Thursday, May 29, 2008

lost for words


What do you say to someone who:

1. Puts forward a position
2. When you disagree (or in fact just act ambivalent about the idea) implies that you're not just disagreeing with him but with God
3. When you refuse to communicate on that level, implies that you've deeply hurt him?

I don't wish to talk to anyone who suggests that a normal daily choice (in this case the level of communication between old friends) is somehow dictated by God to him. Even if he is right - and it strikes me that there is nothing inherently wrong about the idea, just that I'm not really prepared to spend a lot of effort to get back in touch with people who haven't shown much interest up to now (and to be fair, I have a long list of people I feel far more guilty about not being closer in touch with) - I think this attitude of 'you're not just arguing with me, you're arguing with God and I've prayed about it so I am right' is dangerous.

And what really galls is the emotional blackmail. 'If you were looking for a way to really hurt me, you've found it. Well done.' he says.

This after I sent a short message which said 'Just so you know, I will not be replying to your letter in the immediate future, if at all. I don't appreciate the way you speak to me at times.'

In fact, I wrote a long 6 page letter explaining exactly what I thought of it, spilling a lot of bile and anger. I decided that this was going a bit far, so abbreviated it to this two sentence message.

I'm not sure I have anything else to say to him at the moment.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I'm revamping our website using CSS. I'm a total novice so it is taking a very long time - hopefully something new will be in place very soon.


slug slaughter

Good Morning, here is the Vegetable Garden News.

Slugs have appeared at full strength in the last few days.
Despite laying several coke traps, these have so far not made any difference.
Dastardly slugs have avoided walking on eggshells. It is thought they must have stilts.
Scientists are unsure of the benefits of coffee grains and say that a further extensive trial is required
Innocent cauliflowers caught up in the crossfire are particularly unhappy.

What has worked is using some planks from an old fence between the rows of vegetables. The slugs seem to like to crawl beneath the planks and multiply. Hence, we are regularly discovering the little critters beneath and then sending them to their doom. Ha HA HA HA Ha.

The spinach in the hanging baskets seems to be growing well, as do the strawberries and tomatoes. The potatoes are starting to sprout (hurrah) and the beans are having a valiant attempt to grow up the stakes.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

church and grief

In the church circles we currently move in, a couple of middle aged men have died. Both professionals, both well known and involved in their communities. Both lives cruelly ended before their time, leaving a hole in their family.

One observation I make is that church doesn't seem to change much. We still sing the same tired choruses. The same people still jiggle on the spot and raise their hands.

We don't really seem to know what to do with death. We're uncomfortable with grief. Someone I recently met said he knew people who stopped attending church after the 11 September attacks - because the choruses just seemed to continue regardless.

Please don't think I'm having a go at anyone here - I'm sure there are mitigating circumstances. Maybe few people at the service I attended knew the deceased. Maybe the time for grief was elsewhere.

When my wife's grandfather died a few weeks ago, there were few signs of grief from the close family - I think because we'd seen his health disintegrate and death felt like a release for everyone involved. Maybe for us, the grief will creep up and affect us in other ways. The only person who was really upset at the graveside was a relative who saw him very irregularly and knew him best in younger life, and I guess felt the loss of burying an old man who he had such fond childhood memories.

The other week there was a very beautiful moment in a service we attended. Burdened as I am with many doubts, I stood for much of it in silence. As I listened to others singing, I heard a very clear, very out-of-tune voice with a strong Spanish accent. And as I listened more, I felt that the clear voice was leading the singing, and everyone else was the accompanying chorus of a great solo. It was a spine-tingling moment, and for a short while I found that I had some release.


Monday, May 12, 2008

2008 veg

We just heard that the allotment site we were working last year has been let in its entirety to a local charity working with disabled people. Which is really good news, it is much too good a resource to be wasted.

Meantime, we've been converting our back garden into a vegetable patch, on the basis that if it is under our noses, we've a better chance of actually being able to keep an eye on it. We also bought seedlings rather than seed, as we're rubbish at bringing on plants.

So, we have a few tomato plants in buckets, strawberries in pots, herbs and spring onions in hanging baskets. We also have some potatoes in black dustbins (which I'm told is a good way to grow them).

In the ground, we have cauliflower, cabbages, rhubarb, lettuce and more herbs. We still have to find space for aubergine, sunflower and a couple of bean plants. We also have a few marrow seeds to try. We have also plumbed in a water butt to the drains from the garage, to preserve water. It hasn't rained in a while, but when it did, I was amazed at how quickly it filled up.

We've also been working hard on slug defence, which is including used coffee grains, coke traps and eggshells. So far so good, no sign of any slugs.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

On Saturday I attended a conference entitled 'New Habits for a New Era? Exploring New Monasticism", run jointly by the Anabaptist Network and the Northumbria Community.

The Anabaptist Network is about the nearest we get to Mennonites in the UK (there is only one Mennonite congregation I think) and sees its role to promote anabaptist thinking throughout the church in the UK, enthusing Christians where they are rather than creating new churches.

The Northumbria Community is a dispersed religious community based on Lindesfarne in the far north of England. To cut a long story very short, it is a liturgical community with a lot of celtic influences.

Although I have been interested in the anabaptists for a while and have known about the Northumbria community through their liturgy (which we used daily for over a year), it is fair to say that I would not have attended if the conference had not taken place in Coventry.

Anyway, there were various seminars to attend - and I went to one about anabaptist history and practice and another about new monastic groups, how they differ from 'traditional' monastic groups and what they can offer the rest of the church.

I appreciate it is hard to give a full day conference justice in a few words, but generally I was frustrated. The attendees were all white, mostly middle aged, middle class and well educated. The style was all-talk. Speakers were often asked questions from the floor, but these were often convoluted and concerned very specific points of theology or practice.

Both the anabaptists and the new-monastics seemed to be labouring the same point - that they were offering the wider church a better/richer way to 'do' church (utilising certain groovy music or liturgy, meeting at different times, using multimedia, sporting funny haircuts [WHAT IS IT ABOUT RELIGIOUS PEOPLE AND HAIRCUTS/HATS?], living together or apart, following in the way of Saint Somoneoneorother and so on) yet there seemed to be a monumental lack of discussion about what the point of it all was.

The point that unless these things assist us in our sacrificial service of our neighbour, they are of no more or less worth than any other form of church.

On Sunday I spent had a long searching conversation with someone at the church we attended. In some ways it was helpful, although it was somewhat tempered by the fact that it was H's (indirect) boss at the University. I'm not sure how comfortable I am attending church with two Statistics Professors that are so well acquainted with my wife's career. Anyway, it was very apparent how her perception of her role was influencing her advice and how I should look at my life.

We also attended an evening service at the church - which was later than we can normally manage due to B needing to get to bed on time the night before a school day. This was the first time I can remember being properly engaged in a service in a very long time. It seems that my engagement with church is inversely proportional to the polish, so the more rubbish it is the more chance there is of spiritual engagement.

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As suggested by Jonathon Porritt, I contacted the Futerra thinktank.

This is the reply I received from Ed Gillespie, a director there.

Hi Joe,

Thanks for your email – what do you suggest? Preparing the bunkers and arming ourselves to the teeth?

; )

I share your concerns, and you’re right we need to turn up the heat on people (no pun intended) and cut through the complacency without seeming like rabid doomsdayers (not an easy task)

As Dylan Thomas said ‘Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light’

No easy answers I’m afraid – but yes, we are a bit fooked right now (I’ve been to China)

Yours eternally hopefully (groundless hope like unconditional love being the only type worth having)


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Friday, May 02, 2008

Did you know...

...there is a UN office for SPACE?

Excuse me?

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Jonathon Porritt

I recently received an email from Jonathon Porritt, the UK eco-guru (who runs Forum for the Future, a government funded environmental thinktank) in response to an email I sent regarding some of the things I've been saying recently in this blog.

He said:

Dear Joe

Thank you very much indeed for your recent email.

I don’t doubt you are right that we need to be re-thinking these things in a pretty dramatic way, as its clear that people still haven’t really begun to get the true message about climate change – and what this really means for their lives today, let alone for people’s lives tomorrow.

But the difficulties contained in your email – that the only way in which we could jolt people out of that complacency is to start talking about the almost unimaginably horrible consequences that runaway climate change would bring with it. And a lot of the evidence demonstrates that when people are confronted with that kind of exceptionally negative message, they just turn off. Rather than being empowered to get stuck in (both personal and political), they withdraw even more into various patterns of denial, not least the reassurance that continuing scientific controversy seems to bring with it.

This is proving to be an immensely difficult psychological conundrum! All sorts of people currently very involved in climate change communications are worried about how to break out of this fix, and how to up people’s energy levels onto a completely different plain. An organisation called Futerra has done a lot of work on this, and you might want to check out their website. So quite difficult to know how to really push this one forward in the way that you propose!

Best wishes


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