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.

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.

Christmas no longer illegal


An article I’ve just written for the Generous website

Spend less and be more Generous

In 1647, the English Parliament passed a law that made Christmas illegal. Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas festivities, considering feasting and revelry on a ‘holy day’ immoral. Anybody caught celebrating Christmas was arrested. The ban was only lifted when the Puritans lost power in 1660.

The reason for mentioning this rather random historical fact is that I tend to feel rather like Cromwell’s long lost distant descendant at this time of year. Not because I aim to be, please understand. More because the ideas I choose to promote sometimes paint me as a bit of a Scrooge.

In actual fact, I’m totally in favour of ‘feasting and revelry’ and am a huge fan of the season in general. In addition to the standard merriment, food and partying, it’s a fantastic opportunity to show hospitality towards those neighbours or work colleagues that we tend to ignore. Also for using the occasion to strengthen family ties.

But when it comes to presents under the tree, ‘giving generously’ doesn’t mean we ought to re-mortgage our homes. If anything, it might be more generous to give a less expensive gift, but give it a bit more thought.

For example, a voucher that says, ‘I’ll babysit for you once a month this coming year’. Or what about buying books, DVDs, CDs, games etc. second-hand off eBay or Amazon… or from a local charity shop? And any money that we then save – by getting less expensive presents – could be directed towards those who really need it. Those who won’t be enjoying all of the festivities that we will; who wouldn’t notice if their country made Christmas illegal again. (As Bob Geldof would have us sing: ‘Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?’)

So, what about spending half as much as we usually would on family members this year, and, with the money saved, buy a goat (or similar) for those in need… and tell the family on Christmas Day? Or did you know that for £60 you can twin your toilet with one built in Burundi, for those who aren’t used to such luxuries (toilettwinning.org)?

If you’re feeling very ambitious and have time on our hands, then to make a present is a generous yet cheap idea: knit a scarf, bake a cake, paint a picture, compose a song, write a poem. Go on, I will if you will! It’s not illegal, we won’t get arrested, and, if we do something generous with the money we save by not splashing out, we’ll be making a difference to those in need, which can’t be bad.

Bye-bye Greenbelt

img_3414It seems but a lifetime away, but before the memory fades altogether, being extinguished by thoughts of xmas and suchlike, just wanted to put in a couple of links:

here is what the GB website came up with this year. Interesting, as they’d asked for a biog, I’d sent them one… then they chose to ignore it and use one they’d had from 2005! Thus, it mentions that I work on the mags I used to work on, that are now extinct.
They had one back in 2005, when I was doing more literary stuff there, rather than eco (I’ve done ‘something’ there every year since then I think, for my sins).

My this year’s talk has also been recorded, which is a 1st. Either they just got carried away and decided to record all talks this year… or it was my fair trade banana jokes that forced them to make my talk available to be inflicted on the masses. Hmmmm..
It’s available for buying here, should anyone be interested.

They weren’t really ‘fair trade banana’ jokes, as such things don’t exist, as far as I am aware. They were just ‘regular’ banana jokes, that I shamelessly used, and asked people to assume the bananas in question were, indeed, fairly traded… so that my jokes would bear some relevance on my talk.

There was also some toilet humour (that linked in with the concept of ‘sponsoring a toilet’ in a developing country)…have a strong suspicion that next year I’ll be asked, nay, begged, to be on main stage, delivering my FT banana/loo jokes to vast crowds of laughing (or groaning) greenbelters.
Oh yes.

back from greenbelt !

lest we forget had a fab fab time!

was sooooooooooooo much better just doing one thing (Generous talk thingy) rather than lots of stuff. meant i actually felt like a normal greenbelter and could do lots of stuff!

did a generous talk/discussion/quiz and stuff with claire… lasted hour and 1/2 and we had over 150 people turn up! i like to tell myself they were attracted to my name in the programme, but it’s slightly more likely that they were attracted to the promise of free 2009 GB tickets to be won! it all went v well – totally enjoyed myself and it’s always a pleasure working with claire as she is fab!

went to and enjoyed:

a meditation thingy about happiness and chocolate (in ‘soul space’)
Steve tomkins – speed christianity
rev gerald ambulance (aka steve tomkins)
fair trade panel
john archer
last orders
phillip yancy (secret of the universe)
simon morden (literature venue)
suzanne elvidge (lit venue)
Fightstar (charlie from busted’s new band… a bit heavy for me!)

a bit miffed that i didn’t get to:

jude simpson (sorry jude!)
woebegone brothers (band from long ago)
simon mayo (i’m sorry i haven’t a poo)
cider and carols (in organic beer tent)
several ‘social justice/ethical living’ talks/workshops

but generally i just loved hanging out with the lush gang from our church and also meeting up with old friends: Claire Skinner, Jo Dafforn and Penny Culliford especially, and some Subwayers also (christian writers email list). and in their defense, my friends aren’t THAT old, in case you were thinking i was starting on some new OAP outreach programme or something.

finally, i v v much enjoyed:

that fried potato stuff from that french food stall (had this twice!)
paella (also cooked in those massive wok thingys, as per fried potato)
crepe with spinach, cheese, garlic and cream… yes, cream
hot chocolate with cream and brandy

didn’t manage to get a pie… must get one next year… bring it on!

see my piccies here.
(click on 1st one to enlarge, then again to move onto next piccie)

Greenbelt… extra!

Last year i organised a panel for greenbelt… it was masses of work in the wks before GB and i vowed i’d steer clear of panels in the future.

This year i am on one (see post below) and now i’ve just found out that i’m chairing one too!

It’s one of the few things on the GB website that i’d seen and thought… that’s just my bag… i’ll be going to that, not knowing that i would be chairing it! It’s a panel on ethical consumerism, and you can find it here

if you’re at GB and free on Sat at 10am, insurance lounge… pop along… !!

festival daze

festival dazehome sweet home… or more urgently.. bath sweet smelling bath!
greenbelt was fab fab fab.


food – this vendor just near mainstage that sold crepes, and also had these 2 HUGE woks full of fried potato. I had a ‘grande royal’ which seemed to be fried pot, sweet carrot with a fab sausage on top, that had been cooked in white wine… it was SMASHIN.

comedy – jude simpson and rev gerald ambulance were both, as always, totally stupendous. Rev gerald’s act was the same as it was 2 years ago, but this didn’t stop my enjoyment of it… sometimes it’s even funnier when you know what’s gonna happen! Jude was wonderful… good to bump into her on one occasion and catch up… that gal got talent! saw Paul Kerensa at last Last Orders.. made me laf. A line he used was so funny i still keep thinking about it now and chuckling to myself, but this is a family blog, so i’ll not tell you what it was! I wouldn’t put him up their with the Rev or Jude, but that’s prob coz i’m such big fans of theirs, for various reasons.

music – kids loved daniel beddingfield; it was great to see their faces! i liked a band on last night of Last Orders, a bloke and a lass, can’t remember their title but it had the word ‘lightening’ or ‘fire’ in it. they were amazing. also enjoyed ‘folk on’ that was in the same show. (sorry – i don’t really go to GB for the music, so can’t really comment!) hubbie loved candi staton… he has all the remixes of ‘you got the love’, and that’s a whole lotta remixes.

talks – well, i sat in on several ‘generous’ talks, which only seemed polite seeing as i had ‘commissioned’ them to do them! I wish i could have made it to more of them tho, but couldn’t due to other commitments and due to having kids! I have just realised that i didn’t get to any talks other than generous ones and the FT panel i was ‘producing’. Never mind. i don’t feel like i’ve missed out.

my stuff – interviewing Janey Lee Grace went well – she attracted a big crowd. She was v honest and open… i didn’t have to do much really!
The whole generous talks programme seemed to go smoothly, and the bits that didn’t will be used to improve things next year, no doubt! It was good to meet Katie who heads up ‘Frank water’… what a vision. Also good to meet David from Day choc company (who delighted my kids by giving them 6 Dubble bars each, just coz they are Dubble agents!) and Paul, chief exec Traidcraft. Mark who has just started up Clean Slate Clothing company was also quite inspirational. Jo Rathbourne of Eco-congregation was great to hook up with again… she also held her own at the last Last Orders, and was a star on my Fair Trade Panel! My own talk went OK… quite a good turn-out… difficult to fit it all in the hour tho! It was good working with Jerry, Sue, Peter and Claire in the generous ‘zone’… we all worked hard, which seemed to make things tick along pretty well, imo.
The Fair Trade panel was cool. Crosby was packed out, which was a good start. It was great sitting at the back, watching it all happen, knowing that i had sorted it out… what a rush! (as in ‘how exciting’ as opposed to ‘i was rushed). Again, they found it hard to fit all they needed to say in the hour, but Esther (from the Guardian) managed to let them each have their say… shame we ran out of time and could only take a couple of questions from the floor.

social-ness – it was so so cool to camp with friends this year… two families from our church that have kids same age as ours. It meant we had our own little party going on, alongside the festival, which was so good for us and kids. Likewise, it was wonderful to bump into so many friends and familiar faces this year… i admit that on several occasions i recognised a face, but didn’t have the courage to say hi… i’m sure I’d remember how i knew them if only i asked!
also good to have my sis ‘on tap’, as it were. she lives in Cheltenham so useful to go to hers during communion for showers/hot meal! (sshhhh, don’t tell anyone!). she is so gr8.

kids – our kids had a great (must think up more original words other than ‘great’ fab’ etc!) time, as per usual. Also as per usual they went to the 1st kids session, then refused to go again. I think they do enjoy it (all looks great to me!) but they’d rather hang out at the rest of the festival with us, which is fair enough i guess.
Tilly braved the YMCA climbing wall (as in the background of this piccie) and got a certificate… not bad for £2!

purchases – got smashing new bag and wallet from the ‘hemp’ stall (now everyone will think i’m a weed smoker, rather than understanding that i buy these products for environmental reasons!). Got some reduced price FT clothes. But best of all was the muddy books! the bookshop had a box of muddy books that said on it ‘make us an offer’. I took up a book worth £13 (i think) and another one worth £8. She said: £15 for the 2 books together? I said: how about £3 for that one and £2 for that one, and she looked glum and said OK! They were books i really wanted too – the 7 plots of stories, and ‘soil and soul’. Then i went back later, approached Steve who runs the bookshop, and asked him how much for 2 copies of that v popular ‘1st year with baby’ book, that were in muddy box. I said ‘ how about £2 each’. He laughed and said he needed to make a profit. I pointed out that he couldn’t sell them for anything back in the bookshops, and this was during the last few hours of the festival. He reluctantly agreed… and they were worth £8 each (and i have at least 2 pregnant pals at the mo). Oh hurrah hooray…i was so chuffed with myself! I nearly got carried away and considered spotting books i liked and dropping them in the mud when no one was looking… but stopped myself before things got too heavy.

well, there’s prob more to say, but if i try to think of it, will be here all day.
how was it for you?!