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Monday, 12 May 2014

Chapter 24 - A story about tattoos and Water Polo

In the really annoying piece of time between Christmas and New Year 2012 - someone asked me the inevitable question about what my resolutions were going to be for the coming year. And my list of potential resolutions was a big list. A very big list. I made 10 resolutions and stuck to some of them whilst I learnt about myself along the way. Some resolutions have now finished, some have been rolled over and some new ones have been added to get me back to 10. And yes – I am going to tell you all what they are. But not just yet......  

Welcome Back
Why hello there and welcome back! I don't really know why I've chosen this moment to start season 2 (I think there has been a lot of processing going on) - but for those of you confused we have had a 3 month time gap between the end of season 1 and the start of season 2 (now). I only mention that to make context easier for you – so with some stuff that was happening at the end of season 1 you might find that I’ve passed the decision point now and we are now in the aftermath of that decision (that explanation makes sense in my head). Or to put it another way - some of you may think that I occasionally make quite rash decisions (and you'd be right)....but what you are likely to see in this chapter is that if I was close to a decision on something in season 1 - the likelihood is that you've missed the rash decision part and my ranting about just now get the part where I've settled into my decision (and still rant about it). Still - the good news is that you have missed me constantly ranting about Arsenal - and let's face it - if you follow me on twitter you get enough of that anyway. 
Normally I'd start a chapter with your questions - but this time around I'm going to leave them for the next chapter as I'd like to tell you a bit about what has been going and what I've been up to as the chances are that some stuff that has happened (or that will happen soon) will have a strong influence over the rest of the season. So here we go (and no this isn’t everything that I’ve been up to…..)

The 31st March
On the 31st March we went to a funeral for a member of Cass’s family. Funerals are always sad – but what made the day even harder was that on the way out of the funeral I took a phone call from Rebecca at work (who never gets to make happy phone calls) saying that our office was going to close and that the likelihood was (and is) that our jobs would (will) be moving to Solihull. In honesty it’s something that I’d been expecting for a while – but even then something that you have been thinking about actually becoming a reality is a strange feeling (especially when it isn’t a good thing).
I’ve said throughout 10 Resolutions that I’m honoured and blessed to work with an amazing bunch of people and the moment I hung up the phone my reaction wasn’t one of fear about what I was going to do or what option I’d take – but actually more of sadness as I wouldn’t be able to spend so much time with people that had become so dear to me.
I then spent that afternoon in the pub with Naomi and Andy as we spoke about our likely options and reflected (don’t overthink that word – it’s just a better way of saying drank cider and laughed about / laughed at each other) on some of the moments we had spent together. Whatever happens with work now I know that at some point I’ve got a massive decision to make - and that within the next year I’m going to have a major change in my life because of the choice that I’ve made. New challenges usually excite me – but I’m nowhere close to being able look forward to that part yet. Does that make sense? 

My Arm
Late last year I bought a Groupon to get a tattoo (and one for Dan as well) and a couple of months ago we went to get them done. It’s hard to describe the pain of getting a tattoo – but what I will say is that they hurt. Without any question – they hurt (and anyone that says otherwise is very simply not telling the truth). I don’t have a particularly high tolerance for pain anyway – but at one point I felt like I was about to projectile puke over Dan, the tattoo man and all of the other people in the place. But I guess you want to know what my tattoo is?

In case you can’t read it – it says ‘fight the good fight’ and it’s taken from a Bible verse – 1 Timothy 6:12. The verse isn’t about physically fighting, but the good fight is living as a person chasing after God and about being a good Christian (and whatever that may entail). I fail so often at both of those things – but now I have a constant reminder on my arm to always try and be a better person. I won’t always succeed (I know that) – but I can try. I wanted a tattoo that wouldn’t become dated and something that I could always reflect on and that would always mean something to me. Every time I look at my arm now I’m both encouraged and challenged to be a better man – and that is pretty special. Something else that is true though is that once you have one – you want another…… (And I’m not ruling it out) – I can safely reveal though that whilst it was being done I definitely wasn’t thinking like that!

The Film Count
I have a Cineworld Unlimited card and because of that I need to try and watch as many films as possible in the space of a year to get the most value out of it. This therefore means watching all manner of films whether you would normally pay to go and see them or not. Some of the ‘extra’ films you go and see may be wonderful surprises (Saving Mr Banks and The Grand Budapest Hotel are two examples of this for me) whereas some films may actually be big bundles of donkey excrement (See Robocop and Anchorman 2 - which I unfortunately watched on the same day). Anyway – the challenge is on. I’ve watched 16 at the cinema so far and I’d like to hit somewhere between 40-45 by the end of the year. Favourites so far are the Lego Movie and the Winter Soldier whereas the best film I’ve seen is probably 12 years a slave (which is a prime example of a film that you know is brilliant yet is anything but enjoyable to watch)

Phil’s Birthday
(I obviously looked happier than this on Phil's birthday!)
A couple of months ago I headed down to the Homelands to take one of my closest friends Phil Slatter out for his 30th Birthday. A group of us made an agreement at the start of this (school) year that we would all go to each other’s 30th Birthday’s and Phil’s is one of the final ones. Phil is someone really important in my life as he was the first person I met in the Homelands. From the moment we connected we have been friends (even after I set fire to his wheelie bin) – and it was an absolute honour to be able to take him out for his birthday. 
In truth – I’ve really loved having so many chances to spend time with people that I love – and the more I think about it – the more I hate the fact that we almost need to find excuses to spend time with each other. Everyday life gets in the way – and it shouldn’t be like that at all. Part of me knows that it’s natural to see each other less – that is life and people say that that is what happens. But I don’t want to accept that. I want to spend more time with everyone – not less. 
In a strange way I think for a while I almost felt like I (for want of a better word here) abandoned my friends from the Homelands earlier on in life – and I felt guilty for a while because of that. I moved away when I was 18 meaning that we only saw each other on occasion – and because of that I missed a major part of us properly growing up together and I’ll never know what it would have been like to have spent those years causing chaos (although I can probably imagine). I’ll never be able to regain those years that I missed with my friends from moving away – but at the same time I know that it was without question the right thing to do (and that I’d make the same choice over and over again) - so I don’t dwell on those thoughts any more. I am forever grateful for the life that I have now and for the people that I have alongside me – and I know that moving was part of my journey. The years I missed with that group of friends were not ‘lost’ (as I once thought) - as they helped me become the man that I am today. My friends showed grace and forgave me for any feelings of letting them down by leaving them (if they ever even felt that way) as our friendships are now growing to become stronger than ever before and moving forward I’m going to make every effort I can to keep spending time with all of them (whether they like it or not).

Wedding Anniversary
The day after I took Phil out, Wifey and I left the Homelands to go and see my parental units in their new house in deepest darkest Norfolk for a few days to get away for our wedding anniversary. We’ve now been married for 8 years – and whilst it sounds like a complete cliché – I love her more than ever before. But please don’t believe anyone that says that marriage is easy though – very simply because they aren’t telling the truth. Marriage can be hard at times but I can say without hesitation that it is fantastic – but you have to work to get it that way. It’s also important to have a sense of humour – something that (perhaps unsurprisingly) departed Cass when I got her a dustbuster for Valentine’s Day and a new Iron for our anniversary…..
The good news though (and in news that will probably reassure you that I dont have a death wish) is that I did get her other lovely presents as well..Surprisingly though - I was amazed that a hoover didnt go down well either……(joke I really dont have a death wish).
Wifey – thank you for putting up with me for so long. I love you and can’t wait for so many more years together. And I’m still sorry for not saying how AMAZING you looked on our wedding day (note to Grooms out there….NEVER forget)

Writer’s Block
As I write this, I’ve got a track overdue for Matt’s album (which is starting to sound great by the way) – and I’m probably two tracks behind where I should be in writing my new album (Some more details about that will emerge at some point). I don’t want to rush anything (I think you can always tell songs that have been rushed) but at the same time it’s getting quite frustrating. Music seems to be coming quite freely – but lyrics just seem to be a garbled mess (if I could have a spell the other way round then at least it would match up). In the midst of it - I’m getting an increasing feeling that I just have to get back to basics and write for me again (rather than writing from other situations or for others). I honestly think that I’ve got a few great songs just waiting to come out but I think that I just need to take the time to step back into my heart (excuse the vile phrase).
In a strange twist though – I’ve had a couple of really good ideas for novels so the ideas are flowing really freely on that side. One of them especially I would love to properly write – and who knows – it may one day see the light of day.  

A New Church, Seek and Priorities
In late 2013 – I moved Churches to C3 in Cheltenham. The hardest thing about the change though was that because of work and being away for quite a few weekends I hardly got to go until early this year. But it’s been an amazing change and I’ve started to feel at home.
The Good Friday service especially was great but immensely challenging for me as it also set in motion an on-going question about priorities in my life and with my time (and reminded me of how often I get them wrong). I quite often (and I’ve mentioned this before) take the easy options with my time by doing things like spending too much time on the PlayStation or by watching too much TV. I honestly wonder how I could be spending that time better or how I could better focus on things. For a start I know that I don’t spend nearly enough time working on and building my faith or by perfecting my musical craft – and the honest truth is that I need to go through a real period of realigning what I’m doing. I’m excited about the end result and how it (and I) could look at the end – but it isn’t going to be a quick process. But it’s the right time to get started. 
Seek His Face meanwhile is growing and is becoming really exciting. Every month we are seeing new people join our ragtag congregation of worshippers and every month I’m blown away that people from so many different Churches come together to worship in such a way. It’s inspiring to be part of – and I don’t think it is done in many other places because of the simple (somewhat depressing) fact that Churches in general don’t work together. It’s a blessing and honour to lead but I’m still not sure how it ended up with me. Don’t get me wrong though – it’s an amazing privilege.

Last month, Wifey and I jetted off to Portugal for a week for a well deserved (I think at least) all inclusive holiday. It was amazing. The food was lovely (I lost track of the number of times I got the meat sweats), the drinks were lovely, the weather was hot, we met some lovely people and I even discovered that I have a love of beach volleyball - a love that may or may not (I’m guessing the former) have taken a dramatic increase due to the fact that there were beer taps available at about 50 places around the hotel. The most important thing however was the fact that we relaxed. Holidays are great and as 99% of people will say – you don’t want to come home once you’ve been away. I will however leave this chapter with one of my highlights from the holiday:

Picture a group of 4 people in their early 20’s. Most of them are sporty (/preppy) and nice enough people but increasingly throughout the week they’ve been getting a bit smug (one of them especially) because they’ve won every sporting activity known in a holiday resort. Rifle Shooting, Volleyball (probably not helped by me being on the opposite team), Tennis, Boules, Bingo, Darts….They’d won everything – but on the last day came the holiday favourite – Water Polo. At this point I should point out that on the last day of any holiday I try and get as much value as possible. I will do every activity, eat in both restaurants, take part in the evening’s ‘entertainment’, ‘borrow’ every toiletry item that I can get my hands on and try as many drinks as possible (the majority of which I have to leave due to them being vile). And by the time Water Polo came around – it’s quite possible that I had worked my way a third of the way around the bar. It also turns out that I wasn’t the only one with that plan (and in comparison I was the best for wear by a long way out of all of us). And remarkably the entertainment team decided that it would be a great idea to put all of those in the same situation as me together against the team of #championsofeverythingelse. But victory was not to be straight forward. We fought with every ounce of energy we had. We were like the Mighty Ducks against the other ones. We were the underdogs – and we started to gain a crowd watching us (and shockingly kind of cheering us on). We were putting up a real fight (despite not properly being able to see in a straight line- me due to a lack of glasses before you take that to mean anything else....). And then it happened. The smuggest one of them all broke free and was clear through on our goal. Two of us started chasing back but the smug one even had a chance to turn around and say something mocking towards us before we could catch up. He pulled his arm back to shoot and both of us dived to block the ball. I (perhaps unsurprisingly) missed the ball but my team mate got close – very close in fact. He got so close to the ball that in his Superman kind of dive for the ball he flew past the ball…….and his fist connected (with a crunch) into smug man’s nose.
It was a complete accident and something that he couldn’t have done again if he had tried a 1000 times – the timing was that perfect. Obviously for smug man the timing wasn’t perfect (and it might have put a small dampener on his last day) and we all helped him out of the pool before HIS lovely team mates decided that they wanted to play on. Anyway – it just goes to show that it’s important to stay safe on holiday (I struggled to get a moral out of that). Oh – and in case you were wondering – my team ended up winning……(but the entertainment team decided not to give us certificates – probably due to the manner of our victory I’d imagine).

Hopefully this chapter has given you a bit of insight into what I’ve been up to and kind of ‘where I am’ at the moment. I’ve got loads coming up as well – so I should have some interesting updates for you in the next few weeks / months. I’m also really sorry if this chapter has seemed a bit disjointed – it’s really just been a collection of a few thoughts and ramblings that have been written over the course of a few weeks. There has been mention of a couple of new resolutions though (thankfully none involving Water Polo) so start keeping notes. As ever – send me your questions and thoughts via email, Twitter and Facebook - and I’ll start answering them in the next chapter. Right – I’m off to do some song writing – and to work out what level of chilli powder is acceptable to put in chilli for a wedding reception (without leaving the congregation with toileting issues for the remainder of the evening)....I'll let you know how that goes....

I’ll leave you with this completely inspiring video.

God Bless. Keep Safe. Speak Soon.