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Thursday, 26 December 2013

Chapter 22 - A story about courage (and Christmas ramblings)

I want to start the penultimate chapter of 10 resolutions by telling you about one of the funniest things that I've seen in recent years, and mainly because of the urban justice of it.
At a supermarket (that will remain nameless) in Gloucester last week there was a group of people collecting for Help the Heroes. One of these people was probably close to my age and clearly had part of his face and leg damaged in service (confirmed by a conversation later). He was also in uniform and in a wheelchair. People walked passed and put money in their buckets (as I did when I walked into the store) - but 20 minutes later I came out to see something completely vile. 
A group of 6 or 7 older teenagers (15-18 year olds at a guess) had assembled in a group close to the collectors and they were all laughing at the serviceman. He ignored them and carried on collecting and speaking to people that walked past. As the groups laughing and insults continued to get louder though an older man with a walking stick started walking towards the group of teenagers. Initially, the group thought nothing of the older man coming towards them but as he got closer, a member of the group started focusing his attention on the man (as it was clear he was coming over to speak to them). As the man arrived to speak to the teenagers, the one who had been mocking him shouted out (in an accent that can only be described as west-country gone wrong chavette)

“What dya fink you is doing mate? Where is your f*****g zimma frame”

And then, in a moment of sheer courage and priceless timing it happened…..The older man stood as straight as he could and in one swift motion and with all of his strength he swung his walking stick straight into the teenagers groin. As the teenager keeled over in pain, the rest of the group fell silent and almost instantly stood back. Then the older man bent over and said something to the teenager that the few people around couldn’t hear (but the one obvious word that I could pick out was ‘respect).

And with that – the group of teenagers started laughing at the mouthy teenager and Im sure that Im not the only one that wanted to run over and high-five the older man. I also wish that I had the courage of the older man to do what he did. To go and speak to the teenagers – and its really easy to look at something like that in hindsight, to say, “yeah, if it happened again….” (You know what I mean). But there isn't much in me that is convinced that the same kind of feelings wouldn't flood over me again.
Courage to be able to take a step like that is something I really need to pray for. If it was just a couple of them or an individual then I wouldn't have a problem – but then again I could do that in my strength. I need to have courage to act in faith. And with that (somewhat overly heavy) opening – lets move on shall we……

In case you hadn't heard, its Christmas time – and the even more crazy thing about that little reveal is that it is nearly a year since 10 Resolutions began. But chapter 23 will be the sentimental one with revelations and stuff – this chapter will mainly be focused on the fact that I am now old and my thoughts / ramblings about the festive period. To keep things in a vague kind of logical order though, Im going to flip the normal order of a chapter around and lead up to some festive questions / rambles at the end rather than starting with them. So what has been happening since chapter 21? And who have I met along the way?

Parties Parties Parties (and a trip to the hospital)
As I’ve probably mentioned once or twice (joke) – I’ve been hurtling towards 30 for the best part of a year - and at the end of November (in a joint party with Dan) I finally crossed over into brand new territory and into a new decade of life. Youll be pleased to know that it doesnt feel much different (yet) from my 20s - however I do now have a somewhat ridiculous amount of grey hair developing. Thankfully though that doesnt bother me (weve just got a problem if I start balding!). But anyway, my birthday was the first of four parties that Ive attended in the last few weeks……..

The Birthday Bash
The Day After (Yes...that is a onesie)
Dan and I had been planning our birthday for months and it went off without a hitch (so thank you to everyone that helped out). The room looked beautiful, the bar was cheap and I felt completely blessed and honoured to have so many people from so many different moments in my life come along. I even lost track of the amount of times on the night that I felt completely overwhelmed with joy to see different people (some of whom I hadnt seen in ages). If you made an effort to come up for the night – then thank you - as it meant the absolute world to Dan and I – and it was an evening that we will never forget.

Kraig Dixon
Kraig is someone that I met through someone else (I've now pretty much lost touch with the someone else) – but Kraig has now been part of my life for somewhere close to 15 years – and no one person has made me laugh as much along the way as Kraig either through his actions or his words. He never takes himself too seriously (despite supporting Chel$ki) and beneath the outward projection of Kraig lies at his heart a man who simply cares for those he loves. And what an amazing thing to have at your core that is. Kraig however, is not particularly good in the mornings ESPECIALLY on stag dos – as was evident on Dans Stag-do last year….

Phil to Kraig (After having spent the majority of the day playing paintball which Kraig missed due to our previous heavy night):
“Kraig, have you been in bed all day”?
Kraig then replies:
No Phil, Ive only been in bed until this point”
It was an absolutely priceless moment.
If you are feeling down, Kraig will cheer you up and he has a completely infectious personality. He is one of my favourite people to spend time with – I just wish that he didn’t live so far away!

Craig Simmons
I met Craig (along with loads of other people) as part of the Faction about 10 years ago now and he has now become one of my closest friends. I dont see him very often (as he is a “little bit” of a jet-setter with his job) but when I do we always have loads of fun - and perhaps most importantly I feel that I can open up to him. He makes me smile despite him being a grumpy old man (in his late 20s) and I always know that if I need him hell be there for me. Hes a great friend and I am enormously proud of the man that he has become.

Ally Winter
Ive known Ally for pretty much exactly the same amount of time that Ive known Cass (and thats because they used to work together) and from the first moment we got on really well. Ally loves to laugh (including at herself) and she is able just to pick out really funny things in the world. Aside from that though – Ally is one of the most supportive people Ive ever met and I can think of so many times when she has been there for Cass (and me) in recent years (including being a bridesmaid). She always makes an effort for her friends and I always look forward to seeing her when she is around. Ally is completely larger than life and if I described her in one word it would be FUN. Simply put – Ally is a legend.

Kirsties Birthday
Kirsties birthday was the Friday after my Birthday and the evening started with a trip to my favourite pub in Gloucester - before ending up in the best night place in the shire (CafĂ© Rene)…….And as back in chapter 17 I said that I'd introduce you to some more of my colleagues and friends from work (who I actually spend a fair bit of time with outside work as well) - spread across this chapter seems to be a good time....

Kirstie Chidlow
Ive worked with Kirstie now for about 7 years and I have watched her grow into an amazing person. She is funny, smart, friendly, trustworthy and probably in loads of ways knows me better than I know myself. She is also one of those people that just when you think you have her figured out youll see a completely different side of her or discover something about her that is completely fresh and adds to her overall jigsaw. I love spending time with Kirstie and actually find her really refreshing (even though I havent quite figured out her fondness for drinking JD). 

Claire Barsellotti 
Im lucky enough to know loads of compassionate people and Claire is without question one of them. She is also one of those amazing people that just manages to make people smile wherever she goes and she can light up a room with her personality. Shes bubbly and bouncy yet completely sincere and empathetic whilst possessing real grace. Claire has recently come back to work in our office and I honestly didnt realise how much I missed having her around. 

The trip to the hospital.....
The Monday after Kirstie's birthday I ended up in London hanging out with Simon for the evening and having a few beers (whilst he mocked me for not drinking ale) - but the aim of hanging around Big Smoke for the night was so that I could go and see my friend Lu in Charing Cross hospital the next day......
Lu Leach
Lu (wife to Terry) is very simply one of the strongest people that I have ever met. Since Ive known her, I have lost track of the number of times that she has been in hospital due to her condition but she has never given up hope and she is a true inspiration to me and so many others around her. She is blunt (something I love about her) and will put me in my place if Im being out of line. But on the flip side of that she is also amazingly caring and has rescued me in so many ways more times than I care to imagine. Shes a pillar of strength and hope combined with a beautiful heart – and she is quite simply amazing.

Windsor Antics
The following Saturday was Lucy's birthday night out in Windsor. Despite living near Windsor growing up, I'd never been there for a drink before (and after experiencing the drinks was fairly evident as to why!) Obviously I found a bargain though....and that bargain happened to be buckets of sharing cocktails for a tenner which were LUSH (so nice in fact that I didn't share.....) It was also great to catch up with Lewis, Chris, Phil, Rach, Sophia and Bradley again on the night....ooohhh and congratulations to Lewis and Lucy on since becoming engaged (a decision that I should point out was NOT made under the influence that night.....)

Christmas Party Time
Friday 13th was my work Christmas party which saw us invading other Christmas parties and initial 'fury' over no wine being on the tables. With that part being over though...a massive contingent of us descended into Gloucester City Centre for what was my 4th great party night in as many weeks. No stories to tell here - just a fantastic night (and I got in about 5am....AGAIN)

Jamie Wilkins
I met Jamie a few years ago in a pub whilst watching the football (as a side note - I wonder how many friendships have been formed in Blighty in that very same way). Jamie was friends with someone I was working with at the time (who was there as well) and then as the year passed on I saw him quite a bit at different matches in the pub and other social things. I eventually lost touch with the person that I met Jamie through - but that summer Jamie started working in the same office as me and we started spending more time together.
He is an avid (yet normally realistic) Liverpool fan (who actually knows about football), hes not afraid to speak his mind (or to stand up for those around him), he is always looking to have fun (including at his own expense) and he has absolutely no understanding of those that are awake and bouncy in the mornings (as he is not). And I wouldnt have him any other way because as sad as it may well sound – Ive really loved getting to know Jamie over the last few years (despite his occasional Liverpool delusions) and I feel really blessed to be able to call him my friend. 

Howie Jackson
DJ Howie “Action” Jackson is probably the person who knows more people than anyone else I have ever met and if you walk into a pub with him he WILL know someone (and quite often the person that you least expect). He will make an effort to get on with anyone and everyone - and it always amazes me just how humble Howie is. He’s loud, he’s a joker, hes snapchats biggest user and hes a great friend – just never expect him to be on time. 

Jo Pockett
Jo Pockett is the only person i know who would pre-work out dance moves with a broken foot for the Christmas party (after breaking her foot the week before). Jo is determined, selfless, friendly, a great mum and really easy to get along with.
Last month Jo arranged a fund raising day for the Neuro Foundation (which was a success). And I don't think I've ever seen someone act with such drive to make something happen (as it nearly fell apart a number of times in the build up). On the flip side though...She also eats a worrying amount of rabbit food (the thought of which terrifies me).

Jo (left) Kerri-Anne (Right)
Kerri-Anne Wood
Always giggling there is no question that Kerri-Anne likes to laugh. But even beyond that I think it's fair to say that Kerri-Anne is one of the nicest people I have ever met. She also has an amazing ability to speak with authority without raising her voice (her words carry real weight). Kerri - Anne lifts the spirits of people when she is around and that sounds like such a simple thing but it is so important. She's great to be around, a fantastic mum and I'm really looking forward to spending more time with her - as well as watching her become the person that she has started to become.

Hayley Drake
I don't think that I have watched anyone grow and develop as much as Hayley has in the time that I have known her (7 or so years). Hayley has become outwardly more confident whilst developing a playful feistiness about her (which she uses on a near daily basis thanks to the antics of the rest of her team).
Hayley is a geek (self confessed) but she is also friendly, an individual, supportive, loves arty stuff (I will be abused for that comment) and also has a fantastic taste in music. Underneath all of that she also has an amazing, caring heart which at times she might try and hide - but in fact with every moment becomes more evident. 

Wifey's Birthday......
For a brief 4 weeks in the year, Cass and I are only a year apart in age. But on December 15th that changes as the gap again grows to 2 years. I took Cass out to her favourite restaurant on the 14th (after recovering from the Christmas party the night before) before taking her shopping the next day. So Happy Birthday wifey....and more on shopping in a bit....

Christmas Questions.....
I'll speak about what I've been up to over Christmas in Chapter 23 - but I just wanted to answer now some Christmas questions that have been asked.....

What do you like most about Christmas?
Christmas is one of my favourite times of year - because spending time with friends and family is one of my favourite things (and my heart breaks for those that arent able to do that). Obviously with working shifts though I dont get to do as much of it as Id like and it can get me a bit down. Sometimes it works out really well with shifts (like this year Im off on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and seeing people on the 22nd and 23rd) but at other times it works out really badly (I worked Christmas morning last year and virtually every other day in the Crimbo period). Ive got a lot to be thankful for though, and Christmas is a really good time to reflect and to realise that.

Im also not very good If (Im being really honest about it) with remembering the real meaning of Christmas and the “why” part at Christmas time. I (like so many others) tend to get so drawn into everything else around Christmas that I end up forgetting about the background. I lose track of the “about” section – and coming from someone who believes what I believe thats really bad – but I am working on it.

The other thing I love is a very simple thing – and that is at Christmas time you generally see the best in people. You see people going out of their way to help others and it can be amazing to watch and be a part of. Kindness is everywhere on a daily basis anyway (unlike what the Daily Mail would have you believe), but at Christmas time – its just more obvious. So a challenge for you (and me) this year is to go out of your way to help someone this Christmas time that you know needs support in one way or another. It could be that theyve had a hard year and they just need someone to talk to, or it could be that you know someone that is going to be alone on over the period. Be the person that stands by their side this Christmas and helps them through.

What don’t you like about Christmas?
I have two (quite massive) pet hates about Christmas – and Ill explain why for both (although one should be blindingly obvious):
1.       Christmas Carols. No – I am not Scrooge. I do not walk around saying “Humbug”. When I was growing up however, my Dad was a Team Vicar. And what this meant was that at Christmas time I would more often than not have to go to 4 or 5 Christmas services over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (think how late presents must have been in the day!).  I don’t know how long it takes you before one song starts to grate a little bit at your soul…but I can honestly say that if I never hear “away in a manger” again it will be too soon. I completely understand that carols can have a massive impact and even on those that don’t go to Church (and that is fantastic) – but for the most part I will go out of my way to avoid them (which on reflection probably ties in with how I find myself lost in Christmas and forgetting the meaning …. And yep that’s a revelation for me right there). Still, one carol I will never tire of (if it’s done correctly and not done with a choir of screechers) is Silent Night. Absolutely beautiful. 
2.       On the Facebook page last week – I mentioned that I might say something controversial. And it’s about the other thing I don’t like about Christmas – Shopping. Now for the vast majority of things, I now do my shopping online. Let’s face it, it’s much easier. You might enjoy wading through tides of dawdly people in town. But I don’t. Dawdly people frustrate me, and I hate crowds of people – so Christmas shopping isn’t for me. But as I started wandering through Merry Hill shopping arcade last week for Wifey’s birthday something started occurring to me and I started developing a plan for how to fix Christmas shopping. Now let’s face it – weekend Christmas shopping is absolutely vile – but when I was doing in this shopping centre last week something that really started to dawn on me was the sheer number of people that didn’t need to be there. For instance, people that are retired have no need to go shopping at the weekends (unless they need someone to go with them). So why do they choose to go when it is much busier? Similarly, people that don’t work for whatever reason (I’ll leave that to cover a wide range of groups) have no need to go at the weekends either – and taking the majority of those two sets of people out of weekend shopping would make a massive difference and with less people crammed in at weekends and more spread out in the weeks leading up to Crimbo then the high street actually might have people like me return to it rather than doing everything online. So there it is…it’s not a finished idea and it might come across as selfish - but it also might stop some dawdling and stop the violence amongst people fighting in Asda for the last pack of pigs in blankets.

What is your favourite Christmas film?
As a confession – I didnt think that I liked many Christmas films. As it turns out though, I do actually like quite a few. Im not as sold on Elf as wifey is, but its certainly a film that is growing on me (and thats probably lucky as Im forced to watch it every year) but the Muppet Christmas Carol is a film that I adore and it has me in stiches of laughter every time I watch it. I also love Its a wonderful life and are films that arent really Christmas films but are set at Christmas allowed to count? Because if they are then things like Gremlins and the grossly underrated Just friends also come into play. Oohhhh and that also means Die Hard comes into play. Yippee Ki-yay…… 

When did you first discover that Santa wasn't real?
Say what????? What are you saying here??? Seriously though - when you start to get socks in your stocking it's a sign that the game could well be up. 

So there you have it. The last chapter for the year. The final chapter (or season finale) will emerge in the first week or so of January and I'll be taking you through a number of resolutions...and showing you where I've dropped a few hints about what they could be. For the time being though, let me just finish by saying that I consider myself to be honoured and completely blessed to have so many amazing people in my life. Christmas is a time for reflection, and writing this chapter has really reminded me how lucky I am. So thank you for being part of my life. I'll leave you all with this video.

10 resolutions will return soon so please subscribe using the white box above, keep up to date via Facebook or the twitter. Merry Christmas and a happy new year. And happy birthday JC - for without you Christmas wouldn't even happen.

God bless


Friday, 22 November 2013

Chapter 21 - A story about Bruges and a guy called Patrick

It’s been a month since the last chapter and as you can probably imagine from the size of the gap – there has been a lot going on (a few things of which I’ll obviously tell you about as the chapter progresses) – but my overriding feeling at the moment comes down to one simple phrase – “stick or twist”. I mentioned a few chapters ago that I felt I was at a crossroads but I just didn’t know what the options actually were to take. Well the update now is that I’m fairly sure I do know what the options are and they are quite simple – “stick or twist”. You’ll be pleased to know however (sarcasm) that the big “reveal” moment of these options has probably left me more confused than ever before. 
On top of that - this is the last chapter I’ll write before I turn 30 – and whilst that doesn’t phase me, the idea of turning 30 is really beginning to get to me. I know that I won’t feel any different – I’m not scared of that – but what I’m realising is that when I was younger I had a massive list of stuff to do before I was 30 and there is very little stuff on that list that crossed off (admittedly one of those things was becoming a member of Bon Jovi). Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been lucky enough to do loads of other stuff instead, but I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m realising that time really is short and I don’t want to waste it. Perhaps that was a subconscious reason to start writing 10 Resolutions in the first place and for me to keep on writing it. Who knows? But what I do know is that you needn’t worry about making inevitable jokes about my hair going gray – because it already is.

I finished Chapter 20 by speaking about Detoxtober and Flik mentioning to me that an awful lot of my stories involve booze (which was a fair point). To balance the scales I promised to tell you a story from my younger-person past that isn’t widely known about me (which we will get to in a minute). Before we get there though - I should mention that thinking about this has actually given me the realisation that I find it easy to talk about stuff that should be embarrassing (and there are 100’s of stories left to tell) - yet really hard to talk about stuff like my fears and things like that. When I spoke about Ed in Chapter 20 - the thing that I didn’t say when I said that he broke me down was the fact that he actually had me in tears (on a stag do – luckily there were very few people around at the time….). Again – he certainly didn’t mean to do it – but he could see through my “front” and I guess that he could see that something was hurting me and he called me on it. I honestly can’t remember what it was – but I find messing around and joking really easy. I don’t find it so easy talking about stuff that is close to and on my heart. Hopefully over the course of 10 Resolutions so far you’ll have seen me open up a bit more and my heart change. I’m still a long way away from where I’d like to be though - which is why opening up to tell you the story I’m about to tell and how I remember it (bearing in mind it was a long time ago) could be quite important…….

I was 6 years old and I lived on the Isle of Man. We had a lovely house on a quiet road and we were a stones throw away from the beach and from a wood.
I had a friend called Patrick and we would spend a lot of time with each other and I’m fairly sure that it was at his house that I first tried the wonderful thing that is pizza. Anyway, one day I was at his house and he suggested that we went to play in the woods. Now, my parents had let me go round to Patrick’s house to play - but they wouldn’t have let me go to the woods without some form of supervision / nagging – so I saw a chance for an early shot at rebellion. So with my parents thinking that I was still at his house, Patrick and I went to the woods. Games were played, a fort was built and we had a fantastic time hitting each other with sticks and pretending that they were guns (as every boy does).
We then decided to head down through the woods and onto the beach. The way that I remember it was that there was a path through the woods that maybe followed a stream that went into the sea and that there was a small walkway for maybe 100m along the coast before hitting the beach. What we didn’t realise though was that whilst we had been playing in the woods (and being sheltered) we hadn’t realised the extent of the weather - because by the time we reached the seafront the wind was fierce, the rain was relentless and the tide was rising rapidly. Stupidly (although I cant remember if there was another reason why we couldn’t or didn’t) we didn’t turn back and go back home through the woods – we instead started to walk along this unsheltered single file path (more like a ledge) along the coast that led to the beach. We gradually moved slowly forwards - and then the waves started.

There have been very few times in my life where I have been genuinely terrified – but this remains to this day one of my strongest memories of fear. The waves started pounding the path behind us and on reflection now the easiest way to help you visualise what it was like for me would be running along a road with the road falling away behind you. We couldn’t turn around because we would be hit by the waves. Our path behind was blocked off and we could only move forward along the inclining but continuingly narrowing path. The problem wasn’t that the drop was great - but that the waves were smashing against the path and if either of us fell in there was every chance that the waves could push us into the rocks. A few moments later – Patrick’s foot slipped.

In moments like that, time really does start working in slow motion. I don’t know why that’s the case but it’s probably something to do with adrenaline and the way our minds are wired around fear and stuff.  It felt like I was moving in bullet time in this moment (years before the Matrix invented it and then ruined it with the sequels that will not be mentioned) as I reached out and grabbed Patrick's arm. I held on to Patrick with all my might as he tried to regain his balance on the edge - but he was bigger than me and my feet started to slip as well. And at that moment a giant wave hit Patrick and I lost my grip of him.

The wave hit Patrick first and then I caught the after-effects of it as it pushed me into the wall. Thankfully, rather than dragging Patrick down, the wave actually pushed him into the wall as well. Not wanting to hang around or to contemplate what could have happened we started to move towards the beach again. The waves kept coming as the path continued, but by this point we had started to properly look out for each other and to time our movements in relation to the bigger waves. Eventually though, a completely drenched, relieved and terrified pair of friends made it to the beach and walked home.
I can’t remember ever seeing Patrick again after that (or if we did we certainly didn’t talk about the day again) or what I told my parents to explain how wet I was (there is wet - and then there is walking around with 20 melted ice caps worth of water on your person). It was probably a version of the truth (like going to the beach) but I certainly didn’t tell them everything because I’d have been in even more trouble and they’d have worried about me and grounded me until my 18th birthday. The truth though is that I honestly wish I did tell them everything because I can’t tell you how many times in my life my mind has drifted to those moments and thought of different outcomes. I guess in a way I’ve been haunted by it (or at least I was for a while). And that might not have happened if I’d have had the guts to tell someone about it straight away and to talk it through. It’s a memory that I’ve kept to myself for far too long and despite it being a long time ago – it was without question one of the scariest moments of my life. Don’t get me wrong here – I’ve made peace with it (if that makes sense) but hopefully by telling you all about it it’ll become a conquered memory – and that can only be a good thing.

But now- time to move on and come back to the present.

There are two things in particular I’d like to tell you about from the last month. Two really exciting things – so let’s start with the 19th and 20th October.

Back to the Homelands
The 19th October saw Wifey and I heading to Wycombe. But this time not to see the twins (as they were on a holiday of their own). No this time we headed to Wycombe as I had a couple of sessions to lead on the Sunday. But that also gave us an amazing opportunity to catch up with Phil, Rach and baby Caitlin on the Saturday evening.

Whilst it was my decision to move away at 18 - I ended up sacrificing the next stage of adulthood with my oldest friends. Obviously I still see everyone, and will see them again this weekend (at Dan’s and my 30th party) – but I missed the majority of “20’s” moments with most of them. I was around for weddings and birthdays and things, but I wasn’t around for the everyday stuff – like going round for dinner one night, watching relationships develop (/ fall apart) or just going to the pub to watch the football. I missed the little things. By moving away – I sacrificed them. And I think it was Chris and Sam’s wedding that ultimately reminded me of that. I don’t regret moving – I’ve met some amazing people (one of whom I’m married to) - but I’m now more determined than ever before to share life with these people (as hippy / smiley Christian as that may sound). And that was why it was so amazing to have dinner with Phil and Rach that evening. It felt normal. It felt great and we had a fantastic time.

I’ve mentioned a Church called Elim Micklefield before. It’s the Church where Becky Turner’s parents are pastors. I’ve been there with the band before, but I’ve also been a couple of times without everyone as well – and on the Sunday morning I went along with Padley who gave an amazing message on the boy from five loaves and two small fish whilst I led worship with my old friend Ben Boughton.

Ben Boughton
Ben was one of the first people to encourage me to lead worship – but even before that I’d been around a band with Ben as I’d either drummed or played keys (something we now laugh about). Ben is an amazing man, a humble man, a fantastic musician and father and has been a constant stream of encouragement to me for a ridiculous number of years now (I’m also fairly sure that I didn’t realise that until recently which also means that I’d taken advantage of it for ages). I think that one of my favourite things about Ben is the way that he challenges me (without knowing) – and he has taught me so much about leadership through his actions than he will ever really know.

That afternoon the band arrived and we headed to a Church called Christ the Servant King – a Church which has a very special place in my heart as one of the churches that turned into it was the church I grew up in and where I met Dan, Phil, Lewis and Chris as well as countless others. CSK now has a beautiful new building in the heart of the community – and I was completely honoured to be asked to go back and to lead worship for an evening (in an event not unlike Seek His Face). And continuing the tradition of cast lists – there are few people that attended that I’d really like to introduce you to now:

Mike Bratby
Mike, like Ben was one of the first people who encouraged me to lead worship. But before then he was also instrumental in pushing for letting a young teenager play drums in Church. I’ve known Mike for most of my life now and one thing that I completely love about him is how much he respects others – especially young people – and that is something that is genuinely surprising considering how much grief Dan and I must have given him over the course of our teenage years. For years he was my leader and now I’m honoured to be able to call him my friend. An amazing man. 

Nigel & Carole Flynn
Nigel and Carole are Dan’s parents – but they are also so much more than that - because with the exception of my parents they are without question the two people who had the biggest impact on my life when I was growing up (and especially throughout teenage-dom). They took me in (FYI - I use the term ‘took me in’ loosely here as one day I just didn’t leave….), let me become part of their family (something which ultimately meant that I had the amazing blessing of having two families watch over me at a time when I needed it most) and alongside my parents encouraged me to become the man that I am today. I could say so much about them but I don’t really think I could do them justice so I’ll just say this. Words cannot describe how thankful I am to have them in my life - and the love and care they have shown me over the years is only seconded to my parents. They truly are amazing people and my life would have been so much less without them in it. 

The evening itself was amazing. It was a tremendous privilege to be asked and the band (I think at least) were tighter than ever before (which was helpful as I kept nowhere close to the set list). The band is growing in confidence, and through relationship we are growing together. I also had the complete joy of having Jo play keys with me. I can’t wait for us all to play together again and I can’t wait to go back!

Boats, rings and beer……
The weekend after the Homelands - Wifey and I jumped on a boat with Leon and Hiya for a 2 night mini cruise to Bruges and back. Cue beer, food, chocolate, biscuits, sea sickness, more beer, bingo, a casino and the small matter of LEON PROPOSING TO HIYA. Now I knew that it was coming because I had conspired with Leon to make it happen, but it was still a completely amazing and beautiful moment to be part of – and I loved being a conspirator! Incidentally, Bruges is a beautiful city and I can’t wait to go back – so who fancies going on a mini cruise? (We don’t even have to go to Bruges….anywhere will do!) 

After arriving back at port Wifey and I said goodbye to the newly engaged ones and drove off to Norwich to spend the next few days with my parental units. It was great to chill out and I even got to drive a boat (and then fall asleep on said boat)! Andi the boat driver! I also bought some toys – FOR ME to play with.       

In other news - Seek His Face is growing each month (I definitely get no credit for that), I’ve started my move to a new Church (more on that at a later date), I’m now on the executive board of RIVERcamp looking at marketing and communication (honoured and terrified at the same time), I helped run an Autumn Fete for the Neuro Foundation (which raised over £350), I’ve done a couple of shifts at a Barnardo’s charity shop in Gloucester, Matt and I have started working on his EP and Arsenal are top of the league (which is unexpected to say the least)!

Because this chapter has covered a massive period, there are obviously some things that I haven’t spoken about or I’ve simply glossed over – but don’t worry there are some things and some people that I will definitely be coming back to. I know there are gaps – and I’ve still got lots of questions to answer (both from you and that I’ve posed to myself). But I also get the feeling that this chapter could have been a bit of a dull read and more for me than for you - and for that I’m really sorry. I really get the feeling that stuff is brewing (that could also tie in to stick or twist) so the next few weeks could well be quite exciting. I’ll keep you in the loop. Oh - resolution count in here is 2..... 

I’ll just leave you with this video. It’s fair to say that I had completely welled up by the end of it.

Please feel free to keep in touch or send in questions via the Facebook Page, twitter or email – and please subscribe using the big white box at the top. Oh and in a few shameless plugs please check out: 1. My Album 2. My friend Matt’s new album 3. Oath Clothing

Have fun, God bless and we will speak soon. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Chapter 20 - A story about Port and Ruggers with the chaps

I said last week that I may have forgotten something and it turns out that (in my “eagerness” to start ironing) I actually forgot a rather massive (and crucial) plot point. I walked home from Si’s birthday party that night (distances don’t seem to matter after having a drink) and had a lovely time on my slow (thanks to being inable to walk in a straight line) walk home. It was my thinking time. It was a chance for me to ponder life’s big questions (like who decided that blue and black were the appropriate coloured office pens and why are yellow high – Vis jackets more widely used than say orange) and to provide Wifey regular updates as to when I’d be home (as she was waiting up to let me in). 

On my (somewhat flukey) arrival at my sister’s and brother in law’s house I rang Wifey to let me in. There was no answer. I text her (admittedly something probably looking like “whake yp. I’n hear xx”) – but there was no response. People walked passed the house and chuckled at the sight of a suited up man pressing his face into the window (there may or may not have been a window kiss attempted – but no mooning) to try and get his wife’s attention. But all to no avail. My Wife had fallen asleep – and friends once that has happened, waking her up is a real issue.

But I was stuck for options. With the twins asleep, I couldn’t attempt my normal tactic of making as much noise as humanly possible. There was no dog to wake up to make noise either. I kept trying to contact Wifey (I dread to think how many texts she woke up to) but after 45 minutes passed I started to plan the most comfortable position to sleep outside the front door. Just before I settled down though, I made a quick call to my Brother In Law – Sam. Amazingly, he picked up and sheepishly came downstairs to let me in. “I didn’t hear my phone” said Cass in a kind of stating the obvious moment. “It’s ok” I said, as I half took off my clothes before passing out………..

So anyway. Here we are and friends - I’ve had a good week. I’m ten days into Detoxtober (at the time of writing) and I’ve gone one step further than just “No Booze” in the fact that I have also ditched all caffeine and fizzy drinks (bar sparkling water). Do I feel better? No. But I didn’t feel bad in the first place if I’m honest – I just thought it would be a good idea to do.
The last time I gave up booze for a substantial period of time was when I was 19. I did it for a month and actually found it quite refreshing (towards the end), so we will see at the end of my 25 day stint this time (we’re going away on the 25th) how I feel (Wifey has forgotten that I’m detoxing and has just text me saying that she has got me a bottle of my favourite wine – but I WILL be strong!).
But for all of you doing Stoptober this month (Dan & Silky for example) I wish you all the best. I know how hard it is (and I’m sure that the story behind that will come up at some point). But incidentally dear readers - if you do know someone doing Stoptober this month – support them and love them through it. Don’t be on their case if they fail – and above all else - do not try and pretend that you know what they are going through if you don’t understand it – for as much as your heart might be in the right place……it just isn’t very helpful.

But what else has been going on since the Birthday Party? Here are a few highlights for you……

I spent a fantastic afternoon with Christine and baby Ameila, I’ve spent some time with the twins, Marlow Wolves won the Britbowl, Sp*rs lost to West Ham and I’ve probably done loads of other stuff as well – but something that I did want to mention was an afternoon that I hung out with my friend Neil Fix

Neil is a vegetarian. Not that being a vegetarian defines a person. But he is. He is also one of the most thoughtful and caring people ever. He is calm and takes time to process things whilst he also has a habit of saying profoundly accurate things (and normally in a way which catches you completely off guard). Neil writes a great blog and you can check out the great facebook page he started here (featuring loads of amazing blogs).

A couple of weeks ago I met up with Neil to look at the future of Seek His Face and to see how he could get involved further. What followed though was just a few hours of chatting, laughing and him mocking me over some of the events of 10 Resolutions so far. Obviously we spoke about Seek, but we also spoke about so many other things. It was just really good fun and yet another example of someone that I really enjoy just spending time with.

The weekend after meeting up with Neil, I found my suit, prepared the duct tape, brushed up on the rules of Ruggers and packed the cigars – all for Chris Banwell’s stag do. And this my friends I’m pleased to say was a stag do of epic discoveries…….. (Albeit very simple ones)
  1. The combination of Beer and Cider (and then red wine) might well taste nice during consumption but the results and after effects are questionable.
  2. Initially I thought that I didn’t understand Ruggers but it turns out that I do understand Rugby, I just don’t enjoy it. At all. I love the atmosphere and I can even see why some people like it….but I’ll stick to football thankyou very much. 
  3. Even after a “small” amount of booze – I can still shoot an air rifle (somewhat worrying although FYI -  not quite as worrying as being allowed to shoot live ammunition from AK’s in Latvia after one or two beers beforehand). 
  4. Ed Smith is one of the most amazing people I have ever spent time with.
I met Ed Smith at New Wine a number of years ago and he is someone that (in my head) I’ve always associated with Chris Banwell. Every single time I speak to Ed I learn something new. Sometimes about me, sometimes about the world around me or my faith – but when I say this – you need to understand that I really am speaking here about every single time. Not occasionally. And by saying this I don’t mean that Ed spouts of hundreds of useless facts at me (FYI did you know that the average handbag has more bacteria contained in it than a toilet?). Ed has an amazing ability to “observe and report”. To see you, or to look at something and to see how it works. What this basically means is that it is useless trying to put on a “front” around Ed because he will break you down (without even intending to) in a matter of seconds (as he did to me without realising on the night of the stag do). He is an amazing man who will go out of his way to support and encourage you – and I’m honoured to be able to call him my friend.

I finished the night by requisitioning a bottle of Port. Now I’d like to say that I drank it the next night, or even that evening - but in fact I didn’t. I brought it for breakfast for all of the Groomsmen and Chris’s family on the wedding day the week after……With a cheeky smile I tried to convince everyone that Port with Breakfast was a natural thing for weddings. Bizarrely enough, no one went along with my plan…….The wedding however was an amazing and beautiful day. But we will get to that in a minute.

The night before the wedding, Cass and I hightailed it down to the land of Cornwall (I even did a bit of driving!) from Gloucester via a couple of service stations and what felt like the longest straight road ever. We had treated ourselves to (what we hoped) was a beautiful hotel on the coast but unfortunately by the time we actually got there it was to dark to see anything (my “minor” SatNav error didn’t help either). But the next day we woke up to some amazing views and a stunning breakfast. After breathing a sigh of relief (and then panicking due to Cornwall’s lack of network coverage), we left to find the Church (which unsurprisingly was not where SatNav said it should be).
I love weddings. That should be blindingly obvious by now – and this wedding was no exception. It was absolutely amazing (bar the weather). The service was beautiful, the food was stunning, the people made me smile and I don’t think that there was a dry eye in the venue when Danutia gave her speech. Captivating, engaging and heart wrenching – I think I’ve been privileged enough to go to about 150 weddings in my life and I can safely say that Danutia’s was one of the best speeches. It was an honour to be part of it and Cass and I both had an amazing time (as everyone else probably did - until I started Djing…..)
But let me introduce you to some people:

Sophie and Jamie Barnett
Sophie and Jamie are both members of the Fal-Collective and were also part of my band for Rivercamp. They are recently married and I don’t think they would moan at me too much for saying that they are both a bit quirky (which definitely isn’t a bad thing). They are both astoundingly good musicians and both possess amazing servant hearts (to the level of forgetting about their own preservation at times!). Jamie has the ability to just bring warmth into a conversation (despite having a pet snake) and Sophie encourages those around her to push forward. They are great to spend time with – and you can see more of them (and please do) by checking out their brand spanking new VLOG (and no, I didn’t know what one was before now either).

Jamie Martin
Let’s get this out of the way first - Jamie is an amazing guitarist. I’m lucky to play with a few of them, and he is definitely a great addition to the fold. But he is also so much more than that. Jamie is funny, occasionally completely oblivious to the world around him, a man of great faith, a joker and a great friend. He is also a massive fan of Bacon (and let’s face it, apart from Veggie people - who isn’t!?

James Moffitt
James is yet another fantastic musician (as part of the Fal Collective) but is he also a brilliant artist and did the Graphic Novel part of the artwork for the album. He’s got a great personality and cares deeply for those around him. He also made me cry a few weeks ago when I received in the post all of his artwork sketches for the album and lots more besides. It was an amazing gesture (and something that I would never think of) – and certainly not one that I’ll be forgetting in a while as it was so thoughtful. James is also in possession of the strangest accent in the world. A mix of Northern and Cornish….

Ben Jenkin
Once upon a time Ben was in my youth group at Trinity in Cheltenham. He won’t mind me saying that he was an absolute nightmare. And because of that - It’s also fair to say that I saw an awful lot of myself in him. But when I left Trinity, we lost touch - so imagine my surprise when I came across Ben again in Falmouth. Ben is smart, caring, funny, an instigator of mischief and has a personality that allows others to relax around him. He is also (and I’m not sure if he has realised this yet) a leader and someone who can get things done. I’m really looking forward to spending more time with Ben – and getting to know him (again).

Anna Mason
Anna is one of my favourite people to hang out with in the whole world. It’s quite simple. She makes me laugh (and can laugh at herself), she’s completely mischievous, she thinks externally, she genuinely cares about others and is probably too hard on herself at times. For some reason - she also occasionally comes to me for advice about men - which is scary (especially considering how some of my relationships before Cass ended). I find hanging out with Anna to be really refreshing, so I was really happy that she was on our table at the wedding.

Ruth Duckworth
You would be hard pushed to find anyone that cares more for those around her than Ruth. Her heart is simply massive and it constantly astounds me how much she cares or how compassionate she is. But alongside that, she is also a massive encourager and even in the hardest moments of writing 10 Resolutions she has been there alongside me, encouraging me to push forward. She’s an amazing woman and I know that I am a better person from knowing her and seeing the example that she sets.

So there you have it – and you are pretty much up to date. We had an amazing Seek the other night, I’m just about to start working on Matt’s EP, I’m off to lead in Wycombe at the weekend and I’m 6 anxious weeks away from being 30. I still have the feeling that something exciting is brewing, it’s just that I don’t know what that is yet. Hopefully it will come into sight soon though…..
I did want to finish just by mentioning one other conversation that I’ve had this week – and that was with Flik who brought it to my attention (albeit through laughing at me extensively) that an awful lot of my stories involve booze. Which on reflection – is a completely fair point (just see the start of this chapter), and something that I hadn’t really thought about (although maybe subconsciously I had – hence Detoxtober) until now. So I’m sorry everyone (I think?) and to make up for it – let’s have a party! (Joke). I’ll balance you out in the next chapter with a story that VERY few people know from my childhood.

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Have fun, keep safe and God Bless. Until next time