Saturday, 2 January 2016

Happy New Year! What a year 2015 was!

Happy New Year!
2015 has been an amazing year for me, I know that I am lucky that this has been the case, the law of averages says that every year cannot be great for everyone, but 2015 has been one of the best for me!
Some amazing threads have run through the year, Skeptics in the Pub has continued to be amazing, with particular highlights being Alom Shaha and Michael Marshall, I regret not having made it to QED this year, but we will rectify that next year!
I did my first ever stand up routine in March, which was terrifying but fun, then was invited by Charlie to do his Stand Up Philosophy night in London, which I was very nervous and not very good, but I learned a lot! then a book related comedy set at the book launch for Dane John Cobain, which was not so bad! Have continued to do bits an pieces throughout the year, as well as MCing the Open Mic night at the Arts Centre.
The Elections happened, and I stood as a candidate for Abbey Ward in Wycombe, I only really had to get a few signatures and deliver some leaflets, but a great experience and one I will maybe take more seriously in the future!
Holidays! Four amazing trips away with Ivonne, i know, we are massively lucky to be able to do this, A great long weekend in Bavaria seeing friends, A week in the sun near Palma in Majorca, a week at Ivonne;s parents, and a very relaxed week in Menorca.

Book group has kept going through the year, we have had some great conversations, but also some low turnouts. Would love this to be a success, but despite have hundreds of people signed up it seems that the enthusiasm is lacking... need to think about the future of this for 2016.
I moved to the Henley Branch at work, this is not ideal, but does give me a chance to be closer to Ed Atkinsons Skeptics and Believers group, which has had a great year, and I even led a discussion on Happiness, which although varied from the normal tone of the evening seemed to go down ok!
So much more was amazing, a weekend in Brighton, the continuing fun that is Kathryn Taylors Philosophy in the Pub in Chesham, various comedy nights, a few days in Exeter, my Dads Birthday weekend at Kay and Johns, countless lovely meals, Writers group, visits to London...

But the year for me will be mostly defined by Sunday Assembly, and specifically the setting up of our very own community in High Wycombe, In March it was just an idea in the heads of myself and Gemma and maybe a few others, by October it was a reality and we had our launch event with 40 people. I won't mention all who made this happen, as you know who you are! Some great new friends made, a brilliant day in London with other Sunday assembly Groups in December, and 2016 will be the year of finding our direction for the group, exciting times ahead!
Roll on 2016!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Sunday Assembly High Wycombe... our second coming...

Well, we managed to pull it off again, but not without an element of stress. Here is how it played out, based on my report submitted to Sunday Assembly International...

It's Friday night before our second ever Assembly, the High Wycombe Sunday Assembly organisers Facebook group jolts into life,

“You know it's remembrance Sunday, what are we going to do about the 2 minute silence at 11am”. This seems like a minor problem, we delay the start, put something respectful on the screen, explain sensitively to people as they come in... The irony that we forgot Remembrance day is not lost on us.

A new Facebook notification comes in...

“And you know we meet right opposite the War Memorial...” Yes, our venue could not be closer to the town War Memorial, it was as if the cafe had been built in that location especially for its wonderful views of the memorial.

A hasty rearrangement of the schedule takes place, we can't be singing “Don't Stop Me Now” while those outside are respectfully remembering the dead. We will start later, we can do talky stuff at the start, we can move songs to later, yeah, this can work, no problem.

Sunday comes, we apprehensively share breakfast together at a local restaurant, we make our way over to the venue, will the roads be packed with people? No, we are lucky, just a few people milling around, this is OK, some people will gather for the silence then disperse, we can start at five past 11 and all will be well.

Except that the pavement outside fills up with people, and the road outside fills up with people, a PA system is turned out outside, trumpeters turn up, brass bands turn up, a military march of uniformed soldiers goes past. Veterans with their medals descend on the area right outside the cafe we meet in, only separated by a pane of glass

Our speaker for the morning texts me “Just walking past a roadblock, amazing, didn't know you would attract so many people”, this made me smile... for a short time.

The church bells die out, signifying that it is eleven, we have just about got our equipment inside in time, we display the word 'Remember' on the screen, Twenty-five of us sit, some respectfully, some awkwardly. The silence ends with a trumpet, but the tone outside remains respectful, people don't float away as we expected, no, there are wreaths to lay, prayers to say, and for us this means a delay.

It is twenty past, people are happily chatting to each other, some cake has even been passed around, actually this is what it is all about, but it was not the plan, and when something is not the plan it feels uncomfortable. We need to start, we cancel a song from the running order, we tell our speaker his talk will be up first, people can't complain outside about someone talking, surely?

Our hosts start the service, they explain what Sunday Assembly is all about, we have a reading, an announcement that we will be singing our first song. THIS IS NOT THE NEW PLAN! WE CANCELLED THE SONG! We quickly find the slides for the song, BUT WE CANCELLED THE SONG!

I turn and look outside, and, like a miracle has happened, the crowd has totally dispersed, there are no old men with medals, the wreaths are laid, not a trumpeter in sight, and inexplicably there is an ambulance outside taking any attention away of noise we might be making.

We sing the first song, Our speaker gives an amazing talk., we have our very own moment of silence, we finish at 12.15 and have a very fast clear up, we go to the pub and have a lovely time. We all knew that it would be ok in the end, didn't we? Yes, never a doubt, never a doubt.

Do join us for our next Assembly on the 13th December!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

We did it! Sunday Assembly High Wycombe is now a thing!

After 3 months of planning the first Sunday Assembly in High Wycombe became reality!

Here is a slightly amended report of the first service which I sent to Sunday Assembly International.

Sunday Assembly High Wycombe Report. 11th October 2015

On Sunday we had our first Sunday Assembly High Wycombe event.

We were very pleased with how our service went, from about twenty minutes before the room started to fill up, the enthusiastic “Love bombers” from SA London were some of the first to arrive and before long we were packing 40 people into quite a small space!

I gave a very brief introduction, then the Sunday Assembly Reading band, who kindly provided the music for our first event, went straight into Walking on Sunshine, and the energy in the room just lifted!

I then explained what Sunday Assembly was all about, using the motto (Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More) and then we went into a short audio story that introduced our theme, which was “Overcome”. We sang Close to You and had our talk from Kathryn Taylor, She hit just the right tone and was very moving and personal.

After another song Gemma did a ”Doing her best” segment, which fitted the theme and was very amusing, then a moment of silence, and a chance for the congregation to greet each other.

Notices were simply an appeal for people who would like to help and join the team, especially for the music, and then we sang a final song (The Bare Necessities), which was great fun, and after a quick thanks to everyone we were mingling and drinking tea and eating cakes.

Just 4 weeks now to get the next event together...

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Proud to be German

Yes, I know I am not German, although I have grown to love the country in the last few years.

I obviously have a German partner, and have been learning the language, first at the local adult learning course, which although was a good start to the German learning process did not quite work out for me, so I only stuck at it for the first year. This is very normal apparently, and I take solace from Adam Fletcher as he brilliantly describes the journey he went through trying to learn the language while living in Germany in his book Make Me German.

I am now using the app Duolingo to help me learn, it seems to be working for the weird way my brain works, dripping the language into my head in small burst each day. I feel in a few months of using this app I have learned more than a year in class. (Ivonne is using the app to learn Spanish too, as being fluent in two languages is not enough...)

We have German music on in the house as much as English language music (I am listening to the excellent Silbermond as I type!) and regularly listen to the Bremen based radio station Bremen Eins, of which I identify about a word every 5 minutes...

I also have thrown myself into drinking German beer, this is something I find quite easy, this bit of 'being German' I am a natural at!

But the thing that recently most made me wish I was German was their response to the refugee 'crisis' in Europe. Germany seem to be mostly dealing with thousands of people seeking refugee in the country in a grown up, organised (well you would expect that), humanitarian, and friendly manner.

In the UK we seem to be terrified to let a few thousand people across the channel from Calias, and some of the attitudes and opinions I have heard from politicians, the media and individuals I work with has really disgusted me.

Yes, I am sure these attitudes exist in Germany too, and I am sure that there have been incidents that we don't hear about in the British media, but overall if I was German then I would be very proud to be German right now!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Sunday Assembly High Wycombe

Well, things are starting to come together - the first Sunday Assembly in High Wycombe will be on 11th October at 11am!

If you don't know what Sunday Assembly is then think of a church service, with songs, and readings, and poems, and a talk, and community - but without the need for any of the congregation to have any supernatural beliefs, and no mention of god in the service.

It's more complicated than that perhaps (a humanistic edge, some existential ideas, some psychology thrown in, some mindfulness... the list goes on). You can find out more at the main Sunday Assembly site

We have now got a venue, a speaker, and a theme all sorted, the music is coming together bit by bit but remains my main concern, as I don't really understand the ins and outs of how a band works, or how music works for that matter, but we are getting there.

We still need to print and make some banners to make the venue look amazing, we need some poetry readings, we need people to meet and greet and make teas and coffees. We need to sort the running order, the timings and the publicity. If you can help, let us know!

But we are now only six weeks away from this happening, and happen it will, if we are ready or not! Exciting times, and thanks for all the people who have helped this come together, especially Gemma whose enthusiasm got the whole project off the ground in the first place!

Follow Sunday Assembly on Twitter @S_Assembly_HW or like us on Facebook

Sunday, 23 August 2015

High Wycombe from the Marlow Road

On Thursday I went to Tate Britain, and decided (after seeing a few of my favourites in the old part of the building) to focus on the Clore Wing, which is mostly full of Turner pieces which I have not properly explored before. i was amazed to read that they have over 42,000 Turner items (including sketches), and this got me thinking.

I searched the online catalogue to see if he had painted or drawn anything of places I know, so I searched for Devon, and then Buckinghamshire... One picture instantly jumped out... Wycombe Church from an angle that looks as though it could not be far from our flat, I was fairly sure I knew the spot that Turner must have been standing, and that our modern day flat would have been in his picture had it been built in 1802.

So this morning, armed with printout of Turners painting i strode up the hill, looking to match the angle of the church and line it up with the curve of the hills behind. I confidently strode to the spot in the field that i thought it must be, and instantly knew that I had got it all wrong. The hills behind didn't match, and the angle on the church was not right. I was on the wrong side of Marlow Hill, and realised this might take a bit longer than I thought.

I crossed the busy 4 lane road (luckily on a Sunday Morning it is not too busy) and strode up the hill to the only turning off the main road that could possibly provide the right angle on the church. Sadly trees obscured the view all along, and the area I would have needed to get to was private property of Wycombe Abbey School. I kept walking until I just glimpsed the Church through the smallest gap in the foliage, it was still not quite the right angle, but very very close. I walked to the end of the railings and the row of trees only to have my view blocked by houses.

I walked back to the gap to estimate where the right place would be. I think that I would need to be about 20 or 30 metres forward from where I took this photo to be in the exact spot that Turner stood when he painted 'High Wycombe from the Marlow Road", but that falls well into the private grounds of the school.

I will visit again in the winter to see if I can get a slightly clearer view without those pesky leaves!

Sunday, 4 May 2014


...It's been a long time (lots of works in progress so far) but I have finally completed one of my new things.

We went to Yo Sushi (I know there is an exclamation mark, but can't remember where it goes) in High Wycombe yesterday.

I was glad to see the rotating coloured plates whizzing around, and knew that we would sit on one of those high bar stools, and rather liked (but didn't use) the taps for water on the table top.

We were shown how to call for assistance, had how to order explained to us, and helped navigate the menu.

I decided to go for the most Sushi looking dishes, so picked a small purple plate that was spinning around, and then ordered a salmon dish from the specials menu.

I must say I didn't enjoy the little seaweed wrapped parcels of rice and fish that I picked from the conveyor belt, it was very tasteless (just a general fishiness) and very very dry, and made me reach quickly for my beer to just get some moisture back in my mouth.

the next dish was more moist, and had a nice lemongrass element to it, but was just more fishy rice, flavour indistinguishable from the first dish! I ate maybe half of it, but could not manage anymore (and I was really hungry still!).

So a disappointing experience, not made better by not being able to relax on the high stools, being situated by the sink where staff were washing their hands, and rather dark, small surroundings.

So, I have no tried it, but won't be going back! Who want's to go for curry?