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25th June 2009

10:58pm: This is something I wrote on the train back from Hatfield last weekend.
You wish to know the whole story? It is a long one. Where shall we begin?
At the beginning? But there are so many. Yes, so very many. Very well, then. We shall return to the very first beginning.

Long ago, before the world had form, before time itself began, Hyrule was chaos.
It was happened upon by three golden goddesses, as they traversed the heavens. these great three saw not Chaos, but Possibility, and so they forged Existence.
Din, with her strong flaming arms, shaped and moulded the red earth. Nayru, with her sense of order, created the law to govern this world, that seasons would turn in their place, rivers run forever in their natural courses, and all things turn to their eventual end. Farore, with the breath of inspiration, instilled life that such works might be seen, valued, and upheld.
Their labours complete, the three returned to the heavens. At the point where they departed the world they had created, they left a relic, a final gift for the governance of Existence. Each of the three left a golden triangle, representative of their unity. Into these triangles, each poured their greatest strength, filling it with their essence, three forces bound together and necessary to each other.
This Triforce became the basis of all live in the world.
May ages passed in the world. Peoples rose and fell, lands came and went. Many sought after the power that would be granted to them if they held the Triforce.
This led eventually to a desperate time. A representative was chosen from each of the races of the world. These six were the wisest and most courageous who could be found, and each wielded great power.
Much was wrought in that time. The holy land of the Triforce was sealed away, a separate world, the Sacred Realm. The Six Sages put wards in place to ensure its protection, and the entrance to the Realm was also sealed.
That entrance was in a great building into which the Sages poured much of their strength. It was forged immune to the rigours of time, and within its walls time did not follow its usual laws.
Other temples those Ancient Sages built, one in each of their ancestral homes: under the eaves of the ancient forest, atop a high mountain, beneath a deep lake, in the middle of a desolate desert, and behind the shadows in the House of the Dead. Each of these temples touched upon the Sacred Realm, and they were all of them bound to the Temple of Time and to the power of the Triforce. Those sensitive to such things could often sense portents or omens in the boundaries of the temples, the touch of the Sacred Realm reaching between worlds.
The greatest work of the Ancient Sages was in union with the peoples of the heavens, who enabled them to leave their theurgy behind after they had passed, and to leave a judge able to deem those worthy of entering the Sacred Realm. This judge was left in slumber, hidden deep within the Temple of Time.
Still, there was war over the Triforce, and in its defence five of the Sages died. The final Sage exhausted his strength and theurgy in a desperate act of defiance. He bought victory at great cost, and returned alone from the battle. His power gone, he withdrew into the Sacred Realm, and there he waited.
It would be many years again before any would come before him.

And that is the Legend of the Ancient Sages.

31st May 2009

1:49pm: It is time once more for me to wax lyrical about my absolute favourite subject.

You see, it's a very special point for me. It is, around and about for I know not the exact date, exactly ten years since I first started playing Zelda.

I had had my N64 for a couple of months, GoldenEye being a game I had played a great deal of. My cousin Craig also had an N64 and a few games, but he didn't really play it much. He liked skateboarding games, and had a PSX with much better games on it. He leant me a few games to play, and one of them was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

I began the game but got stuck in the Great Deku Tree. Having being brought up mainly on Sonic, my 11 year-old mind simply could not comprehend the idea of backtracking through a level. Once I had gained the slingshot, the idea of going back out into the main room and climbing the vines was beyond me. I could see the ladder, (I could smell the ladder,) I just couldn't quite reach the ladder. No matter how I jumped across the room, I couldn't get to it.

I actually stopped bothering with the story at that point, and I did what I often did in games when I was that old. I made up my own story by playing a completed file on the game. Adult Link scared me, because of the decimation of the Market, so I simply wandered around Hyrule over and over again as Young Link. It was right back then that I developed a deep love of Kakariko Village; it was quite my favourite place to visit. I just enjoyed the serenity of this peaceful little hamlet, all its people living contently. It has, ever since, been the fictional place I'd most like to visit, and place I'd most like to settle down and live out my days. Once more I must curse that damnable clause of its non-existence.

I passed the game back to Craig, but by this time I had started looking at Zelda websites. Borrowing it once more, I started again, and progressed beyond that room. I had now made it to the first term of year 8. Tragedy struck our school when four teachers went sailing and were caught in a storm. The boat went down, most of them were rescued, but Mr Parkin (my DT teacher) died. Why do I tell you this? Actually, I am afraid it is for callous reasons. You see, the day of his funeral, we finished school at 11 o'clock. I went home and played Zelda.

I have to say, it was a very sad thing, I hope no one would think I am belittling his death. It's simply the reason I wasn't in school. The memory of playing Ocarina is a good one, though; working my way right through the bottom of the Deku Tree and defeating Gohma for the first time.

I again had to give the game back to Craig, but Christmas 1999, my parents got me Mario 64, and a copy of Ocarina.

Best. Christmas present. Ever.

My memories of playing the game go far beyond there, and they are very sweet to me. Being so impressed when I first met Zelda, making my way past the guards for the first time; the nightmares when I couldn't defeat King Dodongo; that first time I drew the Master Sword from its pedestal and awoke in a Hyrule I no longer recognised. I remember completing the Fire Temple in a single weekend (distinctly unimpressive now but quite a feat when I was 13), the N64 was still living in the loft at that point and I kept leaping down the ladder to call Tim Lee when I was stuck. As I slammed down Volvagia, I felt so proud. The N64 then made the move to my room, Mum and Dad allowing me to have a TV in there for the first time, and I remember the elation as I worked through the complexities of the Water Temple.

In the Shadow Temple, I stopped. I got down past the first bits, towards the Big Room, and met a Wallmaster. As soon as Navi warned me, I got freaked out and switched the game off. Over the next six months, I only went on about four times and every time I got completely freaked out at the same point and progressed not at all.

We eventually rolled up to Christmas 2000, and the second best Christmas present I've ever received: Majora's Mask. I did start this, great sequel that it is, but realised I had to go back. I steeled myself, dealt with the wallmaster, and completed the dungeon. With some hard work, I did finally manage to cast down Ganondorf and restore Hyrule, that very first time.

That's not to say I did everything right when I played through Ocarina of Time. I got involved in websites from year 8 onwards, Tim Lee putting me onto Zelda Infinite, where I would be a regular for a good five years and remain a recognisable presence. In such things, though, I came across spoilers, the worst being that I learnt the true identity of Sheik. Actually, as it happens, I found that out before I'd even met Sheik, before I'd completed Young Link's part of the game. A grave error, one I have not recovered from.

Time passes, people move. Life carried on. I have now played Ocarina of Time some fourteen or fifteen times. It is still my very favourite computer game, indeed, my greatest love of all. I also got the Oracle games when they came out, I borrowed Hennell's GameBoy Pocket to play Link's Awakening. I remember getting Wind Waker. At the age of nineteen, I ran ecstatically from a game shop in Manchester with Vickie Scott pretending she didn't know me as I clutched at my copy of Twilight Princess. I roared with frustration at Adventure of Link every time Ganon laughed at me like a duck, and I still have yet to complete any of the first three games.

My love remains. I will eventually be able to afford a DS, and will get Phantom Hourglass and then Spirit Tracks. I will get Four Swords Adventures and Link's Crossbow Training. I will finish the games I've already started, I will buy more memorabilia and I will replay the games, over and over again. Most of all, I will play Ocarina of Time. I currently have an open file, I'm half way through Jabu Jabu's Belly.

Another element of the story: having been an imaginative sort all my life (except when naming flute duets) I was captivated by Ocarina of Time from the start. I just had to write a story about it, I started novelising it when I was 12. How many times I wrote the first page of that story I couldn't say.

At 13 and 14, I used to do a paper round, and there my imagination again flourished and for the first time the story began to evolve. It was oh so primitive, but it was the start. I introduced two central characters of my very own: Els and Swar. The former was met when Link returned to Termina for the Festival of Time. The second was met by Link and Els as they travelled through the forest, going south. He was leant against a tree, playing an ocarina.

In this period, the novelisation disappeared and was replaced instead by a series of four stories: Hyrule's War, Journey to War, Legends and Prophecies. These were fairly simple beasts. Hyrule's War was a story in which Hyrule was invaded, and Link (at the age of 14) had to repulse the enemy and defend liberty. Journey to War was a story in which someone from a land torn apart by war came to beseech the king to send help and Link (at the age of 15) with the help of Els and Swar journeyed to war, followed up by the Hyrulian army. Legends was the story of Link (at the age of 16) and the Rainbow Warrior Maynor, as they sought to stop the elemental being Yanudad from freeing Ganondorf from the Sacred Realm and had to travel to the land of Danuday. Prophecies was Ganondorf's escape from the Sacred Realm and how Link (at the age of 20) sought to gather warriors in order to oppose the Evil King. None of them were what you would exactly call good.

It was at Greenbelt 2002 that I first had an idea for a slightly different story, that went beyond the originals. There The Time Warrior was born. It was the story that mainly occupied my for the next for or five years, eventually evolving itself into a trilogy.

During Sixth Form I went back to the novelisation, trying once more to get my mythology of Zelda into words for others to witness. I wrote six chapters, struggled, floundered, and stopped. By this time, the stories had developed into their final form: six stories, set in two trilogies. The Legend of Zelda, and The Legend of the Hero.

The first is made of Ocarina of Time, plus Legends and Prophecies. These remain constant, Legends a much deeper and richer version of the original. The Rainbow Warrior (what kind of stupid title is that?!) has disappeared, Yanudad has been replaced by someone with a decent name, though Danuday remains, the mysterious Land of Elements that exists in another dimension. Prophecies is entirely unrecognisable, showing the infighting of the gerudo and a second civil war.

The second trilogy takes Link and his two lieutenants, now named Elias and Swar, on a far greater journey, traversing the paths of time and even going beyond the end of eternity. It also sees the character of Rehn, and an event I only refer to as the arrow.

These six stories are fully formed in my head and are not the pathetic things they once were. At the tail end of last year, I again began to write my beloved novelisation, and a decade after I first started playing Ocarina of Time, it is ready to show. I have written it all the way up to Link going to the Temple of Time, and stepping up to the pedestal.

I am publishing the first two chapters on fanfiction.net
I would love anyone who enjoys fantasy to have a look at it, opinions are desired, constructive criticism is welcomed, though unnecessary insults are unwanted. If you love Zelda, I'd love you to see what you think of it. If you know Zelda a bit, I'd love to see what you think of it. If you've have no clue about Zelda and couldn't care less, I'd love you to read it as I have tried to make it accessible to both those who adore it and those who have no clue and would like to know if I succeeded.


Please read. It would mean a great amount to me.

30th April 2009

8:45pm: “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kind of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16

We live in a very difficult world. A little while ago I had to plan something in the park for teen club, so I went to Redcatch Park and sat on the swings to have a look around and get straight in my head what I was going to do. As I sat there, I realised that I was trying really not to look at any of the children playing. Literally not even to glance at them. Once I’d noticed it I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I realised the reason was I didn’t want anyone to think I was there, as a single male, looking at other people’s children.

That’s the world we live in, where we’re not allowed to look at children. Two of the girls from church, aged 10 and 12, jokingly said they were going to come round my flat last Saturday. I was really worried they were being serious, because there’s no way I can possibly allow girls that age in my flat with no one else around.

Having said all that, I do to some extent completely disregard a lot of the nonsense about these issues. At church, I love my kids. I can reel off the names of the kids we have, and they’re an absolutely fantastic bunch, from Ruben who’s teeny to Cara and Chloe May, who are the eldest at 12. They’re all brilliant. I have no qualms about mucking about with them. I play fight, I let Vicky stamp on my feet and jump on my back, I carry Jess and Anna and Cara about all the time.

The thing is, they’re kids. They don’t know about why things are so difficult, so why should I push them away?

I had a fantastic experience a couple of Sunday’s ago. I was outside church, at the side. Lots of the kids were playing about. Harry and Cameron and some of the others had a ball, Chloe May and Vicky and Cara were running around. I sat against a wall and had Jess, Chloe and Anna sat on my lap. They just sat there, it was wonderful. And it was totally innocent. It was actually a great moment of serenity for me, in a few weeks that have been really stressful and difficult.

The thing is, I think kids are so brilliant. They’re fun, you can muck about with them, it means I can go back to being a kid and can forget about being a grown up. They have a fantastic way of looking at the world, they have a logic that just astounds me. They’re also more intelligent and sensible than a lot of people give them credit for. I try very hard never to talk down to any of them.

That’s why I love that story in Mark. It’s just a little short story, when Jesus says let the children come to me, don’t ever keep them away. I think that’s going to be my ministry: it’s not a youth or children’s ministry, not specifically, but it definitely has them at the centre, as much as any adult group.

I think this story tells us a lot about the character of Jesus. He’s got time to take these children in his arms and bless them. This story tells us that he was the kind of person who cared for children, and the sort of person the children cared for. I don’t think he could have been a stern, gloomy, joyless person if he was so willing to accommodate these children.

That said, I think we see something else from the disciples. Once again, they’re being completely thick and they’re totally missing the point. They see the people bringing their children to Jesus and try and stop them. At first, it seems a bit of a strange thing to do; why would you stop them coming to Jesus? It does make sense though. For one thing, they may not know exactly what’s going to happen in Jerusalem, but they know something’s going on, Jesus is getting ready for something pretty big, and they certainly know that the authorities are out to get him. They don’t want people bugging him and annoying him at the moment. Their intentions are good, it’s just that they carry those intentions out in the wrong way.

The text says that when Jesus saw them stopping the children he was “indignant”. He was distinctly unimpressed with the disciples, because he has absolutely no problem with the children coming to him, he doesn’t see it as irritating or annoying, because he is quite happy to make time for the children. Like I said, that tells us something about Jesus. We see it again in verse 37 of chapter 9, when Jesus takes a child in his arms and says that whoever welcomes a little child in his name welcomes Jesus himself. He was always willing to make time for the children.

After all, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. If we forget what it means to be a child, I think we’re pretty lost.

People generally remember various pieces of advice that have been given to them, things that were important, maxims to hold on to. On my 16th birthday, someone gave me this advice: “Always keep the childlike heart.” Now, I suspect that part of the reason they gave me that advice was that I was still just a big kid. It’s damn good advice, though, and I’m glad to say I’ve followed it so far. Five, nearly six years on, and I’m still nothing more than a big kid.

For my part, I’m incredibly glad of that. For one thing, I know first hand that growing up sucks. I’ve had to do a lot of it, I’m now an adult and a functioning part of “grown up” society, with a job and a flat and the things that go with that. So I love kicking back with the kids and forgetting all that rubbish. I mean, kids have it easy. School is 9 till 3, there or thereabouts, plus they get holidays. I work 2 hours more than that and get 22 days holiday a year. Forget six weeks in one block! Oh for those days that are past.

Yes, I get a lot from being able to be a kid again, and from keeping the childlike heart. There are a couple of ways of doing that, a couple of things I think are important to hold on to.

For one thing, children trust innately. They don’t expect you to be mean, they don’t find it hard to trust, they’re not bitter or jaundiced and they haven’t been let down by the world. Me, I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve all the time. I’m honest, sure, and I’m prepared to talk about the good and bad in my life, but I don’t trust everyone who comes along. That takes work and the development of relationship. In some cases it also takes copious amounts of alcohol, but that’s another story.

A child trusts easily, though. I wish we could be like that. Now, having said that, we also have to be wise and use our discretion and common sense. I don’t mean we should trust everyone who comes along, that’s just being naïve. We should be prepared to trust and to give the benefit of the doubt, though.

Children also forgive easily. They don’t take long to forget small wrongs done to them. If you shout at them or lose your temper, whatever it may be, you may get a tantrum, but it is a short storm. It is acute, but it passes, they forget it, and they come back to you. They don’t hold grudges. Oh if only life were so easy, if we could be the same. I think it’s really important to try to be someone who forgives easily.

Obviously, again, that needs some sort of disclaimer. It doesn’t mean we forget wrongs done against us, nor that we simply let someone do the same thing to us, cause us the same pain, time and time again. That’s not good, it’s not positive for us or the person harming us. It’s not what God wants. That’s not what forgiveness is about, though. The phrase “Turn the other cheek” does spring to mind.

Children also love unconditionally. Okay, when they’re small then they have needs and they bond with people who satisfy those needs. But I look at the kids at church and my friendship with them (I genuinely count them amongst my friends, and praise God for that) and it’s based on nothing I give them except the fact we’re nice to each other. They love me not because they want something or because of any hidden or concealed reason. They love without reason.

Another reason is that they’re very innocent. The world to them is a good place, they haven’t been exposed to the bad things yet, and so they have a completely innocent way of looking at the world. I know that that isn’t always the case, but that’s usually due to negative circumstances, and it is a sad thing when a child is not innocent, or doesn’t forgive easily, or doesn’t trust innately.

Now, again, the world in many ways is not a good place. Sometimes I walk home from work and I’m focused on one thing: getting home. I don’t make eye contact and I don’t smile at people on the street, and the same goes for them. We are commuters going backwards and forwards, strangers in a busy street, jobs to do and lives to lead. Sometimes, though, I wish it were different. Sometimes I just wish for a sign of human contact to reassure me the world’s still out there, still ticking over. That there is also love in the world. I wish I could be innocent again.

A final and central reason, though, is that children believe so easily. They don’t find it hard to have faith. Whether that’s in God, Father Christmas or Harry Potter, they believe what they‘re told. We certainly shouldn’t believe just anything, but we should believe willingly. When we approach God we should come with the childlike heart, believing in him. Yes, sometimes we all have doubts, but if we have faith like a child, then we endure those doubts and continue believing.

St Anselm of Canterbury said, “On the one hand, right order demands that we should believe the profundities of the Christian faith before we presume to discuss it logically, but, on the other, it seems to me negligence if, after we have been confirmed in the faith, we do not make an effort to understand what we believe.” (It’s the first line of the dialogue with Boso in Cur Deus Homo). I think he’s absolutely right. I think it’s negligence to not try and progress with our faith, to not try to know God more and understand more of what we claim to believe, both for ourselves and so we’re prepared for the questions of others. However, I also think he’s dead on about simply believing the profundities of the Christian faith. Believe as a child believes.

To keep a childlike heart is exactly what Jesus is calling us to in Mark 10 when he says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” If you won’t believe in this simple way, then you’ll miss the point, and you’ll miss the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God belongs to these, who believe as a child does.

So to keep the childlike heart is to trust innately, to forgive easily, to love unconditionally, to see the world innocently, and to believe simplistically. I think if people try living with those in mind more often, the world might just be a little easier, and a little more pleasant.

After all, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

31st March 2009

9:25pm: Time marches inexorably on, and while in many cases this is an indeed distressing truth, often it is a positive thing. The fact that we are already at the end of the first quarter of 2009 is alarming, as life disappears with great rapidity. Moreover, it means the start of the Formula 1 season is finally upon us.

Yes, this weekend was the fruition of great excitement and anticipation in my life. I have been waiting a painstakingly long time for it. That day in November when I leapt onto the coffee table screaming at the television seems lost in the murky past, now.

So what do I expect for the 2009 season, particularly after the excitement of the excellent first grand prix? Well, first I’d like to think about the season as a whole before I consider the race.

The first thing to be said has to be Lewis Hamilton. Britain’s first champion for twelve years, the youngest ever champion, and somewhat of a phenomenon, the current champion warrants much discussion. Many dislike him, and that is fair enough. But it would be wrong to count him a poor driver; I think his results and many of his races show that he is a brilliant racer. Of course he’s made mistakes, what driver hasn’t? He’s young, he’s determined and he’s got insane amounts of talents. His inexperience has, at times, counted against him, I agree. But if you consider this: just imagine how formidable he’ll be once he is more experienced.

McLaren have clearly got their work cut out this year. They’ve produced an uncompetitive car, the tests and the first race bear that out. I think it will be really interesting to see how Lewis does in a car that isn’t running at the front. I’ve seen Lewis drive some fantastic races over the last two years, but most have been running at the front. He’s going to fight for every single point this year, so we’ll see how he does. It could just be the making of him. Then again, it could be the breaking. For myself, I hope for (and expect) the former.

Personally, I don’t rate Heikki Kovaleinen that highly. By no means do I dislike him, I just don’t think he’s earned what should be one of the top drives. Last year, Ferrari, McLaren and BMW were the top teams, and Kovaleinen was sixth of the six drivers. I didn’t see any races where he drove sublimely, though his team mate more than made up for it. He won a race, but really, he lucked into it. I like him, it’s not like how I feel about Fisichella or Ralf Schumacher, who I consider to be inept idiots. He just has a lot of questions to answer this year. Then again, I said that about Felipe Massa at one point, and he more than made up for it.

Which brings us neatly to last year’s runner up. Massa had a great year last year. I think Lewis should have been champion, based on the season, both of their performances, the way Lewis overtook Massa at Hochenheim, the way Massa drove in the first races and at Silverstone, and of course because of Spa, I think justice was done when Lewis passed Timo Glock on that fateful day in Sao Paulo. But Massa has proven himself as a great driver who just keeps on getting better. Similar to McLaren, Ferrari have found themselves not automatically at the front. We’ve seen Massa in that sort of situation before, and he tends to lose his head, so it could be a tough and ignominious season for him. We’ll see what happens.

As for his teammate, my thoughts and feelings regarding Kimi Raikkonen are not exactly secret. Quite apart from being a brilliant man, when he’s on form he’s a formidable driver, the match of any out there. The problem is, he’s like Ronnie O’Sullivan in snooker: fantastic and astonishingly talented when he’s on form, but so often he just doesn’t look interested, inexplicably. Last year was a total write off, and he can complain the car didn’t suit his driving style as much as he likes, it shouldn’t have been that much of an issue.

However, I do notice patterns: 2001, his first year in F1 driving for Sauber, he does very well and gets picked up by McLaren; 2002, a good year but nothing astonishing; 2003, runner up to Michael Schumacher, a championship decided at the final race of the season, and a year that gave him his first win; 2004 nowhere and nothing, except a truly superb victory at Spa; 2005, runner up to Fernando Alonso in what remains the season I enjoyed most in the years I’ve watched Formula 1; 2006, nothing and nothing; 2007, world champion; 2008, who knows where he was. Every other year he seems to do well, so lets hope he keeps it up and makes up for last year in 2009.

On to BMW, another team who did well last year. Robert Kubica is an excellent young driver, and while he seems to get less notoriety than his high flying team mate, I really rate Nick Heidfeld as an experienced driver who is very good. He’s yet to win a race, but then Rubens Barrichello was in F1 for many years before he did, and he’s still going strong. Heidfeld is a good driver, and while he may have never challenged for the championship, he shouldn’t be considered as less than that.

Renault were the most improved car last year, with Fernando Alonso finishing the year on a great high. Those two victories were real and earned, and it can only be hoped that the Spaniard keeps the standard. Never write Alonso off, he’s too good for that. He has a bad temperament at times, and even with his performances last year he has yet to make up for his behaviour in 2007. He remains, nonetheless, a great driver, borne out by being a double champion. If he get s a whiff of it, he’ll definitely be going for a third. As for his team mate, Alonso outqualified Piquet Jr at every single race last year and Piquet didn’t put in a single really impressive drive, to my memory. He has some very big questions to answer, far more than Kovaleinen, and he did not start out well in Australia.

Red Bull look to be coming good with very high budgets and their Adrian Newey designed car. They were one of several teams to start developing their ’09 car early, seeing the massive change in the regulations and perceiving wisely that an early start would let them get the jump on the competition who were embroiled in the 2008 championship fight. David Coulthard has retired(I am not sad to see him go) and Vettel replaces him.

Vettel won a race last year, which he deserved: he may have been gifted pole by a topsy turvy qualifying session, but he it was a fantastic drive that took him past the chequered flag, and all credit to him for it. Lets hope he’s able to keep it up. Mark Webber is a driver I have admired and respected for a long time. He’s been hit by the worst luck I’ve ever seen in F1, and a broken leg and fractured shoulder over the winter won’t have helped, but I hope a competitive Red Bull will give him a chance to show his quality again. One thing’s for certain: he’ll be up against it with Vettel as a team mate.

Toyota look like they’re moving up the grid this year, though they are one of the teams with the controversial diffuser. To be honest, I don’t think they’ll set the world on fire. They may do well, but I don’t see them fight for the title. Jarno Trulli can be really good for a few laps but with the exception of his Monaco win in 2004, he can’t do it for a whole race. Glock is a decent driver, but the thing he’s best known for is Hamilton passing him in Brazil. If they can both do reasonably well, that will be good.

Williams are another team caught in the diffuser embranglement. We’ll see what happens when that’s over, but I would certainly love to see them move back towards the front of the grid. It’s been a long time, Juan Pablo Montoya getting they’re last win in a great driver at the last race of the season in 2004, and it’s been even longer since Villeneuve took the 1997 championship. I’d love to see Williams get podiums and hopefully more. Nico Rosberg is a great young driver who hasn’t yet had a chance to really shine. I’m not so convinced by Kazuki Nakajima, and was surprised to see him stay on at the team, but maybe he’ll do well this year.

Toro Rosso are much changed from Minardi, and while I miss everyone’s favourite back markers, they did have a good year last year. They were fast than their parent Red Bull team, and it was Vettel in a Toro Rosso, not Webber or Coulthard in a Red Bull, that got the race win. This year I expect to see them further back than that, and with everyone else so close, they may find themselves slipping behind the competition, but the season is long. I think Sebastian Bourdais is a very good driver who just didn’t quite capture the world while Vettel did, and I think he gets a bad rap for that. It’s not deserved, and hopefully he can prove that. Sebastian Buemi proves that Red Bull love the name Sebastian, as three of their four drivers now have it. Buemi is this year’s only rookie, and we’ll see how he does. If he carries on the way he started on Melbourne, he looks like another great talent.

Of course, one of the biggest things over the winter was Honda pulling out of the sport. I am glad that Ross Brawn was able to get the team on the grid, even if I’m not a big fan of Ross Brawn. They were the first to start work on the 09 cars, so different from those that had gone before, and I thought they were probably sitting on a great car and it wasn’t a good time for Honda to pull out. I was also sad to lose Button and Barrichello, both of whom I like. So I think their 1-2 in Melbourne proves it was worth the wait, and suddenly Brawn GP look not only lucky to make the grid, but like championship favourites.

Many people have reminded me that I dislike Jenson Button. This is not the case. For a long time, though, I found myself frustrated with the hype. He was our great hope once Coulthard left McLaren; a younger driver almost in a good car who looked ready to win races and so people in Britain latched onto him. I heard things like “Can Button win the British grand prix from 12th on the grid?” because we were so hopeful he would. The answer was of course: No, he’s got no chance. He’s car’s not good enough and neither’s he. I stand by this. I think he wouldn’t make champion if Hamilton, Alonso, Raikkonen, Massa, Vettel or Kubica had cars on a par with him. They’re all better drivers in my opinion. However, he is definitely a good driver and I can take nothing away from the superb and flawless victory in Australia. He led the race brilliantly from to start to finish and deserved it absolutely and completely.

Barrichello is a really nice guy, the longest serving driver in F1, and definitely deserving of carrying on in the sport. It’s great to see him back at the front, and I hope he has a good year.

The final team is Force India. They did well just to be the same team at the start of ’09 as they were a year ago. They want to move up the grid, but I think F1’s just too competitive, there are too many teams moving up the grid. Someone has to be at the back. I think Adrian Sutil is a decent driver who’s now been at the back too long to get picked up by a better team, and Giancarlo Fisichella’s career is steadily waning. Thank goodness for that, the only reason I’d be sad if he left F1 is because I’d have to find someone new to hate.

So that’s the grid. Obviously, I must also mention the diffuser issue. The controversy is that three teams have a piece at the back of their car that is different to the other seven. The argument by the other teams is that it is against the regulations for various reasons (by which I mean that I don’t really understand them). The stewards have said they’re fine pending inquiry, and an appeal is set for after the Malaysian grand prix (this coming weekend).

If won, it means the piece is illegal, and Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams will have to change their car. If, as I consider more likely, the appeal is lost, it means the other teams will have to adapt their cars. If this piece is that much faster (and considering those three teams are currently setting the pace, it really looks like it is), then the other teams will have to adjust their cars. Once that’s done, it’ll be interesting to see what happens. I think Brawn have shown they are genuinely fast and have outstripped all opposition so far, including the other cars with the diffuser. They’ll still be near the front. It will be interesting to see what happens to Toyota and Williams, though.

The other notable changes to the regulations are the strictly defined designs for the cars, with tiny rear wings and enormous front wings doing nothing for their aesthetics. However, the stupid amount of nonsensical appendages on the chassis have now been done away with, thank goodness. Also, slick tyres have been welcomed by all. The fact testing during the season has banned will make development of the car during the season much harder.

As for the decision to decide the championship on victories rather than points (subsequently repealed), all I can say is thank goodness for the u turn. It’s an awful idea. Yes, victories should be rewarded, but so should consistency. Look at 2005: McLaren had a much faster car, but it was unreliable and didn’t finish a lot of races. Renault won because their car not only won but it got over the line more often. Sadly, this will eventually be introduced, because Bernie Ecclestone says so. I won’t be happy about it, though. As pointed out by many observers, it would have meant Massa was crowned champion in 2008, he’d have won one race more than Hamilton. But lets also remember that Hamilton had victory at Spa taken away from him and handed to Massa, for reasons I heavily dispute. It would have given Massa the championship, and that idea makes me furiously angry. Either way, I think it’s a bad idea.

And so the first race. I won’t say a lot. It was a great race, Melbourne usually delivers a great start to the season. Button wholeheartedly deserved victory, and I was ecstatic with Lewis’ podium. From 18th to 3rd is a great result, and proves what I said up the top: he’s a great driver, and is marked by the fact he did that in what is clearly an uncompetitive car. Without a lot of worker and a much improved piece of kit, he won’t be able to do it often, but it was a great result for the first race.

I am annoyed with Vettel and Kubica, who were just stupid to drive into each other mere laps from the finish. Neither would yield, both were responsible for the accident, and have only themselves to blame. However, they are young drivers going for the best they can get, and I don’t hold it against either of them. They were just stupid to throw away a podium each. Third’s not bad, guys; remember that.

That’s pretty much all I have to say on that, really. Go Button, go Hamilton. Bring on Sepang.

14th February 2009

2:44pm: This is an angry rant in response to something; it may well be incoherent at times and is unlikely to present a well structured argument, and my vehemence may lead me to use capitals for emphasis, abhorrent practice though that is.

I’ve just been listening to Any Questions, and I got so worked up over one of the questions that I thought I was going to go into cardiac arrest at one point. I have no idea what most of the panellists said, except the rubbish Janet Street Porter (who I disagreed with emphatically) was saying.

The question was regarding the news story this week, on the front page of the Sun on Thursday or Friday, about a 13 year old boy who is now a father: his fifteen year old girlfriend has just given birth.

Now, we can trot out lots of phony moral outrage about this, we can chatter on about teenage pregnancy rates (what with ours being the highest in Europe) and things like that, we can say a lot of things. Of course, it is technically illegal to have sex under 16. Like any of the kids having sex care about that, I don’t think it’s something that’s bothering them. We’re putting so much into sex education, and yet these children have apparently had unprotected sex. There’s also the issue of STDs, with rising rates of chlamydia and gonorrhoea and all the rest of them. HIV and AIDS continue to be massively prevalent, though it isn’t quite the epidemic in this country that it is in other places, such as Africa.

So, we can say they were wrong to have unprotected sex. We can also suggest that they were wrong to have sex, I have already waxed lyrical about what I think of sex. A lot of those views are entirely based upon my faith and how that impacts my practice and my perspective. That is only, therefore, valid to me and I cannot expect people who do not have any faith to believe what I believe nor to act the way I feel I should act. That said, I cannot see that it’s good for someone who is only 12 (as this boy was at the time of conception) to be having sex. Surely it is not sensible. I didn’t even have real and serious feelings until I was 14. The development of sexuality at the onset of puberty should not go hand in hand with acting upon sexual impulses, even if it does for gerbils and monkeys.

In this way I feel I cover pretty much what was said, what everyone brings out to say why this shouldn’t have happened.

But you know what, that stuff doesn’t bother me that much. Yes, I think they were stupid to have sex at their age, but there we are, it doesn’t change anything.

The thing that bothers me? It’s that my heart aches for the kid. This is a 13 year old and a fifteen year old, what hope have they got of teaching this child how to live and how to be a part of any community or society? Children need parents, they need people to guide them and look after them, and also to be both teacher and example. These kids cannot do that, and it’s quite clear from the very fact that they’ve screwed up enough to end up with a child.

I mean, come on, you stupid little boy! You’re THIRTEEN! You’re 13 and you have a baby, what are you expecting to do, what do you thinks going to happen? How can you possibly look after it, nurture it, provide for it? You foolish girl, how are you ever going to be able to be a proper mother to this baby? You can’t even all go in the newsagents together, for goodness sake!

One of the people on Any Questions, I forget who since a vehement rage had come over me by that point, said that lots of people have children when they’re young, the queen had her first child at the age of 22. Yes, that’s NINE YEARS difference! That may not be a lot later in life, but it’s a hell of a difference at this point! I’m going to turn 22 this year; I’m working, earning a wage and could conceivably support a child and I’m also a mature member of society, able to form the ideas and behaviours of a young person, to discipline them and to encourage and congratulate them. I don’t think I’d be an excellent father because I’m nearly 22, I have no plans of having kids right now, but I can tell you that I damn well wouldn’t have been able to look after a child nine years ago. I remember being 13, and I remember being 15, and coping with a child was simply not feasible. I would not have been able to do it.

And how long will the cycle go on? Grandparents at twenty six, is that the next stage? I mean, you’re sure as hell not going to be able to teach this child about safe sex or being sensible about sexuality, or puberty, or relationships, or any of those things, are you? I have to say, as well, how many relationships between young teenagers endure? Most end within a couple of years at most, in my experience, having been a teenager and had relationships and watched my peers. So this child also has to be split. That’s not good, at all. No child should ever be split from either parent, you can tell me that’s only what I think but I believe that very strongly.

What hope does this child have? It’s on its back foot before it’s out of the womb. What has basically happened is that is has been doomed, put on a path that it will be almost impossible for the child to actually get away from. What is their life going to be like when they’re twenty, or forty, or sixty? Maybe that’s cynical of me, maybe you’re reading what I have to say and screaming at me for being such a pig headed, pretentious git who has essentially condemned this child without taken consideration of mitigating circumstances or possibility for change.

Then please know that I really hope you’re right. I hope my cynicism is unfounded, I really hope I’m wrong about the whole thing, I hope that this child has hope, some sort of chance for redemption for this bad set of circumstances. I pray, dear God, I pray that this child will live a life better than the one set out for it, that it may escape those circumstances and live a free and happy life, until a ripe old age with family all around. After all, when you’re seventy, Dad will only be eighty three, so he may well still be around.

I am sorry if I’ve offended anyone who took the time to read this. It was not my intention. I’m just… Well, I was angry, but the fight’s gone out of it, now I’m just sad. I’m just sorry for this poor little child, with its two parents who have no hope of looking after it for the first ten years of its life.

29th January 2009

10:57am: I frequently wonder about what other people think of me. I know what I say about people when they’re around, and though I try very hard to be positive about people or at least find positive things to say about people, I also know that I say various negative things about them as well. Part of that is simply because sometimes it’s good to be able to vent feelings and opinions, it’s fairly necessary on occasion.

I always try not to be unfairly harsh about people, but even so I know that I do talk about people. As such, I really wonder what people say about me. Now, perhaps they don’t say anything and I’m just being paranoid; on the other hand, perhaps there are sometimes I just come up in other people’s conversations and they say what they think of me. In that case, what do they say? What are the good things and what are the bad things?

There are also times when I’m almost certain that as soon as I walk out of a room people start talking about me. You could say that’s just me being paranoid, but then as my father would say, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you. There are times at work when I suspect they’re talking about how much I procrastinate. Then again, I justify myself by the fact that there really isn’t very much to do in my job right now.

It’s not just that I’m wondering if people are bitching about me behind my back, it’s more just wondering what they think of me in general. I am intrigued by what they say about my strengths and my weaknesses. There are some people who I am sure talk about me, and I’m fairly glad of it. I flatter myself to think that if I come up in conversation amongst certain people in Manchester, such as J or Laura or Kat, then it is of a distinctly positive bent.

I remember an occasion when I went for a coffee with my dear and beloved Michelle Sowerby, who I haven’t seen for a horribly long time, and I said something along these lines, considering what faults people find when they need to vent about me. Her response was instantaneous and stunning, she simply stated, almost vehemently, that she wouldn’t listen to such talk and had no time for it. I was really touched. Remembering it even now, three years on, it means a huge amount to me.

There are many different contexts in life and many facets to my own life, all of which give different opportunities for such musings. For example, I think about things at church a lot. Now, there again, I find it unlikely that any significant number of the people get together to say unpleasant things about me, but what do they think of me? Church is a place that really does invite that sort of thing in a lot of ways; I had a conversation this week about where people fit in the church, who do lots of things humbly, who complain about the amount they do, and who think they do an amazing amount and in fact do barely anything.

Which group am I in, I wondered to myself, and of course could not ask. What do other people think? What is their opinion of the things I do? I know not.

On that level, we can only ever attempt to justify ourselves in our own eyes, for in this way we must be judge of our own lives. It is down to each person, it comes down to me, to try and ensure that criticisms of arrogance or lethargy could not be fairly levied against me. It’s also my job to make sure I don’t only do things in the limelight, only looking for glory and people telling me I’m brilliant. I like to think, I indeed hope that that is not the case. Such thoughts are not my motivation, and I don’t think it would be fair to say that I do anything for those reasons.

I like to think to myself that I’m a decent person. I’ve got my struggles and my issues, but then who doesn’t? I hope that when people talk about me, they don’t find it hard to be positive, and that when they do talk about me negatively, it is tempered with other factors. I like to think no one just dismisses me as unpleasant or without redeeming qualities.

As for me, well, I know what I think of many people. While I might find it easy to slip into the trap of thinking I don’t have that many friends, I know a great deal of very wonderful people. There are people I love very dearly, who I take every opportunity to extol and wax lyrical over. I hope the important people in my life know how important they are to me, and I intend to try and make sure that I show them as often as possible, rather than just telling other people when they’re not themselves around.

2nd January 2009

11:04pm: A summation of 2008

To look back twelve months is to look back at a point when joy was not especially bountiful. I did not have a good new year, which I find sad as while I have no belief in premonitions or superstitions, I like to think that a good start to the year is to at the very least begin with a positive attitude. As it was, I began 2008 at home on my own after a rubbish evening. I remember it well, I had turned down at least two gatherings due to considering myself very poor company. I tried to go to at least two other gatherings I had also been invited to, and found at each of them I could not bear company and was in no state to be amongst people. As such, it was not a wonderful evening.

Life did improve, though. Once I went back to Manchester, I had an excellent time. I remember very clearly my first week back after Christmas, which was spent almost wholly closeted in White Haven Gardens writing my dissertation, except the occasions when I popped out to the library for more large tomes. I enjoyed this week most excessively, balancing several hours of work with the reward of watching the snooker (Mark Selby won the Masters, tying for the highest break of the tournament in the last frame of the final).

After that, my final term at Nazarene Theological College proved to be probably the best. I did Polity & Practice as an intensive, and then I did The Gospels and Epistles of John, Studies in Psalms, Christian Holiness, Social Action, Reformation and Homiletics. I also audited Biblical Backgrounds.

I found during this term that I was in an excellent place socially and academically. I had many friends from across the three years. It was a pleasure and a joy to be able to spend a lot of time with my very good friend Pete Godfrey, who I met in my very first week in Didsbury. I sat and watched Lost and Stargate with Vickie, and regularly saw Kat and Jake and the people who were then in their second year, and had been very dear friends when I myself was in my second year. Moreover, it was wonderful to spend as much time as I did with J, Laura, and the first years. I can only say that I wish it could have been more, and I loved getting to know them. I miss them all, from all years, all the time.

The term progressed in this way, trying to be productive and get work done, enjoying learning, having breakfast with Kat and warm beverages with J, playing board games late into the night with Pete. They were good times.

During the term, I also grew closer to Dr Rainey. To me, he became more than my lecturer; he was my friend. It was he who took me to church on a Sunday, and I spent time with him and his family. I played the flute with Alison (his wife) at Longsight, and I was really pleased with that. He had a stroke half way through the term, which very sadly meant that I didn’t get the full benefit of his teaching in what was to be my last module with him. His heresies and his controversies made me smile, and they still do.

I also began to really come into my own at running. I stopped over the winter, and started again sporadically in February, but it was not until I got very angry in a Social Action lecture that I really got going. I was very distressed after the lecture, it quite upset me, and so I went for a run to clear my head. After that, I was gone, and I ran regularly and consistently from then on, and also got faster as time went on.

In March, Jackie and Alan came to Manchester. I was slightly dubious that this would be a strange group, but it turned out very well. We went to see I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue live at the Lowry in Salford. It was an absolutely fantastic afternoon of entertainment, hilarious and rambling. We all really enjoyed it. The show concluded with Humph playing I Know We’ll Meet Again on the trumpet. He was sat in his seat as chairman, and they brought it out to him. He played sat down, cold and without any warm up, and perfectly. I have never heard anything like that. He died three weeks later.

I came back to Bristol for a week at Easter. It was a good week, it was nice to come home and I enjoyed being back. Being at church was great, and I enjoyed spending time with my family. I also met with Sarah Hull, and that has to be remembered as one of the best days of the last 365. We ended up sharing a lot with each other that night, over Casablanca and an apple crumble. I needed it, and I am still very grateful to her for that.

Term ended at the end of April, and I once more emerged from under the pile of books that I’d been buried under. There were many wonderful nights where I could be found at my desk tip tapping away at my laptop at midnight, then 2am, then 4. These always finished at 6 when the sun came up, and I would go for a run in the early dawn. It was beautiful every single time.

When term finished and I’d handed in all of my last essays except for Christian Holiness, it was time to begin revising. Because of Dr Rainey’s illness, I had an extension on the final essay, but before I could write it, I had my final exams. This meant two weeks of intensive work. Me and Pete revised together, and on his advice and example I did it very holistically, sleeping sensibly and eating well. An essay is a case of getting words on paper, but doing well in an exam means not only knowing and understanding the material, but ensuring that your head is in a place where it is able to properly order that material.

We revised huge amounts of work in the small amount of time we had, sat around the table in Pete’s living room, watching the snooker world championship. It was summer, as close to summer as we’ve had in the past two years. It was a warm, bright and sunny May. When not at Pete’s, I took myself into the back garden of the house at White Haven, and worked there. It was an excellent period of time. Those days revising with Pete and watching snooker are one of the best memories I have of the last year.

The exams came and went, and I was pleased. I came out of the exams wholly satisfied, and when I found out my grades in the summer (A- for theology, B+ for biblical studies, B- for ethics) I was delighted.

I had a single weekend to write my Christian Holiness essay, which turned out to be the best thing I wrote that term, and then I had to pack and get on a plane to go to Israel.

I was in Israel for 10 days. It was a fabulous experience, and very worth the cost. Seeing Jerusalem was fascinating. It’s a modern city, and yet you can still get a feel of what it was 2000 years ago. You can also feel a sense just from those hills and valleys of what it must have been like when David conquered it. The old city is wonderful, although not actually that old, really. It’s 15th century. It was brilliant to walk around it. Being there with Dr Swanson made the whole thing just phenomenal.

We were in Jerusalem for the first few days, and climbed the Mount of Olives, went to Gethsemane, saw the Wailing Wall, and all those things. It put me in touch with my faith in a way that no spiritual experience or academic learning had ever done before, though I have benefited from both in their own way.

After Jerusalem, we travelled north, and saw Galilee and Nazareth. When we went south, doing to Tel Arad and Beersheba, I was aware of it being the Negev, towards the Wilderness; it was dry, dusty and arid, little more than a bare desert. The north, though, is green and bountiful, and it was a wonderful place to go. It was a wonderful time, those ten days.

I got back from Israel with only a week before I left Manchester for good. I was sad, because I had a very happy three years there. I do want to go back, I do miss College, and the College environment, and working and learning. It is a particularly poignant desire, as I miss so many people. I had a great final week, making the most of that time. Dutch Blitz at the Rainey’s, and that last epic night at Pete’s stand out.

I came back to Bristol at the very end of May, so at the beginning of June began to set about making a new life. I had a life that I left behind when I went to Manchester. In Didsbury, I forged a new existence for myself. With both of those behind me, it was time for a new one, combining and building on the old and on all I have learnt.

Within a month a lot of things were up and running. I dived straight into things at church and began taking services in June. I joined Pastor Chris going to the Riversway old people’s home once a week to do a service there. I began to help at kids club, teens club and at toddler group. I also, at Chris’ behest, started a study group for the under 30s in church. I very quickly got involved, I wanted that to be my primary focus.

As well as church things, I signed up for various things to do to. I started running with Dad again, which meant I also began consistently doing longer distances than I’d been doing in Manchester. I re-joined orchestra after five years absence. This meant an important part in the story, because I found myself once again sat next to Rebecca Farley. I’d been fond of her in years gone by, but only a passing “she seems a nice sort of person” sort of a way. Now, though, we really hit it off. We also started seeing each other outside of orchestra, when we agreed to start playing badminton once a week. The friendship that has since developed between us has been one of the most important things of the last year.

At that point, I also began looking for a job. I joined several agencies and trawled through the Evening Post Jobs section and a whole bunch of websites. For quite a long time, that came to absolutely nothing, and my fear grew, for on the horizon Cineworld was always waiting and watching.

In June, Lauren came to Bristol to visit. That was actually a really strange happenstance. I’d been thinking about her for a while, because we hadn’t spoken for a few weeks, and suddenly out of the blue she texted me one evening, and then rang me. We were chatting for a bit, and talked about how long it had been since we’d seen each other, and so the next day she jumped on a train and came to Bristol. We had a really nice time together, staying up late into the night watching Disney films and eating apple cake. The next day we went for a walk round Chew Valley Lake before she had to go back to Hereford.

I spent a month living with Mum and Dad, at the end of which I moved into my own flat. I hadn’t planned to do this before I had a job, but I agreed to move in with Jackie. She had to move as quickly as possible, and so I did too. Moving was actually quite fun, and the flat is fantastic. I don’t love having a front bedroom, but that’s just something I have to cope with.

July also meant my birthday. It was a really good day. Mum and Dad gave me a painting, which I had already chosen, the idea of which being that when I’m 40 and still have it I’ll remember it as the special thing my parents gave me when I turned 21. I also got a Wii, which I really didn’t expect at that point, I’d been intending to buy myself one once I got some money together. I was ecstatic.

I went to church in the morning, and then in the afternoon we strapped all the bikes to the car and drove to Saltford, then cycled along the railway path into Bath. I spent my birthday money on Wii games (Twilight Princess and Metroid Prime 3, of course). It was a really pleasant day. My birthday’s for the last four years have all been excellent. I think the main reason is that I’ve tried to be fairly shrewd about them, and made sure ahead of time that I’m doing something I want to do and will enjoy. It seems to be working.

The summer progressed amicably. By the end of July, I found myself with a lot more time than previously. Clubs, toddler group, study group and orchestra all stopped for the holidays. Katie and Vicki joined me and Bekki at badminton from the second week we played, and the four of us met up a few times, going bowling and going to the Keller.

At the end of July, Chris went away for a few weeks and I took several services and also led the Riversway services. I really enjoyed that time, and felt like I was moving into that new role as a support to Chris and a lay person in the church. Me and Laura prepared a service together which we led on the last Sunday in July, and it was the best service I have been involved in. It went phenomenally well, and I think we reached quite a few people with the message; I’m proud of that service, and I have to say that Laura was absolutely brilliant.

Jackie wasn’t working during July, but started her new job at the beginning of August. Her last day, we drove down to Lyme Regis. We both love Lyme, and it’s a great place for getting some inspiration. We wandered around the town, had fish and chips on the front (which were obscenely expensive) and then walked down Monmouth Beach.

We walked quite a way down the beach, then sat on some driftwood with our pads and biros and wrote for about half an hour. It was excellent. After that, we made our steady way back to the town just before the heavens opened. We waited out the rain in a fantastic little coffee shop half way up Bridge Street. The front part of the shop is actually a proper old sweet shop, where they weigh out the sweets for you from jars, and then in the back there’s space to sit. We had hot chocolate and carried on writing.

Once the rain had passed over, we walked back up towards the car, going into lots of the shops. We swelled our bookshelves very comfortably that day. All in all, it was a great day out.

In the middle of August, I finally got a job. This happened in quite a bizarre manner, to my mind. I’d been to several interviews and had badgered loads of agencies because I was in fairly dire straits by that point. The limit of my overdraft was looming larger than Peter Crouch at a children’s party, and I had rent to pay.

I went to an interview for what was actually a really poor job; it was DirectLine insurance, dealing with inbound phone calls. The hours were three days a week, 8am to 8pm, and also one Saturday morning a month. It would, essentially, ruin everything I had tried to put together over the last two months. The job itself was rubbish. I got turned down for it. That was quite a heavy blow.

About a week, maybe two weeks later, I was at home in the flat when the phone rang. It was Beckie from Brook Street, one of the agencies I was registered with. It was Beckie who had organised the interview, and she was the best person I spoke to in all the time I was searching. She said there was a job opening and could I come and see her. I walked into town straight away, and it turned out what she meant was that a temp role had come up, I was needed for six months, and I had to start the following Wednesday.

Being a bit of a cynical person, I often dispute people who claim something to be divine intervention. Well, not dispute, but certainly doubt. If you believe it is, fair enough, I have no quarrel with you, but don’t expect me to automatically agree with you. However, I have to say that the day Beckie called me was the day I knew I had to call Cineworld, because I had no money. I needed a job, and sharpish. Maybe it wasn’t God, and maybe it was. What I do without a doubt believe is that he had his hand on what I was doing.

I think people are a lot more potent than a lot of Christians think; we have the power to make our own choices, and it’s not just what God makes happen. But I do believe that he has a will for my life, and right now I am where I am meant to be. I was meant to be in Manchester, I was meant to spend that time training, and now I’m meant to be here putting that training into action, and he knew what was going on when I didn’t have a job.

Several significant things happened in September. One of the most important was the weekend when Bristol City played Doncaster. Pete Godfrey was meant to be coming down to spend the weekend with me and we were going to the match together. At the last minute, he couldn’t make it, though. I was crushed. My Saturday night suddenly opened up, and Bekki asked if I wanted to go round and just watch a film or something, rather than just sitting at home. I gratefully accepted, and we had a really pleasant evening.

The best bit, though, was that she insisted on walking part of the way home with me, and we had one of those conversations that sticks in your mind forever. We talked, and really got to know each other like we hadn’t done at all before then. I loved it, and I loved talking with her. Still do, but that first one holds a special place in my heart. Our relationship changed at that point, it deepened. It was one of the best things that happened in 2008.

Another good thing in September was the family holiday. We haven’t had a holiday together, the four of us, since Lyme Regis in 2002, and now me and Jackie have both done the teenage moving away from the family and come back into the fold, we thought it would be nice to do it again. We had a week in Bude. It was great, we went to some really nice places, we ate pasties, and we played cricket on the beach. We also spent the evening drinking copious amounts of alcohol and playing lots of games like Articulate and Pictionary. It was a good holiday, although for some reason my asthma spiked while we were away.

The other particularly important thing that happened in September was that I ran my first half marathon. It was a brilliant day, and the hardest thing I’ve ever done but one of the most rewarding. It was a very personal experience, and having enough mental strength to carry on was the hardest thing. It wasn’t being physically capable, I knew I was from the first mile to the end, but being able to endure and carry on, holding myself together mentally was far more difficult. I loved doing it, and was happy with my time. I knew I could do better though, it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be. I’m doing more races this year, and hoping to carry on moving forwards.

It was around this time in the year that I got involved at Ecumaniacs. It’s something Jackie’s done before, and Laura’s been involved for years, but I’ve never been interested. I decided I do enough amateur dramatics as it is and so it seemed like a good idea to do it on a stage. Turns out, I’m fairly good, so I’m looking forward to doing the show in February.

The highlight of October was, quite easily, my graduation. Okay, that takes highlight of the year. It was a superb weekend. It was fantastic to see everyone in Manchester and it was a generally excellent weekend. The moment when Dr Brower announced my name as winner of the Gordon Thomas prize was out of this world. I spent ages on the Saturday evening talking to Abi Thomas and that was brilliant, and the time I spent with Pete was, as ever, wonderful. I need to go north again, I didn’t spend enough time with J or Laura, I only had a bit of a chat with Vickie, I want to see Kat again.

As autumn turned towards winter, I carried on with my various activities. Working full time, teens club and kids club, Ecumaniacs, badminton, running, orchestra, study group, church, spending time with my family and trying to see my friends. By the time December came round, my life had hit a pretty consistent bend. Chris went on sabbatical in October until mid-December, and I took quite a few services in that time. I had some really positive feedback from several people, and I feel it went really well.

In December, I organised a Sunday school outing to go ice skating at Bristol Ice Rink. We went on the 13th, and it was fantastic. The grown ups all enjoyed themselves, and the kids loved it, certainly the ones I’ve spoken to since. We’re now planning to take them out regularly in 2009. Over the last seven months as I’ve properly dug in at church, I have come to love my kids. I look forward to seeing them, and I love spending time with them. They are just brilliant little people, and when I look at some of them I am overwhelmed by the potential I see in them.

Christmas was good, this year. It was different to days gone by, because me and Jackie are grown up now. We woke up in our own flat and walked across to Mum and Dad’s. We had a nice day, although I found it a little wearing in the afternoon. Boxing day, we went up to Ellesmere to see family. It was a difficult couple of days, and I drew my line in the sand.

And them we got to the end of the year. I spent New Year’s Eve with the Gnus; we saw Yes Man at the Orpheus, which I first heard about when we went to a book signing with Danny Wallace. It’s a good film (but a better book). After that, we went back to Al’s house and had a good time there. We played Monopoly, and Mairead won. I did very badly, but we laughed a lot, and I consider that more important.

So here we are in 2009. My highlights of 2008 are revising with Pete, Israel, the half marathon, graduating, the walk with Bekki, the night with Sarah Hull, and ice skating with Sunday school. It’s been a good year, really, and not just because I can name a lot of good things that happened. I have in myself moved forwards a lot, I have learnt more about what I want to do, what God wants me to do, and where I am in my walk with God at the moment, and in God’s will. I have steadily developed my ministry, such as it is, and feel happy about the way things are going. There’s been a lot of good in the last 12 months.

My hopes for 2009 are that I laugh a lot. I want to maintain contact with people important to me, like the Gnus and people in Manchester. I want to Be, and to work hard to believe in myself and the people around me. I hope in a year I can reflect as positively if not more so on 2009 as I can on 2008.

Happy new year.

2nd December 2008

1:18pm: This entry contains a long rant full of my opinions. If you choose to read it, you have been warned.

RantCollapse )

29th November 2008

8:25pm: Wherever tales of bravery, daring and tragedy are told, the stories and legends of Ikana Kingdom are always included. That ancient realm that was of old surrounded by mystery and intrigue before it collapsed upon itself. Why did it disappear? Every tale tells a different story. The line of kings, as their power waxed, became arrogant in their strength and destroyed themselves. Treachery ripped the land apart. Its armies over-reached themselves and were decimated, leaving the kingdom to be ravaged by its neighbours.

Its great castle was a mighty fortress, built into the walls of Ikana Canyon. It was a very defensible position, and the people who lived in the small village were able to hide in its wall under threat, and were also protected by the high bluffs of the canyon walls.

The canyon itself ran from the Terminian plains to the west and ascended upwards, before eventually a narrow path came out on the eastern highlands. The tree line of the Great Forest was not far to the south. Travelling back into the west, the Forest fell down steep hills back into the southern swamp. A stream ran from a spring in the canyon, near Ikana Castle, and became a fast flowing river as it ran through the valley, before disappearing underground, emerging in the swamp.

This was the land in which Ikana was founded. Its power spread across the plains to the sea, north to the mountains and south to the swamp, and east towards the highlands. They were unchallenged from the west though. None came over the sea, or the mountains, and no armies crossed the swamp. Seeking to extend their power, the kings sent troops further over the highlands. Eventually, they aroused the wrath of neighbouring lands, and they were heavily assailed. The mysterious Garo, a group of hidden fighters, seeking death and glory, arose and enclosed the land.

However, by then the pride of the kings of Ikana had grown mighty and they saw plots and treachery where there were none. The kingdom collapsed until all that was left of the former empire was the castle in its canyon. The knights of the land were slowly turned against their rulers, some supporting one prince and some another. Ikana fell upon itself and everyone from its musicians to its warriors turned against their closest friends and even their brothers. Eventually, King Igos du Ikana, and with his two first swordmains, was killed in his throne room. His murderer was of close blood, and sickened by his own crime and the decimation the kingdom had brought upon itself, he killed himself also.

So ended proud Ikana. Now it is home of the restless dead and the rotting bones of its kings and warriors. Its graveyard and its castle contain its ancient inhapitants, and there they lie and repent their foolishness. Few of the living dare enter that bleak land.

17th November 2008


I quote. I find this very much in my life, I like to quote things. I have a quote for every situation. “The flow of time is always cruel, its speed seems different for each person, yet none can change it. A thing that doesn’t change over time is a memory of younger days.” “You have chosen the path. Now walk on it.” “Whenever there is a meeting a parting is sure to follow. However, that parting need not last forever. Whether a parting be forever, or merely for a short time, that is up to you.” “‘So, no friends, no weapons, no hope. Take all that away, and what does it leave?’ ‘Me.’”


Or right down to much things of much less poignancy: “I don’t know about you but I really hate sitting in traffic. I always get run over.” “My parents always used to say they had to make a lot of sacrifices bringing me up. It was true, they were druids.” “‘Clearly she’s now in hell.’ ‘But she said she saw Jesus!’ ‘The devil in a Jesus costume.’”


It can be right down to something that seemingly makes no sense, but to me is absolutely hilarious. “Do you mean goats?” “’How did Harry Biscuit, the Human Swan, go?’ ‘Um, not well. I broke a man’s arm, and the king tried to eat me.’” “’Damn! I’d have caught them if it wasn’t for that tree, that fence and those saplings!’ ‘What about the church bells, Pip Bin?’ ‘Yes, and the church bells. Thank you Harry Biscuit.’”


I love all of these and can do quotes for a long time. Me and Jackie quote to each other all the time. We sit in our flat and say things like “Well I don’t intend to miss a moment of it!” and collapse in giggles. Worse than that, we do it in front of other people. At Banco’s with family or just generally out, we talk in code and burst into giggles. We’ll just have a rally of “Great, great, mega brill.” “Bold.” “Tim Brooke-Taylor, who died tonight,” with no one else comprehending what we’re talking about.


Perhaps this fact is most clear amongst my best friends, for the Gnus have many, many in jokes (said the giraffe). Now, perchance, I push this theme more than others do, with the Gnus and also with others. I take great pleasure dropping them into conversation. Quotes often articulate what I’m trying to convey, primarily because of the quote itself, but often also because of the original context of the quote. I use it to draw a parallel, and build on that original context in my own situation.


With in jokes, it’s the same thing. It’s not that this is necessarily something hilarious in its own right, but it’s something of meaning, and I think one of the reasons I use them so much is to say, “Remember that? Remember how much fun we had? Remember the time when we laughed till the tears ran down our face (a sensation I have experienced innumerable times with the Gnus)? I appreciate that. That means so much to me. The memories of our good times mean the world to me, because of how important you are to me.”


Again, this is acutely exemplified with the Gnus. As I’ve said so many times, memories are really important things, and a memory of younger days, that thing that doesn’t change over time, is invaluable. All those times we laughed, all those times we stood in a circle and talked, inevitably falling into a game of Stamper, all those memories. They mean the world to me.


I value my memories, because the people in them are so very important. The people I have shared my life with, that I have laughed and cried with. Be they my 12th birthday party when we got sent down the park at 5 in the morning, or playing Guardian on the Wall, or Narrow Bridge, or All Night Risk, driving back from Download, revising and watching snooker, climbing at Ladye Bay, staying up all night during the Noise, going to the Hummock, imaginary Liar’s Dice, or that first night time walk past the Shield and Dagger. So many memories, so many people, so many jokes.


“Time passes, people move, like a river’s flow it never ends.” “It is something that grows over time, a true friendship. A feeling in the heart that grows even stronger through time.” I think those quotes probably sum up what I'm trying to say.

11th November 2008


In the history of all that has ever been, the land of Termina is only a recent development. The regions that make up that country have been inhabited long before the people of Termina laid claim to them.


Long ago, before Termina was formed, lived one who was considered a wise man. He was no tyrant, but saw how both tyrants and kings held the hearts of all peoples in their thrall. Power over other beings held no interest for him, though, for he realised that all people were powerless over the natural world. The greatest mariner could still be lost at sea, the greatest mountaineer could still find himself falling into the abyss, and the mages and thaumaturges could perform pretty tricks but could not prevent the rain from falling.


So the wise man disappeared from mortal eyes; unseen and unmarked he slipped away from places of habitation into the wilderness. His quest was to gain power not over people, but over the earth itself. This seemed to him the mark of true greatness, that would separate him from all others.


Following these thoughts, he went to find the most powerful and uncontrollable force of nature, and his wandering footsteps led him inevitably to the shores of the sea. Using his knowledge and wisdom, he built a temple out on the waves, far from the coast. It was a great undertaking, for inside he built a mighty machine, which channelled the flow of water. His intent was to use the waves themselves in order to power an engine that would enable him to direct the wind, and the currents of the water.


After many years of desperate toil, though, the machine did not work. Though the mechanism had become a great thing, capable of storing power beyond the thoughts of normal souls, it could not control the sea, could not change the direction of the waves or cause the storms that wracked the coast to cease.


Defeated, the wise man abandoned his labour. He was changed by the long years, though. No longer was he man of wisdom and respect, but instead he was become a wizard, of potency and might.


The northern border of the land that would become Termina is made of a wide mountain range, beginning in the foothills that slope away from the ocean and quickly climbing to many mighty peaks and crags, stretching from west to east, high above the Terminian plains. The crashing of waves was now a torment to the wizard, and he ascended the mountains, seeking to escape the foe that had overcome him.


However, he had not learned nothing in his toil. In a high crevasse, he began manipulating the blizzards of the lofty passes, bending the elements to his will. He formed bridges of snow and ice that reached out from sheer cliffs and in the centre, above a deep chasm, he formed his fortress of solitude.


There, in that high place, he again sought dominion over the elements. As is the wont of such terrible dreams, though, he wasted away, spending his former greatness in ever greater desperation, until eventually he ceased to be.


It is ever said by the gorons of those mountains, though, that the fiercest blizzards and the wildest snows still blow down from Snowhead Temple.

10th November 2008

I've been replaying Majora's Mask lately, and I've noticed that there are all sorts of potential mythologies left unexplained. I've found a couple of things online, but thought I'd take the time to write out my own thoughts on the history of Termina. I started, of course, with this:


Millenia ago, when the world was younger, there was a certain mage of great power and theurgy. He sought to bring many lands and peoples under his command, creating an empire of tyranny. A great war began, and the mage was christened Majora by his foes, a name meaning Mage of the Darkness.


Entire armies opposed him and were destroyed, it seemed nothing could stop his ascension to power. When it seemed all hope was lost, a young courageous warrior entered his demesne. He was accompanied by two mysterious men, both pertaining strange wisdom and knowledge. The warrior cried aloud to the gods for the strength and might to oppose Majora, and his prayer was answered. His body was altered, made stronger, and he was given a helix sword, that could wield magic to oppose that of the Dark Mage. He was made more than a normal man: he became the Fierce Deity.


He strode forth, into the very heart of Majora’s territory. Made arrogant by his victories, he was unprepared for the vehemence of the Fierce Deity’s wrath, and great battle ensued. However, Majora was still mighty, and he could not be overcome. Long did their fight endure, until the power of both was spent. Their strength expended, they became nothing but shells; all that was left was their remains, in the form of two potent masks.


These masks passed into legend and myth, appearing in many different places. Little is truly known of what became of them in the ensuing years. However, Majora’s Mask became the central talisman of a dark tribe. Used in many rituals, it gave them eldritch powers. Eventually, though, the tribe too passed out of the pages of history and the mask was lost.


Finally though, it was sought out by one who collected such items, who could properly control its strength and curtail the darkness contained in the mask. Even he didn’t know that the masks strength had grown, though, and the power of Majora was again being put forth.


The mask was stolen, by an imp. At first the pixie was simply excited by the power it bestowed upon him, but slowly a change crept over him. This was the final key Majora’s sealed spirit had awaited; a small creature with little strength, whose will could be dominated. Majora grew strong again. The imp found itself overcome, and things started to happen that could not be explained. In the land of Termina, darkness spread. The waters of the swamp became poisoned, the harsh winter in the mountains continued unabated long after spring should have broken, the seas were wracked with wrathful storms and in Ikana Canyon, the restless dead roamed.


But Majora realised his world had passed, his empire was fallen and broken and all he had once known was now gone. Putting forth all his strength, he sought to destroy this new and happy world. The moon failed to set as it should but grew larger in the sky, until it seemed to all that it was getting closer. All hope seemed lost for the people of Termina as the enormous shape hung ominously above their land, only days from smashing into the earth and obliterating all in its path.

The people cried out to their guardian spirits, but received no answer. Just days before the Carnival of Time, the celebration of life in Termina and the protection of the spirits, all hope seemed lost.

9th November 2008

6:36pm: This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on Pearl Harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

Part of Barack Obama’s speech this week, upon winning the American presidential election. If you didn’t know he had done so, how was Mars? Are the caves nice?

So yes, Barack Obama is the new president of America. I thought it was an excellent speech. He would have made an amazing preacher. I took the service at church today, and thinking about what to say on Remembrance Sunday and listening to Obama, got me musing very heavily on a lot of things about memory, and remembering.

“The flow of time is always cruel, its speed seems different for each person, yet none can change it. A thing that doesn’t change over time is a memory of younger days.”

(If there’s anyone reading who recognises that quote, yes, I included it in my sermon. I feel proud.)

A memory is always good, the thing it encapsulates is always good. Looking at photos, I remember with happiness how good those times were, even if things have changed, even if those times are no longer possible. It was so good at the time.

So what is it that’s important? What should we remember? What should we hold on to?

Today was Remembrance Sunday. In 1918, at 11 o’clock on the 11th of November, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns on the western front fell silent after four years of war. It was the end of the First World War. Today is to commemorate and remember the 900,000 British soldiers who died in those four years, and the soldiers and people who have died in all the conflicts and wars since then.

I commemorate those people. I salute them. I wear my poppy proudly to remember their sacrifice, to remember that before I was able to, someone stood up and said “This far, and no further.” I wear a cross for the same reason.

Reading the Old Testament, I find it very interesting to notice a very evident pattern. Israel constantly messes up. With Moses, and Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Deborah, Ehud, the lot, Israel messes up and forgets what’s important. They turn away from the Lord and worship foreign gods.

Eventually Israel gets conquered because its kings ignore the Lord and his commands. They forget what’s important. The same thing carries on, because eventually Jesus enters the world for the same reason.

If that’s the case with things that happened two thousand years ago, what does it say for us now? We live in what is still called a Christian country, but who really remembers Christ now? We’re nearly at Christmas, but how many people will remember Jesus on Christmas Day?

A couple of centuries ago, the church was much more evident than it perhaps is today, and it did mean that people were frowned upon terribly. This is still really evident in other cultures, where religion is the ruling power. I was horrified to hear this week that a young girl was stoned to death because she was raped. She got raped, and they murdered her because she was no longer a virgin. That’s certainly not right.

So here we are in our western world, where we’re open and politically correct. It sometimes seems as if nothing is sacred now. Rather than holding those values too tightly, we have forgotten them entirely. We are in serious danger of forgetting the things that are important.

What have we achieved by moving away from those values? Highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe. Highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in Europe. Binge drinking and chain smoking. This is the world we now live in, and if we complain we’re accused of not moving with the times, of not coming into the 21st century.

So what is important? What should we hold on to, what is it that we should remember? Why do we remember the dead of Flanders Fields? Why do we remember those things Barack Obama talked about, all those events from the last hundred years?

I’m not sure I could ever give a satisfactory answer to those questions. We remember those who went before us though, and their sacrifice. Working in Broadmead, I always go and have my dinner in Castle Park. I sit near the old church. It looks like an abandoned building. It was hit by a bomb in the second world war, and it’s kept there for the same reason we wear a poppy, to commemorate the events of the past. There’s a plaque on it, saying that it’s left there in memory of those who died in the first and second world wars. I noticed this week that there’s also now a list of people who died in the Bristol Blitz. They are not forgotten.

So what is it that we hold on to, that we remember?

My own wisdom failing me, I must turn to the words of another, written a very long time ago. They were written at a time when Israel had fallen into legalism, thinking that they were holy and righteous if they made the right sacrifices and said the right words, but they had forgotten what was important. They bragged about how much they gave to God, but they held back themselves, the thing he truly wanted.

The Pharisees had the same problem, and Jesus yells at them for it all the time. He calls them a brood of vipers, and he says that they put heavy loads on others while not bearing anything themselves. Instead of doing that, we should turn to the one who says “Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” That’s what Jesus calls us to.

So what do we eventually come to? What is it we must remember? What did Israel forget so often?

“He has shown you, O people, what is good. What does the Lord require of you?
To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

20th October 2008

7:52pm: What drives us and motivates us? A big question. I have played Zelda many times, and it’s one I find very poignant in that context.

Lets begin with Twilight Princess. What drives and motivates Link to drive back the Twilight? Well, actually, you might call it being in the right place at the right time, but more importantly being the right person. He didn’t have to save the kids. They weren’t his kids, it wasn’t his responsibility. But he does, it’s never a question, they’ve been taken so he’s going to do everything in his power to get them back. I am glad to say that for once I know I would respond like he does. Often I fear that while my hero complex is distinct, if I got thrown into an adventure like Link does, I would turn away. But not in this case, because if my kids were threatened (and I don’t literally mean my offspring, I mean the kids who are important to me), well, my wrath would wax greatly. If they took Cara, or Reuben, or Masha… So for once, I know I would respond as Link does.

So that’s where his story starts, he goes after the kids. It’s a great bit of story really, because that’s when Midna comes in and my gosh do I hate right then. Anyway, once the kids are safe, Link could go home. This is when we get to the turning point, though: he could turn away, then, he could take them all back to Ordon and leave Hyrule to face its problems. There’s a scene that really sums it up, when Link’s in Telma’s Bar and there’s all these Hylian knights talking about how they’ll defend the poor women and be amazing, but as soon as Telma asks them to actually put themselves on the line, to face the darkness and protect the unprotected, there’s a mass exodus. There’s just this one guy left stood there.

Link stands in the gap. Someone has to face the darkness, and it doesn’t have to be him, but he chooses to. If everyone turned away, Hyrule would be overrun by the Twilight, and it takes just that one person, as it turns out, to say this far and no further. And, as is the way of such things, he emerges victorious.

The thing is, Twilight Princess isn’t my favourite game, and while that’s all well and good and perhaps more significant for us here choosing how to live, I love Zelda for the story and the character. For that, we have to turn to Ocarina of Time.

What’s the difference here? Well, to begin with, not a lot. Actually, they’re the other way round, because it’s when Link sets out in Twilight Princess that he really has a reason to go: to bring the kids back. In Ocarina, Link sets out to stand in the gap. In Twilight Princess, Link reaches a stage where he could turn his back on the danger and no one could blame him for going home, but that’s when he chooses to go on. In Ocarina, it’s when he reaches that stage that he really has no choice but to go on.

What changes in Ocarina? He sets out at the behest of the Deku Tree and later Zelda, and then he gets back to Hyrule Castle, just in time to see Ganondorf attack and Zelda escape, and she leaves him the Ocarina. She leaves him the final Key to the Sacred Realm, and they’ve both agreed what has to be done: get to the Triforce first, stop Ganondorf getting it. But something neither of them could have expected happened. Link opened the doors of the Sacred Realm, and the Realm locked him inside, deeming him unready to do what needed to be done. But he had opened that door, and Ganondorf followed him through and took the Triforce. As it turns out, considering the nature of the last barrier between Hyrule and the Sacred Realm, the Master Sword, Ganondorf could never have reached the Triforce. But Link allows him in.

He awakens seven years later to find that Hyrule has been decimated, no place is untainted by Ganondorf’s evil. This is the point when Link’s motivations change: as a ten year old, he goes on a quest to save the world. When awakens as a seventeen-year-old, he has to stop Ganondorf, because Ganondorf would never have gained power if it wasn’t for Link.

The whole of the important bit of Ocarina of Time is that quest. Really, everything before Link draws the Master Sword from the Pedestal of Time is just a prologue, and this is the real story, just like in A Link to the Past when you don’t actually reach the first level until you’ve entered the Dark World.

Ocarina of Time is all about redemption. Link does everything he does, because he is driven, because he can’t stop, because he has to make atonement for his mistake, he has to redeem himself. He can never turn away, he has to either destroy Ganondorf or die trying, because it’s his fault, or at least he will always see it that way.

If I was ever to go on Desert Island Discs, I know at least a couple of the songs I’d pick. And I certainly know my answer to the final question: if the waves came crashing in on my beach, and I only had time to save one record, it would be Zelda’s Lullaby, and I’ll tell you why. Because it’s a song of hope.

Now I must depart momentarily from the legend to the myth, and refer to Lord of the Rings and Samwise Gamgee. Now the film of The Two Towers may bear absolutely minimal resemblance to the book, but there’s still some good stuff in it. While it’s absolutely nonsensical for Frodo and Sam to be in Osgilliath, while they’re there, Sam says something really important.

“It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing this, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.” “What are we holding on to, Sam?” “That there’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

I feel that in Ocarina of Time. When I see Castle Town, when I see Ganon’s Tower and Death Mountain and the ruination of the Forest and the freezing of the Fountain, I don’t want to know the end, because how could the end possibly good when so much bad has happened? How can Hyrule ever be saved, when the darkness is so overwhelming? But Link keeps fighting, because he’s holding on to something. That there’s some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for. He fights for Hyrule’s redemption to earn his own redemption, to save the land because of it’s innate beauty, which is threatened.

I have a CD of really sad music, because sometimes I get in this mood and I need to empathise with things like that. Before the end, I can get really upset. There’s stuff on that brings me close to tears, like The Breaking of the Fellowship, or Full of Grace, or Amsterdam; these are songs which for various reasons upset me a lot. But the CD ends with Zelda’s Lullaby, because after the darkness, there is still hope. Usually things can’t go back to the way they were, Lord of the Rings shows that really clearly. But Ocarina of Time isn’t the same. Link achieves his quest, he makes atonement, he is redeemed, and Hyrule is returned to the way it was.

That’s what drives and motivates him. That pretty much sums up why I love the story of Ocarina of Time.

15th October 2008

8:09am: So what did I do this weekend? Well, since you asked, I’ll tell you.

Friday, I had the day off work. I walked over to Mum and Dad’s, we loaded the car, and left about 1 o’clock to head north. It’s supposed to be about a three hour journey to Manchester, but the traffic was a nightmare, so we didn’t get to Didsbury until just after 5. Dad dropped me and Pete Godfrey’s house to drop off my stuff and get ready for the banquet.

Seeing Pete again was absolutely wonderful. It was so nice. I chatted with him and Rosie for ages, and then went for a walk through Didsbury with Pete. I needed to get some money out and we bought some ale for the weekend. It was really nice to be back in the Village.

After we got back to Pete’s flat, I got changed into my suit and walked over to College. I met up with Mum and Dad, who had gone to check into their hotel, and we walked over to Ivy Cottage, where Caz had organised the Graduation Banquet. Actually, this was the least enjoyable bit of the weekend. I mean, it was good, but I enjoyed the other stuff more. Having waited three years for it, I suppose it was a bit of a let down. It doesn’t help that the only person in my graduating class who I really wanted to see was Pete, and he didn’t go, it was unsurprisingly lacklustre. However, some of my favourite people were there waiting and serving, like J and Vickie, and it was fantastic to see them. Plus all the staff were there, so I got to see Dr Rainey, Dr Swanson, Dr Brower, Doc Rae and all my favourite intelligent people (except Pete, of course). I did a mean Dr Rainey impression which went down very well.

After the meal, I went back to Pete’s and Mum and Dad went back to their hotel. Me and Pete proceeded to chat about many subjects until gone midnight, and I felt really bad for Rosie because she couldn’t really join in. We talked a lot about football and F1, and she doesn’t really have much interest in either. She was quite happy sitting doing her embroidery, though, or at least she insisted she was fine.

After she went to bed, me and Pete proceeded to play computer games through the night. We started on Goldeneye: Rogue Agent. He destroyed me on a deathmatch, then I beat him at a Tug of War. Admittedly, he won the second Tug of War, but it was very close. He then got me to try to play Pro Evo Soccer. This did not go well for me. His Juventus team, the one he’s trained and is the best team on the game now, got thrashed 6-0 by Spurs (I insisted Pete take a relatively poor team as a handicap). However, I did slowly get better and managed to beat him by the end of the evening. We eventually went to bed at half 3.

I got up at 7.30 after a measly four hours sleep and walked across to White Haven Gardens. It was strange standing outside the old house. I have such good memories of it, it was a place of great happiness, if also somewhere where I dealt with great distress. It was also the starting point for my old run, which I had determined to do again, exactly as I used to do. It was really good to do it again, it was along there that I really began to enjoy running and learn what I was about. It’s barely half the distance I now run in Bristol but coming round Wombat’s Corner first thing in the morning will always be fantastic.

Pete had lent me a key, so I let myself back into the flat and got changed, ready for everything else that day. The first thing was to get across to College and try and work out what I was doing with my robes, and then I had my individual photo taken. After that was sorted out, I went to meet Kat for breakfast at Saints & Scholars. The continuation of this tradition was a wonderful thing, and after a six month gap it was great to once more set the world to rights. She is quite, quite brilliant, as I have long said.

When we left Saints & Scholars she went to meet Joseph and I meandered back through Didsbury, hitting all the old charity shops, and I got myself a copy of Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks. When I got back to College, it was time to get ready for the group photos, and that was also quite a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see the pictures, although I wish my hat was straighter; I couldn’t get it to stay level.

Sarah Whittle had space in her car to get me to Whitworth Hall, where the ceremony was taking place. I met up with Mum, Dad and Jackie and had a cup of coffee with them before going to get ready for the ceremony. Then we processed to the front of the hall for the ceremony.

It was a great service. I enjoyed the whole thing. However, the highlight of the weekend, yea, the year was not long after the address. Dr Brower announced the winners of awards and prizes. The first prize was the Gordon Thomas prize for Christian Holiness, and when Dr Brower read out my name I was astounded. I’d considered that my best essay last term was my essay for Christian Holiness (it was on Athanasius’ theology of holiness in On The Incarnation, if you’re interested), but I’d been sitting convincing myself I hadn’t won. I surprised myself by how surprised I was when I was given the prize. Pete was sat next to me, and he got the prize for Pastoral Theology and he also got the Highest Undergraduate Achievement. Wholly deserved and I cheered to make the rafters lift.

After the prizes, we graduated. So now I am a graduate, I am officially Christopher Hunter, BA (Honours).

I must take a moment to mention that at this point I saw Masha. I love that little girl, I love her, I love her, I love her. She has taught me more than many people older and wiser and played a very significant part in my life. And she’s only six! Clearly she’s someone who’s going to achieve a lot and touch a lot of lives.

Mum and Dad left after the service but Jackie had agreed to go back on Sunday, and Saturday night I’d made a few phone calls and went for a meal at Pizza Hut. All my favourite people were there. Pete and Rosie came, and Kat, J, Laura Mayo, Jif and most notably Abigail Thomas came. That filled my heart with joy. Vickie joined us late, she’d been at work all day.

It was great talking to them all, and it was really good evening. I talked a lot with J and Laura, both of whom I miss terrifically, and Kat and Joseph too. Jackie got on really well with Pete and Rosie, which I was really pleased about. After the meal only six of us were still feeling active, so we went to the Didsbury for a drink. Jackie went back to Pete and Rosie’s and spent ages with them; I’m really glad they got on so well, and they also did what I have failed to do and convinced her to watch Stargate.

Anyway, I wasn’t there, I went to the Didsbury. J and Laura came, and Vickie, and a guy I don’t know, and again Abi came. I meant to talk to everyone, I wanted to talk to Vickie, I really did, but yet somehow I found Abi occupying all my attention and no one could wrest me away. But then, Abi maintains some power over me from years gone by, and I wouldn’t change that evening for the world. It was one of those great conversations that if I regret anything I regret we couldn’t have more. We deserved them. I think she’s amazing, and the fact she now holds me in any kind of high esteem… Well, I run out of words there.

I got back to Pete’s around 11 and we went to bed at 2 after more Pro Evo and Rogue Agent.

Sunday, I got up early and got a lift with Hugh Rae to Longsight. It was really nice to be back at Word & Table, and great to hear the Doc speak. The 10.30 service was really good, and I just really enjoyed the opportunity to be back there. After the service I came back to Didsbury and met Jackie. I had a hot chocolate at Saints & Scholars, then we left. We came back via Grandma’s, which was really nice.

So that was my weekend. It was amazing.

10th October 2008

1:02am: As is so oft the case, I have been thinking lots recently, some good and some bad. As usual. I’ve been thinking about friends, and how much other people inevitably affect are welfare and happiness. It is people that will make or break your day. My happiness recently has been, as ever, somewhat variable, but I must admit that certain things have happened that have made me feel not only happy and positive in the short term but genuinely good about myself.

Lets start with a bunch of my favourite people. I love kids, they’re brilliant. I get to see Masha this weekend, and that’s fantastic. I can’t wait. The last couple of weeks, I’ve played with the kids at church quite a lot, and it’s been fantastic. Two weeks ago, I took Jonah, Anna and Reuben to the park to play cricket. They were brilliant. We had a really good time, and it was absolutely brilliant. The next day, we took a bunch of them across to the park during Sunday School, to make the most of the nice weather before we start teaching them lots of important stuff.

Again, fun was had by all. I played football with them, we climbed trees, Cara told me about her boyfriend, we went on the swings and on the roundabout, it was brilliant. At the end, the boys (like Jonah and Ollie) invented a new game which they all thought was wonderful: “Hit Chris with sticks”. That one hurt.

Last week, I wasn’t even intending to play with them. I was in the process of leaving and got caught up with Anna. Then Cara joined in, with Chloe in tow. Pretty soon, I had six of them, all playing a game I’ve participated in before: “Lets steal Chris’ shoes”. Now, one child is easy to handle. They run at you, you turn them upside down, they giggle like crazy, everyone’s a winner. Ever tried it with six? Turns out it’s much harder. They weigh you down, you have to go down to avoid crushing them, then three of them sit on your torso and arms while the other three get a shoe and a sock, leaving you to hop around the church while the other grown ups laugh at you.

But I’m not complaining, not for a second. It was fantastic, I had so much fun. The fact that those kids are so willing to mess around with me just makes me feel that how can I possibly be a bad person? You must have the faith of a child, and that means both a childlike faith and being someone a child can put their faith in. I’m trying really hard to do both.

And then another really great thing happened this week. I’m full of excitement at the moment because I’m off up to Manchester this weekend for my graduation (fun to be had by all). I had to make a whole bunch of calls this week to sort things out, and the reactions I got also went a long way towards convincing me of potential efficacy. I rang Pete Godfrey, J, Laura Mayo, Abi Thomas and Dr Rainey, and all of them answered the phone in the normal way, and then upon realising who it was their voices shifted into tones of sheer excitement and joy. To promote such a reaction in people I haven’t spoken to for months suggests to me that I can’t be that bad at all. In fact, it means a bunch of people actually quite like me, and that makes me feel really quite good about myself.

Plus I’ve spent a lot of time with my very good friend Bekki this week, and the fact that we are really good friends now is also helping. Talking this week we’ve gotten even closer, seeing that we’re very similar people and also that we happen to be very good for each others problems (I help her with a lot of her issues and she is fantastic at helping me with mine).

I had a really stressful week last week, so this week of people falling over themselves to tell me how great I am has been much better.

Which, all in all, has left me feeling moderately contemplative. Life isn’t that bad, and the people in mine certainly aren’t. It’s interesting watching various relationships blossom and flourish while others aren’t what they used to be. I won’t deny I’ve been distinctly rueful at the relationships that have faded. There are some people I still really miss and I wish things had gone differently, but I know that’s just life. I really am happy, as much as it’s possible to be so. My life is genuinely good.

That seems a fairly good point to stop myself rambling. I want to finish this episode of Andromeda, and then I should go to bed. I’ve got a very busy day tomorrow, and lots of people who I desperately want to see.

30th September 2008

9:47pm: Someone asked me recently, is God fair? Not is God just, is he fair. The context of the question regards the idea of predestination. I think to begin with we’d better talk about that and why it’s as wrong as it is.

Predestination has appeared in various forms but the two best know versions of it are from Augustine and John Calvin. Augustine stated that we are, essentially, pathetic. We are all sinful beings, and Augustine was very keen on the idea of original sin. He thought that all humanity was present “in Adam’s loins”, and so when Adam sinned, all sinned. That means we’re covered by sin, and thus separated from God, before we’re even born. I’m not going to get into the question of Augustine and child salvation, right now; what’s important is that Augustine says we’re all sinful and there’s nothing we can do about it. Because we are, therefore, rubbish, we cannot redeem ourselves. We are separated from God and can never deserve to be saved.

If that’s the case, Augustine continues, then the fact that God saves any is incredible. But because God is so above us, we can never know what he thinks, so we can never know if he’s going to save us. Moreover, because God is outside of time, he knows who is saved and who isn’t, right now, as he looks down on us. Some are, and some aren’t. We don’t know who, we can’t even know if we are. There’s nothing we can do. That is essentially, predestination. You’re either saved or you’re not, God knows and you don’t. But you should still live as if you are, trying to live a holy and godly life.

Now if you’re like me, you may have thought of a problem. What the hell is the point, when you don’t even know if you’re saved, and when God could have chosen not to save you but to save your next door neighbour? It makes God some sort of arbitrary being who chooses some and not others simply on a whim, it takes away any reason for human volition, and in my opinion means that it isn’t worth trying to lead a holy life. There’s no point. Either you’re saved or you’re not, so just carry on as you please.

Calvin developed a version of double predestination. Essentially, some people are predestined for salvation and some are predestined for damnation. There you are, that’s your fate, and you have no idea which camp you’re in until judgement day. Again, I’m having big problems.

So is God fair? Well, it’s hard to think about that without considering the just question as well. I once read one of those incredibly twee forward emails that I loathe so much, which said God is entirely unjust, because if he was just all would be damned. While the email makes me want to stab myself with hot needles, the idea is fairly sound. The crux of Christianity is, fairly obviously, the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Son of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

Now see, this takes justice right out of the picture, because it’s not just at all. “Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8).

We could have a pretty big debate about whether or not capital punishment is just, and then another one about, if you accept capital punishment, is crucifixion a just form of execution. It’s an excruciating way to die. What’s absolutely and obviously and unequivocally true, though, is that Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t just. Based on the evidence we have (and it is fairly substantial on this point), Jesus was crucified for next to no reason, and certainly not for anything that warranted the punishment he was given.

And he shouldn’t even have been there, because I would argue that “justice” doesn’t include the eternal son of God taking on a fallen human body. That one’s a bit more subjective, but that’s my feeling on the matter. Philippians 2 says it all. The fact is, the entire story of the Incarnation isn’t about justice, it’s about mercy. That speaks volumes, to me. God is a merciful God, I believe that because I believe in the salvific act of his Son. And because God is merciful, and predestination is arbitrary, I can’t subscribe to that particular theology. We’re saved by faith in Christ, not by God’s whim.

So is God fair? We’ve looked at predestination, and at God’s justice and mercy. But fairness, well that’s a tricky one. I would say fairness is a lot closer to mercy, or involves a lot more of it, than justice does. A child playing a game breaks the rules, cheats to win. It is just to punish them for it. But is it fair? Yes, they have to know they did wrong, because everyone has to play by the same rules.

So I would say that God is fair, given what I’ve already said about his mercy. We’re all playing by the same rules, we’re saved by faith in Christ because of what he has done for us, and that’s open to everyone. We’re not predestined, we’re allowed to make a choice, to accept Christ and thus salvation, or not to. Moreover, God doesn’t force anything on us, he allows us to choose, and I would say that that’s fair, too.

Therefore my conclusion is that God’s justice is a very prickly issue (I’ve really skirted around it, there’s a lot more to be said), but that what’s far more important is God’s mercy. Because of that mercy, I consider God to be acting fairly to humanity. I think that’s what I think, anyway.

21st September 2008

10:42pm: Like most people, I have a very set routine in the morning between getting up and going to work, and this involves eating my healthy bowl of cereal while listening to Radio 4. I enjoy hearing what’s going on in the world, plus it means I can sound like I know what I’m on about when things come up in work.

Earlier this week, I heard an article about new “church pioneers”. It was about a movement within the Church of England to make the church “contemporary” and to “bring it into the 21st Century”. Now, the amount of inverted commas I’ve included in just two sentences probably gives you a clue about my feelings towards that sort of idea.

They had interviews with Rowan Williams and Mike Pilavachi, both of whom said interesting things which I enjoyed listening to, and agreed with whole heartedly. They talked about the Vicar of Dibley, the traditional idea of the parish vicar, in contrast to people doing things like internet churches and services in cafés . These are things that I’m all in favour of, but I get very frustrated by the way these ideas are always presented. While it was good to hear a contemporary voice of the church in the media, rather than constant representations of the conservatives causing schisms because of gay women bishops or whatever it is, I was still minorly perturbed.

I completely agree with the need for the church to be consistently relevant in a changing and postmodern world, but that doesn’t mean forgetting everything that’s gone before. I am a 21 year-old man, who’s done a degree in theology and seriously considered full time church leadership at some point in the future (though not for a few years yet). And yet, I have no desire to lead a café church or preach at Soul Survivor. If I do become a church leader, it would be the parish vicar sort.

I love liturgical communion services. I introduce the Nicene Creed as often as possible. I’ll throw myself around at a worship event as much as the next “young person”, but I also love all hymns by Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts. I get quite frustrated by people in church who insist we should only sing modern songs and get rid of the hymns. Too many songs are touted as good for the church because they are “contemporary” when in fact they are musically and theologically poor, a criticism which cannot fairly be levelled against the majority of Wesley’s classics. As with everything else, we should encourage a healthy balance, using both.

While doing my degree, I developed an ardent passion for church history, especially the early church. They truly were church pioneers, wrestling with issues that would shape the way people worship for the next two thousand years. We have a rich heritage, and should build on what we can learn from those who have gone before us. I agree that it’s important to bring the church into the 21st century, but we should ensure that the church we bring with us is one that remembers the lessons learnt by the church of the 4th. As it happens, our society is in many ways very similar to the Greek culture of that era, and we can learn important lessons about how to reach people around us by seeing how people were reached then.

So lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. Things are generally popular for a good reason, and we should remember the positive things of that traditional image of church, while also meeting the culture and society of our own era. Only by holding the two together and beginning a dialogue between them can we learn from the past and properly approach the future.

14th September 2008

7:08pm: I wrote this earlier in the week but haven't I was on holiday in Cornwall so this is the first chance I've had to put it up.


So another debacle has arisen in the Formula 1 arena. The latest great controversy yet again stars Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren team being “unfairly” penalised by the FIA, the sport’s governing body, apparently in favour of Ferrari.

The first question has to be the incident itself. Is there a case for any sort of penalty? The rules regarding overtaking in this situation are well known. At least one wheel must remain on the race track at all times, so a driver can attack the curbs as enthusiastically as they feel necessary, so long as not all wheels leave the tarmac. If they’re attempting to overtake someone, they may find as they come to a corner that they need to get out of the way to avoid hitting the other car, or perhaps they simply get on the brakes a second too late, miss the apex of the corner, and cut across it. If cutting the corner means they pass the driver they’re battling with, they have gained the place unfairly, and must slow down in order to allow the other car back past. If they don’t do so, a penalty is entirely fair.

So what did Hamilton do? The sudden rain threw an unexpected twist into the mix, and Lewis, who had been closing up on Raikkonen for several laps anyway, gave his all to win the race, as racing drivers are wont to do. Approaching the bus stop chicane, Hamilton tried to come up the inside and take the place. Raikkonen, a normally phenomenal grand prix driver showing very poor form recently, defended the place. Perfectly fairly, he held his line and squeezed Lewis. To avoid race-destroying contact, Lewis was forced off the track and cut across the chicane. Obviously, that put him ahead of Raikkonen, who had gone all the way round the corner, and we can all agree that that’s unfair.

On the pit straight, Hamilton slowed down. The pictures show that Raikkonen goes back in front. Telemetry from the pit wall shows that Hamilton drops to 6 km/h (less than 4 mph) slower than Raikkonen. Hamilton quite clearly cuts behind Raikkonen to come up the inside. If he’s gone behind him, then he has quite clearly allowed Raikkonen to take the place back. That would seem fairly indisputable to me. Hamilton then dived up the inside into the La Source hairpin, giving him the lead. Thus, he won the race.

Apparently that’s not enough for the FIA. Their argument, and it seems a very poor one, is that even though he decelerated to allow Raikkonen back past, he had gained an advantage cutting the chicane which he was still maximising when he accelerated back past his opponent. It sounds very tenuous to this particular “armchair expert”, as many outraged spectators are so scathingly termed.

To me, it seems like a very unfair penalty. But I could cope with that. It’s the fact that Hamilton and McLaren can’t turn around without getting a penalty these days. Are the FIA still sore about last years spy scandal? Let it go, they lost that championship, Raikkonen and Ferrari won. Let this years be decided fairly.

My point is that across this entire season, there have been moments that seem so dreadfully, dreadfully unfair. Raikkonen crashing into the back of Adrian Sutil at Monaco was a stupid mistake that destroyed his and Sutil’s race. He wasn’t penalised for it, which I can accept. Raikkonen’s car falling apart at the French grand prix, when the exhaust burned a hole in the chassis and was frankly dangerous also went unpunished. The one that angers me most was at the previous race in Valencia when Felipe Massa was released out of the pits almost directly into Adrian Sutil. That was dangerous and could have caused a big accident which would have been a lot of trouble to sort out. The Ferrari pit crew were stupid to release him at that point. This one couldn’t go unnoticed by the stewards.

And it didn’t. He got a 10,000 euro fine. 10,000 euros is nothing to these people. It’s the 5p that you find in your pocket at the end of the day, it mean essentially there were no consequences to Massa’s release. At the time I felt it would be unfair to give him a time penalty, taking away his victory. He won the race, so should keep his points, and should have been given a 5- or 10-place grid penalty for the next race. So you see, I think taking away someone’s victory is unfair be they Ferrari or McLaren, but the FIA disagree.

So what about the other side of the coin? Obviously, the most notable is Hamilton crashing into Raikkonen’s back end in the pits at the Canadian race. It was a stupid mistake, comparable perhaps with that of Raikkonen at Monaco. He got a 10-place grid penalty at the next race. Kovaleinen, not in contention for the championship but playing his part as Hamilton’s team-mate, has had penalty after penalty, including one in Belgium for an incident that it could be argued didn’t warrant the punishment he received.

It seems to me grossly unfair that any incident involving a McLaren is heavily penalised, while anything involving a Ferrari gets, at most, a slap on the wrist. I’m not one to jump to the idea of conspiracies, I try not to think too much about the fact that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Max Mosley are good friends with all at Ferrari while the animosity between Mosley and McLaren boss Ron Dennis rises ever higher. I merely mention them as interesting coincidences.

Personally, this has really made me questioned whether I want to watch the rest of what has thus far been another thrilling season. I’m not sure I can see the point. It’s now a fight between Hamilton and Massa, but Hamilton seems to have contend with the whole FIA, and can’t do his talking on the track, like he did with Raikkonen a couple of days ago.

My fury reached its highest when I read an article in the Times this week, claiming that we love the scandals. He suggested that F1 fans feel “the chicanery off the track is as much fun as the overtaking” and wrote, “Last year’s Spygate scandal was often described as a threat to the sport’s credibility, but the fans could not get enough of the drama.” As an F1 enthusiast who has enjoyed watching the various battles over the years between Schumacher, Alonso, and Raikkonen, I loved watching Hamilton get into the mix, but loathed the controversy that went with it. It brought down what would otherwise have been the best championship battle I’ve ever watched, and it made the entire thing dirty and underhand. Matt Dickonson, in his Times article, suggested that if I truly hated the behind the scenes controversies I would stop following the sport. I am now tempted to do so, but I really don’t want to, because I love watching the racing, and following the championship.

In my opinion, Hamilton did nothing wrong in Belgium. He was driving on the edge, and the move into La Source was daring and brilliant. To have his victory taken away and handed to his biggest rival Massa, who would otherwise have come second, frankly makes me feel sick. The massive injustice the FIA has perpetrated makes the entire point of the sport, of racing and one person vying with another for victory, utterly pointless.

We will wait and see what happens in the rest of the season. Perhaps Hamilton will win. Or perhaps after the last race they’ll deduct 50 point from him because they don’t like his shoes. Currently, it seems that the stewards don’t need any greater reason than that.

9th August 2008

7:52am: So life continues in a constant and hectic manner. I still don't have a job, but I am trying hard to find one. Time is going by with consistently surprising alacrity. I can't believe this week's already over. Life breaks down into various activities that make me really happy.

The first is currently my biggest passion, and that's running. I started running regularly with Dad last summer, and managed to keep it up in Manchester. I found a circuit that I absolutely loved, which I really miss now. It wasn't very far though, only about 2 and a half to 3 miles. When I came back, I got back into running with Dad and started doing 5 and a half to 6 miles every Saturday. I then decided I'm ready to do a half marathon, so I am doing so on the 14th of September (in Chippenham; I was too late to get into the Bristol one). I'm really looking forward to it. I've been training for a few weeks, and I'm really enjoying myself. I run at least twice a week and it makes me feel really good about myself. All the feelings of worthlessness that sometimes drag me down absolutely disappear; I have intrinsic worth when I run, and I'm really good at something. I've found the thing that I can do, that I can do really well, and I love it.

Another thing that's really great at the moment is Thursday evening's. I've rejoined an orchestra on Saturday morning which only happens in term time, so it's stopped at the moment. Anyway, I got chatting with someone I used to know when I was there before who also plays flute. She's a really great person, who I used to get on with but was never particularly friends with. For whatever reason, we've really hit it off now, and we both talked about how we really enjoy playing badminton but never have the opportunity. And so we started playing once a week, on Thursday evening's. We now have four or five people every week who meet at seven o'clock and play, and we all go for a drink afterwards. It's really nice, very social and it's really nice to have the regular activity with people I've really enjoyed getting to know.

The other great thing in my life is church. I've really enjoyed getting stuck in at church, and I feel like I've been able to slot into place quite neatly. Chris is away at the moment, so I've been taking quite a lot of services. I did the morning service with Laura two weeks ago, as well as leading the evening service when Dad preached, then was involved in the morning service last Sunday and took the evening service. I'm also taking the service tomorrow. It's been fantastic having the opportunity to take services, not just one but several. It's been challenging but highly enjoyable, and I've had absolutely brilliant feedback from everyone. For two days after the service I did with Laura, I couldn't move for people telling me how good it was, which is somewhat of a confidence boost.

So those are the specific things that are going really well. My flat is fantastic, I've settled into it really well and got it decorated beautifully. Living with Jackie, while sometimes testing, is generally really good. I went to bed at 11 last night only to then get up and spend half and hour in the kitchen with her playing Hide The Gin.

I've also been doing a lot of baking. I'm making confectionary items at least twice a week at the moment. I really enjoy that, too, actually. It also means I've cut down on buying chocolate and sweets, because I generally feel that I could make myself something at a fraction of the cost and that's probably much nicer. I'm really pleased that I seem to have adjusted to not buying any non-Fairtrade chocolate. I thought I'd really struggle with not buying Mars bars and Galaxy, but I've been fine. Even when I look at the chocolate rack and no how much I want it, I know that I also don't want it at all.

It's a bit strange at the moment, because it's the summer holidays, so a lot of church things have stopped. I remain nonetheless very busy though. We had people round the flat a lot this week, I spent most of yesterday on a bike ride with Mairéad (which was fantastic), I went bowling and to Pizza Hut with people on Wednesday, and so things are all going pretty well.

I was actually feeling a bit rubbish when I sat down and started typing, but just thinking through things in life (which are majoritively positive) has made me feel much better. I'm going to go and read Spider-Man before Dad picks me up.

22nd July 2008

12:02am: I looked at my diary today. An average week in the life of Chris:

Saturday 19th July: Up at some ridiculous hour to run with Dad. I did my first 9 mile run, in 1 hr 21 m 40 s. I was pleased.
I got back and spent all afternoon cleaning the flat with Jackie and making cakes for the flat warming party.
Our flat warming party was from 4 onwards, but no one actually arrived until 6. The last ones left at about 11 o'clock. It was a really good evening.

Sunday 20th July: Church at half 10. It was a really good service, as it happens. I had intended to leave promptly and get back for the grand prix but Anna really didn't seem happy about that idea.
Eventually I got home and watched the superb German grand prix. One of Lewis Hamilton's most sublime performance, and that's the third time I've said so in five races.
At half 6 I went down to St Christophers for the evening service.
I was back by 8, at which time Chris arrived and we watched Star Wars and ate pizza. Sadly both he and Jackie were exhausted so we only watched the first one; when he's back from holiday we're going to find the time to watch Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Monday 21st July: I had to be at Laura's house for 9 o'clock; yet another meeting to plan next Sunday's service.
I left the meeting and had to get to church for half 10 so Chris could drive me to Riversway Care Home, where we do a service for the old people.
I was back at 12, and had a little bit of time, so was finally able to get a key so I can lock up my bike. Excellent.
3.20 I'm at Hillcrest school to pick up Jonah and Anna Ache. They came back to my place to place on my amazing new Nintendo Wii, then I took them to Redcatch Park and we played a bit of football. Alison was still in the park with James and Cameron after collecting them from Knowle Park.
I was back home at 6 to make a cake for 7, when Katy and Vicki James came round. Jackie joined us and we ate Dorset apple cake and watched The Lion King and Basil the Great Mouse Detective. They left around half 10, and me and Jackie are now watching Sunday's Top Gear before bed.

Tuesday 22nd July: I have to be at Chris' house at 10, and we're going running together. We're both running half marathons in September (on the same day but in different places) so we're both in training.
I'm meeting Alison at half 2 for a coffee, and then have to rendezvous with Chris again after he's got the kids from Hillcrest to take them to the park again, where we shall hopefully see Alison.
I've then got to be at church between 6 and half past to set up for teen club at 7.
That finishes at 8, when I will go home and probably watch a bit of Smallville with Jackie. We have to finish series 5 because we now have the first series of Torchwood (I got them for my birthday).

Wednesday 23rd July: I've got to be at church at half 9 to help with Toddler's Group.
I then have an appointment in town at 2, to talk about the job interview I have on Thursday.
I have to get home and then be at church for Kids Club at 6.
That finishes at 7, and I have to be home for half past for study group. Somewhere in there I also have to plan the study group and make a cake.

Thursday 24th July: A blissfully quiet day, spent reading and playing Metroid Prime 3. Or at least it would be if I didn't have an interview somewhere in the middle. I can't remember when it is, but thankfully I have the meeting Wednesday to tell me.
I have badminton at 7, and we'll probably go for a drink afterwards. Badminton's becoming a highlight of my week; I enjoy both the exercising and the socialising very much.

Friday 25th July: I think I'm actually fairly quiet in the day, and then I'm spending the evening with my family.

Over the weekend, there will be more running and a FAFF barbeque. I'm also heavily involved in the morning service at church on Sunday, and I'm leading the evening service, at which Dad is preaching.

I'd hate anyone to think I'm moaning. I'm not. I love how busy I am. Once I have a job, it'll be very different, but things are going really well right now. There are, of course, still various problems, but nothing so bad I can't overcome it with time and help. I think the thing I most pleased about is just having mates. Watching Star Wars with Chris last night, and then watching Disney films with Katy and Vicki tonight, just made me pleased to have those sorts of relationships. They're not really close relationships, they're not incredibly emotionally involved, they're just mates.

In other news, it was my birthday last Sunday. I had a superb day. We went for a bike ride to Bath, from Saltford. I got a Wii. I also got a superb painting, which I chose as my 21st birthday present that I'll have for years to come.

All in all, life is good. I miss a bunch of people in Manchester though. I must mention Pete Godfrey, who I think of frequently. If you're reading this, Darren Byfield, who played for Bristol City last year, has just signed for Doncaster. Michael McIndoe scored a penalty tonight in City's 3-0 win over Yeovil. We play Doncaster in mid-September. I never did see The Hulk.

I also miss Masha and Dr Rainey. Masha fills my life with joy, and even though I love all the kids at church and can't wait to see Jonah, Anna, Reuben, Cara, Chloe, James, Cameron and all the other again, Masha has a special place in my heart. Dr Rainey simply remains my favourite lunatic, and I miss his random heresies. Church services just seem to run too smoothly without him.

I don't know that there's much else to say. I didn't really intend to say much of what I had said. I suppose I'm having an enjoyable moment, typing away. It's nice. I think I'm going to stop, though. I ought to go to bed, but I really want to play Metroid. It is a superb game, and playing it on Wii is an amazing experience. I have Twilight Princess, but I'm saving myself.

Have a nice day, everybody.

12th July 2008

8:29pm: I’ve always had a very vivid imagination; stories come naturally to me, and I enjoy writing. I have aspirations to write a novel, and even have a plot. In order to create this plot, though, it was necessary for me to sit and create one. It didn’t just come to me magically. And the reason for that is not that stories don’t do exactly that, but that the only stories that do come to me without any input or effort are about Zelda. I have six fully fledged novels inside my mind, based around the adventures of Link.

What I find most interesting about these, though, is that to the best of my knowledge I’ve written an absolutely minimal amount of those. I don’t think them up, they just come to me. I see what happens. It’s actually as exciting for me to learn what happens as it is for anyone reading a good book, with no idea what’s going to take place.

It really isn’t something that I seem to have any power over. There are times when I’m really geared up to think about these stories, but nothing comes to me. I have weeks, months, where I see nothing at all. At other times, I find myself overwhelmed with the revelations of things that happen in all six books. I know the general outline of each of them, and can give a lot of detail on quite a lot of events, but I have no idea about the entire thing. For example, this morning I saw something I’d never seen before, regarding Link’s return to Castle Town on the day the Gerudo attacked. I was so excited to see what happened, I had no idea that it had been like that.

At other times, I could weep over it. A good story really can make you cry. I remember when Dr Frasier died, I wept for days. When I first read Lord of the Rings and I though Pippin died, that made me weep. Even now, reading the death of King Theoden on the Pelennor Fields makes me cry bitter tears.

Last night, I saw something. Well actually, I saw its aftermath. I was in bed, reading something completely different, and I suddenly saw a conversation between Sheik and Link, sat around a camp fire. I had to get up and sit with a pad for a while, understanding what they said. Eventually, I realised what they were talking about. Someone I cared about, even loved, died. Someone Link loved. A friend. She shouldn’t have had to die. It wasn’t, isn’t fair. But then it wasn’t fair when all those people died seven years ago, when Castle Town was razed to the ground. They didn’t deserve to die. But then, many who live deserve death, and some who die deserve life. We do not have the power to give it to them.

Perhaps you have taken the time out of your busy day to read this. Perhaps you are now thinking, what rubbish. It’s your story, so just don’t let them die. Would that I could. It seems that such decisions are beyond my ken. I’m sorry if you don’t understand. I suppose I’m only writing this to try and share my pain with someone out there. Perhaps there’s no one there. But if you are reading this and have any sympathy that you can spare, think of a girl who didn’t deserve to die, but who lived in the wrong time.

9th June 2008

9:56pm: I am in a slightly dubious mood, so this entry has the potential to adopt a negative slant. However, I hope it won't, since life is going rather well at the moment. I've been back in Bristol for about a week and a half, and yet it feels like I've been here for months. I got back on a Saturday and went to church the next morning, where I was mobbed by people asking me to do things, and I get the feeling that they've been drawing up a list for me over the last few months. I hope that doesn't sound like I'm complaining, because I felt very valued. I've been really looking forward to getting stuck in at church, and have done just that.

I now have teens club on a Tuesday evening and kids club on a Wednesday evening, both of which I need to prepare things for. Until I can get a job, I'm also helping out with the service Chris does at an old people's home on a Monday morning. I'm also starting a social/house group on a Wednesday evening, after kids club, which starts next week. That's one I'm quite dubious about. I've given it a lot of thought and preparation, but I'm apprehensive that either no one will come or they'll come once and that will be enough to convince them never to come again. We shall see. I'm also involved with various things for Sunday services. Like I said, I don't mind. I'm happy to be busy. Friday night is always family night, so I still have Monday night and Thursday night, and Saturday's. That said, based on the last couple of weeks, those fill up very quickly. I go running first thing on Saturday, and then I've rejoined the orchestra I used to be part of and that takes up the rest of the morning. There's almost always something to do on a Saturday evening as well, and if not I'm with my family. Like I said, I'm really enjoying myself.

The rest of my time is committed to job and flat hunting. I'm moving in with my sister, and we're looking for somewhere as soon as possible, but of course it's quite difficult until I can get a job. And she needs to give a months notice, so that's another difficulty, plus she can't do many viewings because she's at work all day. Nonetheless, I'm sure it will all work out. These things tend to.

My last few weeks in Manchester were incredibly positive, a fair reflection on the last three years. The day after I handed in my final essay, I flew to Israel for 10 days. It was a fantastic experience. I shall make the negative comment first to get it out the way and admit that I struggled a lot, simply because I was with people all of the time for 10 days and that wore me down. I'm very much an intravert and need my own space. But that doesn't change the fact that it was great, I did get on with everyone, there were no major incidents, and I learnt an incredible amount. It was very, very worthwhile. I still haven't finished sorting out photos though, there are quite a lot!

As for my last week, my time was full with last events. Dinner at the Godfrey's (twice), a barbeque at the Rainey's, and time with various people. Me and Vickie ordered a curry and watched The Ark of Truth together. I am going to miss living with her. Final breakfast with Kat (I must take this opportunity to congratulate her from the bottom of my heart; I don't think I could be any more thrilled about her engagement). I will miss her terribly, she is the wisest person I know, and not having her insights into life will be costly. I'll also miss being her groupie. Laura came round and I cooked for her; I wish I had time to get to know her much, much better. Warm beverage with J. If I had more time, I'd love to continue unravelling the mysteries around her. And last, not because he's least but because he's most important, time with Pete Godfrey. Playing boardgames, or pool, or computer games, discussing theology, Stargate and Marvel, and so much more. He's my best friend, the first male best friend I've had since I fell in love with Nikki, and I'll miss him a huge amount.

But we look ahead. My new life has hit the ground running. Also, though, I want to mention the Gnus. Simply because they're my best friends in Bristol, I can't wait to have them all back. We're all moving on again, but they are my oldest friends; I hope and pray that I'll do what's necessary to stay in contact with them. They are so very important to me.

12th May 2008

3:00pm: A summation of the academic life of Christopher Hunter, the great and mighty Wombat the Wombat, beginning January 2008.

I returned to Manchester from Bristol after Christmas with a week before the start of my intensive (Polity and Practice). The end of my intensives marked the beginning of my final term at Nazarene Theological College. In the middle of the first week of that final term was the 31st of January, the day of critical importance, the deadline of the first draft of my dissertation. In the previous term, I had put great effort into this work, fighting my way through many very large books to produce more notes than my handwriting could sensibly cope with. I had then proceeded to write the first 2000 words. That week, then, was one in which I must work hard and cover as much of the final 8000 words as possible. I had a wonderful week, barely leaving the house except to go to the library for yet more books, and splitting my time between writing and watching the Masters. Mark Selby won, playing magnificently.

In the week of Intensives, I enjoyed a good routine of lectures in the day and then working in the evening, and on the Friday evening, I finished my dissertation. My join was fairly high. My pride in my work was also pretty high. This was a number of days before the actual deadline, I had done it without unnecessary pressure on myself.

Term began with the normal intention of beginning the essay for the intensive immediately and utter failure to do so. There were four weeks of lectures before Reading and Research week, another three weeks before the Easter break (which was a week), and then the final four weeks of lectures, the run down to the end of the entire process.

By the fourth week, I finally had my actual title for Polity and Practice. “An evaluation and development of the baptismal practice of the Church of the Nazarene”. I began work, and was able in Reading and Research Week to finish the essay, beginning work for Psalms. “An Exegesis of Psalm 46”. I managed to write just under 1000 words before panicking that I didn’t have enough to write and taking the route the majority of students take: I ignored it. By the end of February, I had also had my dissertation back, told that it didn’t need much except to correct some small mistakes. Again, several days before the actual deadline, I had it submitted. No pressure.

The first week after R&R I devoted mainly to researching Psalms, with the intention of pushing on into Christian Holiness. At this point, Dr Rainey went into hospital, so I couldn’t clear my question for Christian Holiness. Two essays now on hold. I now had to also stop and deal with my sermon for Homiletics, but that was done and out the way in a couple of days. By Easter, I was looking at Reformation, needing to get something done. “An evaluation of Martin Luther’s contribution to the Protestant Reformation”. I took work home with me when I went back to Bristol for 8 days, and achieved precisely nothing. I came back with now three essays on hold. I had to get on with Reformation, there was nothing I could do about Christian Holiness, and I really had to get on with Psalms.

The first week after Easter, Thursday night, with some reading already done, I sat down and told myself that I was going to finish my Reformation essay no matter how long it took. By the time I crawled into bed 18 hours later, it was most of the way there. It took a couple of extra days to get it properly tidied up, but that was two essays written, with two on hold. Now I really had to get on with Psalms, while I began looking at either Social Action or John. Still nothing to be done about Christian Holiness; I wanted to write on Calvin, but it would have to wait.

By the end of lectures the second week after Easter, I had Reformation ready to print but was totally stuck on John, with no idea what to do. “The use of the word ‘world’ in the Gospel of John”. I got a little done over the weekend, and then Sunday night sat down with again the intention of staying up all night and making sure it was mostly done. This I did, and a couple of days later, it was completely done. Three written, three to write, three weeks after Easter. I really ought to get on with finishing Psalms. There was now just one week left to Thursday, 24th April. Deadline Day. Christian Holiness, because of Dr Rainey’s illness, extended to the 12th of May. Okay, put aside for the moment. Social Action in fact due the day before Deadline Day. A little done over the weekend, at which point a written response to Homiletics was also prepared. Tuesday night, I again sat before my laptop, knowing I could not sleep until the thing was finished and handed in. Half 1 the next day, no sleep, in the final Social Action lecture, completed essay in front of me. “An evaluation of the Fairtrade Movement”. Four done, two to go. One day left for Psalms that had been abandoned for a month.

I got some sleep Wednesday evening, my body gave me little choice, getting up again in the middle of the night to finish Psalms. Outrageously, having delayed work for a month, my fingers suddenly flew; probably the best essay I’ve written this term. Five done, just Christian Holiness left. Deadline Day arrived, and passed with everything handed in. A couple of days to relax and allow my body to return to normal after the sleepless nights, then Monday morning, one week to exams. Revision began. Three exams, each three questions and three hours. One hour to write one essay, nine essays to revise.

First day, preparing an exegesis on Deuteronomy 6:4-5 for the Old Testament exam. Second day, over at Pete Godfrey’s, snooker World Championship on in the background and revising everything on the Psalms. Third day, listening to recordings of Dr Swanson to revise Qoholeth and Ecclesiastes. Fourth day, back to Deuteronomy, making sure I’m ready for the question I can prepare in full.

Fifth day, Friday, end of the week. Just the weekend and the bank holiday separating me from the first exam. Now we’re onto revising for the second, though. Dr Rainey’s theology exam, that no stroke could stop him preparing. God bless the man, I knew exactly what he wanted from me and I’d done it all before. First question: analysis of a New Testament Christological hymn. I pull out my Paul and his Epistles essay on Philippians 2:6-11, and it all comes flooding back. In the afternoon, it’s into the Council of Chalcedon, looking at all those heresies: Arianism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Eutycianism. I know it all. In the evening, I write a practice question, an hour on Philippians 2. I realise I don’t want to do it in the exam, but that’s fine, because I was already revising four just in case.

Sixth day of revision, my Saturday begins with Karl Barth’s Christology. A break between morning and afternoon, and then I’m into Jurgen Moltmann’s Trinity. Two days, four questions, I feel supremely confident for the second exam.

Sunday, I begin the third exam, Ethics. First up, Mill’s Utilitarianism. It goes badly, I haven’t got a clue and I’m barely trying. Monday. The final day before the exam, Ethics is abandoned, I spend the morning making sure I can do my exegesis and writing out the structure I need to memorise. In the afternoon, I’m over at Pete Godfrey’s and it’s looking over Psalms and Qoholeth. No real idea what the questions will have to be there, just have to revise everything.

Tuesday. Old Testament at 10.00am. I’m up at 7, making sure I’m not panicking or going to be late, giving myself plenty of time, keeping myself calm. I go for a run and go over everything in my head: Deuteronomy, Psalms, Qoholeth. Half 9, I go up to College. 10, the exam begins.

I’m straight into the prepared exegesis and deliberately not looking at the other questions. I don’t want to panic over them before I’ve written the one I know I can do. Now I’m flying, covering the material, including Hebrew words, everything I’ve revised. I’ve finished in 45 minutes. I turn over the exam and look at my two questions. Qoholeth’s conclusion in Eccles 2:24, and the theology of sin in the Psalms, particularly the “Seven Psalms”. I know both of those, and get on with it.

After the exam and a bit of a break, it’s final revising for the second exam the next day. I spend the whole day writing practice questions on Chalcedon, Barth and Moltmann. I get up at 7 again on Wednesday, running again and going over everything. By the time I reach the exam, I’m completely calm and feel great. Three hours, three questions, and I feel really good. Moltmann might be a bit less comprehensive than the other two, but I at least feel confident that I’ve passed.

Wednesday and Thursday, I’m trying to cover all three questions for Ethics. Mill’s utilitarianism, Christian pacifism and Fair trade. The last I just go over my Social Action essay, it’s not too much of a problem. The other two, I just about get there. Friday, the last exam. I get through it. Not as good as the other two, but done. Exams are now finished.

Euphoria wears off fairly quickly I’ve got until Monday to write 3500 words for Christian Holiness. “Athanasius’ theology of holiness in ‘On The Incarnation’”. Stressful, perhaps, but it seems perfectly fitting for my last ever essay in my undergraduate work to be on Athanasius.

Friday, I get some reading done. Saturday, I get a lot more done. I’ve done almost as much as I’d actually intended to do by the time my brain refuses to carry on at 11 in the evening. Sunday, I get back from church, and it’s time to see what we can do. I’ve finished reading by 5 and started writing. The first 1000 words come pretty quickly, but it feels disjointed. At 8 o’clock, I go for a run, and its incredibly exhilarating because I beat my best time by 40 seconds. I get back and sit down with Athanasius again. I desperately want to go to bed from half 9 onwards, but I push myself to carry on. By midnight, I’m just shy of 3000 words, but the coherence of my sentences is breaking down. I need sleep.

I’m up in the morning before going out to meet Kat for breakfast. 3,300 words and just the conclusion left. Back from seeing Kat, I finish. Close to 4000 words, I have to cut a lot out to get it inside the margin (maximum: 3850). Final word count: 3836. I’m done.

I’ve finished my degree.

3rd May 2008

1:18pm: Today began very strangely. I slept badly, and woke up a number of times from those dreams that are confusingly real. When I eventually made an actual bid for consciousness, I found myself struggling to work out whether I had succeeded or was stuck in another of those surreal imaginings. No matter how hard I pinched myself, the radio kept telling me that Boris Johnson is mayor of London. From the start, I've found the idea of Boris as mayor absolutely fantastic, but only because I don't live in London and have no intention of moving there. It's the idea of it actually happening that I find so strange. And yet it seems that that is the case.

(My confusion over reality was unhelped by the fact it seemed some thing had made a nest out of my hair, but that's another matter (although no amount of brushing seems to have solved the dilemma).

Until six months ago, I was fairly supportive of Labour. I was really pleased when Gordon Brown took over as prime minister, but he has unimpressed me at every turn. Things have gone badly, but he hasn't reacted well to them. He doesn't seem to be trying very hard. The few things he's actually attempted to do have inspired vehement opposition. The one thing I have been please about is the fact he's been relatively outspoken about Zimbabwe. Either way, he's lost my allegiance, and as the events of the last few days show, I'm not the only one. It is for this reason that I include a poem I heard on Saturday Live this morning:

To all sand-paper skinned cabbies in ranks that snake for leagues
To weekend dads let down again with Happy Meal fatigue;
To shop girls working Saturdays so hungover and sick;
To the gauche and awkward school boys with permanent split lips;
To salesmen in Burton suits who shoot the rear view frowns;
To all those disenfranchised souls in glum commuting towns;
This week be glad of one small fact - at least you're not Gordon Brown.
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