Home just after 12, and then almost immediately out again with Sue to meet her rambling friends at the King's Arms for a pub lunch. Sue has the fish pie and I have the roast duck. Both very nice, but there are no vegetables with either meal, which somewhat spoils it.
We stop off on the way home at Sainsbury's and do something like the traditional weekly shop. Like we used to do when we had boys living with us. Finish with a coffee and diary check, just like old times.
When we get home, I clear some space in Philp's room, vacuum the space, and then Philip and I carry the new bookcase up to his room.
Sue and I are planning to watch something, so I make her a cup of tea while putting the rest of the shopping away. Something slips on a shelf, pushes a coffee jar over the edge, which smashes on a new mug Sue got for Christmas. There is glass, china and coffee granules all over the place. Clearing up takes a little over an hour.
We finally get to watch Blood Work, an old Clint film recorded ages ago, before going to bed.
We dash back, but Philip is not packed yet. Despite this, we have had lunch and are in the car and away by 2.30. Half an hour ahead of schedule. A first!
The first part of the journey is fine. We bring the TomTom, our new satnav, and switch it on monstly to see what it does. But we run into traffic on the M5, and it tells us to take a detour - as promised, we have real-time traffic news. Very impressive.
As it happens, the whole motorway is closed and the Police are making everyone leave at the next junction. Miles of crawling along the motorway, then meandering through towns makes it a long and grueling journey to Philip's digs. After getting away ahead of schedule, we are now seriously behind.
We stop just long enough to drop his things and make a coffee for me to take away. We are booked into the Clover Spa, a new hotel Sue found in Birmingham, as a short getaway. Much closer to Philip than going home directly, so it breaks the journey nicely, and it's a little break before work starts again. We arrive just before 6.30, quite exhausted.
The timing matters because it is the 60th anniversary edition of The Archers, a specially extended and widely trailed program - not to be missed. We hear Nigel falling to his death from the roof, after several red herrings in the plot.
After recovering ourselves, I phone my father to wish him a happy birthday, then we go downstairs and use the outdoor hot tub - a very nice jacuzzi, which gently massages Sue's arm. She has not used anything like this since the accident, so it is a bit of an experiment, but it works well. There is something very nice about being massaged in warm water, outdoors at night. This was a good choice.
We have a quick lunch and read for a little bit, then I go for the four-handed massage we have booked. This is a bit of a treat after all, and we are getting an excellent value deal. The massage is wonderful, but I decide I prefer the massage cream Lesley uses to the oils used here. Never mind: it's worth knowing. We chat with the owner and a couple of other guests for a while. The other guests run a resort in Greece. Sounds like it could be worth visiting, as long as I can manage without a sauna. But not at this time of year.
After a while, I go and shower to get the oil off. Eventually, it is time to leave. We think we might visit here again - possibly each time we need to take Philip back to university.
The journey back starts off fine. I break for a coffee after nearly an hour because it is 30 miles to the next services and I want to be on the safe side. We share a cooked breakfast.
The remainder of the journey is dreadful: it starts to rain, then sleet. Much of the journey is done at a steady 53 mph when the traffic ahead permits, and often less. I am completely exhausted again by the time we reach home. Don't like driving at the best of times, but motorways and dark and sleet is really not fun.
On the plus side, when we arrive home, Ian has done the washing up, and has really done it - messy bits of plastic and glass included. We are very impressed.
As I am on the step machine before turning in for the night, Ian comes down and switches on the TV, settling down in a sleeping bag on the settee to watch the last match in the Ashes through the night. What it is to be a student.
Friday 7 January: the morning is spent at Müller House reviewing the plans for a training programme. It may be a totally brilliant idea, but I struggle to get behind the abstractions being talked about, so I don't really feel I know what is in the minds of those suggesting it yet.
Spend lots of time in the afternoon trying to sort out payments at the bank. Sue has a physiotherapy appointment, but I don't realise she is expecting me to be there until I get the irate phone messages. Oops.
Saturday 8 January: the volunteer training in the morning goes well - everyone engaged and asking relevant questions. I even manage to get away on good time, about 1.15 instead of the more usual timescale (often close 2 pm) because it is Graham Donald's birthday party and I need to pick Sue up on the way there.
But the car has the 'engine warning' light showing, and everything starts going to pieces. Have problems finding the right number to call, then they don't have any record of my membership. I agree to pay for a breakdown mechanic to attend, anyway.
After another half an hour, a mechanic turns up and plugs in computer. My problem is not on his database. He plugs sometghing else in to the car and accesses another computer in his van. Still nothing. He rings his support people, and they eventually come up with a diagnosis: it is a crankshaft position sensor error. Not a problem with the crankshaft, or its position, but with the sensor.
He clears the error to get rid or the warning light, and tells me to book it in to the Toyota dealer as soon as possible. But it should be safe to drive.
Shoot home, pick up Sue, and off to Graham's party. They have saved us some lunch, for which we are very grateful. We spend the rest of the afternoon there: very pleasant and relaxing. Chat to several people, and spend quite a bit of the time talking about CCM and One25. A typical mixture of work and a social event, relaxing and useful at the same time.
Sunday 9 January: turn up up at church expecting to do the words: it is not in my diary, but we were sent an email about it earlier in the week. It turns out that the email was a mistake. But I need to do a swap for the week we are away, so I end up doing the word anyway.
It is a really complicated technical exercise: several different Powerpoint presentations at different times in the service, plus a video being shown fronm a different machine. Ed comes over and rescues me at one key point, but the remainder of the service is surprisingly straightforward.
In the evening, we have a board meeting. Johnny stays and takes the minutes, which is very helpful. The meeting goes on a very long time, but we cover a lot of important ground, preparing for decisions on future use of the old building, and also agreeing to take on the Foodbank project.
Tuesday 11 January: Sue comes in to work with me, and sits reading while we hold our team meeting. At the end, I want to show her round the new building, but we have to dash off to get the car to the Toyota dealer for its checkup.
They examine the car, but the repair man on Saturday cleared the computer error, and there is no evidence that there was ever a problem. They do not do a service after all, as they don't know what to do to fix a problem which no longer exists, and it would cost us unnecessarily. Quite impressed by this. Book the car in for its MOT in February.
While we are there, we look at automatic cars. No idea when Sue will be able to drive a manual car again, so maybe we need to think about getting a new car.
In the evening, Tom Wright is speaking at BSOCS. I am worried about car parking, so arrive early. Very few people present, so I grab a seat at the front and chat to Graham, who is chairing the meeting, then Alan Jenner and a few others. When it is time to sit down, I'm a few seats on the pew away from the speaker.
Tom is excellent, as expected. I try to take notes, but he covers a lot of gound very succinctly. However, the key point is simple: the Kingdom and the Cross are both vital aspects of the same story. We cannot afford to marginalise either aspect of Jesus' life and ministry.
One of the last questions at the end is about grace and reward, and I feel he is not quite as clear as he could have been. I ask him about it briefly at the end, and he seems to agree with my understanding: salvation by grace and reward for service are not inconsistent, and the Bible teaches us about both. But the topic is politically difficult, so you need to be careful what is said on the subject. Did not anticipate that response.
When I get home, Sue and I watch the TV program: 'The Secret Millionaire Changed My Life'. Good publicity, but still no mention that we are a Christian organisation. Mixture of pleasure and frustration. Lisa came across very well again.
Wednesday 12 January: busy day. Voscur Resources meeting at 8.15 am, followed by an event about worklessness at the Council House. Turn up a bit late, in the middle of a strange hippy-like introduction, a sort of meditation on recognising that each moment is unique, delivered in a slow, hypnotic style. Not quite what I was expecting.
Leave the event early to get to the ACTS meeting, which is a useful time of planning and fellowship.
In to the office for a few hours, then pick up Sue at the Co-op in Westbury after her massage, and take her home. Straight back to work, a few quick preparations, then the next volunteer training session. Good numbers, and good interaction.
Thursday 13 January: off to Keynsham to see Dave Wiles for a supervision session. As always, it is helpful to get another perspective on things. Dave offers to lead the CCM team in a teambuilding day looking at personality types and team roles. Probably mid-June. Very helpful, and something we will not need to spend time on when the staff get together for our weekend away.
While I am with Dave, Sue is seeing Mr Sarangi again. He is very pleased with her progress. Further details from Sue:
I wasn't due to see him again until next week, but they cancelled that clinic and asked me to come in yesterday. Had another X-ray as he said last week's weren't clear enough.
He says it's all going very well, and all I have to do now is the exercises, which are hard work.
He thinks I might be able to drive again in about 6 weeks.
He agreed I probably shouldn't be back in the office before I take my holiday and he's dictated a letter to that effect, but it's OK to do some work from home.
BCAN Homeless Forum in the evening. Very few people, but we make good progress on planning the Sleep Out in March.
Friday 14 January: Sue goes the the 'Style Exchange' at Highgrove in the evening. Rather disappointed by the clothes available, but comes back with a borrowed cloak: black on the outside, and beige inside. It's rather a good Dracula image, and very practical at present.
Saturday 15 January: we have a load of things which need to go to the tip, and have the time to take them, so we do. From there, straight down to Clevedon, and drop other bits off in the charity shop.
While we are out, I notice a tightness in my chest. Not an asthma attack, but it feels like I would not be able to go for a run if I wanted to. Not been like this for several years - no idea why today is different. We have been to the council tip and the charity shop often enough in the past.
When we get home, in the post is a letter from the hospital for Sue - the results of her DXA scan. Surprise, surprise: she does not have osteoporosis. But I think her précis, "The hospital says I'm normal," is reading a bit too much into it.
In the New Scientist, a short letter picks up on an item reported in December. 'Apparently red dwarfs are "more bountiful than expected." Should these be the stars I wish upon, then?'
Over lunch, we try talking with Steve about his plans. It seems that he is back to the plan of sticking around until we sell the house, but spending significant blocks of time away. He is spending a lot of time with his parents at present, but doesn't know if he will move to be with or near them when he leaves here.
The previous plan had been that Sue and I would start paying the utiilty bills so that we have some way of telling whether we can afford to stay here when Steve moves on. We agreed this over a year ago, and have still not had any bills passed over to us. We are still not sure what happened to the idea. But things can easily change again, and we continue to pay Steve a contribution towards the bills.
Straight after lunch, I dash out for a quick sauna. Not the best of ideas, but the timetable is rather tight.
From the sauna on to Kensington Baptist, where I'm talking at 5 pm to around 20 of the 25 people who are planning to open the coffee shop on Sunday evenings. After that session, I stay on and do a short slot in the service. Lovely people, and a lovely missionary from China also speaking.
In the sermon, the church continues with part of a chapter from Daniel, which they are systematically working through. It is an impressive sermon, supported by a very intelligently used PowerPoint presentation in the background. Very impressed. No bells and whistles, but helpful words at each point: the text, then the text with its heading, text with its heading and the previous headings, key words and phrases in bold, key ideas, and pointers to the progress through the structure of the sermon. Different content at different points, but always relevant and helpful.
Monday 17 January: I'm feeling quite rough this morning. Odd combination of symptoms: I'm feeling a bit like I'm going to be sick, plus a headache, a cough, and rather short of breath. Painkillers for the headache, and my asthma reliever before bed - the first time I have needed to use it in about five years.
The good news is that I manage to get to the lunchtime prayer at Pip 'n' Jay, which is always encouraging.
Wednesday 19 January: a bit recovered today. Back into work. a Multi Faith Forum meeting at ISR late morning, then straight on to Voscur for a board meeting: the first full meeting since the AGM and the elections. A difficult meeting. The council have not confirmed that we have the new infrastructure contract, as there are still details being negotiated; but we need to make plans and decide on the future of numerous people. It's an impossible situation, and entirely one of the council's making. But there is nothing we can do about it - just do our best and try to care for the people as best we can. Rather a baptism of fire for the new board members.
In the evening, Sue and I visit a couple who run a B&B on the edge of the Forest of Dean. They have invited us for a sauna, and how could we refuse?
The journey up is not easy: fog on the motorway keeps the speed down - although it doesn't stop several cars shooting past us into the gloom. Then the fog clears, we come off the motorway, and run into roadworks. And finally, despite driving slowly along a country road, we only spot the sign at the last moment and drive past the cottage. Find somewhere to turn around, and return even more slowly.
They are getting concerned about us, and relieved when we finally arrive. Still, we are not too late, and are soon in a beautiful new sauna and basking in the heat. And they are a great couple, interesting people who have done a lot, so we end up chatting long into the night. A lovely evening.
I drive into work with our bags packed in the boot of the car. Very impressed by this level of organisation. But then I discover that we (I) will need walking boots and something warm for the teambuilding exercises on Saturday afternoon. So Sue packs the boots and some other bits into another bag and comes down on the train after lunch.
We are a bit late getting away, then drive up to Steve and Liz, where we leave the car and they drive us down to Rora House for the team weekend away. It's wonderful being driven, and I sleep most of the journey.
We unpack and eat, then have a short introductory session. It's useful having Sue present, with her experience of corporate growth.
Saturday 22 January: breakfast, then a couple of working sessions. Liz takes Sue off to explore the local shops and coffee houses. We cover a lot of grounde, but not quite what I had anticipated. Still, a useful time.
After a snack lunch, we set out for Heatree. Unfortunately, we don't have proper directions or a decent map of the area, and the mobile phone coverage is very patchy,
I am rather infuriated by this: people know about the problem of navigating round the area. But nothing to be done at this stage. We eventually all arrive, and the teambuilding exercises are competently handled. They add an additional twist of getting us to decide and distribute rewards after each challenge, which I have not seen before. Everybody has a good time.
Back to Rora, then off to a pub for a very nice meal in the evening. A bit nouvelle cuisine, but very tasty.
We walk up to the Tor. We reach the rock about 8.10, just after daybreak. There is a slight mist, and the sun breaking through the clouds: it is quite beautiful. We scramble around on the rock for a while. The others go right up to the top, but my boots are slipping on the rock and I decide that part way is far enough. Especially without a stick to support me.
Back to Rora, and in to the dining room about 8.45. The others are all down and eating breakfast. We do our packing, then gather in the lounge before going in to the service.
The service is fascinating. There is a wonderful community spirit, and substantial congregational participation. Alan is invited to give an update on how God has been working with us over the past year since he last shared. They are warm and generous people. The sermon is long and rambling, despite being split into seven sections. Some very good points about the way weakness and challenges fit into our lives and into God's purposes, but not spelled out terribly clearly, and in the middle of stories which turn into asides which never return to the original plot. But despite all this, he is warmly received, and many people respond afterwards and pray out their blessing from the talk. There are several lessons in there for us.
A fellowship lunch, then a final short session before we leave. Back in Bristol, Steve and Liz invite Sue and me in for a coffee before we head home - it's nice to spend a bit more time with them.
Mother rings in the evening, as usual. She saw the doctor on Thursday, and the doctor suspects that she has been diabetic for some time. Her blood count is over 12, and she should aim for 7. She has some pills to take, which make her feel a bit sick, and she needs to be careful about what she eats. They will do another blood count in a while, and then decide if she needs any other treatment.
Monday 24 January: a meeting at midday to discuss an event later this year to warn people of the dangers of anti-psychotic drugs. Somehow we get an argument developing between one person who wants to talk about their experience of new age activities, shaman guides and the like, and another who wants to warn people of the dangers of demon posession. I do my best to negotiate a truce between them. These meetings are full of surprises.
Sue has another Physiotherapy appointment at 4. I get there just on time, and we are shown through shortly after. Sue gets some encouragement about the exercises she has been doing and her progress to date, and is given a few more exercises to do.
Tuesday 25 January: off to Müller House in the afternoon for the first 'Care for the Poor' session. We look at why we should care for the poor as Christians, and do quite a bit of interaction. Interesting people, and good questions. I love these sessions.
Wednesday 26 January: have booked a session with Jonathan to tackle some of the paperwork in my office, but I have an urgent meeting which runs into the start of our time, then he gets tied up with other urgent calls on his time and it never happens. Par for the course - the old paperwork is never as important as the urgent and the current.
Thursday 27 January: another injection this morning. Remember to take some painkillers before heading off to the surgery this time. Afterwards, we check how many ampoules are left, and discover an old one in another cupboard, so I have two more injections before needing to get a repeat prescription.
Friday 28 January: Voscur meeting in the morning. We are in the last few frantic weekd before the new contact starts, we are planning peoples' lives, taking over employment contracts, making people redundant when necessary, trying to get the necessary infrastructure in place, and we still don't have anything in writing from the council to tell us we have the infrastructure contract. They are still trying to negotiate the details of the various performance targets. Unbelievable, or it would be if we did not know the council.
We cannot make all their deadlines. They want a finalised budget from us on the same day that the other infrastructure organisations are required to give us details of their staff who will be transferring over to us through TUPE. It just can't be done. And it is putting a terrible strain on the staff trying to get all this done.
I am so grateful that CCM is not part of the local government funded services mess.
Saturday 29 January: it is Dawnecia's wedding today. To be precise, the Wedding Blessing Ceremony of William Donald and Dawnecia Authenia at Pip 'n' Jay Church on Saturday 29th January 2011. Service conducted by Reverend Joan Richards. Blessings led by Bishop Dr. Peter Douglas.
We get out in good time, and drive to Sue's work. Sue copies some files using a memory stick, then we walk into town and grab a quick coffee and snack before the service.
The invitation says 1 pm for a 1.30 start, and somehow we are in our seats by 12.45. We have never been this early for a wedding before, and probably never will be again. We clearly jinxed this one, as there is an announcement just after 1.30 that the bride is running behind schedule, and the start of the service will be delayed by 45 minutes.
Sue and I invite Roger Allen to join us for a coffee in the nearby hotel. We have a very pleasant time putting the world to rights, and return to Pip 'n' Jay. A group are leading the congregation in singing, mainly Black Pentecostal songs we don't know. Mike Tregaskis from the Monday lunchtime prayer meeting is in charge of the computer and projecting the words and slides.
The service actually starts around 3.30, with a procession of various people, ending with the bride. It's all very impressive, with each group coming in to different music, and possibly each having a different step - some just walked, at various speeds, and others took a step and paused, or two steps and paused, or a step forward and then slightly to the side... Then after everyone has processed, Mike comes forward and welcomes everyone.
We have never been to a wedding like it. Sue and I disagree afterwards: I think the pastor leading the service was making it up on the spot, and Sue thinks she must have been reading it. The words seem to be partly from a remembered wedding service, and partly from an eclectic range of other sources. I spend my time partly listening to the service, and partly doing a source analysis on the text.
We are not entirely clear if it is a wedding or a service of blessing. The expected words are not quite what we expect, but the couple is pronounced man and wife, and they go out at the end with the bridal party, apparently to sign the register, before processing to the back of the church where the photographs are taken.
An astonishing number of people are fed in the meal afterwards: we are jammed together so tightly, the waiters can't move between the tables, and food has to be passed down. But it is all very friendly. I'm sitting with my back to Ruth Pitter's father, who is a large man, and there really is not much room to move. But it is good to meet him and other members of Ruth's family.
After the food, I go and pick up the car and park in the churchyard. The wind is incredibly cold, and I'm glad Sue is not trying to walk in it. Get back for the end of the speeches. They are not entirely traditional, and Dawnecia gives one. However, she is not wearing her glasses, and can't read her speech. Lots of pairs of glasses are passed to her, but in the end Sue fishes out her emergency reading glasses and passes them up: they do the trick, and Dawnecia gives her speech.
Alan is online again this afternoon, so he must be alive and back from his skiing trip. Go off to see Graham Donald for a planning meeting in the evening.
Sue has a Lipreading class in the evening, so I meet her afterwards in the Clifton Sainsburys and we get some shopping for the week.
Back to Müller House in the afternoon for the second 'Care for the Poor' session. Try to look at the 'How?', starting with Jesus' saying that it is the sick who need a doctor, and linking this with his death for the sins of the world. Seemed to go down well with a number of the students.
Wednesday 2 February: Some junk mail has arrived from Toyota: a two-day sale coming up, extra savings available. About to throw it away when I notice that our car is booked in for a service on the second day. We will be in the showroom during the sale, so we might as well look at what is on offer.
Friday 4 February: the Meaningful Occupation Task Group meets this morning. We spend much of our time looking at our role, purpose and meetings. Very few people round the table remember the last time we did this, let alone the previous times. I try to provide information about what we talked about and agreed previously, without shutting down the discussion.
In the afternoon, I have a meeting with Alan and a chap from The Hub. It turns out that The Hub has been taken over by squatters, and they want our support in some kind of campaign to fight the cuts. This is not really our role, and we can't sign up to a campaign without knowing the details of what they are planning to say and do, so we can't offer much help.
But it is interesting that the squatters at The Hub are offering housing advice sessions. They might prove to be more useful than the statutory services which previously occupied the place.
Saturday 5 February: our 'Strategy Day' at work: board and staff get together to talk and pray about where we are, and where we should be going. Sue is spending the day with her mother and sisters, getting the train to Didcot and then being picked up.
The agenda timescale goes completely out of the window, and instead of having a final session to pick up on items which need more time, we spread the discussion through the day. But apart from that, we pretty much cover what we planned, which is quite impressive.
Interestingly, Stuart wants to know why we don't work our way through the strategy documents on the strategy day. No-one has ever wanted to do this before, but nobody wants to disagree with him, so we agree to do this the next time we meet.
There is also a general feeling that the board does not meet enough to cover all the work they should be doing, so we may end up with the board meeting every six weeks. Or maybe even every month... there is a scary thought.
On from the Strategy Day to a meeting with Mark Courtney to discuss the computers, telephones and wiring at Carpenter House and the Chapel Room. Then from Sea Mills to Temple Meads to pick up Sue. Take her home, then off for a quick sauna.
Back home, we watch a film we recorded recently - They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Sue says it is a classic. The TV pages describe it as a bleak film set in the American Depression. Not a bundle of laughs, but we can see why it is a classic.
The shower over the bath has stopped working completely. Need to get it fixed - or, more probably, replaced. Sue has big ideas about installing a proper shower cabin in the bathroom to replace our over the bath affair.
Sunday 6 February: in the evening, back down to the Wild Goose for another session with the folk from Kensington. Nearly thirty of them turn up, and we have an hour or so talking and filling in forms. Lovely people.
In the evening, I go to the St Pauls Unlimited meeeting, while Sue goes to her lipreading class. Afterwards, I pick her up from Sainsbury's at Clifton, with a bunch of shopping.
In the afternoon, Sue has another Physiology appointment. I am supposed to be at St Michael and All Angels, but Steve agrees to take this meeting for me and I can be with Sue instead. The lady is pleased with Sue's progress, and gives her more difficult exercises to do.
Wednesday 9 February: lots of meetings: Sue has to visit the Occupational Health people at 10; I have a BMFF meeting at 11; and then some folk from the Homeless Health Service are visiting the Wild Goose at 1 to see if the place is suitable for a drop-in clinic. They conclude it is, or at least, it will be once we open up the upstairs rooms.
Training in the evening: addiction. Lots of questions, so it is hard work keeping the evening focussed. But enjoyable as usual.
Thursday 10 February: we go to see Mr Sarangi. He is very pleased: Sue's arm has completely healed. She just needs to recover her strength and movement. It is a relief for Sue - she doesn't need to worry any more that she might do something to wreck the arm. And she can sit in the front of the car again - more good news.
Massages in the afternoon, home for a quick tea, then I am out again for a Global Partnerships meeting. This time, we are at Ed's home rather than Esme's.
Friday 11 February: last day at work before our holiday. Drive Sue in to Westbury on Trym to pick up soem bits from a charity shop, then on to work. Frantic activity trying to tie up loose ends and urgent tasks, short meeting with Andy from the Foodbank, then Sue arrives to take me away and Graham arrives at the same time for the prayer meeting I will be missing.
We drive over to the Toyota dealer for the car service and MOT.
After an hour, we get our appointment with a sales rep. We talk for a little while about what we are looking for, and he looks on the database. They have one automatic Yaris in stock at present. Would we like a test drive? Why not?
The dealer drives us out to a quiet place. On the way, the phone goes: the people servicing our car have found a number of problems, some small, but several significant ones. I tell them to do the minimum to get it through the MOT.
Driving the automatic is very strange. Much more so than the automatic we rented in America. Presumably that one was a big American car, so of course it was different; this is a Yaris, which we have been driving for five years, but it's missing a pedal. Still, it goes well enough.
Back at the garage, we get the details of our car and discuss the options. We could probably find a second hand automatic, but this does what we need, it's available now, and they are offering a good deal. And if we put it off, we will need to get a load of work done on the old car just to keep it on the road. It's a decision: we are buying a new car. But not till we get back from our holiday.
The good news is that the tyres are not illegal, just, so they have not been replaced. Another reason for going for the new car now.
As we are waiting for some of the paperwork for the new car to be prepared, we hear on the radio that Hosni Mubarak has gone. So Egypt starts working on the difficult bit. Will the army give the people a democracy after all? And can they provide enough security to persuade the tourists to return? It won't be easy.
We drive back into Bristol. I drop Sue off at Montpelier station - she has a meal with her work colleagues at an Indian restaurant in Clifton - and head in to my office to catch up a bit more before the holiday. Fortunately, Sue gets a lift home.
Saturday 12 February: up early for my four-weekly tablet. Need to stay upright and eat nothing for an hour. While listening to the Radio, there is an interesting item about Our Society.
Volunteer training: addiction. We spend longer than usual on questions about how to avoid addiction, and how to overcome it. Fascinating questions and discussion, as usual.
While I am training, Sue goes to Müller House, to visit Richard and Margaret Kemp, who are staying there this weekend.
Dash off at the end, drop the training notes off at the office, and then on to the Full Moon. Richard, Margaret and Sue have walked there for lunch and are waiting for me to arrive before ordering.
We have a lovely time, catching up on various areas of news, and discussing possibilities. Richard and Margaret are praying about their future, as much of their work in Montpelier has been done; and Sue and I are still unclear about where we will be living in a year or two. But however unclear the future, God has been good to all of us so far, and there's no prospect of that changing.
Back home, I have a hurried haircut while Esme visits and catches up on things with Sue, then a sauna to get rid of the hair.
Monday 14 February: this is supposed to be the first day of our holiday, but I end up going in to work to finish off some urgent tasks. I was planning to go in anyway, as we have a meeting with the Duty Managers in the evening, and I don't want to miss that. Only stay for an hour after the end of the meeting, which is quite impressive.
Tuesday 15 February: up at 4 am, quick breakfast, then drive to the pub where we are leaving the car for our holiday. They drive me to Bristol airport, where I'm flying to Leeds for the day. I check that the driver is expecting to pick me up this evening, as Sue and I are staying at the pub before flying off to Fuerteventura tomorrow.
Flying to Leeds for the day, the day before we fly to the Canary islands is quite insane. But there is no alternative: the FareShare head office need an urgent meeting of the local franchises, and we need to be there. None of the other board members are available.
I use the automatic check-in for the first time. Brilliant.
At the security gate, I somehow miss the phone in an inner pocket, go through the gate several times, find the phone, and go through the whole pat-down process.
The plane leaves on time, but they have fog at Leeds. We circle for an hour, then have to wait for a landing slot.
I am horribly late, but I have promised Sue I will pick up our Euros for the holiday at the currency desk in the airport. After asking direction several times, finally get directed to the right place. Then the man behind the desk feels the need to interrogate me. This has never happened before when I have been picking up currency. Am I travelling for business or pleasure? Will I be alone? Who will I be flying with? He seems to be constantly shuffling papers. Perhaps each question is on a sheet of its own, and my answer tells him which sheet of paper he needs to find next. Certainly, each question seems like the only one he has, until after a while he asks the next one. Eventually, I explain that I am in rather a hurry, I am already late, and please can I just get my currency and go?
He reluctantly complies, but then gets his revenge by directing me away from the busses into town.
At the bus stop, the timetable says I have a 25 minute wait for the next bus. I investigate the taxis, but these all have to be ordered and paid for before they will come out for me. Whatever happened to a taxi rank? While I am trying to work out if a taxi is likely to save me any time, I see a bus through the window. It looks rather like the one I want. I run out... it is... I run for the bus, and catch it. Something has gone right at last.
In Leeds, the attendant in the bus station does not know the names of the surrounding streets, and needs a five minute conversation with a friend on the radio to tell me which exit I need to take. I start to wonder if this journey is cursed.
I have a map of Leeds printed off the Internet. It doesn't show the streets I walk past. The main street has the right name, and I assume I'm heading in the right direction. Again, the street names I see don't match anything on the map. In faith, I keep walking. Eventually, another street name matches something on my map.
I find a tower block in roughly the right place, but see no way in. Go round three sides, no way in. Some workmen tell me to retrace my steps... the entrance is in what appears to be the building next door.
The FareShare meeting is well underway when I arrive. Difficult times, difficult decisions. Some different strategies and different approaches are required. From the presentations, it seems some of the people from the head office understand this, but others just do not see the issues.
Still, it is a very useful day. We can encourage and support the people making the necessary changes, and build a network of contacts with useful people in the other franchises.
It is a very intensive day of facts, figures, strategies, issues, risks, possibilities, and promises. At the end, I just have a couple of minutes to touch base with a few people, then it is off to the bus station again, quick sandwich and coffee for my tea, bus to the airport, and this time a problem-free journey back to Bristol.
Back in the terminal, I ring for the van. They are not expecting me to come back tonight. After a bit, someone comes out to get me, we drive to the pub and I am shown up to the room where Sue is waiting.
Out to the car to pick up the bags, then repacking for our holiday and deciding what to leave behind. Weighing the two bags to ensure they are within the limit.
We finish sorting about 2 pm.
Wednesday 16 February: up at 4.45. We have been told to use a back door as the pub is closed, but when I take a bag out to the car, I find this takes me into an area outside the kitchen with no light and items on the ground to trip over. It leads out into an unlit car park... with puddles. The chap who is to drive us to the airport is in the car park, and he offers to open up the pub so we can use that exit. Nice man.
We set off for the airport just after 5.30. As we drive past the airport terminal, two signs next to each other catch my eye. The first says 'Bristol Airport'; the second, 'Planes leave every day'. One would hope so.
The check-in is quick, and the queue for security is shorter than usual. Sue is concerned that we need to pull out the Kindle as a computer which needs to go through the scanner apart from the bag, but the security guard confirms that this is not necessary. We both go through unchallenged, which is probably a first.
The plane seems to be delayed. The departures board says it is delayed, no idea when it might leave, and then all of a sudden it is boarding.
The flight is uneventful. We can't sit together, but are quite close. Part-way through the flight, the man sitting next to me offers to swop places with Sue so we can sit together. Nice chap. But this is a cheap airline: no films. Have to read and doze all the way.
Off the plane, saunter down to baggage retrieval, and the bags start to appear; ours are among the first. And there is hardly any delay in getting the key to the hire car. We find the car without difficulty, throw the bags in, and drive away. Never managed to escape from an airport so quickly before.
I drive slowly and carefully: a new car, driving on the wrong side of the road, and dog tired. But we arrive without incident, recognise the appartment from our previous visit, and park on the road outside.
The cleaner is there. She shows us around, reveals the wardrobe hidden by a mirror, and departs. We unpack, then catch up on our sleep for a while.
Drive to La Campanario, ice cream and coffee, shopping, then a delicious pizza before driving home.
Pick up some guides, then off for something to eat. First, we have a delicious crepe, then wander a bit more and eventually decide to try Pincha Cabra for lunch. Good choice: delicious Tapas, frendly service and Wifi.
Back at the appartment, I have a quick swim. It is not really hot enough, and the water in our pool is very cold. Not an experience to repeat in a hurry.
The sauna at the Atlantic Spa beckons, and it is great. Just a few people around, quiet, civilized, hot sauna, decent showers, plunge pool, and a terrace for relaxing afterwards. Just perfect. They are advertising a special offer for a half hour massage plus use of the sauna, so we book for Monday afternoon.
From the sauna, we walk up to the Campanario and the market there. Lots of the usual art, pictures, embroidery, jewelery, ceramics, and so on. Some nice pieces, but none of the ones we like would fit in our bags to come home.
Walk home and watch A Handful of Dust, the classic story by Waugh. The book is probably more engrossing.
Friday 18 February: we drive into La Oliva and park outside the Centro de Arte Canario. It has a new sign, which looks promising. And the gate is open - even better. Sue says she hopes it is not a disappointment after all this time, and I reply that it can hardly live up to the effort we have put into our failed attempts in the past. But I'm wrong: it is most impressive.
We are directed to take three trips, in strict order. They know what they're doing. The first is not too impressive: a few sculptures in among a lot of cacti and numerous flat metal goats. There is a very nice amusing bird, a large rusty metal man, and a round pergola with an eagle perched on top. Not much, in reasonably large grounds. But the main building contains several galleries, and in some of them the art is quite impressive, both the the quantity and the range. Some very disturbing pieces by Alberto Manrique - what relation to Cesar? They don't say.
The second trip is another gallery, with paintings and photographs, half buried.
The third trip is also half buried: a circular building with a sales desk for reproductions of the work on view, plus more art round the sides. Then it leads into a long gallery with art on both walls, which turns a corner and reveals yet another long gallery. There is masses of the stuff, nicely displayed in the long galleries, and piled up against the walls in parts of the initial circular building.
It is hard to summarise the range of work. There are some very distinctive pieces by Mario Antigono, which we would not wish to give house room to, but can't help being impressed by. They include a powerful Moses surrounded by swirling water, and a terrifying Archangel - if you were faced by this creature, he would have every reason to tell you not to be afraid. What do we see and hear in our heads when we read about events in the Bible? It must be horribly inaccurate most of the time.
Afterwards, we wander round La Oliva looking for somewhere to eat. It doesn't take long. We choose a Pizzeria, Mucho Gusto which advertises WiFi and a good range of food. We share some garlic mushrooms - more garlic than we have eaten in a long time, and quite delicious. Then I have a lasagna bolognase and Sue has an Asian selection of food in a wrap, both excellent.
We sit for a while, avoiding the heat of the day. I catch up on some email, and we both write some postcards as we drink several cups of coffee.
On the way back to the car, we take a short detour to visit the Casa de Colonels again. A different female guard sitting just inside the door, but surfing the Internet on her laptop as before, and still showing no interest in our presence beyond a basic greeting. Other than that, not much has changed. The most notable feature of the place is the birds, and the intensity of their song at several points round the building. And an odd, furry creature that shot round a corner and disappeared into a stone wall as we approached.
It is 4.30 by the time we return to the car. Sue had been suggesting we drive on to Antigua, but it is too late and we go straight home.
I fancy trying to go for a swim in the sea, so after a short drink we go for a walk on the beach. The beach may be sand, but there are nasty volcanic rocks at the water line. It seems to be close to low tide. We walk a good way along the beach, up to a sign and the start of the beach chairs for the large hotel along the coast. The only place to swim seems to be some way further on, and possibly set aside for windsurfing, so we go for a quick paddle and walk back. The beach is quite deserted, and the sun sinks below a mountain as we return.
After tea, we read: Sue is reading a guide book, and we think the furry creature we saw earlier was a type of grey squirrel, sometimes called a 'chipmunk' by mistake; I finish reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - very enjoyable, and strangely satisfying to discover all the details they had to leave out of the film.
Saturday 19 February: after a slow start, we walk to the Campanario for the Flea Market. An astonishing range of electrical goods: loads of cables and chargers, a 56K Fax Modem, bluetooth devices, CRT displays with keyboards (both unbelievably clean - being sold as new?), keyboards (some of them very nice, modern, good quality), and lots more.
Many stalls include some books. On one, I spot Robert M Pirsig's name on the cover, and realise it is a long time since a saw a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. But then the rest of the book comes into view: it is the sequel, Lila. I didn't know there was a sequel. It is badly marked, but only 50c. Unresistable.
We walk into town, partly along the beach to cut off the corner. It is getting late and we are hungry; we try to return to Pincha Cabra for lunch, but it is closed until the evening. After looking at several places, we end up at Citrus, which offers WiFi and some very nice food. Sue has another wrap, and I have a stir fry chicken.
We want to find the glass-bottom boat in the harbour, but take the long route through the Bristol Playa with the exercise stations for older people, and along the Paseo Maritimo. The boat has finished its public tours for the day, but will go out at 10, 11 and 1 tomorrow.
Walk back along the shore. Most of the time it is either sand or a reasonable path. A bit rocky in a few places. But after the final path off the shore, it gets very rocky and uneven. The last 50 yards are very difficult.
We are both feeling hot and uncomfortable, and we just have time for a quick sauna. Again, not many people: an older chap, and a couple with two small boys. The boys are bored, which is a real problem. They keep on going in and out of the sauna, leaving the door ajar. Then one is in and one out but wants the other to come out and play, then both out but wanting the father to come out and do something... They eventually go, and the sauna starts to warm up again. Then it is time to leave.
Back home, on the BBC News channel there is an item about the annual mobile tecnhnology conference in Barcelona. Absolutely fascinating. Lots of familiar ideas getting ever closer, plus demonstrations of dual core phones, and a phone with two operating systems, so you can use it to power your laptop. The big news, of course, is that Nokia are ditching Symbian; but this has been on the cards for months. They went for Windows in the end. I wonder how that decision will turn out.
The main road into the town is blocked, so we take a roundabout route. We find Las Rotondas, but the car park is closed. We park in a side street. The sign on the door says the shopping centre is open 10 am to 10 pm, but when we get inside, everything is closed apart from a chinese restaurant and Burger King.
We wander round the car boot sale, then look for lunch. We are talked into trying a small bar and restaurant. Only the owner is present, and he doesn't speak English. But we have a very nice Spanish omlette, with olives to start.
Wander round, down to the waterfront and admire the statues. Back up to Las Rotondas, but no more is open. Look for a pastry shop we saw earlier, but when we arrive it is about to close.
Drive back to Corralejo, and to the Catholic church where the Anglican congregation meets in the evening. They have communion by extension, not a practice we are familiar with. The elements have been consecrated in a service on Lanzarote earlier in the day, and havee been brought over for our service. Two lay readers take the service and distribute the elements.
Back home, we watch most of a bizzare broadcast by Saif Gaddafi. The more he talks, the more desperate and insecure he appears. It is rambling and contradictory, and an astonishing piece of TV. We begin to understand why people choose to watch a TV news channel.
We sit on top on the way over to Lobos Island, then down to the glass bottom. It's wonderful. The boat is a catamaran, so there are two glass bottoms. Two surprises: firstly, a beefy aircon unit at the end; secondly, the two hulls are joined below the deck. With hindsight, the first makes sense. But why make the two hulls contiguous?
Anyway, it works really well. The water is beautifully clear, we can see the seabed, the harbour wall, and lots of fish. After a while, Sue goes back up: she is starting to feel seasick, and can't hold on properly to the rail with only one hand. I stay down below for most of the remainder of the trip.
At times, the fish are quite astonishing. At one point, they throw some fish food overboard, and they swarm just as you see on film. Overall, the sea bed is surprisingly flat, and much of it is just bare sand. Very little seaweed, just a few strands floating around. And the water round Fuerteventura and in the Harboour is far murkier than round Lobos Island - again, with hindsight, not surprising, but it is not obvioous from above.
Sue enjoys the journey back, but feels a bit cheated that we did not sail round the island. We'll have to do that next time.
Off the boat, back to the car and drive to the Atlantis Spa where we have a massage booked. Sauna first, then Sue has a massage at 4 and I have one at 4.30. Very nice, but very oily afterwards, so another sauna after to finish with the E45 Wash I use to ensure the skin is properly moisturised.
We then drive back into Corralejo for our visit to La Taberna and their paella. It is as delicious as we remember.
Tuesday 22 February: in the morning, we have to move our things from the appartment with the pool into the boathouse next door - very nice, but no pool. It does give us the chance to meet Carlos, the owner, who is delightful. Once moved, we drive into El Cotillo and get a very nice Tapas for lunch. The barman speaks English, and they offer WiFi, so we catch up on the urgent email.
On to the lighthouse and the Fishing Museum. This takes most of the afternoon: the displays are all in Spanish, but they give us an English translation in a booklet.
On the way back into El Cotillo, we stop for a paddle. It takes a few minutees to walk from the car park to the sea, but the beach is lovely once we get there. There are several small lagoons where the rocks protect us from the waves, and the sea gently laps the sand. Sue paddles, but the water is too inviting and I have a short swim. There is quite a lot of seaweed in places, but it is not unpleasant. Much warmer than the pool.
We find a protected sunbathing area which shelters us from the wind, and allow the sun to dry us. The sun is low in the sky, and there is no sound but the wind and the waves; and only the occasional walker or dogwalker in the distance. Wonderful.
We were planning to head back, but Sue wants to watch the sunset, so we drive into town and find somewhere to eat. Delicious sandwiches, especially Sue's tuna. It is probably locally caught, and tastes vibrant. For pudding, Sue has a chocolate brownie and I have an apple and caramel tart; again, the apple is astonishingly rich in flavour. However, while we are delighted by the food, the sunset disappoints: it is promising for quie a while, but then just disappears behind some cloud, with no sign it was ever there.
Eventually, it gets cold and dark. We drive back and do as much packing as we can.
Wednesday 23 February: up at 7.30. Aim to be out by 9, but we manage to leave just before 9.30. Carlos comes by to say goodbye - he is just heading out for some breakfast. We tell him we want to come back.
Drive back to the airport, filling up the car en route. Park, return the keys, and queue for ages at the check in. Through security; astonishingly, again, neither of us gets searched. By this time the flight is boarding, so no time for a last coffee.
We are almost the last on board, but Sue finds us two seats together. On the plane, I finish reading 'Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You', a book Ian lent me a month or two ago. Well worth the read, but it doesn't answer some of the questions I have been struggling with for a while.
Back in Bristol, it is cold. The baggage appears promptly, and the minibus turns up fairly soon afterwards. Our car has been parked near the exit, ready to be driven off, and we are soon on our way. Drive very carefully home, on the left. It's good to be home, and we finish the holiday a good deal less exhausted than we begin it.
In the evening, we go with Esme to see the pantomime Alan is taking part in: 'Happily Ever After?'. It is produced by the same people as last year; Alan is living with the writer. He is the Dame this year, and if we had not known who it was, we would never have guessed. He is absolutely brilliant. The one downside is that the role has no juggling involved.
Afterwards, we drive home along the Portway, for the last time in this car.
Friday 25 February: we empty everything out of the car, then drive across Bristol to pick up the new one. Another Yaris, this time a 'TSpirit' not a 'Colour Collection' model. No idea what either one means. Chili Red, with black trim, 1.3 litres.
The paperwork seems to take forever, but eventually we finish and are given the keys. Then, instead of being shown where it is parked, they walk us across the showroom, and pull the cover off a car near the door. It is a bit theatrical, but surprisingly effective, and a nice touch.
They open the window and drive outside, then we put our bags in and drive away. I can't quite believe how strange it is to drive an automatic, but we get home safely.
Saturday 26 February: back to the pantomime, picking up Ian on the way. Roger and my parents are already there when we arrive for the Matiné We go in and discover to our horror that it has already started - we got the start time half an hour late. Parents were also late, just a bit less late than us. But at least we are there for Alan's big entrance.
Afterwards, we go out for a quick meal with everyone at Banco Lounge. It is so nice to sit and socialise with Alan and Ian, and my parents and brothers appreciated seeing them again.
Wednesday 2 March: the Voscur board meets in the afternoon. Very difficult times, with impossible choices to make about funding posts and making people redundant. It feels so much like we are the bad guys; it is hard to hold on to the fact that we have been put into this awful position by the Council, and we are doing the best we can to treat people well despite the funding mess. Everyone is really stressed, and several seem to be really struggling.
The choir in the evening is more fun. We get to sing the theme to the TV 'Film' program: nice and jaunty, even if the words are a bit depressing. But it is very odd hearing the familiar melody in a totally unfamiliar setting.
Off to Bristol Baptist College in the afternoon for a training session on homelessness to the students. Practical examples of Christian mission. Through some mix-up, they have not seen or read the material I prepared for them back in January, so I have to change the plan at the last minute. But despite this, I really enjoy the encounter, and the students seem to enjoy and benefit from it too.
My main activity during the day is preparation for the Sleep Out in the evening.
The whole event goes really well. Richard Drake does a brilliant job welcoming people as they arrive; Val and her St John Ambulance people turn up as promised; Alan provides refreshments; and he and I do the pep talk before everyone settles down for the night.
It is a bit cold, but mercifully it is dry - unlike last year. I spend the night alternately patrolling the grounds and writing up some minutes on my netbook. We get a few people who did not come with adequate insulation, and most of Richard's spare blankets have been used by the end of the night.
Strangely, the birds start the Dawn Chorus much earlier than expected - I think it is around 4 am, long before it starts to get light.
People start to move, queue peacefully for a bacon sandwich, pack up and leave. Almost all the rubbish is taken, so clearing up afterwards is much easier than last year, and we have not trampled mud all through the building either.
As with last year, lots of good conversations with people; unlike last year, there is no large group of young people making a lot of noise... although a Woodlands group conduct a Bible Study which goes on much later into the night than any Bible Study should. All good fun.
We do a final check for rubbish in the grounds, and I lock the gate behind us. Drive home, very carefully.
The event turns out to be excellent. A good range of projects from churches around Bristol. We have good relations with most of them, and know about almost all the others; but several people comment to me about how inspiring it is to see what the church is doing, and how they did not appreciate the quantity or variety of social activity the church is undertaking. The one criticism is that we seem to be largely preaching to the converted - very few members of the public venture inside to be impressed. Still, a great opportunity to catch up with a good number of people I have not seen for a while.
One nice detail: talking with one chap, I discover he was on one of the first LITE Courses, and remembers Trudie. She is on another stall a few yards away, so I go over and tell her about him. They are delighted to meet again 20 years later.
I leave Steve White in charge when the service starts, and escape; I am almost falling asleep on my feet, and need to get back home. Early night.
There is quite a bit of news when my mother rings for our weekly chat. The biggest news is that Mary Stark died of a heart attack last weekend. She is in a home, but had been taken out and was sitting in (I think) a tea shop at the time. She was put on life support, but on Tuesday they switched off the machine. The funeral is due to be held on Friday if they get the go ahead from the coroner.
Other news is that dad has been sent a driving licence, valid 1 year at a time. Not thrilled that he is still driving. His blood sugar is slightly better than it was - down from 9.7 to 9.3 - while mum's blood sugar has improved from 12.6 to 8.3. It should go down further, but that is still a good start for her.
They have another busy week: visit to the memory clinic on Monday, to the Dentist on Tuesday and the Foot Clinic on Wednesday. And Friday is probably Mary's funeral.
In the evening, Sue and I go the Orpheus to see Paul. We love it. Nothing deep, just fun. And satisfying. I catch about half the references to other films.
Tuesday 8 March: early morning start: in to Voscur for a 7.30 meeting. Difficult times; not just the lack of money and massive restructuring, but moer so the way our decisions affect so many peoples lives, and the need to balance the need to apply the correct, legally required procedures against the need to genuinely care for the people. The pressure on the Voscur staff at present is immense, and totally unreasonable; but there is nothing we can do.
In the evening, we have pancakes at Homegroup to celebrate Shrove Tuesday. Several people have no idea why we eat pancakes today.
Wednesday 9 March: Sue has an appointment with the dental hygienist this morning, so I drive in alone. Meeting Malcolm at Carpenter House at 9.00: reviewing progress with the building work and trying to get a good estimate of the cost of the remaining work.
On to the BMFF steering group at 10.30, then back to the office and try to catch up with the outstanding paperwork. Join Sue at the Physiotherapist at 4, coffee together, then back in to work.
Volunteer training in the evening. Tonight, we get 20 people: several of them from a local Street Pastors group in training. I run out of training notes, and promise to get more produced for Saturday. It is a bit confused, and I have to cover a lot of material the Street Pastors have missed in earlier sessions, but very satisfying.
I have a supervision session with Dave Wiles, so first thing I drive to Keynsham. Sue comes with me, as she wants to try some of the shops there. It's a really helpful time, as usual.
Afterwards, we drive back to Bristol and grab a quick early lunch at Sainsbury's. I go into work to sort out printing more copies of the training notes while Sue goes into town. Then we both go to the gym (they have a 'bring a friend for free' offer for a few days), then home.
Sue's desk calendar has a lovely cartoon today: a couple are standing at an airport desk. "With our lives, it's all about the journey. With our luggage, it's definitely about the destination."
Out again to the BCAN Homeless Forum. It's in Clifton, and I have difficulty parking, so rush in a few minutes late. Very frustrating. But still, a good and useful meeting. Chat for a while with Val Moore afterwards: she used to live in Guildford, and went to St Saviour's for many years. Small world.
Friday 11 March: Sue picks up some meatballs in sauce from work. On the way home, we drop round to see Ian and give him half the pot. He is as communicative as ever, but his friend Jake is visiting and is friendly.
Volunteer training: more people from the Street Pastors. But this time, I'm ready for them. Of course, it is easier with an extra hour to play with, and time to chat afterwards.
We have a tree in our back garden which, every year, produces the most amazing display of intense pink blossom. It starts off as a subtle shading, and develops into something quite stunning. Every year, there comes a day when I look at it, and think: this is beautiful.
Today, I'm sitting at the table having breakfast, and look out of the window. The tree is there, gleaming in the sunshine. Today is the day.
Somehow, we get to Highgrove before the service starts. We have a child dedication during the service; the baby is wonderfully behaved, at one point, holding the microphone like a professional. Rob is preaching on 'Who do men say that I am?'. He gets three keys from the passage, and I get a bit confused about eactly what those three keys are, but I follow the sermon. Not sure if Rob's preaching is changing, or if I'm just learning how to listen to him.
The third key is faith. If I understand correctly, Rob says that there is a spiritual reality, and just as the ear enables us to perceive sound, so faith is the organ which enables us to perceive the spiritual world. Can't begin to say how much I disagree with him on this one. But it is a nice, simple metaphor, and whatever I may feel about his theology, Rob has brought far more people to faith in Christ than I have.
After the service, I have a good chat with the baby's uncle and step-grandfather. Nice people.
Tuesday 15 March: drive in to work with Sue as usual. First part of the journey is fine, but then the traffic just stops and we take about half an hour to crawl the last half mile or so. Very frustrating.
I miss about half the team meeting as a consequence. Back to the office, a bit of work, then quick lunch with Sue. Down to Queen's Square to get a signature from Richard Hill, then in to the bank to hand the signed bank mandate form in. We want to set up a new bank account for the Foodbank project. Not difficult, you would think. Queue for ages at the counter, then the man behind the counter will not accept the form: I have to go back to the people at the top of the stairs and arrange to speak to someone.
I have to wait ten minutes to speak to an advisor. They give me a little printed slip: I have been 'served' (told to wait) at 3.35 pm, and my advisor will be Jagoda. Yes, Jagoda.
She seems a normal enough lady when she eventually turns up. She seems to struggle with the idea that a company might wish to open a second bank account: she asks several times if this is a new company. Then she gets the idea we are not a new company, and we already hold a bank account with them. She wants to know if I personally opened the first account. I cannot begin to imagine why this might be relevant.
Despite the fact that I am a signatory on our other account with them, she needs me to prove my identity again. I cannot do it - no utility bill on me - so she makes an appointment for next week. I have to take the mandate away, and bring it with me. Actually, I must bring 'all the paperwork with me' as well as the documents confirming my identity and address. And I must bring the other signatories to the account with me. What if they can't come? She seems a bit confused by this question. They will have to make another appointment, and bring all the paperwork - the form we have signed - with them. I eventually escape, having achieved nothing beyond booking an appointment.
At lunchtime, I try to find a suitable card for Ian's birthday on Tuesday. End up buying an acceptable one, in case we can't find anything better tomorrow. Forget I'm supposed to be buying some bolied sweets for the car.
Sue manages to get away from work at 3.30, half an hour later than planned. The Physiotherapist is concerned that she is not as mobile as she should be at this stage. The exercises are cut down to a minimum, which will take less time, but a bit more effort needs to be put into increasing the range of movement.
Back to the car, and we drive to Bath. It's our wedding anniversary this weekend, and we have a few things planned. First of all is the 'Twilight Spa Package' at the Thermae Spa. We have been intending to visit the place since it opened, and finally got our act together.
We get a towel, dressing gown and slippers, plus a wrist band which gives us a main course in the cafe.
First stop, the pool on the lowest level. Very nice. There is a gentle current which lets you drift round the pool, and some gentle bubbles in a walled-in part at one end.
After a while, we go up to the roof pool, just in time. The light is just going, and we see the stars begin to come out. Not exactly magical, but very nice.
The meal is tasty, but not very plentiful. I order some additional bread, which bulks it out adequately. Then we spend some time in the steam rooms before our time is up.
The hotel is some way outside Bath, set on the side of a hill. The lift is probably older than anything we have been in for a very long time, but the room is nice enough, and we probably have a wonderful view from the window.
It's a standard hotel breakfast, nicely done, with prompt service. We pick up a leaflet about the American Museum nearby - Sue has mentioned this several times in the past, so we decide to visit before going on to Bath.
Back in our room, the mist has lifted, and we can see right over the valley, with fields and a small river, and even a train track half hidden. Wonderful.
We arrive at the American Museum, and discover that it does not open for another 40 minutes. The car park is not yet open. We wait and enjoy the sunshine. Sue does some of her exercises in the morning air.
They open, we park, and go for a walk round the grounds. It's an odd setup. Everything has been donated or sponsored by someone with an American name, and most of it is about things the early American settlers would have used or been familiar with. Which, since they were all European, means it is all stuff we are already familiar with. I am reminded of the conversation a friend of mine had in the USA a few years ago: on discovering that my friend came from England, he was asked, "And what language do you speak there?"
Sadly, there is no sign of the 'Tipi' marked on the map. The sign pointing to where it should have been on a path calls it a 'Tepee' which seems more appropriate. Still, the walk is beautiful.
We stop for a coffee, then walk along another path. This one is in the woods - very nice, but no views. Back to the cafe and an early-ish lunch.
In to the main house. This is much better: themed rooms with paintings, furniture, objects and commentary. There is a fair amount about the native Americans too, which is a relief. But Sue's arm starts to hurt, and she can't really concentrate on the exhibition.
Before leaving, we take a trip round the Marilyn Monroe exhibition. A lot of it is her clothes, but there is more: enough other objects and commentary to make it both memorable and moving.
We drive into Bath, wander round the shops and take a chocolate drink before heading back to Bristol.
The Wild Goose has been transformed for the 'End to End' launch event - a delicious meal, supplied by FareShare and cooked by some excellent volunteers, a magician touring the tables, and a few short talks to explain to everyone what they are supporting. It works really well.
From there, we drive up towards Gloucester, to stay in a room in a pub near the Severn, ready to see the Severn Bore in the morning.
We arrive about 11, and, as promised, the man we spoke with on the phone is on duty, recognises and welcomes us. He shows us our room and tells us how to walk to the river in the morning. The only minor problem is that there is no light in the bathroom - the light bulb is missing. It went earlier today, and they didn't have a spare.
Sunday 20 March: up at 7, quick drink, and out the door. As the man promised, it is an easy five minute walk to the river side. We arrive just before 7.30. Various cars and vans, and about a dozen people are already waiting.
Several surfers paddle downstream towards us. More surprisingly, several motorised hang gliders hover overhead. After a while, the bore appears in the distance and slowly approaches.
It is quite impressive, but someone says that previous bores they have seen have been larger. Still, it is worth watching.
And it is worth staying around: after the initial wave, the water continues to flood in. The level rises incredibly fast, with a powerful flow. We stand watching for about half an hour, then return for breakfast.
The same chap is on duty, and the only other people around at breakfast are the couple in the other room. It's a good Full English Breakfast, and we are kept entertained by our host. He is on his second 'gap year' and thinking that maybe he doesn't want to go to university after all.
After breakfast, we pack and leave the room, then walk back to the Severn. Strangely, the water seems slightly lower than when we left it. The church on the other side of the small road is worth a visit: an Italianate tower, and a semicircular sanctuary. The inside is filled with writing - the sanctuary has the ten commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. Other texts and admonitions are all over the rest of the building. And the decoration is decidedly exotic.
Walk back to the car the long way round, then drive to the Amazing Maze at Symonds Yat. Sue took Philip and Ian there some years ago, and has been promising me a return trip ever since.
We stop at the Inn opposite for a quick lunch, then in to the maze. We have to solve a metal puzzle before being allowed to try the maze, and then one of the brothers who created it gives us a potted history of mazes before we can enter. They care very deeply about mazes.
After the maze, back to the Inn for a coffee, then back to Bristol. In to work for 20 minutes to print and pick up some bits for tomorrow morning, then a sauna before driving home.
Sue has been resting her arm, but it is still rather painful. Something is not right there.
Monday 21 March: early morning meeting at Carpenter House with Malcolm, trying to get straight on what remains to be done on the building work, and what all the relevant costs are likely to be. Very long meeting, but essential so I can't complain.
Tuesday 22 March: FareShare board meeting at 8.30, then a meeting of the regional FareShare groups at 10 with Lindsay joining us. Very helpful, constructive meeting. Lindsay is brilliant: honest and straightforward when he contributes, and mostly listening to other people voicing their ideas and concerns. He sometimes gets the wrong end of the stick and responds to a different question, but we can live with that. He's only human after all.
Short time at work, then off to the ACTS meeting. But this has been moved to tomorrow: I somehow missed the message. Back to work, or try at least: the car park is quite full, and a lady trying to get out has blocked me in. After some time trying to help her escape, I drive over the pavement and curb and make my own escape.
Turn up part way through the CCM Prayer meeting. Eight of us, which is better than it has been recently.
The Building Group afterwards is long and difficult, but at least we commit to getting the Chapel Room roof fixed as soon as possible. We just need to raise the necessary finance now.
I leave work early: Ian is having some friends around for a party to celebrate his 19th birthday. Phone home to tell Sue I'm on my way and learn that Steve is back with us, and the washing machine has just died. To be precise, it has fallen through a hole in the floor.
The washing machine had a blocked drainpipe, which leaked and the floor under the machine rotted at the back. It has probably been leaking for some time.
The party turns out to be fairly respectiable. The youngsters are wonderfully polite, and Sue is happy for me to leave her with them and go to Homegroup.
Maria leads the Bible Study at Homegroup in the evening. She does an excellent job at drawing out useful questions from the ones in the book. Much of the discussion is around topics I've been working on privately recently, so I try not to say too much. I'm the only chap present - Nick is going down with a cold - and the only one not to feel that most of my life centres around doing what other people want, and keeping them happy. It would be easy to draw a sexist conclusion from this, but I suspect this would be a mistake.
Wednesday 23 March: up early, as I have an appointment at the bank. Still trying to set up a new bank account for the Foodbank. Spend nearly two hours there. You would not believe how difficult it is to give them our money.
Sue goes to see the Physiotherapist. It looks like she strained a muscle when I was trying to help with her exercises on Saturday morning. Not a lot to do, just be careful, take the painkillers and keep doing the exercises.
At some point in the afternoon, as I am typing, I notice that my left little finger is hurting again: the artiritis has returned. Not quite sure when this happened; probably in the past week or two.
Steve has unblocked the drain and put the washing machine on bits of wood to stop it falling through the hole in the floor. But when Sue tries a test rinse, there is still water. The door seal has perished.
Astonishingly, when Steve unblocked the wshing machine drain, he found the heart necklace we lost when Sue was in hospital having her brain tumour removed in 2005. It looks slightly duller than before (but, on the other hand, it's hard to remember after all this time...) but is otherwise fine. We cannot believe it has been sitting there in the pipe all this time.
Sue gets a lift to choir from Esme; I go for a quick sauna and then drive straight there. Funding for the choir has been cut, so there is an extended discussion of ways to raise money for the choir and to help people get to it.
Home again, Ian has just arrived and is clearing up after his party yesterday. He does a pretty good job on the washing up. It's good to have him around, doing stuff, and gently chatting.
Afterwards, I drive the remnants of his party - mostly lots of alcohol - back to his room, while he cycles back.
Thursday 24 March: I drive Maria in to work where she is helping me tidy my room again. She tells me a bit more about their experiences in Mozambique, and the perilous state of the pavements and roads.
On my way home, about 8, I stop off at Graham's house, but he is not back yet. Leave some papers from the bank for him to sign.
Friday 25 March: off to the doctor first thing to drop off some repeat prescription requests and book my next injection. Then to Graham to pick up the papers, back home to collect Sue, and off to work.
Saturday 26 March: in the evening, Changing Tunes are holding a concert at Woodlands. Sue doesn't feel up to going, so I am on my own. I'm rather surprosed, and very happy, about the quality of the music. Don't recognise all the songs, but those I do sound very authentic - and the singing is uniformly strong. Good mixture of music and testimony. A great, entertaining and informative evening.
Sunday 27 March: words at Highgrove again. There is a bit of confusion over the choice of songs, but this gets clarified just in time for the service to start. Then I'm given a film to show about the children's work. Manage to work out how to get the pictures on the screen, but no sound.
Monday 28 March: after the prayer meeting at Pip 'n' Jay I head off to Müller House to meet Keith - the first time we have managed to get together since he went into hospital last year. We spend a useful time talking about the BCAN web site.
Back to work for a while, then the Changing Lives in Clevedon board meet at City Road. Much more convenient for several of us, but it does mean Arnett and Jeff have to travel in. Get to meet two new members of the board representing Alabaré - two good people, who look like they will have a valuable role in the future.
Wednesday 30 March: most of the day is spent at the Vassall Centre, attending the conference on Anti-Psychotic medication. Some useful networking, and lots of fascinating information and stories. One lady gave a graphic account of her experiences with the mental health system. Very disturbing, even when you allow for the fact that she is a psychotic who is self-managing her condition.
Her first story of being sectioned concludes with the powerful moral, "The one lesson I learned from this was: never trust a mental health worker." Ouch. But then, the next story ends with the same moral. And the next. And the next... I really don't know if this is a deliberate attempt at self-parody or something, or if she is really unaware of the odd message. She is also very strong on the benefits of homeopathy: she knows it works, whatever the studies say. But a very interesting and disturbing talk.
One nice part comes in a seminar where I have been saying something about our approach at CCM - we are neither an authoritarian professional, nor an ignorant friend or family member; this being the contrast made by one speaker. A lady comes up afterwards and says that the LITE Course has done wonders for her clients - they all really appreciate, enjoy and benefit from it. This is the sort of feedback we like; and she connected the LITE Course with CCM, which is reassuring.
In the evening, Sue is too tired and coughing too much to go out, so we miss the final choir rehearsal before Easter.
Nick Street is at the Wild Goose filming an update to the promotional film he made for us a while back. He does a short interview with me, and says he has got some good footage of interviews with clients and volunteers. Looking forward to seeing the results.
Alan and I have a meeting with a couple of folk from Caring at Christmas about the possible women's nightshelter. We sit on chairs in an empty room upstairs at Carpenter House - my first meeting in my new office.
Later in the day is another meeting, this time with Simon Toomer and Mark Courtenay, planning the computers and telephones for the new buildings.
Back in to the office for a few hours, then off to Counterslip Baptist Church for the Bristol EA AGM. It's good to meet a number of people I haven't seen for a while. The speaker, Krish Kandiah, is very good and says all the right things about church involvement in social action, but all the examples he gives from places outside Bristol could have been replaced by equally good ones from Bristol. And he works for the EA, who pulled the plug on supporting the Christian Action Networks, which were doing exactly the stuff he is saying we need. So the evening is a mixture of encouragement and frustration.
Back home for a bit, then I head off for a quick sauna.
In the evening, we dress up for the Landfill Banquet at Woodlands. It's a wonderful event: Love Bristol have done us proud.
In the auction, we buy some language lessons and a beautiful picture of pencil shavings. Afterwards, everyone says how much they liked the picture. It seems very odd that so many people really liked it, but none of them put in a bid.
Sunday 3 April: Highgrove this morning shows a very impressive film trailer about the childrens work. Seriously, I have seen commercial films with lower production values. We have some amazingly talented people.
We don't hange around too long after the service, as we have a meal with the boys at Flavourz. Pick up Ian, and Alan meets us there.
Some news: Alan is planning to go hitch-hiking around Europe with Mareid, one of his friends from school, this Summer. And Ian has arranged a flat for next year, just off Whiteladies Road.
After the meal, we head home, drop Sue off, then go to collect Ian's things from his room. Home again, unload the car, then I take Alan home and collect the train tickets for Sue on the way home.
Back to Ian's room to collect the remainder of his belongings, and leave him to cycle home.
After unloading Ian's belongings, we shoot out to watch a film: Source Code. Very good, just as the reviews promised. The science is nonsense; but as daft science goes, it is brilliant.
On the way home, the car passes the 700 miles mark. Remember to phone home and wish my mother a happy mothers day.
Monday 4 April: get up early for a meeting with Max at Hooper House before work. But Max sent a message last night - after I switched my phone off - to say he was not well and would have to postpone. Sue is with me, as she has a team meeting first thing, so we park and then try to find somewhere to have a coffee together. It's remarkably difficult.
Work late, then pick Sue up from her lipreading class around 8.
Lots of urgent paperwork, so I miss the homegroup bluebell walk through the woods, but join them afterwards at the pub and and enjoy some time relaxing with friends before bringing Sue home.
Get the train in to Temple Meads, and arrive a couple of minutes past 7. Have breakfast in the bar, then catch the 8.00 train. It leaves on time, but stops in the middle of nowhere for 15 or 20 minutes. The driver apologies, but doesn't know the reason for the holdup.
So we are late arriving in London. I'm not really sure where to go next - had not planned this bit of the journey properly - but get to the right underground platform quickly. More by luck than judgement. The train comes quickly. But then it just stops at the next station. There are various anouncements, but I can't hear anything relevent. After a while, we go backwards, and return to St Pancras. Get out, walk round the station, and back to the initial platform.
Wait for a train again, on to the next station with only a little delay. Then we have to get out and walk round the station to another platform, and wait for a train on another line.
All of which means I'm rather late for the CUF event. But it doesn't seem like I have missed anything: the first speaker is a government advisor on the Big Society, and I can't hear him say anything worth recording. It's all at the level of "We are faced with the opportunity to make a real difference." Start to worry about the value of spending a day here. And I can't see any faces I recognise.
The second speaker is completely different: he has done the work himself, and knows the struggles and challenges; he offers some useful guidance about things he has found useful, and points us to more relevant information on his website. Wonderful chap - the day is worthwhile, even if I get nothing more out of it.
The session on fundraising is very helpful, too. And afterwards the speaker recognises me from some work we did years ago; he also remembers where I work, and says how encouraged he is to hear our news about the growth of the work at CCM.
Over lunch, I keep bumping into people I know, including quite a number of unexpected faces from Bristol. It turns into a very enjoyable social event.
The session about night shelters is not so useful. Enthusiastic people sharing how wonderful the experience has been: great as a sales pitch, but not much concrete information. But they do provide some pointers to possible resources on the Internet, so not a total waste of time.
After the day is over, I wander over to the bookshop and start browsing. A few minutes later, my mother rings: she and father have arrived. They find me, and we have a coffee together before setting out.
We try walking to St Pancras, but it becomes clear that Father can't walk that far. However, we have already walked past the underground station at Euston Road, and the next one is on another line, so we have a longer journey and have to cchange before we get back to our destination.
Then we can't find Roger, who is supposed to be standing on the same corner of the same street. He turns up after five minutes or so, and we head down to Spring Street, where we are planning to eat.
ASK is an Italian Restaurant in Spring Street, although from the style you would never guess: very light, simple, and open. We are warmly welcomed and shown to a table. Then warmly welcomed and given menus. Then warmly welcomed and our drink orders taken. Then warmly welcomed again. I have never been so welcomed, ever. It even puts the nice people at Sussex University in the shade.
The food is very good. And Sue found a 2-for-1 deal on the Internet, so the whole thing is amazingly good value.
We chat, and make provisional plans for meeting up over Easter. Walk over to the mainline station, and wait for my train. The display board says it is on time, but gives no hint of the platform until a few minutes before it is due to leave, when almost everyone standing around suddenly shoots off to get on board.
The service is delayed again, but I get back to Bristol in time to catch the last train for Severn Beach. Arrive home about 10.30, quite exhausted. But it was a good day, and I managed a fair amount of work on my netbook on the trains.
We drive home together, have a quick drink, then off to Woodlands for the meeting with Stuart Bell. Nick and Sarah are keen on the guy, and I can see why.
On to work afterwards, and more paperwork. Plus some clearing and sorting ready for the office move.
Pick Sue up from Temple Meads, then we do a small amount of shopping on the way home. Don't have to get much these days...
Sue suspects her Kindle is broken. Or it might have a flat battery.
Over lunch, Radio 4 has a fascinating program: "What Would Jesus Eat?" - looking at Da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper. The painting was in the Refectory - the dining room - of a monastery, and shows Jesus and the disciples eating the food the monks would have been eating at the time. The tables were arranged with the Abbot at one end on a slightly raised table with the senior monks, and the rest of the monks on two tables along the two long walls. The perspective in the painting makes it look like Jesus and the disciples are in the room with them, eating with them. Jesus is here with us. Brilliant.
It is a beautiful afternoon, so we decide to go out for a walk. The botanic gardens are open, so we finally manage to visit. It's an odd experience: they group the plants in an attempt to make it educational, but don't provide much by way of education. And they annoy me by a totally spurious notice about Charles Darwin, who they describe as "The Father of Evolutionary Thinking". So what do they imagine his grandfather was teaching, then? I understand that journalists may not choose to allow the facts to spoil a good story, but I rather feel that scientists ought to care a little bit more about the facts.
Also pick up a leaflet about a "Lichen Trail" on the Downs, best seen in Winter. Something to look forward to.
From the botanic gardens, we head up to the Downs for a coffee or something. We head towards the Sea Wall. This is a mistake: the road has cars parked solid on both sides, and there is only one lane left in the middle. We take about ten minutes to drive a hundred yards, then come to a side turning. I take it and park close to the corner - the only place to park in sight.
We walk down to the Sea Wall, buy an ice cream from the van, admire the view and the sunshine, then sit on a bench overlooking the gorge to finish our ices and do a diary check. Wonderful.
Monday 18 April: Sam Harris on the radio this morning. Not heard him speak before: he sounds gentle and reasonable. He is promoting his book about science and morality, of course. Full marks to the BBC though - they have a reasonable Christian on the program alongside him.
Tuesday 19 April: phone call from Spurgeon's College. It turns out that the incoming President of the Baptist Union wishes to make use of some material I wrote a while back in his address to the Baptist Union. And he wants to check I'm happy with this. Very happy.
Friday 22 April: on the news this morning is a short piece about riot police being called to the Stokes Croft area of Bristol. There is a disturbance about the new Tesco. This is where we are planning to go on our Walk of Witness this morning.
Driving in, at the bottom of the Portway is a message saying the A38 - Stokes Croft - is closed. Sure enough, when I reach the area, traffic is diverted into City Road. Traffic is coming South but nothing is going the other way. It looks quite a mess.
I pick up some more bits from City Road, and drive round to Stapleton Road. Simon Toomer turns up with one of his sons, and we do some sorting and clearing. Simon works out we need some more from City Road, so back there. Simon andn his son go back to Carpenter House, I grab the hymn sheets for the Walk of Witness, lock up, and walk down to City Road Baptist.
The walk goes well. We head up Stokes Croft. Lots going on: clearing and cleaning, paint on the road, and one section of tarmac being dug up. The two services are appropriately brief but meaningful. At the second, the speaker is following the thought: it's Good Friday, and I don't know whether I should be happy or sad. He ad-libs a bit on the theme, and includes the line, "I don't know whether to be happy that the sun is shining, or sad because the crops are not getting rain to help them grow." We have been standing in brilliant sunshine, but at that moment a small dark cloud right overhead decides to drop some rain on us. Just a light sprinkling, but the timing is impeccable. Far too light for a rainbow, sadly.
Drive home, pick up Sue and Ian, then Sue drives us off to pick up Alan - who is ready! - and we drive to Coventry. Drop the boys off with Philip, then on to the Clover Spa for a relaxing evening.
Saturday 23 April: pleasant breakfast, then a short spot of sunbathing in the garden before relaxing in the hot tub for half an hour or so. This is the way to start the day. Roger sends a text to say he is just setting out with our parents, then rings to say they are on the move again after a short break in the journey. We phone the boys to warn them, and set off ourselves.
Roger phones to say they have arrived just before we reach the boys, but they are ready and waiting for us and we aren't too late reaching Kenilworth Castle.
After a bit of debate, we decide to head in to the castle and grab an early coffee and snack lunch. The stables are very impressive, with a cafe at one end and a small exhibition at the other.
Most of the afternoon we spend wandering around the grounds in the company of various combinations of boys, parents and brother. Roger remembers hearing about the Elizabethan Garden being recreated. It's a beautiful sunny day, perfect for wandering around castle grounds.
When it is time to leave, we locate a pub for coffee and cold drinks. It has wi-fi, so we find a local 'Ask' - the chain of French restaurants we visited in London a couple of weeks ago. Nice food, but not quite the same frightening level of interest from the staff as before.
Saturday 30 April: drive in to Cribbs with Sue to meet Pip and their mother. Slight confusion over where to meet them, but it is painless enough. We finish with lunch in the John Lewis Partnership café.
After we wave them goodbye from the rear car park, Sue and I hear a female voice over a loudspeaker, and crowds cheering. It appears that Alesha Dixon has just finished performing at the opening of a 'Best Buy' store just round the corner. It sounds like she is leaving.
We look at some sandals for Sue then wander round to Best Buy. Yes, it was Alesha, and she was leaving. The crowds have almost disappeared, but there are still quite a few Police remaining.
We are given a booklet with a number of special offers to celebrate the opening. They claim to be "the world's leading technology store" and the range of goods is quite impressive, even though the range of products in each category is not great. We have been looking for a computer monitor to sit on Philip's desk, and find something suitable at a good price; but when we try to purchase it, there are no more in stock and they will not sell the display model. They take our details and promise to contact us.
Afterwards, Alan comes back with us, and then helps us to move Ian and his things back to his university room. Sue runs him back home afterwards.
Afterwards, we have lunch in a pub just outside Keynsham, and watch an old Star Trek, the original series, which neither of us remember seeing before.
In to Bristol, and Sue has another Physiotherapy appointment. Slow progress, but still progress. No news on the Hydrotherapy appointment yet.
Manage to get away later than planned, but arrive at the Christians in Science meeting just a minute before it starts. Very good presentation of various aspects of the 'multiverse' theories and the reason for them.
The speaker for tonight is the Revd Dr Rodney Holder, the Course Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge. His academic credentials are impressive, and he has known and worked with some of the major figures in the field.
He suggests that we have two basic scenarios: one unique universe, or a massive number of universes which we call the 'multiverse'. Each scenario presents the atheist with two basic questions.
For both scenarios, we have to ask: why does anything exist? Why is there something rather than nothing?
For assumption 1 (one unique universe), we have to ask: why does life exist? It is so absurdly improbable!
For assumption 2 (a multiverse), he says we have to ask why we live in this universe rather than another? But surely this is the wrong problem: the simple answer is that we live in a universe suited for life, because we can't live in any other type. The real question is: how does the multiverse determine the constants in each of the spawned universes? It is not enough to affirm that every possible reality must be realised - you need to present a mechanism which explains why and how. Instead of explaining how a universe gets fine-tuned for life, you have to explain how a multiverse generates all the possible universes.
It seems to me that this is a problem that most Physicists and Cosmologists suffer from these days: they think that an equation is an explanation. Newton gave us an equation to calculate the force of gravity. The equation works incredibly well, but it does not explain what gravity is or how it works.
There are various other problems if you wish to explain what we observe in terms of a multiverse. Apart from anything else, all the physics is entirely speculative at present: the LHC gets nowhere near the range of energies we need to explore such things.
He thinks it creates a problem with human identity: in a multiverse we each have an infinite number of copies of ourselves. I'm not sure why this causes a problem with human identity, but this is probably not the place to try and explore the issue.
He identifies several other problems with the multiverse theory. I'm not sure how many of these problems a supporter of the multiverse would recognise, and now wish I had asked that question. The problems include:
More interesting to me is the quote from a Cosmologist: "I opt for a multiverse because I want to avoid needing a God."
Saturday 7 May: we are booked to take Clive Richards out for a birthday meal at Cosmo, 12 noon. But as we are setting out, I get a message from Clive to say he had a rough night and will not be able to make it. Very disappointed and concerned for Clive.
Sue and I drive to City Road instead, park and have lunch at Hooper House - not been there for a while. One of the drawbacks of movinng the CCM office.
From there, we go on to visit the St Pauls and Montpelier Art Trail. Left Bank has a number of interesting artists again, and Sue manages to book in to the Spanish classes which are about to start there - the ones we bought in the auction at Woodlands.
The Malcolm X Centre has some astonishing pieces which have been worn in the carnival. Also a beautiful triptych of some branches of a Maple tree, in three different seasons.
A house in Ashley Road turns out to be one of the shared Woodlands houses. We have a drink and biscuit, and enjoy the art and chatting with one of the artists. Start to wonder about asking one of them to do a picture from a photo for my mother's birthday this year. We buy some cards with photographs by Jim Hills; one of them is part of a series of a black and white pictures showing people doing acrobatics in the high branches of a tree. Beautiful and very distinctive.
Friday 13 May: in the evening is a meeting about the legal aspect of our drug policy: 'War on drugs' or time for peace?, organised by the Bristol Justice Network. It is a very impressive event, with a good turnout. Professor David Nutt (he who was sacked as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for publishing some factual details) and Danny Kushlick (of the Transform Drugs Policy Foundation), plus a lady whose children have been affected by drugs. They had worked hard to get a range of opinions present, but opposition to a sane drugs policy is limited and half-hearted.
Driving home afterwards, a fox runs across the road just in front of me, close enough that I have to break slightly. There is something quite special about the sight of this wild animal in the middle of the city.
Don't have much packing to do, but lots of sorting and tidying, so it is quite a late night.
Thursday 19 May: we drive in early: Sue wants to go swimming, and I have an update on the building work. I find myself climbing the scaffolding, and enjoying the view from the roof. The Chapel Room roof is now rebuilt, and the gutters on Carpenter House cleared again - this is a significant ongoing task.
Sue couldn't swim in Easton as planned, but spends some time with Esme instead.
After work, we deliver a card to Clive Richards and then go for a coffee and diary check at Hooper House. Check the cinema listings. We are both free tonight, so we drive up to the Orpheus and go to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean film. It's a fun romp. As usual, we sit through to the end of the credits, and this time are rewarded with a short final scene.
Friday 20 May: Sue has a letter from the hospital: the recent scan shows no problems with her brain, and they don't want to see her now for another three years. (Her summary, "The hospital says my brain is perfect!" is probably suggesting a little more than the letter actually indicates.)
There is a men's cooked breakfast at Highgrove, with Philip Jinadu speaking. Decent breakfast, and Philip talks well as usual. Oddly, he turns the Carlsburg adverts (the ones: "Carlsburg don't do x but if they did, they would probably do the best x in the world") into images of the Kingdom. If Jesus did a running club, it would be the best running club in the world. If Jesus ran an African village, it would probably be the best village in the world. Yes, honestly. It raises a number of difficult questions, but I am probably the only person present who was troubled by them.
We go shopping. I develop a running nose and keep sneezing. Really not feeling good by the time we get home. But I need a haircut, so we do that and then I go for a sauna to get rid of all the stray hair. Feel a bit better for the sauna.
In the evening, Sue and I spend some time sorting out beds, then Alan brings some friends round to stay the night.
Sunday 22 May: feeling grotty, running nose and sore thoat. Probably not a good idea to go to church and pass it on to everyone. Sleep in, late start. Breakfast while Sue runs Alan and his friends in to Bristol.
We had planned to visit the Abbey House gardens, so no Sunday lunch to be prepared. Eventually decide to go to the RWA exhibition and have lunch at the cafe there.
Tuesday 24 May: driving in to work with Sue this morning, the Portway is clear as we reach it, and then we sail right through the lights at the end. We don't stop from leaving home until the lights outside At Bristol.
Shock email at work: Irene Prentice is leaving her job as the Bristol Multi-Faith Forum Development Worker. She will be hard to replace.
I have an asthma review in the morning, then straight off to Fishponds and Meg Grimes' funeral.
As expected, lots of people there, from lots of backgrounds. A number of unexpected faces.
In the hall afterwards, I get caught by a client we have banned from the Wild Goose until he comes in and talks with us. He feels very hard done by, and tells me all about it for half an hour.
Saturday 4 June: off to the new FareShare warehouse in the morning, leaving Sue at home. We are moving this weekend. Need to go via Gardiner Haskins to pick up some screws and rawl plugs, then put up a soap dispenser and paper hand towel dispenser. Not a vast amount achieved, but a contribution to the effort.
Back home, pick up Sue, then off to Clevedon.
In the evening, we go to the Orpheus and see X-Men: First
Class. Very entertaining. Actually, surprisingly so: a nicely
told story, which precisely takes us up to the place we expect to
be at the end of the Prequel. Okay, a few details don't quite tie
up, but it does work together very well. The action sequences
deliver, and the characters build and develop in a satisfying way.