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)!

IMG_2191
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!

IMG_1787

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!)

IMG_2096

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)

IMG_2368

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

IMG_1774

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!)

IMG_2074

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

Amazon wishlist? Good!

amazon-wishlist

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.]

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Doing-December-Differently-Alternative-Christmas/dp/1905010230

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TESOL course – in the bag!

1012516_10151791069284627_1234499121_n

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.
Why?
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…

‘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

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…?

Westminster Declaration of Christian Conscience..??


I’m hoping those subtly placed question marks at the end of the above title have piqued your interest, and implied that this post is NOT yet another ‘nag’ to put your name to this declaration. As a Facebook-er, I’ve had many such nags recently, so have endeavored to undertake an investigation, albeit brief.

In case you’re not one to wile the hours away on Facebook and/or not a Church-goer… this declaration is based on a similar one in the States. Christians are being urged to sign it, with the intent of informing the political candidates in question of our beliefs… and urging them to respect/protect them.

The first few paragraphs are entitled: Our beliefs and Values… Human Life… Marriage.
At face value, these are fairly straightforward. ‘Liberal’ (not Lib Dem) Christians could spend many an hour dissecting them, extracting the ‘conservative’ ness out and proposing alternative suggestions… and although I’m tempted, I feel my time could be used more wisely. Here’s one example of such views (Ekklesia) and while I can’t say I’m unwaveringly behind all he says, I do concur with the gist of the piece.

But it’s more the last two paragraphs of the declaration that disturb me:

Conscience
We count it a special privilege to live in a democratic society where all citizens have the right to participate in the political process. We pledge to do what we can to ensure our laws are just and fair, particularly in protecting vulnerable people. We will seek to ensure that religious liberty and freedom of conscience are unequivocally protected against interference by the state and other threats, not only to individuals but also to institutions including families, charities, schools and religious communities. We will not be intimidated by any cultural or political power into silence or acquiescence and we will reject measures that seek to overrule our Christian consciences or to restrict our freedoms to express Christian beliefs, or to worship and obey God.

Commitment
We call upon all those in UK positions of leadership, responsibility and influence to pledge to respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold these beliefs and to act according to Christian conscience.

(words in bold is my doing)

We live in a Post-Christendom era. While it’s fantastic for us to get together with other Christians from a plethora of denominations and state our beliefs… the minute we attempt to enforce those beliefs on others, or demand that we have any sort of ‘rights’, we’re stepping outside of what our faith actually holds dear. Stuart Murray, in his superb book on this topic, suggests we ought to advocate equality for other faith communities… and advocate abolition, not extension, of Christendom vestiges. He states this is more feasible and ‘Christian’ than the restoration of a Christian State.

Granted, the declaration isn’t demanding Constantine to make a come-back… but its rhetoric is leaning in that direction, and for that reason I will not be signing it, and I’d invite you to consider doing likewise. We’re called to ‘be Church’ – to live in such a way as to be a witness for Christ. To be an example. To love and care for the oppressed. To share the Good News with those around us. But to demand/claim/expect any special treatment in the UK or anywhere else in the world?
No.

These are my very initial thoughts on this topic though, so please come back at me with your thoughts on this one.