Tuesday, January 29, 2008


won't be posting much for a while, but will try to stick the occasional image here to keep things ticking over...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

ian says it better... and a quick web round-up...

re that last post of mine - abbot ian is (as ever) insightful (and much more concise than me) on the same subject...

meanwhile bigdaddystevieb is basking in the limelight of our newly-found fame...

and i have a new(-ish) book out. (i think that it'll be the last incarnation of '40' now... but chris goan's meditations are great and they fit the images really well...)
here's a sample spread...

(sorry that the text is so small! it reads...)

In a room scented by the smell of sawn timber,
a man hears a voice in his inner ear calling him.

It is time.
Your time, and mine.

Enough of the mending and making and shaping of wood.

Time to put aside the tools.
The sharp nails...
can wait.

lastly this made me laugh out loud.

(and really lastly, on the desk recently...)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

12 and a half steps and monasticism and stuff...

for a while now a group of folks from revive have been working their way through this 12-and-a-half step programme which is a sort of materialism/consumerism detox based on the AA model of the 12 steps. it's about trying to cure your addictions to - for want of a better word - sin.
so earlier in the week sue and i went to an informal meeting for folk who might be interested in doing the course.

we haven't comitted ourselves to doing it yet, but i think that it's a fantastic thing to do.
and yet i have some misgivings. some of that is a rich young ruler-type response. i'm holding on to a lot of stuff and i don't want to let it go. [and of course that's exactly the attitude that the steps are designed to help you out of...]

also, these days i just i have an instinctive aversion to any sort of set course or programme...

but then there's the theology. at the meeting howard, who wrote the book, talked at one point about casting out demons - i'm not sure that i buy all that spiritual warfare stuff . plus i was left wondering about the model of prayer that you'd be expected to adopt - wondering if it'd fit the sort of silent meditative listening prayer that i'm ambling towards... i need to find out if these are genuine issues or not.

and there's also this monastic thing that we've been doing - i love it, or at least the idea of it, but it's hard; hard to make the time on a regular basis to learn to be silent, to be obedient, to have right priorities, to be humble, to pray, to do the lectio divina... i've been a bit crap at it and not made much headway with it to be honest.

then on the bbci player i watched the final episode of the 'extreme pilgrim' series. peter owen jones, an anglican priest, went off into the egyptian desert and lived alone in a cave for three weeks, following in the footsteps of st anthony and a modern day ascetic called father lazarus. it was brilliant and scary - he suffered, failed to cope with the alone-ness, the hell of his own introspection; but then came to love the experience. at one point he talked about the noise in his head subsiding, and then about how the desert pares down your choices and your distractions... i love that idea, and i kind of long for that, but not the pain that goes hand-in-hand with it.

[at other points he and fr lazarus talked about the nature of the spiritual battle - it's an internal dialogue. i was very much more comfortable with owen jones' understanding of the demons within, of his own dark side, of his small habitual sins than with the more literal idea of satanic attack...]

so here's the thing. i have to do something. owen-jones talks about being numb before his experience in the desert and i know what he means. i have a faith, but in practical terms, it impacts very little on my life and in my community. that's not good enough any more.
i could go for the steps thing. or maybe i should concentrate on making a go of the monastic thing [minus the going off to live in a cave bit - i'm thinking more of trying again to adopt the principles and establish some sort of rhythm and balance]...


Friday, January 11, 2008

pop, and happy birthday stumps...

it was good to head back down south to rural oxfordshire last weekend for stumps' 40th bash - a select band of specially-invited family and friends gathered at the hyde house to toast his advancing years and admire his DIY and consume vast quantities of finger-food.

jim, minty and i were asked to make a cd each to celebrate the occasion - fortunately minty forgot to do his, so we were spared and evening of wang chung B-sides and obscure men without hats album tracks ;-)
jim's compilation was basically all mark ronson and mika, saved only by some killers and kaiser chiefs at the end. ian b, you would have loved it.

i sweated over my choice. you have to think pretty carefully about what to put on a compilation cd (or cassette tape - younger readers: ask your folks) do you put stuff on it that you think the person on the receiving end will like (stumps is the unashamed owner of a shania twain cd so the bar is set pretty low on that one) or do you try and widen their musical horizons a bit? do you go for party tunes or do you try to vary the mood? do you include some crowd-pleasing oldies, or do you go cutting edge? as you can tell, i took it way too seriously, but was still rather pleased with the outcome (see the tracklisting below...)

in the end i went for big uplifting tunes and sort of surprised myself - usually my compilations are a bit more maudlin and introspective. but i've been listening to this selection a lot on the itunes and it's become the soundtarck to my new year so far... it's music to lift up your head to.

Happy Birthday [Intro] - Altered Images
spit at stars - Jack Penate
Let's Get Out Of This Country - Camera Obscura
Your English Is Good - Tokyo Police Club
Either Way - The Twang
She's Got You High - Mumm-Ra
Ageless Beauty - Stars
Tonight The Streets Are Ours - Richard Hawley
Feet In The Sky - Duke Special
I Still Remember - Bloc Party
Decide - The Bodines
Go wild in the country - Bow Wow Wow
Please Stand Up - British Sea Power
Crooked Teeth - Death Cab For Cutie
Let's Make This Precious (BBC Version) - Dexy's Midnight Runners
Forget Myself - Elbow
We Will Become Silhouettes - The Postal Service
Cemetry Gates - The Smiths
The Competition - Spearmint
Town Called Malice - The Jam
November Starlings - Trembling Blue Stars
Bright Side Of The Road - Van Morrison
Happy Birthday [Outro] - Altered Images

meantime there was a great programme on bbc4 the other night - 'pop- what is it good for?', where paul morley explored the idea of pop music and what it means and whether/why it is important and how it works. it's just so great to see/hear an enthusiast talking entertainingly and intelligently and with passion about stuff like this (see also mark kermode ranting about movies every friday afternoon on radio fivelive) well worth seeking out if it's on bbci or youtube or somewhere...
here's a clip...

re: the discussion in the clip - i think that ed's going through something like this at the moment with his emo obsession - his enjoyment of the sweariness of his new green day album and the stagey miserablism of my chemical romance and all that... he's growing up and whilst i often can't stand his choice of music (he also has a penchant for Queen), it's still rather wonderful to see his love of it...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"so this is the new year..."

a very happy and somewhat belated new year to you all.

i'm not really one for making resolutions, but the changing of the year is a good point to take stock and set some goals and re-assess where you're headed.

taking a leaf out of ian b's book [see the link on the right there] one of my goals for this year is both metaphorical and literal [ian's was 'climb more mountains'] - in 2008 i want to lift my head and look up more. i realised this morning that i'll step in poop more often, but it's worth the risk.

some work-things that i'm hopeful of in the coming year are another collaboration with the diocese of blackburn lot, the grand opening of my new studio/office/extension [don't hold your breath that one...], richard and suzi's greetings cards and the possibility of an online cross-cultural community emerging church arts project website thing.

sue hits 40 this year too, so that's an important and eagerly anticipated landmark, and eddie goes up to big school in september... not too sure how eagerly he's anticipating that, but it's definitely a family milestone...

on the desk lately...

Friday, January 4, 2008

the deep

a couple of years back on the weekend before christmas we went to the deep in hull with simon and anna and the kids. this year we did the same - both times it's been remarkably quiet in there and we've almost had the place to ourselves.

it's an amazing and rather wonderful place. they have a couple of huge grey reef sharks and at there's something quite incredible and primal and humbling about being able to stand up close in the viewing areas and look right into their eyes as they drift past.

this year me and eddie were totally awestruck by their giant pacific octopus - possibly the single most amazing creature that we've ever seen close-up. standing there watching it curling and unfurling around it's tank was quite a spiritual experience (i felt something similar stood in front of damian hurst's pickled shark at the old saatchi gallery) - it's like blake's 'the tyger' - "What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"...

meanwhile work of late has been loads and loads of roughs, and not much finished artwork - that'll all kick in next month. these have all been on the desk just over christmas and new year...