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Sabbatical, Day 22: Good News And Packing

Two pieces of good news today: first of all, Mark will probably be fit enough for school tomorrow. He wasn’t quite up to church this morning, but he is surprisingly self-aware for a four-year-old, so when he said he wasn’t up to it we were sure he was being truthful.

I took Rebekah back to St Andrew’s, where she enjoyed the Sunday School. I had the pleasure of hearing Linda the Reader (and a staff member at the pre-school our children attended) preach, even quoting a book I had recommended to her. It was also a delight to be in a communion service where Lee our curate neighbour presided. The congregation read the liturgy too fast for five-year-old Rebekah to follow, and perhaps that’s something many churches need to bear in mind if children are to be at the sacrament. They also didn’t have anyone giving directions as to when you should go to the rail for communion – again, how easily we think we all know the drill.

This afternoon Rebekah returned there for their monthly Activ8 for primary school children, which she loves. We took Mark for a short walk around the estate. He is big into cameras at present. It began with speed cameras and has now spread to CCTV. He’ll never struggle to see them in this country. Today, Debbie spread his interest to looking out for burglar alarms on houses. 

The second item of good news in addition to Mark’s health is that the broadband speed problem is solved. The speed tests with BT ultimately showed the capacity was present on our line for a normal speed (well, normal in our ‘up to 8Mb’ contract is ‘up to 2 Mb’), but the bottleneck was local. I traced it to the router. By the simple device of turning it off for thirty seconds and on again, regular service was resumed.

I’m glad that is fixed before I go away. Tomorrow I head off to Trinity College, Bristol for a week on ‘Management, Leadership and the Practice of Ministry’. I’m not entirely comfortable with associating the word ‘management’ with ministry for a number of reasons, unless by management we mean ‘stewardship’. However, my reason for attending the course is this is the one I’ve been building up to in the blog posts lately – it has elements about ministry and the minister’s personality type.

So right now, I’m throwing a few things into a bag ready for the getaway, and I’m burning some CDs to iTunes on the laptop in the hope they might transfer to the MP3 player on my phone. Then there will be all the last-minute stuff in the morning – all to pack while helping get the children ready for school – and then I hit the road as soon as I’m back from the school run.

For some reason today I’ve been quite nervous about this trip. I get quite anxious about getting through the first twenty-four hours in a strange place (and Trinity will be strange, twenty years after leaving), getting to know where things are and the nature of the routine. Maybe God has something good in store, though. I shouldn’t be surprised if he has.

Next post should be via wifi from Trinity!

Sabbatical, Day 21: The Farm, Air Miles, Slow Broadband And Good Bible Commentaries

We decided to take advantage of Mark’s improving health and a fine day to give him his first proper trip out since he contracted the tonsillitis. So with his sister we paid a trip to Marsh Farm Country Park. An hour or two there late morning was very pleasant. Once he said he’d had enough – around the time we were devouring jumbo sausages in rolls – we headed back. Mark and Rebekah played beautifully while we were there. Becky even gave her brother a ride on a tricycle made for two when he didn’t cope well with riding a solo trike.

All that good behaviour was to change when we got home. They turned into monsters, making the visit of Gemma, our family friend hairdresser, interesting. Both went within a whisker of losing their bedtime stories, but just about held on. At least it’s a sign Mark is a lot better. He just needs to regain some strength now.

In other news: the first credit card I ever had that came with a rewards scheme had Air Miles attached to it. There weren’t any other games in town at the time, so I signed up. Over the years, I racked up nearly three thousand air miles and didn’t fly a single one. Today, I had a letter from Air Miles saying they had changed the terms and conditions of the scheme. Those who didn’t add any miles in two years would have their accounts closed and forfeit their miles.

Not expecting to fly in the foreseeable future, I was about to put the letter in the shredding pile when Debbie noticed small print that said the miles could be redeemed for other things, too. Tonight, we’ve been searching the site so that we can use up most of the miles on a few attractions in London. The kids are desperate for a trip to London, especially Becky, who wants to see ‘the castle where the Queen lives’. But it looks like we could get ‘flights’ on the London Eye, along with a London Eye River Cruise, and keep some miles over to visit Thorpe Park and Chessington World Of Adventures. So if we can combine these with vouchers from Tesco Clubcard, then we ought to get a few good family days out – especially if there are any Clubcard vouchers for sightseeing bus tours in London.

On the technical front from yesterday, I’ve been tracking things down a bit more as to why our broadband speeds are so slow. Reading through support pages on our ISP’s portal, it looks like constant slow speeds indicate an IP profile that has got stuck low. Having performed various checks, I have to run the BT Speedtester three times at different times of day. However many times I tried on the desktop PC, and whether in Firefox or the evil Internet Explorer, the test got stuck. I was so thankful for my laptop. Connected via Ethernet cable to the router, the test worked first time. To abbreviate some technical statistics, our line ought to be able to connect at around 2.5 Mbps, but we have somehow been artificially limited to 0.1. Once I’ve completed those two further speed tests, I can give more information to our ISP, and hopefully someone will look into it.

Finally, one brief piece of the0logy. Anyone who sees my study will notice – apart from the mess – that I love to have a range of commentaries on the books of the Bible. I don’t have less than two on any one book, so that I can read more than one opinion (if I have time!), and in the case of John’s Gospel I have – ahem – ten. So there I was going through some old blog posts I hadn’t read, especially enjoying Chris Tilling‘s musings on theology and trivia, when I happened upon his link of the day from a fortnight ago. He had come across a website called Best Commentaries. It is in the process of aggregating reviews of commentaries. It has begun with some very conservative sources, but the webmaster left a comment at Chris’ post indicating he’s open to suggestions from other backgrounds, too. If you like finding good commentaries and dislike the expense of buying guides or subscribing to this journal and that, then this site might well be worth a look.