Saturday, 30 January 2010

Come and Sing – Bob Chilcott

A great day in Church today with Bob Chilcott and over 100 singers – not me!

Click on the slideshow to see larger pictures

Monday, 25 January 2010


A warm Church at last – oil was delivered this morning!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Little Hampden Organ

One project that will occupy me over the next weeks is the replacement of the organ in Little Hampden Church. We have had an electronic organ vintage 1970s I should think but this has been dying for some time. The engineer has managed to replace the chips as they failed: the last time he succeeded in finding one in the bottom of his bag. But it has given up completely now and gone to the organ loft in the sky. We have been relying on an electronic keyboard for some time – just about adequate but not really in sympathy with the Church.

Our Director of Music found a real pipe organ which was waiting to be restored and suggested that we use this as a replacement. Although larger than the high-tech (mid-tech?) modern organ, it is much more authentic and, I’m sure, will sound much better. I recently attended a service in which the hymns were accompanied by a modern electronic organ which sounded adequate but it lacked something. However, replacing the organ isn’t going to be a simple operation! Not surprisingly, the Church of England is fairly strict about what can be done with the buildings
under its custodianship. And fitting the new organ into the tiny Church is not without its problems. Step one was to get permission to use the keyboard as a temporary replacement for the defunct organ: an Archdeacon’s Licence was issued, granting us this permission. But then the fun started....

Monday, 11 January 2010

Still snowed in

I managed to get out of Little Hampden today, thanks to a neighbour’s 4x4. This was rather fun: because there was a blockage on the lane, Geoff decided to go through the field – known locally as the L1.

With many people not able to get to work, I thought it a good time to share some of my experiences with remote working. I have run geographically-dispersed teams where face-to-face meetings were infrequent. Body language plays a large part of communications – whether social or professional. Figures vary but estimates range from 60% to 97% of information is transferred by non-verbal means. You don’t have to be an expert to detect peoples’ feelings and moods from the way in which they react physically. Most remote immediate communications – even today – rely on sound only – so potentially large amounts are missing from the interaction. One of the teams I was involved with used to have regular conference calls. In order to be as productive as possible, we worked hard at developing a range of techniques to make the most of this mode of meeting. The first was to get to know and understand each other as well as possible when we did meet – I tried suggested to my manager that all the team’s face-to-face time should be spent socialising so that we would know everyone’s foibles. She wouldn’t accept this but nevertheless we spent as much time together as possible. We also agreed to be very open with each other when in these calls – if we were uneasy about something we’d own up – rather than just sitting awkwardly. We’d also go round the room (so to speak) at each decision point to confirm that everyone was really OK about it.

We also used messenger and telephone calls whenever we wanted to discuss or query something. We were always chatting – productively, of course, and this helped the team building and group operations. I developed the term ‘Next desk thinking’ for this way of operating: had we been working in the same location, we’d have leaned over and asked a question or commented on something. We tried to operate in the same way even though we were thousands of miles apart – and the technology supported this. As well as speaking informally, we respected times when people wanted to concentrate on some activity – just like we’d have spotted had we actually been in the next desk – but we disciplined ourselves to reject a request – and to accept such a rejection without ill feeling.

Communication is much better now with video calls which we can do from our own PCs – although I think multi-site video calls are not easy to find. I remember on another project introducing video rather than audio-only conference calls with remarkable effect: remote team members suddenly felt much more involved in – and committed to – the discussion. We’ve successfully used this technique recently to interview a candidate who was across the Atlantic. I don’t think we get the full body language yet but we’re getting there.

However, none of this is a substitute for an intensive working meeting in the pub!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Snow and Lasan

We’re snowed in again but the sun was out this morning and it was beautiful.

No 4x4 this time but everyone in the village is making sure we’re all OK. Alvin collected mail and papers yesterday and today. We’ve stocked up with logs and the freezer is full. See you in March?

Gordon Ramsay

Did you see Gordon Ramsay’s F-word tonight? We discovered Lasan in Birmingham a few years ago and have visited a few times since. Everyone was rude when I reported that I’d taken Brenda to Birmingham for her birthday last year (“Birmingham?”) but it’s a great place. There are canal walks, lots of interesting architecture (including an awful concrete shopping centre renamed Paradise Forum – at least they’ve tried) an art gallery and of course shops including the iconic Selfridges.

Lasan is a great Indian restaurant serving traditional food in a modern way. It won the ‘Best Local Restaurant’ on the F-word programme tonight. Well deserved. Other restaurants we found that are amongst the best places we’ve eaten in anywhere are Cielo – an Italian in Brindley Place – and Opus – fantastic food and service to match.

Birmingham’s only an hour or so away on Chiltern Railways – give it a try!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Looking back and forward

Christmas was a busy time so my blogging was rather sporadic and I’ve only just found time to look back and catch up. The last posting was in the run up to Christmas when we were trying to balance the risks of letting people struggle up to Church in the snow and frost with the need to hold services as normal as possible. Well we had a fantastic team of helpers who cleared a path up to Church and who manned the car park. The Christmas services went ahead (apart from the 8am one) and were very well attended. And no accidents were reported.

Did I find time for Christmas? Yes – we had all the family here and thanks to the 4x4 had some turkey to eat! I had to ferry son, daughter-in-law and 2 grandchildren from Missenden – and thanks to Cia for allowing us to park their car on her drive over Christmas. The 4x4 has gone back – but as I draft this it’s snowing hard. But this time we’ll sit it out – we had a load of logs this morning and the freezer is full.

Blogging Advent was nowhere near as good as following a book – like last Christmas and Lent so I’ll have to think again for future periods like these. But for now, I’ll continue with occasional postings covering a range of things. There are lots of things going on: we’ve got some significant capital projects in the Church: repairing the clerestory windows, installation of solar panels and a heat pump, a new organ at Little Hampden. These projects need lots of fundraising activities – and we need to continue to raise money for our other activities.

A few days ago Bishop Alan blogged about the impact of the new communications technologies on life and the Church. This is a topic that interests me at many levels – how – and whether – I should use these, how to reap the benefits without wasting the time that most seem to take. Bishop Alan refers to a number of books but, interestingly, not any on-line references. So in spite of all this new technology, we still rely on books! More on this soon, too.

Meanwhile, back to the inbox – and the snow – it’s still coming down!