9 December 2009

Ubiquity

I've just realised that my last two posts contain the wonderful word 'ubiquitous'. How strange! Maybe I need to do a Wordle to see which other words I use on this blog.

Am I the only person to be irritated by Robert Peston?

The BBC's Business Editor, Robert Peston, has been almost ubiquitous on the BBC airwaves since the beginning of the 'financial crisis'. He went a bit quiet after the return of Stephanie Flanders* from maternity leave, and I breathed a big sigh of relief. But he was on the Today Programme this morning, and I felt the need to post!

As a regular Today Programme listener, I have become all to accustomed to the ponderous drawl of Mr Peston. Sometimes his hesitations in the middle of sentences, and his insertions of interminable 'ers' and 'ars' make me want to throw the radio at the wall! On more than one occasion, I have switched station, or switched off altogether at the sound of Peston's voice.
I don't know if I've become over-sensitised to him now, or whether other people find the same thing with him. What do you think?

*did you know her dad was Michael Flanders of Flanders and Swann?

20 November 2009

All that glitters

Am I the only person to detest the ubiquitous "cash for gold" adverts?


With the arrival of LittleLanky, we've been watching more tv than usual (because we're at home more), and the credit crunch seems to have spawned a proliferation of jewellery buyers; these seem to have taken the place of the "have you been injured at work?" adverts.


Although I concede that, primarily, I find these ads irritating, my point here is that I can't imagine who they're aimed at. I also can't imagine many people are sending in their big hoop earrings and heart shaped pendants.


Hopefully, as we climb out of recession, they will disappear as quickly as they arrived on our screens.




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12 November 2009

Cricket's coming home?

If the recommendations in David Davies' review are implemented, the Ashes will become one of the so-called 'crown jewels' of British sport, meaning that they will have to be on terrestrial television. The BBC's report is quite upbeat on the chances of this happening, but I can't help feeling a bit tentative about the whole thing. The income from Sky TV is massive for the ECB, and I can't see them being too happy with slashing that amount to bring the Ashes back to terrestrial TV. The ECB will argue that the income from TV rights has helped to fund a resurgence in grass-roots cricket, which has to be good. I just hope a workable compromise can be found so that the needs of the viewing public can be satisfied along with those of grass-roots cricket.

Handle with Prayer

The Church Mouse has details of a proposed new BBC2 series which has a C of E Priest as the central character. It's called 'Handle with Prayer' and it stars Tom Hollander - a proper actor! I think he'll make a good vicar. One to watch out for.

10 November 2009

Bloody Shameful

I have no time for the red-top tabloids in this country. I can't see what positive contribution they make to society, unless you count titilation as a positive contribution. I was particularly horrified, then, to read this trash on the Sun website. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a massive Gordon Brown fan, but I think that he needs to be given a bit of credit here.

We're talking about the Prime Minister of the UK! That's a pretty demanding job, you know. He works all hours, and probably barely gets time to spend with his family. I was actually very impressed that he takes the time to hand-write a personal letter to the family of each deceased soldier! When was the last time you hand-wrote a letter? I know I haven't written one in years.

I realise that the family concerned is grieving, and that they have their own, possibly legitimate, complaints against the UK government. I also acknowledge that I will (hopefully) never know what the family is going through, and how it feels to lose a child in warfare. My problem with the whole thing is that it comes across as a tabloid-engineered publicity stunt against the PM. I thought that when I read yesterday's 'story', but it was confirmed when I heard on the Today Programme that the Sun had recorded the phone call between the soldier's mother and Gordon Brown for use on their website (the Sun story said that the lady recorded the call on her answerphone).

It seems to me that the Sun have taken advantage of the family for the sake of a cheap story against Gordon Brown, and the more they persist, the more convinced I will be.

Ultimately, I really can't understand what the fuss is about. Here's how I see it:
  • He hand wrote a letter in an age where email and phone calls are the norm, and even typed letters are rare! I think this is impressive.
  • His letter is not a generic template; it's clearly specific to the situation. He could have just signed a spell-checked generic template, but he didn't.
  • His handwriting is poor - big deal! So's mine.
  • He made some spelling mistakes, and performed minor corrections. That's what we used to do before spell check!
Finally, at the risk of being labelled a pedant, and I don't want to sound disrespectful here, but someone who is criticising another person's use of language should maybe check their own a little more carefully:
"Jacqui hit back: "I don't want to sound disrespectful here, but it was an insult to my child. There was [sic] 25 spelling mistakes - 25."

6 November 2009

Clever, clever babies

This article is fascinating! Especially to a new parent. Apparently, research shows that a baby in the womb has already started to recognise the accent of their mother. So much so, that when they are born their cry has characteristics which are linked to the same accent. They show this by observing a different type of cry in families with different accents/languages.

I already knew that the whole process of growing a new life was amazing, but this just confirms it. I don't think it proves a watchmaker type argument for the existence of God, but it does make you stop and think a bit.

5 November 2009

Triple-cross posting

David Keen, whilst cross posting one of my posts about a post by Mike Peatman, has linked to a great set of graphical representations of some epic movies including Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.

The church of the state

I saw the news today that the name of the new Bishop of Peterborough has been announced. The wording of the press release made me think, though. I know the C of E is the established Church, but it does seem odd that the Prime Minister's Office make the formal announcement. No offence to Peterborough (it's a very nice place), but I would have thought the PM's office have more pressing issues to deal with.

3 November 2009

That would be an ecumenical matter

Mike Peatman is obviously not quite busy enough yet in his new role! He's found the time to pen a rather witty Father Ted style summary of the Pope's offer to accommodate some of our more conservative brothers. Go and take a look!

2 November 2009

Just hold on a minute!

On the Today programme this morning, it was claimed (though immediately clarified) that the M1 was the first motorway in the country. I don't think so! I think you'll find that the M6 Preston bypass was the first stretch of motorway to be completed in the UK, opened by Harold Macmillan in 1958. The BBC's web article is better!

Lancaster City Museum had a good exhibition to mark the anniversary, but it didn't seem to warrant the national coverage given to the M1's anniversary. Of course the M6 doesn't go anywhere near London, so that probably explains the lack of coverage.

Trawling the archive, I see that there was a story on the BBC news site in December, but I don't remember it making national radio, or spawning a musical!

1 November 2009

All Saints

Just returned from my first 'Reflect' since the birth of LittleLanky. Thanks to all who have kept the ship afloat; there seems to be a healthy number of attendees with some new faces.


Tonight I was bold! I experimented with a 'Litany of the Saints', which I've only ever heard before. I got some music from Mr Walton, and with the help of a WAV file and a few minutes rehearsal, it all worked out ok.


The nice thing about it being an ecumenical service was that there was a good number of Roman Catholics who weren't phased at all; they helped everyone else to pick up the responses in quick time.


I also got the opportunity to play one of my birthday presents; Howard Goodall's Enchanted Voices. I'd heard bits on Classic FM, but the entire album is very very good. It's very good Reflect music too.

29 October 2009

RIP David Shepherd

I thought I should mark the fact that former Test cricket umpire David Shepherd has died. I first started to get interested in cricket during the early 90s when I was off sick from school and was therefore able to watch my first test match from start to finish on BBC TV (those were the days). I remember being intrigued by the characters in the white coats, and in particular, David Shepherd's reaction to 'nelson' scores (multiples of 111). He would hop around on one leg until the score moved on again.

The thing I admired most about Shepherd was that he seemed to command respect from the players without sacrificing his sense of humour and character. This is something I think all managers should seek to emulate.

27 October 2009

Not all Anglo-Catholics want to go to Rome (except for maybe a holiday)

Whilst I've been offline, the Pope has thrown a helpful hand-grenade into the Anglican Communion; just when we needed one!


It seems that yet more Anglican Priests will be offered the chance to join the Roman Catholic Church, albeit in a very special way!


I have a lot of Roman Catholic friends, some of them priests. If I was in their shoes, I would be mightily unimpressed with this. For those who have made an often difficult decision to lead a celibate life, I can imagine that this arrangement may be most unsatisfactory.


Mike Peatman gives the matter some consideration on his blog here, and he makes me wonder about the practicalities of the proposal. What if an entire congregation wants to go to Rome with their Parish Priest? Do they all go? And what about the buildings? Don't they belong to the Church of England and its trustees? Sounds like a nightmare to me.


The other big issue in all of this is the usual balance approach taken by our media. There is an assumption that all anglo-catholics are conservative traditionalists. Thinking Anglicans had this press release from the Society of Catholic Priests (a Society of Anglican Priests - I know its confusing) and Affirming Catholicism (another group of Anglicans). It says this, and I heartily agree:


To suggest that the departure from the Church of England of those who hold more conservative views will remove the catholic wing and tradition from the church is entirely wrong. Churches and parishes which have a catholic tradition and are served by priests, both male and female, are growing and flourishing and look forward to the future with enthusiasm.

We welcome the offer made by the Pope to those of our brothers and sisters who no longer feel that the Anglican Communion is their spiritual home. We hope that this will not impede swift progress in the Church of England towards the ordination of the first women bishops in this land. 

26 October 2009

Back to work

Many apologies for the lack of posts over the last three weeks. The arrival and subsequent busyness have kept me away from the blog.

Anyhow, I'm back at work today, so normal service may just resume.

9 October 2009

LittleLanky

LittleLanky was born yesterday morning at 00:05, weighing in at 7lb 13.5oz. MrsLanky had a rough time with a prolonged period of unsuccessful induction followed by a caesarean section.

Phew! Now the hard work starts.


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5 October 2009

4 October 2009

Bored now

Having been in the hospital for more than 24 hours, MrsLanky and I are officially bored. Come on LittleLanky, we'd like to meet you.

Induction has commenced, so hopefully things will speed up soon.


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1 October 2009

The wonderful NHS

I know there's a lot of opinion on the web about the NHS and how good/bad it is, and I thought now would be the time to post about my view of the antenatal care we have received. Today marks week 38 for LittleLanky, and we've just had our final antenatal session, which covered the wonderful world of breastfeeding (including fake boobs).

I know there's a lot of variability in antenatal care across the UK. We have friends and family whose experiences have been scattered along a very broad quality spectrum, and my first observation is that care seems to be better in smaller towns/cities. Lancaster (so far) has been a great place to be pregnant. We've had abundant access to our wonderful community midwife, who we have seen for the vast majority of our appointments; all of the other midwives we have seen have been professional and personable.

In recent weeks, we have had the pleasure of attending the local NHS-run antenatal classes. At first, MrsLanky and I weren't keen, but we were soon convinced of their value. The midwife who runs the classes is great! Her enthusiasm and positivity is infectious; whilst her knowledge and experience are reassuring. I feel like we're much better prepared than we cold possibly have been through books and websites.

MrsLanky has also taken advantage of the NHS physiotherapy service due to a number of pregnancy related ailments. The physiotherapist has been excellent, and we didn't have to wait months for a referral.

The quality of care we have received has been superb throughout; if you're thinking about having a baby, come to Lancaster!

23 September 2009

Gareth Malone, and my telly face

I really enjoyed the final episode of 'The Choir' on BBC2 last night. It was one of those occasions where MrsLanky and I break out what we call our 'telly faces'. This is where there's something on TV which is really captivating and inspiring, and it causes an inane open-mouthed smile to appear on each of our faces. We know we're doing it, but we just can't help ourselves.

Last effect night this was exaggerated further by the compelling nature of the programme. MrsLanky and I both sing, and we both believe in the value of singing in churches and communities. So you might say this was a match made in heaven even before the opening titles finished.

On last night's show, Gareth Malone showed again how a little bit of vision, and a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm, can bring together even the most hopeless (and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense) groups of people. He also showed the value of caring and compassionate leadership, and I think that's what the people of South Oxhey were really craving; the music was an excellent vehicle which was, in a sense, incidental.


In an age where the church has faded into the background for many people, it's not surprising that there are places and people in need of this type of leadership. We just need to clone Gareth Malone, or maybe get him to lead a module at theological colleges, on the subject of leadership in communities.

UPDATE - It looks like someone else agrees with me

22 September 2009

Happy engagement

The midwife we saw on Friday went through the usual routine of feeling around for the position of LittleLanky, and she wasn't sure which way round it was. She thought it might have been breach, so she sent us for a scan at the hospital. After a nervous wait, we were squeezed in for a scan which confirmed that the baby is actually nearly fully engaged. Needless to say, we were relieved at this outcome. It does mean, though, that labour could start at any time! Scary.

So scary, in fact, that yesterday was my most productive day at work in a long time! I'm desperately trying to work through my to do list so I don't disappear on paternity leave leaving disaster in my wake!

18 September 2009

Singing in the emerging church

Maggi Dawn has posted about the role of live singing in an emerging church setting, and I agree with her. Live singing is a wonderfully adaptive aspect of worship, and I'd add that you don't need to be restricted to the model of a choir. I've been working for ages with the music of the Iona and Taize communities, and if you want to get people engaged in part singing really quickly, then this is the way to do it. One strong and confident leader and a roomful of people who think they can't sing can do some amazing things with an african chant or a simple Taize canon.

Maggi also mentions Gareth Malone, star of the BBC series The Choir. If you haven't already seen the programme, you can catch the final episode on Tuesday next week. From watching the programme, I recognise the joyful feeling when a roomful of people really click with a piece of music.

The final thing I want to do is to encourage anyone who can hold a tune that they can actually lead people in singing. I only have an average singing voice; I'm certainly not a soloist. I do, however, have a loud voice and I can sing in tune. Along with a good knowledge of the piece you're teaching, this is all you need!

Having said all of this, I also accept that there are people for whom participating in singing doesn't 'float the boat', and I think as leaders and teachers, we need to respect that. This is why I always try to make it a relaxed affair with as little pressure as possible.

15 September 2009

Paternal perks

I've long held the view that the Scandinavian approach to maternity and paternity leave is one we should emulate, so when I saw this news story about prospective changes to UK paternity leave, I was most impressed. The proposal is to allow fathers to take 6 months of paternity leave compared to the current 2 weeks.

The only problem is that I don't see much support for a policy like this in the middle of a recession.

14 September 2009

Common sense prevails over Blackburn's 'tainted' eucharist

I doubt this news will make the same splash as the original story did! The Chapter at Blackburn Cathedral have decided to remove the facility, at services with a female president, for people to receive elements consecrated by a male priest. There is also an acknowledgement that the decision to do this in the first place was regrettable.

Of course, it would be better if this kerfuffle had never happened, but this seems to be the best outcome.

11 September 2009

Turing apology

I've long been a fan of Alan Turing and his work. I was first introduced to Turing's ideas during a philosophy module called 'Knowledge, Mind and Language' whilst at university. We looked at the 'Turing Test', which is a test for detecting artificial intelligence.

Whilst at university, I also developed an interest in logic and crypotgraphy (though I have no skill in either!), and I read a lot about the work of Station X. It's clear to me, from what I've read, that the work of Turing, and his lesser-known colleagues, was instrumental in shortening the war. It also paved the way for the birth of computing as we know it.

I'm pleased that Gordon Brown has offered an official apology for the apalling 'treatment' Turing received:
Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the Second World War could have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely.

In 1952, he was convicted of "gross indecency" – in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence – and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison – was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

I'm pleased about the apology, but it doesn't reduce the sorrow I feel about his plight. It makes me angry that anyone could be treated in this way, and sad that we missed out on his academic brilliance. The only comfort I take is that we don't treat people in this way any more - at least not on an institutional level.

10 September 2009

How to wash baby

Our third antenatal class was last night, and it was very useful. We were very lucky to meet a baby girl who was only born 12 hours earlier. We were shown how one cleans one's baby without breaking it. She was very cooperative; hopefully LittleLanky will share this characteristic.

MrsLanky and I were a little unsure about the value of antenatal classes. We have both read a lot, and have been around young babies in the family. We thought we were quite clued-up. There is, however, significant value in being taken through the issues by an experienced midwife. Add to this the value of demonstration and the ability to ask random questions, and we're very glad to have taken the opportunity.

Only one more class to go now, plus a breastfeeding workshop and a massage for labour session!

Technical Support problems

Maggi Dawn posted this flow diagram which rings bells with me. Most of my visits to parents and parents in law turn into technical troubleshooting sessions.

9 September 2009

Plane wrong

I heard this story on the radio this morning, and wondered whether I was hearing things. It seems to be the case that, in order to maintain our obsession with cheap air travel, the Government's Climate Change Committee are recommending a cut of 90% on other greehouse gas emissions.

Now don't get me wrong; if we can reduce our emissions by this amount by 2050 we should get on with it, but surely we should also be looking to reduce our emissions from aviation by the same kind of amount. Why on earth would we want to give preference to the air travel industry?

7 September 2009

The final countdown

I thought I should record the fact that Mrs Lanky has just started her last week of work before her maternity leave commences. It will be nice for her not to have to drag herself out of bed for a 9am start, though we're both aware that there's plenty of hard graft to come when the baby arrives.

On an unrelated note, students are starting to migrate back to Lancaster. The medical students are already working and there are plenty of postgrads around. It won't be long until Freshers' week, though I think we'll opt out of this year's festivities given the impending arrival of LittleLanky. It's amazing how quickly the summer comes and goes!

2 September 2009

Fresh expressions of cricket

Jim Cumbes hit the nail on the head last night:
"We have got to rethink how we treat our public in cricket," added Cumbes, acutely aware that some of those now trudging into the night behind him, caterwauling as they went, might never return.
We were in a similar rain-hit situation at a Lancashire game earlier in the 'summer', and Jim knows what he's talking about. He knows (moreso than the pundits) that the game dies if people don't come to watch. Twenty20 was meant to be the 'fresh expression' of cricket; still cricket, but made more accessible and understandable for people who were previously agnostic toward the sport. It was meant to be a friendly format with less formality and stuffiness; we were told that the players would play in a wider range of weather conditions, and that play would be much more likely even if it was raining a bit.

So much for that!

David Keen's post about the unwritten rules of worship struck a chord with me, and got me thinking about the parallels between cricket and the church. Seasoned cricket fans will have been able to read the signs at Old Trafford last night long before the succinct announcement was made over the PA and big screens. Newcomers will have left more confused and frustrated than when they arrived, and many of them won't go back! Spooky.

28 August 2009

Friday frolics

There are lots of little things to say today, so I will skip around the subjects in this post:

The end of 50 over domestic cricket

The BBC reports on the ECB's announcement that there will be no 50 over domestic competition next year. The 4 day game survives along with a revitalised 40 over competition and T20. Ultimately, though I may have favoured the 50 over game over the Pro40, I think it's the right decision to only have one of them.

The Ashes and the Crown Jewels
David Keen has launched a campaign to bring the Ashes back to terrestrial TV. I agree with his assessment that the atmosphere around this year's Ashes series was subdued because only evening highlights were available on Channel 5; the live coverage restricted to Sky subscription channels. David quotes the Guardian, who published the slightly embarassing viewing figures:
At its peak, Sky Sports 1's live Ashes coverage had more viewers than Gardeners' World on BBC2, which had 1.1 million viewers between 5.45pm and 6pm, and was neck and neck with a repeat of Agatha Christie's Poirot on ITV1, which had 1.9 million viewers. But it could not better the 2.3 million viewers watching Songs of Praise on BBC1.

Wales - a hotbed of terrorism
Amateur Photographer reports the experience of a railway enthusiast (or trainspotter) who was on a camping holiday in Wales. He took some photos of some 'interesting' engines at an oil depot, and was then traced by the Police to his campsite. The Police caught up with him the following day and demanded he hand over the camera and memory card. I'm happy to say that he knew his rights, and that he refused to do so. He did offer to show them his images, but they declined the offer.

I wish the Police would learn a bit more about the law in this area!

Chilean Chapel
This post caught my eye. It shows a wooden chapel built on a lakeside in Chile. Simple and sensitive. I feel like going up to the Lake District via B&Q.

I think that's about it for now.

25 August 2009

Mike Peatman on Megrahi

Mike Peatman has posted on the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber. I've posted on this before, and last night I listened to an extended piece on Radio 4 whilst driving through 6 (yes 6) sets of roadworks on the M62 (down to 1 lane every time!). I agree with much of what Mike says, and will make a couple more points of my own.
  • It's a shame we'll never have the chance to see an appeal brought. Many people who have reviewed the evidence are not convinced about it and there is also new evidence to be tested. Surely it would provide a better sense of justice for those affected to have the right people convicted and punished for the crime.
  • As there will not be any re-examination of the evidence, the existing conviction stands. As far as the law is concerned, Megrahi is still guilty.

Megrahi's release (to me) has nothing to do with either of the above issues. He is dying. He is no longer seen as a threat to society. He was being detained far from his home and his family. The only reasons to keep him in detention are that a) we think he still needs to be punished, and b) the victims and their families (and some politicians seeking to cash in) aren't happy with his release.

My belief is that prison as punishment is a fundamentally flawed model. I know many will disagree, but I don't see what right I have to inflict pain (to put it in a basic form) on somebody because of the pain they have inflicted on me. We tell our children that 2 wrongs don't make a right, and we aspire to 'turn the other cheek', but then we go and enshrine the principle of revenge into our legal systems. We even talk about someone's debt to society; we say that 'you caused society x pain, so we have to cause you x pain in return'. Otherwise they are in a position of debt. How on earth can we quantify pain in this way?
I'm reminded of the famous Gandhi quotation, 'An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind'.

I do think that we have to respect the victims and their families, but we have to accept that those closest to the crime are probably not in the best position to decide on what happens to the offender. That's one of the reasons we have a legal system - to lend some objectivity to the process.

All in all, I think the right decision was made, though I think we should have insisted on a low key repatriation. That, however, is a PR/diplomatic issue; Not a moral/legal one.

20 August 2009

Friday fun

Many of the bloggers I regularly read have a habit of blogging a summary of issues on a Friday, and today I feel drawn to do the same. It's been a very busy day for me at work (Day one of a four day health and safety training course), and having scanned my usual internet reading list this evening, there seems to be too much to say today!

Cricket
A mediocre day for England. Seemed to start well, but then lost a predictable flurry of middle order wickets. Hopefully the tail can add on a few more in the morning before we see which Steve Harmison turns up.

Megrahi
I have a lot of sympathy with the Scottish politicians who have had to make the decisions on the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. I think it's a complex situation, and I'm not sure of the security of the original conviction. I think they've made the correct decision to let a dying man go home for the end of his life.

Swine flu and communion at Greenbelt
Maggi Dawn shares the news that this year's Greenbelt won't feature the usual Sunday morning communion service and asks for comments about how people are coping with swine flu in churches. As I think I've said before, we have fairly unconventional arrangements for communion at the University Chaplaincy we attend. These arrangements are more peculiar at the moment because the RC Diocese have not been as harsh as the C of E, and the methodists have their shot glasses. This means that our ecumenical weekly communion service (during holiday time) now has a buffet of choices, though denominationally restricted! Anglicans receive in one kind, methodists receive bread and unfermented wine from shot glasses, and the Roman Catholics are continuing as if there's no swine-flu. I can't imagine what newcomers from outside a church setting would make of this, but it seems to work ok.

SPCK
Great news for the former employees of SPCK, who appear to have been shafted by their incoming Texan bosses. Lots of reports everywhere in the blogosphere, but the USDAW action resulting in payouts to some of the people involved was covered on the BBC.

Jessops
The current management have struck back in Amateur Photographer. they are blaming the previous management. I think they're all to blame, along with uncontrollable changes to the photography market.

19 August 2009

Come on Burnley!

Despite the fact that it doesn't help my fantasy football team, and the more important fact that I am an Accringtonian, I take great delight in Burnley's victory over Man United. It's great to see the big teams knocked over by the new boys.

More bad news at Jessops

My former employer is finding it hard at the moment. Jessops have found it very difficult over the last few years, and I found out yesterday that one of my former colleagues is to be made redundant as the company moves to cut costs even further. When I managed a Jessops store, we had the following indefinite full time posts:
  • Manager
  • Assistant Manager
  • Sales Assistant
  • Lab Supervisor
In addition we had 4 or 5 part-time sales assistants, and this was a small shop!

I'm informed that the profile of a similar store (mine was closed a couple of years ago) is now down to just a Manager on a full time indefinite contract, and a bunch of part-time assistants.

The unique selling point of the business, when I joined it, was that the people who worked there were enthusiasts. That meant that customers came to the shop for more than the product; they came for advice and a chat about obscure photographic equipment. It was a specialist shop.

By employing part-time staff in the majority of posts, they have lost this USP. There isn't any advantage to shopping in Jessops now. You'll get a better price and equivalent customer service from the faceless internet!

It's sad that a company founded on family values and expert advice has been diluted, and I'm not sure how much longer the business will last.

**UPDATE**
Amateur Photographer has this from the former Chairman and Chief Exec.

14 August 2009

Guitar Hero

This is a story that the sadly missed BigBulkyAnglican would definitely have recorded on his blog. And even though I posses the guitar skills of an otter (despite owning two guitars), I thought I should mark the passing of Les Paul on this blog.

I played in a band for a while when I was at school, and although I was a keyboard 'player', I was inevitably exposed to electric guitar culture - all bands have guitars! It appears to me that Les Paul was much more than just a person who played and made guitars. He was an icon in the world of rock music.

He was an innovator in musical technology and developed one of the first solid bodied electric guitars. The move away from a resonant sound box opened up massive stylistic possibilities that hadn't existed before! He and his contemporaries changed the course of rock and roll music with this innovation. Les Paul's 'log' (yes that's what he called this guitar) was the forerunner of the Gibson Les Paul; a guitar that nearly all your favourite rock musicians will have played on stage at some point in their career. This is what many people mean by a 'Les Paul'; in my teenage years, I remember the dawning realisation that a 'Les Paul' wasn't just a guitar!

Lester William Polsfuss (to give him his full name) wasn't just a guitar maker though. He continued to innovate with musical effects and recording techniques which have gone on to shape modern music even more than his guitar design! He experimented with multitracking well before there was a convenient, all-in-one machine that would do the hard work for you! Les Paul will go down in musical history for his contribution to music. I just hope that future generations of musical geeks have the same realisation I did. There was a man behind the guitar, and he was great!

The final thing to say is that in reading about his life today, I discovered that I've spent some time in his neck of the woods. He was born and raised in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Just down the road from New Berlin, where some good friends of ours live.

12 August 2009

Loft-boarding

It sounds like it could be a new form of torture dreamt up by American intelligence agents. In reality, though, it's what a friend and I did last night.

Although we are in rented property, our landlord is quite flexible about us doing little bits about the house. With the impending arrival of LittleLanky, we are trying to create space in the house for an assembled cot etc, so we thought it would be a good idea to spend £20 on materials and make the loft a bit more usable as a storage location.

Thanks to the assistance of the aforementioned friend this task is now complete, and our giant tent is now safely sitting in the loft. The next step is to dismantle a couple of shelving units (upon which the tent was previously stored) and put them (along with 10 boxes of books) alongside the tent. That should give us acres of space for a baby and all its 'stuff'.

11 August 2009

Strange experiences

Up until yesterday, all the purchases we've made in the anticipation of LittleLanky's arrival have failed to cause alarm.

  • The pram (an Easy Walker Sky) is assembled, but safely tucked away at my parents' house.
  • The cot (Ikea's cheapest one) is still in it's box in the spare room.
  • The changing table (a funky Ikea number) is next to the cot, also in its box.

I think that's about all we've acquired so far, and as you can see, it's mostly boxed or not in our house.

It all changed yesterday when we were in Booths we spotted an offer on organic and environmentally friendlier disposable nappies for new born babies. Although we fully intend to use reusable nappies, we're not naive enough to think that we'll never use a disposable, so we bought some.

I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it felt a bit like it did when we decided we were going to try for a baby in the first place; a bit scary, and completely uncharted territory.

Anyway, we now own some nappies, and we should probably get our act together on the myriad other items we 'need' before the baby arrives.

6 August 2009

Mummy and Daddy classes

Last night we went to our first antenatal session at the hospital, which was all very interesting. The person leading the session was very nice, if slightly mad.

Although we didn't discover any amazing truths about parenthood in the first session (it was mostly common sense), the session brought our experience of pregnancy to the next level! It's all somehow much more immediate now that we've had the tour of the maternity ward and seen a model of a baby at 30 weeks gestation (which is the milestone we reached today).

I need to crack on with assembling furniture and tidying up a bedroom! Everyone tells me that once the baby arrives, we will both be too tired to operate allen keys.

31 July 2009

Another cricket post... I promise I'll stop soon!

A few cricket things...

  1. Still smarting from the bowl-out fiasco at Old Trafford!
  2. The ECB have listened to my earlier post about the congestion of the domestic calendar. Next year will see an extended 4 day cricket, T20 and one other limited overs competition. Hoorah! At least I think that's what it says. If it's a choice between 50 and 40 overs, I choose 50.
  3. I've just noticed that Graeme Swann seems to be emerging as unofficial team spokesman for England. More often than not, he is the one providing an end of day interview, and he comes across very well; The journalists must love him.
  4. Come on England!

30 July 2009

It's just not cricket!

Following days of rain in Manchester, there is a result in the quarter final of the Twenty20 competition. Somerset have won on a bowl-out.

I think that this is even worse than a penalty shootout in football. Cricket is a tactical and subtle game - even in its Twenty20 format. It's like like deciding a chess match by flipping a coin.

Needless to say, I'm quite disappointed. Lancashire are running out of competitions this season.

Rain stopped play

On Tuesday evening there were some very wet people waiting for cricket at Old Trafford; I was one of them. We thought we might see some play in the quarter final between Lancashire and Somerset, but after an evening of prolonged and sometimes heavy rain, the decision was taken to abandon play. The reserve day was yesterday, and it rained harder:


The good news for me is that because the reserve day was washed out, I get a full refund. The bad news is that if they don't manage to play 10 overs a side at some point today, the game will come down to a bowl out, which will be indoors if necessary. Call me old fashioned, but that's just not cricket!


Hopefully the weather at Edgbaston will clear up a bit this morning. At least with test cricket we should get some play over 5 days!

27 July 2009

Blackburn in the news again

When I saw the headline on Thinking Anglicans, I assumed it was some kind of swine-flu reference. Having read the article, it's clear that it isn't! Blackburn Cathedral has made the news for offering 'untainted' hosts at eucharists where a woman presides. The 'untainted' host is one which has been previously consecrated by a male priest.

I'm not shocked by the technicalities of the practice; it's similar to the way we operate in our united (ecumenical) services at the Lancaster University Chaplaincy. The service is conducted in one tradition (CofE, RC or Methodist), and reserved sacrament is provided for those outside that tradition; though the CofE and Methodists share the same elements.

What does shock me is the reason for the special arrangements. If there are people who object to women priests, maybe they should either a) not appoint a woman priest in that place, or b) go to another church where women clergy aren't allowed!


I don't agree with the position that women shouldn't be ordained, but there are plenty of options for those who do think in that way - especially in this Diocese.

The final objection I have is with the use of the word 'tainted'. I'm not sure if that's a word used at the Cathedral, or whether it's something added by the journalists to make it sound more impressive. I do think it's an unfortunate and loaded choice though! If I were a female priest, I would be very offended!

**UPDATE**

Church Mouse and Maggi Dawn have picked this one up too.

23 July 2009

Two Lancastrians to watch

I watched bits of Lancashire's unlikely win over Surrey last night in the Pro40 competition, and was impressed by a couple of Lancashire players.

Stephen Parry impressed with the ball. He's a slow left arm orthodox bowler who has mainly been deployed in limited overs cricket for Lancashire. From what I've seen he seems to have the knack of taking wickets at the right time.

Gareth Cross is one of Lancashire's wicket keepers along with Luke Sutton. He executed a brilliant run-out last night which made me wonder how long Lancashire can sustain two high quality keepers without one of them leaving. With Cross being the younger at 25 years old, my money's on him sticking around.

In my opinion, both players could well have international futures, though I concede that at 23 and 25 they have probably already been passed-over by the England selectors.

Speaking of Lancastrian England players, Sajid Mahmood was on decent form last night. I do think he should stop obsessing on his slower ball. I don't mind a fast bowler who has a slower ball for an occasional variation, but Mahmood seems to bowl at least a couple per over. Having said that, his figures this season are quite good.

21 July 2009

A fine win for England

England's victory over Australia was a great one! The top order scored runs, the tail-enders stuck around and the bowling attack was accurate and vicious. My hero Jimmy Anderson stuck at his task, in the considerable shadow of his Lancastrian colleague.

A note of caution ought to be sounded, though. The Aussies were under par! Their bowling attack was lacking in accuracy and consistency. Their batsmen collapsed (uncharacteristically) in the first innings. We shouldn't be counting on the same thing happening at Edgbaston, Headingly and the Oval.

Also, Freddie may not limp all the way to the Oval, Pietersen is going to see a specialist, Broad isn't there yet (with the ball) and we don't have a performing number 3 batsman. So we're not in a secure position!

I don't want to rain on parades though, and I enjoyed this post that I came across courtesy of David Keen; here's an extract from a liturgy for the defeat of the Aussies:

Archdruid: Haddin may last for the night

All: But Freddie striketh in the morning.

Archdruid: We have waited for many generations. Our parents told us of the day when the English beat the Aussies at Lords. Who could believe what has been revealed before our very eyes, courtesy of Sky Sports and the BBC Website?

All: Truly wonders are seen. Flowers have appeared in the earth. The time of singing hath come. And the voice of Henry Blofeld is heard in the land.

Archdruid: A reading from the Book of Aggers.

Hnaef: And Blofeld said unto him "My dear old thing - verily a pigeon flieth across the ground, and the number of red buses is nigh unto four score that we have seen since last Thursday. And lo - a plane passeth on its way from Heathrow. Maybe it carrieth holidaymakers unto the city of Rome, or even unto Athens or Jerusalem. Don't the trees look nice in the sunlight?" And indeed, as Blofeld rambled on, the English team smote the Aussies one last time and walked from the field rejoicing. But Blowers noticed not. And great was the wailing and gnashing of teeth, in Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and even unto Earls Court.

20 July 2009

Swine-flu fever

Despite there being no new guidance on the precautions pregnant women should be taking in relation to swine-flu, the Daily Mail (uncharacteristically) stirred up a dose of uninformed hysteria this weekend. I'm told that this story has been amended since the weekend. The original version advised pregnant women to stay indoors!

There was good coverage on the Today Programme this morning, which managed to persuade the pregnant Mrs Lanky that she would be ok to continue going out of the house.

I really wish that newspaper editors would think about the effects that their headlines might have before they sign them off for publication. I'm guessing that pregnant women across the nation will have spent the weekend in a paranoid state of anxiety; especially those who work in the big cities, and whose jobs put them in contact with large numbers of people. I'm glad to see that the advice has now been tempered; even by the Daily Mail. It should be noted, however, that it is difficult to unscramble an egg!

(please pardon the mixed culinary metaphors)

17 July 2009

Communion compromise

Mike Peatman has posted about this news from the Blackburn Diocese. Given the flu pandemic, clergy in the diocese have been asked to offer communion in one kind - just bread - to try to halt the spread of the virus.

I'm sure it will cause shock to many people, but as an Anglican who regularly worships with Roman Catholics (in a eucharistic setting), I am well used to the idea of receiving only the bread.

Perhaps this could even be a positive thing for the church! Maybe, in being forced to ask questions about the nature of communion, people will come to a deeper understanding of what is going on.

15 July 2009

Flintoff to retire from Test cricket

It's been on the cards for a while now, and the time has finally come for Andrew Flintoff to retire from Test cricket. It's a great shame, but given his injury rollercoaster of the last 4 years, one can hardly blame him.

14 July 2009

As I thought

Thanks to Ministry for this from the BBC. It seems that I was correct in my assumption that 118800 cannot handle the number of unsubscribe requests.

13 July 2009

New look for the Blackburn Diocese website

Occasionally I call in on our Diocesan website to keep abreast of news and developments. Imagine my surprise when I found that after years of the same gaudy template, we have a swanky new look!


I haven't had the chance to check out the navigation or the content yet, but it does look much better than it did!

All to play for

I wonder how many people across the land were, as I was, pacing around their living rooms as James Anderson and Monty Panesar defied the Australian bowlers for what seemed like hours!

When Pietersen's wicket fell at the start of the final day, I was predicting the collapse of England's middle order, and a victory lap for Ponting's men. Thanks to Paul Collingwood, this wasn't to be! His amazing innings (74 runs from 245 balls) gave the lower order some hope that they could resist the Aussies, and James Anderson proved again that he is no mug with the bat (21 not out from 53 balls)!

All in all, it was a shocking performance by England. They came out to bowl thinking that 435 was a good score, but not one of the top-order batsmen exerted any authority on what seems to have been a good batting wicket (look at the Australian batting stats).

Having said that, I feel we deserved the draw, which has set up the rest of the series beautifully.

I'll make no comment on the 'timewasting' tactics, apart from that it reminds me of the use (by England) of substitute fielders in the 2005 Ashes.

10 July 2009

A very popular website



Those of you who read my earlier post and thought you would go and tell 118800 that you don't want your number to be included in their venture will have found the same thing I have:

I'm guessing that the company's servers are struggling to keep up with the demand for people opting out rather than people wanting to use their services. Either way, 118800 seems to be unavailable at the moment. Please try again later.

Privacy alert for all mobile phone users

I found out about this yesterday from a colleague, and then looked it up on the web. Apparently there are plans to put mobile phone numbers into a national directory (without asking permission), and these plans are advanced! If you want to opt out of this, you can:
To unsubscribe, you can either click on the ex directory button on the their web homepage, or you can text the letter 'E' to 118800 from the mobile phone you want to be made ex-directory. 118800 will send you an SMS message confirming you've been taken off.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/working_lunch/8091621.stm
Go to this website if you want to opt out. Though the website is down at this particular time!

9 July 2009

Temptation!

My current personal mobile phone, an HTC touch, has been OK for the past 11 months; only OK though. It's a Windows Mobile machine and, on the surface, it seems to do an awful lot. The problem comes when you've been using it for a while; your email piles up, you fail to delete text messages, you have a few unwanted applications, and before you know it the phone freezes and needs to be reset. I've done this at least half a dozen times in the year, and unfortunately this involves putting the phone back to its factory settings and losing all your personal data. Grrr. Irritatingly, I have also managed to destroy the 2 styli that came with the phone, and am now improvising with miscellaneous pointy objects to avoid buying a ridiculously priced replacement. 

When I got the phone, it was Orange's best stab at an iPhone competitor, and whilst I'm sure that they have some better machines on offer now, the O2 monopoly means that when my Orange contract ends in August, I'll be moving to O2 for the latest iPhone.

As I already have a 5th Generation iPod for my music, I think I will be fine with the 16GB 3GS. I now need to wait for the end of my contract in August, and then go through the palaver of 'porting' my number across from Orange to O2. That will be fun.

Solid start?

A busy day of meetings at work yesterday meant that I couldn't stay abreast of the day's cricketing developments, but I managed to watch the highlights on Channel 5.

The thing that pleased me most was that Flintoff wasn't out for a duck, and that he took a positive attitude to the new ball. It was great to see the same kind of brutal play that I saw in Lancashire's recent T20 against Derbyshire.

Clearly, someone should have gone on to get a big score. I guess there are a few English batsmen who would agree! However, the Australian bowling attack seemed a bit tame apart from the odd bouncer directed at Bopara. Flintoff got a couple too, but he just seemed to swat them away.

If the England bowling attack meets its potential, I'm looking forward to an exciting innings when the Aussies come in to bat.

7 July 2009

David Keen's Ashes Predictions

David Keen's Ashes Predictions are interesting.

I also predict that, in the event of a win in Cardiff, England will go on to win the series. Hopefully a decent run of weather will make for results rather than draws.

I also agree about James Anderson. I think he's peaking at exactly the right time for the Ashes. Hopefully he'll stay fit and take a couple of big hauls.

I think Monty Panesar will be disappointing (if he gets the chance). He hasn't performed well at County level this season, so I can't imagine his form is going to return just because it's the Ashes.

With the batting, I hope that KP will have a good one, and I'm also hoping that we'll see a continuation of Andrew Flintoff's craching return to batting form with a few big hits.

6 July 2009

The long and painful death of 50 (and 40) over cricket?

I haven't watched a domestic 50 over cricket match for some time, but with Lancashire making the semi-finals of the Friends Provident, I thought it might be an entertaining watch. Unfortunately not!

Maybe it's sour grapes because Lanky lost, but I really felt that it represented something more significant for the one-day format. Here's my argument:

  • County sides play an awful lot of competitive cricket and they have a number of very different formats to which they must quickly adjust (T20, Pro40, 50 over and 4 day).
  • T20 has enjoyed a massive surge this year, partly thanks to the World T20 Championship. Therefore, T20 is not going away!
  • The cricketing establishment is very fond of the longer and 'purer' form of the game so the 4 day game will probably always be there (more or less).
  • Since the advent of T20, teams can score at over 10 runs per over, but only when their wickets are more disposable due to the length of the game. This has improved the 4 day game, with more innovative shots, better fielding, more creative bowling plans and higher batting scores.
  • Players seem not to know how to play 40 and 50 over cricket, as shown by Lancashire yesterday. They seem to be happy with the long game and the short game, but not so comfortable with the in-between versions!
Why don't we just let the confusing 40 and 50 over games fade away, and concentrate on the exhilarating T20 and the more conservative and traditional 4 day game?

2 July 2009

Unconvinced!

I watched the documentary on FIVE last night about the Turin (or Da Vinci) Shroud. It was a very strange experience, mostly in a televisual sense. Somehow, the one hour programme contained only 20-40 minutes of footage, and there was a strange editing fault which resulted in large parts of the programme being repeated several times over!

In terms of content, most of it was the same as I had already seen or read elsewhere, though it seemed to be dumbed-down for the FIVE audience. The new content related to the hypothesis that the image on the shroud was created using a camera obscura and photo-sensitive silver substances on a sheet of fabric. I found this to be quite persuasive and I would have liked to have seen more of the demonstration experiment they set up. Instead, they seemed to concentrate on trying to link the whole thing to Leonardo Da Vinci. I found these arguments to be much less than convincing.

Ultimately, it makes no difference to me. I'm convinced that the shround is not the genuine burial shroud of Christ already. I was just interested to see how the image had been formed, as it's claimed that the evidence is not consistent with a painted image or print.

The big news in this story, though, is that this may well be the oldest surviving photographic image! Now that's interesting.

1 July 2009

New Turin Shroud conspiracy theory


I spotted this on the Amateur Photographer blog. There's a documentary on FIVE this evening which claims the image on the Turin Shroud was created by an early photographic process involving silver sulphate. The programme claims that none other than Leonardo Da Vinci made the image using a sculpture of his own face.

I'll have to watch it to check out the validity of their arguments, but the notion of the image as a photographic one fits with some of the other evidence I've seen. For example, the fact that the image is best seen in negative form, as in this picture. We don't really see many naturally formed negative images which haven't been 'created' by a human.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the progamme - I'm a bit of a sucker for Dan Brown style conspiracy!

30 June 2009

Vaughan to retire


David Keen has a post about Michael Vaughan's retirement. I think that Vaughan really brought something special to the England captaincy after what seemed like many years in the wilderness of international cricket. The main reason I rate him as a captain is the way in which his players have always talked about him as a leader. Cricket is one of those sports where there is a lot going on under the surface. In particular, field placements and bowling strategies often go un-noticed by the casual observer, but this was where Vaughan was strongest. He seemed to have an intuition for the game, and when to make those very subtle changes which would bring about a wicket. Then there was his batting. I always thought he looked massive at the crease. The bat seemed tiny in his hands, and when he was on form, he was a joy to watch; a truly graceful player. Finally, I respected his conduct. He always seemed to say the right things, even when there was a tricky situation. He seemed to grasp the bigger picture in the game; something that Strauss seems to be able to do too. It's good that he's chosen to opt out rather than being forced to retire, and I hope he makes the move into TV or radio where he would have a lot to offer.

29 June 2009

Check your wallets


If you have a 20p without a date on it, keep hold of it; it might be worth £50 according to the BBC.

One I meant to post about but didn't... catch the pigeon!

I've been meaning to post a a link to this clip of a Lancashire T20 game where Jaques Rudolph managed to bring down a pigeon with a return throw from the deep. I had 2 immediate reactions: 1) Poor pigeon, though it probably knew little about it, and 2) What a good throw! I bet he couldn't do that again.

26 June 2009

Back to the blog!

I've been 'enjoying' a break from blogging over the last few weeks. No doubt the avid readers of this blog will have been heartbroken at the break in inspirational and witty banter. The reason for the break has been something of a change in pace at work, which has been tiring, along with the ongoing pressures of Mrs Lanky's growing bump. Incidentally, all is well with the bump. According to the ultrasound scans everything is the size it should be for the stage we are at, and LittleLanky appears to be as near to average as s/he can be.

I felt as though today was the right day for a post for 2 reasons. The first is the timely return to batting form of Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff. Thanks to our Ashes-inspired resumption of a Sky Sports subscription, I watched Lancashire's victory over Derbyshire in the T20 championship last night. It's the first time since the famous 2005 Ashes series that I've seen him dominate a bowling attack in such an intimidating way. Hopefully the Aussies were watching and beginning to get a little bit nervous.

The second reason for my post is to mark the passing of the troubled superstar, Michael Jackson. I don't have much to say about him apart from that I feel sadness for him and his family. I know lots of people have opinions about his lifestyle and his alleged misdemeanours, but I can't help feeling sorry for him. There must have been reasons for the way he was, and they are likely to have been linked to his unconventional upbringing. Can we all just leave it there? Can we let him rest in peace and leave his family to grieve?

20 May 2009

Bank holiday weather

Let's hope this forecast for the coming Bank Holiday weekend in Lancaster is accurate.