Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Chepstow Circles!

Last week 17 of us from the Jericho Road Project went to Chepstow for 4 days.  We stayed at Woodcroft Christian Centre, which is a great venue with plenty of space to relax.  We had lots of rooms, a kitchen, table tennis area, pool room, TV lounge, a sport hall and even our own Peacock strutting around the grounds.  We did a walk up a mountain, did some rock climbing, went to some waterfalls, played a pool tournament, worshipped God and read the bible.  We had a relaxed fun time. 

I have done days out and residential trips for all 10 years of the project.  One of the most memorable trips was to Knowle Park because we managed to leave someone behind and also spent ages finding someone else who had fallen asleep under a tree!  It was that trip which increased the crime rate at the National Trust gift shop but it was offset by Catford having less street drinkers for that day!  Sid the Punk came with us and on the journey there we had to stop for him to take a toilet break by the road side - I had no idea how many layers a Punk wears and therefore how long it takes to do a 'quick' wee!

Chepstow didn't have any Punks but I did have an emergency toilet stop with a difference.  On our return we going at a slow pace in London traffic and I really needed to go so the 'human Satnav' (In London Streets he is brilliant but needs lots of food to keep him going!) stopped us outside the bookies to use their toilet.  I can't remember ever going into a bookies before but I wasn't going to protest at that moment.  As you might expect the group thought this was really funny.   

So every Chepstow holiday (this was our 4th year) has it's particular memories.  It is the people that make the difference and this year's bunch were great.  On the Wednesday night people shared some very personal reflections from lives that had suffered much, often from a very young age.  It was not always comfortable listening but it was very real.  It was also in the context of God being the great rebuilder.  The previous night we had read "Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security" (Jeremiah 33:6).  We were a group of people whose lives had been changed, were being changed whilst we were together and will continue to be changed in the future. 

Two reflections at the end of the week summed it up: "this week has helped me understand what church is all about" and "this is what the church is talking about when it says move from rows to circles" [which is the current King's preaching series looking at how we build community together]

Chepstow is a long way to go to make a circle but the great thing is that we brought the circle back with us!

Friday, 9 March 2012

A short history of my swimming career

Rebekah and I celebrated our 15 wedding anniversary last night by watching David Walliams swimming 140 miles in the Thames - romantic hey!  Don't worry we are going away for the weekend. 

Swimming is simply really hard work.  This year I will do my first Olympic distance Triathlon which involves a 1500m swim in one of the docks on the River Thames.  And whilst I can now swim that distance in a lunch break at the local swimming pool, I have not swum in the Thames in a wetsuit nor had hundreds of other bashing into me ever before.

The real problem I have always had with swimming is the breathing thing.  When I was young I swam backstroke to avoid having mouthfuls of chlorinated water choking me.  I could sprint a length and at the end be totally breathless.  In fact my best swimming moment came in the school gala which was in the days when my secondary school had an outdoor pool.  It was solar heated!  I was sports captain and I managed to lead the Saxon House to victory in all the sports events.  It required powers of persuasion, which was easier to do when it meant I could get children out of their lessons but lots of persuasion I did.  The final event of the swimming gala was the sixth form relay race and I had the last leg.  Now I can't remember what position I was when I started the length I had to swim but I came home first and as a result my house was victorious! 

Well the breathing thing (or rather lack of breathing which is easily mistaken as drowning!) was still a problem until about 5 years ago.  I did my first sprint Triathlon (400m swim) doing back stroke.  No I've never seen anyone else ever do backstroke at a Triathlon either!.  So I had to learn how to breath and do front crawl at the same time.  I asked anyone who could swim well, how it was done. I watched and learnt, then practiced.  I can now do front crawl and breath comfortably nearly all the time.  It is one of my great personal victories. I need to credit Carl for helping me to swim well and in a straight line, thanks.  Carl and his wife Kate are my swimming heros, they swim outdoors all year round without a wetsuit.  Ice does not stop them!  

And then last week something new happened to me.  I swam and instead of concentrating intently on remembering to stay afloat, I found myself daydreaming as I swam.  It had become a learnt behaviour.  It was a new milestone in my swimming history.

So later this year I will swim almost a mile in the Thames and whilst it is 139 miles less than David Walliams I will be breaking new water in my swimming history!