Great friends in Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Jane with Kenny and Chris in front of the Newcastle bridge
The lovely Jane with Kenny and Chris Fyfe on the Newcastle side of the banks of the River Tyne.

What’s better than having great friends is getting to visit great friends once in a while.

So yesterday (Friday), en route for my friend Jonny’s ordination in Hereford Jane and I stopped off in sunny Newcastle-upon-Tyne to visit our good friends Kenny and Chris. (You may remember Kenny and Chris from that photograph of them standing next to that fat priest last September!)

What great fun (in chronological order):

  • a tremendous, slowly-cooked lamb dinner
  • a couple of board games until midnight
  • much chat, and laughter, and catching up
  • a brief tour of the quayside in Newcastle and nearby Gateshead
  • walking across the Gateshead Millennium Bridge … and back
  • seeing a giant cat skeleton in the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, and getting told off for wanting to take a photograph

And then, all too soon, it was over, and we were driving down the A1 … A1(M) … M1 towards Hereford.

(This blog entry has been purposefully ante-dated, as I didn’t have my laptop with me when I was away.)

My first parking fine

Penalty charge notice beneath windscreen wiper blade

Today I received my first ever car parking fine. Bah!

I had been visiting my Great Aunt Mary in the Corstorphine Hospital with my Mum, when we got a call from my sister Jenni. She was also in Edinburgh buying some clothes for a job interview, and we needed to get Mum and Jenni together on Princes Street before the next bus left for the Scottish Borders. So I drove off, heading for the parking spaces up the centre of George Street.

“There’s one!” shouted Mum, and I duly and obediently pulled into it. But what I didn’t realise is that there are residents’ parking spaces on George Street, interspersed with the pay-and-display spaces and motorcycle spaces. And we didn’t leave Mum’s blue badge on the dashboard.

So I got a fine: £60.00, reduced to £30.00 if I pay it within 14 days. And Mum and Jenni missed the bus.

Double bah!

(This blog entry has been purposefully ante-dated, as I didn’t have my laptop with me when I was away.)

Error’d: Opera version numbers

A new version of Opera, Opera 90.2, is available. Would you like to upgrade now?

My word! What an enormous leap in version numbers Opera seems to have done!

It seems no time at all since I upgraded from Opera 8 to Opera 9, and then not that long ago I opened Opera to discover this dialog box, inviting me to upgrade … to version 90.2!!

A new version of Opera, Opera 90.2, is available. Would you like to upgrade now?

I somehow suspect that something slipped through the error-checking stage at Opera Towers.

(Error’d entries on this blog are named after the popular Worse Than Failure feature.)

Made-up name

Close-up of book spine, Scientific Tables by Geigy.

When my nephew Benjamin was learning to speak he couldn’t pronounce my name (Gareth) properly. Instead he used to call me “Geigy” (pronounced Guy-ghee).

While I was lurking in some corner of the University a couple of months ago I came across this book: Geigy Scientific Tables, Seventh Edition.

Yay! It’s my nephew’s made-up name for me. I’m famous … sort of.

Forgotten words

A winter scene overlooking a still river

This morning I’ve been reading about the importance of silence in prayer, and the absence of words. Ironically, this quotation from the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu spoke to me:

The purpose of the fish trap is to catch fish and when the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten. The purpose of the rabbit snare is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten. The purpose of the word is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to.

Chuang Tzu, Taoist philosopher

My favourite kitchen appliance rock group

… and now for something completely different: Hurra Torpedo performing Total Eclipse of the Heart.

If you’re not familiar with them Hurra Torpedo are “the world’s leading kitchen appliance rock group”. Those are their words, I’m sure you have your own favourite kitchen appliance rock group so please don’t let their boasting upset you.

My favourite YouTuber comment appeared on another upload of the same video:

That was so great that I can’t even talk about it right now. I feel both reborn and filthy.

I think digiflapjack speaks for us all.

Keith Allen, a jug of water and Jesus

Water being poured from a jug into a glass.

Catching up with friends’ blogs today I came across Neil’s review of the Channel 4 show “Keith Allen will burn in Hell” the other night, the show where he visited one of America’s most controversial churches, the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.

I don’t watch very much TV so I missed that this was on, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube I watched it this afternoon: Keith Allen will burn in Hell on YouTube (the show is in five parts on YouTube).


Reading Channel 4’s description of this show it’s quite clear that this wasn’t going to be a terribly high-brow documentary:

Programme-makers in America and Britain have repeatedly tried to expose their beliefs as anti-Christian, but these attempts have failed. In Channel 4’s investigation, Keith Allen takes a smarter, more streetwise approach. During three extraordinary days at Westboro, Keith reveals more about the church than other television programmes have unearthed in three months.

By “streetwise” I presume they meant “is willing to dig the dirt” and “will occasionally resort to playground name-calling and swear words”.

On a few occasions I felt that Keith Allen’s actions were cheap and didn’t offer anything constructive to the documentary (his scene in the studio with the naked man, for example).

But his bravery for going into that situation, into their territory, and taking them on (armed only with his wit) has to be applauded. It would be too easy for me to sit comfortably at home, in front of my PC, and criticise — I’m not sure I’d have the courage to do it.


On the whole the documentary left me feeling quite sad. Sad that these Christians are known more for their hatred of people who are homosexuals, their controversial picketing of dead American soldiers’ funerals, their offensive signs and confrontational attitudes, rather than for their example of living out the person of Jesus in their every day lives. They seemed to demonstrate anger more than compassion, judgement more than love.

  • The WBC’s response to people’s sin (what they do that separates them from a close relationship with God) is to picket and rant and tell them that God hates them and that they are going to hell.
  • God’s response to people’s sin (what they do that separates them from a close relationship with God) was to send Jesus to show us just how much he loves us.
  • Jesus’s response to people’s sin (what they do that separates them from a close relationship with God) was to love them, to heal them and be a living example of God’s love to the point that he forgave them while they were crucifying him.

Desert Fathers

There is a story from the Desert Fathers (the Christians from the 2nd and 3rd centuries) about a brother who had “committed a fault”. So a council was formed to which Abba (Father) Moses was invited. But he declined the invitation and stayed at home.

Eventually the priest sent someone to him saying “Come, for everyone is waiting for you.” So he got up, took a leaking jug, filled it with water and took it to them.

The members of the council came out to meet him, and on seeing the leaking jug asked “What is this, Father?”

The old man looked at them and said, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the error of another.”

When they heard that they said no more to the brother but forgave him.

(Found in The Way of the Heart by Henri J M Nouwen)


I find it hard not to want to judge the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, as witnessed on that documentary. But I know that I shouldn’t.

All I can say is, simply, that I did not recognise the Jesus that I know and love and read about in my New Testament in their actions. The Jesus that I know would be standing at those soldiers’ funerals weeping with their families; or spending his evenings in the gay bars getting to know the clientèle.

Christianity is not about fear, hatred or anger — it’s about our lives being transformed by God through love. And that’s not wishy-washy. It’s a hard, hard thing to sit in honesty with our own weakness, vulnerability, brokenness, nothingness and offer ourselves humbly and completely to God. It’s easier to hide behind a façade, a mask, a compulsion, even a sign that berates others. But it’s not healthier!

I simply know that those moments that I have dared to seek God in silent prayer have revealed to me that … well, Nouwen puts it this way: “[I] realize that nothing human is alien to [me], that the roots of all conflict, war, injustice, cruelty, hatred, jealousy, and envy are deeply anchored in [my] own heart” (Op cit., p.25).

So who am I to judge others? All I can do is start by asking God to change me, and pray that others may see something of God in my transformation.

I just wish there were more TV shows that explored something of that, such as the BBC series The Monastery.