Friday, 29 August 2008

Moving On

In a rush of blood to the head I've decided on a blog move.

So you can now find me at Life, Faith and Role-Playing Games over with those folks at WordPress. See you there.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

August's Antics

Despite my best intentions the blog has still been moribund of late - but then again, it has been the holiday season. And, once again, I've had the phenomenon of a highly broken August. In the ideal world I should just take a huge swathe off, even if it would take nearly all my annual leave at once, in practice that isn't necessarily an option.

This year I spent the first weekend of August in Leicester at my biennial RPG convention, then back for a few days in a generally shattered condition, which did not endear me to GLW, LM and LMP - especially as that was the week we were stressed-out running the holiday club. Thence 3 nights under canvas on the Isle of Wight in a rather hastily-organised family holiday (in the only slot we could find, after earlier in the year we'd said we could do without). Then a few more days work, coupled with a visit from LM's godparents, before ferrying GLW, LM and LMP to Granny and Grandpa's house while I returned before heading off for another tented adventure, Greenbelt. Swiftly followed by a trip from Cheltenham back to collect the family from the wilds of North Yorkshire and then back into harness for an unusually busy day (today) and preparation for two-thirds of this year's weddings and a regular Sunday service.

So, watch this space and I'll try to put in some more details and even some half-reasonable reflections on August's Antics - and if not here, because I' half-thinking of a change of name/blog host, then I'll let you know where....

Thursday, 21 August 2008

To Greenbelt

Says it all really! Hope to see some of you there, and to report back here anon about the experience of speaking there for the first time, albeit as a panellist in the Youth Programme.

Now, how on earth did that happen?

And when I get back, I might, just might, find time to blog a little more often. (Well, we can hope!)

Monday, 21 July 2008

Of Diggers, Gowns, Dreams and a Garage.

"It has been a quiet week in Lake Woebegon"... so spoke Garrison Keillor as his introduction to every laid back portrait of life in the fictional American Mid-West - but it certainly doesn't apply in my parts of East Midlands University Town!

It may well be that time of year when you might expect life to be slowing down a little for the summer (with the possible exception of weddings), but actually both Uni and Parish have got busier. I'm told that tiredness and lethargy are normal signs of bereavement, but that can't be the whole answer. Even shifting 2000+ inherited CDs feels like only a small part of it! There's simply a lot going on.

In the world of Higher Education there has been the delight of a Team Building Day Jolly at the local agricultural college. Lots of clay pigeon shooting, agricultural fork-lift driving, caterpillar-tracked diggers and an All Terrain Vehicle carefully rigged to ensure you went the opposite way to the one you steered! I'm not quite sure how, but our team won decisively on the day. (Note to Bishop: I hereby recommend that all stressed clergy should be given one free day a year of shooting, digging, lifting and driving in a similar way - an ideal pick-me-up!)

Then there was the fun of graduation, including managing to get a free lunch from the Management Centre (verdict: good, but could do better) and the exercise of my prerogative as a member of staff to robe up and process! So out came the scarlet and grey doctoral gown and the obligatory silly hat with tassel. I was interested to note that some of my fellow robed rogues looked somewhat uncomfortable in their regalia (so there is a benefit to robing in church on Sundays!) and even more interested to note that I appeared better qualified than at least two of the geographers with whom I was processing. (Memo to institution: find money to enable them to do more research, it will pay dividends!)

Add to that the unexpected invitation a couple of months back to apply for funding for Chaplaincy work and it has not only made a serious difference to the amount of money for projects (and hence need for management) but also the amount of time required for paperwork in putting together funding bids - which it would appear are not actually going to be read, so desperate was the division concerned to use up their budget at the end of their financial year! I'm just a little bemused at how much they seem to be throwing about, even to the extent of questioning half-seriously whether there's enough for the place to pick up a half-time Chaplaincy post cost...

Parish stuff is similarly busy - good weather, or the expectation of it, has brought to the fore a number of Saturday events: school fetes, churchyard cleaning parties, church garden parties. All of which have their place, but all of which squeeze the available hours tighter, especially as I try to be Daddy and Husband. I suppose I should also add Son to that and so cover a trip with LM on the train to Mum's to collect Dad's car, which I have inherited. I don't wish to sound ungrateful, and I know we will use it occasionally for holidays and long journeys, but if I wasn't inheriting some money too I wouldn't be able to run it. Still, I'm in no danger of leaving my little car unused - Big Blue is an automatic, and I really don't like automatics. Practical, sensible, hopefully reliable, dependable and all sorts of other things ending in -ible, but also dull.

In fact more than once I've wondered whether I'm beginning to have a little mid-life crisis. All I want to do is spend money that don't have, on things that I don't need and might never have the time to use. Humph.

Still, in my way of leaving the best, or at least the intended topic, until last... Yesterday I had a further piece of conclusive evidence of the existence and intervention of God. The church council meeting, which I felt not quite prepared for, and which would touch on areas I thought might be difficult. I was ready for a "full and frank exchange of views" as diplomatic communiques would put it. Well, I think there was, and it was far more constructive and far-reaching than I had expected. To go into discussion with questions about relatively minor issues about how to be most welcoming to visitors, as well as rather larger legal implications of making church accessible (that's physically accessible as in ramps etc rather than linguistically accessible) and to look for a coherent feel of direction for the future, well they're all potentially emotive and difficult issues.

All I can say is that God must have been at work, both then and in the past months, because out popped a resolution to move towards significant changes. I want to write more, but mustn't. Simply let the reader of ecclesiastical persuasion understand and apply their Faculties.

Recently our lectionary readings have had Jesus exhorting those who have ears to hear. I think we have. To one another, to those around us, and to him. And I am sure that my half-formed prayers have been heard, and my dreams and visions may just after all have not been the imaginings of my fevered brain.

The only immediate questions I need answered are what to do with all those CDs... and how on earth to get Big Blue in the garage. But if God can bring us, his people, together like he did yesterday, surely those are trivial.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

What's in a Name?

This isn't one of those theological posts about the names of God and their meaning, no matter how instructive that might be. No, I just did an assembly in my local school and was once again gently surprised by the names of some of the children. Not just the "ethnic" ones, of which I have very little knowledge, but of the apparently white British - the names in this case being American States. A lad named Dakota (and I have to confess that my immediate mental response, before I knew the gender of the child, was that the middle name would have to be Sue - you either get it straight away or you don't: the Dakota Sioux were one of the native tribes) with a sister called Arizona.

It made me wonder about what English or British placenames might be abroad. An American family naming their children Surrey, or Essex perhaps? Then again we shouldn't forget the cricketer Devon Malclom. Even so, I just hope nobody out there has been lumbered with the much- maligned Salop!

Friday, 6 June 2008

All Good Things come to an End

Gordon Donald Harrison
2 December 1938 - 6 June 2008

As good a Dad as anyone could wish for. Not perfect, because none of us are, but my Dad, and that's enough. I owe so much to him for making me who I am.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Changes and chances

It has been a long time since I've blogged, I'm fully aware of that. Just like it's been a while since I visited a number of old haunts and habits (all of them good, I hasten to add).

Sometimes though, it seems as if lots of changes all come together. It might even represent a Paradigm Shift, but I doubt it. I do know that sometimes you can't see the scale of the change until you're on the other side of it, or them, as the case may be.

My few regular readers will know my predeliction for Role-Playing Games and Imagination as my primary mental escape from "reality" (although some might say the same of my faith and occupation!) So folks will have read about my creative endeavours with varying degrees of (dis-)interest and marked the movement over the years. (And, yes, scary thought that it is, it is years).

The first change has been that I have left Eshraval, again. I did rejoin after this post, and it was great fun; liberating to simply be a player and not an administrator, to re-discover an older setting I'd written and bring it into play, and even to meet a lot of old friends returning for the latest version. The problem? Trying to keep up with it all. If you've never been involved on a really active bulletin board it may be a little hard to understand, but it's a bit like a large number of written conversations, all happening at once with barely a break for breath. Simply to keep up with things is hard enough - and to make a considered response to one line of thought can easily mean discontinuing another. Small wonder then that there are multiple conversations becoming dormant daily, new ones starting and others being reawakened all at once. It's like one vast chaotic machine that achieves a degree of forward motion while probably generating more noise than movement. Vibrant, stimulating and all-encompassing, nearly all the time. And that was before the activity requirements of actually developing details of a nation on out own wiki!

I don't quite know how, but I just came to realise I couldn't sustain it any more. Maybe stopping and taking the time (over a number of days) to read a book in the same room as the family had something to do with it. But whatever the reason it's been time to call it a day.

Then at home, I've decided to give up alcohol for the month. I will not buy and consume any alcohol. (I have to do Communion wine, but you know what I mean). I've been growing a little worried about how much I've been drinking, and the manner of it, for a while now (mostly at home, and not in the company of other drinkers), so I think a month to detox would be a good idea. Maybe the low-level headache that's been around for the last 24 hours has something to do with that!

That said, it could have more to do with another event in the family, with Dad having had a heart attack on Sunday night. He is as well as can be expected, but it was a particularly nasty shock for those who were with him, and I think the scale of it might now be beginning to hit him too. I have three observations that come to mind in the light of it and my visit to hospital on Monday afternoon - three shocks, or surprises, in reverse order of significance.

Least, but still a shock, was the price of fuel! I don't drive very far which means there is often at least a month between trips to the petrol station - but £1.15 a litre is frightening.

Secondly, I was most surprised at hospital not by Dad, because if you're in hospital you're there because you're not well - and anyway in my line I've visited many folks in hospital, and nearly all have looked rather a lot worse than he did. Actually I was most surprised by Mum, the degree of concern and simple fear, which I'm sure are a direct reflection of the love and care of a long marriage. If anyone needed me there on Monday it was her, not Dad.

But the biggest shock? Driving the familiar route past the old Peugeot-Talbot Factory at Ryton on the outskirts of Coventry. Or more accurately, driving past the site of it, because it stands no longer. All that remains is a very large leveled area with a few neat piles of rubble and a number of parked bulldozers. I knew that it was due for demolition, but to see it just gone was eery and somewhat un-nerving. A landmark that I've known for the best part of 25 years simply gone.

It might seem a little flippant, but it's the truth, and maybe something of a living parable. After all, it's one thing to know that the price of petrol is going up and that we all need to make changes to adjust. Just like it's one thing to acknowledge that we are mortal and that we will all die one day, as well as losing loved ones along the way. My reaction to Dad's heart attack is a little like my reaction to the rise in petrol prices. It's been something I've been half-expecting for a number of years (both as a consequence of his increasing age, and the family history, since his Dad, my Grandpa Tom and the link with Northampton, died of a heart attack at 72). A shock, but not an enormous one.

The demolition, however, of a longstanding and familiar landmark, a friend along the road of many years standing (and no-one could ever say the old car plant was an architectural wonder) must be a fairly good analogy of bereavement, or the fear of bereavement, felt by those caught up in the actual events, rather than my rather more distant experience.

And the return to the old habits and haunts I wrote of at the start of this post. Well, I'm posting on another, rather quieter bulletin board again (The Tavern), and have picked up a new writing project for Glorantha (albeit at a much more comfortable pace - a magazine article based on stuff I've already written with a deadline of October. Rather more sedate than the expectation of weekly, if shorter, articles for Eshraval!) These are simply reflections of the changes in my life too. When I was down in Kent the post was stressful, but not busy, and so the need for something to give immediate engagement was attractive. Here, back in the East Midlands, with 2 growing children (and 2 growing jobs!) the rather more leisurely pace of leisure and writing can only be helpful.

And any other old habits and haunts? Well, I need to find an RPG group that's for sure (and I have a contact to follow up) and, of course, I've written this, haven't I?