@subvertedkapers: RT @lumihd: I'm supporting the amazing musicofayala at Unsigned Live in Balham this Sunday. I hope to see you… https://t.co/acbiBPEMhj

@lumihd: I'm supporting the amazing musicofayala at Unsigned Live in Balham this Sunday. I hope to see you… https://t.co/acbiBPEMhj

@david_a_walker: Summary of todays @TimeOutLondon Great Bits of London #Balham guide: great coffee @Camdencoffee @TheFrenchCafe1 @m1lkcoffee; lots of boozers

@balhamsw12com: RT @LondonFire: A woman escaped a fire started by a discarded cig in #Balham. Be sure to stub your's right out:http://t.co/BmYxJBrgbY http:…

@PetalsofBalham: @MPSBatterseaSgt morning anyone near #balham yet more begging !

Cigarette fire badly damages Balham flat - Your Local Guardian

Your Local Guardian

Cigarette fire badly damages Balham flat
Your Local Guardian
A woman had to be led to safety after a fire thought to be caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette. The fire happened in Byrne Road, Balham, on Saturday morning and badly damaged the ground floor flat. The occupant was helped to safety by her ...

and more »

Woof Dog walking services Www.harrisons-dogs.co.uk #balham #clapham #dogwalking #dogwalkers

Harrisons Dogs posted a photo:

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Woof Dog walking services Www.harrisons-dogs.co.uk #balham #clapham #dogwalking #dogwalkers

Harrisons Dogs posted a photo:

Woof  Dog walking services Www.harrisons-dogs.co.uk #balham #clapham #dogwalking #dogwalkers

Woof Dog walking services Www.harrisons-dogs.co.uk #balham #clapham #dogwalking #dogwalkers

Harrisons Dogs posted a photo:

Woof  Dog walking services Www.harrisons-dogs.co.uk #balham #clapham #dogwalking #dogwalkers

Woof Dog walking services Www.harrisons-dogs.co.uk #balham #clapham #dogwalking #dogwalkers

Harrisons Dogs posted a photo:

Woof  Dog walking services Www.harrisons-dogs.co.uk #balham #clapham #dogwalking #dogwalkers

Woof Dog walking services Www.harrisons-dogs.co.uk #balham #clapham #dogwalking #dogwalkers

Harrisons Dogs posted a photo:

Woof  Dog walking services Www.harrisons-dogs.co.uk #balham #clapham #dogwalking #dogwalkers

Tipsy Clapham Junction, Putney and Balham clubbers breathalysed before ... - Your Local Guardian

Your Local Guardian

Tipsy Clapham Junction, Putney and Balham clubbers breathalysed before ...
Your Local Guardian
Ten of the bright yellow machines are being operated by bouncers in Putney, Balham and Clapham Junction. Friday was the first night of the pilot scheme in Wandsworth and police reported there were no notable violent crimes linked to drinking in the ...

and more »

Tipsy Putney, Clapham Junction and Balham clubbers breathalysed before ... - Wandsworth Guardian

Wandsworth Guardian

Tipsy Putney, Clapham Junction and Balham clubbers breathalysed before ...
Wandsworth Guardian
Ten of the bright yellow machines are being operated by bouncers in Putney, Balham and Clapham Junction. Friday was the first night of the pilot scheme in Wandsworth and police reported there were no notable violent crimes linked to drinking in the ...

and more »

The Value of the Weekend Away

sportWeekends away are a hassle. Usually. Aren’t they?

It’s actually harder than you might think to get out of London. I used to be hugely frustrated with all my London friends when I lived outside the M25. Time and again it proved nigh on impossible to get them out of the big smoke. They all became so irritatingly London-centric. But now I understand. It’s so easy to find yourself inextricably drawn into that default position. And when you think about it, it has a certain logic. After all, who really relishes the thought of being stuck on one of the major arterial roads out of town late on a Friday night? The last thing we want to do after a busy week at work is sit in traffic. I want to sit on a sofa. And not so much sit as slouch. And I want to wake up late on a Saturday morning snuggled in my duvet until such time as I can be bothered to drag my lazy backside down to the newsagent to buy the paper and to the kitchen to brew some coffee. But that ship has sailed. I live a different life now! Now I’m more likely to be found on the touchline berating my boys for ignoring a two man overlap or listening to my daughter tap out the notes to Taylor Swift at a piano recital. I certainly don’t want to wake up in a dorm with a bunch load of strangers and have to queue for the shower.  So why do it? Why have weekends away? Why are they an integral part of the ministry programme at CCB? Because they really are.

One word. Depth. That’s what we gain by going away. Depth. We get to go deep. We get to go deep with God’s word. And we get to go deep with God’s people. Going away is a crucial way to stop being superficial and shallow. And by staying in London, busied by all its wonderful distractions, it’s hard to prevent that becoming the norm. The key thing a weekend can offer us is time. There’s lots of it. And it can be given over to the things that ultimately matter. God’s word and God’s people. On a weekend away we can think deeply about a subject. The cumulative benefit of consecutive talks or studies on a subject is invaluable. We can engage with it. Chew it over. Talk it through. And pray about it. And then we can just hang out with God’s people. We don’t have to rush off anywhere. Even washing up or drying up together provides an opportunity to chat at length with someone and find out about their life, their work and their faith. For much of our time in London we’re meant to be somewhere else. We have our next appointment in mind. Someone else is expecting us to do something or be somewhere. But on a weekend away we try to free people up from all that so that they can linger.

We’ve got a few weekends in the programme at CCB. There’s the Knowing God weekend for our Evening Church crowd of young workers, Morning Church Men’s Weekend Away and Morning Church Women’s Weekend. The Evening Church gender specific weekends are in the summer. And we’re planning our inaugural whole Church Weekend away in September. Weekends away have become memorable times over the years. It’s not easy to forget one elder’s astonishment at one young men’s enthuiastic and realistic rendition of Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’. There was the year that on the return home we skidded in the snow and got the car stuck in the ditch. But I also remember thinking about the nature, effect and defeat of indwelling sin, our responsibility as parents and cultivating our affection for Christ. And those are probably more valuable.

Chicken Shop opening fifth London site - BigHospitality.co.uk


Chicken Shop opening fifth London site
“Chicken Shop already has a loyal following in South West London from its Tooting restaurant, and so Balham was an ideal next step. The area is home to many cool young professional families, with a great mix of affluence and 'hip' that the Soho House ...

House prices soar 21 per cent in Balham, 'London's new leading property hotspot' - Evening Standard

Evening Standard

House prices soar 21 per cent in Balham, 'London's new leading property hotspot'
Evening Standard
“However, everyday demand for more affordable homes has catapulted Balham and other outer prime corners of the capital on to the map. Londoners are increasingly willing to compromise on a central location in return for more living space and manageable ...
Balham becomes London's new property hotspot as prices jumpITV News
Balham is London's 2014 hotspotMortgage Introducer
London house prices rose by 260 a day in 201424dash

all 11 news articles »

Staff Training

PoliticsYesterday evening Radio 4 reported that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have called for an end to income inequality. That was the headline at least. I’d imagine there’s more to say than that. But the intervention of these Senior Anglican clerics into the world of Government and has apparently irked some politicians. Can they reasonably expect Christians not to have something to contribute to wider debates about policy decisions?! Though they may wish it so, the Bible simply cannot be kept out of the public square. But, the ensuing debate on the radio served to highlight how ill-equipped I felt to be able to contribute very much to the discussion.

And so, last Monday afternoon’s staff training day on Government and Politics was well timed. At the start of the church year we’d taken the decision to introduce termly staff training. Of course, as part of a network of churches like Co-Mission, we’re big on training. There’s Co-Mission staff training as well as the weekly Apprentices’ Workshop and so on. It’s a pretty training-tastic environment to be in. But we wanted to do something just for those us at CCB, equipping us for our particular context.

And so this term we decided to ‘do’ Government and Politics. We’ve got an election coming up in this country in May. And we wanted to be prepared for it. And we wanted to be able to prepare the congregation for it as well. And so I asked a few trusted friends for advice, surfed the interweb and put together a realistic package to accommodate the diversity of our staff team.

We listened to a talk on the Gospel Coalition website on Romans 13 by Richard Coekin. We wanted to begin with biblical exposition. It’s not everything you’d want to say on how Christians are meant to relate to government, but it’s not far off. For anyone familiar with Richard’s preaching, the opening ‘stab points’ are pure gold as he sets the discussion in the wider biblical context. It’s certainly a great place to start thinking about these issues.

We read an article from The Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics by Jonathan Chaplin. It’s entitled ‘How shoukld Christians vote in 2010?’ It stimulated helpful discussion about the nature and significance of voting, especially in a context where no one party adopts a biblical position on all the issues.

We watched a DVD recorded talk by Wayne Grudem, available from the Christian Institute, on Christian influence on Government. It’s long. Just over an hour. But it’s good. It’s essentially the first few chapters of his book ‘Politics’ condensed. The talk is entitled ‘Does ‘political’ involvement distract from the gospel?’ As we discovered that’s somewhat miselading. It’s only a part of the talk. Nevertheless, the talk is well worth listening to.

As a result of the afternoon, I don’t think we’re sorted on the issues. But we are at least engaged with them. And we’re probably clearer on what questions we’d like to find biblical answers to. And so we’re not done. It’s encouraged us to read some more and to think some more. And we’ll have some ‘Thinking about an Issue’ slots for evening church that will force us to do both!

My Sunday Highlight – the Kids’ Slot

2015-01-12 10.17.11There can’t be many churches that choose Athanasius’ theological conflict with Arius as the subject of their kids’ slot. More fool them.

Of course, it depends on how you do it. But if you do it like Hannah did it on Sunday, you’ll be fine. She was clear. She was simple. She was faithful. And she brought the fun. All of which you need for a successful kids’ slot at CCB.

The opportunity to present our forthcoming series as theological battles sent her running to Sports Direct for a large pair of boxing gloves. She tells me she’s got the rest of the series planned out. And I believe her. Who’d have though that the idea for our series ‘Truth Worth Fighting For’ would emerge from the Christmas holiday reading habits of our children’s’ worker.

2015-01-12 10.16.55The substance of Hannah’s slot was that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Not everyone at the time believed that. But he did. Because he read his Bible. Unlike Arius. Who didn’t. As a result of his biblical faith he was kicked out of his home five times. But because he knew it mattered he kept on believing and teaching the same thing. My favourite line went something like ‘you may be the only person in your school playground who believes that Jesus is fully God and fully man’. That got number two son’s attention. He visibly sat up and listened more intently than usual. He’s convinced that no one else at school shares his view of Jesus. It’s a big school. And the Lord has others there. But he’s not met them yet. Discovering that there are truths worth fighting for is just what he needs to be convinced of. And he was. He was persuaded that Jesus’ divinity means that we can know what God is like and that Jesus’ humanity means that we can actually know God Himself. Hannah didn’t put it quite like that. But that was what she meant. It was terrific. I was as proud as punch that we’re willing to be bold in what we teach our kids.

We’ve got Dr Garry Williams from the John Owen Centre at the London Theological Seminary at the Co-Mission Workshop this Wednesday. He’s lecturing on Christology. I imagine he’ll go a bit deeper than ‘fully God and fully man’. But he won’t go further than that. And neither now will CCB’s kids!

Recovering Resolutions

2011-year-resolution-400x400I want to talk about resolutions.

This is the time of year when we typically make all sorts of decisions to change something in our lives. And in many ways, that’s fine. Resolutions can be good things. I’m all for change. I’m not characteristically conservative. I get bored of the same old, same old. But there’s more to say about resolutions than that.

The Bible, of course, allows us a lot of leeway on resolutions. We’re free to make them. And we’re free not to make them. There’s no obligation either way. On the whole though I think resolutions are a good thing. After all, Jonathan Edwards the great American Puritan Theologian made an absolute shed load of them. And it’s a brave man that wants to prove him wrong. And more importantly, the Apostle Paul wasn’t averse to making his own resolutions. In 1 Corinthians 2 he reminds his readers of his evangelistic strategy whilst he was among them. He wrote, ‘For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’. At some point then it seems reasonable to assume that Paul made a resolution to prioritise the message of the cross in his gospel ministry. As Christina Fox in her Gospel Coalition blog post from a few days back said,

‘it’s a good thing to set goals and work toward them. We ought to be purposeful, intentional, and determined in the way we live. We don’t want to waste a second of the brief time God grants us on this earth’.

So, on the whole I’m positive about resolutions. But. And there was always going to be a ‘but’. I have with resolutions. That has to do what we resolve to change, when we resolve to change, how we resolve to change and ultimately why we resolve to change. Let’s examine each of those in turn.

What we resolve to change is so often little more than vacuous triviality. I’m overstating it, of course. But the value of our resolutions are often marred by their superficiality. They’re lightweight. Deciding to give up chocolate is not entirely unimportant I’ll happily concede. Especially if weight is an issue. But really? Is that the single most significant thing about our life that needs attention? So let’s go for the big things. The substantial things. The things that we really do need to address if we’re going to make any progress in personal godliness. I’m talking about our personal private habits that no one ever sees. The good stuff that we pretend happens but doesn’t. And the bad stuff that we pretend doesn’t happen but does. Let’s deal with those things.

When we resolve to change irritates me as well. We do it annually. Around and about January 1st. I appreciate the stimulus to change that a New Year presents. But I don’t have annual issues. I have daily issues. My life doesn’t need a once a year check-up like an MOT. It needs ongoing monitoring. I’m guessing you’re the same. So let’s go for continual progress not annual readjustment. Apparently Jonathan Edwards used his 70 resolutions as an ongoing benchmark by which to calibrate his Christian life. Now, it’s possible to be overly introspective. Too much self-examination creates paralysis. But deciding on what we want to be the main things in our lives and then keeping the main things main will at least keep us focussed not merely on the minutiae but the significant things of the Christian life. And we can review our progress as often as we need to. We don’t have to wait till the start of the year.

How we propose to change is revealing also. I tend to think of change as an independent project shaped by the exercise of my will. I decide to do something different and change will come. But I’ve lost count the number of times that I’ve resolved to cultivate a good habit or try to eradicate a damaging one. It would appear that I am unable, by myself, to defeat the slavery to my sinful flesh that holds me in its captivity. I need a redeemer. No amount of resolve, no matter how good my intentions will actually accomplish anything. We need to pray. Any change in our lives is ultimately God’s work. I’m sure that we know this. We readily acknowledge that God effects transformation in our lives by employing means. But one of the principle means by which He effects change is prayer. And so, any resolution to change without the accompanying habit of prayer is likely to whither on the vine. It’s dead in the water. Jonathan Edwards knew this to be true and wrote,

‘Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake’.

Well said young man (as he was when he said it). Albeit in a somewhat inaccessible seventeenth century vernacular.

Why we want to change shows what the bottom line is. Usually I want to change something about myself that I don’t like. I’m too chubby round the middle. I’m staying up too late catching up on old episodes of the West Wing. I need to stop being ratty with the kids and actually spend some time with them. None of those is necessarily bad. But what have any of them got to do with the glory of God? As the Westminster Shorter Catechism so helpfully reminds us, our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Our motivation is one of the key things that will sustain our resolve. Why we’re doing what we’re doing. So let’s make sure that it’s not just my enjoyment of my life but instead my pursuit of God’s glory that underpins our resolutions.

I’d like to resolve to be different this year. But I’d like to do more than that. I’d like to change. And I suspect you would to. Because we know we’re not the finished article. We’re a work in progress. And when we’re honest there’s a whole heap of progress to be made. So let’s take these things to heart. And maybe, just perhaps, make some resolutions.

Convenience Church

richmond parkI went for a ride a few Sunday mornings ago. That’s unusual. Not the ride; ever since I was forced to stop playing rugby, cycling has become my exercise of choice. But riding on Sunday was out of the ordinary because I’m normally in church. Fair enough, it’s my job and it’s unavoidable. But I’d still be there even if I wasn’t the Senior Minister because I’m a Christian and gathering with your church family comes with the territory. But this just means that I’m not usually out and about on a Sunday morning. But that Sunday was different. We’d postponed our usual 10.30am meeting until 4pm so that we could enjoy our family carols in the dark. The candles work better when the light has something to disperse.

And so I went out riding. I headed off to Richmond Park and span round like a deranged hamster on speed. But on the way there, on the way round and on the way back I was overwhelmed at the numbers of people going about a very different Sunday morning to my usual fayre. I’m willing to admit that their usual morning church may also been postponed to take advantage of the ambience of a candlelit nativity. But I don’t buy that. I’m simply going to assume that for the vast majority of people who I saw, church simply isn’t on their radar. At Christmas. Or at any other time of the year. And I don’t blame them. Not entirely. Don’t get me wrong, I think they ought to be in church. But I understand that they’ve made the decision not to be. I think they’re wrong. But I get that they don’t want to be there. Presumably they’re non-Christians and so it goes with the territory! And so on this particular Sunday morning I passed families on bikes, kids playing rugby or football for their team and the park was heaving with people going for a walk.

So here’s the question that nagged me all the way home: How do we reach them if we’re asking them to give all that up and join us on a Sunday morning?

We could say (and people have said this to me) that non-Christians need to realise what’s really important and then they’ll come to church. And I agree. But it’s not as simple as that. It’s true that what we do expresses what we value. So if I take my kids to rugby on a Sunday morning instead of taking them to church it’s because I think that their skills with the oval ball is more important than knowing the God who made them for Himself. When it’s an ‘either-or’ decision, that’s called idolatry. [For the record, I think it’s a ‘both-and’ decision. In other words, I think you can be a Christian rugby player! But the Christian bit of that description means that when you have to choose, rugby loses out.] Therefore not being in church is what you’d expect from non-Christians, isn’t it?

And so, if we’re asking non-Christian people to join us at church (when they have lots of other exciting things that they could be doing) that’s going to be difficult. It’s virtually impossible. Without a change of heart. And that’s called conversion. That occurs through the work of the Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel. The same wonderful gospel they may not hear and understand if they don’t go to church! That’s the conundrum in a nutshell. It prompts the question, is our current evangelistic strategy flawed? Aren’t we asking non-Christians to make a choice that even Christians find difficult. We’re asking them to give up the things they value on a Sunday morning without having had the opportunity to be persuaded that there’s nothing that we could ever give up that would make gaining Christ look like a bad deal. Aren’t we simply saying that church is for Christians? It is. But not exclusively so. After all, the Apostle Paul expected the presence of unbelievers in the church gathering 1 Corinthians 14. So why do we do church on a Sunday morning? Is it sensible? I’m not the first to ask this. And I won’t be the last. And it’s not a straightforward question. But it’s got to be worth visiting, hasn’t it?

We thought long and hard about it as a church family a few years’ back. It wasn’t an easy time. In the end, we decided not to move our family congregation to 4pm. We did so not because of the strength of the arguments against it. But because of the strength of feeling against it. Weak leadership? Perhaps. But It didn’t seem wise at the time to oppose the consensus on what’s a matter of judgment. And I still think that was the right call. But what was so disheartening about that discussion was just how few of some very fine Christian people were able to see how church can be an integrated part of our evangelistic strategy. For sure, bringing people to church isn’t our only evangelistic strategy. It doesn’t and shouldn’t replace inviting people into our homes and our lives so that we can talk about the gospel. But that missional strategy, though much to be encouraged, is not the only string to our bow.

It may seem harsh but the responses we received to our proposal could have been interpreted to mean that people were more concerned about the inconvenience of the change of time than they were about the conversion of unbelievers. If church has any part in our evangelistic passion to reach the unbelievers among whom we live then when we do church has to be a matter for debate. And, in fact, it already has been. Most urban evangelical churches do evening church for their 20s. Why is that? Because we’ve worked out that this is the best time to get the 20s along. We’ve conceded that getting them out of bed before midday on a Sunday is ambitious! I’m not being critical. I’m simply pointing out that we’re already willing to make concessions in order to reach people. So why not do the same for families? It may be that there simply isn’t a time that works for everyone, not even every family. And it may be that 10am not 4pm is the best time. But it’s worth pondering, isn’t it?

Do I think therefore that we all ought to close our morning meetings and instead find a more convenient time to reach unbelievers? No. I’m not really sure what to propose, which is frustrating. But the memory of the vast numbers of people out and about on that Sunday morning will stay with me for a long time. And the numbers of kids at rugby was simply astonishing.

Rugby church, anyone?

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.


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."

Mouse and university

The Mac is doing that thing where it randomly disables the left click button on the mouse. Then in order to fix it, you have to somehow manoeuvre yourself to mouse settings, using only whatever options are available to you by right-clicking, switch the left/right settings on the mouse, which reactivates the left-click button (but only with right-click functions), and then go back and switch the left/right settings again, back to the normal settings. Can I just say that this never happens on my crappy old Asus netbook that everybody scoffs at because it takes 10 minutes to wake up in the morning.

Well, I 'm back after a titanic struggle involving two different mice and hopeless attempts to execute functions on the Mac using only the keyboard. Why on earth do they make this so difficult? There should always be something that enables you to do most of what you want, using the keyboard alone. If the mouse functions aren't working, how on earth are you supposed to rectify it when the only way you can switch the mouse buttons is by using the mouse? Gah!

Reading that thing in the Guardian all about how Kirstie Allsop is right out of line for daring to suggest that maybe girls should have babies first and then go to university. I can kind of see what she means. I actually think that everyone, male and female, should leave school after A levels and work for five years before they go the university. Apart from people who already have a very clear idea of their vocation and need to train for years to do it, like doctors. For everyone else, if they'd already worked for five years, they would really appreciate university when they get there and have a lot better idea of what they want to do for a living, having been obliged to live in the world for a bit, rather than spending all their time at uni boozing and acting like arseholes. Mind you, tuition fees are probably changing that scenario.

But setting that aside, the problem with Allsop's suggestion is that if girls effectively don't finish uni till they are 30, because they have been off having babies, they are going to be competing with fresh young male graduates and even though an experienced worldly wise young mum is actually going to be more useful and mature than some callow male doofus, our society is set up so that the callow male doofus is the one who will get the job. For Allsop's suggestion to work, society will need to be remodelled so that women who have the baby first and then join the work force and focus on their careers are not disadvantaged relative to the chaps. Maybe that's not easy, but it's a heckuva lot easier to change society (even though it is not easy at all) than to change Mother Nature - and Allsop is quite right, the body clock is ticking and you've got a lot better chance of having a healthy baby and a healthy mum, if she has the baby in her early twenties. I speak as someone who had my kids in my 30s and had the successful career, but my setup only worked because the husband was OK with being the homemaker, while I went out and brought home the bacon.

Anyway, off out to post the direct debit form for St Paul's school fees (argh!) and buy some deodorant. And the house will be safe, because I just had proper locks fitted to all the sash windows by our lovely lovely local locksmiths Oakleys at Southfields. Before today, if you'd been so inclined, you could literally have slid open our ground floor sash windows from the outside, walked in and helped yourself to our precious valuable collection of 5 year old malfunctioning Macs and netbooks and our displays of housedust and half-used pots of Dulux brilliant white gloss.


Sofa guy didn't turn up. Does nobody want our sofa? It used to belong to a scion of the Earl of Minto! Are there no raging snobs out there any more? To go by Balzac, I'd do better to be trying to offload it in France, which seems to be full of raging snobs.

Unfriendly girl turned up and took away the Country Lifes. Seemed very standoffish, as if she thought I might have lured her to our house in order to murder her.

Attacked the Virginia creeper in the garden, which is starting to get above itself again.

Kung pao chicken for dinner. Fungus helped with the cooking. I think she's starting to get to be quite a dab hand in the kitchen.

Watched Mean Girls with the grils, which I have never actually watched in its entirety. At last I have found a film that I like Amanda Seyfried in. Then girls went to bed, Welsh Anne came home and we watched the rest of The Rebound with Catherine Zeta Jones, who is just so beautiful. Frankly, Michael Douglas should consider himself privileged to be permitted to service her orally, not go around casting aspersions on her lady parts. Then cracked open the chilled rose and watched The Makeover, with Julia Stiles, who is just lovely. She should actually run for Congress. I would vote for her.

Asked the girls whether they wanted to go and see Richard Armitage at the Old Vic in the Crucible. On the one hand: it's Richard Armitage! On the other hand, I don't want to see something about the Salem witch trials. Ever. Hashtag firstworldproblems.

Sent a protest text to Amnesty re that poor woman in Sudan who's been sentenced to death for apostasy. Two hours later, it was announced that she's being released. I like to think it was my text wot done it.

Passing On

Woke up this morning to an email from my husband, that his father had died in the night. His brother has driven over from Nottingham to be with his mother. He was 80-something and had not been well for a long time - heart condition, diabetes and some sort of cancer also diagnosed earlier on in the year, so I guess it was not unexpected, but still very sad. A blessing though that he went quickly, without suffering or lingering on, at home with his wife of 50 years, entirely lucid and himself right to the end. I guess that is the way most people would prefer to go. The thing that makes me sad, as with my own father, is wishing we could have seen more of him, more recently. It is a great shame that families nowadays live so far apart.

Not much else to report. Anne came up from Somerset for her usual shifts, but apparently the newspaper is getting rid of all its casual staff by June, so she has already started looking for a new job - she seems to have quite a few prospects - and at better newspapers too! She's also thinking a lot about her mother in Merthyr, who is ailing and how they can work it out so she can take care of her at home.

Went up to Clapham Junction to pick up Lol's shoes. Bought the girls steak bakes from Greggs and raspberries from the fruit stall, forgetting there was leftover spag bol for lunch.

Tried to use coupon for discount on Guardian at Tescos self checkout. Failed to work. Eventually the guy had to just give me 60p from the till. Honestly. These coupons are more trouble than they're worth. Since you have to swipe your Tesco card anyway, why don't they just automatically deduct the amounts or credit you with the points without your needing to scan the coupon?

Gave the old kid booster seat away to a tanned old lady on Freecycle.

My Glen Campbell Greatest Hits 2nd-hand CD arrived today. Loaded it up onto the cloud. Galveston! Oh Galveste-on!

Trimmed the lavender border and planted some peas and rocket in a spare bit of the back bed.

Accosted by young chap who seems not all there, while was out walking the dog. Harmless, just kept on repeating questions about the dog.

Spoke to someone at National Power about getting the meter moved. Weird accent from somewhere up north, I think. She was actually really helpful and got it sorted, even though I was pretending to be my own husband, as he is the accountholder. Luckily he has the kind of name that could be either gender and I have the kind of voice that ditto, especially over the phone.

Dhal, okra, mackerel and rice for dinner, ably assisted by my lovely sous-chef Fungus, followed by She's the Man on DVD, which was strangely enjoyable, even though it starred Amanda Bynes, who is now off her head, and Channing Tatum, whom I can never recognise. Dog got a bit uppity at dinner, kept on barking and bouncing herself off my thigh in a bid for titbits, even though Fungus had already given her a bit of mackerel. In the end I got so fed up with her, I shut her out of the living room. So then she went out the back door and re-appeared at the living room window, looking in wistfully.

And so to bed. As Samuel Pepys would say.

Monday: sunny intervals, Max Temp: 6°C (43°F), Min Temp: 2°C (36°F)

Max Temp: 6°C (43°F), Min Temp: 2°C (36°F), Wind Direction: WSW, Wind Speed: 2mph, Visibility: moderate, Pressure: 1008mb, Humidity: 96%, UV risk: n/a, Pollution: n/a, Sunrise: 07:53GMT, Sunset: 16:28GMT

Tuesday: white cloud, Max Temp: 7°C (45°F), Min Temp: 5°C (41°F)

Max Temp: 7°C (45°F), Min Temp: 5°C (41°F), Wind Direction: SSE, Wind Speed: 5mph, Visibility: moderate, Pressure: 1011mb, Humidity: 87%, UV risk: n/a, Pollution: n/a, Sunrise: 07:52GMT, Sunset: 16:30GMT

Wednesday: light rain, Max Temp: 8°C (46°F), Min Temp: 4°C (39°F)

Max Temp: 8°C (46°F), Min Temp: 4°C (39°F), Wind Direction: SSW, Wind Speed: 7mph, Visibility: good, Pressure: 1005mb, Humidity: 95%, UV risk: n/a, Pollution: n/a, Sunrise: 07:50GMT, Sunset: 16:32GMT

Shopping on a real tight budget (again).

Went for a walk earlier because like Old Mother Hubbard my cupboard was bare .Didnt have a lot of cash so first stop was the fruit/veg market as they were packing up looked through a few boxes and ended up with about 40 apples.a pineapple,6 nice carrots,garlic and all for the bargain price of £0.00.Next stop a Health food place that every night puts out a few bags of goodies just reaching the sell by date ,its all perfectly good food.the haul was 200g of Cornish Camembert,125g of goats cheese,18 Glenilen Farm probiotic yoghurts 160g jars I kept 6 and redistributed the others to homeless people on my journey home.I called at Sainsburys and was able to splash out on Normandy butter ,a sunflower+honey bloomer loaf,Youngs fish ,a £4 ham and pineapple pizza so its good eating today.After washing/scrubbing the free fruit/veg it was juiced and produced 4 pints of juice better and fresher than the stuff bought in the shops.It still amazes and pisses me off the amount of good food throw away and destined for landfills while so many people are havuing a hard time and starving.Just grateful Im not one of them.

SELLING BIG ISSUES ,a honest profession.

   Its my opinion that selling Big Issues is a honest honarable way to make a living.Ive been doing it on and off from the very begining, sure Im critical of the way its run but the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects.So the wages are not the best in the world but your rewards come in the form of the great orduinary people that you meet.Im not the sort that pushes it in peoples faces,I like to think that people who buy from me do so because they want to not because Ive put pressure on them or made them feel guilty in any way.In the past year Ive had a professional fundraising org headhunting me,telling me I could make 4 times as much for less effort.Truth is if I was to shake a bucket claiming the money was for starving third world children well thats where it would have to go,not in my pocket.Im no angel and while selling Big Issues if anyone asks I tell them the money is for me and if asked I tell them my housing status.Like I say Im honest like all the other venders, we dont make a living from other peoples misery - only our own.My advice before parting with money to a charity think about how much reaches those that need it.