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I went to be interviewed by Paul Hammond of UCB radio last week. I drove up the M6 to Stoke and spent a great couple of hours having lunch with his lovely producer and then talking in a studio with Paul about something I seem to know a bit about – mess. It was good to chat around the subject of mess and the Christian and how messy homes and families can be used for God’s glory. And thankfully it didn’t feel like I was in the Mastermind chair at all. Much more like chatting with a friend over some of the topics I covered in my book. I started by reading out my dad’s poem from the start of The Ministry of a Messy House, which finishes:

So, come and talk, some tea and cakes,

To love one’s neighbour messy makes,

There’s just no time to tidy up,

We always need another cup,

For family, friends, and cruel distress

Come first, and so, you see,

A mess.

(from Messiness by John Turtle)

My dad used to work for the BBC and had his own programme on the World Service before he retired. I was very pleased to be able to recite his poem on the radio to continue his broadcasting career after a fashion. Hopefully the interview itself wasn’t too messy and I didn’t say ‘um’ too often. At least they’ve decided to broadcast it – in fact it will be going out on the radio this coming week. If you like you can listen online or on your DAB radio or on Sky Channel 0125, Virgin Media 914 or their iPhone app.

I was recorded for a segment of Paul’s daily show which covers current affairs and topical discussion. There are four ten minute segments which will go out on his show. I think that means they’ll be on from Monday to Thursday. The show airs from 9am-12noon, and there is a Saturday omnibus of the whole interview called Life Issues which goes out at 9.15pm next Saturday evening. The shows stay available on the website for a week after transmission.

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Apologies. We have had the lurgies. And hence the exciting 2014 regular posting phenomenon has gone a bit down the tubes, after lasting for all of about a fortnight. The Queen got sick and then kindly shared her bug with three of the four grown-ups in the house. BytheSea had the Daddy Bear version, involving treatment with antibiotics, I have had a Mummy Bear attack which has merely confined me to bed for four days, and the Vicar has had the Baby Bear lurgies and has felt terrible but still managed to lead a massive funeral and attend a 2 1/2 hr school governors meeting midweek plus all his normal vicaring duties.

Anyway, I’m pleased to report that we’re on the mend and I’m able to have a small blogging catch-up.

FIRST: The winner of the caption competition – randomly generated as I found it too hard to choose – is Shaun. Please email me at thevicarswifey [at] gmail [dot] com to claim your prize of an e-book of The Ministry of a Messy House.

SECOND: Book news: The Vicar reviewed my book (I’m relieved to say that he liked it) – and Claire Musters posted her review on Christian Today (she seemed to understand the writing process in the Vicarage perfectly).

THIRD: Ace apps – I’ve been meaning to mention a couple of excellent free apps – the Bible App for Kids and PrayerMate for iPad/iPhone and Android (free until the end of March courtesy of London City Mission). My kids are a little on the big side for the Bible App but they have enjoyed noodling about with it. It looks like a fun way to get kids familiar with bible stories. Recommended for ages 3-8. And PrayerMate is a truly excellent way to order all your regular intercessions. Over the years I have used various versions of prayer lists and abandoned/lost them pretty regularly. PrayerMate is a superb app which enables me to keep my list fresh and has some whizzy features like alarms and prayer diaries from mission societies (all in iOS, some still to come in Android).

FOURTH: I have come across a couple of interesting programmes on Alba – the Gaelic language BBC service which we can get on iPlayer. There’s a gentle series about ministers’ wives in Scotland (Bean a’ Mhinisteir) and tonight we’re going to watch Reaching Out with Hope (Na Soisgeulaich) which is about three evangelical churches in Scotland reaching out to their communities, including Niddrie Community Church, led by Mez McConnell of 20Schemes. Two of our children have Gaelic names, but that’s the extent of my knowledge, but it’s okay – the programmes are subtitled in English.

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Blogging is a funny old thing. Sometimes I can focus myself and write something every day. Other times I can’t think of anything to say. And then time goes by and there seems to be too much to say. So today I’m just going to say a bunch of random things and am hoping that will clear the blogjam that I’ve been experiencing the last week or so.

  • My kitchen was full of smoke earlier because I had a sourdough loaf in a very hot oven. First time for sourdough in ages too – perhaps my blog has become sourdough-fueled and I hadn’t noticed?
  • I have just agreed to lead a seminar at the Proclamation Trust Ministers Wives conference I’m going to in March. I’m more of a writer than a speaker so if you have any top tips for speaking and seminaring I’d be very grateful to have them.
  • I have been debating with myself about how much self-publicity is appropriate for a Christian writer. I don’t want to be a blog bore about the book. But having said that I’ve had a couple of very kind reviews and wanted to tell people (they were from Eddie Arthur and Deb). The recent Christian New Media Conference, with its awards for Christian bloggers and tweeters and websites makes me wonder about this too. Should Christians promote themselves and award prizes to one another? How much self-promotion is appropriate? I am still thinking about this.
  • Our area has a very low breastfeeding rate (around 50% against national average of over 80%). It’s not in the new trial where mums are going to be paid to breastfeed, but a friend who is breastfeeding has found herself singled out for being odd at clinics. Not exactly an encouragement. Tchuh.
  • I am going on an outing with Year 5 on Friday. Wish me luck. Thankfully it does not involve going on any rides.
  • I have about a squillion books waiting to be reviewed on the blog. They are sitting in a pile on my desk, scowling at me. Sorry if it’s your book that’s waiting.
  • Someone from the BBC asked us if we’d like to have a documentary made about life in the Vicarage. We thought about it for a nanosecond or two. And declined, like sensible people who worry about cameramen tripping over the clutter in the hall and generally having too much to do already. Wonder if anyone else is brave enough to agree?
  • We had a great firework party last week with our youth group and a couple of other groups. The weather that day was terrible, but thankfully the rain held off whilst the bonfire was lit and then returned in a deluge just at the end, so that everyone left promptly.
Vicarage Fireworks

Vicarage Fireworks

That’s enough wittering. Perhaps some more coherant blogging will flow now.

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This weekend the Engineer’s godmother, Song, told me that our tow-un had been mentioned on Radio 4’s Food Programme. But not in a good way. It was in a programme looking at the effects and prevalence of trans-fats – factory produced fats which are used in cheap foods and which are linked to obesity and other health problems. Some national companies like McDonalds and KFC have signed up to a pledge to remove all trans-fats from their food by the end of this year. But small independent companies, like most of the ones in our high street, have generally not signed up.

The Food Programme’s presenter, Sheila Dillon, visited our high street (at around 15 minutes into the programme) with Sandwell’s Director of Public Health, Dr John Middleton. Dr Middleton says that Sandwell has been described as ‘fat central’ and that the quality of food that can be bought in the area is a factor in the obesity issues here.

And last week our local paper posted an article about how the high street here is one of the worst in the UK. The rental prices for retail property in the town have plummeted because the profits that can be made are so low that retailers are reluctant to operate here. So nearly all the shops sell cheap or heavily discounted products, which brings us trans-fats in the cut-price food and then the associated health problems.

So here, unlike Bristol, here we’re waiting for Tesco to save and regenerate our high street, as their new superstore is built. Saving and regenerating the town’s people, however, is something only God can do.

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Watching the last episode of the excellent BBC Nativity earlier this week I was reminded of this song by Andrew Peterson (he of Matthew’s Begats). Here is a YouTube clip of it, with pictures from The Nativity Story from 2006. A Christmas Day treat for us all.

And talking of a Labour of Love, if you were in bed at a decent hour last night, you won’t have heard my fumblings on air with Ranvir Singh of Radio 5 Live. My very kind brother-in-law managed to record my brief moment of late-night fame, where I spoke about what Christmas means to me. It was recorded from the telly, which is why it’s in a YouTube clip.

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I’ve got this post scheduled for today and another tomorrow so the computer can go in its box….

In the meantime, check your knowledge of the bible and English literature on the BBC website. I heard a chap on the Today programme on Tuesday talking about how the lack of basic bible knowledge meant that students of English literature were failing to grasp the depths of their subject.

Read it to do well in literature - and to find eternal life

Read it to do well in literature - and to find eternal life

My friend Starstudent was pleased to have studied the bible with me for a while, as it helped her to understand Paradise Lost in her recent literature course.

I got 9/10 on the quiz – caught out by Lucifer.

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