Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Four times

Jon has "tagged" me to complete a list of fours. So here we go...


1. Milk boy
2. Response testing dam piezometers in the Hunua Ranges, Auckland. The best summer job I've had. Most of the time was spent sitting on a dam spillway feeding trout or driving an on road car off road.
3. Bindary asssistant.
4. Enrolments specialist at Auckland University.

1. Lost
2. The Princess Bride
3. The Games (John Clarke satire on the Sydney Olympics)
4. The Simpsons

1. Lower Hutt
2. Roxburgh
3. Auckland
4. Edinburgh

1. India
2. Botswana (but I'm not in the hurry I once was)
3. Sicily
4. Ethiopia

1. I'm really intelligent
2. I know where the drugs are (well, that seemed to be the assumption on Saturday night at the Ministry of Sound)
3. I always want a beer.
4. I'm working when I'm at my computer...

FOUR PEOPLE I LOOK LIKE (according to some people):
1. Dad
2. A ghostbuster
3. John Travolta (well, according to a young girl in a school in central java I do)
4. Grant Smithson

1. Learn how to be a good photographer
2. Climb a mountain higher than 15,000ft
3. Score a hundred in club cricket
4. Come up with a better list than the above. That is lame...

1. Jim Barker
2. Chris Langston
3. Naomi Hill
4. Emma Bullard

Monday, February 27, 2006

At the Ministry

Busy weekend!

Friday night was spent about 400m from my workplace at the Thai Orchid in Wallingford, the occasion being an opportunity to celebrate Martin turning 28. Such a pretty young thing, he is too... The crowd was Martin, Jules, Esme and Chris from Oxford and a group of Martin's mates from Wallingford. The food was good (not great) but the company was excellent. Afterwards we wandered back to one of his pal's place in Wo'Fo (gee, I wander if that name will stick). Comedically, this place is directly opposite a shop called Tooth World. To call Tooth World a 'world', is slightly generous. It's a bit like calling indigestion 'life-threatening'. My parents carport is bigger than Tooth World'... Still, as someone for whom denture matters are important part of ones life, it's is good to know that Tooth World is present in my neighbourhood.

Woke up on Saturday with a hangover but happy in the knowledge that I had potentially recruited too more players for Wallingford Cricket Club (I wander if Nick and Paul woke up on Saturday morning thinking 'what have I done?'?. Well, Nick and Paul, it's like the junior campers but instead of a knife you get a big bat. And tea at the innings break.) Then it was off to help with some deliveries for 'The Besom'. The Besom is a group that aims to match people with needs with Christians who want to give. A middle thing-y, if you like. The Oxford 'chapter' is run by my friend Jules (the Jules of the above) and there's a picture of her here. She's a bit of an actress, see? Anyhows, Saturday was spent being a white-van man, including the sitting in a carpark eating takeaways (no copy of the Sun. I'm afraid) and blocking a road to unload furniture.

Saturday night I ended up on the VIP guest list at the Ministry of Sound. Well, ok, it wasn't my name on the list but the name of someone that I knew wasn't going to be there. This was my first experience at the Ministry and it was enlightening... From the marshalling of punters into gender split lines and then through the metal detectors (or was that the beautiful people selection process? The 1000 odd people inside were all very beautiful...), through the tickets and then to the coat check. An hour long queue that passed through the middle of the club and ended with the exchange of my winter coat and jumper and £4 for a wee slip of green paper. £4?? Thieving bastards. The advantage of being on the VIP list was access to the VIP lounge. Where I got to feel smug on the way in, and then got to look at people who I am sure were famous, but sadly for them, I recognised only Emma B from Radio 1. Still, it was a cool place to hang out and get some respite. The main deal of the night was Pete Tong playing a live Radio 1 Essential Mix. Like the Thai Orchid, I thought it was good, but, again, not great. Entertainingly, of all my mates, I was the only ones who was asked by random strangers for pills. And I'm the normal looking one.

MoS was suitably loud, the music was solid and for the first time a long while I camehome to hear the dawn chorus. I'd go to MoS again, but in summer when there are the less clothes to check in... And the old man in me does wonder why it can't start a little earlier in the evening. Boring old bugger I know.

Yesterday was spent with Ron walking through Port Meadow and along the Isis. When I left him, I carried on walking home along the river, something I hadn't done in a very long time. I'd forgotten how pleasureable an experience that is. Very very relaxing...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The soundtrack of my life

In response to Jim's challenge and Suzie being the first to accept it, I offer this.

Jim's challenge is as follows:
Would any if you like to contribute/submit a 'Sound Track Of My Life' to the hOME website and/or discussion group? Each 'Soundtrack' must/could comply with the following rules...
1. Must not a personal 'Top 10', but rather a narrative journey of when and how you were introduced to a song/band/genre.
2. Must be 10 songs long.
3. Must be in chronological order according to when each track was important to you.
3. Each track must be accompanied by one of the following; a) the personal story behind why it's in your soundtrack, b) the reason why the track is on your list, or c) the name of the boy/girl who meant sooooo much at that time
4. Narrative can also include band trivia (one for the boys there).

So here they are:
  1. 1984. Van Halen's Jump. I remember this being the soundtrack to the LA Olympics in '84. I also seem to remember a man in a rocket pack flying round the coliseum. My brother's comment at the time was that this song was 'made for sport'. It was about then that my love affair/addiction to sport began. Years later, someone once observed that the US hosting the Olympic Games is a bit like inviting your friends round to watch you masturbate.
  2. 1986. Debby Harry's French Kissing in the USA. 1986 was my final year (there were only two) at Hutt Intermediate School. I'd had a great year with phenomenal classmates (some of whom I wonder about now and wonder where they are) but at the end of '85 things changed. My friends discovered girls and somehow I didn't. In my naivety, I knew things were different, but I knew not how and what to do about it. This song is symptomatic of the pain and confusion I felt at the time. Like a bad experience I once had with rotten tomato juice, when I hear this song I know exactly where I was. Lost and lonely on the way back from the stock cars at Te Marua in the back of a car with my friends, not knowing if they were friends any more. Awwww, the pain...
  3. 1989. Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, or, as it became known to me, Smurf Music due to the violin part in the middle that also featured amongst the La la la la la la's in the theme music to the Smurfs. In fifth form at Naenae College, Lower Hutt I studied School Cert music. My teacher was the wonderful and late Mr John Hendren. We were given ten pieces of music to learn that year. Among them was Bach's Toccata and Fugue, Handel's Halleluia Chorus, Beethoven's Piano Concerto in C Minor, an unpenetratable (sp?) piece by Penderecki, and the Smurf Music. I can probably name most of the rest of the ten! Mr Hendren was an exceptionally gifted musician and a man with infinite amounts of patience and integrity. I remember us performing parts of Les Mis in the Christchurch town hall in 1987 and him insisting we remove the blasphemy from one of the pieces. That was the only time he ever imposed his faith on us. He was found dead of a heart attack in front of his computer in 1992, aged just 42. His death still guts me.
  4. 1991. Robbie Robertson's Soapbox Preacher. The (equal first) CD I ever bought. From his Storyville album. I've liked RR ever since I first heard Showdown at Big Sky in the late '80s. I bought it with a new Philips mini-system that turned out to be a lemon. There is not a bad track on the album and I love the story in this particular song. It was my first year at university and I believe the student loan that remains the millstone around my neck contributed to both CD and stereo. Oh well.
  5. 1993. Midnight Oil's Forgotten Years. In the summers of '93, '94 and '95 I lived in the small central Otago town of Roxburgh. My summer job was to work on an apricots orchard as part of the Apricots Lifestyle Evangelism mission. The grand scheme was to be a good Christian witness while working hard on the orchard. I think that in the first summer I failed both tests. The second summer I came back as a lone ranger (not as a member of Apricots) and did pretty well at both. In the third summer (and following winter) I was an excellent worker and a rather intoxicated Christian. But it is for that first summer, those salad days, that I choose this track. I had a great cottage, great cottage-mates, the summer was long, there was cricket to listen to, touch rugby to play, apricot and cheery crumbles to cook, floods to divert into the neighbours place... Probably the best summer of my life, and all the time accompanied by Midnight Oil's Blue Sky Mining. These shall not be forgotten years...
  6. 1997. U2's Wake Up Dead Man. Muzz Sheard played this at a Cityside service as he placed quotes on the Overhead Projector. It made me realise that church music was not (whoops, left the 'not' out in the first post!) restricted to 'Christian Music'. Among the quotes he put up was one from I know not where that read 'The highest building in a city is the temple to its god'. The Sky tower had just been finished in Auckland. At its base is the Sky City Casino. Muzz is still a large part of my life, and a man for whom my world will always be a better place. Cityside is also one of the most important communities I have been involved with. Quality from alpha to omega.
  7. 1999. The Mutton Bird's Last Year's Shoes. 1999 was my final year of seven at Auckland University. I was burnt out on study at this point. Throughout my seven years the Muttonbirds were a big part of my musical and university world. I can remember my friend Malcolm joyfully showing off that he had learnt the chords to In My Room by the Evangelical Union noticeboard. But LYS has a particular resonance for me. It brings back very fond memories of my girlfriend of the time, Jolinda, and how I learnt a whole lot about life and the universe with her. The only sermon I have ever preached (it was at Cityside) finished with this track. The song is essentially about change, and I find it reflects the change I was going through at the time: "lace up last years shoes, and see how they feel, you're not the same person anymore". As part of my final year I had to do a whole lot of work in a flume, shifting sand. One day I thought I was about to walk onto dry sand, but instead, to my humility, discovered that the sand was wet, and in front of a tutorial, disappeared up my waist in wet sand. "You're going to stand, in the sand, and watch them go". One of the all time great songs in my life and for so many different reasons and places.
  8. 2000. Groove Armada's Chicago. The track that changed what I listened to and the opener to a fantastic album. I was working for Harrison Grierson in what became known as 'the Cave'. One of the people I worked with was Lance Gore (now based somewhere in the far east) and he was very influential on what I listened to (I had no choice, he'd just crank his speakers up and we'd get all sorts...). He didn't introduce this to me, rather it was Mark Pierson (another for whom life is vastly the better for him being in it), the then pastor/curator of the above mentioned Cityside Baptist. He'd lent me Vertigo (and Pitch Black's Futureproof) so that I could use them for background music for a labyrinth service. I wasn't convinced by the cover of Vertigo, but the opening hum and then drum and guitar had me hooked for life. In one moment, my music appreciation was blown wide open. I mention Lance because he fed me more and more like it. And that year in the cave in Newmarket was a hole lot of fun. Pun intended.
  9. 2002. Mark Knopfler's What It Is. In November 2001 I moved to Edinburgh. A few months later I went home to see my sister get married. I, and my friends Sarah and Craig, were worried that I might enjoy NZ too much and not want to return to Edinburgh. I bought this on the way out and the lyrics resonated with me. I couldn't not come back after this. Whenever I hear this song I think of Edinburgh, and what a great town it is: High up on the parapet a Scottish piper stands alone and high on the wind the highland drums begin to roll and something from the past just comes and stares into my soul. Edinburgh will always be dear to my heart as will the people I shared it with for too shorter time.
  10. 2005. Coldplay's Talk. The integral song to my soundtrack of 2005. Much of the last year was spent flying to and from the UK on Singapore Airlines. In their music on demand section was X&Y. Whenever I hear this piece I think of a 747 barrelling down a runway in the dark as it takes me home. It's that little Kraftwerk sample that keeps reappearing that does it for me. Everytime I hear it, I know where I was, and how content it made me. And it follows Fix You, with the lyric 'Lights will guide you home'. Last year they did, home to NZ and back home to Oxford.
Wow, that was some process....

Monday, February 20, 2006


I have today off work as I am getting a portrait done.

Jon Cairns is the man doing the work for me and it will be done somewhere in Oxford.

The trouble with me is that I am not photogenic. Now, this is no false modesty thing, it's true. I am photogenic when caught unawares, or when my back is to the camera, or it is dark. The problems only arise when I have to pose for the shot. While posing I have time to think about how I am going to set my face. Not once have I come out with a successful arrangement of my features. Invariably I come out with one of three faces. These, in order of frequency, are:

Smug (This one is on top of a truck in Namibia. I felt smug!):


Grumpy (I think I'm cutting my toenails in this picture):
Occasionally, it all works for me and I get Normal:

But the beer and the two attractive women helped.

I'm trusting that the at the photographer will have tricks of the trade to set me at ease. And prevent me from thinking.

Friday, February 17, 2006

You've been warned

No run today

Instead another game of squash. This time it was Idris who was used to wipe the floor. To be fair, he did get injured in the process of mopping the floor.

I think I should turn professional.

Ruth is in town this weekend. Ruth is one of those really lovely people the world dishes up every now and again. She's here for a conference and we're out for dinner tonight. Need a recommendation for a place to have dinner...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

March Hare

March is going to be a cracking month. I'm starting it with The Go! Team at Oxford Brookes, then I have a week's worth of training at work. Then a week in the Czech Republic with Patrick and Jitka. Then back to Oxford for another week's worth of teaching before missing the Sigur Ros concert at Hammersmith because work has deemed it necessary that I visit Mexico. Get in there! It's a shame to miss Sigur Ros but, well, Mexico, baby!

Played squash today for the first time in six months. Wiped the floor with the IT manager. Now that feels very good. But my back and shoulders are demanding sick leave.

Walk the Line is very very good. It has to have one of my all time favourite final scenes. It's a simple scene involving a picnic by the lake, and some kids and an old man playing telephone with string and cups. Somehow it works very well with my soul. It's aesthetically pleaseing and it's been combined with elements of redemption.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Weekend activities

Last night Chris, Jim, Matt and I had a boys poker night. We agreed at the beginning that we would play for charidee, so we wouldn't get all bitter and twisted by having our friends taking money from us. This was great and theory and good in practice. It meant we could all enjoy ourselves but it did take a little bit of an edge off the betting. The cigars and brandy involved contributed to waking up this morning feeling like I'd slept in the residue of my father's back garden incinerator. Also, sadly, I woke up at 7.30am this morning...

After a morning call from Grandma, I got the call from the three year old, who requested that I come out to play. The three year old is Alexander and he is owned by my very good friends Mike and Sarah. When he calls, you come. So at 10.30 I found myself in Hinksey Park playground, sprinting towards a three year old who was sprinting back at me. There is something very moving about the unequivocal love of a small child.

Tonight I am off to see Walk the Line with Lucy and tomorrow we are planning on seeing Hidden (Cache). Both will be seen at the Phoenix, which has the advantage of a good bar.

And tomorrow morning a lie in watching Match of the Day. Apparently Chelsea lost today. Ho ho ho...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Not what I would want to see on the end of my leash

From the BBC

South African photographer Pieter Hugo's striking image shows Mallam Gahadima Ahamadu with a hyena, Jamis, in Abuja, Nigeria.

Hyena? No thanks...

On the button

22 minutes even. No blisters but I did get very cold hands.

When Christians are good

Something called the Evangelical Climate Initiative has published an evangelical call to action on climate change. The document has been signed by a number of leading evangelical Christians, including the emergent pin-up man, Brian McLaren, and Rick Warren.

This document has surprised some people:

"But from the bloody great ScienceBlogs site, a look at something unexpected: the list of signatories of leading evangelical Christians on a letter urging action on climate change. Wow. And, cool."

but not others:
"This move doesn't surprise me, evangelicals often follow the trends of the culture as a whole"

From where I perch, I'd probably have signed the document. But why is it that we Christians are only cool when we agree with the counter-culture? (Sorry, but in my opinion anybody who disagrees with the mainstream capitalist culture is probably 'counter-cultural'). And why should evangelical Christians coming out with a call to action be a surprise to some? Just a couple of thoughts for a Friday afternoon.

Now I'm off for a run to get those thoughts out of my head.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A fine (but not so old) man

The man on the right of the picture is my dad. On Sunday the 12th of February he hits the grand (but NOT old) age of 60.

The bugger of it for dad is that it being a sunday and him being a vicar, he'll have to work his birthday. And if he skives it off, his boss will know. No, not God, although he'll know also, but my mum. My mum (the one on the left) is the Archdeacon of dad's parish. I'm still not sure what the archdeacon does, but anybody with 'arch' in the title doesn't sound like someone you want to mess with.

Anyways, Happy Birthday to a fine man. You're a good man, and (now I know I've never been very good at saying it - ok, I've been bloody awful at it) I love you. May you have a great year.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Must you people be such....

I'm somewhat disturbed that two high profile (well, high profile in NZ) newspapers, and the two main television stations in NZ have decided that the wisest course of action in response to the Muslim outrage at the publication of the cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed with a bomb was to publish them themselves.

In fact, this is what the Dominion Post had to say about it:

Dominion Post editor Tim Pankhurst said the publication was a test of Islamic tolerance. The Press ran two of the caricatures, including the one considered most blasphemous, of the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban.

It reminds me of the time I saw Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, with a Brown Snake. He commented that the snake is one of the most deadly in the world, but that it take quite a lot to provoke it. In fact, he said, I'm going to show you just how much you need to provoke it, at which point he started jabbing it with a stick. Inevitably, the snake lashed out. Not, I must point out, that I am comparing the Muslim world with a Brown Snake, oh God no. But rather to observe that you aggravate anything enough, no matter how docile or edgy it is, eventually it is going to lash out. As it is patently clear to all that the cartoons have provoked a large amount of anger around the world then what exactly was the point of that test? Putting out the fire with gasoline, anybody? Dicks.

I feel distressed that my countrymen and women have decided that the best way forward would be to print these. Hell, I'm distressed that the Danes, French, Germans, Spanish etc did it in the first place.

Humour is an integral part of my world. As a Christian, I'm used to aspects of my faith being mocked. But I'm relaxed enough in my faith to laugh at it and to admire the skill required. Hell, I'm sure (maybe I'm projecting a little here), that God laughs along at the genius that is Eddie Izzard when he takes us down the twisted road that is his mind and tells the story of Noah in a speedboat. Humour will always be a tricky business. One person's joke is often another person's offence. One of the strengths of any movement, be it anything from football to religion, is for its followers to have the ability to recognise the absurdity in it, and yet still believe. However, there need to be boundaries.

Tze Ming Mok at Public Address writes:
"Women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, are not going to laugh at your jokes when they're unfairly at our expense. Does the fault lie with our sense of humour, or your sense of humour? Ah, postmodernism."

As thoughts in process, I realise that there is an inconsistency between the above and my statement that we need to be able to laugh at ourselves. Is it only funny if the humour is generated from within the movement? Somehow I think not. I'm still trying to work out when that is ok, and why it is seen as more acceptable for Christians to be mocked, and how they are more willing to be mocked, than, say, the Muslim world. But as I write I realise that to mock some aspects of the Christian faith would, in my opinion, be totally unacceptable.

I'm a big believer in the right to free speech. But I'm also a believer in being responsible with that right. The continued publication of such cartoons, in my opinion, crosses those boundaries.

I appreciate that these thoughts are somewhat confused, and probably the consequence of being a Guardian reading Oxford based liberal, so sorry about that. But the publication of these cartoons does make me angry and very sad.

Mok has some additional thoughts on the matter at Public Address.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Small car stories

Some people at work are going on a race from London to Ulaan Baatar. Which is in Mongolia. The race is called the Mongol Rally. The rules are very simple:

1. You can only use a car with an engine of less than 1 litre, that is generally considered to be crap.
2.You need to raise £1000 per car for charity by whatever means you see fit.
3.You are responsible for yourself.

Other than these you are free to sneak, bribe, cheat, connive and generally out-wit the world to get yourselves to Ulaan Baatar. In fact you will probably have to.

Now... I have a car that has a 1 litre engine, and there's no question my L reg Micra is crap.

Maybe not this summer, but next summer this little trip might be an option. Mr K, I'm thinking that you would be a great co-pilot.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I'm still reading!

Sometimes I binge read. Right now I'm loving the thought that at home is a book waiting for me, and it was wonderful reading on the bus into London last night. So much more pleasant than driving. Last week it was The Kite Runner. This week it is The Time Traveller's Wife. It took me a while and a reassuring conversation with Wendy to get into it. And it has proved to be worth it.

The reason it proved difficult to get into is that it is a rather complicated idea in that the lead character, Henry, travels back and forward in time. However, he is restricted to only travelling to places in his and his future wife's lives. So no dinosaurs or Jesus for him, then. Each chapter is introduced with a date and a reference to the age of Henry. Sometimes he meets himself so a chapter might begin with something like 24 December, 1991. Henry is 24 and 36. That's when it gets downright confusing. Usefully it's all written in the first person so it is possible to work it out. But sometimes it is a bit like the film Momento. Incidentially, do not search for the hidden extra on the DVD for that film. There is a hidden bonus feature where you can see it in chronological order. Don't do it, it only makes it worse. I saw it and was so much more confused.

I'm now 200+ pages into it and I think I've cracked it, and that has proved rather rewarding. It's a bit like a pistachio nut that you really struggle to get into, but when you go, it's oh so good. Incidentially, the best tool to open a pistachio with is one of those curved cheese knives with the two fork prongs on the end. Those two prongs work a treat on the tight ones.

Suddenly Gigging

At 16:09 yesterday I see that I have a missed call from a London number I don't recognise. Two minutes later I get this in my inbox:

From: Jon March [mailto:Jon.March@XXXXXXXXX]
Sent: 01 February 2006 16:11
To: Richard Body
Subject: call me..

Offer of a lifetime…gimme a call at the office cos I don’t have my mobile on me…


thanks mate…

Now, the last time I received the offer of a life time from Jon it concerned a very cheap digital camera that never arrived, although to be fair that was more a consequence of Apple's deliberately ambigious terms and conditions. However, I'm curious so I call him. Ten minutes later I'm in my car speeding to Oxford to catch the Oxford Tube (note to peeps out there, after about 3, I think, return fares to London are only £8, and that's cheaper than petrol I would use to drive) to Shepherd's Bush Empire to see Jose Gonzalez. Who? You're all asking. Well... have you seen the advert for the plasma screen TV where all the bouncy balls are bouncing down the streets of San Fran? The fantastic acoustic background music is Jose's song Heartbeats.

The gig itself was great, very low-key and very simple. I got to thinking that the bar staff at the SBE have one of the best jobs in the world. The bar is located in the best spot in the venue, obscuring the stage from large parts of the standing area at the back (how ridiculous is that?) and on this night nobody was buying much so the bar staff could just chill. Jon and I perch ourselves on the edge of the bar so we can rest our beers on something and get a view of the stage. Why does beer taste so awful when you have a cold? Towards the end of the gig he starts to play a track that I vaguely recognise (so far I've only recognised Heartbeats). I say to Jon that this is a cover. He stops for a second, and says "yeah, it's Teardrops by Massive Attack", and he's right, Jose has just launched into an outstanding version of it. Then he finishes up, everyone, including the cute barstaff beside me are, in raptures. Divine.

Ten minutes later I'm back on the Oxford Tube listening to Nightmares on Wax and at 12.30am I'm tucked up in bed. Apparently earlier that evening Rio Ferdinand had been sent off for Man U. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.