Thursday, 24 December 2009
The Ballinger services (Christingle at 3:00pm and Midnight at 11:30pm) will take place as scheduled.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Last year at about this time, I tried to find time to read. I don’t think I’ll have much time tomorrow but I’ll try. I’m behind with e-mails, too, and we have some decisions and actions for the Christmas services – will the snow melt? Will it be safe around the Church?
Monday, 21 December 2009
Sunday, 20 December 2009
|From Christmas Cards and Notelets 2009 - possible pictures|
Saturday, 19 December 2009
Friday, 18 December 2009
But a day at home was good although there were several calls and e-mails about arrangements for the weekend. My e-mails are mounting up, though. I’ll need to attack them tomorrow.
Thursday, 17 December 2009
David’s card arrived today – with a note that we should arrange another get-together. Yes, we had failed in our promises. So I’m revisiting last year’s action but this time we’ll try to meet more than once.
Have you looked through your Christmas card list and spotted anyone you haven’t seen for some time – and would like to see again?
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Monday, 14 December 2009
My first reaction to homeless locally was “ Homeless? Around here? Surely not” but the WWNS experience soon put me right. Their success is nothing short of spectacular: last winter, they had 48 guests during the three months, including 9 women. By the end of March, 40 of these had moved on to some form of accommodation – hostels, family, shared housing etc. Unfortunately 4 were still on the streets. Before I saw the report, I had thought that getting 10% off the streets would have been a success but over 80% is spectacular.
I’ll try to blog more about the WWNS later – but you can see something of their operations on their web site. Meanwhile, it’s a thought that while we are trying to find time for Christmas, there are people not far away struggling with a whole different set of problems.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
I thought I’d track down some solar-powered Christmas lights – and I found Nigel’s Eco Store. Nigel has lots of environmentally-friendly things including lights. Maybe just in time for last-minute shopping – on the internet, of course, so no travelling to the shops.
While we’re on green Christmas (it doesn’t scan like white Christmas) have you looked at whether the food you’re getting is locally sourced – or at least has reasonable transport history? I have a copy of the book Shades of Green by Paul Waddington. Paul discusses the ‘greenness’ of various things. He doesn’t cover Brussels sprouts which I’m sure are fairly OK – they are not grown under polytunnels or air-freighted from miles away. He does discuss courgettes which are apparently Britain’s tenth-favourite veg. While eating locally-grown ones in season is OK, buying imported ones is very poor – particularly as they are 80% water and have virtually no nutritional value! Has anyone worked out the carbon footprint of a Christmas pud?
Thursday, 10 December 2009
The Oxford Diocese e-newsletter has two entries that interested me: the first was the plan, sponsored by the World Council of Churches, to ring out the bells this Sunday at 3pm in support of action on Climate change. I’m not sure if we’re participating locally – I’ll keep you posted. You can read more about this here – there’s an interesting list of participating Churches – the Netherlands, the Nordics and Germany seem to have most. The web site address for the World Council is rather strange – www.oikoumene.org – can anyone decode?
The other entry is a thought for us all – spare a thought for single-parent families this Christmas. There are two web sites for Mums and Dads.
Sunday, 6 December 2009
I was prompted to think of global warming again this morning by, of all people, Ranulph Fiennes and Michael Jackson! The former chose a song by the latter as his inheritance track on the radio this morning (I’m sorry about plugging R4 regularly) The words quoted by Fiennes, which he was passing on to his 3-year-old daughter, were ‘If you wanna make the world a better place take a look at yourself, and then make a change’ It reminded me of one of the principles of the quality drive we were immersed in during the ’80s – I think it was as long ago as that. Who remembers the quality stuff? We were led by the Japanese. The apocryphal story of the supplier of widgets who was told that only 1% should be faulty; the box of 1000 contained a bag with the 10 faulty ones in: the rest were perfect. The principle was that we could only change things that were under our control: it was very easy to say ‘if only X would do something we’d be a lot better’ but that didn’t achieve anything. It was a good principle – but a tough one. I think the same applies to our attempts at controlling the climate: It’s easy to blame the Chinese, or the oil industry, or the people down the road who drive a big Volvo (oh dear!) But what am I doing? What are you doing?
Let’s start with energy-saving light bulbs. These have come a long way from the £15 bulbs that took 10 minutes to warm up and only give 30% of the light of bulbs they purport to replace. Unfortunately, I have some of those bought originally for the lounge but moved to the study because they were so poor. The disadvantage of long-life bulbs is that they last for ever! I have a cupboard full of bulbs given by the electricity company (well, half a dozen or so) and it’s possible to buy them for 10p or so. I’ve changed virtually all the lights we use regularly to energy-savers – and will change the remainder when the current tungsten ones die. Normal incandescent lamps are fairly easy to change but reflector spotlights are more difficult. I’ve found some that are pretty good once they warm up (10 minutes’ notice required to boil the kettle in the kitchen!) but they are slow and quite expensive. I see that Gil Lec in Chesham are starting to sell LED bulbs which seem similar to the spots we have in the kitchen but I think they need different holders. I’ll have to investigate further.
I’ve also found some replacements for the PAR reflectors (the big spots) – we have some in Church. These are reportedly a higher wattage equivalent and are expected to last 15,000 hours which seems to be a double or triple advantage. We’ll see.
We have a large stock of tungsten bulbs in Church – presumably bought in bulk some time ago. I’m torn between being very green and discarding them, and keeping them till they are no longer available on the open market and then e-baying them for funds!
How are you doing changing over to energy-savers? What’s your experience?
Saturday, 5 December 2009
Friday, 4 December 2009
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Toffler also invented the term ‘Information Overload’ which well defines my problem in finding time for Christmas. I googled this and found a Guardian article – but this had been removed from the web because the copyright had expired (that’s a whole new theme!) The comments seem to endorse the problem.
The trick seems to be to find the right way of using the technology. Undoubtedly there are benefits: I still quote one of my computer friends’ Christmas e-mails. I had helped her set up her webcam and skype and she e-mailed me on 25th December that she had just successfully skyped to her family in New Zealand – great. I can remember some 35 years ago we had the son of a French friend to stay with us to improve his English. We had to book a telephone to Paris to tell his parents he had arrived safely.
However, I don’t seem to have mastered this trick. Phone calls are successful but the e-mails are stacking up. Today wasn’t helped by a long unproductive call to the tax man but the less said about that the better.
So no new actions for tomorrow but perhaps a better understanding of the problem.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
I don’t think I have really taken a risk with befriending anyone today. I have met a few new people or spent more time with people I’ve only met briefly before but I don’t think any of this qualifies. My telephoning (from Tuesday) has been more successful but I’m concerned that the e-mails are mounting up! I’ll have to work harder on this – perhaps tomorrow.
I’ve found a few other on-line Advent calendars. Woodlands Junior School in Kent, has a wonderful web site with an advent calendar that opens each day – I tried it a week or so ago and got a message “Hey, no peeking! Please come back to this page...” Each day seems to have a national flag and a dexcription of how Christmas is celebrated in that country – at least December 1 and 2 do. Take a look: www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/Xmas/calendar/ Look at the whole web site, too, it’s got lots of fun things for youngsters.
There’s also an advent calendar on the Oxford Diocese’s online church – i-church - www.i-church.org. This is very different – and the message you get when trying a later date is a little more refined! I’ll put links on the right so you can keep an eye on them through Advent.
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Lots of phone calls – and lots achieved with these. Also a long face-to-face meeting this morning that got much more done than a string of e-mails. However the ‘ruthless with the diary’ wasn’t so successful: I was doing fine until something cropped up that I hadn’t planned for and I had to spend time on it.
Last week I ranted about risk – in particular, how risk assessment is both becoming a meaningless bureaucratic process and is making us all unnecessarily risk-averse. In her sermon on Sunday, Rosie spoke about our need for closeness or intimacy with God. She went on to suggest that “the most real way we experience intimacy with God is by taking the risk of loving one another. This will sometimes go wrong and it will sometimes cause hurt, but because the love you have from God is utterly trustworthy you will be grounded enough to handle those risks –and more than that –you will begin to unfurl as a bud turning into a flower. You receive what you long for by giving it away!... Not for Paul the idea of loving God in an ivory castle -we know closeness to God through closeness to one another -warts and all!”
This message was mirrored in Monday’s Thought for the day on Radio 4’s Today. John Bell tells the story of meeting some youngsters in Vietnam. He took the risk of befriending them, resulting in an experience which will stay with him. He ends by saying that Advent is not about fairy lights or turkeys or little donkeys, “...It’s about God taking the risk of entrusting Himself to people who did not know Him, some of whom being of no religious persuasion, so that they might touch Him”
So tomorrow: take a risk and talk to, and perhaps befriend someone who you don’t know.
Monday, 30 November 2009
I’m also looking hard at e-mail communications. There are lots of apocryphal stories: I remember hearing about a work colleague who only reacted to the second e-mail on any topic (the one beginning ‘did you get my note about....’) He argued that if it was important they’d send the second note, otherwise someone else would respond. Another suggestion was not to respond to any e-mail on which you were copied, i.e. not a direct addressee. Another is to keep the addressee lists as short as possible. I’m not sure that any of these are realistic.
I’ve already started trying to phone rather than e-mail where this is appropriate. The advantage is that usually the point can be resolved immediately. There are disadvantages, too: only one other person can take place and he or she must be there when the call is made. An e-mail has the advantage of being asynchronous. But the volume of e-mails is rather daunting: I was away from Tuesday last week, returning on Friday afternoon: I had 150 e-mails in my inbox. Quite a few were marketing ones (do you get several e-mails a day from Vistaprint?) but there were still 100-odd significant ones.
So to start, I’m going to try the following:
- Be ruthless with the diary: plan to spend periods on certain activities and keep to the plan as much as possible
- Manage e-mail activity down: telephone if practical, don’t perpetuate large distribution lists and don’t respond unless contributing – although a simple acknowledgement that a message has been received is often important
- One thing at a time: complete an activity before switching; we used to call this ‘completed staff work’
Do you want to try with me?
Sunday, 29 November 2009
We all seem very pressed these days – I had hoped to spend some time in November planning this Advent blog but I seem to have run out of time. We had a few days away last week and I came back to 150 e-mails which I haven’t cleared yet. So I thought I’d try to manage my time a little better and share my ideas. I don’t think this will cover every day so I’ll mix with some other suggestions to help us make more of Christmas.
If you have any ideas to help me, please add them as a comment or contact me directly. And of course in the spirit of the calendar, do try to join in and share your thoughts.
Thursday, 19 November 2009
I’ve been uncomfortable for some time about the Risk Assessment processes promoted by the government Health and Safety Executive. I have a number of concerns. Firstly ‘Assessment’ is passive: the dictionary defines it as ‘the act of judging or deciding the amount, value, quality or importance of something’ so it doesn’t suggest doing anything other than judging. I’m also concerned that Risk Assessments are viewed as a piece of bureaucracy. Once done, they can be filed away and forgotten. I was once told by a Young Enterprise student who was involved in an event at the school “don’t worry about the risk assessment, the office is doing that for us.” The HSE web site information tends to support these concerns.
Risk Management is a much better description of what needs to be done: assess the risks and then manage them. To be fair the HSE documentation does include as step 3 ‘what are you already doing’ and ‘what further action is necessary’ but the concept of actively managing the risks is absent. Risk management needs to be an integral part of the management of any initiative or activity. It needs to be balanced, so it shouldn’t take over, neither should it attempt to eliminate risks. Risk awareness is key: understanding the outstanding risks and, in particular, the potential impact of these. I regularly see people taking silly unnecessary risks – especially ones where the chance of them occurring is slim but the impact very serious. Walking along a country road with no pavement on the wrong (left) side is an example – crossing to face the traffic is simple and may avoid a fatal accident. I always give parked cars a very wide berth if there’s nobody coming the other way: the chance of a door opening or someone stepping out is small but the potential very serious. Neither of these situations is covered by Risk Assessment.
The reading, by the way, was a version of the parable of the ten pounds (Luke 19 12-28). The verse which I recognise as ‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away’ was quoted as ‘He said, “That's what I mean: Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag.”’ The full parable can be read in the two versions here and here.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
Here’s a simple starter: do you still buy bottled water? The evidence is that fewer of us are: sales are down – maybe a recessional effect. But I still see people walking around with bottles – and how come many people can’t last through a visit to the theatre without swigging from a bottle of water?
We’re lucky here that the tapwater is pretty good. I think ours comes direct from a borehole along the Rignall Road towards Great Missenden. But is fairly highly chlorinated and doesn’t taste too good direct from the tap. However, we keep a couple of bottles in the fridge. These we fill from the tap but leave an air space for the chlorine to evaporate. After a day or so the water is wonderful. Give it a try!
Thursday, 5 November 2009
You can listen to Thought for today here:
Saturday, 31 October 2009
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Are we any better? Let’s look at Snow’s later comparison (he admitted that thermodynamics may be rather advanced.) Could you give a simple explanation of mass, acceleration, antibiotics, cable-stayed bridges? What about Romeo and Juliet, The Mona Lisa, The Hobbit, African Queen? No googling!
There’s an article in today’s Times by William Waldegrave in which he claims that we can be more optimistic about bridging this gap. The comments on this article don’t seem to agree.
There was another related report on Today yesterday. An analysis of science students’ essays showed significantly more spelling and grammatical errors in UK students’ work than the essays from overseas students. So perhaps the budding scientists are still backward at the art of communicating in English. We could argue, of course, that communication skills are so fundamental that they should permeate all cultures. You can hear the Today item here.
I’ve been increasingly concerned about a different set of cultures – those of the public and private sector. We’ve seen attempts to impose the practices from the latter on the former with limited success. So are we seeing another division of the world? More of this later.
Postscript: I’ve just spotted two radio programs discussing the CP Snow lecture in the present context. I haven’t listened yet but I’ll try to do so soon.
Times Waldegrave article
BBC Two Cultures broadcasts
Thursday, 1 October 2009
But I think collaborative thinking is broader than that: how can we better capture the intelligence of groups of people? I’m not sure that intelligence is the right word. How can we channel that intelligence (or whatever) into a benefit? Let’s examine Tim’s key themes:
NUMBERS are important: critical mass, yes, but the chance of channelling many people into a coherent direction diminishes with numbers. And the number of potential interactions increases rapidly: perhaps someone can comment on the mathematical formula which I’ve forgotten but the argument goes something like this: two people have one link, three have three, four have six, five people have fifteen links and so on. Networking and technology help, of course.
NETWORKING enhances collaboration: I don’t have a problem with this – sharing and discussing ideas with others usually results in expansion of ideas. Technology enhances this, too, although I haven’t seen much expansion of ideas on Facebook!
SELF-ORGANISATION is essential: I do have a problem with this, at least if some positive aim is envisaged. I agree that many aspects of how a group should operate can be left to the group, but some guidance needs to be given or agreed otherwise the direction will be unpredictable – and the group may go round in circles. When I was involved in managing complex business projects, we often stressed the need to have clear objectives which should not be confused with tasks or activities – what has to be achieved rather than what has to be done.
Learning takes place in CONVERSATION often resulting in individual action: I’m not sure what this means. Is it about learning or action? Do collaborative groups not take decisions often because it’s very difficult in this environment to do so? Group decision making is difficult, although I have witnessed something very surprising in Young Enterprise companies. These are groups of 10-20 students – 16-17 year-olds – who are running their own company. On several occasions I have watched as a fairly rowdy bunch of students will debate an important decision in seemingly chaotic manner – but after 5-10 minutes the group will come to a consensus with which they all agree (or which they all accept). The process by which they arrived at this is still a mystery to me!
We need a DUAL ECONOMY: I interpret this as relating the infrastructure to the loosely-coupled group. Tim says ‘collaboration makes failure cheap’ – in financial terms perhaps but in terms of motivation and continuation of any collaborative activity surely failure risks disillusion. I’ve been involved in failures in the organised world and we simply picked up the pieces and move on, but in a collaborative world I’m sure people would walk away.
TECHNOLOGY affects collaboration: yes! But can it be made to work? People have differing views of technology, differing skills and differing levels of willingness to participate. In one of my last assignments with IBM I ran an international team that was located across the world. We met every six weeks or so and we operated through e-mail and conference calls. But the most powerful tool was a messenger: we could see when our colleagues were at their desks and we could chat as if we were in the same office. I’ve used the term ‘next-desk thinking’ – behaving as though we were in the same room. We also had to develop other ways of operating remotely – body-language is very difficult to interpret on a telephone call! So technology can enhance collaboration but it can also be an inhibitor. There’s no substitute for talking face-to-face.
SPIRITUALITY should not be overlooked: I need more time to relate to this.
Perhaps I’m coming to all this from a very different background. I subscribe to a series of reports from a web site that claims to provide real world advice on how to make technology work in business. I’ve just been sent a link to an entry from a ‘leadership coach’ – from the US of course – giving nine tips to improve effectiveness as a leader. I don’t think they conflict with Tim’s points but they make interesting reading. There’s a link to the full set below but three of the tips struck me:
- Go to other people’s offices for meetings –easier to get away than to get rid of visitors
- Snooze – my sailing friend Ian is a very keen on this
- Act like a lady – you need to read the explanation of this one!
Monday, 14 September 2009
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
By the way Heathrow was deserted: this was the terminal 1 arrivals waiting area at 8 pm tonight – a sign of the recession?
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Saturday, 5 September 2009
All Waterhouse’s women seem to have the same expression – perhaps he only had one model!
The Pitmen Painters was great. It is written by Lee Hall of Billy Elliot fame and has some common threads with that tale. It’s based on a true story of a group of miners from near Newcastle who in 1935 start painting as part of a WEA Art Appreciation class. Several of them were undoubtedly very talented but they continued to go down the mine, painting only as a pastime. Like Billy Elliot, it is a story of development of hidden talent in people of unexpected background. The play is very light-hearted but also very moving. They project many images of the miners’ paintings during the play. Unfortunately there are no images on the web – only the small ones on the website of the Ashington group, the trust that now owns them: http://www.ashingtongroup.co.uk/
The play is touring the UK soon and there is talk of a west end transfer: if you get a chance, do go and see it.
Back to Waterhouse: there was a wonderful St Cecilia: perhaps the RA would loan it to us if we dedicated Little Hampden Church to her!
I've put some links in the 'links' panel to the right.
Sunday, 30 August 2009
Saturday, 29 August 2009
And now for something completely different: there was a wedding at Little Hampden this morning. The registers we are currently using started in 1840 – note that neither bride, nor groom nor the witnesses in marriage number 2 could write.
Today’s couple were number 69.
Friday, 28 August 2009
It’s been a hard week, particularly with mixed weather, but Will and Helen have achieved their target: across the North of England from coast to coast and back. They should be back in Great Missenden on Sunday – come to St Peter & St Paul to welcome them home.
If you haven’t sponsored them yet, it’s not too late: email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Birdoswald is here
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And here is how they are doing on a larger map
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Tuesday, 25 August 2009
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Monday, 24 August 2009
Sunday, 23 August 2009
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Saturday, 22 August 2009
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Friday, 21 August 2009
Will Dixon and Helen Bickerstaff are starting their 310 mile sponsored cycle ride tomorrow. They plan to cycle the C2C and Reivers Paths – from Whitehaven to Teignmouth and back – in 6 days, up to 60 miles a day. They are hoping to send me brief reports at the end of each day which I’ll relay here. The ride is in support of the proposed renewable energy projects at St Peter & St Paul, Gt Missenden: the Church is attempting to install solar panels which will enable it to generate more energy that it uses. A number of grants have already been promised towards this project.
If you haven’t sponsored Helen and Will yet, e-mail me and I’ll send you details.
More information on the cycle routes are on the web sites – links in the ‘links’ entries to the right.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Sunday, 9 August 2009
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
The two calls to the US allowed me to meet Joe, our new Youth Worker’s husband, and to discuss the process they have to go through to get their visas. We were able to debate the relative bureaucracies of our two countries. Both have introduced new rules recently which will result in or new team member crossing the Atlantic three times.
All this positive use of technology (OK, I’m a technophile) contrasts with Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ condemnation of social networking. My rather limited experience of youngsters and these sites is that they use them to continue communications and relationships that they have made in person, not as a substitute for personal links. The comments on The Times web article are mainly anti – although I guess people who comment on a web site are not a cross section of society. I think that these communications tools, used sensibly, are a big benefit to society and to blame them or suggest banning them is no help. As some of the comments say, the problems lie elsewhere and some positive suggestions would be a help.
In contrast to this, Brenda has spent the day making jam: we picked 4½ kilos of gooseberries and 2 kilos of blackcurrants yesterday and there’s more in the garden.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
The mystery was rather spoiled when they described the background to the picture... no, I won’t let on.
Saturday, 11 July 2009
I’ve just arrived back from an interesting time on the boat. No sailing, just cleaning and tidying up, although I did try to get into the jetty to fill up the water tank, but I failed. I thought I’d worked out the tide but there wasn’t enough depth so I gave up.
The first interesting event was the egg. We have some inverted plastic gutters on the deck to prevent the ropes which come from the mast to the cockpit from chafing the spray dodger when it’s folded. These are the standard half-round guttering resting upside down on the deck. When I moved one of these to scrub the deck, I found this egg. I’m not sure what bird laid it but there are lots of terns and oyster catchers around. But why leave it here – presumably it wouldn’t be able to incubate it.
Then there were then some interesting exchanges on the VHF. The first was between Solent Coastguard and a vessel in some difficulty: a 23M power boat whose both engines had failed and was unable to anchor because it had no power! 23M is enormous – 75 feet. They sent out the Portsmouth inshore lifeboat. There were no further communications so I’m not sure how a 5M RIB got on with a 23M vessel. The other notable communication was about a laser dinghy that had got into difficulty just inside Newtown Creek. A passing boat had called the coastguard who had located the rescue boat. The coastguard asked the boat that was standing by to tell the dinghy to say where it was because the rescue boat was on its way. The coastguard ended by saying “Thank you very much for going to the assistance of the dinghy and for relaying communications” – they are always so courteous and calm. I hope I never have to call them but it’s very comforting to know how professional they are.
Portsmouth Harbour is a navy establishment and all commercial shipping movements and many leisure ones have to be authorised by the Queen’s Harbour Master – QHM. It’s amusing to listen in to the QMH conversations: they are always very courteous and gentlemanly. “QHM this is St Clare. Request permission to leave The Camber. Over” “ St Clare, QHM, Yes, thank you, that’s approved” “QHM St Clare. Thank you, Sir” Today the Brittany Ferries ‘Mont St Michel’ was coming into harbour – presumably on a fairly fast incoming tide. There’s a 10kt speed limit in the harbour and approaches – particularly for these big ferries. The conversation went something like “Mont St Michel this is QHM. Please check your speed” “QHM this is Mont St Michel. What is the speed limit?” “Mont St Michel this is QHM, the speed limit is ten knots over the ground, sir” I don’t think there were any further exchanges but the Mont St Michel was seen a few minutes later travelling through the harbour very slowly. International incident avoided.