This is my last blog about my sabbatical – I promise. It was really fantastic to spend a week with my bro in law Andy, to get to know Jenny, his wonderful fiance, a bit better and to meet some of his gang in London and see what he was up to. I really enjoyed church.co.uk and getting a flavour of the missional stuff the guys are trying to do in centre of the city and to see Andy in action with the Christian Socialist Movement. I got a brief tour of Portcullis House and the Houses of Parliament.
For old times sake we even took in an Andy Flannagan gig in a place called Burgess Hill, about 6 miles north of Brighton. The gig was organised by Burgess Hill Fairtrade group as part of a Fairtrade and Freedom Festival during Fairtrade fortnight (not easy to say, never mind read). The gig featured Andy alongside Gareth Davies-Jones (orginally from Bangor, Co Down), Julie Hall and Rob Halligan. It was a good nights entertainment.
There was no end to the sporting options with Andy introducing me to ‘Top Golf’, ‘Urban Golf’, Saturday morning touch rugby on Wandsworth Common, and then cycling 26km around Richmond park.
Truly an event packed week! Thanks Andy for the good times and the camp bed!
Spending a couple of days on the north coast during Easter Week, hastily organised by my darling wife. She landed in a very cost friendly apartment right behind Portstewart promenade – absolutely fantastic… if I wanted to buy it apparently it would cost me £350k!!! Anyway we have had lots of family fun, Hannah loves Barry’s and sandcastles! We have been to the Causeway again and play parks aplenty, not to mention 10 pin bowling at Waterworld. We decided to try the Ramore Wine Bar for tea last night, not realising the kind of rugby scrum we were getting into! Good job for us the Watson’s were near the head of the queue and they got a table that we were able to join them at… it was great to catch up, oh and fantastic food too. It has been good to get a couple of quiet days after the busyness of Holy Week. Having just started back after Sabbatical I felt a little like a ‘rabbit in headlights’!
One more wee story from our trip to Tenerife, that now seems such a long time ago, especially given how freezing it has been here over the last couple of weeks. Our kids love music and dancing (anyone who has seen me dance will know that they have not inherited this trait from me!), so you can imagine the excitement when we discovered that the mini disco would be happening in the downstairs bar in the hotel each evening. Daniel, aged 2, was particularly taken with this activity. One evening when Hannah had decided that she had had enough, Daniel found a new partner to dance with, a tall 3 year old whom we will call ‘Jill’!
Jill was very keen to dance with Daniel and at first Daniel was very keen to dance with Jill. However, as anyone who has ever been in the proximity of a 2 year old knows, it is hard to make them do what you want! Jill was not best pleased when Daniel decided to sit down for a rest for moment and dragged him to his feet. Daniel duly complied and for the parents and grandparents sitting watching this was a great laugh. A few moments later the same thing happened… everyone still laughing… nothing to get overly concerned about. The third time Dan sat down however things turned nasty because this time Dan was not for getting up again, so Jill began grabbing at him and nipping his arms etc…
Now, as a parent, at this moment you are presented with a bit of a dilemma.. you of course want to rescue your child, equally you don’t want to create a whole big fuss. Jill’s parents had noted the deteriorating situation and so we were all intervening at the same time. Daniel, in response to the nipping had made a run for to the other side of the stage and seemed ok, Jill was being restrained by her parents who were trying to apologize to me. Suddenly however Jill, who realized she was now in trouble, and seeing the opportunity for one last go, made a break for it and gave Daniel, who made the mistake of coming closer again, one almighty shove which sent him flying across the stage in a heap. Poor Daniel was by now in tears and in my arms and very frightened.. ‘it’s ok son’, I said, trying to comfort him, ‘that’s girls for you..’. Jill was also crying now, for very different reasons, and I could see that her parents were completely affronted and they apologized profusely!
As the rest of week went on everytime we met this family, Dan hid, and actually I think Jill’s parents would have liked to hide as well… they just kept on apologizing. As Ruth and I chatted we were relieved that it wasn’t something one of our children did!
For mini disco lovers everywhere here is a wee taster of a good night at the Bitacora.. (there is no recording of the event recounted above.. it would be x-rated!).
I just love water-parks! Always have, always will. With the arrival of children my water-park adventures have been somewhat limited over the last five years. Whilst in Tenerife we decided that Hannah and Daniel were now old enough to risk it! We headed off to Aqualand,Costa Adeje with the added incentive that there was a Dolphin show. We decided that we would go early in the morning, have some fun in the pools and slides, and see the Dolphins, maybe come home at lunch time so that the kids would be completely shattered! We were really impressed by the free bus service with a pick up outside the hotel, we weren’t so impressed when we arrived at the park at 10am to discover that there was only one dolphin show in the day at 3pm! Five hours in a water park with two small children could well be a challenge! When we said to the very helpful employee at the entrance that there was no publicity regarding the times of the Dolphin show she told us it had been like this for three years, which of course isn’t any good to you if you haven’t been in Tenerife before. We had no choice really, we had to go in and hope that the kids would be ok… and you know what… they were, they were brilliant, we survived all the way to the Dolphin show and had a great day. Dan even went to sleep for an hour just after lunch. Pools, slides and show were all great, if you are ever in the south of Tenerife I thoroughly recommend a visit. Check out http://www.aqualand.es/tenerife/index.php
Here’s a couple pics and a wee vid of the dolphin show.
… so said the headlines in the local English newspaper available in Playa da las Americas. We had a brilliant week, probably the best weather on the island over this period, no rain at all, sunshine every day but one, temperatures in the early to mid 20’s, but it already seems a long time ago since we are now home five days! We stayed in the hotel Bitacora…. ate, walked, played in parks, went to the beach, read, went to water park, did a geocache… I thought I would post a few photo’s. There are a couple of other Tenerife experiences I am going to blog… but they are for the future.. in the meantime…
Thought I might outline my strategy for the next three months. There are probably 4 things that I am going to do:
1. Spend more time with my family… this is a break from the regular ‘out 5 nights a week’ routine… more time for Ruth and the kids… more jobs to do around the house! Though, by the end of it Ruth might be sick of the sight of me!
2. Christian leadership. Over the last 18 months I have been involved in the ‘Arrow Leadership Programme’… an intense series of residential teaching weeks, peer cell meetings, a mentoring relationship and some assignments. This has been a tremendous blessing and challenge. I want to use a fair proportion of my sabbatical time reflecting and disseminating the Arrow material. Trying to think through the what Church leadership looks like going forward. ‘Arrow’ was designed by a chap called Leighton Ford and is now a worldwide recognised programme for ‘young’ leaders in Local Church and para church ministry. For more info check out www.arrowleadership.ie
3. Preparation for QUB. In the Summer of 2009 we will be moving from Newtownards as I am designated to become the Methodist Church to Queen’s University Belfast from 1st July 2009. There are a few things that I will be able to do in preparation for this move, including a ‘higher chaplains conference’ in London and a couple of visits to University Chaplaincy situations in England.
4. Geocaching. This is ‘geekville’! I love technology and I don’t mind the odd walk… so a combination of the two is fantastic! Geocaching is like ‘treasure hunting’ using a GPS receiver and the internet for clues. You have to find the ‘cache’. They are located all over the place, from roadsides to mountain tops. If you are intrigued have a look at www.geocaching.com
Beyond these 4 main aims… there is the Methodist clergy retreat ‘Re:call’ in Sligo, and my role as the Irish rep on the Music resource group of the British Methodist Church which is looking at the provision of a new Methodist hymn book!
Plenty to keep me going!