We are thinking of going out to see the new Sherlock Holmes. Philip decides to come with us, so off to the Orpheus.
What to say? Not a traditional Sherlock Holmes film: Watson is smarter and fitter than in the books, but this makes for better cinema, so how can you complain? It's a wonderful roller-coaster of a ride, rather than the more measured stories we are familiar with, but again, this is a film of its time, and it works. And the partly-completed Tower Bridge is an excellent setting for the climax.
Alan is home and packing when we get back. He is picked up and driven off to the airpost for his skiing holiday some time in the small hours.
We fail to find a place for a coffee, and go to the health club instead. The sauna is good, but quite crowded so it is hard to get a decent temperature. A couple of the folk in the sauna are suspicious of my claim that the steam room is not full of steam, but you can't convince everyone.
Coffee and diary check afterwards, then Sue drops me off at work and I finish off some of the year-end jobs while she visits Staples.
We are not home long when Ian rings from work: he has a flat tyre. I find some Allen keys and drive off to pick him up. He dismantles the bike, and it just fits into the back of the car. We think someone knifed it, in the hope of stealing it overnight.
Sunday 3 January: back to Hillfields, very enjoyable. The pavements are covered in ice, but once there the welcome is warm and sincere - back with old friends. I risk something fairly different from the traditional sermon, and they respond well. For which I am most grateful.
Sue takes Ian off to get some new shoes and a puncture repair kit. Repairing the bike takes most of the rest of the day, but he gets there in the end.
At work, about mid-day, the BBC ring up. They are inteested in what happens to homeless people in the cold weather - a reasonable question. They come down to the shop and spend about an hour filming, but sadly don't get to speak to anyone who is actually sleeping rough right now, so they wander off again. The piece is broadcast in both the local news slots in the evening, and they have done a good job, given the little time they can give.
I'm late for the prayer meeting at Pip 'n' Jay, but Mike is there and it is good to pray with him and chat afterwards. They are painting the ceiling at Pip 'n' Jay, and moving the scaffolding , so it's not the quietest prayer time ever, but who needs silence?
Tuesday 5 January: Alan Goddard and I drive up to Clevedon, and on the way I pick up the bits for a new computer for work. We look at a possible site for a charity shop, and then visit an example of the sort of thing we might be doing. But there are a lot of hurdles first, not the least of which is convincing the board that the timing is not totally insane.
Homegroup is cancelled tonight, as more snow is forecast and the roads are already pretty bad.
Wednesday 6 January: it snowed overnight, and there are no trains on the Severn Beach line, or busses along the Portway. We can't get the car off the drive safely, so unless we walk to work, we're working from home.
Ian, predictably, has no school, either.
Friday 8 January: we drive in to work. Very little traffic on the Portway, the scenery is beautiful, and the easiest journey we have had for ages. But I'm still glad I postponed my session with Dave Wiles again - driving down to Keynsham would not have been fun.
When Sue gets in to work, her new computer is waiting there. She had got a netbook of her own - an Asus Eee PC with Windows XP. 1005HA with Intel Atom N280 processor, 1.3M camera and 2 Gb memory. In other words, nice than mine in every way, except that it is running Windows.
When we get home, I discover that her new computer is an electronic Mars bar! "Eee PC: easy to learn, work and play," it says on the box. It is also smart and black. Pink was not available as an option.
Sunday 10 January: it's my turn to do the words at Highgrove, again. We are late getting to church, but Ed has set up the computer and the song list. Which is good news, as Andy Street has a presentation, and then he turns up with an updated version, and then we discover that it doesn't display properly - the wrong version of PowerPoint, we assume.
We manage to get Andy's laptop set up and displaying the presentation in time, just before the service starts.
The initial words and the presentation - about the toilet block on Sea Mills Square - go fine, but then when we switch back to the words the alignment on the projector has gone and we are missing the left edge. Fortunately, Ed has the projector controller. He updates the projector settings while the congregation are singing a song, and it all looks fine again. I never knew church services could be so exciting.
Sam Marsh is talking about the Bible - 'The Book that changes everything'. he says a lot of useful things, and we even have a handout with useful notes and further resources. But he doesn't go near the basic problem that good, evangelical Christians read the Bible and understand it to say radically different things. We have to face up to the fact that we don't agree before we can even start to work out why, and what we can do about it.
In the afternoon, Sue goes shopping for a new bed for Alan - his Christmas present from us. The room in the flat he will soon be moving in to doesn't have a bed, and he is due a new one: the one he is using at present is the first we bought for him when he moved out of a cot.
The shopping is a partial success: she has ordered a bed to be delivered to his new flat. The problem is that they can't deliver it till February. Alan is not impressed. However, he was given an invitation to go and buy the bed with her, and declined it. I think this is what they call a 'life lesson'. You don't always know in advance what questions will arise.
Wednesday 13 January: a meeting in the morning with some folk who want to set up a wet house in St Pauls. A 'wet house' is a place where alcoholics can go, where they are allowed to drink. Ovbiously, you don't want them to drink, but if they are not interested in stopping, then there still needs to be a way to reach them and offer help and support, and encourage them to stop. It's a vital service, and one we don't have at present. We want to support it as much as possible. There is a meeting next week, and the idea might get the go-ahead for a more formal investigation and costing.
In the evening, another volunteer training session. As always, it is a fascinating experience, thinking about homelessness and helping people explore what it means and all the different varieties of it.
Thursday 14 January: Sue drives the car up onto the drive - the snow has cleared enough. Then Sue and Alan pack his things into the car, with a mattress (no bed in his new room!), I wish him all the best in the new flat, and they drive off.
Our eldest has officially left home.
After they leave, I can't concentrate on my work. We know he is going to leave home. We know it is right and good and healthy. But that doesn't stop us missing him.
I go up to his room - his old room - and do some tidying of the mess left behind. In the wardrobe is a pile of old White Dwarf magazines. He used to spend hours on those Games Worshop war games and painting the models. Most of his money went on them for years. Then it passed. A few years ago, he gave all the models away. And now we just have the magazines he collected.
When Sue gets back, it is nearly time to go out again.
In to work for a meeting about the Sleep-out in February, some more planning for it, and then the BCAN Homeless Forum, which we are hosting this month.
Friday 15 January: a meeting with Andrew Lord from Alabaré, along with Jeff and Alan again, talking about the possible charity shop. It sounds like we can put together a very plausible plan, even if starting another project right now is a bit daft.
The BCAN Steering Group goes well at lunchtime. I really wish I had the time to devote to this work: there is so much more the church in Bristol could be doing, if they could only see it.
Sue takes the car home and packs, then a little after nine o'clock she and Ian come down and pick me up, and we drive off towards Brighton.
The further we go, the more snow can be seen by the sides of the road and on the fields and hills.
We are booked into a transport hotel, Innkeeper's Lodge, just off the M3. Lots of snow and slush in the car park, and large areas of standing water. I go in to Reception and register, then trudge through the snow to the entrance for the rooms. They are friendly, and provide a dental pack with toothbrush and toothpaste when we discover that Ian has failed to pack his.
The place advertises wifi, but you have to pay for it. Sue has bought a broadband dongle for her netbook, and it works fine, so she checks the email while Ian and I go to bed.
Saturday 16 January: up soon after seven, with the intention of being down for breakfast when it opens at eight. Not quite. When we wake, it appears that Ian is up already - his bed is empty. But on further investigation, Ian and his sheets and blankets are asleep in the bath. He says he couldn't sleep because of the snoring, but won't say whose. Sue triumphantly concludes it is obvious, despite the lack of evidence.
We are only a little late arriving at Sussex University for the Chemistry Open Day. The first talk has started, and we have to enter the lecture theatre at the front, beside the speaker. This is the place where they discovered C60 - 'Buckyballs' - and they are rightly proud of it. The student chemistry society is even called 'C60'.
After the initial talks, we have a tour of campus, then some lunch, then Ian gets to visit the department and do some kind of practical - he gets to blow something up - while Sue and I go on a coach tour of Brighton. It is dire.
We have a second year history student giving the commentary, and she has no idea what to do. Which is very frustrating, as she clearly knows a lot of interesting details about Brighton and the various places and buildings we pass. The sea is very impressive - close to high tide, and large waves rolling in. When we reach the habour wall, we see some of the waves crashing over the top.
The weather is wet and overcast all day, which makes the view over the South Downs rather less impressive than they planned. At this point, we get two of the classic pieces of commentary: "I will now shut up and let you enjoy the wonderful view, which you can't actually see today. Ha ha ha." And then, a short while later, "I know I promised I would shut up, but I'm going to break that promise. Obviously. Because I've thought of something else to say. Ha ha ha..."
We rejoin Ian for a final talk, and then it is over. The whole experience is quite surreal, even if you exclude the commentary on the coach. In our day, we had university interviews. Yes, they wanted to show us round and explain why theirs was the best place to study, but it was very clearly balanced by the other part of the message: this is a wonderful place to study - if you are good enough for us. But today is all about them selling Sussex University to us - both the parents and the students. It's a great place to study, the students enjoy some really great parties, and we will look after your little darlings really well.
The other really strange thing is what they choose to tell us about. I understand them being very proud of their Buckballs and other grouodnbreaking research, and of the big and impressive machines the students ae allowed to use. But there is one key selling point which almost everyone we meet is desperate to tell us: transport to and from the campus is really great, even out of term time.
I don't recall transport receiving anything more than a passing mention anywhere I visited. It never occurred to me that transport was somthing I needed to worry about. As a potential student, I just assumed that there would be transport available, which would be more or less adequate. Even as a parent, I just assumed that access to campus was something they would sort out, rather like adequate water supplies and garbage disposal. But no: being able to get off campus by public transport at any time of the day or night seems to be a major selling point at Sussex University.
Strangely, nobody seems to want to talk about the obvious topics of interest for people visiting Brighton: the naturist beach, the gay community, and the massive use of Ketamine in those parties they keep telling us about. Sue think there may be a reason why they don't want to mention these vital aspects of Brighton's culture to the parents visiting today. Don't they think the parents would be interested? I ask, and she gives me one of those looks. I guess not.
After the final talk, I am having a coffee and trying to find out what Ian got up to in his department visit, and we are waiting for Sue to get back from the ladies, and a tall man with a ponytail comes up and joins us. "What do you think of the place? Do you think you would like to come here?" he gushes. He is a lab technician, and he is understandably very proud of the big, glossy and state-of-the-art machines the students are allowed to use. And the public transport. And he thinks Ian would have a great time if he came here.
Sue returns, and we escape.
On the way home, Sue suggests that we break the journey home by stopping at her mother's place. It won't take long, and we would have to stop for coffee at some point, anyway.
Then we see a sign that warns us there are delays on the M25. Sadly, there is no sensible route which avoids the M25. We navigate across country, eventually reaching her mother's house just a few minutes short of the time we had originally anticipated getting home.
Sue's mother is doing well at a practical level, but her memory is not good. Not as bad as my father, but the problem is still very obvious.
We are heading out the door when the phone goes, so Sue goes back inside to answer it. It is Pip, at the supermarket. We stay and see Pip, who very kindly brings some cakes with her. She seems fine.
The rest of the journey home is without delay.
Sunday 17 January: we are late for church. Rob is preaching, not surprisingly about prayer at the start of the church Prayer Week. It is a good sermon, but oddly ambiguous about an illustration near the end. It is an excellent account of praying for a man and then witnessing to him in a sensitive way, and the man eventually comes to faith. This is used to illustrate the point: prayer works. But it is not clear if Rob sees that the prayer works because God drew the man to faith, or it works because God inspired Rob to witness in an appropriate way. Or both.
After church, Sue and I drive down to work. We have lunch in the Full Moon on Stokes Croft, which is very nice. We have our diary check, then Sue walks into town for the shops and I go in to the office to do more preparation for Monday. After a few hours, Sue comes back, has a cup of tea, and then drives home while I walk down the street to the Baptist Church.
At City Road Baptist, we have a joint ACTS service to mark the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Rob Scott-Cook is the guest speaker. Another excellent talk. Afterwards, he drives me home, which is very much appreciated - both for the lift, and for the chance to chat for a few minutes.
Sue drives up to Newbury, to spend some time with her mother and see Ray to talk about the will some more. She is staying with her mother overnight.
We have a CCM board meeting in the afternoon, postponed from last week because of the snow. It is a long meeting, but a very productive one. We are very frustrated on the purchase of the Queen Vic: the squatter is still there, and seems to have no intention of moving. After the meeting, I work through into the evening.
A nice volunteer gives me a lift home soon after 10, which is much appreciated. A letter from the hospital, to the doctor and copied to me, is waiting, which confirms the conversation with the Endocrinologist just before Christmas.
In the evening, the Multi Faith Forum is at Easton Christian Family Centre, so a good chance to see Philip Nott again. The main item is a pesentation by a chap from the council on the Voluntary Sector Infrastructure Review. Lots of really good, spontaneous feedback to him, strongly backing up what we have already sent from Voscur.
Straight through the security check without triggering the alarm. Don't often manage that. Some work on the netbook while drinking a coffee, then the flight is called and I meet Bishop Roger. He is always an interesting and enjoyable person to chat with.
We hit a very rough patch on the flight, just as the crew are serving me a drink - so rough that they have to stop serving and sit down for a while.
We get a taxi at the other end, and it is another interesting taxi driver. He takes us out of our way to show us the beautiful architecture of a church he used to walk past on his way to school. I don't get this from taxi drivers in Bristol.
It's a long day of meetings, but very useful. Plans for Belfast are looking good, but Edinburgh later in the year seems to be very much cut back, and we are not at all clear about what will happen after Belfast. Still, time enough to worry about that.
The journey back is fine, with the flight much smoother. But Sue has the time wrong, so she picks us up at 8, when we arrived back in Bristol at 7. And then we get a bit lost taking Bishop Roger home, so it is quite late before we get back.
Friday 22 January: at work, Alan and I have a meeting with Olly and Richard Nochar. We manage to identify a number of the issues relating to the council's strategy for responding to homelessness. Richard confirms Olly's point that the council's 'Preventing Homelessness' strategy is intended to cover responding to homelessness after it has happened. Even if it hardly mentions this vital aspect. The main conclusion is that we need to talk with St Mungos about the work they do.
Siân is still off sick, so we postpone the staff 'Christmas' meal, due to happen tonight, again.
Saturday 23 January: very frustrating: in the diary - and still on the web site - is an event at Christ Church, Clifton. All About Me: a critical look at the self-esteem movement, by Glyn Harrison. I've been looking forward to this for weeks. But when I arrive, the place is deserted. Almost. I eventually find a lady, who tells me the event has been cancelled.
We use the unexpected time by taking an early lunch, a trip to the council dump, and then going to see Up in the Air at Cribbs. We both love it. Some reviews suggest there is too much sitting around and talking, but some of the dialogue in those scenes is just brilliant. It handles some big issues with a light touch, and it's brave for a mainstream film to tackle such a difficult topic. The real people who start and end the film are very powerful.
Tuesday 26 January: down to Pip 'n' Jay in the morning, to help Richard do the heath and safety review for the Sleep Out at the end of February. A few minor updates to last year, but nothing significant has changed, and no problems were identified last year.
At lunchtime it is a BCAN seminar at Woodlands: A different sort of radical politics? with Revd Dr Andrew Davey, the Urban Affairs specialist for the Archbishop's Council of the Church of England. Very helpful talk, seeking to apply Christian principles to difficult political questions. And the discussion afterwards is lively, with high quality input from a wide range of people. The main frustration is that I'm not clear where we go from here. It seems too worthwhile to just leave here.
Homegroup in the evening. We pick up Esme: it is her last Homegroup meeting before she flies out to Uganda on Sunday, so we pray for her, and give her an MP3 player to listen to music and sermons on while she is away.
Quote of the day: "Men don't want to sing love songs to a man while the vicar wears a dress." - Ruth Gledhill
Wednesday 27 January: ACTS and Voscur clash, which is a pain. Even more so because I get to St Agnes, and can't get in. The outer door is locked, due to vandalism, and there seems to be no bell. I don't have a mobile phone number for anyone who should be there. Hang around for a few minutes, then off to the Create Centre and the Voscur board meeting. Nicely early for Voscur, which provides the opportunity to chat to some of the folk beforehand
Friday 29 January: it is the CCM Staff weekend away at last. Been trying to get this arranged since last Summer. We are all able to get away, and most of us can bring our partners, which is excellent.
The plan is to leave Bristol around 3 pm, but I'm stuck in the office, and Simon is working on the computers, and there are phone calls and last minute problems, so in the end it is nearly 5 pm before I get home Sue is not impressed. But she has packed, so we throw the bags in the car and head off.
Fortunately, we manage to drive straight to Rora House, having decided to ignore the SatNav. Several others set out less late than us but tried to follow their SatNav, so a bunch of us arrive at almost the same time. And the folk at Rora are helpful and flexible with the food, so it works out fine after all.
The first session, after the meal, goes much better than I had dared to hope. We are looking at the shape of the ministry five years from now, sharing hopes and dreams and vision. It is all amazingly consistent (oh ye of little faith!) and very encouraging to hear different aspects but one common vision for the future - both from the staff and their partners. Despite all the difficulties, we are aiming to establish a multi-site operation. Of course, we have to report back to the board, but I can't see them disagreeing with anything substantial. It seems we have a solid foundation for looking tomorrow at the details of the next few months.
Saturday 30 January: after breakfast, we have a short devotion. Then the staff have another couple of sessions while the spouses go sightseeing and visit the House of Marbles. Again, a helpful time. Nothing terribly unexpected, but a good opportunity for folk to talk and listen to each other without some urgent appointment looming.
After lunch, we go out for a walk round Venford Reservior. Fortunately, Alan is awake: he does some sums and works out that we have to leave the reservoir in an hour if we are to get to the restaurant where we have an early booking.
So we start walking round the reservoir. It is really very lovely. After half an hour, we turn back. It is very tempting to try and get all the way round, but we resist: we have an early meal booked at the restaurant. Perhaps when we come back?
Back to Rora to clean up and put something respectable on, then quickly out again. Siân has booked us an early meal at The Coombe Cellars because the reviews are good, the pictures make it look wonderful, and they do a special cheap offer if you order before 6 pm.
The restaurant is at Coombeinteignhead, on the Teign estuary. It's a bit difficult to find - it is quite remote, and our satnav does not pick up a signal at any point en route - but very much worth the effort. And the food is as good as the location. We have a window table, and watch the full moon rising over the opposite bank and reflecting in the water. Magic.
Sue packed the New Scientist. Interesting articles on an international protest against homeopathy, the fragility of digital information storage, the human genome (34% virus!), why we should run on tiptoes, and about what happens in the brain when we 'get' a joke. Also a review of a book, '36 Arguments for the Existence of God' - a novel by Rebecca Goldstein. And an interview with Matthieu Ricard, the author of 'The Art of Meditation,' talking about Buddhist meditation.
There is also a letter which seems very significant to me: a psychiatrist responds to the recent article about the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ('DSM') by pointing out that patients want their experiences to be medicalised. It's a disturbing trend in modern society - see This thing called life for the full letter.
A final session together, confirming some of the ideas we have shared, and confirming my impression that this is something we would like to do again.
On the way home, Sue and I drop in on the House of Marbles, and find several members of our party there already. We enjoy ourselves showing them round, and introducing them to the large marble run on the end wall, and the massive marble in the garden.
Esme flew off to Uganda this morning for nearly three weeks.
In the evening, another BSOCS event at Woodlands: Why Bother with the Old Testament? It's not really aimed at people like me, but the question and answer session at the end is entertaining and enlightening. I feel a bit more clarity on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments would have been helpful, but this does not seem to be a common response.
Thursday 4 February: a 'Skills and Worklessness' forum at the Barton Hill Settlement. Lots of old, familiar faces, but sadly I don't have time to chat. It turns out to be all about the European Social Fund, so is almost completely irrelevant to us.
Dash away at the end to get to a FareShare Franchise meeeting. Now this is a useful way to spend an afternoon. Meeting folk who run other FareShare franchises, and finding out what we share and what is different in our various projects - that is really helpful, and quite exciting.
Friday 5 February: Voscur training in the morning. An excellent session on governance, specially tailored for the Voscur board. The training is fairly standard material, but I pick up one point about charity law I had missed before. But it is really helpful to consider the material together, and make some progress in thinking how it applies and should apply to our situation. Followed by lunch together in the cafe at the Create Centre.
I drive Simon to Protishead in the afternoon to swop some faulty memory supplied by Novatech. The drive gives us the chance to agree some next steps in sorting out the CCM computers.
In the evening, the Anabaptist Network has another table fellowship. I'm late again - there was a problem in the shop, with some food left on the cooker at too high a heat, and the smell of burning seeping out of the front door...
We get back to the problem of Christians engaging with society, and how to exercise power as a Christian. Stuart thinks we need to work out a new approach for the post-Christendom situation through prayer, Bible study and discussion. I think those things are vital, but we will not be able to work it out in abstract: we can only discover what it means to faithfully follow Jesus in the political arena by following a step at a time, and using what God provides as we walk in faith.
Pick up Graham, then drive in for a 9:30 start. The first session is part of the orientation: the basic starting points from both a Christian and a secular perspective. Both parts generate some interesting and helpful debate, but the session goes on considerably longer than planned.
Still, the whole day is great. We pray, and we explore ideas and possibilities, and we gain clarity on a range of issues. The future may not be all mapped out, but the options are being narrowed down, and everyone is sharing in the journey.
All I need to do now is to try and write down what we talked about, and what we agreed, so we don't lose it, or fail to communicate key aspects to those who couldn't join us today.
Sunday 7 February: Highgrove in the morning. Ed does a helpful talk about wisdom. It gets me thinking about the nature of Godly wisdom: a wisdom that seeks knowledge and understanding, but also knows that it depends entirely on God's continuing guidance and revelation; a wisdom that does not seek independence from God, but closer union with Him.
A troubling conversation after church with Don - about the difficult of running Aspire, or any social enterprise, in the current climate. I wish I had an answer for them.
Sue and I head off to CostCo after church, and pick up some bits for work - hers and mine - and some food, and also an unplanned laptop tray for laptops. In pink. An early birthday present for Sue.
Drop off the shopping, then in to town. I grab a sauna, while Sue hits the shops. The sauna is very welcome - too long since the last one - but not particularly good: too many people, and too many people opening the doors too often. Still, I'm clean and my skin is calm again.
A few days ago, my daily Bible reading included John 15:6. At the time, I couldn't remember if I refer to the passage in the article on the nature of Hell - 'What is the Fate of the Wicked?'. I check, and the passage is missing. It's one that a lot of people will recognise, so I update the relevant section, and then another section which catches my eye.
Monday 8 February: Alan Goddard picks up Arnett and me just after 2 pm, and drives us to Clevedon. The original shop we looked at has gone, but we have an appointment to look round the second, and larger, possibility. Then back to Jeff's place for a meeting with the man who is offering to help us get a shop established. The meeting takes two hours, but we cover a great deal of ground. It looks like the only viable option is to set up a new company, jointly owned by the two charities. This will not be charitable, so the chances are that it will have to pay the full Rates charge.
After the meeting, Alan drops Arnett off home, then drives me back to the office. There is just time to catch the post, then an hour's work before Sue picks me up and we go home.
Ian has been out and bought himself a suit. He looks incredibly smart and grown up. He also thinks he will not play cricket this year, as he now works on a Saturday. Sue has tried to suggest alternatives, but he doesn't think any of them will work.
At 4 pm, several of us head over to the Queen Vic. When we arrive, some people are already there, with the doors unsecured for us to get in. We have a good look round. It is a bit of a mess, but not as bad as I feared. There are a few details which should be sorted in the next day or two. We might exchange at the end of the week. This is getting really scary.
Andy Street drops me off at Sue's work, and I browse the cartoons on her desk diary while she packs up. Have you heard they are opening some Elvis Presley themed steak houses? They aim to cater for people who love meat tender.
A quick sauna. Again, it is not particularly hot, but adequate. Ian has cooked a quiche, which is nearly ready when we get home. He had an Open Day at Bristol Univesity today. How did it go? Fine. Does he want to go there? It depends on their offer.
Sue is not feeling too good, so I go to homegroup on my own. A gentle evening, sharing and praying with a little Bible reading and meditation. Everyone, it seems, has had a long and stressful day at work.
Thursday 11 February: the big news of the day is that Ian wants to live at home! He has decided to apply to the Univesity of Bristol and live at home during his student days. This is unexpected, to say the least.
In the evening, I am at another Scout Group talking about CCM and the issues in the lives of the people we serve. The Scouts are interested and engaged. It is a bit tricky describing some of the things we face without getting too graphic, but they are happy with the balance. One lad seems to be fascinated by the idea that people are given money when they leave prison, and wonders if this would be a viable moneymaking strategy. The others see the holes in this plan rather more quickly.
We are given permission by the folk at Channel 4 to tell people about the ' Secret Millionaire' which they filmed last year. CCM features, along with One25 and the Teenage Parents Project in Hartcliffe, and we expect the program to be broadcast on 1 March. Not quite sure what other details we are allowed to give out at this stage.
I have promised to start printing the latest Newsletter, but when I try to open the file, it is corrupted. There is no backup. I spend most of the day rebuilding the Newsletter from the parts which people had submitted. Most frustrated by the fact that I know I edited my own piece several times, and cannot remember what I had done to it.
In the afternoon, a phone call: the contract has been exchanged, and we now own the Queen Vic. Someone had been waiting there to give us the keys, but he has gone away again. I wonder who was supposed to have told us, but it is a bit academic now.
I walk down to the car, then drive over to Fishponds to pick up the keys from the previous owner. It is hard to believe we have a new building at last. Now the hard work begins...
On the domestic front, my mum has had another sigmoidoscopy, but this went well, and they did not find any signs of the cancer returning.
In the afternoon, Love Bristol have a public meeting at Kuvuka to present their plans for the area. They have put a lot of work in, and produced some interesting ideas. they mostly go down well, although one person wants the office block taken down a couple of floors. It won't happen.
In the evening, we go to the pantomime: Alan is appearing in Treasure Island at Christchurch Hall in Petherton Road, Hengrove. He has a number of parts, and plays each one of them really well. He remains in character when he is not the centre of attention, and ad-libs nicely during the juggling scene. We are deeply impressed.
The one irritating part of the show is where Long John Silver gets to sing 'If I were a rich man'. It is a wonderful song, but just wrong in this context. The singer is simple, hardworking and honest, and Long John is none of these things.
Much of my day is spent at the Queen Vic. Aspire turn up, Don buys and fits some locks and padlocks for the various doors, and a team of their workers start to clear up the mess left behind. They manage to clear away most of the rubbish downstairs, and make a start on upstairs. The place is a lot cleaner and nicer by the time they leave round 2.30.
Then people start to arrive for the photo shoot with the Bristol Evening Post. It takes quite a while, with pictures inside and out. In between the pictures, we chat with the BEP reporter and record an interview with someone from Radio Bristol.
Sue is still waiting for Esme. Thanks to the snow, her plane has been diverted to Cardiff. And then there is an accident on the Severn Bridge, which holds up the traffic and the coach ferrying people from Cardiff to Bristol Airport. Sue is waiting a long time, but eventually Esme is back safe and sound.
Saturday 20 February: my parents and Roger drive down, and we go and see Alan in the pantomime again. He is just as good, and has developed the juggling routine and banter further than Wednesday. Parents and Roger enjoy themselves, and are impressed by their grandson / nephew. And it gives us a chance to catch up in a bit more detail about my father's health.
Long John Silver singing 'If I were a rich man' is just as irritating, and I can't get it out of my head after the show...
Friday 26 February: the Sleep Out generates a large amount of work, but also a good amount of publicity, so we can't complain. This year, the combination of the Secret Millionaire, the Queen Vic and the Sleep Out all hitting the news at essentially the same time, makes for quite an intensive attack on the media.
More people take part in the Sleep out at Pip 'n' Jay than last year, including one chap from the Council. He gets to talk to a good number of folk, which must be a good thing.
I do the pep talk outside, then people start to bed down. I take the first shift patrolling and checking folk are okay. It starts to rain a bit, then clears up, then starts again in earnest. I'm praying furiously that nobody is taken ill - especially Pam, who must be among the oldest of the people taking part this year.
In the morning, most folk are amazingly cheerful. We are a bit late with the bacon sandwiches, and it is probably more work than is justified. The general opinion is that the experience was not very pleasant, but this made it a lot more authentic.
Putting together the various estimates, it seems likely that the event will raise around £15,000 for the various organisatons taking part. Not bad for one night's work.
Once we are all cleared up, everyone else leaves, and I sweep and vacuum inside the church premises - the rain and the mud left quite a mark on the floors.
A quick sauna to get clean, then back home for a couple more hours' sleep before the usual weekend shopping.
Monday 1 March: Channel 4 at 9 pm: The Secret Millionaire. The secret is out - they came to Bristol and filmed at CCM and One25. Sue and I have each had to promise not to say a word about it to anyone, and we both managed. It's a relief to be able to talk about it now. Dawn Gibbins, the 'Secret Millionaire' is quite a character.
Wednesday 3 March: meetings all day. First we have Dawn Gibbins and her 'Inter-faith advisor' who are late. Dawn is as enthusiastic as before, and full of ideas to spread the word of what we do and to combat poverty.
I have to dash away from the meeting with Dawn to get to the Baptist College for a session talking about social action with the Masters students. It is an enjoyable and stimulating time, but passes too quickly. They want me to stay for lunch, but need to dash away again for the Voscur Board meeting.
The bright spot is that Trevor Sweeting from the Police phones to say he can't make our scheduled meeting this evening, so I can go home earlier than planned.
Thursday 4 March: up at 6:30 in order to drive to the Hinton Grange for a 'Business Over Breakfast' breakfast. I am given ten minutes to tell a group of businessmen (and they are all men) about CCM. The 'Secret Millionaire' is an obvious point of contact, and the conversations help to clarify my thoughts on how we talk to business people. Some useful contacts, too, which might build into something.
It is the BCAN Homeless Forum in the evening - brought forward a week because of Jesus in the City, which seems to have thrown all the regulars. Sue is working tonight, too - the book launch of the One25 cookery book. It's a long day.
Friday 5 March: Ian is off to Bath for a weekend Model United Nations.
In the evening, Sue and I go to see Alice in Wonderland. According to IMDB, it is "Rated PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar." After all, you can't have a caterpillar setting the children a bad example, can you? We love it.
We have seen various Alices over the years, and this is the first one which actually works. They took the brave step of splitting the story and changing Alice's age - wonderfully, in both directions at the same time. They have re-imagined the books as an account of two journeys Alice took when she was much younger, and now she is older and about to be engaged, she only remembers the visits in dreams. Then she follows the White Rabbit again, and meets again the characters she met from the first two visits - but this time there is a plot, dramatic tension, and various conflicts to be resolved.
In other words, we have in this film a brilliant recreation of Wonderland, with the familiar characters and quirky logic, but also a new story which is true to the spirit of the original stories. It's a brave step, but it works brilliantly.
Sunday 7 March: the lunch at Millets Farm Centre goes very well, with all the usual exchanging of presents and other items afterwards. We have a short walk, but there is surprisingly little to see: the view of the lake at lunchtime turns out to be the best bit.
Monday 8 March: a beautiful clear blue sky for much of the day, with warm sunshine but a biting wind in the shade. Usual Monday routine: a prayer time in the shop, a short team meeting, catching up with the urgent messages, then off to Pip 'n' Jay for the lunchtime prayer meeting.
The email is not working for some reason, but Simon T promises to get it fixed. As soon as I get back from town, I am off again because the car has to go for a service and MOT. It is five years old. I work on my netbook while they work on the car. Back to the office, then Sue and I go to the Health Club before heading home.
Meet Paul Tipler for lunch at Better Food. We have been promising ourselves a lunch together for ages. He is still struggling against the odds, but I don't see that the current business model can work. We explore the possibility of trying to establish an alternative, sounder, model, on which to sell the vital work they do.
Back to work for a bit, then off to Clevedon for another meeting about the charity shop project.
Sue calls round and we go for lunch together - so she knows I will get something to eat. Back to work, then off to Trinity Police Station for a meeting with Trevor Sweeting, who wants us to establish contact and communication before we open up on the site of the old Queen Vic. And, of course, if there are any local concerns, it helps if he can say he has spoken with me. He does seem a bit concerned that we can maintain calm and order in a larger building, where we might get swamped by the folk from the local hostel.
After leaving Trevor, I get picked up by Ian Mountford and we have a good chat about the developments with the Salvation Army in the area. Some of the recent decisions by the council about awarding contracts for services are looking increasingly dubious, but there is no actual evidence of malpractice.
From Ian, back to work for a couple of brief chats with Andy and Alan, then in to town. Can't pick up any decent paper for a sensible price, but manage to buy and post a very nice Mothers' Day card.
Back to work again. The Duty Manager for the session tonight has forgotten his keys, so I open up the shop for him. Then, a few minutes later, people start to arrive for the training.
We are looking at mental health again tonight. Not an easy session, but we get some really honest questions and concerns, and by the end there has been some good progress. When everyone has gone, I phone Sue. She is still at work, and would like to finish a piece of work before leaving. So time to finish off a bit more admin before leaving around 11.
Sue drives me to the airport and drops me off. She would like to have had a quick lunch together first, but I'm concerned there is not enough time - you never know how long it will take to get through security.
Check in my bag, then through security. It doesn't take long as it turns out, and the machine does not sound a warning as I go through.
Grab a coffee and sandwich, then wander downstairs and immediately find Bishop Roger Sainsbury. We sit and chat for a while, then I realise our flight has been called earlier than expected. We are in the air some twenty minutes ahead of schedule, and arrive in Belfast twenty-five minutes early. Which would have been nice, but we have to wait for Michael Eastman to arrive on another flight, then we get a taxi to the guest house.
We - the congress executive - are staying at the Parkview Lodge Bed and Breakfast in Cavehill Road. At first sight, the name is obvious: it is across the road from the Waterworks Park, one of the old recreation areas around the city. But I begin to wonder if the name is ironic - all you can see of the park is the metal fence aroud it, and the grass slope leading up to the former resevoir. A minimal view, to say the least.
My room is at the top of the building, and is the smallest bedroom I've ever slept in: a bed, a wardrobe, a small writing desk and a tiny table beside the bed. There is just room to open the wardrobe, and just space to squeeze between the desk and the table as you enter and leave the room. In fact, not quite enough space, if you are wearing a coat and there is anything sitting on the desk... On the bright side, if the resevoir bursts its banks, I am unlikely to drown.
We have a meal booked at a hotel about a mile away. Most of the executive is present - ten of us. Good food and a very decent Shiraz. Then we move to the nearby seats and run through the plans for the congress. Still lots of details to work out, but most of it seems to have come together well.
Friday 12 March: breakfast at 8 - a full english, with excellent bacon. Walk to the 174 Trust, where most of the congress will happen. About half the walk is through the Water Works, a park and resevoir. Beautiful blue water, white swans, various other birds, and a cutting wind. On leaving the park, I bump into Michael Eastman walking down the road, and we walk together the rest of the way.
We reach the 174 Trust and register, then start chatting to the folk who have started to arrive. Get roped in to help man the book stall... some things never change.
The opening service goes well. We are introduced to Belfast, and tothe 174 Trust. It is based in an old Presbyterian church in the middle of the New Lodge area - one of the main Republican areas. Over the thirtly years of the troubles, 23% of the deaths happened in the square mile centred on this building. Lots of briefing and scene setting.
we get taken on a small bus for a trip round the area. The murals on the walls are impressive, and many of the old ones are very disturbing. It is very strange to be travelling along streets which look, for the most part, quite normal, but whose names are so familiar from the news reports, associated with murder and violence. By the side of the road is a small fenced-off plaque with a few flowers. It marks the spot where a young man was aiming a small rocket during one time of violence. The rocket exploded and blew his head off, so he is now one of the martyrs.
After the meal, we gather in our 'streams'. We have a small group but some interesting people, who seem to be mainly on the same wavelength.
Last thing on the program is a Taize service at the Holy Family Catholic church just up the road. Very nicely done. And the architecture of the building, as promised, is wonderful: all circles and ovals, with semi-abstract art on the floor and walls. The cross on the end wall is particularly impressive (and, surprisingly, it is a cross, not a crucifix), grounded on a circular earth, with the top section missing, out of view.
Back at the B&B we have a short meeting. Plans for the site visits seem to be getting very complicated, with various visits wanting our people to leave sooner than planned, and my stream possibly not being able to go as early as plannned. And we have issues about the availability of rooms to fall back on at 174. But it should all work out...
The weather is overcast, the water a steely grey. As I walk through the park, a light drizzle begins.
After the morning worship, we gather in our streams. We do set off at the same time as everyone else, back to Holy Family Catholic Church, where the priest is supposed to talk to us about projects they run to address mental health issues in the community.
We arrive at the church, and the priest is not there after all. He is at another meeting and will join us shortly. We spend the time usefully, discussing issues relevant to us and our work. After a while, the priest arrives, and gives us an 80 minute verbal tour of his parish with 500 people playing some active role in the various activities. It's all very impressive, but given what we already know about the parish and the activities, all very predictable. Arkle, our facilitator, is very impressed, and it is impressive, but there is absolutely nothing new or different (other than the distinctive architecture!) or helpful in all the detail. The liturgy, and in particular the mass, is at the centre of their corporate life. Well, who would have guessed? No detail at all about the mental health work we are supposed to be finding out about.
We eat our sandwiches, and do some of the exercises planned for us. There is a remarkable degree of unity, both of the issues we face and the ways we see we need to address those issues. I come out with some of my usually controversial thoughts, and there is a general agreement. The only disagreement comes from Michael Eastman when I suggest that the church has never successfully come to terms with the fact that we have been created with physical bodies: too sweeping a generalisation, he says. Possibly. But, as generalisations go, it seems a fair one to me.
We talk about this a bit more on the way back. He grew up with Christian based physical activities, following the 'sound mind in a sound body' goal. And spent (presumably some of) his national service playing cricket. So his perception is that physical activity and health fit very normally into church life. My guess is that much of what he remembers is a means to an end, just as the food we serve at the Wild Goose is a means to an end. We want to attract people so we can build a relationship with them, so we serve food. I guess youth workers want to attract young people in order to build a relationship with them, so they serve sport. It doesn't indicate an underlying commitment to physical health, any more than our project has an underlying commitment to culinary perfection. But maybe I'm wrong.
Back to 174 for a short while, then off to a Presbyterian church for the evening meal and another service.
Sunday 14 March: breakfast at 7:30 then walk to 174 through the park. Another glorious morning: blue sky and sunshine. Help out in the office for a while, then the morning service is about to start and they want me to do the words, and there are two laptops to play with.
I manage to plug the main laptop in to the printer and get it to display. Check it out. Fine. Then the computer dies. No response from PowerPoint via mouse or keyboard. I'm about to reboot when Kate comes along and plugs an external keyboard in. It all springs to life. She goes, the service is really on the verge of staring... and it powers down because there was no spare power socket. Unplug the other laptop, plug in this one... nothing. Hit the power button, and after a few seconds it springs into life, working fine, just as we start.
Everything is smooth from then, until we get to the last songs. Plug in the other laptop, but can't work out how to make it display on the projector. One of the band comes up - she must know how to drive their machine... nothing. People sing from memory.
The last stream session is hard work, but we manage to pull together a reasonable statemennt for the report to Edinburgh. Michael Eastman is going to try to summarise the rest of the things we talked about.
I duck out of the final service, as I desperately need a sauna and the only reasonably local one closes too early in the afternoon. Walk to the B&B, collect my towels, then walk to the leisure centre trough another park. It's a swimming pool and library. Odd. The sauna is at the side of the pool, and none of the showers are adjustable - one is cold, and all the others are hot. The one good featue is that there is a water fountain near the sauna and steam room.
Afterwards, I grab a quick sandwich then walk back to 174 via the B&B. They are just finishing the packing up, which I had intended to help with. We walk back to the B&B and have a quick executive meeting: what is the initial feedback, and what are the key outstanding jobs? The finances are not good, but not as bad as some of us had feared.
At six, we get a taxi to the centre and enjoy an excellent meal at Villa Italia, an Italian Restaurant in (I think) University Road. You can't book, but we don't have to wait too long despite the serious queues.
Three of the party go straight back, and the remaining three wander off to a pub just down the road. We are in Belfast, and can't go without sampling some draft Guinness. It's not bad.
Back at the B&B it is still early, so catch up on some of the outstanding email from the past few days.
Monday 15 March: breakfast at 8. I join Patton, and then Erica and Kate join us. Still lots of talk about outstanding work. Erica and Kate leave for the airport, I pack quickly, and Patton drives me down to 174. I can leave my bags there while I look round Belfast.
But first, he needs to visit the bank just a little way down the Antrim Road, so I sit in the car in a bus space, praying that no traffic wardens come by. It is fine: Patton comes back, we say farewell, and I leave him to walk into the city.
The walk takes around half an hour. The signs direct me to the 'City Centre' but there does not seem to be much of a centre. A number of big buildings, a museum and art centre which is closed but will be brilliant when it reopens, lots of shops. No museums or art galleries that I can find, other than a small shop selling some beautiful original pictures and lots of prepackaged jewelry.
I fail to find the tourist information, but walk into the City Hall just as a tour is about to start. Drop out part way round, to go in search of the café, and on the way find an exhibition about the process of replacing old sectarian murals with new inclusive ones. Lovely pictures, but almost no text. I wonder if the work of replacing the murals is complete, and the remaining sectarian ones will now be protected for historic interest. There is no-one on hand to ask.
The coffee is welcome by this time, then I leave and find a small shop which provides an excellent toasted tuna and cheese sandwich for lunch.
The Victoria Centre shoppinng mall has all the usual shops, but in the middle is a large glass dome. Very impressive. Three wooden dishes stacked on top of each other, supporting a lift and staircase which go up to a viewing platform at the top. Not much information at the top, but the view is quite good and I take a few pictures on my phone.
Belfast has a leaning tower. I never knew that. It is built over one of the covered over waterways. You would have thought they might have guessed this could cause a problem.
Down to the river. Another piece of art celebrating the unity of the city and the people in it. Belfast must be a good place to be an artist - at least, if you are an artist who likes to celebrate unity and harmony. Then on to St George's church - the original church, or at least, the site of the original church, in Belfast. There is a service taking place, so I can't look round.
Start to wander back. There is no point in finding a museum or art gallery at this stage, so I might as well get back to the airport and do some work there.
We board the aircraft in good time, then just sit for ages. The pilot informs us there is a problem with the air traffic congtrol computers. They are being rebooted. Oh, good.
Saturday 20 March: I am at a 'Media Training Day' arranged by the Bristol EA all day. Not a good way to spend our wedding anniversary. But a good event, with helpful contributions from people who know what they are talking about. I have been asked to take part in the panel discussion at the end, on the strength of our appearance in the 'Secret Millionaire'. Oh, the price of fame. Some useful contacts as well, so a worthwhile day.
In the evening, Sue and I go to the Watershed to celebrate. We want to see the 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' but the times do not work out, so instead we watch ' Exit Through the Gift Shop' - 'the world's first street art disaster movie'. You have to see it! Apart from the fact that it features Banksy, it is a unique experience. A documentary about its own creation, and about an insane French American and the street artists he films and helps.
Monday 22 March: most of the day is spent in Bristol Cathedral, for the launch of the Bristol EY2010. A good networking opportunity, and several people sign up to receive our newsletter. It is one of the better networking and promotion events I have done, and the number of people was healthy despite being stuck in a corner of the Cathedral.
Wednesday 24 March: meeting Mike Pears again today. It has taken a long while, but time with Mike is always worthwhile and enjoyable. One topic of conversation is how churches inthe inner city and in the suburbs can work together: the ricj churches providing finance to the poorer ones doesn't really work at any level. But teaching church members how to engage in ministry can create a real sharing.
in the evening, Sue and I return to the Watershed to see ' The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' - a Swedish language film based on Stieg Larsson's novel. Not a pleasant film, but very good. We are both very glad we saw the Banksy film on our anniversary, but we are also glad that we made the effort to come out and see this one. We each worked out various aspects of the plot, but this did not detract from the storytelling.
Saturday 27 March: it's sad, but with a holiday coming up, both Sue and I spend the day in our respective places of work, trying to finish the urgent business. I manage to get most of the urgent paperwork out of the way, but fail to finish updating the notes for the evangelism training when we get back.
In the evening, the Westbury Singers perform 'Songs for Springtime' at St Edyth's Church. Sue and I both go, and I get to say a few words about CCM partway through. The event is raising money for us, thanks to the Bristol Probus group.
Wednesday 31 March: I am a bit overdue on the Ibandronic Acid. The rule is to get up, take a pill, then stay upright and eat nothing else for an hour. So I take a pill, make Sue a cup of tea, and go out for a walk.
This morning is a high high tide: 7:58 GMT at Avonmouth. Which translates to just after 9 am BST, as high tide is 10 to 15 minutes later at Sea Mills Harbour.
The water is impressively high. The path by the side of the Avon is submerged, and when I arrive it is still rising. But the wind is bitter - it feels sub-zero with the windchill - and the desire to hang around to see how high it will go rapidly subsides.
A man is sweeping the water. He explains that he is cleaning the path, using the river water. It might be high now, and according to the tide chart it is the highest tide for a month, but last night was significantly higher - we can still see the line of debris left behind. The height of the tide is also affected by the air pressure, and he explains that we had a near miss last month: if a low pressure had happened a bit further North and two days later, this could have caused flooding.
Sue rings: we need some bread and milk. So I leave the man and the tide, walk up to the Co-op for them, then back home for breakfast.
The rest of the morning is almost entirely taken up with packing. We have a last minute panic about the weight of two bags, and finally leave just on 2 o'clock. The flight is at 16:50, and we are supposed to check in by 14:50, so as usual we are running later than I am comfortable with.
The drive to the car park is fine, and there is almost no hold-up at the car park, so we are actually at the airport at 14:35, and in the queue for check-in five minutes later.
The check-in is a bit slow: several people have to re-pack their bags in front of us. Once through, we decide to go straight to Security. A good move: the queue for Security stretches out past the usual entrance, down the stairs, and almost the entire length of the main check-in hall. We have never seen anything like it, but, as Sue says, we have never been flying out on the Wednesday before Easter before.
We get through security, and the flight is already boarding. I buy some water, and we walk through an empty boarding gate and onto a bus. We are driven right down to the far end of the airport; never appreciated before just how large the place is.
The flight leaves on time, and is quite uneventful.
When we touch down in Fuerteventura, Sue wants to get off the plane quickly. I always wait for the rush to die down before getting off the plane: we always have to wait for the baggage to start arriving, so why hurry? But Sue wants to get off, so we are among the first off the plane. Sue goes to the car hire and I head for the baggage retrieval. By the time I reach the carousel, some bags are already going round, and our two are just appearing as I arrive. Okay, Sue got it right this time.
I pick up the bags, and Sue has completed the main part of the paperwork - they now need my driving licence to finish it. Within a few minutes we have completed the paperwork and are on our way.
Outside, it is dark, but we are familiar with the roads, the car has half a tank of petrol, and we drive straight to Infiniti. Unpack a bit, then bed. As usual, we start a holiday completely exhausted.
The sauna is not terribly hot to start with, but it is very welcome. In one of the breaks, I have a short chat with one of the chaps who was here last time we came. The shower is not brilliant, but it is cold and the breeze provides a very efficient windchill.
We drive into town to find the Tourist Information, but it is closed today and tomorrow. There are no opening times posted outside.
In the evening, we walk round the corner to The Cherry Tree then back to Infiniti to watch a couple of episodes from the fourth season of Dexter. We have missed the third season, but no doubt this can be rectified at some point.
Friday 2 April: in the morning, I work on my dissertation while Sue goes for a walk and looks round the shops. I'm looking at Weinandy, which is deeply frustrating but necessary. Sue comes back, we have sardines on toast for lunch, then back to Weinandy for a few more hours.
In the evening, we watch another Dexter, listen to the Archers and walk into town along the beach for a paella in La Taberna The man is as friendly as before, and the paella as delicious.
Saturday 3 April: a recent publication lists the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, the Canarian Art Gallery in La Oliva as open, so we drive off to try it again. No luck: the doors are still shut, and no opening hours posted outside - but, then, this seems to be the Canarian way.
We go instead to Casa de los Coroneles, the House of the Colonels. Just inside the door as before is a table. There is a laptop computer and mobile phone on the table, and absolutely nobody in sight. We wander in and upstairs.
They have added a great deal since our last visit: many of the rooms have displays, with pictures and information in Spanish and English, about aspects of the history of the house and the people who lived here. Nobody in any of the pictures is happy, and almost nobody smiles. Perhaps it is a cultural thing?
We wander round, trying to find some lunch, and end up in the bar of the Colonels, which we parked very close to. Sue has a goats cheese bocadillo, and I have the best bacon bocadillo I can ever remember eating.
Back to the Art Gallery, in case it opens at 2 pm, but again no luck.
We drive to El Cotillo. The Tostón is closed, but at least there is a notice outside: the art show is open every day, between 9 am and 3 pm Monday to Friday, and between 9 am and 2 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
We drive through the town to the Lighthouse. The bar there has no power - the wind generator broke in a recent storm, so we go for an ecological walk between information points, and admire the astonishing waves. These waves are large and impressive when they break, but they fade away long before they reach the shore. Waves should not behave like this.
On the way back to Infiniti, we stop to find a swimming pool in a housing complex near the water park. As you might expect, there are road signs pointing to it from a distance away, but nothing nearby. We find it nestled in a large depression, closed, and no obvious signs giving any opening times.
Just off the car park are some paths with view points over Corralejo. They clearly spent a lot of money on this area, and it is possible we are the first human beings to set foot on it since it was built. Well, some of it at least - we find some grafitti at one point.
Back at Infiiniti, I have another sauna while Sue listens to the Archers. We drive into town, filling up with petrol on the way. We try to find Cafe Central, one of the places the book at Infiniti says is worth trying, but it is has closed down so we go for an Italian meal instead.
We have a break in the afternoon and go into town. The Tourist Information is still closed. We try to go for a ride in a glass bottomed boat, but the man on the boat doesn't want to take us. We think he has a full boatload of people to collect from Lobos Island.
At 6.30 we are at the local independent church, meeting in a local home. The last time wee came, the service had been cancelled, but this one happens informally. It is a lot more comfortable than the group we found on our first visit to Fuerteventura.
The first point of call is the patisserie next door to Tiffany's. I had promised to take Sue there for breakfast, and this sort of counts. Then on to the Tourist Information, which is open at last. He tells us about two local art galleries, one of which we have visited before.
Over an ice cream, Sue tells me of a souvenir memory stick, hard disk drive and mouse mat at the Tourist Information. She would quite like the mouse mat, so we go back. It is true: they sell a 'La Oliva' branded memory stick for 33.80 euros and a similar branded hard disk drive for 113 euros. Neither of them give any indication what size they are. But the mouse mat is the right size and only 2 euros, so Sue gets it.
We walk back to the car via the art gallery we visited before, just off the main road by the bird sculpture. Not large, but an interesting collection of pieces.
We drive to El Cotillo, park in the shade and walk round the corner to the Castillo del Tostón. It is closed. A sign on the door says, "I am out for 15 minutes. Apologies for the inconveniences." So we are on the right track.
It is half past twelve, so we go for an early lunch, and return. Success! It is open, we pay our 1.5 euros each (because we are not residents) and enter. The main room has ten paintings by one artist, plus a very nice statue of a goat on the central table. Downstairs is a little more variety, with some interesting ceramics, some of which look rather like large Cheese Straws.
From the roof, we admire the view and three surfers in the impressive waves rolling on to the beach to our South.
We wander down to the old harbour. The two fishermen are still pushing their boat up the hill beside the Clean Ocean Project shop. Back to the Castillo del Tostón, and on to the beach. It is quite beautiful. We walk down a track on to the first stretch of sand, then through a gap in some low rocks on to the next, more deserted stretch. We sit for a little while, then Sue goes down to the water. There is a nice sized rock to provide shelter from the wind. With the waves, it is not so much a case of going for a paddle as playing chicken. Sue does it quite successfully, but when I try a few minutes later, I get quite soaked. My excuse is that the tide is coming in.
A few more minutes to dry off, then we start to head back. The gap in the rocks we had walked through earlier now has waves coming through it. I go over the rocks. Sue thinks she can make it but gets stuck in the wet sand and has to abandon the attempt. She comes over the rocks instead.
Back to where we had lunch for an afternoon coffee, then we drive back to Corralejo. We try to find the second art gallery the man in the Tourist Information told us about, on the main road near the beach. We think we find the place, but it seems to be just a private home, with - as expected - no sign outside and no opening times.
Back to Infiniti. The water has been restored, so I sauna while Sue listens to the Archers, then down to El Campanario for an Italian meal.
Tuesday 6 April: we drive down to Antigua - we can't visit Fuerteventura and not visit the cake shop there. Park and wander round Antigua, but can't find anywhere more suitable, so back to the cake shop for an early lunch.
After lunch, we drive to Triquivijate to see the sculpture on the roundabout - wooden ploughs and pitchforks. Then up a minor road, nice and safe but wonderful scenery, passing the mountain Rosa del Taro. We skirt Puerto del Rosario, and then left at the next roundabout to Guisguey. There is supposed to be a place worth visiting, but we fail to find it before the road becomes a dirt track. We find the cultural centre in Guisguey, but it is closed. It doesn't matter: the scenery is great.
We find a couple of view points - Miradors - we did not know about, on one of the maps we have picked up. One odd thing about the island is that each map and each list of attractions tells you about different places, so you keep finding out about more things. So we drive back to the main road, then up through Caldereta to La Oliva.
By this point, we are ready for some refreshment, so back to the Colonels Bar for a coffee, and then off to find the first view point, the Mirador Llano de la Cueve - the Viewpoint Spider of the Cave. Through Villaverde and then left to Lajares. It should be on the left, and we see a few dirt tracks but no signs.
On to the next one. Take the road to Majanicho - another place we have not visited before. This time, we find the start of the path to the mirador, but decide it needs better footgear than we have come equipped with. According to the map, it is 'Mirador 1'. Some of them have names, some just numbers.
We continue down the road. It appears to disappear into the sea, but actually turns into a dirt track at the top of a small slope down into the village - a small collection of shacks around the small harbour. There are maybe half a dozen attractive looking buildings, presumably homes, within a few hundred yards, but it seems the nice wide and straight road has been built for the benefit of the Urbanización Origo Mare, just at the end of the tarmac road on the left. It has an interesting logo - possibly an elephant, but we can't think why that would be. [Check later: it is not an elephant, but can't work out just what it is supposed to be.]
Back to Corralejo. The port is signposted left at the first roundabout we come to, and Sue wants to follow the sign to see where it leads, so we spend a while driving round the port area of the town. Then back to Infiniti.
I have a last sauna while Sue listens to the Archers again, then we finish off the mushroom cheese spread on some toast and watch a couple of films,
In the Loop is very much as expected: very funny, but in the characterisations rather than a laugh out loud way. And, at the same time, very scary. In the middle of the humour, you keep wondering just how close this is to the reality of politics, and particularly to the way in which war against Iraq was justified.
Sue wants to watch The Time Traveller's Wife - she has just finished the book. But the film is corrupt, so we watch Gran Torino instead. Clint is on excellent form as usual, and the sub-plot of the way in which the young priest grows through his relationship with Clint's character is excellent. The symbolism at the end of the climax is a bit overdone, but that doesn't spoil the film. He put a lot of work in, and earned a little self-indulgence.
We pack as much as we can before bed.
The drive to the airport is fine, and the weather wonderful: a clear blue sky, and almost no wind. Do not want to go home.
When we arrive at the airport, there are two flights to Bristol listed at 11.55, but one - ours - has been delayed to 12.30.
Check in the bags, then through security - unlike Bristol, fast and easy. A quick coffee, Sue has a quick look round the shops, then our flight is being called sooner than expected. We leave almost on the original schedule
The in-flight film is The Invention of Lying. Some Christian groups have been upset by it, but I'm not sure why. It shows just how hard it is to invent a religion. Even the gullible idiots in the film can see the obvious holes in the story created by the Gervaise character. Either we are a lot more stupid than the people in the film - which would be difficult! - or there is a lot more to the monotheistic religions than the film manages to recognise. As a comedy, it has some nice moments; as a commentary on the reason for religion, it is just sad.
We land at 4, are out of the terminal by half past, and have drunk a coffee and are on the road home by 5. I drive, as Sue has been driving on the island. Sue rings the boys. Philip and Ian are both out, and not back for tea. No reply from Alan. They must have missed us.
Thursday 8 April: a slow morning, unpacking and sorting. I have a Mental Health Link meeting at the Southville Centre in the afternoon. It is hard work, but we have to improve mental health services in bristol somehow.
Saturday 10 April: today is the volunteer training: Share Your Faith. All day at Trinity Tabernacle. One of the most enjoyable days of the year: hearing the feedback from people as they understand there is a better way is always deeply moving.
In the evening, Sue and I go to watch Shutter Island. I thought it was a psychological thriller, but it turns out to be too close to a psychological horror film for Sue's taste.
Sunday 11 April: doing the words at Highgrove. It is all fine, except that I can't find the control for the projector - the usual place to look has been cleared out following the fire. Eventually locate it hidden in the mixing desk. And then, just before the service starts, Ed comes up and adjusts the projector display in some way, so I had clearly missed a problem. But from then on it is straightforward.
Manage to get to Pip 'n' Jay and pray at lunch time, which is worth while.
In the evening, off to the Tobacco Factory with the Stoke Lodge Ramblers to watch The Tempest. As always, they do it very well
Sue did not enjoy the away day. She was expecting a review of the last few years, but seemed to be mostly about how people were feeling as individuals, and about creating pictures. Presumably Sue is not the only one who prefers to communicate with words?
Tuesday 13 April: a prayer meeting at lunch time, then a meeting about applying for a grant, and then an update on progress with the new building. this starts late, which makes me late for Philip Jinadu filming me in the shop before it opens. But we manage to squeeze it in just before the doors open at 8.
Wednesday 14 April: very interesting meeting with Ian Webb from the Bristol Methodist Centre - creative ideas about how we can work together more effectively. I'm beginning to wonder just how much more interesting life can get.
In the evening, Share Your Faith, Part 1. Some really interesting people taking part, and a stimulating session as always.
The morning mainly consists of people talking about aspects of evangelism. At least, that's the subject. Some good ideas, but a lot of old and largely ineffective ideas mixed in with it. Very frustrated by the session, and can't even think of a constructive question to ask at the end.
Sue and I go out for a coffee together about 5. We couldn't do lunch because of BCAN, and she is about to head off to Newbury to see her mother. And she likes the cakes at the Better Food Company.
Sue drops me off at work on her way to Newbury. I keep going to nearly 8, then walk up to Ahmed's in Chandos Road - Don and some of the other chaps from Highgrove are going out for a curry. It takes me precisely 15 minutes to walk there, cutting up Nine Tree Hill rather than Arley Hill.
We have an excellent evening together, and the food is good but a little slow - they start to serve the main course just on 9.30, which is later than I would prefer. A text from Sue at midnight says she is getting an early night, but I have developed wind from the curry and despite planning an early night, end up staying up late.
Saturday 17 April: a late start, then bus into town. Walking through the bear pit, I bump into Greg Sharples, Alan Jenner and the team from Pip 'n' Jay setting up a prayer station. And then, on the corner of City Road there are two cyclists riding bicycles on stilts, their heads at least 7 feet above the ground. No idea what that was about.
As Sue is with her mother, I can sneak into work and clear up a load of paperwork. Lunch is a jacket potato at Kuvuka. Spend a while with a client who has run out of tobacco, do some more paperwork, and then talk to a man from Bristol Airport. The place is completely shut, and he wants to know if we can make use of the food going to waste. We can't use anything today or tomorrow, but I suggest a couple of other places to try, and he says he will contact us again on Monday if they are still closed.
Home again in time to watch Dr Who, but Steve is watching something else. Sue gets home shortly past 9. It sounds like she had a useful trip.
Sunday 18 April: Sue is not feeling very bright this morning, so we are even later to church than usual. The place is packed. Dave Mitchell preaches on Esther, and promises to avoid the phrase "for such a time as this." He succeeds, although it is obviously a struggle at times.
I go for an early sauna. Sue doesn't feel like joining me this time. It is nice and peaceful, but getting busier with the kids towards the end. It is a beautiful day, with clear blue sky and hardly any wind. Hard to imagine all that volcano ash up there, preventing the aircraft from flying.
By the time I get home, Alan is there. He has come to do some more sorting, to get Steve's help with his computer, to borrow a laptop for a bit, and to have Sunday dinner with us. It's good to see him again.
Monday 19 April: off to Keynsham first thing for a supervision session with Dave Wiles. Set off down the Portway at 8.30 - the traffic seems heavy, but don't stop until just before the lights at the one way system. Bridge Valley Road is still closed, so no lights there. The rest of the traffic is incredibly light, so I am passing the HTV studios at 8.45, and parking in Keynsham at 9. Never had a morning journey like it.
The time with Dave is helpful. He is concerned about the amount I am juggling, and our need to plan regular breaks, amongst other things.
Prayer at Pip 'n' Jay - two weeks in a row. Dawnecia Palmer is there: not seen her for quite a while. Afterwards, we walk back towards St Pauls together.
Back at work, we have had a delivery of food from Bristol Airport, accompanied by cameras from ITV. So it looks like we are going to be on the TV again today. [We are: it is broadcast on the news. http://www.itv.com/westcountry-east/bristol-airport-closed62257/ ]
Sue brings a Metro home with her. There's a report on new drugs: "A host of new legal highs are already competing to replace mephedrone as the next big party drug". Gosh! They ban one drug, and others come along to replace it. Couldn't have seen that one coming.
Friday 23 April: the Anabaptist Network tonight. We are looking at Revelation, and specifically at the wrath of the Lamb. The picture of Jesus here seems different from the Jesus we encounter in the Gospels, so what is going on?
Is it the case, as David Pawson is reported to have suggested, that Revelation shows us what Jesus is really like - full of violence and vengance? Or is the wrath in Revelation another aspect of the imagery we are not supposed to take literally? Or is there actually a way to hold the two pictures together?
We comprehensively reject the first option, and waver for the rest of the evening between the latter two. Some people are arguing that, if you understand it correctly, the violence in Revelation is not God's choice but an inevitable response to the sin that people have chosen to embrace - in a sense, the only way to tidy it up and clear it away. I'm sure that is a part of the picture, but not convinced it is the whole story. We agree to return to the topic next time
Saturday 24 April: the Montpelier Art Trail today. Sue and do a few of the places at the start of the trail. The most enjoyable pieces are in the first place we try, on Stokes Croft - some calligraphy, which is wonderfully inventive, and many of the texts being displayed are interesting and thoughtful quotes. Very impressed.
Try to see some photography by Neil Edbrook, but only a few are on display. They are very good, though, the few we see.
After a quick lunch, we stop at another place and find the end of a performance. The leaflet calls it ethnic folk dance, but it looks rather like belly dancing to us. Some of the performers are very good, and as we watch, Cliff and Val Jeal come over for a chat.
Tuesday 27 April: the Church Urban Fund exhibition ('CUFx') in Birmingham today. The easiest way to travel is by train. I have seats with an electrical power supply each way, so manage to catch up on quite a bit of work on my netbook during the journey. The actual event is worthwhile, but not as notable as last year.
Thursday 29 April: Sue and I drive up to London. We are attending the GlaxoSmithKline Impact Awards ceremony at the Science Museum. One25 were one of the winners this year, and I get to accompany Sue to the ceremony.
Inevitably, we are late getting away. But the journey is excellent, and we reach my parents in just three hours. We then have just over an hour with them before heading out again to Eltham Station, where we catch the train.
We reach the Science Museum just over half an hour early, which gives us time for a quick coffee and bun in a coffee shop down the road. When we return, the queue is moving and we get inside quickly.
The ceremony is in the Imax cinema, which we have not visited before. It is miles from the entrance, and up a couple of levels. Lots of people are standing round on the first floor which has a plain and very disturbing red theme. We move rapidly through this to the theatre, where several folk from One25 have already taken seats.
There is a short film about each of the winning organisations, pithy and well made. Several interesting observations: most obviously, most of the staff, and most of the service users of the various projects were female. Several of the projects were set up solely for women. To be fair, one of the projects was about prostate cancer, but this only served to make the contrast with the other, mainly female, projects all the more obvious. Very few of them said anything about volunteers - One25 was an honourable exception here. And almost all the projects had between 10 and 20 members of staff. I think I counted one with 9 members of staff in their picture, but maybe someone was sick.
Afterwards, we stand around in the Making of the Modern World gallery drinking wine and eating canapés, right next to the original Watson and Crick model of a DNA molecule. You don't get much more iconic than that.
Friday 30 April: Roger drives us to the airport. He has a day off work to pick up the keys to the house he has just bought with a friend. They plan to rent it out as an investment. On the way to the airport, Sue realises she does not have her mobile phone to hand. I ring it, but we hear nothing. Presumably, it is back at my parents' house. Roger offers to turn the car around and go back for it, but I'm always twitchy about getting to the airport in time, and Sue bravely decides to leave it behind.
I get caught in the airport security check. Really caught: they take everything out of my rucksack and my camera out of its case, look through everything and check most of it for drugs. This is slightly worrying, as it is quite possible my camera and other bits have been handled by people who have been handling illegal drugs. But they don't find anything, and I am allowed to re-pack it all. No idea why they picked me.
The flight is fine. Sue is in the middle of the three seats, next to a pilot at the start of the flight. But as soon as we have taken off, he gets up and we don't see him again. You get films made about people disappearing on a plane flight, but we don't want to be in one of them so we keep quiet.
In Dublin, we come off the plane and are immediately in a waiting area with shops. Very odd. No passport control? But that comes later. The luggage comes off the plane very promptly, we ask for directions to find the coach for our hotel, and head out of the airport. It's quite a walk, but we find the right place and are driven to the hotel.
However, when we try to check in, it turns out that we are in the right hotel - the right hotel chain - but the wrong location. So back on the coach, back to the airport, walk back to the terminal, and then on a bus from a stop right outside the main entrance.
We check in and gratefully reach our room. Oh joy! Sue finds her phone, packed into a suitcase.
I go for a sauna. The hotel recommends one about 15 minutes walk into town - they don't have one on site. Sue goes for a walk.
As I leave the gym, I phone Sue. She is nearby: turn right and I'll meet her. I turn right and walk to the end of the road. Ring Sue again. She is coming down the road from the left, 'the other right'.
Back to the hotel, pick up some sandwiches from the bar and take them back to our room to eat. It's been a long day.
Saturday 1 May: after breakfast, we walk in to town. On the way, we pass the National Gallery of Ireland, and go in. They have a special exhibition showcasing some of their recent acquisitions, and a wonderful exhibition of Chinese manuscripts. Lunch at the Gallery, then continue walking into town and take the bus tour of Dublin.
I drop my bag off at the hotel, then catch a bus into town. There are lots of paintings around Merion Square, so I take a gentle stroll to see them. There is an astonishing amount of very good material, much of it for very reasonable prices. If we wanted to pick up a few paintings, this would certainly be worth coming back to.
Head off to meet Sue, but get a bit confused: none of the maps seem to show all the roads, and at one point I am heading in the wrong direction. But ignoring the map and navigating by the sun works better, and we meet by one of the footbridges across the Liffey.
We look for somewhere to eat, and find a very nice burger place. The best burger I've had since our first night in New York.
We head for the Chester Beatty Library, now located in Dublin Castle. The publicity says that the current exhibition of Chinese Art runs till tomorrow, but when we arrive we learn that it actually closes today. Some astonishing works, and an interesting guide to show us round. The library also has some of the oldest fragments of the New Testament, which are strangely moving.
The library only moved to the castle recently. It used to be in the building which is now our hotel. All this amazing stuff used to be in our hotel. How odd.
When the library closes, we wander back through Temple Bar, then try to find an art gallery that is supposed to be open. We find the gallery at last, at the top of a beautiful shopping centre, but it is closed.
Monday 3 May: after breakfast, we catch the bus into town, and then take the tour bus to the Guinness Storehouse. They are currently celebrating 250 years of Guinness, even though the actual anniversary must have been some time last year.
One of the first things you see is the lease Arthur Guinness signed for the site - for 9,000 years. Makes you wonder what their plans are for when the lease runs out in - less than 8,750 years to go now.
The centre of the Storehouse, now converted to a visitor centre, is an atrium shaped like a giant beer glass. Very nice.
The most interesting parts are not about the brewing, but about the advertising. A surprising amount brought back fond memories. Oddly, in a display cabinet with beer mats, a lot of people have added their own business card and other notes, including some with just a female name and telephone number. Not sure that Arthur Guinness would have approved of this use of his premises.
A late lunch in the restaurant - what else but beef and Guinness casserole? Quite delicious. Then up to the bar at the top with a great 360 degree view of the city.
We walk back through Temple Bar, and take coffee in the Irish Film Institute.
Take the bus up to Trinity College and go to see the book of Kells. The 'most beautiful book in the world'? Not sure about that, but it is quite impressive.
There is lots more to see at Trinity College. They have a poster with the Irish declaration of Independence from 1916, which is very disturbing.
Lunch in the restaurant at Trinity, then back to the hotel to pick up our cases.
The airport seems calm, with very few people around. Quite the opposite of the frustrated crowds we expected to find. So what happened to those people whose flights had been cancelled this morning?
Sue takes the window seat, and I go in the middle of the three. There is someone in the seat next to me, but before we take off a hostess comes up and asks if we are sitting together. When we work out what she is asking, she explains that there is an empty row further up the plane, so would we like a bit more room? Yes, thank you. The other chap moves off, and we get an empty seat next to us. It always makes the flight a little bit easier.
As we come into London, we fly over the site of the 2012 Olympics, and get the best real life view of the Thames Barrier we have ever seen. Just like you see in the films.
Sunday 9 May: up very early to drive into Bristol, park in the multistory and walk to 'At Bristol' for 8 am, where I'm invited to the VIP reception for the Bristol 10k race. There are loads of runners from Woodlands and Christ Church, and CCM will be getting 1/9 of the sponsorship raised.
We are in a large room at the top of 'At Bristol'. It is a good opportunity to meet some interesting people and catch up with a few familiar faces. It turns out I know the Chief Exec from the main charity: we used to work together on helping homeless people find jobs and work placements.
The view from the balcony with many of the runners in the square below is really very impressive. Lots of them are wearing the 'Love Running' t-shirt. Just being there is quite an experience.
Friday 14 May: Sue takes the day off to travel to Guildford. It is the funeral of Audrey Kingham at Westborough. Ted and Audrey were good friends, and came down to visit us in Bristol. Being there matters, even if we can't be around for Ted as we would like. The back of the order of service has a lovely montage of pictures of Audrey and the two of them over the years.
Saturday 15 May: Sue and I are at the Upper Horfield Fair, on a stall representing the choir she sings with. It's quite a fun event. I drop out part way through to go and buy some hard hats and high-vis vests for visitors to the Queen Vic... the former Queen Vic, soon to be the new Wild Goose. Building work starts Monday.
Monday 17 May: Sue is not feeling well, but goes to work anyway. I have a FareShare meeting at 8.30 am, then a Voscur Resources meeting, then a meeting at the Compass Centre, and then a meeting with Ian from the Methodist Centre. All important and worthwhile events, but days like this make it hard to get any real work done.
I leave her to go down to Elim for a lunch for church leaders to meet and hear from one of the speakers at the conference, Bill Johnson. He is very good, the food is excellent, and we have the usual array of familiar faces and other interesting people at the tables.
While I am out, Ian takes and passes the theory part of his driving test.
I get home, Sue gets up, and I take Ian out for a drive. He is not bad, just needs a lot more practice to give him more control of the vehicle, and to give the impression he is in control.
I have a check up with the dentist, which is okay. Then in to work, trying to get some urgent jobs completed.
Off to London to stay with my parents. Leave late, and somehow get lost on one of the M25 junctions - think a lorry must have blocked a sign at one point. But on the plus side, there is a big red moon in front of me for much of the journey.
Arrive in good time, and have a very useful chat with Nigel, if a bit frustrating. The format for the dissertation which I have been struggling to make work... it's wrong, so I need to move various bits round. And basically put it into the shape I originally proposed. Which would have made life much easier over the past few months. But still, progress.
Long and often slow journey home.
Sunday 30 May: at church, I am doing the words again. This time, for once, all goes well: the computer and projector behave themselves, and the songs are all the correct versions in the expected order. Wonderful.
In the afternoon, I have a haircut, then go for a sauna while Sue takes Ian to a party.
Back in to work, trying to fix some problems with the computers. Some progress.
Philip joins us by train. We gather at Pip's house for a barbecue, which goes very well. Getting everyone into cars afterwards is inevitably a drawn-out affair, but we all get to Acorn Ridge in the end. Andy, who did the funeral, does a short service for the family by the tree, then Ray places the box in the hole that has been dug for us, and the family take turns to put the earth back on top.
Sue brought some pretend wine and plastic glasses for a toast, and Pip brought some flowers to go round the stone, so we have a toast to John and struggle with the stony ground to put the plants in place. Then Peter and Ray need to dash away, and we go back to Pip's place while the rest of the practical arrangements are worked out.
After a bit, Sue drives Alan to the station: he is off to Cambridge for a computer games event. Then Ian drives the rest of us to the station at Didcot Parkway, through a long traffic jam on the A34. Thanks to the traffic, Ian and Philip are late for the trains they were planning to catch. Philip heads back to Coventry, and Ian back to Bristol.
Sue and I drive on to the de Vere Milton House hotel, the same place where we stayed in March. We are in an annex confusingly called 'bedrooms'. It looks ugly on the outside, but we have a good view of grass and trees at the back. A very welcome sauna and swim, then watch The Mentalist on TV while eating a salad from a local garage.
Saturday 5 June: breakfast in the hotel, then drive up to Oxford to meet my parents and brother. We are early at the Park 'n' Ride, and they are 30 miles away, so we nip off to a local village hall for a craft and produce show. We buy some coffee and some pasties and pies for lunch, then my parents ring to say they have arrived, so we swallow the coffee quickly and head back to the Park 'n' Ride.
The bus takes us into Oxford, and we get off just outside Oxford Castle. We eat the pasties and pies in some steps beside the mound, then wander round some stalls. A local restaurant does an interesting demonstration of how to cook a risotto: very tasty. Sue buys a metal butterfly on a stick for her mother.
We break for a coffee, then join a tour of the Castle. It has only recently been opened to the public, functioning as a gaol for most of its life. The tower is the only Saxon defensive tower in the country, which is an impressive claim. The view from the top is quite impressive, too.
Back down the tower, we go into the crypt which used to be used as a classroom. There is a model of a teacher and a couple of students. The guide tells us the techer is Geoffrey of Monmouth. Have to admit, I never knew Geoffrey of Monmouth taught in Oxford Castle.
At the end, we gather on some seats in the gift shop. Dad goes off the the toilet... and doesn't come back. Sue and Roger go in search, and find him wandering round the stalls. Fortunately, he has not left the castle site. It's a bit worrying that we can't leave him unattended any more.
Bus back to the Park 'n' Ride, and drive to Ray and Diana's party. It is quite an event, with food and country dancing. Great fun. At the end of a long night, back to the hotel.
Tuesday 8 June: time for another injection. Usually try to schedule them for first thing, but this time it is after work. Arrive at the surgery with a few minutes to spare, but then remember that I should have taken some painkillers before arriving. Keep forgetting this detail.
The nurse is delayed, which is probably not surprising at the end of the day, so I'm 45 minutes late getting out. Should be at a charity shop meeting in Clevedon. Phone them, and they tell me not to bother setting out: there is nothing vital on the agenda, and they should be finishing at about the time I would arrive. So I get home earlier than planned for once.
Friday 11 June: Building Group in the morning: good progress, but problems with an end wall and bits of the roof. BCAN Steering Group at lunchtime: progress with planning the Leaders' Breakfast and registering as a charity. Anabaptist Network in the evening: meeting South of the river for a change. Following up on the exploration of the 'wrath of the lamb' we were looking at last time. For some reason, this evening seems much more relaxed, and the differinng ideas seem to complement each other far more. Perhaps we have had time to reflect on the discussions from last time.
Drop off the training materials at work, then straight on to 'Praise in the Park'. The mayor comes, the weather holds, and it is just a nice, relaxed time together. Hopefully, a bit of healthy witness to the people hovering on the edges. Time to catch up with various people.
After 'Praise in the Park' is packed away, I head off to Easton for the Arts Trail. Sue is busy and can't join me this year, which is a shame. But it is always easier to chat with the artists and other visitors when I'm on my own. It is the usual mixture of brilliant and inventive works, alongside other, less interesting pieces.
One of the stops particularly stands out. I am chatting to a lady, who turns out to the the artist, as I look at a large semi-abstract painting. "Can you see what it is?" she asks - no reference to Rolf Harris intended, as far as I can tell. I look for another minute or two, and suddenly I can see the figure behind the shapes on the canvas. It is almost a breathtaking moment. She is really pleased by the effect.
A similar thing happens a few minutes later. I have been looking at a couple pieces that share a common idea: they are vaguely interesting but nothing special. Then, browsing through a sketch book, I find the original concept, very rough in pen and ink, and suddenly I see what was intended for the works on display. And it is beautiful.
Tuesday 15 June: on the train first thing, and up to Brimingham for the Housing Justice event. The journey to Temple Meads is fine, but once the train to Birmingham pulls into the station, it just sits there for almost an hour. So we are a bit late arriving. A chap sitting near me is travelling up for a job interview, and gets a bit upset by the delay.
The train eventually moves, and I arrive towards the end of the first session. It sounds like it was interesting, with an overview of housing policy and issues. We are at Carrs Lane, the same church as the CUF event earlier in the year, which makes finding the place easier.
I have completely missed Bernard Longley's address (he is the Archbishop of Birmingham), and just catch the last few minutes of Rebecca Pritchard's keynote presentation. This sounded very interesting, despite her being the CLG Rough Sleeping Specialist Adviser.
The day is pretty much as expected: catching up with a few people, being introduced to others, asking questions, telling people about the work we do. Several people are interested in the training programme: if I had brought copies, I could well have sold them. There is a table for our literature, and by the end of the day much of what I put out has gone.
However, the seminar on Trauma by Robin Johnson is quite fascinating, with details of cutting edge research on trauma and personality disorders. I manage to ask a few questions in the session, and several more over coffee afterwards. The day was worth doing, even if it was just for this bit.
The journey home is quick and uneventful, a relief after the frustrations of the morning.
Wednesday 16 June: the ISR AGM in the evening. The business bit is very predictable, but efficient and well managed by John Savage. And they have two interesting speakers after the formal meeting is over: Sally Muggerage and Simon Barrow.
Sally is very highbrow. What I think I understand of her talk, I think I disagree with much of it. She is talking about morality and ethics in the modern world, which is a vital topic, but I think she is saying that religion is based on ethics - all religions are founded on a shared set of ethical values - which I strongly disagree with. But this is not the place for an argument, or even to explore such topics in a friendly way. Simon is also interesting, and more accessible.
Sue and I go to the Hippodrome, where we are joined by Alan - barely in time! - for a performance of The Hobbit. We thoroughly enjoy it: faithful in spirit to the book, and nicely inventive.
In the evening, we are at Stapleton Road Chapel for an Open Evening. This has been arranged because of reports of unhappiness from the local people, concern about what CCM arriving on their doorstep will mean. At the last minute, Sue joins me.
Only a couple of people turn up, and they are very supportive of the project. It is a useful time, talking and sharing about the plans we have, and all the work that remains to be planned and undertaken - but not quite the evening we had anticipated. Did the unhappy people not see the publicity? Could they not be bothered to turn up? It would be nice to know, but I don't think we are likely to find out now.
Sue and I go to see the new Robin Hood at the Odeon. Not many people in the audience, but one family lets their children run riot through much of the film. They are eventually asked to leave, which they do, complaining bitterly.
Despite the distraction, we enjoy the film, although it is not so much Robin Hood as Robin Hood: the Prelude - the story of how Robin gets to be the famous outlaw we all know and love. Marion is not actually a maid in this version, being married and widowed before we meet her. It's a merry romp, not caring too much about geography or history. In a key encounter with King John, Robin tells him, "In England, every man's home *is* his castle." You just knew that Robin Hood invented that phrase, didn't you?
Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but the slight re-working of the phrase works perfectly. Not "An Englishman's home," but "In England, every man's home." It doesn't matter who you are, or where you come from: in England, your home is your castle. A principle we successfully exported to the United States. It's good when films spark off thoughts...
When we leave, a member of staff apologises for the noise, and gives us free tickets for another time. We end up happy, rather than disgruntled.
Sunday 20 June: Sue and I go to the One25 Garden Party; and Sue has persuaded Alan to come too, to do some juggling. The weather is beautiful, and it all goes off very well. Abby is also there, who used to work on the Sea Mills and Coombe Dingle Community Project with me. She and her husband have now moved, but are related (I think...) to the people who live on the other side of the hedge. Abby demonstrates some wonderful tricks with the hula-hoop, which goes very well with Alan's juggling. It's good to catch up again.
Monday 21 June: at the end of most days, I use a step exercise machine as a part of the plan to prevent the osteoporosis getting worse. For several months, I have been doing 250 repetitions a night, but this has been getting comfortable. So tonight I continue counting up to 300 for the first time. It is a bit of a strain, but do-able.
The journey is fine; we find our B&B, settle in, and then head off again for the first session of the weekend. We even get there in good time, about 7 pm for a 7.30 start, and then the first set is a bit delayed - "The Frank Toms Trio with Willie Garnett (sax) & Ronnie Hughes (trumpet)". Never mind: lovely surroundings and good beer. Who minds if the music is slightly late? They are excellent when they arrive. The second set inevitably starts late as well ("The Enrico Tomasso Swingtet, including Karen Sharp, Colin Good & Jerome Davies") but we don't mind getting back to the B&B a bit late.
Saturday 26 June: the first part of the day is a jam session, very ably led by a team of two or three people - a lady and chap up front, backed by a blind pianist. They have a CD on sale, and we are impressed enough to buy one: Message in a Bottle.
In the afternoon, the "Frank Toms Trio with Jim Hart (vibes)" is great fun. We go for a nature trail walk in the break, then back for the last session with "the Jazz Legend Bob Wilber" and his quartet.
Sunday 27 June: amazingly, we arrive in good time for the service at Brockenhurst. Like last year, it is a good time. The trio from yesterday - Billy, Martine and the older chap (John?) are leading the worship, and again do a very good job. At lunchtime, we have booked a roast meal in the dining room, and share it with the trio: as you would expect, all interesting people.
The afternoon is glorious: beautiful sunshine and great music. The one slight disappointment is that the beer tent has begun to run out of many of the varieties that were available Friday night.
In the evening, we eventually drag ourselves away from the music and drive home, listening to the CD on the way. An uneventful journey.
Monday 28 June: Sue finds a report on the World of Love Alan was attending - not what it sounds like!
The Beyond Self Esteem event at Christ Church Clifton is excellent.
Monday 28 June:
there is a BCAN breakfast this morning for church leaders. It
seems to go very well: a good number turn up, and they are
interested and supportive. But no clear message about what they
would like from BCAN. More work needed.