Sunday, August 31, 2008


Book title

"Aberdeen Angus and the Hedgehog of Doom"

Note: you need to use a comedy Scottish accent and have your voice rise as you say "doom".



More National Trust

So, after I got back from the 0800 and 1000 services, we headed off to Ickworth House, another National Trust property, and one which Si and D recommended to us, for the adventure playground, if nothing else. We had a very good time, and both girls did lots of running (or, in Miri's case, waddling fast) around. The adventure playground was, indeed, excellent, and both both Miri and Jo had a good time. We were just packing up when the rain started to come down pretty hard, so we were pretty pleased with ourselves.

I'm slowly getting better at the choreography involved with deaconing. Remembered the corporal at the 0800, at least. Got a couple of other bits wrong, but not too bad. I took the first part of the 1000 at Greenstead Green (a team service, though Viv wasn't there as she was ill), which went very well. I also deaconed at the altar for John, though he prepared the elements. We had to get extra wine ready (we realised in time), but then I came over with the lavabo, rather than the water in the cruet (apparently it really is called that), so we used that, as we were getting behind. I'd point out that we used the water _before_ John washed his hands.

Mel seems to have had a rather good hen night...

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Saturday, August 30, 2008


"God just wants me to be a bridesmaid"

One of Jo's great lines.

I cycled to Clare and back today: gorgeous, and one of the houses on the way had a basket full of free apples. Gorgeous: and being warm was an extra positive, oddly. I've decided not to work it too hard, but to keep the work-rate up. In other words, I don't want to pull anything, but I want to keep it nicely aerobic.

And now we're watching The West Wing on DVD. Again. Great.

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Friday, August 29, 2008



Yesterday I bit the bullet, stepped up to the plate and mixed my metaphors. I decided it was time to start taking some exercise, and got my bike out. I don't think I've been on it for 8 or so years, since we moved to Great Yeldham. Went to visit Simon from Castle Hedingham, who wasn't in. But he was in today, and he helped me to pump up the tyres. I thought I'd done an OK job, but they were both at less than 1 bar (surely that's 1 bar over atmospheric...?), and should be more like 4 bar. It was a lot easier riding back.

I decided not to ride too hard either today or yesterday. I made that mistake in my mid-twenties when I thought I'd try rugby again. I still _have_ the muscles, so I _could_, but it would really hurt. So I didn't.

Yesterday Charles, Victoria's son (hi!) came round to try to build a new machine. It didn't work. Catherine laughed. A lot. She's mean.

Oh, and the girls are sleeping really well at the moment. Pretty I'm not. (NOTE: this is a typo. I'm meant "Pity I'm not". Whoops).

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Thursday, August 28, 2008


You _can_ eat porridge through a straw ...

... but not the lumpy bits. And it goes everywhere.

Today's revelation brought to us by our sponsors: Jojo and Miri.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008



I've started reading up on SELinux. It's important for the work I'm doing, and it's not something I've really ever got to know, so it's time. Interesting so far, and fits in quite well with knowledge I already have, so it's not completely foreign at all.



New stole

Last week, a stole arrived from Jacquie Binns. I'd commissioned her to make me one, which my old benefice had very, very kindly sponsored, and I'm really, really pleased with it. It's a white stole (for use on occasions such as baptisms and weddings) and I had it made so that it's very personal to me.

On the right side, there's a Jerusalem Cross. I went to the Holy Land when I was just 8 years old, and the Jerusalem Cross has been special to me ever since.
Jerusalem Cross embroidered in rainbow colours

On the left side, there the letters "IHS" (from the first three letters of "Jesus" in Greek) are spelled in binary ASCII. I know this is geeky, but it reflects who I am, and I'm really happy with it.
01001 01000 10011 embroidered in rainbow colours

Both sides are embroidered through in rainbow colours, to reflect the importance for me of inclusivity in the church: high and low, rich and poor, male and female, gay or straight, disabled or able-bodied...
Both sides together

Unluckily, the lighting doesn't do the stole justice, as it's really beautiful and has a lovely glossed finish. Thanks to the benefice, and thanks to Jacquie Binns.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The Big Time

Yes, I was interviewed twice for BBC Radio Essex this morning (no, I'm not going to add the link to the "Listen Again" option). 0635 and 0730 (The Dog Inn, Halstead and The Lion, Earls Colne). And then we had a picture taken for the Halstead Gazette for the "Come and See" mission week (21-28 Sept) at 1330 (at the Dog Inn again). And I took the landlady at her word and popped round for a pint this evening after a meeting with John and James (and, officially, with someone for some baptism preparation, but they never turned up).

Also had a good chat with someone about something on the phone. I can't talk about this at the moment, but hopefully it was useful for her, too.

And we've booked a holiday (in the UK) in September. Yay.

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Monday, August 25, 2008


National Trust

We joined the National Trust today. We visited Wimpole Hall, which the girls loved. In fact, we didn't do much more than Home Farm, which had animals on it, and an adventure playground. And more animals. And there was a puppet show, which maybe 6 months ago Jo would have found too frightening, but which she lapped up today. Miri just loved it because there were songs to dance along to.

Popped round to see Kirsty afterwards, as she lives close by. Her rabbits are _big_.


Sunday, August 24, 2008


Getting upset at the Peace

I took Jo and Miri to the 10am at St Andrew's Halstead this morning, and Jo got really upset. At first, I couldn't work out why, but it turned out that it was because one of the other children there had refused to pass the Peace with her. I was surprised that she was so affected by it, but she was very sad. In the end, we found the relevant child, who, it turned out, was happy to oblige. I guess there had been a misunderstanding, but all was well afterwards. As it happens, John had preached on the importance of loving each other - even if we don't agree with each other or even like each other all the time - and had given the example of the dangers of discriminating over who we pass the Peace with. Maybe Jo was paying attention. Though I'm not convinced.

Great swimming from her later on, and both girls went to sleep very quickly at bedtime, which was a considerable bonus.

In 4 years, the Olympics will be in London. Yay!

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Saturday, August 23, 2008


Team barbecue

No - we didn't roast the clergy members or their families: we got together and had a good meal together. Good to meet everyone together with spouses and family, and good to be able to have clergy chat, discussing baptisms, funerals and marriages we've known, share jokes, etc.. And just to have time together.

I blogged yesterday about someone to whom I was speaking about spirits and other concerns. I'm pleased that she got back in touch with me, told me she was a Christian, and taking the issue seriously. I'm really relieved.


Friday, August 22, 2008



I've been contacted by someone, out of the blue, on another topic, who's worried that her house is haunted and that there are spirits in her life. This is entirely out of my experience, and she doesn't even live in the UK, and I've encouraged her to find a priest - of whatever denomination - to help her, as it's something she's worried about, and she's worried that she's losing her mind. Please pray for her.



"Get the baton round the track"

So says Dame Kelly Holmes, and she's quite right. You'd think that people would train at this, if they were Olympic athletes. Men and women. Why, oh why, can't we manage to do this?

I had Sunday off, without any clerical duties, and it's feeling a bit odd: I'm missing it. Hmm. Well, we're meeting the other team clergy and families for supper tomorrow night, which should be good: Moo's not met all of them yet (and I've not met all the families).

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Thursday, August 21, 2008


Finishing stuff off day

I completed a doc on project post mortems, did some work on some mobile stuff we have, some airline-related things, more on hardening, etc.. It's sometimes good to have a day when you finish bits and pieces off, and it was one of those days.

And Moo and popped round to the lovely Café Clare for elevenses: which turned into a brunch. We talked about academic things, careers, the kids, and the rest. Just good time with each other.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008


New computer

(backposting) I've not been happy about the amount of non-work things I've been doing on my work laptop: it's not felt right. So, I had a grant from the diocese for a variety of things, and felt that it would be good to get a new laptop. Dell to the rescue, and the box arrived today. Lots of work to do, so didn't get to do everything (by which I mean installing Ubuntu Hardy Heron 64bit on it, over 'doze Vista *yeuch*) until the evening, though I got the basic install started earlier. Very pleased with it, though. And encrypted the hard drive right from the start, of course.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Supervision and iptables

(backposting) I meant to mention that yesterday began just fantastically: I saw a kingfisher in the little stream near our house. It's right in the middle of the village, and right on the road, but it's the second time I've seen one there. Just this beautiful flash of colour as I walked up to the 0800 service in Great Yeldham.

Had a supervision at lunchtime with John, which went well. He had good things to say about my sermon and some useful feedback. We sorted out lots of bits and pieces as well, and I'm doing some good reading about death and funerals.

And I've been learning to grok iptables. They're not as complicated as I'd feared, but more powerful than I'd realised.

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Monday, August 18, 2008


New glasses

Not that interesting: just new glasses. Lots and lots of work on iptables, and I've finally finished the first set of work on hardening for Linux systems, which is fascinating. I'll be doing some training in September, which I'm really looking forward to doing.


Sunday, August 17, 2008


Advantages, disadvantages

Having a large garden. Having two kids under 4. Working full-time. Training for ordination, then getting ordained. Being useless with machinery (so the strimmer and mower are always breaking down). Not all conducive to keeping the garden under control.
I have to use the strimmer to clear the drive
I have to use the strimmer to clear the driver's side doorways to Moo's car
I have to use the strimmer to clear the passenger's side doorways to my car
I have to use the strimmer to mow the lawn (not just because the mower's dodgy, but because the lawn's so overgrown)
strimming the lawn leads to rather more sets of undiscovered dog poo than I'd expected
strimming the lawn leads to more dog poo being spread round than I'd expected
I get rather more scratches and nettle stings than I'd expect
a really bumper blackberry crop this year


It's a conspiracy. First the girls give me a scuba diving game on the Wii for my birthday. Then I book on a training course in Las Vegas, where I did my PADI Advanced diving course, and then the BBC shows the Pacific Abyss. I want to dive again.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008


Lunch with the bishop

Met most of the rest of the deacons in the Colchester area with our area bishop for lunch. The girls behaved very well, and we were very impressed. In fact, we ended up buying Enchanted for Jo. When I say "for Jo", Moo and the girls had seen it (several times) over, and Moo had been singing its praises since, so it was for us as much as her. And, in fact, we're watching it as I type.


Friday, August 15, 2008


Hardening - and the Blessed Virgin Mary

I've been working on lots of (often pretty low-level) hardening techniques for Linux recently, for a project I'm involved in. It's been really interesting, and I'm attending some very relevant training in a month or so. Today I've been looking at ntpd, which can be configured to keep your computer's clock up-to-date. This is an important security issue, as a number of forensic techniques require a good knowledge of what exactly happened, and when. I've also been helping someone with how to dispose of old hard drives and smart-cards, trying to work out exactly what a particular customer _really_ wants, and looking at account creation, security and locking. It's been an interesting, if busy, day.

Today is also the feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. It's a very important day for many Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics. I'm not a big proponent of Marian devotion (devotion to Mary), but as I've mentioned in this blog on a number of occasions, I'm moving slowly higher up the candle: that is, I'm getting slightly more catholic - with a small "c". I think that what I'm learning is that ritual can be a good way of showing respect, and respect is something that I rate highly in my worship.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008


Prayers for Chris, Sally and family

Sally, who some of you may know, has much to pray about. And so we do. For her, for her son Chris, and for the rest of the family.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008



As you'll see if you look, James left a somewhat sniffy comment about my lack of ability to fold a corporal. You just can't get the staff, it turns out. That would be me.

Actually, it wasn't really a sniffy comment, but I could have read it that way if I'd felt like it. I do feel for poor Gary, though: I don't mind folding things (when I remember), but it's clearly not something he's used to doing.

Today, we had a visit from the possible new curate, but I wasn't able to make it.

The kittens continue lovely.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008



Well, the reason I couldn't get it working on a development box last week was that when I used Public Key authentication, I was copying over the public key to the remote box (correct), but then specifying the public key rather than the private key on the command line. E.g.

ssh -l random_user -i .ssh/ remotemachine Rather than ssh -l random_user -i .ssh/id_rsa remotemachine D'oh!

Completed the Wii Boogie story-line over lunch. I'm very sad.

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Monday, August 11, 2008


A TV day

(backposting) And that's "television", rather than any other abbreviation. Not during the day: I had a meeting with Lee, who's recently joined the company in the UK. But this afternoon, I went and bought Boogie for the Wii. I thought that Jo might be able to use it a bit - she can - and that Miri would get there in the end. And it should also be fun for adults when we have friends over.

On top of that - and rescuing me from a complete evening just playing the game - Polly and Lee very kindly gave me the Lethal Weapon boxset on DVD. All four films. I watched the first one last night: it's easy to forget how many quotes you recognise; how much fun they are; how young Mel Gibson looks in the first one.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008


My first sermon at Halstead

I preached on Peter's lack of faith giving him wet feet. I talked about how fear, and doubt, and failure don't seem to be very Godly, but how they're very human. And how Jesus was, arguably, the greatest human failure of all time (he started as Son of God, and ended up asking why God had forsaken him, after being betrayed by his friends). But how his resurrection means that faith never ends in failure. I was very pleased with it, and a number of people were very appreciative afterwards.

I'm still enjoying deaconing.


Saturday, August 09, 2008


A grumpy (start to a) birthday

(backposting) I had a terrible night last night. And when I got up at 0600 or so with Miri, I was a little - no really QUITE - grumpy. And we couldn't go out, even when everyone was up, because of the weather, but most of all because Moo and I visited RSPCA Danaher in Wethersfield at lunch yesterday, and chose two kittens, but were told we couldn't pick them up until today, and that they'd call us (RSPCA Danaher, that is, rather than the kittens). Luckily, we managed not to murder either child (well, it was mainly Jo) before we went to pick up Danny and Zucco. Moo's blog - Blue Cow Moo gives some explanation, but it's generally to do with Grease. And yes, we're aware that "Zucco" is not how the film spells it, but we didn't have a clue when we had to write it down, but tough.

Anyway - after lunch, Moo took the girls out for a trip to Freeport/sleep. And I slept for an hour. And after that, everything went a lot better. We spent a lot of time with the cats. They're lovely.


The girls gave me Endless Ocean, a scuba game. It's lovely, but made me a bit sad. Just because it makes me want to dive again.

Oh, oh. I meant to say. Moo went to the optician's yesterday. Her eyesight has got better: she's slightly myopic, but slightly less so than she was before. This is rather weird: until the optician said to her "sometimes you start getting long-sighted as you approach 40". She was scandalised by this, particularly as it was my birthday today, I'm turning 38, and she's 3 and a half years younger than me. Ha! On the slightly dodgy side, her astygmatism (previously slight and probably with correct spelling) is now more severe (and probably with incorrect spelling).

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Friday, August 08, 2008



My company doesn't always pay its expenses as close to on time as I'd like. I'm currently waiting for around 1500 quid, and am about to put in another claim for over 700. This doesn't always make balancing the books at home very easy, as you may appreciate.

Jo's taken to talking to Buster - it might be first thing in the morning, after prayers at night, or just in the car. She'll look up into the sky, and just talk to him. It's really sweet, and very healthy, I think.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008



Looks like I'm off to Vegas for some training. Security and Linux, that's sort of thing. Then I'll head off to Mississauga for a few days, combining the two trips. 10-11 days away, but sometimes that's how it works, and I _have_ cleared it with Moo.

My parents popped round this evening for supper - they're off from Stansted tomorrow morning - and I barbecued. Rain doesn't even begin to start to cover it. Torrents. Thunder. Lightning. Full wet-weather gear.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008



My first supervision with training incumbent: John. All went well, and we're settling down nicely, I think. We're going to do some work on funerals over the next couple of months, as it's one of the first CME (Continuing Ministerial Education) topics I'll be tackling. It's an area which is difficult for SSMs and NSMs (both part-time ministers), as most funerals take place during the week, when we're working, so it's important to see if we can find some opportunities to work on this.

Now, why can't I get ssh to work properly with public keys under CentOS? Hmmm.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008


A bit lonely

The girls were out with Mel today, and Moo was working away: I got rather lonely. I'm used to popping downstairs from time to time for a cup of tea, or for lunch, or just because there's a bark as Buster wants to go out. But it was just me in the house today.

Let's hope we can get a kitten or two soon.


Monday, August 04, 2008


Still not here

Buster's still not here, and it's the little things, but we're fine. I'm really fine, I think, but sad from time to time - writing yesterday's blog entry was hard: harder than I expected.

Working hard, and no dog to take for a walk at lunchtime.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008


SecondLife and preaching

(backposting) Oh - I completely forget to post about the fact that Mark, a friend and member of the ministry team in Secondlife, had asked me to take the 1200 SLT (2000 BST) service in SecondLife. It's only the second service I'd taken in-world, and I was touched that James, the other Halstead curate, turned up. I preached on the importance of the Sabbath - even if we don't take a legalistic view of every Sunday - and how we owe it to ourselves, our families, our work, and our God to take some rest and time out for ourselves. God did, after creating the Universe, and if _He_ can, so can we. And so should we.

I'd hoped to chat to people afterwards, but had serious problems afterwards. God gave me enough to take the service, and then made it clear that I had to follow the advice I'd just preached. So we went to bed.

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Buster's dead

(backposting) We were up at 0200: Buster was barking, and not well. Panting, drooling so much. I ended up calling the emergency vet number. I spoke to a very nice female vet, who was very reassuring, and we agreed that Buster clearly had a temperature. She said that other than giving him painkillers, she wouldn't be able to give him much more than the medication we already had, given the symptoms that I'd described. She encouraged me to give him his medication a little early, and to try to get him to have some food as well. I got the medication down him, but not the food. And though I went upstairs, I was down again a few minutes later, as he was clearly very upset. I let him outside, as it was cooler out there. We went to bed.

I was up at 0630 to deacon at the 0800 communion service. After getting dressed and some food, I went outside. I called Buster, and he padded down the drive, though he didn't look well. He had knocked over his water bowl, so I filled it up, and he came to drink from it, but then collapsed. I went and got Moo, and we put the water in front of him, but he really couldn't drink from it. I phoned the emergency vet again, and as I was on the phone, he tried to get up again, and failed. They said to bring him in to the surgery in Witham - about 30 minutes away.

I brought Moo's car down, we put some towels in it, and I had to manhandle poor Buster into the boot, because he couldn't give me any help at all.

I drove there faster than I should have done, in places, though I think I drove safely. And I chatted to Buster from time to time, through some tears. When I got there, I rang the bell, and the receptionist/assistant came out. But when we opened the boot, I was unsurprised to find that Buster was dead. The vet came, and confirmed it.

They'd had a terrible night. Buster was not the first dog to turn up dead. They'd had to put another one down, and other things had gone badly. I felt for them very much. They were great, though, and I don't think that there would have been anything they could have done if I'd turned up earlier. Nor do I blame our vets - I think that, given the symptoms, all was done that could be done. Sometimes, animals die. Particularly Newfoundlands, I'm afraid.

Moo hadn't expected that he'd be dead when I came back and told her, and Jo didn't quite get it, though she's been saying on and off that she's sad. Her first reaction was to try to cheer us up - I cried when I told her. And Miri's been waving at the French windows from time to time, as if she was looking for him.

Oh, I'd told John, my training incumbent, that I'd not make the 0800, and he was very understanding. I made the 1000, and it was marvellous! I performed the deacon's role, including reading the Gospel, preparing the altar and the elements, inviting people to the Peace, and the dismissal. As I walked up the the nave with New Testament, I realised that I had a new home, and it was very emotional.

We went out to lunch - we felt we deserved it - and then went to RSPA Danaher, where we got Buster. We told them about him, and then went to look at kittens. We could pretend that it was for the girls, but that would be a lie.

And in the late afternoon, Si and D came around with Morgs and Boo and their kids. And their dogs. We had a good barbecue, and it was good to have dogs around.

I really loved Buster. But I find it easier to accept his death than I thought. Partly because we've been through it before with Suzy. Partly because I have not the slightest doubt that Buster and Suzy are both in heaven. With Meg. And, as Jo said tonight, when we were saying prayers, let's pray that Meg and Buster are playing together.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008


Kim's wedding!

(backposting) In the morning, we got up and went to Freeport. The official reasons where: It was mainly to get out of the house, actually. We got back in time for lunch and then to go to Kim's wedding to Andy. Miriam's not been very well - running a nasty temperature - but she's just got non-specific toddleritis. The wedding went well (they both said "I will"!), although I had to take Jo out twice to go to the loo.

When we headed out to the meal, Miri still wasn't great, but managed OK - keep them dosed up with the relevant medication. Kim and Andy had asked me to say a grace at the beginning of the meal, which was a real honour. It was also my first outing in a public forum in the clerical shirt and tie. I wore a black shirt and a linen suit - having tried on a grey shirt and two other suits.

We had a good time at the meal, sitting on a table with Gena and a bunch of Kim's previous colleagues. Jo enjoyed playing with April, a girl she knows from pre-school and elsewhere, and who was a bridesmaid. Jo was, however, a little bit put out that she (Jo) didn't get a present from the bride and groom, whereas April did...

At the disco afterwards, they were taking requests, and, aware of the shirt and collar, I requested (and got) "Spirit in the Sky". Top tune.

Buster seemed a bit better this morning, having had some food, and so I didn't take him to the vet. I managed to get his pills down him to in the morning and before we went out to the post-wedding party (wedding breakfast). When we got back, though, he was very drooly, and panty, and I was quite worried about him. But he went to bed OK, though he'd not wanted to come in from the garden after going out.

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Friday, August 01, 2008


Girls back home

(backposting) The girls got back this evening, and we got them both back to sleep fairly quickly, which was good. I was a little worried about Buster today, as he's only eaten 1 out of the past 5 meals, and has been dry coughing a little bit. So, I took him to the vet. The one I saw knew Suzy (who died from a heart complaint), and was very understanding about the fact that I'd brought him in. His eyes were a little gummy, and it turns out that he has a bit of a temperature, but at least his heart sounded OK. She said to bring him back tomorrow morning if he didn't seem better tomorrow.

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