Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Tuesday 31 March

Letting go didn’t get me closer to the action but it felt quite good except that I’m further behind. Lots of outstanding actions from last week which I’ll carry forward to this. It’s actually a good week to look at the international sections of newspapers and to contact my MP about a global poverty issue. Contacting a family member I haven’t seen for a while will be a big challenge: I have no close family that I don’t see regularly. I’ll have a think about this one.

Feed the birds: we do regularly, and our squirrel who has no virtually destroyed one of our feeders. The other is squirrel-proof but he tries this, too.

Tonight’s programme on BBC2 Did Darwin Kill God? was an excellent argument for both evolution and God: catch it on the BBC iplayer if you get a chance.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Monday 30th March

Following Eddie's guidance from last evening, I've let go today...

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Sunday 29 March - Birmingham

I felt a little guilty taking a break in Birmingham during lent but there were a number of interesting points. The first was with reference to the current financial situation. Walking round the shops on Friday, it was buzzing (why aren’t all these people at work - perhaps they have lost their jobs) but there were quite a few empty shops. Woolworths is always a stark reminder but several others showed sings - either closing down or sales or just abandoned. And although the streets were busy several of the shops were empty of customers.

The restaurants were interesting. Perhaps I’ll cover these in more detail after lent but Birmingham has many excellent places to eat in a very small area. Both places we tried were full of customers and showed no signs of the credit crunch. Perhaps as always the situation has divided further the haves and the have-nots.
We did some culture, too. The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery had a number of special exhibitions: the famous contemporary of Turner and Constable, David Cox (who?) His paintings, virtually all watercolours of landscapes, had similarities with Turner or Constable. There were hardly any portraits, but the one or two drawings of buildings were fantastic - the light and shadows were great. There was also an exhibition of Edward Burne-Jones’ Perseus series. These were great, too - except that all the people looked similar: all sad, all faces tilted about 15 degrees!

But most moving in the current situation was the original of Ford Maddox Brown’s ‘The Last of England’ showing a family emigrating sadly from England.

We also visited St Martin’s in the Bullring: the parish Church which is right in the centre of The Bullring. They had a ‘Journey of the Heart’ - an interactive prayer journey to experience the emotions of Christ as He faced the cross. More of this later.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Saturday 28th March

We're just back from a break in Birmingham. Although this is probably not high on anybody's list for a weekend away, it's a great place. Quite a few lenten thoughts, too. I'll update later.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Thursday 26 March

Wednesday 25 March

Say a prayer for someone who is unwell or in need.

Lots of good reasons for this today.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Tuesday 24th March

A busy day so not much time to look at the LLLL book today. I nearly had a chance to babysit for grandchildren (we are friends - the book says Offer to babysit for friends) but the cinema was sold out. Hang on, it says ‘offer’ so I can claim that.

I’ve scanned the IHT tonight: the lead story is about the coalition government in Israel which they say paves the way for a broader and less hawkish one than Benjamin Netanyahu would have had to settle for. The Times, too, says the coalition is to ‘tame the hawks’ - this must be good news in an area that seems hardly to be moving towards any sort of peace. USA Today, a newspaper I found very insular in it’s home format, leads on the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska which occurred on 24 March 1989. their top foreign story is about the Russian bail-out of the traditional souvenirs - nesting dolls. The IHT lead European story is about a nostalgic return to public patrols - which were rife in the communist era. Both the IHT and USA Today cover the arrest of a 17-year-old for the killing of the policeman in Ireland.

Helen raised the issue in her comment (posted before this was updated) about the price and value of free-range, local food. One of the LLLL actions is to Buy something that is in season from a local shop. I’ll try to do some research on this and report back.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Monday 23rd March

No posting yesterday - and some other non actions. I decided a day with the family was needed. Four grandchildren kept us busy! One of week 3’s actions was Limit yourself to checking emails or texts only once today. I managed a day with no computer: and I wasn’t suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Week 5 contains some challenges but also some interesting opportunities. Read the international section of a newspaper of web site for a week. I thought I’d try the International Herald Tribune: I used to think UK papers covered world news much better than the foreign ones I saw regularly (USA and France) but I think that was a biassed view because they had little UK news. How much French news do we carry in our papers? The IHT today has stories about how Russia will have to face the economic crisis with a much diminished revenue stream for the government. In it’s Europe section, it reports that there are signs that Nicolas Sarkozy realises he can’t wait or stonewall his way out of the crisis. His prevously-reported view that France wasn’t suffering like the rest of the world may now be wrong. The Times’ Sarko story today is about how he has upset teachers and purists with his fondness for sounding like a matey, ordinary bloke. The only UK news on the IHT web site is about Jade Goody. I’ve put a link to the IHT on my links section.


I spotted a story in the press at the weekend about David Hockney. He has started creating computer-generated art. He has often embraced modern techniques: he had a phase of using multiple polaroid photographs - have a look at his web site. David Hockney was visiting the San Marco monastery in Florence the same time as us a few years ago. We chatted a couple of times: he was critical of how the frescoes had been ‘repainted’ (they had been restored recently) but I remember particularly him gazing at the sunlight in the library: he was taking in the light on the arches, columns and floor. I think I saw it through his eyes. I also remember a TV programme many years ago when computer graphics were in their infancy. They gave a series of artists the new technology to play with: most were lost but Hockney thought it was wonderful. I remember particularly a comment: "of course, anyone watching this at home has an original Hockney" I thin it’s unlikely that I’ll own another one: the computer art prints are reportedly to be sold for between £7,000 and £20,000.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Saturday 21 March

After yesterday, it’s been a quiet day at home. Yesterday ended with a Little Hampden get-together at the Rising Sun - the first follow-on after the Friday evening when we were snowed in. We had a quiz organised by Becky and Alvin - and our team won! However, the big success was another community activity. One of the actions this week was Have coffee or lunch with someone you don’t know very well so although it wasn’t lunch, I did spend some time with neighbours whom I don’t know that well. We have another provisional date in the diary in a month or so.

I don’t like to be complacent but I never let the tap run while cleaning my teeth.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Friday 20th March

After a not very good day yesterday (I didn’t get to update later as I promised) I achieved a number of things today. We went down to Gosport and while Brenda was visiting Gunwharf Keys, I went to the Hardway Marine to buy some bits and pieces. It was a wonderful day so I walked along the edge of the harbour. The slipway (in the picture) was built for the embarkation of the fleet for the Normandy landings - 65 years ago this year. It was difficult not to be taken in by the beauty of the day and the historical context of the surroundings. So the action Go for a walk in your neighbourhood and pray about what you see was impossible to resist.

I also walked around Gosport (God’s Port) where I found a Mind charity shop. This is a charity I support regularly so I thought there’d be a good opportunity to complete another action: Buy something from a charity shop and reverse haggle. I found two books - they were offering the cheaper one free. The lady was rather taken aback when I said I’d pay for both but she didn’t need much persuading. I then asked for her to keep most of the change: I had to explain but she accepted and was pleased in the end. So two actions today.

A little more about Gosport: walking further down from the slipway, I saw this hulk on the shore. I’ve no idea how old it was but it had been a wooden vessel with very heavy timber frames about a foot square. Gosport has built a millenniums walkway along much of the harbour edge with thousands of sponsored tiles with names of individuals and families - a great way to remember.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

19 March - what can I claim today?

I must study thebook to see what I can put down today. I have met two people who have given up chocolate. I'll update later...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

18th March - not too successful

One action left over from week 2 is Hold a fund-raising tea break. I was manning the Church Office today so I thought I’d do a variation on this and offer tea or coffee to all the visitors in return for a donation to the lent appeal. So I set off with extra milk. I only had two visitors? the first one didn’t want tea or coffee. So I made one cup of fruit tea and put £1 in the lent box. But I did try.

Where are you bloggers?

I share Helen’s concern: is no-one else trying to follow the various Lent activities? I think a number of people are reading our attempts but not sharing their experiences. Go on - have a go - it’s not difficult.

Larva lamp

I forgot to say: several people said my mystery bottle is the remains of a larva lamp.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

17th March - neighbourhood clean-up

Two weeks ago one of the actions was Do a neighbourhood or garden clean-up. After noticing particularly the litter along the road yesterday, I decided to take a bag and pick some up. I filled the bag easily with a range of stuff - including some recyclable cans (6) and plastic bottles (3). The rest included a lamp shade and this bottle - which seems to be for display only.

Has anyone any idea what it is? The cap, which is not easily removable, is marked ‘Caution: not to ingest, warranty void if opened’ this is repeated in French and German. I was pleased to recycle the cans and bottles; the rest is for landfill: sorry about the Elizabeth Wintgens plastic bag but at least it shows we shop locally.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Monday 16th March - start of week 4

... and end of week 3. Quite a lot left over from last week and the previous one: I carried a £1 coin, uncertain where to leave it. I think I left an extra pound in the kitty on Friday evening in the pub. I was hoping to pick up some of the litter in Little Hampden - I'll carry this forward to this week. I did take a picture of a Pepsi can in the woods today: I don't understand who visits us and then drops litter like this; we have very few casual visitors other than those who come to enjoy the countryside and surely they won't drop litter. A fund-raising tea break, too, is quite a challenge: the only potential is in the Church Office and I don't think I could charge visitors there!

Week 4 - a few opportunities here. I can claim the environmental one of turning off the tap while brushing my teeth. Boating - where one has to be fairly careful with water - teaches one lots of tricks. I always have a 'boat shower' - don't leave the water running all the time!

I walked down to the post this morning and met Louise and her daughter, so a prayer for the family - and the new baby expected soon.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Sunday 15 March - first baptism with holding crosses and YE

Today William was baptised and given the first of the new holding crosses. His mother allowed me to take these photos - of the cross but William is really the star!

Young Enterprise Presentation Day

I’ve not thought much about the Love Life Live Lent actions this weekend - but in the spirit of gratuitous giving, I think today’s YE event was exemplary. We had 60-odd students from the nine YE companies presenting their successes to a full auditorium. The standard was very high this year and I was delighted that the company from The Misbourne won the Premier Company award with their internet radio station. They are broadcasting 24 hours a day from their studio in the school: they don’ have to attend all the time because they have computer-based broadcasting systems which play out their prepared playlist and pre-recorded links. They are claiming 70,000 hits on their web site and 2,000 listeners. There’s a link on the right.

The gratuitous giving link is the team of business advisers who give their time and skill to support these students. Each YE company has two or three experienced business people to advise them - they only advise, the students run the companies. But it’s still a significant commitment of up to 2 hours per week in term time. However, when they see how well the students perform at an event like today’s they are invariable inspired to continue.

There’s a link to the Chiltern YE web site on the right and we’ll be putting some pictures on the site in a day or so.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Saturday 14th March

A busy day preparing for tomorrow's Young Enterprise Presentation Day in The Elgiva

Friday, 13 March 2009

Friday 13th March - holding crosses

Remember the holding crosses from a few weeks ago? The first to arrived yesterday in time for Sunday’s Baptism.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Thursday 12 March - Walk

'Walk or cycle a route you would normally drive' it said: I had to go up to Church and to the Misbourne school this afternoon so I drove to the Church, and left the car there. I walked down the footpath and over the open area next to the Abbey. I crossed the Misbourne (stream) on the bridge which, according to a notice on the path is a Victorian cast-iron bridge. I tried to find pictures of this on Google tonight but without luck. I'll take my camera next time. Not only was this greener than driving, it was a very pleasant walk.

Talking of green: Brenda has given me a book ' Shades of Green' by Paul Waddington. As the title implies, it gives varying degrees of greenness for a whole range of products and activities. I've only dipped into it so far but have been fascinated by some of the entries. A few examples:

Courgettes: Deep green is no courgettes because they have little nutritional value and are normally imported. Pale green is organic courgettes from Europe in spring and autumn only.

Bicycles: Quite green is a steel bike - better than aluminium because less energy is used in manufacture and they last longer. Not even a bit green - nothing: all bikes are green.

Coffee: Deep green is fairtrade, organic, shade-grown coffee. Dark green is dandelion-root coffee - but this has no caffeine. Not even a little bit green is decaffeinated instant coffee.

I think I'll be returning to this.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Wednesday 11th March - £1.40 a day

The contrast struck me last night between 18 shirts and £1.40 a day. I don’t think I can achieve this but I’m going to try to get close and record my experience. I’ve just finished breakfast - slightly less than normal - at an estimated 75p for food. I’m not going to try to guess power costs. And, of course, this would include delivered milk at 56p a pint and some fair trade items where there is a price premium. But I also had home made jam (blackberry and apple - all home grown) on my single piece of home-made toast.

Update - Lunch

Soup (Waitrose - but not one of the expensive ones) toast with spread on one half only; water: total 28p

Update - full day

I had a cup of Earl Grey tea this afternoon and tonight Brenda did a stir fry with vegetables from the garden. The only cost was 10p for egg noodles. So I estimate the full day at £1.50. I’ve included a breakdown below. I’m going to have a glass of wine to celebrate...

Tuesday 10th March

A busy day - but I did slow down again today: I had about 2 hours between sorting out a friend’s DVD writer (successfully - just) and leaving for a Young Enterprise meeting. I resisted the temptation to zoom through some e-mails and instead read the newspaper.

I’ve also been thinking about living on £1.40 a day. I assume this is eating only: there’s no chance of total costs being as low as this. I’ll have to think more about this challenge...

Monday, 9 March 2009

Monday 9th March - chores and FGP

I think I can tick off one of last week’s suggestions: Do a chore or errand for a member of your household. I ironed 18 shirts tonight - and a tablecloth and some napkins. I also savoured the experience of walking for the newspapers this morning: it was a beautiful clear morning and I took some pictures on the way. I’ve put one as today’s picture and I’ll post the rest when I get time.


I also think I must blog this - although it’s not a lent activity. I get e-mails of navigation warnings from QHM - the Queen’s Harbour Master of Portsmouth Harbour. The entire harbour is under MoD control and all movements are authorised by QHM - I’m not sure if disobedience counts as treason. The QHM Navwarn that arrived this morning said Motor Launch "Lynx Effect" is sunk in position 50 47.045N 001 10.905W (4.5 Cables to the North of Browndown Buoy) This is in our regular sailing area. So I thought I’d Google. Firstly Lynx Effect is that aftershave - their web site shows a video of a chap walking into a lamppost while looking at a girl. I thought there’d be a good accident ad from the sinking. Then I found some more sites: apparently, the launch caught fire spectacularly while on a training course - there are some amazing pictures on the training organisation’s web site - http://www.commodore-yachting.com/?p=597. The boat was obviously a total loss but unfortunately everyone was saved.

I noticed that the fenders were still out; not the done thing - but some power boats don’t seem to know this. I then found another site which seems to be comments by the sailing community on a number of issues including this one. One was Fenders out. Vulgar bloody peasants. Another: One down, millions more to go . . .

Oh FGP? - our term for power boats of a certain type: Floating Gin Palace

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Sunday 8th March - end of week 2

Last week has been difficult - as you can tell from the absence of postings since Wednesday. I’ve been looking for a real chore to do - something that is difficult or unplesant - but I haven’t succeeded yet. I’ll keep trying. Perhaps as Bishop Alan said this evening, we have everything so easy here in the home counties.

I’ve tried to take Rosie’s prompt - gratuitous kindness, but I’m not sure whether I’ve done much. I have unblocked e-mails from a friend’s son in NZ - she did say ‘consider this your best lenten deed to date !’ I also thought I’d walk round Little Hampden picking up some of the litter - but haven’t had a chance. I’ll try this coming week.

I do have lots of blessings - 3 a day is very easy: family, friends, living in a wonderful place, colleagues, good health, lots of interests, too much to do (boredom might be a relief occasionally!) I’ve bought Stephen Cottrell’s other ‘Do Nothing’ book but haven’t had a chance to open it yet... I’ll save that for after Lent.

It’s the run up to Chiltern Young Enterprise’s Presentation Day - next Sunday, in The Elgiva: if you’d like to go along to see what local students have achieved, just follow the link on the Chiltern YE web site here or in the links. I’ve been advising the Misbourne group this year. They started with the idea of a recipe book but soon dropped this in favour of an internet radio station. They’ve been on air 24hours a day since January. They relay a commercial station - legitimately - during the night but provide real broadcasting during the day. It’s all automated so they don't need to be in the studio all day (they have AS levels this year) but it all sounds very professional. The school has been very supportive, loaning them a room for a studio and providing other facilities. You can listen on their web site - http://www.chanceradio.co.uk/ - and I’m sure you’ll be surprised that this is entirely the work of a dozen 16-year-olds.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Wednesday 4th March

Very busy day so I failed to get lunch today. I did have a good breakfast at a networking meeting and some biscuits and a banana at about 5, but I think I can claim last week’s action to skip a meal and give the money to a charity working overseas.

This week’s actions are looking difficult. Fund-raising tea break isn’t really practical - I can’t see Brenda paying for tea! Buy a coffee - in Little Hampden? Perhaps I should get out more.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Tuesday 3rd March

Great lunch with David and Maggi today: the December advice to make contact rather than just send a Christmas card was excellent. We had a long natter about all sorts of things - mainly theatrical and we’ve agreed to meet again.

We also visited the Palladio exhibition at the RA today. It was fascinating but particularly seeing many of his original drawings - hence today’s picture. Interesting that most of these are owned by the RIBA: I assume we acquired them legitimately, not like the Chinese art that’s in the news today. It also struck me that Palladio had been such an enormout influence on architecture - particularly municipal and state buildings for so many years. We walked out of the RA building into the courtyard - completely Palladian - and into Piccadilly where a new office building at number 198-202, still unoccupied, although modern, has many of the features developed by Palladio. You can see this here.

Chore charts

I found this on the web when searching for 'Lent Chores.' Perhaps we can turn the action to do a chore for someone else into an effective sharing operation.


Monday, 2 March 2009

Monday 2nd March

Not much Lenten activity today. I've resisted the energy check (see Helen's comments) because I know we should fix roof insulation in the house but the rest is pretty difficult: no cavity walls in the old part (the extension we built when we moved in is well insulated). We have a complete range of windows from an original blacksmith's leaded light to double-glazed new windows. We've got secondary glazing on all the windows that aren't modern. But we do have a log-burning stove in the lounge - I think that's renewable, at least it is unless everyone starts chopping down trees for fuel.

One of the blessings of the day was the countryside: the green is just showing in the fields and catkins are out on lots of the trees.

Tomorrow we're meeting the friend I made contact with in December as a result of Stephen Cottrell's suggestion not just to write on Christmas Cards 'we must meet next year' - we have arranged to meet, and I hope we'll do so again during the year.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Lenten thoughts

End of the first week - at least I think it is: the LLLL book isn’t very clear. Anyway as Lent ends on Easter Saturday, I’m going for a short first week. This is the first year I’ve tried to do multiple things - and positive ones - rather than give something up. This approach doesn’t have the same constant reminder of the meaning of lent, but it is much more positive. I think I’ve done most of the actions suggested in the first week and have been on the lookout to find the right opportunities to do so.

The Tearfund activity for today was to Ask whether you can give a short notice or lead a prayer at church or in your home group. So I was pleased go be asked at fairly short notice to read the lesson in the family service this morning, particularly as the theme of the service was Water Aid.

Lent - Sundays?

I’ve done a little research on Lent. Wikipedia states quite clearly ‘In Western Christianity (with the exception of the Archdiocese of Milan which follows the Ambrosian Rite), Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday. The six Sundays in Lent are not counted among the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter", a celebration of Jesus' victory over sin and death’ I’ve also counted: if Lent is 40 days, the Sundays are not included: the Tearfund campaign has 46 days!

Relying on Wikipedia is not necessarily a good idea: have you heard of the obituaries of the composer Ronnie Hazlehurst who wrote the theme tunes for many TV programmes including The Two Ronnies, Reggie Perrin and Last Of The Summer Wine? Someone had put on his Wikipedia entry that he had also written Reach for S Club 7 (he hadn't, of course) This fact got into the obituaries published by The Times, The Independent, BBC News and The Stage. You can read about it here. So don’t rely on everything you read on the web.


Thank you Helen for keeping the feedback going - but were are the rest of you? In case you’ve tried and failed, here again is the short guide to help you.