Another year has come and gone since I wrote and posted a photo of Matilda in 2016. 2017 was another special year for Naomi and I with the birth of Pollyanna in December, our very own Christmas baby. Our family is now complete; Freddy, Matilda, and Pollyanna – not forgetting our dog Toby.
Family life is so precious, albeit demanding with three children under the age of three. My resolutions for 2018 reflect this, and I hope I can do justice to them: Look after myself better (so I can be there my family and work smarter). Spend quality time with family every day. Live in the moment and worry less. Effective planning and organising in my personal and work life. Run twice a week (reaching parkrun 100 milestone if possible).
In 2017 I’ve listened to over 100 albums, mainly while working in the office at home, but occasionally I’ve had the luxury of simply relaxing and listening with headphones and a nice cuppa.
My top ten commercial albums are as follows (in alphabetical order):
Alison Krauss: Windy City
Brian Eno: Reflection
Foo Fighters: Concrete and Gold
Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology
Laura Marling: Semper Femina
Rick Wakeman: Piano Portraits
Robert Plant: Carry Fire
The War On Drugs: A Deeper Understanding
The albums that just missed out reaching the top ten are the latest releases by Noel and Liam Gallagher. Let’s hope they overcome their differences and get together again soon, this would be sensational!
I’ve not listened to many live albums, but my favourite (with associated DVD) is David Gilmour: Live at Pompeii.
Whilst not being a particular favourite, I think Every Valley by Public Service Broadcasting deserves a special mention. It’s a concept album which focuses on a topic of modern history (like the band’s previous work), namely the mining industry in Wales, more specifically the rise and decline of the coal industry.
I listen, buy and download independent albums on Bandcamp, my top five are:
Cousin Silas: Landscapes
Cousin Silas & Martin Neuhold: Piano
Cousin Silas & Øystein Jørgensen: Coefficient of Variation
Linnea: Finding Light In The Dark
William Doyle: Lightnesses
Why not check these releases out and let me know what you think? Here’s looking forward to 2018’s new releases!
After his baptism, Jesus was tempted in the desert. This might seem a strange way to start a Christmas thought, in fact it’s not as strange as at first sight. The story concerns power, it’s about Jesus being tempted to exercise power over people; ultimately he chose the power of love over the love of power. I’m reminded of the words of Jimi Hendrix: When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.
The simple message of Christmas is that God has chosen the way of love and vulnerability over power. A baby born in humble and vulnerable circumstances can’t exercise power, yet that was how Jesus came and lived.
The cover of the Christmas Salvation Army War Cry 2014 illustrates this beautifully; it’s a picture of vulnerability that sums up the incarnation in today’s world. Take a few moments to reflect on it.
The traditional story tells us how Jesus was placed in a feeding trough (manger from the French verb to eat), but in this modern nativity he’s placed in a familiar manger – a supermarket trolley! I’m not sure if this was intentional, but it caught my attention.
Finally, here’s something I read recently in the context of the feeling that Christ is being squeezed out of Christmas: The whole story of Advent is the story of how God can’t be kept out. God is present. God is with us. God shows up – not with a parade but with the whimper of a baby, not among the powerful but among the marginalized, not to the demanding but to the humble.
As we welcome Jesus this Christmas, we’re reminded that he entered our world as vulnerable as us; ultimately he nailed that vulnerability to a cross for us – all our fears, insecurities and sins. We can only marvel that he came in this way, reaching out to a world in need.
This lovely cafe in Wallsend (run by Emma Brown) has become something of a second home for the Ager family recently. It’s a place for parents (or anyone caring for babies and toddlers) to relax and chat over a meal or simply have a tea or coffee. There’s a play area with plenty of toys (so the children can easily entertain themselves) and a baby changing room. The cafe is also breastfeeding friendly.
One of the things that makes Tots Tea Rooms special though is the variety of organised activities for the children, especially in school holidays. Our children have enjoyed sand art, messy play, rock pool fun (see photo below) and cookery – to name just a few of the activities on offer. Emma has also branched out into children’s parties and other events; just this last weekend she hosted our Baby Shower for family and friends.
Naomi is there more often than I am, but occasionally I take work with me or simply pop in and enjoy good coffee – yes, there’s a proper coffee machine before you ask. Emma also has free Wi-Fi for customers.
You don’t need to have a child with you, so why not drop in? It’s on the crossroads of High Street East and Park Road, not far from the town centre.
I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember, developing and printing 35 mm films in a makeshift darkroom many years ago. Naomi is also a very keen photographer, and taking photos is so much easier now with digital cameras. Freddy (two years and seven months old) sees us both regularly taking photos, often with him as the subject. He has only has a toy camera (not a real one) so I decided it was time he had a go with a real one. I changed the wrist strap on my Nikon Coolpix S2600 compact digital camera for a longer one to go round his neck and took him to the local park in Wallsend to have a go, telling him to take whatever he wanted. I’ve picked one of the best to illustrate this post. All the photos were taken with no help from me, and can be seen by clicking here. I think a bright future in photography lies ahead for him.
Note: See my photos (Nikon D3000 DSLR) of the photoshoot here.
It was announced yesterday that a female actor has been cast in the lead role of the classic BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who, a role previously only played by men. As someone who watched the first ever episode back in 1963, and as such might be considered a traditionalist, I was absolutely delighted to hear the news, especially as the announcement was made on my daughter’s first birthday.
There’s been speculation around this announcement, not to mention several clues in recent episodes; as the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) recently said, “We’re the most civilised civilisation in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes”.
There have been howls of protest from some, but who said the Doctor has to be male? Last evening, much to my wife’s amusement, I found myself shouting at the radio when a man (on a phone-in programme) suggested it was a subversive left-wing plot, and that Jodie only got the role because she was a woman rather than acting ability [shakes head & facepalms].
The fact this has caused such a reaction demonstrates how far we still have to go in order to achieve equality within society. It’s one thing to accept the decision, whilst at the same time having a preference for a male Doctor Who (this is my mother’s view), it’s quite another to express displeasure in a negative, sexist manner.
[Sarcasm alert] I can believe he’s an alien with two hearts from another planet, who travels through time and space in a police box – smaller on the outside than the inside. I can believe he often regenerates into a new body, has a sonic screwdriver and regularly saves the earth from total destruction. But I can’t believe he could be a woman; a step too far, political correctness gone mad!
Imagine the thing that is most precious to you, then think how you’d feel if it were twisted and used against you for evil purposes…..That’s how ordinary Muslims feel when Islam is hijacked, distorted and abused by terrorists who want to justify the murder and maiming of innocent people. Muslims not only feel the pain and suffering we all do, they also feel that something sacred has been defiled. If that double-whammy wasn’t enough, there are those who would spread hatred and promote Islamophobia for their own agenda. Let’s celebrate our common humanity and be peacemakers, because that’s what the world needs above all else.