Amazon wishlist? Good!


At seven and a half weeks away from hitting 40, I often find myself unable to focus on everyday life, as I take time to contemplate…

… what pressies I want!

I know that for some, Amazon is practically the Anti-Christ. I concede that there is some truth in this, for various reasons. Still, I have decided that their ‘wish-list’ feature is one of the ‘greenest’ ‘fairest’ ‘loving’ (etc) ways to make a list of what you want for either Xmas or Birthday.

Why? Ah, glad you asked:


New or used? – I find myself adding books and DVDs that I’m keen to read/view, that I’d be quite happy to receive second hand.  By asking for it ‘used’ (put a note in the comments box) not only am I making the gift cheaper for the buyer, I’m ‘recycling’ something that is already in existence, as it were.


Fair trade/ethical/organic – Use Amazon’s ‘Add to Wish List’ button feature to add items from other websites to your wish-list. For example: Traidcraft. Or just something you found on ebay that you fancy.


Goats are cool! – If you run out of ‘stuff’ that you fancy, why not add a gift that benefits others, like a goat for Africa, or bees, or school books, etc?


Use your friends! – Got talented mates? I have! Remember that you can add things to your list ‘free-style’:  ‘Jenny’s amazing chocolate cake’.
Or: ‘Babysitting voucher’, ‘Poem about me’, ‘Painting – just for me’, etc. It makes it cheaper (or sometimes even free) for the buyer, and let’s face it – 100 times more meaningful (for both giver and recipient) than an Oil of Ulay/David Beckham smellies gift set!


I am not quite the determined eco-warrior of a few years ago, and I’m not even sure that I’m in any sort of mourning over this. But what I do feel I’ve retained is the overwhelming sense that we all have far too much ‘junk’, and that the whole issue of gift-giving can be viewed as the main culprit of this tragedy, especially as we consider how rich we in The West really are.  And I fully appreciate that tiny gestures such as this don’t single-handedly save the planet, or make me the most loving Christian who’s ever lived… but hey – it’s a start!

[If you are interested in having a greener or ‘alternative’ Christmas, please check out this book below, which I have contributed to. Ta.]










Greenbelt 2013


Just one day this year, as per last year.
Really must get our act together and get back to camping there ‘for real’!

A bit different this year, as my day at Greenbelt occurred during my 4-week TESOL course, in Cheltenham. Most odd.
Also, it was planned (to the nth degree) that the family would come up to Cheltenham to join me for Greenbelt, but due to ill health, that didn’t work out.

So it was me on my little ownsome, for the whole of Saturday. But not really on my own, as had plenty of friends to meet up with. As well as spending some time with me bessies (who were doing talks about detached youthwork in The Kitchen) I managed to catch up with the talented Dave Walker, with whom it was a pleasure to sneek into the Contributors’ Area, for coffee, illegally! Also the lovely Penny Culliford (Chai in Tiny Tea Tent) and Darren Hill.

In addition to extreme socialising, I was also being a reviewer for the Church Times. This role gave me my own press pass, which totally rocked and got me into venues/talks without queueing! As soon as it was around my neck, I was inflicted with very un-Christian boastfulness, insisting that people I met ‘oohh’ and ‘ahhh’ with gusto by way of a response. If they weren’t convincing enough, I made them repeat the noises, until they were unto mine satisfaction. Good times.

I reviewed: Adrian Plass (my hero), Catherine Fox (novellist) and Richard Coles (vicar, used to be in the Communards.)
Adrian was awesome, naturally. Catherine was interesting, and her talk reminded me that I really ought to get back to novel-writing, and Richard was… well. He used to be in the Communards. I know I’ve already informed you of this, but still. Back in the day, ‘Don’t leave me this wa-a-a-ay’ was my top song ever. So I wanted to enjoy his talk, but it was a bit dull. But then I am not a vicar, and his topic was vicar-ing. He was the inspiration for ‘Rev’ (comedy on BBC2) don’t ya know. I think if he’d ended his talk by singing ‘Don’t leave me this way’ (not that he sang it in the first place, I believe) I might have been more interested. But he didn’t. And I wasn’t. Shame.

Church Times review supplement can be viewed here, if you’re interested…
If there’s nothing good on telly, or you’ve just finished your novel, or your PS3’s broken.

(The actual supplement in CT was far more flashy, but this’ll do for now.)
(Also, the first 2 paras re Plass are mine, whereas the 3rd, that includes typos and a tense change, isn’t!)

[More on my previous 12 years of GB, here. You’ll need to scroll down.]

TESOL course – in the bag!


Finally – it’s all over.

These second two weeks have whizzed by. That is, if you can truly consider 9 and ½ hour-long days learning/teaching, followed by a further 4 hours (at least) working at home, every single day, to be a fitting definition of ‘whizzy’.

Diet – My ‘soon-to-be-an-international-best-seller’ TESOL Diet has rid me of… HALF A STONE! That’s not bad going for four weeks. Forget fiction-writing – this is where it’s at. Just need to work on a natty book-cover, and I’m pretty much sorted. I’ll make such a huge income from this book that I doubt I’ll ever have to teach English or use my PGCE ever again.

Course – But despite my imminent role as insanely rich and knowledgeable diet guru, I do indeed now WANT to teach English (to speakers of other languages). The course has been amazing. Very challenging/stretching – sometimes to the point of being painful. I don’t recall breaking down in tears under the pressure of vast work-load, but some days I wasn’t too far from it. Overall though, the professionalism and expertise of the tutors has been super-smashing-great. I love to learn, and love it even more when those in charge are as control-freaky as I am, with regards to presenting everything in a logical and orderly fashion, yet at the same time keeping the learning engaging and useful. The teaching practice was a constant pressure (to plan, deliver, meet their needs, meet the criteria, etc) and yet much fun, and always rewarding. The lessons were given free-of-charge to locals, which was a bonus as it meant we were doing something worthwhile with our time, as well as learning-on-the-job.

Highlights – Phonemic Chart, Learner Profile, the session in the IT suite, burgers in sunny Pittville Park, The Swan.

Family/sister – Staying with my sister has been fantastic. Although we’ve both been busy studying in the evenings, we’ve usually engineered some time in which to chat, hang, and even to jog. Thanks again Zoe – you rock!
My better half and kids appear to have coped fine without me. Naturally, this makes me simultaneously both happy and sad. Thanks guys – your support has been invaluable. And the house doesn’t even look too bad, all things considered!

Mates – Predictably, the ten of us didn’t take long to gel. We had started out as eleven, but sadly, one left the course, about half way through. In some ways, I’m amazed that the rest of us all made it through to the end. It’s a HARD course, in case you hadn’t picked up on that already. But yes – the ten of us all got along well, which was crucial to succeeding, I believe. For example, we were in small Teaching Practice groups of four, and relied on each other for support, encouragement and general assistance… continually. A few pub visits occurred, but less than you’d imagine, again – due to huge workload. When they did though, they were essential for ‘letting one’s hair down’. Thanks guys – it’s been… /kreɪzi: ɔ:sʊm/ !

TESOL course – halfway through.

Inlingua, Cheltenham

Inlingua, Cheltenham

Currently halfway through a four-week TESOL course.
A what?
Well, you may have heard of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)… this is one of the two more advanced TEFL-type courses you can study for at degree level.
Well – where’s the fun in spending four of your precious six weeks summer holidays at home, sunbathing and ‘hanging out’ on Facebook? The truth, though – I love learning, have considered this course for several years, and now consider it a useful addition to my recent PGCE (post-16 education).

Casa de Sis – Part of the adventure is that I’m taking this course in Cheltenham (Inlingua) and so staying with my awesome sister, who lives but a twenty minute brisk walk away. This means I’m torn from my three bessies from Mon-Fri (hubbie plus two teens). In our nineteen years of marriage I’ve never been away for so long, but we appear to be coping. Mark has taken to cooking a meal from his student days… the kids are off at camps anyway… and I’m having a bit of ‘me-time’.

Course – Did I say ‘me-time’? Ha! And again for emphasis: HA! Before starting the course, I was aware that it would be… intense. In fact, the word ‘intense’ is liberally flung around in connection with this course on almost any website or literature pertaining to it. Naturally, I assumed that I would somehow be exempt from this, and would find the course more manageable than some; after all, I have much experience with juggling heavy workloads/deadlines – how hard could it be? Sure – I’d need to do SOME work outside of the (long) days there, but as I’d be away from all my other responsibilities and activities (housework, cooking, study, etc) it’d be easy to a bit of work at my sister’s of an evening, before settling down to read the novels I’d optimistically packed in my suitcase, enjoy some Netflix, or spend time with my sister, etc. But no. The course is as intense as it suggests. I have had about an hour’s free time each day, perhaps between 10-11pm. Thus, novels unread, Netflix left wondering where I am and sister’s eyebrows often raised in response to my insane workload.

Happy? Oh indeed! I’ve always had a desire and to formalise my interest in the English language. I’m well on my way to understanding tenses, sentence structure and suchlike, in far more depth than before. Also, I love the learning specific to teaching English to speakers of other languages. For example, the phonemic chart, used to aid them with pronunciation. Fascinating stuff. Most afternoons we teach a class, whilst being observed. This is oddly reminiscent of the past two years of teaching practice, observations, lesson plans, etc, as part of my PGCE. But in a good way. There are eleven of us taking the course, all of whom are friendly, supportive, keen to learn and up for a laugh. We even have our own little Facebook group, via which we can support each other at 2am, when the lesson we’d originally planned just isn’t working out…!

Diet. I am utilising these four weeks to lose weight. The logic of this is that I’m not at the mercy of social occasions, where overeating is practically mandatory for me. Neither am I cooking for the whole family, and picking at the left-overs, etc. My method (as always) is to stick to reasonably low-calorie, low-carb meals, which is a doddle due to shopping/cooking for me and me alone. I’m walking two miles each day, very briskly, to and from Inlingua, and this week even went for a two mile jog with Zoe (sister). Result? I have lost four pounds during these first two weeks, which is good-going. If this continues, look out on the shelves for my next book: THE TESOL DIET. It will doubtless become an international best-seller. I’ll have to start planning what outfit to wear when I’m invited onto Oprah…

I’m sure there’s more I could add, but must end here as it’s the weekend and I have a hot date with several bulging A4 ring-binders.
More to follow…

Cross Rhythms interview (website)

The recent radio interview I did for Cross Rhythms has now made it to their website: click here.

(For more about the interview itself, see here)

I’ve done lots of (more than 10, less than my age) interviews in the past, but wonder if this is the first one where my ‘audio’ has been transcribed into text. It’s interesting to see the difference between the two; if I’d been writing the answers rather than saying them, word choice would have been quite different, I imagine (and already I can sense that although this is interesting to ME, it is quite likely boring both the shoes and socks off the rest of you… sorry!).

Not convinced I said I was once a “tough member of my youth group”… makes it sound as though I used to beat up the leaders every other week, just for kicks!

Granted, I’m still using the piccie of me that was taken 8 years ago. How much longer can I get away with the pretence that I still look like this?
Hopefully a couple more decades, at least.

P.S. Check out the excessive use of semi-colons in the transcript… I thought I was the one with an unhealthy addiction to them.
(But surely forgiveable as transcripts are tricky animals to tame.)