Friday, February 29, 2008


Solving problems

Sometimes it's good when Jo takes a while to get to sleep (or Miri). Tonight, it was only 20 minutes, and then because she kept coughing, but I didn't even need all of those solve a cryptographic protocol problem that seems to be afflicting the airline industry. I'm playing this up a bit, obviously, but I did sort out a nasty little problem while Jo was dropping off. Now just need to validate it.

Expenses. Quite a lot: still never enough.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008


Girls moving on up

Woke up around 0820, had a bath, started to think what I'd do between then and the 1210 flight home. got out of the bath at 0850, thought I'd check the flight time once more. It was at 1010. Moved quickly, got there, but I don't like being that close, I really don't.

What's astonishing is how much development there is in the girls, even having been away for 3 nights. Jo's started drawing with some representation: a face is round, with hair at the top, and needs eyes and features (though she asked Moo to do that); a house has walls at right angles to the roof, which slopes. She she's happy to write her own name, but notices that she can do the second "j" upside-down (though it doesn't stay upside-down when she turns it the other way up).

Miri is now thinking about whether she needs to sit down and crawl or can just reach to the next place she wants to get to, which is an important step towards walking. And she will now take a brush and try to brush your hair with it, take a mobile phone (or whatever looks like a mobile phone), and put it to her ear, will brush her own teeth. And she now remembers what she wants, so taking away things that she shouldn't be playing with and replacing them with something else isn't always enough.

I'm so proud of them.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Family values

I just read a very interesting and well-argued paper in The Cambridge Companion to Christian Ethics called "World Family Trends", by Don Browning. In it, he looks at how trends in families, and in particular, what he calls "father absence" have led to increased poverty, increased risks of physical and sexual abuse and reduced chances for children, among other issues. He argues strongly that "there should be, as a matter of ecclesial and public policy, a presumption towards encouraging the formation and maintenance of intact families. This rule has exceptions, but they do not undercut its importance as a cultural and religious guide." (p. 246, author's italics).

I was impressed by his arguments, but the more I thought about them, the more I realised that they seem entirely predicated on the idea of family as a relationship between adults and their children. And I thought back to what I'm reading slowly in parallel: Edelman's No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, which discusses how society seems to construct itself on an imaginary future Child, and how we might want to think beyond that. And, whether you agree with Edelman or not, there are, and there always will be, couples who can't have children, or who have lost children, or don't want to have children. These may be for medical reasons, for psychological reasons, reasons around sexuality, or just preference. And we shouldn't ignore those.

A project like that laid out in Browning's article, where the argument seems to be almost completely around children, doesn't provide any good reason for why those people should be married, or even called "a family". That doesn't mean that they shouldn't, of course. But I think that part of what Edelman is getting at is that just by making such an argument, and not even referring to these other issues, such an article assumes an indifference to such people, and such relationships, which serves to diminish their "importance" within the discourse of which the article is a part. And that discourse is part of our society, so there is a danger that such people and such relationships become devalued and made less normative even than they already are.

I'm not saying that this was Browning's intention. He might even have considered making points around non-child-based families (I've just made that up), but that he didn't still makes a negative point, particularly in such a heteronormative - and child-centred - society.


Browning, Don (2001) "World Family Trends" in The Cambridge Companion to Christian Ethics, ed. Gill, Robin, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Edelman, Lee (2005) No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina.



Meeting a friend

After a morning which included an hour and a half of discussion (in which I didn't participate) on the most appropriate resolution at which to print barcodes on airline tickets, I met James, a good friend from Cambridge (with whom we also got together in Cornwall last year with his family), for lunch. We had a very good meal just off Lake Geneva, and it was excellent to see him. We'd love to get over for a while, but finding the time isn't that easy at the moment. We do owe them a visit, given that they came over with their girls for Miri's christening.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Geneva meeting

At a meeting of IATA. Interesting in places, and should be more so tomorrow. Not much else to say, to be honest. Need to "network" this evening, apparently, so I'll be going out.

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One hour

(backposting) I went down to the bar for a drink before going out with some folks from the meeting tonight, and sat next to a guy who was reading through some record cards. They were clearly short texts from the Bible, and I asked him about them. He works for IBM, but also has a lay ministry working, mainly with homeless people, on helping people beyond just "accepting Christ" and further into trying to the lift the veil that is made up of our past experience and clinging to idols, and moving to a closer experience of God. He attends a Methodist church, but isn't strongly demonminational.

An interesting chat, and one of the things that he sometimes says to people is "imagine that Jesus is sitting in the next room, and you have just one hour to spend with him. What would you do?" He says that many people shy away. I don't think I would, but I became sad thinking about how what I suspect I'd find most difficult: I think Jesus might want to wash my feet, and I'm not sure how well I'd cope.

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Monday, February 25, 2008


Off to Geneva

Now, if only I'd thought to warn James and Alex a day or so ago, we might have been able to meet up for supper tonight. Oh, well.

Up at 0350. Put Jo back to bed (Miri was already in with us, so no room there, and Mum was in the spare room). She finally got to sleep a little after 0500. Back awake at 0600. Luckily, I managed to get some more kip after that, but it was far from optimal, tbh.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008


Church, walk, ironing, scrabulous

Took Mum, Jo and Miri to Halstead, where James was celebrating and preaching. Jo's tiredness showed through, and her attention span was much shorter than usual, but she did OK: Miri was a star. At communion, James very kindly gave me a portion of the priest's wafer, which I was very touched by.

After lunch, we met Si, D, Morgs, Boo and Murphy (their dog) for a lovely walk near them, and had tea and chats before heading home to put the girls to bed. I cooked a chicken, and Mum did the ironing. Lots and lots of it. We're _very_ grateful! Then Mum and I played scrabulous, trying to get some decent scores against the people with whom I've got games going. She's _vicious_!

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Saturday, February 23, 2008


The kite

Not much sleep last night, and a trip to Freeport was a little fraught, but we managed it. I'm pleased, because I bought a bookcase which I really need for all those theology and work books. After lunch, though, Mum, Jo, Miri and I went to Clare Country Park to play with the kite that Jo had been given for her birthday on Thursday.

Got it put together, got it up. Moved to a better place, with more wind: in fact, there was just about the right amount of wind to get it up and staying up, but you needed to run a bit to keep it there when the wind dropped a little, which meant that from time to time, when Jo had it, it dropped to the ground. But we worked round that. Until Jo had it, was running away from me, I called her to run towards me, and she let go of it.

I ran. I really, really ran, and I thought I had it. In the end, it was getting away, and I threw myself after it. But to no avail. The end of the string, with handle, ended up 4 metres up a thorn tree. The kite itself about the same up another thorn tree. I tried to get it, but was needed to comfort Jo, who had completely (and understandably) lost it. And I'm not just talking about the kite.

We offered to try to find a replacement, or go for coffee and cake: she chose the former. Luckily, the local store had a cheap kite (£1.99!), which we bought, but once we got it up, she was worried that we were going to lose that one, too, that she wouldn't hold it herself, and soon refused to let me put it up at all, dissolving in tears. The poor thing's really tired at the moment, and was just beside herself.

So, coffee and cake this time. She demanded some cake, and, having had half a forkful, insisted that she was still full from lunch, so left it to me and Mum. But we had some nice tea to go with it.

As we were leaving the café, we spotted a girl of no more than 8, with her father/grandfather, and ... a kite. We asked, and yes, he'd managed to get it down with a long stick. He offered to give it back, and it was clearly what Jo wanted, so we accepted: and the little girl's lip began to wobble: quite understandably (again). So, I offered her the kite that we'd just bought. And _Jo_ started to lose it. Again, understandably. The bloke was lovely, but was visibly relieved when I told him that we'd bought the second just round the corner...

At this point, we gave up and went home.

Jo's very tired. So are we. I think the whole birthday and build-up have been a bit much for her, and she's really not getting enough sleep at the moment. Not that we are, either. I'm away three nights this week, and hope to get some sleep. Assuming that _I_ make it that far.

Now: anyone know of any good theologians talking about religion in cyberspace/online? Preferably in the UK.

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Friday, February 22, 2008


The Choir

We watched the last episode of The Choir on BBC2 tonight. They performed in the Albert Hall.

From time to time I watch something like this, and feel the applause washing over. It's like a drug, and I can't believe I don't have it anymore. I cried.




Some real genius here. "...on why bad things happen to good people" is quite affecting, actually.

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New nephew!

Bad me: I was thinking so much about our hospital visit that I forgot to add that Jim and Nina had a baby boy yesterday: Frank Peter Osbourne (sp?) Bursell. Yay for them.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008


Jo's 3rd birthday

Up at 0550, a few presents, some time to play with them. Moo and I had both taken the day off

Mel turned up a little earlier than usual, so we could go off to Witham, where we caught the train. Jo very excited: although she's been on a train before, she was only a few months old, and can't remember it at all. The journey was a little longer than she would have liked, and she got a little too excited for a fairly busy train. Got to Liverpool Street, took the tube to South Kensington. This also a little long...

Jo loved the Science Museum, and after a couple of hours there, we headed off to the V & A and had some lunch. Good food, and not too expensive for London, I thought (beat £2.95 for a piece of cake at the Science Museum!). Then did the textiles section, which she loved.

And then she did the "trying to get away, pulling on her arm, and twisting it" thing which she's done before, and pulled the ligament out of alignment. Which she's done before. We went to the first aid room (the staff were very helpful), and tried to fix it. We failed, so caught at taxi to the Chelsea and Westminster hospital. Paeds A&E were very good, and a staff nurse fixed it, so that was good. We got on bus (Jo was already asleep, but woke up briefly), on the tube (she hardly ever stirred), bought some muffins and a doughnut, and got on the train home. She woke up at Liverpool Street station, and had a good (though still sleepy) trip to Witham. In the car, then home.

A few more presents, and then a fish and chip supper with Mel. Bath, and then bed.

So, we'll all remember the unscheduled trip to A & E, but she had a lovely birthday, I think, and has a story to tell.

Women and the CofE

I'll blog soon about the news that the General Synod of the Church of England isn't expected even to vote on whether we should have woman bishops until 2010. I'm incensed, obviously.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Cool demo

(backposting) FedEx tried to deliver something on Monday, but I'd gone out for lunch (and not realised how quickly it was going to arrive from Canada), so today I drove to Chelmsford to their depot, to pick it up. It's a really cool demo to show off some of our technology. It's about barcodes, and digitally signing them. Nice stuff, and I'll be taking it out to Geneva next week.

This evening, I popped round to fix Charles' computer. He's the son of some friends of ours, 13 or so, bright, and a nice guy. Having fixed his PC (partially unseated RAM), installed Firefox and AVG anti-virus, his mum wanted to know how he should repay me. I'd given him a cryptography 101, and so I decided that that next time he sees me, he needs to be able to explain the differences between symmetric and asymmetric encryption. I even gave him the requisite wikipedia page. This is a bit geeky, but he'd shown an interest, so... We've also agreed that we're going to buy a cr*ppy old PC, rebuild it, and put Linux on it. Yes, geekery.

Tomorrow is Jo's 3rd birthday, and we wrote the card and wrapped the presents. Oh, the excitement.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Go 'Pool

You have to win, you _have_ to...


Monday, February 18, 2008


A beautiful day

(backposting) Very cold, frosty and foggy in the morning, but a day to be thankful for in the afternoon. I took Buster for a walk once the sun had cleared the fog away, and it was just beautiful.

In the evening, after the girls had gone to bed, I prepared for a tutorial (in the "Christian Belief" module) on "The Holy Spirit". I'd done some of the reading before, but this rounded it off nicely.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008


More ministry thoughts

(backposting) Getting the "what I did today" section out of the way, I made it to the 0800 at St Mary's, Rempstone, then we went swimming with the girls, took them to the park, tired them out, ate supper, and drove back home! Straight to sleep from both of them!

On the ministry side, Gary commented on the last post:

Maybe we need to think through what it means being a priest in a workplace. I have opportunities to meet people in my work that I'd never meet in a stipendiary role - IT people, counter staff, loads of people of other faiths and from other nationalities - it's a different sphere of action, and the role is maybe harder to define and much more nuanced, but it's there.
I think there are two sides here. One is being a "Minister in Secular Employment" - an MSE, where you're licensed partly to your work, and will have an agreement - maybe contractual - with your employer. The other is being a minister who's also employed. That's what I'll be, and, from memory, what Gary will be as well. You have to decide how lightly to wear the collar, as it were. Some might actually wear a dog collar: for me, this will be rare, though there will be occasions - such as going out for a meal - when I might wear one to give people the chance to discuss it, and have a laugh (which will, indubitably, lead to discussion and then pastoral work...). Others may let it be know that they're ordained, but not let it out much, and others will have the opportunity to make a fairly big deal of it. And the same, of course, can go for lay people (except about wearing the collar, in most cases!).

I'm a little conflicted about how often I will wear a collar, to be honest. I think I'll try both ways on planes, and see how people react. Same for hotel bars, etc.. It's going to be interesting.

Over lunch, I had a supervision with Keith, and we talked a lot about where my ministry's going. How prophetic will it be? He says that he thinks of me as having an evangelical ministry - though he thinks what I'll refer to as "the E-word" is better applied to me as an adjective than a noun - and I'm beginning to see things this way, too.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008


What's being a priest about?

I had an interesting conversation with a priest recently who was complaining about having to spend a full half hour talking about clearing leaves out of gutters during a buildings and maintenance meeting that he was attending: a subject about which he had nothing to say, and no interest. This meant he got back home very late, after a 14 hour day. Where's the priestliness in that? Where does it say that he should be using his time like this?

I was saying that I will have almost the opposite issue: I'll only have the chance, on the whole, to do the more "obviously priestly" bits. He was saying that maybe as an SSM (Self-Supporting Minister), I'll have something to teach people about what's important about being a priest. But I responded that I think there are problems there, too, and lots of them. Yes, I'll do services, and preaching, and home groups, maybe, and these are important: but when will I get the chance to have chats with people in cafés, talk in queues in the bakery, make hospital visits and all the rest? I think that there will be frustrations on both sides, and yes, we'll both have things to teach each other.

On the other hand, travelling has its upsides, too. I had a fascinating talk with a woman on the plane to Barcelona, Anya, who was saying that she envies me my faith. We had a good discussion, in which I explained that faith doesn't always mean certainty, and can - should, I'd say - include time for doubt. And it was clear to me - and I said so - that if she is ready to say that she envies faith, then she's already what some would call a "seeker". So, we talked. Did she walk off the plane looking for a church to go to? No, but she's not averse to taking her son to church. I think she now sees that the love she shares with her family can be seen by some - certainly by me and most Christians - as God-given, and I don't think she rejected that out of hand. She met someone, I hope, who wasn't entirely different to her, and reasonable, not weird, and talked in ways she could understand and relate to her. That's enough for me.

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Lots of calls

(backposting) Lots of calls today. Lots and lots of them. They went pretty well, I have to say. We also drove to Kate and Mac's for Kate's birthday, and a pre-birthday party for Jojo, as Jen, Jake, Mouse and (most importantly for Jojo) Turtle are coming to visit tomorrow. How is it that the busiest days are often the ones when you've slept for only 5 hours the night before? Heigh-ho, at least the calls went well.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008



(backposting) Yesterday and today I was at 3GSM in Barcelona. I had less time to spend on the floor of the exhibition, as I had a couple of meetings and then lots of other work for an important customer we're working with. In fact, I got to the airport at around 1520 for a 1600 call which was cancelled while I was on the way. My flight was at 2120, so that rather more time in the airport than I'd hoped, particularly as I couldn't get into any of the airport lounges. I'd thought that having a Star Alliance gold card would allow me into the lounges whenever, but it turns out that this is only the case if you're actually flying with a Star Alliance member airline. Not, for instance, EasyJet. Darn.

Still, got lots of work done, and things are looking good. Got home around 1130, and headed off to the spare room, as Miri was already in with Jo.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008



ferrari to be won in a competition


Today is a "synchroblog" with no specific subject, but photos instead of the normal words. 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:


Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Rallying cries for theologians

Apologies to all offended...


What do we want? Moderation.
When do we want it? Preferably in the near future, but only as long as it doesn't put anybody out, OK?


What do we want? Kingdom Values!
When do we want them? Well, we've to them already, thank you...


What do we want? Presence! What do we want them? No, not presents.. Real Presence...


Monday, February 11, 2008


Liberation theology - challenging

I'm not sure whether that title means that I'm challenging Liberation theology, or being challenged by it, but I've been thinking, certainly. I'm really enjoying the ethics module, as I'd expected I would, and am reading ahead. I've just been reading Gorringe, who cites Segundo talking about the bottom line commitment for liberation theology is the option for the poor. I think the thing I'm trying to come to terms with is that although I absolutely accept the enormous inequalities - unchristian inequalities - that riddle our society, and the impact that has on the poorest in society, I'm not sure that I'm ready to take on board what seems to be the central tenet of liberation theology: that our first and foremost task must always be the reconstituting of society in such a way as to alleviate - and remove - economic poverty.

Are there not other unchristian inequalities that must attract our attention? Sometimes, maybe, more than economic poverty? Sometimes, maybe, we look beyond the question of inequalities, and focus more on injustice. I don't think this last point - injustice versus inequality - is particularly at odds with liberation theology. And I'm also very aware that this self-conscious theologising is dangerous in two particular ways:

  1. in liberation theology, praxis is king (and there's an intentionally imperialist piece of language), and the primal move should be from sensing of injustice to dealing with it, and then to the theology around it
  2. worst of all, I'm doing this from a position of extreme privilige. I'm a young, white, educated, healthy, safe, rich male in a happy nuclear family based around a heterosexual relationship between two waged individuals. It really doesn't get much worse than this: at least I'm not titled...
This is not a new argument, and I'm very aware of how womanist theory addresses the question of whether the aims of first and second generation (American) feminism are really consonant with the issues that are relevant to poor black women.

So, am I interested in issues about gender inequality, inequality around sexuality or sexual practice, spiritual poverty, educational poverty, emotional poverty, psychological poverty and the rest just because I'm in a position to be so? Is my privilege leading me to a leisure of choice which allows me to look beyond the real issues of Third World - or Developing World - poverty? Maybe it is. But am I wrong to look more closely at what's going on at home? Might I not start by looking at homeless people? Surely that would be acceptable to liberation theologians? But what are the reasons for those (multiple) homelessnesses? Surely there is no real poverty in our Welfare State-supported society? Surely those who are homeless, or disenfranchised, or addicts, of in abusive relationships, or complaining about lack of advancement for female or homosexual clergy are not really poor? Surely they have choices?

They may well do. But they should not be called to make those choices. And I think that this is consonant with liberation theology. I pray that those committed liberation theologians will allow that I have a true and real spiritual - and, following that - theological commitment to removing injustice. I hope so.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008



Sent Moo to bed early last night and did lots of ironing. Felt pretty pleased with myself, if tired. Not that I don't usually do the ironing - I do - but well, I did.

This morning I was leading discussion and a service at Great Yeldham. Keith chose the topic for me this time: "What does it mean to live by the Bible?". Fits in rather well with the ethics module I'm doing, so I had quite a lot to say. Keith managed to come - it's always clashed with services that he's been taking before - and seemed to feel it went quite well. I've been tweaking the format of both the discussion and the service afterwards (now 3 hymns...), and it all seems to work pretty well now, thought there's still work to do.

When I got back, I took the girls to the zoo. Not that Jo's not off there again tomorrow (or maybe Tuesday), but we had a great time. Moo really needed some downtime, and although she's getting her voice back, she's still not well.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008


Cinema trip

(backposting) We decided that a fairly safe, less-stress option for the morning would be to take the girls to the cinema. Miri, of course, would be guaranteed to sleep, Moo (who's still pretty ill) could hold her and have her sleep on her, and I could deal with taking Jo to the loo in the middle of the film (obviously). We discovered that the Cineworld Braintree - our local cinema - was showing Ratatouille, which had to be pretty safe. Unluckily, we'd forgotten how loud cinemas are, and Jo really didn't like the "crashes". She did really well, actually, but doesn't really want to go back soon.

Took Miri and Buster for a good old walk today and used the new GPS bluetooth that Moo's given me (early) for our engagement anniversary on Wednesay (I won't be around). My phone supports GPS accessories by default, and it Just Works[tm]. Great stuff. Did about 3 and a half miles, and rather tired out poor Buster.

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Friday, February 08, 2008


Moo's home

She was planning to get home quite late, but is feeling pretty horrid with a flu-y cold, so left her course at lunchtime, which meant she was back in time for the girls' supper. Lovely to see her, even if she's not 100%. At least it means that I can give her lots of TLC.

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LOLCat bible

Actually, I approve, I think: here.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008


Meeting with James

(backposting) James, the current curate for my title post, came round for supper tonight. Moo was still out, so it was just me and him (I'd got the girls to bed in time, despite it being a hairwash night), and we had a great chat. Talked about the team, the parishes, the people, our views, our backgrounds, our theologies, our families, and the rest. I'm really glad that he's going to be around for at least a time overlapping with my title post.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Ash Wednesday in SecondLife

I didn't get a chance to attend a service today, but happened to log into SecondLife 15 minutes before one of the ministry team was due to start a service, so I stayed around.

I'd forgotten what a powerful service you can have around Ash Wednesday, and this was one of them. I listened to the Allegri Miserere and Tallis Lamentations in the background and found myself in tears a couple of times. I spent most of the service on my knees: it just felt right.

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem: convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum."

God, yes.

Christ, yes.

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Spiritual direction

Work continues busy, but I also had a session of spiritual direction. I've recently changed spiritual directors - not because we didn't get on, but due to problems with clashes of commitments - and I'm getting a lot from my new one, who's called Rosemary. We've agreed that I'll re-read Ecclesiastes, and also try to get hold of another book, which we were struggling to identify!

One of the things that came out of the meeting was a great deal of thought on my side about the extent to which I'm beginning to understand the prophetic nature of my ministry. More about this in the future, I think, but I do feel a call to stand up and be counted - as a liberal. Which is kind of rare.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Moo's off!

Yup, she's got a course till Friday evening, so I'm in sole charge of the girls until then. 3 full nights, and another evening. I'm hoping that they sleep really well. They both went to bed and to sleep very well, but I'm sitting downstairs and can hear Jo coughing, so we'll have to see how it goes.


Monday, February 04, 2008


More countries than intended

4, that is, in one day. I'd expected to visit three (hotel in Basel - Switzerland - meeting in Freiburg - Germany - and back home - the UK), but we got a bit lost coming back from the meeting, and ended up in France for a while, which was a bit of a shock. Johan, my colleague, was going to be stopping off at Copenhagen airport for a connecting flight back home to Sweden, so he got to visit 5 in a day.

A long day - up at 0500 GMT (0600 CET), back home at 2120, and took a long time to get to sleep, but it was a good day, and I felt quite "sorted" by the end of it.

Moo's started a blog - I was bizarrely quite sulky about this - and I'm hoping to get her to move to another domain, which will make me somewhat less sulky, because she will at least have called on some of my geeky expertise.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008


Miri's words

So far, we have the following recognisable words, in alphabetical order:


Saturday, February 02, 2008



Bad news on two fronts. These numbers represent both the score that England managed against Wales and the relatives sizes of the jersey that Moo finished for me last night - as my Christmas present - and me. She's a bit gutted, but it does fit her, just. I can get my head through the neck - with my glasses off, and with Moo pulling - and with a bit of blocking, (wetting and stretching, apparently), the general size would probably be OKish, but the seams round the arm really won't manage.

Jo's a bit under the weather, but despite a trip round Colchester (never use the Park and Ride there, is all I can say), the cold and not much to interest her, she was a star. Both girls were, actually.

Now, if only Miri hadn't woken up just as we were going to bed and Jo had slept past 0430...

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Friday, February 01, 2008


Essay posted

I only have another 6000 words of essays to write for ERMC now: one of 4000 words, and one of 2000. They'll both be on ethical issues, though the first one will be looking at some issues of belief and doctrine as well. Three more weekends.

The paperwork's beginning to come through, including Crockfords yesterday and the diocesan directory today. It really does feel like things are actually happening.

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