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.

To bee, or not to bee…


What have I been up to recently?
Well, it’s most kind of you to enquire, especially without any prompting – clearly, you were brought up to have impeccable manners!

The last few months before we broke up (from school) were ridiculously busy. At times I reminded myself of one of those insanely industrious bees in ‘Bee Movie’. Here’s why:

PGCE – After many, many years of saying: Well, I really ought to do a PGCE… but I don’t think I can handle it, I’ve finally caved. Still not sure if I can handle it, but I’ll soon find out. This Sept I start a two year PGCE in post-16 education. Worlds away from the primary school surroundings I’ve been oh-so-used to over the past nine years (teaching assistant). My teaching placement is teaching Skills For Life, Literacy. This involves teaching literacy to adults, from very basic skills through to GCSE level literacy. But I’d love to get involved with teaching Religious Studies at AS/A2 Level also. I’ve prepared for and attended two interviews, which both involved lengthy Numeracy/literacy tests, and attended a SFL lesson, just to see what I’m letting myself in for!

GCSE marking – I have become an Assistant Examiner for OCR, and have now marked 700 GCSE Religious Studies papers for them. Hard work, more time consuming than I could possibly have anticipated… but surprisingly stimulating!

SPREE – we took our Church youth group camping at SPREE, jointly run by Urban Saints (formally known as ‘Crusaders’… so pleased they changed their name!) and SWYM. Again, a lot of work, but well worth it. It rained nearly the entire weekend, but FReD (our group) appeared to enjoy themselves no end.

Now it’s the Summer hols (6 entire weeks off work – HURRAH for jobs in education) I’m feeling very chilled out; laid back to the point of lying down, as the expression goes… and I have been (lying down) in the garden to catch those few rare rays and boost my Vitamin D levels, on several occasions.

My third novel (Christian, Chick Lit, adult) – is currently still a mere file on my computer (and would be gathering dust, if a computer file had the ability to do such a thing) and not sitting pretty on the bookshop shelves, where I’d much rather it took up residence (before being bought by millions, obviously). I am starting to get it ‘out there’, and believe me, you’ll be the first to know if/when I get an offer. Meanwhile, I’m doing the most sensible thing… starting on a fourth novel. Yes, non-writery types would substitute the word ‘sensible’ with ‘insane’, but it’s just something I feel compelled to do. Who knows when I’ll have the time to write, as I’ll be working/studying every day from Sept, but where there’s a brain full of ideas, and a computer… there’s a way.

And what about you? What ‘bee’ going on with you right now…?

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.)

‘Cross Rhythms’ interview

The UK Christian radio station Cross Rhythms recently invited me aboard for an interview. (I spoke at their festival back in 2003, and was interviewed by them, on air, in that same year also.)

The topic was the ‘Dear Bob’ novels, that were first published 8 years ago. Thus, it was a bit like someone enquiring as to my opinions regarding nappy changing, even though my kids are now 11 and 13! But in a good way. I’m always chuffed to bits to have those books reviewed or to be asked about them, in any context; it keeps ‘Jude Singleton’ alive, and reminds me of the fun I had penning her (fictional) story.

When it was aired, they cut out one of the questions:
Who was Jude based on?
Part of my answer was that, to some extent, Dear Bob was autobiographical. But then I paused and wondered if I’d pronouned it properly… did I say ‘autobiographal’, omitting the ‘ic’ syllable towards the end? But self-correction didn’t appear to be an option, so I pressed on regardless. Naturally, this has haunted me since, prompting me embark on a frantic Google search, to check if I could get away with it, had I made that omission (which revealed: fat chance).

Had it been in the final cut and had I actually said it incorrectly, I was planning on establishing a movement, on behalf of writers everywhere, to shorten all multisyllabic words related to the profession. After all, all writers concede that time is a valuable resource – why waste it saying long words when you can use shorter ones? Who has the time to say ‘autobiographical’ (SEVEN syllables)… not me, clearly! I even considered taking the cause to a higher level to see what could be done. Kate Middleton is probably hunting for worthy campaigns to back, bless ‘er…

But nay, the question and answer were given the chop anyway, so whether or not I committed such a blunder will remain forever a ‘radio-archive’ style mystery (a little-explored literary genre).

See here for other radio stations I’ve been interviewed on. (At bottom of the page.)

Click here to email Kate directly, regarding the surplus syllables you’d like to see brutally extracted from words, to give us all more time to enjoy life.
(just kidding!)

Here is the interview itself… a time-efficient 4 mins long… and if you check your email or Facebook messages whilst listening, you’ll not in any way feel as though it’s 240 seconds down the drain…

Christmas Shopping

Yes, it’s here… again.
Shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise – it’s not as if we’re unused to the festive period. It seems to engulf a sixth of each year, at least!

And yes, I have again written about the Chrimbo shopping fiasco, published on the ‘Generous’ website, here.

Having compared it with what I’ve written in other, similar articles I’ve penned in previous years (published in various places) I note that I’m becoming a bit more honest, a tad more realistic, and even, dare I say it… slightly less Scrooge-like! But what motivates me remains in tact: to raise awareness of those who live in poverty, who would love to have Christmas Shopping trips to grumble about.

Back from Greenbelt..!

Duvet and mattress, porcelain loo –
Are absent from Greenbelt and its campers, who
Make do without, all weekend long.
They shiver by night, and by day: pong.

My tenth year attending was worth my while –
Jude Simpson’s wit made my face smile.
Milton Jones – the one-liner King.
Dave Walker’s scribbling kept me giggling.

Roger McGough – a poetry machine;
He once helped to write: Yellow Submarine!
That beat-boxing Shlomo, the epitome of cool.
Rev Gerald A. boldly broke every rule.

Remember from Blue Peter, Simon Thomas?
His main stage compering was fab, I promise.
Went with my hubbie to a ‘talk’ in Bethlehem:
“Affluenza’s what we’ve got!” declared Oliver James.

Zic Zazou – very… French – noisy too.
Beer and Hymns (overheard from nearby queue).
Free tea from Speakers’ Lounge – totally fantastic.
First visit to Blue Nun – four quid for wine in a cup of plastic!

Fried potato, wine gravy… sausage perched on top.
I tend to scoff this every year – I like it quite a lot.
But now it’s all over – Greenbelt ‘adieu’.
Back to duvet and mattress, porcelain loo.

 

Last year my GB poem won me a box of pies through the post!
As you can see, this year I’m expecting signed photos/t-shirts/CDs/books/all-inclusive holidays, etc, from all the ‘stars’ that are named.
I’ve briefed the postman that his job will become that bit more demanding over the next couple of weeks. It’s just a matter of waiting now.

Some info/pics re my previous talks at GB here.

My GB 2010 pics here.

An ‘official’ GB pic of me here (typical – the photographer came to our talk, took lots of pics, and this is the one they choose… of me freaking out as Peter had just decided that it would be a clever idea to kiss me for a photo, which made me go bright red, naturally)!