Friday, December 23, 2005

Getting ready for christmas

Didn't get that job in developmental genetics and i was feeling quite down about that the other day, but at least i'm still in work, need to make a more concerted effort at applying for science jobs next year.

No work today - woo hoo, had a bit of a lie in and then popped to town to finish a bit of shopping and also donate some blood. Wasn't intending to give blood, but I saw the donor place and remembered I was due to give some more. I got an A+ when I last donated, which must mean i did very well.

This time it didn't go quite as smoothly, the nurse messed up injecting the needle. i couldn't believe it because my veins are huge and very obvious. She dais "oh dear I've messed that up, I better take the needle out so it doesn't bruise. I don't want you to have a bruise for Christmas." Yeah and I was considering wearing my strappy top too, and that bruise would just ruin everything (!)

Anyway, i didn't want my wait to have been a waste of time, and I'd been given a key ring as it was my second donation, and I would feel a little undeserving of such a gift as I'd not actually donated anything. So i allowed them to try again with my other arm - this time success and 11 minutes later they had the required amount of bllod.

Got to wash my car now as it is filty, the roads are really wet and muddy this time of the year and it doesn't take long for the car to get dirty.

Have a great christmas blog readers.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sending christmas cards

cartoon church advent calendar has a great diagram about the great christmas card sending dilema, which you can see here

And followers of Siobhan's time in Kenya will be pleased to learn that there is a new newsletter uploaded on her blog.

Carol Singing

Yesterday evening some members of CVM went along to the nursing home over the road with James to sing some carols and have a short service. Margorie and frances were there, and seemed really pleased for us to have come to share amongst them. Quite a few of the residents were in attendance, and Frances' friend, who couldn't speak, chose most of the carols by pointing to them in the carol sheet. Those that could manage the hymn book seemed to enjoy joining in with the singing, and James did well to delivery a short message and prayer. The message was of course straight forward and simple, like something you would use with children, which made me think about faith a bit. When you're a child, faith is so much more innocent and easy to accept - which i guess is why christ says you have to become like children to accept his message. The reason being, is that his message is difficult to accept if taken critically with no room for the mystery of god in faith. As you get older, i certainly find, that i begin to question my faith. Which is not a bad thing, and is worth while doing, as it certainly helps me to appreciate my faith and see new aspects of it through such critiques. Then I guess when infirmity kicks in and once again the childlike faith returns, not that this faith is any weaker then that which has undergone the rigours of intellectual critique, but is the result of a lifetime of experience and realisation of the fragility of life. And i think it was this context that made the prayers in the home really quite moving, not through any noble actions of making an annual visit to those members of society that have been pushed to the edges, but through knowing the peace of god in singing and praying with people for whom life is now quite difficult.

I wish i was a bit better at communicating with the residents as I collected the hymn books, i'm not too bad at chatting with Margorie and Frances, but that is after weeks of ferrying them to church and chatting to them there. Even though Frances sometimes gets confused. I am in admiration of the staff at these places, who show great love and care for these people, and yet are paid incredibly poorly. I get paid more to photocopy bits of paper and file things.

We were also invited to go and sing on the top floor of the nursing home, where the residents who are much more confused, but again they seemed to be really enjoying it and the carers came and joined in to. We sang much more than we anticipated, and my throat was quite dry. These homes seemed to be kept at tropical temperatures!

Monday, December 19, 2005

virgin suicides

I realised that I never got round to reviewing this book. It's quite a while since I read it now, so it's not too fresh in my mind. An interesting read, that certainly gripped me as I finished it in little over a week. The aspect that makes it interesting is the way in which it is written in the first person narrative, but the character of the first person is never revealed. All that is know is that it is a boy who used to live on the same road as the sisters of the title. You would expect a story revolving around the suicide of four sisters to be rather macabre, well this isn't the case. Instead it looks at the strange secluded lifestyle of the girls which bring such fascination and lustful desires to the boys in the street who wish to get to know them better, but are resticted by the lack of socialising the girls are afforded by their mother. It's quite wordy in a few places, and this is something I notice from american literature, like catcher in the rye, and i'm not really sure of it's place. Using first person narrative that includes words that are seldom in everyday language somehow appears strange to me, perhaps american novelists feel they ought to show a good grasp of the english language to produce a book of literary note.

The essence of this book is the story teller looking back retrospectively to a time when life seemed much freer without the resposibilities of jobs etc, and that perhaps the sisters escaped the drudgery of life in their suicide pact.

Worth reading, but not fantastic in my opinion. Must get around to watching the film now.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Walking in the peak district

I'd planned to go for a walk on saturday, so after I popped into town early in the morning to finish my christmas shopping, i headed out to Hope and set off on a walk. Went up loose hill, along the top, down mam tor and around onto the limestone way, down past peveril castle into castleton and back to Hope.

It was beautiful, and though quite windy on the top, the weather was fine, certainly beats the bustling crowds shopping.

I had a sit down on Mam Tor for a short while, to take a bit of food, in a little enclove nestled on the side of the hill. This little alcove would've been the site for a celtic iron age hut about 3,000 years ago.

The last coupld of miles of the walk were quite bad, somehow I'd managed to hurt my knee, twisted something, I don't know, but it really hurt to walk. I had to negotiate this fairly steep decline that was really uneven, and managed this like some kind of geriatric. It's amazing how an injury affects movement, in fact I resigned to walking along the road back to Hope because it hurt so much, and spent the rest of the day trying not to move my leg it was so painful. Thankfully it's getting better, and though my limping brought some amusement at church, I can now almost negotiate the stairs with no trouble at all.

Hemel Hempstead

My friend chris is working in an office on the same industrial estate as the Buncefield Oil Depot. Or at least he did, this is what it looks like now:

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Carols with sally army

Stephen Hill, one of the churches in our circuit were hosting a carol concert by the sheffield citadel branch of the salvation army. I love a bit of brass band, so i went along, and was pleased that I did. There wasn't a great deal of carol singing as it was interspersed with lots of brass band arrangements, that on the whole sounded pretty fine. There was also some singing, and one particular song was really good. Hearing songs sung in parts is wonderful, it's an aspect of modern songs that is lacking.

Pre-implantation genetic screening of embryos

Currently the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority are working on a consultation around the screening of human embryos for genetic diseases pre-implantation. Already there are screens available for fully penetrative diseases like cystic fibrosis, where the parents have the option to select only embyos without the disease. This consultation is whether to genetically test for other diseases that aren't necessarily fully penetrative, like breast cancer. Where the genetic element only leads to an increased risk, rather than being difinitive in terms of inheriting a disease.

This obviously raises many moral and ethical questions, is it right to positively select against embryos (with the potential to be human beings) on the grounds that they will or may get a genetic disease. For example, the embryo discarded may well have developed into a human who discovers some new cure, whilst dying young because of a genetic disease. Is it right for us to determine what 'quality of life' is, and what genetic illnesses are bearable? Just look at the recent trial of Mr Wragg and his diminished responsibilities in killing his son who was suffering from Hunter's syndrome. It's quite a difficult issue to comment on, not having any first hand experience with such genetic diseases as familial cancer or cystic fibrosis etc.

However, if you wish to comment on this consultation then you can at:

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Flat tyre

What is it about commuting to work on a wednesday - this is twice in a row now. Left the house this morning and the passenger front tyre was looking quite low, need to get some air in that I thought. Drove about half a mile when I consolidated that the tyre needed immediate attention and so would have to be replaced with the spare.

Easy enough, or so I thought. It turns out that the spare tyre is fixed into the boot by a screw to hold it in place. This screws into the base of the car and is exposed underneath the car - which results in rusting of the screw. It was impossible to turn. Luckily I had stopped near a window manufacturing company and I asked if anyone could give me some asssistance. This great guy came and brought a tool with which to loosen the screw and freeing the tyre. He then helped me replace the tyre too.

There's a tyre garage on the way to work so I called in there and they replaced my old tyre with brand new one and fitted it all within about 7 minutes. Excellent service. So gogt to work a bit late, my hands covered in oil and muck, my trousers too.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

King Kong

The original 1933 film was on uk gold this weekend and I watched it ready to compare with the new peter jackson film, should i get round to watching it.

I'm only familiar with the iconic scene from this movie, with Kong atop the empire states building surrounded by flying aircraft. However the rest of the film stands up really well considering it's age, and though the stop animation models are quite obvious, at it's time it really must have been cutting edge, though they did remind me of the old chewits adverts. The female star, Fay Wray, is pretty stunning, and at some points during the film when Kong has ripped away some of her dress, her appearence must have been considered quite risque

Up until the appearence of Kong her character does begin to challenge the preconceived ideas of the feminnine model held by the men on the ship - which unsurprisingly leads to a romantic encounter. After the appearence of Kong and the various prehistoric monsters on the island, she barely says another word and spends the whole time screaming, which does become a bit annoying. Another thing that surprised me about the film, was the number of deaths, Kong has no hesitation in eating many people, or flinging them from great heights.


Mick got in touch last week as he'd spotted that the levellers were playing at the octagon in sheffield. Unfortunately the gig had sold out, but I suggested that he pop along anyway cos we might get some tickets off of some touts. So last night we headed out, and after a bit of bargaining, managed to get ourselves a couple of tickets, for not much more than face value. I'm only familiar with a few Levellers tunes from way back in the early 90s, Mick was a huge fan and had been to see them on several occasions. It was interesting looking around the audience, as it's about 10 years since the levellers were a really huge act, to see how the crusties and hippies from the 90s had morphed into accountants and the like. You just knew that some of them had fashioned their hair into a mohican for the first time in years, and come monday morning it would be a sensible side parting again!

Where as some of the audience had moved on from their teenage hippy ideals, the levellers came on stage and it was clear that they had not, in fact I'm sure the bass player, sporting long dreads, hadn't washed his hair since 1991. They played with passion and great musicianship. Me and Mick became a bit frustrated with the group of people in front of us, standing completely stationary, with a harry potter look-a-like taking numerous photos on his digital camera. All of which will be blurred, cos you have to keep the camera rock steady when using the zoom function. Anyway, we couldn't keep still any longer, and during one of the classics we pushed our way past and entered the mosh pit for some deranged jumping and dancing. It was great fun, not done that for years, but then most of the bands I see aren't the moshing types, and those that are generally attract sweaty long haired 14 year old boys to the mosh pit. Anyway, the folky roots of the tunes had me dancing like michael flatley, fantastic.

For the encore they brought on a dijerido(sp?) player, and though it sounds quite haunting, it's not really a rock music instrument, and so to compensate the player had painted his face white with huge black eyes and splashes of orange that fluoresced under the UV lights, sporting a larger red feather boa. He then did his best to try and detract attention from the rest of the band by waving his instrument high into the air - but to be honest it just wasn't rock & roll.

Listening to some of the charged political messages of the songs got me to thinking, that since Maggie left power there hasn't been any bands coming through with political messages like in the 90s, where we had carter usm, chumbawumba, levellers and even the manic street preachers. More's the pity..

Saturday, December 10, 2005


During this mornings shop I bought some stuff to make some christmas cards with, even bought some glitter, which i was quite excited about using. It's ages since I've made Christmas cards, and I'd forgotten that I'm pretty crap at art. However, once I moved away from trying to make trad cards and moved into more abstract patterns I seemed to improve somewhat. Whilst making them I've been listening to:

Which has to be the finest Christmas ep every released. Known for their melancholy tunes, Low even manage an upbeat tune to get things going. Then there's the aching lyrics of "if you were born today"

if you were born today
we'd kill you by age eight
never get the chance to say:

joy to the world and
peace on the earth
forgive them for they know not what they do

Christmas shopping

nearly got it all done, which is very efficient of me. Got into town early today, and it really makes a difference, you can walk around the shops at ease. Though come 1020 I could feel my blood beginning to boil, and my heavily laden carrier bag was annoying me too - rolls of wrapping paper are so inconvenient to carry!

Anyway amongst all this rushing around, lets not forget the progress made in getting Make Poverty History onto the political agenda - even the new Tory leader is wanting to put more emphasis onto social justice issues. As you might have seen the white band at the top of the page is now a link to send a christmas card to Tony Blair. I suggest you go and click on it now. It only takes a few minutes, and there's opportunity to read cards sent by others too.

The cartoon church advent calendar continues to be a source of amusement, give it a look!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Four hours

Four hours, that's four hours!!!!

I work about 15 miles away from home, a usual 35 minute journey in the morning. Not today. Four hours I was stook in my car.

I was just eating my toast when the local news mentioned that the M1 was closed between juncion 36 and 37. That's alright I thought to myself, I don't use the motorway going to the office in Barnsley. Then it suddenly dawned on me that as the office is just off the A61 in the centre point of these two junctions, that all the three laned traffic usually on the motorway would be diverted down this road that is in no way designed to take such a huge flow of traffic. So I quickly grabbed some extra tapes to listen to in the car and set off. There were no other ways in to Barnsley either, without travelling miles and then encountering traffic that had been diverted via the A1M. I could've walked it quicker.

Siobhan has sent another newsletter on her experience in Kenya and it can be read on her blog.

As promised (or did I?) here are some pictures from AWE on sunday. They aren't too good as they were only taken with a video camera and don't really do the piece justice. Still, better than nothing I guess.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Saturday evening I went round to dave P new house, he was complaining it was a bit cold and required warming up a bit. There were a lot of people there trying to help warm the house. David supplied some home brew to aid the process, it was really good too. The only downside was knowing that I'd have to get up sun morn to set up church seeing as there would only be a few of us again. JC was speaking which reminded me of the pulp song where jarvis sings "I am not Jesus, though I have the same initials". Likewise JC isn't jesus either, and has a reputation of being rather dull. However, the service was really nice and the singing was great despite the few numbers. JC had some good things to say, but continued often down irrelevent tangents which extends the time she's talking so you loose the thread.

Sunday eve we held our monthly circuit alternative service, AWE, following our theme of the trinity, we were looking at the Spirit. We met up at the host church about 3:30 to begin the setup. At the planning meeting we had decided to make a visual aid for the service, and so clearing the front of the alter and chairs and advent candles, emma and andrew started an Art Attack to produce something from a mass of coloured paper and crete paper, incorporating 4 tv screens. Whilst they were busy arranging these items around a cross, Matt was busy producing a video of a fire that would be shown on the above mentioned tv screens. The transformation was really amazing and probably quite difficult to describe how it looked in words, but I thought it was really effective, Dave brought along some lights to light it up in red/orange, with his lava lamp running at the front too.

We also moved all the chairs out of the way to make the space more open, placing chairs at random, so that people could just sit wherever they liked, in groups or whatever, to get away from the formal lines of people.

After the band had finished practising, the first people began to arrive who usually go to this particular church for the eve service every sunday. It was interesting to hear how appalled one person was that 'her chair' was not there, and she couldn't sit in her usual place, so the minister had to patiently explain that it was an alternative service and by it's nature it challenges some of our traditional expectations of church. I thought he did really well, as i just can't understand why a chair can be of such importance. However, most of the regulars actually found the experience refreshing.

The service started with some Taize music, followed by discussion time, bit if singing, visual meditation, talk, bit more singing. It was a wonderful service in my opinion, and the visual display was really stunning, the Spirit of creativity at work for sure. I still don't fully understand the trinity, but the talk described the Spirit as the paracleet, the word translated in numerous ways into english to try and describe it 'being alongside' JS described the Spirit as that which cements relationships, interweaving in a dance with the Godhead. Which i think fits well with the idea of conversation from earlier AWE services. The Spirit is that which gels the relationship with the Godhead together and also gels the relationship of God with the people, enabling conversation to be within and with the trinity.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Sod cutting

Well that is what it was advertised as, but seeing as the steel was already up, cutting a lump of earth would seem a little pointless. So instead a bit of brickwork some mortar and a trowel did the trick.

Publicity shoot at work to show off the new primary health care centres, I was quite keen to go along as I've never seen such an event before. There were all kinds of VIPs from the local area, the mayor and Ed Miliband the local MP. One of the funniest sites was the wife of the mayor hobbling onto the site in the only safety wellingtons left, size ten. I reckon she probably takes a size 3 normally!

I managed to get myself onto some of the Bluestone photos, not the ones that are likely to make the local press. Though I did offer my services when they asked for doctors to join the shoot with the NHS big wigs.

this chap in the front with the brick is Ed Miliband the MP, obviously not a local lad!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Advent Calendar

Just put up my advent calendar, it's great isn't it. I've had this Mr Greedy calendar since I was about 3. Every year I stick the doors closed with a bit of blu-tak.

Dave Walker of Cartoon Church has produced an advent calendar which promises to be entertaining, check it out here.

World AIDS day

Today is world AIDS day, and since this time last year countless people have become infected with HIV, millions have died through an AIDS related illness, numerous children have been orphaned because their parents have died through AIDS related disease.

And do people in this country care, it appears not. I remember in the late 80s when we were inundated with safe sex advice from the government, but it now appears to be less of an issue, seen by most to be the disease of homosexuals.

Despite this HIV continues to spread rapidly in developing nations, and the worrying trend in the increase in sexual diseases in this country, shows that this virus could well spread rapidly in this country too.

Thankfully we have a health service that provides free drugs to aid those living with HIV to lead normal lives, and help them fight secondary infections. If only this could be the case where HIV infection is rife.

It's hard to believe that in some areas of the sub-sahara more than 25% of the population are infected.

This time last year I was in Sydney and many buildings were decorated with huge red ribbons for World AIDS day including the harbour bridge. I've yet to see one so bedecked this year in the uk. Wouldn't it be great if the churches put them up on their buildings and hopefully start a trend. Google have hung theirs on their search engine - nice one. For more info on AIDS the bbc has produced a great resource here, and for some personal stories about living with HIV here.

Don't ignore this disease, give thanks for those working to improve sexual health, working with AIDS orphans, and promoting safe sex.