Trains and Teas for Christian Aid


Yesterday we went up to my parents to help out with their contribution to their churches Christian Aid collection. Like many churches, they have struggled with the traditional Christian Aid week collections, where in the past envelopes have been delivered to every house in the parish, and then these have to be collected. As most people who have been involved in a collection like this will tell you, it is actually a lot of work for a comparatively small return. Many people fundamentally don’t like being door-stepped anyway, and therefore don’t really like doing it to somebody else.

Anyway, after a few years of shaking tins in the local shopping centre instead, which also didn’t produce that much, their Church decided to try something different. Each of the families in the Church were asked to come up with an idea to raise about £20. One family decided to give up something for the duration of Christian Aid week, and put the money into the collection. Other people have held coffee mornings, whilst Mum and Dad decided to hold a Trains and Teas afternoon, where Dad and a friend Peter who in charge of the local 16mm group would run trains for the afternoon, and Mum would provide teas. Myself and Beth went along to provide extra pairs of hands with the trains and teas respectively, and Beth also provided extra cakes.


Sadly, the weather was not exactly very good. Peter brought along a gazebo, which kept the water off the visitors, however you can see quite the volume of water that collected. (Incidentally, for those not in the UK, this is what the worst drought in a century looks like…) Just to really rub things in, come 5pm when people were heading home, that was when the sun came out! Having said that, everybody seemed to have a good time, and enjoyed watching the trains – and in some cases having a go at driving them too – and also sitting and chatting afterwards. More to the point, the afternoon managed to raise £161 for Christian Aid. This has gone towards the total collected by the whole Church of over £1200 – massively more than the street collections have produced in the past, and also significantly more than the street collections we’ve carried out in Finchampstead have produced.

I took various pictures during the afternoon – unfortunately I forgot to check the charge on my spare camera batteries, so there are only a few with the digital camera, the rest being taken on the phone. The pictures can be seen in our photo gallery, and I have also posted a few movie sequences taken on the digital camera to YouTube, one of which is below.

Wokingham Times Still Talking Pornography

After last weeks big front page story on Winnersh being top for searches for ‘pornography’ on Google, on this weeks Wokingham Times the story again makes the front page, abeit in a small part of one column, with what is as close to an admission that they got it wrong as I think the paper is going to get.

Alongside my posting on the subject last week, I also e-mailed a similar explanation of how Google Trends works to the editorial e-mail address of the newspaper. I was careful to not explicitly criticise the paper, however I expect that even the most hardened newspaper editor would probably be a little embarassed having spent a lot of time getting interviews with locals on something that was effectively misleading data from Google.

The latest article does mention the Google ‘best guess’ location algorithm – the source of the high marks, without actually expanding on how it works, nor mentioning the ‘normalisation’ of the figures that occurs to take account of location size. It does mention that the cluster of high-tech companies – including a couple of big data-centres – as a possible cause the high figure. However for residents of Winnersh it is still written from the point of view of there being an above average number of people searching for pornography, primarily because it is written as a report on online discussion on the subject triggered by their article, and the associated details of the discussion, rather than being a correction of a previously incorrect story.

Having said that, the paper this week isn’t all bad. St James has a nice little article talking about the new guide to the Churchyard we’ve just produced, including pictures of some of the significant graves, the author of the guide with Rev Richard, and a nice shot of the Church too.

Going Round in Circles in Bracknell

Bracknell has a bit of a reputation for being difficult to navigate. Again tonight it proved it’s reputation. Despite having printed out a map, we still got lost trying to find St Andrew’s Priestwood. Having looked at the map again once we’d found it, we’d actually circled around it almost completely before actually getting there!

The reason for our trip to Bracknell was to go along and support Rev Andrew Frearson as he was licensed as Team Vicar of St Andrew’s. As you may know Andrew spent his recent six month sabbatical at St James, having been a good friend of Rev Richard for many years. Ultimately he has come back to the UK, having spent the past few years working in the Atlanta Diocese in the USA. He is also bringing with him his American wife and step-daughter, who as Beth well knows, are probably just hitting the culture shock of landing in the UK – needless to say, Beth gave them our phone number just in case they need any help from someone who has been through the same thing.

The service was pretty good, if slightly different from what we’re used to at St James. St Andrew’s is much more towards the Anglo-Catholic end of the spectrum in terms of churchmanship, so there was lots of incense wafting around. Having said that, liturgy wise it was pretty straightforward and familiar – and I was pleased to find that they used the modern Lord’s Prayer too.

In fact the church as a whole is a bit different from Finchampstead. Whereas we are an ancient country Church in an affluent area, St Andrew’s is a modern building (built in the 1990’s) in one of the first of the big post-war estates that surround the centre of Bracknell. Whilst at St James our problems are often trying to find a way to fit everybody in, whilst maintaining our ageing building, the opposite would seem to be the case at St Andrew’s. Whilst it may well be that a Tuesday evening was a difficult night, and that a Sunday morning may be better, but I was really surprised at the numbers of empty seats in the congregation – compare that with when Rev Richard was licensed at St James when we had to run a video link across into the Parish Centre in order to accommodate everybody who wanted to come. Certainly I think that Andrew will have some interesting challenges ahead, and certainly some very different challenges to those which Rev Richard has in Finchampstead.

Developer Day 3 Coming Up Fast

The third Developer Day is coming up fast, looking at the calendar it takes place a week on Saturday. I got in promptly with my registration, as did a colleague at work who is coming along too – both our passes turned up yesterday. As expected the event was full in just over two weeks, so it seems as popular as ever. Also as before I still can’t quite make my mind up which sessions I’ll go to – invariably I’ll go to different ones from what I plan anyway. Beth and myself are also signed up to go along to the dinner afterwards – looking at the list there should be one or two familiar faces there as well.

However, what will be slightly strange will be the people that won’t be there. Neither Dave Oliver, nor Sarah are coming along this time. From what I can gather none of the guys from SSE are making the journey up to Reading this time which is a shame, would have been nice to catch up with them.

Anyway, I expect I’ll post a report on the sessions I attended, plus a selection of snaps from the Geek Dinner too.

Temporary Blip – Or a Total Change?

Now on the basis of all the pre-publicity, thanks to the number of Finns complaining about their entry, I thought that Finnish Rock Band Lordi would probably do fairly well. However, they pretty well walked away with the whole competition, beating the second place song by almost 50 points. Considering that Father Mitro Repo, who appeared on the BBC complaining about the band said that he thought it was a protest by youngsters annoyed that Finland had failed to score highly in Eurovision the previous year, perhaps the youngsters seem to have a better idea of what would go down well than the rest of the country!

In terms of the competition as a whole, Lordi stood out mainly because they were something a bit different. Indeed one of the old ladies at church today commented that she thought they were entertaining as a band – which did slightly surprise me. It did also help that Finland is in one of the many Eurovision voting blocks, which gave it a boost over and above the Russian entry, which as usual was helped by big votes from all the former Soviet Republics (which of course all have large Russian minority populations). Ireland made a big improvement by sending Brian Kennedy, who I first came across supporting the Corrs on tour a few years ago. Their song was really the kind of thing that won them the competition a number of times a few years ago, however with the block votes of the Balkan countries, the former Soviet republics and the Scandinavian countries they ended up in the middle running – enough to keep them in the top flight next year. The UK finished well down the rankings again – better than last year, but still in a spot where if we weren’t paying a large part of the costs of the competition we’d be relegated to the semi-final next year.

So the real question will be whether this is just a temporary blip, or whether the win by Lordi will result in something a bit different next year from the pop numbers and ballads that usually get performed. The thing is that they are not the first to try something different. For example the UK entry this year was a rap number, which didn’t do overly well, and the Germans put in a Country and Western song, which didn’t do much better either. Of course whether it is a change or not, trying to win against the block votes is getting increasingly difficult – and largely it won’t change much until the EBU come up with a voting system that can negate the effect of the block voting.

Thoughts from, and the lives of a Canadian and a Brit living in Southern England.