Tonight: Partly Cloudy, Minimum Temperature: 4°C (40°F)

Minimum Temperature: 4°C (40°F), Wind Direction: North Westerly, Wind Speed: 10mph, Visibility: Good, Pressure: 1024mb, Humidity: 77%, UV Risk: 0, Pollution: Low, Sunset: 15:55 GMT

Tuesday: Sunny, Minimum Temperature: 1°C (34°F) Maximum Temperature: 8°C (47°F)

Maximum Temperature: 8°C (47°F), Minimum Temperature: 1°C (34°F), Wind Direction: North Westerly, Wind Speed: 10mph, Visibility: Good, Pressure: 1026mb, Humidity: 79%, UV Risk: 0, Pollution: Low, Sunrise: 07:46 GMT, Sunset: 15:54 GMT

Wednesday: Light Cloud, Minimum Temperature: 5°C (40°F) Maximum Temperature: 8°C (46°F)

Maximum Temperature: 8°C (46°F), Minimum Temperature: 5°C (40°F), Wind Direction: Westerly, Wind Speed: 6mph, Visibility: Good, Pressure: 1019mb, Humidity: 89%, UV Risk: 0, Pollution: Low, Sunrise: 07:47 GMT, Sunset: 15:54 GMT

Twisted London launches new counter service and delivery site at ASDA Clapham - London Post

Twisted London launches new counter service and delivery site at ASDA Clapham  London Post

Tooting author on how small changes can help the environment - South West Londoner

Tooting author on how small changes can help the environment  South West Londoner

Nóra Quoirin: Vanished girl's body 'showed no signs of assault' - BBC News

Nóra Quoirin: Vanished girl's body 'showed no signs of assault'  BBC News

This German Restaurant Is Protesting Shutdowns in a Way That's Not Creepy At All - Food & Wine

This German Restaurant Is Protesting Shutdowns in a Way That's Not Creepy At All  Food & Wine

Manhunt launched after commuter sexually attacked on Tube - Metro.co.uk

Manhunt launched after commuter sexually attacked on Tube  Metro.co.uk

Girl In The Garden #2

The_Kevster posted a photo:

Girl In The Garden #2

Girl in the Garden

The_Kevster posted a photo:

Girl in the Garden

Providing Best Curry In Balham

camilablythe822 posted a photo:

Providing Best Curry In Balham

Our curry is one of the nicest food in Balham. We have such the best Decor. Our service is friendly and helpful. We are providing the best curry in Balham at a reasonable price.
www.thaliandpickles.co.uk/

Balham

Lost-Albion posted a photo:

Balham

4-SUB 4706 at Balham, working between Victoria and Epsom Downs on 20 December 1976.

Pentax SP1000/55mm
Ilford FP4

In Remembrance - Balham Underground Station

McTumshie (Andrew Smith) posted a photo:

In Remembrance - Balham Underground Station

Today is the 80th anniversary of a bomb landing in Balham High Road at 8:02pm on 14th October 1940 which resulted in over 65 civilians and London Transport staff being killed.
www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2015/10/14/75th-anniversary-of-t...

Balham, London
14 October 2020

Consuming Culture: 16-31 Jan 2020

Here are brief descriptions of the various cultural things I did in the second half of January 2020.

Food: 12:51 (Islington, 2020-01-18)

Our second visit to 12:51, but the first time we tried the tasting menu. It’s a bit pricy (£75 a head, I think) but it’s well worth it. The food was wonderful. And on the night we were there, James Cochran (the chef who owns the restaurant) was there – although he was serving, rather than being in the kitchen.

Food: Wolkite Kitfo (Holloway, 2020-01-24)

This is an Ethiopian restaurant near Arsenal’s new stadium. Ethiopian food is really interesting. It’s usually served piled up on a flatbread called injera. You then tear off bits of the injera and use it to scoop up bits of the food and put it in your mouth. So the injera doubles as both plate and cutlery. If you’re interested (and I think you should be) then this is a nice local restaurant in which to try it.

Art: 24/7 (Somerset House, 2020-01-29)

The subtitle for this exhibition is “A wake-up call for our non-stop world”. The pieces here all examine the way that the world has changed over the last twenty years so we are now all more connected much more of the time and how that has affected us. It’s a very thought-provoking exhibition and I highly recommend you seeing it.

Film: The Personal History of David Copperfield (Screen on the Green, 2020-01-29)

I’ve never read David Copperfield. I don’t remember even seeing another film or TV adaptation. So I was probably one of very few people in the cinema who didn’t know the plot. And, therefore, I have no idea how much this film deviates from the book. It certainly feels like a rather modern take on the book (although it’s very much set in the nineteenth century). There’s a great cast and a cracking script. I loved it.

Gig: John Grant (Roundhouse, 2020-01-29)

I love John Grant’s music and see him live whenever I can (I already have a ticket to see him again at the start of May). This gig was part of the Roundhouse’s “In the Round” where artists play to an all-seated audience. This was a stripped-back set (just John on piano and a keyboard player) which meant that some of his more complex songs were skipped. But he played everything I wanted to hear – even finishing with a great version of “Chicken Bones”.

Gig: Hate Moss (Old Blue Last, 2020-01-30)

It is many years since I was last at the Old Blue Last for a gig. I was drawn back by an old friend who was first on the bill, playing as M-Orchestra. I stayed on to see the other two acts. Kill Your Boyfriends were a bit noisy for my tastes, but Hate Moss were well worth staying out for. I’ll be looking out for them playing London again.

Dance: Sadlers Wells Sampled (Sadlers Wells, 2020-01-31)

I’ve been in London for over 35 years and I’ve never been to Sadlers Wells. And if you’re going to fix that, then it makes good sense to go on a night where there’s a selection of different types of dance on display. There were eight different acts during the night – from traditional Indian dance and tango to really experimental dance from Company Wayne McGregor and Géométrie Variable. I’m no expert in dance and this was a great introduction to the breadth of options available.

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Consuming Culture: 1-15 Jan 2020

I want to do more blogging this year. So one thing I’m going to do is to write about the cultural experiences that I have. My plan is to write short reviews of any films, plays, exhibitions and lectures that I go to. To start us off, here’s what I did in the first half of January.

Film: Last Christmas (Vue Islington, 2020-01-01)

Yes, this got some terrible reviews, but cheesy romcoms are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. This isn’t up to the standards of Four Weddings and a Funeral or Notting Hill, but I really enjoyed it. And I don’t care how much you judge me for that.

Art: Wonder Factory (Dalston Works, 2020-01-03)

This was weird. Fifteen rooms have been turned into Instagram-friendly art installations. They are of variable quality, but the best installations (like the marshmallow swimming pool) are very good. It’s only around until early February (and it seems they’re now only opening at the weekend) so you should get along to see it soon.

Film: Jojo Rabbit (Screen on the Green, 2020-01-05)

The Hitler Youth isn’t the most obvious subject for comedy, but this film manages to pull it off brilliantly. It’s obviously a very delicate balance but director, Taika Waititi, gets it spot on – while also playing a very funny imaginary Adolf Hitler. I see this has been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar; and that’s well-deserved.

VR: Doctor Who – Edge of Time (Other World, 2020-01-05)

Other World is a virtual reality arcade in Haggerston and currently, one of the VR experiences they are offering is the Doctor Who game, Edge of Time. Players are put in their individual pods and loaded up with all their VR equipment (headset, headphones and a controller for each hand) by staff before being left alone to help the Thirteenth Doctor save the universe. I confess I got a bit stuck trying to get the Tardis to dematerialise, but I really enjoyed myself and am very tempted to go back for another try.

Play: A Kind of People (Royal Court Theatre, 2020-01-06)

The Royal Court has a brilliant scheme where they make tickets for Monday evening performances available for £12 each. That price makes it very tempting to see plays that you know nothing about. And that’s what we did for this. We really had no idea what this play was about. It turns out that it’s an investigation of the various prejudices (racism, sexism, class snobbery, …) that bubble under the surface of British society. I’d recommend you go and see it, but it closes in a couple of days.

Meeting: Tech For UK Post-Election Debrief (Onfido Ltd, 2020-01-08)

I want to get along to more tech meet-ups this year and this was my first. Tech For UK is a group of techies who volunteer their time to build tools that increase democratic engagement in the UK. You can see some examples at voter.tools (this includes my site – TwittElection). This meeting was a discussion about what the group had been doing during the election campaign and where they should focus their efforts in the future.

Art: Bridgit Riley (Hayward Gallery, 2020-01-15)

I want to make more use of my South Bank membership, and this was a free after-hours, members’ viewing of the exhibition. This is a retrospective of Riley’s whole career and, therefore, is a great introduction to the breadth of her work. She’s a fascinating artist (if one who occasionally produces art that can give you a bit of a headache). I recommend seeing the exhibition – but hurry, it closes on 26 January.

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2019 in Gigs

It’s time that I wrote my now-traditional review of the gigs I saw last year.

It felt like I didn’t see so many gigs this year, but Songkick tells me I saw 43 which was more than the previous year (but still some considerable way short of the 60 I saw in 2013). I’ll get to the best ones in a minute, but let’s talk about a few of the disappointments first.

The first gig I saw in the year was the Residents at the Union Chapel. I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, but it was all a bit disjointed and amateur-sounding, so I left before very long. Having really enjoyed the Bananarama reunion tour a couple of years ago, I was looking forward to seeing them (now Siobhan-less) again, particularly at a lovely little venue like Omeara – but they were a terrible disappointment and wanted to play their new album instead of the hits that I wanted to hear. I really wanted to enjoy the post-Pete Shelley Buzzcocks show at the Albert Hall, but it was a lot like a third-rate Buzzcocks tribute band and I left quite a while before the end.

And here, in chronological order, are my ten favourite gigs of the year.

  • Tears For Fears: This was postponed from the previous year. It takes a good band to make it worth going to the O2 Arena. And Tears for Fears certainly hit the spot.
  • Desperate Journalist: An up and coming band that I really want to hear more from. Oh, and they were supported by She Makes War, who is always worth seeing.
  • Grant: This was a slightly strange one. A night of Scandinavian music at the Lexington. We went because we wanted to see the first act, Moses Hightower (who were great). Grant was on next and she totally blew us away. I think we left soon after she finished.
  • Stealing Sheep: I don’t get to see Stealing Sheep as often as I used too, but they were touring this year because of their new album. I saw them twice. I enjoyed the show at Earth in Dalston the most. That’s them in the photo above.
  • Sleeper: I never got to see Sleeper back in the 90s. But I saw them twice this year. I think I just prefered the show at the 100 Club.
  • Swimming Girls: I’ve seen Swimming Girls as a support act and really wanted to see them playing a headline show. I finally got to do that at the Lexington this year. And then they announced they were splitting up.
  • Cut Copy: A band that I hadn’t heard of at the start of this year. But this show at Somerset House was great and I’d certainly see them again.
  • Sunflower Bean: I always love seeing Sunflower Bean and this was at the Borderline (just before it closed down) and I thought the days of seeing them in venues this small were long past.
  • Midge Ure: This was pure nostalgia. Midge Ure’s current band played all Visage’s first album and Ultravox’s “Vienna” – two albums that he recorded in 1980.
  • Amanda Palmer: This wasn’t really a gig. It was more of a four-hour-long, intense psychotherapy session with occasional songs. I saw the prototype for this show in Edinburgh last year, but the full version was sensational.

Just outside of this list are shows by Pale Waves, Lloyd Cole, Wildwood Kin and OMD.

Oh, and I have a new regular gig-going companion this year. I asked her what her favourite gig of the year was and she voted for the Grant show at the Lexington.

2020 is already shaping up well. I have tickets to see John Grant (twice), Tove Lo and Ladytron. And there’s some heavyweight nostalgia coming – with gigs by the Pet Shop Boys and Bauhaus.

What about you? What live music did you really enjoy in 2019?

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2020 Vision

I’ve been working in this industry for a long time – over thirty years. For most of that time, I’ve been working as a freelancer, but it’s always been working for someone else. When I set up Magnum Solutions (my freelancing company) in 1995 I always had a vague desire to grow it into a company that wasn’t just me selling my time and skills to other companies. But I’ve never really known how I wanted to do that.

On the other hand, I’ve spent a lot of those thirty years building web sites in my spare time. Whether it’s my (now, long defunct) BBC Streams project or current sites like Line of Succession or TwittElection, there’s always something that I’m tinkering with. Some of them get some small level of popularity. None of them has ever made me enough money that I could consider giving up the freelancer life in order to spend more time on one of these projects.

This year has been slightly different. This was the year that the market for Perl freelancers in London finally hit the level at which I decided to take a permanent job. So I’ve been working for Equals (formerly FairFX) as a senior developer since February. But even that didn’t feel quite right. It felt a bit like a step backwards to go back to being an employee.

And then, while on holiday a month ago, something crystalised for me during a conversation with a friend. She asked how I’d really like to spend my time and I replied that I’d like to take time off from working nine to five and spent it trying to turn one or more of my side-projects into a real business. She asked what was stopping me from doing that and I replied that I didn’t have enough money. She laughed and asked me what the money in the ISA that I’ve been paying into on and off for the last decade was for. I’d always vaguely assumed it was for “the future” (whatever that means) but I realised that she was right. There was no reason at all why I shouldn’t use some of that money to support myself while I took time off work to do what I really wanted.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve given notice at Equals and I’m leaving just before Christmas. And for the first six months of 2020, I’ll be living off my savings while I try to find some way to make a living from the various business ideas I’ve been doing almost nothing with for the last thirty years.

I’m going to be structured about it. I plan to try six things for a month each. I have an idea what the first two or three things will be but I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t go into any detail right now. I do want to be very open about what I’m doing while I’m doing it – I’ve set up a new web site at davecross.co.uk and I’ll be writing about my projects there. Hey, even if nothing takes off, perhaps there’s a book in the reports of all my failures.

At the end of June, I’ll take stock and decide whether it’s worth continuing the experiment.

And that’s what I’m calling my “2020 Vision”. Because bad puns are the basis of good marketing – or something like that.

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2018 in Gigs

It’s the last day of 2018, and I know I’m not going to a gig tonight, so that sounds like a very good time for my annual review of the gigs I’ve seen this year.

Songkick tells me that I saw 35 gigs in 2018. That’s the lowest number since I’ve been counting them. It’s even one fewer than 2012 when I had the excuse of having my leg in plaster for six months. I’m not sure why the number is so low. Perhaps I’m getting pickier about what I see.

Let’s start by talking about a few of the disappointments. I don’t know what I was expecting when I booked to see Kristin Hersh, but she didn’t deliver and I left just after she sang “Your Ghost”. I was similarly disappointed by The Primitives – I left after a few songs and didn’t even wait to hear “Crash”. But easily the worst show I saw this year was Tiffany. Yes, I know. I admit it was a bit of a gamble. But when I wondered aloud on Twitter about seeing the show, Tiffany replied, so I felt it was rude not to go. I lasted three songs before leaving.

On the other hand, here (in chronological order) are my ten favourite gigs of the year.

  • Superorganism at Oval Space. If there’s any justice in the world, this will be one of those gigs that people claim to have been at. But only a few hundred of us were. If you haven’t heard Superorganism’s album, then I suggest you give it a listen. And then try to see them live as soon as you can.
  • Lily Allen at the Dome. I’ve seen Lily Allen at the Brixton Academy before and she was pretty good. But I wasn’t going to miss the chance to see her in a small venue like this. It didn’t matter that most of the set was made up of her new album – she was great.
  • Arcade Fire at Wembley Arena. Not many bands can persuade me to visit the soulless box that is Wembley Arena. But I’m glad I made an exception for Arcade Fire. They were (as always) sensational.
  • Florence + the Machine at the Royal Festival Hall. I’m not a huge Florence fan but when she announced this sudden gig at the South Bank, I jumped at the chance to see her again. Through the magic of my South Bank membership, I got a front-row seat and loved every minute of the show.
  • Pale Waves at Heaven. I saw Pale Waves twice this year, but I think the smaller show at Heaven just trumped the bigger show I saw later in the year at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I’m looking forward to seeing them again soon.
  • David Byrne at the Hammersmith Odeon. It’s one of my great disappointments that I never saw Talking Heads live. This was my second time seeing David Byrne (the first time, he was playing with St Vincent) and this show was absolutely amazing. He did it again later in the year at the O2 Arena, so I’m glad I saw it in a smaller venue.
  • The Cure at the Royal Festival Hall. This wasn’t billed as the Cure (for contractual reasons, I think) but everyone knew that’s what Robert Smith was planning. This was an incredible, chronological journey through the band’s music.
  • Amanda Palmer at the Queen’s Hall. It’s been a couple of years since Amanda Palmer made this list and it’s great to report she’s back on top form. These shows at the Edinburgh Festival were a prototype for a tour she’s planning to take around the world over the next two years. I suggest you try really hard not to miss it. (I’ve just remembered that I saw her earlier in the year too – but that show is not on Songkick as it was a private event for her Patreon supporters. That was awesome too.)
  • Soft Cell at the O2 Arena. I never saw Soft Cell when they were first around and I walked out of a Marc Almond show a couple of years ago. But there was no chance I’d miss this. Even the O2 couldn’t suck the life out of a Soft Cell show.
  • All Saints at the Hammersmith Odeon. A little bit of cheese to end the year. All Saints were a bit of a guilty pleasure twenty years ago and they’re still a lot of fun these days.

Although I saw fewer shows this year, they must have been of higher quality than usual. I can’t believe that Sunflower Bean (who I saw twice), the Art of Noise, Belle and Sebastian or Heaven 17 didn’t make the top ten. Even Yes were far better than I’ve ever seen them before.

So that was 2018. I already have some interesting things lined up for 2019 – a Tears For Fears show that was postponed from this year, Chvrches (for what seems the first time for far too long), ABC and Nick Mason playing some old Pink Floyd numbers are among the tickets I’ve already bought. I also have ticket to see the Buzzcocks for the first time, but I’m not sure if that will still go ahead following the death of Pete Shelley.

What about you? What did you enjoy seeing live this year?

 

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Lent – why I’m never gonna give you up

It’s Lent. Started last Wednesday. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, is providing a strong lead and giving up crisps. Salt and vinegar being her weakness. So, I’m guessing the thought of giving something up for the next forty days has crossed your mind. Because that’s what Lent’s about, right? Honestly, I have very little idea what Lent is about. I’ve never been very good at paying attention to things that hold no interest for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really interested in Jesus’ death and his resurrection. But no so much the religiously inserted rigmarole that so often accompanies it in church tradition. After all, the Bible doesn’t talk about Lent. And so, it can’t be that important. It’s certainly not crucial to our Christian life. It might be useful but it’s not essential. We don’t have to observe it. A younger version of me would have railed against the imposition of any perceived religious ritual and flaunted my freedom in the gospel to ignore something I assumed was the re-imposition of Roman Catholicism. Aren’t you glad you didn’t know me at university?! There are valuable things that are part and parcel of Lent; meditation – by which I mean the prayerful consideration of the scriptures, perhaps especially focussing on the death of Christ and fasting. Fasting has value. But neither of those things need to be limited to this time of year. And neither of them is compulsory. So let’s keep this thing in perspective.

The single most important thing about Lent is freedom. You’re free to observe it if you want. And you’re free not to. It’s your call. But you don’t have to. Whether it’s a good thing for us to observe will likely be determined by what’s going on in our hearts. If you do please don’t look down on those of us that decide not to join you. Don’t judge us or condemn us. Don’t think you’re better or superior than us and that somehow you’ve attained a higher spiritual state. You haven’t. And be careful not to use your freedom to give it a go to lead a weaker brother into sin and cause them stumble. There may be some among us who’ve been saved from a Roman Catholic background who are constantly tempted back to putting our confidence in our fleshly observance of the religious traditions from which Christ came to set us free. Having you press that onto our conscience won’t help us to trust Christ alone for our salvation. Of course, if you don’t observe any Lenten habits then please don’t assume that those of us who do have turned Catholic. We probably haven’t. We probably just recognise the value of some of these things for our own Christians lives and that this time of year has provided the much-needed stimulus to arouse us from our spiritual lethargy and actually employ God’s means of grace. Obviously, I think there’s some value in observing Lent. But I’m not planning to. I’m just going to keep ploughing on with the same old, same old. Not because I can’t be improved upon. I can. And I probably should. But I don’t have to. So, I’m not going to. Not this time, it’s crept up on me unawares and I haven’t really prepared anything for it. But that’s OK because Christ’s death is all about forgiveness.

Runs on the Board

athersWriting in Thursday’s Times (19th January 2017), Mike Atherton (above), their cricket correspondent and ex-England Captain wrote a piece about leadership. It’s worth a read if you can get behind their pay wall. Apparently the English Cricket Board (ECB) has enlisted the help of an ex-Army Officer now Management Consultant, Gemma Morgan to help them develop new leaders.

In doing so, they assess potential leadership candidates in four areas;

  1. their impact within a group,
  2. their ability to make things happen,
  3. their interpersonal skills and
  4. their thinking skills.

That’s not surprising. It’s what you might expect. But what’s striking in the article is her insistence on character being key. The overriding message at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst is that leadership is service. Their motto ‘serve to lead’ is everywhere. Now that’s remarkable. It’s almost the polar opposite of how things ordinarily work in the world of sport. Normally captaincy is about having ‘runs on the board’. As  Morgan, an ex-international lacrosse player, observes,

‘Coming from the sports field initially this turned leadership on its head for me, because until then I understood leadership as hero-based: am I the best player, the leading goal scorer, the go-to player that kind of thing’.

Many of us in church planting and  pastoring resonate with that kind of thinking. But our competencies have to do with preaching, evangelistic effectiveness, theological knowledge and strategic thinking and so on. But, she goes on,

‘At Sandhurst I came to understand that it was not about me but about duty and service to others. It opened my eyes. Before they teach you any technical stuff, they underpin everything with values that are uncompromising. Integrity, for example, if you breach integrity you’re gone and you won’t be invited back. Once you’ve got these anchors in place, they add on the technical bits. In sport and business it is the other way around. In the army, they will not take a risk on character’.

In recent months, the England One Day Captain Eoin Morgan decided not to tour Bangladesh citing security risks as his issue. He copped a fair amount of flak for that. This was interpreted as a leader choosing to abandon his men when faced with hardship. It looked self-interested. It may not have been if he was making that decision in such a way that it gave implicit permission for others to follow suit. Interestingly Alex Hales decided not to tour as well. When pushed for her verdict on this decision Gemma Morgan would not be drawn because she simply didn’t know the rationale and motive behind Eoin Morgan’s decision. But she did say this, ‘You have to lead by example and my experience is that people will follow if you think you have their best interests at heart’.

It turns out that leadership is not so much about having ‘runs on the board’. And England’s own history bears that out because one of the most respected and most successful Captains was a man who arguably wasn’t good enough to get in the 2nd XI. He was the man who got the best out of Bob Willis and Ian Botham in the 1981 Ashes series. His name is Mike Brierley and he’s written a book called ‘The Art of Captaincy’. It’s on my Amazon wish list!

For those of us who suffer under the delusion that we might still be the hero every church needs, Morgan did close with this encouragement,

‘There is a time for autocratic and direct leadership but to get people to follow unquestioningly you have to have invested a lot of time in the relationships. If you’re selfish you will get found out. If you get a combination of a brilliant player, a charismatic leader, and someone with the interests of others at heart? Then, great. But they don’t come along very often’.

The odds are that most ofus are not in that category. And neither are our leaders. And so character really matters. And self sacrificial service is paramount. Who’d have thought it?!

In Mark’s Gospel Chapter 10 verse 45, we read this, ‘the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’. That’s leadership. And it’s runs on the board. Just in a different kind of a way.

Three Benefits of our Co-Mission Network

ccmI was at Christ Church Mayfair on Sunday morning for Co-Mission Sunday (that’s not yet a regular feature in the Church of England’s liturgical calendar, but give it time). Before he got me up to preach, Matt Fuller got me up to be interviewed. I hate thinking on my feet almost as much as I hate realising afterwards what I should have said. And so Matt warned me what he was going to ask, which gave me a few moments to formulate a useful answer. He asked me what the benefits of belonging to a network of churches were.

That’s a bit like asking what are the benefits of belonging to a family. It all depends on your experience of family. And for the record (in case my Mother ever reads this) my experience of my actual family has been uniformly wonderful. And in case the Director of Co-Mission ever reads this, my experience of my metaphorical family has been similarly positive.

But I think the family metaphor works. I like it that we’re (CCB) a part of a family of churches; a network of like-minded congregations trying to help one another do the same thing. For my money there are three obvious benefits that we’ve experienced in the last 14 years.

1. Co-Mission has provided us with a network of relationships. In my wider family I have aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces and so on. It’s good for me to have so many different people in my life like that. It’s relationally rich.  But there are a lot of lonely Ministers out there and a lot of isolated churches. But that’s never been true of me or CCB. We’ve always belonged, partly because we were the first plant from Dundonald in 2002 and they looked after us. But that’s what happens in families. Those of us on the staff and the ministry trainees experience the relational aspect perhaps more than most because we’re involved in training together with others in Co-Mission. Those relationships are so helpful in terms of personal support, ministry encouragement and godly challenge. And the elders of our churches are part of the Co-Mission Partnership and we meet together several times throughout the year as we reflect on and prepare for our joint ministry activity. And wonderfully because of things like Revive, or the forthcoming Co-Mission Women’s Day or Children’s Ministry training there are ample opportunities for congregational members to support one another in other churches. It’s been our great privilege to receive people over the years from other Co-Mission congregations who know what they’re going to get with us and want to remain part of the Co-Mission family. And we’ve been able to send people off to other Co-Mission churches to serve there. And the odds are that they already know people when they get there. It’s so encouraging to be part of a family of churches.

2. Co-Mission has provided us with a wealth of resources. When we were planted we were like the typical teenage kid going off to university or married couple starting out together. We were sent with our hands full of everything that we might need for those early days. We had people, we had finance and we had training and support. There’s no way that we could have got going on our own. It just wouldn’t have happened because we didn’t have what we needed on our own. But wonderfully we didn’t need to have it all because others in the wider Co-Mission family (not that it was called that then because it didn’t formally come into existence till 2005) wanted to be generous and share their resources to help get us off the ground. We continue to share the resources God has entrusted to us. New church plants benefit from people sent from other churches. Money moves from one church account into another in order to finance a worker or two in an economically deprived area. And we share training because there’s diversity of gospel ministers in Co-Mission; men and women with different expertise and experience. And at things like the Ministry Training Workshop everyone benefits. We’ve tried to be intentional about resource rich congregations supporting resource poor congregations, especially in the early days of planting and especially if (humanly speaking) there’s likelihood of some of those ministries ever being self-sufficient. That tends to happen through local geographical clusters. And it’s a good thing to be generous and sacrificial as we steward the resources that God has entrusted to us.

3. Co-Mission has provided us with a reminder of our responsibilities. The issues of training people for ministry, reaching the lost with the gospel and planting churches are rarely off the agenda in this family of churches. It’s really helpful to be reminded of our responsibilities as churches. When teenagers grow up they have to accept that with great privilege comes great responsibility. I’m not sure we would have planted Streatham Central, contemplated training up Jay as a church planter and encouraged BLoC to hibernate with us without being part of a family that regularly reminded one another that we’re trying to reach London for Christ through pioneering church planting. There’s a great danger in our personal lives to strive for, succeed and then settle for comfort. And that’s no different in our churches. But being part of a church family where we’re often talking about planting, about places without a gospel witness and about areas of London that aren’t being reached means that there’s a godly dissatisfaction that drives us on. We’re not happy to settle for comfort because even if we’re going well in our patch, 90% of London doesn’t believe the gospel. That’s a lot of people. And so, even if any of us runs a numerically successful ministry, we’re barely scratching the surface in this great city. Theer’s work to be done. And we have responsibilities. I love being part of a network that keeps reminding us of that.

Co-Mission isn’t the best family. I’m not saying that. But it’s ours. And I’m really grateful for it. It’s helped us be church. And it’s helped me serve church. There are real benefits to our network. And I praise God for it.

Unsung Heroes

kirkby-stadiumI’m reasonably confident that you’ve never heard of John and Doreen Mallinson, Ginger Hewitt or John Geddis. Am I right? I hadn’t until I read Chris Boardman’s autobiography over Christmas. They were stalwart members of a group of volunteers at the Kirkby Stadium, a cycling velodrome near the Wirral (now closed down). It’s where Boardman learnt to compete. He went on to become very accomplished at going round in circles very quickly.

You can trace the contemporary supremacy of British Cyclists and the growing popularity of recreational cycling to this man. He won individual pursuit gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He was the first man in the Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France since Tom Simpson in the early 1960s. After him came the household names of Bradley Wiggins, Sarah Storey, Chris Froome, Laura Kenny (nee Trott), Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Jason Kenny and may others. Boardman is partly responsible for the success of British Cycling, having worked quietly behind the scenes fuelling the research and development to give cyclists a technical edge as well as implementing recruitment systems and training processes and raising up and developing coaches. He’s responsible for the affordable range of bikes that bear his name sold at high street retailer Halfords. They’re very, very good bikes evidenced by the fact that the Brownlee brothers, Alastair and Jonathan, use them in triathlon. And Boardman has become an outspoken advocate and vocal campaigner for the social benefits of cycling.

But without John, Doreen, Ginger or John none of this would have happened. And Boardman knows it. They are the unsung heroes so beloved by Sports Personality of the Year. It’s the bit in the show that makes me well up. That phenomenon causes extreme embarrassment to my children and great amusement to my wife. But for me it’s fast becoming the sole reason to sit through SPOTY. But that’s a gripe for another day. But hear what Chris Boardman has to say about these volunteers,

‘Just a handful of individuals presiding over a low key activity on the outskirts of Liverpool helping people take their firsts steps in the sport. What they didn’t realise was that they were the true pioneers of the Olympic success to come, quietly preparing the ground for Britain’s cycling revolution’.

I couldn’t help but spot some parallels with our own situation at CCB. Nearly fifteen years ago people like Gordon, Phoebe, Christian, Helen, Jenni, Rosslyn and Rufus were part of small group of twenty who were planted into Balham to start a new church. None of us imagined that we’d be where we are now. It’s a wonderful work of God’s grace. I’m not going to claim that we were quietly preparing the ground for London’s evangelical revolution. But it’s great testimony to God’s goodness that he’s caused us to grow, enabled us to plant both Streatham Central Church (SCC) and Brixton Local Church (BLoC) and participated in the training of individuals for full time gospel ministry. That’s not nothing. At my last count we’d trained twelve people as ministry apprentices. And we have three currently ‘in the system’. That’s an average of one per year. I think we can and should do more. But that’s also for another time. And we haven’t even mentioned the conversion of individuals wo’ve come to trust in Christ, people who’ve been maintained in their faith, who’ve have grown in maturity and been equipped for the works of service that God has prepared for them to carry out in their homes, among their friends, at work and in the community.

I suspect that few of us in churches think much about what our participation in our local church will produce. We’re pretty short sighted. Church is part of the routine of life. Like work on a Monday morning. But take heart. Lift your eyes to the future. It is your very great privilege to be a participant in a divinely instituted organisation through whom God is building something significant for the future. One day we will be able to trace the value of our contribution into eternity. And it’ll be amazing to see how God has sued what we’ve down as He brings all things together under the saving reign of His Son, Jesus Christ. And in all likelihood we’ll probably even now have some inkling of what He’s doing in the present. But many of us don’t feel that we’re doing anything that important. Our name might appear regularly on a rota. We might be part of a team that runs a small ministry. But what we do just keeps things ticking along and the show on the road. But presumably that’s what the Mallinsons, Ginger and John thought.

In 1 Corinthians 15:58 the Apostle Paul wrote this, ‘Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain’. None of it is wasted. It all counts. The Lord will see to that. And who knows, your church may be somewhere from where the evangelical equivalent of a Chris Boardman develops!

When Chris met Brad

chris-boardman-autobiography

In 2002 Chris Boardman sat down in the canteen of the Manchester Velodrome with the British Cycling Head Endurance Coach Simon Jones and a talented but frustrated cyclist on the brink of throwing in the towel. His name was Bradley Wiggins.

Chris Boardman was someone who’d done it before. To steal a cricketing metaphor, he had runs on the board. He was an Olympic champion and a two time wearer of the Tour de France Yellow Jersey. The idea was that Wiggins might be willing to listen to someone who’d known success.

In that canteen Boardman simply asked Wiggins three questions.

1.    What do you want to achieve?
2.    What do you think that requires?
3.    How does what you’re planning get you those things?

Those are three great questions. It won’t surprise many to learn that as I read Boardman’s autobiography over the Christmas period, my arm instinctively reached for the notebook and pen. These questions are not entirely unfamiliar to those of us in the Antioch Plan, at least in broad outline. They’re scratching at the issues of vision, strategy and tactics. I’ve already warned the Antioch Planters that I may be quoting liberally from this book in the coming term. The man who was the vanguard of Britain’s cycling revolution may unwittingly be contributing to the coaching of our church planters!

But think briefly about those three questions for a moment in the context of church growth.

What do you want to achieve? I imagine the answer of our planters will be a variation on something like this, ‘I want to see the establishment of a flourishing church plant that’s heading towards sustainability as people hear the gospel, place their trust in Christ, grow in their knowledge and understanding of God’s word and use their ability, opportunity and capacity to bring about the growth of his kingdom in our local context’. Their version of that answer will be better.

What do you think that requires? Again, I imagine they’ll answer something like this, ‘It’ll take servant leadership from me and other leaders and it’ll require sacrificial participation from everyone in the church plant. Everyone will need to be involved in reaching our neighbours with the gospel, providing a church family for them to belong and training one another so that we grow in our biblical convictions, our godly character and our ministry competency’.

How does what you’re planning get you those things? If what they’re planning is an aggressive door knocking strategy, and by that I don’t mean door knocking in an aggressive manner (one would assume that would be counter-productive) but instead a determined and insistent approach to making sure that everyone in your neighbourhood has the opportunity to know of your church plant’s existence and pursue any line of spiritual enquiry that they might have, then they need to be able to examine the wisdom of said tactic especially as it comes under sceptical scrutiny from those they’re trying to persuade them in such a venture! For the record, I think it’s hard to think of reasons why our planters wouldn’t do this. It’s a good tactic, though not without potential cost.

As you’ll no doubt know, Wiggins went on to notable success, even if his efforts on the road are currently under some suspicion since they were accomplished with the addition of permissible but lamentable medical assistance. For those who are not following the story, Wiggins applied for and received a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) that allowed him to receive medication for a pre-existing medical issue. That medication also probably helped him go further and faster. For my money that’s the kind of thing that Paul has in mind in 2 Timothy 2 when he talks about the athlete receiving the victor’s crown competing according to the rules. Wiggins may have received a crown but only he knows whether he really competed according to the rules. But what’s more interesting to me than Bradley’s dodgoire TUE is that at that moment in 2002 in a canteen in Manchester, he didn’t quit. The conversation and the probing questions kept him in the game.

In the book Boardman reflected on that exchange and Wiggins’ subsequent response. The initial answers he gave were vague and unconvincing. And so Boardman sent him away and told him to e-mail him a plan once he’d thought it through. Wiggins did that a week later. But what convinced Boardman that Wiggins was now serious were his responses when pressed. Boardman writes, ‘I wasn’t directly critical, never said what was right and wrong, but I did drill down into his reasoning, asking him to explain what made him believe each particular step of his plan would work. What were his beliefs based on? How would he measure progress? Where he waffled and evaded I demanded evidence and clarity’. You might imagine that Boardman would make a persistent but productive church planting coach. But if you were planting a church you’d be glad of that kind of input, wouldn’t you? If you could survive that type of questioning you’d be certain that you were on the right path. That only leaves doing what you’ve planned to concentrate on!

It seems to me, to plan for success, our church planters and church pastors need to be willing to put our church growth plans under the same degree of scrutiny. We’ve got to have answers to those questions. God may give growth irrespective of how well we’re thought through. But it’ll be accidental. And we’ll take that, of course! But how much better to be deliberate? And plan. After all, are we not encouraged to anticipate that the Lord will work through means rather than despite them?

Christmas minus four days

Listening to Billie Holiday on Apple Music

Reading Bernard Cornwell, Samuel Richardson, Balzac, Dickens, Ferrante

Watching Force Awakens

Thinking about how when I retire I'm going to live in small spare flat with a small spare garden with a terrier and a couple of turtles and learn how to write poetry, paint pictures and play the trumpet

Christmas hols

Hooray I'm on holiday for two weeks!

Yesterday I made and put the marzipan on the Xmas cake.

Today I'm going to Sisters using my Cineworld Unlimited card.

Tomorrow we're going to see the Force Awakens

Other stuff I'm doing:
- trying to find O2 Floor tickets for Strictly 2016 tour (we love you, Jay McGuinness, the human equivalent of the Andrex puppy)
- trying to get day tickets for Dominic West in Dangerous Liaisons at the Donmar Warehouse
- trying to get returns for Nutcracker, Cavalleria Rusticana at Covent Garden and Jim Broadbent in A Christmas Carol
- going to look at the West End Xmas windows with Laura
- going to Go Ape in Battersea Park with Alice
- going to Hampton Court as I've just realised I've got Historic Royal Palaces membership
- read, read, read!
- listen to unlimited music on Apple Music
- make mince pies (Delia)
- make Chana masala (Guardian)
- update this blog daily

Happy days

Safeguarding: Southwark diocese

Tea and coffee turns out to be a kettle, some tea bags and a pint of milk.

Then there's a big kerfuffle about where you sign in: at the back, at reception, "I've signed in three times now"

Then someone wants to open a window, but the windows don't open

Oh God someone I know is here. I'll make like I haven't seen her

Three hours later: actually it was really informative, if hair-raising. Obviously some parishes are a lot more problematic than others

Things We Argue About

Driving down to Bristol for sister's wedding. We pass an estate agents window which has little model houses in the window like at Bekenscot.
Me: Laura, look at the cute little houses. Which one would you live in?
Laura: I can't really see them.
Me: I like the white one best, but the green one has bigger windows.
Laura: oh those houses. I thought you meant the houses they were advertising in the window. I was wondering how you could possibly see them.
Chris: I thought you meant the ones in the photos.
Alice: so did I.
Me: how could I possibly have seen the ones in the photographs? What, have I suddenly developed super eyesight?
Chris: that's what I thought. So I thought you must be talking just for the sake of saying something.
Me: when do I ever do that?
Chris: exactly. So I thought you must have gone mad.
Me: so you'd rather ignore everything you know about me and assume that I'd gone mad, rather than entertain the possibility that I might have been talking about the cute little model houses, which only that estate agent has, rather than the photos of houses, which every estate agent has?
Chris: I didn't think they were cute.
Me: surely it's more plausible that I meant the model houses but that what I think is cute is different from what you think is cute, rather than that I'd suddenly developed super eyesight and also lost my mind?
Chris: your position is indefensible
Me: my position is defensible. I am defending it, unfortunately I appear to be dealing with a bunch of dopes
Laura: we can't all be dopes
Me: well, apparently you can
Laura: the families in cars in adverts are never like this

Fall Out Boy

I'm in the grip of several slow-burning obsessions at the moment. Fall Out Boy, for one, I'm sort of crushing on them collectively. What a difference a live gig makes! It's hard to say why as most of the time you had to watch them on the big screens (and why is that different from watching them on YouTube?), but that is the mystery of human presence. Being there, in the same air as people, makes a difference. Why? Maybe they seem more real. Maybe you see everything, not just what the cameraman directs you to see, which helps to fill in the reality of someone.

Then I've started my new Elena Ferrante book. I wonder if a Lila really existed, or if the author is simply applying herself into two and writing about both halves. I wish I could get the girls to read it: it's such an eye-opening validating piece of work, especially for women. Some woman in the paper was worrying that it wasn’t really literature. Why? Why not? What is
unliterary about it? The fact that it’s enjoyable? The fact that it acts as
though what two young girls in Naples in mid-twentieth century thought or
felt is important? I don’t see how you could find a book more serious intelligent and authentic than these novels are turning out to be.

On a more trivial note, I've been reading about Kate Moss’ new squeeze in the Telegraph: Nikolai von Bismarck, who from a quick piece of deductive work via Wikipedia, must be the second nephew of Gottfried von Bismarck (the first cousin of Nikolai’s father Leopold, who was the younger brother of Gottfried’s father, the
Prince von Bismarck). I knew Gottfried from Oxford when we were both in a
Ionesco play, The Lesson, being directed by an acquaintance from New College. I didn’t really know Gottfried, what with him being such a posho, but he seemed perfectly nice. He moved with the Olivia Channon set and died himself a few years ago, essentially from his lifestyle (drugs, gay orgies etc). All rather sad: gilded youth! This was all post the ITV Brideshead craze. Little did I think, as I was living through it, that people would be looking back at the eighties in a haze of nostalgia.

At lunch I went out and bought some Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum because it
was on a Guardian list of best skincare products and I’m running out of
face cream. I don’t even know how to use it! It was £5 off. I wonder if it
will have any detectible effect on my skin, that wouldn’t be just as well
achieved with a £5 pot of generic moisturiser. Anyway, when I went to pay,
instead of the self-service checkout asking whether I wanted to buy a bag,
there simply were no bags. There was only a little Boots man wandering
around with a handful of bags. I told him I wanted to buy one, but I had no
change. He shoved a little paper bag into my hand and whispered, “Go, go,
run away!” which I promptly did. Hilarious.

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.