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Sabbatical update!

After a busy January it has been a quiet couple of weeks. I’ve done a fair bit of walking and some reading. Managed to grab a few geocaches whilst in Sligo for the Re:Call retreat… including a drive through the sea on the causeway over to Coney Island. Really glad to find this one as you have to get the tidal timings right! I also had a good walk around Cairn wood in the Craigantlet hills and this week a day around Carrickfergus when I made 16 cache finds in a day… including a great wade through snow at the Woodburn Reservoirs. 

On the reading front, I am nearly finished Alain De Botton’s  ‘Status Anxiety’ – fabulous read, and I’ve started ‘Difficult Conversations: How to discuss what matters most.’ by Bruce Patton et al. I will offer some thoughts on those in due course. 

Busy times lie ahead with a week London at the end of February, including a University Chaplain’s study day, I am going to ski in Bulgaria for 5 days (never done that before… am I mad?) and a few days in Manchester in the middle of March for a meeting of the ‘Music resource group’ of the British Methodist Church which is looking at a replacement for the ‘Hymns and Psalms’ hymn book.

It’s scary how time flies so quickly. Another 6 weeks and Sabbatical will be over, then we will be into Easter and it will be only 3 months until we move house and start work in Queens!

Here are a few pics of/from the lovely Coney Island just off the coast from Sligo:


February 14, 2009 Posted by | Geocaching, Reading, Sabbatical | 1 Comment

Tenerife – assault at the mini disco!

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!).

February 12, 2009 Posted by | Family, Geocaching | Leave a comment

Tenerife- ‘…worst winter in 35 years.’

… 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…

January 25, 2009 Posted by | Family, Geocaching | 1 Comment

Helen’s Tower

Had a great 6km walk today and found 3 geocaches. Newtownards is famous for ‘Scrabo Tower’ which on a clear day can be seen from miles around. There is another similar tower close to Newtownards hidden away in a forest on a hill close to Conlig, between Newtownards and Bangor. The tower is visible from the road that runs from Newtownards to Crawfordsburn. Helen’s tower as it is known was completed in 1867 and was dedicated to Helen, Baroness Dufferin by her son Lord Dufferin. It was in the grounds of the estate in which the tower sits that troops from the 36th Ulster Division trained on the outbreak of WW1. A replica of Helen’s Tower was built on the Somme battlefield as Northern Ireland’s national war memorial. I have attached pic of both towers below, and of a frozen lake that I found on the way to the tower.

As for some reading, I am half way through ‘Strengthen yourself in the Lord’, by Bill Johnson. Intend to have it finished by the end of the week and hope to offer some thoughts to chew on!

January 7, 2009 Posted by | Geocaching, History, Reading | 2 Comments

Sabbatical Plans

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

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

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!

January 6, 2009 Posted by | Family, Geocaching, Sabbatical | 1 Comment