Saturday, March 31, 2007



(backposting) Nursing bras need special fitting, apparently. So we went to Cambridge (where there's a special shop called Bravissimo), and I got to take back some UL books. Unluckily, Jo was a real pain pretty much all of the day.

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Friday, March 30, 2007


"If you don't behave, you won't get any medicine..."

Ah, whoops. It had been a hard day, and Jo was playing up fairly badly. Try again.

"Well, you probably will, but it'll take a lot longer."


Thursday, March 29, 2007


Well, well

Jo's been showing more of an interest in words recently. On the page, that is. For instance, if you read the wrong words to a book she knows, she'll point at the ones on the page and tell you to read those. Also, she asked where the sentences were this morning when I was reading a book, so we had to explain.

This evening at bedtime, Moo was reading her a Topsy and Tim story, and Jo got very frustrated: "where are the words?" Moo pointed at them. "But I can't read them..." So Moo had to point and give her clues, and she told the story. She's started learning the alphabet (it's just another song to her!), but at this rate, we're going to have to decide how to proceed with words. I'm scared, I'm telling you: I'm not trained for this sort of thing!

Maybe she'll just let it go, but she's a dogged little child, so we'll see.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007


God, evolution (part II)

As Jo eats an orange for breakfast:
Jo: what's that?
Moo: it's a pip. It's a kind of seed.
Jo: why?
Me: it's how you grow things. If you want to grow a new thing, you need seeds.
Jo: why?
Me: you put it in the ground and give it water and keep it warm, and if you're lucky, it will make a new tree, or flower, or vegetable.
Jo: why?
Me: because that's how evolution and God made things
Me (aside to Moo): well, it worked last time
Jo: why?
Moo smirks
Me (struggling): because there's a bit of the divine in each of us, and we're all products of evolution, aren't we?
Jo: Amen.
Moo looks flabbergasted
Mike (looking smug): it's taking...

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007


God, evolution

(Reading "Each Peach, Pear, Plum" with Jo)
what are the rabbits doing?
finishing off the plum pie. that's funny, isn't it?
because rabbits don't usually eat plum pie
they usually eat grass
because they like grass
because evolution and God made them that way

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Monday, March 26, 2007


Same sex blessings

There's a good article in the Cam magazine about the (long) history of being gay in Cambridge. It's the UK's most gay-friendly university, and Moo and I were discussing over supper how many gay friends we had at college, and how things seem to be continuing to improve. One of the issues I'll have to come to terms with will be whether, when I'm ordained, I'll consider blessing same-sex couples. Currently, the rules are that for Church of England priests, you're allowed to pray with single sex couples, but not bless them. You're allowed to bless animals, buildings, places, but not people in a loving relationship if they're of the same sex. This is really hard. Something to discuss with one's bishop, peers and community.


Sunday, March 25, 2007


Church at Stambourne

Took Jo to Stambourne for Communion, and she was good. She really enjoys church, and is beginning to understand when she should be a bit quieter. None of the churches in the benefice have a Sunday School or equivalent, and it's not fair to expect her to be quieter all the time, but for short periods, like the intercessions, she can manage it. She also enjoys the hymns. After church we played in the playground across the way, and when we got home, I was very pleased to find that Moo had had good sleep.

We went to the lovely Bell Inn. I'm now on "being able to drive Moo at any time, in case she goes into labour and has to be taken to the hospital quickly" watch. So one pint only. There's New Orleans jazz at the Bell on the last Sunday of each month, and we'd hoped to catch some of that. We forced Simon, Jo's godfather, to leave his teaching preparation (he works far too much, don't you, Simon) to come, and invited Jason and Joanne and their kids (Ruby, George and the new baby, Kitty) and Vivien, Joanne's mum along too. The kids weren't really up for the jazz, but we had a good time with them.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007


Long with with Jo and Buster

Went out with Jo on my back in the backpack and Buster. Lots of horses, which Buster sniffed and licked, making Jo very happy. Went to Freeport, bought some new shoes for Jo. Kids' shoes are scarily expensive, even reduced. Moo's beginning to acknowledge that she needs more sleep, which is good.

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Friday, March 23, 2007



Moo needs lots of support at the moment. She's short on sleep, very focused on the baby, nesting madly, and finding it difficult to handle Jo. Jo, to be fair, is being a standard toddler, and pushing the boundaries a bit, but Moo's finding that very difficult at the moment. I'm going to try to absorb as much "Jo-time" as possible this weekend, to give Moo time to sleep and do the nesting-type things that she needs to do. This sounds very selfless, but I should point out that many of the nesting-type things that I referred to above involve tidying, so it's not all altruistic...

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Placement #1

Today I met my supervisor for my first placement: Ian. I'm going to be spending time at Holy Trinity, Long Melford, where Ian's the incumbent, and he came round to meet me and Moo, and to get a feeling for whether things will work. I think he's happy, because he's agreed to go ahead. We'll pick up after Easter, and after my paternity leave's finished.

I'm really looking forward to meeting a new community and interacting with it. And to more fellowship, which, as I've mentioned before, is an area which Moo very perspicaciously (yes, I had to check the spelling, but I did have it right!) identified as one which I'm lacking in at the moment. Ian, Moo and I got on very well, and I'm pleased it's going to work out.

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Friday five: rivers in the desert

For this Friday Five, name five practices, activities, people or _____ (feel free to fill in something I may be forgetting) that for you are rivers in the desert... From Sally - I consider myself tagged...
  1. walking with the dog. Long, and hard. I walk pretty fast, and upwards of 2 miles is where it starts to get interesting.
  2. music. Cathedral choral music. Palestrina, Lassus, Tallis, Byrd, Stanford, Harvey, Gibbons, Howells, Walton, Tippett, Ades, Weelkes... You get the idea. Also organ music. Messiaen...
  3. family. Time with Jo. Time with Moo. Jo's such fun at the moment. And Moo needs quiet and support as she gets ready for the next baby
  4. reading. I, like Sally, read fast, and multiple books at the same time. Always have. Don't get confused. Can speed read and still take things in. very useful.
  5. a nice glass of single malt. oh yes.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007



Had a meeting with Keith tonight. We talked about baptism policy and sacred spaces, within the context of the module I'm currently working on. I ended up showing him around some of SecondLife, which was a bit of a revelation to him, I think - not to mention a culture shock. And that was without any interaction with other people - just showing him some of the sites.

We also talked about the great Synchroblog debate (see blogs passim) - he was very supportive, keen to pray for David and all others affected, and strongly in favour of my maintaining an "honesty" policy in my blog. This is very important, as he's a pivotal person in my training for ordination. He's a great guy, and I really appreciate his help and support. If only the dog hadn't tried to eat both of the cats at various points in the proceedings...

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Hospital appointment

Off to the hospital. Baby's big (surprise, surprise), so they decided to do a scan. Moo's currently 35 and a half weeks gone. The measurements were: Pretty much like Jo, really. Current weight is estimated at 6lb 13oz (3.1kg). Yes, you read that right: coming up for 7lb. Don't forget that Jo was 9lb 8oz (4.3kg) at birth. Moo's really feeling quite uncomfortable now...

Back there next week. Currently expecting a C-section sometime in the two weeks after Easter, but we'll see.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Synchroblog: guilty by association

At the end of last year, a few people in the blogosphere, all Christians who'd had opportunity to read each others blogs - or some of them - decided to get together and post, on a theological, religious or spiritual topic once a month, calling ourselves "Synchrobloggers". We change the topic each month, and there's a wide spectrum of different traditions from around the world. We'd like to recruit more, but it's only just started. You can see my last post (with a link to the others also posting) here.

Because the traditions and theological backgrounds are so different, the views expressed are also very broad, and it's fair to say that it's unlikely that any one person will agree with everything that all the others say. For instance, I'm very liberal in my theological outlook, and that's reflected in my views on sexuality. Sally has a lot of time for alternative spiritualities, as well as a strongly feminist slant to her theology, and so on. It's less of a meeting of minds, and more a meeting of intent: that each of us should have the chance to express our views, read the views of others, and then comment and discuss. There have been some occasions when certain people's views have been rejected, and though it's difficult, that's OK, as well. We each walk our own path, following God's guidance as best we can.

However, we heard today that someone had to leave their job(*) - in Christian ministry - because they had linked to the synchroblogs. Not because they had endorsed any particularly unorthodox views. Not because they had refused to condemn any particularly contentious posts. But because they had linked to a collection of blogs, some of which expressed views that some members of their community couldn't stomach.

This saddens me. It reviles me. It angers me. I feel guilty, humble, and proud. All at the same time. I'm not sure I should feel proud, to be honest, but it's there. I need to unpack it.

I believe that we're doing God's work, here. We're struggling with our faith. Battling. Rejoicing. Of course we're getting it wrong. But we're open to questions. We're open. That's the main thing.

* (added 2218 GMT) - just a note: as you'll see from the comments, it wasn't a paid position, which does lessen the shock somewhat, and David is remarkably calm about it. A very Christian reaction.

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Monday, March 19, 2007


Settling in

Buster's settling in. Mel met him at home today - she'd met him at the RSPCA shelter - and he's much bigger inside than you remember outside! He's sleeping better, and so are we, and I'm loving the walking and exercise with him. And I get to pray on the walks, which is something that I've been missing enormously - more so than I'd realised.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007


Preaching, sleep

Preached for Mothering Sunday, on the 10 commandments. Talked about how mums have to make rules, like God, and they also love us (like God). But rules aren't always bad. We did a clapping game, where I separated the church into 4 segments, each with a different rhythm, and we clapped them together, gradually going faster and faster until it collapsed into laughter and mayhem. Went down well.

Buster stopped barking at around 0100 this morning. And Jo was in around 0520. Joyous, but we're getting there.

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In Sudbury, yesterday

Jo (obscured), Mike and Buster on a jetty

Jo, Mike and Buster on a jetty

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Saturday, March 17, 2007


Today would have been better if...

I'd not slept on the floor in Buster's room all night in an attempt to stop him barking. Very loudly.

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Friday, March 16, 2007



Buster, a large Newfoundland dog

Mike and his dog Buster, a large Newfoundland

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Thursday, March 15, 2007


Today in SecondLife

I visited a mosque, invited a Muslim into our chaplaincy group and talked to an Orthodox Christian about ordination and working in SecondLife.

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Tutorial, Ubuntu upgrade

Had a tutorial for the Life and Service module. Should have finished this module by now - or nearly - but I was too ill earlier. At least I've started.

Also upgrade Ubuntu from 6.10 to 6.16: nice. Just a bunch of improvements, to be honest. Still playing.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Death of a priest

People die. Priests die. And sometimes, priests get murdered. Attacks on priests are on the rise. I personally know a priest who thought he was going to die, after being threatened by a mentally ill man with a pistol. Twice, and the same man. It's sad that part of our training involves advice on how to look after yourself as a minister.

It's an occupational hazard and, as the assistant bishop says in the report, "any murder is terrible, but the murder of a priest is almost unthinkable because a priest stands for peaceable things". But that, or course, is part of the danger. Those who preach peace are a danger and a threat to those who don't believe in it, or are disturbed, or ill. This is clearer in parts of the world where Christians are persecuted, but it can hit at home, as well. Please pray for his family, friends and parishioners.

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We're going to be a Newfoundland-owning family again. The RSPCA said "yes". Soon, soon.



The Spirit of the Lord is upon me

This month's synchroblog is on "Altered states of consciousness", and how they relate to Christianity. In my undergraduate days, I did some interesting work on women religious (that is nuns, anchorites, etc.) in the Middle Ages, and read the excellent Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women by Caroline Walker Bynum. It talked about the possible use of fasting - and anorexia - as part of their lives, and the possibility that some visions were brought on by side effects of this. If I remember correctly, it wasn't discounting the visions, just setting them in context. This, however, is pretty much all I know on the subject. So I decided to talk from personal experience a bit. This is my blog, after all.

A bit of background on me first. I come from a liberal, medium-to-high church background. Hymns, and if we sing any "worship songs", we still call them hymns, organ and choir (when available, in both cases), not guitars. Nothing extravagant - for some people, passing the Peace is a step too far. That sort of thing. It doesn't mean that there's not true worship going on, or a very real spirituality, but it tends to be internalised. Now, I've always found music very moving, and maybe I'm being a little harsh on the tradition I come from, but there are limits. I'm _certainly_ not the sort of person to go in for visions, or voices, or any of that sort of thing. Oh, no.

Which makes it somewhat embarassing when it happens to me. Three times in my life, so far:

I would describe all of these as taking place within an altered state of consciousness, as a realisation of God's grace (not always easy - the second experience was challenging and unsettling, for instance) fell upon me. I sometimes use meditation techniques to aid my prayer-life, too. What I think I'm trying to say is that you don't have to go all "weirdy-beardy", or "charismatic" or "happy-clappy" to experience God's grace through your life. You may feel touched without any of that, and if your consciousness is altered, it's because God's changed how you think, feel, and relate to the world. The immediate feeling may wear off - for me, that's true - but hopefully the experience will act as a touchstone, and the changes that God wrought in you will be reflected in your life.

I'd just like to say that I'm not condemning in any way the "charimatic", "happy clappy", or even the "weirdy-beardy" (!), but trying to make it clear that you shouldn't reject a call or an experience just because it doesn't hit you as you expect. Nor should you be worried. Engage, analyse, if you wish, be fearful of what the experience means. But the experience can come even to "staid", "safe" - dare I say it? - "boring" Christians like me.


Today is a "synchroblog" on the subject of spiritual warfare. If you've liked what you read here, or, more particularly, if you didn't, and you'd like to read some other opinions, please visit one of the other participating blogs:

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007



On placements. A bit scary. I'm wondering whether I should see if I can do one in SecondLife. Hmm.

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Monday, March 12, 2007


Take me back moment

Just had one of those "ooh, that takes me back" moments. I'm listening to Chrissie Hynde singing "Hymn to Her" with the Pretenders, which I bought when I was much younger as a 7" single. I suppose it was part of my introduction to feminism and strong women. Weird how these things find you, isn't it?






Thanks to this site for the lyrics.

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Moo's birthday

So, the call at 0730 was cancelled. I discovered at 0727. I could have been happier.

Despite this, we had a lovely day. Jo and Mel made a cake. We went to see Buster again, and signed up, basically. As long as we pass the home assessment (and we had Victoria over this afternoon to nail up some fence sections which had suffered with the wind (and we've all had that problem, haven't we?)), it looks like we'll have a rather big Newf with us in a few days. Mad? Yes. But it all seems right.

What else? Jo passed her 2 year assessment with flying colours (can you fail this?): apparently her speech is "exceptional", and a credit to us both. We'd add Mel and Jo, but hey.

Steak and baked tatties for supper.

A couple of pictures below - Moo at Aldeburgh, and Jo at her birthday party. Finally got them transferred to the server.

Moo at Aldeburgh, laughing

Jo at her birthday party

Oh, and some norty person's been trying to play with Moo's credit card. Bad you.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007



Tomorrow is Moo's birthday. I scheduled a 0730 call with Australia. What a muppet.



A great weekend - and a difficult question

Yesterday we had a fantastic day out in Aldeburgh, and today a lovely day, too. Moo's engrossed in baby stuff putting together, baby stuff sorting, baby stuff washing, baby stuff ... You get the idea.

In Aldeburgh, we ate at Regatta (terrible site, great restaurant) - very impressed to see that over half of the tables had children at them. The staff were friendly, helpful, and rushed off ther feet. We spent lots of time sitting on the beach, where for me mainly meant being handed stones by Jo, which I had to throw into the sea. I couldn't have been happier.

Today, we got up, did some tidying/hoovering, and then I took Jo to Holy Trinity, Long Melford. Apart from knocking down a portable display of books during the sermon (by a visiting preacher), she behaved very well, and I found that I had enough voice to sing "Guide me, O thou great Redeemer" lustily at the end. Ian, the incumbent, has pretty much agreed to supervise me for a placement, which is a relief and a joy.

Jo fell asleep in the car, so I left her there while Moo and I started our lunch outside - it was that warm today - and she joined us when she woke up. I then took her for a walk in the backpack we have for her, and we had a joyful 50 minutes chatting about pretty much everything, and to some horses we met. A cup of tea, then all three of us went swimming. Home, for a family supper, and then Jo to bed. I wrapped Moo's presents, wrote her cards (one from me (and the bump, codename "Fluffy"), one from Jo), and Moo's just gone up to bed. I'll probably log into SecondLife in a bit.

The difficult question is what to do about the dog we met on Friday. The RSPCA rescue kennel left us a message while we were out swimming asking us to come back if we're still interested. We're trying to work out if we still are. It'll make for a very complicated summer, but if the time is right, the time is right. We've decided to got back to see him again, to see how Jo takes to him in the open, to see how obedient he is, to ask how he is with kennels, and to try to get our heads round the whole thing. We'd like a dog again. Is now the time? Is he the dog? God knows (and I mean that).

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Saturday, March 10, 2007



After reading an interesting article in The Tablet (the UK's Roman Catholic weekly) suggested by Keith, I decided a couple of days ago to go back into SecondLife, which I've not visited recently. The article lambasted the use of online communities as a direct challenge to the ecclesia of Christians in the real world (or "IRL", as I'd put it). This hasn't been my experience of SecondLife, where I've found real community - and Christian support - and I wanted to see if that was still the case.

In fact, there's more Christianity evident than when I was last there, including a group of Anglicans, a "Chaplain's Corp", and several churches. There's sometimes some robust theological debate too - and it's interesting to join in. So, I'm going to participate when I can - unluckily it's often late by UK time, but we'll see how it goes.

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Friday, March 09, 2007


Husborne Crawley and Newfoundlands

We heard yesterday that a Newfoundland dog had been taken into the local RSPCA rescue centre. We went to visit it, partly in case it's the dog for us, and partly because Del Richards of the Newfoundland Club asked us to do an assessment. He's gorgeous, very big, and needs new owners who know Newfies. We're not in the standard brackets for RSPCA dog rescue, and it might not be very good timing, but who knows? Jo seemed to like him (though she was rather freaked by the load barking of the other dogs around), and he's lovely. A seriously big Newf.

The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley have been busy lately. Keeps me and Gary off the streets, I suppose.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007


Weird meme

Thanks to Sally for tagging me. Here are 6 weird things about me.

  1. despite being a complete spelling fascist, I find it very difficult to spell the word "weird", and had to look it up and correct myself when I first wrote the heading for this post
  2. "both sides" - if I burn myself, or hurt myself, on one side, I tend to react by doing the same to the other side. Moo calls this "both sides", and it's often an unconscious thing. I know that it's actually related to low-grade OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), but Moo still calls me "freak boy" (OK, it's not the only reason)
  3. the title "geek" is a positive one for me
  4. I have a little piece of gristle on the top of my right ear that led schoolmates of mine to call me "Spock"
  5. I can read Latin (well enough to read the Vulgate and Harry Potter, at least). I don't write or speak it very well, but could probably brush it up if I had to do so
  6. I cried at the end of the final Lord of the Rings film. Not because it was the last one, but because it was _moving_. Oh, and when Boromir died in the first one, obviously. Neither of these has led Moo to feel that she's wrong in calling me "freak boy"

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Worship style

Does this surprise anybody? I'd have expected less ascetic, but more enthusiast - but maybe I'm enthusiastic about particular issues, while it's not my style of worship. Makes sense.

From Sacred Pathways, thanks to Sally and Gary.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007



In time for Jo's bedtime.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Oslo, Copenhagen

A useful day, workwise, followed up by a lovely French meal. Escargots. Trou normand (1984 Calvados), Tournedos, St Emilion (2000), Muscat (lost the plot as to years by then), chocolate mousse with passionfruit icecream. All by a French chef. In Copenhagen. Oh, yes.


Monday, March 05, 2007



That's right. Off tonight. Then Copenhagen, then home. Busy.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007


Hospice care and euthanasia

(backposting) A really challenging couple of sessions this morning. Ably led by Geoff (visiting) and Malcolm respectively. Really thought-provoking, and there were some pretty emotional people around after them, unsurprisingly.

A good Eucharist - it's been odd, though, not singing at all this weekend. I need to try to preserve my voice and let it get better, and singing wouldn't help. So.

Back home in the afternoon. Lovely to see Jo and Moo.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007


Africa and mission

(backposting) I really thought I wouldn't find this topic very interesting, but, on the contrary, it was fascinating. We had someone called Emma come to talk to us, and she had lots to share (as did Richard, one of the tutors on the course). The last session was on what we can learn from modern African churches, and we had some interesting discussions on dialogue, and when we should challenge - and not just "counter-challenge" for its own sake. I argued strongly that we should stand up and disagree when we find ourselves at odds with theology such as the "Prosperity Gospel" or that which Archbishop Akinola tends to espouse on homosexuality. There was some disagreement, but I think less when I explained that "challenge" meant, for me, dialogue, and not just expounding a difference of opinion.

Had discussions with Holger (afternoon) on where I am in the course, illness, etc., with Edward (late afternoon) on placements - he agrees that a hospice seems a good idea - and Helen (in the bar in the evening) on the piece of work I'm doing on music. I'm planning to meet Helen the week after next to spend some more time on this.

I've spent the time here wearing a rainbow badge and a rainbow wristband, to show LBGT (Lesbian-Bisexual-Gay-Transgender) solidarity. Several people asked about it, a couple of people asked for one (I'd brought some spares) who I wouldn't have expected to, and a couple of people I'd not have expected to be "pro-" turned out to be. I feel pleased to have stood up to be counted, and intend to continue to do so at the residentials.

As I'd had a bit of a sleep in the afternoon, I decided that I'd stay up a little later, and left the bar at 2300 or so, having watched a good deal of the lunar eclipse. Below, you'll see two pictures of ERMC students and staff (including the principal) worshipping observing the moon during her eclipse.

ERMC students observe the moon
ERMC students observe the moon - second picture

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Friday, March 02, 2007


Off to ERMC

(backposting) I had a meeting with Keith this morning, at which we discussed my personal assessment (some interesting insights from Keith) and the placements. It's looking more and more like I'm going to end up at a hospice, rather than a funeral directors (one plan) or in a mental health institution (the original plan). Just re-read that sentence. Hmm.

Lots of work, and then off to ERMC at Ditchingham. We had an interesting discussion on death and dying in our group D, which I enjoyed. Noone had got round to creating any liturgy for evening prayer (there'd been a mix-up), so we had a quick prayer and said the Grace, led by Clive, which was really refreshing, actually.

I was very good, and left the bar at 2230, after only one drink. As instructed by Moo.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007


Vet assessment

(backposting) There really should be a comma in the title, but it seemed like too much good luck to miss. I took both cats to the vet this morning - at the same time. This means that I managed to:
  1. remember to get the cat travel boxes out
  2. remember to block off the catflap after they came in for breakfast
  3. not let them out when people came in and out of the back door
  4. track them both down
  5. get them both into their respective boxes (unscathed - both me and them)
  6. get them into the car
  7. overlook the plaintive mewling as I drove there
  8. get each of them out of the cat box they were in
  9. get each of them back in the cat box they were in
  10. get them home.
This is quite an achievement.

I also finished my personal assessment and sent it off to ERMC, about which I'm rather relieved.

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