Out of office…

26 07 2010

So, I am well and truly out of the office… Emails shut down, talk completed, and now two weeks of holidays await…

If you require me at any point in the next two weeks you can find me doing one of the following:

  • Hiding and reading in a caravan park (from where I am currently updating) surrounded by the sounds of Coronation Street wafting through perspex windows, and the unmistakable aroma of BBQs, clearly flouting the over-zealous campsite rules
  • Eating fish in one of my favourite little seaside restaurants, and no doubt cooking a bit of fresh sea-produce myself
  • Relaxing in a cottage in Brighton, with friends, food, wine and perhaps the odd whiskey and cigar
  • Watching a couple of football games back to back: Arsenal vs Celtic and A.C Milan vs Lyon at the beautiful Emirates Stadium, with the bearded members of my family.
  • Doing a number of touristy things in and around London
  • Watching Inception at the Imax in Waterloo

Of course, when I say ‘you can find me’ doing these things, that is neither an invitation nor a challenge. In the nicest possible way, I don’t want to see any of you for the next two weeks!

Have a nice fortnight, whatever you do with it…

1 year in London

14 07 2010

River Thames by will_hybrid

I can’t quite believe that a whole year has been and gone since we moved to London. On the one hand it feels like no time at all has passed since we moved, on the other, Canterbury feels a lifetime away!

It only seems appropriate to offer a few thoughts on how my life has changed this past year. Just the first five that come to mind, in no particular order.

Since living in London:

  • I’ve seen more theatre – I’ve felt more creative, as I’ve had a stream of incoming inspiration over the year. I’ve seen 16 shows since I’ve been here (taking full advantage of the £5 tickets for under 26 year olds… sadly no longer applicable!) from great classics, to new writing. Highlights include The Mysteries Yiimimangaliso, The Habit of Art and the McKellan/Rees production of Waiting for Godot. Lowlights include the thoroughly dull Power of Yes (how its author won a knighthood for anything other than sheer sympathy I have no idea!?!) and The Mousetrap which had the most tired, listless and lazy cast known to man. Additionally, we’ve been to see standup comedy, a classical concert and open air street theatre. As a result…
  • I’ve written far more – The benefit of seeing creative material is that it provokes you to be more creative yourself. I’ve seen things this year that have sparked new ideas. I’ve seen things that have honed my opinion of the kind of theatre I want to, and definitely don’t want to, be involved in. And if nothing else, I’ve now got a new goal and impetus to write – if Sir David Hare can get his thoroughly dull scriptwork onto the stage at the National Theatre unchallenged, there’s clearly something lacking in the drama world!
  • I’ve read far more – The tube journey has helped me to get through far more books than in previous years. I’ve learnt to be both more selective about  what I read, and also to read wider. I’ve learnt to read books differently – some slowly to take in every drop of nourishment they have to offer, and some lightly, sifting the wheat from the chaff and gleaning the little of use. I’ve got good at reading standing up, one arm clutched around a pole, trying to stay balanced. The notes in my books have become even less legible.
  • I’ve realised I have a higher work capacity than I knew – Simply having a faster pace of life, and a greater workload has made me realise how much latent potential I never tapped into. I’d always thought I was busy previously, and I was, but now a year on my productivity is far higher. It’s probably a combination of necessity (I have to go up a gear to get through the increased workload) and occasion (I have the opportunity to be stretched in new ways.) It’s also made me aware of my tendency toward workaholism, if not kept in line!!
  • My marriage has improved – You may want to ask my wife for her opinion! But I think being in London has helped my marriage in a number of ways. We no longer work in the same room, 2 feet from one another, which means we actually have something to talk about at the end of the day! Early on we had to get used to spending more time together – we didn’t have our natural friendship groups to fall back on. So we’ve learnt to really enjoy each others’ company again. We’ve been able to do new things together, and to pursue old hobbies to a new level (Helen had never been to a classical concert before, we now have access to new restaurants and exotic foods to cook etc). And it’s the first time we’ve been able to share an adventure together from scratch. Previously we had both lived in Canterbury, both developed friendship groups, ministry roles and habits which we brought together into marriage. Now in London we have started from a clean slate and learnt what suits us both. I think it’s helped immeasurably.

There are many things I could add to this (I haven’t mentioned my job or my church for example) but over-all my feeling toward this past year has been positive and thankful. Leaving Canterbury, my home of 7 years, wasn’t easy, but it was right. And though I miss both the place and the people, I’m glad to be in London… And looking forward to year two!

Isner and Mahut – Culture Makers?

25 06 2010

I’m not a big fan of tennis – I’ll watch a Wimbledon final, and the odd game here and there if I get a few moments. But I have to say, I was fascinated by the Isner vs Mahut match of the last three days. Not because of the quality of tennis on display (towards the end it looked a little ragged – understandably! – Though I would still not fancy my chances against them!) but because of the challenge it posed for the Wimbledon staff, commentators – the whole structure of the tournament!

In case you’re not aware, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut just played the longest game of tennis in history. They played for a total of 11 hours and 5 minutes over three days, with Isner finally winning 70-68. They broke the world records for:

  • Longest Match
  • Longest Set
  • Most Games in a Set
  • Most Games in a Match
  • Most Aces in a Match
  • Most Aces by a Player

The reason it fascinated me was that nobody knew how it was going to end. That’s always true of sport of course. Perhaps more accurately – nobody knew how to end it.

I was amazed to see the players in discussion with an official at the end of day two, arguing over whether they should stop for the night. Commentators were speculating about whether they would just keep going, or have a tiebreaker, or some other option. Personally, I would have gone for rock, paper, scissors – but I guess that’s why I’m not in their job!

A tiebreaker wasn’t really a plausible solution – you can’t just change the rules on the spot and make an unprecedented decision like that! They had to play on until someone caved, and then review the process afterwards.

And no doubt that is what they are now doing – thinking of new rules or provisions to make sure it doesn’t happen again; putting in place guidelines for the maximum length of a match, or how to end a game in extreme circumstances. Isner and Mahut have changed the face of tennis and will be the answer to a million and one quiz questions over the coming years.

If the rules of the tournament are altered because of this, a number of things will be made impossible:

  • It will be impossible to ever beat their new world records
  • It will be impossible to simply play on beyond a pre-fixed number of sets. There will be some prescribed method of curtailing a game, which all tennis players will have to adhere to from now on.
  • It will be impossible to use hyperbole to the same extent anymore. No longer will calling a 5 hour match ‘epic’ seem appropriate by comparison (‘though if hyperbole were banned entirely, commentators would be at a total loss for things to say!)

Through sheer perseverance, hard work, and refusal to give up, these two men are likely to transform the culture of Wimbledon, causing new rules to be written, and parameters to be set. They didn’t preach against the system, lobby for rule changes. In fact they didn’t even set out with an agenda to alter things. By simply doing what they did to the best of their ability, they will affect change in this area.

As Newfrontiers takes up the baton and seeks to renew culture through initiatives like The Everything Conference there will no doubt be many different ways we will have an effect; lobbying, strategic planning, having influence in high positions. But it strikes me that we ought never to underestimate the power of just working hard, slogging it out, and doing whatever it is we are good at with all of our strength. It changes things in unforeseen ways.