Home Made Christmas Tree

For our Christmas tree this year I've taken inspiration from my favourite computer game of all time - Operation Flashpoint Cold War Crisis (now sometime referred to as ARMA). Some of you might have heard me drone on about it, which I shalln't do now, suffice to say it is most excellent and there is a compass and map with which you can navigate completely by dead-reckoning. In that game, as with many early 3D games, volume was achieved by having two textured plains dissecting each other at 90 degrees. (actually, if I think about it, this is also exactly how one might make a cardboard tree - like the sort we used to have at Christmas which would "flower". WOW! THEY STILL EXIST: Tobar Magic Growing Christmas Tree). I pruned the neighbours laylandii hedge and shoved the branches into holes drilled in a wooden post. So far it seems to be holding up and has taken the decorations. It certainly first the bill making the house feel much more like Christmas than it did beforehand.

2015 Laylandii Christmas Tree. © Nick Bailey
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Operation Flashpoint Cold War Crisis
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This shouldn't make me as happy as it does

I've found my preferred oil bottles and now I have my own set of own-branded oil. The bottles are from Aldi, their Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil (which is nice and remarkably good value). I'm thinking some people might be getting these bottles for Christmas...

Aldi Rapeseed Oil bottles. © Nick Bailey
rough labelled oil

@NationalTrust Wimpole Hall Estate in Autumn

With autumn upon us and unseasonably warm weather since getting back from Korea we headed out to Wimpole Hall (National Trust) to have a weekend walk around the estate with a friend of ours. I was in a t-shirt walking around, utterly splendid despite being Halloween (surprisingly similar to last year in fact). What's more there was an actual hill to climb which afforded an actual view. A view. In Cambridgeshire. What joy!

wimpole estate cambridgeshire. © Nick Bailey
wimpole tree stitch

wimpole estate cambridgeshire. © Nick Bailey
wimpole pond

wimpole estate cambridgeshire. © Nick Bailey
branches stitch

wimpole estate cambridgeshire. © Nick Bailey
light through the trees

wimpole estate cambridgeshire. © Nick Bailey
autumnal leaves

wimpole estate cambridgeshire. © Nick Bailey
yellow and orange

wimpole estate cambridgeshire. © Nick Bailey
wimpole at sunset

wimpole estate cambridgeshire. © Nick Bailey
last light through the trees

Wiping Away Snot - Never Felt More Like a Dad

The little chap has a cold. Or rather, a cold is all he has left after about three weeks of various infections picked up through cross contaminated toys at the local playgroup. It started with a fever reaching 38 degrees and lasting enough days to get us worried enough to ring the vet. Thankfully patience + Calpol were enough to see us through his temperature which finally abated leaving him with a cough quickly joined by conjunctivitis (an itis! - I'd forgotten about those). He battled through despite the clammy eyes and red face although his sleeping was shot to pieces (as was ours). The eyes cleared as did the general face redness and now his cough is finally improving but his nose decided to join the party and leak continuously. I'm finally pleased to see that the leaking has turned thicker and greener following the usual pattern of my runny noses suggesting it is nearly over as well. Fingers crossed he'll be clean by Christmas as will we be having both suffered most of his symptoms (my temp reached 38.6).

The cutest thing in all of this, apart from his remarkably good spirit throughout (the daytimes), is that I feel like a proper Dad when I wipe his nose. It's been so sweet teaching him that my actions are helpful and now he is really calm as I wring out his nostrils, holding his head up to help.


Two Mini Open Letters to All Car Manufacturers

I have two suggestions for the automotive industry. The first involves indicator lights, the second an idea for electric vehicles. I do not posses the means attempt to profit from these ideas (if they are even worth considering), so rather than try I would like to let all the manufacturers know together so that hopefully, if any of them feels it worthwhile, they could give it a go.
Car Hazard Lights
Can someone tell me why car hazard lights flash at the same rate as indicator lights? Before someone tells me that is is because they are bimetallic bulbs, therefore have an inbuilt cycle frequency, this can not be the case any more. Surely indicators are controlled by a computer keeping time not a electro-mechanical phenomenon. So who on earth would think it sensible for a hazard light to flash with the same pattern and frequency as an indicator. Just from the thought of it a hazard light should be a little more in-your-face in order to make a statement. But my main reason for this annoying me is that, if you can't see BOTH indicator lights of a car, say due to it being partly obscured by other cars, you have NO IDEA if the car is indicating or has its hazards on.

Dear Car Manufacturers,
Please set a standard for hazard warning light flashing pattern. I suggest a simple double flash rather than the current single. This would immediately distinguish between hazard and indicator in the event that an observer can only see one side of the vehicle.
Yours Sincerely,
Dr Nick Bailey

External Ambient Sound Through Stereo at Low Speeds
The second thought concerns electric vehicles, particularly the issue that have regarding their lack of noise. This idea has been on my mind for about a year now, but since March there has been some media attention in the UK, in particular this advert by the charity Guide Dogs (for the Blind)  alerting people to the danger of electric cars to blind people. I found out about this via Robert Llewellyn (aka Kryton from Red Dwarf)'s excellent YouTube channel Fully Charged. In this recent video on the subject he performs a little experiment with a blind friend and they find out that at very low speeds electric cars are indeed very quite and difficult for a blind person to hear coming. Indeed they make the valid points that this is akin to a road cyclist and furthermore that it is very much one the responsibility of the driver to be aware (we've been warned about kids running into roads long before electric cars).
My idea fits this problem precisely and it stems from me being a cyclist first and driver second. When I cycle I rely heavily on my ears to build a picture of the world around me that I'm cycling through. When I drive I feel drastically deprived of this sense. Cars have long had stereo systems which increase the volume at higher speed when road noise is loud. So, as a first step do the very opposite in electric cars - turn the volume down (or off?) at very low car-park type speeds. But more than that, my suggestion is to attach a microphone to each external corner of the vehicle and then use the in-built speakers to literally pipe the sounds of outside inside. I realise that this will not make blind people visible (unless they are particularly chatty), but it would heighten the awareness of the driver to the environment they are driving through. What better way to use technology that exists, and take advantage of the very issue - the silent nature of electric cars at low speeds - to enable the driver to hear the outside making the walls of the vehicle effectively disappear. We have rear view cameras for parking, now think exterior-ambient-surround-sound.

Dear Electric & Hybrid Car Manufacturers,
Would you very much mind considering my suggestion to implement an exterior ambient microphone array to bring exterior sounds inside the electric vehicle at low speeds, much akin to how a rear-view camera allows the driver to "see" behind them as they reverse. This could greatly assist in heightening the drivers awareness of the environment through which they drive and could have the potential to prevent accidents by allowing the driver to "hear" someone or something outside their car that they might otherwise collide with.
Yours Sincerely,
Dr Nick Bailey


Nasturtium leaf from behind and other macros.

I've had my 35 mm lens on so much recently that I felt it was time for a change. Out with the macro lens while the sun was shining at the weekend. Actually, the sun was a little too bright at times leaving me to resorting to sun effect shots through the leaves and petals.

British Garden Macro. © Nick Bailey
nasturtium leaf from behind

British Garden Macro. © Nick Bailey
yellow and blue

British Garden Macro. © Nick Bailey
prickly echinacea

British Garden Macro. © Nick Bailey
dahlia from front

British Garden Macro. © Nick Bailey
dahlia from behind

British Garden Macro. © Nick Bailey
a yellow what's it called

British Garden Macro. © Nick Bailey
pompom dahlia

British Garden Macro. © Nick Bailey
fly on cornflower

British Garden Macro. © Nick Bailey
cornflower up close

© Nick Bailey
my son eating the garden (nasturtiums are a favourite of his)


I was mesmerised by this bamboo shooting through my sedum, a lovely colour combination.

. © Nick Bailey
bamboo with sedum

. © Nick Bailey
my favourite dahlia in deep near-electric pink to which the camera doesn't do justice

. © Nick Bailey
this years new cute rudbeckia 'Prairie Glow'

Protecting my chopping boards from black mould using garlic

I did a search a while back about mouldy chopping boards, specifically black mould which seems to particularly target wooden boards. I came across this post by the frugal girlabout how to how to get rid of black cutting board mildew. This confirmed my suspicion that it was mildew, but that brings up a whole heap of issues for followers of Leviticus. Thankfully I don't follow Leviticus.

But I do have a mould problem. Dr K has a small chopping board which became 'infected' a long while ago back in Southampton, I suspect as a result of having been left standing in stagnant water around the kitchen sink. I took action to try and save the board by chopping off the lower section where all the black was visible plus a buffer zone of about a centimetre for good measure. I lovingly rounded the cut edge to match it with the old edges.

. © Nick Bailey
black mould creeping through the board.

However the mould came back. It took a while, but gradually the blackness reappeared at the bottom of the board which I had cut. I tried again to slice off the bottom to eradicate the problem, but yet again the blackness returned. What I realised is that the black mould was already far within the heart of the wood and travelling up the cell structure long before appearing on the surface, so the whole piece was probably infected deeply rending this board unsalvageable. So I have now retired this board from active use in order to isolate it from my other boards to prevent cross infection.

. © Nick Bailey
The board after the second reduction.

I have other chopping boards which are very precious to me. In fact one of these has just celebrated it's tenth birthday. When I first got this board I was so impressed with it that I started buying it as a wedding gift (which I thought was quite a nice gift) as it should last a lifetime or perhaps two. They are simply a thick slice of tree, in the round, Chinese style. I was fed up with the plethora of crap block-work chopping boards which are simply glued together and as such almost designed to fail with time.

As a result of the preciousness of these boards, and in an attempt to see them though my lifetime I decided to take pre-emptive action against the mould by implementing an approach that I have no idea the effectiveness of. I remember from a Gardeners' World last year that the application of Garlic juice to trees - almost as an intravenous drip - is being trialled, with some success, as a treatment for various diseases. So with this in mind I augmented my usual oiling procedure (which I do about every time I remember to) by rubbing the oil in with half a garlic clove as an applicator rather than my finger as I was using previously. The next time I tried this I actually rubbed raw garlic into the board before the oil, forcing the natural garlic oil into the grain of the wood. It took about two cloves per side, and seemed reasonable effective at 'wetting' the board with garlic. Then rubbing in the oil with the clove provides a further garlic application. As I say, I have no idea to the effectiveness of this approach, but seeing as I use the boards for garlic frequently in the first place, I felt that the addition of some extra garlic could not hurt and should only help I hope.

. © Nick Bailey
one of my lovely Chinese chopping boards - simply a slice of tree

. © Nick Bailey
large garlic cloves halved

. © Nick Bailey
raw garlic cloves rubbed into the grain of the wood

. © Nick Bailey
olive oil then rubbed in with the cloves

Oh I do love garlic. Have a go and try it yourself. I guess as a real test I could attempt to garlic-ify the already mouldy board and see if it stemmed the mould. Hmmm, perhaps I might give that a go...


Hexagonal jam jars pictured for scale (available from: @JamJar_Shop)

It's jam time of year and so far we've made three batches of cherry jam, three of mulberry, a mirabelle plum, an exotic greengage pickle and assortment of fruit mushes. There is a bucket of damsons to process as well as a few bits and bobs for gin and a demijohn of blackberry wine on the bubble. Safe to say it's been a good fruit year so far.
Therefore it is also that time of year when empty jars become rather important. We tend to keep most, but even still supplies are running low. Also, while it is good to recycle used jars (unless health and safety have got to you) and the quest for the nicest shop brought jars is satisfying, there is something much more pleasing about having all your jars the same size and shape. Very pleasing indeed. That is where The Jam Jar Shop comes into its own. You can buy case-loads of lovely jam jars all the same size. You can even buy ones in different sizes and have a little family of them. I much prefer the hexagonal variety as they stack so nicely and afford a good view of the jam inside. Specifically the 8oz size as this is a good balance between a practical amount of jam to enjoy per jar, but filling lots of jars generating plenty for you to give away. The 12oz are best if you're going to eat your own jam (or are really super generous to give away large jars). Meanwhile the 4 ozers are really cute but don't contain enough jam to make their gift-bestowal adequate. When it comes to lids I'm on the side of black looks best. I've found that the silver/gold ones tend to decay a bit over time and with repeated usage.
The only problem I have with the shop itself is the pictures of the jam jars. It's really quite hard to compare the different sizes when the images have no frame of reference. Hence why I have tried to take the photos below. In doing so I have discovered that it is quite tricky to give jars that are the same shape but mildly differing in size a sense of proportion. I walked round the house looking for something suitable. I tried filling them with whole cloves as these have a very definitive size, but then there are just too many to make the comparison useful. In the end I found that standing them on the newspaper was as effective as I could get it.
As a side note I do use these jars, the 8oz size, as spice jars. They look fabulous, naturally tessellate on the shelf and you don't need labels as you get such a good view of the contents. Sometime I find the 12oz more appropriate for some of the bulkier spices which tend to come in larger packs.
jamjarshop. © Nick Bailey
jamjarshop 12oz hexagonal jar filled with whole cloves
jamjarshop. © Nick Bailey
jamjarshop 8oz hexagonal jar
jamjarshop. © Nick Bailey
jamjarshop 4oz hexagonal jar
jamjarshop. © Nick Bailey
jamjarshop 4oz, 8oz, 12oz hexagonal jars all together for scale

The @Wittertainment podcast made it into @Honda_UK new 2016 Jazz printed brochure.

The chap in the Honda dealer had let me know that a new Jazz was coming and that perhaps I might be interested to wait until then. The current model that I tried was the 2013 version. Today I popped into the dealer to see the new one. It is indeed a good improvement over the old version. The styling on the outside is improved and it felt a lot more finished and swish on the inside. There is now a large touch screen computer interface which looks promising. However I think they have made the classic Samsung mistake of adding additional "touch" buttons to control the air conditioning. I.e. buttons that don't exist, but simply glow out of an otherwise shiny piece of plastic. These are horrible as they give no feedback. Agreed that neither do screen buttons, but they tend to compensate with more pixels and a pressed visualisation. Yuck. Shame, as otherwise it was looking good (other than the fact that I've now brought a car).

Honda Jazz brochure featuring Kermode and Mayo podcast. © Honda
New 2016 Honda Jazz brochure featuring Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo podcast


Testdrive review: Honda Jazz

Jazz (but not the 2016)
With panoramic sunroof
John Banks

Honda Jazz. © Honda
This was my first attempt at showing interest in buying a car and trying to book a testdrive. The process was quite painless and had I been organised enough to bring my driving licence in the first place I could probably have done it when I first showed up. The chap was friendly enough, he took me round the car and some of the options. The smart seats were indeed rather cleaver and nifty giving a full height option for large items and packing flat for more usual haulage. This was a good point as it is likely we will carry lots of stuff (logs and the like).
For the drive itself I was able to drive home to my driveway which is a little fiddly and have a go at parking in it. This also allowed Dr K to take a look around the car without their need for travel. The drive was pleasant enough, but very little to say about it. It felt spacious inside and a little like my mum's Renault Espace, but it didn't feel swish, in fact the inside felt a little overly practical, perhaps a little cheap. The sunroof was lovely although I didn't get to testdrive one with it. Overall a good size car, spacious for the footprint, but it didn't make me feel much wow, and quite expensive for that.

Testdrive: Toyota Yaris

The Yaris was a bit of a disappointment to me I'm sad to say. The brochure was exciting and enticing, the outside has a rather nice exciting and sharp styling without being overly aggressive. The inside boasts a massive touch-screen display, but the rest of the inside felt surprisingly cheap and a bit overly functional. The excitement of the exterior isn't carried over inside, and that seems quite a shame. The software on the touch-screen was also quite weak, not as bad as the Vauxhaull, which is horrendous, but certainly dated and clunky - missing the simplicity and elegance of the Polo's UI.
The drive was pleasant enough. Nothing to really say in it's favour or detriment. Perhaps the gearbox was a bit on the loose side, the steering not super precise. The indicators were annoyingly loud. But it went round and seemed to be reasonable on fuel efficiency. The sound of the rain on the roof was a problem - it felt exceedingly tinny and cheap as a result. However, the Andy from the showroom was really a big plus: honest, relaxed and friendly - exactly what I want from someone trying to sell me a huge (non) investment.

We brought a car. *hangs head in shame*

We just brought a car. Really didn't mean to, but it just sort of happened. We went to the show room for a quick check of the details and ended up walking out having ordered a car which is currently on a ship heading to port in Southampton. I had hired a car for the week, a Toyota Aygo from Enterprise Histon and it was fine, a nice tiny car which did well to nip us round the flat lands and briefly to the mountains of Milton Keynes. It was also the car that took us to the showroom.
What have we done? It seems a little like we've failed and a little like we've succeeded at the same time. There has been some pride in not having a car, doing everything by bicycle until now, with a 5 month old (having had him on the bike trailer). But increasingly we have been relying on friends with cars to get us around more easily, and hiring more frequently. So it does feel like this is perhaps the natural time to relent and join the motorised masses. And in this way it oddly feels like a new age is dawning, like the 70's all over again (not that I was there the first time round), the prospect of having our own family car, the freedom to drive around and go where we like. Most importantly the ability to escape the oppressive confines of flat Cambridgeshire. Unfortunately, I fear we could discover that East Anglia is even more remote than we realised, taking at least an hour to get anywhere worth going.
The one positive thing living as we do in a village on the outskirts of Cambridge, is that driving in and around Cam is akin to having your brain repeadtedly smashed by a brick. It is a frightful "city" to attempt by car. Utterly ghastly. So this will mean that despite being motorised, any need for Cam will be bike bike bike. (It's worth noting, that even finding a place to park your bike can be difficult, but that is an entirely positive problem for a place to have.)
Just to be clear I do love our little village of Histon and I do like Cambridge, but I don't like driving round it and I'm not keen on the county it's in; too far right. Oh for the hills (and rain?) of the West.

Astrophotography again

A beautiful still warm evening encouraged me outside to take some more astrophotography shots after I'd had a quick go a couple of weeks back. This time I think I achieved better success with 30 second exposures at higher ISO. I found that again focusing to infinity is hard with my 35mm prime, but the live view enables a zoom in which does just about work when there is a star in the view. I;m particularly pleased with the wide field view showing some detial of the Milky Way and the fennel shot which has a couple of clusters in the view. Next time I need to improve on the colour cast which is a bit pinky here at my chosen manual white-balance (~4500K). These first of the cropped shots below show detail of the camera shake generated by passing lorries due to the night closure of the A14. The second demonstrates the slip over time from my rather cheap and cheerful tripod. Ooh for a Manfrotto.

Astrophotography - Milky Way. © Nick Bailey
35mm - f/2 - iso 1600 - 30s

Astrophotography. © Nick Bailey
35mm - f/1.8 - iso 100 - 30s

Astrophotography. © Nick Bailey
35mm - f/2 - iso 1600 - 30s

Astrophotography. © Nick Bailey
35mm - f/2 - iso 200 - 256s

Astrophotography. © Nick Bailey
35mm - f/2 - iso 200 - 417s


Car buying blog

It had been going so well, I've been doing test drives, narrowing my choice of cars from the frankly sickeningly vast array of production motors. I was mostly down to two: the Ford Fiesta or the VW Polo. this weekend, after testing the Ford for a second time I had mostly come down on the side of the VW. Then it struck, this weekend as we drove along in our Enterprise Rent-a-car, do we actually need to buy car?

Fatherhood Without A Dad

And you though the last post was a weepy.
People have asked me how does it feel to be a dad and I sometimes reply, if I think they're really asking, that it's a little melancholic, just shy of depressing. Wonderful of course, that goes without saying, and I have to say that our little chap is just a total treasure and such a poppet - he's so good at sleeping that I'm sometimes tempted to wake him up just to say hello in the evening. However, there is a definite sadness that parenthood brings.
One aspect is the whole 'circle of life' completing the first turn of the wheel, about which I will save for another time. Another sadness is that I'm going through this without a Dad of my own. Ground truth here: I have a tremendous stepfather and have been loved and supported by many other men as I grew up. But none of these are my biological Dad as he sadly died when I was just 2.
I only have really one memory of my Dad which for a long time I had no idea was of him, as he was ill in hospital having undergone chemotherapy and I just had this memory of an old man throwing Malteasers out of an office block window. My am I thankful for that tiny glimpse of him now, but as I look at my little boy I realise that no matter how much love I give him now, if I were to die he'd simply not remember me at all and would similarly be cast into life with only half an explanation for why he is like he is. This is slightly more prevalent as last week I was sitting in the oncology unit at Addenbrooks waiting to see a specialist in lymphoma due to these ongoing night sweats. His opinion was that I've probably not got it owing to only this one apparent symptom, and there are other slightly less nasty nasties that can cause that (a range of virus / diseases), but if he was wrong then it didn't look promising.
So here I am, albeit not quite going through the exact same thing (yet?) as he must have gone though, but simulating things at least with the prospect of dying and leaving my son behind. Yes, those who know me might be shouting "oh no, not again, you've been banging on about dying your entire life", and yes, they're right, I have. But then there is that Spike Milligan headstone quote "I told you I was ill" which springs to mind.
It occurred to me that I'd never really considered what my dad would have thought about me as he was ill, would he have cuddled me and kissed me and told me he'd miss me? He must have. What was going through his mind, what sadness at the loss, not only of his own life but of seeing ours too? My God, the the thing that most puts me off death is not the dying but the missing out on life, and now I get to miss out on all his future days too. Bloody hell, that's an awful prospect. Meanwhile I was so young and so oblivious to life that I just got on with growing up in our special small family. Kids really are so adaptable. Noted the years of issues I've gone through probably as a direct result of the trauma at such an age and it goes without question to point out that my Mum did an amazing job with us, we had a wonderful childhood.
When we first discovered our bump was a boy, and not the girl I had hoped for, Su wisely noted that this would mean I could experience all those things that my dad would have had with me. What a precious gift, and how right she was. Now his gender is not even a thing, he is just my child, but he is my son and I am his dad. Lets assume/hope that I'm not dying and I'll get to see him grow up - I have a chance to teach him to be a boy and a man which is odd when I think of myself more as a mum. My loss has left me without a strong point of reference for how to be a man myself, so how do I teach him, or is it that we learn together?
At the weekend Su remarked at how different he is with me, perhaps because I give him a different type of interaction than she does. So perhaps it's natural and inbuilt. That was lovely to hear, and it was the first time I'd thought that perhaps I was a father. Gosh, when he first calls me dad (or daddy perhaps - mine was always daddy), that will be something. So to my daddy, whose birthday is today, thank you for starting me out in life and for those sadly unremembered years of love you gave me. I miss you but I find you in me more than ever as I look at my son, named after you.

Lime pickle without the lime (but with greengages)

I made a rather splendid Sunday dahl last night and wandered if I could use up some of the green gages that we've scrumped from the local neighbourhood. Apparently not a lot came up on a search, but then I wondered about making something like a lime pickle. Googling "instant lime pickle" showed up lots of recipes for lemon pickle instead, which was odd but handy seeing as I didn't have any limes but did have a lemon. I briefly mused as to whether my fridge had 'got smart' and was so intelligent it knew what fruit was sitting in the fruit bowl on top of it. But perhaps, this time, it was just a coincidence.
Zapping the lemon in the pressure cooker (which had been in action processing the sturdy yellow split peas) was quick. I'd added a couple of test greengages too, but they didn't survive. The lemon went soft and squishy and had leaked a glorious liquid. I chopped it up into eighths and then sprinkled over some salt, ground roasted methi seeds (just a little) and turmeric powder and chilli powder. Here I popped a few quartered greengages in to jazz it up. Then I heated some sesame oil in a pan, popped in a spoon of black poppy seeds, let them fizz then poured it over. A quick mix and that was it. Chilled it slightly then enjoyed it with home made wholemeal chapatis courtesy of Dr K.
Lemon and Greengage Pickle. © Nick Bailey
instant lemon and greengage "lime" pickle

Sunday Fellowship: Church without the church, but also mostly just church.

When we went down to Southampton a couple of weeks ago we joined our friends for the Monthly Quaker "youth" outing to the Southampton Sunday Assembly. For those of you who don't know, the Sunday Assembly was started in 2013 as an idea to take the best bits of church such as communal singing and gathering together, but without any of the crappy religious bits that obviously makes actual Church rubbish. Here are their four point summary (see, they even shirk the three point sermon):

  • We are a secular congregation that celebrates life.
  • We have an awesome motto: Live Better, Help Often and Wonder More.
  • A super mission: A Sunday Assembly in every town, city and village that wants one.
  • An awesome vision: To help everyone live life as fully as possible.

So we went along and it was just like church. Actually, it was closer to some of the funkier churches in Southampton such as New Life or Vineyard, perhaps even a little CU at a push. There were the funky folk, the quirky outsiders, the poets and the rebels. After an initial slightly awkward meet and greet time with coffee and tea the service got under way with some singing of traditional pop songs (Cold Play's "Fix You" was rather enjoyable) followed an excellent poem on apathy by an American member of the congregation. The main sermon was also good, by local poet come song writer Grant Sharkey about maintaining a line between love and anger (and included the term 'binge thinking' which I rather liked). This was followed by the short five minute talk (which went on for nearer 30) and tried to get us to share nice things that had happened in the past week. We then prayed together. No, I mean we thought together. There was even a collection!
It was good. Nice people and a friendly atmosphere, just like a good church should be and quite often are. It was markedly young, as seen by their twitter banner and I suspect most of my church would feed out of place and not as a result of the lack of God. Indeed I barely felt there was a lack of God, just that no one mentioned him or tried to avoid mentioning him (actually Grant accidentally did). This was simply church re-imagined by young people who failed to be taken along to a CU while at university. Or perhaps they were taken along to a CU, or similar funky modern church where they were prayed at or otherwise intimidated into being saved, resisted but secretly enjoyed the whole thing.
Perhaps I'm being a little facetious. I'm sure there are plenty of reasons why people were there, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if a number were ex-evangelicals, some of them had that look. Either way there is something other actual churches could learn: people like to sing together, and do pretty much everything else that Church does. It's not even the preaching that puts people off, though no doubt some of the older traditional stuff has. We just need to loosen up a little and funk it up. But at the same time I certainly don't want to loose all the lovely silver backs we have in my local Church - they bring such warmth, love, vision and stability that should be treasured. Also they are most certainly not all stuck-in-the-mud bores who don't want change. Lets all sit together and learn from each other. It is hard to be a cohesive living church of all ages, but God really can help, even if some have to pretend not to have heard about him.
PS. The idea of giving new people different coloured mugs so everyone knows who's new and who's not is a wizard idea.

Kuti Pots

I've just found that you can buy Kuti pots on Amazon:
Pink Apple C650 Unique Quality Plastic Containers 40 g (Pack of 252)
For those not familier with Kuti Pots, Kuti's Brasserie is the leading curry house in Southampton and his takeaway's come in the best quality plastic pots that you can buy (this is agreed by anoyne in the know). The pots last for ages and can be used as lunch boxes, freezer boxes, fridge boxes and hot water bottles (yes, they are water tight). Go and order a takeaway or buy in bulk.

No Parking!

Saw this on the new building next to my office. They've added an impressive amount and range of cycle parking stands. Perhaps this sign was left there due to its ironic appeal.
No parking. © Nick Bailey
no parking