Saturday, 30 January 2010

Review of an Unposted Blog (or How to Hold Your Electronic Tongue)

Well that’s another week finished, let the weekend begin. I have just finished work for the week and I’m on my way home on the train feeling quite pleased that I will not have to return to Belfast until Monday (plus we’ve been paid!!!).

On my way to work this morning my spirits were not as high flying as they are now. In fact I’ve just reread the blog which I wrote this morning and I realise I was in a pretty foul disposition. It begins with a comment about feeling run down this week and feeling the pressure of having multiple responsibilities pulling at me. Although downbeat, the opening couple of paragraphs did not suggest any underlying instability. But, that was just the prologue!

What followed was an incoherent ramble about the importance of time keeping and the lack of respect shown by those who are constantly late for things – my rant mainly being aimed at the worship team. The thing was I was late to practise myself last night but even the reality of that didn’t deter the necessity I felt to vent my wrath. It got so bad at one point I thought it was going to end with “A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES!!!!”

It’s amazing how in the space of 8 hours, an Ulster Fry, some orange juice with bits in and a rather easy day at work later my view of the world can be so different. Yes I have had a rather busy week; yes I am still frustrated by poor timekeeping but does it warrant the response I generated this morning.

There are two things I have learned from this episode. Firstly, I am not a morning person (especially pre-breakfast) . Secondly I am becoming more aware of how quick we are at times to speak. Here’s a couple of verses from proverbs:

Proverbs 12:18-19
18 Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
19 Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

Proverbs 15:2
2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

My rant this morning would not have brought any healing. It was anything but wise. It wouldn’t be too harsh to call it folly. I’m just grateful that I don’t have internet access on the train or I may have just posted it this morning!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Death of a Salesman (or How the Vegetarian Vultures are Circling)

I walked into Wesley Owen Books in Belfast this week and it was busier than I have ever seen it at lunch time. It didn’t take long for me to realise why. The big red signs in the windows told me everything I needed to know:


Nothing brings out the masses like a closing down sale – and not one of those fake ‘closing down for refurbishment’ sales – a proper ‘we can’t take any of this stuff with us’ sales.

There was a total contrast of emotions on display in the store. One local preacher had accumulated a pile of books almost as big as himself, a smile across his face which read ‘This is the greatest day of my life but I must try and show some reserve’. While the cashier had the biggest fake smile I have ever seen. You just know that inside it feels like he’s lying on his back while the vultures feed on his insides.

The end of Wesley Owen is really sad for me. They were my first employer (if you don’t include my paper round). After being rejected by every college/Uni I applied to, I realised I needed to find some work. I applied for the usual supermarket / shops but got nothing. My life changed however when I wondered into Wesley Owen on George Street in Edinburgh and they offered me 2 weeks work pricing Christmas Cards in their dark basement. Being young and enthusiastic I finished the work in under a week - looking back now I realise I could easily have done myself out of a week’s pay. Anyway impressed by work ethic (or more likely feeling sorry for me) they honoured the 2 week contract and trained me up on tills and working on the shop floor. With the 2 weeks came to the end they asked if I’d mind staying on for the Christmas period. Having nothing else in place (having been rejected by HMV – my then dream job) I said yes. Almost seven years later I left Wesley Owen, I was Deputy Manager, married and extremely grateful for everything I had learned during my time there.

David Hamilton taught me about humility and grace, Graeme Campbell inspired a love for classic literature, Anne taught me that anything is possible, Joy showed patience and taught me that it is better to give than to receive and possibly the most important lesson I ever learned in Wesley Owen was when Bruce taught me how to correctly wrap parcels (a talent I now use every birthday/ Christmas).

So on Tuesday I passed the cashier my big pile of books and CDs with a tear in my eye - like a wannabe vegetarian vulture not really wanting to pick at the carcass but just unable to resist.

Friday, 15 January 2010

The Things I’ve Learned This Week (or How Santa is Refusing to Leave Town)

1. Gritted roads are great for freedom of travel not so good for the lives of bikes.

I ventured back on to the roads this week with my trusty two-wheeled stead after the onslaught of snow had dissipated. It was nice not to have to walk to the train station - only because cycling is faster and 10 mins longer in bed is as precious to me as gold. But after a couple of days I realised that my usually smooth ride had become a little jerky and my little bike was struggling to change gears with ease. At this time of year all of my cycling takes place in the dark – its dark when I go to work, dark when I get back - so I hadn’t noticed that my trusty friend was totally rusty. I’m no good with bike maintenance and a little lazy so I may ignore the problem until I have to take him out the back and put the old boy down.


2. Church Boilers are Expensive

This week’s band practise was cancelled due to the boiler exploding** at church. Expensive business replacing boilers

3. People will Steal Just About Anything

Someone stole our wheelie bin this week. Scum*

4. James Cameron Knows a Thing or Two About Making Movies

It is no exaggeration to say that this week’s viewing of Avatar in 3D was by far the greatest cinematic experience of my life. Okay the film has its problems, mainly the lead actor’s dodgy American accent that was Australian more than it was Yank. Also its not the most original story it’s been told many times before. But none of that is important at all.

What is important is the way the story is told. James Cameron who apparently has been cultivating this idea for years waited patiently for the technology to catch up with his vision. Was it worth the wait? YEAH BABY!!! I sat with my mouth open for the majority of the film. The visuals are stunning and what Cameron has managed to achieve with the 3D technology surpasses all that has gone before. He never feels the need to revert to the old cheap trick of things sticking out of the screen at you (for a comedy reference of this find Friday 13th in 3D where the guy is killed by a pitch fork. Hilarious!). EVERY scene has depth. You feel that you are in the middle of the action.

Cameron who may have lost his throne in recent years to Peter Jackson has taken back his crown by force with the rise of his rampaging blue army.

The King is dead, long live the King!!!

5. Santa is Refusing to Leave Town

In December we were struck with a really cute idea – why not teach our nearly 2 year old son a few Christmas songs. On car journeys hearing him belt out “You better watch out...Santa Claus is coming to town” was very amusing. So amusing both my wife and I would double over laughing. Encouraged by the positive response it fast became his favourite song. Well its several weeks after Christmas now and Santa is refusing to leave. Mid January trying to explain to my son that his favourite song is now not appropriate as Santa has gone home to the North Pole and will not be back until next year is falling on deaf ears.

Albums I’m Currently Listening to: The Swell Season – Strict Joy / The Dead Weather – Horehound

Books I am Currently Reading : Brennan Manning – The Ragamuffin Gospel / David Simon & Edward Burns – The Corner: A Year In The Life Of An Inner-city Neighbourhood

* I use the word Scum with christian love...obviously!
**Boiler may not have actually exploded but that sounds way more dramatic than just breaking down

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Anything Can Happen on a Snow-Day!!!

This week I did something I have never done before. The act made me feel a little guilty, slightly scared and very childish, but it did make me laugh my head off.

We had experience a significant dusting of snow in Portadown at the weekend. Not so much that we were forced to abandon cars at the side of the road and seek shelter in the nearest department store but enough for the kids to make snowmen and for the council to regret not buying enough grit for the roads.

I have to admit when I see snow I get quite giddy. My brother and I have an on-going competition about who has the most snow (let’s be honest me and my brother have competitions about everything – this is just an additional one involving snow. Other brotherly competitions include ‘Best Round of Golf’, ‘Biggest Tv’, ‘Laziest Day at Work’ and my personal favourite ‘Latest Gadget’). Because he lives in Edinburgh he more often than not beats me on the snow front. How am I supposed to compete with tales of his work grounding to a halt to head out and have a big 2 day snowball fight? This is no ordinary fight – my brother having been trained by Her Majesty’s Forces feels the need to employ special tactics – namely filling his van with dozens of snowballs and driving round the site while his partner hangs out the side door lobbing snow grenades at fellow conflict colleagues.

I hear a lot of mumbling and moaning about the bad weather (a lot of it I must add from the wife) but I think you have to just learn to embrace it. Don your woolly jumpers, hats, scarves and gloves – find an untouched plot of freshly fallen snow and just fall into its heavenly arms and make the best snow angel you’ve ever made. When was the last time you made a snowman? I’m telling you that you don’t need kids to make a snowman. Let the inner child out. Throw a snowball at a loved one – nothing says I love you more at this season than a tightly packed ball of snow on the head!

Here’s another thing that as an adult you can do. Now before I divulge what took place on Monday I want to stress that although my inner child was released it was still very much under the adult supervision of my subconscious. Also that the opportunity that opened up for me may never happen for you. You could wait a lifetime for such the chance. For me, on Monday morning, the planets aligned and a small window into another world was opened for the briefest time. I was fortunate enough to see it and stupid enough to leap towards it.

When driving home on Monday morning from having dropped off my son at nursery, for unknown reasons I took a longer road home. I was meandering through the now white streets, enjoying with all my senses the beautiful winter scene, when out of the corner of my eye I passed a sight so wonderful that I was forced to stop and reverse the car to see if my eyes had indeed been playing tricks on me (like the snow version of the oasis mirage in the desert). Between the terraced houses lay before me a foreign world so magical a tear formed in the corner of my eye. It was an empty car park, untouched be foot or car. I couldn’t have been more excited if I’d discovered the door to Narnia itself.

What followed was ten minutes of pure unadulterated man-fun. By the time I had finished, this unspoilt land was well and truly... spoilt!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Self-Discipline - The Impossible Made Possible (or How 53 Posts Changed My Life)

Here’s my challenge for the New Year (oh Happy New Year everybody) – To write one blog per week for the entire year! That’s 53 posts (if you include tonight’s).

I know at this point the serious bloggers among you are laughing. Let’s face it some of you can rack up 52 posts in a week, but I’m not like you. I lack the one key element that all professional bloggers have in abundance – Self-discipline.

For years I have dismissed its importance, proudly stating that I am but an artistic soul and therefore self-discipline is not within my nature. But frankly that’s just bollocks (pardon my tone – but I felt the situation warranted it). You see what I am can I put it? Lazy. It’s nothing fancier than that. I may try and call it something flash like ‘My Vagabond Heart’ or ‘My Fantasist Psyche’ but really I’m just lazy - ‘The Sultan of Shortcuts’, ‘The King of the Quick and Easy’ ‘The Lord of the Lethargic’. I think you get my point.

So what can posting one blog a week prove? Well by doing this I prove to myself (and to you) that I can set my mind to do something and most importantly see it through to its conclusion (which in this case is my 53rd post on 31st December 2010).

The rules are simple. One post a week – to be online no later than the Friday of that week. It must be longer than 25 words. Simple. Please feel free to send me any encouragement throughout the year – likewise any guesses as to when it will all unravel like an old woolly jumper with a loose thread will also spur me on.
Here’s to the next 52 weeks – let’s hope it is eventful and action-packed otherwise this could be the most boring exercise in history.

(Please note that I have selected the lazier option – back in July 2008 my friend had completed his challenge of writing a blog everyday for a year!!! You can read his years thoughts here