Thursday, 30 April 2009

National Memorial Arboretum

On the day of the memorial service to the 179 British service people who lost their lives in Iraq, it's appropriate to talk about our visit last week to the National Memorial Arboretum. The Arboretum is a 150 acre site in the National Forest between Burton and Lichfield. It commemorates
  • those who have given their lives in the service of their country,
  • all who have served and those who have suffered as a result of conflict,
  • others who for specific or appropriate reasons are commemorated on the site.

The 50,000 trees around the site are planted in varying patterns as memorial to a whole range of organisations and individuals. There is an avenue of chestnuts funded by all the police forces in the UK. Included are trees grown from conkers collected at Drayton Manor, home of Sir Robert Peel. There are memorials to regiments, to campaigns and to prisoners of war.

On a mound in the centre is the Armed Forces Memorial, a stone circle engraved with the names of all the members of the forces who have given their lives since World War 2. The Memorial has slits in two of the walls. These are aligned so that a shaft of sunlight will fall on the central wreath sculpture at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Two things were particularly moving: firstly, the blank walls waiting for names. The second was finding the name of David Tinker, brother of a neighbour, who was killed on the last day of the Falklands War. His father published a book of David's poems and letters from the Falklands; Mark has given me a copy.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Saturday - the bed...

Children have a habit of organising: daughter had been offered a bed that son might find useful for grandson. So we drove from Tring to Leicester with tailgate ajar. On arrival we discovered that, although the house is modern, the staircase is restricted - so nogo. After an evening with the bed standing in the hall we decided that the window was the answer. So following a trip to the nearest garden centre to buy some strong black plastic to stop the bed being torn on the roof tiles, we started the project. Some careful measurement was necessary but once we were going everything went very well as the pictures show.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Wednesday 22 April

Just back from a short visit to Lichfield with some friends. Here are the first pictures. More to follow.

Click to see bigger versions

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Sunday 19 April - Spring and really green?

Spring has arrived again at Little Hampden - the bluebells are coming out. Click on the slideshow to see bigger versions.

Food miles

The Big Issue I bought last week had an interesting article on research done by the organic food company Riverford. Much of the data is counter-intuitive: for example bringing tomatoes from Spain or Italy at this time of year generates significantly less CO2 than using home-grown or northern-European ones which require heat to develop. Riverford has also gone back to using non-degradable plastic bags - mainly because they expect their customers to send them back so they can be reused many times. The arguments for these and their other green innovations can be found by clicking on the 'How green are we?' link on the Riverford web site It all makes interesting reading and challenges some of the simplistic green arguments.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Thursday 16 April

In the continuing spirit of Lent, I bought a copy of The Big Issue today in Chesham. Only a small action - but '... change the world for good a little bit every day.'

I hear that Tate Britain is to mount a William Blake exhibition showing many of the paintings he showed in a one man show in 1809. The latter was a flop, getting only a single press review and that was very negative: "a farrago of nonsense, unintelligibleness, and egregious vanity, the wild effusions of a distempered brain." The Tate is bringing together again many of the original 16 paintings - now worth millions.

We also bought a great bottle of Santorini wine - do rush down to Waitrose and try it. It was reduced to about £7 so not exactly a bargain. Santorini is fascinating: we have sailed into the caldera twice. The edge of the crater is 300M high and the island in the centre is still active. But the wine is great!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Wednesday 15 April - reflections

Looking back over Lent and the Love Life Live Lent book with its actions, I have mixed feelings. It was certainly more varied and thoughtful than simply giving up chocolate or wine and it kept the Lent story in my mind. Some of the suggestions were fairly easy, others challenging but very satisfying when I did complete them. Some were inappropriate or just impractical - buying a coffee and giving it to someone on the way to work is not easy with my lifestyle and in Little Hampden! Others I just ducked - these left me uneasy as if I had sneaked a piece of chocolate.

The introduction to the LLLL book by the archbishops says "... with God's help we can change the world for good a little bit every day. Each of us can be the change we want to see in the world." So we need to continue - "Change is for life, not just for Lent" perhaps. I'll try to continue, quoting the LLLL icons when I do achieve something. And I'll accept reasonable challenges in the spirit of the book - so get commenting.

Where now?

I'm going to continue blogging, not every day (see below) and broaden again to cover lots of activities including, but not limited to

  • a whole range of Churchwarden activities: there are some mundane ones related to the fabric and some more important ones such as changes to the service structure at Little Hampden to encourage new members without alienating the existing ones.

  • green activities: I mentioned the book I was given some time ago: I'll challenge the members of the Church Environment Group to try some of its suggestions - and, I hope, come up with some of their own.

  • slowing down: I've bought but not yet started Stephen Cottrell's "Do Nothing to Change Your Life" I tried letting go a week or so ago and this didn't work very well - I now have 362 e-mails in my inbox. I think this is one reason why I won't blog every day - but who knows? There was an article in the paper yesterday "Slow Down London gives city time to relax" and there's a web site

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter Day

Celebrate Easter. Alleluia! I certainly did today, starting at 6am (but no sunrise) and through to choral evensong this evening.

What next?

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Saturday 11 April

I polished Brenda’s shoes this afternoon.

I wondered why this is a suggested action this week - is it the modern equivalent of the washing of the feet?

Friday, 10 April 2009

Good Friday

Stations of the Cross

This afternoon’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ meditation was wonderful. A thoughtful, peaceful evocation supported by pictures of the stations. A good end to Holy week.

I’ve put a link to Chris Gollon’s pictures used in this afternoon’s Good Friday meditation in Today’s Picture on the right.

Thursday 9 April

Participating in the Passover and particularly taking communion this evening were particularly meaningful and moving after the readings of the week and seeing last night’s film.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Wednesday 8 April

‘Watch a film about Jesus’ life’ - we saw the last part of The Passion on TV tonight. Although the film showed its Hollywood roots, it was very moving seeing acted out the readings we had heard and read over the last week or so.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Tuesday 7 April

I’ve rather lost the plot over the last few days - letting go is good but doesn’t get things done. I did pick up a little litter around the Church this afternoon while negotiating the location of a waypost for one of the footpaths, so I’ll claim that for last week.

One of last week’s suggestions is ‘contact a family member you haven’t seen for a while.’ Not a family member, but a close friend has been in touch: Ray and I were in college together: I was secretary to his president of the union; he was my sub-warden in a student house. He emigrated to the States 30-odd years ago. We communicated for a while then lost touch. It was before the days of e-mail and Facebook. He tried to link up again through work and I remember receiving a call from his mother but she didn’t use the name I knew him by so we missed again. He eventually contacted me through the college alumni and it turned out that he was living near Atlanta about 3 miles from a hotel I used to stay in fairly regularly! We’ve kept in touch since and he and his wife had a holiday with us three years ago. He’s over in the UK in May and we’re meeting again then.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Sunday 5 April

Looking up a Machiavelli quotation yesterday, I found another author - have you heard of Bruce Barton? His ‘Quote of the Day’ (I think that should be ‘Quotation of the Day’ - but that’s another matter) was ‘When you are through changing, you are through.’ As I was looking for The Prince’s quotation on change, I thought I’d follow this up. I found Barton’s entry in Wikipedia which was fascinating - have a look at it here. He spent much of his youth in the Chicago suburb Oak Park, Illinois: the home of Frank Lloyd Wright and location of many of his designs including the Unity Temple: google it to see pictures of this wonderful early example of modern architecture.

Barton’s quotations are fascinating. He formed and ran a successful ad agency in the US - which probably says a lot about him. He is credited with naming General Motors and General Electric. He was a prolific writer of articles in magazines and newspapers on the theme of optimism and success - we could do with some of this now.

The Wikipedia entry for Bruce Barton quotes a letter he wrote to 24 rich Americans in 1925 asking them to match his $1000 to support ten students at the college he was connected with; ten students who would otherwise not get the education they deserved. All 24 replied with at least $1000 each.

In his 1925 book ‘The man nobody knows’ Barton retells the gospel story, recasting Jesus as a successful business executive. ‘Jesus picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organisation that conquered the world.’ I imagine this caught the spirit of the times, particularly in the US. There were critics of the book but it topped the best-seller list for two years. It is still available from Amazon. I wonder how Jesus would operate were he to return in today’s high-pressure environment.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Saturday 4 April

Not a good day for the LLLL actions - but it was granddaughter Sarah’s first birthday party. So I did contact family members we hadn’t seen for a long time... at least two weeks.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Friday 3 April

Not a lot in the LLLL book again today - I’m not doing so well this week. However, I did spend some time sorting out PC problems with friends and supporting the local pub (although I don’t think the king prawns were from the Misbourne)

This afternoon we walked through the woods over to Prestwood to deliver a copy of the parish magazine. It was a wonderful day and it’s difficult not to be thankful for the beautiful countryside. Here are a few pictures.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Thursday 2 April

I’ve looked again at the international press comments on the G20 output. By the way has anyone calculated how high $1T would reach? Most of the world’s press as reflected in their web versions lead on this IMF funding, together with the fact that there seems to have been agreement - quite an achievement in one day from 20 leaders. Can you imagine any meeting of 20 divers people agreeing in such a short time. Here are the headlines:

IHT: G-20 Pact Has New Rules and Commitments of $1.1 Trillion

Al Jazeera: G20 pledges $1 trillion in funds

USA Today: G-20 to give $1 trillion to IMF, World Bank

The Times: Gordon Brown says G20 will give world $1 trillion boost

Le Monde: G20 : plus de 1 000 milliards de dollars pour la relance et l'aide aux institutions financières

However, the lead on Le Monde’s International page is Paradis fiscaux : la liste noire de l'OCDE comprend le Costa Rica et l'Uruguay. This is all about how the G20 was attacking tax havens (I love ‘paradis fiscaux’) So although Sarkozi and Merkel didn’t walk out (and claimed that the summit was a success) the French, as usual, have their slant on things.

The Times on-line version had as it’s third story Zimbabwe's MDC ministers accept official Mercedes cars. This relates how the all of the new MDC ministers in the coalition government have now accepted official $50,000 Mercs. To quote the story
The Mercedes Benz has long been the symbol of sleaze and rapacity among Zimbabwe’s ruling elite under President Mugabe, who proclaims his supremacy with a $500,000 bombproof model S600L. As with the parasitic waBenzi class in most of Africa, they bled the country’s treasury to be able to roar down potholed roads
and past ordinary people deprived of food, homes, medicine
and education. "The thing about driving a Merc is that it is not just a
different car — it is a different planet. How can you be in touch with the people in a Mercedes?" one senior MDC official, now a minister, asked at the time.

Any guesses about the height of £1T?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Wednesday 1 April

There’s been some debate about ‘letting go’ which Eddie told us to do to get nearer God. We’re all certainly driven by task lists, priorities, deadlines and the like. So it’s very difficult just to switch off. I’m looking forward to working through Stephen Cottrell’s Do Nothing to Change Your Life after Easter - if I can find time...

I’m not sure how to get some more debate going - Helen and Rosie are very supportive but I don’t seem to be able to inspire anyone else - perhaps you’ve let go, too.

Yesterday’s Feed the Birds must have inspired our local farmer: he has just seeded the fields around us. These have attracted hundreds of pigeons - this picture was taken this morning. There are often a few around but where do all these come from?