Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas 2017

Christmas 2017

Thirteen weeks sabbatical and I still do the letter two days before posting deadline. Is bone-idleness genetic? Only deadline panic really helps.

'You know what I have loved about your sabbatical?' Liz speaking now. 'It's spending the evening with you on the sofa zzz zzz zzz snort.'

It is advent. Christmas music is playing in the cafe where this is being begun. I hate joy at this time of year. There is a very ugly dog tied to a radiator. No idea how long it's been here. Could have been months.

Am really in the café to dodge the cleaners who come on a Wednesday. This is where my middle-class angst has delivered me; hiding from people who are being paid to make my life better. Did I flush all the toilets before leaving the house? I'm sure I did.

So we have begun to come to terms with being in our sixties. OK, we have set out the terms. We will not use our Christmas letter to:

Moan about the many bits of us that no longer work
Anticipate retirement
Discuss rail cards or bus passes
Remoan or Trumpet

Liz is enjoying her part-time work at Lakeland Bath although having taken this option in order to reduce her working hours she is frequently up at 5.00 a.m. to get to the shop in time to take in an early morning delivery which has been cancelled without telling her. The good news is that as this is now somebody else's fault it no longer stresses her out.

We note in passing that her old South African holding company employer (the people who owned Cargo) took over Poundland, changed the pricing structure (restoring 'How much is it' to the status of non-silly question), reported a massive loss and saw several senior management arrested in the far east. None of them would be likely to be women.

First Great Western try their best on the stressing out front. Cows on the line (a recent problem) may not be entirely their fault although they tell me fences are an excellent precaution, but late departure due to missing driver has cropped up more than once this year. As has cancelled train due to platform widening.

'This train consists of two carriages' might be one of the most depressing sentences either of us has to listen to week by week.

Returned electrical goods cannot be re-sold to the public due to safety regulations. They are sold off to the Lakeland staff by auction and the money goes to charity. We got a Vitamix. It is a blender gti. Leave it on for ten minutes and it makes house bricks into soup, warming the house the while. If the lead was long enough we could make frozen lake sorbet.

So, sabbatical leave - a three month break from duty this autumn which has been a privilege not many occupations offer. I have written a few new pieces which will be off seeking a publisher shortly (let me know if you are interested, especially if you are, in fact, a publisher). Also tested the welcome in a lot of local churches. Written reports available for a fee.

We try to avoid talk of bereavement round here (the dear, departed Roger would understand) but The Barn at Wraxall closed. The finest drinkers' pub we have ever had the good fortune to live near simply curled up and died last month. Tragedy. Strongly considering trying to buy it. Saturday lunchtime footie and the Guardian will have to be relocated.

Also Maitreya Social shut up shop– a magnificent veggie restaurant in Easton. Is it us?

At least the Pony and Trap at Chew Magna continued to be wonderful and we have an anniversary gift voucher still to spend there. A pre-starter course called 'snack' is a delight.

The local churches once again made a good fist of the election hustings and my colleague James chaired an evening with four of the five candidates. Sadly the missing one was our MP, the International Trade Secretary. He increased his majority from 13,000 miles. I swear if he jumped off a cliff he'd be elected unopposed on the way down. Not many Guardians sell round here.

Trendlewood Church contributed hugely to the third Trendlewood Community Festival. For a population of 2,250 it was pretty impressive to get 1,500 through the gates and an unexpectedly large profit for charity. Steve got to play keys with Rachel Taylor-Beales and even to cover for her as she remembered half way through the tune that she had not put on her harmonica. Liz got to check the temperature of a couple of thousand burgers. Vegetarians love this sort of thing.

Trendlewood Church was granted its independence and there followed a year of doing everything independently for the first time. Including spending our own money. The vicar is more to blame than he used to be although he delegates it when he can.

Whilst not paying enough attention Steve was appointed Assistant Rural Dean. Anxious to avoid tiresome admin and awkward questions about things he knew nothing about he wrote his own job description sticking carefully to things nobody else knew anything about. That said the deanery now has a vision document.

Gigs included Josie Long, David Sedaris, Stewart Lee, Laura Marling (supported by the excellent Ethan Johns) and a particularly strong Tobacco Factory Othello. We also enjoyed another 5x15 where five people speak for 15 minutes on matters on their heart. We enjoyed historian Matthew Green who explained that the advances of seventeenth century thinking were due to disgusting coffee and The Canary editor Kerry-Anne Mendoza (nothing to do with Norwich City and not for those of a right-wing disposition).

The honorary chaplaincy of Nailsea Mountain Rescue Team continues to be undemanding apart from the need to write an amusing after dinner speech annually.

Steve also saw Ghostpoet and, along with Jon, Mercury Rev and the Northern Symphonia. The band seemed happier about the orchestration than the orchestra were about the band. They looked, to a person, as if they would rather be anywhere else. They might have run for it save for the fact that moving the gig from the Colston Hall to the O2 Acadamy delivered more people onto the stage than usual at such venue. The percussionists had to crawl under a keyboard to get in position.

The event of the year was our ruby wedding anniversary. September 10th marked forty years since Liz walked down the aisle, heavily made up to hide the fact that her cat had slashed her face first thing in the morning. This developed a theme of our marriage as felines were variously shoe-horned into our relationship and then out again due to lack of love from 50%, soon to be 25%, of the hosts, plus apparently fierce dogs and the sound of asthmatic sneezing. She was to get knotted to a man who looks like it was a couple of years before he could get parental permission to marry.

We celebrated by my having the last day of church duties for three months. This meant Liz going to a hog-roast harvest lunch. Vegetarians love this sort of thing.

Curate coming next year. Yabadabadoo. Welcome to Nailsea; a town that swamped a small village in the 1960s is moaning about new housing. Pass the Daily Mail.

HC2U from S and M (Oops) L

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas 2016

Christmas 2016


So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's having fun. Nonsense. Trump, Brexit, Bowie, Cohen, Emerson, Lake and Iceland. Also it's Advent not Christmas. Get a grip.

2016 can pretty much do one as far as us understanding the rest of the world is concerned. It was the year democracy reached its limits and some people began to wonder if the Land of the Prince Bishops wasn't such a bad idea after all. That said, clergy, in a recent survey, came out as only marginally more trustworthy than hairdressers and well below nurses, doctors and teachers. Shop assistants were nowhere though. Tee hee.

Jon and Carys stayed a year, abandoned plans to move to New Zealand, and opted for the slightly more densely populated, but majorly better named, Fishponds. We enjoyed each other's company. There were no fights or raised voices and several moments of hilarity. We miss the extra chefs.

Liz's sister's son Jacob and his wife Molly had a little girl - Mabel. She is cute and we look forward to meeting her as great aunt and uncle.

We have been in Nailsea ten years now. Ministry benefits from long-termism so no plans to move on. Coming from small families we both feel our church is our extended family and our close friends more like brothers and sisters than any other category you might stick people into. We do however have some categories we keep private.

Liz stayed longer than she expected doing Christmas cover at Lakeland, Bath adding Lent cover, Easter cover, summer cover and autumn cover to her portfolio. It has a lovely cover. She is indeed still there. She has rather more responsibility than part-time minimum-wage shop staff normally get landed with and ran the place on a Saturday before Christmas. Fact is that even this is fun compared with most of her nineteen and a half previous years.

She became sixty. Hard to believe except she has six decades of put-downs to reach for when husbands need recalibrating, which is often. We booked a mansion in Staffordshire from that National Trust and had a sort of houseparty week for friends. It was nice.
We felt it would be quite easy to get used to it (pictured) and said goodbye reluctantly. Thanks to all those old friends who came over and joined in. Wish the photographer had got us bang in the doorway but you just can't get the staff these days. Next year is our ruby wedding anniversary. What?

We did Malta and Gozo as usual. First day of our hols we sat in a hotel room in Valetta watching the pouring rain (a new experience) and CNN describing what we now call Brexit (an experience). It was horrid, not helped by overhearing many Brits in the hotel who had clearly made it happen. We need to wake up to the Zeitgeist - as none of them would ever say. How do you like your exits in the morning; hard or soft?

By comparison watching England go out of the Euros to Iceland felt like an appropriate punishment for a nation that had taken careful aim at its own foot and still hit its kneecap.

Gigs enjoyed together included Ben Ottewell, Beverly Knight (finest thing ever to come out of Wolverhampton?) and the Duryless Blockheads who were just about the best working band we have even seen. Forty years together and still making Reasons to be Cheerful Part III look fun to play. Norman Watt-Roy and Chas Jankel especially - we hail you. Steve also enjoyed Wolf People - a sort of Seth Lakeman meets Wishbone Ash if you need a handle. Best, and wettest, of the year was Massive Attack's 25th anniversary gig on Clifton Downs. Guys pictured; photographer unwilling to share how she looked that day.

We went to Countryfile Live. Much more the sort of thing older people do. Also, we enjoyed it.

WB at Wapping Wharf is a collaboration between the London fish restaurant chain Hook and our friends at Wild Beer. The end result is an absolute delight of loveliness. Eating in one party of four, and realising we all liked everything on the menu, we asked the team to 'bring us some food'. They did so. Steve also enjoyed a calamari taco with squid ink mayo on another visit. His dining companion had to sit and watch someone looking like an extra in an undead movie.

Mark Steel, David O'Doherty and Mitch Benn were good comedy value. The Tobacco Factory's 5x15 (five surprise guests talk for fifteen minutes on random specialities) was a clever idea. We learned about Tourette's Syndrome, legalising hallucinogenics and the origins of the Glastonbury Festival. Michael Eavis broke the rules. Surprise, surprise.

The year was not without its sadnesses. We lost some dear friends, saw some long-term relationships break down and had a fair few bits of pastoral stuff to deal with that were nastier than usual. You will understand that our Christmas letter has never felt it necessary to dwell on such things and the day it does the author will be taken off to a quiet corner and had a word with. That sentence suggests the moment is nearer than we thought.

We learned not to buy new music but to rely on Spotify nor to buy new clothes but to rely on having spent previous years buying too many.

Our vicarage was quinquennialled and came out well. The moving of a drain under the conservatory has been timetabled for 'when you are on holiday'. Enticing odours and rodents a distinct possibility.

Trendlewood Church is to become independent on January 1st. As an unconventional and unusual church plant the Diocese came up with a name only the C of E could find - we are now a Conventional District. We could not be a parish because we do not have a building. Not moving from maintenance to mission as fast as we planned are we? We did outdoor baptisms in March (couple of hardy lads), provided spiritual content to a naming service in April and here are pictured at the fifth anniversary of a fantastic charity started by two of our former church members. This latter 'Hope for Life' provides educational opportunities for the poorest of families in Katanga, Uganda <>.

May your outdoor solar lights cope with this far north, your vegetarian alternative have excellent binding qualities and your choice of gifts for the dementia-ridden strike a chord.

St and Liz

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.