Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Monday 29th December - looking back - and forward

No time over Christmas to blog but I thought I’d try to record my thoughts after trying to put the ideas into practice. Most importantly, our Christmas was great. We had the family round us till yesterday afternoon. Everyone enjoyed themselves, particularly the grandchildren who played together peacefully - for the most part. We managed to spend lots of time with the family including with our children once the little ones were asleep. I think we were fairly restrained, not getting caught up in the commercial excesses, although this year these seemed fewer with sales starting in December. I think I managed to keep in touch with the Christmas story throughout, in spite of the absence in much of the commercial hype.

Looking briefly back at some of the suggested actions, a number strike a chord: I have made a lunch date with one friend, made contact with a local charity for the homeless and found some personal time (the Dylan Thomas and Wilfred Owen books are still out although I haven’t spent much time reading them.) I failed to contact many of our new neighbours - some were at the Carol Service at Little Hampden. By the way, we had a visit from a couple at Little Hampden Church yesterday - he had worshipped in the Church some time ago when he was a pupil at the school so we made new neighbours in Richmond.

We’ve been reasonably green over Christmas and one of my presents was a thing to make logs for the fire from paper: I’d thought about this earlier, particularly as recycled paper is piling up and we seem to generate so much of it. I’ve made my first log and saved some of the gift wrapping to be processed when I have time - and the temperature rises a little: the paper has to be soaked in water for a few days. My bucket is frozen at the moment. This isn’t an instant solution however because the logs have to dry out. The instructions say that the logs will dry in a week in a greenhouse (presumably in summer) It also suggests that the best time to make them is the summer. So gift-wrap logs for next Christmas!

Blogging has been fun and, in spite of few comments on the web, several people have been very positive. I guess the shortage of comments is due in part to the pressure that everyone is under in the run up to Christmas. I hope so. So I think I’ll continue, not every day and not, of course, the Cottrell Advent: I’ll broaden to my activities as Churchwarden and my charitable work. On the former there’s a lot going on: a new organ for Little Hampden, a new year and dare I mention the Eagle? On the latter I’ll try not to be too nerdy. One really pleasing e-mail sent to me on Christmas Day was from one of my IT Friends jubilantly reporting that she had successfully skyped her family in New Zealand. Great!

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Wednesday 24th December - be still, get inside the story

A quick blog after the midnight service... not much chance to be still today but I did have 2+ hours driving in easy traffic, listening to John Williams and Noel Coward - the best I could expect. However before the midnight service, I was first in Church and had 2 minutes in silence with the crib. And the silence at midnight when Rosie asked us pray silently was absolute and wonderful.

Tomorrow - or later today - putting it all together, if I get time.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Tuesday 23 December - happiness

Keep it simple. Not much time today just to enjoy but I can see the temptation to want more all the time rather than being content. One of our cats has got the message: instead of the padded beds in which they never sleep, she has settled down on a plastic bag of decorations - or now, just the plastic bag: can’t get simpler than this.

We don’t get much of a chance to talk to strangers in Little Hampden but we did meet a neighbour delivering cards and were able to chat. We also had an e-mail card from another. I’ll look out for ramblers over Christmas: we usually see some on Boxing day.

Still quite a lot to do for Christmas so finding some quiet time is still difficult. But most of the presents are wrapped, the outside lights are up (and on a timeswitch so they are only on during the evening) We’ve worked out where we are putting everyone over Christmas - we’ll put the three grandsons in together. They probably won’t sleep anyway so they may as well all not sleep in the same room. Tomorrow’s the last day before Christmas: I need to find time to look back and make sure that some of the ideas from the last three weeks are still with me. I’m trying to keep the Christmas story uppermost and not get swamped in the commercialisation. I’m also trying to find some quiet time each day.

In the spirit of the ‘less is more’ I’ve been looking at one of the cards we have received. It’s a National Gallery card and is a detail of ‘The Adoration of the Kings’ by Carlo Dolci. When I saw this on the back of the card I was fascinated and wanted to see the full picture. Rather surprisingly, the Gallery has printed only the star which forms a small - but important - part of the picture. My first reaction was what a waste - but I think it’s a good model for today’s actions.

Tomorrow: find time, get inside the story.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Monday 22 December - ...

I’m not sure what to put as the summary for today. The questions at the end are not difficult to answer but really help put things into perspective. What brings me the greatest joy? Time with the family - that’s to look forward too over Christmas; a task completed successfully; being out in the countryside or afloat - particularly the latter. While I’m struggling with this, the last few minutes of Love Actually is on the tv: it’s a real feel-good moment but there’s joy in all these reunions: I think I share the joy of being with friends. Perhaps today’s thought is love.

Tomorrow: less is more, and happiness

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Sunday 21 December - faith

Today started badly. Christmas was catching up: lights not yet put up, cards to string up, still some gifts to get, lots of things not done. Then walking down to Church in Little Hampden the sun started to come out - there was a sunbeam in the sky over Prestwood; I thought of the children’s hymn. Then the Church was full for our carol service with most of the regulars and even some regular Gt Missenden worshippers. Finally Rosie’s talk about spirituality made me realise I wasn’t alone.

This picture of the Church at Little Hampden was taken in the autumn and the sky wasn’t quite as blue as this but it the sun was shining this morning.

Both carol services were full today which was great but in the spirit of Stephen Cottrell’s book, how do we get some of these people back on an ordinary Sunday? Part of Rosie’s talk was about the structure and formality of CofE services. We worry about this a lot in Little Hampden: we tend to stick to the traditional format and wording: matins is always Book of Common Prayer and we periodically use this source for Communion. I can see that many of our regulars are comfortable with these services - almost expect them - but I can also see that this doggerel could also be a hindrance to many. Perhaps we need an ‘out of the box’ thought.

This afternoon I phoned my friend David - I’d e-mailed him on the ‘don’t write must meet on your Christmas cards’ day. It turns out he’d changed e-mail addresses and hadn’t monitored his old one till recently. We had a long chat and we have a date in the diary for lunch in the new year. He’s promised to look at the blog - I didn’t tell him he’d appear. I don’t think he’ll cancel the lunch date!

Tomorrow: a bit more complicated!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Saturday 20 December - the Christmas story

Not much evidence of the Christmas story when out shopping today. I think we’re not overdoing it in the preparation for Christmas - with half the family arriving on Christmas Day and the rest on Saturday - for an uncertain period - we have to be prepared.

I did see a crib today - at Little Hampden. We nearly had the two wise men but the third turned up.

The last few days have been difficult because the suggestions are not really relevant to me and my family. And tomorrow looks similar: faith and going to Church. However, it looks as if it’ll get challenging again on Monday.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Friday 19 December - family and don’t be too serious

As yesterday, I don’t find this too difficult: we are lucky that we all get on very well. I think Christmas will be an enjoyable time - but time will tell. And I don’t think I take things too seriously so no major challenges with this.

Time pressures are still a problem. I failed to contact my friend again today and the ‘to do’ list is not getting any shorter. So a short entry tonight!

Tomorrow: the Christmas story

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Thursday 18 December - family

I liked the George Burns quote but fortunately, we don’t have much too much of a problem with our family - I think. They may not agree completely! I think we are all looking forward to a fairly relaxed Christmas although the little boys may squabble a little over their toys. We shall be doing family things together as well as watching TV and eating but, prompted, by Stephen Cottrell we’ll make sure about this.

Standing back a little, I’m still finding it difficult to do nothing - or do less. I don’t think it’s just bad time management, there’s still a lot to do. Today I received a Christmas card from the friend I e-mailed earlier. I thought ‘I’ll phone him today’ but I haven’t. Perhaps tomorrow. I’m also surprised at the lack of comments: is there anyone out there? I’m finding it useful to record my thoughts but I was hoping to prompt some debate. Perhaps following yesterday’s kindred spirits debate, we’re all too similar.

Tomorrow: more family and taking one’s self less seriously

Wednesday 17th December - Neighbours

I'm not sure what the message is today: the body of Stephen's suggests that we are all doing our own thing, but he then goes on to talk about networks - particularly the 21st century ones on the internet. He implies that we don't know each other very well but I don't agree. I think the extent to which we communicate informally with friends these days brings us much closer than previously. OK we don't have the wonderful long well-written letters of old and I don't expect to see published e-mail exchanges much less messenger chats but we do communicate much more frequently. I chat with my daughter several times a week - we'd never phone each other as often but because one of us sees the other on the computer we chat. These modern communications break down national and time zone barriers, too. One of my IT friends has a son and grandchildren in the Antipodes: I've just installed a webcam so that they can see each other as well as talk.

On today's actions: I did try to meet some of my new neighbours today. There are only thirty properties on the neighbourhood watch list so most of us in Little Hampden know each other very well. However, we have some new residents so I thought I'd call while delivering invitations to the Carol Service on Sunday. I failed: no one was in. Perhaps I'll try again at the weekend.

The point about only meeting kindred spirits was brought home to me a few years ago when I was having a final drink with some of my team before leaving a big project at work: it suddenly struck me that the people I had recruited were all very similar. We worked very well as a team but I wonder if it would have been even better had we been a different mix. I'm not sure that Stephen's point that Church is the only place where a mixture of people meet is right: maybe they have different backgrounds but they have a lot more in common than just their belief.

One neighbourly experience today was at a different level. The Church is trying to extend it's good relationships with one of its neighbours, The Misbourne School. Tonight the School held its Christmas Concert in the Church. It was great: the pupils showed a range of musical talent of the highest level, supported by very committed and caring staff. I was impressed by the serious confidence with which all the students performed: from singers in the choir to the Jazz Band and Funk Band. I spent the interval talking to the headteacher... oh dear, kindred spirits again. I'll have to work on this.

Tomorrow: family

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Tuesday 16th December - Charity

Difficult to be complacent here again. I already support a number of charities, including at least one that helps the poor. I’ve been supporting Save the Children with an annual standing order for many years. We normally give our winter fuel allowance to charity each year. I also support the RNLI - on the basis that I may call on them myself one day although I hope not.

Click to link to the WWNS web site

I have succeeded in making contact with the Wycombe Winter Night Shelter - see the entries on 8th, 9th and 12th December. I’ve agreed to support them for the next three months - the same time as the shelter is open. I’ve updated my web site and will ask the two or three people I’ve helped in the last week or so to make donations to WWNS.

Click to likn to my web site
If you’d like some help with technology and at the same time support this charity, have a look at my updated web site (
http://www.itfriend.org.uk/) and give me a call. I don’t think I can do anything before Christmas!

Tomorrow: neighbours

Monday 15th December - Christmas lights

What’s the history of lights at Christmas time? They appear to have started with the tree whose origin is obscure. The legends usually credit St Boniface with creating the first link with Christianity. The triangular shape of the fir tree was thought to symbolise the Holy Trinity and by the 12th century it was being hung upside down at Christmas as a symbol of Christianity. the first recorded decorated tree was at Riga in Latvia in 1510. Martin Luther is credited as being the first to put candles onto the tree having seen the stars shining through a fir tree when out walking.

The idea developed initially in Germany but was spread to other parts of the world, mainly by people with a German background. The royal family were early adopters but the rest of the UK was slow to follow. Not surprisingly, tree lights developed rapidly in America, the first electric lights were recorded at the home of an associate of Thomas Edison in 1882. A web search finds a number of towns - all in the US - claiming to be the first to illuminate Christmas trees.

Today the practice continues in varying degrees. I took these pictures this evening on the way home from Aston Clinton (where I picked up the proof of a new Order of Service for St Peter and St Paul). The tree is Wendover: reasonably restrained - and low power LED lights. I’m not sure about the clock tower... is this a joyful celebration of Christ’s birth or a extravagant use of energy and contribution to global warming? No comment on the two houses.

We’re encouraged to change to low energy bulbs: we’re slowly doing so at home but finding effective ones for some fittings is a challenge. The first set I bought for our lounge, which has small lampshades on wall brackets that need golfball bulbs, was a disaster: they took about 10 minutes to come on! They’ve now been moved to another room. I’ve found some suitable bulbs that start reasonably promptly. I’m having the same problem in the kitchen where we have reflector bulbs recessed in the low ceiling. Again the first attempt at replacements were so slow to start that they were nearly useless. However, I’m gradually changing to ones that Gil Lec in Chesham supply. They also sell basic energy-savers for 99p - a big change from a few years ago.
However, I don’t think giving energy savers as presents will be very popular at Christmas.

Tomorrow: charity

Monday, 15 December 2008

Sunday 14th December - the Christmas story

I haven’t seen a nativity play this year yet, but the simplicity of the story shines through. I remember nativities that the children were in when they were young. The grandchildren are too young yet but it’s something to look forward to.

Stephen also suggests take some child-like delight in what is happening around you. I’m constantly delighted by the simple countryside around us here in Little Hampden - I have to stop and look - and then get my camera out:

Tomorrow: Christmas lights

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Two weeks...

I’ve been following the book and recording my experiences for nearly two weeks so it’s time to reflect: am I ‘doing nothing’? Many of the days have been quite difficult for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the immediate reaction ‘I’m already doing that.’ But it’s too easy to be complacent and wait for the next day. I’ve tried to find something in these difficult days. Others were a little easier because they did involve something new.

I think a number of people are following my attempts but I’m rather disappointed at the lack of comments. I hoped that sharing my views would spark some debate via this blog but so far this hasn’t happened much. Are you following the book? If so, let’s have some of your experiences - or just comment on my attempts - positively or negatively. If you’re worried about anonymity you can invent a pseudonym and it’s not necessary to provide any information that can identify you. Of course, we’d all rather know who you are... I’ve challenged the PCC members to get more actively involved - let’s see if they react!

What I’m not sure about is whether the ideas have been cumulative: have I managed over the last two weeks to break out of the rush for Christmas and get in touch with what it really means? There are certainly some enduring thoughts. Perhaps enduring is a little strong for 14 days, but I am much more aware of the contrast between the commercialisation and the real Christmas story. I’ve also tried to find some personal time and time to be with the family: Brenda and I had lunch together yesterday and today and we hope to visit the children before Christmas - it’ll be a dash, of course... oh dear!

Saturday 13 December - food for Christmas

Brenda’s been working out our food for Christmas and the following days. We have some of the family for Christmas and the rest arriving after Boxing day. It looks as if we’ll be having some locally-sourced food and we get a box of organic fruit and veg. All the family are good grubbers but we’ll try not to overdo it. We’ll try to go easy in the days before, too, as suggested, although this may be because we’ve got a lot on. And I’m really trying to do nothing occasionally: the poetry books are still out.

As for the suggestion that I ‘do a little more of the cooking’ - I’ll do my bit, but nothing too complicated!

Tomorrow: receiving the Christmas story as a child

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Friday 12 December - the crib

Not much evidence of the crib and the Christmas story amidst all the commercialisation. There was a single Nativity Scene for sale in John Lewis today but I see from their web site that it's reduced from £25 to £16. I've just looked at a random set of Christmas cards: two have nativity scenes, three have rather vague Eastern scenes with a star - one with Mary on a donkey and Joseph, one with the shepherds and one with an apparently abandoned baby in a manger. Fourteen cards have no evidence of the Christmas story at all. At least we haven't resorted to wishing everyone 'Happy Holidays'

Here, as promised, is our Advent calendar: it's a Danish design with felt shapes to be stuck on each day - the last being the star. Not many of the shapes are connected to the Christmas story - but at least it's not full of chocolate and it's reusable every year.

Tomorrow: food for Christmas

Friday, 12 December 2008

Wycombe Winter Night Shelter

Good news: I’ve just had a call from the Wycombe Winter Night Shelter and agreed to support them with my PC work for the next three months. This really answers the issues I had on 8th December about finding some way of helping the homeless in the local community. I’ll update my web site (http://www.itfriend.org.uk/) with details once I get them. You can see more about the shelter on their web site http://www.wwns.org.uk/.

Thursday 11 December - Drink

I don’t think social drinking is really a problem for me (I would say that, wouldn’t I?) but I can remember the temptation when I was working full-time. The fast is more promising: particularly after a weekend in France. This is something we need to keep in mind over Christmas: be restrained with the food and drink - but anyone reading this is welcome to try one of my cocktails or a glass of wine over Christmas!

One other achievement today: I reached the target of £1000 for Kidney Research from my PC support activities. I’ve e-mailed all the people who have contributed to thank them. I’m hoping I can support the Wycombe Shelter (see Monday and Tuesday 8th and 9th) for the three months they operate.

We’ve at last put up the chocolate-free Advent Calendar - I’ll put a picture here tomorrow.

Tomorrow: the crib.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Wednesday 10 December - play with children

For children read grandchildren, I think: sitting down with our children and talking through what they really want for Christmas is probably not on. However we do get advised on sensible presents for the grandchildren. And I’m sure they’ll all be looking forward to being together over Christmas: the toy cars come out (some Matthew’s, some mine) and they’ll play well together. We’ll try to arrange some activities for them, too, although cooking with three boys under 5 will be fun!

Looking back, I haven’t heard yet from the Wycombe Winter Night Shelter, neither have I contacted my lunch-date friend so some catching up to do.

Tomorrow (or today) is about social drinking: not much time for this at the moment!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Tuesday 9 December - stillness

As I said, a busy day so not a lot of time to fit this in. However, I did get out two poetry books - Dylan Thomas and Wilfred Owen. I tried to read at lunchtime but didn’t have the time to settle. However, I did arrive for the PCC meeting very early (and I had Dylan Thomas in the car) so I succeeded in having a peaceful 10 minutes before phoning Jane Ray. I’m a fan of Under Milk wood - we did it at college and I have a CD which I occasionally play in the car. His use of language is remarkable: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea. But his poems don’t quite achieve this level. Nevertheless it was a peaceful ten minutes. But I do need to manage my time better so that I get more than ten minutes!

Tomorrow: children’s play

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Alone at Christmas

I’ve thought about yesterday’s action ‘find out about what happens in your local community to support homeless people’ so I contacted Jane Ray who is our link with the Old Tea Warehouse. Jane suggested I look at the Wycombe Winter Night Shelter project so I’ve e-mailed them. I’ll keep you posted.

Monday 8 December Alone at Christmas

Difficult: we already support the Old Tea Warehouse in High Wycombe, a hostel for the homeless. We’re on the rota and have given clothing and duvets. I don’t want to be complacent about today’s actions but just giving more doesn’t seem right, either.

Do I know anyone who may be lonely at Christmas? I’m sure there are several: I’ll try to contact them over the next days and see if there’s some way I can help. I still haven’t heard from the friend I e-mailed last week - I’ll try to contact him, too.

Tomorrow: taking time, silence, stillness. This will be a challenge: first day back after a weekend away; 50-odd e-mails (and I’ve deleted the ones trying to sell me something); two PCs to sort out; a PCC meeting in the evening.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Sunday 7 December eating together

Our Christmas cake this year has been made by daughter Lucy - but iced by two little grandsons with a preference for blue icing. So it’s really home made.

Sunday lunch in France is still a family event and we saw several today. We also had a long evening meal with our friends - and they had had lunch with their friends. We’ll certainly be sitting down together several times over Christmas. But it’s often difficult normally to make time but we do our best.

But talking about eating seems rather trivial after our morning visit: we walked through a misty park to visit the Arras War Cemetery. The memorial designed by Edwin Lutyens commemorates more than 35,000 commonwealth servicemen who were killed nearby in the first World War and whose bodies were never found. There is also a memorial to the 1000 members of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Navy Air Service who died on the western front and have no known graves: the life expectancy of a pilot fell from three weeks to 17½ hours in 1917. Visiting this memorial was very moving and made me see the rest of the day in a different light.

The Christmas Fair seemed particularly secular: there was no crib and no reference to the Christmas story. There was a crib in the vast Cathedral - which also had an eagle lectern prominently displayed in the Choir.
Tomorrow: alone at Christmas

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Saturday 6th Dec Christmas trees and stars

We visited the Christmas market and shops again today - here are some of the tempting goodies but I managed to keep the credit card in my wallet most of the day.

December 6th is St Nicholas’ day and we saw him abseiling down the belfry of the town hall.

However, the most powerful images today were nothing to do with Christmas but they did constantly remind me of yesterday’s message about debt - debt to people. We visited one of the first World War museums: it was the extensive underground workings built to attack the German lines and force them away from Arras. But the details are unimportant. What came across was the horror of these times. Returning then to the bright lights and happy people at the fair reminded me how much we owe to those who gave so much.

Tomorrow: eating together - should be a little easier!

Friday 5th December - Credit

Cut up the credit card? Not this weekend! Seriously, as a convenient way of paying, credit cards are fine but as a feeder of temptation they are potentially dangerous. We always pay off every month and usually that’s OK although there are sometimes surprises. I can remember having to buy travellers’ cheques and declaring all currency on your passport. Travelling today is much easier and I’m sure the extensive travel nowadays helps people to understand each other better.

Walking around the Christmas market and shops this evening reminded us again how stylish and extremely smart most things are here in France. It will be difficult to ‘spend realistically’ on Christmas gifts and food to bring home.

Other debts - ‘claims of love, forgiveness, generosity and mercy’ are much more difficult to measure - a monthly statement would be useful! People are kind and forgiving and don’t consider their actions in these terms, but we should be more aware of their generosity and say ‘thank you’ more often. I’ll try to be more supportive of other people without expecting anything in return. And more aware of the debt I owe when someone does something for me.

I went to the ATM this morning and it said "insufficient funds".

I’m wondering is it them or me.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Family and Friends

Not much time today to stop and think - I’m saving that up for tomorrow and the weekend. I have been chatting to my daughter with messenger - we do fairly regularly. Fortunately we are a fairly close family and I think we will be reasonably relaxed over Christmas - but not the images on the TV ads referenced in the book. And all those ads that appear at this time of year! Usually it’s drink but this year it seems to be CDs. I’m not sure what to make of The Priests. It doesn’t seem to be the Christmas message as I understand it. I’ve just looked at their web site: http://www.thepriests.com/ What do others think of it?

I haven’t sent a text or phoned anyone today as suggested: perhaps I’ll find time tomorrow (later today!) I did try to invite a friend to lunch a few days ago and he hasn’t responded yet - but I’m hopeful that he will.

We’re off to Arras for the weekend. A challenge to connect to the Blog but I’ll do my best. I’ll also make time to do nothing. It’ll be interesting to look at credit (Friday) Christmas tree and stars (Saturday) and eating together (Sunday) in the context of a French Christmas Fair.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

What do I really want?

This is difficult particularly when looking at the range in Stephen’s book - from the prosaic (a jar of stem ginger) to the extensive (end of poverty, peace in the middle east) I’ve failed today to find a few quiet minutes to think about this but it’s been on my mind all day. Quite a few things that I could be wishing for seem to befalling into place: we seem to be slowly building relationships with local schools and a meeting this evening went very well. The photocopier in the office has died, however, but in the scheme of things this is nearer to stem ginger than anything.

I was reminded of some work I did some time ago when there was a big emphasis on quality. We spent lots of time and effort trying to improve the quality of everything we did and establishing processes to ensure this continued. One strong message was that we should only consider changing things that were already under our control: it’s all very well saying ‘if only x would do things better...’ but that doesn’t achieve anything. So where does this leave me?

Tomorrow: family and friends

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Christmas presents

Presents - cut down or buy from Charities. A few years ago all our family members gave each other simple presents with a very limited value: it was as good as any Christmas. Nobody felt that they had been given an expensive gift that wasn’t really wanted. Finding the unusual present within the limit wasn’t easy, though, so shopping was probably harder!

We’ve given gifts to charities, too - I received a set of oilskins and seaboots for the RNLI. That was good but it would have been even better if the gift had been more visible. None of the local charities seem to do this - or do they? Perhaps we could persuade the Old Tea Warehouse* to start a scheme.

We’ve agreed to limit presents to family this year - and the children have issued lists of suggestions so the chances of unwanted gifts is small. Finding time to shop is challenging - I’ll keep you posted.

Tomorrow: what do you really want?

Christmas Post: A woman went into a post office to buy some stamps for her Christmas cards. What denomination do you want ? asked the lady at the counter. 'Good God!' she replied, Has it come to this? I suppose you'd better give me twenty Catholic and twenty Presbyterian.

* The Old Tea Warehouse is a hostel for the homeless in High Wycombe. It is very actively supported by members of our Church: the Parish Office is currently half full of duvets, sleeping bags and individual presents for the residents.

Afterthought about Christmas Cards

Yesterday’s Christmas Card guidance included "don’t write ‘Must see you this year’ on your cards unless actually you mean it" Looking through the address list last night I spotted one friend on whose card I’d written this - and we bumped into him during the year and said the same. So I’ve just e-mailed him suggesting we agree a date in January or February and I’ll do my to stick to this. Let’s hope we have a date before I write his card!

Monday, 1 December 2008

First day

First day. Guidance is to make a wish list and be ruthless about Christmas Cards. I’ve looked through our address list (on the PC, of course) and there are quite a few names to be dropped. There are, too, many people I’d still like to keep in touch with and sending a Christmas card is a good way. These include several work friends from the USA: I usually try to find the most Christian cards for them because the cards I receive are often politically correct to the extreme, wishing us a ‘happy holiday’ or similar.

I’m feeling the Christmas pressure not from the commercialisation but from the wish to ensure that the activities in Church over Christmas are as successful as possible. Christmas is one of those times when we get people who come very infrequently and I want to make sure that they are welcomed and perhaps will see their visit as a first step to becoming regular members. There’s also the pressure of all the events in the Church during the next weeks. I’m not alone in this, of course, everyone is very supportive.

Wish list? We’ve started attempting to get closer links with the local schools The Misbourne and The Gateway: the latter today asked Vicar Rosie and Youth Worker Lizzie to start regular assemblies so that’s a promising start. I have two meetings with The Misbourne in the next week or so which I hope will make some openings there.

We haven’t put up our Advent Calendar yet - it’s not full of chocolate but is a Danish version - a Christmas tree with velcro spots on which we stick various felt Christmassy things - I’ll put a picture here in a few days.

Tomorrow’s challenge is about getting gifts into perspective.

Stephen Cottrell ends each day with a joke: I’m not sure I can do the same - but here’s an amusing web site with lots of children’s Christmas jokes http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/Xmas/jokes.html

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Do Nothing

Well here we go! Having committed at the 10:00 service at St Peter and St Paul this morning to share my experiences of following Stephen Cottrell's book Do Nothing Christmas is Coming I've set up this blog and am publicising widely - it would be rather embarrassing if nobody read it!

I was prompted to do this by a chain of events: firstly Vicar Rosie has been plugging the book as a way of getting Christmas into a Christian perspective: she hoped that someone would record their experiences for the Parish Magazine; then the editor pointedly repeated Rosie's hope to me - so I thought I'd go one better, hence this blog.

However, while the trigger for this blog is the book, I hope to keep it going - if not every day - with a range of things including the enjoyable time I'm having as Churchwarden and my other interests.

Steven Cottrell's book, of you're not familiar with it, has as subtitle An Advent Calendar with a Difference. It contains some advice and challenging activities for each day of advent. I shall by trying to follow the advice and record my experiences here.

Please use the comment option on the blog to add your comments or, better still, your experience if you, too, are following the calendar. If you haven't got a copy of the book and would like one, it's available from booksellers - St Andrew's Bookshop in Great Missenden has copies or you can order online at http://www.standrewsbookshop.co.uk/9780715141649