Saturday, 27 June 2009

High days in Haworth

Last Sunday afternoon, solstice, visited the Bronte mecca of Haworth. Bizarrely, a sixties weekend was in full swing; the home of the world's most famous literary family, was taken over by Bee Gees impressions, pink flares and bad Elvis wigs. Brilliant.
Hiked up to Top Withens, remote farmhouse ruin and supposed inspiration for gothic masterpiece Wuthering Heights. The stone plaque, placed there by the Bronte society in 1964, assures 'in reponse to many enquiries' that the farmhouse could only have been an incidental inspiration, as even when intact it bore no resemblance to WH. ('wuthering' apparently describes the kind of turbulent weather found on the yorkshire moors. Fortunately when I went, it was sunny).
On the way up I passed two friendly young women out to get trim. And then I passed them on the way down. Took a detour, and passed them again. And again. At one point I even back-tracked, thinking I hadn't come the best way, so passed them in reverse before revising my decision and overtaking them again. Frankly, it all got a bit silly. But we laughed about it.
Back in Haworth, stopped at the Old Hall Inn for a slap-up bangers and mash. As the outdoor table I sat down at was on a bit of a slope, the gravy flowed inexorably to one end of the plate and had to be marshalled with some dexterity.

On a (recently rare) spiritual note, I'm reading through Oswald Chambers 'My Utmost for his highest'. Let's be honest, for both atheists and Christians/people with a faith - we have some common ground here - God's reality and presence is far from 'obvious' all the time. It's quite possible to get through a day giving Jesus or the divine barely a thought. But OC constantly challenges me with the message that the spiritual is real. And that by 'doing the duty that lies nearest', taking a step with the little light you have and thus living in dynamic relationship with God, life can become a scene of constant unexpected delight, wonder and surprise. Rock and roll.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Wimbledon church

Radio script (with tennis and crowd sound effects). Go to to listen to a sample...

And welcome to church. Break point. Ethel to serve. First act of service. Oh and it’s big, WARM hug at the door, picked up well by Stacy, returns nicely. Arfur, drop shot compliment, nice touch, placed beautifully, back hander but that’s ok, well received. Excellent conversation over there, deep, wide. Ooh and that’s a savage attack on Nigel but he blocks well, gentle reply, all smoothed over. Stacy almost slips through the net but picked up, great recovery. Oh and look at Ethel, great speed across the court, full stretch, going the extra mile. And a parting shot from Nigel, ‘I forgive you’, struck sweetly, absolute winner, Arfur left rooted to the spot, quite speechless.

Umpire: Advantage church

Commentator: Well that was a joy to watch, absolutely glorious. This game certainly isn’t over yet.

Saturday, 20 June 2009


Much of last weekend was spent in the capacious Peel Park, soaking up the atmosphere and contributing to a good cause at the world famous (well, sounds as if it should be) Bradford Mela, 21 this year. I joined a group of young christians, some with mild hippy leanings, who go to a groovy-sounding church called 'soulspace'. They were representing a campaigning and networking charity called 'Speak'. The event title: 'Little Big Dress' - a spin-off of a fair trade campaign years ago called Big Dress, which involved the production of thousands of tiles of fabric stitched together into a giant lady's garment. They'd assembled a Mongolian style yurt (large round tent structure presumably designed to withstand the ferocious conditions of the mongolian steppe) and covered it with this colorful patchwork quilt. Now why didn't I take a picture of that?
All of which served to remind me - except the dress - of a heady trip 11 years ago across vast expanses of nothingness on board the Trans-Mongolian Express. With a travel agency which charged the earth called, suitably enough, 'Monkey Business'. Sharing a cabin with two English lads who'd been teaching English in Hiroshima and were now heading to the Paris World Cup. Of a large male American passenger who, upon realising somewhere several hundred miles from anywhere that the train was running a day late due to striking Russian workers, declared that he was being 'held against his will' and insisted on leaving the train and being escorted to the nearest airport. I wonder whatever happened to him.
But I digress. Amongst the attractions of the Speak venue was a drumming workshop, where an enthusiastic African in trad dress sat in a circle of bongo drums and diligently tried to instil a sense of rhythm into an optimistic cross section of the general public. Also a very popular face painting corner which drew kids and their parents like bees to a honey pot. And a short drama about fair trade, in which I played the personification of an evil multinational corporation bent on squeezing as much out of poor exploited developing world workers as I possibly could. And cackling diabolically at appropriate moments. What can I say. Typecast as usual.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Vulture networking

Weekend before last, when high pressure was melting the country, did a couple of nice walks. One with a group taking in Kirkburton village, Castle Hill and Emley Moor TV tower near 'uddersfield', tallest free standing structure in the UK. Fine aerial view of a cricket match from the hill as well.
And then Sunday afternoon, a solo tramp across Ilkley Moor, which sports what's called Yorkshire's unofficial anthem, Ilkley Moor bar 'tat (i know i've spelt that wrong..) Well, I went with a hat - a very fetching sun one. The moor ends abruptly at a road and Dick Hudson's pub, where I stopped for a shandy. A shimmering of black manes in distant field as a posse of horses cantered off.
Mon to Weds just gone, churches' media conference in Swanick, Derbyshire, examining the impact of the media, and potentially of people of faith within it. Some pretty high-powered not to say esoteric discussion. And an array of high-powered media types to boot. One of the trickiest christian events I've been at to just go up and talk to people over coffee. At one point I sat down and said hello to someone who also seemed to feel a bit outside the goldfish bowl. She turned out to be one of the fringe event speakers and a 'Dr' no less from the Faraday institute of science and religion in Cambridge. She introduced me to the term 'vulture networking' which, as it suggests, means to circle round particular individuals with a view to getting what you can out of the encounter. Apparently the key is to network in a spirit of generosity, trust and respect, and so be a 'star networker'! Rock on.