Sunday 1 January: Olivia doesn't ring, so we go to Highgrove. Our homegroup is on duty, and I'm on the door welcoming people and wishing them a happy new year. It's a slightly shorter service, with the children in, starting with coffee and starting 15 minutes later than advertised.
Sue comes up to me at the end of the service with her new bracelet in her hand. I can't work out why she has taken it off. Then she explains that it just fell off - one of the links went, without her catching it on anything. Very disturbing. She puts it into her pocket, then we help to take the Christmas decorations down and replace the banners at the front.
Pizza for lunch, then out straight away for a quick swim for Sue and sauna for me. I pick Sue up from her swim, and we drive directly to the Orpheus to see the Hollywood version of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We preferred the Swedish original, but for a Hollywood remake it's pretty good. And we get to see Ian at work again, which is always a bonus.
When we return, we both go to visit Olivia; but she has just sat down to eat her dinner, so we leave her to eat. We go and grab a quick tea and coffee, then Sue returns for a proper visit.
First stop, Warren James. They immediately agree that the bracelet was defective, and replace it with another. Sue has the choice to get our money back or by something else, but goes for the direct replacement.
M&S to replace my slippers and Sue's pajamas. They don't have pajamas Sue likes, or the slippers I'mm looking for, so we get exchange notes instead, and have a quick coffee break.
Card for Jim's 80th birthday on Saturday, then some new shoes for me - 50% off in the sales. In to Tesco, but the queue is long so we go to the local Co-Op instead and get some milk, fruit and a few other bits.
I go in to visit Olivia, and spend the next hour or so learning about some of the history of our house and the local area. Sue is working on the Stoke Lodge Ramblers' accounts.
Lots of messages and paperwork to catch up with. Sue rings, and we agree to meet for lunch. Had planned to go for a pastie in my normal place, but the weather is dreadful so we stay inside Cabot Circus and visit Pret instead.
After lunch, we visit M&S and try to find some new swimming trunks for me, but no joy. Sue goes to work, and I head back to the office. On the way, I pass a sports shop, go inside, and find some trunks heavily reduced in the January sale.
In the afternoon, we have a meeting about the Ladies' Night Shelter. It's going well, and Val wants to open another night each week. But she is stretched already, so we postpone that for a while. She needs more rest and time with her family, not more work.
Drive over to pick up Sue from her work, then we drive to Bannatyne's. On the way, we hear on the radio that Stephen Lawrence's killers have been found guilty. What an amazing relief, after all this time! It feels like a personal triumph somehow. Of course, the others responsible are still free, but this is progress.
Sue drops me off, after forgetting we are not heading home, and drives on to her mother; I get a quick sauna and catch the train home. Ian is just getting into a taxi with some friends. He will be back later.
Philip is home, on his computer as usual, and tells me that he will be heading back to Coventry tomorrow. Anything I can do for him? No.
In the evening, I just miss the train leaving around 7.30, and catch the next one just after 8.30. The conductor promises to give me a timetable, but he doesn't and it is dark and wet and I can't see anything out of the windows, and suddenly realise I have missed my stop. On to Severn Beach, where the conductor does give me a timetable, then back to Sea Mills much later than planned. Sue laughs when I tell her about this later on the phone, which is not very friendly.
Meeting at 9.00 about the future of 12 City Road. Slow and tortuous, but at least it looks like we are finally making progress. We should have a decent proposal to put to the board on Monday.
In the evening, there is the first Highgrove 'Bible School'. I don't know why any sort of Biblical or theological input has to be described as a Bible School. Phil does a session from the Muller training on the background to the New Testament. Some good material... actually, quite a lot os good material, but with some odd errors and omissions. For some reason, there is no referencce to Qumran or the Essenes, and we have the classic problem of reading Christian interpretations of OT texts as if they were the Jewish context.
And there is a very strange bit at the end. There are discussion questions, which is helpful; but they are divided into two groups - easy and difficult. Most people panic: "Theology... questions... have to go for the easy ones." It's not helpful.
Sue and I get to the Orpheus just in time to catch the 8 pm showing of the latest Mission Impossible film ( Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol). An enjoyable roller-coaster of a film; does what it says on the tin. I don't like heights, and the scene with the skyscraper is very effective.
On the way back Sue drops me off for a sauna, then she goes home and takes Ian and his belongings back to his flat.
It is a good sauna: a decent temperature, and not too many people going in and out all the time. And there's a chap I haven't seen for ages, so a quick chance to catch up with him.
Train back to Sea Mills, grab the lunch Sue has left for me in the oven, and start eating. Sue and Ian arrive back - Ian is working at the Orpheus this afternoon. Just finish eating in time to dash out to the surgery.
There is a short wait, then the nurse sees me for my injection. They have one more ampule waiting for me, then I'll need another prescription. The first injection is very painful - possibly hits a nerve, but she is confident it is in the right place. Try again, and it's not quite as bad. She thinks it's painful because I'm tense. But I'm still rather tense, and the second injection in the other buttock is far less painful. No idea what is going on.
Back home, we try sorting out arrangements for our holiday in March, then I drive in to work to do final preparations for the Homeless Forum in the evening.
When my mother rings in the evening, she tells me that she has seen another doctor about the back pains she has been experiencing for years. The doctor did not think they were indigestion, as previous doctors have said, and sent her for a chest x-ray. She too a look at the x-ray and there is something on one of her lungs. She had to go back for the results on Tuesday. Neither of us mention the word, but we are both concerned that this looks like another cancer.
Tuesday 17 January: everything over-runs today. Voscur Resources meeting first thing, which makes me 20 minutes late for the Financial Regulations meeting; this then finishes about three hours later than planned, so I don't get to finish talking about and planning the next board meeting with Graham. Still, quite a bit of progress made, so I can't complain.
The Bristol Multi-Faith Forum in the evening is at Easton Christian Family Centre, very convenient. I publicise the sleep-out, and get heckled by a man I have not seen before: he seems to be upset becuase he has rooms the council is not willing to pay for people to live in. Not entirely sure, but he seems to be saying that there are empty rooms in Bristol, therefore there is not really a problem with homelessness. I offer to talk to him when the meeting ends, but he disappears too fast. After the meeting is over, we carry the left-over food round to the Wild Goose, where it is much appreciated.
When I get home, I ring my mother. Good news: the x-ray did not show evidence of cancer. The associated bad news is that they still have no idea where the pain is coming from, but right now that seems unimportant.
The 'Big Questions' lady says the event is not happening after all, and apologises for not letting me know sooner. It makes the weekend much easier, but a bit disappointing.
Saturday 21 January: too much happening today. It's the 'Global Aware' event with Roger Forster, but in the end I decide to go for 'Reading the Bible After Christendom'. Excellent time: interesting, informative, challenging. And lots of fascinating people to meet, including Andy and Gill Luxford. Good to catch up with Andy - he is as busy as ever.
When I get home, Sue is not feeling too well, and coughing a bit. But it doesn't seem too bad.
Out again in the evening, to the meeting about the possibility of setting up Street Pastors in Bristol. A number of the expected faces, and a chance to meet some new people. Another very good evening; and it looks like we will be able to get something set up this year.
Sunday 22 January: I go to Highgrove in the morning, leaving Sue in bed. She is much worse. Everyone asks after her, and expresses their sadness about Naomi House closing - the news seems to have got around very effectively.
Sue feels up to a trip to CostCo in the afternoon, and we have a coffee and diary check. I realise it is the service this evening for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - completely forgot about it for some reason.
The service is at the Salvation Army in Ashley Road, and is excellent. Lots of content, not just the "isn't it wonderful us all being here together?" thing. I would be interested to hear how other people feel about the content. All very good and orthodox, but horribly individualistic. Probably more sensitive to this after the 'Reading the Bible' event yesterday.
The day goes really well. Fr Richard McKay comes and joins us in the morning, and everyone finds him interesting, stimulating and helpful, even if some struggle with aspects of where he is coming from.
At the end, Alan drives me home again. It has been lightly snowing during the day, and the ground is icy and very treacherous in places. Sue turns up a bit later, having driven back from Newbury: she left a bit earlier than planned because of the weather. It feels a shame we have booked to to out again in the evening for a meal with the staff team and partners, but we didn't know what the weather would be like when we made our plans.
In the evening, it's bitterly cold, but we drive through the drizzle into town and park in the Millennium car park. Get to ZaZa Bazaar a little late, but we are the second couple to arrive, so not bad in the circumstances.
The place is massive, and noisy. The range of food is superb, but sometimes difficult to get to, and I struggle to talk because of the background noise. Still, a good evening.
Drive up to Clevedon at the end of the day for a Personnel Group meeting at Arnett's place. Very slow drive through town, which makes me rather late. Frustrating.
A long meeting, but we get most of the urgent work done. Then some quick shopping in Morrisons before driving home again.
Thursday 9 February: Sue goes out for a walk with the Stoke Lodge Ramblers, and Esme joins her. I work from home, then drive out to Westbury to get my eyes tested. My right eye is less shortsighted than it was last time they tested me, so I need new glasses.
In the evening, it is a Eucharist at the Sisters of the Church. Don't often manage to join them, but I'm free tonight. The forecasters are threatening snow, which seems to have put off most people: it is just me plus two Sisters, plus two female priests. Long and very pleasant chat afterwards, trying not to eat too much from all the food that has been prepared.
Friday 10 February: Anabaptist Network in the evening. Sue is late leaving work, and I suggest that she joins us. We are at Etloe, watching 'Agora', a fascinating film about the rise to power of the early church. Lots to talk about afterwards, as always. It worked very well having Sue with us, as she actually knows something about Cyril of Alexandria before watching the film.
Perhaps I'm being too simplistic, but it appears to me that all the issues people wrestle with arising from the film all boil down to the simple question of power. If you want to exercise power over other believers, you must have fixed doctrines, fixed membership, fixed roles and all the rest. Unless you are talking about brute force, if you want to exercise power over others, you need a structure to operate it through.
Sunday 12 February: Words at Highgrove again. Another complex one, with three Powerpoints and two PDFs to display as well as the song words. Mostly manage to do it fairly seamlessly, but I should have read the PDFs before it started - we reach what I think is the end of the liturgy, and then discover there is another page. But nothing actually goes wrong, so I'm feeling pretty pleased by the end of the service.
Sue counts the offering with Esme at the end while I pack the computer away, then we dash off to Muller House for the France lunch and prayer time with Richard and Margaret Kemp.
Wonderful to see them again, and we get a good time with them after everyone else has wandered away at the end of the praer time. They are at Westborough next weekend, and Richard has been asked to do the start of a consultation exercise. Wonder what that will produce.
We call in on Olivia at the hospital on our way back. She is bright and talking for England as usual, but no real idea of what they are planning to do for her, or when she might come out again.
Sue and I drive into Westbury, and spend a long time choosing new glasses for me. Part-way through I realise that Ginny from Highgrove is sitting near us; she then offers some advice for a while, then disappears. We eventually choose a new frame, fairly similar to the last ones. I get a spare pair with them, so the main pair will be 'Transitions' with the built in sunglasses, and the spare pair just plain glass.
In the evening, go out for a drink with John Stevens. Not managed to do this for too long.
Saturday 18 February: it's the Oxford Go Tournament today. Up at 6, out of the house soon after 7. Sue had planned to drive straight to Ray & Dianna, but we are a bit late on getting to Oxford so I am dropped off at the Park & Ride instead. The bus stops just by the side street I need, and I register with just over ten minutes to spare.
The tourament is three rounds, and I lose each match. But all the games I play are close, and each partner says at the end that they found it a tough game and really enjoyed it. So, a disaster for my rating, but not actually that bad a result. In any case, there was never the same sense I have had in several tournaments recently that the person I was playing was seriously stronger than me, and didn't need to work too hard for his victory.
At lunch, Sue comes over and we eat at the coffee house on the corner - Queen's Lane Coffee House, the oldest in Europe, or so they claim. Very nice ciabatta and coffee.
When the tournament is over, I have another friendly game while we wait for the prizegiving, and this time I win. My victory is only by one and a half points after komi but, after a run of narrow losses, it seems fair.
Sue arrives during the prizegiving, we grab another coffee on the corner, then get the bus back to Ray & Dianna. By this time it is dark and the bus has condensation on the windows, so it's hard to see much, but they gave her a map which makes life much easier. They have gone out by the time we arrive, so put the map through their door, and drive home.
Sunday 19 February: Highgrove and a casserole for lunch, then Sue and I go out to the garage and dispose of the puppet show backdrops which have been sitting there for years, along with a few bits of conservatory - one of Mark's projects - and some other rubbish. Sue rescues the bamboo cane for Don. We drive off to the tip, and successfully dispose of it all. There is lots more to clear, but it is real progress.
Drop Sue off for a swim, then she goes on to visit Olivia. I grab a quick sauna, then on to work and produce my piece for the next newsletter.
Thursday 23 February: Highgrove 'Bible School' again. Hebrews tonight. The usual mixture - lots of really good material, mixed with some odd errors and omissions. The big one is fairly predictable: taking the line that Hebrews 6 teaches that Christians can lose their salvation, without any recognition that there is another perfectly valid interpretation of the passage which actually says precisely the opposite.
I try to make this point in a gentle and sensitive way, which is noted politely, but then totally ignored in all the subsequent discussion. Ah well.
We have the usual discussion questions at the end, divided into easy ('Dipping in') and difficult ('Going Deeper'). It seems to me that the 'easy' questions are actually the harder and more interesting ones, so I go for that group, which seems to confuse several people. An interesting discussion about the nature of salvation and the importance of community. And a very interesting discussion with Esme afterwards about the need for communal living opportunities, especially for single people. The subject keeps on coming up.
Friday 24 February: in the evening, Sue and I go to see the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at the Orpheus. Sue is a bit reluctant to go - it has been a long day and a hard week. But she agrees, and we love it. Sue says it is the best film she has seen since 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' - high praise, indeed.
Saturday 25 February: busy day. There is a consultation event at ECFC. I catch the train so that Sue can have the car. She takes some bits to the charity shop in Clevedon, then spends a while browsing the charity shops there.
We have some excellent input from Philip Nott and Mike Pears, and several times of discussion and exploring ideas. Stimulating and challenging, the question is what we do with it all.
I should have brought my sauna bag with me. Catch the train home, pick up my sauna bag, and straight out again to catch the same train one the way back. Quick sauna, the Sue picks me up and I drop her off for a swim, then park and walk to Pip 'n' Jay.
The event at Pip 'n' Jay is 'Unite' - a prayer meeting for churches and social action projects in the centre of the city, led by students. Wonderful.
Sunday 26 February: when I come upstairs to get dressed after breakfast, Sue asks if I have seen the hot air balloon. It seems to have landed on the other side of the Trym. Then the flame shows through the trees, and it seems they are moving it by hand - presumably so that it can be deflated a bit further away from the trees.
After this, I head off to the morning service at Christ the Rock in Yate, where they have a missions event instead of the sermon. Most impressive. Chris, Jess and Val are there too, and it's a great opportunity to connect with a bunch of people I haven't seen for a while.
Back home, Sue and I take lunch round to Olivia and sit with her for a while. Then I go and work in the garden for a while. Sue wants to visit CostCo, so we do a quick trip, then more time in the garden until it gets dark.
Putting things away in the kitchen, a credit card till receipt falls out of one plastic bag - from Disneyland Paris, from 18 February 2004. Gosh, memories. We bought three items from Merlin's Shop, all called 'General Blowing', for a total of 17.20 euros. No idea what that can have been.
In the evening, we watch Philip's lecture on Youtube about Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem. That's our boy!
In the evening, we have the sleep out at Pip 'n' Jay. I head down about 8.30. Val has just arrived before me, and Richard arrives shortly afterwards.
We give a better impression of being organised this year: Richard locates the group leaders as they arrive, and directs them to me in the small hall to register their arrival and confirm the basic details. From the figures people know, it seems we have 79 people sleeping and the various groups have raised around £6,000 - but there are a number of unregistered people also present, and most groups expect their sponsorship total to rise.
I do the formal welcome and thank you for being here, at 10.30. Then people have soup and a roll, and start to bed down. Stephen Williams MP is with us not sleeping; several people from the council are present and sleeping.
Saturday 3 March: we have asked people to bed down and be quiet by midnight, and this mostly happens. Folk are generally better behaved than previous years anyway. But it is strange walking around all the bodies in their sleeping bags - in maybe half the groups, almost everybody is on their front with a smart phone in front of them. Texting their friends, or tweeting their latest status? Maybe they are being good and chatting to each other silently.
We have a few spots of rain around 1 am, but nothing serious. Then around 1.30, someone points out a fox nosing around the sleeping figures. It is a beautiful sight. Presumably it smells food and is looking for uneaten snacks. Good luck to it.
However, a few minutes later, it dashes off with something substantial in its mouth. Despite the dark, I can tell this is not the remnants of a roll or a chocolate bar. The warm thoughts about the beauty of the natural world instantly disappear: this is a foe, and it's my job to protect the sleepers. I give chase, and it soon becomes clear that the fox has taken someone's shoe.
After a lot of chasing, I eventually retrieve the shoe, somewhat chewed, from the middle of a flowerbed. Take it back to the group it was stolen from, feeling proud and victorious. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see it dashing off again with a boot in its mouth.
I'm not going to win this one on my own, so I go back for reinforcements. The ladies from the St John Ambulance join me, and we chase the fox around the grounds. Eventually it drops the boot, and then we manoeuvre it out of the gate. Another ten minutes later, it is heading off by Castle Green and far enough away for us to feel it is safe to return.
The rest of the night has far less excitement, and everything else pretty much goes to plan. Val and Gay come back to do drinks and a roll in the morning, people get up, clear their things and depart. It has been a good night: almost no rain, and not too cold.
We are very lucky / blessed. Just a few minutes after the last of the sleepers has left the site, the heavens open up and we have a violent downpour of rain. If this had come an hour earlier, everyone would have been soaked and the whole experience would have been very different.
I vacuum, but there is not much to do. Then I take some of our bits back to Carpenter House and drop them off. Drive over to the gym, doze in the car for 15 minutes until it opens, and go for an early morning sauna before driving home for a few hours' sleep.
Sue wakes me up, and we drive over to Zest in Westbury, where Olivia is treating us to lunch, along with Hugh and as a way of saying thanks for helping to look after her over the past few months.
Perhaps I am particularly hungry, but the food is wonderfully delicious, and we have a very nice time. I don't even fall asleep. Eventually, we depart, and drive off to Morrisons for a proper shop - the first we have done, or needed to do, for several weeks.
In to work, and another client conference. Very frustrating - lots of good people working their socks off, but the system ensures that very little of thir activity produces anything which actually benefits the client. Much of it comes down the the judgement of the mental health professionals that she is capable of making her own decisions, when any normal person would look at what she is going through and conclude that she needs help.
In the evening, I lead Homegroup with a Bible study on the subject of 'Reward'. I have selected a number of the key passages, rather than concentrating on just one or two. This is not an area where the 'proof-text' approach works, even for Evangelicals. As expected, much of the evening is spent listening to people trying to explain that each passage in turn can't actually mean what it appears to be saying. Perhaps something got through.
Wednesday 7 March: ACTS at lunchtime; then Street Pastors in the evening. I'm late, partly because people turn up for the volunteer training a week early. This is probably my fault, and I'm rather torn between the meeting I have promised to attend and the training session they are expecting. In the end, I go for the Street Pastors; and by the end of the evening, it seems that this was the right choice.
Thursday 8 March: Sue goes for a haircut first thing, and I stay in to receive the shopping which Barbara has ordered to be delivered to us. Sue returns, we load the shopping into the car, and she drives off to meet Barbara at Temple Meads. The sisters and Ray are staying in a cottage with their mother for a few days.
Catch the train in to work, and prepare for the BCAN Homeless Forum in the evening. It goes well, and fortunately one of the folk present is able to give me a lift home afterwards.
Sue rings a little later. They like the cottage: lots of character; the bedrooms are quite small, but the shared space is a good size.
Friday 9 March: after work, I walk to the RWA private viewing of the new exibitions. Had planned to get the train, but then I realise that it will take ten minutes to walk to the station, five minutes to wait for the train, twelve minutes to Clifton Down, then another ten minutes walk at the other end; as opposed to a nominal 30 minutes to walk directly there. In the end, I do it in slightly less.
The exhibition is mostly items I don't have a great interest in, but one of the areas features the art of penguin books, and this is wonderfully interesting. Bits of history, biographies of the key people involved, and examples of the original books and the design process behind various parts of it. Could have stayed for hours, but have to catch the train home.
Afterwards, I go back in to work to finish a few urgent tasks, intending to go for a sauna in the afternoon. But time runs out.
I get a taxi to Whiteshill Evangelical church: they are having a meal in suport of CCM, and I'm speaking to them afterwards. Over the meal, I sit opposite a fascinating chap who was involved with OM in the early days. Wonderful stories, challenging and encouraging, and an opportunity to share a few of my own exeriences of OM and George Verwer.
The talk seems to go well afterwards. I try to relate what we do through the ministry at CCM with ordinary Christian day-to-day discipleship. Afterwards, one of the chaps who organised the event drives me home.
After the team prayer time, Dave Wiles turns up for a supervision session, but also to look roung our new building - his vist visit to us here. Very helpful session, as always.
Tuesday 13 March: in the evening, the Multi-Faith Forum is, conveniently, meeting at St Nicks, just down the road from Carpenter House. We have a forum event, with four people doing shart talks on their faith's position on organ donation. In the end, we get five presentations, as the Sikhs provide someone to contribuute at the last moment. Tracy can't get to this meeting, so I chair in her place.
It is an absolutely fascinating event. It is hard to tell how much the variation is down to the personality of the individual speakers, and how much is inherent in the faith they represent; but I can't help feeling the faith plays a significant part.
All the speakers say that organ donation is fine, and most of them say it is highly approved by their faith. But how they reach this point varies wonderfully. They are all given five minutes. The Hindu shows a picture of Ganesh, the elephant god, and explains that this is an example of inter-species organ donation; therefore, organ donation is permitted. Not entirely sure if he is serious, but that is the argument, given in just under four minutes. The Moslem goes next and somehow manages to summarise a twenty-minute presentation in only twenty-two minutes of very fast talking, taking us through a large number of vital legal principles. The Jew is next, and mercifully is even briefer than the Hindu: human life is precious to God, organ donation saves human lives, so organ donation is good. I can cope with that.
The moral question identified by several speakers is not organ donation per se, but the question of when does the donor actually die, and should we keep people alive in order to preserve their organs for transplant?
When they are all done, we have questions from the floor, and also short contributions from three NHS people present. They try to clarify the definition of death, but I'm not sure the difference between brain death and heart death, or when each is used, was entirely understood by everyone present.
I try to referee fairly, clarify a few points along the way, and make sure everyone is heard who wants to contribute. Fortunately, it starts to wind down at about the time we are supposed to finish. I round off by suggesting that religion is only one of the factors influencing the decisions people make about organ donation; culture is also a very powerful factor, and we have to recognise that few of us live in a culture in which organ donation is a normal part; so the religous communities and the medical profession need to work together to get people talking and thinking about these issues, to make organ donation culturally acceptable to people, and not just something their religious authorities say is a good thing to do.
Overall, the evening seems to be a success. Inviting the NHS folk was certainly a good idea: they contributed a lot of facts we needed to hear, and they all went away saying they had learned a great deal which would be helpful to them in their work.
Thursday 15 March: Sue goes for a coffee with Esme at the Café on the Square, while I go into town on the bus for the OpenSpace event about Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults. It is a good session, but only a few people attend; and, frustratingly, none of the people who originally said they wanted the session to be organised are present.
Sue picks me up, and we drive up to Thornbury. Quick lunch - jacket potatoes in a little café - then to Grant, the mortgage advisor, to get the forms filled in for our mortgage and life protection policies. It takes quite a while, not helped by the complexity of our medical histories.
Sue drops me off for a quick sauna while she goes in to work, then I drop her off for a swim while I go to the Sisters of the Church for their almost-fourtnightly eucharist. Debbie Foster is presiding, and this is probably the last time I'll see her before she departs at the end of April for a parish in Bow, East London. She will be sorely missed.
When I leave to pick Sue up, Sister Hilda Mary gives me a couple of large tins of fruit, to take to the Wild Goose. Lovely people.
Sue and I drive in to work as usual. She drops me off, then drives over to Bristol Wireless. Then she comes back, because I forgot to pick up the tins I was given last night.
We each have a long day at work, trying to get everything sorted before we go away. My plan is to finish everything in time to get to the Christians in Science event tonight at 7.30, but inevitably other things crop up and I run out of time. In the end, we both work through to about 10.30 then drive home together.
The plan had been that we pack last night, giving me time to go for a sauna after taking the tablet. But we didn't pack, and Sue is having problems with her back so I don't want to leave her. It was a nice idea.
Breakfast at 9, then help Sue finish the sorting and packing. We have only paid for 20kg luggage each, instead of the 40kg we usually get, and I have been paranoid about not managing to squeeze everything in. But we are not taking books this time, and will make do with fewer clothes, and it all fits very nicely. Apart from the panics when we weigh the bags in pounds instead of kilograms.
We had intended to catch the 11.22 train from Sea Mills, but instead we get the 12.11, arriving at the station just a few moments before the train appears.
A bit of annoyance at Temple Meads, when the bus for the airport can't pull up to the kerb because a driver has parked illegally and doesn't want to move. The bus, presumably the 12.35 running slightly late, waits for a few moments then drives off without picking us up. The man then drives away almost immediately. A few minutes later, a woman comes up and parks in the same place ... Sue goes over and has a friendly word with her, and she drives off.
The 12.45 arrives on schedule, and we get to the airport around 1.10. We nearly did the journey from home to the airport by public transport in just under an hour - quite impressive.
Sue picks up our currency from the desk while I go and join the queue at the check-in, which is fairly short, then we head up the stairs to the security check.
We walk straight up to the x-ray and scanner - absolutely no queue here at all. This is obviously the time to travel. Through security, and we make for the coffee bar and grab a sandwich and roll for lunch. The board says we have 40 minutes before the gate is announced, so we browse the possible church services for tomorrow morning on Sue's netbook.
We are a bit slow responding to the call to the gate, so we end up sitting either side of the aisle instead of together, having run through some fairly serious rain to get to the plane.
Towards the end of the flight the pilot announces that Wales won their match 16-9, and a loud cheer goes up around the plane. A good start to the holiday for many people.
Collecting the baggage is fairly painless, and we are in the queue for the car hire by 8 pm. The process is always horribly drawn-out, but we are at the car by half past and driving out of the airport in our white Citroen C3.
It all goes well until we need to turn off the ring road around Arrecife, when we miss the turn. We get dreadfully lost from that point, do some shopping, get directions, find we can't follow them, drive round for ages, and finally find a nice lad who offers directions we only partly understand, then gets in his car and we follow him to the start of the last main road we need. Very, very grateful.
After that, the journey is fine again, and we reach Charco del Palo around 10.30. Reception is closed, not a massive surprise, but a key is waiting for us with directions to the apartment. Exhausted, but glad to have arrived.
Sunday 18 March: up around 8.30, breakfast and out. First to the Reception where we show our passports, hand in our documentation and get told all the key details that are not in the information pack - like the candlelit supper is now on Monday, not Tuesday evening.
Then we dash off to the local English speaking service at Costa Teguise, in a room in the hotel Barcelo. We walk all round the hotel before finding the entrance, and slip in while they are singing a hymn. The reading is the same one I did at the Sisters on Thursday - we think they are Baptists, but they seem to be following the Anglican lectionary. Friendly bunch.
The hotel has a Spa, so after the service we try to find it. After following the signs for quite a distance, we find the place - very close to where we parked - but it is closed on a Sunday.
There is a large market in Teguise on Sundays, so that is the next port of call. Park about half a kilometre away - in hindsight, a bit of a mistake - and walk to the market. It's vast - bigger than we remember. Perhaps it has grown in the last few years; perhaps we only found part of it before; or perhaps we just forgot. But not fining all of it is quite plausible. Not entirely sure we found it all this time, certainly not before the stalls start to close down.
Sue buys a silver and pink rose: the ends of her scarf go through the rings, and it weighs the scarf down so that it doesn't blow about. Don't remember seeing anything of the sort on any of the craft markets we have visited before but this time they are on sale in dozens, if not scores, of stalls.
Eventually, Sue decides we have seen enough and we stop for some food from one of the stalls - a range of (presumably local) pie-type objects. Very tasty.
The one downside to the whole experience is that, while it is not exactly cold, it's not warm either. All we can see in the sky is cloud, pretty much all day, and the wind is frequently quite strong.
I'm feeling in need of a sauna, and Sue remembers that we found one last time in Puerto Calero. It's a fairly small place, and we find the hotel easily. The Spa is still functioning, and we have a beautifully relaxing few hours there.
Afterwards, we drive down into the port, park in the car park at the end, where the large yaughts are moored, and wander round the shops and restaurants. Enjoy an ice-cream in Cafe Milla: an impressive range of tempting options, backed up by feee wifi. How can we refuse?
Eventually we drag ourselves away. The drive back is mostly along the same road we came the previous night, but this time we take the right turn and find the way easily.
Monday 19 March: a lazy start to the day. The weather is still cloudy and windy, so not much incentive to go out. We read a bit, then visit the nearest restaurant to book a meal in the evening and use their cable Internet connection to catch up on email. Then an early lunch in the apartment.
We visit the Cactus Garden - partly because we want to see it again, and partly because we want to pick up a leaflet showing the location of the various examples of Cesar Manrique's work around the island. We get to enjoy the garden, but there are no leaflets to pick up. Last time we were here, you could get one at any of his creations.
On the way back, we stop at the supermarket in Guatiza - not as well stoked as we had been led to believe - and then a short stop in Mala. It has a bar we might visit at some point. The weather is still the same - grey, cool and windy. There is not enough time to go off and do anything else, so we head back.
In the evening, we have a candlelit dinner in the restaurant. The lighting is a bit bright for the candles to have much effect, but the food is excellent.
Puerto Calero has a market today, so we return to the car park by the marina, and wander round. Only just catch most of the stalls, as they are beginning to shut up.
We fancy a paella, and find a restaurant which is selling them, right next door to Cafe Millo where we had the ice-cream on Sunday. We choose garlic bread and roast vegetables for starters, and start to write our postcards. Very good choice. The paella is also good, not quite to the standard of La Taberna (although, strangely, this place is also a Taberna), the place we visit in Coralejo, but still very good.
Wander round the shops and harbour a bit more. Try to visit the Whale Museum, but it has closed due to the economic environment - they hope to open again soon and thank us for our comprehension.
There is an outfit selling submarine rides based in one of the bars. We have seen them advertise in several places. Something to celebrate our anniversary? Unfortunately, they are not sailing this week due to the annual safety inspections; starting again next Monday. Sue asks about the temperature - it is air-conditioned and very pleasant.
Back to Cafe Millo for coffee and ice-cream, trying a bit more of their wonderful range, while we check the email and decide on a Spa to try next. And we book the submarine trip online: you get a 15% discount for booking this way.
We pick on a Spa in Costa Teguise, 'VitalClass'. It seems reasonably well priced and with a range of options. It appears to be easy to find: the advert says one street, and the web site says another, so we assume it is on the junction of the two. Strangely, and almost for the first time in our experience in the Canary islands, it is where we expect it to be, and open. It looks suitable, so we buy three visits for a 25% discount.
As advertised, it has a fair range of options: sauna (several), steam room, warm room, ice room, jacuzzi; and a couple of short and shallow walks over stones, one with warm water and one with cold. The walks don't do anything for me, but the rest works well. Unfortunately, Sue slips in the jacuzzi and hurts her arm and back. Fortunately, I am just going back into the sauna at the time, and hear her call me. It doesn't seem too bad, but she will probably be on painkillers for a few days.
In the email is confirmation of our submarine trip, asking us to print the message. A bit tricky right now. Our booking reference is 26031401, and we can give them that instead.
Cook lunch in the apartment. We don't have a lot of equipment, so decide on tuna pasta. Sue is still suffering from her fall yesterday, so we don't want to go too far. We never visited Orzola on our last visit, so we decide to go there. But not yet: first a short siesta, and then I go for a swim in the pool outside our apartment. It's a bit cold, but it has to be done.
We drive to Orzola, then on through the town and park by the harbour; we walk out on a small path towards the sea, through the twisted volcanic rocks, but the trail peters out before reaching the water.
Back to the harbour, and watch the ferry to Isla Graciosa depart. Before it reaches the end of the breakwater, it is pitching most impressively. Don't think I have ever actually seen a boat that size moving so much.
Walk through the town and try to find somewhere with a view that will give us a coffee, but no such luck. We are, however, given a couple of pieces of paper - inviting us to a Church meeting, and to support a charity which sounds rather like Emmaus. Sadly, we only work this out after the small group handing these out have moved on.
Back home, the TV is not working. We spend the evening reading.
After breakfast, I try the satelite box again; no joy, so I wander over to the Reception and report the problem while Sue is preparing to go out.
We drive North to Arrietta, where there is a potter which Sue has seen an advert for. We find the place without difficulty, and it is as good as promised. Only small, with one potter, but she does an astonishing range of work.
The signature pieces are bowls and cups with little mice: simple, distinctive, and very appealing. But she also does dragons and other grotesque creatures, cartoon-like characters, normal figure work, little-girly fish in bright colours with big eyes, and more. We chat and admire her work for quite a while, then buy some of the small drinking bowls with mice, and two small tiles painted with gekkos to use as coasters.
We try walking to a bar she describes, but can't find it. Back to the car and drive to Punta de Mujeres, getting lost as we try to find a way out of the town: there seem to be two roads from the town to the main road, and neither have a single road sign telling you where to go.
Lunch in Ye. The place seems to have precisely one restaurant and one bar in the cultural centre. The bar does a very nice bocadillo; we ask for all the trimmings, and they come absolutely stuffed - hard to tell what had been missed out, really. Very welcome.
From there we return to the Mirador Del Rio. Even knowing what to expect, it is still a breathtaking sight. Sue spends a long time watching birds circling underneath, and I stay away from the edge. I find looking almost straight down half a kilometer disquieting.
The view in the opposite direction is almost as impressive: from the same height, you get to look down at the sea and parts of the coast on both sides of the island, presumably from Punta de Mujeres to Punta Ganada or thereabouts.
We drive back via Haria in the hope of spotting a supermarket, but no luck. The signs direct us, still (we assume) on the main road through some backstreets, and at one point across what seems to be a semi-pedestrian area. But we find some larger roads again, and decide to keep going rather than risk navigating our way across the town a second time.
From Haria, the road goes up the side of a mountain in a classic combination of sharp bends and almost sheer drops. Astonishing views. Oddly, once you reach the top, the road starts a gentle slope downwards, with only a few gentle bends. We pass the wind farm we can see from the main road near Charco del Palo.
We park in Teguise, and try to find a supermarket. Eventually directed to one, but it is closed. Back to the car, and spot a small shop open, where we buy almost everything we were looking for.
From Teguise we take a small road through Teseguite and back home. Just in time for a quick coffee in the nearby cafe and to check the email, then it is time for the sauna. I go in first, while Sue takes the netbooks back and collects her bag. The facilities are good and the sauna hot, so an excellent experience. The sauna area is clean, everything is working, the showers are decent, and we have a swimming pool just outside to cool off in.
The other occupants, not surprisingly, are all German. After a while, we get chatting, and the evening goes very nicely. And the TV is working again when we check it.
Heading for the Tourist Information, we find the Charco de San Gines instead, a nearly enclosed harbour for small boats, quite delightful. Follow the path round to the sea front, pass the Castillo San Gabriel, and the Tourist Information is in a little hut on the promenade. After all this, not a lot there. We just pick up a few street maps for the main places round the island.
Lunch is some local foods with a bocadillo and coffee in a cafe nearby, then we try to find the Museo MIAC. I think I have located the street, and we head off past the harbour and the local hospital. The street is not hopeful, and there is no sign of the museo; ask in a bar and we get given a much better map which has the museo marked, a little way up the road to Costa Teguise.
The Museo MIAC is in the old Castillo San Jose, another Manrique project. As we catch a sight of it, I remember that we came on our last visit. However, Sue has no recollection; and since it probably has new works now, we keep going.
I remember some of the works, but there is a new exhibition: Doble O Nada, Double or Nothing, by Carlos Matallana. Three groups of works - some lovely surreal landscapes, all with an empty horizon; some drawn self-portraits; and some paired paintings, with very different subjects, where the juxtaposition is clearly intended to make you think. They are all very good and very distinctive, and you would never guess that all three groups were created by the same person.
Matallana's work is worth seeing, but the leaflet about it is an absolute classic. A small extract: "His work, to put it in a specific rather than authoritarian manner, is a speculative game of certain dramatic intensity that affirms and denies in a parallel time, to the same extent that it represents and advises - quickly - about the fallacy of that same representation as a utopian ideal or truth that is subject to and deployed at the order of suspicion and irony." I certainly can't disagree with that. A little later, we are told that the works are "merely a reactive and quite efficient response to the hysteria and opacity of the modern world." For which, we should all be grateful.
MIAC is the International Museum of Contemporary Art. The leaflet tells us that "The collection at the MIAC is a reflection of artists producing works between the Fifties and Seventies, along with any works falling outside that period." So now you know.
The view from the upper gallery - the roof - is great, but there are only two pieces of art there, far fewer than last time. On the other hand, the restaurant and bar underneath is beautiful.
We walk back and have a coffee in the pedestrian area, checking email at the same time. Try to find another gallery, but the roads don't admit to any names, and we give up and head back to the car.
Back to Charco del Palo, and we book into the restaurant, La Tuneria, for the paella, tonight's speciality, for 7 pm. It's delicious.
Saturday 24 March: we drive to Haria for the market, this time taking the route through Tabayesco. The road is easier than the one we took travelling South from Haria on Thursday, but still winding and with serious drops on one side. Sue doesn't like it.
We struggle to park in Haria, and end up at the top of a short hill above the market. Everything on sale has been made by the stallholder, so it is worth visiting. We see the potter again and exchange a few words with her.
The church at the far end of the market is quite stunning - clean and simple lines. It is in stark contrast to the exhibition of religious art, in a house accross the street: this is full of classic over-the-top images of religious people in rich clothes on gaudy backgrounds. A few images stand out: one statue of St Anthony of Padua shows a lifelike, intelligent and compassionate face. But most of it is just disturbing. It's hard to relate to the faith of people who venerate and parade such objects.
Lunch at the restaurant of the two brothers. Sue has the local fish, and I have roast rabbit, both good and both filling.
The next step is Teguise, but we take a roundabout route to avoid the hairpin bends: the road to Arrieta, which is slightly further North than the way we came.
We try to visit the Pirate Museum at the Castle Santa Barbara: the road is a bit scary, and we arrive just after it closes at 3.30. On the plus side, the views from the top are great.
We decide to try to visit Lagomar instead, whoch proves to be an excellent choice. I'm a bit sceptical: it is advertised as the home of Omar Sharrif, but reading the literature it is clear that he bought the place and then lost it in a card game the same day; so calling it his home is stretching things a bit.
But whoever owned the place, it is an absolute gem. The architect was inspired or encouraged by Manrique to use the natural shapes in the lava. It works. At least, as long as you want somewhere beautiful rather than functional or easy: the house is up several flights of narrow winding steps which you reach via a tunnel, possibly including stepping stones over water, on the far side of a pool. One of the pools. It's great. What a shame Omar never got to stay here: he would have liked it.
From Lagomar, we go for a sauna. But the hotel spa is closed. It closes early on Saturdays, and all day Sundays. They didn't tell us this when we bought our return ticket.
Decide to visit Hotel Beatrice instead. The route takes us past a Eurospar supermarket, so we do some shopping. By the time we reach Hotel Beatrice, Sue is not feeling great, so she goes and sits in the bar while I use the facilities. We came here on our last visit - our first visit to the Canary Islands, but Sue doesn't recognise the place at all from the outside, even though she remembers the name. I have no visual recall, but recognise it easily. How does this work? But parts of the inside are more familiar to her.
Drive to Puerto Calero and have a quick lunch, then round the corner to the submarine bar. We book in just before 1.30 and pay, then wander around for a few minutes and return for 1.45 pm for the safety briefing. It is remarkably similar to the one you get in an aeroplane.
We parade along the harbourside to the submarine, then get our photograph taken as we go on board. Down the hatch. It is a bit claustrophobic, but not too much.
The trip lasts just one hour, but we do see a spectacular range of fish, a number of jellyfish, and a few shipwrecks. James Cameron is doing a submarine trip today, down to the bottom of the ocean; we only manage 40 metres depth, but it is still impressive the way the light changes through that distance.
Afterwards, we head back to the bar and buy our photograph - not likely to go down in a submarine again any time soon.
Tuesday 27 March: a lazy morning, and make tuna pasta for lunch. We visit the agricultural museum in the afternoon: it has a lot more to see than first appears. The plan is to go for a last sauna, but first we have to head back to pick up the card I forgot to take with us. Then off again for a sauna, put more petrol in the car, and head home to pack.
The journey is fine, and we don't get lost. Sue gets stopped at security, then we are waiting in the lounge for the flight to be called when someone says my name.
It is one of those completely surreal moments. We are waiting in Arricife airport, I turn around and see a chap in a wheelchair. I recognise him, but don't have the faintest idea who he is. He is Gary, one of our clients from the Wild Goose, and a LITE student. He has turned his life around, lives in Lanzarote now, and is part of a church here. He is just heading back to Bristol to visit his mother, who seems to be a bit poorly.
I am completely taken aback, and can't think of half the questions I want to ask him. But the bottom line is, life is good, he is so grateful to Andy Luxfordand everyone else at CCM, and wants to be remembered to them all. I promise to pass his greetings on.
He wants a last cigarette before we depart, and shortly after the flight is called. We leave on time around 11.30, and don't see him again until we are getting off at Bristol. The rest of the journey is a bit of an anticlimax. The sun is shining, and Bristol is hotter when we arrive than Lanzarote was when we left.
We retrace our steps: bus to Temple Meads, then train to Sea Mills. Very easy. Home again.
Thursday 29 March: most of the day is taken up with sorting out after the holiday and catching up on post and email. In the afternoon, it is time for another injection - a week late because of our holiday.
Friday 30 March: back to work. The place seems to have survived without me. Urgent preparation for the Personnel and Management Group meetings next week, and a meeting with a chap who is going to help us update our fire risk assessment.
In the evening, the Anabaptst Network has a visit from a lady actor who dramatises some stories of Anabaptists in various ways. Absolutely fascnating, and thought-provoking at times. I'm reasonably informed about Anabaptist teaching, but many of those present know more of the stories of the people than I do. We all thoroughly enjoy the evening: no matter how familiar the material, it is all delivered in an engaging way, fresh and alive. And some folk present were hearing it all for the first time, which was worth doing, however it was presented.
Saturday 31 March: Sue and I travel in to Bristol, to meet some of Sue's Moneysaving Expert forum friends. We meet at the Commercial Rooms, a Wetherspoon in Corn Street. Incredibly, we are a bit early; but a couple of them are already waiting for us.
The place is rather noisy, and I can't hear much of the conversation; I don't follow what I can hear, anyway. The memorable detail is the food: Sue and I have a couple of jacket potatoes. Not particularly good as a gastronomic experience, but the really irritating detail is the special offer. The jackets are part of a special offer, two meals for £9. A jacket with a single filling is £4.20; with two fillings it is £4.89. However, the special offer only applies if you have a single filling. I try to explain to the chap behind the bar that this doesn't make the special offer very attractive. I'm not sure he understands. Possibly not a mathematician. In any case, rules is rules; and the special offer does not apply if I want two fillings. Not an experience to be repeated.
After the gathering breaks up, we wander into a couple of shops, then, because it is a bright day, we go up in the Bristol Wheel. You get a good view from the top, 60 metres high; and there is a set of recorded commentaries which are surprisingly interesting. They try to sell us a souvenier photograph, but we recently purchased one on the submarine and don't feel in need of another so soon.
In the evening, sue and I go to the Orpheus and see The Hunger Games. An interesting take on where global capitalism is headed.
Sunday 1 April: words at Highgrove. We have upgraded to the latest PowerPoint for the notices - seems to work well. And we have broadband as well, so we can surf the net during the sermon. Or maybe that's not the reason.
Try to find my new 'Closer to God' - the Bible reading notes the church provides - but can't see them anywhere. Then I realise that they have had a facelift, and my copy has been sitting there in plain view all the time.
I check the songs and correct one error, then a lad turns up expecting to do the words. I am on the rota, but it seems there has been a mix-up with the rota: he wants to do it and can't swop, so I stand aside.
Drive down to work and print the song sheets for the ACTS walk of witness, then down the road to the City Mission for the service there.
Ian is leading the service, and I have offered to do a reading for him if he can't find anyone else. He can't. It's quite funny: he is particularly concerned that the passage is not read in the usual reading-the-Bible voice; I know exactly what he means, but he doesn't know that, I can't reassure him, and he tries several times to explain that he wants a dramatic reading, something that will keep peoples' interests... In the end, he seems happy with the way it is done; I slightly change the introduction he has written, but either he doesn't notice, or doesn't mind; it is a small tribute to David Pawson and the way he would read from the Bible at Millmead all those years ago.
Time for a quick coffee and chat with people after the service. I end up talking with someone who is deeply interested in the relationship between science and Christianity, but is deeply confused about the historical facts. A bit frustrating, as I have to dash off to City Road Baptist with the song sheets.
The walk goes well, too.
Off to the Orpheus to see Mirror, Mirror. Ian is there, and we catch up with him briefly, and talk about tomorrow. The film is very enjoyable. Enough of the story we know to be familiar, enough changes to be interesting. One detail was quite deep: if you choose to use magic, there is always a price to be paid. How could it be otherwise?
Monday 9 April: a day out with the family. Alan and Philip catch the train from Coventry to Reading; Sue and I pick up Ian; and Roger brings Mum and Dad. The plan was to go first to a pub for an early lunch, but instead we all meet first at Reading Station. Roger gets there first; Alan and Philip make their wayy to him at the main entrance. We park by the North entrance, and manage to get onto the platform without a ticket ... which means we need to get off the platform without a ticket, too.
The nice man at the barrier takes pity on us, and we all meet up. Then we have to split up again, and drive to the pub - the unusually named Jeckyll and Hyde.
It's a nice place, and we stay longer than planned, sharing a starter, then the main course, then dessert. Then we try to drive on to Stratfield Saye, the home of the Duke of Wellington.
Astonishingly, we manage to drive all the way around the estate without finding a way in, or even a sign to suggest there is a way in. We stop and ask directions in two pubs, and in the end we find the small road that leads to the small entrance.
There is one other car in the car park. The lack of signs seems to have worked.
A small sign from the car park takes us to where we pay to get in. It's not cheap, but then we probably need to contribute a fair percentage of their income for the day. The good news is that the time is 3.20; and the final tour of the house is starting at 3.30.
Not surprisingly, we are the only people in the party being shown round the house. But they do look after us very well: they quickly identify that my father is deaf and unable to follow a guide's commentary, so they find him his own personal guide with written literature. It works really well, and he has a wonderful time.
It is quite a house, and quite a family too. I never knew that the Duke of Wellington had a sister-in-law who was also Napoleon's sister-in-law. Or that he installed central heating and double glazing a good hundred years before most people began to think about such things. The family still live there, although the current Duke moved out to a smaller place on the estate a few years ago. All in all, a good visit.
We stay to closing time. On the drive back to the road, Roger is in front when half a dozen deer run out across the road. It's a lovely sight.
Back to a pub for coffee before we drive back - the first one we stopped at and asked for directions earlier. The man recognises us, and asks if we found the place. We tell him we did and enjoyed the visit.
A little later, as we are about to leave, he comes up to us again, and explains that the couple who were on the table opposite us are the people who live in the house we just visited - the Duke's heir. He had been a bit worried what we might say about our visit. It is a nice end to the day.
Roger takes Alan back to the station, and we return to Bristol with Philip and Ian.
Monday 16 April: when I arrive at the Pip 'n' Jay prayer meeting, I am surprised to see Dawnecia. She is visiting Bristol for a week or two. Can stop to chat, but it's good to see her and catch up a little. It seems that belonging to a megachurch in the USA can have drawbacks as well as benefits.
In the middle of Broadmead, as well as the Wheel, we now have a car with a crushed bonnet, and large foorprints leading to and from the car. Very Jurassic Park. The footprints lead to the central atrium of Cabot Circus, but seem to just finish - had hoped there would be something to suggest where it had gone next.
Board meeting in the evening. Frustrating and hard work.
Tuesday 17 April: another case conference first thing this morning. No real progress - no statutory group is willing to take responsibility, and nobody has the resources to help, even if she were willing to accept it.
Late afternoon, Sue comes and takes me to Temple Meads to catch the train to Leeds. It is the CUF annual event there tomorrow, and I can't get a train tomorrow to arrive on time. As I am getting into the car, my hotel rings. They have a problem - they are overbooked, so would I mind swopping to another hotel? No problem. So I'm now heading for the Hilton: right out of the station, and just a short walk down that road. No problem.
The journey is fine. The train departs and arrives more or less on time. I get off at Leeds, leave the station and turn right.
Something is wrong. Fortunately, I have printed a map of the area, with a few road names on it. I eventually navigate myself to the hotel and book in.
The swop was a good move. I am in a double suite, larger and nicer than anything I have stayed in before. A bedroom and a lounge, a bath robe in the wardrobe, a walk-in shower, and also some fruit, chocolate, bottled water and a quarter bottle of wine.
Discover what went wrong yesterday. What I should have done was either to find a small lower side exit and turn right out of the station, or leave the main exit and turn left before I then take the next road on the right. I'll know next time...
Arrive at the venue in good time, but it's not clear how to get in. Several people are wandering around loking for the right entrance. It is hidden away at the far end, if you go clockwise round the building, obvious when you arrive. Bump into Mark Goodway, who is there for the Matthew Tree Project with a stall.
The day is the usual mixture. The keynote address is a waste of time, but other speakers and interesting, inspirational and challenging. Meet a number of familiar faces, and get talking to new people. Overall, an excellent day.
Between the end of the event and catching my train home, I have time to visit the art gallery and then get a bite to eat. Sue picks me up from Temple Meads. Very grateful to her - by this time I am quite shattered.
Afterwards, I go for a coffee with Andy Street. We catch up on a number of things, then I start to talk about my thoughts for a more coherent strategy for helping people rebuild their lives. Andy is going to go away and think about it: he has the contacts in the business community we will need if this ever gets off the drawing board.
Street Pastors in the evening. We sign the form to become members, which means we can formally elect a committee at the next meeting. Progress.
Thursday 3 May: Sue has a haircut at 10. I meet her for coffee at the Cafe on the Square, then we walk down to the surgery to see our medical reports. But, despite the message earlier in the week, they are not ready yet. Back to the car, and off to vote.
CCM had a stall booked at the Redland May Fair this year. Sue and I try to get there each year, so a stall would be an added incentive. But we hear that the event has been cancelled this year due to the ground being waterlogged, and more rain forecast over the weekend. A real shame. Maybe next year.
In the afternoon, I get the message that Ian is not feeling too well, so I cancel the table. More messages, and eventually Sue drives round to pick me up from work; then we go round to Ian. He is feeling well enough to wander round the corner for something to eat, so we give him a meal and spend an hour or so talking about the practical arrangements of the house, wills and probate.
Saturday 5 May: Andy and Pam Cribbin drive down to Bristol with two of their daughters - visiting a Folk Festival at the Colston Hall. We meet them for coffee at the Better Food near Sue's work. Wonderful time catching up. Andy promises to come down for a proper visit some time soon.
When they have gone, we graba quick lunch, then Sue drops me off for a sauna. She goes on to get a swim, then drives up to Newbury to stay with her mother. I catch the train home, then walk up to the Co-Op to get some fruit and milk.
Sunday 6 May: Sam is preaching at Highgrove this morning. The sermon is about the Holy Spirit, and as a sermon on the Holy Spirit it is fine; but he decides to start off with an intro which makes me deeply depressed. Evangelism is really important, and to do effective evangelism, we need the Holy Spirit. Can't argue with that, but the message is so damaging. All those people struggling with evangelism will now be thinking, if they listened to the message, that all they need to do is get this Holy Spirit thing sorted out, and they will be fine. Talk about setting people up to fail...
Manage to walk up and back without getting wet, but it starts to rain after lunch, so no chance of getting out to work in the garden after all. Frustrating.
Sue returns from Newbury bearing gifts, including a large cheese roll we share for tea, and another pair of swimming trunks.
Tuesday 8 May: into town at lunchtime to collect a prescription from Boots. They are dismantling the Wheel in the middle of Broadmead - screens all round, and one section of the outer rim missing already.
Friday 11 May: Christians in Science this evening is on 'Thinking Through the Fall' - the second part of two talks. Unfortunately, I missed the first one. This is fascinating. The basic premise is that Genesis 1-3 is a mythic account of real events, in a similar fashion to Revelation 13 being a retelling of the story of Jesus' birth in mythic and apocalyptic language: the language used indicates the significance of the events, not their lack of historicity.
Sue has the usual X-Ray, then we wait to see Mr Sarangi. He is very pleased with Sue's progress, and the amount of mobility she has recovered. She doesn't need to come back for any more check-ups, although he may ask her to come back at some point for a more general follow-up progress check. Sue has to be careful not to exercise the arm too much, as the metal will wear away the shoulder bone, but other than that the arm should be fine with the continuing mobility exercises.
We are finished earlier than expected, and walk down to the Arnolfini where I have a meeting in half an hour. Grab a quick coffee and do a diary check, then Sue goes home and I have a meeting with Max and Anna to plan some strategy for the Voscur board.
Friday 18 May: trying to get the details of the new staff posts sorted out, but too much is going on to make much progress. But I do manage to touch base with Val and agree the invitation to send out for the networking and brainstorming meeting about services for women.
Arrive late for the BCAN Steering Group, but it's a good and productive time.
Back to the office for an hour, then off for a coffee with Philip Nott. We go to 'Grounded' in St George. Not been there before, but worth a visit. Philip does his pastoral care bit, very well. We have not spent time together like this for a long while, and agree we must do it again.
Work later than I should, the walk over to Grosvenor Road and Sue gives me a lift to the Council House. It is the Housing Benefit Poverty Hearing. I have been helping to publicise it, and am very relieved when there are over a hundred people present. Clearly a number of significant players from various area. Good information, then break up into discussion tables.
On my table is a lady from the council, a chap facing the poverty trap, and three members of a family from Crofts End church with relevant knowledge and experience. A good discussion, then we start the feedback. Not so good. Various irrelevancies and political point scoring. I manage to contribute a couple of thoughts right at the end - one about opening up empty bedrooms, the other about removing the poverty trap by reducing benefits on a sliding scale. Quite a bit of encouraging feedback afterwards. And there is a retiring collection, half of which will go to CCM once the bills are paid. Very kind.
It is raining lightly when I leave, but a bus arrives as I'm walking down the ramp towards Park Road. Run and catch it. A good evening.
Esme comes round, and I drive her and Sue to the Cathedral. They are in the choir and have to practice. Off to the office, to pick up the items for the stall. No laptop. Hunt around, no joy. Phone Jonathan, no answer. Leave a terse message. Pack the other bits and drive to the Cathedral, unpack and then leave the car in the staff car park.
Steve White arrives and helps set up the stand. The event is better planned than last time, and the publicity seems to have worked better. Lots of familiar faces, catching up with news about many of the projects with stalls.
They want an object which symbolises our project. Something else missing. I go in search of a salt cellar and pepper pot set, to symbolise feeding people and being the salt of the earth (and, maybe, getting up peoples' noses in the process...) but can't find anything suitable in the local shops. In the end I get a bright tomato shaped ketchup dispenser. This is one of the few items chosen as the basis of a meditation in the service at the end, but clearly there is no idea it has any links with CCM and what we do. A limited success, then.
Steve departs, Sue and I pack up, we drop the bits off at the office, then home. Pick up our swimming things, Sue has a swim, I have a sauna, and we meet again at Sainsbury's in Clifton for some shopping.
Various urgent emails to attend to when we get home, so it's a long day. But good and productive.
Sunday 20 May: it's my turn to do the Words at Highgrove this morning. Arrive earlier than usual, as there are a couple of dedications and Ed wants the notices up and running at 10. When I arrive, it is all set up; and everything works as planned during the service. Never before had such an easy time doing Words at Highgrove.
Friday 25 May: my new netbook arrives as we are about to set out for work, so I spend a few minutes unpacking it. Get to work and do the initial charge, and start the inevitable series of updates: the dafault operating system is Windows 7, and I plan to retain that as an option.
The long stay car park is full by the time we arrive, so Sue heads off for the short stay to see if there is any space there. However, on the way we find some free on-street parking, so that works very well.
We arrive at 1 pm, so the first priority is lunch. Sue has a quiche and salad; I have a jacket with cheese and beans. Not beautifully presented, but very good.
The sun is very hot, so we reverse our usual plan and head down to the river first. The shade and coolness are wonderful, and the river is absolutely stunning. On the bridge, in one direction we have lots of small fish and a few large ones. Sue wants to know where the medium sized fish have gone, which seems a good question - do the few that survive grow rapidly and then stay the same size for a long time? In the other direction, the river flows downstream under a canopy of trees, including a willow reaching right across. The sight is so stunning, I don't think about taking a picture until much later. Bother.
Back up the top, we have a coffee, then wander round the more formal lower beds. As we hoped, the sun is a bit cooler. A lady is feeding the tortoise, which is chewing away in a far more animated fashion than I remember. An enthusiastic tortoise seems like a contradiction of terms, but it's fun to watch.
The arched walkway looks and smells wonderful, and we stand and chat with a gentleman for a few minutes as we enjoy the sight.
Another coffee and an ice cream, then sit in the shade and read for a bit. I finish the book - the 4th volume of George RR Martin's Game of Thrones series. Sue is very cross: she doesn't like me reading ahead of her.
We arrive back in Bristol at 6. Sue goes off for a swim, and I drive in to work. The plan is to write my piece for the newsletter, but the computer is not working. After checking all I can, I ring Simon and he comes out. It looks like a new disk he recently installed overheaded and this caused a failed system reboot.
Simon leaves, and I join Alan and the folk from Kensington for a training session. Skim through a number of key areas, and encourage them to sign up for the full thing. It gives them a chance for them to ask their questions, and for us to reinforce some key messages, so a useful time.
Tuesday 29 May: in the afternoon, Alan Goddard drives me to a 'Day Centres Forum' in Wells, organised by Homeless Link. A good idea, but rather frustrating. Homeless Link have developed four pledges in response to 'No Second Night Out', but they mean absolutely nothing. They are not pledges but aspirations, and can be implemented in different ways, or not at all, in different places. They want to discuss the role of day centres 'in ending rough sleeping' but this just means they want to find out what we are doing. And Alan has a go at the lady from St Mungos about the No Second Night Out money they have received... several times. Not a good experience.
At homegroup tonight, David and Diane are sharing about their experience of working in Turkey. Absolutly fascinating.
Thursday 31 May: we have massages booked first thing. I go first, then Sue comes, I drive home, take some painkillers, do a bit more work, then off to the surgery for my injection. Remember to take the latest prescription: two ampoules - one for today, one for next time.
I am fairly relaxed, as the last time wasn't too bad. But the first injection today is much more painful. No idea why. And the second is quite excruciating - so bad, I ask the nurse to stop. Never done that before. She tries again, and it is nearly as bad. By the time she is finished, I'm completely drenched in sweat. She gives me a few minutes to recover, and some paper towel to dry myself on. She seems quite worried about me, but there is nothing she can do.
Pick up Sue, then back home for lunch.
About 2.30, we drive to Thornbury to visit the solicitor - need to sign the mortgage contract and various related documents. It has taken a long time, but seems to be getting close to actually happening.
We have a coffee together, then in to Bristol for a sauna and swim, and home. A bit more work for an hour or so.
Off to the Orpheus, to see Men in Black 3. Not deep or ground-breaking, but simple, good fun.
The whole evening is very good. The organisers don't use the opportunity to plug themselves as shamelessly as they could; neither are we told about heart-rending financial needs on a regular basis.
And Brother Yun - the 'Heavenly Man' of the book - is excellent. He speaks through a translator, is simple and direct, and talks about his experience. Some of it is in the book, other details I don't recognise, but it is all worth hearing direct - or almost direct - from his mouth. Very glad we went.
Afterwards, bump into Andy and Gill Luxford. They are looking well, and also glad they came.
Our plan is to visit a craft centre Sue knows, on our way to Newbury.
We get out in time to have lunch in Keynsham. The Bread Basket is closed for renovation, but we look around and find a very nice alternative. Irish-Italian. Not a combination we have tried before, but it works. May well return next time we are in the area.
The roads are very slow. After a while, we decide we don't have time for the craft centre, and head straight for Newbury. Even so, we don't arrive terribly early.
Pip is in another musical: The Rock, all about Peter. A good, traditional Christian musical - not much drama; the cast manage to express appropriate surprise at the revelations every member of the audience already know; and an evangelistic message is woven almost seamlessly into the text just in case anyone has been dragged along and suddenly decided to give their heart to Jesus in the middle of a musical performance. But they all do very well, and the singing is stronger than in many amateur productions. And it's nice to see Pip again and support her this way.
As we head out of the church, Sue spots a picture on the wall of a member of her old school, dressed up in the traditional uniform. Then she remembers that Newbury has links with Christ's Hospital. Strange to make the connection after all this time.
We go for a coffee and cake before heading back, and Pip manages to get out of the post-show clearing up to join us. It's nice to chat a while.
Sunday 3 June: we return to Acorns in Devon for a few days. The original plan was to be there for Sue's birthday, but they were fully booked Friday and Saturday. The next plan was to get the bags packed, go to Highgrove, have a quick bite of lunch, and leave early in the afternoon. But by the time we are packed, it is too late to get to church. We have an early light lunch, and head off.
It is overcast with intermittent rain all the way down. But the sauna is lit when we arrive, and much appreciated. Sue combines the sauna with the hot tub, while I spend most of my time in the sauna and join her in the tub at the end.
After dinner, we watch the highlights of the jubilee regatta. What an impressive event; and how incredibly well managed it all was.
Monday 4 June: we drive down to Tiverton, heading for the canal there. When we arrive, there is a jubilee party. Music and a few stalls, a hog roast and bouncy castle. Cheerful, and dry; what more could we ask for?
The way the canal has been built is really most impressive. It was intended to be part of a massive canal stretching from the Bristol Channel to the English Channel, but the railway came and people stopped building canals. What a shame.
Getting fed takes a long time: we are nearly at the front of the queue when a pre-booked coach party arrives and has to be served. Afterwards, we do another stroll along the canal, then back to Acorns and the sauna and hot tub again. After dinner, we catch the end of the concert in the Mall, followed by the spectacular fireworks.
Stop for lunch in Taunton - an odd restaurant in a shop. The service is dreadful, but the food is good. Afterwards, the motorway is crawling, so we return to Bristol on the A38.
Stop off at my work. The network is down, but I can't sort it out; phone Simon, follow a few more instructions, it is still not working; Simon promises to come in, so we go home.
Unpacking doesn't take long, so we go to the Orpheus to see Prometheus. It has rather more disturbing images than I anticipated from the reviews, and the 'deep' issues it addresses are rather obvious and not really explored. But it is beautifully constructed, with brilliant images and tight dialogue, and certainly works as an epic. Hardly fair to blame it for not living up to the hype
Back home to do some work, then lunch with Sue. Afterwards, she heads off for a swim, dropping me off at Graham's for another session, partly planning and partly supervision and appraisal.
Don't really appreciate how long we talk for. Walk home and make Sue a cup of tea; she gets home, swallows the tea, then we dash off to CostCo. Sue renews her membership, we look at a few things, and do a coffee and diary check. Realise I have about 15 minutes to get down to St Pauls for the Sisters of the Church. Oops.
Sue's main watch battery has run out, and now she has found her backup watch also needs a new battery. I think I can go into town at lunchtime, so she gives me the watch.
After work, Sue drives me to the gym. We had planned to grab a coffee together, but it is too late. I return her watch, she drives off to Newbury, and I go for a sauna.
Tuesday 12 June: after work, the BMFF are hosting a discussion about the planned EDL march in Bristol. Lots of intelligent, thoughtful contributions. We agree to plan a celebration of Bristol's diversity to coincide with the march, which will not be an anti-EDL or protest event. Very happy with the outcome.
Saturday 16 June: a CCM Strategy Day. Lots of talking, but it is hard to keep people focussed on strategy. They say they want the opportunity to talk about important, strategic things, but given the opportunity the conversation is mostly about the frustrations of the past week. Some good ideas come up, but it is not really what we were looking for.
Philip Nott drives David, Caroline and me to London. He enjoys driving, so that works well. We park in a previous parish and get the tube.
The event is almost completely a waste of time. It is supposed to be a time for people to share their experience, but it is all talking from a few people at the front. People in power telling us what they think, and no relationship to the world we live in or the work we do. We get the opportunity to shake hands with important people in the breaks. Not good.
The service in St Pauls is better, and I get to see and hear from the Archbishop of Canterbury before he retires. He is very impressive, but you do have to listen carefully to what he says. But the main value of the day is that the four of us get to spend some time together just chatting and getting to know each other a bit better.
Monday 25 June: John and his son are building us a new wall on the side by Olivia - it has deteriorated significantly over the past year, and close to falling down. We can't keep the car on the drive while they do this work.
In the evening, Sue and I spend several hours moving Ian and his things from the old flat, mostly to his new one, and partly back home. All very complicated.
Thursday 28 June: in to work first thing: we have to work out what to do about the staff appointments. Talk and pray with Alan and Steve White, and after much consisderation and going round everything several times we reach a decision we are all happy with. I phone the unsuccessful candidates, and leave Alan to talk to the successful ones. Head home.
Quick lunch, then packing for the Jazz Festival. We are, unsurprisingly, quite late leaving.
Phone Philip: we have not heard anything from him. He has just got home. Does he know his degree result yet? Oh, yes, he got a first. It's what we hoped and expected, but it is still a relief to hear it. Many congratulations.
The traffic is quite bad. We detour off the M4 and head down to Basingstoke, but the traffic is bad that way, too. Instead of booking in to our room at the hotel, we head straight for the festival. We have missed the first group, and come in part way through the second. Sue describes it as 'experimental'; I think it is mournful. Very good, but not cheerful, and not quite what we were looking forward to.
The last group of the evening are much more traditional and upbeat. Glad we caught them.
The Premier Inn is new - it was not around two years ago - and very convenient. Just three minutes by car from the festival. As we book in, the previous guests complain that they have a double bed when they booked two singles. We offer to swap, which works very well for us as well as them. It turns out to be a good thing we were delayed booking in.
Friday 29 June: we are meeting my parents at a shopping centre in Orpington, but manage to drive to the wrong shopping centre in the wrong town. Astonishingly, we arrive early, and realise our mistake quite quickly, so we get to Orpington only ten minutes late.
Try phoning my mother. Surprisingly, she has her phone switched on. But she can't hear what I am saying. We can't find them. Eventually, she turns the volume up on her phone and talks to Sue; they are waiting for us outside a bank, outside the centre. We find them, then grab something to eat.
The reason for coming to Orpington is because my mother wants to visit the M&S there. Sadly, it closed several years ago. We wander around the shops for a bit, then give up and go back to my parents' house for a coffee.
The lady we agreed to appoint yesterday can't start after all. Bother. It seems she is very apologetic, and if the job is still available later in the year would like to be considered again.
We drink coffee and chat for a bit, then head back to the Jazz Festival. I have time for a sauna, and Sue swims before the music starts.
Saturday 30 June: during a break in the music, Sue and I wander round some stalls. One of them is sellig a product called a 'Reviber' - a vibrating platform with rubber straps to exercise the arms. Sue had heard about this sort of product and suggested I try it a few years ago, but they seemed terribly expensive back then. This one is much more affordable. I give it a try: a very odd experience, but it seems like a good idea. In any case, I need to find a replacement to my current step machine, which has basically worn out.