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Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham’

A Wide Place on Birmingham New Mainline canal this morning

It’s been a joy to visit the Birmingham Mainline canal to run again this week. I’ve had some time off because I was too enthusiastic when I restarted last time and aggravated my plantar fasciistis. I am now *much* better informed about stretching and starting back after injury or any sort of break, and how rubbish runners should also pay attention to these things. Reminds me of the time I went for a run for the first time ever, many years ago. I didn’t stretch afterwards because I thought that was only for good runners. Couldn’t walk for days. And didn’t run again for about twenty five years.

I’m still listening on my headphones as I run. I’ve been connecting with my Church of England credentials of late and reading and/or listening to around five psalms daily, following the pattern set out in the Book of Common Prayer (here’s a pdf if you’d like to try it). I have subscribed to the excellent Dwell Scripture Listening app, which has some great readers, and includes the BCP Psalm reading plan (although they don’t mention that it is Cranmer’s one in the app). So I listen to Rosie, with her northern accent, reading the Psalms (nearly) every morning. You can set the app to repeat the reading, which has enabled me to meditate on the Psalms as I get to hear the daily selection at least three times on my short and slow runs.

This morning the whole reading was from Psalm 119 (the entire psalm takes 2½ days of the plan), and the phrase that caught my ear as I meditated was:

and I shall walk in a wide place,

for I have sought your precepts.

Psalm 119:46

I loved that reminder of the space that the Lord provides for his people when they seek him – and his laws. That feeling of freedom that comes when I know that I am following God’s way and not mine. As I run I feel freedom – the space and quiet of the canals in a noisy and busy part of creation. That verse from Psalm 119 spoke to me this morning of God’s generosity and kindness, when we can so easily think of him as placing restrictions and unnecessary boundaries on us. I walked and ran in a wide place this morning – with my slow and creaking body, and in my heart and soul.

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I enjoyed my book signing at CLC in Birmingham very much last weekend. I met some lovely people in the shop – both staff and customers, and some of them even bought a copy of The Ministry of a Messy House. On Saturday I also appeared in the local paper after they’d sent a photographer round to take a pic. He spent a good while rearranging the mess in my kitchen to perfect his shot. Sadly, he didn’t rearrange any of it so that it was tidier…

MMH EandS

Our diocese also published online the article that appeared in the diocesan newspaper this month. The online version has a short video of me in my messy kitchen talking about the book and why we need to know God’s grace. The mess is slightly differently arranged – the icecream tub has moved a bit.

And this week, the first proper review of my book was published online. Eddie Arthur of Wycliffe BIble Translators liked my book and thought that men should read it too (he also blogged a bit of the book that had struck him earlier in the week). This made me happy. I am finding this bit of being an author slightly rollercoastery. Still fun and interesting and occasionally exhilerating. When I’m not feeling slightly nauseous, that is…

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I have some wifi and am now desperately posting and scheduling all the things I’ve been thinking about whilst our lines have been down this last week. First off some links to some of the Halloween ideas I’ve blogged previously:

I noticed  this weekend that CLC in Birmingham had a whole heap of Halloween tracts – and a pumpkin prayer, in a display this weekend. So if you’ve not had time to grab any resources, a quick trip to a local Christian bookshop should sort you out in time for any trick or treaters likely to descend. Our church are holding a light party for the first time this year – we’ve just rescheduled our October Messy Church to coincide. My kids are looking forward to it, and I’ve promised the Joker he can do some ‘guising’ at the party by encouraging everyone to tell cheesy Halloween jokes.

Ryan Cartwright aka Crimperman has published a great new cartoon for Halloween this year.  I can’t seem to find a seraphim costume anywhere, though…

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If you follow my Twitter feed, you’ll have spotted that last Friday, I inadvertently parked our car in a reserved spot in a cheap carpark near to Birmingham city centre. For this minor lapse in judgement, the Vicar and I were then forced to hand over £390 in cash to retrieve our vehicle. We’d been the victims of a just-about-legal (but not for much longer) scam perpetrated by Mid-Way Parks, a car clamping outfit, who can be found all over the internet (and not in a good way). You can read the Vicar’s version of events over on his blog.

The whole episode left us not only poorer but also angry. Although I’d parked in the wrong place, we felt that the charge was totally disproportionate to the infraction. The cheery men who took our money told us that ‘someone pays a lot of money to reserve that spot’. But in all the times we’ve parked in that carpark (maybe a dozen over the last couple of years) we’ve never seen the space occupied. It certainly wasn’t when we returned to find our car missing.

In fact, Mid-Way Parks seem to have designed their carparks to entice motorists into misparking so that they can then charge them enormous amounts of money following clamping and towing. That appears to have been the experience of the many people on the forums I linked above and the THREE Facebook groups dedicated to those who feel they’ve been unfairly treated by Mr Walton Wilkins and his team.

After our adventure with the carnappers, we took the Queen (who’d just been taking a school entrance exam) to eat in a city centre restaurant. As we walked in, we were very pleased to bump into our local MP, the renowned Murdoch mauler, Tom Watson. When he asked how we were, we told him! And he informed us that there is a bill about to be brought into force that will put Mid-Way Parks out of business.

I am glad about that, but am still wondering how justice can be done. I’ve written to Tom Watson in more detail, and also Gisela Stuart, a Birmingham MP who responded to a tweet I sent to all the local MPs I could find. I was especially annoyed to have found out that despite many court judgements against Mid-Way Parks, Mr Wilkins and his staff were issued with renewed licences by the Home Office Agency the Security Industry Authority (SIA) only last August.

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This weekend we went to see our family favourite, Colin Buchanan (not the bishop), in concert in Birmingham as a part of the Passion for Life mission that is taking place round the country over the next few weeks.

Colin with the Vicarage kids and their friend Wondergirl

The Birmingham concert was a typical Colin session – full of high energy, hilarity and gospel truths. The Queen was particularly pleased to be selected to wave a flag. It was great fun to be there and I’m already planning to ensure that the next time he’s in the Midlands we arrange a Sunday School outing to his show. It was just as entertaining for the grown-ups.

When I mentioned that I’d been to see Colin on Facebook and Twitter, two separate people quoted the first line of this Colin song to me. It’s from his grown-up album, Real Hope. His style was categorised as ‘country rock’ on one website I looked at – I love it, but wouldn’t class myself as a fan of country or rock!

Press on Mums
In all the chaos
Look to Jesus through the tears
Press on, Mums
God will guide you
Through those precious, tender years

Chorus:
And in all you do, do it for Jesus
Who won you life and free forgiveness
Yesterday, today
He is the same
All you do
Do it in Jesus’ name

Press on, Dads
Love your wife
Serve your children
Set the pace
Press on, Dads
Seize the moment
Show them Jesus
Run the race

Press on, kids
God adores you
He will hear you when you pray
Press on, kids
Love your family
Honour, serve
Forgive, obey

. . . and when all your human energy is gone
Look towards your Jesus and press on.

I’ve been singing it to myself all week. And now I’m going to see if I can locate the album, underneath the chaos somewhere.

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The Vicar's study has been 10°C today. Brrr.

Before Christmas, we had a nasty shock from our power supplier, e.on. They wanted to raise our monthly direct debit for gas and electricity by nearly 85%. Although our usage has gone up a bit in the cold weather, we were still in credit with them.

The Vicar had some long discussions with their customer services department, both on the phone and by email, but to no avail. They’ve estimated our usage for the next few months based on the records from when we didn’t live here and the decorators were in, heating the house 24/7.

Although we think they’ve made a bad call, we have to go along with it. It will cause a bit of cash flow trouble in the next couple of months, but once we’ve proved that they’ve made a mistake, it should even out.

The upside of all this irritation is that we went online and switched our tariff, saving another 8% on the charges. The other upside is that the Vicar contacted the diocese about sorting out some loft insulation and they put us onto the excellent Warm Zone team.

Warm Zone is an EU funded initiative operating in selected areas, including ours. They provide advice and can also help out with insulation and other kit if you fall into the fuel poverty bracket, which we do now, since a Vicar’s salary is not what you’d usually have if you lived in a house this size.

So this morning we had a visit from Seema, from Sandwell Warm Zone. She came armed with goodies, including a fancy plug to turn off printers when the computer is switched off, a timer switch, an eco kettle and some low energy light bulbs. Most importantly, she brought an energy sensor, which she’s lent us for the next few weeks. It monitors electricity usage so you can see the power used by each appliance in the house as it’s switched on. I’m a little scared about what it’s going to reveal, but it will be useful.

And we’re on the list for loft insulation and possibly cavity wall insulation in the modern extension part of the house. There’s a bit of a waiting list, so we’re not sure when that will happen. As we’re not in the lowest income bracket, we’re going to have to pay for their services. But only £49. We’re hoping that will make a big difference, especially to Happy, the Vicar’s Apprentice, whose room is in the uninsulated attic. It’s so cold up there at the moment that we’ve taken pity on him and brought him down to sleep in the spare bedroom a floor below.

So if you’re in Aberdeen, Birmingham, Devon, Gateshead, Hull, Kirklees, London, Newcastle, North Staffordshire, North Tyneside, Northumberland, Nottingham, Sandwell, South Tyneside or Swindon, give them a call. It won’t do any harm and you could find yourself cheaply warmer.

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I have a terrible confession to make (shhhhh): I prayed that God would not send me and the Vicar to work in a church in Birmingham.

When he was still training, the Vicar had suggested that Birmingham would be a good place to go and work – lots of multi-cultural areas, close to many athletics meets (the Vicar was helping out with some ministry for Christians in Sport at the time) and well located between our families in London and Scotland.

But I knew better. We didn’t want our kids growing up with those nasal Birmingham accents. So the Lord was kind to us and sent us to the Black Country instead.

We love it here – it’s multicultural, close to athletics meets, well located between our families and people are friendly and wonderful. But today the Engineer said:

See the whistle I got from the boo-kit*.

The accents are here to stay. And I’m glad to be here. Who’d have thought it?

*The boo-kit is full of small plastic toys that the nursery children can choose as a prize for getting lots of ‘good tidying up’ and ‘good listening’ stickers at school.

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