Why surviving a Jason Donovan concert could be compared to first-time church-going.

12440415_1590906334569186_5213224540840071213_oYes – last week I went to a Jason Donovan concert. If you’re younger than me you might not know who he is. Lucky you. He’s the bloke who was Kylie’s ‘Neighbours’ counterpart way back in the 80’s. He was also a ‘pop star’ – the Bieber of his day, sort of. Personally, I’m not a fan. Not at all. However, one of my bessies truly is, so another bessie (yes, I have two – go me) and I treated her to the concert for her birthday. Whilst there, surrounded by screaming Vans (is that the name for his fans? It sure ought to be) it occurred to me that perhaps our experience could be likened to those of our ‘un-churched’ mates, when we drag them along to church…

Not knowing the words.

Song after song, and all those around us sang along with untamed gusto… yet we knew none. Well, a couple of songs sounded vaguely familiar (I am a child of the 80’s, after all) but most were a total and utter mystery to us. The fact that everyone else (bar my non-Van bessie and I) could participate and we couldn’t felt proper naf. Granted – we didn’t particularly want to join in, but it would have been peachy to have had the choice. Our options were stripped down to:
Guessing the words
Humming
or
Faking it – opening and shutting our mouths like goldfishes, in the pretence that we were indeed singing along.

Idea: Church services could cut down (or cut out?) songs altogether? Or sing ones that might be at least familiar to any guests, to save them from the cruel fate of ‘goldfishing’.

Not being sure whether to sit or stand.

Lots of standing was going on, but it appeared acceptable to sit for some of the time, although no one announced this in any way; they all just seemed to know the rules. Mimicking the Vans was the only way to go. If everyone was standing (and swaying, for the record) then so were we. If we could spot a sprinkling of Vans sitting, then we gleefully jumped at the chance. (Waving one’s arms in the air was a similar issue. One arm? Two? All the time? Some of the time? A chorus-only activity?)

Idea: Announce at the start of the service that during songs and suchlike, either standing or sitting is fully acceptable.

Not getting the in-jokes or Jason-related jargon.

Jase said a lot of stuff in-between songs that we simply didn’t get. We assumed it referred to:
Him
His songs
His past
His hair (?)
His Vans

etc
But we’ll never know for sure. Not a single Van looked as confused as we felt. They nodded along and even laughed hysterically in places. We were just relieved that we’d visited the bar before the concert and were still clutching our little (though wildly expensive) plastic cups, taking a further sip every time we felt left out and ‘other’.

Idea: On a Sunday morning, perhaps we should remember that not everyone attends every week, and that ‘being washed in the blood of the lamb’ could easily be de-jargonised to make sense to normal human beings. (Secondary idea: install bars in churches.)

Marvelling at unabashed and unrestrained enthusiasm of those around us.

And you thought I was only here to mock. Shame on you! The energy, passion and sheer commitment from the Vans was admirable. They loved him and they weren’t afraid to show it. Now and then a particularly wild one yelled “We. Love. Yoo. Jay-sun!”. Their behaviour clearly demonstrated that they were downright thrilled to be in a place with other like-minded Jason-worshippers, and their only aim was to show him, and each other, how they felt about him. As I watched my bessie light up every time he spoke, jig to every song he sang (she knew every single word to every single one) and generally have the time of her life, I knew that for her, despite my apathy, this was real.

Idea: (Self-explanatory, I hope.)

P.S. Keep it to yourselves, but I did, in actual fact, sing along to the very last song: Especially For You. I found, with horror, that I knew all the words – yikes! I did it for my bessie, and for Scott n Charlene and for all the memories.
But remember… Sshhhhhhhh.

Londinum (solo)!

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I’ve recently ‘done’ London: 6 whole days… by myself!
It was my 40th birthday present from my fab family, who aren’t quite as bonkers about the place as I am.
Stayed in a new Travelodge (Wembley Central) that had the added advantage of being situated directly above a tube station!

[Click on pics to enlarge.]

Presenting my findings list-style… bitesize… so it’s easier for your (exceptional) brain to digest…

Fave free stuff

  • Refreshing bottle of Lucozade (Caribbean) on arrival at Waterloo station
  • Entrance to Westminster Abbey (courtesy of my minster’s parish pass)
  • Entrance to Houses of Parliament (courtesy of my local MP)
  • Ice cream sundae (courtesy of friends’ daughter, who didn’t want it)
  • National Gallery/Portrait Gallery – especially using the audio guide to learn about Jesus/Tudor paintings
  • Somerset House
  • Music concert in St James’ Church, near P.Circus – Beatriz Boizan (pianist)
  • Tour of Toynbee Hall, Whitechapel (to assist me with my current essay)
  • Bridge-walking (a new London activity I invented, whereby you walk from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge, crossing over any bridge you come to, if possible)
  • Wandering aimlessly around P.Circus/L.Square/C.Garden… being a total tourist
  • Taking copious photos – took 978 in all – yikes!

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Cool stuff I got for a reduced price, due to my student card (yay!)

  • Buckingham Palace (the State Rooms)
  • Temple Church
  • The Shard
  • Bus tour (open-top, in amazing sunshine, complete with banter-tastic tour guide)!
  • Walking tour – Changing of the Guard
  • Audio-guides at the galleries

(And on the final day, realised that said card had actually expired a week ago… good job no one noticed!)

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Fave stuff with friends (1 day only)

  • River cruise (London Eye to N.Greenwich)
  • Lunch in the O2 (Harvester)
  • Emirates cable car
  • Lolling around Canary Warf, pretending to fit in (not easy when you all come from Somer(cider)set!
  • Chilling out on the steps by the Tower (of London)

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Fave amusing moments

  • Loo with a view (Shard)… crazy grateful that no helicopters passed by while I took advantage of these particular facilities
  • Having THREE parliamentary assistants (all in suits) show me (just me) around the Houses of P, for an hour and a half!
  • Being ‘escorted off the premises’ by a police officer at end of Houses of P. tour, due to the Victorinox (swiss army) card in my rucksack. All routine stuff, apparently!
  • Changing rooms in a clothes shop (Oxford St) generously offered me a choice of lighting: Evening, office or outdoor
  • Finding the room next door to me (in Travelodge) had ‘Police – do not enter’ tape across it. Fun times.
  • On day 5 of my stay, finding that housekeeping had awarded my commitment to their hotel with one pink, patterned, increased-ply loo roll

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Other stuff

  • Abbey Rd (Beatles)
  • Little Venice (boat along the canal, to Camden – v pretty. The canal, not Camden.)
  • Chinatown (never been there before – quite interesting)
  • .

Best read (on the tube)

The Great Fire of London, by Samuel Pepys (purchased from Foyles, Charing Cross Rd… for just 80p!)

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Top food

  • Camden market chips – cooked in duck fat, with a truffle sauce mayo!
  • A lamb kebab I had in cafe in P. Circus, where they baked their own pitta bread
  • An iceream I had from Covent Garden… two amazing flavours… can’t recall what they were though
  • .

(No pics available – quality grub requires instant scoffing, not posing for the camera!)

If you’ve got this far down the page (well done, by the way) and are still even the tiniest bit interested, feel free to check out my top 20 pics via Facebook (that you can view whether you’re on Facebook or not):

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153523112042510.1073741865.507357509&type=1&l=257f593ceb

The Sacred Review of Adrian Plass, by Annie, aged 37 and 3/4.


In five days time I will be the very age that Adrian is in his famous diary (famous if you’re a Christian over a certain age)… The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, aged 37 3/4.

I first read (devoured) this book when I was just 14, on Christmas day. It was given as a present to my Mum, and somehow I got hold of it and read the entire thing that very day. Being surrounded by an abundance of relatives, food, presents, games, the Queen’s speech, etc, somehow did nothing to tear me away from one of the best books I’d ever read. (And it is still one of my few very favourite books of all time.) I laughed, I cried, I cried with laughter, I giggled, chuckled and snorted… in short – I loved it.

Why? Because he held a truth-telling microscope to my world: my uber-charismatic church. Like a Christian Caulfield, he exposed the phoney-ness. But unlike Caulfield, he did it in an amusing and readable manner. His sheer irreverence was deliciously shocking to me at the time, yet oddly comforting; I wasn’t alone in my scepticism. It’s not God he mocks though – not once. No – it’s the church and the people in it, along with our idiosyncrasies, hypocritical tendencies, and all-round batty behaviour.

Recently I read it again, from start to finish, in one day. It’s not that I haven’t read it a few times between those teenage years and now, but I wondered if reading it while being his actual age would alter the experience in any way…

DOUBT: Adrian has moments of doubting himself, doubting others and doubting God. Aged 14, I thought I had it all sussed. In fact I knew I did. I rarely suffered from paranoia (now a constant companion, as it is for Adrian) and I never doubted God (because that would be a sin). Nowadays I wouldn’t recognise myself if I wasn’t frequently churning over conversations in my mind, worrying about what people think of me. And it turns out it’s not a sin to doubt God at all – my 20th year was a bit ‘iffy’ in this respect, but it all worked out in the end, for the better.

DEATH: At 14, thoughts of death were not high on my agenda, as they are on Adrian’s. Now, they sneak up from time to time. A bit like grey hairs.

THEOLOGY: Adrian sums it up with ‘God is nice and he likes me’. When I was younger I was too quick to judge other Christians, declaring that what they were doing was wrong or, at best, ‘quite dodgy’. Now, I can see that we all mess up, at least 34.6 times per day, even me. Especially me. I now feel that if we can only cling on to the fact that God is nuts about us, we’re far more likely to live our lives as he wants us to.

The image below is my all-time favourite snippet from the diary. I’ve never been able to hear anyone talk about placing a ‘fleece’ in the same way since reading this, and never will. Which is a good thing.

It’s no secret that I used the diary as inspiration for my novel: Dear Bob (and the sequel: Love Jude). Perhaps with a dash of Adrian Mole (coming of age) and a sprinkling of Bridget Jones (singleton) slipped in with it!

Yes, I remain a true fan, and no doubt will be until I’m 99 and 3/4, and rely heavily on the audiobook version.

Sainsbury’s Rewards

Sainsbury’s Rewards.

I arrive in the car park, unsure as to where I should park… myself.
Where I’ll best fit.
Squeezing out of the car and instantly, I’m baffled.
Too much to absorb, I admit.

Soon enough, I’m settled in.
Attuned to the bright lights, the colour… the echoing din.
The noisy people.
Like bees, but less busy… with less purpose.

I marvel at the fruit and veg – a deluge of innocuous shapes.
Such aroma… I’m tempted.
I spot a mate. We have a bit of a laugh –
Some of the misshaped sweet potatoes remind us of mutual friends.

Coconut organic yoghurts stare back at me, unimpressed.
But it’s OK – instructions are included: a list, to aid me pass this test.
To help select essentials for the week ahead
(And puddings. And snacks. And wine. And…)

Barely into the tinned goods aisle and I’m hit by enthusiasm
(And a bit later, by a rogue trolley.)
If I want it, I reach out, it’s there. If it’s not, I merely have to enquire
(Or mumble a brief prayer)
I’m guided straight to it. Instant gratification.
Survey the shelves: what you see is what you get.

Later on, in a frozen realm, Confusion reappears.
I swear he’s messing with the PA,
Inserting mis-information – an assault on both ears.
Is this trip a mistake?
What seemed so effortless a few aisles ago
I now declare to be onerous… I ache.

The till’s in sight, though there’s a queue.
But standing just the other side – a guy.
I swear that he can see right through… me.

He beckons, without a single word.
But trolley’s now so laden down, with all the ‘stuff’.
And here’s what’s worse: I’ve have no purse.

He’s smiling now, and mouths: “I’ve paid… just come”.
Reluctant hands release their grip from all they’ve picked.
But somehow know that what’s ahead will far transcend the list they penned.

I’m running now – I ache no more.
He takes my hand. We leave the store.
Content that he, is my reward.

——————————————-

For a few more attempts at poetry, including some pie-winning efforts (!) visit here.

Greenbelt 2012

Last year I blogged that we attempted ‘Greenbelt lite’ as we went for a mere two days.
But this year we just went for one.
Yes – one.
So even lighter than lite.
I wonder what the technical term for that is…?
Up at 6am, arrived at 9am… left around half past midnight, home at 2am.
Fifteen and a half hours of pure Greenbelt!

Highlights, of this, my twelfth Greenbelt?
Well, kind of you to enquire.
Let’s see…

The Rising – I’d never been before, but have a friend (the lovely Lori) who goes every year, so thought it was high time I accompanied her. Was a big fan of Martyn Joseph back in the early 90s, and he didn’t disappoint, even now. His ‘mates’ on stage included a reasonably angry/political lesbian (Grace Petrie) a disillusioned (yet highly talented) American (Willy Porter) and the woman from the band Paper Aeroplanes. I know nothing about music (or less than nothing, if such a thing were possible) but favoured the latter, hear her here. Also enjoyed Willy’s clever ‘How to Rob a Bank’.

Food – This is of paramount importance to me, in life in general, but also quite specifically at Greenbelt. In this one day, I managed to stuff in: fried potato and sausage stuff (my absolute fave) from French stall ‘The Grande Bouffe’ (The Big Nosh), a freshly-cooked doughnut, a smoothie, a Shmoo banana milkshake, steak n stilton pie with mash and gravy (Higgidy pies, as no Pieminister there this year), a posh hot chocolate from the Tank (while waiting for phone to charge there) a flapjack from Pru’s cafe (woman in front of me had the last of their famous brownies, but I wasn’t outraged… not one bit) and finally a mug of ‘chai’ from the Tiny Tea Tent, which was divine. So divine, in fact, that I’ve just purchased the Twinings version, and am sipping at it now. It’s not QUITE Tiny Tea Tent-esque, but hey.

The God Particlethis was a play, and a most superb one at that, written by James Cary, who writes for the TV show Miranda (as well as for the only slightly lesser-known magazine – Third Way). Such a fantastic fusion of faith and science, all presented with much hilarity. I particularly liked the extended reference to ‘The Prisoners’ Dilemma’, which I’ve been studying very recently, as part of some general philosophy stuff I’ve been ‘consolidating’ during the Summer holidays, in preparation for forthcoming teaching practice.

Wandering around – Considering the 15 and a half hour restriction, I managed to clock up a satisfactory amount of this activity. The VAST amount of rainfall meant I was glad of my wellies, and that yes… I threw superior looks to those in flip-flops, who clearly weren’t cut out for festival life. G-source suited my wandering tendencies, although I fear there were less freebies than usual this year. Invariably, I ended up at G-books (bookshop); I shop (well, browse) books like other woman shop for shoes and clothes. I’m well-aware of my unhealthy obsession with books, which I suppose is something, but it doesn’t prevent me from attempting to find a cure. Why would I? Books are ace! About 15-20 caught my eye and yelled “Annie – buy me, buy me now!” (Dr Dolittle heard animals talk… I hear books shout). Finally left with just two, a Dietrich Bonhoeffer (bargain at £3, down from £12) and the brilliant Dave Walker’s new book of cartoons, one quick glance at which produces instant LOL-ing, even in those far too old to be throwing around the acronym (me).

Last Orders – New presenters, but just as good as ever. Managed not to fall asleep (which I have done there in the past, due to extreme tiredness combined with the late hour, and not to boredom)! Loved Mike Wozniak’s stand-up re ‘conception’ – hilarious! Rev Gerald Ambulance always deserves a mention – he shared some profound thoughts re church student youth workers… and I chuckled. There was a bit on ethical wedding dresses, which really ought to be ‘my thing’ (due to the ‘ethical’ bit, and not because I obsess about wedding dresses) but really wasn’t. There was also some ‘magic’ that was clever, but somehow not as entertaining as I felt it ought to be. Ruth Gledhill (Religion correspondent for The Times) got a bit of a grilling (from presenters and audience alike) which was awkward and unpleasant, I felt. It ended with ‘Folk On’, who, in the past, have annoyed me rather… but clearly my day had gone swimmingly well (perhaps due to torrential rain) as even they seemed ‘fun’ and a jolly way to end the day, bless ’em.

Had they not clashed with The God Particle, I had very much wanted to see/hear
Rev Richard Coles (ex- Communard: Don’t. Leave me this wa-a-a-ay!)
Frank Skinner
and Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch (Church history bloke).
Never mind.

Finally (yes, almost about to pull the plug) it was great to spend time my own fantastic family, with good friends (from our church) and to catch up with some ‘Greenbelt’ friends.

Only took a very few pics, but if you’re interested (or just very bored) you can view them here.

I do wonder if the fact that I wasn’t ‘doing stuff’ (as part of the programme) contributed to a more ‘chilled’ time at Greenbelt. I wasn’t stressing about where I had to be when, and whether I ought to brush my hair one last time, etc.
For more about my ‘stuff’ during previous years, see here, and scroll down.

‘Dear Bob’ giveaway on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Dear Bob by Annie Porthouse

Dear Bob

by Annie Porthouse

Giveaway ends September 10, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

For anyone else with kids who go to camp…

Wrote this this evening, thinking of our kids at camp, that we collect tomorrow morning.
It’s very rough, but was just a good way commit my feelings to paper (blog) and also served as a cunning distraction from an essay I’m supposed to be writing!
I make no apology for the fact that it rhymes; it may be un-fashionable, but then so are most of my clothes… yet life goes on.

They packed their bags

They packed their bags (who knows with what).
We drove them there – the cord was cut.
We drove away – the tears did fall:
It’s hard to leave your kids – so tall!
They may have reached their teenage years
But that does not negate my fears
That while they are away from me
Their stay at camp might sometimes be…
Hard.

It’s good for them to be away
From us, and home, for seven days.
It’s good for them to make new friends.
All this, please note, I comprehend.
I want them to explore and grow
And get some sun, and fun, although
I want them to be safe and sound,
Seeing as I’m not around…
To help.

I want them to find some bits rough,
To build them up – to make them tough.
But not so hard that they can’t cope.
This is my plea – this is my hope.
I pray they get to know God more
And learn what they are living for;
To aid them when life gets too hard.
I pray that they won’t disregard…
This.

Their sheets are washed, their rooms are clean.
The house is calm, bereft of teens.
We can’t complain that they’re afar
We’ve had a blast – the week’s been ours!
We’ve watched what we want on TV.
No Minecraft, COD or MP3.
But twelve hours more and they’ll be back
Their mud-stained clothes we’ll all unpack…
Together.


(Image from http://photoeverywhere.co.uk)

Facebook ads – do they matter?

A recent article (well, technically a ‘blog post’, but ‘article’ sounds posher) I wrote for Generous, on Facebook advertising, can be found hiding here.

And today, quite by chance I came across this on YouTube.
It’s a rather amusing parody of the famous John Lewis advert that includes the song: Always a Woman (that makes strong, sane women sob buckets, including me).

I rarely see TV ads, as I don’t watch much actual telly at all (but countless films, so I’m no saint, nor am I Amish). And if I do watch something, I’ve usually pre-recorded it, and then fast forward through the ad break.

Thus, I’ve not purchased a single item from the shops since the late 80’s.

OK, I have. But face it… you were impressed, just for those few seconds…

Post-Greenbelt waffle


My attempt to sum up this year’s Greenbelt, using that often overlooked, yet hugely loveable number – 4.

Gutted that I missed:
1] Adrian Plass (I’m such a fan, but wasn’t at GB on the day he spoke).
2] Jude Simpson (but at least I managed to bump into her for super brief catch-up).
3] Dave Walker‘s calendar (it had sold out by the time I got around to attempting to purchase).
4] Tea towels (Greenbelt branded ones. Again, they’d run out. Must try harder next year. Not sure I’m actually ‘gutted’ about this, more ‘slightly annoyed’).

Dead chuffed to have heard:
1] Ruth Downie (interesting talk on crime fiction).
2] Simon Morden (part 2 of his thoughts on Christian publishing, etc).
3] Andrew Philip (poetry reading that I actually understood, and enjoyed). Pic of his session, with me in attendance, here!
4] Rev Gerald Ambulance (his profound take on the current state of the Church, and some insightful comments regarding the role of women in marriage).

So glad I consumed:
1] Pie Minister pie – Heidi (goat’s cheese/sweet potato) with mash and groovy. (Read my ‘award-winning’ pie poem here.)
2] Bowl of fried potato/wine sauce and sausage, from Le Grand Bouffe.
3] Hot choc, that I managed to persuade them to add brandy to, seeing as they clearly had some as they sold coffee with brandy.
4] Pizza from the posh pizza place, as this time I went wild and paid extra for ‘all’ the toppings.

Got stuck right in:
1] Attended a ‘Student Focus’ session, (SCM). Did a creative book plug for Dear Bob, involving volunteers, weird props, jogging, masks, Pringles… you get the idea!
2] As per the past few years, did the Generous session, this year on ‘local activism’. Plugged Living Generously .
3] Donated some Dear Bobs to The Hub, for eventual distribution to teenagers at GB. (See Ben’s plan here).
4] Wrote out some Bible verses in monk-like fashion (assuming ye olde monks used i-pads with i-pens). It’s going to be presented to the Queen, no less – see my verses here.

Thrilled to natter over a cuppa with:
1] Darren Hill (after 8 years of knowing him only via phone/email/Facebook, finally met up – hurrah! He was instrumental in inflicting ‘Dear Bob’ on the general public.)
2] Jo Swinney (after knowing her… a couple of months via Facebook, finally met up)!
3] Penny Culliford (it wouldn’t be Greenbelt without at least one chatting marathon with this lady, some years we’ve managed several).
4] No cuppa, but SO pleased to grab a quick hello with fellow Subway-ers (Christian Writers’ Group): Tim R, Tim S, Jules, Paul B, Veronica Z… and those already mentioned above.

Swapped several pennies for:
1] The Insatiable Moon (Mike Riddell).
2] Paradise Now (Jari Moate).
3] A greetings card with some Christian artwork on it (with intention of framing it at some point – perhaps in the year 2017, when I’ve got a spare minute).
4] A FRANK sports water bottle, that I could then re-fill during the festival, for free!

We (family and I) were also a-weeping and a-wailing that for the first time in six (ish) years we didn’t get to camp/hang out with our buds Lori and Richard Passmore (and kids). Boo and double-boo.

Overall though, it was simply superb to wander around the site and soak up the oh-so-familiar (yet ever ‘fresh’) GB atmos with my gorgeous family, including my fab sis – a real live Cheltenham local.

A few pics can be viewed here.

So how was GB11 for you?!

Greenbelt (lite)

I’ve opted for ‘Greenbelt Lite’ this year. Not because I’m opposed to the full-fat version… in fact I’ve been, with the family (from Thurs—>Tues) for the past eight years! But this year I’m there for the Sunday and Monday only.

On Sunday evening (8pm, Galilee) I’ll be at a ‘Student Focus‘ session: University Survival Skills, plugging Dear Bob, naturally, but also hopefully participating in the promised chocolate brownies. If you’re a student, get your-fabulous-self on down there… 6 copies of Dear Bob are being GIVEN away as prizes!

Then on Monday, I’ll be involved with the Generous talk: ‘Get Down Your Local’, about local activism (The Kitchen, 2pm) where, just to be consistent, I’ll be plugging another book (one I co-authored): – Live Generously.

You are probably unaware that Greenbelt have changed their policy this year, and on the ‘talks’ page of their website (listing all this year’s GB speakers) the MOST important speakers are at the very bottom of the page, rather than at the top. The fact that Rob Bell is at the top is clearly some sort of admin error.

I aim to see: RS Downie, Simon Morden, Andrew Philip (all on this page) Jo Swinney and Rev Gerald Ambulance. This also appeals to me. Gutted I’ll miss: Adrian Plass/Milton Jones. Am I sad that I’ll miss the workshop ‘Parenting Teenagers’? Not sure. If you’re there, please take notes (include a few pictures – I get bored easily). But mostly I’ll just be wandering around the site, with various friends/family, soaking up the fabulous GB atmos, wondering if I can afford a trendy fairly-traded organic t-shirt with a bible verse printed on it… then deciding that I probably can’t, and ending up in the queue for pies.