Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas 2015

Happy Christmas friends, family and followers. Welcome to the emoji-free world that is the Tilley's Christmas newsletter. We may have the odd run in with an apostrophe but that is as crazy as it gets round here.

In the whole context of death, famine, pestilence and destruction we had a good year. Several jobs were changed, some members of the family got permanent ones for the first time, the live Countryfile Twitter feed now comes from our front room of a Sunday night and if you add that to M5 south Gloucester Services opening and offering revival and rehabilitation services to mother-visitors it was pretty much a win, win, win, win. Nobody died, no main teams were relegated (sorry Leamington FC but you were always the bridesmaid) and nobody got elected to Diocesan, or any other, Synod.

Liz left Cargo. Or maybe Cargo left Liz. Whatevs. Still, after just shy of twenty years and a million driven miles she found that tethers do indeed have an end. After two days of unemployment she heard the call of the bright lights of Bath's mixed metaphor and became a part-time shop assistant again, using the rest of her time to recover energy and visit friends (some of whom remembered her). Liz now works for Lakeland. Based in Kendall, the distribution chain is currently as underwater as the name implies. Most of her colleagues spent a few weeks thinking she was the undercover boss. She has to wear yellow. This has never been a good look for her and she changes before leaving faster than a public school kid who walks home through the inner city. For reasons best known to someone other than a person with fashion instincts the yellow shirts are accompanied by a red apron, reminding some of us of West Brom's short term-fling with such in a late 80s away strip. OK, one of us.

For those who are interested, the reward for nineteen and a half years service was not card, leaving do, gift, thanks or clue given that if she hung in there there would be redundancy money because the company was closing. Which adds up to why she left and why she now looks fitter, weller and keeps having ideas for how her husband might use his time better.

Steve became sixty. This surprised people, not least the morning crew at BBC Radio Bristol who were so amazed they could barely continue with the show. He now has to show ID to get concessionary rates but has saved £4 so far this year. Trendlewood Church made generous donations to Falcon Camps in honour of the moment and the lovely Sarah made a great cake (pictured). Liz can call her husband 'old man' for one further month.

Whilst claiming no credit for growing a church and multiplying it these two things seem to have happened. And it turns out to be quite complex and time-consuming to do all the legal stuff that such church growth implies. Easier to close them than open them? Couldn't possibly comment. Steve is now familiar with the following terms:

Extra-parochial place
Bishop's visitor
Conventional District

None of which will ever be used in proper public.

We found the Lost Gardens of Heligan by using sign-posts. Not that lost then.

We joined in the second Trendlewood Community Festival which made money this time. We donated it to the appeal for a new Skate Park. How many communities do you know who would raise over £100,000 for a new skate park for its teenagers?

Nailsea people are lovely, unless you nick their car-parking space during the rush five minutes. Then they go feral. It's a long drive to the other three car-parks. Lidl tried to move into town. Since that would mean a short-term loss of some unneeded car-parking spaces they were chased out again. It was deemed an unacceptable sacrifice for 47 new jobs. Newcomers are welcome in Nailsea as long as they assert their amendment rights to park cars for nothing.

We did Malta and Gozo as usual. We met an Italian Professor of Literature who we rescued from getting the wrong ferry (easy mistake in The Maltese Islands) and eventually took out to lunch. Most stylish dining companion we have had for ages. She discussed, in her third language, in greater depth than we noticed there was in our first, some of the books we have read. She wouldn't have let that sentence pass without comment.

At our favourite Gozitan restaurant, after fifteen years of visiting, we persuaded manager Joseph to show us the wine cellar. It contained wine. No surprise there. Oh, and a twenty-four seater banqueting table. The guest book was signed by Brangelina, Benjamin Netanyahu and Francois Hollande amongst others.

Apparently the Pitt/Jolie party brought their own wine. Which seemed rude given the quality on display in the glass-fronted, temperature controlled vaults but Joseph said 'It was rather good'. For him to say 'very good' would involve a four figure price. Can't imagine him ever saying a wine was 'excellent'.

We queued for three hours to spend an hour at Dismaland (or Weston-super-Mare, to use its more common name) where Banksy messed with our heads by not signposting which was the art and which was normal people. Brilliant. Had a highlighter pen confiscated on the way in.

In late news Jon and Carys decided to move out of London and before you could say hang-on-a-minute-where-will you-live? they had moved in. Available space at Vynes Mansions just went down, the washing machine has to be booked and there are piles of shoes in the hall once more. Positively, the spice cupboard absolutely rocks and other people cook of an evening. We are a stopping off point on the way to New Zealand, apparently. Drinking lots of their sauvignon blanc as preparation. Steve can see the piano but the route to it is blocked by stuff.

We got a VW diesel. Have now been invited to join a class action to claim damages but strangely we don't feel particularly damaged. The rest of the world should sue us.

It has been noted that several pints of Butcombe can make people quite closely related to noxious emissions. Talking of which, The Battle Axes at Wraxall is now a main entry pub in the Good Pub Guide and we got no credit. The Old Barn has gently merged its Halloween decorations with a new Christmas grotto. In other beer-related news the Wild Beer Company continues to provide services to you-put-what-in-it? We recommend Wildebeest as a Christmas dessert wine.

The Pony and Trap at Chew Magna gets our top restaurant vote again.

May your sleighbells include decibel limiters, your holly be fairly-traded and all night-time fancily-dressed visitors fiddling with your stockings have good intentions.

Moderately pleased with this year's effort. Do offer feedback. Until next year.

St and Liz

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas 2014


Christmas 2014

We read Facebook and that. You lot seem to have lives. How does that work? We don't. Not really sure when it happened, and not looking for suggestions, but we seem to have become dull.

Monday morning 5.00 a.m. Roll over in bed. Woman missing. Must have dreamed he pulled. 5.25 a.m Vaguely roused by sound of shower. 5.40 a.m. Is that a hair drier? Rather think it is. 5.50 a.m. All attempts at sleep over due to noise of car windscreen being scraped. Get up and make coffee then try to find things to fill the day (Odd Socks, Candy Crush, counting garden birds, recycling, washing, gym, funerals, media commitments etc.) until the sound of a carphone in the drive announces return of dream-woman for a few minutes at about 7.00 p.m. Greets her and finds out what time she is getting home from work. 'In about half an hour when I've done the figures.' Contrives supper for that precise moment. Have ten minute chat then go to church meeting. Return to find place on sofa taken by laptop and sales figures.

Tuesday - Thursday (see Monday).

Friday - drive or take train miles to visit friends or relatives.

Saturday - see Monday but sometimes with a better evening.

Sunday - woman still in bed at 6.00 a.m. Get up so she can roll over and find him missing. Do church stuff.

First social event of 2014 was the Annual Dinner of the Nailsea Mountain Rescue Association of which Steve is the chaplain (honorary). We know there are no mountains in Nailsea but should any appear we will be ready. Joint meetings with the Backwell Lifeboat Association are also popular.

In retail homeshop news, the Head Office went to Thanet, the stock to Chester and the management structure to pieces.

Steve was interviewed by Russian State television this year because they became interested in clergy who used social media and someone told them his name. Apparently he went out on the main evening news to twelve million or so. Siberia beckons.

Steve rated Of Montreal and Tuneyards. They are bands, Mum. We both loved Dave Gorman.

Started making enquiries about multiplying our church as it is growing. Turns out to be a lot easier to close them than open them. Turns out to upset people far more if you are innovative and interesting than dull. Turns out that neither of these things will stop it happening. If the Church of England ever ask you to join their talent pool, clergy chums, politely decline because you have far too important a job to do at grassroots. Avoid hierarchy; throw rocks at the very idea. Today they made a Man Utd fan Bishop of Stockport. The very thought. The church children do a very good impression of Steve so got the gig leading the first part of services.

In retail homeshop news the idea that you have to have it in order to sell it proved unworkable so a new angle was developed and sales of non-existent furniture went through the roof.

RIP Brenda Tilley (Aunty Brenda) aged 97. The last of Steve's Dad's siblings.

Things from the stand-up theology script this year:

A bios is not the same as a fairy story (but it looks a bit like it).

The Bible contains at least one racist joke, about Moabites. It is a very good one.

Liz and Jon
In retail homeshop news it is bad to find out what important things people did after you have made them redundant.

Spent two or three very happy evenings at the Pony and Trap, Chew Magna (how to lose teeth?) as Michelin-starred dining came within ten miles.

Caught up with old school friend John on Facebook who then proceeded to publish embarrassing photos.

Nephew Jake married Molly who turned out to be called Zoe. Ben got a degree after sixteen years trying and a job at Sony, selling secrets to the North Koreans. Jon still works at Zipcar and added keys to the many instruments he plays in Black Maple.

Opted for an early night rather than a gig when discovering the band were due on at 11.30 p.m. Getting too old for this palaver.

Gozo still our special place. Hot, dry, civilised and no wild animals. Came away with no bites this year and not because dream woman is losing teeth. Chis Packham is trying to convince them to stop shooting feathered passage migrants but since most of the police shoot for a hobby too it was he who got arrested.

In retail homeshop news refunds of undelivered furniture interfered with sales figures.

Come off it this is the finest one you get at Christmas. Relax. Breathe. The understanding will come. Roll with it.
Tilley boys recreate famous Covent Garden shot.
New neighbours. One plays drums in the garage. He is improving. He is not the noisiest member of the family, that accolade going to the disciplinarian informing the drummer that he is too loud.

Listening to Talking Heads Remain in Light whilst writing this. Is there a funkier album? No, there isn't. Stop arguing.

Drinking New Zealand sauvignon blanc, Wild Beer, (by whom our friend Richard has been employed as the Dream Weaver, how cool is that?) Butcombe Best, Gold and Blond.

In retail homeshop news management by stick and carrot was introduced. They hit you with both. Watch The Thick of It for Malcolm Tucker's ruder, and better, joke on this.

Nailsea parking chaos is the funniest long-running free newspaper correspondence saga. We swear sometimes this town has a rush fifteen minutes. We have four free car-parks and sometimes two of them can get full.

The six month Holy Trinity building project was completed after two years but the new building is really lovely and worth the wait. Café Create is now back in its old home and our garage emptier.

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm got elephants but none of them understand young earth creationism either.

We wish you the good will and peace thing. Hands up if you got the Bishop of Stockport gag. Thought not.

St and Lz

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas 2013

Come on you can do this. You've been to creative writing classes. You've had three books published and a shed load of articles. It's only a Christmas letter. What do you mean pressure? You've done this for thirty years. This is no time to hit the wall. It's not like taking a penalty in a World Cup final.

I know you never missed a penalty in all your football career but ask yourself, how many did you take? You didn't score them, you scored it.

Dear readers (by which we mean expensive and yes we have moved from first person singular to plural we do that, if it's good enough for Luke it's good enough for us), possibly you will have come across our Christmas letter before. You know how the film director doesn't always tell you everything in the first ten minutes and leaves you to relax and trust that all will be revealed. That.

So we were sitting in a bar in... Oh for goodness sake that was going to be a dull sentence. But actually it has been a pretty routine year. It's had its moments (show your children correct apostrophe use please). Mainly sitting in bars, pubs, inns, taverns, cellars. (Don't show them full-stop or verb use.)

Our church sponsored a beer at the Nailsea Beer and Cider festival and then we took advantage of sponsors' tickets to do a lot of sampling. The Rev'd James, in case you wondered. It good luvely nice more yes dear I'll take my dog collar off soon there ping off goes collar dog.

As our community had no sense of community we put a lot of church people-power into running the first ever Trendlewood Community Festival. The sun shone, the burgers sold out, the beer and cider flowed (spotted a theme yet?), the police dogs chased fake criminals across the field, we had a juggling workshop and live music. Classic cars appeared from garages on the estate. It scored high on the communing, communicating, communal... It were ace.

Shakespeare season at the Tobacco Factory gave us 2 G of V (with a real dog stealing the show) and Richard III (with a head in a bag dripping blood stealing the show).

As a response to being sent Jono as intern for a year we went to his home to say thank you and for Steve to preach for our friends Mike and Debbie. Morecambe is a long way from Nailsea. We had to give Jono back in September. Future interns welcome. Musical virtuosity optional.

Good year for comedy. We laughed at Milton Jones (brilliant audience control), Robin Ince, David O'Doherty and Bill Bailey.

No live music for Liz but Steve caught Dweezil Zappa (playing his Dad's music) and Steve Mason (ex Beta Band).

A vacancy in see (no bishop, to you and me) led to the future post-holder being referred to as Bishop Kevin. Much disappointment followed when Kevin turned out to be another Peter. We've had 1 and 2 Peter for the last few years so at least John, Jude or Revelation would have felt more systematic.

Those sentences that look as if they might be funny but aren't. That's the point. Steve likes the idea of jokes only a very select few understand. Hi Mum, by the way.

So on the basis of Liz's south-west area role for a famous homestore chain we would like to say that when the country was being divided up there were probably wildebeest in the North Sea. When she was area manager for the Thames Valley about ten years back she announced, using a joke her husband had written specially for her conference speech, that the hardest job of the year had been re-routing the Thames (given that the area included Fareham and Southampton). Tumbleweed is still blowing through that audience a decade on so hubbie was sacked as script writer and was therefore unable to crowbar any geographical jokes into the speech that reported on the south-west including Basingstoke, Chichester, Fleet and Tromsk. (Small lie in that list, did you spot it?)

Liz's bosses have as short a career as West Brom managers. The latest manifestation departed after several months of a style best summed up as confusing. It at least resolves the problem of said woman having the same name as a key member of our church and the wrong person getting a vitriolic email - or worse, her boss rotad to do the coffee at church.

Hubbie was also sacked as fantasy football team manager (is this a first?) when Aston Tilla recorded a record low score for a weekend given that the whole side was either injured, incompetent or West Brom. Sold Shane Long just before he went on a scoring spree and managed no points from the Liverpool Everton 3-3 draw given that all our players were defenders.

As we write junior 1 is on a Caribbean cruise with his girlfriend Rachel's family (good work my son) and junior 2 and girlfriend Carys are mainly running huge distances and being frighteningly fit and competent at it. Junior 2 did add to his collection of head scars by falling into a desk at work. The new one puts the ones junior 1 inflicted upon him with golf club and garage door to shame.

What do you mean these sentences are too long?

The lovely Andy, our next door neighbour for the past seven years, died in the summer. Steve was able to take the funeral at which, amongst a few startling revelations, we found out he wasn't called Andy. It was an army nickname that stuck because of his initials AND.

We bought a new tree that is not a crab apple, saw a mouse on the bird feeders and had the Red Arrows fly over although they may have been off to somewhere else.

Steve took up doing Thought for the Day for Radio Bristol and after about fifteen goes managed to be interesting by broadcasting from a lay-by on the A370 due to an accident up ahead. That was TFTD and traffic news. Since it worked he asked if he could do them from his bed in future. No such luck.

After about seven letters turning everything down Lloyds Bank agreed they had mis-sold us PPI. Have now received compensation for both the key financial products we purchased when times were hard. It's a complicated way of saving.

Our special friends this year have been Riverford Veggie Box deliveries, the Battle Axes at Wraxall, #SCD, #Eurovision (both these things better watched with the Twitter feed streaming) and two new Gozitan restaurants we found.

Liz joined Twitter and Facebook after years of moaning about how much time it took up. She works it in somehow. Amazing eh?

Hope you don't land upon your head and get sleighed, slayed or Slade. Please don't own a Christmas jumper. Ever. Hope you find this. The card list has been reduced dramatically due to laziness.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas 2012

Run out of Nailsea views. Here is the Avon Gorge.
It's been a busy, not interesting, year. Welcome exaggeration, hyperbole and narrative devices to make us sound cool.

'Has anyone seen my talent?' asks Toby in the West Wing, struggling with a presidential address. He should try a 28 year run of Christmas letters. Comments from the focus groups include, 'Loads of this is fine but I think the bits about the house is a bit 'old people with not much to say??!!!'' Ouch.

We saw the Olympics. And the Paralympics. All of it. Every sport. Minority or not. The sofa is worn out. We didn't get any tickets (not disappointed, we didn't apply for any) so celebrated a great event by sitting on our arses for hours and drinking.

Last year we were told that the Diocesan Surveyor was going to come and do a quinquennial. He also agreed to do the house while he was here (very specialised joke - may get 3 laughs per 200 readers). He agreed that the leaning wall of Vynes Way needed to be removed and rebuilt. Hail Dan and Ben the builders (Bob was not available) who dug through a lot of clay and rubble (or our lawn, as we like to call it) and put it all back in exactly the same way except they moved the mint which now grows through the grass and provides for a fragrant mow.

That tricky flush mechanism in the guest toilet was replaced at last. Sadly it was replaced by one with an even more complex knack to it. Glenn the postman stopped calling for a pee because it was embarrassing to admit he couldn't work it. The flush not his... never mind.

Returning from holiday to stains on the ceiling we discovered the tank had overflowed. The overflow did not go into the outside world but the roof space of the extension. Not a thorough enough quinquennial we would say except that Diocesan Surveyors might read this.

The Old Rectory, a dream we followed as a church, was purchased and renovated due to the generosity of church members (£750k raised or pledged). It became Trinity House. It is now offices, flats bringing in rent, a youthspace and some great meeting rooms. The Archdeacon opened it in March. He got its name wrong but it was raining heavily at the time.

We decided to earmark one free evening a week apart from days off. We have managed this pretty rigidly for a year and apart from the bar bill at the pub it has been excellent. Sometimes we find ourselves both doing emails so mobiles may have to be banned.

The follow up to Steve's book Mustard Seed Shavings (available online, google it, £6.99) called God's Church My Place (same price) came out in April to almost no acclaim, reviews or publicity. Two book launches were attended by very few people although a mention here to old friends Jane and Graham for driving from Leamington to Bath just to be there (and to have a day in Bath, but that's beside the point).

Little Dragon, Stewart Lee, Dara O'Briain, open-air Macbeth (where the going was soft) Vintage Trouble and the Easy Star All Stars all entertained us. Discovering the Fleece at Bristol (not in an explorer type way, it was there all along but we hadn't been) was exciting and we will be there a lot. Stewart Lee is the finest entertainer working the circuit today but don't go if you are easily offended, like jokes to tickle your ribs and expect comedians to largely make you laugh. It is far more complicated than that. Read his book first. Lee's opening line was that the Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik is a big fan of Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear. This was followed by a riff on the many horrible ways Lee would like (only joking) Clarkson to die or be maimed. Don't go and see him until you understand why this is amusing. May tackle Robin Ince next year.

Jono pitched up to do an intern year as a church musician and worship leader. He is annoyingly talented, good with people, friendly, polite and quite young. A sort of antiSteve.

Angharad's wedding to Will Kerr was fun. Angharad is Steve's od-daughter (missing g deliberate) and had the kindness to make him feel old by being the first second generation wedding he got to do. He married her parents a couple of decades back. Steve's wedding joke that Angharad was now God's little A. Kerr still has the tumbleweed blowing though it even now, three months on.

After that we did a weird thing (we don't think it's odd but apparently others do) of taking a holiday 30 miles up the road. All we wanted was not to be in and to have a nice cottage where we could read and walk a bit. Why go miles away? We celebrated by being hit in the rear by a truck. After all these years Liz has never been involved in an accident whilst driving. Although we were stationery at traffic lights when hit and sitting in Liz's car the important information is that she was in the passenger seat. Steve chalks up another accident, a stat he added to later in the year by trying to sail his car up a Somerset river and failing rather spectacularly. Only compensation was two weeks in a Q3, Audi's policy being to give you a better courtesy car than the one you lose. Had fun with an electric handbrake and hill starts; another thing with a knack to it - we should introduce it to the the guest loo.

Liz did attempt to have an accident by forgetting she had an automatic after a few days in a manual while her rear was being fixed (don't titter). She screamed as she almost put her husband through the windscreen. She screamed. She did. Seat belts didn't lock; airbags didn't bag. Not even a mini-adventure. Husband now deafer.

Thousands of housemartins chose to meet for chat before leaving the country at Lee Abbey Conference Centre while we were there for the weekend. Our window sill was a bit noisy and our ensuite the best place from which to take pictures. And that is why there were so many people coming out of our bedroom, your honour.

Being parents of the bassist in Black Maple and the producer of whatever Ben's latest incarnation is actually called, try Lakumer but we may be wrong and making the sort of embarrassing mistake old people do, has made our music careers vicarious. But we are damn proud as they are our retirement plan.

Lee Abbey bathroom window-sill

Listen to them at:


Since they both live in London-on-the-wold we pop down occasionally, firstly to see them, secondly to do something cultural (went to the V&A last month) and thirdly to experience the joy of being customers of First Great Western whose refund hotline is now on speed dial.

West Brom sixth in the Premiership. No. Must have the table upside down. We watched the European Football Championships, mainly in bars in Gozo, where the friendly locals and warm climate take the edge off a penalty shoot-out defeat.

Many love greetings wishes blessings peaceful happy tidings and that.



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Ah hello. Come in and sit down. No, no, not there. That other one is far more comfortable and doesn't tip directly into the piranha tank.

You're wondering why we asked you here? We've been meaning to have words for a while. It concerns your performance as (delete as necessary) customer/storemanager/parishioner/colleague/son/other relative/bishop/not sure.

We won't beat about the bush. Why do that when you can beat the bush and then club the pheasant directly? No we were not calling you a pheasant. That was just a metaphor. There will be more of those. Actually if it was a metaphor we were calling you a pheasant. We are also calling you a pedant for noticing. Stop distracting us. The thing is you have simply not been diverting enough. We cannot double-handedly bear the weight of amusing our friends, followers and family. Please step up. In the meantime, here is something not much like news.

Knees. Not normally entertaining? Are you sure? Have you seen Steve's? He had unspecified therapeutic endoscopic operations on semilunar cartilage. Spent years eliminating sentences such as that from communications to ordinary people and then copped for six three syllable words out of seven. It means keyhole, scalpel and four hours in hospital including a bit of a sleep. Two pathetic scars, a week off work and a fully functioning right knee joint again. The member of the family who gave his knees a thirty year football battering now has a new tale with which to bore us. That left knee looks iffy though and Steve needs a reading week.

Please chuckle now or we'll ask the staff to take you out and have fun with you.

Consumer news. We have enjoyed renting holiday cottages for years but copped for our first duffer. Dark, dank and dirty is not a description of Liz's management style (yet) but was better than the word 'charming' and others used to describe the place we rented last spring. The world's smallest double bed had to be climbed over to draw the curtains across a rod with a ninety degree kink in it. Strangely, 'ninety degree kink' also described the necessary manoeuvre to get a suitcase to the 'deceptively spacious' upstairs. No folks, it was not as tardis-like as we had been led to expect. Deceptively claustrophobic in fact. The wash basin remained full once the plug was removed. Previous occupants of the shower had all left their mark as had users of cutlery and crockery. Full refund and alternative accommodation were not offered so we came home. Proceedings are proceeding. Watch the small print in Sykes Cottage brochures (way beyond page 300). Your contract, they insist, is between you and the cottage owner and they will do nothing. This despite references to 'Our Cottages' throughout.

Do not laugh at this point or you'll be back at your first choice of chair.

Cargo Nailsea, the local shop Liz opened a couple of years ago so she could be nearer home of a Friday night, closed again. Another retailer made the company an offer they couldn't refuse for the prime site she had found. Fridays in Bath, Swindon or Cheltenham beckon. The closing down sale rocked though. It appears her company buyers may have slightly over-ordered champagne flutes. Does anyone want to buy 16,000? Not celebrating? Thought not. Liz's 4.40 a.m. alarm has become a feature of our life. Steve used to find 6.45 a.m. a tad early but the Cargo regional team of three slipped to two a few weeks ago so Brighton is now in the south-west and Mrs T is becoming acquainted with Premier Lodges in places such as Bagshot.

Last year Steve agreed to take the Christmas Eve midnight communion at Tickenham and found the place full of lively young adults who once belonged to the youth group but had upped and left. A quick survey showed the early nineties as the date they were together and we all ended up singing an impromptu Shine Jesus Shine round the joanna at 1230 on Christmas morning. You probably had to be there. Steve will be back this year as Tickenham is still awaiting a new Rector. We expect to cover Wonderwall and Bohemian Rhapsody.

Ben (older and co-favourite son for the benefit of new readers) and Rachel (his girlfriend) headed off to London-in-the-Marsh. Both sons, Steve's sister and all partners (only three, don't panic) now live in the capital. Ben is pioneering the live-your-life-backwards awards his Dad began and is now a student again. Jon has had a steady job for a year and has borrowed no further money. Excuse us; writing that made us come over all weird.

Curate Michelle came back from maternity leave with a delightful son in tow but has just announced she enjoyed it so much she is doing it again.

Mustard Seed Shavings the book was published at Easter. You don't have a copy? Google it immediately and purchase from BRF, Amazon or your local bookshop. Buy enough copies for your teenage godchildren too. If it sells as many as Purpose Drivel Life it will pay for the Trinity Project (see previous years) and Steve will have paid his expenses back. OK some of them.

Cooked breakfasts have a certain allure so we started doing them with some success all over Nailsea and District. Also beer and pizza. The way to a man's heart is through his chest cavity and our successful men's ministry will probably keep the triple-bypass business in er business.

Gozo was again warm, friendly and you weren't there so it was great. On return we spent a weekend in a caravan, which was to break one of our life vows. Slightly coped.

Our church moved schools. Complicated sentence. Let's unpack it. Our church is a bunch of people who hire buildings to meet in. At Easter we moved to Golden Valley School, attempting to be salt and light in another community. The sign on the drive next to the school says 'Golden Valley Vets'. Makes you wonder if, asked how church was on Sunday, our congregations say, 'You wouldn't know man; you weren't there.'

Two new names on the Holy Trinity and Trendlewood Letterhead - Youth Worker and Children's and Families Worker respectively. Nothing bad to report yet. They are both pleasingly rude, disrespectful and show tendencies to be good at their jobs. Hi Josh and Ruth. Get used to this.

We ran a bit of a street lunch for the Royal Wedding (don't snigger, those fish can strip your flesh in seconds). We met about forty neighbours. We'll be reprising it for the jubilee. We imagine that waiting for someone else to organise it will be a bit wolverhampton so we're on it.

The five year garage clear out went well. Things have been dumped or donated. The garage is now available for its more usual purpose of clothes washing, vegetable storage and recycling.

After many years of hoping and praying various bosses would leave Liz finally dispensed with the services of one she actually liked. The flip side of this is that Tilleys and Gilberts can now behave as friends and we get to look after their lovely black labrador from time to time. He is called Diesel. He is a 2 litre gti retriever. Motto, 'That ball is deffo coming back if I have to bring you the whole damn bush.'

On the live entertainment front we rated Bonobo, Tobacco Factory's Richard II and Comedy of Errors, Sarah Millican (who lost her rag when someone tried to record her illegally) and an almost completely sozzled but still funny, Dylan Moran.

Liz would like to end this letter with a short quote from one of her many experiences of sacking people: 'So you're saying that if we retain you, next time you'll make sure you'll restrict your groping to the adult members of staff.' Not retained.

St and Liz send their love and offer their services to de-ice modern boiler condenser pipes, a skill we practised a number of times last Christmas. You may leave. Do be careful on the bridge. Oops. Sorry. Wrong lever. Don't scream; it disturbs the neighbours.

Back copies (1985-2010) available below.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas 2010

One exciting thing about getting older is that bits which worked satisfactorily for the previous five and a half decades begin the journey to the grave. Step forward ears, cartilages and ankles. Explain yourselves.

Oh dear. Started the Christmas letter with health news. Sorry. There's not been much to brag about this year having shrunk a retail business and a church. One of us can blame a recession.

New readers please breathe deeply and relax. Trying to understand every last phrase is not time well spent. Keep going and allow a chuckle to escape if you think it should.

Another sign of ageing is that these Christmas things seem to stack up. Only last Christmas we gave you our heart and what did you do with it the very next day? What do you want now? Spleen? Liver? Why did the highlighter start giving all the text a yellow background just now?

In January we think we might have been to the worst panto ever; certainly since the self-penned Vicar's Nightmare in Mapperley 1985. In Cinderella at Weston-super-Mare Peter Duncan was the saving grace. Never thought we'd write that sentence. So bad it was funny. Was that the point? Oh no, apparently, it wasn't. Maybe the point was behind us.

Saw the rarely-sighted, white stuff down here. Not that Mum; don't panic. Everyone got terribly excited. A funeral reached the crematorium by calling in favours and borrowing about six four wheel drives. The coffin went in the back of one of those big Range Rover thingies. Liz bravely tried to get to work at the height of all this but after 100 metres the first bend in Vynes Way flummoxed her transmission. She stayed at home and discovered that her husband also worked really hard all day. Possibly because someone was watching. The last two weeks we have also had a bit of weather although Nailsea hasn't been closed like London-in-the-Marsh and Birmingham-on-the Wold. Some kids did steal the snow off our front lawn at 5.00 a.m. and made us a snowgirl though. Which was cool.

The local churches organised political meetings in which candidates were quizzed. Liam (Atlanticist, Thatcherite, monetarist, unionist, Euro-sceptic; oh how we get on) Fox out-smoothed everyone else whilst the UKIP candidate demonstrated that she knew almost nothing about virtually anything. Longest forty minutes of Steve's life as he interviewed her, mining away for a subject about which she could speak with authority. Struck nothing. The local alpaca farm had a poster on the gate saying 'Vote Fox.' Even the furry things vote for foxes. Sorry it is so posh here we have an alpaca farm. We try to spend more time in Iceland but it isn't a patch on...

...Waitrose, which came to town. This made us happy. We are simple, middle-class folk. They took over Somerfield and are desperately trying to retrain the staff as we write. Tell me again, which are the muscles you move to smile?

Twelve Easter window displays in local shops made a journey through Jesus' life. One of the bits of the journey was dismantled prematurely by an over-enthusiastic flower-arranger from Tickenham. People were left wandering Nailsea Town Centre asking where Jesus went. Not a bad Easter question. Limericks please. An enthusiastic flower-arranger from Tickenham...

We joined the 350 away fans for Clevedon Town vs Leamington FC who duly won 3-1 condemning our hosts and their 26 fans to relegation. West Brom got promotion, for one week were top of the family league, and may, possibly, not get relegated this time. Steve won't know what to do with a boring end-of-season. Learning to spell Odemwingie would be time well spent. Then there was the World Cup. Yeah. That's enough of that.

We enjoy theatre at the Bristol Tobacco factory. A Midsummer Night's Dream was excellent. Best improvised Wall we have ever seen. It's good when comedies make you laugh without hurting others. Writers of Mock the Week and 8 out of 10 cats please take note. Frankie Boyle was not asked to tender for this year's Christmas letter. We also went to an evening of beat-boxing at the old Vic, the Pet Shop Boys in Cardiff and Jon Richardson in Newport. So eclectic.

Trendlewood Church had its 21st birthday. We had a party with old friends and founders invited back. It was a good day but since then several key members have moved on and we've had to do some work on rekindling the vision. Still very optimistic. Better than misty options, as someone once said.

Having gone on and on about Gozo we finally decided to take our boys and their girls with us this year and had a, gasp, family holiday. We all got on, enjoyed eating, chilling, exploring, chilling and eating very much. Obviously some music had to come with us since the next generation and silence haven't been formally introduced. Our education in this area improved.

What's this great music Jon?
That's your LCD Soundsystem album.

A lovely meal at the most expensive restaurant on the Maltese islands was interrupted by a cockroach called Alan who, for no reason, walked up Ben. Meal was so good that didn't spoil it. The bill was a record breaker, not helped by six champagne cocktails before we even sat down. Well it was a celebration. Why Alan? No idea.

Previous houses and Christmas letters have had a theme of dodgy showers. One of ours (I know, we have two, posh again) began draining slower and slower until you had to time your ablutions so that the water didn't come up to the door level before you finished. Some nice local plumbers took lots of the house apart to solve this and did eventually put most of it back the same way. Water leaves as well as arrives now but the tiles in the other bathroom no longer match each other. Did get the lounge ceiling painted for nothing though. Then the ecological, ergonomical modern new boiler's condenser outlet froze.

There is a vacancy at the next door parish. Steve's small-print (providing extra priestly help in other churches) has been invoked four times in four years now for two vacancies and two sabbaticals. That should have been larger print.

Church weddings got a bit radical. At the 'kiss each other' moment Mark and Megs did high fives. Multiple best men became normal. Then Jill got married in white wellies and had Tigger the black labrador as a page-boy. The doings of black labradors have made our readers unwell over previous years but this one behaved immaculately.

Cargo opened in Nailsea, presumably sniffing the opportunity of cash-rich Waitrose customers popping along for a sofa to go with their groceries? On another occasion Liz was woken to the news that a manager had been taken straight into custody.

Manna is the new Bath and Wells Diocesan magazine. It is glossy, relevant and well written. Big up to the Diocesan Communication team says St with no sense of humility whatsoever.

Any chance of a dull year soon? Thought not. Must go. Need to sort the recycling. Even our non-compostable food-waste gets taken away here. By the way...

An enthusiastic flower-arranger from Tickenham
Made displays but the people kept knickin' 'em
So to keep up her purity
She installed security
Now out of a line-up she's pickin' 'em

Thank you, good night. St and Liz x

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2009

We were standing in Minami Urawa station. It's not the start of a far eastern blues song. Don't even try to pronounce it. And Jon says, 'Stay here until I get back. Don't move from that spot.' Boot. Other foot. We pulled faces at him as he walked away.

Liz's company embraced any technique they could to keep the business afloat in a downturn. Guantanamo torturers wanting to cause sleep deprivation? Make the suspects work at Cargo. Retail in a recession is possibly the only occupation designed to make the lot of a vicar seem easy. Comparisons with normal, hard-working clergy are advised. Steve simply uses a Jesus on Wheels, stunt granny, racing nuns, a plan for an Underground Restaurant, a wonderful bedside manner and the desire to train others to do the work. He has the most secure job of all his relatives. Meanwhile retail area managers rise at 5.00 a.m., get home at 8.00 p.m. and work for two hours after supper. This in a year when the West of England apparently included Copenhagen. The business still floats (well done all) and the team should be congratulated. The marriage is fine.

Japanese confectioners put sweet things for sale in a row. This may include, amongst comparatively normal choccies, bean-curd doughnuts, deep-fried sweet potato and green tea Turkish Delight. Chew, spit, repeat.

We love Nailsea but it needs style badly. One of our friends declared her interest in minimalism. She lives in a house every single part of which is utilised for storage. What's our favourite bit of town? The Bristol Road. Apart from the people, of course, who are all lovely even if they do wear fleeces a lot. Was anything good built in the 1960s?

Five or six centuries back eastern emperors didn't sleep easy in their beds for fear of assassination. So they made floors that deliberately squeaked under pressure. The servants knew the route through. Only ninjas could crack the secret. We tried. We neither servants nor ninjas. You knew that right? We do squeak under pressure though.

Both sons found themselves without work this year. Ben was made redundant by Masterlease but now has a job in debt collection, a growth industry, for RBS. 'Did you use your redundancy cheque wisely son?' 'Yeah, I bought a TV so large you can still see it if you turn your back on it.' So proud, a comment we regularly put on the boys' Facebook pages. Jon's Facebook updates often boast about his singing in the street with his pants on his head but we suspect that is Carys getting revenge for something or other. Jon, on return from Japan, found it hard to get employment at once but is now at a car-hire firm in London where conversational Japanese comes in handy. Vehicles continue to hold a family grip – all three of us fellers have worked in motor-connected industries at some time or other, without interest or reward. Ben produces a sports show for Beacon Radio. The football results repeat is read by a husky female voice – the sexifieds. What have we bred?

Kyoto pedestrian crossings make a warning noise like a duck being lasered. Unless they actually laser ducks under the pavement. Hadn't thought of that. Wak wak pee-oung.

Next month Grandma Bill will be eighty and Ben thirty. The wonderfully alliterative 'Bill and Ben's Big Birthday Bash' was then spoiled by the realisation that nephew Jacob will be eighteen that month. Should be a hell of a party. We have a thirty year old son. How that happen?

In many Tokyo restaurants you order your food using a hand-held device. It communicates your choice direct to the kitchen. Press any picture and see what turns up. It's often raw fish.

Last year Steve mislaid one of his clergy colleagues to Cornwall but hours of work drafting a parish profile which rocked produced an outstanding candidate for the Rector vacancy. Sadly he didn't get the job. It's a joke. He did. So we now have a full team and will do for three more months until Curate Michelle goes on maternity leave. That wasn't in the script. New colleague has the sort of flexible attitude to punctuality that means he's going to have to die soon, but otherwise Steve and he get on fine. He will have to get used to being insulted in a Christmas letter though.

When the Japanese overground trains stop at a station, pink-clad cleaning ladies jump on, tidy up then retreat, taking away rubbish. The underground drivers wear white gloves to work and their cabs are spotless. There is a total lack of half-eaten pasties and creased tabloids. Trains stop, doors at prescribed places where orderly queues will have formed. Just like London then.

On the gig-going front we really enjoyed Massive Attack. First time we had seen them live. Impressive. Every tune remixed and politics on the back projector. Also saw a fine performance of Anthony and Cleopatra at Bristol Tobacco Factory and Twelfth Night in the open air. Steve endured West Brom's relegation season and now can, hopefully, enjoy the promotion one. That sentence appeared in last year's letter with the words in a different order. Clevedon v Leamington FC is on the calender for March. Both doing averagely in the Zamaretto League Premier Division, high enough up the pyramid to have their results in the Observer.

Nose-blowing on cloth in public is very rude. Use a tissue. Don't put it back in your pocket.

We both have new Audi A3s. That makes us cocks according to Jeremy Clarkson. Galling, being insulted by the world's most wrong man. Wish he wasn't amusing. Let's play compare and contrast. Both cars are black. Liz's has done 40,000 miles this year. Steve's 4,000. Liz's is a saloon; Steve's a cabriolet. Liz's has four doors. Steve's two. Liz's is her company car; Steve's is leased from his lovely daughter-in-common-law, Rachel. OK so far? Now for the difficult bit. Liz's is an automatic; Steve's is a manual. You put your left foot in. Damn. An intermittent fault on the soft top control doesn't exactly raise the roof.

'The next station will be Oeno. The doors on the right hand side of the train will open.' Thirteen hour plane trip to hear a recorded tube announcement in perfect, audible English.

We celebrated the 25th year of the Clucas/Myers/Tilley CYFA Venture, which only has Clucases left from the 1985 gang of six. The old photos were good, the web-site funny and the trained young people now leaders with a flair for last-minute preparation and improvisation. We created in our own image. Sorry world.

If you have no garden, spring is dead exciting. But what is it about cherry blossom that makes so many people want to sit under it, photograph it or eat ice-cream flavoured with it?

Some 'agains'. We did an Alpha Course in the pub. We went to Gozo. Steve ran Quiet Days at home. Café Create south-west happened a few times more but, if we're honest, isn't quite whooshing like it did in Leamington. Murrays restaurant, Clevedon and the Barn at Wraxall kept us happy. Bristol Museum vs Banksy was beltingly good and curator friend Kate a genius. Only three people in the whole place knew what she had arranged. Queues every day for two months. Tweets got Steve excited. As did twurch. You could follow him if you wanted. Twurveillance? A civil partnership blessing service was spoken at. A little controversial but no-one died. We had to get new shoes for it. Had to. Steve's are lush Italian designer black leather and Liz's may be described in many ways none of which include the word practical. In fact they are not the sort of shoes you wear standing up.

By the way we went to Japan for a couple of weeks in the spring. Did we mention that? We sneaked one or two facts from our trip into the letter. Red sky in the morning; global warming. The emissions from this letter have been offset. The omissions have not.

Hope you get a glimpse of eternity in Advent when you look forward to that which has already happened and remember the future. That from theologian Paula Gooder and enough to keep us chewing for 24 days. Until next.

St and Liz x