22 October 2010

Settling in

This is the next in my series of update posts for those of you who are interested in what we've been up to since we left Lancashire. I've covered up until the move, so I'll try and update you on what's happened since.

We spent our first few days in the new house, with the help of my parents, cleaning, decorating and unpacking boxes. As always, though, the list of jobs was bigger than the time we had available. By the weekend, we were plunged into life at Westcott. the induction week started in a very civilised manner with afternoon tea, but from then onwards it got a little hectic. The programme was crammed with orientation talks, briefings, social events, and of course the offices. We certainly felt the strain of living out of college during the first week. My cycling muscles were slowly remembering what to do again, and DrLanky was pounding the pavements of north Cambridge with alarming frequency in a bid to provide us with some family time.

Since the selection of course options and the start of the timetable, things have settled somewhat. We're now getting into a bit of a routine, and it feels like life may actually be manageable again, but the first week or so was hard. My advice to anyone thinking of training for ministry would be to try very hard to put some space between your old job and your house move, and then some more space between your house move and the start of term. We have a thousand jobs that need doing in the house, and they will just have to wait because there's no time during the term.

20 October 2010

Inept herds

I'm quite proud of the fact that my trusty Marin Bolinas Ridge (bike) is still going strong nearly fourteen years after I bought it, but it's not sheer chance that this is the case. I'm not a maintenance freak who spends hours in the garage tinkering with gears and brakes, but I do realise the importance of looking after your bike; cleaning, occasional lubrication, adjustment of gears and brakes when required etc. I try to do enough to keep the bike functioning smoothly and reliably, and I haven't found the need for a mass of specialist tools or insider knowledge.

In Cambridge, it seems that cyclists wear their mechanical ineptitude like a badge! I've lost count of the number of times I've passed a bike with a rubbing brake pad, or a gearing problem. There are even more bikes in the city that look like they would struggle to move with a following breeze! What is it about such a cycling-mad city that makes people take their bikes for granted? Also, what is it that makes many cyclists feel they are visible to other road users at night-time when they make no effort to wear reflective materials or even to have lights on their bike?

I conclude that it's something to do with herd mentality. People feel artificially safe on their bikes because there are so many other cyclists about. It's the same with helmets, though there are more wearers in the city than I thought there would be.

On the plus side, I am enjoying cycling in a city where the cyclist commands more respect than I have experienced elsewhere. This is the positive side of the herd (for the cyclists), though I accept as a driver this is not necessarily good all round.

Rant over.

19 October 2010

I should be doing reading for tomorrow's lectures...

...but I just discovered that a fellow Westcott ordinand is a blogger. Hurrah! Here's a link.

A nice way to start the day

This was the view this morning as I arrived at Westcott House for Morning Prayer. The church spire is that of All Saints Church, a 'redundant' church which is kept open by the Churches Conservation Trust, and used by the Westcott community for services where the Chapel is too small for the congregation.

One of the nice things about 'commuting' in to College is that I often see beautiful things at silly times in the morning.

Anyway, off to morning prayer now. Have a good day. 

18 October 2010

Confused and concerned

I don't profess to be an expert on German politics, but I was surprised to see the comments from Chancellor Merkel in the press this weekend. The BBC gave a very balanced report about her speech, but I found myself more in sync with the coverage in this morning's Independent. Here's the headline: Weak Merkel stokes xenophobia as she fights for political survival. The Independent doesn't often go all hyperbolic, but I thought this was quite a stroppy headline for them. I agree with them too; I thought Merkel was meant to be a liberal conservative, but this story paints Germany in a bad light.

15 October 2010

The stress of the big move

Anyone who knows us personally will have realised that DrLanky and I possess a lot of stuff. Much of it in the form of books. So moving was always likely to be an intense experience, especially with LittleLanky on the scene, and me at work until just a few days before the move. And so it proved to be!

We had gone with the cheapest removal quote, but the firm had a good reputation, so we weren't worried at all. The estimator had visited the house and given his quotation like all the others. On the day, though, it transpired that too small a lorry had been allocated to the job. They couldn't fit all of our stuff on, and had to hire a second van to take the surplus. They had clearly underestimated the size of the job.

The hardest bit about this was the stress it caused all round. DrLanky was stressed and exhausted after having pulled an all-nighter, and the removal men were stressed as they saw their working day being stretched out before them.

The other difficulty was that we were still packing on the day. Because we had long ago outgrown the house, there was no room to pack until some of the stuff started to be removed. This meant that we relied heavily on a couple of friends (you know who you are). They took a huge amount of time to help us pack, and look after LittleLanky. They also provided the space and motivation for DrLanky to take a mid morning snooze to stop her from collapsing. Friends are a marvellous gift, and we are truly grateful for their help. Without them, we really wouldn't have managed.

We finally handed our keys back to the landlord late in the afternoon (we were meant to be underway by lunchtime). Thankfully the sedation administered to the cats in the morning was still effective, and we had a relatively smooth journey to Cambridge.

We met my parents at the house, and in the morning the removal van arrived to unload. That bit went quite smoothly, though they could have done with an extra person to make the job quicker. I have no problem with the people who actually came to do the work. They did grumble, but they soldiered on and got the job done. If the estimator had done his job better, everyone would have been happier!

Since then, a lot has happened. I'll try to find the time to say some more soon.

5 October 2010

Letting go

Apart from my very brief update of last week, the blog has been silent for the last couple of weeks. I've just caught up with all my blog reading, which I'd also neglected, and it seems a lot has happened in the world since my silence started.

Though it's only been a couple of weeks, our world has changed in a massive way since my posts from before we left Lancashire. I think this will be the first of a brief series of posts about the changes we've experienced, and the transition we've gone through in recent days and weeks.

In our summer pack of information from Westcott was a letter from the Principal. In it, he told us that we needed to start letting go of the communities that were sending us so that we could fully embrace the community which was waiting to welcome us. At the time, I remember thinking that that was a nice idea, but that we had a house to pack, a busy time at work, and a one-year-old to care for. Letting go was something we just couldn't do at the start of the summer.

As the move date got closer, it was still difficult to let go. I was working until the Friday before our move, and you can't really let go when you're still doing the 9 to 5.

The first point at which it became real that we had to 'let go' was when we commenced our programme of farewell parties and services at Lancaster. The morning service on our final Sunday was hard. It was hard to acknowledge that we needed to let go of Lancaster and the Chaplaincy, even though we knew we had to do it. It was hard to say goodbye to friends, knowing that we had made the active decision to move away. It was really hard! And it was hard to let go of the comfort of knowing Lancaster and the University.

I found myself remembering the words of Hedley Cousin (a former Methodist Chaplain at the University) to a departing cohort of undergraduates. He said that they should treasure the experience of being part of the Chaplaincy because it was unique, and they were unlikely to find anything else quite like it. Having finally left after 13 years, I am sure that he was right. We'll treasure our memories of the Chaplaincy Community, from our days as idealistic undergrads to our more relaxed days with the Postgrad Group. We'll miss the friends we've made more than anything, though many have booked our spare room already, and those friendships will continue despite the distance.

So we've finally let go of Lancaster. Going back to visit will be nice, and we'll do it often, but it won't be the same. There will be no 'home' for us there, apart from the homes of our friends with whom we hope to stay. It still feels odd, and as DrLanky put it the other day, there's still a dull ache within us at the thought of what we've left behind. But underpinning all of these feelings is the belief and hope in God's purpose for our lives. In a very real sense, we did not choose the path that has led us here. Rather, we were chosen. In giving our lives to this vocation, we've accepted that there will be pain and discomfort along the way, and we need to learn to deal with it in a positive way.

Next time I'll fill you in with some of the details about our removal experience - I bet you can't wait.