A few weeks back I discovered this version of the great Billy Bragg song: ‘A New England’. I like the adaptation to take account of singing the song in your late 40s. I also like it as I thought I would find this version easier to play (even though I have just started plugging my electric guitar in, I have yet to get fully to grips with what an amp can do): angry electric stabs should be the preserve of people in their 20s, not sad old gits like me.
Two weeks ago it was ‘above’ me: playing that many barre chords and sliding up and down the fretboard was just too difficult. Yet now I have become almost passable on the verses.
I attempted to play part of this in church last week. I get worked up sometimes with good, mature adults using the label ‘Christian’ in the same way as I would if a committed gig goer referred to themselves as a ‘musician’ if they never really touched an instrument. I had in the back of my mind an interview that Martin Freeman gave around the time of the film ‘Nativity’ where he said that he wanted to say to people who self described as ‘Christian’, simply ‘Already?’
Recently I went to a school I often visit for a year 6 lesson. I have been involved in a few lessons like this in the past: visiting Christian rocks up, kids ask questions on an RE/Ethics topic they have been studying and then it becomes ‘open season’, no holds barred questions on anything.
I find it a fantastically liberating experience: children around this age are a good deal more honest and probing than adults. They are not embarrassed by asking any question. Perhaps long ago I would have developed a patronising smile, chuckled, and metaphorically patted them on the head; now I regard this communication a good deal more honest than most adult communication. They are also quite perceptive of their own strengths and weaknesses.
I can’t remember all the questions: it was all a bit of a blur: being put on the spot and questioned about anything and everything without a script & no deference is a rare privilege. I do remember the students being suprised when I said I still got angry and wanted to hit people, that often behind closed doors I swore profusely& also I was acutely aware that I often fell short of my own standards. But I also remember the listening (as opposed to ’embarrassed’) silence when I said that the point of following Jesus meant that he took centre stage in all your life & decisions…. and that maybe because of this, ethical decisions were sometimes harder than easier.
Whatever; wish I could do this more often, though I have a chance on BBC Tees tomorrow with 2 others for an hour talking about the news. Now that is a new experience and seriously scary…
Today in our household, the last member reaches double figures. Ben is 10 (and if there is any implied linkage with ‘Ben 10’ there will be trouble from him).
I am not going to say ‘Where has the time gone?’ as it just has. The last 10 years seem more alive and vivid for me than the nearly 38 years before.
When he is not at school- which he seems to regard as an imposition on this day- today will mostly be spent opening presents, going 10 pin bowling, eating at Nando’s and playing on the old PS2 that someone gave him a few weeks ago. That is only because it is not warm enough to play cricket.
We asked him what he wanted for his birthday and after listing physical things, he said ‘Happiness: but you have already given me that.’
I made a trip to the charity shop last week. I often make trips to the charity shop: a significant minority of stuff in this house is ‘pre owned’; much of that bought from charity shops, kept for a few years and then given back. Part of that is due to income; some due to belief- although I suffer from the acceptable contemporary disease of buying stuff to define yourself, I try and resist just a bit by not buying or buying 2nd hand.
Last week I took a load of books to a local charity shop. Where I live now is smaller than where I used to live and there is not the space for so many books. Even those these books had been in the loft for nearly 10 years, I struggle in getting rid of books: it seems somehow wrong. Among these books, most were those accrued during mid/late teenage years, although one or two were even before that.
One I could not get rid of: it was the last of the ‘Jennings’ books that I used to read avidly from ages 7-11. This particular yellowing, battered one had still got my childhood scrawl at the beginning: ‘Graham Peacock, 34 Wyven Ave, Leister, England, Erupe’. Discovering writing that I had done when I was younger than my sons’ currently are was oddly moving, as was the fact that my scruffy writing is remarkably similar to the scruffiness that I am trying to train my older son out of (Should sentences end in ‘of’? I really don’t know).
I have started to re-read this book ‘Jennings’ Diary’ for old times’ sake but also to see why I liked what I did then. At first sight I couldn’t see it: upper class children, dated jargon (‘clodpoll’?!), prep school, single sex, boarding accomodation etc etc: I can see why Anthony Buckeridge’s books have not travelled well. But after a while I could: boys growing up and learning, making mistakes but basically safe in a world with limits.
It is for that reason, amidst by current reading of complex theology,deep novels & ‘Wisden 2013’ (if you need to ask why: don’t bother), that I still like this book and it is great to read last thing at night to fall asleep to.
Maybe leave the charity shop run on this until my sons/grandchildren/ great grandchildren have to clear my house one day.
I started to use Twitter a while back but never really saw the point of it, so I stopped. Then someone pointed out the value of Twitter so I restarted. Suddenly my 23 followers mushroomed rapidly…. to 293. And ‘suddenly’ took well over a year. Sigh…
I use it for newsgroups and feeds basically, although I also post short, ironic tweets (on the basis that I am (a) trivial and (b) if you want people to read depth you have to post a lot of fluff first) and use it for my blog feed. I have seen the value of it in reading lots of articles and keeping up with breaking news. As my following is small, I never create a twitter storm, although last week I nearly went ‘viral’.
To explain: normally if I manage a good tweet, I might get retweeted; but for me that would be at most 3-4 retweets. However, I was just leaving the pc for tea when I noticed that ‘UK uncut’ had put out a tweet about ‘Benefits Street’ (a TV programme, which in the current political climate encourages people to look down and scapegoat the poor, whilst those who truly drain the country: rich tax avoiders escape. Ooops- a bit political). So I linked to it, made a suggested link to their ‘parasite street’ weblink and went to tea (which was lovely).
And then…. my phone started ‘pinging’ and all these retweets popped up, which carried on for 2-3 days. Ok; I might have only got 30 retweets, but for me that is huge. For a while I privately basked in the attention, until I remembered the content of the link and the real message: don’t point the finger, don’t judge- people on benefits are not ‘scum’/’lowlife’/’taking money from hardworking families’…
And here is the tweet….
If you watch #benefitsstreet, please look at parasite-street.co.uk & remember benefit fraud is but a fraction of tax fraud.
I may have used this before, but it is so good.
As you get older, you get hardened. The scars of experience become more obvious and frequent. I think at least one of the reasons why we come to church is for healing: to be aware of those scars and to make sure they don’t get covered in scar tissue. To learn to be open to God and to others again.
‘To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable’.
C.S.Lewis: The 4 loves
This morning I will mostly be helping my youngest son’s Cub troop in a regional 5 a side competition. They are entering 3 teams and I am the manager of the 2nd team.
It is my first ever competitive outing as a manager. I have been thinking formation (2-2, although knowing the boys and their desire to score, it may work out in practice as 0-4), tactics (Zonal- 1 player each quadrant….. although that may work out in practice as all 4 outfield players rushing for the ball), who is the best goalkeeper (I know who I want, but it may be the one who screams less to play outfield) and movement (freeflowing, passing in front of the player and keeping it tight at the back….which means it will be ‘kick and hope’, coupled with lots of screaming ‘that’s not fair).
Whatever happens, I have decided that I will be referred to as ‘The Gaffer’. I have not yet decided on the look: sharp suit, chewing gum nervously or track suit, chewing gum nervously. However, I may go for leather trench coat, shirt open to navel, lots of gold jewellery and felt fedora hat. I will of course be smoking a large cigar….
It was http://thisfragiletent.com/ that did it. Although before my musical disciple (it’s an in joke. Well, it is not really funny; just ‘in’) discovered it, I was already tracking it and I eventually landed one at less than £4.
PJ Harvey didn’t mean much to me: I had never really listened to her music, just her reputation (A dangerous way to come to a point of view on anything or anyone). And then I began to hear reports of ‘Let England Shake’. And once I got hold of it, I couldn’t stop playing it. It is rare that you hear mainstream music as lyrically rich and as honest.
12 songs (and there are 12 accompanying videos) meditating on Englishness, conflict and soldiers experiences and a CD that gets better and deeper everytime you listen.
(…on second thoughts: this does make me squirm..)
So I sat and watched myself last night.
Well, not just me: I watched the full film of the village panto- the AmDram society do this every year once the production has finished and the props packed away. This year, as t last year, the guy that filmed us is a professional so the quality was good.
It is a salutary experience watching yourself on film. Some people said good things about my role since the production: watching me, I really wasn’t so sure. I seem to have spent most of the filming and the meal with my hands in front of my face. Something I thought was ok at the time was very different through the unforgiving eye of the camera.
And it got me thinking: if something as rehearsed as that did not look so good, what about the everyday actions that seem so right and good (I do suffer from delusions) to me if they are filmed and played back? What would they look like then?
After yesterday, I unearthed a post that I have been storing for weeks from the ever thought provoking Backyard Missionary http://www.backyardmissionary.com/the-death-of-the-church-in-the-west/
A couple of sample quotes:-
‘the point in history when the lives of Christians are indistinguishable from those of people who do not profess a faith’.
‘We are often just a religious version of the secular world – all the same values and aspirations but with a weekly Sunday meeting thrown in’.
By themselves, those quotes could be bleak, particularly as the post is called ‘The death of the church in the West’, but he comes out with some hope. He likes the definition of ‘death’ a:-
‘It calls to live a life that is truly remarkable – truly distinct – truly Christlike. I was listening to Seth Godin speak of the importance of being ‘remarkable‘ in a bland world and the danger is that we simply end up another shade of beige’.
And then he ends with a question; go and read it. I like questions: if it is possible to have too many, then I have too many. I think part of the answer are groups of locally based disciples (see yesterday) who linked with other groups and who don’t just see the Sunday show as the be all and end all.