29 November 2010

In support of the Lancaster wind turbine application

This is a post for those of you who live in, or care about, Lancaster - note you don't need to live there to be a part of this.

My former employer, Lancaster University, has made a further planning application to install a single wind turbine, right next to the busy six lane M6 motorway. The previous application was for two turbines, but that was rejected earlier in the year.

The proposed single turbine will produce about 20% of the university's electricity needs - that's a massive amount! If you want to read more about the proposals, look here. This kind of saving will have a significant positive impact on the carbon emissions of the university, and it will also help to make the university's 1960s campus a good deal more financially sustainable; as the biggest employer in the area, and during difficult financial times, these kinds of issues need to be considered as well.

My reason for posting on this topic is that if you feel strongly about this matter, I would urge you to go to the council website and leave a comment for the planners. Clearly, I would prefer it if your comments were supportive of the application, but you are, of course, free to say what you like.

Many of the objections to the last application claimed that the university was doing nothing else to save energy. That's rubbish! I worked in the Facilities Division, and I can assure you all that there are few issues further up the agenda than energy saving and environmental issues. You just need to look here to see how much is actually being done.

I know some people will be affected by this proposal, but I would happily live in their place! So much of this argument is aesthetic and subjective! The fact is, we really need to get moving on carbon reductions if we are to have any impact on climate change. If we keep saying no to good applications like this, we're never going to make any progress, and our grandchildren will not thank us.

Rant over. Essay to write. Greek to translate.

26 November 2010


I wish to mount a defence for the word 'nice'. When I was at school, we were often told that 'nice' didn't really mean anything, and that we should avoid using it in creative writing. To say something was nice was not really telling the reader anything; it was lacking in passion and expressiveness.

After years of avoiding the word, having been indoctrinated against it, I decided last night that I want to reclaim it. Our tutor group organised the community worship at Westcott last night, and one of the comments I heard afterwards was that it was a really nice service. Rather than challenge the person about their lack of passionate adjectives, I found that I really appreciated the comment. I think we'd inadvertently planned the service to be 'nice'. Creative use of lighting, simple yet wonderful music, a good preacher and a celebrant who beautifully sang the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer all made for a really nice atmosphere where I think people felt at home.

I think the mistake my English teacher may have made (many moons ago) was to assume that words like 'nice', 'great', 'superb', outstanding', 'terrible' and 'dreadful' are points along a single axis; that they are simply expressions of different quantities of goodness or badness. (She may, of course, have made the mistake of assuming that what she said in class would not be remembered by her students many years later.) My point is that the word 'nice' is on its own axis, and to describe something as nice can be the most appropriate description we can choose.

8 November 2010

A different world

As I cycled in to college today through foot deep drifts of orange and yellow leaves*, I reflected that though my life may be hectic at the moment, it's bliss in comparison to many others around the world. I was thinking particularly about those Christians in Iraq who are living in real fear for their physical safety following an eruption of violence and killing last week.

We talk all the time about the catholic or universal church, yet we feel so removed from our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world. It isn't easy to identify with those whose lives are so incredibly different to ours, but at times like this we ought to put our essay deadlines, church politics and even the spending review into perspective. We ought to mourn for our church's loss, at the same time praying for those who now have an impossible choice to make; to leave their home or to stay in a hostile environment. All because of what they believe. We really do live in a different world and we should remember how fortunate we are.

*My inner child made me go through the leaves whilst others carefully rode around them

1 November 2010

Remember to breathe

Life is busy at the present time, and the words of the title for this post summarise the mantra that a few of us are using. I don't know what it's like for single ordinands living in college, but for this married one who lives out of college, and has a young daughter, it's hard to get the balance right at the moment.

First there's the reading. Given that I'm reading for a Cambridge degree, there's an expectation that I will do a lot of reading. There are set texts, and then a multitude of more detailed ones for when you need to write an essay. It feels like, even were I to dedicate all my time to reading, there would still be more to do, and I would have missed all my lectures in finding time for all the reading.

Then there's the writing. The system here is to have lectures and supervisions. Lectures are straightforward, but supervisions are new to me (we always had seminars at Lancaster). In a supervision, one person writes a short essay, and the other members of the group produce plans for how they would have written the essay if they had drawn the short straw. I have two supervisions this week, and I'm writing the essay for each one (so I probably shouldn't be blogging).

Then there's praying. At Westcott, you'll be pleased to know we do a fair amount of this. Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline are said in the house each weekday. Ordinands are expected to attend a good number of these, though there are some allowances for those with families, who may have some parental duties to discharge a couple of times a week.

Then there's family time, which happens just before bedtime and on weekends. Actually, that's an over-exaggeration. DrLanky and LittleLanky frequently come in to join me for lunch through the week. But I no longer have the chance to take responsibility for breakfast time in the Lanky household - I leave the house while the other Lankies are safely tucked up in bed.

Then there's the attachment parish. Mine is wonderful! Last night's task was a trip to the pub with all the people who used to go to Evensong before it became to small to be viable. Next week I will act as Deacon at the morning service. It actually feels like an oasis of calm for me at present. The incumbent knows what it's like for ordinands, and has realistic expectations of what we can do. Having said that, I need to start thinking about the advent service and planning a sermon series for the new year.

Then there's a social contextual placement. Mine is with a youth work charity, and I'll be in a school one afternoon per week working on a transitions programme for children who are finding the change from primary to secondary school a bit tough.

Then there's thinking. This tends to happen between the rest of the things mentioned. Sometimes during a bike ride across Cambridge.

Don't get me wrong. I feel very privileged to be here and to have this opportunity, but I find myself having to turn to my mantra on a daily basis right now. Remember to breathe.