Wednesday 1: meeting in the morning at BDA run by the council to talk about how they administer grant funding. It would have been a useful session if they had not called me in to a meeting a few weeks ago to talk about the same subject.
One person asked about the amount of flexibility in the budget. They explained that they cannot give us this information in general terms as different grants vary a great deal in size - an acceptable variation for one group would be far too large for another. I suggested that the leeway could be expressed as a percentage of the full amount. They will go away and think about this good idea.
Global Partnerships in the evening. We need more people: several of our number are going abroad to become global partners.
Saturday 4: Pip and Barbara come down to Bristol for the weekend, to visit Sue. I drive up to Warwick to collect Alan and Philip and Alan's belongings. In the evening, I drive into Bristol to pick up Sue. Because of the Carnival, I can't park anywhere sensible, so I park in the new Cabot Circus car park for the first time. Find them in a restaurant, then we walk back to the sisters' hotel, which is where I stayed on my first time in Bristol, being trained in Life Assurance.
The New Scientist has a fascinating article about The End of War: "A growing number of experts are now arguing that the urge to wage war is not innate, and that humanity is already moving in a direction that could make war a thing of the past." Both fascinating and strangely plausible.
Sunday 5: preaching at Emerson Green Community Church in the morning. We didn't manage to communicate quite as well as we might have done, and the time I think I am expected to stop talking is actually the time when they need to vacate the room they have rented in the Village Hall. But they seem a nice bunch of people.
Tuesday 7: Alan's birthday. We don't do birthdays terribly well... he doesn't want a fuss made, so we can't make much of a fuss. Sue is planning for us all to go out for a meal together at some point to celebrate his birthday, but we can't work out a date for this.
Sunday 12: lunch and a session with David and Karen after church in the morning, 'sending' them off. Esme organises an effective lunch very efficiently - it seems she has done this sort of thing before.
Monday 13: Alan's graduation from Warwick. My parents and Roger join us there. Ian is at school, and Philip is not interested in coming. Alan is smart, possibly smarter than at any point since his first day at St Mary Redcliffe, and my father manages to walk right past him.
There is a sort of reception at Alan's department, so we walk round, mainly to see the place. We are only there for a few minutes, but discover as we try to leave that the rain is pouring down. It eases off after a few minutes, and we head back to the Arts Centre and the graduation.
Alan has two tickets, for Sue and me, but Roger and my parents queue for spare tickets. Alan has to be seated by 2:30, so we go in at the same time. We have, it seems, almost ideal seats - on the balcony, just to the side of the front of the platform. Alan is in the middle, five or six rows back. He spots us, but doesn't wave.
Parents and Roger arrive at the back. It turns out that there were 50 spare tickets available, and they got tickets 47-49.
Looking at the programme, I am over the moon to discover that James Martin is being given an honorary degree today. Of course, young people today don't know who he is... His acceptance speech is inspirational, concise and precise, and largely based on his film.
Our seat is not quite perfect. We are on the wrong side - everyone walks up to the plaform with their back to us. But Roger manages to get a blurred photograph of Alan going up to receive his degree.
Afterwards, we go out for a meal in Kenilworth, which goes very well. Then we collect most of Alan's bits from his house, and drive home. We leave Alan to come home with his bike on the train tomorrow.
Wednesday 15: this morning I have a meeting with Ian Webb from the Bristol Methodist Centre. We want to work more closely together, the quetion is: how? One possibility is to run a Charity Shop together, and we agree to go away and look at the possibilities.
Sue works late - she is under a lot of pressure at work at present. Instead of getting the bus home, she picks me up from work, drops me off at the Health Club, and then goes on to the choir with Esme. I have a quick sauna and catch the train home.
Sue brings Ian a photocopy of an article from the Bristol Evening Post about the 'Ghost Bike' on the Portway. He is still not convinced of the wisdom of using the cycle path. From the Bristol Evening Post "Ghost Bike" story:
"A spray painted bicycle has been chained to a lamppost on the Portway in Bristol as a tribute to cyclist Nick Abraham, who was killed in an accident on the road in January.
"The bike, which has been spray painted completely white and chained to the post beneath floral tributes near the accident site, is marked: "Nick Abraham 6 Jan 2009".
"It is not clear who chained up the bike, which appeared shortly after what would have been Mr Abraham's 30th birthday on June 17, but it is believed to have been left as a "ghost bike" tribute.
"Ghost bikes, which first appeared in the US in 2003, commemorate the dead as well as drawing attention to the dangers on the roads."
Friday 17: after lengthy negotiations with our boys, we established that Alan and Philip will be going to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince with friends, and Ian probably will too. So we go to the Orpheus after work on our own, after grabbing a quick sandwich in Pret A Manger in Cabot Circus.
The film is completely packed, of course. The audience is mainly old teens and young adults, and is lively. At times, I can't tell if they are responding to each other or to some subtlety in the film I have missed. But it is hugely enjoyable. Probably kinder in its portrayal of teenage angst than the book, but it is Hollywood, and they do have to cut most of the content out to make it a commercial length. Philip is working there tonight, on duty when we arrive but long gone by the time we come out.
Back home, Alan is not packed for going to the Lake District with friends. He is confident that all he has to do is throw everything on his bed into a case...
Saturday 18: Alan is collected, not quite at nine, but sooner than we expected. Then Esme comes and collects Sue to go singing at a community festival at the Greenway Centre. And I go in to work, to try and finish some of the urgent bits that did not get completed yesterday.
After singing, Sue goes home and then gets the bus into town. We grab a quick lunch at Debenhams, do a diary check, and then drive off to Morrisons for the weekly shop. But on the way, we call in to the new green art gallery in Gosvenor Road. Been meaning to look round for a while. A beautiful lamp made out of gramaphone horns, but much too large for our house. Some very disturbing lights which use dead animals and birds.
After shopping, we take the food home to unpack. Then Sue goes to the Gym while I go back to work and finish the preparation for the board meeting on Monday. Our email and web site are down at work, which doesn't help.
Sunday 19: our Housegroup are setting up at church, and I'm doing words again. New computer, old package which seems to be the best combination. Linda talks briefly about the importance of small actions, and Pam preaches on Ruth, which fits well.
After a quick sandwich, I go round to David Bolton and try to get his computer to print a graphic image of a mathematical function - something he wants to do for the teaching he will be doing in Africa. But it is a DOS program - QBASIC! Didn't know anyone still used it. I can find no way to print the image, but offer some suggestions about possible ways forward.
Alan has sent Sue a text from the top of Scafell Pike. His twitter says "Visibility is poor but otherwise weather has been surprisingly nice."
The afternoon is spent in a Voscur board meeting. Talking again about the future of ChangeUp and VCS infrastructure. Reality and politics just don't mix.
In the evening, Alan Goddard drives me to Salisbury for the Alabaré AGM. The prayers at the start are dire, but the rest is done well, and we get to meet a number of folk afterwards.
Back home, I discover that Alan is home again, a day earlier than planned. They decided to leave the Lake District before they drowned, which was probably wise. But he left his stuff and went out again straight away, not planning to be back tonight, so I don't see him.
Friday 24: a meeting at Muller House goes on a bit longer than expected, and I drive straight round to Sue. We were going to have a quick lunch, but Ian has rung so she goes straight off to pick him up after his week away and take him home. He has seen several shows, and most of them were not very good. He drops his things off, and almost immediately heads out again to stay the night, as usual on a Friday, with his friend Jake.
Sue and I have a late coffee together, do our weekly diary check, then I drop her off at the health club to use the gym while I go on to an Anabaptist Wine Tasting evening.
It's a fascinating experience. To be honest, I don't pick up on most of the aromas people talk about, but the differences between the various wines are really interesting. Even the same wine from different years can taste remarkably different. I can't remember all the details, but for several of us, one of the wines we sampled was by far the most expensive wine we have ever tasted. I'm not likely to start spending lots of money on wine, but I can understand a bit better the differences between them, and why you might choose to spend a bit extra.
We have a bit of a discussion on the New Scientist article about 'The End of War' - I ask about the Anabaptist perspective on the origins of war. But the discussion degenerates into a criticism of politicians and how you can't trust any of them, which is not really the point. But still, it is an enjoyable evening. At some point, someone comments it is 11:30, and I feel the need to go home.
Saturday 25: Ian's friend Travis calls round for Ian around 12:30. We explain that Ian is not home yet, but he is welcome to come in and ring him. He rings and they chat for a while. Then Ian wanders out of the lounge. "I've been home for ages," he says. It seems we are terribly remiss for not knowing he had come home. Which does not explain why, when he is expecting a friend, he does not respond to the door bell - but that is probably our fault, too, somehow...
Sunday 26: on the radio this morning is young lady who feels her accent is holding her back: "People don't listen to what I say because of my accent. But I'm proud of my accent, and I wouldn't change it even if I wanted to."
After church at Highgrove, we shoot off straight away. I drop Sue at the Health Club, and go on to Parkway Methodist, where Audrey and Ed's final service has just finished, and we have lunch together to say goodbye to them. Lots of good, tasty food, and several interesting discussions. It's sad to say goodbye to Ed and Audrey, and I hope they find their small place in Lyme Regis turns into the home they are looking for.
Monday 27: the New Scientist this week has an interesting article on economics: Falling out of love with market myths. It starts off:
"MY STORY starts with a theory that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher sold us. It is called "supply-side economics", and it claims that economic growth depends, first, on the rich (not the poor) being rewarded with tax cuts; and second, on markets being freed from regulation.
"Clearly the theory is flawed. The rush by bankers to pay themselves large bonuses, even as their failing banks were being nationalised, reveals the true function of this bloated remuneration - to benefit only its recipients - while the banks failed precisely because their regulation was too lax.
"Supply-side economics was buttressed by two further theories: "rational expectations" and "efficient markets". As their names imply, these assume that traders do not make systematic errors when predicting the future, and that the prices of financial products such as shares, bonds and property accurately reflect all relevant information.
"Yet traders do make systematic errors of prediction, and the prices of financial products can actually reflect misinformation. The real function of these economic theories was manifestly to help the rich justify the methods by which they grew even richer."
It goes on to point out that according to the models used, it is impossible to make a profit (in a perfect market, you can be undercut by a competitor prepared to make less profit) and nobody will pay for R&D.
Interestingly, it also goes on to argue that government money for research crowds out more private money than it supplies. Lots of interesting and frightening observations on the weakness of current economic models.
Tuesday 28: Most of the day is spent at the Compass Centre, being told about Recovery Dynamics, a very odd experience. The results of their work are brilliant, but some of the theoretical basis is strange - they insist, for example, that the alcoholic is allergic to alcohol, and that a disease must by definition be fatal.
On the way down, we fail to spot the BookBarn, but do find a farm shop and restaurant we have enjoyed before.
Mark and Sue are already at the cottage, with Nathalie and Joseph, but have not been there long. Sue is managing very well with her arm in a sling, and doing a lot more than usual (one assumes) with her teeth. It seems the peat bog was very boggy, so there was a board walk over the top, and that is where she fell.
After the kids have gone to bed, we watch a program about the insane Frenchman who did a tightrope walk betwee the Twin Towers in New York, and the insane people who helped him. It sparks off some intersting discussion.
Sunday 2: Mark and I drive off with Nathalie, leaving Sue to take Joseph to his Scripture Union camp in Salisbury. The sat nav takes us along long and winding roads. At one point, we take a long cut to get ahead of some farm equipment, and just manage to beat it to the next junction. Apart from that, the journey is uneventful, and we are only a few minutes late. Others are even later, because there was a pile-up on the motorway.
Nathalie is dropped off, with her bag (we nearly left it behind), cake and medicines. She knows various people from last year. On the way back, we keep more to the main roads, which is much faster.
It is a good idea, mostly: Lyndhurst is a beautiful place, but the traffic jam going into the place is dreadful. They really need a by-pass.
We eventually get to the car park and find a spot. I go to buy a ticket, and strangely find one sitting in the machine, ready to be used. It seems to have been produced about half an hour earlier. There is nobody around, so I say a quick prayer of thanks and take it.
We poke our nose into the New Forest Centre, but there is no coffee available so we go and find a coffee shop with wi-fi. By this time, it is 11:30 so we give in to temptation and have a late morning snack or early small lunch.
The church, set on quite a substantial mound, has several interesting features, including a three-level pulpit. The famous detail is that Alice (née Liddell, of Alice in Wonderland fame) is buried in the churchyard there.
We go into a book shop, and a fascinating shop with a wide variety of products made of wood - toys, beautiful decorations, useful kitchen products, games, and things we can't work out at all.
At the other end of the town is a war memorial and a bench around a small copse on a small hill overlooking meadow and forest - very English and very beautiful. There are numerous New Forest ponies, and one decides to gallop alongside the road for some distance.
There is a map on the site, advertising the "Rufus Stone", so after returning to the car, that is where we head for. It's not actually a stone, more an iron monument around the original stone, with the story on three sides:
"Here stood the oak tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100. King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, being slain, as before related, was laid in a cart, belonging to one Purkis, and drawn from hence, to Winchester, and buried in the Cathedral Church, of that city."
There is not much to see, but the location is rather lovely. We take a few pictures and decide to go home, but are tempted by a pub, the Sir Walter Tyrrell, where we stop and have pudding and coffee. It seems that we as a nation are not too comfortable with killing kings deliberately, but people who do it by accident are probably decent chaps.
Tuesday 4: in the morning, we wander round Fordingbridge a while, then drive out to Furzey Gardens, not far from the Rufus Stone. There is a small art gallery. The pictures are mostly okay, but a few pen and ink works are an absolute delight - neither of us could stop smiling when we looked at them. And upstairs are some wonderful sculptures. And it keeps us dry while the rain stops.
We wander round the gardens - quite a maze, and great fun finding everything on the map. I explore a tower and treehouse, but Sue sensibly stays with her feet on a firm surface. There is an exhibition of thatching, and an old cottage with a lot of original features, which my father would really enjoy.
We look round the local church. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is supposed to be buried there, but the grave does not appear to be marked - not well enough for us to find it, anyway.
When we return, Mark and Sue are back. Sue's arm has wires holding everything in place and plaster all round - which scuppers their plan to fly home together.
I leave them to have tea while I drive to Bournemouth and to the Littledown leisure centre there, which is just the right side of Bournemouth, for a sauna. It's a good sauna - a decent temperature, good size and three levels of bench - but very open plan, I have to wear a swimming costume all the time, and several times people dither around the door, or wander in, decide they don't like the heat, and wander out again. And no conversation.
Wednesday 5: the four of us can do something together for the first time, so we visit Bournemouth: Sue wants to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and we don't mind seeing it again. Afterwards, we walk along the front and have an ice-cream. There are people in the sea, which seems very surprising, but we have to remind ourselves that this is Summer after all.
Thursday 6: Mark stays home and cooks luch for us, while Sue, Sue and I look round the Fordingbridge Museum. Predictably, there is a fair amount of material about Augustus John, which is quite interesting. They also have a gory poem about a smuggler and his gang, which ends with the wise advice that you should not die for a cup of tea.
After lunch, Mark, Sue and I go shopping in Salisbury in the rain, buy Mark some shoes and Sue H a new bag, then drink a coffee and catch up on the urgent email.
We are completely drenched walking to the Cathedral, but it's worth the visit. The new font is stunning, and starts a conversation about how you consecrate running water. Apparently, every school child in the country knows that Salisbury, at 404 feet, has the highest steeple in England. But they possibly don't also know it has the oldest working clock in the world. We just manage to see the Magna Carta, but not get a coffee, before the communion service starts.
The choir is good, the sermon dreadful, and the incense profound. We have to dash away as quickly as possible at the end, to catch the bus back to the Park and Ride where we left the car. The driver is disappointed - he expected to be able to go back to the terminus. We are the only people on the bus, and therefore the only car left in the car park.
Friday 7: Sue, Sue and I drive back to Bournemouth - me for another sauna, and them to do some more shopping. Mark meanwhile drives their car to Bristol with most of our luggage to drop it off, have lunch with Alan and offer him a job for a few months.
Saturday 8: we pack the last few bits into the car, and drive in to Salisbury to attend the final session of the Scripture Union camp. There is a nicely done sketch by two of the volunteers, telling us what happened during the week. We pick up Joseph, and drive to Wells, where we meet Mark and Nathalie and have some lunch. Sue and I bid the Howes a tearful farewell, and drive home.
Ian is out playing cricket. When we eventually get to talk to him, we arrange to come and pick him up, and all go out for a meal. Because we are in the Aztec West area, we find ourselves at the Aztec Hotel and Spa. After some messing around, we get a couple of tables at 'Quarter Jacks'. The reason we want to go out for a meal is that Steve Poulard is talking about moving on, and we need to break the news to the boys and get their reactions about what they would like to do. On our current income, we can't afford to buy the rest of the house from Steve, so we need to start some serious planning.
Sunday 9: there is a baptism service at Highgrove, and astonishingly we are not late. It's a nice feeling. After a quick bite, we go and do the week's shopping, then down to the health club where Sue uses the gym and I use the sauna.
Ian shows us the trophy he won last weekend: the Bristol Youth Cricket League Bill Davis Under-17 Runners-Up Trophy. Very nice, on a marble stand.
Monday 10: after the prayer meeting, I go out for a coffee with Andy Pagett. We drive a few yards from the churchyard at Pip'n'Jay, which is about to be locked, and find a convenient parking place just opposite, then walk to the nearby hotel. While sitting in the hotel, a very odd incident occurs. A man arrives with Dawnecia - Rev Palmer - and Dawnecia asks Andy if she she can borrow his phone. He can't find it. Then the other chap produces it with a great smile.
The story is that this chap was going to meet Dawnecia when he found a phone on the pavement - Andy must have dropped it between parking the car and arriving at the hotel. He told Dawnecia he found it, she suggested that he ring her with it (why?) and discovered that the number is recognised by her phone as belonging to Andy. Then she found Andy and I sitting and chatting over a coffee. Just how unlikely is that sequence?
In the evening, we have a very difficult board meeting. I had hoped we could make a decision in principle to put in an offer for a new property, but this was scuppered and the meeting de-railed. Very frustrating. I'm sure we can work through it, but this just means more delay.
Sue arranges some insurance for Philip - we pay for it, and it enables him to drive our car, but it is his insurance, and his claim if he has an accident. Just for a month, to give him more practice before his test.
In the evening, Philip drives Sue and I to the Orpheus where we watch Moon. Not quite sure what I was expecting, but it was an interesting idea and nicely done.
Saturday 15: As usual on a Friday night, Ian went to stay with a friend - this time on the strict understanding that he was back in time to leave the house at 10 am. No rolling in at 9:50 and expecting to shower! Yes, of course. How could you doubt me? So he actually turns up at 10:10, needing to shower.
Still, we get away soon after half past, heading for a pub near Mapledurham, near Reading, where we are planning to meet my parents and Roger. We are only about ten minutes late, having booked a table in the restaurant the previous night just in case. But parents are held up on the M25 and turn up an hour later.
The booking was unnecessary: we are almost the only guests, which is a shame, as the food is excellent.
On to Mapledurham, which was the location for most of the action in The Eagle Has Landed, as well as boasting the oldest working mill on the Thames - the scene of the pivotal accident in the film. We tour the mill with a guide, then on to the house and wander round. It's not a large place, but still full of interest, and it's easy to engage the members of staff with questions.
The church is worth a visit: the South aisle is claimed as Catholic, and cannot be reached from inside the church - some 400 years ago, they built a wall and railings to keep people out. Obviously, these Anglicans can't be allowed to venture onto sacred Catholic ground. They have some folders in the church with details of some of the projects the church supports... an excellent idea, until you start to read it and discover that nothing has been updated for the past ten years.
The tea shop closes, so we drive off to another pub for a quick coffee together before heading home. Roger tries to confuse us with some counter-intuitive maths, so the boys and I reply with the old chestnut about choosing the one box with money in it, and then being offered the chance to change after one box is taken away. Most entertaining
Thursday 20: Sue and I head out first thing to visit the Banksy exhibition. We are a bit later than planned, but did not anticipate such a long walk to reach the end of the queue. The exhibition opens at 10, and we join the queue at twenty past, after a short detour to pick up some coffee en route. Soon after, we pass a sign saying it is a three hour wait - and, sure enough, three hours later we reach the front of the queue.
We have already seen picture of many of the works on display, but seeing it all together in one place is brilliant, and such fun. The guy is a genius with a social conscience, even if some of the morality is slightly heavy-handed. And some of the animatronics is just sublime. Unfortunately, the crowd makes it difficult to fully appreciate some of the works, but we are hardly in a position to complain there.
We do a quick tour of the rest of the building, revisiting some familiar works, but mostly looking out for the extra bits and the works modified by Banksy - 'a local artist'.
The plan was for us to join the Anabaptists in a walk later in the day, but by the time we get home Sue is not feeling up to it, so I drive off on my own. The journey is fine, up to the end of the M48. After that, I crawl until I can leave the motorway. Having come so far, I continue to Crickhowell, but arrive nearly an hour late and the party is long departed. And I don't have a mobile number for anyone. I go for a coffee in the pub they are due to return to at the end, but nobody comes and eventually drive all the way home again without seeing anyone. Very frustrating.
Sunday 23: I do the words at church. The remote control for the projector is missing, but fortunately Ed is present and knows where the spare is kept. Most of the words to one of the songs is missing, but we discover this just in time for me to type in the missing words before the service starts. So it all goes pretty well. Andy Street is talking about debt, and does one of the best short summaries of the global problem I've heard in a long time. Further searching after the service reveals the missing control in the bag with the old computer - very strange.
"Our view is that the challenges that are going to face us in the next 30 years are very significant. Every child in school will see changes that are bigger than those seen in the Industrial Revolution. But we also see an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions as a fantastic challenge, not a negative thing. Our view is that the secret does lie in a series of lifestyle changes but also in revisiting what we mean by community."
Which sounds rather sensible. And then, later, he makes a facinating observation about how to encourage people to change their behaviour:
"I saw some research last week from America’s Yellowstone Park. When they put up signs saying: ‘Please don’t litter’ littering went up. Saying ‘Please don’t litter’ makes it acceptable that littering has taken place, whereas signs saying: ‘People who love the environment take their litter home’ saw people take it home."
Saturday 29: Alan Goddard picks me up at 7, then we pick up Steve White and Alan drives us to Canterbury to visit David and his wife. It's a long but very useful day: we come up with an plan which sounds plausible. They set up a Christian community, which can then be used as a base from which to help homeless people, and to which a few homeless people can be invited, to stay for a while.
Saturday 5: Sue and I take boys to see District 9 at the Orpheus. It is a fascinating experience, and not something Hollywood could have created. A South African film about species-prejudice is a brilliant idea, and it is beautifully worked out.
Ajay Singh is inducted to Parkway in the afternoon.
Friday 11: a long session with Caroline in the afternoon, talking about the practical issues relating to the BCAN web site, and the priorities of the various bits of work that need to be done. Long and tiring, but I think useful.
Sunday 13: Sue takes the boys to Newbury for the day, and they drop me off at Easton Christian Family Centre en route. I really enjoy the service, it feels very comfortable and like home. And the sermon goes down well. It is just a wonderful time.
Afterwards, walk back to the office and drop the publicity off, then on to the Gym for a sauna, and a train home.
Tuesday 15: a full day. Some ladies from Teen Challenge come down to spend a week with us, so a short induction session with them. Then meetings and sorting out practical bits before I go away, and the BMFF in the evening.
Back home, and throw some books and clothes into a suitcase. Then spend the rest of the night sorting and tidying. Not been home much recently, so there is a lot to be done. Sue is packing until 2:30, and at this point there is little point in trying to get any sleep.
The journey goes well, no hold-ups, and parking at the Airport Tavern is very efficient, so we are at the airport and checked in just before schedule at 5 am.
The EasyJet computer has broken, and the queues for EasyJet flights stretch a frighteningly long way. Very glad we are not flying with them today.
Pick up the currency, then through the security check. Sue sets the scanner off, but I don’t for once. But they want to check my netbook - presumably for traces of drugs, as they wipe a sponge on a stick over it.
The plane leaves on schedule at 7, and the winds are good, so we arrive, as the pilot promised, after only 3½ hours - a full 30 minutes early. An astonishingly good journey. But then it starts to go downhill...
There is a long wait at the baggage reclaim, and then only a few bags appear before the conveyor belt stops again. Another long wait, and eventually the rest of the bags arrive.
Then we start to queue at the Hertz counter. There are only six or eight couples ahead of us, which looks quite promising. But the fastest of them take a long time, and the longest are quite mind-boggling. I mentally complete a major project of business process re-engineering in the hire car business... just need to get it documented, and I could make my fortune. We are still waiting in the queue at 1 pm.
Once we get the documents and keys, we walk to the wrong end of the car park, then have to go right to the other end to find the car, a black Polo. And it has several scratches we were not told about, so we take pictures and return to the desk to get them added to the record.
But then the journey to Correlejo is fine, Infiniti is exactly where we left it and we drive there without mishap or going astray, arriving just after 2 pm. Some of the previous guests have not left yet, and we are asked not to use the swimming pool until 4 pm, which is fair enough. However the sauna has just broken, which is a serious blow: it is one of the reasons for booking the place. They hope to have the sauna fixed 'in a few days'.
We unpack, I have a short swim, and then we wander down to the Campanario to find something to eat and a supermarket. We choose a paella in one of the restaurants there, but are terribly disappointed: it is almost entirely flavoured rice.
An early night...
Thursday 17: we sleep in, unsurprisingly. I have a swim before breakfast. It is not really warm enough for Sue to swim, but she enjoys sitting on the terrace, using the Internet on my netbook. Wifi access in our room is another reason for coming to Infiniti.
Sue does not feel like doing much, and I have not had a sauna since Sunday, so I go round to the Hotel Arena, where we stayed in March. They allow guests to book the sauna, so I book it, and return in an hour.
As before, it is clean and everything works, but concrete and sterile. And functionally underground - no air, and no windows. But it is a suana, and much appreciated.
Back to Sue at Infiniti, and a late lunch.
We drive off to El Cotillo. The art display is closed, so we wander around the town. Behind a shopping centre being built they have a beached pirate ship at the top of a small cliff, and the flooring we were watching them build near the foot of the Blue Cow has now been completed.
We walk down some steps to the harbour, where some men are loading a fishing net into a boat. When we get down to the harbour side, we discover that the building is actually a set of high quality beach huts.
Back at Infiniti, we cook some pizza and watch In Bruges: not politically correct, and not a fun film, but full of sharp dialogue, good performances, and it keeps on surprising.
Our aim today is to visit the Mirador de Morro Velosa, another building by Manrique. We visited in March, but it was closed that day. This time it is open, so we can drive up to the car park - much easier than walking. The view (from a height of 669m) is as breathtaking as before, but we are a bit disappointed by the architecture (good, but not up to his usual standard) and very disappointed by the toilets (could have been designed by anyone). The place advertises a restaurant, but it only serves coffee, crisps and peanuts. So we have a quick coffee and head back down the mountain to Antigua.
On the main road, we pass the nice cake shop from last time - we had forgotten where it was. So we stop, and go in for a late lunch a toasted ham and cheese sandwich and a piece of a meat and vegetable covered tart, plus some cake. Nothing has a label or a price, although there is a small price list - not much use if you don't know what everything is. The staff don't speak English, but that is all part of the fun.
Continue South and stop at Tuineje, where we do not find the museum. We are outside a shop where a group is due to gather for a pilgrimage walk around 6, so we decide not to stay and keep looking.
Down along the FV20 towards Gran Tarajal, then up the FV2 to Calete de Fuste, where we stop outside the Windmill Bar, and go in for another coffee.
After some searching, we find the 3D film advertised in one of the leaflets. A performance is about to start, so we put on our glasses and enjoy the show. The films are home made by the lady's partner, and shown by two projectors projecting through polariod film. It is all hand built out of readily available products. I find a home made 3D film very satisfying - and the two films we watch are well made. We are the only people in the showing. It is not cheap, but probably very good value for a private film showing.
After this, we are in need of a little something, and find a place selling rather nice pancakes. Then we go in search of the local cutler.
The map shows a ring road on the other side of the main road, with smaller roads coming off it on the inside, reaching in to connect with a footpath running up the spine of the estate. It is a brilliant arrangement, and we are astonished that we have not seen it in other places.
We walk up the footpath, counting the roads on each side - none of them have a sign to confirm their identity, that would be too easy and not the Fuerteventura way.
We find the right road, and walk along it the wrong way. Turn around and get to the right area. I stop and ask an old man if he knows where we might find a cutler in the area, and he tells us he is the man. Marcel Daniel runs a small craft shop selling the usual range of ornaments and jewellery, some of it made by his wife. He makes the traditional Canarian knife - he is the only person on Fuerteventura making them now, despite not being a native Canarian himself. They are quite distinctive, with many closely fitting and engraved rings on the handles, and it is impossible to make a profit - let alone a living - from them, due to the length of time each one requires. But it is a labour of love. We don't spend over £100 on a knife, but we buy a few earrings as presents.
Back at Infiniti, Ian says they will sort out the spa, probably on Monday, but as a gesture of good will, he will pay for us to visit the Atlantis Hotel spa, and Monday will be a good day to go as they have a special sauna event at 5 pm that day. You get special aromatic vapours. and honey to rub in to your body, apparently.
Saturday 19: take a run first thing: along the road out of Correlejo, and a little way along the beach before coming back. Then a swim, and breakfast. Sue, one of the caretakers, invites us to Ian’s birthday party (Ian is one of the owners) on Monday night, fancy dress optional. We wonder if Ian wants us there as he has suggested we will probably want to go to the Spa on Monday.
A little later, Ian comes up and assures us this was not a subtle hint: we are very welcome to come to the party after the Spa. But, in fact, he got confused, and the special sauna event with honey massage will be on Tuesday, not Monday as he thought. And the Spa is open today, from 3 to 8 pm. We decide to try it later.
We have a late lunch, then wander into town along the beach, cutting a large chunk off the distance. Have an ice cream in a restaurant on the beach, then back to the Hotel Atlantis and their Spa.
We are very impressed. It is a beautiful place, in a mixture of Scandinavian and Japanese styles. Lots of natural light, and doors through to an outdoor terrace with more recliners. Very sensibly, they do not allow you to wear anything in the sauna. And it is cheaper than the sauna at Hotel Arena.
They have a cold plunge, but, sadly for Sue, no jacuzzi. The temperature in the sauna says 92°c, and I believe it - pretty much perfect. The sauna is large, the largest Sue has been in, and has three tiers of benches. Don’t see that very often.
Afterwards, we go back to Infiniti, dump our bits, hang up the towels, then out again. I ask some other residents about the best place to find paella, and they strongly recommend La Taberna. We walk in to town again, this time on the roads. It is not an impressive building, but the paella, as promised, is wonderful.
We walk back, this time just on a short stretch of beach to cut off the corner, and back to Infiniti to watch episode 3 of The Mentalist.
We find a nearby café for lunch, modern and more like a fast food place than we are used to, but we are not sure what we will find on a Sunday lunchtime, or what time places will close.
Wander round Puerto Del Rossario, finding a number of sculptures we missed on our last visit, plus a lime kiln.
In the evening, we just manage to locate a small non-conformist and non denominational church nearby: the Fig Tree Christian Fellowship, which meets in someone's home at 22 Royal Park Village on the Avenida Fuerteventura. Nobody knows where Royal Park Village is, but Google locates an advert for a home there, and the advert has a picture with the Campanario in the near distance, so we know it must be near the Campanario.
Even when we get there, we can find nothing to confirm that this is Royal Park Village - this strange Fuerteventura habit of not providng name extends to more than just roads. But we knock in faith at number 22 and wait. A dog comes out and barks enthusiastically.
After a while, a man appears with a towel around his middle. Yes, we are in the right place, and the church has been meeting here every Sunday for two years, but they decided for the first time this week not to hold a service this week. He was about to have a shower, but we are welcome to come in. We chat for a short while, trying to decide whether to accept his offer, and then another couple turn up, and we all go in.
It is an interesting time, and we find out a lot about the people and life on the islands. Things are as tough as we had assumed, and lots of English people have returned to England over the past year. Interestingly, both the chap and the couple know of Infiniti, despite it being tiny in comparison to the many large hotels, resorts and complexes in the area. We eventually drag ourselves away, and have a late tea back at Infiniti.
In the afternoon, we drive into Corralejo and park. The first shop does not have any gold card, but does have a card with a picture of Bristol Beach, which will do as a birthday card. They direct us to another shop, which does not open until 5. We go down to the beach, and Sue reads for a little bit while I go for a short swim in the sea. It is fine, very little stinging, which is a relief, and confirms how much better my skin is than when we first visited. Shower off, clothes back on, and back to the shop to buy the gold card.
Back to the Hotel Atlantis spa for a brief-ish sauna, then dash back to Infiniti for Ian's birthday party. I cut out a profile of the Queen's head, and Sue attaches it to the gold card, which goes round my neck: I am a 'First Class Mail' - like all puns, it doesn't really work when you write it down. Sue claims to be the 'Mail Supervisor'. Two of the couples are in cave man outfits - they seem to be the characters from the Flintstones. Someone else is Robin Hood, and another lady is a nun. Some of these folk have put a significant amount of effort into their costume.
First stop today is the Ethnic Art museum, the Museo Rosa Linda in Villaverde. Not well signposted (surprise!), so we drive past it twice. An odd experience.
Once we have parked, it is still not clear where to go: we wander into what appears to be someone's back garden, and back out again. Round the side looks more hopeful, but still no signs. But someone beckons us into a doorway at the back, so we follow and find a counter where we pay to enter.
There is a garden at the back with lots of different cacti, and several smallish rooms, mostly filled with pictures of African faces painted in acrylic, seemingly all by the same artist. There is also an amount of old African items, most of it claiming to be 2,000 years old. 'Up to 2,000 years old' is probably closer to the truth, with very little more than a few hundred years old. But apart from the misleading date, there is almost no information, so it is hard to know what we are looking at. There is an interesting looking tent at the side, but almost nothing in it. We don't stay long.
On down to Antigua and the cake shop for lunch, then the Molino de Antigua, a museum and windmill just outside Antigua. As well as the more usual bits, it includes a small display which claims to analyse (and maybe solve) the problems of conflict between human groups.
Final sauna at the Hotel Atlantis, then drive in to Corralejo for a meal on the sea front. The food is good, but the service dreadful. The food takes a long time to arrive, and a long time to be cleared away... and then we wait, assuming they will want to tempt us with dessert. But nothing. They are not even busy. I try to attract a waiter's attention, and seem to manage a couple of times, but still nothing. After something over 40 minutes of this, I get up and talk to a waiter, and after another short wait someone comes up, but by this point all we want to do is pay and go home and pack.
Wednesday 23: the plan was to leave around 9:45, as our flight is at 12:05. But we are actually in the car just before 10:15, and walking in to the airport just before 11. Sadly, no time for a last swim.
The journey back is uneventful. Back at the Airport Tavern, we stop at the Tavern for a coffee before driving home and all the business of unpacking and sorting out. Steve and they boys have survived without us, Philip is now back in Warwick.
Friday 25: the Anabaptist Network in the evening. We finish looking at Dissident Discipleship. Again, it seems that I enjoyed and feel that I gained from the chapter more than most of the others present. But I agree that the contrasts between sprituality and discipleship at the start of the chapter are a bit odd.
A trivial detail: at some point this morning, the page counter on our web site reads '234567'.
Monday 28: I arrive at the prayer meeting at Pip'n'Jay, late as usual, to find a couple of homeless gentlemen in the kitchen, being helped by the folk there. They want food, and I tell them how to find the food at the Wild Goose. After a while, they go in search of it, and we retire to pray for a few minutes, joining Dawnecia who has been praying for them and for us all this time.
In the evening, I stay at work for the CCM prayer meeting, and Sue goes to Highgrove for a meal for the folk who work with children in the church.
In the afternoon, a very pleasant time at Muller House with the Practical Theology students, looking at 'The Poor' from a local perspective.
I am invited to the Bristol Methodist Centre in the evening, to attend their management committee meeting. It would be good to work more closely together, and meeting these people is a helpful step in the right direction.
Wednesday 30: Sue and I go round to Ed and Deb in the evening, to meet them and Pam and talk and pray about our plans for when Steve moves on. It is an opportunity for a new phase of ministry for us. We have a good time, no words of wisdom or prophetic instruction, but it is very good to know these folk are praying for us.
Saturday 3: Pam and I are the only ones from Highgrove at the prayer breakfast, but not many from St Edyths, either. The toilet block on Sea Mills Square has been sold, but we don't know who to, or what they plan to do with it.
Sunday 4: I am at Emmaus church, Severn Beach, in the morning. The projector would not display the DVD I had installed on my computer to show them, but we managed to get round that after the service. It was a really enjoyable time, with a lunch afterwards and interesting people to chat with. Head back with a car full of harvest gifts.
Back home for a hair cut, then down to the health club for a sauna to wash off the bits of hair.
Pick up Alan from Temple Meads at 9pm. He had a good time with his friends, and they spent some of their time playing Diplomacy. Gosh - that takes me back.
Community Safety in the evening is interesting, with most of the time spent on understanding the problem caused by the drug dealers at one of the local problem areas.The plan is to understand the problem before trying to come up with a solution. Impressive.
When I get home, Sue tells me my father is back in hospital. She sent this message to the Highgrove email prayer list:
"We would be very grateful if you would pray for Paul's Dad Geoff, he had a heart attack this afternoon and was blue lighted up to St Thomas's Hospital London from the local hospital in Woolwich. He's being kept in for at least 24 hours. He has a history of heart problems, and was awaiting more investigations which had been postponed because he's been very immobile with a pain in his hip.
"Paul's Mum Joan is at home on her own at the moment: usually his brother Roger would be there but he's in the USA at the moment, we've decided not to worry him yet, not sure when he's due home."
Mum came home this afternoon to find Dad's shirt downstairs and him in bed, still in some pain. He collapsed in the hallway, and managed to get himself upstairs. He said he was fine, but she called an ambulance and they took him to the QE2, and from there he was rushed to St Thomas.
Tuesday 6: Mum phoned tonight from the hospital. She had been on her way home when the hospital rang her: Dad had became agitated and wanted to leave, convinced his grandchildren needed him! She will stay overnight, probably in a chair near his bed.
Alan was a complete star, talking to Dad and reassuring him that we were all fine, and that he should concentrate on getting well rather than worrying about them. Later, he asked if we wanted him to go up to stay with Grandma, which is a definite possibility, but Sue will go up tomorrow and check how things are firsthand.
Am supposed to pick up some 'harvest' gifts from Esme, collected by the Children's Centre in Sea Mills. But I end up working too late, so she drops it off at home instead.
Wednesday 7: Sue and I drive in early. She goes to the gym while I walk to work and finish printing the training notes. Then she drives down, we drop off the food from the Children's Centre, drop off the notes to be bound, and drop off Sue near her work. I drive to a meeting about the BMFF constitution, then on to Parkway and the first ACTS meeting for the new minister there, Ajay Singh.
Andy Street rings me to say that the latest offer for the Queen Vic has been accepted. That's a real answer to prayer, and a massive relief. There's a long way to go still, but at least we have started. And we have something to report at the AGM.
Sue gets a lift to Temple Meads, and gets the train to London: my mother is coping, but, it seems, only just. Dad was much more lucid this morning, and remembers the fuss he was making and the security guards, and feels vey bad about it all, wanting to apologise to everyone. Oddly, the doctors thought he would not remember it. Mum get a bit of sleep and was on her way home for a shower and a nap when we heard from her.
I cook Alan some lunch, and then he catches the train for London to spend a few days with Mum.
In the evening, I drive into St Pauls to attend the Eucharist at the Sisters of the Church. Been invited some time ago, but this is the first one I have been free for. Only about a dozen of us, but a lovely, gentle service. And a chance to relax with friends over food afterwards. The Sue rings to say she will soon be back at Temple Meads, so I grab a quick dessert and drive down to pick her up. Slightly held up by the traffic, but the timing in the end is perfect.
Friday 9 October: frantic activity at work. On top of everything else, it is our AGM on Monday and at past 5 in the evening I am still exchanging emails with our accountant, trying to get the final wording for the annual report. Not good.
When I get home, Ian has left for Warwick, for an Open Day tomorrow. He is staying with Philip tonight. Alan is in London, and Steve is away, so Sue and I are alone in the house tonight for the first time... ever, perhaps?
Saturday 10 October: volunteer training in the morning. Quick lunch with Sue, then on the coach to London. Alan sends a message to say my father has unexpectedly been sent home, so I don't go to meet them at St Thomas' hospital after all.
There is engineering works on the line, and the electronic noticeboard on the platform at Victoria says the train I think I should get will not be connecting with transport to Eltham. But I get on anyway, and get off at Lewisham. After tracking down a guard, there is a bus service to Eltham after all. But then I think and call home. Mum confirms that there is a normal bus service to Shooters Hill Road, so I go to find that instead. The bus comes within minutes, and I even manage to get off at the right stop.
Dad is very emotional when I arrive. Mum is there, but Alan is on his way home. We settle down and have a bite to eat. He is in a lot of pain, so much that he can't concentrate on eating most of the time. And his short term memory is quite shot to pieces: we keep on having the same snippet of conversation at five minute intervals.
Back home, Sue goes to the homegroup skittles evening, and (I think, to our joint surprise) doesn't come last.
Sunday 11 October: the morning is more of the same. We spend most of the time talking about the route I will take to get home, repeating the same conversation every five minutes when I can't think of anything different to tell him about.
It is very distressing to see him in so much pain - there is just a short time in every four-hour slot when the painkillers have kicked in and not faded yet. The rest of the time, he is largely incapacitated. But Mum says this is better than it was with the stronger painkillers, as he is not hallucinating.
The memory problem is less troubling than expected. After a while, it is almost relaxing. It was always impossible to have a conversation with him: for some reason, he has plenty of fixed ideas about many things he knows nothing about, including such odd topics as the way computers work and various aspects of my work. So talking about anything always was a minefield - he would end up getting angry, either because I would not agree with him, or because I would not argue and was not taking him seriously. But now, we can stay on safe topics for each conversation-bit, and there is little worry that he will suddenly blow up for some unpredictable reason.
I manage to get him out of the house for a short walk, as the doctor ordered. As instructed, we attempt a five-minute walk: two and a half minutes out, and two and a half minutes back. At the start, he is confident he can do much more, but he is happy to turn around, and has clearly gone far enough by the time we get back home.
Traditional Sunday lunch: roast beef, roast potatoes, yorkshire pud, boiled veg and gravy. I do miss those yorkshire puds. Help clear up, strip the bed, a quick coffee, and it is time to leave. Mum says she will be fine for a couple of days until Roger gets back, and it looks like she will be.
Because of the engineering works, I take the bus into Woolwich - how it has changed! Then on the new Docklands Light Railway up to Bank, Underground to Victoria, and walk to the Victoria Bus Station. The connections all work well, and the driver lets me get on an earlier bus back to Bristol, half an hour before the one I have a ticket for. Sue picks me up from the bus station in Bristol.
After all the activity, the AGM is a comparatively relaxing event. Everyone speaks well; we have a young lady, Georgie Horner, who entertains us by singing which is stunningly beautiful; and the legal bits are done efficiently. Everyone is delighted to hear the news that we have had our offer on the Queen Vic accepted, and the whole thing is an absolute delight.
Well... almost everything. We were almost scuppered by the computers driving the projector. Something didn't work as planned, but fortunately Ed Marsh had chosen a well known song, and the worship was tremendous despite, at times, a lack of words on the screen.
So my son flies off to the South of France on the same day my brother flies back from the USA. What an international family I have.
Wednesday 14 October: today, it is my turn to drive off early in the morning - a supervision session with Dave Wiles over a late breakfast. Then back to work, and volunteer training in the evening. The numbers tip over the point where we have to relocate to the larger room. It's nice to have more people, but it is much harder to get people contributing in the larger group. You can't have everything.
Friday 16 October: at Easton Christian Family Centre for another 'Forum for Change'. I think the networking is worth while. But it is good to touch base with Philip Nott, and also good to meet Steve Clifford, the new head of the Evangelical Alliance.
In the office all afternoon, then take our publicity down to ECFC for the second session with Steve Clifford and an exhibition. That seems to go quite well, and lots of people take away lots of bits of paper. I share my table with Don, who is there for Aspire but doesn't have much by way of literature to give away.
Saturday 17 October: it is the West Bristol Art Trail this weekend. Tomorrow is packed, so today is the only chance to look round. It is always a fairly random choice about where to start, so this time we decide to visit some of the closest of the 57 venues - there is a cluster just below the Downs, and one of them is number 1 on the list, so the obvious place to start.
Subud Hall has some beautiful fused glass by Julia Rowe. It also supplies a guide to the 'Upper Quarter' of the trail, which gives us a sensible route around the venues we had in mind.
St John's Primary School had made a great effort, and they were selling coffee and cake at a fair price for a worthy cause, which was very welcome. The video of the 'Legends of the Downs' was hard to hear, but seemed to be a record of the event the previous week rather than telling the stories directly. Walking back to the area where they were serving the coffee and cake, we noticed for the first time some wonderful large insects suspended below the ceiling. Very easy to miss, which would have been a real shame.
There are several highlights. One place in Downfield Road has some striking oil paintings and the most incredible automata made almost entirely from cardboard by Tim Bullock. Most of them can be bought in kit form, but one is still being developed: an artist drawing a model, and as you turn the handle the artist's hand moves and a pen in his hand actually draws. You had to see it. We could have stayed for hours.
Another place has a series of wood carvings by Rachel Whiffen, plus photographs of other carving she has done. I will try posting some pictures to give an idea of their beauty.
We have to rush a bit to make the last two of the venues we had in mind, but it is worth the effort: the very last one, Julian Warren, creates metal sculptures. He has a good variety of techniques, so different creatures have both different shapes and styles. Insects, reptiles, birds, faces... A good number of his pieces are on display outside, and some can be seen around Bristol - although, to be honest, we have not noticed any of them so far.
Touch base with Richard Hill, who is talking at the 11 am service, then dash to Highgrove and set up the computer to do the words in the service. It wants to install an upgrade. I say 'postpone'. A few minutes later, it comes back and asks again, threatening to reboot if I don't reply quickly enough. Decide not to risk this happening in the service, and agree to install. The installation and reboot are complete just before the service starts.
After the service, we have a church meal to say 'au revoir' to Paul and Maria, on their way to Africa for a year.
I head back to Christ Church, Clifton, for the 6:30 service. Alan Patterson is speaking, but we both talk to people afterwards, and get a number of offers of assistance. The people there are wonderfully supportive, and I am always blessed by the services I attend there. Of course, it would be different if I belonged, but it is a great place to visit.
Monday 19 October: I am speaking at the Probus group at BAWA this morning. The email with details of the location does not arrive, but I have a verbal description of how to get there... but the description does not work and I get completely lost. Phone the office, and Sian manages to locate BAWA for me. Arrive, park, and walk in to the meeting just as Mike Barwell is about to say I am missing.
The talk goes down very well, and various people come up afterwards, including the chap who set up the Julian Trust. So it turns out all right in the end, but rather stressful.
Simon Toomer comes in the afternoon, and we sort out some backup for the server, at long last.
On to Hope Chapel in the evening, for the One25 AGM. It's a pleasant enough experience, but not nearly as much fun as the CCM one. However, I do manage to arrange with Val Jeal to meet her again, which has been on my mind to do for weeks now.
Tuesday 20 October: in the morning prayer time, one of our volunteers describes an odd experience in his flat, which some people immediately consider to be evidence of demonic activity. Alan, Andy and I offer to go round to his flat later in the day and pray there.
Alan gets tied up with something else, so Andy and I go round after work and spend nearly an hour talking and praying with him and in all the different rooms. It's a nice place, and he keeps it clean and tidy. We feel it is probably intimidation rather than anything more serious.
Straight from there to the BMFF AGM. The business goes smoothly, and the questions about the finances are mainly about things like saving money by offering less food at meetings. There is a speaker talking about human traficking, yet again. I behave myself and don't ask any difficult questions about the source of the figures being quoted.
Last thing at night, I am putting the compost bin out for the bin men, and I slip over on our drive. It has been raining, and I slip on a patch of moss and mud I didn't realise was present. Wet, muddy and bleeding on my elbow - not fun. Sue has to help me clean it up, as I can't see the end of my elbow, and the combination of water and blood gets quite messy.
Wednesday 21 October: most of the day is taken up with mental health meetings - one at the Vassall Centre, and another in St Pauls. At the Network meeting, they keep talking about the quality of care for patients, and I make the point several times that mental health patients do receive a fairly good level of care - but the larger problem is the barrier you have to overcome in order to become a patient. What use is is delivering a great level of care to patients if the vast majority of people who need help are denied any support?
Saturday 24 October: Sue was going up to see her parents in Newbury today, but doesn't feel up to it. Probably tomorrow. But she does drop me off at Hamilton House for the first of two days' training in working with homeless people.
It's an odd experience being on the receiving end of material which I'm usually delivering. We have two properly qualified trainers delivering material which they have looked up, and have some limited personal experience of, and the whole thing is completely different. Apart from the obvious fact that they are delivering a pre-determined training programme rather than talking about questions and issues they are living with, the most obvious difference is how slow we have to go. Every session has to start off with a game or group exercise, which takes a significant chunk of our time before we start. Then we have to 'agree' a set of ground rules. The material, when we get to it, is quite helpful, but we take far too long to get there and too little time on the important stuff.
The training is much of the same. An interesting discussion of boundaries, but done in the context of (what seems to me) an inadequate framework: they talk, for example, about the 'need to have' boundaries, as if we ever operate without them.
Another plus is that it is an interesting bunch of people to get to know, and we may well be working with many of them in some way in the future.
After the training, back to work for an hour or so, then on to the One World Week service at Parkway. Bits of the service don't quite go as planned, and may of us don't know most of the songs, but on the whole it's a good time and people are touched by the service as a whole and by the sermon by someone from Richard's church.
In the evening, Steve Smith and I are at Bristol University Chaplaincy, speaking at a 'Cross Connections' meeting. It's a bit late starting, as a Muslim group is in the room we have booked.
They are a nice bunch of people, but for some reason they ask far fewer questions than I am used to, and they don't respond much to my questions or invitations, so it is much more a presentation than a dialogue. Still, Steve chips in at times, and they seem interested and grateful at the end.
Tuesday 27 October: another busy day. Supervision with Sian, a prayer meeting at lunchtime, a delegation of researchers from the EU who are looking at the contribution faith groups make to tackling the problem of homelessness (yesterday they were with the top people from the Salvation Army in London...) and Channel 4 are filming part of a documentary in the shop today and tomorrow.
In the evening, Sue and I go out for a Chinese meal with Alan and Barbara - the Dragon Kiss on Whiteladies Road. Very nice. It's a long time since we have been out for a meal.
Friday 30 October: the tap in the Wild Goose kitchen - a newly replaced tap - failed last night, so the stop cock is off, and we have no water anywhere in the building. Late morning, someone magages to effect a compromise, and we have low water pressure and only a slow leak from the tap.
Lunch with Sue at Kuvuka, doing the weekly diary check which we seem to have missed for several weeks, and working out when next week she can go up and visit her father again.
In the afternoon I have an interesting time being interviewed by a couple of Masters students from the university. They are interested in homelessness and social policy and the role of faith groups... this seems to be the hot topic these days.
In the evening, Sue goes to the AGM of the Stoke Lodge Ramblers at St Mary's church. According to her, the main point of the AGM is the food afterwards, which seems a reasonable decision.
Saturday 31 October: Sue has a 'meet' of her 'Old Style' MoneySaving friends at lunchtime today, and I tag along, having met some of them earlier in the year. It's a pleasant lunch, and we discover that one of the ladies we met before knows Ed and Cynthia Finnerty, and was present at their recent anniversary celebration back in April! It's a small world.
We take our leave, and pop in to a small exhibition at the Centrespace Gallery in Leonard Lane, "Structure: a sense of place". Sone nice pictures, but would have preferred some more text to go with most of them.
After a bit of shopping, home on the bus. As we pass the Hippodrome, there is a long parade of (we assume) students, many of them 'dressed' for Halloween, with costumes, masks and fake paint. They are well behaved, with a few doing a zombie walk but the rest just ambling along with friends.
The traffic light turns green, but they continue to cross in front. After a bit, the bus driver tries to nudge gently ahead through the crowd, and suddenly they turn into a classic zombie crowd from the films, with hands and faces pressed up against the windows. It is a remarkable transformation, and really quite disturbing.
Home, then shopping at Morrisons, back to unpack and out again for a sauna. Sue walks, for some exercise. I get into a discussion with one of the regulars about the Council's new strategy for the voluntary sector infrastructure. We leave just before it closes at nine.
Sunday 1 November: collection and praying for CCM at Highgrove this morning. Ed does a snappy interview with Andy Street and myself up front, and encourages people in the church to sleep out in February. That could be really good.
Philip Jinadu is preaching. Never heard him do a 'normal' preach before, and very impressed. The podcast should be worth listening to. I'm slightly distracted in the early part of the sermon, as Philip gives me a piece of paper with a prayer he wants displayed at the end. I type it into a new PowerPoint presentation and fortunately Ed is sitting beside me and can set the preferences corectly, so when Philip says it is time, the words spring onto the screen as if we had rehearsed it.
Sue and I have been invited to the licensing and installation of the Rev Barrie Green as Priest in Charge at St Agnes. We actually arrive a few minutes before the service is due to start, and get seats near the back.
A few interesting points: he has to swear to be obedient to the Queen and the Biship in the vestry before being allowed out into public in front of us. Also, as part of the licensing, he has to affirm that "in public prayer and administration of the Sacraments I will use only the Forms of Service which are authorised or allowed by Canon." Which presumably means that he is not allowed to pray in public unless he is using an authorised Form of Service - so any sort of ecumenical service is quite out of the question, unless it is done purely as an Anglican liturgy. Poor chap.
Lots of people to talk to afterwards, including Sister Analiese, visiting for a couple of days. And Sue manages to talk some folk from ECFC into taking part in the Sleep Out in February.
Monday 2 November: prayer down in the shop first thing, then team meeting upstairs. Long and rambling, for the most part, but it seems people need to hear themselves talk for some time before they feel their point has been heard.
A couple of other internal meetings, then off to Pip 'n' Jay for the prayer meeting. Arrive late, but it is worth being there even so. Sue goes up to Reading on the train to visit her father, who is still in hospital there.
The folk from Channel 4 come back in the afternoon, and are still filming in the shop when I leave for the St Pauls Community Safety meeting just before 5:30. We always thought that trying to complete the filming in two days was a bit optimistic. But they are nice folk, and everyone enjoys having them around.
The facilitator is sick, so instead of an extra-long meeeting, we have an extra-short one. Silver linings, and all that. Sue can get a train home from Temple Meads, so I don't have to wait for her, and drive home before the Archers finishes.
Lots of post, including an invitation to Ian to attend an Open Day at the Univesity of Southhampton, and a letter to me from the Hospital cancelling my urology appointment for December. "Should you have any queries, please telephone us." Not impressed.
Tuesday 3 November: work from home frist thing, then go to spend some time with Val Jeal. It's always a real blessing, and we don't do it often enough. We talk, amongst other things, about the difficulty of working in this area without getting dragged down into the mess and chaos of peoples lives. It's easy if you don't care: sorry, I'm not at work now, goodbye. But if you do care, and they need help, there are no simple rules or boundary lines. All we can do is be open, honest and accountable to the people we work with, share the situations and the questions, and together reach the best judgement you can. If anyone has anything better to suggest, I would love to hear it.
Wednesday 4 November: after work, John Stevens picks me up for one of our irregular drinks. For some reason, we spend a lot of the evening talking about quantum mechanics, and whether it is meaningful to talk about the distance of a quantum leap.
Thursday 5 November: I really confuse things today. Other people have been setting up meetings today and tomorrow with possible people to do the project management and fundraising for the new building. So when someone rang about meeting tody, I assumed it was the meeting today he was talking about. And consequently, we had both the potential project manager and the potential fundraiser arriving at the same time, and wanting to talk about comepletely different aspects of the work.
Fortunately, Andrew Street and Alan Patterson were able to spend time with the project manager, and I spent time with the fundraiser. Then we drove off and looked at the building. Andrew and Alan met the other chap, and were impressed.
Friday 6 November: Sue's Dad was scheduled to have his eye operation today, to fix his cateracts. But he is not well enough, and we are not sure when - or if - he will be well enough. But he really wants to be able to see properly again, not unreasonably.
Sue drives up to Reading to see him again, spending the night in Newbury with her mother.
I have a Voscur board meeting, talking about our response to the Council's recently published proposals for supporting the Voluntary Sector infrastructure.
It may not have been an historic meeting, but it certainly has the potential for making a major difference to the whole of the Voluntary Sector in Bristol for years to come. Exactly how we respond, and how we position ourselves with trespect to the other infrastructure organisations in Bristol, is going to shape a great deal of the future for a lot of people in the region. I think we ended up with a pretty good response. Time will tell.
In the evening, I walk round to Graham's house, to spend time with the fundraiser - we are happy with him and he with us, so the adjective 'potential' is probably redundant now. It's a stimulating time: he is coming at this from a different background and a very different set of assumptions from Graham and myself, which is really good. As long as we keep on communicating well.
From St Edyth's, I get the bus in to town, and work through the day trying to prepare for the board meeting on Monday.
In the evening, we have a quiz at Highgrove in support of Aspire. Sue and I end up on a team with Pam and a couple of others. Sue and Pam are both incredibly competitive. We have a few lucky guesses, and end up with a reasonable win - largely thanks to Sue, with solid support from Pam and the occasional contribution from the rest of us. We win a large tin of sweets, which gets shared at the end: we are competing for the glory, not the calories, after all.
Sunday 8 November: for the first time since we have been in Bristol, I skip church and go in to work. Just about finish preparing for tomorrow, at least the most important bits, in time to dash out to the Health Club and a quick sauna before they close.
Monday 9 November: Sue is not feeling well, so I leave her at home and go to pick up Graham. We drive in together. I drop him off at the office, and have real difficulty finding somewhere to park - end up very close to Sue's work. Of course, as I walk in, there are several parking spaces which were not there as I drove past a few minutes earlier.
The board meeting with the staff goes well, but there is such a lot of business to cover. Don't have time afterwards to get to either the prayer meeting at Pip 'n' Jay, or the BMFF meeting at ISR.
The supervision session with Steve is brief but constructive. And in the evening, the Duty Mangers meeting enables us to talk with them about how things are going, and how we anticipate things changing, assuming we do move to the Queen Vic.
Sue talks to her Dad's consultant on the phone. It's not looking good.
The BSOCS event is good. Vincent Vitale, who I have not previously been aware of, is talking about the problem of suffering - my dissertation topic. Wonderful timing! The presentation is well done, middle-of-the-road theology. A fair degree of honesty about the options, which seems to be fairly new for many people present. There is a short break, when he invites questions.
His reply to my question actually avoids the question, which is sad. But his replies to some of the other questions are quite insightful, and I find this unscripted bit of the evening the most interesting and helpful.
Afterwards, I ask him briefly about the elephant in the room - the 'Open God' issue. It's something he agrees is important, and he is currently looking at it. It would be good to hear what he thinks on the subject.
(Later, I type up my notes on the lecture: Suffering and a God of Love.)
When I get home, two letters have arrived: one from David Race, bringing us up to date with his news; and one from the University of Warwick to Ian, offering him a place - ABB including Chemistry and another science.
Wednesday 11 November: a 'Faith and Equalities' event at the Council House, starting at 11. I'm delayed at work, and arrive just at 11, in time to join everyone else standing outside the Council House for the two minutes silence.
Walk in to the Council House and stop to look at the display, trying to find the right room. A guard asks me what I want, I say it is the faith and equalities meeting, and he directs me to the main hall. There's a lady at a table registering people, I check with her and she confirms this is the right event.
It is the Bristol LINk meeting. Very little mention of equalities. Very little relevance to anything, as far as I can tell. At lunch, I escape and check the display... the faith and equalities meeting is in a much smaller room. It is nearly finished. They had a really good session. Deeply frustrating. I manage to make one contribution to the outcome - reflecting on the problem of understanding numerical targets and the potential for their misuse: you need an expert who knows the subject, who knows what is happening on the ground, and who is trusted by the different parties. Without this, you just don't know what the numbers mean.
Another frustrating meeting in the afternoon: a posible source of funding, which turns out to be completely irrelvant to us. But the training session in the evening goes really well - lots of interaction, and people really engaging with the material.
BCAN Homeless Forum in the evening. We are at Logos House, and get a very enthusiastic tour of the place beforehand. Several people have not visited the place before, so the tour is really helpful, but it does go on longer than planned.
Friday 13 November: visit Dr Silvey first thing. He will arrange another appointment to replace the one which was recently cancelled. No idea of the timescale. Drive in with Sue, then we park outside my work and she walks into town for a Breast Screening appointment.
Later in the day, I'm in the shop talking about an urgent refit - we have just been offered money to refit the kitchen, but need to get the work done in four weeks - when FareShare arrive with lots of food. As we finish bringing it in, a lady collars me and starts to talk about her son in law who was a manager at Pullens bakers, and tells me about the amount of food they throw away. I call the FareShare chap over, and she repeats the story. He tells her that Pullens supply their unsold food to FareShare now, and in fact the bread we have just been carrying in was supplied by them! Isn't it nice when things just work out?
In the evening, Sue has a 'Style Exchange' event at Highgrove in aid of One25, which seems to go really well.
Saturday 14 November: training in the morning. Good numbers again. It's tricky holding in the enthusiasm of the different people, with their very different backgrounds and interests, but very stimulating.
Sue has gone on the train up to Reading, to see her father again.
Dash away at the end of the training, back to City Road. Nick Street comes, and we spend a couple of hours filming me in the coffee shop. Then straight home, write the shopping list, grab a sandwich, and out to Morrisons for the weekly shop.
Home again, I unpack the cold food and then straight out to the Health Club for a sauna. It's been too long since the last one and my skin is beginning to crawl.
Pick Sue up from Temple Meads. Her father is very weak. He has also picked up the Norovirus, one of the hospital-acquired infections, so he is in a small ward on his own. Not good.
Sunday 15 November: I'm doing the words at church this morning and, remarkably, there is nothing to report: it all happens as planned. The hardware, the software and the projector all behave as they should, and nobody makes any last minute changes. Dave Mitchell is talking about Gifts and Fruit - a subject I've heard him talk about on numerous occasions, but it is still fresh and relevant.
After church, Sue and I finish packing and drive off. We are staying in Pitstone again: I need to make some progress on my dissertation, and Sue will have a break and visit her father.
We stop at the motorway services for a late lunch. The journey is fine, and Martin fires up the sauna for us to use as soon as we have unpacked. We are in the downstairs bedroon for the first time, which is very close to the breakfast room and the pool area.
Monday 16 November: after Martin's excellent breakfast, I drive Sue to Newton Abbot railway station, where she gets the train to Reading to visit her father. Short stop in Bovey Tracey to purchase some sandwiches for lunch. As I go in the shop, it starts to spit, and by the time I come out a few minutes later the rain is torrential. Get completely soaked running back to the car.
Shut myself away in the breakfast room for the rest of the day. There's a small fan heater for keeping it warm as the central heating goes off during the daytime.
In the evening, I pack up and drive down to Newton Abbot to pick up Sue from the station. After a bit of searching, we find a very nice and friendly Chinese restaurant. The food is lovely, and very fast service. We're impressed.
Sue is a bit worried about her father: he is stuck in a small room on his own because of the infection, he can't see properly, he is too weak to do anything, and he doesn't know what is going on or what is planned - mostly because he will not ask questions. Not a good situation overall.
The good thing about today is that Alan visits her father: they meet up in Reading, where he stops off on his way back to Bristol from Warwick. He gets to see her father, which is appreciated. And it seems he did well in the competition.
Tuesday 17 November: Sue convinces me I can't spend all week in front of a computer. The weather is beautiful this morning: a brilliant blue sky, and Hay Tor stands on the skyline as clear as anything. So we drive up to the car park with the information centre. The information centre is closed - out of season. More worryingly, the van selling ice cream and coffee is nowhere to be seen.
We walk up to the Tor. The view is brilliant, but the wind is bitingly cold. I have come away without any gloves, so Sue lends me one of her two pairs, which helps. Sue fits into a small gap in the rock to get out of the wind while I take a few pictures, then we walk around the Tor and straight back to the car. Not a good day to hang around up there.
The good news is that the van has arrived by the time we get back to the car park, so we get our coffee as a reward.
Yesterday, we spotted a nearby farm offering food in a barn, just outside the national Park. This seems like a good thing to investigate. It is excellent, and also has a shop with an interesting range of local produce and other bits.
After lunch, back to Pitstone and more work while Sue investigates the charms of Bovey Tracey. This time I set up on the table in the pool area. I'm a bit unsure about electrical bits close to lots of water, but it seems fine. And the pool stays warm all day long.
Wednesday 18 November: another day like Monday, except that I work by the pool, and Ian gets the train to Reading to join Sue in visiting her father. Martin offers me some soup at lunchtime, along with some of his excellent home made bread. In the evening, we go back to the China Garden for another delicious meal.
Thursday 19 November: Sue explores more of Bovey Tracey while I work. In the evening, we go to see the local Scout and Guide Gang Show. It is a very odd experience. Firstly, the publicity is almost non-existent - Sue saw a poster somewhere, but this seems to be the only one in the whole town. Secondly, Martin has to tell us how to find the hall, since the poster does not, there are no signs on the road, and, incredibly, even when you arrive, there is nothing to say this is the home of the Scouts and Guides. Totally anonymous, as far as we can see.
When the show begins, it is clear this is not a Gang Show, with songs and sketches by Ralph Reader. The best bit is a pop group, with an incredibly young and small but enthusiastic and talented drummer bashing away in the background, as professional as anyone I've seen.
Friday 20 November: Sue visits the House of Marbles and a pottery while I work. When she returns, we go back to the House of Marbles, where we admire the largest marble in Britain (and the marble runs, of course), and then on to Trago Mills in search of some shoes and a new coat for me and some other, smaller bits. We succeed in getting most of the smaller bits.
On to the local artists exhibition: a private showing, in Bovey Tracey. A fair amount of very good original work, plus the usual suspects and the odd contribution that you wonder why it was included. Well worth the visit. Then next door to the Riverside Inn, and an evening meal.
Saturday 21 November: Sue to Reading again, this time meeting Philip there. On the way back from dropping her off, I call in at Trago Mills again and buy a new pair of shoes - my old ones are split and let in too much water when it rains. Then back to work on the dissertation.
In the evening, we return for the third time to the China Garden. Still good, and the waitress asks Sue how her father is - she mentioned visiting him in Reading when we came on Monday. Very impressed.
Lunch at the motorway services, then on to Glastonbury. One of the local papers Sue picked up during the week has an article about an exhibition of Gothic Art by Anne Sudworth.
We find the gallery easily enough, but it turns out that today is a private viewing - not a detail the gallery web site mentioned. But Anne is at the door and welcomes us in. Our second private viewing in three days: we must be getting cultured. We are even offered a free glass of wine each.
The pictures are as astonishing in real life as the magazine and web site suggest. The ones with people are maybe a little less successful, but the landscapes and trees are just wonderful.
We look a bit out of place, being rather too normal. Most of the folk present are in black and traditional gothic makeup, and most of them are talking to each other rather than enjoying the art. Their loss. We spend around an hour there, and buy Anne's book, Gothic Fantasies. It is beautiful: padded cover, gilt edges, and over a hundred pages, mostly reproductions of her work, with some text. The Amazon description is a good one: the pictures are dark, moody and powerful and generally comprise dark images from nature _ trees by moonlight, ruined abbeys, dark, cloaked figures on the moors... But while the pictures are strange and haunting, several of the pictures with trees are oddly familiar - they bring back strong memories of hiking with the Scouts as a teenager.
We drag ourselves away, and drive home. The boys have looked after the place, and there is not too much washing up to be done, so they have done well.
Monday 23 November: back to work with a bang. Long meeting with the team through the morning, planning how we will work out of the Queen Vic building, and hence what we need to do to make this possible. Lots and lots of detail, but a very useful time, and a high level of agreement - much more than I was fearing, to be honest.
In the afternoon, Sue travels back to Reading on the train to visit her father, and Alan Goddard drives me to Rolls Royce, where we get to discuss the sort of support they can offer us. Good people. We also get to look at some Pegasus engines, used on the Harrier Jump Jet, as well as an engine for the plane which will replace the Harrier.
Prayer meeting in the evening. Annie Davey joins us, so I take her home, and later drive back to Temple Meads to pick up Sue.
Ian has a letter from Oxford: they will not offer him a place this year, but suggest that he contacts them again once he knows his A level results. So, as rejections go, not a bad one.
I spend a few more hours on my dissertation, getting it into a shape for sending off as an initial draft for some feedback.
Tuesday 24 November: in to the surgery first thing for the nurse to take some blood for testing before I see the Endocrinologist in three weeks. We drive in, and Sue parks outside my work while she walks into town for her breast screening.
Email the draft dissertation to Spurgeon's College.
Wednesday 25 November: most of the day is spent at the Homes4Bristol conference at BAWA. It's a good event, with two excellent keynote speeches at the beginning and the end. Sue drops me off then goes for a massage.
At the end of the conference, I get the bus in to town and spend a while at the office before the BMFF meeting in the evening.
In the evening, it is 'Prayer for Easton' at Stapleton Road Congregational Church, next door to the Queen Vic. Very encouraging. Lots of local people from the different churches very keen to see us buy the Queen Vic and move into the area. Lots of enthusiastic prayer, and several useful conversations with people.
After work, I walk to All Saints in Pembroke Road for the inaugural meeting of the Bristol Christians in Science group. It is a very good session, good content and well run. More about 'Science, Suffering and a God of Love'. John from St Marys gives me a lift home, which is much appreciated.
Sunday 29 November: after church, Sue and I are invited for a meal with the student group. We talk a bit about ourselves and the work we do, and get lots of interested questions. A really enjoyable time.
From the meal, we visit CostCo: Sue has to pick up more stamps and various other bits, and we buy some very nice mince pies with whisky. No hard disk DVD recorders unfortunately: ours is failing - it stops recording sometimes, and randomly shuts down and restarts when you are planing back. Not much fun.
I drop Sue and the shopping off at home, then in to work to pick up some publicity, and on to St Marks Baptist Church in Easton for their '5th Sunday' joint service, where we have been asked to share. Again, a great welcome, and lots of sincere prayer from many folk we hardly know. It's quite an experience.
Monday 30 November: another long team meeting this morning - this time about boundaries and behaviour. It seems we have to go round the houses at times, but the end result is a happy agreement about how we try to balance impossible demands and priorities.
In the afternoon, Alan drives me off to the Queen Vic, where we meet the vendor and most of the building steering group. Lots of detailed discussion about how we can best use the space while minimising the cost of renovation. Viv, the architect, is really helpful, and promises another set of plans in a week or so.
Tuesday 1 December: a couple of substantial cheques arrive in the post this morning, so I walk into town to pay them in. While at the bank, I try to talk about how we can pay in cheques made out to Crisis Centre Ministries, and after checking, the assistant tells me that I have to register the additional names with Companies House.
Back at work I trawl the Companies House web site, then phone them up. No chance: they do not register additional names. They do not know of any legal problem with the name on cheques, and say it must be the bank creating the problem.
I talk to Voscur, and that doesn't get me anywhere.
Back to the bank, I try to make an appointment to see our account manager and end up with the manager responsible for all the business accounts at the branch. After going backwards and forwards for some time, he goes off to check... and comes back to say that all he has to do is make a note on our account, and the extra names people use on cheques will all be fine from now on. Which is in direct contradiction to what everyone else at the bank has been telling me, but I'm not going to argue.
Planning meeting for the sleep out in February this afternoon. Some progress, but we have all been tied up with other priorities and not managed many of the actions we agreed last time.
John Stevens is leading the Homegroup this evening. It is a fairly detailed study on the ongoing role of Israel in God's purposes. I might want to question a few details, but most of it seems reasonable enough. Other than the one big question, which never gets asked: what is the point? I just don't get it. Unless I suddenly discover a need to predict the future, what difference will it make to the way I live? It's all fascinating stuff, but then - that's the danger, isn't it?
Wednesday 2 December: ACTS at lunchtime. I'm late due to a phone call which goes on much longer than promised - about help being offered to businesses in the current difficult economic climate. But when I arrive - fortunately, only next door at City Road Baptist Church - it is a good time. We don't get a geat deal of business done other than some planning for a service in January, but it is warm and friendly, and relationships are being built.
After the meeting, walk down to meet Sue at the car, and we drive off to Richer Sounds to try and find a hard disk DVD recorder. They are hard to find these days, it seems, so no joy.
Thursday 3 December: Sue drives off mid-morning to Newbury, to spend two nights there. Her sister, Barbara, is visiting, and she wants to go with Barbara to see her father. It doesn't work very well, as he is sleeping throughout the visit.
Friday 4 December: I'm at work talking to Sue on the phone when Martin (talking to the bank on the work phone) discovers that the larger of the cheques I paid in on Tuesday has bounced. Not just the larger of the cheques - it is the largest gift we have been given in at least the past ten years. Not a good moment. The conversation with Sue is not easy, either.
Her father is not good. She is visiting David Race in Guildford for the afternoon, and the hospital has just rung to say that the family should visit this weekend if they want to see him again. It is distressing news, even if not totally unexpected, but I'm really glad that she is with David.
Sue spends some time on the phone talking to the other members of her family, then drives back to Newbury and spends the night at the hospital, by her father's bed.
From the breakfast, I go back home to pick up a bag - Sue has phoned through a list of things to bring - and then catch the train to Temple Meads, and on to Reading.
The early part of the journey fropm Bristol is slow: we are stuck behind an earlier train which has been delayed, so we are rather late by the time we arrive in Reading. I walk to the hospital by a somewhat circuitous route.
Pip is at the hospital, Barbara has arrived just a few minutes before me, and Sue has been sent off to get a few hour's sleep and is now coming back in again.
Sue's dad, John, is sleeping fifully, and very grey. He moans farily regularly, but doesn't seem to be in pain. Every now and then, there is a faint incoherent word or phrase - not quite talking in his sleep.
Around 5:30 in the morning, he somehow managed to pull out the catheter in the back of his hand, so there has been no drip going into him for some six hours when I arrive. He is not able to drink and they take it in turns to moisten his lips on a regular basis with some cotton wool tips and dilute squash.
Various people arrive and leave, including Andy, the Methodist minister who has been brilliant in various ways.
We keep asking what is going to happen, and a doctor is promised soon on a regular basis. One turns up just before 5 pm, and we all decamp into the visitors' waiting room while he makes an examination.
Sue has a telephone Internet connection dongle, borrowed from Ray, but I can't get it to work on my netbook - I think it needs to install a Windows program to make it work.
The doctor returns. Incredibly, he says they have to make a decision about whether to 'withdraw treatment'. He has not has a drip for 11½ hours, but this is not withdrawing treatment - it is simply not immediately reinstating the drip. The doctors have not made a decision on the matter yet, so the treatment has not been withdrawn.
Two reasonsonable questions are asked: firstly, if you have not decided to withdraw treatment, why did you not replace the catheter 11½ hours ago? And, secondly, what do you hope to achieve by reinstating treatment? He is not going to recover and go home again. There is also a practical issue: John has always had very poor veins, and they struggled to insert a catheter in the first place. Several members of the family doubt they will be able to insert another tube into him at this stage, even if they want to.
The doctor says he will have to consult with the registrar, but if they decide to withdraw treatment, John will probably last another four or five days. This seems rather unlikely to us, given how weak he already is.
The doctor goes, we wait, and he returns. They agree that it is not in John's best interests to reinstate treatment at this stage, so he will be allowed to die.
We all troop back into the room, and the chatter and the lip-damping continue. We take it in turns to get something to eat. Slowly, people start to leave. Sue and I take Barbara to her hotel, where she is booked for a couple of nights. Confusingly, the hotel has recently changed its name. I go in to the hotel in the place where we think the hotel we are looking for should be, and discover it is the right hotel, after all.
Ray agrees to stay with John overnight. Sue and I drive back to Bristol.
In the afternoon, just as she is getting ready to leave, Sue gets a phone call to say her father has just died. Her mother has company, and there is nothing she can do now, so she spends another night at home.
Monday 7 December: I get the train in to work, and Sue drives back to Reading to be with her mother. She and Ray are the executors of the will, and the trustees of the trusts the will sets up. And they are involved in sorting out the funeral, so there is plenty to do.
I am supposed to be at a Mental Health event today, but there is too much to do at work. And I want to be available to talk to Sue when she wants.
After work, I walk up to Woodlands for the annual Leaders' Meal. Delicious as always, and lots of interesting people to meet. I scrounge a lift back with Sam and Ruth. They want to leave promptly, which, to be honest, suits me fine.
In the evening, Alan Goddard takes me out for a meal to the Dragon's Kiss in Whiteladies Road, with a few other chaps. Very nice again, and good to meet some new people and spend some time with folk who are mostly talking about things completely unrelated to work.
A difficult and confusing meeting at work, and then off to Voscur for a board meeting. Given all the other stresses at present, the board meeting is a comparatively easy and relaxing experience.
Because I don't have the car, Voscur order me a taxi to get me to and from the meeting. Afterwards, I get the taxi to drop me off at the health club, and manage a quick sauna before heading home on the train. Needed that.
Alan is home again, and did a wonderful job according to Sue.
Walk down to the station in good time for the train... and the train is cancelled. Very frustrating. Catch the 902 bus instead.
As I arrive at work, Steve takes a phone call from the Police. They have a chap who missed a flight to Glasgow by half an hour, has no money and nowhere to go, and they want to know if we can help. It's nice the Police feel they can turn to us for help, but...
It's a convoluted story. It always is. Bits of it don't seem to hold together - especially the bit about him living with his mother, but he won't give her name and phone number so we can ring and confirm his story. He doesn't want to worry her. So ringing to say her son is fine and we will be helping him come home is going to worry her, but him failing to come home as arranged and not letting her know where or how he is will not worry her? Come on. I explain what we can do to help, and the places he can contact for other assistance, but we're not going to buy him a ticket back to Glasgow without some evidence he is telling the truth.
Then Andy Street arrives for a planning meeting about the new building. He brings a DVD with him, containing the video his son Nick has produced for us, hot off the computer.
Just after the planning meeting finishes, Sue arrives - back from Newbury. She was going to take me home, but I suggest that she joins me at Ebe tonight, and she agrees.
Ebenezer Church has laid on a Christmas Concert and put together a choir to entertain the local folk. The takings will be split between CCM and One25.
We are not familiar with the music, but it is very well done. After the break, we show the DVD and then I speak for a couple of minutes, and point out Sue if people are interested in hearing about One25. Then the second half, equally enjoyable.
Afterwards, we have mulled wine and mince pies, and several people do want to talk with Sue about One25, so as well as a fun night out it was worth her coming.
Friday 11 December: in the evening, it is the Anabaptist Network. This time, the whole evening is an Anabaptist Meal Liturgy - wonderfully different to both the Anglican and Catholic communion services, and also very different to the free church communions we are familiar with. It is simple, thoughtful, and deeply moving.
Most of the journey is fine, but when getting close to Coventry I hit road works and crawl for nearly an hour and a half.
Philip is dishing up a curry just as I arrive, which is very welcome. Then he and John's things are packed into the car and we depart in remarkably short time. The journey back is somewhat further in distance, but shorter in time. John lives very close to where we parked when visiting the Dragon's Kiss earlier in the week.
Sunday 13 December: Philip's 20th birthday. To celebrate, we go out for a meal together... back to the Dragon's Kiss. Sue enjoyed it and thought it would be suitable. Very few people there on a Sunday, and strangely, I end up in exactly the same seat as on Tuesday night. The boys all enjoy the meal, and they are all talking nonstop, so it counts as a success.
Monday 14 December: up at 6:30, which is rather early, given the time we usually get to bed. There is a BMFF Officers meeting before work: various vital pieces of business, and no other time to do it.
A couple of other meetings at work, then Richard Hill turns up unexpectedly. He is a week early for the board meeting when we plan to make decisions about the Queen Vic, but it is good to spend a bit of time with him when there is no urgent task before us.
Then on to the St Pauls Unlimited AGM at the Ashley Road Salvation Army, some good food afterwards, and home.
Tuesday 15 December: to the hospital in the morning for my Endocrinology appointment. Very nice lady this time. Honest, straightforward, listens to me. The latest blood test has my testosterone still in the healthy range, just. So we keep going as before, and come back next year.
In the evening, the Homegroup has a social, and I manage to get along. It's a pleasant evening, and Sarah shares something which reminds us of the incredible privilege of living with the presence of God as a continual reality. It was worth coming this evening, just for that.
Wednesday 16 December: Dave Wiles has postponed my supervision session with him, so in to work as normal. Then it is the Voscur Christmas Meal with the staff and board. Great fun. We are at Windmill Hill City Farm, and the food is quite delicious. Interesting conversations, then we have a quiz. Our table comes last - not many questions about science or literature. But somehow I am the only person to know the first few lines of 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,' which hardly seems possible.
In the evening, Sue is singing with her choir at the Greenway Centre. We need to be there before 7, and we nearly make it. I work on my netbook in a corner while she has a final rehearsal, then put it away for the various performances. As well as the choir, there are several dance groups, and one of them is quite good. Then we have an unscheduled performance of Latin American dance - Salsa, I believe - which is excellent.
Thursday 17 December: the CCM Christmas Party, hosted by Elim again. This year, instead of presents we give out vouchers, and this works much better. The magician does really well, both in the performance and in working the tables afterwards, and the food lasts. Steve Smith entertains after the magician with some songs and carols. All in all, it all goes amazingly well.
After we have cleared up, I bid everyone goodbye and head home. Sue and the boys are nearly ready, and we drive off to the Hare and Hounds in Newbury. It is snowing before we set out. The journey is good, but the pub car park is like an ice rink by the time we arrive.
In the past few days, the shoes I bought at Trago Mills have been increasingly hurting my heels, so I am glad to be in my black shoes with the suit. I drop Sue, Philip and Ian off at the church, then Alan and I try to follow Sue's instructions to the Vicarage where we have been allowed to park. The roads are quite dangerous in places, and I skid on one corner despite already being down to a slow walking pace.
We can't find the Vicarage, but there is a public car park nearby so we park there and walk. We walk past a Vicarage, but it's not at the house number we were expecting. The pavements are treacherous, and my black shoes start to hurt too.
Alan and I get back to the church, and enter it just behind my parents and brother. Sue and the other boys are seated, and we join them.
The service goes very well. Alan does half the reading, Psalm 23, clear and confident. Barbara stands up and talks about her father, but can't quite manage it. Sue goes up to support her, and she just about manages to finish. Peter then stands up and gives a very different but equally touching address.
At the end, the coffin is taken out. Sue and I follow, along with Ray, Philip and Stephen. We all fit in the limousine, along with Andy who sits next to the driver. He would normally drive ahead, to be at the crematorium to wlcome us, but given the weather it is a much better idea not to drive.
The six of us stand in a semicircle at the front of the chapel. There is a short prayer, and the curtain moves round the coffin. We move out to view the flowers, then back to Newbury and the Methodist Church Hall for something to eat.
After a quick coffee and a couple of sandwiches, I need to go and move the car, as the time has nearly run out at the car park. Drive the car a few yards to the Vicarage, and walk back. By this time, the black shoes are absolutely killing me, but there is nothing to be done about it. By the time I arrive, everything has nearly been packed away, and a few minutes later we all walk back to the car again and drive to Pip's house.
This is unplanned, but very welcome. She invites Roger and my parents, too, which is appreciated. Plenty of snow in the garden, and the other children are in the middle of a snowball fight when we arrive. Our boys join in enthusiatically.
Later, Roger and my parents head home, then the remaining family members move to a function room at one of the local Hiltons where they provide a buffet and everyone can eat and relax before heading home. Despite the weather, it has all gone about as well as it could possibly have done, for which we are all very grateful.
Monday 21 December: when we get up, the snow has stopped. It's not too thick, but it seems to have thawed a bit and frozen again, so we have a layer of ice over the top of a thin layer of snow - quite treacherous. The car takes ages to scrape the windows clean, and I break the ice-scraper part way through the job. The padlock on the gate has ice frozen inside it, and takes a while for Sue to get it open.
We avoid the usual route over the Downs, and drive in along the Portway. Slow traffic all the way, but at least it keeps moving. The local radio says the Downs and Blackboy Hill are closed, so we made the right choice.
It's an odd start to the day, arriving late, and several others arriving even later. Everyone asks how the funeral went on Friday.
Decide not to go to the prayer meeting at Pip 'n' Jay at lunchtime: not walking in these conditions seems like a sensible choice.
People turn up for the Building Committee at 3:30, and we have a useful time going through the plans.
Then a board meeting at 5. Most of the members make it despite the weather, which is really impressive. We pray and talk, ask questions, and decide to buy the pub. Richard Hill has joined us and brought the contract, so it gets signed there and then. It's hard to believe we are getting so close after all this time...
We grab a quick lunch together at a small place on the Triangle, then I walk to work. Sue has the day off and goes shopping.
In the evening, we have Carols on Sea Mills square. Cold, but not too cold. Warm mince pies and mulled wine afterwards, then some last minute shopping in the Co-op on the way home.
I need a sauna, and plan to go in the evening. I walk from work, and most of the journey is not too bad - I can walk up and down the road on Arley Hill. But the final stretch is lethal, and the slope up to the Health Club is almost impossible. It would certainly have been impossible to stay upright, but fortunately I have a walking stick to support me.
Walking takes longer than expected. I'm too late to catch the 7:45 train, so I aim for the 8:45 one, allowing half an hour to walk to the station. But the Health Club drive is quite impossible - there has been some more light rain, which has frozen on the ground. A nice lady gives me a lift in her car to the foot of the drive, and I manage to walk from there to the station.
An interesting short piece in the Metro today:
Children to lose their virginity before they are 16 are less likely to go to university 'because the experience makes them grow up too quickly'. Both boys and girls apparently start to see themselves as adults and too old for school. Instead, their ambitions change from education to getting a job and starting a family. 'Sexual debut was accompanied by greater spending money and greater likelihoold of having a boy/girlfriend, which may both act as precursors to early transition to adulthood,' said researchers at Glasgow University. They studied 5,000 pupils over 6 years.
Thursday 24 December: Sue and the boys drive to Newbury, to visit her mother. They drop me off at work on the way, and pick me up on the way back. She - Sue's mother - is coping well with being on her own, but it is still lonely.
At 11 pm, or soon after, we all set off to St Edyth's for the midnight communion service. The pavements are still very icy, and we are just a few minutes late - arriving during the first hymn. This is probably the least late we have ever been. Maybe next year we will manage to be on time?
When we get home, the boys are given their stockings. We have given up trying to wait for them to go to sleep...
Friday 25 December: late start, but we eventually get everyone up and in the lounge at the same time for presents. Among the silly gifts is a 'Zen water garden' - a few small white stones in a small platic tub, with a rubber bulb to squeeze some water through a small tube. It's so bad it's impressive.
We watch most of the program on the making of 'Hogfather'. Fascinating stuff, including an interview with Terry Pratchett: he really is presenting the ideas in the book as his philosophy of life. I'm generally a bit reluctant to assume the author actually believes the things he writes, so it is helpful to get this confirmed. He really is quite a nihilist, in a wonderfully amusing way. Truth and justice, bravery and honour are just lies, but (according to him) 'we can make them true'. How sad.
Sue and I have a short walk in the afternoon, although it takes nearly an hour as we are quite slow on the ice remaining. Along to the river, and down to the first bend. Quite beautiful.
We vastly over-cater for Christmas lunch - at tea time - as usual. But it is all cooked, if not to perfection, then to a close approximation. And we don't forget to cook anything or dish anything, for the first time in several years.
Afterwards, we all watch the (recorded) Dr Who. It's nicely done, but getting a bit surreal with all the talk about prophecies and death. Then Sue and I finish watching 'The Eagle Has Landed' - we recorded it a few days ago - and enjoy spotting the locations we recognised from our trip to Mapledurham earlier in the year. And we enjoy the film, of course.
Sunday 27 December: Alan and Philip take the train to London. Philip catches the train just before 1 pm, which is very impressive as he leaves the house just two minutes before it is due to leave Sea Mills station.
Ian comes in the car with Sue and me. We break the journey in Guildford. The plan was to drop some presents off to the Prydes, but they don't answer the phone so we call in on the Cribbins instead, drop off the presents and get our travel mugs filled up with coffee. Pam's mum and sister arrived just before us, so we don't get much chance to chat. But we promise to meet up this year - possibly with the Cribbins coming for a visit to Bristol.
Alan and Philip arrive at my parents before we do. We have roast beef and yorkshire pud, the traditional Sunday lunch, even if it is tea time. Then Sue and I pop out to register and drop our bags at Greenland Villa at the Standard.
We have been upgraded to a room with a jacuzzi and a view of the garden at the back, thanks to some other guests being awkward.
Back to my parents, and time to open the presents. Sue and I have been given an external hard drive: you can never have too much disk space.
My father is in reasonable health. He manages to go out shopping, even if he can't walk very far or at any speed. But his short term memory is even worse than before. At least he has not asked Sue how her father is doing, so that has gone in, but he repeatedly asks her how her mother is coping. Still, she copes with that. And it could be much worse.
Monday 28 December: we decided to go to the cinema, so Roger has booked us in to see Avatar - it is showing in 3D at a local Imax. But he can't get eight tickets for any showing when he phones, so we are in two groups of four. Sue and I go with my parents, and Roger takes the boys to the later showing.
It is most impressive. The plot, as Roger warned, is a bit thin, and it is all familiar ground. But the art work, the visualisation of an alien planet, and the sheer beauty of many of the images is just stunning. It is a bit disconcerting seeing Roger Dean's pictures being fleshed out in such detail, but when I ask it seems nobody else is familiar with his work. Roger was quite right: if you are going to see this film, 3D Imax is the way to go.
When Roger gets back with the boys, it is time to go out again to the restuarant for a meal. We are a bit nervous, remembering the last time we went out for a meal and the chaos caused by father denying that he had placed his order. But it is fine: this time he knows that he has problems remembering things, asks us if he has ordered yet, and trusts us to remember for him what he asked for.
Tuesday 29 December: Sue and I check out of the B&B, then back to my parents. We watch some more TV with them. It's difficult to do much else, with father's memory. We are a bit concerned about the pressure this places on Mum, but there isn't a lot we can do.
After lunch, Sue and I drive off with Ian, leaving Roger to get Alan and Philip to the station. When we arrive, Sue drops me off at the Health Club by the race course for a sauna.
There is nobody at the entrance desk, piles of towels on the desk, and the electronic gates don't work. It's as if they don't want anyone to pay. But eventually someone turns up and confirms they are staying open and I can use the sauna. I need to fill in another application card. The sauna, when I eventually get to it, is small but recently renovated and very nice. It is like the one in Bristol, with the heating element at the back behind a partition behind the bench. But this one has a small bowl on the top bench, with a hole in it, and the water disappears down to the stones. A beautiful combination. And soooooo much appreciated. The only real disappointment is that there is hardly anyone around, and those who do share the facilities are clearly not in a mood to chat.
Sue picks me up. She has checked in to the Hilton, picked up the boys from the station and taken them back to the hotel, and the timing just about all work out fine.
Wednesday 30 December: breakfast with Peter and Jo and their children again - on a table for ten. A jolly affair, and a few early presents exchanged. Barbara and Mike are also with us, but on another table.
Back up to the rooms to pack. We are supposed to check out by 12, and the photographer is due at the hotel at 11. Barbara comes to find us about ten past eleven, to say the photographer and their mother have arrived. We start to take the bags down to the lobby.
The photographer is very good. He arranges us all with tact and precision. When the main picture has been taken, he asks if anyone else would like a photograph. We don't have a family picture with Sue's mother, so we get one, and then a few other groupings are taken.
We check out, and go back to Pip's house for lunch. Then more presents, including some well chosen books for Sue from Barbara.
Sue takes Alan and Philip to the station, then stops off at her mothers to talk about the will and other details with Ray before he leaves - they hoped to do this earlier, but did not find the time. Then she returns to Pip's house, and we drive home to Bristol.
Alan and Ian have arranged to see in the new year with friends. Alan needs a lift, as he is moving some of his things, ready for moving in with Chris after he gets back from his skiing trip. Our eldest child is really leaving home.
After several changes, Philip too is out with friends, so Sue and I are alone together at midnight for the first time... ever, possibly. We decide to watch the 'Mid Life Christmas' by Victoria Wood which we recorded a few days earlier. Very nice, insightful but gentle humour, just as you would expect.
At the end of the year...