Sunday, April 29, 2007


Theology - penal substitution of atonement

It's a while since I blogged much theology, but things are settling down at home (church with Jo, more breastfeeding today - which went well - a long walk with Jo on my back and with the dog - not on my back, etc.), and I took the time to read an article by Bishop Tom Wright in the "Church Times about the doctrine of penal substitution atonement. There's currently a major argument going on within the evangelical parts of the Church of England around whether penal substitution is the only doctrine of substitution which should be accepted, and how severe a version of the doctrine should be adopted.

In fact, there's been something of a split within the evangelical parts of the CofE. One (Baptist) evangelical, whose book "The Lost Message of Jesus" has many adherents, is Steve Chalke. He rejected one understanding of penal substitionary atonement as "a vengeful father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed." "The fact is that the cross isn't a form of cosmic child abuse".

Well, of course it isn't. First of all, let me say that I do find this particular doctrine of atonement useful. It's one of several that I find helpful, in fact, but I feel that it's often oversimplified. For a start, talking about the Father the Son in the way that Chalke is quoted as doing seems to be grossly negligent of the doctrine of the Trinity. The Father and the Son aren't just a father and a son - they're part of the Trinity: cosubstantial, coeternal. The Father doesn't force the cross on the Son: it's a joint decision by all parts of the Trinity - the Spirit as well.

But Tom Wright's view, which is opposed to Chalke's, is one with which I also can't hold. The problem the Wright seems to have with rejection of the "strong" view of penal subs titution is that it rejects the view of God's wrath. Wright is very much in favour of a theology which highlights God's wrath. This I find very difficult. He writes "...God's wrath is the necessary outworking of his love. If God does not hate slavery, child-abuse and the exploitation of the poor; and if God is not determined to condemn them and rid his world of them, then God's judgement is neither good nor loving." Well, I agree with the second of those sentnences, but really don't need to take on the first. Wrath is usually associated with vengeance, and this I reject. At no point in his article does Wright reference the core gospel ("good news") for me: God is love. S/He can be horrified by, saddened by, angered by, despair at all the things that Wright mentions, but can do so without wreaking vengeance. Wrath - violent, almost uncontrolled anger - is not what I associate with the God I know who is revealed in his Son in the New Testament. A God who allows his Son to take on the burden (the uncontrollably oppressive, the unbearably painful burden) of our sins for the sake of love: that is the God I know.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007



8 minutes went well: we hope to try a little longer today.

Introduced my Dad to SecondLife today: he didn't really get it, to be honest.

Oh, and the dog woke us up this morning at 0320. Turns out he was scared because he had hiccups...

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Friday, April 27, 2007


Mum and Dad here

My parents have turned up for the weekend and are already being very helpful with Miriam. We hope to reintroduce breast milk tomorrow.


Thursday, April 26, 2007



The main module focus for the coming May weekend for ERMC is the Reformation. Healing is the other main topic. I'm pretty confident about the Reformation, as I did a lot of work on it at University, and a fair amount of reading since, but I'll need to brush up on aspects of healing. I think my theology around healing is fairly well developed, but I can't pretend to have much pastoral experience (no change there, then). This is all well and good, as I'm likely to be missing the weekend at this rate, given how things are at home. The ERMC staff know about this, though, so it shouldn't present to large a problem.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007



Visited Infosec Europe 2007 today in Olympia. I was knackered as I'd been up far too much in the night. I also dislike going into London generally, and Olympia's a nightmare to get to from Liverpool Street. And it takes up to an hour and half to get there. Anyway, enough complaining - the show was useful. Made a couple of very useful contacts, got back by 1800. Bought some more baby-feeding things. It's amazing how much stuff you need to have in order to bottle feed. It's pretty much just breasts if you're breastfeeding.

Moo seems to be coping pretty well, though it makes her sad whenever she feeds Miriam, which is understandable.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007



In an attempt to let Moo recover, we're putting Miriam on formula, one day at a time, and getting some special pads to aid healing. We'll see how it goes, but we're very hopeful that we can put her back breastfeeding soon.

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Monday, April 23, 2007


11 days, and still pain all the time

I'm not feeling very theological. Other than asking God to relieve Moo's pain - and give it to me, if needs be - and saying evensong, that's about it. Managed to get some work done. It's not just when she's feeding - but the rest of the time, too.

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Porky, Jen and Jake (and Turtle and Mouse)

(backposting) Jen, Moo's sister, came over with her tribe today. A veteran of crackedness and mastitis herself, and a great provider of moral support, I was so pleased that she could come, and Jo had a good time with her cousins.

Who, then, is Porky? Porky is Jo's imaginary friend who turned up a few days before Miriam turned up. We see (well, that's the wrong word) quite a lot of him. he had a brother or sister at some point (Ollie), but no sign recently.

Oh, Jo was running a temperature last night, and ended up with me in the spare room. I actually ended up feeling guilty because I got more sleep than I would have done with Moo and Miriam.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007


A big Daddy day

Jo and I went out together, leaving Moo to have a quiet day at home. We went to Colchester Zoo, and had a lovely time, then to Colchester, where I got an upgrade to the lovely Nokia E65, which has a Blackberry client on it. We then had coffee and cake, went to Sainsbury's, and spent some time with Si, D and Morgan. Buster's had a bad wrist for the past few days, which has meant that I've not been able to walk as much recently. This hasn't helped.

All-in-all, Moo feels that she's not appreciating me enough, I feel that I can't do enough, Jo feels that she's not getting enough attention (though we're being very careful here, and she's doing pretty well) and Miriam just feels that she's not getting enough milk. But that's the case with all babies that I've known, so no worries there.

Today, I got round to reading the lead article in the Church Times on religion online. SecondLife was dealt with - and provided the picture for the front page - but rather cursorily, and I'd like to respond via the letters page.

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Friday, April 20, 2007


Yes, mastitis

(backposting) The midwife decided we should go to the nurse practitioner, who took one look and said "mastitis". So, anti-biotics it is. Not that this will help with the cracks, of course. Moo's just in so much pain. It's also really hard on Jo, as Moo really doesn't want her to see what will look like Miriam hurting her mummy when she has a feed, so we're having to keep Jo away for something that should be a great family time. I'm finding it very difficult, too, and although Kate and Mac's heading off today meant that we have a little more time to ourselves, there's more to do, of course.

I'm praying, and walking, and going with what I can.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007



(backposting) Although Miriam's doing better, Moo's having real problems with the breast-feeding, and she also has horribly cracking problems, if you see what I mean (I don't want to be blocked by the link police...). Every feed causes so much pain that she's in tears. Kate and Mac are helping hugely, but it's really hard for all of us.

Oh, and I barbecued tonight, which was great.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007



Didn't sleep too well, and Jo played up in the morning, but Kate and Mac took her downstairs, and Moo, Miriam and I stayed up and had more sleep. Lots of it. By the time we were up, Jo had headed off to toddler group, and Kate and Mac went to do some shopping in Clare. This left the house quiet for us to try a bath with Miriam - her first. She loved it, and was completely chilled out by the experience.

Moo's breast-feeding, and having some problems with it this time - unlike last - so is needing lots of support, but when the midwife came to visit, she showed a different technique which Moo hadn't used yet this time round, and which helped enormously. That was the good news. The bad news is that Miriam's jaundice hadn't improved enough for the midwives, and they wanted her to have a test to see if she needed treatment. If we lived closer, they'd take a sample and drive it to the hospital, but we're too far away. This meant that the midwife booked us into the SCUBU (Special Care Baby Unit - the first "U" is there to make it easier to pronounce, I think!) for a test, with the possibility that Miriam and Moo might need to stay in. This really wasn't what we needed at all, and although the chances weren't high, they were certainly real - and the reasons could range from standard "breast-feeding jaundice" (minor) through an infection (possibly major) through to liver problems (possible long-term major). And nobody wants to set foot in SCUBU if they can possibly avoid it, believe me.

We left in some trepidation, and I spent some time on the phone to my sister-in-law Nina (who's a GP) and my brother, Jim (who's a paediatric registrar). Both of them were very reassuring, and at least we knew what questions to ask.

I'm pleased to say that Miriam came out well under the levels needing treatment, and we came home tired, but happy. And hugely grateful again to Kate and Mac.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Less sleep

(backposting) Jo's beginning to act up a bit, and it didn't help that we didn't sleep that well last night. Kate and Mac are doing sterling work keeping things ticking over - and more, lots more! - and we really appreciate their being here. When it's toss-up between wanting some space for ourselves, and not having to worry about stuff, the latter's winning hands down at the moment.


Monday, April 16, 2007


6 hours straight

(backposting) Yup, 6 hours uninterrupted. Not enough, obviously, but not too bad, to be honest. Worked today, got stuff done. Cleared some important stuff, actually.


Sunday, April 15, 2007


Back home with Moo and Miriam

All well, and all home. The paediatric SHO who checked Miriam over before we left wanted a Registrar to check her over as well, but it turned out to be nothing, so we left and got home around 2pm. Jo's been fantastic with Miri (which is how we're shortening Miriam), though she's needing to understand appropriate levels of physicality! She's a little discombobulated, but who wouldn't be, and all in all, we're really happy with her. The next few days are devoted to rest, rest, rest for as many people as possible.


Yesterday, I popped into SecondLife. There, I met my friend Sophianne, and she gave me a fantastic present: a place to call my own. I've been debating whether I want to start renting anywhere in SL : it's a big commitment, particularly as I don't know how much time I can devote to it, and it costs real money, too. Sophianne has gifted me a place of my own in SL, part of a tented community in Koinonia, and has even given me some money to spend. I'm overwhelmed by her generosity. This is a community where land is a basic commodity, and just to be gifted something is very kind. I was also very touched that Arkin has said that when the Anglican cathedral is built, that I should consider it there for me to use whenever I want.

This all coincided with Radio 4's Sunday Service, which came from St Pixels. The online is becoming increasingly important to me from a Christian point of view - consider also the Synchrobloggers - and I'm wondering how to make a sensible, manageable commitment to that. SecondLife alone has had over 1.5 million people logging in over the past 60 days, from a community of 5.5 million: it's a very active place, and there are lots of opportunity for mission - in the broadest sense.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007


A lovely day

Got up, took Buster for a bit of a walk - he's been struggling with my absence more than Jo - and when I got back, Moo had phoned. She's much better today, and has improved over the course of the day, to the extent that she's hoping to come home tomorrow. Miriam continues to be a star, feeding, weeing and pooing for England - taking out time only to stare blurrily into your eyes and root for milk-bearing nipples (I'm a bit of a disappointment on this score). Jo came in and met her new sister and was excellent, and Kate and Mac were also bowled over.

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Friday, April 13, 2007


Miriam Rose

Our new daughter was born by C-section at 1036 this morning. She weighed 9lb 1oz (4.1kg), and is doing very well. Moo's having a real problem getting over the anaesthetic, and isn't at all well (though in no danger). Hopefully she'll be fine tomorrow, when she's flushed it out of her system.

picture of Miriam with eyes closed


Thursday, April 12, 2007


Tomorrow - baby

Tomorrow we need to be at the hospital at 0730. We'll have a new baby by the end of the day, God willing. Please pray for us.

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Persecution and Righteousness

Today's post is a synchroblog (see below) on the topic "Persecution of Righteousness". I chose a somewhat different title on purpose, as there was something about the topic that I wasn't sure about, and which I thought I'd look at. We agreed to synchroblog on persecution after an incident where one of our number was removed from a leadership role in a church, not for something he wrote on a synchroblog, but for the fact that he linked to other members, whose views his church didn't like. This led me to write an entry I called Guilty by assocation. I later discovered that other synchrobloggers have suffered similarly. Given the proximity of this month's synchroblog to Easter, posting on persecution seemed to make sense, and I pushed for the topic to include it.

But when the topic was chosen, it was broader - I wondered about querying this, but it started me thinking, and I'm of the opinion that when I start thinking about things theologically, God generally is prompting me to keep doing so.

So, what worried me about "persecution of righteousness"? Well, I'm clearly _against_ persecution of righteousness, but what about persecution in general? One definition of persecution (Webster, 1913) gives:

1. The act or practice of persecuting; especially, the infliction of loss, pain, or death for adherence to a particular creed or mode of worship.
I'd take it much more broadly than that, and I think that's rather an old definition - more modern definitions would be likely to include issues such as more general beliefs, practices or ways of life (e.g. sexual orientation), or states of being (e.g. physical or mental disability). Now, what's interesting from my point of view, here, is that some of these areas might involve behaviour which is not righteous, and therefore don't exhibit righteousness. Some of them would be up for general debate - homosexual sex, for instance - and I wondered if there is something about the act of persecution which lends righteousness to the persecuted? I think that there's something about the act of persecution which is incompatible with righteousness (in terms of the persecutor), but I don't think, on reflection, that the suggestion holds water. What about paedophiles, for instance? Does their being persecuted make them righteous? No, I don't think so.

But - and here's the rub - I believe that we have a Christian duty (in the strongest sense of the word, in that it's handed to us by Jesus Christ himself) to reach out to the persecuted. Matthew 25:

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
Christ's mission was not just to the righteous, but to sinners. Our mission should include the same.


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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Wednesday, April 11, 2007



I popped round to SecondLife yesterday. The group of Anglicans there is starting to build a cathedral, which is pretty cool. Arkin, who runs BrownBlog is very keen to be developing a ministry in SecondLife, and has asked me to be involved. I'm really keen, but I'm not sure how it's going to work. Partly, I think we need to find a well-defined mission - and there are _so_ many opportunities in SecondLife, don't get me wrong - partly, I need to work out how much time I can commit, and how regular I can make it.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007



As I think I've blogged previously, Moo's been booked into Colchester General Maternity for Tuesday, 17th of April for a caesarean section. That's fine: we've had her parents booked for a while, we've both worked out what we're doing about m/paternity leave with our employers, all that sort of thing. So, when the midwives rang from the hospital this morning, we couldn't think why. I turns out that they're rather busy on Tuesday: would Catherine mind coming in this Friday, instead?

So, we're going to have the baby on Friday, instead.


Monday, April 09, 2007


Dog, pub, shopping

(backposting) Well, everyone slept in, including the dog (not a surprise, given how late we went to bed), and when we finally got up, we met Dottie (another Newf) and her owners (Sonya and Paul) in Clare Country Park, where we went for a lovely walk. Both Moo and Jo walked very well, given their respective sizes, and it's a pity that Sonya and Paul are planning to move to Cornwall, because Buster and Dottie got on very well. In fact, Buster got Dotty swimming for the first time, which everyone was very pleased about.

We went out to the pub (in Cavendish) for lunch, and sat outside, as the weather was so nice. Then shopping, and a lazy family afternoon.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007



(backposting) This is my 666th post. I have no truck with superstition, so I'm quite amused that it falls on Easter Sunday. In fact, today wasn't very easy. After I went to bed last night, Buster went for Gertie, Kate and Mac's cat, seemingly with rather less than love in his heart. He didn't get to her, but on the way he knocked over Kate. Things were still rather difficult come the morning, but we got there, and things had thawed somewhat by the time we left in the evening. We had a good drive down home, and Jo didn't even sleep, so she got to bed at 2150, which is really _pretty_ late for her.

The service wasn't great, either. I had to look after Jo, the music was uninspired (I don't have a major deal with music groups, but _3_ guitars, and trumpet seem a little over the top, especially if you also have a piano AND YOU NEVER SMILE), the sermon, well - hmmm - so, that's that. But I attended communion, as is the duty of every confirmed Anglican on Easter Sunday (and at least two more times a year).

Dad's eye was bad again, and he had to go into hospital. The prognosis isn't too bad, but he's in pain, and has no vision in it at all, which must be very scary.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007


Holy Saturday

I'm never quite at ease on this day, each year. There is, for me, an edginess, a not-quite-rightness about the day, however beautiful the weather, however good the company: I cannot settle. This is the time between the death of Jesus and his resurrection, where you can't quite believe that it's going to be all right: the news hasn't quite filtered through, there's a waiting: it's the "stillness between the heaves of storm" in Emily Dickinson's poem which I quoted earlier this week.

The world seems to wait with baited breath around me - it reminds me of a time-lapse film where you've seen the plants grow, and the buds ripen, but you just can't be sure that they will burst open, filling the world with a riot of colour and life. Now is the devil's time, in one theology: this is when he thinks he's won. He may not be stalking the earth, maybe because he's celebrating his victory, secure in the knowledge that Christ has been defeated by death, but there's a certain pause while creation takes a shocked breath and holds it for tomorrow. Will it happen? Will Christ rise?

I was wondering to myself if that means that I feel deserted by God, today. It doesn't. In some ways, I feel closer to Him. God the Father feels, maybe, more human to me today that at any other time, because He's lost a son. God feels the pain of loss and suffering in a way maybe more human than He could ever have expected. That jolt, that stops your heart for a second, when you hear bad news: that's what I imagine God feeling, when He saw and felt and heard Jesus dying. It's a time when I can almost decapitalise God's pronoun, and refer to him, not "Him". I wondered whether to refer to God a female in this post - I often do, and the reality of the human experience of motherhood is desperately important in this context, I think. But when it came down to it, it is the God who is closest to me that I identify with today, and that's a "He", because I, too, am a "he".

And the man who, before, had called him "Abba" - "Father", "Daddy" - now called out to him "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani" - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?". God could have reached out and stopped it. He knows that. And He knows that for our sakes, and for Jesus' sake, he must not. And so God loses a son. And we lose the Son.

My heart is set towards tomorrow.



Good Friday

(backposting) For me, this is the most theologically charged day of the Christian calendar. For reasons not worth enumerating, I knew from early in the day that I wasn't going to get a chance to go to a church service, which was difficult. I managed, however, to find 20 minutes or so to sit down with my laptop and listen to Tallis' "Lamentations of Jeremiah", streamed from home. We need to take the spiritual comfort we can, when we can, and this saw me through.

We had a good day, and the evening's meal ended up with my trying to explain the intricacies of the Anglican hierarchy to the assembled throng -

- and then talking about vocation - mine, and others. It was interesting, and an important part of my ministry, I think: to be open to the questions and probings of those around with little faith or none, but at least showing an interest.

Managed to make the end of a party in SecondLife to mark the opening of a new area for faith groups called Koinonia. Only stayed for a while, but caught up with a few friends, listened to the live music, etc., so at least I made an appearance.

Good Friday - some theology

Looking back on this post, I thought that I ought to spend a little time talking about why Good Friday is so theologically charged for me. There are other candidates, of course: Christmas, when the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us; Easter, when Christ rose again from the dead in glory; Pentecost, when the disciples, remaining behind, unsure and leaderless, were gifted with the Holy Spirit and given a reality to their commission. These are the most obvious, but for me, it has to be Good Friday. Without the death of Christ on the cross, none of the rest of it would make sense, or have any substance. It is the rending of the curtain of the temple, the destruction of the split between heaven and earth, the kenosis, the moment when, in death, Jesus, a man, suffered and became Christ, our God. I should qualify that last statement: I don't mean that Jesus was not God before his death on the cross - that way lies heresy! - but that this moment is where the reality is revealed, the single moment of history on which the rest of the created order turns.

Easter is now possible: Christ, the propitiation for our sins, can rise in glory (but what a tear-obscured rising in the garden!). Christmas suddenly makes sense: there is a reason why God has made an appearance. And Pentecost is where we, God's church, need to take over the witness.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem: convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem: turn to the Lord your God.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007


My Dad's op

Dad had another operation on his eye today. He and Mum had to come home early from their holiday, but it sounds like it was worth it. Hopefully he can get back to work - it's over 6 months off work now. He just hasn't been able to read much, and that's the major part of his job. Prayer can't have hindered.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Emily Dickinson (cont.)

'Twas my one Glory -
Let it be
I was owned of Thee -



Voice recognition

Honestly, this is really difficult stuff, but this video had me crying with laughter.

Not recommended for:

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Emily Dickinson

I heard a Fly buzz -- when I died --
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air --
Between the Heaves of Storm --

The Eyes around -- had wrung them dry --
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset -- when the King
Be witnessed -- in the Room --

I willed my Keepsakes -- Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable -- and then it was
There interposed a Fly --

With Blue -- uncertain stumbling Buzz --
Between the light -- and me --
And then the Windows failed -- and then
I could not see to see --

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Monday, April 02, 2007


All change

Our CEO at Certicom resigned today, which has kept things fairly busy this afternoon. Also tidied up my main machine, including getting printing working from remote machines, which was a surprise, as it's usually a nightmare. We love Ubuntu.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007



(backposting) Jo and I went up to the church to catch the Palm Sunday service, only to discover that it was taking place at a different church in the benefice, and had started around 30 minutes ago. So I decided to create a little liturgy that Jo would enjoy and understand. We had a confession - where we said sorry for things - an absolution (an adapted version of the collect for the 21st Sunday after Trinity), a reading (a simplified version of the Palm Sunday reading - the Entry into Jerusalem), some intercessions, some thanksgiving, and we sang "Lord of the Dance". Jo seemed to enjoy it, and I think it was a rather good service.

I'm supposed to be putting together a liturgy - and reflection on it - for Harvest, Christmas, or Good Friday, and I'm thinking of doing one similar to today's, but for Good Friday. For just me and Jo, maybe Kate (Moo's mum) as well.

On a different note - I've been meaning to do a clean(ish) install of Ubuntu on my main machine for a while, and got round to doing it last night, which meant that I was a little late to bed. Not because it went badly, but because I went better than expected and I got more done, which is good. Luckily Jo slept well, and we did a bit of relay sleeping in the morning to top ourselves up.

Went for a lovely (if slow!) walk with Moo (who can't walk fast at the moment, but does maintain a steady pace) and Jo (who can walk fast, but stops for every puddle, stick, tree-stump and plant). Oh, and Buster - who kept running between them to check that they were both OK.

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