@SarahBatty2: RT @southwestsupper: @LondonPopups @feelgoodbalham @balhampeople @LondonLive 3month popup in #balham from 18th oct-fondue,hot cocktails,wil…

@DrHydeous: Drinking a Long Hop Summer by Kings Heritage @ Balham Bowls Club — http://t.co/NrA7ZIBPa1

@tabathacash: Oi Oi rob I grew up in Balham!! #lucky me xX T

@therealkjh: RT @ArfurSmith: If the earth was a pea in Balham how far away would the sun be? Clapham North? and the next nearest star?

@EmmaLDickinson: Yay, Trinity Stores #Balham did not become a baby shop or Estate Agent! #Indian #OpensWednesday… http://t.co/FntTVmBVFh

Everyone happy as Nappy Valley named the friendliest place Wandsworth - Wandsworth Guardian


Everyone happy as Nappy Valley named the friendliest place Wandsworth
Wandsworth Guardian
Wandsworth's growing reputation has been even got even better, with news the area contains some of the friendliest and most sought-after places in London and the entire country. One part of the borough highlighted as being particularly friendly is ...

114 - Balham

MoreToJack posted a photo:

114 - Balham

Comedians, khachapuri and chippies: it's Balham's best bits - Time Out London


Time Out London

Comedians, khachapuri and chippies: it's Balham's best bits
Time Out London
Balham's kept sated with good yet affordable places to eat: Lamberts on Station Parade is the best, a smart British restaurant with terrific cooking. It also has several decent cafés, including, on Balham Hill, the Georgian (as in the country). Try the ...

We Brought Beer brings 'growlers' to Balham - Time Out London


Time Out London

We Brought Beer brings 'growlers' to Balham
Time Out London
When was the last time you popped out to the off licence and picked up a growler? It's becoming a more common occurrence these days, as growlers – the heavyweight glass bottles sold by beer off-licences to carry beer home in – are starting to appear ...

Sadiq takes on the Ice Bucket Challenge!


The Ice Bucket Challenge is a viral campaign where participants are challenged to throw a bucket of ice water over their heads before passing the challenge on to 3 other people who must accept the challenge within 24 hours. The campaign aims to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease and much-needed funds for the charity that supports it.

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a progressive disease that attacks the motor neurones, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord.

There is no cure but the MND Assocation funds and promotes research that leads to new understanding and treatments, and brings us closer to a cure for MND. We also provide services to support people living with, or affected by, MND.

Sadiq is a patron for South London MND Association Group. The group is entirely volunteer run and works hard to provide the best possible support for local people with MND, their families and their carers.

(Sadiq with Evelyn and Sarah from South London MND).

 

After receiving two nominations from Emma and Evelyn at South London MND, Sadiq Khan accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge. Click here to read a piece by Sadiq for The Staggers on why he was happy to accept the challenge.

He paid his £5 donation and on Tuesday 26th August, at 5pm, outside Tooting Broadway Station, Sadiq took on the challenge. 

Click here to view the video.

 

Sadiq nominated Wolfie Smith himself, Robert Lindsay, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and London Mayor, Boris Johnson.

 

Sadiq Khan MP said: 

“Like everyone else, I have been watching people take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge over the last couple of weeks. I was desperately hoping I didn’t get a nomination! But when I received the nomination from the team at South London MND, I just couldn’t say no. As a long term supporter, and patron of the charity, I have seen first-hand the fantastic work they do supporting local people with Motor Neurone Disease. I’m happy to do what I can to help raise awareness of the disease the charities working hard to support those affected by it. 

“Whilst I can’t say I enjoyed the Ice Bucket Challenge, I hope it helps raise much-needed funds for a good cause. Show your support for the MND Association by texting ICED55 £5 to 70070. 

“I hope Robert Lindsay, Chris Grayling and Boris Johnson accept my challenge!”

 

Evelyn, South London MND volunteer said: 

“When I took on the Ice Bucket Challenge, I knew I had to nominate our South London MND patron and local MP, Sadiq Khan. 

“It has been great to see him be such a good sport and agree to have buckets of ice thrown over him – he even let me throw the first one! Not only that, but he has helped to raise awareness and important funds for the charity. Thank you!” 

 

Click here to make a donation to MND Association.

Wimbledon vs Liverpool - 1987 - Back Cover Page

The Sky Strikers posted a photo:

Wimbledon vs Liverpool - 1987 - Back Cover Page

The crazy gang have crazy girls and a reliable motor as we head home on this one

Patty

zoddozzod posted a photo:

Patty

Al fresco

tezzer57 posted a photo:

Al fresco

Balham, South London

We need your help!

Dear friend,

First of all I would like say a huge well done to all the students in Wandsworth, who have worked incredibly hard to achieve impressive GCSE results this week. It doesn’t seem two minutes since I was collecting my results from Ernest Bevin College, (although they were O’Levels back then!) These results are a credit to your hard work, and the valuable support provided by our fantastic schools in the area. 

Whether you decide to study for A Levels at one of the local sixth form colleges, or learn important skills through a vocational course or apprenticeship with a great local business or college, I wish you all the best on whatever path you choose to take. Please feel free to share with me how you or a family member got on!  If you didn't get the results you wanted, please do not be too disheartened. There are still lots of options available to you and if you have any concerns you can call the Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000.

Sadiq's first column in the Wandsworth Guardian

Wandsworth Guardian, 21st August 2014

BATCA Community Fun Day 13th September

Now in its eighth year, this extremely popular local event brings together all local communities and cultures to provide a day of fun for all ages.  Last year over 4000 people attended the Fun Day and attendance at this year’s event, located in Broadwater Road, Tooting, is expected to be even greater.

Tooting residents missing out on Government’s ‘help to buy scheme’

New figures have been uncovered by Tooting MP Sadiq Khan which reveal not a single resident in Tooting has been helped by the Government’s ‘Help to Buy’ Scheme. 

The scheme was introduced by the Government last year to help people first time buyers get on to the property ladder – but despite helping thousands of home owners across the country, including 71 residents in Putney and 15 in Battersea, not a single Tooting resident has received assistance through the scheme since it was first introduced in April 2013.

How to eat like a Londoner: where to find magnificent meat for the barbecue - Time Out London


Time Out London

How to eat like a Londoner: where to find magnificent meat for the barbecue
Time Out London
99 Lauriston Rd, E9 7HJ. SOUTH. CHADWICK'S This family-run butcher in Balham stocks bespoke barbecue packs: skewers, burgers and sausages, plus larger cuts including spatchcock chicken and butterflied shoulder of lamb. 109 Balham High Rd, SW12 ...

Thrills good, spills bad - New Zealand Herald


Thrills good, spills bad
New Zealand Herald
Paragliding is what might termed a 'real adventure' in New Zealand tourism. Photo / Alan Gibson. With the regulation of adventure tourism back in the news again maybe it's time to look at ways to make this sector of the industry safer. After all, most ...

Pray. Don’t. Panic!

Pray. Don’t panic. That’s about the size of it. But when you put it like that it sounds so naïve. And crass.

There’s no shortage of things to worry about in modern life. Was it always thus? I’m not entirely sure if we’ll ever be able to establish whether we have fewer anxieties than our ancestors did. We don’t have wild animals and high rates of infant mortality to contend with. But then again they weren’t having to tutor their kids to secure a place at the local grammar school. Swings and roundabouts. I suspect it’s a fun but fundamentally fruitless exercise trying to compare the worry quotient of different eras. What is clear, however, is that ‘back in the day’ church members felt that they had plenty of reasons to be anxious. And they were right.

Of course, the complex issues of anxiety and worry are unlikely to be solved in a 700 word blog post. I know that. But the fact that in Philippians 4 the Apostle Paul dealt with it in 40 has emboldened me to try!

This is what he wrote,

‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’.

Philippians 4:6-7

Look briefly at Paul’s 40 words. They include a command, an instruction and a promise.

The command is ‘do not be anxious about anything’. That’s quite something. Let me put it another way, there is nothing in this world about which we ought to be overly concerned. That’s not me saying that. That’s the scriptures. It’s a comprehensive claim. But we can’t deny that Paul said it. He did not think that Christians ought to remain in a settled condition of anxiety. And so he commands us to deal with it. But presumably he was confident that there’s a way of encountering anxiety and overcoming it. Look at what he writes next.

The instruction is ‘present your requests to God’. The problem is anxiety, the solution is prayer. It’s not quite that simple. But that’s the gist of it. What Paul wrote is this, ‘but in everything, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’. In each and every situation where we’re tempted to respond to life’s circumstances with worry, Paul says that we’re to pray. On this verse, Don Carson says ‘I have yet to meet a chronic worrier who enjoys an excellent prayer life’. Ouch! But he’s right, isn’t he? For those of us for whom worry is a frequent and unwelcome companion, it’s worth asking whether we’ve actually prayed about the issues that plague us. Have I actually outlined before the Lord what it is that unsettles me? Have I actually asked for His specific help for the issues that throw me off my equilibrium? It may well be that we need others to help us with that. I may need my husband to pray with me every day. I may need an older woman, a trusted friend or my small group leader to spend an evening a week praying through the issues until I’m able to do it for myself. It’s probably overly simplistic to say that if we’re still worrying then we’ve not prayed enough yet. But there’s something in that, isn’t there? After all, Paul does not seem to anticipate that anyone would remain in the condition of anxiety for any length of time after they prayed. Look what he writes next.

The promise is that ‘the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’. God’s peace is beyond explanation because it transcends understanding. It just is. But it’s for real. And it’s for every one of us that prays. The Lord never promises to remove us from the circumstances in which we face our problems, but He does promise to give us the resources we need to cope. In particular God’s peace protects us so that we feel stable enough to withstand whatever life throws at us.

Probably a few more words than 700. Certainly more than Paul’s 40. And because it’s such a delicate issue there’s probably more that needs to be said. But that’s the essence of it, isn’t it? Is the vibe of the thing. And it’s a place to make a start. When you’re doing your head in with worry, get on your knees in prayer. Because the Lord promises that He’ll protect us.


My Sunday Highlight – Summer Preaching Programme

It’s the summer. And I’ve just got back from camp. It’s now August. And so I can legitimately and officially ‘down tools’. I’ve got a month off from preaching. And, might I suggest, a well-earned rest!

But that means that someone else needs to fill the schedule. We don’t have a pulpit to fill. We use a music stand. But since the staff is mainly off, swanning around on the continent, we need someone to step into the breach and continue to serve our congregations with faithful Bible teaching.

This week it was one of our much cherished elders. And he did a good job. He stitched me up somewhat by showing that it is in fact actually possible to preach a sermon in fifteen minutes. That wasn’t helpful. But it many other respects, it was. I was prompted to think about Jesus’ comment that he’s the gate for the sheep to a full life of protection and provision. That fed my soul. And it led to some great conversations with our kids over lunch.

There’s something wonderful about having your elders preach. You can’t do it too often. They’re busy men. And after a while people will start to wonder why we employ a Minister. But it’s good for the congregation to see their elders teaching the truth and refuting error at the front of church. After all, everyone knows that they get the ‘party line’ from me. I’m paid to be a reformed evangelical Christian preacher. For the record, I don’t just do it for the money. But there’s nothing hugely surprising about me saying the things that I do from the passages that we cover. But it’s different when someone who’s not in the paid service of the church family gets up and gives you the very same gospel with the very same passion and conviction, when they preach Christ and then call people to repentance and faith. These senior mature Christian men don’t get paid to say this stuff publicly. But when they do it comes with years of accumulated integrity. It’s just a shame we tend to get them up when not everyone’s around to hear them.


Balham Black, Grape & Grain, Crystal Palace

looper23 posted a photo:

Balham Black, Grape & Grain, Crystal Palace

Rather nice and much needed after a wander around Southall in the summer sun.

Home from the Holidays

Home from Malaysia, after an epic 36 hour flight back on Emirates. KL to Dubai leg was fine. Then we boarded the A380 at Dubai at about 3.00 for the 3.45 leg back to London. At 5.45 they took us all off the plane, having been delayed (1) by customer who had checked in, then never boarded, so they had to find their luggage and take it off the plane (2) then there was a problem with the plane's computer, which they tried in vain to fix, but no joy, so got a new computer, but also didn't work. So eventually they disembarked all of us and we sat around in the airport until about 9pm, after which they said we would be leaving at 7am in the morning and would be taken to hotels. Then we queued 4 times in total for the hotel vouchers, with each counter performing one small task on the hotel voucher. Each queue took about 30  minutes. In the end, I gave up on the last queue (which for the 10 minute bus ride to the hotel), where they were using just 1 10-seater minibus to transport about 200 people, and got some dirham from the airport ATM and took me and the kids to the hotel in a taxi. One good thing about DBX - they have a special woman taxi driver queue for women travellers, which I did feel much reassured about using, compared with having to drive off into the night with a male taxi driver in a strange place that you'd never intended to be in, in the first place. Another queue at the hotel to check in, where I had to throw a wobbly because after queuing for 15 minutes to get to the head of the queue, the guy at checkin promptly went wandering off without a word of explanation. Got to the rooms, the door cards wouldn't work, so had to go back down and get them both reset. Got to bed at midnight, fell on the bed and slept till 4am, then got the kids up and were on the 4.10 bus back to the airport. Entire flight fuelled by Burger King and McDonalds. Moderate throwing up by Sam and me. Very very glad to get back to UK. There were people on that flight coming from NZ, who had already been travelling for 33 hours BEFORE the delay in Dubai. With young children. The horror.

Now busy digitising the whole of my father-in-law's CD collection, which C is gradually transferring over to our house from Wolverhampton. He is in Wolvo today, helping MIL to clear out the house, prior to her putting it up for sale and moving back to Nottingham, after FIL's funeral.

Reading Talleyrand's Memoirs and Little Dorrit. Watching Series 1 of Merlin. Listening to Moby. Planning trip to Galways to see Smiggle and fulfil girls' fantasies of riding ponies along deserted Irish strands.

First Direct Update

Earlier in the week I talked about my concerns with First Direct’s new password policy. I got an email from them about this, but it really wasn’t very reassuring.

But I kept digging. And on Thursday I got a bit more information from “^GD” on the @firstdirecthelp twitter account. It still doesn’t answer all of my questions, but I think we’re a lot closer to the truth. Here’s what I was told.

The obvious question that this raises is why, then, do they limit the length of the passwords. I asked and got this (three-tweet) reply.

To which, I replied

And got the response

I thought that “as a business we are satisfied” rather missed the point. And told them so.

I got no response to that. And @brunns got no response when he tried to push them for more details about how the passwords are stored.

So, to summarise what we know.

  • First Direct say they store the passwords “encrypted”, but it’s unclear exactly what that means
  • It was a business decision to limit the length of the passwords, but we don’t know why that was considered a good idea
  • It still appears that First Direct believe that security by obscurity is an important part of their security policy

I haven ‘t really been reassured by this interaction with First Direct. I felt that the first customer support agent I talked to tried to fob me off with glib truisms, but “^GD” tried to actually get answers to my questions – although his obvious lack of knowledge in this area meant that I didn’t really get the detailed answers that I wanted.

I’m not sure that there’s anything to be achieved by pushing this any further.

The post First Direct Update appeared first on Davblog.

First Direct Passwords

I’ve been a happy customer of First Direct since a month or so after they opened, almost twenty-five years ago.

One of the things I really liked about them was that they hadn’t followed other banks down the route of insisting that you carried a new code-generating dongle around so that you can log into their online banking. But, of course, it was only a matter of time before that changed.

A couple of weeks ago I got a message from them telling me that Secure Key was on its way. And yesterday when I logged on to my account I was prompted to choose the flavour of secure key that I wanted to use. To be fair to them they have chosen a particularly non-intrusive implementation. Each customer gets three options:

  1. The traditional small dongle to carry around with you
  2. An extension to their smartphone app
  3. No secure key at all

If you choose the final option then you only get restricted (basically read-only) access to your account through their web site. And if you choose one of the first two options, you can always log on without  the secure key and get the same restricted access.

I chose the smartphone option. I already use their Android app and I pretty much always have my phone with me.

Usually when you log on to First Direct’s online banking you’re asked for three random characters from your password. Under the new system, that changes. I now need to log on to my smartphone app and that will give me a code to input into the web site. But to get into the smartphone app, I don’t use the old three character login. No, I needed to set up a new Digital Secure Password – which I can use for all of my interactions in this brave new world.

And that’s where I think First Direct have slipped up a bit.

When they asked my for my new password, they told me that it needed to be between 6 and 10 characters long.

Those of you with any knowledge of computer security will understand why that worries me. For those who don’t, here’s a brief explanation.

Somewhere in First Direct’s systems is a database that stores details of their customers. There will be a table containing users which has a row of data for each person who logs in to the service. That row will contain information like the users name, login name, email address and (crucially) password. So when someone tries to log in the system find the right row of data (based on the login name) and compares the password in that row with the password that has been entered on the login screen. If the two match then the person is let into the system.

Whenever you have a database table, you have to worry about what would happen if someone managed to get hold of the contents of that table. Clearly it would be a disaster if someone got hold of this table of user data – as they would then have access to the usernames and passwords of all of the bank’s users.

So, to prevent this being a problem, most rational database administrators will encrypt any passwords stored in database tables. And they will encrypt them in such a way that it is impossible (ok, that’s overstating the case a bit – but certainly really really difficult) to decrypt the data to get the passwords back. They will probably use something called a “one-way hash” to do this (if you’re wondering how you check a password when it’s encrypted like this then I explain that here).

And these one-way hashes have an interesting property. No matter how long the input string is, the hashed value you get out at the other end is the same length. For example, if you’re using a hashing algorithm called MD5, every hash you get out will be thirty-two characters long.

Therefore, if you’re using a hashing algorithm to protect your users’ passwords, it doesn’t matter how long the password is. Because the hashed version will always be the same length. You should therefore encourage your users to make their passwords as long as they want. You shouldn’t be imposing artificial length restrictions on them.

And that’s why people who know about computer security will have all shared my concerns when I said that First Direct imposed a length restriction on these new passwords. The most common reason for a maximum length on a password is that the company is storing passwords as plain text in the database. With all the attendant problems that will cause if someone gets hold of the data.

I’m not saying for sure that First Direct are doing that. I’m just saying that it’s a possibility and one that is very worrying. If that’s not the case I’d like to know what other reason they have for limiting the password’s length like this.

I’ve send them a message asking for clarification. I’ll update this post with any response that I get.

Update (17 July): I got a reply from First Direct. This is what they said.

Thank you for your message dated 16-Jul-2014 regarding the security of your password for your Digital Secure Key.

Ensuring the security of our systems is, and will continue to be, our number one priority.

All the details that are sent to and from the system are encrypted using high encryption levels. As long as you keep your password secret, we can assure you that the system is secure. As you will appreciate, we cannot provide further details about the security measures used by Internet Banking, as we must protect the integrity of the system.

Our customers also have a responsibility to ensure that they protect their computers by following our common-sense recommendations.  Further information can be found by selecting ‘security’ from the bottom menu on our website, www.firstdirect.com

Please let us know if you have any further questions, and we’ll be happy to discuss.

Which isn’t very helpful and doesn’t address my question. I’ve tried explaining it to them again.

The post First Direct Passwords appeared first on Davblog.

How to join a new church

I hate this time of year. People leave. They leave London more than they leave our church. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’ve thought long and hard about the advice to give people who say that they’re moving on. ‘Don’t’ is always my first offering. Has been for years. After all, to grow a church in a London suburb like Balham you’ve got to stem the flow. ‘Why would you want to be part of ‘not London’ in the Venn diagram of life?’ is my next offering. And I’ve tried a similar vein of questioning in a number of different ways. But that hasn’t seemed to have worked either. It has, however, led to a number of people delaying their departure. Though on second thoughts that may have had something to do with the housing market and their failure to get a job. Still, it felt like a win.

But now having had to accept the inevitability of people eventually leaving I have, with some reluctance, turned my mind to the advice I give them about joining another church. Here’s some of the ground I cover.

Pick a good one. Not all churches are worth being a part of. There are bad churches. So check them out beforehand. Don’t move to an area where you get off street parking but there’s no one preaching the gospel. Why would we want to look after your car more than your soul? Find out about them from their website, from conversations with your current leaders, listen to a handful of the sermons they put online and perhaps go and have a recce before you move. Good churches teach and apply the Bible, all of it and not just the bits they like. They encourage every church member to use their gifts for the benefit of others in the church family. And they prioritise explaining the great news of the gospel to people who otherwise wouldn’t hear it. Find a church that ticks those kinds of boxes.

Pitch up frequently not just regularly. I reckon it takes about two years to feel as much a part of a new church as you did of the old one. That’s just a ‘finger in the air’ type of judgement. But the point is that it’s going to take longer if you’re not pitching up and actually spending time with your new church family. You can mope around for ages saying your new church isn’t’ like your old one. And you’re right. It’s not. But you left your old one. Get over it. God has now placed you in a new church with a whole new bunch of people to do the Christian life with. So do it. Learn to love this new collection of odd balls, misfits and sinners that God calls His family.

Pray for your leaders. There are a new set of guys running church life for you now. It’s not the blokes you knew at Balham. You knew that they loved you and had listened to you. And even when their decisions weren’t the ones that you would have made you trusted them and you backed them. But you don’t know the new elders. And they don’t really know you. But God has put them in spiritual authority over you. They have responsibility for your growth and development in the Christian faith. And God will require them to give an account for how well they’ve done that. Can you imagine what an awesome responsibility that is? Much of the time, trying to run church is like trying to herd cats. Pray for your new leaders. The odds are you’ve just made their job harder. You’re a ‘London type. You have views. Opinions. And those types of things can upset the apple cart of congregational unity. They need your prayers. And everything else tends to flow from that.

Participate in church life. Don’t keep everything at arms’ length until you’re more comfortable with what’s going on and have worked out how things operate. I know it sounds wise to look before you leap. But don’t spectate. That’s not good for anyone. Being a spectator often leads to you becoming a critic. Churches tend not to need critics on the inside. They’ve got enough on the outside. Churches need participants. They need people who’ll roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. So throw yourself into stuff.


The Lord’s Supper

Valley-of-VisionLast night at our monthly prayer meeting we shared the Lord’s Supper. That’s usual. We normally do that. But what we don’t normally do is share it as though we were seventeenth century believers. We like to think of ourselves as contemporary rather than traditional or conservative Christians! Hey, our evening meeting gathers in a pub. How cutting edge is that! But, I’d been struck by a prayer in the Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions produced by the  Banner of Truth and felt that we’d benefit from the godly reflection of our forebears in the faith.

I think it worked. It would probably have been better if I’d thought about including it before we’d printed the sheets. That way people could have read it as well as heard it. And we could then have meditated on it fruitfully as we prepared our hearts to share the Lord’s Supper.

So here it is in full.

Prayer for the Lord’s Supper

God of all good,
I bless thee for the means of grace;
teach me to see in them thy loving purposes
and the joy and strength of my soul.

Thou hast prepared for me a feast;
and though I am unworthy to sit down as guest,
I wholly rest on the merits of Jesus,
and hide myself beneath his righteousness;
When I hear his tender invitation
and see his wondrous grace,
I cannot hesitate, but must come to thee in love.

By thy spirit enliven my faith rightly to discern
and spiritually to apprehend the Saviour.
While I gaze upon the emblems of my Saviour’s death,
may I ponder why he died, and hear him say,
‘I gave my life to purchase yours,
presented myself an offering to expiate your sin,
shed my blood to blot out your guilt,
opened my side to make you clean,
endured your curses to set you free,
bore your condemnation to satisfy divine justice.’

Oh may I rightly grasp the breadth and length of this design,
draw near, obey, extend the hand,
take the bread, receive the cup,
eat and drink, testify before all men
that I do for myself, gladly, in faith,
reverence and love, receive my Lord,
to be my life, strength, nourishment, joy, delight.

In the supper I remember his eternal love,
boundless grace, infinite compassion,
agony, cross, redemption,
and receive assurance of pardon, adoption, life, glory.
As the outward elements nourish my body,
so may thy indwelling Spirit invigorate my soul,
until that day when I hunger and thirst no more,
and sit with Jesus at his heavenly feast.


BLoC – The Brixton Update

Kevin Ahronson Photography -218How’s Brixton going? It’s a great question and I get it from people who are genuinely interested in what Jay, Felix and the team are doing in the capital of black Britain. Jay’s too busy being a model husband, father, student and pastor to have time to keep us up to speed of all the exciting developments. And so, given that others’ expectation of my performance in those areas is much lower, I decided I’d do it for him.

The Brixton Plant has recently decided on its’ own name – BLoC – Brixton Local Church. I caught up with Jay to ask him how things were progressing on the block. Who says I’m not totally at ease with street culture!

This is an interview that I did recently for the Co-Mission Gospel Patrons’ Newsletter about his involvement in the Proclamation Trust’s Cornhill Training Course.

Me: Jay what’s been happening in Brixton since the last Patrons’ Newsletter?

Jay Marriner: God’s being very kind to us.  It’s certainly tough and at times it can be discouraging.  However, thankfully God’s still passionately into the business of changing lives, which means He’s grown our work.  It’s great news and good to be a part of. The Bible study on a Monday night is still going well.  There are around eleven us who meet faithfully.  It’s only a small flat and we cram into it.  But it’s worth it because Jesus rocks up every week.  We’re coming to the end of Ephesians.  It’s been a perfect book for us as a group. People are really growing in the gospel.  It’s been good to see God’s grace lead people to make significant changes in their lives. We started a second group but sadly it didn’t take off.  It became clear that there was a need for more 1-2-1, relational Bible reading first before we formed another group. However, thankfully that’s a possibility that’s just on the horizon.  God’s also been gracious in allowing us to work with a number of black boys in Brixton.  We’ve put a mentoring project into a local secondary School. We’re hoping that this will enable me to work with a number of families in Brixton. Alongside that I’m meeting people to read the Bible 1-2-1 and still making contacts.  It’s great that God is growing His work.

Me: So what exactly is Cornhill and why are you doing it?

JM: Cornhill is a training course with the primary aim of training preachers.  It’s great! And I mean that!  I’m doing it because it’s helping me to get a better handle on the Bible.   I’m learning about Bible books, theology, doctrine, ethics and we have some great guest speakers.  I’m learning lots. I’m doing it because I want to be equipped for ministry in Brixton and I’m confident that Cornhill can help me to do that.

Me: And why is what you’re learning at Cornhill so important for what you’re trying to do (God-willing) in Brixton?

JM: Cornhill is important because it’s all about the proclamation of God’s word so that sinners might be saved from hell. It equips you to do that. Especially in planting into Brixton because a central part of our gospel strategy is small group work.  That means 1-2-1 reading and Bible studies. Cornhill is great in helping me better understand the Bible. Also it’s helping me to be a better preacher. The preaching groups provide a place to train and provide insightful feedback.  This, combined with all the other things that you learn at Cornhill, makes it so helpful in planting.

Me: So is your training helping you as you seek to plant a church in Brixton?

JM: My training is really helping me as a plant into Brixton because I’ve got a better grasp of God’s word. And, as a result of a year’s training, I’m better at handling God’s word. It’s been great to open up the Bible with confidence. It’s also been good to apply doctrine, Christian counselling, a theology of prayer and so on to Church planting into Brixton.  I have to say that Cornhill has been a massive help in planting into an urban area like Brixton.  And I’m not sure that I’d have recognised that beforehand.

Me: You wouldn’t strike most people as a typical Cornhill-er. Is that true? Or fair?

JM: Nope, I’m not a typical Cornhillite. But it’s good. It’s good to train with people who are not like me.  It stretches me!  Cornhill comes completely from a different cultural world than me.  But that’s ok. Given what you learn it’s worth it! And, to be honest, there are some great people on the course. You’re right, I’m not the typical Cornhillite but I certainly feel at home. I must say that I’m aware that none of this would be possible without the kind support of Co-Mission and the Gospel Patrons.  They’re great and God is using them to grow a work.  Their financial support has enabled plant into Brixton but also my training. As a family, we’re really grateful for that. We praise God for the Patrons.

Jay is coming to the end of his first year on Cornhill. And I think it would be fair to say that not only has Cornhill improved Jay but he’d have you believe that it’s true vice versa! He, Julie and the kids are trying to move into the Brixton area and Affordable Christian Housing together with Co-Mission Gospel Patrons are working together to answer our prayers. It’s been a good year and we’re so grateful to God for the progress we’ve seen.


Sky Broadband Update

It’s probably time for an update on my Sky Broadband situation.

I last wrote about Sky on 16th April. That was the date of their second failed attempt to connect me to their broadband. It was the date that I decided to cancel my order and go elsewhere.

First the good news. I was considering alternative providers. I called Virgin Media and they told me that I could have a 50 Mb fibre connection for an extra £2 a month over what I already paid them for my TV and phone package. And, as a bonus, they could do it within a week – still five days earlier than Sky had scheduled their third attempt at connecting me. I ordered it, they came round on the promised day and everything works fine. Very happy with them.

This then left me trying to cancel my Sky order. This was slightly complicated by the fact that Sky had successfully connected my phone line[1] and also the fact that this phone line is used for monitoring my ADT burglar alarm. I didn’t want to cancel the phone line until ADT had moved the alarm monitoring to the Virgin Media line. I explained all this to Sky and  they seemed to understand.

A chap called Andy in Sky’s customer service took it upon himself to take on the project. He took to phoning me weekly to ask me what was going on with ADT. To be honest, I got a bit lazy and it took me a while to get in touch with them.

Then my hand was forced. In the middle of May, some error lights on the burglar alarm started flashing. I called ADT to see what the problem was and they told me that it looked like the phone line was dead. I plugged a phone into the line and was able to confirm this. The phone line had been disconnected – despite my explicit instructions about not doing that until I asked for it.

I was a bit stuck. Calling Sky’s customer support from a non-Sky phone line is very expensive. And the only Sky line I had was dead. I tried their online chat facility, but the people you get on that are absolutely useless. Luckily Andy was due to call me for a progress update the following day, so I decided to wait for that.

When Andy called, I asked why they have disconnected the phone. He said that they hadn’t. He ran a few line checks and discovered a fault on the line. He offered to send an engineer to fix it. I told him not to bother and to go ahead with the cancellation. He told me that there was some problem with their systems that prevented him cancelling the contract right away but that he had reported the bug and would let me know when it was fixed.

Time passed.

Earlier this week, I wondered idly what was going on so I sent them an email asking for a progress report. A woman called and told me that my records said that someone (Andy, I assume) had been checking into my account daily and leaving notes explaining why he still couldn’t close the account.

The following day, I got a call from Andy (I’m sure it was pure coincidence that this was the day after I had chased them). He told me that the bug had been fixed and asked me to confirm that I still wanted to cancel the account. I told him that I did and he started the process. He warned me that I wold receive a few automated emails.

Within half an hour I got the first email, telling me that my services would be cancelled on Thursday 6th June. Hooray. But that wasn’t the end of the story.

The following day, I got another (presumably automatic email) offering me twelve months of free line rental if I changed my mind. Then I got the same message by text. And today I’ve got a missed call from a number which Google tells me is Sky’s customer retention department. They certainly seem keen to keep me. It’s a shame they didn’t put so much effort in back in April when they might have been able to salvage something from the disaster.

Oh, and I’ve received a bill. They want to charge me a month’s line rental for the phone line. A phone line that only ever really existed to serve a broadband connection that they weren’t able to provide. A phone line that I’ve used to make one call – the call to Sky customer services on 16th April when I first told them to cancel my order.

I’ve cancelled the old Be Broadband direct debit that they were planning to use to take the money. I’m amazed that they wouldn’t just waive those charges.

So, two months on I’m still (to some extent) a Sky customer. But the end is (hopefully) in sight.

Oh, and throughout all of this, the  @SkyHelpTeam Twitter account has been a source of much amusement. They reply to every mention, but haven’t got a clue what is going on. They use a social media customer tracker called Lithium. But they must have it configured wrong because each conversation starts with them knowing no history of this problem at all. And, having watched the product video, that’s exactly what Lithium is for.

Throughout this hold affair all of Sky customer service people (with about two exceptions) have shown themselves to be rubbish at their job.

[1] You’ll have noticed, no doubt, that we had to phone lines. The home phone (along with our TV) has been provided by Virgin Media for years. I also had another phone line for the broadband. I had this on a separate contract because it had been paid for through the limited company that I use for contracting.

The post Sky Broadband Update appeared first on Davblog.

Driving

Today I said to my daughter that I was instituting a 100% patience policy when on the roads. From now on, people can do absolutely anything - cut me up, undertake me, beep me for slowing down to avoid a cyclist, refuse to give way even when they don't have right of way, go through red lights, stop their car in the middle of the street for 5 minutes so they can chat to their friend, stop on a double red light during rush hour while they pop into a shop and think that they make it OK by putting on their hazard lights, beat the queue by going in the filter lane and then barge in at the top - and not one snarky word will pass my lips.

She snorted in a manner that I can only describe as derisive. And added, "I give you one week tops."