Thursday, 24 December 2009

Contingency plans

What’s the weather going to do over the next few days? The roads have been very icy the last few mornings but tonight we’ve had rain and the snow appears to be thawing. We’ve cancelled the 8:00am Christmas Service at St Peter & St Paul: it’s just too risky at that time in the morning. The Crib Service, 4:30 Christmas Eve will be in the School Hall – this is better than the Oldham Hall because there’s a stage and the children will be more visible. For the other two services we’ve got contingency plans: the Midnight Communion at 11:30pm (which includes the 9 Carols and Lessons) and the 10:00am Christmas Communion on Christmas Day will either be in the Church or the Oldham Hall. I think by the look of the rain this evening we may be lucky.

The Ballinger services (Christingle at 3:00pm and Midnight at 11:30pm) will take place as scheduled.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Finding time

Another busy day but at least we can get around. A little ribbing from friends about the 4x4 but we’d be completely snowed in without it. Should I be doing some carbon trading to compensate?

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


Out of the village today courtesy of Becky. I’ve decided that we need to be mobile over the next few days and the forecast is not good so I’ve hired a 4x4. The change from isolation to freedom – at least comparative freedom - made me think of all the people at home and round the world who don’t have our freedom to travel, to access information, to make friends.... So spare a thought and a prayer for the oppressed everywhere.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Eventful weekend...

... or not. Lots of phone calls, texts and e-mails about the snow and possible cancellations of Church things, but we were snowed-in up here at Little Hampden so Neta and her band of helpers had all the real work. The Dahl concert was cancelled – a wise decision because, apart from the difficulty in walking, parking would have been very dangerous on the slopes. A pity because this is a significant fund-raiser but I think most performers gave their time free so not too bad. We just held one service at Great Missenden – in the Church Hall. Our Carol Service at Little Hampden went ahead but we advised people who usually come from outside the village not to risk the ungritted lane. This included the clergy so it was a real do-it-yourself service. Thanks are due particularly to Mary and Geoff who helped with music, prayers and a talk. We had 45 in the congregation – there were only 48 at Great Missenden. It’s not competitive, of course, but as the 48 included three of our regulars we claim a draw. We didn’t, however, have a bishop arriving on a sledge!

From Christmas Cards and Notelets 2009 - possible pictures

Saturday, 19 December 2009


Beautiful snow today. Getting around is difficult but this beauty makes up for closed roads, no mains gas, broadband less than 1Mbps...
From Snow at Little Hampden December 09

From Snow at Little Hampden December 09

From Snow at Little Hampden December 09

Friday, 18 December 2009

Snow makes time

8 inches of snow (sorry, 200mm) forced a stay-at-home day. I had promised to help with copying and stapling – sorry Elizabeth! I even resisted taking pictures although this morning with the blue sky was wonderful. I did take one from the front door – the clear patches were caused by the wind – there was really 200mm in places!

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

Contact with friends

One of the suggestions in last year’s Advent ‘Do Nothing for Christmas’ was to make contact with someone who has been on the card list but with whom I’d had no contact for some time. I reconnected with David, an ex work colleague – we had spent many enjoyable days together on various project before we retired. The result was an extremely enjoyable meal together – David and his wife share our interest in the theatre. We agreed at the time to meet again and perhaps share some theatre trips.

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

Children at Christmas

Here’s a statistic that should make you stop and think. I was thinking about children in difficulty over Christmas – and juxtaposing this with yesterday’s story about the homeless, so I did some research and found one statistic repeated many times: there are 130,000 homeless children in the UK. They’re not all on the streets like the WWNS guests, but B&B or temporary accommodation are not the right place for children at any time, and particularly not at Christmas.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Homeless at Christmas

One of last Christmas’s suggestions was to find out about the homeless locally. This led to my contact with the Wycombe Winter Night Shelter and a supporting them through the period of their operations – January to March – last year. We are supporting them as one of the Christmas charities in Church and I’ll be suggesting my IT Friends donate to them again in the first three months next year. I just hope I’ll have more time to sort out PC problems than I have had this quarter.

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

Christmas Lights

The puds have been steaming all day – not the greenest of food! But what about Christmas Lights? I haven’t seen any OTT examples yet this year – here are some I spotted last year.

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.

Green Christmas

Save time – and the environment (a little) by getting your Christmas groceries delivered rather than visiting the supermarket. We’ve got a slot booked on the 18th. No doubt there’ll be last-minute items requiring some local shopping but an internet order saves time (I think) and carbon footprint. I’m not sure if we should share our order with the family who are with us over Christmas. When we all went away together in the summer, daughter-in-law Gayle placed an order for things like disposable nappies but she made the mistake of offering the order to the rest of us. So we had great fun adding – and changing – Gayle’s order. I think my credit card was used in the end, of course!

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

Finding time

Three days with no time to blog – but I have found time to be with friends and the family – including young Alfie’s Christmas service at St Peter & St Paul, Tring today. This was the Tring Stepping Stones pre-school group. The costumes we wonderful and most of the youngsters knew the carols.

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 – – 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

Copenhagen starts tomorrow

When I started this Advent section of my blog I had hoped to give some suggestion each day – in the same vein as the book I followed last year – and report my experiences. I’ve failed so far. I also thought I’d include some environmental suggestions. Tomorrow sees the start of the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change – see the official web site. I’m not sure how much a big political event like this can achieve: bringing increased awareness and acceptance would be good but I’m suspicious that anything more will be political rather than real.

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

The Panto

Plenty of time for Christmas today - at the Panto!

Click on the slideshow to see bigger pictures:

Information Overload - getting there

No time for Christmas today but I've got my inbox down to single figures - except that I have 50-odd e-mails waiting. But I'm getting there!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Information Overload

Bishop Alan’s blog ( today has given me some new thoughts about finding time. He questions how the Church should react to the new media. How or even should the Church position itself to take advantage of the new communication capabilities. What new training or skill development is needed. Which of these technologies could be used to advantage. The entry reminded me of Alvin Toffler’s ‘Future Shock’ written in 1970 in which he forecast that as society develops from a industrial to a informational one, the rate of change of things will continue to increase and people will become increasingly disconnected and suffering from future shock. We’ve certainly seen the rate of change of technology and communication increasing relentlessly: I spoke on this blog about change in January. I quoted £4 for 1Gb memory card; today 2Gb costs £4.50 and 4Gb £7.50. That’s about doubling in a year. And next year?

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

Some other Advent calendars


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: 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 - 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

Take a risk


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.

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