Montenegro is getting in my blood

I was physically trembling, emotionally at breaking point and I hoped beyond hope that England would NOT score.  I was an Englishman surrounded by a thousand Montenegrins surrounded by seventy three thousand Englishman.  The final result at Wembley – England 0-0 Montenegro!  😀


England 0-0 Montenegro


I fell in love with Montenegro a few days before I fell in love with my wife as I waited for the Kamenari ferry in July 2001.  Though it was almost midnight it was warm and there was a peaceful vibrancy in the air as locals sat around simply enjoying life.  It is a romance that has never disappeared and becomes totally reignited every time I visit.

And now I’m preparing for the ultimate test of my love for Montenegro – I’m about to spend the whole winter there!  I think, and hope, that the love will remain as true as it was when I was gripped to my seat high up at Wembley on Tuesday night.  The thing is Montenegro seems to have got in my blood.  I am desperate for the country to flourish whether it is the economy, the sporting teams or individual people.  My hope is that our time in Montenegro can, in some small or big way, empower a few people to improve their lives, both on this earth and after.

I am not going to Montenegro to show them that to live a Western lifestyle will bring happiness and prosperity.  I am going to share the journey and to explore, with whoever wants to, how God is relevant today in Montenegro.  I’ll let you know how the journey goes.

However, I am without doubt that, even if I am privileged enough to be able to offer anything of value, it will be me that will be changed and transformed by 15 weeks with the most amazing people in the most amazing nation!


The broken washing machine and the babysitter

Our washing machine broke about 10 days ago.  Since then we have been able to take our dirty washing to 5 different people’s houses to be washed for us.

Last night Rada and I needed to go out.  James came and babysat* for us.

Life is worth living when you are part of a community.  It is more than just the practical help.  It is knowing that there are people out there who look out for you and think you are worth something.

*Sorry Anya I believe the correct terminology is ‘girlsat’.

What’s in an accent?

It appears that I am slowly being drawn into the league of Yam-Yams.  In Solihull there are usually only subtle variaties of the the West Midlands family of accents, but since I’ve worked in West Brom for the last year or so I am surrounded by people from the Black Country…and the accent is proving contagious.  I used to really dislike the Brummy/Black Country way of speaking but I really quite like it now.  However, what is in an accent?

I’m from Sheffield.  I’ve never had a broad accent but have been fiercely proud of my city and whenever the tones of my speach betrayed my origin I was filled with a warm glow.  At some times I have loathed other accents, considered them inferior, particularly when I lived in London and felt like the only northerner out of 9 million people.

But should an accent be forced?  You see I’m faced with a dilemma now:

a) Do I let nature take its course and allow whatever accent pours forth to do so regardless of what I sound like and who it identifies me as?

b) Do I supress the Brumminess and very carefully and deliberately cling onto and nurture my Sheffield accent?

I believe it would sound better but is it fake to force yourself to speak in a certain way?  Help!  Anybody else ever had similar problems?  I am from Sheffield and will never forget it, it has made me who I am.

Dads and Mums

Mum and dad popped in on their way back from a short break in the Cotswolds.  Last week they looked after Anya for us for a whole seven days.  They have been a great mum and dad, all the way through.

I look around and see lot of people, lots of kids, who have a rough time with their parents, if they have any time with them at all.  It really breaks my heart.  I can’t understand.

Everybody needs love.  And if you don’t get it from your parents where are you gonna look for it?

Sometimes I have the privilege of being a dad to someone for a few moments in their life and I believe that small gesture can sometimes be really significant.  When someone is hurting, sometimes all they need is a bit of love and acceptance.  I know that it’s not gonna sort out their life, cure depression or save the world but giving a bit of love can make a real difference.

I know that, despite my great parents, I need to know that I am loved and accepted by others and have valued those who have done that at very significant moments in my life and I am extremely thankful.

Everybody who is reading this:  there is at least one person who looks up to you.  Love them, accept them, you have no idea what a difference it could make to them.

This life or after?

Some people live only to convert and therefore ensure a ticket to heaven for many in the after life.  You could say the purpose of such lives is to make humanity happy in the next life.  A worthy pursuit.

Some people live only to make sure people have justice, are treated fairly and are comfortable.  You could say the purpose of such lives is it make humanity happy in this life.  A worthy pursuit.

I live to give glory to God.

But God loves people like crazy.  A love more intense than a parent’s greatest love for a child.  So I will do my best to love people too.

Tony: I’ve lost my family

A 16 year old boy moving from hostel to hostel then gets a council flat.  He hasn’t got a clue.  This BBC3 documentary was one of the most tragic things I have ever seen.

He has no family, one friend, no job, debt, challenging social skills, can’t do ANYTHING for himself.  Hardly understands ANYTHING about the world.

It’s lads like that that my work at the YMCA is aimed at, aiming to provide a room in a family home with a bit of structure.  I found this film a real challenge to what I do.  The kids are more than just stats.  Tony has so much character, personality and a creative streak.  And deep, hidden somewhere inside him there is a drive to survive.  Young people are great.

There’s some really positive twists at the end but there’s a long tough road ahead for him.

If you fancy watching it you can catch it on BBC iPlayer.  Well worth an hour of your time.


A few weeks back I had the pleasure of attending an event with work that promoted LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender) issues among young people.  I met some really great interesting people and heard some incredible stories of struggle and success from a group of very brave young people who stood up and shared their hearts in a hall full of adults.  Many of the speakers had obviously battled with adversity and become stronger better people because of it.

I need to state a couple of facts:

  1. I believe that acts of sex outside heterosexual marriage are wrong.
  2. I believe that the Church should be loving and accepting of all people.

If you disagree with either of those two statements feel free to take me up on it but that really isn’t the point of this blog.  I am writing it to try and get my head round the whole gay issue because I find it really provoking and confusing.

Ok, if you take somebody who has a problem with anger they would probably be quite happy if their anger issue was solved.  If, through their relationship with God, they found more peace and patience were not as angry as they used to be then they and those around them would be quite chuffed.

However, if you take somebody who is gay who would like to be married to/live with someone they love then my first statement suggests that would be wrong.  I would be equating it to any other sin such as anger, selfishness, greed.  However, if I proposed that they try and deal with it then I might be denying the essence of the person they are or have become and therefore am not accepting of them.

Many gay people would say that their sexuality is a huge part of who they are and their identity.  If it were the other way round and there was a group of people discussing how they could change my sexuality I would find that abhorrent.

Hmmm…I have more to say on this but need to think it through…