons the markets overvalued the price of the goods being traded by a factor of ten: the real value was only one tenth of the value the financial instruments were being traded for. I don't know where this figure comes from, and suspect that it is meaningless to talk about the true value of financial instruments. They are worth whatever they can be sold for, no more and no less. They have no real financial value, just like a work of art has no real financial value. All the financial markets float on a sea of faith.

The training session this morning is on Mental Health. Always an interesting and difficult session, but on the whole we managed to steer a middle course, amking it relevant and personal while not delving into individual problems too deeply.

Sue picks me up, we have an organic lunch together at the Better Food place, do the diary check, and then she drops me off at the Health Club for a sauna while she does the weekly shop. Then I go in to work for a few hours while she shoots up to Warwick to pick up Philip and bring him back.

Sunday 15: CCM board meeting at Graham's house this afternoon. We decide to hold back on the new property: too many unknowns, and not enough time to do the necessary investigations. But if it doesn't sell on Thursday, then we will start trying to put the necessary details together.

Tuesday 17: When I get home, there is a letter for Sue from the Hospital, inviting her to an appointment in April to discuss the results of her latest scan. The arrangement was that they would let her know the results by letter. We assume that this is just the system breaking down again.

Thursday 19: Massages in the morning. I got first, then work in the Greenway Centre while Sue has hers. Then we have lunch: a delicious steak for me, and a mild curry for Sue. Into town: Sue has to pop into her work, then she drops me off at CEMVO for a meeting about the BMFF web site, parks the car and potters.

After the meeting, we wander around the Harbourside in the sunshine. I remember the camera and take a few pictures.

We head off to Bath Race Course for the auction. It is a fascinating experience. I have to register to bid so that I can look at the legal pack for lot 27. It doesn't say anything much about the property, but it does say in more detail how much we would actually pay if we did bid.

Lot 27 is the only property in the auction where the guide price has gone up after the catalogue was printed. Quite a few have come down. It doesn't reach the reserve price, but someone did bid £200,000 for it, and it was the only property which did not sell where the auctioneer did not say that the last bid was very close to the reserve price, so 'come and talk to us afterwards.' Which implies that not only is someone willing to pay £200,000, but also that the owners have set the reserve price at significantly more. So I'm not sure where we go from here.

Ian has brought his results (his 'Year 12 Report') home. On the whole, we are impressed. His AS level predicted grades are: A (Sociology), B (Physics), C (Pholosophy), B (Chemistry) and A (Maths). He is 'a great asset' to the Physics group, a pleasure to have in class in Sociology, and so on. Unsurprisingly, the Philosophy teacher comments on his "individual 'take' on the philosophical questions tacked in the lessons."

Tuesday 24: a manic day. A volunteer comes in to help in the office, so I get her organised. Then a couple of friendly ladies from the University of Coventry arrive. We have some funding from the Church Urban Fund, and they have commissioned some reseach into seven projects which they think have something to offer (I think the phrase is 'examples of best practice') to other churches and projects. And we are one of the seven.

This is one of the parts of my job I love - a combination of being able to boast about the work done by our wonderful volunteers and staff, and also being able to enthuse about the principles and pontificate about the issues.

The ladies get to chat with a range of other people, so they go away satisfied, and should go with a reasonably accurate understanding of what goes on here.

We have a prayer meeting at one, but I get called away part way through to spend time with Cass and complete some urgent work on the BMFF finances.

One of the last minute messages is from a pastor in Kent, who has just started to help some homeless people and would, like some guidance. He is letting them stay in his home, and is renting a place for himself and his family, if I understand correctly. We chat for a bit, and I promise to be in touch when I return from holiday.

Get away from work a bit before nine, and grab a quick sauna before heading home. Ian is not well - he has been throwing up. He doesn't want us around, but we feel bad about leaving him behind in this state.

Then there is a lot of last minute jobs before I can get away. At one point, I switch the computer off for the night, then remember that I still need to email Rhona and ask her to swop my words at Highgrove next month. Ian gets up to be sick again just before 2:30.

Finish the jobs just before 3 am. Wonder what to do, and decide I may as well go to bed.

Wednesday 25: less than an hour later, I get up, make Sue her tea, and have some breakfast. Sue wakes at 4, and by half past we are on schedule leaving the house. Last minute panic, when Sue can't find the folder with all the documents, and then we are off. No sign of Ian, so we hope he is sleeping.

The journey is fine, but Sally takes us down a different route to the one Sue printed, which is rather worrying. We turn back halfway down a small country road, but then I work out where we must be, and we turn back again.

We find the road we need, but not the car parking place. I try to phone them, but there is no reply. Very worrying. We reach the end of the road, turn back, and retrace our steps more slowly. We spot the entrance, drive in and park. The web site said the shuttle to the airport leaves on the hour and half hour, we need to be on the 5:30 shuttle, and it is only just 5:20 when we arrive.

The place is deserted. A sign on the office says that if the door is locked (which it is), they will be back soon. We hope so. It is rather cold, standing in the dark and watching the dawn break over the trees. But it is also rather lovely.

A van drives up, the driver comes over and opens the office, we do the paperwork, and he drives us to the airport. We check in just before the 6:00 deadline.

Sue goes to post a couple of items, and on the floor is a tiny wagtail. An elderly lady is trying to do something, but I can't work out what - catch it? Seems unlikely. We hope the airport has procedures for dealing with trapped birds, and continue to Departures.

The queue is quite unbelievable at this time of day. Boarding starts at 6:15, but we are half an hour or more waiting for the security check, and they have broadcast the 'last call for passengers' before we reach the gate. Still, we make it.

The flight is uneventful, but with one unexpected small bonus: we are the only people in our row of three seats, which makes the mechanics of juggling drinks and books and meals much easier. But Sue's earpiece is only half working - the wrong half - and I get so much crackle on mine that I give up halfway through the first film. Instead, I start to read Dark Fire, the second Shardlake novel by C J Sansom.

The Canary Islands look beautiful from the air. We pass by the side of Lanzarote, and recognise some of the places we visited. Then we are skimming over the sea as we approach the Fuerteventura airport.

Baggage reclaim is remarkably quick, but then we cannot find our car hire rep. The Thompson people are not very helpful: they don't use Orlando. But one of them tells us how to find our hotel. The Orlando lady eventually turns up about forty minutes late, and instead of showing us the car we have booked, we are directed as part of a group to a van, which drives us all to the Orlando car hire facility in the nearby industrial zone. Loading the bags into the van, I am reminded again that my wrist is still not completely recovered from the climbing wall back in February - need to do all the lifting with my right hand.

The paperwork is quick, the instructions and introduction to the car almost comepletely absent. We are a bit concerned about a few serious scratches we find on the car, but the people assure us they are all 'on the computer'. Reassured, we set off. We manage to set out without directions to the hotel, so it was a good thing we had received verbal directions from the Thompson lady.

Finding Corralejo is easy, but we had been told to expect a sign directing us right at the first roundabout. Instead, there is a sign directing us right at the first junction past the roundabout. I miss it, but Sue spots it, so we find the hotel without getting lost at all: probably a first for us.

Strangely, Arena, the hotel, is just across the street from Infiniti, a villa we have considered staying at several times, but the dates never worked out.

We unpack, then sleep for a couple of hours. A short walk, partly to get some fresh air and partly to check that we hadn't missed a sign to the hotel at the roundabout. An early dinner, a nice buffet, then out for a slightly longer walk to Casper's, a local bar ('101 cocktails!) which advertises free wi-fi. We order coffees. For some reason, I can't connect using Ubuntu, but Sue suggests I reboot into Linpus, and strangely this works. We catch up on some emails, then back to the hotel for an early night.

Thursday 26: breakfast is competent, but I'm not sure that you can have a frankfurter as part of a 'Full English Breakfast'. The sign at reception says that the Thompson rep will be hold a short briefing at 9:30 this morning, but the sign lies: the meeting is actually at 9:00, and we arrive just as it finishes. The sign is a legacy of the previous rep, we think, and the others were presumably told on the coach to the hotel which we missed because we hired a car. There is a trip tomorrow we are interested in, but it might be fully booked.

We walk into Corralejo, find some shopping centres, and reach the old town and some of the beaches. Back at the hotel, and lunch. Another walk, shorter, then book the sauna: you have to book a slot at least an hour in advance to let it warm up. Sue doesn't join me.

The sauna is next to the gym, in a room with a massage table. It is modern, solidly built, and has a beautiful closing mechanism. Oddly, the sauna bucket has a leaf with a few bits of twig in it. The 'full temperature' is less than 60 degrees, but I can adjust the thermostat to get it warmer. The other odd thing is that there is no clock anywhere. It's really nice to be able to throw water on the stones again.

After the sauna, dinner and an early night.

Friday 27: we are down to breakfast at 8. Much the same as yesterday. Sue goes to get ready while I check at Reception: yes, we have been booked on the trip. But it doesn't leave until 11:40.

This gives us time to visit the local market. I drive this time, to get me used to the car and the roads - we know roughly where we are going, so Sue doesn't need to navigate. We have nearly walked past it, up by the family water park.

It's the standard setup of uniform stalls, many of them selling identical items. Clothes, bags, belts, jewelry, shoes, wooden croaking frogs, wooden African carvings. In fact, lots of African art and other goods - we are quite close. But there are a few novel aspects: one stall offers massage, and another sells 'squishy tomato' toys. Never seen anything like it. Looks like a tomato. You throw it against a wall, and it looks just like a tomato thrown against a wall. But then it slowly pulls itself together, and slithers down the wall in one piece. Very tempting.

We also find something which looks like a wooden place mat in the shape of an apple, or a few other items. It has a spiral slit cut into it, which means that it can turn into a bowl, which they claim is watertight. It is quite wonderful, and we buy one for my parents. My father will appreciate this.

By the side of the market is a garden, which we explore for a while. There are some beautiful sculptures, and a semicircular dome - a plastic covering stretched over the standard 'space structure' triangular grid. Nobody else is around, our steps resonate as we walk inside, and the echoes of our voices change as we move towards the middle, until we are right at the centre where it is simply amazing. I persuade Sue to stand at the centre and sing, and the effect is quite magical.

As we leave, a family arrives, and the children rapidly discover the echo for themselves.

Back to the hotel, and wait for the coach to pick us up. It is a free tour with short stops at various plces we are interested in visiting, with a longer stop for lunch and a sales presentation by the organisers.

We have never been tempted to do a coach tour, and based on this experience, we're unlikely to do one soon. It worked well as a way of visiting numerous places, and finding out a bit about the background. But the commentary had a bit of content and a great deal of inane chatter. The guide was clearly mature, but much of the chatter sounded like something I would have expected from a vacuous teenager. But some of the sights are superb, and we can both look at the views. And there are the occasional bits of interesting local information, like a very nice cake shop in Antigua, which is worth a visit.

The presentation is, for the most part, best left undescribed. Parts were a good sales pitch for a good quality mattress and woolen coverings, but they were mixed up with emotional tricks and some spectacularly bad science. One part moved from static electricity in nylon to static in your body causing induction currents in the metal springs in traditional matresses, which cause problems, the details of which mercifully escape me. There are many jobs I am grateful I don't have, and this is one of them.

One interesting potential fact they offer is that bed bugs are not killed by a normal hot wash, as you need to heat them to 90 degrees centigrade to kill them. Have to check this.

After lunch, it starts to rain. It almost never rains in the Canary Islands. The rain continues, with a few short breaks, for the rest of the day, and is sometimes very heavy, and sometimes with lightning. At a lighthouse near El Cotillo, we see a tornado - a whirlwind - out a sea. That's a first for me.

It seems they have had some rain in the previous weeks, which explains why the countryside looks comparatively normal and green. But it is still a barren, volcanic land for the most part.

We get soaked in the few yards from the coach to the hotel, and then again in the way back from the restaurant. We had planned to go out and find a wi-fi spot again, but give it up for a quiet night in, and staying dry. The food here is fine: occasionally very nice, mostly competent. We decide it is the equivalent of a good quality Harvester in the UK. The kiwi fruit is very good tonight, but the rest of the fruit has not been terribly good so far - proobably one consequence of being on a small island.

Saturday 28: to breakfast around 9. Quite a lot of the places to visit don't open on Saturdays, so today is a good day to travel. We plan to visit the other end of the island. Down road 1 ('FV-1') to the end, then down road 2 ('FV-2') to the end. Simple plans are the best.

The plan is only slightly complicated by the fact that we have nearly run out of water, and want to buy a 5 litre bottle to fill up the little bottles we carry around.

So we drive for a bit, then stop at Calete del Fueste where there is a market. Many of the same stalls we saw yesterday. The same ranges of watches, t-shirts, African goods, and the rest. A few items we did not spot before, such as some beautiful wooden snakes. And a better set of secondhand books, where we nearly buy a couple but restrain ourselves at the last minute. Need to think of the weight limit coming home.

We find a coffee, then buy some water, and manage to navigate out of the town. Then it is non-stop down to the South of the island. It is muchh greener down South, with grass and plants growing in the wild, and lots of palm trees. Quite beautiful.

Park near the lighthouse at Morro Jable, and have a late lunch. Sue has an omlette, and I have a paella-like disk with short strands of pasta instead of rice. Delicious.

Wander round the shops, then an ice cream at Chilli Chocolate, where we catch up on email and find the contact details for the people at Infiniti.

Back to the car, and pick up our beach things. There is a large dinosaur skeleton just opposite, so we go and admire it, but there is absolutely nothing to say what it is or why it is here.

Down to the beach. Most people are starting to leave. I lay down on a towel for a short sunbathe, while Sue walks down to the end of the beach and back. Then we walk down to the lighthouse, and back to the car.

I phone the people at Infiniti, but no reply, so leave a message. We would like to pop round to visit them while we are here, if possible.

We drive a little further, right down to the end of the road. Beyond is a dirt track, leading on to several villages, but our insurance runs out at this point. So we turn round.

We decide to drive back to Chilli Chocolate for a coffee and more email checking, then back to the hotel, stopping at an English bar for one more quick coffee en route. It's quite late when we get back.

Sunday 29: on the way down to breakfast at 9, I ring Infiniti again and speak to a lady there. She says to come round at 10:30. We have breakfast, pack our bags and... fail to find the entrance. Ring again, and get more specific directions.

We have a guided tour of the premises, and it is lovely. The question is not 'do we want to come and stay?' but 'when do we want to come and stay?' Can we persuade the boys to come and stay with us there?

After the tour, we are invited to stop for a drink with two of the couples, and enjoy chatting. But have to dash off, as we are planning to go to the evangelical English service which starts at 12:15.

It is a bit of a rush, but we arrive at the service just before they start. A couple of chaps are hunched over a laptop, and seven others are seated or standing round. We introduce ourselves, and the service starts.

The sermon is all about the 'Jezebel Spirit', which sparks quite a bit of conversation during the day. She wanted control. Does calling it a 'spirit' add anything? And, if there is such a thing as "the Jezebel spirit", what was it doing in the millennia before Jezebel became queen? Does the name help us? Is it the Pentecostal equivalent of the Psychiatrists sticking the lable of 'syndrome' onto any recognised pattern of behaviour? Does making it something different and special help, or is is actually more helpful to point out that this is just a minor variation on the original sin of wanting autonomy and independence from God?

Afterwards, we find 'Bristol Playa' and a small bar to sell us some coffee and rolls. Walk along the shore, then along the Bristol Maritime Walk where they have a range of fitness and exercise stations.

The Fred Olsen ferry is leaving on its way to Lanzarote. We have never seen a ship of that size travelling so fast. It is also pitching very obviously, which cannot have been pleasant for those on board.

We walk into the harbour, and watch another ferry come in, with the bow lifting up as it approaches the berth. We stand and watch for a while, then walk round the shore line. Ice cream mid-afternoon and then to the advertised gardens which are not worth a visit.

The bell tower at the nearby shopping centre is with a visit. As we arrive, the bells start to ring. They really do ring, controlled by electric motors. It is quite impressive, and very noisy. The view from the tower is excellent.

A quick coffee to fortify us in the heat, then back to the hotel. Sue goes to bed for a few hours, and I go for a sauna. After the meal, we return to Casper's and catch up on the urgent emails.

Monday 30: breakfast about nine, then out a quickly as we can. Drive to La Oliva (pronounced, confusingly, 'laliva') for the art centre. We looked it up and checked online last night - it should open at 10:30. But we arrive just before 11 and it is quite firmly closed. We wait until 11 just to be sure, then drive away. No signs outside give any suggestion of any opening times.

We decide to visit the Mirador de Morro Velosa, another interesting building by Manrique on top of a mountain. The final part of the road is rather scary. But, when we arrive, it too is closed. At least here is a sign saying it is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

We park on the slip road and walk up the drive. Quite a distance. But the view from the top is everything we could have hoped for. Well, nearly - there is some haze in the distance. But even so, it is beautiful. We can see sea on both sides of the island - probably near Puerto del Rosario on the East, and up to El Cotillo on the East.

One odd feature... we are walking along the drive way, approaching the Mirador on foot, along the road we would normall drive along. It is not wide: sufficient for two cars to pass each other, carefully, but not much more. On one side is the rock face, and on the other side is a massive drop. And yet, on a bend the road has a steep camber. Like you might find on a race track. The mind boggles at the thought of people taking this bend at speed...

We can see a couple of large statues near where we parked, so once back to the car, we drive round the corner and admire the figures, and try to interpret the Spanish signs about the local area.

By this time, we are ready for some lunch, so we drive back down the road - this time is easier, as we are on the inside, and following a slow lorry - and head for Antigua.

After wandering for a while, we find the cake shop pointed out to us by the tour guide on Friday, and it is just as good as she suggested. We have coffees, a small flat pastie-like item, and cake. All for 4.95 euro, and all delicious.

Wander a bit more, but don't find anything of note - a dry fountain marking the millennium, some other pieces of civic art celebrating other dates, but with no detail about what the dates signify.

We drive to Puerto del Rosario and park near the shopping centre. Walk round, finding various pieces of art, then into the shopping centre for a coffee. Free wifi, but can't get it to connect.

Tour the shops looking for the perfct travel document bag Sue knows is waiting for her somewhere, then round the HyperDino supermarket looking for some 'chocolate lava' we have seen in various other places. Then we stop for some ice cream, and head back to the hotel.

Tuesday 31: back to La Oliva for the Centro del Arte Canaria. Again, we arrive just before 11, and again it is closed. We wait again until 11, but no joy. Go for a walk, and find a bar serving coffee. The lady there explains that the Art Centre is closed. For good. So why doesn't it say? And why do the signs still point towards it?

There is a TV crew filming an interview with someone ooutside the Police Station. And a church with electric candles to 'light', and where you pay one euro to switch the lights on for five minutes. Most of the art inside is ghastly, but the wooden pulpit is interesting, even if it doesn't look like it would be safe to enter.

They have a large arena, which looks like it was used for a recent festival of folk music. There are large public spaces all over the island, and we have never seen anyone using them.

We drive to El Cotillo despite the total lack of road signs pointing the way. Park at El Toston, an old, circular fort, housing an art exhibition. It is, to put things delicately, a disappointment. The exhibition is by a collective, and consists of issue art, one step down from conceptual art. The is no identifiable artistic merit in the work. Most of our holiday snaps have more going for them. This art is justified not by the work, or by an interesting idea generating the work, but by the artist's feeling that an issue is important, so a picture which claims to represent that issue in some way is therefore also important. Or something.

I suppose it is good that a bunch of ladies can get together and say that they are against injustice, poverty and oppression. But a picture of a poor child in Brazil needs to be more than a bad picture of a poor child in Brazil if it is to 'speak out' against poverty. The pictures in the Reuters' exhibition we saw in Spain managed to speak out about all kinds of issues. Those pictures captured emotions and human circumstances, they recorded unique moments which illustrated matters of enduring interest. These pictures were, presumably, deeply meaningful to the artists, but without knowing the people or their stories, we were unable to share that connection.

We wander round El Cotillo and find a fish restaurant called the 'Blue Cow' with, not surprisingly, a blue cow on the rooftop patio. The harbour is nice, and by the Blue Cow is a building site where three men are working: one is picking up squares of pebbles, and handing them to another who puts them in place on some fresh concrete, watched by the third. He must be the supervisor, as he doesn't do any work. Laying these squares of pebbles requires a surprising amount of conversation.

We drag ourselves away, return to the car, and drive to the large beach near our hotel. We have not visited this yet, so we park and walk in for half an hour on the beach. I paddle very briefly. It is quite beautiful, with lots of different shapes in the dunes, and the sun sometimes poking through the clouds and making interesting patterns on the landscape.

Back for a final drink at Casper's. We had intended to try some of his ice cream, but sadly the equipment is not working, and there is none available. Then back to the hotel to eat and pack.

April 2009

Wednesday 1: the plan is to get up at 7:30, breakfast at 8, be on the road at 9, at the Orlando car hire by 10, check in by 11, fly at 12.

We actually manage to leave around 9:30. I leave our bag of pills at reception when we pay, but the receptionist recognises us when we leave and returns it to us. We make up 15 minutes on the journey, and get to the car hire place at 10:15. We have just missed a shuttle van. Next one is 15 or 20 minutes, they say, and it is not much more than 25.

In the check-in queue by 10:55. Sue goes to find the toilet, and then people on the Bristol flight are called to another desk. But our phones still work, and I ring her to let her know where I have disappeared to.

We have not booked our seats in advance, and when we get to the check-in, there is only one seat available on the plane. Sue gallantly offers to let me have the seat, and she will put up with staying on for another week. They tell us to wait, and see if someone fails to show. Eventually, we are both allowed on. Sue has a seat in the middle of the plane, and I am on the aisle in the last row. It is the first time we have flown without sitting together.

Sue watches the films - Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (the third time she has seen it, and still enjoying it) and Igor. I spend the flight finishing Dark Fire, which I complete just as we start our descent into Bristol.

No problems with ice this time. We land around 15 minutes early, our bags are among the first to appear - probably a benefit of being among the last to be loaded - and we are waiting to be picked up by 4:15.

I drive, as Sue has been driving on Fuerteventura and needs time to adjust to being on the other side of the road again. We are home just before 6. The place is a mess, but no disasters in our absence.

Thursday 2: I go into work, and Sue goes for a walk - back near where we left our car. The Voscur 'Meet the Leaders' Assembly with the leaders of the political parties in Bristol (Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and Green) is fairly predictable, but it is a chance to catch up with a few folk.

Drive home, prepare the shopping list, Sue comes back, and we head out for the traditional diary check and weekly shop.

It is Ailsa's leaving do, at the Surrey Wine Vault, so after shopping I drive back in to town. They are digging up the road in Stokes Croft, and I can't turn left into City Road any more. For the past few weeks, we have had to turn left into Ashley Road, then right into Brigstocke Road. Normally, Sue drops me off at the City Road traffic lights. Today, they are digging up the road at Ashley Road, and I can't even turn left there and have to drive round the block.

Ailsa gets a decent crowd and a decent speech to send her off: she is moving to London to take up a place with the national Nightstop. It is very sad to see her go, but quite satisfying to know that introducing her to Nightstop when it was about to close has worked out so well both for the project and for her.

A short sauna, then home and unpacking.

Friday 3: at work, I'm juggling some urgent catching up with preparing for the BCAN meeeting and providing some induction to Emma, who is in the office for her first day as a temp. And Martin needs quite a lot of time, as we have not seen each other for a month.

I'm not really prepared for the BCAN Steering Group, but we get through. Then back to work for an hour or so, and dash home.

We drive up to London. Tea at the motorway services is dreadful: loud, distorted pop music, and the light flashing on and off. And most of the food being advertised is not available so Sue and I abandon our usual practice and have burgers.

The journey is fine until we are just past Bracknell, when we hit a detour which takes us round to Sandhurst. Then we take the wrong exit from the M25, and it is 10:45 before we arrive at my parents. Drop the boys off, and shoot away to the B&B we have booked at 80 Maryon Road, 'The Old Rectory'. We arrive just after 11, which is when we told them we expected to arrive, so after all the delays it is quite good going.

They want to know if we had difficulty finding the place, but we explain that we knew it before: I learned to sing in the front room here. The room is well equipped, so it looks like a good choice.

Saturday 4: Quick breakfast, then off to my parents. We look at their photographs from the recent holiday, then Roger and I go out to get some fish and chips for lunch.

In the afternoon, we all go down to St Georges for Ed and Cynthia Finnerty's 40 anniversary celebration. It turns out that Sue and I were both at their wedding, which we had not realised. Steve Morris is there, who was Ed's best man. And so is Michael Shaw, who was in the year below me at Roan, but has already retired from the Civil Service. We used to meet at lunchtime and play the piano sometimes.

After the photographs, I take Father home with Alan and Philip, and we talk and watch a bit of TV until the others come home much later.

Sunday 5: just before we leave the B&B, Sue asks and we are shown the kitchen. We are relieved they still have the Aga. They used to use it when they moved in 10 years ago, but sadly it is too expensive to use most of the time these days.

We show our latest holiday photographs on the netbook, then Roger takes me on a trip round the Roan school building, where the latest Scout Show will be performed. The caretaker is on the District Council, which helps. Chat with him briefly, and he describes some of the changes: the quadrangles have both been built on, the South one quite recently. You can't get to where the old bookroom was, but then, they probably don't need it anymore: there is possibly one classroom not filled with computers. And the balcony is no longer a balcony, but another room.

What a lot of memories for one weekend.

Monday 6: Spend most of the day preparing the notes for the training on Wednesday. Decide it has been too long, and ring our surgery. The receptionist confirms that they have received a letter from the hospital, so I book an appointment to see Dr Silvey first thing Thursday to talk about the results.

When I get home, the letter is waiting for me from the hospital. My osteoporosis has improved. My T score at the jumbar spine is now -2.3, up from the previous -3.2. So, still bad, but not quite as bad as it was two years ago.

Wednesday 8: the training tonight goes really well: Share Your Faith, part 1. It is the first time I've done it since restructuring, and the new approach seems to work. One of the eleven people present is not a Christian, and his comments are really helpful.

Friday 10: Sue takes the boys to Newbury. I have a Good Friday service on the Green by her work with the ACTS folk, and promised to bring the hymn sheets. It is lightly raining, at 12:15, but I go anyway and find a few folk there. We are joined by Philip Watkins and a few more, and so we make a start. The guy who is supposed to be leading the service never turns up, but we have an excellent time shared by thirty of us in the end, plus a number of others passing through.

Sue says the boys worked hard for their grandparents, sorting and clearing and cleaning. They did well, even when the fridge was found to be full of dead things, and no complaints.

Sunday 12: Alan returns to Warwick - in theory, to get some work done. I hope he manages it.

Monday 13: Sue and I go for a walk in Leigh Woods, the other side of the river. The two boys are not interested in joining us. It is quite beautiful. But we choose a trail which is supposed to have a number of sculptures, and we fail to find them. There is one rather nice carving, but not in the right place according to the map we are following.

Wednesday 15: another excellent evening training. The non-Christian from last week was supposed to be out of Bristol, but turns up again to our surprise, and joins in even more than last week. At the end of the evening, he goes away with a 'Life Recovery Bible' and promising to read it.

Saturday 18: the training today is a bit hard going. Mary - another non-Christian - joins us to translate into sign language for a deaf lady. This makes the whole interactive side of things much more difficult. But the feedback at the end is good.

In the evening, Sue and I are both back at Trinity Tabernacle for Andy Pagett's 60th birthday party. There are photos of him at all ages, which are quite fascinating, and some intesting people to meet.

Oddly, one person comes up and thanks me for an article I wrote several years ago - something about responding to vulnerable people and the gospel. I don't actually remember the article in question, but it sounds like the sort of thing I have done several versions of. It was really nice: he wanted me to know that these things don't just disappear, and they do bear fruit, even if we don't get to hear about it.

Sunday 19: preaching at Jesus Kingdom City this morning. A very warm welcome, and an enthusiastic service as expected.

Monday 20: after the lunchtime prayer, we have a farewell meal for Malcolm Widdecombe, arranged by Dawnecia Palmer. She does a stunning job. A great meal with great friends and great conversation. Malcolm opened the bottle of red wine, and it would have been unfriendly to leave him to drink it on his own.

Tuesday 21: at the Bristol Multi Faith Forum in the evening, Cass announces that she has been offered a job, and the next meeting in May will be her last. So we need to find another Chair.

Thursday 23: at breakfast, I need a new box of cereal. The bag splits, and I deposit quantities of muesli into Sue's pink bag. Vacuuming and cleaning the bag takes ages. Good thing I don't have to rush out.

We had massages booked for today, but it is Brenda's funeral so we cancel mine. Sue takes my slot at 10, and heads straight off to pick up Pip then on to St Johns in Woking.

I work through the day, then round to Esme for the Highgrove Global Partnerships meeting. It is good to see her again: she has recently been treated very badly at work, and is still recovering her equilibrium. As well as the GP meeting, we have the opportunity to pray for her.

The funeral went well, and Sue saw her parents afterwards. Their health is not too good.

Friday 24: Late meeting at work to talk through with Jim N-S the details of the two jobs we want to advertise. This takes longer than anticipated, so I don't manage to join Sue at the Health Club and grab as sauna as planned. Instead, Sue drives back for me, and I drive straight off to the Anabaptist Network.

I find the start a bit difficult. We are talking about chapter six of Dissident Discipleship, and as usual I had found it interesting, insightful and helpful. But all the comments at the start are from people who disagreed with various things - strangely, none of them actually in the text they had read - and complaining that Augsburger had not structured the chapter the way he shouuld have done. Spare me.

But once we split into two groups, things improve. One chap says he found it helpful because he struggles to find discussions and advice about spirituality that do not assume you are introvert. His spiritual director pointed out a while back that this is because most people who write about spirituality are introverts, and they can only describe practices and disciplines which are helpful to them. But Augsburger is clearly describing a spirituality which can be adopted by extroverts as well as introverts.

I point out, slightly tongue in cheek, that the extroverts don't need to write a book on extrovert spirituality, as it has already been written. It's called the Bible. Gosh, this gets a response. Interestingly, it is the chap working as a church leader who gives the strongest reaction: the Bible is full of introvert spirituality - look at all the times Jesus goes off to pray on His own. I make one of the obvious replies: count the number of verses, and you see which type of spirituality God is most interested in. I refrain from the other obvious point: the Bible says a great deal about how I put my faith into practice through activity and relationships with others; it says very little about how I put my faith into practice through my times of silent meditation, or any other practice which the teachers of introvert spirituality consider to be essential. It is my old question: if this is so important, why is it not in the Bible? But have asked this before, and asking again would have taken the discussion too far off course.

Saturday 25: dead on the stroke of 10 am, Alan Goddard pickes me up from home and we drive down to the office. Graham joins us, and we chat and pray for a while before Stephen Williams, our MP, joins us for nearly two hours.

We cover quite a bit of useful ground, mostly around the waste of money and human life caused by the lack of treatment for alcoholics and the difficulty of accessing various services. Stephen promises to follow this up, and suggests a few more routes we could pursue.

Stephen leaves us, I finish preparing the job adverts, and send them out. Then Sue picks me up and we drive to Coventry for the weekend.

We are later than planned, so instead of the hotel we head for the university campus, where Sue drops me off for the Go club. I meet Philip there, and we both play several games. I lose them all, one of them to Philip. He claims to be 25 kyu, but he is a lot stronger than I was when I was 25 kyu.

Then Sue and Alan pick us up and we go out for a Chinese meal. Very nice food, and it is good to just sit and chat with them both. Afterwards, Alan walks home - it is quicker than driving - then we drop Philip off and return (or not) to the hotel.

We are on the 14th floor, and the view over night time Coventry is really quite attractive. But the Wifi is only available on the first floor - if we want it in the room, we have to pay. And there is no sauna. But it is a bargain.

Sunday 26: the breakfast is quite good. Then Sue drives me back to campus for the Coventry Go Tournament, returns to the hotel and checks out. She spends the day mostly browsing the shops. Steve and Pauline Bailey are both there, along with some other familiar faces.

The first game gets off to a bad start: around move ten, I place my stone on the wrong row. No idea why. But I never manage to recover from that point. The bright side is that Philip wins his game, despite being entered at 20 kyu. I am entered at 7 kyu, but seem not to be playing at that level.

Lunch is very odd. After asking around, I end up at the Students Union, where we have eaten before. The cafe is late opening, then they take a long tiem to work out what they have on offer, and then it is a half hour wait. It seems they can't get into their food store because of the building work.

The second game is much better, but I end up allowing a large group to die. The battle for the group is very close, but the end result is a large loss. Philip wins again.

I am much happier with the final game. Lose it again, but this time I start to feel like I am playing something like the way I'm capable of. It is a close game, and a fair result. Sadly, Philip loses too - to Pauline Bailey, which gives her three out of three and a prize.

Sue has had a good day, apart from not seeing Alan juggling in the park as planned, because his plans have changed.

Monday 27: meeting in the morning with Kevan Jones MP, the Under Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans. It is very frustrating: he does not want to hear my contribution. It seems the official figures prove that veterans are no more likely to suffer from mental health problems than the rest of the population. I try to point out that the figures are not reliable - we know that people with serious mental health problems are not being diagnosed, and suspect that it is because there are no resources available to treat them. But he seems to deny that this is happening. And whether or not they suffer from more or worse mental health problems than the rest of us, there are many veterans who are not getting the help they need.

The meeting goes on longer than planned, and I am late for the BCAN seminar - Bishop Mike Hill speaking on 'Releasing the Energies of the People of God.' Bishop Mike is on good form, and talks interestingly and informatively. He makes a very good point that ministry is not about control. But he doesn't actually talk about what we need to do to make this happen. However, he does mention Alistair McGrath's book, 'The Twilight of Atheism' which sounds like something to read.

In the afternoon is a meeting at the Watershed with the DWP about preparing and planning for 'EY2010' - the European Year for combatting poverty and social exclusion. Not sure what will happen as a result, but manage some useful conversations and new contacts.

And then, to round off the day, Sue and I go with her walking friends to see Anthony and Cleopatra at the Tobacco Factory.

May 2009

Saturday 2: the Noise. Sue and I drive over to the Greenway Centre for registration and a coffee, some worship and a briefing. I am leading a team, but have to share the team leader's notes with two other team leaders. We drive back to Sea Mills, and after a lot of waiting around my team gets down to clearing the rubbish out of the Trym - just opposite our house.

It brings to mind the incident when I was at school and volunteered to help decorate an old building through the 'Task Force' scheme. The organiser insisted I would never find the location, so I walked two miles into Woolwich then waited for 45 minutes to be picked up. We then drove back to Woodhill - the street where I lived - and turned up the track at the side of my house. The destination was one of the two buildings at the back of our house, where I played regularly as a child. At the time, I was both furious and amused.

Still, this time we could not really have avoided the registration and compulsory health and safety briefing.

It is messy work, but we get masses of rubbish out of the river.

Sue has been asked to help with the catering for lunch at Highgrove, but it turns out that she was expected to organise it. Not sure what happened there. So she is, understandably, a bit stressed.

In the afternoon, we are at a Family Fun Day at the Rec. It starts slow, but the weather is good and the numbers build up.

Monday 4: Sue and I call in at the Redland May Fair, as has become our custom. Lots of people, despite the increasingly heavy rain. Then we go on to work and spend a few hours trying to catch up.

In the evening, Sue has a conversation with her father on the telephone. She had been planning to go with him to Reading Hospital tomorrow, but now he does not want her to go.

Tuesday 5: we drive in to work as usual, then Sue gets a phone call asking her to drive to Reading after all. Her father has some bleeding at the back of his eye, he cannot see, it is getting worse, and they want to operate. But just when seems a bit unclear.

Wednesday 6: I need to find Cass Howes to sign a cheque for the BMFF, and she is at Bristol Cathedral organising some aspect of the "Anne Frank [+ you}" exhibition. Can't find Cass, so look round the exhibition in the hope of spotting her. It seems a terrible wasted opportunity - so many questions not asked, and so many connections not made. I suppose it could be useful for school trips, when the teachers can help their class start to make the connections with the world we live in.

Friday 8: leave work early to have another injection by the nurse at Sea Mills surgery then back in to work. Was planning to attend Sister Annaliese's farewell service at St Agnes, but get tied up with answering the phone, talking with people and some urgent work. Fail to make it to the service at all, which is very sad.

Saturday 9: the training this morning, Faith and Social Action, goes really well. David from Canterbury contributes a fair amount, and by the end one of our volunteers has offered to go and stay with him to help him work out the details of helping homeless people in the house he has set up. You never know what will happen when you get people together, talking about things which matter to them.

Tuesday 12: off to Birmingham for a Jesus in the City meeting, which means I miss the Meaningful Occupation meeting back in Bristol. Things are going very well, all apart from the money: we need to find some more sponsorship, or re-think the pricing.

The meeting is scheduled to finish at 4, but they agree to break up fifteen minutes early to let me catch an earlier train back to Bristol. Sit with Bishop Roger, and have a fascinating conversation with him, including some teasing out of how you follow a radical Jesus from a position within the establishment of the state. You must be able to, but I still can't quite see how.

Home again about 6:30, so immediately out again for the Bristol Multi-Faith Forum at Henleaze URC. This means I have to miss Ken and Ali Barret at Highgrove, which is very frustrating.

Friday 15: Sue takes Ian and some friends to UWE for a Maths day, dropping me off at work en route. We are scheduled to look round The Junction, but due to a confused message the Estate Agent fails to show up at 12:30 when several and half my trustees are present. And then he turns up at 2:00 pm, but the licencee does not. A couple of people inside the pub look out at us and decide to hide rather than let us in. Frustrating.

Leave work early for the Highgrove Men's weekend. Sue has already left with our car to go with Esme and Chris Page to the Oasis weekend - the replacement for the one originally scheduled for the weekend of the snow in February.

Ed picks me up, then a couple of others, and we get to the weekend in good time. I share a room with John Stevens, who has a laptop with him and so we have the door locked all weekend. This makes for some intesting logistics.

First on the agenda is a competitive curry cook: four teams, each producing a curry in a fairly short timeframe. The we all get to sample all the results. Delicious, and wonderfully varied.

Saturday 16: in the morning we have the usual sort of sessions, around the motif of the Cave of Adullam, where David collected the folowers who would help him to power.

The plans change a bit, but David leads another walk in the afternoon - it must be something of a tradition by now. We return to the view over the Wye valley, quite stunning. But then the party walks along the edge of the drop, which I do not like at all. Take a more roundabout route to the next view, but still get there before the rest of the party, which suggests to me the route was not as problem-free as suggested. Certainly, I was glad not to be doing the last few yards. The rest of the walk in in sunshine and beautiful countryside until we are near the end, when the heavens open and we are completely drenched in a few minutes.

Over tea, I find myself again being the only person willing to defend our MPs. "I was only following orders" is not an acceptable response from a Concentration Camp Guard, but "I was keeping the rules" is an acceptable response when dealing with allowances and expenses. If we don't like it, the answer is to change the rules to something we do like - or change the discussion and accept there is an objective morality which goes beyond the personal and the private. But if society wishes to replace morality with rule-keeping, we should not be surprised when people decide that keeping the rules is enough.

There is a fascinating session in the evening: why don't the men in the church contribute more when given a chance in the Sunday morning services? I have two basic reasons: firstly, I am not invited to contribute what is on my heart (we are always told what it is we are being invited to contribute, which almost never corresponds to what I would wish to talk about); and secondly, when I offer to contribute, the response is always that we have a very packed service, so it is hard to fit you in, and if it is possible, please keep it very short. Given that context, it is hard to avoid concluding that whatever I may have to contribute to Highgrove at the Sunday services, the church basically does not want it.

Sunday 17: breakfast this morning includes bacon butties, with lots of bacon. Andrew Street speaks, and pulls together some strands of thought from the previous sessions. Then lunch: a wonderful roast dinner with chicken, pork and beef, roast potatoes and loads of yorshire puddings. Followed by several traditional steamed puddings and ice cream for dessert. I am unlikely to actually need to eat again for several weeks.

Ed drives several of us home again. I unpack a little, grab a quick coffee, then take the train to Redland for a sauna. Jon Rogers is on the train, as part of a FOSBR ('Friends of Severn Beach Railway') group celebrating the (still fairly new) Sunday service on the line.

Sue picks me up from the health club after we do a quick diary check, and we go round to the Sisters of the Church in Ashley Road for Sister Annaliese's farewell party. We are sorely going to miss her, but I can't begin to imagine how much she will miss all the people and the life she has built here over the past fifteen years.

In the evening, my mother phones as usual. She has another test scheduled for tomorrow, and might get the results there and then if no biopsy is needed. But most of last week was taken up with a hate campaign mounted against the family by members of a football team, who were upset by a member of a rival team. In a case of mistaken identity, they thought this chap was my brother's son (Roger doesn't have a son, as far as we know...) and lived with him (and he certainly doesn't have a son living with him!) - so they unleashed their anger on my parents and brother for the best part of the week.

It started at quarter past midnight on Monday morning: the phone rang, but nobody was on the line. After several more calls, they took the phone off hook until the morning. Then there were around 30 more calls during the day, pizzas being delivered, an Indian takeaway, and several cabs. And Roger received an email saying his son had been a naughty boy and would be punished.

On the Tuesday, they went to the Police, who, it appears, did nothing. There was, they said, 'not enough evidence'. I wonder what would count as enough evidence. BT advised them to sign up to the telephone preference service, as if that would make any difference. Lots of mail arrived from the Readers Digest, and a limousine came to the door.

Roger replied to the email, pointing out that he did not have a son and had no idea what they were talking about. At some point, they received two threatening letters saying that the real troubles would start by their windows being smashed in.

Roger received a reply to his email on Thursday: it seems the writer now considered that the hate campaign had probably gone far enough. Since then, the problems have been reducing, and have now 'almost stopped'.

I am astonished that neither the police nor BT could provide an adequate response to this situation. And frustrated that my parents and brother seem willing to just forget about it. The next time this gang target an innocent person, it could be an old lady who is scared to death.

Monday 18: Ian has a Sociology exam today. It goes 'all right'.

On Start the Week John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist, is invited to describe his book: God is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith is Changing the World. It's actually more interesting a proposition than it sounds. He makes the vital, and often-missed, point that the Modernist agenda is not secularist but pluralist.

This reminds me of a recent conversation with Steve. I was lamenting the fact that there is no word to describe what I am. You cannot, with any intellectual credibility, be a Modernist any more - not since the valid criticisms were raised by the Post-Modernists. But Post-Modernism is itself a simplistic and inadequate response to those problems, and fails to stand up. After all, we need the Engineers who build our bridges and cars to be Modernists who believe their equations have one right answer. But what can come after 'Post-Modernism'? We seem to have painted ourselves into a linguistic dead end. Steve suggested that 'Neo-Modernist' might work. I suppose it might.

Tuesday 19: Sue goes to a 'SecNet' breakfast, so I drive in on my own for once.

After a number of emails in the morning, several of us get to look round The Junction after the lunchtime prayer meeting. Frustratingly, it is close enough to what we are looking for to be worth considering, but not close enough to be the new number one choice.

In the evening it is the farewell drink and meal with Suzie from FareShare. I am about to leave when Lyn calls and needs to talk, and then there is a suicidal man at the door. I get to the pub, Robin Hood's Retreat, almost exactly an hour late. But in good time for the Indian meal.

The meal is excellent. Apart from the food - I discover a new dish, chicken filled with minced lamb - the conversation is a lovely combination of content and lightness. And, somehow, towards the end of the evening, I get to describe the plot of Fermat's Last Theorem to the assembled group. Don't often get the chance to talk maths and feel it is appreciated. We are going to miss Suzie. Andy and Marion give me a lift home afterwards, which is much appreciated.

Wednesday 20: At the ACTS meeting today, Father Richard makes reference to the Start the Week piece on Monday with John Micklethwait. Sister Hilda Mary had not heard the broadcast, but recognised the point as one that I had been making at the training session the previous week (the modern world is pluralist, not secular, which means there is room for a variety of spiritualities, including the secular option - despite most secularists wishing to rule out public spirituality as unacceptable). It was a minor point in the session last week, made in passing, and hearing this feedback feels very good.

Thursday 21: Ian has two Physics exams. I think the grunt says, "It's Physics, what do you expect?"

This afternoon, we have some folk down from London, from the national FareShare organisation - who run the FareShare 'franchise'. They come round to the Wild Goose, and Lisa does a wonderful job describing what we do with the food. Then on to Fairbridge where Fran describes what they do, and also how the Fairbridge local and national groups work together. Very helpful and relevant.

Then back to the warehouse, and an interesting meeting. An odd mixture of talking about partnership and the need to work together with some very clear messages: "this is how it's going to be, take it or leave it"; and "we can't control you so we don't trust you". I'm sure they had not thought about how those messages were going to sound. But there are some wonderful and competent people involved, so there's a good chance it will all work out somehow.

Some interesting questions being posed on the TV tonight: how do you cope when your actions harm others? And how do you make a difference, when involvement in the real world inevitably involves compromise?

Friday 22: Ian has Maths today. It goes well, of course.

I drive to Keynsham for a meeting with Dave Wiles. It is a bit shorter than usual, but useful as always. Dave is thinking again about the more contemplative approaches to spirituality, and about seeking to know 'God within'.

Saturday 23: Sue goes to Newbury for a family lunch, cooked this time by Pip. I offer to come, but am not needed. So I do a bit of work on the computer, and spend a long time in the garden, for the first time this year.

The plan was for us to go shopping when Sue got back, but she is too late getting away, so we postone the shopping until tomorrow.

Sunday 24: Clive Anderson is excellent this morning, as usual. He makes the brave point that moden feminism only works (or appears to work) in Western liberal democracies. You can claim that the problem is purely a matter of social conditioning, which can be fixed by argument and social reform. But when the women are being denied equal rights by an oppressive regime prepared to use as much violence as is required to sustain its power, then argument and social reform are not options. The vital question is how to respond to such a situation? I suspect the only two options are either even greater violence, or the moral power of self sacrifice. But it is easy for us to talk about such things, living in a liberal Western democracy.

On the way to church, there is some sort of demonstration outside the SITA depot, across the road from us. Various flags - one looks like it belongs to a union, but the others are limp and completely anonmymous.

Words at Highgrove. Just before the service starts, I'm asked to show a PowerPoint during a presentation. Can't get it to work in the time available. Rob is preaching and makes a very nice point about: food strengthens us not because it does anything as itself (we don't have bits of apple runnign round our insides doing stuff!) but by becoming a part of us, and contributing to what we do. The same is true of spiritual food: it works not through some mysterious presence, but by becoming a part of us.

This is relevant to the questions Dave was asking on Friday: the problem with looking for God is that you can never find Him. In a material world, He is never present as God - He is only ever present in or through the things you do find. You can look for the 'real' onion underneath the covering layers, but if you keep peeling the layers of the onion you never find the onion inside - the layers you peel are the onion. In looking for God, you may find human kindness. Do not discard it. God is present in the human kindness.

After church, Sue and I go to CostCo for a quick lunch and diary check, then buy a few bits for her work, and then up to Morrisons for a quick weekly shop.

When we get home, I cut my beard and hair, then go for a necessary sauna. David Race rings, and I leave Sue talking with him.

Monday 25: more people outside the SITA depot this morning.

On Start the Week this morning the developmental psychologist Bruce Hood talks about his research: it seems that people do not believe in the supernatural because religion tells them to; they believe in religion because it fits the supernatural understanding of the world they already have. This fits the Alpha Course advertising campaign - when they ask, "Is there more to life?" most people instinctively answer, "Yes," whether they are religious or not.

Sue goes to the gym. In the afternoon, we go to the Orpheus and watch Star Trek. Most enjoyable. Lots of references to the original series as unimportant details, the cast look like younger versions of the actors we are familiar with, and it ends with the familiar music and the five year mission. They got it right.

Tuesday 26: Graham Donald, Simon Bale and I shortlist the applicants for the two jobs we have been advertising, deciding who to invite for interview next week. It is a difficult choice, with lots of applicants, and it looks like most of them could do the job well.

Wednesday 27: in the evening, I drive down to Bath, to join the Bunyans men's group - invited by Dave Wiles. It is an interesting evening. The first contribution asks whether it is now time to disestablish the Church of England, and we progress from there through a range of interesting topics.

There is a fascinating range of views present. One chap clearly has problems with the Trinity, and another is convinced that the Galatians, to whom Paul wrote a letter, were Celts, and hence the letter tells us all about Celtic Christianity.

Dave returns to the subject of contemplation and the 'two ways' of knowing: one, through the intellect and rational thought; the other, through something deeper, connected with stillness. It seems to me the wrong distinctions are being made here: the two ways are surely reason and experience. We know a person's personality and habits, but we also know their face, and maybe their smell and the texture of their skin. The issue with rationality must be conected with the obvious point that any proper use of rationality must recognise the limits of our rationality. We must seek to define the terms we talk about, but must recognise there is a limit to our understanding. And you may not be able to define a thing precisely, but this does not mean the thing does not exist, or is not important.

All of which is not to deny the value of a regular change of pace and place - for a healthy, balanced life, you need some stilness and serenity as well as frantic activity; some meditation and contemplation as well as strategising and prioritising and decision making; some opportunity to step back and look at the bigger picture as well as the details of the daily battles. But these are essentially practical issues, and there is no need to elevate such things to some kind of mystical higher consciousness reality which requires arcane preparations and rituals to enable you to access it.

I suspect that most of this is fed by a basic fear most people have that they are missing out on something deep and important, and they need someone to give them to key to enable them to enter this new, unexplored realm. I think that most people already have the key, and have started their exploration. But they do not recognise this, as they don't have the words, or they don't use the same words as those used by the mystic writers.

Saturday 30: most of the day is spent shopping. We are looking for a wind-up radio for Sue: her old one jumped off a shelf. We don't buy one, but we do buy a necklace to replace the one which Ian and I managed to lose between us while Sue was in hospital for her brain surgery. We've been looking for a replacement since then...

Sunday 31: after church, Sue and I head off to spend the rest of the day at Abbey House Gardens. It's a beautiful day. Sadly, Ian Pollard is in hospital for (what we understand to be) a routine operation. But Barbara is around, welcoming people and answering questions. Including ours: we spent a while looking for 'Maple Walk' - a path down by the river at the East end. It turns out that the walk was being planned when the map was drawn up, but it never became reality. Fair enough. It was fun looking. And more of the sculptures had names and artists - which was the subject of our feedback from the last visit. We hope Ian recovers soon.

June 2009

Monday 1: a busy day, preparing for interviews at work. Plus a meeting at Voscur about charity registration, and the St Pauls Community Safety meeting.

Tuesday 2: Sue's birthday. She gets the necklace, all properly wrapped up. It's an oval with a celtic knot inside, which looks rather like an 'Ichthus' fish if you don't look too closely.

The interviews at work go well, except that one lady is not well enough to stay. Annoyingly, it turns out that we couldn't have given her the job, anyway. The successful candidate, Sian, is very good, but there was another candidate we would have interviewed if we had all the details when we shortlisted.

I leave work early to go to the dentist, then Sue drives to Temple Meads to pick up Kay - a friend from Australia who is staying with us for a couple of days.

It's lovely to catch up with her again, and we chat for ages.

Wednesday 3: Sue takes the day off to show Kay round Bristol. They have a great time. Ian's day is not quite as nice: he has a Chemistry exam. It goes... okay.

Interviews for the Volunteer Support Coordinator go well, but, again, one of the candidates pulls out at the last minute, and with full information we would have asked someone else to interview in their place. Still, again, the successful candiate, Steve, is very good.

Thursday 4: Sue has a 'New Yorker' cartoon calendar at work. Today, the picture shows a psychoanalyst with the patient on the couch, holding up an ink blot test, and saying: "There are no wrong answers - only perceived threats to national security."

Friday 5: Ian has a maths exam today, which is fine of course.

In the afternoon, Alan Goddard and I go to an interesting meeting with some folk from Safer Bristol. Not exactly a great meeting of minds. It was set up because they didn't like the notes from our meeting with Stephen Williams which we circulated a while back. But they didn't talk about the notes, or suggest that they were wrong or misleading in any way. And they didn't come up with the promised information about the number of people being sent outside Bristol for residential drug treatment, which has been 'easily available' for some time now.

Saturday 6: Prayer Breakfast first thing. I'm the only person from Highgrove. A couple from St Edyths are planning to move to Easton, which is fascinating.

In the afternoon, we drive in to Bristol for my appointment at the Bristol Eye Hospital. They do various tests and put a coloured dye into my eyes. The conclusion is that I have an infection which is probably not going to clear up but which can be managed through a cleaning regime and regular hot compresses over my eyes.

Sunday 7: I talk about CCM at Highgrove today - the first time I have been allowed to do so, which is a bit odd. It squeezes in as part of the missionary prayer, which is also a bit odd as we are not counted as part of the church's missionary activity. But it is good to be there at last, and it seems to go down well enough.

Tuesday 9: the Reith Lectures start today. Michael Sandel is brilliant. His subject today, morality and the market place, is the topic Ian and I were arguing about in New York last year. And Michael is presenting my position, but with far greater precision and clarity than I managed. It is the sort of talk I would like everyone to listen to and respond to. His points are simple, clear and well argued, but strangely, some of the studio audience afterwards obviously did not hear what he was saying.

Friday 12: the Anabaptist Network meets at Lloyd Peterson's house. Instead of talking about chapter 7, we get the chance to tell something of our story to each other. I talk about Mr Read and his influence on my life, and the growing realisation that much of the 'new' revelation I was discovering through the folk I met at Surrey had been part of his Christian background in the House Church he belonged to in Plumstead.

Saturday 13: Volunteer Training in the morning - an interesting and useful discussion. Then lunch with Sue, and we each go back to work for the afternoon. I do the shopping while Sue works through.

In the evening it is the One25 Night Walk. Sue is doing admin and I'm the First Aider back at base. There is a confusion over phones and all the walkers are given my number to call in case of emergency. But it doesn't generate as many calls as it could have done. Most of the night is spent working on some outstanding minutes on the netbook. We manage to leave around 2 am, and get to bed around 2:30.

Sunday 14: we sleep in, and get to church for the coffee at the end. Sue fills in a CRB form so that she can help with the kids during the services.

We have a quick sandwich, then out for a leisurely coffee and diary check at the cafe on the Downs. Sue walks home, and I go to the health club for a sauna. As often happens, spend a bit longer than planned, as I get chatting - this time, to a lady about the volunteer training we do.

Steve and Ian are watching the cricket: England playing India. I manage to wander in for England's final over, and then again for India's final over. Against my better judgement, it really is quite gripping. With 6 balls to go, India needed 19 runs. They got 15, including a superb six. Which means that England won with the boundary they hit from the final ball of their innings. Still not sure I would want to sit though an entire game, but those two overs really were edge-of-the-seat stuff.

In the evening, Sue and I watch Veronica Guerin, a surprisingly realistic portrait of the drugs war in Ireland in the 1990s.

Monday 15: there is a church barbecue at ADH in the evening for the people involved with worship. As a 'words' person, that includes me. I am the only person from Highgrove who turns up. As I'm beginning to regret this, Dave Mitchell comes up and chats, and then asks why I'm here. The Missions Prayer Meeting is also happening tonight - they don't seem to be able to add me to the email list. So I go in and join the Missions Prayer - an excellent evening after all.

Wednesday 17: off to Newport first thing for a Jesus in the City event there. The directions for driving and parking are not too helpful, but I arrive in time to get instructions, drive around, park, and get back for the start.

It's a very good day, with various interesting and helpful contributions, and several potentially useful contacts.

Back to Bristol just in time for an event that was billed as exploring 'Faith and Sexuality' but in fact is simply an opportunity for two homosexual Christians to describe their ministry. I am probably the only straight person present, and certainly the only white male. Several of the other people present are fairly antipathetic to traditional Christianity, or at least, what they think they know of it, so I have the opportunity to state a more reasonable position and tell them of my own experience of exploring Christian attitudes in this area. Whether it makes any difference, I have no idea.

Thursday 18: Sue was planning to take her father to hospital in Reading today, but Pip goes instead and gets stuck on the motorway. But it works out okay in the end.

Saturday 20: Praise in the Park. CCM has a stall and we get to talk with some folk. I do a short slot on the parable of the sheep and the goats. On the way back to work with the disply stand, we come across one of our clients who has been sectioned, but he is sitting on a wall quite drunk. The Police come and eventually persuade him to get into a van...

Dump the publicity materials at work, then walk down to the Better Food place where Sue is waiting for me with a coffee, and on to Tescos for the weekly shop. We bump into Robin, one of the other Voscur directors, but he can't stop to chat.

Monday 22: out for a drink with John Stevens in the evening - stimulating as always.

Tuesday 23: Sue goes to the doctor to check her blood pressure. It is fine.

Wednesday 24: the 'State of the City' conference run by the Bristol Partnership today. Lots of opportunity to feed in useful bits on a variety of topics, but as always it is not clear what will be done with all this information and helpful ideas.

Friday 26: my birthday, and we have both taken the day off work, as we are spending the weekend at a jazz weekend at Brocken Hurst in Kent. After packing, we have an easy and leisurely drive to Paul and Sue Cockburn, who have kindly offered to give us a bed for the weekend.

We arrive in time to see one of their offspring being driven off to a school Prom, and then enjoy a meal together before we shoot off for the start of the jazz weekend.

We are a bit late, but the Gary Potter Quartet are even later. They are quite excellent, as are the second group ("The Frank Toms Trio with Art Theman and Ronnie Hughes"). But sadly, because it started an hour late we can't cope with staying to the end.

Saturday 27: over breakfast, Sue gets a phone call from Philip. He is at university, waiting for me to bring him home. He has to vacate his room this morning. Am I nearly there? Err... we are planning to pick him up next weekend. Not sure where the breakdown in communication happened, or why it was not picked up. Even if we set out immediately, we could not get to him in time. As plan B, Philip gets a taxi to take him and his stuff to Alan's house, drops most of it there and then gets the train home.

No jazz in the morning (only a jam session, which we decide to skip), so we go out for a walk with t'other Paul and Sue. Beautiful countryside. Then we take them out for a meal as a way of sying thank you for having us to stay: a bit difficult, as we don't know of places to go, or what they prefer to eat.

The afternoon starts with a "New Orleans Umbrella Parade" led by Al Fresco's Indoor Four (!)- we follow the parade, but avoid twirling an umbrella. They continue to play in the marquee, and are joined by Eileen Ford, a singer, after the break. Eileen has just finished "Raining in my heart" when the heavens open up, and the marquee suddenly fills up with the people who have been listening outside.

They are followed by Steve Waterman, Vasilis Xenopoulos and the Frank Toms Trio, who play through intermittent rain.

When the music finishes in the afternoon, I go and pay for a sauna, and then discover that the sauna has just closed for the day. Very frustrating.

The Alan Barnes Quintet finishes the day. Alan likes name-dropping, but then, given the people he has played for (including the Pasadena Roof Orchestra and the much lamented Humphrey Lyttleton), who can blame him?

Sunday 28: we slip in to the service at Brocken Hurst a few minutes late, as usual, during the first hymn. But a good number turn up even later, so that is okay-ish. Hugh Crozier, who is due to play later in the day, does a 'piano medley' which is okay but nothing special. The message, divided into two parts, on the theme "It does what it says on the tin" is nice and thoughtful.

I leave Sue to enjoy the music at noon, when the sauna opens. But this is when it gets switched on, so I then go for a swim while it warms up. After that it is very nice... right up to the very end, when I am about to shower for the last time. And the water goes off. Just for five or ten minutes. After twenty-five minutes, I go in search of another shower block where the water is still working. Of course, the water is back by the time I return. Sue wants to know what I've been up to. I have missed Hugh Crozier playing, and Sue says he was excellent.

In the afternoon we have Jack Honeyborne ('played with Vera Lyn') Enrico Tomasso and Willie Garnet. They are highly entertaining, and we stay longer than planned. But we have to leave at the break - staying to the end was never going to be an option with work tomorrow morning, and now we have to get back for a joyful reunion with Philip. It is a good, fast journey back. Philip takes the mix-up very philosophically.

Monday 29: Ian goes to the Bath Higher Education Fair, but is not impressed.

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